posted on 20-Jul-2002 11:10:32 PM by DMartinez
Author: DMartinez
Email: shockerdm⊕icqmail.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Metz, Katims and UPN. No infringement intended.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Sequel to Why I Left


[center]Twister[/center]

The payphone was littered with graffiti, had questionable stains on the side but Benjamin Scott was trying to ignore all that. A soothing voice had all his attention. "Sweetie, if you're going to try, you're going to have to try. One day in Roswell isn't going to solve your mystery. You're going to have to put yourself out there. Ask questions… Are you doing okay? Do you need us to send you some money?"

"No. I have some. I'll get a room tonight and look for a job in the morning. You're right, you are. I need to stick around. I know that my dad was from here but… I guess I keep hoping that memories were genetic." Benjamin nodded into the phone. "I miss you though." He toed the base of the phone until he realized he was getting gum all over his shoes. "I really miss you, Ali."

"I miss you. I really miss that feeling of waking up beside you… oh wait, no I don't. I don't know what that's like."

He winced at the obvious hurt in her voice. "Baby-"

"Don't 'baby' me, Benjamin Scott."

Silence rung over the line as both their mind drifted back to that night. That incredible night that they had given themselves to each other and the beginning of his realization that he didn't belong in New York. That was the night Benjamin Scott realized that there was no way his parents could be his parents. Alison hadn't suspected much, though she had been impressed by their lovemaking. He had known, though. The dreams had intensified starting with that night. The face so much clearer, the longing that much greater, the feeling that his skin wasn't his own that much stronger. "Sweetie, I love you but you know that I have to do this."

"I do, Ben, I do." He could feel her heavy sigh over the phone line. "I love you."

"Love you, too. I'll call when I'm settled someplace… are my parents really bugging you?" Anxiously, he rubbed at a pen mark on the phone. He felt horrible about the position he had left his parents in.

"Yeah. I eat lunch with your mom every couple of days. Your dad is a little upset."

"Yeah, I figured. What did you tell them?"

"I let them know how you felt. That you thought you were adopted…"

"Ali, I am."

"I'm sure you think you are."

"Ali. What did my mom say?"

"Nothing."

"I wrote them a letter. I mailed it just in time to make the day's shipment. They'll get it soon. Then see what they tell you." Benjamin kicked the base of the phone. She didn't believe him. "I don't get you some days. You just told me that I wouldn't find anything after just one day and then you turn around and act like I made this up. I know that I'm adopted, Ali. David and Ginny are not my parents. I have to find my dad."

"Ben. Why just your dad? What about your mom?"

"I know she's dead. Somewhere in my head, I know it."

"How?"

"I just do. Dammit, Ali. I didn't want to fight with you. Look. I gotta go. I don't know what the curfew is here. I have to find a room and something to eat. I'll call you when I get settled somewhere." Hung up the phone before she could say a word. Clutching his jacket around his body, Benjamin made his way through the darkening streets of Roswell. It had taken him forever to find a working pay phone and now he'd have to find his way back to the main streets.

For the fifth time that day, he spotted the Crashdown. What had caught his eye the first time was the huge UFO over the entrance, the second time had been the huge hole in the UFO. Now, it was the old man teetering precariously on a ladder as he tried to repair the hole. Seeing that the man was about to fall, Benjamin rushed up to steady the ladder. The old man stopped and tested the ladder, looked down to notice the young man and went back to what he was doing. Benjamin watched with earnest as the man cleared out the broken pieces and put them in a small container, then poured some solution into the mess. He could hear it sizzle and then the man used a small scalpel to apply the mess to the hole. It dried almost as soon as it was applied.

Benjamin moved around to the other side of the ladder as the old man made his way down. The old man nodded his appreciation and folded the ladder, all the while inspecting the young man's appearance. "Come inside. You deserve a meal for keeping me from breaking my neck. Not many kids would help out."

"I'm not exactly from around here." Benjamin shrugged but followed the old man into the restaurant. Aliens hung from the corners in the walls, paintings obscured the peach walls, and alien balloons drooped from each table.

The old man snorted at the young man's answer. "I know you're not. I'd've recognized you. I've lived here all my life. Sooner or later every person in town comes in here, not to mention the tourists." The old man must have found a new wind because he bustled around gathering abandoned dishes and dumped them into a basin behind the counter. Yanked a menu from a holder and gave it to his guest. "Have a seat at the bar, decide what you want, I'll be back."

Benjamin sat and looked over the menu. He thought better of laughing out loud at the menu. He had been raised better than that. He eyed the remaining customers; some stuck-up looking kids and an old couple holding hands as they talked softly to each other. Before he knew it, the old man was back. Remembering those manners embedded in him, Benjamin held out his hand. "Benjamin Scott, sir."

"Geoffrey Parker." The man nodded and shook his hand firmly. "So, Benjamin, what'll it be?"

"Just some fries, sir. Actually, do you know the town curfew?" Benjamin mentally ran through the contents of his wallet.

"You're really not from around here. There is no town curfew… unless you're 17 or younger, then you have two hours to get home." Mr. Parker wiped his hands on his apron and picked up an order pad. "Need the name of the nearest hotel, son?"

"Yes, please." Benjamin sat up straight. "Thank you, Mr. Parker."

"Well, I'll tell you. Roswell may not be enforcing city curfews yet but they won't let a kid your age rent a room in any hotel."

"Oh." His renewed posture sank.

"I'll tell you what, though. You eat up, help me close this place down for the night and the couch in the break room is yours for the night." Mr. Parker turned and slipped the order on the rack. An audible grumble came when a hand reached up to take the slip.

"That's really generous of you, but I couldn't."

"Where are you from, boy?" Mr. Parker scooped up a glass of ice and pointed to the soda fountain.

"Cherry Coke. Um, New York."

"Well, I don't know what's generous in New York but here, it's an act of good faith." Slid the glass in front of the boy. "You remind me of someone I once knew. Trust me, as bad as that old couch is, it's better than trying to sleep in the streets and keeping away from the watchful eye of the police force." Leaned on the counter to look the boy in the eye. "Any person in house would call me crazy to let a strange boy in my house but you held that ladder steady so I wouldn't widow my wife. If you do some work tonight, you think you could work hard enough to cover the 20 bucks a motel would charge if they let you have a room?"

"Maybe, I'm not sure. I haven't exactly worked before."

Mr. Parker turned long enough to pick up his young guest's dinner and place it in front of him. "No?"

"No. I’m from New York but from… the penthouse above my father's accounting business in the better part of the city. We're never for want of anything." Benjamin stared at the plate, thought about protesting to the sheer amount of food on the plate but thought better of it and just dug in. He noted the waitress on duty cashing out the last of the customers and figured it was near to closing. Grateful, he took a big bite of the burger, knowing the old man was watching every motion.

"Mind if I ask what you're doing so far from home? And a home with a city curfew at that. Didn't imagine they would let many people out of those areas." He took a seat on a stool that was concealed by the high counter.

"They don't. I kinda snuck out of the city." Benjamin admitted as he set his burger down. "I'm just here looking for some family. I'm not in any trouble."

"Your parents know you're here?"

"They will in a few days. I wrote them a letter, sent it off today."

"I'll bet they're worried sick." Mr. Parker sighed heavily. "You should have told them you were leaving."

"I had to come. My real father could be here somewhere… or there could be someone that knew him, knows where he is now." Benjamin stopped talking abruptly, realizing how passionate he sounded, how desperate.

"Adopted?" Mr. Parker nodded slightly. "I guess I can understand that. When did you find out?"

"Few weeks ago. I just hope my parents will be willing to tell me what they can, when I was adopted, if they knew who my father is or who my mother was, if he really was from here." The young man turned his amber eyes to his half-eaten food and swallowed thickly. It didn't taste as good as it should have. It tasted… bland. He ran a tongue through his mouth. "Do you have any hot sauce?"

"Yeah," reached over and plucked a bottle from the shelf behind him, set in on the counter. "Your parents didn't tell you that you were adopted?"

"No. But I know they aren't really mine. I have a dream of my real father, but I don't know how old I was when he either gave me up, or I was taken. I hope I wasn't taken because that would mean my parents were bad people and I know they're not." He poured some Tabasco sauce on his burger and tasted it, a little better than before. He poured on a little more and wolfed the rest of his burger and fries, gulping down his coke in moments. He glanced around at the empty dining room. "Clean the tables?"

"I'll clear them. You wipe them down, put the chairs on the tables, then sweep and mop. My wife and I will clean the kitchen. Rudy, back there, has dish duty. If he doesn't do it before curfew, you can take out the trash. Think that'll earn your keep for the night." Mr. Parker rose from his stool and picked up a rag. "Welcome to Roswell, Mr. Scott."

Wiping his face with a napkin, Benjamin took a look around the restaurant. There was a lot of work to do and he'd gratefully do it if it meant he had a place for the night and a chance to stick around long enough to find any trace of the man who had created him. A single trace of the man who could have the answers to all the strange things that were happening to him.

TBC

[ edited 27time(s), last at 15-Feb-2003 5:43:15 PM ]
posted on 21-Jul-2002 2:55:53 AM by DMartinez
http://pub65.ezboard.com/frealmdmfrm17.showMessage?topicID=85.topic

that's the link. I didn't take it down, I just moved it to the finis section.
posted on 22-Jul-2002 2:52:15 AM by DMartinez
Note: The title is a reference to a Remy Zero song from the little liked second album.

[center]Part 2[/center]


Benjamin pulled the blanket back from over his head when he smelled the bacon and pancakes and eggs and sausage and waffles and hash browns… at which point he realized that he was hungry. When his eyes focused, a short thin woman was reaching up for a basin high on a shelf. Rubbing his eyes, he stood and retrieved it for her. She stared at him for a second and then looked to the couch. "He didn't."

"What?" Benjamin rubbed at his eyes again.

"Did Geoffrey let you sleep on this couch?"

"You must be Mrs. Parker." He dutifully and politely held out his hand for her to shake. "Benjamin Scott."

"I can't believe him. I thought he was joking. He let you sleep down here when we have a perfectly fine bed upstairs for you to use." Mrs. Parker shook his hand and directed him to the bathroom. "Clean up and come out front for breakfast. I'm going to have a few words with my husband."

Bewildered, he did as told. When he emerged from the bathroom and into the dining room, she was waiting beside a plate heaped with eggs, pancakes and bacon and a glass of milk. "Wow. Thank you."

"Geoff told me some story about some ruffian that appeared out of nowhere and saved him from breaking his neck. Then he tells me this kid is going to sleep on the couch. Of course at the ruffian reference I immediately tuned him out. I didn't believe him for an instant. He should have brought you upstairs. We have an extra bed within four walls. You didn't have to wake up at 4:30 when we opened for the truckers."

"It's 4:30?" Benjamin nearly choked on his eggs, which were much too bland… although he had never taken them with any spices before. "A.M.?"

"Sorry, honey." She gave him an apologetic smile as she studied him from head to toe. "Maybe you looked more like a ruffian last night."

"Guess I didn't come prepared for Roswell. I didn't figure people would dress any different." He saw the raised eyebrow on her face and winced. Maybe he did stick out a little with the clothes and the tattoos. His parents weren't too fond of those either. Reaching over the counter, he retrieved the Tabasco sauce from where he remembered replacing it the night before. After dousing his eggs, he set into them with more gusto.

"So, what exactly brings you to Roswell? I think Geoff said something about you coming from New York." She sat on the stool and watched him soak his pancakes with syrup. Her blue eyes watched every movement with wonder. It was odd seeing a teenager eat up close after so many years, then again, her daughter didn't eat so much.

"I'm looking for my father, my real father. I think he's from around here. I'm kinda waiting on word from my parents before I waste too much time." His tongue swept his mouth. The aftertaste of Tabasco sauce mix with the sweet of the syrup soaked pancakes sent his taste buds buzzing. Soon he was mixing his eggs into the syrup run-off. "Do you know where I could get a place to stay for a few days?"

"If I heard Geoffrey correctly last night… sorry son." Mrs. Parker shook her head. "We may not have city curfew but the law is really strict on minors. Until you're 19, you can't vote, rent a room without parental consent or get an apartment without court order and letter of state emancipation."

Silence fell over the counter as Benjamin mulled it over. Finally, he looked up at the old woman. "Do you think you could help me out?"

"What with?" Those blue eyes seemed to brighten at the opportunity to help.

"I'm 17 years old. Was there anyone around here that had a baby that long ago?" His amber eyes pleaded with her to be able to remember.

"About a quarter of the town, Benjamin." She nodded her head woefully. "I'm thinking though. You'd need a couple that gave their baby up. Probably teenagers. I think my daughter told me that a couple of girls her age were pregnant but I can't vouch for the years or the girls."

"Any of them die?"

"No. Sorry, that I would remember. It's rare these days… and even then for a girl to die in child birth… unless she was really young and even then, really rare." She reached out and squeezed his hand. "Why don't you call your parents? Maybe they have something to tell you. Phone upstairs, long distance weekends, a shower, some of Geoff's old clothes?"

"I couldn't impose more than I already have." He shook his head but absorbed the warmth in her hand.

"You haven't imposed yet. I'm an old woman who hasn't had a child in the house for 16 years. I'm dying to give attention to someone. Finish eating and I'll let you up." She stared at him until he relented, which fortunately for her was soon, the customers were beginning to line up to pay.

Half an hour later, saw him showering for the first time in days. The hot spray washed away six days worth of filth. He cut his shower short, realizing that Roswell was probably on a stricter water restriction than New York was. As he dried, he heard voices muffled through the door. He recognized the softer voice as Mrs. Parker and the other as Mr. Parker.

"No. No way."

"You let him stay the night here, you trusted him enough for that."

"I locked the apartment door after I made sure he was settled. He's not staying in Liz's room."

"Just consider it, Geoff. He's got no place to go and if the sheriff picks him up, they'll ship him back to New York. Let him have the option of staying here until either he goes home to his parents or finds out where his father is."

"Not in Liz's room."

"She's not coming back, Geoff. She's gone. Wherever she is, I hope she and Max found someone who would give them a chance… just like I want to do for Benjamin Scott." There was a long awkward pause. "You know I'm right. She married him and you know she would have come back if she could. She wants to be with him and it's not safe for him here. You know she liked helping people. Let him stay in a comfortable bed for a few nights while he figures things out. We have to open the room someday and it's been 16 years."

"I'll think about it."

"Don't think too long. I've only got two hours while his clothes wash and dry before he'll try to leave. I want him well fed, dressed and on the phone to his parents before he tries." Her voice sounded so thick and pleading that Benjamin had to lean into the door to make sure he was hearing right. "He's just a boy. I talked to him this morning. He's a lot more well-bred than he looks."

"I know but… I don't know if I can risk it… even for a few days."

"Geoff…"

"Okay. Just for a few days. It's not like he'll stay long enough to get attached… but Liz's room-"

"Should be used as something other than a shrine to a daughter that doesn't exist anymore."

"Just a few days. Promise me."

"I promise."

Benjamin sagged against the door. At least a quarter of that argument had been about him. It made him wonder what happened that their daughter had never returned. Mustering up his strength, he dressed in clothes that were too long for him by a few inches and a little snugger than he was used to. Mr. Parker was a thinner man than he looked… or at least he used to be by the obvious age of the clothes. When he finally emerged, Mrs. Parker was waiting in the living room.

"Guess I misjudged your size. I must be losing my knack… either that or I'm still thinking in girl terms." She tugged on the shirt slightly. "Maybe my memories of Geoff are a little biased as well."

The smile won out and he shook his head slightly at her. She was obviously still in love with her husband after at least 32 years from what he could figure. "I don't think these clothes were built with my generation in mind."

"Probably not. God, I can't be that old." She shook her head and handed him a cordless phone. "Call your folks. They're probably worried to death."

"I wrote them a letter. It'll get there in a few days…" He tried to weasel out of the call.

"You underestimated the postal service. When did you mail it?" She challenged him.

"Yesterday morning, for the first shipment out." Benjamin sank onto the couch. "If I call them now, it negates everything in that letter."

"A-ha." Mrs. Parker sank into the chair across from him. "Nobody writes letters anymore. My last letter to my sister in Florida took 14 hours to get there. Your parents probably got it already. These new planes are quite the miracle workers these days." Blue eyes set. "Call them."

"Fine." Benjamin punched in the 14 digits and hit talk.

"Why in the world didn't I know how to do this when Liz was home?" She shook her head in amazement and left him to have some privacy.

The phone rang exactly one and a half times. "Hello?"

"Hi, Mom."

"Benjamin Scott! Where in the hell are you?" His mother's voice came over the line like she wanted to reach through and throttle him.

"New Mexico." He winced at her sharp inhalation.

"Why are you in New Mexico? Why did you leave? How did you get there? How did you get the money?"

"I cancelled my classes for the semester, I took the down payment back and took the bus. You didn’t happen to get the mail yet, did you?"

"Yes but I haven't read it because I'm too busy wondering where in the world my son is."

Benjamin bowed his head and tucked his knees up against his chest. "Could you go through it and see if there's a letter from me?"

"What?" She seemed miffed but sounded as if she was doing as told. "I don't know what would possess you to run off in the middle of the night like that. We're all worried about you. Alison hasn't been very forthcoming with details but I don't think she's lying to me. She doesn't know where you are does she?"

"I called her last night."

"Oh. So you called Alison but not your poor worried parents. I see how that wor—" Her rant was cut off in mid-sentence just moments after he heard the familiar rip and pull method she used to open mail. "Oh. David! Oh my god. David! Get up here! Oh my god." He heard the springs in the couch as she sank onto it. Then he heard the heavy footsteps as his father joined her in the living room. Could barely make out the grumble as he asked what was so important that he was called away from a client. Then the dead silence of what could only be silent communication. "Benny?"

"Yeah, Mom. Did you read it?"

"Yeah." Heard her pass the letter to his father.

"Am I right?"

"Yes but I'm afraid there's nothing that we can tell you."

"Nothing?" Benjamin felt near tears. He was adopted, confirmed. More information? Not for Benjamin Scott. "There's nothing? How old was I when you adopted me? Where am I from? Who's my father? Am I in the right place looking for him? Tell me something, anything."

"Benny?" His father's strained voice came over the line. "Why don't you come home? We can talk about this face to face, like adults."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?" He leapt to his feet, suddenly angry. "Since when am I too grown up for anything? Especially when it's this important. What if something had happened to me? What if I had to be hospitalized and I needed to contact my biological parents? What would have happened then? Were you just going to accept my inevitable death?"

"Benjamin." A soft voice called to him. He turned to find Mrs. Parker near him. She put a hand on his shoulder and guided him back onto the couch. "Let them explain. I'm sure there's a good reason for why they did what they did."

"Who's there with you, Benny?" His father half-whispered.

"Just a friend I met here." Benjamin tried to control the rage of emotions that rushed through his body. "Can you just answer any one of those questions? Please?" He took a deep breath and rested his face on his hand, his elbow on his knee and Mrs. Parker's hand on his back. "I'm not going home until I find him."

Energy seemed to build in his chest as the silence hummed over the line. "Okay. I'll tell you what we know. We adopted you on May 2, 2002. Your birthday." Heard a deep shuddering breath and the steady click of his mother's heels as she paced. "We just wanted a baby, we were thrilled when we were told that the father was willing to give up any and all rights to his son. We weren't told your real name, just told that you would need one for records and social security.

"You were nearly a year old when you came to us. Your mom asked where you had come from… just in case. We were told that it didn't concern us and that we'd be better to forget how we came upon you. It had an air of conspiracy to it and we were content to forget it as long as we got a child. We were reassured that all you had was a father who gave you up for whatever reason, your mother was dead. We don't know how or when but like I said, we weren't too concerned if it meant we got to keep you."

Benjamin felt his world closing in around him. It was one thing to know but to have it confirmed was a whole other story. He never felt the tears running down his face as he mourned the loss of his mother. The woman who had given him life, had probably taken care of his every need for that first year of his life. What did she look like? Did he have her hair? Her eyes? Her smile? How did she die? Was it in childbirth? Was it an illness, a disease? Could he get it?

"Benny, sweetie?" His mom's voice was back on the line. "I was the one who made the arrangements. Our lawyer, Mr. Wheldon, you remember him? Well, he had gotten a call from a colleague down in Roswell, New Mexico, where you are… and that's how we got you. But who knows how the lawyer in Roswell got you. It… if… If you are serious about finding the man who gave you up… it would be a start to find the lawyer who set it up with Mr. Wheldon."

"Do you have his name?" Benjamin found it hard to speak. This energy in his chest had stopped growing but it idle. For just a moment, he gave way to the idea that there shouldn't be energy building anywhere in his body. "I know that Mr. Wheldon passed last year but surely he would have made sure you could contact the friend just in case, right?"

"He didn't, sweetie. I'm sorry. Like your father said, we were told the details weren't important and we were at the point where we didn't care as long as we had you to bring home." She took a breath and let it out shakily, that let him know she was crying. "I wish we could help you but we didn't think you would find out. You've always been so happy with who you are. How did you find out?"

"Just got a feeling." He sniffed and swallowed thickly.

"I don't know how you know what you do but you're probably on the right track. Promise me that you'll take care of yourself and stay out of trouble."

"I will."

"Where are you staying?"

"I'm not sure yet. I was going to look for someplace to stay for a few days." He sat up and wiped a hand over his wet face. Mrs. Parker snapped her fingers for him to hand over the phone.

"Mrs. Scott?" She asked politely. "I'm Nancy Parker. Benjamin stayed here last night and if it's alright with you, we'd like to keep him a few days. My husband and I own a restaurant called The Crashdown in downtown Roswell. Our apartment is right above. We have the extra room and we'd love to let him stay here." She rose to her feet as she listened a moment to his mother. "Ginny, if I may… My daughter went missing 16 years ago, I know how you've felt these past few days. I'll make sure he eats, sleeps and he'll earn his keep if you're worried about that. You've raised him up really fine."

Benjamin watched her pace as she talked to his mother and just stared through her. That ball of energy seemed to die a little… into a big ball of lead right in the middle of his chest. Distantly, he listened as they exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Apparently the two mothers had come to an understanding and were working together to mother him.

"Is he really?" Nancy whispered in awe, her blue eyes shot to her young guest. "Wow, four years? And he still had a normal childhood?"

"No." Benjamin tuned into the conversation immediately, given the keywords. His hands went to his face as it flamed red.

"Wow. A bonafide genius in my house." She smiled at his reaction. "I will, Ginny. We'll keep in touch." She turned on him. "Come on. I think you want to be alone after that. You can putter around in Liz's room while you ponder the mysteries of your existence." He followed and was soon swept into a room with a red bedspread and plenty of academic achievement awards. Nancy began talking about her daughter as she stripped the bed of its sheets and worked on putting fresh ones on. Where had the new ones come from? Did she stop in the hall? "Here I thought Liz was a smart girl. She was, of course, but you graduated high school four years ago. You were what? Thirteen?"

"Something like that." He nodded dumbly.

"Wow. Wouldn't know it to look at you, no offense." She pulled a sheet tight over the mattress and slipped the elastic over the edges. "My Liz was really into science. Where she got that from I'll never know. Geoff and I weren't too bright in high school but then with all the drugs, who was?" Benjamin let his eyes follow the length of the room. "Science club, National Honor Society, Astronomy club. Always kept her grades up. She was going to Northwestern. Three-quarter scholarship for their microbiology plan. Man, I only wish she had gone."

"She ran away?" Puzzled, he stared at a bunch of pictures that were stuck to the mirror, all obviously of their daughter but the head of the guy next to her in all of them were missing. "What happened there?"

"That." Nancy glanced toward the doorway and then crossed over to pick up a few of the pictures. "Well, 16 years ago, it was Geoff's turn to do the laundry. A few days before Liz's graduation, I believe, this blanket was pulled in from the roof and stuffed into the hamper. It wasn't until that following weekend that we got to it. We had just figured that Liz ran off with her boyfriend, Max. Well, Geoff pulls that blanket out of the hamper and the evidence left on it was damning." She caught his eye, raised an eyebrow and replaced one of the pictures. "He came in here and cut Max out of each and every photo, burning the poor kid's face with almost inhuman glee."

"So… Oh." Benjamin nodded. "Note to self, wash sheets yourself when out deflowering."

"Geoff was upset for days over that. Then, of course, he came back and put the pictures in their place because she wasn't coming back and Max was our son-in-law."

"She eloped?" He turned to watch her make quick work of the sheets and bed spread.

"Kind of. She ran away, sent us a letter a few months later. She'd been married two months by then. We haven't heard word from her since." Nancy smoothed the red bedspread and straightened. "She was your age when she left. Lie down. Rest. You've got a lot on your mind."

Two minutes after she shut the door behind her, he took her advice and stretched out on the bed. The lead ball liquefied and spread through his limbs, making them heavy, making him drowsy. The wave of images that assaulted him would have knocked him off his feet had he been standing. When it was over, all he could say for certain was that the blanket on the roof was not the only witness to Liz's between the sheets activities.

TBC
posted on 22-Jul-2002 5:29:14 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 3[/center]

Benjamin rose from the bed around noon, still confused as hell. It had taken him a couple of hours to recover from the erotic images that had flowed through him at the initial contact with the bed. No faces really, just bodies, body parts, lips and lots of naked touches that had led to much more. He could only assume that it was Liz Parker in the images, it was her bed and her room. It added about five thousand more questions to the mountain he already had for his father when he found him. He needed a walk, a phone book and… lunch after he found his own clothes.

Waving to Mr. Parker, Benjamin moved into the dining room and plucked a phone book from behind the counter. Plopping down with it on a stool, he began flipping through it. Mr. Parker put his hands on his hips and cleared his throat. "How'd you know that was there?"

"It's always there." He answered without thinking. He froze and thought about it. He had just known that phone book was there. "I mean…" There had to be an explanation for knowing something that he couldn't have. "The phone's right there, the phone book is never far away." It was true, wasn't it? Felt true. Felt like something he knew just like he knew where the phone book was.

"Making some calls?" Geoff leaned on the counter and studied the red-faced young man.

"I'm jumping right in. I'm going to find every lawyer in town that had anything to do with the man that arranged the adoption for my parents." Benjamin cleared his throat. "I'll help close up again tonight. I promise. I just can't put a hold on this."

"You'd better hurry. The law district here closes down at three unless they've made appointments." Geoff barely blinked at him before returning to the lunch crowd.

Slowly took in a deep breath and let it out even slower. He had almost given himself away. That memory of knowing where the phone book was, it definitely wasn't one of his own but how in the world was he accessing Liz Parker's memories. He was almost certain that's where they came from, especially after the episode on her bed. Forgoing the meal, he ran his eyes over the lawyer section of the yellow pages and headed out with a quick wave to the Parkers.

Pulling his leather trench coat around his body, he started into the first law office. Fifteen minutes later he was outside again with orders to return on Monday around 10:30 when the oldest member of the firm was available for a few minutes. The next two offices turned him out immediately, insisting they didn't handle criminal cases. By the time four o'clock rolled around, the law district was dead and he had made only a fourth of the round. Upset and frustrated with that ball of energy reforming, he let his feet take him where they would.

When he looked up, he was staring at the bench he had found two days before. Mentally exhausted from the constant interaction with rude people and dealing with his own problems, he sat down on the bench and just stared at the floor. Let the thoughts float through his mind. Making love to Alison had been the siren, whistles and bells that had opened his eyes to his differences but he wondered when he had begun to change. He knew somewhere deep down that he hadn't always been different to himself. Maybe he had actually been different the whole time and only noticed recently. Had there been clues?

Sure, he had odd tattoos but if you wanted them to be original, they had to be odd. There was one on his forearm that Alison hated. It was an X drawn thickly with hollow points. He had liked it when he had drawn it but later he had let Alison convince him that it was ugly. She didn't mind the circle and swirls on his back though. Even before they had had sex, she loved to lay him on his stomach so she could trace the design from another one of his doodles.

Alison, it was a miracle they had met. She was still in high school like a normal person. His college had a summer head start program for troublemakers to get job experience and he had met her at registration. She had only glanced at him one when she took his card and he was entranced for the remainder of the day. He asked her out the next day when he went to his advisors about his classes. They had been dating for a year already and he could feel it falling apart around him. She lied to him to make him feel better but she refused to realize that he hated it. Earlier, his mother had barely made mention of keeping in contact with Alison to know where he was. Alison had said they ate lunch often, that she had hold his mother about his concerns surrounding his origins. His mother wasn't really the type to hold back information, excepting his origins that was.

The ball of energy had stopped forming some time ago and as he sat there, it liquefied and spread through his body just like it had on Liz Parker's bed. Immediately, he was swept into his own memory of his father. The sad smile, loving eyes wet with tears, strong embrace… His father looked to his left just slightly, acknowledging something said or the presence of something there. Then his head looked up and right at an older woman who was speaking very softly. His father nodded and then looked down on him again. Though the words weren't said, he felt them. 'I love you, my son.' Then his hand came across his forehead and the clarity of the moment sharpened intensely. Two women were with his father. One to his left and one to his right. Then it was gone. One of them asked a question and his father's mouth moved for the first time. 'Just a memory.'

The woman on the right cleared her throat. "Are you okay?"

That's when he realized that the woman on the right was real. She was older than she had been a few seconds ago but she was real and talking to Benjamin. He straightened from his position. "I'm sorry. I'll leave."

He wanted to, very badly, but it was the same woman. Standing, he looked her over to be sure. She peered at him curiously, probably scared of the punk that had been sitting on her front porch. "Were you looking for someone?"

"I…" His voice wouldn't come and his feet wouldn’t move. "You wouldn't happen to be a lawyer, would you?"

"No… but my husband is." She tilted her head as she studied him closely. "He specializes in litigation though."

"Oh." His chest sagged. "I'm sorry to have bothered you." Still his feet wouldn't move.

"Did you have a legal question? I'm sure he'd have no problem answering it. He's not home this moment but I could pass on the message." She bent her head to peer up at his lowered head, sparkling blue eyes trying to get a good look at his face.

Hands shoved into jeans pockets. "What color are your husband's eyes?"

"Blue."

"Never mind. I'm sorry to have bothered you." He made his way down the sidewalk at a shuffle. Three-quarters of the way, he stopped short. Images shot through his mind. His father carrying him down the sidewalk and pausing at the end. A hand touched his baby hand lightly, a woman, the woman on the left. Liz Parker. His father placed him into someone else's arms and the memory was lost. It happened here. This was the spot where his father had given him up. Benjamin continued on down the sidewalk and beside the archway another barrage of images waited. His father crying into a woman's shoulder as the car drove away. His father falling apart and clinging to… Liz Parker.

Were they linked? Were they friends? Dating? Was he the face missing from all those pictures? Who was that woman? Just a lawyer's wife or did she play a bigger role in all this? What had made his father give up his son that he apparently loved so much it hurt to give him away? What was so important that all the details surrounding the local end of the adoption be kept secret? If his father was indeed the missing face in Liz's pictures, what was so horrible about Max that Mr. Parker hated? Did this make Liz Parker his stepmother? Was he somehow related to the Parkers in this roundabout way?

His brain was ready to explode with the many possibilities. Trudging back up the walk, he stared at the bench and the chair. The comfort with the people who had sat there over 16 years ago was implied. They were familiar with sitting there. They knew the house. Steeling himself, he knocked on the door like he should have done two days before, only two days ago he didn't have the Liz Parker factor to work for him.

The elderly woman answered the door and for the first time he realized she must have been in her fifties or sixties. "Yes, did you think of something?"

"My name is Benjamin Scott." He winced when his voice cracked. "I really need to know your relation to Liz Parker."

"Who are you with?" She asked suspiciously. That suspiciousness made his own rise higher.

"If I'm right, you knew her well? Am I right?" He pleaded with her through the screen door. "You knew her? She was here, right?"

"She's my daughter-in-law." Her words sobered him immediately, that couldn't be.

"But your eyes are blue."

"Well, yes they are."

"And you said your husband's are blue. That can't be if Liz Parker is your daughter-in-law." Benjamin sagged noticeably. "I can't be wrong. My father has the same eyes that I do and if he lived here…"

"My god." She took a step back from the door. "Zan?"

"What is that? Is that my real name? Did you know him? Is Max my father? I know you were here when he gave me up. You were here and so was Liz Parker. The Parkers said she married Max. Do you know Max?" He couldn't get the questions out fast enough. His hand was shaking and that damn energy ball was building again, like it had never stopped. "She's not my mother, is she? Liz Parker? No, she couldn't be, they didn't until after… Who is Max?"

"How did you know to come here?" She didn't move from her spot half in the shadows of the doorway.

"I remembered this house, I remembered him holding me on the porch, right there." He pointed behind him. "I remembered."

"You couldn't. You were only 10 months old… unless." She gasped again, taking another step into the shadows. The memory of the glow over the baby's head and under her son's hand. "He gave you that memory, didn't he?"

"Who is Max?" Benjamin demanded, sinking to his knees on his side of the door. He could feel the tears streaming down his face. "I need to find him. I need to talk to my father."

"It's too dangerous, you shouldn't be here." She whispered finally and shut the door. "Please go and forget that you knew where your father was from."

"Please, just answer me. What's his name? I need to know, please." The energy built in a frenzy. This huge ball spalling in his chest, it felt like it was ripping a hole in his chest. "Please tell me if I was right."

After five minutes, the door inched open and her face appeared near his. "Max Evans was the name we gave him."

"Was he your son?"

"Yes. We adopted him when he was six. He left us when he was 17 and then for good when he was 18. That's all I can safely tell you. That and please don't come back. He would never forgive us if anything happened to you." Tear tracks marred her face. "Please go back to New York with your parents."

"Where is he?" The spallation in his chest slowed slightly.

"I honestly don't know. He ran off with Liz Parker graduation night and he never came back. They sent one letter after they had been married a couple of months and that's the last we ever heard. Please, go home."

"Wait. Do you know?" He clung to the door, pressing his nose against the screen. "Do you know?"

"Know what?"

"Why I am the way I am?"

She shook her head, the tears pouring down her face. "He said you were normal."

"I'm not. You know?"

"Not all of it. Not enough to help you. I only knew for the week you were with us. Then he left again and didn't explain what we didn't know. That's why he gave you up. He wanted you to be normal. Please… don't come back. They might still be watching." The door shut and he fell to the ground to absorb it all. Two minutes later, he was wiping at his face and tearing down the street, jacket flying behind him.

One, maybe two people in all of Roswell knew him and the secret that his father kept for most of the time he spent with his own parents. 'They' might be around. Whoever 'they' were. What exactly had a 17 year old kid got himself into that had his parents frightened of 16 years later? Did it have something to do with the many changes he had been experiencing over the past few weeks? Just when Benjamin thought it would be too much to handle, car alarms went off as he passed by them, streetlights exploded even though they were turned off, street signs spun around… and the energy was subsiding. Luckily for him, it all stopped twenty minutes before he made it back to the Crashdown before nightfall. He had his own questions for the Parkers but he would have to find a way to get the information without them reacting the way Mrs. Evans had.

TBC
posted on 23-Jul-2002 10:43:42 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 4[/center]

Benjamin bussed the tables and cleaned the dining room as it needed it from the time he entered just after dark until after closing. The Parkers had noticed his mood and had left him alone. He had only tried to keep his emotions under control because from what he could figure, high emotions triggered the energy and he couldn't risk someone getting hurt the next time his emotions got out of control.

Finally, around 11 o'clock, he trudged up the stairs and knocked politely on the apartment door. Mr. Parker answered it and stood aside but Benjamin wouldn't enter. "Is it really okay if I stay in her room?"

Geoff nodded his head solemnly. "It's hard to let go of your baby, even if she's 33 around now."

Benjamin nodded and stepped into the apartment, trying to ignore the memory of being in his father's arm for just minutes before he was taken away, given away, disappeared for what everyone thought was his own good.

"Nancy's cooked. I think you ought to stick around. I could get used to this." Geoff patted the young man's back and ushered him to the kitchen. "I was wondering when you were going to come up. We were starting to get worried. I knew it didn't take that long to close up."

"I was thinking." Gave a little shrug and took a seat at the table.

"Did you find anything?" Nancy set a plate in front of him and took a seat across from him and Jeff.

"Yeah. I did." Benjamin answered shortly and stabbed at his mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

"Really, you found the lawyer?"

"Kind of. I met his wife." He pushed the chunks of meat beneath his potatoes. "Met my grandmother and found out my dad's name."

"Well that's good. Where is he?" Nancy offered him a smile that faltered when he continued to play with his food rather than eat it.

"He's married and he doesn't keep in regular contact with her. She doesn't know where he is and she thinks I shouldn't go looking for him… or stick around here." He sighed heavily and took a bite of his mess, not tasting a bit of it. He wished he could fish for some details but he couldn't think of a way to get some answers without arousing suspicion in them.

"Well, that's just awful. You'd think your own grandmother would be glad to see you." Geoff shook his head and rose to check the apartment door.

"I don't know. She seemed afraid that people would find out that I was here. I don't know." Another heavy sigh and thoughtful chew on his food. "Maybe I should forget it. Someone went to great pains to keep me away. For all I know he was a criminal and he's on the run."

"Possibly. Nowadays, they lock you in public cells if you've not served time on a previous offense." Geoff offered and sat once more. "Don't give up if you really need to meet him." Clearing his throat, he rubbed his hands together. "Do you remember him?"

"Only that he cried when he gave me up." Benjamin looked to the older man next to him.

"Well, he loves you. He wanted you safe. That's got to count for something. Fathers always want to protect their children." The Parkers' heads bowed slightly as they thought on their daughter.

After a moment of silence, Benjamin had finished half his plate and the wheels in his head were turning. "What did you want to protect Liz from?"

"Her boyfriend." Geoff answered immediately. "He just seemed to attract trouble."

"He was always good to Liz." Nancy protested.

"He cheated on her."

"They were broken up." The two glared at each other.

"She was still in love with him."

"And seeing Sean DeLuca." Apparently she had made a point because the two just stared at each other for a while, until she felt she had to push her point. "Now, he was a bad influence. Straight from juvenile hall."

"Alright. You're right but that doesn't excuse him for hurting her the way he did."

"She forgave him, it's about time you did too."

Benjamin rose to rinse off his plate and give them some time to finish their argument. His eyebrows shot up when he hear Geoff's counter. "He had a child by her, Nancy. No matter that Tess is dead, or that Liz forgave him. Max is the father of a child that doesn't belong to his wife."

"And?" Nancy raised an eyebrow at him. "If he would have kept Zan, Liz would raise him as her own… we raised her well." She stormed from the room and slammed a door behind her.

"Liz is a special girl." Geoffrey explained to his young guest. "Maybe Liz would love Zan like her own but he gave him up. Understandable, I suppose, with all the ruckus that Max tended to cause. No need to inflict that on an innocent baby."

"What did Max do?" Benjamin had to know. Did the Parkers know what Mrs. Evans knew?

"A lot of things that public incarceration wouldn't cover if they caught him. I hope to God that they don't." Mr. Parker's eyes shot heavenward in silent prayer. "As long as he keeps my daughter safe, I hope he lives a long life."

"What would you do if you saw her stepson?" The young man crossed his arms and waited.

"Get him the hell out of here and away from everyone that knows who he really is." Geoff shook his head. "Max has some pretty serious heat following him. They still haven't backed off. In fact, I'm sure their job got easier when the new laws were passed six years ago."

"The past grievances and offenses addendum?" Benjamin nodded and stored that away for future reference. "I'm studying law back home. But I'm thinking of switching to political science."

"Now that they can bring up old records, they'll have something on him. They weren't convicted but only because the government stopped pressing charges. If caught, they'll press charges again and this time they will convict as least one of them." He looked his guest in the eye. "Like I said, Max is in some serious heat. Serious enough to keep his son as far away from him as possible. The government would use the kid to get to him. I'll probably never meet the kid."

"You didn't meet him before?"

"No. I didn't know about him until Liz was gone." Geoff scratched at his head. "I'd better go collect my sheets. I'm sleeping on the couch tonight. Good night."

"Night." Benjamin watched him go before trudging back to his stepmother's room. So, his father was trouble. Government trouble. Not wanting to snoop but curious about what secrets the girl's room held, he careful slid drawers out, examined the contents and slid them back. He glanced over the CD collection but didn't recognize many of the names. Payable On Death was still rocking out but who in the hell was Gomez? One CD lay out on top of the stereo. Sheryl Crow. Tuesday Night Music Club? He couldn't suppress the chuckle.

Then he thought about it. This was probably one of the last CDs she listened to before she ran off. Probably when Max was there. The bed and the bench had happened because he was touching them. If only he could do it again. What had happened before? The ball of energy. The larger and more powerful the ball was, the more intense the… visions. How could he recreate the energy ball?

Holding the CD in his hand, he concentrated. Brow furrowed, he sat on the floor and tried. Nothing happened. No energy ball, no building, nothing. Groaning, he fell back against the desk. Turning his head revealed a low shelf with yearbooks. Twisting his arm around, he pulled one out. "!997-1998. They were what? Freshmen?" He flipped through to the freshmen section and immediately found Elizabeth Parker, hair slicked back into a pony, bright smile on her face. Flipping back a few pages he found Evans, Isabel. Blonde, brown eyes, beautiful smile. "Wow."

Next to her was Max Evans, skinny kid, dark hair and eyes that completely sucked him in. He held some resemblance but didn't look like the man in his visions. Reaching back, he pulled out the other three yearbooks. Flipping through the second book, the last page of the sophomore section fell open. There she was. It had to be her. Blond hair, blue eyes, pretty smile. Tess Harding, according to the yearbook. She was at the end, so she must have been a transfer student or absent on picture day; one practice that stood the test of time despite the electronic books that were handed out these days.

Tess was what the Parkers had said. There couldn't be that many Tesses at the same time. Quickly, he found both Liz Parker and Max Evans, they looked a little more like he thought they should. All three of them were in the junior book. The look in his father's eyes had greatly saddened in that year. It was the senior book that held some answers. Tess was missing completely. She wasn't anywhere to be found. The look in his father's eyes resembled that of his vision, his dream where they were sad and loving but they were so lost.

He had gotten so wrapped up in confirming that the Parker's daughter and his father were married, that he forgot to ask about his mother. His father had married Liz the summer after giving him up, presumably after his mother had died but when? He looked up at the dresser with its partial pictures. Some of pictures were older than senior year but he couldn't confirm that without knowing how his father looked. Mr. Parker had said that Max cheated on Liz. Was that how he came into being? Where did Tess go senior year? Was she hiding? Concealing her pregnancy?

Numbers ran through his head. 10 months by May 2. Birthday actually was… in August? Or July. Nine months prior to that… November. She would have been showing before school let out. Maybe that was why Max left home. He was seventeen that year he was born. Something wasn't adding up. Why would Max move out after the birth of his son? Then again, Mrs. Evans had said that he had only been with Max for about a week before he gave him up. Why?

Frustrations running high, he flipped through the yearbooks for any sign of anything. An odd signature or message. The looks on his parents' faces. He found himself thinking about the months that yearbook pictures were taken, early in the year. It didn't add up. Flipping back to Max Evans, senior year, he ran a finger over it. Worn and tired were the only words that came to mind. Desperate. Hair was a lot longer than it was in his memory and Max could have used a shave where he was barely sporting any stubble in the memory. Something wasn't adding up.

Without his realization, the energy returned with his escalating frustrations and growing confusion. Shutting his eyes against a building headache, he felt the spread of liquid energy too late. His weary mind followed its path toward relaxation but somehow reached out at the same time. One word seemed to form in his brewing thoughts. Daddy.

Zan?

Where had that come from? Benjamin followed it. Whoever had spoke kept repeating 'Zan' over and over with greater frustration and growing anticipation. Then the face. The face. The thirty-something face of Max Evans.

Relax, just let it flow, Zan.

The thoughts were so clear. The image growing sharper with every second. Max was staring in a mirror. A reflection next to him sharpened. His wife, Liz, watching with concern… leaning on him, was lending her strength to… to what? He knew what she was doing but he couldn't name it. Suddenly, everything was that much clearer. She did it. She made it clear.

Then he was thrust back into his body but… she followed. When his eyes opened, she was standing over him, awkwardly clutching a sheet to her body. She knelt and took a look around before looking back at him. "How did you get in here?"

"What?"

"In my parents house, how did you get in here?"

"They let me stay." Benjamin could hardly believe it. She was talking to him. Liz was standing there in front of him, speaking to him. Slowly, he reached out to see if she was real.

"That's not a good idea." She gestured to his outstretched hand. "Why are you here?"

"I'm looking for him. I need to find him." A tear streamed down his face.

"That's not a good idea, sweetie." Her big brown eyes darkened a little and he could swear there were tears in them.

"You said that already. I have questions to ask him. I need to know what's happening to me." Benjamin started to get to his feet but she motioned him to be still.

"Zan, sweetie, what's happening to you?"

"My name is Benjamin Scott. I came all the way from New York to find my dad. I'm changing. Things are happening to me. Things I can't explain..." When he realized that all she was wearing was a sheet, he trailed off. "And I'd rather discuss those things with him."

"How did you know to go to Roswell?"

"I just knew. Where is he? Why can't I see him?"

"He can't do this, what I'm doing, and you… I know you didn't mean to do it but you hurt him a little when you did what you did. He's resting now." Liz sounded like she was struggling with something. "Why are you at my house? Do you know it's my house?"

"Your parents let me stay here."

"Do they know who you are?" Her brown eyes bored into his with some great desperateness.

"They know where I'm from, my name and why I'm here… they don't know that Max is my dad."

"Okay." She relaxed immediately. "You can't tell them. We left to keep them safe."

"Mrs. Evans told me to go away. Why? What is this?"

"I'm sorry but she had her reasons." She brushed his cheek and he felt the lightest of a breeze where his mind told him a warm touch should be. "The government is still tracking us. It's really not safe for you to be there… and how did you get out of New York?"

"Why are you acting like my mother?" The question was out of his mouth before he knew he had thought it. He immediately felt guilty at the hurt look in her eyes. "Do you have kids?"

"Two." She nodded and looked behind her. "Listen to me. I will talk to Max and tomorrow night, we'll come and see you again. I know you're afraid and confused. I'm not going to pretend that I know what you've been going through but I'll listen… tomorrow."

"Can I see him?"

"Tomorrow. Tomorrow, we'll come back. I suppose it'll be best if you stay where you are. Don't tell my parents what you know or what you've seen. They know what we are but they've never had to experience it. It's very important that you don't talk to anyone about this. The government would pick us up in a heartbeat."

"You mean public incarceration?"

"No. While that would be demeaning, it wouldn't be the worst they could do to us. We'll explain—"

"Tomorrow. Got it." He nodded stiffly and watched her rise to her full height. Then he saw her head cock at the mirror, she leaned closer. "Your father cut them up."

"Why?" She turned back.

"You should have washed the blanket."

"Blanket? What blanket?" Then her eyes shot to the roof. "Oh my god, the blanket."

"Yeah. I think he felt sorry later though." Benjamin drew his knees to his chest. "They miss you."

"I miss them." Her eyes dropped to the floor before rising again to meet his. "Remember what I said. I'll be back tomorrow… probably dressed. What time do they go to bed?"

"If I hurry and finish cleaning after closing, probably around eleven."

"Midnight. Be awake." Then her image vanished and left him with a myriad of questions. The most important of the moment was why he wasn't more shocked by what had just taken place.

TBC
posted on 24-Jul-2002 11:43:01 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 5[/center]

Benjamin spent the entire day in an abandoned warehouse trying to summon the energy but it wouldn't come. It seemed just out of reach. Who knew what he could do with it? If it weren't for the car alarms and light posts, he would have thought the abilities were all psychic. The lights at the very least would have had to been a power surge. The car alarms could have been overly sensitive but the lights were the clue. Maybe the energy within his body could be measured outside his body… if he could build it up again. The more he tried, the more tired he felt. Maybe having this thing wasn't such a good idea if it tired him out.

When he finally gave up, it was dusk and he had to hurry back to the Crashdown. He wolfed down a meal and went to work. His excitement and dread grew with every passing second. He was going to speak to his father that night. His father. Liz had given him some hope. They had recognized who he was without him having to explain, she had called him Zan comfortably enough that he knew he had never been forgotten. The concern in her eyes showed him that she could care for him enough to look past the cheating his father had done. She was arranging everything for someone else's kid. That was… wow. To love someone so much to have such patience.

Benjamin had just hung up with his mother when the Parkers announced they were going to bed. Quickly, he dialed another number and waited through seven rings. "Hello?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Giovanni, I guess Alison isn't there." He did well to hide the disappointment he felt. He knew the old man was probably worried out of his mind about Alison.

"No, sir. With the new boyfriend. Who is this?"

"No one." He replaced the receiver and sighed. "Just the old boyfriend." That stung a little. Year's worth of dates before curfew and nights at her apartment out the window. She'd probably make a better friend than girlfriend any way. Maybe them she wouldn't be constantly lying to him at the little stuff.

He trudged down to the bedroom he occupied and shut the door behind him. Took a seat at the foot of the bed and waited. An hour and a half. Giving in to comfort, he whipped off his shirt and lay back on the bed to kick off his boots. He hadn't even realized that he had dozed off or rolled over until he felt a small yet exact breeze on his back. His tattoo. The big one. His head lifted.

"Did it hurt?" A choked voice rasped. The breeze stopped so that Benjamin could roll over. The weary face that he had seen for the first time in his father's reflection waited. "Hi."

"Hi." Benjamin rubbed at his eyes and sat up. "I didn't think I'd fall asleep."

"Well, if that stunt yesterday took even half the energy it took out of me, I'm not surprised." Max rose and crossed the room to the dresser. "So Geoff found the blanket. I knew I had forgotten something." A wave of his hand restored one of the more recent pictures. "Keep that one well guarded."

"What's wrong with me?" Benjamin asked suddenly. He studied the man before him, memorizing every detail that he could. The man seemed huge, muscles flexing as he moved, his height and size shrinking the room.

"Nothing's wrong with you… exactly." Max turned back to him and reached out, as if to touch but drew his hand back. "This isn't going the way I thought it would."

"How did you think it would go?"

"Some time later… after you had grown up, I thought maybe then but then there are the nightmares that when you do come and you hate me."

"I can't hate someone I don't know." Winced inwardly at Max's outward one. "I only found out for sure two days ago that I was adopted. I'd been feeling it for a while now but I couldn't explain it to anyone well enough for them to understand."

"So, what couldn't you tell Liz?" Hands in pockets, he seemed to shrink into himself. The droop of his head revealed a few grey hairs on his dark head. At his son's resistance to speak, Max lifted his head. "I want to have this conversation like adults. You aren't much younger that I was when I was in the middle of this."

"How it clicked." Benjamin shrugged and ran a hand through his hair, standing it on end. "I was with a girl and when… it happened, it didn't happen the way it happens when I'm by myself. The moment was very long and she didn't really seemed to notice anything happening with me… so I didn't say anything."

"I see. You know, you were supposed to be normal." Max sat on a chair and just stared at his son. "Completely human. I don't understand this."

"Why wouldn't I be completely human? I don't understand any of this. First the explosive sex with the orgasm that had to last like an hour, then the dream was clearer and then the energy balls and visions and then the car alarms and light posts."

"What?" Max's eyes went wide. "You have other powers?"

"Powers? Is that what you call them?" He leapt to his feet, anxiety rising and energy ball forming. "I was happy. I was in college, I love my parents, thought I loved my girlfriend and now, everything is different. My father isn't someone who is spoken about in that capacity. His parents won't speak to me. My… stepmother's parents don't know who I really am and her father doesn't like my father. My girlfriend is sleeping with someone else as we speak and my parents are worried sick because I'm here and not there. The powers are the least of my problems right now."

"Okay. Okay. Calm down. Can we try this again? I promise to tell you everything. Sit." Max held out his hand to placate the young man. "Relax."

"I thought she said you couldn't do this." Benjamin pointed to Max's presence in the room.

"I can't. She's doing it for me." Max hurried on. "My name is Max Evans and I am your father. In 1986, I emerged from a pod somewhere outside of Roswell."

"A pod." Benjamin rubbed his hands roughly over his eyes to make sure he was still awake. This conversation had left normal the second it had started and yet he wasn't freaking out like he should be. No, he was taking it very calmly.

"A pod. My sister and I were found by Philip and Diane Evans and adopted. Three years later, we met another like us. The three of us knew we were different from everyone else but the same as each other. We were the whole world to each other." Max's gaze lowered and Benjamin could tell he was examining his tattoos. "In 1999, a girl was shot and I risked our existence to save her life."

"How?"

"I healed her. I put my hand over her wound and made it better." He held his hands out. "These are my greatest tools. I am not a god or pretend to be but more than just her life has been saved because of what I am. It is also what I am that makes it difficult to live peacefully, and why I had to give you up."

Benjamin raised his hand. "You're jumping ahead. Finish telling me. Starting with 'what' you are."

"I am an alien."

"An alien." Repeated the word but it refused to sink in.

"An alien-human hybrid actually." Max nodded and waited. "You don't seem so shocked."

"Just finish your story. I get the feeling that this is wearing someone out, you or her." Pointed to someone in the room that could not be seen.

"You're right. I fell in love with her, the girl that was shot. Then another came that was like me, said I was hers. I didn't love her though. The government was onto me back then. Then kidnapped me and did… things to me." Max shuddered and his eyes went cold. "They say hell is a fiery pit at the center of the earth." His eyes met his son's. "I've been there and I say hell is a room with four white walls, a needle with neuron inhibitors and a blue-eyed man with no soul. Do you understand me?"

"The government is bad." Benjamin nodded. It went against everything he had been taught; by his parents, his teachers, professors and read in every book he had studied out of.

"At the very least. The next year was hell, Benjamin. Liz left me and I was suddenly the king of a planet far, far away. It's been taken over by a warlord and I was supposed to save it… but I was just a kid. That year, I formed an attachment to your mother. I trusted her with my life, I gave her my mind and body."

"What about your soul?" Benjamin had always been told he could see the whole picture without having all the pieces. That's why they called him a genius. That's why he was in his senior year of college and about to head off to graduate school at 17 years old.

"I had given that away long before I met your mother. We lost a dear friend and then I gave her my body. She got pregnant. That was in May. You were born in June."

"That's not possible."

"It's possible when your mother and I are both alien-human hybrids. Two days after we were together and she found out, she left."

"Where?" The pieces he had been missing the night before were appearing and he didn't know if he could handle it.

"Our planet. It was all a trick. She had used my emotions against me to get pregnant with my baby to take to our enemies… but they rejected her and you. I spent a year trying to find a way to get to you and they were sending her right back. You were too human and they wouldn't accept you as the heir. But if what I suspect has happened to you, they'll be kicking themselves around now." Max took a deep breath and shook his head. "When she came back, she killed a lot of people to protect you. She lied to me to keep me from killing her."

"Why would you kill her?" Benjamin asked softly, his mind reeling.

"That friend we lost? She killed him. Whether she meant to or not is irrelevant. The truth is, she should never have done what she did to him." He stopped abruptly as if he were listening to something. Head cocked to the side, rolling of his shoulder as if receiving a massage. "The first time I held you, I fell in love. I had spent so much time looking for you, breaking hearts of people who just wanted to love me because I was obsessed with finding you and there you were. This tiny, little person that needed to be loved and taken care of."

"How did she die?" Benjamin let his eyes fall to the ground, knowing he was right, that she was dead but not wanting to know how, or who killed her.

"Like I said, she killed people when she came back. The government came to Roswell looking for her and you. After a few close calls, she went back there and destroyed the base, herself included. I took you and I went home so my mom could teach me what I needed to know. I didn't know how to take care of a baby and here I was a father and you were so small. My dad would laugh at me. Said I hadn't slept a wink all week because I was determined to watch your every moment. And over that week, I was happy to have you but ultimately, having you so near to me would mean your death."

"So you gave me up, leaving me only with the memory of you holding me the day you gave me up." His amber eyes rose to meet those of his father.

"Yeah, actually." Max nodded in astonishment. "I figured one day you would figure it out or they would tell you about the adoption and I wanted to you at least know how much I love you."

"That was the only thing I knew, though. I'm getting visions from the blanket I'm sitting on, from the bench you were sitting on 16 years ago and I'm blowing up street lights without meaning to or touching them." Benjamin protested, anger and resentment building. "Why wasn't it safe then but now you have two kids with Liz?"

Max's head whipped to the side. "You told him?"

"I'm glad she did. At least she didn't lie when I asked her. What's the difference?" Benjamin demanded, suddenly wondering if this all had been a mistake.

"Listen to me." Max knelt at his son's feet. Whispers of air at his knees, told Benjamin that Max was touching him. "If there had been another way, I would have gladly done it. Two weeks later at graduation, they were going to kill me. The only thing that saved my life was my friends and being able to pick up and leave without worrying about leaving you behind with my parents. From what I understand, the town was swept with military looking for me and if you had been here, they would have found you. I couldn't let that happen."

"How old are they?" Benjamin crossed his arms.

"Six and two. You have two brothers." Max nodded. "Alex and Bobby. We've been living here since Alex was born. It's an Amish community. The military leaves us alone here… really, so does everyone."

"But they don't know you're there."

"Right." Max nodded and looked up into his face. "Are you mad at me? Do you hate me?"

"I guess not. I love my parents. I love my college. I like New York despite the curfews and water restrictions. I'm making headway on my degree. I have no excuse for complaint…"

"But…"

"But I have one. These things are happening to me and I won't always be able to hide them. I set off car alarms just by walking by them. I was upset and your mom wouldn't talk to me."

"Do you understand why?" Max moved to catch his eye. "It's dangerous if they find us. That hell I talked about, it's only gotten worse since I've been out. I would die if they took you."

"I can't go back home like this." Benjamin ducked his head and then whipped his head back up when a feminine hand appeared next to Max's. She gave him a half-smile. "I can't, can I?"

"Probably not. If Mrs. Evans was right and they are still watching, her reaction might have been enough to give you away. You can't stay where you are and I don't know if you can sneak back into the city." Liz took a breath and looked at Max. "You should come be with us but that could be dangerous too."

"I can make it." Benjamin lifted his chin.

"No." Max shook his head but Liz gripped his chin and made him look at her.

"He just wants to know you. He needs to know who he is. Love him enough to trust him." Liz kissed his forehead and then vanished from view. Max sat still for a long moment.

"I can make it, Max." Benjamin insisted. "I got out of the city without anyone knowing. I can do it, just tell me where you are."

"Alright but, check in with me every night. I have to know you're okay. The day you don't check in, I'm assuming they've got you and knew where you were going. I'll have to pick up and leave."

"I understand."

He waved his hand over the picture he had restored on the dresser. "Instructions are on the back of that."

"Okay. I'll be careful. You'll see."

Max stood and just stared, shaking his head slowly. "Too many tattoos."

Remembering the first question that Max had asked, Benjamin cleared his throat. "Didn't hurt much… after the first one." Somehow, to Benjamin, Max didn't seem as tall has he had when he first appeared in the room.

"I'll tell you about them when you get here."

"You know them?" His eyes widened.

"I lived them." Max's images started to fade. "Cover them well. Don't let anyone who hasn't already seen them, see them again."

"Okay." Benjamin's word made it into the empty room. He rushed over and retrieved the picture, sliding it into his coat pocket. If it was still there when he woke up, then none of this had been a dream.

TBC
posted on 29-Jul-2002 11:16:33 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 6[/center]

Benjamin woke early that morning and helped with the morning traffic, careful to keep his tattoos hidden and not let anyone get a good look at his face. When only a few customers remained mid-morning and he had cleaned all the empty tables, he retreated to the break room where Mrs. Parker was doing laundry. She smiled at him and gestured for him to take a seat. "You're up early."

"Yeah, figured I'd help out this morning." He shrugged.

"Thank you. Geoff refuses to give up his shifts, even though he can't really keep up any more. He's does a decent enough job but once in a while the orders back up and people are left waiting for tables to be cleaned." She folded the towels quickly and set them aside.

"I'm leaving today." He ducked his head but turned his amber eyes up to watch her reaction. She barely faltered in folding the towel. That little hesitation gave her away. She knew something. "I'm going home. This was pretty much a dead end, the one person who should have known doesn't… and I have his name."

"That's good. Don't keep your parents worrying anymore than they should." She gave him a watery smile and seemed to really concentrate on folding Geoff's shirts.

"I'll call you when I get there." Benjamin reassured her. "Thank you for letting me stay here."

"Not a problem. I would just hope that someone has done the same for my daughter." She nodded stiffly and then whipped her head up when she realized that he was going to leave that second. "Wait. No. I'll fix you something to eat on the way."

She rushed into the kitchen, wiped away a few tears and put in an order with the cook as she hurried to find a lunchbox and ready the sides. Then she leaned out the doorway. "Geoff! Get in here!"

"What?" He ambled down the stairs and moved on into the kitchen.

"Where's the thermos?"

"On the top shelf… why?"

"He's leaving." A moment of silence conveyed more than any words could. "I'm making him some food to take with him."

"Yeah." Geoff nodded and went to work packing the lunch box. Ten minutes later they reemerged and handed over the lunch box. "That'll keep for a couple of days… or maybe just one the way you eat."

"Thanks. I really appreciate it." Benjamin nodded and swallowed down the lump in his throat.

"It's no problem." Nancy assured him. "Just be careful and remember to call us when you get there."

"I will." Benjamin got to his feet. "I really appreciate you letting me stay here."

"No problem." Geoff clapped him on the back and led him to the door. Suddenly, a hand shot out and a bottle of Tabasco sauce appeared in Benjamin's hand. "Take that. You seem to like it a lot."

"Thanks." Benjamin paused a moment and looked at the Parkers. They looked at him differently than when he had walked up. Or did they? Was it really a different look or was he seeing differently. He stepped into the alley but didn't start walking yet. "You know, I talked to my step-mom." He pocketed the hot sauce and shifted the lunch box in his hands. "I got two half-brothers. They're real little. Six and two. My step-mom, she sounded real happy with her life."

"That's nice." Nancy nodded stiffly, a tear forming in her eye. "I'm sure their grandparents are really proud."

"Yeah." Geoff nodded. "Better get on the road. It'll be dark in about seven hours and you'll need to be well out of here by then."

"Yes sir." Benjamin nodded and took one long last look with his enlightened eyes and turned to the future. He wasn't going back there and he wasn't going back to New York. Liz had been right. Even as hard as it was to get out of the city without an authorized pass, getting back in without having gotten out legally would stir up a fuss. When he chanced a look back, they were leaning on each other as the door shut behind them. They had probably known the second they set eyes on him. If not, it probably hadn't taken them long. They seemed to know the risks and now he had to adjust to those risks.

Setting a brisk but unhurried pace, he set out for the edge of town. An hour would get him out and then he had six more to get away. Faces bled into each other around him and he made sure the back of his neck was covered when he lowered his face. The tattoo was small but distinct. Lots of people remembered it after they saw him… if they saw it.

An hour out of town, he pulled out the picture and turned it over. Instructions. 'Zan, you're going to Nebraska. I'm not exactly sure what's been going on the past six years out there but getting out of New Mexico will be tricky. You'll need to get to Santa Fe and then go straight up until you've reached the mountains. I'll leave further instructions, as you need them. Tonight, take out this picture and touch my face. Close your eyes and relax. When you've reached the point of total relaxation, reach out to me with your mind. Just be careful to be completely alone at night. Max.'

"Right." Benjamin shook his head and replaced the picture. He stuck his hands in his pockets and kept up the pace. When cars approached, he stuck out his thumb. Four car ridess and five towns later, he was six miles from Santa Fe and night was falling fast. Ready to just settle in for the night on the ground, flashing lights halted his steps. In New York, flashing lights meant I.D. check and a ride to the nearest overnight shelter. Who knew what it meant outside Santa Fe.

"Stop where you are." The voice boomed from the speaker, female but authoritative. "Put down the bag. Hands up."

Silently, he did as told, turning slowly as he did so, his jacket fell open, showing them that he wasn't concealing any weapons. "Evening, officers."

"Shut up, please." The speaker crackled and then hummed before two uniformed officers stepped out of the vehicle. The male officer looked him over and turned to his partner. She just shook her head. "You're not from around here."

"No, Ma'am." Benjamin shook his head and looked down to his lunch box. "That's just lunch by the way."

"Where are you headed?" The man cleared his throat, eyeing him as if he were looking for something.

"Santa Fe."

"Why?"

"Grandma's house." Benjamin slowly shifted his hands so they rested atop his head. So maybe more of Alison had rubbed off on him that he had bargained for but these guys seemed like they were used to the banter.

"Curfew is dark out here, son." The woman approached and picked up the lunch box. She examined the contents. "This stuff'll kill ya."

"Tell it to my mom." He shrugged.

"Right." She nodded and tapped her shoulder. "I.D.?"

"Lost it."

"Uh-huh." She tapped her shoulder again, then turned to her partner. "Houston has age based curfew."

"Too far. El Paso has split curfew. Cruces is dry town, curfew with work busses after dark. You legal, kid?" The man's eyes shifted to his clothes.

"No, sir." Benjamin sighed. He looked his age; there was no way he was faking these guys out.

"Accent's wrong." The woman shook her head. "Tattoos and leather jacket. East Coast." She turned her eyes on him and gestured to the car. "On the hood, son. Takin' the scenic route to grandma's?"

"You could say that." Slowly, he placed his hands on the hood of the cruiser. He could see the woman nod to the man. The man quickly patted down the young man and stepped back with a bottle of Tabasco sauce. "Hope it's not illegal to put spice on my lunch."

"Nope, not yet." The woman shook her head and tapped her shoulder twice. "We'll escort you to the nearest overnight shelter. Call grandma from there." Tapped her shoulder again. "Let's go. Here's your lunch."

Benjamin took the lunch box and allowed her to duck him into the backseat. He watched them talk outside the cruiser a minute, the female tapping her shoulder from time to time. That motion wasn't something he was familiar with but he'd bet Alison knew the woman's exact rank. The officers climbed into the cruiser and they were in town within a matter of minutes. The woman glanced at him only once. "What's your name, son?"

"Scott."

"Really."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You hitched out here, Scott?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"You shouldn't do that. Buy a ticket, next time."

"No I.D. I'm not legal." He reminded her and she paused slightly. "Ma'am."

"Right. Don't hitch. It's not safe." She tapped her shoulder twice. "Got a last name, Scott?"

"Moon." He winced at how sorry that sounded.

"Mr. Moon, you're a long way from home. You should have stayed there." The man spoke and lifted his hand. A white light blinded Benjamin and when his vision cleared, the female officer was slumped in the passenger seat. Benjamin's heart pounded loudly in his chest as the cruiser pulled into a dark street. Another bright light filled the car and an older man sat in the driver's seat. He turned to Benjamin. "You're a horrible liar and we have six minutes."

"What's going on? What did you do to her?" Benjamin swallowed nervously. "Who are you?"

"At least you're not panicking. You're going to get out of the car and stand in the shadow to your left for twenty-seven minutes exactly. That's when I'll be back, looking the way I do now." He turned so that Benjamin could get a good look at him. "I'll take you where you can get a room and speak to your father without interruption. This good woman here has to be up and about in two minutes so I can make her believe you went to a shelter. She was going to run your name but now she's not. If she doesn't tap her shoulder in a specific sequence every night, we get surrounded by police officers and are treated as hostile. Questions?"

"Your name?" Benjamin gripped his lunchbox and studied the shadows.

"You don't need to know and I'd just ask you to forget it any way." The man straightened his uniform and hit a button that unlocked the car door. "Get out and wait. No patrols come through this part of town after dark. Just wait for me."

Benjamin climbed out of the car and only turned when another flash lit the air. The officer that had picked him up was back behind the wheel and the cruiser was pulling away. Not knowing what else to do, he sank into the shadows and let his mind reel over what had just happened. The male officer had… changed into someone else right in front of his eyes. Whatever the cop was, he knew about his father. The whole alien business seemed to make sense but he didn't know if he was supposed to trust all aliens. Exactly twenty-seven minutes later, footsteps echoed down the street.

"Mr. Scott. Please come out. We have a date with a king." The thick voice called out, matching the one the cop had used after the second flash of light. "Your father owes me for this. Really big."

"What do you know about my father?" There was no way he was coming out of the shadows without good reason.

"Just that he's an arrogant and selfish child that should have kept Mr. Happy in his pants and out of the queen. Alright?" He did a quick step and took a breath. "Look, kid. I don't want to be here. You don't want me here and there's nothing that either one of us can do about it. Max Evans is the most vile person in the world to me and I'm sworn to take his orders. Let's go, kid."

Reluctantly, Benjamin stepped out of the shadows and followed the man down the street. "Orders?"

"Yeah. Dear old dad got worried after the little conversation that the two of you had. Lucky for him, I can't hate him more than I already do and I'm between gigs." The man looked familiar but Benjamin couldn't place him. "Your old man could have it all if he would have just laid low and used his gifts properly. What is he doing? He's in moo country, shacked up with the halfling and working for a living. Not just working, grunt work. He's doing it the hard way. Old order Amish."

Benjamin followed him into a hotel and up two flights of stairs to a large room with two beds. Opening up his lunch box, he set it on the table. "Want some?"

"Don't eat, kid." The man stretched out on one of the beds. "Keep it down when you talk to the old man. I need my beauty sleep."

Shrugging, Benjamin drenched his food in hot sauce and polished off what was left in the box. He eyed the man and sat in silent contemplation. The man acted too casually for him to be out to get him. He didn't seem to care enough if events were to go good or bad. "Who are you?"

"A retired soldier." The man answered.

"I've seen you before."

"Probably. I made a lot of movies. I am very rich and among the lost and famous."

"Kal Langley. You made all those movies my parents love."

"Glad to hear it. I'm still getting royalties off of those." Kal never opened his eyes as he spoke. "Get some rest kid. Mr. Yoder will be going to bed in about two hours… if he can keep his hands off Mrs. Yoder." He snorted and shifted on the bed. "It's a miracle he's only got three kids. With the way they go at it, he should have a baseball team by now."

"How do you know so much about him?" Benjamin shucked his jacket and pulled off his shirt before kicking off his shoes. When he looked up again, Kal was staring. "What?"

"How did you know those symbols?" Kal sat up and stared at the tattoos adorning the young man.

"I doodle."

"Those aren't doodles, kid. Christ, I thought it was all over." The older man ran a hand over his face. "I'm taking you all the way to your father, kid. You're not as human as we all thought you were."

"That's what he said."

"Then he's seen this?"

"Yes."

"This was supposed to over, kid. No more war. Kivar gets to keep the planet. With you running around the way you are, that's not going to be it for long." Kal sighed heavily. "Your abilities coming through?"

"Not really. Haven't done anything since yesterday. Maybe it's a fluke. Four days tops of stuff happening." Benjamin sat on his bed with the picture in his hand.

"Like?" Kal wrung his hands together and waited.

"Images with intense feeling, I reached out to him but it hurt him… I was upset and car alarms went off, light bulbs on lampposts burst. Mostly the images with the feelings."

"Christ. You're worse than the halfling." Kal got to his feet. "Kivar would have a field day with the two of you."

"Who is the halfling?" Benjamin sighed heavily. "Who is Kivar?"

"This is not my story. I'm not telling it. What else can you do, kid?" Kal was up and pacing, looking like he wanted to run straight through the walls.

"I don't know. I'm not even supposed to be doing what I can do. What am I capable of doing?" His amber eyes set riveted on the older man.

"A lot of damage, kid." Kal muttered. "I was made to understand that you would be contacting him tonight."

"Yeah. He gave me some tips so I wouldn't hurt him like I did night before last when it was an accident. I must have hurt him pretty bad. Liz is the one who talked to me that night."

"She can do this?" His eyes rolled heavenward. "Of all the things, you gave him. Why her?" A few laps around the room. "Can you contact him tonight?"

"I'm going to try. I don't think he realizes that reaching out to him the way I did was a fluke."

"It wasn't a fluke. You done it once before, nearly drowned him when he was playing doctor with the halfling."

"What?" Benjamin got to his feet.

"The day you were born, Einstein. You were so scared at the sight of my people upside down the day you were born, you reached out over space and time to cry to daddy. Unfortunately for him, he was skinny-dipping with the halfling and nearly drowned. If it wasn't for her, he'd've drowned for sure." Kal sat heavily, hands shaking in a very human way. "That's the problem with you Zans. You don't think about who you'll affect when you go off on these hare-brained schemes. I take it back, though. If it wasn't for the halfling… more things would have gone wrong.

"Lives have been destroyed by Zan. Billions of them. He thought he could do good for all of us. That's why I came. They were rebuilding him, human. I thought, maybe it'll make a difference, maybe not. If not, at least I got a ticket off the planet and onto a neutral one." The old man's body sagged. "I was living a good life. Content to forget the old life. Then your old man went and got his former wife knocked up and she skipped the planet. He ruined my life. I was feeling very extreme things, I was tasting lemon. I was working on Tabasco sauce. He just took it all away. He was a punk kid on Antar and he's a punk kid on Earth. Maybe it is better to tuck him away with the Amish. He can't do any more damage."

Benjamin stared at his feet, shocked to the core by the vehemence with which Kal spoke of Max Evans. "I just needed to know what was going on."

"Once you hear the whole story, you'll wish you had stayed human like the rest of us thought you did." Kal looked the kid up and down. "Probably the best thing your old man ever did was giving you up. You had the nice apartment with loving parents, a girlfriend that would have put out if you asked her to the first date." Watched Benjamin's eyes narrow at the mention of Alison. "You wasted 11 months kid. She would have given it up, right away and been off to the next guy before you had even crawled out of bed."

"How do you know about her?"

"I'm the protector, kid. It's my job to know… whether I want to or not." Kal pointed to the bed. "Get some sleep. I'll make the meeting with pops tonight."

Hesitantly, he lay out on the bed, his mind awhirl with all that Kal had revealed. When he arrived in Nebraska, Max Evans was going to have a lot of explaining to do

TBC
posted on 3-Aug-2002 11:32:00 PM by DMartinez
Part 7

Benjamin sat in the passenger seat of a stolen and altered car. Kal didn't like to talk and at the moment, he was grateful. He had too many thoughts in his mind and it was still early in the morning. By ten o'clock, they had reached the line for the state border into Colorado. In thirty minutes, they had only moved two feet. Feeling the need to clarify his thoughts, he cleared his throat to speak. "He's a king?"

"He was a king, kid." Kal looked the young man over. It seemed like yesterday that Max had been the same age, looking for answers himself. Having had 17 years to reflect, he couldn't place all the blame on Max for what the kid had done. In a reasonable state of mind, he could admit that had he attended his duty better, Max could have turned out much differently. "Once upon a time there a great king called Zanwol. This king, he began a reconstruction of his planet to bring order and unity to his people. The other four worlds respected his wisdom. Then came the day that King Zanwol died naturally, passing on his crown to his only son, Zan. Zan couldn't handle the slow reconstruction and pushed… and pushed. Some people were angry, some were loyal. A long time contender for the throne decided that change would arrive in the form of a new king. He gained favor with the disgruntled public. They were still a minority but a powerful minority.

"Zan had been married but months when his sister began attending council meetings, someone should have noticed then. Few of us are privy to the fact of Vilandra's affair with Kivar prior to the overthrow. Shortly after Zan's mother announced her betrothal to Zan's war general, the siege of the palace happened. The only survivor of the royal family was Zan's mother. She went underground and authorized the testing of humans for hybridization. Four individuals were chosen and with a synthetic germ, used to recreate Zan, his bride, his sister and the war general in a human fashion. So long as Zan was alive in any form, he would have rightful rule of Antar and the other worlds would not accept Kivar as King. The hope was they would mature on Earth and return to Antar to save us from Kivar's tyrannical rule. The end."

Benjamin absorbed the story as the car inched forward. Ran the story through a filter in his mind and then turned to the protector. "What went wrong?"

"Many, many things, kid." Kal took a moment to shift into someone else before inching the car within view of the cameras at the border. "One, I didn't sign up for babysitting. I signed up to get off the planet. Two, the ship crashed on arrival. Three, one of my protector buddies went turncoat after he hid the pods. He was serious about his job and he, like me, realized that there was no way to escape the war, even after the great lengths to preserve the throne. Kivar's people sent their own people to look for the royal four to kill them. They searched for54 years before they were successful."

"And?"

"And, dear mum made two sets. One as a decoy that I dropped in a sewer in New York and the set that your dad hatched from. These Skins found the four in New York. Had Vilandra kill her dear brother and hunt down the four in Roswell to get your father to go in on a treaty. My buddy was dead by then but his little protégée in the form of your mother was already in place. Your mom and dad go to the summit, refused to give up the Granilith and boom, war is far from over, in fact the war was set back 50 years of hard work. Your old man sure knows how to screw things up." Kal snorted in his new form.

"You skipped parts." Benjamin accused and waited while Kal tapped his fingers on the steering wheel.

"What do you know?" Kal ran his tongue over his teeth, making a disgusting sound.

"I know you left parts out. What did you leave out? What else went wrong?"

"Your pop fell in love kid. The pods were late hatching open… really late. Didn't hatch until 1989. Your old man, his sister and the war general wandered out of the cave, leaving the queen behind. The war general, having a tendency to be paranoid, hid from the others when they were picked up by the Evans, a childless couple who did their best to raise two orphans who hadn't the requisite tools to enter society as such. They were home school until they could function like children their own apparent age. Michael, he was found by a sheep farmer and turned over to social services where he was tossed from one home to another for two years before he settled in with Mr. Whitmore. I took great pleasure in taking out that bastard."

"Tell me."

"Like I said. He fell in love… at first sight. The kid steps off the bus on his first day of school ever and his sights fall on the child version of Miss Elizabeth Parker. There's something about the woman, I gotta say. When I first got into show business, her teenage face would have lit up the screens. She had that look about her. Times change and by the time she was a teenager, that look wasn't one that was considered to be in." Kal never took his eyes off the road. "Max Evan never looked at another girl the way he looked at her, not even his own wife from his own planet. Tess was livid when she realized that, I think… but she had been taught well. When the truth was revealed to Max, Liz left him presumably to tend to his own kind. To… give him to Tess but he wouldn't go to her. Wouldn't even consider it."

"Why?"

"Why else? She gave Liz the creeps. Seems King Maxie trusted her judgment implicitly and he just couldn't ignore it. He kept Tess at arms length for an entire summer and then… he allowed his eyes to tell him what they saw instead of what was. I don't know the details on that one. I wasn't privy to the happenings but Liz faked sleeping with an old boyfriend to push Max and Tess together. It wasn't until much later that Max began to have feelings for Tess but it all stemmed from that night. Liz started seeing some loser and Max gravitated into Tess's web of lies. Maybe she genuinely loved him but in the end… all that mattered was the betrayal. She killed a good friend of Liz's and once the truth was out, not even her carrying his child could save her from Max's wrath. He sent her home to Antar thinking it was to save your life but not to spare hers."

"Was I really born in only a month?"

Kal turned his head to look at his young charge. "Do the math, kid. I told you what you did to dear old dad when you emerged. He slept with her in May… you nearly killed him in June." He did that annoying thing where he swiped at his teeth with his tongue again and turned back to the road. "Antarians give birth one month after conception. I'm surprised they didn't realize the truth when she gave birth so soon. If they had put two and two together… they would have realized that a human giving birth to a human could never have a one month gestation. You are a freak of nature and science, kid. You defy all laws of possibility simply by existing."

"What would they do to me if they got me?"

"Who?" Kal's gaze slid slowly over. "The government, yes. Antarian or Human?"

"Either." Benjamin answered warily.

"Humans want to know how you tick. They want to know how to fly the spaceship, how to do the things you can do, the technological advances you have, how to get to where you're from. They'll do anything to find out. They found a partial answer to controlling us. Neural inhibitors. They make humans sluggish and they strip us of our basic abilities that aren't human. They tortured Max when they had him. Liz Parker nearly killed him then. He would have done anything so long as they didn't touch a hair on her head." Kal shook his head. "If she were someone else, I would have thought he was crazy but the longer I live among them, the more I am able to realize why her majesty sent them here and mixed their blood. Humans have great potential."

"But you still don't like them."

"Not a bit. Too easy to wrap around your finger. If it weren't for the… exchange of energies between Max and Liz, I wouldn't think she was worthy either." Urging the car forward, he glanced at the line ahead. "Few people would have developed the way she did after she was changed. I haven't checked in on them in a while but I hear she's improved greatly."

Benjamin nodded and stared out the window.

"You're too old for Kivar to want you now. Especially with this attachment you've got with dear old dad. It would work against his efforts and when he get his hands on you, he'll kill you. I imagine that most everyone assumes that he's dead but there's gossip even on Antar and I'm willing to bet an underground movement was forged when they got wind of your birth."

The young man shut his eyes and turned his face to the window to let it all sink in. A prince. When he opened his eyes again, they were only a few cars away from the border. He thought twice about asking his question so close to the authorities.

Kal rolled down the window when it was their turn. "Mighty fine looking day."

"Sir, what's your business in Colorado?" The officer kept his eyes on the driver but his partner was busy sending the dog around and looking in the windows.

"Taking my nephew to see his pappy." Kal leaned out the window. "Divorce."

"Uh-huh. Passes." Benjamin worried for all of 30 seconds until Kal pulled two official looking passes from his coat pocket. "How long is the boy staying?"

"Two months."

"And you?"

"A week. His mother will be through here to pick him up." Kal sent the lies out smoothly.

"Everything seems to be in order." The officer returned the passes and waved them through. As soon as they were through, Benjamin closed his eyes and went to sleep, saving his question for a time when he could get away from his protector to think.

TBC
posted on 8-Aug-2002 4:46:08 AM by DMartinez
Part 8

Benjamin settled into his bed and stared at the picture of his father with his wife. They looked so happy. From everything he had heard, there wasn't a picture like that with his father and his mother. From all accounts, she wasn't a good woman. From all accounts, the best thing she ever did was to kill herself by killing those who would kill her child. Just as it was difficult to accept Max as his father, it was difficult to accept Tess as his mother. When he heard the words father and mother, he immediately thought of David and Ginny.

Ginny was the one who eased the rare stomachaches, headaches, and general heartaches as he coped with being a child genius and a pariah amongst kids his own age. Ginny was the one who taught her only son how to dance. How to eat at a table with correct manners. How to dress until he was old enough to emulate his classmates. She was the one who had slapped him for showing up in the morning without having called to tell her where he was… then she had hugged and kissed him and told him never to do that to her again. That was the only time she had ever lifted a hand against him. She had been the one, after all, who had cleaned up his scrapes, nursed his hurt feelings and been the model of woman his entire life.

David was the one who had potty trained him, taught him to aim and shake. David was the one who had pulled him up on the roof when he was nine and taught him to defend himself against the bullies. He had taught sports, which ones were manly and which ones were for wimps, and generated in his son a respect for his elders and women. When it was appropriate to burp and scratch. How to approach a girl for a date, how to act on the first of those dates. He had given the sex talk, along with the abstinence talk and the safe sex talk. It was David's disappointed face he was confronted with the second night he had come home after being out all night. David was the reason he had turned out the way he did, showing him what a man should be.

Who was Max Evans? He was the alien-human hybrid king that had the bad luck to spawn a child with his greatest enemy, who happened to be the queen. The man had at least had the foresight to give him up. When Benjamin thought about all that he could have missed roaming the country with his father, he was glad he had been given up. He had at least gotten the chance to live in society. What about his half-brothers? What was their life like among the Amish?

Slowing his thoughts, he placed his finger on his father's image and shut his eyes. Clear mind. Deep breaths. Reaching out. With a little hesitation, he called out. 'Max.' Nothing. He tried again. 'Dad.'

Over here.

Benjamin opened his internal eyes and met with his father in a field. He looked Max from head to toe. He wore dusty pants with suspenders and a shirt that looked like it had seen better days. His hair was approaching long. Benjamin wrinkled his brow in confusion.

Max nodded and knelt down beside him. "You didn't notice the other night because you were overwhelmed with being able to do what you did. The next night, I came to you a little different because I wanted you to recognize me." He rose again and shoved his hands into his pockets. "It used to be an old order ordnung but times change and they had to adapt to survive. I'm allowed to shave now and haircuts are beginning to be a good thing. Keeps the hair out of the face when you're working in the fields… even without the hat. We've got two communal tractors. Everyone shares but still no electricity in the homes and only a few of us have indoor plumbing."

Benjamin nodded stiffly. "We're um… we're in Saguache."

"What?" Max froze.

"Heavy traffic and city wide curfews. We're lucky we got that far." Benjamin got to his feet to look out at all the flatlands around them. "I'm going to stand out."

"How's the trip?" Max toed an anthill and looked up expectantly.

"Ok. Kal's not one for talking unless you ask him a question." Benjamin noticed that he was almost as tall as Max, not quite as broad but similar.

"Yeah, he has orders to answer your questions fairly." The shiny mop of hair shook as Max's head nodded.

"Orders?" He thought he understood but he wanted an explanation.

"Kal and I have our history. But if I order him to do something, he'll do it."

"I know your history, Max. I still don't have a good grasp on this. I know this stuff is true, I feel it deep inside but I don't know why. Two months ago, I could have never done this and now… It's too easy, Max. It's scary." Benjamin could feel the tears stinging at his eyes even on this dream plane.

"I'll bet." Max nodded. "I was nine when I realized that I was really different. I had already done stuff that was alien but I was too young to realize what I was doing at the time. When I was nine, I went to school and that's when I realized that Iz and I were different. Different from the big people that found us was one thing but we were different from kids that looked just like us. Different from everyone but each other and a kid that showed up in the middle of the year with bruises on his back and arms that everyone chose to ignore."

"Don't try to sympathize." Benjamin muttered.

"We were scared, we grew up scared. Michael, for him it was worse. His foster father beat him and he knew that he could stop it. He could use his power and stop the beatings but he didn't. He was afraid. Afraid that he would do it wrong and people would find out and he'd end up in a lab somewhere. Afraid that when Hank stopped, they would take him someplace far away from us. Afraid that when he used his powers like that, he would become Hank." Max stared at his son. "We were born scared, Benjamin. I can only imagine what it's like for you. You've had everything stripped away. Your identity and now you've got lighting bolts in your fingers, your body can produce static electricity, your mind is a portal through which you can travel great distances to speak to a man that you never knew existed that turns out to be your father—"

"Stop! You are not my father. You…" Benjamin ran a hand through his hair. "You are a genetic predecessor, genetic material. You are not my father."

"No. I suppose that I'm not." Max bowed his head. "It's too late for that."

"My parents love me and I should just go back to New York and forget that any of this ever happened." He began pacing in the tall grass, kicking up dust with his shiny boots. "I don’t need this."

"I know." Max nodded solemnly and sank down to the ground, almost hidden by the grass. "I didn't want this for you. Now that it's happened to you, it's only a matter of time before Alex and Bobby are going to through the same thing. The only difference is… I'll be able to help them through it. They'll know and trust me and I can't expect any of that from you. I don't deserve any of that from you. You have every right in the universe for hating me."

"But I don't. I have lived a better life than most with my parents. The bad times were better than most people learn to expect as the good times. I'm glad you gave me up. I love my parents. They did everything they could to deserve me and how do I repay them? I run off at the first real inkling that I belonged to someone else."

Silence hung over them for a long time. Benjamin had been sitting in the tall grass near to his father for what felt like eternity when he felt the strong arms wrap around him. He could hear Max's shaky breath and feel the kiss on the top of his head. "You do belong to me. You are mine. I was only 18 when you took your first breath and I had no clue how to get to you. I was only 19 when I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life and give you up. I'm 36 and I still have no clue what to do. There hasn't been a day that I haven't thought of you… wondered if you were doing okay. Wondered if I did the right thing."

That's when Benjamin actually felt the warm tears in his hair. "You have always been one of the most precious things to me. My son, my first-born son. I think about all the things I've missed. First smile, laugh, step, word… first little league game, first award at school… girlfriends… even the sex talk."

"Why?" Benjamin asked softly, his anger drifting away.

"The FBI chased us for two years. Eventually, we just separated. Michael and Maria took off together first. I don't know where they are now. Then when things quieted down, we swung by Boston, delivered Mrs. Ramirez to Mr. Ramirez. Kyle stuck around long enough to get a handle on his non-development of powers and then he took off. He writes once in a while. The mail goes to a Yoder in Pennsylvania and then down here to us. The older ordnungs deliver their own mail twice a year. We use that system."

Benjamin finally found the energy to pull away. "Why did you settle when you did?"

"Liz was pregnant. Not exactly planned. By that point, we figured she couldn't have children or that I couldn't impregnate her myself. That when I changed her, I changed that part of her as well. Imagine our surprise when after 10 years of marriage she got morning sickness." Max chuckled with pride. "I spent only a few weeks on research. It was all we could afford. I spoke to the council and swallowed my pride to be allowed to borrow some land. We stayed with the local Yoders and they taught us what we needed to know as we built the house. Lucky for us, it only took a couple of weeks to build the house and then we began tilling and planting. It was a five month pregnancy."

"No one was suspicious?"

"Only that we had been married so long and not had children before. We're late bloomers here and we only have two children. When Alex was born, we were still struggling and everyone in the community helped out. I've more than paid everyone back already but they still shake their heads at us. They're tolerant but my personal stance on religion keeps me on the outside. I couldn’t go in there without them knowing my position on God. I didn't think it would be fair. Liz is comfortable here, she's still trying to convert me."

"God exists." Benjamin cleared his throat.

"I have a hard time with it. Would He create a man, even a half a man, and not allow him to live as a man? Why kind of cruel joke is that?" Max snorted and allow some grass blades to obscure his view of his son.

"No one said he was a fair god. Some people are born with defects or conditions and we think it's not fair but if we take the time to know them, they are better people for it. Everything happens for a reason and He sees to it that it happens right. The secrets of life cannot be revealed in an instance. You have to live and endure." Benjamin shut his mouth and turned his head away.

"Strong words."

"My father is real big on church and the bible." Benjamin stood up and looked down on his father. "I'm heading out. We've got to try to make it around the mountains tomorrow. With any luck, we'll be there in two days."

"Be careful." Max said but Benjamin was gone before the second syllable was out of his mouth.

TBC
posted on 9-Aug-2002 3:43:45 AM by DMartinez
Part 9

Benjamin found himself dragged to the floor and off his bed. A hand over his mouth and a silent plea for silence. When he opened his eyes, Kal lay atop him with his head turned so he could see around them without being seen. As he fully wakened, his heart began to pound and he realized the danger they must be in. His heart beat faster as the heavy footsteps approached their room. Fight or flight instinct was kicking in, along with that pesky ball of energy in his chest, and it was hard to keep still. Kal's hand pressed harder against Benjamin's mouth, urging him still and quiet. The heavy steps slowed the closer to the door they got. "Kid, stay still. I'm going to take care of these guys but I don't want them seeing you. Stay out of sight."

Kal urged him under the bed and then stood to greet the soldiers that burst through the door, no doubt expecting some illegals who had made their way across the state line, and were met with a bright light that burned their eyes and skin. The human cries of pain made Benjamin's ears ring. Then he found himself on his feet and running into an elevator after Kal sent an electrical charge into it. As they descended, Kal shifted Benjamin's clothes into something more local and his own face into someone else's.

In the lobby they mingled with the crowd who had gathered to see who the authorities were taking in. Slowly, they made their way out of the building and onto the streets where traffic was at a standstill. Everyone in Saguache wanted to know who the government was picking up. It looked suspicious that two men were leaving the scene and so they stopped and watched, stepping backward and blending into the shadow. Creeping through alleyways and hiding from barricades by slipping into buildings and escaping through backdoors. The better part of the day was spent staying two steps ahead of the authorities. When night fell, they were trapped in the city. All exits were blocked going out of the city.

Kal sat and studied the blockade heading into the mountains for a long time. He had decided that was their exit. After night was well in, he made his decision. "'Kay kid, this is what we do. I'm going out there. I'm going to walk straight through that blockade and you're going to sneak out around the edges when all their firepower is aimed at me."

"Where do we meet?" Benjamin looked for a weak link in the line that would become weaker during all the commotion.

"We don't. I'm going to draw them off and you head off to dear old dad. Be careful kid, that state line will be tricky." Without another word, Kal stood and strode out of their hiding place and down the road to the blockade.

Benjamin watched as his nerves told him that something wrong was going to happen. Every hair on his head was standing on end and that ball of energy that had never quite gone away was back in full force. The shouts for Kal to stop reached his ears. Orders for the men to stand at ready. Shout for Kal to stop came again. Orders to fire within five feet. When the first shot rang out, Benjamin was on his feet. His eyes riveted to that weak link, he waited as more shots rang out. An explosion reached his ears and that weak link completely vacated. He took off running, leaping over cars and small shrubs.

His lungs burned as he reached the blockade and climbed over the make-shift fence. He felt the ache in his legs when he landed on the other side. His body pumped his blood faster than he thought possible and that ball of energy spalled in his chest. The hairs on his arms stood at attention as he raced away from the city and into the darkness between towns. Just when the shots should have been getting quieter, they got louder and a bullet narrowly missed his head. Without risking a glance backward, he sped up. Arms pumping, legs stretching and lungs aching, he bore down and an instinct took over. One hand shot out and then energy flowed along it. A tree burst into flames just as he took a bullet in the leg. He stumbled for just a second and kept on running, the flames from the tree obscured their view. Bullets flew wildly around him

Studying the layout of towns in the distance, he changed direction. Heading West into the mountains, hoped he could throw them off his trail and circle back around to get into Kansas. Focusing, he set more trees on fire. When it started to drain him, he stopped and just kept running for the higher ground ahead of him. He kept running long after the shots had ceased to reach his ears, long after the glare from the fires faded and well into morning before finally dropping into a crevice in the earth to rest and inspect the damage to his leg. When he realized that the bullet had entered his body and not just grazed him, he passed out.

The sun was high overhead when he came to. The air was silent around him, save for the chirping of birds and the rustle of the wind. No footsteps, no cars, no people. He pulled the picture out of his pocket, glad that Kal had left it alone when he changed his clothes but noted that the message on the back was missing. Max would be in the fields or something and Liz would be the one at home. Focusing whatever energy he had, he touched her image and let himself into her mind. Almost immediately, he felt her shove back and then she was kneeling over him in the woods. A bonnet covered her hair and she wore a plain dress with an apron. "Benjamin?"

"Hey. Sorry I didn't call last night. I was a little busy." He gasped. "I just didn't want you to think I had compromised you guys."

"Oh. No. Kal got word to us last night. Are you ok?"

"I… I was shot. They can't be too far behind though. Some went after Kal and some went after me." Benjamin adjusted his body where he lay in the crevice.

"Are you badly hurt? Where are you shot?" Her eyes went wide as she looked him over.

"It's my left leg. I didn't even feel it for most of the night when I was running. It can't be too bad." He shook his head and winced when he shifted his foot.

"Can you heal it?" Her eyes met his and then she realized that blank look. He didn't know how. "I can't do anything for you. It looks like it bled a lot. You should tie it up… tight. Do you have a belt?" He nodded and went about removing it. "Tear off a sleeve and tie it tight around the wound." She smiled when he did what she said but gave her a look that Max often gave her when he had no clue she knew something. "First aid class. I took one when we were still roaming. I figured it couldn't hurt."

"God! That hurts." He exclaimed when he pulled the belt.

"Tighter. You've lost a lot of blood already, you can't afford to lose anymore until you get the bullet out. You're lucky you didn't break your leg." Liz tilted her head to get a better look.

"I'm going to stop contacting you guys. I don't know how long until I get there and this is dangerous as it is." Benjamin clenched his teeth as he pulled the belt tighter and secured it.

"I was going to say. You can't do this again. Not during the day. I'm helping to wash the Sabbath meal house. The other women are probably freaking out about now. Are you going to be okay? Max will come get you."

"No." Benjamin shook his head. "I'll make it. I will make it. I just wish I knew why they went after us. Everything was fine yesterday… I mean the day before yesterday. When I woke up, they were already on us. We spent the whole day moving. Rested in the evening and I spent all night running. I passed out here sometime this morning and I have no clue where I'm going or how I'm going to get out of it but I will do it."

A faint breeze touched his head and cheek when she reached toward him, pride shining in her eyes. "You sound just like him." She continued to touch him but all he felt was the softest breeze. "I'm going to go set their minds at ease. I'll be back later to check on you."

"Don't tell him how bad off I am."

"Benjamin…"

"Promise me that you won't tell him. He'll just tell me to go home. We got into it last time we spoke. I need to get there. I will get there. Promise me."

She nodded and then waved before she faded out of his sight. He lay there feeling weak. He was really beginning to feel the blood loss but he needed to leave and put as much distance between him and the authorities as possible. Straining, he pulled himself out of the crevice and up the hill. When he reached the top, he was sweating profusely and he had a chill. Rolling over, he looked out over the land below. The tanks were about two miles to the West. He succeeded in making think that's where he wanted to go. He shifted to see the other direction and he could see soldiers making their way to the tanks behind him.

"No breaks. No freaking breaks." He muttered to himself and studied the line of soldiers. If he could make it south a mile, they'd pass behind him and he could sneak behind them and be on his way to the nearest city. Slowly and unsteadily, he made his way back the way he came. Down the hill, dragging his leg behind him. The makeshift tourniquet made his leg throb but it was better than losing what blood he had left and by how lightheaded he was feeling, that wasn't much. He needed food, something he hadn't had in two days, he needed sleep, something he wasn't going to get any time soon and he had to make it just far enough out of the government's reach to ensure he'd survive.

After a while, he wasn't seeing the trees anymore, his gaze was cast to the dying grass at his feet. He wasn't even sure he was still going the direction he needed to be going. All he cared about was getting out of the way of those men. He had too keep moving and he had to stay awake.

When the shots rang out, he couldn't even think. He moved as fast as he could, not caring when the stinging in his arm began or when he fell more than once. He just got back onto his feet and kept moving. Not even when the sudden stinging in his back threatened to take him to the ground once more. He shoved off a tree and kept moving. Even when his knees were no longer clear in his vision, he kept walking. He moved right leg forward, left leg drag, right forward, left drag, grip tree, long right stride, left drag. Forward, always moving forward. Until it all went black.

TBC
posted on 12-Aug-2002 12:33:01 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 10[/center]

Benjamin woke to muffled curses and hospital beeps. His head hurt so much, he didn't dare open his eyes to make the throb worse. He knew without budging that he was in a hospital and there was at least one other person in the room.

"Look. I was on my way to work. I was out of town." Slight pause. "I have a night travel permit. Anyway, I found the boy on the road. Gunshot wound to the left calf, another to the right arm, and another between his ribs in back on the right side. He had lost a lot of blood and suffered a concussion from hitting the asphalt." A female voice spoke. "He's exhausted and we've been giving him transfusions and liquids. He seems strong. Not from around here."

"How do you know?" A male voice asked.

"Tattoos covering most of his back, arms, hip and thigh. I know all the local gang tats and his aren't with any of them. No I.D."

"Anything else?"

"No. Kinda scrawny, no weapons. I think he was making a trek through the woods when that maniac went blowing stuff up. Military mistook him for the maniac." Silence and then papers flipping.

"You're sure this kid is clean?"

"No drugs, no tracks, lungs and nasal passages are clean. I'll bet he's got better than 20/20 when he's conscious but he's thin. He might look tough but I've got a nose for the troublemakers and he ain't one."

"And how can you tell?"

"Don't patronize me, Steve."

"No, I want to know."

"No calluses."

"No calluses."

"No calluses on his hands. Kid's never worked with his hands except to write with a pen. Tattoos that weren't obscured by recent injuries do not have scars. They were professionally done, no bleeds, no scars, never got infected, expensive. Stubble's only a couple of day's old. Blood work is clean. No STDs, no seasonal viruses, from what I can tell… his shots are up to date."

"You can tell all that?"

"I was a cop's daughter before I was doctor. I notice things." A huge sigh. "Get out of here Steve. I have work to do and so do you."

"You going to meet me for drinks… you do have a night pass after all."

"Go to hell, Steve."

When the door shut, Benjamin opened his eyes. The doctor didn't seem to notice. "Can you really tell all that just by looking at me?"

"Jesus!" She spun and leaned against a counter. "How long have you been awake, mister?"

"A while." He watched as she recovered herself and made her way over to take his vitals and check his head.

"My name is Dr. Rice. Do you feel like you have a concussion?" She shone the light in his eyes.

"If you're asking if my head hurts, no." Benjamin looked around the small room.

"Good. You're a lucky young man. You could have broken a bone or bled to death. Want to tell me what you were doing sprawled in the middle of the road?"

"Like you said. I was going for a walk. I got lost. First light I headed for the nearest road and then bullets are flying past me." Benjamin cleared his throat and waited for a reaction.

"Your leg was shot last night, not today." She crossed her eyes and looked him over. "I'm not turning you in, kid. I just want some answers. Were they really looking for you last night?"

"What do you think?" He rested his head on the pillow. This problem wasn't going to go away if he wished it.

"I think I need to keep you overnight for observation. I think I need your name so I can call your parents." She pulled a pen out of her pocket and a pad of paper out of the other. "I'm really surprised that you're awake." She scribbled something on a piece of paper. "So… I'm going to take the picture of your parents that I found in your clothes and flash it around."

"No." Benjamin barked out. The doctor waited patiently for his explanation, so he thought quickly. "Those people in that picture… they don't exist."

"Don't exist."

"Vapor." Watched her knowing nod.

"I see. Sorry, kid. Didn't mean to upset you. What orphanage do you belong to?"

"I don't."

"That's an old picture, kid. Surely you belong somewhere."

"I'm tired. Maybe after I get some more sleep, I'll talk about it." Benjamin watched the doctor resign herself to his stubbornness and put away the pen and paper.

"Just remember what I said. You've been shot three times. You won't be able to walk on that leg for a week. Your arm will be sore and no use to support your weight until the wound heals and sitting up will be painful for about a week due to the torn muscle between your ribs."

"Is that your way of telling me not to get out of bed when I do decide to wake up, Dr. Rice?" He had to smile at her.

"Maybe. And maybe Officer Wills won't find you in the same room when he gets back, John Doe." When she left him, she shut off the light and shut the door. He looked around for anything that would tell him where he was. Finally, he found the remote for the TV mounted up on the wall. The TV was ancient and probably a damn reliable set to still be working, which is why it was in a room designated for John Does. When it turned on, it took a full minutes for the sound and picture to fully kick in.

"Authorities are still in pursuit of the two individuals that crossed the New Mexico and Colorado border three days ago. Three days ago, two males crossed the border from New Mexico into Colorado using false permits. The officer on duty said that a teenager and a middle-aged man claimed to be crossing into Colorado to deliver the boy to his father. The boy's mother would pick him up in the near future. When the officer processed the paper numbers and the plates from the security cameras at the end of the day, they discovered the problem. The car was stolen from a man in Santa Fe, the man's body was found later that day." The news anchor took a few steps to reveal the front desk at a hotel. "The suspects were then tracked to this motel in Saguache. An early morning raid left six officers dead, four injured and no captures. Security cameras were fuzzy at best and no clear images of the suspects have been found. Officials had already blocked all exits from Saguache and that evening led to even more blood shed."

Benjamin adjusted his weary body in the bed and listened to the civilian account of what he had been through just the day before.

"Reports from survivors said that 'the man walked right into the northern blockade. Bullets didn't phase him and when he lifted his hands, tanks blew up behind us. When I came to, his hand was glowing. It was as if he wasn't even human.' We're still researching the validity of this statement and the authorities have yet to make a statement. At last report, the young man escaped from Saguache and was chased into the woods surrounding the town. Sky cams recorded three fires and plenty of gunfire. One of the soldiers claimed that he got a hit on the teenager but he had not been apprehended." The anchorwoman paused and cleared her throat. "Neither of these suspects have been caught and are thought to be extremely dangerous. Do pick up hitchhikers and do not trust any person that you do not know. Repeat. Assume all strangers are these suspects and do not allow opportunity to be taken advantage of. These men are very clever and very dangerous."

Sick to his stomach, Benjamin shut off the TV. He was near enough to Saguache to get the news but then, they were probably airing the newscast all over the state and the surrounding states. If he was guessing correctly, whatever Kal had pulled on the elevator back at the hotel was the reason that none of the security cameras had clear views of their faces. Making a decision, he pulled the IV out of his arm and shut off the electronic equipment before pulling off the sensors.

He cursed when he put weight on his arm and then again when he put weight on his leg. When he almost fell, he found his clothes in a plastic bag under the bed. He ignored the pain shooting through his arm, leg and back and finished dressing. When he was done, there was a cold sweat running down his face. He couldn't stay though. He could not let himself get caught, even if that doctor seemed like the type to turn a blind eye.

As quietly as possible, he escaped the small room and headed down the hall, clinging to the walls for support as the pain in his leg threatened to spill him onto the floor. When he passed one of the rooms, he borrowed a crutch, barely taking the time to adjust it before he was on his way again. When he passed a supply cart, he grabbed a pillowcase and filled it with bandages, swabs, gauzes and a bottle of peroxide. No need to get infected. It took him a minute to rig the pillowcase to his belt loop before continuing his hobble toward the nearest exit.

He watched his reflection and decided he needed new clothes. Even in the transparent reflection the window afforded him, he could see the bloodstains and bullet holes. As he reached the door, he heard an exasperated sigh. He pushed open the door and turned around to see Dr. Rice staring at him. He cleared his throat. "I'm leaving… A.M.A."

"And if I call security?" She took a deep breath.

"They'll have to catch me." Benjamin shifted his weight onto the crutch and let the door slam behind him. He glanced behind only once and Dr. Rice was starting out the window with her arms crossed. No, she wasn't going to call the authorities. Even if she didn’t think the authorities were after him, she knew he wasn't that bad a person. She had given that cop every reason she could come up with that he wasn't a suspect.

Whatever they gave him for the pain wore off about four hours later, when the crutch was covered in mud, his bandages were soaked with blood and sweat, and his stomach felt like it was turning inside out. Leaning against a tree, he fought to bring control over the pain and the nausea. Then he nearly leapt out of his skin.

"You're smarter than I thought, kid." The thick accent associated with Kal had come from behind him. When he regained his equilibrium, the man was standing next to him. "Where'd you get the crutch?"

"From the hospital."

"I take it back. You're stupider than I thought." Kal guided Benjamin to the forest floor and squat beside him. "Rest a minute while I rake you over the coals. No hospitals. Even your father knew that. Clever enough to hide the evidence when it couldn't be avoided and you don't have the help that he did."

"Look, I made it out and if they suspected anything I'd be in public incarceration by now." Benjamin winced when a rock scraped against the bandage on his leg, even through the pants.

"No. If they had you, you'd be sliced open on a metal slab in a government facility deep within these very mountains, kid. They'd pick up with you where they left off with your father." Kal pulled a cigar from inside his jacket and lit it with his finger. "And let me tell you, they learned a lot from him. They stopped short of dissection but I understand that wasn't too far off."

"No more trusting these humans, Benny boy. They aren't like us. In some ways, they're a whole lot meaner. Our people, they'd run a bio-scan. From that one scan, they'd learn everything about you, from biological structure and function to behavior patterns. If they felt like it, they could fix faulty wiring so to speak. These humans. Even after they learn everything there is to learn, they still wanna see what makes it tick."

"Are we that different?" Benjamin watched Kal inhale the end inch of the cigar and then blow out the smoke.

"You're just different enough for them to care, Kid." Kal motioned for him to get up. "Let's go. We got a lot of ground to cover. You're lucky you were going the right way."

Benjamin struggled to his feet and leaned on the crutched. Kal's hand on his shoulder and then his clothes changed and Benjamin was glad to have his leather jacket back. He looked up at Kal. "Can you do anything about my wounds?"

"Nope. I don't know enough about human physiology to heal, kid. That's not really an Antarian trait. Your old man got lucky when he developed that ability. That I know of, him and his duplicate are the only ones that developed healing to a life saving extent. The others got a little bit of it. Maybe you got it, who knows." Kal pointed East. "This way, kid. Lot of ground to cover."

TBC
posted on 13-Aug-2002 1:59:13 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 11[/center]

Frost crackled under their feet, breath hung in the air after it left their lungs and let in the sharp morning air. Benjamin could feel his strength waning and his stomach kept growling. He had long since been able to ignore the pain in his body, the cold numbing his body as well as his hands and feet. They had walked all night and they were nowhere near a town. They had narrowly missed the spotlights from the helicopters that night. They were too far from the roads to have the cruisers spot them. When the dawn had erupted around them, Kal motioned for him to stop. The alien looked around them for several long moments.

Soon, Benjamin found himself herded into a cave and propped against the wall. Kal waved his hand over him and immediately warmth soaked the young man's body. "There, that should keep you warm a while. We rest until nightfall."

Grateful for the warmth, Benjamin sank down to the floor and pulled out the picture of Max and Liz. Touching her face, he shut his eyes and reached out to her. He was so tired, he didn't care where the energy was coming from. He just did it. When he met Liz's mind, he felt a scolding coming on.

"Benjamin Scott, I told you not to do this during the day." Liz appeared standing over him, hands on hips and bonnet askew. Then she looked him over. "Oh my God, what happened to you?"

"Oh this? It's nothing. I'll be good to go in a week." He waved her off and adjusted his posture. "What were you doing this time?"

"On my way to milk the cow." She whispered as she knelt to inspect him. "They really did a number on you, didn't they?"

"I'm surviving and you're not telling him… Don't let Kal tell him either." Benjamin's eyes drifted to the alien sitting at the mouth of the cave.

"I don't have any control over Kal." She shook her head. "I'll see what I can do. I gotta get back. Max is waiting for me to come out of it."

"Sorry for the daytime contact but we just stopped for the day. I'm on the move at night."

"Okay, just not after eight my time. That's seven your time until you reach the state line."

"Got it." He nodded. "Catch you later."

"Feel better." Liz faded out of view. Gathering his wits, he shrugged out of his jacket and his shirt. The flesh wound on his arm hadn't been disturbed much but it still needed cleaning. He managed that one pretty well but he could forget the one in his back. Wiggling out of his jeans, he managed to clean his leg but it still hurt a lot and if it wasn't careful the slight swelling would get worse.

He barely got his pants back up before he passed out. When he came to, Kal was standing over him. "Kid, wake up. It's time to go." Benjamin, in his barely awake state, could see that Kal was wrestling with something. Finally, the alien came to a decision when he knelt and helped Benjamin to his feet, righting his clothes. "There, maybe they won't slap us with a public indecency rap when they pick us up again. Let's go, kid."

Benjamin wiped at his eyes and grabbed his crutch. Together, they hobbled out of the cave. Early evening had settled and a fine mist rose from the ground. Benjamin felt a cough coming on but he suppressed it and focused on moving one foot in front of crutch. In the coldest part of the night, a few miles from where they started, Kal paused to look at his charge. "You're not looking so good, Benny Boy."

"Not feeling so well." Benjamin leaned on a tree and winced when his leg touched anything.

"Road's two more miles. We'll get a ride. Make that far." Kal nodded in the direction they were headed. As they moved forward, Kal shifted into an elderly man. An hour and a half later, the road lay before them devoid of cars. Benjamin dropped to the road and concentrated on not passing out. They waited and waited. Daylight wasn't far off, cars would be on the road soon.

Benjamin snapped his head up when Kal called his name. "You okay kid? Been calling you for a while now."

"I'm okay." He shook his head clear and squeezed his eyes shut. He needed to get his jacket off. "I'm just hot."

"Leave the jacket on kid." Kal snapped and knelt down. "No. You're not doing good." Eyes ran over the kid. "Something tells me you're not supposed to be sweating when it's supposed to be this cold."

"I'm just hot." Benjamin shook his head and tried again to take off his jacket.

"Leave the jacket on, kid. Your old man told me to get you there alive and I'm gonna." Kal reached down and pulled the jacket back together just as Benjamin passed out. "Damn kid."

Benjamin woke up to a jostling trailer and a horse hoof next to his leg. In his fever addled brain, he immediately passed out again. When he woke again, a woman was feeding him water. She was talking but he couldn't make any of it out. She faded out just as easily.

He only really woke from his deep slumber when Kal slapped him across the face. "Wake up. Wake up."

"Mmmfff."

"You too, kid." Kal stood him up and pointed him east. "Start walking straight ahead. I have to head back and do some damage control."

Benjamin didn't even have the strength to argue, he just propelled himself forward in a daze. He could have been dreaming for all what passed in front of his eyes made sense to him. Fields. Empty fields. It was dark. Maybe it was just his eyes but it seemed dark. Then he heard talking, so he looked up. There were men 50 yards off but he just kept walking and leaning on his crutch. He stumbled but he picked himself up and kept walking toward the nearest house. Then a man filled his view.

The man just stood there as Benjamin approached. When he was two feet away, his vision cleared just enough to make out the man's face. Benjamin couldn't stop the sob in his throat. "Daddy."

"Zan." The amber-eyed man reached for him and caught him as he fell, unconscious. Max felt the tears flow from his eyes freely. He could care less that there were people watching them. He held his son close and reveled in being able to actually touch him. Then he looked him over. All he had to see was the blood-soaked pant leg and he was on his feet, carrying the unconscious boy into the house. "Liz!"

TBC
posted on 14-Aug-2002 8:27:51 PM by DMartinez
AN: Now before you all scream a resounding 'What the fuck?!' it's a thinker if you want to get it but if you don't, don't worry.

[center]Part 12[/center]

Max placed his son on his own bed upstairs and busied himself with stripping clothes off of the unconscious boy to inspect the damage. The bandages were soaked through and the leg was swollen. Max threw the jeans down on the floor and was about to put his hand over it when Liz thrust a clean cloth into his hand. It was then he looked up to see his neighbors standing in the doorway. Nodding, he pressed the cloth to the wound and began stripping the rest of his clothes off.

"Brother Max, I'll fetch the doctors from town to see to the Englishman." The oldest placed his hat on his head.

"No. Brother Jacob, that is not necessary. He is where he needs to be." Max could still feel the tears flowing down his cheeks and couldn't stop the sob when he saw the infected flesh wound on Benjamin's arm. "What did they do to you?" Pulling Benjamin into a sitting position, he pulled the jacket and shirt off and nearly cursed when he saw the old bandage on his son's back. "I just need some clean water and some clean cloth and some ice."

Liz watched Max kiss his son's forehead and then ran to gather what he asked for. Their neighbors didn't seem too pleased with the activity. "Brother Max, we take care of our own and so should they."

"Brother Jacob, be silent. Your anger is uncalled for. The young man is in need. Brother Max is willing to give it. Let him." The two men stared at each other and then peaceably backed down.

"He's not their problem." Max muttered and did his best to pull off the dirty bandages. "He's mine." Liz arrived with the supplies and went to work cleaning up Benjamin's back first. Max ignored the clearing of throats at Liz's being in the room until Brother Jacob was about to open his mouth again. "This is my son. My wife is qualified to tend the wounds. Let her."

Brother Jacob narrowed his eyes and removed himself from the house. Brother Ezra shrugged out of his jacket and washed his hands quickly with a pitcher of water by the bed. "Let me see. This one looks clean. No dirt."

"He's got a fever." Max kissed his son's head again.

"We'll bring that down soon enough. Tend to these wounds first." Ezra tsked at the tattoos and covered the wound with a clean cloth before guiding the young man onto his back.

Liz nodded and soaked a cloth with clean water and went about sponging fluid from the wound on Benjamin's arm. "Lot of bacteria in there."

Max wiped at his face and washed his hands in the bedside basin, then went to work on the swollen leg. "Brother Ezra, please see if there's… more bandages in the hall closet."

The second that Ezra was out of the room, Max placed his hands on Benjamin's arm, concentrating to kill the bacteria that threatened to infect the rest of his body. Then he moved his hands to the wound on his leg. It had seemed clean enough but sweat and dirt had incited the swelling. Dissolving the debris, Max tried to open the nodes to allow the collecting fluids out of the leg. That would have to do until Ezra was out of the house. Liz placed a cool wet cloth on Benjamin's fevered forehead.

"No bandages in there, but lift his leg. It will help the swelling to go down." Ezra helped Liz to lift the dead weight up onto the pile of blankets. "Shall I call for Brother Julian?"

"No. I think we'll be fine with what we have here." Liz told him. "Thank you, Brother Ezra. We appreciate your help."

"We heal fast in my family. He'll be fine." Max assured him and nodded to Liz to see Ezra to the door. Max changed out of his dirty clothes and then got Benjamin covered up. He paced, he wrung his hair and when he finally heard the door close downstairs, he climbed onto the bed to heal what he could. He concentrated on relieving the swelling first.

With his eyes closed, he blocked out everything else. He hadn't needed to heal anyone in a very long time. He didn't hear Liz until she was wrapped around him, lending him strength. "Relax, Max. Don't force it."

"I don't think I could if I tried."

"Does he really need this much healing?" She reached around and swept a few stray locks out of the young man's face. "Maybe he just needs rest. He is mostly human, he could react badly to too much alien energy."

"I don't know if I can take that chance." Max couldn't stop the tears from falling again. Liz could be right but she could always be wrong too. "Why didn't he let us know he was this bad off? How long was he like this?"

"Four days." Liz whispered and felt Max tense.

"You knew."

"He made me promise not to tell you. He's been checking in with me in the mornings." She shut her eyes when he started shaking. "He didn't want you going to get him. He was only shot in the leg that I knew of. I didn't know about the other two until two days later."

"You should have told me." Max squeezed his eyes shut and took his hands off Benjamin's leg. Taking up the limp hand, he did something he never admitted to doing before, even in the rare occasions that warranted it. He prayed.

When Liz left to make sure their boys returned from school and to fix their dinner, Max never moved. Kneeling next to the unconscious child, his hand clutching the limp one, praying to a God that he was too angry to admit existed. The room went dark with night and still he knelt, crying and praying. If he weren't too scared of reopening the wounds, he would pull Benjamin into his arms and hope all these tears did some good.

Liz stepped into the room and shook her head at Max. He was still in the same position, hair obscuring his face and whispering words so softly she couldn't make them out. Silently, she set down a plate of food and a glass of water beside the bed and then lit the lantern on the far side of the room. She shut the door behind her, she could sleep with Bobby in his bed.

Benjamin fought with his own demons inside his fevered mind. Visions of destruction and war swept through his head. Screams echoed followed by whispers. Everywhere he looked, people in long, worn clothes walked. Their head and faces covered by clothes he had only seen in pictures. The man. The man was everywhere, watching him, observing his confusion amongst the wild spread panic. The man pulled out a trumpet and brought it to his lips.

No!

The man smiled and waiting until Benjamin drew near. Benjamin couldn't hear the words so much as feel them. The man lifted the horn again and Benjamin wrenched it from the man's mouth. No.

Why?

You can't.

Why?

You just can't.

You will not embrace your destiny. You can't stop me. You are not the son. Only the son of the King can stop me. I'll end it all. They suffer too much.

Don't.

Once maybe I would have believed you would stop me. I hold no such hope now. You've changed from last we met and not for the better.

Benjamin stepped back. The words rang true. He locked eyes with the man and shivered inside. The eyes were not eyes of a man. Again the man lifted the horn to his mouth.

"Gabriel, don't! I am the son! Stop! I am the son of the King!" Benjamin's body jerked upright, shooting pain through his back and leg and arm, eyes wide open in horror. The man's hair hid his face but his body glowed with an unearthly halo. Energy flooded his body. "I said stop! I am he! I am the one! Gabriel, kneel down!"

Max watched his son's glazed eyes open and then shut, his body flopping back down onto the bed. After a few moments, Benjamin's eyes closed and his breathing evened out. Hesitantly, he shifted his grip and placed his hand on the boy's forehead. It was much cooler than it had been. The fever had broken.

TBC
posted on 18-Aug-2002 3:54:14 AM by DMartinez
I do not know the correct speech pattern for the Amish and this came out more country bumpkin.

Part 13

Benjamin grimaced at the fight two feet away. The voices were indistinct but they made his head throb. Loud clink. Then he could make out words. He had made it. He was there. He was home.

"Max, the boys are worried about you. Go say good-bye."

"I don't want to leave him alone." Max shook his head as he took a bite of his eggs and toast.

"He'll be fine. You said yourself, the fever broke last night and he's sleeping peacefully. He just needs rest. It's not like he's going to run off in the two minutes it's going to take you to go downstairs, kiss your boys and come back up here." Liz stared at him meaningfully. "Max."

"I'm thinking. Why are they worried?"

She scoffed and smacked him. "Because you've been in this room since before they got home from school yesterday and they haven't seen you in the longest time since they can remember. Go."

Thundering steps and then laughter and noisy kisses. Door opened and shut. More thundering steps and more noisy kisses. "Ugh. You taste like breakfast." More kisses. Nauseating. Nausea. "See, he's fine. You didn't miss a thing."

Benjamin sat straight up despite the pain in his body. "Oh God."

"Hey." Max rushed to his side. "Hey, are you in there? What do you need? Water? Food? What do you need?"

"An emesis basin." Benjamin croaked out.

Liz jumped and grabbed the washbasin from beside the bed and thrust it under Benjamin's chin just in time. Liz grimaced and nodded to Max to get the towel on the table. "Feel better?"

"How is it possible to throw up if I haven't eaten in days?" Benjamin groaned and gratefully took the glass of water to rinse out his mouth and the towel to clean up with. "What's today?"

"Tuesday." Max answered and sat on the bed, relief all over his face. "You gave us a scare yesterday."

"You were scared?" Benjamin let out a harsh laugh and carefully lay back down before he broke down. "It was like they knew. They wanted us bad and I couldn't stop running." Before he knew it, Max had pulled him into his arms and started rocking.

"Sh. It's okay." Max felt relief wash over him when Benjamin held on just as tightly. "You're okay now." Held the sobbing boy to his chest and didn't ever want to let go. "It's okay."

"How about the two of you get cleaned up a little and come down stairs. It'll probably be good to be out of here for awhile." Liz cleared her throat and tossed Max a look. "I'll fix you some broth."

"Okay." Max nodded and kissed his son's head. "I've been waiting for you."

"I didn't know I wanted to be here until I got here." Benjamin sobbed and sat in awe of how familiar the arms around him felt. Like a week's worth of love had been ingrained in his very soul and he could recognize it anywhere. Suddenly, he felt very weak. "I… I need a shower."

"Come on. I'll help you." Max sat back, studying Benjamin's look of disbelief. "Unless you plan to walk down the hall yourself."

"Let's go." Benjamin nodded. Max lifted him up so he could slide his feet off the bed but they wouldn't support his weight. He let Max take his weight so that he could put the rest of it on his left leg. They made a slow progress down the hall to a small bathroom with a tub. Benjamin sat on its edge and tried to catch his breath. That had taken a lot of strength. "I am so tired."

"I'll bet you haven't been coherent in days. If you haven't eaten anything, it's no wonder." Max nodded and turned on the water to fill the tub. "Don't tell anyone that we have hot water." Then he began pulling baggies from a low shelf to make into makeshift shields for the bandages. He saw the strange look on Benjamin's face. "Liz uses them to store pieces of soap so that they don't get onto everything."

Benjamin nodded and watched Max move around to get things ready. Towels, soap, shampoo. Then he reached around and cut off the water. "I'll go get you some clothes, so go ahead and get in."

Benjamin caught him before he could leave. "Wait." Max turned. "I… um…" He ducked his head. "If I stand up, I'll lose my balance." Nodding silently, Max returned and took hold of the young man. He had known this but hadn't wanted to say anything. After helping him out of his boxers, Max slid Benjamin carefully into the water. Max patted his head and started out of the room again. "Thanks."

Max turned and nodded before making the trek down the stairs. His bones cracked and popped with every movement. Probably from the way he had sat all night on the bed next to his son. He kissed Liz's head as he passed to look through some old clothes sitting beside the table. Sorting through and holding up this shirt and those pants. "He's thinner than me."

"Rachel brought over some belts that Will made. He noticed you had lost some weight and thought you could use them." Liz looked up from the stove. "I gave them that quilt I had been working on."

"I thought you were saving that." Max stopped and looked at her.

"I'm not pregnant, Max. I can always make another one." She let a smile cross her face. "Rachel needs it more than I do. She's due in the spring." She leaned into his arms and sighed. "You just talk to the little men and tell them I want a girl next time."

"We're trying. I just seem to be great with making the boys." He planted a kiss on her lips. "We'll keep trying though. Every night for the rest of our lives until we see results."

"Tease." She swatted him. "How is he?"

"Quiet and still sore I think. He hasn't said much about the pain. He says he's tired…" His eyes glazed over and she furrowed her brow as if to ask what he was thinking of. "Last night, he got really hot. I thought he was going to die and I was about to heal him again when he just sat straight up and started shouting."

"What did he say?" Nodding because she had heard the shouts and had to calm the boys down when the shouts woke them up.

"He looked through me, right through me. He said, 'Gabriel, don't. I am the son. Stop. I am the son of the king.'" He looked to Liz and shook his head. "He barely took a breath before he said something like 'I am the one. Gabriel, kneel down.' What does that mean?"

"He was probably hallucinating. He had a high fever." Liz stroked his shoulder and looked up into his face. "Did you ask him?"

"No. You're right, it was probably nothing."

"If you thought it was nothing, why did you bring it up?" They stood that way for a few minutes. "Go check on him. Ask him."

"It's nothing but the way he said it." Max shook his head. "He just sounded so desperate and…"

"And what?"

"And commanding." Max shut his eyes tight. "And scared."

"What does it mean to you?"

"Nothing except that he said he was the son of the king." His eyes opened to hers. "And what am I?" He backed away from her. "I am nobody. I'm still a scared little boy and I'm not a king. I'm not here to save anyone."

"No one said you were."

"But it's why I'm here. I was created to serve one purpose and I couldn't do that. What does he expect from me?"

Liz took hold of him. "He expects you to explain it all to him. He wants whatever answers you can give him and I think you need to give them. Don't… try to be his father. It might be too late for that but try to be someone he can look up to. Don't worry about anyone else. Harvest is done. Chores are done. All you have to worry about is tending to the animals and to your sons. All three of them."

"Okay." Max nodded and picked up the clothes and the belt. "Okay."

"Bring him down here. I'll clean up the nursery a little and you can put him in there so that he won't have to worry about the stairs again." Liz wiped at her face and turned back to the broth boiling on the stove.

Max trudged up the stairs and knocked on the bathroom door. He heard some splashing and a gasp, somehow resisting the urge to burst in the way he had when Alex was three and a half. The small boy had slipped beneath the water and taken a mouthful into his lungs. That was one of the scariest moments of his life. "Benjamin?"

"Yeah. Come in." Came the answer. Benjamin glanced at the door as it opened. It was humbling to have to ask for help. Embarrassing even to ask it from a stranger. Humiliating since the stranger in question obviously wanted to help, found the right to offer and accept nothing in return. "Mind if I just sit in here a while?"

"Go ahead. I just brought some clothes up. I know they aren't what you're used to but they're clean and dry." Max set the clothes down on the toilet. He was about to leave again when Benjamin cleared his throat. "Did you need something else?"

"Just wondering why you have shampoo and baggies. Shouldn't soap be sufficient to wash your hair? And couldn't you just use bowls and wax paper?" Benjamin carefully drew his knees to his chest.

"Um… well…" Max turned and took a seat on the floor next to the clothes hamper. "The shampoo we make because Liz likes it. Flowers, berries and soap. She hoards it and it lasts a long time. Me and the boys don't really need to use it. The baggies are left over from what we brought with us. We clean them well and reuse them, sometimes I fix them."

"I would have thought you would have cut yourself off from even them." Benjamin sank down into the water.

"I would have liked to but that would have meant an actual sale to the English, which means taxes and the government. We came to an agreement. In exchange for helping us get started, we would become a part of their community, part of the trading and labor here. It's getting harder to get the seeds and whatever we can offer civilization helps get us the things we need from them. We had to learn to farm the land, raise and slaughter our own animals, the boys attend their bible school, Liz goes to church with them. We don't hold on to most of what we were used to but took advantage of the allowances they permitted. Hence the indoor plumbing. Septic tank is a ways off."

"Hot water?" Benjamin gestured to the bathtub he was sitting in.

"I studied some engineering books when were running. I made the water heater myself. It's small but efficient." He sighed heavily. "With as little as we had, you'd think it would have been simple to do without but we took a lot for granted. Electricity, gas stoves, department stores, convenient stores… Tabasco sauce."

"Tabasco sauce?" Benjamin snapped his head around as he was pulling the plug.

"Oh yeah. It's rather hard to find anything spicy around here. Sometimes Sunday dinner is horrible. I want to kill myself because the food doesn't taste like anything." He snorted and shook his head. "I managed to get Ezra to order me some jalapeno seeds three years ago though. We've got a small patch on the side of the house, pretty much constant sun. They make life bearable."

"I didn't realize that was related." Benjamin reached for the towel and pondered that. "We like spicy food?"

"Sweet and spicy food." Max nodded and got to his feet to help Benjamin climb out of the tub. "That's from us. When we first came out of the pods, the only things we could taste were lemons, Tabasco and sugar. Something about the energy we harness seems to deaden taste buds and the very ends of the nerve endings. That's why things aren't really painful at first. Heat and cold take a while longer to register, sharp has to press…" Carefully, Max helped his son into his clothes. "Mental awareness is sharper, more empathic, dreams that should be just dreams are very real. Clarity is better than most people could dream."

"Really?" Maybe he had been different all along. "So, the reason I'm so smart is probably related to my mental faculties."

"Probably. There's this thing that we can do. I haven't quite mastered it but the others and Liz did. It's called scanning. Liz says it's like reading with total recall, photographic memory."

"Like how I can look at a page and see and understand it later." Benjamin mused and moved to sit on the toilet to rest. "God, I'm weak."

Twenty minutes later they finally made their way down to the kitchen, still discussing the scanning. "Is it possible that you just instinctually knew how to scan? Maybe. It's not like I have a manual or anything. I don't even know the extent of my own powers much less yours and Liz's. My understanding is that all humans are capable of these type of thing but the Antarian DNA utilizes more of the brain, awakening these hidden abilities."

"Huh." Benjamin turned it over in his mind as he was lowered into a chair at the table. Immediately a warm bowl of broth was set in front of him. Liz was busy moving around the kitchen, her bonnet hanging down her back with her long braid.

"You going to be okay in here? I have to go see to the animals." Max glanced at Liz and she nodded. When he glanced at Benjamin, he was focused on swallowing spoonful by careful spoonful of the warm broth.

"Max, we'll be fine. Go feed the animals. They have to be starving by now." Liz shoved him toward the door. She laughed after he edged out the backdoor. "He's going to worry himself sick." She pulled a small loaf of bread out of the oven and glanced at him. "How weird is this for you?"

Benjamin looked up at her. "Um… pretty weird."

"Call me Liz. I think that'll be more comfortable for both of us." She opened her breadbox and cut a thick slice and set it on the table next to him. "See if you can hold that down."

He studied her for a moment. She managed to look him in the eye more than once. "How hard is it to have me here?"

"It's no trouble." Liz shook her head and went back to cooking.

"I meant how hard is it for you to have me here?" When she tensed, he knew they were on the same page. He ran his spoon through his broth until she started moving again. "It's gotta be hard for you."

"This isn't hard." Liz shook her head. "Experiencing my life was hard. This is easy." She wiped her hands on her apron and sat down. "Don't think we don't want you here. You have no idea how hard it was for Max to make the decision he did and I had to sit back and watch him. That was hard. Having you here is… validating."

"Validating."

"You are proof that he did the right thing. When I think about all the things we went through… I'm glad you were somewhere away for all that. Especially now that I've had the boys. I couldn't bear to have them live through that the way we did." Liz reached back and pulled her braid up onto her head, secured it with a pin already in her hair and then pulled her bonnet on top of her head. The second the string was secured under her chin, a knock sounded at the front door. "I'll get that. Eat the bread. It's good. Help you keep the broth down." She disappeared and he could barely make out the voices.

"Sister Elizabeth, I've brought the physician."

"Really, that's not necessary but thank you."

"The boy look very bad."

"He's awake and around today." Liz tried to assure Ezra but he seemed insistent. "He's in the kitchen, eating and trying to rebuild his strength." She knew they wouldn't enter the house without Max's permission but they weren't leaving either. "Max is in the barn."

"I'll go around and speak to him then." Ezra nodded and the two of them disappeared around the side of the house. They found Max throwing a bale of hay to the horses. "Brother Max!"

"Brother Ezra, I didn't expect you back so soon." Max grabbed his jacket and ducked out to greet the two men. "Brother Julian, good to see you. What brings you out here?"

"Brother Ezra says that you've an injured in the house." Julian removed his hat. "Are my services needed? Your wife doesn't think it necessary."

"It's not. He's better. He's weak but awake and trying to keep down some broth." Max shrugged into the dark jacket and waited for the questions.

"The boy is your son?" Ezra asked.

"He is."

"Brother Max, we realize that you have not always lived among us but do you think it wise to bring an… indiscretion into our community." Ezra tried to dance around it but Max wouldn't have it.

"I had a wife before Liz, Brother Ezra. She died a year after our son was born. Benjamin is not an indiscretion, he is my son." Max took a breath and risked a glance at the small house a few yards away. "I may not have been raised as one of the community or participate as fully as you think I should but I will not apologize for my life. Not everything about the outside world is as evil as you think."

"He's an older boy, is all." Ezra gripped his hat.

"I was young. Is that what you want to hear? Why are you even asking me these questions? I should tell you to mind your own business but I won't. I have nothing to hide. I gave up my own flesh and blood so that he might have a better life than I could give him. He found his way back to me and I am eternally grateful for this second chance with him." Max examined the faces of the stunned men. "If you'll excuse me, Brothers, I have more animals to tend to."

"Brother Max." Julian tried to placate him. "I just want to help."

"He doesn't need help. The fever's passed. Liz is trained in first aid. His wounds are clean and healing. No swelling. We're fine." Max told them calmly. "Thank you for your concern but we don't need help. I'll… see you on Sunday."

"On the Sabbath." Julian nodded and guided Ezra out of the barn. "Hope that boy of yours heals up."

Max hurried through his chores, tending to the chickens who were ready to peck through his shoes, to the cows who were ready to burst with milk, to the hogs that nearly leapt out of the pen they were so hungry. When he entered the house again, the kitchen was empty but full of smells. "Liz?"

"In here." Her voice called out from the room under the staircase that was used for storage in the other houses but in their house it was a nursery. A cradle for the baby and a narrow bed for whomever woke up with the baby that night. It was easier than falling down the stairs at night to fix a bottle to feed a screaming baby. Max found Liz arranging pillows for Benjamin to get comfortable. "What did they say?"

"Nothing." He grunted. "I'm going into town to get Bobby. He shouldn't spend so much time at Francine's."

"Max." Liz knew something was wrong. "They'll be home in a few hours anyway." She grabbed his shirt as he started out. "Max. Leave it alone. The boys will be home soon, you'll introduce them to each other and then we'll sit down to dinner. Just calm down, Max."

Benjamin watched in amazement as Max had gone from quite angry to quite calm in just a few moments. He marveled at the link between them. Max hadn't said much but she had known exactly what was wrong with him. It humbled him.

TBC
posted on 21-Aug-2002 11:06:11 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 14[/center]

Benjamin listened to Liz bustle around the kitchen. He had been dozing for the past two hours and it wasn't getting him anywhere. That nagging energy ball hadn't resurfaced but its effects weren't as absent. As he lay there, he got visions of both Max and Liz with their boys. One vision struck him particularly hard. When Alex had been born, Max had been on the bed just watching him move and squirm, heart bursting at the seams, and then his eyes had saddened and turned his thoughts to a son that would have been around eleven years old. Max had shed a few tears and returned his attention to the needy new born. Liz had done a similar thing, though her feelings weren't as deeply bound as Max's were. Even she had thought of the stepson she had never known in the wake of her own children being born.

Finally, Benjamin rose from the bed, using the walls to cling to as his left leg threatened to give out on him. The short walk got the blood pumping through his veins and soon he sat himself at the table. Liz glanced at him from where she was tossing carrots into the broth that he had eaten earlier. "Feel better?"

"Yeah, I guess." Nodded and glanced around. "Need any help? I can't sit still anymore."

She smiled and placed six potatoes and a knife in front of him. "Peel and cut." Benjamin set to work, barely noticing the soreness in his arm as he worked. Soon he had a mountain of potato chunks ready to be washed. Liz just scooped them into a bowl and carried them over to the sink to rinse. "So, you helped your mom cook?"

"When you're ten and bored out of your mind, learning to cook takes up time." He answered and gathered the peels to be thrown.

"In the bucket beside the table. We feed the scraps to the hogs." She studied him a minute. "You didn't have friends?"

"Not my age. I was… I graduated high school at 14. I was finishing up my basics this semester and I had law as my major. I was thinking of switching to political science though." Benjamin shrugged and rose to wash his hands. "I had friends at school but after school was another story. No one wanted to hang out with the kid, you know?"

"I guess that would be tough."

"So one day my mom tells me to get my butt in the kitchen. I had to learn to cook and I had better learn before I got so busy with school that I couldn't. She said that every eligible bachelor needed to know how to cook. Women liked that." Benjamin laughed. "I was ten. I wasn't even sure girls were supposed to be pretty yet. She insisted and we spent a lot of time cooking together. My dad pretended not to wince every time we mentioned that I had made dinner. I could tell it bothered him though. That's when he started in on sports weekends."

"So cooking isn't manly?" Liz laughed.

"Not unless you're a fry cook on Venus, he said." Benjamin laughed and noticed his crutch leaning on the wall and adjusted it slightly so he could help in the kitchen. With the crutch tucked under his arm, he moved with more confidence. "No spices?"

"Nope, just salt." She shook her head. "There are some ripe jalapenos outside though. I have to go pick a few for dinner."

"Where's Max?" He asked, his eyes on the soup.

"In the barn working on a bigger bed for you." She caught the surprise in his face. "He didn't want to get his hopes up that you would come but the next night, he went and traded some wood off George and got to work. He's been trying not to cheat with the wood but I know he still makes mistakes and it's cheaper to just cheat." She sighed and smiled. "He doesn't really know I know he's got it out there."

"Wow." He lowered himself back into the chair.

"Sit still. I'm going to grab some jalapenos and I'll be right back." Liz patted his head and disappeared out the back door. A few moments later the front door opened and a hammer of feet ran into the kitchen. The two small boys stopped short when they saw Benjamin sitting at the table. Benjamin managed a small wave.

Giggles sounded before the door behind him opened and they stepped inside. Max and Liz looked at each other and then at the children in front of them. "Hi boys."

"Hi Daddy." The older one, Alex, said.

"There's someone I want you to meet." Max stepped forward and knelt beside Benjamin, motioning for his children to come near. "This is Benjamin. Benjamin, this is Alex and Bobby."

"Hi." Bobby waved his chubby little hand.

"Guys, this is your big brother." Max couldn't help but smile at the skeptical look on Alex's face. "Really."

"How old are you?" Alex stared at his supposed big brother and crossed his arms. Liz had to suppress a laugh.

"17. How old are you?" Benjamin narrowed his eyes and bent to eye level with the little boy.

"6. Are you going to stay here?"

"Maybe. Are you going to stay here?"

"This is my house."

"Really? I thought it was the family's house." Benjamin tilted his head. This kid had attitude. His eyes opened in surprise when Alex gripped his chin and turned his face one way and then another. "Done yet?"

"I guess you look like Daddy." Alex sighed and let go of Benjamin's chin.

"Total opposite of his father. Not a bit shy. Even living here hasn't calmed him down any." Liz tsked and went about checking her pots and pans.

"I'm going to go wash up." Max nodded to them and ruffled Alex's hair. "Play nice."

Alex took a seat at the table and stared across at Benjamin. Bobby took up his position at Liz's legs. Benjamin turned slightly to look at Alex. It was slightly amusing the way Alex was assessing the stranger in his home, even after parental reassurances. "Where have you been?"

"Alexander." Liz tsked him.

"How come we never saw him before?" Alex turned slightly to look at his mother.

"I used to live far away." Benjamin explained. "I just barely found my way home."

"If you're my brother, how come no one said anything?"

"Because I lived far away and no one knew if I was coming back."

"When did you go away?"

"When I was a baby, your dad sent me to live with people far away."

"Were you bad?"

"No."

"Then why?"

"He couldn't take care of me like he could you guys." Benjamin looked to Liz. "He's smart. I'm beginning to see what a pain in the rear I was for Mom and Dad."

"You don't know the half of it. He still hasn't grown out of his 'why' phase." She shook her head and moved to the cutting board to cut up the jalapenos she had picked. "Do you like jalapenos, Benjamin?"

"Actually, over the past two weeks, I've developed a taste for them. With something sweet. I thought it was bizarre but Max told me that it's natural for us." He shrugged.

"It is, and to some extent, me too. It's a little overwhelming at first to realize how you're changing. Unlike you, I knew the signs." Liz pulled a small jar from the shelf above the stove and poured an amber liquid over the soup. "My initial transition was quite painful though. Then it just seemed to flow. I get visions. Sometimes of the past, mostly of the future. Out here, there's no need for them."

"I get visions of things that have already happened." Benjamin nodded stiffly as a vague image filled his mind.

"Brother George says that only the evil receive visions." Alex piped up.

"Not always, sweetie. Not when they save lives." Liz stirred the soup and glanced around, looking for something to do.

"But—"

"Alex, honey. God made everyone, even people who receive visions. Some people are good and some people are bad. Same goes for the people who receive visions. I believe in God and that God loves me, do you?" Alex nodded solemnly. "And your Daddy?"

"Daddy doesn't believe in God." He whispered softly.

"But don't you think God loves him too?" Liz knelt beside her son.

"God loves everyone." He took a deep breath. "I think God gave him his gift. That has to come from God, right? Healing is divine. I think Daddy believes in God. I don't think he knows it though."

"Me too." Liz ruffled his hair and returned to the stove.

"Let me help." Benjamin leaned on his crutch and hobbled over to the cutting board to finish the jalapenos.

"Are you a gimp?" Alex studied the crutch carefully.

"No. I hurt myself but I'm getting better." Benjamin flashed him a smile and went to work. "Um, Liz… what are your visions like?"

"Um, well. Images and impressions, not so much speech. The ones of the future are really vague. Sometimes I think it's just a feeling, in the pit of my stomach."

"Ever get a vision with metaphors?" He met her eyes. "Like it's the metaphor and not the literal?"

"Don't think so." She shook her head and watched him turn the thought over in his head. "Like I said, not really big on the visions out here."

Benjamin felt the walls closing in on him. It was too much all at once. He had gone from single child to big brother in what seemed like seconds. There was a family around him, discussing theology and philosophy and alien behaviorisms all at once and it was giving him a headache.

"Are you okay?" Max's voice filled his ears. Then his strong arms guided him back to a chair. "You shouldn't overdo it. You need rest, all right?"

Benjamin's eyes focused on Max's face. "Right."

"Well, eat a little and then go lay down." Liz looked him over. He had gotten pale in just a few moments. "You might be healing fast but you still need your rest."

They were all served and sat down together. Max on one side. Liz and Bobby on another. Alex across from Max. Benjamin sat opposite Liz and Bobby. Max sat still as Liz said grace. Soon they were all eating. Once when Benjamin looked up, Bobby had a slice of jalapeno in his mouth and proceeded to suck on it like it was a piece of candy. Dinner was relatively quiet but the walls kept closing in. When dinner was finished, the sun was setting and the young boys seemed to be sleepy.

Liz took her bowl to the sink and then went about lighting candles around the kitchen. A warm glow took over the room in the growing darkness. Then she gathered Bobby into her arms and motioned for Alex to follow. "Bedtime guys."

Max studied Benjamin and then leaned on the table. "We go to bed early because we wake up early." He rose to place his dishes in the sink. "You look tired."

"I should probably go lie down or something." Benjamin nodded.

"It's good to have you here." Max clapped him on the shoulder. "Go rest."

"Night." Benjamin hobbled to his room and sank down on the bed to pray for a dreamless sleep.

TBC
posted on 3-Sep-2002 8:53:12 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 15[/center]

Liz pulled the bandage away carefully. She almost laughed at the way Benjamin kept clutching the blanket over the top of his thigh. To be that self-conscious again would not be one of the top ten reasons to be a teenager again. She cleaned the wound out as best she could and examined the surrounding flesh. "It's swelling again."

"Why? Is it infected?"

"No but you've been moving around again." She flicked his nose and returned to massaging the swelling away from his knee as she had every morning for a week. "I'm going to take away your crutch."

"It's boring in here." Benjamin groaned and flopped backward on the bed.

"You need to keep it elevated as it heals or else the swelling will get worse." She chided and patted his head. "I'll get you a bible."

"Memorized."

"I'll teach you to knit."

"No." Hands over the face. Then he jerked his hands down to his blanket. "Um, couldn't I learn to whittle or something? Isn't that what they do out here?"

"Actually, there may be something you could do. Leatherworking."

"Leather working."

"That belt." She pointed to the belt near the end of the bed. "Brother William made that. No design but they do their job. Cutting and refining the leather is an art."

"I'll think about that." He nodded and adjusted his posture a little. When he looked up, Max was standing in the doorway. "Morning."

"Morning. How's the patient?" Max wiped the sweat off his forehead, sticking his hair straight up in the process.

"Ornery." She glanced back at him. "Like his father."

"I am not ornery." Benjamin crossed his arms then quickly reached back down to keep the blanket in place.

"Like I said." Liz shot him a look and then sniffed the air. Her eyes went wide. Surely she hadn't spent that much time away from the stove.

"Go. I'll finish here." Max kissed her in passing and gathered a thick cloth and wide gauze. Benjamin shifted to the edge of the bed so that Max could properly dress the wound. "Looks good."

"Yeah. It's healing faster now… aside from the swelling. The seepage is clear though."

"Good, that's good." Max pressed a gauze to the wound before wrapping the calf from ankle to knee and then from knee to the joint at the hip. "You know, if the massage makes you uncomfortable, tell her. It really does help the swelling but…"

"I'm dealing. I know it helps but yeah, it gets slightly uncomfortable." He shrugged helplessly. "Think I could get off this bed today?"

"After what happened the other day?" Max locked eyes with him. "You almost took a fall because you were out of bed."

"Because I'm weak and can't get out of bed. Feels like I'm in prison."

"But you wouldn't know anything about prison, right?" Max winked at him.

"Actually no."

"Good, it's bad enough that both me and Liz have been locked up. Don't need it to become a legacy." He caught his son's questioning, yet somehow knowing gaze. "One of the first real leads I had on finding you was a ship in Utah. We kinda held up a convenient store to get a look at a secret room. We got caught. Both of us were held until our parents could get up there. Then Dad managed to get me off but Liz fit a description. We had to resort to blackmail to get the charges dropped."

"I think Mr. Parker mentioned something about that. He still hates you for that." Benjamin winced when Max secured the binding.

"I figured. After I messed up the first time, he didn't like me too much and then when we got back together… one of the first things we did was land in jail. He's had it out for me ever since." Max sighed. "I guess some things never change."

"I think Mrs. Parker forgave you… after she read the letter?"

"Liz's journal. Chronicled nearly everything from the day she got shot to a month after we were married." Max let a wistful gaze cross his face. "Those were some good days. Aside from the running from town to town, we managed to stop someplace for a week to get all the paperwork done and the ceremony before the authorities got wind. There's a pretty good chance that they know we're married. To my knowledge no one had made a move on Isabel."

"The blond with the killer smile?" Benjamin squinted one eye at his father.

"Looking at the yearbooks?" Max chuckled. "She was a brunette the last time I saw her. Short hair, not into smiling until we dropped her off at her husband's. I've never seen my brother-in-law look as happy as he did that day… well except for the day he got married."

"So she's your sister? I mean, I figured but… You can never be sure these days. Even the strangest names are like Smith, now." He shook his head. "There were twenty Scotts in my graduating class, none of them related to my parents."

"Evans wasn't too popular a name in Roswell. Just me and Isabel." The elder smiled and motioned to his pants. "Come on. I'll set you up on the couch so you can keep that leg elevated. The boys will be home soon."

"Where does Bobby go? I mean, he's too little for school." He waited for the answer.

"Sister Francine is 16, smart girl but she's weak. She can't help around the house like her sisters or her mother but she wants to be useful. She takes care of the smaller children and it really works out for the community. Francine plays with the littler ones while the others are at school and the adults don't have to worry about children underfoot or accidents."

"Oh." Benjamin nodded, not quite understanding.

"She's not exactly wife material and the boys her age have their sights set on the healthier girls. She's already been considered a maid for life by everyone." Max nodded his head sadly. "Francine is insistent on playing her part. She loves the kids and the kids love her."

"Okay." He still thought there was something he was missing but he just nodded and reached for his pants.

"Come on. " Max patted his leg. "Come into town with me. We've got some things to pick up."

"Liz threatened to take away my crutch." He wiggled into his pants and leaned back to do them up.

"You won't be doing a lot of moving but since you didn't make it to church a couple of days ago, the council's been breathing down my neck. They think we're not sticking to our deal." Max tossed him an apologetic glance. "Sorry but you gotta show your face in town."

"No problem." Benjamin got to his feet and leaned against the bed long enough to get the belt through the loops so the pants wouldn't fall off. "Need some fresh air anyway."

"Sit tight. I'll go hitch up the horses and then we'll be on our way." Max disappeared and returned a few minutes later with Liz on his tail. "Liz, we'll be fine."

"He needs to rest." Liz protested and glared at him. "He'll get worse instead of better."

""He'll be fine. Getting out of the house could do him some good." Max argued back, shrugging into his jacket. "Fresh air, some people besides us because I know I'd go crazy stuck in a house all day with just us."

"Max." She stomped her foot.

"We're big boys, we can take care of ourselves." Max nodded stiffly, winking at her. Then he leaned in and whispered something into her ear that made her turn red. Benjamin raised an eyebrow but stayed silent. Her eventual nod sent them on their way.

Benjamin allowed Max to help him into the cart and watched as Max maneuvered the horses away from the house and onto a dirt path. The settlement was six miles away and there was nothing to see but crops that had already been harvested and awaited the first frost. The settlement was small, plain but efficient. No one simply stood around. Everyone he could see was doing something. And all of them turned their eyes to appraise him at least once without pausing in their tasks.

Max pulled the cart to a stop outside a house. A woman opened the door and peered out. "Brother Max?"

"Sister Rachel," Max nodded and hopped down to tie the horses and relieve them of part of their load. "How are you?"

"Fine, thank you. Sister Elizabeth?" Rachel gave a small smile and stepped out into the daylight.

"Home. This is my son, Benjamin." Max stepped aside and motioned to where Benjamin was seat in the cart.

"Nice to meet you, Rachel." Benjamin reached out his hand but Max quickly folded it down.

"It's not polite to address a married woman by only her given name, Benjamin, nor is it to touch any woman so familiarly that you are not married or related to." Max quietly explained.

"Sorry." Benjamin grimaced. "Sister Rachel."

"No harm done. You should have gone over these things before you brought him into town, Brother Max." Rachel tsked him and turned to Benjamin. "Your father is still a student of our ways. Your mother has done much better." She realized her mistake too late. "I, um."

"It's alright, Sister Rachel. I've talked to your husband already. This is my son, not my wife's. I'm sure Liz will tell you all about it the next time you venture out." Max unloaded a rocking chair and a small ottoman onto the front stoop. "I think you'll make fine use of these."

"Brother Max." She gasped a little and stared, her hand dropped to her stomach. Then she bowed her head. "Thank you. We appreciate this. My father's building the cradle."

"How is Brother Ezra?" Max wheedled.

"He's fine. Ornery but fine. I'd be wary Brother Max. He's been searching for a fight. Mother keeps telling him to relax but lately he's been on edge."

"Note taken." Max nodded and hung his head.

"Father's been a little sour since the council acquiesced to you."

"Is that what's this is about?" He rubbed at his chin and looked to the younger woman. "I've worked day in and day out for every man I ever borrowed from. I only asked that we be let to join the community as a part of it. We already are but all I wanted was the nod from the Council."

"We know." Rachel nodded. "Be wary."

"I will."

"Mother has the bolts of cloth you ordered." She snuck a glance at Benjamin. "He needs his own clothes. Yours don't fit him right."

"We've noticed." Max winked at her and climbed into the cart to grab Benjamin's crutch. "Mind if we leave the old boys here?"

"Not at all. William will want to talk to you before you leave." She gave him a small smile and disappeared into the house.

"We've got to deliver that barrel of grain to Brother Julian. He'll give us a load of apples that we're going to split with Brother Ezra for the bolts of cloth." Max explained as he hefted the barrel onto his shoulders. "Let's go."

Benjamin swung to the ground and grabbed his crutch, more as a cane than anything else. "Trade system?"

"Yep. After a while you forget the comparisons to money altogether." Max crossed the road and moved down two houses. "Julian is the doctor. I would recommend not getting close enough to let him talk you into getting on the table. He doesn't have the equipment that our docs do but I'd rather keep away altogether."

"Gotcha." Benjamin nodded and sank onto the edge of the porch. The door swung open as a young girl exited with her mother. Benjamin nodded to both. Max did the same and called in for the good doctor.

"Brother Max!" A voice boomed. The doctor appeared and looked his visitors over. "Well, I suppose you were right. The boy doesn't look too bad. Good healing is a good sign. Your genes?"

"I'd like to think so." Max nodded. "Around back?"

"Yes, please." Julian nodded at the barrel. "Don't suppose that I could get Brother Benjamin inside for a few minutes."

"No thank you, Brother Julian." Benjamin shook his head. "If I keep off it for a few more days, I'll be fine. I'm already feeling better."

"Alright then. I'll be getting your apples then." Julian disappeared into the house as Max disappeared around the side of the house. Soon there were four baskets of apples on the porch next to him. Julian took a seat on the porch next to Benjamin. "You doing okay, boy?"

"Fine." Benjamin nodded and then watched his father make the first of his trips to the cart with the baskets of apples.

"Our life isn't too hard on you?"

"No. Life isn't too easy out there as it was when my father was a boy. This may prove to be a welcome relief. Honest work for an honest living. No excess. No vanity or materialism." The young man let out a long sigh.

"Shall we see you at church this Sunday?"

"If Liz will let me out of bed. It was a fight to come today."

"Sister Elizabeth is a good woman. Attends church every Sunday, does her part in every gathering, contributes to the community in whatever way she can. I can see why Brother Max chose her." Julian lit a pipe and nodded to Max as he stacked up the remaining two baskets and started down the street with them.

"I think she chose him just as much as he chose him." Benjamin smiled. "A man would count himself lucky to be half as happy."

"That he would." Julian clapped the boy on the back. "See if you can't make your father come around. He sticks to his non-belief like iron and he's beginning to grate on my brother's nerves."

"I'll see what I can do?" Benjamin still had no clue what was going on but got to his feet to follow Max. He caught up to him just as a woman who resembled Rachel stepped onto the stoop. "Max."

"Benjamin, this is Sister Wilhelmina, Brother Ezra's wife." Max deposited the baskets on the stoop. "Sister Wilhelmina, my son Benjamin."

"Welcome to Johannesville." Wilhelmina nodded with a slight smile. "He looks just like you, Brother Max. Strong too. The leg?"

"Healing very well." Max nodded to her. "The apples I promised."

"So you did. Just a moment." She vanished into the house and returned with two bolts of cloth. One light and white, the other heavier and dark. "He's a tall boy, you may only get three pairs of pants out of this." She looked them both over. "Brother Max, leave the boy here with Francine and the children while you finish your errands."

"I'm not sure…" Max started to shake his head but she cut him off.

"You'll run the boy into the ground before he's got a real chance to get better. You know better, young man. Leave him here and finish your errands." She cuffed his ear and gave him a light shove to send him on his way.

"Only if you insist, Mother." Max shook his head and looked to Benjamin. "You need a rest?"

"Sure. How many more errands do you have to run?" Benjamin realized that he was sweating and his leg was throbbing. "I should probably sit down for a while."

"I'll take him around to Francine." Max bowed his head and helped Benjamin around the side.

"You wish I was your mother, Brother Max. Maybe then I could teach you some manners." Wilhelmina's voice called after them.

Max led his son around the back of the house where a young girl sat in a crude wheelchair surrounded by several small children. Bobby immediately sensed his father and ran straight for them. "Daddy!"

"Hey there." Max caught him and swung him onto his shoulders. "Morning, Sister Francine."

"Morning, Brother Max." She kept her head bowed when she spotted Benjamin. "And you must be Brother Benjamin."

"Nice to meet you." Benjamin nodded and sat himself carefully on the ground next to her. Max sent Bobby back to play and knelt in front of the two teenagers.

"Sister Francine, Benjamin will be staying with you until I'm finished in town." Max leaned forward to look her in the eye. "Don't worry about his diapers, he can change his own, though I'm sure he won't mind if you offer."

The girl blushed furiously and averted her eyes. "I'm going to tell on you, Brother Max."

"I'll believe that when you actually do it." Max winked at her, patted Benjamin on the back. "I'll be back later."

"He's going to get into trouble." Francine whispered.

"That's what I keep hearing." Benjamin shook his head and turned his gaze to the twelve or so small children that ran around. Bobby seemed to be the youngest and the oldest had to have been about five. "These munchkins really obey you? Seems they might take advantage."

"My uncle said that you came from the English world." Francine cleared her throat to speak louder. "Children here are not taught to taunt and misbehave. They know that I am a child, like them. They know that I am an adult like their parents. We have a mutual bond of respect among us as children and an understanding between parent and child."

They sat in silence and watched the kids play with a rock like a soccer ball. After a while, Benjamin turned his eyes to her. "Can I ask why you're in a wheelchair?"

"It was an accident when I was a little girl, not much older than Robert. I went with my father into the fields with the horse. Snake spooked the horse and I was thrown and nearly trampled. My legs never worked the same. I can't walk far on them, some days not at all. I do what I can." All the while she spoke, her eyes were on the children. "Can I ask about your leg?"

"Shot. Thought I was an alien." He chuckled and she shook her head. "Authorities shot me when I was on my way here. I bled for nearly two days before I lost consciousness. I woke up here."

"The good Lord shined his eyes upon you."

"That he did." Benjamin nodded.

"You'll heal. Do you plan to stay among us, Brother Benjamin?" She turned blue eyes on him.

"I'll stay as long as my father wants me." Benjamin adjusted his leg on the ground.

"Were you really raised by another family?"

"Yes."

"You left them to come here?"

"Yes."

"Why? God gave you to a family that could provide for you." Francine folded her hands in her lap and waited for an answer.

"God also told me it was time to come home. Perhaps my other family was meant to remain temporary… to prepare me to return to my father. He gave me life, sent me to my family. I should give him a chance to explain. Give myself a chance to forgive him for abandoning me… and to thank him for sending me to such good people." He turned his amber eyes on her and she looked away. "You couldn't possibly understand what it's been like for me… just like I don't understand what it's like to be you."

"I suppose." She kept her eyes on her folded hands.

"Why don't you get married?" He blurted out before he thought.

A small curve graced her lips. "What happens when a mare breaks her back?"

"I don't know."

"Shoot her." Francine turned her head to look in his general direction but not at him. "She's no good, even if she lives. She can't even mate, much less give birth without more trouble than it's worth. Uncle Julian says that fall severed some nerves in my lower back. Even if someone were to try and marry me, I probably wouldn't survive my first child. He's the one that suggested I become a maid when it was obvious that I wasn't outgrowing my affliction."

"So you're going to live with your parents forever?"

"My parents are dead. I live here with Aunt Wilhelmina and Uncle Ezra." Francine whispered. "My parents died when I was four. They were sick."

"The Jenningson Syndrome?" Benjamin shook his head. He vaguely remembered that. When he was eight, it had spread to New England and some of his class mates had fallen victim. Rumors that it was biological warfare were confirmed when the borders were reinforced five fold after they began containing the disease. Presented with high fevers, pox and stomach flu. No one had been diagnosed with Jenningson since he was nine.

"I don't know if that's what the English called it but they went into the city to gather supplies. It was barely a week later that they were sick and then a month they were dead. My brother and a few others died as well. Gossip says we were among the first to get hit."

"You were. It started here in Kansas and spread in a few years by the time they knew what it was." He dug his crutch into the ground and got to his feet. "I get tired of sitting."

"I wish I could stand, too." She admitted and threw him a look. "God willing, maybe someday I will stand without aid for one full minute."

"Maybe, you will." That was the last they spoke until the sun began to dip toward the earth. "What do you know of the Angel Gabriel?"

"Only what the Book says."

"Me too."

"Why?"

"I had a dream about him. All I was sure of was him. Everyone else was of a different time… probably even a different place."

"Dreams are not meant to be analyzed." She chided him.

"No? And the Book lies?" he couldn't get much more than that out before Max returned to gather his boys to go home. He managed a nod to her before he left.

"Don't tell me you managed to get into a fight with her." Max tsked and tossed first one boy and then another into the cart with the items he had gathered.

"A couple of disagreements. No fights." Benjamin shrugged and heaved his body into the front of the cart. Max barely tossed him his crutch before he climbed in himself. "We'll be best friends soon enough."

TBC
posted on 29-Sep-2002 12:25:35 AM by DMartinez
I guess this is mostly transition. It's not great and I barely wrote it today.


Part 16


Benjamin looked himself over. He would have preferred a mirror but there weren't any in the house. The clothes seemed to fit and his leg was stronger than it had been in days. He was working today, no matter what Max said. He emerged just as first light entered the kitchen. Liz gave him a once over and a nod to the table to sit for breakfast. "He's already been out to the fields. You can go with him when he goes out again."

"Will he let me?" He looked to her as she set a plate of sausage and biscuits before him.

"We'll see." She smiled and greeted her boys when they marched down the stairs. "Morning, sleepyheads."

"Mom." Alex started to say something but changed his mind. "I love you."

"I love you, too." She kissed his head and went about her breakfast duties. She looked at the rising sun through the window and then out the backdoor to the fields. She looked out and raised her hands to her mouth. "Max! Breakfast is getting cold."

"How long has he been out there?" Benjamin ground some pepper onto his sausage and, too, looked out the backdoor.

"Since an hour before sunrise." Liz went to the door again. "Max!"

Benjamin rose to look out the door with her. When he squinted, he could see the horse grazing on a rise not far away… without a rider. "Wait here."

"Benjamin, what did you see?" Liz began to panic as her stepson broke into a sprint out the door and across the back lawn to the fields. "Benjamin!"

"Stay there!" He called over his shoulder as he let his eyes search the ground. It was becoming hard with the cooler weather, the rich black fading out as the nutrients hid in the earth for the coming winter. "Max!" The horse's reins drooped as he bent his head to get at a few clumps of grass. "Dad!"

"Zan!" The next rise.

He leapt over and slid down the irrigation ditch. Max lay on the ground, his head bleeding, his arm lying at an awkward angle. "What happened?"

"Horse got spooked, snake. I was down here before I realized anything had happened." Max whispered, grimacing in pain. He had been trying to heal himself but had come up sapped from easing his son's swelling and pain for the past few weeks. "The arm is broken and I think I have a concussion." He nodded to the muddy puddle of vomit nearby. "I've been trying to stay awake but no one could hear me."

"I saw the horse wandering around without you." Benjamin was tempted to see if he could heal his father but decided not to take the risk. "Is your back hurt?"

"No but when I sit up, I throw up." Max lay his head down and summoned strength from somewhere. "Let's go."

Benjamin grabbed his good arm and threw his father across his back. He whistled for the horse and gripped the reins. Max shouted an order in French and the horse backed up, hauling them out of the ditch. Benjamin struggled the rest of the way to the house but he carried Max into the house and up the stairs with the family to help him.

Liz fussed around him, gripping his arm gently, looking over the cut on his head. Benjamin went about getting a water basin and some bandages. Soon enough, Max was cleaned up, bandaged and urged to rest. Max shut his eyes. "Have Julian come set my arm. I'm too weak to heal it."

"Okay. I'll go." Benjamin nodded for his brothers to go downstairs. "I'll be back soon."

Benjamin whistled for the horse and retrieved the cart from the barn. It took him a minute to figure it out but he hitched the cart to the beast and motioned for his brothers to climb aboard. He drove the horse as fast as he dared into town. He sent Alex down to the school and picked up Bobby to get Brother Julian on his way. Brother Julian and his wife were stunned to see the young men rush into the house but they moved quickly to get things together. Julian only paused once. "He asked for me?"

"Yes, he did." Benjamin reassured him.

"I'll hurry. You get that boy over to Sister Francine's." Julian brushed past him and raced to the barn for his horse. On his way back, he stopped Benjamin. "Take your time now. I've got this."

Puzzled at the older man's words, he did as told. He walked Bobby over to the yard where Francine had her kids playing a game of Blind Man's bluff. He smoothed his hair down and marched into the game and set his little brother down amidst the creeping children. Turning, he flashed Francine a bright smile and a wave in passing. Francine simply bowed her head to get her gaze off his face and onto her hands in her lap. When she was sure, he was gone, she looked up to see where he had gone with a bright blush on her face. Then she spotted her cousin smiling in the doorway.

Rachel cleared her throat and brought out a pitcher of lemonade for the children and Francine. "Morning, Francine."

"Morning, Rachel."

"How are you?"

"I'm fine. Feeling strong today." Francine kept her eyes on the children and away from her cousin.

"You look flushed. Are you too hot?"

"No. No. I'm fine." The light-haired girl shook her head.

"Was that Brother Max that just left?" Rachel goaded gently.

"No, it was Brother Benjamin."

"Ah. I see. How could you tell when you couldn't even look at him while he was here?" Rachel smiled to herself and made her way back into the house with her mother. "Francine likes Brother Benjamin."

"What?" Wilhelmina looked up from her batter.

"She's red as a tomato and all he did was smile at her." Rachel picked up her quilt and set to patching it up.

"I'm not sure I like that. She's like a daughter to me and as much as Brother Max and his family means to me…"

"Mother." Rachel gasped. "They are good people. Brother Max told me that Brother Benjamin was a devout boy and would work hard once he got his strength up. Surely that can't be bad."

"I love Brother Max like the son I never had." Wilhelmina sighed heavily. "I just can't help but feel there is something… off with them. The whole lot of them. Sister Elizabeth is special to me but she's different… and not just that she grew up among the English. It's something else. I can't put my finger on it… and that scares me. It bothers your father too."

"There's no call for it." Rachel insisted. "They are good people. People that I can trust if ever I needed for something. Did I tell you that Brother Max made me a rocking chair for when the baby comes?" She met her mother's eyes. "I never asked him, neither did William. It was a gift he knew we could appreciate. Does a bad man do that?"

"Bad men can do a many nice things for want of nothing in return."

"And so do good men."

TBC
posted on 4-Oct-2002 2:35:05 PM by DMartinez
More little stuff. I'll get to some good stuff soon enough. I just have to set some stuff up. '-) BTW Twister is like one of the few good songs on the self-titled album. It's a shame Remy Zero is a really good band. I appreciate experimentation as much as the next person but I've fallen into that group of people that feels betrayed by variation. Sigh. I'll get over it. Onto the story.

[center]Part 17[/center]

Max sighed heavily and turned his head slightly, it still hurt. His arm throbbed and his side still felt like it was heavily bruised. He was bored. The whole family was gone and he was used to it but the second he was confined to bed, he wanted to be out of it. He would even go to church if it meant getting out of bed. He cursed at himself. It was his own fault. He had let his powers go. This little bit of healing here and there had taken a big toll on his body. All these years, he had never thought to practice and keep up his abilities. The object of the game was to stay under radar.

--

Benjamin led Liz to the family pew and let the environment sink in. So many people who attended church, only a quarter of which he had met. The sermon went without event and then the announcements. Late harvest meant that the harvest dance was late. Should they have one at all? What was the means of the community?

Brother Jacob stood. He looked strained. A glance at his family and then he addressed the congregation. "The harvest may have been late this year but it was healthy. Our community is healthy and growing. We have a new member or two and plenty reason to celebrate our good health, fortune and family."

Brother Peter, the reverend, nodded and gestured to the Evans pew. "Very well said Brother Jacob. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Brother Benjamin to Johannesville. We are all glad to see that you've made such a speedy recovery and in the wake of Brother Max's injuries, have proved yourself to be a good son and neighbor. Welcome."

Benjamin stood and nodded to the reverend before sitting. He caught Francine's gaze from across the church and watched her look away quickly, head bowed. He stayed seated even as everyone else exited the church. Finally, when the aisles cleared, he guided his family out of the pew, accepting a smile and squeeze on the arm from his stepmother. When they stepped outside, many of the families that he hadn't met, introduced themselves… and their daughters of marrying age.

Soon enough the entire congregation, aside from the children, moved into the Sunday meal house. Benjamin protested but was pushed onto the bench with the other men. The men discussed their horses, cows and pigs until the plates were brought out. Benjamin pleaded with his eyes when Liz brought him his plate. She just kissed his head and returned to the kitchen with the other women.

"Brother Benjamin." A man Benjamin identified as Jacob spoke. "I hear your father will be up and around soon. How are the fields?"

"He had just finished the harvest two days before." Benjamin answered, barely lifting his head. He still couldn't fathom why he had been let into the meal house to begin with. It was his understanding that a man wasn't a man until he was married. "I've been tending the animals since his accident. We've got everything under control."

"Brother Max is a hard worker." Julian spoke up. Half the men at the table nodded their heads, the other half grunted.

Brother William cleared his throat. "Thank your father for the chair he made my wife." Benjamin looked up at the man and realized that William was only a few years older than himself. Benjamin nodded.

A man that Benjamin had met only just before the meal spoke up. "Ay. Brother Benjamin, when Brother Max gets back to his feet, tell him that my order from the English has grown quite a bit and I could use some help to fill it." Brother Andrew cleared his throat but didn't look up from his plate. "I would greatly appreciate it."

"I'll let him know." Benjamin fell silent as they moved on to other topics while they ate.

When the meal was drawing to a close, Ezra turned to his brother and then addressed Benjamin. "Brother Benjamin… we were wondering when you would bid for a piece of land."

Benjamin nearly choked on the piece of bread in his mouth, which made the older men laugh and the young men shake their heads in commiseration. "Bid for land?"

"You're nearing manhood, my boy." Julian explained. "Surely you had plans to bid for land, build a house… a barn, start tending a field of your own… finding a wife."

When Benjamin choked again, the entire table burst into a raucous laughter. He could make out jokes in German, some in French, and everyone kept laughing at his first pale, then red face. So that was why they had brought him into the meal. They were feeling him out to see if he would make a good husband for their daughters.

He was never more glad than to get out of that room but he still had to wait for the women and children to finish eating. He took a deep breath of air and walked out behind the meal house. He paused when he heard a noise. Turning around the side, he found Francine pushing herself along the wall, her feet shuffling in the loose, dry earth and her arms quivering from having to support her weight. He rushed forward when she sank to the ground. He picked her up and placed her in her chair only a few feet away.

"Brother Benjamin!" Francine gasped and swatted at his hands when he tried to assess that she was alright.

"Are you okay?" He knelt to look her in the face, which was a bright red.

"I'm fine." She tried to push him away without touching him. He was too close for her comfort. "I'm fine."

"Good." He stood up and moved around so he could grip the wheelchair. "Did you eat?"

"Not yet." She murmured.

"Then let's get you inside to eat." Benjamin thought better of reprimanding her for trying to walk alone and just guided her to the entrance to the meal house, then discovered there was no ramp at either door. Without thinking, he picked her up, jogged up the steps and deposited her at the table with the rest of the women. Francine's face was a brighter red than ever. Several women gasped and Liz leapt from her seat to guide Benjamin away from the table and into the kitchen. "What?"

"What are you doing?" Liz hissed as she fixed a plate for the girl.

"She was trying to walk by herself and she fell. I picked her up. I brought her in here so she could eat." Benjamin stopped and sighed. He motioned for her to tell him what he had done wrong.

"You did good to pick her up but to carry her in here?" Liz took a breath and turned to face him. "You should have asked us or found one of her uncles."

"Oh." He winced. "Should I apologize?"

"No. Just go. I'll be there soon and we'll go home." She pushed him toward the kitchen exit and returned to the dining room to place the plate in front of Francine. The girl gave her a small smile and began to eat, slowly.

"That's a good boy you have, Sister Elizabeth." Rachel cleared her throat from just across the table.

"He's still learning." Liz managed and gave her a smile.

"Is he really from the English world?" One of the teenagers asked and was immediately shushed by her mother.

"He is, but he lives here now." She gave a wan smile to the table and returned to finishing her meal. "He'll learn to be one of us before you know it."

"I'm sure he will." Wilhelmina nodded and stood with her empty plate. A few others stood and began gathering the men's plate to wash.

--

Max tugged at the collar of his nightshirt. It was so hot. He nearly whooped when he heard the cart roll past the house. The children bounded into the house and up the stairs. They stopped running and carefully climbed onto the bed. "Hey, it's my boys."

"Hi daddy." They whispered.

"What's wrong?" He whispered back.

"Are you going to be okay?" Alex whispered.

"I sure am. I'll be better in no time." Max smiled at them and leaned forward to kiss their heads. "Where's your mom?"

"I'm right here." Liz spoke up from the doorway with a plate of food in her hands. "Nausea?"

"Gone for the moment." Max answered as he lay back on his pillows.

"Good. Let's see if you can eat something heartier." Liz handed him the plate and shooed the boys off the bed. "Go play."

Bobby raced for his room to get his little wooden horse. Alex trudged down the stairs and sat at the table, head in hands, elbows on table. Benjamin walked in and tilted his head at the little boy. "Hey you, what's wrong?"

"It's my fault."

"What's your fault?" Benjamin sat next to him.

"Daddy got hurt because I slept late."

"No. I seriously doubt that."

"I had bad dreams all night and I couldn't wake up. I was going to tell Momma but I couldn't and then you found Daddy bleeding." Alex began to cry.

"Hey… what kind of bad dreams?" Benjamin leaned forward.

"Of Daddy falling." Alex looked up at his half-brother.

"Hey. Hey." Benjamin reached out and ruffled the little boy's hair. "It's not your fault. It is not your fault unless of course you told the snake to spook the horse. Did you?"

"No." Alex grumbled and wiped at his eyes.

"Then see, not your fault." Benjamin started to rise but sank back down. "Do you have dreams like that a lot?"

"No. First time. It was scary." Alex laid his head on the table.

"He didn't fall because you had the dream." It took Alex a moment to look up at Benjamin, so Benjamin continued. "You had the dream because he fell. Okay?" Alex nodded.

TBC
posted on 20-Oct-2002 11:29:06 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 18[/center]

Benjamin watched with earnest as Max showed him how to shape the wood for the chairs and chests they were making. They worked with as few words as possible until Max couldn't stand it any more. "Do you like it here?"

"It's peaceful." Benjamin nodded as he sanded down a piece.

"But do you like it?" Max shifted in his chair to brace himself for anything.

"I've learned a lot about you now." He lifted his head to his father. "I know nothing of what being your son means."

"Can you explain?"

"I came here to find out who I was in relation to what you are. I admit, I didn't expect jewels or anything but being a prince of a planet—"

"I've set that life aside." Max interrupted.

"This is what I mean. If I wanted to 'live under the radar' or pretend to be normal… I could have done that at home. I love having met my brothers and Liz but I have no more answers than when I came. Everything I know, you told me in the dream plane or I learned from Kal." Benjamin sighed suddenly. They hadn't been alone together since he was fevered and lying in bed. "Do you even want to know about my life?"

"Yes but… I didn't want to pry."

Benjamin laughed. "Dad always said prying was his job."

Max let out a chuckle. "Yeah, I suppose…" His mood sobered. "But that was his job, it's not mine." A silent understanding came between them. "I have no right to pry. I'm not comfortable being your father because I gave you up."

Benjamin nodded, he wanted to cry but he should have expected that. He rolled up his sleeves and bent his head over his chair leg to work at the details.

"It doesn't mean that I don't want to know…" Max said at last. "I do want to know but I don't feel right asking." He picked up a chair leg to examine the veins. "I wondered everyday without you what you were going through. I worried everyday that something had happened to you. I… I prayed that you were safe wherever you were with whoever had you." The son looked over to the father and remained silent. "You can ask me any question you want. You can tell me whatever you want. I am happy just having you here."

"Tell me about my tattoos."

"Take off your shirt." Max motioned him nearer and looked over the dark black marks. "Well, the one on your back. The big one. That's a symbol from the planet we come from. Antar's official symbol." Benjamin held out his arm and the one in the inside of his arm made Max's throat close up. "This one… is a symbol of the four-square. When we were sent to Earth, we were in these pods, grouped in fours. Together we were supposed to be a force to reckon with. King Zan, Queen Avaria, War General Rath and the Princess Vilandra. We didn't have any instruction manuals but when I healed Liz, it set off a series of events that gave up more answers than we ever wanted.

"I don't know what some of these are. I can't read it like a language but I do recognize them as symbols from a cave message we found… again, as a result of including Liz in our universe. With a few clues here and there and the whole story of why we were brought to Earth… we learned that our abilities were inherent to our roles and that they complemented each other." Max sat back a little and pointed to a few tattoos here and there. "Sometimes I wish I still had the book and the translations with me… maybe I could learn it with time." He sighed. "Um… I am a healer and a protector. Tess was a manipulator. She could make you see things that weren't there or not see things that were right in front of your face. Michael could throw out these enormous blasts of energy, sometimes he gets visions from things. Isabel, she could wander into people's minds when they are asleep. On one of us, she can do it when we're sedated."

"What about Liz? How can she…?"

"That was my fault. I saved her life and I left a piece of me inside her." Max wanted to pace but his head still ached. "It took some time but after a year, she, with a little of Isabel's help, projected to me when I was in New York and she saved my life from the other set of… us. She gets visions, mostly premonition and past events. We didn't even realize until much, much, later that um, those weren't coming from me so much as I was giving her the energy to get them from herself. That happened around six months later. Two years after the initial healing, she began to get energy flowing through her body. It was rather painful and brought on by intense feelings and emotional stress. Nothing much came of it until Tess returned. She um… threw her up against a wall using this energy."

"Liz." Benjamin repeated, stunned. He was torn between siding with his mother and with the very cool woman that was his stepmother. "Liz threw someone against a wall. Must have been a hell of an intense feeling."

"It was." Max nodded. "If I had let her. Liz would have killed her right then and there without a thought." He sank down in his chair as he relived the pain and anguish from those days. "And I understood. I was ready to do the same. She told me that you and she were linked and if something happened to her, you would die. Liz wasn't anywhere near over Alex's death and seeing Tess again just." He took a shuddering breath. "So much of Liz's pain was because of me, because of my involvement in her life. Knowing now… but I can't and I won't." He looked to his son. "I would wish away all the pain but not at the price of your existence."

"Was she really that horrible a person?"

"She was raised wrong." Max wiped at his eyes and steadied his breath. "If she had come out of her pod when we had, a lot of this could have been avoided. If Nasedo had not switched sides on us, a lot of this could have been avoided. Tess was raised by a traitor with one goal. She had to get pregnant and lure all of us back home."

"Why not just befriend you all and get you back like that?"

"She didn't know where the Granilith was. We didn't know where it was. Isabel found it after her first kill about five months after Tess arrived. Once she knew where it was, she had to gain our trust. First she made sure Liz would not interfere. She appealed to Liz's nobility and Liz pushed me out of her life and into Tess's. I resisted at first. I knew I loved Liz but she wouldn't have me. It took many experiences and trials before I began to depend on Tess like a friend. We were even dating really. We were exploring our past memories and in those memories, we had a good life together."

"You remember things from your past life?" Benjamin settled himself to listen.

"Yeah. We were married on Antar. Love at first sight and all that. I don't know much more than that. I'm not even sure if it was real if not for Larek, he's a friend from a neighboring star. He and I grew up like cousins on Antar… but that's as much as I know. Um, well, we were exploring these memories and um, then Alex died and we started falling apart as a group. Tess was the only one there for me and one night, you were conceived. Two days later, Liz found out that Tess had killed Alex and then made it look like suicide. I was about to walk straight into her trap and Liz came to save me. To save us after all the fights and name-calling. Liz had been the loyal one from the beginning." He rubbed a hand over his face. "Was Tess all evil? No. She had good moments and unfortunately for her, her manipulations overrode everything else for us. I can't find it in me to forgive her for all the wrong she did."

"What do I have to remember her?"

"You said the best thing I ever did was to give you up." Max straightened up. "She left you with me and saved our lives in the end." A deep breath. "There are no pretty pictures in our lives when it comes down to it. That's why we make the most of what we have. It might seem cowardly to hide here in Johannesville but uh… the government is convinced that we are here to take over. Any other aliens on the planet are dead and who knows if there are back-ups. It's not like I don't care what happens on Antar but… I can't do a thing about it while I'm here so I'm just trying to live as normal a life as I can… only… I can't."

"What do you mean?"

"Since you've been here, I've realized that I've been wrong. The reason I'm not better is because I'm rusty. I need to exercise my abilities to every extent possible so that I don't lose them. I have to be able to teach you the things that come inherent of all hybrids. The molecular manipulation, the heat, the cool, the uh… telekinesis. That's a little harder to figure out. I don't move it with my mind exactly but it's the nearest term for it. It ties in with molecular manipulation." Max noted his son's silence. "This is what you were looking for when you came here. We'll try to get it right, okay?"

"Okay." Benjamin nodded and got to his feet as the barn doors opened admitting four women. At their gasps, he realized that he still hadn't put his shirt back on. He quickly threw it over his head and hunted for his jacket.

"Max." Liz's voice drifted over to them. "Sisters Rachel, Francine and Wilhelmina have brought some lemonade. How are you boys doing?"

"Making progress." Max nodded and rose to greet the women. "He's natural. We'll fill the order in no time."

"Brother Max." Wilhelmina nodded and poured him a glass provided by Liz. "My husband and his brothers are stubborn men but I do think they realize that we are in need of…" She blushed a little. "Fresh blood. I have nieces a town over."

"What?" Max shot a look to Liz, who covered her smile unsuccessfully. Then he looked to his son. "Benjamin?"

"Um… the men in town have decided that I am excellent fodder for a son-in-law. They are waiting for me to get some land for myself and to pick a bride." Benjamin grimaced. "They think it's time I became a man."

"Is that right?" Max sank back into his chair with his glass and turned it over in his head while they poured Benjamin a glass as well. "You have a beautiful daughter right there."

"Brother Max." Francine blushed and turned her chair away.

"Please do not joke, Brother Max." Wilhelmina pleaded. "It may be necessary to bridge any remaining gaps between your family and the others."

"Why would you think I was joking?" Max quipping.

"Brother Max." Rachel chided and threw Liz a look. "I don't believe my cousin believes she is a suitable wife." Francine remained turned from the group. "Though I believe she is an excellent judge of character and sees that Brother Benjamin is a good man…. Or will be in a few years."

"That's the thing." Max took a sip of the cool liquid. "Where we come from, he is still a ways off from settling down. While I was married quite young, it was unconventional with the English. I do not imagine that Benjamin will be married so young."

"You were married twice?" Wilhelmina bit her lip.

Liz tilted her head at Max, who nodded almost imperceptibly. "At 18, then 19."

"I see."

"I'm sure it will all work out. When Brother Benjamin is ready to look for a wife, he'll either return to the English or find a younger wife." Rachel tried to smooth things over. "Mother, we can't all be so lucky to find our husbands right away."

"I suppose not." Wilhelmina nodded reluctantly. "We'll let you be then. Feel better, Brother Max." The three women nodded their exits. When they were out the door, Liz turned on Max.

"What?"

"You told people you were married twice?" Hands on her hips. "Another lie?"

"Just a stretching of the truth, so we don't get run out by an angry mob." Max raised his hands in surrender.

Benjamin sat in silence and watched them interact. He could tell the subject of his mother wasn't something that was brought out just any time. Liz's stance was purely defensive but her eyes held a little vulnerability. He could see how the past still lived with them both.

"Just be glad you're already injured." Liz gathered the glasses and left them alone in the barn.

"When do you want to start exploring your abilities?" Max coughed a little and watched his son. "Are you still getting visions?"

"From time to time. Kinda depends on how tired I am or emotionally worked up."

"Yeah. Trying pushing something later. It's um… easier when people aren't hovering over your shoulder. Once you get the hang of doing it alone, doing it on call in front of people is no problem."

"Okay." Benjamin nodded. "Just concentrate?"

"Think of pushing the molecules at your finger tips. You know they are there but you can't see them. Push one into another, into another, into another until those molecules push against the object you want to move." Max held his hand out to a chair leg sitting on the ground and it slid across the floor. "Like that. All these abilities are inherently human. We use a lot more of our brain than most people."

"Okay." Benjamin nodded and held out his hand. He imagined he could see the air around himself and pushed. The chair leg caught of fire. "Whoa."

"Accidents are bound to happen." Max waved his hand and the fire went out. "There, I pushed the oxygen away from the flames. Nothing to breathe, nothing to eat."

"Okay." He took a deep breath and held out his hand again. He was already frustrated and a ball began building in his chest. He winced.

"Don’t over do it." Max warned.

"It's just…" Benjamin began panting as the ball spun. The ball liquefied and spread out through his limbs. The chair leg lifted into the air and shot across the room, narrowly missing their horse and embedding itself in the stall wall. "I get frustrated and everything gets easier."

"Frustrated?"

"When I get upset, it's easier to do stuff but I have no control." Benjamin sank to the floor, panting still. "This ball builds in my chest and it just grows and spins. It feels like it's beating up my heart and then it gets liquid and spreads and then stuff happens."

"You need to learn to control it. Don't get frustrated. Stay call. Let it build slowly at first. I believe it's the uh… electricity gathering in your body." Max scratched at his neck. "I'm not the scientist in the family but we all make a electric charge in our bodies and maybe you gathering it all together to command. I feel the energy too but it's usually concentrated in my head or my hand."

"It's scary. Every time I go all haywire, I feel that first." Benjamin tried to slow his breathing.

"Don’t fight it." Max whispered. "Maybe if you don't fight it, it'll come to you. Embrace it next time."

"Maybe." Benjamin walked over to the horse stall and yanked at the chair leg but it was stuck fast.

"I'll get it tomorrow. I'm tired. Just um, check that the cows have food and the horse's water." Max started to push himself up from the chair but the room spun. He felt Benjamin's arms around him. "Guess I need to stay in bed a while longer, huh."

"Maybe." Benjamin nodded. He threw Max's arm over his shoulder and helped him out of the barn and to the house. "Maybe… I'm still afraid."

"Fear isn't good." Max shook his head. "Fear keeps you behind the tree until it's almost too late."

"What tree?"

Max laughed. "Never mind." He looked up to Liz when they entered the house. She had that face on and he nodded. "I'm going to bed and I'll stay there for a couple more days."

"Good." Liz nodded and looked to her oven. "I'll bring you something in a bit. Nausea?"

"No so much. Not much hungry, either." He shook his head. "Just some um… bread and a jalapeno or something."

"Okay." Liz nodded them to the stairs. At the stove she wavered on her feet and nearly burned her hand when she tried to steady herself. No vision. No images but something had happened.

TBC
posted on 29-Oct-2002 2:25:27 PM by DMartinez
Part 19

Ezra lifted Francine up onto the cart with a smile. Francine smiled as much as was appropriate but she loved cart rides. It was the one time she was equal to everyone else. Everyone sat and endured the ride.
--
Liz rubbed at the knots in Max's shoulders and dropped a kiss on his head. "Feeling better?"
"Much." He turned his head to look at her. "I was thinking…"
"That's never good." She smiled at him.
"Don't stop." He murmured when she kneaded a particularly stubborn knot. "I was thinking we could start trying for our girl."
"I'd like that." Her arms wrapped around his shoulders.
"I need to see a dentist." Benjamin complained.
"What's wrong?" Max furrowed his brow. "Tooth hurt?"
"Definitely." He cleared his throat to look at his father. "And if you two were any sweeter, my teeth would all fall out." He had to duck when Liz threw a cushion at him.
"Where are my babies?" Liz glanced around.
"Asleep if you can believe that." Max shook his head. "They complained that they were very tired and wanted to go to sleep. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the carvings on the table."
"They carved into the table?" Liz leaned forward to look at it.
"Just barely. I fixed it." Benjamin waved her off.
"Can I ask you a question?" Max sat up and looked to the young man across the way. "Why do I get the impression if I gave you a nickname, you'd roll your eyes?"
"What?"
"You didn't offer a nickname when you introduced yourself. Benjamin is quite a mouthful. I was just wondering why." Max hefted himself onto the couch next to Liz.
"People have tried. Ben. Benny. It just was never right. Alison tried Ben and I let her but it didn't feel right. It's not my name." He shrugged helplessly.
"No one ever tried to call you Benji?" Liz asked softly
"No." A smile crossed the young man's face. "To tell the truth… even Benjamin never felt like my name but um…"
"Neither does Zan." Max finished for him.
"Yeah."
"Neither are names that I picked for you." It took Max a moment to realize that he had both of them waiting for the name he would have picked. "John."
"I think I'll stick with Benjamin." Benjamin cleared his throat.
"Me too." Liz nodded at her stepmother and then snorted at Max. "John. You would have named your son, John."
"It's a good name." Max protested.
"It is but… never mind." Liz stood and gripped his hand. "We're going to bed, come on."
"Night." Benjamin waved them off. He really did not need to know why they were going to bed so early. Gently, from his spot on the floor, he coaxed the fire a bit higher and then cooled it. It caused that damned spalling of energy but he thought he was getting pretty good at controlling it. Fewer explosions and accidents in the past week and a half. He wasn't ready to push it just yet. The way his energy built concerned him. It was nothing like the way it built for either Max or Liz.
He sat for a long time as the fire died and the embers glowed. He figured the longer he waited to go to his room, the less of a chance of hearing anything from the room above his. Running his hands through his hair, he actually missed twisting it up to stand up on top of his head. Missed the feel of a rayon shirt, mesh, leather pants, leather jacket, heavy metal jewelry.
He must have dozed off because the next thing he knew, Max was standing over him pulling on his shirt. "Come on. Liz had a vision." Benjamin scrambled for the door after Max. They jumped onto the one horse and took off into the night. "It's Ezra and Francine. I don't know the details but she said they were in the orchard. They need help."
They rode for half an hour before a figure staggered into their view. Max pushed the horse on and in no time they had found Ezra. "Brothers!"
"Ezra!" Max pulled the horse to a stop and leapt off. "What happened?"
"Just… back there. The horse spooked and turned the cart. I can't—" Ezra's wild eyes searched unseeing. "She's trapped. She's not my blood but she is like my own daughter."
"Where?" Max urged.
"Under the cart… in the orchard…"
"Stay with him." Benjamin raced off into the trees until he found the horse grazing and the cart overturned not far away. "Francine!" He came up on the other side and found her lying with her eyes open, tears streaming down her face. "Francine?"
"Brother Benjamin? Is that you?" Her voice was so weak. "I'm hurt."
"Sh. I'm gonna get you out." He stilled her head's shaking. "Just lie still and close your eyes." When she had done as told, he put his hands against the cart. Tears in his eyes, he shoved the energy out before it could gather. With a shout, he shoved the cart over onto its other side and rushed to examine the girl. He ripped off her apron and pulled apart her gown to find dark skin where blood was gathering beneath the surface. "You're bleeding inside."
"Stay with me… until… please." Her eyes opened just a little and tears flowed down her face. "It doesn't hurt much… really… I am cold though." She pulled her dress closed and left her hands clutched to her chest. "My uncle?"
"Is getting help." Benjamin sank down and ran his eyes over her. There had to be something he could do. Hands shaking, he bent over her. He slid one hand beneath the fabric of her dress and the other around her neck. "Can you trust me?"
"What?" She didn't have time to register his question. Benjamin pushed the energy out as he looked into her eyes. Two heart beats met his ears. He couldn't move. His breathing was choked and he was lost. He didn't know what he was doing. The first real breath brought with it a shock and an image of a horse rearing up on its hind legs. The second was a gasp and it brought an image of a harvest dance from waist-level view.
Benjamin jerked away. His breath was harsh and his legs wouldn't support him if he chose to stand. Francine coughed and he examined her. Where a blood-filled belly had once been, was now a smooth white stomach. She gasped and coughed. Without another thought, Benjamin lifted her into his arms and forced his legs to work.
Max looked up when he heard the heavy footsteps in the darkness. He could barely make them out as they approached. He had just barely gotten Ezra up on the horse when they drew near. "You okay? Is she okay?"
"Now we are." Benjamin dropped to his knees.
"Okay." Max nodded. "Ezra needs to get to Julian right away."
"We'll be fine. Take him." Benjamin dropped to the ground with the shivering Francine. He shucked his jacket and wrapped it around her. "I'll find their horse and take her home."
"If you aren't back at the house by the time I get back, I'll come looking for you." Max nodded and mounted the horse behind Ezra. "Be careful."
They trotted off and Benjamin looked around. It was so dark. "Francine… how do you call the horse?"
"Two short whistles."
After a few minutes of whistling, the horse made his slow way to them. After some careful maneuvering, he got them both on the horse and on their way to the house. Francine remained silent as she tried to maintain her modesty on the horse. Benjamin kept a firm grip on her as he guided the horse home. "Are you okay?"
"My back feels funny."
"We're almost there. I can see the smoke from here." Benjamin whispered. True to his word, it was only five more minutes of steady trotting that saw them into the barn and then into the house. Benjamin rushed her past Liz and into his room to lay on his bed. "You really okay?"
"Yes." Francine nodded stiffly.
"Benjamin." Liz spoke up. "I'll take it from here."
Benjamin started to leave but paused in the doorway. "I think I healed her."
Liz's eyes bulged out but she simply nodded and pushed him out of the room. He sat at the table and watched the candle melt away. Max made it home and he had stopped short at the way Benjamin stared at the candle. He had had a similar look on his face almost 20 years ago. "How close was it?"
"Very close. She's in there with Liz, now."
Max sat down and stared at the candle with his son. The weight in the room had just settled on both of their shoulders.

posted on 23-Nov-2002 7:38:32 PM by DMartinez
[center]Part 20a[/center]

Benjamin ignored the strange looks when he served tea to the room full of guests. Liz was still in the room with Francine. All the Yoders had gathered to make sure that Francine was going to make it. Ezra had his arm in a sling and a crutch tucked under the other. There may have been a bump under his hat. Rachel took the tea from him and took over the 'womanly' duty. Julian hovered near the kitchen entryway to be of service as soon as possible. Laurie sat in the corner knitting what looked like a baby cap. Benjamin had not been introduced to her yet but he could tell she was Rachel's older sister.

When the door creaked open, everyone stood. Liz offered them a smile. "She's fine. Tired and shaken but fine."

Max turned from where he stood at the back door. He met Benjamin's eyes and then ushered Julian into the room to see for himself how his niece was doing. Relief flooded the house for many different reasons. Benjamin was still holding his breath. His fears were justified when Julian emerged and faced his brother. "You say the cart fell on her?"

"Yes. She was trapped beneath it." Ezra nodded solemnly.

"Strangest thing… She hasn't a scratch on her."

--

Benjamin fell onto his bed in absolute exhaustion. Everyone had been thrilled at the miracle but he was suffering. He had exerted so much energy to heal her and get her home and he hardly had any time to breathe since. He sighed heavily. He could smell her on his sheets and that brought to mind the look in her eyes when she had thanked him for helping her. Not frightened but maybe a little awestruck. Admiration. Ali had never looked at him that way.

--

Benjamin pulled off his shirt and bent over the table. He had turned out to have quite a knack for the carving. Max was much better at putting the tables together though. The only problem was… Andrew was having trouble getting the varnish to dry in the cold weather. Benjamin found himself lying that they were having the same problem but solved it by making a small fire in the barn to keep it just warm enough to dry. Truth was, Max had dried the tables.

Blowing into the groove, shavings flew everywhere, he grabbed another tool to smooth the edges. In one week they would make the trip to the nearest city to sell the furniture. He had to finish. The design set, all he had to do was sand, brush and varnish. He was concentrating so hard on the sanding paper that he never heard the barn door open. "Brother Benjamin?"

He turned and seeing Liz, grabbed his shirt. "What's up?"

"You have visitors. Thought I'd give you a heads up this time." She tapped the door.

"Who?"

"Who else?" She flashed him a mocking smile. "The very lovely Ms. Yoder."

Benjamin yanked his shirt on and then stopped midway to the door. "Wait, which one?"

"Rachael." Liz snickered. "I had you, though."

"I never realized what an unforgiving prankster you could be." Benjamin straightened his shirt. "She wants to see me?"

"Yes. She does." Liz handed him his jacket that he had hung from the barn door. "Come on."

Rachael rose from her seat when they entered the house through the kitchen. Liz immediately ushered her back into her seat, chiding her about rest. Benjamin sat and waited. Rachael gathered her wits and offered him a small smile. "Brother Benjamin, you have witnessed a miracle. My dear cousin was unharmed and you brought her back. Thank you. I… My Uncle Julian and my father have witnessed some odd things these past days since their accident. My father hasn’t been able to tend his animals as he normally would and has been with Francine much of the day. She has not done many things differently but she sleeps in pain, awakens with sore muscles."

"Is something wrong?" Benjamin furrowed his brow.

"Uncle Julian watched her a day or two and she doesn't seem to be exerting herself but… you've gone to English college?"

"Yes but I wasn't a medical student." Benjamin protested and looked to Liz, who seemed equally confused.

"She tires but not the same way as before. It's different." Rachael seemed to pause and choose her words carefully. She blushed suddenly. "When I became with child, I was sore in places…"

Liz lifted a hand and a sympathetic smile. "I'll translate." Liz cleared her throat and leaned in to whisper in his ear, as not to scandalize their guest. He nearly choked at her words but nodded that he understood. "What are you saying?"

"Francine feels this pain in places she has not… been connected to since she was a babe." Rachael rushed, her face pink. "I cannot understand it. Uncle Julian said that she would never regain full use of her legs but I cannot help but think if she tried now… she could walk."

Benjamin tilted his head at her suddenly. "You've been reading your uncle's books."

Rachael bowed her head and Liz smacked him upside the head. "I think Benjamin meant to ask why you came to us."

"When I tried to explain my thoughts to my parents, they wouldn't listen. My words are poor to explain." Rachael bit her lip. "Could one of you please talk to them? I think you know what I'm trying to say."

Liz took in Benjamin's confusion and took the lead. "She thinks that Francine can use her legs now but they've atrophied from so long of minimal use."

Benjamin winced and nodded. "I don't know what I can do though."

"You can explain to Uncle Julian about her muscles? I'll be there, tell him that I told you but… I think they're afraid to let her try but the pain would only go away with use if… I…" Rachael trailed off in a blushing fury.

"We understand." Liz stopped her, trying to prevent any more embarrassment with the comparison that Rachael had chosen for this subject. "And maybe we'll talk to your uncle about letting you study medicine. It might be good to train another midwife at the very least… Sister Abigail is getting on in years. She shouldn't make the travels out to his part of the state with that fall she had last year."

"But if we don't send for her, who will deliver my baby?" Rachael blinked rapidly.

"Maybe we could both study." Liz smiled at her.

"Would Brother Max allow it? My William… he may but it would take some convincing."

"I think that if we both ask nicely, they'll let us and Johannesville will have not one but two midwives at its disposal." Liz smiled broadly, then bit her lip. Her eyes rose to Benjamin and then slid back to Rachael. "I'm pregnant, too."

--

Alex slid the chairs into place for his big brother to load into the wagon. "Are you going to town?"

"I think so." Benjamin bent to grab another chair. "A lot of people are going."

"Only the ones that talk French."

"French." Benjamin stopped.

"The English town is half French." Alex put his hands on his hips as if Benjamin should have known better. "Father says if I learn French, then I can go."

"Dad knows French?"

"No… but he knows the English. He tells Brother Andrew if the prices are fair."

"You're six… how do you know so much?"

"I'm smart."

"Yeah, I guess you are." Benjamin slid the chair into place and used fine string to tie it securely. "I was smart when I was your age too."

"What happened?" Alex slid another chair into his grasp.

"Girls." Benjamin winked at him. "Pretty girls."

"Girls are gross."

"Maybe you think so now, but you'll change your mind." Benjamin straightened and nodded to his father. "Right, Max?"

"He's right, Alex. I don't think Mommy's gross at all." Max tousled his middle son's hair.

"But she's Mommy." Alex protested. "Mommy isn't gross… but Olive is."

"Go inside." Max threatened to swat him and hopped onto the cart to make sure the string was secure enough to hold their precious contents, even with the blankets to prevent scratching. Alex scampered off and into the house. Max helped finish tying p the load. "You're coming with me."

"Yeah?" Benjamin looked up.

"Yeah. Liz wants you to butter up Julian and Ezra… both for the Francine thing and the midwife thing… although… I think Liz's ultimate plans are to become Johannesville's first female doctor." Max sighed. "I really want her to get her rest but, she won't listen."

"How far along is she?"

"Um…" Max scratched at his neck as he thought about it. "Maybe a few days. A week tops." Benjamin blinked rapidly to take in the information. "She'll give birth early by two months… it's just for show."

"To be normal?"

"Story of my life." Max nodded. "Come on. Julian and Ezra are riding with us."

TBC
posted on 25-Nov-2002 4:03:17 AM by DMartinez
[center]Part 20b[/center]

The ride was slow and silent, even after the second horse was hitched up to share the load and their guests were loaded up. Benjamin didn't know how to address the subject. He knew why he had to do it and not Max but… geez, that was hard, especially since the men had brought Francine along for the ride. "Brother Julian?"

"Yes?" Julian turned slightly.

"Begging yours and Brother Ezra's pardon for speaking up but… Sister Rachael spoke to my step-mother about Francine's… recent pain." Benjamin adjusted his collar and slid a glance over to Francine, who had turned her face to the road. "Liz and I have some thoughts about it."

"Is that right, Brother Max?" Ezra turned to the driver.

"Apparently." Max answered. "My wife and son are the smart ones. They would know more about it than I. My wife was trained in first aid."

"Ay." Julian nodded. "She did a find job on that leg." He seemed to think it over and then turned to his brother, who gave a stern nod. "These thoughts?"

"We think that by some miracle… Sister Francine's damaged nerves have repaired themselves. Seeing as it's been quite some time since she last had full use of her legs, the muscles have atrophied. She could regain full use with some therapy."

"Therapy, you say?" Ezra turned. "What's that mean?"

"Someone, probably Liz, would help Francine to do some… stretches, I guess. I don't know the particulars of the therapy but Liz would know more than I do." Benjamin cleared his throat. "The same way that you would build up your strength after a broken limb, I guess."

Julian turned to his niece. "Would you mind if Sister Liz came to help you?"

"If it makes the pain stop." Francine whispered. "Thank you, Brother Benjamin for your suggestion."

"Also… um, Brother Julian… Liz and Rachael would like to… take midwife lessons." Benjamin noticed the stiffening of both men's backs. "They were only thinking of Sister Abigail. They said she had a fall and it wouldn't be wise for her to travel this far."

Max cleared his throat. "My wife is a fast learner, smart and quick. I believe Sister Rachael would also do well if supervised a bit. With the many young women of marrying age… it might do Johannesville well to have not only one but two midwives able to travel the area."

Ezra seemed put out at Max's reasonability. "Rachael is with child."

"Yes, she is." Francine spoke up. "And so is Sister Elizabeth. If you teach them soon, they'll be ready for their own birthings. God would see to it that they are swift to learn. God would guide their feet to help his scattered women children give birth safely."

Julian watched his brother's face. "I have no objection then to teaching Sister Elizabeth if Brother Max allows it… but Rachael will answer to her husband… not her father."

"I suppose." Ezra cleared his throat. "I suppose."

--

Benjamin took a break after he unloaded the last table from the cart. He plopped down next to Francine and took a drink from his canteen of water. "Thirsty?"

"No, thank you." Francine bowed her head. Her uncles were negotiating with some English. Andrew and Max were taking orders. Henry and Christian were tending to the animals. "I wanted to thank you for what you did for me."

"Oh?" Benjamin stilled suddenly.

"Yes, Brother Benjamin." She whispered. "I… don't know what to make of any of it. The dreams, my legs, my life."

"Dreams?" Benjamin prompted.

"Of your life with the English. Your parents, Regina and David. The city. Your… wife." Francine bowed her head at the last word.

"What? My what?" He blinked and stared at her. "I'm not married."

"But…" Her cheeks flushed a bright red.

Then he got a clue. "Alison." Shaking his head, he had to sigh. "That feels like a lifetime ago." He watched the steady movement around them and shut his eyes. "Things are different outside your world, Francine. There's much less formality and much more human contact. It's not a better world for all the violence and materialism but it is much, much different. Alison and I dated for a year before we made love and then I came to look for my father. Less than a week after I left… she was with someone else."

"That is acceptable?"

"Depends on the person. Some people would be outraged at the behavior, other people wouldn't blink an eye… other people still wouldn't think it was their place to judge."

"And you?"

"I expected more of her and too late I realized I shouldn't have. She was always straight with me and I chose to ignore all of it." Benjamin turned to look at her but she was still staring at her hands. "She didn't feel about me the way I thought I felt about her."

"How can you do that? Live your life not knowing if you're in love?"

"It's strange. There are so many people. If everyone is supposed to have someone, who is it? When will you meet them?" Benjamin nudged her gently with his elbow. "I think I like it better here. Smaller group of people, every thing is straight, it's harder to tell if you're in love and when you figure it out, there's procedure."

"Harder?"

"Maybe it's easier. No lust to get in the way."

"Lust is a sin."

"I never said the English were perfect." Cracked a smile at her. "I'm not perfect."

"No one is perfect but we can try." She finally managed to look up at him. "Can your step-mother really help me to walk again?"

"If you really trust her and are willing to try." Benjamin nodded. When he looked to the older men, his father was missing. "Um, did you see where my dad went?"

Francine looked around. "He may have gone down to the post office. We don't come to town very often. It accumulates over time. Uncle Ezra always had a hard time keeping the post office box because they were not fair to us. Ever since your father has joined them on their ride to town, we haven't been cheated."

"You think they wouldn't need to do that." He shook his head sadly.

"To them…" Francine lifted her head. "We are simple in every way… especially the mind."

--

Benjamin helped load the lumber into the cart but he really wanted to take his jacket off. As no one else had, he figured he shouldn't. He no clue what all the lumber was for but both carts were piled high with it. He threw the rope over the top and pulled it taut when it was tugged on the other side. Max popped up to make sure he tied the knots correctly, then discreetly added his own insurance to the ropes. Benjamin followed him around as he secured the back of the cart with his hands and then they were ready to go.

Julian lifted his niece to sit atop the lumber. He eyes the stack and then his brother. Shaking his head, he stepped down. "Brother Max, I'm afraid my brother and I are too old for this."

"Not a problem." Max gestured for Benjamin to hop up on the load. "We'll make sure she doesn't fall." Ezra grunted and settled himself in to take the reigns. "Would you rather I sat between them? I'm sure they could sin plenty otherwise."

"Brother Max, must you always start a fight?" Francine raised her voice and shot him a pointed look, then turned on her uncle. "And Uncle, I am sure that under yours, Uncle Julian's and Brother Max's supervision will all be more than enough to ensure propriety."

"The child has her mother's gift for pacifying a potentially lethal situation." Julian commented and sat himself.

Benjamin hoisted himself up onto the load and placed himself on the far side of Francine, nearer to the end of the cart. Max sat just at the front end with Francine between them. Once the cart started moving, there was noise to cover the silence of the passengers. Francine seemed to sit and debated for the first twenty minutes. "Brother Benjamin?" Her voice soft so that he could barely hear her. "I… would not talk about your gift to anyone. I suppose that your father knows but… I am most like to be the only one to view you as a gift from God than as a bribe from the Devil."

"Thank you?"

She cracked a small smile. "My uncle would love an excuse to send your father and his family on the road to town but… your family is a part of the community. We all help each other."

"Thank you. It means a lot to hear you say that. You are an excellent judge of character and an example to all."

"You are as much trouble as your father is." Francine shot him a look.

"No one is as much trouble as I am." Max winked at her.

"I won't argue, Brother Max." She turned her head to the younger Evans. "He's incorrigible."

"I believe it." Benjamin raised his voice to match their tone. Obviously they were done whispering. "What's the wood for?"

"Thought we could undertake a project." Max turned his head away. "The winters are full of conserving, animal tending and the fields can be left until spring… We could build something."

"What? Another barn?" The younger Evans furrowed his brow and tried to conceive what they would build with so much lumber.

"Or a house…" Francine trailed realizing she had spoken out of turn.

"Or a house." Max nodded, flashing the girl a brilliant smile. "By the way, we seem to have great timing. I think there are recent letters from your aunt in the bunch, we'll sort them out when we get back to Johannesville."

"Do you hear from her often?" Benjamin pressed.

"We only pick up the mail two or three times a year. There are usually four or five letters." Max nodded. "I miss her but I'm glad that she and Jesse are happy. I think she's got a boy and a girl. I've never met them… or seen pictures."

"How old?"

"Eight and five." Max nodded.

"I have cousins?" Another nod. "Wow. But… I thought you said you had about given up hope…"

Max quickly picked up on his train of thought. "We were still nomadic at the time. I hadn't spoken to Isabel in two years by that point. I still haven't spoken to her but we've written. She knows about Alex and Bobby. I wrote to her about you."

"What are their names?"

"Jesus Esteban Ramirez II and Alessandra Jesusa Ramirez. I believe both have their father's eyes and complexion but Alessandra got her mother's hair." Max smiled at the thought. "I wish I could see them."

"Why don't you?" Francine whispered. "It is allowed to visit your family."

"It's complicated, little sister." Max shook his head at her. "It's always complicated."

--

Max sat his stack of mail on the table while Liz bustled around getting dinner finished. He sorted them in chronological order before reading. "Kyle got married. His bride is Pauline Jefferson… non-alien."

"Really. Wow. Nice to see he still has his sense of humor." Liz nodded. She could hear the boys playing a word game in the den.

"Isabel has another little girl. Irene Guadalupe Ramirez. Four months old." Max chuckled to himself. "I wonder what in the hell Isabel did that Jesse got full naming rights to the kids."

"She ran off and abandoned her husband for several years." Liz pointed out. "It was probably a condition of the terms in her reinstatement as his wife."

"Maybe." Max smiled and kept reading. The last two letters concerned him. New paper clippings were enclosed. "They've strengthened the security at the state borders again."

"Why?" Liz paused.

"Two suspicious people crossed the New Mexico/Colorado border… a shoot out resulted in the death of ten U.S. Rangers. One middle-aged man and a teenager."

"Kal and Benjamin?"

"Probably." Max took a deep breath and noted the unfamiliar post mark on the last envelope. The article upset him. "There was a sighting over Frasier Woods."

"A what?"

"The day I fell actually, according to this. Freak lightning storm is what they're calling it." Max sighed and shut his eyes. "In accordance to the rules… we'd better get that house built and work on getting more built, quick. The Elders are not going to like this at all."

TBC
posted on 11-Jan-2003 12:21:02 PM by DMartinez
Part 21

The maps lay out over the table. Max studied them long and hard, drawing property lines and making notes. Liz kissed his head as she put breakfast out. "What's that 'X' right there?"

"That's where I was planning to build Benjamin's house." Max scratched at his neck. "It's far enough away so that he's away but close enough that he's near."

"It's probably a good idea." She nodded and took a seat on his knee. "Do you really think they'll be converging?"

"Maybe… eventually. If one state border is strengthened, so will they all. It's gonna take time… and it will probably be dangerous." Max looked up when Benjamin emerged from his room with a great yawn and an even greater effort to stay on his feet. "Morning, kid."

"Morning. What's that?" More yawning and plopped into a chair.

"I was going to tell you. Um… all that lumber is to build you a house." Max shifted his gaze back to the maps. "That's the project."

"Oh." Benjamin furrowed his brow. He hadn't been expecting that so soon but the house was small, even by Amish standards and with the new baby coming… "Yeah."

Liz caught the look. Benjamin really was Max's son. "We were thinking just over the next rise… What do you think?"

"Yeah." A shrug.

"Good, I don't want you too far away." Liz took a breath, choosing to go another route since the boy had also inherited his mother's penchant for feeling instantly insulted. "If you're anything like Max, you'll turn that house upside down in under a week. I want to be able to get over there when I'm close to term."

"Liz, sweetie… You won't be pregnant when he's living there." Max squeezed her gently.

"That's not the point." Liz elbowed him none too gently. "He can't be too far away." Rising, she ruffled Max's hair. "Besides, it's not like he'll get married right away." A glance at her step-son said that he still felt like he was being thrown out. "He can wait a while to make us grandparents… hmm?"

"What?" Benjamin snapped his head up.

"I fully expect a litter of grandchildren but try to make sure there's some distance between them and their aunt?" Liz patted her belly and winked at him.

Benjamin looked to his father but he was smirking over his maps. That's when he noticed that the property map was marked in pencil similarly to the topography map and the vegetation map. "What are you trying to do?"

"Other possible sites to build a house." Max shook his head. "But not for yours. They are a little far away."

"And not really part of the community." He commented and then scanned the maps again. "Don't you have to okay buildings with the Elders?"

"I've already got permission for your house."

"And the others you want to build?"

"Not so much." Max relented. "I think maybe we could get some company out here and we'll need to accommodate them without alerting the Council to their presence."

"Why?"

"Beyond the fact that the Council is out to hang me…" Max looked up, slid his glance to Liz and then back to his eldest. "Just allowing the English to live here isn't done. We've had to adhere to the Life as a condition of living here. We're cut off from the English world. The only contact we have is through the mail because it's very unpopular these days. Isabel and Kyle keep in regular touch. Michael and Maria not so much." He cleared his throat. "Isabel writes letters to Kyle, who sends the letter on to an Amish community near him. When they check their mail, our letters get sent in bulk to another Amish community and so on until the letters reach Town. The benefit is the government doesn't search Amish mail as a condition of their right to live in private."

"What exactly are you saying?"

"They might be coming and they're coming here to Johannesville, not just to Town. They're coming to hide… which means the Council can't know they're here. We live on the edge of the community on this side. I've been expanding our land to this group of trees. I hadn't started clearing it to build just yet. From the Council's point of view… it'll be an extension of the English into farm country. The problem is… the highway is near to it. We have to make it look like an extension of the Amish community."

Benjamin blinked at him. "You didn't just settle here when you had to. You had a plan the whole time." Max's head lowered slightly. "I bet when you approached the council, you told them that you'd just take a piece of land furthest to the English so that it would be easy for them to cut you off if they so chose." He shook his head at his father. "You've used them to save your own hide."

Before either could stop him, he was out the door and into the pre-dawn morning. After several minutes of walking briskly, his face was coated with dew and his breath puffed white against the lightening air around him. Crouching in a ditch, he thought about everything. Maybe Kal was right about Max. Arrogant and selfish… and he said it ran in the family.

--

When Benjamin returned, Max was cutting pegs in the barn. Max never looked up but opened his mouth to let the words flow. "I'm not going to pretend that I won't make mistakes. That's going to happen a lot because I never have a clue what I'm doing.

"There was a sighting in New Mexico. Michael went to investigate. Something big is coming and we have to be together. It could be tomorrow and there's nothing we can do about it. It could be in a month when we're cut in two. It could be in a year with all of us sitting here like a bunch of wooden ducks." Max turned and threw the peg onto a pile of other pegs. "I know it seems like I don't put any long term thought into my plans but I always thought we'd have more time and I never figured we'd still be here when we gathered."

Benjamin sat on a saw horse and waited for the rest, he didn't have long to wait. "I'm not saying you have to. This part is entirely up to you… but it would be in everyone's best interest if you took an interest in someone's daughter. All the attention would be off of me and what I'm doing."

"You want me to just marry someone?"

"No." Max shook his head and wood splinters fell from his head. "I would never suggest something like that. I just… I have eyes, Benjamin. Francine likes you." He stopped Benjamin's words with a wave of his hand. "Don't even. She saw into you when you healed her. You obviously care about her a great deal. I'm not saying to go up and ask her to marry you. Just… trying courting her."

"Is that what happened? My feelings for her… made that happen?" Benjamin picked at a groove in the saw horse.

"Possibly. When I healed Liz, I got images from her. Later, I let her see me. Just to be fair. It was very sudden and all." He picked up another peg to saw in half. "I've always thought Francine was a special girl. She can see into people and she has an openness unique in these parts."

"Yeah." Benjamin grabbed a peg and turned it over in his hands. "What if we leave?"

"Make sure you're ready for it before you start." Max stopped working. "You know about the dropping fertility rates, right?"

"Yeah."

"Happening here too. In the last fifteen years, I think. Johannesville has been marrying their people early to make sure there are children." Max threw his tools aside. "It's scary, the thought that when our parents were having children, we will no longer be able to. I know outside, no one gives it much thought unless they've been trying a good while. These people may seem as if they know nothing about the outside world but the doctor gets information from the Kansas Medical Board. He informs the people of what they need to know."

"You're worried that it's going to affect us too."

"A little." Max nodded and took a seat. "Isabel has gotten a little more attention than she'd like, I think. A feeling I get when I read her letters. We're getting up in our thirties and no one else is still having kids. Used to be dangerous to have kids over forty and now over 35 is a bit risky. In the next five years it'll be 30. Human beings are depreciating."

"Sucks."

"Yes it does. If there aren't actual humans immune to what's happening, we'll stick out like a sore thumb." Max sucked in a breath and let it out slowly. "You just going to sit there or are you going to help me with these pegs. I plan to get the frame up this week."

--

Sunday found the whole family at service, to the abundant surprise of the entire congregation. Brother Peter didn't let it go unpunished. He threw in a few words about lost sheep finding their way back home. Max chose to be silent and unaffected through that part of the sermon. Still, when the congregation filed out, he took in a deep breath of fresh air as soon as he could. He still had lunch to get through and a crew to gather. Gripping his youngest son, he swung him into his shoulders and maneuvered the milling people, stopping to chat and then moving on.

Benjamin started to follow until he felt Liz sway on her feet next to him. His head snapped around. "Are you okay?"

"Fine." She said after a moment. "It happens from time to time."

"Do you want me to get Max?"

"No." She swatted him. "If you go get him, he won't leave my side until after the baby's born. Just… I need to sit for a while. It's nothing." When she swayed again, she let him help her to the meal house to sit inside out of the cold. She grimaced as she sat. "She's moving around quite a bit, today."

"Already?"

"Yep. A lot of fetal development happens right away, I think. I'd love to be able to read about what's going on inside my body but I'm sure it'll be a good long while before anyone has that information." Liz gripping the table and let the wave of nausea pass her by. "Though, I've never really felt this way before."

"You sure you don't want me to get Max?"

"I'm sure. He'll just freak out and if you thought he was beginning to smother you before, he'll make that look like plenty of space." She managed a smile as her body relaxed. "I'll just sit here a moment. I'll be fine."

After a moment's hesitation, Benjamin headed out the door, narrowly missing Sister Frieda and Sister Patricia as they moved to get the lunch started. When he made it out to his father and brothers, several men were standing around nodding and talking architecture. Benjamin absorbed everything and winced whenever one of the men gave him an appraising glance, men who had daughters ready to be married. Sighing, he let it all flow over his back. He avoided questions about a future bride and opinions on the girls he had met. All the while they ate, he managed to stare out a window to watch Francine occupy the smaller children.

TBC
posted on 19-Jan-2003 1:30:58 AM by DMartinez
Part 22

Benjamin woke to shuffling in the kitchen. When he finally rose to get breakfast, he found Max burning the rolls. Shaking his head, Max dumped the slightly burnt lumps of bread onto the table. "I'm not a cook."

"Who said you could do it by yourself?" Benjamin shook his head and reached for some butter from the small container on the counter.

"Liz isn't feeling so good today. I told her to sleep in. You take the boys into the town and let Francine know she won't be coming. I'm trying to figure out how to make soup." Max glanced over the contents of his cupboards. "Any clue?"

"Um…" Benjamin looked around. "Has she preserved any kind of meat or broth?"

"Um…"

"Tomatoes? Potatoes?"

"I should have paid more attention when my mother was cooking…" Max paused and grimaced at a nasty memory. "Then again, I love Liz. I don't want her dead."

--

Benjamin made the trip every morning. He woke up, helped Max in the barn, and then helped with breakfast. He loaded up the boys and Liz into the wagon and went into Johannesville. He walked to the school with Alex and watched Bobby and the other little kids while Liz helped Francine with her therapy. Then he hauled the cart back to help with the frame for the house or setting up the walls and supports. All they could do was pray that the weather held. Max's recruits showed up when they had a few hours to spare. It still didn't look like a house but it was being built according to the standards of a large family. Whenever a recruit arrived, he made sure to mention his daughter and a skill she honed to perfection. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, quilting. Benjamin nodded that he heard and continued to help build.

It was a Wednesday when there were eight of them all working hard to finish the house before the rains came. It was also the day that a cloud of dust kicked up on a far road on the other side of the town. Those working on the roof saw it and made note but they had a deadline. The clouds were moving in. It was as everyone was packing up and sipping cool lemonade that the cloud of dust moved in.

Benjamin had just taken the pitcher away from Liz and sat her down on the new porch when Ezra froze near his horse. Julian looked up at his brother's stillness. Andrew, George, William and Henry all looked to the approaching cloud. Max stared at it and then rushed to the path and held out his arms. The car pulled up and the passenger door opened. Max couldn't contain himself and rushed forward to sweep the tall brunette into a tight hug.

Liz smiled when Benjamin turned to her for an explanation. "They're arriving."

"Who?"

"The family." Liz motioned for him to set the pitcher down and help her to her feet. They greeted Isabel and Jesse warmly before turning to introduce them to the men standing nearby. Each greeted the newcomers before excusing themselves to mount up and go home. Benjamin hung back, unsure if he should embrace his aunt and uncle or… what greeting was appropriate.

Liz peered into the car and found her sleeping nieces and nephew. "How long have they been out?"

"Hours. They're exhausted and tired of being in the car." Isabel shook her head. "That includes me." She stretched her road weary limbs and spied the quiet young man standing just a little ways off. "Is that him?"

Max turned and motioned Benjamin forward. "Yeah. This is my son. Benjamin Scott of New York. Benjamin, this is my big sister Isabel Ramirez and her husband Jesse Ramirez."

Isabel reached out and touched his shoulder just to be sure he was tangible then she hugged him. "It's nice to meet you again."

Jesse offered his hand. "The last time I saw you, you spit up all over my father-in-law, your grandfather's brand new suit. Geez, I never thought you'd get this tall."

"Thanks?" Benjamin shook his hand.

"Is this your house?" Isabel took a step toward the dark building.

"No. We just finished building it for Benjamin." Max wrapped an arm around Liz. Ours is back down that way. "But seeing as we have some unexpected guests…" he winked at them. "I'm guessing Benjamin will have to live with us a while longer."

"Wow. You built this?" Isabel stared in awe. "And you'll let us use it?"

"Of course. C'mon. I gotta go collect my other boys and we'll meet you back at the house. Benjamin, lead them home."

Max mounted the cart and headed away into town. Benjamin helped Liz up onto the horse and climbed on behind her. "Just follow us. We're going to be going kind of slow, though."

"Lead the way, sobrino." Jesse opened the driver's side door. "We're right behind you."

--

Benjamin cooked as instructed while the three adults chatted at the table. Jesse Jr., and Alessandra sat groggily in the living room. Irene lay in the crib in Benjamin's room. Jesse looked like he was itching for a beer and Isabel kept glancing around as if looking for something. Benjamin cracked a smile. "There's a water heater upstairs and the toilet flushes."

Isabel looked embarrassed but grateful. "I didn't say anything."

"I think it would have been the first thing he'd have asked had he been conscious when he arrived." Liz waved off the subject. "It's gonna be a tight squeeze until Max can get the plumbing in the other house. He'll probably make you a water heater, too."

"Make?" Isabel cocked an eyebrow.

"It's against the rules." Liz nodded. "Max breaks enough rules as it is."

"My brother? A rule breaker?"

"He doesn't attend services and he's got a brazen sense of humor… wisely exercised in front of those who won't condemn him but…"

"He only does it to Francine." Benjamin shut his mouth the second the words were out of his mouth. He felt the silence. He knew the silence. The silence that females dropped into at the sound of a potential matchmaking. When he turned, both women had raised eyebrows pointed in his direction. "This really isn't fair."

"I didn't say anything." Liz shook her head.

"I'm new here. You're going to have to tell me who Francine is." Isabel crossed her legs and leaned on the table.

Jesse rose from the table, patted Benjamin on the back, cleared his throat and went in search of his kids. After a few moments everyone heard Jesse's voice. "Niñito! Get down from there!"

Liz turned to Isabel with a look. "He's been using a lot more Spanish than he used to… or at least more than I was ever aware of."

"I know." She nodded. "He… ever since Irene passed away, he's been clinging to everything he can." Her eyes turned down, she took a breath. "That was just after Sandy was born. Irene bullied a travel permit and flew up to see us. She was a little upset at the way we lived. She and Jesse got into it about heritage and culture. She had a heart attack a few days later."

"That's awful." Liz whispered.

"He still hasn't made his peace. You should see the partners at the firm when he slips into Spanish." She cracked a smile at the thought. "When they hired him, they assumed he was completely Anglicized. He's very proud and he… he's been spending more time at home, he makes sure he has time to play with the kids, they're learning Spanish and I'm trying to pick it up."

"He's doing everything his mother wanted him to do, being the father that his own couldn't be for long. He's making his peace slowly through the way he lives his life." Benjamin turned from the stove to the shocked women. "I… Liz?"

"Did you get a flash? Or a vision?" Liz prodded gently.

"Not exactly. I wasn't aware of getting anything from him… It's just… something I know."

"How are you dealing?" Isabel's eyes softened considerably. "My brother isn't the best person with emotions so ignore nearly everything he said to you. He only gets it right once in a very long while."

"It's frustrating that I've always had this inside of me and it's only just now coming to the surface." Benjamin turned back to the stove when Max and the boys entered the house. Hugs and introductions were made and then dinner was served. It really was a tight squeeze. The children were left to the kitchen table and everyone else sat around the living room table to balance and shift until they had fed themselves enough. Isabel ate while Jesse held the baby, then he ate while she held the baby. Isabel and Liz compared pregnancy notes. Max and Jesse talked over the current events. Benjamin sat back quietly. His quiet seat was oppressive. They didn't want to pry about him either. They wanted him to volunteer his life.

"Really?" Liz turned to Max. "Listen to this."

Isabel shifted the sleeping Irene in her arms and cleared her throat. "They're doing studies still on Jenningson's and there may be ties to this fertility issue."

"How?" Max leaned forward.

"It's got something to do with exposure." Jesse rubbed at his temples. "My firm was dealing with a client who had a hand in the original vaccine. One of his fellow scientists is trying to connect the falling fertility rates in women over 35 to exposure to Jenningson's."

"But… how?" Liz pressed.

"Well, the theory as I understand it is this: a woman of 25 would be in her prime years of fertility but in today's day and age, no woman of 25 is even thinking of marriage much less children. Ten years go by and she's established and married and ready to have kids but the possibility has dwindled to near impossibility. Jenningson Syndrome has already been established as biological warfare and millions died from it. There hasn't been a case in nearly ten years but the long-term effects are just coming into play. As I understand, it's easier to gauge in women but it's men, too."

"I always thought they found the cure too quickly." Liz sighed heavily.

"So, it had a safety, huh." Max shook his head.

"Apparently." Jesse nodded. "The current theory is if it shortens the period of fertility, it may also shorten life span. It's a scary thought."

"Definitely." Benjamin spoke up. "They never found out who released the virus that started the syndrome, did they?"

"No." Jesse shook his head. "If they had, the borders would still be open. I'll tell you, it's been tough trying to keep up with legal now. New legal age, divorced kids travel permits. It's a mess."

"We should be getting to bed." Max announced.

Isabel blinked at her brother. "It's early."

"Wrong. It's early for you. For me, it's actually late and I have to be up at sunrise at least." Max gathered dishes and took them to the kitchen. "I figured you guys would be here first. The attic is set up for you and Jesse. We can get the crib out of Benjamin's room for Irene… though the stairs are a bit steep when you're getting out of bed late at night to fix a bottle."

"I'll find some extra blankets in case it gets cold." Liz rose from her seat. "We'll double up the kids in the kids' room. That okay for now?"

"Sure." Jesse nodded then paused. "Is it a little quiet in there?" Everyone looked to the kitchen and it was a little quiet. Jesse shot to his feet and disappeared into the kitchen. "Jesus Esteban Ramirez! Que hizo chamaco?"

With a big sigh, Isabel stood. "Liz, I'll clean the kitchen. I'm very sure that Jesse Jr. is way more than what you're used to."

TBC
posted on 4-Feb-2003 2:04:34 PM by DMartinez
Part 23

It was an amused Max, Benjamin and Liz that greeted Jesse when he stumbled down the stairs. They were finishing up breakfast in the weak light of dawn. Bobby and Alex were already putting their own dishes away. Jesse looked startled to find them all awake so early. "I don't suppose you've got any coffee."

"I think I can dig some up." Liz rose from her seat.

Jesse took one look at the dirt smudged faces at the table then looked outside. He sat and rubbed at his eyes, groaning. "What time is it?"

"Six or so." Max grinned into his water. "That's four or so in Boston."

"Good Lord." Jesse shook his head. "How long have you been up?"

"Since five or so." Max chuckled before polishing off his breakfast of oatmeal and apples. "You'll get used to it."

"How serious is this again?"

"Don't worry. I'm sure that Michael will be here as soon as he can."

"What about Maria?"

"That's not a guarantee. I don't suspect that Kyle will be coming either." Max shook his head. "Maria and Michael left because of the alien crap. If this is alien crap, I doubt she'll be too happy about it."

"Okay. What's the agenda for today?" Jesse took his head again to clear it and gratefully accepted the cup from Liz. "I'll help wherever I can."

"Well, the animals are tended to, the cows are grazing, pigs… are gaining weight. The ground is resting…" Max broke off in a smile when Jesse gave him a look. "Actually, we're going to work on furniture for the house. I already have a bed frame but I was saving it for Benjamin."

"Use it, please." Benjamin spoke up. "I'm not getting married just yet. I don't need it."

"Then we'll make bed frames for the kids, another crib and a table today and tomorrow. We'll work on everything else as Isabel thinks you need it." Max picked up his plate and put it in the sink. "With three of us, it should go pretty quickly."

"Okay."

"How's Isabel with a needle and thread?" Max was laughing before Jesse gave him another look. "Then Liz is going to have to teach her and they will be making clothes for all of you. I have the feeling that Michael's going to be a while."

--

Benjamin marched up to the Yoder door and then walked away… twice before marching back up and knocking on the door. Ezra opened the door and looked the young man over. "Can I help you Brother Benjamin?"

"I… I… I was… Brother Ezra, I came to ask… if I might… see Sister Francine." Benjamin held his breath because suddenly Ezra seemed very dangerous.

"No." And the door shut.

--

Isabel pricked herself with the needle for the last time. "That's it." She took a good look at the cloth and tore the needle off the thread. A way of her hand and her daughter had a new dress.

"Cheater." Liz smirked where she was teaching Alessandra how to stitch a pattern for a sampler.

"Mommy always does that." Sandy shrugged and focused on getting the needle through the material where she wanted it to.

"Can you do that?"

"Not really." She shook her little head and sighed. "Mommy says when I get bigger maybe."

"I hate this." Isabel threw down a pair of little pants, obviously meant for Jesse Jr. "This sets women back so many decades of struggle."

"I wasn't aware that you were a working woman, Isabel." Liz commented.

"I don't… have a paying job but I do a lot with my free time. I don't sit at home twiddling my thumbs. I'm treasurer of the Community Social Committee. I organize benefits and community services. I organized the vaccinations for Jenningson's." Isabel threw another pair of pants on the floor. "I volunteer my time and energy to better those around me."

"And I'm just a slave to a man." Liz sighed. "I do everything Max says without question. I cook and clean even when I'm sick. I sew and I'm happy." She gave Isabel a look. "It's not like that in this house. We do keep up appearances but if I personally had to choose between working the fields in the hot sun and staying near the house to take care of my boys… I'd choose the latter." Isabel looked ashamed of her outburst. "Isabel, I'm studying with the town doctor and another woman to do what we can for our community. Every morning I go to the Yoders to help a young girl learn to walk again. Susanna from the other side of town can blow glass. She's got a talent for it and her father sells it sometimes for things the town needs. It's not all backwards. We all work together to keep everyone's head above water. If Max needed me in the fields, I would go. When I'm too sick to get out of bed, he does the cooking and watches the boys. I can't vouch for other families but this one works together."

"I'm sorry." Isabel sighed. "It's just that Jesse made a table and he was so proud of it… and I made his pants crooked. I'm not cut out for this."

"Practice makes perfect. It took me months to get a sleeve to set right." Liz shook her head. Benjamin's door opened and he emerged clean and tidy. "How many days is this?"

"Five." Benjamin gripped his hat in his hand. "One of these days he'll say yes."

"Good luck!" The girls called after him. Laughing when the door shut.

Isabel turned to Liz. "He looked terrified. What is the deal?"

"Remember I told you about the man that would like to see Max packing back to civilization?" Liz licked her lips and nodded her head. "He's Francine's uncle and guardian. If Benjamin wants to date her, he has to get Ezra's approval."

"Ah, geez. I don't miss dating."

--

Benjamin turned around once the door shut in his face for the sixth time. It might be just a matter of time before he was let into the house. There had been no messages relayed that he should stay away and he chose to take that as a good sign. From the main road, he looked back to see the upstairs window curtain flutter closed. At least he knew that Francine was interested, or else he should just give up.

--

Jesse's body landed with a thud and Benjamin tried not to laugh but it was the fifth time so far and it was only10 in the morning. That horse really did not like Jesse. Stifling the snicker, he called out. "You okay?"

"Pinchi cavron!" Jesse punched the earth before getting to his feet. He was covered in dirt and dead grass.

"Watch your mouth, Brother Jesse." Benjamin cleared his throat.

"It's that stupid horse. Chinga huey." He swore under his breath as he straightened and pain shot through his back.

"We're trying to retrain the older ones. Pierre Thurmont lives three towns over and he trains the horses he breeds… problem is… Pierre is a French speaker. He understands some German. You need two translators when you go see him. The only other person who speaks French is German by birth…" Benjamin trailed off.

"You've learned a lot living here then?"

"I guess I have… a lot of stuff… it just comes to me and I could have sworn I was told." Benjamin froze. He hadn't wanted to talk to Liz or Max about it and the first time he realized he had done it was the first night that Jesse and Isabel had arrived. "Does Max know much about your family?"

"No. Just that it was me and Mom for a long time." Jesse shook his head and tried to approach the horse once more. "Your dad and I never had the chance to bond. He didn't take to me well until I had proven myself… and that wasn't long before it all came to an end in Roswell."

"So, he didn't know that your dad died in his sleep when you were ten." Benjamin leaned against the fence and waited. Jesse had stiffened from something not of the pain from his fall.

Jesse turned slowly, showed each of his years and some gray at his temples. "No… and he didn't die in his sleep."

"I was trying to be kind."

"My father… tried too hard to be a good man. Oso Verde and mescal were his best friends… least that's the way my mother told it." Jesse crossed himself and looked to the sky. "He drowned in his own vomit to be very specific." He gave up on the horse and strode to the fence where his nephew stood. "How did you know that?"

"I don't know. I know a lot things now that I think about it. I… used to be… hurting." Benjamin swallowed thickly. "When I first went to Roswell, there was physical pain but since I got here… it's been less and finally nothing. I can… pick up things without feeling much discomfort. I'm still working on building my other powers but… my intuition is the easiest and the most powerful."

"I can tell you, without a doubt, that your dad is a much better person now. When I knew him last… he was so lost and full of pain. I mistook it all for delinquency but when you got there, oh… so much made sense. It all happened to quickly for me. The woman I married was an alien, her brother was an alien king, his son was born on another planet… then there were investigations and… I killed a man for my wife and that's when it hit me that it would always be awful… then you came and after your mom died… there was this sense of peace around him for six days… that seventh day was the day it came back."

"He gave me up."

"He made the choice to give you up. It was still a few days and… when most people would have closed themselves off, Max didn't though. I watched him spend every moment he could with you and I was jealous. Then they came to kill them and they were gone. I'll tell you… those years without Isabel were rough. I had almost caved to my mother and to my friends to start dating again. They picked out the perfect woman but I couldn't do it and the next night when I opened my door, there she was and I felt whole." Jesse paused, completely forgetting his point. "I think we are all much better people now than we were. There was a lot of pain… physically, emotionally… Right now, we are all afraid. We were happy and doing okay and suddenly… there's more."

"Why?"

"Que sera, sera. You gotta deal with the punches as they come. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen… no one controls that… but it's what you do when it happens that matters. Isabel has told me so many things that your father has done and I would have crumbled under the pressure. I would have snapped by now." Jesse got to his feet and stretched. "I guess it's true what they say. Leaders are born, not made."

"I thought it was the other way around." Benjamin shook his head.

"You sure about that?" Jesse pushed off the fence to grab the horse's reins. He stroked the horse's muzzle. "Maybe Max is the man he is through his past life. Maybe it's because of this life. Maybe it's his blood. Maybe it's his mind… Either way… I don't think many people could rise to the occasion as many times as he has. He ever tell you that he died?"

--

Max slapped the last wooden bolt into place and sat back. Liz was ready with the sheets. They were almost done when they heard the footsteps climb the stairs. "Liz? Max? Are you guys in the house? The boys are destroying the kitchen…" Benjamin pulled down the latch and called up into the attic. "Hello?"

"Come on up." Liz called out as she smoothed the quilt on top of the bed.

Max stood proudly next to the bed and then guided Liz to a rocking chair nearby. Benjamin stopped short at the sight. He could have sworn he had just finished helping Jesse assemble the bed in the new house. Max started in. "I have to admit that I didn't really think it out and there is enough room up here for a person to live. The bed fits. A dresser fits and I haven't hit my head and Jesse never complained… Do you want it?" When Benjamin didn't speak, Max rattled on. "It's bigger than the room downstairs and I think you could use it until… you know."

"It's great. Thanks." Benjamin ran his fingers over the cravings in the bed. The slick surface spoke to him. "You… this is the bed you made me?"

"Yeah. I… I was going to give it to Iz but I couldn't. I made it for you."

Heavy thoughts intruded on his mind as he fingered the indentions. "Can I really bring her into this? Are we going to be here long enough to build something worthwhile? Would I have to leave her here?"

Liz shushed Max before he could speak. "Those are questions you have to answer yourself."

--

Benjamin had just started on the walk home from another unsuccessful attempt at the Yoders when a motorcycle rolled into the settlement. His intuition made him flag the bike down. "Michael!"

The bike stopped and the rider turned to the young man. The helmet came off and there was a face that he had seen in many memories of his father's and aunt's. "Who the hell are you?"

"Sh." Benjamin shushed him and moved closer. "Watch your mouth. These are god-fearing people. "Come with me. I'll take you to Max."

"Who are you?" Michael raised an eyebrow.

"I'm his son." He pointed up and then across the street. "My horse is over there. Let's go."

"How do I know this isn't a trap? An elaborate scheme to draw me out?"

"You don't."

"Yeah, you're Max's kid alright." Michael muttered to himself and put his helmet back on.

TBC

forgive my spanish cursings, my spelling was never the best... it's amazing the colorful words you pick up when Dad and his buddies babysit during a domino game
posted on 8-Feb-2003 1:28:21 AM by DMartinez
Part 24

Michael followed the young man into the house, helmet tossed near his bike. A soft orange glow met him and immediately dispelled the cold. There on a rocking chair with a little boy in his lap was the best friend he hadn't seen in over ten years. Max looked up at the draft and froze. Slowly, he set Bobby on the floor and rose to greet his life-long friend. Max hugged Michael and then stepped back. "Welcome to my home."

"Hi Michael." Liz struggled from her seat and Max rushed to help her up. Her growing stomach had already expanded to the point where it was getting difficult to get up and down without help or danger of flopping on the floor.

"Hey Liz, whoa." Michael looked at her and then the boys. "Don't you think you need to cut him off at some point?"

"This is the absolute last one." Liz smiled and hugged him. "It's been so long."

"Yeah." Michael stepped further into the house so they could shut the door.

"Guys, this is Michael Guerin, my best friend. Michael, this is Alexander." Max motioned for Alex to get up and greet their guest. "The little one is Robert." Bobby peered out from behind Liz. "And this is Benjamin."

Michael turned and looked him over for the millionth time since their encounter in the settlement. "Yeah, we met."

"Come on in and relax. Bet you've been on the road a long time." Max motioned to the couch. Michael stretched a little then sat. Max helped Liz back into her seat. She gave him a look and he nodded. "So, um, where's Maria?"

"Well, a little after we left you guys… we settled in some Podunk town and I kn—" Michael glanced at the boys. "We had a baby. A girl. Lily Ann Guerin."

"Wow." Liz nodded.

"Yeah… She's twelve by now." Michael shrugged slightly. "I'm not so good with remembering dates when I'm on the road."

"Michael…" Liz's face crumpled as she reached for his hand.

"She still loves you." Benjamin blurted out and then quickly shut his mouth, excusing himself from the room.

"What is with that kid? When did he show up?" Michael demanded.

"Hey boys. Alex, Bobby." Max clapped his hands together. "Time for bed."

--

Benjamin sat on the stairs out of sight while they talked. Michael recounted his arrangement with Maria. It was stuff that Benjamin had picked up from riding home with the man but it all got laid out for Max and Liz. Michael and Maria had settled in Washington state. It was only a few months before Maria found out she was pregnant and then there was a whirlwind of activity to keep her healthy and progressive. They struggled to stay together and raise Lily and work and hide. It was too much and eventually Michael was the one who had to leave. "I still… I run through in April for Lily's birthday. I never miss it, even if I gotta ride through the night to be there… and Maria never fails to make me feel unwanted when I get there."

"Do they even know?" Max had to clear his throat after his words squeaked out. "You know, about the otherworldly business going on."

"No." Michael sighed. "Maria's gonna be pissed but I didn't tell them anything… for Lily."

"What is going on, Michael? I mean, it's all happening at once. First Benjamin pops up and right after we've got him healed… Max hurts himself and I'm not too sure that wasn't the same day that sighting happened that you sent the article about. What is going on?" Liz sounded like she was on the verge of tears. "Why now? Why after all this time? Why couldn't all of it just stay buried? We've worked hard for what we've got here and it's going to all go down the drain the second you open your mouth and say it's them."

"It's them." Michael scooted his chair back. "I got down there as soon as I felt it. I nearly busted my head open flying off my bike when it happened. There were symbols that I've never seen before except two." His finger traced them on the table. The symbol for Antar and one that Max had the sneaking suspicion stood for war.

"Huh." Max stared and stared at the symbols. "Erase them. We'll pick this up again with Jesse and Isabel tomorrow."

"They're here?" Michael's head popped up.

"Yeah, just down the road. You can see the house from the window over there. They're breaking it in for..." Max nodded. "It's late and I gotta be up early." He yawned suddenly and pointed to the little door beside the kitchen. "There's a bed in there you can crash on."

"Thanks. I'm pretty beat." Michael nodded.

"I'm gonna go check on the boys… I'll see you in bed." Liz kissed Max quickly and waddled her way up the stairs. She rubbed Benjamin's shoulder as she passed him.

"Maxwell… what's with the kid?" Michael prodded. "Last I knew, he was still in New York."

"He started changing and when he realized he was adopted, he came looking for me." Max sighed. "I'm so lost sometimes. He's trying to fit in because he believes he belongs with me. His parents are great. I couldn't have found a better family if I had picked them myself."

"Why'd he come find you?"

"He needed answers. He was changing and he never knew. Michael… he's got tattoos all over his body. Things that we knew but have no clue what they mean. That symbol… he's got it." There was a long pause. "I didn't ever want him in this but now he is and so are the boys and Isabel and Jesse… Maybe you were right to keep this from Maria and Lily. Maybe I was wrong all along."

"Did you ever tell him what I looked like?" Michael made a strange noise.

"No… but he did look through Liz's yearbooks when he was in Roswell."

"Still doesn't explain how he knew me."

"You were riding a motorcycle through an Amish town. I'm it wasn't hard to figure out."

"Maybe but he call me by name."

Max sighed heavily. "His powers are unique… the ones he's really good at. Jesse told me that Benjamin confided in him. He just knows things from being near a person. So far it's just with us. I haven't asked about it yet… I don't know if it works on humans besides Liz and Jesse."

"Can we trust him?"

"Yes." Max's voice left no room for argument but this was Michael he was talking to.

"Well?"

"If you're asking if he's an evil alien, then no, he isn't. He risked his life to get here, Michael. When he showed up, he was wounded by the government, bleeding, infected and delirious. You know those two guys that crossed from New Mexico to Colorado? Benjamin and Kal."

"Idiots."

"Michael."

"When did he get here?"

"A while back."

"Before or after the sighting."

"Before. What are you getting at?"

"Tess was a bitch. She used us all to get what she wanted. What about him?"

"Stop. Right now." Max barked. "He's not like that. He's just trying to figure out how all of this affects him and it does. He gets visions from things like you. He heals like me. He dreamwalks like Isabel… and he's got this other gift that freaks him out. He's my son, Michael. If Lily was going through all this… how would you feel?" Max sighed. "It's like everything the human mind is capable of is all inside him. I'm amazed by him some days. I can tell he's stressed out and he never complains. He has every right to blame me for messing up his life… but he just deals with it."

"He gets stressed out here? In Moo country?"

Max laughed a little, the tension broken for the moment. "There's a girl he really likes and her guardian really hates me. He can't see her unless he gets permission from Ezra."

"Max Evans, making dating difficult since 1999."

"Shut up." Max laughed some more and Michael joined in after a moment. "I'm really sorry things didn't work out for you and Maria."

"Yeah, me too. I still love her and all but… I couldn't be the reason she's miserable. I do help out. I do odd jobs here and there. I send Lily the money to put away for school… or whatever she needs. Braces, doctor's appointments and what not."

"That's good."

"But it's like every time I show up to be there for Lily… Maria hates me a little more."

"Maybe she still loves you. Maybe she's mad you left."

"She threw me out. She told me she wanted out… and you know. It kills me. Lily was just learning to talk. She was calling me Daddy… and now she calls me Michael."

"Sorry, man." A chair scraped on the floor. "I really gotta get some sleep. See you tomorrow. We'll try not to wake you."

"Night, man."

Benjamin stood when he heard Max climbing the stairs. He couldn't move fast enough without making too much noise. Max froze when he looked up to find Benjamin standing there with a guilty expression on his face. Max just sighed and gestured up the stairs. "He doesn't hate you.. He's paranoid. Come on. We gotta get the chores done early so we can have a family meeting."

"What is this about?"

"We don't know yet." Max moved them along the staircase. "Go get some rest. Busy day tomorrow."

--

Benjamin cut the string on the bale of hay with a small knife, dumping most of it into the cow trough. The rest clung to the feeder and shifted as the cows dug in. He grabbed the bucket near the door and took it out to the hog pen. One day very soon, one of those guys was going to be dinner… and lunch, and breakfast and dinner…

Before he knew it, he had mended three sections of fence and the sun was overhead. Everyone else was probably already back at the house starting the meeting. Trudging his way back to the house, he stopped short when a cloud of dust moved toward the house. It was a cart and horse. He went out to meet it on the road, buttoning his sleeves at the wrist and pulling his hat onto his head. Ezra Yoder. Ezra pulled the horses to a stop and nodded to the young man. "Brother."

"Brother Ezra, what can I do for you?"

"I talked to my niece last night. Seems I might have had a conversation with her some nights ago and saved the two of you a lot of heartache." Ezra made a noise in his throat. "It's my understanding that your courting my Francine is wanted. Thank you for respecting our ways and letting me give permission."

"Thank you, Brother Ezra." Benjamin nodded and tried not to smile or leap for joy.

"Courting begins Sunday afternoon."

"Yes sir." Benjamin could hardly contain himself until Ezra had disappeared down the road. Leaping up in the air, he pumped his fist and raced for the house. He burst in with a grin that made everyone stop and stare. "He caved." Too late, he realized he should have kept his mouth shut. No one congratulated him or encouraged him. "What happened?"

"Take off your shirt." Max ordered and motioned him closer. That's when Benjamin realized the kids weren't there. It was just the adults. Frightened, he took off his shirt and allowed them to look over his tattoos. "See, the ones we recognize. The four-square, the constellation, the one at the library… the one we are considered with… Turn around, Benjamin." He waited until Benjamin did as told. "The large one obviously is the Antarian seal and the one on his lower back near his hip…"

"That's the one." Michael confirmed.

"Anyone want to tell me what's going on?" Benjamin finally asked. All the dramatics were getting to him.

"We're going home." Max said finally.

TBC
posted on 11-Feb-2003 4:51:08 PM by DMartinez
Part 25

Benjamin found his clothes and laid them out. He couldn't put them on and leave yet. He knew what had to be done. That wasn't the problem. There was no guarantee that he'd return and he couldn't do that to Francine. The two houses on this far lane were having their tearful goodbyes. Children bidding goodbye to mother and father. Max, Isabel and Michael were ready but he wasn't. Scribbling a note on the wall, he escaped out the window.

It was late but it was even later when Benjamin finally reached the settlement on foot and stopped on the Yoder doorstep. He knocked just softly enough to get a listening ear's attention. He was grateful that it happened to be Ezra that answered the door. "Is something wrong, Brother Benjamin?"

"Yes." Benjamin looked up at the older man, hat clenched to his chest. "I have every intention of returning someday and hoping to begin courtship on that day."

"What on Earth are you talking about?"

"I have to go… away. It's for the safety of everyone on Earth, every man, woman and child under God's heaven. I promise you and especially Francine that I will return… though I would understand if she chose someone else if I leave. Thank you Brother Ezra." Benjamin nodded, replaced his hat on his head and strode down the road to his house.

The car the Ramirez's had brought with them waited at the junction that would take them to the highway. Max nodded to him an understanding, to which Benjamin returned. "I'm ready now."

--

50 miles from the border, Michael pulled the car to the side of the road. There were no bags but plenty of blankets were in the back of the car. When Michael switched out with Isabel, Benjamin looked to Max, who seemed to be trying to broach something. "What's going on? What's the plan?"

"We need to know if you can warp." Max blurted out. "You've taken to everything else pretty well. Can you do it?"

"Warp?" Benjamin felt his stomach drop to his knees. His hands shook. He couldn't. He wouldn't. There was nothing on this Earth that would get him to try that. The deep, sinking silence told him that the other two were really waiting on his reaction rather than his answer. Only one thing kept him from trying. "What my--- What Tess could do?"

They were waiting and staring without looking and the car was becoming claustrophobic. Blindly he reached for the door handle and yanked it open, breathing heavily he stumbled away from the car. Shook off the hands when they tried to pull him back. Max turned him around and gripped his shoulders. "Look at me."

"You can't." Benjamin shook his head. Everything was falling apart around him. Hot tears sprung from his eyes. "You can't ask me to do that. You can't."

"Look at me." The tone in Max's voice didn't brook for discussion. His eyes were hypnotic pools that Benjamin couldn't look away from. "I don't know it means to you to be able to warp but I'm telling you it will be our lives if you can't. If you really and honestly can't do it, we'll find another way across the state border. If you can. We can drive right through. Can you keep it together enough to make it look like Isabel is alone in the car?"

Benjamin shut his eyes and the tears slipped out. "I don't want to be able to."

"Why?"

"Because it makes me like her!"

--

The familiar landscape of New Mexico surrounded them as they sped to even more familiar parts. Max rubbed Benjamin's shoulders as the boy came out of the warp. They were taking a toll on him. Once he caught his breath, Benjamin shook him off. Damn them for making him do that… Damn Isabel and Michael for judging him because he could do that. His head throbbed and his heart ached and he was going off to certain death.

"This symbol. It means war?" Isabel pressed. "Are you two sure?"

"We've seen it before and… there are feelings of turmoil associated with the symbol." Michael tried to explain. "Right, Max?"

"Right."

"Where was the symbol?" Isabel pushed. "In conjunction with the other symbols, where was it?"

Max looked to Michael. "I don't really remember… just… I recognize it and it makes me feel uneasy. An instinct."

"Men." She snorted. "If a woman goes with her gut, it's unreasonable and hogwash. A man goes with his gut and it's an instinct." She made a face at her rearview mirror. "All men are pigs."

"You're married to one." Max pointed out.

"And he's no exception." She continued on with her rant. "'I can fix it, Isabel. Watch me.' After he breaks the pipes he calls the plumber. You're all alike. 'Cálmate, I'll get it done.' None of you are on my good side right now."

Max reached forward to hug her around the seat. "I know. I've got one on the way too. My girl… and I promised I'd see her born. I know you miss her and Alessandra and Jesse Jr. and Jesse… we'll go and we'll deal with it and we'll go home."

"I wish it were that easy." Isabel whispered.

"Isabel…" Michael turned his face to the window. "I got a girl who turns 13 in April. I plan to be there on her birthday… at her graduation and I'll kill anyone who keeps me from her college graduation or her wedding." Slowly, he turned to his fellows. "I'll get you home to your husband and to your wife… your kids. I'll even make sure Junior there gets to see his girl again. I was put here to protect and that's what I'm going to do."

--

They saw the streak through the sky when there as still two hours ahead of them. Michael began spouting out strategies, Max began pointing out their flaws and adding to them. It was dawn by the time they reaching the quarry. Benjamin stared at the ship resting evenly though its legs were on uneven ground, legs shorter and longer as the earth rose and fell. "Why here?"

"Because it was here that we activated the orbs. Last known place of activity for them." Max whispered. He climbed out of the car first and walked to the front of the car.

When he had raised his hand in front of him, a beam of light shot out of the ship. A shape shifter appeared in its path and Max waited, ready to pull out his shield in an instant. The creature looked at him and raised a hand as it stepped out of the light. The shield went but before Max had consciously decided to do it. The creature took a step back startled, then tilted its head as if in confusion. A moment later, it shifted into a man. "Identity yourself."

"Max Evans, formerly Zan of Antar."

"We are not here for you, my liege."

"You left the message."

"We did. It was not for you."

Max dropped the shield. "What are you talking about?"

"The war wages on, your highness. We're here for the One."

"The One." Max repeated. There was obviously something he wasn't getting. The good guys were here to take someone back.

"Yes, sire, the message was for the One. Did you bring him?"

"It is very likely that human troops are converging on us by air. Explain yourself or we're going home."

"Where is your protector?"

"Which one? You know we crashed right? A couple died. One died a long time ago and the one we got left has been in a bad mood for 70 years. We don't know what's going on. You're going to have to fill me in."

"Sire, didn't you read the message?"

"I saw it. I can't read it."

"Max?" Isabel climbed out of the car. "What's going on?"

"I don't know." Max shrugged and motioned the others out of the car. He watched as Benjamin got out of the car and froze when he laid eyes on the shape shifter. Benjamin backed away from them all, his eyes locked on the alien. Max stepped toward him. "Benjamin?"

Visions pulled at his head as he gazed on the alien. Scraps of information, ideas that were not his own. "I'm not going. I can't go. I'm not going, Gabriel."

The four of them stared at him. Max motioned them back. "Go where?"

"I can't help those people. They're dying in the streets." Benjamin clutched at his chest. The pain was back. It was churning faster than ever, growing faster and bigger than ever. Images showed him alien beings running for their lives, fighting and tripping over each other. Children hiding, crying. People screamed as they died. Screeched, really.

"Him, we're here for him." The alien pointing. "Can't you feel it? He can't waste any of that energy. We have to put him in Kivar's sights or else we'll never be free."

"That?" Max raged at the alien. "That is what you wanted? It hurts him. He can't do that again." He advanced on the alien. "My son is not a weapon."

"It's why you were sent here. To create a child to destroy Kivar. That was your purpose." The alien insisted. "Weren't you ever told?"

"No, we were never told."

"I examined him myself on Antar. We never anticipated he would live this long, much less grow so strong."

"You knew?" Max was close to pulling his hair out. Thoughts raced through his head and he couldn't do anything. Isabel tried to get Benjamin to calm down.

"He was weak when he was born. That's why he was rejected."

"Of course he was weak. He was a baby." Isabel rolled her eyes.

"Aside from being human new born, he was sick. He was dying. I, myself, saved him to be brought back to you. It was I that sent your queen back to you." The alien pressed. 'We must go now, your highness. We will go and we will persevere until the planet is under your control, where it rightly should be."

"You're a spy?" Max questioned and the alien nodded. "Good. I'm going with him."

"Sire?"

"I'm not taking anymore chances. I'm going with him." Max strode over to gather his scared son.

"Me too." Michael crossed his arms and dared the alien to deny him

"And me." Isabel straightened and stood with her family. "We all go."

Benjamin fought it off as long and hard as he could but as he saw his father approaching, he turned to run. What was coming could kill them both. He was bursting. The energy was too much to hold onto.

Max raced to Benjamin when the boy stumbled. The shockwave knocked him off his feet, and knocked the breath out of him. Several tortuous moments passed while he tried to get oxygen back into his lungs. He could hear Michael and Isabel gasping for air as well. There was another sound that suggested their alien friend wasn't unaffected by the shockwave. When precious air once again filled his lungs, Max pulled himself up so he could see Benjamin several yards away. His body lay still. Max could see his own breath as it puffed out of his nose and mouth. He couldn't see Benjamin's. "Benjamin?" He could hear the fear in his own voice and the little white cloud wouldn't appear. "Benjamin! No!"

TBC

posted on 15-Feb-2003 5:43:59 PM by DMartinez
quote:
I can't describe the way I felt when I read Jen's farewell. It didn't seem possible but here I figured if the mods and such were able to put up with all the conflict that made my head hurt, then I could too.
No pretty words from me. When the Captain and builder of a ship won't stay aboard, it's time for even the rats to go. Consider me a rat, I'm... I'm not comfortable posting here, haven't for quite a while now. Guess I've found my excuse to go.
I've enjoyed the board since I found it way back when three or four episodes into the series. I've tried to follow it even through my own personal trauma. I've grown tired... not of writing (people who know me best will know that I would write if no one but a sand crab and I would read it). I don't like people and I'm tired of dealing with people. If you want to continue reading, you know where to find me. Least there I don't get ranted at for following through with a story line.

Huh. A weight was just lifted. Funny that.

DMartinez