posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:27:50 AM by Kath7
Part 41 - Page 16
Part 40 - Page 16
Part 39 - Page 15
AN - Page 15
Part 38 - Page 14
AN - Page 14
AN - Page 13
Part 37 - Page 12
Part 36 - Page 11
Part 35 - Page 11
Part 34 - Page 10
Note - Page 9
Part 33 - Page 8
Part 32 - Page 7

Title: Union

Summary: Third in a trilogy that includes Out of the Woods and Legacy. If you don’t read them, you will be seriously lost. If you DO read them, I congratulate you, because even I am horrified by their length. I will also be tickled pink! They are all on the Repost board. I am in the process of reposting Union too.

Some important information: This story began with Out of the Woods, which was Post-Destiny, so everything that has occurred during Season 2 is not applicable here. All couples are currently together except for Kyle and Tess. Jennetta is Michael and Maria’s daughter. Why she is grown-up is a long story and is told in Legacy. Max and Isabel also consider her to be their sister because she was raised by their alien mother on their home planet of Illyria. Max’s alien name is Jaxon Falconer, Isabel’s is Mirana, Tess’ is Sabrya and Michael’s is Tristandor. Michael and Tess are siblings.

Link to parts 1-15: [link]viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=1069[/link]

Category: This story will be mainly Max/Liz, but will include all conventional couples, in particular Kyle/Tess.

Rating: PG-13, might reach an R.

Disclaimer: I own the story, the characters Jennetta, Ren, Andrina and Tarsus. I am just borrowing the others with thanks.

Author's Note: Hey all! Remember this one! I know it has been a ludicrous amount of time. Sigh. Damn real life. Anyway, this part is sort of transitional, but I hope to get more done tomorrow. And don't get too mad at Isabel. There is a very good reason for her behavior.

Part 26

"Isabel?" Maria kept her voice soft as she came up behind the other girl. Her friend had been with Alex for close to an hour.

Maria had wanted a minute alone with Isabel. She had not missed the way Isabel had looked at her when she had first said hello. Her eyes had practically been burning with hatred. It had made Maria want to move away from Michael - had made her feel like she had no right to be touching her own boyfriend.

And the weirdest part was that, those eyes, for one instant, before Isabel had hurried from the room, had not been Isabel’s at all. There had been someone else in there. Someone that Maria had known was not her friend.

She had shaken off the shivers that had erupted down her backbone and had spent a happy half an hour with Michael and Jennetta, before she had volunteered to go for Isabel when she had noticed Jemma starting to pace the room impatiently.

Jemma Stafford was all business. She wanted to help them, but she wanted it done her way and she wanted it done now if not sooner. Because Jenny trusted her, Maria did too. And so she had quieted Michael before he had erupted in annoyance.

"Is he going to wake up soon?" Isabel asked now, her voice small and weary. She was still staring down at Alex, the expression on her face so hopeless, it caused Maria to hurry towards her, to place a reassuring hand on the other girl’s shoulder.

"I think he’s just having fun playing Sleeping Handsome." Maria replied lightly. "He has a concussion, but the doctors said he’ll be fine."

"I just really want to talk to him." Isabel continued, her voice hitching slightly.

Maria bit her lip, wondered what to say. "Can you talk to me?" She finally asked tentatively.

Maria felt Isabel’s shoulder tense under her hand. She seemed to be weighing her options. "Did…did Michael tell you anything…about…about what’s going on?"

Maria had never heard Isabel Evans have such a hard time uttering a simple sentence. "He said that you’ve been having nightmares again." Maria replied. "Are they really bad Izzy?" She asked sympathetically. If they were anything like the horrible dreams Isabel had experienced in the months before Jennetta had come out of the pod, Maria didn’t blame her friend for acting weird.

"Is that all he said?" Isabel demanded, her voice suddenly harsh. She had whirled in her seat, was staring up at Maria in dismay.

"Well, I might not really have given him much of a chance." Maria admitted. "I was mostly filling him in on what happened in Roswell while you guys were here. Ren and Jennetta have gone insane. If I didn’t know better, I would say that something was going on there. They’re acting like Michael and I used to act, before we got…" she began, but cut herself off. Isabel did not look the least bit interested, had in fact turned back around and was staring at Alex again.

Maria frowned slightly, brought her arms up to wrap around herself. She felt a chill. Something was really wrong here. Michael had clearly kept something from her.

"Isabel. Tell me." Maria whispered, when the silence seemed to stretch on forever.

But Isabel said nothing. She stood up and moved to the door. "Are they waiting for me? I’d better go."

Maria watched her leave, her heart pounding. She dropped into the seat Isabel had just vacated, swallowed, hard.

She wasn’t sure how long she sat there, her thoughts whirling, when she suddenly realized that Alex’s eyes were open. They were a little glazed, but they were staring right at her and they seemed to recognize her.

Maria flew to her best friend’s side. "Alex? Are you okay? Speak to me!"

Alex closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them again. "Was…" He croaked, licked his lips and then continued. "Was Izzy here? I thought…I thought I heard her voice."

"She was here." Maria replied, brushing her hand lightly across Alex’s forehead, moving a dark lock of hair out of his eyes. "Go back to sleep. She’ll be here when you wake up again."

Maria watched Alex comply, heard him sigh with relief before his breathing became deep and even as he fell into a healing slumber.

She wrinkled her brow, clenched her fists in her lap, tried to push the nagging feeling away that she had just lied to Alex.

Because, again, that weird thought had penetrated her mind. That girl had not been Isabel Evans at all.
**********************************************

"…..humans are changed. When we connect with them, we can help them to access the unused portions of their brains, can help them to access their inherent abilities. The ones we take for granted."

When Isabel returned to the room where Michael and Jennetta were still conferencing with Jemma, this was what she heard. Michael was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed, a frown on his face. Jennetta was seated on one of the couches, a pensive expression on her face.

The sight of Michael and Maria’s daughter, gave Isabel a minor pang over the way she had just treated Maria, but she brushed it aside. It had only been natural to ask Maria if Michael had told her about what was going on with them. She hadn’t wanted to say anything that would spill the beans if he hadn’t.

It was Michael’s place to tell her.

Right, a little voice, maybe her conscience, replied. Like you weren’t trying to make her suspicious so she WOULD ask him about it.

Isabel ignored it, tuned into the conversation. She was doing nothing wrong.

Tristandor was hers. She had a right to fight for what belonged to her.

"You give them a choice though." Michael was stating, sounding like he was not going to be happy if Jemma disagreed with him. "Right?"

"We only connect with people who are already dying." Jemma replied. "We heal them and then give them a new lease on life. And a new role, helping to shape the future of their planet and our universe."

"So no choice." Michael rolled his eyes, glanced at Isabel. "Did you catch that Izzy? We’re recruiting humans for a war they have no part in. I’m beginning to hate the sound of these armies I’m supposed to lead." Isabel felt her heart lighten at the tone of Michael’s voice. He was clearly no longer annoyed with her, was obviously looking for an ally.

"What’s going on?"

"Jemma’s just telling us about the humans she’s changed." Jennetta replied. "They’re all pledged to our cause and ALL of them have powers now."

"What kind of powers?" Isabel asked, thinking of Kyle and Liz, who had both seemingly been changed by Max having healed them, but had yet to display any truly amazing feat, other than the ability to open doors that were guarded by the silver hand print.

"Various and sundry." Jemma replied. "We have dreamwalkers, healers, warriors and mindwarpers. We are trying to create as many Four-Squares as possible for the battles ahead. We also have some telepaths and some telekenetics."

"Excuse me?" Michael interrupted, sounding irritated. "Can we get back to the fact that these people have no choice?" He frowned at Jennetta, who looked abashed.

"You sound like Max." Jennetta muttered, but she was clearly ashamed. "Why is it so important to change humans?" She asked Jemma, rubbing her neck in a way that reminded Isabel of Michael.

"They have a choice." Jemma told Michael. "Most choose to help us. They understand that if we do not stop the Dernians, Earth will be next. They WANT to help us."

"What do you mean Earth will be next?" Isabel asked, a chill descending her spine.

"You have to understand your highness." Jemma explained patiently. "The Dernians are determined to erase emotion in all living beings. Earth is the next logical place after they succeed in conquering our planet. Human physiology is so close to the Illyrian, it would take very little modification of the cleansing pods. Remember the history of this planet. It is an Illyrian colony. Humans are Illyrians who have not yet reached their full potential. Dernians want to erase all trace of the Illyrian - everywhere."

Isabel was horrified. A vivid image of her mom and dad floating in cleansing pods entered her mind, almost made her physically ill. She swallowed hard.

"Why?" Jennetta demanded. "If they are emotionless, why are they so determined? It doesn’t make any sense."

"Because the cleansing has always been flawed." Jemma replied. "The Dernians THINK they are emotionless, but, in reality, the cleansing drives them literally insane. Their emotions are beyond control. They seem to be controlled, logical, but in reality, they are the complete opposite. They are unpredictable and, thus, even more dangerous."

"Well, that explains Tarsus." Michael snorted. "Nothing that guy EVER does makes sense."

"All who are cleansed are like this?" Jennetta asked, horrified.

"All."

"What about Ren?"

"Ren has been cleansed?" Jemma asked, sounding interested.

"Yes." Isabel nodded, wondered at the devastated expression on Michael’s daughter’s face.

"Well, then this is likely true of him as well."

Jennetta’s expression was stony. "What are we going to do?" She asked, when they had all sat there in silence for several minutes.

"If you are, as he says," Jemma indicated Michael, "the Chosen One, you will end the divide once and for all. The path that you choose will forever determine the fates of three species. And there is only one way to do it."

"By ending the cleansings." Jennetta murmured.

"Correct."

"But what about those who have already been cleansed?" Jenny asked quietly.

Jemma did not reply, but the expression on her face spoke volumes.

"Genocide." Jennetta spat the word, looked like she wanted to be ill. Isabel didn’t blame her. While the Dernians Isabel had encountered were definitely creepy, Isabel could no imagine exterminating an entire race. It was wrong, completely and in every way.

"There is no other way." Jemma said quietly.

"There must be!" Jennetta flared. "I will not kill an entire segment of my population in cold blood. It goes against every tenet of humanity."

"You are not human." Jemma returned.

"I AM human." Jennetta snapped, standing tall. For an instant Isabel saw Maria in her so clearly, it was hard to understand that this was Michael’s daughter and NOT his girlfriend. "And we WILL find another way."

Isabel believed her.

To be continued…




[ edited 23time(s), last at 18-Feb-2003 11:09:09 PM ]
posted on 22-Oct-2001 12:06:31 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Sorry its been so long again! I can't seem to get cracking on this one. I think I may have finally gotten through the writer's block though. I just decided to skip through something and deal with it in flashback. So, back to Illyria we go! And yes, Kyle WILL eventually stop being so stupid. But not right away.

Part 27

The Citadel, Illyria

Kyle tugged on the tunic he was wearing in annoyance. He couldn’t believe that Tess had actually talked him into dressing in the uniform of the Illyrian guard, but here he was, despite all his arguments in blue and gold with the whirlwind galaxy emblazoned on his chest.

"I’m not wearing a skirt. I am not wearing tights. Forget it."

Those had been his exact words to Tess, to which she had simply replied, "Jeans, t-shirt and letter jacket scream ‘I’m not from around here.’ You have to blend Kyle. Its the only way I’m bringing you with us." She had paused, her blue eyes serious. "If they see that you’re different Kyle, they’ll target you. I refuse to allow that."

And because of the way she had looked at him, her eyes momentarily loving and affectionate, he had allowed it.

It still didn’t mean he was happy about it.

"Are you a man or a mouse?" Kyle turned and glared at the owner of the sarcastic voice. It was Captain Lorn, the one who had given him nothing but grief since he had captured he and Tess days ago. "I don’t know what a mouse is, but from the way you said it that one time, I’m assuming its bad. You are dressed like a real man now. Stop your fidgeting and get in."

"Real man. Right. In some alternate universe. Not in the universe that I come from." Kyle muttered under his breath as he climbed into the transport.

He was surprised to see Tess there. The Illyrians had been doing their utmost to keep their queen away from "The Human," as the soldiers had taken to calling him. Even though it was what he was, it sounded derogatory when they said it. No matter how hard he and Tess had tried to hide it, gossip was apparently already circulating through the camp about his relationship with Tess.

She had been right when she had told him that, in their eyes, any romantic relationship between the queen and anyone other than the king was treason. They apparently took it all pretty seriously too. And so he was doing his best to hide his feelings for her.

But he couldn’t help it when a silly grin appeared on his face in her presence. He really couldn’t.

"Nice legs." Tess smirked. She looked beautiful of course. She was dressed in her queenly attire, all heavy velvet-like materials in different shades of blues and golds. A heavy crown sat on her head as well. She was being taken to the front as a figurehead, as a rallying point for the troops who were about to attack the Citadel in an attempt to free Max before the Dernians could execute him.

Kyle had not been pleased to hear this at all. She would be in danger in the thick of the battle. But no one had listened to his protests. Hamor had simply replied that it was her duty and that she wouldn’t be in the fighting anyway. Tess would be positioned towards the back, using her mind-warp to help confuse the Dernian army. Hamor had emphasized what an advantage this was for the Illyrian Guard.

It had not taken long to discover that there were not many Illyrians who were as strong in their powers as Tess and the other three Czechs of Kyle’s close acquaintance. Captain Lorn was a mind-warper - he HAD mindwarped Tess and Kyle when he had captured them after all - but no one was capable of the elaborate illusions that they seemed to think Tess could create. Fortunately, Tess’s strength had started to return, despite the fact that she had seriously drained herself with all the mindwarping she had done in England to keep Kyle and the others off of her and Max’s trail.

Kyle had learned a little bit about Illyrian culture during the couple of days he had spent in the camp. It seemed that there were various guilds for all the various gifts. Each of the Royal Four was the figurehead of the cult that represented their power, being the strongest in that ability. The Healers, Max’s guild, were currently in dispute with the Warriors, Michael’s guild, because their powers were so diametrically opposed. It made Kyle shake his head in dismay. Like this planet needed MORE divisions. Apparently the divide between the two had resolved itself somewhat when Jaxon/Max and Tristandor/Michael had allied themselves, but since their disappearance, approximately two years ago in Illyrian time, the feud had reignited.

The Mindwarpers Guild had made a formal presentation to Tess the day before. Kyle had been allowed to watch, had seen how much it had pleased Tess to meet others like her. It had almost been like she had been truly coming home since the first time they had arrived on Illyria.

It made him frown slightly now. Although they were about to head into battle, Tess seemed strangely serene at the moment - like she was comfortable in the role into which she had been thrust. It was the role Nasedo had spent her whole life preparing her for after all.

It caused a knawing pain in the pit of Kyle’s stomach. Because no matter how much Tess denied that she wanted to be with Max, no matter that she had kissed him and declared that she loved him, Kyle couldn’t help but fear that when this was all over, she would not want to stop being Queen of Illyria. That she would not want to go back to being simply Tess Harding - would not just want to be human and boring Kyle Valenti’s girlfriend.

He was no Max Evans. He was not a king and he could not give her a planet to rule. Would Tess always crave what she was missing out on? Because although Kyle knew that Max had no intention of ever being with Tess, it didn’t mean that Tess couldn’t go back to wanting to be with Max. Because wasn’t it just a little too convenient that she had fallen in love with he, Kyle, just because he was the only guy who knew her secret not involved with someone else?

Kyle did not want to be a convenience. He wanted to be her first choice, now and always.

"I said nice legs." Tess repeated, waving a small hand in front of his face. "Earth to Kyle." When he continued to stare at her silently, her good mood seemed to fade a little. "What’s wrong? This can’t just be because you’re wearing tights."

"I’m just taking this seriously Tess." Kyle snapped back, not meaning to do so, but unable to help himself. "We’re going to war here you know."

Tess eyed him for a moment. "I do know." She finally replied quietly.

He sighed heavily, knowing that he had hurt her feelings, but unable to say anything to fix it because of the guards seated in the front of the transport, waiting for the command to depart. He couldn’t say exactly what he wanted to say, that he loved her, that he was scared for her, that he was afraid that he was going to lose her to this life that was just opening up for her - a life that had once been hers and could be again.

They sat in an uncomfortable silence for several moments before they were joined by Hamor. The old general settled into the transport, a concerned expression on his face.

"Has something happened?" Tess asked, clearly seeing the tension as Kyle did.

"I’ve just had a communication from the front." Hamor replied, addressing Kyle and ignoring Tess completely. "The Citadel has been surrendered. The Dernians have left under cover of night. The Guard has Jaxon in its custody."

"In custody?" Kyle demanded. "What is that supposed to mean?" He felt a great woosh of relief flowing through him at the news. Apparently Max was not to be executed after all. But this "in custody" thing did not sound very promising. Had Tarsus managed to somehow work his brainwashing voodoo on Max again? Had he forgotten who he was? Did he think that they were his enemies?

Hamor just shrugged. "The Guard found him incarcerated in the dungeon of the Citadel. Milena was with him. It seems that the King did not wish to return to his people. In fact he’s presently rounding up a force to follow Tarsus and the Dernians."

"That sounds like a good thing to me." Kyle replied, confused. "Rout them and end this game once and for all."

"It is not our way." Hamor replied. "Illyrians do not attack. We simply defend."

"You’re going to lose the game then Hamor old boy." Kyle returned, rolling his eyes. "No team without an offense will ever score any points."

"It is not our way." Hamor repeated firmly.

Tess and Kyle exchanged a glance. "Milena was the only one with him?" Tess inquired, clearly trying to change the subject and ignoring the fact that Hamor seemed to prefer to address Kyle, who he viewed as Tess’s mouthpiece. At first Kyle had thought it was a sexist thing - but now that he had seen the inner workings of the Illyrian army, he knew that wasn’t true. There were just as many women as men in positions of power.

No, this was a Sabrya thing. It was becoming more and more clear that Tess had not been considered the sharpest knife in the drawer in her last incarnation. This prejudice was leaking into Hamor’s dealings with her more often, especially since Kyle had been allowed to join her at official meetings. While Kyle was flattered, he knew it galled Tess, who was anything but dumb now.

"Was there no one else?" Kyle asked, understanding what Tess was asking. Where was Liz? There was no way Max would leave the Citadel without her. This was the only explanation for Max’s reluctance to return to Illyria.

"No one."

Tess turned worried eyes to the window of the transport, glanced out across the waving grasses that seemed to make up the majority of the planet and brought her hands up to rub her temples. "Liz is gone. It’s the only answer. Tarsus must have taken her with him."

"Which means he has a new plan." Kyle finished for her. "This is not good. This is SO not good."

Not that things were ever good when one was dealing with an emotionless, maniacal shapeshifter. In fact, they always just seemed to get worse.

"You’d better take us to Ma…er Jaxon." Kyle told Hamor. "I think we’re probably the only ones he’ll talk to."

Hamor rapped the window dividing the passenger section of the transport from the driver with his fist. "I don’ t understand the way Jaxon thinks." He confided to Tess and Kyle as they sped across the countryside at a speed so fast it was making Kyle’s head spin to just look out the window. The old man looked weary and beaten. "He behaves nothing like he did in the past. He does not think rationally anymore."

Kyle smirked. "There was no Liz in the past." He replied. "Max NEVER thinks rationally when it comes to Liz. In fact, I think its safe to say that he behaves like a raving lunatic more often than not."

Tess was silent in the seat next to him. For about the eight millionth time since he had met her, Kyle wondered what she was thinking. Was she thinking that the jig as queen was going to be up as soon as Max rejoined them and showed that he no longer wanted her as his wife?

He had no further time to think about it though, because his eyes were drawn to the horizon, upon which the most gigantic building he had ever seen was beginning to rise. Two of the Illyrian moons were shining fully in the pre-dawn sky overhead, reflecting off the surface of the building, which seemed to be made of some sort of silver material. Kyle had never seen a more impressive structure in his life - and he had seen a damn lot of cathedrals in his short stay in England before he had fallen through the portal with Max and Tess.

"What the hell…" He trailed off, flabbergasted. "When you said Citadel, you meant Citadel." He glanced at Tess, who’s eyes were focused on the fortress as well.

"I remember it." She whispered to Kyle. "It was the only place that ever felt like home to me."

Kyle felt a pang. Score another point for being a queen. His column of good points was beginning to look extremely bare. "You call that a home?" He scoffed, not meaning to sound flippant, but knowing he did. "It’s not exactly what I would call cozy."

"It wasn’t the place." Tess replied, seemingly oblivious to his distress. "It was the people who lived in it."

Or person. The king who had lived in it.

The transport slid to a stop several minutes later. They had driven right through the Citadel’s front gate, which was flung wide open and was now guarded by several soldiers in Illyrian blue and gold. Kyle rubbed his neck, glancing up. He had to look up for a long time before he even began to glimpse the top of the towers soaring into the brightening sky.

"Welcome to the governmental centre of our planet." Hamor said to them as he helped Tess out of the transport. Kyle could see her kicking her long skirts out of the way impatiently.

"I still don’t understand why the Dernians would give it up so easily." Tess told Kyle. "From what I heard, it took them months to claim it and whoever holds the Citadel holds the planet. Why would they just run away?"

"They still hold the Ring." Kyle shrugged. "Isn’t it more important in the long run?"

Tess just shook her head. "I have no idea. I don’t know anything anymore."

"What I want to know is, where’s King Max?" Kyle demanded as Hamor led them through the elaborate front door and into a huge entrance-way with soaring buttresses holding galleries as far as the eye could see. Kyle shivered. As usual, it was damn cold. "You’d think the guy would be happy enough to see us that he could at least come and say hey."

"Hey." Kyle turned at the familiar voice.

Tess shrieked with joy. "Max!" She flew across the marble-like floor and threw herself at her friend. "Are you all right? We thought they were going to execute you!"

Max caught her easily, gave her a warm hug before setting her down beside him, keeping one arm around her waist. Kyle averted his eyes. The sight literally made him want to puke.

"I thought so too." Max replied wryly. "It would seem that I have more allies than I expected."

Kyle tensed at the sight of the soldiers Max indicated, who were marching double time from the door behind Max and Tess. They took up position around Max and Tess, standing at attention as though guarding their lives - from what, Kyle could not have said.

There were twelve of them and they were all dressed in tunics of red and gold with a symbol Kyle recognized from the transformation chamber on Earth emblazoned on the front.

He also recognized it from the uniform he had seen Captain Lorn and his underlings burning disdainfully the night before. It had come off a Dernian shapeshifting spy who had been found on the perimeter of the camp.

These were Dernian soldiers.

These were their enemies.

Which could only mean one thing.

He had been right. Max had been turned again.

They had fallen right into a trap.

To be continued…


posted on 27-Oct-2001 11:10:23 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Well, you asked for Liz! You got Liz. But it ain't happy where she is folks! Anyway, we're reaching a climax here. I can actually see the end of this story in sight. Finally! I bet alot of you are as relieved as I am! Anyway, whatever happens in the next few parts, remember I am a firm believer in HEA. You will get your happy ending. It may look like you won't for a while, but it will come, so hang in there!

Thanks as always for all the feedback! Writer's block is hopefully finally gone for good.

Part 28

Liz flopped to ground, sighing heavily. She crawled forward, dipped her hand into the sparkling lake they had stumbled across almost inadvertently. She was trying not to show how relieved she was that Max had insisted that they stop to take a rest. She didn’t want to be a burden to him and he had seemed determined to reach the Illyrian camp before dawn.

They had been crossing the waving grasses dividing the two countries for what felt like days. Liz wasn’t quite sure why they were walking, but Max had insisted that it must be this way, that he still didn’t entirely trust the Dernians and preferred to travel on their own.

He was still acting strangely, but every time she tried to ask him if he was okay, he started kissing her, connected with her, made her feel better. And yet…

Something was not right here.

Liz sat back on her heels, watched her boyfriend as he too drank from the lake. She was tempted to ask him if he was all right again. She could see the tension in the line of his neck, in the stiff way he held himself. Instead she said, "Are we almost there?"

"I think so." Max replied, now lying on his stomach, his head cradled in his arms, his eyes closed. "Its a couple more hours at most." He opened one eye, gazing at her lazily. "Can you make it?"

"I’m a little tired but I’ll be fine." Liz replied. She continued to stare at him. "Max, I’m worried." He rolled over onto his back, reaching out and pulling her over to nestle against his chest.

"Why? What’s wrong?"

"Something still doesn’t feel right about this. I don’t understand why Tarsus just gave up. He was in complete control. He had you in his power. Why would he do this?"

"Liz, when has anything he’s ever done made sense?" Max asked dismissively. "It’s fine. The war is over. Jennetta can come home and you and I can go back to Earth and can start pretending that we never knew I was an alien."

Liz pulled away, sitting up. "Max! I can’t even begin to list his crimes. He killed my parents! He killed Nasedo! We’re not just going to let him get away are we?"

Max sat up too, shrugging. "We’re free Liz. That’s all I care about. We’re free to be together. Who cares about Tarsus?"

Liz just stared at him in open-mouthed amazement, could feel anger beginning to stir within her. Had he gone insane? "Max! Do you really think Jennetta is going to be safe on her throne as long as he is alive?"

Max quirked a grin at her. "I never knew you were so bloodthirsty!" He teased. "You worry too much sweetheart. It’ll be fine." Something in that smile sent a frisson of fear down Liz’s spine. Why did that smile look so familiar?

This was not Max. They had done something to him after all. Had they brainwashed him again?

"I…I think I want to go back." She said, standing up abruptly and beginning to back away from him. She tried to make her voice sound natural, but knew that she was failing miserably. "Don’t you think it might be a better idea to wait for your army to come and get us at the Citadel?" She suggested, hoping she sounded more confident than she felt.

He just watched her, his head tilted slightly to the side, his beautiful eyes looking strangely amused. That feeling that she had seen him like this before…It was back with a vengeance. But this cheerful disregard for care and logic was not her Max - was not even what he had been like when he was Jaxon.

"Yes, its a good idea." She continued nervously, turning around and beginning to walk back in the direction from which they had come. "We’ll just go back."

"You’re not going anywhere." He barked it so abruptly, she jumped. And it all came flooding back so suddenly, it made her weak in the knees.

Flash*

"Pick one!" It had been said in that same abrupt, annoyed tone - like she was a mosquito he was tempted to swat but was having too much fun tormenting to do away with.

Flash*

"Don’t believe everything you see."

How could she have been so blind? And yet, it made no sense with what she knew to be true.

Liz whirled, stared at Max in horror. She felt like she was reliving some horrible nightmare, which in reality she was.

She felt the sense of dejà vu again as she whispered. "You’re not Max."

Max was smirking at her. "I should have known you were too smart to fool for long."

Liz continued to stare at him, backing away at the same time. She didn’t understand why she felt that if she looked at him hard enough, his false face would fade away and she would see who really was.

She knew in her heart that this had to be Tarsus. But his behavior…It reminded her too much of the other shapeshifter who had once kidnapped her, who had enjoyed teasing and tormenting her…

"Nasedo?" She asked, knowing she was insane, that it couldn’t be him. He had been dead for close to two years, or so Danala had told them.

But then why should they ever have believed Danala? She was a liar after all.

"I don’t particularly like that name." The Max clone replied, sounding annoyed. "My real name is Laren. Use it."

"You ARE Nasedo." Liz breathed, her horror and shock so great, she stumbled, falling to her knees. "How? I don’t understand."

"It’s really very simple sweetheart." He replied, advancing on her. He grabbed her tightly by the upper arms, pulled her to her feet. "I never died."

"Why? I mean, I don’t understand? Why did Tarsus let you take me?" Liz asked.

Nasedo quirked an eyebrow at her again. Liz looked away. It was making her physically ill to have to stare into his face while he was Max. Her Max’s face would never look so casually cruel. "My, we certainly have a large opinion of ourselves, don’t we?" He teased, running his hands through her hair. It was so much like the way Max did so - had done so, only last night. She gagged, remembering how many times she had allowed this THING to kiss her, to touch her, to connect with her.

How could she not have known that this was not Max? How could she have seen those flashes? She remembered clearly the dark and disturbing flashes Nasedo had given her the last time he had kidnapped her. How had he avoided that this time?

"Let go of me!" Liz shrieked, pulling away so abruptly he had no choice but to let her go.

"Really." Nasedo sounded annoyed again. "You’ve always been such a drama queen Liz. You’re absolutely no fun to play with. If I didn’t know better, I’d be convinced that you ARE Andrina’s blood relative."

Liz whirled on him. "You betrayed her!" She shrieked. She knew that she was completely losing control of herself, but it was all just too much. How many times would she be separated from Max? How many times would their enemies win? "You betrayed my grandmother?"

Nasedo rolled his eyes. "I didn’t betray her little queen. I used her. There is a large difference."

Little queen. There was only one other person who had ever called her that.

Tarsus. Okay, something VERY strange was going on here.

"Why?" Liz whispered, clamping down on her emotions, forcing herself to calm down. She had to get as much information as possible. For when she got back to Max. Because she had every intention of getting back to Max. It was not going to end for her here.

There was no way. Not after all they had been through.

"Because I want to rule." He told her. "I have always wanted to rule. And to do so, I needed Andrina, and I needed Milena, and now I need you."

"Is Tarsus working for you?" Liz demanded. It was the only explanation that made sense. "Did you both use Danala too?"

"Danala was an idiot." Nasedo replied disdainfully. "She thought that she controlled me, but she was the one being controlled. Her cleansing led her to the insane desire to reunite with Tristandor and Sabrya. She was obsessed with it. Because of that, she was easy to manipulate."

Liz had never felt more confused. "What do you mean the cleansing made her want to reunite with them?"

He was advancing on her again, but he answered her, despite the fact that she was backing away from him. "The cleansing drives Dernians insane. Its the unfortunate consequence of suppressing their emotions." He shook his head sadly. "They all fixate on one thing in their insanity. For Danala, it was the brother and sister she could not control and thus lost."

"And you fixate on ruling?" Liz guessed.

Maxedo smiled that charming, amused smile of his. "You think I’m insane do you little queen?"

"Why do you keep calling me that?" Liz demanded. "I’m not a queen!"

"But you are." Nasedo replied. "You are the bonded queen of the King of Illyria, at least in this lifetime. You are, in theory, the Queen of Earth."

Liz just stared at him. "You ARE insane." She whispered.

Nasedo tilted his head again. He had not stopped smiling. It was not charming anymore. In fact it was turning his Max face into a caricature and was darn creepy. "No, I’m not insane little queen." He paused, reaching out and grabbing her again. "For you see, I’ve never been cleansed." He gazed down at her, his eyes smoldering. "I still have my emotions Liz."

"Why am I supposed to care?" Liz demanded, very tempted to spit in his face, but unable to bring herself to do while he looked like Max.

"Because, the unfortunate consequence of that fact is that…" For a moment, so short Liz was almost positive that she had imagined it, he looked almost vulnerable. "I have fallen in love with you."

With that, he pulled her against him and brought his lips down on hers.

*********************************************************


Illyrian Safe House, near Salisbury, England, Earth

"Michael."

Michael looked up from the magazine he had been casually reading. He was sprawled on the bed in the room Jemma had assigned to Maria. He had not wanted to disturb her while she was with Alex and so he had come here to wait for her.

And now the wait was over. He opened his arms to her. She came flying across the room, threw herself at him. Her lips were on his in a kiss so intense, it literally curled his toes. It beat the one they had shared in the meeting room a couple of hours ago by about a thousand watts.

"Michael, I missed you so much." Maria moaned, running her hands through his hair. He began to rain kisses down her neck.

The relief he felt to have her back with him was so overwhelming, he couldn’t even reply. He just could not get enough of her. It was like he was finally waking from a nightmare.

A nightmare called Isabel.

At the thought, he stopped kissing Maria so abruptly, she could only stare down at him in a daze. "What’s wrong?"

He bit his lip. She looked hurt. He was tempted to just start kissing her again, to avoid the confrontation that was about to come.

But he had to tell her. He owed her that much. "I have something to tell you." He said it quickly, knowing that if he didn’t, he would chicken out.

Maria pulled back slightly, a shadow crossing her expressive face. "Is this about Isabel?"

Michael felt his heart stop. "What do you mean?" How did she know? Could she read his mind that easily?

"Michael, I know there’s something wrong with her." Maria replied impatiently, sitting up and crossing her legs under her. "She was acting really weird when we were with Alex before."

"Weird how?" Michael demanded, suddenly so angry at Isabel, all he wanted to was find her and throttle her.

"I don’t know. Just weird…" She paused. Michael reached up and shook her lightly.

"Maria! Tell me!"

"Well, she seemed all pissed off that you had told me about her nightmares." Maria said. "Like there was more that you were supposed to tell me."

Michael swallowed. Damn Isabel! She had set him up! Now the fact that he had been about to tell Maria the truth himself was not going to appease her. She was going to think that he was only telling her because Isabel had opened the can of worms.

She was trying to break them up.

It made Michael even more determined that that was not going to happen. EVER.

He belonged with Maria and his daughter. It was only when he was around Isabel that he doubted it. He had never been more positive than he was right now that she was doing something to him deliberately.

"There was. I just couldn’t do it in front of Jenny." Michael admitted, grudgingly now, knowing that Maria was going to freak when he told her. She was going to think that he had been lying to her. "I’ve been having them too." He paused. "The nightmares I mean." He added at Maria’s confused look.

"Really?" Maria sounded interested. "Are they really as creepy as they seem?"

"Creepy is a good word." Michael muttered. "Maria, the dreams aren’t just dreams. We relive our past lives in them." He said it in a rush, hoping that she would just understand him so that he wouldn’t have to spell it out for her.

Maria jerked in surprise. "Oh my gosh! Michael! You remember being Tristandor?"

"Er - you could say that."

"Well, what were you like?" Maria asked, excited for him. He could tell. She had no idea. It would never even cross her mind that he would betray her, even in his dreams.

"I was a romantic fool." He mumbled. "Maria, I remember being in love with Isabel."

She blinked, a strange look crossing her face. "Oh?" She replied warily. Michael peered up at her. She was on her knees beside him. Why was she taking this so well?

"Maria?" Michael sat up, grasped her by the arms. She looked like she had gone into a trance. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine." She giggled, her tone so high-pitched, Michael flinched. "So destiny strikes at last I guess!" She climbed off the bed. "It’s okay Michael. Really. I knew this would happen eventually. I’ve known ever since Tarsus first told us you used to love her."

She moved towards the door. "It’s okay Michael. Really. I expected it. Its not like we’re Max and Liz - we’re not soulmates. I served my purpose. You have your daughter."

"Maria!" Michael leaped off the bed, slammed the door she had just opened closed. "Where do you think you’re going?"

"I’m going to see Jenny." Maria replied. Her voice was so void of emotion, it was giving Michael the willies.

How on Earth had he lost control of this situation so completely? How could she not see that he wanted to be with her?

"Maria, I don’t care!" Michael erupted, barely stopped himself from shaking her out of this strange state of detachment. "It’s you I want to be with. She’s doing something to me! I know she is!"

Maria flinched, the first sheen of tears appearing in her blue eyes. "Michael, its Isabel. Isabel would never do anything to you! Its just what’s meant to be." She swallowed. "Its okay, really! You’re meant to be together. You were reborn to be together."

"NO!" Michael backed up against the door she was still trying to leave through. "You’re not going anywhere. Maria, it’s you I want. I mean it."

"Michael…" She had lowered her eyes. "Please just let me go. Don’t you understand it’s easier this way?"

"It’s NOT easier!" Michael exploded. "I won’t give you up!" He grabbed her again, pulled her against his chest, desperate to make her understand. He couldn’t lose her. This wasn’t just about Jennetta either.

She was his life. In THIS life, she was the one.

Maria reached up and stroked his cheek lovingly. "You’re scared. I understand. But it’s easier for me to make the break now, before we go to Illyria. Because I know that once we’re there, you’re going to want to be with HER, and I couldn’t bear it. It’s easier for me to leave you." Her voice broke. "Don’t you understand?" She paused. "I knew there was something wrong with Isabel." She added. "Don’t you see Michael? Its happening already."

"What’s happening?" Michael demanded, pulling her more tightly against him, refusing to let her go.

"I saw it in her eyes." Maria continued, clearly not even listening to him. She was back in her trance, almost talking to herself. "She wasn’t Isabel anymore. She was someone else. She was Mirana. Your wife. Your soulmate."

"Who cares?" Michael said desperately. "I don’t care."

"But you will, when you’re him." Maria had her arms up around him now too. But it was not in the same way he was holding her. It was good-bye. He could feel it. "And I think you will be."

"Have you gone insane woman?" He yelled. "You’re not even listening to me! I’m not Tristandor! I’m Michael! I AM MICHAEL!" He narrowed his eyes, a suspicion suddenly winding its way through his mind. "Wait a minute. Is she doing something to you too?"

A guilty expression crossed her face. "No! Of course not!"

And then he knew. "You’re not Maria." He began to shake her. "Show me who your really are! Isabel! Is that you?" His rage was so great, he had to force himself to let go of her. He turned away, tried to collect his thoughts.

If he touched her again, he would kill her.

It was then that he woke up.

Michael lay in a cold sweat for close to a second, his heart beating so rapidly, he almost felt like passing out again. He rolled off the bed, pushed his way into the bathroom, turning on the sink and splashing cold water on his face.

It was only a dream. Thank the good Lord. He should have known. Maria would never have reacted that calmly to him leaving her. That should have made him suspicious from the very beginning.

Isabel. She had done it. She was losing it. Totally.

Michael padded back into the darkened room, stared down at the bed where Maria slept on peacefully, completely unaware of the torture he had just gone through.

They had gone to sleep together hours ago. Tonight was the night that they were going to open the portal and were going after their friends. Jemma had insisted that they needed their sleep.

He and Maria were sharing a bed, but they were not sleeping together. They hadn’t since Jennetta. One alien baby as teenagers was more than enough. He had just wanted to be close to her.

She had seemed pleased, had fallen asleep in his arms. He had tried to work up the courage to tell her what had happened - that he had kissed Isabel, but had not managed to do it.

But that dream had made it imperative. Isabel was not holding back now. That dream had terrified him. What if that was how Maria really reacted?

Michael had a feeling that Isabel had not been trying to hurt him. She had been pushing him, yes, but she was truly convinced that they belonged together.

He knew she was wrong and he was going to prove it. Right now.

"Maria!" She stirred slightly. "Maria, wake up!" He stayed off the bed, didn’t want anything to be like the way it had been in the dream.

Maria moaned, rolled over. "What is it Michael? Can’t we make out tomorrow? I’m too tired." She reached out, clearly expecting him to be on the bed beside her. When all she felt was sheet, she opened one eye, stared over at him. "Why are you over there?" She inquired sleepily. She glanced at the clock. "Its four in the morning. Come back to bed."

"Maria, I need to tell you something, but you need to promise me that you are not going to leave me. You also need to promise me that you’re going to flip out. I need you to flip out."

Maria sat up, clutching the blankets to her chest. "Michael, are you okay?"

"PROMISE ME!" He almost yelled it, couldn’t help himself.

Maria jumped, blinked and then nodded. "Okay. I promise. Michael, what is this about?"

"I kissed Isabel." He blurted it out before he lost his nerve. He watched her closely. She was staring at him. She wasn’t flipping out. Why wasn’t she flipping out?

"You kissed Isabel?" She asked it almost thoughtfully. Michael felt is heart fall into his stomach.

"Maria! You promised me you would flip out! Why aren’t you flipping out? Please get mad." He almost begged her. He had fallen to his knees beside the bed, grabbed her desperately by the hand.

"Oh, I’m mad." Maria replied, her eyes flashing as she pulled her hand away from him. "I’m just trying to think of the way to kill you that would be most painful." She told him pleasantly. And then she started to yell.

Michael closed his eyes in relief. Thank God.

He would tell her what was going on as soon as she had yelled herself to exhaustion. She would understand. He wasn’t going to lose her.

But if he didn’t deal with Isabel soon, he couldn’t say how long it would be until he did lose her.

This had to end.

He would make it end. She was not going to get away with it.

He didn’t love her and the sooner she accepted it, the sooner they could all go back to normal.

To be continued…


posted on 16-Dec-2001 8:48:42 PM by Kath7
Author's note: Profuse apologies that it has been so long between parts. I hope people still remember this story. I have to admit to some writer's block where it is concerned. The whole thing has just spun completely out of my control. So many loose ends to tie up, sometimes it just exhausts me even thinking about it. But, I think I finally have a handle on it again. This part feels a little off to me but I am resigned to just struggle on until the awkwardness wears off where Union is concerned.

Part 29

The Citadel, Illyria

"I’m telling you Tess. Something’s not right here." Max heard Kyle’s complaint as he entered the chamber where he had asked his two friends to wait for him. "Why did Max just throw us in here and then leave? I think they’re brainwashing him again."

"Kyle, you need to calm down." They still hadn’t noticed his arrival. Tess moved towards Kyle, stroking his arms lightly when she reached him. "Max will explain everything when he gets back."

"Which I plan to do right now." Max interjected loudly. He could hear the courtiers gathered behind him beginning to mutter amongst themselves at the sight of Tess and Kyle in such close proximity. Since they were still playing along with the charade that Tess was his wife, he didn’t blame them. That was a situation that was going to have to be rectified as quickly as possible, but it was just too complicated to try and explain it to his people right now. They didn’t know about Liz, they didn’t even know that Max and Tess had been killed and reborn on another planet, gone for over fifty years. The very idea of trying to get people to accept that everything had changed gave him a headache.

They had much more important things to deal with at the moment - like getting Liz back. As always, her safety was his first order of business.

It still amazed Max how quickly the tables could turn when it came to politics. The day before he had been languishing in a dungeon with his lunatic mother. Now he was back in firm control of his own people, as well as being in command of a large contingent of Dernians who, tired of Tarsus’s erratic behavior, which in no way matched the Dernian need for order and lack of emotion, had joined the Illyrian Cause.

It was all a little convoluted and complicated, but it was also damn satisfying.

When Max had been liberated from his cell by the group of rogue Dernians, he had been shocked. But when their ringleader had stepped forward, he had understood.

It was the young soldier he had met in the Ring several days before. The one who had been named Jaxon in his honour. Apparently meeting him had been enough for young Jaxon to change his allegiances.

Being a king was very strange. He, Max, had done nothing other than exist and in so doing, he inspired loyalty, betrayal and intrigue. It was a responsibility he did not enjoy, one he looked forward to handing over to Jennetta when the time came.

Because, the truth was, all Max Evans, Jaxon Falconer, every part of him, cared about was Liz Parker.

"Kyle, Tess, this is Jaxon." Max ushered the young rebel forward. He bowed towards Tess, eyed Kyle suspiciously. Max tried to hide his grin. "He has never been cleansed and now he never will be. The Dernians you saw earlier have joined our side. In fact, they were the ones who freed me."

"And your mother?" Tess asked. "Where is she anyway?"

"She’s safe." Max replied evenly. "I have a lot to tell you guys. Basically, here’s the rundown." He moved forward, took Tess by the hand. He ignored the fact that Kyle was glaring at him. Kyle still seemed on the verge of some sort of emotional breakdown, but Max had to focus on what really mattered right now. Tess was going to be horrified by what he had to tell her about Nasedo.

It took him longer than he expected to fill them in. Because, the truth was, he now knew a lot more than he had even before he had been liberated from the dungeon.

It had been confirmed that not only had Tarsus taken Liz, his mother had spoken the truth when she had told him that Tarsus and Nasedo were one and the same.

"The Ring is still being held by soldiers loyal to Nasedo." Max continued. Both Tess and Kyle were staring at him. Kyle’s mouth was now closed from having fallen open in shock, but Tess still looked a little ill. "That is to be our next order of business - opening it again. The planet can’t be made ready for Jenny’s arrival until the Ring is back to being neutral ground."

"What about Liz?" Kyle demanded.

"I’m taking a small force of Royal Guards after them." Max replied firmly. "You and Tess will stay with the Army and prepare them for the assault on the Ring. And you’re also going to keep an eye on my mother. I don’t trust her - at all." He didn’t elaborate, although both Tess and Kyle looked shocked by his statement. But he didn’t want to go into what she had done right now. It was going to take too long and he needed to find Liz.

Max frowned slightly as he noticed that Tess was swaying slightly on her feet. "Tess, are you okay?"

"I just don’t understand Max. I thought Nasedo was genetically programmed to obey you. Why would he do this?" Tears were filling her blue eyes, because no matter how horrid of one, the shapeshifter had been like a father to her for many years.

"That’s a question that I can’t answer Tess." Max told her, reaching out and pulling her against his chest, stroking her blonde hair comfortingly. "I still don’t understand why he took Liz at all. I don’t really understand any of this. All I know is what is and what I can change. I can find Liz. We can take back the Ring. And that’s what we’re going to do."

He knew he sounded more confident than he felt. Because, the truth was, Max didn’t think anything was really going to change until they found out what Nasedo’s motivation was in all of this.

His thought process kept bringing him back to one answer.

Ren. Max’s brother. Nasedo’s son.

Until they understood what Ren’s purpose was, what his role was in all of this, they were never going to be able to figure anything out.

It did not make Max happy to remember that Ren was presently on Earth in the company of all he held nearest and dearest apart from the two people in front of him and Liz. Especially because he didn’t know whose side Ren was on.

In his gut, Max felt that he could trust the young shapeshifter. The way he had looked after Jennetta from the moment he had followed she and Max to Earth…it was not the work of a man who intended to harm her or any of her friends. Hadn’t Ren saved her once from Nasedo after all? When she was a baby?

But, until he knew for sure, Max would worry.

Not for the first time, Max wished that he knew exactly what was happening on Earth. Were his friends just sitting around waiting for them to come back?

But Max knew that it could never be that simple. He knew exactly what he would be doing in their situation - he would be doing everything in his power to bring them back.

Which was only bound to put them all in even more danger.

"The detachment is ready for your orders your highness."

Max blinked, forced himself to concentrate on what he could control.

Liz.

He was going to find her. He would not rest until he had.

And this whole damn planet could go to hell for all he cared until he did.

"I’ll be in touch." Max told Tess. "Use Hamor. You can trust him. I’ll be back in time for the attack. And, whatever you do, keep my mother locked up."

"But Max!" Tess called after him. "Why? What did she do?"

"It doesn’t matter. Just trust me." Max called over his shoulder as he allowed the Dernian rebels to lead him towards the transport.

Liz.

He could not focus on anything else until he had her back.

They belonged together. Everything was wrong when they were apart. He was wrong - off somehow.

He had to find her.

Until he did, everything else could wait.

************************************************************

Illyrian Safe-House, near Salisbury, England - Three days later

Tomorrow. By the end of tomorrow, Alex Charles Whitman, would be on another planet.

They had tried to convince him that he should stay behind, that he was endangering his health by going, but he refused to listen to any of them.

There was no way he was letting Isabel escape him that easily.

Because, as the days passed, as he became more aware of what was going on around him, as he began to notice the tension that seemed to hang in the air, he began to realize that he had missed something while he had been sleeping.

Something big.

Every time he tried to ask one of them what was going on, they changed the subject. It was getting supremely frustrating.

He did know that there was something seriously wrong with Isabel though. He had seen her a grand total of three times since he had woken up.

The first time he had been half-asleep. He had felt her lips lightly brush his forehead and by the time he had opened his eyes fully, she was gone.

The second time she had sat with him for half an hour, chatting inanely, telling him how proud she was of him for finding a way to open the portal. She had not let him get a word in edge-wise, not that he had tried very hard. He had still been exhausted, desperately trying to get his strength up so that he would be fit when they went through the portal.

The third time was when she had come to tell him that she wanted him to stay behind.

"I just think it will be safer Alex." She had said quietly. He had frowned when he had seen how tensely she held herself, how she could not meet his eyes.

"It’s never been safe Izzy." Alex had replied. "What’s so different now?"

She had not answered. He had felt his heart contract when her dark eyes had filled with tears. "Nothing’s changed Alex. Not between us. But I just feel like you need to stay here. Please. I just know you’re going to get hurt if you come."

Now Alex was not a person who liked to force himself into situations where he was not wanted. But this was just strange. He had never pushed Isabel, had always known that trying to make her give up her independence would result in losing her, but asking this of him…

It was just too much.

"I’m going Isabel." He had told her firmly. He had seen her close her eyes in resignation.

"Fine. But I can’t be held responsible for what happens there Alex." She had snapped, suddenly sounding furious. She had jumped to her feet, her spine rigid with annoyance.

"Isabel!" Alex had called after her. "ISABEL!"

He had wanted to go after her, had wanted to demand that she tell him what the hell was wrong with her - because there most certainly was something wrong. This was not the Isabel Evans who had left Roswell three weeks before. This was not the Isabel who had told him that she loved him, that he was her strength, that he was what grounded her, kept her sane.

But when he tried to follow her, his weakened legs had folded beneath him and he had ended up flat on his butt on the floor. His nurse had not been pleased with him and he had given up.

Michael and Maria were no help either. They talked about inconsequential things when they came to see him and he didn’t want to burden them with his personal problems. They had more than enough of their own after all.

Jennetta was preparing to take the throne when she arrived on Illyria.

It was Jenny herself who came to tell him so. In fact, she was now sitting beside his bed, telling him some of what he had missed in the past couple of days.

"Jemma still seems a little unsure whether to believe us that I’m the Chosen One." Michael and Maria’s daughter was confiding as Alex tuned back in to what she was saying. "But she’s telling me what to expect anyway. I have to go to the Citadel to be crowned and then I have to return to the Ring to be judged."

Alex frowned slightly. "But I thought both the Ring and the Citadel were under Dernian control. They’re not just going to let you waltz in there are they?"

Jennetta sighed. "No." There was a long pause, and then. "I really don’t know what to expect Alex. If I am the Chosen One, I’ll be accepted by both sides. But I don’t know how any of its going to play out. All I know is that I have to go back."

"What does Ren say?" Alex asked, curious as to why the grumpy shapeshifter was even letting Jennetta speak to him. It seemed to be his mission in life to keep them apart, even though he had to know that Jenny only had a crush on him and that Alex had absolutely no interest in her.

Come to think of it, Alex reflected, Jennetta’s crush seemed to have disappeared while he had been sleeping away the better part of four days. She no longer blushed in his presence and she was speaking to him differently now - like they were friends and she didn’t want anything more than that from him.

And, suddenly, it all became clear as tears filled Jennetta’s eyes at the mention of Ren. "He’s still unconscious." She whispered. Alex stared at her, not understanding what she was telling him. "The doctors…they don’t think he’s going to wake up. He needs to be back on Illyria to regenerate. But it might even be too late for that. By the time we get him there, he might not be able to revive himself." And, much to Alex’s consternation, she laid her head on her arms on his bedside and cried. "I don’t know what I’m going to do without him Alex."

Alex reached out, gently stroked her dark head, grief for the future queen bringing tears to his own eyes.

Jennetta was in love with her bodyguard. Alex didn’t know how he knew this, but he knew it was true. The whole crush on Alex had been a defense mechanism - a way to avoid her real feelings - feelings she had only allowed herself to recognize when she was in danger of losing him.

"It will be all right Jenny." Alex tried to comfort her, sitting up and gently pulling her up to rest against his chest. "Think about it. Do you really think Ren would have taken such good care of you if he was just going to up and leave you? He’s too stubborn to die."

"I just have a horrible feeling Alex - like we screwed up royally somewhere, that everything is spinning completely out of our control." Jennetta sobbed. Alex grimaced to himself at her language. Ren would kill her if he heard it. She sounded exactly like Michael. "Everything is such a mess. First you and Ren, and then my mother and father not speaking to each other, and Mirana is acting so strangely…"

Alex narrowed his eyes slightly. "Why aren’t Maria and Michael speaking?" He asked quietly. He had seen the tension in Maria’s frame when Michael’s name had come up during their brief conversations, but had just attributed it to worries over Jennetta.

"I don’t know." Jennetta sighed heavily. "I just wish they would fix whatever it is, because they’re both miserable."

"I’ll talk to Maria." Alex promised quietly. Darn tooting he was going to talk to Maria. Not only that, he was going to make his best friend tell him what was going on if he had to sit on her to do it. He had not used that method since they were both ten, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

"Thank you Alex." Jennetta was still curled up on the bed beside him, her head resting on his shoulder.

They lay in companionable silence for several minutes, each lost in their own thoughts.

Alex liked it he realized. It reminded him of the old days with Maria and Liz, when he helped them fix all their problems, before Michael and Max had come along to take over the male shoulder to cry on duties.

Of course, what happened next made Alex realize that Jennetta on his bed, in his arms, probably did not look as innocent as it was.

The expression that appeared on Isabel’s face when she came through his door two minutes later more than told him so.

"Oh!" She stopped abruptly, taking in the sight before her in two seconds flat. Alex sat up so quickly, his head was instantly spinning. He closed his eyes, trying to focus.

Focus told him one thing. This was bad. Very, very bad.

He managed to force his eyes open in time to hear her say, "Am I…" There was a long pause and then Isabel’s face hardened. "I guess I am interrupting." She turned on her heel, her blonde hair flying as she left abruptly.

"Isabel!" Alex called after her. He struggled to get off the bed, felt Jennetta helping him up. "Oh crap!" He muttered, as he wobbled into his slippers and hurried into the hallway after her.

The corridor was completely empty.

Alex slouched against the door-frame of his hospital room, suddenly indescribably weary.

Something had just irretrievably shifted.

And, suddenly, Alex knew exactly what Jennetta had meant when she had said that she felt like events were spiraling out of her control.

Because, he somehow knew, without even a shadow of a doubt, that he had just lost Isabel Evans. He didn’t understand why or how, but he knew it was true.

She was gone.

To be continued…





posted on 26-Jan-2002 9:16:49 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Okay, so I know that every time I post a part of this I swear up and down that my writer's block is gone and that it will be posted more frequently. Er, yeah. Well, we all know how well that's turned out! LOL Anyway, thanks to everyone for their loyalty to this story. I still get e-mails about it and it is often requested. I think I am finally on the road to an ending. I finally just had to let go of something I wanted to do here, and I actually think it will make this story better in the end. Don't ask. It's a long story.

I hope no one has to go back and do too much reading to catch up on where we are. Although I wouldn't be surprised, because I had to do so myself.

So, without further ado or blather, Union - Part 30. (For just one moment there I felt like that guy from Masterpiece Theatre, introducing some weird convoluted saga, which this has SOOOOOOOO become. LOL)

Part 30

"Did anyone see you come in here?"

"No." She sighed as his lips came down on hers. After several minutes with little to no conversation, Maria finally pulled back, leaned her head against his chest. She could feel his heart beating unevenly under her. It made her smile slightly, but didn’t help to banish the feeling of panic that was beginning to take up semi-permanent residence in her stomach. "Oh God. Michael, this is horrible."

"I know." He stroked her back lightly, sending a shiver down her spine. "But it’s only until we figure out what’s going on with Izzy." He paused. Maria heard the catch in his voice as he admitted, "I really think she’s losing it Maria."

She sighed again, tightened her arms around him, trying to give comfort where none was forthcoming.

When Michael had first told her that he had kissed Isabel, she had been absolutely furious. She had responded in her typical manner, ranting and raving, calling him every name in the book - in short, freaking out. It was only after that she remembered that he had asked her to react that way.

It had stopped her mania in it’s tracks. Maria had sat down abruptly on the bed and had stared at him. Michael had been leaning against the wall of their shared bedroom by this point, simply watching her, a relieved expression on his face. "What’s going on?" She had demanded.

"Isabel is going crazy." He had replied shortly. "For a while, I was too. But it’s over now."

And he had told her everything - about the shared visions, about Isabel’s attempt to convince him that they belonged together (creeping Maria out completely, flashes of when Tess had first come to town and had almost demolished Max and Liz’s relationship filtering through her mind), about how his strange urge to be with Isabel had completely disappeared as soon as he was back in Maria’s presence.

It was then that she had remembered the strange way Isabel had looked to her when she had been sitting at Alex’s bedside - like she had not been Isabel at all. There had been someone else in there…

And now she knew. Mirana, Princess of Illyria. Michael’s wife. His bonded mate…in other words, his soul mate.

She shook her head, cleared it of that last concern. It wasn’t the time for jealousy. Michael had assured her that he had no feelings for Isabel…and she mostly believed him. "I still don’t know if this is a good idea Michael," Maria sighed, trying to act as though there was not more behind her concern. "Pretending that we’re not together anymore. It’s really upsetting Jenny. She hasn’t said anything, but I can tell it is. And she’s going through enough."

"It’s the only thing I can think of." Michael pulled away, scrubbed his hands wearily across his face. "If I can stay connected with Isabel, even a little bit, I can maybe try and figure out what’s going on with her. I’m sure that someone, or something, is doing this to her." There was a long pause and then he asked suspiciously, "What else is Jenny dealing with?"

Maria bit her lip. She wasn’t sure whether she should fill Michael in on her suspicions or not. She was sure that he was going to freak out and it was the last thing they needed right now after all.

But he had the right to know. Especially if he was going to have to help her deal with Jennetta’s emotional fall-out if what Maria most feared really happened.

Because, with every passing hour, Ren’s chances of waking up were becoming more slim. Maria had been sitting with the shapeshifter when the doctor had last examined him. She had seen the way he had tried to hide his frown, but she had known.

If Ren didn’t return to Illyria soon, he was as good as dead. And it was unlikely that Jennetta would recover from the blow.

"Jenetta is in love with Ren." She blurted it so suddenly, she literally saw Michael flinch. "I…I think that it’s been destined from the very beginning Michael. Just the way they are with each other…"

Michael continued to stare at her, dumb-founded. "What the hell are you talking about Maria?" He finally yelled. She grimaced, quickly moved towards him, throwing her hand against his mouth.

"SHHHHH! Someone’s going to come in here if you don’t shut up!" She hissed.

Michael instantly lowered his voice, but he did not stop talking. "Don’t talk to me about destiny Maria!" He insisted quietly, urgently. "That’s what got me into this whole mess with Izzy. My daughter is not going to fall into that trap." He scowled. "She is going to love who she wants, when she wants."

Maria smiled sadly. "But the thing is Michael, destiny’s okay when it’s what you want."

Michael continued to glower, but he appeared to be thinking about this. Finally he shrugged. "Okay, say you’re right. Give me evidence here. I want to know how you know that Jenny feels this way, and why you think it’s destined." He said the last word disdainfully, as though it was painful to him.

"Well, first of all, there’s the constant bickering." Maria held up her hand and started ticking off on her fingers. "Remind you of anyone you know?" She asked, nudging him lightly in the ribs.

"Or maybe she just hates him, which the evidence would seem to support." Michael rebutted, his arms now crossed over his chest mutinously.

Maria frowned. "Okay, well there’s the fact that she no longer has a crush on Alex. And I know this because she told me so."

"WHAT? When did she have a crush on Alex?" Michael demanded. He ran his hands through his hair, making it stand up on end. "I was only gone for three weeks Maria! And she’s only been out of the pod for around four! That’s insane!"

"Wouldn’t you Michael? If you were new to our group, wouldn’t you pick Alex? He’s the nicest, the most safe after all. And she couldn’t exactly have a crush on either you or Max." She wrinkled her nose. "She needed something that made her feel secure - normal - and Alex was it. But I think she was really avoiding the way she felt about Ren."

"Whom she has also only known for about four weeks!" Michael raged back.

"But Michael, they’re the same." Maria argued back. "He understands her. I think that’s why he makes her so mad. And I know he loves her."

"Why?"

"Because of the way he is with her. She’s all he sees, all the time Michael. Ever since she came out of the pod, it’s only been about her. Even when she was in the pod." She smiled slightly. "I almost think that’s the reason he saved her from Tarsus in the first place, back on Illyria. Because he knew, even then, that she was his."

"Okay, you have officially gone off your rocker." Michael replied, shaking his head. "I don’t buy all this soulmate mumbo-jumbo. That’s the line Isabel’s been feeding me and it’s bull."

Maria felt a pang run through her heart at the news that Michael didn’t consider her to be his soulmate, swallowed hard. But she’d always known it, known he loved her, but not in that way. Not in the way Max loved Liz, or she knew Ren loved her daughter. Not even in the way Tristandor had loved Mirana in that other life, if the story Michael had told her was true.

She had stopped listening to him at his insensitive words, but realized that he was still talking. "….choose who I love! And I love you." She felt her heart lift again. "I don’t believe that loving someone in a past life means you have to be with someone in this one. You cannot tell me that just because you made a great pair once upon a time, that’s necessarily true in the here and now. I mean, look at me and Isabel. We would kill each other in a week. She’s not for me. But just because she once was, she seems to think she is! It’s bull! And it’s the same with Jenny and Ren. They barely know each other."

Maria reached out, stroked his arm, trying to calm him down. "But I don’t think that matters Michael. She’s barely left his side since we got here - only to plan for opening the portal and to see Alex a couple of times."

"No." Michael snapped.

"Yes Michael."

"Well, then I want you to talk her out of it. The guy has no emotions for God’s sake! I’m not letting my daughter end up with some emotionless freak! One who’s going to have to be purged anyway, if Jemma has her way." Michael shook his head. "I’m telling you Maria. It will be better if he just fades away now."

"Don’t say that!" Maria exclaimed.

Michael rolled his eyes. "Fine. I don’t mean that. He’s okay, for an emotionless freak." Maria scowled at him. "And none of this even remotely suggests to me that they’re destined for each other," he continued, ignoring her expression completely.

"Think about it Michael. The Chosen one was to be of mixed race. I think we should ask Jemma for the exact wording of the prophecy, but if Jenny and Ren marry and have kids, their children will be human, Dernian and Illyrian! All three brought together to bind us all."

"So you don’t think Jenny is the Chosen One at all." Michael blinked. "But, if that’s true, then there is no way to end what’s happening on Illyria right now. Only the Chosen One can do that."

"Did anyone ever tell us that it was the Chosen One who ended the war?" Maria asked, surprised at how logically she was thinking these days. "All we’ve been told is that the Chosen One’s coming will herald a new golden age on Illyria. That doesn’t mean that he or she has to cause it."

"But Ren told us himself that she was the one!" But Maria could see that he was only playing devil’s advocate now. In fact, she could almost see the wheels turning in his head.

Maria knew exactly what he was thinking too. Because it was exactly what she had started thinking the minute all of this had started to occur to her.

If Jennetta wasn’t the Chosen One…then why did she have to leave Earth at all?

He was thinking that they could keep their daughter.

But Maria knew it wasn’t as simple as that. "And who told Ren? He never said. I don’t think he even knows. I think he’s just guessing. He’s always known she was important - to him in particular - and maybe he jumped to conclusions."

"This is all too much Maria." Michael was shaking his head again. "I really cannot think about my daughter linked romantically with anyone right now. What we need to worry about is making sure that we open the portal on time tonight and that I figure out who’s messing with Izzy’s mind."

Maria frowned. "Michael, if Jenny decides that she wants to be with Ren, you’re going to have to accept it you know."

"Not if he never wakes up." Michael muttered.

"Michael!"

"Sorry! I don’t mean it, but this is awful!" He sighed, reaching out and pulling her against him. "We didn’t even get to raise her and already she’s in love? It’s ludicrous!"

"I know." Maria replied softly. "But we have to accept what we can’t change. We have to concentrate on what we can. Like Isabel." She pulled back, looked up at him, swallowed hard. "I want you to do it right now Michael. Tell her that you want to be with her. See what happens."

He stared down at her, concern back on his face. "It’s going to be really hard on you." He didn’t ask, just stated straight out.

"It’ll be okay." Maria told him as he kissed her gently on the forehead. "It’s worth it. I love Isabel. I don’t want her lost in that other person. It’s not her. Not anymore. And Alex needs her too."

"I love you." Michael whispered, kissing her lightly. "I know you were upset that I said I don’t believe in soulmates." He added. She felt him stroke her back lightly as she jerked in surprise.

How on Earth had he known that?

"I don’t believe in soulmates because I believe in us," he continued. "I don’t think we’re meant to be with anyone. I think we choose to be with someone. And isn’t that better? And I choose you Maria."

With that, he kissed her once more, lightly, on the lips and left, leaving Maria staring after him, her eyes gleaming with tears.

The Citadel - Illyria

"I really think this is a bad idea." Kyle muttered. He had told her so several times, but she continued to ignore him as he followed her down the winding staircase into the dungeons. "Normally, I would be all for going against his Highness’s royal commands…"

Tess sighed, rolling her eyes. She didn’t understand why Kyle still felt such antipathy towards Max. He knew now that it was him she loved. But he had been acting weird ever since she and Max had pretended to the courtiers that they were still happily married.

She didn’t know what else she could do to reassure him and, truthfully, right now, it was the last thing she needed to worry about. She had had a bad feeling all morning - ever since Max had left with the rebel Dernians as a matter of fact. Something was not right there. It made little to no sense that so many Dernians would just change sides so easily. She wasn’t sure why Max trusted them so readily, but he needed to believe that they were going to take him to Liz.

Tess had learned well over the last two years that unless Liz was safe, Max was anything but careful. He was reckless, throwing himself and others into danger to keep her safe. It had happened when he had originally healed her, it had happened when Nasedo had kidnapped her so long ago, and it had happened when he had left everyone behind to return to Illyria to prove to them all that she still lived.

Tess should never have let him go. They should have waited for the Illyrians to take firm control of the Citadel before the King left.

But they hadn’t.

She hadn’t. She had allowed herself to be thrust back into the role that everyone expected her to play - the waifish little no-nothing queen she had been in her past life.

But that was over. She was no longer that girl. She was scared and she was going to do something about it. For Max, for Liz, for the Illyrians, and especially for Kyle.

The Dernians and Illyrians were all beginning to look at him in a way that made her supremely uncomfortable. It was as thought, now that the King and Queen had been reunited, what use was there for Queen Sabrya’s human bodyguard?

Somehow she knew that his life was in danger - especially as the courtiers suspicions about she and Kyle became more founded. Because he couldn’t seem to keep his hands off of her, no matter how many times she told him to, for his own sake.

Even now his hand was resting lightly on the small of her back as he followed closely behind her down the narrow stairs. And she couldn’t help but love it.

But it was putting their lives in danger. Queens did not allow anyone besides their husbands to touch them like that. And her husband was not there to protect them.

If her fears were justified, he might not ever be there again.

She needed to find out if she was right. While they still had a chance to go after Max and help him. Before it was too late.

Sabrya of Dernia might have been content to sit on her butt and let Jaxon, Mirana and Tristandor take care of everything. But she was no longer Sabrya.

She was Tess Harding and she wanted answers. And she was not going to wait for Max to return.

There was only one place to turn.

Which was why Kyle was presently giving her a hard time.

"He expressly said to leave his mother alone." Kyle continued softly from behind her.

"I know he did." She replied. "But we have no choice." She shook her head. "I still can’t believe I just let Max waltz off like that Kyle! What the heck was I thinking?"

"He wasn’t exactly in the mood to take no for an answer." Kyle snorted. "He seemed pretty comfortable playing King Jaxon you know. It was really annoying."

"Everything Max does annoys you." Tess returned impatiently. "And at least when Max was acting like the King they were all listening to him. They don’t listen to me at all."

And I can’t keep you safe. The thought ran through her mind like a refrain, making her heart pound unevenly, as it did every time she thought it.

"They’re idiots." Kyle told her. "Throw them all in the dungeons."

She smiled softly, turned around, joined him on the step above, gently put her hands on both sides of his face and pulled his lips down to hers for a kiss. "You are insane," she whispered softly. "It’s not as simple as that." It took her a full minute for her to realize that she had just broken her own rules.

"I thought this was a nono." Kyle murmured softly, pulling her more tightly against him in the narrow space. She sighed as he pushed her hair aside and moments later she felt his lips on her ear. She felt her heart beginning to thunder in her chest as he rained kissed down the side of her neck.

"It is." Tess sighed again. "For now."

She disentangled herself from his arms and hurried down the remaining stairs. She knew he was close on her heels.

"I hate this place." He muttered to no one in particular. Tess wasn’t even sure if he meant for her to hear him, but she grimaced.

He was close to the edge. He was on the verge of doing something supremely stupid and if she didn’t control herself, she was going to push him to do it.

Tess thrust her concerns about Kyle aside for a moment as they finally emerged at the bottom of the staircase into a wide room. A guard dressed in Dernian red stood at attention beside one of the several doors lining the open space.

She saw the guard’s eyes widen at the sight of them. "Your Highness?" He sounded dumbfounded, like it went against everything he knew to see his Queen standing before him in the dungeon of all places. Tess mentally rolled her eyes.

"I want to speak with the prisoner." She raised her chin, trying to convey that there was to be no opposition. She was the queen after all. If they expected her to act like Sabrya of Dernia, then she expected them to obey her too.

"The King ordered that she was not to see anyone." The guard looked at her askance, like he could not quite believe that she was asking him to go against a direct order.

"He didn’t mean me of course." She replied, trying to sound nonchalant. "I must see to my mother-in-law’s comfort."

The guard frowned slightly. "I think perhaps I had better speak to Hamor about this." He told her, looking torn.

"Are you denying your queen’s request?" Tess felt Kyle move up to stand beside her. She turned to stare at him, almost burst out laughing when he swept the cape he so hated behind him with an imperious gesture that looked entirely too much like the actions of the majority of the Illyrians.

"No." The guard blinked. "I am simply following my king’s orders."

"When the king is gone from the Citadel, the queen speaks for him." Kyle replied disdainfully. "She wishes to visit her mother-in-law. She has not asked you to let Queen Milena go."

There was a long pause. "Well…"

"NOW!" Kyle yelled in his best captain of the football team voice. Even Tess jumped.

The guard flinched and moved to comply. The door swung open moments later.

Tess hid her grin as she passed the unfortunate guard and made her way into the cell.

She glanced around curiously. She was not surprised to see that the small room was comfortably appointed, with a small bed pushed against one wall and gentle lumoglobes burning steadily. Max might not trust his mother but he did not want her treated badly it appeared.

But the chains dangling from the wall nearby dispelled the illusion that this was anything other than a prison cell.

She took in the sight of the beautiful woman seated on a small stool near the table. She looked exactly as she had in the destiny message which had played for Tess and the others so long ago.

Milena rose gracefully, a gentle smile lighting her features. "Sabrya! How good to see you my dear!"

"Careful." She heard Kyle mutter urgently from beside her.

"Hello." Tess replied quietly. She gestured towards Kyle. "This is Kyle Valenti."

"Welcome Kyle. Liz told me much of you when she and I spent so much time together." Milena smiled again. She looked beyond them. "Has Jaxon relented then? Am I to be released?" She asked hopefully. Tess saw the disappointment that crossed her face when she realized that Max was not with them.

"No." Tess felt terrible. How could this woman be any sort of threat to them? Why had Max not told her what she had done? "Max isn’t here. Tarsus took Liz. He’s gone after her."

A shadow flitted across Milena’s face. "I see." She paused, then forced another smile. "So you are here for a visit? That is very kind of you."

Tess swallowed. "I’m here to find out why Max has you locked up here. I need to know. I think he is in danger and I am worried about him." She blurted.

"You do not know?" Milena frowned.

"Know what?" Kyle demanded from beside her.

Tess felt her heart stop as tears filled Milena’s beautiful dark eyes. "He is insane children."

"What do you mean?" She breathed, horrified.

"He has been strong up until now, but his cleansing has finally caught up with him." Milena replied sadly. "He was cleansed, was he not?"

Tess flinched. She knew that Max had spent time in a cleansing pod on Earth, back during that fateful camping trip in Fraser Woods during their junior year. Tess had not witnessed it herself, but she had definitely heard about it from the others. Unlike Michael though, Max had never suffered any ill effects from it. In fact, he had seemed to emerge from the pod stronger than he ever had been before.

"Yes." She whispered.

"My son is strong, but he could not fight the ill effects forever." Milena sighed. "It has caught up with him, that cleansing. Jaxon is very much insane."

"How do you know this for sure?" Kyle asked, sounding suspicious. "He seemed perfectly normal to me." He paused. "Well as normal as Evans ever is." He added. Tess elbowed him soundly.

"Meaning what?" Milena asked.

"All he cared about was Liz - going after her." Tess explained. "That’s all Max ever cares about."

"Which only proves my point." Max’s mother shook her head. "He is fixated on that poor girl. All the cleansed eventually obsess over something. It takes control of their minds until it drives them crazy."

"Are you saying that loving Liz is driving Max bonkers?" Kyle snorted. "That’s ridiculous."

Tess didn’t know what to think, but the certainty in Kyle’s voice reinforced her gut instinct - this woman was a liar. And Max must have known it.

What had she been thinking? She wasn’t going to get any answers here.

"Children, you must allow me to leave here." Milena exclaimed. "I am the only one who can help him."

"Unlikely." Kyle crossed his arms. "Let’s go Tess. We’re wasting our time here."

But Tess continued to stare at Milena. She watched her face melt in despair. "I am leaving." The woman suddenly exclaimed, throwing herself towards the cell door. "I am not going to let him betray me like this! He will not betray my son!"

The cell door had been firmly closed behind them. Milena pounded her fists against it uselessly. Tess and Kyle exchanged a look. "I think this one’s the crazy one." Kyle whispered, his eyes wide.

Tess grimaced, moved over to the door, knelt beside Milena, who had crumpled to the floor sobbing. She gently pushed the grey-blonde hair back off the older woman’s face. "It will be all right."

Milena looked directly into her eyes. "You were always a sweet child Sabbie." She closed her own eyes, sighed heavily, sending a spasm down her frame. "Why could Jaxon not have chosen you? If Liz Parker had never existed, none of this would be happening."

Tess felt her blood run cold. "What do you mean?"

"If Jaxon had not chosen Liz, Laren never would have chosen her either. He never would have betrayed our son. Our son must be king. Not hers."

"Tess…" Kyle was calling to her. "She’s making no sense now. She’s crazy. She doesn’t even know what she’s talking about."

"Kyle, I think this is important." Tess replied. "Your son is king." She told Milena gently. "Jaxon is the king."

"Not Jaxon. Ren. My baby." Milena sobbed, buried her face in Tess’s lap. Tess stroked her hair, but whipped her head around to stare at Kyle, who looked like had just been punched in the gut. "All I wanted was for my babies to come home to me - all of them. I betrayed my own family to see my child on the throne. I wanted all of my children with me. I just want things back to the way they used to be. But Jaxon chose Liz and it changed everything. Because Laren chose her too."

Tess’ hand paused. This was the second time Milena had mentioned Laren - or Nasedo - Tess’s murdered father figure. "Laren chose Liz? For what? He’s dead." Nasedo had been dead for close to two years now. Kyle was right. Milena was confusing everything in her clearly broken mind.

"He just chose her." Milena sat up, grasped Tess by the shoulders. "Why will no one believe me? He lives. Laren lives and he is going to steal the throne from our child. He is going to have a child with Jaxon’s bride and he is going to take the throne for his own."

The light shining from the older woman’s eyes was not crazy. In fact, she looked so sane, it sent a shiver down Tess’s spine.

"And I am not going to allow it." Milena climbed to her feet, hauling Tess up after her. "Which is why you must get me out of here."

Tess narrowed her eyes, exchanged another look with Kyle, who shook his head firmly. "No Tess."

Milena looked over at him, smiled slightly. "You are wise not to trust me young man. I have been lost for a very long time. But I have finally woken up. He must be destroyed. Once and for all." She turned back to Tess, who was clenching her fists at her side in indecision. "He is going to kill Jaxon."

"Why did you tell us that Max was insane?" Tess asked, still unsure.

"He must be. There is no other explanation for his fixation on that girl." Milena replied seriously.

"He loves her." Tess told her simply. "Surely you can understand that."

"Love is insanity." Milena looked away. "I have betrayed my entire family because of it." She turned back to Tess, grasped her hands tightly. "I must make amends. I must. Help me, please."

Tess exchanged another look with Kyle. He just stared at her, clearly unsure which was the best way to proceed.

And so Tess went with her heart. She smiled at the other woman. "I will."

***********************************************************************

Liz sat on the cold ground, her knees pulled tightly to her chest. It was the darkest part of the night now, the chill infiltrating her bones severely, without even the weak sunlight to warm her.

She watched Nasedo warily as the shapeshifter moved around on the other side of the cave. He had to go to sleep sometime, giving her the chance to escape. But he seemed impossible to tire, seemed not to need sleep like other beings.

She had fallen into a restless slumber several hours before, despite herself, had woken only moments ago, freezing. She wasn’t sure if Nasedo even knew that she was awake, but he hadn’t looked in her direction since she had jerked back to consciousness.

He had not tried to touch her again - not since he had kissed her so ruthlessly almost a day ago now.

She had pulled away from him desperately then, literally feeling bile rising in her throat.

That he could so confuse love for whatever horrible thing he felt for her…it had made her literally sick to her stomach.

She hated him to the very core of her being.

And yet the flashes had continued to come, even after she had pulled away. The flashes that had told her that this was Max - even though she knew he wasn’t.

"How are you doing that?" She had asked, after she had stopped gagging. "You have his memories."

He had winked at her, not looking the least bit offended that his touch so repulsed her. "Magic." With that, he had grabbed her by the wrist and had hauled her another few miles to the cave in which they now found themselves.

As she watched him, she wondered if she could ever be certain of anything again. She had been so sure that he was Max, the flashes having told her so. Now she knew nothing.

"Why are we still here?" Liz raised her voice, caught his attention. He stopped whatever it was he was doing and turned to look at her.

"Ah, you’re awake. Good." He moved towards her. "It is time to prepare to go back my sweet."

She flinched at the term of endearment. "Go back?"

"To Earth." Nasedo grinned at her, his face Max’s, making her heart skip a beat despite herself. She buried her own face against her knees, refusing to look at him.

She felt his hand lightly caress her head. She swallowed, tried not to move. There was no point after all. She could not escape him. "How?" She whispered, her heart screaming for Max.

"The usual way of course. Through a portal." She felt him leave her personal space again. "Through the portal Danala’s father and I managed to create - well, he was dead by the time we finally succeeded, but that is neither here nor there." He had returned back to the other side of the cave, picked up an orb that sat on the ground.

Liz raised her eyes, interested despite herself. "How is that possible? I thought only the Blue Prince and the White Lady could open the portal."

"That’s true. But we have harnessed the essence of the True Heirs." Nasedo replied, tossing the orb in his hand upwards casually, catching it lightly. "Andrina was fairly easy to get to. Gordian was a little more difficult to convince. But we succeeded in the end."

Liz pressed her lips together at the image of Max’s father, the late king, tortured in order to gain control of one of his birthrights.

"So you were sent to the Citadel on purpose." Liz stated. "You pretended that you had turned against the Dernians and you made my grandmother fall in love with you and then you betrayed them all."

Nasedo tilted his head in acknowledgment. "I was one of the few Dernians who had not been cleansed at an early age. It was a tradition in my family to wait until the day of marriage to do so." He shrugged. "Silly custom, but it made me invaluable to old Lazar. He needed a mole and I was the one. The Illyrians would never have accepted a cleansed Dernian in their court. Lazar needed control of Earth, especially since we knew that Gordian was planning to send Andrina to make a treaty to marry his heir to an Earthling." He tossed the orb into the air again. "And the only way to control Earth is to have a way to get there."

"Did you never love Andrina at all then?" Liz asked, a pang of sadness for that innocent girl her grandmother had been running through her. "You used her and then you tossed her aside."

Nasedo smiled slightly. "The irony in that statement my dear little queen is that I never had a chance to use her. She fell in love with me yes, but I never really controlled her until the very end."

"What do you mean?"

"Andrina had lost all faith in me by the time we finally found each other on Earth." Nasedo replied. "I know she said something to that affect in the journal she left to you."

"Yes. She didn’t tell you where Max and the others were because she didn’t trust you anymore." Liz knew that her pride in her beloved grandmother was ringing in her voice, but she didn’t care.

Because if Claudia had managed to resist this monster, even having loved him, she, Liz could defeat him.

Hope was slowly flowering in her heart as he continued to speak, completely oblivious to the way his words were affecting her.

"Well, it was only in the end that she came under my power again." Nasedo sighed. "In the hospital, right before she died. Did you never wonder why the doctors didn’t question her alien make-up?"

Liz frowned. "Actually, I did." And then she understood. "You were there."

"Yes. Even then sweet Liz, before any of you were at all aware of my existence. Jaxon’s healing of you in the Crashdown was a dead giveaway. I knew that I had found them, had been back in Roswell for a few weeks before your grandmother returned. I didn’t reveal myself to them immediately though - I had to be absolutely sure you understand. And I had to deal with Andrina. But for once, luck was on my side. Her body gave out on her before I could do anything to her. I shapeshifted into the form of the doctor who was charged with her case and ran the whole show after that."

"And that’s when you stole her ability to open the portal." Liz finished.

"It was dormant of course, her brother long since dead, but she still possessed it."

"So you’ve had the power to jump back and forth between Illyria and Earth almost since the beginning."

He nodded. "It was why Jaxon, Mirana and Tristandor had such difficulty tracking me down when they were looking for me. I was back here for a while, dealing with Danala." He grinned at her again. "And now, are we done with your questions? Because it is almost time my sweet."

"Almost time?" Liz climbed to her feet, her heart beginning to thunder in her chest. If they left now, she lost. She knew that she had the strength to resist him, but if she was torn so far away from Max, it would all be in vain. "Why are we going back there anyway?"

"To make it more believable when I take over Jaxon’s life." Nasedo replied. "I have to convince them all."

Liz stared at him. "Are you a fool? I’ll just tell them that you’re not Max!"

"You won’t. Because I will be the only one left. And I think that you would rather have some of your alien king than none at all. He’s like a drug to you Liz Parker. I know it and it will be to my advantage. I think you’ll probably even learn to love me in time."

Liz just shook her head. "You must be joking. You’re not Max. You can’t replace him. Love doesn’t work like that. Just because you look like him, I’m not going to just be with you!"

His plan was the most ludicrous Liz had ever heard. Did he really think that she would just toss Max over for him because they looked alike, because he had Max’s memories?

"And you’ll never be the only one left." Liz continued. "Because Max is alive, somewhere, and I will never rest until I find him."

"Oh ye of little faith." Nasedo laughed. "You don’t have to find him sweet. He’s on his way to find you as we speak. Indeed, he should be here any minute."

For the first time, in a long time, he shocked her into silence.

Which made her completely open to the voice that suddenly penetrated her thoughts. Liz!

It was Max. The real Max. She knew it was. She felt her heart stop beating.

Because the expression of pleasure on Nasedo’s face, Max’s face down to the very last detail, told her that this was not a good thing. "He’s calling for you already, isn’t he?" He surmised, clearly understanding her astonishment.

He wanted Max to find them. The final pieces of his plan were falling into place.

And she still didn’t know how to stop him.

To be continued…


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Jan-2002 9:18:25 PM ]
posted on 27-Apr-2002 12:38:52 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: You know, it astounds me that people are STILL interested in this story. It actually brings tears to my eyes. Thanks guys! Anyway, now that BTSAS is done, as some of you have noted so fervently...LOL...I will be continuing this. I will have a new part up sometime this coming week. I just need to do a bunch of rereading so that I don't screw anything up. I know exactly where I am going, it's just a matter of making sure I get there properly.

Anyway, something else I'd like to mention...the reason that I have been focusing so hard on completing Sand and Stone (which must have SHOCKED some of you !LOL)

I hope some of you will take part.

Date: May 7, 2002-May 17, 2002
Event: A live, online fan fiction auction on e-bay to benefit FSMA
Questions: Contact RosDeidre⊕aol.com or link to:
http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1


"Don't you know what you are to me? What you're always going to be?
You're the love of my life."

"I just wish that I could have stopped you from saving my life that
day in the Crashdown."

"It's like the porno version of Aladdin."

"Buddha forgive me, but I am going to kick your ass!"

Ever since the pilot of Roswell, the series' hallmark has been
memorable writing. So it comes as no surprise that this beloved
television show has generated one of the Internet's most imaginative
and devoted group of fan fiction authors. LivE. Breathless. Kath7.
Linda. Ash. EmilyluvsRoswell. Tasyfa. Majesty. RosDeidre. Names that
call to mind favorite stories that we've cherished; authors who spin
worlds as magical as the show we've treasured since we first heard
the strains of Dido's Here With Me.

And although Roswell may be ending forever on May 14th, you have a
rare opportunity to own some of your favorite stories permanently.
You can treasure them year after year; long after Roswellian fan
fiction sites vanish from the Internet. All auctioned stories will
be professionally bound, with laminated covers—many beautifully
designed by artists such as Schurry, Blanca, and fishish25.

Roswriters for FSMA is an informal collective of fan fiction authors
banding together to help find a cure for FSMA. On May 7, 2002, we
are launching an auction on e-bay, and approximately 35-40 original
fan fiction stories will be gathered in eight separate tote bags
being auctioned off individually. You won't want to miss the
opportunity to bid on these hand-painted totes, each with a different
specialty theme, such as Dreamer Tote, UC Couple Tote, NC-17 Tote,
just to name a few.

Participating authors will be LivE, Breathless, Kath7, Linda, Ash
(Ash_a_Leigh), Tasyfa, RosDeidre, EmilyluvsRoswell, Majesty,
BennieBA, Cookie, ShellSueD, Carol, Watcher Tara, and many others.
As a special bonus, three Dreamer Totes will also contain CDs of more
than 800 of bigspam's original photos, including images from one of
Roswell's last days on location, while filming the finale.

One very unique Dreamer tote will also contain a gorgeous, hand-
designed "Max Quilt." This lovely work of art has been crafted by
Cookieman789 (Stacey), and will be a great way to snuggle up with the
Dream Guy himself.

PHILADELPHIA GATHERING AUCTION

Further, a special tote will be auctioned at the upcoming Philly
Roswellian gathering on May 10th. Tote contents for this event:

LivE's THE EXPERIMENT
Linda's US SIX AGAINST THE WORLD
Kath7's OUT OF THE WOODS
Breathless' SPECIAL KIND OF LOVE
RosDeidre's ANTARIAN SKY
Bound Compilation of these short stories: Majesty's PULSE,
EmilyluvsRoswell's RIPPLE EFFECT, Carol's HOLIDAY DREAMER SERIES,
Tasyfa's THE FORGING OF A LIFEBOND (short version), Ash's FLOOD and
BennieBA's BEFORE I SLEEP

Additionally, there will be one of bigspam's rare picture CD's,
featuring some 800 original photos from Roswell on location included
in this Philly tote.

Here's a reminder of the high quality images Big Spam has shared with
fans in the past:

http://a9.cpimg.com/image/15/F0/9205269-0fd4-02000178-.jpg
http://a2.cpimg.com/image/2C/3B/6755372-11fa-02000148-.jpg
http://a0.cpimg.com/image/8A/67/5161610-2538-02000176-.jpg

Please visit our message board site for updated press releases and
links to the auctioned totes, or watch on Crashdown for links
beginning May 7, 2002. Email Rosdeidre⊕aol.com with questions.
Visit our site at:
http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1


posted on 14-May-2002 9:54:11 PM by Kath7
I'm here! I'm here! Sorry folks. This story is being most uncooperative. I know exactly where it's going, but the next part is like pulling teeth. But now you've inspired me to go back and try and get it going again. Sigh. I hate writer's block.
posted on 25-May-2002 2:25:19 PM by Kath7
Sigh. Slowly but surely...I'm going to work on it today. This is the dilemma you get into when you have four stories going at once. Sins is so close to finished it's really calling my name, but I think I'll work on this for a while...

Kath
posted on 25-May-2002 5:03:39 PM by Kath7
Author's note: Thanks for all the bumpage folks. I'm not sure if this part flows properly, but I've decided to just post it and move on. The climax is actually within sight, which makes it even more ludicrous that I'm having such a hard time writing this. Anyways, I hope you enjoy.

Part 31

Digging deep, I feel my conscience burn.
I need to know who and what I am.
Slumber jolts me from complacency.
It rocks me and makes me meet myself.

Cause your welcome to remind him
Of the greater gift of the greater one
When I fall back to my own resources
How can I carry your truth
If I can’t crawl to you?

I want to feel something sweeter than this sin,
Cover me in leaves and roll me over again.
I’ve been everybody else
Now I want to be something
Closer to myself.

Bring me a different light,
Shed me yet another coat of skin
Mark me with ash until I’m coming in.
I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired
I know I can love you, I know that I can…

Kendall Payne


Isabel sat at the window staring out at the drizzle, sighing. Seeing the sun right about now seemed too much to ask for. Everything she had wanted since arriving in England the month before had fallen into her lap in the last three days. They had a way through the portal to save her brother and their friends and she had Michael eating out of her hand. One more desire met in a sunny sky - it just seemed unlikely.

And, yet, it grated, the constant oppressiveness of the gray sky in this country. She couldn’t understand the restlessness, the fear the was causing her heart to beat an uneven tattoo under her breast. She needed the sun today, needed it to reinforce that everything that was happening to her, to everyone she loved, was what was meant to be, what had to be.

It had literally felt like her world was ending when she had walked into Alex’s room yesterday and had found Jennetta in his arms. She knew that she had absolutely no right to be jealous, especially after the way she had been feeling and acting for the last few weeks where Michael was concerned. But it had still hurt. Alex had been the one she could depend on, the only one she still knew for sure was in this because he loved her. He was her strength. He had been hers alone.

Somehow, deep down, she had stupidly believed that he would give her time to explore whatever it was that was happening between she and Michael. That he would wait for her. He always had before after all. He had never tried to pin her down or control her, had never tried to make her something she wasn’t. He had always been so good about all the alien chaos, had given her the space she needed to figure things out.

But, in the end, Jennetta had managed to weave her spell over him too, taking advantage of the situation, of Isabel’s confusion, just like she had over first Max, stealing her brother’s love away from Isabel, and then over Michael.

Isabel hated her. Deeply and in a way that she knew was not entirely rational. But Jennetta had become the representation of everything that had gone wrong in her life. If the other girl had never existed, none of this would ever have happened. Michael would not have been attracted to Maria at all, ever, because Isabel was almost sure now that whatever it was that had existed between the two of them had always been destined to assure Jenny’s birth. In fact, all the events from when Max healed Liz on down could be traced back to the fact that Jennetta had been prophesied.

Jennetta was the reason that Michael had been unwilling to give into his true feelings for so long. But, finally, destiny and the bonding that had occurred between them in another lifetime had held fast.

Because, was he not, at this moment, sound asleep on her bed, where she had left him minutes ago?

Nothing had happened between them last night - nothing physical anyway. It had been enough that he had finally come to her, telling her that he wanted to sleep with her, wanted to try and remember.

She had been sitting exactly where she was now when the soft knock had come at her door. Her feelings had been in turmoil then too, more over Alex than anything else. She had been mourning his loss more than she had expected to, had been trying to tell herself that it was all for the best anyway, that she hadn’t wanted to hurt him when she and Michael tried again, that maybe fate was helping events run their natural course.

Her heart had been telling her different though. Her heart felt as though it was about to break into a thousand pieces.

Even when she had opened the door, she had secretly been hoping it was Alex, that he had come to explain, that the cozy scene she had interrupted had been totally misinterpreted. It had dawned on her suddenly that had she found Alex like that with either Liz or Maria, she would have thought nothing of it, had been telling herself how silly she was being. But then, Alex had never given her cause to be jealous before. From the first moment that she had become aware of how he felt about her - when she had visited him in his dreams and they had danced during the heat wave in their sophomore year - she had known that she was all he ever saw.

It had been an eye-opener to realize that other girls might find him attractive, one she had found very unpleasant, despite the fact that she had been about to hurt him herself. She had always considered him her little secret - the geek with the heart of gold and the patience of a saint. In all her dreams of Michael, it had never once occurred to her that she would lose Alex. She had been worried about hurting him, but she had never considered that she might lose him.

Stupid and selfish, but true.

She sighed again as she heard Michael stirring behind her. Turning her head, she found him staring at her with his dark eyes, his expression unreadable. His spiky hair was more tousled than usual and he was blinking suddenly, as though surprised to see her. "Did you have a dream?" He asked quietly when he finally seemed to get his bearings.

She stared back at him, seeing Tristandor, seeing him waking in their bed in the Citadel. She could almost hear him even. "Yes," she replied. "Did you?" She wasn’t being entirely truthful however. The dreams never ended anymore after all. They haunted her throughout the day, reinforcing more than anything, that no matter who she hurt - even Alex - that she was doing the right thing.

Come back to bed my Miri. We have plenty of time before we must meet Jaxon. Let us make the most of it.

Michael’s eyes shifted. He was no longer looking at her. "Yes." His voice cracked slightly. Isabel frowned. He sounded weird - almost like he was lying to her. But why would he lie? He had made his choice.

Isabel had been worried about how Maria would take everything, despite the fact that it would not have stopped her from pursuing things with Michael. She did care about the other girl, in spite of everything. But when she had asked Michael about it, he had merely shrugged. "She’ll get over it. She’s always expected me to run out on her eventually anyway."

"What about Jennetta?" Isabel had asked, frowning in spite of herself. She knew that her hatred for Michael’s daughter could still mess things up for them, had been trying to hide it at all costs.

Michael had looked more upset at that. "Maria said she’d deal with her. She’ll have other things to worry about once we’re back on Illyria anyway."

"Right." Isabel continued to stare at him. Why was this so weird? When she saw him as Tristandor, it all seemed so natural, made sense, but right now he was Michael and all she was thinking was that her brother was in her bed and it was just plain wrong. "I guess we should get dressed. Jemma said that we had to plan strategy before we head out to Stonehenge - that we’ll be going into battle as soon as we arrive, because of the occupation of the ring."

She jumped slightly when she briefly saw movement outside the window she was still sitting beside. Turning her head, she saw a dark-haired young man standing on the grass outside the safe-house. He was holding an umbrella over his head and was staring right at her. She frowned. Why did he look so familiar? And why was he standing there like he had every right to be there, like he wasn’t embarrassed that she had just caught him playing peeping Tom? She pulled her robe more tightly around her shoulders.

"What’s wrong?" Michael asked. He was standing behind her, clad only in the sweat-pants and T-shirt he had worn to bed. A frisson of desire ran down her spine.

Isabel licked her lips, looked back towards the man. He was gone.

"Nothing." She couldn’t tell him. She didn’t want him to think she was crazy. Not only was she having hallucinations about him as Tristandor, she was also now imagining that other people were watching them. Besides, she had other things to think about.

Like the fact that he was standing two feet away from her, half-dressed, and all she wanted was for him to kiss her. She saw something flare in his eyes, like he knew it too.

She paused momentarily. Because whatever it was on Michael’s face at the moment, it wasn’t desire. She frowned when she realized it was fear. He was scared of her. Or, if not of her, of his feelings for her.

It was time to make the final move, play this game through to the end, reclaim what was hers. She took his hand, pulled him towards her. She could see a tremor pass through his body, felt it in her own. "Tris…" She barely breathed his name, felt the pull between them as though in a trance, could see the hypnotic bond of it crossing his face as well.

Isabel ignored the way her heart cried out for Alex as her lips met his.

******************************************************************

"This is a terrible idea." Kyle knew that the fact that he had already said it twelve times wasn’t going to make the thirteenth any more effective, but he had to try anyway.

"There’s no choice," Tess replied, not even bothering to look at him as she crawled into the bed. Milena stood near the door, watching them both, prepared to escape once Tess began the mind-warp.

"I’m not leaving you here alone Tess."

"Yes, you are Kyle. You need to sound the alarm that she’s escaped."

"This doesn’t make any sense." Kyle shook his head, glaring at her and extremely annoyed that he wasn’t going to be able to change her mind.

"It’s very simple. I’ll mind-warp the guard, so that Milena looks like me. She’ll leave the Citadel with you because you’ll tell everyone that you’re taking me into town to show me around, so that the people can see me - that we got the idea from Milena and it seemed like a good one, that no one knows about being queen better than she does. She’ll head off after Max and then I’ll drop the mind-warp and you’ll pretend that you just found out what she had done - because everyone knows that Milena has some very small mindwarping capabilities - and then you’ll come back for me. Easy as 1-2-3."

"That’s not what I meant," Kyle told her impatiently, his arms crossed. He glared at Milena, who was listening to every word, and went to sit beside Tess on the bed. He lowered his voice. "What I meant is, it doesn’t make any sense that you trust this woman. Max told us not to and you’re going to anyway?"

"I trust that she hates Nasedo, which I can understand," Tess replied. "And this is the only way I can figure out to help Max. Milena’s goal is to put Ren on the throne. Right now her priorities and Max’s are the same - getting rid of Nasedo. Max for Jennetta’s sake, Milena for Ren’s. I think Max was letting his shock about who Ren is and about how his mother betrayed his father cloud his judgment. For now, he needs her. And I’m not going to let his own stubbornness stop him from having all the resources he can."

"Max isn’t an idiot Tess," Kyle said through gritted teeth, knowing it was only the truth, as much as it galled him.

"He is when it comes to Liz. He wasn’t really thinking about Milena at all Kyle. I think he just wanted to shut her away to deal with her after he got Liz back. And that’s a wasted resource. I’m his queen and I have to do what’s best for him." Kyle flinched at the his queen part, but tried to ignore it. This wasn’t the time for jealousy. This was the time to make Tess see sense.

"Well, why don’t you just mindwarp us all out of here? I think we should go with her. I don’t trust her with Max alone. Because, after Nasedo is gone, Max and Liz are still standing in Ren’s way to the throne. In case you’ve forgotten that little fact," he added, not meaning to sound so sarcastic, but not displeased that he did.

Tess closed her eyes briefly. "Kyle, I’m still getting back my strength from all the mindwarping I did to get Max and I into the Ring without anyone finding us. I can’t run around here and help Milena make a strong enough warp for this to work. I need to stay in one place."

Kyle frowned. He didn’t like this at all. She was going to drain herself to help a woman who had betrayed her own children. He stared at her, wondered briefly if she was under some sort of mind control.

"I don’t have time to argue with you about this any more Kyle. Just do it!" She slammed her blue eyes shut and he could no longer communicate with her. When she was mindwarping, she needed complete concentration and he could see from the look on her face that she was already well gone.

He could hear Milena pounding on the door. When he looked over at her, all he saw was Tess, calling to the guard to let them out. The door was already opening. He could no longer interfere because if the guard got any idea of what was happening, Tess would be seen as a traitor. Because, she was, in effect, going against one of Max’s direct orders.

Stupid, stupid. He didn’t understand all this monarchy crap, but he did know that wasn’t a good thing. Nope. Not at all.

Kyle wondered briefly if the alien component of the Royal Four had been genetically programmed for inherent idiocy and stubbornness - or maybe it was just a lack of ability to recognize a really bad plan. But then, with all those powers under their control, it was no wonder their over-confidence often resulted in disaster.

Add another point to his lengthy list of why he hoped his alien mojo didn’t make another appearance anytime soon. Apparently having extra-terrestrial capabilities also dulled one’s grey matter. He loved Tess, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t see when she was being really dumb.

But it was too damn late. He scowled as he stomped out of the cell on Milena’s heels.

They made it out of the Citadel without incident. Hamor actually appeared relieved to be rid of them. He merely waved his hand in the air dismissively while he pored over several maps spread across a table in the meeting hall. Kyle had seen that they were drawings of the Ring, wondered exactly how Hamor was planning to take it back.

But when the aging general had told them to go, he had high-tailed it out of there, ordering Milena in a tone he knew sounded pissed off, even if it was quiet, to keep her hood up.

"Stupid, stupid." It was what he was still muttering to himself an hour later as he stomped down the winding staircase to the dungeons, having taken Milena as far as the city gates. She had kissed him lightly on the cheek, telling him to go back to "the lovely child in the dungeons" to free her, that she could manage on her own from here.

Lovely child his ass. Stupid child was more like it. She was too damn trusting. That was the whole problem with Tess. First she had trusted Nasedo, clearly the least trust-worthy being in any galaxy and now Milena. Evans was going to blow a gasket when his loony mama showed up wherever he was.

If there was one good thing about Max Evans, it was that he didn’t trust anyone on this planet. Kyle had seen it on Max’s face when he had left with the Royal Guard to go after Liz. He had been using them to his own ends, but he still didn’t trust them. And he had been right. It annoyed Kyle that Max was always right, but dammit, he was.

He had worked himself into a state of sheer irritation by the time he entered the anti-chamber near the dungeon where Tess was still ensconced. He frowned slightly when he realized that there was no guard. It was then that he noticed that the door to the cell was open.

Tess was gone.

To be continued…




posted on 25-May-2002 7:55:18 PM by Kath7
quote:
Sheeijan originally wrote:


I hate how everyone is working separately! I just get this feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better....


You have deciphered the crux of the problem my dear...Teehee. And that is all I will say.
posted on 1-Jun-2002 11:01:17 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: I'm glad that a lot of people are still interested in this story. I know you're all anxious for what's happening between Max and Liz, but it's really only been two parts since we saw them. Everyone else needs to catch up now. We're almost there though. We should see Max in the next part if all goes according to plan - but who knows? I barely have control of these characters sometimes. They just do what they want to, WHEN they want to! LOL

Note to ISLANDGIRLS - Welcome! Glad you're liking this story. And thanks mia for recommending it. And hi to LivE. It's good to hear from you! Thanks to everyone else for the lovely feedback, as always.

Oh, and finally, don't forget, I guarantee a happy ending. You have happy ending insurance. We are about to enter some dark territory folks. Things are going to look REALLY bad for a while, but it will all work out in the end.

Part 32

She was a complete fool. As soon as Tess opened her eyes, as the stone ceiling above her came into focus, she knew she had been used. She looked around the beautifully appointed chamber, slightly dazed, realized that it was her room, the Queen’s apartment.

Kyle was in danger and it was all her fault. She knew it instinctively and it brought tears to her eyes. She brushed them aside impatiently, forced herself to think. What had happened?

She had been mind-warped. There was no other explanation for why she had so completely betrayed Max by allowing his mother to escape. The guilt came crashing down on her in waves. She didn’t even really know what had happened. But mindwarp seemed to be the only answer. It was extremely distressing to find out that your own gift could be used against you so effectively.

And even if she had not been directly responsible for allowing Milena to escape, this was technically all her fault. She should never have gone down to the dungeons in the first place.

She hadn’t even been aware of it happening. It had been totally different from when Captain Lorn had mindwarped she and Kyle a few days before. Then she had felt his presence in her mind like the infiltration it was, her own gift the stronger, and thus, the dominant. But now, as she thought back desperately on the moments after arriving in the cell, she realized that her feelings towards Milena had started to change almost immediately. She had been on her guard up until a certain point and then it had all lost focus. She had started to trust the woman, even though she had known she should not, even though Kyle had told her time and again she should not.

Mindwarp. It had to be. But how could Milena, who had only a tiny ability for mindwarping, her main gift being dreamwalking like her daughter, have done this without Tess being aware of it? Tess was supposed to be the strongest mindwarper on the planet. No one should be able to mindwarp her without her knowledge - or at least that’s what the Guild had told her yesterday when she had met with them for the first time.

She climbed to her feet a little unsteadily. The hows and whys were irrelevant now. She needed to find Kyle and somehow warn Max. Milena’s instability of mind had never been more evident.

Tess wasn’t sure how she had ended up back in her chamber. Obviously the guard had been suspicious, had found her in Milena’s cell but hadn’t dared wake her, unsure of what was wrong with her. She moved to the door, swiped her hand over the silver handprint that shone from the wall. She frowned when the door remained firmly shut.

Locked? She was locked in.

And suddenly she understood. It had been a mindwarp. An extremely elaborate mindwarp - one Milena should never have been capable of. They thought that she had helped Milena escape. Of course they did! Even Kyle thought it.

Her heart started to thump uncertainly. She had only ever been treated with respect since she had found the Illyrians, even if they had been a little condescending and impatient, remembering silly and ignorant Sabrya and not knowing that Tess was nothing like her former self. She had seen how they had treated captured Dernians - people they had considered traitors. There had been no mercy for them.

But she wasn’t just anyone. She was the Queen. No one could judge her. No one except Max.

She straightened her back, pounded on the door. "Hello out there? I’m awake! I want to see my bodyguard!" She stepped back, waited for the door to slide open.

Nothing happened.

Tess scowled, pounded again. "Open this door at once! I command you."

When another few moments passed with absolutely no movement on the other side of the door, Tess backed up, sank down on the bed, biting her lip.

She was in serious trouble here. Somehow she just knew it. If she was in danger, than Kyle was in even more. The only reason he was at all safe was because of she and Max. The Illyrians found him irritating and odd. They would be happy to have any excuse to get rid of him, and without Tess around to make him control his tongue, he was more than likely to say something that was going to get him into serious trouble.

Max was gone. Max could not help her. And the more she thought about it, the more she wondered how in control of anything Max really was.

Nothing any of these people did ever made any sense. The three of them were like people lost in a thick forest, trying to react to situations with common sense, but there was nothing logical about any of this.

She felt tears of frustration beginning to pool in her eyes, fear for Kyle and Max and Liz and herself almost choking her. They had made a strategic error and she was only just beginning to recognize it.

They should never have separated. They couldn’t trust anyone but each other. They should never have let Max come to the Citadel alone in the first place and they should never have let him go after Liz by himself either. It didn’t matter if he was the king or not. He was stronger and safer with Tess and Kyle by his side.

She and Kyle were definitely safer at Max’s side. She could feel her hands beginning to tremble, clutched them desperately in her lap.

She brushed aside her tears impatiently. She had to be strong.

They should never have left Earth without the others.

The thought came unbidden and so suddenly, she blinked.

But she knew that it was true. Somehow, in some way, they had failed. They had left the others behind and they were going to lose because of it.

They weren’t strong enough in pairs. They weren’t strong enough in the Four Square. They were only strong enough when all eight of them worked together, as a team, unified in their trust for each other.

She felt the coldness of her solitude deep within, suffocating, burning, to the point that she wasn’t even aware of the door to the chamber sliding open until Kyle was kneeling in front of her. It might have been five minutes later, or a lifetime.

The entire world came back into focus when Kyle took her hands in his. He was so warm, so alive, she came back into herself with a resounding thump.

Tess blinked, disbelieving, unsure of what had just happened to her. "Kyle?" She brought a hand up to touch his face. "How…I don’t understand! What’s going on? Are you okay?" She exclaimed, throwing her arms around him.

Kyle grimaced. "They think that you helped Milena escape," he told her. He was staring straight into her eyes, trying to tell her something. She stared back at him, uncomprehending. And then she understood. He too still thought she had helped Milena. He was trying to stop her from saying anything incriminating.

"I didn’t!" She exclaimed. "She mindwarped me!"

"And Hamor too evidently," Kyle replied, sighing and moving to join her on the bed. It was only when he stopped blocking her direct line of vision that she realized that they were not alone. There were two guards standing in the doorway, both listening intently. "But they don’t believe it. Apparently there is no way Milena should have been able to mindwarp you without you knowing about it."

"I know," Tess said glumly. "But somehow she did."

Tess felt Kyle squeeze her hand. "Tess, are you sure?" He asked her in a low tone. "It sure looked to me like you were helping her." She stared at the two guards, could see them straining to hear what he said, but apparently they were too far away because they moved closer.

"I wasn’t Kyle. I swear," she answered quickly and quietly, then raised her voice, addressed the guards. "I want to see Hamor."

She heard Kyle sigh. "He won’t see you Tess. He feels completely betrayed."

"What?" She was dumbfounded. She looked at Kyle. "Are they just going to keep me locked up here until Max gets back then? That’s just unacceptable Kyle! I can’t just sit here and wait! We have to go after Milena."

"They’ve already sent a detachment of the Royal Guards after Max and they’re trying to reach him on the communicator orbs, but they’re not having much luck."

"Wait a minute!" Tess stared at him. "Why did they let you in here?"

"Because guess who’s your partner in crime?" Kyle grinned wryly, leaning back against the pillows, his hands folded behind his head. "I’m in jail too. We’re in for a long wait babe." He looked over at the two guards. "You two can go. We’re not going to say anything to make your jobs any easier, so the least you can do is leave us in peace."

They didn’t move, just continued to stare straight ahead. Tess shivered again. Dernians no doubt. Their complete lack of emotional response told her so.

Well, that was something anyway, Tess reflected wryly. The Illyrians and Dernians appeared to agree on at least two things now. One, that Max was the rightful king and two, that she and Kyle were traitors.

Oh joy.

She started to giggle hysterically, until she felt Kyle shift again, pull her against him. "It’s okay Tess. It’s not your fault."

She pulled back. "Kyle, this is still dangerous. As of right now, they already think I’m a traitor, but if we get too close, they’re liable to think I’m betraying Max on a completely different level."

He sighed, flopped back again. "It’s good to be king," he quipped, but he didn’t sound the least bit amused.
"He’s allowed to go chasing after other girls, but you’re not. Stupid double standards."

"But I don’t want to chase after other girls," Tess told him with a completely straight face. She just couldn’t help it. It was just too good a chance to pass up.

He stared at her for a full minute before bursting out laughing. She joined him, felt some of the tension draining away as they fell against each other, both overcome with glee.

Because laughter was far better than fear. If they had to live through this, the least they could do was laugh about it.

The two Dernians were staring at them like they were crazy, which Tess realized wasn’t far from the truth. She finally sprawled out beside Kyle, still giggling, but absolutely exhausted.

There was a long silence.

"What are we going to do?" Tess finally asked, shaking her head in frustration.

"I guess, for now, we wait," he replied. Kyle turned his head, looked right at her, lowered his voice again. "At least we’re together. They won’t do anything to us without Max’s say-so."

"Right," Tess said, allowing herself to be reassured slightly. "At least there’s that."

But she still couldn’t help but hope with all her heart that Max was already on his way back.

*****************************************

Maria was exhausted, mind, body and soul. There was no other word for it. It was just supremely exhausting having to be the support system for her entire group of friends while still trying to maintain her own sanity. Because she was definitely close to losing hers.

She understood that Michael was trying to keep Isabel secluded, was doing his best so that no one had to see what was happening between them, but that didn’t mean she didn’t know that they were alone together, that they were exploring their alien sides, or whatever the hell you wanted to call it. It wasn’t like she wasn’t imagining what was going on in the room on the other side of the compound.

It didn’t matter that she knew that Michael loved her. He was still in there, with her.

It literally made her feel sick to her stomach. But she just didn’t have time to be sick, to lose her mind. Because who would pull her back if she did?

If Maria had missed Liz before, this day had made it so that she knew that she was never letting her best friend out of her sight again once they had her back. All this was Liz’s job. She was good at it - good at making people feel better, good at fixing things. She always made Maria feel better.

And it wasn’t even herself that Maria was really worried about. It was her daughter.

Liz would know what to say to Jennetta, would know how to help Maria’s daughter through what she was about to endure.

Because there was almost no hope now. Ren was going to die and there was nothing they could do to stop it. The doctor, who was the closest to an Illyrian physician they were going to find on Earth, had told her as much only moments before. His balance was completely out of whack - why no one was really sure, but there it was. The only one who could save him now was a true Healer. Or, in other words, Max, who was, of course, completely unavailable.

There were other Healers, of course. The doctor was one himself, a changed human, one who was extremely dedicated to the Illyrian cause from what Maria had seen. But apparently, according to Jemma, no one could compare to Max when it came to healing.

Ren needed Max. But he was fading fast and it was doubtful that they were going to be able to get him through the portal in time, let alone find Max on the other side fast enough.

They all needed Max. They needed his calm leadership, his quiet authority. They were completely lost without him.

Maria brought her hands up to her face, forced herself to take deep breaths. She had come out into the hallway to collect herself, had tried to get Jenny to come with her, but her daughter had refused to leave her bodyguard’s side. Maria had left her sitting with his hand held in hers, as though she was trying to anchor him to this life, as though if she let go of him, he would drift away from her permanently.

"Maria."

Maria’s head came up. She met the Sheriff’s concerned gaze, smiled slightly. "Hey Sheriff."

"No better I take it?" He hooked his thumb in the direction of Ren’s room.

"No. Is everything ready for tonight?" Maria asked, wanting to change the subject. There was no point in discussing it after all. It wasn’t like it was going to make anything better. They had to concentrate on what they could control.

"They’re still coming in but Jemma says she’ll have a full contingent of the Royal Guard ready to go by the time the sun sets," the Sheriff replied. He shook his head incredulously. "They’re all changed humans Maria. How could this have been going on for so long and no one ever knew?"

"The Special Unit knew," Maria told him, sighing. "It’s why they wanted Max so badly." She grimaced. "Is it wrong Sheriff? That all those people are being changed like that?"

"It does make me uncomfortable," the Sheriff admitted. "But Jemma insists that they are given a choice, that they would die if they weren’t changed." He paused, then continued. "Kyle hates that it’s happening to him, doesn’t he?"

Maria looked at him sharply. "Why?" She knew that Kyle had never spoken to his father about the emergence of his alien traits, that he barely liked to acknowledge it himself.

"It’s my fault Maria." The Sheriff scratched his head wearily. "If I hadn’t been so all-fired determined to expose Max, Kyle never would have been in any position to get shot. I ruined my own son’s life."

She didn’t know what to say to that, bit her lip. Why did everyone keep acting like she was Liz? She wasn’t the one people were supposed to come to with their problems!

"He’s in love with Tess," Maria blurted, without thinking. "He’s probably safer with some powers. He would have fallen into the alien abyss anyway. This way at least he has some power."

The Sheriff stared at her. "So that’s it. We never got a chance to discuss it before…before he left." He nodded, like he wasn’t at all surprised. "And he doesn’t think that she reciprocates his feelings?"

"No. They’re both idiots," Maria sighed. "But then alien/human relations are never easy."

"Are you okay with everything that’s happening Maria?" The Sheriff asked sympathetically. "I heard about Michael and Isabel."

Who hadn’t? Maria though wryly. They had been shut up in Isabel’s room for the better part of twenty-four hours. The compound was a small enough community that of course word would get around. But no one could know the truth, that Michael was only pretending. Isabel had to believe that he wanted to be with her. Their plan wouldn’t work otherwise.

"I spoke to Alex earlier," the Sheriff continued. "He’s trying not to show it, but he’s devastated."

"I know," Maria replied quietly. She was the one who had broken the news to her friend after all. He had literally turned green.

"It’s my fault." They had been the first words he had managed to choke out.

"No Alex!" She had exclaimed. "How can you even think that?"

"I drove her to it. She thought…" He had closed his eyes, shuddered. "She thought something was going on between me and Jenny." And he had told her all about how Isabel had caught Jenny on his bed, in his arms.

She had wanted to reassure him, to tell him that none of it was his fault, that Isabel had been acting psycho for much longer than that, but she had bit her tongue, hard. Because, in the long run, wasn’t it more important to find out why Isabel was losing it, so that everyone could be happy in the long run? So that this could never happen again? Telling anyone put Michael’s plan in jeopardy.

She couldn’t even tell Alex. It broke her heart, but it was the only way.

"We’re a sorry lot," the Sheriff laughed bitterly. He was quickly serious again though. "I don’t think we’re exactly at our strongest right now Maria. I have a bad feeling about this - that going through that portal when we’re so divided is a mistake."

"I know," Maria told him. "But we have no choice. It’s out of our hands now." She reached out and hugged him. "Thank you for being here for us."

"I wish you had all let me be here for you long before now. Maybe I could have stopped some of this from happening," the Sheriff said, sounding slightly exasperated.

"I wish we had too." Their mistakes were all coming back to haunt them now it seemed.

Because Maria suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that their biggest mistake was ever splitting up. It had started when they had shut the Sheriff out, trying to protect him from the alien chaos. And then they had not believed Max when he had insisted that Liz was still alive, had driven he and Tess off the planet alone, with Kyle in tow.

She knew that it was crazy to think that they could all be together, all the time, but it wasn’t really the splitting up physically that had caused the problem, she realized. It was the complete lack of communication, the way they had let walls come up between them. Isabel hadn’t told Alex about her emerging feelings for Michael. Michael hadn’t told Maria soon enough. Alex hadn’t told anyone that Jennetta had a crush on him. Jennetta hadn’t told anyone that she was really in love with Ren.

Until they all accepted that they loved each other without reservation, that they could deal with whatever alien catastrophe reared it’s ugly head better together - or any human one for that matter, until they stopped worrying about hurting each other all the time - until they trusted each other - they were never going to win.

It might even be too late now.

Maria felt a shiver descend her spine. Where had that thought come from?

It couldn’t be true, could it? It couldn’t be too late?

The shriek of utter grief that suddenly pierced the silence that had fallen between she and the Sheriff as they had moved apart told her that it could be.

Because that scream had been unearthly, devastated on a level that Maria almost couldn’t grasp.

And it had come from her daughter.

Maria knew it without a shadow of a doubt that Ren was gone.

It was all downhill from here.

She took a deep breath, exchanged one long, meaningful look with the Sheriff, before going into Ren’s room to try and put her daughter’s life back together.

What she saw on his face did not reassure her. Because he seemed to know it too. They didn’t know why yet, but Maria was sure that it was only a matter of time.

Control had just shifted irrevocably from their hands. They were all now merely pawns in the hands of fate.


To be continued…




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 1-Jun-2002 11:05:40 PM ]
posted on 18-Jun-2002 11:46:28 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Short and transitional and really quite blathery, but I'm trying to get past a hump here and it's time to let this part go.

You know what sucks? When you know exactly where you're going, but there's so much to get through before you get there, you just wish you could snap your fingers and it would write itself! LOL

Anyway, I hope this doesn't suck too bad.

Part 33

Michael stared at the group before him in disbelief, then glanced back at Jemma. "And we’re somehow supposed to sneak into Stonehenge with this crowd?" He demanded, shaking his head. "Do I have to remind you that Tess isn’t here? There won’t be any mindwarping involved this time."

When Jemma had said she was raising an army, she hadn’t been kidding. There were at least a hundred people scattered around the lawn outside the compound, all standing at attention, all ready for his command.

They were waiting for him to lead them. It was the most ludicrous thing he had ever heard of, but it wasn’t that part he found most disturbing. They thought he was the mythical General Tristandor they had heard about for years, from the moment they had been recruited into this fight that wasn’t theirs. It wasn’t surprising that they expected him to tell them what to do.

It wasn’t even that most of these people were human - changed humans - humans who had been waiting for this call to arms since the moment he, Max, Tess and Isabel had set off the orb over two years before. Although he wasn’t crazy about that either because he knew that many of them, in spite of Jemma’s insistence that they had had a choice, really hadn’t. They had all been dying, whether from a terminal illness or in some other way. Who wouldn’t have agreed to something that seemed too crazy to believe - that they would live but that they would be pledged to an alien army, expected to answer the call when necessary - for one more chance at life?

They had come from all over the globe, ready and willing to give up their lives for them - for people they didn’t even know. It was too much responsibility. He didn’t want it.

He didn’t like it - not at all. And, it was this, more than anything else that told him he was no longer Tristandor of Dernia, in spite of everything Isabel had been trying to convince him of over the past few days. He had absolutely no desire to lead these people to their deaths. Because from what Michael remembered of Illyria and the Dernians, there would be no mercy for any of them. Dernians did not believe in mercy because they had no compassion. The two were intimately intertwined, could not exist without each other.

He was no leader - he was no Max. He was going to get these people - these complete strangers - killed. They were going to die simply because, at some point before in their lives, they had wanted to live. The irony of the situation was not lost on him.

Jemma raised an eyebrow, interrupted Michael’s mournful thoughts. "Your Sabrya is the strongest mindwarper, yes, but just because she isn’t here, doesn’t mean we don’t have her gift at our disposal." She motioned to a tall blonde standing nearby. "This is Marianne," Jemma introduced. The blonde bowed deeply to Michael. He felt heat rising in his face. "She is the leader of the changed mindwarpers on Earth. She will be the focus this evening."

"What does that mean?" Michael demanded, sighing heavily, and trying to listen as Jemma explained the plan for that night. He knew that he had no choice.

His daughter had ordered it and so he was expected to obey. And this was what he hated most about this whole thing.

Jennetta was losing her mind. There was no other way to describe what was happening to his daughter since Ren had died, something Michael still hadn’t quite come to terms with. It had only been a few hours after all and so sudden - ridiculous actually, that something as mundane and normal as a car crash could have done in Jennetta’s bodyguard - that none of them had even begun to understand what the whole thing meant.

Yet, in the space of those few hours, his daughter’s entire personality had changed.

If Michael had been unwilling to believe Maria before that Jenny was attached to the emotionless shapeshifter, he believed it now. Her grief was a force unlike anything he had ever seen before and he had been pretty sure that he had witnessed how low people could go when Max had disappeared for so long, and then when Liz had supposedly died. Jennetta was channeling her pain in a way that made Michael supremely uncomfortable because it was so unlike her.

Her entire being was suddenly focused on getting back to Illyria, on reclaiming her throne, on being the queen Ren had wanted her to be, in spite of the fact that up until a few days ago, she had been fighting him tooth and nail. Getting in her way was not an option it seemed either. She wasn’t listening to anyone.

She was becoming reckless. Michael could see it in her eyes - in the eyes of the child he had missed raising, but who he still felt he knew extremely well, because wasn’t she the best parts of he and Maria rolled up in a beautiful package? The open, yet pensive, young woman, who’s leadership style had been extremely reminiscent of what Michael thought Max must once have been, had been replaced by someone who was trying so hard to forget how to feel, she was also forgetting that any decision she made affected them all.

Jennetta was no longer asking for aid. She was telling them what to do and Jemma was backing her up, even though they had no idea what to expect on the other side of that portal. The agreement that Michael and Jenny had made privately - that no humans other than Alex, Maria and Valenti of course, would be involved in the voyage to the other side of the universe - had been unceremoniously dumped in the last two hours. And when Michael tried to talk to her about it, she merely turned her head and said, "I am queen. I make the decisions. You can go back and play with Isabel, Michael. I don’ t need your help."

It had hurt, needless to say. But, more than anything, it had made him nervous. Because, somehow, he just knew that going to Illyria with guns drawn and blazing (or in his case, hands blasting) was the wrong tactic.

Jennetta making the same mistake as the Dernians and deliberately shutting off her emotions was a mistake too. She was playing right into their hands now. He just knew it. Which, was beginning to raise questions in the back of his mind about how much of an accident that car crash had really been.

That maybe Ren, the only one who seemed to have really known what kind of queen Jennetta was supposed to be - could be - was gone because someone had wanted him gone.

And there was only one person who had anything to gain by Ren’s death. Because, now that he was out of the picture, who had Jenny turned to for guidance?

Who else but one Jemma Stafford.

In fact, he was so sure that things were spinning completely out of control, that Jemma could not be trusted in spite of what Jenny said, he could only think of one way to stop this whole debacle before it got underway. Jenny wasn’t listening. He had tried to get through to her, Maria had tried, even Alex had tried and it had all been in vain.

He would not let his daughter get them all killed because she was so wrapped up in her grief, she refused to hear sense.

And there was only one way to stop her. He was going to have to convince Isabel that she couldn’t open the portal. He was going to have to convince Max’s sister that they couldn’t go after Max and their other friends now, that they were going to have to wait until the next solstice.

Michael hadn’t even started to convince himself that they could abandon his sister, Tess, and his best friend, Max, and the heart of their group, Liz, and hell, even Valenti, on Illyria. How was he supposed to convince Isabel? He wasn’t even sure if it was the right way to go.

He was at a loss. And, so, for the moment, he was still playing along.

Michael listened with half an ear as Jemma continued to lecture him on exactly how the whole operation was going to play out. He was extremely aware of the minutes ticking away as she spoke. Every second that passed meant they were one second closer to the time they were supposed to head to the Ring.

He hadn’t spoken to Izzy since Maria had come to get them to tell them about Ren.

The whole experience had been horrifying, seeing his girlfriend and his, well, whatever the hell Isabel was to him, coming face to face after he had supposedly chosen Isabel. But Maria had played her role like the trooper she was. Michael had seen how pale she was, that the whole idea of him having spent the night in that room with Isabel had nearly driven her insane, but she had not allowed any of it to stop her from coming to them.

He had actually seen remorse on Isabel’s face too, something he hadn’t seen there for a good long while. It had been gone almost as quickly as it had appeared, but it had definitely been there.

It had been a good sign, one of many he had seen over the course of their night together. Her heart was not entirely in it Michael had deduced. He had hoped that by pretending to go along with the whole thing, Isabel would see how wrong it was - that they didn’t belong together, that whatever they had been to each other in that past life was over. And he had thought that maybe he was making headway, until they had been drawn to each other again and had shared another kiss.

There had been something so unnatural about it though…He knew that Isabel had felt it too.

He had been more convinced than ever that something - or someone - was controlling both of them.

And, again, suspicion was falling directly on Jemma Stafford’s head. Because, wasn’t it true, that neither he, nor Isabel had ever had any feelings for each other before they had come to England? And where had the feelings started? At Stonehenge. And who lived near Stonehenge? None other than Jemma, who’s whole existence revolved around getting back to Illyria and restoring them to their positions.

Jemma had had no way of knowing that they would want to go to Illyria anyway - that Max and Tess would have taken matters into their own hands and gone AWOL, driving everyone else to follow them. It made perfect sense that she would try and convince Isabel and Michael that they belonged together ON Illyria. What better way to do it then by having them remember their past lives?

There was only one flaw in Michael’s deduction. How had Jemma known that they were in England? How had she known exactly when to start the dreams, the memories? And how the hell was she doing it anyway?

Okay, Michael rolled his eyes ruefully, there was maybe more than one flaw.

But, all of it was enough to make him believe that they couldn’t trust her. And if they couldn’t trust her, they couldn’t go with her to Illyria - which meant they couldn’t go at all.

"Are you done yet?" He snapped now, impatient with the whole nonsense of preparing this army - the army that Michael had definitely decided now he wasn’t leading.

Jemma stared at him for a moment, as did the blonde woman, Marianne. Finally, she smiled slightly. "I suppose that will do for now," she finally acknowledged. "I suggest that you go rest yourself General. You have a long night ahead of you."

"Whatever." Michael shoved his hands into his pockets, met her eyes, peering at her, willing her to show him that he was right about her - that she was not their friend.

But the eyes that stared back at him, dark and guileless, only served to make him wonder if he was the one losing his mind.

He needed someone to talk to about the whole thing before he approached Isabel. Maria was off-limits because of Isabel and the plan, Isabel for the same reason. Jenny wouldn’t do because she was not willing to talk to anyone and she was part of the problem as well. The Sheriff - well, it was too exhausting even thinking about trying to catch him up on the whole mess. It had been a mistake to keep Valenti out of things. Michael could see that now.

Which left Whitman. Alex, who had been carefully avoiding Michael for the past twenty-four hours.

There were fun times ahead for Michael Guerin. He sighed heavily as he turned his back on Jemma and went in search of someone he hoped was still his friend.

To be continued…










posted on 16-Aug-2002 11:44:51 PM by Kath7
Er - hi! LOL

So, here's your note. Max is NOT cooperating in Union. I'm just saying. I have a WHOLE part written but it's just not RIGHT. I'm still trying to beat him into submission, but he's not behaving. But I'm trying. Really. My sister and I spent a whole three hour car ride trying to plot this through his pig-headedness and I think we've finally managed it. Anyway, I will be progressing with an Alex POV tomorrow and I am relegating Max to the back of my mind for the moment. I have been so desperate to get back to M/L that I have failed to recognize that I need to get the others sorted out first. Now that I have accepted that, I can function again. I will be working on Union tomorrow, so expect a new part by the end of the weekend.

Thanks for your patience.
posted on 18-Aug-2002 4:05:03 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Quick! Everyone look out their windows? See any flying pigs? Yes. It's a new part of Union. And, guess what? I have half of the next one written too, so it should be up soon. I almost can't believe how well this flowed. This story has been like banging my head against a brick wall, but my sister and I have worked through some major plot points now, and I think I'm on the downward slope. So, if anyone out there still cares, enjoy!

Kath

Part 34

Alex sighed wearily and fell back against the pillows on his hospital bed. While he had been eager to be up and about only the day before, impatient with the nurses (who he now knew were changed humans with something approaching Max’s healing power) and really a very annoying patient, now he was glad that he had somewhere to hide. Because as long as he stayed where he was, he didn’t have to face the fact that Isabel and Michael were really together. It was sheer irony that now that he actually felt pretty good, he wished he felt like crap again.

Because, as long as he stayed here, he wouldn’t have to accidentally run into them in the hallway or anywhere else. He could sulk and blame himself in peace.

It was all his own fault. Isabel had not understood what she had seen with Jennetta and had gone rushing off and done something stupid. He had brought it on himself by not being more clear with Isabel in the past that she was the only one for him. He had always let her go her own way, had given her the space he thought she needed in order to understand who she was - an alien princess with a future neither of them could avoid. But, by maintaining that slight distance between them - one Max had refused to allow Liz to give him and one Maria had tossed back in Michael’s face - he had lost her.

Yet, he knew deep down that it was all about more than that anyway. He knew that Michael didn’t love Isabel. It had not taken him long to decipher from Maria’s general avoidance of the topic that she and Michael had cooked up some scheme to try and snap Isabel out of her pursuit of her so-called "destiny." Maria was a terrible liar after all - at least in Alex’s view - and she had not been nearly upset enough that the father of her child had abruptly abandoned her.

No, Alex was no fool. He knew that Michael and Maria were up to something. But it did not mean that Isabel was any less serious about her desire to be with Michael. He had not laid eyes on her since she had run out on him the day before, but he knew it, somewhere in his heart. This was all real. And it hurt like hell.

Isabel did not want to hurt him and so she avoided him. It was all making it even clearer why she had tried so hard to convince him not to come to Illyria with them all. And, the irony of it all was that it was that which had hurt him more than anything. Because his attachment to the aliens was not just about her. He had always felt like an integral part of the group, but Isabel’s wish to get rid of him made him question if that was really true.

Yes, he knew that Liz and Maria loved him, but they certainly didn’t really confide in him anymore. Liz was so wrapped up in Max there wasn’t room for anyone else and Maria was now deliberately lying to him and avoiding him because she hated doing it. He had never really been close to Max and Michael anyway. Kyle didn’t know whether he was coming or going from their group half the time because of his tumultuous relationship with Tess and while Alex had tried to befriend Tess, because he understood what it was like to be an outsider, they had never truly bonded. Was it any wonder that he had felt kinship for Jennetta? At least she had seemed to need him sometimes.

But, now, even that was over. Because, apparently, according to Maria, with Ren’s death, Jenny had gone off the deep end and it was unlikely anyone could pull her back. Alex had even tried, but whatever affection she had once harbored for him was long gone. Their discussion about her love for Ren had come at a highly inopportune time it seemed. Jenny’s devastation was simply worse because just when she realized how much the grumpy shapeshifter meant to her, he was gone. Alex’s heart went out to her, but he could not reach her anymore. Their conversation had been stilted and one-sided. She had not wanted to hear what he had to say about losing someone you loved, although she had politely listened, and she had left him soon after.

And, so, now here he sat, completely alone, miserable and wishing he were dead. He wondered briefly in anyone would even miss him if he was gone…

"Whitman."

Michael’s gruff voice in the doorway made Alex snap his head up. He blinked. He could have kicked himself when he said in a friendly way, "Hi Michael." What was he doing? This was the person who was presently sleeping with his Isabel! And, yet, his natural compulsion to be helpful and open made him be nice. Damn his personality! Once in a while he wished he had Michael’s natural ability to glower, or Max’s to brood, or even Kyle’s to be sarcastic. He decided he could scowl though. Because he wanted to. Badly. And, so, he did.

He was slightly amazed when it actually seemed to affect Michael. Did he flinch? Alex felt his scowl slip as he tilted his head to see if it was really true. "I really need to talk to you," Michael continued carefully. "Is this a bad time?"

"Not for me," Alex snapped. "But aren’t you supposed to be preparing to save the universe or something?" He paused. "Oh wait. I forgot. You’re shacking up with my girlfriend. I’m sure that takes up a lot of your time too." Okay. Now where had that come from? Kyle would be proud!

Michael grimaced, moved into the room. "I know I deserve that," he muttered. There was a long pause as they both stared at each other. "Maria didn’t tell you what’s going on then?"

"No," Alex replied, making his tone pleasant. "Was it you who asked her to lie to me? Because she sucks at it."

Michael snorted. "I’m sure. But we couldn’t tell you. Isabel needs to really believe I want to pursue this with her. Or she did anyway. Now I think it was all just a stupid idea."

"So you don’t care about her?" Alex demanded. "And you’re sleeping with her?" His outrage on Izzy’s behalf almost made him forget that she had broken his heart.

"We didn’t have sex," Michael told him, apparently grossed out. Alex scowled even more. "We just slept. We’ve been remembering things from our past life when we’re asleep, so I thought if we shared a bed, we might get more." He shuddered. "She’s like my sister for God’s sake. That’s just wrong!"

"Well, am I going to get an explanation then?" Alex asked. "What the hell is going on? Did you figure anything out?"

Michael sighed, moved forward again and flopped into the chair next to Alex’s bed. "Not really. I did get a glimmering this morning that she’s not really into this - Isabel anyway. When I kissed her," Alex felt ill at that, "We connected." Michael looked right at him for a moment and then away. "She was thinking about you. Isabel I mean. Isabel is fighting what’s happening to her." Alex’s heart skipped a beat. He stared at his friend, who now appeared to be working through something in his own mind before he spoke. He scowled again, wondered if Michael was just using him as a sounding board or if he really did need something. "I think someone’s doing this to us. Actually, I think someone’s doing something to her. My dreams haven’t happened since I’ve been back in physical proximity to Maria. I think I was just getting leaked off images from Isabel because we spent so much time alone together before you guys got here."

"Like through the four square?" Alex asked, intrigued in spite of himself.

"Maybe. It’s hard to say. Maybe the same thing would be happening to Max and Tess if they were here?" Michael shrugged. "I don’t know."

"So you think Isabel was thinking about me when she kissed you?" Alex prodded. "Then what are the dreams about?"

"Someone’s implanting images of when she was Mirana and she can’t get past them," Michael said. "I’m almost positive that’s what’s going on." The way he trailed off prompted Alex’s next question.

"And you think you know who’s doing it?"

"Yeah," Michael replied, glowering. "I think it’s Jemma Stafford. I think she’s using Stonehenge to invade Isabel’s mind. Because none of this happened until we got here."

Alex started. "Why? What does she care if you guys are together?"

"She’s a psycho Illyrian. All she cares about is the cause," Michael told him, accenting the last word sarcastically. "She wants to kill all the cleansed Dernians to get rid of them and she goes around randomly turning humans into aliens. She’s just bananas. I think she would do anything if she thought it would get her back to Illyria. Maybe she thinks that me and Isabel together - that if we want our old lives back - she can guarantee once and for all that it’ll happen? That as long as we’re with humans, our hearts won’t be completely in it?"

From the way Michael said the last, Alex knew that Jemma was not far wrong about that. Isabel in particular had often wanted to forget she was an alien - but all that had changed since she had come to England. And Michael would have been perfectly content to live in Roswell with Maria and Jenny for the rest of his life after his first visit to Illyria. It had been hell for him. Alex knew without a shadow of a doubt that Michael would not be going back if it wasn’t Jennetta’s wish to take the throne.

Alex scratched his head now. "Well, that sounds kind of logical. As much as alien motivations are ever logical," he added. "But she knows how badly we all want to get Liz and the others back. She has to know that we’re going."

There was a long pause. Alex wondered at the frown that had appeared on Michael’s face. "That’s what I came here to talk to you about."

"What?" Alex demanded suspiciously. He wasn’t sure he liked the sound of Michael’s tone. Apparently Michael had a plan. Michael’s plans were never good plans. Michael’s plans usually involved breaking into places, consorting with crazy shapeshifters who stole your emotions or sleeping with other people’s girlfriends. No, they were not good plans.

"I think the key is to get Isabel away from Stonehenge," Michael told him. "I think it’s what’s screwing with her mind."

"But Stonehenge is how we’re going to get to…" Alex trailed off as dawning realization hit him. He stared at Michael. "You don’t want to go, do you? You want to get Izzy away from the portal so that she can’t open it."

Michael didn’t answer, merely raised an eyebrow.

"What is this supposed to accomplish?" Alex asked, feeling extremely weak suddenly. "We’re going to save Isabel by abandoning Liz and the others? Because that’s what we’re doing Michael if we don’t go."

"Maxwell would understand. They’ll all understand," Michael replied. "And we can still go through again six months from now."

"Which in Illyrian time is the equivalent of six millenia!" Alex yelled. "I don’t think Kyle Valenti can handle wearing tights for that long Michael!"

"Alex, Isabel is going crazy!" Michael replied urgently. "We need to get her back in shape. She isn’t going to be any help to us the way she is anyway. We can’t go through that portal divided the way we are. We just can’t. I don’t care how many frigging "changed" humans Jemma Stafford throws at us. We’re not ready."

Alex listened to him, astounded by the certainty he heard in Michael’s voice. For once, he could actually believe that Michael Guerin had been a successful general in his past life. He was not willing to chance the lives of any of his troops until he was completely sure of success.

Without Isabel, there was no chance of success. Michael was right. With Isabel torn in her loyalties, they would fail. With everyone at odds, they would fail.

It was then that Michael said the one thing that made Alex’s heart stop beating. Because he knew that they had all tried to avoid thinking about it. Because none of them would know how to deal with it, if it was true. "Alex, they could all be dead already."

Alex closed his eyes. "Michael…"

"Alex, if they’re dead - if Maxwell and Liz and Kyle and my sister…" he swallowed heavily, "If they’re dead…" There was another long silence. "Can we really risk Izzy?"

Their eyes met and held. "They’re not dead," Alex finally said quietly.

"I know. But we can’t risk Isabel. We’re losing her Alex. We need to bring her back."

Alex took a deep breath. "Okay. Tell me what you want me to do."

************************************************

"Rock," Kyle crowed. "I win again!"

"This game sucks." Tess crossed her arms over her chest and turned her head away, pouting.

"I told you it would be more interesting if we played the strip version," Kyle replied. "It’s not my fault you’re such a prude."

Tess whipped her head around and glared at him. "Kyle! We’re not alone you moron!" She glanced meaningfully towards the door, where an expressionless Dernian continued to stare straight ahead, apparently ignoring their conversation completely.

"I understand. You’re not an exhibitionist. We’ll just wait ‘til we get back to Earth for that version," Kyle told her comfortingly. He grinned when her fist whipped out in spite of herself and she socked him in the shoulder. "Ouch," he said mildly.

Tess scowled and allowed herself to fall back onto the bed. "I am sooooooooo bored," she whined. Their captivity had quickly declined from being scary to just downright annoying. Apparently no one cared what they did as long as they weren’t roaming around the Citadel. Tess was even beginning to wonder if anyone really cared if the Queen was intimate with her bodyguard after all. It was beyond strange that they had locked them up together if they were trying to protect her virtue for Max after all.

She wondered if she was ever going to understand anything on this planet. Not for the first time, she wished that she was back on Earth playing strip rock, paper, scissors with Kyle. At least on Earth she was allowed to be herself. Here she was constantly sitting on pins and needles, worried that she was doing the wrong thing, that she would somehow spoil everything and screw up Max’s mission or Kyle’s life or Jennetta’s claim to the throne. She wondered if this was how she had felt all the time in her other life - as Sabrya. From the way she was treated, she didn’t doubt it. There was no way that Sabrya could have been as stupid as everyone seemed to think she was. After all, Tess wasn’t stupid this time around and weren’t Max, Michael and Isabel all fairly close personality-wise to how Jaxon, Tristandor and Mirana were supposed to have been? Max had basically been Max, even when he thought he was Jaxon, and Michael was developing from a head-strong boy (which Tristandor must have been to completely reject his people’s ideals when joining the Illyrians) into a capable man. And from the little Tess knew about Mirana, she had apparently been slightly haughty but loving as well, just like Isabel.

Tess couldn’t imagine the kind of life poor Sabrya must have lived. She had showed spunk by joining her brother in Illyria, but had then found herself trapped in a marriage to a man who didn’t love her (as more than a sister anyway) and treated like a traitor and a ninny by her new people. It must have sucked.

"What are you thinking about?" Kyle asked now. Tess glanced at the guard again. Kyle seemed entirely comfortable with the shapeshifter’s presence. They had both become used to it in the day or so they had been locked up here, but Tess couldn’t help but wonder if the lack of expression on his face was just his way of hiding that he was taking in everything they were saying. She remembered things Maria had said about Ren, when Jennetta’s bodyguard had been her guard during her time on Illyria. He had always seemed to be merely calmly listening to her when she ranted at him, but, in the end, it had been what he had learned from Maria that had resulted in his saving Jennetta from Tarsus. Who knew what their various guards were saving up to use against them later?

But, then, she really was sick of hiding things from Kyle. And talking about Sabrya was unlikely to result in a make-out session after all. They weren’t both complete horndogs after all, to quote one of Michael’s favorite words. She giggled in spite of herself, then felt a pang when she remembered how much she missed her brother.

"I’m just wondering about everyone else," Tess admitted. "Everything is so screwed up Kyle."

"I know," he said, sighing. "But it’ll get better once Max is back. Then we can sort this whole mess out and go back to Earth."

"But we have to come back here," Tess reminded him. "To make sure Jennetta is secure on her throne."

"Yeah," Kyle agreed. "But things’ll be different. There won’t be any more walls…" He stared at the guard, scowled, then looked back at her, his blue eyes suddenly scalding. "I hate this," he whispered. Tess felt her eyes widen as his hand started to inch across the bed towards her. She could not take her eyes off of it, felt her breath quickening.

Okay, so maybe she was a horndog. Because spending so much time in close quarters with Kyle was beginning to remind her of how much she really, really wanted to be open about how much she loved him. They had only ever kissed one time after all. It was downright ludicrous!

"Kyle!" She murmured urgently. "Don’t!"

Their eyes met for one charged moment and then he turned his head, sighing again. His arm came up to cover his face as he fell back against the pillows on the bed.

"I’m sorry," she whispered, tears filling her eyes. She could almost see him closing himself off from her again.

"It’s not your fault," he said after a long silence. "This just sucks."

"They’re trying to make us break Kyle," she told him. "You know that. They want concrete proof to give to Max when he gets back. That I’m a traitor I mean." She paused. "They must have really hated me before."

Kyle moved his arm, turned his head to look at her. "The Illyrians?"

"I think so," Tess said. "They just don’t respect me. I don’t think they ever did before either."

"It doesn’t matter what they think," he reminded her. "The only people who matter are Isabel and Michael…" He trailed off, what he left unsaid lingering between them.

And Max.

Tess felt a flash of anger. "Are you ever going to get over it?" She demanded, raising her voice. She saw movement out of the corner of her eye, knew that the guard was shifting, maybe to listen more closely. But at this point she didn’t care.

"Over what?" Kyle asked, sounding a bit surprised.

"Over the fact that Liz chose Max over you?" Tess replied hotly. "Because I know that’s what it’s all really about - the way you feel about him. He’s only ever tried to be your friend, but you are just so jealous of him, you can’t even see that, can you?"

Kyle stared at her, didn’t reply. And, so, she continued, "And I understand that your father wasn’t a very good one while he was investigating Max, but how is that Max’s fault? He didn’t ask for the sheriff to do that! He even saved your life! But you act like that was something you wish he hadn’t done, freaking out about how you don’t want to change into an alien and blah, blah, blah!" Tess realized that she was quite losing control of herself, but she couldn’t seem to stop, now that she had started. All of her own uncertainty and insecurities were coming out and so she had apparently decided to list all of Kyle’s to avoid them.

"You’ve screwed with your own mind so much Kyle that you can’t even understand that you might be someone’s first choice. I don’t even get how many times I can try and tell you that I don’t want him, but you don’t ever listen."

"You’ve never told me that," Kyle said, sounding annoyed. "You’ve told me you love me, but you’ve never told me you don’t want him."

"Are you a complete idiot?" Tess shrieked. "I don’t! I do not want Max! The end. Period." She was up on her knees, staring down at him. "I don’t love him!"

Kyle sat up, stared past her at the guard. "Tess…"

"It doesn’t matter if I love him!" She yelled. "I don’t have to love him to be his queen to these morons! Don’t you get it? They don’t understand anything. Even the Illyrians, for all their blather about staying uncleansed, don’t really get what it means to love someone. Milena more than proves that. She says she loves Max and, yet, she constantly betrays him. They’re freaks! I’m not one of them and I don’t want to be." She realized she was panting, took a deep breath. "It’s my human side that loves you Kyle." She looked over at the guard, who was still staring at her without expression. "And I don’t care who knows it anymore." She looked back at Kyle, placed both her hands on either side of his face and looked him right in the eye. "I would even die to prove it."

Kyle’s eyes were bright as he swallowed and murmured, "Tess, why are you doing this?"

"Because if having them throw me in that damn Ring to be judged is the only way to prove that I love you, then I’ll do it," Tess replied. She moved away from him, marched over to the guard and poked him in the chest. He didn’t move. She heard Kyle behind her, obviously coming to stop her, but she ignored him. "Did you hear me buster? Hello? Is anyone in there? I want to be judged. Go tell that old goat Hamor so. The Ring will prove once and for all that Kyle and I belong together. I want it to show you all how stupid and archaic you all are." She glanced back at Kyle. "I mean, really! They managed to conquer space travel but they act like they live in the middle ages. It’s absurd! If they need us at all, it’s to pull them out of their own irony."

Kyle had stopped half-way across the chamber, was just staring at her open-mouthed. "Are you crazy?" He asked finally, a grin starting to break across his face.

"Yes," Tess told him. "I am crazy in love with you and I refuse to hide it anymore."

She realized that Kyle was looking over her head. "He’s gone," he told her.

"I assume so," Tess said, beginning to smile. "I gave them just what they wanted after all."

"They’ll be back soon."

"Yes, they will."

"So, are we going to waste the time until then?" Kyle asked. "I mean, I can’t say that I’m thrilled that I’m about to be thrown to the wolves, but I think it’s pretty much established that it’s going to happen now."

She felt a pang of guilt, but realized that she wasn’t really sorry. Not at all. "Probably." She hurried across the room and threw herself into his waiting arms. "I don’t care anymore."

"What the hell," Kyle said, bringing his lips down and planting a firm kiss on hers. "I don’t care anymore either. If I’m going to die, there’s no one I’d rather do it for."

She pulled away slightly, placed her hands on his cheeks again and made him look her right in the eye again. "We’re not going to die Kyle. This is right. It is what’s meant to be. It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t. I used to believe in destiny, but I don’t anymore. Max says that we make our own, and if mine is to die with you, then the time has come. But I’m going to make it worth it first."

With that, she pulled his lips back to hers and let herself live.

To be continued…




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 18-Aug-2002 4:55:56 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 10:49:35 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Okay, we're back to Max and Liz here. Some of the second section is a little convoluted but it will all be explained in the next part. The major question on most people's minds is likely to be "What the hell is up with Milena?" LOL All in good time people!

BTW - I regret ever naming the young shapeshifter Max met when he first came through the portal with Tess and Kyle Jaxon. It is just EXTREMELY confusing. Just remember that not only was Max Jaxon in his past life, there is a current Jaxon as well. What a stupid thing to have done! LOL So confusing. Sigh.

Part35

Max knew that he had found Liz as he stared up at the cliffs rising out of the early morning mists. Their connection, which had been blocked somehow since Tarsus had thrown him back into the dungeon and had taken Liz, flared back to life suddenly, flowed through him, started his heart pounding in anticipation.

Liz! He called out to her through their link, which he now knew was the result of the official bond that had been created, at some point, by his Aunt Andrina. He still didn’t know when or how, but there could be no denying that the relationship he and Liz shared was special and beyond anything any of their friends knew or felt.

Max did not regret the connection, but it did make it so that, sometimes, it was difficult to even think straight without Liz. As he became aware of her presence in the vicinity, her warmth - her very soul - seemed to wrap itself around him, allowing him to truly feel normal for the first time since they had spent the night together.

He had thought a lot about the bond while they had searched for Liz and Nasedo, had reflected on what it meant and why it was significant. He knew the strange connection he shared with Liz had to be consecrated by someone with royal blood. That much Jaxon, the Dernian shapeshifter, had been able to tell him. But why? Why was it important? What was its purpose? He had a feeling that if he could figure that out, he would know how to stop Tarsus.

Max frowned slightly when he felt a tremor of fear descend his spine. He knew that it had come from Liz and it caused his anger at Tarsus to ignite.

He was not afraid, even though, is some ways, finding them had been almost too easy. It had been more than obvious as the members of the Royal Guard who had accompanied him found clue after clue, that Tarsus wanted to be found. It couldn’t be a good thing, this fact, but by this point Max didn’t care. All he knew was that he wanted Liz safe once and for all and the only way to assure that was to kill Tarsus.

And to kill him, he had to be found, plain and simple.

It had been an easy decision to make, in the end. It did alarm him slightly that he was so looking forward to it, but it didn’t mean he wasn’t going to do it. This had to end sometime and he had known that he was going to have to do it sooner or later in order to secure Jennetta’s throne. He was just sorry that Tarsus had turned it into such a personal thing. The planet would have accepted the shapeshifter’s death far more easily if it had been in honorable battle.

But, again, at this point, Max didn’t really care what the planet was going to think. Which was why he knew, in his heart, that he was no longer meant to rule Illyria. Liz would always come first, before his people, before his duty. He knew he should be ashamed of this, but he wasn’t, which only reinforced that he was right to abdicate.

Jennetta would rule and Max would be glad of it. Because she wanted this - it was what she had been bred for in that pod and she would be lost without the chance. Max’s destiny as King of Illyria had been changed by the crash in 1947 and he didn’t care anymore. He had never wanted to be king and that was all there was to it. He was jut glad that no one on the planet seemed to care whether the succession was direct or not, or so his namesake Jaxon had affirmed on the journey to find Tarsus and Liz. Any child of mixed blood would do, as long as they were off-spring of the Royal Four, and Jennetta fit that criteria. It was the prophecy that was important, that the Chosen One match it and that he or she bring peace and prosperity to Illyria, things Max knew Jenny would do. It was also why Max understood that, in spite of his mother’s determination and ramblings, the planet would never accept his half-brother Ren on the throne. There would be too many who would doubt his claim - particularly as Max would not abdicate in Ren’s favour, in spite of his desire to end his reign. It would be Jennetta or no one.

It wasn’t that Max necessarily had anything against Ren. He wasn’t displeased to discover another sibling persay, but the fact that his brother had been podded, that he had been cleansed, meant that he was not the right person for the job. Max’s mother was just going to have to accept that or she was going to spend the rest of her days in prison. He did not relish having to assure this - she was his mother after all - but if he had to, he would make sure it was so.

But all those concerns would come in the future. For now, there was Tarsus to be dealt with.

"They’re up above," Max told Jaxon quietly. The Dernian was at his elbow, as he had been since he had freed Max from the Citadel’s dungeon. Max had no idea what he had ever done to inspire this young shapeshifter’s loyalty, but he was not going to question it. It was just nice to have someone to depend on.

"I do not think that you should go up there your highness," Jaxon replied firmly. "Tarsus is untrustworthy at best. I do not doubt that he will kill you on sight. Let us go in and retrieve them." He was referring to the Royal Guard, who Max now eyed for a moment, a frown on his face.

"I’m the one he wants," Max finally sighed heavily. "He’ll kill Liz before he releases her to anyone other than me."

"Why?" Jaxon asked, sounding exasperated. "I do not understand what it is about this girl that drives Tarsus to these extremes. I know that he has not been cleansed, but this is ridiculous!"

Max grinned despite himself. "Then you obviously haven’t met Liz. She’s worth it. It’s the one thing I can’t blame Tarsus for actually - the fact that he keeps trying to hold on to her."

Jaxon did not appear to understand, but he replied, "I look forward to meeting her then. But you still aren’t going in there alone," he continued, having nominated himself royal bodyguard.

Max looked at him sharply, an idea forming in his mind, making his heart leap with excitement. He glanced past Jaxon, at the small army they had brought with them, made up of half Illyrian and half Dernian forces. He eyed the Dernians, a grin breaking out across his face. "You’re right. I’m not," he told Jaxon, who looked surprised that, for once, the young king was not going to argue with him. Max lowered his voice. "This is what we’re going to do."

******************************************************

Liz! Can you hear me?

Liz sighed, clutching her hands together. She was trying desperately to shut Max out, hoping to convince him that he was being misled, that she was not here. Maybe he would just go away if he thought that.

She was on her feet, pacing. She didn’t know how to stop Max from walking right into Tarsus’s trap, but she knew that she had to. The shapeshifter’s plan was still unclear in her mind. She knew it involved killing Max and then claiming his life, but she really didn’t understand why he thought she would ever accept this. It was the one reason Tarsus was so difficult to predict. His thinking was never linear and rarely made sense to anyone other than himself. And, yet, he constantly came out on top.

Liz was beginning to understand one aspect of his method though. He constantly used Max and Liz against themselves. He was aware of how desperate they both were to protect each other and he took advantage of it. He had done it numerous times, not the least of which had been when he had forced Max to pretend to hate all his friends and when he had coerced Liz into leaving Earth with him - and he was about to do it again.

She was playing right into his hands by trying to keep Max away. The thought hit her so abruptly, she stopped pacing and stared at the shapeshifter, who was standing near the entrance to the cave, an almost gleeful expression on his stolen face.

Liz pressed her lips together and decided, for the first time in a long while, that she was just going to trust that Max knew what he was doing. Because didn’t he usually?

Well, most of the time anyway.

Max! I’m here!

As she opened herself to him, she felt his relief flood through her, bringing a smile to her face despite their present circumstances.

Are you okay? He demanded, slightly abrupt, as though he hadn’t expected her be able to respond to him this way.

The whole mental conversation thing was a little strange she admitted to herself. It was the first time she and Max had ever done anything like it. She knew that their bond had only been strengthened by making love, but she hadn’t imagined that it would ever achieve this level. It didn’t frighten her, but it did remind her how much she stood to lose if anything happened to Max. He was so much a part of her now. She knew that she would not be able to go on without him.

And, yet, the pact they had made before they had made love came back to her full force as she considered shutting him out again. They had promised that they would stop making the mistake of trying to protect each other at the expense of their own happiness. She couldn’t be happy without him - she had just admitted it to herself. Pushing him away was an inherently stupid idea and she wasn’t going to do it anymore.

I’m fine! She replied, finding the connection easier to reach each time she tried. But I don’t like you being here. She had to be honest with him. Tarsus has something up his sleeve. Max, he can get back to Earth without the main portal.

There was a long pause as Max seemed to digest this and then, It doesn’t matter.

She frowned slightly. He sounded confident. It worried her. Max! What are you doing?

I’m thinking ahead for once and it’s damn frustrating, Max admitted. How does he do it? Is that what he’s planning? To take you back to Earth?

He’s planning to take over your life, Liz replied. He looks like you Max. It’s why I went with him in the first place.

Ah… Max sounded amused. We’ve never been very successful with more than one of me running around, have we?

Max! This isn’t funny!

I never said it was. But this time we have the upper hand Liz. Don’t worry. There was another pause, and then, How does he plan to open the portal? Because that is what he’s going to do, isn’t it? Do you know?

He has a couple of orbs holding my grandmother’s essence and your father’s. He can use them to open it.

There was another long pause. Liz could almost hear Max conferring with someone. So that’s it. Liz, I need you to get your hands on those orbs. Can you do that?

I think so… Liz looked at Tarsus. He had both orbs in his hands. She wrinkled her nose.

Now, just listen to me, Max continued. I’m coming up there. Make sure that he doesn’t open the portal until I get there. Oh, and you might not like all I have to say to Tarsus, but please just trust me. Can you do that?

Of course, Liz told him firmly. I will always trust you.

Okay then. Get those orbs and I’ll see you in a few minutes. I love you Liz.

I love you too. But she knew he was already gone. She felt the connection flicker out, making her shiver. She reflected ruefully that the only time she was at all warm on this planet was when she was with Max, in some way or another. She couldn’t wait to see him again, in spite of the danger in which they found themselves.

She realized that Tarsus was staring at her. "Finished?"

"What?" Liz asked, looking away guiltily.

"Has he finished telling you what he is planning?" Tarsus asked pleasantly. "It doesn’ t matter you know. There is nothing he can do that I haven’t thought of."

He was moving towards her. Liz eyed the orbs in his hands. "What are you doing with those?" She demanded, pressing her lips together, trying to pretend that they frightened her. "I have no intention of going back to Earth with you."

"We’ll see." Tarsus/ Nasedo smiled at her in the wolfish manner he always employed when he was wearing Max’s face. It was so unMaxlike, it only reinforced that he was a fool to think that she would ever accept him should Max die.

"Can I see one?" Liz asked abruptly.

"What?" Nasedo asked, looking at her suspiciously.

"I just want to see one of the orbs." Liz moved towards him, reaching her hands up and placing them on the oval-shaped stones in his hands. "Let me see them."

He eyed her for a moment, seemed about to pull them away from her when they were both distracted.

"Tarsus."

The sound of Max’s voice coming from behind her made Liz jump. She frowned slightly. Why hadn’t she felt him closing in on them? She didn’t turn immediately though. Liz took advantage of Nasedo’s distraction and took the orbs away from him. She balanced them in her hands, behind her back.

Liz finally allowed herself to look at Max. She was surprised when she didn’t meet his eyes. He wasn’t even looking at her, but past her, at Nasedo, his face expressionless. Liz reached out through their connection to assure herself that he knew what he was doing, but he was closed off from her. Was this what he had meant when he had warned her that she might not like what he was going to do?

She didn’t. It felt wrong to not be able to access their bond. She shivered.

Nasedo’s eyes were narrowed. "Hello Jaxon. I am glad you made our little rendezvous."

Liz stared at Max as he seemed to flinch slightly. He quickly regained his composure though. "It’s well past time to end this once and for all," he replied mildly.

"Really? I’m glad you think so," Nasedo said. Liz scowled at him as he grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her against his side. She almost dropped the orbs. He didn’t seem to notice that she still had them.

Max, meanwhile, did not react, merely smiled slightly. "So you do want her?" He asked, sounding pleased.

"Yes. I finally understand what you see in her. She is marvelously entertaining."

"So the price for you to leave my planet in peace is Liz then?" Max asked, his eyes narrowing. Liz did not like the tone of his voice. He sounded actually amenable to the idea. She knew it was all a farce and, yet, the expression on his face… "Very well." Liz blinked. Did Max just agree to give her up?

"Well, and your life," Nasedo told him, his voice suddenly cold.

"Hmmmm," Max snorted. "I think not."

"I don’t think you have much to say about it Jaxon. Your powers are underdeveloped and weak in comparison to my own. If I choose to kill you, I will do it."

"That may be," Max allowed. "But I think your powers may be slightly weakened before you kill the real me."

And with that, suddenly the cave was full of Maxes. Liz looked around in amazement. They were melting out of the walls and a few were coming up behind her boyfriend, all deadly serious.

She couldn’t help it. She started to laugh.

She heard Tarsus snort with disbelief. "So you turned them all then."

"Indeed," the first Max said. "It’s very handy to have a full fortress of shapeshifters at your disposal."

"It doesn’t matter Jaxon. I’ll just kill you all." But Liz could tell from the tone of Nasedo’s voice that he knew that there was no way he could win this battle. There were far too many of them. They would shoot him down long before he could even figure out which was the real Max.

Liz thought she knew. There was one standing close behind the Max addressing Nasedo who was trying a little too hard not to look at her. That had to be Max. He would do his best not to bring attention to himself by staring at her like he always did in her presence. Because when they were together, they never could quite keep their eyes off each other after all.

"So, we’re at an impasse then." Nasedo was trying to modify his voice, but Liz could hear a tiny note of panic beginning to take over.

"It would seem so," the original Max agreed. "But I am willing to let you leave."

"You are?" Nasedo eyed him quizzically. "Why?"

"I’m not a killer."

"You know I’ll just come back. This is a very silly route to take Jaxon."

"Maybe so, but it’s the one I choose." The faces of all the Maxes remained expressionless, seemingly in agreement.

"And you are willing to allow me to take Liz with me?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"I like being king," Max replied. "My people will not accept her. I know that now. I’ll just go back to Sabrya. It will be easier in the long run."

Liz knew he was lying - knew that this wasn’t really happening - and, yet, it still hurt. She instantly reprimanded herself though. She didn’t quite understand what the plan entailed, but she knew that Max had to have a good reason for allowing it to be said.

Nasedo didn’t seem convinced either. "This makes very little sense Jaxon."

"I don’t care if you think so or not," Max told him. "It is the truth. And you know that I don’t lie."

"Very well then." Nasedo looked back at her. "Are you ready to go my sweet? I’m expecting you won’t want to stay where you’re not wanted. I told you that soon enough I’d be the only one for you."

Liz tried not to look over at the Max she thought was the real Max, but she couldn’t help herself. He was watching her steadily. She wondered why he didn’t connect with her, didn’t tell her what he wanted her to do. He had to have wanted the orbs for a reason.

Her heart was thundering in her chest as she moved closer to Nasedo. "Which one do you need?" She asked. He took the orb that he wanted and closed his eyes, started to power it up.

Liz could feel tears pricking her eyes, which was probably a good thing, because although Nasedo wasn’t paying any attention to her, pretending she was upset had to be helpful to Max. Even though she wasn’t really pretending. She trusted Max, but he hadn’t been kidding when he had said she wasn’t going to like this plan. She looked over at the original Max and asked, "How can you do this to me?"

His face remained expressionless and he didn’t answer.

It was only then, when Tarsus was distracted, that Max’s voice entered her thoughts.

Liz, you don’t really believe any of this, do you? Max sounded slightly amused that even after everything they had been through together she would doubt him. He also sounded a little hurt. Liz felt instant contrition.

Of course not, she told him firmly. She glanced around carefully, hoping to meet the real Max’s eyes. They all looked identically bored though.

I’m a little offended you can’t tell which one’s me, Max teased.

I’ll make it up to you, Liz said. Now stop being so smug and tell me what to do.

He did. Liz felt her eyes widening. And you think this will work?

I know it, Max replied. I remember a lot about what I knew when I was Jaxon. He knew how the portal worked and so do I because of it. Tarsus’s portal is a false one, but this should work.

But I don’t know if I can do it Max… Liz trailed off uncertainly.

You can, Max said. Liz, I know it. It’s part of the bond. It has to be. There’s no other point to it even existing. It’s the only explanation for why Nasedo can even open the portal now, captured essences or not. It’s the connection that he created with your grandmother that lets him do it. I just know it

Okay, Liz replied. I’ll try.

The orb she still held was heavy in her hands. Liz brought it out before her, stared down at it, her heart beating irregularly.

Max wanted her to use it. He thought that she could open a portal if she tried, even though all they had ever known about the portals said that he and Isabel - the Blue Prince and the White Lady - were the only ones who could do it. But Max seemed certain that he was right.

She glanced at Nasedo, could see that the orb in his hands was starting to glow. It was almost time.

Liz closed her eyes, concentrated on the weight she held. She had no idea how to even go about doing anything. She just willed it to start somehow.

And, then, amazingly, it did. She felt it heating up against her palms. She didn’t dare open her eyes, worried that if she lost her concentration, she would lose control of the orb.

Good job! You’re doing it Liz! Just one more second. Max’s calm voice was reassuring in her mind, making her heart slow down. It’s almost time sweetheart. I’ll tell you when.

Liz focused all her attention on the orb, tried not to think about the fact that Nasedo might open his eyes at any moment, might see what she was doing. But he seemed to be finding it necessary to concentrate just as hard as she was. It wasn’t their natural gift to be able to do this after all.

Almost Liz… She could feel Max’s excitement running through her own veins. Just another second…Okay…NOW!

Liz’s eyes snapped open and she watched in astonishment as the orb in Nasedo’s hands lifted into the air, sending a stream of light hurtling towards the ceiling of the cave. It was as red as blood. The orb that still sat in Liz’s hands was beginning to rattle, as though attempting to do the same.

Nasedo’s eyes snapped open just in time to meet hers as Liz got ready to throw her orb directly at the portal that had been created by the shapeshifter. She saw the instant knowledge of what she was about to do cross his face and then, resignation.

For one exhilarating moment Liz was sure that they had really won. Even Nasedo knew it. She brought her arm back, felt like everything was moving in slow motion.

It was only then that she realized that panic was running through her body…and it was coming from Max.

"Liz! Stop! Don’t do it!"

She whipped her head around in astonishment, towards the sound of his voice. It was definitely the real Max yelling. She had been right. He was the one standing directly behind the original spokesman. She followed his gaze and realized what had freaked him out.

Milena Falconer - Max’s mother - had melted out of the wall of the cave and was standing directly behind Nasedo.

Liz watched in disbelief as Milena reached out and pushed the shapeshifter as hard as she could. Nasedo stumbled, still apparently in shock from the realization that Max had actually almost bested him. He fell into the column of light and instantly disappeared.

Milena looked right at Max and said, "Forgive me my son." And, then, she stepped into the portal as well and was gone.

To be continued…



posted on 14-Sep-2002 3:49:31 PM by Kath7
Author's note: I can't believe there are still people patiently waiting for this story. Thanks so much guys. I'll have you know that it is actually on the downward slope now. Probably about ten or fifteen parts left. My goal is to have it complete by Christmas.

Part 36

Never could understand it,
Why something so strong,
As hard as you try to hold it
Can turn out so wrong.
Lying here beside you,
I’m down on my knees…

Deliver me,
Deliver me,
I’m losing ground,
You’re the only one,
Can’t you see?
Deliver me,
‘Cause I hear the sound of your voice
And I feel whole again babe.
Please deliver me from the words we should have said,
Deliver me from the shadows in my head.
Baby please, deliver me…

I hear the sound of your voice and I know you’ll deliver me…

Roch Voisine


Isabel opened her eyes to darkness. She felt her heart start to beat nervously as she attempted to move her hands to rub her eyes and she found that she couldn’t. Where the hell was she? What had happened? The last thing she remembered was talking to Michael after he had returned from his strategy session with Jemma.

Her husband had approached her in the room they now shared. She had been relieved to see him. Whenever he left her alone she found herself thinking of Alex, found herself tempted to at least poke her head into his room to see how he was doing. But she knew if she did that, she would only hurt him more. She had to stay away from him until he had time to accept the new reality of their situation. She really didn’t think it would take very long. He had never pressured her for any sort of major commitment after all. After Jennetta stopped mourning Ren, maybe she and Alex would find each other again. They had bonded instantly, those two, unlike she and Alex, who had circled each other tentatively for months.

Isabel had been in her room, trying to fall asleep, knowing that it was going to take all of her strength to open the portal long enough for their small army to use it. But Alex simply would not leave her alone, his face invading her thoughts, his expression accusing, but his dark eyes merely sad. Because, in spite of all of her attempts to dissuade herself, she knew that Alex loved her. And knowing it made her feel guilty. Mainly because she loved him too.

But she knew that she couldn’t avoid the truth any longer. She and Michael were meant to be together. If that wasn’t the case, then why had all of her memories of their life together come back? She was destined for him. They had bonded, which meant a connection across life-times that could not be broken. She refused to fight it anymore. It was just too hard.

And seeing him when he had come to her had only reinforced it. Her heart had started to beat more quickly and her soul had called out to his, merely by being in his presence. Tristandor.

"Why aren’t you asleep?" He demanded gruffly, sitting beside her on the bed and reaching out to take her hand. "You need your rest Iz."

Hearing him call her Iz was painful. It had reminded her of Max and of the fact that this man sitting next to her had been like a brother to her for many years. It was difficult for her brain to accept Michael as her mate. But her soul recognized Tris and refused to allow her brain to win. "I’m trying," she sighed heavily. "I just can’t make my mind shut down."

His eyes had been averted from hers as he lightly stroked the back of her hand. "Let me help?" He asked gently.

"How?" She asked, curious. "Having you near is making me even more jumpy," she admitted. It was true after all. Her blood was running more quickly through her veins, her heart aware of the proximity of her soulmate. Was this what it was like for Max and Liz all the time? Because, if so, it was absolutely exhausting. To never be able to shut down the connection, for even a little time…It was the one thing she found the most difficult about their newly reborn bond.

Isabel was someone who liked her privacy on occasion, something Alex had always respected, one of the reasons she had liked him so much. But, with Michael, it was as though there was no escape from him, even when they weren’t together. If it had been Alex sitting beside her, she could have curled up in his arms and drifted off, secure and safe that he would be there when she woke up, ready to talk if she wanted to.

With Michael, all she wanted was to tear off his clothes and have her way with him - something that was not inherently her. It wasn’t that she hadn’t felt that way about Alex on occasion - she certainly had - but, rather, that she missed the quiet moments most of all - moments that were about the fact that he was not just her boyfriend, but also her best friend. She was comfortable with Alex, attracted to him, yes, but also able to just talk to him, something that didn’t appear to be the case with Michael - which in fact had never been the case. Even when they had merely shared a feeling of sibling kinship, they had argued more often than they had discussed things rationally.

"We’ve been told that we all share a bit of each other’s gifts," Michael reminded her. "Why don’t I use your ability to put you to sleep?"

Isabel had frowned, trying to meet his eyes. He was acting strangely evasive. He had been so careful about meeting her eyes lately, trying to assure her that he didn’t regret abandoning Maria to try this with her, that the fact that he was avoiding her gaze now seemed a little odd.

It struck her abruptly that she didn’t entirely trust Michael’s sudden conversion. She had known how he felt about Maria and Jenny after all. That he had decided to thrust them aside, after denying that he would ever do it for so long, now struck her as a bit odd.

"Don’t you trust me?" Michael asked. He was looking at her now, his expression guarded. "You’ve always let Whitman help you go to sleep."

Well, he certainly played dirty. Now if she refused to allow him to put her to sleep, she would be admitting that she didn’t entirely trust him as much as she did Alex. But, then, Alex had never used alien powers to help her relax. No, just being with him had been enough…

Isabel determinedly pushed Alex from her mind. "Of course I trust you," she snapped. "I just don’t know if you’ll be able to do it Michael. It’s not that easy walking around in someone’s mind you know."

"And you remember how I used to blow everything up?" Michael replied, suddenly sounding amused. "Iz, I’ve improved a lot since then. I’m not going to suck your brains out or anything."

"I know," Isabel replied. She took a deep breath. "Okay, go for it."

[It’s not going to work. Michael will never have enough control…

It was her last thought before she lost consciousness.

And now she was awake again, bound and blindfolded. What on Earth had happened?

Isabel took deep breaths, forcing herself to calm down. She needed to try and get her bearings, needed to try and figure out where she was and how this had happened.

Once she focused, she realized almost instantly that she was in a car. She could hear the hum of the engine and the sound of wind whipping by, one of the vehicle’s windows obviously cracked open.

Next she tried to determine how many people were in the car with her. She was apparently the only one in the back seat. Her cheek was pressed firmly against a plush seat and she was curled up, her head lightly touching one side of the car, her feet the other door. That meant likely no more than two people, the driver and potentially someone else in the passenger seat.

She reached out, attempting to use her mind control to probe the driver’s mind. She didn’t have an image of him or her in her mind of course, which was going to make this extremely difficult. But Michael wasn’t the only one who had gained extraordinary control over his powers over the past couple of years. She found dreamwalking fairly easy when people were awake these days too. Her success with Pierce all those years ago, right after they had rescued Max from the White Room, had given her confidence that she could enter any mind at any time if her will was strong enough. It usually helped to know who the other person was, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Isabel expected it to be hard anyway, her captor probably aware of her capabilities and likely attempting to block her, particularly if he was alien. But it was surprisingly simple. Almost as if her enemy wanted her to find a way in. Because, the instant she focused, she jerked with shock. She knew this person.

"Alex!"

There was a long moment of silence. Still connected to him, Isabel could feel the tremor of fear that ran through her friend. He was obviously aware that she was going to be extremely pissed off at him. She actually heard him consider not answering her, letting her wonder for a while longer.

"Alex Charles Whitman, don’t even bother!" Isabel said, trying to make her tone as cold as possible. "I know it’s you."

Alex sighed. "Isabel, can you please get out of my mind?"

"Not until you tell me what the hell you’re thinking," Isabel replied. She could feel Alex trying to throw her out of his head, but since part of him wanted her to know what was going on, he was finding it harder than he expected.

And an instant later she knew exactly what was happening because, in a way, she was reading his mind. "Michael helped you to do this?"

"Yes," Alex said, resigned. "It was the only thing we could think of."

"You think that if you get me away from him, than I’ll snap out of it?" She wondered why she was so shocked that Michael had betrayed her. She had started to doubt if his intentions towards her were real after all.

"We only want to help you Izzy," Alex’s tone was pleading. "You have to believe it. You don’t love Michael. You’ve never loved Michael - not in the way you’ve been pretending to I mean."

"You don’t know anything about my heart!" Isabel exclaimed. "Alex, stop this car. Where are we even going? We’re going to miss the chance to open the portal!" But, from her little visit to his mind, she already knew that it was exactly what Michael and Alex intended. They didn’t want her to open the gate to Illyria.

They wanted her to abandon her brother and their friends. Which could only mean one thing.

"Who’s controlling you?" Isabel whispered. "Alex, someone has to be. The last thing you’d ever want to do is leave Liz on Illyria."

"No one’s controlling me Isabel," Alex replied quietly. "It’s you they’re controlling and it’s why Michael and I decided the only way to stop it is to get you away from Stonehenge."

Her blood ran cold. "Where are we going?" She repeated. "Alex, tell me."

"We’re going to Scotland," Alex said, amenable enough. "We’re getting as far away from that damn stone circle as we can without leaving this island."

"Oh my God." Isabel didn’t say anything else for a long moment. She realized that she was no longer angry, just absolutely shocked. Michael and Alex were so sure that her mind was not her own that they were willing to leave their friends on Illyria, alone and threatened.

And, suddenly, she knew that they were absolutely right. Because as the car moved away from the site of the portal, the less her heart took every beat for Tristandor.

In fact, she couldn’t even recall what she had loved about him in the first place. She still remembered their life together, but it didn’t warm her blood, didn’t make her soul sing as it had only hours before. It was all a pleasant memory, but nothing more.

"Alex, how far have we gone?" Isabel demanded into the silence that had sprung up again as Alex waited for her to process what he and Michael had figured out.

"We’re about a hundred miles away," Alex told her. "You’ve been out of it for about two or three hours." There was another pause. "I’m really sorry Isabel. You know that neither Michael or I would ever do anything like this if we didn’t think it was for your own good."

The fact that what they had done had placed Max and Liz and Kyle and Tess’s lives on the line only reinforced the fact that she believed him. "I know," she whispered. "Alex, please. Stop the car. I swear I won’t do anything. I just want you to untie me."

"Isabel…"

"Alex, I swear. I swear it on Max’s life." She could feel tears leaking out from her eyes, wetting the blindfold that covered them. "I want to figure this out. We have to go to Illyria tonight. I can’t leave my brother there alone. I just can’t." She could feel him wavering, could feel the car slowing. "You’re right Alex. Whatever was happening to me…It’s gone."

And it was. Completely. All she knew for certain was that, in spite of all of her memories, she did not love Michael as more than a brother. It was Alex she loved and she couldn’t understand how she had ever even doubted it.

Alex seemed convinced because he said, "Okay. I can’t just pull off the motorway though. It’s too dangerous. We’ll stop in the next town."

She waited impatiently, managing to finagle herself up into a seated position. Who had been controlling her and why? The more she tried to figure it out, the more frustrated she became, tapping her toe against the floor of the car, every mile Alex drove taking her further away from Stonehenge and the chance to save Max and the others.

"Alex? Do you guys have any idea who’s doing it?" Isabel asked. "How did you figure this out?"

"It wasn’t really me," Alex admitted. "I was having a little trouble seeing past…well, what was going on." Isabel felt a flash of guilt at the pain in his voice.

"Alex, I’m so sorry. None of this was ever about how I feel about you. You do know that?" She willed him to know it, her mind still slightly muddled by the sudden clarity of her feelings. How could she have not known that she was being controlled? But, then, she realized that she had not been in complete control of her own mind for a long time now - really not since she had tried contacting her mother months ago with the communicator orb they had found in the alien compound under the desert near Roswell.

It had been that attempt that had started the nightmares about everyone she loved dying, her memories of the deaths of Jaxon and Sabrya and Tristandor mixing with those of what she had thought were premonitions - Alex dying in her arms, Max and Liz perishing as well, together, in death as in life, puddles of their own blood seeping out from under them.

She had not had a single nightmare since she had arrived in England she realized abruptly, had not had a single bad dream of that type since she had started to remember her life with Tristandor. Was there some sort of connection there?

As her brain puzzled over where all those feelings for Michael had gone, she realized that Alex had not answered her question. "Alex? You do know that I love you?"

He was still silent. She could hear gravel crunching under the tires as the car slowed down, finally coming to a stop. She heard a door open and slam shut and then the door against which she was leaning was opening and she had to sit up straight or tumble out. Isabel felt Alex gently reaching behind her head, untying the blindfold.

She blinked, the sudden light making her see double for a moment. She could see that it was nearing dusk. Looking out over the rolling hills behind where Alex had pulled off the road, she could see the sun setting, it’s rays practically blinding.

Alex had pulled her to her feet beside him and was untying her hands now. "Sorry about the ropes," he said. "Michael just didn’t want you waking up and accidentally blasting me before you understood what was going on."

Isabel felt her heart enter her throat at the thought of what she might have done to Alex in her own panic. It had not been unlikely that she would have fried him. She had been completely out of control of her own actions for a long time. She had never been someone who acted without thinking, unlike Michael. How their roles had switched! Now her almost brother was the one who planned carefully, thinking of every eventuality, while she went with whatever emotion was currently the strongest.

"Alex, I don’t understand what’s happened to me," Isabel whispered, feeling tears fill her eyes. "All I know is that if I go back there, I might lose myself again. But we have to. I cannot leave them all alone on that planet Alex. I just can’t."

I need my brother. Her heart was aching for Max, for his level-head and ability to see beyond the obvious - well, except for when it came to Liz of course, she amended wryly. She realized that, in the end, she wanted both Max and Liz. They had become so integrated together in her psyche, Liz having helped her get through the long stretch when Max had been lost to them on Illyria, she could barely consider going to one without the other being present.

She could not desert them.

"Well, I guess we better try and get to the bottom of this," Alex replied calmly. He extended his hand, which she took gratefully. "And to do that we need to talk about how this started and exactly when. Because until we do that, we’ll never be able to figure out who’s controlling you."

Isabel felt her heart fill with gratitude. Alex! How she had missed him. She took his hand and they started to walk. Isabel realized that they were walking towards a small stone circle. She halted abruptly. "What are we doing here?"

"I saw the sign for it," Alex explained carefully. "I thought it might help. It’s probably better than a town. We’re all alone out here."

"Alex, you and Michael think it’s Stonehenge that’s doing this to me!" Isabel exclaimed. "How can another stone circle help?"

"You’ve used lay lines before to access the parts of your mind you can’t tap into normally," Alex replied. "It seems logical it might work again." He paused. "And Michael doesn’t think it’s Stonehenge doing it. He thinks it’s Jemma Stafford, using it somehow."

Isabel frowned. "Jemma?" She shook her head. "But it started long before Jemma." She bit her lip. "Alex, I think it might have started with those nightmares. That’s when I stopped being able to think for myself."

"You never did reach your mother that time Izzy."

And, it was only then, that she understood what Alex intended. She stared at the stone circle, illuminated in the dying light, looking so lovely, it made tears fill her eyes. "You want me to talk to my mother."

"Don’t you think she’d be able to help?"

Isabel swallowed, suddenly afraid. It made perfect sense and, yet, she was unsure. While talking to her real mother had always been soothing and had sent her on the right path, this time it seemed wrong somehow. But, she remembered the last time she had spoken to Milena, when her mother had allowed her to see that Liz still lived, that she should have believed her brother.

How could contacting Milena be wrong?

Isabel took a deep breath. "Okay." She smiled weakly at Alex. "I’ll try."

Because, in the end, Isabel Evans decided, she would do absolutely anything to get her life back.

To be continued…




posted on 17-Sep-2002 12:53:12 AM by Kath7
Author's Part: Short and sort of transitional, but I'm on a roll now folks! Let's see if it continues. Thanks to Cookie for betaing this. I wasn't too sure...Hmmmm.

Part 37

Max closed his eyes in disbelief as the portal closed behind his mother and Nasedo, foiling his plan to deal with the evil shapeshifter once again.

How? How did something always happen at the last minute to save him? What lucky star was Nasedo - or Tarsus or River Dog or Laren or whatever the hell he was calling himself this week - living under that he always managed to be reprieved right before he met his just desserts? It just wasn’t fair!

"Max?"

He forced himself to smile weakly at Liz, opening his arms and sighing when she melted against him. He lowered his head, burying his face in her silky hair and breathing deeply, his heart starting to pound with something approaching relief.

At least Liz was safe. At least there was that. And, in the end, it was really all that mattered.

"We were so close Liz. So close." He couldn’t help it. He felt like crying. It was just so damn frustrating!

"I’m sorry Max. I’m so sorry." Liz stroked his back soothingly. "But you had to let him go. You couldn’t kill your own mother."

Max briefly wondered why not. After all, hadn’t she proved to be the biggest betrayer of all? She had cheated on his father with Nasedo and had birthed Ren. All of her actions since had been designed to somehow see her love child on his throne. And Max doubted that Ren was even aware of any of it. Why couldn’t Max just have killed her and been done with it? Because, in the end, didn’t she deserve it as much as Nasedo did?

"Because you’re not like that," Liz whispered. He stiffened, instantly embarrassed that she had so easily picked up on his shameful thoughts. But Liz pulled back, looked him straight in the eye and said firmly, "You don’t ever have to be ashamed of anything with me Max. Nothing you ever think could make me love you any less. You are a hero. Don’t ever forget that." She had tears in her eyes now too. "My hero." She brought her hands up and wound them through his hair, pulling his face close to hers. Any thoughts Max was still contemplating about Nasedo instantly flew from his mind as all he became aware of was the fact that Liz was in his arms and was staring at him in a way that was making his blood boil.

"Thank God you’re safe. Thank you God," he murmured, just before their lips crashed together in a kiss so fierce, his knees weakened.

The connection that sprang to life between them instantly only intensified the moment. He could hear his name winding its way through her brain. Max. Max. Max! It was her only coherent thought. Her love for him was enough to reinvigorate him.

This wasn’t over. They would still win in the end. Together they could do anything.

After what seemed like far too little time, Max became aware of someone clearing their throat behind him. He managed to stop kissing Liz long enough to turn his head slightly. He reddened when he realized that a dozen Dernians were staring at them, their faces perfectly expressionless, as usual.

"Excuse us your highness," Jaxon said, having been the one who had been assigned the uncomfortable task of interrupting them. "But we really must return to the Citadel."

"Of course," Max replied. Liz’s face was presently buried against his chest. He could feel her embarrassment running through his own veins. It’s okay, he told her cheerfully through their mental connection. They already think I’m half crazy. This will only reinforce it.

Liz snorted slightly, still not looking up. He could feel her giggling against him. What’s so funny?

You’re worried about them thinking we’re crazy? Liz demanded. They’re the ones who’ve been cleansed!

Max cleared his throat, gave her a stern look. Liz, this is serious!

I know, but c’mon! It’s funny!

He could feel his lips starting to quirk. Liz!

I am so sorry your highness. She straightened her face, but then smiled winningly when he glared at her, trying desperately not to start laughing. That would really upset the Dernians. After all, they had technically lost here.

But Liz’s giddiness at their reunion was contagious. When Max caught the perplexed look on Jaxon’s face, it nearly sent him over the edge. He pressed his lips together and forced himself to focus on the shapeshifter.

He couldn’t resist one parting shot though. Wait until I get you alone.

I can hardly wait.

Bloody hell. Why did she always get the last word? And why was it always guaranteed to make him want to ravish her instantly?

When he looked at her, she was still smiling innocently. In fact, she wasn’t even looking at him. She moved towards Jaxon, her hand extended. "Hi! I’m Liz."

Jaxon stared at her blankly. Max barely managed to keep a straight face when the young shapeshifter fell to his knees in front of Liz, making her jump. "I am honoured your highness."

Liz looked over her shoulder at Max. I thought you said he’d been cleansed! He seems a little chipper.

They obsess, remember? Apparently he’s obsessed with me! Since he knows how much I care about you, it’s rubbing off.

Liz’s eyes glinted evilly. Well, that makes two of us obsessed with you then.

Max swallowed, hard. "We better get back," he managed to croak, visions of what he was going to do to Liz when they got back, making his mood lighten even more.

So Nasedo and his mother were gone. They were on Earth now - Max’s turf. He still didn’t know where Milena had come from or why she had done what she had, but, in the end, taking the fight back to Earth might be the best thing after all. At least this way Isabel and Michael could help he and Tess. Because, the more time Max spent on Illyria, the longer he stayed here, the more his memories of his first life were coming back, reminding him that not only was he strong because of his bond with Liz, he was also strong because he had friends he could depend on. The Four Square had been designed as a fighting instrument after all. Why they had never used it that way, Max couldn’t quite figure out.

As Max helped Liz into the transport that was driven by the Illyrian Guard, he reflected further on the memories he had managed to recover. They had come back in a steady stream since he and Liz had made love, as though that final bonding had healed his soul in a way that opened him to them.

"What are you thinking about?" Liz asked, picking up his hand and tracing the veins on the back of it, sending shivers running through his body.

"I was thinking about how lucky I am to have you," Max admitted, lifting their joined hands to his lips so that he could kiss her palm. "You’ve given me my life back Liz."

Liz turned to meet his eyes, curious. "How did you know that combining the two portals would destroy whoever used them?" She asked. Because, it was what he had hoped to accomplish by having Liz open the second portal at the same time that Nasedo had been accessing the first. "And how did you know that I could do it?"

"I remember," Max said quietly, wondering what Liz would make of this fact. "I was absolutely obsessed with opening that portal in my first life. All I did was research it because all I wanted was to get to Earth and I remember it all. I knew everything there was to know about it, but I could never get it to work. Not until I found a reason to make it work." He smiled at her, leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose. "You. Finding you was the reason I wanted to go to Earth, but until I found you, it was impossible for me to use my gifts to get there."

Liz frowned. "I don’t understand."

"You could open the portal because of our bond Liz," Max explained. "It’s why a royal blessing is required to make it official. If either Iz or I bond with someone, the person we do it with gains the power to hold the fate of two worlds in their hands. It’s a dangerous thing. But there’s another reason why the bonding is so closely linked to the portal. I don’t think I would have been able to open it if I didn’t love you first. Because I wouldn’t use it for evil - not with you at stake. Loving someone makes us better, makes us think of someone else before ourselves. Really, the only reason I can open the portal at all is because of you. And the royal blessing on the bond is the guarantee that the person who is being bonded to either the Blue Prince or the White Lady is worthy of the gift as well."

Liz shook her head. "Then how can Nasedo open it? Because he’s certainly not worthy and I’m sure from my grandmother’s journal that your father never gave his blessing for their bond."

"The blessing is a formality I think," Max shrugged. "Your grandmother chose Laren. It was enough to give him the gift. It was why she was able to come to Earth in the first place - because she loved him. The bad side of the bond is that the person the royal chooses to bond with doesn’t have to be worthy to use the power." He felt a flash of anger. "Which Nasedo certainly isn’t. And then, in the end, he betrayed my father and harnessed the gift unnaturally anyway."

"Max, you do know what this means?" Liz said, shaking her head. "Your mother has the power to open the portal too. Because of your father. He loved her, even if she didn’t love him."

"I know it," Max replied grimly. "She could have come for Izzy and I at any time. It only shows how determined she was to place Ren on the throne. She didn’t want us back." Or at least not me… He wondered why it could even still hurt. He didn’t care about Milena. Why should he? He barely knew her and Diane Evans had always been all the mother he would ever need.

But now that he remembered her the first time around…He remembered the laughing and loving mother she had been when he had lived before. And, in spite of it all, she had made sure that he was reborn, had not wanted him dead.

"Ren?" Liz asked, jolting him out of his thoughts. "Why?"

Max started. "Oh right, I forgot you don’t even know about that." He sighed. "We have a lot of catching up to do Liz. Good thing I’m going to make sure you don’t leave my sight for the next two hundred years."

Liz smiled. "That sounds nice. But don’t change the subject. Why does your mother want Ren on the throne?"

"Because he’s my brother," Max explained. Liz’s eyes widened in shock. He held up his hand when she opened her mouth for more questions. "Hold on. That communicator orb up there is blinking."

Max hit the spot on the seat that allowed the barrier between he and the driver to lower. "What is it?"

"It is General Hamor," Jaxon, seated in the passenger seat, replied. "He’s calling to get approval for a judgment in the Ring."

Max stiffened instinctively. "A judgment? Of who?"

Jaxon’s gaze shifted briefly to Liz before he responded, "Of your wife. Queen Sabrya has been caught committing adultery with her bodyguard."

Max felt his mouth fall open. Well, the only good bit of news in this was that apparently Kyle and Tess had managed to work out their differences. But the rest of it…it was bad. Very bad.

It made Max’s decision about what to do that much easier. Because, in the end, none of them belonged on Illyria. They did not fit in anymore and they never would. And the best part was that he didn’t even want to.

"Tell him that permission is denied," Max said vehemently. "But tell him to take Kyle and Tess to the Ring anyway." He felt his heart start to beat more quickly. Everything was finally falling into place. He looked at Liz, who was sitting up straight, her eyes wide with concern for their friends. He wanted to see her face when he told her the one thing he knew she wanted more than anything.

"It’s time to go home."

To be continued…












posted on 9-Dec-2002 9:45:58 PM by Kath7
Yikes! I had no idea it had been so long since this was updated! Thanks for bumping Christian and everyone else. Where did the last two months go??? Yeesh! So much for finishing Union by the end of the year! Don't worry though folks. This story is finished in my mind. It's just a matter of getting it down on the screen. Now that Destiny's Circle is almost finished, I will be heading back to this one more frequently.

Thanks for your patience. I guarantee it will end someday.
posted on 19-Jan-2003 1:45:28 AM by Kath7
You guys seriously touch me so much, you have no idea. The loyalty to this story is just astounding. And, you know what, it's speaking to me again. Abruptly, out of the blue, it popped into my head today and I wrote three pages. I have this tendency to get stuck when I think I have to do something specific with a specific character and they get pissy on me. Last time I was stuck, it was Max, this time it is Isabel, until, finally Michael put up his hand today in my mind "Hey! Kath, over here! I'm actually being cooperative! Why don't you write about me????" So I did. Thank you Michael! LOL

Anyway, I hope to have the next part up by the end of the weekend. And, as I have now written down by hand, exactly what needs to happen before this ends, I think it may someday do so.

Thanks again for your support and patience and know that this story is never far from my mind. If I actually managed to finish Destiny's Circle (after two and a half years!) you can bet that Union will not be forgotten.

Kath
posted on 19-Jan-2003 6:22:50 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Well, look outside folks. Those porkers have taken to the skies again! It's a new part of Union, with half of the next one written too! It's a bloody miracle! Anyway, thank you to everyone for your patience and please know, that however long it takes me, this story WILL be finished.

Part 38

Illyrian Safe House, Salisbury, England, Earth

"Where is Princess Mirana?"

Michael, who was sitting at a table in the mess hall, scarfing down a quick dinner, raised his head and met Jemma’s furious gaze steadily. "My wife isn’t missing, is she?" He asked innocently, picking up another chip and chewing it deliberately. Michael just hoped that Alex had put the pedal to the metal and that he and Isabel were far enough away that a search party wouldn’t be able to find them easily.

"Where is she General? I demand to know!" Jemma was practically yelling, causing the heads of those seated near them to turn. Michael tilted his head, examined her with interest. He hadn’t been sure it was possible to rile the Illyrian. He was pleased to finally have solid proof that she hadn’t ever spent time in a cleansing pod.

"Far away," Michael replied, narrowing his eyes. "We’re not opening the portal tonight."

"We’ll see about that," Jemma snapped, turning on her heel, her long trench-coat flaring out behind her as she stalked away.

Michael glared at the people seated nearby still staring at him. "What?" He demanded. "Eat!" They all quickly lowered their heads again, in complete obedience. It annoyed him even more. He absolutely hated that he had so much control over complete strangers. He was nineteen frigging years old for God’s sake! It was just wrong.

He pushed back his chair, stood and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. He might as well follow Jemma, find out what the leader of the Illyrian Guard thought would change his mind. He was only half-way to the door of the mess when it became more than obvious. Because his daughter had just come through it, absolute fury etched on her lovely features.

"What have you done?" She demanded. Jennetta marched right up to him, started poking him in the chest in an action entirely too much like Maria. And, dammit, it hurt!

"Ow," Michael said mildly, grabbing her hand and lowering it to her side. "Not here. Let’s go somewhere private." He looked over his shoulder uncomfortably. People were staring again, although they were trying to pretend that they weren’t.

"Yes here Michael! I’d like you to tell me, in front of our people, why you countermanded my direct order," Jennetta yelled. Michael glanced past her at Jemma, who had come up behind Jennetta, a smirk of triumph on her face.

"Jenny…"

"We are going to Illyria," she cut him off. "Tell me where Isabel is. Now."

Michael stared at her, his heart breaking. He could see how brittle Jenny was, how all of this was an attempt to hide how much she was hurting over Ren’s death. "Jennetta, this isn’t going to bring him back. Going to Illyria is not going to bring him back."

Jennetta froze. He saw a tremor pass through her. "What?" She stared at him in complete disbelief and then scowled.

"Ren wouldn’t be happy to see you behaving like this," Michael continued, swallowed as she flinched. He knew he was hurting her, but he had to get through to her somehow. Someone had to. She had to understand that they could not lead a group of complete strangers - innocent humans - through a portal into a world they had no control over. She had to get that they had no chance of winning at the moment, divided as they were.

"I think I know better than anyone what Ren expected of me," Jennetta replied fiercely. "You have no right to stop me from claiming my destiny."

"I have every right," Michael snarled, crossing his arms. "I’m your father."

"Little good that’s done me," Jennetta said with disdain. "You don’t really know how to do anything, do you Dad? You’re afraid because of it - because you can’t remember who you once were and you know you aren’t the great general you used to be anymore. You’re a coward. That’s why you don’t want to go. Not because you’re worried about all these people." She swept her arm around, indicating the gathered masses in the mess, who were completely silent, all pretense at cheerful dinner chatter by now gone. "We all know it’s true."

"Jennetta, stop it!"

Michael was still staring at his daughter, his mouth hanging open, disbelieving that this was his gentle child. It didn’t quite register at first that Maria had come up beside him, that it was she who had cut off their daughter’s tirade.

"Stay out of this Maria," Jennetta said dismissively.

"I won’t stay out of it," Maria told Jennetta firmly. "You are my daughter and you are going to stop screeching and you are going to listen to your father." Michael watched his girlfriend glare at Jemma. "How dare you approach her about this anyway? Michael is your superior and you have no right to question him. You’re the one who said that he was in charge. Well, he made a decision, and just because you’re not happy about it, you don’t have the right to go over his head."

"I am the queen," Jennetta said fiercely. "I get to decide what we do."

"No, you do not," Maria told her, stepping forward, a fierce expression on her face. "You are not queen yet. Until he abdicates, Max is still king of Illyria and once I tell him how badly you are behaving, I have a feeling he might choose to continue sitting on his throne. We have not gone through everything we’ve gone through for a spoiled brat Jennetta Elizabeth. So just shut your mouth and listen to your father."

Michael watched Jennetta’s face crumple, his heart breaking. "Maria…" he said warningly.

"No Michael," Maria snapped. "She has no right to talk to you that way. We have been through hell and back, all for her, and she dares to call you a chicken?"

"Maria!" He said more insistently. He was already moving forward as his daughter’s legs gave out on her and she collapsed onto the floor, her sobs already wracking her slender body. Michael dropped to his knees beside her, pulled her against his chest, stroking her hair, trying to comfort his broken child. He glanced around the room, then turned and glared at Jemma. "Get these people out of here," he ordered.

Jemma, for once, jumped to comply. The large room was emptied in minutes, but Michael barely noticed. "It’s okay baby. It’s going to be okay," he crooned, rocking back and forth, as Jennetta finally released her grief over the loss of the person she had not known she loved until he was gone.

"I’m sorry," she gasped through her tears. "I’m sorry Father."

"I know. It’s okay." He stared at Maria, who was now on her knees behind Jennetta, looking helpless. Their eyes met and held. He could almost read her thoughts, because they were his exactly.

They could not let her suffer like this. They had to do something. But Michael still knew he was right. Barreling through the portal was not the answer.

"Time grows short."

Michael glared at Jemma, who had returned after she finished getting rid of the troops. "Shut up about that! We’re not going!"

Jemma sighed, sat down wearily in a chair nearby. Michael continued to stroke his daughter’s back comfortingly, but her weeping was gradually subsiding. She seemed all cried out for the moment. Michael felt Jennetta turn her head to regard the older woman. "Tell me why," Jenny whispered.

"Why what?"

"Why do you want to go back so badly? What do you miss most?" Michael could almost hear the real meaning of her question. Why had Ren wanted her to be queen so badly? What was worth saving on Illyria?

It was a question Michael had often asked himself. All his memories of his home planet were of pain and grief. He had been murdered in his first life there. He had lost his daughter in this life there. What was the hell-hole worth anyway?

"The potential," Jemma said quietly. "The potential for greatness that lies in our people, once they move beyond their fear of the unknown. It was why Gordian Falconer was a great king and it was why Jaxon was even greater, from what I understand. They wanted great things for our planet and the people were willing to follow them."

"Those dreams turned half the population against them," Michael said. "You can’t force great things on people not ready for them."

Jemma met his eyes. "They were ready. The marriages between you and Mirana and Jaxon and Sabrya - the fact that you were all judged by the Ring and found worthy - the people would have accepted it. If it wasn’t for the perfidy of a madman, I would have been home long before now and Illyria would be enjoying its Golden Age."

"But there can be no Golden Age without the Chosen One," Michael reminded her. "If we hadn’t died before, there would be no Jennetta now." He squeezed his daughter lightly, where she still leaned against him. He couldn’t tell whether she was listening or not anymore though, wondered if she had allowed herself to get lost in her grief.

Jemma shrugged. "Who can say for certain? All I know is what is now and what must be accomplished to move things forward."

Michael narrowed his eyes at her, his understanding now complete. "You don’t think Jenny is the Chosen One, do you?"

"I don’t believe in any one person having the capability to change an entire world, no," Jemma admitted, her chin raised. "I believe that one person can inspire others to do so, but no one is chosen to do it. They choose themselves."

"And you’ve chosen yourself," Maria said, glancing at Michael. "That’s why you’re obsessed with getting back there."

Jemma sighed. "I don’t want to rule Maria. I want to make sure that the rightful rulers do so. I accompanied Princess Andrina to this planet to assure their strength and I will go back there to make it so. If Jennetta is the one chosen by the people, I will accept it and I will support her. And since you have all chosen her, she will be accepted."

"So you don’t care who rules?" Maria demanded, sounding disbelieving. "What kind of cause is that anyway?"

"I do not deny I prefer the Royal Four. They are known quantities and they are beloved," Jemma replied, frowning. She glanced at Jennetta, her expression unreadable.

"Which is why you made Isabel and I think we were falling in love again," Michael accused, his anger beginning to get the better of him. He tried to stay in control these days, but sometimes these Illyrians just really pissed him off. "So that we’d want to rule. You actually thought I would betray my own daughter!"

"What? I did no such thing!" Jemma exclaimed, looking surprised. "What do you mean that someone made you? I had heard that you and Mirana were trying to be together, but I certainly had nothing to do with it! I would have to have the ability to mind-warp were I to…" She trailed off, a pensive look on her face. "You do think it was a mindwarp?"

Michael nodded, still scowling. He did not believe this woman. Not one little bit. But she did seem truly flabbergasted. "It’s why we sent Izzy away. To hopefully get her away from the source of it, which would break it."

"And you thought I was the source?" Jemma sounded impatient. "How could you not be aware that I cannot mindwarp?"

Michael and Maria exchanged glances, Michael shrugging at her. They had assumed, but there had not been any other obvious answer.

"What is your gift anyway?" Maria asked. "I don’t think we even know."

Jemma met Michael’s eyes again and smiled slightly. He rolled his. "She’s a warrior, like me," he ground out through clenched teeth, guessing, but knowing that he was right. He suddenly wondered how he could have been so blind. It was why she seemed to think she knew everything about what he was supposed to be like!

"Has the warp been broken?" Jemma asked, getting to her feet. "Where is Mirana?"

Michael narrowed his eyes again. "I told you - no one gets that information."

Jemma looked impatient as she said, "Well, we must know General. If it has been broken, proving that it existed, we need to sniff out the perpetrator. There are about thirty members of the guild on the premises you know. We cannot have a traitor in our midst. Not at this delicate time!"

"Dad, trust her. We need to get to Illyria. Please. I know I’ve been behaving badly, but it’s only because we need to get there."

Michael looked down at Jenny in surprise. She had been quiet for so long, he had been unsure if she was even listening any longer.

"Jennetta, why do you trust her?" He demanded. "She just flat-out said she doesn’t care if you sit on the throne or not! She is not loyal to you!"

"I know," Jenny replied, moving away from him and looking directly at Jemma. "But she is loyal to Illyria and I cannot rule Illyria without Ren."

"Jennetta, sweetie, tell us." Michael glanced at Maria. She seemed to have tuned into something in their daughter’s plea that he had not. "Why do you need to get there so badly? You asked Jemma for her reasons, but they’re obviously not yours. What do you need?"

Jennetta moved away from Michael. "Don’t you understand? I need him!"

"What?" Michael demanded. "Jenny, he’s dead!"

"I know that," Jennetta snapped. "But you know better than anyone that it doesn’t mean that he’s really gone. Dad, think."

"I don’t want to think!" Michael exclaimed. "Just tell me!"

"Oh my God." This came from Maria. Michael whipped his head around to stare at her, recognized the dawning comprehension on his girlfriend’s face.

"What?" He said again, feeling like a total bone-head. "What?"

"The Four Square," Maria breathed. "Michael! The Four Square can bring him back! You’ve done it before!"

Michael blinked. The Four Square? And, abruptly, he understood. The healing stones. Nasedo…

They had brought Nasedo back to life once upon a time, when he had been killed by the Special Unit. Ren was a shapeshifter and Nasedo’s son. They should be able to do the same for him.

But to do it, they needed Max and Tess. Which meant that they needed to go to Illyria to save them first.

He looked at Jennetta in annoyance. "Well, why didn’t you just tell me that this was why you wanted to go to Illyria so badly? This makes perfect sense!"

Jennetta looked at the ground. "I’m sorry," she said quietly. "I…I didn’t think you’d go if you knew that the only reason I wanted to was to save him."

Michael stared at her. "What? Why the hell would you think that?"

"Michael!" Maria exclaimed. "Watch your language!"

"Maria, she’s a grown woman," Michael snapped. He moved forward, placed his hands on Jenny’s shoulders. "Jenny! Why?"

"I…" She swallowed. "I heard you talking to Maria Dad. You…you didn’t believe that I could feel this way about him. I didn’t think that you’d let me go." She smiled sadly at him. "Michael, you see me as a child. You just told Maria that I’m a grown woman, but you don’t see it. You are willing to have me be queen because you think you can protect me, that it will all just be a big game and that you’ll be there to watch my back. But you don’t want me to be a grown-up and my love for Ren makes me a grown-up. So I went with the way I thought you’d understand. I thought you’d go along with it if you thought it was to claim my throne, to honour Ren’s memory that way."

Michael’s mouth was hanging open again. "But the attitude? What was with the attitude?"

"Well, the fact that you let Isabel leave seems to indicate that we’re not going anytime soon," Jennetta replied. "I was pissed off. So sue me. I’m your daughter."

"Good grief." Michael glanced over at Maria, who looked like she wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. "What am I going to do with you two?" She demanded, raising her hands in the air. "You are both insane!"

Michael just grinned. He couldn’t help it. "But you love us anyway." He turned his head, looked at Jemma. "We need to find out who the hell is messing with Isabel’s head. Fast." He turned to Jenny, continued, "We can’t bring her back here until then. I won’t sacrifice Izzy’s sanity for what might not work anyway."

"Michael, it will work," Jennetta replied firmly. "I know it will."

"Maybe," Michael allowed. "But don’t forget that even if we go, we still need to find Max and Tess and come back. And it might not be as simple as that."

"We’ll bring Ren with us," Jennetta said. "That will speed up the process."

"But…" Michael swallowed, voiced the fear that he and Alex had already discussed but that he had never brought up with anyone else, "Max and Tess…They may not be in any position to…"

"We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it," Jemma said, interrupting. "I cannot believe that any member of the Royal Four would have been executed summarily anyway. There is no point without all of you. Mirana and Tristandor could still be used as figureheads for rebellion. He needs you all. I can’t believe he’ll kill any of you without all of you."

"I wouldn’t put anything past Tarsus," Michael snapped. "He hates Max’s guts."

"But from what I understand, he enjoys playing games with him more," Jemma replied. "I feel that Jaxon still lives."

"Well, I guess we’ll find out," Michael shrugged, pretending at a nonchalance he did not feel, the thought of a universe without Max, Tess or Liz too painful to contemplate at the moment. He looked at Jennetta, gently brushed a lock of hair off her cheek. "My daughter has a plan and it’s time to get cracking." He kissed her gently on the forehead. "Although she has to understand that, to me, she is always going to be a little girl."

And as Jennetta hugged him, Michael knew it was true. In his heart, she would always be the little girl who had first stolen it. But if she needed her bloody shapeshifter to mend her heart, he was damn well going to do everything in his power to get him for her.

To be continued…



posted on 23-Jan-2003 9:04:18 PM by Kath7
Hi all! Just wanted to pop in to let you know that I'm working on Part 39 as I write (is it really true - two parts in one week???) I have also come to show off the beautiful new banner that the wonderful Anniepoo has created for this story. It just rocks and I am so pleased.

Thanks Annie!

Kath

1-5-4




posted on 25-Jan-2003 9:30:52 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Yes, two parts in one week. I RULE! LOL

Be sure to check out the wonderful banner Anniepoo made for me above. It is truly what inspired me to get my ass in gear and finish this baby.

Part 39

"But how can it be safe if you still don’t know who’s doing it?" Pause. "Yes Michael, I get that Jemma is investigating, but does she really expect to find out who it is in the, oh, three hours we have until the portal closes again?" Another longer pause. "Fine. I’ll tell her. She wants to go anyway."

Alex was speaking in a low voice into his cell phone. Isabel could tell that he was trying not to disturb her, but she was presently so in tune with her surroundings, even the fact that he was a good thirty feet away from where she sat on the damp grass in the middle of the stone circle didn’t stop his words from being as clear as a bell. Her eyes were closed but she could tell exactly where he was, could actually see him pacing in her mind’s eye.

The power surging through her veins frightened a small part of her, but mostly made her feel whole in a way she had not since the whole Michael/Tristandor debacle had started. In fact, she felt better than she had in months. It was only when the weight had been lifted that she understood how out of control of her own mind she had been for a long time. She had thought that when those horrible dreams - the ones where everyone she loved died in horrible, bloody ways - ended recently that she was back to herself, but it was only now that she could see that it was not true. Those dreams had only been the first step in a very well-orchestrated plan to weaken her mind and, then, attack when she was ill-prepared to deal with it.

Isabel sighed heavily, tuned Alex out again, returning his well-loved voice to the section of her brain that was presently ignoring the sound of crickets and the traffic noises from the motorway. Whatever Michael was telling him could wait. For the moment she had to focus all of her energy on reaching her mother.

For what felt like the hundredth time she reached out with all her senses, pulling the power from the lay-lines which met underneath the stone circle.

Mother! Mother, please answer me! She waited, all senses tuned for the slightest tremor in the fabric of the dream plain. But, still, there was nothing.

This is taking too long. Max needs me. The longer this takes, the less likely it is that we’ll get back in time to open the portal and the more likely it is that we’re just going to abandon them all to a fate worse than death. Every second we waste is one more second in which they might be taking them away from us. Isabel let her eyes snap open and stared at the standing stone she was now facing in frustration.

Because, in the end, that was what brainwashing did. It was what cleansing did and it was why it was wrong. It took away the vital part of every individual that made them who they were. Max had already suffered it once. Isabel was not going to let her brother or Liz or Tess or Kyle go through that. Not when she had the ability to help them by opening the portal and sending reinforcements after them. In her heart, Isabel knew that, to Max, being brainwashed again would be a fate worse than death. And now that she was finally beginning to get control of her own mind again, she could certainly understand why. She had almost lost herself because someone had been messing with her head. But that was over now. She would not let it interfere with her goal any more.

Isabel ran her hands through her hair, glared at the stone. Where was Milena? She realized that it was the only time since first contacting her mother that she had actually been unable to reach her. Occasionally it had taken longer than others, but it had certainly never taken this long, nor had she ever felt the complete emptiness she felt now as she tried to connect with her mother’s soul.

It had been Jemma who had told her that. That when she spoke to her mother telepathically, they were really connecting souls, essences. It was particularly easy for them to do it, being as they shared the close bond of being mother and child, as well as being dreamwalkers. Isabel had liked thinking of it in those terms - that for the few precious moments she and her mother spoke mentally, their souls were united.

She frowned. For some reason tonight she didn’t like the idea nearly as much. Becoming aware of how easily her mind could be controlled, in spite of the power she was supposed to possess over it…It was not a pleasant thought. And, in the end, what did she really know about her mother anyway?

Isabel blinked. Now where had that thought come from? She took a deep breath, closed her eyes again and forced herself to examine her feelings. Maybe this sudden aversion to completely opening her thoughts to another being was what was blocking her from reaching Milena. An unconscious reluctance was completely understandable, considering what she had been forced to feel because someone else had willed it. But why would she be feeling this way about her mother of all people? Milena had only ever been kind and loving the few times Isabel had spoken with her.

Except for the first time.

The thought appeared unbidden, a natural progression from the direction her musings had taken. Isabel was dismayed to realize it was true. The very first time Milena had ever spoken to her telepathically had not been pleasant at all. It had been back when Max was missing and they had no hope at all that they were ever going to see him again when, abruptly, her mother had been there. The whole experience had been quite horrifying and it had hurt too. It had physically hurt her.

Use your dreams.

Her mother’s last instruction to her from that first time ran through her mind like a pointed dart.

For Isabel, her dreams had always been a safe haven. They had been a security blanket for a vulnerable girl growing up different from everyone around her, the one place she could control. But after her mother had thrust her way into her mind, her dreams had ceased being a comfort zone, had become a battle field instead. And, yet, she had continued to retreat to her dreams, in spite of it.

Use your dreams.

It no longer seemed like an instruction, a hint, but, rather, an order - almost a demand.

Isabel climbed to her feet, her fists clenched at her sides, relieved for the first time that she had been unable to reach Milena. Something was not right with any of this. Until she figured out exactly what, she would not risk using her abilities again. Opening her mind at all was dangerous. Her gut was telling her so and the fact that she was even beginning to suspect her mother of evil…

She needed a break from it all.

Isabel could see Alex waiting for her just outside the stone circle. He was leaning forward slightly, as though unsure whether she was done and unwilling to interrupt her if she wasn’t. Because it was June, it wasn’t completely dark yet, but it was getting close. She felt a shiver run down her spine, glanced at her watch. Only three hours until midnight - the end of the solstice. And they still had to drive back.

They needed to get through that portal. Circumstances were now even more desperate because Isabel felt that the only place she was really going to get any answers about any of this was on Illyria itself. She would come face to face with her mother - finally - would see that the way her suspicions were leaning was ridiculous. She would meet other dreamwalkers who would teach her to manage her own mind, to protect herself from outside influence.

"No luck?" Alex asked as she joined him.

"No," Isabel admitted. "But Alex, I don’t think it’s a bad thing."

His gaze narrowed with concern. "Isabel, what’s wrong? I can tell from your face that something is wrong. Did someone try and get to you again?" His tone was angry. He was starting to glance around the desolate countryside suspiciously. "I knew we hadn’t gone far enough!"

Her heart thumped with affection for him. How could she have so taken him for granted? His constant concern and desire to protect her, which had once felt a little stifling, now warmed her soul in a way she could not even explain to herself. The lack of it for the past week -the lack of him - it all came rushing over her, bringing tears to her eyes.

Alex had turned back by now, saw this and real panic crossed his face. "What? Izzy, what is it?"

"I love you."

Alex started, stared at her. "What?"

"I said I love you," Isabel repeated, taking a step forward and touching his face. "I hope you know that through all of this, it was the one thing I never stopped knowing."

"I love you too," Alex said, reaching out and pulling her against him. "I knew you would come back to me. I’m just sorry I wasn’t patient enough to wait for you. I promise never to kidnap you again."

Isabel snorted, dismayed that he was starting to blame himself. "Alex, you are the soul of patience. If I looked patience up in the dictionary, your picture would be beside it. How you even put up with me…"

"You’re worth it," he interrupted, pulling back and staring right into her eyes. "As much as you try and pretend you’re not, you are worth it Izzy. I would wait for you forever."

"Alex, I don’t want you to wait anymore," Isabel smiled. "I’m glad you kidnapped me. I don’t really think I would have found my way back without you. You are my anchor Alex Whitman. You see me for who I really am and you keep me grounded in her. I am Isabel Evans and that is who I want to stay. Because Isabel Evans belongs to you and always will."

Their gaze remained locked for several long moments, both overcome by the emotion of finally baring their souls. Isabel knew that she had kept herself slightly removed from him since the beginning. It was going to end now. She had almost lost herself because of it. It was scary to turn your heart and soul over to another person, but the experience of having it ripped away from her had taught her one thing above all others. The only person she trusted to hold hers was Alex. And she would tell him so every day for the rest of their lives. Because she didn’t tell him enough and he deserved to know.

Alex cleared his throat. She could see that his dark eyes were shining slightly, as though he was feeling a little teary. "I want to kiss you. Is it okay if I kiss you?" He asked, sounding a little breathless, like he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do.

"Kiss away." Isabel beamed at him, felt her heart starting to pound against her rib-cage in anticipation.

When his lips met hers, she felt her tears finally begin to fall, but not in sorrow. For the first time in her life, she actually knew what it meant to cry because you were happy, because your heart was so full, it was the only way to even go on, to let some of it out.

He filled her heart. Tristandor might have been Mirana’s love, but Alex was hers, and she was never going to let anyone try and make her forget it again.

And to do that, they needed to get through that portal.

Isabel pulled back slightly, smiled at him. "We should go," she whispered.

"I know," Alex replied. "I’m annoyed, but I know." He looked around. "Let’s come back though. I like it here. This is one stone circle that’s going to hold fond memories."

"I promise we’ll come back someday," Isabel said. "We’ll bring our kids and tell them that this is where their mommy finally opened her eyes."

"Kids?" Alex raised an eyebrow. "Are you proposing to me your highness? Isn’t that my job?"

"It certainly is," Isabel replied. "And it better be good buster."

"Well, great. Now I have to worry about this?" Alex pretended to be outraged. "I can only handle one crisis a day you know. You’d think that exorcising your past-life identity would be enough for you, but no…"

Isabel sighed. "Are you going to shut-up and give me another quick kiss before we drive for a hundred miles, or do I have to take matters into my own hands?"

Alex grinned. "Yes ma’am. Or should I say yes your highness? I probably should, it being more accurate and all…"

Isabel just rolled her eyes and kissed him instead.

**********************************************

The Ring, Illyria

"Are you scared?" Tess whispered, clutching Kyle’s hand tightly as the transport in which they were riding pulled to a stop. She could feel her heart beating double-time against her ribcage, but she wasn’t really nervous. Amazingly enough, she was excited.

She knew this was right. Even though she had no idea what power governed the Ring or what it truly meant to be judged, she knew that she had made the right decision by damning the consequences and showing the Illyrians that she loved Kyle. It had been wrong to deny it. They had both spent far too much time lying to themselves. Lying to complete strangers was just pointless and annoying. Allowing people she didn’t even care about to force her to hide her feelings…It had become unacceptable.

But while she knew that Kyle loved her back, she couldn’t help but worry that she had given him little choice in the matter. It was she who had confronted the guard after all and while he had accepted it at the time, he had been entirely too quiet since they had left the Citadel.

"I’m scared," Kyle admitted. Tess felt her heart drop with disappointment. He was looking out the window of the transport at the Ring, framed by two of the planet’s moons, which were shining down brightly, lighting up the whole of the Gilded Plain so that it shone like its namesake.

"I’m sorry," she said quietly.

Kyle looked at her sharply. "I’m not scared that we’re doing this," he amended quickly. "I’m not pretending I understand what all this "judging" crap means, but I know it’s going to be fine. Hell, if Michael and Maria survived it, we’ll pass with flying colours."

Tess narrowed her gaze. "So then…?" The last was raised in the form of a question.

"I’m scared what passing means," Kyle replied, grinning wryly. "I guess I have to stop complaining about all the alien stuff if I’m going to be with one."

Tess rolled her eyes. "Kyle…"

"Tess, I’m serious," Kyle interrupted her. "I know that I’ve been a total ass about all of it for a long time. It’s just…I can’t explain it. It’s hard to finally accept it and it’s even harder to know that I should have a long time ago. I fought it for so long and so hard…"

"Why?" Tess asked. "Seriously, what is it about it that freaks you out so much?" She tried not to sound hurt. She was, a bit, but she was more interested in the way he thought than anything. If this was going to work then they needed to be honest with each other, needed to understand each other. And it was really the first chance they’d had to be alone since arriving on Illyria. Ironic that, but it was true. He had tackled she and Max through the portal and they hadn’t had a moment to themselves since. Even when they shared their prison, they had never been alone.

Well, that wasn’t entirely accurate. The one time they had been alone, when their guard had run off to tell Hamor that she had broken, they had had much better things to do. She smiled slightly, her skin warming just at the thought of it.

And, now, here they were finally alone, waiting to be judged. It was actually pretty funny.

"What?" Kyle demanded. "Why are you smiling like that?"

"Sorry," Tess demurred, blushing. "I was just thinking that we haven’t had much chance to talk about any of this. But I want to talk about it Kyle. Please don’t worry that you’re going to hurt my feelings. I just want to know."

Kyle stared at her for a long moment, as though he was assessing whether she was stretching the truth or not. Finally he shrugged and said slowly, "I guess the fact that I didn’t get much of a choice was part of it." She could tell that he was still tentative, like he was worried that what he said would somehow alienate her. "It all just happened so fast. I was dating Liz one day and then the next she went all bananas on me. I swear to God, I barely even knew Max Evans existed before she started being all secretive about him. And then suddenly my dad’s asking me all these questions about him. It just annoyed the hell out of me. He annoyed the hell out of me. And then suddenly, after he healed me, all I could think about was the fact that I was going to be just like him."

Tess frowned, "So this is still about Max?" She asked, trying not to sound frustrated.

Kyle sighed. "No. It’s never really been about him. I think I just felt railroaded or something. I felt like I was being pulled into something I wanted nothing to do with and it pissed me off. And then I went and fell in love with you."

"You make it sound like a bad thing."

"It’s not. Of course it’s not," Kyle replied firmly. "I love you. And you know what I’ve finally come to realize? If it wasn’t for Max Evans and all the crap knowing him has rained down on me….actually let me rephrase that…all the stuff that I thought was crap, I never in a million years would have met you. If Liz hadn’t been shot, if Max hadn’t healed her, Nasedo never would have brought you to Roswell. And if that hadn’t happened, I never would have had the chance to even know you."

"So then all the crap was worth it?" Tess asked, more confused now than she had been when they started the conversation.

Kyle reached out with the hand that wasn’t clenched tightly in hers and gently touched her face. "God yes. I would morph into Yoda if it meant being with you."

She laughed. "You really are obsessed with Yoda, aren’t you?" When he looked surprised at that, she explained further, "You and Alex…that day in the compound, when Jennetta went into the pod…You were both obsessed with the Star Wars metaphors."

"You remember that?" Kyle asked, sounding amazed.

"I remember everything you’ve ever said Kyle," Tess admitted, flushing again. "I’ve loved you for a long time, even if I hadn’t even admitted it to myself."

He seemed pleased, but apparently decided to joke, seeing that she was embarassed, "Well, he is pretty cool. Yoda I mean. Even if he is three feet tall and green and slimy." Kyle was momentarily pensive. "You don’t suppose I’ll come back from this judging thing with the Force do you? ‘Cause that would be kind of cool." He paused, then his expression brightened. "Hey! Maybe this Ring thing has the Force."

"Kyle, I don’t think the Ring has the Force."

"Do you know that for sure?" He demanded, grinning. "I mean, for sure, for sure?"

"Well, no," Tess admitted. "I just don’t think it does."

"I wonder what it is?" Kyle said, staring out at it again. "The whole thing is just kind of weird."

"I don’t know," Tess replied, laying her head on his shoulder and following his gaze to the magnificent stone circle which held so much sway over the inhabitants of this planet. She wished she did though. She wondered if she had understood it any better when she had been Sabrya. It was unlikely. She and Jaxon had not been judged as far as she knew, no attempt to pretend that their marriage was anything more than a political act. It was strange that only couples who claimed the right to be together because they loved each other were judged. Criminals and lovers. Another irony that that the Illyrians failed to recognize. Was it the inherent fear on this planet of all-consuming emotion that required it? Even the Illyrians, who opposed cleansing, seemed afraid of strong feeling. It was a crime here.

Tess felt for them. Because anyone who didn’t allow themselves to feel what she felt for Kyle…Well, they were missing out, plain and simple.

They sat in companionable silence for several minutes. "I wonder what’s taking so long?" Tess finally said. "I mean, while I’m not scared, I would like to get this over with."

"I was just wondering the same thing," Kyle replied. She could hear the frown in his voice. "I can see Hamor over there. He doesn’t look very happy."

Tess leaned over his lap, stared in the direction he was pointing. "What’s he doing?"

"I saw him talking into his communicator a few minutes ago," Kyle answered. "He’s been pissed off since then."

Tess frowned. "I wonder if he talked to Max?"

"That’s what I was thinking," Kyle muttered. "Hamor seemed pretty hot to trot to get us out here. I can’t see what’s holding him back now if it isn’t his royal highness." The last said with a sarcastic twinge that made Tess roll her eyes.

"Must you always say it like that?" Tess demanded. "I thought you said you were over your Max envy."

"Sorry," Kyle smirked. "Habit."

Tess sighed, realized that Kyle was unlikely to ever give Max a break. It was just too inherently part of his make-up now. And she wasn’t really in the mood to get into a fight about it anyway. It didn’t seem to bother Max after all. "Well, I’m tired of waiting," she announced. She reached across Kyle again, hit the mechanism that was supposed to open the door. "Damn. It’s locked."

"Duh. We are still prisoners Tess, even if we’re here by choice."

"I am still the queen," she replied huffily. "And I refuse to be kept sitting here an instant longer." She started to pound on the window to get the attention of one of the guards standing nearby. "Hello! Hey you! Come here!"

The guard nearest them turned his head and regarded her suspiciously. He fingered something on his belt and the window against which she was pounding slid open silently. Tess would have fallen right through it if Kyle hadn’t grabbed her by the back of her dress. "Yes your highness?" He sounded completely deferential, in spite of the circumstances in which she and Kyle found themselves.

"What’s taking so long?" She demanded.

"I am not sure your highness," the guard admitted.

"Well find out," Tess snapped, then was ashamed. It wasn’t the guard’s fault after all. "Please," she added meekly. She heard Kyle snort in amusement behind her.

The guard nodded. "Very well your highness." The window slid shut. She watched him walk towards Hamor with satisfaction.

"Are you sure you’re not going to miss being queen?" Kyle asked, apparently still amused. "You’re pretty good with the orders."

"I don’t have to be a queen to be annoyed when I’m kept waiting," Tess replied, tossing her head.

"Now you sound like Isabel. Patience is a virtue Tess."

She knew he was teasing her and she also knew that he wanted her to react, so she did. It was better than sitting there bored and still a little worried, even if she did want to be judged. "I am extremely patient," she argued. "I put up with you don’t I?"

"Touche."

"That would be touché." Tess laughed in spite of herself.

"Touche, touché, same dif," Kyle grinned. "It’s like the chips, fries thing Isabel and Michael are constantly arguing about. I say potato, you say patato."

"Kyle, no one says patato."

"Well Tess, I beg to differ. If some people didn’t, then there wouldn’t be that saying, now would there?"

She stared at him. "Why are we even discussing this? This is probably the dumbest conversation I have ever had."

"Are you bored?" Kyle asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Well, no."

"Are you scared?"

Tess reflected on this for a moment. "Not really, no."

"I rest my case."

"You are insane, you do know that?" Tess shook her head, leaning forward and kissing him lightly on the lips.

"If this is insanity," he murmured against her lips, "Then count me in." She shivered when his hands wound through her hair, pulling her closer.

"Me too," she sighed.

What seemed like moments later, but was probably close to several minutes, Tess became aware of someone clearing their throat. "I hate to interrupt guys…"

Tess’s eyes snapped open and she stared over Kyle’s shoulder in amazement. "Oh my God! Max!" She shrieked, crawling over Kyle and throwing herself out of the now open transport door and into Max’s arms. She chose chose to ignore Kyle’s snorted, "Typical."

Tess hugged Max hard. "I’m so glad you’re here!"

"I’m surprised to hear you say that. You looked pretty preoccupied," Max replied wryly, setting her on her feet. "No wonder you got yourself into trouble while I was gone."

"We tried Max, I swear. I just…I couldn’t pretend anymore." She glanced over her shoulder at Kyle, only then realizing that he was hugging Liz. "Liz!"

Liz turned, her eyes bright with happiness. "Hi Tess!" She moved forward and hugged her.

Tess pulled away, stared at her friend carefully. "Are you okay? I mean, really?"

"I’m okay," Liz replied firmly. She smiled past Tess at Kyle, who was hovering. "I’m perfectly fine. Really."

"God Liz, you have no idea how much everyone missed you," Tess said quietly. "I didn’t think some of us were going to make it. I’m so glad you’re okay." She pulled Max’s girlfriend against her again, reflecting on how strange it was that this girl, this girl who she had once hated with every ounce of her being, was now among the people she most admired and loved in the universe.

Liz pulled her aside slightly, out of the earshot of the boys, her arm still around her shoulder. Tess watched Max’s gaze follow them, as though even now he was loathe to let Liz step more than two feet away from him. It was sweet, but Tess felt a twinge of concern. Liz wasn’t going to like being coddled for long. She made a mental note to remind Max of this. "I take it things are finally okay between you and Kyle?" Liz was saying when Tess tuned back in.

"Yes," Tess said, sighing happily. "I think he still has some issues, but being here…it’s really brought us together. At least we’re both on the same page now."

"I’m glad. I’m really glad Tess." Liz smiled. "I’m just happy we got here in time to stop the judgment."

Tess blinked, then frowned. "Wait a minute. We’re not going to be judged anymore?"

"Of course not," Liz answered, looking at her strangely. "Max forbid it."

"What?" Tess stared over to where Max and Kyle were talking quietly, both looking a little tense. "Excuse me for a minute Liz."

She marched over to the two guys just in time to hear Max say, "It’s not happening Kyle so just forget it."

"You better not be talking about what I think you’re talking about Max Evans!"

Max’s head whipped around and he stared at her in surprise. "What’s wrong Tess?"

"Kyle and I want to be judged."

"What?" Max demanded, sounding annoyed. "Don’t be ridiculous!"

Kyle’s arms were folded. "It’s true Max."

"Max, it’s the only way that our relationship will ever be accepted on this planet," Tess argued. "Michael and Maria did it and I think all four of us need to do it too."

"Tess, we know nothing about how that thing works," Max argued. "I am not risking either of you with some stupid ritual that means nothing. And I am certainly not risking Liz."

Tess grimaced when she realized that Hamor had come over and was listening to Max, a scowl on his face. "You don’t make my decisions for me Max." He opened his mouth to argue, but Tess held up her hand and continued, "You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re the king and I’m your wife and you get to make the choice about whether I’m guilty or not, or I’m not your wife and I get to do what I want."

"Jaxon, the queen must be judged," Hamor broke in. "It must be done or she must be put to death. She has committed treason. I don’t pretend to understand any of the relationships you people have formed in your years away, but this is how our planet is governed. If there is any hope of achieving a lasting peace, we cannot ignore the few things we and the Dernians agree upon."

"And I want it anyway," Tess repeated. She reached out and took Kyle’s hand, meeting his eyes to make sure she was speaking for him too. When he nodded firmly, she continued. "We need this Max."

She saw Max glance at Liz for guidance. She was frowning, as though uncertain too. "I think that they may be right Max. We can’t totally reject everything Illyria and Dernia stand for. If we do that, they’re not going to listen to us at all when we try and put Jennetta on the throne."

"Liz, you’re not saying that you want to be judged too?" Max sounded horrified.

Liz sighed. "Of course I don’t want to be Max, but I think I have to be." She looked at Hamor. "Tarsus wanted to have me judged right after I got here." She closed her eyes briefly, as though the memory was painful. Tess felt her heart go out to her friend, wondered what she had gone through in the weeks since they had seen her last. "I don’t think I would have survived that one. His plans for me were wrong. But this time…" Liz’s gaze locked with Max’s again. He looked like he wanted to be ill, but Tess knew that he could not say no to Liz. Even if it meant the difference between her life and her death, in this instance, when she wanted it so badly, he would not say no.

"We are bonded," Liz said quietly. They all heard her, but Tess knew that she was speaking to Max alone. "And if I have to go through judgment to prove we belong together, I’ll do it. I want all the doubts gone once and for all."

Tess stepped away from Kyle and took Liz’s hand. The dark-haired girl turned her head and regarded Tess with surprise. "You won’t be alone," Tess said. "We’ll do it together."

Hamor’s voice broke the tense silence that fell over them all. "So be it."

To be continued…



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Jan-2003 9:32:41 PM ]
posted on 11-Feb-2003 12:55:01 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Well, this part couldn't be more confusing if it tried, but I give up! LOL I hope someone enjoys it.

Part 40

Maria sat quietly against the wall as they waited for the next mindwarper to enter the large, comfortable meeting room. She wasn’t participating directly in the interrogations, but she was present in order to make sure that the other four didn’t miss anything - a guilt look, a flinch where one was unwarranted. She glanced at her watch, frowned slightly and met Michael’s gaze from where he sat at a table between Jennetta and Sheriff Valenti. Jemma was on Jenny’s other side.

Maria raised her eyebrows questioningly. Michael scowled and nodded, acknowledging that he knew that they were running perilously low on time.

They had one hour until the end of the solstice. Alex and Isabel had not returned, although Maria had spoken to her best friend on his cell phone about twenty minutes ago. There had been some question as to whether Isabel should be brought to the safe house in order to help in the identification of the culprit who had been invading her mind, but it had been decided that the pair would head straight to Stonehenge instead. Michael didn’t think it was yet safe to bring Isabel back until the guilty party had been sniffed out.

Jennetta, Michael, Maria, Jemma and the sheriff would meet them there with Ren’s body. Michael had decreed that he still wasn’t bringing the army through with him, much to Jemma’s dismay. However, the conversation they had held earlier about her constantly undermining his commands seemed to stop her from arguing too forcibly.

As the minutes slipped by, it was looking more and more like they weren’t going to be able to resolve the issue of who had been assaulting Isabel before they left. Every mindwarper who had been interviewed, the sheriff leading the process because of his experience, had seemed absolutely perplexed by the charges when they were finally laid before them. Of course, Maria wasn’t sure what they had all been expecting. Did they really think that the guilty party was just going to come out and say "Yup, it was me. Sorry ‘bout that!"?

The one slim hope was that Michael might recognize someone who had been in contact with Isabel over the past few weeks. He was the only one who had been with her the entire time after all and he had also received some leak-off from the mind-warps, if his dreams were any indication. The only person who had sprung to mind was a man with an umbrella the two of them had noticed at Stonehenge, but Michael had never seen him again and he had not been part of the large group of mindwarpers Michael had examined before the one on one interrogations had started. It wasn’t like the culprit could shapeshift after all, Maria reflected. All of the mindwarpers on the planet were changed humans…

Maria blinked as a sudden possibility occurred to her. "Oh my God!" She gasped. "Jemma!"

Four heads swiveled to look at Maria, varying degrees of interest or annoyance on their faces. A soft knock sounded on the door just as Michael demanded, "Maria, what’s wrong?"

A member of the Royal Guard, a healer Jemma had told them and so not under suspicion, entered and bowed, "The next mindwarper has arrived your highness."

He directed this at Jennetta, who nodded. "Just give us a minute please."

The guard backed out. Jenny turned and looked at Maria, curiousity on her face. "Maria?"

Maria was on her feet. "Jemma, did any shapeshifters come through the portal with you and Andrina?" By this point they all knew the story of Max and Isabel’s aunt and how Jemma had been her loyal servant up until the Crash and, so, Maria wondered how they had not thought of this before. "Nasedo was a shapeshifter and loyal to the Illyrians - enough so that he was sent in the ship with the Royal Four. Were there others? Doesn’t it make sense that there would have been other Dernians who followed Tristandor and Sabrya to Illyria?"

Jemma stared at her, looking a bit perplexed, but she replied readily enough. "Andrina was sent with a contingent of thirty. Most are dead at this point. None of the remaining survivors are mindwarpers, nor were any Dernian shapeshifters. The whole point of the mission was to secure an alliance for Illyria. Laren may have gained Queen Milena’s trust by the time the Royal Four were sent, but we did not fully trust Dernians when Andrina led us through the portal. Jendar and I were Andrina’s seconds…" She trailed off, as though she had just remembered something significant. "Jendar was not a shapeshifter, but he was a mindwarper." She jumped to her feet. "Why did I not think of this sooner?"

"You said that Jendar was missing?" Michael asked, scowling again. "When did you last see him?"

"After Andrina was captured by the Special Unit, we split up. I stayed at the compound beneath the desert in New Mexico and finished outfitting the library, which was to be a resource for the humans who joined our cause." Maria nodded to herself, it abruptly making sense that only changed humans like Liz and Kyle could open the library. They were the only ones who had been meant to use it. "Jendar came here to begin building the army we would need to take through the portal when the Royal Four emerged from their pods. We didn’t know where they had been hidden by Laren, but we hoped that when their transformation was complete, they would find us. Had they been transferred properly to their second pods, they would have emerged with all their memories."

"Okay, so then Jendar just disappeared?"

"I lost contact with him. I was in communication with Laren though. He was searching for you because you had broken free of your pods before he could get to you. Only Sabrya remained. She matured more slowly because her addition to the ship was a last-minute decision, which was why you and Jaxon and Mirana broke free earlier." This was directed at Michael. "She and Jaxon were not a love match after all. It was felt that Tristandor and Mirana’s Ring-sanctioned bond would maintain the Dernian/Illyrian alliance. Jaxon could find his human bride and establish that union as well. But Milena chose to send Sabrya in the end, after all, deciding that Tristandor would not be the same person without his sister. Saving her had played such a large role in his defection in the first place after all. As much as he did not want to be cleansed himself, he did not want it for Sabrya either."

"Nasedo knew all this? Were he and Queen Milena close?" Sheriff Valenti asked. He had been listening quietly, but spoke up now, as though he was puzzling something out for himself. Maria wondered what it was.

"Not particularly," Jemma shrugged. "Milena trusted him because Laren and Andrina were betrothed. She knew he would do nothing to jeopardize the chance to wed the princess." She sighed. "Of course, letting the ship crash and then losing three of the Royal Four demonstrated how little trust she should have placed in him."

"Okay, well, then what about Jendar?" Maria pressed, still sure that she was on the right track here. "You lost contact with him. And then?"

Jemma continued, her expression blank, as though she was looking back, searching for the clues Maria wanted from her. "Jendar’s loss was a particular concern because it meant we lost contact with Queen Milena as well. We needed him. Although Laren seemed to be losing control of the situation in New Mexico, I came here to find him. We could not move forward without his ability to contact the queen." Jemma rubbed her temples. "This safe house had been built and we had the beginnings of our army…"

"Wait!" Michael interrupted. "What do you mean he was your only contact to the queen? I thought he was a mindwarper? Can’t only dreamwalkers communicate over such great distances?"

"Which also begs the question that if Jendar was a mindwarper, how was he creating the Royal Guard?" Jennetta asked. "I thought it has to be a healer who changes humans."

"It does," Jemma acknowledged. "He had a healer with him, left over from our journey through the portal, but he did the actual healing. This explains his ability to communicate with the queen as well. Jendar was one of a rare breed on our planet. He was able to harness any of the four major gifts as long as he came into physical contact with a true proficient in that ability."

"You know Jemma, this information might have helped us out before," Michael complained, obviously extremely impatient. Maria didn’t blame him. They were very short on time and the leader of the Royal Guard seemed to be keeping vital information from them. "He could borrow other people’s gifts?"

"Basically," Jemma acknowledged. "I’m sorry that I did not tell you of the existence of the transversals. I did not think it was important as there is absolutely no evidence that Jendar still lives." She grimaced, looking slightly embarrassed. "Although you may be interested to know that the Royal Four are all transversals as well. It is a genetic predisposition, although recessive. One of the reasons your Four Square is so strong is because you all bear the gene. Jaxon was already transversal in his last life, but the other three were not. You were engineered with the gene. Jaxon’s came from Milena and so it is with all of you now, although differently. You all have a part of the Queen Mother in your make-up now."

"Oh for…" Michael flopped back on a couch behind the table at which he had been sitting in exasperation. "You thought this wasn’t important?"

"Michael, that explains why you were able to heal River Dog that time!" Maria told him excitedly.

"I was nowhere near Max when that happened," Michael reminded her. He looked at Jemma. "But it is true. I healed someone. A minor healing, compared to what Maxwell has done, but I did fix his broken ankle."

"The Four Square is intimately bonded," Jemma informed them. "You all have access to each other’s gifts to a minor degree, whether you take them physically or you access them through your connection. It is why a Four Square is such a powerful fighting unit. It has never been developed fully on Illyria - this bond between one member of each guild. There is too much jealousy between the various factions for any group of guild members to give themselves over to each other to such a degree. It is one reason that you were all sent here for your rebirth. The main reason was to protect you until you had matured, but the other was so that your connection would not be influenced by Illyrian politics and prejudices. Here you would be free to fully embrace your union with each other. It is also a reason we are developing the concept through the changed humans. They are new to their powers and do not have the same loyalty to the old guild ways. They form natural Four Squares much to our delight, all bonded by the mysterious step they feel they are taking by joining our cause."

Maria felt her eyes beginning to cross. When Jemma was in the mood to provide information, she really went with it. Half of this seemed like worthless trivia and, yet, she still felt like the answer to the whole mystery of what was happening to Isabel lay hidden somewhere within the depths of it all. If they only had enough time to sift through it! She glanced at her watch worriedly, again looked at Michael meaningfully. He didn’t notice though.

When she looked at him, Michael was pensive, more sad than anything. Maria understood immediately that he was thinking of Max and Tess, two members of his Four Square he might never see again. Her heart went out to him and, so, she was surprised when he said, "I think I knew all of this."

"You do?" Jennetta asked, going to sit beside him and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, as though she too had seen what Maria had. "What do you mean?"

"I know Max and Tess aren’t dead," Michael replied simply. "I’ve always known it, but I didn’t know I knew it." He rolled his eyes. "I know it doesn’t sound like it makes any sense, but I guess I just realized that I’ve always known that I would have felt it if they were."

There was a long moment of silence as everyone else in the room let this sink in. Maria felt her heart lighten slightly. She knew that if Max and Tess were still living, the odds were very high that Kyle and Liz were as well. Maybe they wouldn’t be too late after all.

"Back to Jendar." Michael’s face hardened again as he returned to interrogating Jemma. Maria smiled slightly.

When she looked at him at times like this, when he was in his general-mode, it always hit her how much Michael had changed. Gone was the prickly boy who had masked his uncertainty and fear behind a stone wall. Instead he was now a young man, clearheaded and thoughtful. Yet, she also knew that he had always had this potential to lead, had just needed a chance to show it. It almost made this entire disaster worthwhile to watch the person she most loved in the world become the man he was meant to be. And, at heart, he was still Michael - quick to annoyance and just as quick to regret it.

He was already modifying his tone as he continued to address Jemma. "What about the healer who helped him change the humans. Who was that? Is he still around?"

"She," Jemma corrected. " And no. Lilena died a few years ago." She shrugged. "She had no idea where he went either. When I couldn’t track him down, I came to the conclusion that he had gone off somewhere to die. He was older than me when we arrived here and I am nearing the end of my life-cycle now." She paused, then scowled slightly. "I am beginning to realize that this train of thought is pointless anyway. Jendar was not a shapeshifter and if he were here, I would recognize him."

"How do you know he wasn’t?" Maria asked, unwilling to let it go. This was the only legitimate lead they had come up with at this point. As far as they knew, Jendar was the only full alien who was known to have been on this planet in the last fifty years still unaccounted for. Nasedo was dead. The other two protectors, Silesa and her mate, were also gone. She just knew that they were headed in the right direction.

"I would have known Maria," Jemma snapped. "We worked very closely together. We were both hand-picked to come here and there were no Dernians in the contingent."

"Well, if there was a mole, would you have known it?" Maria argued back. "I mean, isn’t that the point of a mole? You don’t know? The Dernians would likely have done anything to get one of their people through that portal with you, if only to sabotage you. They might have even willingly decided never to shift again. And then when the time came for him to go underground, voila! He shifted shape and since no one knew he could, no one would ever suspect!"

"What the heck would be the point of him messing with Isabel’s mind though?" Michael asked. "I mean, having Izzy and I married strengthens the Illyrian position. That would be the last thing a Dernian mole would have wanted."

"Jendar was not a Dernian!" Jemma exclaimed in frustration. "He was Illyrian, from Queen Milena’s own personal guard. He was completely loyal to the queen. He would never betray her, nor her daughter." She paused again, as though struggling with something, then forged ahead. "The reason I know this? It was not something many knew, but he told me a secret once in order that I would understand how seriously he took the search for Jaxon’s bride here on Earth. He was Queen Milena’s illegitimate half-brother and, so, the young king was his nephew. His loyalty to Jaxon and Milena cannot be questioned. And I know he could not shapeshift. Milena’s family is pureblooded Illyrian." She took a deep breath, her expression fierce, as though daring anyone else to argue with her.

Maria sighed, decided to give up. Jemma was obviously unwilling to discuss it any further. "You know, it does seem supremely ironic that Isabel started to lose control of her mind after she contacted her mother," she commented instead, resigned that they were indeed just talking in circles. "The one person you’d think would want her daughter to be happy…"

"Wait a minute!" The sheriff spoke up again. He had been sitting quietly listening, but now looked so excited, Maria was momentarily taken aback. "Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. Maybe this whole mess has nothing to with hurting Isabel at all. Maybe it has to do with helping her."

"Um, Sheriff, I don’t mean to sound rude, but what the hell are you talking about?" Michael demanded. "How could mindwarping Isabel help her?"

The sheriff stood, started to pace. "Just give me a minute here." Maria and Michael exchanged a look. They didn’t really have a minute. Maria saw Michael getting ready to interrupt again, but she shook her head. He sighed, settled back to listen, glancing at his watch and pressing his lips together.

"As a parent," the sheriff continued, "I fully agree with Maria that Queen Milena’s only concern would be protecting her children, seeing that they are content. It sounds like this Jendar, wherever he is, was fully committed to helping her in that, being as she was his sister." The sheriff looked at Maria and then Michael directly. "Why do you think I so willingly allowed Kyle to come after Tess? I knew that he would not let it go and so I chose to help him. I was blind to it for a long time, but when my son made it clear that he was not going to lose this girl, even if he didn’t know it himself yet, I was ready to move heaven and earth to help him. Isabel is Milena’s daughter, reborn or not. Maybe to her, helping Isabel regain her memories from before is what she considers a gift. She doesn’t mean to hurt her, but thinks she is helping her to be happy. Everything Michael and Isabel have remembered seems to indicate that they were very much in love in that life. For Milena, helping them to remember might seem like a good thing."

"So you think that Jendar, acting on Milena’s orders, is making Isabel remember - or is at least mindwarping her to think that she’s remembering?" Jennetta asked. Maria stared at her daughter. This was all a little complicated to her, but it did seem to make sense.

"Let’s think about what we know about Milena," the sheriff suggested. "We know that she sent Jennetta through the portal with Max. Jenny has told us that the queen was more than aware that Max would never regain his memory without Liz, that she was the only one who could make him want to remember. That was an act of love to save her son from himself. She did her best to make Max happy and now she’s focusing on Isabel."

"But why send Jenny at all?" Maria asked. "She just ended bringing Michael and I closer. That didn’t seem particularly helpful to Isabel." She paused. "Not to mention, following the line of thinking that Isabel was happier in her past life, wouldn’t she have wanted to keep Max on Illyria as king?"

"And Milena also knew that Isabel had Alex," Jennetta inserted. "Lucianus told me all about all three of you…Liz, Alex and my mother. I’ve always assumed that Milena knew too."

"Maybe she didn’t?" Maria ventured, grimacing again. "We don’t really know anything, do we?"

"Well, she certainly knew about Liz," Jenny replied, shrugging. "She wouldn’t have sent Max back if she didn’t."

"God," Michael ran his hands through his hair in frustration making it stand on end even more. Maria smiled slightly. "Could this be any more confusing?"

"The main problem with Illyrians and Dernians is that we don’t understand how they think," Maria sighed. "Dammit! If only Ren were here!" She grimaced, glanced at Jennetta, but her daughter was nodding, clearly not upset. It made Maria worry actually. She hoped that Jenny wasn’t going to be disappointed, prayed that her daughter’s guess that the Four Square would be able to bring him back was right.

"I guess the point of all of this is that we’re not going to figure out who’s behind this, or why, until we get to Illyria," Michael pointed out. "All this interviewing is a waste of time. I say we just get to the damn Ring and get this over with. Maybe Milena will have some answers, maybe not, but the point is, we need to go. The longer we wait, the less chance we’ll be able to save Ren."

Maria moved to put her arm around Jennetta’s waist. "And, at this point, that’s all I care about. Isabel is okay for now and we’re on our guard. As long as we don’t leave her near anyone we don’t know, she should be fine."

"I still don’t like this," Michael told Maria as the others started to move out of the room to prepare to leave for Stonehenge. "I don’t know who to trust and it pisses me off. What if this Jendar character is lurking around? What then?"

"You trust me and the sheriff and Alex and Izzy. You trust our daughter," Maria replied, wrapping her arms around him. "And you take a chance. Because we need Max and Liz. We need Kyle and Tess. We can’t wait any longer Michael. If we miss this opportunity, we may never see them again and we may never get any answers."

"Well, I still think it sucks," Michael said.

"I couldn’t agree more," Maria laughed. "But we can at least do something to make it suck less. We can get our friends back and we can save Ren. And, for now, it’s going to have to be enough."

Michael dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "Have I told you lately that I’m glad I kidnapped you that day?" He paused, then grinned. "Come to think of it, since I wasn’t so glad at the time, I’ve actually probably never told you that."

"No, you haven’t," Maria replied, a shiver running down her spine at the love she saw on his face. And all of it was for her. It was absolutely amazing that they had gone from that dingy motel room on 285 South to this - soulmate city if she did say so herself. From loneliness and wondering if she would ever find someone who really understood her, to actually knowing another person better than she knew herself. "But it’s not like you had any choice Spaceboy. The vibes were too much for you," she teased.

"Vibes, shmibes," Michael scoffed. "I thought you were weird. In fact, I still do." He kissed the tip of her nose to reinforce that he was teasing her right back.

"When this is all over, I say we go back to Aladdin’s porno den and relive the memories," Maria smirked at the expression that crossed his face - complete shock and then a flash of lust so intense it made her weak in the knees. "Then we’ll see how weird you think I am."

"Excuse me," Michael scowled at her, but his eyes were burning into her. "But are you propositioning me? I have a grown daughter you know."

"What a coincidence," Maria said, twisting her way out of his arms. Michael made a grab for her again, but she managed to move away. "So do I. And, as for propositioning you, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see General. We have a war to end first."

With that, she pinched him lightly on the butt and left the room. She grinned slightly to herself as she heard him bellow in frustration behind her before following, still muttering to himself.

To be continued…







posted on 18-Feb-2003 11:08:31 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: So this is all playing out a bit differently then I imagined, but it is all still playing out. Hmmmm...Interesting how I really have no control over these people anymore. Shrug. Enjoy! Next update will be on the new board.

Oh, and I know some of you still would rather I just get back to the about to be judged foursome, but something else needs to be done first. They will appear in the next part. Promise!

Part 41

"Stop here Alex. We can walk the rest of the way."

Alex pulled the rental car to a halt at the side of the motor-way. He and Isabel sat silently for a long moment, both staring out the front windshield at the great stone circle. It was dead-ahead, bathed in floodlights, slightly obscured by the chain-link fence surrounding it. And, yet, even that could not hide its magnificence.

It was the first time Alex had actually seen it in person. Isabel had told him once that Stonehenge looked smaller in real life than it did in pictures and he was inclined to agree with her. However, in comparison to the circle they had visited earlier that evening, it was imposing and extremely impressive.

"Are you scared?" Isabel’s voice trembled slightly.

Alex turned his head and looked at her. Her expression was guarded, her frame tense. Whether he was frightened or not, he could see that she was. "Yeah," he admitted, knowing that she wanted honesty, not reassurance. "But I’m more scared not to go. We need this Isabel. We need them. Everything has been wrong since they left."

"I know," Isabel replied softly. "I miss them all so much Alex. Especially Max of course, but really, all of them." She sighed, running a hand through her long blonde hair in a way that made all of Alex’s senses perk up. It was strange how occasionally he just zoned in on how beautiful she was. By now it was so much more that attracted him to her, but every once it a while, he was just forced to recognize it. "It’s weird that even after everything we’ve been through together, none of us ever really acknowledged it. How much we all need each other I mean."

He reached out and took her hand, squeezing lightly. "Well, we know now. That’s the important thing." He decided it was time to change the subject. "So, should we wait here or should we go case out the situation? Michael told me last time I talked to him that we’re not bringing any humans with us, which means no mindwarpers. We’re going to have to do this the hard way."

"Let’s go look," Isabel suggested. "I can’t just sit here." She glanced at her watch. "They might be a while yet anyway. I don’t think they’re going to be able to sniff out whoever’s been mindwarping me very quickly."

"We’re cutting it pretty close," Alex said as he joined her on the far side of the car and they started to wade through the long grass between the motor-way and the fence. "What if we don’t…"

His question was cut off by a sudden flash of light from the direction of the stone circle, which was blinding in its intensity. He heard Isabel shriek in surprise as he yelled, "What the hell?" He shaded his eyes, narrowing them as he stared uncomprehendingly at the bright red column of light beaming into the sky in front of them. He was forced to look away when spots began to dance in front of his face.

When he was finally able to see clearly again, Alex realized that Isabel’s hand was back in his. "What the heck was that?" He demanded, his heart still thudding in his chest, although he already knew. He had seen one before after all, way back when Michael and Maria, followed by Max, had first disappeared to Illyria. He just wanted her to confirm that he wasn’t seeing things.

It had come and gone so quickly…

Isabel was standing ramrod straight. He grimaced slightly as her hand tightened around his to the point of actually being painful. "It was a portal Alex! Oh my God! They’re back! They have to be."

With that, she wrenched away from him and started to run towards the fence. "Max must have figured out the solstice stuff too! Alex, they’re here!" She called this over her shoulder as she ran, her excitement clear in her voice.

"Isabel, wait!" Alex called, breaking into a run too. "Be careful! We don’t know for sure…" He trailed off as she raised her hand, cutting a hole in the fence with her powers. "That it’s them," he finished, his voice soft when another bright flash from near the stones illuminated the black night.

Alex frowned, his heart starting to beat double-time again. That had not been a portal. He knew that for sure. In fact, it had looked an awful lot like the light Michael produced when he was blasting something.

"Isabel! Wait!" Alex bellowed. She was already through the fence though. For the first time her desperation to see her brother again fully became clear to Alex. She still blamed herself for the fact that Max had gone to Illyria in the first place. He had known it, had thought her past it, but her complete lack of care at the moment was more than forcing him to reevaluate that conclusion. "Isabel!"

He finally caught up to her right on the periphery of the stone circle itself. It wouldn’t have happened though if she herself had not stopped. He leaned forward panting, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. "Iz, you need to be more careful. We don’t know for sure it was…"

"It wasn’t," Isabel whispered. Alex looked up at her. He could barely see her face in the darkness, but he could hear her fear. "Alex, look!"

He followed the direction of her finger and felt his heart stop, knew instantly she was right. Because there was absolutely no way any of their friends would have been capable of what his eyes were perceiving.

Lying not five feet from them, a hole in the shape of a silver hand-print burnt into his chest, was a young man in a security guard’s uniform. The hand-print glowed, which was the only reason that he could see the dead man at all. The floodlights had obviously been short-circuited by the portal, because the whole area was pitch black. Alex straightened, grabbed Isabel by the arm, started to pull her back in the direction from which they had come. "We better get out of here Iz."

"Leaving so soon Mirana? And just when I was feeling touched to find a welcoming committee!"

Alex closed his eyes, counted to ten, prayed that he was hearing things. He knew that voice though. He hadn’t heard it in close to two years and, yet, he recognized it. After all, one didn’t quickly forget the voice of the person who had first screwed everything up.

He and Isabel both turned slowly. Their eyes briefly met on the way around and he could see her fear written all over her face. When she spoke though, her voice was completely calm. "You’re dead," she stated matter-of-factly. "You are a figment of my imagination."

"Sorry Princess. Your friend sees me too. Or am I mistaken Mr. Whitman?" His face was lit up by a hand held out before him. The same hand that had just murdered an innocent guard who happened to be standing near the wrong alien portal at the wrong time.

Alex was surprised to hear that the killer knew his name. When they had last known him, he had been entirely dismissive of humans after all.

"I see you," Alex admitted quietly.

He wished he didn’t, but he did, and Isabel needed to know so.

It was Nasedo. There was absolutely no mistaking this fact. Alex had actually only ever seen him once, the time that Liz had been having dinner at the Hardings, but his fear for his friend on that occasion had made it so that he had never forgotten him.

"You’re dead," Isabel repeated. Alex could hear the slight note of hysteria that was beginning to creep into his girlfriend’s tone. He squeezed her hand lightly, trying to reassure her. If there was one thing Alex knew it was that they needed to remain calm until they figured out what was going on here.

"Not dead, just missing in action for a while," Nasedo corrected. "At least in this form. But I’ve been around Princess. I have always been watching you."

"Shut up! Stop trying to scare her!" A new voice entered the conversation. Alex watched in amazement as a woman stepped out from behind one of the standing stones, where she had obviously been lurking. She was extremely beautiful, in spite of the fact that the first bloom of youth had faded from her countenance. She looked strangely familiar to Alex, although he couldn’t quite put his finger on where he had seen her before. "You are a bastard beyond even my comprehension," she continued, her voice dripping with contempt. "How I ever could have thought I loved you…"

Alex felt a spasm run through Isabel’s entire body as she took in this new arrival. When she spoke, he understood abruptly. "Mother?" Izzy’s voice was barely above a whisper, but the woman turned her head, a small smile lighting her face.

"Mirana."

Alex was surprised when Isabel did not move. Instead she backed up a step. He looked at her in confusion. This was supposed to be a dream come true for Isabel. To actually see her birth mother in the flesh…He knew that it had been one of her greatest wishes.

As he tried to work out was going on here, he suddenly remembered how Isabel had said that perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing that she had been unable to reach her mother the last time she tried. They had become preoccupied fairly quickly after that and he had never asked her to elaborate. Was that the reason she seemed more upset than happy to see Milena now?

Alex sized Isabel’s mother up suspiciously. "Why are you here?" He demanded fiercely. He didn’t direct it at anyone in particular, just hoped one or the other would answer him. "Where are Max and the others?"

"Max kindly sent us ahead," Nasedo replied. "To prepare you all for their return."

"You’re lying," Isabel accused, her voice trembling. "He would have come himself. Something’s wrong! I know it!" Alex was in complete agreement and, yet, Isabel’s composure was disappearing quickly. He didn’t like it at all. Something was extremely wrong here.

"Izzy, calm down," he whispered. "It’s okay."

"It’s not okay Alex!" Isabel practically shrieked. "She’s the one who has been controlling me!"

Alex jumped, stared at her. "What?"

"No, my daughter," Milena pleaded, reaching out her hands. "Please allow me to explain. I swear it is not what you think."

"Calm down Princess," Nasedo soothed, taking a step towards them. "I will explain everything. I know that my appearance is a shock, but please trust that I disappeared in order to protect you all."

"Bang up job you did of that," Alex muttered, unable to help himself. "What the hell is going on here?"

He blinked and felt a shiver run down his spine when Milena turned her eyes on him. Even in the darkn he could see how they glinted strangely. "This is all your fault," she hissed. "You humans have ruined everything."

"What?" He was dumbfounded, took a step backwards, his heart thudding again. Her tone had been entirely threatening.

She continued to advance on him. Alex stared at her, realized why she had looked so familiar when he first saw her. The resemblance between she and Isabel was actually scary. The same long blonde hair, the same perfect features, the same full, statuesque figure. But her eyes were not the same as Izzy’s. They were Max’s eyes and, yet, that wasn’t it either. Because they were missing one thing Alex thought inanely. He watched in fascination as her arm came up and her hand started to glow.

Sanity. No sign of sanity existed in that gaze at all. And while Max Evans had often been screwed up in the time that Alex had known him, he had never been crazy.

This woman was.

"Mother!" Isabel stepped in front of Alex, holding her arms out at her sides. "What do you think you’re doing?"

"You are confused Miri," Milena exclaimed soothingly. "It will all be as it is meant to be once he is gone. He is clouding your emotions."

"You’re clouding my emotions," Isabel retorted. "Aren’t you?" There was a long pause. Milena stopped walking forward. Alex could feel the tension in the air as mother and daughter stared each other down. "Just tell me the truth." Isabel’s voice had dropped, was trembling. "Was it you?"

"Partly, yes," Milena admitted. "But I can explain. I did it for you Miri. I swear I did!"

"Controlling my mind was supposed to help me?" Isabel demanded, her tone disbelieving. "Not on this planet Mother. And not on any planet I want anything to do with!"

Alex wanted to comfort her somehow. He could hear the pain in her voice, the betrayal she was trying desperately to hide. He wanted to tell her that she sounded strong, that Milena would not know the difference, that only he could see how hurt she really was.

He did not say anything though, knew that the last thing Isabel needed was for him to interfere at the moment. She was still standing in front of him, obviously protecting him bodily, and he could do nothing to help this situation. Because she had seen exactly whathe had seen. He was the one in actual physical danger here. But the question was why?

"Milena, you do not understand. A relationship with a human is not for you. You have a bonded mate. You were reborn together, you deserve your second chance with Tristandor. I was only trying to give it to you! I was helping you to remember what who you were born to be."

"Okay, what?" Isabel was shaking her head in disbelief. "That makes no sense! You are making me feel things for someone I regard as a brother! That makes no sense."

"He is not your brother. He is your husband," Milena argued. "You achieved what I always craved - true love. I will not allow you to let it slip away." The older woman’s voice was rising hysterically now.

Isabel’s arms fell to her sides. "Mother, what you did was wrong. You were not helping me. Whoever I was before, I am not her now. You’ve met Max. You must see that it’s true. We are different people."

Milena shook her head. "He is the same my child. Jaxon has not changed a bit. He is still stubborn and completely uncontrollable. Last time all he cared about was the portal. And this time his entire being is focused on that girl. He has always been a lost cause."

Alex nodded slightly to himself. Well, she had that one right anyway. If there was one thing Max Evans was, it was a might obsessive. Especially when it came to Liz.

"He’s a lost cause because you can’t control him?" Isabel demanded, getting right to the crux of the matter as usual. "That’s it, isn’t it? You call him stubborn? Then what does that make you? You have been trying to turn me into the person you want me to be, the person you remember. I am not Mirana any longer. And if you can’t accept that, then we have nothing else to say to each other."

"My, my," Nasedo clucked. "It seems that your daughter has you pegged quite well Milena dear." He chuckled slightly. "I’m glad I came. This is all highly amusing."

"Shut up!" Milena whirled on Nasedo, her expression so frigid, it froze Alex’s blood in his veins. He was just glad that it was no longer directed at him. He realized that he was seeing her quite clearly now, raised his eyes and saw that the floodlights surrounding the stone monument had come back on. "This is all your fault. You betrayed me. I forgave you for killing them before, knew it was the only way to ensure Ren’s ascension, but I will not forgive you for what they have become. This is not my daughter!"

"Er, what?" Alex whispered this into Isabel’s ear. "Why is she talking about Ren ascending anything? Isn’t he just a bodyguard?’

"He’s Nasedo’s son," Isabel reminded him, her voice low. "Maybe they…" She trailed off as the full horror of what her mother had just said penetrated. "You forgave him for killing us?" Her voice rose. "You killed us? The being sent here to protect us was the one who took our lives?"

Nasedo shrugged. "Ironic that." He looked back at Milena, sounded bored. "If you don’t like her, kill her. You will have to do it anyway. None of them will allow your precious Ren to sit on the throne. They have their own Chosen One after all. Don’t you remember the little brat you sent here with Jaxon?"

"Jennetta is insignificant," Milena replied. "She was a tool to take Jaxon through the portal so that Ren would follow. There was nothing more to it then that. His journey was necessary to fulfill the prophecy."

"Oh crap," Alex muttered. "Not another prophecy. Can’t these people just live their lives?"

"Shhhh," Isabel ordered. Milena and Nasedo seemed to have forgotten their presence entirely. They were too busy arguing. And, yet, every word out of their mouths was helping to fill in the blanks they had all been living with for months.

"The King will bind two worlds, his union healing the breach that exists?" Nasedo asked. "That prophecy? Milena, he cannot rule over two planets without a portal. I am the one meant to fulfill the prophecy. I control the link between the two worlds."

"You are a fool," Milena hissed. "The Chosen One must be of dual heritage. You are Dernian, even if your own people would reject you for your lack of cleansing. You are not the Chosen One."

"Who chose the Chosen One anyway?" Alex murmured to Isabel. "Do we all get to choose our own? Because that really seems to be what’s going on here."

Nasedo turned his head, eyed him. Alex gulped, but the shapeshifter seemed appreciative. Well, at least they had a good-humoured psycho on their hands, Alex reflected, still feeling a bit panicky. "The one with the power is the Chosen One Mr. Whitman. And I am he."

"You are not, you arrogant bastard!" Milena shrieked. "My son will rule!"

Isabel turned her head, looked at Alex, her eyes wide. He shrugged. As far as Alex knew, her son already did rule. "Mother…" Isabel said tentatively, "Max is king. I don’t understand why you…"

"The son she can’t control is presently king," Nasedo interjected. "The son she thinks she can is the one she wants. But I was the one who raised him and Ren is nowhere near the pawn she thinks he is. He was cleansed wasn’t he? I certainly never told him to do that."

"But Ren isn’t…" Isabel trailed off. "Oh my God." Alex could hear the horror in her voice. "Are you telling me that you two…" She gestured between the two of them. "He’s both of yours?"

Milena’s expression had calmed slightly. She met Isabel’s eyes, nodded. "Ren is your brother Mirana. He is the destined king of Illyria."

Oh great, Alex thought. There’s that word again. Stupid destiny.

"Excuse the lowly human for speaking up," Alex interrupted, when it was quite clear that Isabel was speechless. "But how does the fact that Ren is Max’s half-brother make him eligible for the throne? Max’s claim comes through his father, not you."

"Any child of royal blood may sit on the throne," Nasedo replied. "My blood, as you would say on Earth, is just as blue as that of any of the Illyrian royals. I was born into the Dernian ruling house, the same house from which emerged Tristandor and Sabrya. In fact, they are my nephew and niece. And what my worthless brother was incapable of completing, I will see accomplished. The House of Dernia will sit on the throne in their own right."

"Through Ren," Milena snapped.

"I think not," Nasedo replied, beginning to sound pissy. "After my death, perhaps. But I will have my chance to rule."

Alex glanced at Isabel again. These two were getting ready for a serious disagreement. Maybe they would take care of each other. Now wouldn’t that be convenient?

Nah, wouldn’t happen. They had never been granted the easy way. Alex sighed, tuned back into the conversation.

"You’ve had your chance," Milena argued. "Illyria is in a greater state of disaster then it was under my incompetent husband and my even more incompetent son."

"Mother!" Isabel’s exclamation cut through the bickering, the command in her tone unmistakable. Nasedo and Milena both looked at her impatiently. "I don’t understand any of this. You were willing to see your own children dead to have your illegitimate child sit on a throne that doesn’t even belong to him? How could you? How could you do this to Max?"

"You brother has exactly what he wants," Milena replied dismissively. "He never wanted to be king. If he did he would not have been so eager to find a way off the planet he was supposed to be ruling. He was always searching for something else. I want Jaxon’s happiness and the throne of Illyria will not provide it. That girl is the only thing he wants."

"You are rationalizing," Isabel said, her voice trembling. "You betrayed him. You had my brother killed!"

"I did not have him killed," Milena insisted. She glared at Nasedo. "That was all Laren’s doing. Besides, it was destined. He would never have met his Liz had it not happened."

"But what of Tristandor and Mirana?" Alex put in. He knew that this was where Isabel’s real concern lay. She could not voice it herself, could not ask her mother to rationalize her own murder. And, so, he would get her answers for her.

"That was a mistake," Milena said, sounding sad. "I had no desire to lose my daughter. I love you Mirana. Why do you think I have worked so hard to give you back your life?"

"Lucky me!" Isabel exclaimed, her tone entirely sarcastic. She looked at Alex. "I sure am lucky, huh Alex?"

"No, you are loyal," Alex replied, absolutely sure he was right. "You were loyal. There was no way they could keep you alive with Jaxon gone. Neither Tristandor, nor Mirana would have rested until he was avenged." He met Milena’s eyes. "Isn’t that right? You knew all along that your plot for your other kid would only work if your first two kids disappeared. You might not have actually said it out loud, but he knew you were okay with it."

"I was the one who brought them back!" Milena shrieked. "I was the one who insisted that it be so."

"I don’t think so," Alex said firmly. "I think that was the famous Lucianus Nestorian, the one we’ve heard so much about, but no one knows who he is. I don’t think you had anything to do with it at all. Because if you had, you wouldn’t have sent their killer with them in the first place. That was your final attempt to rid yourself of Jaxon and Mirana once and for all." And, suddenly, the truth was so crystal clear, Alex wondered how it had taken him so long to see it. "The Crash wasn’t an accident at all, was it?"

"Well, well, well." Nasedo’s clapping hands broke the silence that had fallen over the clearing after Alex practically yelled this last part. He had instantly felt horrible, wondered if he was completely off base, was staring at Isabel in dismay, hoping that his speculations weren’t just making things worse. Because did either she or Max really need to know that their mother had cared so little for them that she had deliberately allowed their murders and then, when they had been given one last chance at life, had sent them off with the very being who had murdered them in the first place? Isabel’s dream of her birth mother was turning more into a nightmare with every word out of his mouth! So much for helping.

"You have managed to hook a smart one this time Mirana," Nasedo continued. "I suppose one life with a good-looking imbecile was enough. I commend you." Alex wondered why he felt insulted, even though Nasedo seemed to be complimenting him. Oh right. If Tristandor had been the good-looking imbecile, then he was the ugly smart guy.

Great Whitman. Focus on the one totally insignificant aspect of all of this. Alex smacked himself mentally. He really was going to have to have a talk with himself. Very soon.

"Michael is not an imbecile!" Isabel glared at him. "God! How is it possible that anyone could be so selfish and evil, let alone both of you? Neither of you even knows what love is!"

"They both love themselves," Alex corrected gently. "And that’s the whole problem."

Isabel snorted. Alex was relieved that she didn’t seem upset at all, only disgusted beyond belief. "Poor Ren. It’s probably a good thing that he can’t feel any emotions. Can you imagine having to deal with the fact that these two are your parents? I’m having a hard enough time with the fact that I have to claim one of them."

"Um Isabel…" Alex grimaced. Was Izzy not aware that Ren was dead? He realized that she might not be. After all, she had been pretty out of it when he had passed on. He glanced at Milena, his heart pounding with dread. That woman was going to completely lose it when she found out. There was absolutely no question.

Which brought to mind the thought that, in spite of the fact that they were both unfeeling jerks - ironic that in two beings who had not been cleansed - they were both also psycho. And perfectly willing to kill to get what they wanted.

And he and Isabel were all alone with them.

No, bringing up Ren’s not-live status did not seem like the most prudent of routes at the moment.

"What Alex?" Izzy was eyeing him impatiently. He realized that all three of them were still waiting for him to speak.

Fortunately - or unfortunately depending on your point of view - he was not required to answer. Alex felt his eyes widen as he watched the air behind Isabel start to flicker. There was no other word for it…

Which could only mean one thing. Alex pointed at it, unsure whether this was a good thing or not. Because he couldn’t say by any stretch of the imagination that the last one had been in any way positive.

But he told her anyway.

"Portal!"

To be continued…