posted on 20-Nov-2002 12:25:28 AM
Hello all.

I started this story a long while ago and recently decided to continue it. I've always loved coming here and decided that I'd start posting my story here in the off chance people will read and enjoy it. *happy* It's not yet finished, but I'm working on getting it finished very soon.

This is set after season one, during the summer Liz went away and Michael walked away from Maria. It's mainly a M/M story but it IS CC - they're all here. *happy*

Just thought that needed claifying.

Hope you enjoy.

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------
fgcover
"The Face and Ghost" Part 1
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and song lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no
infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: Hmm ... not sure where it's gonna lead ... you'll just have to read it and see.
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is greatly appreciated, but please be gentle with me.

" ... a trip to the desert,
to look at the sky,
... like never-ending mirrors,
playing tricks on my eyes ... "



It was cold in the desert. Cold, dark and empty. Pretty much as one would expect,
thought the young man who stood alone, arms folded across his chest staring
out at the desolate yet uniquely beautiful land around him. Michael Guerin had always
loved it out here. Its silence soothed his spirit like nothing else. He loved the inky
blackness above, heavy with brilliant stars and felt it wrapping itself around
his soul like an old friend. It was free, boundless and he recognised it on some
primitive level, as if he had at sometime been as free as this seemingly endless,
open land.

Thinking about it, he considered that many of those who knew him would probably
think of him as exactly that. He was of course anything but. He was not free. He'd
tried to be, had fought with everything he had, but it had been hopeless. The
stronger he pushed and the faster he ran, the harder it was to escape the tethers
that wrapped around his heart, holding him back. He sighed softly in the darkness,
his breath misting in front of his face. He had to be honest with himself, who was he
kidding? He had little chance of getting out of this hell-hole, and even more depressing
than that was the thought that he didn't really know if he wanted to any more.

Refusing to dwell on the uncomfortable turn his thoughts had taken, Michael filled
his lungs with the cool night air and took one last look around him. As his eyes
flickered across the darkened landscape a shadow in the distance appeared to
move slightly. His body tensed and unfolding his arms he peered into the darkness.
Trying hard to ignore the shiver creeping up his spine, he swallowed passed his dry
throat and shouted, "Who's there?"

After a moment of silence, he heard a whisper of a sound and he strained, trying to
identify its origin. Almost immediately he heard it again, though this time the sound
was clear and his eyebrows raised in disbelief. He squinted into the distance and saw
ahead of him proof that his ears had not played tricks on him. "Maria, what the hell
are you doing out here?" He muttered to himself as he started towards her, she was
a good distance away and looked almost wraith-like in the soft silvery moonlight.

Her arms were by her sides and her blonde hair was tousled as though she'd come
straight from her bed. She was quite lovely really, he thought to himself. He'd always
thought her beautiful, but standing out here under the stars she was breathtaking.
As he got closer, he focused his attention on her face and her expression gave him
pause. Maria was standing completely still, staring at him with intensely sad eyes.
Whatever her reason for being out here, he had the distinctly unpleasant feeling it
wasn't going to be good.

He frowned, thinking about it he couldn't for the life of him imagine a reason why
she would be out here at all, let alone in the middle of the night, in the freezing cold
and in her pyjamas. He stopped short on that thought, her pyjamas? What the hell
was she doing out here in her pyjamas?

Shrugging off his feelings of unease, Michael took another step towards her and
noticed almost immediately a separate shadow hovering behind her left shoulder. A
prickle of fear settled into his gut, and as if by magic the shadow formed into a tall,
darkly clothed stranger. The man grabbed Maria from behind and wrapped one of
his arms around her small frame, pulling her body against his. Above Michael's
rising sense of panic he made the mental observation that despite her current
predicament, she had neither moved nor spoken.

The man looked at him and his eyes were cold, dark and glittering with evil. Michael's
breath caught and his eyes widened with fear as the stranger lifted his other hand to
Maria's throat. Stunned to silence, Michael stood helplessly watching as the knife
held against her milky white skin slid across without hesitation. The blade glinted in
the darkness as it sliced through and Michael's heart dropped to his stomach. He
finally found his voice and cried out, "No!"

His voice seemed to awaken Maria from her trance-like state and her eyes widened
in pain and fear. She brought her hand up to her throat and her warm, thick blood
began to seep darkly through her fingers. She looked across the distance at Michael
and he gasped as he saw the agony and grief reflected in her gaze. A single tear
fell onto her cheek and she whispered his name then crumpled to the ground. The
stranger smiled at Michael and his mocking laughter filled the night air as he
disappeared into the shadows.

Michael's stunned body surged forward and he ran towards the tiny woman who lay
in a heap on the cold desert floor. His heart pounded in rhythm with the chant
running through his head, "No, no, no, no ... ". He barely spared a thought for the
man who had hurt her, he was completely focused on helping the girl who had
become everything in the world to him. Fuelled by the adrenalins running through
his body, Michael ran faster then ever before and yet it seemed to him an eternity
before he finally slid to his knees by her side. "Maria? Maria? Oh, please God, no,
MARIA!"

He gathered her into his arms and placing his hand over her wound tried to heal her.
He could feel the warmth of her blood as it ran through his fingers and over her body,
could smell it and he knew that for as long as he lived he would never forget that
smell. It made him sick to his stomach. He looked into her pale face and begged
her to hold on. Maria's eyes opened weakly and with what little strength she had,
looked at him and mouthed the words he'd thought never to hear. "Michael ... I ...
love you ... "

With desperation, he tried with everything he had to save the life of the beautiful
girl in his arms, but he knew deep down there was little he could do. She had lost
so much blood and even now he could feel her heart slowing to a stop. Her eyes
fluttered closed and an instant later he heard her laboured breathing cease. She
was gone. "NOOOOOOO!" Michael wailed and crushed her limp body to his chest.
Rocking back and forth, he pressed his face into her once beautiful hair now matted
and slick with blood. His tears fell unchecked and mixed with the dark pool on the
ground. Absorbed by the dust, it disappeared into the desert floor as though it
had never been …

~~~

"No!"

Michael cried out as he sat up in his bed, his heart thumping in his chest. He
blinked as his conscious mind began to take control, telling him that it had all
been a dream. He brought his hands up to rub his face and pulled them back
surprised. He had been crying in his sleep. Swinging his legs over the side of the
bed, he stood up shakily and made his way to the bathroom.

Glancing at the mirror above the sink, Michael noted the wild look in his red
rimmed eyes and he lent over to splash cool water on his face. The terror of his
nightmare still clung to him and he tried in vain to calm himself down. It had only
been a dream, he told himself. It wasn't real, but some part of his mind refused to
believe that. He was filled with an unknown fear. It hadn't felt like a dream. The
image of Maria's attacker was imprinted on his brain, he would never forget that
face and oh God, he could still smell her blood.

Swallowing passed his nausea Michael gave into the feeling currently coursing
through him and grabbed a pair of jeans off his bedroom floor. His instincts were
screaming at him that something was wrong, and he wouldn't be able to rest until
he knew Maria was ok. Pushing all thoughts of the terrifying possibilities to the
back of his mind, he pulled on his jeans, grabbed his coat and fled from his
apartment out into the night.

TBC




[ edited 33time(s), last at 20-Feb-2003 9:31:50 PM ]
posted on 20-Nov-2002 6:05:59 PM
I'm back, already. *happy*
I've got quite a few chapters ready to post here, so should be pretty regular with the updates, well, atleast until I get to the one I'm currently writing anyway. *happy*

Lana Lane - Thankyou so much for the feedback. You're worried already? *laughs* ... well ... look out then ... cause it gets worse ... *happy*

Belit - You've not read anything else by me because this is pretty much my first attempt at it. *happy* I did write something small a while ago, just a one off, but this is something I started a long time ago and decided I had to finish it. *happy* Thank you so much for your kind words and thanks for YOUR fanfic too. I'm really enjoying your stuff as well. *happy*

Anyway, thanks again everyone ... now on with the show. *happy*

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------

"The Face and Ghost" Part 2
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: Hmm ... not sure where it's gonna lead ... you'll just have to read it and see.
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated, but be gentle with me.

" ... the face and ghost my guide,
I must move on,
it's the face of one ravaged by love,
it's both dead and alive ... "



Michael ran the deserted streets of Roswell with one solitary thought running
through his head, Maria. His feet pounded on the pavement and his breath came
in short bursts as his body struggled to feed his protesting muscles the oxygen
they needed. It was completely silent and the path in front of him glistened with
the recent rain.

He was desperately trying to ignore the pictures flicking across his mind, however
he found it impossible to erase the image of Maria's lifeless body as it lay on the
blood soaked earth. Michael had spent his entire life searching. Searching for
answers to who and what he was. Nothing else had mattered but at that particular
moment he didn't give a damn. He was completely consumed by thoughts of
Maria and the horrifying possibility that she could be hurt or worse.

Rounding the last bend he saw her house ahead and sprinted the remaining distance.
Stopping just short of her window, he doubled over to catch his breath and took
a moment to calm himself, wondering briefly what he was going to do now that
he was actually there. He was almost too afraid to look, what if she wasn't here?
What if he looked through her window and found her laying in a pool of blood, just
like his dream? He shuddered and pushed that thought away. Gathering every scrap
of will he possessed, he took the remaining steps to her window and peered into her
room. Immediately he recognised the lump in the bed as her slight form and sighed
in relief.

It appeared she was sleeping soundly, he could just see the rise and fall of her
chest as she breathed. He couldn't tear his eyes away from that tiny movement, it
was the most wonderful thing he had ever seen. He pressed his hands to the glass
and rested his forehead against the window. Closing his eyes he exhaled and sent
a silent prayer of thanks to whatever God was listening. He opened his eyes and
looked once more at her. Although he couldn't see her face, he could see her blonde
hair spread out on the pillow behind her and he was filled with an uncontrollable urge
to run his fingers through those soft strands.

He hadn't seen too much of her lately. Not since he had ended their relationship, and
as much as it pained him, he was determined to keep away from her. If removing
her from his life was what it took to keep her safe, then so be it. It had to be
done, and destiny or no there was no way in hell he was going to let her stick around
and get hurt. He was barely breathing without her, but knowing she was alive and well
kept him sane.

His gaze rested on the back of her head and he wished for the millionth time that
things could have been different. It constantly amazed him how easily she had slipped
passed his defences and crept into his heart. He smiled slightly, the most amazing thing
about it was that he'd actually admitted it to himself. His smile faded as he struggled
to stifle the urge to creep inside and touch her. He would give almost anything to be
laying beside her at that moment. Holding her sweet body against his and feeling her
warm breath against his neck.

Michael considered doing that very thing for about a millisecond and just as quickly
discarded the idea. What was he thinking? He had to stop torturing himself like this.
He frowned as he thought about how things had panned out. He wasn't sure what this
destiny thing meant, all he knew was that he couldn't imagine the world without Maria's
laughter and incessant chatter. He couldn't conceive of a universe without her sweet
face and courageous spirit. It was true he had walked away because he'd had a job to
do, but foremost in his mind was the fact that it was just too dangerous for her to
be involved now. He was too dangerous.

Sighing to himself, he committed her profile to memory and turned away from the
window. It was almost dawn and he figured it was time he headed home. Walking
away his thoughts turned back to his nightmare, for that was what it had been he
convinced himself. There was no truth to it, he'd seen Maria for himself and she was
fine. A shudder ran through his body and his brow furrowed, there had been something
about it though. Michael stopped and looked back towards her house, there had
definitely been something about it.

TBC



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 6:19:04 PM ]
posted on 21-Nov-2002 6:28:16 PM
Hello all. *happy*
Here's the 3rd chapter for you, it's only a little one, like the 2nd, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Roswellluver - Thanks for the feedback *happy* ... as for Maria being ok, you'll have to wait and see .. mwwaahahahaa!! *big*

Belit - Thanks so much again for your generous comments. I don't know if I agree with you though, as I said before, I'm kinda new at this. *happy* And no need to worry, I WILL finish it ... eventually ... ;)

Lana Lane - Thanks heaps for the great feedback! I'm so pleased you're enjoying it. *happy* Things with Maria are going to be .. interesting ... and that's ALL I'm gonna say! ;)

Thanks again everyone for reading and your kind comments. *happy*

Anyway ... let's get to it then ... *happy*

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 3
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: Hmm ... not sure where it's gonna lead ... you'll just have to read it and see.
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.

" ... you got it bad lover,
no you got it good,
you saw the sun,
like you knew that you would ... "


Maria Deluca opened her eyes and blinked at the weak sunlight streaming through
her bedroom window. Another day, she thought. Another day of going through the
motions as if nothing had changed. She rolled onto her back and stared up at the
cracks in the ceiling. Another day of pretending that the heart beating inside her
chest was whole and not smashed into a million, tiny little pieces.

Maria sighed and closed her eyes, she could still feel him. No matter how many times
she tried to wish it away, the feather light touch of his soul still lingered within her.
It wasn’t getting easier, although rationally she knew it had only been a few short
weeks since Michael had more or less declared his love and then walked out of her
life.

Everyone said that the pain would fade with time and she so wanted to believe
that was true. She choked back a laugh, she was kidding herself, it wasn’t going to
be that simple. At best it would mellow to a dull ache, but it would never leave her
completely. No, he had settled into her skin and would forever remain a part of her.

She and Liz had pondered the possibility that involving themselves with their alien
friends would all but ruin them for normal, human relationships. How right they’d been.
Those few words he'd spoken had both thrilled and terrified her at once. Never had
she thought to hear them from him, and it was just typical Michael that when he finally
allowed them to pass his lips, they were uttered as a final goodbye.

It was an impossible situation. Always had been really she supposed, but in her
stubbornness she’d refused to give in and let him go. He needed her, whether he
wanted to admit it or not, and God help her but she needed him too.

She frowned up at a tiny black spider that was rebuilding its web across her ceiling
light and marvelled at how she’d allowed such a strong attachment to surface. Till her
dying day she would never understand it, he wasn't even her type. Yeah ok, he was
gorgeous and she was not immune to the brooding bad boy image, but it was more
than that. It had been beyond her control, elemental, and it was both exciting and
terrifying at the same time.

Perhaps it was because he wasn’t your typical garden variety human, maybe he had
this effect on everybody. Attributing her feelings to some mystical force probably
wasn't entirely sane, but she was at a loss to otherwise explain it. She was
completely, madly, deeply in love with a man who seemed unable to accept the gift
she offered, her heart.

Her eyes glistened with unshed tears and she scrubbed them away with angry fists.
This was ridiculous! She had better things to do then lay about in bed all weekend
moping. She was done crying. Whatever they were or weren’t, pining over the past
wasn’t going to help. She refused to let him go and although he wasn’t going to
like it, she was going to attach herself to his side so completely, he wouldn’t be
able to take two steps without her.

"Maria ... " her mother’s voice called from the other side of the door, "... you awake
honey?" Her mother opened her door a fraction and poked her head around it. "You
feel like breakfast?"

Maria blinked at her a few times and reigned in her thoughts. "Sure thing mom, just
give me a second and I’ll meet you in the kitchen".

Maria’s mother smiled and nodded as she left, closing the door behind her. Maria took
a deep breath and turned her head to gaze out her bedroom window. Yes, she was
done crying, was done waiting around for Michael to come to his senses. He had no
idea who he was dealing with. She was done being tossed aside and she would
never give up.

Filled with renewed determination, Maria sprang out of bed, slipped on a pair of pink
piggy slippers and headed down for breakfast. For the first time in weeks Maria faced
the day with a smile on her face and hope in her heart.

TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 6:30:13 PM ]
posted on 21-Nov-2002 7:24:48 PM
Woo ... I'm back. *big*

Belit - I know it was a little short ... *happy* ... so ... cause I'm feeling guilty now ... ;) ... I'll post the next bit too. *happy*

Thanks for the feedback! *happy*

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------

"The Face and Ghost" Part 4
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ...
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.

" ... we gotta make this better,
gotta make this right,
ain't no peace in the valley baby,
'til the darkness turns to light ... "


Isabel Evans tilted her head to the side and gazed at her reflection in the mirror
above her bureau. What was it that Alex had told her? That she was beautiful?
Isabel frowned and her eyes travelled across the image in front of her. She didn't
look beautiful today, her eyes were dull, dark circles underlined them, and her hair
was flat and lifeless. She sighed to herself, not that she cared either way.

Who was she trying to impress, Michael? Her mouth twisted into a half smile and
she swallowed a bitter laugh. This whole destiny thing bites! There wasn't anything
between her and Michael and as much as Tess kept trying to convince them all of
the parts they had to play, she just couldn't find any enthusiasm or interest in going
along with it. It was getting more difficult as time went by to stick to their plan and it
was especially hard to see the anguish their actions were causing. Everyone was
miserable.

It just didn't feel right. Isabel closed her eyes and forced back another bout of tears.
She would not cry, it wasn't going to change anything and besides, a red blotchy face
wasn't going to improve her looks. Just then, there was a knock at her door and Max
opened it and step inside her room. "Iz, you got a minute?"

Isabel took one last glance at her reflection and turned her attention to her brother.
"Sure, that seems like all I have these days, time." She sighed and continued, "What's up?"

Max took a moment to look at his sister, she looked about as good as he felt. Once
again he cursed the powers that be for pushing them in their current direction and
walked over to sit beside his sister on the bed. "Michael called, he's on his way over."

Isabel looked at Max with concern. "Is something wrong?"

Max shrugged his shoulders, "I'm not sure, but he said there was something he
wanted to talk to us about."

Isabel fiddled nervously with the bracelet wrapped around her left wrist and asked
"Is Tess coming too?"

Max's face tightened at the mention of her name and he replied. "No. It's just us."

Isabel sighed in relief. "I know I shouldn't say it Max, but I'm just not up to going
toe to toe with her today." Isabel stood and walked over to her window. "I can't
keep doing this Max. I can't pretend to be something I'm not, feel something I don't."
She turned around and faced her brother who was now standing on the other side
of the bed. "I love Michael you know that, but I don't love him like I'm being told to."

Max took a moment and studied his feet, thinking through Isabel's words. He
knew exactly what she was talking about, he didn't love Tess either and every fibre
of his being knew that was never going to change. It was Liz he loved. Liz he spent
every moment of every day thinking about, wishing and hoping for. She was still
keeping her distance, giving him space to fulfil his so called destiny, but it wasn't
what he wanted, what he needed. She was everything to him.

"I know Isabel. I'm tired of it too. Everything in me is screaming that this isn't
right but I just don't know what to do about it." Max looked through the window
over Isabel's shoulder and saw Michael approach. He waved at him and said,
"Hey Michael".

Isabel turned around and motion for him to come inside. "Hey Maxwell, Iz", he
nodded in her direction before climbing into the room.

"So Michael, what did you want to talk to us about?" Isabel wasted no time with
pleasantries and looked at him keenly, noticing not for the first time the tiredness
around his eyes. He wasn't doing any better then the rest of them.

Michael looked at Max and Isabel and ran the speech he had formulated on the
walk over through his head. Taking a deep breath he sat down on Isabel's bed
and motion for them to join him. After everybody was comfortable, he began.
"I had a dream last night. Only I'm not sure it was just a dream, it was so real,
it felt real."

Max and Isabel gave each other a look and turned their attention back to Michael
as he continued. "There was this guy. He was tall and dark and ..." He paused and
swallowed over the lump that formed in his throat "... and he had Maria, out in the
desert."

Isabel raised an eyebrow but stayed silent. Max prompted Michael when he
paused. "What happened?"

Michael got up from the bed, unable to sit still as he continued telling the story.
"He grabbed her and, and he killed her."

Michael stopped pacing and turned to look at them both. "He killed her", he repeated.
Both Max and Isabel noticed the involuntary tremble that accompanied his
words and their breaths caught in their throats.

Max stood up and approached him. "Michael, what do you mean he killed her?"

Michael swallowed again and continued. "He slit her throat, right in front of me
and he laughed and laughed. It was so real Max, I felt her pain, her fear, and
there was so much blood. I thought she was dead. I woke up and was so
convinced something was wrong I ran all the way over to her house to make
sure she was ok."

Isabel spoke "And is she? Ok I mean?"

Michael nodded and sat back down on the bed. "She was asleep."

He looked at the two of them as they shared a look. Isabel wrapped her arms
around herself and shivered. "What do you think it means Michael? Do you think
it's a message? A vision?" Her eyes widened when a thought occurred to her.
"You don't think somebody is after her do you? No, it's probably just you're
overactive imagination. We've all been under a lot of stress lately and what with
your feelings for her, maybe ..."

Michael jumped up suddenly and turned to face them, hands clenched into fists at
his sides. "I know it sounds insane, but I can't explain it to you. It was so real.
I had convinced myself that it was just a nightmare. But I'm not so sure. There
was something about it, something about that man." He stopped and turned to
look out the window, thinking. "He felt, I don't know, familiar somehow ... "

Max frowned at Isabel and took note of her worried expression. He knew as
well as she that Michael's visions or dreams often held an element of truth. There
was a distinct possibility that what he'd seen was some sort of warning.

Max swallowed passed the quick shot of fear that ran through him and tried to think
rationally. "Michael, what was familiar about him? "

Michael shrugged, "I have no idea. I know I've never seen him before, but there
was just something about him. He didn't look familiar, he felt familiar."

Isabel remained silent and continued to play nervously with her bracelet. Michael
broke the silence by asking, "What do you think Max? You think I'm imagining
things?" He was silently hoping that Max would confirm his last statement, but knew
that he wouldn't. He wasn't disappointed.

"No Michael, I don't think so. We both know you wouldn't be here if this had just
been a dream. I know you care about Maria and are afraid she'll get hurt, and
this might just have been your mind playing tricks on you, but as much as I want to
believe that, I doubt that's true." Max moved over next to Michael and placed a
hand on his shoulder. "Your instincts, however much trouble they get you into,
rarely do you wrong."

Isabel stood up, "So what are we going to do then Max?"

Max turned to face his sister and sighed. "I don't know Iz, I guess we keep an eye
on her. Make sure she's ok and keep an eye out for this guy." He turned to Michael,
"Do you think you could do a sketch of what the guy looks like? It might be all a
figment of your imagination, but then again it might not."

Michael nodded, "I don't think I'll ever be able to forget it Max. I don't think I can."
Michael's eyes darkened as he recalled his dream, the images flying through his mind
and Max, watching closely was reminded of a much younger Michael standing out
in the desert, scared and alone.

Max again reached out and grasped Michael's shoulder, "It'll be alright Michael, we won't
let anything happen to her. We'll keep her safe"

Michael glanced at Max and struggled to keep the desperation out of his voice as
he replied softly "I hope you're right Max. I can't get the image of her face, white,
bloody, lifeless, out of my head." He was barely audible when he added, "I can't
let that happen Max. I can't breath when I think about her laying there, dead." His
eyes glinted in the mid morning light, "I won't."

TBC

posted on 24-Nov-2002 6:26:50 PM
Hello everyone! I'm back, after a weekend of fun and frivolity! *happy* (My birthday was the 24th .. heh heh *big* ... and I had an absolute BALL!!!!)
Anyway, enough of that. *happy*
Thanks so much for the great feedback people, it's the greatest gift in the world. *happy*

Belit - You like Michael the stalker huh? *happy* Weellll ... you'll have to wait and see ... *big*

Roswellluver - Max and Isabel are definitly taking him seriously. I know he tends to go off and get them all into trouble, but they know him well and figure he wouldn't be this upset if it was nothing. Besides, Max figures it's better to err on the side of caution.

Asabetha - Thanks so much for the feedback. Always nice to see a new reader. *happy*

Lana Lane - Thanks again for the great feedback! *happy* I'm so pleased you're loving it, I just hope you keep loving it as it goes ... I must admit I'm a little nervous. *happy* Who's the guy? Weell ... I'm not gonna tell you THAT ... *happy* ... at least .. not yet ... mwwwahahahaaaa!!! *big* As for Michael being taken seriously for a change, I knew it was a little off for that to happen so quickly, but as I said to Roswellluver in response to their feedback above, he's pretty up tight about it and they know him pretty well. They care about him and are willing to look a little deeper, if only for his sake.
And besides, he's the one that gets the weird flashy things, so you never know. *happy*
Oh, and thanks for the bump. ;)

Thanks so much everyone for the fantastic feedback and for reading. It's really great, honestly. *happy*

Umm ... I have to apologise for the shortness of a couple of these chapters, but that's just the way they kinda fell out. Hopefully I'll make up for that with lots and lots of them. *happy*

Anyhow ... on we go ...

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 5
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ...
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.

" ... in spite of my confusion,
up above all my pain,
I got a death-grip on this vision,
here we go again ... "


Maria turned the key in the front door of the Crashdown and sighed in relief, her
final shift for the week was over. It was Friday night, it was late and she was
exhausted. Taking one last look around the cafe, she made her way towards the
back to gather her belongings and leave. She was so looking forward to her
weekend off, her first in weeks. Not that she had anything exciting planned. Liz
was still out of town and her social calender wasn't exactly brim full of exiting
possibilities, not that it ever was.

Despite that though it was going to be wonderful to have some time to herself,
even her Mother was going to be away at a conference for the week. This thought
left her with all sorts of possibilities running through her mind, the most interesting
of which involved a certain moody alien lover and some personal, quality time.
Now, if she could just convince him to actually spend said time with her. Maria
sighed, perhaps an opportunity would present itself, one that he couldn't refuse.
You just never knew.

Smiling to herself, she closed the back door behind her and made her way over to
her car, which she had parked in the lane out back. She shivered in the cool night
air and her fingers shook as she unlocked the drivers side door. Throwing her
nap-sack into the passenger seat she buckled herself in and drove off, singing
along to the radio at the top of her voice, oblivious to the lone figure hiding
in the shadows across the street.

Max watched as Maria drove by and waited until he saw her turn the corner before
making his own way home. His part for the evening was done and Michael would be
waiting at her house to make sure she arrived home safely. It had been almost two
weeks since Michael had climbed through Isabel's window, terrified that something
was out there trying to hurt Maria, and since then things had been relatively
uneventful. Perhaps it had been what they'd all hoped, a harmless dream. Max
yawned and glanced up at the stars, it was such a beautiful night, so clear and
bright. There was something about it though, everything was so still. Like the world
was holding its breath for something big to happen. Max shrugged and yawned,
jumped into the jeep and headed for home.

~~~

Michael leaned back against the wall of her house and waited, out of sight. It
was just after midnight and he was expecting her any minute. He supposed that
he was being overly protective, since it had been a few weeks since his dream,
but he wasn't ready to let the feeling go just yet. Everything was quiet and normal,
but he still had this feeling deep down in his gut that something was coming. He
couldn't explain it, but he was still not satisfied that everything was one hundred
percent ok and he wasn't about to take chances with her life.

He was startled out of his musings by the headlights of her car as she swung into
the driveway. Michael stayed completely still and listened to the sounds she made
as she locked the car and made her way inside. He waited until he heard the bolt
on the front door slide home, before he made his way carefully over to her window.
Keeping out of sight, he watched as she walked into her room and switched on
the lamp beside her bed.

She looked tired. She'd been working a lot of hours at the Crashdown and it was
beginning to show. Maria began stripping out of her uniform and heading for the
bathroom and as much as he would have liked to continue watching her, it was
getting late. He had the early shift in the morning and besides, he didn't feel
completely right gawking at her like some pervert.

Taking one last lingering look at her retreating figure, he turned and walked
away.

~~~

Maria was in a dreamless sleep when the man entered the house. He made his way
on silent feet to her room and stood over her watching her breath. 'Such a
delicate creature ...', he thought. It amazed him that something so small and
insignificant could be, at the very same time, so useful. He smiled to himself
and reached out to touch a golden lock of her hair, ' ... so pretty too', he added.

Maria's skin prickled, like someone was watching her. Usually, if Michael was
outside peering at her, his gaze burned, but it was always a comfortable
feeling. This was not. It was creepy and cold and her consciousness was beginning
to awaken, warning her that all was not right. Maria returned to a state of wakefulness
and opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was the figure of a very large, very
frightening man. He was looming over her, reaching out to touch her and acting
on instinct, she yelped and dove away from his seeking hands.

Maria tried to pull out of his reach and scramble away but he was too fast and so
incredibly strong. He dragged her across the bed into his arms and she opened her
mouth to scream but no sound emerged as he placed his hand over her neck and
pressed against her windpipe.

"Shhhh little one. It will all be over soon." His softly spoken words belied his intent
and he brought his other hand up to her forehead. Her body was pressed against
his and her eyes widened with fear as she felt a blinding pain tear through her head.
Struggling within his hold, she whimpered in pain as her body was encased in an
unearthly glow. His whispered words became incoherent mumblings in her mind as
everything around her faded to black and she knew no more.


TBC


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-Nov-2002 6:28:21 PM ]
posted on 24-Nov-2002 10:56:42 PM
I'm back! *happy*
Already, yes I know ... can't help myself ... thought I'd post another part. *big*

Belit - You'll have to wait and see ... *happy*

NewYorker18 - Thanks so much. Maria dead? Hmmm ... what do you think? *happy*

Thanks for the feedback!! *happy*

~Nat.



----------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 6
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ...
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"... up on a desert plane,
do you hear that children's song,
can you take me there …"



Max sat at the counter and watched his best friend slave over the hot grill through
the service counter. It was relatively early for a Saturday and yet the café was already
overflowing with customers. Max had walked into the Crashdown after a coach load
of tourists, and had to content himself with taking a stool at the counter. His usual
booth was currently inhabited by a crowd of surprisingly rowdy pensioners.

"Dammit!"

A voice muttered to Max's left and he turned his attention away from Michael to the
source and found it belonged to Liz's father, Mr Parker. He'd just hung up the phone
and was looking rather flustered. His hair clung damply to his forehead and he
frowned down into a small black book he held in his hands.

"Is everything alright Mr Parker?" Max asked the question tentatively, not knowing
how well his inquiry would be received. Since Liz's hasty departure for the summer,
he'd been unsure how the rest of her family would react to his presence. So far things
had been ok, if a little cool.

"Oh hi Max, no not really." Mr Parker sighed and slapped the book he was holding
closed. "Two of my waitresses called in sick and with Liz away it's been impossible
to find replacements." He closed his eyes tiredly and ran his fingers through his hair.
"It wouldn't have been so bad if not for the unexpected bus load of tourist that
traipsed in here 20 minutes ago."

Max smiled and gave Mr Parker a sympathetic look. "Did you call Maria? I know she
had the weekend off, but surely she wouldn't mind helping out considering the
circumstances."

The older man grabbed a tray and began filling it with coffee cups. "Yeah, I tried
calling her but she must have gone out or something, her home phone rang out and
her cell phone is switched off. Not that I blame her, she's been here every day for
three weeks and this was her first weekend off. I'd be high-tailing it out of here myself
if I could."

Before Max could offer a reply, Alex Whitman wondered up and took the stool beside
him.

"Hi Mr Parker, Max." Alex nodded in Max's direction and settled himself at the counter.

"Hi Alex, what can I get you this morning?" Mr Parker grabbed the tray of full coffee
cups and handed it across the counter to his one and only waitress.

"Just an orange soda thanks Mr Parker, I feel the need for a pick me up." Alex sighed
dramatically and rested his elbows on the counter.

"You and me both Alex, hey you don't know where Maria is do you?" Mr Parker gave
Alex a hopeful look and grabbed an empty glass.

Alex raised an eyebrow and glanced at Max, "Actually no, I was just about to ask you
guys the same thing. She was suppose to meet me this morning to run over some
tracks we're working on. The band was getting together this afternoon to practice and
we were going to talk about them first thing."

Max looked sharply in Michael's direction and saw his friend looking through the window
at them, obviously listening to their conversation. His face was arranged in a carefully
blank mask, but Max knew him well and could sense the barely concealed worry
underneath. In fact, if he was right, Michael was moments away from full scale panic.

Mr Parker frowned, "That's odd, our Maria's not normally so unreliable, I hope she's
not ill, although since half my crew is down with something I wouldn't be surprised. Oh,
for God's sake Sandy what are you doing?" He hurried away to tend to the young
woman who was obviously carrying far too many plates at once.

"Michael, I'm sure she's fine." Max addressed Michael and rising from his stool came
around the other side of the counter to talk to him in private.

"Max, you gotta go and see if she's ok. It's not like her to disappear like this, certainly
not when she's made plans with Alex. She just wouldn't do that." Michael ran his hands
through his hair and glanced over Max's shoulder to Alex who sat watching them with
narrowed eyes.

"What's going on?" Alex looked from one to the other, suddenly feeling the tension
between the two conversing in front of him.

Max turned around and answered. "It's probably nothing Alex, but Michael just wants
me to go check on Maria. " He paused for a moment and glanced back at Michael.
Almost sensing his intent Michael growled low in his throat and frowned. "Why
don't you come with me Alex?"

Alex continued to gaze at one then the other, something was up here and the tight
feeling that suddenly appeared in his chest alerted him that it was probably a 'bad'
something.

"Michael, it's Maria isn't it? You have this thunderous look about you so it's obviously
Maria related, what is it? She's alright isn't she?" Alex stood up and joined them at the
service window.

Michael's frown deepened as he looked back at Max before answering, "This isn't the
time or place alright, just go and see Maria, make sure she's ok." He looked at Alex and
added in a softer voice, "Please."

Alex took a deep breath and swallowed his rising feeling of unease. "Ok, come on Max,
let's go." He turned around and headed towards the front of the café.

Max looked into his friend's eyes and nodded slightly. "Ok, we'll call you when we
find her Michael, count on it."

Michael nodded and watched them walk out of the diner, his heart in his throat.

TBC





[ edited 4 time(s), last at 25-Nov-2002 7:09:35 PM ]
posted on 25-Nov-2002 8:21:01 PM
Hello everyone ... thanks for all the feedback and especially the Birthday wishes! *happy*

Roswellluver - Thanks for reading and the fb. *happy*

Lana Lane - Thanks for the kind words. *happy* You're nervous? Mwwhahahahaaa! *big*

Belit - Thanks heaps. *happy*

NewYorker18 - Thanks so much! *happy*

On with it then ... ;)

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 7
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… high above the lamentation,
up on a desert plane,
do you hear that children's song,
can you take me there …"



"Ok Max, out with it." Alex looked ahead through the jeep's dirt encrusted windscreen
and folded his arms across his chest. He wasn't at all in the mood for games and his
clipped tone was making that abundantly clear to Max, he'd never seen his friend so
serious. Alex was the joker of the group and could always be relied upon to bring much
needed levity to tense situations. That particular characteristic was no where to be seen
at that moment however and Max took a deep breath before answering.

"It's a long story." Max didn't feel right elaborating but knew that he was going to have
to fill Alex in on all the goings-on of late. Ever since they'd left the pod chamber those
weeks ago their little group of friends had split right down the middle and communication
between them all had been a little lax.

Alex glanced at Max and rose one eyebrow, "Give me the shortened version, we've only
got a couple of blocks before Maria's."

Max sighed and resigned himself to the inevitable discussion. "A couple of weeks ago
Michael came to see Isabel and I about a dream he'd had. He was worried about it,
it was about Maria and he felt like it might have been something of a warning."

Alex looked worriedly at Max and waited for him to continue. "Michael was really
worried, you know how he feels about her. We'd never seen him so distressed."

Alex seemed to digest this information for a moment then turned back to face Max.
"When you say the dream was about her, what do you mean?"

Max swallowed and paused while he changed gears, "He saw her die."

Alex couldn't quite contain his gasp of surprise and Max took a few quick glances in his
direction.

"And you didn't think it was worthwhile telling the rest of us about it? This could be
serious Max, I mean … " Alex stopped mid sentence as his brain finally put the pieces
together and suddenly saw in a single moment the reason for Michael's almost freak out
and their subsequent impromptu trip. "Oh my God Max, he thinks something's happened
to her doesn't he?"

"I'm sure she's fine Alex, since his dream Michael has had us keeping an eye on her day
and night. One of us is always around and we ensure she gets home at night. We've
been on the look out for anything out of the ordinary and everything's been fine."

Alex didn't seem overly comforted. "Michael didn't look like everything was fine Max. He
looked very much like things were about to spiral out of control."

Max turned the jeep into Maria's street and glanced once more in Alex's direction. "You
know how he feels about her Alex, she's everything to him. I know this destiny thing has
come between all of us, but it doesn’t change the fact that our hearts are pulling us in
other directions. All of us."

Alex turned his head away and watched the houses as they drove passed them. "Yeah
well, there's not much we simple humans can do about that now is there?" He turned
back to face Max, "The ball, as they say, is in your alien court."

Max remained silent, after all what could he say in response to that? Alex was right,
everything was their fault. None of this would have happened if they'd kept to
themselves. Max however, couldn't bring himself to be sorry about it. The day he saved
Liz felt like the first day of his life and he wasn't going to apologise for that, ever. He
didn't regret loving Liz and he knew deep down that he was meant to love her. If not
for this destiny thing they'd probably be happily together at this very moment.

Max frowned and stomped on his rising agitation. It wasn't right but a small voice inside
him whispered that if Tess had also never arrived, they'd all be happily unaware of their
so-called destinies and left free to be and love who they would.

Max removed that thought from his mind and turned into Maria's driveway, parking the
jeep behind her car. "Well, her car is here." Max turned off the engine and unbuckled his
seatbelt. "Let's check it out."

Alex nodded, jumped out of the jeep and strode anxiously across the yard to the front
door. Max followed a pace or so behind him and waited patiently while Alex knocked.

"Hello? Maria? Anybody home?" Alex waited a second then turned and jogged around
the side of the house to Maria's window. Max followed and stumbled a little when Alex
gasped and started banging on the window, calling out loudly.

"Maria! Maria!" Alex turned and looked at Max, his face showing his fear and worry.
"She's on the floor, something's wrong!" He turned and struggled with the locked
window, "Max, help me open this!"

Max used his powers to unlock the window and as soon as the lock clicked Alex pushed
him out of the way and almost leapt up through the opening. Max climbed in behind Alex
and kneeled down beside him as he touched her gently, feeling for a pulse.

"She's alive but her pulse is thready and weak, Max you've got to help her!" Alex turned
beseeching eyes in his direction and Max immediately put his hands on her and tried to
make a connection. Almost instantaneously an enormous burst of energy gathered
around her and threw Max across the room. He hit the wall with a thud and slumped to
the floor.

"Oh my God Max, are you alright? What happened?" Alex's worried eyes met his for a
moment before returning to Maria's pale face.

"I … I don't know Alex. Something forced me away, I've never felt anything like it before."
Max lifted his terrified gaze to Alex and almost whispered, "I can't help her Alex, there's
nothing I can do …"



TBC


[ edited 5 time(s), last at 13-Feb-2003 11:56:59 PM ]
posted on 26-Nov-2002 6:27:05 PM
Hello all ... I'm back again. *happy*
I'm in a bit of a rush this morning, haven't got time to give individual responses to all your great feedback. So, I'll just say thanks so much to ALL of you! *happy*

Anyway, gotta run, so let's get straight into it ... *happy*

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 8
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ...
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… we were always free to choose,
never free enough to find,
I wish something would break,
cause we're running out of time …"



Sounds echoed across the vacant space to where Michael stood staring through
the glass window of the Intensive Care Unit. His heart thumped erratically in his
chest and his pale face was tight with barely suppressed emotion. People shuffled
around and behind him and yet he neither heard nor saw them. He was
completely alone with his torment.

He'd known something was wrong, had felt it all morning and half the night if truth
be told. When Alex had asked about Maria, alarms had gone off in his head and
he'd know deep down that the something he'd felt coming had arrived.

It had been weak and oh so easy to stand there in that cafe and watch his friends
walk off to face his demons for him. He was filled with despair and mind numbing
fear, but most of all, shame. He'd thought himself many things, lazy, brash, even
cruel, but he'd never considered himself a coward. Now, he knew better.

Max hadn't called him as promised, instead he'd walked in through the back door
of the Crashdown and relayed the news in person. The panicked look on Max's
face had said more then words could say and he'd only taken enough time to
throw off his apron before grabbing Max's arm and hurrying him out the door.

Max had explained what had happened at Maria's in basic terms while driving
them both to the hospital. He'd told him that Alex had called 911 after his aborted
attempt to help and had travelled with Maria in the Ambulance. Isabel had also
been called at some stage, Michael wasn't sure when, but he'd seen her when
they'd arrived over an hour ago.

So, here they were, standing in various positions around the sterile hall waiting.
They hadn't spoken about it yet. Not that there was much to say really. Someone,
or something, had done this to Maria and he was as sure of that as of anything
else.

This of course raised certain unwelcome questions of safety, being that Maria
was most probably suffering from some alien related condition. Michael couldn't
bring himself to care about that though. He was too absorbed with thoughts of
Maria and what he was going to do without her. For in his heart he had begun
to believe he'd missed his chance to save her.

The dream had been his alien way of prevention and he'd obviously not taken it
seriously enough. Now his heart lay dying on the other side of the wall and there
was nothing he could do about it.

"Michael, come and sit down, please?" Isabel spoke softly over his shoulder,
her voice was laced with worry and this, more then anything else, broke Michael's
self-imposed isolation.

"What's taking them so long, we've been here for over an hour. Why won't
anybody tell us what's going on?" Michael continued to peer into the room,
trying in vain to catch a glimpse of Maria.

Max, who had been leaning against the far wall, looked at his best friend and
his heart went out to him. Michael wasn't the best at handling difficult emotional
situations, and this was about as bad as he could imagine. He and Isabel had
tried on several occasions to get him to move away from the window, but he'd
ignored them all. Even Alex, who wasn't doing too well himself, had tried.

"I'm sure they'll let us know as soon as they can Michael, why don't you come over
here and sit down?" Max walked over and sat on one of the hard plastic chairs
that lined the outside wall of the ICU.

Just as Michael was finally contemplating doing just that, Maria's Doctor opened
the door to her room and moved into the hallway where they were waiting.

"Are any of you family of Miss Deluca?" The doctor's voice was low and smooth and
he made eye contact with them all before settling on the tallest who had stepped
forward and was now looking down at him rather fiercely.

"Her mother is out of town. Our friend Alex is outside trying to get in contact
with her now. What happened, how is she?" Michael's voice was almost harsh,
which to the other occupants in the room spoke volumes. The doctor stepped back
a little and took stock of the young man standing in front of him.

He could see that this one held himself together by the tiniest of threads and he
swallowed, choosing his words with great care. This was not a man he sensed
one wanted to upset, and he didn't relish the task at hand.

"Please, why don't we sit down" He gestured towards the plastic chairs and
everyone made their way over and sat. All eyes were focused on him as he began.
"Maria's in a coma."

The blood drained from Michael's face and he leaned back in his chair, he glanced
at Max and Isabel then swung his eyes back towards the dark haired Doctor.
Max gripped Michael's arm in a comforting gesture and addressed the Doctor,
"What's causing it?"

The Doctor filled them in on what tests had been performed and the details of
her admittance to the Hospital. Once he finished speaking, the room lapsed into
silence. Michael, unable to stay seated, sprang up and began pacing around the
room. He stopped in front of her window and turning, somehow found the strength
to ask the question nobody wanted answered. "Will she be ok?"

The Doctor stood and paused a moment before answering. "I really don't have an
answer to that question I'm afraid. We've run every conceivable test on her and
can find no physical reason for why she's in this state. She's showing little brain
activity and I'm not going to tell you we're not concerned. We have her stabilised
for the moment but the longer she's unconscious, the more difficult her chance of
recovery."

Isabel glanced at Michael and asked the Doctor if they could see her. "Certainly,
but only one at a time at this stage, we're monitoring her very closely. Even though
she's unconscious, we can't know how much she's aware of. She needs rest
and time to heal. That being said, it's probably good to hear a familiar voice. It can't
hurt." The Doctor nodded at each of them in farewell and left them alone.

Max walked up to Michael and grasped him on the shoulder. "Michael, why don't you
go in first, Isabel and I will go find Alex and fill him in on what the doctor said."

Michael raised his eyes to meet Max's sympathetic look and nodded slightly, "Thanks
Max." He turned and walked towards the door to her room, he paused before entering
and added without turning, "Max, I don't pretend to understand why or how this
happened, but we have to help her. No matter what."

Max and Isabel watched his retreating back as he slipped inside the room.

TBC


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Nov-2002 1:10:16 AM ]
posted on 27-Nov-2002 5:32:55 PM
Hello again. *happy*
Back with another update am I ... ;)

Roswellluver - Thanks for the feedback. Maria's pals are certainly going to try to find a way to help her, and that's all I'm saying ... *happy*

Lana Lane - I'm glad to see my little story is keeping you guessing. *happy* I didn't want to give all the clues away too early on ... still ... I hope I don't cause you lots of frustration as I go. I so do like to string people along for a while ... heh heh ... *big* Thanks again for the great feedback and I'm so glad you like the banner. *happy*


Thanks again everyone for reading and the feedback.

Ok ... off we go ... *happy*

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 9
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… beautiful drowning,
this beautiful drowning …
I am overcome …"



Maria opened her eyes. Or at least she thought she'd opened them. It was difficult
to tell for two reasons. Firstly, it was absolutely silent and so utterly dark she felt
for the moment quite deaf and blind, and secondly, most distressing of all was that
she couldn't actually feel that her eyes were open. This of course made absolutely
no sense whatsoever, but there you had it. Thinking about it, she couldn't really feel
herself at all.

She knew she was there, wherever 'there' was, but she couldn't really feel herself
in a physical sense. There was no floor beneath her feet, even though she sensed
her feet were there, she couldn't really feel them. She couldn't even feel the air
around her as she breathed. Breathed? Was she breathing? She couldn't tell. She
thought she sensed that as well, but everything was so muddled and difficult to
gauge, it was like she'd been swallowed into nothingness.

"Oh my God, I'm dead!" She thought, terrified and more devastated then ever.
Immediately she tried to calm herself down, not yet ready to accept she'd come to
the end of her young life. There were far too many things she'd not had the chance
to do yet, it couldn't possibly be the end, that would be too cruel. "So," she reasoned,
ignoring that horrifying possibility, "if not dead, then where the hell am I?"

Maria took a moment to recall her last memory, she wasn't completely sure, but she
thought she remembered getting into bed and going to sleep, but other then that
everything was one big fuzzy blur. Maria tried to centre her thoughts and reason out
her situation but there was just nothing in her mind that clued her in on what had
happened to her.

She was lost, out of existence by the look of it, with no substance or function and
yet she sensed that in some way she remained intact, albeit barely. Of course another
possibility was that she was stuck in some nightmarish dream, but deep down she
knew that wasn't going to be it. No, this was real.

Maria felt herself moments away from total debilitating panic and in the absence of
ceder oil, she tried every mental trick she knew to stave off that inevitable moment.
Unfortunately, the fates were not with her and just as she was sure she couldn't be
any more frightened, she felt a presence approach and a voice echoed in her mind.

"Greetings." The soft, raspy voice murmured inside her completely shattering her
previously almost-calm state. It was bad enough thinking she was lost, which at that
moment she decided was as good a way to refer to her current situation as any, but
hearing the voice in her head somehow made her predicament very real.

"Who's there?" Maria's tentative reply echoed inside her mind.

There was a momentary pause, then the voice replied, "I am Lysus."

Maria felt her terror deepen and was certain if she'd been able to feel her hands,
they'd have been cold, clammy and shaking, as would be the rest of her most
probably. Never in her life had she known such fear.

"Where am I? What is this place?" Maria sent the questions out into the abyss,
hoping against hope that the presence was friendly but knowing somehow it was
not.

"That is difficult to answer." The presence spoke with slow, measured words. It
sounded almost mechanical to Maria, as if unused to speaking, and its depth and
tone sent shivers through her mind, despite this she identified the voice as male.

"You are, in this moment, separated from your body. It lays in a hospital bed being
attended by medical people who have no idea what ails you." The smile in his voice
was evident, clearly the thought amused him. "This is a problem for you. They have
no knowledge of what has happened and will therefore be unable to save you."

Maria gasped at this last comment. "Save me? What do you mean? Am I .... I'm ... "

Lysus completed her unspoken question, "Going to die?" Maria heard what could be
considered laughter and shuddered mentally at the tone of it. "Oh yes Maria. You
certainly are." The humour in his voice drove an ice cold dread, deep into her heart.
There was no question in his voice, he spoke with absolute confidence, and she
believed every terrifying word.

"Why? How did I get here? What do you want with me … I don't understand!" Maria
cried out, terrified and frustrated at once.

"Why?" Lysus repeated her question. "Because dear girl, the one you call Michael
chose you for himself and that makes you more valuable to me then life. " He paused,
for dramatic effect she was sure, "You are my instrument of vengeance."

Maria mentally blinked and tried in vain to understand what he was talking about.
"You want to hurt Michael? Why? What did he do to you? Who ARE you?"

"I am an old friend of your Antarian lover." Maria mentally stumbled over that
statement and before she formulated an adequate reply, he continued much amused.
"You know, you will be much more useful then I anticipated. I knew the 'second' had
designs on a human, but I could not have believed just how attached to you he'd
become. It is all so much better then I planned. Finally, I have the power to bring him
to his knees." The absolute relish with which his words were delivered spoke clearly
of his intentions. From what he'd said he was obviously alien, and to Maria's way of
thinking, absolutely bonkers.

"You're making a mistake." Maria spoke with a confidence she didn't feel and winced
when he laughed again.

"I think not. Do not concern yourself about it yet, I have no plans to finish this soon,
I wish to make the most of this opportunity." He sighed almost wistfully and continued,
"I have waited a long time, have been patient and wise and now the fruits of my labours
are within my grasp. I will crush the royals into the very earth they long to leave behind.
But first, I intend to play a little with them, especially your Michael."

Maria was almost afraid to ask, "Play with them?"

"Oh yes, one must learn to pace oneself, gain enjoyment from ones' work. You see,
I have taken your essence, your soul, spirit, whatever you humans call it, and trapped
it away. Your body is but an empty shell and as it slowly dies, so too will you. One can
not live without the other." The stranger's softly spoken words chilled her and she
mentally retreated.

"Your loss will be the ruination of them all. Michael will strike out and destroy everything
within reach, for it is his nature to do so, and my ultimate goal will have been realised
with very little effort on my part." His voice rippled across Maria's consciousness like
razorblades across her skin and she almost whimpered with the pain of it.

"You know, it is truly satisfying to take from your enemy that which he treasures most.
To stand in front of him, holding his prize by the throat and watch the terror in his eyes
as the life is slowly squeezed from it." His voice faded away for a moment, as if he
savoured the image his words had provoked. "Ah yes, it is really something to hold in
the palm of your hand the broken spirit of a once proud and mighty warrior," Maria
heard again the smile in his voice as he added, "and most gratifying of all to crush it
to dust."

"Why are you doing this?" Lysus seemed to ignore her question and Maria felt the
gradual retreat of his presence, he was leaving. She ignored her increasing sense of
defeat and spoke one last time with confidence and hope, "They will find a way to stop
you."

Lysus ceased his withdraw and then laughed softly, "No Maria, I'm afraid that will not
be possible. You should relinquish the hope of them coming for you, they can not help
you." He paused and the tone of his voice filled her heart with dread. "I will never let
you go. You will die."

After a moments hesitation, his menacing presence vanished into nothingness and Maria
was once again alone. She shivered mentally, and tried in vain to stop the horror and
grief from pouring out. "No" she cried. Was it as hopeless as he'd said? Was she really
in this place? Or was she caught in some kind of nightmare? Her friends would come for
her, surely they would find a way. They had to, or she feared it would be as he'd said,
she would die.

Already she sensed the tethers that bound her to life were loosening, and with every
moment her spirit seemed to weaken. Finally, abandoning the control she'd held so
briefly, she released the terrified scream that had been building and wailed out into the
nothingness until her strength and hope had gone. "Michael! … Michael! … Please …
help me …"


TBC

posted on 28-Nov-2002 7:57:23 PM
Hello all ... I'm back. *happy*
Another little bit for you ... enjoy!.

Lana Lane - Thanks for the copious feedback! I love it. ;) Nice to see you're coming over to the 'Candy' side of things ... at least for this story anyway. *happy*
I'm evil? Absolutely! Mwwahahahaaa *big* As for being long winded and nasty, hmmm ... probably ... but ... you know how it goes ... you'll just have to wait and see. ;)

Belit - I'm scaring you huh? hehe hehe ... Exceeelleeennt!!!! *evil grin* *big* Thanks so much for the feedback. *happy* I LIVE for feedback ... ;)

Well ... thanks again everyone ... back to the show ... *happy*

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 10
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… there goes the fear,
let it come …"




Isabel looked through the window of the ICU and watched her surrogate brother
stare at the occupied bed in the centre of the room. Maria's condition had not
improved, if anything she seemed to be fading away before their eyes and to Isabel
it seemed that Michael was more then happy to go along with her.

Isabel sighed worriedly to herself, something had to be done and soon. She couldn't
help feeling that they were running out of time.

"It's been 3 days. Look at her, she's getting worse." Maria's mother startled Isabel
out of her thoughts as she spoke and Isabel turned to face her. She'd arrived barely
12 hours after Maria had been admitted. It had taken precious time to track her down
and Alex had finally reached her by phone, she'd headed back on the first available
flight.

Isabel had been there when she'd arrived and it had been difficult to watch. Ms Deluca
had walked into the room and leaned heavily on the Sheriff's arm when she'd seen her
daughter's condition. The various tubes and machinery in the room had frightened her
most of all and she'd crumpled into a chair beside the bed and hadn't moved for the
next 10 hours.

Over the last couple of days she'd been here every moment except for short breaks,
the hospital staff had tried on several occasions to get her to rest but she'd been
adamant. Finally in desperation, the Sheriff had picked her up and carried her off to
get some much needed sleep. She'd not been happy about it but had been too worn
out to put up much of a struggle.

That had been about 6 hours ago and Isabel had been there watching Michael do the
exact same thing.

"How long has Michael been in there?" Ms Deluca asked the question while looking
through the window at Michael's stony face.

Isabel ran her fingers through her hair and turned from the window. "Ever since you
left. Actually, as soon as you were out of the room he went in there, he hasn't moved."

Maria's mother nodded absently and turned to face Isabel who sat down in one of
the chairs outside the room. "He really loves her doesn't he?" It was more statement
of fact then question, and Isabel nodded her agreement.

"I've known Michael a long time and I've never seen him so involved. He's not what
you call sociable. Sticks pretty much to himself, which has worried Max and I over
the years. Maria's been so good for him in that regard." Isabel looked thoughtful,
"We were surprised by it to tell you the truth. Nobody has ever been able to get
under his skin like Maria has, he's more alive then he's ever been." Isabel's face
dropped, "That is, he was …" She didn't finish her sentence remembering suddenly
who it was she was talking to.

Maria's Mother closed her eyes briefly and breathed deep. "It’s alright Isabel, I know
what you're saying. My daughter has always been so animated and full of life, it's
always flowed over onto everyone around her. Michael is no exception and I'm not
blind, I see Maria's growing attachment to him and it's been a constant worry for me."

She sat down beside Isabel and studied her hands folded in her lap. "I see so much
of myself in her I worry she's going to end up the way I did." She lifted her eyes to
Isabel and blinked away sudden tears. "But I wouldn't trade a moment of it for
anything, those mistakes gave me my beautiful daughter and she's the most
wonderful thing that ever happened to me. Looking at her in there makes me realise
I'd give anything to see her make her own, no matter what they are."

Isabel reached across and squeezed her hand in comfort, "She's going to get better
Ms Deluca, you have to believe that. We can't give up on her."

Maria's mother looked into the young woman's face and something in her expression
gave her hope. Her daughter's friends were remarkable people, they'd all gathered
together during this crisis and hadn't broken the line of support once. Such maturity
and strength in ones so young, it amazed and humbled her.

"Thank you." Ms Deluca smiled wearily at Isabel and stood up. "I think I'll head back
in now." She moved off and re-entered the room, closing the door behind her.

Isabel watched her settle in to the chair beside the bed and glanced once more at
Michael before heading off to find Alex. She suddenly felt in desperate need of his
company and thought it was passed time she saw how he was doing.

~~~

Michael blinked when he heard the door click shut, turning his head he saw that Maria's
mother had returned. He shifted in his seat, feeling uncomfortable with her in the room.
He couldn't bring himself to leave though and spent a few moments considering his
options.

"Hello Michael, has there been any change?" Ms Deluca asked the question knowing
full well that his answer would be no. Still, she felt the need to address the young man
who'd sat vigilantly by her daughter's side throughout the night.

Michael shook his head in the negative and continued to look at Maria's pale face.

Maria's mother turned her attention back to her daughter and listened to the silence in
the room. Not that it was completely silent, machines beeped and clicked continuously,
monitoring closely her wraithlike baby girl. It was a mother's worst nightmare and she
was living it.

"I can't believe this is happening." Maria's mother spoke softly, tears glimmered in her
eyes and Michael's gaze unwilling flickered from Maria's face to her mother's. He
watched silently as the tears overflowed and dripped down her face unchecked and he
was suddenly overcome by the need to escape. He stood up abruptly and without a
word, left the room.

Maria's mother barely noticed him leave.


TBC



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 29-Nov-2002 12:28:16 AM ]
posted on 1-Dec-2002 7:12:53 PM
Hello all, hope everyone had a good weekend. I certainly did. *happy*

Anyway ... here's another update. I'm starting to get close to the end of what I've written, so enjoy the quick updates while they last. *happy* I've got 18 written ... and we're up to the 11th now ... so about another week of quick updates and then you'll have to sit it out a bit from there on in. *big*

Lana Lane - Thanks for the kind words ... you're good for one's ego. *big*

Belit - Yeah I know ... poor old Michael ... *happy* ... I figure he's the strongest of the crew and the most interesting. But then, I'm a little bias, he's a babe. ;) I know I'm spoiling you guys with quick updates, but as I said above, that's coming to a quick close so lap it up while it lasts ... heh heh *big*. Thanks again for sticking with me and the great feedback. *happy*

Thanks everyone ... enjoy.

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 11
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… I hope you find what matters,
through the streets you're on your own,
almost lost and almost gone…"




Alex hung up the phone and rubbed his eyes tiredly. He'd been awake for far too
long, or so his body was telling him. He ached all over and his eyes were red and
stung from lack of sleep. He'd just spoken to Liz's father who'd relayed his
daughter's flight details and arrival time. Alex stretched and sighed with some relief,
Liz was coming home and he couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so anxious to
see her.

It had taken almost two days before she'd returned his call, he'd left at least a dozen
messages and made himself well and truly known to her aunt and uncle in Florida.
She'd been away on some scientific safari or something and had been out of contact
for a few days. Her relatives had tried to get in contact with her and it had been pure
luck that her trip had been interrupted by rain and she'd called to check in from a pay
phone during an impromptu stop. Twelve hours later and she was on a plane home.

Alex hated that her trip was called short, especially in such horrible circumstances,
but he was certainly glad that she was coming. He knew her trip away had been as
much an act of self-preservation as anything else and worried briefly how she was
going to handle seeing Max so soon after the whole destiny fiasco. Not that it matter
much, nothing was as important as Maria's life and if Liz had needed to crawl on her
hands and knees to get here, Alex knew she'd have done so.

He realised suddenly just how much he loved these two women. They were so much
a apart of his life he didn't know how he'd survive without them. Alex swallowed
the negative thought that he might live to find out sooner then he'd thought and
stepped away from the wall he'd been leaning on.

Steps sounded down the hall distracting him from his morbid thoughts and he
glanced up in time to see Isabel walk through the doorway towards him.

"There you are, I've been looking for you." Isabel's voice was husky, she sounded
as tired as he felt.

"I just got off the phone from Mr Parker, Liz's flight is due in about an hour. He's
picking me up on the way out there, I told him I wanted to meet her plane." Alex
looked at her and couldn't help but think how beautiful she was. To him, she grew
more beautiful every day, primarily because the more time he spent with her, the
more he learned of what she was inside. Her stunningly good looks were no match
for the beauty of her heart

Isabel merely nodded and stood looking into his tired eyes. "You look ready to fall
on your feet Alex, maybe you should go home and get some sleep."

Alex shook his head, "I can't Isabel, at least not yet. Maybe after Liz gets here and
we've filled her in on the situation properly. I don't think I would sleep anyway,
there's too much in my brain for that right now."

Isabel nodded sadly and reached out to take his hand, "Well, how about we go
down to the cafeteria and grab some coffee. I could do with some myself."

Alex smiled gently and allowed her to lead him towards the Hospital cafeteria, he
was so thankful she was there. Even though it was against his better judgement,
he felt himself falling more in love with her every moment, which was crazy, she was
an impossible dream.

They made their way into the empty cafeteria and after grabbing a cup of coffee
each, carried a shared sandwich to a table over near a window that overlooked a
grassed area surrounded by gardens.

They sat silently for a moment, content to be quiet in each other's company while
they sipped their luke-warm coffee. For his part, Alex was thinking over the last few
days, trying to figure out what to do next. The doctors had no idea how to help Maria,
her illness was a mystery to them and they were doing little more then trying to
keep her alive.

The alien hand they were sure had been involved was still an unknown. Max had
tried to heal Maria again with similar results as the first time and Isabel had tried
dream walking her as well. She'd not been able to find her, and that had been a
turning point for them all. It had hit home with excruciating clarity that she might
already be lost to them.

Alex refused to believe that however, there had to be something they could do.
Surely whoever had done this had done so for a reason? Why hurt an innocent girl
for nothing? No, it made no sense at all, there had to be a reason. They had to be
missing something.

"Isabel, do you think it would be worthwhile trying a dreamwalk again? I know you
said you couldn't find her, but maybe this time would be different." Alex's hopeful
expression drove needles of pain into Isabel's heart, never before had she felt so
helpless.

"I could try, but Alex, I don't know if it will do any good. When I said it didn't work,
that I couldn’t find her, I didn't just mean that I couldn't find a way in. I mean't it
literally." Isabel reached across the table and grasped Alex's free hand in hers. "It
was as if she didn't exist Alex. Usually, if I can't get into a person's dream, I can at
least sense they're there. This time there was nothing Alex. It's like she's … just …
gone."

Alex pulled his hand away and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked down at
the table and felt the beginning of an as yet unseen emotion. Anger. He glanced up
at Isabel and she leaned back in her chair, a little surprised by the expression in his
eyes.

"Alex, I didn't mean to say there's no hope, I just …" Isabel stopped mid sentence
as Alex stood up abruptly and looked down into her suddenly wary eyes.

"I'm so sick of this Isabel, I'm trying so hard to keep it together but I seem to be
failing miserably at the moment. I think perhaps I'd better go grab some fresh air or
something, these hospital fumes must be getting to me. " He turned to walk away
and stopped when he heard Isabel's almost silent sound of distress. He turned back
to face her and his features softened a little as he spoke, "I'm sorry Isabel, it's not
you. I'm just tired and worried, I'll see you later ok?"

Isabel nodded mutely and watched him walk away. She'd never seen Alex like that
before, was actually rather shocked and sat staring at her half-empty cup of coffee
for a long while thinking about it.


TBC


posted on 2-Dec-2002 7:30:47 PM
Wooo ... up to chapter 12 ... *happy*
I do so hope that my mental block goes away soon or you guys will be soooooo cranky with me soon. *happy*
Anyway ... fingers crossed. *happy*

Roswellluver - Lysus is certainly not a nice fella ... but we'll have to wait and see just what he's about. *happy* Thanks for the feedback!

Belit - I'm back with candy, just for you! *happy* Maria is hanging in there, we'll get back to her soon I promise. As for Michael, he's feeling it that's for sure, but he's made of special stuff, I'm sure he'll bounce back. ;) Thanks heaps for the feedback!! *big*

Thank you again everybody for reading and the great feedback. I really appreciate it! *happy*

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 12
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… I dare you to move,
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor …"



Alex was making his way outside when he noticed Michael's tall form striding ahead
of him towards the hospital exit. He seemed in a hurry, and his hasty retreat sparked
a fire inside him that made the slow simmering anger he'd been fighting against boil
over. It was completely irrational Alex knew, but he just couldn't help himself. At that
moment, Michael Guerin seemed the perfect person to blame for everything and that
was exactly what he needed.

Alex increased his speed and followed Michael who was now making his way towards
the grassed area he'd seen earlier through the cafeteria window. It was still fairly
early and the gardens seemed completely empty. Alex thought that this was a good
thing, he had a strong feeling that things were about to get ugly.

"Michael! I want to ask you something." Alex called out and walked over and stood
before him, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. Michael looked down at Alex and
recognising the raw emotion in his eyes remained silent.

"I want to know what you're going to do for Maria." Alex spoke carefully and studied
the face before him while waiting for a response.

Michael blinked and continued to look stonily at Alex. He could see Alex was holding
on by a thread, he seemed angry more then anything else and Michael wondered
absently why that was.

Alex grew impatient with Michael's silence and reasoned that meant he intended to
do little. This, as far as he was concerned, was the last straw and he growled deep
in his throat before throwing a punch at Michael, sending him sprawling to the
ground.

Michael grunted in surprise and looking up at Alex, rubbed his jaw painfully. "You do
realise you just risked your life doing that right?"

Alex smiled grimly and nursed his aching hand against his body. "You think I give a
damn Michael?"

Michael scowled, "What the hell is your problem?"

"My problem is that my best friend in the entire world is laying in a hospital bed,
slipping away while you," Alex grunted sarcastically, "the one who is supposedly in
love with her, sits quietly by watching and waiting for her to die!"

Michael swallowed and pulled himself to his feet. His eyes narrowed and ignoring the
angry burn in the pit of his stomach he spoke calmly. "Well, do you feel better now?"

At Michael's deceptively quiet words, all the anger inside him seemed to drain away
and Alex suddenly felt more weary then he could ever remember. He looked Michael in
the eye and his voice dropped to a more conversational tone.

"Michael, you're the one who knew this was coming. The only one. That's gotta mean
something. It's gotta mean you're the one who can save her and I just can't understand
why you're not doing anything about it. Don't you love her? How can you stand to sit
there watching her fade away? Especially knowing you're the only chance she has?"

Alex rubbed his bruised hand absently. "You and I both know that whatever's been
done to Maria was done by an Alien. Max was pretty sure about that and even Isabel
thinks so. If that's true, then you guys are the only ones who can help her. Nothing
these doctors do is helping that's for sure, she's getting worse by the minute. We
need to figure this out Michael, before it's too late."

Alex looked imploringly at Michael and swallowed the lump that formed in his throat.
"You usually go ballistic where Maria is concerned, this just doesn’t seem like you at
all, what's going on? Why are you giving up?"

Michael turned his attention away from Alex's intent gaze and stared out across the
Hospital grounds. He hadn't realised that was how it seemed and thinking about it
now had to admit that he had done that very thing. He felt her slipping away moment
by moment, and with every shallow breath she took he felt himself fading with her. He
couldn't imagine this life without her in it and this fear had paralysed him.

He understood Alex's anger, he felt his own simmer just beneath the surface and only
by sheer will had he contained it. He felt powerless, out of control and realised that
over the last few days he'd let his emotional shutdown command him. Alex was right,
he was the only one who'd seen this coming, not that he understood what it was. He
didn't know if he was the only one who could help her, but wallowing in self-pity about
how lost he was going to be without her wasn't improving the situation. Michael closed
his eyes and sighed, such a coward.

Now that the confrontation was over, Alex felt a rising sense of shame. He'd used
Michael to vent his pain and frustration and he wasn't at all proud he'd resorted to
violence in order to do so. It just wasn't his style and he suddenly felt a stranger to
himself. It was obvious he needed to spend time on some serious self-analysis, but for
now he shelved the need away and stood silently watching the emotions flow across his
friend's face.

He could see that despite everything that had transpired between them, he'd reached
Michael on some level and he felt profoundly grateful. Michael had been a mask of
controlled emotion up until now and it had been a constant worry for the rest of them.
Now though, Alex saw tiny cracks appearing and he sighed quietly in relief, maybe now
Maria had a chance.

Michael opened his eyes and looking at Alex saw the relief in his face and understood
it for what it was. "I don't know what I'm going to do, but you're right. We're running
out of time and sitting around here isn't helping." Michael turned abruptly and headed
back towards the entrance. He'd only taken a few steps when he stopped and turned
back, "Oh and Alex? Next time you hit me make sure you really want to."

Alex looked into Michael's dark eyes and a silent agreement passed between them. It
was a look of mutual understanding and grudging respect. They both faced losing a
woman they loved more then anything and in their shared pain a bond of sorts had
formed. Alex knew though he'd been warning him as well. He accepted that Alex was
reacting to an extreme situation and could forgive him that, but next time he'd not be
so lucky.

Alex nodded his head silently and stood and watched as Michael continued on his way.
For the first time he felt a real possibility that everything would be okay, and he smiled.

TBC





[ edited 2 time(s), last at 3-Dec-2002 1:20:36 AM ]
posted on 3-Dec-2002 6:31:26 PM
Annndd I'm back ... yet again ... *happy*
I've another bit for you guys ... one more this week and a couple next then we're up to date. *happy* I spose I should pull my finger out and get going on the rest huh? *big*

Roswellluver - Thanks so much for the feedback! *happy*

Belit - I love Michael/Alex friendship scenes too, and I agree that they would have made great friends. Poor old Alex, wish he hadn't bit the big one. :( As for Maria, there's ALWAYS hope ... *happy* ... and Michael is certainly going to try ... *happy* Stay tuned ... mwwahahahaa ... *big*

Anyhooo ... enjoy! *happy*

~Nat.


------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 13
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… you came,
you left,
we'll start this all again…"



Liz stood at her best friend's bedside and wept. She couldn't believe it, Maria had
never looked so awful. Her body was attached to a variety of unidentifiable
machines and they droned and beeped around her. She was so pale and still and
Liz shuddered as the reality of the situation hit her.

When Alex had told her Maria was in the Hospital, she'd never imagined it could
be this bad. Even though he'd told her how serious it was, somehow she'd not
expected this. It shocked and appalled her, but even more distressing was that it
reminded her of her grandmother's last days. This couldn't be happening to Maria, it
just wasn't possible.

"It looks pretty bad doesn't it?" Her other best friend Alex spoke from the other side
of the room. He and her father had met her at the airport and they'd driven straight
to the Hospital after collecting her.

Liz nodded, not quite able to formulate words at that moment and settled herself
instead into the chair beside Maria's bed. Alex walked over to her and touched her
shoulder lightly. "We're going to meet up with everybody in about half an hour to
go over the game plan. We were waiting for you." He kneeled on the floor beside her
chair and hugged his friend tightly. "You've no idea how much I missed you Liz, I'm so
glad you're here."

Liz burrowed her face into his shoulder and breathed deeply, trying to get herself
under control. After a few moments, she pulled away and looked into his tired eyes.
"You look exhausted Alex, I know this has been hard for you."

Alex shrugged and lowered his eyes to the floor. "Yeah, but I'm alright. I've grabbed
a couple of hours sleep here and there, I'll be fine."

Liz studied him closely and noticed how pale and hollow he looked. She'd not seen
anybody else yet but was sure he'd not be the only one who looked like this. "How's
Maria's mom doing?"

She'd asked the question knowing full well what the answer would be. She'd known
Maria's mother almost her entire life and knew this had to be killing her. But then,
why wouldn't it? She imagined there'd be little worse for a mother then having to
watch their child wither away.

Alex released his hold on her and rested back on his heels. "As well as can be
expected I guess. The Sheriff came by just before your dad picked me up and took
her for a cup of coffee, she must still be with him. She's barely left Maria's side."

"What about the others?" Liz didn't have to specify names, Alex knew who it was
she was talking about.

"They're ok. Isabel and Max have been trying everything they know how to help,
but nothing seems to be working. As for Michael, well, he's been the real surprise in
all this."

Liz gave Alex a puzzled look and waited for him to continue. "He basically shutdown."
He got up, walked to the other side of the room and stood looking through the
outside window. He looked up at the clouds billowing and noted that it looked like
rain.

"What do you mean?" Liz asked the question, intrigued by Alex's sudden unease and
quite willing to discuss anything to keep herself from focusing on the thin girl beside
her.

Alex turned around and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "It was weird Liz I'm telling
you. I mean, I know how he feels about her, but you know what Michael's like, I
expected lots of action and was pretty surprised to find him almost catatonic."

Liz frowned thoughtfully and watched him while he spoke. "He barely left her room
and would hardly speak to any of us. Isabel's been really worried about him, we all
have actually. He's always been a bit of a loose canon and I for one was worried
what he was going to do. " Alex broke off and laughed, "Imagine my surprise when
he didn't do a thing."

Liz watched as Alex lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet a little. It was obvious that
something had occurred that he wasn't totally comfortable with and Liz was suddenly
anxious to know what it was. "What is it Alex? What happened?"

Alex glanced up at Liz and sighed, "I kinda went a bit crazy. Everything was getting
to me and it was like I was somebody else for a moment. I was so angry that I
couldn't see straight. Liz, it was so strange, I've never felt like that before but I just
needed something to make sense of it all you know? And I guess Michael seemed like
the perfect thing at the time."

Alex moved back over to Maria's bedside and lowered his voice a little, "I didn't meant
to fly off the handle at him, but I just couldn't help myself. I … ahh … actually punched
him."

Liz's stunned expression almost made Alex laugh out loud, he knew it sounded rather
amusing, if not completely insane. He wasn't the type to do it for one, and secondly, he
was no where near in Michael's league to even attempt such a thing, even if he wanted
to. Which he didn't. It wasn't something he was proud of, he didn't like violence of any
kind really and couldn't believe he'd done it if truth be told. He'd decided on the drive
to the airport earlier to plead temporary insanity if anyone asked. He must have been
out of his mind.

Liz must have been formulating a response but before she'd even opened her mouth
to speak, an alarm sounded from one of the machines in the room and they both
immediately forgot what it was they were talking about. Looking at each other in
sudden panic they both froze for a second and time seemed to stand still. Liz broke
out of their shared trance first and jumped up so quickly her chair toppled over onto
its side.

"Oh my God Alex, get help!" Liz almost screamed the words, sending Alex from the
room at a dead run, yelling at the top of his voice. Liz searched Maria's face frantically
as if looking for the answer and then turned to look at the monitor that screeched and
wailed into the room. Immediately her entire focus narrowed down to the tiny blue line
on the machine's face, and as she watched it spike and drop erratically, she began
pleading with her unconscious friend to hold on.

Moments later, Alex returned with a team of medical people and they were quickly
ushered out of the room. They both stood silently watching through the window as
the Hospital staff worked on their dearest friend in the world, hoping and praying that
she'd be ok. Liz however wasn't really seeing the people inside moving about madly,
all she had in her mind was the last thing she'd seen before being dragged out of the
room.

A tiny blue blip, then nothing. The line on the monitor had been absolutely flat.

TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Dec-2002 7:55:58 PM ]
posted on 4-Dec-2002 8:45:33 PM
Hello all ... I'm back. *happy*
Heh heh .. you guys didn't like where I left the last bit huh? *big* Weell... I didn't leave you hanging too long ... I did toss up the idea of leaving it over the weekend .. *happy* ... but I decided to be nice and put you out of your combined miseries ... heh heh. *wink*


Belit - *laughs* ... hmmm ... what can I say? I live to torment!! *big* And don't worry ... happy candy moments are sure to be coming .. well ... maybe ... mwwahahahahaaa!! *happy*

roswellluver - Thanks for the feedback! *happy*

NicciStar - A new reader, welcome!!! *happy* I'm glad you like it, thanks so much for the feedback. *happy*

Lana Lane - *laughs* ... ooohh hope you didn't rip too many hairs out ... *happy* I'm glad you're still with us and continuing to enjoy ... *happy* And see? I didn't leave you hanging for too long ... *big* Thanks again for the great feedback. *happy*

Thanks everyone for sticking with it ...oh and by the way, we kinda go off on a bit of a strange tangent with this one ... so .. yeah ... anyway ... on with the show. *happy*

~Nat.


----------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 14
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.



"There's pieces of you,
and yeah there's pieces of me,
you're not in my life but your haunting my dreams…"




They huddled together in a supportive group, some sat, other's stood, and dark
eyes watched as they waited. He'd come to see what his handy work had wrought
and was vastly pleased with his success. The only dark shadow on his bright victory
was that the one he most despised was missing from the scene.

This was a great disappointment to him and he swallowed the feelings of
dissatisfaction that rose inside. He consoled himself though, his enemy would come
and eventually he'd be on his knees, begging for death.

He continued to gaze at them and let himself enjoy the sensations their desperation
and fear produced. He was going to miss this when it was done. He would have what
he desired most and in that be gloriously content, but he would feel some regret that
it had finally come to an end. He had waited so long and now at last he would be
rewarded for his patience.

Sudden movement recaptured his wandering mind and he watched as collectively
they moved across the room to speak with a Doctor who'd appeared. Obviously the
latest crisis was over, their various relieved expressions attested to that and he
smiled grimly. His little captive appeared to be far stronger then he'd thought. She
seemed a rather fragile creature and he was quite surprised at her tenacity. Those
that had come before had not lasted half as long and he was despite himself,
intrigued.

Well, more the better, he did not want her to fail just yet, her end would come when
he willed it and not a moment sooner. Her death would mark the beginning of the
end for them all and finally he would rest.

With that happy thought in mind, the dark eyes touched briefly the young faces in
the room, then blinked and were gone.

~~~

Maria clung to life. She knew her body was weakening, she could feel it moving
further and further away. She'd lost all sense of time and space and was mildly
surprised she wasn't going completely crazy. She'd long since let go her despair,
finding within herself a calm and clear headedness she never would have thought
possible. She no longer feared the darkness, it was all she had at that moment and
neither did she fear her isolation. She'd had plenty of time to think and had resigned
herself to her predicament.

That wasn't to say she'd given up all hope of rescue. She knew that if it all possible,
her friends would find a way. She wished she could help herself escape the situation
though, it felt wrong waiting around for a knight in shining armour but as of yet she
hadn't found a way.

Maria had tried the various mental exercises her mother had taught her over the
years, to both alleviate her boredom and perhaps discover a way out. She'd been for
the most part unsuccessful, but at one point thought she'd made some sort of contact.
Vague feelings and impressions had appeared, all of which made little sense, but
nonetheless she'd had them. Or at least she thought she had, she'd been so excited
her concentration had broken and she'd lost them so quickly she now thought she
might have imagined them.

She had tried again many times but without success, and each time seemed to
weaken her. She now felt so very tired and had decided to rest before trying again.
So, here she remained, quietly contemplative in her current state of nothingness and
waited.

~~~

Michael rolled over on his bed and tried to grab a few hours sleep. He'd left the
hospital to come home and do a few things and now felt beyond tired. He'd hardly
slept since Maria had been in the hospital and knew he'd need to rest up if he had
any hope of being able to help her. He'd actually had little sleep since the night he'd
run across town after dreaming she had died. He'd been so fearful of having a repeat
performance that he'd been reluctant to close his eyes.

He sighed wearily, he'd just catch a few hours and head back to the hospital. They
were going to get together when he got back and talk over what they were going to
do next. Michael didn't have a clue where to begin looking for Maria's attacker, but
he had a clear picture of the guy's face in his mind and was not going to stop until he
was found.

He was so afraid that they weren't going to find him in time though. He'd never before
felt so helpless, so off balance. Even when Max had revealed their existence to their
human friends, he'd felt some measure of control. This though, felt completely beyond
him and he didn't like it at all. He'd known he was in love with Maria, but hadn't
realised just how central to his existence she'd become.

She was his entire world.

Michael pictured her bright green eyes and cheerful smile and cleared his mind of all
thought. His breathing slowed and deepened as his body relaxed and with her
beautiful face before him, he allowed himself the luxury of sleep. Before long, he
dreamed …

~~~

Michael dreamed of golden grasslands stretched out before him on endless rolling
hills. A gentle wind blew sweet and cool against his cheek and the tall, elegant
stems of grass swayed back and forth. It was a beautiful place, calm and peaceful,
silent.

He stood and looked around with interest. This dream was much different from the
last one he'd had and he was thoroughly enjoying the experience. It pleased him
no end to think his mind was capable of more then violence and death.

Michael stood studying his surroundings and noticed a group of strange shaped
stones jutting out of the ground a way off to his left. They were the only thing visible
for miles and therefore stood out starkly against a backdrop of grass and sky.
Interested, he started for them and after walking a while realised they reminded him
of something he couldn't quite remember.

As he got closer the wind that had just previously been gentle sped up and blew
cold. It became a force that willed him away, warning him to stop and turn back. He
continued on, strangely compelled and a moment later entered the periphery of the
stones.

They were misshapen and odd sizes but not, as far as he could tell, naturally
occurring. They appeared like huge stone edifices thrown down and forced into the
ground. There was nothing but sand and dirt around them and Michael was again
reminded of something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

Standing inside the outer rim of rocks, he saw in front of him hundreds and hundreds
of stones, stretching out as far as he could see. Looking behind him he saw the same,
the grasslands he'd come through were gone, and so had the wind. It was now
completely still and silent. As dreams went, this one was turning out to be pretty
weird.

He turned back and where before there'd been endless piles of rock, a stone, by far
the largest of them all towered above him. It seemed to emanate golden light and
Michael was entranced by its shimmering surface. Mesmerised, he began to make his
way toward it. To reach it, he had to circle several smaller stones that lay in his path
and in doing so ended up approaching it from the opposite direction. As he did so he
came to an abrupt halt for there, crouching at its' base was an enormous black cat.

The creature was larger then any he'd ever seen, its head must have been as high
as his chest, even reclining as it was and Michael wondered absently why he felt no
fear. The animal was ferocious looking in an altogether feline way, which under
normal circumstances would have had him running for his life, yet he knew he was
dreaming and felt it unlikely he was in any danger.

He wasn't sure this was why he felt so calm though. There was something almost
hypnotic about it and the thought occurred to him that perhaps this dream was about
as fictional as the last he'd had. This returned him to his senses and he stiffened,
watching the cat's tail swish back and forth.

"Welcome." A voice sounded in his head and unbelievably it appeared to belong to
the sleek creature in front of him. The voice sounded ethereal, like a dozen voices
combined and it resonated inside his skull like an echo.

Michael spoke without thinking and replied. "Hey."

They both silently watched each other. The silvery eyes of the cat shone like
diamonds and they peered at him intelligently. He found it very unnerving.

"Who … or what … are you?"

The cat rose gracefully to its feet and padded closer to him. He watched as it
approached and he looked down at it's large paws and noticed it walked along a line
drawn in the sand. Momentarily distracted he followed the line and saw it was part
of a much larger pattern. Something inside his mind click and he realised what it
was that felt familiar about this place. It was very much like the dream-like plane
he'd been on when he'd been sick.

He saw that he stood on the outside of a large circle, the large stone was at the
centre and several lines drew out and disappeared beneath stones of all shapes
and sizes. The line the cat walked long was the widest and seemed to change
colour ever time he looked at it.

He refocussed his attention on the cat, and watched it walk to the edge of the circle
and stop. It settled itself down on its hind legs and regarded him with interest. The
cat didn't open its mouth or blink its eyes, but the voice continued on inside his head,
answering his question.

"We can not say, there are no words to describe us."

Michael frowned and kept slanting glances at the ground, trying to absorb the pattern
and hopefully by some chance its meaning. He felt it was somehow important to know.

"Where am I?" Michael looked back into the animal's eyes and thought to himself how
incredibly strange this all was.

"You know this place." The voice answered.

Michael blinked, the cat was right, he did know. "Why am I here?"

The cat seemed to consider this question carefully before it blinked its eyes and replied.

"She needs you."

Michael's breath caught in his throat, it was talking about Maria. "What do you mean?
Where is she?"

The cat turned it's head and looked back to where it had come. Michael followed its
gaze and saw the massive stone in the centre glow more brightly. It was almost too
bright to see and he shaded his eyes with his hand. Its surface rippled and changed
and then to his utter amazement, became transparent.

Michael peered across the distance and saw inside it the prone form a girl. "Maria!"
Michael gasped and started towards her, but the cat sprang onto all fours and stood
in his way.

"You can not enter yet. She is not going anywhere Michael ..." The cat seemed almost
apologetic as it spoke and Michael was somewhat comforted by its tone.

"Why can't I? What's wrong with her?"

"She is gone from this place, stolen away where we can not go. Her mind is
separated from her body, and one can not survive without the other." The cat peered
over its' shoulder and looked at Maria then swung back to gaze at him. "She grows
weaker every moment, time grows short."

"I have to help her, what can I do?"

The cat appeared to ponder the question carefully before answering, "We do not
know what will save her, it is beyond us to see. All we can do is offer you time. She is
losing strength and will, she needs something strong to bind her to this life. It is you.
You must bind her to your heart. You must with every beat, breath for her, live for her."
The cat paused and stood. "But be warned, if you choose this path, know that she
will be bound to you for eternity. Nothing will break this bond - even death. You shall
be one forever more."

Michael considered the words carefully having little idea what it all meant. He gazed
across the space to where he could see Maria frozen in place and knew he'd do
anything to save her, even if it meant his own life. He'd been angry at Max when he'd
saved Liz, had been unable to understand what it was that had driven him to risk
everything, but standing there, surrounded by rocks conversing with this monolithic
cat, he understood all too well.

The cat nodded its head and the half-closed eyes regarded him thoughtfully. "Your
heart has already chosen. You must understand that through this we can not help
heal her, we offer only time for you to find the answer."

Michael's eyes narrowed and he swung his gaze back to the creature, "I understand."

The soft fur of the animal shone blue in the low light and the muscles in its shoulders
bunched as it began to walk along the perimeter of the circle. Michael turned and
kept pace with it. "Why are you helping her? What is she to you and how did she
get here?"

"She is known to us in this place, as are you." Michael digested this piece of
information and glanced back at the cat when it continued. "Eons come and go and
many challenges exist. Some fights are pivotal and mean the beginning and end of
worlds." The cat stopped for a moment and seemed to look him over, "You are unique
for you belong to two worlds. Individuals can be very powerful Michael, some are
destined for greatness, but each of them however small have their place. All life is
connected and the actions of the smallest can determine the course of the future for
all." The cat remained silent for a moment and the voice when it came to him again
was prophetic in tone. "The balance of life is shifting, a storm is coming and many will
perish in its wake." The cat looked at him intently and then resumed its walking.
"Remember well, the woman to whom you have given your heart is important to the
future of all, she must live."

"What do you mean? What are you talking about? I don't understand any of this ... "
Michael pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes in frustration.

The cat stopped it's pacing and turned to walk towards him, raising it's head up
high it peered at him. "There is no time for us to explain to you that which you need
not understand. She is slipping away, you must bond now or all is lost. You must save
her Michael, you have been chosen for this task and if you do not find a way, no one
will."

Michael felt uneasy and knew on some level that he'd just been told something biblically
important. He didn't have time to think about it though as the cat spoke again. "It is
time. Come, touch our back and walk with us, we will take you to her."

Michael thrust all he'd been told to the back of his mind for later analysis and took a
tentative step towards the circle. The large beast turned around and reaching out to
touch it, he stepped inside the circle. Immediately he felt the change, it was extremely
cold and almost completely dark inside, so dark that he could barely make out the
central stone in the distance. The cat's coat was smooth and soft beneath his hand
and its warmth seeped through his fingers into his body. Together they made their
way towards the centre and Michael's grip grew tighter the closer they came.

"She looks so lifeless." He murmured, emotion making his voice catch as he looked
through the rock to Maria's face. The cat stopped just before the surface of the now
transparent stone and turned its large head to look at him. "We can go no further,
you must make the rest of the journey on your own. Go to her, hold her and share
with her your strength, your love. She will need everything you have to give and will
take it. You will be weak when you wake. "

Michael nodded and put his hand up to the glasslike surface of the stone. Immediately
he felt it give way and he stepped through into the centre of it and came to stand
beside Maria's still body. He let go of the cat and turned to watch its' silvery eyes
shine down on her though the rock. "We will be with you always little one, never
forget." The creature glanced at him and spoke once more before fading before his
eyes into the darkness.

"You must save her Michael, you must …"

With those last words fading in his mind, he dropped to his knees beside her and
gathered her cold body into his arms. Brushing strands of her golden hair off her face,
he searched her for signs of life sighed in relief when he saw her chest rise and fall.
Leaning down, he kissed her forehead, then her cheek and finally her lips. They were
cool to the touch and he hugged her tighter trying to warm her chilled body.

"You have to hold on Maria, I love you. Do you hear me? I love you, please hold on."
His voice cracked and he continued to whisper words of love and encouragement as
the tears gently fell. He pressed his face into her neck and pulled her tighter against
him.

She didn't wake up or speak but Michael felt something stir in his mind. A gentle touch,
an opening and grasping onto it like a lifeline he threw every bit of love and strength
he had towards it. Maria's body shuddered at the impact and Michael groaned as he in
return felt knife like jabs in his mind. He resisted the urge to break the connection and
opened himself up even more. Almost immediately the pain lessened and for a moment
he found himself on the receiving end of a bombardment of flashes. Each one was more
confusing and painful then the last, and when they'd come to an end he had no real
memory of what he'd seen.

The connection seemed to be weakening and Michael fought to keep it open, calling out
Maria's name in the hopes that she would hear him. Her body seemed to sigh in
contentment and the link they'd established closed. Michael opened his eyes and looked
at her face, she looked better he thought, not quite so cold and with the last of his
remaining strength he laid down and pulled her body on top of his. He was so tired, so
very, very tired, and right before he closed his eyes to rest, something settled itself in
his mind. He couldn't really remember or make sense of what he'd seen, but suddenly
he remembered hearing something. It had been a memory of a voice. It had been
hauntingly familiar and it had said the same thing, over and over again.

"I am Lysus ..."


TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Dec-2002 8:50:19 PM ]
posted on 5-Dec-2002 9:38:14 PM
Hiya people! *happy*
Here's the final post for the week, only 3 left until this board is up to date with the story so far. *happy* I've started the next chapter by the way, just haven't gotten very far through it. So, shouldn't be too long in coming ... fingers crossed. *happy*

NewYorker18 - Thanks so much for the feedback! I hope your new computer works out great for you, I'm sure it will. *happy* Oh, and good luck finding all your favourites! *big*

Lana Lane - Wow, what great feedback! Thanks heaps. *happy* You sound like you're having a rather emotional time of it reading this. *laughs* Sorry about that .. heh heh ... well .. not really. *big* Ahhh, so many questions ... hmmm .. you'll just have to stick with it and see how it pans out ... mmwwahahaa! *wink*

Thanks so much for reading and the fantastic feedback. I'm a feedback junkie, I love it, I love it, I love it!!! *happy*
Anyway... *cough* *cough* ... moving right along ... *big* ...

~Nat.

------------------------------------------------

"The Face and Ghost" Part 15
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… so drive me out,
out to that open field,
turn the ignition off and spin around,
your help is here …"



Max leaned against the wall and watched her. She sat in one of the waiting room
lounges talking to Alex and her curtain of shiny dark hair hid her face. He was
overjoyed to see her again. Their initial meeting hadn't been as awkward as he'd
feared although Liz hadn't said much to him other then a quick hello. Maria's illness
had been foremost in her mind and understandably they'd not had a chance to talk
about their relationship, or lack there of.

He'd been standing there for the best part of an hour watching her, thinking how it
would be if it was Liz lying in that room and not Maria. He felt momentarily guilty for
thinking it, but couldn't help but feel relieved that it wasn't the case. He would be
beside himself and once again felt concern over Michael and his current state of
mind.

They'd all noticed it. He'd not been his usual take charge self and he'd worried
about it for days. Earlier that morning he'd left the hospital, mumbling something
about having to run some errands and Max figured he'd headed home for a few
hours sleep.

They'd tried calling him at home when Maria's condition had worsened, but he'd
not answered his phone. Max shuddered, he hadn't relished the thought of having
to tell Michael that the girl he was in love with had died and luckily he hadn't had to.
That had been hours ago and he'd not seen or heard from him since.

"Hi Max." A soft feminine voice spoke at his shoulder, distracting him from his
thoughts and he tensed as he recognised it as Tess.

"Hey." Max moved away from the wall and looked down into her sky blue eyes.
He'd not seen much of her since this had begun and for the life of him just couldn't
seem to care.

Tess glanced around the room before she returned his gaze. "How's everybody
doing?"

Max pondered the question carefully before he answered and glanced once more
in Liz's direction. "As well as can be expected. What are you doing here?"

Tess flinched noticeably and she sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I
thought I'd come and see how Maria was and maybe see if I could help."

Max blinked and relaxed, he hadn't meant to sound so defensive and realised that
they'd not been particularly fair to Tess over the last few days. They'd pulled
together like the group they'd been and there had been no place for her. They
hadn't intentionally left her out of the loop, it just hadn't occurred to them to include
her.

"I'm sorry Tess, we should have called you or something." He sounded apologetic
and she relaxed slightly, nodding her head.

"It's ok Max, I understand. I guess I could have come by sooner anyway, but to be
honest I wasn't sure I'd be welcome." Tess glanced down at her feet and scuffed
her shoe against the sterile linoleum floor.

Max looked over to where Liz was now leaning back in the chair and thought again
how unfair this whole destiny thing was. He sighed internally and returned his
attention to the woman beside him. "Well, there's nothing much you could have
done anyway, we don't know what to do from here, we're at a dead end. Nothing
seems to be helping, alien or other."

Tess nodded and settled herself against the wall. "Isabel filled me in on the situation
a couple of days ago. Still no change?"

Max shook his head in the negative and rubbed his eyes tiredly. "No, nothing seems
to be helping and she's getting weaker. About an hour ago she went into cardiac
arrest, we thought we'd lost her but the doctors were able to resuscitate her."

Tess blanched and looked at him, clearly shocked. "She almost died?"

Max nodded and ran his fingers through his hair, "Yeah, it was touch and go for a
minute there. Not that she's out of the woods by any means, her Doctor told us
she's weakening and they're not sure if she'll survive another crash like that."

Tess nodded and was about to respond when she felt a frisson of awareness flow
through her. She remained silent and searched with her mind, trying to locate its
origin. Max watched her and was about to ask her what she was doing when she
spoke.

"Nasedo" Tess whispered the name and moments later a dark haired man walked
through the doorway into the waiting room.

The room went silent and all eyes focused on the new arrival. Isabel was the first
to speak and everyone echoed her question in their minds.

"What are you doing here?"

Nasedo in the guise of Agent Pierce stood and looked around the room. His dark
suit matched the blank expression on his face and he wasted no time with
pleasantries.

"I was summoned of course, which I might add had better be due to a very good
reason. My absence from Washington is going to be noted and I can't afford to come
running back here every time somebody breaks a nail."

Liz, Alex and Isabel shared a look and turned their attention to Max who was
looking just as surprised by his arrival as the rest of them. Tess stood quietly on
the sidelines and waited.

Max seemed to come to his senses and he moved into the centre of the room and
faced him. "Who called you?"

Nasedo opened his mouth to reply but was silenced when another voice spoke.

"I did."

It was Michael, he'd approached the doorway unannounced and stood just inside
the room. Everyone turned and watched him as he stepped forward. He looked
utterly exhausted, much worse then before he'd left and their breaths caught in
their throats at the look in his eyes. They were hard and flat, and hinted at some
terrible internal pain.

Max started formulating questions in his mind but before he could voice them,
Michael walked passed him and right up to stand in front of Nasedo. Michael
focused his penetrating gaze on him and asked, "Who's Lysus?"

Nasedo's expressionless face twitched and paled. He and Michael stared at each
other for a long moment before he blinked, "Where did you hear that name?"

Michael ignored the question and continued to look into his eyes. Nasedo held his
gaze and at his silence turned abruptly and addressed the group as a whole.
"Perhaps we should take this discussion elsewhere."

Max looked back and forth between them and knew, as did Michael, that whatever
Nasedo had to say was going to be difficult to hear. He had a look about him that
they'd never before seen in the shape shifter. He looked uneasy.

Max looked at Michael and at his nod, agreed. "A breath of fresh air would do us all
good anyway. The park across the road would be as good a place as any, let's go."

Liz stood up and motioned to Alex who'd gone to stand beside Isabel. Capturing his
attention he moved over to her and looked at her questioningly.

"Alex, I'm just going to go let Maria's mother know where we are, just in case she
needs us."

Alex nodded and turned to join the rest of them as they made their way outside.
Liz waited until most of them had gone and grabbed Michael's arm as he went to
walk passed her. "Michael, can I speak to you for a minute?"

Liz looked up at him and startled by his look took a quick step back. "I just wanted
to fill you in on what's been happening since you left."

Michael frowned and closed his eyes for a moment before crossing his arms over his
chest. He stood silent and watched her as she spoke.

Liz moistened her dry lips and began. "Ah, just after you left Maria took a turn for
the worse. She's ok now, well, the doctors have her stabilised and she's holding
her own at the moment, but Michael, we thought we'd lost her."

Liz wrapped her arms around herself and looked down at her feet, remembering
the moment when she'd realised what the flat blue line on her monitor had meant.

Michael stood still and remained silent. Liz looked up at him and saw in his eyes
the same flat look he'd had when he'd walked in the room. She was momentarily
surprised by it and remembered what Alex had told her about Michael over the last
few days. He'd said that he'd seemed completely closed off and unresponsive.
Standing there looking up into his eyes Liz felt that Alex had grossly understated
his assessment. Michael wasn't unresponsive, he was a tortured mass of emotion
that was being contained by the strongest of wills.

Liz relaxed her stance and reached up to lightly touch him on the shoulder. "Michael,
the doctor told us she's getting weaker, they don't think she's going to hold on much
longer. I just thought you should know."

Michael nodded and looked over her head to stare out the window of the waiting
room. Liz watched him for a moment then stepped away.

"She's going to be ok Liz, I'm not going to let her go without a fight."

Liz watched Michael as he moved away from her and exited the room. He'd spoken
with such conviction and confidence that she suddenly felt hopeful, maybe everything
was going to be ok after all.



TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Dec-2002 9:43:35 PM ]
posted on 8-Dec-2002 11:14:04 PM
Hello everyone! *happy*
Hope everybody had a great weekend.

Now, I'm sorry to say this is not an update, at least not yet. I was formatting the next bit to fit neatly on the board and after re-reading it decided it needed a bit of re-writing. I'm not happy with it. Isn't it funny how you see things so differently when you come back to them after a while away? *happy* Anyway, I have to go back through it and fix it up a bit before posting, so you guys will have to wait a little. I'm flat stick with life stuff at the moment too, but will get into it ASAP. I promise. *happy*

I just wanted to leave a little note about that and also reply to all the great feedback! I came on this morning and saw a few new readers! I was very excited. *happy*

Anyway, sorry about the delay and thanks for sticking with me so far. *happy* I really love that you guys are enjoying and stuff, it makes it all the more worthwhile.

Ok ok .. .enough ... on with the feedback ... *happy*

~~~

Roswellluver - Thanks for the feedback! You think calling Nasedo was a good thing? *big* Weeelll ... we'll see about that ... mwwahahahaaa!! *cough* *cough* ... er ... actually ... it probably was a good thing .. heh heh *wink*

Lana Lane - Woo ... 2 lots of feedback .. excellent! *happy* Thanks heaps for your kind words, you really know how to make a person's day ... *happy* Hmm .. not a Tess lover huh? *laughs* ... weeelll .. neither am I actually, but I figured at this stage she was around, so yeah, there she is. Thanks again and I'll post again very soon. *happy*

NewYorker18 - Woohooo you got your files back! That's excellent. I know how awful it is when you lose the lot. *happy* Thanks for the feedback. *happy*

Belit - I'm glad you liked the dream bit, I was a bit weird about it for a while there, but I had such a strong image of what I wanted to show I kept with it. *happy* You liked the cat? Me too, but then, I'm a cat person. *big* Woohoo, I'm so glad you love my little story, it's amazing to me that you guys are enjoying it. It's great. *happy*

Dancin_Pixie_8 - Yay, a new reader! *happy* Thanks for the feedback and I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I'll hurry back with the next bit, I promise. *happy*

NicciStar - Another Motor Ace fan huh? You're an Aussie for sure then. *happy* I love the album, my favourite tracks off it are Feathers, Keeping Secrets and Pieces. It's a great album - all you out there should take a listen to it, it's great! *happy* Thank so much for the feedback!

Enya - Wow, another new reader! Thanks for the feedback. *happy* I hope everything's going to be ok too ... heh heh ... hmmm ... I've not decided either way .. mwwahahahaaa!! *big*

~~~

Well, thanks again to everyone for reading and the great feedback. As I said, I'll get the next bit through as soon as I can. Keep an eye out for it in the next few days or so. You never know, I might even get to it this arvo, fingers crossed! *happy*

Anyway, until then ... *wave*

~Nat.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 31-Jan-2003 1:48:52 AM ]
posted on 9-Dec-2002 11:58:29 PM
Hi everyone!! *happy*
Finally fixed up the next bit .. and here it is. *happy*
Thanks for the feedback and I hope I didn't frustrate too many of you. Anyway, gotta run, busy busy busy! *big*

Enjoy!

~Nat.

----------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 16
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"Thrust the candle,
to the dark of your disease…"


The park wasn't a particularly large one, but it did boast a fully equipped play gym
and well maintained lawn surrounded by several large sprawling trees. It was the
perfect place to escape the sterile hospital environment and the dozen or so people
that were scattered about obviously agreed.

They had waited for Liz before heading for the park and as a group made their way
over to a disserted stretch of grass. They settled themselves down in a rough circle
and took a moment to absorb the warmth in the afternoon air. Michael had found a
comfortable spot leaning back against a large tree and he looked up through its
branches to the clear sky above.

It was such a pretty day, the air was warm and sweet and the sky an endless blue.
It was the sort of day you wanted to spend out of doors, it was a day for fun and
relaxation and it made one feel as if anything was possible.

Michael thought about this and grew terribly sad. He sat there in all of nature's
glory while Maria lay deathly ill in a cold, colourless room. It just wasn't right, she
should be outside with them right now, leaning her slight frame against his
relaxing and enjoying the day. Michael closed his eyes for a moment and centred
his thoughts on her, she was still there in his heart and while her presence
remained, he would have hope.

Michael opened his eyes and looked around. He noticed that Nasedo had taken
time to change his persona to that of Ed Harding. Everyone seemed easier
confronted with this face and Michael couldn't help but be especially grateful for
the change. Even though they knew the real Agent Pierce was dead, it was difficult
to look at him without remembering all that had transpired at that time.

Michael acknowledged he'd still not reconciled within himself the fact that he was
the one responsible for the Agent's death. He didn't know if he ever would, but this
wasn't the time to dwell on it, they had more important things to consider and he
sat a little straighter then turned to address Nasedo directly.

"Ok, who's Lysus?"

Nasedo was seated a little away from the group but was close enough that he
didn't have to raise his voice to be heard. They had chosen a position well away
from the other people in the park and weren't concerned about being overheard.

"It's rather a long story and some of it won't be easy to hear, are you sure you
wish to know?" Nasedo gave each of them a look and settled his gaze on Michael
last.

Max shared a look with Isabel and at her nod, prompted Nasedo to continue.

"Very well. Lysus was what our people referred to as a Crafter, though this was
not known for a very long time. He was an academic man who devoted his life to
studying our ancient metaphysical crafts. Our people are for the most part scientific
in nature, but the foundation of our society much like on this planet, is based in
folklore and myth."

Michael interrupted him for a moment, "So you're saying this guy is some sort of
religious man, like a priest or something?"

Nasedo, unimpressed by the interruption, glanced in Michael's direction and
answered his question. "No, not at all. The ancient crafts I speak of were far
outside the accepted realm of our society. Our peoples have their religious beliefs,
but this was something far older and darker then that. It will be difficult for you to
understand the way things were without your memories, although that will come
with time."

Nasedo paused for a moment and seemed lost in thought. "Lysus was well studied
in the ancient arts, but he was highly intelligent and extremely well educated as
well. He was First Adviser to the late King, your father." Nasedo nodded in Max and
Isabel's direction.

"He was well respected at one time, especially by your father who trusted him
completely. It was a great shock to him when it was discovered that he was, and
had always been, a devoted follower of the ancient crafts. This wasn't so much
outlawed as unaccepted and even though it was never forbidden, it was actively
frowned upon. People feared it much like your witchcraft was in this country's
history."

Liz, determined to keep her nose out of the conversation ignored the dozen or so
questions floating around in her mind and remained silent as Nasedo continued.

"The King was a forgiving man, and would have overlooked his adviser's private
interest if the people of his kingdom had. Of course, that didn't happen. The
people rose up in outrage over it and the King had little choice but to terminate his
position as head council and banish him from the Royal Court. Lysus was of course
unhappy about this and did not leave willingly. I was there the day he finally left
the palace, he stood before his King and swore that he would one day become
the very thing that he and his people were afraid of. He was bitter and angry,
but nobody really took his threats seriously."

Nasedo looked around and saw he held their complete attention and continued his
tale.

"He left and nothing was heard from him for a long time. Once the king had ordered
his removal the people turned on him, proclaiming him an enemy of the crown and
he took his wife and fled the capital. No one spoke of him for years and his presence
was all but forgotten."

Isabel glanced at Max beside her and tried to gauge his reaction to the tale. He
seemed totally engrossed by Nasedo's story and she couldn't blame him, they
knew so little.

"During those years there was peace on the planet and everyone had high hopes
for the future. The planet was in good economic shape, the people had faith and
confidence in their sovereign and they felt secure in the knowledge that the next
in line were well trained, enthusiastic and dedicated. It was a wonderful time we
thought would last forever. It was not to be of course, and the death of the King
marked the beginning of the end."

Michael glanced at Max and Isabel but couldn't detect any emotional response to
the news about their true father. Although, he supposed it was all rather strange,
learning about your unknown alien past. He himself couldn't seem to summon up any
feelings about it either, which somewhat surprised him.

"Your father's death sparked the beginning of a very dark time on our planet. The
people had lost a great leader, but Zan was there to take his place and they were
more then happy to accept him."

Nasedo looked at Max, "You were well loved by your people Max, you all were.
There was no question of who would take the thrown. Your family had ruled for
centuries and except for the occasional political fight, they had done so admirably.
Your father was murdered, by unnatural means, and the entire planetary system
cried out for blood. You yourself were obsessed with seeking the one responsible
and so put every available resource into finding the culprit."

Max remained silent and tried to imagine what he must have felt at that time. He
couldn't begin to imagine it and suppressed a shudder at the thought of what it
would be like to lose his adoptive father.

"Even though it had been years since his name had been mentioned, Lysus was
suspected because of his Crafting abilities. Nobody really knew what power he'd
amassed, but he was certainly considered capable. He had promised retribution
and the assassination of the King was reason enough to search him out."

Isabel glanced at Max and asked the question she'd been playing with in her mind
since Nasedo had told them about their father. "When you say he was killed by
unnatural means, what did you mean exactly?"

Nasedo blinked and answered her reluctantly, "His body was found in his chamber,
which was always heavily guarded, untouched except for the eyes. They were
burned out."

A visible shudder spread through the group and Isabel was suddenly sorry she'd
asked.

"It was decided quickly that Lysus be found and brought forth for questioning and
the Royal Guard sent three of it's finest warriors to find him." Nasedo looked at
Michael, "You were one of them."

Michael looked at Nasedo and tried hard to ignore the uneasy feeling that suddenly
crept up his spine. Something in his mind was struggling to be freed, a memory he
knew he didn't want to remember.

"It took many days to track him. He had hidden himself away in order to continue his
work. He was hiding deep in the eastern mountains, far away from the capital and
no one could have know how powerful he'd grown. Two of the three sent perished
before he was found, he knew he was being sought after and had gone to great
lengths to protect himself. I imagine that it was a great surprise to him when he
was discovered by the newly appointed King's second in command."

Nasedo looked again at Michael and noticed his wary look, perhaps he was
remembering after all.

"No one really knows what happened on that mountain except for you Michael. You
returned to the palace carrying his broken body and you were a changed man. Your
report stated there had been a great battle after Lysus had refused to return with
you. Zan had made it clear to all that the one responsible for his father's death
would pay with their life and to his mind, Lysus had portrayed himself as guilty. You
were regarded a national hero and although young, were promoted to General."

Michael clenched his jaw until it ached and tried unsuccessfully to separate himself
from Nasedo's story. Deep inside he felt bleakness spreading like a disease and
feared the horror that would undoubtedly accompany it. He knew somehow he'd
done something unforgivable and felt the heavy burden of guilt settle on his shoulders.

Tess who'd been completely silent until now, spoke up. "So this Lysus guy is dead
then?"

Nasedo nodded but continued to watch Michael closely. "That is correct, although
legend had it that a genuine Crafter could never truly be killed."

Michael looked up at Tess and momentarily diverted from his personal turmoil, thought
on what she'd said. "Wait a minute, if Lysus is dead, how come I'm sure he's the one
responsible for Maria's condition?"

Nasedo blinked, "You never did tell me where you'd heard the name. I assumed it
was a returning memory, but that's not it is it?"

Everyone was suddenly watching Michael closely for his response and he felt uneasy
with their regard.

"Maria told me."

Liz gasped and would have asked him what he meant, but Max beat her to it.

"What do you mean by that Michael? Maria's been comatose for days."

Michael closed his eyes briefly and resigned himself to having to explain his strange
dream.

"I went home this morning to grab a few hours sleep and I ended up in this weird
dream. It was a lot like when I was sick after the sweat. Only there was this strange
creature there that told me that Maria's mind was separated from her body. It
told me I was the only chance she had and that I had to save her. I connected with
her and got all these flashes. Nothing made much sense but one thing that came
through loud and clear was a voice introducing itself as Lysus. The voice was familiar
but it wasn't my memory, it was hers. I'm sure that whatever's been done to her, he's
responsible."

Isabel frowned, "But Michael, Nasedo just told us he's dead. That can't be unless
she's being held by a …"

"A ghost." Liz finished Isabel's sentence and stared at Michael. There was far more
to this story then he was letting on and she was determined that she would know
it all.

TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Dec-2002 5:17:56 PM ]
posted on 11-Dec-2002 12:04:57 AM
Hello all. *happy*
I'm back with the next bit, one more to go and you guys are caught up with the other boards. And so starts the sluggish updates. *happy*

Anyway, thanks heaps for the feedback and for reading ...

Lana Lane - Sorry for the frustration, but I'm really glad you're addicted. Heh heh *big* Hmmm ... wack job huh? *laughs* ... yep, that's about right too. *happy* As for being busy, I'm insanely busy! This work and life thing really cramps ones writing style ... *happy* ... but I shall get tap tap typing soon ... *happy* Thanks for the feedback, and the bump! *happy*

Enya - Thanks so much. *happy* And you're right, Michael and Co. have a lot of figuring out to do ... and they are definately running out of time ... mmwwaahahahaaa!! *big* Thanks for the feedback. *happy*

NicciStar - Hello fella Aussie. *happy* I've not seen Motor Ace live, I'm in North Queensland, and nothing comes up this way much show wise. I'm glad you 're liking the tale, I hope it keeps your interest. *happy* Going to Sydney in Jan? What's in Sydney in Jan? *blink*

NewYorker18 - Why do I leave you hanging like that? Because I can ... heh heh *wink* ... nah, I dunno, just comes natural I guess. *laughs* And you may hound me day after day after day !!! *happy* I love it!! *big* Thanks again for the feedback. *happy*

Thank you so much everyone! *happy*
Read on ...
~Nat.


-------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 17
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


" … I can't stand by,
to see you destroyed,
I can't be here,
to watch you going …"



"A ghost? That's impossible."

Alex thought that was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard, although he did
concede that some would think it just as unlikely that aliens existed, and yet there
they were.

Michael didn't seem overly impressed with the idea either, he was scowling at Liz
and she in turn regarded him steadily.

"That's insane Liz, whoever did this to her was flesh and blood. It had to have been."

Nasedo looked from Michael to Liz and interjected. "Not necessarily."

Everyone went silent at that and turned to look at him questioningly.

"If Lysus was as powerful as we feared, he may have been able to achieve a kind
of spiritual ascension, the ultimate Crafter skill."

Nobody spoke, obviously unsure as to what he meant and Nasedo continued.

"Legend had it that the ancients had immense power. They could create and
destroy worlds and through the ages their descendants lost most if not all their
knowledge. This is where the ancient crafts originated. One of the most renowned
skills was that of spiritual ascension. It's said that if one reaches that level of
enlightenment one does not need the body to sustain life."

Michael looked uneasy, "So you're saying that even though Lysus is dead, he might
still be around in some form?"

Nasedo looked at Michael closely, "Yes, even though his body is gone, he may still
be very much alive. On some other dimensional plane, or perhaps he has found a
new body to inhabit."

Alex looked thoughtful, "All this hangs on Michael's dream remember, it might be
that it's got nothing to do with it. You might just be remembering something from
your past and it's getting all mixed up in your subconscious." Alex spoke logically and
watched Michael as he continued. "I mean, we could be barking up the wrong tree
here you know."

Michael shook his head, "No, it wasn't just a dream. I can tell the difference and this
was more, much more. I'm sure Lysus is responsible, I know it."

He looked down at the soft grass for a moment and grudgingly decided he had no
choice but to tell them.

"I know it wasn't just a dream because something's changed since it happened. The
creature that I met there told me I could help Maria by bonding with her. Which meant
absolutely nothing to me at the time, but I did it regardless. That's when the flashes
came. The weirdest thing about it though is that when I woke up, I could feel her. I
still can."

Nasedo's eyes widened and he looked at him with surprise.

"You bonded?"

Michael nodded, "Yeah, whatever that means, and I can't explain it but I can feel her
inside, like a presence at the back of my mind, only it's more than that." He frowned
as he tried to explain the sensation. "I don't know how to describe it."

Isabel looked worriedly at Max and then Nasedo as he spoke, "That's impossible.
It's extremely rare for your kind to bond, very few ever achieved it, besides for the
most part your human." He looked decidedly unhappy at the thought and continued
on. "What was this creature you spoke of? Perhaps it instigated it somehow?"

Isabel glanced across at Alex and voiced her fears, "But what does it mean?"

Nasedo looked at her and his tone when he spoke voiced his disapproval. "It basically
means that Michael has been partnered to this girl for life."

Liz and Alex turned their shocked expressions on Michael and he went white at the
implications.

Nasedo ignored the stunned expressions around him, "Of course this is a whole new
ball game, she's human and you're not, at least not totally. It's going to be hard to
predict the repercussions of your joining. Not to mention the fact that you were
destined for Isabel."

At his words everyone went still, and the air was suddenly filled with tension. Nobody
seemed in a hurry to respond and they each sat quietly with their own thoughts.

Michael was oblivious, he was finally facing what the creature had told him. It had
said that their bond would be permanent, that nothing would break it once created,
even death. He'd known in the back of his mind what this had meant but at the time
he'd been too worried about her to consider what the outcome would be. Maria was
going to kill him!

Max watched the expressions change on Michael's face and almost smiled. Whatever
had happened during his dream had obviously been pretty out there, but he knew
that Michael wouldn't have done anything he didn't think he'd had to. He was
satisfied that no matter what happened from here on in, Michael had had Maria's
best interests at heart.

"Well, I guess that's going to be something we'll have to deal with later. Right now
we need to focus on rescuing Maria from this Lysus guy. Michael's sure it's him and
I for one believe him. So, the question is, where to now?"

Nasedo was somewhat intrigued by the expression on Michael's face, but turned and
answered Max's question.

"Trying to find him will be next to impossible. If he's hiding out on another plane of
existence it's going to be difficult in the extreme. Alternatively, if he's wondering
around in the flesh, he could be anybody. I certainly won't recognise him."

Tess who had been sitting quietly absorbing all that was said suddenly remembered
something. "Michael, you said that in your dream you were told Maria's conscious self
was elsewhere. Do you think Lysus took her to this spiritual plane Nasedo's talking
about?"

Michael looked at Tess and wondered what she was getting at. "It's a possibility."

"If you and Maria are connected, and she's where Lysus is …" Tess trailed off and
Isabel, suddenly seeing where she was headed, finished her sentence. "Maybe we
can get to her through you, and perhaps through her we'll find him."

Michael blinked and thought about it. It sounded reasonable, or as reasonable as
this entire situation could anyway. They didn't have much else to go on and at this
point he was willing to try anything.

"I think it's as good an idea as any. What did you have in mind Is?"

Isabel looked at Max for a moment and he nodded after a small hesitation. "I've tried
dream walking Maria without success, but if I dream walk you instead, maybe I'll be
able to find her through your connection. If we can contact her, maybe she can tell
us what happened and why. Maybe we'll even be able to bring her back."

Michael wasn't comfortable with the idea of Isabel wondering around his head but he
was prepared to go to any lengths so readily agreed.

Max stood and the rest followed suit. "Ok, we'll give it a try. When did you want to
do this?"

Isabel looked around at her friends and felt their combined hope and determination.
They finally had a direction and no matter how difficult it might turn out to be, she
wasn't going to let them down.

"As soon as possible. What do you think Michael?"

Michael didn't hesitate, "Let's do it now."

Nasedo looked at them with expressionless eyes, "I don't know if you're going to be
able to do this, and there are dangers in trying. It's important you remember who
and what you are. I want to make sure you have your priorities straight. Nothing is
as important as your return to Antar, nothing. Saying that, I know you won't stop
doing what you feel you must."

He paused and grudgingly continued, "Your best chance for this to work is for you to
be in physical contact with her. My talents aren't going to be of much help to you in
this, but I will ensure you're given time to complete the exercise. Other then that, I'm
afraid you're on your own."

Liz broke the silence and walked over to stand beside Alex. "We'll have to try and
find a window of opportunity then, it's not going to be easy, she's being monitored
so closely and her mother is pretty much by her side constantly."

Tess folded her arms across her chest, "That won't be a problem, I can handle that
bit."

Liz looked at Tess and after a moment considered the offer genuine and nodded. The
differences between them still existed and the time for working them out would come,
bit right now they had to stick together or all hope of helping Maria would be lost.

Standing there in the afternoon light, separate but joined by this personal crisis,
each of them felt the end grow near. None of them however were willing to see it
come, at least, not without a fight.


TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Dec-2002 7:06:33 PM ]
posted on 11-Dec-2002 11:54:16 PM
G'day people! *happy*
I'm back, with the final bit that brings you up to date with what I've actually written for this story. *happy*
From here on in, the updates will probably get a bit slack, I'll try not to be too long with them, but be warned, much angst and frustration ahead. *laughs* *big*


Belit - *laughs* ... maybe I should put big neon lights on the update status ... *happy* Hmm ... Lysus' wife? Yeah, I wonder what happened to her too ... mwwahah ... *big* I'm glad you found Michael funny, I constantly do, as I was writing this I had a good giggle to myself. I can just imagine him freaking about that, after all, Maria can be scary. *happy*

Lana Lane - I'm sooo pleased you're addicted. Hehhhehe... *happy* .. it's a good thing ... believe me ... low fat too ... heh heh *big* I am sorry in advance for being sluggish, it's gonna happen though, it's got to. I'm a working gal and haven't a lot of time to spare. But I promise I will get it finished ... I've even thoughts on a sequel ... you never know. *happy*

NewYorker18 - I'm glad you're still liking this and I know exactly what you mean about testy internet connections. *happy* Thanks so much for the feedback. *happy*

Well .. thanks so much everyone for the great and continuous feedback. It's so much appreciated. *happy*
Anyway, on with Chapter 18 ... 19 is in the pipeline and shouldn't be too far away ... I hope ... *happy*

~Nat.



------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 18
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… we are on a rock,
spinning silently …
… spinning infinity … "



Maria opened her imaginary eyes and realised something was different. She wasn't
sure what it was, but her prison felt changed. She still resided in the nothingness
she'd been existing in since the beginning, but the darkness somehow seemed
less dense then before.

She'd been resting and had for want of a better word, slept for a while. Now she
felt energised, very aware of herself and thought that the rest must had done her
a world of good.

She was still no closer to finding a way out of her predicament, but she felt so good
at that particular moment that she almost didn't mind. She was however puzzled by
the improvement and tried to understand why she felt so much better then before.
Her circumstances didn't seem to have changed overly much, but something was
different. She just couldn't seem to figure out what exactly.

By rights, she should be well and truly at the end of her patience. Time seemed to
drag on and she, who thrived on social interaction, had been quite alone since
Lysus had visited her. She didn't even really understand why she was there. His
explanation had been extremely vague and other then knowing he wanted her
and her alien friends dead, she really didn't know what this was all about.

Speaking of Lysus, Maria had spent considerable time thinking about him and
wondering what exactly Michael had done to warrant such fervent feelings of
hatred. Oh sure, he'd said he wanted them all gone, but he'd taken her to extract
his revenge on Michael particularly and she had to wonder why.

It was obvious that Lysus considered him responsible for something, about what
she didn't know, but as worried as she was about her current situation, the
possible reasons behind his rage had her more so.

Lysus frightened her on so many levels and Maria wasn't looking forward to
seeing him again. Not that she'd actually seen him, but she'd know his creepy
presence anywhere, it was scorched into her subconscious like a bad dream. She
did wonder what he looked like though. He was obviously alien and she had
allowed her fertile imagination to create all sorts of monstrous looking creatures
in her mind.

Although, she reminded herself, she'd fallen into that trap before. She'd become
so paranoid about Isabel and the others when she'd first found out about them,
that for a while there she'd been a basket case. She couldn't allow herself to get
that way now, she had to keep it together long enough to figure a way out, if there
was one.

Besides, her initial fear of the aliens turned out to be for nothing. They'd become
some of the most important people in her life and she didn't regret a minute of time
they'd shared. Even though it had been frightening and often life threatening, her
current situation being a prime example, it had also been the most amazing
experience of her life.

Just knowing that there were other life forms out in the universe had changed the
foundations of her life. It made the world a magical place, full of possibilities and
wonder and for this she would always be grateful to them.

She supposed thinking about her life she could certainly agree that she'd had a
good one, at least so far. Not that she was trying to think defeatist, but when your
life was in jeopardy it was natural to think on your mortality.

She was thankful though, especially for the people in her life, her mother, Liz and
Alex, Michael. For him she was particularly glad. She knew she was young and that
many would think her overly dramatic, but she felt deeply connected to him in ways
she couldn't really define.

There had always been something about him that had attracted her, he had this
incredible energy about him that drew her like a magnet. Even before she'd learned
of his extraterrestrial status she'd been secretly fascinated by his silent brooding
exterior.

She'd always wondered what secrets lay hidden in his heart and now, after fighting
through the protective wall he'd fashioned for himself, she knew. Michael was many
things, a complex, mixed up mass of strength and venerability and he loved her.
She was the luckiest woman alive.

Suddenly Maria realised exactly what it was that was different in the nothingness
that surrounded her. She didn't feel alone. In fact, she wasn't alone, she could feel
somebody close by. It was very faint, little more then a gentle warmth around her,
but now that she'd recognised it she couldn't believe she'd missed it before.

Concentrating, she reached out with her mind in the hopes of making some sort of
contact. The feeling intensified a little the more she tried, and before long she began
to feel something wonderfully familiar about it. It was Michael, she was sure of it!

A multitude of emotions spread through her, joy, hope, relief and love. She didn't
know how he'd done it, but she was certain he was nearby. Perhaps he'd found a
way to rescue her? That had to be it.

"Michael? Can you hear me? Michael!"

Maria tried contacting him but there was no response. She called out with every
fibre of her being, willing him to hear her, to feel her, but the outcome was the same.
After exhausting herself, she mentally collapsed and with a heavy heart cried silently
with frustration and grief.

Michael was by some miracle connected to her in this place, but it was obviously not
strong. She felt him all around her now, it was wonderful and warm but not
substantial enough to be called genuine communication.

It was torture knowing he was there and not being able to talk to him. She'd been
pretty calm and collected up until this point but having him so close and yet so far
was doing terrible damage to her hard won control. She'd missed him so much.

Maria was so busy being miserable, that she at first missed the additional presence
approach her and it was with a sudden shiver of awareness that she realised her
captor had returned.

She was immediately filled with fear. What if Lysus detected Michael's presence?
What if he tried to sever it, or worse? She didn't know what to do, not knowing how
to mask the fact that she was no longer alone.

"Greetings Maria." Lysus spoke and as before his menacing voice grated along her
nerves.

Maria tried hard to calm herself. She knew there was nothing she was going to be
able to do if he did detect Michael so she did the only thing she could, hoped and
prayed he wouldn't.

"You're back." Maria did her best to deliver her answers in as relaxed a tone as
possible, it wouldn't do for him to think she was deliberately hiding something.

"Yes. I thought I'd better see how you were fairing."

Maria snorted, "What do you care? You're the reason I'm here after all and anyway,
don't you intend to kill me eventually?"

Lysus laughed softly, obviously amused, "Not at all Maria, I intend to keep you alive
until I'm done. Then you will no longer be required and I will let you slip away, as
you must. You exist here because I will it, without me you will fade away and your
body will die."

"So you've said." Maria refused to dwell on the facts as he'd explained them and
instead decided to try and gather something useful.

"You told me you're hell bent on revenge, but you never said why. You've stolen my
life and intend to take a few more while you're at it, so don't you think I deserve an
explanation?" Maria ignored the coldness she felt emanating from him and waited.

"I think you are confusing me with one of your own kind. I don't feel the slightest
bit concerned over what you do or do not deserve. You are a means to an end,
nothing more. Do not forget that." Lysus almost growled his response.

Maria shuddered but continued on, "If you're so unconcerned, why are you here?
Why not just leave me be?"

Lysus remained silent for a moment and Maria suddenly feared that the end he'd
just been talking about had come.

"You weren't doing so well and I thought I'd best make sure you weren't about to
die and ruin all my plans."

Maria was stunned speechless for a moment but soon recovered. "You just told me
that wasn't possible, at least until you were done with me?"

Lysus seemed thoughtful, "And so it isn't, now. I hold your consciousness here,
but your body is in human hands, something I had not considered as a problem at
first. Nevertheless, this has been resolved and everything is as it should be."

Maria was puzzling over what he could mean by that when he continued on.

"Do not worry, the time is almost upon us. It will be over soon."

Maria grew anxious, "What are you going to do?"

Lysus seemed somewhat distracted when he answered, "I'm going to introduce
myself to your friends. It's time we were acquainted."

Maria grew cold and felt the icy tendrils of fear reach out across her being. She was
almost out of time.

"I must go, preparations are needed. I will return for you soon and then my dear,
the fun begins." Lysus' words whispered across her as he left and she shivered in
spite of herself.

Forcing herself to ignore his words, she instead sighed in relief and engulfed herself
in the warmth surrounding her. Lysus had not detected the additional presence with
her and she was, despite being akin to an inmate on death row, feeling rather
grateful.

This tenuous connection was her lifeline and she would cling to it with her last
breath. As long as it existed she would hope and somehow it would save them all.
She had to believe that, it was all she had.

Nothing else remained.


TBC



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Dec-2002 8:55:33 AM ]
posted on 12-Dec-2002 12:47:27 AM
Oops. *happy*
Hmmm ... crashed during my post ... obviously did it twice then ... ummmm ... sorry about that ... *big*

*snip double-up*

~Nat.


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 13-Dec-2002 8:54:08 AM ]
posted on 16-Dec-2002 8:57:35 PM
Hello all! *happy*
I'm back, however long the wait. *big*
Well, I've the next chapter written and ready to post, it's a little long, but I'm sure you guys won't care about that. *wink*
I hope you enjoy ... on to the feedback ...

Lana Lane - Thanks so much for all the feedback and the bumps! *happy* I'm so glad you're getting into the M/M pairing, they're a great couple, I love them! *happy* Here's hoping that I don't leave you hanging for too long. *happy*

Enya - Thanks so much for the nice words. *happy* Lysus is indeed going to meet them, but not in this part, you'll have to wait a little while longer I'm afraid ... sorry. *happy*

NicciStar - Thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you're enjoying it! As for Sydney, I doubt I'll make it, but take lots of photos and I'll expect a full report when you get back. *happy*

Belit - Thanks heaps for the great feedback! *happy* Smut? Hmmm ... weeelll ... I'm not ruling it out totally ... there might be something further along .. maybe ... *big* *laughs* ... you want some gore too? *happy* ... well ... I'll see what I can do ... on both counts! *wink*

Thank you all so much for reading and the fantastic feedback! I really appreciate it. *happy* Now ... I have to say, I'm going on holidays for 2 weeks as of Friday and I probably won't get near a computer in all that time. So, unfortunately, this chapter is going to have to keep you guys covered until I get back on Janurary 6th. I'm sorry to do this to you, but hey, Christmas and New Year must happen! *happy*

Actually, on that note I'd like to wish you all an extremely safe and happy Christmas and a fantabulous New Year! Have a wonderful time with friends and family and take care. *happy*

I'll see you guys next year! *bounce*

~Nat.

-------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 19
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.


"… I fell in love,
she was a goddess,
with a world inside of her mind …"



Michael sat at Maria's beside and gently held her hand in his. He looked across the
other side of the bed to Isabel and nodded at her questioning look. It was time to
begin and though he was anxious to get started, he was also teetering on the
edge of hysteria. So much was at stake and they'd never attempted an exercise
quite like this. They really had little idea what they were doing and he wasn't sure
they weren't going to make matters worse. He knew though, they had to try.

"Are you ready Michael?" Max spoke from his position by the door and Michael
glanced in his direction.

"Yeah, let's go. Do your thing." He settled himself against the bed and waited for
Max to come over and put him to sleep. He hated the idea of it, but knew there was
no other way. He needed to be asleep for Isabel to dream walk him and there was
little chance of him achieving that state naturally.

Michael took a moment to look over at Liz and Alex who sat huddled together on
the far side of the room. He tried not to let the hope shining in their eyes distract
him. He knew they were relying on him to pull this off and the burden of their trust
sat heavily on his shoulders.

Although, their combined concern was nothing compared to the fears he had
churning inside him. They were like huge venomous snakes, twisting and turning
his stomach into ever tightening knots.

Michael swallowed, took a deep breath to calm himself and looked one last time at
Maria's still face. They were the only thing standing between her and death, and
he had never before been more determined not to fail. It just wasn't an option.

Max moved over to his friend and glanced once in Isabel's direction. They both knew
how much he detested this sort of thing, especially the dream walking. Ordinarily
he would not have agreed to it, however Maria's life was at stake and he knew he
was prepared to do whatever was necessary. Michael had his faults, but few could
match his sense of duty and steadfast determination.

"Evening rounds are over and we've got about an hour before they come back to
check her. Nasedo and Tess are outside ready to mind warp anybody that tries
to come in and interrupt us, and the Sheriff has Maria's mother covered. So, we
should be alright, for a while anyway." Max reached out his left hand and gently
placed it on Michael's head. "First sign of trouble and you get out of there ok?" At
Michael and Isabel's nod he closed his eyes and concentrated on sending calm,
sleeping energy into Michael's mind. Almost at once Michael slipped into
unconsciousness and seconds later he slept, his head resting on the bed beside
Maria's shoulder.

"He's out." Max removed his hand and looked at his sister, "You sure you're ready
for this?"

Isabel glanced at her comatose friend and met her brother's gaze evenly. "I'll have
to be." She gave Max a small smile, "I'll see you in a bit."

Max swallowed further words of warning and simply nodded. He had to have faith
in Isabel's abilities and in Michael's strength and determination. If anyone could do
this, they could.

Isabel settled herself comfortably and looked over her shoulder at Alex sitting
behind her. His encouraging smile gave her confidence and she smiled in return,
somewhat thankfully. Liz wished her luck and Isabel turned and focused her
attention on the two unconscious people in front of her. She took several cleansing
breaths, closed her eyes and began.

Centring her thoughts and being, she forced herself to relax and felt the beginnings
of her power build within her. She used it to reach out to Michael and in very little
time found her way inside his mind. She shaded her eyes at the bright, shimmering
light that immediately greeted her and waited a moment for her eyes to grow
accustomed to it. Gradually she opened them wider and looked around. She was
standing on a grassy hill with Michael beside her.

"Well, that was easy." Michael spoke to her as she looked around her. There was
something distinctly disturbing about the silence of the place. It was certainly
bright and warm, which she had to admit surprised her. She'd imagined the inside
of his mind as being a dark and dangerous place. She certainly didn't expect the
bright, airy grasslands she was standing on now, but there was something eerie
about the lack of sound. It was like being in a vacuum.

"I wasn't expecting any problems connecting to you Michael, it's getting through
you to Maria that's going to cause us the most difficulty. I've never tried this before
and I really don't know what I'm doing."

Michael nodded slightly but didn't answer her. He was looking around at the
surrounding land as if searching for something. Before long he seemed to find what
it was he was looking for and without a word grabbed her hand and started
dragging her along behind him.

"Where are we going?" She asked the question more to break the silence then
anything else.

"I've been here before, this is the place I met that creature I was telling you about."
Michael stopped for a moment and pointed to some large rock structures far off in
the distance. "That's where we're headed. That's where Maria is."

"How do you know?" Isabel started forward as Michael kept walking, he obviously
knew where he was going.

"It's where she was last time and anyway, I can feel her. The connection I have
feels stronger the closer we get. I'm sure this is the way."

Isabel nodded and kept pace with him. "What are we going to do when we get
there?"

Michael seemed to think a moment before answering, "I'm not sure really. I guess
we'll figure that out when we get there. Hopefully my big cat friend will be there to
lend a hand."

"Your big cat friend?" Isabel inquired.

"Yeah, the creature. It appeared to me as this enormous black cat. It was pretty
amazing actually, wait till you see it."

Isabel smiled slightly at the expression on Michael's face. He had obviously been
fairly impressed by it and she had to wonder at what was in store.

They walked the rest of the way in silence and did not stop until they were inside
the group of rocks they'd seen in the distance. Michael looked around and tried to
orient himself. None of the stones looked familiar to him and he kept walking
through them, searching for something that reminded him of before.

Isabel stood and watched him as he hurried from one position to another. He looked
backwards and forwards, obviously trying to figure out where they were, and then
stopped abruptly and made a frustrated sound deep in his throat.

"What is it Michael?"

Michael glanced at her, "I don't know which way to go. I can feel her everywhere,
no particular direction seems right to me and I can't see the place she was before.

Isabel looked around and gave a startled gasp, "Michael, the grasslands are gone."

He didn't look terribly concerned about it and merely nodded. "Yeah, that happened
last time too."

Isabel reigned in her escalating anxiety, it was like being lost in the middle of a
forest of rocks. All she saw around her were miles and miles of stone and she had
absolutely no idea in which direction they'd come.

"Well, this is all in your head Michael, so which way?"

Michael looked at her and scowled. "I don't know Isabel, that's what I was saying,
I can't tell. This isn't like before, I think we're lost."

Isabel blinked, "Well, we'd better do something. Max and the others aren't going
to be able to keep people out of Maria's room indefinitely."

Michael frowned angrily and snapped, "Don't you think I know that? What do you
expect me to do? I know just as much about this as you do Isabel."

Isabel swallowed the retort hovering on her tongue and took a breath instead.

"You're right Michael, I'm sorry. I guess I'm just feeling a bit uptight about the whole
thing."

Michael relaxed his clenched jaw and nodded slightly, "Yeah, I know. Me too."

Isabel looked around once again and, figuring that they might as well choose a
direction as none, turned to Michael to suggest one when a shadow appeared in
her periphery. Startled, she took a step away and turned to see what had caused
it. The words of warning she wanted to voice died in her throat as she came face
to face with the most amazingly beautiful creature she'd ever seen.

It was enormous, its black coat shone blue in the bright light and its eyes were a
glittering silver. It stood not ten feet away and it watched her with an unwavering
stare that sent shivers down her spine. She wasn't so much afraid as uneasy, this
was obviously the creature Michael had spoken of and she suddenly understood
his 'big cat' reference.

Michael had been facing away when the cat had appeared, but Isabel's indrawn
breath had alerted him and he'd spun around to see that the creature he'd met
before had returned.

"Welcome back." The creature spoke as before, it's voice multi-layered and ethereal
in their minds.

Isabel, startled by the sound, looked quickly at Michael and stepped closer to him.
"Michael?"

"It's ok Is, this is the creature that helped me contact Maria last time." He turned to
address the beast. "We need your help."

The cat nodded its head, "We know."

Michael glanced at Isabel who was staring intently at the large feline.

"You wish to try and contact your friend." It directed its statement to Isabel and
she merely nodded, finding herself quite mute with surprise.

Michael stepped forward, "Can you show us where she is? I can't tell. Our connection
isn't pulling me in any particular direction."

The cat blinked slowly and answered, "You are bonded and therefore connected.
She is all around you."

"I know that, but where is she? I don't see her." Michael waved his arms around
indicatively and the cat's tail swished suddenly from side to side. It seemed to ignore
his question and instead focused its attention on Isabel.

"You have brought help, sadly, it will not be enough."

Isabel looked nervously at Michael and he glanced in her direction.

"What do you mean?"

The cat settled it's hind legs and sat, "She is far away, you will need more then you
have combined to bring her back."

Michael swallowed the sudden tightness in his chest and ignored the negative
thoughts the cat's words had evoked.

"You may be right, we might not be able to get her out of wherever she is, but we
might be strong enough to talk to her. We have to try."

Recovered from her initial surprise, Isabel found herself thoroughly intrigued by the
beast and her mind was filled with questions of who and what it was. It seemed to
consider her with similar interest and she returned its intent gaze. For the moment,
Michael was ignored and she gave her curiosity free reign. "Who are you?"

The cat blinked slowly, "We have no name."

Isabel looked puzzled, "You must have something you go by? How do people refer
to you?"

"They do not."

Isabel paused and looked at Michael who returned her look impatiently. "You don't
talk to people? But you're talking to us, why?"

"It was required."

"Why? What is your purpose here, I mean, are you real? Or are you a creation of
Michael's mind?"

The cat seemed to smile, its eyes narrowed and its enormous whiskers twitched.
"We are very real. You believe you are journeying through the mind of your friend,
but you are not."

Isabel gave Michael a startled look and was satisfied to see he also seemed
somewhat concerned by that statement.

"What do you mean? Where the hell are we then?" Michael's uneasiness was
evident by the tone of his voice.

"It is outside your understanding, we could not explain to you the truth of it. Think
of it instead as a spiritual plane or dimension beyond physical existence."

"How did we get here?" Isabel spoke carefully, suddenly feeling very much out of
her depth.

"You have been here before, your unique talents have enabled you access to it,
and therefore us."

Isabel was starting to feel frustrated with the round about way this was going,
and she noticed Michael was looking rather annoyed as well.

"So, you're some sort of spiritual guide or something?"

The cat shook its large head, "No. We are something else entirely. We neither
guide nor intervene in the lives of individuals. Our purpose is to watch over and
protect the pattern of life."

Michael remained silent and absorbed what the creature was saying. He was
trying to reconcile this new information with what it had told him before and he was
finding great holes in the picture it was producing.

Isabel was finding herself more confused, "So you're protecting Maria? You don't
want her to die?"

The cat glanced at Michael, "Life and death are all part of the pattern, ordinarily we
would not intervene, however Maria is special. She has a destiny much greater
then you could imagine. We do not know what that destiny will be, we only see
within her pattern the power to effect great change. She is an unknown element
that will decide the fate of us all."

Isabel looked at Michael and was stunned by the look on his face. He wasn't at all
surprised, it was as if he'd heard this all before and she suddenly realised that he
had. Obviously he'd held back a substantial amount of information when he'd told
them about his so called 'dream'.

"I see. Well actually, I don't, but I guess that's nothing surprising considering the
situation." Isabel folded her arms across her chest, "So, if you're intervening now,
why don't you help us save Maria from this Lysus guy?"

"As we have already told Michael, it is not within our power. She has been taken
beyond our reach and so it is up to you to save her."

Isabel gave the cat an incredulous look, "How are we going to do that?"

Michael broke his silence, "Yeah, especially when I can't even find her?"

The cat studied them both for a long moment then stood and started walking away.
Isabel stared at its retreating figure and tasted for a moment the bitterness of
failure. They'd barely started and it looked like their journey had come to an end.

Michael clenched his teeth and struggled valiantly to hold onto his rising anger,
"Wait! Where are you going?"

The cat paused and looked back over its shoulder to where they stood and answered
simply, "Come."

Isabel and Michael wasted no time in deliberation and immediately followed after it.
They walked through the rocks for what seemed like hours, then eventually came
across the place Michael had visited before.

The pattern in the sand remained, as did the stones at each point on the surrounding
circle, but where in the centre there'd stood an enormous stone edifice, there now
existed a black void. It was the strangest thing they'd ever seen. All light seemed
repelled from it and its darkness was stark and absolute.

Isabel shivered in fear, she knew instinctively that dark centre was where Maria
resided and she knew they would have to enter it in order to find her.

Michael stared at the void for a moment, then turned and addressed the large cat
beside him. "What happened? It's changed."

The cat looked at him then pointed its nose towards the pattern drawn in the dry
earth. "You are bonded. This pattern is the circle of life, your life, and she is at the
centre of it. You are both a part of each other and no barriers remain, although as
you know for the moment she exists in shadow. You will have to find your way to
her, if you can, through the void ahead. Your combined energies will help, but we
do not know if it will be enough."

Isabel looked back towards the blackness and suddenly felt ill, she couldn't believe
she was going to have to go in there.

Michael nodded and glanced once at Isabel, "Well, only one way to find out, let's go."

Isabel sighed and gathered what remained of her courage. She moved to stand
beside Michael and waited for him to make the first move. He seemed to think for a
moment and then looked back at the cat in question.

"You need not ask for permission to enter the circle Michael, after all it belongs to you."

Michael nodded and took a step forward. Nothing seemed to happen when he
stepped inside the circle and so he took another, and another. Isabel followed beside
him and within moments they both stood before the darkness in the centre. Michael
gave Isabel what he hoped was a reassuring look, grabbed her hand and together
they stepped into the void.

The enormous black cat sat silently, blinked it's glittering eyes and watched them
disappear from view.

TBC







[ edited 3 time(s), last at 12-Jan-2003 11:50:19 PM ]
posted on 5-Jan-2003 11:18:39 PM
Helloooooooooo people!!! *happy*
I'm back! *big*

Ok .. don't get TOO excited ... I've no update ... haven't actually even started it yet ... I know I know, not something you probably wanted to hear, but hey, I'm nothing if not honest. *angel* *big*

I just wanted to thank everybody for the feedback, and all the bumps (especially Lana - thanks babe *wink* ) and let you all know that I've returned from my holidays safe and well and ready and raring to go! I'll be starting the next chapter ASAP and it'll be here before you know it! *crosses fingers* *happy*

Well, hope everybody had a great Christmas and a wonderful New Years celebration - mine was great if a little tiring, I now need another 2 weeks off to recover! *happy*

Anyway ... I'll be back as soon as I can ... I'll talk to you guys soonish ... *happy*

~Nat.

posted on 17-Jan-2003 3:52:04 AM
I'm sooo sorry ... I'm still alive .. honest ... just really REALLY busy ... :(

I'm halfway through the next bit ... and I'm really trying to get it finished ... but work has just taken over my life at the moment and it sucks!

Anyway ... please forgive me ... I'll be back with it soon ... I promise ... *angel*

~Nat.

posted on 17-Jan-2003 11:45:15 PM
Hello people ... yes yes ... sit down ... take deep breaths ... I'm back with the next bit. *happy*

I'm so sorry I took forever ... but I've been so busy with work it's insane ... but I'm finally here with the next bit, not that it's that great ... but hey ... it's done and it's here and I hope you guys enjoy anyway. *happy*

Thanks so much for the bumps and stuff ... I really appreciate it. *happy*

Anyway ... off you go .. get to it .. go on ... shoo! *big*

~Nat.

--------------------------------------------------


"The Face and Ghost" Part 20
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.



"... there's no time,
no space,
no law,
we're out here on our own..."




Michael held fast to Isabel's hand and stumbled through the utter darkness of the
void. It was so intensely devoid of light it was beyond black and he shivered as his
mind registered the depth and completeness of it. It was a strange and disturbing
sensation and he suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to escape it.

Isabel hadn't spoken a word since they'd entered and had merely clung to him silently
as they furthered their way inside. Of course they weren't entirely sure that was what
they were doing, it was impossible to tell, they had lost all sense of direction, time and
space.

Michael was trying desperately not to think about the fact that Maria was trapped in
there somewhere and that he had absolutely no idea how he was going to find her.
Isabel had been thinking the same thing and her voice broke the eerie silence.

"My God Michael, how are we going to find her in this?"

Isabel's voice quivered, her anxiety obvious and Michael stopped for a moment.

"I don't know, it's not likely we're going to see her in here, it's too dark, and I'm not
getting any strong feelings about her location. I can feel her in every direction, pretty
much like before." His voice lowered almost to a whisper as he added, "I haven't got
a clue how to find her."

Isabel heard the resigned edge to his voice and her heart went out to him.

"There's got to be a way. Your connection to her has to be the key. Concentrate
Michael, try and reach out with your feelings, try and sense her."

Michael nodded and then realising the futility of the action, spoke instead. "Ok, I'll
try, just whatever you do Isabel, don't let go ok? I don't want to have to find both
of you."

Isabel shuddered, "Don't worry, I won't."

Michael closed his eyes and was startled to realise that doing so made absolutely no
difference whatsoever, he was as if blind. Feeling immensely grateful for the first time
in his short life for perfect eyesight, he gathered his wayward thoughts, focused on his
breathing and concentrated.

He began by identifying Maria's essence from the mix of emotions that were swirling
around inside. This was relatively easy to do as her warmth and presence shone brightly
in the sea of darkness within. She felt like golden threads rippling through and around
him and he took a moment to marvel at their brilliance. Even though she was deathly
ill and imprisoned in a terrible place, her soul seemed light and free, he was amazed
and humbled to have been forever bound to such a pure and beautiful spirit.

Now that he had singled her out, the connection between them seemed to strengthen.
Before long she was all he could see and her warmth and light spread through him.
It stretched and flowed inside, inhabiting all the cold and lonely places and he suddenly
realised that this was so much more then a presence in his mind. He felt her touching
every part of him. He felt her on his skin, in his lungs, in the very marrow of his bones.
She was life pulsing through his veins, she was everywhere.

Michael's breath caught in his throat at the intensity of the sensation and Isabel's
grip tightened at the sound.

"What is it?"

Distracted, he didn't immediately answer and Isabel grew concerned.

"Michael, are you alright?"

"Huh? Oh, ah ... yeah, I'm ok, it's just so strange feeling her inside like this. It's
beyond weird."

"I imagine it is. Do you have a clearer feeling of where she might be?"

Michael was finding it difficult to concentrate on Isabel's words and struggled to
focus his mind to what she was saying.

"Ah ... I'm not sure, our connection feels much stronger but it still doesn't appear to
be coming from any particular direction. It's so frustrating. She's right here, I know
it, but I can't see or get to her."

Isabel squeezed his hand in understanding, "Maybe your cat friend was right. Maybe
we're not strong enough." She sighed wearily, "I don't know about you, but I'm starting
to feel pretty tired. This is really taking it out of me, I'm not sure how much longer I
can keep going."

Michael heard the exhaustion creep into her voice and realised he himself was starting
to feel the effects of their efforts. He wasn't ready to give into them though, they'd
come this far and he wasn't prepared to leave until he'd talked to Maria, and or at least
made some sort of contact with her.

"I'm not going until I see Maria."

His tone of voice expressed his determination and Isabel sighed, "I'm not saying that
I think we should give up Michael, I'm just saying I'm starting to feel the strain of
remaining here, but I'll hold on for as long as I can."

Michael nodded and again realised how pointless that was, "I know, I'm sorry Is. I
guess I'm starting to feel it too."

Isabel opened her mouth to reply when she thought she heard something, "Did you
hear that?"

Michael's heart stilled for a moment in hope and he listened intently. While they had
been talking something in their environment had altered. It took a few moments for
him to realise that the atmosphere around them had thickened and started to move.
It was so slight that he'd not immediately noticed, but now he stood motionless and
felt the air move softly over him, like a gentle breeze.

Floating along the air that had so suddenly appeared, came the softest of sounds. It
was sweet and lyrical and at first he'd thought it produced by the wind, but the more he
listened the clearer it seemed to get and he suddenly realised what it was.

"Is that, singing?" Isabel queried.

Michael's heart thumped loudly in his chest and he searched the darkness for its
source.

"It's Maria." Michael almost whispered before calling out her name into the darkness,
"Maria?!"

"Maria!" Isabel joined in, they both moved through the void calling out and listening
for a response. It seemed they yelled until their voices grew hoarse, but Michael did
not stop.

"Maria!" He cried out several times and was brought to a stand still by the instant
silence that evolved.

"Maria?" His voice sounded unsteady to his own ears and he opened his mouth
to continue when he was struck silent by a voice. Her voice.

"Michael? Is that you?"

Isabel swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and despite their situation, smiled.

"Maria are you alright?"

"Isabel?" Maria's voice was weak but steady and it filled them both with absolute
joy.

"Yes, I'm here with Michael, we've been trying to find you."

Now that he actually had the opportunity, Michael wasn't sure what to say. There
was so much left unsaid between them and however determined he was that they
would save her, he was realistic enough to know that this moment might be their last.

He pushed that thought to the back of his mind, he was no where near ready to face
that possibility and he hadn't the time right then to dwell on it.

"Maria, what happened? How did you get here?"

"Oh Michael, you don't know how good it is to hear your voice. I knew you were
nearby, and I tried and tried to talk to you, but you never heard me."

Michael swallowed uncomfortably, she was obviously feeling the connection they had
as well, although he was pretty sure she had no idea what it really meant.

"I knew you would come Michael, I knew you'd get me out of here! How did you
find me?"

Michael felt Isabel's hand squeeze his, she knew as well as he did that they weren't
going to be able to bring her back with them. The pain this admission created inside
was almost more then he could bear. How was he going to leave her there? Worse
still, how was he going to tell her?

"We don't have a lot of time Maria, it's taken us longer then we hoped to find you
and we're starting to run out of power. Can you tell us how this happened? How did
you get here?"

Maria remained silent for a moment, she could hear the despair in his voice and
suddenly realised what it meant. They weren't going to be able to help her escape.

"I'm not coming with you am I?"

Their silence was answer enough and she was filled with renewed fear and sorrow.
She'd held on to this, her one last hope, and losing it was the final, crushing blow.

"Maria, if I could reach in and pull you out by will alone I would, but we're barely
hanging on here and it's going to take more then just us to get you out. I didn't
know what to expect when we got here, and this certainly isn't what I'd thought.
We've got no idea what we're doing but I swear to you Maria, on my life, I WILL
get you out of here, or die trying!"

Michael's passionate words filled her with love, he really was the dearest of men.

"I know you'll try, thank you, both of you, for taking the risk, for caring enough
to look for me. It means more then you'll ever know."

Isabel had silent tears streaming down her face, "Of course we'd look for you Maria,
we love you. The whole gang is waiting for you to wake up and we're all working
together to find a solution. You can't give up, we're going to beat this. Please don't
give up on us."

Maria heard the tears in her voice and once again felt blessed to have such friends.
They meant the world to her and she was suddenly determined to see them safe.

"You both have to listen to me, the man who did this to me is named Lysus, he's
an alien from your plant. He knew you before, in your other life, and he means
business. He wants you all dead, but especially you Michael. There's something
between you two, he has this idea in his head that he owes you for something. He
scares me Michael, you have to promise me that you'll be careful. As much as I
want out of here, I want you guys safe more. Don't put yourselves at risk for me,
please, I couldn't bare it if something happened to you."

"So it was definitely him then." Michael reviewed what he knew about this new
enemy and felt frustrated by the lack of information.

"Was there anything else about him you can tell us? We've been talking to Nasedo
about him and learned a little about what happened back then, but there's more
to the story then he knows, I'm sure of it."

"Not really, only that he's a freak and scares the crap out of me. He did tell me
that he has no intention of letting me go. He told me that he's holding me here
by will and that once he lets go I'll die."

Isabel made a distressed sound, "We're not going to let that happen."

"No we're not, so get that idea out of your head blondie."

Maria smiled to herself, "Ok, I'll try." She paused, "He visits me, not often, but
he came not long ago, although I'm losing track of time so it could have been
ages. Actually, how long have I been here?"

Isabel answered her, "About a week, it's been one of the longest on record."

"So short a time. It feels like forever." Her voice was soft. "Anyway, the last time
I spoke to Lysus he was ready to start implementing his grand plan, whatever it
is so please be careful. I tried to find out what he was going to do but he wouldn't
tell me."

"It's alright Maria, we'll figure it out, don't worry." Michael tried his best to sound
convincing but feared he'd failed miserably.

"Michael?" He was interrupted by Isabel who sounded beyond weary and he realised
she was almost at the end of her endurance. It was time to leave.

"Ok." He begrudgingly accepted the fact and took a deep breath, "Maria, Isabel
helped me get here and she's just about out of strength. We're going to have to go."

Maria was silent but he could feel the pain his words evoked and he steeled himself
against the emotion that rose up and threatened to explode. He had to keep a tight
reign on himself, he could not afford to fall to pieces like before.

"I promise we'll be back to get you out. You've just got to hold on until we can figure
out a way, ok?"

Maria sighed and the sound seemed to resonate around them. "I'll do my best, but
please be careful alright? And give my love to everyone, especially my Mom, although
I suppose you can't actually tell her about this can you?" She paused and seemed to
come to some decision. "Michael, if I don't get out of here, promise me you'll tell my
Mom that you spoke to me, tell her that I love her and that I'll always be grateful for
the woman she was and that she was the best mother a girl could have asked for."

"Maria, don't talk like that."

"No Michael, it's important, I need to know that you will do this for me. Please, you
have to tell her what happened. She deserves to know what her daughter was doing
over the last year, it's important she understands. And tell Liz and Alex that I love
them. Take care of each other and under no circumstances are you to let this Lysus
jerk win. You hear me? "

Despite her weariness Isabel smiled, "We hear you and don't worry Maria, we'll take
care of them, all of them."

Maria relaxed a little, "Well, I suppose you'd better go, I can feel your tired Michael,
it's the strangest thing but I seem to be able to feel you all the time now. It must
be this place, it's weird."

Michael chose not to comment for the moment on that and instead forced himself to
let go.

"We'll be back, I promise. I'll see you soon alright?"

Maria cried silently, "Goodbye Michael, bye Isabel. I'll be waiting."

Isabel's grip loosened on Michael's wrist, "I'm going to wake up now, I hope it's that
easy to get out of here, I'll see you on the other side." She turned her attention to
Maria, "Take care Maria, I'll be back soon."

Isabel's presence seemed to dissipate and Michael felt the drain of her energy and
knew he would not last long without her. "I'm coming for you Maria, I promise ... "

He felt himself falling away from her voice as he drew closer to consciousness and
the last he heard of her words brought tears to his eyes.

"I love you Michael, I love you ..."



TBC






[ edited 5 time(s), last at 21-Jan-2003 9:25:37 PM ]
posted on 27-Jan-2003 11:05:43 PM
Hello everyone ...
Thanks so much for the bumps and great feedback ... you people make this all worth while ... *happy*
Now ... I'm so sorry to say this ... but I don't have the next bit ready yet, in fact, I've barely started it. I know, I'm sorry I'm so slack ... but work hasn't let up and I've not had the energy or inclination to dive back into writing. *sad*
I will try to this weekend, we will see how we go.
I just wanted to let you know that I've not forgotten about you guys and that I am trying to get back with more ...

I'll see you all soon ...

~Nat.

posted on 5-Feb-2003 2:33:51 AM
Hellooooo good people! *happy*
Yes I'm back with another bit ... long time coming .. but that's the story of my life at the moment. Forgive me? *angel*

I'm in such a hurry I don't have time to indivdually give responses to all the great feedback and bumps but please know I really appreciate it and thank you all from the bottom of my heart. *happy*

I have to run ... hope you guys enjoy ... I'll try and get onto the next bit soon ... *fingers crossed*.

Till later ... *wave*

~Nat.


-------------------------------------------------

"The Face and Ghost" Part 21
by NafX

Disclaimer: The characters and lyrics used in this story do not belong to me, and no infringement
of any kind is implied or intended.
Summary: The Saga continues ... *happy*
Category: Michael/Maria
Rating: PG
Authors Note: Feedback is of course greatly appreciated.



"... to trust completely or let it be,
you don't know my destiny,
you can't see what I can see …"




The occupants in the room sat quietly and waited. Very little time had passed since
the beginning of the exercise and they remained watchful as the minutes ticked by.
Max stood by the door facing the end of the bed while the others sat against the
adjacent wall.

Collectively they monitored the actions, or lack thereof, of the three in the centre of
the room. Michael and Isabel hadn't moved but they were somewhat comforted by
the gentle rise and fall of Maria's chest as she breathed.

They'd not had any interruptions so far, although it had only been about a quarter of
an hour since they'd started. They all seemed to be holding their breaths, unwilling
to break the silence less they interrupt the process and ruin their chances.

Isabel and Michael were so strangely still they seemed carved from stone and this
combined with the silence created an eerie tension in the room. They were therefore,
quite started when they heard a sound and realised that Isabel was coming
around.

Groaning quietly, Isabel opened her eyes and gathered her strength to move. Alex,
unable to restrain himself, jumped up from his seat and rushed to her side.

"Isabel? Are you alright? What happened? Did you find her?"

Isabel blinked and looked into his hopeful face. Everything seemed a little blurry
around the edges and she was so incredibly tired she could barely lift her head.

"I'm ok, completely wiped out, but ok."

She looked from his relieved face to Michael who remained unconscious on the other
side of the bed. Max and Liz had also approached her and now stood hesitantly by
her side.

"I ... we ..." Her words were cut off by a pitiful moan that came from across the room.
Michael was regaining consciousness and they all turned to watch him raise his head
with difficulty and look at Maria's pale face.

Max took a step toward him and was stopped by the look in his glassy eyes.

"Michael?"

He stood up on shaky legs and without a word stumbled out of the room. Max made
to follow him but stopped when a hand grabbed him.

"Don't Max, let him be." Isabel's voice was soft and weak and he gave the partially
opened door a brief glance then nodded.

"What happened Isabel? Did you talk to Maria?" Liz had remained quiet so far but now
could not contain herself.

Isabel sighed wearily, "Yes we did, but I think we should get out of here while we still
can and go somewhere else to discuss it. Besides, I'm so tired I think I'm going to
need some coffee, or maybe a week long sleep."

Alex nodded and helped her stand. "That sounds like a great idea, maybe we should
get out of here for a while, how about the Crashdown? It's not too far off closing and
we could grab some food and talk in relative privacy. What do you think?"

Max and Liz glanced briefly at each other and agreed. Everyone was walking a thin,
tired line and a chance to sit down away from the hospital environment seemed like a
great idea.

Just then, Tess stepped into the open doorway, "So we're done then?"

Max nodded, "Yeah, we're going over to the Crashdown for a meal and to sit down and
talk about what happened."

Tess nodded and pushed the door open fully, "I figured as much. Michael all but ran out
of the building, so we assumed it was all over."

The group of friends gathered together and after looking Maria over one last time,
walked out of the room and closed the door behind them. Max looked around the
waiting area for Nasedo and glanced at Tess in question, she shrugged.

"I don't know, he said he had some things to do and he'd catch up with us later."

Max glanced at Isabel and she frowned, "Well, I guess we'll fill him in later, let's get
going, I think we could all use a break."

They all made various sounds of agreement and as a group shuffled off towards the
nearest exit.

~~~

Michael strode through the park across from the hospital trying desperately to contain
the frustration and rage inside him. He was extremely tired and was finding it terribly
difficult to put one foot in front of the other. In spite of this he felt his alien powers build
and grow. He was moments away from lashing out, his dwindling strength making it
difficult to keep a handle on the impulse, and he knew he had to be as far away
from the general populace as possible before that happened.

He was almost to the outer edge of the playground when exhaustion finally brought him
stumbling to his knees. He tried to force himself to his feet but his weary body refused
to cooperate and so instead crawled his way on hands and knees to lean against one of
the trees surrounding the area.

He leaned his head back, closed his eyes and concentrated on controlling his uneven
breathing. His body was shaking with reaction and he struggled to calm himself down.
Talking to Maria had taken everything he'd had in him and he'd never before felt so
tired.

Thinking about what had just transpired brought his feelings precariously close to the
surface which in spite of his best efforts resulted in an outpouring of emotion.
Shockwaves rippled around him, shaking the ground and surrounding objects with its
power. Luckily the park was completely deserted and Michael groaned with exertion
as he tried to contain it. It would be so easy to give into it, but he knew that just
wasn't an option.

"I see you've still not learned to control your powers."

Michael flinched, startled by the intrusion and opened his eyes. Nasedo stood directly
in front watching him intently.

Michael clenched his jaw and ignored the disapproval in the alien's eyes. They remained
a few moments in silence as Michael struggled to control his escaping emotions, and
with monumental effort the vibrations dissipated into nothing.

Taking a deep breath he relaxed a little and spoke, his voice low and weary, "What do
you want?"

Nasedo didn't immediately answer and Michael stifled the urge to fidget beneath such
close scrutiny.

"I came to see how you'd faired."

Michael blinked and considered the shape shifter carefully. He didn't get the feeling that
Nasedo cared either way and he wondered why he'd followed him outside. Obviously he
had something on his mind but for the moment he ignored the possibilities and focused
on the question at hand.

How had they faired? It was true they'd finally contacted Maria, but it had taken so long
they'd not had the energy to help bring her back, or even talk to her for long. There was
so much he'd wanted to say to her, but he'd let his aversion to all things personal dictate
what he'd spent his energies in saying. Isabel had been there, he'd not wanted to get
into anything in front of her and now he'd lost perhaps his only opportunity.

"We found her, talked to her. It was definitely Lysus. We didn't have the strength to get
her out though. It took every ounce of power we had just to reach her. I don't know
what it's going to take to free her."

Nasedo's grunt was non committal and Michael frowned. "What? Obviously you've got
something on your mind, I'm tired so just get it over with already."

Nasedo's gaze was so intent he seemed to be searching for something and Michael felt
his defences rising. He felt like all his flaws and weaknesses were exposed.

"I want to make sure you understand just what it is you've done."

Michael blinked, sighed wearily and using the tree for support struggled to his feet.
"What have I done?"

"You have destroyed the perfect unit you were to become by aligning yourself with this
human."

Michael scowled, "I did what I had to do."

Nasedo laughed mirthlessly, "Yes and in the process put yourself and the rest of the
Royal Four in a precarious position."

Michael's mouth thinned in anger, "And what position is that?"

"Max and Tess were married, still are by Antarian laws, and you and Isabel were to
wed. The four of you were sent here not only for your survival, but to regroup,
grow and master the skills needed to return and save your people. They are relying
on you to do that. What are you going to do when the time comes to go back?
Take your human wife with you?"

Michael mentally stumbled over that, wife?

"And what if you do? Do you think your people will calmly accept your union? Your
people are proud and above all else value loyalty and honesty. You were honoured
bound to marry her Michael, they will not accept this."

Michael suddenly felt guilty. He'd not taken a moment to consider the implications of his
actions, not that this was a new concept for him of course. Max was always complaining
about how he always jumped head first into things without thinking them through. He'd
come to the realisation early on that there was no way Isabel and he were ever going to
make a go of it. He loved her, she was the closest thing to a sister he had, but that was
the extent of it. He'd not considered what going against their so called destiny would
actually mean for the world he'd been sent from.

There were also the repercussions of what he'd done to Maria. He'd bound her to him
for eternity and this was not to be taken lightly. He was still trying to wrap his brain
around that fact and he had absolutely no idea how he was going to tell her either. Not
that he knew exactly what this binding would mean to them, but he knew enough to
realise that things were never going to be the same again.

"I can't help that, not now, it's done. I don't remember that other world, I only have this
one to relate to and as I said before, I did what I had to." Michael looked steadily into
Nasedo's eyes, "And I would do it again."

Nasedo shook his head and sighed with regret, "Your humanity has made you weak, your
enemies will use it against you. They already have."

"Don't you think I know that?" His voice was rough and agitated, "I didn't want this for
her, I kept away from her to prevent this very thing from happening and it made no
difference. Don't you think every part of me is dying with the knowledge that she's
trapped in the dark because of me? I did this to her. I know that and I'm going to have
to live with that for the rest of my life, no matter what happens."

Michael took a deep breath and lowered his voice, "I know what I was sent here for, I
know people are depending on me and I will do everything I can to fulfil my obligations.
But I'm not going to do that at the expense of those on this world. And as for Isabel,
that was never going to happen. We may have been an item in our past life but we're
different people now. Either that or being here has changed us. We don't feel that way
about each other and we're never going to."

Nasedo laughed, "Feelings. You speak of love, do you think that love had anything to do
with your union on Antar? I'm sure you shared a mutual fondness and respect for each
other, but your marriage would have had nothing to do with love. You are Royalty
Michael, you can not afford to let sentimental feelings govern your actions. Every
decision and action is for the good of the planet and its people. Your life as an individual
is not important. You are an integral part of a group and your current actions
have compromised the very foundation of it."

Michael slumped against the tree at his back, "Maybe so, but as I said there's nothing I
can do about that now. It's done so accept it and move on."

Nasedo read the closed expression on his face and nodded. "Very well. You're right of
course, nothing can be done about it now. We shall forget about it for the time being and
concentrate instead on this new threat. What are you going to do now?"

Michael folded his arms across his chest and regarded the alien for a moment, "I don't
know. The dream walk took absolutely everything out of me and I'm sure Isabel is
feeling the same if not worse. I don't know if we're going to be able to get her out
using that method. But I don't know what else to do."

"I believe there is one avenue open to you."

Michael glanced at him, "And what's that?"

Nasedo paused and looked him in the eye, "You could face your enemy head on."

Michael grunted and glanced up at the stars above, "I've got to find him first, but don't
worry." He meet Nasedo's gaze with steely resolve, "I will."



TBC







[ edited 7 time(s), last at 12-Feb-2003 6:57:19 PM ]
posted on 20-Feb-2003 9:29:35 PM
Hello all ...

Just a quick note ... not an update ... but are you surprised? No? Didn't think so ... *happy*

I just wanted to let you know that I'm still around and haven't forgotten you all, waiting patiently for an update as you are ... *happy*

I'm having much difficulty getting into the next bit and have started and restarted it half a dozen times already with nothing cementing in my mind ... it's very annoying ... I'm sure for you guys too ... *happy*

Anyway ... I just wanted to touch base with you guys and assure you I'll be back ... *happy* ... hopefully soon ...

Lana - Thanks for all the bumps and the great feedback ... I'm glad you like my Michael, I like him too .. in fact ... I'd like him to come stay with me for a while .. but I guess my husband might not like that too much ... heh heh ... *big* ... oh and I know ... I've not really portrayed Tess in a very nice light .. but hey ... she's a cow... *happy* Oh and Lana I hope you're feeling better!

NewYorker18 - Thanks for the feedback! I'm sorry I didn't come back with a quicker update ... or one at all actually ... but I'll try to get it done .. honest ... *happy*

D2Tymes - Wooo ... a new feedback person! Excellent ... thanks for the kind words ... and sorry about dragging it out a bit ... but think of it as strengthening your character ... heh heh ... *big*

Anyway ... thanks so much all of you for reading .. and as always the wonderful bumps and feedback ...

I'll be back ... soon ...

~Nat.