posted on 13-Jun-2002 1:12:44 AM by Kath7
Part 26 - Page 40
Part 25 - Page 38
Part 24 - Page 37
Part 23 - Page 37
Part 22 - Page 36
Part 21 - Page 35
Part 20 - Page 33
AN - Page 32
Part 19 - Page 31
Part 18 - Page 29
Part 17 - Page 27
Part 16 - Page 25
Part 15 - Page 23
Part 14 - Page 22
Part 13 - Page 20
Part 12 - Page 19
Author's Note - page 19 and new banner - page 1
Part 11 - Page 17
Part 10 - Page 15
Note - Page 15
Part 9 - Page 13
Part 8 - Page 11
Part 7 - Page 10
Part 6 - Page 8
Note - Page 7
Part 5 - Page 7
New part 4 - Page 6
ote - Page 6
Part 3 - Page 4

Born01

Title: Born of the Stars

Author: Kath7

Category: M/L (do I write anything else?)

Rating: Who knows? PG-13 for now.

Summary: Post-Harvest. So basically everything that we hated about Season 2 never happened. From a challenge by Rachie B. I’m not going to say anything else, but if you’re dying of curiosity, it’s on the Fan Discussion Board at roswellfanatics.net.

Author’s Note: Well, you’re probably all wondering about now if Kath ever comes up with an original idea! LOL This is another challenge response. I like to take challenges though, as long as they’re not too step-by-step because, for me, writing fanfic is about improving my writing, and sometimes having somewhere to start is a big help. It also fits nicely with some thoughts I have been having since Jason Katims mentioned in an interview that his one regret was that they had written the Skins out so early (er - ONE thing you regret Darth? But we won’t go there). Plus, this was a damn good challenge and I couldn’t resist.

Er- and as for all those fics that are still unfinished (Union - bloody hell. And that’s all I’ll say about that. And as for Destiny’s Circle - did you know it was the first fic I ever wrote? I can’t let it go. That’s the reason I’ve left it hanging. Good one Kath! They’ll all believe that!) I’ll finish them. I promise. Have I ever lied? Lately I mean? Plus, it’s almost summer and my summer goal is to finish Union, so I will get back to it, I swear.

Finally, yes Angela, I stole the title from Born of the Sun. What can I say? It was on my mind. Hee. Hey everyone! If you’re looking for a great book, I highly recommend Born of the Sun by Joan Wolf. It has NOTHING to do with this story, but it is just wonderful, wonderful.

Part 1

November 2000 - Copper Summit, Arizona

The destruction was complete. When Nicholas had called them, she had hoped that he was exaggerating, that something could be salvaged. But there was no way. It was all gone.

They had driven through the night to be in Copper Summit as quickly as possible, in order to rally their people before despair set in. But none of them had expected the absolute finality of what had happened. As was historically the precedent, where Zan went, chaos had followed. She should have known that things would not have changed simply because his face was different, just because the planet was new.

And, yet, she had hoped. Because without their people - their followers - how were they ever going to return home? How were they ever going to reclaim all that they had lost when Zan had set into motion all the events that had stranded them on Earth over fifty years before?

It was hopeless now. Their people would die. Without the Harvest, they would all just fade away, gradually returning to the dust that had formed their skins in the first place.

She felt a brief flash of relief that she was not dependent on any skin, that she and her most loved ones were perfectly safe. On Antar, the half-human bodies they inhabited would possibly end up a liability. But here on Earth they were what kept them strong, were what meant they would live to kill Zan so that they could all return home, so that the Golden Age of peace that had been prophesied with each of their births could come at last to their galaxy.

She stared at the dead husks for several more seconds, then turned, headed back up the stairs and into the harsh Arizona sunlight.

Jack was waiting for her at the door. "It’s bad, huh?"

"Don’t go down there," she told her cousin firmly. "You don’t want to see it." Jack was sensitive. He would not be able to handle it. She didn’t want him to have to remember the sight of the end of all their hopes and dreams.

She knew that she wouldn’t be able to stop Will. He would look, would feel that it was his duty. It was always about duty with her brother, always about what had to be, not about what he really wanted.

But then Will had never wanted anything for himself after he lost Rowena. Even though it had been in another lifetime, he had never recovered. The only way he had gotten through it had been by struggling to do his duty - by focusing on nothing else. He was a king. It was his responsibility to go on.

Will remembered what had happened when Zan had let grief interfere with duty after all. They all did. He had completely destroyed any hope of peace their galaxy had ever had.

"Where’s Will?" She asked Jack. "He’ll want to see." She swallowed, closed her eyes to the flash that appeared before her eyes of the lifeless husks, the skins that had been meant to protect her people for another fifty years - until they could find the granolith, until they could take them home.

They had failed. Completely and utterly. In two lifetimes.

"He’s still in the Church with Nicholas," Will replied, running a hand through his blond hair and glancing behind her into the darkened shed, as though he wanted to ignore her advice, like he wanted to see for himself.

"No Jack." She made her voice firm. He would not disobey a direct order.

He sighed. "Fine." He trailed after her as she hurried across the road towards the Church. She had to speak to her brother. He had asked her to check out the damage and report back. He would go see for himself eventually, but, for the moment, Nicholas had the information they needed. Nicholas was Will’s first priority.

For the first time in fifty years they knew where to find Zan. Nicholas had even seen him. They had actually found him. It was almost incomprehensible to her. They had been looking for so long and suddenly he just popped up where they least expected him.

In the end, he had come to them.

Zan had been in Copper Summit, had destroyed the Harvest and had gone back to where he came from. But, this time, they could follow.

And where Zan was, the granolith could not be far away. There was still a chance to save their people.

She stopped abruptly when she sensed that Jack was no longer following her. Turning on her heel, she prepared to retrace her steps, to chase him down into the chamber under the shed where the Harvest had been hidden. Jack had never disobeyed an order before, but, then, something of this magnitude had never happened before either. She almost didn’t blame him.

She should have known better though. Because Jack hadn’t gone anywhere, it not being his nature to go against she or Will. Instead, he was standing in the centre of the dusty road, a strange expression on his face.

She narrowed her eyes, watched him for a moment as he lifted his chin, closed his eyes and seemed to sniff the air. Finally, when she could take it no longer, she called to him. "Jack? What’s going on?"

He didn’t reply for a long moment. When he finally opened his eyes, she was shocked to see tears welling in the clear blue depths. "Oh my God. I can’t believe it." His voice shook.

"Jack? What?" She felt her heart enter her throat. He didn’t answer, merely rubbed a weary hand across his face, shaking his head in disbelief. She moved forward, grabbed his arm, shook him. "Jack! Answer me!"

He stared at her for a long moment and, then, the most amazing thing happened.

He smiled. And not just any smile. It was so completely beatific, it nearly blinded her.

How could he smile like that after what had happened? Had he gone crazy?

But when he spoke again, she knew he had not. "Kate, it’s a miracle." She blinked, wondered why her heart seemed to be beating at fifty times the normal rate.

When he finally told her though, she was not surprised. Not in the least.

"It’s Rowena. I saw her. She was here! Kate, she’s alive."

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

Roswell, New Mexico - Three days later

Liz Parker stood on her toes, peeked through the window on the door of her biology classroom.

She needed to know if he was in there, had to steel herself if he was. She had to be ready for the coldness that was going to come off him in waves at the sight of her, had to prepare herself for being ignored for the whole period.

"What are we looking at?"

Liz jumped about a foot, whirled around and found herself face to face with her best friend, Maria Deluca. Her other best friend, Alex Whitman, stood directly behind the pretty strawberry blonde, a matching expression of curiosity on his face. Liz’s heart returned slowly to it’s normal rhythm as she exclaimed, "Maria!"

Maria grinned at her, raised an eyebrow. "I repeat, what are we looking at?"

But Liz couldn’t answer her. Because he was coming down the hallway towards her. And he wasn’t alone.

He was with Tess. Just like he had been every time she had seen him since the night she had pretended to sleep with Kyle - since the night she had broken his heart.

He walked right past her without saying a word, no expression on his beloved face. He didn’t even look at her. He just headed straight into the classroom, Tess on his heels, her nose in the air.

He had not looked at her even once since they had returned from Arizona. Because, now that they were back, now that they had dealt with the Whittaker mystery and the Harvest, he didn’t need her anymore.

Now that he actually believed that she had slept with Kyle, for him, she had ceased to exist.

Because hadn’t she seen the exact moment that he had started to believe it? The expression on his face before he walked away from her on that street in Copper Summit… It was haunting her even more than the one he had worn the night he had come to her window with the tickets to Gomez, the night that she and Future Max had orchestrated the complete betrayal of everything that Max and Liz were supposed to be about. Because what he had said to her in Copper Summit had told her that until she flat-out told him that she and Kyle had made love, he had still held on to a shred of hope that it was not true - that she would explain things, that it would all go away.

What I saw can't be true, because it means everything I felt in my heart for the last year is a lie!

His voice ran through her mind, reminding her how she had almost broken in that instant, how she had almost told him the truth. She had never seen him that angry, that upset. And she was the one who had caused it. The last person who was supposed to hurt him, she had been the one that had completely demolished him.

But she had been strong. She had basically told him that he was right, that everything he had thought about her had been a lie.

Which was, of course, the biggest lie of all.

Liz closed her eyes, fought the tears that threatened.

"Whoa." Alex’s voice managed to penetrate the miasma of despair within which she was beginning to get lost. "What the hell is going on between you two? That was a far cry from I’m coming for you Liz. What happened?"

Liz swallowed, opened her eyes. Both Maria and Alex were staring at her, matching expressions of confusion and disbelief on their faces. Because, of course, neither of them knew anything yet. With everything that had happened over the past week, there just hadn’t been time to tell them.

Not that she could tell them anything anyway. She couldn’t tell anyone.

A shiver ran down Liz’s spine. And, finally, she truly understood exactly how it had felt to be Max Evans in all those years before he had saved her life that day in the Crashdown.

The loneliness came crashing down on her like a wave. She could feel herself drowning in it.

"Liz!" Maria’s hand was on her arm, her expression terrified. "What’s wrong?"

She had to tell them something. They were never just going to leave it alone. They were her best friends after all. So this time she would just tell them the truth, which was, in the end, just another lie. "I slept with Kyle. Max caught us together."

Liz didn’t wait to see their reactions. She pushed her way into the bio lab as quickly as she could, her head lowered. She let her hair fall into her face, didn’t look at Max as she went to her place next to him. At least she could do that for him - leave him alone, not torture him with the chore of having to ignore her.

It was just typical that they had ended up as lab partners again. She had tried to switch at the beginning of the year, but when Ms. Hardy had demanded an explanation, had asked her if Max had done something, she just couldn’t bring herself to tell their teacher that somehow it was Max’s fault. Plus she couldn’t have borne the expression on his face when he would have found out that she had asked for a new partner.

None of this was Max’s fault after all. At least not her Max’s. He was probably wishing by now that he had asked for a new partner.

With the train her thoughts were following, she was completely unprepared for the sound of his voice when he spoke to her. "Liz!?"

Liz almost jumped out of her skin. His tone - it sounded like he had been trying to get her attention for a while. She turned her head, looked at him, feeling like she was in some kind of daze. Was this how she was going to feel for the rest of her life? Was it ever going to get better? Would it ever get easier? "Yeah?"

He looked…Liz didn’t know how he looked. She would have said annoyed, but when their eyes met, for one split second she saw something flash through them that looked like…was that worry? He had obviously noticed how out of it she was, how upset, and he was worried.

She had broken his heart and he was worried about her. Her heart swelled with all the love she felt for him.

But the moment was so fleeting, it barely registered before she realized that Max was nodding towards the front of the class where Ms. Hardy was staring at both of them. Oh God! Had the teacher spoken to her? Liz raised her voice, cringed inwardly at how weak it sounded. "Yes Ms. Hardy?"

Ms. Hardy was frowning slightly. Liz saw a flash of concern run across her face. Of course she would be worried. Liz couldn’t remember the last time she had been caught not paying attention in class. Glancing around, Liz was relieved to see that the lab hadn’t really started yet. Their teacher clearly wanted to ask her something privately because she was motioning for Liz to join her at the front.

Liz hopped off her stool and wound her way through the tables. She felt Max’s eyes on her the whole way. Passing by the table Maria and Alex shared, Liz turned her head away from them, not wanting to see the likely still shocked expressions on her friends’ faces. She knew that they were not just going to let her out-of-nowhere announcement go, but, for now, she was safe from their questions.

It was then that she saw him, standing quietly beside Ms. Hardy, watching her approach.

He was tall, almost as tall as Michael, with pitch black hair that was worn slightly long. He was standing near the teacher’s desk, a stack of notebooks and texts in his arms, like he didn’t have anywhere to dump some of it, which could only mean that he was a new student, one who hadn’t been assigned a locker yet.

She was about five steps away when their eyes locked. Liz blinked. His eyes were intensely, almost painfully, blue.

And, then, the most amazing thing happened. Something that she would never have believed was possible - not since Max. But, it actually happened.

Another boy made her heart skip a beat.

To be continued…









[ edited 34time(s), last at 2-Feb-2003 12:53:22 AM ]
posted on 13-Jun-2002 2:21:04 AM by Kath7
Yup, it's a Max/Liz story. Of course it is. I don't write any other kind! LOL
posted on 15-Jun-2002 12:17:21 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks for the great feedback everyone! Just a couple clarifications.

First of all, of COURSE this is a dreamer fic! LOL Who do you think I am??? It's me, Kath! But you've got to let me have some fun first. I mean, c'mon! All will be made clear in time. Things are going to be a bit bumpy at first, but you all have happy ending insurance with this, just like with ALL of my stories (although probably some of you would be happy with ANY ending for Union, happy or otherwise! LOL New part up this weekend I hope. It's slowly coming together).

Second, let's try and remember that THIS Max is NOT the Max we are all so disappointed in. This Max never slept with Tess, he's not WITH Tess in this story and in my universe he will NEVER be with Tess. Liz might think he is for a while, but he is so NOT. It's only about ten days after EOTW. Also, this Tess is NOT evil Tess (or maybe she is - wouldn't YOU like to know??? LOL)

Finally, there should be another part of Sins of the Father up by the end of the weekend, as well as Union, so anyone reading either should keep their eyes peeled. Thanks again for all the support. Juggling four stories is exhausting (five counting DC, which is still brewing - it's just on the back burner) - I MUST finish something and Sins is it. After this it is going to be my top priority. Have to give Cookie a going away present!

Anyway, enough blather from moi.

Part 2

"Liz, this is Will Spencer. He just moved to Roswell," Ms. Hardy said, causing Liz to break eye contact with the new guy. Her heart was still racing.

What on Earth was happening to her? She couldn’t actually be interested in another guy? She knew that it was impossible. After Max, there was just no way. No other boy could ever compare. And, yet, there was no denying that she was tingling from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.

Liz peeked at him again. She blushed when she realized that he was staring at her and quickly looked away. She attempted to tune in to what her biology teacher was saying. "…show Will to his locker and then he can join you and Max for the experiment today. We don’t have any singles left in the class and he’s going to need a partner, but for now it will be the three of you."

At the mention of Max’s name on her teacher’s lips Liz felt a flash of guilt so intense, she barely managed to supress the tears that appeared unbidden in her eyes. She had just broken Max’s heart and here she was thinking about another guy! What the heck was wrong with her?

She turned her head slightly to the right, glanced in Max’s direction. He was watching her, no expression on his face. She sighed when Tess suddenly appeared at his elbow, distracting him. He turned his head to talk to the blonde, effectively shutting Liz out completely.

Suddenly getting out the classroom seemed like the best idea Liz had heard in a long time. She needed air - she was suffocating slowly in her own misery.

"Sure Ms. Hardy," she managed to mumble. She didn’t look at Will again as she headed towards the door and out into the empty hallway, the final bell having rung. She instantly felt better.

It was the worst feeling in the world to know that she could breathe again because she was away from Max. At one time, she barely breathed unless she was with him. It was killing her to know what her deception was doing to them. Everything was upside down and just plain wrong.

"I can probably find it myself, if it’s a big pain."

Liz whipped her head around, stared at the new guy. His voice sent a shiver down her spine. It was soft, but confident, appealingly deep. "I…" She stumbled over the words. Their eyes met again and she felt the same tingling sensation. But this time she recognized the feeling. Or maybe it was more accurate to say that she somehow recognized him. Liz narrowed her eyes. "Do I know you?"

She saw something flare in his eyes. Was it pleasure? Liz felt her confusion grow. Because he didn’t seem to think it was crazy that she might ask him that - even though she knew she had never met this guy before. "I don’t think so," he finally replied, sounding a little hesitant if Liz was not mistaken. "I just moved here. But maybe we knew each other in another life?" He quirked a lopsided grin in her direction.

Liz felt herself blush slightly, not sure if it was because of how stupid her question had sounded or because he was teasing her. Or maybe it was that smile. It was boyish and, yet, completely sexy.

And suddenly she just admitted it to herself. Will Spencer was hot. He was a damn good-looking guy and there was nothing wrong with the fact that she had noticed. It didn’t mean she loved Max any less. It just meant she was a human female. Because anyone who didn’t notice his appeal would either be an alien - or dead.

"I’m sorry," Liz replied, more strongly this time. "I’m totally out of it this morning. You must think I’m a total flake." She held out her hand. "Do you have your locker number?"

"285," Will told her, making Liz pause for a moment and then just shake her head slightly. Apparently the cosmos were trying to make sure that Max was never far from her thoughts.

"Are you okay?" Will asked, sounding a little freaked. She didn’t blame him. She was behaving like a total psycho.

Stupid cosmos. For one split second she had not felt horrible, had felt like a normal person again. Apparently that was over.

It wasn’t fair. She had only done what she had to do to save the world. And she was going to suffer for it for the rest of her life while Max moved on without her - with Tess. The mere thought of it was enough to make her want to scream and pull out her hair, but she was a stronger person than that. The least she could do was enjoy a conversation with a good-looking guy! Liz tried again. "Where did you move from?"

"California," Will said promptly, "By way of Arizona."

Liz sighed. It was going to be a long day - or at least a long walk to Locker 285. Every word that came out of Will’s mouth reminded her of Max. "Arizona’s nice," Liz returned. "I was there recently. We better hurry. Max’ll need our help with the experiment."

"Whatever you want Liz." The way her name rolled off his tongue…It sent another shiver through her frame.

She needed to get a hold of herself. There was no way that she was going to be able to get through biology with Will and Max at the same table if she didn’t. It was supremely ridiculous, but true. Her attraction to this new guy was enough that she was sure that Max would notice it.

There was no way she was going to let that happen. Not after all she had already done to hurt him. Liz glanced at Will and suddenly had a brilliant idea. It was going to get them both in trouble from Ms. Hardy, but the idea of facing Max again was just too, too exhausting. Plus she needed to spend some time with this guy, make herself see that there was nothing special about him, that he was just a regular teenage boy. "I know that this might seem like sort of a strange question…" Liz trailed off, unsure if she could really go through with it.

"What?" Will inquired, sounding interested. His eyes were warm on her face. Liz stared into their blue depths, literally felt herself getting lost.

"Have you had breakfast?" She blurted, blinking to break the spell. "Because I know this great restaurant that has the best omelettes in the world…"

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

Liz never came back to Bio.

Max Evans managed to somehow sleepwalk his way through the experiment they had been assigned for the day, but his eyes spent more time on the door than on his microscope, waiting impatiently for Liz to return.
By the time the bell finally rang and she had never reappeared, he wasn’t sure whether he was worried or furious.

Well, both emotions were better than nothing. Because nothing was what he had managed to feel for the past week - ever since they had returned from Copper Summit. Ever since he had finally accepted that what he had seen with his own two eyes - Liz in bed with Kyle Valenti - had really happened.

He had known it was only a matter of time until he felt the complete and utter pain of what he had seen - until his heart finally caught up with his head. He just wanted it over with. The dull ache wasn’t enough. He wanted the agony, wanted the complete despair.

He wanted to be able to move on. And he knew that he was going to have to grieve first, that he was going to have to mourn the loss of the dream that had been Liz Parker.

But fury and worry were not better than nothing he realized suddenly. Because they meant that he was still inextricably tied to Liz - that he still cared and had not, in any way, started to let her go.

Could his life suck any more?

He tried not to reflect on the main reason he was so potentially angry and worried at the same time.

Max had not missed the way Liz had stared at the guy Ms. Hardy had introduced her to. She had looked at him like she used to look at Max - in fact, the way she had looked at Max just this morning. Because he could not deny that she had seemed miserable, practically drowning in her guilt and sorrow when he had first seen her this morning. And underneath the guilt and sorrow he had, without a doubt, seen love.

He knew that Liz Parker still loved him. Which was what made what had happened even more unbelievable and inexplicable.

Apparently he was a glutton for punishment because he had actually felt horrible for her. He had felt her emotions coming off of her in waves as she had joined him at their table - her pain so deep it had almost drowned out his own. In spite of it all, their connection was still as strong as ever. It had taken all of his strength not to talk to her, to comfort her.

Whatever had happened with Kyle, there was no doubting that she felt terrible about it, that she maybe even regretted it. But it had still happened and Max knew that he would never understand why. Had she really been so desperate to be rid of him? When she had told him that night in his room that she wanted normal boys and that she didn’t want to die for him, he hadn’t believed her. The way she had looked at him this morning had told him that he had been right not to believe her.

None of it was the Liz he had fallen in love with. She could not have changed that much over the summer. It was just impossible. Yet, it had happened. She had given herself to Kyle Valenti, someone Max knew she wasn’t in love with. And she regretted it. There was no doubt.

Obviously she didn’t want his comfort though. If she did she wouldn’t have done what she had, wouldn’t have tried so hard to drive a permanent wedge between them. And, yet, she loved him. He knew she did.

But, then, she had gone to the front of the room and everything had changed. Max had actually felt the charge that had run through Liz as she was introduced to the new guy. It had taken all of his strength not to jump to his feet and to haul her away from him. They had disappeared into the hallway and had never come back and he had sat at his table and stewed, making a cursory attempt at his work.

Which was why he had spent the entire period trying to decide if he was supposed to be worried or angry. Because he really didn’t understand what his role was supposed to be in the farce that his life had become.

"Max, are you coming?" Tess’ voice snapped him out of his stupor. He turned his head, looked at her, sighed. He really did appreciate how Tess had been there for him over the past week, but the way she was becoming his shadow was a little overwhelming. Every time he turned around she was beside him. Sometimes it got to be a bit much, even though he knew she was only feeling a little protective of him.

Tess was the only one who knew the truth of what had happened between he and Liz. He couldn’t bring himself to tell Michael and Isabel - not yet. He had the bad feeling that he was putting it off so that he could still pretend that it had never happened, in spite of the fact that Liz had demanded that he accept it in Copper Summit.

It was just that none of it made sense. Nothing Liz Parker had done over the past two weeks did - including ditching Biology with some new guy Ms. Hardy had just introduced her to.

"Yeah." He stood, followed Tess into the hallway.

Max was staring at his feet, trailing behind Tess, which is why it happened. He wasn’t watching where he was going and, before he knew it, he had rammed right into someone and he had not only dropped his books, but the other person’s had gone flying as well.

"Max!" Tess exclaimed, sounding concerned. Always worried about him was Tess. It was driving him bananas. He was almost beginning to wish he hadn’t said yes when she had asked him if he wanted her to stay that night in the park.

"Oh my God! I’m so sorry!" The melodic female voice made him look up abruptly from where he was already gathering together the other person’s stuff.

He blinked as his eyes met the soft blue gaze of a girl he had never laid eyes on before. She was slender with delicate features and pitch black hair that tumbled down her back in a riot of curls. She was exquisitely beautiful, almost ethereal. Max knew that he was staring, but he could not tear his gaze away from her.

And it appeared that she felt exactly the same way.

They locked eyes for a full minute. He watched in fascination as her face paled. Her eyes narrowed for a split second before she pasted a smile on her face. "Sorry ‘bout that," she repeated, practically grabbing her books from his hands. She jumped to her feet and almost sprinted past him down the hall.

Max climbed slowly to his feet, perplexed.

"What was that all about?" Tess asked, sounding equally as confused. "Was she weird or what?"

Max continued to stare down the crowded hallway in the direction the strange girl had disappeared so abruptly. He brought a hand up behind his neck and rubbed, frowning slightly, trying to understand what had just happened here.

And, yet, he somehow knew. Because the feeling was extremely familiar. After all, hadn’t he experienced it just six months before with the girl standing beside him now, a worried look on her face?

"Tess, I know that girl."

"What do you mean Max? I’ve never seen her before in my life."

"I…" He paused, felt a frisson of fear descend his spine. "Tess, this is going to sound absolutely crazy, but I think that girl is one of us."

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

Alex Whitman followed Maria Deluca out of their biology class and towards the doors leading out of the school. It had definitely been the longest hour of his life. He had had to sit there listening to Maria’s absolutely panicked chatter about Liz while trying to calm his own fear.

There was something very wrong with his best friend, obviously. The Liz he knew would not only not announce that she had been caught in bed with her ex-boyfriend by her soulmate, announce it in a public place yet, just about the most insane thing Alex had ever heard, but she would not then disappear completely off the face of the planet, ditching class in the process, with a complete stranger.

"I still think we should check around here first Maria. Liz wouldn’t just skip. We should have talked to Max." But instead they had come barreling out into the hallway and Max was likely gone by now.

Although how Alex was supposed to have asked Max Evans if what Liz had said was true - that he had caught her in bed with Kyle Valenti - well, it was a mystery for the ages. Max was a brooder at the best of times - and he was obsessed with Liz at the best and worst of times. If this was all real, than the guy had to be about ready to have a nervous breakdown - or kill himself. Alex would not put anything past Max when it came to Liz. He had seen his whacko behavior over Liz all summer after all. Max gave new definition to the term "lovesick."

Alex had witnessed the way that Max had frozen Liz out during their brief interaction in Biology, knew that something was incredibly wrong between them - knew that what Liz had blurted out had to be true.

But how? Why? It didn’t make any sense. Things didn’t often make sense in the alien abyss, but this was just looney-tunes!

"Alex, she was a basketcase. I’ll bet she went home." Alex could hear the tears in Maria’s voice. She was barely holding it together. Alex understood why. Maria depended on Liz to be the sane one, the normal one.

This was not Liz behavior. Something was incredibly wrong.

"But the guy Hardy introduced her to never came back either," Alex argued. "Maybe they’re together."

"Why would Liz go off with a complete stranger?" Maria demanded.

"Why would Liz sleep with Kyle?" Alex shot back.

Maria stared at him. "Maybe she’s been possessed?" And, then, her eyes widened. "Alex, you don’t think that guy was an alien? Maybe he was mindwarping her! Oh my God! We do need Max. And Michael." She turned abruptly on her heel and headed in the other direction. "Max is in English right now. Michael’s in shop."

"Maria, stop!" Alex called after her. "Could we please formulate a plan here? Shouldn’t we at least try to find Liz ourselves!"

But she was already gone.

Alex gripped the straps on his backpack, frowned after her. He knew he should follow her, but, for some reason, he didn’t. Instead he proceeded out the doors into the bright New Mexican sunshine, blinking against the glare. He would just head over to the Crashdown, make sure that Maria had not been right, that Liz wasn’t there.

He almost tripped over someone huddled on the stoop leading into the school. "Jeez! Sorry! I didn’t see you!" He glanced down at the girl sitting there, frowned again.

She was staring up at him, an absolutely unmistakable expression on her face. He had only ever seen the like once before - on both Liz and Isabel when Max had been held in the White Room by Pierce.

This was sheer, unadulterated, paralyzed terror. She was afraid. "Hey! Are you okay?"

The girl blinked, shook her head. Alex watched in amazement as she entire expression changed, as the fear he had seen disappeared more quickly than he could even comprehend. "Doesn’t anyone in this school ever watch where they’re going?" The girl muttered, standing up and tossing her head in a gesture that reminded Alex of someone. He followed the tumble of her dark curls with his eyes, fascinated in spite of himself.

It took him but a moment to realize who she made him think of. It was in her height, in her stance, even in the way her blue eyes had frozen over abruptly. Her every mannerism was reflective of someone Alex had spent many years watching with admiration. She reminded him of Isabel Evans.

"Seriously," Alex repeated. "My name’s Alex Whitman. Are you okay? Can I help?"

The girl stared at him, her eyes narrowing. "I doubt it," she replied frostily. "No one can help me. No one can help any of us."

And with that, she turned on her heel and stalked away.

To be continued…






[ edited 2 time(s), last at 15-Jun-2002 12:52:23 AM ]
posted on 25-Jun-2002 12:01:34 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Thanks for all the support on this one! It's really fun to write and so I'm glad you like it to. This is short, but I hope to have another part up by the end of the week.

BTW - if anyone's interested in checking out the song that is majorly inspiring this story, it's Somewhere Out There by Our Lady Peace, a great Canadian band if there ever was one (and there have been many!)

Part 3

Kate Spencer was in turmoil. There was no other way to describe how it had felt to actually come face to face with Zan like that.

She had recognized him immediately. His eyes… They had not changed a bit, were still the same dark amber, even though they looked slightly different in the human face he now wore. They still shone with intelligence and an innocence that masked his true nature so effectively, she had actually felt like throwing her arms around him before she remembered who he was.

He was Zan, the destroyer of her world. It didn’t matter that at one time she would have done anything for him. He was her enemy now. It was a choice he had made. There was no way to change it, even if she did remember how much she used to love him, like the brother Will had never found the time to be in that other life.

She had never expected it to happen so abruptly, that they would track him down so easily, but when she had chased Will down to the high school, she should have known that the fates were aligning, that when her brother actually did something irresponsible and completely fool-hardy, for the first time ever, it meant that the apocalypse was well near nigh.

Zan had recognized her too. She had seen it in those eyes that would always betray who he was. She had barely managed to pull herself together enough to leave the scene before she did something she would regret later. Because, in the instant after she had moved past remembering how much she used to love him, she had wanted to kill him - right there in public.

She couldn’t though. This mission was too important! It was completely wrong to let emotion - to let memory - interfere. And, for the first time in this life, not to mention the last, it was what Will was letting happen.

Kate had known that it had hit Will hard to hear that Rowena had been found - that not only was she alive, but she was living in the same town as Zan, that she was actually friends with her greatest enemy, because apparently she was. She had been in Arizona with him, had been working with him. When Jack had described her to Nicholas, the leader of the Copper Summit Skins, he had confirmed it.

The irony of it was not lost on any of them. Rowena had been found and she was working with the one person she should have absolutely known better than to have anything to do with.

Nicholas had filled them in on the little he had known about her. Apparently she was going by the name Liz Parker in this lifetime. Nicholas hadn’t paid much attention to her after all, sure that she was just one of Zan’s human minions, of which he apparently had several. But then Nicholas had never known Ro, had only become Khivar’s right-hand man after Ro’s death.

The whole thing had freaked Will out - big time. He had been unable to hide his fear for Ro, that Zan was using her in an effort to gain a foothold over Will, just like he had before. It was the same fear that had made him lie to Kate and Jack. Kate knew this intellectually, but she still could not help the anger she felt at her brother. He was actually jeopardizing the whole mission in his quest to reclaim Rowena. Their first priority had to be the granolith. They needed to save their people. It was a miracle, as Jack had called it, that they were apparently going to be able to save Rowena at the same time, but it had to be secondary.

It just had to be. They could not fail their people again. Not like they had, so completely, before. They had been reborn to save them, to liberate them. It was their sole purpose, no matter how much Will wanted to recapture what he had had with Rowena.

Kate had chased her brother down to West Roswell High School to remind him of this pertinent fact, but, in the process had made things ten times worse. Because, in the end, wasn’t it she who had literally smacked right into Zan, alerting him to their presence?

And, so, now she wandered the streets of Roswell, her heart beating irregularly, expecting Zan to pop out from behind every second tree, expecting him to come after her. It was what he would do after all. He would know that they were here for the granolith, would do everything in his power to protect it. And there was no question that Zan’s power was immense. Even connected with Will and Jack, she would be hard-pressed to defeat him if he truly wanted to win. And if Nicholas was right, then Zan had also brought together his Four Square. He, Ava, Vilandra and Rath were all together, were all bonded.

They were unbeatable.

Except that…

And, suddenly Kate understood exactly why Will had been so desperate to reconnect with Rowena. Because, in the end, she was their only hope to defeat Zan.

Apparently her brother had not been merely a fool for love after all.

A smile of admiration broke across her face. Now all she had to do was find Will and tell him that she fully approved of his plan, that she fully supported any effort to bring Zan down before he could use the granolith and truly win.

With Rowena back in their camp, it was only a matter of time now. Zan of Antar’s days were numbered.

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

Alex pushed his way through the doors to the Crashdown, his eyes narrowing at the sudden dimness after the bright morning sunlight. When he finally managed to refocus, he felt his heart start to pound in a more regular rhythm as relief ran through him.

He had found Liz. She was all right. Thank God! He was going to kill her for practically giving Maria a conniption and taking a year off his own life. The restaurant was almost empty, so he opened his mouth to do just that when he realized that Liz was not alone.

She was sitting at the counter beside that new guy, the one Hardy had sent her off with, and apparently she was more than all right. Because, at the moment, Liz Parker was laughing her head off.

"LIZ!" Alex couldn’t help himself. He yelled her name, irritation and pleasure mixed in his tone in equal parts.

Liz looked up, blinked. "Alex?" She asked, barely managing to suppress another giggle. "Hi!" She glanced at the clock behind the counter. "What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in PE?"

"Aren’t you supposed to be in Chemistry?" Alex shot back. He eyed the guy sitting beside Liz with suspicion now. He was looking at Alex with an open expression on his face. Alex turned back to Liz, raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest.

Liz’s face was slightly flushed, as though she was now a little embarrassed. "Well, yeah," she admitted grudgingly. "But Will’s new in town. I had to show him the best place to eat, didn’t I?"

"In the middle of Bio?" Alex asked, hard-pressed to stay mad at her. It was better to see Liz a little giddy and playing hooky than how he had seen her earlier that day. She had been practically drowning in her own misery not two hours ago.

But it still didn’t make any sense, this sudden happiness. Not with the way that Max and Liz had been behaving towards each other and not with what Liz had told them about Kyle. Clearly something was wrong with Liz Parker and one fun breakfast with some new guy was not going to fix that. She was putting on an act, a very effective one, yes, but Alex was already beginning to see through it.

Liz was grimacing. "I just couldn’t…" She broke off, looked away. Alex knew that he was not the only one thinking about Max Evans now. He could have kicked himself. Because apparently Liz had managed to forget whatever disaster had befallen her star-crossed romance this week, even if only for a little while. And what had he done? He had brought it all crashing back down on her. Some friend he was!

Alex looked at Will again, this new guy apparently responsible for brightening Liz’s mood considerably, and suddenly felt much more charitable towards him. "Hey, sorry. I’m being totally rude." He extended his hand. "I’m Alex Whitman. Best friend and general worry-wart with brotherly tendencies. It’s not like Liz to skip out of class, so I was freaking a bit."

"I can understand that," Will replied, accepting Alex’s hand in a firm grip, his blue eyes friendly. "Liz told me that herself actually, although I’m having a hard time buying the goody-two-shoes reports considering the fact that not only did she ditch Bio, she made me do it too!" He nudged Liz lightly, making her laugh again.

Alex stared at her. Was she actually blushing? Good Lord! Apparently this guy had not only improved Liz’s mood. He had also tilted the world off its axis, because there could be no other explanation for why Liz Parker would be looking at this Will character like…

Well, like he was Max Evans.

It was freaky. And Alex was suddenly very, very wary again. He remembered Maria’s comment that maybe this was a mindwarp on Liz, that this guy was somehow controlling her. Could his wacky friend actually be right? Because to have Liz looking at him like this so quickly, it was just completely wrong in a way Alex could not comprehend.

He was going to get to the bottom of this, immediately, if not sooner.

"Hate to be rude again," Alex began tentatively, "But Lizzie, I really need to speak to you alone."

He watched Will closely. Was he imagining that he saw something flash in Will’s piercing eyes? He didn’t think so. That had looked entirely too possessive for Alex’s peace of mind, like the hesitation one would expect from a boyfriend when his girl was going to hang out with a guy that he didn’t know well.

Yup. Something was definitely rotten in the state of Roswell.

Alex was beginning to regret that he had run out of the school so quickly. Maria had been right. Maybe he should have waited for some Czechoslovakian back-up.

But whatever it was Alex had seen on Will’s face was gone almost immediately. "Of course," Will shrugged. Alex frowned when he noticed that Will was staring over his shoulder. But when he turned around, whatever it was the new guy had been looking at was gone. "I need to get back to school anyway. I don’t want to get booted out on my first day."

Alex narrowed his eyes as Will brought a friendly arm up and gave Liz a squeeze. "I’ll see you later Liz. We’re still on for tonight?"

"Totally." Liz beamed at him. "I’ll give you my ultra-deluxe tour of Roswell."

Will stood and sauntered towards the doors, glancing once more over his shoulder before he left. "Nice to meet you Whitman."

Alex didn’t reply. He just nodded as he plunked himself down beside Liz, never taking his eyes off Will until the other guy left.

"What a nice guy!" Liz exclaimed as the doors swung shut behind Will. "Wasn’t he nice Alex?"

Alex turned his head, regarded Liz seriously. "I don’t know Liz. What makes you think so?"

Liz blinked. "I don’ t know. There was just something about him…"

"Okay Parker, cut the crap." Alex knew he was being abrupt, but he didn’t care. His friend was behaving totally unlike herself and he was not going to put up with it a moment longer. He could not endure another morning like the one he had just had. Hell, he couldn’t endure another few months like the ones that had just passed! The alien abyss had a general propensity for angst, but it truly seemed that, ever since she had heard the destiny message after they had all saved Max from Pierce, Liz was bringing a lot of it on herself.

First she had walked away from Max, when clearly it was the last thing Max wanted. Then she had apparently slept with Kyle Valenti, someone Alex knew Liz didn’t care a fig for - well, certainly not as more than a friend. This had only been confirmed by how miserable she had been by the distance between she and Max this morning.

This new guy was just another example of it. Alex Whitman wanted the Liz Parker he knew and loved back and he wasn’t going anywhere until she was straight with him.

"What do you mean Alex?" Liz asked, sounding mildly annoyed now. "I’m just telling you what I felt."

"What about Max?" No point in beating around the bush Alex decided. If she was going to be pissed at him, he might as well go for broke. "And what the hell did you mean when you told me and Maria this morning that you slept with Kyle? Liz, that is just not you and I refuse to believe it actually happened."

It was the wrong tactic though, because as he watched, Liz’s face shuttered, effectively shutting him out. "It happened Alex. I made a mistake and I regret that I hurt Max, but it’s over and I have to move on. Is it so wrong that I find another boy attractive? I can’t ever be with Max anyway and we both know why!" Her voice had lowered to a desperate whisper and, for the first time, Alex truly began to understand how completely devastated his best friend was.

She truly believed that she did not belong with Max Evans and it was killing her.

"Liz…" He reached out to take her hand, but she jumped off her stool and turned her back on him.

"I don’t want to talk about this ever again Alex. I mean it. Max and I are never getting back together and it’s time for me to accept it and move on. And if the rest of you can’t deal with that, then I’m just going to have to find new friends."

And with that resounding, metaphorical, slap to his face, Liz stormed through the swinging door into the back, leaving Alex staring after her.

To be continued…







posted on 8-Jul-2002 12:39:47 AM by Kath7
Hello all!

Sorry it's been so long, but I've been away. Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that I have two new parts of this written - just a matter of getting them typed up. Darn cabin with no electricity! So expect a new part tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience. Don't worry. I haven't forgotten this story. In fact, it is presently obsessing me so likely will be updated often over the next few weeks.
posted on 8-Jul-2002 5:53:42 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Sorry it's been a while. I was away at the lake, but I did get some writing done. This is the first of two parts. Just need to get Part 5 typed up - by tomorrow for sure.

Part 4

“Michael’s in shop,” Max told Isabel and Tess as he led them down the school corridor towards where his best friend could likely be found. If he wasn’t ditching of course, which, knowing Michael, and considering the fact that he presently had a dying Skin ensconced in his apartment, was a distinct possibility.

After returning from Copper Summit, Michael had refused to let Courtney return to her apartment alone. Max had just let it go, knowing that it was only a matter of time until the alien girl disintegrated right out of their lives. He hated to be cavalier about it, but there was no way to help her. Even though Michael had taken her skin, there was no way for her to be transferred to it without the tools in Copper Summit, so it was a moot point anyway.

Michael had understood that they were not going back there - for any reason. In return, Max had understood Michael’s desire to let her die well, even more when Isabel had told him about Courtney’s past life – about how she had followed Michael, or some such nonsense. Max had no concerns that his best friend would betray him – he trusted him implicitly, as apparently he had also done in his past life – and had decided that he could allow him a little lee-way where Courtney was concerned, especially if it was going to appease Michael’s conscience about her fate.

Because, with the destruction of the Harvest, there was only one fate to which Courtney was doomed. Death – and likely sooner rather than later. They had destroyed the skins and the means to transfer their enemies as well. There was no hope for the girl. Max felt bad for her, but it was just the way things were.

“I don’t understand why you won’t just tell me what this is about Max,” Isabel complained as she hurried after him. “I really don’t appreciate being hauled out of class with a family emergency like that. I thought something terrible had happened to Mom or Dad.”

“I’m sorry Iz,” Max replied, “But I couldn’t think of any other way to get you out of there and this is an emergency.”

Especially after what happened in Copper Summit, Max reflected grimly. There had been too many terrifying encounters with the Skins recently for him to take potentially recognizing another alien lightly.

He was a king, whether he liked it or not, and he needed to start acting like one. He had never asked for this destiny, but he was beginning to understand that his enemies didn’t care about that. They were going to come for he and his loved ones, whether he liked his position or not and, so, they had to be ready. He was responsible for the safety of his sister and for Michael and Tess, especially since Nasedo’s death.

And he couldn’t pretend that their human allies weren’t at risk either. Not anymore. It wouldn’t take a lot for them to investigate his life, for them to figure out exactly who and what were important to him. In spite of everything, he could not allow anything to happen to Liz.

He still loved her, needed to make sure she was safe, but he also couldn’t let this thing between them mess him up any longer. He wanted to be with her, wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on with her, but he couldn’t let it distract him anymore. Distraction was just what their enemies wanted after all. Because, somewhere deep inside him, in spite of their success at destroying the Harvest, despite the respite he felt they had earned, somehow he knew they weren’t going to get it.

This was all far from over. Coming face to face with that girl only a short while ago had more than told him so.

“But can’t you just tell me?” Isabel demanded. Max didn’t bother to answer her. He knew his sister was just being argumentative for the sake of it and decided to ignore her. He knew it was petty, but just because he had decided to abruptly get over his funk, it didn’t mean he was in the mood for her nagging. He got enough of that at home.

He knew that it wasn’t her fault, that Isabel was merely worried about him, could see something was wrong. But he just couldn’t be the one to tell her about Liz and Kyle, could not bear to see the I told you so expression on her face, although he knew she would try to hide it.

Plus, he wanted to give Liz as long as she needed to admit to him that none of it was true. Because that’s what he was really still hoping was going to happen, even though he was trying to ignore that fact, was trying to get himself to accept that no matter what he may have thought about Liz Parker, he had been wrong. She was not made for him, was not his.

She wanted normal, had told him so to his face, but he still couldn’t let go. A tiny part of him still hoped. And he couldn’t take the time to deal with Isabel right now, could not have that tiny hope crushed, especially after Liz’s behavior this morning. If that hope was gone, he didn’t think he’d be able to go on.

He could hear Izzy huffing in annoyance behind him. Tess hadn’t said anything since he had told her that he recognized that girl, but now she was telling Isabel to just get over it, that she could wait to hear what was going on with Michael. He felt a flash of gratitude. As much as Tess annoyed him, he could not deny that ever since they had shared that moment in the park on the worst night of his life, she had done nothing but support him.
The part of him that found that gratifying ashamed the rest of him, but he was too used to being constantly questioned and second-guessed by Isabel and Michael to not sort of like it. It didn’t mean he was any more attracted to Tess, but it did mean that he didn’t dislike her as much as he used to. It was a sick admission to make to himself, but at least he wasn’t trying to hide it.

They had reached Michael’s class by now, which was more workshop than anything. Max knew Mr. Collins, had been in his class last term. He knew the teacher wouldn’t mind them coming in for a moment, as long as they didn’t distract the other students.

Unfortunately, they arrived just in time to witness Michael already involved in a discussion with someone else – one that had more than disturbed the class. In fact, it was one that had the attention of every other student, including Maria, who stood near Michael’s elbow, looking pained.

“…demand an apology!”

“But I didn’t do anything!” Michael was protesting, an irritated note in his voice. “I was calmly standing here talking to my girlfriend. You’re the one who bumped into me!”

Max stared at the blond kid yelling at Michael in shock. He didn’t recognize him, but the expression on his face…

It was unadulterated hatred – and it was all for Michael.

“It’s ruined!” The blond kid yelled, motioned to something on the floor. Max watched Michael, Maria and Mr. Collins’ eyes drop. Michael looked up again and shrugged.

“Listen, I’m sorry. But it wasn’t my fault.”

“Just like nothing’s ever your fault, I’m sure,” the other kid responded through gritted teeth. “Typical.”

Michael was now beginning to look angry. Maria was pulling on his arm, trying to draw him away while Mr. Collins told the other kid to cool it or get out.

“Gladly,” the blond kid glared at the teacher. He turned on his heel and stomped away.

“What was that all about Mr. Guerin?” The teacher demanded as Michael’s nemesis stormed past Max, Isabel and Tess, almost knocking Tess over in the process. Max flinched slightly when she reached out and grabbed his hand to steady herself. He looked back at Michael and the others just in time to catch Maria’s eyes on him. She scowled at his hand where it was linked with Tess, then at him, then away.

Max sighed, gently disentangling himself from Tess. He didn’t understand how he always ended up feeling like the ass. He wasn’t the one who had walked away from Liz, nor was he the one who had randomly slept with someone else – although he wasn’t sure if Maria even knew about that. But, still, it was the principle of the matter! Why was everyone always mad at him?

He was about ready to go somewhere and throw a real pit party for himself, he reflected ruefully as he watched Mr. Collins finish getting Michael’s side of the story, finally allowing Max’s best friend to join then just as the bell rang.

“Who the heck was that?” Isabel asked as Michael approached, Maria trailing behind, her expression now inscrutable. Max looked at her for a moment, wondered what she was thinking. She was looking at him very strangely again. Max was almost tempted to look down to see if his shirt was buttoned correctly.

“I have no idea.” Michael thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans, clearly perplexed. “Mr. Collins doesn’t even think that guy is in this class.”

Max narrowed his eyes. “Weird.” He shrugged. “You handled that well though Michael.” He didn’t know why he said it, but he really thought it. Michael’s temper was becoming much steadier lately and Max didn’t want him to think it was going unnoticed. He was taking his role as Max’s second-in-command seriously. There had been no more hare-brained schemes, no more necessity of having Valenti bail him out of jail. It was one load off Max’s mind at least.

“Thanks Dad,” Michael retorted, sounding embarrassed, but pleased. Max saw Maria reach forward, take Michael’s hand in her and squeeze. Max felt a flash of jealousy so intense, he momentarily had to look away.

It was all a supreme mystery to him why no one seemed to think it was strange that Michael and Maria were drifting back together, in spite of all that destiny crap and, yet, he and Liz couldn’t. It just wasn’t fair. Because somewhere inside him, Max was beginning to understand that whatever Liz had done with Kyle, it wasn’t because she didn’t love him, Max. Her misery that morning in Bio had more than proven it. She had done what she had done to drive him to Tess, she thought for his own good. The more he thought about it, the more he knew it had to be true, because hadn’t she been helping Tess right before it happened? Hadn’t he caught her in Whittaker’s office spying on him while she and Tess had been conspiring to make him fall for her?

That she would do that to herself…It made him furious – at himself. He had brought her to that – to giving up her virginity to someone she didn’t even love because he had refused to leave her alone. But couldn’t any of them see that he just couldn’t turn to Tess, that he would be betraying his own heart? He didn’t love her. Why didn’t any of them get it?

As he had told Liz only a couple of weeks ago – although with all that had happened since it felt like years – Tess just wasn’t Liz. He was never going to love anyone like he loved Liz. He couldn’t even explain it to himself, but no matter what she did, he would always love her. He had loved her from the first moment he had set eyes on her and being with her last spring, even if for such a short time, had more than reinforced what he already knew.

They were made for each other. They complimented each other in every way. He would never love anyone else, no matter what she did. She was right in Copper Summit when she told him that he put her on a pedestal. He knew she wasn’t perfect. She could be stubborn to the point of seriously frustrating him. She worried too much about others. But he didn’t care about any of that, because in his eyes, she was perfect. She could break the damn pedestal for all he cared – which he was beginning to see she had been trying to with Kyle – he would still think she was perfect.

He loved her. It was as simple as that. And if it made him a pathetic fool, well, so be it. He knew that he and Tess weren’t meant to be, no matter what Nasedo had said, no matter what some stupid book had said.

No matter what Liz said.

But Liz had been so desperate to make him face it, what she thought she knew had to be, she had completely destroyed herself. Ironic that. For the past week, he had felt like he had been the one who had shattered, but now he understood that it had been Liz. He could forgive her for sleeping with Kyle for his own sake, but he didn’t know if he’d ever be able to get past it for hers. She had taken all her dreams and had thrown them away to make Max embrace something he didn’t even want. It was just plain ludicrous.

Max knew that he had to talk to Liz again – soon. He had to tell her all of this, had to reassure her that he would leave her alone if that’s what she wanted but that he was in no way, shape or form going to turn to Tess just because of what had happened between she and Kyle. Even if it was what Liz wanted. He could be stubborn too.

He also knew that he just couldn’t. It was impossible and he knew it was wrong. Because everything he had felt in his heart for the past year – for the past ten years – had not been a lie. No matter what happened, she was still Liz and he still loved her. He would never stop.

“Excuse me? Your highness?” Isabel’s sarcastic tone penetrated Max’s thoughts, making him blink. “Your court is assembled. Can we please know what this is about now?”

“Oh…” Max shook his head, ignored the concerned look Tess was sending him. “Sorry.”

“What the hell is going on with you lately Maxwell?” Michael demanded. “You’re zoning in and out all the time these days. Are you high?” Max rolled his eyes as his best friend scowled at him.

“I’m sure he has a lot on his mind.” This came from Maria, startling Max because the tone she employed was sympathetic. He looked at her and suddenly understood that she knew. She knew what Liz had done and she felt sorry for him. “It’s why I came to see you Michael,” Maria went on. “I didn’t get a chance to talk to you before that weirdo freaked out.” She continued to stare at Max, her brow knit. “There’s something seriously wrong with Liz.”

Max felt his heart stop. “What do you mean?” Was there something going on with Liz besides the disaster of her throwing away her virginity just to push him away?

“I think you know Max,” Maria replied. “She told me and Alex this morning what she did. I don’t buy it. Something is seriously wrong!”

“What did Liz do?” Michael asked, his face turning from Max to Maria.

“She slept with Kyle,” Tess inserted. Max guessed that she was trying to be helpful but was annoyed anyway.

“She did not!” Maria screeched, outraged. “I know she didn’t! Max, you know she didn’t. Something’s wrong with her.” She glared at Tess.

“She did Maria! She told me so herself!” Tess flared back. “She totally betrayed Max.”

“Well…” Maria spluttered. “I know there’s more to it! She’s not acting like herself at all. Alex and I think she’s being mindwarped.”

What?” Tess shrieked. “What are you suggesting Deluca?”

“You heard me trollop,” Maria returned evenly. “None of this would be happening if you had never shown your face here. And we all know you’ve done it before. Right Max?”

Whoa!” Max stepped between the two girls. Michael had his arm firmly wrapped around Maria by now, although Max couldn’t tell if it was to warn her off or to keep her from physically attacking Tess. Isabel had grabbed the curly-haired blonde by the arm, but was staring at Max, her expression horrified.

“Max, is this true? Are you okay?”

“Of course he’s not okay,” Tess snarled. “He’s the one who found them together.”

“Because you made Liz do it! You or that new guy. Hey! I’ll bet you’re working together!” Maria cried triumphantly, as though the thought had just occurred to her.

“Max, why didn’t you tell me?” Isabel’s eyes were filling with tears, although Max couldn’t tell if it was because she was hurt for him or for herself because both Tess and Maria knew about this before her.

Max sighed heavily. “Enough you guys,” he said quietly, trying to make his voice as firm as possible. “This is not the time or the place.” He regretted even coming here. He was suddenly exhausted – until what Maria had said about the new guy suddenly penetrated his weary brain.

What about the new guy?” He asked abruptly. Maria was still stewing, but she raised her head to look at him. “The guy Liz left Bio with?” He had been trying not to think about that guy. Kyle more than enough at the moment after all.

“Well, yeah,” Maria replied, frowning at him. “Don’t you think it’s weird that she never came back Max?”

Another new guy?” Michael interrupted, sounding as tired as Max felt.

“And a new girl,” Max added pensively, thinking about the reason that he had sought out Michael and Isabel in the first place.

“Are you all saying that there are three new students?” Isabel’s voice was raised in disbelief. “In Roswell? No one ever moves here!”

“We need to find Liz,” Max told the others grimly. “ Now.” He gut was suddenly churning with worry. “Alex too. I don’t like this at all.”

“Why Max?” Tess sounded disdainful. “Who cares if she’s found someone new?”

Max eyed her in annoyance. “ I care,” he snapped. “I told you Tess…I knew that girl.”

“Max,” Isabel whispered, sounding terrified. “What are you talking about?”

“Just what I said,” Max told her impatiently. “I knew her. She’s like us and my guess is, so are these two guys. Which means that Liz is alone with a strange alien and she doesn’t even know it. And there can only be one reason for it,” he added over his shoulder as he hurried out of the classroom and towards the parking lot, his group of friends on his heels. “They’re going to try to get me through her.”


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 9-Jul-2002 10:10:17 AM ]
posted on 9-Jul-2002 12:02:24 AM by Kath7
Just bumping because I forgot to change the title...
posted on 10-Jul-2002 11:36:12 AM by Kath7
Part 5

Liz was not immediately sorry for what she had said to Alex. She was too upset and confused, as she stormed up the stairs to her family’s apartment, for that to occur.

It wasn’t until she had slammed her bedroom door and her eyes went instantly to the photo of she, Alex and Maria sitting on her vanity that she even understood the completely unfair nature of what she had told her best friend.

He was only worried about her. She knew she wasn’t acting like herself. How could she even pretend to be the Liz Alex knew and loved when she didn’t even know who that was anymore? She was living a lie, because of what Future Max had asked her to do, and it wasn’t just affecting her or Max anymore. It affected everyone she cared about - including Alex, who had every right to wonder what was going on with her.

After all, the last time she had behaved so weirdly around him, she had been hiding a secret - the truth about Max, Michael and Isabel - that was almost too big for her to deal with on her own. It had been too hard. She had felt overwhelmed by the three of them, knowing that Max would never hurt her, but certainly not knowing the same about Isabel or Michael. It was why she had had to tell Maria the truth and, then, Alex. It had balanced things out, had made it three and three, had made it so that she could cope. Max had Michael and Isabel to depend on and she had Alex and Maria. Because what had been happening between Max and Liz had just been too big for them not to need people to lean on - too all-encompassing.

It had been so right and, yet, so frightening at the same time, and, now, Liz knew why. What she and Max had set in motion the day they first connected had been the beginning of the end of the world. A countdown had started that day - fifteen years to go.

Maybe that knowledge had been there for both of them from the start, on some deeper level, and they had just ignored it, too wrapped up in the way the made each other feel. Maybe it was why Max had tried so hard to stay away from her at first. Maybe it was why she had walked away from him at the pod chamber that day…

Whatever.

Liz sighed heavily, flopped back on her bed. The point of all this was that Alex had been there for her through it all, even when he hadn’t known the truth. It was more than she could even say for Maria, who had been there largely for Michael after a while - in fact, almost from the very beginning. Not that Liz begrudged Maria that…But Alex had remained her friend first and foremost, behind Liz through it all, even in spite of his connection to Isabel.

Liz knew that if Alex ever had to choose between she and Isabel, he would pick Liz. She didn’t know if that would be the case with Maria anymore, not that Liz could fault her best friend for that. Hadn’t she picked Max over Alex for a long time? But Liz had to be honest with herself about Maria. She was so tangled up with Michael, had even bonded with Max over the summer… Maria would stay loyal to the aliens now, even if Liz didn’t. Liz even understood.

She knew what it was like to love someone with your whole soul after all.

But this pertinent fact was also why Liz couldn’t tell Maria the truth about Future Max. Maria would try to convince her that just telling Max the whole story would fix everything. Maria would not understand that if Max knew the truth, Liz knew he would never rest until they got back together, which would still result in Tess leaving and would still bring on the end of the world. Maria would think that love could conquer all. Because wasn’t that what was happening to Michael and Maria? In spite of all of his protestations that they couldn’t be together, Michael and Maria were together in every way that counted.

Liz knew the truth though. Love could not conquer Tess Harding. Michael and Maria had the luxury that Isabel didn’t want to be with Michael any more than Michael wanted to be with her. Isabel wouldn’t leave. Isabel was bonded to Max just as closely as she was to Michael and would never betray either of them.

The same could not be said for Tess. Tess wanted Max. He was all she wanted. She didn’t care at all about the rest of them Liz knew. It was why she had so readily believed Future Max that Tess would leave. If she couldn’t have Max, Tess would want nothing to do with the rest of them.

And they would all die as a consequence of it.

It was why Liz couldn’t tell Maria the truth.

But, a small voice was beginning to prod her, she could tell Alex. Alex, who loved Isabel, but who was beginning to accept that she would never love him in the same way. Alex, who was Liz’s best friend first and stayed connected to the Czechs for her sake. Liz knew that Alex had a good sense of himself that he would not stay lost in the alien abyss if Isabel didn’t want him. He would never tell their secret, but Liz knew that he could move on without any of them. He had never really bonded with either Max or Michael and he would never stick around to feel humiliated and hurt by Isabel. Liz knew that he was still hanging in there because of her…and Maria of course. He was watching out for their interests, was trying to keep them safe.

And, so, maybe she could tell Alex and she wouldn’t feel so alone…

You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone.

Liz sat up abruptly, her heart in her throat, as the voice suddenly filled her head. It had sounded like he was standing right next to her but, as her eyes darted around the room frantically – fearfully - she could see that she was still the only one in her room.

You’re imagining things, she told herself. But she brought her arms up, wrapped them around her middle to suppress the shiver that ran through her.

Because she had recognized that voice. It was as familiar to her as her own - as familiar as Max’s, his being the only voice that had ever touched her in the way the voice she had just heard had.

It was that fact alone that told her who the voice belonged to, who it was that had reached out to her across whatever distance separated them.

“Will.”

Liz closed her eyes and reached out for him, tentatively, but no longer afraid. Somehow she just knew that he would never hurt her.

She was not at all surprised when she simply found him, so easily it was as though she had just called him on the phone.

Liz.

It went beyond anything she had ever experienced with anyone. So clear, so right…

So not right!

The thought slammed into her as her unseeing eyes suddenly focused on the set of pictures tucked into the mirror across the room. She and Max, smiling, laughing…

Meant to be.

Common sense returned to her instantly. The minute her eyes focused on Max’s beloved face, smiling, trusting, loving her.

What the heck was wrong with her?

Liz? She could feel the question in his tone, the concern. He seemed to somehow know that he was losing her.

“I…I can’t! Please! Just leave me alone!” With that, she slammed her mind shut. She jumped to her feet and hurried out the door.

She knew now that something was not right with the new boy, that they had not just made a random connection that morning. He was obviously not normal, had to be an alien. How else could he have done what he had just done?

And he had sought her out. There was no question. Which could only mean that he was Max’s enemy. Which made him her enemy. Because, no matter what happened between the two of them, even if he never knew it again, she would always side with Max.

But, because of Tess, because the current state of affairs between them was still so new and raw, he was not the one she could go to now, Liz realized as she practically ran back towards the school. She could not be near him right now. Neither of them could handle it if that morning had been any indication. As heart breaking as it was, Max might not even believe her.

He thought she had betrayed him, that she had lied about everything that she had ever said to him. Why should he believe her? It was so far-fetched, so crazy. Why would his enemies try to get to Max through her? She was an insignificant human. If anyone, it was Tess they wanted. Hadn’t Whittaker already proven that once? They thought it was Tess he loved, Tess he would fight for…

For all Liz knew, that was really the case now anyway. But she also knew that she was right. The new boy was trouble and Max had to know. She ignored the pang of disappointment that it was true - that the first person she had actually considered getting to know since falling into the alien abyss, turned out to be totally using her.

She shook her head, trying to clear it of the memory of Will’s clear blue eyes. They had been so guileless, so sincere, so completely focused on her…

But, then, Tess had seemed innocent at first too. And, while she had not turned out to be their enemy (well, not Max’s anyway), it was highly unlikely the same thing would prove true twice.

If Will Spencer could communicate telepathically, he was an alien. Plain and simple. And Max had to know, plain and simple.

She needed an intermediary.

There was only one person she trusted to make sure that Max believed it.

Isabel.

And there was only one way to get to Isabel - particularly if Max’s sister had heard about Kyle and Liz, which she must have by now.

Alex.

Liz’s relief was like a boulder had been lifted off of her shoulders. Because now she had the excuse she needed to tell Alex at least part of the truth. She would help her figure this out.

She wouldn’t be alone anymore.

You’re not alone…

The memory of Will’s voice sent another shiver down Liz’s spine.

She ran faster.

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

Kate waited for her brother on the sidewalk outside the Crashdown.

He was speaking to the girl Jack was sure was Rowena, another boy hovering over her, staring at Will suspiciously. He looked familiar, that boy. It took her a moment, but she finally placed him as the guy she had almost tripped over on the steps of the school after her encounter with Zan.

He was friends with Liz Parker? It was almost too coincidental. Kate frowned slightly, moved deliberately so that Will would notice her.

Will’s eyes met hers through the glass and he seemed to wrap up his conversation, because moments later he was through the door and at her side. They started walking, both in silent agreement that they wouldn’t discuss what Will had done until they were sure they were alone.

“There’s a park down the road,” Kate told him after a few minutes.

“Okay.”

She glanced at Will curiously out of the corner of her eye. He looked pensive and, if she was not mistaken, a little sad. Kate bit her lip, hoping that Rowena had not hurt him. He had been waiting for her for so long, never giving up hope that they would find her, even when it had seemed unlikely, if not impossible. When they had lost her in the Crash, it had seemed as though Will was doomed to repeat the tragedy of their past lives – that he would never have the chance to be with the girl he loved.

They finally reached the park. Kate was about ready to jump out of her skin, the questions for her brother piling up in her mind. “Well?”

“It’s her.” It was a simple reply, but the emotion in his tone more than reflected how deeply he had been affected by his encounter with the dark-haired girl named Liz.

“How could you tell?”

“Her eyes. They haven’t changed a bit. It is definitely her.”

Kate remembered how she had recognized Zan immediately by his eyes as well. Interesting.

“Did she know you?”

There was a long pause. Kate looked at Will, worried for him. If she hadn’t…It was going to break his heart. “I…I think she knew me. There was a connection.”

“But she didn’t recognize you for sure,” Kate pressed.

“No.” Will let out a long sigh, slumped down onto a bench they were passing.

“Oh Will.”

“But, it’s not what you think,” Will continued. “I don’t think she even knows who she is. I don’t think she even knows she’s not human.”

Kate frowned. “How can that be? That’s impossible Will!”

Will rubbed a hand across his face. “I don’t know Kate. I’ve been thinking…What if Ro was taken out of her pod too early? I mean, it would make sense, particularly if it was damaged.”

Kate felt her eyes widen. “You mean…”

“It wouldn’t have had time to prepare her completely,” Will said. “It makes sense. Our human half was the first to develop after all, then the alien, then our memories of our past life. If she was taken out too early…”

“She might be more human than anything.” The enormity of this hit Kate squarely in the ribs. She collapsed beside her brother. “If that’s true Will, then she’s of no use to us!” And she wasn’t. Without her powers, Rowena could not complete their Four Square. Zan would win.

Will’s head whipped around and he glared at her. “She’s still Rowena! It doesn’t make one shred of difference whether she has gifts or not. Her soul is the same.”

Kate stared at her brother. “I know it Will. I’m not saying I won’t still love her, that you shouldn’t. What I am saying is that she won’t be able to help us.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “You weren’t looking for her to help us at all though, were you?”

“No.” His voice cracked and he buried his face in his hands. “I need her. I can’t do any of this without her. Not any longer. Not now that I know she’s still here.”

Kate grimaced. She had never seen her brother break down, not even in the first days after Rowena’s death in their past life. He was always so strong. It wasn’t until this moment that she realized that he had remained strong because of the hope that he would find his true love again. That if he endured, they would earn the right to be together.

And now Rowena did not remember him. She did not even remember who she was.

Not used to comforting him, Kate awkwardly brought her arm up around his shoulders and patted him lightly. “We can make her remember Will.”

They say in silence for a moment longer. Kate didn’t know what else to say to make her brother feel better. She didn’t like him like this. It scared her. He was always the strong one, the one who led. What if this thing with Rowena affected him to the point that he couldn’t function? What if she had to lead?

She needed to snap Will out of this, immediately if not sooner.

“I saw Zan.” She said it bluntly, expecting the reaction she got.

What?” Will’s head raised and he looked at her in disbelief. “What are you talking about?”

“I went to the school to find you,” Kate admitted. “I ran into him.” She grimaced. “Literally. I…I think he recognized me.”

“Oh hell! Kate! There goes the advantage of surprise. What the hell were you thinking?” Will demanded, jumping to his feet.

“What were you thinking?” Kate countered. “We agreed we wouldn’t seek Ro out until we had the granolith in our possession. And, then, the first think you do once we reach this town is seek her out? How bright was that move?”

“I couldn’t help it,” Will grumbled. “I just…I just had to see her, had to make sure.” He sighed, started pacing. “Well, tell me.”

“He’s definitely playing up the normal teenage boy angle,” Kate admitted. “Nicholas was right about that. I never thought that Zan would be able to mask his arrogance enough to pull it off, but he has.”

“Hmmmmm…” Will looked thoughtful. “I never did get a chance to ask Liz about her connection to Zan.” He paused. “I guess we should get used to calling them by their Earth names. Max Evans.” The name rolled off Will’s tongue like a curse. “Well, this just means we’re going to have to speed things up.”

“I guess. Do you think the others will be as easy to sniff out?”

“Likely. Hiding in plain sight. It’s actually pretty smart,” Will admitted grudgingly. “I don’t know why our protectors never thought of it.”

Kate knew exactly what he was talking about. They had been well hidden in the countryside until the disaster at Copper Summit, their protectors feeling it unwise that they become too attached to the world of humans since they were not destined to stay on Earth for any great length of time. Their people had been sent out far and wide in search of Zan and the others. They hadn’t even known that they had been found until they were called to Arizona.

Their protectors had been in Copper Summit for the Harvest. They had been amongst the first to die when it failed. Kate knew that there were still many Skins alive, but it was only a matter of time until their protective sheathes gave out, until the three of them were all alone on this planet. For the first time, she regretted ever wishing they could have had more freedom, that they were not so dependent on others.

Now they had all the freedom in the universe and they were screwing it up already.

But they had found Rowena. That was something at least.

“What are we going to do?” Kate asked now, trying to mask her fear.

It didn’t take her long to realize that Will wasn’t even listening to her though. He had a strange expression on his face. He was staring off into the distance and clearly wasn’t at all focused on her. Kate stared at him. “Will?”

“She’s crying. I just…I felt her.” He sounded amazed. “She’s…she’s lonely.” He closed his eyes, seemed to be concentrating even harder.

“Will!”

His eyes snapped open. He looked disappointed. “She shut me out.”

“Who?”

“Rowena of course.”

“You just connected with her?” Kate blinked. “Without even trying?”

He smiled, suddenly smug. “It’s Ro. I just felt her.”

Kate scowled. He knew she had always been jealous of how easily Rowena had been able to connect with people in their past life. It was her special gift, one which they could all access, but not like Ro. Ro had just understood others and, so, it has always been easy for her. It was why she had been such a great queen.

“So if she connected with you…”

“It means she can still access her powers.” Will finished. He looked at Kate again. “There’s only one thing to do Kate.”

Kate felt her heart start to beat more quickly. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this at all.

“We’re going to tell her the truth.”

To be continued…







posted on 10-Jul-2002 3:24:38 PM by Kath7
Hey guys! Thanks for the awesome feedback. Just wanted to reply to a couple of things...

First off, let's not forget that this story takes place IMMEDIATELY after Harvest. Max is NOT an asshole here. He is OUR Max, post-EOTW, with no clue what the hell is going on. He has not been with Tess, will NOT be with Tess, in any shape or form. This is a dreamer story. Isabel has NOT taken over the show yet in this AU. She is still pretty much the girl we all liked in Season 1, but no one knows about Vilandra yet. Don't forget that. Courtney is still alive. There are no dupes in this world, which also means that Michael and Max do not yet know about their past life identities. Does Tess? Well, you'll just have to wait and see. Finally, whatever Liz's motivation for not dragging Maria into the EOTW scenario on the show, her motivation has changed here, mainly because I needed Liz to tell Alex instead of Maria! LOL And why that is comes later. Hee.

Just wanted to clear those things up! Thanks for reading. I am loving writing this story. It is so fun starting where the show started to go off the rails.
posted on 13-Jul-2002 5:04:58 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks for the bumpage folks.

Part 6

Alex went back to school. He didn’t quite know what else to do after Liz’s little blow-up and so he simply went to class, pretended that nothing had happened.

He thought about finding Maria, thought about telling his other best friend what had happened, what Liz had said, but he knew that it would only upset Maria. And, somehow, he knew that Liz had not meant it, that she would apologize as soon as she calmed down.

There was now no question that she was hiding something though - and it worried him, big time. He remembered how difficult it had been for her to keep Max’s secret from him last fall. By the time she had finally told him the truth, when they had both been in jail after the bust at the rave, she had been practically hysterical. It was not a part of Liz Parker’s nature to lie.

And now she was lying to everyone she had always depended on. At least that last time she had had Maria to confide in, and Max. Now she had absolutely no one. Which made Alex even more suspicious of this Will character. He knew that he had not imagined the possessiveness on that other guy’s face during their brief interaction at the Crashdown. There was something just off with that guy. Was he trying to take advantage of an obviously needy girl? It sure seemed that way to Alex.

So why did Alex not seek out Maria, or even Max and the others? Why was he keeping this to himself?

He had absolutely no idea, which was the most upsetting part of all. Had that guy done something to him as well? Was Maria right? Was he a mind-warping maniac and was he already sucking Alex’s brains out, slowly but surely? He knew it was a paranoid thought, but he had heard all about the disintegrating aliens in Copper Summit from Maria only the night before on the phone. Brain-suckers didn’t seem quite so farfetched any longer.

Which was why he was currently staring at the algebra equations on the overhead at the front of the class, completely lost, and also trying to decide if he felt like his brains had been sucked. Despite his preoccupation, it had not escaped his notice that the only other member of their group who was in this math section with him - Isabel - was absent. He wondered briefly where she was. It wasn’t like her to miss school.

"Er, I don’t suppose you have an extra pencil?"

Alex blinked, turned to stare at the blond kid sitting next to him in surprise. He blinked again when he realized that he’d never seen the guy before in his life, which was a rare occurrence in Roswell. "Huh?"

"Pencil? Mine just broke." The kid held up his writing instrument and indeed the lead at the end was merely hanging on by a thread.

Alex stared at him. "Oh, yeah, sure." He reached into his back-pack, pulled out a pencil for his neighbour.

"Thanks." The kid sighed in relief. "I didn’t really want to go up to the front to sharpen it. Everyone’s staring at me enough today…you know, being new and all."

"Right." Another new kid? What the hell? And, yet, it went against Alex’s nature to be deliberately rude. It was extremely unlikely that every new face he encountered was an alien after all. He still had no proof that Will was an alien either! "I’m Alex by the way. Welcome to Roswell."

"Thanks." The other boy met his gaze squarely. "I’m Jack. It’s nice to meet you." He grimaced. "Can I just tell you, you’re the first person to actually speak to me today? Thanks for that."

"Oh, well." Alex shrugged. This kid was kind of weird. What normal guy went around thanking others for being nice? But, then, Alex wasn’t exactly your typical teenager either, so he wouldn’t hold it against Jack. "Where are you from?" He decided he could afford to be a little friendly. It would keep his mind off the Liz dilemma, at least for the moment.

"Arizona," Jack replied. "Not too far away, but if feels like a million miles."

"Well, I’ve lived in Roswell all my life and you’re not the first person to feel like they’ve beamed into another planet," Alex told him wryly. "It can get a little creepy around here, with all the UFO tourists and stuff."

"I’d guess so," Jack grinned. "So, do you know any aliens?"

Alex did his best not to snort. "Sometimes I think so," he replied non-committally. Sometimes I wish I didn’t was what he was really thinking.

He shook his head, pushing the disloyal thought aside. In spite of the regular havoc wreaked on his life by is plunge into the alien abyss, he had to admit to himself that he wouldn’t trade the knowledge he had now for anything in the world. An image of Isabel, in all her glacial beauty, flashed through his mind, distracting him. It made him tired to even think about her though. Things were so far from where he wanted them…

And, yet, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it had only yesterday. He wondered why, frowned slightly when he realized that, apart from his worry about Liz, he had also been thinking about that mysterious girl from this morning - the one he had almost tripped over.

Interesting….

It took him a moment to realize that Jack was still talking. "See that chick?" He said quietly, discreetly nodding in the direction of the girl at the front of the class. "She’s in two of my classes and if she’s not an alien, I don’t know who is."

Alex did snort this time. "That’s Pam Troy," he replied in an undertone. "And you know how to pick them buddy…"

They passed the rest of the class in a very enjoyable game of making fun of the rest of the students around them. It wasn’t Alex’s usual style, but Jack had a wicked sense of humour that brought out his devilish side. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had so much fun.

When the bell finally rang, Alex realized that he had wasted the entire period. Not only did he have no idea what he was supposed to do for homework, but he still hadn’t figured out what he was going to do about Liz. He felt a bit guilty about it, but didn’t regret the fact that he had made a new kid a little more comfortable.

Of course, the concern all came pouring back when he found Liz waiting for him in the hallway, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other. Alex met her gaze, raised an eyebrow questioningly. Liz’s eyes filled with tears, causing Alex’s heart to break.

"…headed off to the caf. Do you have lunch this period?" Jack was saying beside him. He seemed to notice that he had lost Alex’s attention though and stopped talking, following his gaze.

"I have to go," Alex told him quietly. "See you tomorrow Jack. It was nice to meet you." He walked right over to Liz, took her hand and led her into the Eraser Room, which happened to be right across the hall.

The instant the door shut behind them, Liz threw her arms around him and started to sob. "I’m so sorry Alex." At least he thought that was what she said. It was a little hard to tell with all the hiccuping.

He pulled her against him, stroked her hair soothingly. "It’s okay Lizzie. It’s okay." After several moments, when he felt her finally calming down, Alex stepped back, placed his hands firmly on her shoulders. "Okay, are you ready to tell me what the hell’s going on with you?"

Liz sniffled, her eyes still shining. "Yes. I can’t keep this to myself any longer. I just can’t." He could see her spine straightening, even as she said it. "But you have to promise me you won’t tell anyone."

Alex frowned. "Can you guarantee me that your life isn’t in danger? Because if you can’t, then I cannot promise. Max and Michael and the others are better equipped to protect you than I am. Even Valenti’s better equipped." He could not get the image of Will Spencer’s eyes out of his brain, which was why he asked. That proprietary air Alex had seen when it came to Liz…It sent a shiver down Alex’s spine even now.

Liz scowled at him. "Max is the last person who can know!" She exclaimed. "And if you don’t promise me Alex, I’m not going to tell you."

"Liz…"

"Alex!" She moved towards the door, clearly ready to leave. He knew that it was the last thing he could allow.

"Fine," he sighed, knowing it was a mistake, but also knowing that she knew him too well. He had promised and now the ball was in her court. They were playing this Liz’s way.

Liz closed her eyes, sagged against the door in relief. "Thank you," she whispered. "Alex, I swear, I don’t think I’m in any physical danger." And he could see from the expression on her face that she truly didn’t. He breathed easier.

But wait a minute. There were other kinds of danger…mental, emotional.

"Is this about that Will guy?" Alex demanded.

Liz stared at him. "Well, yes, sort of. How did you know?"

"I didn’t like him. He creeped me out," Alex told her truthfully. "They way he was acting around you…"

"It was like he knew me," Liz finished for him, looking distant again.

"Well, that’s not exactly what I was going to say," Alex replied. "He looked like he thought he owned you."

Liz frowned. "What? Really?" She sounded disbelieving.

Alex folded his arms. "Yes, really."

"Weird." Liz was pensive for a moment and then she said, "He connected with me."

Alex felt his heart start to pound. "Like as in alien connect? As in what you and Max do?"

A spasm of grief crossed Liz’s face before she whispered, "Yes."

"So he’s an alien."

"I think so." Liz took his hand pleadingly. "I need you to go and tell Isabel so that she can tell Max. They need to know about this."

Alex raised an eyebrow. So, finally, they were at the crux of the matter. "Why can’t you tell Max yourself - or Isabel?"

Liz sighed. "Because I don’t think Isabel would believe me, not anymore, but she would believe you." She paused, seemed to take a deep breath. "And Max and I aren’t really talking right now. You know…" She trailed off, pained.

"Because of the Kyle thing."

Liz swallowed, her face white. "Right. The Kyle thing."

"Are you going to tell me the truth about that?" Alex asked gently, squeezing her hand.

Her voice cracked as she struggled to reply. "I want to…so badly Alex. But I promised him I wouldn’t tell anyone."

"Who? Kyle?" Alex had been wondering if approaching Kyle was the answer to all of this, but he had put it off, still hoping that Liz would confide in him on her own. Now he was glad that he hadn’t spoken to the other guy. Because if Kyle had blown the whole thing off, which it sounded like he had if he wanted Liz to keep it a secret, then Alex could not be held responsible for his actions. If Michael Guerin had been shocked to find himself on the wrong end of Alex’s fist the week before, Kyle would not survive the meeting.

"No, not Kyle," Liz sighed. "Max."

"Max didn’t want you to tell anyone that you slept with Kyle?" Alex asked, confused. "I don’t get it."

"Not my Max," Liz explained patiently. "Future Max."

Alex stared at her. "Pardon me?"

Liz was breathing unevenly, had her hands clenched in front of her. "I’m going to tell you Alex, but I need you to promise again that you won’t tell anyone. Not even Maria."

"Maria’s worried about you Liz," Alex said, although he was really thinking about the cryptic statement Future Max. Was Liz losing her marbles as well as her morals?

"She can’t know Alex," Liz told him firmly. "She just can’t. Not until I know everything’s okay and I know that Max is doing what he’s supposed to do."

"You mean Future Max?"

"No, my Max!"

The way she said that - my Max - Alex could hear how much she still loved her ex-boyfriend in that simple pronoun, which only made the whole situation in which they currently found themselves more ludicrous. Which was why he needed to know the truth. So that he could help his best friend and so that she could be happy. Because, without Max, he just knew that she would never be happy.

Lord knew that he had always had a crush on Isabel, that it had been the best time of his life back in the Spring, when she had decided that she wanted to be with him, but their relationship had never been like what Max and Liz shared.

Max and Liz…

What they had been to each other had been otherworldly - and, no he was not trying to make a pun. Their love for each other was almost something mystical. And it wasn’t just the alien thing either - because Michael and Maria loved each other too, but they certainly were not like Max and Liz. Alex had never been jealous of it though, had never expected that he would find the same thing. It had been, rather, almost gratifying to be a part of it at all, to see two people who were so right for each other come together, to see them make each other come to life like that. Alex loved Liz and he had been happy for her, and it didn’t hurt that he actually thought Max was a good guy, even if they didn’t know each other very well.

It had made it even clearer to Alex that what he had with Isabel was nowhere near the same thing. And, he suddenly realized, he wanted what Max and Liz had, even if he was unsure that he could have it, that maybe a love that burned like that was only for a lucky few.

For the past few weeks he had been wondering if maybe he could still share something with Isabel, but since she had started dating Grant Sorenson, hope was dwindling. If she could go out with someone like that bohunk, she would never be happy with someone like Alex. He was tired of being second best.

And, yet, even now that he was beginning to understand that Izzy would never see him as more than a good friend, he wasn’t too choked up about it. It was disappointing, but he knew that he could move on eventually. He was ready to crawl out of the alien abyss, once and for all. He could be a part of the secret without having it make every decision for him, without having to build his life around it…It made his heart jump a bit to think about the possibility.

But as long as Liz was miserable, he was stuck. Because he could not leave her like this. And, so, he was going to have to understand exactly what the hell "Future Max" meant and why his best friend seemed to be losing her mind, because the whole sleeping with Kyle angle seemed to indicate that even more strongly than the babble about Future Maxes.

Alex sighed wearily. He wanted out. He had never seen it more clearly than he did in that instant. And it made him sad. But it was time to move on with his life - because as long as he was attached to the aliens, he would forever be linked with Isabel. It was just the way the cookie crumbled in their little band. Alien with human. Max with Liz. Michael with Maria. Even Tess and Kyle were becoming synonymous in his mind.

Which left Alex and Isabel. Which also gave the explanation for why he had performed that humiliating striptease at her birthday weeks before. He had thought that if he reminded her how he could make her laugh, how he would do anything for her, she would wake up and realize that they should be together.

But she hadn’t. As far as he knew, she was still dating Grant, and he was tired of doing all the work. There were plenty of fish in the sea! In fact, hadn’t a new goddess almost tripped over him just that morning?

He remembered that girl easily, with her long curly hair and her cryptic statements. She had reminded him of Isabel, had definitely been his type. Maybe shewould turn out to be his soulmate…

The thought of soul mates snapped him back to reality with a crash. What the hell was he doing, worrying about his love life, when his best friend needed him? Even now she was looking at him in concern, wondering where he had disappeared to on her.

"Sorry," he muttered. "All of these mentions of Maxes are frying my brain."

Liz frowned. "Alex, I know it sounds weird, but I need you to focus here. I need you."

He folded his arms firmly. "I’m all ears. Now tell me. What the hell is going on?"

To be continued…





posted on 18-Jul-2002 12:17:14 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Thanks for all the feedback, as always. And no worries. Max and Liz will be together in this fic. How and why will all be explained in due course. Do I ever provide anything buy happy ending insurance?

Part 7

Kate and Will had returned to the Crashdown immediately after Will’s announcement that they were going to tell Rowena the truth about who she was. Kate had tried the entire way to convince her brother that it was a terrible idea, that they still didn’t know what Ro’s connection was to Zan, that approaching her too quickly might screw everything up even more, but Will was determined.

"I know it’s the right way to go," he told her firmly. "It’s best to just get it all out in the open. She felt something. I know she did and if we don’t talk to her, she’s going to get scared. We have to make her see that we’re not a threat to her."

"But Will! She’s friends with Zan! And we fully intend to be a threat to him!" Kate snapped back, despite knowing that she was arguing in vain. Will was the leader, had always been the leader. His decisions were final. They always had been, they always would be. It didn’t mean she wasn’t going to make sure that she was going to have the chance to say I told you so later. "And what about Jack? Where is he anyway?"

"Undercover," Will replied. "He’s pretending to be a student at West Roswell too. And if you see him, you’re not to talk to him. You’ve already screwed up enough Katie, letting Zan see you like that. We need to keep all our tricks up our sleeves for as long as possible. As of right now, we don’t know Jack. At all."

"Will! Jack can’t handle this on his own. He’s going to crack for sure!"

Will looked at her, his eyes narrowed. "When are you going to realize that Jack isn’t quite the same person he was in our last lives? He’s more than capable."

Kate glared at him. "You’re wrong Will. He’s completely innocent. He’s going to go right up to one of them and introduce himself, I’m telling you. He still doesn’t quite believe they’re our enemies, just like last time! We have to keep him on a short leash."

"I said to leave him alone Kate and that’s final," Will told her, pushing his way into the Crashdown. He approached the man behind the counter, who had longish salt and pepper hair and a kind face. Kate blinked when Will introduced himself. "Hi, are you Mr. Parker?" Rowena lived in the restaurant? Because apparently the man was her father.

The man finished wiping his hands dry on a towel and grinned. "I am. And who might you be? We’re not hiring right now if that’s why you’re here."

Will grinned charmingly, making Kate stare at him in amazement. She was amazed. She hadn’t been aware that her brother was capable of smiling. "No thanks. I actually just wanted to know if Liz was still at home." He indicated Kate. "My sister and I are new in town and I met Liz this morning. I wanted to introduce her to Kate." He paused. "My name is Will Spencer by the way."

"Hi Will," Mr. Parker replied. "Kate. Nice to meet you. I haven’t seen Lizzie this morning but I was in Albuquerque picking up some supplies." He frowned slightly. "I’m assuming she’s at school where she’s supposed to be. Should I be thinking differently?" He asked suspiciously.

Kate rolled her eyes. Trust Will to get Liz into trouble. He was such a moron when it came to dealing with humans. He had never had to answer to anyone, except for their guardians when it came to their protection, but it certainly not been a parental relationship. He had always known he was a king and had always been treated that way. Their protectors had always been subservient because they had never had any reason to be anything else. They all remembered what had happened to them in their past lives when they hadn’t been careful. They had never given their protectors any cause for concern.

"Er, no." Will sounded slightly embarrassed. "Liz just told me that she sometimes comes home for lunch. I thought she might be here."

Mr. Parker was still frowning. "Hmmm. Well, I haven’t seen her but I’ll tell her you dropped by." He paused. "Maybe I’ll just call upstairs to see if she’s there. She has been looking a little out of sorts lately. Maybe she decided to come home early after all."

As Liz’s father moved away to the phone, Kate elbowed her brother. "Smooth."

"Shut up."

Kate smirked at him. "What next oh great leader?"

"We go back to the school of course," Will replied impatiently. "She probably did go back there."

"And right to Zan to tell him that you connected with her I’ll bet," Kate told him, her heart starting to beat more quickly. "We are so dead Will."

Will didn’t seem concerned. "Kate, why hasn’t Zan come after us yet?" He asked pleasantly. "How are you so positive that he recognized you? Shouldn’t he be here if he did? He’s not an idiot, as much as I would like to say that he is."

Kate shrugged. "He’s probably gathering his forces."

"What forces? Nicholas told us he had the other three and a couple of humans with them. Do those sound like forces to you?"

She didn’t get a chance to answer though. Mr. Parker was coming back. "Nope. No answer. She must be at school. Sorry. She usually eats with Alex and Maria if that helps." He glanced at the clock on the wall and shrugged, "But lunch should be about over by now."

"Thank you anyway," Will said politely. "Well, it was nice to meet you sir."

"You too. Welcome to Roswell."

Neither said another word until they were back on the street. "So, back to the school?" Kate asked, still annoyed that Will didn’t believe her that Zan had recognized her. She knew he had! He had stared right at her and his eyes had told her so.

"I guess so," Will sighed. "We’re going to have to be careful though." Kate could hear the note of worry in Will’s voice. She glanced at him.

"You’re worried Ro did go to Zan."

Will grimaced. "No…"

"Will, it’s a possibility. They’re friends. You connected with her and she obviously knows who Zan and the others are. Of course she went to him." Kate closed her eyes. "This is a complete disaster!"

"It’s not," Will insisted. "It only makes it more obvious that we have to tell Liz who she is right away, so that she’ll stop hanging around Zan. He’s dangerous to her. We both know that."

There was a long pause as Kate thought about the strangeness of the fact that Rowena didn’t seem to know anything about who she was, but certainly knew who Zan was. "Why did he tell her the truth I wonder?" She finally asked her brother as they hurried back in the direction of West Roswell High. "If she’s human in almost every way, how did they find each other?"

"I don’t know," Will told her, sounding determined. "But we’re going to find out."

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

"Liz Parker and Alex Whitman are in the Eraser Room!"

Max whipped his head around as he hurried back through the front doors of the school. He and Izzy had taken the Jeep and had been to the Crashdown and over half of Roswell looking for Liz and the mysterious Will. Tess had pulled Kyle out of class to fill him in, although Max had been tempted to tell her not to. The last person Max wanted to talk to was Kyle Valenti but he had known he was being stupid. Kyle would care if Liz was in danger. That was all that mattered at the moment. And so, Tess and Kyle had taken the other half of town.

In some ways it had been a relief to get rid of Tess for a while. Max couldn’t stand the way she was constantly breathing down his neck lately. It was driving him insane and if pulling Kyle into this meant a little peace from Tess, he realized that he was more than willing. Michael and Maria had stayed at the school in case Liz came back and to locate Alex.

That had all been two hours ago though. Max was practically frantic now. He had known the instant that Liz had not come back to Bio that something was wrong. In fact, he had known it for the past ten days - ever since he had seen her in bed with Kyle. Yet, he had allowed his jealousy and his hurt to rule him and he hadn’t made her tell him the truth. And now something had happened to her. He just knew it. Particularly when Mr. Parker had told them at the Crashdown that they were the second set of siblings to come in asking for Liz in the past half an hour. Max and Isabel had stared at each other. He had seen Isabel’s eyes widen in horror. When he had casually asked for the names of the two kids looking for Liz, he had been forced to clutch the counter, his knees suddenly weak with fear.

Will and Kate. So now they had names for the girl Max had plowed into in the hallway and for the new guy. And they were connected, just as they had suspected. This was all bad. The only good thing about it was that Liz was clearly not with Will any longer. But she was still missing.

What if they had done something to her already? What if they were just covering their tracks by asking Mr. Parker about her so that when Liz didn’t come home today, Will could safely say he had no idea where she was?

Of course, based on the whisper Max was sure he had just heard, had likely been meant to overhear, Liz and Alex were going to be found in the last place any of them would have ever thought to look for them. And it seemed that they weren’t in any danger at all. But why wouldn’t Max’s heart stop pounding, in some way knowing that they were?

"Max?" Isabel whispered, sounding horrified. "Did you just hear that?" It took Max a minute to even process why his sister was upset. All he knew was the he was glad that they now had a definite location for both of their friends.

But taking one look at Isabel’s face, he realized that Alex and Liz in the Eraser Room was indeed a bit odd. Not that he thought anything would be going on between them, but they had to have known that people were going to talk about it. And Isabel seemed to be taking it to heart if her face was any indication.

"I think so. Go ask that girl Isabel. She’ll tell you." Max barely had to say it though. His sister was already on her way. Within seconds she was in conversation with the two sophomores who had been speaking far too loudly. He decided to ignore the way the blonder of the two stared at him, a slightly assessing look on her face as her friend whispered frantically to Isabel, apparently slightly in awe that the popular junior was deigning to speak to her.

She was probably trying to see if he was jealous. Max rolled his eyes. He knew he was obvious that he was in no way over Liz, but could people not just leave him in peace? Sometimes he really hated school. Most of the time he wished his problems were a simple as those of all his peers - who was dating who, who had made the cheerleading squad and who hadn’t. He didn’t even know that girl’s name! Why did she care if he was upset or not?

No, he wasn’t upset. Because he wasn’t a typical high school boy pining for an ex-girlfriend. Instead, he was an alien king dealing with complete and utter heartbreak because his soul mate had slept with someone else. Oh yeah. And also dealing with the fact that he was somehow supposed to save a planet in another galaxy from a bunch of enemies, most of whom he had no idea how to find - or how to avoid.

Nope. Not upset at all.

And the stupidest part of it all was that he was jealous. Not because he thought that there was anything going on between Alex and Liz, but because they had obviously had something of a serious enough nature to discuss in private that they had felt compelled to use the Eraser Room. The entire student body respected the Eraser Room. They wouldn’t be bothered there. Which meant that Liz was confiding in Alex. It meant that there really was something wrong and she had turned to someone else and he hated it.

He was almost tempted to go straight there, pull open the door and demand that Liz finally tell him the truth about what was going on with her. Because he really couldn’t take much more of this. The more he had reflected on her behavior that morning, the more he was sure that there was more to the Kyle thing than she was letting on. She wouldn’t feel as bad about it as she did if there weren’t. Because hadn’t she brutalized him to his face right before the Kyle thing, telling him that she didn’t want to die for him? She hadn’t felt bad then.

Which, he was beginning to realize, meant it was a lie. She hadn’t felt bad because she had known that he wouldn’t believe her. And he hadn’t. But now that she thought he did believe her, she felt bad. Because she was upset that he believed it, that she had hurt him.

How could he have been so stupid?

Max stood in the middle of the virtually empty hallway with his mouth hanging open in disbelief. Isabel was wrapping up her conversation as the final bell for sixth period had just rung and the two sophomores were hurrying off to class, but Max saw none of this. He could feel a smile beginning to break across his face.

She did still care about him. There was no other explanation for it. Something else was going on. He just knew it.

"Well?" He raised an eyebrow at Isabel as she rejoined him.

"Max, they’ve been in there for three periods!" Isabel exclaimed, her tone slightly hysterical. "What are they doing in there?"

"We’re going to find out," Max replied grimly. "Let’s go."

Isabel called after him. "Max, I don’t know if this is such a good idea. Has Liz gone crazy or something? First Kyle and now Alex?"

He looked over his shoulder impatiently. "Iz, let’s go. You know it’s nothing like that!"

"Right. Alex wouldn’t do that." Isabel nodded firmly. "You’re right. I know him." Which, of course, implied that she didn’t know Liz, that she wouldn’t put it past Liz to be shacked up in the Eraser Room with Alex. Max sighed. This was another reason he hadn’t wanted Michael or Isabel to know about the Kyle thing. Even after everything Liz had done for them, they were always ready to believe the worst of her, so protective of him, they couldn’t help themselves. It was extremely frustrating, particularly because Max knew how really wonderful she was.

But Max knew Liz and he knew that what Isabel was imagining couldn’t be true. Alex was like her brother. It would be like Isabel and Michael…Or…Okay, now that was just too gross to even contemplate. He was not going there. But he knew that how he and Michael felt about Izzy was how Liz felt about Alex.

She was confiding in him. Somehow Max just knew it. Which meant she had something to confide. He was almost gleeful as he climbed the stairs to the second floor, Isabel on his heels.

Liz was stubborn, Max knew, but when he confronted her with all of his evidence, she was going to have to admit the truth - that she was keeping something from him. It was only a matter of time now until things could go back to normal, back to the way they were supposed to be, back to the way he had known deep in his heart they were meant to be from the first moment he had laid eyes on Liz that day in the playground.

Fate had brought them together. He wasn’t going to let whatever it was upsetting Liz keep them apart. Not anymore. They were connected on a level deeper than they would ever be with anyone else. If she had broken and was telling Alex, he could get her to tell him. He just knew it.

He was practically jogging now, unable to slow down, desperate to make Liz tell him the truth. He rounded the corner to the corridor where the Eraser Room was located and stopped so abruptly, Isabel crashed into his back.

Apparently he and Isabel were not the only ones to hear the Liz and Alex were in the Eraser Room. Because standing at the far end of the hallway were the new guy and girl, who had both come to an sudden halt as well, at the sight of he and Isabel.

Will and Kate. The two new students - the ones they had all convinced themselves were aliens. But as Max stared at them, he couldn’t help but reflect that they looked just as human as everyone else in West Roswell High. They didn’t look like Skins. They weren’t itching or dropping pieces of themselves all over the place for one thing. And if they were Skins, their sheaths had to be just about ready to fall off. Max had seen Courtney at Michael’s the night before. None of those aliens were long for this world.

Had they all just become paranoid? Were they losing it and couldn’t even accept that two new students might be just that - two new students?

"Max?" Isabel whispered urgently. "That’s them, isn’t it?" Max remembered that his sister hadn’t seen either of the newcomers yet.

Will and Kate were still staring at them too and the way they were staring at them…Max remembered the flash of recognition he had seen in Kate’s eyes when he had slammed into her in the hallway earlier that morning. He had not been wrong. These two kids knew him. He could see it on both of their faces. Which could not be a good thing. Even now he was beginning to feel something in the air, something charging up, as though merely being in their presence was setting something into motion.

This was very, very bad.

"It’s them," Max muttered back. "Do they seem at all familiar? Can you feel it Iz?"

"I feel it." Isabel shivered. "Who are they? It’s different then with the Skins Max. It’s just…weird. It feels like.."

"I know Iz. It feels like when we first saw Michael…and Tess."

Isabel nodded fearfully. "Are they here for Liz?"

"I think so." Max clenched his fists at his side.

"Why? If they’re like Michael and Tess…" Isabel trailed off, no longer sounding afraid but, instead, confused.

"I don’t know. But if they’re trying to get at me through her, they’ve got another thing coming. They’re going to take her over my dead body."

With pleasure Zan.

Max felt his eyes widen as the voice suddenly penetrated his thoughts, out of absolutely nowhere. It was a male voice, one he had never heard before, but he knew instantly that it was the other guy at the end of the hallway speaking to him, despite the fact that Will’s mouth had not opened.

Okay then. No doubts now. Aliens. Check.

And suddenly what that voice had said hit home.

Yup, this was very, very bad.

"MAX!" Isabel’s scream made him react instantly. He brought his arm up and the green plasma shield Tess had helped him hone over the summer appeared out of nowhere, protecting he and his sister as a bolt of green lightening seemed to shoot right out of Will’s upraised hand. It bounced innocently off the shield though. He and Isabel were completely protected.

But the assault went on and on. Max couldn’t drop his arm, felt his energy being drained. He was still aware enough though to watch in horror as the Eraser Room door slammed open, the sudden chaos in the hallway obviously bringing Alex and Liz out to see what was going on.

Why couldn’t they have stayed where they were safe? Didn’t they know better by now? Max thought desperately, wondering how he was going to protect them and still keep Isabel safe too. He didn’t know if he could keep the shield much longer, let alone use it to protect Liz and Alex too.

"MAX!" He heard Liz scream his name. Alex’s head was whipping back and forth between the two sets of aliens, horror written on his face. Max felt a stab of relief as he saw Alex grab Liz, ready to pull her back into the Eraser Room. Good old Alex.

But it was too late. While Max and Isabel had been cowering behind his shield, Kate had made her move. She had been ready for Max’s two friends when they had come out and, now, she grabbed them both by the wrist and seemed to be holding them with some kind of super-human strength. Liz and Alex were both fighting her, but it seemed to do no good.

Will was moving towards them now, still casually flinging lightening towards Max and Isabel so that they couldn’t move. Max could only watch helplessly as Will placed his hand on his Kate’s shoulder…

And an instant later Liz, Alex, Will and Kate all disappeared into thin air.

To be continued…



posted on 21-Jul-2002 11:12:04 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks, as always for the feedback folks. A couple of answers:

ScifiNut - Will is a king, but not of Antar. It will all make sense later. Don't forget all those people in MITC never existed in this timeline, but there is still a system of five stars...

Tiger Lily - as to Max not walking forward...er, that's a good question! LOL I guess he was just too shocked by the whole thing...plus this is still a fairly new power for him. As you will see in this part, it drains him, as we also saw in Harvest.

BelieveInTrueLove - good point about Jack already having broken his cover in his little spat with Michael...but Will doesn't know that. You will soon find out that Kate is much better at judging those around her and their tendencies than Will is.

And, without further ado, part 8...

Part 8

Liz woke up with a splitting headache. She groaned, bringing her fingertips gingerly to her temples. What the hell had happened to her? Memory returned slowly as consciousness seeped in.

The last thing she remembered clearly was the shocked and dazed look that had gradually come over Alex’s face as she had told her best friend the entire story of Future Max. At first he had looked like he was humoring her, his face displaying the same expression it had when she had told him the first time about Max and who he really was, that time they were in jail during the heat wave. But, as he slowly started to accept that what she was saying was true - that a future version of Max Evans had really come back to tell her that she needed to push he and Tess together or the world would end - his face had taken on the same overwhelmed expression he had worn for a good two weeks after the original revelation of aliens living among them.

She remembered what a relief it had been to finally get it all off her chest, even if Alex wasn’t going to buy it at first. And he hadn’t. Right before they had heard all that noise out in the hallway, he had started grilling her with questions - asking her things that she had asked herself a million times already.

"Maria thinks that someone is mindwarping you. Are you sure it’s not that? This could be Tess playing with your mind," and "What about a shapeshifter? It could have been a shapeshifter!" and, finally, just because he was Alex, "You’re on drugs again, aren’t you?" That one had made her giggle, despite herself.

As for the other questions, Liz calmly answered them all with the same response. "It was Max. I know it."

Finally, Alex had thrown his hands up in frustration. "Liz, how can you be sure? How?"

"His eyes." It was the first time she actually understood how she had known, but she was right. It had been Future Max’s eyes. He had been Max. There was no doubt in her mind. His eyes had told her so. They had been the same gentle, loving eyes she had always known - the eyes that spoke to her soul.

It was as this revelation had hit that chaos had erupted on the other side of the Eraser Room door. She and Alex had stared at each other, equally confused and, then, stupidly, they had gone barreling into the corridor. Because who would believe that a full-fledged alien smackdown was taking place right out in public? Right in school for God’s sake!

But it had been. After that, everything had happened so quickly, it was mostly images, little more. To one side Liz had seen Max and Isabel, cowering behind the shield that Max had used to protect she and Tess in Copper Summit. Turning her head she had seen Will, the new boy, sending lightening bolts flying at the two Evans siblings, his face an emotionless mask. Liz had looked back at Max, terror for him making her stomach churn. She had seen the pain on his face as he struggled to keep the shield in place, had seen the fear and she had screamed his name despite herself. She had been aware of Alex grabbing her, of him trying to pull her back into the Eraser Room. Then everything had gone dark.

"You’re all right now." The voice penetrated the pain, familiar and, yet, frightening. "I’m sorry that had to happen."

She felt a cool cloth against her eyes. It was enough that when it was taken away, she managed to slit her eyes open. Her heart started to beat erratically as she met Will Spencer’s blue-eyed gaze. She could see concern melt into relief as he seemed to become aware of the fact that she was truly awake.

Liz sat up and moved away from him so quickly, he almost fell over backwards off the bed. "Stay away from me!" She told him urgently. She pushed herself back against the headboard, terror making her want to scream, but, as her eyes darted around the room in which she found herself - were they in a motel? - she wondered if there was anyone around to hear her.

"Liz…" Will was steadily on his feet now, reaching out to her. "Please, it’s not what you think."

"Not what I think?" Liz almost screamed at him. "You’re an alien! Aren’t you? And you kidnapped me! Didn’t you? I think it’s exactly what I think!" She could feel shivers beginning to claim her body. The only time she had ever been more afraid in her life was when Max had been taken by Pierce.

The thought of Max actually calmed her down slightly. At least if she was the one who had been kidnapped, Max was safe. Even with how bad things were between them presently, she could not have borne it if something had happened to him again. She had barely been able to deal with it the last time. Flashes of all that he had endured in the white room passed through her mind, making her feel ill, as they always did.

At least Max was safe. It was a small comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Unless he was being kept somewhere else. The new, horrible thought penetrated her relief, making her heart thunder again.

"What do you want?" Liz demanded. "Where is Max?"

Will’s eyes flickered slightly. He had been watching her helplessly, but now his face hardened. "Not here."

Liz stared at him. "You didn’t take him?"

"No."

"So this is a trap then? Max comes after me and you do something awful to him then?"

"It’s you we want." Will’s voice was quiet as he carefully sat back on the bed. "Liz, please. You need to listen to me. We never intended to have to teleport you out of there. We were just coming to talk to you. We had no idea that they would be there." The way he emphasized they - it did nothing to mask his hatred of Max and Isabel. It upset Liz even more. She had been right then. Will was Max’s enemy.

It took a moment, but she finally remembered what he had said about it being her they wanted. Who was they anyway? And what did they want with her, if it wasn’t to trap Max? Liz narrowed her eyes, stared at him for a long moment. He was watching her with those blue eyes, obviously trying to figure out what she was thinking.

"Why me?" She whispered. "Don’t you know that he doesn’t love me anymore?"

Will frowned. "Who doesn’t love you?"

"Max. I broke his heart." Her voice trembled slightly as Max’s words in Copper Summit replayed themselves in her brain, just as they had a million times since he had said them…

What I saw can't be true, because it means everything I felt in my heart for the last year is a lie!

Liz closed her eyes against the painful memory. Why was it getting harder to deal with the fact that she was lying to Max? Shouldn’t it be getting easier? Wasn’t time supposed to heal all wounds?

"Liz?" She felt his hand on her knee, flinched away. Her eyes flew open and she berated herself for becoming distracted. She needed to be strong, needed to find out as much as she could about these enemies so that she could warn Max. She needed to figure out a way to escape before Max came for her, so that he wouldn’t put himself in danger - so that he wouldn’t suffer anymore on her behalf. "Are you okay?"

"Why would I be okay?" Liz demanded. "You kidnapped me!" A memory managed to make it’s way past the confusion that she felt. "And Alex! Where is he? Did you hurt him?" Oh God! Alex! This was her fault. She had brought him into it all by weakening, by telling him the truth.

"Your friend Alex is fine," Will reassured her quickly. "He’s with Kate."

"I want to see him." Liz pressed her lips together, folded her arms against her chest, lifting her chin.

"Will it make you feel better?" Will sounded a bit disappointed, like he liked being alone with her. She remembered suddenly what Alex had said to her, about how he had not liked the way Will looked at her - possessively, as though she belonged to him.

She bit her lip, stared at him. "Who are you?" She whispered, curiosity finally winning over fear.

"It’s not really about who I am Liz," Will replied, looking away. "It’s about who you are." He turned back, a slight frown on his face. "What did you mean when you said that you broke Max’s heart? Were you two together?" The last word was said slowly, as though he desperately wanted her to deny it.

She wasn’t sure which course to take. If Will understood just how important Max was to her, would it make things better or worse? She eyed him for a long moment, tried to read him. She remembered the way she had felt when she had spent those few short hours with him this morning - God! Was it really only this morning? She had felt that she could trust him. It had been the first time she had felt that since she had first connected with Max.

Liz realized that this was what she found the scariest about Will. She had never imagined that there were two people who could make her feel the same way, had never thought in a million years that anyone could replace Max. And, yet, this boy had actually made her wonder if the possibility existed, if even for a short while. She knew now that it had all been a lie, a ruse, but it had worked. She had found herself opening up to him earlier and she wanted to do the same now.

Somehow she just knew in her heart that he would never hurt her. She knew him and she wanted to know why.

"We were together," she told him shortly. "I love him."

Liz watched in wide-eyed fascination as Will stared back at her. A shudder ran through his entire body, making her flinch. She actually felt sorry for him, for what reason, she couldn’t understand. He was a complete stranger. She couldn’t be hurting him by telling him this.

"Why does it matter to you?" She asked him quietly, reaching out a hand to comfort him, despite herself. He shivered again when she touched him gently on the cheek. "Who are you?"

Will clenched his hands in his lap, turned away so that his forearms rested on his knees and he was staring at the floor. "It doesn’t matter," he spat out a moment later, as though whatever had hurt him was now turning into an anger so deep, he couldn’t look at her.

"It does matter. I don’t understand any of this…" She touched him again, this time on the back, urging him to look at her. "Please tell me what’s going on."

He stood up abruptly, turned on her. "I’ll tell you what’s going on! You are sleeping with the enemy and you’ve betrayed everything I’ve ever believed about you."

"What?" Liz whispered, staring at him in horror. "You are my enemy. Any enemy of Max’s is my enemy too. Max is my soul mate." Her voice lowered. "Even if we can’t ever be together, he is one I am supposed to be with."

Will snorted. "He has truly fooled you, hasn’t he Rowena?"

Liz was very frightened again. She backed away from him, not understanding any of this. "What are you talking about? My name is Liz. Are you confusing me with someone else?"

"I wish." His voice cracked slightly. "I wish I was. I can’t believe this is happening. How can this actually be happening?"

It was a rhetorical question, but Liz answered him anyway. "I can’t tell you anything until you tell me who you think I am." Because she understood that this was what was happening. He obviously thought she was someone else, was making a mistake because she had been close to Max. Maybe he wasn’t Max’s enemy at all. He was obviously an alien, but he was just as obviously not a Skin. Maybe he was just as confused as Max and Isabel and Michael and Tess were. Maybe she could help him.

Will turned back, his face expressionless and said the absolute last thing she expected. His voice was calm and cold as he stated the words that were destined to change her life forever.

"You are my wife and you have betrayed me by falling in love with the person I most hate in the universe."

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

"Max! Max, are you all right?"

"Does he look all right Tess? He practically just drained himself!" Isabel screeched back.

"I can see that Isabel!" Tess flared back. It took Max a moment to realize that he was slumped against a bank of lockers and that he was at school. He wasn’t quite sure how he had ended up so out of it, but he was slowly coming back to himself. When he was fully able to focus again, he saw that Isabel and Tess were kneeling beside him, both frantically running their hands over his body to see if he was hurt. Kyle was standing behind them, his arms folded across his chest, a scowl on his face.

Max’s eyes narrowed. He pushed the two girls away, climbed unsteadily to his feet. "I’m fine! Leave me alone!" Suddenly he remembered exactly how he had drained himself so completely he had momentarily lost consciousness.

Liz!

Isabel seemed to understand why he was frantically looking around. "They’re gone Max." He could hear the tears in his sister’s voice. "Both Liz and Alex just disappeared into thin air."

"But not before the two new aliens on the block made a huge scene, with a little help from both of you," Kyle added. He looked around uncomfortably. "You’re both just lucky that Tess and I came into the school just as you guys were running up here. We followed you and Tess was able to mindwarp so that no one else saw."

Max grimaced slightly as he realized that Kyle was right. He had just openly displayed his powers, but he had had no choice. Both he and Izzy would have been fried to a crisp if he hadn’t. The other two - Kate and Will - had obviously not cared a bit if they were seen. It was weird and extremely unsettling.

"We have to find them," he finally said, knowing that it was obvious, but wanting to focus his thoughts. "Now. If anything happens to either of them, I’ll never forgive myself." He turned on his heel and hurried towards the stairs. Max knew that they needed to find Michael and Maria and split up so that they could cover more territory.

"I just don’t get it Max," Isabel told him as the other three trailed after him. "We were both right here and we obviously couldn’t have held them off for much longer. Why did they take Alex and Liz? It doesn’t make any sense!"

"I know," Max replied. It was what was freaking him out more than anything. What did these new kids want with Liz? Because it was now more than obvious that it was Liz that, at least, that Will wanted. "I don’t understand any of this Iz." He frowned, frantically searched his brain for any hint as to what the other two wanted. "He called me Zan." Max shook his head in confusion. "What does that even mean?"

Tess spoke up at this. "It sort of sounds like a name, don’t you think?"

Max turned his head abruptly when he heard Isabel gasp. "Maybe," he answered Tess, distracted by the look on his sister’s face. "Izzy?"

Isabel had gone completely white. "Vilandra." She stopped walking, closed her eyes and swallowed. "My name was Vilandra."

"What?" Max demanded, staring at her. "What are you talking about?"

When his sister opened her eyes again, there were tears shining, threatening to fall. "I…I…"

"Isabel, what do you know?" Max asked quietly. Because the terror on his sister’s face was actually making his knees quake a little bit.

"I didn’t want to tell you!" Isabel’s voice cracked. "I thought when we destroyed the Harvest it was all over. You didn’t need to know…"

"Know what?" Max placed his hands firmly on Isabel’s shoulders. "Isabel, calm down and tell me. What do you know?"

Isabel stared at him for a long moment, sighed once, a shudder running through her tall frame as she took a deep breath. "Whittaker told me a little bit about what happened to us in our past lives."

"Isabel!" Tess exclaimed. "How could you not tell us this?"

"Tess." Max said her name firmly, causing the small blonde to snap her mouth shut. "Isabel, what is it? Why couldn’t you tell me this?"

"Max, it’s really awful," Isabel replied, her voice toneless. "It’s…I just really couldn’t bear for you to know."

Max frowned. "I don’t understand. Why are you thinking differently now?"

"Because if that guy called you Zan - and I heard him do it…in our heads Max!…then it means it’s not over. If Tess is right, and that was your name before, it might still happen…" She trailed off, looked away. If Max was not mistaken, she could not meet his eyes.

"What might still happen Isabel?" It was looking pulling teeth, but Max could see how upset his sister was. She truly did not want to tell him whatever it was she was hiding.

"I will betray you. Because I did," she finished quietly. "Before."

"Hey guys! Finally! Michael and I can’t find Alex anywhere!" Maria’s voice broke the dead silence that followed Isabel’s statement. Max was still staring at his sister in dumbfounded disbelief as Michael and Maria hurried over to join them, having come in from the quad.

Michael took one look at them all standing around with their mouths hanging open and demanded, "What the hell happened?"

"Your past lives are coming back to haunt you," Kyle replied, shaking his head. "I think."

"Huh?" Michael looked at Max. "Maxwell, what is he talking about?"

Max was still trying to process what his sister had said. I will betray you. Why did Isabel sound so certain? What exactly had Whittaker told her? And why did that phrase make him think about Liz again, think about her face when he had found her in bed with Kyle?

Betrayal. He did not believe that Isabel was capable of it and he knew that Liz wasn’t either. He had always known it. They were the two people he trusted the most in the world. How could he doubt - have doubted - either of them, if even for a moment?

Max turned his head, looked at Kyle, a slight frown on his face. Was it his imagination or would Kyle not meet his eyes? "I’m tired of secrets," he said, ignoring Michael’s question. "And I’m tired of running away from the truth." He started walking again, this time towards the parking lot. "C’mon," he called over his shoulder to his friends. "Let’s get this resolved once and for all."

"Max? Max!" Isabel’s voice called after him as they all raced to keep up with him. "What about Liz and Alex?"

"This is a way to find them. We need to know who these people are who took them, what they want," Max replied. "We need answers, once and for all. And I know just where to get them."

To be continued…











posted on 24-Jul-2002 7:53:03 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: So Will reminds you all of Tess huh? I wonder why...

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I will be heading back to the lake for another week on Saturday. I am going to try and update this one more time before then, but no guarantees. Look for updates of DC, All You Wanted and Starstruck too. As for Union, well...I have a whole part written but it sucks. Big-time. Let's see if I change my mind! LOL

Part 9

Liz stared at Will in open-mouthed astonishment. "You’re crazy," she finally whispered, her heart beating a nervous tattoo against her chest. "I’m not your wife. I’m a human. You’ve made a mistake Will." If there was one thing she knew it was that. He had to be mistaken - or lying. What game was he playing? This was obviously some gigantic ruse Max’s enemies had devised with to torture him. There was no other explanation.

Max would not be hurt again. Not if she had anything to say about it. She felt her spine stiffening as she prepared to accuse him of being the liar she knew he was.

And, yet, she found herself fascinated at the same time. She wanted to hear more, wanted to see how far he would take this. She stared into his eyes and the familiarity she had felt since she had first seen him ran through her again.

Will was obviously trying to get control of his emotions. "You don’t remember anything. I know it’s true but it’s so hard to accept, because I remember it all." He paused, rubbed a hand across his eyes. "I’m sorry I yelled." He lowered himself onto the bed again. "Can I just ask you a couple of questions?"

Liz narrowed her eyes at him. "Why?"

"Because I think you might find it easier to hear the truth if you think about some stuff first."

She stared at him, her mind whirling in a thousand different directions. Her heart was still pounding, but she was not going to waste this opportunity. She needed to find out as much as she could - for Max’s sake. "Okay. But first I want to ask you a few things."

Will started, then grinned. Liz could not believe it. Why was he suddenly amused? "Why am I not surprised?" He asked.

"What?" Liz demanded, a little annoyed.

"You haven’t changed at all. Strange things never frightened you. You always just wanted to know more about them." He shook his head. "And, trust me, I know this is strange."

Liz grimaced at the fairly accurate description of her character. But she didn’t comment, just asked, "Why do you hate Max?"

Will’s eyes darkened but he answered readily enough, "Because he was a tyrant who destroyed our galaxy."

Liz blinked. "You knew him? Before I mean?" She felt her heart leap with joy for Max. All the answers they had been chasing after for months were suddenly right at her fingertips. But the expression on Will’s face quickly reminded her that he hated Max. There was no way of knowing if he was telling the truth.

"Certainly," Will replied. "We were never close friends, but we did communicate regularly, especially after we both took our respective thrones."

"Why were you allied with a tyrant?" Liz asked logically.

"Tradition. Antar has always held the high kingship of the system." Will shook his head. "The kings and queens of Antar have always ruled fairly and wisely. It was only when Zan took the throne that things changed."

"Changed how?"

"He wanted more power. He tried to depose the rulers of the four other planets, hoping to set up puppets in their place. Basically he intended to change the whole status quo. He wanted control of my planet - Sardica - in particular. Sardica is the centre of commerce for the system. Zan didn’t like that. He always felt that it should be Antar and, if it couldn’t be, then he wanted Sardica more closely under his thumb." Will straightened his spine. "The kings of Sardica have always been their own rulers though. We resisted the controls he tried to impose."

"So you rebelled?"

"Yes. Another planet - yours - joined us. It made sense of course. We were already allied through our marriage. Zan destroyed Valonia, your home, and made his move on Sardica. We managed to repel them for several months, but, in the end, we had to surrender."

"Why?"

"Because he captured you," Will’s voice cracked. "You went up to his ship to parlay for peace and he broke all the codes of warfare that have governed our galaxy since the beginning of time. He held you captive and I was forced to hand over the government of Sardica."

Liz swallowed. The bleakness in his tone made her pity him, despite herself. "Why are you so positive that I’m who you say I am?" She asked, shaking her head firmly to erase her sympathy for him. "I’m telling you, I have always been Liz Parker. I was born Liz Parker. My parents even have pictures from the delivery room."

"You are Rowena," Will replied firmly. "My cousin has the gift of reading essences. It is a vital power - one that we have used many times to identify our enemies. He read yours in the imprint you left in Copper Summit when you were there with Zan. I don’t know how to explain how you ended up with the Parkers. You were obviously removed from your pod early for some reason I don’t understand."

Liz stared at him, disbelieving, but willing to humor him for the moment. "You came out of a pod too?"

"Yes. Kate and I are hybrids - half-human, half-Sardican…"

"And you think I am as well," Liz finished for him when he trailed off.

"Yes. Well, half-human, half-Valonian. " He paused. "Do you think I can ask you some of my questions now?"

Liz frowned. "No, I’m not done." Will looked amused again, which only irritated her. She thought for a moment. "How did this whole podding thing come about in the first place?"

Will sighed. "It’s a long story. Suffice it to say, we won. Zan died but his mother refused to accept that his reign of terror was over so she cloned him, intending that he would be podded until maturity and that he would one day retake the Antarian throne. She combined his DNA with that of some human samples they had in their possession and sent him to Earth to keep him a secret."

"But why are you here?" Liz asked. "If you won, why didn’t you stay and rule."

"I had well placed spies," Will said. "One of them contacted me and we sent in a team to retrieve the pods and to stop the plot." He closed his eyes. "We were too late though. And it was much worse than we could have imagined. She hadn’t only cloned Zan. She had also cloned his sister Vilandra, Zan’s wife and Vilandra’s husband as well."

"Isabel, Michael and Tess?" Liz felt her heart drop at the confirmation that Max had indeed been married to Tess in his past life. She wondered why it still hurt so much. She had known it for months now and, yet, she could not accept it.

"Yes, those are their names, according to Nicholas."

Liz started. "Nicholas! What does he have to do with any of this?"

Will looked startled. "Oh, I thought you knew. Nicholas works for me."

She stumbled to her feet, away from him. "What? He tried to kill Isabel! He ordered all those Skins to hurt Max!"

"They are his enemies Liz," Will replied mildly. "He was only doing it to protect my people."

"The Skins are your people?" Liz gasped, horrified. "They’re horrible! Murderers! They killed Nasedo!"

"Who’s Nasedo?" Will asked, confused.

"He’s their protector. He was the only one who could help them to find out who they are!" Liz exclaimed. "A Skin disguised herself as a congresswoman and she killed him."

"Wait a minute." Will held up his hands. "What do you mean he was the only one who could help them find out who they are?" He stared at her. "Are you trying to tell me that they don’t know?"

"They know they’re aliens, but they have no idea about all this past life stuff. I swear it. Whoever you think Max and the others were in their past lives, whatever they did, they can’t be held responsible for it now! They don’t remember," Liz insisted.

Will looked stunned. "How is this possible?" He muttered, clearly confused. "Are you sure? How do you know this?"

Liz wilted slightly as she thought about all she and Max had shared through the flashes that were unique to their relationship. She knew everything about him because of those flashes. It was one of the reasons it was so hard to let him go. She truly knew how wonderful he was and also knew that she would never find anyone like him again. "We’ve connected," she whispered, tears filling her eyes. "I’ve seen his soul and it’s beautiful. He’s not evil. He could never be evil."

"Then you must believe me! About who you are Liz! If you’ve managed a connection with Zan, you must understand that you aren’t completely human." Will sounded excited. "That is your gift you know - the ability to see people clearly - to judge them by connecting with them."

Liz shook her head. "You don’t understand Will. My ability to connect with Max has nothing to do with alien DNA. I could never do it before…"

"Before what?"

"Before he saved my life," Liz told him quietly. "If it wasn’t for Max Evans I would have died more than a year ago."

Will stared at her in shock. "What? Oh my God! Ro!" He moved towards her, grasped her by the upper arms. "Are you trying to tell me that I almost lost you before I even found you?"

Liz flinched away from him. "Don’t call me that! I am not this Rowena. My name is Liz Parker and the only reason I have any sort of alien power at all is because of Max Evans. Don’t you understand? I love him! And he has loves me - or at least he used to. He loved me for his entire life! If I was his enemy, how could that even be possible? He has always been with Isabel, but he recognized Michael and Tess almost immediately upon knowing them. If I was an alien too, wouldn’t he have known?"

"How could he have known the others if he doesn’t remember anything?" Will asked, ignoring the main part of her speech, which annoyed Liz. But as his words penetrated her irritation, she realized what she had just said.

Max Evans had loved her for his entire life.

She blinked. "He just did," she murmured. Her mind was whirling, memories of the first connection she had ever made with Max flying through her head. She remembered how special and beautiful she had felt because that’s how he had seen her. But she also remembered how Max had loved her from the moment he had laid eyes on her as a little boy on that playground. She had been unaware of him, but in that connection she had felt how he had felt on that day.

He hadn’t just loved her. He had recognized her. The realization slammed into her, making her knees weak. She stumbled to a chair in the corner of the room, collapsed into it, staring at Will.

"Oh my God."

"Liz, what?" Will was crouching in front of her, worry in his blue eyes. "What’s wrong?"

"He knew me," Liz whispered. "And he got it all mixed up. He was only a little boy. Of course he wouldn’t have any idea that he was supposed to hate me."

"Liz! Please!"

Liz swallowed, her heart pounding in disbelief. As she looked at Will, she narrowed her eyes, tried to remember him. She tried to remember anything. She tried but all she encountered were all the memories she had always had - of growing up in Roswell, of discovering that aliens were real, of falling in love with Max Evans, of giving him up and breaking her own heart in the process. She only had memories of being Liz Parker.

Yet, as she stared at Will, she knew it with every part of her being. She knew that he was telling her the truth.

She was not human. And, in that moment, Liz could think of only one thing to do. She screamed.

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

Kate nearly jumped out her skin when she heard movement behind her. She had been sitting on the end of the bed, staring off into space, wondering how they had ended up in such a mess when Alex Whitman’s voice penetrated her thoughts. "Where am I?" His throat sounded scratchy, like he needed a glass of water. She jumped to her feet and poured him one from the bottle sitting near the television.

Rowena’s friend had been unconscious for so long, Kate had been extremely worried. The last thing they wanted to do was to hurt innocent bystanders. That was more Zan’s style and they had always done everything in their power to make sure they were nothing like Zan. Kate wasn’t even sure why she had brought the tall, dark-haired boy with them when she had teleported Liz and Will out of the school. She could have easily left him behind after all. There had been no need to bring him.

As she handed him the glass of water, she watched him take a sip, wondered how he was going to react when he realized what had happened to him. She and Will had discussed the matter at length after they had brought Liz and Alex to the motel on the highway leading out of Roswell. They weren’t sure how much Alex knew. Will had called Nicholas to find out if he had been in Copper Summit. As far as their general recalled, he hadn’t. But, according to Will, it was also clear that Alex Whitman was one of Liz’s closest friends. It seemed unlikely that he didn’t at least know something about Zan and the others.

In the end, they had decided to keep him with them, if only to make sure Zan stayed away. Alex might lead their enemy right to them. Will had also thought that it might make Rowena feel more secure to have someone she trusted around. Kate had pressed her lips together. All Will cared about at the moment was Rowena and her feelings. He didn’t seem to have grasped at all that they had come face to face with Zan and Vilandra and that they had won. Even though Zan had a complete four square, he had not been able to stop them from taking Rowena.

Kate didn’t understand it at all. It made no sense to her. Did they not know how powerful they were? She could not remember a single time that Zan had ever been on the defensive. Even when he had died, he had been on the attack. But that’s what had happened this time. Zan had barely managed to protect himself and Vilandra from Will’s assault. He had had no chance of saving Rowena. What could it possibly mean?

Kate continued to eye Alex. Could he tell her more about the four they had come to Roswell to defeat once and for all? Was he loyal to them? Did he even know about the existence of aliens?

Well, if he hadn’t known before, he certainly knew something now, she reflected wryly. She remembered the way he had offered to help her that morning, not even knowing her or what was upsetting her. As she stared at him now, she could see that he did not look frightened at all - merely resigned.

"Are you feeling okay?" She asked tentatively, not sure what to say to him.

"I could use a little of Max’s healing touch," Alex replied. At the confused look Kate was sure crossed her face, he added, "I have a headache." So he knew Zan was a healer, which meant he likely did know all about the others. "And I’m worried about Liz. Is she okay?"

"She’s fine. She’s with Will." Kate grimaced. "He’s telling her the truth."

"What is the truth?" Alex asked quietly. "Who are you? I know you’re aliens."

Kate’s eyes widened that he stated it so bluntly. "You don’t seem shocked."

"I’ve been caught in the alien abyss for too long to be shocked by anything anymore," Alex said wryly. "I’m not even scared, which I know is stupid. I’ve just come to accept that this is what my life is going to be like from now on. No control - ever." He paused, narrowing his eyes. "You’re not going to kill me, are you?"

"NO!" Kate exclaimed, horrified. "We don’t do that!"

"You were trying to kill Max and Isabel," Alex reminded her. "Why should I doubt that you would do the same to me?"

"Zan is evil!" Kate replied heatedly. "He deserves to be killed. And Vi has obviously lost whatever courage she once had. She isn’t defying him any longer."

Alex’s eyes flashed, uncomprehending for a moment. "You mean Max and Isabel? Those are their real names, aren’t they?" He paused and then his face whitened. "Are they dead? Did you kill them?"

"No. We should have," Kate muttered. "We had the upper hand. But Will wanted to get Liz out of there." She started, realized that she had said more than she had meant to. Why did she feel it was so easy to open up to this boy? He was listening quietly. She could almost see his mind at work. She pressed her lips together, determined that she would say no more.

Alex closed his eyes wearily. "Why? What does he want with Liz? Is he trying to torture Max? Is that it?" He opened his eyes and looked directly at her. "Because it won’t work. They’re not together anymore."

Kate could tell he was lying. He did not do it gracefully. His cheeks were turning a charming shade of red and she could see a nervous pulse beating through the vein on his neck. Zan would obviously care that Rowena had been taken. In fact, it sounded like they had been a couple. She couldn’t believe Zan’s gall. He had seduced Rowena without even telling her who she really was! It was even more despicable than what he had done in his past life. At least then he had only killed her. This time he was using her first.

"They were together?" Kate asked, wanting confirmation that any honour she had, perhaps, in her weaker moments, thought Zan still possessed was non-existent.

Alex snorted. "Oh yeah." He rolled his eyes. "As my friend Maria would say, they had the whole "staring into your eyes soul mate thing" going on." He paused, grimacing. "Not that they do anymore," he continued hastily. "Like I said, they broke up. So you can just let Liz and I go." He stood up slowly. "Because, really, I just think this is all a big mistake."

Kate pressed her hands together. This boy - he truly did not seem to know what Zan and the others were really like. He was their friend. How could she just let him go without telling him the truth, without warning him that any association with the Royal Four would just end in disaster?

"Alex, how did you find out about Zan and the others?" She asked bluntly. He turned to look at her, his eyes unreadable.

"Why do you think they’re evil?" He asked back. "Because they’re not. They’re my friends." He narrowed his eyes at her. "I don’t think you’re evil either. Shouldn’t you guys be working together?"

"Work with Zan! You must be crazy!" Kate exclaimed. She paused when he just looked at her, frowning. "Why don’t you think I’m evil?’’

"I’m a good judge of character," Alex replied. He paused. "Plus you’re not leaving pieces of your skin all over the place," he added, "Which means you’re not a Skin."

Kate’s eyes widened. "What do you know about the Skins?" She asked. She felt a lump entering her throat at the thought of her poor people. Her poor people who were dying slowly but surely, the Earth’s atmosphere killing them because they couldn’t go home.

"They’re killers," Alex said evenly. "They killed Nasedo and one of them almost killed Tess and Isabel."

"Nasedo?"

"Their protector - a shapeshifter." Alex offered.

Kate sighed. "So it is true then. The Wendarians did join with Zan." She shook her head. "We were never sure." She frowned. "I wonder why Nicholas didn’t tell us this."

"Huh?"

"The Wendarians," Kate explained. "They are the shapeshifters in our galaxy. They are from Wendar. Just as I am from Sardica and your friends,"she couldn’t keep the disdain from her voice, "Are from Antar." She paused. "Well, not Rath. He’s from Valonia, but he has always pretended to be Antarian. Ever since he married Vi."

"Ooookay." Alex let out a long breath, stood up and started to pace. "You know, I think I’m starting to panic now. I knew I was way too calm before." Kate watched him in amazement as he began to melt down right in front of her. "I think I was in shock." He was muttering to himself, clearly looking for an explanation. She blinked when he stopped pacing his erratic movements abruptly and stared right at her. "You really do hate my friends, don’t you?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"They are evil."

Alex grimaced. "I’m telling you. They’re not. I know them. They don’t even know who they are! You just gave me more information than they’ve managed to uncover in ten years!"

Kate stared at him. "What are you saying? You’re trying to tell me that they don’t remember?" She snorted. "Right. Then why is Zan using Rowena if he doesn’t know? He would have no reason to pretend to love her if he didn’t know who she was."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Alex demanded, staring openly at her. "Who is Rowena?"

A piercing scream interrupted Kate before she could tell him. She watched Alex’s eyes widen. "Liz!" He turned on his heel and bolted for the door before Kate could stop him.

By the time she caught up with him, he was already pounding on the door to the room across the hall - the room where Will was talking to Liz. "Let me in dammit! Liz!"

The door flew open suddenly and Kate watched in astonishment as Liz threw herself at her friend. "Alex! We need to get out of here. I’m telling you. We need to."

Alex rubbed her back in comfort but glared over her dark head at Will. "What did you do to her? I thought you didn’t hurt people?" He looked back at Kate accusingly. "Isn’t that what you said?"

"You told her then?" Kate asked Will wryly.

Will sighed. "She didn’t believe me right away but then I think she remembered something." He was upset, that was clear, but Kate thought it was more because he didn’t know how to calm Liz down than because of why she was upset.

"What did you tell her?" Alex demanded. Liz had gone completely silent by now. Kate stared at her as she clutched at Alex’s shirt as though trying to crawl into his skin. It was beyond disturbing. "It’s okay Liz! I’m here." He paused, glared at both Will and Kate in turn. "You know what? Forget it! I don’t care. You can take your damn alien feud and shove it. I’m getting Liz out of her."

Kate was beyond surprised when Will allowed Alex to take Liz by the hand and lead her away.

"They’re going to go straight to Zan," Kate told him. "We should go after them."

Will narrowed his eyes. "I don’t think so." He pressed his lips together.

"Will, this is a bad idea."

"Give her time." And with that, her brother re-entered his room and slammed the door in Kate’s face.

To be continued…












posted on 5-Aug-2002 12:53:00 AM by Kath7
Hey guys! Thanks for all the bumpage. Sorry it's taking me so long to get another part done, but I have relatives in from out of town and it is cutting into my writing time! I do have half of Part 10 written though and I hope to finish it tomorrow morning, so keep your eyes peeled.

Destinyrebel - isn't that the best song? It is my current favorite and needless to say I think of this story everytime I think of it too! LOL Aren't OLP awesome? I think I'm even beginning to imagine Will looking like Raine Maida. How sad is that? It's the blue eyes I think. Piercing.
posted on 5-Aug-2002 12:27:29 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Here's part 10. A lot more information is packed in here and some of it clashes with what Will told Liz and what Kate knows, but that's to be expected, isn't it? As someone mentioned in feedback, history is written by the victors after all and nothing is ever quite as it seems. But all will be made clear in time.

destinyrebel - there's a little message for you in the note above this post...

If anyone is wondering what Will looks like, you can start imagining him like Raine Maida, the lead singer of Our Lady Peace. Just imagine his hair as jet black and that's him. I've also pretty much cast Elizabeth Herbst from General Hospital as Kate too. I'm still working on Jack.

And, unfortunately, I will be heading off to the lake again tomorrow (family stuff - sigh) so don't expect the next part of this or any of my stories before the weekend. Thanks for your patience.

And, so, without further ado...part 10

Kath

Part 10

"Just let me check on her first Maxwell," Michael insisted as he turned the key in his front door and pushed it open. "She sleeps a lot. Her skin is totally giving out on her. I have to vacuum at least three times a day."

Michael owns a vacuum? Max thought inanely. His mind was in turmoil, his concern for Liz and his fear of these new aliens, who were obviously stronger than any of them, making him feel jittery and unable to focus. When he realized that Michael was waiting for a response before moving out of the way, he said, "Fine. But we can’t put this off Michael. I need to talk to her right now."

"I know." Michael pressed his lips together. "She’s not our enemy though. Just remember that."

"Not your enemy," Max said wryly. "She wants to overthrow me, remember?"

"Not yourseither," Michael shot back. "She didn’t know you before Max. She was just some kid caught up in something she didn’t understand. I explained to her…"

"That I’m not a psycho killer?" Max sighed. For all he knew, he had been a psycho killer in his past life. Although he didn’t think so. Hadn’t his mother called him the beloved leader of his people in the message from the orb? Of course, that could have been a mother’s love speaking. Caligula’s mother had probably loved him too.

"I don’t think she thinks you were a psycho killer Maxwell," Michael retorted impatiently. "She just thinks I’d make a better king." He grinned, in spite of the dire circumstances in which they presently found themselves. "I don’t think she knew me very well either. She just loved me from afar."

Max shrugged. "Who knows what any of us were like before Michael. Maybe you were the one more suited to rule. That’s what we’re here to find out."

Max was a little ashamed that he hadn’t thought of questioning Courtney about their past lives before, but he had been so wrapped up in the giant mess that was his relationship with Liz lately, it hadn’t even dawned on him that they had a font of information right at their fingertips. It was only now that Liz and Alex were in danger that it had even crossed his mind that they were wasting a valuable resource. It had taken them almost a year to discover what little they did know about themselves. To not find out all they could from Courtney before she died, even if it was filtered through the skin girl’s own prejudices and loyalties, would be almost a crime.

He might not want to know about his past life, but he finally understood that he had to. If he didn’t know why his enemies hated him, if he didn’t know who he had been, he couldn’t protect the people he loved, nor could he make the right decisions for everyone. As much as he didn’t want the responsibility of it, every day his friends were turning to him more and more to make the major choices. Even Michael was doing so and that fact alone told Max that he had to start accepting that his new role was permanent and unchangeable. If all his friends accepted it, he had to as well, if only for their sakes.

All in all, it sucked to be the king Max thought now as he watched Michael tap on his bedroom door and then enter to see if Courtney was okay. He was sure he wasn’t the first to think so either. Power was coveted by many, but, in the end, the responsibility of it all - the inability to think about what you really want because so many people are depending on you - was so exhausting, he was beginning to want to go to sleep and never wake up. The sheer irony of it was that having power and wanting to use it for good was the most scary proposition he had ever encountered.

It hadn’t been this way when he had been with Liz though. Then he had felt strong and eager to face each new day, eager to solve any problems that came their way, if only so that he could go back to being blissfully happy that she loved him as much as he loved her. Even what he had endured in the white room had been bearable because she had been waiting for him when he escaped. The thought of her had helped him survive it and being with her after had healed him in a way that nothing else could have. Without Liz’s love, her concern, he would likely still be dealing with the psychological ramifications of what had happened to him there. But loving her had gotten him through it because he would have lived through the torture of a thousand Pierces if it meant keeping her safe. And now the only way to save her - to make sure she was never threatened again - was to find out exactly who and what they were fighting. It scared him to find out who he had been, was likely why he hadn’t approached Courtney before, but he would do it for Liz. He would do anything for Liz.

Michael appeared on the threshold of his bedroom, his face grim. "Okay Maxwell." Max grimaced, understanding that Michael’s concern meant that Courtney’s death was only a matter of time now. He felt bad about it, but couldn’t see how they could do anything to help her besides what Michael was already doing in trying to make her as comfortable as possible as she faced her demise. Any chance of saving her had been destroyed with the harvest.

Max followed his friend through into the darkened bedroom, blinking to adjust his eyes. Michael crossed the room and leaned against the wall beside the head of the bed, his arms crossed as he waited expectantly for Max to speak.

"Hi," he said quietly to the blonde girl sitting up against a pile of stacked pillows on Michael’s bed. He tried not a flinch at the peeling skin on her face or the way she couldn’t help but reach up and pull some of it off as he watched. It was revolting but certainly wasn’t Courtney’s fault after all.

Courtney was staring at him, her blue eyes wary. "Hi. Gross huh? Trust me. It’s better underneath. I was a babe at home. Not that you’ll ever see that." She smiled weakly. Max relaxed slightly, could see that she was still trying to keep up the facade of being the sassy waitress he was used to. "Michael said you wanted to talk to me?"

"Yeah. Two of our friends are in trouble and I think you can help us find them."

Her eyes narrowed. "I’m surprised you would trust me enough to ask." She glanced at Michael. "I’m assuming you know who I am."

"I know that you’re loyal to Michael," Max replied evenly. "And he’s just as worried about them as I am."

"It’s true," Michael put in here. "They’re my friends too Courtney."

"Is it the two girls?" Courtney asked. "Isabel and Tess I mean? Is they why they’re not here?"

"No, Liz and Alex," Max told her, glad that he had asked the others to wait for he and Michael at the Crashdown. "I came alone. I’m not trying to threaten or scare you Courtney. I just want answers."

She continued to gaze at him steadily, assessing, weighing. "You guys really do care about humans, don’t you?" She finally asked, sounding slightly surprised. She looked at Michael. "I thought you were just using Maria to get your kicks."

Michael’s gaze darkened, but all he said was, "No."

Courtney smiled at him. "I should have known better. It wouldn’t have been like you before either. I guess I was just messed up because it would have been like Zan and I’ve seen him do it this time too - playing both Tess and Liz."

Max felt a flash of anger, but kept it in check by taking a deep breath. "You don’t know me," was all he said, trying to keep his tone mild. "Whoever I was before, I’m not the same now."

"Max isn’t like that," Michael added. "I’ve told you that Courtney."

She shrugged. "I know what I know."

"So you do know more about who we were then?" Max asked. "Because that’s why I’m here. I want to hear it all. I want to know everything you know."

"Of course I know who you are," Courtney replied. "I’m still the same person I was on Sardica. I wasn’t reborn like you were."

Max moved forward, tried to ignore the way Courtney’s eyes narrowed with dislike. "Can I ask you some questions?"

"Sure," she said, sounding slightly flippant.

"Okay." Max started pacing, trying to get his thoughts in order. "You just mentioned Sardica. Is that where we’re from?"

"No. Sardica was my planet. You were the king of Antar. Antar holds the high kingship of the system. The king of Sardica is Khivar. He held that planet by your leave but now he holds both Sardica and Antar. There are five planets in the system," she added as an afterthought. "Antar, Sardica, Wendar, Valonia and Knosis. You were high king of them all, although you only ruled Antar directly."

Max frowned. He knew a little bit about feudalism from the world history course he had taken as a freshman. It sounded like where they came from was governed in that fashion. It was a little strange that a population advanced enough to have mastered space travel should be using such an outdated system, but it wasn’t really important at the moment. He could deal with his inherent issues with monarchy later. "So my name was Zan? Is that right?"

"Yes. Your sister is Vilandra, your wife Ava and your second-in-command," she looked over at Michael, "is Rath." Max saw Michael’s eyes narrow. It suddenly occurred to Max that it was a little strange that Michael hadn’t asked Courtney anything about who he had been before this. It also showed how much Michael had changed. He was generally more concerned about keeping those he cared about safe these days than about finding out about their past. It was a major shift in Michael’s personality and one Max would talk to his friend about later.

He also realized that Courtney referred to all of them being these people he had never heard of in the present tense. Because to her it was who they still were. It only reinforced to him how dangerous it was for them not to know exactly how their enemies viewed them. He and the others knew that they weren’t dangerous or evil, but beings who remembered them before didn’t. It was a strange thought, but one he was going to have to get used to - the idea that people could hate him without even knowing him. And it brought his next question easily to his lips. "What can you tell me about the Skins? Why do they hate us? And why don’t you work with Nicholas and the others?"

"The Skins are Sardicans," Courtney replied. "They support Khivar and chased you down here to kill you for his sake. They defeated you last time, but your mother cloned you and the Antarians refuse to accept Khivar as the high king because they all believe that you will come back some day. So even though you died, you are still tearing the system apart."

"But you don’t support Khivar?" Max asked. "Why?"

"Khivar is an idiot," Courtney sighed. "He’s more concerned about getting Rowena back than he is about facilitating the golden age we were right on the verge of accomplishing. He’s no better than Zan, even if we are from the same race."

"Rowena?"

"Rowena was Khivar’s wife. She was your cousin by the way," Courtney told Michael. "You’re not Antarian by birth. You’re from Valonia but you were raised in Zan’s court because you were betrothed to Vilandra pretty much at birth. It was why you were our choice to rule the system in Zan’s place. You knew Antar, its politics and its people. They loved you almost as much as they loved Zan. With Vilandra as your wife, they would have accepted you. She was Zan’s heir anyway."

Max tried to take in all this information, tried to keep it straight in his head. "Okay, so you want Michael to rule. Why? You don’t seem to have anything against Antar being in charge or any particular loyalty to your planet. What is your issue with Zan?" He tensed, almost afraid to hear what she was going to say.

"I have the same problem with Zan I have with Khivar. You both worry about your personal lives more than you do about your people." She rolled her eyes. "You were forced by your father into a betrothal you didn’t want and so you proceeded to make everyone in the system miserable as a consequence. Once you were king, you spent so much time trying to finagle a way out of the marriage treaty, you ignored your real job, which was to govern. So many splinter groups popped up as a result, its going to be years before they’re all appeased and we can get the system back on track," she finished bitterly.

"So I didn’t want to marry Tess?" Max couldn’t help but feel a twinge of satisfaction. Somewhere, deep inside, he had known it. He knew that he didn’t love Tess. The attraction he had felt for her when she had first arrived in Roswell had been the result of a combination of mindwarping and the recognition factor that had pulled him towards Michael the first time he had met him too. She was like him after all, even if he didn’t love her. But, apparently, he had been just as unwilling to be with her before as he was now.

"No. It was a political match. Ava was the sister of the king of Knosis," Courtney replied. "You fought it for years, although no one really knew why. Ava was a nice enough girl and she loved you. She was raised with you just like Rath was and no king or queen ever married for love. It’s all about alliances, which Rath and Vilandra knew and accepted. It’s why we wanted them on the throne instead of you. They would have fixed things." She glanced at Michael, her eyes softening. Max saw his best friend shift uncomfortably.

"But Zan obviously gave in," Max told her. He wondered if he should start saying I instead of referring to the king of Antar in the third person. It was just too weird though. He didn’t feel like Zan. He didn’t remember being Zan. He was listening to a story about a far off place he didn’t recall at all and felt very little loyalty to. Although, maybe that wasn’t so strange. It didn’t sound like he had cared particularly about being king before either.

"Yes. Right before you were killed you accepted it. The war was going so badly, you desperately needed Knosis’s support."

"What was the issue with Khivar?" Michael asked when Max stayed quiet, thinking about what this all meant. "What did he have against Zan?"

Courtney frowned slightly. "I’m not really sure actually. Sardica is the central commerce planet of the system. I think Zan allowed some tariffs to go through that shouldn’t have?" This last was phrased more like a question, as though Max or Michael might have been able to answer her, which of course they couldn’t. She shrugged. "I’m telling you, a lot of it was pretty petty. Big egos and little concern for the well-being of the populations affected. It was yet another reason that Rath would have made a great king. He was a man of the people, having served in Zan’s army for years. He wouldn’t have let his personal problems interfere with the best interests of the system."

Max and Michael exchanged a look. "Well, it’s not going to happen, so you might as well just forget it," Michael finally said firmly, his eyes still locked with his king’s. Max had known that Michael would never betray him. When he had first heard about the "Michael worshippers" it hadn’t even crossed his mind as anything other than a strange little bit of trivia. The implacable expression on his best friend’s face now meant that Max had been right. Michael didn’t care about leading. He just wanted to make sure that Max did it right. Suddenly all of his arguments with Michael over the years made perfect sense. He had been his advisor and friend in a past life and it had bled over into this one. The teenage human hormones tossed into the mix this time likely made his friend a bit more pissy than he had been as Rath, but he was still essentially the same…

Which meant that Max and the others were essentially the same as well.

He wasn’t surprised about himself. He didn’t want to be king, was still more concerned about his personal life than about his people. Even now, when all this information was being thrown at him, deep down he was thinking about how it affected things with Liz, how she would take this stuff. Because, deep down, in places he didn’t like to think about, she was really all he cared about. He knew that it was the last thing she would want - that she wouldn’t want him to throw away his responsibilities or his destiny for her sake - but it was what he really wanted to do.

And, yet, he knew he couldn’t. So he wondered what it all meant for he and Liz and hoped that it really meant nothing. Because if he hadn’t loved his wife - Tess - in their past lives, what difference did it make if he loved her now?

"What about all these marriages and stuff?" Michael asked, as though reading Max’s mind. "I don’t still have to be with Isabel do I? I never bought that," he directed this comment to Max. The way he said it showed Max that he was actually asking on his king’s behalf, not his own. Michael knew how little Max wanted any of the destiny crap to be necessary after all. He knew that it was the main issue standing between Max and Liz and he cared that they were both miserable - or at least it had been until the Kyle debacle. Max wondered if Michael suspected as he did - that if Liz had actually slept with Kyle, it had all been an elaborate plan to push Max away and to make him accept his future with Tess. "I never bought it Maxwell," Michael repeated and this time Max knew he wasn’t talking about destiny at all. Somehow Max knew he was talking about Kyle and Liz. Michael set his jaw and continued in a rush. "Remember when Liz’s journal was missing?"

Max blinked, but nodded, unsure why Michael was bringing that up at the moment.

"I stole it. I asked Liz not to tell you and from the look on your face, I can see she didn’t," Michael grimaced. He threw his hands up. "Before you get your panties in a twist, let me just tell you why I did it."

"Fine," Max replied through gritted teeth, his outrage on Liz’s behalf barely contained.

"I needed to know what she was thinking, what she was about - if we could trust her," Michael said, not sounding sorry, even now. "And I found out what I needed to know about Liz Parker from that book."

"What is the point of this Michael?" Max asked, more confused now than angry.

"Liz Parker loves you. If she did the nasty with Valenti it was for you." He paused. "Which is kind of disturbing actually, but I know it has to be true. The last thing that girl would ever do is deliberately hurt you."

Max felt a flash of gratitude towards his best friend, even though he was still angry that Michael had violated Liz’s privacy like that. And, yet, he couldn’t help but like what Michael said. He took a deep breath and said what Michael needed to hear. "Thank you. It’s what I suspected too, but I wondered if I was just kidding myself, coming up with excuses so that I could deal with it, so that I wouldn’t have to accept that she doesn’t love me anymore. Hearing you say that means a lot."

Michael nodded stiffly and looked away, obviously slightly embarrassed now. He addressed Courtney gruffly. "So what about the marriages?"

Max felt his heart start to beat more quickly as he waited for Courtney’s answer.

She shrugged, looking slightly wary after the exchange Michael and Max had just shared. Max wondered about it, but brushed it aside for the moment. "Well, I would assume that keeping the treaties that the marriages represent would be important to the Antarians, although Valonia is on Khivar’s side anyway because of Rowena’s marriage to him and because of what happened there."

"What happened?" Max asked.

"It was virtually destroyed by Antarian sky forces," Courtney replied darkly. "Under Zan’s command, not Rath’s," she added pointedly.

"And, yet, Rath still remained loyal? After Zan demolished his home?" Max demanded in disbelief.

"He loved Zan. He was loyal to the end."

The question of loyalty made Max think of Isabel and her certainty that she would betray him, that she had done it before and they were all doomed to relive the same paths they had trod before. He knew that his sister would never turn on him and so it was the next thing he wanted to know about - why Vilandra had joined the enemy the last time. "What about Zan’s sister? Vilandra. We’ve been told that she betrayed her brother? Is that true?"

Courtney’s face lit up with admiration. "Vilandra was a good woman. After the razing of Valonia, she felt she had no choice. She took her forces and joined with Khivar. She tried to convince Rath to do the same, but he wouldn’t."

Michael was frowning when Max looked at him as he spoke next. "So what I don’t get is why you’re still so loyal to me? It sounds like Rath made some pretty bad choices. If Zan was the asshole this story seems to say he was, what was my deal?"

"You insisted, at the tribunal of the five planets, that Zan had no control over the Antarian Sky Army, that he had trusted you to command them and you failed him by allowing what happened at Valonia. Basically you took responsibility for the whole thing and refused to allow Zan to be blamed." She paused. "In fact, you even wanted to prove that Khivar was really behind it, although no one believed that because of his love for Rowena. He would never have hurt her people."

"What was my proof?" Michael asked, frowning slightly.

"I have no idea. They halted your testimony. The judge said it was ridiculous and that everyone knew that Khivar had nothing to gain by destroying Valonia. It was his only ally."

Michael looked at Max. "I think we need to find out exactly what happened on Valonia Maxwell. It might be the key to everything." Max could almost see the wheels turning in his best friend’s head as Michael Guerin started to transform back into the general he had once been.

"You’re probably right," Max agreed. "But right now we need to worry about Alex and Liz." He sat down on the bed beside Courtney. She didn’t flinch away from him as Max half-expected her to do, but continued to gaze at him steadily. "There are two new aliens in Roswell. They don’t look like Skins to me because they weren’t peeling…" He trailed off, grimacing at the fact that he had reminded her of the state in which she currently existed.

Courtney smiled slightly. "Don’t worry. I’ve accepted that my time has come. And you’re right. With the harvest gone, most of the Skins are likely dead by now. Any left would be too weak to be any threat to you." She narrowed her eyes. "Were they shapeshifters? We know that the Wendarians have a faction down here too. There were two sent with you in your ship." This comment reminded Max that they still hadn’t asked Courtney about how they had all died and why they had been sent to Earth. But as she continued, he realized there would be time for that later. For right now, it was more important to find Liz and Alex and to understand who Will and Kate were. "Michael told me that you were in contact with one of them."

"Nasedo," Michael agreed. "But he’s dead."

Courtney looked perplexed. "Maybe there were more of them?"

Max shook his head, sighing. "I don’t know. They didn’t shapeshift in front of us. It was weird. I felt like they were like us. Seeing them - especially the girl - I felt like I knew them. I was even sort of happy to see her the first time I ran into her…" He trailed off, totally perplexed as he voiced aloud exactly what he had felt when he had crashed into Kate that morning in the school hallway.

"They tried to kill you Maxwell," Michael reminded him. "I’m doubting she felt the same way."

"If that happened, they weren’t Wendarians," Courtney added, sounding sure. "Antar and Wendar are allied." She paused, seemed to be thinking. "How did they try and kill you?"

Max quickly explained how Will had been capable of throwing lightening bolts and how he had spoken to him in his head. He also added that Kate had apparently teleported her brother and their two captives away, revealing her gift. Max watched in fearful fascination as Courtney’s face whitened.

"What is it?" Michael demanded when she reached out and clutched his hand.

"I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense," she muttered.

"What doesn’t?" Max asked, his heart thundering in his chest.

"Well, those gifts…" Courtney trailed off. "But it is impossible. He’s on Antar. I know he is! I know that Nicholas communicated with him there a lot over the years." She seemed to be working a problem out in her mind, muttering to herself rather than speaking to Max or Michael. "It might be her. She died soon enough." There was another long pause and then, "There’s no other explanation though."

Michael glanced at Max, worried. Max just shrugged, but his hope that she would be able to give them the answer they needed had increased as he tried to follow the train of her thoughts.

Courtney finally looked directly at Max again. "I don’t think you’re going to like this."

"Tell me. Please."

"It just seems wrong somehow - in fact I know it is wrong because he’s still alive on Antar - but those gifts…" Courtney pressed her lips together and finally just blurted it out. "It sounds like you faced Khivar himself this morning."

Before this information could even penetrate Max’s muddled brain, a piercing ring made him practically jump out of his skin. Michael visibly flinched as well, but he seemed to realize more quickly that it was the phone. He hurried out of the room and was back a moment later, his expression perplexed.

"Michael, what is it?" Max demanded.

"That was Izzy at the Crashdown," Michael replied, sounding dumbfounded. And then he said what made Max’s entire being sing with relief, something that made him forget momentarily the significance - and terror - of what Courtney had just told them. "It's Liz and Alex. They’re back."

To be continued…




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Aug-2002 8:03:18 PM ]
posted on 13-Aug-2002 9:25:03 AM by Kath7
Part 11

Once Alex had Liz out of the motel, he managed to control his thundering heart long enough to try and formulate a plan. His first instinct was to call in Max, Michael and the others, but it didn’t take him long to realize that handing his friends over to their enemies was not the soundest idea. He had not lied when he told Kate that he didn’t believe she was evil, but it was also clear that she didn’t believe him when he said that Max and the others weren’t either.

There was only one other person he felt safe calling at this point. He still had Liz firmly by the hand as they stood at the side of the highway. He was beginning to get his bearings, realized that they were on 285 South, likely about ten miles out of Roswell. Since he didn’t want to stay close to Will and Kate if he didn’t have to, in case they changed their minds about letting he and Liz go, Alex started to pull Liz after him towards town.

He was becoming more concerned for Liz the longer she went without speaking, which she hadn’t since she had begged him to get her out of the motel. Instead, she stumbled after him, her eyes slightly glassy. More than anything, Alex wanted to know what Will had said to her. Whatever it was, it had obviously freaked her out on a level Alex couldn’t even grasp. He felt a flash of anger. Liz certainly had not needed more bad news - not after what she’d been going through over the past couple of weeks. Being told by a future version of your soul mate that you had to push the present incarnation of said soul mate towards your biggest rival or you would be responsible for the end of the world was about all one person should have to handle at one time.

"Do you have your phone?" Alex asked her now, hoping she would answer, so that at least he would know her brain hadn’t been fried somehow. He wondered briefly why he was so preoccupied with alien brain frying today. It wasn’t like he had ever witnessed such a thing before. It was the second time he had thought of it, but, for some reason, it was really weighing him down.

Liz blinked, nodded. She pulled it out of her pocket and handed it to him. Alex was relieved to see that her eyes were clear. "Don’t call Max. I don’t want him anywhere near here."

Okay, brain intact. Check, Alex thought with relief. Liz’s brain would always think of Max first. "I’m going to call Valenti," Alex reassured her. "He needs to know about this Liz. We have to tell someone."

Liz sighed. "Okay."

Alex quickly dialed the sheriff’s station, was relieved when Deputy Hanson didn’t think it was weird that a teenager would call and demand to be connected to the sheriff. But, then, Alex reflected wryly, he was likely used to it by now. Moments later, Valenti’s once terrifying, but now reassuring voice, sounded in his ear. "Kyle, is that you? I told you I’d pick you up in time for the game. If we leave by three, we’ll be in Phoenix in plenty of time."

"Sorry Sheriff, it’s Alex." Alex grimaced when he realized that it was likely that another father/son bonding session was about to be tossed into the alien abyss.

"Mr. Whitman?" The sheriff was instantly on alert. "What can I do for you?"

"Can you pick Liz and me up? We’re sort of stranded and we don’t want to call the others."

"May I ask why?"

"I promise we’ll tell you everything, but we just really need a ride."

"Fine. Give me the details."

Alex did so and hung up, handing the phone back to Liz. She was watching him anxiously. "He’s coming?"

"Yup." Alex shrugged in the direction of town. "Let’s walk though. I don’t feel like having them show up suddenly again."

"Okay."

They walked in tense silence for close to five minutes before Alex finally blurted impatiently, "Well?"

He saw Liz glance at him warily out of the corner of her eye. "Well, what?"

"Liz…"

She sighed. "Okay, I’ll tell you, but he was lying anyway so it doesn’t really matter."

"Will?"

"Yeah." There was a long pause and then she said quietly, "He told me that I’m an alien too."

Alex stopped walking abruptly and stared at the back of Liz’s head. He knew his mouth was hanging open but he couldn’t help it. If he had thought that the time-traveling story was mind-blowing, this was beyond even that. "Why would he do that? We know that’s not true!" Alex finally managed to stutter.

"I know," Liz grimaced. But from the tone of her voice…

"Liz, you don’t actually believe him?" Alex demanded, astounded. "What about the whole human DNA thing? Isn’t that how you found out about Max in the first place? By comparing your DNA? That’s what you told me!"

"I know all that Alex!" Liz snapped. "I know it’s not true, but he reminded me about something, and it freaked me out a bit."

"What?"

"The way Max and I connect," Liz replied. "I know that Michael has gotten flashes from Maria, but she hasn’t gotten them from him. I’ve always thought it was a consequence of Max healing me but when I asked Kyle about it, even though he told me that he got them from Max, I think he was kidding." She smiled slightly at the memory. "I’m pretty sure he was kidding actually." Alex frowned, wondering what Kyle had said. "Anyway, I’ve gotten them from Max - so many times - the last time being only a couple of weeks ago." Her voice softened slightly. "When he was trying to convince me that we belong together." Alex grabbed her hand and squeezed it, knew that what Liz had done two weeks ago had been the most difficult thing she had ever faced. He didn’t want her thinking about Future Max at the moment.

"So what’s the point?" He asked, trying to bring her back to the topic at hand.

Liz shook her head, apparently trying to rid herself of a painful memory. "Will told me that was my gift," she continued. "That I could always connect with people, that I read their true intentions by doing so. His cousin can apparently read essences too and he recognized mine in Copper Summit…" She trailed off, obviously thinking hard about what she had been told.

Alex narrowed his eyes. "What else did he say?" He could tell that Liz was holding something back, that there was something else particularly awful.

"He told me that my name was Rowena and that I was his wife."

"Whoa. He pulled out all the big cards, didn’t he?" Alex rolled his eyes. "Liz, I think that, more than anything, has to prove that he’s lying."

"Why?" Liz asked, hopeful.

"He must have known how much you mean to Max. He’s trying to get at them through you. Maybe he’s trying to get Max’s allies on his side."

"But he seemed really hurt when I told him that I loved Max," Liz sounded unsure. "Like it was the first time he’d heard it."

Alex reflected on the fact that Kate had seemed equally as shocked by the news that Max and Liz had been together. "I don’t know what to say," he finally shrugged.

"Alex, there’s something else…" Liz trailed off again, sounding scared. "You know how I told you before that it seemed like Will knew me when I met him?"

Alex nodded, wondering where she was headed with this.

"I didn’t tell you this." Liz swallowed, looked right at him. "I knew him too. From the first moment I laid eyes on him. And that’s why, even though I don’t want to, I think I believe him."

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

When he and Michael entered the Crashdown, Max’s eyes lit immediately on his friends, who were all gathered around a table at the back of the restaurant.

He was not at all surprised to see that they were arguing. Maria was actually shrieking in frustration, but Max was pleased to see that, for once, it wasn’t directed at Tess, who was sitting quietly, listening. Max was shocked to see who it was that was taking her abuse, but was relieved that besides that, Alex seemed perfectly healthy. Max sighed and hurried towards them, Michael on his heels. "You guys! What’s wrong? Everyone’s staring at you!" Max quickly scanned the table, felt his relief at the sight of Alex evaporate. "Where’s Liz?" He looked at Isabel accusingly. "You said they were both back!

"She’s upstairs." This came from Alex, who sounded extremely weary. "She’s looking for something."

Max barely had time to take this in before Maria pounced on him. "Max, make Alex tell us what happened. He won’t! I think they did some sort of silencing spell on him."

"Maria! They did not do a silencing spell on me," Alex retorted impatiently. "I told you, it’s not my story to tell and even if it were, this is certainly not the place." He looked around meaningfully. "You should know that by now."

Maria’s eyes filled with tears. "I’m sorry. I’ve just been worried sick," she said. Michael moved forward and pulled her up into his arms, running a comforting hand down her back.

Alex sighed again, looked at Max. "Liz is okay. Physically anyway."

Now what was that supposed to mean? Max wondered. "I’m going to find her," he said quickly, moving away before anyone could stop him, although that didn’t mean he didn’t hear Alex calling after him, telling him it was a bad idea.

He pushed his way through to the back of the Crashdown, just in time to meet Liz coming down the stairs. She stopped abruptly at the sight of him, her dark eyes widening. For one instant he thought she was going to turn on her heel and run away from him, but was pleased when she took a deep breath and stayed where she was.

Max ran his eyes over her, breathed a sigh of relief to see that Alex had not been lying that she was okay. But he asked, just to be sure. "Are you hurt?" He barely resisted the urge to rush up the stairs and pull her into his arms so that he could check for himself.

Liz managed the shadow of a smile, but it was quickly gone. "No."

"Thank God." He took a step towards her. He saw her bite her lip, but she continued down the stairs, in spite of her obvious discomfort. "Liz, what happened?" For the first time he noticed that she was carrying something in her hands. He frowned slightly when he realized that it was a photo album.

"They let us go," Liz said simply. "They didn’t hurt us. We just left and called Valenti and he came and picked us up." Max nodded, now understanding why the sheriff had been sitting quietly at the counter, not part of the group, but obviously in the restaurant for some specific reason. He felt a pang of misery that she had not wanted him to come for her.

"Why didn’t you call me?" He tried not to sound hurt, but knew he didn’t succeed.

"Because they’re not dangerous to me, but I can’t say the same about you," she replied. "Max, I think I can keep them away from you, but you need to stay away too."

He stared at her. "What do you mean?" How could Liz keep their enemies away from them? If Courtney had been right and Will was his enemy Khivar, then there was no way that he would stop before he killed Max and everyone he loved. It was why he was on Earth after all.

Liz looked at him steadily. "He’s wrong about something, but I think he truly believes it. He cares about me Max and he won’t hurt me. If I make it clear to him that I won’t tolerate anything happening to you, I think he’ll listen."

"I don’t understand," Max told her. He felt the pain of it right in his heart though, because really he did understand. Something significant had obviously taken place between Will and Liz while she had been gone. Something that he was not going to like if the tone of her voice was any indication.

Liz looked torn for a long moment. Finally, she stepped forward and took his hand. His heart started to pound more quickly, instantly aware that this was the first time she had willingly touched him since he had caught her in bed with Kyle. "I think you have to know Max and I just realized that I have to tell you first. Alone. Because this is going to be hard for you to hear." She glanced down at the photo album in her hands and said, "I just need to give this to Alex. I’ll be right back." She moved towards the swinging door that led into the dining room, glanced over her shoulder. "Actually, you might want to go out back and climb up to my balcony. We can be by ourselves there."

"Okay." He watched her go, totally confused. Liz seemed almost too calm. It was a little scary actually. She had just been abducted by strange aliens and she didn’t seem even fazed by the fact. It told him more than sheer panic on her part would have. Something was horribly wrong.

He went out back and used the ladder against the brick wall to climb quickly to Liz’s balcony. He closed his eyes briefly after hoisting himself over the wall. The last time he had been up here…

A flash of Liz and Kyle on Liz’s bed, naked and laughing, ran through his mind, but he quickly thrust it aside and leaned back against the wall. He forced his gaze away from the window and, instead, focused it on the place where he had drawn the heart with his and Liz’s initials inside on the night he had accidentally gotten drunk. Memories of that night had slowly started to return over the months and, thinking about it at the moment, Max wondered how different things might have been if Liz had simply agreed to run away with him then.

If she had, there would have been no Tess, no Pierce, no stupid destiny. It would have meant no Skins and, now, no Will Spencer.

He tried not to feel ashamed that he really wanted to ask her to do it again - run away - even after everything that had happened, even though he knew he couldn’t just escape from all of his responsibilities. But, somehow, he just knew that if they could get away from the mess their lives had become, everything would be okay again. He and Liz had been happy once. They could be again, if only they didn’t have the weight of his world resting on their shoulders. He could pretend to be normal and he could keep her safe and give her the life she had told him she wanted when she had come to his room a couple of weeks before. It would just be the two of them and he knew they would be happy…

But, even as he daydreamed about it, he knew that she would never agree. Liz would never let him do it. She was the one who knew that he couldn’t just turn his back on who he really was. It was why she had walked away from him at the pod chamber and it was also why she had slept with Kyle - or so he was beginning to suspect. He wondered if he should confront her about that again. Maybe now that it was clear that just because she wanted it broken, their bond could not just be forgotten - at least it wouldn’t be by their enemies - maybe now she would tell him the truth about why she had done it.

He was going to tell her again that he didn’t believe that she had slept with Kyle. It was the only thing to do. And, if she still insisted she had, he was going to ask her to prove it the only way he knew how. He would ask to connect with her. Because she could not hide from him when they did - they had never been able to hide from each other when the bond they shared was open between them.

As Max sat down on Liz’s lawn-chair, his elbows resting on his knees, he decided not to think about what he would do if they connected and he found out, once and for all, that Liz and Kyle had made love. He would cross that bridge when he came to it. At this point, he was so sure that it hadn’t happened, he couldn’t even bear to imagine dealing with it again if it had. He hoped he wasn’t setting himself up for a fall.

Max frowned slightly, wondered what was taking Liz so long. He stood, paced over to the edge of the balcony and stared up at the V constellation that he knew marked where his home planet was found. His thoughts drifted to what his life might have been like there. Had he really been as irresponsible and self-absorbed as Courtney said? Why had he been so against marrying Tess? Frustration was mounting now that he was starting to learn bits and pieces of his past life.

Why couldn’t he just remember? It would solve everything. He didn’t understand why he and the others had been sent to Earth with no memories and with no real information about the path they were supposed to take. How were they supposed to help their planet without them? It all seemed like a gigantic waste of time. If they couldn’t be bothered to give him the information he needed, why should he bother with them either? Even Nasedo had been little help. What was his point if not to give them the guidance they so desperately needed? Shouldn’t he have told them more before he died? There had months after all.

Max thought about Tess, wondered if she knew more than she was letting on. It seemed likely. She had been very eager to jump on the fact that Will had called him Zan. It was almost as if she had known that was his name before.

There was no further time to pursue this line of thought though because he heard movement behind him. Turning, he saw Liz standing in her window, staring out at him. Their eyes met and held.

"Is everything okay?" Max asked quietly. Her expression was still too calm - almost mask-like - like she if didn’t stay that way, her entire world would come crashing down around her. He realized abruptly that she had been like this ever since he had caught her with Kyle. It was why, when she sometimes couldn’t hide her real feelings, he suspected that she was lying. Liz’s natural expressiveness was one of the things he loved about her. If she was trying to control it, she was hiding something.

"Yes," Liz replied. "I gave the book to Alex. The pictures in there prove I’m not crazy."

"What was in there?" Max didn’t really understand what she was getting at, but he was willing to go at her pace. Whatever it was she had to tell him was obviously difficult for her.

Liz pulled herself out onto the balcony. He tried not to feel hurt that she stayed close to the window, keeping as much distance between them as possible.

"My baby pictures," Liz told him, her eyes shadowed.

"Why did Alex want to see your baby pictures?" His confusion was mounting with every word out of her mouth.

"Max, can I just ask you something?"

Max frowned, wondered why she didn’t answer him, but nodded. He took a step towards her. "Liz, you can ask me anything.

There was a long pause and then Liz blurted out, "Do you still love me? And, if so, I want to know why."


To be continued…























posted on 27-Aug-2002 10:53:37 PM by Kath7
Hello all! Thought I would just drop in to let you know where I am at the moment. I've just started back at work and I'm finding it difficult to juggle five stories (gee! There's a surprise Kath! LOL) Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that I haven't forgotten this one and that I hope to get a part written this weekend.

In the meantime, I also wanted to show off my new banner which was kindly done for me by bordersinsanity. Thanks Jennifer! It's on page one for those who are interested.
posted on 3-Sep-2002 1:17:03 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Sorry it's been so long since I've updated, but you'll be pleased to know that part 13 is already written. I just have to type it up. I know I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger last time - sorry, no resolution to that here, but definately in the next part. Just needed to deal with some other stuff first.

PS - Don't forget to go check out the awesome banner borderinsanity made for this story. It's on page one. Thanks again Jennifer!

Kath

Part 12

"What is that Alex?"

Alex sighed, glanced over his shoulder at Maria, who was hovering nearby. Her expression was half concerned, half hurt that he was obviously keeping something from the rest of them. He had decided that it was not his story to tell though. When Liz had handed him the photo album she had whispered, "I’m going to talk to Max. Don’t say anything to the rest of them until I do. I, at least, owe him that."

But Alex had already decided that he wouldn’t be telling tales out of school anyway. First of all, he wouldn’t even know where to start. Secondly, he just didn’t have the energy. All he really wanted to do at the moment was head home, crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head. Then he wouldn’t have to deal with any of it. He wouldn’t have to come up with a way to protect Liz from herself, because with every passing moment she seemed more and more determined on self-destruction. She had broken her own heart by pretending to sleep with Kyle. Alex knew that her guilt over what that lie was doing to Max became more intense by the hour. And, now, she was allowing their friends’ enemies to convince her that she wasn’t entirely human…Worse than that. That she one of them.

His best friend was completely losing herself in the alien abyss and he didn’t know how to stop it.

The photo album had been Alex’s idea. Liz’s whispered words, right before Valenti had picked them up, continued to haunt him…

I think I believe him.

The photo album was Alex’s attempt to make Liz face reality, to make her look at the book and acknowledge Will’s lies when her own baby pictures stared up at her, showing them for what they were. But he knew already it hadn’t worked. He knew it when she handed it to him that she was pretending to agree with him. But, in her heart, she didn’t. He knew her. It was written all over her face.

The Liz Parker he had been friends with since fifth grade, who believed in cold hard facts and physical proof above all things, was letting someone who had already kidnapped her once, someone who had freely admitted his hatred for their friends, pull the wool over her eyes. This was only the latest in a long string of events that made Alex worry that the Liz he knew and love was long gone. Because, ever since Max had healed her, Liz had let her heart guide her instead of her head - something she had never done before. And, in the end, when had it ever turned out for the best?

Liz had kept Max’s secret from him, Alex, for so long, it had almost destroyed their friendship. She had allowed herself to fall in love with Max, even though it had only ever ended up hurting her…even more so since they had learned that Max was destined for someone else. She had also followed her heart when she had believed Future Max that she had to make Max fall out of love with her - something that didn’t appear to be happening, in spite of all the sacrifices Liz was making to assure it. Because hadn’t Alex just witnessed the fear on Max Evans’s face a few minutes before when he thought Liz might not have returned after all. In spite of it all, Max would be devastated if anything happened to Liz. Nothing had changed.

Liz following her heart was a disaster waiting to happen - every single time. And it was up to him to convince her of it.

The worst part of it all was that Alex actually admired the part of her that had thrown herself body and soul into Max Evans’s world. He wished that he knew for certain that one day he would love someone that much, that he would know that he was loved that much in return. Which only made his goal of protecting Liz from herself pretty much dead in the water before he even started. Because he wanted her way to work, even if, up until now, it certainly hadn’t.

Her way was going to get them all killed. Alex slammed the album shut so that Maria couldn’t see what he was looking at - so that she couldn’t see the album filled with proof that Will Spencer was a liar. Liz could believe him all she wanted to. The evidence that Liz had been born to Nancy and Jeff Parker seventeen years ago was right in front of him. He didn’t care that Liz’s heart was telling her to trust the new boy. Liz’s heart was wrong. She had been right about Max Evans but she was wrong about Will Spencer.

Unfortunately, for the moment, there was little he could really do to convince her of something she wasn’t willing to believe. If she could look cold, hard fact in the face and still believe Will, there was only one avenue left for Alex at the moment. In order to protect and support his friend, Alex was going to have to stick by her through whatever crazy plan was likely brewing in that too smart for her own good brain of hers - even if it meant angering and distancing himself from all the others. Including Maria. And Isabel.

Isabel. Isabel, whom he was fully aware had been watching him quietly, her dark eyes brighter for him than he had seen in months, since the moment he and Liz had reappeared from their adventure. Alex shook his head ruefully. Trust his luck that Isabel Evans would start to care about him again the instant he wasn’t sure he wanted her anymore. He clenched his jaw when he realized that Kate Spencer’s face was actually invading his thoughts again. He sighed heavily. Trust his luck even more that he would be the idiot to transfer his crush from one alien to another - and not even just any alien. An evil one this time!

Yet, he knew deep in his gut that Kate was not evil. She had fully believed everything she had told him about Max and the others - she hated them for what she thought were good reasons. Which could only mean one thing. Will the wanker was lying to her too.

He blinked when he realized Maria was still talking. "Alex!"

"What?" Alex asked. Ignoring her had seemed like a good plan. Usually when he ignored her, she got frustrated and just went away. He thought she was just blowing off steam. After all, he never knew anything before anyone else. How could Maria have deduced so quickly that this time he actually did?

"Why are you and Liz shutting me out?" Maria asked, not sounding hysterical any longer, but, rather, simply, hurt.

She was pulling out all the big guns. Maria reasonable was not someone he enjoyed dealing with. Psycho Maria he could handle easily. Compassionate and ready to listen Maria - bad news. It didn’t help that he actually really did want to tell her what was going on. But he had promised Liz.

"Maria, I can’t…" He yelped when Maria reached past him and made a grab for the closed photo album behind him on the counter. "Maria!"

But Maria was already on the other side of the restaurant, which was now empty of any customers, Mr. Parker having locked up a few minutes ago. He was, as always, amenable to Liz’s friends hanging around after closing. Alex guessed that he preferred to know where they were, rather than having them "cat around the desert" - one of his favorite expressions. What it meant precisely, Alex didn’t know. It sounded better than running from evil aliens and FBI agents through the desert though. He really wished they could just "cat around" every once in a while.

Alex shook his head, glared at Maria and went after her. Apparently all the evading of evil aliens was making her slippier, he thought, annoyed, as she threw a chair into his path. A year ago he would have wrestled her to the floor already. "Kids!" Mr. Parker yelled helplessly. "Watch the glas…"

Too late. The pile of glasses Michael had been drying at the booth he was sitting in with Tess went flying as Alex tripped and crashed into the table. Alex made a wild grab for Maria anyway, almost caught her.

"Isabel! Catch!" Maria shrieked, ignoring Liz’s dad and the mess. She threw the photo album over Alex’s head to Max’s sister, who was now standing, looking perplexed. But not for long of course. Isabel flipped the book open, narrowed her eyes as her eyes scanned Liz’s baby pictures.

"Isabel," Alex ground out between clenched teeth. "Please give me that book."

Isabel’s dark eyes met his. They looked confused - and slightly pained. "Liz’s baby book? Alex, what is this? Why won’t you tell us what’s going on?" She paused. "Was it really that bad?"

He blinked, realized that Isabel’s guilt was real. She thought he was keeping quiet because he didn’t want her to feel bad about whatever "torture" he had undergone at the hands of their enemies.

Alex smiled at her gently, no longer fuming. "I promise you Isabel. They didn’t hurt us."

There were tears in Isabel’s eyes. "Alex…" She obviously didn’t believe him.

"I swear it Iz."

She stared at him for another long, charged moment and then collapsed, her relief almost a living force. Alex actually felt it sweep through him, warming his heart in a way he wasn’t sure she was even aware of.

It was Michael who reached Isabel before she hit the floor. "Izzy? Are you okay? None of this is your fault. You didn’t actually think that?"

Alex rushed to kneel beside her too. Something more serious than worrying over him was obviously affecting Isabel Evans. He wondered that he could still feel disappointed. He was used to it after all. It must have just been the momentary mistaken belief that it was actually him she had been worried about that had caused it.

"Isabel, what’s wrong?" Alex asked now, reaching out and taking her hand. They were friends after all. If something was upsetting her, he owed it to her to be there for her.

"I’ve been so worried! All day Alex!" She sobbed. Alex blinked. Okay, so maybe she had been worried about him. He barely noticed Michael quietly withdraw, clearly wanting to give them a little privacy. Within moments their shaggy-haired friend had herded everyone else into the back - including Mr. Parker, who looked seriously worried. Alex heard the sheriff assuring him that it was just a "lover’s spat." Alex rolled his eyes. If only things could ever be that simple in the alien abyss.

"Shh, Izzy. It’s okay," Alex soothed her, pulling her against him and stroking her long blonde hair. "I’m perfectly fine."

She sniffed. "Everything is just so messed up Alex. God. I’ve been so horrible to you - to everyone. It wasn’t until this afternoon, when I thought I’d lost you, that I even realized what a fool I am! I drive away everyone I should hold on to."

Alex’s heart started to pound more quickly as he looked down into the face he had fantasized about for years. Were all his dreams really finally coming true? After he had basically given up on them for good? "Well, I hope it won’t take a life-threatening situation to make you remember next time," he joked mildly, still feeling a little off balance.

"It wasn’t even that," Isabel hiccuped. "It was when I heard that you were in the Eraser Room with Liz…" Isabel trailed off, laughed slightly. "God Alex, my heart just stopped. Max knew right away it couldn’t be what I thought, but…"

Alex frowned slightly. "That what couldn’t?"

"Well, you and Liz? I wouldn’t put anything past her," Isabel continued darkly, "But that I would even suspect you…I mean, you’re my best friend!" She laughed again. "I just should have known better," she finished quietly.

Alex pulled back, stared at her. Best friend? He was her best friend? One who wouldn’t be in the Eraser Room with anyone else? What the hell was that supposed to mean? "Known what?" He asked, hoping for clarification.

"That you’d never do that to me of course," Isabel replied, smiling at him.

He frowned. "And what would I have been doing to you exactly if Liz and I had been in there for real?" Alex demanded, he blood beginning to boil. He didn’t care that, until a few hours ago, what Isabel was saying would have been entirely true. Just where did she get off being so sure of him?(Might have been the strip tease, a small voice in the back of his mind reminded him. He instantly told the small voice to shut up.) Especially since she had just called him her best friend? Not boyfriend, not desired love slave. Best friend. "I mean, have you not told me a million times that you just want to be friends?" He continued, realized that he was ranting and didn’t care. "Including three minutes ago when you just called me your best friend?"

Isabel blinked, her gaze faltering. "Alex, I…" She obviously had no idea why he was so upset.

"Okay, I just have one question for you Isabel. Which is it? Best friend or boyfriend? Because I really can’t be one if the other one is constantly being dangled in front of me. I can’t wait for you forever."

"Alex, I’m not just going to fall into your arms," Isabel flared, suddenly irritated. "I’ve told you. Things are complicated. I just found out that in my past life…"

He held up his hands. "Don’t tell me. As your potential best friend - and even as your potential boyfriend -, I would like to know, but until you decide, I don’t want to hear any of it. I just don’t. Not to mention I have had just about enough of past lives for today, thank you very much."

"Alex!" Isabel was beginning to sound worried.

Alex clenched his jaw. "Yes, I know I’m being unreasonable. I realize that I am behaving in a psychotic manner which you think may be the result of potential alien brain suckage, but I swear it’s not." He narrowed his eyes. "Speaking of brain suckers - bores being among the worst sort - any plans to see Grant later tonight?"

There was a long pause. Isabel’s eyes widened. "Well, technically…"

"I thought so. Okay, that decides it. No more fall-back guy for me. I’m sorry you were worried Isabel, but you know what? I think, for now, I’m done here." Alex stood up, wondered where the hell this was coming from. He felt like he was watching himself say these things. Yesterday the pleading look on Isabel’s face would have melted him into a pile of butter. "Still love ya Iz, but I just don’t feel like playing second fiddle anymore. If Liz comes down, tell her I went home."

With that, he pushed his way out into the early evening air, taking a deep breath and letting it go. Amazing. He actually felt like he had just had a one thousand pound weight lifted off his back. Had he really just done that? Had he truly just left Isabel Evans sitting on the floor of the Crashdown Café? His goddess? Isabel Evans?

Alex thought about it for a few minutes as he started off in the direction of his home because he really didn’t have anywhere else to go. He hadn’t been expecting to make a grand exit like that. It seemed a little anti-climactic to just go home after. He decided to go for a walk in the park, apparently needing a little more fresh air in order to truly grasp what he had just done.

He realized fairly quickly that he did not regret it. Alex did not doubt that Isabel cared about him, that she would be deeply upset if anything ever happened to him, but the hesitation she had shown when he had asked about Grant had confirmed what he was beginning to realize he had known for a long time. Isabel did not love him. She liked him a whole lot, liked the way he made her feel about herself. He was the first boy to know the truth about her he was also the first boy to not be fooled by her ice queen exterior. She liked that she could be herself around him and he continued to pine for her. It was humiliating to think she simply expected him to be there for her when she needed him but, in the end, only as a friend. She didn’t love him.

The fact that she could run so hot and cold, even after everything they had been through together, only confirmed it. Maybe someday they could be friends, but not right away. Because he knew he was still precariously perched on the edge of a big cliff when it came to her. One glance from those dark eyes and it was entirely possible he would fall head over heels for her again. Walking away from her five minutes before had probably been the most difficult thing he had ever done - even if it hadn’t seemed like it at the time. But he would not be second fiddle any longer. He wanted someone who really loved him.

Alex was pleased with his new resolve to get over Isabel once and for all. He was strong enough to do it. He would help Liz and then he would leave the whole Czechoslovakian mess behind him. Because, if he broke his ties to Isabel, as he fully intended to do, there was nothing binding him to any of them anymore. Not once Liz was back to normal. He could do it! Alex Charles Whitman was not going to be anyone’s whipping boy any longer!

He stuffed his hands in his pockets and kicked at a can on the path in front of him. He frowned slightly, realized that his heart was beginning to hurt. That damn conscience. Guilt already! He quashed it ruthlessly. He deserved to look out for himself for once.

But Isabel had looked so sad…Something was clearly haunting her. She hadn’t meant to make him feel like crap. He knew she hadn’t. She just hadn’t been thinking. She couldn’t help it if she liked Grant…

"Stop it!" Alex ordered himself aloud. "Weak! You are so weak Whitman!"

Of course, saying it out loud didn’t help the fact that Isabel’s eyes were haunting him. He hadn’t given her much of a chance to tell him what was upsetting her. Maybe if he had listened, it wouldn’t have come out sounding quite so bad. What kind of friend was he anyway?

"Stop it," he repeated firmly. "Let it go! She has Michael and Max and Tess! She has more than proven that she only wants you when there’s no one better around."

He wasn’t convincing himself. His feet were actually trying to make him turn around. They wanted him to go back to the Crashdown.

He couldn’t! If he did that, he’d apologize. Unacceptable!

"Bloody hell!" Alex yelled before he could stop himself. "Is it too much to ask for a little peace?"

"Are you okay?"

He literally jumped about three feet into the air. He was absolutely sure that he had been completely alone moments before, no one in front or in back of him. He was in a fairly open area of the park too, his experiences in the alien abyss making dark shadows anathema.

In spite of all this, Kate Spencer stood in front of him now, staring at him.

"Where the hell did you come from?" He demanded, his heart in his throat. Will the wanker better not be coming for Liz again. Alex didn’t know what he would do to him if he was, but it would be…well, something. So the wanker had alien fire bolts. So what? And his knees were not quaking. They just…weren’t.

"I teleported," Kate explained. "I’m alone by the way. So you can stop looking."

"Holy crap!" Alex exclaimed. "Am I supposed to be scared?" He asked, narrowing his eyes, deciding to ignore the fact that he kind of was. But not really. "Did you change your mind about killing me?" He realized that he actually wasn’t scared anymore, now that he knew Kate was by herself. He wondered why he wasn’t afraid of this girl - not at all.

"Of course not," Kate snapped. "I told you, we don’t do that."

"But my friends do?" Alex flared back, annoyed almost immediately. As angry and as confused as he was about his relationship with Isabel, he would not let this girl continue to insult her or her fellow aliens. Kate didn’t even know them. While his Czechoslovakians could be as irritating as hell, they weren’t evil and they didn’t deserve to be hated - especially not for a past they didn’t even remember.

Kate ignored his question. "Where are your friends?" She asked instead.

"Why?" Alex glared at her. "You want me to hand them to you on a silver platter, just because I told you I don’t think you’re evil?"

Kate apparently dismissed his sarcasm because she asked him quite calmly, "Why didn’t Zan come after us? It’s been over two hours. You should have led them straight back to us by now."

"Max," Alex emphasized the alien king’s Earth name deliberately, "Is not like that. And he’s with Liz. She’s telling him the crazy story your brother made up to freak both of them out."

Kate frowned. "It’s not made up Alex. Liz Parker is Rowena."

"She is not," Alex replied firmly. "Did Will send you?" His earlier panic returned. "Wait a minute! If he’s not here, where is he? He didn’t go to the Crashdown, did he?" Alex’s mind was filling with images of Michael, and maybe even Max, blasting first and asking questions later. As much as he distrusted Will and would enjoy seeing it, he knew it would not be what Liz wanted. He tried not to think about the fact that he was also reflecting on how upset Kate would be should anything happen to her brother. Why he cared, he wasn’t sure, particularly since he was being downright nasty to her at the moment, but he did.

"Will’s still at the motel," Kate told him, sounding mildly bitter if Alex was not mistaken. "He trusts Rowena to come back to him. Now that he has told her the truth, he will not pressure her."

"You don’t sound like you approve," Alex commented, his heart beginning to return to a regular tempo.

"She was clearly taken from her pod too early. She has no memories. Until she is made to remember, she won’t," Kate said. "And the longer she is allowed to stay under Zan’s power, the harder she will be to convince that he is her enemy."

"She’ll never be convinced of that," Alex said. "She loves him."

Kate narrowed her eyes at him. "I thought you said that they no were no longer together."

Alex mentally kicked himself. "Er…Well, they’re not. But they still have a soft spot for each other," he finished lamely.

"Well, it doesn’t matter anyway." Kate waved her hand in the air dismissively. "She will not love him when she remembers."

"He is not the same person," Alex stated. "I’m telling you…" He trailed off, knowing that he would be continuing the argument in vain. She did not believe him. Except…

There was a long silence. Alex watched a bevy of emotions play across Kate’s face. He recognized disbelief and frustration that he would not accept her version of what Max was supposed to be like. But he also thought he saw a slight glimmer of hope there. It made him wonder…

"Did you know Zan?" He asked gently.

"I knew him," she replied, closing her eyes. "Very well, but only before he took the throne. I was raised with Vilandra you see. He was different then - kind, but restless. He didn’t want to be king, not then. His father sent him away in the summer before I left Antar - said that he was going to make Zan accept his destiny if it was the last thing he ever did - and it seemed to work. The old king could not have known what he had done though. Because when Zan came back…"

"He had changed?"

"Yes." Kate’s eyes snapped open, as whatever memory she had been living disappeared. "It is why I do not blame you for not seeing what he is. He has always been a marvelous dissembler."

"So you think Max is pretending to be something he isn’t?" Alex asked. "That once he accepts his destiny, once he accepts he will someday be a king, he will change?"

"I don’t necessarily think he’s pretending," Kate said carefully. She looked right at him. "You told me before that you were a good judge of character. I see that you are. You do not fear me at all, do you?"

"No," Alex agreed. "And you don’t fear me?"

"No." Kate smiled slightly. Alex thought she wanted to say something else, but she didn’t elaborate. Instead she said, "My point is that perhaps you are right about Max Evans. Perhaps he has not become the monster he is capable of being. Not yet anyway."

Alex frowned. "But you still think he might?"

"He will," Kate insisted. "It is who he is. His true nature will win out." She swallowed. "And may the stars help us all if we allow it to happen. We cannot be fooled Alex. Not again. There is far too much at stake."

With that, Kate closed her clear blue eyes. Alex jumped when she disappeared into thin air.

He felt his blood run cold when he understood that she was really gone. Because her words were just beginning to make sense to him.

Kate Spencer had come to him wanting to be convinced that Max really was a good person. Because, for her, it only proved more strongly what she was sure he would become. He, Alex, had not convinced her to leave Max alone. In fact, he had convinced her of quite the opposite. What had he done?

It was a rhetorical question of course. He knew exactly what he had done. Although she had not said it in so many words, he had just convinced one of Max Evans’s enemies even more firmly that he had to die.

To be continued…




posted on 5-Sep-2002 1:29:59 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks for all the wonderful feedback folks. It makes this story so much more rewarding to write.

Scifinut - I understand what you're saying about Alex taking a step back from his big epiphany by feeling a bit guilty, but I don't think he'd be Alex if he didn't. After all, he's NOT a jerk and cares about Isabel. He didn't like telling her off, although I agree that it was long overdue.

Just a quick update for people falling other stories I am writing: I am planning to have a part of Union done by the end of the weekend, and, hopefully, a part of Destiny's Circle (that one is so close to completion, it's practically a crime not just doing it). This one may not be updated for about a week. I've now run through everything I wrote at the lake. Damn real life. LOL

Part 13

He was shocked and, underlying that, hurt. While Max was very good at masking his emotions, he had never been able to hide from her - not since he had saved her anyway. Liz felt an overwhelming urge to throw her arms around him, to take that look off his face. She could see the turmoil of confusion and despair he was struggling with, could feel it in fact.

Was this another sign that Will was right? Was it because she had the alien gift of empathy that Max’s pain was her pain as well? Deep down though she knew it wasn’t that. This was Max. It was because she loved him that she shared his grief.

"I don’t know what you want me to say," he finally said hoarsely. "I really don’t know what you want from me anymore Liz."

I want you to be safe. I want you to be happy. The thoughts came unbidden, more natural than breathing. I want to stop hurting you. But, somehow, Liz knew that none of those hopes for him were anywhere in his future. Because he would not be safe until she figured what Will wanted from her. And he would not be happy because, in order for her to find that out, she was going to have to let Will in. She was going to have to hurt Max even more than she already had. She had to protect him…and to protect him, she needed information, which meant getting close to Will.

Liz had not been as out of it on the way back from the motel as she thought Alex suspected. Instead, she had been deep in thought, trying to figure out exactly how they had all ended up in such a complicated mess and how she could fix it.

She thought Will was wrong about who she was, but she no longer thought he was lying. The more she reflected on it, the more she understood that he truly believed that she was this Rowena - the love of his life and Max’s victim. But she also knew Max. She knew that he never could have been the monster that Will made him out to be, not even in a different lifetime. His essence - his soul - could not have changed so drastically. Not Max. Something had clearly gone wrong in their past lives - something that had to be fixed in this one.

Rowena of Valonia was the key. And if Liz had to pretend to be Rowena for a while, until she figured it all out - until she neutralized the threat to Max’s life that Will represented - then she would do it.

But, first, she had to make Max understand. She had to try and modify how much this was going to hurt him. And, somehow, she had to do it without telling him the whole truth.

"I want you to think about it," Liz told Max softly. "Do you love me?"

Max stared at her for a long moment, vulnerable and still confused. "Of course I love you Liz. I can’t just turn it off you know," he added bitterly.

"Why Max?" Liz asked gently. "Why? Loving me has only ever hurt you, has only ever put you in danger. It’s not worth it! Why can’t you see that?"

"Because I know you," Max replied, suddenly firm. Liz felt her heart start to beat more quickly as his spine straightened and his eyes flashed with anger, reminding her of the night in Copper Summit, when his plea for the truth had almost broken her. "You’re lying to me Liz."

She opened her mouth to protest but Max raised his hand to stop her. "Liz, I’m not an idiot. I’ve seen how upset you are lately. You’re hiding something and I think I have a right to know what it is. You didn’t sleep with Kyle - did you?" His voice was raised.

Liz bit her lip, disbelieving that after everything she had done to convince him, in spite of all his pain, his belief in her was still so strong, he refused to accept it. For one moment, the temptation to admit he was right, and to then kiss him senseless for having so much faith in her, was so strong, she barely resisted.

They didn’t belong together. Being with her put him in danger. What had happened with Will that afternoon only emphasized it. She knew, deep down, that Will was not evil. But she had also seen the obsessive glint in his eye when he had spoken of Rowena. If Will truly believed she was Rowena, he would hurt Max to keep him away from her.

And the only way to make sure that Max stayed away from her of his own volition was to keep lying.

"I did Max," she said, pressing her lips together. "It was the only way I could think of to make you back off."

There was a long moment of silence. Liz could hear Max’s ragged breathing. She could feel his impatience, could feel that he still didn’t believe her. Why not? Just that morning, she was sure that he had finally bought it. What had changed? She had to convince him!

"Max, what do you want from me?" Liz demanded. "I’ll always be grateful to you for saving my life, but I’ve told you, I won’t give up my life for you. Not anymore!"

Max remained quiet, his eyes unreadable. Liz continued to babble, desperate to convince him. "I know you latched on to me when you were a kid, that you built this whole fantasy world around what you wanted me to be, but I’m just normal! I don’t have the strength to be with you. It’s why I walked away from you at the pod chamber and it’s why I slept with Kyle. I want to get away from you! I’m trying so hard to keep away."

Max’s eyes were glittering now. He still didn’t say anything. Liz frowned. Why did he suddenly seem pleased?

"Max!" She exclaimed in frustration, frantically searching her memory for what she might have said to make him look that way. "Will you say something? Please?"

Max complied, surprising Liz completely though by changing the subject. "Liz, what happened this afternoon?"

"What?" Liz demanded, distracted. She was still trying to figure out why Max no longer seemed devastated. In fact, he was about as smug as the cat that had swallowed the canary.

"Courtney told Michael and I some stuff this afternoon," Max elaborated. "Will is most likely my enemy. The fact that he released you and Alex without any trouble at all just strikes me as a bit weird. Even if you don’t care about me at all anymore, he has to know that I love you." He paused, added, "Anyone can see it. I never realized how obvious I was until today. There were these sophomores…"

Liz cut him off. "What else did Courtney tell you?" She asked, feeling nervous for some reason she didn’t understand.

"Well, I didn’t want to marry Tess in my previous life. There’s a surprise," he muttered, off-handedly, before continuing. "Apparently I was something of a selfish bastard too. I wasn’t a very good king and I had a mean streak as well. Basically the whole star system appears to be better off without me." Liz could hear the slight tremor in Max’s voice. What he had learned from Courtney had obviously upset him, although he was trying to hide it. "It all makes me wonder why anyone would want Zan back anyway. Maybe I should just let your new best friend Will kill me and be done with it."

Liz’s horror must have been reflected on her face because Max quickly continued, "I’m sorry. I don’t really mean that." He collapsed onto a deck chair, as though the weight of the world had suddenly been deposited on his shoulders. "My experience with Pierce and what happened to Nasedo…" He trailed off. "I don’t want to die. I’m too much of a coward to let them kill me, even if it would probably make everyone else’s life easier."

Liz went and sat near him, barely refraining from touching him, her natural instinct. "Max, you can’t think…"

"That everyone would be better off with me dead?" He asked, snorting slightly. "Sometimes I really do Liz." She flinched when he looked directly at her. "Would you have to lie all the time if I was dead? Would you have to through life acting completely contrary to your nature if I didn’t exist?" His voice lowered and he raised a hand and gently cupped her cheek. "I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, or hurt you, or make you feel sorry for me. I hope you know that. It’s just that you’ve always been the only person I could be completely truthful with. I feel like I can tell you things I can’t even tell Isabel or Michael." He paused. "I miss that most of all I think. Knowing that I can say anything to you and you won’t judge me or hate me. I even miss you telling me that I need to get over myself." He quirked a weak grin. "Because I definitely need that sometimes. I need you Liz."

Liz felt tears filling her eyes. He was saying everything she had been thinking since the pod chamber, everything she had thought about all summer when she had tried to convince herself that maybe she could be with Max, in spite of what his mother had said in the orb, in spite of Tess. It was why she had not bee altogether surprised when Future Max had told her that she had given in during that other life, that they had been together. Because, more than anything, she missed him. She missed everything about him.

But most of all, she missed how he wanted to tell her things from his deepest soul, things that he would be ashamed to tell anyone else. She used to be able to say anything to him too. She could tell him anything because he knew it anyway.

It was what being soul mates meant.

And, here he was reminding her of what she was giving up, weakening her. She couldn’t help herself. She reached out and took his hands. A feeling of sweet relief flowed through her as his fingers twined through hers. Her heart started to beat more quickly.

"Max…" Liz felt his sadness through the connection that had sprung to life from the moment she touched him, could feel his burgeoning hope that maybe he had finally gotten through to her. Because everything he said was true. She was lying to him. She was betraying everything they were supposed to be. Just because he - or at least a future version of himself - had asked her to, it didn’t make it right. This Max hadn’t had a choice in the matter.

She opened her mouth to tell him everything, to tell him about Future Max, about Kyle, about what Will had told her, about how she thought Will might be telling her the truth, as much as she was trying to deny it.

She opened her mouth and nothing came out. Her entire throat seized up and she stared at him helplessly, wondering why this was so difficult. Why did every single decision she made when it came to Max have to be about life or death?

Max must have sensed the difficulty she was having in speaking though because he said, "I don’t blame you for wanting a normal life Liz. I don’t like what knowing me has made you do. I don’t like that you’re constantly in danger. I don’t like that you worry constantly about protecting me, that you never worry about yourself. I know that I should let you walk away because, in the end, it will be better for you." Max squeezed her hand lightly. "But the thing is Liz, you’re not walking away. I know you’re not. In fact, after today, you’re more connected to me than ever. I just know it. I don’t know how I do, but I do."

Liz stared at him, disbelieving that he was so right. How did he know all of this? It couldn’t just be because of the connection they shared, could it? Did he really know her so well?

Of course he does, a small voice in the back of her mind reminded her. Just like you know him. How else did you come up with the plan to pretend to sleep with Kyle? You know him and you thought of what would most devastate him and you did it - for his own good.

Again, Max seemed to be reading her mind because he said, "I know that what happened with Kyle…" He swallowed, forged ahead. "I know that it hurt you even more than it hurt me. I can’t imagine what happened that made you think that you had to do that. I know that it has to be about more than the fact that I wouldn’t leave you alone though. Because if I had truly believed that it was what you wanted, I would have. But I know you didn’t Liz. You still wanted me then as much as I wanted you. I know you did. When I touched you outside the Crashdown on the night Nasedo died, I felt it." He paused, looked directly at her, almost pleading. "Liz, please tell me the truth."

As she stared at him, as she gazed into his beloved eyes, she almost caved. She almost gave in. But this was Max. How could she tell him the truth when it might still result in the end of the world? When it might result that the purity and beauty of their love would destroy the only home either of them had ever known?

Why did he have to make it so difficult? Why couldn’t he give up on her? How could he still have so much faith in her, after everything?

"Max, why? Why can’t you believe it? Why can’t you just accept that I want an ordinary life?" She demanded desperately, willing him to let it go, but, deep down, wanting him to convince her - wanting him to make her tell him.

"Because you’re an extraordinary person Liz Parker," Max replied quietly, brushing the tears, that were falling unheeded now, aside with his thumbs. Both of his hands were now gently cradling her face, stroking lightly, sending shivers of desire and love throughout her body. "You showed me that every time you tried to convince me to take a chance with you, and, then you showed me every time I kissed you. I knew it the first time I laid eyes on you in that playground. I knew when I saw you that day that if you knew the truth about me, you’d accept it, that you wouldn’t be afraid."

Liz could feel herself getting lost in his dark eyes. Why did being with him always just feel so right? This was where she belonged, this was where she was normal. His lips were only a breath away from hers now. "Max…"

"Liz, if you can’t tell me, then show me. Please. Show me what’s wrong. All you have to do is choose us. Liz, please!" His breath was warm on her face. Her entire body was tingling, pushing her to do exactly what he wanted her to - exactly what she wanted anyway. He knew it. He always did. And, finally, she understood why he couldn’t let go.

It would be so easy. All it would take was one kiss and all the secrets would be out, all the pain would be over. She and Max would be back together, stronger than ever. It would be so easy to give in…

Even if she wasn’t quite sure, he might not see anything anyway. There hadn’t always been flashes when they had kissed in the past. Maybe she should test it out. If he saw, then he was meant to - it was fate. If he didn’t, she would know once and for all that she was choosing the right path, that she had to keep pushing him away.

She knew that she was trying to come up with excuses to allow him to kiss her, but, in the end, not allowing it would be like telling herself to stop breathing. She just could not say no. Not again. This was Max and she loved him. She wanted him. And, in every way, except for a destiny that he had not chosen, he was hers. She had tried to push him away and, yet, still he loved her. She had done her best. It had to be enough.

Liz felt Max’s lips brush hers lightly, tentatively, ready to stop if she demanded it. She was weak, she knew it. But the instant their lips meant, there was no turning back. As the kiss deepened, she was overwhelmed by how much she loved him, was reminded of how she had willingly chosen to spend the rest of her life in misery to protect him.

Because, the first flash, as always, was of her.

It was the scene in the playground where he saw her and the instant love he felt for her careened through her veins and into her heart, warming her in a way she couldn’t begin to describe.

But, she realized, after she started to control the flashes, started to sort through them, finding it easier than she ever had before, that something was different. Suddenly, she thought of Will. She remembered all he had told her and why, for a while, she had believed him when he had told her that she was not human - that she was an alien queen named Rowena and that she was his wife.

This was her gift. Seeing beneath the surface. Understanding the true motives and the true hearts of the people she came in contact with. It had always been her gift. She remembered it.

Because, this time, beneath the love Max felt for her in that memory when they were both children, she also felt his heart skip a beat - in recognition. He had known her. She had been right. For the first time ever, she heard Max’s thoughts at that moment in her own mind. Instead of just feeling what he felt, she thought what he thought.

It was so crystal clear, she didn’t understand how she could not have heard it before, how she could have ignored it for so long.

Rowena.

Max, as a little boy, in his mind, called her Rowena.

It was all true then. She wondered why was no longer upset about it. Her entire life was a lie, but she no longer even cared to deny any of it, DNA and baby pictures be damned.

And, yet, she knew why she wasn’t scared. It was all there in the connection she and Max were sharing. Because, without a shadow of a doubt, she knew that Zan of Antar and Rowena of Valonia had not been enemies at all.

To be continued…


posted on 9-Sep-2002 12:05:51 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks, as always, for the wonderful feedback folks. I know that the truth is coming out excrutiatingly slowly, but we take a giant leap forward here...as you soon shall see.

This part's for you Carol, to thank you for the dreamy joy you bring to me with the Dreamer holiday series. I just love those stories! Sigh. You'd never know it with the angst I can't seem to stay away from! LOL

Part 14

For one precious moment, Max ignored the flashes that came fast and furious as soon as Liz’s lips touched his. He allowed himself to revel in the softness of her skin, the silkiness of her hair as his hands came up to cradle her delicate skull. He deepened the kiss, barely daring to believe that he had actually finally broken through her resolve.

He could tell that she was trying to refrain from giving him flashes, could feel her will at work, but also knew that her desire to shut him out was weak. Her heart wanted him to know, even if her head didn’t, and she could not hide from him. Not anymore.

At first he didn’t understand what the flashes were telling him. They were confused and random, Liz’s emotional state making them so. The image of his own face as a little boy was the only one he recognized immediately. He felt her love for him, even then, although he could tell that she didn’t know about it.

The next image he understood was the instant following the shooting in the Crashdown, Liz’s awe and fascination running through his veins and then, the moment when she knew she had fallen in love with him, when he told her that it was too dangerous for them to pursue any sort of relationship. The flashes ran through all the moments they had shared together before they knew who he really was. The moments of happiness were mingled with small hurts and pains, but nothing matched the complete sense of despair and terror Liz had felt when he was held by Pierce - which was then replaced with the calm realization that here was her true love, that they were both way too young - not to mention the extenuating circumstance that he was an alien - but that she didn’t care as they kissed in the abandoned van in the woods. She had been scared, but also accepting, relieved that she had found him, because what if there had been no Max?

And then the horror of finding out about his destiny with Tess; a completely miserable summer in Florida, where she picked up the phone to call him at least ten times a day. The feeling of mixed panic and joy when he approached her on the street outside Whittaker’s office…and, then, the sense of relief when she finally accepted that she couldn’t turn him away again. They were meant to be…hadn’t the fortune teller told her so?

I, Liz Parker, take Max Evans…

Do you really see grey?

As I threw the flowers up to you, I remembered that you preferred white roses.

He sat down! You got him to sit down with her!

The night of Gomez, I came to your room. That’s the night that things between us were cemented.

I’ve fought a thousand battles…but watching you do that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

This is a different world…

Max broke the kiss, his heart thundering in his chest. "Liz!" He whispered, his forehead pressed against hers. He opened his eyes, could see that she was staring at him too, tears streaming down her cheeks. "What…what was that?"

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

Kate knocked on Will’s door. Her brother opened it a moment later, his face blank. He eyed her, then stepped aside and let her enter the room.

Kate’s eyes immediately fell on the bed - or, rather, on what was sitting on the bed. She sighed, felt a pang of worry. He was pining. He started to think about doing crazy things when he pined…crazy things like handing over the entire government of his planet. "Will…"

Will picked up the small, stained piece of fabric, stuffed it into the pocket of his jeans. "What?"

"I thought you said you were going to give Liz time."

"I am giving her time," Will retorted, turning to meet her gaze again. "Where have you been?"

Kate scowled at him. "Don’t try and change the subject. You want to give that to her, don’t you?"

"I want to, but I won’t," Will replied, squinting at her. His eyes looked strangely bright, like he had been crying. He had never cried in front of her and she knew he certainly wasn’t going to start now, but the fact that traces even remained at all…He was losing it. Her stoic brother was actually losing it. "She has to remember on her own or it won’t mean anything," he continued.

Kate approached him, gently touched his arm. "Will, it might be the best thing to do. She may never remember on her own. Zan has constant access to her. He might make her remember things wrong. Don’t forget that he has Ava with him."

"Ava would never do such a thing," Will scoffed, moving to the sink in the corner of the room and running the water. He cupped his hands under the faucet, collected a small amount and then splashed his face. When he had finished drying himself off, his expression was again carefully neutral. "It would kill her to even allow Zan to pretend to love someone else. You know what she was like."

Kate sighed, collapsed on the bed. "I do know," she agreed. "But…"

Will frowned. "But what?"

She grimaced. "You asked where I went…" She trailed off, knew that he was going to be angry. "I started off looking for Jack, but then I went somewhere else instead."

"Oh?" He raised an eyebrow, waiting.

She hated when he did that. It always made her feel like a small child waiting for her father to yell at her. Not that she really knew what it was like to have a father - at least not in this life. She thought briefly of Liz Parker’s dad, whom they had met in the Crashdown earlier. What had Ro’s life been like with two parents who loved her? How had she even ended up there? How had she not known about her alien heritage before today? She had been right to seek out Alex Whitman the way she had. He knew things, could give them information Rowena might never provide. Kate believed that more now than ever.

If she had doubted it before, she did not now. Rowena believed herself in love with Zan. And though he had not said as much, Kate suspected that Alex truly believed that Zan loved her back. If Max Evans was playing some sort of game with her brother’s wife, than he was apparently an extremely good actor.

But, then, he had been last time too.

The horrible part was though, as much as she told herself that, as much as she tried to convince herself that he was putting on an act, that he was using his charm to bind Rowena to him, Kate couldn’t help herself. She believed Alex. She believed him that Max Evans was not a bad guy, that he truly did love Liz Parker.

Could his lack of memory really have changed his personality so drastically? Was he a superior version of the being he had been in his past life? Could things really turn out so well for all of them?

And, yet, he had destroyed the Harvest, had basically sentenced her people to a living death. How could a good person have done such a thing?

No, he had to be pretending, just like he had before. There was no other explanation. She could not believe Alex. She knew that he was not lying to her, was only telling her the truth as he knew it, but he was wrong. She felt a pang that soon he would have to confront how truly evil his "friend" was. She remembered how much it hurt to find out that you were so completely mistaken about someone. Because, when Khivar had first come to her, in her past life, to tell her what Zan had done, she had refused to believe it too…

"Kate, where did you go?" Will demanded, impatiently.

"I went and spoke to Alex Whitman again," she replied, looking away. "Don’t bother getting mad about it. I know it was dumb, but I just felt like he might tell me the truth."

"About what?" Will asked, coming to sit beside her. "What did he tell you?"

"About Max Evans," Kate told him. "What he’s like, who he is…"

"And?"

"Well, Alex firmly believes Max is in love with Liz." Kate rolled her eyes. "He tried to pretend he didn’t, but he does think that."

"He thinks that we’re using Ro to try and hurt Zan, is that it?" Will asked, sounding weary.

"Yeah, I think he does. It sounds like Max and Liz are definitely on the outs right now though. They’re not together, as a couple anyway. I’m not sure why, but Alex told me that Ro is with him now. She went straight to him from here, just like I knew she…" She stopped, could have kicked herself. "I’m sorry."

"They’re together right now?" Will swallowed. Kate could almost see him struggling to control his jealousy. "Well, it’s to be expected. She has known him for a long while, knows what he is. If anyone can help her to figure out if I’m lying or not, it’s him."

"But Will, what if he’s messing with her mind?" Kate demanded. "He can tell her all sorts of lies about us and then she’ll never trust us." The thought of Rowena hating her…It was enough to make her feel physically ill. She had been jealous of Ro on many occasions in the past, but it hadn’t stopped Kate from loving her like a sister. While Vilandra had been her kindred spirit, Rowena had always been everything Kate had aspired to be. The idea that she might stay with their enemies, that they might have to fight her to get to Zan…It was intolerable. Not to mention that Will would never do it. If Rowena joined Zan against them, their side would lose before the battle even started.

"Ro will get all the facts before she makes her decision," Will said firmly. "She hasn’t changed much Kate. Even through our brief conversation, I could tell that she is the same. Though she speaks with him first, she will come back to me…If even just to get my side of the story." He stood up. "Now, I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’m assuming you never did track down Jack then?"

"No," Kate frowned. "Where is he? I’m worried about him. He hasn’t checked in all day."

"Jack knows what he’s doing," Will shrugged. "He’ll come back when he has something worthwhile to talk about."

"Don’t you worry about him at all?" Kate demanded. "He’s such a dork sometimes Will. He doesn’t know how to stay detached. If he meets up with one of them, he might…"

"He won’t do anything he’s not supposed to," Will said mildly. "He never does." He eyed her, slightly amused. "And since when do you use the word dork? You’ve been hanging around humans too much."

Kate rolled her eyes. "Whatever. You’re going to be sorry when we find him in a pile of dust somewhere." She was flippant but the mere idea of anything happening to her cousin was enough to make Kate’s stomach start doing flip-flops. He was one of only two people on this planet she could truly depend on. Their people’s days were numbered after all, unless they found the granolith. It was another reason that making Rowena side with them was so important. If she knew where the granolith was, or if she could get the information out of Zan…

Kate’s eyes narrowed. Maybe it wouldn’t be a complete disaster after all if Zan was actually in love with Rowena. For the first time, she felt a pang of hope that it might be so. Because if they could get their hands on the granolith, they would win. It was as simple as that.

"Did you ask Rowena about the granolith?" Kate asked her brother abruptly. He looked slightly surprised by the abrupt change of topic, but answered her anyway.

"I never got a chance. I was preoccupied with the fact that se sort of freaked out on me and all," he replied, a little sarcastic. Kate glanced at him sharply. He was trying to hide how much it had hurt him that Rowena had been so upset by what he had told her. The last thing Will ever wanted to do was hurt Rowena. That it had happened, even so indirectly, would haunt him for a long time.

"Hmmmmmm…" Kate said, pretending not to notice his upheaval. "I wonder if the granolith could do anything to help her remember."

Will started, suddenly interested. "That’s actually a pretty good point," he admitted grudgingly. He sighed. "And yet another reason that we need to figure out where the hell it is."

Kate smiled suddenly, an idea popping into her head. "We don’t necessarily have to go through Zan and the others," she said. She ignored the pang of guilt that was trying to make her stop from saying this. It didn’t matter that she sort of liked him. Her brother came first and always would. If finding the granolith could help to bring Rowena back to Will, then she would use him to make it happen. "I can maybe plant the idea in a receptive ear…"

Will had been pacing, his hands behind his back, his frustration about the hidden granolith evident. He looked up now, met her eyes and understood. "Alex Whitman."

"Right." The way Will’s face lit up - she was doing the right thing. She knew she was. "He’ll suggest it to Ro and Zan and then…"

"We follow them."

Their matching blue eyes met and held. The hope she saw in her brother’s eyes - it killed any last remnant of remorse she had over the fact that she was going to use Alex - someone she had come to like considerably, even in the short time she had known him.

"Well, what are you waiting for?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all." She closed her eyes and pictured Alex’s face in her mind and then willed herself to be with him.

She felt her body breaking apart as her mind reached out and found the place it was looking for. It was harder to teleport to specific people than it was to decide on a location. If she had had time to figure out exactly where Alex was, she could have envisioned the place and found herself there much more easily. But she didn’t have that luxury. She had to do this before she chickened out…before she started to regret that she might be losing a new friendship before it even really had a chance to start.

Of course, she should have realized that where Alex was might not necessarily be somewhere she should be. Because, when she felt her body solidify again, after she knew that she was back in one piece, she opened her eyes and her heart stopped.

Her eyes met Zan’s and she knew that she had just made the biggest mistake of her life.

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

There was a long pause. Max watched the emotions play across her face, could feel her turmoil as she tried to figure out what to say. "Just tell me the truth. Please," he whispered. "Liz, please."

He saw the exact moment where she decided to honour his wish, his most ardent wish that she would stop lying to him - and herself. "It was you," she replied simply. "I would do anything for you Max. You asked me to and I did it."

"That was me? I don’t understand." But he thought he did. He had recognized himself in those flashes of events he knew that he had not lived, at least not directly. He had been there, but not as a player in the disaster they had both wrought.

That had been him. Another him perhaps, but him just the same. He had recognized himself in the way she felt about him - in the way she loved him.

"You came to me from the future and told me that if I didn’t make you fall out of love with me, everyone would die because Tess would leave town and you wouldn’t be strong enough without her. If we ended up together, like we were supposed to, the world would end and it would be all our fault." Her eyes were glassy as she recited the story, as she relived the horror of being told such a thing. "And now I’ve ruined everything because I just can’t bear to lie to you anymore Max. I just can’t!"

Max pulled her against him, felt his heart breaking as she sobbed. How had she endured all this on her own? How could he have ever asked her to do such a thing? "I am so sorry Liz."

"It’s not your fault Max," Liz said, pulling back and giving him a watery smile. "It wasn’t your fault then and it isn’t now. You did the only thing you thought you could. I just wasn’t strong enough. He was wrong to trust me. He should have known that I can’t live without you. You’ve always had too much faith in me though." She shook her head. "Isn’t it ironic? It’s your faith in me that made you know that I didn’t sleep with Kyle, but it was also your faith in me that made me try to convince you of it - because you asked me to. It was a stupid plan. He should have gone to Tess. She would have been strong enough…" She trailed off. "I just hope that she’s strong enough to stay."

Max shook his head. "No Liz. I have faith in you because I love you. You can’t blame yourself for letting me. I can’t help it. I am meant to love you and because I do, I believe in you. It’s just who you are. Even when everything looked completely screwed up, when I wondered if I had been completely wrong about you, I knew I wasn’t. I’ve seen your soul Liz. I know you." He paused, tried to figure out some way to comfort her. "I’ve always known you."

Liz’s eyes widened. "What did you say?" She whispered.

"I said I feel like I’ve always known you," he repeated, confused.

"No you didn’t," she retorted. "You said you’ve always known me, not that you feel like you have."

Max blinked. "Er, okay. So? What’s the difference? Either way, it’s the truth."

Liz sighed, leaned forward, resting her cheek against his chest. His skin tingled under his shirt where her arms wrapped around him. "God, Max. You have no idea. The Future Max thing is just the tip of the iceburg. I don’t even know where to start…"

"Just start at the beginning," Max told her, stroking her hair lightly. "We have all the time in the world."

"Um, I beg to differ."

Max’s head snapped up and he stared in astonishment at Alex, who was staring right back at him from the ladder on the other side of the balcony. "Alex? Are you okay?" Max didn’t think he had ever seen Alex’s face as white as it currently was.

Alex didn’t reply to Max, looked at Liz instead as he pulled himself over the ledge, grimacing. "Jeez. I thought I was in better shape…" He muttered. "So, you told him huh?"

"Yeah," Liz sighed heavily. "I just couldn’t do it anymore Alex."

"Alex knew?" Max asked, relieved that she hadn’t borne the entire burden alone.

"I just told him today. After what happened this morning, I had to tell someone."

"What happened this morning?" But he realized he already knew. "Will Spencer."

She flinched against him, but agreed. "Will." He tried to ignore the pang of jealousy that ran through him at the way she sad the other alien’s name. What the hell had happened between Liz and Will Spencer that afternoon?

Max saw Alex’s gaze narrow. "I guess you didn’t get to the really good stuff? You better hurry Liz, because I think I just really screwed up. Guess who just had another run in with Kate Spencer?"

"What happened?" Liz asked, suddenly alert. "Did she hurt you?"

"Will someone please tell me what you’re talking about?" Max demanded, his concern for Liz and his curiousity finally overwhelming his patience.

He watched Liz and Alex exchange another glance and then Liz turned to him, took one of his hands in hers. "This might be really hard for you to hear Max…"

But she never got a chance to say whatever it was she was trying to, because a strangled gasp from Alex made Liz whip her head around to stare at her friend. He was looking beyond them both, at a point just behind where they still sat on the lawn chair. Max turned and felt his own eyes bulge as the air seemed to come alive. It shimmered for one long moment and then, as simply as he took his next breath, the three of them became four.

And, as he watched Kate Spencer’s blue eyes widen in surprise as they met his, he could see that they were not the only ones who were taken aback.

"Max! She’s here to kill you!" Alex yelped, leaping in front of Max and Liz so abruptly, Max fell back on his elbows on the lawn chair. "And it’s all my fault!"

To be continued…


posted on 16-Sep-2002 12:46:57 AM by Kath7
Part 15

It took Liz a moment to get her bearings. Alex’s sudden move had thrown her backwards and she was presently sprawled across Max, who was struggling to raise his hand, trapped as it was under Liz. It took Liz less than an instant to realize that he obviously intended to put up his shield. She rolled, trying to help him to free his arm. The whole scenario was so ridiculous, she felt an hysterical giggle ready to burst from her, managed to stifle it, ordering herself not to lose control. She had already let herself freak out once today. It was not going to happen again.

"Alex! Move!" Max ordered when he finally managed to shake free of the pile that he, Liz and Alex had created when Liz’s best friend had jumped on them both.

It was only then that Liz managed to catch a glimpse of the expression on Kate Spencer’s face. She looked just as surprised to see them as they were to see her - in fact, more so. Max’s green force-field sprang to life in front of her, snapping and crackling, as though he didn’t quite have it under control. Liz kept her eyes glued on Kate, wondering what the other girl was going to do. She was beginning to look like a cornered animal, backed up against the wall beside Liz’s window.

Liz’s eyes met Kate’s through the shield, the other girl’s terror palatable. As Liz watched, Kate closed her eyes and started to fade away, almost as abruptly as she had appeared.

"She’s leaving," Alex whispered. His tone was odd. Now that they were relatively safe behind Max’s protective barrier, her friend sounded almost…he wasn’t disappointed was he? Liz stared at him, whipped her head around again when Alex gasped.

"Oh my God," Liz exclaimed as Kate solidified, her eyes opening wide in panic and then rolling up into her head. The alien girl collapsed in a heap in front of them. "Max!"

Max pulled his hand back, already on the move as the shield dropped. Liz followed him instantly, her heart in her throat as he fell to his knees beside the dark-haired alien.

"Max, be careful!" Liz murmured urgently. "It could be a trick."

Max shook his head, his eyes narrowed. "I don’t think it is Liz. I felt her lose consciousness."

Liz blinked. "What?"

"I felt it Liz. We connected on some level when our eyes met. The same thing happened this morning," Max explained, reaching out and gently pushing Kate’s long hair off her face. "She wasn’t blocking me because she was surprised to see me. We connected, not very deeply, but we did."

"What’s wrong with her?" Alex demanded. Liz realized that he was standing beside her, shifting from one foot to the other nervously.

"I think she burnt herself out," Max replied, still frowning and staring at Kate’s face. Liz, watching him, could almost see him trying to remember how he knew her. "I did it earlier this afternoon too - when I had my shield up at school." He glanced over his shoulder at Liz. "I think she was trying to leave again but couldn’t make the trip twice in such a short amount of time."

"Max, how do you know all of this?" Liz asked, her heart beating quickly. How did Max know so much about Kate? They had never even exchanged two words!

Max shook his head, obviously as perplexed as she was. "I don’t know Liz. I just do."

Silence fell over the balcony, everyone still a little shocked by what had just happened and by the fact that one of their enemies had fallen into their hands so easily.

"What are we going to do with her?" Alex finally asked. "She’s just going to teleport out again when she wakes up."

Max was staring down at Kate again, his brows knit. "We need to figure out a way to keep her here. We need to talk to her, need to figure out what they want."

Liz felt Alex’s eyes on her. "Liz, you need to tell him."

Max glanced up. "Tell me what?"

Liz bit her lip. "It’s what I was trying to tell you before Kate showed up." She could feel her heart thundering in her chest, wondered how Max was going to react to the news that she was just as alien as he was. "Max, it’s not you they want. Not right now anyway."

"What?"

"They want me."

Max stared at her. "I don’t get it."

"Max." Liz met his eyes squarely and made herself say it. She hadn’t even quite accepted it herself yet, but she knew that she could no longer keep him in the dark. Not when Kate and Will kept popping up everywhere, putting him in danger. "Will told me this afternoon. I didn’t believe him but when you and I connected a few minutes ago, I knew he was right." She paused, knelt beside him and took his hand. "I’m one of them."

Max’s mouth literally fell open. "Wh…what?" He reached up and gently cupped her cheek. "Liz, did they do something to you?"

"Nothing Max. I swear it. All Will and I did was talk. And he told me that I’m like them…and you. That I’m not entirely human."

Max looked past her at Alex. "Alex, what did they do to her? And why did you come here? How did you know that this girl was coming?"

Alex sighed, closing his eyes briefly as though to gather strength. "Max, she believes it. That’s all I know. They really do think Liz is one of them."

Liz felt a flash of annoyance that they were discussing her as though she wasn’t even there. "Max, I need you to listen to me." He shifted his eyes back to her, looking a little shell-shocked now. "They hate you but they don’t hate me. I’m going to get to the bottom of this if it’s the last thing I do. I have to go back to talk to Will."

Max’s lips pressed together at that, his disbelief not tempering his instant stubbornness when it came to her safety. "No. There is absolutely no way Liz."

Liz took a deep breath, forcing herself not to snap at him. Now was not the time for him to go all protective of her again. She had just as much invested in finding out the truth about all of this as he did! "Max…"

"Um, guys…" Alex interrupted. "We still haven’t figured out what we’re going to do about Sleeping Beauty here. There is absolutely no way to get her to stay once she wakes up. She can probably give us some answers, but she’s just going to take off unless we can convince her otherwise."

"It doesn’t matter," Liz insisted, now absolutely sure about what she had to do. "I’ll go with her. It might be why she came here in the first place."

"Liz! You are not going to take off with some random alien!" Max exclaimed. "Are you crazy?"

"Max, you can’t tell me what to do," Liz replied, scowling at him. "I absolutely know that they won’t hurt me."

Max ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "How? How do you know it?"

"Max, it’s because I’m who they say I am," Liz told him, gentling her voice. She knew that he was just scared and confused and still upset about the whole Future Max fiasco. Having all of this thrown on him in one fell swoop was a lot to ask of him. She knew that he didn’t mean to order her around.

She reached out, touched his cheek. "Max, when we kissed, I had a flash of the first time you ever saw me…In this life anyway." She swallowed. "You knew me. Just like you knew Isabel. Just like you knew Michael and Tess. Just like you know Kate. You recognized me. I felt it."

"Liz, you’re human!" Max argued. "We know that for a fact. For God’s sake, it’s how you got the proof about me. You compared our DNA!"

"Max, I felt it okay? I’m not making this up!"

"Hello? Sorry to interrupt again here folks, but I’m seeing movement," Alex spoke up. "I think I should talk to her. I think she kind of trusts me. Maybe I can convince her to stick around while we get this all sorted out."

Liz’s gaze was still locked with Max’s as he appeared to be frantically searching his mind for the memories she had told him she had seen. He glanced down though as Kate continued to stir, her long eyelashes fluttering against her cheeks.

"Where am I?" Kate struggled to sit up, her eyes glassy. Max automatically reached over and wrapped his arm around her shoulders to support her. Liz grimaced, waiting for her to realize who was helping her. She saw the instant Kate tensed up.

"It’s okay," Max said quietly. "I swear no one’s going to hurt you."

Liz watched, a pang of something she didn’t understand running through her as Max and Kate’s eyes met and held. It wasn’t jealousy exactly, but more like she felt slightly excluded. She realized that it was a familiar feeling, as though she had felt it many times before. Max and Kate seemed to be holding some kind of private conversation, one that shut out the rest of the world. Liz realized abruptly that they were connecting, were speaking to each other on another plain.

Liz was not at all surprised to see Kate’s frame relax suddenly. "Zan?" She whispered, reaching up and touching Max’s face with the tips of her fingers. "Why? Why did you have to change?" Her voice hitched slightly.

"I’m sorry," Max replied, sounding regretful. "I don’t remember what you’re talking about."

"No," Kate said. Liz watched in amazement as tears filled her bright blue eyes. "But you won’t have to, will you? Because we’re all doomed to live it again. It’s only a matter of time."

With that, her eyes closed, her brow furrowed as though in great concentration and she disappeared.

Silence fell over the balcony again, emphasizing Max’s ragged breathing. Liz wondered what on Earth Kate had shown him in their connection to put that look on his face. She had never seen him look so bleak. A shudder ran through his frame as Liz watched. Finally, Max raised his eyes to meet hers. "Did you see the way she looked at me? What kind of monster was I Liz?"

Liz’s entire heart went out to him. She had never heard him sound so defeated, not even when she had continued to tell him to leave her alone. Had that whole farce really only ended a few moments ago? The whole Future Max fiasco seemed very far away now, totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things. All she knew was that she couldn’t allow Max to be hurt anymore, whether physically or emotionally. He had been through far too much - first with Pierce, than with her, and now from a past he didn’t even remember and, yet, was still being held responsible for.

Liz crawled over to him, wrapped her arms around him and hugged him, could feel him trembling. She held him tighter. "It doesn’t matter. None of it matters."

"It does matter," Max murmured into her hair. "Everyone I care about is in danger because of things I did, things I don’t even remember doing." He pulled back slightly so that their eyes could meet. "Liz, she’s not evil. I just know it - I felt it. And if they aren’t the bad guys…" He trailed off, his face hardening with resignation. "It can only mean one thing."

"No Max," Liz insisted, shaking her head. "It’s not true. We’ll make you remember and we’ll find out for sure that it’s not true."

"Liz, I saw things when she touched me. She gave me flashes of what I did." Max’s voice cracked. "They…they were horrible things. Courtney told me about some of them, but…I mean, I didn’t know how bad it was."

"What do you mean?" Liz asked quietly. "What did you see?"

"Liz, I killed her. Her last memory from her past life is of me ending it."

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

Alex crept past Max and Liz, who were totally wrapped up in each other, and through Liz’s window, landing heavily in his rush to leave them alone. They had apparently forgotten his presence anyway, but he still felt like an intruder, watching Max melt down and Liz attempt to hold him together.

"Liz, I killed her. Her last memory from her past life is of me ending it." Max’s tortured voice drifted through the window, making Alex cringe. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like for Max to find out that he had apparently been a psycho-maniac in his past life. It did make him happy that he hadn’t totally misjudged Kate, as he thought he had when she had appeared so suddenly on Liz’s balcony. He felt a pang of guilt that he had so instantly assumed that she was there to hurt someone. He had trusted his gut up until that point. What had changed? Why had he been so willing to be believe the absolute worst about her?

Maybe because if you believe the worst about her, even though you already know she’s not evil, than you can still pretend that you’re on the verge of actually escaping the alien abyss, that damn small voice in the back of his head taunted him.

Haven’t I already told you to shut up? Alex demanded wearily. He let himself out through Liz’s door, made sure to avoid the living room of the Parker’s apartment, where he could hear Liz’s parents arguing about what to watch on T.V - the absurdity of their parent’s obliviousness never ceased to amaze him - and trotted down the stairs into the back room of the Crashdown.

Alex blinked when, as he looked over the banister on his way down, his eyes met Maria’s. She was staring up at him anxiously. "Alex? Isabel said you left! What are you doing up there? What’s going on?"

Alex grimaced, stopping on the stairs, wondered if it was too late to make a strategic retreat. Because his gaze was moving from Maria, to Michael, to Tess, to Kyle…and, yes, to even the Sheriff, all of whom were still obviously waiting around for some sort of explanation as to what was going on. He also noticed that Isabel was nowhere in sight. "Er…" He began weakly. "Max and Liz are still talking."

"About what?" Tess demanded, moving forward. "What can Liz possibly have to say that’s taking so long? She’s lost any right to even speak to Max after what she’s done."

Alex narrowed his eyes at the short blonde, relieved that he could finally tell her to go jump off a bridge. "She’s telling him the truth Tess," he snapped. "That she tried to save the world by pretending to sleep with Kyle because you’re so selfish, you can’t accept that he loves her. Because that’s the kind of person Liz is. She puts other people before herself. Unlike you. All you’ve done since you’ve arrived in this town is mess with people’s minds and, if Liz didn’t do what she did, you would have left town and that would’ve screwed us all over big-time. Not that any of us would even miss you. At all."

The collective round of gasps made Alex close his eyes. Shut up Whitman! Just shut up! He couldn’t help the small sense of satisfaction he felt at the sight of Tess’s mouth hanging open in shock though. Of course, if she left town now, it would be all his fault. But he couldn’t seem to make himself care. It didn’t mean he didn’t feel a pang of relief when everyone turned to stare at Kyle, who looked supremely uncomfortable.

"Hey, it wasn’t my idea!" Kyle exclaimed testily. He grimaced when his gaze met his father’s. "It’s a long story Dad. Trust me."

"I’m going up there," Michael said suddenly. "This secret stuff has gone on long enough. We’re at war here. We don’t have time for all this relationship crap." Alex looked at Maria, whose face had whitened at Michael’s words. Alex felt an instant flash of anger at Michael, who was starting up the stairs. "Get out of my way Whitman."

Alex folded his arms, stared Michael down. "No. They need to be alone. It’s why I left again."

"Why did you come back anyway?" Michael demanded. "And what the hell did you say to Isabel? She left a few minutes ago - looked like she’d been punched in the stomach."

"If she didn’t tell you, then it’s none of your business," Alex flared. He wondered where all this testosterone was coming from. First he punched Michael last week on Maria’s behalf, and now he was ready to do it again, just because he felt like it. Was he going to turn into some sort of raging meat-head now that he’d started down this road? "And why did you let her leave anyway? You have enemies out there you know!"

"Funny," Michael snapped. "I don’t know that for sure, do I? Because no one ever tells me what’s going on!" This last came out as a roar, making Alex jump in spite of his new spine.

"Well, don’t expect me to start," Alex replied, forcing his voice to be icily polite. "It’s not my job. I just seem to be the unlucky bystander to most of it."

Michael’s nostrils flared. "Get the hell out of my way Whitman."

"No." Alex prepared himself for the blow he was sure was about to land as Michael’s fists clenched at his sides.

"Okay, enough! Both of you." This came from the Sheriff. "I’ve tried to be patient here, but it’s time to tell the truth Mr. Whitman. When I picked you up earlier, you told me you’d fill me in. It seems to me that there is something big going down and I need to know what it is. If you won’t tell me, than I want you to go up there and get Max and tell him that I’m through waiting. I am the grown-up here and this is my town. I’ve had just about enough of this."

"I don’t blame you Sheriff." Liz’s voice from above him made Alex look over his shoulder. She was coming down the stairs, Max behind her, his face expressionless. Alex noticed immediately that they were holding hands. He glanced down at Tess, who had apparently noticed as well. She looked as though she had swallowed something sour. "I don’t blame any of you for being angry."

Alex stumbled down the stairs after Michael as Liz gently pushed his back to make him move out of her way. "Thanks Alex, but Max’ll take it from here," she whispered to him as she passed. "I need you to stay here with me."

Alex blinked as Max stonily told everyone that they would meet out at the quarry in half an hour. He didn’t appear upset any longer. But, then, if Alex was not mistaken, Max was very good at shutting down his emotions when they were inconvenient. The only person who ever made him face them was Liz and, for the moment, she seemed almost relieved that he was so calm.

Everyone else seemed to recognize that something momentous had taken place between Max and Liz upstairs and that neither of them was in the mood to argue, because they all filed out, not a single peep of protest coming from any of them. Only Maria glanced back once, her expression troubled.

"Where’s Isabel?" Max asked Alex as the door swung shut behind the Sheriff.

Alex wished more than ever that he hadn’t told Isabel to buzz off earlier. She had run off because he had hurt her feelings and now she was potentially in danger. "I think she went home," he offered weakly.

"Okay, I’ll pick her up," Max sighed. The first sign that he was still upset appeared on his face as he looked down at Liz, his brow furrowed. "I don’t like this Liz. Not at all."

She hugged him. "It’ll be all right. They won’t hurt me. I know it Max. And after I deal with this, there won’t be anything standing between us anymore. We can finally be together." Liz pulled back, as Alex frowned, wondering how these two had gone from meltdown Max and Liz only a few minutes ago, to calm and purposeful Max and Liz. He could sense the underlying note of hysteria that they were both trying to control. He didn’t like it. Not one bit. When Liz pretended to be "calm and purposeful," she did dumb things like pretending to sleep with Kyle. When Max became "calm and purposeful," bad things happened to him - like White Rooms and stupid destiny messages.

Liz reached up and brushed Max’s hair off his forehead. "I’m going to find out the truth Max. I know that you weren’t like that. I know you. This is the only way to do it."

Max lowered his head, sighing heavily, until his forehead touched Liz’s. "I love you. Whatever they tell you, you have to remember that. Please."

Liz kissed him gently. "Max, it’s the only thing I do remember from before. You’ve always loved me and I’ve always loved you. Now we just need to find out why no one else knows it."

Alex stared at them, not understanding any of it. He wondered if they had forgotten he was standing right beside them again as they lost themselves in a series of lengthy kisses that made him blush. He cleared his throat. "Er, guys?"

Max and Liz broke apart slowly. "Sorry Alex," Liz said quietly. She kissed Max again, then pulled away, pushing him towards the door. "Go. I’ll call you when I get home."

Max took a deep breath. "Okay. Be careful Liz. Please." With that, he turned on his heel and disappeared through the swinging door into the restaurant, so quickly, Alex realized that it was the only way he could make himself do it.

"Okay, Liz, what the hell is going on?" Alex demanded as soon as the door closed. His best friend was staring at it, a worried expression on her face.

"I hope he’s going to be okay," Liz murmured. "He knows intellectually that whatever he did before isn’t his fault, but his heart…He cares so much about hurting people Alex. He’s going to feel guilty about it anyway."

She took a deep breath and turned to look at him. "I made him promise to tell Isabel everything. Maybe she can help him until I can again."

Alex stared at her. "I don’t get it Liz. Why can’t you help him?"

Liz’s expression hardened. "Because, as of right now, Max is my enemy. At least in public." She smiled grimly. "There’s only one way to get to the bottom of this Alex. You and I are going to join the other side."

To be continued…











posted on 23-Sep-2002 10:56:29 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone for the wonderful feedback, as always. Particularly LizMix. Yours quite simply warmed my heart. Thanks for that!

Part 16

"Liz, are you sure this is a good idea?"

Liz sighed, leaned back wearily so that it was cradled against the head-rest of the passenger seat. They had walked over to his house to pick it up his parents’ car after the others had left for the quarry, Liz not wanting to have to explain to her mom and dad where she was going with their vehicle. Alex’s parents were not nearly as on top of him when it came to staying out late on school nights. It didn’t hurt that he had three older brothers. The Whitmans had just been too tired by the time Alex came along to give him many rules at all. While the Parkers were by no means unreasonably strict, they did always want to know where Liz was going when she took the car and Liz was tired of lying. Since she couldn’t tell her parents that she was going to a run-down motel in the middle of the desert, she preferred to just tell them she was going out with Alex, something they always approved of. She had been lying for weeks now. It was exhausting. If she could avoid it from now on, she was going to try.

Of course, she was about to turn her entire life into a lie again by pretending that she was willing to turn on Max. But she would just ignore that fact for the moment. She was tired enough. She didn’t have the energy to even contemplate it.

"I’m not sure of anything any more," Liz admitted, staring out the window at the setting sun, which was throwing its shadow over the desert scrub they were passing through. "All I know is that this is all totally screwed up and I have to protect Max. These people want him dead Alex - for something he didn’t even do!"

"But maybe he did do it Liz," Alex said tentatively. "I don’t know Kate very well, but she doesn’t strike me as evil. She’s never set out to deliberately hurt anyone that I’ve seen. Maybe Max was who they say he was."

Liz turned her head, scowled at him. "He wasn’t. I know it."

"How?"

"Because I know Max," Liz replied firmly. "I just do. Whatever Kate thinks he did, she’s wrong."

There was a long silence and then Alex asked quietly, "Liz, you don’t really believe what they’ve told you about yourself, do you?"

Liz didn’t reply for a moment, wondering how she could explain to someone who had never really experienced an alien connection that there were some things that just could not be denied. Not once you knew. "I do," she told him. "If it had just come down to Will’s word, I think I could have ignored the whole thing, but Max…deep inside, he knows the truth about me too."

"But what about what Max said? What about the fact that you have human DNA?" Alex demanded. "I just don’t get that Liz."

"I don’t either," Liz admitted. "It’s just something else we’re going to have to try and figure out."

"And you’re positive that Will is going to just accept you? That just because you want him to leave Max alone, he will?"

Liz thought about Will, thought about the way he looked at her. "Yes," she whispered.

"Oooo-kay." When Liz looked at Alex again, he was shaking his head. "I’ve learned enough by now to not bother to question the alien chaos. You seem to know what you’re talking about Liz. I just hope you’re right."

Liz reached out, gently laid her hand on top of Alex’s, which was clutching the gear shift. "Thank you for coming with me. I…I really didn’t want to do this alone."

Alex looked at her out of the corner of his eye, quirked a sad grin in her direction. "Can’t abandon my best girl now, can I?"

"Still, thank you Alex." Liz really meant it. When she had told Max that she was not going to take no for an answer, that she fully intended to infiltrate into Will and Kate’s lives to find out what was going on with them, the only way she had finally managed to convince him to allow it was by telling him that she would take Alex with her. Max trusted Alex to keep her safe and, if he couldn’t, to call in reinforcements. And, in the end, Max knew that he had to let her go, as much as he didn’t want to. Because until they knew the truth about the new aliens in town and what they wanted, there was no way to even figure out how to deal with them. But by pretending that he was agreeing because Alex was going, Max could gracefully give in without making her any less aware of how worried about her he was going to be.

"You don’t trust me?" Liz had demanded, scowling at him, but not really angry.

Max had just looked at her seriously. "Liz, you don’t think about your own safety. You don’t think about yourself. If there’s anything that this past week has shown, it’s that you don’t put yourself first. Alex will do that." He paused and then had added darkly. "And it’s not that I don’t trust you."

Deep down, Liz knew that Max was right. When it came to protecting him and her friends, she became single-minded. It would be handy to have someone watching her back. Plus, while she was a lot more sure than Max that Will and Kate would never hurt her, she didn’t entirely trust them either. It was reassuring that she would have someone with her that she could completely depend on.

Not to mention, it would be a lot less lonely.

"So, speaking of best girls," Liz said, trying to lighten the mood in the car, "What’s going on with you and Kate?"

"What?" Alex demanded, sounding really surprised. "What are you talking about? Nothing!"

Liz raised an eyebrow. "Right. Alex, I saw the way you looked at her earlier."

Alex wrinkled his brow. "How did I look at her?"

"Like you thought she was kind of intriguing."

"Liz, I so don’t need another alien princess to obsess over. Particularly one who’s gunning for our friends. You are imagining things."

"Hmmmm," was all Liz said, grinning when Alex snorted. "I know you Alex and I know when you’re obsessing and you are obsessing over this girl." She was serious when she continued though. "What about Isabel?"

"Isabel doesn’t love me," Alex said quietly. "I mean, I know she cares about me, but she’s not in love with me. Which doesn’t mean I’m interested in Kate. I mean, I have spoken to her a grand total of three times."

"Aliens are very attractive Alex. All Max had to do was tell me what he was and I fell for him. It doesn’t take long," Liz teased.

"I don’t think it’s just the alien part that attracts you Liz," Alex shot back. "Much to my chagrin, then and now, I know that you and Maria had certified Max as a West Roswell hottie long before his Czechoslovakian heritage was common knowledge." Liz smiled, knew he was right. Alex narrowed his eyes and continued, "But, since we’re on the topic of otherworldly attraction, what about you and Will? I actually can’t quite believe that Max is letting you go off to be with him."

Liz sobered. "Max doesn’t run my life Alex. But whatever Will seems to think we were to each other before, it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s Max I love now."

"What are you going to do if Will doesn’t accept that?" Alex asked. "Tess has more than proven that just because one destined partner isn’t interested, it doesn’t mean the other one is just going to give up. And, as far as we know, Tess doesn’t even remember being with Max. Will seems to remember you, doesn’t he?"

Liz frowned. "He says he does."

"So what if this big scheme to protect Max by letting Will get close to you blows up in your face Liz? Because what if the more time Will spends with you, the more he loves you and the more determined he is to get rid of Max once and for all?"

"He wouldn’t do that," Liz whispered, trying to ignore the lump that was forming in her throat.

There was another long silence. Then Alex said, "Liz, what if you fall in love with him?"

"What?" Liz flared, shocked. "That could never happen!"

"Didn’t Max find himself attracted to Tess?"

"Well, yes, but she was mindwarping him," Liz insisted. "We know that." Alex seemed to accept this comment readily enough, didn’t say anything more about it, because, in the end, he knew what Liz knew. There was absolutely no way that Liz would ever betray Max like that. She loved him. She had always loved him. If there was one truth about her past life that was becoming ever more clear to her, it was that.

She and Max were meant to be together. She didn’t yet know how or why, but she knew it was true.

But what about the way you felt when you first saw Will? A small voice in the back of her mind reminded her. What if Alex is right and you find yourself falling for him?

What if this plan to save Max ended up hurting him even more in the end?

"It won’t," Liz murmured quietly to herself. "It won’t happen."

But she was no longer quite as focused as she should have been when Alex pulled his parents’ Volvo to a stop outside the door to the motel moments later. Her heart was thundering in her chest. She was nervous she realized - nervous that she would feel the same instant attraction to Will that she had that morning when she again laid eyes on him.

Now that she and Max were finally back on the same wave-length, having that happen again …She didn’t know if she would be able to handle the guilt. This morning, things had been so bad between Max and Liz, she had relegated the instant connection between she and Will to her loneliness and misery. What if it was more than that?

Liz bit her lip, stared at the motel, wondered suddenly if this was all a really bad idea, if both Max and Alex were right that she was playing with fire here. But, deep down, she knew she wasn’t. She knew her own mind and she knew her own heart. It was Max she loved. She knew it.

She felt her heart start to beat more calmly as she reached out to take Alex’s hand for support. She knew herself. No matter what she was told and what she learned tonight and over the next few days, Max Evans was her soul mate.

And no one - not even Will Spencer - was going to convince her otherwise.

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

Kate lay staring up at the ceiling, her exhaustion so complete, she couldn’t even get up to go tell Will that she was back. She didn’t know how she had managed to screw up so completely, but coming face to face with Zan again like that…It had been devastating.

They had connected and now she knew for sure that Max Evans did not remember anything about being Zan. He could not be held responsible for what he couldn’t remember, could he? Morally, she knew it was true. Before, she had been allowed to doubt all the people - Liz, Alex - who told her that Max didn’t know the truth. She could still pursue the granolith and blame him for the mess they were all stuck in. But now that she knew for sure that he didn’t remember any of it…

She could not hold him responsible. None of them could. And, somehow, she was going to have to convince Will of that. Because, if they punished Max Evans, a virtual innocent, for Zan’s actions, then, in the end, they were no better than Zan, were they?

Kate managed to turn her head at the sound of a light knock on the door. "Come in," she called out weakly, lifting her arm and sending a jolt of energy towards the lock and making the door swing open. She really hoped that it was Jack and not Will. She didn’t know how she was going to tell Will that Max Evans was now beyond their reach. He was going to be furious - especially now that the whole thing had become so personal to him because Rowena was involved.

But Will was no more a murderer than she was. He would have to accept it. She would make him accept it.

Her prayers were answered when her cousin poked his golden head through the crack she had created. "Katie, what’re you doing in here?" Jack asked, entering quickly and shutting the door behind him. "Will said that you’d gone out."

Kate frowned slightly. "Then why are you knocking?"

"Hey, I wasn’t in the mood to walk in on you if you were here. These close quarters are getting to be a bit much," he admitted, flopping down in a chair near the TV. He picked up the remote. "Will’s watching the news. It’s boring. I came in here to watch cartoons."

Kate rolled her eyes. "Jack, are you ever going to grow up?" She demanded, sitting up carefully.

He grinned at her. "Why? What’s the point?"

And Will wondered why she didn’t think Jack was up to all the responsibility he gave him, Kate thought, shaking her head. "Where have you been all day?"

"Around," Jack replied non-committally, flicking on the TV with his powers and then using the remote to switch the channels. "I met that friend of Rowena’s - Alex Whitman." He looked at Kate, his expression darkening. "Oh, and I ran into Rath. Moron." He focused his attention back on the television, not even noticing that Kate’s mouth had fallen open.

She lifted her hand, waved it at the TV, shutting it off.

"Hey!"

"Excuse me, but you can’t just tell me that you ran into Rath and then watch the Transformers," Kate snapped. "Did you tell Will this? You were supposed to be undercover."

"He didn’t know it was me." Jack waved his hand in the air dismissively. "They’re all preoccupied by something else. Zan, Vilandra and Ava all came in with one of the humans. They totally forgot about me." He grinned at her. "And what Will doesn’t know won’t hurt him."

"Jack!" Kate flared, exasperated. "You were in the same room as all of them? Are you crazy?"

Jack raised an eyebrow. "I wasn’t the one who teleported right into Zan’s arms an hour ago," he replied slyly.

Kate swallowed, narrowed her eyes. "How did you know that?"

"Like I said, I’ve been around today." His blue eyes met hers, suddenly serious. "And like I said Katie, what Will doesn’t know won’t hurt him."

"Jack, I’m going to tell him."

"Right."

"I am!"

"Why?" Jack demanded. "What’s the point?"

Kate bit her lip. "Jack, I connected with Zan." She swallowed. "He doesn’t remember anything. I’m guessing that none of them do. We can’t hurt them to get the granolith. And if they won’t tell us, then we’re screwed."

Jack leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "And that’s why you won’t tell Will that Katie."

"What?" Kate demanded, confused. "I won’t tell him what?"

"That Zan doesn’t remember," Jack replied. "We need the granolith. We have no choice Kate. We have to do whatever it takes to get it."

"But Jack! Max Evans is innocent! We can’t just use an innocent person!"

"Was he innocent when he destroyed the Harvest?" Jack demanded. "Kate, you didn’t feel the destruction. Not like I did. Those people are dying. And that is Max Evans’s fault, whether he remembers being Zan or not."

"That wasn’t Max’s fault. He didn’t destroy the Harvest. I did."

Kate and Jack both turned their heads. Kate stared at the blonde girl standing in the doorway, so completely flabbergasted to see that they were no longer alone, that she momentarily just sat looking at her. "Who are you?" She demanded finally.

Jack leaned back in his chair, lifted his feet up and set them on the bed next to her. Kate wrinkled her nose, slapped them aside so that they thumped to the floor. He was no better than an annoying younger brother on occasion. She forced herself to push aside her irritation and focus on what he was saying. "Oh, did I forget to mention Courtney? She’s someone I picked up in my travels today. She was hanging out in Rath’s apartment. Will’s just been chatting her up." He winked at Courtney, who glared at him. "Lovely for a traitor, isn’t she?"

Kate stared at Jack, not understanding her cousin’s strange behavior since he had entered her room. Jack was usually the most compassionate of people, but he was acting completely out of character. What was wrong with him?

She jumped to her feet as Courtney stumbled into the room. Kate helped the other girl to the bed. She looked like she was about to collapse. "Are you okay?" Seeing a Skin in such an advanced stage of decomposition…It only reinforced to her how absolutely vital it was that they get their hands on the granolith. "Who are you?" She repeated quietly after she had settled Courtney against the pillows.

"She’s one of those stupid Rath worshippers," Jack replied for her. "She’s madly in love with him. It’s really kind of cute." He scowled at her this time. "Except for the traitor part."

"I’m not in love with him," Courtney said quickly, folding her arms across her chest and raising her chin. Kate could tell she was lying by the spasm that crossed her face at the taunt though.

"But you know him?" Kate asked. "Well?"

"Well enough to know that I’ll never sell him out to you freaks. I wouldn’t tell Khivar anything and I’m certainly not going to tell you two," Courtney snapped, turning her head and looking pointedly at the wall, clearly unwilling to say anything else.

Kate glanced at Jack, who was narrowing his eyes in annoyance. Kate felt her eyes widen when she actually saw him make a move, like he was going to physically shake Courtney to get her to talk. She reached out and pinched her cousin. "OW! What was that for?" He demanded, rubbing his leg and glaring at her.

"It’s for being such a jerk. This is one of our people Jack. If she’s supporting Rath, it must be for a reason." Kate looked back at Courtney, who was now staring at her suspiciously. "We know Rath was a good man," she continued. "Loyal to the end. It wasn’t his fault Zan betrayed everyone - including him."

Courtney rolled her eyes. "You’re all the same aren’t you? Blaming Zan for your own incompetence." She gestured at the door. "He just tried to do it too." Kate knew she meant Will. "I mean, he was no King Arthur, but he certainly wasn’t the monster you all make him out to be." She paused, grinned pertly. "Besides, even King Arthur had his weak moments."

"What is that supposed to mean?" Jack demanded. Kate looked at him again, staring him down warningly. She had no idea what had gotten stuck in his craw, but if he couldn’t stop speaking out of turn, she was going to have to tell Will. She was of superior rank here and she was running this interrogation.

Courtney snorted. "I expect you’ll all find out soon enough. You’re all so sure history is going to repeat itself. And now that Khivar has his Rowena back, I guess we’ll see, won’t we?"

Kate realized that this was the second time that Courtney had called Will Khivar. At least, that’s who she assumed the Skin was referring to. "How do you know he’s Khivar?" She asked quickly. No one was supposed to know. As far as everyone knew, Khivar was still sitting on Zan’s throne.

She blinked, realized what she had just thought. She had called it Zan’s throne! It was not Zan’s any longer. He had lost it through treachery and violence. What was she thinking? Kate felt a flash of fear run through her. She had been right. That connection with Max Evans had been far more damaging than she had even guessed.

It was Khivar’s throne - rightfully, through conquest. Zan was no longer worthy to sit upon it.

"He has Rowena back?" Jack asked. It took Kate a moment to realize that while she had gotten stuck on the Khivar part of Courtney’s last statement, Jack had gone right to the important stuff. It annoyed her even more. She couldn’t let distractions interfere. She had to keep her head on straight, particularly since Jack seemed to be going through some sort of weird teen rebellion phase, while Will was almost useless since he had started obsessing over Ro. "What does that mean?" Jack looked at Kate, clearly expecting her to glare at him again. "C’mon Katie. You want to know too!"

She didn’t dignify that with a response. Because she did dammit "Well?"

"That’s why I’m in here," Courtney said, looking bored now. "Liz Parker just showed up with her trusty lap dog. They’re in with Khivar. He kicked me out."

Liz Parker. Here? Kate jumped to her feet in panic. This was so not good. Will wasn’t ready to face her. She hadn’t even told him what she had seen through the connection with Zan. He didn’t know that Max Evans was not the evil creature Zan had been.

He didn’t know that Liz Parker was truly in love with him. That Max had not bewitched her, that he had not coerced her, that Max Evans had not even approached her until he had been forced by circumstance to reveal himself to her in order to save her life. But Kate did know. She knew it all - had seen it all. And it was going to devastate her brother!

"Jack, watch her!" She exclaimed, throwing the door open and slamming straight into a firm body. Kate blinked, stared up into Alex Whitman’s amused brown eyes.

Oh. Right. The trusty lap dog. She should have known.

"Hi!" Alex said. "Will told me to come join the party. Hope no one minds." He looked over Kate’s shoulder, only seemed mildly surprised to see Courtney, but his eyes widened in shock at the sight of Jack lounging in the chair. Kate watched his face shut down but he wasn’t able to completely hide his reaction, especially since he couldn’t help muttering, "I should have known. Four and four."

Alex seemed to regain his composure quickly though because he sauntered into the room, narrowed his eyes at Jack. "I hope you managed to sharpen your pencil."

Jack had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "Didn’t know who you were man. Truly. But can’t say that I was sorry to find out. I’m glad Ro has had someone like you watching her back all these years."

Alex merely snorted, although he did seem slightly appeased. He looked back at Kate, who was still hovering in the doorway, unsure what to do. "They’re going to be a while Kate. You might as well come back in and make yourself comfortable."

"But…" Kate stared helplessly at the door across the hallway, her drive to go and protect her brother so fierce, it had to be the right instinct.

"Trust me," Alex shrugged. "You don’t want to be interfering in there. I wanted to stay but it was all I could do to get Liz to let me come this far."

"Why?" Kate asked, finally turning and shutting the door behind her. "Is something wrong?"

Alex sighed, leaned up against the wall. "Other than the fact that Lizzie’s entire world has been turned on its head in a single day? Nah."

Kate narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Why are you here?"

"To find out the truth," Alex admitted. "Well, Liz is. I’m here for her."

Kate felt a flash of disappointment. It was enough to make her blink. Why the hell should that disappoint her? She was clearly losing her mind!

"But…but…" Kate was at a loss. After what she had seen after teleporting onto Liz’s balcony, she had been convinced that Rowena was staying loyal to Zan. Why would she be here if that was the case? If she was on the other side, neither she nor Zan would ever give Will so much leverage over the former king by playing her right into Will’s hands. It was what had destroyed Ro last time after all - playing intermediary.

Alex looked her right in the eyes and said quietly, "Let’s just say that Liz’s - and my - loyalties are yet to be decided."

With that simple statement, Kate knew that the entire game had changed. Again. But it was the way her heart flip-flopped when he quirked a grin at her that she knew that the rules might be much more than she had ever bargained for.

To be continued…











[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Sep-2002 10:57:59 PM ]
posted on 7-Oct-2002 10:44:27 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Sorry it's been so long since this was updated folks. I was working through some details about the history in this one and I think it's all finally sorted out. I hope to have another part up later this week. We'll see how the time goes.

Part 17

Liz wasn’t sure if letting Alex leave had been the best idea. But when Will had suggested it, his blue eyes never leaving her face, his expression displaying no surprise that she had returned so quickly, she finally nodded in her best friend’s direction. Alex had been scowling as he walked out, but he had agreed earlier that they would play this Liz’s way. He knew that whatever she had to do, it was for a reason. And if being alone with Will meant that he would trust her more quickly, then alone with him she would be.

But, now, as she sat carefully on the edge of the chair near the television in the crummy motel room where her life had already changed once today, she couldn’t stop twisting her hands in her lap. She wondered why she was so scared. Will had never done anything to suggest that he would ever hurt her.

He would hurt Max though. He already tried once today, a small voice in the back of her mind reminded her. And that’s really what you’re most concerned about. It’s why you’re here. To protect him. You need to make that clear – right off the bat.

Liz realized that she had lowered her gaze to the floor as she tried to sort out exactly how to approach this. Taking a deep breath, she raised her eyes and met Will’s piercing gaze head-on, willing herself not to react. She let out a small sigh when her heart continued to beat normally.

Thank you God.

Whatever it was he had ignited in her earlier that day seemed to have faded now that the balance between she and Max had been restored. She could look at Will without feeling a rush of blood to her head and without feeling a slight fluttering in her stomach. The relief was so great, she closed her eyes momentarily, just to assure herself that her reaction was genuine.

Finally, she accepted that it was true. Will Spencer could have been Alex for all the attraction she felt towards him at the moment. And, yet, the slight sense of recognition that she had felt in his presence from the first time she had seen him was still present. There was no question that she had been connected to this man at some point before. She knew him and she knew that he was not lying when he said that he believed that she had been in love with him. Believed was the operative word though. Because, although she did think that Will truly thought that Rowena had been in love with him, she knew inherently that it was not true. There had to have been something between Zan and Rowena. There was no other way to explain the fact that she and Max felt so completely that they belonged together.

Where had the mistake been made? Had Will been blind to his wife’s true feelings in their past lives or had the change taken place sometime more recently? Had the fact that she and Max had found each other first changed everything? Had they mistaken each other for their respective spouses – Will and Tess – and was that why they felt such a keen sense of being made for each other?

Liz straightened her spine and raised her chin, meeting Will’s eyes firmly. She was here for information and she was going to get it. She was not leaving this motel room tonight until she knew everything Will knew – until she had all the information there was to have so that she could meld it with what she knew in her heart to be true.

She decided for the moment to ignore the pang of guilt about the fact that, more than likely, Will was going to end up hurt. She couldn’t think about him right now. Max was all that mattered.

“You’re probably wondering why I came back,” Liz began tentatively.

“No.”

She blinked, bit her lip. He sounded so sure that he knew, so sure that she recognized that they were meant to be together. She could almost read his thoughts. How could he have been so wrong about Rowena?

“I believe you,” Liz continued, as though he hadn’t spoken. “I…I talked to Max and well…” She swallowed. “I know it’s true. I’m one of you.”

Will’s eyes darkened at the mention of Max’s name. “So he does remember.” He sounded disgusted, as though he couldn’t quite believe that he had actually contemplated the fact that Max might not know exactly what he was doing.

“No!” Liz exclaimed quickly, cursing the error. How had she made a mistake so quickly? “You don’t understand. We connected. I saw myself through his eyes and I just knew suddenly that the reason he fell in love with me was because he recognized me. He was drawn to me because we’re the same.”

“So he says.”

Liz narrowed her eyes. “Weren’t you the one who told me that when I connect with people, that I see them truly? That it’s my gift?”

Will did not deny it, simply raised an eyebrow. “And?”

“I know Max. Whoever he was before, he’s not that way now. You can ask your sister if you don’t believe me. I think she finally knows it too.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Didn’t Kate tell you?” Liz asked, momentarily confused. She wondered briefly why Kate would have kept the fact that she had connected with Max a secret from Will.

“Tell me what?” Will demanded, interrupting her thoughts. “I didn’t even know she was back.”

“Well, she paid us a little visit earlier,” Liz replied. “I think it was an accident. I was with Max and Alex and she just popped in. Anyway, she and Max had…” Liz was forced to sigh slightly, decided that she had every right to be a little jealous. She had always felt that the connection between she and Max was unique, but the fact that he had shared one with Kate…well, apparently not. “I guess you’d say they had a moment,” she finished wryly.

“What?” Will was on his feet, heading for the door. “Why wouldn’t she tell me this?”

Liz grabbed him by the hand as he passed her. “I’m sure she had her reasons. You can talk to her later. I need to get some things straight with you – now.”

It wasn’t until she was in the middle of the flash that Liz even realized what she had done. And by then it was far too late because at that point all she could hear was the screaming…

Rowena! Rowena, save me! Please! I’m not Rowena! You don’ t want to do this! Ro! Roweeeennaaa!

“RO!”

She snapped out of it after what felt like hours, Will’s voice finally breaking through the shrieking voice that had invaded her head. Liz’s heart was racing and she could feel beads of perspiration on her forehead. She took deep gasping breaths and stared into Will’s eyes. She realized that he was on his knees in front of her, his hands on her shoulders because he had obviously just finished shaking her.

He seemed to recognize the instant that she was aware again because his expression was momentarily relieved before it hardened with concern. “What happened? What did you see?” He touched her face gently, forcing her to look at him.

Liz backed up against the chair, trying to escape his touch. “Get away from me! Don’t touch me!” She could not control herself. She saw each word stab into him like a dagger as his hands fell away from her. He rocked back on his heels, continued to stare at her. But touching him had done that. Touching him and made her feel like her entire soul was being ripped from her body.

And, from the look of horror on his face, he apparently knew it.

“I’m sorry,” Liz finally managed to say, realized that it was more of a sob than anything. “I thought I could do this…”

“It’s okay,” Will replied, standing up and turning away. She saw a shudder run through his lean frame, wondered briefly if he had seen what she had.

But what exactly had she seen? Already it was fading back into the shadows of her mind, evading the grasp of her memory.

The only thing that remained was a pair of piercing blue eyes.

Will turned back. “Why are you here?” He asked roughly, his expression shuttered for the first time that she had ever seen. If she needed confirmation that he had seen something from her, then there it was, written all over his face. She felt horrible that she could not meet his eyes. She didn’t need to anymore. They were branded on her brain after that flash.

“I…I need to know what happened to me. To us. To everyone,” Liz said finally, keeping her voice low so that it didn’t crack.

“You want to know what happened to him. You’re doing this for him,” Will’s tone was accusing, but Liz thought she heard an undertone of resignation there as well. It scared her more than any anger could have.

“No.” Liz could hear the lie in her voice, wondered if he did as well. He had collapsed on the bed, his head clutched between his fists, as though he was trying to push something out of his mind. Liz felt another flash of fear as she pondered what he might have seen from her. Had he seen how every beat of her heart was for Max, how every breath she took was because he loved her?

Liz sat beside him, gently reached out and took his hand in hers. Will looked at her, his expression now blank. She forced herself to meet those suddenly disturbing blue eyes. “I’m here because we were all sent to this planet for a reason and I can’t believe that it’s because we’re supposed to be enemies. Any of us. Yes, I’m here because of him. But I’m here for me too and I’m here for you and for Isabel and for Michael and for everyone. I’m here for answers.”

“What if the answers you find aren’t the ones you want Rowena?” Will asked in a monotone. “Because the ones I’m getting sure aren’t the ones I was looking for.”

“I’m willing to take that chance,” Liz replied firmly. She squeezed his hand. “I trust you Will. I…” She swallowed. “I don’t know what you saw in that flash, but I can tell that it was about Max.”

He didn’t answer, which only confirmed it. She continued in a rush. “I’m sorry. I don’t remember what we meant to each other before. I want to try, but I need you to accept that it’s unlikely that my feelings for Max are going to change. That was then. This is now.”

“Why?” He demanded. “Why do you want to know if you don’t think it’s going to change anything?”

“Because I think I owe you that much,” Liz told him. “And I’m beginning to think that you’re just as lost as I am.”

“What?” He did not sound impressed by this assessment.

“Will, I don’t think you were in love with me at all,” Liz told him. Until the words left her mouth, she hadn’t even realized that it was true. But she knew somehow that she was right. “I think that there was much more going on in our past lives than even you know about.”

“I do remember Liz.”

Liz narrowed her eyes. “I think you remember what they want you to. And I think it’s the same with Max and the others. But I’m beginning to wonder if any of it is real.”

“Who are they?” Will asked wearily. “Liz, we’re the ones in charge. I’m the one who had myself cloned and sent here. I remember exactly what I intended myself to remember.”

Liz blinked, then grinned. “Well, that was confusing.”

Will stared at her, then smirked slightly as well. “This really is a mess, isn’t it?” The atmosphere in the room lightened slightly.

“I know this is hard. It’s hard on everyone,” Liz told him seriously. “But I’m here as a go-between.” She paused, continued quickly. “I’m going to make a confession here Will. I was going to pretend that I remembered you.”

“You were?” His gaze darkened again. “Why?”

“You were right that I came here to protect Max. I was going to pretend to side with you if you promised to leave him alone.”

“What changed your mind?” He asked. He didn’t sound hurt, merely curious.

Liz thought about it for a moment. “I told you. I trust you. I think that if I ask you to leave him alone, you will. Because I think, deep down, you know that you need him as much as he needs you.”

“I’m glad you trust me, but I can’t trust him Liz. It’s impossible.”

The fact that he called her Liz…It raised her hopes more than anything that he had said before. He was beginning to accept things the way they were. She was no longer his Rowena. She was Liz Parker, who was in love with Max Evans, and that’s who she intended to remain.

But it didn’t mean that she wasn’t still curious about exactly who Rowena of Valonia had been. She was frightened to find out, but she knew that unless she did, she could potentially be haunted by her forever. Although it had faded, she could not forget that flash, could not forget the screaming voice of someone she had been unable to save in her past life. Because she was sure that’s what it had been. But who? Who had she failed so completely?

She realized that now was not the time to think about it. She needed Will to agree to this, needed he and Max working together if any of them were ever going to have any hope of straightening this out.

“You could try,” she told him quietly.

Their eyes met for a long, charged moment. Finally, he grinned and said, “I never could say no to you Rowena.”

“Well, that’s handy to know,” she replied teasingly, squeezing his hand again. “In that case, I’m going to demand that you tell me everything you can about who I was.”

There was a long silence as he measured her with his eyes. “I think that you’re right Liz. I don’t think this is just about the two of us anymore.”

Her heart started to beat more quickly. “What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you together. Because, really, I think that’s the way you want it.” He straightened his spine and for a moment Liz could see that this had indeed been a king once upon a time. He was disappointed with how things were turning out for himself, but he would not let it interfere with what he knew to be right. And he was beginning to see that working with Max instead of against him was right. “It’s time for me to meet Zan of Antar.”

Liz stared at him, almost couldn’t believe that everything she had hoped for had happened so quickly – and simply because she had been honest. Would wonders never cease?

And, yet, that small voice in the back of her mind was urging caution. Be careful Liz. You could be walking Max right into a trap.

But she could not believe that of Will. He would not betray her that way. To him, she was still his wife, even if they were no longer meant to be together. He would not lie to her. Somehow she just knew it.

The little voice was not completely wrong though. “I do have one condition.”

Liz frowned. “What?”

He looked away, then took a deep breath and stood, going to the bedside table and pulling open a drawer. Liz watched him curiously as Will pulled out a long piece of fabric. It was the most delicate piece of material Liz had ever seen, gossamer thin and so pale that it seemed almost colourless.

She had reached out her hand for it before she even knew what she was doing. She knew it had belonged to her. Will handed it over without comment.

“I want you to have it,” he said quietly. “It’s all I have left of Rowena.”

“I don’t understand.” Liz wound the fabric around her hand, marveling at the softness, at the fact that this had come from another planet. “How is this a condition?”

“I’d like you to wear it when I meet him.”

Liz looked up, frowned again. “Why?”

“I want a piece of you to still belong to me.”

She felt a shiver descend her spine, couldn’t tell if it was one of attraction or of fear. But her lips were opening and she was saying, “I will,” before she could stop herself. “What is it?” She asked, biting her lip, knowing that it was too late to take it back. He had bent so much already. She could not deny him this much.

“It’s the sash that was used to bind us at our wedding,” Will replied, his voice expressionless, which only reinforced to Liz how much the simple piece of cloth meant to him. “Rowena always wore it on her wrist after that.”

Liz stared down at it, realized that she had wound it around her own wrist without even realizing what she was doing. Another tremor ran through her body. She considered throwing it back at him, almost started to do it, when something caught her eye.

It was a stain. She knew almost instantly what it was too.

Blood. Her blood. From before.

She felt all the colour drain from her face as she looked up at Will, who was watching her intently, his eyes gleaming strangely.

And, she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she had been tricked.

To be continued…








[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Oct-2002 10:45:42 PM ]
posted on 19-Oct-2002 1:16:06 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks for the bumping folks. This part is a bit transitional but what happened to Liz starts to come out at the end of this one.

Part 18

“Where’s Isabel?” Michael demanded as Max joined the group. They were all huddled on the cliffs over the reservoir, looking very small and vulnerable as he moved toward them. A chill descended his spine as he reflected on how completely useless he felt when it came to leading any of them. Maria was huddled into her usual frilly jacket, obviously cold and feeling lonely because she was being left out of the new bond between Alex and Liz. Tess stood as far away from Maria as possible, looking slightly uncomfortable as usual, although her face relaxed at the sight of him, which irritated him and then made him feel guilty. She was standing close to Kyle, who looked even more out of place and, on top of that, annoyed. The Sheriff did not look any happier to be there, still slightly upset that he had been kept out of the loop for so long.

The only person who seemed at all pleased with this meeting was Michael, whose arms were crossed over his chest in a business-like manner. The change that had come over his best friend since they had found out about their destiny never failed to amaze Max when he reflected on it. Michael was perfectly content to accept the role that had been shaped for him by others in a galaxy far, far away. Not for the first time, as his eyes lit again on Tess, Max wondered why he had never felt the same way.

But, now that he knew something about who he had been in his past life, Max realized that perhaps it wasn’t quite so surprising.

He didn’t want to be king. It was as plain and simple as that, but everyone here expected him to be anyway. They were all depending on him. Max felt a pang as he realized how absolutely lucky he was to have all these people and how ill prepared he felt to lead them, how unlikely it was that he would be able to protect them when the time came.

And, now, with the new knowledge that he likely didn’t deserve to lead them… it all seemed ten times more daunting.

He was trying not to let the horrible scene he had seen in Kate’s subconscious replay itself in his own mind. He was trying to believe Liz – that whatever he had done in his past life, he was not the kind of person who would kill his own friends in cold blood (because he knew now that it was what Kate had been to him before). It had not been something he had ever expected to be forced to acknowledge. He had been a monster in his past life. The image of his own hands closing around Kate’s neck from her perspective (well, it hadn’t really looked like him, being as he had looked like an alien and all but he knew it had been him) – it would haunt him for a long time. He had felt her despair and her sense of betrayal as the end had come. Because, in that connection, he had been her at the moment of death.

What if Isabel was right and they were all doomed to repeat the same mistakes over in this life? What if instead of Kate this time, it was Maria or Alex or Michael? What if he somehow became responsible for Isabel’s death? What about Tess or even Kyle? Hell, hadn’t he already once almost gotten Kyle killed just because of who he was? What if next time it was really his fault?

In fact, hadn’t the end of the world once been his fault? A future version of himself had even come back to stop he and Liz from making the same mistakes after all.

Max glanced at Tess out of the corner of his eye, wondered if she was even now contemplating leaving town. If so, what could he do to stop her? He certainly wouldn’t give up Liz. He just couldn’t. He knew that, inherently, this was why he was a bad leader. He could not be completely selfless and that was what his friends needed now. Someone who wasn’t concerned about his own wants and desires before their lives.

No, he could easily believe that he had been a bad king.

I know you weren’t like that. I know you.

Liz’s voice penetrated his little pity party for one as he stared at his friends, as he wondered how he could ever be strong enough for these people.

Max steeled his spine. He could be strong enough because he had Liz. She believed in him. She believed in him so much, she had been willing to destroy her own heart just because a future version of himself had asked her to. She was right after all. There was no way that he would ever do anything to purposely hurt his friends. Whoever he had been before, he was not that person now and he wouldn’t become him either. Hadn’t he told Isabel earlier that whatever had happened before didn’t matter? It was ridiculous that he wasn’t letting himself see that the same thing applied to him.

He knew exactly who he was and nothing was going to change the fact that he was first and foremost Max Evans, son of Diane and Phillip, brother of Isabel, boyfriend of Liz. Zan of Antar might be a part of his past, but he was certainly not going to play any role in his future.

“She wasn’t at home,” Max told Michael briefly now, his voice firm, which pleased him. “I don’t know where she went, but I’ll fill her in later.”

“I’m not surprised that she’s run off,” Tess said, sounding annoyed. “Alex was just plain mean earlier.”

Max glanced quickly at Maria, whose eyes narrowed, but she stayed quiet. Michael’s hand instantly going to the small of her back was probably partly responsible for that, but at least she didn’t say anything. The last thing they needed at the moment was more strife within their group. They needed to stay unified, needed to focus on their real enemies.

He grimaced slightly when he realized that, technically, Liz and Alex numbered among them now. Oh, this was going to be fun conversation!

“He didn’t mean what he said,” Kyle was telling Tess softly. Max heard Maria snort, but ignored her, choosing instead to watch Tess’s reaction to Kyle’s words. Her expression lightened slightly and it was only then that Max realized that Tess’s feelings had truly been hurt somehow. Had Alex said something to her? He made a mental note to do damage control later. The absolute last thing they needed at the moment was for Tess to feel like even more of any outsider. If they had ever needed their four square strong, it was now.

“Whatever.” Maria stepped forward, deliberately turning her back on Tess. Max sighed despite himself. “Max, where are Liz and Alex? What is going on?”

Max ran a hand through his hair and sighed again. “It’s a long story. But, before I start, I want you all to know that decision has been made and you’re all just going to have to play along. I trust Liz to deal with this.” He was actually surprised that he was able to say those words and mean them. Not that he didn’t trust Liz. But his fear for her was just as great as his trust in her. He was still slightly amazed at himself that he had gone along with this at all.

He was guessing that, somewhere deep inside, the connection with Kate had freaked him out so much, he almost didn’t trust himself with Liz. That was it, he was sure. At this point, with their complete lack of information, he almost felt Liz was safer with their enemies than she was around him.

He knew who he wanted to be, he was determined that he would stay who he was, but that didn’t mean that a small part of him wasn’t still hearing Isabel’s voice in his head…

I will betray you. Because I did before.

The sheer irony of that statement now was that it seemed that he had deserved it. Vilandra’s betrayal had been justified. Courtney had said so and his connection with Kate had only confirmed it.

He had killed in his past life. He could do it again.

“I don’t like the sound of this Maxwell,” Michael was saying, his grip around Maria’s waist tightening. Max shook his head, forced himself to focus.

“I’m sure you don’t,” he replied mildly. “But it doesn’t really matter what any of us think. This is Liz’s call.”

“Why?” Tess demanded. “What does she have to do with any…”

“She has everything to do with it,” Max interrupted firmly. “Listen to me, all of you.” He looked at them all one by one, meeting their eyes. “There is going to be absolutely no more questioning of Liz. Everything she has ever done has only ever been for our benefit.” He looked at Kyle. “What you helped her to do…” He paused. “Thank you.”

Kyle looked uncomfortable, but nodded slightly, glancing at Tess, whose lips were pressed together tightly. Max shook his head slightly. He was really going to have to talk to her alone later.

“Would you please stop being so cryptic?” Michael snapped. “We all know Liz and Kyle didn’t sleep together. Alex told us. Why did she pretend she did?”

Max smiled slightly, despite himself. It really was hard to get to the point here. Because, dammit, there was just too much to tell. “She was trying to save the world,” he finally replied quietly. “How and why, I can’t go into right now.” He looked at Tess again. “I need to talk to a couple of you privately about that first.”

Michael looked like he wanted to protest again, but this time Maria was the one to reach out and stop him with a warning squeeze.

“Where did Liz and Alex go?” She asked.

“They went to see Will and the others again,” Max told her gently. “I know they both wanted to talk to you first Maria, but there just wasn’t time.”

Maria’s nostrils flared slightly. “Why are they shutting me out?” She demanded, her tone slightly high-pitched. “There is something weird going on with both of them. I can’t believe Liz did all that stuff with Kyle…” She was beginning to gesture wildly with her hands, her frustration so complete, “And she didn’t even tell me! What is this all about Max?”

“It’s about why Will and the others are here,” Max said, searching his mind for the easiest way to tell the story. He shrugged, decided that it was best to just say it. They certainly weren’t going to believe him at first anyway. Hell, he wasn’t even quite sure he believed it yet. “They want Liz. And, for the moment, she’s going to pretend that they’ve got her. Alex went with her so that she wouldn’t be alone.”

“Hmm. Sources on the inside. I think I like it.” Max looked at Michael, almost rolled his eyes at the gleeful expression on his best friend’s face.

“Easy there General.” The sheriff stepped forward. “I don’t like the sound of this at all Max. Who are these people? How do we know that Liz and Alex are going to be safe with them? Did they or did they not already try and kill you and Isabel earlier today?”

“Liz is sure that Will won’t hurt her,” Max reassured him. He tried to ignore the stab of concern this still caused him. He did not like the connection that existed between Liz and the other alien. He knew that this was no time for jealousy, but it wasn’t fun to send the girl you loved off to bond with another man – particularly one you suspected she might actually, secretly feel connected to. Max and Liz had never been able to hide anything from each other when they connected and he had seen more than just the Future Max stuff earlier that evening. He had felt her inherent trust in Will and it reminded him way too much of how she had trusted him after their first connection.

It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Liz. It was that he remembered how completely out of control he had felt when Tess had first appeared in town. He had been attracted to her, mainly because of a mind-warp, but her familiarity had also pulled him to her. Liz’s recognition of Will was a frightening thing. Max was all too aware that if it hadn’t been for the fact that he had healed Liz, she never would have known of his feelings for her, never would have given him the time of day.

But Will she had recognized immediately. It was Will to whom she had been drawn at first sight.

The simple thought of it was enough to make his blood run cold.

Hell! This was a stupid plan! What if Liz never came back?

Then you’d deal.

He blinked as the thought appeared unbidden in the back of his mind.

Even if she isn’t meant to be with you, truly, you are strong enough to survive on the memory of what she was to you – on who you want to be because of her. In the end, it’s her choice. You can believe in her like she’s always believed in you, or you can freak out and become useless to everyone, like you have been for the past couple of weeks. But you know which way is the right way.

“And you believe that she’s right?” The sheriff asked. “Why Max?”

“Because of who she is to him,” Max replied tightly. “She was his wife.”

The silence that greeted this statement was so complete, Max could hear the water in the reservoir lapping lightly against the rocks far below.

“Pardon me?” Michael was the first one to regain the use of his voice. No surprise there. He would actually be the easiest one to convince Max was sure. After all, he had been there when Courtney had told them about Rowena.

“She’s Rowena,” Max told him. “I know it’s true too. Earlier…” He looked at Tess, feeling slightly uncomfortable, “Liz and I connected. She saw that the reason I was drawn to her from the beginning was because I recognized her.”

“Who is Rowena?” Tess demanded.

“She’s a link in their four square,” Max replied. “Liz is like us. Will and Kate…”

“Oh Lord.” Michael’s voice broke through Max’s explanation. “I should have seen this coming.”

“What?” Max asked, perplexed.

“Remember I told you that Hal Carver told me that there were eight pods when he let Nasedo and that other shifter go?” Michael raised his eyebrows meaningfully. “I’m guessing our new pals were in those pods.”

Max frowned. “That sounds highly likely. But it’s kind of weird too. Why would our enemies have been sent in the same ship as us?” He looked at Tess questioningly. “Do you know anything about this Tess?”

From the expression on Tess’s face – dumbfounded amazement – Max could see that she didn’t. “I’m only beginning to realize how much Nasedo didn’t tell me,” she finally admitted, sounding hurt. “Why wouldn’t he have told me about them? Shouldn’t he have been responsible for them too?”

“Weren’t there two protectors?” The sheriff interjected. “Maybe the other four were sent off with him?”

“Maybe.” Max shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, sighing. “We just don’t know anything. At least with Liz and Alex on the inside, we might get some answers.”

He looked over at Kyle, who was clearing his throat. He looked disbelieving, which didn’t surprise Max at all. “What I don’t get here is why you think Liz is one of them. We know she’s human.”

“Right!” Maria jumped in. “Alex was looking at baby pictures earlier today. He must have been trying to convince Liz that they were lying to her!” She pressed her lips together, annoyed. “Although I still don’t get why it all had to be such a big secret.”

“Liz has been living with secrets for weeks,” Kyle reminded her. “Can you imagine having the weight of the world on your shoulders, like she literally did? Constantly having to worry that something you do is going to result in that…” He looked impressed. “Poor Liz. I just don’t get why she thought you and she being together would result in that.” He looked at Max questioningly.

Max glanced at Tess. “It’s kind of difficult to say…”

“Max! You keep looking at me weirdly!” Tess exclaimed. “Why? What aren’t you telling us?”

“Tess, I don’t want to do this in front of everyone,” Max replied gently.

“Do what?” She sounded exasperated. “I didn’t end the world somehow!” She paused. “Wait a minute. I didn’t, did I?”

“Of course not!” Max said quickly. “It’s just that, well…” By the expression on her face, Max knew that she wasn’t going to let it drop. It was just time to tell it all it seemed. “You left town Tess. A…well, a visitor came back from the future, through the granolith, and told Liz that if she and I didn’t break up, you were going to leave town and when our enemies came we wouldn’t be strong enough without you and…well, the world ended because of it.”

“Well, that’s a cheerful story,” Michael finally said after the silence had stretched out into what felt like eternity again. “I can’t believe Liz even believed that. Who was this “visitor?” Doesn’t Liz know not to trust strangers by now?” Max scowled at him. Michael’s tone had been decidedly sarcastic during that last statement.

“I would never leave you Max,” Tess added. Max grimaced. Oh hell. He didn’t like the expression that appeared on Kyle’s face at that one. And he didn’t like hearing that either. He was just glad that Liz wasn’t standing beside him.

“Well, be that as it may,” he said, deciding that changing the subject was the best route, “Liz believed it. Because, the thing is, the visitor was me.”

“You? And you didn’t know?” Michael demanded incredulously.

“Well, not me me,” Max amended. “But another me. From the future. I came back through the granolith.”

“The granolith? I keep hearing that word,” the sheriff said impatiently. “What the hell is a granolith?”

“That’s one thing we need to find out,” Max admitted. “Because when I connected with Kate earlier, I felt how much they want to get a hold of it. Until we know why, we’re screwed. We know it can be used as a time machine…”

“How does Liz know that it was you from the future?” Michael interrupted, obviously still stuck on the whole Future Max thing. “Couldn’t it have been a trick? A shapeshifter?”

“Michael! Get over it!” Maria screeched. “Liz knows Max, okay? If there’s one person she knows, it’s him.”

Max shot her a grateful look. “It was me,” he agreed. “I believe Liz. The important thing is why I came back. It must have been really bad.”

“I would think that the expression “the end of the world” pretty much tells us that,” Kyle muttered, earning a look from his father. “Sorry.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Max continued, choosing not to be annoyed. “What I meant is that it must have been bad because it sounds like we were both giving up an awful lot to change things.”

“What do you mean?” Tess asked.

“Liz and I were married,” Max replied. “It’s mainly why you left town Tess. Because you and I were never going to be together.”

“Oh.” Tess’s mouth snapped shut and she looked befuddled. Max was surprised when she smiled slightly. “You know, I was going to leave town a couple of weeks ago.” She said it so abruptly, everyone stared at her in astonishment.

“You were?” Michael demanded, sounding more annoyed than anything. “Why?” Max stared at him again and raised an eyebrow. Michael had the grace to look a little embarrassed and he shut up.

“Because I felt like a total outsider,” Tess replied quietly. “But since everything happened with you and Liz…” She trailed off. “Max needed me. I couldn’t leave him.” She looked directly at Max, her expression troubled. “And now I don’t think I could leave - ever.” She paused, as though truly examining her feelings, then said quietly, “I know you don’t love me Max. It still hurts.” She shook her head, sending her blonde curls flying. “I can’t say that I’m not still disappointed. I remember more than you do. I remember how we felt about each other before…”

“Tess, I don’t think any of that is real,” Max replied gently. “I’m sorry. Didn’t Michael tell you what Courtney said? We had an arranged marriage. We weren’t in love.”

“My memories aren’t real?” Tess asked. “Max I have them!”

“My question is, why does Tess have memories and we don’t?” Michael said, changing the subject abruptly. “All this love talk is pointless. Who cares?”

“Michael!” Maria exclaimed. Max was surprised to see that she was looking at Tess with something actually approaching concern.

“What?” Michael snapped. “Hey, I’m sorry if my thoughts are preoccupied with the end of the world stuff. Liz made a sacrifice, I admire her for it, but it was her choice. This is a different world now, am I wrong? If we don’t figure out exactly how to make sure that whatever happened in the future doesn’t happen again, everything she did to you,” he looked at Max seriously, “Over the past couple of weeks will have been for nothing. Do we really want that? I’ve been here. It has not been pretty Maxwell. She did it though and now we have to use this second chance.”

“Well, I’m not going anywhere,” Tess said firmly. “So you can stop worrying about that.” She looked at Max. “I really feel like we’re friends now Max. I believe that my memories are real, but if you don’t, there’s not much I can do to change that.” She paused. “My point is that, whether we end up together or not, I feel like I belong with you.” She turned her gaze to Michael. “All of you. And now I feel like I have a purpose here apart from destiny,” she admitted. “You do need me.”

“No one has ever disputed that Tess,” Max told her. He paused. “I’m sorry if we made you feel like we didn’t.”

“I can’t say that I blame you,” Tess replied. “I wasn’t exactly forthcoming when I first arrived. I went about everything the wrong way. I see that now. But it was Nasedo…” Her expression darkened. “He was all about secrecy and that’s how I was raised.”

“Honesty really is the best policy,” Maria interjected. Tess looked at her suspiciously. Max could see that she was wondering if the other girl was being sarcastic, was going for a dig, but Maria looked sincere. “I don’t think any of us has done much to make you feel welcome Tess.”

“You were looking out for your friend Maria,” Tess said. “I can’t blame you for that.”

“Well…” Maria shoved her hands deeper into her pockets. “Liz and I could have tried a bit harder with you. We just went into defensive mode right away…”

“Okay!” Michael exclaimed. “You’re both to blame! Enough of this lovey-dovey stuff! What is the plan here? What exactly is it that Alex and Liz are doing?”

Max didn’t reply right away, still astonished that all the tension between Tess and Maria had been resolved that quickly. He wondered if he’d ever understand girls.

“Maxwell!”

Max shook his head, realized that he felt like a huge weight had abruptly been lifted off his shoulders. Tess was going to stay. It was one less thing they had to worry about and it was enough to make him want to shout for joy. Well almost.

“Right, sorry. Here’s what’s going on…”

And, with that, Max launched into the plan he still wasn’t entirely comfortable with but was going to support until his last breath because it was what Liz wanted.


By the time Max got home, it was close to one in the morning. He considered knocking on Isabel’s bedroom door, which was by now firmly closed signaling that his sister was back, but the thought was so exhausting after the length of the meeting at the quarry, he realized he just couldn’t face telling it all again right away. And then there was the whole thing with Alex, which Tess had filled him in on while he had driven her back to the Valentis, wanting a few minutes alone with her to make sure she was really okay (which she seemed to be). The fact that Isabel had so deliberately chosen to stay out of his way tonight seemed to indicate that she wasn’t ready to talk about anything either. Morning would be soon enough.


He flopped back on his bed moments later, glanced at the clock and then at his answering machine. He felt a slight flash of concern that Liz hadn’t called yet. It was pretty late. They had agreed that she and Alex would go to the motel and set things in motion but would then be home early.

He sat up, reached out and picked up the receiver, dialing Liz’s number quickly. He heaved a sigh of relief when she picked up on the third ring, sounding like she had been sound asleep.

“Hi,” he said gently. “Did I wake you?”

“Oh.” There was a long pause. “Yeah. I’m just really tired.” Max frowned. She sounded completely out of it.

“Liz, are you okay?”

“What? Oh. Yes. Max. Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry.”

“You don’t sound fine. You were supposed to call me.”

“I know. Sorry. I just needed to go to sleep.” There was another long pause, as though she was trying to focus. “How did things go with the others?”

“Pretty good,” Max replied, settling back against the headboard of his bed. His heartbeat was slowing down now that Liz seemed to be getting her bearings. He couldn’t blame her for being so tired. She had been dealing with a lot of stressful stuff lately. It was probably the feeling of finally being able to let go slightly that was making her want to sleep so badly. “I won’t give you all the details right now, but just know that everyone is behind you. And we don’t have to worry about Tess. She’s okay with everything.”

“I’m sure,” Liz replied, sounding slightly annoyed. Max frowned again.

“Liz?”

“What? Oh sorry. No. Never mind. It’s just that I got some interesting information from Will about sweet Ava. Apparently we weren’t exactly the best of friends before either.”

“Er, okay. So, everything’s okay with Will then.”

“Yes.” Liz’s voice softened. Max swallowed. Okay, why was Liz being so weird? “He’s going to leave you alone. We were right Max. All he wants is to be close to me. When I told him I wouldn’t be unless he stopped threatening you, he accepted it.”

“That’s good, I guess.” Max realized that he had never found it this difficult to converse with Liz before. He didn’t quite know what to say next. “Liz, are you sure there’s nothing wrong? You sound kind of weird.”

“I told you I’m tired,” Liz almost snapped. Max blinked. “Listen, can we talk about this in the morning? I’m being a total bitch and I’m going to feel awful about it tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Max replied reluctantly. “Can we meet somewhere before school?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Liz told him. “I promised Will that I’d give him a real chance. I told him I wouldn’t see you for a few days. It was part of the plan Max. Remember? He has to think I’m really trying.”

“I know,” Max sighed. “But it sucks. I hate this plan.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but it will all be for the best in the long run,” Liz replied briskly. “I’ll call you tomorrow night. I’m going to try and arrange for you and Will to meet. It might take me a couple of days…”

“The sooner the better,” Max insisted. “Liz…” He was about to tell her that he was beginning to realize how bad a plan this truly was. He was glad that Will wasn’t a threat to Liz, but the stress really seemed to be getting to her. All of this needed to be brought out into the open so that they could all work together.

He was beginning to understand that there had to be a reason that they had all been cloned and sent to Earth in the same ship and he was beginning to realize that it was likely because they were probably supposed to resolve things here. They weren’t supposed to be enemies anymore. That the other hybrids were hampered by the negative memories of him had started him wondering if he, Michael and Isabel not remembering was for a reason. Clean slates and all that. So what had gone wrong with Will and the others?

“Night Max. I’ll talk to you later.”

He stared at the receiver in disbelief. She had just hung up on him! He had been right in the middle of a sentence.

Well, it was clear. This plan was not going to fly. Liz Parker would never hang up on him, especially after the hell they had recently been through. Will had done something to her. Max just knew it.

It took all of his strength not to leap off his bed and head straight for the Crashdown to confront her. But she was tired. Maybe sleep would help her fight off whatever Will was doing to her. She was safe at home for now. He’d call Alex quickly before he went to bed to make sure that she was alone, but then he’d leave her in peace for the moment.

But he was not going to risk Liz. It meant that the only way to resolve this was swiftly and cleanly. Which meant confrontation with Will. And he was not going to wait for Liz to set up some sort of summit. No way. She was already beginning to lose herself.

It would be tomorrow, Max thought grimly. First thing. They were going to end this once and for all.

To be continued...

posted on 27-Oct-2002 3:44:39 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Hey guys! Thanks for your patience on my various and sundry stories. My computer at home is presently lacking an internet connection, so updates are limited to when I can sneak a few minutes at my parents. It is a sad state of affairs, but should be rectified by the end of the week. Anyhoo, on with the show...

Part 19

“Good morning!” Alex managed to avoid grimacing at the cheesy cheer in his own voice. He couldn’t help it if he still wasn’t entirely comfortable around Kate and her companions though. He didn’t care how well things had gone the evening before. It was still weird to be hanging out with people who had tried to kill his friends only yesterday.

While he knew for sure that they were not evil, he and Liz were engaged in a delicate balancing act at the moment. They were trying to pretend to side with Will, Kate and Jack and, yet, they were also trying to protect Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess too. The two goals were not compatible.

But, at the moment, as his eyes met Kate’s weary blue gaze, he couldn’t help but hope that soon they would be.

Things had gone well the night before. He had spent a pleasant enough hour watching T.V. with Jack and Kate. It had been a strange thing to do, but had also served to make them more comfortable with him. He had already liked Jack after all. By the time Liz and Will joined them, he and Jack had been back to bantering, this time insulting various stars on the television rather than their fellow classmates. Kate was more quiet, but she had not seemed unduly resistant to his presence either.

The fact that Courtney had just sat there the entire time was strange. Alex decided not to ask why she was there. He wanted to make Kate and Jack trust him after all. If he started interrogating them right away, it would take more time. Besides, the Skin girl had not seemed to be in any danger, nor had she seemed scared. She just sat on the bed, listening to their inane chatter, but not trying to join in. It wasn’t until he had been lying in his bed later, thinking about the evening, that it had dawned on Alex that Courtney was completely resigned to her death. She wasn’t even attempting to connect on any level with anyone anymore. She wasn’t going to help either side willingly. Her allegiance was only to Michael and now that she knew that he would never betray Max, she just didn’t care about any of it. She wasn’t keeping any secrets, but she wasn’t helping any of them either. For the first time, Alex felt sorry for her.

For the first time he felt sorry for all the Skins. What must it be like to know that your days were numbered, that you were going to simply shred away into nothing? These people were on Earth, fighting a secret war that, in many ways, was not about them at all. And now they were going to die because of it. War sucked. While intellectually Alex had realized it before, he knew it for fact now. It was started by people in power, but it was the little guy who always paid the price. Even if took two separate life-times.

When he and Liz finally drove back to town in the wee hours of the morning, Liz had related the gist of her conversation with Will. It seemed that he bought that Liz remembered him. In fact, he had even given her something that he said belonged to her in her past life. Liz spent the ride home fingering the delicate piece of fabric that was tied around her wrist, not really focused on it, but obviously connected to it.

“It’s weird Alex,” she said quietly at one point. “It’s only a little piece of cloth, but, it’s like, finally, for the first time, I’m about to find out who I really am. I know what Will tells me and what Max showed me, but now I feel like I’m about to find out for myself.”

“Are you remembering?” Alex asked, concerned. This had not been part of the plan after all, having Liz remember being an alien. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with that proposition. He felt deep down that there was a reason that she didn’t remember, a reason that she was more human than the rest of them. He had no idea what that reason could be, but somehow he just knew it. Hadn’t the fact that Kate, Will and Jack did remember, only made things worse? Even if he and Liz did somehow manage to broker a deal between Will and Max, in the end, it still wouldn’t be entirely safe. Because, even if they came to a tentative trust, somewhere inside of them, Will, Kate and Jack would always remember what Zan had done. They might be able to get past it, might be able to understand that Max was not to blame, but they would always remember. And how could any sort of truce really exist in those circumstances?

“Not really,” Liz replied, sounding distant. “I can’t explain what I feel. I just know that nothing is as it seems.”

Alex frowned, but didn’t ask anything more. He knew that a piece of cloth could not put Liz in any danger. He was worried about her, but they were both driving home, safe and in one piece, and, for now, it had to be enough.

It was why he had found himself reassuring Max when his friend had called him in the middle of the night. It seemed that Liz had been a little weird on the phone with him. But Alex knew that sometimes things had to get a little weird in order for them to get any answers. Liz had been as normal as she ever was - at least since Max had healed her the year before. He told Max that she was just tired, had wondered if it was a mistake after he hung up, but ended up deciding that it wasn’t. They had to give the plan time to work. It wasn’t the best plan in the world, but it was the only one they had that didn’t involve alien powers and blasting and killing.

It was a delicate balancing act all right.

And, yet, as he grinned at Kate now, he felt a new sense of purpose, a sense that it would all be worth it in the long run. That this was going to work. Because, in the end, these were all good people and none of them really wanted this strife to continue if it didn’t have to.

“What are you doing here?” Kate asked, yawning. “Didn’t you just leave?”

“Well, I could take that as an insult,” Alex replied. “But I won’t. I know we all had a late night last night.”

Kate’s eyes narrowed. “You are entirely too chipper for someone who insisted on staying over until the late, late movie ended. And it wasn’t even good!”

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a classic,” Alex argued good-naturedly. “Jack agreed with me. Even Will got into the spirit of it after he and Liz had dealt with all their angst.”

“That’s because guys don’t know good cinema.” Alex blinked as Courtney emerged from the bathroom, directly behind Kate. Kate stepped aside to allow Alex to enter. “I’ve been on enough crappy dates to know that by now.”

“You date?” Alex asked before he could stop himself.

“I’ve been on this God-forsaken rock for fifty years,” Courtney snapped, crossing the motel room to the mirror over the dresser. Alex tried not to grimace as she leaned in and peeled a layer of skin off her cheek. He felt Kate flinch beside him. “I had to do something to pass the time.”

“You seem to be feeling better this morning,” Alex ventured tentatively. “I called Michael and told him where you were, like you asked. He was worried.”

Courtney’s expression softened. “I knew he would be. He’s such a sweetheart.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. Sweetheart and Michael Guerin were not two terms that he would have ever associated with each other.

“Why is she still here?” Alex whispered to Kate as Courtney returned to the bathroom, a bottle of moisturizer tucked under her arm. He felt his gag reflex kicking in as he realized that she was leaving a trail of dead skin in her wake. Kate seemed to realize this, because she quickly waved her hand and it all disintegrated.

“She knows that Rath won’t reveal the granolith’s location out of loyalty to Zan,” Kate whispered back. “While she hasn’t turned against Rath, it would appear that she isn’t entirely ready to give up her life for him. I told her last night that our first goal is to find it. I think she wants to live.”

Which would explain Courtney’s sudden change of disposition, Alex thought, a lump in his throat. This was not the same resigned girl of the night before.

“The granolith can help her?” Alex asked nervously.

Kate’s head turned, her eyes speculative. “Didn’t you know that?”

“No. We don’t know much about it,” Alex admitted.

“But you do know where it is?”

Smooth move Whitman. The disdainful voice in the back of his head was back and it was pissed. “Er, well, I know that it exists. I don’t know where it is.” Which was only the truth of course. He knew the others had found it, but they hadn’t told him where it was specifically because he had never asked. He wondered why he felt guilty for not confirming to Kate that Max and the others did know where it was though. Maybe it was because of the way her expression fell, which, for some reason, made his heart hurt.

“Too bad,” Kate sighed. “Because it’s all we really want. If Zan really doesn’t remember, if he really just wants to stay here…Well, telling us where the granolith is - it would be the smoothest way to a truce. In fact, it would be the quickest truce in the history of truces.”

Alex frowned. “What is the granolith anyway? Why is it so important?” He decided not to tell Kate what he already knew - that it had once been modified to be used as a time machine. Those secrets were not his to tell. He and Liz were here to get information after all, not to give it out, despite the fact that he was beginning to feel worse about it with every minute he spent in Kate’s company.

“It’s hard to explain,” Kate replied. “It has many uses. But a major one is that it has healing capabilities. It can renew life. It’s why we need it so badly - to save our people.”

Alex stared at her. “Are you telling me that it can bring people back from the dead?”

“In a way, yes.” Kate shrugged. “It zeroes in on the problem and fixes it. Our people can’t survive on Earth without their skins. The granolith could fix that.”

“No wonder Nicholas is so desperate to get his hands on it.” Alex shook his head. He paused, then continued, “I’m sorry I don’t know where it is.”

Kate smiled slightly. “I believe that Alex. And I’m sorry too.” Her eyes were sad though. “Do you think that it would change things if Zan knew this? Do you think he would tell us where it is?”

“To save the Skins?” Alex asked, surprised. “Kate, they tried to kill them!”

“Only for us,” Kate replied heatedly. “They’re innocent Alex. They were only following orders.”

So were the Nazis, he thought. Or so they said anyway. Alex narrowed his gaze. “Your orders?”

“Well…” She trailed off, finally admitted, “No. We didn’t know they had been found until after the Harvest was destroyed.”

“Isn’t that kind of weird? They’ve known where to find Max and the others for a long time Kate. Liz was hired by Whittaker for a few weeks because she knew she was close to him. They obviously knew who he was. Why wouldn’t they tell you? Isn’t Will their leader?”

Kate frowned, but didn’t reply. Alex could see that she was becoming upset. Not for the first time, Alex began to wonder if perhaps the Skins didn’t have an agenda of their own - one that didn’t include their own royals. And perhaps Kate was beginning to wonder the same thing, if the expression on her face was any indication.

“Why are you here?” She finally asked, shaking her head firmly, as though trying to clear it of doubt.

“Liz asked me to come pick you all up. She wants me to bring you to the Crashdown for breakfast.” He shrugged, when Kate’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s Liz.”

Kate smiled again. “It sounds like Rowena. She was always bullying everyone into taking care of themselves.” Alex felt a shiver descend his spine. He wondered if he was ever going to get used to the fact that she was referring to Liz. It was just too weird that his best friend was suddenly someone with a whole past none of them even knew about. He was used to it with Isabel, Max and the others, but Liz had always been the grounding force in his life - she defined normal. The fact that, suddenly, none of them really knew who she was…It was upsetting in a way he couldn’t really explain - even to himself.

He forced himself to push his fear aside for the moment. He had to keep acting normally. It was the only way to keep the balancing act going. Alex knocked lightly on the bathroom door. “Are you coming?”

“Yup,” Courtney replied. “I need to talk to Michael. I didn’t know for sure before that the granolith could heal me. He’ll help me once he knows.”

“He won’t help you if he thinks you’re just going to turn around and tell us,” Kate reminded her gently.

“I won’t tell you,” Courtney said evenly. “I’m sorry, but I was brought here against my will. Whatever you thought, I haven’t changed my mind. If I can save my life, great. But I won’t betray him.”

“Then you’re of no more use to us.”

Alex felt someone brush past him, knocking him to the side. It was only then that he realized that the door was still open. He heard Kate exclaim, “Jack!” What happened next was so sudden, it took him a moment to even understand what he was seeing.

Jack had Courtney’s blonde hair wrapped around his hand, was twisting her head so that her neck was exposed. Alex moved forward as he realized that this could not be a good thing.

And, the next thing he knew, Courtney was gone. Well, not completely gone. A pile of dust swirled in the place where she had stood.

“Jack!” Kate exclaimed in horror. “What have you done?”

“We don’t have time for traitors,” Jack replied darkly. “She was a liability. I brought her here so that she could see the error of her ways, maybe go back and get us some information. Now that we know for sure that’s not going to happen, keeping her around is pointless.”

Alex realized that his mouth had fallen open in horror. He closed it abruptly, wished that he could stop his heart from beating a terrified tattoo against his chest.

How had he forgotten so easily that these people were dangerous? He took a quick step backwards, wondered if he should just turn and start running.

“You had no right to do that!” Kate was yelling now. “You don’t have the authority to take matters into your own hands! What on Earth is wrong with you?”

“The fact that I’m stuck on Earth is what’s wrong with me!” Jack yelled back. “I’m tired Kate! We’re so close but it’s still beyond our reach. I’m just tired of it.”

“You killed someone,” Kate whispered, the change in tone so abrupt, it made Alex turn to look at her. He felt slightly better that she seemed as shocked as he was by what Jack had just done. How could this be the same guy he had spent time going over the finer points of Baywatch with the night before?

“This is a war,” Jack reminded her, his voice now gentle. “She was a traitor. Our people need to know that we will protect them, but only as far as they protect us.”

“Who are you?” Alex blinked when he realized that Kate had taken a step back too, was now slightly behind him, as though she was terrified. "You are not Jack.”

Jack’s eyes widened. “I am so.”

“You’re not. Who are you?” Kate demanded, her voice rising. “Will! Will, get in here!” Alex’s head was now ringing because she had screamed almost directly into his ear. He wondered if it was wrong that he sort of felt kind of pleased that she thought he of all people could protect her.

Or was he so insignificant, she somehow knew that Jack would never even bother to hurt him?

“Will!” Kate screamed again.

Jack’s lip curled. “Call your precious king,” he snarled, his mask falling away entirely. “He’s as weak as Zan is. You’re all so stupid. Keep fighting amongst yourselves. It’s only a matter of time now.”

With that, he turned on his heel and strode from the room, brushing past Will, who had finally appeared. He still had shaving cream on his face, which only accentuated the fact that none of these people had had any idea of the enemy in their midst.

“What the…” Will turned his head, watched the Jack impersonator sprint away. “What’s going on?”

Alex swallowed, put an arm around Kate’s shoulders comfortingly. She was trembling. “Jack,” she whimpered. “That wasn’t Jack Will.”

And, with those words, Alex knew that the rules of this game had just changed again.

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

She awoke, her eyes gradually adjusting to the unfamiliar ceiling above her. She knew that she should recognize it. It had been her ceiling for the sixteen years she had existed on this planet after all. This morning though, she felt like she was seeing it with brand new eyes. As she sat up and looked around Liz Parker’s bedroom, she felt her heart beginning to beat more quickly. The realization that she was no longer Liz was only accentuated by the fact that this no longer felt like home.

She forced herself to rise, moved to the vanity and picked up the photograph of Liz, Maria and Alex that sat there. She knew that until she adjusted, she needed to keep the facade of Liz’s world intact. She needed to remember that these were her best friends, that Alex in particular was her ally in the game she was supposed to be playing with Khivar. It was sheer irony that because of the plan she had devised as Liz, Khivar had brought her back to herself. She didn’t even know if he knew. She had done a good job of hiding it from him last night. She knew that he hoped giving her the scarf would cause this, but he had not known for sure that it had worked.

She had seen the disappointment on his face when she had managed to continue to behave like Liz. She had continued the lie, even though she felt horrible about it. She loved him after all. But she couldn’t tell him the truth. Not while he still called her Rowena.

He had always called her Rowena. She knew it wasn’t his fault, that she was the one who had allowed him to believe that it was who she was. She hadn’t even realized until last night that it had hurt her that he had never recognized that she was not his erstwhile betrothed, that he had not seen who she really was, not even after they had been wed. She had not thought she minded, that it was enough to be with him. But, for some reason, it hurt now. As she raised her eyes from the photograph and stared at her human face in the mirror - at the dark hair, the even features, the small scar, the dark eyes that did not seem quite right - she wondered why.

A light knock made her turn from the mirror to the window. She felt her heart enter her throat. Zan.

He was crouched there, staring in at her, his dark eyes worried. His eyes had not changed. Why had hers?

“Liz, I know I’m not supposed to be here. I’m sorry.” He swung gracefully through the window. “I couldn’t help it though. I barely slept last night. I had to come check on you.”

“Why?” She asked, tilting her head and staring at him. He had never frightened her - not until the bitter end. Not until he had shot her down and she had died in a pool of her own blood. But she was not afraid of him now. That was not his fault. His eyes were innocent, gentle again. This was Zan before they had done what they had done to him.

He stopped a foot away from her. “You were kind of weird on the phone last night,” he admitted quietly. “I just wanted to make sure that none of this was getting to you.”

She tried not to smile ironically, fingered the scarf still wrapped around her wrist. Were things getting to her? That was one way of putting it. She had told him she was sorry last night for her strange behavior, but he had still worried. It was what Rowena had loved about him, she knew. He was always worried about her. For someone who had never felt like anyone cared, Zan had been able to touch Rowena’s spirit in a way no one else ever had.

His eyes lit on the scarf she could not stop touching. He frowned. “What’s that?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “Just a new look. Everyone will be wearing them soon.” She smiled at his incredulous expression. “I’m fine Max. I’m sorry you were worried. I was just really tired.”

He reached out a hand, brushed a strand of her hair behind her ear. She felt nothing. It was like being touched by her brother. How strange that Rowena loved this person. She liked him, but nothing else. Odd that two people who were so alike could love so differently. “You need to take care of yourself,” he told her firmly, taking her hand in his and pulling her towards him.

She tried not to be distant. She did not want anyone to know until she was ready. She allowed him to touch his lips gently to hers, thought of Khivar. It worked. She was warm at least.

And, yet, as he pulled back, his expression was odd. It was as though he could tell the difference. Zan had always been able to tell the difference. Perhaps that was why she felt such annoyance now that Khivar had not.

“You should go. They’re coming for breakfast.” She lowered her eyes, refused to meet his, refused to allow him access to her innermost thoughts. He would know for sure then. She did not want to hurt him after all. She knew how ardently he had loved Rowena. It saddened her that he would never find her.

It would be so much easier if she could just love Zan. But one could not control one’s heart. For two lifetimes, hers had beat for only one person - Khivar.

And she would tell him. Soon.

“I don’t like this plan anymore Liz,” Zan said. “I want to talk to Will.”

She turned him gently, pushed him towards the window. “And I’ll arrange it. You just need to be patient Max. I swear that it’s going well. It may even be today.”

“Liz, it has to be today,” Zan insisted. “I just know that something really bad is about to happen. Will and I need to get past our differences and work together.”

“I’ll try Max. But I want you to stay away from him. I’m only doing this to protect you after all. You have to let me make the decisions. I know Will. You don’t. Don’t you trust me?” That had sounded exactly like something Liz Parker would say. She was pleased with herself.

Zan sighed heavily. “Of course I trust you.” He reached out, pulled her against him again. “I just really hate this plan. Even pretending that we’re enemies…It’s wrong.”

“We were never enemies,” she whispered against his chest.

“What?” He pulled back slightly, looked down at her curiously.

“We could never be enemies,” she said quickly. “It will all work out.”

“Okay.” He kissed her once more. She was relieved that it was short and sweet. Every time it happened she felt like she was betraying both Khivar and Rowena. But until she figured out what to do, she needed to keep this charade alive.

It was only after he was gone that she admitted the truth to herself. She did not want to lose Khivar. She knew now, just as she had known then, that if he understood who she really was, he would no longer love her. Because it was Rowena he had loved - Rowena he did love.

If he found out that she was not her sister, she would lose him. And, for that reason, Serena of Valonia could not exist. Not ever again.

To be continued…





posted on 29-Oct-2002 7:10:34 PM by Kath7
Hee! Okay, that is me laughing evilly. I love you guys. You reacted to this better than I could have hoped. LOL All I will say for the moment is that two of you are pretty close to the truth in your specs, but I won't say anything else. You have inspired me to get my ass in gear though. I am going to work on part 20 as soon as Buffy is over and hopefully it will be up by Thursday.

Thanks so much guys! You made my day. And don't worry if you're confused! I feel that way writing it sometimes and I know what's going on! LOL See! There was a reason I too a couple weeks off to make sure my plot was straight and held water. I think it does, but it is a bit convoluted while it's coming out. Don't want to give up all the goods at once.

Thanks again!

Kath
posted on 5-Nov-2002 12:50:31 AM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks, as always, for all the support guys. Enjoy!

Part 20

"Michael." Max grimaced as he watched his best friend beat down the fire that had erupted on the grill in front of him when he had sent bacon grease splattering everywhere in his impatience to finish the order he was working on.

"I’m a little busy here Maxwell," Michael ground out through gritted teeth. Max could see that Michael was trying to covertly use his powers to put the fire out without letting the other cook see, but that he was only making things worse in his frustration. José hadn’t yet noticed the problem from where he was sticking alien headed toothpicks into the omelettes on the pass-through, but if Michael kept making the flames bigger rather than putting them out, this state of affairs could not last.

Max hurried forward, muttered to his friend, "Cover me."

Michael moved aside quickly, positioning himself so that he stood between José and the grill. Max took a deep breath and turned his concentration inward, calling upon one of his gifts - he still wasn’t exactly sure how he put out fires - to extinguish the flames. He was glad to do it. It forced him to focus his thoughts entirely on something that would have a satisfying outcome, even if it was a fairly insignificant one, something that had been sadly lacking in his life over the past weeks.

He was starting to realize that the supreme irony of his life was that, despite the inherent part of his personality that craved order and control, he rarely, if ever, achieved it. It was something Max was slowly coming to accept, mainly because he had always felt in control of his own feelings, especially when it came to Liz. But after that strange little interlude they had just shared in her bedroom, he was beginning to wonder if he had lost his certainty of even that.

Something had been wrong between them - wrong in a way unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It wasn’t like when he had taken his step back last Christmas or when Liz had walked away from him at the pod chamber. It wasn’t even like when he had felt his world ending a couple of weeks before when he had caught her in bed with Kyle. In each of those situations at least one of them had been the instigator of the breakdown of their connection. There had been a direct cause and effect for the severing of their bond. One which had never worked anyway. Because, even over the past two weeks - without a doubt the worst weeks he had ever lived - the connection had never been extinguished. He had still been tuned into her, had still been bonded to her in their unique way. It was why he had known deep down that she was lying about the whole Kyle thing after all, even if he hadn’t realized right away that he did know it.

This morning had been different though. It had freaked him out because when he had kissed Liz, he had felt absolutely nothing. No connection, no meeting of souls, not even any warmth. He had known last night, speaking to her on the phone, that she was not all right, had known it even following Alex’s reassurance, and, yet, he hadn’t done anything about it. And now something had happened. The worst part of the whole thing was that he had absolutely no idea what.

Max lowered his hand, stared down at the sizzling grill with unseeing eyes. He swallowed as he was forced to admit to himself that it wasn’t true. He did know.

Something had happened between she and Will. He had gone with his heart and had trusted that there was no way that another guy - any other guy, even her past-life husband - could come between them and his heart had betrayed him. He had lost her.

There had been no connection, no flashes to tell him that his fears were justified, but somehow he knew he was right. Things had shifted in the space of twelve hours. She was no longer his Liz.

He was surprised that it didn’t hurt more. Maybe he had been expecting it all along, or at least since he had seen the instant bond between Liz and the mysterious newcomer in bio the day before. Maybe she had been doing him a favour with the whole pretending to sleep with Kyle thing. He had already experienced complete devastating heart-break once recently. Once more, this time for real, seemed like old hat now.

Maybe it was just plain, simple shock - it hadn’t sunk in yet.

"Maxwell, what the hell’s wrong with you?" Michael asked under his breath. "What’s happened?"

Max turned his head, looked at Michael. Why had he come in here again? Oh yeah. To ask his second-in-command (why did it still sound completely ludicrous to Max to think of Michael in that way?) to find Isabel and tell her what was going on. His sister had somehow managed to make it out of the house before him this morning, something that either heralded impending nuclear war or an early-morning fire sale at the mall, and he still hadn’t managed to fill her in on the current situation. Now, with his present course set, he wasn’t going to have time to look for her himself.

"Nothing’s wrong," Max replied firmly. He chose not to reflect on why he was keeping what had just happened between he and Liz to himself. Maybe it was still shock. Or maybe it was because he couldn’t bear to admit that his faith in her had been betrayed. But he knew deep down that neither of these reasons explained it.

He just didn’t want anyone to blame her anymore. She couldn’t help what was meant to be, what she felt, anymore than he could. He knew now that he had been destined to love her - that Zan must have lusted after Rowena in their past lives and Liz had been fooled by it for a time in this one. It even made sense. Rowena had obviously loved her husband Khivar and Zan had been so insane with jealousy, he had gone crazy and had destroyed her planet and then everyone they both loved. It even explained the insight he had received in his connection from Kate the night before - that Zan had not always been evil, that he had changed somehow. It was why Kate’s grisly demise had been even more shocking to her. She had never expected such a thing of Zan. He had changed because he had been rejected by the only person he had ever wanted. Love spurned - it was almost a cliché!

Now Rowena had found her real soul mate again and things were returning to the way they were meant to be. Max had been right once upon a time when he had told Liz that they didn’t belong together. They never had. He had lived Zan’s dream for several exhilarating, wonderful months, but now it was over.

It still amazed him that those few short minutes in her bedroom had told him all this. But the emptiness between them had been so complete, so unlike anything he had ever felt in her presence before, there had been no kidding himself any longer. Whatever it was that had bonded them from the instant he had seen her in the playground that day long ago, whatever it was that had made the connection real for her as well after the healing, was just gone.

He had lost her and now he had to concentrate on making sure it wasn’t for nothing. He would fix the mistakes of that other person he had once been so that all the pain she had suffered in that life - and in this one - could finally be replaced by the happiness she deserved.

There was only one thing he could do now. He was going to surrender. He was going to concede the battle before it was even fought. In more ways than one. He would do it for Liz. She didn’t need him any longer and neither did Antar. It would be better for everyone if he just gave in.

Max shook his head, focused on Michael, knew that he couldn’t tell him exactly what he planned. Michael would blow a gasket and would also likely do something to stop him. Max’s mind was made up. For once he would act like the king they all wanted him to be and he would do the right thing. He would not allow anyone to stop him - not even Michael. "I need you to find Izzy, need you two to meet me at the motel. Fill her in on the way."

"What?" Michael’s surprise was evident in his voice. "What about the plan? The idiotic plan you said no one was allowed to argue with?"

"Screw the plan," Max told him evenly. "We’re going to finish this once and for all. I just can’t do this anymore Michael."

"Okay, slow down." Michael grabbed Max by the shoulder and pushed him physically into the break room. "I’ll be back in a sec José. Watch those eggs," he called over his shoulder. "Talk." Michael ordered him as soon as they were somewhat isolated.

Max met his best friend’s eyes steadily. "Michael, I can’t get into it right now. Are you with me or not?"

Michael scowled, stared at him for a long moment and then said, "You know I am."

"Good. Find Isabel and then pick up Tess. I’ll meet you there."

"What about the others?" Michael called after him.

Max paused, thought about it for a moment, then said over his shoulder, "I don’t want them involved in this. It will all be over soon enough. They can find out after."

"The Sheriff is going to be pissed," Michael warned him.

"Fine. Let him be pissed. This is my war, not his. He’ll get over it. Besides, once I do what I have to do, all the excess…" Max paused, then sighed and continued, "Czechoslovakians will be leaving anyway."

"Maxwell, I don’t understand. If you’ve figured out a way to get them all out of Dodge, why didn’t you tell us yesterday?" Michael demanded impatiently.

"What I’m going to do wasn’t possible yesterday," Max explained quietly. "But everything’s changed now."

"Max…"

"Michael," Max cut him off. "Just do it. Please." With that, he pushed his way through into the alley, only to be brought to an abrupt halt.

In spite of his new resolve, he still wasn’t prepared to find himself face to face with Will. He had been ready to go meet his enemy on his own terms, but had not expected to be the one sought out. Because as his eyes met Will’s piercing blue gaze, he knew that he was exactly who the other guy had come looking for.

Apparently he wasn’t the only one ready for a reckoning. The sheer irony of this was not lost on Max. Had Will waited another hour, he would have had the King of Antar exactly where he wanted him. Max sighed in resignation. So much for ending this peacefully. This was just not good, especially considering how well his last face to face encounter with Will had gone. The expression on the other guy’s face did not bode well that this meeting would end any differently.

Max clenched and unclenched a fist at his side, ready to throw up his shield at a moment’s notice. He knew that if Will really intended to kill him, the shield wouldn’t do much in the long run, but he would try anyway. He might be ready to end the farce that he ever could have been a king or that he could ever have truly found happiness with Liz, especially after knowing that any future for the two of them would end in disaster (hadn’t he even come back from the future to tell her so after all?), but it didn’t mean he wanted to die. He had not lied to Liz the night before when he had admitted that sometimes he thought it might be the easiest thing, to give up completely, but he also knew that he was too much of a coward to take that route. He was no Marc Antony, ready to fall on his sword. His experiences with Pierce had more than reinforced this fact.

And yet you’re willing to give up on Liz and on your birthright. Max grimaced as the annoying small voice in the back of his head reappeared. Like he had time for doubts about that at the moment!

"Can I help you?" He asked Will wearily, trying to hide the fear that had awakened in the pit of his stomach. He was not proud of the fact that he feared this guy, but he did. It wasn’t pleasant facing someone you knew wanted you dead, whether you were willing to give up your throne or not. The hatred and jealousy Max felt for Will or Khivar, or whoever he was, really almost counteracted it, but not quite.

"Don’t play games with me Zan. You know why I’m here." Will’s voice was quiet, but with an underlying steeliness that Max couldn’t help but admire. He sounded like a king dammit. He wished he could do that. But, then, he had never asked to be a leader. Will had been born to it, had always known who he was.

"I really don’t," Max replied. "If it’s to see Liz, I’m not going to try and stop you."

Will’s eyes narrowed at that. "Not that you could, but I admit I’m surprised. I was equally surprised to hear last night that you let Rowena come back to see me. It was a stupid plan Zan. She told me the truth almost immediately. Rowena cannot lie."

"It wasn’t my plan. But it’s not my job to tell Liz what she can or cannot do," Max said. Not that I don’t wish it was. He was trying to control that side of his nature, the side that wanted to keep the people he loved safe and close at all times. He couldn’t run their lives. It didn’t mean he didn’t wish he could sometimes. If Liz hadn’t gone last night, would she still have been so cold this morning? Would he still have his false claim to her? Because any sort of connection with Liz at the moment would have been just enough to make him want to deal with this. But the fact that he was standing right under her balcony and that she was likely still in her bedroom and that he still felt nothing…it was not reassuring.

There was a long silence as Will stared at him. Max did his best not to squirm beneath the close examination. He might be scared but he was not going to show it. "You don’t fool me with this innocent teenager act you know," he finally said. "You’ve fooled even my sister now, but not me. Never me."

"I’m not trying to fool you," Max snapped. "And I really don’t care what you think of me. It doesn’t change what I was just on my way to tell you."

"What I have to do to get my cousin back." Will’s blue eyes, which Max was beginning to realize, as he spent more time taking their measure, were strangely like Tess’s, flashed with anger. Because of this analysis, it took him a moment to absorb what the other guy was saying.

"Your cousin?"

Will didn’t have a chance to answer though because the air next to him had started to shimmer. Max watched with interest, although he already knew what was going to happen. He was proven right when a moment later Kate appeared out of thin air. Nor was she alone. Alex was with her, looking slightly green.

"Well, it beats the bus," Max friend muttered as he shook his dark head, as though to clear it.

"Will!" Kate practically shrieked. "Are you crazy? What are you doing here alone? This is dangerous! Rowena told you she would handle it."

"Getting Jack back," Will answered mildly, not even deigning to look at his sister.

Max sighed, looked at Alex, starting to get a little annoyed. Something had obviously happened and it seemed that he was being blamed for it. "I don’t suppose you could translate for me?"

Alex sounded more tired than Max felt as he explained, "So, I’m guessing you know that the plan is kaputsky?" When Max just rolled his eyes in acknowledgment, Alex continued, "They’re a four square too." Max nodded, it being exactly what Michael had guessed the night before. "Jack is the fourth. He’s disappeared, but not before dusting Courtney."

Max felt a pang of sorrow at the news that Courtney had passed away. He hoped that it was mostly out of compassion, although he suspected, if he were to truly self-analyze, it was because he had wanted more information out of her before she died. This fact did not reassure him that he had changed much in this life after all. He did feel sorry for Michael though. His best friend would be upset by the news. But he knew there had been no way they could help her. Perhaps it had been merciful that she had been killed before she could simply shred away to nothing.

"You know who he is," Will interrupted.

"And that wasn’t Jack," Kate insisted. "I told you that Alex. There is no way he would have done that."

"No, that’s more Zan’s style." Will narrowed his eyes again. Max shifted uncomfortably. Those eyes…they felt like two beacons attempting to glean the secrets of his soul. "After all, we know that you’re still allied with the Wendarians. Sending in a shapeshifter to hide the fact that you’ve kidnapped our fourth would be a good way to screw with us, wouldn’t it?"

"It would," Max conceded. "If I had an army of shapeshifters at my disposal. Of course, I don’t, and the only one I did have was killed…" He paused, glared, suddenly no longer willing to just stand there and take the accusations. He might be a psycho killer waiting to be unleashed, but he hadn’t done anything yet and he was tired of people saying he had. "Oh, right. By your people." Good. Just enough sarcasm there. Even Michael would be proud.

"Deny it all you want. I know it was you." Will raised a hand threateningly. "Tell me where he is and I’ll kill you quickly."

"Okay!" Alex stepped forward, his hands raised. He turned so that his back was facing Max, effectively blocking him from Will. "There is going to be no blasting. I told you already, I know that Max did not do this. Liz told you that she knew it."

"You talked to Liz," Max demanded. "When? I was just with her a few minutes ago."

"Er…" Alex grimaced. "Well…"

"What he doesn’t want to tell you is that Rowena and I have reestablished our psychic link." Max turned his head and stared at Will, suddenly feeling sick to his stomach. "I woke up this morning to the pleasant sensation of having her back completely. She’s no longer blocking me." The arrogant expression on his face was enough to seriously make Max have second thoughts about this whole surrendering business. What had he been thinking? This guy didn’t deserve Liz!

"Max…" Alex said warningly, as though he could see the pleasant thought Max was entertaining that consisted of sending various parts of Will splattering against the concrete walls of the Crashdown. He knew that both Isabel and Michael had blown people to smithereens at various times. Why couldn’t he?

Because neither Michael or Isabel has forgiven themselves for taking those lives - even though they were evil ones, that damn annoying voice reminded him. And as much as you despise him, you know that Will isn’t.

Max scowled. As pissed off as it made him, he did know it. Because he knew that Liz would never trust someone who was evil and she trusted Will. Bloody hell. Max had lost her, yes, but it didn’t mean that she still wasn’t the person whose opinion he most respected in the world. If she had chosen this guy, then he could not be bad.

"Big bad Zan wants to come out and play," Will muttered, not quite loud enough that it could truly be considered a taunt, but close enough. Max gritted his teeth, but ignored him, decided to focus on Kate, who had by now established a death grip on her brother’s arm. Max smirked slightly because she was apparently using her nails if the flash of pain that crossed Will’s face was any indication.

If there was one thing Max couldn’t stand it was a poor winner. If he had hated Will before, the depths of his antipathy could not now be measured.

"I don’t know where your cousin is," he told Kate evenly. "I’m sorry." He paused, then said, shocking even himself, "Do you need my help to find him? I was bringing the others to see you all anyway." Kate looked like she wanted to interrupt for more information about that, but Max pressed on resolutely, although he still didn’t quite know what he was doing, "We know this town better than you do. I can have a search party ready in half an hour."

Will snorted at that but Kate’s expression softened. "Why would you do that?"

"For Liz," Alex guessed, looking flabbergasted at Max’s offer. "It’s for Liz, isn’t it?"

"If someone has taken your cousin, my guess is that they can’t be very friendly to anyone I care about," Max replied. But Alex was right of course. It was for Liz. Because she would care about this Jack character having gone missing. Max just knew that she would. "And let’s just say that I really want to find out what the hell is going on around here. Because if there’s a rogue shapeshifter running around, I need to know about it." He paused, then added, "Being as they’re supposedly on my side." Not that it had ever done them any good.

Will did not look convinced but Kate actually smiled, "Thank you Zan."

"It’s Max," he replied firmly. "I’m not Zan."

Her blue eyes met his steadily. "You are." He blinked when her voice was abruptly in his thoughts. And it’s not all bad.

Max frowned, but didn’t have time to pursue the comment because the back door to the restaurant flew open at that moment. He felt his heart start to beat more quickly as Liz came through, a slightly harried expression on her face. "Sorry! I meant to be here sooner but I was on the phone with Maria. She’s heading over." She looked at Alex meaningfully. "We have some bridges to mend there," she sighed.

Max could not take his eyes off her. It was the moment of truth. How would she behave with both he and Will standing right in front of her?

Somehow, in spite of it all, he was not surprised when she came and stood next to him. He had known that it was what would happen. Because neither she nor Will knew that he was aware that she was shut off from him, that the connection had been broken. Whatever was going on between the two of them, Max knew that Liz would not want to hurt him. And Will would understand because it was who Liz was, sounded like it was who Rowena had been as well.

She had always been kind. And until she had a chance to let him down easily, a chance to fix things for them all, she would not betray that she no longer wanted him. She would pretend for a while, but she would tell him the truth eventually. Wasn’t it why he had finally made her tell him the truth about sleeping with Kyle? The whole lying thing had been tearing her apart. She just could not do it anymore.

Liz could not lie for long. She just did not have it in her. And, as this thought passed through his mind, as he tried to ignore the way his heart was literally breaking in his chest, he blinked abruptly.

Because, it was only then that Max realized something that had been staring him in the face for close to ten minutes. As Liz moved closer to him, he felt his eyes widen. He had heard it twice and it still hadn’t penetrated.

Liz had never followed the plan. She had never pretended to side with Will. Will had said so and Alex had confirmed it. But last night on the phone and again this morning, Liz had acted as though everything was still going according to plan.

She had lied to him. And even if the connection had been broken, he knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the last thing she would ever do. Not again. Not after the hell they had been through over the past few weeks and not even if she no longer loved him. In fact, if the latter was true, she would have just told him. He knew that she would have. Because if he had felt the connection end, she had to have too. She would know that he knew it was over between them. Which could only mean one thing.

This girl was not Liz Parker.

To be continued…

posted on 23-Nov-2002 3:35:43 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Thanks for the bumpage and your patience folks. There are some answers here (or more confusion dependent on your pov! LOL) Enjoy!

Part 21

Serena knew the instant that he was on to her. While Zan had always been good at hiding his emotions, his eyes often betrayed him. It was usually only for an instant, but Rowena had once told her what to look for and she saw it happen now. The pupils dilated slightly and there was a superficial narrowing before his expression became once more implacable.

She bit her lip. What was she going to do? She wasn’t ready for her secret to come out, wasn’t ready for Khivar to know the truth. It had to be on her own terms or he would never accept her.

Pretending to be Rowena is the coward’s way out. Pretending to be Rowena was what got you all into this mess in the first place.

The thought was so abrupt and so unexpected, she took an involuntary step backwards. Zan’s eyes were now locked on her. She could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to understand what was going on. Because he was working without his memories, because he only had access to his instinct, he hadn’t quite figured it out, but he knew something was wrong. She should have known that it couldn’t last. His connection to Ro was far too strong. Liz Parker had been mistaken for his soulmate for too long now. The change could not have stayed hidden.

And, so, there was really no way around it. She needed his help. As much as she knew it was a mistake, she was just not ready to confront Khivar. Glancing at him now, she could see the fierce expression on his face as he continued to glare at Zan. Khivar did not take betrayal lightly. She was not ready to risk everything - not until she absolutely knew exactly how much he remembered about before. Because while she knew from his conversations with Liz that he remembered most of it, some of it was wrong. What she didn’t understand was why. She also knew that he had deliberately left things out, accentuating the positive.

He had not told Liz that Rowena had not always been a completely willing wife.

No, that had only changed once she had replaced her sister. And the most horrible part of all was that he was going to figure out that Rowena had never loved him - that Serena had taken her sister’s place to save Ro from a marriage she did not want. He was not going to understand and he was not going to believe that he had ended up with the only one who could have ever been right for him anyway.

He wouldn’t see it that way though. Because it was not her he loved. And she just could not face it yet.

"I’m with Max," she blurted without thinking. She saw Khivar glance at her, frowning slightly. He couldn’t be suspicious! Liz had told him that she was not going to turn on Max. It wasn’t entirely illogical that she would want to be paired with him now. He did not know that she had taken over Liz’s body, that her essence had established itself through the blood on the scarf around her wrist.

She fingered the scarf lightly, felt her heart beginning to beat unsteadily. If he knew that it had worked, giving her back the item she had most treasured in her past life, he would immediately get the wrong idea. He would think she was Rowena. And she couldn’t continue that lie any longer. When she revealed herself to him, it would be as Serena and no one else. Until then she would stay Liz Parker.

Serena swallowed, looked at Zan, whose eyes had narrowed even more. "It might be better if you go with one of the others Liz," he said, almost challengingly. "We both know the town. It doesn’t make sense for us to be together."

She raised her chin, hoping it wasn’t too suspicious, and insisted. "Alex can take Will and Kate. We’ll send Michael and Maria out together, Isabel with the sheriff and Kyle with Tess. It does make sense Max, if you think about it. This way there’ll be a human and a…" She paused, searching for the code word she knew Liz used for aliens. "Czechoslovakian in each group."

"I don’t like this." Serena sighed, glancing at Khivar, who had returned to glaring at Zan. It didn’t surprise her though. One of the things she had so loved about Khivar before was his complete inability to hide his vulnerability - at least to her. As much as he came across as competent and secure in his position, he had harbored a secret jealousy of Zan, who, despite his father’s disappointment in him, had always been held up in their system as the shining example of what a prince should be. Just because Zan’s father had wanted his son to be even more than he was did not mean Khivar had not known that Zan was worthy of his throne.

Or at least he had been until what happened to he and Rowena. Serena still regretted that she had ever left them, but how could she have known what was going to happen? She could not have known, had not even dreamt it could. It was why she had gone to Zan in an attempt to reason with him after he destroyed Valonia. She really could not believe that he could have changed so much. And she had been right. It was only when she had looked into his eyes right before he had killed her that she had known the truth. And, by then, it was too late.

But the eyes never lied. At least not Zan’s. And right now they were staring at her, burning into her as though he was trying to turn her inside out, as though he was trying to read her thoughts. She tried not to fidget under his regard, forced even breaths, made herself maintain her facade of calm. She was glad when another voice pulled Zan’s attention away from her.

"Will, stop being so difficult." It was Karana speaking, Khivar’s sister. "We have no choice here. Every minute we waste is a minute less likely we’re going to find Jack."

Khivar stood with his arms crossed, but Serena could see that he was bending. Kara - or Kate, as she was now known - had always been capable of setting him back on the right course. They had always been a great team, Khivar and Karana, had always balanced each other. When one became emotional, the other remained stoic and vice versa, creating a solid sense of capability when they were together. Serena still believed in her heart that had Khivar and Kara not been separated at the very end, things might have turned out very differently. But when Karana had died at Zan’s hands - or so it had seemed anyway - the final denouement of the tragedy that had been their past lives had become inevitable. Without his sister, Khivar had lost his closest advisor, the only person he would really listen to other than Rowena. And, so, he had also lost himself.

As she gazed at him now, Serena could not help but feel glad that he had been given this second chance - that what he had become had not been counted against him when they had all been sent to Earth to rebuild what they had destroyed. She knew though that this was a turning point. If Khivar rejected Zan’s help now…

"Think of it like World War II," Alex suggested, clearly thinking that Khivar was about to agree and wanting to push him over the edge. "We sided with the Soviets to take care of the greater of two evils and then we went right back to hating everything they stood for after." He grimaced, seeming to realize that suggesting that Khivar should go back to hating Zan might not be the best thing. "Or we could all just stay friends," he rushed on to say. Serena tried to look supportive as his eyes met hers. He was expecting Liz of course, so she smiled reassuringly at him as he mouthed "I am so lame."

"Fine," Khivar finally ground out through gritted teeth, as though he absolutely had to force it with every ounce of his strength. "But it doesn’t mean anything," he added, meeting Zan’s eyes again.

Zan just shook his head in annoyance. "Whatever. I already said I’m not doing this for you anyway." He looked at Serena again. "I’m going to call Michael and get him to bring Izzy and Tess here. They’re probably already on their way to the motel."

"The motel?" She asked, confused. "Why would they be going there?" Had Zan been planning a confrontation this morning? If Rath, Vilandra and Ava were all on their way to the motel where Khivar and the others had been staying, it seemed a logical conclusion.

She moved forward, took Zan by the arm and pulled him away from the others, choosing not to look in Khivar’s direction to see how he reacted to it. "Why were you going to the motel Max? I thought you trusted me to take care of Will." She had to know once and for all what was going through his mind. How much did he know?

"I had my reasons," he replied, his eyes piercing. He glanced past her, then took her hand, pulling her further away from Khivar, Kara and Alex and behind the garbage bin so that they were concealed from view. It was only later that she realized that he had done it in case he had to kill her. He had not wanted anyone to stop him if that was how it was going to end. She was thankful that she had not realized it at the time. Because Zan had never been frightening to her. Not ever. "And they had nothing to do with not trusting Liz." He continued, once he had her alone. "But you’re not Liz. Are you?"

She blinked at him, not really surprised, but a bit taken aback that he was still as direct as he had ever been. She finally sighed. "No."

His eyes flashed with shock that she actually admitted it. He regained his composure quickly though. He might not remember being a king, but he still was in every way that counted, Serena thought ruefully. "Who the hell are you then? What do you want? Where is Liz? If you’ve hurt her, I swear I’ll…"

"I am still Liz," Serena explained patiently, trying not to flinch as his grip tightened on her arm. "You don’t understand Zan. I’ve remembered who I really am too. My human side still exists. It’s just that this is really me."

"Rowena." He sounded pained. "How? How did this happen?"

"Why are you upset that I might be Rowena?" She asked gently, reaching out and taking his hand. "You love Rowena."

His expression was fierce as he replied, "I love Liz Parker. And you’ve stolen her from me. I don’t know where all these memories came from, but you’ve changed her. You are not the same." He ran a hand across his face wearily, his anger draining out of him abruptly as he met her eyes and said quietly, "You are not Liz."

"No," she explained. "You don’t love Liz. You got mixed up Zan. It’s understandable, but Liz was never Rowena. She was me. Rowena…" She trailed off, could feel her throat closing up at the thought of her lost sister. "I don’t know where Ro is Zan."

Zan stared at her. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Serena just stared at him, unable to mask her sadness any longer. The sheer irony of this having happened was not lost on her. Khivar had been in love with the wrong person in their past lives and this time it was Zan. But he had to be told. There was no help for it. Because the sooner he accepted it, the sooner things could progress as they were meant to. "There were two of us Zan. You don’t remember now, but you knew then. You were in love with Rowena, but I’m not her. She was my sister." She paused and then continued in a rush, wanting the worst of it out of the way. "And, as far as I know, she no longer exists."

She saw the spasm that ran through Max’s body. She realized instantly that he was not going to accept this easily. "When I tell you everything, you’ll understand. It all started when you…"

"Maxwell! Get your butt over here!"

Zan blinked. "That’s Michael," he said unnecessarily. Serena knew it after all. "What’s he doing here?" He stared at her. "You’re still going to tell me everything."

"I will," she promised. "Just make sure we’re together. Alone."

"Why can’t you just tell everyone. Why all the secrecy?"

"I don’t want Khivar to know," she admitted quietly.

"Why?"

"Because he never knew that there were two of us. It is going to come as a blow."

There was a short pause, then Max said. "I believe you. But I want you to know, that none of it changes how I feel about you. Whether you’re Serena or Rowena or the queen of Sheba, you are still Liz and you’re the person I love. And I’m going to get you back to who you really are."

"Zan…"

"Max," he intoned firmly. "We are Max and Liz. Try to remember that." Then he turned and left her staring after him as he went to rejoin the others.

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

Kate grabbed Will by the arm as he made a move to go after Liz and Max. She had not been the only one who had felt the weirdness in the air between the two of them. She wasn’t quite sure what it was, but, then, she had never been in the company of both of them at the same time before. She also wasn’t sure how their relationship worked. They were presently engaged in a tense-looking exchange further down the alley. She could actually feel Will’s blood pressure rising as Max grabbed Liz by the hand and pulled her behind the garbage bin.

"She told you she loves him," Kate reminded him quietly, not wanting to hurt him, but wanting him to start accepting reality. "Things might change someday, but, for now, friends is all you’re going to get from her Will. You have to control yourself around him. She’s not going to put up with it for long."

Will turned his head, glared at her. "You would side with him. I can’t believe how quickly he’s charmed you again Kate. He killed you."

"Okay, I’m getting a headache." This was from Alex. "Can we just stop blaming people for things that happened in another life on another planet?" Kate felt a pang of regret at the weary expression on her new friend’s face. Alex seemed to be losing some of his steam today. He was more resigned than cheerful at the moment. "Max would never hurt Liz. I swear to God, I would hurt her first."

"Well, why is he wasting precious time with her now?" Will demanded, obviously searching for another reason to be irritated at Max. "Is he going to help us or not?"

"We can’t do anything until Michael gets back," Alex exclaimed impatiently. "Would you please lighten up?"

Kate tried to hide her smirk as Will stared at Alex, apparently not quite believing that Alex had just told him off. No one ever told Will off. He had barely had any contact with humans before the last few days and everyone else in his life had always treated him with the respect due his position. But Alex just didn’t and it seemed to flabbergast Will on a regular basis. It had happened several times the night before during their male-bonding session too. Most of Kate’s enjoyment had been at Will’s fish out of water expense.

Most of it, but not all, she reflected, smiling slightly, admiring the way Alex’s eyes flashed when he was annoyed. It was entirely different from the way they looked when he was joking, which was most of the time.

Stop it! Kate ordered herself, suddenly horrified. What are you doing? Jack is missing and you’re thinking about how Alex Whitman’s eyes change colors slightly dependent on his mood. Are you crazy?

"Alex! What the hell is going on around here?"

Kate was grateful for the interruption. She turned and backed up slightly. Rath - or Michael as he was now called - had come through the door and took in she and Will with one glance, his gaze narrowing.

"Where’s Maxwell?" Michael demanded. Kate could see more people following him through the door, including Ava, a dark-haired boy wearing a letterman’s jacket and Liz’s best friend, Maria. The latter hung back, her eyes on Alex, her tentativeness apparent. "Why are they here?" Kate could hear Michael’s attempt at disdain, but he could not hide the slight undercurrent of fear in his voice.

"Max and Liz are having a little confab down the alley," Alex replied. He glanced at Will, grimacing slightly. "They’ll be back momentarily, I’m sure. We have a situation here folks."

"You have a situation?" Michael demanded, abruptly annoyed. "Well, you’re not the only ones." He turned his head and yelled, causing Kate to jump slightly. Why was Rath so volatile? He had never been like this before! "MAXWELL! Get your butt over here!"

Kate glanced at Will, who appeared amused. The lack of respect in Michael’s demeanor when it came to Zan obviously pleased him. It just worried Kate and drove home the point that these were not the same people they had been before. There was no way that Rath would ever have spoken to Zan in such a manner in their past lives.

After a moment, Max’s head poked around the garbage bin further down the alley. He did not seem unduly upset at Michael’s tone as he hurried back in their direction. All he said when he was close enough was "I’m glad you’re here."

Kate watched Liz trail after Max, looking worried. She wondered briefly what Max and Liz had been discussing. Max’s frame was extremely tense. He had obviously not liked what he had heard. Kate bit her lip, wondered what this meant for Will. Had Liz made her choice? Had she changed her mind about who she wanted to be with?

"You’re glad I’m here?" Michael retorted. "I thought we were all supposed to be at the motel?"

Max looked behind Michael, his forehead creasing. "Where’s Izzy?"

"It’s why I came back here in the first place," Michael replied. "Instead of going to the motel where you told me to go…"

"Okay Michael!" Maria exclaimed from behind him. "He gets the picture! We all get the picture! He was supposed to meet you at the motel!"

Max just sighed. "I’m sorry. I got side-tracked. Anyway, everything’s changed again." Kate could almost see him trying to resist looking at Liz.

"You’re darn tootin’ it’s changed," Michael replied, reaching into his pocket and tossing something in Max’s direction. Max caught it easily and then stared at it. "I couldn’t find Isabel, but I did find this."

"What the hell is this?" Max asked, sounding confused.

"It’s an orb," Alex supplied helpfully.

"He knows it’s an orb Alex! We all know it’s an orb. But you’re Mr-Know-it-All these days, aren’t you? And did you hear what came before that? No Isabel! Now where could Isabel be? And why is she staying away from all her friends?" This was Maria again, and she sounded upset, angry and like she wanted to cry all at once. Kate watched as Alex looked at his friend guiltily, like he understood why she was so suddenly annoyed with him. What was that all about? Humans were so confusing. They seemed to constantly have undercurrents in all their relationships. And ever since Kate had been in contact with them on a regular basis, so had she. It was extremely irritating to not be able to think in terms of black and white any longer.

"I know it’s an orb," Max agreed, looking at Maria, worry on his face, then looking away, deciding to ignore her little outburst. "But it’s not one of our orbs."

"Obviously," Michael said. "It’s green. I found it on the counter in my kitchen," he continued. "I couldn’t make it play though."

There was a long moment of silence as they all stood around looking at each other. Or, at least, the aliens did. Because they all knew the only way to make it work.

"We need a pair from a four square to make it work," Will interjected impatiently when it seemed like no one wanted to move. "Ro and I can do it."

"Or Max and me!" Ava piped up, tossing her blonde curls. Kate saw a brief grimace cross Max’s face at that, but he managed to quickly hide it. She didn’t think that Tess had seen. Kate could not help the slight amusement she felt at it. Obviously Zan was just as reluctant in his chosen mate in this lifetime as in the last. But she should have known it already. Wasn’t he in love with Rowena after all?

"Well, since Jack and Isabel are both missing, I guess that’s true," Max finally allowed. He turned his head and looked at Liz. "Do you want to…" He trailed off uncertainly.

Liz’s eyes were sad as she said, "Okay. We’ll do it."

"Wait a minute!" Alex spoke up again, having apparently recovered from Maria’s little attack. "Are you guys positive that this is a communication device? What if it’s a bomb or something?"

"It’s a communication orb Alex," Kate told him calmly. "We all recognize it."

"Why were the other ones grey?" Alex demanded. "This one isn’t."

"Grey is the official colour of the House of Antar," Kate replied. "Green represents our planet. It’s probably a message from our people." A threat of some sort, Kate reflected ruefully. This was likely not going to help the whole "working together" situation. But at least she and Will would be here to defuse it. Or at least she would, she amended, knowing that the last thing her brother had on his mind was peace. He was here at the moment for Jack alone and as soon as he was found, he would go right back to hating their enemies.

"Oh, okay." This answer seemed to satisfy Alex. Kate liked that he had questioned the situation though. He was obviously only worried. He was, in many ways, an impartial bystander, and it was good to have those voices heard, particularly with all the tension that existed among them all.

Max and Liz were still staring at each other Kate noticed when she turned back to them. Max lifted his arm and handed Liz the orb, almost challengingly, as though he was expecting her to prove something with it. She took it carefully, then moved towards Will.

Kate understood abruptly what was going on. If Will and Liz could make the orb work than it was going to prove once and for all that they were the bonded mates. It would make it official, driving a further wedge between Max and Liz.

She bit her lip as she watched Will gently reach out and take the orb from Liz. If this didn’t work, it was going to devastate her brother. Could the fact that Rowena loved someone else - Zan of all people! - interfere with her bond with Will? And, if it did, how would Will react? He was having a hard enough time with everything. If the orb proved once and for all that she no longer belonged to him…It would be all bad, to paraphrase something Alex had said the night before.

Kate waited breathlessly for what was about to happen.

To be continued…



posted on 10-Dec-2002 11:37:54 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: I am not crazy about this part but I've decided to just let it go. We need to get cracking here. Thanks for the feedback and the bumpage. It means more than you know.

Part 22

Will and Liz had been standing with their hands twined together holding the orb for what seemed like forever.

Alex let out a long sigh when he realized that he had been holding his breath. He thought he heard Michael huffing with impatience but he didn’t turn his head to make sure. He didn’t want to miss it…whatever it was.

All he knew was that nothing was happening. He wasn’t really sure what was supposed to happen, being as he hadn’t witnessed that damn destiny message back in the spring, but it was pretty obvious that nothing was happening now.

He didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Glancing at Max, who was beginning to relax, he had to think it was a good thing. But from the look of anticipation and hope on Kate’s face, he felt a real spasm of desire for it to work, because she wanted it to, so badly. He couldn’t help the slight admiration he felt that she cared so much about her brother.

Of course, she wasn’t the only alien princess he knew who cared about her brother. Alex felt a flash of guilt as he reflected that it was the first time he had actually thought about how Isabel might react to these proceedings were she around. The fact that she wasn’t…He just knew that it was his fault. Maria had been right to fly off the handle at him earlier. His loyalties were becoming divided and it was wrong. Even if he knew that he and Isabel likely weren’t meant to be, he still owed her his allegiance. In spite of everything, she was his friend and he had hurt her. Sure, she had hurt him a lot over the past few weeks too, but the difference was that she hadn’t done it on purpose.

He had.

As he stared at Kate now, he realized that it was true. Alex had been hurt by Isabel and he had known exactly how to hurt her back and so he had done it. It had been wrong. And now he was forgetting all about her because of the new girl in town.

What if something had happened to her? She was obviously missing and it couldn’t be a coincidence that there had been an orb left on the counter in Michael’s apartment. What if it was a ransom message? What would they do then?

Alex grimaced in frustration. Why wasn’t anything happening?

He saw that Will was starting to sweat. Alex could see his desire to make the orb work imprinted on his face. Liz looked no less determined, but clearly for an entirely different reason. For Will, if he and Liz could activate the orb, it meant they were the mated pair. Alex suspected that all Liz really cared about was getting the information contained within it.

"It shouldn’t be taking this long," Kate whispered to Alex. "I think we should let Max and Tess…"

But Tess had obviously already decided that this was the route to take. "Give that to me," she snapped, having come from behind Kyle to snatch the orb from Liz and Will. "Max, come here."

Liz’s eyes snapped open and she frowned slightly. She didn’t seem mad though, merely confused. Alex watched her gaze meet Max’s. They stared at each other for a long moment. Max’s eyebrow was raised questioningly, but Liz shrugged, then shook her head, beginning to look upset. Alex was surprised to see an expression of satisfaction cross Max’s face.

"Will…" Alex felt Kate move away from his side to comfort her brother. Will had turned his back when Tess had taken the orb. Alex could see the tension he was feeling in the stiff line of his back.

"Liz?" Alex asked quietly. "What happened?"

She didn’t answer though, merely narrowed her eyes as Max and Tess moved together and linked hands, holding the green alien communicator between them. Max seemed somewhat reluctant but Tess was eager, obviously wanting to prove once and for all that she and Max were the matched pair, whether Max wanted to believe it or not.

Alex was really tempted to start tapping his foot when nothing happened this time either.

"Is it just me or is this all a little anticlimactic?" Alex tried not to smirk at Kyle’s loud whisper. He wasn’t quite sure who it was directed at, but this whole process certainly was turning out to be a whole big lot of nothing.

"Okay, is that thing defective?" Michael demanded loudly.

Max’s eyes were open again and he was staring down at the orb, his face etched with concentration. "I can’t feel it," he finally admitted. He looked up at Will, who had turned around again, his face now expressionless. "I mean, I can feel that there’s something there, but it’s like a lock and I don’t have the right key." Alex saw Will nod reluctantly, like he hated to agree with Max, but that he did in spite of it.

"I think Max and Liz should try it." This came from Maria. Alex whipped his head around to stare at her, as did most of the others. "I mean, I don’t care what any of you say," she said, looking right at Liz, who, strangely, seemed uncomfortable. "I’ve always known that they belong together. I bet they can make it work. Especially if everyone’s right and Liz is a Czechoslovakian."

"That’s crazy!" Tess exclaimed. "Max and I made the orb work in the pod chamber. Obviously something’s just wrong with this one."

"I’ve been thinking," Maria continued, ignoring Tess. Maria thought about things other than Michael? Alex reflected in wonder. "Since Max told us last night that Liz is supposedly this Rowena chick. Is it or is it not true that anytime Max has made one of those alien thingies work, Liz has been nearby? And I’m not just talking orbs. I’m talking healing stones too."

"This is insane!" Tess said. "What are you even saying?"

Maria looked at Tess, exasperated. "Tess, I’m not trying to step on your toes here. I told you last night that I believe that you believe that you and Max are supposed to be together, but try and look at it from an outsider’s perspective. Because that’s what I am and I don’t have all the emotional baggage you all do." She turned her head, regarded Michael. "You’ve never believed that you and Isabel have to be together, but you do buy that you’re matched in your four square thingie. You guys have always worked well together and since you’ve known that you are a pair, you’ve been able to control your powers a lot more. Have you noticed that?"

Michael nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe…" He paused, then admitted sheepishly. "Not that I’m very good even now."

"You’re improving," Maria reminded him, "And it’s only been since you found out about the four square. It’s like you found your focus or something."

"Go on." This came from Max, who was listening intently.

"Okay, so think about it. When that orb worked the first time, Liz was there. And when you guys brought Nasedo back to life the first time, she was there too. She wasn’t there when you tried to heal him a few weeks ago and it didn’t work. Maybe the times it did work, Max was tapping into his connection to Liz or something, without even knowing about it."

"This doesn’t make any sense," Will interrupted. "Rowena belongs to our four square. Why would you even think about these things?"

Maria glared at him. "I wasn’t thinking that Liz was an alien dummy! I was thinking about focus." She looked at Michael. "It’s why I haven’t fully believed that you don’t have feelings for Isabel - because she made you find your focus. I’ve always seen it with Max and knew it was because of Liz and since your powers have improved lately, I thought it was because of Isabel. I thought you were falling in love with her," she finished quietly. "But now I see that’s it’s because of the four square."

"Maria, are you insane?" Michael demanded. "I don’t love Isabel! You’re the reason I’m more focused. Don’t you remember what I told you? I don’t trust that I’m not going to hurt you. That’s why I’ve improved - so that I won’t!"

Alex wondered if Michael and Maria were even aware that they weren’t alone anymore. "Michael…"

"Maria, I love you."

"Oh Michael! I know. I’m just saying that I’m not jealous anymore." She rushed towards him and they started kissing, making Alex’s face flame twelve shades of read. Would Liz and Maria never understand that forcing him to watch such displays was enough to scar him for life?

"Okay, this is sweet and all…"Kyle interrupted, who sounded like he would prefer to be anywhere but in the alley. Alex was beginning to agree. "But is there a point somewhere in our future? Maria, keep talking woman!"

"I think these people are crazy," Alex heard Will mutter to Kate and was forced to wonder if maybe the alien king was right. While Maria and Michael seemed to understand what the hell they had been talking about, no one else did if the expressions on his friends’ faces were any indication.

Maria turned herself within Michael’s embrace. "Sorry, got a little distracted there. Anyway, as I was saying, maybe it’s because he loves her, maybe it’s alien stuff, or maybe it’s both, which makes sense because Michael has both now too, but, whatever it is, Liz makes Max focus. I think they can make it work."

"Well, if that’s true, why didn’t it work with Max and Tess?" Kate asked quietly. "Liz is here."

"Yes, she is, isn’t she?" Max’s voice seemed strangely challenging to Alex’s ears, like maybe Liz wasn’t, although she was standing right in front of them. He looked at his friend curiously but could see that Max was staring at Liz, his expression firm.

"I don’t think this is a good idea," Liz said, worried and glancing at Will.

"I think it’s a greatidea," Max retorted. "Even if I still have no idea what Maria was really saying, I think it’s the best idea I’ve heard all day."

Alex was beginning to realize that Max and Liz were entering into a battle of wills the rest of them couldn’t begin to understand.

"Max…"

"Liz." Max’s emphasis on Liz’s name seemed overly significant.

Liz finally sighed. "Fine." She stomped over to him, placing her hands on the orb along with his. "But this is stupid. It’s not going to work. Michael’s right. This orb is defect…"

She was cut off by a blast of light so intense, Alex was forced to shield his eyes. He heard Tess screech in surprise and Michael’s patented "What the hell?" before he was able to refocus.

"Well, it’s about frigging time," Kyle muttered. Alex realized that the jock was now standing at his elbow, as though having identified the person most likely to commiserate with him through this strange alien sideshow. Alex could hear how pleased Kyle was though, as though he was happy that Max had made the orb work with anyone other than Tess.

Alex did not reply, his entire attention abruptly focused on the image of a short kid, who was now standing in front of them. Or at least a hologram type projection of said kid was standing in front of them.

"Hello Zan. Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me."

"Nicholas," Michael ground out through clenched teeth. Alex tilted his head and studied the face of their enemy. He hadn’t been in Copper Summit after all and hadn’t seen him before. He didn’t look scary.

His opinion changed abruptly when the image flickered, replaced by that of Isabel tied to a chair. Alex felt his blood run cold. Izzy’s head was lowered, her blonde hair falling into her face. She was quite obviously unconscious. "Imagine my surprise to find Vilandra wandering the streets of Roswell all alone. She hasn’t quite been convinced to change her allegiances again, but I’m working on her."

Alex could hear Maria gasped as Nicholas’s hand came up and planted itself firmly on Isabel’s head. Isabel’s eyes snapped open and rolled up into her head as she screamed. Alex couldn’t tell what the little troll was doing to her, but there was no question that she was in excruciating pain. Nicholas chuckled to himself before moving his hand. Isabel slumped into her chair again.

Oh God! Isabel!

Had she been in that small monster’s clutches since she had run out of the Crashdown yesterday? That was over twenty-four hours ago! Alex clenched his fists at his sides.

"That’s what we on Antar call a mind-rape Zan. I know you don’t remember them, but know that enough of them can bring religion to even the most hardened atheist. Not only am I getting some interesting information from your sister, I’m also reminding her of exactly what kind of bastard you once were. When I’m done with Vivi here, she’s going to wish she never knew your name. She’ll remember exactly why she turned on you last time and she’ll join Khivar again too."

Alex turned his head to look at Max. Isabel’s brother was standing ramrod straight, his jaw clenched as he listened. Liz was beside him, holding onto his arm and watching the message, a horrified expression on her face.

He looked back and saw Nicholas’s projected image start to pace in front of them. "Of course, as much as I know Khivar wants the lovely Vilandra back in his bed, there is something else he wants more."

"The granolith," Kate gasped. Alex looked at her sharply. She seemed just as dismayed as any of them. "Will, what is he doing?"

"I’d be willing to make a little trade," Nicholas continued, turning back and staring right into whatever was recording him. "Your sister for the granolith. I want it’s location by six o’clock tonight or Isabel Evans will cease to exist and Vilandra and I will have some fun before I turn her over to Khivar." He quirked a malicious little grin. "Don’t worry about finding me your highness. I have my eyes on you. I’ll come to you once I know you’ve made your decision."

With that, the image flickered and disappeared. They all stood there in silence for several long moments. Alex knew his mouth was hanging open. His entire being was focused on one fact alone.

Isabel. She was in trouble and it was all his fault.

This was exactly what he was thinking when all hell broke loose.

"SON OF A BITCH!"

Michael was on Will an instant later. Kate screamed as Alex’s friend thrust her brother up against the brick wall of the Crashdown. His rage was a palatable force. "Where is she? Where did your creepy little brat take her?"

Will’s hands were clutching at Michael’s arm, which had him pinned at the neck. He obviously couldn’t breathe, let alone talk and, fortunately, the lack of oxygen seemed to have caused the alien king to forget that he was capable of blasting Michael if he wanted to. Alex crossed his arms, not the least bit concerned that Michael might very well kill Will. What the hell had Will, Khivar, whoever he was, unleashed on them? How could he have allowed Nicholas to take Isabel?

"Alex! Alex, stop him!" Kate had grabbed his arm, was shaking it. "Will did not authorize this. I swear to God." Alex looked down at her, scowling. Her blue eyes were pleading, but as he watched they narrowed. "Alex, I don’t want to hurt Michael, but if he doesn’t let Will go, I’m going to have to."

Alex shook her off. In spite of whatever attraction he might feel for her, when it came to a choice between these new acquaintances and Isabel, there was no choice to be made.

He glanced at Max, who stood staring at the scene in front of him, no expression on his face. A muscle twitching in his jaw was the only indication that he was at all upset. "Michael," he finally said, after what seemed like an inordinate amount of time. "Let him talk."

Alex could see that Liz had moved forward, was tugging on Michael’s arm. "Michael, he needs to be allowed to talk."

Michael growled but loosened his grip. Alex was amazed that Will still didn’t unleash his gifts. He had been half-expecting it. Instead, he took several deep breaths, coughing slightly, then managed to say, "I swear I had…nothing…to do with this." He raised his head, looked at Liz, who seemed to be the only person whose opinion he cared about. "I don’t know what the hell he was talking about Rowena. I swear to God I had nothing to do with this."

"I thought Nicholas worked for you," Max interjected. "Why did he take her if not for you?"

Will looked at him, his expression, for once, non-confrontational. "He wants the location of the granolith. It’s the only way to save himself. I did not order this though. This is not how we do things."

"Can you contact him? Make him give her back?" Max asked quietly.

"Maxwell! You don’t believe him?" Michael sounded outraged as he glanced over his shoulder at Max, because he was still holding Will firmly against the wall.

"I can try," Will replied. "But the fact that he went and did this when he knew we were already here working another angle…"

"You expected to convince Liz to tell you where it was," Max said, shaking his head in disgust.

Will shrugged, after finally struggling hard against Michael and managing to break free. "Yes. I admit it. I thought that once Ro remembered who she was, she’d tell us. Once she knew that we weren’t going to use it for anything but good. My only intention, ever, has been to save my people with it. I don’t take playing with the granolith lightly." He paused, as though implying that others - namely Max - might. Will glanced at Liz, who had her head tilted thoughtfully, seemed to decide to abandon that route. After all, he was trying to convince Max to believe him. Hostility was extremely out of place at the moment. Alex almost felt proud of the arrogant alien king, like Will was, for once, thinking how what he said might be perceived.

"Anyway, I don’t know what he’s doing," Will continued. "This was not part of the plan. Vilandra is not, nor has she ever been, my enemy."

"I’d guess not, seeing as she betrayed Max for you and all." Michael said sarcastically. Alex whipped his head around and stared at Michael. This was news to him. "But it’s all becoming clear now. You seduced her."

"Who told you that?" Will demanded. "That is a complete lie!"

"Nicholas just said it," Michael retorted. "Didn’t you hear it? We knew that you somehow made Vilandra switch sides but we didn’t know it was by pretending to love her."

Will was outraged when he snapped, "I did not seduce Vilandra!" He looked at Liz. "Rowena, that is completely untrue!"

"Then why the hell did the troll just say it?" Michael asked, sounding smug, like it amused him that Will wasn’t nearly so perfect as he tried to pretend.

"I heard him," Kyle agreed. "He didsay it."

"I have no idea," Will said, sounding completely confused now. "I really have no idea." The tone of his voice was so unsure that Alex couldn’t help but believe him.

"It doesn’t matter." Alex looked at Max, who gently took Michael by the shoulder and pulled him away from Will. "What happened before is not what is important." He glanced at Liz again as he said it. "The important thing is the fact that Isabel is being held by Nicholas and that Jack is still missing."

"Oh God!" Kate stepped forward. "Will, he can’t be working with Nicholas?" She appeared on the verge of tears, making Alex’s heart ache in spite of his new resolve to side with his Czechoslovakians. She brightened. "Maybe he mindraped Jack too!"

"You say that like it’s a good thing," Kyle interjected. "Mindraping sounds all bad to me."

"I don’t even know what he means by it," Kate replied, lowering her eyes. "But he seemed to be implying that he could change Vilandra by doing it. Maybe he did the same thing to Jack."

"Maybe," Will said quietly, obviously now upset. "I don’t even know what to think anymore."

"We can figure all this out later," Liz interjected smoothly. Alex noticed that she had taken Max by the hand and was reaching for Will’s as well. "Here’s the thing guys. Whether you like it or not, we’re all in this together now. No one knows what’s going on and the only thing we can do is trust each other."

Alex saw Max’s eyes narrow, but he nodded, "She’s right." He gently let go of Liz’s hand and moved it towards Will. "You can go back to hating me after this is over if you really want to, but right now I need you to help me get Isabel back." He paused, then swallowed. "If you do that, maybe we can talk about the granolith."

"Max!" Tess exclaimed, sounding horrified. "You can’t do this! You’re playing right into their hands!"

"I said we’d talk about it," Max repeated firmly. "And I will do anything to save my sister."

Will continued to hold Liz’s hand for another moment, his eyes glued to Max’s face assessingly. He glanced once at Kate, who Alex saw nod in encouragement. He finally allowed Liz to guide his hand until he was grasping Max’s in a firm handshake.

"You’ve got a deal."

To be continued…

posted on 24-Dec-2002 3:17:24 PM by Kath7
Author's Note: Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and happy holidays to everyone else!

Part 23

"Max, I’m going with them."

Max turned his head and regarded Alex. They had all returned to the Crashdown and were now scattered around it, trying to seem as inconspicuous as possible. They were not taking Nicholas’s threat that he was watching them lightly. Glancing around the café now, Max realized that any of the other customers in the restaurant could be Skins, watching, waiting for them to screw up. And making it clear that he was now working with Will would be a screw-up. They couldn’t be sure that Nicholas didn’t already know, after the lengthy meeting in the alley, but they wouldn’t make it easy on him to be sure now either.

And, so, if Will was really going to succeed in liberating Isabel from his rogue henchman, than they couldn’t be seen in each other’s company any longer. To that end, Liz was sitting at a booth with Kate and Will, in order to explain the alien siblings’ presence in her parents’ restaurant, and Alex was acting as go-between, speaking to Will in the booth for a few minutes and then coming to report his plan to Max, who was seated at the counter beside Tess, nursing a cherry cola. Kyle was on Tess’s other side and Maria and Michael were in the kitchen since they had been scheduled to work the late afternoon shift anyway. Their presence would not be questioned.

"Alex, I can’t let you…" Max began, then narrowed his eyes at the fierce expression that was beginning to cross his friend’s face. "You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?"

"Glad you noticed," Alex said. "I really don’t feel up to an argument right now."

"Me either," Max agreed, sighing. He rubbed a weary hand across his eyes, trying not to give in to his fear for Isabel. But if anyone would understand, it was Alex. "This isn’t your fault Alex. I hope you know that."

"I know I’m not the one hurting her Max, but if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have been in a position for that little bastard to get his hands on her. I can’t just sit here and wait. I know that if there was any other way, you would be going too. I have the option and I’m taking it."

Max nodded, resigned. "Fine. I’ll be glad to have someone with them that I know I can trust. With you there, I know that they won’t forget that Isabel’s safety is all that matters right now. Getting her out of there is priority number one Alex. We can find out what Nicholas is really up to after. Make sure that Will remembers that. Please."

Max glanced over at the booth where Liz sat with Will and Kate, his heart hurting a little. He could see how tense Liz was, even from here. She was uncomfortable, still convinced that she was Serena, and still trying with every ounce of her being not to blurt it out to Will - or Khivar as she called him. It pained him to see her so conflicted, even though he knew that she was wrong. Somehow he was going to have to make her snap out of whatever mind-control she was presently under because he absolutely knew that she was not in love with Will. What had happened with the orb had only proven that it was he and Liz who were bonded, not Liz and Will.

They belonged together, no matter who they had been in their previous lives. He didn’t care one bit if he had once loved Rowena. If Liz was Serena now, then it was Serena he wanted to be with. He just needed to prove it to her. As soon as Will left with Kate and Alex, he was going to do his best to make her remember who she really was. He was going to remind her what they meant to each other.

Because, in the end, this life was the only one that mattered. To him anyway. They would deal with all the problems left over from that other life and then they would forget about them. He was no longer Zan of Antar and he never intended to become him either.

Max did feel guilty that he was so concerned about this when his sister was in such deep trouble. But he also knew that it was absolutely imperative that they straighten this huge mess out once and for all. It was becoming ever more clear that he and Will were not meant to be enemies in this life-time, no matter what Will thought. They had all been sent in the same ship and that had to mean something. It just had to. Nicholas’s betrayal only reinforced this fact.

Nicholas’s threats had revealed to them that memories could be changed. Max was beginning to realize that this was likely what had happened to Will and Kate. They remembered things, but they weren’t remembering them right. It was the only explanation. Maybe they weren’t even supposed to have any memories at all, like he and Michael and Isabel.

Max was even starting to suspect that Tess’s so-called memories were perhaps not natural either. Because, in the end, how much had he ever really trusted Nasedo? Not much. Maybe Tess had been programmed by Nicholas too, just as he was threatening to do with Isabel.

The Skins had killed Nasedo, which was why Max was pretty sure that the shapeshifters were not on Nichola’s side. Maybe Nasedo had failed somehow, had allowed Nicholas access to Tess at some point during the many years they had been on the run. From some of the things that Tess had revealed over the months Max had known her, it did seem that she had often been left to her own devices. It didn’t seem far-fetched that Nicholas might have gotten his hands on her somehow.

The important fact in all of this was that Nicholas was somehow connected to the shapeshifters, probably having killed them both. The odds were good that the Skins had murdered Will and Kate’s real protector to gain control of their pods. It was the only thing that made any sense. Because there had been two shapeshifting protectors sent on their ship with them. And if the second one wasn’t dead, where was he? He had to be dead.

Unless the shapeshifters were working with Nicholas and the Skins, which didn’t seem to make any sense, considering Nasedo had been murdered. But this conclusion did match the fact that Tess had memories of a life with him that Courtney had denied were true. It also matched the fact that Will, Kate and Jack had been raised in close proximity to the Skins. And if this was the truth, then the other shapeshifter could be alive and working with Nicholas.

Max groaned, dropped his head into his hands, exhausted all over again. Why couldn’t someone just remember and know it was the truth?

"Max, are you okay?" Tess asked, placing her hand on his back.

"No," Max muttered, lifting his head. "But that doesn’t really matter, does it?"

"We’re going to get Isabel back," Alex told him firmly, mistaking his obvious frustration. "I swear to God, I will make sure it happens."

"I know Alex. Even if this plan doesn’t work, we’ll go after her the old-fashioned way," Max agreed. "I just hope it doesn’t come to that."

Movement across the room drew their attention to the booth where the others were sitting. "Looks like it’s time," Alex said, sounding a little scared, reinforcing to Max the risk Alex was willing to take for his sister.

Max smiled at him reassuringly, abruptly grateful that Alex Whitman had been brought into their circle. They didn’t appreciate Alex nearly enough and Max knew it. "Thanks for doing this Alex. It will make it easier on Izzy, seeing a familiar face."

"I just hope that this is as easy as Will seems to think it will be," Alex sighed, watching Kate and Will leave through the exterior door. "I have a feeling this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better."

Max grimaced, wished he didn’t agree. "Good luck," was all he said though.

Silence fell over the counter as the jingling bell of the door signaled Alex’s departure. Maria and Michael had both come out of the kitchen to watch him leave and Liz had also joined them at the counter.

"What do we do now Max?" Tess asked, breaking the tension. Max thought he heard Kyle snort in derision behind him, sighed again. He wondered briefly if they would all ever just be able to get along.

"Liz and I need to talk," Max replied firmly. He turned his gaze from the door, met Liz’s dark eyes. "Right?"

There was a long pause before Liz sighed, appearing resigned that this confrontation could no longer be put off. "I guess so. Let’s go up to my room."

Max hopped off his stool and followed her through the swinging door to the back, not waiting for any of their friends to say anything. What had happened with the orb was between he and Liz. None of them even knew how significant it had been. They did not need in on this conversation, never even needed to know about Serena at all.

Because, as far as Max was concerned, all the Serena nonsense was about to be put to bed once and for all. She couldn’t argue with the orb, with what the fact that they had been the only two able to make it work meant. But he wanted it dealt with and done. Because he needed her, needed the connection back.

He missed her.

Max shut the door to Liz’s room behind him, slowly turned to face her, trying to get his thoughts in order. He still couldn’t feel her, had no idea what she was thinking. It was making this supremely difficult. When she had been keeping the truth about why she had pretended to sleep with Kyle from him, he had always known somewhere deep within him exactly what she was doing. It was only after he had known the truth that he had realized this, that it was why he had refused to fully accept it.

But, now, since she had decided that she was Serena - someone who no one else seemed to have any idea had ever existed, not even those with their memories intact - he had absolutely no idea how to even begin to guess.

For that reason, the ball was, in many ways, still in her court. He could question her as much as he wanted to. If she didn’t want to find out why the orb had only worked for them, then he was pretty much screwed. And, so, all he said was, "What happened?"

"What do you mean?" Liz asked, sounding tired.

"You know what I mean," Max replied, trying not to sound impatient. "With the orb. I thought you were connected to Will. That’s what you told me."

Liz collapsed on the bed, shaking her head. "I really don’t know Zan. I have no idea why it did that."

"I asked you to not call me that."

She looked up, met his eyes. "Why? It’s your name. Just like my name is Serena, as much as you don’t want to admit it."

Max narrowed his eyes at her, tried not to give in to the urge to just move across the room and pull her into his arms, to kiss her until she remembered why he couldn’t buy this, why he couldn’t believe her. "I need more than just your word on this Liz."

"Serena."

"Liz," Max ground out through gritted teeth. "You are Liz Parker. Even if you are also Serena, you are still Liz. Why can’t you be both? Everyone else with their memories is both. Kate remembers her past life but she knows it’s not this life. Tess too. I think even Will does, as much as he wants things exactly like they were. Where is Liz?"

Liz’s expression shadowed, as though this was the first time she had even thought about it. "I…I don’t know. I just know who I am."

"How?" Max demanded. "How did you remember? What instigated it?"

Liz bit her lip. He could not think of her as Serena, as much as he could see that she was not Liz. This was Liz’s body, but she was not in there. He knew Serena was right about that. He just didn’t understand why.

He watched her closely. She was playing with the piece of fabric wrapped around her wrist, nervous.

"Why are you scared to remember being Liz?"

She closed her eyes, swallowed convulsively. "I’m just tired of it. I’m so tired."

Max felt his heart go out to her, moved forward and sat beside her, managing to resist the urge to touch her. He didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was. "What are you tired of?" He asked quietly.

"I’m tired of not being allowed to be me," she replied. "But I can’t be. He’ll never accept me."

"Khivar?" Max refused to acknowledge the jealousy that ran through his veins at the mere thought of Liz with Will. She was not saying these things to hurt him. She presently did not even rememberwhy they would hurt him.

"He loves her. He’ll never accept that the life he shared with her wasn’t her at all." Her voice broke as she continued to finger the scarf. Max’s eyes narrowed, wondered again why it was there.

"It seems to me that he has the right to know," Max suggested after they had sat in silence for several long moments. He was still looking at the piece of fabric, noticing for the first time that it seemed to be covered with some sort of strange design.

It almost looked like a stain. In fact, it looked a lot like blood.

"What is that?" He demanded, lifting her wrist and examining the cloth more closely. "Why are you wearing this?"

Liz wrenched her arm away from him. "Khivar gave it to me. It’s our wedding cloth. It doesn’t matter."

Max frowned, unsure why he thought that she was wrong. He was pretty sure it did matter, but he couldn’t figure out why. He shook his head, tried to refocus. "I need you to tell me about Zan and Rowena. Why did you take Rowena’s place? How did they meet? What happened to them that made Zan turn into such a monster?"

"He wasn’t a monster," Liz said softly. "That was not him."

"I understand that he wasn’t like that to begin with," Max said, trying to hide his impatience. "What I want to know is why he changed. It obviously had something to do with Rowena."

"Of course it did. Everything was always about her." Her voice was not necessarily bitter, but there was something there that made Max shift uncomfortably. Liz seemed aware of it, because she smiled sadly. "I loved my sister, but it was tiring trying to live up to her."

"You said before that no one knew there were two of you?" Max could feel his confusion growing, rather than lessening. Why couldn’t any of these people just be straight with them? To top it all off, he didn’t even know if he could believe anything Liz was telling him, even if she thought she was Serena. What had happened to her to change her so completely?

The answer came to him so abruptly, he blinked, then stumbled to his feet in horror. How he couldn’t have seen it before was beyond him. What was wrong with him?

Nicholas could change people with his powers. He had as much as said so. He had said that he could make Isabel forget being Isabel, that he could bring Vilandra out and make her change sides again.

Which was exactly what had happened to Liz.

Which could only mean one thing.

Will had lied. He was in on it all along. And Max had just sent him back to his cohort, Alex in tow.

"What’s wrong?" Liz was eyeing him. She perked up. "Did you remember something?"

"We need to go," Max said evenly. "Will isn’t going to be able to get Isabel back." He didn’t say anything more, had no idea how much she remembered about what had happened to her, nor if she had been working with Will all along to keep him off balance.

"What?" Liz called after him as he opened the door and raced down the hallway of the Parker’s apartment. "Max! Max, wait!"

He ignored her, pounded down the stairs into the Crashdown’s back room. The rest of their friends were waiting in the staff lounge, were all in the process of turning their heads to stare at him as he reached the bottom.

"Max! What’s wrong?" Maria demanded, jumping to her feet. She had been sitting on Michael’s lap on the couch, both of them obviously on a break. "Where’s Liz?"

"I’m right here!" She was coming down the stairs after him, sounding out of breath. "He just freaked out. I have no idea what’s going on. We were talking and then he went crazy."

"We can’t trust them." Max looked directly at Michael. "Will is still working with Nicholas."

"What?" Michael bellowed, already standing. "I told you Maxwell! Didn’t I tell you?"

"What a minute!" Tess screeched, throwing her hand up in Michael’s direction to cut off his rant. "Max, how did you find this out?"

"Liz isn’t Liz," Max snapped. "She thinks she’s someone named Serena and the only way she could possibly think that is if Nicholas mindraped her."

"Oh my God," Maria gasped. She turned her gaze from Max and stared at Liz. "Lizzie!"

"She won’t answer to that," Max said grimly. "She doesn’t remember being Liz."

"Jesus." This was from Kyle who had been standing listening quietly until that moment.

"Max! No! You’re completely wrong!"

Max turned his head, felt his heart ache at the thought of what Liz must have gone through. How could he have not realized this earlier? He moved towards her, pulled her gently against him. "I’m so sorry Liz. This is all my fault. I never should have let you go to that motel last night. They’ll pay for this. I swear. We’ll find a way to get you your memories back and we’ll make them pay."

She was pushing against him though. It took him a moment to realize it, but when he did, he released her instantly. "You idiot!" She snapped. "Will is not working with Nicholas. I wasn’t mindraped." She lifted her hand, pointed at the band of fabric around her wrist. "This is why I remembered."

"What?" Max demanded. "What are you talking about?"

"It has my blood on it. From before I mean," Liz said, more quietly, obviously relieved that she finally had his attention. She glanced around the room at the rest of the group, who were all staring at them in various degrees of shock and bafflement. She turned back to Max. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to call you an idiot. And I should have just told you in the first place."

"I don’t understand." Max wondered if anything was ever going to make sense. He had actually, for once, thought that he had broken through some of the confusion, and now it seemed like he had been totally wrong.

"It has my essence in it," Liz explained patiently. "When I touched it, I remembered."

Max stared at her, understanding dawning, followed immediately by horror. "The blood?"

Liz nodded, seemed relieved that he had calmed down.

"What? Essence is portable?" Kyle asked, earning a round of shushes from everyone else. "What?" He demanded, glaring at them all. "If it’s portable, then why the hell have none of the rest of you found yours?"

Max frowned. He could not take his eyes off of the fabric around Liz’s wrist. Was it really responsible for shutting off their connection? What would happen if Liz took it off? Would his Liz come back?

It could not be a good thing that an object was so capable of taking over someone’s mind, whether it belonged to them or not.

"I want you to take that thing off," Max told Liz.

"What?" She looked flabbergasted. "No! It’s mine. Taking it off isn’t going to change anything. I’m still going to be Serena."

He crossed his arms. "Prove it."

"NO!"

"Where did you get it anyway?" Michael demanded. "And do we all have things lying around that might make us remember who we really are?"

"Khivar gave it to me," Liz replied, seeming relieved that he had interrupted Max. "I won’t take it off."

Max sighed heavily. Will had given it to her. He should have known. "Liz, please take it off."

"No!" She was beginning to sound hysterical now, like her control was hanging on by the smallest thread. "I can’t let go again. I need my memories."

He moved forward carefully. She had backed up against the wall, was looking around like a caged animal. "Serena." Max said it firmly, making her pay attention to him.

Her eyes focused and she stared at him. "I can’t lose myself again Zan. I can’t."

"Serena, Liz is not you. You know that. She is Rowena. It’s the only thing that makes any sense." Max had no idea where these words were coming from, but somehow he knew he was right. He remembered what Liz had told him on her balcony the night before - that he had recognized her when they were both children. That it was why she had finally believed that Will was telling her the truth about who she really was. "That cloth is screwing everything up," Max insisted now. "It does not belong to Liz. You know it doesn’t."

Liz’s gaze dropped to the cloth. She swallowed. "Then why did this body allow the essence to establish itself? I must be her."

"You’re sisters - twins. Similar DNA. It’s a simple mix-up. Just like before."

"You’re wrong," Liz snapped. "I know you are."

Max tried not to allow his frustration to show. He could feel all of his friends standing tensely behind him. He knew it was probably killing Michael to not just move forward and rip the scarf away from Liz. But they had to do this right.

Because even if Liz wasn’t Serena, someone out there was. And whoever she was, she might want access to the memories Liz was now harbouring. He could not deny that other girl the chance. Because, despite the fact that he had absolutely no intention of ever being Zan of Antar again, having his memories would certainly fix a few of the things presently wrong in his life. He could not deny someone else that option.

And, in the end, whoever she was, she was Liz’s sister.

"You said that even without the scarf on, if you are really Serena, you’ll keep the memories," Max reminded her gently. "Take it off and find out the truth. I promise you that if Liz remembers everything, I’ll stop trying to deny the truth. Even if she doesn’t, I promise that I will not rest until we find the real Serena. I won’t abandon you. This is a win-win situation."

Liz closed her eyes, a shudder running through her small body. He could see her indecision. She was wavering though. All it would take was one more argument to push her over the edge.

"You said that you were tired of not being yourself," Max continued quietly. "You’re tired of being mistaken for your sister. But if you keep doing this, you’ll be condemning Rowena to the same fate. She won’t be free. She’ll be trapped forever and the real Serena - who has to be out there somewhere - won’t ever know who she is. This is wrong. You know it is. Liz is not Serena."

Her eyes snapped open, horrified as his words penetrated. As she understood that he was right. He knew she did. She started to frantically work at the knot on the scarf, as though she could no longer stand to have it around her wrist.

Max hurried forward, gently moved her hand away. "Here. Let me. It’s okay." He quickly undid the piece of cloth, pulled it away from Liz’s arm and thrust it behind him. Someone - he didn’t care who it was - took it.

Liz collapsed against his chest. He could feel his heart racing. What if he was wrong? What if she still thought she was Serena? What on Earth would he do then?

She was not moving, was simply allowing herself to be comforted. He could feel her small frame trembling against him, ran his hands soothingly down her slender back. "It’s okay. You’re safe now. It’s okay."

A small sigh escaped and the whisper he heard was so soft, he wondered at first if he had imagined it. But when Liz’s arms came up to wrap tightly around him, he knew he was not wrong.

She had called him Max.

To be continued…





posted on 30-Dec-2002 3:37:34 PM by Kath7
Part 24

Kate watched Alex pace the length of the motel room impatiently, his hands clasped behind his back. He had a frown on his face, his eyes were glued to the floor and at one point she actually thought she heard him mumbling to himself.

"Are you okay?" She finally asked softly, grimacing when his head snapped up and his glare was abruptly directed at her.

"Why is this taking so long?" He demanded as he came to a halt. His expression was not modifying itself. He really seemed angry at her, although he certainly knew that she had absolutely nothing to do with Nicholas having kidnapped Isabel. She and Will were just as baffled by their general’s behavior as Zan and the others. "I thought your brother had instant communication with the troll?"

Kate stood, sighing. "I don’t know Alex. I’m sorry."

They had come back to the motel from the Crashdown so that Will could use his transmitter to contact Nicholas. She and Alex had left Kate’s brother alone in his room to speak privately with the Skin leader. She had seen that Alex had wanted to stay to listen, but Will had told him that until he knew exactly where Nicholas was holed up, it was best that the general not know that Alex was with them. They didn’t want any delays.

Because from the way Isabel had looked in the message Nicholas had left for Max, it seemed unlikely that time was on the other girl’s side. As much as Kate and Will were finding it hard to believe, their most trusted ally was torturing that girl and in their name.

And, as much as she didn’t want to admit it to Alex now, Kate wasn’t even sure that Nicholas would tell them anything. If he had gone so far out on a limb without Will’s permission, then the Skin was getting desperate. He might use Isabel for what he could get from her - namely the location of the granolith - and then he would dispose of her. Because, in the end, Vilandra of Antar, in whatever form she presently inhabited, was still their enemy as long as she was loyal to Zan. They could not be sure that Nicholas would not hurt Isabel Evans in the end.

It was why they had to find Nicholas as soon as possible. Things were going well between Zan and Will. In spite of what she remembered, Kate was really beginning to believe that maybe they weren’t supposed to be enemies anymore - that maybe they truly could make a new start and rebuild their system together.

But if something happened to Isabel…There would be no hope at all.

Alex was rubbing the back of his neck, obviously becoming increasingly upset. "Why is this taking so long?" He repeated, not really talking to her at all anymore. He collapsed into the chair beside the T.V., stared at her for a long moment. "Who is Nicholas to you guys anyway? If we’re being forced to wait, the least I can do for my friends is get information."

Kate flinched slightly at his tone. The way he said friends, he really seemed to be trying to drive home the point that he didn’t particularly consider her to be one of them. "He’s Khivar’s general. He was sent after our ship to look after us."

"Why wasn’t he sent with your ship?" Alex asked. "Wouldn’t that have made more sense?"

"We were cloned by our enemies," Kate explained. "We were just lucky that Nicholas found us before we came out of the pods or we might have grown up with them, having no idea who they really were to us."

"Doesn’t it seem kind of weird to you that the same enemies who killed you cloned you? Why would they do such a thing?"

"To control us," Kate replied quietly. "Jack, Ro and I were already dead at home. By sending us with Zan and the others, they wanted us to grow up as Khivar’s enemies, thus weakening him and strengthening Zan when he made an attempt to take back the throne."

Alex scratched his head. "So why clone Khivar too? Because that’s who Will is, isn’t it? I mean, no one has flat-out said so to me, but it’s been implied." He paused, frowned again. Kate could almost see the wheels turning in his head. "But you just said that you, Jack and Rowena were already dead. What about Khivar?" He didn’t really seem to be asking her though. It was more like he was working out the problem himself, like he couldn’t entirely trust her to tell him the truth.

It hurt. She wondered at it. He was making it increasingly clear that his loyalties had never been in doubt, no matter what he had told her the day before. Since they had found out that Isabel had been captured, the jig had been up. He had been working for Max and the others all along. He shouldn’t trust her.

And, yet, she still wanted to tell him the truth. She did not want him to keep looking at her like that - like she was his enemy now.

"Khivar - the first Khivar - is still alive," she blurted out before she could stop herself. She almost slapped her hands over her mouth. What was she doing? Somehow she had known it would be a mistake to bring Alex with them. It was a bad move to bring the one person whose opinion she cared about in the other group. Because, as much as she believed that Max was Zan as he had once been, she could still not entirely trust him. Michael and Tess were both unimportant in the grand scheme of her relationship with the other four square. She had never been close to Rath or Ava.

For some reason though, Alex Whitman had affected her from the first time she had met him. And she had thought that she had touched him in some way too. But since they had found out about Vilandra, that was clearly all over.

She hadn’t had any idea that Alex and Isabel were so close.

And why she cared at the moment when she had just told Alex the one thing he should not know, she could not explain to even herself.

His mouth was presently hanging open as he stared at her in dismay. "What?" He finally managed to force out, sounding slightly strangled.

"Khivar never died," Kate said, knowing that there was no going back now. "Will is his clone, but the original still lives. It’s he who is sitting on the throne of Antar and it was he who sent Nicholas after us."

"And it will be that Khivar who will attack the Earth fourteen years from now and end it," Alex said, shaking his head in horror. "It’s all beginning to make sense now. It was the one part of this I just didn’t get. How if Max’s enemy was on the planet all along, why would he destroy it? Because he’d be committing suicide in the process."

Kate had frozen at the part about "ending the Earth" however. "What are you talking about?" She whispered.

Alex’s expression softened for the first time since they had left the Crashdown. "Sorry. I forgot you didn’t know about that." He paused, seemed to be searching for the easiest way to explain what he meant. "Liz and Max haven’t exactly been getting along lately," he began. Kate nodded, remembered how she hadn’t understood the tension that she had witnessed between Max and Liz. If they were so madly in love, as Liz’s proclamations and Kate’s earlier connection with Max had seemed to indicate, why all the drama? She was unsure how this had anything to do with the end of the world though. "It all started when Max found out that he’s supposed to be with Tess, but it got much worse a few weeks ago when Max caught Liz in bed with Kyle."

Kate felt her eyes widen. Alex noticed and grinned wryly. "It sounds a bit like a soap opera, doesn’t it?"

"How could she do that?" Kate asked. "That is totally unlike Rowena, to do something like that!"

"It’s not like Liz either," Alex agreed. "But Max caught them and he stopped trying to get back together with her. I only found out about all of this yesterday as a matter of fact. All any of the rest of us knew was that Max was basically a zombie and Liz was like manic crazy." He paused, shaking his head, as though he was still coming to terms with all of it himself. "Anyway, she finally broke down and admitted that she did it to drive Max to Tess. Because Max had come back from fourteen years in the future to tell her that if Tess and Max weren’t together, the world would end - that Tess would leave town and they wouldn’t be strong enough to repel the attack from their enemies when it came."

Kate brought a hand to her mouth, shocked. "Poor Liz! I don’t understand though. How did Max come back from the future?"

"Apparently they modified the granolith," Alex shrugged. Kate perked up in spite of herself at the mention of the granolith. Alex seemed to notice because he raised a hand and said, "I don’t know how they used it or where it is, so don’t even bother asking. I wouldn’t tell you anyway."

Kate hadn’t thought he would, but her reaction had been spontaneous. She sighed. "And you think that was Khivar attacking the Earth?"

"Who else would it be?" Alex asked, narrowing his eyes. "They don’t have more enemies out there, do they?"

"Not as far as I know, although with Zan, it’s impossible to say for sure." She answered him off-handedly, still feeling dazed. The very idea of her brother, in any incarnation, being responsible for the destruction of a planet…It was completely beyond her comprehension, particularly after his horror about what Zan had done to Valonia. But, on the other hand, she had absolutely no idea how all the deaths he had been forced to endure might have affected him. She couldn’t say for certain that it wouldn’t be possible.

And that scared her. A lot. Because without her faith that Khivar was the rightful king of Antar, where would she be? Everything she and her brother were fighting for would be for nothing.

Alex was scowling again. "Okay, can we just stop with all the cryptic comments? Can you just tell me what happened back then?"

Kate allowed herself to fall back on the bed, feeling inexplicably weary. "I can, but I don’t even know if I’m remembering any of it right anymore." She sat up as abruptly. Now where had that come from? What was he, her confessor? She hadn’t even realized that she was really having doubts about her own memory until the words had fallen from her lips.

She met Alex’s eyes. His expression had softened again as he finally seemed to recognize her confusion. "This is all just as hard for you as it is for them, isn’t it?" He finally asked softly when the silence stretched between them for what felt like eternity.

"I don’t know what to believe anymore," she admitted, unable to deny it any longer. "I know what I remember, but I also know what I saw when Max and I connected." She paused, then added, "I also don’t believe that you would be friends with people you didn’t trust completely. I don’t know why I think that, or what it means, because I know that they’re your real friends, not me, and that you’re only here because of them anyway." Kate looked away, unable to meet his eyes. "I’m trying to understand how we can be so wrong. I’m trying to really remember because I know you want me to."

There was another long pause. Kate felt the bed sink beside her, realized that Alex had come to join her there. "Why do you care what I want?" He finally asked. "You should care for your own sake."

She snorted slightly, turned to look at him. "Don’t you get that it’s easier for me to just call them my enemies? That’s it’s what I’ve always done and it’s what I really want to keep doing? I don’t like questioning everything I’ve been raised to believe. And, yet, I am."

"Why?" Alex asked, his dark eyes meeting hers. He seemed truly perplexed, like he really didn’t understand. Kate scowled at him. What was the matter with him? Did she have to hit him over the head with it?

"Because I care what you think of me!" She exclaimed in exasperation.

Alex blinked. "Oh." Pause. "Okay." His gaze remained locked with hers. "Whatever you tell me, it’s not going to change what I think of you," he continued quietly. "I do believe that you had nothing to do with what happened to Isabel. I’m sorry I made you feel like I thought you did."

"I’m really sorry she’s been hurt Alex," Kate said. "You have to believe that." She looked down at her hands, then added quickly, "She’s really important to you, isn’t she?"

"Yeah. She is." She closed her eyes, was no longer surprised when it hurt to hear it. Because she was no longer denying it to him, she could no longer deny it to herself either. She liked Alex far more than she should. And it did hurt to know that he didn’t feel the same. "She’s my friend and, well, I sort of feel responsible for what happened."

Kate’s head came up and she stared at him. "How can you possibly be responsible?"

"We had a fight," Alex replied. "She was out alone because of me."

"That’s ridiculous!" Kate scoffed. "How could you have known what was going to happen?"

Alex shrugged, looked away. She realized that she wasn’t going to convince him that he was wrong so she decided to let it go for the moment. She decided to try and take his mind off of it. "What do you want me to tell you specifically?"

"I don’t know. Everything?" Alex grinned, obviously trying to forget why exactly they were sitting here in the first place. She could see the lines of tension around his eyes as he tried not to think about what Nicholas might be doing to Isabel at that exact moment. "Start at the beginning. When did you first meet Zan?"

Kate smiled slightly. "Vilandra and I went to school together on Antar. He visited her often and we became friends." If the memories she had of those early days with Zan did prove to be false, she knew that she would be disappointed. He had been kind to her in a way she was unused to from men of such power and influence. While she and Khivar had developed a close relationship as adults, as children he had little use for her, merely seeing her as an annoyance, as was the way with older brothers. But Zan had never treated Vilandra as anything less than his equal and it had been a revelation to Kate - or Karana as she had been at the time. It was why she had been so devastated by how much Zan changed later in life - so much so that even his sister had turned against him. When Karana had heard that Vilandra had changed sides, it was only then that she had truly believed that he was capable of the treachery of which Khivar had accused him.

"I may have even had a crush on him for a while," she admitted now, as she recalled how upset she had been when she had first heard of his betrothal to Ava from Vilandra. Vi had been upset as well and it was only later that it had dawned on her that Zan was unhappy with the match. "But he treated me like a younger sister."

"When did things change?" Alex asked, encouraging her to continue.

"Vilandra and I finished our schooling and I went home with her because Khivar was unable to send anyone for me right away. He was preoccupied with a dispute my planet was arguing with Knosis. I’m pretty sure it was over trade rights. I wasn’t really into politics until after the war started." Kate shrugged. "The high king on Antar, Zan’s father, sent him to Valonia, where my brother had agreed to meet with the king of Knosis to clear the air, Zan acting as mediator. While he was gone, Zan’s father died and when Zan came back to claim the throne…" She trailed off, frowning. "I don’t know…he was different. The next thing I knew, he sent me home and when I landed on Sardica, I was told that Zan had declared war on us. The following year, the Antarian sky forces destroyed Valonia. It was awful. I had been trying to get in touch with either Zan or Vilandra to parlay for peace, but they refused to meet with me."

She looked at Alex, who was listening intently. "So something happened on Valonia to change Zan," he finally said. He met Kate’s eyes. "Do you think any of this had to do with Rowena? Could she be what drove the wedge between Sardica and Antar?"

Kate shook her head. "I don’t see how."

"What if Zan met your brother’s wife at the trade conference and wanted her for himself?" Alex suggested.

"Why wouldn’t my brother have told me that?" Kate asked. "He always said he had no idea what Zan wanted from him. He even sent Rowena to plea a truce with Zan. Khivar never would have put her in Zan’s hands if that’s what the whole thing was about…" Kate’s mouth fell open abruptly, as the truth suddenly dawned on her. "Oh my God. How could I not have realized this? Of course that’s what it was. She was the only one Zan would talk to - in her capacity as Queen of Valonia he said, but of course that wasn’t it."

"And the reason that Khivar didn’t tell you was that he didn’t know. Rowena never told him," Alex finished neatly.

Kate stared at him. "But it still doesn’t explain why Zan changed Alex. Even if Rowena rejected him, he never would have reacted that way - by destroying her entire planet. Not the Zan I knew."

Alex appeared deep in thought. "You know, I’m beginning to wonder if absolutely everyone was being played. You brother, Zan, Rowena, Vilandra…everyone."

"But by who?" Kate asked, searching her mind frantically. "Knosis was allied with Antar through Zan’s marriage to Ava. They were small and unimportant anyway. And Wendar was also on Zan’s side."

Just as the door to the room opened, she raised her eyes and met Alex’s.

"I finally reached him," Will said as he entered the room. "He’s being really weird. He wouldn’t admit to me that he had Vilandra."

Kate heard him, but continued to stare at Alex, watched the same thought occur to him that she had just had. She shook her head, disbelieving that the answer had been right at her fingertips all along - well, at least since Isabel had been taken captive without permission from Will.

It was the only thing that made sense after all.

"Nicholas," she and Alex both said at the same time.

Her very own people had somehow betrayed her.

To be continued…





posted on 12-Jan-2003 10:43:53 PM by Kath7
Part 25

As she awoke to a splitting head-ache for the second time in twenty-four hours, Liz moaned. She felt a feather-light touch on her hair, became increasingly aware of her surroundings as she slowly drifted back to consciousness. She could feel that she was not alone, was reassured by it.

What on Earth had happened to her? The last memory she had was of Will handing her the scarf he said had belonged to Rowena and then everything had gone black.

"Will?" She managed to croak. The hand stroking her hair paused, then resumed it’s gentle ministrations, although more tentatively.

"No Liz. It’s me."

She struggled to open her eyes, feeling tears of relief forming beneath the lids at the familiar and beloved voice. "Max."

Finally his worried face swam into view. His eyes narrowed slightly as she managed to meet his gaze.

"What happened?" She whispered, reaching out and touching his cheek. "What’s wrong?" It didn’t strike her as odd immediately that they were lying side by side, nor that she couldn’t for the life of her think how she had ended up in her own bedroom with Max.

A flicker of emotion passed through his eyes. "You don’t remember?"

"If I remembered, I wouldn’t have asked," Liz replied, wondered why he was being so cryptic.

His relief was so abruptly obvious, she blinked. "Oh thank God." The next thing she knew, he had pulled her into his arms and his face was buried in her neck. A muffled "Thank you God" reached her ears.

Liz allowed herself to enjoy the butterflies in her stomach for a moment, felt her strength increasing as she came more fully awake. Finally though, she pulled back slightly, smiled wryly at him. "Well hello to you too."

"Hi." His eyes were melting with some emotion she didn’t understand. Her heart began to pound more quickly as his gaze lowered to her lips.

His kiss, when it came, was tentative. For Liz, it was too gentle. She wasn’t sure why she felt impatient with it, but she did. Winding her fingers in his soft hair, she pulled him towards her, opening her mouth to him. He moaned, sending her blood speeding through her veins.

She rolled onto her back, bringing him with her. He was kissing her frantically now, his hand stroking down her side, causing goose-bumps to rise along her skin. When he started to rain kisses down her neck, she giggled as the most inane thought suddenly occurred to her.

Max pulled back, stared at her, his golden eyes completely befuddled. "What’s so funny?"

"My head-ache…It’s gone."

Max frowned slightly. "Headache? Oh God. Liz! I’m sorry." He pulled back further, taking his warmth with him. "I didn’t even ask you if you were okay!"

Liz smiled at him. "I’m perfectly fine. Or I am now, thanks to your magic touch." Liz picked up his hand, watched in fascination as a light glow permeated from where their fingers were wound together. "Just having you touch me…It makes me feel better."

Max smiled slightly, bent his head and kissed her lightly on the forehead. She sighed, disappointed, when he sat up fully. "What happened Max? How did I get here?"

"What’s the last thing you remember?" He asked, running a hand through his hair, which was still messy from where her fingers had been moments before. Liz smirked. She couldn’t help it. He looked adorable.

"I remember Will giving me this." She raised her arm, blinked when she realized that the piece of cloth that she had wound around her wrist was no longer there. "What happened to it?"

"You took it off," Max replied quietly. Liz could feel his intent gaze. "Liz, it did something to you. You’re sure you don’t remember at all?"

She frowned, searched her mind. "No," she finally said. She raised her gaze, met Max’s. "What happened?" She whispered, her heart in her throat.

"I don’t know how to explain it…" Max trailed off, sounding frustrated. "She tried to make me understand why it had happened, but I was so desperate to get that thing away from you, I didn’t really listen too closely." He looked right at her. "Liz, you were not yourself. You became someone entirely different."

Liz stared at him, uncomprehending. There was only one person she could feasibly have become. "Rowena?" She finally whispered, unwilling - unable - to fully grasp that this, more than anything that had come before, proved that she was not of this Earth.

She was surprised when Max shook his head. "No. She said her name was Serena. Apparently Rowena had a sister. From what little information she gave me, it seems that they were twins. The scarf belonged to Serena, but it affected you because of your similar DNA." He paused, took her hand in his again, stroking lightly. "Liz, there is absolutely no doubt now. You are Rowena."

Liz bit her lip, closed her eyes briefly. She didn’t even know what to think. She had pretty much accepted that Will was telling the truth before, but there were still so many unanswered questions. How had she ended up as Jeff and Nancy Parker’s daughter? She knew for a certainty that she wasn’t adopted. What on Earth had happened?

And she had a sister! Somewhere out there, her twin sister existed and she had never even known. How was any of this possible?

Serena. Liz shook her head in disbelief, Future Max’s words about her "friend" Serena adapting the granolith for time travel…How could he have kept this from her? This was vital information.

But, of course, they had obviously found Serena in that past life. Future Max would have assumed that this would be the case in this life too. Which meant that she was out there somewhere. She really did exist.

"There’s more Liz," Max said tentatively. She could hear the fear in his voice. She opened her eyes, wondered at it. His eyes were glued to her face, as though he fully intended to catch any reaction the instant she had it. "You were married to Will in your last life, but you never lived with him that way. Serena took your place. But Will doesn’t know that. He always thought her to be you."

Liz blinked. "Where was I?"

Max smiled sheepishly. "Well, it turns out that…"

But Liz cut him off, already knew somehow. "I was with you," she finished quietly. She was in absolutely no way surprised. The conclusion that there had been something between Zan and Rowena had been too obvious to ignore, although she had not really thought about it in any great detail. Because it was so evident, there was nothing to really think about. She searched his face. "Why do you sound upset about that?"

"I’m not upset," Max replied. He stood, started pacing. "I’m thrilled about it."

Liz smiled slightly as she watched him. She tilted her head. "You sound it," she told him wryly.

Max paused, looked at her. "It’s not me I’m worried about," he said. "It’s you. Liz, this is all just crazy information. I don’t even know how you’re processing it. And none of it makes any sense with what you’ve always known about yourself."

She shrugged. "I don’t really have much of a choice Max. It’s what is." She narrowed her eyes. "I’ll admit that I was a little freaked at first…" She remembered back to how she had screamed when it had finally dawned on her that Will was telling her the truth, that somehow she had always known it anyway. Liz breathed a small sigh of relief that Max had not witnessed that.

"Liz, you were more than freaked."

Liz started. "Huh? How did you know that." She instantly thought accusingly of Alex. She was going to kill him!

Max just looked at her, an eyebrow raised impatiently and the real truth dawned on her.

"Oh, the flashes." Liz grimaced. "Well, you have to understand Max…"

"Liz, I do understand," Max interrupted. "That’s not the problem. The problem is how you’re going to adjust to all this stuff. Because you are being too calm right now. I don’t like it."

Liz clambered off the bed, went and stood near him. "Max, I don’t even know what you’re talking about." She reached up, traced a hand down his face until he was forced to meet her eyes. "What is this really about?"

She saw a vein convulse in his neck. He was quite obviously extremely upset about something. "Max?"

"Liz, I can’t help but remember how you felt when Tess first came to town," Max finally said, so quickly, Liz knew that he was just trying to get it out. "You were scared Liz. In spite of all you knew about me and Michael and Isabel, you were scared. And I didn’t know what to do to make you feel less scared. Because this is damn scary stuff and I hate that you even have to feel this way at all."

She could feel her eyes widening as she listened to him. How did he even remember this? She had been scared of Tess, but not because she was an alien, although it had seemed that way at the time. It was Tess who scared her, because Liz had felt the threat inherent in the other girl, whether she was Nasedo or not. Reflecting on it now, it amazed her that she hadn’t seen how her comments that day had affected Max though. Because Tess had ended up being one of them. And Liz had never made it truly clear that - to her - Max was not even different. He was just Max. If there was one person she would never fear, it was him.

"You’re afraid I won’t be able to accept it?" Liz asked. "That I won’t want to accept it?"

"That’s not the only thing," Max sighed, his eyes drifting away again. "Liz, I feel like maybe you’ll start to think that what’s between us has nothing to do with us. That it was inevitable, that we had no choice in the matter."

"What?" Liz exclaimed. "Of course I wouldn’t think that Max! I don’t even remember Rowena. You don’t remember Zan." She brought her other hand up, made him look at her. "Max, whatever happens, it’s you I love. It doesn’t matter who the hell I was before, or who you were. We may never have even found this stuff out. I have a feeling in that other timeline we never knew any of this - or at least not until it was too late." Which had to be true if they had known Serena. She shook her head, forced herself to concentrate on Max. He was what was important at the moment. "None of it really matters when it comes to you and me. Even if it did turn out that it was me who was married to Will, I still would have fallen in love with and I would still love you now. You’re the one I want, no matter what."

Max’s eyes softened. He lowered his head until her arms were wrapped around his neck and their foreheads were touching. "How is it possible that I love you even more now than I did two minutes ago?" He demanded quietly. "I can’t bear the thought of ever losing you Liz. It just freaks me out on a level I can’t even express. If that makes me weak, then so be it."

He kissed her. The flashes were almost instantaneous, making Liz’s knees weak. She felt his love for her so clearly, it was humbling. She kissed him back, throwing her entire soul into it, determined that he would understand exactly how she felt about him, that Zan meant nothing to her. She didn’t even know who Zan had been. It didn’t matter. Even if he had been the monster that he seemed in all the reports they had so far, she was so far from caring, it was ridiculous. Zan and Max were not the same.

It was in that instant that the flashes changed. Thoughts, words, raced through her mind, familiar, and, yet, she knew that she had never had or heard them before.

"I will come back for you. We will be together. I swear it."

"I will wait for you forever."


Flashes of various symbols, some familiar, others not…She had seen them before though. She absolutely knew it.

And, suddenly, unbearable pain ripped through the connection, almost making her black out. Zaaaaaaan! It was so abrupt, she didn’t have time to scream.

It took her several long moments to even get her bearings.

"Max," she gasped. She realized that somehow they had ended up back on her bed. He was panting against her neck. She could feel his skin burning against hers in a way she hadn’t experienced since they had found the first orb in the desert months ago.

"God, Liz," he finally managed to breathe, rolling off of her. She turned her head. He had an arm thrown over his eyes. "What the heck was that?"

She reached out, traced a hand down his other bare arm, felt her eyes widen when a light glow followed the route her finger-tips were taking. "Max, look," she whispered, her awe so great, she felt tears welling.

Max opened his eyes, watched her hand intently. When he raised his gaze to meet hers, it had darkened considerably again. It was only then that Liz realized that his chest was completely bare. Where the heck had his shirt gone? She looked around, was astounded to see it on the other side of the room. Liz looked down, saw that the top buttons of her shirt were undone. In fact, one of them was gone. A dull flush crept up her cheeks. This was so not good. How had they so completely lost control of themselves?

She looked back at Max, couldn’t help the slight smile that wanted to break out across her face. She was a little upset, yes, but this was Max. It wasn’t like it was unexpected. "Er, well…That was interesting."

Max scowled, did not seem pleased by her choice of words. It made her want to giggle, in spite of everything. If there was one thing Max hated, it was losing control. And there was absolutely no other way of describing what had just happened. He was opening his mouth to respond, but she kissed him again, succeeding in shutting him up.

This time there was nothing extraordinary about any of it. She felt it down to her toes as his hands twined in her hair, but there were no flashes. It was simply them - Max and Liz. There was something reassuring in it.

He finally broke the kiss, brought her down gently so that her cheek rested against his pounding heart. "What the heck was that?" He repeated quietly after they lay there in silence for several long moments.

"I…I think it was from before," Liz admitted, tracing her hand down his arm again. No glow followed. She felt momentary disappointment. "For one minute, I remembered being her."

"Me too." Max sighed. "God Liz…Whatever happened to them, it was horrible."

"I know," she replied. She lifted her head so that her chin was resting on his chest, met his eyes. "It’s not going to happen to us. I refuse to allow it Max."

He traced a finger down her cheek, a slight smile on his face. "How are you so strong?"

"You make me that way. No one is going to come between us ever again."

There was another pause. Liz closed her eyes, enjoyed the feeling of his fingers dancing through her hair. She didn’t understand how he could drive her to a frenzy one instant and then, in the next, make her feel so peaceful, it made her want to cry. Was it any wonder she loved him so much?

The flashes started to return as she lay there, clearer now that she wasn’t completely engrossed in him, wasn’t completely distraught by the memory of the painful way Rowena and Zan had been torn apart. The symbols…where had she seen them before? Somehow she knew it was important.

"Max, did you see…" she started to ask but it was at that moment that a knock came at the door. They both jumped, the strange other world in which they had been existing abruptly ended. Michael’s voice came through the door, sounding impatient. "Yo Maxwell, what’s going on in there? It’s been forever!"

Max sat up, bringing Liz with him. "Oh my God! Isabel!" The expression of guilt that crossed his face made Liz’s stomach drop. "What kind of ass am I?" He demanded. "Coming!" He called out to Michael.

"What’s wrong?" Liz asked. "What about Isabel?"

"Nicholas kidnapped her," Max replied, sliding off the bed after planting one more firm kiss on her lips. She brought her hand up, touched her mouth, a slight frown on her face. A sense of familiarity ran through her at his action. The memory of it was just beyond her grasp…She almost groaned in frustration, forced herself to pay attention to what he was saying.

"Oh my God! Poor Isabel!" Liz exclaimed, jumping off the bed when his words penetrated. "What on Earth are we doing here?"

Max was pulling his shirt over his head. When his face reappeared, under his tousled dark hair, his expression was grim. "Will agreed to intervene. He and Kate said they had nothing to do with it."

Liz frowned. "You don’t sound convinced," she said, watching him carefully. She absolutely knew in her heart that Will had no idea of what Nicholas was capable. It seemed that Max was not so certain though. But if he had trusted Will in the first place…

"Liz, he gave you that cloth," Max told her. "He screwed with your mind. Whatever he might be doing right now, I can’t trust that it has anything to do with saving my sister. And that’s not the worst part. We let Alex go with them." He softened slightly as he seemed to become aware of the now troubled expression on her face. "We needed to make sure you were all right before we went in after them."

"Why?" Liz asked, surprised.

"We need you Liz. You’re part of our four square. Well, that’s not the only reason," he amended. "I wouldn’t have been able to think straight if I wasn’t sure before we went."

She blinked, ignoring the second part of this statement, being as it was not unexpected. No, it was the first part she couldn’t quite grasp. "What? What about Tess? What about Will?"

Max shrugged. "I have no idea. All I know is that we had a communication orb and you and I were the only ones able to make it work, even after you thought you were Serena."

Liz raised her hands, rubbed her temples. "God Max. Can this get any more confusing?"

He reached out, grasped her elbow gently, pulling her towards him. "I have a feeling it’s going to get worse before it gets better," he replied. She stared up at him. "But there is one thing that there is no confusion about, one thing that I won’t ever forget again."

She smiled slightly, already knowing where he was headed, but asking anyway, "And what’s that?"

"You and I are meant to be Liz Parker. No matter how many of our past life wives or husbands show up in the future, no matter how many times you try and convince me otherwise - and this includes pretending to sleep with ex-boyfriends," he added, running his hand lightly through her hair, sending a shiver down her spine, "Absolutely nothing is ever going to make me doubt you again." Max kissed her lightly, taking her by the hand. "C’mon. We have work to do."

To be continued…


posted on 2-Feb-2003 12:52:48 AM by Kath7
Part 26

"Where are we going anyway?" Alex asked as he stared out the window and watched the desert scrub fly past. He swallowed and gripped the door when the car seemed to speed up, if that was possible. Will had been in a desperate hurry ever since they had left the motel. While Nicholas had not admitted to having Isabel in his control, he had told Will where he could be found. Will had put the pedal to the metal from the moment they had been back in the newcomers’ car.

Not that Alex wasn’t glad. He was. The sooner they got to Isabel, the sooner he could be assured that she was safe. But dying on the way to rescue her was not exactly what he had counted on doing. He was just glad that his voice hadn’t squeaked when he asked because he was absolutely terrified.

He was glad he had a reason to pretend that it was because of the driver, and not what awaited them at the end of the ride. Alex hadn’t met Nicholas when everyone else had in Copper Summit, but he had heard enough about the little troll to make his skin crawl at the thought of seeing him in the flesh.

Of course, if he really was a Skin, his flesh had to be pretty darn revolting by now, Alex thought inanely. Why he suspected Nicholas might not be a Skin, Alex wasn’t sure. But the more he thought about it, especially since his conversation with Kate, the more he was sure that once they figured out who Nicholas really was and why he was lying to his king, the more all of this would actually make sense.

"Our birthplace," Will answered shortly.

Alex blinked in surprise. "And that’s near here?"

"Of course," Will snapped. All Alex could see was the back of Will’s head, but he could hear the scowl he was wearing in his voice. The alien king had been in a foul mood for hours - since they had left the Crashdown actually. Having Nicholas lie to him had not improved matters. Alex knew that it wasn’t what was really bothering him though. It was still the fact that Liz and Max had made that orb work, the fact that Will and Liz had not been able to do it. Alex absolutely knew it was.

"We were in the Crash," Kate reminded Alex quietly, turning her head to regard him, her blue eyes sad for a reason he didn’t quite understand. "Our guardians hid our pods in the desert near Roswell after we were liberated from the base. We were born there a few years ago and then taken into hiding."

Alex frowned. "I don’t get it," he said. "How did the Skins find you if they weren’t with you? And what happened to your first guardian anyway? He must have been a shapeshifter, right?"

There was a long silence. Kate continued to stare at him, her expression pinched. Alex could see the tension that was increasing in the line of Will’s back.

"We don’t know," Kate finally admitted softly. Alex abruptly understood why she was so sad. Everything they had ever known about themselves was turning out to be a lie. Nicholas had told them where to find him, but he had lied about having Isabel in his clutches. And he had apparently lied about everything else too.

"Shut up Kate," Will ordered. "You’ve said just about enough."

"Don’t talk to me like that!" Kate shot back. "I have every right to say whatever I want. We don’t even know anything anymore Will. Our only real chance is to work together. We’ll get Vilandra back and then we’ll sit down with Zan and the others and figure this all out."

"We will do no such thing," Will bit out fiercely. "None of them can be trusted."

"We can’t trust anyone anymore!" Kate wailed in frustration. "I’ve connected with Zan. I know he’s not evil. He’ll help us."

"Just like he helped us last time?" Will demanded. Alex felt his blood run cold when the alien king swung the steering wheel hard to the right and off the highway. It took him a moment to realize that they were on a dirt road now, that the move had not just been random. His heart gradually stopped thudding like it was going to come out through his chest.

"Something happened last time. Something made Zan change. I can’t believe I didn’t understand that before, but it has to be true. No one can become so different without a reason," Kate argued, sounding calmer again. "It is more than clear that nothing we remember is right." There was a long pause. Alex could tell that she wasn’t finished. He met Kate’s eyes again. He saw her take a deep breath, realized that she had looked at him in order to help her to gather her strength. He felt momentarily dumbfounded but then smiled at her encouragingly, realized where she was headed. She was going to tell Will the truth about what they thought they knew. He didn’t understand how this girl had so quickly become attached to him, why she trusted his judgment so implicitly, but he couldn’t help but feel honoured…and not a little attached right back. He allowed himself to fall into her eyes for a moment. God, she really was beautiful…

An instant flash of guilt ran through him. Here they were off to save Isabel and he was letting himself think about another girl. What kind of ass was he? Particularly considering that it was his fault that Izzy was in danger in the first place.

"Alex and I think that there was something going on between Zan and Rowena Will." Kate’s rushed confession pulled Alex back to the situation at hand. He grimaced. Ouch. That had been a little harsh.

"Don’t be ridiculous," Will said dismissively. "He’s using her now, confusing her for his own ends. I think I remember my own wife. She didn’t even know Zan."

"She did so," Kate reminded him. "The trade summit Will. On Valonia. They met then."

Will snorted. "Barely. Ro left for her summer palace almost immediately after his delegation arrived. She was there merely to greet him for formality’s sake. Her father was still alive and it was he who hosted the summit. She had no interest in the dispute between Knosis and Sardica. She chose not to attend, believing that her position as heiress to the throne of Valonia would only confuse matters. Ro wanted nothing to do with it, even as my wife."

"Ro wanted nothing to do with any of it Will," Kate reminded him gently. "Ever."

"Which is why she left," Will replied triumphantly. "So when would she have met Zan? For long enough for anything to be going on between them I mean?"

Alex was intrigued by Kate’s last statement, couldn’t help but ask, "What do you mean that Rowena wanted nothing to do with any of it?"

Kate sighed. "Rowena loved her own planet," she explained carefully. "She became a great queen for Valonia. But she really had no interest in politics beyond her planet’s atmosphere. The only time she ever made any sort of move to ally herself anywhere was when she married Khivar." She paused again. "And that was her father’s idea."

"She loved me," Will interrupted, sounding annoyed. "You’re right that she didn’t really care about politics though," he conceded. "Our marriage was a love match. I just happened to be King of Sardica." He sounded slightly amused when he added, "Much to her chagrin. But she was willing enough to marry me once I agreed to live on Valonia. And once the war started, she stood firmly against Antar. It was why Zan had Valonia destroyed."

Alex mulled this new information over for a few moments in silence. It was too bad that they couldn’t be certain that any of this was true. Will sounded so certain. But he just couldn’t buy it. If this was true - if there was no connection between Zan and Rowena - then why were Max and Liz the only ones able to make that orb work? Why had Max fallen in love with her from the first moment he laid eyes on her ten years before?

"I wonder why Max and all the others don’t have any of their memories," Alex commented. "And why was Liz separated from you all? The other weird thing is that there was absolutely no indication that she was anything other than human until after Max healed her. What is that about anyway? I’m almost positive that if you were to ask Mr. and Mrs. Parker they would tell you that Mrs. Parker gave birth to her."

"It is strange," Kate agreed. "Maybe the babies were switched? In the hospital I mean?"

Alex frowned. "Maybe. But if that’s true, then why did she come out of her pod as a baby? Isabel, Max and Michael were born as six year olds. We don’t even know for sure when Tess was born. We just know that she was left behind."

"Well, I know that we were older than that when we came out of our pods," Kate told him. "We were about ten. That’s probably why we have more memories than Zan and the others."

"That makes sense," Alex agreed. A thought crossed his mind. "You know, it would be really useful to know that for sure. We should also ask Tess how old she was when she was born. Because maybe she has memories she can access she doesn’t know about if she it was longer than we think. We’ve all just assumed she was born pretty much right after the other three, but we don’t know that for sure at all." Alex felt his suspicious nature regarding Tess rear its head again. He didn’t trust her at all. Never had, never would - and he didn’t think it was just for Liz’s sake.

He realized that now was not the time to think about Tess though. The car was pulling to a halt. Alex stared out the window. Dusk was just settling over the desert, but it was still light enough for him to realize that he recognized this place. "Oh my God," he gasped.

Kate, who had already climbed out of the car, stared back at him in surprise. Will had disappeared into the mouth of the cave. "What’s wrong?" She asked.

"I’ve been here before," Alex said, his throat dry. "We’re on the Mescalaro Reservation, aren’t we?"

"Yes," Kate acknowledged, frowning. "When were you here?"

"Last winter," Alex explained, following her into the dark entrance of the cave. "Michael…well, he was hurt. We used some stones from their planet to heal him."

"That’s weird," Kate replied. She stopped walking, admitted, "We haven’t been here in a long time. Our guardians used to bring us back sometimes, when we first came out of our pods, to read the markings on the walls."

"You can read them?" Alex demanded, his heart thumping.

"Sure," Kate shrugged. "Can’t they?"

"No. All we ever knew was that Nasedo wrote them."

"That’s why our people wanted us to read them. For hidden meanings. They thought the shapeshifters were trading information somehow, probably about where the other four were hidden. They got separated after the Crash of course, after they hid us here and the Royal Four wherever they were born." She paused, looked at him curiously. "Do they know where their pods are?"

Alex narrowed his eyes. "No," he said non-commitally, his conscience hurting at the lie. "They don’t remember." She seemed to accept this readily enough and he knew he was doing the right thing. Because even though he had never been there, he did know that it was where the granolith was located. It wasn’t like he’d be able to take Kate or Will there, but he had already told them too much without the others’ permission. It was his job to get information for his friends, but not to hand it out on their behalf.

It didn’t matter one bit that he felt like he could trust Kate, that he wanted to help her more with every passing minute. His loyalties were not with her. They couldn’t be. Not until he was absolutely sure that she would not betray Isabel and the others.

"It’s all just a big jumble though," Kate continued, oblivious to his guilt. "Whatever they were trying to tell each other, we can’t make it out. It’s in Wendarian, but a form we’ve never seen before."

"Hmmmmm," Alex replied, storing the information but deciding to change the subject. He hated even thinking about the pod chamber and the granolith. He was too scared he was going to leak something accidentally. The secret location of the granolith was the only bargaining tool Max still had if Will was unable to free Isabel. "I don’t remember any pods in here," he said instead.

"They were destroyed after our birth."

Alex was frowning again though, something having just occurred to him. "Wait a minute! If you guys were only born a few years ago, Nasedo must have known where you were! He wrote those symbols over thirty years ago!"

"Well he must have been the shapeshifter who hid us," Kate replied reasonably. "He didn’t know where the Royal Four were. They would have been hidden by one of the others."

"But why would he just let you all get taken by the Skins?" Alex demanded. "It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I’m getting the impression that you were all sent together in an attempt to resolve your differences here. Why did they split you up?"

"I don’t know anything," Kate admitted. "None of it makes any sense, does it? We don’t even know for sure that it’s why were sent together anyway. Maybe Nicholas will know."

"Nicholas. Right. Like we can trust anything he says." Alex felt his stomach clench. He peered into the gloom, could see the large cave where they had restored Michael’s balance just ahead, obviously lit up. Was Isabel up there? It didn’t seem likely that Nicholas would bring them to the place where he had his prize stashed, considering he had lied to Will about it.

"They’re arguing," Kate whispered. "Can you hear them?"

"Yeah. We should go back Will up." It was the last thing he wanted to do, but if Nicholas was going to admit to Isabel’s location, he needed to hear it.

Alex followed Kate through into the cave proper, just in time to hear Will saying, "…saw the message Nicholas. I order you to tell me where you have taken Vilandra."

"I don’t know what you’re talking about highness," the prepubescent twerp was whining. "I have not seen Vilandra since Copper Summit. You have been tricked somehow. Perhaps it was a shapeshifter?"

"Their Wendarian bodyguard is dead," Will snapped. "You had Venora kill him. Or have you forgotten already?" Alex assumed that "Venora" had been Congresswoman Whittaker.

"There were other shapeshifters on that ship highness," Nicholas argued. "Perhaps one of them."

"A shapeshifter with the ability to mindmeld?" Will asked coolly. "We saw it with our own eyes Nicholas. It was you."

"Highness, I swear it was not." Alex felt his blood run cold as the boy glanced past Will and right at him, seemingly aware of his presence for the first time. "A human? Why have you brought a human to this sacred place?" He snarled, his face abruptly going from cringing to threatening. "I knew that you should not have come here alone. You are all falling into their traps, aren’t you?"

"Whose traps?" Kate demanded. "We are perfectly safe Nicholas. Zan and the others…they are not the same. Why did you not tell us they don’t have their memories?"

Nicholas ignored her question though. "Where is Jack?" He shot back, his expression furious. Alex saw Kate flinch at that. "I thought so. So Vilandra is not the only one missing then?" He rounded on Will. "Why did you not tell me this before highness?"

"We thought he was with you!" Will roared, making Alex jump. "He killed the Rath worshipper and then disappeared."

"Well, this is just peachy." Nicholas started pacing. "We were just about to make up a perfect four square and now you’ve lost Jack?"

Alex watched Will run his hands through his hair in frustration. "It doesn’t matter. Something is awry anyway. Rowena and I…we are not matched."

"What?" Nicholas sounded flabbergasted. "What do you mean?"

"The message orb…We could not make it work. Neither could Zan and Ava. Rowena and Zan were the ones who managed to make it play."

"Well, that makes absolutely no sense." Nicholas glared at Alex, as though it was somehow his fault. He took a step back despite himself. He felt a shiver run down his spine when Kate’s hand came up and rested on the small of his back comfortingly.

"He’s really not that bad Alex," she whispered.

He looked at her. "You don’t think he’s behind this anymore?"

"Do you?" Kate asked. "He’s either an excellent actor or he really is shocked by all of this."

Alex hated to admit it, but he agreed. Nicholas seemed just as upset as any of them.

"…going to have to consult Khivar," Nicholas was saying. "He is not going to be pleased."

"I really don’t care," Will replied firmly. "We must have the truth. Something is completely wrong with all of this."

"You don’t care highness," Nicholas snapped sarcastically. "It’s not your neck on the line." He shook his head, muttering. "I can’t believe you lost Jack! And just when their four square has been weakened with Vilandra missing. It would have been the perfect opportunity to take them out."

"But, if Rowena isn’t matched to me anymore…" Alex could hear the sadness in Will’s voice. "What good would it have done anyway?"

"Okay, I’m only beginning to get how weird this all is," Alex spoke up. "Why on Earth were both Jack and Isabel taken at the same time? It’s like someone is trying to keep you all apart, like they don’t want either side to get strong enough to defeat the other."

"It is like that," Kate agreed. "But who? Who else is there?"

"Why me of course."

They all whipped their heads around and stared at the mouth of the cave. Alex felt his eyes widen in horror.

He should have known. The instant that Max and Liz made that orb work, they really all should have known. Because, in the end, there was no other explanation.

It was Tess.

"And since you’re all getting a little too close to the truth," she continued, "You’re all going to have to join Isabel and Jack." She pulled her hand out from behind her back, a throbbing orb sitting neatly on her palm. Tess smirked at him, tossed it in his direction. "Catch Alex."

He did, just as it exploded, sending him plunging into darkness.

To be continued…