posted on 1-Nov-2001 9:31:02 PM by Destinee
Title: Strong, Dangerous, & Undeniable
Author: Destinee
Rating: PG-13
Category: M/L, a little Mi/Ma, and a strong focus on Michael
Disclaimer: The characters in this story don't belong to me, but to M. Metz, J. Katims, and The WB- or I guess now it’s UPN. In any case, I'm just gently leading them where I'd like them to go. No infringement intended.

Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show up to that point, and goes on to explore Liz's powers, and to resolve the obstacles in the path of her being together with Max.

Author's Note: I'm doing something a little different in posting this time. I don't have my newest chapter completely finished, but it's kind of a two-parter so I thought I'd go ahead and post what I have done. The second part is maybe about half-way written, and I'm hoping to get it up this weekend. It's also total M/L makeout action, so I hope that'll gain me forgiveness for posting it this way. *wink*

I went ahead and posted the previous chapter because I added a little bit to the Mi/L conversation at the end. I thought it was way past time Michael said thank you to Liz for the EOTW thing, so I revised the chapter just a little.

Fresa Chica- Thanks for the heads-up about the link to the Repost Board. I was a little late in discovering your bmail, but I appreciate you letting me know. High2Maintenance- Thanks for the bump. And your HOT action comment has been duly noted. I'll do my best. *wink* Emaleth- Did you get my e-mail? I sent it last night. I wouldn't let myself post this until I'd sat myself down and written to you. LOL. Tim- What's this about secret readings? Is my fic somehow making you stoop to subterfuge? You know for a guy who wasn't really here you had quite a few questions. *wink* Sorry I didn't get back to you on that, but I think the new part will clear some things up for you.

Okay, sorry. I'm going on way too much. On with the story. *big*

You can find parts 1-50 here:


I hope. LOL

Chapter 51

Zan, Laanie, Rath, and Dreyah stood in the center of a familiar-looking courtyard, surrounded by a contingent of soldiers, wearing identical silver-blue metallic uniforms. The sky above them was a cloudless, royal purple, and spirited gusts of wind whipped around them occasionally, signaling the imminent arrival of that day’s dust storm. The two pairs of siblings were standing in a tight box formation with their backs to one another, and they fought off the soldiers who ringed them as the men constantly shifted and moved in attacks on them.

Zan was trying to keep the four of them surrounded with his protective force field, but each time Rath had to use his energy blast against the attackers, Zan dropped the shield to allow him to do so, leaving them dangerously unprotected for brief moments at a time.

One man was standing apart from all the rest, seeming to be merely observing the action. After watching Zan drop the shield several times, he shook his head and said, “Raathos, you must send your energy through the shield. It leaves you too vulnerable for Zandaar to release it so repeatedly.”

“Well I can’t get through anymore,” Rath muttered, as he warily eyed two particular men who had broken ranks slightly, and one in the back who seemed to be shifting suspiciously among his fellow comrades.

“Of course you can,” the observer scoffed. “Zandaar’s mind is still the same. His powers are no different. None of that has changed.”

something’s changed,” Rath insisted. “I can’t get through I’m telling you. Now, Zan. Drop it now!” he ended urgently, as the two fighters closed in from either side of him, and the guy in the back pushed his way forward to rush him head on.

Zan threw a look over his shoulder to make sure he got the shield back up quickly enough to guard them from the blasts of the attacking soldiers’ tri-phasers, but he suddenly jerked his attention back to his own flanking opponents, just as two men began moving toward him.

“Then you aren’t properly connected,” the instructor answered to Rath’s complaint. “Look to Shaandreyah, Raathos, that’s what she’s there for. I shouldn’t have to remind you of things you learned long ago.”

When Zan abruptly faced forward at the same time that the two men who’d been making a bee-line for him suddenly stopped and turned on each other, the instructor said disapprovingly, “Vilaandra, get out of Zandaar’s head and let Shaandreyah do that. You are to be focusing on guarding Raathos. You’re leaving him unprotected.”

While keeping her gaze focused on the two grappling soldiers, Laanie scowled and grumbled, “I don’t know why we can’t just do what’s easiest. Let Drey cover Rath. I’ll help Zan. Why can’t we just do it the way we’re best at?”

“You know the answer to that as well as I do. If you focus only on building your strengths, your weaknesses will be your downfall,” the instructor intoned sternly.

“Over here, Shaan, look out,” Zan warned lowly, when two men circled around to head for Shaan’s quadrant next to him.

“No, to your right, Drey. Your right,” Rath said immediately in contradiction, as three men approached in a much more expedient fashion from his direction.

“Communicate mentally!” the instructor barked. “How many times must you be reminded? Mental communication only!”

“You want mental? I’d like to give you a mental shove the likes of which you’ve never seen,” Rath muttered under his breath, taking his frustrations out on the foolhardy group of men who had fanned out on his right to initiate an offensive attack.

While Zan and Rath were occupied with opponents of their own, Dreyah darted a quick look from side to side to appraise both groups of men they had warned her of. In the very next instant, a sudden gust of wind conveniently blew a red cloud of dust from the ground directly into the faces of the two men on Zan’s side, and at the same time, Dreyah lifted a hand towards the trio on Rath’s side to release a blast of energy that sent them scattering.

She had managed to do what Rath had said wasn’t possible by sending the blast through Zan’s shield, but the sudden faintness of the green glow around them was a telling sign of how much she’d weakened its solid protection by doing it.

Instantly seizing the opportunity, one man stepped forward to set off a round of blasts from his tri-phaser directly at them.

With one hand clasped within Zan’s, Dreyah swiftly turned to lift her opposite arm parallel to his, bringing about an immediate strengthening of the shield. The shots from the soldier’s weapon might not have made that much of an impact on it if it hadn’t been for the act of a second battalion officer, who quickly moved in beside the first, and lifted his palm towards them to send an accompanying blast of energy. It crashed with explosive force against the barely reinforced wall of the shield, and sent the four of them behind it staggering.

The force-field around them flickered falteringly, but before any of their adversaries could take advantage of their vulnerable position, the instructor entered the fray and said disgustedly, “Alright, enough. Take a break.”

Immediately, the four of them collapsed to the ground with a collective groan of relief.

Their teacher shook his head and said, “I am extremely disappointed in this display you just put on here. I’ve never seen such incompetence. The four of you act as if you’ve never trained together before in your lives.”

Bristling, Rath said in defense, “Well it’s been a long time, Dracaar. And Laanie and Zan are different now.”

“And that’s an excuse?” Without pause, he answered his own question. “No, it is all the more reason for you to apply yourselves toward relearning your boundaries and attaining your former strength. A small child would have no trouble defeating you if you continue on in this vein.” With a final look of admonishment, he said, “You have five killaseconds. And when we resume, I expect to see a vast improvement in your performance.”

Rath glowered at his retreating back, and grumbled, “A small child, huh? I’d like to see you find a small child that could throw you as far as I could with a single flick of my finger.”

“Oh, Rath, just rest,” Dreyah said chidingly, flopping back to lie on the sparse patch of grass where they sat. “Didn’t you hear what he said? We only have five killaseconds.”

“And he expects a vast improvement when we resume,” Laanie said sarcastically. “Don’t forget that part.” Lowering her head into her hands, she began to lightly rub her temples. “Soltaar above, how long does he think he can keep drilling us this way?” she complained. “Has he completely forgotten who we are? Zan, you’re the king. Say something to him.”

Zan shook his head. “He’s right, Laanie. We need all the practice we can get,” he said wearily. “We’re weak right now, and all the opposing factions know it. It would be far to easy for someone to come in and take advantage of that.”

“Yes, but pushing too hard before you’re ready can only do us harm, Zan,” Dreyah said gently.

Reaching up, she grasped a handful of the shiny black material of his jumpsuit and tugged, pulling him back to lie beside her. Twisting around to face him, she propped her head up with her hand, and touched his face lightly.

“Are you doing okay? You look exhausted,” she said with gentle concern.

Zan smiled softly, but before he could form a reply, Rath said censoriously, “Don’t coddle him in front of the men, Dreyah. You’ll weaken him in their eyes.”

The smile left Zan’s face at the admonition, and he made immediately to sit up, but Dreyah quickly caught hold of his sleeve to keep him where he was.

Shooting Rath a glare, she said, “I am not ‘coddling’ him. There’s nothing wrong with showing fatigue, Zan,” she assured him. “It’s perfectly human.”

Rath sent her a chastising look, and said, “I’m sure I don’t have to point out that that’s exactly the nature of the problem.”

“He’s right, kitya,” Zan said, sounding regretful. “A show of strength is especially important right now.” He tugged affectionately on a lock of her bright hair, then dutifully rose to sit.

Sighing, Dreyah followed him up.

Rath and Zan exchanged a look, and then Rath nodded across the courtyard. “I think Boring Man over there has been deriving way too much enjoyment out of this little session today,” he said, referring to the soldier who’d almost taken them down earlier with his energy blast. “I swear, if he smirks at us one more time when Dracaar yells at us...” his jaw taut, he left the threat hanging.

“Turelians can’t smirk, Rath,” Dreyah scoffed. “They hardly have any facial muscles at all.”

“Well this one can,” he insisted. “I’ve seen him do it. Seems kind of traitorous to me, taking pleasure from our failures. And every time we mess up, he’s always right there to take advantage.”

Zan shook his head in amusement. “Borean is just doing his job, Rath. He’s the captain of the guard. Of course he’s going to be involved in most of the maneuvers. What are you saying? You think he’s trying to take us out or something?” he asked mockingly.

“No,” Rath returned with a tone of surly sarcasm. “I’m just saying- if he doesn’t get out of my face with his stupid alien-impaired smirk, I’m going to have to put a few more wrinkles in that scaly sloped forehead of his.”

The others just rolled their eyes in response.

Rubbing the back of his neck wearily, Zan gave Dreyah a smile that drooped a little around the edges, prompting a slight frown of concern from her.

“So would it weaken the mighty king’s image in front of the men if I rubbed his shoulders for a bit, o’ commander of empty threats?” she asked Rath mockingly.

Rath gave her a sarcastic smile, but before he had a chance to answer, Zan did it for him, saying teasingly, “The mighty king thinks it wouldn’t hurt his image at all. Your image on the other hand...”

She grinned. “What, you think they’ll see me as some dutiful little palace attendant humbly servicing my lord and master?” Zan smiled rakishly at the picture she painted, and as she got to her knees behind him, she murmured into his ear, “Like that idea, do you? Well, you know... I could always just make them see their king kneeling here rubbing my dainty feet instead.”

“All you need do is ask, and the king probably
would kneel here and rub your dainty feet,” he murmured back humorously, and she giggled softly as she began to knead his tense shoulder muscles.

Rath scowled at their suggestive playfulness, then looked over at Laanie a bit uncertainly. She hadn’t said much since they’d sat down, and still sat there methodically rubbing at her temples.

He darted a brief glance at Zan and Dreyah, who continued to talk together in a low, intimate tone while she massaged his back, then he cleared his throat and asked, “Are, uh- are you okay, Laanie?”

Without halting the circular motions of her fingertips, she replied with sharp irritation, “No, I’m not okay. My head hurts from trying to get through your thick skull all day. Anything else you want to know?”

Frowning with indignance on her brother’s behalf, Dreyah broke off her conversation with Zan to say, “He was only showing a little concern, Laanie. There’s no reason to take his head off.”

Laanie remained stonily silent.

Dreyah looked at Rath commiseratingly before continuing her ministrations on Zan, and he, in turn, was sending his sister a disapproving glare that was going completely ignored by her.

Rath studied Laanie’s downbent head for a moment, then looked away with a grieved sigh. Something caught his attention at one of the upper windows of the palace, and he looked up and made a face.

“She’s watching again,” he informed Zan and Dreyah.

The two of them had resumed their hushed conversation, but at this, their heads came up, and they followed Rath’s gaze to the window just in time to witness the fluttering of the window hanging as it fell into place.

Even Laanie had looked up in interest, and now she made a sound of disgust and said, “She just keeps getting creepier and creepier, Zan. She’s become a veritable wraith whenever you’re around. Can’t you do something about her?”

His eyes lingering regretfully on the window, Zan asked, “What do you suggest I do, Laanie? Lock her in her room? Or better still, send her packing before Khivaar comes back to get her? Mother would have my hide.”

“Well- just talk to her, at least,” his sister said impatiently. “Make her join the real world and act like a normal being again. She never used to irritate me so.”

Zan’s eyes flashed reprovingly. “Oh, and of course that’s the most important thing in all this. We must all endeavor not to get on Princess Vilaandra’s nerves with the drama of our insignificant lives,” he said sarcastically.

Laanie had the grace to look slightly ashamed, and muttered, “You know what I mean. She’s just not herself anymore. I don’t know why mother agreed to let her stay here while Khivaar’s away. She had to know how hard it would be for Ava.”

“Where else was she going to go? Their nearest neighbors are centares away, and they barely even associate. Besides, mother’s missed her. And I think she thought it would help Ava get past all this if- if she was here.”

“Well, that may be why your mother agreed to it, but I doubt that’s why Khivaar was so hot to have her stay here,” Rath said knowingly. “You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the kid. It can’t be pleasant for your only living relative to see you as nothing more than a marriageable bargaining chip. Especially in this day and age.”

“Yeah,” Dreyah agreed with quiet sympathy. “Kinda makes me feel a little grateful for the brother
I’ve got.”

With a look of indignation, Rath asked, “Only a little?”

“Yes,” she answered with playful defiance. “Because most of the time you’re a pain,” she charged.

“I’ll make you think pain,” Rath threatened lightly, and made as if to come after her.

“Zan!” Drey said in mock-panic, as she scrambled to put him between herself and her brother. “Call down your second. He’s turning on his own sister!”

Lazily stretching out his legs to cross them at the ankles, Zan said unhelpfully, “Seems to me if you will pull a sarazon by the tail, you have to deal with him when he’s roused.”

Dreyah looked at him in outrage. “Well that’s gratitude for you. After I so generously allowed you to keep your dignity in front of your men, this is the thanks I get.”

Taking on a look of haughtiness, Zan arrogantly replied, “A king isn’t required to give thanks to a lowly palace attendant.”

Dreyah’s mouth fell open, and she gave an incredulous laugh, then dove for his side to tickle him in retaliation.

Laughing, Zan jerked his arms in close to his ribs defensively, and attempted to hold her off without leaving his ticklish areas exposed.

While they struggled playfully, Rath suggested jokingly, “Use your force-field, Zan.”

Laanie looked on with a slightly wistful smile, and it was at that moment that Dracaar rejoined them, putting an abrupt end to their play with his words.

“Well, it’s good to see you looking so well-recovered,” he told them. “Play time is over, children. Time to get back to work.”

They all groaned like the children he’d professed them to be, and reluctantly climbed to their feet.

As they waited for the troops to get into place around them, Dreyah stole an upward glance towards the palace.

A soft light shined in one of the upper-story windows, its contained glow somehow seeming a sad and lonely sight.

Liz jerked awake with a small gasp, and only a moment later, the others stirred to life around her. One by one, they sat up slowly, the same sort of dazed look on their faces.

“Wow,” Isabel said softly.

Alex, Kyle, and Maria had gathered around in eagerness, and Alex asked, “Well? Did it work? What did you see?”

Not exactly answering his question, Max turned to Liz and said, “That was... that was amazing, Liz. It almost felt like I was really there. I could even feel the wind blowing.”

“And I think I can almost remember what it even smelled like,” Isabel said in awe.

“Yeah, um- I guess it made the dream even stronger with all of us connected like that,” Liz deduced. She could almost remember the smell Isabel was talking about, too. And it seemed like it had been a familiar odor. Like something she smelled every day and should readily recognize. She racked her brain to try and place it, but the answer remained elusive.

“I was right,” Michael said softly, looking up at Maria with an emotion-filled gaze. “She was my sister. Dreyah. I- I had a sister,” he ended on a slightly strangled note.

Liz lay a hand on his leg where it rested near her head, and Maria crossed the room to go to him, sitting down beside him on the couch. She reached for his hand, and Michael grabbed on and held to it tightly.

He wasn’t quite sure exactly how to feel about the news. On one hand, it was like receiving a present from someone he hadn’t expected to get, and it felt like something to celebrate. But on the other, was the grievous knowledge that he’d gone through his entire life on this planet feeling isolated and alone, and he’d had someone out there all along who was blood of his blood. Of course, it did no good to know it even now. There was no way he knew of to get to her. If she was even still alive out there somewhere.

Noticing that Tess had been strangely silent as everyone enthused over what they’d seen in the dream, Kyle asked her, “What about you, Tess? What did you see?”

She looked at him wordlessly for a moment, then said flatly, “I didn’t see anything.”

She turned her gaze on Liz in an almost accusatory fashion, as if Liz had deliberately excluded her somehow.

“You didn’t see it?” Liz asked with some surprise. She’d assumed since Isabel had been able to join them that Tess had shared the dream as well. She wondered fleetingly what had held Tess back from the experience. She’d had the vague idea that being connected to Tess had included a mention of Ava in the dream, but maybe that hadn’t been the case.

At the memory of the dream conversation the aliens had had about Ava, Liz’s eyes widened. Had she understood it correctly? Had they intimated that Ava was Khivaar’s sister? Liz’s eyes flew swiftly back to Tess. Did she know about this?

“Oh,” Liz said faintly, and looked at Max meaningfully.

He returned her look with a momentary incomprehension before it occurred to him what she was thinking.

“Oh,” he echoed, his brows lifting in understanding as his mind began churning.

“Um... I’m sorry, Tess,” Liz offered apologetically. “I don’t know why it didn’t work for you.”

Tess shrugged a shoulder in cool dismissal, not letting on how excluded she was feeling. It almost felt like they’d gone home and left her behind. While taking Liz in her place. She didn’t understand why she would be the only one who hadn’t been able to do this. She knew it was irrational to blame Liz for it. She was sure the other girl couldn’t control what happened in her sleep. But it was hard not to blame her when it seemed to be entirely Liz’s show.

“Was Ava in it this time, at least?” she asked stiffly.

The four of them exchanged uneasy glances, edged with a questioning wariness. None of them were sure what to think about the revelation of Ava’s identity, if indeed that had been what the four aliens in the dream had suggested. And though they hadn’t come right out and stated her relationship to Khivaar, it seemed pretty clear from the context of their conversation what they’d meant.

The fact, if it were true, raised a flurry of questions in all their minds. What did it mean that she’d been Khivaar’s sister? How could she be a sister to the one who’d taken Zan’s throne and still be a member of their four-square? Had she turned on her brother? Or had it been some sort of plot she’d been involved in with Khivaar to infiltrate their ranks? And if it had been, did Tess have any knowledge of that now? Or was she as clueless as they were about it?

“Uh... yeah. She was in it. Kind of,” Max finally replied in answer to Tess’ question.

Shaking her head a little in consternation, Tess asked, “What do you mean, ‘kind of’?”

“Well, it was mostly just a conversation about her,” Max explained carefully. “We didn’t actually see her, but... Zan and the others, they, uh- they knew she was- close by.”

Tess waited for him to go on, and when nothing more was immediately forthcoming, she felt a flash of pique. Only a second ago they’d all been gushing over the dream, but now that she wanted to know about it, they went all quiet. It was almost as if they didn’t want to let her in on it, Tess mused with a pang. Their sudden air of secretiveness was only adding to her feelings of exclusion, and after only a moment, she prompted sharply, “Well? What did they say?”

Max hesitated, not quite sure how to go about answering her. He was already feeling a little conflicted about her trustworthiness because of the mindwarping business with Liz. Unknowingly, Kyle had given Tess a partial alibi when they’d told everyone about today’s incident with Nicholas shortly after the group’s arrival at the apartment. Partial because, even though she’d been with him at the library while they worked on a history project together, Kyle had lost track of her for a short period of time. When he’d heard about Liz and Maria’s run-in with Nicholas, he’d scolded Tess for getting off somewhere by herself, even if they had been in the public library. Tess had said she’d merely been somewhere in the stacks looking up some research material, and Max really wanted to believe her. He hated to think she could be the one responsible for scaring Liz so badly, and it did seem pretty unlikely that she would’ve had time to go all the way across town from the library to the Crashdown and back again, with Kyle being none the wiser about it. But it just made Max uneasy to know that her whereabouts around the time of the mindwarp were a little questionable.

And now, here was this thing about her being Khivaar’s sister. It was stunning news, and Max found it hard to believe that she’d lived with Nacedo all her life, and he hadn’t mentioned this very pertinent fact to her. But then again, who could say for sure what Nacedo might or might not have done? He’d certainly never been very forthcoming with information once he’d discovered the rest of his royal charges. In fact, his appearance in their lives had probably raised more questions than it had answers. He’d only been with them for a short while, though. Tess had had him close for seventeen years.

The uncertainty of whether this was something Tess had known all along had Max torn between wanting to accuse her of keeping secrets from them and demanding to know why, and going easy with her in case this was news to her as well.

Treading cautiously, he finally said, “They said something that was really big news, actually. And- I can hardly see how this is possible, so, uh- if you have any ideas, Tess... now would be a really good time to share.”

“What are you talking about, Max?” Tess asked uneasily. She was beginning to get a very bad feeling about his reticence. What was this big news he seemed so reluctant to tell her?

Kyle was picking up some weird vibes in the air too, and he moved across the room to park himself on the arm of the couch close at Tess’ back in a show of support.

Deciding to just start at the beginning, Max said, “They were fighting this time. Well- training, actually,” he corrected himself. “There were four of them- Zan, Rath, Laanie, and Rath’s sister.” He looked at Tess steadily and allowed her time to absorb the fact that, once again, Ava hadn’t been a part of their fighting unit. “When they sat down to take a break, Rath said he’d seen Ava watching them from a window. Then they started talking about how hard it was for her to be there for some reason, but she was staying with them while Khivaar was away. And... they never came right out and said it directly, but- from the way they were talking...” watching carefully for her reaction, he slowly lowered the boom. “They made it pretty clear Ava was Khivaar’s sister, Tess.”

Tess blanched in a reaction that was far from her usual guardedness, and Max suddenly had no trouble believing she’d been in the dark about this.

“W-what?” she asked faintly.

Bristling protectively at the vulnerability in her voice, Kyle said almost angrily, “How do you know that if they didn’t actually say it? Why don’t you tell us exactly what they did say, Evans.”

By tacit agreement, the others had sat by quietly and let Max handle this the way he saw fit since he really knew Tess better than they did anyway, but Kyle’s strident tone had Liz jumping in quickly to back Max up.

“He just meant they didn’t make a specific point of saying ‘Ava is Khivaar’s sister’, Kyle. But they did say he was her only living relative. And then Dreyah said the way he treated Ava–“ she faltered slightly, as she realized this small fact would only add to Tess’ bad news, and finished quietly, “Um, she said it made her feel lucky that Rath was her brother. The way she said it- it just sounded like she was comparing brothers, you know?”

Everyone fell silent and waited for Tess to say something, but she just sat there in a sort of unfocused daze, as if she were no longer with them.

Finally, Max asked gently, “Nacedo never said anything about this to you, Tess?”

“What?” she said vaguely, shaking her head a little as if to clear it. “Oh. No...he- he never said anything,” she confirmed, her voice subdued.

“How could he keep something like that from you guys? I don’t get that,” Maria said in consternation.

“I guess he figured disclosing former family ties wasn’t part of his job description as an intergalactic protector,” Michael said acidly.

Max could easily understand Michael’s bitterness. He was none too happy with Nacedo, himself at the moment, and he hadn’t just learned that the disdainful shape-shifter had kept his family secret from him.

But although Shaandreyah hadn’t been related to him, it seemed as though she’d been important to Zan. In this dream, and in the one when they’d been dancing together, they’d seemed very affectionate with each other. With troubled concern, Max wondered what had happened to her and why she hadn’t been sent to Earth with them. It was obvious now that she had trained to fight with them, so how was it that their enemy’s sister had ended up in her place?

He couldn’t help but think it sounded suspiciously like some kind of plot, but he no longer suspected Tess of being in on it. She still sat there wordlessly with an almost stricken look on her face, and Max felt remorseful now for thinking her guilty of some nefarious scheme. She was obviously really upset over this news.

“Well, obviously we need to discuss this,” Max told them. “Put our heads together and try to come up with some logical explanation. But now probably isn’t the best time to do it. If Liz is willing, maybe we could get together tomorrow night and try this again. As long as it keeps working like this, it seems like the best way we’ve ever had of finding out the answers about our past.” He looked at Liz questioningly, and she nodded her agreement to the idea.

“Yeah, that’s fine with me,” she assented.

“Okay, good,” he said with a small smile of thanks. “So maybe we can talk about all this tomorrow. After it soaks in and everyone’s had a chance to think more rationally about it.”

Everyone agreed and they arranged a time to meet, then got to their feet and made ready to leave. Driving plans were made to ensure that everyone had a way home and no one would be driving alone, and Max warned them all to keep a close lookout as they began to disperse. He almost wished they could all just stay together where they were, but he knew that wasn’t a feasible idea. They might be able to get away with it for a night or two, but what about after that? They couldn’t have co-ed pajama parties indefinitely while keeping four sets of parents in the dark about them. And besides, troubling though the thought was, it truly seemed like Liz was the one the watcher was focusing on. And Max wasn’t letting her out of his sight. Feasible or not.

Before Tess left for home with Kyle, Max pulled her aside to have a quiet word with her and make sure she was going to be okay. She quietly assured him that she’d be fine, but there was a note in her voice that concerned him.

“Try not to worry about it too much, okay?” Max suggested gently. “Maybe tomorrow night we’ll see something that’ll clear all this up.”

Lashes lowered, Tess nodded, guilt twisting her insides. “I... I’m sorry, Max,” she told him, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

Frowning slightly, Max rejected her apology with a shake of his head. “For what? You haven’t done anything wrong, Tess,” he assured her. “Look, I don’t know what happened back then on our world- none of us do. But no matter how it came to be, you’re a part of us now. That’s not gonna change because of who Ava was related to in the past. That doesn’t have to mean anything to who you are today. You know?”

Her throat tight, all Tess could do was nod miserably as tears stung her eyes. How could he still call her a member of their group knowing who she was now? His easy generosity made her feel that much more ashamed.

Kyle had come up next to them and stopped to hover a few feet away. “Ready?” he asked hesitantly with a glance between them both.

She nodded and started to move away without ever having once looked at Max directly.

“See you at school tomorrow,” Max said by way of goodbye.

“Yeah, see ya,” Kyle answered for them both, as he placed a gentle hand on Tess’ back and they turned to go.

While Max had been talking to Tess, Maria had been checking on Michael in a similar fashion, knowing he was upset over the confirmation that he’d had a sister.

“I hate leaving you here alone like this,” she lamented, lightly stroking his upper arm in a gesture of sympathetic comfort.

“Maria, I’m fine,” he insisted in dismissal. “It pisses me off that I never knew this until now, but... there’s not anything I can do about it,” he said with quiet regret. “That was 50 years ago, on another planet. It shouldn’t mean anything to me now.”

“Except it does,” she said softly. Knowingly.

Unable to deny it, Michael just looked at her wordlessly for a moment.

He’d been telling the truth when he said the entire situation had him feeling extremely ticked off. Because he’d been robbed of a relationship like Max had with Isabel when he’d obviously had that at one time, long ago, because he didn’t know the reason why that had been taken away from him, and because he hadn’t even known what he was missing until now, when he’d seen it first-hand through the dreams. And the fact that he had no one to aim all his anger at for snatching it all away ticked him off even more.

But underlying all of that was a deep sense of loss and grief. As if something had been born and had died in the same breath, it’s amazing possibilities snuffed out right before his eyes.

“Yeah,” he finally admitted quietly, his gaze still locked with Maria’s.

“I’m sorry, Michael,” she said with soft sincerity, then slid her arms around him in a comforting embrace.

He hugged her back convulsively and took comfort in her arms, amazed that something as simple as this could bring such peace to his thoughts.

After holding each other for a long, tranquil moment, Michael sighed deeply and happened to catch sight of Alex waiting patiently by the door as he lifted his head.

Reluctantly, he let Maria go and said, “Alex is waitin’ for you. But listen... I’m not gonna let you stay alone tonight, so if you hear anything outside your window, it’s just me, okay?”

Her expression revealed how touched she was by the thought as she said, “That’s so sweet, Michael. Really. And I appreciate the gesture. But you can’t stay outside my window all night. It’s the dead of winter. You’ll freeze.”

His lips quirked, and he said wryly, “I think I’ve had this conversation before.”

Maria narrowed her eyes at him, but it was so good to hear him make a light comment when he’d seemed so melancholy only moments before, that she couldn’t get mad over the whole spending the night with Liz issue again.

“Well don’t expect the outcome to be the same this time, Spaceboy. I think my mom would probably kill you dead if she caught you sleeping in my bed again. Either that, or ship me off to an all-girls’ boarding school or something,” she said dryly in reference to an incident that had happened earlier in the year, before he’d gotten his emancipation. One night, he’d come to her when he’d been having trouble with Hank, and they’d fallen asleep on her bed, only to be woken the next morning by her mother’s shrieks of holy terror. Maria had been afraid that her mom had been in imminent danger of having a nervous breakdown right in the middle of the kitchen floor over the idea that her baby girl was having sex.

Of course, nothing could’ve been further from the truth. And that would be the case now as well, but she doubted they would ever be able to convince her mom of that fact if they got caught.

Especially not if their only argument was that Michael’s real purpose in being there was only to protect her from evil aliens. Maria might just as well fill out the admission papers for the Brooke’s Academy for girls, and send them in herself, she thought ironically.

“She won’t get a chance to do either one of those things,” Michael assured her. “‘Cause I won’t be comin’ in. I’ll be fine outside. I’ll bring a blanket,” he said carelessly.

“Michael, I would never be able to sleep knowing you were out there on the cold, hard ground with nothing but one of your old salvation army rejects for a bed,” she said exasperatedly.

Michael sighed shortly at hearing the same words coming out of her mouth that Liz had used the other night. Was there a written argument for this occasion out there somewhere that he didn’t know about?

“Then I’ll bring two,” he countered impatiently.

Their eyes locked in a moment of contention, then Maria made a small huffing sound. “I don’t know why we’re arguing about this. It’s not even me they’re after.”

“We don’t know that,” he contradicted. “It may look like Liz is the one he’s focusing on, but you were there today too. Max is gonna be with Liz tonight, and I don’t feel good about leaving you unprotected, Maria,” he said insistently.

Maria’s expression softened, and she said relentingly, “Alright, clearly a spirit of compromise is called for here.”

“Well... you could always just sleep over here,” he casually suggested without meeting her eyes.

Maria looked at him in narrow-eyed contemplation.

She didn’t want to give him any ideas. She was not going to be a pushover here. But it was impossible to prevent the tiny thrill that went through her at his suggestion. Not only because it had brought a sudden rush of breath-stealing possibilities popping into her mind, but also because Michael was so determined to protect her. It made her feel... almost precious to him.

And if the truth be known, she had been pretty nervous about spending the night alone in her room, with its easy window-access. She probably would’ve ended up sleeping on the living room couch with a baseball bat for company. But sleeping on Michael’s couch seemed an even more inviting prospect, faded and worn though it was. His presence nearby would more than make up for any lack of comfort she might find in it’s lumpy hide-a-bed mattress.

“Okay,” she conceded. “I’ll get Liz to cover for me in case my mom calls, and I’ll spend the night here. On the couch,” she clarified with a warning glint in her eye. “This is just for the sake of protection. You’re guarding my body, not doin’ anything else with it. So don’t get any ideas.”

Michael scowled. “Get over yourself, Maria. Protection is the only reason I even asked,” he informed her with disdainful nonchalance.

Unconvinced, Maria just smirked at him for a brief instant, then said facetiously, “Oh, good. I’m glad we’re on the same page then. So I guess I need to have a little conference with Liz. Be right back.”

As she passed Alex on the way, Maria told him, “I just need to talk to Liz about something real quick. Can you wait one more minute?”

“Do I have a choice?” he asked dryly.

Regarding it as the rhetorical question she was sure Alex knew it was, Maria went to make her plans with Liz, then she and Michael arranged a time for him to come pick her up after she’d gotten things squared away with her mom.

After Alex and Maria were gone, Liz cornered Michael in the kitchen and told him, “I’d just like the record to show that I’m not giving you anywhere near as hard a time as you’ve given me and Max lately about being alone together- and we’ve never been completely alone in an empty apartment, I might add- but I feel I have to warn you that this little early warning detection system we have going on between us? It probably works both ways. So if my energy gives me any wake-up calls tonight, as you so quaintly put it the other day, I’m gonna be forced to come over here and drag my best friend out of your horny little clutches. Okay?” she ended with an overly-sweet smile.

Reddening slightly, he muttered, “I so cannot believe you just said that. In fact, I choose to believe that innocent little Liz Parker did not just say the word horny to me, and implied that I’ve got ulterior motives here. What is it with you people? We’ve got an enemy on the loose, you know. I just want to keep an eye on her.”

Liz looked at him in dry disbelief, enjoying the chance to turn the tables on him after all the grief he’d given her over the past week. “Just as long as that’s all you keep on her. And remember, I’ll be able to tell. Please remember,” she begged wryly, not exactly relishing the thought of being forced to tune into the Michael/Maria channel while they were making out. She suddenly had a lot more sympathy for Michael’s position the past several days.

“Just don’t worry about us, and you behave yourself,” Michael warned her in turn.

“Yeah, yeah,” she grumblingly replied, and turned to go on her way.

“Liz, wait,” he said, stopping her. “I, uh- I’ve got somethin’ to say to you.”

Liz looked up at him in expectancy. “Yeah?” she prompted when he hesitated.

He met her eyes briefly, before his gaze glanced off hers to land on a random spot across the room.

“It’s about what happened with Nicholas earlier,” he said quietly. “About you wanting to kill him.” Liz dropped her eyes to the floor, but he knew she was still listening, so he went on. “I pretty much saw how you’re feelin’ about it, but- if you ever wanna talk about it... I just wanted you to know, I’m here,” he told her, figuring the least he could do was offer to listen when she’d allowed him to unload on her the way he had just that morning. “And I don’t know if it’ll help to know this, but I think that’s just something that comes along with this gift. You know? The instinct to use it.” He suddenly joined her in a study of the floor. “To- to kill. But.. if what happened earlier had been real, and you had killed Nicholas, it would’ve been self-defense, Liz. You just have to remember that they’re the enemy. It’s either us or them. And this gift is there to make sure it’s them. You hafta look at it that way, or it’ll drive you crazy.”

His voice was subdued, and Liz knew he was talking from his experience of killing Pierce. She looked up at him tentatively with a compassion-filled gaze, and a look of complete understanding passed between them. “Thanks Michael,” she said softly.

Michael nodded in reply. “And, uh- there’s somethin’ else, too.” He rubbed the back of his neck, looking decidedly uncomfortable, and Liz waited patiently for him to continue. “I never told you thanks,” he said, the words coming out in a forced rush as he avoided her eyes. “You know, for- for what you did for Isabel and me. That whole end-of-the-world thing.”

He’d been feeling guilty about the lapse ever since he’d tuned into her emotions during her crying bout earlier at the Crashdown. She’d been through so much the past couple of months. And all without a single word of thanks. From him anyway. He thought it was probably more than time to rectify that.

“I know I’m not the only one who figured in your decision to do what you did, but... for whatever part I played in it- thanks. You’re um- you’re a good friend, Liz. You always have been. To all of us.”

Emotion caught in Liz’s throat. The sentiment was so unexpected coming from Michael, she didn’t know what to say.

Uncomfortable with the soft emotion he saw glowing in her eyes as she looked up at him speechlessly, he said gruffly, “Now get outta here before Maxwell starts givin’ me the evil eye for daring to have a private conversation with you. And my warning still goes, Liz. You two behave yourselves tonight,” he told her, attempting to look stern. “Mine aren’t the only clutches around here that are horny.”

Liz gave a small gust of laughter. “Despite what you think, Michael, Max does know how to control himself, okay?”

“Who said I was talkin’ about Max?” he asked teasingly.

Liz made a playful sound of indignance and swatted at his arm. “Jerk,” she accused lightly, and they shared a grin.

“See ya tomorrow,” he said in a friendly goodbye.

“Okay. Thanks, Michael,” she said again in appreciation for the talk. He’d actually made her feel a little better. Who’da thought Michael Guerin knew how to do that, she thought affectionately, as she turned to go, with a quick squeeze of his arm.

Liz went to join Max and Isabel, and at about the same time that the three of them were leaving Michael’s apartment together, Kyle and Tess were nearing the Valenti home in the Mustang.

Tess literally hadn’t spoken a single word since they’d gotten in the car. Kyle hadn’t made any attempts to draw her into conversation, but his concerned gaze was drawn to her again and again as he drove. She just sat there staring sightlessly through the windshield, and he wished he had some idea of what was going on in her head.

He imagined it would be pretty difficult to have to deal with the sudden knowledge that your brother was a throne-usurping alien that had sent his evil dwarf of a henchman across the reaches of space to hunt you down and kill you and all your friends. He doubted Khivaar was a family member she would want to add to her Christmas card list. But she had to know that she was only related to him by accident of birth, and this didn’t change who she was now by one iota, didn’t she?

Kyle looked over at her worriedly. After holding his silence for most of the way home, he decided he had to find out.

Clearing his throat, he said hesitantly, “Uh, Tess? Do you- do you wanna talk about it?”

Tess didn’t respond. In fact, she hardly even realized he’d spoken. Ever since Max had told her about Khivaar, she felt almost completely disconnected from everything that was going on around her. Even her thoughts were disjointed, and they bounced around in her head like a ricocheting ping-pong ball. But their overall theme had remained the same. And it repeated itself like an insistent throbbing.

There could be no disputing it now. Nicholas and the others had been telling her the truth all along.

She truly was the traitorous sister of Zan’s enemy.

Chapter 52

Tess swallowed sickly at having her fears confirmed this way. She’d felt on the verge of throwing up ever since Max had made his announcement at Michael’s apartment. As long as it had been only Nicholas’ word that this was true, she’d been able to tell herself that he was just lying about it in order to get her to turn on Max and the others, and do what Khivaar wanted. But now she couldn’t deny it as a fact. Max would have never made up something like this, and besides, he hadn’t even known it was a remote possibility. None of them had.

But now they all knew. And Tess cringed to even contemplate what they must be thinking of her right now.

It had taken so long for them to get over their mistrust of her after the way she and Nacedo had come into their lives. If they ever truly had gotten over it. Now this was going to arouse their suspicion of her all over again. And the thought of having to prove herself, and win them over once more, left her feeling weary and disheartened. She honestly didn’t know if it was even worth the effort. Because she wasn’t sure if they would ever really accept her completely.

Max offered the only bright ray of hope in the entire situation. Tess’ throat tightened upon remembering his words to her before they’d left Michael’s apartment. He was so amazing in his generosity and loyalty. He’d given her the closest thing to complete acceptance and genuine friendship she’d ever known. And she didn’t deserve it. She was only going to end up hurting him in the end, simply by being near him. Tess was sure of it. Because she had the blood of a traitor running through her veins.

The first time she’d been informed of this fact had been a couple of months earlier when Whitaker had kidnapped her the day of Isabel’s eighteenth birthday. Initially, the Congresswoman had acted pleasant enough after taking her to the eerily deserted Power Plant in Chavez, but the fact that she’d run Tess’ SUV off the road, and then had dragged her off into the night with the help of a couple of other peeling-faced Skins, had kind of tipped Tess off to the fact that they weren’t exactly paying her a social call.

Whitaker had told Tess the story of who she was with the same gentle smugness that she’d later used with Isabel when telling her the story of Vilaandra. The similarities between the two tales had been yet another reason to believe they had only been lies designed to make them question their loyalties to Max. The Congresswoman had acted as though she’d expected Tess to receive the revelation of her identity with thankfulness, and would switch over to their side without compunction, telling her how pleased her brother was that they had finally found her.

Ties to a real family had been something Tess had longed for all her life, but she’d been utterly appalled to learn that her one claim to a relation was a man that had stolen her former husband’s throne from him, and still sat there ruling illegitimately. And of course no one had said it, but Tess thought it was safe to assume that he’d also been the one who had been ultimately responsible for the deaths of their four alien predecessors, herself included, just so he could take that throne.

She’d been further horrified when Whitaker had disclosed the reason why they expected her to turn on Max so easily. It had been because Ava had done it before. Their plan had been for Ava to turn the Granolith over to Khivaar when they’d been back on Antaar, but the Royal Four had ended up dead before she could complete her mission.

Tess had patently refused to believe anything she said, acidly accusing her of lying just to manipulate her loyalties, and staunchly refusing to betray Max that way. In hindsight, that probably hadn’t been the smartest move she could’ve made. There was something to be said for a little diplomacy.

Whitaker had replied with a sickeningly false commiseration, saying that it was really too bad if she was going to refuse to see reason, because Khivaar had given her the full authority to carry out whatever act she felt necessary to bring Tess around to their way of thinking.

And only moments later, the punishment had begun. Sometimes from the completely human blows of the fists, and even feet, of Whitaker’s two cronies, and at others, the cruel impact of alien blasts of power on her body. Tess had never felt such pain in all her life, and it had seemed to go on for hours and hours.

And then Nicholas had come on the scene. He’d promised he could make it all stop and take her pain away if only she would tell them what they wanted to know. It had been the first time she’d ever laid eyes on the small alien enemy, and if she’d been capable of it at the time, she would’ve laughed in the kid’s face for acting as if he had any authority over the situation, and had the power to rescue her. It had probably been a saving grace that she’d been hurting too much and had been too out of it to act upon her first impulse and mock him. She’d still held out against them though, and the torture had continued, with Nicholas interrupting every so often with an offer to save her if she’d give in. It had played out like some farcical scenario of good cop/bad cop, except looking into the dark depths of Nicholas’ cold, empty eyes had kept Tess from seeing him as the savior he was attempting to play.

Finally, he’d put a stop to the beating, saying it was no longer amusing him, and had used his powers to rape her of her thoughts and find out for himself that she hadn’t even known the location of the Granolith at that time. He’d grown angry then, and had told her torturers to resume their activities to punish her for being such a ‘naughty girl’ in wasting their time. He’d even joined in himself, that time, and had threatened to keep it up until Tess either agreed to help them in their cause or she was dead. As worthless as she was to them, he’d said, he hadn’t cared which.

Tess had hardly even known what she was saying when she’d finally agreed to whatever they wanted. She’d been so far past the point of pain, she hadn’t even been able to feel any more, and she’d truly been afraid she was about to die. She probably would’ve said anything at that point just to make them stop.

But once she’d been free, she’d had no intentions of being true to her word. Each time they’d tried to contact her for information over the next month or so, she’d managed to avoid them. Since Isabel had killed Whitaker, Tess had thought she’d taken care of the whole problem once and for all when she’d done away with the little twerp, along with all the rest of his alien crew. But he’d shown her in New York just how wrong she was.

When she’d seen Nicholas there at that summit, she’d been terrified that he would implicate her somehow in front of Max, and she’d wanted to avoid that at all costs. Max had finally begun to let her in, and she’d been so afraid of anything that might jeopardize that.

She still wasn’t sure why Nicholas had kept quiet about their previous association. She was sure he had to have been angry with her. After all, she had tried to fry him to a crisp. At that point, he surely couldn’t have still held out the hope that she would help him to spy on Max and the others. But then, who could know how his devious little mind worked?

One thing she could be sure of, it hadn’t been out of any sense of generosity on his part. And it hadn’t been because he’d changed his agenda at all. He’d proven that when Laanie and Rath had taken her to him after they’d attempted to kill Max.

That whole episode in the sewers was fuzzy in her mind. One minute Nicholas had been threatening her with another mind rape if she didn’t volunteer the information they wanted, and the next Max had been there, asking if she were alright. She had no idea what had happened once Nicholas had begun his magic mind-sucking act, but obviously, he hadn’t learned what he wanted to know, or he would’ve had them all dead, and be on his way back home with the Granolith by now.

Tess didn’t know if all this mindwarping business with Liz was a part of his little fun and games or not, but she somehow doubted it. She hadn’t heard a word from him in the week since they’d come back from the city, and she was almost sure she would have if he were around. She had no idea where he was now, or what he was up to, and that made her extremely nervous.

She’d felt so guilty for keeping all this information from the others, and most especially from Max. It felt like she was betraying him anyway with her silence. And they really did need to know that their duplicates were in cahoots with Nicholas. But they were already wary enough of their other selves because of what they’d tried to do to Max, so Tess hadn’t thought it would hurt that much for them to remain unaware of this small piece of news.

She was just so worried that if her friends got even a hint that there was some kind of a connection between her and Nicholas, that they would shut her out again. Or maybe something even worse. And after becoming so close to Max, and beginning to gain a place in their group, it would kill her if they turned their backs on her now.

But she knew that as long as this association with Nicholas did exist, she was only bringing danger to them all by staying among them. Once Nicholas got the information he wanted, it would be all over for them. And now that she knew her tie to Khivaar was legitimate, she didn’t think Nicholas would ever give up trying to ‘recruit’ her for their side.

If she truly wanted to do what was best for everyone, she would take up her old life-style, and go back to the running and hiding routine she’d learned in living with Nacedo. And now that they all knew the ugly truth of who she was, she couldn’t think of any reason why she shouldn’t go.

Except for one, she acknowledged, as Kyle repeated his earlier question with gentle concern.

“Tess, you’re really worrying me, here. Are you okay? Do you wanna talk about it?”

The events of the past two months had been fitfully playing through her mind in scattered bits and pieces, and though Kyle’s concerned query registered this time, it still seemed like he was speaking to her from a vast distance.

Fleetingly, she glanced his way, her blue eyes dull and filled with conflict.

If she left, who would watch after Kyle? She would be leaving him without protection against any enemies that might come his way because of his connection to the alien royalty. Of course, he had his dad, another person she suddenly realized she would miss terribly, but if it came to an alien show of power, the sheriff wouldn’t even be able to protect himself, much less his son. They both needed her. In more ways than one.

If she wasn’t here, who would listen to Kyle babble on about his desire to be like a solitary cloud hugging a mountain, and the unreality of reality? And who would help him with his biology homework to make sure he would have enough science credits to graduate next year? Who would see to it that Jim had a clean uniform every day, and that he always had a nutritious meal packed so he wouldn’t skip the noon meal? Who would make Kyle his favorite three-cheese potato gratin on Sundays so the men would have a decent meal, instead of just snacking on beer nuts and pork rinds while watching sports all day?

Tess loved doing all those things for them. It made her feel as if they needed her. If the truth be known, she would probably be more lost without them now than they would be without her.

But she represented a danger to them as well. If Nicholas were to ever take it in his head to use one of them to get her to do what he wanted, she would give in to him in an instant. There was no way she would ever be able to just stand by and watch them be hurt because of her. Nacedo would say she’d become weak by allowing herself to feel so much human emotion, and letting herself get attached this way, and maybe he would be right. She only knew she’d been happier these past two months, becoming a part of the lives of these two special men, than she’d ever been in her life. But if she stayed, it would be for purely selfish reasons. Kyle and Jim would probably get along just fine without her. They always had before. And in fact, they would probably be better off without her. If she weren’t a constant alien presence in their house, maybe they could distance themselves a little from the whole alien business, and all that stuff wouldn’t be such a disruption of their lives. She knew Kyle especially had been having a hard time dealing with it.

Yes, she decided, it would probably be best for everyone if she just left. Slipped from their lives as if she’d been nothing more than a brief interruption.

“Tess,” Kyle said insistently, really worried now by her failure to answer him. “Talk to me. Are you okay?”

Her answer, when she finally gave it, was so faint he barely heard it. “I shouldn’t be here.”

His brows drew down into a frown. That hadn’t been anything he’d expected her to answer. “Where should you be?” he asked in confusion.

“Anywhere,” Tess replied tonelessly. “Anywhere but here.”

Kyle’s heart lurched in trepidation. “You’re talkin’ in a broader sense than just right here in this car, aren’t you?”

She was still staring sightlessly out the windshield, and at first, he didn’t think she was going to answer. When she finally did, she only repeated dully, “I shouldn’t be here.”

“Of course you should, Tess. What are you talkin’ about?” Kyle said sharply, full-blown dread now filling his stomach with lead. Was she actually thinking of leaving Roswell? “This is your home,” he told her emphatically. “Where else do you think you should be?”

“This isn’t my home, Kyle,” she denied flatly. She used to think home was another world, with a husband who loved her and a people who revered her as their beloved queen. But now all that home represented was the life of a person she didn’t want to be, with a brother she wanted no part of. And home wasn’t here either, no matter what life in Roswell had brought about for her the past several months. Nicholas had taken care of that fantasy. “I have no home,” she declared dispiritedly.

“Stop talking like that, Tess,” Kyle demanded fearfully. “You’ve called my house ‘home’ for the past two months. Why do you think anything’s changed?”

She didn’t reply, and Kyle was deeply disturbed by her entire attitude. Even when she had answered him, her voice had been a monotone, sounding lifeless and detached. She was retreating, he realized with a flash of insight that deepened his apprehension. He could almost feel her literally pulling away, as if preparing herself for a break of all her ties here.

Desperately, he said, “Tess, it doesn’t matter to anybody who you were related to in another life. The only thing that means now is that maybe you share a few of the same genes with him or something. You’re only semi-related to him now, at best. And who cares if you have a distant relative who happens to be an evil monarch anyway? I’ve got a grandfather who’s off his rocker, does that make you look at me any differently?”

She finally stopped her pointless staring out the window to give him a look, and he chose to take that as a hopeful sign.

“Okay, so it’s not exactly the same thing,” he conceded. “But the point I’m tryin’ to make here is that even if Khivaar is your brother, that’s no reason for you to feel guilty, or- ashamed or whatever. It’s not like you did anything wrong.”

He couldn’t know how his words stabbed at Tess’ heart. As a sentiment meant to soothe her, it failed miserably. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Kyle,” she said heavily.

They’d reached the front of the Valenti house, and Kyle pulled into the driveway and shut off the car’s engine before replying to her.

Turning in his seat so he was facing her, he looked into her eyes and said earnestly, “I know that if you think this thing somehow means that anyone’s not gonna want you around, you’re completely wrong, Tess. And your home is here. Here in Roswell. In this house. With me. A-and my dad,” he tacked on hastily. Not wanting to make either of them uncomfortable by saying too much, but unwilling to just quietly let her walk away, he went on with awkward hesitance. “We need you here, Tess. You’re like- part of our family now,” he confessed with lowered eyes. “And Max and those guys need you too. Aren’t they always saying how important it is for the four of you to stick together? Finding out about Ava doesn’t change any of that,” he pointed out.

Tess just looked at him for a long moment, her lips an unhappy curve. As she gazed into his eyes, she wondered irrelevantly how she could’ve missed seeing before how deep and caring, and how very heart-meltingly blue they were. They seemed to hold the gentle promise of something indefinable. Something unexpected and unique, meant only for her. With a pang, she suddenly realized just how much Kyle had come to mean to her. How was she ever going to be able to leave him behind? She would be leaving all the light and laughter in her life right along with him.

“You’re wrong, Kyle,” she finally replied sadly. “Finding out about Ava changes everything.”


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 1-Nov-2001 11:38:23 PM ]
posted on 4-Nov-2001 2:27:04 PM by Destinee
So it seems the general consensus is that you guys are feeling sorry for Tess even though you don't wanna, right? *tongue* Sorry, but I kinda thought it was a cop-out the way the show made her into the bad guy, so that'll give you an idea of the direction I want to make her go in. And it's taken quite awhile, but I think we'll be getting all that end of the world business taken care of fairly soon too.

I worked on the next part on and off all day yesterday, but it's coming pretty slow. I'm going to do my very best to get it up by tonight though. There may be a small change in plan with it. Instead of it being a B-part to this chapter, I may have to make it into a chapter of its own if it goes on too much longer. But you won't mind a whole chapter of M/L makeout action, will you? *wink*

jale28- To answer your questions, you pretty much sound like you've got it to me. *big*

Angela35- something you said in your post reminded me of something I realized just recently. You said you'd been enjoying this fic for a long time, and it occurred to me about a week ago just how long I've been writing this story. It's hard to believe, but I've been writing on this thing for an entire year. It hardly seems possible that it's been that long, and it's certainly not anything I envisioned when I first started writing it, but you guys have just been awesome to stick with me all this time. Especially when I've taken this long to answer all the questions. Thinking about it in those terms makes me feel awfully guilty for keeping you hanging so long. Sorry about that. blush. But I just wanted to tell you thanks for giving me a whole year's worth of feedback and encouragement. I can't imagine that I would have kept with it if it hadn't been for all of you. Here's hoping the next saga in this series isn't such a long journey. Although, if it's as enjoyable to me as this one has been, that wouldn't be a bad thing at all in my book. *happy*
posted on 11-Nov-2001 5:53:39 AM by Destinee
Hey, LiLPiXiE. No, this is my only story. Thanks for asking, though. *happy* And, no worries. I definitely won't be making Tess the villain.

For anyone who's been looking for it, I'm sorry I'm taking so long with the next part. I've got a major case of writer's block and I seem to be stuck on it. But I just wanted to let you know that I am trying to work on it, and I'll get it up just as soon as I possibly can. Thanks for being patient, and I'm sorry that's required of you so often with this fic. LOL
posted on 12-Nov-2001 2:05:08 AM by Destinee
LOL. But see, that's exactly the problem, LTL. I feel like everything I'm coming out with is almost the same as what I've written before, only just a different composition of the words. I really appreciate the encouraging compliments though. I am working on it, and it's going to be a pretty long chapter too, if I ever get it finished. LOL. If I can just get that originality thing kicked and get the aggravating thing to flow more than two sentences at a time in my head, we'll be cooking with gas. *big*