posted on 17-May-2002 2:35:47 PM by DMartinez
I can't get to my other posts so here's the next part
http://pub65.ezboard.com/brealmdm in the Roswell section has the whole thing thus far.
Author: DMartinez
Email: shockerdm⊕icqmail.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and UPN. Passage in part 21 is from White Fang by Jack London. Passages in part 36 are from Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner. No infringement intended.
Rating: R
Summary: Future Fic. 20 years down the road.


Finding Home

Lydia followed Zan closely as they made their way back into town. Stumbling, she reached out for his arm so she wouldn't fall to her knees. Stopping, he turned his head to see her struggling to her feet again. "Need to rest?"

"Maybe just for a little bit." She nodded. "These aren't the best walking shoes." She pointed to her Keds as she sat on the curb. Hesitantly she looked up at him. "Thanks."

"For what?" Hands in pockets, he leaned on light pole.

"For saving me back there. I…" Lydia stared at her knees and hugged his jacket around her. "I just went with him to make Mom mad and… I wasn't paying attention to what I was getting into… I don't normally go with boys to the Pointe." Had to hold back a tear. "I also didn't know Jacob was such a jerk."

"There are people like that on every planet… unfortunately." Zan nodded and slid down to sit next to her. "What… what you dance… that's called?"

"Ballet." She sat up straight. "Were you there tonight?" Had to smile at his slight nod. "I like it but I'm actually thinking of switching to gymnastics. I like the spins and all but there's no opportunity for flips without the aid of a gay male dancer." She stopped and looked up at him. "Do you know about stereotypes?"

"Some of them." He admitted.

"How long have you been on Earth?"

"Eight months." Zan looked up to the sky, his home world shone brightly at him.

"Do you miss it?"

"Every day."

"Why did you come here?"

"I don't know."

"Do you hate Dad?"

"I don't know." Zan stood up. "Let's go. Your mom is probably worried."

"Yeah." She agreed and got to her feet. It was a struggle to keep up with his longer strides. He seemed mad and she didn't want to make him worse but she really couldn't keep up. "Zan? Can you slow down a little?" Without warning, he turned, swung her onto his back, and kept walking. "Okay. Whoa. Couldn't have told someone you were going to do that?"

"You talk a lot."

"That's what Mom says. Says that I make up for how quiet Dad was when he was my age. Believe me, he was shy. Mom says that they went to school together since they were seven years old. He said that he knew he loved her the second he stepped off the bus that year and saw her playing with her friends… but it took ten years for him to ask her out." She sighed heavily and rested her head against his. "You're not even out of breath? You carry people on your back a lot?"

"I never leave a man behind. I always carry the injured to safety." He reached up and moved her hand so he could breathe easier.

"Oh… you fought? Is that where these scars came from?" She tapped his hand.

"In the Ditke there are these trees with long branches that touch the ground. Great place to hide from your enemies but the bark is razor sharp and reaching through the branches is never a good idea when your hands are covered in guno juice. That's why I couldn't heal them."

"Huh. Interesting. Are there girls on Antar?"

"I believe so. The planet could hardly be populated without them." He managed a small smile and entered the neighborhood he had been staking out for three months.

"What I meant is… did you leave a girlfriend up there?" Silence and then a snort. "Well?"

"If you could call her that."

"Oh. So you do have some sweetheart tucked away. I'll bet she's missing you."

"Hardly. Probably celebrating my absence."

"That doesn't sound romantic."

"We… we're supposed to get married when I return but I know she doesn't want to."

"Then why get married?"

"We're supposed to."

"Okay. Why do you think she doesn't want to marry you?"

"Because I'm part human and she's full Antarian."

"Do you like her?"

"I've barely spoken to her."

"Remind me not to go to Antar looking for a boyfriend."

"At least she can learn to accept me. I have the feeling that Earth women wouldn't be so understanding of the way we are."

"Look at Mom. She's fine with it."

"Are you sure? Your mother seems to be angry at our father for a lot of reasons that seem to be related to what we are." Stopping, he swung her onto her feet. "It could never work."

"You don't know that. Most of their problems have nothing to do with the alien part. Mom is actually…" Lydia stopped walking and looked up at him. "You didn't know that did you?"

"Know what?"

"Mom isn't human anymore. Hasn't been for 22 years."

"What is she?"

"I don't know what you would call her. Dad calls himself a hybrid. I don’t know what you would call us." A pair of headlights stopped any further speech.

"Lyds! There you are!" An agitated Bendy hopped out of the Ferrari and rushed over. "We've been looking for you and Queen Amidala back there is a pain in the ass." She blinked at the tall man beside her friend and smiled. "Well, hello. Lyds, whose your friend?"

"Bendy, this is Zan. Zan, Bendy. She's my best friend." She snuck a glance up at him. "He's my brother."

"What?" Bendy blinked. "Ok. Whoa. System freeze. Moving on. What happened with Jacob? Terry's been vague about what you told her and no one knows where he is now."

"Terry?" Zan narrowed his eyes at the blond in the Ferrari. "That's Terry?"

"Yeah." Lydia smiled. "Come on. She'll give us a ride home."

"No." Zan shook his head. "She's not a nice person."

"Yes she is. You'd like her." Lydia shook her head at him.

"No. She's not. She knew." Zan grabbed her hand and started walking. They were three blocks from the house.

"She knew? Knew what?" Lydia struggled against his grip.

"She's… she's umrata." Zan spat out. "Look what he did to you." He tugged at the collar of his jacket on her small body. "Think of what he would have done to you. Tell me if you'd still be her friend if she knew what he was going to do."

--

Liz dropped the phone when she heard the door open. Three young people stepped into the house and some of the tension left her body. "Lydia Evans, where have you been?"

"Mom…" Lydia got about two steps before she broke down.

"Honey, what happened?" Liz took her in her arms and let her cry. Finally she looked up to her daughter's companions. "What happened?"

"Bendy. Take Lydia upstairs to change." Zan ordered and gestured for Liz to sit. The two girls raced up the stairs and left them alone. "She was… not a willing participant."

"What happened?" Liz jumped to her feet, face pale.

"I got to her in time. She's okay." He turned to go but her hand on his arm stayed him.

"Zan… thank you."

"Lucky I was there."

--

Max turned down the acetylene torch when he felt the stomping near his head. It was too hot to see anything clear, so he pulled his mask off. "What was that?"

"Phone call. The wife. Says it's urgent."

Passing off the torch, Max lifted himself out of the pit and jogged to the temporary station on the site. "Liz?"

"Max. How long are you going to be gone?"

"I'll probably be back tomorrow. It wasn't as bad as they thought." Max wiped the dirt and sweat off his brow and caught a water that someone tossed to him.

"Be here soon."

"What's wrong?"

"Lydia… last night…"

"What happened?" Max could feel his heart pounding in his chest. "What happened last night, Liz?"

"Thankfully, nothing but if he hadn't been there… who knows."

"Who?"

"Zan. Zan saved our baby girl. Come home, Max. Soon."

TBC

[ edited 32time(s), last at 10-Jul-2002 8:09:24 PM ]
posted on 18-May-2002 11:08:03 PM by DMartinez
Max entered his former home for the second time in a week carrying his bags. He was grimy and sweaty and desperately in need of a shower. Before he could even set one of the bags down, his eight year old came barreling into his arms. "Hey there chief."

"Daddy." Was all Isaac said, squeezing his father tight.

"Where's Mom?" Max set him down gently and moved further into the house.

"Out. Said she was going to run some errands." He shrugged. "Lyds is upstairs."

"Mom left you alone?"

"No. She said someone was watching us but I don't see the babysitter."

--

Liz could see him when she opened the door. He was working out in the main room around the corner. Quietly, she made her way in but when she turned the corner, he was gone. That's when she felt the breath at her neck and the hot body behind her. Her eyes squeezed shut. "To what do I owe the honor?"

"I just want to talk to you." She whispered.

"Then you're going to have to speak up. Have a seat." Then his heat was gone and when she opened her eyes, he was sitting in a recliner in the main room. "So, talk."

Cautiously she made her way into the room and sat on the couch. "I just wanted to talk to you about why you're here." She took in his thin sweaty form. Apparently he was never fed enough. "Lydia seems to look up to you already and I don't want her to get hurt if your intentions aren't completely honorable."

"I don't have any intention of hurting them or you. I wasn't even planning on making my presence known." Zan slid down in the recliner. "You have Isaac to thank for busting me. He took me by surprise and no one takes me by surprise."

"Why were you watching us then?" Liz sat up and stared at him. "Why are you here?"

"Look… I don’t know why I'm here." He jumped to his feet and reached up the pole to swing his legs up. He hung upside down for a moment before sitting up to put his arms on his knees. "I'm just… I wanted to know what it was like here. I've only ever been up there and Earth is a decent place."

"Yeah, we like it. It's… peaceful… most of the time." Liz stared at the back of his head. "It's not… up there, is it?"

"Far from it. It's okay now but there are skirmishes every once in a while. They take my lead and I'm not ready for it."

"Why are you here?" Liz pleaded.

"Officially… to take the royal seal and go home as King." Zan stared at his hands. "I don’t want it. I really don't. Up there, I'm just a warrior. That's how all his people see me. I'm just a warrior. If I go back, they'll treat me different. My… fiancée will still know what I really am but everyone else will expect him in my place."

"Take the seal?" Liz paled.

"Don't tell me you care. I may not have been around for long but I'm not stupid." Raised his eyebrows at her. "Do you even love him anymore?"

"Of course, I do. I've never loved anyone else." She rose to her feet. "What did you mean by take the seal?"

"I wasn't going to kill him, if that's what you're worried about."

"Then what were you going to do? When were you going to do it?" She towered over him.

"I still haven't made up my mind." All he had to do was stand up and he was the one with the height advantage. "Maybe all I wanted to was see the replacements. See what exactly he abandoned me for. I should be glad that his life is falling apart—"

"But you're not." Liz nodded and started for the door.

"Doesn't mean he's my father." Zan called after her. "He'd have to have been there my whole life to be that!"

Had to turn when she reached the door. "Then you'd have made up your mind by now."

--

"Mom was right about Terry." Lyds pulled her pillow against her chest. "Her friend Jacob wanted to add a notch to his pole and she was going to help him do it."

"Doesn't sound like a friend to me."

"Guess not."

"Sweetie…" Max reached forward and took her hand. "Not all boys are like him. Someday… in say… 30 years, you'll meet someone and he'll be perfect."

"30 years? Dad…" She whined but squeezed his hand. "I hope he's like you."

"No you don't. You'll meet someone better than your dad. Someone who will actually be there when you need him." Max lowered his eyes. "So you met your brother… again…"

"Daddy." He looked up at the diminutiveness of her voice. "I love you."

"I love you, too, sweetie." Had to wipe at his eyes to keep a tear from falling down his face.

"Daddy, come home. Mom misses you."

"It's not that simple."

"It can be. She really does miss you. Sometimes she cries at night." Lydia sat up and pleaded. "Please, Daddy. We just want you home."

Had to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Had to think. "I promise... that I will… make an… honest effort to… discuss this with your mother. Alright?" Max kissed her forehead and waited for her nod. "That's all I can guarantee."

"It's good enough for me." Liz whispered from the door.

--

"Sire. We're running out of time."

"I don't want you here." Zan slammed his fist into a punching bag. "You're obviously not doing your job. I did some of my own digging today. My father's wife had me followed. She knows where I live." He turned on his protector. "He has loyal subjects on this planet as well."

"Sire. This really isn't the time for this."

"Then when is it?" Zan tossed a glove at the skittish man. "It wasn't the time when my surrogate mother was murdered. It wasn't the time when my trainer suddenly disappeared. It's not the time when I have my real father within reach. What happens in the remainder of my stay on Earth will affect everything on Antar."

"I agree, sire but… our goal is to take the seal, return to Antar and announce both your monarchy and wedding to our people. Jasime will be disappoint if you don't return." He stepped forward. "We have word that she misses you, sire."

"Who came up with that lie?" Zan laughed and tossed the other glove onto the couch. "Jasime would just love it if I burned up upon re-entry of the home world. She would dance on my ashes and you know it. The woman hates me and what I am."

"I know no such thing. She was bred to be your wife and she will be your wife."

"What if… I let my sister inherit the planet?"

"You have no sister."

"But I do. I have a sister. A beautiful sister, born with grace and poise, born of a mother who loved her husband… not of a woman who destroyed her supposed love and then betrayed him to the enemy. Her mother was not a murderess." Zan let his amber eyes settle on his protector. "I don't think I will be returning to Antar as King."

"You cannot do this." The protector raged. "You have a duty to your people!"

"A duty to my people?" Zan took a seat and calmly looked across the room. "To which people? The ones that are loyal to my father and await his eventual return for a longer and more permanent stay? The ones that tried to kill him four times while he was on Antar? The ones that raised me and claimed to be loyal to him but tried six times to kill him?"

"That human is not your father."

"That human created me. He had a personal hand in my creation. I am his son… whether you like it or not. You may have stolen me from my traitorous mother, tried to pitch me against my father and seen to it that I would rule someday but you forget that I am his son. His character and morale fabric are what I was cut from. That will never change. Accept my stand or fear my wrath."

TBC
posted on 20-May-2002 3:45:20 PM by DMartinez
"Lyds seems to be dealing well." Max whispered into his cup of coffee. The only light came from above the kitchen sink, the silence of the night soaking into his bones.

"She's a strong girl." Liz nodded and had to wipe away a tear. "When I think of what could have happened to her… and then I get mad that she didn't develop any other powers… like it's my fault that I can throw energy and she can't. She can't defend herself—"

"Liz." Carefully and slowly, he wrapped a hand around hers. "You couldn't have known and you can't blame yourself… but if I ever see this boy, he won't live to see another birthday."

"I still don't know why he was there but I'm glad Zan was." Liz squeezed his hand. "We can't press charges, can we?"

"What?" Max's eyes snapped up. "Press charges."

"Zan used his powers to get him off of her, to rip open that door." Twirled her cup around, eyes on the dark swirl of coffee. "Lydia said she saw the flash of light when he did it."

"Is that where you went today?" Max sat up a little. "I spotted Saran in the backyard when I looked. Cirot couldn’t have been too far." Gave her a smile. "Lowered yourself to call on my people?"

"I had to see him for myself. I couldn't leave the kids alone." Chin up, eyes lowered. "I had Alkin following Zan for me. His boys… I forget their names… they followed me."

"Vikin and Lonkin." Max nodded and took a breath. "Good boys." Waited. And waited. "And what did you find out?"

"He's scared, Max. He's alone and he's having an identity crisis." Ran her thumb over his finger. "He wants to hate you but he can't. There's something big going on with him. He… he's betrothed."

"Betrothed?"

"He mentioned a fiancée but he didn't sound like you do when you talk about someone you're going to marry. He… he's here to take your seal, Max." Watched him let the news sink in. "I don't think he wants to. He didn't say how he was going to do it. All he said was he wouldn't kill you to do it."

"He has the seal inside him." He said finally. "He doesn't need to take it from me."

"But… he said that's what he's here to do."

"Are you sure? What did he say exactly?"

"Officially…" Let the word fall between them. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"He's smarter than they give him credit for. They think he needs to take it from me. It narrows down who 'they' are."

"What do you mean?"

"Kivar knew all about the essence transfer and how it all worked. My mother orchestrated the whole thing. These… people don't know how the transfer works. Because Zan is a production of both king and queen, the seal is there. It's in his DNA just like it was in mine." Lifted her hand to his lips. "He didn't say anything else?"

"No. Max… what are you thinking?"

"He's leaving us some bread crumbs." Kissed her knuckle above her wedding ring. "He's a lot smarter than they think."

"Ask me, Max."

"Do you still need space?"

--

Zan nodded to the two men staking out his apartment. He faced the street and pretended to wait for the bus. "Who sent you?"

"The queen." One answered.

"My father's wife?"

"The same."

"I see." He nodded and tapped his fingers on his knee. "They've accepted him as king, haven't they?"

"Everyone of them."

"Good."

"Who are your people?"

"The people who raised me. Tell me, what is the punishment for kidnapping a member of the royal court?"

"Death."

"What if I returned to Antar claiming to be the new King?

"There would be some tests and some background. Your father would have to pass the crown before all those on Antar."

"Huh." Zan nodded and took a seat on the bench. "And if I chose to remain dead in the eyes of our world?"

"No one could force you to reveal yourself."

"The two of you?"

"I've pledged my allegiance to King Zan the elder. I would do anything for him, including keeping your identity a secret."

"I have also pledged my allegiance to King Zan the elder. If you threaten his crown, I will strike you down. If you don’t… I won't." The other answered.

"You are good men. I'm sure my father is proud to be served by such upstanding men." Zan leaned forward and pondered his options.

TBC
posted on 22-May-2002 8:22:49 PM by DMartinez
"Are you and Dad getting back together? Is Dad coming home?" Isaac asked loudly, as he fiddled with his breakfast spoon.

"I don't know, Sweetie. Eat your cereal." Liz shot Max a look where he stood in the backyard talking to his men.

"I hope so." He flipped a cookie shaped piece of cereal onto the table top and stabbed it with the spoon.

"Me, too."

--

"My sons reported that he was asking questions. Odd ones." Alkin nodded stiffly.

"I'll bet." Max nodded and broke his gaze with his wife. "What would you have done if you had lost one of your boys?"

"Scoured the universe for him."

"And if you hadn't the resources?"

"Found them… or hoped he was safe. Happy." Alkin tilted his head at his king. "He has great respect for you."

"I doubt that." Max cleared his throat. "The ball is in my court, isn't it?"

"Excuse me?" Alkin furrowed his brow in frustration. "Ball?"

"My move." Max clarified with a small smile. "Shall I go offensive or defensive?"

Alkin seemed to take the matter into deep consideration. "Young Zan is the heir to your kingdom. He is your flesh and blood. A part of you."

"Yes."

"He was also raised by an enemy threat that we had no idea existed."

"Yes."

"Should you go in believing the latter, you would alienate your child. Should you go in believing the former, you leave yourself open to harm." Alkin watched his king careful. "Have I been of help?"

"Yes. Yes, you have. Thank you, Alkin. You are a good friend." Max smiled and patted the man on the back. "Thank you for serving my wife as you would serve me."

"My honor. Cirot seems to believe you've chosen your bride falsely." Alkin leaned in, knowing the man spoken of was nearby. "He still cannot believe that crossing her would cause any sort of damage to his person." Both men chuckled. "He still thinks she is unworthy due to her being half-breed. This from a man who took in a clanless man into his heart."

"How is Saran?"

"Coping. Declaring Cirot as his brother in arms has brought him from the brink. He had six children on Antar, four of which died in battle."

Max shook his head. "The other two and his wife?"

"Died in a raid." Alkin cleared his throat. "Thank the stars that you returned to us when you did. We will be safe now, even without your constant presence."

--

Zan fixed the lid on the small box and smiled to himself. Carefully, he wrapped it in paper. Elegantly, he wrote out the card and pressed it on top with double-sided tape. Moments later, he stood next to one of the young men staking out his apartment. "Take this."

"Yes, sir." Vikin nodded and slipped the object into his pocket. He hopped onto the next bus and left his brother to keep watch. Off the bus and into the residential areas of the city. Knocked on the door and fell in love with the angel who answered.

"Yes?"

"Princess?" Vikin swallowed thickly and held out the object.

"Thank you." Lydia bit her lip. "Who are you?"

"Vikin, son of Alkin, your humble servant." He tipped his head. "This is a gift from your brother, Prince Zan."

"Well, thank you." Just as she was about to invite him in, he backed away and strode up the sidewalk. Eyeing the present, she shut the door. Plucked the card off the square object and flipped it open. 'Thought you might enjoy it. Don't rip the paper, your father might find it interesting, as well as this: Why would a people who despise hybridization kidnap a second-generation hybrid and claim him as leader despite origins?' "Dad!"

After a few seconds, Max bounded into the living room. "What is it?"

"Zan sent me this." She handed him the card and began carefully removing the paper. Once off, she couldn't find the importance of the wrapping paper. "You want that?"

"Let me see." Max glanced at the card once more before he took a look at the creased paper in his hand. At first he thought nothing of it but in a different angle of the light, there was something. A scrawl. Snapping his fingers, a lamp turned on and showed Max what had been intended.

"Dad?" Lydia fiddled with the jewelry box in her hand. The top opened to reveal a gymnast in mid-air.

"Details. Maps. This is the threat. This is it. This is everything." Max shifted the paper to see more. "He's waving a white flag."

"Dad. Speak human."

"This is all the information I needed to know about the people who took Zan and raised him. If I need to, I can destroy them." He clapped his hands and began putting the pieces together in his mind.

TBC
posted on 25-May-2002 1:04:18 AM by DMartinez
The letter had taken him an hour to write. It had taken him months to admit to himself the truth in the words he had just written. His people were all around him, some getting ready to make the trip back home, some standing guard, and some arriving off the transport. Zan had arrived just in time to catch one of his servants. After staring at the letter for another minute, relinquished it into the servant's possession to be delivered upon arrival on Antar.

--

Max stood with his men on the hilltop and watched as the Antarians milled around the ship below them. "700."

"Yes, sir. More got off the ship than those that arrived." Saran nodded. "They're leaving in groups of ten. Shall we follow?"

"Too many. They probably branch off when they get to the city." Max ran his eyes over the throng below. "The ones that keep trying to talk to Zan. Follow them."

"How can you tell?" Alkin narrowed his eyes at the men that kept trying to talk to the prince but kept getting shrugged off.

"He's on our side." Cirot cleared his throat. "He's turning on them and thus a cold shoulder."

"Exactly." Max confirmed and looked back to his car. Liz sat inside, staring in shock at the mill of people below them. "Report back when you've learned something."

--

"It took us three weeks to make the trip and when I arrived on Antar, the war was full blown. They tried to shoot us down. We narrowly escaped our deaths. They had dressed me up on the ship and it was the only way my people knew who I was once we were off the ship and into the battlefield. The carnage was horrible. Bodies everywhere. Suffering everywhere I turned. I was so overwhelmed that I almost cracked by nightfall. It was just too much. I wanted nothing more than to have you there by my side to tell me everything would be okay but…

"Months and things were the same every day. I trained and I fought. I had to get their hopes up. I had to win the battles to prove I could win the war. Kivar… he killed my mother. Killed my bodyguards. When we caught him getting into the ship… I snapped. The ship was headed here. He… he was coming to Earth to kill you and the kids and I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't and I… I snuck onto the ship and I killed them, one by one. By the time he knew anything was wrong… I had him and then he was dead.

"Word spread quickly. My people had won the war and I was coming home. I left them to rebuild their lives under my distant rule. There were ships rumored to have escaped and we had to beat them to Earth." Max turned his eyes to his wife. "That's why I was the way I was when I came back."

"Max…" She whispered and turned her face to him. She had stared out the window at their house the entire time he related his story. "I understand that you did what you had to and I realize why you stayed away… but Max… you should have told me."

"Liz—"

"Wait, Max." She turned her body toward him. "This is exactly what I was talking about before you left. You can't make my decisions for me."

"It wasn't your decision to make."

"And it was yours?" Liz bit out. "She's our daughter. OURS. Yours and mine. I stuck by your decision. I haven't tried to teach her to develop her powers. It's wrong, Max. She's part Antarian. She needs to know that part of herself or be confused about the person she is for the rest of her life. Isaac is coping okay. He's comfortable with his scanning. We don't need to worry about him this second but if Lydia doesn't grasp onto her alien-ness, she'll lose it."

Max began to speak but she cut him off again. "Max… you act so ashamed of what you are… they watch, they learn, they suppress. When Isaac learned he could scan, he hid it from me for weeks. When his teachers finally gave me a heads up… he told me that you would be mad. I had to make him feel better by myself, Max. He was scared and he needed his father. I told him it was okay that he could scan but I had to justify reading like a human so that he wouldn't make you mad."

"I would have never gotten mad."

"He didn't know that. You blew up when Lydia learned."

"I was scared. I was terrified. All these years she grew up normal and then something like that. High school rushed through me all over again and I couldn't let that happen to her." Max stopped suddenly. They weren't supposed to be fighting. They were supposed to be talking.

"Max, you never let things happen, which is the problem. Just let them." She opened her door. "You just have to be so in control of everything that you lose sight of what can happen when you just let it. Our children are not idiots. They know they are different. They know, they're careful. Maybe if you gave them a little support from your alien side… they'd be a little more willing to forgive you for leaving them."

"And you?"

"What about me?"

"Can you forgive me?"

"I already did." She climbed out of the car and shut the door behind her, leaving him to the darkness of the car and his thoughts.

TBC
posted on 25-May-2002 10:24:22 PM by DMartinez
"So, dish." Bendy grabbed a milk and bounded to the table beside her best friend. "Your brother?"

"Yes. He's my brother." Lydia nodded and fiddled with her spork and the mystery meat.

"Come on. I want to know every—" The shorter girl trailed off when Terry placed her lunch on the table across from them.

"Know everything about what?" The blond opened her carefully packed salad and waited for them to speak. When no one continued or even greeted her, she looked up. "What's wrong with you two?" Shrugging, she examined the lettuce in the container. "So you're going to have to do some major apologizing to Jacob. He didn't give me all the details but he didn't appreciate the Neanderthal act your friend pulled."

"Excuse me," Lydia bit out and rose from her seat. "I can't believe you're still talking to him."

"I'm not the one that left Jacob hanging. He'll be waiting for you after school."

"No."

"What?" Terry's eyes went wide. "Are you seriously going to let your rep slip?"

"I can't believe you're human… or that I ever wanted to be your friend." Lydia abandoned her tray and stalked out of the cafeteria. She made it to the edge of campus before Bendy caught up to her.

"Lyds, wait up." Bendy reached her friend just as she hit her knees. "Lyds?" The taller girl didn't look very well. "You ok?"

"I… I don't think so." Her breath came rapidly and she could feel a ball of energy forming inside her. "Call my mom."

"Maybe we should get you to the nurse."

"No!" Lydia shook her head vigorously. "Call my mom." The short girl took off running to find the first phone available.

--

Max leapt out of his car and onto the sidewalk. He could feel what was wrong two blocks away. His panic increased five fold when he realized what was going on, especially since the call had come from his daughter's friend and not his daughter. The two girls were sitting on the sidewalk, Lydia rocking from side to side, her eyes pinched shut. "Lydia."

"Daddy." She whimpered but couldn't let herself reach for him, even when his arms wrapped around her. "I have to get it out."

"Sh. It's okay." He stroked her hair and then picked her up.

"What's wrong with her?" Bendy ran after them as they headed to his car.

"Don't worry about it, Bendy. Get back to class." As gently as he could, he set her in the back seat. Yanking off his jacket, he thrust it into her hands. "I need you to concentrate. I know it's a lot of energy and there's a lot of power. What we need to do is drain it bit by bit."

"How?"

"The jacket. I want you to change the color. First red, then back, then orange, then back… all the way through the colors of the rainbow. If the car hasn't stopped when you get through, start over." He was in the driver's seat in no time. The car ride was quiet on the way out of town, it was driving him crazy. "Lyds? How are you doing back there?"

"It's a little better." She paused and furrowed her brow. "Dad… I didn't know how to change colors before."

--

Max pointed her hand out to a rock 50 yards out. "Focus. Funnel the energy. Push it to the rock."

"How?" Her voice was so tired and tiny.

"Think. Explosion. Whatever made you angry enough to build the energy, pretend that's it. Make it go away." Max urged her gently. "Deep breaths and focus."

Lydia did as told and it just wouldn't go no matter how bad she wanted it out. Finally, she let out a scream of anguish and the ball flew out of her body and the rock blew up. Dust rained against their faces mixed with small pebbles. Drained, she sank to the ground, trembling and crying. Max wrapped his arms around her small body. "That was good. Good. Very good, sweetheart."

"Daddy. Can we go home now?"

"Do you think it's all gone?"

"Yeah."

"Then, yeah, we'll go home now."

--

"College. Most humans my age are graduating from it. Maybe I should go." Zan flipped through the course catalog and tried to ignore the presence of his protectors.

"You are not meant for this life."

"My father is a welder."

"He's not—"

"He is my father. Just because he is a recreation doesn't take his title away… nor his right as the being who created me." He looked up. "We've been over this."

"You would abandon your life's work?"

"My life's work? Your life's work. I was never meant to rule out of my own mind. It was to be as you wanted it. I am my own man. I am a prince. I accept my role in this life. I am Antarian. I am Human. I am Prince Zan."

--

It looked normal enough. A family of four sitting around the dinner table, engaging in discussion, and laying out the details of the day past. Max looked from child to child, to his wife. "It's your decision. Do you honestly want to learn what you can do? To harness your abilities or to let them lapse and live like a pure human?"

"Daddy… It scares me. What if something like today happens again?" Lydia whispered.

"This is why you have a choice. Do you want to control it or do you want it gone?" Liz spoke up, finally… supporting the conclusion that Max had come to.

"Isaac? Chief?" Max turned to his son. "You don't have to be afraid. I'm not going to get mad. Just tell me what you want to do and we'll do it."

"I wanna learn."

"Lydia?"

She took a deep breath and wiped at her eyes. "I just don't want for it to be out of control."

"Do you want to learn or do you want it gone? We can only go one way with this." Max sighed and waited for her answer.

"I don't want to be a freak, Daddy."

"You're not a freak. This is normal for us, sweetie. Like me, your mom, your aunt and uncle… this is normal for us." Max reached for her hand. "Do you honestly want to try to conquer them?"

She bowed her head and thought it over. Then she thought of her older brother and what being Antarian meant to him. "I'll do it."

TBC
posted on 26-May-2002 8:55:35 PM by DMartinez
"This has gone too far." 15 men entered Zan's apartment unannounced. The leader as it appeared stopped right in front of the young man. "You cannot do this. We've all worked to ensure your reign on Antar and we will have it."

"We will all have my reign on Antar. No doubt about that." Zan dropped his fork and set his plate aside. The second plate on the table went unheeded.

"You must explain yourself, young Zan. We will not tolerate any more of this insolence."

"Tolerate? What were you thinking would happen when I came into power? That I would let you run the planet through me?" Zan shook his head and rose from his seat. "I will rule Antar… someday. Just not tomorrow."

"I plan to rule for quite some time." Max cleared his throat as he entered the room from the bathroom. "Some day, after I'm gone, Zan will take my place."

"Your day is over." The leader spoke, oddly confident. "No one will miss you."

"On the contrary." Alkin spoke from the doorway as his men filed in from the hallway and surrounded the 15 in the apartment. "Several million beings would miss the presence of their King." Saw the flick of a gaze from the leader to another. "Don't worry about your precious camps. We're taking care of them."

"There you are." Max sighed. "Would you mind taking care of this? I was having dinner with my son."

"The charges?" Saran spoke, his hand itching to take out the men.

"Pending. But we'll start with kidnapping the king's son, conspiracy to overthrow, and unauthorized colonization."

--

"You've been acting way weird and I'm not the only one who's noticed." Bendy ran a brush through her long hair and sat on the edge of the bed.

"It's family stuff."

"You mean the brother that no one knew you had and you've said anything about in the past month?" Bendy crossed her arms. "Spill."

"It's complicated." Lydia sighed. "He's great… when I can talk to him."

"Huh?"

"I mean… we've only had a few conversations and he gave me a present but that's it. He pretty much stays away."

"Why?"

"My dad. My dad really wants him to be a part of the family I think but… Zan's just too old for it to work."

"Where has he been all this time?"

"Um… in a foster home, I guess… or something close to it. They told him all sorts of things about his mom and my dad and now it's too weird, knowing the truth. He's… very sad and very lonely but proud of his lineage." Lydia sighed and leaned back into her pillows. "My dad got his girlfriend pregnant in high school and she ran off. My dad couldn't find her and when he was born… he was taken away from her. So no one knew where he was." She glanced up at her friend, who was still listening intently. "So, a while back, some one told my dad that Zan died at birth and then up he pops into our lives."

"Wow. How's your mom taking it?" Bendy shifted, slightly.

"Well, my mom knew."

"Shut up."

"I'm serious. She and Dad dated for like three months in high school and then she broke up with him. Tess, that's Zan's mom, she was totally trying to break them up from the get-go. She worked him for like… six months before he even became friends with her. Then a few months later she was pregnant. After she took off, my parents got back together, then they broke up, and got back together until a couple of years ago."

"Wow. Talk about drama." The two girls arranged themselves so they could sprawl across the bed and stare at the ceiling. "How are your parents doing?"

"Don't know. Every time I walk into the room they're just staring at their hands or they stop talking." Noticed the stain on the ceiling from the last rain. Needed to tell someone about that. "I hear things though. Dad can't understand what Mom wants from him. Mom can't understand why Dad is trying so hard to reach Zan. It's a big mess… the plus side is that Dad's been around more."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, even spends the night a couple of nights a week. Sleeps on the couch though."

"They'll work it out. Your parents are just… that thing. It's great but it's bad and it's insane."

"Yeah." They both sighed dreamily. "I just hope it's not so hard when I meet Mr. Right."

"Definitely." Bendy sighed again but noted Lydia's far off look. "Who are you thinking about?"

"No one."

"Uh-huh."

"I'm not."

"Right."

"Bendy."

"Lydia."

"Fine. There's this guy that works for my dad." Lydia turned her head with a wide smile.

"At the shop?" Bendy crinkled up her nose.

"No." Lydia sat up, regretting her slip. "Not at the welding shop… um… It's um… kinda like an old country deal. My dad is really connected to his roots and since there are so few of his people in the country, they kinda band together…"

"You mean like a club or something… Order of Elk and stuff like that?" Bendy snorted, trying to picture Mr. Evans wearing a funny hat like the ones she had seen in a few movies and TV shows.

"Sort of. My dad is like the president of the club and this guy is the son of one of my dad's buddies from the club."

"Name???"

"Vikin."

"What kind of a name is that?"

"It's a family name… from the old country."

--

Eyes closed, she couldn't really believe that had just happened. Still, that was her husband's breath on her face, his forehead against hers, his hand intertwined with hers, his taste on her lips. It had been too long since she had had that. "A kiss doesn't make it better, Max."

"No… but I needed to do that," his voice thick with emotion.

"No matter how good it feels to touch and kiss…"

"Yes?"

"Well, I had a point about three minutes ago." A shiver ran down her spine at the warm chuckle he let loose.

"You are still as beautiful today as you were 23 years ago when I kissed you for the first time." Finally, his eyes opened but all he could see were her lips. "I love you just as much, if not more now than I did then."

"Flattery gets you everywhere." She breathed and opened her eyes to meet his.

"Mrs. Evans."

"Yes?"

"Would you be my queen?"

TBC
posted on 28-May-2002 4:31:11 AM by DMartinez
Max entered the apartment for the second time in his life. Odd feelings drifted through him. This would be the first time he didn't enter with an ulterior motive. Zan had taken rather well to the dinner they had staged to capture the Limalthas as they called themselves. That was also the last they had spoken. This time would be different. This time, he had made an appointment to talk about anything Zan wanted to talk about.

Zan stood by and let his father enter the apartment. His heart pounded in his chest and his palms sweat. He wiped his hands on his slacks and shut the door. "Have a seat or whatever. I'm cooking."

"You didn't have to do that. I wanted to take you to a restaurant." Max turned suddenly and almost tripped on a low seat.

"I… I'm still not used to the food here. I prefer to cook my own food." Zan shrugged and moved back to the kitchen area. "It kinda hard to find writhalishi for vilahislo but I made do."

"I like vilahislo." Max couldn't help the grin on his face. "Tastes better than most everything Liz makes." Saw the slight frown at Liz's name. "What did you use in place of writhalishi?"

"Pork skins, shrimp and lemons seem to do the trick." Slight shrug and he went about stirring several small pans on the stovetop. "Of course, jalapeno water works instead of regular tap. I can't get over the lack of flavor in Earth food."

"Try some Thai or Chinese… some Mexican…" Max smiled and reached to give a hand but Zan waved him off. "Ok."

"It's almost ready." Took a deep breath and absorbed the awkward silence for a full five minutes as he worked. Lifted his eyes to watch his father watching him cook. "Should we get started?"

"I'll tell you anything you want to know."

"Did you really never love my mother?"

"Not going easy on me, are you?" Max sighed and leaned on the counter in front of him. Had to word it right and had to think. Then he realized that he didn't have Liz's feelings to spare with his answer. "No. I did. I loved her."

"You did?" Zan froze with his hand over a pan.

"Yes. When I was with her, I was in love. I cared about her. When I found out she was pregnant… I was in shock, mostly. I didn’t know what to do. I was only 18 and I couldn't really provide for a family. I tried. I was looking through the papers for apartments for us, checking into work for more hours, thinking about dropping out of school. I knew you were coming soon and it didn't leave me much time." Max paused and stared at his hands, a lump had formed in his throat. "At that point in my life, she was the most important thing in the world to me. Then you were."

"When did you stop?" He snapped out of his haze and went about mixing ingredients from various pots together.

"I don't know. You can't just shut off feelings like that. She betrayed me, murdered a friend. It made it hard to think of her but the feelings were there. I couldn't hurt so much if I hadn't cared so much." He sat up and cleared his throat. "Does that answer your question?"

Zan nodded and turned to put the empty pots in the sink. "Did… Did you have a name for me?"

"Tess and I never discussed it together. We didn't have time. Just a few days really. I…" That lump kept coming back. "I was so worried that creating you had sentenced you to die before you had lived that I couldn't think about it… For a long time, I couldn't think about it. You were just 'my son.' Then one day I was walking past a baby store and I had to go in. I tried to picture how big you were, what you could do, wondered if you could talk or walk and it hit me. You were real. A piece of my flesh and blood, out there and I hadn't given you a name. I nearly slapped myself in front of all those pregnant women."

"Did you?" Zan pressed.

"Ryan Doyle." Max spoke finally. "I just thought it fit."

"King and Dark Foreigner?" Zan blinked and motioned for the table.

"King obviously… and… you were a stranger to me… you still are, really." Max moved to the table and took a seat.

"Dark?"

"Yeah… just something that stuck out to me. Dark place in my life, dark circumstances… dark place of conception…" Max cleared his throat and lifted his plate to take some food from the pot on the table. "Trust me, it's better that than anything else."

"While I am missing a lot of information, please refrain from commenting on my conception." Zan cleared his throat and helped himself to some dinner. He spent the next few minutes chewing and staring at his father eat. "When they told you I was dead…"

"I stopped breathing." Max locked eyes with his son. "Whether you remember or not… we have a connection, or did when you were a baby. I connected with you when you were still a fetus. When they told me you were dead and had been for years, I didn't have the energy to respond. I was devastated as if you had been taken right from my arms and killed in front of me."

Silence settled over the table as they sat. The food was nearly gone by the time Max had cleared his head. "Zan, I realize that it's too late to fit into your life the way I'd like to but… I want you to realize that just like you had a hole in your life, I had one in mine. Liz is not a clever replacement for Tess. Lydia and Isaac are not replacements for you."

"You're right. It's too late." Zan rose, plate in hand, and stopped suddenly. "I am having trouble shaking the way I've thought of you all my life. You aren't some great warrior and you didn't abandon me or my mother… but part of me clings to that… needs to hold on to the anger."

"Why?"

"If I'm already a better soldier, there's nothing to drive me further…" Zan took a breath and let it out slowly. "If I don't hate you… then…"

"Then what?" Max prodded. He needed to hear it as much as Zan needed to say it.

"If I don't hate you… then I have to feel some other way and I don't know how I want to feel about you."

--

Liz squeezed the lemon as she concentrated. When she opened her hand, it was a small orange. Slicing it open, she held it out to Isaac to taste. He cautiously put the slice in his mouth and sucked. "It tastes like a real orange."

"Which is exactly the point." Liz smiled and turned to Lydia.

"Mine tastes like a banana." She made a face and showed the strange mix of texture and color inside her orange.

Liz had to laugh. "Try doing only one thing at a time if it's too confusing. It took me several years just to get the colors down. You guys have more alien in you than I do." She reached for a strawberry and cupped it between her hands. "Just be careful." She held out the blue fruit to her son. "Tell me what it looks like."

"A really big blueberry."

"Taste it."

He took the large berry and bit into it. "Tastes…" licked his lips, "like," had to think about it. "It tastes like mango."

"Ew." Lydia wrinkled up her nose. "I squashed mine." Her hands were covered with red goop. "I give up. I can't learn."

"Yes you can." Liz grabbed a roll of paper towels and began cleaning up their mess. "Your dad told me about what happened at school. That wasn't too bad."

"Not too bad? It was painful." Her jaw dropped.

"Lydia, when my changes started happening, I didn't have any control over it. Anger and hatred accelerated my changes and it was painful. I had green energy crackling under my skin. I couldn't even touch your father without setting something on fire." She caught the disgusted look from her daughter. "Literally, pervert. We set my physics book on fire when we were talking about our problems. We were just holding hands."

"Mom, look what I can do." Isaac held up an olive, waved his hand over it and soon held a grape.

"Wow." Liz smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

"I'm a freak. I'm not human, I'm not Antarian." Lydia banged her head on the table.

"You're not a freak, sweetie." Liz reached over to touch her hand. "I was 18 when I started doing anything, 23 when I had any sort of control over it." Squeezed her hand. "That's when I was pregnant with you. You allowed me to get control."

"Whatever. All I'll be able to do is blow up rocks." She pouted.

"Since when is there anything wrong with that?" A loud male voice entered the room. Hands in the air, he kept talking. "And since when do I not get invited to alien invasions?"

Lydia's head shot up, then she leapt out of her chair and into his arms. "Uncle Michael!"

"Hey kiddo." Michael squeezed her tightly and waved to Liz. Swung Isaac up on his shoulders when the small boy lunged at him. "How's it going?" He nodded to Liz. "Fearless leader?"

"With his son." Liz barely managed to get the words out. "How have you been?"

"New girlfriend, new apartment, new fights, and I'm in a new dog house." Michael shrugged and swung Isaac back into his seat. He surveyed the mess. "Max finally give in to lessons?"

"We thought it'd be a good idea. Kids want to learn." Liz bit at her lip. "Lydia seems to have your problem."

"Focus, young Skywalker, and the universe will be revealed to you." Michael patted her head and took a seat at the table.

"But can the universe teach me to survive high school?" Lydia flopped back into her chair and looked at her mother. "Can we stop now?"

"Yeah." Liz nodded. "Take a break. You made good progress today. Next time Dad will teach. I think that will work much better." Watched her daughter cozy up to Michael and had to smile. "Or you could take over."

"No." Lydia held up hand up. "He's the only normal one right now. Back off."

"Bad day?" Michael raised an eyebrow and adjusted his arm around her shoulders.

"Bad day, week, month…"

TBC
posted on 29-May-2002 12:27:28 AM by DMartinez
Zan sleepily answered his door only to have a babbling 15 year old enter his apartment. "Lydia? What are you doing here?"

"I quit ballet and I haven't told Dad yet and I was in the neighborhood and I just wanted to say hi." Lydia went on and probably would have kept going if she hadn't noticed how sleepy he looked. "Did I wake you?"

"No, no. I'm always awake at seven in the morning." He rubbed at his eyes and ushered her into the apartment. "You quit ballet and you felt you had to share?"

"Actually… I wanted to ask you something." She took a seat as she took in her surroundings.

"Ask." He nodded, his eyes drifting closed again.

"Could you teach me to use my powers? Mom has been trying but it's not working. She just doesn't understand what it's like for me." Lydia sank back into the chair and propped her feet on the table. "I mean… Dad never let me use them before and I don't think I wanted to but now that I'm wanting to, I can't. I don't know what it is, maybe I'm afraid or maybe I can't handle the power but nothing they say helps."

"Why are you afraid?"

"It's a lot of energy and if I mess up thing could go so wrong."

"Control, Lydia. It's all about control. You have to conquer your fears to control it though." He raked a hand through his hair and then over his face to wake up. "I was not the best at my powers until I was about your age. I was trained, day in, day out. You haven't had the rigorous schedule I did. Take it easy. See what you're good at. Once you have that down, everything else will flow."

"Find what I'm good at. How do I do that?"

"Explore." Zan took a deep breath. "I'm a healer like our father. Could be that you are, too. We need to explore your abilities. Could be that you're a warrior waiting to happen."

--

Max toweled his hair as he reached for the fridge. Empty. The apartment was dark. It had been rare occasion that he had seen it in daylight. He usually left at dawn for work and arrived home as the sun was setting. Home, a near-bare existence. His ears still rang from the shop and he knew that metal file was never coming out from under his fingernail unless he begged someone nicely to pull it out. Normally he would just fix it but twenty men in the shop had seen him do it. Healing like a human was the plan.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt the hand on his arm. Liz had to suppress a giggle when he clutched at the towel around his waist for a second until he realized it was her. "Evening."

"Hi. What are you doing here?" He relaxed and made for his room to put some clothes on.

"I guess I wanted to discuss my answer." She whispered and stood in the doorway as he dried and dressed. "I realized that I had never been here before."

"Guess not." Max sat on the bed and waited.

"A single?"

"Didn't have need for a bigger bed… I was used to sleeping on the edge anyway." Couldn't help but smile. Liz really did tend to hog the bed. "Liz, please."

"I spent a lot of my life ignoring Zan's existence. Having him here is very surreal. I'm not sure I want to believe it. He's part of what caused me so much pain for so long, Max. I'm not sure how I can just accept him into my life, into my children's lives." She watched him for a flicker of anything but he just sat and listened. "Lydia was at his apartment this morning."

"Why does it bother you? Really, Liz. Tell me why it bothers you."

"It's not that it bothers me." Leaning on the dresser, she shut her eyes. "If Zan is real and a part of our lives… then… Antar is real." She opened her eyes to look at him. "It means I can't be selfish with you anymore. You're really a King and you have a planet full of people depending on you. I don't know if I can compete with that."

"You don't have to compete with that. You just have to live with it." Max sighed and ran a hand through his wet hair. "Liz, I'm not going to abandon you again. Now that I have control of the planet, I can relax a little. If it was something that would interfere with my being in your life… I wouldn't even be here."

"I can't hate him like I could her." The words were out of her mouth before she realized it.

"What?" Rose to his feet.

"He had nothing to do with why I hurt except being born and it's not something he could control but he's here and he's part of her."

"I don't want you to hate him. He's just barely working on not hating me." He crossed the room and placed his hands on her arms. "I can't cut him out of my life, now. Not now. I won't lose you again, either. You have to be open to him being a part of our lives… just like he has to be open to being a part of our lives." Took a moment. "I'm not saying I deny your right to hate Tess and everything she did but don't hate Zan. All that drama is new to him. He didn't know about it and he can't control it. It's in the past." He tipped up her chin. "Look at me. Would you really be happy if I had turned him away?"

"No." Took a shuttering breath. "You're right. If you had, I couldn't put any faith in you… but, Max, this is so hard."

"I know. No one said it was easy, least of all me… but we have to deal with it."

"How can you be so good a man, Max?" Let him hold her in his arms. Felt better than anything she'd felt in months. "My answer is yes."

Eyes closed in pure bliss at her words. "Thank you."

"You're in luck. Michael's here. He can help you move back in."

--

Liz and Max entered the house to find it closely resembling a zoo. The stereo was on full blast. Cartoons blared from the TV. Food containers sat all over the table. Saran, Cirot, Alkin, Michael and Zan sat around the table discussing strategy and war stories. Lydia sat on her uncle's lap, sneaking looks with Vikin where he was stationed at the window. Isaac had fallen asleep on the couch at some point.

"I leave you alone for two hours and you turn my house inside out." Liz pinned Michael with a look.

"It wasn't me. I ordered some food and then people showed up." He threw his hands up in the air in surrender.

"Right. Lydia… bed." Liz pointed and went to grab her son. Lydia blushed profusely as she kissed first her uncle, then mother and father, then she changed routes to kiss her older brother's cheek. Then she ran up the stairs to her room, eyes cast down as she past Alkin's youngest son.

Liz bit her lip at the sight of her daughter and her half-brother. Max kissed Isaac's cheek before Liz took him upstairs to his room. He sat at the table and nodded to all his men. "Having fun, gentleman?"

"Zan was just telling us about the dangers of the ditka." Michael cleared his throat and Zan raised his scarred hands. "Guno apparently inhibits our ability to heal."

"Just the juice." Saran spoke quietly. "The fruit is quite delicious and offers strength. It is the juice on the flesh that inhibits the healing process. Even healers are susceptible to its hindrances."

Max blinked at his son. "You're a healer?"

"Like father, like son." He commented quietly before rising from the table. Zan poured himself a drink of water and stared out at the backyard over Vikin's shoulder.

"The reason that we have come," Cirot cleared his throat to get his king's attention. "Is that we've picked up the signal of a transport from Antar. Two weeks."

"Who is aboard?" Max turned his gaze on his men around the table.

"We don't know. Zan has agreed to lead us in greeting the ship properly." Saran's soft voice immediately lowered the volume in the room. "Word from Antar is that the rebuild is coming nicely. Troops are still rounding up traitors."

"Good, good." Max nodded and began to rise.

"Oh, yeah. Maxwell." Michael leaned back in his seat. "Isabel called looking for you and it may have slipped about…" He jerked his head in Zan's direction.

"What did she say?" Max cringed when Michael snickered and pulled out a tape recorder. "You had her repeat it so you could record it?"

"No. She insisted I capture it on tape." Snickered again and pressed play.

"Max Evans! How in the world could it slip your attention to inform your only sister in the universe that her long lost and allegedly deceased nephew was in fact alive, on Earth, and making friends?? Not only do I have to find out from Michael of all people but this is a really bad time. I was calling to give you good news but your news out-shadows mine. I am really upset with you and when your niece is born, I hope you can pull yourself away from your busy life to attend her arrival."

"Wow." Max cleared his throat. "What is this? Baby five?" Michael nodded and continued to snicker. "I guess I should call her. Congratulate Jesse on taking his time giving her a daughter."

"No if you know what's good for you." Michael had to laugh.

"I have five cousins?" Zan turned from the window. The longer he was on Earth, the more family it turned out he had.

"Four boys and now a girl." Max nodded with a smile. "Jesse Jr. is 12, Alex is nine, Christopher is six and David is three." Had to grin widely. "She's been waiting on her girl since she first got pregnant with Jesse Jr." Saw the sad note in Zan's eyes. "They travel a lot. I rarely get to see them."

"You'll get your chance." Michael smiled broadly. "The whole brood is coming down for a week."

"What?" Liz's eyes popped open where she stood in the doorway. "The entire Ramirez clan is coming for a week? Oh my god. I have to clean." She disappeared into the living room and began straightening up. She felt the presence of a person helping her but didn't realize it was Zan until she looked up. "Hi."

"Hi." Zan nodded to her and fixed a stain from Isaac's little party in front of the TV.

"So… you made your decision about the throne." Liz commented and surveyed the room.

"Not entirely. I don't know if I'll come out on Antar as my father's son, or return as the warrior most think I am." Zan watched her eyes dart around the room, everyone but at him. "Do you want me here?"

"What I want is irrelevant." Liz sighed heavily. "Look, I'm glad you're not going to kill my husband or my kids but…" She finally looked at him. "I don’t trust easily."

"I wouldn't trust me, either." Took a minute to really look at her, just as he had that night at the recital. In his home, she had been slightly nervous but she had had a purpose. Here was her home ground and she seemed more nervous. "I am willing to admit that… you are a fine choice for a queen. You say you don't trust easily but I know you have a lot of friends that would die for you. I know you are brave and that you would die for him." He took a breath. "I can understand your resistance. I respect it."

Before Liz could say a word, he had rejoined the men in the kitchen.

TBC
posted on 31-May-2002 12:04:08 PM by DMartinez
Max and Michael sat in the darkness of the night and watched the kids learning an Antarian game from their older brother. It pinched a little to see Zan interact with his siblings when he barely spoke to his father. "How's the warden?"

"You call her that again and she'll hunt you down." Michael laughed. "She was fine when I left her. Kristin… she's something else. Never met anyone like her."

"Be careful, Michael. You almost sound like you're in love."

"I think I might be." He smiled and took a sip of his Snapple. "She does things to me, Max. She's amazing."

"Well, I'm glad. It's about time you settled down." Eyed his lifelong friend for a moment. "So why did she kick you out?"

Michael took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "She didn't really say but I think she might be pregnant." Nodded to Max's wide eyes. "She's been flying off the handle a lot lately. Griping, bitching… nesting. Remember how Isabel got in the last few days before Jesse Jr.? Like that. The apartment is never clean enough. My greasy shirts better go straight to the hamper because she washes every day."

"You're going to have to tell her." Max nodded solemnly.

"Yeah, I know. I was going to but she's been such a bitch lately and if she is pregnant… (low whistle) She's going to rip me to shreds." Michael sighed heavily and proceeded to change the subject. "So. Zan. How'd the talk go?"

"Okay, I guess. He wanted to know how I felt about Tess." He caught the look on Michael's face. "You know it wasn't always like that. I told him the truth. It was only for a few months but I did love her."

"Guess it doesn't matter anymore. She's dead. She got what she deserved for what she did." Michael cleared his throat loudly. "Liz?"

"She's coming around to the idea of having him around. He likes spending time with the kids. He and Liz are really awkward around each other." Sighed and leaned back against the porch.

"So you're moving back in?"

"Yeah."

"Guest room or bedroom?"

"Bedroom but… yeah." They nodded together. "I love her so much it hurts. I'll do anything just to hold her again."

"You're not about to get all mushy on me, are you?" Michael snickered. Some things never changed.

"I have no clue what you're talking about."

"You'll go on about how Liz hasn't changed since high school, how your stomach still rumbles when you see her… need I go on?"

"Shut up."

--

Zan sat in the grass with his sister long after Isaac had gone inside to be with his books. Lydia leaned back and looked up at the sky. She had often wondered which star was her father's home but she had never had the nerve to ask. "Can you see Antar from here?"

"Not Antar but our two suns appear as one from Earth. It's rather difficult to find at this angle in this season but in the spring… there are two stars that enter an existing constellation, I forget which just now." Zan pointed to the moon and made several odd gestures with his fingers until he just pointed. "There."

"Wow." Lydia blinked and stared at the star. "Answer me something. I thought they did nothing but train you… how did you learn that game?"

"My… well, the woman who raised me from a baby. She used to play with me. When I was about seven, she was murdered." He turned his head only slightly, he could see his father staring in his peripheral. "He doesn't trust me."

"Who? Dad?" Lydia blinked.

"He keeps me under constant watch."

"He's afraid you'll disappear." Lydia shook her head at him. "I got lost in the mall once. For an hour I couldn't find my dad. When he found me, he hugged me until I thought my eyes would pop out. After that, he kept me where he could see me for weeks." She smiled at her Dad and he had the grace to bow his head at getting caught. "He's goofy but he's Dad."

"It's too late." Zan bowed his head. "Your mother can't even accept me."

"That's complicated… but I don't think it's too late." She laid out on the grass, content to stare at the star he had pointed out. "I got my mom talking a little these past few weeks. She and Dad never had it easy."

"If you're trying to sell me on his tortured existence, stop now."

"I'm just saying that Mom is resistant to you because of your mother."

"I know. She was a traitor."

"It's more than that. From the moment she entered their lives, Mom didn't trust her. She tried to steal Dad away from her. Mom stepped aside to allow them to fulfill their destiny or whatever and just as they were becoming friends, they found out that the entire time, she had been planning exactly what she did. She got pregnant and left… only… Mom's discovery stopped her from taking Dad, Uncle Michael and Aunt Isabel to their deaths."

"Her discovery?"

"She figured out that Tess had mindwarped Kyle and Alex… the mindwarp killed Alex and made Kyle carry his dead body from the scene of death." Lydia shifted to look at him.

"She sounds like a horrible person."

"I'm sure she had her good points. Mom always insists people are inherently good. Environment makes them bad."

"But you said she didn't trust Tess from the beginning."

"Actions speak louder than words. Dad and the others were creeped out by her presence, apparently. Eventually she became one of the group. She must have won their trust somehow." She stayed silent for a moment. "But for all my mom says about being open to people… her actions speak way louder. She knew from the start that Terry was bad."

"Good intuition." He commented dryly. "And the boy?"

"He leaves me alone. I don't know what he thinks happened put there but he hasn't said anything." She smiled slyly all of a sudden. "My friend Bendy has a crush on you."

"A crush?" He furrowed his brow.

"You know… she likes you. She thinks you're hot." She poked him in the side.

"She's a little girl." Zan cleared his throat. He was about to say more but a pair of headlights blinded him before the connected van pulled into the drive. A dark-skinned man slid out of the driver's seat and stretched. Human. He opened the sliding door and extracted a child from a child seat. Two more groggy children practically fell out of the van. Yet another child emerged from the other side and then it was her.

Tall, beautiful and with child, Isabel emerged from the passenger side of the van. She rubbed at her lower back and then at the slight bump of stomach. She embraced her brother as soon as she saw him. "Look at you, old man."

"Excuse me, old lady?" Max scoffed. "Is that a gray hair?"

"Where?" Isabel panicked until Jesse wrapped his arms around her waist. He shot Max a look.

"You know better than to mess with her right now." Jesse chided and turned his attention back to his wife. "You're gorgeous."

"Oh my god." Isabel stared across the yard. She looked at her brother and then pushed herself out of Jesse's arms. Slow step by step she made her away across the yard. "He looks just like you, Max." Zan had risen to his feet some time ago. If he had felt odd with the way his father stared at him, his aunt was even worse. She reached out and touched his face. "Oh my god. It's really you." Then she was crushing him in a hug. After a long moment, he reached his arms around to hug her back. His eyes closed; he hadn't had an embrace like that since the woman who raised him died.

--

"You mean, he's not living here?" Isabel hissed at her brother.

"He's not five, Iz. He's 21, he's a man. He's got his own place and his own source of income, which he hasn't told me about yet." Max sighed and leaned on the counter. Everyone else was in the living room chatting. "How's Baby Girl Ramirez coming?"

"Fast." Isabel sighed heavily, but happily. "Faster than any of the boys. I've got another two months to go."

"Wow." Max swallowed. "Can I?"

"Just don't tell Jesse. He gets jealous." Isabel lifted her shirt and there it was, like the youngest Ramirez knew. Her tiny hand outline shone through Isabel's stomach. Max fit his hand against it and there it was. New life.

"You're going to have your hands full with this one. She's going to be just like you." Max smiled. "At least she'll have four older brothers to keep the men away."

"If she's anything like you, not one of them will be able to tell her what to do." Michael snickered from the doorway. Then he stood up straight. "Get some sleep Max, we're leaving early to meet the transport."

Isabel stared at her brother as he rose to his feet and Michael went to join the others. "Transport?"

"Unknown ship from Antar is coming. No one knows anything about it. Zan's going to do the meet and greet and I'm going to hang back and watch."

"You can't. What if he gets hurt? You've only just found him." Isabel protested.

"It's his decision and I have to respect that."

"Oh, yeah. Now you go around respecting people's decisions." She scoffed and made to go into the other room.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Max snapped reflexively.

"Please." She shook her head. "You never change. It's a wonder Liz even took you back. You just don't know when to sit it out and when to get involved." She left her brother to sit dejectedly at the table. That was how Liz found him an hour later.

--

Zan stood with Saran and Cirot at the landing site. All the others were up on the hill. He could feel his father's eyes from a few yards back. Alkin and his sons were keeping him far enough away to ensure his survival should the transport prove to be hostile. Gently the ship lowered itself to the ground. Ground supports kept the ship from tilting on the uneven earth.

The light shone onto the Earth and a single woman emerged. She marched straight to a wide-eyed Zan and slapped him across the face. Saran and Cirot stepped forward and gripped the woman tightly as Zan recovered. She fought them off. "That's all I came to do."

"Jesime." Zan finally managed, gripping the throbbing flesh on his cheek. "What are you doing here?"

TBC
posted on 3-Jun-2002 2:47:39 AM by DMartinez
Max led Jasime into his house and waited as she walked around in confusion. Liz ushered her children into the house and watched the girl as well. Her dress was loose enough to maneuver but snug enough to show her figure. Her hair was neatly worn up and back from her face. After a moment, she turned to Max and bowed her head. "Forgive me for commenting but don't these Humans know who you are? I saw much nicer and bigger… homes on the drive here."

Liz cleared her throat and shot Max a look. Max shifted uncomfortably. "The people of Earth have no idea that a king lives among them or else I'm sure we'd be given the choice of the lot for a home. For what my wife and I earn, this home is all we could ever need or want. The memories alone make it priceless." He got a raised eyebrow from his wife and he needed to make an exit. "Let me show you to the guest room."

"Mom?" Lydia whispered to her mother. "Why is she staying with us and not with Zan?"

"I don't know, yet." Liz answered and opened the curtains to let the morning sun into the living room. "He just said to go get him. I didn't ask questions. Apparently, she attacked Zan the first thing off the ship."

"Attacked him?"

"Slapped him."

--

Max watched Jasime look over the room and she seemed taken with it. "Like it?"

"It's… quaint." She smiled and turned to him. Of all the things she had been told, King Zan being a warm person hadn't crossed her mind. Warm people were rare on Antar. "It's human."

"Yes, it is." He smiled and gestured to the room. "That's your bed, through that door is a closet but you didn't bring any clothes… um, there's a bathroom through that door." He snapped his head from the bathroom door to her. "Are you capable of that?"

"I have been in this body a very long time." Jasime assured him.

"Alright then. Freshen up, rest and when you're hungry… I'm sure we'll have something."

--

Liz let the two delivery boys into the house to set the spread of food on the dining room table. They took one look at her and whistled under their breaths. Everyone knew Mrs. Evans was hot but the outfit was enough to make the teenagers wish they had paid more attention during The Graduate. The Chinese restaurant had seen plenty of decent business from the Evans over the years and Mrs. Evans was the part the boys always listened to about the loyal customers. Of course, the second that Mr. Evans stepped into the room, the boys knew they hadn't a chance.

"Costume party?" One of the boys asked.

"Sort of." Liz answered and looked over the table as she emptied containers into nicer looking bowls and plates. "Did you remember the extra bowl of peppers?"

"Right here." The second boy smiled and fidgeted with the large bowl.

"Thank you." Liz took a breath and went back to her task.

"Think you got enough food?" Max snuck a slice of chicken from one box and checked his watch.

"We make four, Isabel's clan makes ten, Zan and Jasime make twelve, if Michael gets Kristen here… that's fourteen. Then there's your men. That's… Saran, Cirot, Alkin and his boys, Krisel and Fipwe make twenty-one. We have a full house, Max." She stacked a bunch of boxes and cartons to throw away. "Did Michael tell Kristen?"

"He was supposed to. If he didn't, Isabel will slap him upside the head." Max shrugged. "What do you think Jasime is doing here?"

"Hold on." Liz took a look at the spread and nodded. "Thank you, boys."

"No problem, Mrs. Evans." They chorused and backed out the door, nearly knocking over Lydia and not caring. Lydia glared at her mother for a second before the doorbell rang and she ran to get it.

"I think that she got a clue. Zan all but said he didn't have any intention of returning to Antar any time soon and he left that poor girl to pine away in his absence." Liz scoffed. "Sound familiar?"

Before he could answer, Lydia returned and opened her mouth. "Zan told me that it was arranged. She hates him." That's when the parents noticed the short girl beside their daughter. "Can Bendy come over?"

"Aren't you supposed to ask that before she arrives?" Max noted Bendy's stares at their odd clothes.

"Nice shirt, Mr. E." She nodded approvingly at Liz. "Sure know how to pick out his clothes." Then when she noticed the people starting to gather in the house, all wearing the same type of thing, she nodded with wide eyes. "These the people from the old country?"

"Um… yeah… So, please, can Bendy stay?" Lydia pleaded with her father and watched the emotions float through his eyes before he lifted them to Liz's.

"Yeah but… try to stay out of the dining room after you get your food." Max saw Liz's smile of approval and felt better. There was no immediate danger. This was Bendy, lifelong friend to their daughter.

"Thanks." The girls chorused and rushed off to gossip.

--

The younger children sat around the kitchen table making their mess. The adults sat in the dining room, talking and discussing various things. Liz watched it all from her seat. Isabel's kids helped each other eat as neatly as possible. Just out the back door, she could see Alkin's boys chatting with Lydia and Bendy. Next to her, Saran and Max discussed what could be done to regain favor with the other four houses of their system. Larek seemed to be the most open to a treaty but the others were still spurned on happenings 22 years ago.

Isabel and Jesse got wrapped up in a politics game with Cirot and Alkin. Michael and Kristen seemed stiff and quiet next to an even more uncomfortable Zan and Jasime. Whatever had happened between the future rulers of Antar would not be discussed with anyone. Liz had noticed their shared cringe when Max introduced Jasime as Zan's fiancée to the group of people who had been absent at her arrival. Something was definitely up with the couple and Liz was grateful when the aliens retired to the living room to discuss controlled movement of something to somewhere.

Jesse helped Liz clear the table and Kristen stared at the children in the kitchen. Liz had seen all the fire drain out of the woman in such a short time. Jesse saw the look and herded his boys to the bathroom to clean up. Liz wiped down the table and offered Kristen a seat and an ear. "Taking it hard?"

"Ha." Kristen shut her eyes and leaned on the table. "I knew he was different. I just didn't know how different. My God, this is insane."

"When are you due?" Liz whispered softly.

"What?" Kristen's eyes grew wide and then shut them tight. "No. Michael… he misunderstood."

"What?" It was Liz's turn to be confused. "He said… I mean, he told Max that…"

"I know. He's disappointed, I think, that I'm not." Kristen took a deep breath. "I'm 26, Liz. A family is so not what I want right now. My parents don't even know that he lives with me… they came down…"

"And you kicked him out while they were there." Liz nodded and sighed. "You're right. He is disappointed. He cares about you a lot… even to go so far as to say that he loves you. With Michael it's always hard to gauge but you've got to be special."

"He asked me to marry him." Kristen blurted. "I didn't know what to say. It's bad enough that he's like fourteen years older than I am but I don't know if I'm ready for that kind of commitment. I can't even tell my parents that I'm living with a man and this… and on top of this." She gestured around to the house as if it embodied everything that was alien. "I told him that I would think about it."

"Kristen, it's not all that bad. I've lead a relatively normal existence. My parents still don't know everything but it's okay. My kids are healthy and happy, aside from the step-son… it's all okay." Liz caught the wide-eyed look of fear. "Michael doesn't have any possible offspring out there."

"Okay. I'm going to take a walk. I'll be back. Don't let him fly off the wall." Kristen placed her palms on the table to push herself to her feet.

When Liz made it to the living room, she found her furniture had been rearranged and that their fellow aliens had produced instruments from somewhere. Saran had an odd shape in his hand that made the most beautiful sound. Somehow, it fit the normally quiet man. Cirot had a drum of some sort, which also fit his personality. Krisel had another instrument that filled in the holes. After a moment, Saran's instrument emitted another sound to join the other three.

Zan and Jasime stared at each other for a moment and then began to move. In the middle of the small living room, they had been talked into demonstrating Antarian dance. Jasime turned slightly and Zan fit his body behind hers. Their left hands joined and their faces turned to the left. Swaying together, their right hands rose in the air before his lay on hers. Inwardly, they both cursed the song the protectors had chosen. It was a lovers' song and as such was suggestive in nature.

Jasime was spun away and back, dipped dangerously low and all without releasing her hold on his left hand. They continued to move quickly as the tempo picked up and found themselves avoiding the kisses that were a part of the song. Just as the song reached its peak, she couldn't do it anymore. The song would peak and end very quickly in its highly sensual manner and she couldn't dance that in front of his family when it was all a lie. Detangling her left hand, she rushed out of the room and out of the house.

Zan stood with his head held high, not meeting anyone's gaze in the silence of the room. "Kine juumpa da repa ne." He left the house without a further word to anyone.

"What did he say?" Isabel furrowed her brow.

Saran was about to answer but Lydia beat him to it. "Don't stop the party because of me."

"Shall I play more?" Saran asked the room. "Will you dance?"

Vikin cleared his throat and stepped to Max despite the warning looks Alkin shot him. "Would it be alright with his highness if I asked the princess to dance?"

Max nodded mutely. He didn't know what else to say. He nodded again when Lonkin asked his permission to dance with Bendy. The song had a more innocent tone and the boys seemed respectful of the borrowed girls. Max had to swallow the lump in his throat. He saw the looks that Vikin threw at his daughter and it scared him to see the ones she threw back.

Isabel kissed her husband's hand and disappeared into the kitchen. After a moment, Liz did the same. Both women found Jasime staring up at the sky, a sad look in her eyes as she searched. Isabel lifted the girl's hand and pointed for her. "I memorized its location in every season. I've never been there but it is my home."

"Thank you, your highness." Jasime whispered and gazed longingly at the star. "I should have never left."

"Why did you come here?" Liz asked softly.

"Forgive me for being rude, your highness, but it is business between your son and I." Jasime barely caught the choked expression on Liz's face.

"Do people on Antar think he's mine?" Liz couldn't resist asking the question.

"You are the queen." The young woman looked from her queen to her king's sister in confusion. "You are not Ava?"

"No. Ava's been dead quite a while." Isabel answered. "Your camp really was isolated from the others…"

"Yes. Our people did not want us corrupted by the outside world." Her dark hair shone in the moonlight. "I should have known. You are much kinder than Ava was said to have been." She took a short breath. "She was said to have been the kindest of our kind but… you have something else. Zan has it and so does his son." She turned from her elders in what they could only imagine was her imitation of dejection. Her posture was so good that it was impossible to imagine her slouching.

"Jasime." Liz put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "You can stay with us for as long as you like."

--

"She's confused about something."

"I know."

"So is he."

"I know."

"Is that all you can say?" Isabel nearly yelled. Her family was waiting on her to make the journey back to the hotel but she had to speak to her brother.

"What can I say? I don't even know how to approach him." Max leaned on the porch railing and stared at the ground. "I know they are hiding something. That scene in the living room… with the… Itikonle… that was intense."

"Liz is talking to her but she's not talking." Isabel rested a hand on her stomach and waited. "Max."

"What?"

"Do something."

"Like what? It's their life. I can't tell them anything… I don't even know what's going on." He protested. "I told Michael to tell Kristen and look at them. They're barely speaking."

"Because it's a shock. She got a bomb dropped on her. She's young, Max. Too young for Michael." She spat out, loudly, knowing that Michael was around somewhere. "He needs to grow up. I can't believe he told her."

"He loves her."

"Does he really? Or is he thinking with his favorite piece of anatomy?"

"Do me a favor." Max pushed himself off the railing. "Don't talk to me until after the baby is born. You're not seeing things clearly right now."

"Max Evans!" She shouted and she would have said more but he cut her off.

"It's late. Your children are tired. Jesse is tired. You need your rest. Go back to the hotel." Max nudged her in that direction but she was hesitant to go. "I'll talk to you after work tomorrow."

--

Zan stared up at the stars from his window. This was bad in universal proportions. Jasime hadn't told anyone and neither had he… and now they were both on the same planet.

TBC
posted on 3-Jun-2002 10:28:34 PM by DMartinez
The passage in this part is from White Fang by Jack London. No infringement intended.

"These should fit… if not, you can just fix them." Liz opened a trunk in the attic. "I haven't been able to wear these in years." She watched Jasime finger the clothes. "I have to go to work now. Will you be okay by yourself?" Jasime simply nodded. "If you want to talk, I'm free every other hour, fifteen minutes to the hour."

"Thank you, your highness."

"Call me Liz, please." Liz stood and left her with the trunk.

"Thank you, Liz." The whisper barely reached Liz's ears but she turned and smiled anyway.

--

Zan slipped into the house and found her in the kitchen, staring out the window. She stiffened when she felt his presence. "Why are you here?"

"I don't know." She braced her arms on the counter. "Maybe I couldn't accept your decision."

"It's over, Jasime."

"I'll be disgraced." She clung to threads but she wasn't willing to accept his decision on this.

"We weren't married. Only twenty people knew of the betrothal." Zan took only a step closer and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"You told them that we were betrothed. How would it look if you sent me back?" Jasime turned slowly. "Your mother accepts me."

"She. Is not my mother." Zan bit out. "She is… just a…"

"She isn't." Jasime shook her head slowly. "Don't say it. Liz is a wonderful person."

"Maybe."

"Why did you tell them we were betrothed if you wrote me that letter?" Anger shook her body. "How could you do that?"

"Look. The Limaltha are gone. It's over. We don't have to adhere to their dictations anymore. Our… betrothal was a tool. We should not marry anyone we don't love." Zan took a breath as she turned away from him again.

"Fine. I'll leave when you tell them."

--

Liz smiled when Michael and Kristin walked into the kitchen, hand in hand. Obviously, they had had a long talk. Kristin nodded to Liz and wandered into the living room to see who all had returned. "Michael."

"Liz."

"Tell me."

"We talked and talked and talked." Michael admitted and picked up a cup for his own cup of coffee.

"That's it."

"Well there was make-up sex but I'm sure you wanted to hear all about that."

"Right." Liz handed him the Tabasco sauce and watched him carefully. "Your selling point?"

"That she was the only person, ever, that I had told about us." He gestured to the house as if it embodied alien-ness. "She didn't believe me at first but I told her about Maria and then how things were with Amy and Penelope…"

"Ew. Penelope." Liz wrinkled up her nose. "I am so glad you met Kristin."

"She um… she told her parents and they freaked."

"You mean about…" Liz gestured to the sky.

"No. No. I mean about me living with her." Michael took a sip of his coffee and stared at the wall. "Her father called me up and asked about my intentions."

"Really?" She laughed. "Kristin doesn't seem like the type to have overbearing parents."

"She's not but they are." He laughed himself and sighed happily. "I'm just… in love. I told her father that and asked his permission to marry her. The whole thing. I just have to wait on her answer." After a serious moment he spoke again. "He was really impressed that I made an honest blue-collar living. When he heard about the age difference… he figured that I was some office clone who was in the middle of a mid-life crisis."

"That's really great, Michael. I'm happy for you."

"Prince Charming?"

"Won't touch me." Liz rolled her eyes. "I expect some huge gesture to sweep me off my feet any day now." She caught the look in his eyes. "What? What do you know?"

"Me?" He shrugged. "I don't know anything."

--

"But the god talked on softly, and ever the hand rose and fell with non-hostile pats. White Fang expressed dual feelings. It was distasteful to his instinct. It restrained him, opposed the will of him toward personal liberty. And yet it was not physically painful. On the contrary, it was even pleasant, in a physical way. The patting movement slowly and carefully changed to a rubbing of the ears about their bases, and the physical pleasure even increased a little. Yet he continued to fear and he stood on guard, expectant of unguessed evil, alternately suffering and enjoying as one felling or the other came uppermost and swayed him." Isaac snuggled into his father as he continued to read aloud. ""Well, I'll be gosh-swoggled!" So spoke Matt, coming out of the cabin, his sleeves rolled up, a pain of dirty dish-water in his hands, arrested in the act of emptying the pain by the sight of Weedon Scott patting White Fang."

"Do you want to stop there? It's late and there's still a lot of chapter to go." Max kissed his son's head and noted the droopy eyelids. "Chief?"

"Are you here for good?" Came the soft question.

"You bet." Max kissed his head again and nudged him. "Come on. I'll tuck you in." He nodded to his other son, who had sat the entire while they had read together as if waiting for something. Jasime sat next to a window and simply stared out until Liz had sat next to her and offered to show her how to crochet. The two women worked in silence. Max cleared his throat as he and his youngest son left the room. "I'll be back."

Zan rose to his feet and was about to leave when he swallowed his pride. "May I speak with you?" Liz's head snapped up and glanced around. He was either talking to her or to Jasime. "Liz. Please."

"Sure." Liz set down her needle and followed him out the door to the front walk. "What is it?"

"I have a problem. I wanted to talk to… Father about it but I don't think he could help." Zan stared at the ground as he spoke. "I heard Michael talking to you earlier and I figured…"

"What is it?" Liz prodded, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with speaking to him. His presence had been near constant in the past two weeks and he had never addressed her before. It had taken her aback to realize she had just followed him outside without question.

"It's Jasime." Zan leaned on the fence and then looked up to the sky. "Did Lydia tell you about us?"

"Not much. She said that Jasime hates you and that your engagement was arranged." Liz saw his slow nod. "You want to dissolve it?"

"I did. She won't accept it." He swallowed thickly and continued. "That is why she came. She did not want to accept it. She says that I will disgrace her but… so few people even knew about it. I figured if I set her free from it, she would be grateful. She has always looked down on me for being… as human as I am."

"Why won't she accept it? Really." Liz prodded gently and laid a hand on his arm.

"I don't know… but the part I need help with…" He turned his father's eyes on her. "I don't want her to."

"Why?"

"I love her." A tear formed in his eye. "Since I was fifteen, I would watch her when she wasn't looking. Every move she made, her laugh, her smile, it's all embedded in my mind and if she left, I could remember everything and be happy but… the promise of her was enough for me to make it home after each battle."

"Does she know how you feel?"

"No. She doesn't feel the same way and I could never tell her." Zan shook his head and stared at his feet. "She was bred to love me. I don't think she knows what real love is."

"You can't be sure of that. She came a hell of a long way for someone that she didn't love."

"She's grasping at straws to stay with me but I can't do that to her. What if one day she wakes up and she's in love with someone else but she's tied to me? What if I'm not a good enough husband for her? I've been trying to let her go but she won't go." Zan broke into tears of frustration. Liz's arms wrapped around him and he sank into her. "She's too precious for me to take advantage of her naïveté."

"Zan…" Liz whispered to him. "You need to tell her how you feel. If she can return the feeling, don't make her go away. If she can't, then let her go if that's what she really wants." She stroked his back gently. "If you love her, fight for her."

--

"Where were you?" Max sat up when Liz made it back into the house.

"I took a walk." Liz's strained smile tipped him off. She turned to their guest. "That's turning out nicely."

"I suppose. It's awkward." Jasime sighed and put down the needle. "I suppose that being human might make it easier."

"Not necessarily." Liz tilted her head at the girl. Pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. "Take a break. Tomorrow it'll seem easier."

TBC
posted on 6-Jun-2002 5:38:24 PM by DMartinez
Liz walked into the house to find Jasime and Max up to their elbows in dinner. "My kitchen?"

"Exploded?" Max shrugged. "I was showing Jasime the finer points of meatloaf and it got away from us."

"Learning to cook, are we?" Liz shot Jasime a smile.

The girl ducked her head. "It seemed easy enough. I don't think I have a… knack for it."

"Cooking, like everything else on this planet takes plenty of practice. Very few people take to it right away." Liz reassured her and actually watched her breathe a sigh of relief.

"Liz still hasn't learned to cook." Max commented as he turned to put the loaf in the oven. The smack upside the head wasn't exactly unexpected but it hurt more than he thought it would.

"You're home early, Max." Liz cleared her throat and took a seat at the clean table to watch him clean up his mess.

"I took some more of my vacation time. Use it or lose it." He shrugged and waved his hand over the counter. It was clean in moments.

"Cheater." She smiled and waited until he left to talk to Jasime. "How was your first cooking lesson?"

"Messy."

"They usually are." She watched the girl wash her hands carefully and noted how she hesitated sometimes, as if she were resisting some urge. "What did you do on Antar?"

"I… waited for Zan. They only let me fight in controlled arenas. No one trained me." She blushed and ducked her head before lifting it high again. "I learned from watching him in battle. He's a magnificent warrior."

"When's the wedding?" Liz sat back and watched the ridged stance. There it was.

"I don't know. I suppose it all depends on Zan."

"Ah. I know how men are." Liz winked and then cleared her throat. "So, how did you first meet Zan?"

"I was… thirteen and he was fifteen. The Limaltha had a party and they introduced us. Zan had a friend who was killed in the Ditke, he was the one who made the gesture first. He made Zan ask me to dance. Now, of course, we know it was all set up and a few years later they told us that we were to be married. They kept throwing us together but… we never talked and we only kiss when we're expected to." Jasime sank into a chair and used a rag to wipe at the spotless table. "I should hate the fact that this was forced on us but I've really come to admire the man that Zan has grown into. I watched him whenever I got the chance and even here, I see him with his sister and brother and my heart swells."

"You really love him, don't you."

"Yes, I do. I just wish he felt the same." She lowered her voice and leaned across the table to Liz. Tears filled her eyes. "Please don't tell King Zan but Zan wants to call off the betrothal and I don't know why he hasn't yet."

"Why do you think he doesn't feel the same?"

"He doesn’t want me. We've barely spoken at all and he… avoids me. Maybe if I could be like him, he might accept me."

"Be like him?"

"Human."

"Excuse me." Saran knocked at the back door and then produced a small box. "For Jasime." She took the box and stared at it. "From Antar."

--

"So Dad says he doesn't mind that you come to see me." Lydia worked through her routine on the balance beam as she talked to her brother where he was acting as spot. "I didn't tell him that you were helping me later, though."

"Why not?" He paced beside the beam in case she should fall.

"He's been real… fidgety lately and I'm just glad that Jasime is so demanding of his attention or else he'd be all over me trying to help and keep involved in my life. I think Mom and Dad really like her." She flipped carefully to keep her balance and then stopped to look at him. "She doesn't talk much and she loves wearing Mom's old clothes." She waited until he looked at her. "She doesn't like to talk about Antar."

"No?" He murmured almost absently.

"I think she wants to stay here permanently. It's kinda fun. Almost like having a sister."

"So, you like her?"

"Well, yeah. I just wish she'd explain to me how things work on Antar. Vikin is so shy." She pouted and hopped off the beam.

"He's not shy. He's… cautious." Zan picked up her bag and headed for the door.

"Cautious."

"Yes, Princess." He cleared his throat. "If he breaks your heart, your father will break him… not to mention what I'll do to him."

"Zan!"

--

Max held up his hands but the ball fell about four feet short. Isaac shrugged helplessly and ran to get the ball. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, just throw harder… maybe higher." Max advised and stepped back. "Try it again."

Liz turned from the backyard and observed the quiet Jasime. "What did it say?"

"I'm needed back on Antar." Jasime spoke quietly. "Immediately."

"Why?"

"I am to testify about the Limaltha. I need to go in 24 hours." Jasime set the box down and backed away.

"Why are you scared?"

"If I testify, it will be revealed that I am born of Limaltha… I will be sentenced with the rest of them." She wiped at her eyes.

Both women turned when the front door opened. Zan and Lydia entered the kitchen. "Mom! Guess what I can do."

Her excitement died when she felt the vibe in the room. Zan's eyes fell on the small box and then glanced at Jasime. "Who sent it?"

"The Council." Jasime bowed her head. "I leave tomorrow. Don't expect to see me again." She raced from the room just as Max and Isaac were entering the house.

"What's going on?" Max took in the faces on his family's faces. "What happened?"

TBC
posted on 7-Jun-2002 1:22:56 AM by DMartinez
"I'm going with her." Zan managed to speak finally. His father looked up at him. "You need to marry us tonight. I am going back as your son."

"What?" Max ran a hand over his face.

"It'll give her immunity. I didn't want to make it like this but we have to be married tonight." Zan pleaded.

"I don't know how."

"Just say a few words. You make it official. I have to go talk to her." Zan wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans and made his way down the hall to her room. He knocked lightly and tried to slow the beating of his heart. He had only a few hours to make her understand how he really felt about her. "Jasime." No answer. "Jas, open the door."

"Leave me alone, Zan. I just want to have my final hours in peace." Her voice was so loud that he knew she was next to the door.

"Open the door, Jas. Please."

Slowly the door opened. She was staring at him incredulously. "You haven't called me that since we first met."

"Marry me."

"What?"

"Marry me. Now." He braced his arms in the doorframe. "I'm not letting you go back alone and certainly not without my protection."

"You never cared before." Her hurt eyes didn't escape his attention. "Marry someone you love. Marry Kiole or Nemoel."

"You know very well that they were Weloi's women, not mine." Slowly, gently, he reached out to touch her face in the way he had done only in public before. "You've had my heart since the night we first met, arranged or not."

"Don't do this to me now, Zan. I have waited too long for you and we're not going to be together now. Just don't." She couldn't help but lean into his touch, too eager to memorize every touch that he was willing to give.

"I'm not letting you die before I get the chance to have you as my wife." His fingers stole into her hair. "Do you know how many nights I dreamed of sleeping next to you? Being able to reach out and have you there?" The silken strands slipped through his fingers as he drew near. "I used to watch you out on Damara's Rock. I would wish I could be with you every night." His other hand covered hers that lay on his chest. "If death is really preferable to marrying me, go back to Antar. If you have even the slightest feeling for me, marry me and I will go with you to protect you from the Council."

"I have loved you longer than I can remember and will love you for the rest of my life but don't pretend to love me, Zan. I couldn't bear it." She bowed her head and rested it atop his hand.

"I don't have time to pretend, Jas. I love you." He turned her face up so he could see her eyes. "Will you marry me?"

"Yes."

"I pronounce you husband and wife. Get out of my house." Max spoke up from behind them and the rest of the family behind him.

--

"I'm serious. He just up and asked her to marry him. They're honeymooning now and then he's going tomorrow and I'm not going to see him for a while." Lydia sighed into the phone. "It was so romantic, Bendy."

"Lyds. Off the phone." Liz warned and pointed to the clock.

"Yeah, I got to go. Curfew. See you in class." Lydia quickly hung up the phone and ran after her mother. "Can I miss tomorrow?"

"Lydia." Liz chided and kept moving down the hall.

"Mom." Lydia scoffed. "He's my brother. He's leaving. I need to say goodbye. I don't know when I'm going to see him again."

Liz turned around and stared at her daughter. "The ship doesn't leave until after you get out of school. You can miss practice but that's it."

"But there's whole day."

"Lydia, trust me, you'll understand when you get married but even your father and I won't be seeing Zan until just before the ship leaves." Liz pointed to her daughter's room. "Bed." Lydia turned and stomped to her room and Liz continued to her own bedroom. She had to smile when she saw Max laid out with his hands under his head and his eyes closed. Locking the door, she slipped onto his lap. "That was clever what you did tonight."

"I thought so too." He nodded wearily. "We have a daughter-in-law, Liz."

"Yes, we do." She laid her head on his chest. "Max."

"Yeah?"

"Make love to me."

--

Jasime turned slightly and Zan fit his body behind hers. Their left hands joined and their faces turned to the left. Swaying together, their right hands rose in the air before his lay on hers. Her eyes closed as they moved with intent. Every spin was ended with a low dip and he kissed her neck and chest before drawing her back up for the kisses that were actually a part of the dance.

When the song reached its peak, Zan turned her to face him. He took her left hand with his right and held them high over their heads, his right stole around her back. Their bodies moved as one. In one swift movement, he lifted her body up and curled her backward. Her legs squeezed his hips to keep from falling. His lean body bent over hers before arching backward to pull her further up his body and then they were spinning.

Laughing, they stopped as the last notes of the song faded. Sinking to the floor, she on his lap, their lips met hungrily. By the time his hand slid from her hand to her shoulder, their clothes were nothing but vapor.

TBC
posted on 9-Jun-2002 2:39:32 AM by DMartinez
Zan reached out and touched Jasime's back. Her head turned toward him, her hair falling all over the place and he had to smile at the picture she made; she laid naked in his bed, her hair tousled, and her skin rosy from their lovemaking. He traced the moonlight on her skin. They had christened the living area and then the couch and then the bed. He would miss the constant reminders of their time spent together. There were only a few hours before daylight and he couldn't waste any of them sleeping.

Her eyes fluttered open and she smiled sleepily at him. "You, my lord, are insatiable." When he didn't answer, she propped herself up on her elbows. "Zan, I honestly love you." His answer was to take her nearest hand and kiss the palm slowly. "Am I what you want?" His lips lingered longer on her skin. "Zan?"

"Take all the foliad on Antar, gather it together and it would equal but one drop of the vast sea of love I feel for you." Zan clutched her hand to his chest. "Know that I would give my own life before I see yours taken away."

"Why the games, Zan?"

"I am undeserving of a beauty like you." His hand brushed against the soft skin of her cheek. "Everyday I watched you, I only dreamed of being with you like this."

"Did you really watch me on Damara's Rock?" A rosy color filled her face, heat warming his hand.

"Yes. I could watch you for hours. The way the water covered your skin, crimson waves in your hair, enveloping your body as you swam. The colors the water stained your air when it dried up on the rock." Shifting onto his back, he ignored his body's call for his wife. His hand resumed its earlier task of stroking her back. "The day you had been in for three hours, you came out and your whole body was painted red… I wanted to run up and run away with you."

"Instead you just ran away." She commented softly and rested her head on his chest. "You know… your father met your mother on Damara's rock. It seems to be the place to meet your true love."

"Not true." Zan smiled. "I met you at a party."

"Story goes the same for them." Jasime cleared her throat. "Love at first sight on Damara's rock, then introductions at a party. I know my myths. They knew right away that they were destined for each other…"

"When did you know?"

"The first time you came back victorious from battle. The way you owned it. You were born to it and it showed when you came back. You didn't demand our attention but you got it anyway. You weren't humble and you weren't gloating." She propped herself up to look at him. "I have a million words for everything you weren't that day but none to describe how you were." They were silent for a moment. "Zan, what's going to happen when we go back?"

"Sh." He pulled her into his arms. "Let's not think about it tonight. We'll have the entire trip to worry about it. Tonight… be mine."

"I say again, my lord, you are insatiable."

"Only for you."

--

"What's going to happen to them?" Liz sipped at her coffee and leaned back into her husband's arms.

"They will go back to Antar. They'll probably spend the time learning all they can about each other. When they arrive, they'll be separated and then she will testify." Max closed his eyes. "All I am hoping is that they will recognize him as my son. They have accepted me as their king but I haven't been as active as I should have been."

"Who makes up the Council?"

"The council was put together in the months after that final battle. Clan leaders approached me with their wisest men. We spent three months deriving a contract of sorts among the people. I know every man on the council by name." He shut his eyes. "I'm sending Saran back."

"Why?" She sat up and turned to look at him. "He's great. He's fitting in here."

"He's a Council member and he should have been present for the trials when they began. My hope is that he will be able to keep them safe from condemnation." Took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm the one who pressed charges. They'll probably leave Zan alone since he is the victim but she's one of them… knowingly or not, she participated in their plot to overthrow me."

--

Zan opened his eyes to find her sitting up with her arms around her knees, her back to him. "What's wrong?"

"I get the strangest feeling that this is the last time I will be in this apartment with you. This is the happiest time in my life and I can't help but feel this is the end." Not even his lips on her shoulder made her feel any better. "My heart sinks with every second until we leave."

"What is your gift, Jas?" He ran his fingers through her curls, scooting closer to her small body.

"I never tried to find it. I fight well enough on my own. I have no desire to know other's dreams. Knowing the future is unappealing…" She sighed and leaned back into his warmth. "Although, that might come in handy about now."

--

Zan hugged his little sister tightly. "Take care of your parents. Practice what we learned and the rest will flow. Did you tell him?"

"Not yet." Lydia shook her head. "Too much has happened since yesterday. My news can wait."

He let go of her and mussed Isaac's hair. "Chief. Mind the castle."

"Always." Isaac replied with a small smile.

Jasime bowed her head to her in-laws and welcomed the hug they each gave her. She stepped back to allow Zan his time with them. He and Liz hugged awkwardly. Zan held out a hand to his father. Max took it and had to swallow a lump in his throat. "Be careful, Zan."

"May the moons smile on us and the suns sweep the clouds from our eyes." Zan cleared his throat. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Letting me have my time and find my own way home… Dad." Zan found himself in a manly embrace before he could move.

"Don't let me lose you again." Max whispered and kissed his son's forehead.

"Prince Zan." Saran cleared his throat. "The ship is ready."

Without another word, Zan guided his new bride to the ship. They disappeared into the ship one at a time. The portal closed and a hum filled the air. The ship rose into the air, legs slid into their hiding places and then after a brief wobble, the ship shot into the sky. Max gathered his family and led them home to wait and pray.

TBC
posted on 10-Jun-2002 3:09:10 AM by DMartinez
Lydia burst into the welding shop still in her spandex and sweats from practice. The nearest man immediately pulled her off to the side. "Evans! Your kid is here!"

Lydia waited patiently while he finished his run and ambled over to her. His hair stuck up from being under the helmet for hours. "Sweetie, what are you doing here?"

"Something's happening. I was at practice when I got the vision and something's happening." She babbled and mumbled until she realized that he had led them outside.

"Visions?"

"Zan said that I'm a seer and I did it once before he left and today it just came to me. Something's happening. Something big. I think the Council made a decision." Lydia continued to babble. "Contact Saran."

"Sweetie. Saran will contact us the second that it's over. We'll go home in two hours and I'll check the communicator." Max brushed her hair out of her face. "It's only been a month and a half. I'd really be surprised if they had anything to report this soon. When we get home, we'll check the box and we'll talk about these visions. Okay?"

"Okay." She nodded.

"Okay. Go home, sweetie. I'll be home soon."

--

Liz concentrated but she got nothing. She handed the picture to Lydia and she was immediately rewarded. Lydia shut her eyes and she could see it. They were all there. Mom, Dad, Uncle Michael, Aunt Isabel and more people, they were all dressed up for prom. She was in the moment. Inside the picture. She opened her eyes and looked from parent to parent. "Who's Sean DeLuca?"

Max shot Liz a look. Liz cleared her throat and lowered her eyes. "Why do you ask?"

"I don't know if I should repeat the thoughts he had about you in that dress." Lydia tapped the picture. "If you went with Dad, why was this Sean person thinking about a recent kiss?"

"I think that's enough for today." Liz snapped up the picture and put it back in its box.

"You kissed Sean DeLuca?" Max sat back in his chair and watched Liz's face flush. "Was it a… thing?"

"I had a thing and you had a thing and we still went to prom together." Liz pushed the box out of her reach, which Lydia picked up and began rifling through its contents. "It doesn't matter, that was a long time ago and we love each other."

"When was this kiss?"

"I'm not even going to answer that. Your track record isn't exactly spotless, either." She swept her hair over her shoulder and held her hand up. "I do recall that you kissed me two days after you impregnated… Tess."

"I thought I was leaving forever." Max admitted and scooted closer. "So… what kind of thing did you and Sean have?"

"It was a thing. Innocent, I swear."

"Was that before or after you broke into the school?" He countered.

"Max, really." Liz stood up and began fixing dinner for lack of anything else to do. "There were… three instances in which we kissed. That was it because then you had to go and sweep me off my feet again."

"Hey, can you stop rehashing the golden days for a moment?" Lydia piped up. "Who's this chick with Uncle Michael in all these pictures?" She shut her eyes for a moment. "Maria DeLuca?"

"She was a friend of mine." Liz nodded and then the room got silent. "We… um, we were really close for most of our childhood. Then Dad and I went to college and she went off to be a musician. We lost touch after you were born."

"And Uncle Michael?"

"He… they didn't have too healthy a relationship. It didn't last long past high school?' Max picked up a picture and then slid it across the table to his daughter to put back in the box. "I called it the great divide. Our circle just fell apart. Mom, Michael, Isabel and Jesse were on one side… Maria and Kyle were on the other. I don't even know what's happened to Kyle but I think Maria finally got a contract a few years back."

"What's this?" Lydia picked up the picture and before she could stop it, she was in the moment. She threw the picture across the table. "I'm blind. I need to wash my brain."

Max looked at the picture again, frowning that he had no clue what Lydia was talking about. Liz came around the table and stared at it over his shoulder until finally it hit her. Her hand went to her mouth. It was a picture of Max sleeping… just after they had made love. "No more. Take a break."

"Now if only I could get these images out of my head. I'm scarred. I'm going to need therapy." Lydia threw out before getting to her feet.

Before she could get far, the communicator sprang to life. Saran's image burst forth and had all their attention. "King Zan. Your son and I are on our way home. The Council met and their decision was made. We'll return within a month."

"What was the decision?" Max had to ask.

"We'll discuss it soon. I have no time. There are procedures to be followed." Saran's image disappeared.

"What do you suppose that was all about?" Liz murmured.

"Dad…" Lydia swallowed the lump in her throat. "Why didn't he mention Jasime?"

Max looked to Liz and then Lydia and then back. His heart thundered in his chest. He couldn't assume anything until Saran reported. They would wait.

TBC
posted on 11-Jun-2002 11:55:30 PM by DMartinez
Isaac moved his piece and looked up at his father. "Check mate."

"What? No." Max ran his eyes over the board and then looked up at his son. "How did you do that?"

"I read the book." Isaac shrugged. "Then I read a bunch of books that I heard about on TV."

"Which ones?" Max propped his chin up on his fist and waited to see how he was outwitted by his eight-year-old son.

"The Prince, The Art of War… All of Nietzsche." Isaac just shrugged again.

"You read all those books and learned how to apply them?" Max cleared his throat and turned to Michael. "What do you think?"

"I think he is a born warrior." Michael rubbed at his forehead. "I see General as a possible title in his future."

"Well, maybe… if we could work on that coordination." Max leaned over and ruffled his hair. "Another game. We'll time this one." They set about moving the pieces back into place.

Michael snuck a look at Lydia, who was sitting in a chair with a bunch of pictures. He crept over and knelt beside her. "You figure it out yet?"

"Not really. I don't think I can do it without the pictures. I can't reach Zan…" Lydia shook her head. "I can always get into the moment but only sometimes can I get to the person to see what they're doing."

"Your Aunt Isabel could get into their head if they were asleep but she couldn't relive the moment like you can." Michael glanced at the pictures. "Ugh. They still have those?"

"Yep." She gave him a small smile. "And I'm learning a lot in the process."

"Like what?"

"She misses you."

"Who?" Then he nodded slowly when she picked up a picture. "I see."

"Why did you break up?" Lydia inquired softly. "Mom and Dad didn't tell me much."

"It was a lot of things. Funny what a strange can point out to you." Michael laughed heartlessly. "It's all old stuff. I have Kristin. I love her."

"But… she was Mom's friend and suddenly not…" Lydia sighed heavily. "I don't get it. If Bendy and I don't talk for a single day… I feel bad."

"It used to be like that, I suppose." Michael leaned back on his hands. "Thing was… she was my first love." He noted the incredulous look on her face. "You are allowed more than one. Ask your Dad." Taking a breath he continued. "I'm the first to admit that my life is not perfect. It's dangerous getting involved with a person with so much… history, especially when you're young. I was the mangy old dog."

"A mangy old dog." She repeated.

"You know the one. You see him in the bad neighborhoods. He's dirty, malnourished, unloved and eager for attention. No matter how many times his master kicks him, he always begs for more."

"You know, I always wondered why that dog didn't run away. I untied one, once. He stayed in his yard. He got kicked when his master found out his leash was off." Lydia had tears in her eyes.

"That was me. Maria was just another master. Funny thing about that dog. He doesn't know any different. He thinks that's how love goes. Eventually, that acceptance of what he thinks is love… it kills him." Michael sighed again. "Sometimes, even an intervention doesn't help. Not when it's people you know and love."

"What happened?"

"An absolute stranger came into the restaurant where we were working. She must have been there an hour. It was a dive, it gave us plenty of time to hang out while we worked." Small pause. "Maria got off work early and I was there to take the woman's check. She looked at me with these sad eyes. Against my better thoughts, I asked her if anything was wrong. She just stared at me and said, 'Why do you let her do that to you?' I said, 'Let who do what?' 'She treats you awful, that waitress. Can't you complain to your boss?' 'About my girlfriend?'

"She got even sadder if that was possible. 'Promise me that you'll stop letting her treat you that way.' 'What way?' 'Like you should be grateful to have one iota of her attention. Son, I can tell you're a good person and she needs to treat you like it. I have the feeling that you deserve better.' She gestured to the other couples in the restaurant. 'None of them treat each other the way she treats you. Only a selfish person would not be able to see what damage they're inflicting by treating someone that way… especially someone they claim to love.'" Michael took another breath. "I just stood there when she left."

"Wow."

"Yeah. I took off for a few days. I just wandered around and I really paid attention to people. I had changed a lot from the boy that was so infatuated with Maria, the boy that would do anything to keep from losing her, to keep from being alone… and she treated me like I was that same punk." He rubbed at his eyebrow. "Some people are happy to work that way but I couldn't be. When I got home, I moved out. I explained to her and she didn't get it."

"Why did she and Mom stop talking?"

"It became human verses alien hybrid and human hybrid. They tried to stick together but Liz was siding with us on matters more and more. Kyle sided with Maria since he hadn't shown any sides of changing like your mom did. After you were born, it was too hard. They just fell apart."

"Wow." Lydia stared at the pictures in her hands. "Life is hard."

"And don't let anyone tell you different. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be worth living. Why do you think people who have everything they want self-destruct? It's too easy. You have to struggle sometimes. When the light finally shines on you… it's worth it."

"Saran?" Max's voice broke into their discussion. All heads turned to the doorway. "You weren't supposed to be back for another week."

"Things change." Saran bowed his head. "He's gone home. You should go see to him. There were… complications. I would tell you but I feel you need to hear from him first."

"Liz!" Max called up the stairs. "They're back. I have to go to Zan."

"Dad let me go." Lydia shot up.

"No. Not today. Not right now." Max shook his head and grabbed his jacket. He paused next to Saran. "Could you help at all?"

"That would depend on your definition of help. Things could have been much worse." Saran kept his head down. "Forgive me for not doing a better job."

"I'm sure you did all you could." Max reassured the man before ducking out the door.

--

Zan didn't even look up when his father entered the apartment. The lights were still off and he wanted them that way. Darkness to fill him home like it did his heart. His father stepped to him slowly and carefully, as if he'd disappear at any moment. "Zan?"

The young man's face crumpled. "Dad…" And then he succumbed to the sobs that had been threatening him for weeks. A warm embrace calmed him some but he let it all out.

"What happened, son?" Max whispered and kissed his son's head. "What won't Saran tell me?"

"She…" He had to take a deep breath but he refused to let go of his father. "She's Limaltha by birth and they convicted her of treason against you. Saran testified to how she fit in here but it wasn't any good. I testified. They sentenced her to death. All our marriage afforded her was a hearing with all the members of the Council instead of the leaders alone."

"I'm sorry." Max squeezed him tighter.

"There's more. I…" Zan took a huge gulp of air. "I made move for an appeal. It stayed her execution for about a week. She's in the internment camps now. I don't know what Saran said but they're going to filter the Limaltha… one by one…"

"That could take years."

"It will. It will take many years of isolation and humiliation."

"Is she alive?"

"I don't know."

Max shut his eyes and just held the hurting young man. He wished he could say something, anything to comfort him but chose silence instead. A whimpering caught his attention. Adjusting his eyes to the darkness, he made out a shape on the bed nearby. "Zan?"

"Witdina… my daughter." Zan pulled himself to his feet so that he could lift the small girl into his arms. "I promised Jas that I would raise her on Earth."

TBC
posted on 12-Jun-2002 9:22:39 AM by DMartinez
"She's so tiny." Lydia cooed over the crib. "She looks just like her daddy, uh-huh."

"Can you please not talk like that?" Zan crossed his arms. "It gives me a headache."

"Wit can hear it though." Liz cut in and handed Zan a bottle. "Babies hear higher sounds better than lower ones… and they only see certain bright colors." She pointed to the bottle. "Two parts milk, the rest is a mixture of jalapeno water, carrot juice and tomato juice."

"Ew." Lydia made a face.

"You seemed to like it quite well when you were a baby." Liz cleared her throat. "You also liked your oatmeal with spicy V8 and cauliflower."

"Ugh."

Zan lifted his child from the crib and tucked her into his arm. "Well, Wit, let's try this stuff out."

"Your dad just called. Isabel had a healthy little girl. Estella Nicole Ramirez." Liz cleared her throat again. She lifted her eyes to her stepson. "You know… if you need more help… we'd be happy to have you stay at the house."

Zan managed to look up at her for a few moments before returning his eyes to his daughter. "I think Wit and I need to be on our own."

"Maybe." Liz nodded and picked at a baby blanket. "Don't be too proud to ask for help.

"Okay, can someone explain alien gestation again?" Lydia piped from where she hovered near the bundle in her brother's arms.

"It's different, sweetie." Liz moved to take a seat. "It depends on how much alien and who the alien is."

"Explain." Lydia reiterated. "You were pregnant for like eight months with Isaac."

"Ok. You're right. With Isaac, that was seven and a half months. With you, it was six and a half. Isabel's pregnancies usually varied to about five months to six months. I guess it depended on how much they ended up looking like Jesse. This one was shorter, maybe three months." Liz gestured to Zan. "Rumor has it, Zan took about a month."

"Jas was pregnant for a month and a half. We discovered her condition on the trip to Antar. My appeal was only granted because of her condition… when she gave birth, her… perks went away." He managed to sit awkwardly on the bed. "Is he doing anything?"

"I don't know. I just don't understand why she wasn't granted immunity like you thought she would be." Liz whispered.

"Me either."

--

Max rode back with Saran from the welding shop. The two were silent for a moment. "It's all my fault, isn't it?"

"Sire?"

"My decision to stay remote and let them lead themselves. That clause that… humanizes the court." Max didn't say a word when Saran refused to answer. "No special treatment for government officials."

"I tried. They just didn't see."

"It seemed fair enough at the time."

"It is fair… if the official is guilty."

"Was she guilty?"

"Only of following through and marrying him. They did not factor love into the equation. I believe she is still alive. She is strong. She should have been a warrior." Saran lifted his eyes to his king. "She will have to be a great warrior to survive her own people. They think she has betrayed them… and she has. She pledged her loyalty to you as her King, to her husband as her Prince… I believe even to your wife as Queen, and she did it in front of all of Antar."

"Does it help?"

"When her second appeal comes around, it should."

"When is that?"

"Not any time soon."

"Her daughter will grow up without her…" Max sat back in his seat. "There has got to be something that I can do."

"Are you certain you have not already taken steps?" Saran queried quietly. When Max looked to him in confusion. "You quit your job, did you not?"

TBC
posted on 17-Jun-2002 10:07:34 AM by DMartinez
Zan lay next to his daughter and just stared. She was perfect. Just perfect. Such soft skin, ten toes, ten fingers, downy hair on her head… perfect. "You're a siren. You've stolen my heart away and you haven't done a thing." He smiled when her tiny hand curled around his finger in her sleep. "You're my princess."

--

Liz lay within the circle of her husband's arms and knew something was wrong. "You're going to leave again, aren't you?"

"I don't want to."

"Okay."

"That's it?"

"Max…" She felt the tear slip out of her eye and hoped he couldn't see it. "When I let you back in the house… I knew. I had to accept the king part when I took you back in." The tears were falling freely. "I have to share you with a billion other people."

"I am going to communicate to Antar in the morning. If we can't work something out… I'm going back."

--

Max paced his kitchen in front of the box. "I was just informed of the processes a few days ago."

"Your highness, you left us in political control." The alien spoke evenly from the small box.

"I believed you and the Council would be fair. Just." Max whirled to face the image. "What exactly is this filtering process?"

"All the Limaltha have been sentenced to death, pending the filter."

"Which means what?"

"One by one, we will see if they were truly working against your kingship, when they are found guilty, they will be put to death."

"Can't you move Jasime to the front of the line? She's not working against me."

"That is yet to be seen. You were the one who believed that we should all be treated equally. Do you really wish to rescind your statement?"

"No. My statement stands." Max put a hand to his head. "How long until Jasime is brought in for the filtering?"

"Two years."

"Can you guarantee her safety?"

"No."

"You should."

"Why? How are you certain that she will pass the filtering?"

"I know."

"She fled the planet?"

"To follow her heart." Max threw his hands up in the air. "She is my daughter-in-law, your future queen if all goes well… and it will go well. You'll see, she's not the conniving double-agent you believe her to be." He had to take a breath. "My son needs her, their daughter needs her."

"Two years… I'll discuss her custody will the Council. End official transmission." The image wavered but the alien remained. Max waited expectantly. "Off the record, the majority of the Council believes in her innocence."

"Then why?"

"Your statement. If you wish to be see as equal to your subjects… sacrifices need to be made. Unfortunately, your son's bride is the sacrifice you need to gain their faith. Saran agreed."

"I'm sure he did." Max nodded.

"Personally, sir… I believe that an appearance is in order. There has been much uneasiness surrounding the trials and the filtering."

"Yeah, okay. I'll make my way." Max nodded and the box closed in on itself.

--

Lydia waved to her dad from the front step. She, Bendy, Zan and Wit occupied the porch as night fell. Bendy wrapped her arm around her friend. "Why does he have to go?"

"They need him. I told you he was like the president." Lydia whispered.

"How long is he gone for?"

"I don't know."

"He'll only be gone as long as necessary." Zan spoke up from where he rocked his daughter. He didn't even notice the strange looks that Bendy shot at him. "Our people need him. Antar can't survive unless they can trust their King."

TBC
posted on 18-Jun-2002 7:49:13 PM by DMartinez
"How is it that you don't have to work and can still live here?" Lydia watched her half-brother pace with his screaming child.

"What?" Zan winced and tried to calm his daughter down but she wouldn't have it.

"You don't work that I know of and you're keeping this place, which I might add is on the pricey side for someone who does have a job." Lydia nodded to his confused look.

"I told the landlord that my father was a king. He'd do well to let me stay here. He would be paid in full at a later date."

"That worked."

"No. One of the Limaltha put a lidathu on him." Zan smiled and then immediately felt near tears when Wit would not stop crying. The longer it went on, the worse he felt. Finally, he thrust the baby into his half-sister's arms and cradled his throbbing head. Wit seemed to calm down with her aunt but Zan couldn't stop the tears from racing down his face.

"You miss her, don't you?"

"Maybe if she was here, I'd know what to do, or she would. Wit could be sick for all I know." Nothing but the baby's crying filled the air for a long time. Finally, the baby cried herself to sleep and Lydia had gathered the courage to say something.

"It's okay to miss her. It's okay to want her back… it'll just take awhile. Dad won't let anything happen to her." She passed him his child.

"It's a constant battle. Some days I want to rush the walls of that place and rip her free… other days I know things will get better… and still some days I can't help but think nothing will ever be okay again."

--

"It feels weird." Michael shrugged.

"He's been saying that for days." Kristin glared at his back. "I just want the ceremony over with."

"Max should be here." Michael crossed his arms.

"He'll be here soon enough and you can have your Antarian wedding." Liz bored holes into the side of Michael's head. Sipped at her tea and waited for his answer.

"Fine. There's not much I can do about it, is there?"

"No. You can't." Kristin finally relaxed. "So I wanted to do Michael's idea and just go to the JP but my parents are throwing a fit. They want a church and my whole family and caterers and a big reception. I'm ready to just elope."

"I still say we should." Michael shoved off of the wall he was leaning on and disappeared out the back door.

Kristin twirled her cup in her hand as she contemplated her next words. Finally, she looked up to Liz. "Max and Michael are close, aren't they? I mean, I know they're friends but they're closer… right?"

"Practically brothers… which means they fight more than anything else but the love is always there." Liz sighed heavily.

"Is it hard being without him?"

"Always."

"How do you do it? If Michael ever has to go…"

"He won't. Max won't let him." Liz whispered. "When Max went back the first time, he left Michael to take care of us. Michael doesn't want to go but he does. He has been so conflicted his entire life. He'll do what's needed when the time comes but I don't think Max would let him off the planet now that he's found someone special."

"I wouldn't ever want to hold him back though. I think… that I'm just beginning to realize what being married to an alien warrior is going to be like." Kristin took a breath. "I'm nervous but I love Michael. I would do anything for him… even go with him."

"That's good."

"How do you do it?"

"I don't." Liz admitted. "Last time, I didn't have a choice. Max just up and left and then it was so hard getting back to where we were. This time… I would have gone with him if not for the kids." She released her cup and ran a hand over his face. "It's taken me a long time to own up to the fact that he was never really mine. I get to keep him when he's here but he belongs to a whole planet of people. They depend on him and he's trying so hard to make it all work and I don't know if it is working."

"When is he coming back?"

"Next year."

"Mom!" Lydia raced down the stairs with Bendy on her heels and the phone in her hand. "We just called the radio station and we won tickets to the Starbaby and the Moonlight concert. They need your info so you can pick up the tickets for us."

"Star-what and the huh?" Liz blinked.

"Just tell them that you're my mother and you'll be escorting us to the concert."

--

"How many tickets?" Liz asked, phone propped under her chin.

"Six."

"Do I have to go?"

"No…" Lydia sighed and settled into her seat. "You don't have to…"

"But you need an adult to go with you."

"Yeah."

"Who is Moonbaby and the Starlight?" Liz settled in for some answers.

"Starbaby and the Moonlight. It's the new techno-guitar music. It's approved by the Walt Disney Company but I really want to go."

"Why?"

"Well… the drummer is really cute and the radio station gets us backstage passes." Lydia pleaded.

"I… don't really have time for this, Lyds."

"Then… Zan can take us."

Liz stared at her daughter for a long moment.

"Please?"

"Who all will you be inviting?"

"Um… Me, Bendy, Zan… VikinLokinandJulie."

"Hold up. Who is Julie?"

"Girl in my gymnastics group. She's really nice and believe me she's fighting to go. Her parents are so strict." Lydia sank to her knees and wobbled over to her mother. "Please. Vikin and Lonkin could be there and you know nothing would happen with them there… Especially if Zan goes."

"Who's going to watch the baby?"

"You could?"

"I could, huh…" Liz arched an eyebrow at her daughter.

"Please. Zan needs a break. This would be good for him… and you get to hold the baby. All soft and pink and gurgly baby." Lydia saw the look in her mother's eyes and whooped for joy. "Thank you, thank you." She kissed her mother's cheek, grabbed the phone and raced up the stairs. Liz just banged her head on the table. She was a push over.

TBC
posted on 19-Jun-2002 2:42:32 PM by DMartinez
"Hi. Hi there. Whatcha doin', sweetheart?" Liz bounced the baby on her knee and smiled broadly at the little girl.

"Are you sure? I don't have to go. In fact, I shouldn't go. We should just go home." Zan reached for his daughter but Liz slapped his hand away. "Ow."

"Go. Have a little fun. Take my cell phone. Call here as much as you like but Wit and I are going to be having a blast." She lifted the child up into the air. "Yes we are."

"I put a few bottles in the refrigerator. She likes them cold. There are about ten diapers in her bag and two extra sets of clothes. Here's her…" Zan held up a little stuffed dog. "She likes it when you sing to her."

"I raised two children, Zan. I think I can handle it." Liz kissed Wit's cheek. "I'm suddenly trying to remember why Max and I didn't have more kids."

"You wanted more?" Zan shifted suddenly and stared at the woman before him. There was a light in her eyes that he hadn't seen too often. It made her glow.

"I love babies."

"Mom! I can't find my purse and Isaac swears he didn't take it even though I know he did!" A voice called down the stairs, quickly followed by a second voice. "I did not! Mom! I would never touch her stuff. That's gross!"

"Right. That's why we didn't have more." Liz laughed to herself.

"NO!!" A shriek erupted from upstairs.

"Who died?" Michael's voice made Liz jump. She turned and smacked him. "What's going on?"

"No telling." Liz shook her head and went to sit on the couch with the baby. "What's up?"

"Kristin kicked me out of the house. She's planning something but she won't tell me what." He shrugged and nodded to Zan as he made himself at home. "Mind if I crash here?"

"No problem. It's just going to be me and Wit tonight. Isaac's staying at a friend's house and Lyds is going to a concert." Liz set the baby on the floor and laughed when the little girl tried to crawl but could only rock on her little hands and knees.

"Mom!" Lydia pounded down the stairs with Bendy and Julie right behind her. "Vikin and Lonkin can't go. Alkin says there's too many people. That's two tickets open."

"What am I going to do about it?" Liz lifted her hands in surrender.

"I can only think of one person to ask that will be able to go but that still leaves one ticket." Lydia whined.

"Wait." Zan cut in. He looked from Lydia to Bendy and Julie to Liz. "You mean I'm officially the only male in this little party?" The panic on his face shone brightly. "No. No. You know what? I'll just stay."

"No! You have to come." Lydia pleaded. "I need an adult relative to go with me or else I have to forfeit the tickets altogether."

Zan looked to Liz for help. Liz grinned at Michael as she spoke. "I think Michael's free tonight…"

"Oh no. No." Michael jumped to his feet in absolute horror.

"Please Uncle Michael?" Lydia pleaded and tugged on his arm. "Please. Just come and keep Zan company. He's going to get bored when we go backstage anyway. Please… for me?"

"This is definitely Max's kid." Michael mumbled and regretfully nodded.

"Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you." Lydia turned to her brother. "Well? Let's go. We have to pick up Amy before we go."

Zan bent to the floor and picked Wit up. "Bye sweetie. Be good for… Grandma." He had to laugh at Liz's shocked gasp. "Be good. Daddy loves you."

"Aw." A chorus of girls awed over the scene.

"Let's go." Michael groaned and let the party out the door. "If Kristin calls, you tell her what happened."

"I will." Liz had to wrench Wit from Zan before he would leave. "We'll be fine."

--

"I'm too old to be here. I'm too old to be here." Michael kept muttering to himself as they were led backstage after the concert. He had managed to keep some conversation going with Zan for most of the concert. He didn't even try to look up at the stage. Screaming girls everywhere.

"If it makes you feel better… I think I'm too old to be here." Zan whispered just as they were guided through a set of doors. The four girls with them started screaming immediately.

"Starbaby, these are the people who won the radio station tickets." Some woman, probably her manager, called out to a black haired woman who had her back to them.

"Mind if we just have a seat?" Zan asked the nearest person.

"Right there." The techie pointed to where Michael and Zan could wait out the meet and greet.

Lydia's smile grew wider when Starbaby herself turned around and smiled at them. "Oh my god! You are, like, the best."

"Well, thank you." Starbaby smiled. "Oop. I only see four girls, what happened to the other two?"

"Just us four. My uncle and brother are over there." Lydia pointed. "They just don't know what's cool." Lydia immediately made introductions. "I'm Lydia, this is Bendy, Julie and Amy. We love your music. You are awesome."

"Lydia's a pretty name." Starbaby nodded absently when she caught a glimpse at the two men on the couch nearby. "Max? Michael?"

Michael looked up when he heard his name. Some woman with black hair and a star painted over one eye was staring at him. He rose to his feet to get a better look. Then those eyes jumped out at him. "Maria?"

"Ay Dios mio." Starbaby clutched at her chest before rushing up and hugging him tightly. Then she looked at the man standing next to Michael. "But you're not Max."

"No…" Zan shook his head. "Michael, who is this?"

"Oh my god! You're Michael's Maria? My mom's Maria?" Lydia shrieked. "Omigod! Starbaby is my mom's best friend!"

--

Liz rocked slightly as she gazed at the image before her. "We didn't realize you'd be contacting us or else I wouldn't have let them all go."

"No. It's okay. They all have lives to live." Max nodded stiffly. "Is that Wit?"

"Yeah. She just went to sleep."

"She's getting big."

"Yeah. She is." Liz smiled at him but that was a tear that stung her eye. "You know, Zan reminds me of you when we first had Lyds. He kept fussing over her and almost didn't go." Then she huffed. "He had the nerve to call me Grandma." Max had to laugh. Then Liz smiled. "But you are Grandpa, mister."

"Yeah. I guess I am…" Max looked up at her. "So um… How is he doing?"

"Alright, I guess. He's really hesitant to ask for help but I think that if you were here, he'd have no problem asking." Liz took a breath. "He really looks up to you, Max."

"He likes you too… or else he wouldn't have left her with you." Max raised an eyebrow at her until that smile crossed her face.

"Yeah, I guess he does." Liz spun around when the door opened and many more entered her house than had exited. Abruptly she pocketed the communicator and faced the horde of people that had invaded her house. "What is going on here?"

"Mom. This is Starbaby." Lydia thrust the woman into the kitchen and both women immediately went still.

"Who are all these people, Maria?" Liz asked quietly.

"My entourage." Maria smiled crookedly.

"I can't believe you brought them to my house." Liz pushed past everyone and rushed upstairs.

"I guess some things never change." Maria said to herself. She tried to smile and turn to Michael but he was heading out the door. "Where are you going?"

"Home."

"Michael, come on. We have to catch up." Maria pleaded, they were making her look like a fool in front of her people.

"Not tonight." Michael gestured for Zan to stay and he was out the door.

Lydia and Bendy didn't let the adults' behavior burst their mood. "So, Maria. How long have you been using Starbaby?"

"A while, I guess." She stared after Michael and then turned to the girls. "Does he ever talk about me?" Lydia and Bendy looked at each other and then away from each other. "What?"

"He… He's getting married in two weeks." Lydia answered quickly. "Um…"

Zan cringed when he heard his daughter crying. "Can we move this outside? I have to check on my daughter."

"Yeah. We should probably go." Maria nodded her head to the door and waved to the girls. "Tell your mom I'll be by tomorrow."

TBC
posted on 19-Jun-2002 5:46:52 PM by DMartinez
Warning: The following part will not be pretty.

I'm just as surprised as you that this part came out so quickly.


"I didn't let her bring those people. They just followed her." Zan tried to explain but Liz was livid. "Calm down. Nothing happened."

"I was on the communicator with Max when her people burst into my house. This is my house. She knows better." Liz folded the towels and shoved them into the bathroom cabinet. "It's one thing for her to burst into my house by herself but to bring absolute strangers into my house."

"Liz." Zan took her by the arms. "Calm down." Once she settled down he sighed. "I should have listened to Michael when he said to keep her away from the house."

"Yeah. You should have." She snapped unexpectedly, then immediately regretted it. "I'm sorry. If Maria wanted to be here, she'd be here. Simple as that, you and all the Antarians on Earth wouldn't be able to stop her."

--

Liz looked up when the kitchen door opened. Kristin smiled and took a seat at the table. "So… I should have warned you that Michael needed a place to stay last night."

"Hi… um… no. It was no problem." Liz winced when she realized that Michael had not stayed the night before.

"I was just going to surprise him. He's going to be really excited when he sees what I've done to the apartment." Kristin beamed up at her fiancé's friend. "I installed a nursery."

"You did?" Liz whirled around and spilt eggs on the floor. "Oh my god, Kristin, he's going to be thrilled."

"Hello!" A voice ran through the house and Maria had found them before Liz could give any kind of warning. "Liz! Babe!"

"Hi." Liz wavered slightly and bent to pick up the ruined breakfast. "Oh! Um… this is Kristin. Kristin, this is Maria."

"Hi." Kristin nodded and went about helping Liz clean up.

"Hi. So, um, Liz, sorry about the ambush last night. I was just so hyped up from the concert and then bam! Your kid is screaming that I have to come say 'hi.'" Maria made herself at home.

"It was a real surprise, Maria." Liz managed to get out while she started on a fresh pan of eggs. Before she could say another word, Zan and Wit were in the kitchen making a morning bottle.

"Give her to me." Kristin demanded as Zan hunted for the various ingredients for his daughter's bottle. "You are precious."

Liz watched Zan hunt a while before she cleared her throat. "I don't have any jalapenos. Sorry. Um… try some Tabasco sauce… about… half a bottle should do."

"Okay. Okay." Zan nodded and turned his back on Maria. He knew she was glaring at him.

"Is your kitchen always this busy?" Maria commented dryly."

"This isn't busy. When Max is here, it's worse because the kids are in here too. They're begging for pancakes and French toast and we're fighting over pans and bowls." Liz stirred some Tabasco sauce into the eggs and handed the rest to Zan. "Lyds is still asleep and Isaac is at a friend's."

"Isaac?" Maria asked absently.

"My son. He's almost nine." Liz spooned some eggs onto a plate for Kristin and Zan. "Did you want breakfast, Maria?"

"No. I'm here to talk." Maria glanced around again. "So where is Max?"

"On Antar." Liz filled in as she made another batch of eggs with sugar and Tabasco this time. "There's some difficulties with the Council and all. He's trying to smooth things out."

"Oh. So it's safe now?"

"Yeah. Kivar's been gone a few years now. Max is in power with a Council… kind of like the Senate." The brunette served her self and put a lid on the remainder of the eggs. Finally, they were all seated at the table with eggs and juice. "So… you're Moonbaby."

"Starbaby." Maria corrected.

"Sorry. I always mess that up." She apologized and started eating. The best way had to be acting like there was nothing wrong. "Lyds is always getting on my case about it but I am so behind on music that it's not funny."

Maria eyed Zan and Wit as they had their breakfast across from her. Zan kept his eyes on his plate and didn't dare meet the woman's eyes. When Maria realized that no one was moving, she just sighed and jumped in. "So, what's been going on these past years?"

"Not much, really. This past three years has been something of a strain but it's okay." Liz nodded stiffly. "So when did you get signed up?"

"Five years ago. I had to make some major sacrifices to perform but it's working. The next album will give me five spots for originals. Hopefully this will be it." Maria beamed at her friend. "I've made it."

"That's good. Really good." Silence hung over the table for a long moment.

"So, Kristin… are you from Antar?"

Liz and Kristin nearly spit out their food. Before Liz could stop her, Kristin offered a bright smile. "No. I'm engaged to Liz's friend Michael."

Maria's smile froze on her face. "Is that right?" Kristin nodded with a broad smile. "Michael Guerin?"

"Yeah… how did you know?" Kristin saw Liz bow her head. Then the pieces began falling together. "Oh. I see. You're that Maria."

"Yeah. I am." Maria smiled triumphantly.

"What's going on here?" Michael's voice entered the room from the kitchen door.

"Think you could have picked her any younger, Michael?" Maria bit out without turning around.

"Shove it, Maria." Michael motioned to Kristin. "Come on. Let's go." When Kristin didn't move, Michael stepped into the room. "Kristin, baby, come on."

There was a long silence that followed in the wake of the couple. Maria huffed loudly. "The nerve of him. What is she? Half his age?"

"Maria, stop." Liz said quietly.

"Liz…" Zan motioned for Liz to take the baby while he cleared the table.

"We need to talk. Alone." Maria shot a glare at the young father.

Zan ignored her tone and continued to clear the table. Finally, he picked up his child. "Thank you for watching her. I hope she wasn't any trouble."

"None at all. Any time you need anything, you just let me know… and not just to babysit… okay?" Liz caught his eye. "I don't mind, really."

"Thanks." Zan nodded and escaped from the kitchen to gather her things to leave.

"No problem." Liz smiled after him and then turned on Maria. "If you pull a stunt like that again, I will personally kick your ass. You do not pull this high and mighty act in my house. It might work on your entourage but this is my house."

"What are you talking about?" Maria looked away.

"Don't do that. I know you, remember?" Liz picked up her plate and put it in the sink. "And what you did to Kristin was totally uncalled for."

"Excuse me?" Maria leapt from my seat. "Do you not see that she is a child?"

"Maria DeLuca!" Liz could barely stop herself from slapping her once friend. "Why are you here? Was it because Lydia told you that we were living here? Was it because you saw Michael last night? Did you think that you were going to fit right in? And how could you bring so many strangers to my house? I was talking to Max when you people barged in. I was trying to balance the baby and hide the communicator. Were you really not thinking when you decided to come here? We're still aliens. That doesn't change. It's not like it is for everyone else."

"Maybe I thought all this alien nonsense was over."

"Nonsense? For one, it is not nonsense and it is never over. I will not have you treating my life like a mistake and I will not have you speaking to my friends or my step-son the way you have." Liz stared at her former friend for a long moment. "Sometimes I wished to have your friendship back but now I realize why I was willing to go without it. This. This is important. My life, Max's life, my children's lives. They don't get to stop being alien. It's a part of me because they are a part of me and if you still don't get that… you can just leave right now."

"Do you ever think of yourself?" Maria asked as she straightened her clothes. "Do you ever get to do anything for yourself?"

"Like you?" Liz let out a harsh laugh. "I have done plenty of the things I wanted to do… and I didn't have to sacrifice friendships to do it."

"This is what I'm talking about. You shouldn't have to sacrifice friends for your dreams and I had to. And here you are, strapped down with two kids and your husband's bastard child."

"That man to whom you're referring to just lost half his reason for living and we're dealing together. I have two wonderful children and a loving husband, not to mention an amazing stepson and a beautiful granddaughter." Liz's eyes flashed. "What do you have?"

Maria couldn't answer and so Liz kept talking. "You lost Michael because you were unwilling to look past the end of your own nose. You did him wrong and he called you on it. You lost us because you were unwilling to look past the end of your nose. There are some lifestyles that we were willing to sacrifice to stay safe. I'm a professor and I live well. When Max is on Earth, he's a welder, it pays decent money. We didn't need fame or fortune to survive so we did without and we are happy. We live comfortably

"Kyle was right when he said that we should follow our dreams but you were wrong to think that you could keep the aliens in your life when you wanted the spotlight. We can't live near the spotlight and you know it. Wake up Maria and don't begrudge Michael his right to be happy because you're not. He loves Kristin and they're getting married. Leave it alone or get out of my house."

TBC
posted on 20-Jun-2002 7:27:08 PM by DMartinez
"Whoa." Liz grabbed her glass before it spilt. "Is there a reason you're… like that?" She tilted her head to wonder at how a child of hers had managed to get her body in that position.

"I'm just stretching." Lydia mumbled from her awkward position on the floor.

"In the living room?"

"More room than my room." Came the reply.

"So… how are you liking the classes?"

"I like it. It's a little more challenging for me." Lydia popped up and stretched her arms over her head. They dropped to her sides heavily. "Zan said you talked to Dad?"

"For a little while. I keep waiting for him to contact us but I think it's something to do with the position of the planet and it'll be at least a week." Liz sat with her glass and waited.

"I miss him."

"I know you do." Liz let her daughter crawl onto the couch beside her and put her head in her lap. "I miss him too."

--

"It's incredible." Michael whispered, his hand over his fiancée's still flat stomach.

"Yeah… I haven't taken a test yet… but I know." Kristin stared up at the ceiling and wondered at the possibilities that it hid. So many stars, life forms.

"Do you want to know?" He cleared his throat. "The sex."

"It's a boy."

"Yeah. It is. How did you know?"

"I had a dream last night when I was missing you." Her words floated through his mind and he started slightly. Then she smiled. "Ever since you first showed me the real you… I've gotten feelings… not so much images but soothing and I can tell." She pressed her lips to his and drew the sheet up over their bodies. "I want to stay like this forever."

"That'll make the wedding interesting." He laughed.

"Man, there is so much to worry about. The wedding and now the baby… I guess I should talk to Liz?"

"Yeah. She can answer most of your questions but if what her theory says is true… your pregnancy will last a bit longer." A pensive silence lay between them. "Kristin… I don't know what Maria said to you but don't believe anything she said. She hits pretty low below the belt when she's mad."

"So… you don't think I'm too young."

"My worry is that I'm too old. Geez, my best friend is already a grandfather and I'm barely getting started. We're technically the same age." Michael cleared his throat before he admitted something else. "I found a gray hair." He rested his head against her and sighed. "I will be 45 when he's in kindergarten, 55 when he gets his driver's license."

"Hey. That doesn't matter, you'll be his daddy and he's going to love you just as much as I do."

"Daddy… I like the sound of that."

--

Liz opened the door and let Zan into the house. She swept her hair out of her face and took the screaming baby from him. He paced and ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know what to do anymore. She just cries and I don't know why. I didn’t know what else to do. Last time she did this… I just had to let her cry herself to sleep but I can't take this anymore."

"Zan, calm down." Liz whispered as she tried to calm Wit down. "She's done this before?"

"A few times."

"You remember anything about what she ate or what you were doing?"

He shook his head and stared longingly at his daughter. "Could she be sick?"

"No with anything human. How old was she when you left Antar?"

"Maybe a week. She was a month by the time we made it here." Biting his lip, he reached out and rubbed her back. "I just can't do this."

"Yes, you can. Babies get sick sometimes, even upset and they'll cry." Liz shuffled back and forth, rubbing the child's back and humming softly.

"I need Jas. I'm already with Wit 24 hours a day, it's the only thing that I can think of that's missing." Zan sank into a chair and let the tears fall. "How do you do it? You deal with two kids, rude friends and all without your husband… and you work too."

"I've also had about 15 years practice, Zan. Without Max, it's really hard to get up in the morning but I do it because I have to. Lydia is getting to where she needs me less and less but really needs me when she does. Isaac is getting to a point where he's not going to need me but Max or… even you to help him out. Keeping busy is the only way I keep sane."

"I… I wanted to thank you for what you said to your friend about me the other day." Zan bowed his head and wiped at his face.

"Every word was true… although… I have to admit that I was taking out a lot of things on Maria than just what I was mad at her for." Liz sighed and readjusted the now whimpering baby. "I feel bad for doing that but it needed to be done. It's been about 14 years since the last time Maria and I were in the same room. Our last conversation was a fight."

"Over?"

"Maria doesn't react well to change. It was hard enough for her to deal with me and Max being married and playing the parts. When I was pregnant, I would still go out with her and have fun but it wasn't the same for her. Then when Lydia was born… she thought I could just leave her at my mom's or Max's parents or stick Max with her and go out. I tried to explain that it didn't work that way but she didn't get it." Liz sighed softly and sat down with the sniffling baby.

"Were you close?"

"The closest." Liz smiled. "We used to do everything together. We were really close when we found out about the aliens and all. Sometimes I want those days back if only for the bonds I had with my friends. The drama I could do without reliving but… god… Maria and Alex were my world."

"Weloi was my best friend." Zan whispered. "The last thing I said to him was that I never wanted to see him again. I can't even remember what kind of fight we had gotten into but I was so mad… two days later he was killed in battle." Had to take a deep breath. "I keep wishing I could go back and fix things… I have a lot to thank him for."

"Is this the same friend that introduced you to Jasime?"

"Yeah, he was. He… oh." Zan wrinkled his brow and bowed his head. "I just remembered. I was angry because I had just found out that most of my life had been set up so that I would be the next King. I was furious with him for not letting me know sooner."

"I'm sorry."

"I think about it now and I see now how they tried to recreate my father's life in me, so that I would overshadow him. I asked Dad and he confirmed it, right down to how they met. We both fell in love on that damned rock." Zan shut his eyes. "We both went to a party and were introduced to her."

"Max told you that he loved her?" Liz felt a cramping in her stomach.

"Yeah…" Zan realized his mistake too late. Thinking quick, he spoke the truth that he had seen. "He loves you… probably more than he loved her. If he had been as in love with her as he is with you… he would have never been able to fall in love with you. Those days I watched the two of you when no one was looking… my heart ached to be able to replicate that."

"I guess you're right."

"I am. Weloi used to tell me that there was only one person for you. Sometimes you find them right away, sometimes it takes awhile and some unsuccessful loves before you're ready for the one." Zan took a breath. "He said that every experience you have makes you into the person that your soul mate falls in love with. Take any one experience away and it could all go wrong."

"How'd a kid get so smart?" Liz shrugged her shoulders and stood to place the sleeping girl in her father's arms. "How about you and Wit take the guest room tonight?"

"No, I couldn't." Zan shook his head.

"Stay. It's nice to have a man in the house." Liz started up the stairs and then paused. "Zan?" He looked up to see her concerned gaze. "Don't give up on her. I know you feel like you'll never see her again but… don't give up. She's missing you as much as you're missing her."

Liz trudged the rest of the way up the stairs and stared at her empty bed. Sighing, she thought about her conversation with her stepson. Hesitantly, she picked up the phone and dialed. "Maria DeLuca… I realize that… This is an old friend. Just tell her that Liz Evans sends her love, always… Thank you."

TBC
posted on 23-Jun-2002 7:35:31 PM by DMartinez
"Sixteen candles." Liz started to sing but Lydia clamped a hand over her mouth.

"Mom. No." Lydia shook her head and then sat to eat her breakfast. She eyed the communicator on the table and waited. She poked at her bowl of fruit and waited.

"A pot that's watched doesn't boil." Zan chided when he entered the kitchen, rubbing a towel over his wet hair.

"Sweetie… I really don't know if he'll contact us today. The planets have to align just right for it." Liz reminded her. "You still want to have your party this weekend?"

"Yes. She does." Zan answered for her. "Dad wouldn't like it if she didn't."

"You don't know Dad." Lydia muttered and speared an orange slice to douse it with Tabasco sauce.

"Happy birthday to you! Lyds lives in a zoo! You look like a monkey and smell like one too!" Isaac yelled into the room and ducked just in time to miss staining his shirt with a Tabasco soaked apple slice.

"Punk." She muttered and went back to alternately dousing and poking at her food. "I am so dreading vacation."

"Why?" Liz demanded as she handed Zan his plate of egg and sausage doused in maple syrup and Tabasco sauce. "Zan, you're dripping."

"I'm stuck in the house with all of you." Lydia scoffed and sank lower in her chair. "Dad's not here for Christmas or New Year's… I'm going to school." Grabbed her bowl and tossed it into the sink on her way out the door.

Liz sank into a chair next to Zan and sighed. He nudged her lightly. She smiled at his small effort to cheer her up. "Wit?"

"Still sleeping."

"That's good. She's sleeping longer and doing more on her own." Liz nodded and leaned on him. "Just think… in fifteen years you'll know what I'm going through."

"I think I have an idea." He took a moment to watch her face where it lay on his bare shoulder. Her eyes were closed and she seemed, for a moment, to be almost ten years younger.

--

Liz maneuvered through the mob of teenagers in her house to set down a platter of hot dogs. Glancing up, she locked gazes with Zan and shook her head slowly and jerked her head toward the kitchen. He caught up with her and waited until no one was looking before he repaired the damage done to his shirt by his young daughter and chocolate pudding. "Sorry. I forget."

"Just remember that none of these kids know about us." Liz smoothed his shirt and handed him a bowl of chips. "Make yourself useful."

Lydia smiled up at Zan as he passed and turned her attention back to her friends. She was still a little miffed that Vikin hadn't been allowed to attend but she was making do. Bendy was doing her best to keep all the guests entertained when suddenly the girl switched mini-discs in the stereo. "Hey! It's an oldie. Why don't we get a demonstration, Mrs. E?"

"What?" Liz snapped her head up.

"Come on. You and Uncle Michael were there for this stuff." Bendy called out.

Michael immediately shook his head and tried to hide behind his wife but she pushed forward. "Go on you old fogey."

Liz and Michael found themselves in a circle of teenagers waiting for them to show them how it was done when they were young. Reluctantly, they danced what they could remember before Kristin rose to claim her husband and Zan stepped in to offer Liz his hand. The kids laughed and joined in, trying the movements to songs they were too young to know.

Lydia paused suddenly and tilted her head. She rushed up the stairs and into her mother's room. There stood the communicator and her father's image. "Dad?"

"Hey! Happy birthday, Sweetie. Where is everyone? I was just about to give up." Max smiled broadly.

"Party." She said simply. "The adults are showing us how it's done. I had a feeling you were calling."

"How was your birthday?"

"Okay, I guess. I miss you, Daddy." She laid her head on the dresser next to the communicator. The image reached out to touch her hair but she couldn't feel it.

"I miss you too."

"How much longer?"

"A while still. How's your mom doing?"

"Okay. She's been busy at work and helping Zan with the baby. They started working out together. It's nice… almost like a family." Sighing deeply, she was comforted by the fatherly grunt he made. "Isaac's a pain in the butt. Wit is getting so big. You're not going to recognize her when you see her. She's standing up and babbling."

"I'll bet." Max smiled and sighed. "Baby girl…"

"You have to go. I'm just glad you called."

"I'll be home before you know it."

"Okay." She nodded.

"I love you. Send everyone my love."

"I will."

"Bye Sweetie." Then his image blinked out. Eventually, she got to her feet and trudged down the stairs. Her friends were slow dancing in the living room. Michael and Kristin were watching the baby. And her mother was slow dancing with her brother in the kitchen. Just when a new thought was forming, a hand slipped through hers. She looked up and there he was.

"Princess, may I have this dance?" Vikin smiled broadly at her as she nodded dumbly.

"You made it."

"I convinced my father that I would be observing a duty by making sure you were escorted at your own party." He led her over to the others and intertwined their right hands. Their left hands just touched as they moved.

"Thank you for making this the best party ever." She sighed happily and rested her head on his shoulder.

TBC
posted on 25-Jun-2002 6:48:39 PM by DMartinez
"First rule on Antar is that there are no rules. You must be able to react physically as well as with your abilities. When there is war, all bets are off. The tide could turn on even one soldier." Zan lectured as Liz struggled to keep up with an aerobic routine and block the mild blasts he threw at her. "Come on. You can do better than this. Lydia can do this and the blasts are her weakest strength."

"Stop." Liz pleaded, out of breath. "Lydia is 16. I am 39. There's a big difference." She paused to catch her breath on the way to the couch in his apartment. "You know, I thought I was in wonderful shape before we started this. You've made me question that."

"You are in excellent shape for a professor. What you need to be is in excellent shape for an Antarian hybrid." Zan held out his arms. "Come at me."

"What?" Liz stopped moving.

"Come at me. Attack me."

"You're crazy."

"You won't hurt me." He grinned wickedly and waited but she refused to even steady herself for an attack. His smile fade and he backed down. "Fine. What do you need to do to be comfortable enough to attempt a sparring?"

"I just need to work on my body strength first." Liz shook her head as he pointed to the bar above his head. "Come on."

"Builds your stomach, arms, and back. It's good." Zan helped her reach the bar by lifting her up at the waist. "Now, kick one leg up and wrap it around the bar." He shifted his hands to slide them under her arms to clutch at her shoulders, supporting most of her weight against his chest.

Liz tried but her first attempt only swung her body back into his. The second attempt also failed and she simply hung from the bar with his body behind hers. Her hands sweat and her heart beat wildly.

"Don't worry, it takes practices to do it with ease… just like everything else." Zan whispered into her ear. She turned her head to look at him as he unconsciously tightened his grip on her.

Before she could respond, her cell phone rang. "Time to pick up Isaac."

--

"This." Kiss. "Is an Earth custom." Kiss. "That I could get used to." Kiss. Lydia had to giggle and pull him closer. "Are you sure this is okay?" Vikin glanced nervously around her room. "This is just not how things are done on Antar."

"But it's how things are done here." She slid her arms around his neck and attempted to pull him down onto the bed with her but he resisted, keeping them both on their feet.

"If that happens and the prince comes home… I'm a dead man."

"We're not going to do anything but lie down."

--

Liz slipped from between Zan and the counter when the door opened. Michael stormed in and threw a box on the table. "She sent a friggin' gift."

"Um…" She cleared her throat and her mind. "Did you open it?"

"No." Michael pointed at the offensive box. "I can't even think about her after how she treated Kristin."

"You can't accept a peace offering?"

"I don't want it." Michael took a breath but none of his anger dissipated. "I don't have room in my life to deal with Maria's dramatics. It's bad enough that she mentions my name in interviews, next thing you know… there'll be pictures too and she can't do this."

"Michael, calm down." Liz sighed heavily. "Don't open it if you don't want to but remember that she tried. Okay? She has yet to approach me in any way since the last time she was here. It's her move."

"Doesn't she get that I left all that behind me. I don't need her making me feel like I owe her my existence… like my life doesn't have meaning if she's not a part of it." Michael continued to rage.

"Then don't feel that way." Zan spoke up suddenly. "Live your life with Kristin but accept that Maria may still feel something for you. You don't need her to feel it, it's too late to feel it back but you don't have to respond to it. Just… know that it's there." Zan grabbed his jacket and headed outside.

"What was that all about?" Michael whispered in the young man's wake.

"I… I don't know." Liz cleared her throat. "He's right, though, Michael. She can't have Kristin's place in your life… but you don't have to throw her out of it either."

--

"Your family is weird. There's this country that no one's ever heard of… siblings and other relatives pop out of the woodwork." Bendy sighed heavily and leaned off her bed. "So, what insane tradition do you guys do for New Year's?"

"Not much. My parents don't drink and mostly it's a TV night. I'm going to see if Mom will let Vikin join us." Lydia smiled goofily.

"So how are things turning out with Mr. Vikin?"

"Good. Sometimes it's hard getting to the real him because his family has this… tremendous respect for my father but I'm breaking down those barriers. I think he's beginning to like it here." She smiled broadly. "Even Mom likes him. I just hope Dad doesn't have a problem with it or else I'll never see him again."

"You're exaggerating." Bendy shook her head and rolled over to stare at the ceiling, unaware of her friend's reeling mind.

--

Liz watched in awe as the baby took a few quick steps toward the coffee table and then called down the hallway. "Zan! Come in here, quick."

Zan raced into the room with the change of clothes he had gone to retrieve and stopped short when his baby daughter took just a few more steps on her own before reaching the coffee table. His heart exploded. He whooped and raced in to pick her up into his arms. "Well, look at Princess Witdina. She's walking."

Liz had to smile as she watched Zan dote on his daughter. It was obvious the little girl knew her father by the way her eyes lit up when he entered the room, the way Lydia's still lit up when Max entered the room. The Evans Supermen, able to put a skip in any girl's step with only a glance and a smile.

--

"Am I progressing fast enough?" Kristin glared at her reflection. Two months had done nothing to change her figure. "Am I doing okay?"

"You're doing fine." Liz laughed. "With Lydia, I didn’t really start showing until about halfway through my pregnancy. With Isaac, it was a little sooner, but he took longer to bake."

"So, it's guess and check. So, there's no real way to know how long I'll be pregnant?" The younger woman pouted.

"Enjoy your figure while you have it. Once the weight starts coming on, you feel like a whale and that you don't look good and you'll drive everyone nuts until the weight comes off after you've had the baby." Liz led them down to the kitchen where Isaac and Michael were making a mountain of a plate. "You can come back for seconds."

"No… I can't." Michael shook his head. "Isaac and I are going to play a game of chess and it's going to last all night."

"That's right. I’m going to win." Isaac smirked triumphantly and followed his uncle into the other room to start the game.

"How are you holding up?" Kristin nudged Liz when she stared into the living room at the rest of the kids.

"Okay." Liz accidentally met Zan's eyes and deliberately focused them on Lydia and Vikin. "He's a good boy. I still have no clue how old he is and he has no concept of how Earth years work but he's working on it. Max will of course have a fit when he realizes that Lydia's got a steady boyfriend and if he knows that they were making out in her room."

"You caught them?"

"Saw, yes. Caught, no." She shook her head. "I've already had the talk with her and hope she listens. I'm trying to be as overbearing as my mother was when she thought I was having sex."

"What happened?" Kristin snickered.

"Well, granted… Max and I probably would have had we not been interrupted by friends that shall remain nameless and my sneaking out and spending the night alone with him didn't help my case but the fact of the matter is… I didn't lose my virginity until I got married, the first time not the second time that my parents think is the first time. She… she grounded me for a month." Liz finally admitted. "We had the talk about five times in three years. It was horrible."

"My mother locked me in my room for two months one summer when she caught me in bed with the boy next door, granted we were passed out drunk, too drunk to do anything about our virginal states but she didn't see it that way." Kristin let a hand rest on her stomach. "Two weddings?"

"We eloped right out of high school and went to school. My parents didn't really know anything about it so out of guilt, we had a second ceremony with our families." Liz sighed and watched her daughter laugh with her boyfriend.

"What was Max majoring in?"

"Political science." She smiled ruefully. "He dropped out though when we found out I was pregnant with Lydia. He wanted me to finish school. He faked some paper work. Learned how to work a welder within a week and they hired him on. I guess he likes it or else he would stick to it."

"Michael loves his grease and engines." Kristin laughed. "I… met him when my bike broke down. We talked about engines the entire time he worked on the bike. I didn't go in to work that day."

"Michael didn't tell me that… but Michael doesn't say much. The first time I heard about you was the first time you two had a fight." The brunette admitted.

"It's hard to believe that it'll be a year in March. We've been through so much and… I haven't even told him that I knew he was the one that day." Kristin clutched at her stomach. "It took me a while to admit it to myself but I had to have known that day. When I look at him, I don't see a 40-year-old mechanic. I see… a strong, confident and able man. For a long time, I wondered what he was still doing working on cars but knowing what I know now, it's just what he decided he needed to do to stay under the radar and he likes it."

"Yeah." Liz whispered softly, her eyes meeting Zan's again.

"I'm having his baby." Kristin murmured to herself. "He's so stubborn some days but others… he's the most humble thing on Earth. We named the baby last night."

"Really, what did you pick?" Liz tore her eyes away from his and focused on the young woman beside her.

"William… it means resolute, loyal, faithful." Kristin sighed happily. Liz nodded absently as her eyes wandered to her shoes.

TBC
posted on 26-Jun-2002 1:12:24 AM by DMartinez
Liz fingered the blouse that Lydia had given her. Then the painting that Isaac had done for her. She could hear Zan pacing with the baby downstairs but she stayed put. She barely glanced at the earrings he had given her. So much confusion. Her eyes shut and she just sat and rocked herself beside the bed for a long time.

"Come on, Liz. The monument birthday couldn't have been that bad." A familiar deep voice spoke to her.

"God, I'm hearing things." She shook her head and tried to keep the tears from overflowing.

"'Fraid not, honey." Came a deep chuckle. "Liz. Open your eyes." When Liz opened her eyes, a few tears slipped out. "Yeah, just me." His amber eyes shone out so much love at her. "Happy Birthday, honey."

"Max…" She whispered and scooted closer to the communicator. "How are things up there? We haven't really talked about that much."

"No tonight, please. Today is your day."

"You didn't call for Isaac's."

"We were on the far side of the revolution, the planet was out of contact with everything that side of our suns for about two months. Was he mad?" Max's figure bent slightly and then the seat behind him came into view as he sat.

Liz had to chuckle. "No, he hasn't even asked in a while. He's busy-busy with his friends from school."

"He's adjusting well then?"

"Yeah. I think the more challenging pace was exactly what he needed… the other kids don't treat him any different." She smiled a little. "Lydia is loving gymnastics and training… she's got a boyfriend."

"A what?" Max sat straight up. "Who?"

"Vikin." Saw his frozen face. "She's worried about what you're going to think."

"Why?"

"You're her daddy and at the moment, he's the love of her life. She really likes him and he respects her a great deal." Liz studied his face for a long moment until he nodded. "Okay. I'll tell her that you don't mind." He nodded again. "I'm keeping an eye on the situation."

"And Zan and the baby?" Max inquired.

"Good. Good. Zan's… adjusting and Wit started walking just after Christmas. She says some whole words sometimes. We think that the other day, she called Zan 'dada.'" Liz had to smile. "She's doing really well."

"Michael?"

"Deliriously happy." Liz scooted the chair even closer so she didn't have to speak so loud. "He's so worried. He thinks he's too old to start a family but he already loves William. Kristin's so happy that she finally started showing."

"That's really good. How are you doing? You… look tired."

"I miss you, Max." Another tear slipped down her face. His image leaned forward, wanting to touch but knowing it wasn't possible. "I'm so lost and confused and I need you here."

"Would it make a difference? Really?" He had to ask.

"It would make all the difference, Max. Lures lie all around and I'm afraid that I’m not as strong as I used to be." She let the tears flow free.

"What are you talking about?"

"Max, come home."

"Two months, Liz. Two months and I'll be home and I'm never leaving again." Max promised. "Can you hold on for two more months? Things are really tense here. I'm afraid that we didn't get them all. I didn't want to say anything over this communication but you need to hang in there. Some Limaltha may have infiltrated and become a part of the Council."

Liz nodded stiffly and wiped at her eyes. "Just come home."

"I will. I love you."

"Love you." Her words just met his ears before his image faded.

--

"Liz, help me. What am I craving?" Kristin tore apart her kitchen but nothing was appetizing.

"Try something sweet."

"Did that already. The doughnut just made me thirsty and the milk didn't taste so good."

"Spicy?"

"Spicy." Kristin stared at her. "You mean how Michael needs a new bottle of Tabasco sauce every day?"

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"God, am I turning into one of you?"

"Not all of us are aliens… some of us just have a little energy… direct from an alien energy source." Liz cleared her throat and looked to her friend meaningfully. "How are those orgasms coming?"

Kristin gasped. "I thought it was just Michael. You mean… they all?"

"You didn't talk to Jesse much when he was here, did you?"

"We talked for a little while but Isabel keeps him on a short leash."

"It's them. They make for incredible, natural, lovers. But then… I've only ever had the one partner. Maria and Jesse let me know that it was… not human." Liz cracked a smile. "You're not insane. It's really that good."

"Okay. I've had… a few partners and Michael… is by far the best." Kristin blushed and settled her hand over her unborn son.

"Oh the benefits of loving an alien." Liz laughed and picked up her iced tea.

"Yes, yes." Kristin lifted her glass and they toasted their marriages.

--

Zan glanced around as he rocked his daughter to sleep. "Where's your mom?"

"Um…" Lydia tore herself away from Vikin's gaze long enough to realize her brother was still in the room. "I think she said she was going to bed. She was tired from work and she and Kristin had a ball or something."

"Oh." Zan nodded and made no move to leave the room. The young loves tried to pretend that he was not there but it was no use.

"I should go." Vikin whispered.

"I can't wait until Dad comes home. I think he's going to be cool about us." Lydia kissed his lips softly.

"Tua yan nivratu." Vikin whispered before rising to his feet. He nodded to Zan and left the house in silence.

"Forever in you?" Lydia looked to her brother.

"In you, I am forever." Zan corrected. "You're slipping."

"I know. Maybe I should try to use it around the house." Lydia sighed. "I really like him."

"He loves you." Zan cleared his throat. "He's young… but maybe he's being truthful."

"I hope he means it." She sighed again.

"You keep doing that and you'll accidentally let out your last breath." He joked with her. "Go to bed."

"You, too, mister." She slugged him in the arm before going up to bed.

TBC
posted on 27-Jun-2002 5:40:40 PM by DMartinez
"Thus years went on and I was grown from boy to man, and that no weak one either: for though they gave us but scant food and bad, the air was fresh and strong, because Ymeguen was meant for palace as well as fortress, and they chose a healthful site. And by degrees the moats were dug and ramparts built, and stone by stone the castle rose till 'twas near the finish, and so our labor was not wanted. Every day squads of our fellow prisoners marched away, and my gang was left till nearly last, being engaged in making good a culvert that the heavy rains had broken down." Liz leaned her head on Isaac's as he read to her. Her mind wandered so that after a while, she only heard snippets of her son's words.

"So I went back and sat with my head in my hands looking into the fire, when I heard someone step into the room, but did not turn, thinking it was Master Ratsey come back and treading light so as not to disturb me. Then I felt a light touch on my shoulder, and looking up saw standing by me a tall and stately woman, girl no longer, but woman in the full strength and beauty of youth. …'John,' she said, 'have you forgotten me? May I not share your sorrow? Did you not think to tell me you were come? Did you not see the light; did you not know there was a friend that waited for you?' I said nothing, not being able to speak but marveling how she had come just in the point of time to prove me wrong to think I had no friend; …Then I took her hand in mine and raised it to my lips, and said, 'Dear Mistress Grace, I have forgotten nothing, and honor you above all others: but of love I may not speak more to you—nor you to me, for we are no more boy and girl as in times past, but you a noble lady and I a broke wretch;'" When Isaac stopped reading, Liz looked up. There he was, looking ragged and torn.

"Max?" Liz got to her feet and rushed to his side. "What happened?"

"I'm sorry." Max began to cry. His men stood by like statues and refused to watch while their king broke down. "I failed."

--

Max sipped at the tea as he fought to control his emotions. "Where is he?"

"Um… He's at his apartment, I guess. He hasn't spent much time here at time in a while." Liz whispered and took his other hand in hers. "What happened?"

"We were all set. She had been cleared and freed into my custody, condition being that she returned with me and didn't come back." Max wiped at his flesh. He could still feel the flames on his skin. "We were all set. Three-week ride and we'd be home. The craft got ten feet in the air and the generator failed. Damn Limaltha rigged the ship. Not much of a crash but the generator ignited and swept through the vents. Only twelve of us made it out."

"How many?"

"Out of a hundred." Max's voice broke. "Jasime… she didn't make it out." Then the stutter started. "I-I-I wuh-was s-s-s-so a-angry th-th-that I… I slah-slaught-tered them. I-I-I-I nuh-knew w-who th-they w-w-w-were an-and I-I t-t-t-took them-them out. F-f-four mem-members of-of-of the K-Council… duh-duh-dust."

"Max." Liz's eyes welled up with tears and she moved closer to take him in her arms.

"I-I'm so ah-ashamed of-of-of muh-myself." Max whispered. "Buh-but I-I-I have th-the re-re-re-respect of-of the peh-peh-people. Th-they nuh-know I-I-I meh-mean beh-beh-business."

--

"Le ah! Dimeo riotoi jeniae ne reo tiwane." Zan sand under his breath as he bounded onto the porch and threw the front door open. "Wit, reo tiwane." He kissed the fingers that tried to climb inside his mouth and immediately noted the quiet in the air. "Hello? Lyds? Isaac? Liz?"

Slipping the diaper bag onto the floor by the door, he ventured further into the house. The view in the kitchen still him in his tracks. The expressions, emotions written in all their eyes. He knew. He sank to his knees and the tears slipped silently down his face. Shame and guilt ran through him just as swiftly as the pain and mourning. So many months of trying to live without her presence and now he would be forced to live without her. The baby climbed out of his slack arms and he could only look at his father. "How?"

TBC
posted on 28-Jun-2002 11:58:26 AM by DMartinez
Zan stood stock still as Saran presided over the burial. Looking at the canister, it didn't seem real. His bride was inside that canister. Her remains. Her words kept ringing through his head. 'I get the strangest feeling that this is the last time I will be in this apartment with you. This is the happiest time in my life and I can't help but feel this is the end.' All the guilt and anger came bubbling up to the surface. 'Take our baby, Zan. Raise her on Earth. Don't worry about me. I'll always love you.' Shame at what he had almost done, at what he hadn't done.

"We lay our sister to rest. Far too many of our brothers and sisters have died in the struggle to bring our world some peace and order. It is a tragedy that on the brink of such peace, we have lost a soul so bright and true. There will always be wars and disputes but never again shall such a being as our Jasime from Eirooldi ever exist in this universe again. May she live in all our hearts as long as they continue to beat." Saran looked to Zan.

Slowly, he brought his finger to his lips and pressed them to the canister. With shaking hands he placed the canister in the hole and scooped a handful of earth to cover it. He waited, knelt by the hole as his family took their turns in covering the canister. Every handful buried her a little deeper.

--

Max lifted Wit into his arms and kissed her face. "You, my dear, are beautiful. You have gotten so big." Pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I missed her first birthday, didn't I?"

"Yeah. Just a while back." Liz nodded. "You weren't gone as long as you thought you'd be."

"No, I guess I wasn't." Max let out a breath. His eyes traveled to the kitchen where some giggles and foot shuffling could be heard. "She seems… occupied."

"Be nice." Liz whispered, eyes downcast.

"Is something wrong?" His eyes studied her. "Something… seems off."

"Nothing's wrong… aside from the obvious." Liz got to her feet. "Has he been out of his room since this morning?"

"I don't think so." Max shook his head.

"I'm going to take him something to eat." Liz moved into the kitchen and went about making food. Max followed a beat later with his granddaughter. He watched her fiddle with plates and napkins, setting food just so. He looked to Lydia, who shrugged and returned her attention to her boyfriend.

All the guilt sat on his shoulders as he watched his wife leave the room. The baby squirmed and demanded his attention. Max barely nodded to Vikin when he gave his condolences and said his goodbyes. Lydia offered him a sad smile and took her niece into the other room with Isaac. Max sighed and leaned on the counter and his vision was filled with flashes.

--

"I feel so selfish and wrong. How could I love her so much and be seeking you out in her absence? How could I break my promise to her? I swore I would die before I saw her buried. How could I turn into such a horrible person?" Zan whispered almost to himself as he stared at the plate of food on the nightstand. He felt her hand rubbing soothing circles on his back. "Nothing came of our… dalliance… and yet I blame my weakness for her death."

"It's not your fault." Liz whispered, tears biting her eyes.

"Isn't it? I fled with our child in her hour of need. I wasn't there to protect her from her murdering people." He rolled over to look at her. "I should have been there for her."

"And who would have protected your daughter?" Liz raised an eyebrow at him. "Who would raise your daughter? I'm not saying that we would not have done it for you but she's yours. You have a responsibility to keep her safe, that promise you made your wife… you kept that one. Wit is here on Earth, safe." As she drew him into her arms, she could feel his hot tears on her blouse. "As for what didn't happen between us, it didn't happen. In our loneliness and need, we sought comfort… and confused our roles in the process."

His shoulders hitched in a dry laugh. "You could never be my mother."

"You could never be my son." Liz admitted softly. "I can be your friend. I love your father so deeply that it hurts sometimes."

"I'm going to be alone forever. Those nights with her, they weren't enough." Then his sobbing began. "How could I not see how much I needed her all this time?"

"Sh." Liz rubbed his back and let him cry. When he quieted down, she mustered the courage to make him feel better. "I'm sure that there's someone else out there. It's like your friend, Weloi said. That every person you meet and come together with… it affects the person you will be when you meet the person you'll spend the rest of your life with."

"Jas was the one." Zan protested through his sniffles.

"As hard as it is for me to admit, may your friend was right. What if Max had to be with Tess before we could be ready to be with each other? Like… we had to survive the damage she left us before we could find it in us to succeed together." Liz bit at her lip but continued on. "You may have to have and lose Jas before you can be ready to be with someone else. The next one might not be the one but she's just another milestone before you meet the one."

He did answer her. So she took a breath. "You know, Michael is better at these speeches than I am. Lydia goes to him with practically everything. He told her once that life is a struggle. That if it wasn't a struggle, it wouldn't be worth it."

"I suppose." He nodded and sat up. "I should check on Wit."

"We're taking care of her. Eat and rest a little, then come get her." Liz kissed his forehead. "Take your time, Zan. You can't get over her overnight."

When Liz emerged from Zan's room, Max was standing at the end of the hallway; leaning on one wall and toeing the opposite wall. As she neared him, he looked up, eyes so full of pain. "I failed."

"What?"

"I failed everyone. Failed to save Jasime." Then his eyes locked with hers. "I failed to keep you."

"What are you talking about?" Liz whispered.

"Why didn't you tell me about you and Zan?"

"What?" Her eyes went wide.

"You and Zan. You just should have told me. I saw you two in a flash." His eyes bored into hers.

"There's nothing to tell. Nothing happened." Liz shook her head. "We were lonely and confused and we spent a lot of time together, offered each other comfort."

"You could have just told me, Liz."

"Nothing happened."

"Like there wasn't opportunity." He bit out, the vision from the kitchen forever burned into his mind. Liz's body pressed against the counter, Zan's body pressed against hers, their lips just inches apart.

"There was. There was plenty of opportunity but nothing happened. Ever." She repeated and started to pass him but he pulled her back and then she found herself deep in an urgent kiss. She whimpered when the flashes invaded her mind. The darkness of Antar seared into her brain. Then she was gulping in lungfuls of air.

"I'm sorry." Max bowed his head and released her.

"Max?" Liz touched his face but he jerked away.

"I should have believed you. I'm sorry." His tears fell, his eyes squeezed shut when her arms came around his body. "I'm sorry, Liz."

"Max, sh." She whispered. "A few times, I didn't think I'd hold it together but then… there was you." Her own tears slid down her face. "I love you, Max. Forever."

TBC
posted on 1-Jul-2002 12:36:41 AM by DMartinez
Liz let her head roll back when she felt Max's hands on her shoulders. His lips met hers as she slowly turned in his arms. Before she knew it, their nightclothes had vanished.

--

Lydia felt the tension in the kitchen as soon as she walked in. "Mom, got my lunch?"

"In the fridge." Liz managed to eek the three words out. "Take Isaac his."

"You're not going to work?" Lydia hesitated at the doorway. "Doesn't the new semester start today?"

"It does. I took the semester off." Liz answered simply and nodded to the door. "Where's your brother?"

"On the porch waiting for his ride…" She looked between her parents and took a step back. "Zan left with Wit to go clothes shopping."

"Ok. You're going to be late." Max spoke up. "Have a nice day. What is it? Sophomore now?"

"Yeah. Today actually."

"Good girl. Go to school." He nodded stiffly.

"Ok. Bye." Lydia picked up the lunches and walked out the door.

Silence followed her exit. Once they heard the children being picked up by their friends, the silence got deeper. Liz sipped at her coffee and hugged herself as she leaned against the counter. Max stirred his coffee slowly. It would be cold before he even took a sip. The tension seemed to grow the longer the silence lasted. "I don't know what came over me. I thought it was all in my head."

"It was like being with a stranger." Liz whispered.

"Did I hurt you?" The guilt was already building in his chest.

"No… not really." She looked up at him but didn't know how to feel. "What was that, Max?"

"I can't… focus on anything, Liz." The past week had been so hard to deal with. On Antar, he had been watching his back every second for some sort of betrayal. Home, he had no need for that… and yet he'd almost lost his wife to his son; a son that he hadn't seen for more than five minutes at a time since the funeral. "I'm just spiraling out of control."

"I know the feeling. I lose my husband for two years, get him back but only for a few months and then he's gone for nearly a year. It's been hard on me too." Liz set down her coffee and adjusted her robe. "I'm going to shower."

Reaching out, he caught her hand and slowly drew her into his lap. After a moment, she relaxed into his arms, a small smile on her lips. "You are so wonderful. I'm lucky you chose me."

"Because I had so many options." Liz rolled her eyes.

"You did, Liz. Did you ever feel you didn't?" Max turned her face to look at him. Her answer was to kiss his lips softly. "If I knew that there was some man on this Earth that deserved you. I'd give you up to make you happy… but no one does… not even me. I've seen them looking at you. They see what I see… but they don't know you like I know you."

"Max…" She shushed him gently. "You're right. I've had it rough but you know I wouldn't do it if it wasn't worth it. Look what it got me. I have a good job, a beautiful daughter, a handsome son and my husband is the king of another planet. How many Earth woman can say that?"

"Oh, I see. It's all about the power and title." Max nodded, just the corner of his mouth turned up a bit. "I'll have to make an amendment that states a king must perform a thorough motive check on any prospective wives."

"Plural? My, aren't we confident." She drew herself higher on his lap.

"I get offers all the time. I keep explaining that I'm taken but some of these women just don't listen." He puffed out his chest a little. It felt good to banter with her again.

"Is that so?" Liz started to shift off of his lap.

"That's right. Your husband is found desirable." Then his robe was being parted, followed by hers.

"We can't have that. I'm yours and you are mine." Liz murmured as she slipped back onto his lap. "We have to make sure every person on both planets knows that."

--

"Ok. Spill." Bendy led her friend into a deserted corner of the cafeteria.

"Spill what?" Lydia had to shake her head in confusion.

"Tell me or don't tell me but I know something is up. I'm real sorry and all that your sister-in-law passed on but it doesn't add up. Really hot half-brother pops out of the woodwork, quickly followed by really hot guys from another country, which I still maintain doesn't exist, then there's the really pretty woman engaged to your brother. Bam. They're married and off on honeymoon, from which he comes back with baby and she doesn't. Then a year later, she's dead. Your dad disappears for long stretches of time and no one says anything." Bendy finished and took a deep breath.

"Are you okay? I think you're imagining things." Lydia lied.

"Any way you slice it? Your brother was gone two months and came back with a month old baby. Not humanly possible."

"You got that right." Lydia muttered to herself. She thought it over and thought it over time and time again but she could never gather the courage to just tell Bendy the truth… or even ask her parents if she could. She also knew her lack of knowledge was what had kept Lonkin at bay.

"Oh god. Here comes Gina." Bendy ducked her head but Lydia made the mistake of looking up.

"Well, well. If it isn't Terry's cast-offs." Gina scoffed.

"I'd stop making that face if I were you." Lydia cleared her throat.

"What was that?"

"It might get stuck like that. Then you'd have to wear a bag over your head when you spread your legs." Lydia nearly gasped at her own crudeness but she couldn't back down now. "I think you got it wrong. We dumped Terry and her friends, not the other way around. Those of you that replaced us, so to speak… aren't getting any sort of good deal. If that's what you call a friend, I'd seriously rethink my life."

"You…" Gina stood there and fumed.

"Good one. That one will hurt." Bendy nodded and picked up her soda. "Was there something you wanted? Or were you just going to stand there and make faces?"

"I'm dating Jacob." Gina bragged.

"Good luck." Lydia muttered.

"What? Why?" Gina's eyebrow rose. Lydia saw then that 'dating' Jacob meant they had a date, probably that night.

"He's not one to take no for an answer." Lydia finally managed. "Just a warning."

Gina stood still for a moment and then walked off. Lydia studied her friend for a moment. Bendy sat there quietly picking at her celery and carrots. After a moment, Lydia took a breath. "Maybe you and I could have a talk tonight."

--

Zan rubbed at his temple with one hand and flipped through the rack with his other. Wit lay gurgling in the stroller, playing with her feet. His head had been throbbing for days without relief. He had long since pushed any thought of his step-mother to the back of his mind. Jas filled the rest.

Wit didn't need new clothes. He could wave his hands and make her new ones but he needed to get out of the house. Out of the guest room where Jas had spent all but one night of her stay on Earth. Away from the cautious gazes from his father. Away.

And yet, this shirt matched Jas's eyes, that skirt had the color of her hair. That jumper was the color of her skin, that woman carried herself the same way, that woman laughed like her, this woman moved like her. Everywhere he went, Jas was there. All the women oohed over his daughter and he managed to offer each a small smile and a silent nod as he made his way through the store.

After a while, it was too much. Smiling single mothers, flirting at a distance, commenting on his daughter, asking about her mother. He didn't answer them and he should have, maybe then they would leave him alone. Allowing himself just a moment to think about Liz, he realized she was right. He needed to mourn.

Wit's hungry cries pulled him from his thoughts and he went in search of her bottle in the stroller. By the time he found it, she was at a full wail. Trying to quiet her, he pulled her into his arms and attempted to rock her. Unfortunately, she was angry at having to wait for her meal and refused to take her bottle. The heat rising in his face, he laid the clothes on the nearest counter and looked for a bathroom or a dressing room. Giving up, he sank to the floor to rock her and calm her down. After a few moments, he started humming and after what seemed like hours, she took her bottle and settled down.

He didn't look up until a shadow covered him. A saleslady looked down on him. "Pretty impressive. Most men would have hightailed to the nearest female." Then she knelt down to look at the angel in his arms. "Would you like me to find somebody for you?"

"No, we're fine. We're not usually out long enough for her to get hungry like this." Zan answered with a slight shrug.

"Okay. Is this your little sister?"

"My daughter." Zan corrected without looking up.

"Ah. Is your wife here?"

"She's passed on." Zan only glanced up for a moment but he couldn't miss the shock in her face.

"Oh. Did you need any help?" She got to her feet.

"No. I was just about to ring out." Shook his head and started to get to his feet.

"No. Don't get up. I'll just take these. How were you planning to pay?" The saleslady gathered the clothes and took the card he handed her. "Alright, Mr…" She glanced at the card. "Mr. Evans. I'll get you taken care of. My name is Jasmine. Be right back."

Zan winced at how similar her name was to his wife's. Time. That's what everyone kept saying.

--

"Mom?" Lydia whispered into her mother's ear.

"What? Why are we whispering?" Liz set down her paper and looked to her daughter.

"I need to tell Bendy."

"Tell her what?"

"About us."

"No." Liz shook her head and started to rise.

"Mom." Lydia spoke up sharply. "Do you know what it's like to be me? Bendy is my best friend and I can't talk to her about the things that Vikin and I do together. I can't explain why my brother has a baby seven months older than she should be. I can't talk about the changes that I'm going through."

"I realize that it's hard, sweetie but you can't tell her." Liz looked to her daughter. "I do know. How many friends do I have, sweetie? How many of them know about us?"

"I know but I need her to talk to, to be my best friend… Mom…"

"Can we think about it?" Max's voice floated over their heads. "Just give us a while to think about it and we'll get back to you. No promises."

Lydia nodded silently but didn't pout. When she had exited the room, Liz looked to him. "How did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Normally, she would beg for hours and pout and whine…"

"I'm her father." Max shrugged.

TBC
posted on 3-Jul-2002 11:21:59 AM by DMartinez
Vikin guided Lydia's hand as she blasted a figure eight into a small brick. "It's all about control, Princess. Control the flow of energy and maneuver carefully."

"Excuse me." A booming voice reached their ears and the young couple leapt apart. A turn of her head revealed her uncle Michael. "Lyds, come meet my kid."

"What?" Lyd rushed to the house. "What? Why didn't you call us sooner?"

"No time." He shrugged and led the way into the house where his wife and child sat in the living room. Liz and Max were already sitting with her to getting the details.

"He's a big boy." Kristin complained. "Everyone, this is William Lucas Guerin."

"Seven months?" Liz asked absently as she stared at the baby boy.

"Seven and a half." Kristin nodded. "Quick labor, though."

"Thank goodness for that, huh." Liz chuckled and turned to Max. "Isn't he precious?"

"Sweetie, he's a male Guerin and therefore, not precious." Max laid his hand on her shoulder.

"Exactly." Michael nodded his approval.

"If not precious, then what?" Kristin shot Liz a look. The men stuttered for a moment and then gave up. "Alright then."

"We were actually on our way home and thought we'd stop by." Michael scratched at his eyebrow and everyone tuned in to his tell.

"Actually, we were on the way home and I yelled at him for not calling." Kristin corrected with a bright smile. "I am beyond caring now, though. I got my boys."

"When are you going back to work?" Liz leaned over to touch a tiny hand.

"Not any time soon." Michael answered for her, earning him a mild glare but he knew better. She wanted to stay home a while with their child. "Where's the other kid?"

"Other kid?" Liz raised an eyebrow.

"Zan." Michael clarified.

"He, uh… took Wit on a tour of the neighborhood." Lydia filled in when her parents looked to each other and didn't know.

"Guess he'll have to wait to meet the new addition. My baby needs her rest." Michael kissed the top of Kristin's head.

--

Zan sat on the floor of the bathroom, soaked from shoulders to solar plexus. Wit splashed in the water and squealed, laughing at the water stains she caused on her father's clothes. A hand into the water warmed it enough to keep it at the right temperature for as long as she wanted to play in the inch or so of water. So intent on watching her every movement, he barely noticed his visitor.

They sat in silence for several long moments before Zan took it upon himself to break the ice that always seemed to hang in the air. "I would have never intentionally taken her from you. I just… needed someone to lean on. Maybe I got a little carried away." He shut his eyes as a heavy hand hesitantly rested on his shoulder. He could help but lean his head against his father's knee. "She's a wonderful person… you are very lucky."

"I guess I am." Max nodded slightly and shifted his hand from Zan's shoulder to the top of his head. It felt odd to have his son so close but at the same time, a part of him wanted to embrace the young man. "I know you hurt and I can't help but feel at blame for that. I can't stop it and I can't make it go away."

"It's my fault. I gave up on her and she left me, us." Zan felt the prickle of tears in his eyes and squeezed them shut.

"In truth, it's no one's fault but the Limaltha. They're the ones that sabotaged the ship. It won't stop us from feeling bad or taking the blame upon ourselves but it's the truth." Max winced slightly when Zan's grip on his leg tightened and warmth spread in his knee from the young man's tears. "It won't ever stop hurting, there will still be an empty hole but someday it won't hurt as much. Think about what Jas would want."

"I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know her that well." Zan whispered.

"One good thing came out of this." Max cleared his throat. "Antar has a no tolerance treason amendment. It… allows me to do what I did after the explosion under the law. There was no other way to get justice for her life… or the others that were lost." Max shut his eyes tightly as he spoke. "I never wanted that but given our very unique position, it would be best that I have some kind of authority over the Council."

Silence lasted another long while as Wit continued to splash in her bathwater. Max cleared his throat. "Have you thought about what you're going to do with your life on earth?"

"I considered college but with Wit…"

"Do it. Take some night classes. I'll watch her." He smiled at the toothless grin from the tub. "Keep busy. It'll help."

--

Max sat on the edge of Lydia's bed and tried to ignore the fact that Vikin sat right next to her. "Here's the deal. This is pretty much a one-way street for you and Bendy with only one second-chance exit. If you take the exit, you might lose her. You've already told her some half-baked story about an Order of Antarian whatever, which was slick but you and I know Bendy is smarter than that."

"Yeah. I know."

"If I allow you to tell her, she becomes part of this," He gestured to the house, "for the rest of her life. Do you want that for her? Is that why she's your friend? Ask yourself that. What if you cherish her friendship for the human perspective she gives you? Do you want to lose that?"

Lydia bowed her head and shook off Vikin's attempts to ease her stress. "I'm so alone, Dad."

"I know. There's nothing really to be done about that. Your cousins are much younger than you and boys beside that." Max reached out and touched her face. "You know that I want you to be happy but this family is complicated. We made our own mistakes with friends and we can't really afford to allow you the same folly."

"What mistakes?"

"Trust me, they didn't seem like mistakes at the time." He took a deep breath. "It worries me that Maria is out there with this knowledge and I keep tabs on her. I don't think she'll tell but she was very angry when she left. Kyle… I don't have to worry about but I keep tabs on him as well. He's in a Buddhist colony up in some mountains." He took her hand and squeezed it. "There are also friends we lost completely. I would give almost anything to have them alive and well again." Cleared his throat and looked into her face. "I've crossed many bridges and burned them behind me and I don't want that kind of life for you."

"Isn't that my decision?"

"Yes, but this carries heavy consequences if she doesn't react well. I want you to think about it. Seriously."

"He's right." Vikin whispered to her. "Maybe she's not ready to know."

"If she's not ready to know, than we can't be friends anymore. She sees too much and knows too much already. She knows that something is not right in our family. If I can't tell her, I can't bring her around or talk about the family and soon we'll just stop being friends and you don't know what it's like to be a 16-year-old year without friends in high school." She met her father's look with every inch within her. "Somewhere I have to take a chance like you did."

TBC
posted on 7-Jul-2002 7:10:30 PM by DMartinez
"Mom!" Lydia stormed into the kitchen with Bendy hot on her heals. "Dad took Vikin for a walk."

"I know."

"Do you know what he's talking to him about?" She screeched.

"The fact that Vikin seems very comfortable in your room?" Liz raised an eyebrow at her daughter. "That's what I thought." She flashed Lydia a smile. "Don't worry. I'm sure your father won't dismember him in public."

"Mom!" Lydia gasped.

"Your dad's cool anyway." Bendy shrugged her shoulders. "I wouldn't worry about it."

"Ugh!" Lydia exclaimed and sank into a chair. "This is a disaster."

"That's what you get for bringing him around all the time. Your dad was bound to notice and believe me, any guy you bring home will get the same treatment." Liz nodded and went back to her lecture notes.

"I thought you were taking the semester off." Lydia yanked a sheet of paper over to read.

"I am but I need something to do. I'm going over my notes, my student statistics to see if I can make the class easier and challenging."

"Contradiction, much?" Lydia laughed and turned to Bendy.

"Contrary to popular belief, the two can be synonymous. The key to a successful class is to challenge the young mind, in effect making it easier to learn. If it interests the student, they'll do better. I'll have a semester to work out some kinks and hopefully the statistics will improve." Liz looked up at the two. "Don't go anywhere. Your dad wants to talk to you when he gets back."

"We were going to a movie."

"It's important."

Lydia nodded, meeting her mother's eyes and understanding what it was about. "Okay. We'll catch the next showing."

"Sure, no problem." Bendy agreed. Just as the girls started up the stairs again, the front door opened. Max pat Vikin on the shoulder and let him into the living room. He poked his head into the kitchen and Liz pointed upstairs. Max made the trek up the stairs, fingering the picture in his pocket momentarily as he reached her room. He opened the door in the middle of their conversation. "… and he is so cute. Too bad you're son in for it with Vikin or else Billy would totally ask you out."

"A-hem." Max knocked on the door.

"Your back. You didn't hurt him, did you?" Lydia started to exit the room but Max stopped her.

"Bendy, maybe you should go down and keep Vikin company. Lydia and I have to have a talk." Max stepped into the room to allow Bendy out. He shut the door behind her and turned to Lydia. "Sit."

"Daddy, what is it?" Lydia sank down slowly, not liking the look on his face.

"I've been thinking about this Bendy situation and I want you to have friends. The last thing I ever wanted to do to my kids was to make them hide, it was why I never encouraged your abilities before." He tilted his head to look at her. "Do you understand that?"

"Yeah, I guess. You're always saying how much you had to hide when you were my age." She pulled a pillow onto her lap. "But you guys had friends and I have one friend. One really close friend and she doesn't even know about me."

"I realize that. There's something you need to know." Max pulled the picture out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Walk it. Maybe you'll understand what my standpoint is a little better."

"This is from when you were in college. After high school." She glared at him.

"Just… walk it. Your mother took that when I wasn't paying attention. Later… we put the picture away because it hurts to even remember what I was thinking about when she took that picture." Max sat in her chair. "I was 21 in that picture. I should have put high school behind me but there are some things that will haunt me forever. Walk it."

Lydia sighed and focused on the picture. Her mother thought he had looked adorable sitting there all pensive and couldn't resist taking the picture. Then she entered the picture and approached him and that's when she noted the haunted look in his eyes. She was sucked into the memories without choice, into his mind and body.

White walls surrounded her and she was growing hoarse from screaming for someone to answer her. She was so scared, and shivering. This couldn't be happening. All that time hiding had led to this. Then came the voice, then men in scrubs. The torture. The tests. The man with blue eyes. The image of the one and only love, lying dead with blood streaming from her head.

"NO!!!" Lydia screamed as she was ripped from the walk. She resisted a moment but then sank into her father's arms, sobbing. "Daddy… Daddy, what was that?"

"That happened to me. What happened to you? That's never happened before." Max whispered and rocked her gently.

"It was me. I was living it. And mom with the blood…" She trailed off and buried her face in her father's chest.

"I'm sorry you saw that but it was real. It was very real and it has lived in my head for 23 years."

"They hurt mom."

"No, it was an illusion, a trick to get me to talk. The government sent those people to destroy us because of what we are and I'll be damned if those bastards ever find us again." Max shut his eyes. "Sweetie. That memory represents one single weekend of my life. A single weekend in hell and I don't want that for you. They found out because I was careless, they hunted us and we had to hide. You're not hiding here, you're just not sharing. I'll admit that Bendy has observed some incriminating things but I want to you think about what I showed you. When you've thought about, come talk to me about what kind of reaction Bendy would have to something like that."

Lydia nodded against his chest, content to let him protect her from the things she had seen and he had lived.

TBC

sorry it took so long but I was wrapped up in another story, hehe. it's on the slash forum, you know which one.
posted on 10-Jul-2002 8:09:36 PM by DMartinez
Some Three Years Down The Line

"I can't go." Zan shook his head and headed back upstairs to his room.

"Get your royal Antarian butt back here." Max ordered and waited until Zan was standing in front of him. "It's not rocket science. You go, do what you have do and that's that. You'll be home and Wit will be here waiting for you."

"I can't." Zan protested. "What if it all goes wrong? What then?"

"How wrong could it possibly go?" Max shook his head. "She's a woman, not a killer alien."

"What if she knows?"

"She won't know. You're… human enough. You're not going to tell her straight off the bat. Just relax." Max put his hands on his shoulders. "You have a lot in common. You're a single father, she's a single mother. At the very least, you can talk about your kids."

"I've never been on a date before." Zan protested again. "What if I do it all wrong?"

"First of all." Max led him to the front door. "Go to the movie. That way you can talk about it over dinner. Second, there's not much to do but enjoy each other's company. Last, if there is any sort of doing going on, I'm not sure you should be seeing her again."

"What do you mean?" The younger man's brow furrowed. "Doing?"

"It. Doing it." Lyd rolled her eyes from where she sat on the staircase. "Dad's right. If she wants to take you home after dinner, politely decline and hightail it home."

"Why? What?" His poor head was spinning.

"Dad. I'm not explaining this one." She walked out of the room.

"That's the thing, Zan." Max took a breath. "You've only ever been with one woman and it's okay to take your time and not be pressured into bed with a women this soon. If pushes, just explain that it's moving too fast and get the hell out of there."

"Do I look ok?" Zan fiddled with his shirt.

"You look fine. I think she just drove up." They heard the horn honk and winced.

"Bad sign?"

"Maybe, maybe not." Max shrugged. "Relax and have a good time."

--

Liz climbed out of the car with Vikin on her heels. "You'll be ready."

"I'm still not sure. The science is easy but the English is taking some time. The terms…"

"Then concentrate on the vocabulary. Max and I will try to come up with a conversion chart." She nodded as she opened the door. "Just relax, sweetie."

"I wish I could." Vikin took a breath and followed her into the house, greeting Lydia with a kiss to the forehead.

"Vikin, my boy. My very good friend Alkin spoke to me today." Max started. "It seems that his youngest son has gone missing. He hadn't checked in for days and there are matters to attend to." He cleared his throat meaningfully.

"Yes, sir." Vikin shot Lydia a wide-eyed look.

"Where's my favorite kid?" Liz put away her briefcase and looked around.

"Right here." Three voices piped up.

"No. The good one." Liz smirked at her children when they scoffed, then smiled at Wit when she furrowed her brow in confusion.

"He went on a date." Max guided her to the armchair to sit in his lap. "He was a nervous wreck."

"I'll bet."

"What's a date?" Wit climbed onto Liz's lap and wrapped her arms around her neck.

"Your daddy went to a movie with a friend." Max patted her head, reaching around Liz to be at eye level with the little girl. "He'll be back in a few hours."

"How come I can't go?" The little girl crossed her arms and pouted.

"It's big people fun. Don't worry, he'll be back to play with you later." Max kissed her little forehead and straightened her 'I'm an angel, ask my Granpa' shirt.

"Dad, can we go to a movie? Finals are over…" Lydia started to bat her eyes.

"Sorry." Liz shook her head. "Vikin?"

"Yeah. I gotta study. You should probably help me though. I'm just not learning the Antarian to English translations." Vikin shifted his backpack and then sighed. "But I also need to check in with my father."

"No, it's okay." Lydia nodded. "Me and Isaac can do something."

"Can't. Game." Isaac shook his head.

"Overachiever much?" Lydia scoffed. "What game?"

"I have a soccer game and then a chess tournament." Isaac hopped onto the couch to tie his shoes. "Tomorrow is track and UIL."

"Think you've taken on enough there, Chief?" Max tossed a pillow at him.

"It's never enough." The 12-year-old grinned and tossed the pillow back only to get a look from his mother after she caught it. "I'm going to be the first official Antarian ambassador to the United States."

"Oh-ho." Max started laughing. "Is that so?"

"Well, yeah. I gotta do something. King isn't in my cards, I may as well smooth the way for my brother." Isaac nodded, lifting his chin.

"Really. You're going to do what I couldn't?" Max shifted Liz and Wit on his lap so that he could see his son better.

"Did you try?" Isaac raised an eyebrow.

"My son the politician." Max looked up to Liz, whose was trying to contain a snicker. "So, Ambassador Evans, tell me. What possible benefits could come from an Antarian/American alliance?"

"Actually, amend that. United Nations Ambassador. If we favored the United States above all other countries, it could look really bad and we would gain too many enemies on this planet. If we join with them all, we look better. Most of our dealings would of course be governed through the United States but that's just a technicality." Isaac took a breath and leaned back on the couch. "Just think of the possible technological advances we could bring to this world. We would of course need Antarians on Earth to oversee the projects but it should be done only as a precaution that our good graces are not abused."

Max cleared this throat. "Well, it's definitely a plan, Ambassador, but I suggest that you graduate high school first."

"Yeah, yeah."

"No more Machiavelli or Nietzsche for a while, huh? Be 12, not 32." Max raised an eyebrow and then turned to his wife. "You think if I had been that much of an over-achiever that I could be that smart?"

"No." Liz laughed and didn't quite make it off his lap with Wit before he attacked. They ended up in a laughing mass on the floor. Lydia nodded to herself and ushered Vikin to the door to say goodbye, rolling her eyes at her family.

"Um, I have twenty minutes to get to the field." Isaac cleared this throat to be heard over the laughter.

"I wanna go." Wit immediately bounded out of the tangle and onto the couch with her uncle.

"You gotta ask the babysitter."

"Who's that?" Wit wrinkled her nose, nearly hiding her grey eyes.

"Grandpa." Isaac pointed.

"Granpa, I wanna go." Wit bounded back to the floor with her grandparents.

"Go where?" Max recovered and pulled himself off of his wife, who still lay on her back trying to catch her breath.

"To 'Zic's game." Wit placed her hands on her hips.

"Yeah, we'll go."

"Well, let's go. I'm going to be late." Isaac jumped up to grab his soccer bag.

--

Michael gripped William's ankles tighter as he searched the crowd for someplace to sit. William kept giggling and trying to kick his feet and occasionally throwing his balance off from the seat he had on his father's shoulders.

"Michael, over there." Kristin pointed a spot two rows up.

"It's kinda low. It'll be harder to see the game." Michael dismissed her suggestion and kept looking for seats high in the stadium.

Kristin scoffed and put a hand on her hip. "If you think you're getting up there, you're insane and furthermore you can sleep alone tonight. I'm sure it'll be a welcome break from the fat cow you married."

Michael's head snapped around, eyes wide. "Actually, that would give us a better view of the halfway-mark. Good thinking, sweetie." He hurried to the spot to get it ready for her to sit. Pillows to sit on and lean against and a blanket for when it got cold. He swung William down onto the bench and sat him with a juice box to keep him occupied while he fix the seat, then he returned to his glaring, yet beautifully pregnant, wife to get her situated in the spot he had made for her.

Michael had taken a seat on the bench below to massage Kristin's feet when Max, Liz and Wit arrived. Liz bit her tongue and sat beside Kristin to get the scoop on her pregnancy. Max just shook his head and lifted Wit to sit next to William. When the game started they followed the flow of the ball. Max got overexcited a few times when Isaac had scored but he didn't let everyone else's glares get in the way of his pride for his son. Halfway through the game, Zan showed up and had simply pulled his daughter into his lap and watched the game.

Liz scooted down to talk to him. "Why are you here?"

"My brother's winning a game." Came the reply.

"And your date?"

"Hopefully she's taking a cold shower." Zan shook his head. "We went to the movie first like Dad said. 15 minutes after it began, she started groping me. I couldn't take it so I got up and walked out of the movie. When she came out, she suggested we just go ahead and eat."

"And?"

"She insisted on ordering for me because she had been to the restaurant many times before. The food was horrible and I couldn't eat. She got insulted. Then she was mad one second and… not the next. When she suggested we go back to her place… I said it sounded good. I asked if she missed her daughter, then maybe I should pick up Wit and see if we couldn't salvage the night." Zan sighed heavily.

"Then?"

"Then she said that her daughter was at a friend's house for the night and we… should get to know each other better. I remembered what Dad said about… that and declined. She let me walk home." Zan shrugged. "I knew her honking the horn when she picked me up was a bad sign."

"It's okay, sweetie. There are plenty of women out there and not all of them will be like that. You're still young."

"I guess. But I've got the prettiest girl in the world right here." Zan kissed Wit's head and let her go when she squirmed. He smiled when she started climbing up and down the steps beside him.

--

"Bendy, it was amazing." Lydia whispered into the phone. "I love him so much."

"So, does DNA factor into that statement. Don't get me all excited if it only happens with Antarians." Bendy stifled a yawn. "So, why are on the phone with me and not begging for round two?"

"I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to home right now. Vikin needs to study for a final tomorrow and I pretended to be asleep so he could go study." Lydia stayed quiet a moment. "I think it is the Antarian factor. I heard my mom and Kristin talking about it one day."

"How lucky was it that Antar was infiltrated by starwalkers two hundred years ago?" Bendy sighed. "I'm going to have to get me one."

"Yeah." Lydia sighed. She felt bad about the story she had told Bendy to explain all the odd occurrences in her family but her dad had laughed his head off when he heard it. "Lucky."

"I mean really… amazing sex, short gestation periods, cool costume parties and really hot guys." The line lay silent for a minute. "Do you think you'll ever get to go there?"

"Maybe soon. My dad is going to arrange a transport for me and Vikin to take a trip this summer."

"So, the locale is still top secret. Wow."

"I'll call you tomorrow. Vikin heard me making noise. He's back." Lydia smiled as she hung up the phone to greet her fiancé. He dropped a kiss on her lips and then kissed her hand next to the ring he had given her in accordance with Earth custom. "I thought you were studying."

"And I thought you were asleep." He chided and climbed onto the bed between her legs. "Mmmth." He kissed her deeply. "Tomorrow. Tomorrow we tell them… after she grades my final."

"Are we bad?"

"No."

"But aren't we supposed to wait until we're married… by Antarian standards?" Lydia whispered.

"We don't live like that… few people do. Your father did… the first time… but not the second or third times." Vikin touched her cheek softly. "Are you sorry?"

"Not really." She let a little smile show through. "I love you."

"I love you too." He kissed her lips lightly and just rested his body on hers. "He'll make us wait to get married until you're through with college."

"I can't wait that long." She pouted but nodded.

"When you get through basics at the very least, he'll consider it so… you just work as quickly as you can and we'll be together all the sooner." Vikin stroked her hair out of her face. "Maybe you should go home. I really need to study and if you stay… your father will throw me in a cell until you're fifty."

--

Zan slid Wit underneath her covers and left the door open when he made the descent into the main house. Lydia was staring into space with a smile on her face. "You know, if you keep walking around like that, everyone is going to know you're in love."

"I can't help it. I am." Lydia snapped out of it and shoved him into a wall.

"You going to marry him?" Zan stopped her.

"I want to." Her hand floated over her chest where her ring rested on a chain beneath her shirt.

"Vikin? Really?" Zan made a face.

"Why? What's wrong with him?" Lydia followed him downstairs to the kitchen. "Zan."

"He's just… I don't know."

"What is he?"

"I don’t see him in court is all. He's been a soldier all his life."

"So. He'll still be a soldier."

"It's not customary for Princesses to marry soldiers."

"But it's okay for Princes and Kings to BE soldiers."

"Well, yeah."

"You were picked up for your date tonight. She picked the restaurant and ordered your meal for you and you're going to be chauvinistic about this?" Lydia stomped her foot and took the Tabasco out of his hands to shake onto a sweet roll from the table.

"Why are you so defensive? I just said that it's not customary. I did not say that we were the customary royal family." Zan yanked it out of her hand and went hunting for the brownies he had hidden. "We're not on Antar for one. Dad's Queen is his second wife. I wasn't married on Antar. You're dating a guard. Isaac's… going to be an Earth-based politician. We're rather unconventional as far as Antarians go."

"Oh." Lydia nodded. "Vikin was saying that it's not customary on Antar to wait until marriage for… sex."

"It's not. Few people feel it's important to wait. Dad, me, Jas…" Zan shrugged. "Why?" Eyes narrowed he stared at his sister hard. "He hasn't… tried to tell you anything has he?"

"Oh! No. I was just wondering." Lydia stuffed a piece of sweet roll in her mouth and gave him an innocent stare. She laid her hand flat on the table and immediately wished she hadn't. "God!"

"What?" Zan straightened from where he had bent at the cabinet to retrieve his box of brownies.

"They are so sick!" Lydia had to shake the unexpected walk off. When her dad walked into the kitchen to see what she was yelling about, he backed out again. "Keep the copulating to your room."

"You really need to control your walking ability." Max cleared his throat as he continued on back down the hallway.

"I'm not eating off that table again." Zan grabbed his brownies and headed out the back door.

"Wait for me." Lydia jumped up and grabbed another roll while she was at it.

10 years down the road

"I don't think we understand quite what we're here for, Mr. Evans." President Thomas cleared his throat. "I don't think you should go making any public speeches until you let us know what we're dealing with. You've been rather cryptic with your reasons."

"But you gathered the media… just as I asked." Isaac straightened his tie and flashed the men in the room a smile.

"We'll need some warning, in case we need to do some damage control." Mr. Guan spoke up. "It's up to me to see that this term goes smoothly and if I don't have the details, I can't do my job."

"He's a kid. Why on earth would you allow this?" The Secretary of State jumped to his feet. "I say we call it off. He's a lobbyist and a lousy one at that."

"Your afraid of what I’m going to say. There is a reason I needed a public forum for this. To ensure my safety as well as the safety of nearly a hundred others who call the United States their home. Is this not the country for people to live in without fear of persecution from the government?" Isaac's mouth turned up at that.

"Of course." Thomas nodded.

"What I'm about to do is simple. I'm going to announce that a particular ethnic group resides in the States and that no one has anything to fear. This particular group has lived with us since the 80s for certain… maybe two or three others since the 40s. It's not a big deal but we have to think of their safety."

"What group is this?" Secretary bellowed.

"I'll announce that now… after I have your insurance that no harm will come to his royal highness when I announce him."

"A King is here? Which one?" Guan began snapping at his team to get information.

"You won't find any information on missing royalty." Isaac shook his head slowly. "He's here but he'll only come out when I give the word."

"So, we've got the King of a group of people. Origins unknown. Do they have a representative?" Guan looked around the room but only Isaac Evans rose and entered the pressroom, six gentlemen on his heels.

"Just me. I'm Ambassador Evans." He told them and walked out to the microphone. "Thank you all for joining us here, today. I'd just like to say that we've come in peace and wish only to continue existing alongside humanity as we have for years." The room went silent. "My name is Isaac Evans, second prince to the throne of Antar and sole Ambassador to Earth. I chose the United States as our entry point mainly because we're all American citizens and I'm familiar with U.S. government procedures. Antar is a planet several light-years from this solar system. It's a system of two stars and five inhabited planets. The five governments are in the process of forming a board much like the United Nations so that we may represent ourselves properly to this planet. The King of Antar is here today. He has chosen not to speak until he is certain that we will all be safe. We are aliens but only a fraction of what you've ever heard about them is true about us. We're here today to let you know that we are here. We mean no harm and have caused none in the past. If any harm was none, it was without our knowledge and was dealt with quickly upon notice. Questions?"

"Aliens?" One reporter shouted out. "You look human."

"I am mostly human but have a significant amount of Antarian DNA as well." Isaac pointed to another reporter.

"Why have you chosen now to come forward?" It was obviously the man didn't believe a word of it but wanted to cover his bases.

"We believe the world is ready. My father, the current king of Antar, grew up on Earth, has endured the school systems and some government conflicts and had his doubts about this but it is time. You have a right to know that your neighbor could shapeshift, not that he will but he could. That we don't want anything but to live peacefully among you as we have, only now… we don't have to hide."

"Who would you be hiding from?"

"A defunct government faction formerly known as the Special Unit for one."

"What proof do you bring us?" The room went silent at the question. No one seemed to know who had asked the question. Most of the reporters were skeptical.

"Just a minute." Isaac reached into his pocket and retrieved a communicator. It opened up and Zan's face appeared. "They want to see it." The face nodded. "Okay. If you'll all report to the courtyard, we have a light show for you. My brother, Prince Zan the next king of Antar, will pilot one of our craft near to the building. If he has the room, he'll land. It's just a small transport ship but I think it will be sufficient to prove my statements."

Isaac was about to step off the stage when a hand held him still. "Come with me, Mr. Evans."

"No." Isaac shook him off.

"You've made a big mistake."

"If you don't get out of my way, it will be your mistake. Would you really be willing to bring an interstellar war to Earth. If I'm damaged as a result of my speech… there will be hell to pay. My father will not take kindly to any abuse of his children." Isaac locked eyes with the man for a second and then turned to the President. "I'd like to thank you for allowing me this time to get it out there. As you can see…" His eyes slid to the man in black that had tried to take him. "We've been met with some hostility in the past and we're not wanting to repeat history."

"How did I not know about this?" President Thomas barked at his people. "Ambassador Evans, I'd like to set a meeting with your father. We'll work out the terms of an alliance. I'll even allow him to pick the battleground so to speak."

"I'm glad to hear that, Mr. President." Isaac nodded with a smile. "Actually, we were hoping you'd say that. He'd like to meet you here." He pulled a card out and passed it to the President. "It's going to be a party but no need to bring anything. Just a small celebration. It's a residence if you want your men to stake it out… without encroaching one our rights." He started to walk off but then winced. "I was told to make sure that you knew that we have a finite hierarchy and if something happens to any one person in that house, there will be someone to replace them. It's only a precaution. We really don't like making threats."

This time, Isaac made it out the doors and joined his father on a walk around the crowd taking in the hovering aircraft. Max nodded his approval. "Smart boy."

"He's coming tomorrow."

"We'll set out a few more chairs. I'll make the ceremony short in any case." Max nodded.

"You talked to her much?"

"Not much but Zan seems to like her… enough to marry her. Unless he was hoping he wouldn't survive today and the mob. Tell him not to get too close with that thing. It makes me nervous." Max sighed and turned to go to his car. "I'll see you tomorrow. Bring the wife."

"Later, Dad."

The End