posted on 9-Sep-2002 11:40:55 PM by Finn
Hi, all. Welcome to my long author’s note. This is my first attempt at fanfic, actually my first attempt at any fiction besides school (which, wow, is closing in on that lovely phrase “years ago”). I will at least have proper spelling and grammar, but I’m begging that you go easy on me. All criticism is welcome, just not too harsh. ;) Any thoughts on plot development are great, too.

And BTW, I do work full-time, so it may be slow coming, but the goal is that if people are reading it, I’ll finish or die trying.

Now, about the plot, I’m borrowing this from an X-Men fanfic I read something like 10 years ago. I think it was by Laura somebody, but all I really remember is the basic plotline and a few specific plot points (which I am using), but in general I’m following it EXTREMELY loosely. But… if anyone knows, I would gladly give credit. Is that OK to do? I think this works fairly well with the Roswell stuff, although it will be AU.

It’s an AU fic. Oh, also all CC. I think everyone will probably be aliens, haven’t decided. The gist is that Liz (OK, so I don’t say her name right away, but by description you’d figure it out) has been locked away for years as a research-type subject. The rest of the gang arrive at the compound to liberate its subjects and shut the place down (they’re not with legal channels or anything, obviously as I said before, think X-Men). Liz stows away on their plane back to their lair and blah, blah, blah… You get the picture.

BE AWARE: Chapter 1 will be NC-17 (non-consensual sex)!!! It can be skipped without losing much, but it will be applicable to furthering the storyline later on.

Thanks!
Finn


[ edited 18time(s), last at 14-Feb-2003 2:15:58 PM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2002 11:42:42 PM by Finn
Desolation
By: Finn

Desolation

This is the banner by the spectacularly talented BorderInsanity. (Thanks!)

fd11c3b5

And here's the one by the amazingly creative Talena. (Thank you, too!)



-Prologue-

Experiment 166 was a young boy, six years old, who could sometimes see the future. He’d been taken from his home in the middle of the night ten months ago. His parents and the police had no idea who had taken him or why.

To the right of his cell, was a sixty-year-old man who could hear peoples’ thoughts. It was a gift that cost him a great deal of effort, but was very powerful. He had had no friends or family when he was taken from his apartment three years earlier. When he first arrived, he became experiment 102.

Moving further to the right was a middle-aged woman, subject 139. She was capable of moving things without touching them. She had lost her family, a husband and two sons, in the “accidental” car accident that had also supposedly taken her life. In reality, of course, she had been brought here.

Across from them was a much larger cell. Like the others, the back and side walls were solid cement slabs, but the front was a full glass panel, allowing the prisoner inside to see all three cells on the opposite side of the hallway. On the back wall hung an ominous pair of manacles. This room held experiment 18.

A girl sat stonily in the cell, back to the wall and knees to her chin. Her clothing was standard issue and much too large for her petite form. Her silky chestnut hair hung nearly to the floor and her deep brown eyes, though tired, shone with intelligence. A necklace with a heavy pendant circled her throat, the only remnant of her life before this place.

Although she had no memory of that life, the doctors told her that she was about seventeen. She surmised that she had must have been imprisoned for many years. In fact, she had been one of the first to arrive.

Despite all those years of imprisonment, she hadn’t stopped trying to escape until recently, when circumstances conspired to crush her sprit. These people were extremely vigilant, particularly when she was involved, and she knew they would never let her go voluntarily.

She was capable of the things the others could do, and so much more.

She was their prize.

And… she wasn’t human.

-End Prologue-

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 9-Nov-2002 3:15:43 PM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2002 11:43:56 PM by Finn
NOTE: THIS PART IS NC-17 (non-consensual sex)

-Chapter 1: Desolation-

The sliding glass door hissed open and a very tall, broad man entered the large cell. Nick was relatively new, having been hired within the last several years. The lead scientist, Dr. Essex, had become concerned that the previous guard in charge of this section had become too sympathetic with the subjects, specifically with his “special guest.” Nick slowly stalked to where she sat huddled in the corner of the cell, next to the bed.

“Honey, aren’t you glad to see me?”

She looked up at him, hatred and dread in her intense dark eyes.

“Dr. Essex was not pleased with your efforts this morning and suggested I pay you a visit. You know, just to remind you of your responsibilities. It seems he liked the results of my last few ‘visits,’ but doesn’t really want to know the details.”

He knelt in front of her and placed one of his large hands on her leg, stroking her slim thigh through the rough fabric while his other hand caressed her soft cheek. She trembled in fear and anger, withdrawing further into the corner. Nick glowered at her reaction to his touch and leaned in close so he was face to face with her.

“That kid across the hall over there… You’ve enjoyed your trips over to see him, haven’t you? It would be such a shame if he weren’t able to see you anymore, if he were, for example,” he smirked, “under the weather.”

He grabbed her hand roughly, hauled her to her feet, and pulled her over to the left of the window so she could see Toby playing with a fire truck across the hall. Visiting Toby after Nick had first arrived, the little boy had babbled nonstop about Nick for twenty minutes, crying that the big man had scared him and broken all of his toys. She had been livid and would not cooperate with the scientists, until the boy’s playthings were replaced. But that had been before Nick came to see her. She smiled faintly as she saw Toby laugh out loud in his play.

Nick frowned as he noticed that she had forgotten his presence and came up to stand directly behind her. She stiffened as he put a hand on her shoulder. Just then Toby turned to look in their direction. His bright blue eyes widened and he began to grin as he saw the dark-haired girl watching him, but then he saw Nick towering over her. He watched fearfully as Nick tightened his hold on her and she grimaced.

She saw the boy’s fright and tried to smile reassuringly. It didn’t fool him, though, and his eyes filled as he stood up, small body trembling. She turned her head to glare furiously at Nick, then turned back to try to comfort Toby by smiling and waving at him.

“What about, Jacob?” he asked, ignoring her look. He yanked her forcefully to the right and she saw the man, pounding on the window and yelling at Nick. She had become a favorite with him and he didn’t care who knew it. She winced, worried that Nick would become angry with him.

“Now Jacob, he’s not a young man anymore… I don’t think he could handle too much discomfort, do you?” Nick questioned as he scowled at the old man across the hall.

“Then of course, there’s Hannah.” He led her over to the right wall. “She might not even realize what’s going on. Sort of quiet, isn’t she? The Doc’s not terribly thrilled about that. I could try to bring her around, though. What do you think?”

Inwardly, she cringed. Hannah had been a zombie since being locked away in the compound and realizing that her family was dead. After Nick had arrived, she became nearly catatonic.

“It’s up to you, frail,” he stated as he twirled her around to face him and pulled her close, staring down into her big, brown eyes. “You wanna be polite, cooperate this time? Or, do we bring in the peanut gallery? You must realize there’re plenty of others besides those three.”

She looked down, closed her eyes tight and thought quickly, but couldn’t see any way to fight him that wouldn’t endanger the others. The girl had seen many of the other “subjects” come and go over the years, but she’d grown attached to these three. They weren’t family, but she cared. She looked up, face set and pale, and motioned to the windows.

“Say please.”

She just looked at him. He let down the window coverings, then came back to her and led her to the back wall. Her eyes rose to the manacles in alarm; he hadn’t used them before. He pushed her backwards and grasped her hands. When she resisted, he smiled slightly and bent his head to her ear.

“Toby and Jacob and Hannah, oh my,” he murmured.

She quieted. While her dark eyes betrayed her revulsion at his touch, she was determined to show nothing.

“Hands up, honey.”

Slowly, she did as he instructed. He put her small hands in the restraints, being very careful not to damage the heavy, three inch bracelet on her right wrist. She narrowed her eyes, daring him to take it off.

“Don’t want to damage that,” he said calmly. “You’d blast me, wouldn’t you?” Curiously, though, he then added, “Or maybe not.”

He bent down to spread her ankles and restrained them as well. Finally, he stood back a few paces to admire his handiwork and the beauty before him. Shaking his head, he moving in closer and cupped the back of her head, thumbs caressing face and then slowly ran his fingers down to her throat. Nick placed a finger lightly on her pulse point, pleased with its quick pace. Moving further, the man traced her slim collarbone, fingering the dark pendant that rested at the hollow of her throat. He then moved downwards over the rough fabric of her shirt.

“So beautiful, so fragile. Like a butterfly,” he said. He kissed her hard, pushing her flat against the cement wall, and forcing his tongue into her mouth. She closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see his face.

When he tired of that, he knelt in front of her, his face level with her midsection. He placed his rough hands on her hips, beneath the large shirt, and easily spanned her slim waist. She shivered at his loathsome touch and his fingers wrapped around her back, thumbs just above her pelvis. He gazed up at her lovely face and then pushed his thumbs hard into her abdomen. Her large, dark eyes flew open and she sucked in a deep breath at the pain. He continued to press his fingers deep into her belly, moving his hands over and across her stomach. Soon, she was mottled with dark bruises. She struggled against him, but the restraints held her too tightly. Irritably, he slammed her back against the wall, her head hitting the cement with a loud crack. Slightly lightheaded, she glared at him.

Nick grinned at her reaction and moved higher, brushing each rib lightly as his hands slid under her shirt. He ran his thumbs over and around the curves of her breasts. She caught her breath for a minute as his hands slid over her silky skin and then stopped, caressing her supple flesh.

After a few moments, he reminded her, “Breathe, honey.”

Having forgotten that she’d been holding it, her chest heaved as she tried to catch her breath. He cupped her as she struggled for air, just enjoying the feel of her breasts as they rapidly rose and fell in his hands. Then, with no warning he began to knead her flesh, hard and painfully. The young woman bit her tongue to stifle a moan.

After a few minutes of causing pain, he slid his hands to down further, never losing contact with her body. His index fingers reached into the waistband of her panties, sliding back and forth several times under the elastic, against her silky skin. Her heart raced as she awaited his next move. He leisurely drew the panties and her trousers down to her ankles. Large, cold hands circled her now bare knees and unhurriedly moved higher, to stroke her smooth thighs. Despite her best efforts to remain motionless and silent, her body trembled mutinously in his hands. The only sounds were his heavy breathing.

He released her and rocked back on his heels, only to reach into his back pocket. Her big eyes widened as he pulled out a large pocket knife. She flinched as he flipped it open and stood up, moving close. He pressed his body into hers and she could feel his erection at her stomach, straining against the heavy denim of his pants

He brought up the knife, flashing it in front of her eyes. Tensely she looked away, but he only sliced down the front of her shirt, then the short sleeves and pulled the shirt open and off entirely. He then set the knife down on the cement floor.

“So lovely…” he whispered, almost pleasantly. She cringed, hating to hear such things from this horrible man.

He brought his mouth down to her chest and placed his hands on her back just below her shoulder blades, pulling her away from the wall and tighter into his body. He tasted her breasts, sucking and biting, and roughly caressed her smooth back. Bored, though, with her lack response, he’d been hoping for a scream, he began to dig his fingers into her remorselessly.

“Come on, honey, give me something. Don’t tell me I have another tight-lipped female in my care.”

When he still got no response, he bent to pick up the knife again. As he stood, he unzipped and then dropped his pants. He tapped the handle of the blade against the palm of his hand, then flipped it around and put the tip against her breast. Her breathing hitched.

“I wonder what would happen if I just started cutting,” he commented as he drew a deep line across the curve of her left breast and she hissed at the stinging pain. He pushed his body into her and she steeled herself, readying for what she knew was to come. But instead, he put the knife above her eye.

“Are you going to be good like you promised?” he questioned.

Suddenly, the intercom in the room whined and Nick started. The knife cut deep across her brow, barely missing her eye. She shouted at the unexpected pain and Nick jumped back as Dr. Essex’s voice came through.

“Nick, get up here, we may have trouble. Oh, and ready 18, I have some tests for her in a few minutes.”

“But, Doc…”

“Later, Nick.”

The girl’s breath let out in a rush and she closed her eyes in relief, not even noticing the blood that flowed from her forehead, just thankful that for now, this nightmare appeared to be over. Her breathing was labored as she began to calm down and her heart was loud in her ears.

Looking at her, Nick realized that she thought she was safe. With her eyes closed, she had almost forgotten his existence. Inwardly he snarled. Quietly, though, he stepped back up to her. He suddenly wrapped both hands around her waist, yanking her towards him and brutally drove himself into her.

She shrieked in surprise and rage, eyes blazing, and pushed against him with her slender hands. Then as he violently and unrelentingly thrust himself deep inside, she whimpered in pain. He hugged her close, crushing her to his chest. As she fought to breathe, he put his face in her silky hair, smelling the sweet fragrance of strawberries. Finally, her head lolled onto his shoulder and her eyes drifted shut as she lost consciousness.

He held her a few moments longer and finally released her so he could remove the restraints. He swung her slight body up into his arms, walked to the bed and then lay her down, almost gently.

As he walked out the door, he tapped the intercom button. “Subject 18, sedated and prepared.”

-End Chapter 1-

[ edited 6 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:16:21 PM ]
posted on 11-Sep-2002 10:59:36 AM by Finn
Geez, well of course Nick will get his comeuppance (golly, I've always wanted to use that word), but it won't be right away. Hoping to complete another part this weekend.
posted on 15-Sep-2002 1:27:32 AM by Finn
First off, thanks for all the wonderful encouragement. It was really hard for me to post anything in the first place. I write a lot of technical type stuff at work and so creative writing is scary! You guys have been great, and I appreciate it. On with the story *happy*
~Finn

-Chapter 2: Escape!-

She woke to find herself laying one of the examination tables in the back of a huge room. Her body ached and she knew that the combination of Nick and whatever they had done this time was going to hurt very badly and very soon. She turned her head groggily from one side to the other, trying to rid herself of the hazy feeling in her head, knowing that there were multiple drugs running through her system.

Her eyes widened in wonder as she saw smoke billowing from a massive hole in the corner of the other side of the room. Through the smoke, she could see it was nighttime and that a storm raged outside the compound. Lightning flashed, illuminating the vast surrounding the area.

Belatedly, she noticed several men and women, six in all, fighting with compound guards and even more surprising, they appeared to be decimating the guards. Shocked, she saw colored balls of power fly from the hands of a tall young man with messy brownish blond hair. Next to him was a small blond concentrating fiercely, eyes tightly closed. A man to her left flung up his hand and a green shield of some kind appeared in front of him.

Like me, she thought woozily.

Another unfamiliar young man was working feverishly at a bank of computers opposite the gaping hole. He shouted in triumph, when suddenly a support girder fell onto the computer right next to him. He jumped back, shaken but unharmed, and cursed a blue streak when he realized he’d just lost all the information he had gathered.

Suddenly, the metal clamps that held her to the table snapped open. Immediately, she rolled off, towards the still intact back wall and winced as her body protested. Not now, she ordered herself. Later.

Recovering quickly, eyes flicking from side to side, her first thought was escape. She crawled unnoticed behind piles of machinery, computers, and lab tables, skirting the fighting, to the broken wall. She stopped, heart pounding, when she reached a large metal cabinet, the last hiding place between her and the outside world.

Looking again towards the fighting, she considered assisting the intruders, but she had no clothes, her body ached, and she was so tired. As she watched, debating her decision, she noticed the long hallway that was directly opposite her hiding spot. It was her cellblock! Just as she was about to head down the hallway, no plan in mind but a primal impulse to release the other captives, a piercing alarm filled the air.

Her mouth dropped open in horror, guessing what was coming, but before she could move the entire hallway exploded. Seconds later, a rumbling sound filled the air and a second explosion rocked the building, collapsing the entire hallway. In shock, she remained crouched next to a cabinet. The hallway was in flames and she could only stare at the rubble that remained of her prison. She knew it meant the death of everyone still in their cell.

As the fighting continued unabated in the main room, she numbly made her way to the opening. Taking her first step outside, the lightning flashed and she could make out a plane, perhaps a football field away. Hoping fervently that the aircraft belonged to the group fighting against her jailors, she moved hurriedly, glancing back every second to see if anyone… Nick, her mind whispered… was following her, but she went unnoticed.

Reaching the plane, she saw that it was open and made her way inside. Moving quickly to the back, she opened compartment after compartment until she found what she was looking for: clothing. She smiled grimly, noting the high-necked shirt and pants were black, like her soul. Hands shaking from the cold, she put them on.

She next looked for a hiding place. In the darkness, she was barely able to distinguish a small closet in the very back of the plane. Opening the door, it looked as if it hadn’t been used recently. She slipped inside to wait, uneasy with the decision but she wanted to get away far away as quickly as possible. No other options came to mind. Despite her plan to stay cautious and alert, she promptly fell asleep.


* * * * *

The sound of heated conversation and the rumbling of the aircraft soon roused her. She heard with relief that they were not Essex’s men, but was only able to understand some of the discussion through the closet door.

“… almost had the files… Liz… name wasn’t there, but…”

“…should go back….my sister!”

“…tried! Michael…”

“…destroyed. No one left…”

“ …couldn’t save….”

“I’d know! …not dead!”

“…so stupid! …our best chance.”

“…not your fault, Alex.”

“…keep looking… so sorry...”

As the voices died out, she waited silently and wondered.

* * * * *

The aircraft touched down some time later and after few moments she heard footsteps. It sounded like everyone was leaving the plane. Patiently, she counted up to one hour and then opened the closet door cautiously, relieved that the craft was in fact deserted. She stretched lightly, trying to work some of the kinks resulting from her cramped position. Rubbing the back of her neck, where she was particularly sore and itchy, she could feel a large bandage. For now, she shrugged it off and continued looking around; she was used to strange wounds. Walking up the aisle, she peered out the windows into the dimly lit hangar and saw with satisfaction that it was empty as well.

The girl opened the hatch and jumped lightly to the ground, eyes scanning for any possible threat. She walked to the closest wall and began a thorough search for all exits. She feared opening the main door, frightened that she would immediately be discovered if she went through. Growing desperate, she neared the end of her circuit and came upon a large metal door. Though the lighting was minimal, she was able to read the sign: RESTRICTED. EMERGENCY USE ONLY.

She lifted the long metal bar and then slowly opened the heavy door. Inside was a long stairway that led far downwards to another metal door. Beyond that was a large room with everything she could possibly need: several cots, blankets, clothing, shoes, candles, flashlights, large crates that appeared to hold enough food and bottled water for months, even books. There were also a cement shower and a toilet in the corner.

She smiled widely, but it was tired and cold, and didn’t touch her eyes. Perfect.

* * * * *

The years spent imprisoned had never allowed her any opportunity to really reflect on her situation; the threat to survival and sanity had always been imminent. And then… her escape had been so quick and desperate, that she hadn’t allowed herself any time to consider. But in her newfound freedom, she had all the time in the world to think, to remember. It was taking its toll.

During the days, she was able to distract herself. She was voracious reader, Essex had considerately provided her just about anything she had wanted to read, and steadily worked her way through the books. She enjoyed anything escapist, but the multitude of scientific texts intrigued her and she read them thoroughly.

She also began to explore, discovering miles and miles of strange tunnels leading from the second door in her new home. Soon, she was running the passageways, mentally mapping her small world, and rebuilding her strength and endurance for a time when she knew she would need them. Her plan was to find some opening that would lead her outside, but unfortunately the only exit she found, besides the one she’d come in, was completely sealed.

It was the nights that were unbearable. Everything that had happened came back in the night: all those who had come and gone during her years in the compound, days and nights of loneliness and misery, painful injuries from testing and analysis by the scientists, and Nick. More often than not she woke up from nightmares in pain, sobbing and terrified.

She also grieved for the loss her friends. Of course, she knew they hadn’t been true family. In fact, they had rarely even been permitted to meet. She’d only had extended contact with the boy, allowed only because he was so young. It was through their common plight that they had latched onto each other; through the glass, they had improvised some feeling of “family.”

But she knew that as much as she cared for them and would have done all she could to help and protect them, she had never truly trusted them, never told anyone that she was different.

She also realized that the others had all been longing for former lives, families and friends. They had tried to find some replacement for that absence in order to survive. But not 18. She had been grasping for some semblance of normalcy out of instinct, or possibly even some vague recollection of the past.

Because she couldn’t really recall a “before.” All the others had these feelings, had someone they were missing. Why couldn’t she remember? Was it just that she was so different? She recalled the day when one of the scientists had nastily informed her that she wasn’t human. Initially she’d thought it had been some kind of joke, but in the back of her mind, pieces had started to fall together.

Maybe that was why she was empty. Maybe she would never feel loss or real love. The thought made her heart ache. Forcing herself not to dwell on it, she shook her head angrily. It’s not true. It can’t be. That’s just what they would have wanted. Don’t think about it.

After a few weeks, she was completely able to push her doubts away, at least during the day. She was pleased with her newly acquired freedom and strength, and undaunted by the dead end tunnels. The young woman began to grow accustomed to her underground home. However, she was aware that the supplies would not last forever and although she feared running into the owners of this place, she was starting to become lonely.

She was also troubled by the possibility that Dr. Essex might still be alive. If he were, he would surely know who these people were and would come after them for destroying his lab. And she’d just be hanging around, like a sitting duck. She was determined to further explore what was beyond the main door from the hangar as soon as she had the chance.

* * * *

The opportunity arrived several days after the decision was made.

She was rummaging through the piles of books, looking for something new when the room shook slightly with a rumbling noise. Hesitating, she remained kneeling on the floor for a moment, but soon got to her feet. She warily climbed the stairs and opened the door to the hangar. Sure enough, the plane was gone; the noise had been the aircraft leaving the hangar.

The girl moved quickly across the large open area, hating to be so exposed. She ended up at the main door she had avoided before. It was unlocked. She opened it only to find a large hallway that ended in an upward staircase. She climbed, all the while listening carefully for anything that might be a danger. At the top, was a dark wooden door that opened into yet another hallway. Starting to grow nervous at the growing distance from her safe tunnels, she turned one last corner, only to find herself at the open door to a fully stocked kitchen.

With all the canned foodstuffs in the crates below, she had not been hungry, but in front of her she could see fruit on the table and opening the refrigerator, found all kinds of fresh foods. Delighted, she spent several minutes carefully picking her favorites, as she could only carry so much. Suddenly realizing how much time had passed, she decided that for now she had done enough exploring and turned to go. Just as she reached the hallway, she heard a gasp behind her.

She spun around, long dark hair flying. She found herself staring at a tall dark-haired man whom she dimly remembered having been working on the computers at the compound. Her eyes widened in alarm, white entirely surrounding the dark brown iris.

“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed, frightening her even more.

The food she had painstakingly selected spilled to the ground as she turned and ran back the way she’d come. Beginning her descent to the hangar, she heard the unmistakable rumble of the jet. Terrified, she stumbled down the stairs and saw the same six people filing out of the plane as she hit the bottom.

They looked on, stunned, as the slender girl came barreling down the stairs, dark hair obscuring her face. Suddenly concerned that this outsider was a threat, they began to converge on her from all sides.

Utterly panicked at this point, she sprinted to the other door, flinging it open and nearly falling down the stairs. As she hurried through the door to her tunnels, she shut and bolted it behind and ran headlong into the tunnels. She waited, breathing heavily, until she heard a loud crackling noise against the door followed by a deafening crash as it fell to the ground. She jumped, startled, and continued to run. Soon, though, she started to become furious that they had invaded her territory.

As they came through the door, she heard the man who had seen her earlier shouting at the top of his lungs. “Wait! Don’t hurt her! Wait!”

Sudden confusion reigned and she breathed a sigh of relief as the intruders stopped chasing after her and rushed back to the other man. She began to calm down and stopped running as well. Curious, she waited where she was, wanting to find out if they were good guys or more bad guys. As they became engrossed in their conversation, she walked slowly back towards them to peer around the corner to watch and listen carefully.

“It is. It’s her. I can’t believe it, but it’s her. I think,” her discoverer muttered.

“Alex, what are you talking about?” a tall, curvy blond woman asked anxiously.

“Not now, Isabel, we have to find her! She could be a Skin, or something worse,” the tall dark blond haired man interrupted and began to move towards her hiding place.

Nervously, she took a step backwards, further into the dark tunnels.

“No! Michael, wait! You have to listen to me,” the man called Alex yelled.

In the shadows, the dark-haired girl’s eyes were drawn to a charismatic dark-haired man whose attitude screamed leader. Without realizing it, she smiled slightly at the sight of this handsome man as he spoke.

“Tess, can you feel her? Is she still in there?” he asked a short blond with tight curls.

“I can feel her, Max, but it’s strange. I can’t get a handle on her,” she responded, confused.

“She looked scared, not dangerous, Michael,” a third blond girl interjected, bright green eyes sympathetic.

“Maria, you don’t know her! She could be anyone! Kyle, you’re with me, right?”

A muscular sandy haired man responded cautiously. “She ran away from us, not at us. She didn’t try to hurt anyone.”

“Will you guys shut up! Listen! I saw who it was, she’s not an enemy.” They all looked at Alex expectantly. “It was Liz!”

The girl in the tunnels cocked her head curiously. Liz?

-End Chapter 2-

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:39:22 PM ]
posted on 15-Sep-2002 1:33:09 AM by Finn
Oh, yeah, another part. I've been workin' hard!
~Finn

-Chapter 3: The Decision-

“Explain yourself, Whitman,” the one called Michael said dangerously.

Max, the dark-haired one who had drawn her eyes, looked up and added tiredly, “That’s not possible.”

“I know, but it’s her, I swear,” he responded, running his hands through his hair agitatedly. “I’d been sitting at the computer for hours and got hungry while you were gone. When I walked into the kitchen, I saw a girl walking out the other door towards the hallway. A small girl, long straight dark brown hair.”

“Dark hair doesn’t make her Liz,” Maria cut in, moving over to comfort Michael who was listening intently, barely daring to hope.

“I know that, let me finish,” Alex said, exasperated. “I must have made some noise because she turned around. I saw her face, Michael. She’s changed, grown up, but I really think it’s her. But then she looked at me as if I were Satan himself and took off. When you guys surrounded her, I think she just panicked.”

“This isn’t possible,” Max whispered uncertainly, but like Michael, desperate for any chance that it might be her. “After all these years, she shows up here? How?”

“I don’t know, but she’s obviously terrified, whether she’s Liz or not,” Maria said quietly. “We can’t just rush in there.”

“That lab in Montana!” Kyle exclaimed suddenly. “She must have been there and snuck into the plane during all the fighting.”

The others nodded; it was the most likely explanation.

“Maybe,” Isabel began. “Maybe Michael should call to her from here. If she is Liz, you’re her brother.”

* * * * *

In the shadows, the girl who only knew herself as experiment 18 stepped backwards and her mouth tightened as she struggled to understand what they were saying.

They’ve got to be kidding. I would KNOW if that were true. I’d FEEL it. Wouldn’t I?

She shook her head. No, this has to be some kind of ploy. I can’t be this Liz person.

* * * * *

“If we all just stay calm, quiet, she may come out on her own,” Tess added. “I’ve been trying to read her, but she’s slippery, it feels like there’s some kind of interference, but she’s close.”

“The rest of you, go back upstairs. I’ll handle this,” Michael said calmly enough, but his friends could tell that his heart and mind were racing with the possibilities.

“Michael, we have to talk about this,” Max protested. “I should be…” he began.

“Maxwell, I’ll take it from here,” Michael interrupted forcefully. “If she’s Liz, I’ll bring her with me. And if she’s not, well, then maybe that’s my job, too.”

Maria smiled encouragingly at him, but her heart was worried. She grabbed Max’s arm and although she was a petite girl, vigorously hauled him up the stairs. The others followed grudgingly.

The young man who remained took a deep breath and sat down in the doorway that led to the tunnels. The door he’d blasted open lay just inside, but peering into the darkness he could see nothing else. He thought for a few moments about what he wanted to say to this girl hiding under his home. This girl who could be his sister!

“Lizzie?” he called softly. “Tess said you’re out there, that you’re close, but since I can’t feel you, I’m going to have to trust her.”

No response.

“I don’t know if it’s you, Liz, but I… well I hope it’s you,” he forced out. Expressing himself had always been difficult and since his sister’s disappearance it had become worse. “I know you’re scared, but nobody will hurt you. I’ll protect you,” he promised.

Still no response.

* * * * *

In the tunnels, the girl listened, instinctively trusting this man. But from past experience, she knew that she couldn’t take any chances. These people could hurt her.

A trick. It must be a trick, she thought frantically. They’re trying to make me come out on my own. Let down my guard, she thought.

And that girl Tess can’t read my thoughts, so they don’t know that I can’t blast them to bits, she thought triumphantly.

So, she didn’t respond, but patiently waited for him to leave. She’d spent years learning that skill.

* * * * *

He waited for one minute, two minutes, three, to see if she would come to him. He tried again.

“Maybe if I remind you about what it was like before,” he thought aloud. “We were close, Liz, even though you were four years younger. Remember how you used to follow me everywhere? Even when I didn’t want you to? We were always together, even before we found the others. You always wanted to find them, but I was happy just being with you.

“You’re my only family,” he pleaded.

He waited for another ten minutes and thought he heard light breathing in the tunnels, but nothing more. Sitting uncomfortably on the ground, he started to get a little irritated. Who is this girl anyway? She can’t be Liz. If she were, she would have said something. Liz would have come to me, even if she were scared. She always came to me!

Finally he stood, fed up and having decided that this was absurd. He’d gotten his hopes up for nothing.

“Fine! You know what, you’re not her! She was kind, caring, she would never have left someone hanging,” he shouted getting himself all worked up.

“If you don’t come out here now, I’m going to come in there.” Of course, he’d never attack some faceless girl who’d done nothing. He also knew that Max would be infuriated if he ran in there blasting away. A bleeding heart, just like Maria, he though crossly. They’re gonna want to help the ‘poor girl.’

“If you were at the compound, then you saw me. You know what I can do to you,” he bellowed bluffing.

He heard sudden pounding feet as someone swiftly ran away from him. Shit!

* * * * *

As soon as he began to yell, she ran.

I don’t think he’d really come after me to hurt me. I FEEL that. he wouldn't. But how can I be sure?

She continued deep into the tunnels. Finding someplace where she could stand and fight, she turned and waited tensely. Just in case he does come after me... I might not be able to blast back at him, but I do know a few other things he may not be ready for.

But he never came.

* * * * *

“I scared her,” Michael said self-consciously as he climbed the stairs. “But, Alex, she couldn’t have been Liz!” he defended, glaring at the other young man. “If she were Liz, she would have answered, I know she would,” he continued fiercely as Maria came to stand beside him, offering her support.

Isabel moved over to take Alex’s hand. “Alex, we lost our best chance a month ago in that lab in Montana… maybe you just saw what you wanted to see,” she suggested. He began to shake his head in denial. “It’s perfectly understandable,” Isabel added earnestly.

Kyle nodded from where he was leaning against the wall of the hangar with Tess close at his side, cuddled under his arm. “Alex, the odds of that girl out there being our Liz are… well they’re impossible,” he commented.

“Maybe,” Alex replied, still unconvinced.

“We want it to be her, just as badly as you do,” Max acknowledged. Even more, he added silently.

Outwardly he was calm, in control, in charge of the situation. He’d tried so hard not to get his hopes up. The half hour Michael was downstairs had felt like an eternity. Max had hoped that all that time meant Michael had found out the girl was Liz. That they were talking. Then, when Michael had said he was sure that she wasn’t, his heart had plummeted. He was still missing his other half. Everyone else had paired off, but he was still alone.

“We should go into the house and figure out what we want to do,” he proposed evenly, hiding his grief. “We can’t just stand here all day.”

They trudged into the main house and settled in the living room to continue the discussion.

“We have to help her, Max,” Tess said quickly as soon as they sat down. “If she was in that horrible place, she must have been one of the those poor people. She needs help.”

“I agree,” Kyle said simply.

Next to them on the couch, Maria’s head bobbed in agreement. She was rubbing Michael’s shoulders as he sat at her feet. “It must have been so horrible,” she burst out. “We’ll have to get her to trust us, though,” she said.

“I think I can guess Alex’s response. Isabel?” Max questioned, looking to where she sat next to Alex on the loveseat.

“Absolutely. If the place hadn’t gone up in flames before we could get to them, we had planned on saving everyone. She didn’t look dangerous at all, Max,” Isabel said, entreatingly. Alex nodded, backing her up.

“Now, Michael…” Max began, thinking he would have to convince him.

Michael’s eyes flashed irritably. “I’m not against helping people, Maxwell. Liz would want us to. We just have to be very careful. We don’t know who, or what, she is. She could be an alien like us or maybe not. We don’t even know if or why she was at that lab.”

After almost an hour of further discussion, Max decided it was time to call the question.

“So we’re all in agreement then? We do everything we can to help her?” Max inquired, looking to each of them in turn.

Six heads nodded in unison.

-End Chapter 3-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:20:29 PM ]
posted on 22-Sep-2002 1:41:41 PM by Finn
Sorry, but I warned you ahead of time! Actually, I've been working on 8 different projects the last week, so it's been tough! Anyway, on to the next part. I'm not thrilled with it, but oh, well!

~Finn

-Chapter 4: Introductions-

Maria walked carefully down the stairs, balancing a heavily laden tray in her hands. “I hope you’re not a vegetarian,” she called into the tunnels. “Michael’s our only real cook and his best dish is a good old fashioned cheeseburger. It’s got the works, but we left everything on the side in case you don’t like something. We also have fries and a chocolate milkshake.”

She set the tray down on one of the cots. “I also brought down some other things you might like. Isabel and Tess put together some girl stuff, but I thought you’d enjoy something entertaining so I also brought a little radio.

“Oh, and Alex thought you might like a watch. Max’s contribution is a notepad and pencil, in case you wanted to tell us anything. Maybe your name? And Michael wrote a little note to apologize for frightening you. You have no idea how rare that is!

“I’m going to put all this here on the cot, and then I’ll leave and close the door. Then I’m going to go upstairs,” she explained loudly. “We’ll leave you alone for the rest of the night, but we’ll be back tomorrow with breakfast.”

She did so, and as she closed the door at the top of the stairs, she gasped in surprise at seeing all six of her friends standing on the other side of the room, obviously waiting for her.

“Well, did you see her?” Kyle asked awkwardly, slightly embarrassed that they had been listening in.

“No,” she said, slightly annoyed. “And we can’t just be hanging out here all the time. She’ll freak out.”

”We should get her used to people, though,” she continued. “We can rotate bringing down her meals, then she might get comfortable with all of us.”

* * * * *

She waited almost half an hour before heading back to the main room. It was difficult, though, with the delicious smell of cooked meat wafting through the tunnels. When she finally ventured forth, she quickly bolted the door. Then she grabbed the plate with the food and the melted milkshake and ran back into the safety of the dark tunnels.

When she felt safe, she set the plate down in front of her and stared at the food. She was nervous to try it; sometimes the scientists had drugged her food. She ate a tiny bite off of the burger and then forced herself to wait ten minutes. Nothing happened. She had another small bite and waited again. Finally, she couldn’t contain herself any longer and even though the burger was cold, she wolfed it down.

She repeated the procedure with the fries and milkshake. It had been years since she had tasted chocolate. After an hour waiting for something to happen, she decided that she wasn’t in danger of being drugged and relaxed a little.

Soon she returned to examine the rest of her “gifts.” First, she opened the neatly folded note the girl Maria had said was from that dim-witted guy Michael.

“I’m not very good at apologizing, but I probably shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

Probably, she rolled her eyes and snorted. Sure, he had to give himself an out.

“At first I thought you were my sister. She’s been gone a long time. When I realized you weren’t, it pissed me off. So, I’m sorry for that.

I made you a cheeseburger. I’m the main chef here, as I’m sure Maria told you. Oh, and NEVER eat anything she says she made herself.

I won’t try to scare you again.

Michael”

Mostly unimpressed, she moved on, switching on the radio. She turned the dial, but all she found was static. Put out, she looked at it further and saw there was also a tape player that was loaded with an unlabeled tape. She experimentally pushed the play button and a voice came on. She listened for a moment and figured out that it was Maria, the one who had brought her the food.

“Hi, whoever you are. Firstly, we’re not going to hurt you. We’d like to help you, but I promise we’ll take this real easy.

“So, first off, I’ll introduce us. I’m Maria. I don’t know if you got a look at us, but I’m one of the short blonds, the one with the longish hair. And it’s only in stature, obviously not personality! My boyfriend, Michael, is the idiot who yelled at you earlier. He’s not normally so rude, but, well, he thought you were someone else. Someone important to him. It sort of upset him. That doesn’t excuse anything, but he’s not normally so obnoxious.

“OK, also there’s Alex. He’s the one you met in the kitchen. He’s a great friend and he’s a real whiz with the computer. Isabel’s his steady, she’s the blond Amazon with the big… oops,” Maria stopped and giggled. “I guess I shouldn’t say things like that on tape.

“Well, since it seems I’m going by couple, next there’s Kyle and Tess. Kyle is the overly muscled jock type, but don’t let it fool you. He’s way into Buddhism. Tess is the other short blond who… well I guess you could say she ‘tamed’ him.

“Last is Max. He’s sort of our leader. Way cute in an angsty, brooding kind of way, but sadly,” and she did sound extremely sad, “he’s unattached.

“We’re just good friends who happen to live together here in this big house. Yeah, it’s kind of weird and we have a jet, but we’re all very normal, I swear.” She laughed loudly. “What you don’t believe me? Well, we can talk about all that later.

“Anyway, so that’s the lowdown. I… we all want to help you. Please let us. Oh, and next you will be entertained by the musical stylings of yours truly.

“Oh, wait, but before that, we were hoping to find out your name. We can’t keep calling you ‘hey you!’ If you want, use the notepad to leave us a note.

“Bye!”

There was a brief burst of static and then Maria’s throaty singing voice filled the air. It was in the middle of a song, as if she had taped over part of the cassette. The girl sat listening to the music for an hour, enjoying both sides of the tape. She’d never heard anything so wonderful and although she was still very leery of these strange people, she was starting to thaw.

Noticing that she was becoming a bit drowsy, she checked the watch Alex had provided and saw that it was 9:30pm. She was pleased to find that there was an alarm on the watch. She set it for very early so she would be awake before anyone came down with breakfast.

She examined the rest of her gifts. Deciding she was ready for a shower and since the girls had provided a multitude of options, she selected her favorite scent: a strawberry shampoo, conditioner and soap. Before jumping into the cement shower, she checked that the door to her sanctuary was still bolted from the inside so if needs be, it would take them some time to break through. The hot shower was heavenly and after she was through, she toweled off and put on the clean nightclothes the girls had thoughtfully provided.

In the pile of toiletries, there was also a small hand mirror. She examined her face, looking for any sign of alienness, wondering if there was anything that would show physically. She fingered the thin scar that remained from Nick’s attack.

I don’t LOOK different. Do I?

Finally, she brushed out her long hair and lay down on her stomach on the cot, the blank notepad in front of her. I don’t know what to write, she thought. After much consideration, she wrote a very short message, ripped off the page, and folded it carefully. She rolled to her side and stared at the small piece of paper for a long time before she eventually fell into a troubled sleep.

* * * * *

The next morning she unbolted the door and was hiding around the first corner in the tunnels for over an hour before anyone came downstairs. She was unaware that she’d been hoping to see the man called Max, the one Maria had said was their leader. So she was almost disappointed when she heard the voice of the tall blond, Isabel.

* * * * *

“Well, good morning,” Isabel called uncertainly, seeing no sign of their unexpected guest.

“I’m Isabel. Michael went a little overboard with the food, but I think he feels a bit guilty. I’m setting the tray down now.” As she did so, Isabel noticed a small folded note on the cot.

“I’ve seen your note. If you don’t mind, I’ll wait until I get back upstairs to open it. The others will want to see. We’ll be back later, around noon.”

She waited expectantly for an answer. When there was no response, she shrugged and went quickly back up the stairs to open the note.

* * * * *

As soon as she left, there was immediate activity. The dark-haired girl scampered out of the shadows, rebolted the door, picked up to overloaded tray and again ran for relative safety of the tunnels.

An hour later she was absolutely satisfied; she couldn’t eat another thing. She didn’t move, but continued to sit on the floor with her back against the wall, considering these strange people and trying valiantly to decipher their motives.

Why they were so intent on helping her?

* * * * *

Isabel pounded up the stairs giddily. She reached the top where five people waited eagerly. The sixth, of course was Michael, who leaned nonchalantly against the wall, without a care in the world.

“I didn’t see or hear anything, but she left a note!” she exclaimed. “Here,” she said thrusting the note into Max’s hands.

He opened it wanting to read it through first. As he read, he started to grin, but then frowned as he reached the end, everyone waiting impatiently.

“Well?”

He shook his head and read the short note. “’The cheeseburger was very good, thank you. Also, thank you for the other things.’ Then there’s a lot of blank space and at the end she wrote, ‘I’m called experiment number 18.’”

The girls gasped at this revelation. Alex’s jaw clenched and Kyle balled up his fists. Even Michael tensed. “No one should be designated by a number,” he growled.

There were several moments of complete silence.

Finally, Tess spoke tentatively, “Should we give her a name? Or ask her to choose one?” She blushed prettily and glancing nervously at Kyle, she added, “I have a book of baby names.”

Kyle, always easygoing, just slapped a hand to his forehead in mock alarm and gave her a quick grin.

* * * * *

The next few weeks passed uneventfully as they all took turns bringing her meals, trying to tempt her out of her hideaway. While they were still unable to get her out of the shadows, she began to feel more comfortable, even with Michael.

Even so, while she wasn’t above eating his meals, she consistently refused to touch anything that he brought down himself. And it wasn’t that she was still angry with him. Initially, she told herself that it was an entertaining diversion to hear him grumble about “strange, stubborn women” every time he found his offerings untouched.

But sometimes she felt badly about tormenting him, particularly when Maria tried to explain that he was just a grouch, but harmless. When she thought about it, she knew her amusement wasn’t why she avoided contact. Whenever she saw him, even the first time when he had shouted at her, she felt strange. It was almost a soft buzzing in the back of her mind, a dull feeling, but powerful and very real. Something told her she should know what it meant, but she didn’t understand, and it made her uncomfortable to think about it.

Oddly enough, she also felt an intense connection to Max, but it was somehow different. It actually felt different. And so he was the most successful in getting close. Soon, she felt relaxed enough to stay nearby while Max was just on the other side of the blasted open doorway.

They even had a routine. He would leave a tray at the front of the tunnel, go back to the stairs and close the door. When he returned a few minutes later, she would be sitting in a folded chair in the dark tunnels just outside the main room, the food in her lap.

Max sat on one of the cots and spoke quietly to her as she ate. He felt drawn to her as well and wanted so badly that she feel protected and safe. So, he told her stories about each of his friends. Sometimes, if he were in a good mood, he’d regale her with tales of his own imagined heroics.

“And that’s how I fearlessly saved Michael from certain death,” he finished.

“What, no clapping?” He paused, listening. “Nothing, huh? Well, Maria thought it was a great story. She always likes the ones where Michael ends up looking like a fool,” he said.

“Although, occasionally she likes it better when I don’t save him,” he confessed.

He heard a giggle.

“So… you are listening to me!” he exclaimed, surprised that she’d made any noise beyond the light breathing he was used to.

She snorted.

“Don’t be like that,” he said mischievously. “For all I know, you’ve been completely blocking out my amazing, but, very true, stories,” he commented.

“You really shouldn’t. I am rather amazing, after all,” he admitted.

She snorted again and tossed her dinner roll at him, hitting him square on the head. He stared into the darkness in surprise for a second, completely dumbfounded. But he soon recovered his wits and jumped from the cot to playfully lunge at the doorway.

Before he even got close, he heard a crash as her chair overturned and the tray, plate and silverware clattered noisily to the ground. Her footsteps echoed loudly as she raced away from him.

“No! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it! Come back!”

-End Chapter 4-

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:45:55 PM ]
posted on 29-Sep-2002 5:26:58 PM by Finn
It has been a week, you're right! I've been trying to decide if I wanted to give a brief narrative of the Antar history for this story... so I'm going to in the next chapter. But then, that meant I had to figure out 4 more names! So I've been goofing off at work trying my best to find some good ones!

I'm also trying not to make it so in my plotline I don't contradict myself!

Enjoy!

~Finn


-Chapter 5: It Can't Be...-

Maria walked slowly down the stairs the next morning, aggravated that Max may have ruined the careful relationship they had built with this girl. She couldn’t blame him, though. It was so hard to walk on eggshells and tread so slowly, especially when she wanted everything to be figured out now!

As she walked to the broken door, she gasped a little, stunned that the girl was waiting right there in front of her.

“Don’t worry about, Max,” she said quietly, surprised that their “guest” hadn’t run away from her. She could barely make out the dim shape in the darkness. “Isabel gave him a stern lecture and he won’t be coming down anymore.”

She heard a small sigh and thought it to be a sign of relief. “He wouldn’t have hurt you, though, I promise,” she said quickly. “He’s one of the gentlest people I know,” she added sincerely.

The girl realized that Maria had taken her sigh the wrong way.

As soon as she’d run away from Max, she began to feel extremely stupid. She’d been teasing him, why shouldn’t he do the same? He was just playing.

And in her heart, she knew that they weren’t bad people. In fact, they’d been incredibly kind and generous to her, some strange girl they didn’t even know.

Tess and Isabel had been very sweet, bringing something new every time they came down, even though she didn’t even know what to do with half of the things! Alex always thought to bring some new gadget for her to play with, while Kyle was constantly bringing sweets. Maria never seemed angry that she wouldn’t come out to see her and was amazingly friendly, always trying to make her feel comfortable. And Michael, despite her juvenile stubbornness, hadn’t given up on her and continued to take his turn, bringing meals down to her personally.

And Max… Amazingly, she had begun to feel attracted to him, something she hadn’t thought was possible. She even had a difficult time describing it to herself. He was certainly striking to look at, but it wasn’t only that. Max was so… charming was the best word that came to mind. He came down often just to talk to her, tell her stories, or sometimes, she thought he came only to be near her so she wouldn’t be alone.

If they’d wanted to hurt her, they surely could have. They’d had every opportunity. And… even though she was scared, she desperately wanted to trust them. She obviously couldn’t stay down here forever.

Her choice made, she slept uneasily that night and had been waiting patiently this morning for several hours. Waiting for someone to come down and talk to her.

Screwing up her courage, she coughed to clear her throat and then spoke to Maria. “I know. I was just startled.”

Maria nearly jumped for joy, but reined herself in and responded in what was for her a relatively calm manner. “You can talk!” she cried.

The girl jumped at the loud exclamation, but braced herself. She had made the decision to see where this would lead and she was going to stick to it.

She cleared her throat again. “Yes,” she said simply.

“Oh! That’s a relief. Where are you from? Were you in Montana? Can you do anything, you know, odd? Is that why they had you there? Oh, and are you all right, do you need anything? Also, I have a book of baby names that belongs to Tess. Do you want to pick a name for yourself? We all think it’s horrible that you don’t have a real name,” Maria babbled, afraid she would slip away.

The other girl smiled a little. They must have been going absolutely crazy wondering who I am and what I’m doing here! “I’m not sure where I come from. I was in that lab, though. I never knew where it was. Umm, I can do some things,” she said haltingly. “That’s why I was there.”

Maria nodded, not wanting to push, but she wished the girl would come into the room. She wanted to see for herself that the young woman wasn’t injured in any way. Her past was nothing to be ashamed of and it certainly wasn’t her fault! She shouldn’t feel that she had to hide from them just to feel safe.

“I don’t need anything. Except… maybe some new books?”

Maria smiled and said, “We’ll get you anything you want. What would you like?”

“They used to let me read at the compound. I always liked anything related to science,” she said hesitantly, afraid to ask for anything more.

Maria nodded again, encouragingly. “Maybe some more music?”

“Sometimes… well, sometimes they let me listen to music. But I don’t know... Anything would be wonderful. On the tape… that was you, wasn’t it?” She paused a moment and then added shyly, “It was wonderful, you were amazing.”

“Thank you! Michael doesn’t always appreciate it, but sometimes I think he’s just tone-deaf.” Maria heard a soft laugh.

“Maybe I should come in so we can sit down and talk a little more,” the other girl said huskily. She was going to have to get used to talking to other people.

“Oh, sure! Of course! That would be great.” Maria pulled on one of the cots, dragged it to the far side of the room, and sat down on it, looking at the doorway expectantly.

The dark-eyed girl picked up the folding chair she had overturned earlier and walked slowly into the room, looking at the floor, hair in her face. She didn’t look up, but just sat tensely, hands folded tightly in her lap.

Maria waited a moment, to let her guest relax before continuing the conversation. “Now, what about a name?” she questioned, feeling her out. “I mean, you don’t have to talk about it, yet, if you don’t want to.”

“I wouldn’t know what to pick,” the girl responded. “Normally, wouldn’t your parents give you a name?” she asked despondently.

“Well, yes, that is the typical way,” Maria replied carefully. “I’ll help you, though! We can look together,” she reassured. She flipped through the book for a moment and then had an idea. “It would be easier to pick a name if I could see you... you can tell a lot about a person from their face, especially their eyes.”

Maria held her breath, wondering if she’d gone too far. Across the room, the young woman just clenched the seat of the chair in her hands. “It’s OK,” Maria whispered.

She took a deep breath then pushed her long, thick hair behind her ears and lifted her head, looking unflinchingly at Maria.

Maria’s face suddenly paled as she gasped and jumped up from the cot. She thought she was going to faint.

The other girl jumped up as well, poised to flee.

Maria put shaking hands to her face and stared at her, eyes beginning to fill with tears. “Wait,” she choked out. “Please… wait. Wait.”

“What’s wrong, Maria?” she asked worriedly. She’s staring at me so strangely. Maybe something does show in my face. Something horrible…

“Nothing… it’s amazing, it’s wonderful,” Maria sobbed. “Alex was right. Oh, my God, Alex was right!”

She suddenly began to pace the length of the room agitatedly. Her hands flailed uncontrollably in the air as she muttered incoherently for almost ten minutes. “Must have lost her memory. Couldn’t find her anywhere with powers… that’s right! For years! How long was she in Montana? What about the necklace? No…no, that can’t be it. Did they see her do it? Is that how they found her? Michael’s going to freak out. Oh, gosh…how do I tell him? How do I tell the others? And what about…”

Finally, the other girl broke in, “Maria?”

Maria realized she must have been parading around like a crazy person. She took a moment just to catch her breath, and then reached into her jeans pocket to pull out a small, brown bottle. Opening it, she put the opening to her nose and took a deep sniff. Immediately she began to calm down.

Then she noticed the brunette looking at her oddly. “It’s cedar oil,” she explained, slightly embarrassed. “It’s supposed to keep me calm.”

“OK,” she continued, watching the other girl apprehensively. “No, it’s alright, really. Let me explain,” she said in what she hoped was a comforting voice. She sat down again, but could barely contain herself.

“I think that,” she began and then frowned, stopping. “Well,” she started again, “I think I may know who you are. Now don’t freak out…” She then took a deep breath. “I think that your name is Elizabeth. I think that you are Michael’s sister, our Liz,” she said in a rush.

She saw the other girl shaking her head frantically in denial, dark eyes darting back and forth between Maria and the door to her right. “It’s alright. It’s OK. Really it is,” Maria said quietly.

“I heard you,” the brunette whispered. “When you first found me. Alex said I was this Liz person. And then I heard you talking about her. I don’t believe you. I would know if that were true!” She was holding her hands so tightly they where white. “And Michael,” she made a face. “He talked about her, too.”

“But you don’t really remember much, do you?” Maria reasoned sympathetically.

“No, but… but, I don’t know! I don’t remember anything. It’s like I just have these memories of the lab, but there’s no before. And in my oldest memories, I don’t even know my age.

“But, it just can’t be!” she exclaimed, confused. “How could that be possible? I don’t look at all like him. And,” she continued, seemingly frantic to deny this strange turn of events, “he didn’t recognize me at all when you first found out about me!”

“It’s OK,” Maria repeated, trying to calm her. “Well as to not looking like Michael, that I can explain. And only Alex really saw you that day, none of the rest of us did. You ran like the wind,” she joked.

“So, should I explain to you what happened? About Liz?” she hesitantly asked the other young woman. “If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong.” But I know I’m not, she thought. There was a moment of silence and then Maria asked bluntly, “You want to know the truth, don’t you?”

“Well, of course,” the other girl responded, taken aback.

“And if you’re going to stay here with us, you’ll hear all about her anyway,” she added cleverly.

Maria had to contain herself to keep from bursting into tears again when the other girl’s face absolutely lit up at the possibility that she could stay with them. Although the girl quickly hid her elation, Maria though she looked exactly as she always imagined a grown-up Liz.

“Tell me, then,” the girl said steadily.

“Alright,” Maria said. “Now, don’t go anywhere, but I’m just going to run upstairs to grab a few things. Don’t move!”

Shaking off most of her nerves, the brunette smirked a little and asked, “And just where would I go?”

* * * * *

Maria bolted up the stairs and out the front door. She quickly made her way along the gravel path that led to Isabel’s pride and joy, a large, traditional English flower garden that Alex had conned the other guys into helping him build for her. It was where Max went when he was sulking.

Sure enough, she found him sitting on a bench, elbows on his knees, propping up his face as he stared at the ground, scuffing his shoe into the dirt. He’d obviously been there some time because the hole he’d made was fairly large.

“Max!” she called breathlessly as she came up to him. She bent over, hands on her knees and gasped out, “Don’t be a dope! She said she’s not scared of you.”

He looked up at her and then grinned widely. “Really?” he asked. Then, he realized what Maria had said to him. “She talked to you?” he asked, amber eyes glowing.

Maria nodded excitedly.

“But then why’d she run?” he questioned, frowning at her.

“Because you startled her, duh! But she said she knows that you’re not such a bad guy.” He smiled foolishly and Maria could tell his thoughts were suddenly elsewhere. “Hey, Max!” she called, waving a hand in front of his face.

“Yes, Maria?” he asked serenely. After so many years, he’d become quite used to her antics.

“Um, well… she has questions, Max!” she improvised, not wanting to raise his, or anyone else’s hopes for a second time. What if Liz wouldn’t believe her? “Can’t I tell her about us? I mean, we’d practically decided that she could stay with us,” she rationalized.

“What about us?” he asked looking hard at her. His elation was still there, but now he was becoming slightly suspicious of Maria’s intentions.

“Well, you know… about us. Who we are. That we can do things. She said that she can, too. That’s why she was in that awful place.”

“An alien?” he whispered, almost to himself. “No,” he said determinedly and then shook his head. “I’ll tell her about everything,” he stated, wanting to go to her immediately.

“No!” Maria cried in a panic. “Sure, she said she’s not scared of you, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to rush right down there. She’s been talking to me just fine!” she defended, but he was shaking his head stubbornly. “Max, you just frightened the crap out of her,” she exaggerated loudly. “I don’t think you should see her right away!”

She cringed as his face fell. God, it’s like kicking a puppy, she thought guiltily.

“If you think that’s best,” he agreed miserably. “You can tell her. I’ll explain to the others.” He shoulders slumped as he sat dejectedly on the bench and continued working on his hole.

“Max, it’ll be fine,” she comforted him, feeling uncomfortable. “Just give it a little time,” she added over her shoulder as she walked away. Eh, oh well. I’ll explain it to him later.

As soon as she was out of his line of sight, she ran quickly to her room to gather a few things and then rushed back downstairs.

* * * * *

“You’re still here,” Maria said with relief. “Well, I’m back,” she added unnecessarily, as flopped down on the cot.

“Yes. Still here,” the other girl said lightly. “Everything alright?”

“Oh, sure. I just wanted to pick up a few things. Plus, I wanted to let Max know that you didn’t think he was a horrible ogre. You should’ve seen him. He was so crushed because he’d scared you!” she said giddily.

“But he understands, right?” she questioned, distressed that Max was so upset, but pleased and even a bit flattered to find out that he cared. But that isn’t possible, she thought to herself. Why would he care? He doesn’t even know me.

“I explained it to him,” Maria reassured her. “So, are you ready for the story of the millennium? I won’t go into the specifics too much, but I’m sure you’ll want all the gory details later. Actually, you should ask Kyle, he loves telling it. If you do, just keep in mind that the parts about himself may be a bit inflated.”

When she saw a grin and nod, Maria began her tale.

-End Chapter 5-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:17:20 PM ]
posted on 6-Oct-2002 7:32:42 PM by Finn
Thanks so much, you guys, for all the feedback. Geez, you guys are demanding, but I love it! It’s really nice to get the encouragement. Definitely makes it worthwhile to know that someone’s enjoying the story! And I did see the questions and the answers are forthcoming. I’ve blocked out the next few parts.

Oh, and also, I apologize to any Montanans. Just picked the state because it’s large and relatively underpopulated… figured you could have something like this big compound go unnoticed there. Plus it’s pretty! And I sure as heck wasn’t going to put it in Oregon (which is where I live!).

A Rose Is True Blue: You were speedy on that response and thanks to you particularly for all the bumpage! Honestly sorry to leave it there, but I really wanted to get some good names for our “added” aliens. I think I picked well, but while I, personally, love the name, I won’t be surprised if it’s not a big hit. Also, I was having a tough time figuring out how to have Maria explain it to Liz without being boring. I didn’t want to have the whole part be telling a story w/in a story, which is exactly what I ended up doing, but oh, well. Maybe someday I’ll write the prequels to this story…

Marteloise: You’ll see *happy* Good catch, too, on the necklace!

Maroswellian: Glad you’re here! Welcome! I haven’t actually been a big poster (as evidenced by my low # of times posted) and nope, I haven’t written anything else. Thanks for reading!

Cass of the Netherworlds: I still feel kinda bad about putting Liz through that (and she’s a fictional character!)… Originally, I had this all blocked out, even had an outline, but I overwrote it!!! I don’t fully remember all my plot points from it and now I’m flying by the seat of my pants, hah! So I’m not sure my current direction with this story is going to be enough justification for that chapter. Hopefully…

Angeld34: Thanks for all the bumps! Wow, I was only really going for a general progression of experiments, but think of it like this. They’re not overly nice to their subjects, so there was probably a high death toll… Especially in the start-up phase. But that does seem kinda harsh, huh? I’m think I’ll go back and change Jacob’s time to three years to make it a little more reasonable. As I mentioned above, I lost my outline and may have become a little screwed up on the timeline. Actually, though, that’s exactly the kind of thing I like to hear. I mean, I know this isn’t going to be a literary masterpiece or anything, but I would like for it to make sense! Don’t worry, we’re going to have some confrontations later on, wouldn’t cheat you of that!

Thanks again... I'll be back in a second!

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 3-Nov-2002 5:43:46 PM ]
posted on 6-Oct-2002 7:42:10 PM by Finn
-Chapter 6: The Legend-

Maria shifted on the cot in order to make herself more comfortable and flipped her long hair out of her face.

“Now, first you have to understand that this is definitely what in the realm of the unbelievable. So have faith! Secondly, for any of this to make much sense, I really need to start at the beginning. Well, what we know of the beginning,” she amended.

Maria was elated. To be talking to Liz! Sure, it was a little odd to be telling this story to Liz of all people, but wonderful! Plus, it was incredibly liberating to be able to tell this story without worrying so much about the repercussions. Liz already knew the truth… it was just locked up tight in that clever brain of hers.

“So, here’s the most unbelievable part, chica. All eight of us are aliens: Max, Isabel, Michael, Liz, Alex, Tess, Kyle, and me.”

She stopped in anticipation, waiting for a protest or at least a look of incredulity from her audience of one. When she received only an accepting nod, she was surprised and it showed in her face. But she shrugged and continued anyway.

“We were all of high nobility on Antar, our planet. Max and Isabel were even royalty. When we were young, a war with our fiercest enemies, the Skins, really began to heat up. It had actually been going on for some time, when…”

The other girl opened her mouth as if to interrupt, but then closed it again. Maria had noticed, though, and asked kindly, “Do you have a question?”

“Well,” the girl said hesitantly, looking over at Maria. “What were you like? How old were you all?”

Maria smiled and nodded agreeably. That was a great question; maybe hearing about their past would ring a bell. After all, Liz had been the first one to remember all those years ago.

“Of course, we had different names then. Although, it seems that we all look remarkably similar to the way we did then.

“Max was called Zan and he was next in line for the throne. Everyone loved him: the people of Antar, his family, and his friends. But he was highly prone to serious brooding. On the other hand, like now, he was a real hottie and that made up for a lot!” She smiled to herself when she caught a light blush on Liz’s face. “The King had been dead for several years, and at only twenty-six, Zan was in charge of the war effort. He was a good leader, but he also had a lot of help.

“Isabel was his twin sister, Vilandra. She didn’t have a direct role in the war, but if she hadn’t been in the public eye, serene and composed, it could have been absolutely wretched. She tended to be the poised, calming influence on our court. The Antarian royal court,” Maria admitted, “was rather… well, I guess high-strung is a good way of putting it. The court in turn passed that confidence onto the populace.

“She was married to Alex. He was named Dasvid and was on the Queen’s Council. Kind of like a wise man,” she giggled. “He was young to be Called for it, only about twenty-eight, but that’s our Alex. He’s really brilliant. Then during the war, he became something of a war counselor to Zan. He was a lot like he is now, though, always inventing some crazy thing.

“His younger brother Teagan, you’ve met him as Kyle, he was umm… I think twenty-five. He was a great warrior, very high-ranking. Every bit the gentile knight. Well, OK, maybe not, since he was a bit of a ladies man at court," she smiled. "But he was only a flirt, you know, playing the ‘court games?’ He would never have cheated on Ava; she was his true love and cousin to Zan and Vilandra.

“That was Tess. She was a year older than he was and, like now, a bit quiet, maybe even timid. But somehow, she always used to hear things. She was so sweet that people used to just confide in her, or occasionally even forget she was there in the room, listening to every word. She was no dummy, though, and was a great asset.”

As she spoke this last, her listener stood up and began to rummage through some things. After a minute, she triumphantly held up a can of soda and tossed it to Maria, who kept it still in her hand for just a moment so she wouldn’t spray herself. When she took a sip, she sighed appreciatively.

“Thanks, this is thirsty work! Anyway, my name was Brande and I was twenty-five, like Teag. I was excellent with languages and was… I guess you could call me a royal ambassador to several of the provinces. I was also a bit of a spy,” she said impishly. “Not like a double-agent or anything as exciting as that. When I was on assignment, all I got to do was sneak around and eavesdrop. Rath, you know him now as Michael, wouldn’t let me do anything else,” she added with a pout.

“Rath was loud, obnoxious, good-looking... wow, sounds awful familiar, huh? He was an older man,” she laughed. “Well, OK only a couple of years older, but I never let him forget he was practically ancient. He was Zan’s second-in-command, specifically assigned as Zan’s protector, and a true leader of men.” She sighed, a distant look in her bright green eyes.

“He and his sister, Renata, that’s Liz, of course, were raised at court alongside the rest of us. They had been orphaned when she was just a little girl.

“So, like I said, he was very protective, especially of his younger sister. Ren was the youngest of us all at twenty-four. She and Zan were engaged to be married. And, you know how I said that twenty-eight was young for the Council? Well, Ren was a Councilor as well and it was not well received by the other Councilors, the silly gits. Well, except for Dasvid, of course, who thought it was great. But like him, she was amazingly gifted, so they were forced to accept her. And like you, she loved science,” she added and waited expectantly.

Nothing. The brunette just looked at her, big brown eyes wide, enthralled by the story-telling. Maria shrugged. What did I expect? That Liz would jump up, suddenly remember everything, and give me a huge hug?

“Despite the fact that she was the sweetest person you’d ever meet,” Maria continued, “she was also one of the toughest. She was even assigned as special protector to the Queen.

“Partly this was because there was this special thing about Rath and Renata,” she explained. “The two were as close as a brother and sister could be and on their own, each of them was enormously powerful by Antarian standards. But when they focused together, watch out! Which is why, like I said, they protected the royals.

“Yes, it is all a bit complicated.” Maria laughed a little at the other girl’s look of confusion. “Actually, we were all extremely close, what with our being educated in the capital together. We’d been friends since childhood, and the largest gap in age, between Dasvid and Ren was only something like four years.

“Is that what you wanted to know about us?” she asked, with another sip of soda. Wide-eyed, the other girl nodded and Maria continued with her brief history lesson.

“So, back to the war. When the tide had turned in Antar’s favor, the Skins somehow managed to infiltrate the palace and we were assassinated,” she said furiously. “All eight of us, at a small, impromptu celebration. It was for…” Maria stopped herself just in time, remembering that Liz had always hated that part. When the girl looked at her questioningly, Maria quickly continued. “Anyway, since it was just our small group, Michael thinks someone must have betrayed us,” she finished heatedly.

“Then suddenly, the Skins were everywhere and began to overtake the Antarians. In desperation, or maybe she was just distraught that her family was gone, the Queen directed that her children’s essences…”

When the other girl looked at her, dark eyes revealing her complete bewilderment, Maria paused.

“Yeah, we don’t really know what that means either, but if you don’t mind… could you just let it slide and bear with me here? Anyway, she directed that their essences be saved. Knowing that Zan and Vilandra would be devastated without the rest of us, she chose to save everyone.

“And then she sent us all away... We think she was hoping that by the time we returned, the war would be over.” She shook her head sadly, long blond curls slipping back over her shoulders.

“In any case,” she said, “at this point, our essences, in human form, were sent to Earth and that’s why you wouldn’t look so much like Michael. Our human forms aren’t truly blood related, our essences are.

“Now we weren’t really supposed to land here. Something went wrong, we don’t know what or how, but we crashed outside Roswell, New Mexico. Even worse, somehow Michael and Liz were separated from the rest of us when the ship crash landed.”

Maria paused to clear her throat and took another gulp of the soda. “You have to realize that some of this is conjecture. This is only what we’ve been able to piece together from a bunch of sources.”

The brunette nodded.

“So we’re on Earth. We were just babies, though, and for years we waited, sleeping and growing inside our pods. At some point, I think I was about seven or so, we broke out and ended up wandering in the desert. Boy, did Roswell social services have a field day with us! Six kids with no names, no language skills, and guess what… no clothes!

“There was no way we were all going to be raised in the same homes, but fortunately, we did grow up in Roswell together. We knew… we could literally feel that we were missing someone. Max especially. But we were just kids! We didn’t really understand much of anything at that point. So we weren’t able to find Michael and Liz.

“We found out later that they were somewhere in California. They had ended up leaving their pods a couple of years earlier than the rest of us; Liz was only four. We think that their pods were probably somewhat damaged when their unit broke off from the ship. They never liked to talk a whole lot about their lives before they found us, but I know it wasn’t as nice as ours.

“Anyway, Liz started to have these dreams when she was around eight years old. They were about the rest of us: what we were doing, what we were like, and even where we were. So they knew to come to New Mexico. Michael was dead set against it. I don’t think he really wanted to share her with anyone, and also, I think he was just plain scared. But Liz wanted to be with him and with the rest of us. She always said it was important that we be together.

“And for about five years we were. We were a family and so happy. It was perfect,” Maria said quietly, smiling at the memory. “We were going to school, learning about each other, ourselves, our powers… and with Liz’s help, about our past.

“Then something terrible happened…” Maria’s eyes began to fill and she paused to wipe the tears away.

By now, it was apparent that the girl was hanging on her every word. The girl she knew just had to be Liz. So she did her best to continue, making it brief.

“Liz saved someone… in public… with her powers. We thought it was OK! We thought no one saw it! Michael wanted to get her out of town, out of New Mexico, but we thought… we thought that…” she stopped to try to pull herself together, but couldn’t. “Michael was right! Someone… someone must have seen!”

Maria was having difficulty, trying hard not to break down. “Because… not much later… We weren’t in any of her classes! We were older… and… and… we were going to wait for each other… but she didn’t come out from school… No one else saw or heard anything! And… and we thought that whoever it was… that they would come for all of us! But they didn’t…”

“We looked!” Maria wailed. “We looked for years! We just couldn’t find you; I swear we couldn’t find you. But we tried!

“I’m so sorry…” she moaned. “You were my best friend! I didn’t have any family like the others and then… when you came… you became my sister.” She couldn’t even speak anymore, but just sobbed brokenly into her hands.

The girl looked at her sympathetically. None of this made any sense to her, but she could see that Maria was miserable. And Maria obviously believed that she, some girl that just happened to stow away on their jet, was her friend Liz.

She forced herself to go over to Maria and sat next to her on the cot. She reached out as if to take Maria’s hands, but then drew back nervously. She just didn’t know how to comfort Maria, so she remained silent, unsure of what to say.

Finally, Maria got hold of herself and looked searchingly at the other girl, whom she noticed hadn’t said a word, but was just watching her carefully. “Don’t you remember anything? This doesn’t mean anything to you at all?” Maria finally cried out.

“I’m sorry. I don’t remember. I wish I did,” the girl said gravely. “I almost wish I were her. But maybe you’re wrong… You and Alex think that I look like her?” Maria nodded tearfully. “But she was just a kid, maybe…”

“No! She was almost thirteen, it’s not as if I wouldn’t recognize you! You’re her, you are Liz. I know it!”

She jumped up from and stood in front of the other girl before she could move.

“Liz was powerful! She was telekinetic! She sometimes could see things in the past; she called it postcognition! What can you do? Show me!” she demanded, pushed beyond her limits. Why was Liz being so obstinate?

“I can’t!” the other girl cried out standing up defensively. “I can’t do anything!”

“Do it! You said you could! Show me! Now!” Maria said forcefully and grabbed her arm.

“I can’t!” the other girl said again and ripped her arm away from Maria’s grasp. Frustrated and angry now, she pulled up her right sleeve, and violently shoved her right arm towards Maria. She hadn’t intended to hit her, but Maria jumped back in alarm.

“This thing!” she said furiously showing the tight, heavy bracelet around her wrist. “I can’t do anything with this thing on!” She shook her hand again, as if willing it away. “Do you think I would have hung out in there for no reason?” she cried passionately.

As soon as it had come, the energy left her in a rush and she sat back down. “I would have done anything to get out of there,” she whispered miserably.

“I… I’m sorry. I know,” Maria whispered back, realizing what she’d done. She reached into her pocket, pulling out a battered picture she had picked up while in her room earlier. Last resort. “This is Liz,” she said quietly, handing over the photo.

The brunette stared at the face in the picture for several minutes, marveling that the girl in the picture looked like she could have been her twin. The same straight, dark hair… brown eyes… small nose, she thought as she touched her own face. But this girl was smiling. She had been happy.

“This is her?” she questioned nervously, making sure.

“Yes,” Maria said, hoping this would be the thing to convince her. “Just a couple of days before she was taken.”

The other girl was silent.

“And, you know… we could take that thing off,” Maria said distastefully, pointing to the bracelet. “But only if you want,” she clarified quickly.

“I do want that,” she said absently. She continued looking at the picture. Finally finished staring at the girl’s face, she noticed a necklace hanging around her throat.

“What is that?” she asked, pointing, and held her breath.

“Oh, that’s just like the one Michael has. It had a symbol deep inside. It was their family emblem or something.”

Hearing this, the brunette tensed. Something had clicked inside. That’s it… what I’ve been waiting to hear. Face set, she reached into the front of her heavy shirt and brought out her own pendant.

“You mean, like this one?” she asked.

Maria stared at her. “Exactly like that one.”

-End Chapter 6-

[ edited 6 time(s), last at 19-Feb-2003 10:31:50 AM ]
posted on 6-Oct-2002 7:49:08 PM by Finn
-Chapter 7: Pictures-

The young woman stroked the smooth, rounded face of the pendant and then clutched the necklace in her hand. “I never knew where it came from or what it really was. I thought it must be something from before, but I didn’t know for sure. I was even surprised they let me keep it. Nick always found it interesting, though,” she mused. She scratched the back of her neck absently.

“Who’s Nick?” Maria asked curiously.

“Oh, just one of the guards,” the brunette responded casually and looked away, but not before Maria caught the stark look of fear flicker briefly in her eyes.

Seeing the look, Maria became absolutely determined to find out what had happened to her friend in that wretched place. What if she’d been hurt, or heaven forbid, tortured? She forced the awful thoughts away. That would have wait until later. At the moment, the goal was to make Liz understand who she was and that she was with her family now. That she was loved and safe.

“Do you believe me then? That you belong with us?” Maria asked hopefully.

“I do,” was the soft response.

“So… I can call you Liz, now?”

“I guess so. I still don’t feel like her, though. Why do you think I can’t remember? Something to do with this, maybe?” she wondered and lifted her wrist.

Maria glared hatefully at the heavy metal cuff. “That could be it. Alex might be able to figure it out after we remove it. Do you want to do that soon, Liz?” Maria reveled in being able to say the name.

“As soon as possible,” she answered fervently and nodded her head vigorously.

“How about going upstairs then?”

“Oh, but… I don’t know, Maria. Right now?” she questioned, fidgeting with her hands.

“Why not?” Maria countered. She honestly didn’t want to push, but darn it… she was ready to get this thing going! “You do want to meet everyone don’t you? You can eat dinner at a table tonight, sleep in a real bed...”

The girl eyed the stairs nervously. “I think… I think that I would like that. Especially that bed part,” she said with a ghost of a smile. “But, well… do I look alright?” she asked fretfully, smoothing her hair. “What if they don’t like me?”

“You look beautiful! Of course, everyone will love you. No matter what!” Maria exclaimed.

“And you know that Michael will want to want to see you right away. He’s going to be so happy, Liz. You have no idea how happy,” Maria said earnestly. “Are you going to be OK with that?”

“My brother…” she wondered aloud and Maria nodded encouragingly. “I guess that’s fine… But Maria, I feel something really strange around him. Each time I see him, there’s something in my head. I don’t know how to explain it… well, it almost tickles,” she said, frustrated with her inability to explain the odd sensation.

“Remember how I told you that Rath and Ren were powerful together?” Maria asked excitedly and the other girl nodded. “That’s how Michael described it. Just like that. He said that it sort of tickled his brain.”

“So it’s not something to worry about, then?” she asked, relieved. “Because it feels strong… powerful.”

“Oh, no! I think it just means that the power’s still there. And that it’s true! You’re our Liz!” Maria cried.

The other young woman smiled at her enthusiasm, but still wasn’t totally at ease. “I guess there’s no time like the present, then,” she said resolutely.

They walked out of the room together, Maria leading the way. She bounded giddily up the stairs to the main house. When they reached the top landing, she stopped undecidedly. Where to leave Liz until she rounded up the rest of the crew? Finally she decided on the formal living room that they rarely used and led Liz further down the hall. She motioned towards the loveseat in the back.

“Will you wait here?” Maria asked. “I’ll bring in the others, but then I’ll come sit with you,” she said comfortingly. “This way, you can be settled before they come in. I know there are a lot of us, but it will be fine. No one bites,” she kidded gently.

The brunette sat down on the edge of the sofa and clasped her hands in her lap. Then she looked up at Maria, a look of determination on her face, but the darkness in her deep brown eyes betrayed her uneasiness. Maria saw the brave front and smiled a little. If she hadn’t known Liz before, she would never have been able to tell how nervous she was.

“I’ll wait.”

* * * * *

“Now before I tell you what’s happened, I need you all to sit down and be calm,” Maria stated glancing at everyone gathered in front of her, green eyes stern.

They sat obediently, realizing that it was something important. Before she took them in to see Liz, Maria had decided to gather all six of the others into the room and briefly explain to them. Calmly and rationally.

Max had already informed them what Maria had been doing, that she had been explaining things to their guest. Now, they were ready and eager to hear what the girl had said. Only Michael seemed upset, staring at her with anger plainly written all over his face, his brown eyes thunderous. He didn’t agree with being so open about their origins. Look what other people knowing about them had led to in the past!

“I’ve explained everything to her. It was pretty brief, but I told her about our past lives and most everything about present ones. She understood. Everything. And she wasn’t even weirded out by the alien origins,” Maria said, still surprised about that one. If she didn’t remember anything, shouldn’t she be shocked about the alien issue?

She knew exactly what Michael was going to say… It would be something like: “See, she’s dangerous! If she were anything other than an enemy she would never have believed that!”

Looking over at him, she saw that he was in fact ready to start in on her. “See!” he shouted triumphantly. “She is dangerous! If…”

Maria interrupted him before he got a full head of steam. “Michael!” she yelled and he settled down mutinously. “Anyway! I wasn’t fully totally honest with you, Max, about why I wanted to tell her,” she apologized.

He looked at her warily, but didn’t interrupt.

“Something made her choose to come into the room with me. She actually talked with me! I had the name book and we were going to pick a name for her, when I told her that I needed to see her face. How can you pick a name for someone without seeing her face?” she questioned rhetorically.

The others all listened impatiently, and Michael coughed loudly, irritated with her. Maria just gave him her patented look, but knew she had to speed it up or Michael was going to go ballistic.

“And so she looked up… and I saw her face.”

“So?”

OK, Maria, she told herself. You’re just gonna have to spit it out. “Alex was right… that girl… she’s Liz,” she said evenly, proud of herself.

The room exploded into action, everyone shouting at once, in shock and disbelief, but Michael jumped up from his chair and stalked towards her.

“Maria,” he said warningly, eyes blazing. “This is...”

“No, Michael!” she interrupted forcefully. “It’s her,” she added loudly to everyone, “and she still has her pendant. Just like yours, Michael,” she said pointedly but compassionately.

He just stared at her, understanding dawning. Then suddenly his brown eyes were shining with the possibilities, the hope painfully obvious in his face, but warring with his natural tendency towards distrust. He agitatedly ran a hand through his shoulder-length brown hair, not sure what to make of this.

“It’s true, Michael,” she said softly, taking his hand. “I promise, it’s true.”

She waited a few minutes, allowing the incredible revelation to sink in, before she continued. “She’s waiting in the living room.”

When Michael and Max immediately began to head towards the door, she moved quickly to head them off.

“There was a reason that I told you in here! So that you guys would be calm! She’s been badly frightened and she doesn’t need a bunch of male posturing!” Maria yelled, her voice rising until she was finally shouting.

They stopped, startled at her vehemence.

“I told her that I would be back with you all, but she needs you to get it together. All of you,” she said, voice normal again. “Because here’s the problem…”

Michael eyed her suspiciously and she quickly continued. “She doesn’t remember anything. She believes me now that she is Liz, though. And let me tell you… that took some convincing! You know that picture you took of her, Michael? I showed it to her and she recognized the pendant.

“But even though she believes, she doesn’t actually remember. Any of this… or any of us,” she repeated, pointing at them for emphasis. “So, she’s not going to be ready for a bunch of hugs and kisses. I told her you were going to be overjoyed that she’s here. Hopefully she’s prepared for that. But you have to be calm and quiet or you’re going to freak her out.”

When no one else said anything, Kyle spoke up. “We’ll be good, Maria,” he interjected, his baby blue eyes solemn.

“And maybe we should bring in Liam…” Alex added thoughtfully. “He worshipped Liz.” Isabel smiled at him indulgently, while the Maria and Tess nodded in agreement.

“I’ll get him,” Michael said gruffly, knowing no one else would be able to handle him.

Finally, Maria turned to look meaningfully at the two young men she voted most likely to flip out when they saw Liz. “Well OK, then. Michael? Max?”

They nodded their acceptance, but she could see that both of them were fully tensed as if for battle. Completely on edge. That’s probably the best it’s going to get, though, she thought, biting her lip apprehensively. I guess it will have to be good enough.

* * * * *

As soon as Maria left, she stood up and wandered around the room, looking carefully at everything. She first inspected the large bookshelf near the loveseat. It contained diplomas from what looked like several schools: high school for all seven of them and then a college degree for Alex in Computer Science.

It also held many other strange objects. There was a stone with a strange symbol on it, which she picked up and studied meticulously; it reminded her of the markings within her pendant. Seeing nothing else on the stone besides the symbol, she considered the two bottom shelves. They were filled with all kinds of things she couldn’t even begin to describe. She poked around a little, turning things over, but nothing else seemed particularly familiar.

Hanging on the wall next to the shelves were several large paintings. She knew very little about art… when could she have learned? Despite that, she stared at them for some time, impressed by the talent and depth of emotion that must have created them. She was surprised to see that they were both signed M. Guerin. Maybe he isn’t so brainless, after all, she reflected, pleased with the possibility. Anyone who could paint like this… she thought in awe.

All around the room, on tables and shelves were all kinds of things. Normal household stuff… the things that people collected throughout their lives. Knick-knacks that looked as if they’d been purchased on vacation, vases filled with flowers, framed pictures of the people who must be their parents. She wondered idly which of her fellow aliens belonged with which parents.

Near the doorway on the other side of the room was a wall filled with pictures, many of them taken in what looked like a very hot, dry area. This must be the desert, she thought and looked at them more closely. In New Mexico. She saw that several included a young girl with long, dark hair. That’s Liz… I mean me, she corrected herself, touching one gently.

The first one she examined was a blown-up photograph that had been taken in the desert. She was smiling broadly as she sat cross-legged on the ground, back against a small rock upon which Michael was perched. His long legs were on either side of her and his head was thrown back, apparently laughing at the picture-taker. He could only have been about fourteen. She could see that both of them were wearing their necklaces. In the background was a huge boulder. Somehow, the scene seemed vaguely familiar.

Oh, well, that’s typical, she thought, disgusted with herself. All sorts of things seem ‘vaguely familiar’ to the girl with no memory.

She looked at another. This one included all eight of them, but they were obviously several years older. Michael again was slightly behind her and to her left, one arm slung over her shoulder and curled loosely around her neck. But in this one, he was glowering at the camera, while she looked completely exasperated… probably with Michael. Max stood to her right, his arm around her waist and he also looked a little troubled. Isabel stood next to him with Alex was close at hand; they were holding hands. Maria stood to Michael’s left, one hand on his shoulder as she stared at him admiringly. It made her giggle a little; Maria had probably thought she was being subtle. To Maria’s left, Kyle held Tess tightly, arms clasped around her waist with his chin on the top of her shiny, blond curls.

She noticed that there weren’t many pictures taken after that one. Just then she heard footsteps in the hall and looked towards the doorway.

“That was just a couple of days before you were taken,” Maria said softly as she walked into the room. “Michael was mad that we were goofing off, he wanted to leave town.” She waited a moment and then moved to sit down on the loveseat.

“Are you ready to meet your family?”

She must be joking, the other girl thought with an inward groan. But would I ever really be ready for this... she wondered. She didn’t say it out loud, but just nodded. Instead of sitting next to Maria, though, she chose the large armchair by the door.

Maria frowned a little, and then thought sadly that Liz must have chosen it because it was closest to the hallway. A possible escape route. But we’re going to fix all that, Maria thought firmly, and soon! So she just made herself comfortable and called out to the others.

-End Chapter 7-

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 3:09:15 PM ]
posted on 12-Oct-2002 11:45:43 PM by Finn
-Chapter 8: Liz-

She waited as if this sort of thing happened everyday, completely motionless but somehow still casual as the young men and women filed past her and into the room. Her eyes were downcast and she seemed to be staring intently at her hands held tightly in her lap. But she wasn’t oblivious to their entrance; she was watching them all very carefully through lowered eyelashes. She heard several gasps as they actually saw her for the first time.

Tess entered first and sat on the end of the large couch, bright blue eyes wide as she stared in disbelief. Kyle balanced on the couch arm at her left, clutching her hand as he, too, gawked at her. Isabel and Alex came in together and sat on Tess’s other side. They were a little more circumspect, but she could tell that they were also scrutinizing her every move.

Max was next. As he came into the room, he breathlessly turned his head around to look at her. His amber eyes flew open wide as he caught sight of the girl he had trying to find during his every waking hour for almost six years. Before this moment, he hadn’t been able to comprehend the reality of it. That Liz was here. In their house, no less. Sure, why not?

But now… seeing her right in front of him! He knew it was true. All of it.

Stunned, he barely caught himself as he stumbled over his own feet. He looked wildly around at the others. Maria caught his eyes sympathetically and gestured for him to sit next to her. But he didn’t really want to move further away from Liz.

All he really wanted to do was run to Liz, take her in his arms and never let her go. She hadn’t quite been thirteen and he only fifteen when she disappeared. So even though they’d not really been a ‘couple,’ he’d always known, and thought she had known as well, that they were meant to be together.

Of course, he couldn’t just grab her, though… not yet. All she really knew of him was what Maria had explained and the time he had spent with her over the last couple of months.

It took all his strength to walk over to Maria and sit down.

He couldn’t seem to keep himself from staring at her, though. He took in every detail, comparing her to the vision he’d had in his mind’s eye for the past several years. Her hair was long and he was sure if he touched it, it would feel silky, soft. Her knew her eyes must still be that same deep, lovely brown that didn’t even reflect your image, but just pulled you in.

She was slimmer than he had imagined, though, and so much paler. He wondered tensely about the thin scar on her face. But despite all she must have been through, she still exuded an aura of stillness, even peace… She was still the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Only Maria’s patting him sympathetically on his knee brought him back to reality.

* * * * *

Out in the hallway, Michael waited, listening to everything. He’d been anticipating this day for years and halfway expected someone to come out and say that Maria was wrong. That it wasn’t her… she wasn’t his sister.

He’d felt guilty and responsible for so long… he couldn’t even bring himself to consider what she would say to him. About how he’d let her be taken by God knows who… about how he didn’t even find her, how she’d found them instead…

But all he heard was a loud intake of breath, and what he assumed was Max falling all over himself. He almost laughed at the mental picture, but then started to consider what that must mean.

Just then, Liam, whom he had been holding onto very tightly, began to struggle eagerly. After only a few seconds of fighting with him, Michael lost control, falling hard on his backside with a wheeze. Liam rushed down the hall and into the living room.

Michael leapt to his feet, but then shrugged resignedly and made only a halfhearted attempt to stop him. No way am I gonna catch up to him now!

* * * * *

Max was still staring at her as if she were some strange new form of life. She continued to look down at her lap, she couldn’t seem to make herself look at any of them directly, and sighed a little.

She desperately wanted to look at Max, to let him know that she wasn’t angry with him about before. That she was sorry she had run away from him… But she was a little afraid of what she might see. What had he been to Liz? They’d been involved on Antar and it seemed that everyone else had gotten together in the same pairings as before. But that didn’t necessarily mean that he and Liz (that’s me, she chided herself) had been a couple. And until she actually saw his face, she could hope…

Several minutes had passed and still Michael hadn’t come into the room. The dark-haired girl looked towards the doorway, curious and apprehensive. Now that she had seen all the others, she was anxious to catch a better glimpse of her brother.

Suddenly a large, dark blur barreled into the room. It skidded amusingly on the hardwood floor, but alarmingly, it then spun around and raced back towards her. Before she could move, the largest dog she had ever seen (although, granted she hadn’t seen many) leapt halfway on top of her. She sat as still as possible, unsure if this was friendly behavior or not, when the dog began to enthusiastically lick her face!

Her heartbeat slowed back to normal. Max had immediately jumped up to pull the dog away, but she just laughed in delight at Liam’s antics and he sat back down. Grabbing the scruff of his neck in both hands, she pushed him slightly away in order to get a good look at him. His big brown eyes were intelligent and friendly.

He’s beautiful, she thought excitedly. Well, I think it’s a he, she considered and took a quick, discreet look. Yep, a he! And he sure seems to like me! The dog stopped straining at her hands, and panting, moved back to the floor, only to lay his head on her lap and gaze up at her adoringly. She continued to pet him contentedly.

As Michael came into the room on the heels of the dog, he studiously avoided looking at the girl who was supposed to be his sister. He just glanced at Maria, and with a grunt, strode over and flung himself down on the floor in front of her. Maria reached down to take one of his large hands in her own, giving it a squeeze. Her other hand was occupied with reminding Max to breathe and keeping him calm. She had her hands full, literally.

Taking a deep breath, Michael raised his eyes and stared at the girl on the other side of the room. He made a small noise in the back of his throat as he saw her. The dog was doing a spectacular job distracting her and he was able to watch her without her noticing.

They were right; she was Liz. He should have known when Liam went crazy out in the hallway. Only Liz brought on that kind of response from the loyal canine.

Like Max a few minutes before, he couldn’t even begin to process his thoughts; a million questions flew through his mind. He forced himself to push them aside, though, and an amazing feeling of serenity flooded through him. His sister was home!

Lighthearted and with a full, wide, delighted smile, she looked back up at the others, who were all still staring at her. Most of them in profound shock, but Michael’s eyes were particularly intense. Max was looking at her with some deep emotion in his soulful eyes, one she couldn’t quite place. She shifted uncomfortably in the chair.

Realizing her discomfort, Max brought everyone’s attention to himself with a loud, “Ahem!”

She breathed a soft sigh of relief as they all looked at him expectantly.

“I know Maria’s explained a lot to you,” he said to her, “but to make it easier, maybe we should all introduce ourselves. I’m Max.”

The others followed suit and she nodded at each of them, a wisp of a smile on her guarded face. Then it was back to Max, who grinned happily at her, and motioned towards the dog.

“Oh, and your new friend there is Liam. He hasn’t been this excited in a long time. Actually, he’s been sulky and morose for a while now. He was your dog, Liz,” Max explained.

She beamed at this last. Hearing his name, Liam jumped up to give her another “kiss” before settling back down.

“We’ve been looking for you a long time, but we’re not going to force anything on you,” Max said emphatically. “We’ll go as slowly as you want.”

“Do you… do you want to tell us what you do remember?” he asked cautiously.

She nodded, swallowing hard, and continued stroking the dog for comfort. “There really isn’t very much to tell, though,” she cautioned them. “The first thing I can recall is waking up in my room. My room there, I mean. I had this necklace,” she said, toying with it gently.

“There were always a lot of scientists. I had this on my wrist, too,” she said and showed them the bracelet. “And I didn’t know anything… I couldn’t use my powers at all. Didn’t even know I had any,” she laughed self-deprecatingly.

“It’s not your fault, Liz,” Tess said softly.

“They wanted me to show them things… strange things that I could do. And I never understood how they could know all about me… about what I could do, when even I didn’t know! But somehow, when they asked me to, I could.

“Everything was kind of fuzzy, but I quickly figured out that I could only use my powers when they asked. I tried, a lot, but I just couldn’t do any of those things when I was alone.

“So, I ‘performed’ for them. But only sometimes,” she said almost defensively, wanting them to know that she hadn’t meant to be cooperative … she hadn’t always been weak. “Or other times they just took blood or ran tests.”

They all looked at her in sympathy, but Max frowned darkly and Michael growled. She looked at them in alarm.

“It wasn’t that bad,” she said quickly. “Most of the time that was it!” she exclaimed convincingly. They don’t need to know all the horrible details, she thought. About the times when I was afraid… It wouldn’t help anything to tell, anyway.

“There were others there, though. Humans, who had powers as well. I think… they were all killed when that part of the compound collapsed the day I escaped,” she said sadly.

“When you came, I happened to be out of my room. They were obviously a bit distracted with you guys and I was able to get away. I hid on your plane and then in the tunnels until Alex discovered me,” she said, with a shy smile and nod in his direction.

He tilted his head and grinned a bit at her, relieved that she wasn’t upset with him for his loud freak out in the kitchen.

“You’ll probably need to restock down there,” she added, ducking her head sheepishly.

“And that’s all they wanted?” Isabel asked, almost doubtfully. “To see what you could do and take blood?”

“Uh-huh,” she responded offhandedly. “That was it.”

The other seven in the room exchanged meaningful glances. As if they thought she wasn’t telling them everything. Well that’s my business, she thought irritably and glared at them.

“That was it!” she repeated loudly. “Now would someone please take this thing off!” she exclaimed, raising her arm. She really wanted to change the subject.

Having been glowering at the dreadful thing for several minutes, Michael stood up immediately and moved towards her. He wanted to be the one to remove it. Surprised, though, at how fast he had moved, she sat back tensely and the dog rumbled.

“You know how protective he is, Michael,” Max said soberly, but with a small grin. “Take it easy.”

The girl held on to the dog with her left arm, as Michael came to her more slowly. “May I?” he asked, gesturing towards her.

She sat fully upright, body tensed as if waiting for a blow, and slowly held her arm out, pulling the long sleeve up to her elbow.

He knelt in front of her, one knee up, and grasped her arm gingerly. He looked sideways at her and when she nodded, he placed her wrist on his knee and started to examine the bracelet carefully. It had no obvious seams or markings, but seemed to be just a plain piece of metal, about one half-inch thick and three-inches wide.

After a few moments when nothing horrible happened, she began to relax. Lightly putting the fingers of his right hand on the bracelet, Michael asked if she was ready. When she nodded again, this time unquestioningly, he shoved a small bit of power into it.

Nothing.

Her eyes lifted to his briefly, and he could see the fear and darkness in them. It made him wonder angrily, even more than before, just what had happened to her… what she was hiding from them.

He didn’t want to push too hard with his powers and inadvertently hurt her, but he wanted that thing off of her, right now! He continued to send more and more power into the metal.

Finally, when he was beginning to dread that he would have to tell her that couldn’t do it, a thin seam opened in middle. It spread to the outer edges and the thick bracelet popped open a little. She gasped and he looked at her in worry.

“It’s OK,” she said quietly, but there was a gleam of pain in her brown eyes and she bit her lip. “It just released… Careful.”

Michael gripped each end of the bracelet, slowly prying it open. When she cried out in pain, Liam growled a little and Michael stopped, again glancing up at her anxiously. His large body had hidden her arm from sight and Max jumped up as if to stop him.

“No,” she panted seeing Max’s movement. Tears sprung to her eyes and she gripped the dog a bit harder. He licked her left hand and whined in sympathy. “Get if off, Michael. Please,” she pleaded.

He nodded and as he opened it, he saw what had caused her pain: four short, slender spikes on the inside of the cuff. Pulling open the metal had pulled the bloody spikes from her wrist. As it released completely, he took it off and furiously flung it to the floor, holding her slender and now bloody wrist in his hands. A little lightheaded, she smiled at him gratefully, not even caring about the pain. This time the look different… now filled with complete trust.

But Michael wasn’t quite so pleased. “Max!” he yelled, turning his head. “Get over here.”

Not wanting to interfere, the others remained on the edge of their seats, waiting, but Max jumped at the sudden shout and rushed over. He cried out at the sight of her damaged arm and pushing Michael out of the way, gently took her wrist.

“I’ve got it now,” he said protectively.

The girl looked at him. “What? What are you doing?” she asked, pulling away and holding her throbbing wrist in her left hand. The blood trickled down her arm. “Just get me a bandage or something. It’s fine…” she said. “It’s not like I haven’t had worse,” she said under her breath.

But Max heard and looked hard at her. “What’s worse?” he asked quietly, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“Nothing,” she sighed, but her was jaw clenched. Stupid, stupid… “It’s fine, OK?”

“I don’t think Maria told you about our gifts. I can heal this,” Max explained. “I can take the pain away,” he said almost beseechingly.

She cocked her head and looked at him inquisitively. “You can do that? I can’t do that,” she said in surprise.

“We can all do different things,” he clarified. “But look, you’re bleeding, Liz! I hate to see you in pain… please, please let me heal you,” he implored.

“What’s it like?” she asked uncertainly. “Will it hurt?”

“No,” he said soothingly. “It doesn’t hurt.” Looking searchingly into his amber eyes, she slowly offered him her arm. Grasping it tenderly, he said, “Keep looking at me, Liz. It will be easier that way.”

As he started to heal her arm, images began to suddenly flash through his mind. So quickly that at first he didn’t even understand what he was seeing. Soon he realized that these were images from Liz’s mind! It was her life and it wasn’t pleasant…

~ Liz, in the same clothes she had worn that day to school, the day he lost her. She was huddled on the floor in a large white room, staring fearfully up at several men in dark clothing standing all around her. They stalked towards her and she used her powers to throw several of them backwards and away from her. But there were too many and she had been using her powers all day trying to escape. She was tapped out. A man suddenly grasped her from behind and she felt a sharp pain in her wrist. Blackness.

~ Waking up, completely unaware of her life before, and in a different room. This one was furnished with a bed and he caught a disturbing glimpse of handcuffs hanging from one of the walls. A tall, slender man in a white lab coat entered the room and sat down on the bed next to her. Explaining how she was to cooperate with them or there would be consequences.

~ The same scientist taking her to an examination room. Liz fighting desperately as he forced her to undress and then examined her thoroughly. Telling her what she was… that she was dangerous… she was a threat… different from the others there.

~ Feeling a stinging, deep pain as something whistled through the air, striking her back. Once, twice, three times. Blinking unfocusedly at the scientist as he reproached her for her lack of cooperation… he had warned her what would happen.


The flashes were coming more quickly now and Max was starting to lose himself. He couldn’t even begin to keep track of the images, much less think how to stop them. And he wanted very much to stop them. He was screaming inside, in his mind, feeling her pain as if it were his own.

~ Strapped to a cold metal table, cold and scared. Another man in a white lab coat carried a large medical knife. He leered at her as he painfully took skin and blood samples.

~ Laughing with a little boy as he showed her his toy fire truck. Playing with the child and showing him a storybook. Worry for the boy.

~ Frantic and scared as a huge man with dark hair approached her. Hanging on the wall in her cell as the man…


Suddenly he was flung from her mind as she realized what was happening.

“Stop it! Stop it!” she shrieked. “Let me go!” she screamed, wrenching herself away from him and tumbling to the ground, her arm completely healed.

She tossed him away from her and into the wall with her powers. Liam jumped in front of her, barking furiously at Max.

“What was that?” she yelled, leaping to her feet. “I trusted you!”

Objects began to rise from the bookshelves and crashed into the wall next to Max. They shattered, pieces of glass and plastic flying all over the room as she lost control of the powers she hadn’t had at her full disposal for years. Not knowing how to calm her, he didn’t even know how it had happened himself, Max picked himself up from the floor.

A vase crashed near Tess’s head and she yelped in surprise. Max immediately threw his shield up over the four on the couch, where they sat stunned at what was happening. Maria had jumped to her feet, but Michael pushed her behind him. His thoughts raced frantically, desperate to find anything that might calm Liz down.

She watched in disbelief as picture frames began to fly from the walls. She couldn’t control it! She was going to hurt someone! Hysterically, she tried to stop it, to control her powers, but couldn’t.

“Michael!” she yelled in fear, turning to him, her eyes wide with panic but trusting him to help her.

“Liz, just get rid of it, but don’t pull it back into yourself!” he ordered anxiously, moving slowly towards her with his hands extended in a calming gesture. “Careful! Do it bit by bit!”

She tried again to pull back and it fought. It actually fought her! It had been quiescent for a long time, but now it had escaped and it wanted to be free… After a struggle, she finally caught at it with her mind and pulled back with all her might.

But she was too inexperienced… she didn’t know how to handle it. She quickly found out why Michael had cautioned her not to pull it back into herself because the power suddenly didn’t have anywhere to go. It crashed fiercely back into her, sweeping through her slender body like lightening and illuminating her in a bright sapphire light. Her back arched and she held her hands out in front of herself as she shrieked in anguish.

“No! LIZ!” Michael shouted and rushed over to her.

Max ran to her side as well, but Michael was closer and simply faster, catching her as she dropped suddenly, unconscious but still sparking with blue fingers of lightning. He knelt and held gently her in his arms, seeing in relief that she was still breathing. But she was a wreck, large, dark purplish shadows under her eyes and burns on her hands where she had tried to protect herself.

Liam didn’t protest Michael’s intrusion, but just sat on the floor next to Liz, whining and occasionally growling and baring his teeth at Max as he hovered over the both of them. Maria peeked over their shoulders, trying to see for herself that Liz was fine while the others stood anxiously behind them all.

“Liz,” Michael called softly. “Wake up a little can’t you?”

After a few moments, she began to stir. Her dark brown eyes fluttered as she regained consciousness. “Michael,” she muttered hoarsely. “Michael, what happened?”

“It’s OK,” he said quietly, swinging her slight weight into his arms and stood up, careful not to jar her. “Don’t worry about it, Lizzie, everything’s alright.”

“Michael?” she said again, voice strange.

“I’m here, Liz, just relax.”

“Michael… I… I remember…” she whispered, before slipping back into darkness.

-End Chapter 8-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:18:14 PM ]
posted on 12-Oct-2002 11:48:11 PM by Finn
Just out of curiousity, when did I every promise parts every weekend??? *happy* You guys are so persistent! FYI, though, I’m on vacation for an entire week in a little while, so probably won’t post then. I think you’ll get one next week, but then no promises!

Again (as always), thanks for the bumpage, makes me happy!

angeld34: No, you didn’t make me change anything… I agreed with you and “fixed” the timeline! I actually truly appreciate the commentary! Right on with Liam… I just felt that dogs were underrepresented in Roswell fics, hah, hah. I've never actually had one, but as soon as I have a big yard and some actual time to spend with a pet, I’m all over that!

A Rose Is True Blue: Obviously you were right! Thanks! This one quick enough for you? Plus, it's pretty long for me.

Nova: Thanks for the bumping, it gives me a big head!

Cass of the Netherworlds: You’re so good with the questions and I actually think I’ve answered all of them this chapter!

Assilem_1: Good call. I was trying to leave little hints, but you’re getting ahead of yourself… Shh! *happy*



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Oct-2002 11:53:34 PM ]
posted on 20-Oct-2002 4:58:55 PM by Finn
Oh, gosh, I'm sorry you guys! I've been painting my bathroom before I go on vacation... honestly I would rather have been writing a new part for you guys. Don't be mad! I'm just gone a few days and I'll try to have something a little later this week.

(Duck and run for cover!)

SORRY!! :(
posted on 26-Oct-2002 3:15:47 PM by Finn
Phew, I'm back and with a new part no less. But let me tell you... thank goodness I go back to work on Monday because vacation sure is traumatic! Bathroom required 2 (yes 2!!!) coats and they are the absolute worst rooms to paint. Plus cut off all my hair, which almost had me in tears. Then, I get back to the board and it's all different!! Wow!

But... I did find the time for a new part.

Love you guys for bumping, even when I didn't post a part for almost 2 whole weeks!!! Thanks! Oh, and Erin, what's this about a concussion? Are you OK?


-Chapter 9: Michael-

Many hours later, Liz woke up in the middle of a large bed, propped up against some pillows. She wasn’t under the sheets as it was a warm night, but she was now dressed in a thin nightgown with a light blanket covering her.

She tried to remain relaxed, keeping her breathing even and her eyes closed, as she listened carefully and tried to figure out what was going on. She felt Liam nearby, his warm body curled up next to her on the bed, face resting in her lap as he slept. The only other sound was someone breathing lightly a few feet away.

Remembering what had happened earlier when she used her powers, she slowly and cautiously extended her senses. She was hoping she would be able to determine who was nearby without them noticing.

Whoever it was felt familiar and she could see his aura in her mind’s eye: dark blue, swirling with bright clouds of white. She sighed in relief. Only Michael...

Immediately after identifying him, she felt his power recognize hers and eagerly reach out to join her own. Afraid of what might happen if their powers met without direction and control, she pulled back quickly, but even then, she still felt some slight resistance as her powers fought against her. She breathed a quiet sigh of relief when she was able to rein in the strong energy.

More comfortable now that it seemed nothing was wrong, she slowly opened her eyes and looked around the room. It was dark outside, but the light from a full moon shone through the open window and curtains, illuminating everything in its shimmering glow so that she was able to look around the room with little difficulty.

She noticed that Michael was sitting in a chair next to her, sprawled halfway across the bed towards her. His head rested on his folded arms, his face turned away from her towards the door. She smiled softly at him and then her eyes were suddenly swimming. And for the first time in so long it wasn’t from fear… or from pain… or from grief… It was happiness.

She tentatively reached out to touch him, wanting to make sure he was real. Hand trembling, she caught a lock of the soft, waving hair at the back of his neck and twisted it in her fingers.

Still playing with his hair, she tore her eyes away from her brother and examined her new surroundings. It seemed to be a very large bedroom, well furnished and decorated, but even so, it felt a little cold and empty, as if no one had ever lived in it. She could see that the closet was open, but there was nothing inside. There was another door next to the closet, which she guessed led to a bathroom.

The shelves were filled with books of all types, hardbacks, paperbacks... familiar books. Her eyes widened in surprise and she quickly looked around the rest of the room and saw that there were two paintings on the wall to her left. Michael’s paintings… The ones he had painted as a gift for her thirteenth birthday. He’d been so excited about them; he had given them to her early that year...

Although she didn’t fully understand what was going on or even who owned this house, she realized that somehow… somehow this was her room!

She looked out the window and saw nothing but a forest of tall fir trees. The sky was dark blue, lit up by the stars and the bright, full moon. It was beautiful… the first time she had seen a clear sky for years.

She grimaced a little and shifted on the bed… it had been years without a lot of things.

“Liz?” Michael murmured, not moving his head. “'Time is it?”

She looked over to the bright red lights of the clock radio on the nightstand. “It’s past midnight, Michael,” she said, amused.

“Mm’kay,” he mumbled. “Is this a dream?” he asked next, voice quiet and uncertain.

“No, you’re not dreaming,” she said gently. “It’s really me,” she reassured him.

His head suddenly rose from the bed as he sat back in the chair and stared at her. His dark eyes were shining in the moonlight, but still confused and blurry from sleep. “Liz?” he whispered again, waking up in a hurry.

“Yeah?” she whispered back conspiratorially.

“Are you alright? I mean, I know you’re not alright… but are you OK?” he asked rapidly.

“Sure, Michael,” she said easily. “Of course, I am. Now that I’m here.”

“And you said before… you said that you remember? You remember me?”

“Yes… some things are still hazy, but I remember you,” she said softly.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” he said hoarsely, creeping onto the bed. She turned onto her side. Facing her, he put his arms around small frame. She’s still so tiny, he thought miserably, but didn’t say anything more.

She relaxed into his arms, sighing, and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I am, too,” she said faintly, her throat tight.

All the movement had wakened Liam, who simply jumped off the bed to sit watchfully on the floor. He remained awake, guarding the door, which was open just a crack.

They lay silently on the bed for some time, comforting each other just by being together, until Michael spoke again. He’d been dreading it, but had to get it out in the open. He’d planned it out in his head for years… what he’d say to her if he ever saw her again. But all his plans flew from his mind and he crumbled.

“Liz, I’m so sorry,” he almost moaned.

“Michael,” she interrupted, guessing where this was heading. “No, no… Don’t be sorry,” she said and reached up to stroke his hair.

“But, Liz…” His voice shook and unable to look at her, he buried his face in the pillow next to her.

“Shh, Michael, shh,” she spoke softly, tightening her arms around him. “Don’t say anything… It’s not your fault, Michael.” She stretched to kiss the top of his head. “I promise it’s not your fault.”

After a little while, she soothed him into a troubled sleep in her arms.

I was right not to tell them. Her thoughts were anguished. I don’t see how I can tell anyone.

Then, she remembered what had happened earlier. Oh, God, but Max… How much did Max see?

* * * * *

“Liz!” Michael exclaimed less than an hour later, startled from sleep.

“Shh,” she said, stroking his hair. “I’m still here.” In fact, she hadn’t moved at all since he had fallen asleep in her arms.

He didn’t say anything more for several minutes, letting his mind catch up with the present. “How do you feel really? Are you hurt at all? Or sore from before… from using your powers?” he asked awkwardly.

“No, I’m not hurt, but I am just a little sore,” she said, shifting uncomfortably. “But maybe that’s just because my arm’s stuck under your big, manly self, and it’s fallen asleep,” she said teasingly, trying to lighten the mood a little.

“Oh!” he exclaimed sitting up quickly. He moved to sit cross-legged on the bed across from her.

“You must have been tired,” she said, shaking her head at his discomfiture.

Sitting up against the headboard, she winced and shook her tingling arm. “Ouch,” she muttered. A lock of silky dark hair fell into her face, obscuring her view, and she blew it away irritably.

Michael grinned at so familiar a gesture. “It was a long day,” he admitted. “I know it’s really late, but do you… do you maybe want to talk for a while?” he said, his smile faltering.

“Yeah, we probably should,” she said nervously. “But first… can I ask you some questions?”

“Of course!” he said. “You were always real good at asking the tough questions, Lizzie,” he said with his customary smirk.

“Well, let’s start with the easy stuff,” she grinned back at him, heart lighter. “What day is it?” she asked.

“Well, since it’s past midnight, it must be July 21st. A Sunday,” he added and pretended to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

“Year?”

She didn’t even know what year it was? His smirk wavered a little. “It’s 2002, Lizzie.”

“Oh, wow, I’ve been eighteen for a while now! Well since I’ve been here almost three months, I must have arrived sometime in late April,” she said thoughtfully. Michael could almost see the wheels spinning in her head. “OK, so where are we?”

“Oregon. We have a ranch in the mountains, on about two hundred acres; it’s pretty remote. And not at all far from the ocean, Liz.”

“Oregon, huh? Odd,” she commented. “How can we afford that much land?”

“Do you remember Langley? Oh, well of course you don’t,” he answered himself, shaking his head. “He came in the ship with us. He supposedly left the others to go out and find us. You and me I mean. Searched for years, but just couldn’t locate us. Then when he finally came back, he found that the others had already 'hatched' and found themselves families. So he decided to do his own thing.

“But he was supposed to be our protector. Obviously he shouldn’t quit his day job, though,” he observed angrily.

“Which is?” she prompted.

“He’s a Hollywood producer. Totally loaded. But he was nice enough to provide us with plenty of his cash. Enough to buy this place and a few other necessities.”

“Who changed my clothes?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and picking at the long nightgown.

“Oh, that was Maria…” he said and then trailed off uncomfortably. She looked at him curiously. “She thought you’d be more comfortable,” he said quickly, but something dark flickered in his eyes. “It’s one of hers.”

“But before that… Max, ummm… he fixed up your hands… They were bad, Liz!” he defended when she looked at him in reproach. “I don’t think he meant to see anything before.”

When Liz looked at him warningly, he explained. “He really didn’t, scouts honor. He’s never seen anything like that when he’s healed people before… He wouldn’t even tell us anything,” he said frustrated.

“And it doesn’t matter, anyway, you were hurt,” he added, completely unrepentant.

“Fine,” she said shortly. I’ll deal with Mr. Evans later, she thought.

He tilted his head and looked sideways at her, giving her his best ‘I’m sorry, but it was for your own good’ look. She tried to stay mad at him, but she couldn’t hold out and gave him a small smile.

“And… is this my room?” she continued wonderingly and gestured around the room.

“The girls did it. Maria was pretty loud about it. Bossy, too,” he snorted. “Said that as soon as we moved in, there would be a room for you,” he said.

Liz smiled a little, imagining Maria hands on her hips ordering all the boys around. Isabel had probably been a great deal of help in that department, as well. “Isabel, too?” she asked knowingly.

Michael groaned. “You have no idea,” he mumbled, rolling his eyes.

“Michael…” she started and nervously pushed her silky dark hair behind her ears. Oh, boy, onto the toughies. “How… how are you doing? What’ve you all been doing?” she questioned.

“Not good, Liz,” he said heavily. Seeing her face fall he quickly continued. “No, no! We’re all fine, but, well… it’s been really hard without you,” he blurted out.

He moved closer and sat next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders while she rested her head on his strong chest. She picked up his loose hand in her own small ones, and began to toy with his fingers.

“I still don’t remember anything about that day, even the week and month before are a little fuzzy. It’s better than before, though. Before it was like I just woke up with no past at all…” she trailed off. “What happened, Michael?” she asked quietly.

He took a deep breath, and she could feel his heartbeat pick up, where she laid her head against him.

“You always had the biggest heart, Lizzie. You couldn’t bear to see anyone hurt, or in pain. I remember when we first came to Roswell. Before you even really knew Maria that well, you ran up to this big bully who was picking on her and kicked him, really hard, in the shins,” he laughed and she poked him playfully. “He ran away howling and you had a friend for life!”

“Yes, well, there are times when I am particularly fantastic,” she said modestly. She giggled a little.

“Whatever,” he responded, glad that she couldn’t see him roll his eyes.

“But that September, there was this kid… this suicidal kid…” He cursed under his breath and shook his head.

“It was just a few of us. Max, Maria, you, and me. It was a nice day and we were walking home from the movies when you saw him. Standing on the roof of this building in front of us. You said he was pacing back and forth on the ledge, ready to jump. No one else noticed him, not even the people doing their freakin’ grocery shopping.

“You didn’t even stop to think, but sprinted down the block… just as he fell. Caught him with your powers, slowed him down so he’d land on something soft enough that he wouldn’t be badly hurt. People were screaming and shouting and you got shoved to the back of the crowd. Nobody was even looking at you. Since no one claimed to have seen him jump, everyone just figured he’d been lucky…

“But there were so many people there! Someone could easily have noticed how odd it was. I mean, it’s not every windless day that someone jumps off a room and slides ten feed to the left of where he’d aimed.”

He felt her stiffen.

“We weren’t angry with you, Liz!” he tried to reassure her. “You only wanted to help,” he added softly.

You weren’t so nice to her that day, though, were you, Michael? When you got home you yelled at her for nearly ten minutes at the top of your lungs until Max and Maria made you stop, he berated himself. She was sobbing at your feet, you jackass!

“That didn’t mean that I thought we should hang out and wait for someone to come after us… You remember that I wanted to go, right? I wanted to get us all out of there, especially you! But nooo… the big boss man had to stick around,” his voice rising with resentment. “Play nice with the family…”

“Michael?” she interrupted his tirade, tapping her fingers against his hand.

“Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all.

He was silent a moment before continuing the story. “Well,” he began, “it was a normal day a week or so later. You’d just started high school that year and it was a whole new school for you. You’d skipped a grade, you know?” he said proudly. He felt her nod against his chest and hugged her tighter.

“Since that day, we had decided it would be safer if we all hung out in front of the school, so we could wait until everyone was done with classes. Then Max and Iz, or maybe Kyle, could drive us home. Together. But you said you’d be a few minutes later than normal that afternoon because of some big science project. You said you had to talk to the prof. You were just so interested into school that way, no one thought twice…

“We waited out front. All seven of us, but it felt kind of wrong, you know? We were all so antsy for some reason…” he continued painfully. “But you never came out and the school was practically deserted. We checked everywhere and no one even know the name of the professor you were meeting!

“We searched all afternoon… through the night… everything we could think to do, we did,” he said earnestly, his voice choked. Begging her to believe that they… that he… had done everything in his power. Begging her not to hate him.

“You were just gone, Liz!” he said, voice thick with emotion.

She sighed tiredly. They aren’t all going to feel this responsible are they? ‘Cause I don’t think I can handle it. And then she suddenly felt guilty. Who am I to think that? They didn’t screw up and get themselves in trouble. I’m the one who put them in danger… They’ve been in danger for years… chasing me!

“It’s OK, Michael,” she whispered guiltily. “I know you did everything you could. I know it,” she said vehemently. “Even when I didn’t know who you were, somewhere in here,” she tapped her chest, “I knew that you were looking for me.”

He nodded gratefully, thanking whatever gods there were on Antar or on Earth that she was so forgiving.

“Not even a month later, our supposed protector shows up…” he sneered. “The guy was practically useless… all he really did was help us get out of Roswell. He spent a few years with us, moving around a lot. Said he was looking for you. I think he was just hanging out ‘til most of us had graduated so we would be able to take care of ourselves.

“So he left us, claimed it would be easier to find you if he went underground, whatever the hell that means. But before we went, he did buy us the land and had the house built… And those tunnels, in case we had to hightail it out of here. Well, OK,” he admitted grudgingly, “and he paid for the jet, too.

Liz craned her neck to look up at him excitedly and asked, “Will you teach me?”

“Absolutely,” he answered. “Anyway, we did our own research… We weren’t going to leave it all up to him! Eventually, Alex found out about some low profile, but very highly classified ‘scientific research.’ It was funded by some obscure government agency. He hacked ‘em, or whatever you call it, and found out that there were people being held there! So that’s what we were doing at the compound. Looking for more information… but we got caught.

“We never gave up, Liz. Ever. We never would have. And instead, you found us… should’ve guessed,” he said shaking his head.

“Liz, what was going on there?” he asked hesitantly, thinking of what Maria had told him that night and about what Max wouldn’t tell them. He had looked so shaken. “I mean, really, what…”

“Michael,” she interrupted. “Not now,” she implored. “Please?”

“OK,” he said, giving in quickly. He was going to take care of her now, and he would have all the time in the world to find out the truth. “You should sleep now.”

“Thank you,” she whispered gratefully and soon drifted off to sleep in the protective circle of his strong arms.

-End Chapter 9-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:18:53 PM ]
posted on 3-Nov-2002 12:18:31 AM by Finn
Hey, just FYI, I will definitely have a part out tomorrow... it's almost done, but I'm dead tired and there's no way it will make any sense if I finish it now! See you soon!!!
posted on 3-Nov-2002 5:26:21 PM by Finn
Hello! So, in a second I’m gonna post the next part. But… everyone seemed to want a big reunion thing for M/L and I hadn’t really planned one. I had kind of decided that it would take a while before anything big would happen for them. I mean, of course they meet and talk, hanging out and everything, but all the rest, huh-uh, I just think it would take more time than that. I’ve kind of moved it up, though a little since that seems to be high on the wish list. So, you’ll see some stuff happening in Ch 12 and 13. And of course we’re not there, yet, so sorry ‘bout that.

In any case, hopefully you’ll stick around for it!

I’ve changed Liz’s name on Antar… I’d been looking for an ‘R’ name (you know, Rath and R---), but couldn’t find one I liked that hadn’t already been used. So, I heard the name Renata the other day, and it should work well if I ever write the prequel. No one’s heartbroken, right (sorry Erin)? And since I know I’ve changed a couple of things in the other parts, someone mentioned they’d copied to Word?? If you want, when it’s done I can forward anyone the whole shebang in Word, since I’m actually writing it that way. Then you’d have all the nice formatting, italics, etc.

Also, I would like to pose a plot question to the group… When I get to actually writing it, do you think there should be any alien mythos stuff in this? I’m trying to decide if Nick (whether he’s dead or alive) would have had anything to do with Antar. They’re has been a lot of that going ‘round on the board, but maybe that’s because people enjoy it. What do you guys think???

Hey, does anyone know if Max and Isabel’s Jeep was a two or four-door? Well, I guess it doesn’t matter, since I just decided it was a four-door, for the sake of the story, of course.

Oh, if anyone’s good with banners, I would be absolutely thrilled for one! I’ve tried making my own and did OK, but I’m pretty inept with graphics. I try and try, but they never really look very sharp. So if anyone has free time (yeah, right, I know it’s a myth), I would love it!

Thanks everyone for the feedback, and I’ve tried to get all of you… but if I missed you, it’s totally by accident. You guys are the absolute best!!

Shadow: Yup, I was on vacation and while it was nice to not have to use my brain for the week, there was a bunch of physical stuff I took care of. But now going back to work this last week was rough, too! Geez, what’s the point of all this vacation stuff? *happy* Thanks for the bumpage!

Roswelluvr: Thanks for reading and responding. I appreciate it!

Behrstars: Here you go! Thanks for bumping *happy*

BelevnDreamsToo: I love hearing that people are enjoying the story. Thank you! And yes, had to do the sibling bonding. Didn’t figure Michael would let anyone near her after all that! Like I said above, though, it will be coming.

Marteloise: I know, I know, you’ll see M/L in a little while. Sheesh, that all you guys think about? *happy*

PhoenixFlamz: I feel like I’m getting repetitive, but I wanted to thank everyone, ‘cause I appreciate people letting me know what they think! Thank you!

Jess79: I’m pretty regular about the updates, this soon enough for ya? *happy* Thanks for reading!

Valkyries03: Thanks for reading… let me know what you think!

Aprillise: Eventually, but she’s not going to just spill her guts right away. But who will she talk to first?? Thanks!

LizParkerEvans4Evax: Thanks for reading!

Mariiska: Thanks for bumping me up *happy*

Justine: I’m back! Thanks for the response.

Angel99: Thank you! Keep reading and let me know what you think.

Frances: Of course, I’m coming back, I would never just dump a story. The question is generally, WHEN do I come back! How ‘bout now?

Gal: Yup, she will be talking to Max fairly soon in story-time, but when will I get there… Hmm…

TeanHoney: You’re welcome, of course! See above for M/L discussion (wow, you guys are brutal!).

Pookie76: Well, thank you, I needed that! Of course she needed to talk to Michael, he’s family! And I agree that it is good that someone knows since she’s not yet interested in sharing and Max will push without being pushy!

Assilem_1: Glad you liked it (loved it!). Addictive, huh? Hopefully you’re not a student neglecting schoolwork or in the RW neglecting work (well, who am I to talk, I’m writing this at work, when I should be actually doing something productive). Yes, Max is not having a good time knowing, but it’s important that he know. And it’s good for me to know you couldn’t wait and now here’s another one! Plus, I’m using your thoughts about Liam (hadn’t really occurred to me, thanks!).

Erin: I’m glad you’re OK! And even with a concussion you’re bumping me up, you’re the best! You just said it kind of off-the-cuff, so wondered what was up! Eek, how’s your Dad? Is he doing alright? Oh, and I just cut off about 5 or 6 inches. It was midway down my back (and I’m really tall) and I told them I wanted it to be just below my shoulders. But they did that wet and so since it’s pretty curly (although at this length mostly wavy), it dried to above my shoulders!! Eek. I haven’t had this short of hair since 4th grade when my mom whacked it all off to a boy-cut to get rid of the chlorine. I actually really like it now that I’ve gotten used to it; short hair can be fun!

You know what, to be honest, I’m not fully sure about what happened the day Liz was taken either. Had some ideas, but haven’t made up my mind, so I threw in a whole bunch of stuff that I can work with later! Thanks for the informative feedback! It’s good to know what people like and what they’d like to see more of (yes, yes, working on more M/L!). Thanks very much for bumping and giving feedback!

Sharon: Sorry I didn't get your note until today (I really did go right to bed). Thanks very much for the feedback, you’re awesome! Soon you’ll be seeing a little more interaction between M/L. The story’s kinda slowed down a little to cover the first few days, but then we’ll be picking up speed. After all the time she’s been away, she’s bound to be a little more introverted and as far as she’s concerned, she doesn’t want to even think about what’s happened to her. But she’ll need to, and it’s just up in the air who breaks through to her! With regards to Maria and Liz, you’re missing nothing! You’re on the right track, but Max will be going pretty easy on Liz and hopefully he’ll try to keep Michael under control as well. Egads, does no one care about anything but M/L?? JK, of course while this focuses more on Liz it is a dreamer fic… you’ll see. Gotta drag it out, though, or where’s the fun??

Yeah, tell me about RL! I appreciate the bumping though when you do, but geez don’t feel like it’s a duty! You are right, though, the page does look a little odd…

SO, just give me a minute to format for posting and here you go!!!

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Nov-2002 5:45:50 PM ]
posted on 3-Nov-2002 5:31:31 PM by Finn
-Chapter 10: The Morning After-

Maria slowly pushed open the door to Liz’s bedroom the following morning. When Liam rumbled, she clucked soothingly to him. Glad she had anticipated his reaction, she presented him with one of his favorite dog treats, which he daintily grabbed between his teeth. He then settled back down on the floor, but continued to guard watchfully against intruders.

Seeing that Liz was asleep in Michael’s arms, she smiled joyfully. They look so sweet, she thought and sighed with contentment. She started to quietly back out of the room, but paused when Michael’s eyes opened and he whispered to her.

“Maria, don’t go, come sit by me,” he said and patted an open space on the bed.

“It’s no problem, Michael. It’s still early,” she whispered back. “I was just seeing if you were up. For breakfast.”

“Who cooked?” he asked, raising an eyebrow and feigning panic.

“Don’t worry,” she said, slightly peeved. “Isabel made crepes with fresh berries and Tess made some eggs.”

“And who made the coffee?” he questioned.

“Geez, you’re not the breakfast police!” she fumed. “Alex made the coffee!”

The bantering had gotten a little heated. The deep rumble of Michael’s voice in his chest, where her head lay, compounded with Maria’s increasingly shrill voice soon roused Liz. But it was the word ‘coffee’ that woke her up completely.

“Oh, wow, coffee!” she exclaimed, excited for at the possibilities of spending a normal day doing normal things.

She sat up suddenly, intent on getting dressed so she could go downstairs, and cracked her head on Michael’s chin. His teeth clacked together loudly and he glared at her.

“Oops, sorry,” she giggled, quickly jumping out of the bed and out of his long reach. “Do you have a change of clothes I could borrow, Maria?” she asked politely, trying not to laugh at Michael, who was rubbing his sore jaw and glowering at her.

“Sure, follow me,” Maria answered, looking hard at the floor so Michael wouldn’t notice her grin.

But he heard her muffled snicker and he knew what exactly what was going on. They were ganging up on him already! “Women,” he huffed and stormed out of the room, but not before giving Maria a significant look, which she took to mean ‘take care of my sister, or else.’

As if I wouldn’t, she scoffed.

At Michael’s mock outrage, Liz had nearly collapsed on the floor in hysterics, her laughter a little out of control. Wow, that feels great, she thought, exhilarated. Haven’t had that in a while. Feeling safe... a good night’s sleep with no nightmares… family…

Maria looked at her a little oddly, but just shrugged and led her down the hallway to her own room.

A few minutes later, Liz hesitantly came down the stairs behind Maria, Liam padding softly after her. She was wearing jeans shorts and a short-sleeve top. Maria had tried to get her to wear a tank (“It’s going to be hot today!”), but Liz was adamant.

“We’ll give you a tour later, OK?” Maria offered. “It’s a pretty big place, but you’ll figure it out. Plus, you’ve got to see the grounds! This place is spectacular and we don’t need a gardener for anything,” she said and wiggled her fingers in the air.

“Well, at least you know where the kitchen is,” Maria commented. “Here we are,” she said and showed Liz into the room with a flourish.

Tess was fixing a plate and gave Liz a friendly nod. Smiling, she said, “G’morning.”

Liz could see through the large windows that Isabel and Alex were outside at a table on the porch in front of a large, sparkling swimming pool. They were chatting animatedly, mugs in hand. Alex was gesturing so wildly, that she was sure he was going to drench Isabel with whatever was in his cup. Liz looked quizzically at Maria.

“Oh, the others?” Liz nodded. “Well, Kyle…” Maria started.

“Kyle always sleeps late,” Tess jumped in. “If he’s up before eleven, it’s only because there’s a game on,” she said, making a face. “But he doesn’t watch a whole lot of baseball, so he tends to wake up late all summer.”

Maria continued, “And Michael probably decided to shower. Max… I don’t know where Max is.”

“Max is here,” the man in question interjected quietly, walking into the room.

He smiled at Tess and Maria and then looked hesitantly at Liz. His expressive eyes, made more pronounced by his dark clothing, showed his true remorse for intruding into her thoughts the previous day. His face was haggard, as if he hadn’t slept at all, which was almost entirely true.

Michael had thrown him out of Liz’s room as soon as he had finished healing her hands, but he’d stayed just outside her room for several hours, pacing in the dark hallway. When Maria had finally shooed him off to bed, he hadn’t been able to sleep, but just lay on his bed in the dark, staring up at the ceiling and brooding about all that had happened that day. And about what he’d learned from Liz.

“Hey, Liz,” he said softly and put his hands in his jeans pockets.

She nodded at him curtly, acknowledging his presence, but letting him know he wasn’t off the hook. She turned away from them and moved to the counter, pouring herself a large cup of coffee. Taking her first sip, she sighed. “Heaven.”

Looking back at them, she bit her lip nervously. “Umm… I just wanted to let you know that I remembered things. Almost everything,” she said softly.

“I remember you guys,” she clarified, when they looked at her in confusion. “It happened yesterday. I think taking off the bracelet and then nearly electrocuting myself did it,” she said wryly.

The others nodded in understanding.

“That’s great!” Maria said enthusiastically.

Liz nodded and gave her a genuine smile.

Hungry after the stressful day before and her long sleep, she prepared a large plate of crepes piled high with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and marionberries. She grabbed a spoon and put a huge dollop of cream on top. Next, she filled the remaining space with a large serving of eggs.

Max, Maria, and Tess stared at her in disbelief. How their slender friend was going to eat all that was beyond them; the serving was monstrous!

“What?” she said defensively, looking down at her plate and then back up them. “I’m hungry! And I’m taking this outside to enjoy the sunshine.”

She briskly walked past them to the sliding door and went out to the porch to join Isabel and Alex. They turned to her, welcoming her with wide smiles. She sat down on the picnic bench across the table from them.

“Good morning,” she greeted them. “Good coffee, Alex,” she complimented and immediately dug in.

Not even five minutes later, Max followed her outside. Liz firmly ignored his entrance and he threw Isabel an insistent look. Fortunately, Liz’s eyes were glued to her plate and she didn’t notice as Isabel rolled her eyes and hastily seized Alex’s hand.

“We’ll talk to you later, Liz. Alex and I have to…umm…” she trailed off uncertainly and Alex rescued her.

“We need to go into town to pick up a few things,” Alex jumped in. “Would you like anything?”

“No,” she said belligerently, quickly realizing that the two were abandoning her so Max could speak to her alone.

“Alright then,” Alex said jauntily, but he gave Max a hard look.

“See you!” Isabel called cheerily over her shoulder as the couple hightailed their way back into the house.

Max sat down on the recently vacated bench and looked at Liz, who was single-mindedly working her way through her breakfast. His thought had been to just wait until she was done chewing him out or at least let her yell herself hoarse at him. Then he would try to talk to her and explain. But the plan went awry as she continued to simply ignore him.

She probably wouldn’t even notice if I were to light himself on fire, he thought caustically.

“Liz…” he started.

She looked up at him, dark eyes wide and guileless, and he was immediately lost. All the words vanished from his mind as he drowned in the deep velvet pools she called eyes.

“I.. umm… I just… wanted… Liz, well…”

She waited patiently, face expressionless, but her eyes were darkly amused.

Finally, he pulled himself together and tried again. “Liz, I just wanted to apologize to you. When I healed you… I never meant invade your privacy.”

She cocked her head and smiled derisively. It wasn’t that she didn’t like him… in fact, she was almost uncomfortable with how much she did like him. Just looking at him gave made her stomach flutter. But to have him know all that had happened. It frightened and worried her… and that made her angry.

“Really!” he defended.

Once started, he couldn’t stop. It wasn’t eloquent, but it was truly heartfelt.

"Normally, I don’t have to make a full, deep connection to heal non-fatal wounds, but it’s easier,” he explained. “It was just that… well, I wanted to make that kind of connection with you. I wanted to feel it… to make sure that you were OK with what I was doing,” he said earnestly.

“Please, Liz, you have to believe me. No one else has ever had anything like that happen! I don’t really even know how it happened, except that I think it was because I made that connection… and… well, I don’t know!

“I got pulled in so fast; I didn’t even know what was happening! When I realized what was going on, I tried to get out. I did!” he justified. “Really I did, but the images were flying by so fast. I’ve never had that happen before!

“I mean, even when I’ve made a full connection to heal, I’ve never seen anything from Michael or Isabel or…”

Now that deserved a response and she interrupted him forcefully. “And exactly when did you need to connect to deeply to heal Michael?” she demanded, concern for her brother overriding her need to make Max squirm.

Oops. “Oh, it was nothing, no big deal,” he said offhandedly and avoided her eyes as she gazed skeptically for a few moments.

“And what did you see?” she asked warily, her face pale and tense.

“I didn’t fully understand much of anything,” he admitted and she breathed a small sigh of relief. “The images flew by so quickly, some of them… it was almost as if they were only pictures, like in a photo album,” he continued and then paused.

The next was difficult for him to express. He focused at a point slightly above her head, unable to look at her face, and tried to compose himself. “But… but in some of them… I saw you, Liz. Someone was hurting you,” he said softly, eyes shining with unshed tears.

She blanched, her brown eyes huge and panicked, and she moved as if to get up from the table.

“No, wait, Liz!” he cried, looking back at her and grasping at her hand. She grimaced at the touch and pulled her hand away.

“Don’t touch me!” she hissed, but as much as she was upset with him for knowing, she was angrier with herself for letting it happen in the first place.

“I would never hurt you, Liz. You know that. I know you do,” he said solemnly, but held his hands up as if in surrender. “I just want to help you.”

She squared her shoulders and stood up, glaring down at him. But already the anger and fear were leaking away. Her temper had always been quick, just like Michael’s, but for her, the storms never lasted very long at all. And of course he was right. She did know…

As she had mentioned to Michael, some things were still fuzzy, but not Max. She remembered Max.

How he had been so kind to her when she and Michael first came to Roswell. They’d both been so nervous, even terrified, to meet the other aliens.

How cautious he had been when they had been trying to learn about their powers. How he had always been so gentle with her, never pushing when she had memories of their past. Even when they had all so desperately wanted to discover their history.

How he had given her a personal tour of the high school the weekend before classes started so that she wouldn’t get lost on the large campus.

She remembered that he had defended her when Michael was hollering at her that day. The day she had helped that boy when he jumped from the roof. And then when Michael finally stalked off, he had held her tenderly in his arms while she cried…

She remembered that he had given her a quick, sweet kiss that same night under the stars, her very first kiss from a boy. Even if it had only been on her cheek… And even though she had been so young and unsure of herself…

“Liz… please,” he pleaded, his amber eyes mournful. She sighed and admitting defeat, sat back down. She put elbows on the table and propped up her chin in her hands. “Liz, trust me, can’t you?” he asked.

She didn’t say anything and avoided his eyes.

“We were pretty close, remember? You were only thirteen, but you remember how close we were, don’t you? I would never hurt you. I lo… care about you,” Max stumbled over the words. He didn’t want to scare her off. “Come on, Liz, look at me. You have to know that.”

She nodded slowly, but still didn’t look at him.

“Liz,” he said quietly, comfortingly. “You can tell me anything, you know. I won’t be shocked… or… or angry. Or anything. I’ll understand, I promise. Whatever happened, nothing was your fault. None of it.”

“Max,” she whispered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But if it would help…” he suggested carefully.

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” she repeated, her voice forlorn.

It was tearing him up knowing that she’d been hurt and that she was now too scared or too troubled to tell him about it. The girl he had loved, even before he knew her… the girl he’d loved in two lifetimes, had been tortured, at the very least. His quick glimpses of her time in that hellhole had surely not been complete. And he hadn’t done a thing to stop it.

He was the only one who really had an inkling of exactly how horrible it had been in there for her and she wouldn’t even talk to him about it. He wanted so badly for her to tell him! When she did, then he could reassure her that it would never happen again, that he would protect her until death, and that she was safe now. But before he could comfort her about the horrors she had lived through, he had to know the truth.

You want, you want… he chided himself. What about what she wants?

“And so we won’t,” he agreed. Alright. If that’s what she wants, then for now I’ll accept that. “Not now,” he clarified, letting her know that they would discuss it when she was ready.

Sensing she had almost entirely lost the good mood she had woken up in, Max changed the subject. “Would you like the full tour?” he asked, gesturing grandly.

“I think you’ve done enough, Maxwell,” Michael seethed, having caught the last couple minutes of their conversation and noticing his sister’s miserable expression. Maria was hot on his heels, with Tess close behind.

His hair was wet and slicked back from the shower; he hadn’t bothered to dry it before rushing downstairs to find Liz. When he had seen that Max was awake, he had been worried that he would start interrogating her, in that smooth way he was so good at, so that you never even noticed he was questioning you. That Max would drag the truth out of her before even Michael knew.

I’m her brother, he thought restlessly. Max shouldn’t even be talking to her, yet! She isn’t ready to have him confess undying love and all that forever crap. And I don’t want him to say anything to her that will upset her. Michael knew he was being absurd, but he could barely keep a calm thought in his head. Liz should be talking to me about these things. Not Max!

Liz rubbed her forehead tiredly, she’d only been up for an hour, but this day was obviously going to be a long one. She gave Michael a dogged smile. “It’s OK, Michael. We were just talking,” she said quietly.

“Sure,” he said agreeably to Liz, but glared furiously at Max, who gave as good as he got.

“Good morning, Michael,” Max said, voice friendly, but firm. “I had suggested that we take a tour of the place. Care to join us?” he challenged and reached across the table to take Liz’s hand again.

This time, she felt a small spark inside at his touch and she tensed a little at the unexpected feeling, but didn’t take her hand away. Her eyes widened in surprise and she looked at him searchingly for some kind of explanation, only to find him staring right back at her in confusion, but he also seemed pleased. It felt kind of nice actually, warm and tingly. The corners of her mouth turned up a little as she started to smile at him.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Michael said, interrupting the moment.

He had only noticed that she had stiffened at Max’s touch, not the slow smile that had then graced her lovely face. He grasped her other hand and pulled her away from Max and to his side.

“Why don’t you take the lead, your majesty?” he sneered at Max.

Max glared back. “Of course, wouldn’t want you to get lost, now would we? Come on, Liz,” he said quietly and then started to move back to the house.

Liz looked pleadingly over at Maria and Tess, who both nodded understandingly.

“Alright, enough already,” Maria exclaimed, shaking her head in disgust.

Tess bobbed her head in agreement and looked reprovingly at the two young men. “We’ll give the tour,” she said.

Liz smiled at them gratefully and gently extricated herself from Michael’s protective custody. “I appreciate the offer, guys, but maybe it’s better if Maria and Tess give the tour,” she said, embarrassed at the male bravado. She smiled a little, though, to soften her refusal.

They’re somehow thinking that I really am that scared little girl in the tunnels, she realized. But down there in the dark, that may have been me, but it wasn’t all of me. I was missing the part that made me Liz.

Maybe they’ve even forgotten what I was like before, at least a little… I was never all that timid, just cautious and maybe occasionally shy. But I certainly never needed anyone to make up my mind for me!

And not only that
, she considered, a bit annoyed, but I truly am different than I was before, when I left them… I’ve been through a lot. Plus, she thought grinning a little, they’re going to have to get used to the fact that I’m eighteen years old now. I’m not a child.

They’re going to have to get used to me all over again. And so am I
, she thought with some surprise.

I love Michael with all my heart, she thought, glancing at him tenderly. And maybe Max, too, she thought considering the strong connection that seemed to be forming with him. But I’m not a child anymore. And I’m certainly not going to let them fight over me like a dog toy.

She turned to the other girls and the three flounced back into the house, leaving two frustrated young men staring after them.

I’ve had more than enough of people making me do things I don’t want to do. No more, was Liz’s final determined thought.

-End Chapter 10-

[ edited 4 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:21:33 PM ]
posted on 9-Nov-2002 3:06:56 PM by Finn
Sharon: I'm happy that you're happy and I'm glad I posted it soon enough for you (how'd the tests go?). I can't imagine why in a Spanish class, you'd be writing Spanish papers... what'll they think of next? *tongue* Actually, I took 4 years in high school and a year in college, before switching to German (which was a lot easier, IMHO). Languages are tough. And I'm glad you're enjoying their relationships. I've been worried that I haven't been realistic enough with some of the characters (I mean, yeah, it is a fanfic, but I don't want to be off on some crazy tangent). I'm ready to get some more action too, so it's tough for me to write some of the, gosh, I don't want to say filler 'cause that's not it, but you know what I mean? Hmm, I'm still deciding about alien mythos, but I'm leaning towards... Well, I guess you'll see later, huh? And hey, it's Saturday, normally I post on Sunday, so I'm EARLY!!!

Oh, I've been out at a new client the last two weeks and walking through the halls, someone's name was Renate. Which then reminded me of the name Renata (which I think I've read in a book somewhere, can't for the life of me remember). I wanted something pretty and unique, hoping no one else has used it! I was thinking about Raven (very pretty name), but knew that had definitely been used.

BelevnDreamsToo: Come on, sure you have imagination! Looks like you're in the west, everyone has imagination out here!

Erin: I've never met anyone named Rainy, but I'm from Oregon, so know what she's talking about. Although, honestly it's kind of a myth that we have that much rain. Seattle even gets more, it's just that it is a contstand, light drizzle. I love it, though! And no, I'm not giving away plot points (my goodness), although, I'm not really sure I DID know the plot any better when I asked. But I think I do now... (hah, hah!)

Hey, and I've got a banner now!!! Jen (BorderInsanity) worked with me to make one and also I got a bMail that Talena did one as well. And since they're both very lovely and I like them both for different reasons, I'm gonna post them both (whoo hoo!!!). So go take a look at them to admire the spectacular banners and then, if you feel like it *happy*, come back and read chapter 11!

Again thanks so much to BorderInsanity and Talena, you rock!!

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 9-Nov-2002 3:22:34 PM ]
posted on 9-Nov-2002 3:08:23 PM by Finn
-Chapter 11: The Fight and the Tour-

“Michael, what is your problem?” Max fumed as soon as Liz was out of range.

Glaring at his friend in fury, Michael raked his hands through his wet hair, drying it instantly. “The problem, Maxwell,” he explained tightly, “is you moving in on my sister! My, God, she’s only known who she is for a day!”

Max gaped at him. What in the heck does Michael think I’m going to do? Drag her off somewhere to have my wicked way with her? “Michael…” he started placating, putting out his hands in a calming gesture.

“Don’t start with me! She’s been through hell and you need to back off. She’s my sister,” Michael repeated, frustrated that Max wasn’t getting it.

“I know that!” Max exclaimed.

“Well, then you also know that I mean it, Max,” Michael continued threateningly.

“You know what else, Michael? I have a sister, too,” Max responded heatedly. “As long as Alex treats her right, I’ve no problem with it. In fact, I’m happy she has someone who cares about her, someone who loves her.”

“Yeah, well your sister has been pretty much safe and sound for the past six years, hasn’t she? She didn’t have pieces of metal sticking into her arm or have blood samples taken or have scientists monitoring her every breath. She hasn’t been forced to do God knows what!”

“I know!” Max shouted. “And I wouldn’t do anything to hurt her, Michael. You know how much I care about her. You’re being completely ridiculous! No way are you going to keep me from seeing Liz, or talking to her. You’re her brother, not her father.”

“No dice, Max,” Michael said firmly and poked a finger into Max’s chest. “You back off and that’s final. You may be the king and everything, but we’re on Earth and she’s my family. You’re going to respect that. This isn’t gonna happen.”

“That would be her decision to make, don’t you think? Michael, I didn’t even do anything, I was just talking to her! What about Alex, or Isabel and Tess? Can they talk to Liz? Or is that not allowed in your twisted scheme of protection?”

“It’s obviously not that twisted, huh? I should’ve taken her away before,” he muttered. “If we’d done what I wanted to do all those years ago, none of this would ever have happened. Did you ever think of that?” Michael yelled.

Max cringed. Yes, of course I’ve thought about that, he thought unhappily. For every second of every day for closing in on six years now.

He knew that Michael had always felt guilty about Liz’s disappearance. Hell, he’d been nearly impossible to live with for the last several years. Only Maria had really been able to put up with Michael and his horrible moods for any length of time. And that only because he was so much more pleasant to her than anyone else.

But Michael doesn’t have to feel guilty, Max thought painfully. I think I probably have that market cornered.

Because he was the leader. He was “the man,” as Alex often put it. It was his responsibility to make the decisions to protect them all, despite what Michael said about his role as the warrior and defender.

And so as the leader, it had ultimately been his judgment to remain in Roswell. He had naively thought that no one had noticed the kid’s strange fall from the roof. And if they had, it was unlikely that they would have thought Liz had anything to do with it. I mean, really, why would anyone have thought her anything but a normal, concerned passerby?

Roswell had felt so safe, so comforting, and it had been home for so long. No one except Michael had ever really wanted to leave.

But less than a month passed and he found out how wrong he was about being safe and happy in Roswell. And now he knew exactly what it had cost Liz… and there was probably even more that he hadn’t seen. Maybe Michael was right, at least for now. Maybe he should stay away from Liz.

But his heart lurched at the thought and he shook his head vigorously. No, he cared about her too much to let Michael keep him from her. And Liz… she was his partner, his soulmate. So what that he’d never come out and told her. She’d never said anything about it to him either. It was simply there. They were fated. And now he wanted to be close to her again.

“It’s not like you guys were all hot and heavy or anything,” Michael continued after the long silence, a scowl on his handsome face. “Sure, she probably had a crush on you, but she was just a kid. What if she doesn’t want you now, stud?

“She wasn’t too pleased with you yesterday,” he added, twisting the knife, “and I have to say, she didn’t look all that thrilled to see you this morning, either. I’ll keep her safe. She belongs with her family.”

Oh, so that’s the problem, Max thought, finally understanding what had set Michael off. “I’m not trying to take her away from you, Michael. I could never do that,” Max said calmly.

“That’s not what this is about,” Michael responded, but the flicker in his eyes told Max he’d hit a nerve. “We don’t even know what’s happened to her, Max, and Maria said… well, she said that…”

“I know, Michael,” Max said quietly and put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“What? What do you know, Max? What did you see?” he asked forcefully, shaking off Max’s hand and staring at him intently. “Tell me,” he ordered.

Yesterday Max would only say that he had seen things when he healed her. Michael hadn’t pushed him for answers; he’d been too concerned about Liz’s immediate well-being and had rushed her upstairs. But Maria had been so upset after changing Liz into her nightgown… the scars she had seen! And then talking to Liz, herself…. she’d been so reluctant to say anything about what had happened. Michael was desperate to know what had happened to his little sister.

“What I saw… It… it was…” Max started. “Michael, I don’t know if I should tell you. Liz was pretty angry that I knew,” he said haltingly.

Michael gave him a fierce look, but his voice betrayed his very real distress. “Max, you have to tell me. I need to know what happened. Please.”

Max knew how difficult it was for Michael to ask for something. He looked briefly up at the house where Liz was having her ‘tour’ and then down at the ground as he considered, while Michael waited anxiously. Max didn’t want to betray Liz’s trust. She was going to be pretty pissed if she found out that he had told Michael about what Max, himself, wasn’t even supposed to have seen. It was a betrayal of her trust.

On the other hand, he knew that even if she didn’t realize it now, she needed to be able to talk about what she had been through. It was the only way she could heal. And he knew that even though she shouldn’t, Liz felt ashamed about what had happened, as if she had let herself and the rest of them down in some way. She had to understand that it wasn’t her fault. He and Michael could help her do that.

The bottom line was that her welfare came first. Even if she found out and hated him for it. He sighed.

Michael waited with bated breath, knowing that Max had decided to tell him. Max looked up at him and then moved over to the table to sit down. Michael quickly sat across from him, staring at him expectantly.

Max sighed again and swallowed hard. He didn’t really want to tell Michael about it anymore than Liz wanted it known. This was not going to be pleasant.

“It was like I was seeing it from the day she was taken, but I didn’t see how it happened,” he started awkwardly. “I just got a flash of her when she first arrived, I never saw how she got there. It wasn’t good, Michael,” Max said sorrowfully, his amber eyes terrible with knowledge.

“She was so frightened and watching it, it seemed so unfair. She looked so small and helpless, all alone with all these big, faceless men standing all around her. But she wasn’t, though,” he said with a grim smile, proud that she had fought back.

“She tossed a couple of the guys around like rag dolls, smashed them into the wall. But pretty soon she was all tapped out. Some coward came up behind her and slapped that bracelet on. That’s when she lost her memory,” he explained bleakly.

Michael nodded in understanding, but his fists were clamped together underneath the table, fingernails digging into his palms as he forced himself to listen to what Max had to say.

“Then I saw this scientist come in and talk to her. There were no sounds really, but it felt like he was talking to her, threatening her. Then… then he examined her…” he said despairingly, trying to will the image from his mind: of his Liz being subjected to such rough treatment.

“He told her that she was important to their research, but that she was dangerous. They told her she was alien… that they were going to use her! And then calmly went on to explain that she was a threat and a danger!” he cried furiously. “Then, when at some point she did something they didn’t like, they whipped her and told her it was her own fault!”

”What!?” Michael yelled and nearly tipped over the table as he leapt to his feet. “That was what Maria saw? Those… those scars were from a whip?” he asked steadily, but his blood was boiling. And there was no one here to beat to a bloody pulp! Well, Max was here, but Liz probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

“Yes,” Max said evenly, jaw clenched tightly. “That’s where they came from.”

“Maxwell, we are going to track down every single one of these people,” Michael stated calmly, voice cold and detached as he paced. “Even the lab rats. And we are going to blast them to oblivion. I, personally, am going to make sure that we destroy every…”

“Michael,” Max interrupted softly, eyes shining with his own quiet rage. He agreed with Michael, but that wasn’t all there was to tell. Michael stopped ranting and looked at Max. “There’s more.”

Michael sat down, his eyes fierce and dark. As Max had before, he swallowed hard. “Then you’d better tell me.”

“You know how Liz said they took blood samples? Well, that wasn’t all… they took all kinds of samples, skin, bone… and I could feel it, Michael. It was just a shadow of her pain, but it was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like.

“But then… I saw her happy,” he added, glad that at least there had been some ray of light for Liz. “ At least for a moment. There was a little boy, she played with him, showed him a picture book. But she was so scared for him that… I think… they must have used the other people in the compound… their continued good health as incentive for her to cooperate.

Michael’s back was aching from sitting so still and tense, listening to Max tell him about the nightmare that had been his sister’s life for almost six years. He forced himself to remain quiet and listen, when all he wanted to do was pound his fist into something, anything, to express his fury at the world.

“The last thing I saw, before she threw me out, was this man… he was huge, dark hair. He had her on the wall, there were… there were shackles…” Max forced out. “He hurt her, Michael. Badly… I could tell she was absolutely terrified, but trying to be strong. I couldn’t see what happened… she tossed me out of her mind… but I’m so worried… Michael, I’m afraid of how he might have hurt her,” Max whispered agonizingly.

“Like he could have…” Michael asked, face white with anger.

Max nodded, face tight. “I don’t know for sure… but I think that was why she got so upset… why she pushed me away right at that moment. She might have been able to tell what was coming up… I think she pushed me out… so that I wouldn’t see…” he trailed off uncertainly.

Michael looked at him steadily. “Max, we don’t know if any of those people survived… those people that took her and hurt her. They could be looking for her. We have to go back.”

“You’re right, but we can’t do it now,” Max responded, and drummed his fingers on the table, thinking. “We have to help Liz now and we probably shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves. And as much as we want to, and I really want to, you know that she would kill us if we ran off half-cocked,” he said shaking his head.

“Soon, though,” he added coldly, “soon enough we’ll deal with anyone who’s left and had anything to do with this.”

Michael couldn’t begin to process everything that had happened in the last two days. It was unbelievable. And now, to know that Liz had been hurt so much… and that she was still hurting.

“Max, I don’t know how to help her,” Michael admitted softly, troubled that he didn’t know how to deal with this or make this better for Liz. All he knew to do, all he was good for, was finding anyone who had touched her and ripping them limb from limb.

“Together,” Max said. “We help her together. She’ll need both of us.”

That would mean Max would have to see Liz; he would have to talk to her. Probably often. Maybe even alone. Not Michael’s first choice. But, if it would help her… if it would help his sister…

Defeated, he nodded morosely.

* * * * *

Maria and Tess began their thorough tour of the large house upstairs. They explained that Alex and Kyle, and Max and Michael shared bedrooms, each with their own bath. Maria and Tess shared as well, with Isabel and now Liz in the two remaining singles. After taking a quick peek in each of the rooms, the three girls stood at the top of the master staircase.

“Maria and I drew the master suite and Isabel drew the other single. We didn’t cheat, though, swear!” Tess giggled.

“And we all decided, it was unanimous, to have a room ready for you,” Maria said. “Isabel, Tess and I decorated it, but we can change it to whatever you want.”

“We knew you’d be back,” Tess added softly. “We just wanted it to be nice for you.”

Smiling, Liz slowly took their hands and held back tears at their kindness.

Maria was a little startled by the touch. Although she had obviously become comfortable with Michael, Liz had been so reticent of physical contact with anyone else that Maria had been nervous to get too close to her. She gave Liz’s cold hand a little squeeze.

“So, basically, the top floor is all living quarters. Now downstairs,” she continued and pulled lightly on Liz’s hand, leading her down to the main floor. “Library, study, family room,” she said, pointing to the left as they reached the bottom.

“If you want to use the computer in the study, ask Alex to show you how the infernal thing works. He’s done so much stuff to it that we think it might be alive. He actually has full-blown conversations with the thing,” she confided.

“The living room, which you’ve seen, dining room, and kitchen are here,” she added. She then led Liz through the kitchen and back outside onto the porch.

“As you can see over there,” Maria gestured to the far side of the house, “there’s a huge hill. Well, that actually didn’t even exist until we came here. That’s where the jet is. Langley put this whole thing together for us. Those tunnels that you were in are really meant to be an escape route.

“We have the jet for the same reason, although, we’ve kinda turned it into a ‘Mystery Mobile.’ You know, tracking down clues. There’s also a gym and stuff down there, but since it’s not directly connected to the hangar, you probably never even saw it.”

“Plus, we really do have a lot of land here, pretty much just for privacy. We don’t actually use it, though, but we have done some trailblazing through the woods.”

“Isabel, Max and Kyle use them the most,” Tess interjected. “For running.”

“So obviously we have a pool and a hot tub,” Maria added, pointing. “Isabel’s garden is over there,” she gestured to the side of the house opposite the ‘hill,’ where Liz could see a brick wall and decorative wrought-iron fence.

She led Liz around the side of the house past he garden and to the front. “There are a couple of cars. The big truck is Kyle’s,” Maria said.

“No surprise there, I’m sure,” Tess whispered conspiratorially to Liz, who smiled.

“Michael has the bike, there’s also Max and Isabel’s jeep, it was from their folks, and Tess and I share the little convertible. You can borrow it anytime,” Maria offered and Tess nodded her head in agreement.

“Wow,” Liz said in awe. “You guys have come a long way since I’ve been gone,” she added a little sadly.

“Maybe,” Tess said and patted her arm, “but it wasn’t the same… it would never have been right until we were all home.”

“It’s going to be so great, now,” Maria said excitedly, conveniently pushing aside her doubts about Liz’s past, wanting to focus on the present. “We’re all together again!”

Liz forced herself to smile at her friends, but couldn’t suppress a pang of uneasiness.

-End Chapter 11-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:37:49 PM ]
posted on 14-Nov-2002 10:37:27 PM by Finn
Hey, guys, just amazing how early I am this week, huh? Well, don't expect another this weekend; I just had to work really hard to get one out this week. I have a friend coming down from Seattle for the weekend and I'm thinking that after he goes on Sunday, I won't be in any shape to be writing fanfic!

Enjoy!

Melissa: Yes it was pretty bad. I've always kind of been a fan of the put them in a bad situation, then kick 'em while they're down, and then let 'em come back for revenge sort of thing (only in fiction, of course!). I'm sorta following that now.

Erin: I'll NEVER talk! LOL. Well, I've never been to Arizona, but I really want to go (gotta see the London bridge*happy*, it's there right?). You know, I don't talk out loud to my computer unless I'm angry, but I did name him! I didn't really think their cars were all that cool, I mean there're 8 of 'em and only 4 vehicles. Oh, and just FYI, don't count on seeing any of the human subjects again, I hadn't planned on it.

Sharon: Glad you're so excited (are you always so easily entertained *happy*). And no, you're right, stories don't work w/o the "filler", but I like writing the action more, it's so much easier. Heck and it's definitely less than a week (although now you'll have to wait more than a week for the next one!).


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Nov-2002 10:43:30 PM ]
posted on 14-Nov-2002 10:38:48 PM by Finn
-Chapter 12: Powers-

After lunch, Liz politely excused herself, wanting a chance to explore and think without the others. When both Max and Michael moved as if to follow, she rolled her eyes and asked if she couldn’t please just have some time to herself. Max was a little hurt but couldn’t deny her anything, and Michael, who understood, merely nodded. She knew they were probably still close by, keeping an eye on her, but appreciated that they left her on her own.

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully as she explored the house and grounds, Liam following faithfully behind her, until after a while, she sat silently on the bench in the garden, completely unaware that Max had spent the previous morning in the same spot.

Her thoughts had been running in circles for hours. Trying to piece together the rest of her shattered memories was slow going and she still couldn’t remember what had happened that fateful day.

She finally came to the conclusion that she was trying too hard; she’d only had her memories back since yesterday! The rest of it would probably come to her unawares. If she just stopped worrying at it, the past would come back. She only hoped she could handle it when it did.

Sighing in frustration, Liz turned her keen mind to a more stimulating problem. I have to start working on my powers. I will be a strong part of the team, she thought determinedly. I want to be a protector, like I was meant to be! Not someone everyone felt like they had to take care of.

Realizing that she wasn’t interested in playing with him for a while, Liam had run off to chase something in the woods. That left Liz completely alone, so she was comfortable that she wouldn’t harm anyone if she practiced a little. Looking around the enclosed garden, her eyes lit up as she spotted a small, terra cotta pot filled with yellow flowers.

Deliberately, she put out her right hand, remembering that it was easier to guide the energy that way, and let loose a small stream of power, intending to lift the pot slowly into the air.

Her efforts wouldn’t have been visible to anyone else, but she could see the bright blue energy, the hallmark of Michael’s and her abilities, wrap all the way around the pot. It shifted a little on the soil and then carefully rose several feet off the ground to float in midair.

It’s a start! she thought, pleased with herself and grinning widely. Sure, this is baby stuff, but I can feel the rest of my power, right there, ready for me. And boy, is there a lot of it!

I just need control first.


Biting her lip in concentration, she swept her arm gradually to the right and the pot followed her motions. Then she began to raise and lower it several times, all very slowly and with care.

Next, she turned it upside down to see if she could keep the soil and flowers in the pot while at the same time keeping it up in the air. She smiled again at her accomplishment when the contents of the pot remained safely inside, despite the pull of gravity. Liz thought for a moment, then righted the pot and laughing gleefully, she began to spin it in the air like a top.

But before she could attempt anything more, the blue energy surrounding the pot began to swirl angrily and became a much darker sapphire, shot through with jagged black. Not panicking yet, but nervous at the change she hadn’t intended, she started to set the container back down on the ground so she could figure out how to slowly contain the power.

As it came within a few inches of the ground, Liz started to breath a sigh of relief, when it suddenly exploded, sending shards of the orange pot hurtling in all directions. She shrieked and covered her face with her arms. A few pieces flew past her and she hissed as a small one sliced shallowly into her arm, tracing a thin line of pain.

But as soon as it started, it was all over and the blue energy sizzled into nothing. She was still able to feel all that energy inside of her, but, for no reason she could understand, it was again under her control.

She shouted in frustration, jumping up and stamping her foot in fury. She’d been doing so well, and then blam! She lost it! “This is unbelievable! Argh!”

“Liz!” Max shouted in worry, rushing in through the garden gates. “Are you OK?” He stopped so suddenly upon seeing her that Michael almost bowled him over as he came in right behind Max.

“Argh!” she shouted again impotently. “This… this…” She was so angry that she could hardly speak. Instead, she gestured wrathfully at the remains of the clay pot.

“Liz?” Max asked again hesitantly, not sure what she was getting at.

Michael looked at her oddly, relieved that she seemed to be perfectly fine even if she was extremely pissed off. He could feel some of her frustration and anger, but not all of it because obviously, she was absolutely livid. It used to be that when either of them was feeling high emotions that the other would feel the brunt of it, too. It was just this weird thing they had.

The other siblings didn’t have it, not even Max and Isabel who were twins. Before, he and Liz had always figured it was something to do with being the protectors of the royals. It would certainly have been helpful if either of them were to get into trouble guarding their charges. Just another thing to add to the list of things to ask Liz, he thought, shaking his head.

But just what the heck was she doing out here? he wondered curiously, taking a quick look around. He looked more closely at the pieces of pottery scattered around the area. Guessing what had happened and finally understanding what had set her off, he sniggered. She turned on him immediately, giving him her best glare.

“It’s not funny, Michael!” she shouted, furious that he was laughing at her. She stalked towards him to hit him on the arm. Hard. “This is ridiculous!”

At that, he started to laugh in earnest, hands on his knees as he tried to support himself as his entire body shook.

“Michael!” Liz yelled again; she looked ready to punch him. “Knock it off! This isn’t… it isn’t… funny!” she got out before she realized how crazy she must sound. Then she, too, succumbed to a fit of giggles.

“OK,” she gasped when she could catch a breath. “OK, maybe it is,” she wheezed before she lost it again and began to laugh uncontrollably, holding on to Michael for support.

Max looked back and forth between the two of them, completely bewildered. “What is going on?”

It wasn’t until several minutes later that the siblings were finally able to calm down enough to explain why she had gotten so upset.

“I don’t get it,” Max complained. So she had destroyed one of Isabel’s potted plants. So what? OK, so it was kind of silly, but he still didn’t understand and it was maddening. He sighed. Maybe it was a brother-sister thing.

“It’s OK,” Liz sympathized, going over to him and patting him on the arm. “Michael’s just a complete idiot,” she explained earnestly, with a quick wink at her brother, who just snorted in amusement.

“But in all seriousness, Max, Michael,” she continued, brown eyes solemn, “the point is that I don’t want you all to feel you have to protect me.”

“We don’t think that!” Max exclaimed unconvincingly. “Well, maybe just a little,” he backtracked guiltily.

“Sure, Max,” she responded, rolling her eyes, but blushing a little at his protectiveness. “Even so,” she added, looking seriously at the both of them, “you can’t be with me all the time.”

Michael stared back at her mulishly. And just why not? he thought to himself.

“I want… no I need to be in control of this. I have to be a part of this team. And I can take care of myself,” she said stubbornly.

The two young men exchanged a glance. Now this was something they could both get behind. Of course, in the ‘plan of action’ they had hastily concocted that afternoon (Max had even written up a list), the first thing had been to make Liz feel safe and comfortable with her family and new surroundings, which meant not pushing too hard. What Liz was suggesting had been far down on that list, but it was there. And if she wanted to start, it was probably a good idea.

Max thought working with Liz on her powers was perfect. Not that we’re ever going to let her be on the front lines of any battles, he thought, shivering a little at the possibility. I plan on her never needing to use her powers to protect herself again. No matter that she and Michael were supposed to have been the ‘protectors.’ But the more Max thought about it, he hoped that if she felt strong and empowered by being in control of her powers, it would help her to let down the walls she had built.

Michael agreed. He wanted to immediately start working on her powers, as much from the standpoint that she needed to be able to defend herself as for any emotional benefits. As she had grown into an adult, so too had her abilities grown to full strength and Michael figured that was why she’d been unable to handle them. Maybe she’d gone so long without using them of her own volition that she didn’t know how to fully control them.

“Tomorrow,” Max said decisively and smiled over at her, eyes sparkling. “How ‘bout we start tomorrow?”

Liz swallowed hard, entranced by his amber eyes. Any residual anger she might have felt towards him had completely disappeared. “OK,” she said huskily and looked shyly down at her shoes.

Max reached for her hand and like before, the two immediately felt the connection, a silent hum that traveled from one to the other.

Liz sighed happily. This is all going to work out, now.

And… she thought, looking up through lowered lashes at the tall, handsome man who stood beside her. And oh God, I think I’m falling for him… again. And now I’m old enough to do something about it. Maybe…

Hand in hand, the two started back towards the house. Noticing that Michael wasn’t following, she looked back over her shoulder. He was standing still, watching Max distrustfully.

“Coming?” she asked innocently, entirely unaware of the suspicious thoughts running through his mind.

“Yeah,” he muttered. Crap, I’m gonna lose her already.

* * * * *

The plan was well received be the others as well. No one wanted a repeat of the destruction in the living room and hoped that it would make Liz feel more at home if they could share this with her. It was late morning by the time everyone was awake and fed, and all eight aliens congregated in the living room.

Liz was last, standing in the hallway and nervously shifting from one foot to the other, but eager to start working on her skills. Finally she took a deep breath and entered the room, chin held high, but when she saw how bare the room now looked she stared down at the floor, shamefaced. Maria and Tess had done their best to clean up the debris, but it was obvious that a good portion of the room’s items had been totally destroyed.

She turned to Max to apologize, but he wouldn’t let her and instead just led her over to the couch. As they sat down, he gently grasped her hand and gave it a light squeeze. Michael hurriedly moved to sit on her other side, not quite ready to hand his sister off, even if it was to his best friend.

“It’s OK, Liz,” Max said casually. “We didn’t lose anything important. Actually, you got rid of a few things I thought were pretty ugly,” he added with a grimace.

“Hey!” Isabel protested, primly sitting down and frowning at her brother. She had been the primary decorator for the room! When Max ignored her comment, Alex stifled a laugh and patted her supportively on the shoulder.

Sensing that Liz was eager to get started, Max began as soon as everyone was settled and comfortable. “As you probably remember, we can all do a few things, like molecular manipulation, but we also have our own unique powers and some that seem to run in the family,” he added. “And we can all see the others’ energies. Like mine and Isabel’s is bright green.”

“Maybe we should discuss each of our own powers,” Maria suggested. “I think most of us have become more powerful since you’ve been away, Liz.”

They’d started to call the period when she’d been missing the ‘time that she was gone’ or ‘since she left’ or sometimes ‘since she’d been away,’ instead of calling it the ‘time when she got herself stupidly kidnapped.’ To her mind, it was just semantics, but it was a distinction she appreciated nonetheless.

From the middle of the couch where she was sandwiched between Michael and Max, Liz nodded emphatically at Maria’s proposal. She was curious to find out how much her friends had changed and whether their protector, Langley, had been of any help in guiding the development of their alien powers.

“I’m the oldest, so I’ll go first,” Alex said pompously, but his soft blue eyes twinkled. “I can emit electronic pulses from my hands. They can disrupt pretty much any electrical system, but aren’t all that powerful for mass destruction,” he said, sighing loudly and throwing up his hands at his imagined inadequacy. Isabel swatted him playfully. “Also, with only a little work, I can understand any technology, from computers to airplanes.”

“I can do the pulse thing, too,” Kyle interjected. Holding his hands out in front of him, palms facing each other, thin sparks spread from his fingertips and he produced a pale red ball of electricity. “Mine’s a little more powerful,” he added modestly, “but it’s not as easy to control for things like…” he paused and then intoned, as if repeating something he’d been told many times, “‘upsetting delicate systems.’”

“Hey, you think it’s easy?” Alex asked with a raised eyebrow.

Kyle just shrugged and discharged the small ball of red-tinged electricity at Alex’s head, making his older brother’s dark hair stand on end. “Show-off,” Alex muttered, as he hastily patted down his newly spiked hair.

“Plus, I can sense people and things around me,” Kyle continued blithely. “What do you call it, Tess?” he asked, turning to her.

“Hyperacuity,” she supplied readily. “Exceptionally acute sensory awareness.”

“Yeah, that. Useful for sports,” he added, ducking his head endearingly. “I remember the time when…” he began to reminisce.

“I can mind-warp,” Tess said, quickly preempting any extended storytelling on Kyle’s part. “Which basically means I can make people see, hear and even feel things that aren’t there. It works best on humans, though. I’m also telepathic; I can read almost everyone at some level, but some people are easier and some are harder to connect with. I’m not sure why,” she concluded.

Maria jumped in next. “I can astral project,” she said excitedly, “but only to places I’ve been before or know a lot about. Spoken languages are pretty easy for me to pick up, both understanding and speaking…sometimes reading, as well.”

“Isabel and I can both sense people’s auras,” Max said, glancing at his sister. “Langley told us it was an ability that ran in the royal family, something to do with being able to determine the trustworthiness of those who surrounded us at court.”

He turned to look at Liz. “As you know, I’m able to heal just about anything physical. But I can’t heal things that are part of life’s normal progression, like age and even some illnesses. And also, I can produce a shield that will either absorb or reflect back whatever’s thrown at it.”

He nodded at Isabel and she jumped in obligingly. “I’m also empathic and can dreamwalk. But I’ve gotten much better since you left,” she added quickly, with a slight blush. “It only happens now when I mean to!”

Well, as long as she stays out of my head, Liz thought wryly. She remembered with a small smile the time that Isabel interrupted one of Alex’s more private and very personal dreams. Catching a glimpse of her grin, Alex reddened and turned away in embarrassment.

“You and I can both blast things to oblivion and are strong telekinetics,” Michael said seriously, ticking them off on his fingers. “Also, I have a shield like Max’s, but mine deflects attacks; they just slide around me.

“And you… well sometimes you see things when you touch people or inanimate objects, sometimes you get a sense of them, as if you knew them, or like…” he stopped, frustrated and looked at her. “It’s hard to explain.”

“It doesn’t matter, Michael. I know what I can do,” she said, rolling her eyes and patting him on the arm. “Actually, I remember all of this stuff. Now! I just don’t remember you guys having such good control of your powers,” she said in surprise and with a hint of jealousy.

“Langley was of some help, there,” Alex explained. “And we’ll certainly pass on his wisdom. Since our powers are all alien in origin and he’s a full-blooded alien, he was able to give us some help,” he added grinning.

Liz nodded in understanding. “So when do we start?” she asked breathlessly.

-End Chapter 12-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:33:52 PM ]
posted on 24-Nov-2002 1:36:22 AM by Finn
Sharon: Michael is learning (dense as he can be) that Liz is an adult now, but it's rough going! I like to hear what people like and what they're looking forward to, so as always, thanks for the feedback!

Erin: Oops, of course I want to see the Grand Canyon! I do think the London Bridge is in Arizona... IIRC, someone bought the actual bridge and had it shipped, stone by stone, and reassembled. Maybe it's not Arizona, though, but it's somewhere in the US. I have actually named each successive computer Simeon (eh, I don't like to change the name, so just stuck with it), after a character in a book I read a long time ago.

Oh, you guys BTW alright, I freely admit that I know absolutely nothing about planes, so pretend this is like a super-duper alien enhanced jet! OK? OK.

posted on 24-Nov-2002 1:37:52 AM by Finn
-Chapter 13: Opening Up-

The next several weeks were busy.

Max and Michael became her primary instructors as Liz worked hard to gain control over her wayward abilities. The two took turns practicing with her, but occasionally Kyle and Maria would join them since they also had more active powers.

But despite becoming more settled every day, anytime someone tried to ask her questions about what had happened to her, she shut down completely. It wasn’t that she was short with anyone if they tried to question her, she just gently steered the conversation elsewhere. But no one pressed her for answers, as Max had made it clear that anyone who did would answer to him. Any other subject was fair game, though, and almost as if she had never been away, she quickly became an integral part of the family again.

* * * * *

“So, when do I get to fly this baby?” Liz asked as she sat in the jet and peered out into the hangar. She put her hands experimentally on the controls and pushed them forward, sending the plane into an imaginary tailspin. “Mayday, mayday!” she shouted.

“How about the twelfth of never,” Michael said in exasperation and gently pulled her hands away, “if you’re planning on killing us all off!”

“Poor baby,” he crooned to the plane under his breath and patted the controls.

Liz rolled her eyes. “So how does Maria feel about your other woman?” she retorted.

“Huh?”

“The plane, dimwit.”

“Hey, don’t start with me ‘cause I can totally take you. Little sister.”

“I’m no so little!” she said indignantly. “It’s just that you’re a freak of nature,” she said impishly. “In sooo many ways!”

“Lizzie, you don’t want to mess with me,” he warned playfully and reached for her.

She tried to squirm away from him, but his long arms caught her easily, fingers quickly finding her sides. She shrieked as he tickled her mercilessly. She struggled to take off the harness that strapped her to the seat, but it was hopeless as she was laughing too hard to unfasten it.

“I surrender!” she laughed, tears streaming down her face. “Come on, Michael, I surrender!”

“You got that right,” Michael commented infuriatingly, letting her go and throwing himself back into his seat. “You know, you shouldn’t even try, you’ll never win.”

“Just you wait. Someday, when you least expect it…” she said, a mischievous look in her eyes.

“You’ll do what? Pull my hair?” he asked with a smirk and reached over to tug on a lock of her long, dark hair.

She turned away and bit her lip. “Oooh, I swear I’m gonna get him,” she muttered under her breath. “When I know I won’t blow him up with my powers, I am so gonna get him.”

“What was that, dear heart?”

“Oh, nothing, brother o’mine,” she said sweetly and turned back to look at him innocently, wide-eyed and smiling.

Crap. I know that look… His mouth twitched and he looked sideways at her. She’s planning on putting something wet and squishy in my bed. And soon!

“Alright, alright,” he said, trying to distract her from her very obvious plotting. “So Alex and Langley put this thing together and it doesn’t really require a whole lot of effort on our part,” he started.

After an hour of explaining and showing her the different instruments on the control panel, he thought that she was ready to see the plane in action. He went to the back of the craft to grab a soda and when he came back, he saw that she’d been totally oblivious at his getting up.

“Liz? Where are you?” he called softly.

No answer.

“Liz!”

“What?” she gasped. “Oh, Michael…” she said in relief.

“What were you thinking?” he prodded.

“I was just remembering when I first came here. You know, in the plane. Did I ever tell you where I hid?” She turned sideways in the seat, pulled her knees up to her chin and pointed towards the back of the plane. “I was in that little closet back there.”

“You told me,” he said, his voice rough, but soft.

“Oh. Well, it’s pretty tiny,” she said. “Kind of smelly, too, actually,” she added and wrinkled her nose at the memory.

“Well, it’s not really meant for people,” he informed her.

“You’re kidding, right?” she asked, aghast. “I mean, wow! All this time, I thought that’s what those little rooms were for! Geez… You’re actually telling me that I’ve gone my whole life not knowing that…”

“Liz, enough already.”

“Hmmph.” She giggled.

“What’s so funny?” Michael demanded, but he was pleased at her obvious amusement.

“This. Us,” she said, waving her hand between the two of them. “I’ve missed this,” she said wistfully, tilting her head to rest against the back of the chair.

“I have, too,” he said quietly and smiled at her.

She grinned back.

Michael leaned back in his chair and cleared his throat. Maybe she’s ready, he thought broodingly. Maybe she’s ready to tell me now.

Liz frowned at him when he cleared his throat for a second time. She suddenly realized he was working his way up to asking her something… and that he was meaning to go somewhere she wasn’t ready to go.

Oh, Michael, not now, she thought dejectedly.

He ignored the obvious pleading that had entered her eyes and spoke as gently as he could. “When are you going to talk to me, Liz?”

“When am I going to talk to you?” she echoed. “What do you mean, Michael? I mean, we’re talking right now, aren’t we?” she asked brightly.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Just don’t, Liz.”

“Michael…”

“Don’t act like there’s nothing we should be talking about, Liz!” he burst out. “You know what I mean!”

“What?” she cried.

He gaped at her. “What do you mean ‘what?’” he asked incredulously. “I know that Max saw something when he healed you. Something you maybe didn’t want him to see. I know it wasn’t nice in there…”

He paused, his hazel eyes dark and searching. “Lizzie, did someone… did someone t… touch you?” he stuttered.

She blanched. “Michael, people touched me practically everyday,” she said with forced lightness, purposefully misunderstanding him. “I told you that they took blood samples and stuff.”

“I have to know what happened, Lizzie. You have to tell me what happened! You’re my sister for God’s sake!”

“You don’t have to know anything!” she responded heatedly. “And I don’t have to do anything! Where do you get off ordering me around?”

“I’m not ordering you around! I just want to help you. I love you,” he yelled at her and then caught himself. “I’m worried, Liz.”

“Well you don’t have to be, you know. I’m fine. I’m fine! And you don’t know! You can’t know! Maybe it was really all sweetness and light in there,” she said, mocking him, a twisted parody of a smile on her face. “For all you know, one of those scientists was like a father figure to me! Maybe I was seeing one of the guards!”

“Liz…” he objected in disbelief, shocked that she could actually be sarcastic about this.

“Well, you know what, you’re right! It wasn’t like that, but it is what it is! It’s over! And it’s MY life, which is none of your business!”

”It is my business! You’re my family, Liz!”

“I know!” she yelled. “I know,” she repeated, voice lower.

As angry as she could get with him (and they were both so hardheaded that she felt that way often), she had always promised herself that it would never get to the point where they said things that would be irreparable. Like something that might either of them feel badly about their relationship in any way… They could get angry, but they would always be brother and sister. Always close.

For so long they’d been everything to each other. He’d been the only person she had. She refused to put that in jeopardy.

“But I can’t share this with you, Michael. It shouldn’t be shared…”

“Why, Liz? I don’t understand why!” he questioned, voice anguished. “There’s obviously something!”

“I don’t know, Michael! I know you guys want to ask me, and here you are railing at me, but I don’t know! I just know that…” she broke off and her eyes filled at his expression of betrayal. I’m not going to let him see me cry!

“Liz, I…”

“Michael,” she interrupted quickly, “I love you to death, but… but I’m not going to talk about it. Not with you… just not now,” she said, her voice wavering. She spun on her heels and rushed out of the plane.

He bowed his head miserably and didn’t see as she sprinted tearfully across the hanger towards the door and up to the house. She spent the rest of the day in her room, wondering if maybe she were wrong.

* * * * *

Initially, it had been Michael and Maria who made her feel the most comfortable and so she’d spent a lot of time with them. But after her spat with Michael, much to his dismay and her delight, she and Max also began to hang out quite a bit. But while watching Michael turn purple amused her to no end, that wasn’t the only reason she enjoyed Max’s company.

It started when the two took to running together in the mornings. Max had been rather surprised at her ability to keep up with him on the trails until she explained to him about her training runs through the tunnels. They were able to talk as they ran and having completely gotten over her anger with him, Liz discovered that even if neither of them said anything, she really enjoyed simply being around him.

As before when she hadn’t even known who she was, it was Max who was best at getting her to talk about the things she didn’t really want to discuss. He never pressed her, though; as much as he wanted her to open up about things and not knowing was driving him crazy, he was very patient and quiet. He did his absolute best to let her set the pace. At times, though, it took all his strength not to beg for answers about what he’d seen in her mind that day.

Ever since her argument with Michael, she’d felt a little bruised, somehow. As if all her fears were somehow closer to the surface. Max had noticed the change, too.

Sometimes, when they sat together on the grass after a run, she would stare off into space, a pensive look on her face, and he knew she was remembering. It was during one of those times that he finally worked up the courage to ask her one of the many questions that had been plaguing him for weeks. He looked over at Liz nervously and seeing that her eyes were unfocused and she wasn’t paying him any attention, he called to her softly.

“Liz?” he asked cautiously.

“Hmm…”

“Do… do they hurt when you run?”

“Does what hurt?”

“The… the scars. On your back,” he said, voice thick.

“Oh, no. I don’t even feel them anymore,” she responded distractedly.

“You know…” he swallowed, “you know I can heal them, Liz,” he offered quietly.

Suddenly, she realized what he had asked her. And that she had actually responded! Liz turned her head to look at him, dark eyes wide with surprise but otherwise unreadable.

“How did you find out about the… about that?” she asked with a small sigh. At least he hadn’t asked something harder. Yet…

“Maria saw,” he told her gently. “She saw that very first night.”

“Oh,” she said softly.

Maria never could keep her big mouth shut, she thought crossly.

And then Michael surely knows, too, she thought with an inward groan. She was surprised, but incredibly relieved that her brother hadn’t confronted her about it the other day when they’d argued. She probably would have fallen apart right then and there.

“I’d like that, Max,” she finally answered. “But… but not right now, OK?” she added quickly, when he reached towards her. She really did trust Max, but was leery to attempt another go at healing.

“Of course, whatever you want,” he answered, only a trace of unhappiness in his voice. Even though he desperately wanted to heal her, Max was clearly delighted that she hadn’t turned him down outright after what had happened the last time.

They were both silent for a moment as Liz waited uneasily for his next question. “How did it happen?” he ventured.

She took a deep breath, knowing that he wasn’t inquiring to simply satisfy a morbid curiosity, but out of honest concern and caring. It was just the way he was built.

It was Max…

“Well, it happened not long after I got there,” she began haltingly. “In the beginning, I was just so scared that I did whatever they wanted. But after a few weeks, when nothing really horrible happened, the fear kind of wore off and turned into anger. Then, when they wouldn’t tell me anything, I got pretty mad and became a lot less cooperative, which I guess didn’t please them much.

“And…” Max prompted uneasily when she stopped.

“So I was punished,” she finished, explaining it to him simply and unemotionally.

She tried to never let herself think about it… about any of it… she worried that she might not ever be able to pull herself back together if she let it out. And most of her waking hours she was fine. But even though she knew that she was safe and away from that place, she still woke up sweating almost every night, jaw clenched tight to stifle the screams that would have brought everyone rushing into her room.

“Oh, Liz,” he whispered, horrified, and reached over to take her in his arms for the first time in over five years.

As always when someone other than Michael touched her, she stiffened at first. But this is Max, she reminded herself. After a moment, she relaxed, leaning into his warm embrace. His chest was broad and muscular, his arms strong, but tender. A little like Michael in fact, but it somehow it felt very, very different.

To her, Michael’s power felt as if it were just under the surface, barely contained by his skin. She concluded that she and Michael, so very much alike, were like a beam of energy: powerful, focused, and occasionally explosive.

When she and Michael touched, it was only sometimes that the bond emerged, and they hadn’t even begun to explore the possibilities, both of them adamantly opposed to messing with their combined abilities until she had at least some semblance of control. But if by chance it happened anyway, it was as if their dazzling sapphire energies crashed together in order to form something different. Something better, stronger…

With Max it was different. One day she was feeling particularly imaginative and had decided that Max felt kind of like a river, all that power and strength hidden just below the surface. Deep and strong and smooth, he took others along with him. Calmly. Effortlessly.

Ever since the metal bracelet was removed, anytime that Max touched her, they both felt that same odd connection spring to life. If Max looked with his mind instead of his eyes, he could see their auras, blending together, then apart, then together again, like the ebb and flow of the ocean tide. Liz saw it differently with her powers, to her it was like her bright blue powers melded and flowed with Max’s own green energy, as if they didn’t match, but complemented each other.

That wasn’t the only difference, though, because while the hug was infinitely comforting to both of them, as Max meant for it to be, it definitely was not brotherly.

“How, Liz?” he asked miserably, shaking her from her reverie. Even though intellectually, he knew what had caused it and even though he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know exactly how… he couldn’t keep from asking.

“I don’t know who actually did it, but it was a whip…” she said hesitantly, not wanting to say too much.

“Only three times, Max,” she added hurriedly when he clenched her tighter to him, as if to protect her. But he couldn’t, no one could… it was too late for that. “And Dr. Essex, he was the lead in that compound, explained to me afterwards.

“He reminded me that he’d warned me,” she continued quietly, “and he had.”

“Warned you?” Max exploded loudly. She jumped a little in his arms and realizing that he had startled her with his shout, he stroked her arm gently. Sure, he was completely infuriated, but not with her. “That psycho was a monster! What kind of person would do that? Don’t you ever think that you were to blame for that, Liz. Any of it!”

“But, Max, I…”

“No, Liz!” he said vehemently. “Those people… and I can hardly even call them that,” he hissed. “They were evil, Liz. Anyone who could hurt someone as wonderful as you, someone so caring and beautiful… I can’t even understand how…”

“It’s OK, Max, it’s over now,” she said, looking down at her hands clenched whitely in her lap, her voice tremulous.

Her eyes were beginning to fill and her throat felt tight as she remembered the stark fear when she had seen them bring in the leather whip… the pain as it sliced across her back…

No, Liz, she commanded herself. It’s in the past, it’s over now, don’t think about it.

“No, it’s not OK, Liz,” Max cried, his voice breaking. “What they did was not OK! You deserve to be loved and cared for and never, ever hurt!”

She hunched her shoulders a little and bit her lip as she tried to shove the memories away.

“Liz?” Max asked anxiously as he felt her slender frame tremble a little in his arms.

She shuddered violently as the memories she had tried to put out of her mind began to resurface in the face of Max’s rage.

The two faceless men who had held out her arms as she kneeled on the floor… her heart pounding loudly as she waited, not knowing what was going to happen… abject terror as another man walked into the room with a whip in his hands… her panicked and futile struggles to get away… the pain as the leather bit through her shirt and ripped open the skin of her back… Dr. Essex, putting a finger under her chin to force her to look at him as she hung limply between the two men… calmly explaining that this was just a warning and that she had better become more cooperative… his form becoming hazy as she lost consciousness…

Max felt a few of her hot tears fall onto his arm as they spilled over. He pulled her closer, so that she was almost in his lap and wrapped his arms tightly around her as she shook.

“You’re safe, now, Liz…” he whispered as she began to sob uncontrollably in his arms. “You’re safe, and everything’s going to be better now. I promise, Liz…”

Even though Max had actually seen some of what happened, he had held out hope that the reality would somehow be less horrible. He was heartbroken at hearing the truth. He continued murmuring soothing words to her and stroking her silky dark hair, and several minutes later, her sobs began to taper off.

But he was feeling so guilty at thinking how wonderful it was to be touching her. She had been in horrible pain! In fact, she was still in pain, but here he was thinking how great she smelled and how soft her hair was. He shook his head to clear it. Get your mind out of the gutter, Evans.

Finally she was down to only a few staggered hiccups, and without the gut wrenching sobs, she was able to speak again. “Max,” she said tearfully, “It wasn’t just me! They… they hurt the others who were there, too… hic… and it was all my fault! Because of me,” she wailed.

“No, Liz,” he said compassionately, “it wasn’t your fault. None of it was your fault.” And the people who are responsible, he thought grimly, they are going to pay for everything that you went through. But not wanting to upset her any more, he somehow hid his tremendous anger at what had happened from her.

“I hated it there... hic… I hated it so much, but I couldn’t get away. And they hurt them… and I couldn’t… hic… couldn’t help them… and I couldn’t get away...”

“I know, sweetheart, but none of it was your fault. Not what happened to the others and not what happened to you.

Liz rested silently in his arms, trying to calm down. After several minutes, she pulled away a little to look up at him and her eyes widened in surprise at his tear-stained face.

“You’re crying,” she said in wonder. Touching his cheek softly, she gently wiped away a tear. “Why are you crying?” she whispered in confusion.

“Because you hurt,” he said plainly and pulled her back to his chest, tucking her head under his chin. “You’re with us now, Liz. You’re safe and I won’t let it happen again,” he swore.

There was more that needed to be said, by each of them, but he knew that she’d had enough for now. So he just gave her a gentle kiss on the top of her head and rocked her in his arms, continuing to hold her close.

It was at this moment that she realized the truth. As much as she adored Michael... he was her brother, family. There was no question in her mind of how much she loved him, would do anything to keep him safe and she knew he felt the same. As much as she loved all of them… it was when she was with Max that she felt the most at peace.

It wasn’t necessarily the actual words he spoke, but more how he spoke to her. And it showed even more in the things he didn’t say. His concern about anything that might have an impact on her, how he made a point to always ask her what she thought, what she wanted. It amazed her that Max was always so careful with her, his fingers feather light even if he just brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face.

Of course, being treated like a fragile piece of glass might get tedious very quickly, she thought with a sigh.

And yet still, despite the fact that she knew Max, Michael and the others would do practically anything to keep her safe… there was this nagging feeling in the back of her mind. As if there were something out there, waiting… But try as she might, she couldn’t see through the dark, formless cloud that surrounded it.

“Don’t make promises you might not be able to keep, Max,” she said softly.

-End Chapter 13-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:38:06 PM ]
posted on 1-Dec-2002 6:54:51 PM by Finn
Oh, please don't kill me! Putting aside a 6-hour drive, I had a spectacular holiday: fun, family, eating (great!), games, shopping (holy cow, I bought an X-Box!!), and saw HP2 (loved it!). But... since I had such a wonderful time, that means I had no time left to really do any writing.

Sorry 'bout that! But I promise next weekend. This wasn't a real weekend anyway, right? Can I get a free pass this time?
k!
Plus, I appreciate all the feedback, my head just may explode! You guys rock!!!

*happy* *happy* *happy*


posted on 8-Dec-2002 6:52:20 PM by Finn
Here is my really frustrating and annoying, but oh so true story of why I do not have a part this weekend. So I get home from work on Friday (late of course, since I didn't want to work this weekend) and realize that my garage has a huge puddle. My water heater has sprung a leak.

It's too late to do anything about it at this point, so I get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, spend the entire morning shopping for a new one and trying to find someone who can install the same day. Luckily I do, so it's finally installed and working that evening at around 7pm. Sad, but true I go to bed around 8:30pm that yesterday.

Get up this morning early and have spent the whole day cleaning up the mess left over from my little flood. Ugh, talk about gross, but at least nothing was ruined. Here I am at 4pm on Sunday with no weekend to speak of.

So I'm boring y'all. Surely there's worse things, but it has kept me too busy to write (although obviously I had enough to write this whiny note).

Good news is that I'm going to try to sneak time from work this week to write. Cross your fingers!

posted on 14-Dec-2002 5:48:31 PM by Finn
Well, since you guys have been so patient (not!) and since I’ve been feeling guilty (true!) here are TWO WHOLE PARTS for you. No trick, either, both are full-size ones. Let me know what you think of them or if I’m missing something you’re desperate to see!

And Sharon! Happy belated birthday!!! I'm so sorry I didn't read your note earlier, I would have tried harder to post the first part when I finished in. I was just on such a roll and thought I'd put 'em both up at one. Pretend like I felt so bad about not wishing you a happy birthday on time that I did two parts!

You guys are absolutely the best readers ever. I don't deserve you! Keep letting me know what you think, though. Who knows, if you mention it, it just might happen!!!

Here we go:

roswellluver - you're welcome *wink*

aZNroSweLl anglgrl - Well, it wasn't exactly soon, but I think that I'm doing pretty well with getting out the
parts (well, in general)!

Elc - Glad you liked it, here's some more.

Angel99 - You're welcome ;) and thanks for the FB.

BelevnDreamsToo - Yep, she's talking but she's not been completely forthright as we know... Good to hear from you!

Sharon - Again, happy birthday! Thanks for all the bumping, too, even when I've been bad (shame on me!) for the last couple of weeks. I'm glad you're enjoying the M/L stuff, it's been the hardest stuff for me. And yes, she has been feeling guilty about all of the situation, but she's heading towards a better understanding of the fact that it's not. How'd finals go? Hopefully I'm not posting too late for you!

frenchkiss70 - Nope, not brotherly with our boy Max! I guess you'll have to see what happens next, huh? *happy*

PhoenixFlamez - It's coming a little bit more, but she's started down that road...

Gal - Thanks for the FB! I'm glad you liked the

Michael/Liz sibling relationship. I just figured they'd be the types that would be close, but have that kind of teasing older brother/younger sister relationship. It's fun to write, too. And yes, M/L... what'll happen next *wink*

Cass of the Netherworlds - Glad you liked that last part (so many days ago!). There is no scary over-enthusiasm in my book... it just gives me a big head! Thanks for the FB about the two main relationships (Mi/L and M/L), it's something that I worry about, you know if I'm doing it right.

TeanHoney - Appreciate the FB, thanks for reading!

Assilem_1 - You missed two parts, huh? Well, shame on you *happy* Glad you liked them once you found them, though! Aah, sweet revenge... give me a little time, OK? And this is fiction, any kind of vengeance is OK here! Shoes dropping...

ConsultantTam - I'm happy you found it again. Langley, I haven't decided yet... Maybe, maybe not.

Erin - Oh, I don't know that much about AZ, but I remember reading that somewhere. My unsuccessive
computers, huh. I've only had two in my lifetime (plus my work one). Corvette, huh? That would be fun!! As always, thanks so much for the feedback, I always appreciate your thoughts!

Nova - Glad you're liking it *happy*. Bye bye!

ps_dreamer - Yes, total creeps. It's good to know that you were holding your breath (not literally, I hope!) 'cause I was trying to make it exciting! Glad you liked the Antar info, thinking I may eventually write that story.

LilEvEe - Thanks for writing back! Keep reading and let me know what you think.

TeddyBehrJKT - Woohoo! A new stalker! I feel so loved. And I totally understand you wanting the break from RL, that's why I decided to write this in the first place. I'm glad you like my characterization. As I mentioned above, that's what I'm most concerned about with my writing, so it's good to hear what you think. Mi/L aren’t so bad, but the M/L is much tougher for me because I feel like people expect a lot out of that relationship. So you don't think I'm putting the others too much on the backburner? I don't really have as much invested in them and am mostly focusing on Liz, Max and Michael w/some Maria obviously thrown in. But I did want to have everyone in there a bit.

behrstars - Here you go, better late than never!

pookie76 - Thanks for the FB. I do worry about you guys because I feel guilty... But I will absolutely keep writing this story. I love you guys. You keep reading!

stargrl768 - New parts! Let me know if you like them.

Lissa - Here they are. Finally!

Mariiska - Appreciate the bumping. Thanks *happy*

Allie1031 - Glad you found the story and that you're enjoying it!

LolitaBehrbuns - Yeah, the flood sucked. I've finally got some new stuff though!

StardustDreamer - Thanks for the bump! Keep reading!

Aussie_Dreamer - Well, we can't interrupt Dark Angel *wink*. Unfortunately we don't get that anymore :( Let me know what you think of the new parts, OK?


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Dec-2002 6:15:27 PM ]
posted on 14-Dec-2002 5:49:44 PM by Finn
-Chapter 14: Max-

Liz approached Michael a few days later. Even though he felt a little hurt when she told him that she’d spoken with Max earlier, he was visibly relieved when she explained that she was ready to talk to him as well.

As with Max, it was only with extreme difficulty she told Michael. Even though it wasn’t the most horrible thing that happened to her in the compound, it was the only the second time she’d spoken about it with anyone and it still left her shaky.

Feeling angry and helpless, Michael held her and comforted her the best that he could. It wasn’t what he’d expected, though; he’d thought she had told Max about everything but that clearly wasn’t the case. Liz said nothing of the man Max had mentioned seeing in her mind, the one who had terrified her so badly. And it worried him.

When he had asked Max about it, his friend just shrugged, eyes sad and a little bit tired, and said that when she was ready, she’d talk about it. While it didn’t make things any easier for Michael, he was perversely comforted by the fact that Max seemed as miserable at being kept in the dark as he was.

Unfortunately, even though Liz had begun to open up to Max and then to Michael as well, even after several weeks her powers still weren’t cooperating. Each time they had what Max decided to call a ‘practice session,’ she seemed to blow something up or lose control completely.

Max was becoming incredibly proficient at throwing up his shield at a moment’s notice. He had to use the skill at least once every session so that neither Liz nor anyone else would be hurt while she brought her powers back in check. It happened so often that she had, in disgust, quickly begun thinking of them as an outlet for total devastation as opposed to practice.

“Liz, we’ve tried everything I can think of!” Max said, frustrated not with her, but with his failure to help her. “We’ve got to figure out why your powers are so uncontrollable!”

“I know,” she whispered, her confidence shattered. “I know, but I don’t understand it, either.” She looked with wide eyes around the meadow in which she, Michael, and Max were practicing.

Having overcome his frustration and the sting that she hadn’t talked to him first and that even now she was keeping things from him, Michael had resigned himself to worrying in agonized silence. He’d also decided to join them on all of their practice sessions, wanting to be there for Liz.

Now, Michael whistled loudly as he, too, took in the scene before him.

The area looked as if it had been hit by a small tornado. Fully matured trees and large bushes were pulled up from the soil and lay haphazardly on the ground. Leaves, heavy branches and rocks were heaped in tall piles, making a large, uneven circle around the three aliens. Her control was getting worse and worse; Liz had done all this less than ten minutes into the session.

“Maybe we should take a break,” Max suggested wearily, walking behind Liz to lightly rub her shoulders.

“Yes,” Michael added simply. He could see that the lack of improvement was taking its toll on his sister.

“But… but…” Liz protested weakly, wanting to keep trying. She looked over at Michael and then tilted her head back to look at Max. Noting their discouraged expressions, she decided it was just pointless to keep working today and sighed loudly.

“You’re right,” she groaned dispiritedly.

Gently, she shook off Max’s hands and began to pace dejectedly, unable to understand why even the simplest things were giving her so much trouble. After a few moments, though, a stray thought floated through her mind and she had an exciting idea.

If only they’ll go for it, she considered. I may have to resort to some underhanded tactics, she thought deviously. I know they’re just trying to protect me, but for goodness’ sake!

Taking a deep breath and talking quickly, she exclaimed in a rush, “Let’s really take a break, you guys, let’s go out this evening! I’m ready… honest! We could go to a movie, maybe. Or something else?” she asked imploringly.

Michael and Max cried out at the same time.

“No way!”

“Absolutely not!”

“But this isn’t working, Michael,” she said, turning pleading eyes to his. “I need a real break. We all do! Come on… please, Michael,” she asked, opening her eyes wide and grasping his hand. “You guys can’t keep me away from civilization forever. And I’m ready now… please.”

Michael turned towards Max eyes begging for help. Max hid a grin.

“Liz,” he started placating.

“Oh, come on, Max,” she wheedled, leaving her brother to stand in front of Max. “It’s not just me, either. Everyone’s getting antsy. Please?” she pouted and putting her arms around his waist, she turned her dark doe brown eyes up to his.

Oh, geez, those big, pretty eyes are going to be the death of me! Max thought with an inward groan.

She continued looking back and forth between Max and Michael, begging the two protective young men to let everyone have some fun.

Actually, as part of their ‘top secret plotting,’ the two had already discussed how long Liz was going to allow them to keep her cooped up. They weren’t stupid; they knew her too well to think that she was going to let them boss her around forever. So they had thought to hold her off as long as possible. But now it looked like their time was up.

As long as I never let her out of my sight, Max thought nervously, everything will be fine. She’ll be safe. We don’t know why they only took her, he worried, but it isn’t going to happen again.

Hell, Liz doesn’t even go the bathroom alone! he decided resolutely.

Max hoped fervently that she never found out about his and Michael’s ‘secret meetings,’ because he knew she wouldn’t be happy about it. He glanced at her brother over the top of her head. Michael’s eyes were tense, but he nodded resignedly.

Liz knew they were communicating over her head and ordinarily, she would have been angry enough to call them on it. In this situation, though, she figured that meant they were seriously considering her suggestion and just continued clinging to Max’s waist.

So with a shrug, Max nodded. “Alright,” he gave in. “But,” he added warningly, “we’re not doing anything crazy.”

“Yes!” she shrieked in triumph. Giving up all pretenses now that she had gotten her way, she jumped away from Max and pumped her arm in the air. “You can’t take it back now!” she cried and ran back towards the house to find Maria, Tess and Isabel.

Max gawked after her. But Michael, realizing how well she’d just played them, only laughed.

* * * * *

The best that Liz and the other girls could talk the guys into was a movie. Although she griped that everyone was being ridiculous and overprotective, Liz was really very pleased; she hadn’t expected to be able to talk them into going out so easily.

On the other hand, although she would never have admitted it to anyone else, she was also incredibly relieved that Max had immediately vetoed Isabel’s suggestion of a dance club. Liz wasn’t sure she was up to either the loud music or a big crowd.

But despite her protests, she was still stuck between Max and Michael for almost the entire evening. They stood in front and behind her in the ticket line, put her in the middle of their group in the theater. They two young men even followed her to the bathroom, waiting outside and glaring menacingly at anyone who passed by, while Maria went inside with her.

When the evening was over, after looking askance at Max, Kyle and Tess had decided to take a walk alone together before heading back to Kyle’s truck. They would meet the others back at the house.

Alex chivalrously held out his arm and asked Isabel to join him for a walk as well. Even with Max giving him the evil eye, he stepped forward to give Liz a quick peck on the cheek. When he moved to give Maria a kiss, too, she just teasingly backed away in horror. Realizing that Michael wasn’t likely to leave Max alone with Liz, she tossed Alex the keys to the convertible so the two lovebirds could drive back whenever they were ready.

Maria was right. Even though Michael had become somewhat tolerant of the possibility that Liz and Max might become something more to each other than just friends, he still wasn’t about to leave Liz alone with only Max to defend her. So he and Maria started the walk back to Max’s Jeep with the two of them.

Liz felt terrible about Michael sticking so close when obviously he and Maria hadn’t had a whole lot of ‘alone time’ in the last several weeks. So on the long trek back to the cars, she winked at Maria and hung back a ways, with Max staying close by her side. When Michael noticed she wasn’t next to him, he slowed to look worriedly over his shoulder at her, but she shooed him away.

"Make time with your girl!" she mouthed silently to him, raising an eyebrow. When he gave her a bewildered look, she cocked her head and puckered her lips playfully, miming her suggestion.

Michael didn’t really want to leave Liz in back, but Max was right next to her and Maria had been a bit testy lately at his lack of attention. Disgruntled at his sister’s interference in his love life, he shrugged and slung an arm over Maria’s slim shoulder. She sighed happily and snuggled close under his arm, wrapping her arm around his waist. He looked back again at Liz for her approval. Laughing softly to herself, she gave him a quick thumbs up.

“That was sweet, Liz,” Max said and touched her shoulder tentatively, worried she wasn’t ready for him to pull her close again.

She tilted her head to look up at him, smiling, and then back down at the ground. “Poor Michael and Maria,” she said. “It’s about time that they have a little fun. Maybe tonight will help him to loosen up a little. So they can kiss and make up,” she added with a giggle. Then she frowned and shook her head. “He’s been neglecting her lately because of me.”

“It’s only because he loves you,” Max said. “You know that.”

Geez, now I’m defending Michael? The guy who’s been trying to sabotage me? Trying to keep me from getting closer to Liz? he thought, amused at himself. It’s tough being the good guy.

“Oh, I know,” she said with a sigh, “and I adore him! But it hasn’t been fair to Maria. And you know, it hasn’t even been fair to Michael. Plus, it’s tough to breathe with the two of you standing over me all the time. I can handle one a little better.” She grinned to let him know she was joking and swatted him playfully.

Max quickly caught her hand in his and gave it a quick squeeze. He let go only to put his arm over her shoulder, as Michael had with Maria. But Liz didn’t tense up this time. She silently rested her head against him and slipped an arm around his slim hips.

“You know, Liz…” Max said quietly, ”I love you, too.”

“Well, sure, it’s so great that we’re all that close,” she said, shrugging and nervously put her free hand in her pocket. “I know there are lots of people in the world who don’t have such close family like we do.”

He couldn’t possibly mean that he loves me… that he loves me… could he? she wondered. Could Max be in love with me? She sighed wistfully.

“No, Liz,” he said and took a deep breath. “I’m in love with you,” he declared.

She stopped walking and turned to look up at him. Her dark chocolate eyes were wide with shock, but also shining with hope. “Max!” she gasped. Does he really mean it?

“You don’t have to say anything right away, Liz, or even at all,” he reassured her softly, but a there was a gleam of hurt in his eyes as he misinterpreted her look to be shock and dismay. “But I wanted you to know.”

“Oh but, Max, I…” she started quickly and took one of his hands in her smaller ones.

“Please let me finish,” he interrupted her, smiling gently, and cupped her face with his free hand. “I may never get up the courage for this again! I don’t want to scare you, Liz, I just want to tell you. Please?” he pleaded and let his arm drop to his side.

She nodded silently, but held on to his hand.

“Ever since I can remember,” he began musingly, “I’ve always known there was someone for me. I don’t know how I knew, I just felt it. And at first, I didn’t know who... I just knew that she wasn’t with me. But then, when you and Michael first came to Roswell, all it took was one look and I knew. I knew that it was you. You were the one I was meant to be with.

Liz gasped a little at this revelation, but Max continued.

“Did I ever tell you what I thought when I first saw you? When you and Michael first came up to us that day? You were eight years old and I was eleven. Even though you were the one who had dragged him to Roswell, you were so shy and hung back, while he stood in front and glowered at us. Even then I knew you were perfect… kind, bright, funny. I’d loved you before that moment, without even knowing you, but I fell in love with right then and there."

Max clutched at her hands in his, willing her to believe in him and to love him back, hoping that she wasn’t frightened by how he felt for her. She gave no hints, but only gazed at his face, looking from his eyes, to his mouth when he spoke, and then back to his eyes, as if weighing the truth in his words.

“Those five years were magic, Liz, even the rough times, but so fast. And I was so excited you were starting high school with us. We might have classes together, maybe we could even go to dances together….

“But then… then…” he choked up. “When you were gone, when we couldn’t find you. I… I…” he shook his head and blinked away tears. “But that’s not what I wanted to tell you,” he whispered hoarsely and shook his head.

She smiled crookedly and shook her head, letting him know it was alright. Seeing it, he looked at her gratefully and cracked a small smile.

“When you came back, it was like a miracle. But I was so worried… that you’d hate us… that you’d hate me. But you didn’t. And even when you were mad at me, it wasn’t for long. You were still so sweet and caring and smart.

“And you’d become so heartbreakingly beautiful, Liz,” he said softly, touching her delicate face hesitantly, awestruck by the lovely dark angel in front of him. “I didn’t even know how to talk to you.

“And it didn’t matter how long you’d been gone, I would have loved you forever… I’ll always be in love with you. And I just hope that someday, you might feel the same for me,” he said and ducked his head in embarrassment at what had turned out to be quite the speech.

“You don’t have to say anything, but I wanted you to know… that I love you,” he finished hopefully, his golden eyes vulnerable.

“You didn’t have to say all that, Max,” Liz said, wonder in her voice.

“I wanted to, Liz,” he told her quietly.

“But there’s a reason that you didn’t have to,” she explained, looking up at him through lowered lashes. “Because, well because I’m in love with you, too,” she whispered shyly.

Max’x face lit up in joy and it took him only a moment to grasp her around the waist and swing her around joyfully. She giggled as he set her down.

Everything’s coming together…

“Max… all those things you said. It’s the same for me,” she said softly and looked up into his amazing eyes. Oh God, I have to explain to him how I feel, she thought. It took so much for him to say those things out loud without being sure of how I felt. I want for him to know...

“I always felt that way about you. Even a few months ago, when I didn’t really know you. Even with my memory gone, I was drawn to you. I think you were why I first came out to talk to Maria that day…” she said bashfully. “I was so afraid that you’d never come back to see me. I talked to her because… because I wanted to see you again.”

His grin was so wide, she thought his face might crack, as he pulled her tight against him again. She sighed happily against his chest.

He’s so sweet and so wonderful, she thought blissfully. And not that I can tell him, she smiled against his chest, guys probably don’t like to hear that they’re beautiful, but it’s true… So tall, that dark thick hair, those high wide cheekbones, oh those lovely golden eyes… so strong and athletic… She sighed.

And I’ve noticed that he’s filled out quite nicely in the last several years, she thought appreciatively.

Max pushed her away a little to face him and bent to kiss her. She stood tensely as he leant forward and touched her lips with his own. She trembled in his arms, eyes wide open and wary. The first time she’d ever been kissed on the lips had been a traumatic, terrible experience and was followed by an even worse violation. But she loved and trusted Max. His lips were soft and gentle, not at all demanding or cruel…

Very, very nice.

She closed her eyes and experimentally, opened her mouth a little to let Max in. His eyes flew open, he hadn’t thought she would be ready for that; he’d just wanted to kiss her! But he certainly wasn’t going to turn her down.

He put a hand to the small of her back and cupped her head with the other, wanting to pull her in as close as possible. But the hand at her head felt something strange… like a scar only different… something small, but definitely odd at the top of her neck.

“Liz,” he murmured fretfully against her lips. “What’s this?” he asked, running a finger over the area gently.

“Hmm? Oh, nothing,” she mumbled and pulled away from him, the moment broken.

“Liz?” he questioned, almost sorry that he had brought it up.

“It’s nothing, Max,” she said tiredly and stepped back from him. “It’s from that last day I was there. I woke up with this bandage. It eventually healed, just fine by itself, after a few days when I arrived here,” she explained, putting her hands in her pockets and rocking nervously back on her heels.

“Can I take a look at it?” he said uneasily. Whatever it was, it didn’t feel right to him.

“Alright,” she allowed with a sigh. “But it’s too dark here, though, let’s go back to the Jeep.” She turned to continue walking back to the car and rubbed her eyes tiredly.

Will this never be over?

-End Chapter 14-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:22:03 PM ]
posted on 14-Dec-2002 5:51:00 PM by Finn
-Chapter 15: Trouble-

Hating the look of resignation that had settled over her face and the barely hidden glint of fear he had seen in her eyes before she’d turned away, Max grasped her shoulders and turned her to face him. He would have preferred to see her angry. She wouldn’t look at him, though, so he reached out and gently tipped her face up to his. His heart broke at the look of defeat she couldn’t conceal. Not from him.

“Liz, it’s OK, I promise. Whatever it is, we’ll take care of it,” he reassured her. “You’re not alone now.”

She just stared sightlessly past him into the shadows. A horrible thought was worming its way into her mind. About what it could mean… what it could possibly be.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Max added.

At his feeble, but sincere attempt to set her mind at ease, Liz looked straight at him and forced herself to give him a wisp of a smile. “Thank you, Max,” she said softly and reached for his hand.

He pulled her in for a quick embrace and kissed her gently. “I love you, Liz.”

She sighed in his arms, wishing they didn’t have to go back to the Jeep… wishing she could stay here forever. Someday…

“Let’s go,” Max said quietly.

The rest of the walk was quiet as he hurried her to catch up to Maria and Michael.

They didn’t have too far to go, though, as the other couple had noticed that Max and Liz had stopped behind them. Michael had halted immediately and began to insist on walking back there. He was sure that in the dark, Max was taking advantage of Michael’s generosity and his sister’s infatuation, but Maria had swiftly captured his lips, effectively distracting him.

Max coughed loudly to interrupt them as he and Liz drew near.

“Everything OK?” Maria asked, looking back and forth from Max’s worried face to Liz’s drawn countenance and then glanced hesitantly at Michael.

Maria hoped that Max hadn’t done something to upset Liz or Michael was going to be on like a wild dog. Come to think of it, so would Alex and Kyle. She glowered at the alien leader. So would she.

“Yes,” Max said, “but let’s get back to the Jeep. I need to check on something,” he added curtly and explained what had happened. He wisely left out the part where he and Liz had kissed.

Michael looked at Liz in worry and although her eyes were strained, she managed to smile at him reassuringly. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said with forced lightness. Jerking her thumb over her shoulder at Max she added, “He’s just paranoid, like someone else you might know.”

Michael rolled his eyes at her reference to his overprotective nature, but he was worried… hell, it was more than that. He had accurately guessed Max’s concerns and now he was terrified. The more he heard about those monsters that had held his sister for all those years, the more convinced he was that they had no souls. How could you anticipate what people like that might do? Michael put his arms protectively around both of his girls and was sad when he touched Liz’s slightly trembling form. He quickly led them the last few yards to the Jeep.

Wanting to get it over with as soon as possible, as soon as Max unlocked the Jeep, Liz hopped into the back seat and faced the window. Max slowly climbed in after her.

“Turn on the light, Michael,” he said quietly as the other two climbed into the front seat of the car.

Maria immediately twisted in her seat to look anxiously at Liz, who sat stiffly, hands clenched in her lap. Maria reached out to take Liz’s left hand and held it in both of her own, chafing her friend’s chilled fingers and squeezing too tightly in her nervousness. Liz winced a little, but looked at Maria gratefully before staring back out the window into the night.

Michael reached up to flip the switch and then turned in his seat to look intently at his sister. He watched tensely as Max reached towards her. Lifting her heavy dark hair off her back, Max slid his hands over her smooth skin and held her hair up and to the side. He swallowed a gasp at the sight that met his eyes and Michael bit back a curse of rage.

Max understood how it could easily have been missed in the last several weeks.

Just at the base of her hairline, at the top of her slender neck, was the small lump he had felt, surrounded by a quarter-sized circular scar. The lump itself was dark under Liz’s skin, almost black and quite obviously unnatural. He looked over at Michael, whose mouth was wide open in horror. Michael tore his eyes away from her neck and looked back at Max, a question in his eyes and his mouth in a tight line.

“Does this hurt?” Max asked her as he lightly touched it.

“No,” she responded and shifted uncomfortably on the seat. “What is it, Max? Is something wrong?” she asked uneasily. Her eyes flitted briefly to Maria, who just looked back at her in worry, but without any idea what Max and Michael had seen. She couldn’t see anything from the angle at which she was sitting.

“I think,” Max began hesitantly and exchanged a glance with Michael. “I think there’s something there, Liz.”

“Like what?” she asked tersely. Maria lost her death grip on Liz’s hand as Liz twisted in her seat to stare back at Max. She quickly reached behind her head to touch the worrisome bump.

“I don’t know, sweetheart,” he said, but his expressive amber eyes conveyed something different.

“But you have an idea,” she stated perceptively. “What do you think, Max?”

“Well,” he hesitated, torn between protecting her and telling her his concerns.

“Max?” she pleaded.

Maria looked back and forth between the three of them, her bright green eyes apprehensive.

Max cleared his throat. “It could… it could be a tracking device of some kind,” he said in a rush, admitting his fears.

Liz’s face paled alarmingly and her eyes widened in horror. “And it’s been there all this time?” she cried, her voice rising with each word.

Max hastened to reassure her, kicking himself for scaring her. “We don’t know that’s what it is, Liz! Don’t worry… we’ll take care of it, whatever it is. It’s probably nothing,” he said for the second time that evening. It sounded even more unconvincing this time around.

Biting her lip so hard it turned white, Liz turned in her seat to face straight ahead, and buckling her seatbelt, she crossed her arms tightly across her chest. “Let’s go,” she said, her voice toneless.

“Liz…” Michael started awkwardly.

“Go, Michael. We’ll have Alex look at it when we get back,” she said dully and turned her head to again look out into the darkness.

* * * * *

Alex sighed. “Max is right,” he said, holding the small dark object in his hands.

When they had arrived home, Liz, Max, Michael and Maria had waited impatiently in the foyer for Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle came home first, though, and Maria had quickly brought them up to date.

When Alex and Isabel had finally returned, they were stunned to be met at the door by five worried faces. Heart in his throat, Alex had look around for Liz and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally saw her sitting quietly on a chair nearby, Liam’s head in her lap as she stroked him absently. This time it was Max who explained the situation.

After examining her carefully, Alex had decided it was safe to remove… whatever it was. So very carefully, Michael had used his powers to make a small incision and they had carefully removed it from her neck. Then Max quickly healed her up the small wound, while Alex rushed off to examine the foreign object.

While the others had waited for Alex’s report, Liz stood a little off to the side, refusing to let anyone touch her, although she couldn’t prevent Max and Michael from hovering nervously.

She was furious with herself. If it was some kind of tracking device, she had brought it into their home. She was supposed to be protecting them! And she may have just led people here to seven more aliens to experiment on! The idea made her shudder. She had to force away gruesome thoughts of experiments being performed on Max, or her brother, or any of the others.

“It is some kind of tracking chip. I’ve disabled it, now, though,” Alex said anxiously.

He held it out to Liz uncertainly and she picked up the delicate device from his hand. She examined it closely, wondering how she could have been so stupid not to realize that it was just like Essex to do something like this. He must have known someone was coming that day, because she knew it hadn’t been there before.

“This is why I couldn’t control my powers,” she said with certainty after a few moments.

Somehow she knew it was true. Ever since it had been removed, she could feel Michael again, as it had been before she was taken. He wasn’t blocking her and reveling in the return of this special link with her brother, Liz allowed herself to feel him completely. Michael was so distraught at the idea of that thing being inside of her for months that he hadn’t even noticed the same change in himself.

*Michael…* she thought softly in her mind. *You can’t protect me forever.*

“Why the hell not?” Michael suddenly shouted at her and the others looked at him in astonishment at his outburst. He glared back at them defensively.

“What?” Liz said aloud in confusion, still lost in her thinking, but then her eyes widened in understanding. Something had flitted through her mind… a memory.

*Can you hear me?* she asked, forming the words carefully with her mind and looking directly at Michael.

*Liz?* he asked incredulously as his eyes flew to hers in shock.

She smiled faintly at him. *Hey there, bro.*

*This is new,* Michael told her and she could literally feel the surprise in his ‘voice.’

*But I think… I think we could do it on Antar,* she said hesitantly, remembering vaguely that it was so.

He nodded. Now that she had mentioned it, he remembered, too. *But not here. Not before,* he said, frowning.

*Maybe we needed to be older? To hit puberty or something?* she asked dubiously. Then she shrugged, it didn’t matter. *We’ll talk later,* she said and he nodded again.

Her smile dropping away, she stared down at the object in her hand. Narrowing her eyes, she concentrated. The siblings’ mental conversation having only taken a moment, all the others were still staring at Michael warily. Suddenly, the chip rose into the air a few inches and disintegrated with a loud POP! She let out a shaky breath.

Now they were staring at her. “Where’s that metal cuff?” she asked dispassionately.

“I’ll get it,” Alex said and rushed out of the room. He was back only a few moments later, the heavy metal bracelet in his hands. He’d already done all the research he needed to on the horrible thing and now he thrust it into her waiting hands, ready to see it destroyed by the person it had hurt so much. “Here.”

*Liz?* Michael asked her uncertainly. *Are you sure?*

*I’ve got it, Michael. Everything’s under control, now.*

As with the tracking device, the metal bracelet rose a few inches into the air and was obliterated. There was no trace of it left and Liz still had complete control of her powers.

“See?” she said lightly as they stared at her in amazement. “They’re both gone now,” she added unnecessarily and shook out slightly tingling hands.

“Now what?” Tess asked timidly. “Should we leave?”

Michael stormed over to Max and looked him in the eye. “We have to leave, Maxwell,” he said warningly, daring Max to disagree with him.

“No!” Liz yelled. “No,” she repeated, her voice quieter, but sternly.

She looked at Michael who had turned to look hard at her, ready to argue. Liz knew he only wanted to protect her, but there were six other people besides the two of them to consider and he wasn’t thinking of all the angles.

*Liz…* he started angrily.

*Michael, stop reacting and start thinking like the protector you are,* she ordered him somberly. *This is our home and we have the advantage here. If they’ve found us (because of me, she thought inwardly, but didn’t send to him), then they already know we’re here. If we start acting strangely they’ll move on us. Immediately.*

*If we’re careful,* she continued, *we can prepare. And anyway, we’ve never seen anyone out there watching…*

“Tess!” she said aloud suddenly, taking charge of the situation. The pretty blonde looked at her, her blue eyes startled. “Have you felt anything odd? Do you feel anyone outside now? Anyone watching?” Liz asked the small young woman seriously.

“No,” Tess said slowly. Kyle came up behind her to put his arms around her waist comfortingly as her eyes unfocused and she reached. Liz could see the pale green of her energy reaching from her body to extend outward. After a moment, Tess came back to herself and looked at Liz soberly, “Nothing. There’s nothing.”

“Alright,” Liz said and began to pace the length of the room. “Like I explained to Michael, I don’t think we should leave.” When the others looked at her in confusion, she stopped and laughed a little self-consciously. “We can talk to each other,” she explained with a light blush. “In our heads, like we could on Antar.”

They were all staring at her again and she sighed. “Focus, you guys.”

Michael looked over at her again, and then moved to stand at her side. Time to be the protectors, he thought. And we need to present a unified front.

*It’s our job to take care of them, Liz.* he told her. *And each other,* he added pointedly.

*Right, Michael,* she answered him, proud of her strong, handsome brother.

“I say we wait. We can prepare ourselves. If we move too quickly, they’ll be on us like… like…” she struggled for a metaphor.

“Like flies on a pile of dog shit?” Kyle suggested dryly.

“Sure, Kyle,” she answered, rolling her eyes, but hiding a smile. Of the six of them, besides Max he was probably the most capable of handling this situation and this was his way of dealing with the tense circumstances. “So, I say we prepare ourselves. Behave normally,” she said.

“Maybe there was no one manning the station,” she added hopefully. “When you guys left, that place was in shambles, right?” she asked a little nervously.

“Absolutely,” Alex said reassuringly and despite her anxiety, she had to hold back a laugh as shook his head at the loss of all that wonderful computer equipment.

“So, maybe they haven’t been tracking my movements,” she said and smiled painfully. “You guys like it here. I like it here. If we don’t have to go, I don’t really want to. And strategically, I’m not sure it’s a bad idea to stay. There’s the jet, the tunnels…. And Tess, you stay on alert, OK?” Liz asked her.

Tess nodded, pleased that she could be useful.

“But we’re not leaving the grounds unless it’s an emergency,” Michael added, voice rough.

Liz spun around and stared at him. *Don’t you think that’s a little overkill?* she asked him silently. *Don’t you think that would tip someone off right away? I mean, besides the fact that I just destroyed their little toy.*

Plus, she wanted to go out again. Except for the last couple hours, the night was wonderful, she thought dreamily, remembering Max’s kiss. But Michael’s probably right… her logical side argued.

*Nope,* Michael responded unapologetically. *If they do know, then we have even more reason to stick together. For now, it’s the only way.*

*OK.*

“He’s right,” she said aloud, backing him up. “At least for a while.”

The others nodded in agreement.

Having been quiet during the summarization of their situation by his 'protectors,’ Max finally chimed in. “No one leaves the house alone, not even if you’re just staying on the nearby. And no one leaves the grounds at all,” he said, his leadership coming through clearly.

“We’re on full alert,” he finished grimly.

* * * * *

A soft scratching at the door roused Max very early the next morning; it was still dark. He rolled over and saw that Michael hadn’t moved. Max groaned under his breath; Michael could sleep through the end of the world. Curious, though, he hopped out of bed and headed for the door. Opening it just a crack, he was surprised to find Liam sitting on the floor, panting heavily. When the dog saw Max, he whined pathetically and Max smiled sleepily.

“What’s up, pal?” he asked softly. Max crouched on the ground and reaching out to scratch behind Liam’s ears, he was taken aback when the dog snapped at him. “What was that for?” Max demanded testily setting his elbows on his knees and propping up his chin.

The dog only whined again.

Max sighed tiredly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Do you need to go out?” he yawned.

He started as he felt the floor beneath him tremble and put out a hand to steady himself against the door jam. “What the…” he started when a piercing scream split the stillness of the night.

Max’s head jerked up to stare into the dark hallway, eyes wide and searching. Still a bit confused and dazed from sleep, he was suddenly fully awake when another scream stabbed his heart. It was Liz!

-End Chapter 15-

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2002 2:35:02 PM ]
posted on 14-Dec-2002 6:12:55 PM by Finn
Oh, just realized... Hopefully that ending isn't too cruel. Oh well *wink*
posted on 22-Dec-2002 7:28:51 PM by Finn
I've been having technical difficulties. Hoping to have it worked out so I can post tomorrow (I'm at my folks now)! Sorry!
posted on 23-Dec-2002 7:55:42 PM by Finn
Aha! All's well! ~Finn (PS: This is very long for me, phew!)

Chapter 16 – A Nightmare

Hearing Liz’s scream, Liam barked furiously, spun around and loped down the hallway. Max jumped to his feet, slamming the door wide open in his rush for Liz’s room as he followed the dog.

At the second shout, Michael was instantly awake. Feeling his sister’s fear and frantic anger, he leapt from the bed. He cursed when his sheets wrapped around his legs, tripping him up, and he fell to the floor. He struggled to his feet and made a mad dash down the hallway, arriving at his sister’s door only a few seconds behind Max.

The door was already slightly open and exchanging a frightened glance with Michael, Max flung the door open the rest of the way, prepared to battle whatever was making Liz scream like that.

Eyes hunting in the darkness for the danger, his heart caught in his throat at the sight that met his eyes. She was no longer screaming, but her breath was coming in alarming, whistling gasps as she thrashed violently in the bed, trying to escape whatever horrors overwhelmed her in her nightmare.

The dark green comforter that normally covered the bed lay on the ground and one corner looked as if it had been chewed to pieces. Feathers from a ravaged pillow were strewn on the floor as well. Liam had obviously tried to wake Liz, but when he couldn’t, had immediately gone to Max and Michael’s room.

Max rushed to her side and hastily pulled the sheets from her wildly flailing form. But in her terror, as soon as she felt someone touch her, she let out a strangled cry. Max didn’t even see the blue stream of energy until it crashed into him and he flew several feet to slam against the wall. He grunted at the impact and slid to the floor, shaking his head dazedly. He realized, though, that she must have recognized him somewhat and pulled her ‘punch.’ Otherwise, he knew that with the power she was channeling, he would have gone through that wall.

*Liz!* Michael snapped at her. He was having difficulty blocking her out of control, almost primal emotions. *Wake up!* he ordered her.

Suddenly the bed began to rise from the floor and the entire house shook again, as if in an earthquake. Liam barked desperately and leapt up onto the bed. Max couldn’t believe the amount of power that was flowing from Liz. It was awe-inspiring…

And terrifying...

“What’s going on?” Maria asked from the door, stretching and yawning widely.

She blinked blearily at first, but gaped as she caught sight of Max in a pile against the wall. Her wide eyes flitted then her boyfriend, where he was concentrating fiercely on her best friend who was struggling frantically against some unseen enemy on her bed. She blinked… the bed that was floating in midair. Maria stumbled against the door as the house roiled lightly beneath her bare feet.

“She’s having a nightmare,” Max answered tersely, as he used the wall to lever himself up and held his head in his hands. “And she must be using her powers to protect herself.”

The glass in the window shattered outwards into the night and the oval mirror on the wall splintered under Liz’s terrified assault. Michael cursed loudly as a large shard bit into his thigh.

“I’m trying, Maxwell, shut up!” Michael shouted in frustration. Ripping the glass from his leg, he turned back to his sister.

*Liz! Liz, stop it! It’s not real. Wake up! It’s just a dream!*

*…michael…* came the piteous answer.

Michael could see that she’d stopped thrashing on the bed and had cocked her head, hearing him even in the depths of her nightmare. The shaking stopped briefly and Michael almost breathed a sigh of relief, but then heard her shout in his head at whatever she was seeing in her mind and the shaking resumed.

*Oh God… Max… Michael… no! No!*

Michael almost wept at the complete fear and sudden fury he was feeling from her. *It’s me, Liz, come on now, wake up! It’s a bad dream, it’s not real,* he told her again anxiously as the house continued to shudder. He tried desperately to connect with her, to see what she was seeing so he could make her understand that it wasn’t real.

*It’s OK, Liz. Wake up! Everything’s OK.*

*Michael…*

*Liz, Max is here, too,* he added almost reluctantly.

“Max? Oh God,” she moaned aloud and rolled over into a fetal position. The bed fell to the floor with a loud thump. Liam jumped to the floor in surprise and Michael hopped back, startled.

As Liz sat up groggily in the bed, she caught sight of Max leaning heavily against the wall, her brother bleeding freely from a deep cut in his leg, and Maria staring at her almost in fear. She eyes widened in shock at the damage she had caused. After a moment, she pulled her knees up to her forehead tried to compose herself before she broke down into a quivering mess.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered incoherently. “Shit,” she added under her breath.

Pushing past Michael, Max rushed to her side and gathered her slim, trembling form in his arms. “I’m sorry,” she said hoarsely into his chest, “I’m sorry, Max. I didn’t mean to,” she cried sincerely. “I’m sorry, Michael… Was trying to protect you both! I didn’t know it was you until it was too late. Tried to pull back,” she sniffled.

“And you did,” Max comforted her.

He looked at Michael who was standing awkwardly at the foot of the bed, Liam beside him. Waving him away with one hand, Max mouthed for him to go back to bed, he would take care of Liz. When Michael just glared at him, Max’s eyes narrowed. “That’s an order,” he said soundlessly.

Michael grunted his acquiescence, but mutinously moved to stroke Liz’s hair before he left the room. *I’ll be just down the hall, Lizzie. Just let me know if you need anything.* he added and bent to kiss her on the top of her head. *Or if his highness gets too frisky.*

She almost laughed aloud at the last and then looked up at him through watery eyes. *I don’t know if I tell you this enough, but you’re the best brother… Really, you are.*

He gave her his customary smirk, but she could tell that he was pleased. *You’re not so bad yourself.*

*I’m sorry, Michael.* He waved it off and she smiled at him shakily. *Thank you. For everything.*

He nodded understandingly. She watched as he grasped a confused Maria’s hand and strode out of the room, leaving the door slightly open. Max heard the hushed whisperings of what sounded like the rest of the group outside. The noise moved down the hallway and then died away completely. Max knew that Michael and Maria would explain what had happened to the others.

Still trying to calm herself, Liz watched as Liam paced the room several times before he obviously decided he’d done his duty for the night. Aiming an almost human warning at Max, he trotted out the door.

“I’m so sorry, Max,” she said again, more steadily this time.

“Liz, if you’re worrying about what just happened, don’t. It’s nothing, don’t worry. I understand.

“And look, I’m fine,” he said. Max held his arms out wide as if to show how fine he was, but winced as sore muscles protested and quickly brought his arms back down to enfold her again.

She could tell he was in pain, though, and smiled faintly. “Liar.”

“Well, you sure do put a guy through a good workout, honey,” he said jokingly as he quickly used his powers to repair the damage. He frowned when she stiffened in his arms. “What? What’d I say? I was just kidding, Liz.

“I’m fine, really, I fixed it,” he said, confused when she didn’t respond. “Liz?”

“It’s not that, Max,” she murmured reluctantly and pursed her lips.

“What, then?” he asked imploringly. After a long silence, he was afraid she wasn’t going to answer him at all, but she finally spoke up.

“You called me… you called me honey,” she said unwillingly. How stupid that must sound, she thought with a wince and bit her lip.

“You don’t like it?” he asked tentatively.

“No,” she whispered and shook her head.

“Why?” he asked curiously. “Is that all? Have I said anything else that’s been bothering you?” he inquired and held his breath. Have I called her that before? he worried thinking back to the past several days.

“No, I like sweetheart,” she said shyly, completely ignoring his first question. After a moment of silence, she sighed, “You must think I’m totally pathetic.”

I used to be tough, she thought. At least I think so... Maybe all I ever was, was just a little kid playing at being some kind of ‘protector.’ Maybe I was a mess on Antar, too, she cringed inwardly. Maybe that’s why we all died…

Knock if off, Liz! she commanded. Get ahold of yourself.

“Are you kidding?” Max said, completely taken aback. “You’re one of the strongest people I know, Liz. Anyone else who had gone through what you had… God, Liz, anyone else would have given up!

“Not you! You’re brave and smart and tough, Liz.” He paused. “But honestly, though, I think I’m a little relieved,” he admitted. “You’ve kept so much inside, Liz. I think it’s completely normal to have nightmares,” he added.

He hesitated again and then asked, “When we talked before, it helped didn’t it? Do you want to talk about it now?”

“Not really,” she began, tipping her head back to see his face. She changed her mind, though, when she saw his face fall. “But I guess… maybe… maybe I should.” She stopped for a moment, bit her lip restlessly, and then continued. “I’ve been having a lot of them. Nightmares, I mean,” she confessed.

“About what?” he prodded softly.

“About Essex, about the compound, and mostly about… about Nick,” she said.

“But tonight it was different for some reason. Something was really wrong…” she added so softly that he almost didn’t catch it.

“Who’s Nick, Liz?” he asked, reluctant to sidestep the subject when she finally seemed ready to talk about it.

“He was one of the guards,” she said nervously. “I was different… Essex said so. I don’t think they had ever seen anyone else like us, Max. Just normal humans who had their own special abilities for some reason or another.”

Max nodded sympathetically, but didn’t understand where she was going with this.

“And then… I think Essex was upset with the other guard, the one before. I think because he was almost nice to us. So… he found Nick. He was only around for a couple of years. He… he…” she trailed off.

“What did he do to you, Liz?” he asked tensely, but she wasn’t listening.

“He was a big guy and Essex brought him in to ‘encourage’ us to cooperate.”

“Liz?” She looked back up at him. “Liz, what did Nick do?”

“He… he… I think maybe he… knew I was different…. or… or…. he kind of… liked me…” she stammered under his intense gaze. She looked down at her hands, but he not before he saw her eyes darken and fill with revulsion. “He visited me a few times… the others he hurt… but with me, he used other methods of persuasion,” she said bitterly and she angrily wiped away a few stray tears. “Maybe he was just curious…”

Nick doesn’t deserve this kind of reaction, she thought furiously.

“Liz?” he asked again. “Did he... did he rape you?”

Liz swallowed hard and then nodded wretchedly, whispering a “Yes,” that he barely heard.

She quickly looked up at him again, dreading that she would see a look of disgust on his face… directed at her. But it wasn’t there. She saw his eyes glittering with rage, but not at her and she breathed a sigh of relief.

Now that she’d admitted it, that it had actually happened, she felt as if she should scream, break things, anything… But I’m sure I’ve already done enough of that for tonight, she thought wryly.

Just saying it and having Max not look at her as if she were somehow to blame lifted a huge weight from her heart. She still couldn’t think of Nick without trembling, but she’d said it aloud and she hadn’t broken into a million pieces.

And it made her think that maybe that voice in the back of her mind was wrong. That voice that told her she deserved it… that it was her fault. She’d always hoped that it wasn’t, but had feared that that it was something she’d done, or said, or maybe even something that she was…

But she loved Max, trusted him, and he didn’t think so. That outside confirmation, if biased, brought her some resolution.

It’s not my fault, she thought, almost tentatively. I know it’s not, she decided more strongly this time. It was Nick…

Realizing that Max knew everything now, she started to cry quietly in his embrace. It wasn’t the gut-wrenching release that she’d had the other day… it hadn’t been herself that she’d truly been weeping for then, but the others who had suffered. But now, she finally let go and mourned for her own loss, her own pain. Max just held her gently, comforting her with his soothing words and strong, calming presence.

Some time later, the tears stopped and Liz looked up to smile wanly into his face. She caught her breath, though, when she noticed the look on Max’s face had been replaced with something else, as if he’d had a revelation. He swallowed convulsively.

“Max?” she asked worriedly.

“Oh, Liz, I’m so sorry,” he whispered miserably. “I should have been there! I’m so sorry.”

“Oh no, Max, it’s not your fault!” she exclaimed swiftly in astonishment, her own sorrow forgotten at the look of anguish and self-loathing in his eyes. The same look she had almost expected to see directed at her.

Turning half out of his embrace, she kneeled in front of him on the bed. Cupping his face in both of her hands, she forced him to look at her and stared directly into his tawny eyes, her own shining with emotion.

“Max, it’s not your fault. You didn’t know! You didn’t even know where I was. There was nothing you could have done. There was nothing Michael or any of you could have done.

“And you did save me! I would never have gotten away if you hadn’t been looking for me all those years,” she said gratefully. “And that day? Seeing you all… it made me think.

Still not convinced, he cocked his head curiously and she continued.

“Sometimes I’d had no hope at all. In the back of my mind, I think I’d always expected that eventually something terrible would happen to me. But seeing you... seeing you fighting, winning even! It was like you were offering hope. That my world could change. That I could make it change. And it gave me the strength to get out.

“It’s not your fault, Max.

“And you know what?” she added, her voice thick. “It’s taken me a long time… but it’s not mine either,” she said unevenly.

“Oh God, Liz! Of course it’s not!” he cried.

“So please, please don’t blame yourself then either,” she finally pleaded.

Max nodded grudgingly and sighed. His throat hurt from the tears he’d been trying to hold back, not wanting to burden Liz.

Liz shook her head ruefully. “What a pair we make,” she commented jokingly and swiped away the last of her tears. “God, I’m getting sick of crying all the time,” she muttered.

Max hesitated. He hated to say it, he didn’t want to upset her anymore, but he had to. “Liz, you should… maybe… talk about it. Maybe…” he paused, “maybe with Maria or Tess?”

She grimaced, but nodded. “I know,” she said softly and rubbed her elbows edgily. “I know that’s not all there is to it, Max,” she said, swallowing hard, “but it’s a start. I know I need to talk to someone. Even if it’s just to stop the… the…” she stuttered and shivered.

“The nightmares?” he prompted and she nodded again.

“Yes, the nightmares.”

“Was… was… there anything else that happened while you were there, Liz?” he asked fearfully.

“No, Max,” she reassured him. “You know everything now,” she sighed. “I was so worried to tell you and now it’s out there… and… well, I feel sort of strange,” she admitted.

“You never have to be afraid to tell me anything, Liz. I love you. No matter what has happened. No matter what happens in the future,” he pledged. “And I’m so glad that you trusted me enough to talk to me.”

“I believe you, Max.” She leaned up on her knees and kissed him softly, sweetly. “And I do trust you. And… I love you, too,” she added, her eyes dancing in her tired face.

“Liz, can I heal you now?” he asked with bated breath.

She nodded.

“Don’t be afraid,” he reassured quietly as she lifted her head and held her breath. “I promise. I won’t see anything you don’t want me to see.”

First he reached out to touch the scar on her face, healing it in an instant. Biting her lip, Liz then turned around. Reaching behind, she slowly pulled up her nightshirt so her back was uncovered.

With shaking hands, Max reached out to touch her bare skin. The three long scars felt rough and strange and for the millionth time he wondered how anyone could do something like this to another living being. Especially someone like Liz. Shaking his head to try to clear his anger, he reached for the place inside where his powers resided. After only a few moments, it was done and Liz let out her breath in a rush. No flash. She turned around to face him and smiled hesitantly.

“Thank you,” she whispered gratefully.

He crawled forward a bit on the bed so his face was only inches away, but as he leaned in to kiss her goodnight, she spoke.

“Could… could…” she faltered, “could you stay?”

“You don’t even have to ask,” he reassured her. He kissed her then and pulled her in closer. He looked at her in uncertainty when she pulled away.

Liz shifted anxiously on the bed. She wasn’t as hotheaded as Michael, but she’d always been a little impulsive.

I want Max to stay, she thought. I want him to hold me, to kiss me, and… and… maybe more. I want to not think about Nick! she thought single-mindedly. I want to think about Max!

“Max… Can we go slow…” she paused, noticing a strange expression on his face. “Max?”

His eyes had widened in concern and then self-condemnation. Of course, she isn’t ready! he berated himself. Not even for a goodnight kiss. “Oh, Liz, maybe I should go get…” he began sadly.

“Max,” she interrupted hurriedly when he misunderstood. “No, please,” she pleaded, not wanting him to go. “I want to be with you,” she said. “I do… and I want to kiss you,” she finished shyly and held her breath.

Max was torn. Liz was tough, but she’d been through hell. He badly wanted to kiss her, to touch her, but he didn’t want to take advantage of her. He was sure that she was highly emotional right now. She’d been frightened by a nightmare and scared that she’d hurt him and Michael. He shook his head. No. He should wait until she was truly ready.

“Please, Max?” she questioned again appealingly, when she saw him start to shake his head.

He hesitated momentarily, she seemed so sure. Then he nodded understandingly. OK, if she wanted him to be there, he would be there for her. But only if as long as she was comfortable.

When he did kiss her, it was hungry, but restrained. Liz responded cautiously, putting one hand on his arm, lightly moving up and down, tracing the muscles she could feel beneath his shirt. The other hand moved slowly to his head and she ran her fingers through his thick hair, loving the texture and feel of it.

He groaned at her gentle, delicate touches and tenderly cupped the back of her head. At her assent, he deepened the kiss. His right hand slid through her silky, smooth tresses, down her spine, to rest at the small of her back. Never letting her go, he fell back onto the bed, leaving her on top and in control of the situation.

Liz froze at this move, but after a moment she thawed and relaxed down into his warm strength.

“Do you know how beautiful you are to me?” he whispered against her lips.

“Oh Max,” she sighed.

He pulled her tighter into his body, the hand at her back pressing her stomach against his own and moved his head to the side, burying his face in the thick curtain of her hair. Max’s other hand snaked downwards from her hair and then slid into her skimpy night shirt. He lightly explored her now smooth back, sliding up, then back down along her sides, and up again outlining her body with his fingers. She shivered at his gentle touch as he traced her spine, her shoulders, each rib.

Max moaned as her breasts moved against his chest as she shifted, tentatively planting feather light kisses on his closed eyes, his face, his neck…

Holding her breath, she slid to the other side of the bed and faced the ceiling. Grasping his hand, she slowly guided him so that he moved over her. His knees on either side of her hips and his hands supporting himself, he hesitated as she insistently pulled him downwards.

“Liz,” he whispered distractedly. “Liz, are you…”

“Shh,” she murmured and lifted her head from the pillow to kiss his lips.

He responded eagerly and still propping himself up, he dropped to his elbows to be closer to her, and kissed her deeply. He didn’t lay on top of her, though, not wanting to confine her in any way.

Despite the fact that she had encouraged him, Liz was vaguely relieved when he didn’t put all his weight on top of her. She didn’t mean to be testing him, but she couldn’t help it. And now she was able to explore freely.

She reached up to feel his bare chest and stomach. He sucked in a breath as she lightly began mapping the well-defined muscles.

Max’s hands weren’t idle, either, and leaning back a little on his knees and one elbow, he reached beneath her shirt and walked his fingers slowly up her flat stomach, swung sideways over her ribs, and then lightly caressed her left breast, which fit perfectly in his hand.

Liz tensed a little, but then relaxed when his hand didn’t pinch or hurt. Max rested some of his weight on her thighs and then reached towards her waist to softly caress the silky skin of her belly with the back of his hand. The twin surges of sensation within her, high and low, made her arch up slightly. Max slid from her breast to her hips, wrapping both hands easily around slim waist, his thumbs stealing lightly beneath her shorts.

Despite herself, Liz couldn’t help briefly comparing him to Nick, whose muscled, hulking form had intimidated and frightened her. Max, on the other hand, despite his strength was never threatening. The inadvertent thoughts of Nick, though, left her tight and panicky. She felt her power pooling nervously inside.

Unaware, though, of the direction of her thoughts, Max reached into the waistband of her shorts and began to pull at her the thin material.

She gasped frantically. “Max… Max, wait!”

He stopped immediately. “Liz?”

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” she stuttered embarrassedly. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her, but…

“Liz?” he asked again worriedly. “It’s OK…”

“It’s OK,” he responded outwardly, but oh, how he wanted to jump off the bed and run to the shower. A cold one.

He didn’t want to leave her alone, though. He didn’t want her to think that he was rejecting her in any way. He flopped onto the bed, facing the ceiling and reached for her hand, waiting for his desire to recede a little. He groaned a little. Now that he’d tasted her, though, Max knew it would never fully subside.

As he lay there, he tried madly to think of anything but Liz and the lovely body that he’d so recently discovered, but after several minutes, he gave up as a lost cause. He thanked the gods that they’d only gone as far as they had before stopping.

“Max?” she asked timidly. He didn’t say anything, but just squeezed her hand tightly and caressed her soft skin with his thumb. Feeling her slender fingers in his own much larger hands reminded him of how small she was and how easily he might lose her again.

Even though he knew she was stronger than anyone he had ever met, Max was frightened at the depth of his love for this young woman. She was strong, but he could still lose her. Physically, she looked so fragile, so delicate…

In his intensity, he turned on his side and crushed her slight body to his, arms bent all the way round her small form so that his hands rested on the sides of her ribs and below her breasts. Feeling her heart suddenly pounding in her chest, Max worried that he’d gone too far again. He pulled her up against him, so that her cheek rested on his chest, and leaned back against the headboard, but she only sighed contentedly and snuggled against him.

They lay that way for several minutes until Max broke the silence. “Was that all that you dreamt?” he asked quietly, still concerned that there was more than what she’d already told him. "You were using so much power..." he trailed off.

“Oh, Max, I forgot!” she exclaimed, her head bumping into his chin and he grimaced. I’m going to have to watch that! she thought with a wince.

But then her breathing hitched slightly as she recalled the nightmare. “Oh Max…”

“What?” he asked uneasily.

But then her breathing hitched slightly as she recalled the nightmare. “Oh, Max…”

“What?” he asked uneasily.

“It was horrible… it was Michael and then you… and both of you…” she whispered, her eyes staring sightlessly as she remembered.

“I couldn’t see everything, it was so confusing! But they took us, the three of us… and… and…” she paused doubtfully, “and it was like before, only there was something else… someone was there…” She shook her head and continued.

“You were in so much pain, someone was hurting you both!” she said, her voice rising as she relived the nightmare. “I was so angry… I was shouting at them… But I couldn’t do anything! I tried to reach you, I tried…”

“Liz!” he said, bringing her back to the present. “Liz, look at me,” he repeated more softly. “It was just a dream. I’m fine. Look! And Michael’s fine. You saw him.”

“Just a dream…” she echoed, her eyes refocusing on his familiar, loving face. “Oh God,” she moaned and covered her face, “but it was so real! And I was there, watching it all… it was so real, Max!”

“Liz, it was a nightmare,” Max said calmingly, despite his racing heart.

“I guess. I guess it had to be…” she agreed uncertainly. “I mean nothing like that ever happened before, right?” She suddenly had a troubling thought. “You haven’t been hiding things from me? Did something happen when I was gone?” she asked accusingly.

“No! Oh no, Liz,” Max said soothingly. “Nothing like that at all. There were a few close calls,” he acknowledged, “but nothing like that.”

She sighed, reassured, but then yawned widely. Max grinned. He was relieved that it had been only a nightmare and relieved that everything was alright. And definitely pleased that Liz wanted to be with him. Everything was going to be OK.

Liz would be OK.

“Go back to sleep,” he ordered lightly. “I’m staying with you.”

-End Chapter 16-

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 23-Dec-2002 8:10:47 PM ]
posted on 23-Dec-2002 8:42:37 PM by Finn
Just a side note here...

So, yeah, I kinda think Liz was a little more touchy-feely than I would really have expected of her at this early point, but let’s just say she’s impetuous. Also, she'd just had a pretty unpleasant night followed by a bad scare. Plus, everyone wanted to see it, I was ready to write it… so here it is. Go with the flow!

Or, if you think I’m totally off my rocker with this one, drop me a line! I’ve decided everyone’s kinda being too nice... Not that I’m really complaining or anything.
posted on 24-Dec-2002 4:41:17 PM by Finn
-Chapter 17 – Practice Makes Perfect-

Liz did finally talk to Maria about what Nick had been like. The other young woman was aghast and instantly reassured Liz that she was not at all to blame. Maria was relieved that her friend was no longer keeping secrets and although the others found out eventually as well, it was Maria in whom Liz confided her feelings. Despite her initial reservations, being able to talk with another woman helped more than Liz could have imagined. The consistent and supportive responses from the people she trusted the most were lifting that fog of doubt that had been hanging over her heart ever since she’d been raped.

But unsurprisingly, after Max, it was Michael who was the toughest. Liz had an idea that he’d get angry and start throwing things around with his powers. Her worries were well founded and he’d blasted a few trees down in his fury before Liz had been able to calm him somewhat. She was thankful that she’d taken him outside and that she’d been able to remain composed in the face of his anger.

Although Michael hadn’t been surprised to hear the truth, it didn’t lessen his anger any.

“Liz, if that guy is alive, we’ll take care of it,” he told her hoarsely as he paced furiously in front of her. “And you’ll get the first crack at him,” he promised, his eyes still glittering furiously.

She nodded gravely. She’d initially hoped that maybe they could just assume Essex, Nick, and the scientists were all dead and buried... But how could they be sure? How could she be sure? She couldn’t... And she wouldn’t feel that she or anyone else was safe until she saw for herself. Eventually, she knew that the situation would have to be confronted. Liz only hoped it would be on their terms.

“Well, then,” she said finally, “let’s get to work.” She made a face, trying to change to a lighter topic. “I have a feeling that Max is going to be difficult when I tell him about this combat stuff.”

Michael shook his head in understanding and took up a fighting stance. He needed a release right now as much as she did. “Let’s go,” he suggested grimly.

* * * * *

At about five in the afternoon several weeks later, all eight aliens congregated in a large clearing in the woods. Isabel, Alex, Tess, Kyle, and Maria were sitting in lawn chairs just on the edge of the meadow. Max stood directly in the middle of the field, a whistle around his neck. Liz had teased him mercilessly about the whistle, but in the end had admitted that it couldn’t hurt.

On either side of him, facing each other and about ten yards apart stood Michael and Liz. Michael was dressed in his typical uniform: jeans, a white tee-shirt, and worn tennis shoes. Hands in his back jeans pockets, he looked almost bored, but Liz knew it was just a façade. He would be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Liz, on the other hand, had a deadly serious look in her dark eyes and stood on the balls of her feet in a feather stance. Her nose was red, though, from a cold and she covered her mouth as she sneezed quietly. Max had tried to make her better, but he’d never had any luck healing colds. It frustrated him to no end that he could heal anything from a little cut to large bullet wounds, but he couldn’t do anything about the common cold. The bane of man’s existence…

For ease of movement, she was wearing a long sleeved black tee-shirt, mesh shorts, and cross-trainers. She was a bit chilled in the late September weather, her legs were covered in goosebumps, but as soon as they got going, she knew she’d warm up. Her long dark hair was tied back severely, but a few wisps of the silky locks insisted on escaping from the ponytail and framed her pretty face.

This afternoon had been Liz’s idea. Actually she had insisted on it. As she had thought, it’d taken days for her to convince Max to work with her; he’d been adamant that there was no reason for it. The truth was that he didn’t even like to consider the idea that she might need combat skills or any of the other things she wanted to practice.

Liz fumed at him that she and Michael were in charge of the protection of the group and that she was damn well going to do her job. For a week, in order to prove how serious she was, she avoided him entirely, and practiced on her own or with Michael. Only then, in frustration, did he relent and he was forced to admit, but only to himself, that the results were spectacular. Liz was becoming more outspoken, more self-assured not only in her powers but also in her own worth, and to his delight, more and more comfortable and demonstrative with him.

Liz was frustrated, though. During practice, she was never able to consciously and with purpose reproduce the effect that she’d had the evening of her nightmare. Even the nights following, when she’d had a few more bad ones, none had been so terrifying as to result in the same strong response from her. And after she started working so intensely on her powers, she was too tired at night to dream too heavily.

Michael suggested it might have been a result of finding the tracking device. That it was just a delayed reaction, and followed by a nightmare, in a full on adrenalin rush, her unconscious mind had reacted with a total release of power. As she’d slept for nearly fourteen hours after and then awakened alarmingly shaky, ravenous, and completely tapped out, Liz was inclined to agree.

After Max had agreed to her demands, they had been working on her physical moves to keep out of the line of fire, since Michael had a shield he could use to protect himself. So today, they were going to put her to the test. They were also going to see how her telekinesis might work to protect her in combat.

“We’re ready to be entertained!” Maria yelled. Looking straight at Michael, she jeered, “Come on, Liz!”

Michael looked daggers at his girlfriend. “You should be on my side,” he seethed and glanced suspiciously at his sister, knowing that she must have put Maria up to this. Liz put aside her intense focus long enough to smile innocently back at him.

“No, I shouldn’t," she protested. "Liz told me that girls should stick together,” she explained. But her big green eyes, sparkling with mirth, belied her sincerity. “It’s like a law or something,” she added earnestly.

Isabel and Tess nodded emphatically in agreement and had to stifle their snickers at Michael’s skeptical look.

“This isn’t a joke, this is serious,” Max protested in irritation, but they all ignored him.

“Come on, Liz!” Kyle shouted encouragingly. Tess and Isabel had been cheerleaders in high school and he’d jokingly borrowed their pom-poms. Now he waved them wildly in the air to cheer on his chosen competitor. “Kick some ass!”

“Now, wait just a second,” Michael yelled crossly and stalked over to the alien who was only a few months older than his sister. “You’re a guy, so what’s your excuse?”

“Well, she’s much cuter than you are,” Kyle explained frankly and winked at Liz, who beamed at his remark. “Sorry, pal.”

“Fine,” Michael said grudgingly. “And you?” he asked, rounding on Alex.

“Oh, I’m definitely on your side, sir,” Alex said easily and then saluted. Michael nodded, satisfied, but when he turned away to return to his position, Alex gave Liz a surreptitious thumbs up.

“I don’t know,” Max said worriedly. “I mean, you’re sick! Maybe we should put this off for a few days.”

“No!” she shouted huffily. “I’m a big girl. Plus, it’s not even the flu or anything. It’s just a cold!” She sneezed.

“Well, if you’re sure?” he asked. When she nodded vigorously, he shrugged, not entirely convinced. “Now this is just sparring!” he said, looking at Michael meaningfully.

“Don’t look at me!” Michael responded indignantly. “She’s the firecracker! Plus, she’s got the whole younger sister syndrome going. Something to prove and all.”

Alex guffawed and Kyle smacked him, exchanging a look of complicity with Liz. He knew the indignities of being the younger sibling all too well. He knew that you had to get your kicks whenever you could.

“I’ve got nothing to prove, old man!” Liz exclaimed mischievously, after glaring briefly at Alex. “I am after all the powerful one,” she added. Pointing her thumb and index finger and bending in the others, she blew on her mimed smoking gun. Then she sneezed again, rather loudly this time, which spoiled the impressiveness of the moment.

“Charming,” Michael retorted as she wiped her nose on her sleeve.

She shrugged, unashamed. “You do what you gotta do.” She turned to Max. “Let’s get this show on the road,” she said casually and shook out her arms in preparation.

“Like I said, this is just spaaaarrrriiiing,” Max repeated, dragging out the word. He was aggravated that no one was taking him seriously.

“Ooookkkkk,” Michael said mockingly.

“I’m listening, Max,” Liz said solemnly, only a hint of humor in her voice.

He couldn’t help smiling back at her and Michael cursed under his breath. If there’d been any doubt in his mind before, it was gone now; he knew there was no way that Max was going to be fair in this one.

“Well, I guess that’s all there is to say,” Max said and Liz almost laughed at his bashful look. “Should we set a time limit?” he wondered.

“Nah,” Michael said confidently, cracking his knuckles. “Won’t need it.”

“I think you’re right, Michael,” Liz snapped. “You might not even last thirty seconds.”

They both looked impatiently at Max, who shrugged again. Stepping back towards the others, he put the whistle to his lips and blew hard. At the sharp, piercing sound Liz and Michael let loose.

Liz struck first, a flash of blue lightning crashing into and then sliding harmlessly around Michael’s hastily thrown up shield. She had wanted to fire first so she could see how his shield reacted to her attack. Looking carefully at the impact, she could see where his shield was weak and where it started and stopped. Smiling to herself, she watched Michael alertly for his next move.

“You’re too slow, little one!” Michael taunted and flung a large blue fireball at her.

She hesitated for a split second, unsure if she was ready yet to try to deflect it with her powers. Max held his breath nervously, but quick as lightning she just dove to the side, rolled over her left shoulder and back onto her feet, untouched.

Too slow, huh? Liz thought furiously. The crowd ‘aaahhhed’ and she cocked her head as if to say ‘nice try.’

Hoping to make Michael let down his guard for a moment, she pretended to be contemplating her next move, when she was really pooling her power deep inside. Only a moment later she sent a dense sphere of pure power right at him.

Take that!

Disappointingly, through their sibling connection Michael had been able to see her strategy. He easily put up his shield a second time and upon impact, it slid sideways as before, but this time her shot plowed into a nearly hundred year old fir tree on the edge of the meadow and it fell over back into the woods. Luckily, it fell far away from the group and Liz winced.

Oops.

Michael nonchalantly dropped his shield, leaving her enough time to briefly wonder what he was plotting, and then quick fire let loose several short bursts of energy right at her.

Again she dropped and rolled, but Michael guided most of the power to follow her. This time, though, she was more confident and as the surges of power veered towards her, she pushed each away from her with her telekinesis.

“Better, Liz,” Michael said approvingly as she guided the power safely away from her.

She tossed him a quick scowl at his seemingly condescending comment, but promptly returned her attention to the task at hand. Before the largest pulse could take out another tree, she held her breath, focused, and forced the power to dissipate. It took a few moments, but finally it broke up into small enough bits that it didn’t cause damage to anything in its path.

“Cool,” Kyle commented from the sidelines.

Michael grimaced and glared balefully over at the obviously prejudiced crowd. “Pipe down!”

Tess and Isabel cheered loudly in defiance. “Liz-ZIE! Liz-ZIE! Gooooo, LIZ!”

Alex grabbed one of the pom-poms out of Kyle’s hands. “Go, Michael,” he said expressionlessly and shook it once.

“Thanks,” Michael muttered and rolled his eyes.

“Anytime,” Alex responded idly and leaned lazily back in his lounge chair. “Want me to do it again?”

“Nah, I think I’m good.”

“Hey, bro, remember me?” Liz cried wanting to be fair and warn him before she pushed a wide band of energy at him. At the same time, she lifted him several feet off the ground, trying to prevent him from concentrating enough to put up his shield. She found, though, that it was easier to throw people than hold them up in the air. Michael was heavy and as she gritted her teeth against the strain on her powers, he wavered precariously in the air.

Liz wasn’t worried, though. She knew if things got too risky, Max would step in.

“Shit!” Michael cried and scrambled to frantically put up his shield. He got it up just in time to block her attack, but fell solidly to the ground when she dropped him. “Hey,” he said, rubbing his backside.

Liz just shrugged and trying to catch her breath, she grinned maniacally.

Flustered by his inability to shake her, he tossed another dark sapphire sphere at her.

Now that Liz knew she could protect herself, she wanted to try something different. This time, she pulled on the power and absorbed it back into her. She had thought for a while now that since Michael’s and her powers were so similar, so connected, she might be able to steal it!

And now that she knew how to control it, it didn’t cause the kind of damage that it had before. Liz knew where it belonged and how to maintain the delicate balance between her physical body and the alien power. She smiled slyly as it disappeared into nothing and replenished her own well of energy.

And how about that!

“How’d you do that?” Michael demanded.

When she didn’t answer, Michael shook his head; he’d be trying that one later on. He now tried to use his powers to lift her in the air as she had done to him before. But having already used that trick, she was prepared for him, and used her own gifts to keep her grounded. She continued to smirk at him and quirked an eyebrow.

But just then she sneezed again and lost her focus. After a moment’s struggle, Michael’s power swiftly lifted her into the air and then upside down.

*Crap, Michael!!!* she shouted, her face turning red as the blood rushed to her head. *No fair!*

He winced at the mental shout and then gloated. “Oh, come on, Liz, you’re not going to let a little cold keep you down are you?”

She knew she must look ridiculous, hair streaming down behind her and red-faced. She glowered at him and after a moment, was able to right herself and then lightly touched down on the ground.

Oh, yeah? Try this on for size! she thought crossly.

“That was close…” Michael muttered as a slender thread of blue somehow worming through his shield and hissed by his right arm.

“Hah!” she shouted triumphantly. “Keep your shield tighter, big man!”

After twenty more minutes of throwing power back and forth, they were both getting a little tired. Liz had been able to dodge or disable nearly anything that Michael had thrown at her and Michael had the same success. Max hadn't had to step in at all. Despite his gruff response to her accomplishment, Michael was proud of her.

*Hey, Liz?* Michael asked her silently. *You think they’ve had enough entertainment for one day? Want to try something a little more fun for us?*

*Sure, what do you have in mind?* she asked willingly.

They hurriedly agreed on a plan and only a moment later, six small bubbles of water floated lightly through the air and into the clearing. No one even saw it coming.

“Hey!” Maria protested as she stood up in surprise. “I’m wearing a white shirt! And it’s cold!”

Michael leered at her as she stood up, her wet hair streaming down her back. Crossing her arms over her chest, she lifted her chin and glared at him. Then she turned to glower at his sister for good measure. “See if I’m ever on your side again!” she informed Liz, but there was a small glint of humor in her eyes.

“You two just wait!” Maria promised and dried herself with her powers. Spinning on her heel, she walked defiantly back to the house. “You’ll get yours!”

“Oh, come on you guys, my hair’s ruined!” Isabel whined, reaching up to touch her hair. She wrinkled her nose and then gasped, her light brown eyes wide. “This is from the pool! There’s chlorine!”

“Thanks,” Tess griped knowingly, her own hair dripping in her face. “Now I’ll get to listen to over an hour of ‘Does it look alright, Tess?’” she said nasally. “’Do you think I got that last strand of hair in place? Do you see any green at all, Tess?’”

“You!” Isabel shouted furiously and leapt out of her chair.

Tess was too quick, though, and darted out of Isabel’s reach. “’Oh, Tess, do you think Alex will like it?’” she added, batting her eyelashes at Isabel.

Isabel chased her back to the house, almost catching the smaller young woman who couldn’t stop laughing. Drying themselves, Alex and Kyle exchanged a meaningful glance.

“Well, guess we’d better go keep Isabel from pulling Tess’ hair out,” Alex sighed resignedly, but he smiled at Liz and Michael. “Nice show, you guys!”

Kyle nodded his agreement, but then turned back to his brother. “No way, I’m putting my money on my girl,” Kyle objected. “She may look all delicate and sweet, but, from personal experience, she’s no wilting violet.”

“So cliché,” Alex retorted as they headed back to the house.

“Very funny,” Max complained as he wrung out his shirt. “But I’m not going anywhere,” he added, gritting his teeth as the autumn air hit his wet body and his teeth chattered. Liz eyed him appreciatively as the wet shirt clung to his muscular body. She sighed, sad that she didn’t have time to enjoy the view.

Without even exchanging a word, Michael and Liz quickly floated two more large balls of water into the meadow and let them hover above Max’s head. Waving away the water from his clothing and glaring defiantly at the siblings in front of him, Max's eyes narrowed as the two looked pointedly at the air above him. He tipped his head backwards apprehensively.

“Liz!” he exclaimed disbelievingly as he saw his danger. "I can just keep drying myself off. And you know, I do have a shield,” he remarked smugly.

“You saw what I did to Michael’s shield,” Liz said and then shrugged. “Do you really want to test that right now?” she asked, raising an eyebrow and flexing her fingers persuasively.

His mouth dropped open incredulously.

“I think that between the two of us, we could probably drench you, Maxwell,” Michael added arrogantly, crossing his arms across his chest. "And keep you wet."

A slight breeze rustled through the trees and Max's brows knit together a little nervously.

Liz smiled innocently and blew him a kiss. “You’d better run,” she suggested, a wicked gleam in her dark eyes.

“Umm, guys?” he said hesitantly and started walking backwards slowly.

The water followed him. “I’m just gonna be inside,” he said hastily. “I’ll check on you in a little while. OK, Liz?” he asked, looking back and forth between them.

When they didn’t say anything, he put his hands in his pockets. “OK, then,” he said uncertainly. “And don’t hurt each other!” he added firmly. A few sprinkles of water dropped on his head and golden eyes widening, he sprinted back towards the house, glancing back only once at Liz.

“Nice!” Michael said admiringly as he watched his friend turn tail and run. “Could you really have broken through his shield with the water?” he wondered curiously.

“Heck if I know,” she responded, a little embarrassed, and Michael laughed.

“But anyway, geez, I thought he’d never leave,” he huffed aggravatedly.

Liz giggled.

“And Liz, that guy is so whipped, it’s pathetic,” he commented derisively. “You’ve turned our alien king into a puppy dog,” he said, mimicking the wide-eyed that Max always got when he was staring at Liz.

She frowned at him. “He is not!”

“Is so!”

“He is not!” she insisted. “He’s just… eager to please,” she compromised and then winked lasciviously at her brother.

“Oh, please,” Michael said painfully and covered his eyes with his hands. “Please, don’t even go there.”

Liz laughed at his obvious discomfort. “Alright, in deference to your tender sensibilities,” she mocked, “I’ll avoid that topic in the future.”

“Thank, God, for small favors,” Michael said in relief and quickly changed the subject. “So, let’s get to work, it’ll be dark in the woods soon.”

“You want to try working in concert?” she asked, her brown eyes apprehensive.

“If you’re ready. I think it would be a good idea,” he responded seriously. "We've worked on all our individual powers for a while now."

“What should we try?” Liz wondered. “Maybe we could fly!” she exclaimed excitedly.

“I doubt it, Liz,” he said with a snicker.

“Hey, you don’t know!” she said indignantly. “Do you have a better idea?” she challenged.

He shrugged. “Not really. We could just see what happens. As long as we’re in control and stay focused, what could go wrong?”

Liz made a face. “In my experience, plenty,” she said under her breath, but she squared her shoulders resolutely and walked towards him.

*Easier if we touch?* Michael asked mentally.

Liz nodded and took a deep breath. The two part-human, part-alien siblings stood face to face and putting both hands up, touched palms.

They immediately felt the change. The ground beneath their feet, even the air they were breathing, seemed different… the ground felt harder, the air thicker. As if they were seeing a different world.

*Wow…* Michael whispered.

*Maybe we should try to use your shield to make some kind of bubble or something around the area? We don’t want to let anyone unfriendly know we’re practicing,* she suggested and then paused. *Also, we can try to avoid alerting everyone in a thirty mile radius that aliens are among them,* she added wryly.

*And the high king,* Michael added with a smirk.

Liz blushed. *Michael…* she began warningly.

*Just kidding, just kidding. I swear!* he interrupted.

She looked at him suspiciously.

*Honest! Focus, Liz,* he said teasingly.

She sighed at his antics and reaching for his powers, began to create the screen she’d envisioned.

*Hey, wait for me!* Michael said hastily.

*You just try to keep up.*

With their combined energies they were able to construct a dark blue half-sphere about one hundred yards in diameter. Once the bright bubble was in place, Liz blasted a large rock on the outer edge, but within the construct. The rock disintegrated, but she could see that the pieces didn’t leave the sphere nor did the blue light extend beyond it.

*Good,* she said, satisfied that they were ready now.

They briefly discussed what they wanted to do and soon decided just to do what came naturally. Offensive, but nothing too powerful yet.

*Let’s do it then,* Michael said solemnly. *Remember to keep the outer shield in place.*

Liz nodded silently and closed her eyes in concentration.

A circle of blue light, about four feet from the ground encircled them and sparkled brightly in the approaching dark. Their hands clenched together tightly and the circle extended rapidly, slicing through anything in its path. Almost drunk on the wave of power, they didn’t even notice as it quickly approached the outer edges of their protected area.

As their offensive energies came into contact with their sound and light proof bubble, it bounced back. Liz opened her eyes wide in alarm and stepped back from Michael, effectively stopping their offensive energies.

*Whoa!* Michael shouted. *That was a rush!* he exclaimed, looking to Liz.

She only looked forlornly around at the damage they’d caused. *Oh, Michael, look at the poor trees!* she commented sadly. *We should have thought…*

*We can fix it,* he reassured her.

She tilted her head, her eyes curious. *You think? How?*

*Heck if I know,* he told her, repeating her earlier words. *Just think it better.*

Eyes wide, she put her hands back up to meet Michael’s. In a burst of concentration, there was a brilliant flash of blue light. Her eyes dazzled by the bright light, at first she couldn’t even see what had happened. But as her eyes began to readjust to the growing twilight, she could see that the ring of trees had been restored to perfect health.

She beamed at Michael, her eyes still watering furiously from the light show. “Wow, that was absolutely amazing, Michael!” she crowed.

He nodded agreeably, just as impressed as she was, but amazingly he was more composed. As far as he was concerned, it was just more firepower. And that never hurt.

“That it was,” he said calmly.

“It looks like our strength increased exponentially!” she exclaimed, her sharp mind rapidly envisioning the potential. “But we’ll need to think about it a little more before we try anything else. You know, I think we were a little to hasty trying that without any forethought, Michael. We need to have a plan!”

Michael knew she would be like this for the next few days and rolled his eyes at her. He was steeling himself for the barrage that he knew would be coming as soon as they got back to the house. He winced at the verbal tongue lashing that Max was sure to deliver and decided he’d tone down what they’d done when they talked to the others.

Well, we were just practicing, he justified to himself. It's not that big of a deal.

“OK, Liz, let’s get inside, though,” he suggested, wanting to get it over with.

Allowing Michael to herd her back to the house, but not even hearing him, Liz continued ecstatically, “I mean imagine all the possibilities!” She wiped her running nose on her shirt.

Michael stopped and reached into his pocket to bring out a tissue. He knew that she never remembered to carry any.

“OK, Lizzie, blow,” he said holding it up to her nose.

Still lost in her contemplations, she obeyed, just as she had when she was a little girl.

-End Chapter 17-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-Dec-2002 4:50:09 PM ]
posted on 24-Dec-2002 4:42:21 PM by Finn
Normally it takes me a lot longer to write, then I read it, reread it, agaonize over it, read it few more times, and finally post it. And it gets messed with each time. But this time I haven't for some reason. I just wanted to get another chapter out for y'all. Which I why I'm not so sure, I was kind of worried to post it. Especially the beginning... I didn't really want to dwell on Liz talking Maria and Michael, but I didn't want to be cavalier about the process. So, I tried to hit on it without dragging it out. Oh and BTW, I appreciate all your thoughts regarding the last chapter about Liz/Max and I'm sticking by her actions. I'm not normally so needy, but I almost wish I hadn't put this issue in at all, I'm trying to do it justice, but that's not really where I wanted my focus to be. Anyway...

Give me another couple chapters and it's going to get real interesting real fast.

OK, now nobody get all excited about Liz having a cold. But it is about mid- to late-September in the story. Well, OK, I guess there’s no real reason for it, but geez, I can just imagine y’all reading something crazy into it. I swear she just picked up a normal bug (my aliens can get sick, OK!). Sometimes a cold is just a cold!

Merry Christmas all, happy new year!!!!

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 24-Dec-2002 5:26:33 PM ]
posted on 31-Dec-2002 2:29:15 AM by Finn
Hi, guys, obviously nothing this last weekend, but did two last week (holidays and all). I am working on a new one, but am having difficulties... I know where I want to go, it's just getting there. I haven't been idle while I work it out, though, I've actually written part of the epilogue. Hopefully, that shows my dedication and that I will finish it come hell or high water *happy*

Also, Cass my dear, thanks so much for the support on the last one (regarding the "skimming"). Everything you said was right on and is exactly the goal. Thanks for expressing it so well! PS. All good with the pennies (I actually lived in Nottingham for five months... loved it).

That last one was fun to write... Wanted to throw in some fun for everyone!

Love ya all and hopefully back soon!
posted on 5-Jan-2003 3:47:26 PM by Finn
Hello! New chapter to follow (not as long as those last two, but hey...). Oh, and BTW, the little think Kyle says about waiting around for someone to kill you was something Roger Zelazny wrote... I'm sure it was in one of the Amber books, but my memory is failing me. It just made me spit my soda all over a friend of mine when I first read it as a kid, so I had to put it in. Believe me, my friend was NOT amused *happy*

Now, I have to let you all know that my chapters are going to be few and far between for the next 2-3 months. It's a stupid work thing (Jan-March is my busiest season). I think I've only really got 5 or so more chapters plus an epilogue. I've got some started, but need to fill in the blanks. Conceptually, this was not going to be such a long story; I'd originally planned to have it all done by Jan 1! It's become quite a bit longer than I anticipated.

But, I promise to do my best to finish it up in a timely manner *happy*

Hopefully, you'll stick it out! Thanks for all the feedback!

Over and out!


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Jan-2003 10:19:05 PM ]
posted on 5-Jan-2003 3:53:50 PM by Finn
-Chapter 18 – Happy Birthday-

“It’s been over a month!” Isabel said in exasperation, pacing the length of the large kitchen. “When do we get to leave this prison?” she demanded, turning to Michael. “This is getting ridiculous!”

“It is a pain in the ass waiting around for someone to try to kill you,” Kyle said morosely from where he sat at the kitchen table, head resting on his folded arms. Sitting next to him, Tess patted his arm sympathetically before standing up.

“Well, someone needs to at least get groceries for goodness’ sake,” she commented quietly, opening the refrigerator door to point out its bareness.

Isabel stormed over to the walk-in cupboard, which was normally full, and slammed the door open in frustration.

Michael was shaking his head vehemently. “No way.”

Maria came up behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist, hugged him tight. “Come on, Michael, we can’t stay here forever,” she rationalized. “And,” she said, barely containing her excitement, “it’s almost your birthday!”

Michael shrugged off her embrace. “What? Who cares? And you’re on their side, too?” he asked, glaring at her accusingly.

“When are you ever on my side?” he questioned loudly.

“Michael, don’t be like that,” she said placatingly. “And what about Liz? Maybe she’d like a special dinner or even just a cake or something,” she said, her long blond hair flying as she spun and gestured pointedly to Liz who stood silently in the entryway.

*Liz, you understand, right?* he asked her, almost pleadingly. *We have to keep everyone safe. It’s our job!*

He strode towards the doorway to stand right in front of her. *You know that we need to wait longer, Liz! It’s only been a month! And that’s not very long for people like that.*

“Hey, none of that!” Kyle jumped up from his chair and pointed at them the two siblings accusingly. “You guys can’t just wander around thinking at each other. It’s not fair!”

Liz ignored him. Michael had thought appealing to her sense of duty would work and while it almost did, he was
underestimating how stir crazy she had become. She’d only been off the property once in over five months!

She hadn’t escaped from the clutches of depraved lunatics only to become a prisoner in her own home! And despite the fact that she still hadn’t overcome her reservations after the relative quiet of the last month, she was ready to stop letting her fears run her life.

“And nothing’s happened!” Liz exclaimed, answering Michael’s mental question aloud for the benefit of the others. “If someone was out there, don’t you think they would have dropped in by now?” she argued logically. “I mean, if it were me, I think I would have.”

Michael’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. “What?!” he shouted, feeling betrayed. “Liz, you’ve got to be kidding. Maybe there’s a reason they haven’t come yet! Anyone could be out there. Anyone! Just waiting for us to come out so they can take us!”

Liz’s eyes widened and she took a step backwards.

“So they can experiment on us,” he added nastily, hitting below the belt.

“Is that what you really think?” she whispered, angry at the betraying tremble in her voice. Sure, she had every right to be a little uptight about things, but she’d been feeling better recently and no nightmares for three days. Why was Michael still so worked up?

In her surprise, Liz couldn’t help asking again. “Really, Michael?”

Maria glared at her boyfriend.

Max had been sitting in the library, reading, but hearing the shouting and somehow having felt Liz’s heart plummet as if it were his own, he headed immediately for the kitchen. He strode into the room just in time.

“What’s going on?” he asked calmly. Coming up behind Liz, he put his arms around her waist and rested his head atop hers. She put her hands behind her to rest on his legs.

“Isabel had the bright idea that it’s time to go out and say ‘hello’ to the bad guys!” Michael informed him crossly and pointing over at Isabel. “Maria and Kyle, and even Liz here,“ he added, pointing to each of them in turn, “seem to agree with her stupid plan.”

“Hey!” Isabel protested loudly. “I just said that I think we might be safe to leave the grounds by now! You’re the one being unreasonable, Michael! You…”

Max turned to his sister and rolled her eyes at her melodrama. “Calm down, Iz.” He turned back to Michael. “You’re obviously having none of this?” he asked evenly.

Michael stared at him seriously. “It’s still too early. I think…”

“It’s been over a month!” Isabel protested again, interrupting him. “And like Tess said, we’re running low on everything. We have to eat, Max!”

“What about you, Liz?” Max asked her. “What’s wrong?” he inquired worriedly, concerned at the anxious look he’d seen on her face when he’d entered the room.

“Michael was working her over…” Kyle started testily.

“I was just laying down the facts,” Michael interjected forcefully.

Max looked at him coolly. If Kyle wasn’t exaggerating (and if Maria’s decidedly displeased expression was any indication then he probably wasn’t), Max wasn’t very happy with Michael’s behavior. He glanced back down at Liz.

She tipped her head back up to meet his eyes uncertainly, but without the fear he had worried he might see. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right… Maybe Michael’s right. “ She shrugged. “I mean, maybe there’s a reason no one’s come. Maybe they’re waiting for us to come out on our own…”

He stopped her rambling and hugged her. “I don’t know about that,” he disagreed quietly, surprising her. “Look, it doesn’t seem reasonable that if there were someone out there, waiting, that they wouldn’t come for us.”

“Not that I think Liz should be going anywhere,” Max said to Michael, responding to his immediate glare.

“You might be too recognizable,” he added when it looked like she was about to argue. “But maybe four or so of us should go out to at least get supplies,” he suggested calmly.

Liz looked at Michael suspiciously as his defenses dropped at Max’s halfhearted support, Straining hard to hear what he was thinking, she caught a stray thought. *…for her own good…*

*Michael, don’t you ever do anything like that to me again!* Liz shouted at him mentally, stepping away from Max to stalk towards her brother until she stood only inches away from him.

He winced at her ‘shout’ and Liz glared at him furiously. She was absolutely livid that he’d intentionally used her deepest fears to try to scare her into agreeing with him.

*That was low!* she yelled.

“What?” Max asked, looking between the two of them in curiosity.

“Nothing,” Michael sulked, hands clenched tightly at his sides. Maria was staring at him, seemingly mesmerized by a vein throbbing in his temple.

“Nothing,” Liz said at the same time, still glowering at Michael.

“Alright,” Max said doubtfully, knowing that something else was going on between those two.

“At the very least we have to get some grub, my man,” Kyle said, clapping Max on the back and distracting him from his train of thought.

Max couldn’t suppress a slight smile. “OK. I get the point. Michael, you have to agree to that.”

“Fine,” Michael huffed. “If you’d all rather be exposed to alien experimentation than a little hunger, that’s just fine with me.”

Kyle raised an eyebrow and Liz couldn’t help but giggle as Michael’s stomach grumbled at this inopportune moment, as if to emphasize its disagreement with his comment.

“So who goes?” Max asked.

“Let me run get Alex,” Kyle said as he hustled out of the kitchen. “He’ll want in on this, if only to make sure he gets Doritos.”

‘Well, Liz obviously isn’t going and neither am I,” Michael said authoritatively.

“Hey, wait just a minute…” Liz retorted as she saw Max nodding his head in agreement.

“This isn’t a dictatorship,” Maria exclaimed, just as Kyle came back with Alex in tow.

‘Miss anything?’ he mouthed to Tess and she shook her head.

“It’s my birthday coming up (“And mine,” Michael muttered.) and I want to go,” Liz said emphatically, still too angry with her brother to really notice the nervous tickling in the back of her mind that something wasn’t right.

“I don’t care what you say, Michael. Or you, Max! I’m going!” she said stubbornly.

The three other girls nodded in agreement. “If she wants to go, that’s her decision,” Maria said supportively. She didn’t really believe there was anything to worry about.

“I haven’t sensed anything out of the ordinary, Michael,” Tess offered, trying to reassure him.

“But you can only sense over short distances,” Michael snapped at her, refusing to be appeased. “That’s real helpful!”

“Well, what do you expect? I’m not all-powerful!” Tess shouted at him. “But like Liz asked, I’ve been checking for anything out there and I’ve felt nothing! I know it’s not 100% assurance, but what is in our situation?” Finished yelling at him, she stepped backwards and clapped a hand over her mouth, blue eyes wide and shocked at her own temerity.

Michael stared at her in surprise, before throwing in the towel. “Well, I’m obviously outvoted,” he said resentfully and glowered at Liz.

She just glared back obstinately.

“I’m in, too,” he finally growled, knowing there was no arguing with his sister when she was like this.

“I’m in,” Max said gamely and with a small sigh. He moved to stand by Liz again and she smiled at him, grateful that he wasn’t going to start in on her, too. “That’s three.”

“I really need to pick up a few things from the electronics store,” Alex jumped in hurriedly.

“I want to go!” Isabel shouted imperiously.

“Me, too,” Tess interjected, not really caring, but just contemplating getting Isabel riled up.

“Hey, if they get to go…” Maria started, not wanting to be overlooked.

“Now everyone can’t go,” Max broke in, already exasperated with the proceedings. “We’ve got three already. Two more. Tops.”

He paused. “Everyone wants to go now, eh?” he asked with a wide smile.

Liz chuckled, thinking he looked a little like Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat… if he were drunk on power.

“Odds or evens,” Max suggested with a wicked grin. “Lowest set goes, even if its only one.” He looked at the others for their approval.

No one really wanted to argue that it wasn’t fair that Michael and Liz got to go without any question. Without deliberation, all five of the aliens nodded in agreement. They quickly held out their hands, showing either a one or a two. Looking around at the others and realizing she had lost, Isabel was ready to argue when Max cut her off.

“Sorry, Iz,” he said apologetically. “Tess and Kyle had odds, the rest of you had evens.”

Maria looked at Kyle and Tess suspiciously as the couple slapped high-fives and Tess did a little victory dance.

“Make a list, princess,” Tess said evilly, looking at Isabel. When Isabel lunged for her, she ducked behind Kyle with a laugh.

“Cheater!” Isabel shouted.

Alex and Kyle exchanged a long-suffering glance.

* * * * *

“OK,” Liz said, fishing in her pockets for the three lists they’d put together before leaving for town. She handed the first list to Kyle and Tess; they were leaning against the convertible.

“You guys can hit the electronics store for Alex,” she said. “It’s going to take us a while in here,” she added, pointing to the grocery store behind her, “so come find us when you’re done.”

She raised an eyebrow when Tess groaned. “Don’t whine; it’s unbecoming,” she admonished. “Besides, Kyle knows what Alex really wants and we’re only getting what’s on the list anyway. You already told me what you wanted.”

She bounded over to Liz and whispered in her ear. “Get some cinnamon bears, please?” she pleaded and Liz nodded. “Don’t tell Kyle you’re getting them, he’ll eat them all.”

She then stepped back and rolled her eyes. “Oh, and some magazines, OK? Isabel’s boooored! She made me promise to get some for her and since I’ve been picking on her an awful lot…” Tess admitted.

Liz nodded again, this time biting her lip to keep from laughing. “Will do,” she said. As Kyle and Tess walked across the street to do their shopping, she called after them, glancing around to see if anyone was paying them any undue attention.

“Stick together!”

Kyle looked back and waving his hand, gave her a quick nod to let her know he’d heard her.

“Michael,” she said, thrusting a second piece of paper at him. “You get this stuff.”

He took it, looked it over, and then stared at her. “No way! I can’t buy these things,” he exclaimed pointing to several items on the list. “And who put you in charge anyway?”

“What?” Liz asked exasperatedly, looking at the list and then back up at him. It didn’t look too bad to her. “What’s your problem?”

“These!” Michael said, pointing.

She giggled. “Michael, they’re just tampons.” She giggled again when he flinched at the word. *Tampons!* she said suddenly in his mind.

He flinched again and then glared at her. “Stop saying that!”

Max was staring at the two of them, fascinated by the silent and not-so-silent sibling argument.

“Oh, please! Alright, just grab them, I’ll pay for them at the checkout line,” she compromised.

He groaned, but although he grumbled all the way, he went into the store.

Liz turned and looked at Max gleefully. “Yeah, baby, we get the food!” she shouted triumphantly before grasping his hand and dragging him into the store.

As soon as she entered, she grabbed a cart and wheeled towards the produce section. Max read down the list and Liz picked out the food.

“We’re done here,” he commented ten minutes later as he reached the end of the fruits and vegetables.

“No, wait,” Liz said and ran down the aisle.

Max watched curiously as she pulled down a plastic bag and grabbed a bunch of carrots. “What do we need that for?” he asked.

“We already have some.”

He as inept in the kitchen as Maria was and had no idea what she was planning to make. “Would anyone else know what you’re planning?”

Liz nodded, but when he opened his mouth to ask, she just smiled mysteriously and said, “You’ll find out!”

She put several other items that weren’t on the shopping list in their cart as they continued through the grocery store. She even filled up a small bag of cinnamon bears for Tess and hid them beneath a cereal box.

“We already have everything else I need for my little surprise,” she told him.

“It’s not really that big of a deal…” she started before realizing that they had just passed the book and magazine aisle. She darted in and picked up several fashion magazines as well as a few science magazines, and even a computer magazine.

“Do you want anything?” she asked as she came back with her armload.

“Nope,” he said amusedly, shaking his head.

Before she could set them down, Kyle and Tess trotted up to them. “We’re done,” Tess said, dumping a small plastic bag in the cart.

“Well, what do we have here?” Kyle asked, peering into the cart, and poking around. “Cinnamon bears! Nice choice,” he commented.

Tess groaned.

“Liz!” he exclaimed joyfully as he caught sight of a few items. Max and Tess looked at him oddly, while Liz nodded brightly.

Kyle rubbed his hands together fiendishly and informed them, “Liz’s famous carrot cake!”

“It’s a surprise,” she scolded as Kyle whooped. “It’s Michael’s favorite, you know,” she told Max as she piled the magazines over the telltale ingredients. He nodded and watched as she arranged the groceries to hide her extra purchases. “Oh well, I’m sure he’ll never look in the cart anyway,” she conceded.

“I’ll get candles!” Tess offered. Kyle nodded wickedly.

Liz looked at him suspiciously. “The kind you can blow out, Kyle.”

His face fell. “You’re no fun,” he pouted as Tess dragged him off.

Michael came rushing down the aisle, face red. “Here,” he said breathlessly, dropping several boxes into the cart, ”here!”

Liz giggled. “What took you so long?” she inquired, her brown eyes wide and guileless.

“And where’s everything else?” Max asked.

Michael just scowled at Liz. “There were girls,” he huffed.

She raised an eyebrow. “Girls?” she echoed in confusion.

“In the aisle,” he muttered, aware of how ridiculous he was sounding, but unable to stop himself. “There were girls in the aisle. I had to wait until they left and this was all I could carry.”

She glanced at him reproachfully. “Well, go back. And get a cart for the rest of it.”

He looked at her indignantly. “I’m not using a cart!” he said grumpily. “That’s women’s work,” he added, looking to Max for support when Liz glowered at him.

Max stepped back and raised his hands. “Don’t put me in the middle of this. I’m fine with wheeling a cart.”

Michael just stared at him. “Give me that,” Max said exasperatedly, grabbing the list from Michael’s hands.

“Hey, that’s just fine. You’ve got only the easy stuff left,” Michael called out as Max stalked off.

Liz burst out laughing.

“Shut up,” Michael muttered.

*Alright already,* he told her silently, when she didn’t quiet down. *Color me humiliated.*

“Now, what’s left here?” he continued out loud.

“Not much,” she admitted, as her laughter tapered off.

Liz bit her lip nervously as Kyle, Tess, and Max returned. During the last several minutes, as she and Michael were finishing up the last of the food shopping, the siblings had begun to get a bit nervous. Their emotions bounced back and forth between the two of them, amplifying in intensity.

“That’s it!” Tess said delightedly. “All done.”

“Then let’s go,” Liz said, rubbing her arms. The hair on her arms was standing up and she had goosebumps. But she couldn’t even explain because she didn’t feel anything in specific, just a general sense of foreboding. It had been increasing ever since they got into line and she wanted to get out of there. Now.

Max glanced at her questioningly, while Michael nodded in agreement. He was getting more antsy, too. But when they made it through the checkout line without incident (except for Liz ordering Michael and Kyle to stand outside, since they kept tossing in candy bars while they were standing in line), he shook his head and tried to shrug it off.

As they loaded the groceries into the Jeep and the convertible, it started to drizzle and the sky became dark in gray and black. Lightning suddenly crackled across the sky and Liz jumped as the thunder rumbled a few seconds later. Just s storm, she chided herself as she rushed to the leap into the front seat of the Jeep.

Relax.

Michael yawned and stretched in the back seat. “Wake me when we get there.”

“Well, that was relatively uneventful,” Liz commented, still a little nervous, but they were in the car now and heading home. “No problems.”

“And in record time, too,” Max commented. “Only an hour and a half.”

Liz nodded. She yawned tiredly and stretched a little. She wrinkled her nose and yawned again. All that practice is really wearing me down.

Max grinned at her. She was so cute when she did that. “Why don’t you take a nap, too, Liz?” he suggested. “You don’t need to entertain me.”

Nodding, she yawned again and leaned her head against he window and pulled her legs up beneath her.

“Home free,” Michael muttered under his breath, before he dropped off.

-End Chapter 18-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Jan-2003 4:03:26 PM ]
posted on 26-Jan-2003 12:35:08 PM by Finn
Hello,
I've got a new part almost done and yes, I realize that it's been, oh my gosh, 3 weeks... I'm debating if I should post because it feels like it's a mean cliffhanger. I think I'll do it later this afternoon anyway, though, and leave it up to y'all if you want to read it!

Like I said, though, slow is probably the norm for... well... about 2 more months now. Hopefully that it'll be the end of it. I honestly apologize, but work is work... Gotta pay the bills. But heck, who needs food anyway, right?

Thanks for sticking with me, you're the best! Be back in a few hours!h
posted on 26-Jan-2003 8:52:45 PM by Finn
OK, so I'm on the west coast and it's before 6... so it's still afternoon! I wouldn't lie to y'all!

Enjoy!


-Chapter 19 - More Trouble-

“Perfect,” Max muttered as he felt the Jeep drop slightly.

He pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. Rolling down the window and unbuckling the seatbelt, he leaned out and craned his neck to see the back wheel was entirely flat. He groaned, but then glancing at the sky uncertainly, he thought that at least the light drizzle hadn’t yet turned into a torrential downpour.

Sitting back down in the seat, Max glanced over at Liz, glad that the stop hadn’t wakened her. He had been noticing the dark circles under her eyes lately. While she seemed to be having less nightmares, or at least she was hiding them better, he thought with a grimace, he knew that she was wearing herself out with constant training. He shook his head in exasperation. He’d have to talk to her about that later.

At the moment, though, her lips were curved upward slightly and Max knew she wasn’t having a nightmare. He smiled tenderly at her. Reaching towards her, he gently ran a thumb over her cheek, then her lips, caressing her face softly before he quietly opened the car door and jumped to the ground.

Driving the convertible, Tess noticed that Max had stopped on the side of the road as she crested the top of the hill. She slowed, passing the Jeep on the left, and then pulled over in front. Max hurried over to the car as she rolled down the window. Reaching in front of her to turn down the blaring radio, she raised her eyebrows inquisitively.

“We’ve got a flat,” he said with a shrug. “I just need to find the problem and then presto.”

“OK,” Tess said with relieved smile. “I guess we can just head back then…” she started before trailing off, frowning slightly as she peered curiously out into the forest.

Max looked at her and then Kyle apprehensively. “Well, I guess that makes sense,” he said with a hesitant nod. “Tess?” he asked when she didn’t respond.

“Huh?” she asked. She blinked at him and then blinked again, focusing her eyes on his face. The confusing thought that had been forming drifted away. “What? Oh, sorry, I… umm… I…”

“Don’t strain yourself,” Kyle interrupted her ramble with a snort. She twisted in her seat to glare fiercely at him, but when he just laughed again, she turned back to Max with a blush.

Max smiled at her. “It’s OK, Tess,” he said, forestalling her words. “Yeah, we’ll be right behind you,” he continued and gestured for her to drive on. “The kids are sleeping in the car,” he added with a grin.

“OK,” she said, answering him with a smile. They were almost home after all... Less than ten minutes away in fact, she rationalized. And how long could it possibly take to fix a flat with alien powers?

Next to her in the car, Kyle wasn’t so sure, but if Max seemed OK with it… He nodded dubiously. “Make it quick,” he said and Max nodded. “See you back at the house,” Kyle called as Tess drove off.

* * * * *

Back in the car, Liz shifted restlessly as a barrage of imagery began to flow through her dreams, changing the pace and tone of the pleasant dream she’d been having about Max. She let out a mewling cry as the images became horrifying, split second glimpses of her brother, Max and even herself.

~ A flying silver object.

~ Suddenly back in the compound, a frightening glimpse of chains.

~ Nick coming towards her with a leer.

~ Michael being taken away from her.

~ Max was next to go…

~ Alone... so frighteningly alone... but not truly alone... with Nick.


But the one that made her heart shatter and her breathing stop was of the both of them.

~ Max and Michael… pleading for her to help them… she sat chained to the floor… helpless to protect them… they were being hurt.

“No!” Liz woke with a cry, curled into a ball on the seat. Her body was tense and cramping as she sat in the car seat in an odd fetal position.

Her heart clenched painfully when she realized that Max wasn’t in the car. She looked around frantically and sighed with relief when she saw that he was only talking to Tess, who had pulled over in front of them. She rubbed her eyes tiredly and let out a shaky breath.

I thought these were over. I thought all the training and workouts had taken care of them… she thought unhappily. Made me too tired to dream…

Stretching and twisting, Liz tried to work out her spasming muscles. Finally, she shook out her trembling arms. Stop being so ridiculous, Liz! she began to talk to herself, trying to bring herself back down out of the dream. It’s just a nightmare. Nothing’s going to happen to them.

At her insistence and in the face of the every day… the typical Oregon drizzle, the normalcy of the Jeep, the sight of Max alive and fine outside… the nightmare quickly began to fade as nightmares do.

Liz looked towards the back seat and saw that Michael was still asleep, his brow knitted almost as if in concentration and his head resting against the closed window. She gazed fondly at him for a moment, smiling when she saw the fog form on the window with each puff of breath, before jumping out of the car, curious as to why they had stopped. She only made it a few steps before Max started back towards her. She watched as the convertible peeled back out onto the road.

“What is it? Something wrong?” she questioned as he approached.

“Flat,” he said simply.

“Oh,” she said as Max began to move towards the back of the Jeep. “I’ll do it, Max,” she offered, gesturing to the flat tire. “I could use the practice,” she added with a grin.

He narrowed his eyes, remembering the water incident clearly. “I’m not so sure that you need more practice,” he muttered halfheartedly.

She just rolled her eyes at him.

“Alright, alright,” he agreed with a laugh, holding his hands in surrender as she grumbled at him.

With another chuckle, he swiftly dried a small spot on the hood of the Jeep and leaned against it, looking out into the dark forest. There was nothing there, just miles and miles of tall fir trees and surely at least a hundred deer. After a moment, he thought he saw some slight movement. He squinted, thinking to see a flash of the brown coat of a deer, but there was nothing more. For some reason, though, the hair on the back of his neck was suddenly standing on end.

Heading back towards the rear of the Jeep, Liz tripped over a rock. Falling to her knees, she ripped a large a hole in her jeans and scraped her knee.

Real smooth, Liz! she thought to herself. It’s a good thing that Michael’s asleep or he’d probably going to start laughing his head off. Idiot, she thought spitefully and then rolled her eyes. But she never had the chance to giggle at her own clumsiness, or turn her head to tell Max she was fine, or even a chance to move.

Because only a split second after her fall, Liz felt something whiz by her face and make a quiet, but distinct thunk as it hit the Jeep. She looked up from the ground to see a slender dart. It quivered in the metal door just in front of the flat tire, right where she would have been standing if she hadn’t fallen.

Liz stared at it in shock for a moment before her survival instincts, rather her ‘royal protector’ instincts kicked in. She scrambled to her feet, her heart pounding and the adrenalin pumping.

She realized that Max hadn’t even noticed her stumble, but was staring oddly into the woods. “Max!” she hissed loudly and rushed over to where he sat on the hood of the Jeep.

“What? Do you need help?” he asked, looking down at Liz in confusion and distracted by the peculiar sensation he was feeling.

Liz didn’t have a chance to explain. Max’s head jerked back as another dart flew through the air the hit him in the throat. He quickly flung up his right hand to put up his shield.

Before she could protest, he protectively pushed Liz behind him, shielding her twice: with his powerful alien shield and by placing her between his body and the car. Angrily pulling the dart from his throat and throwing it to the ground, he looked around, eyes flitting swiftly to the left and right, hunting for any movement in the forest. Liz gasped when another dart struck the green shield and then bounced off the solid wall to land harmlessly on the ground. She bit her lip; Max’s shield was the only thing protecting them from the menacing darts.

Her heart pounding wildly, she clenched her hands in his shirt and rested her head against his broad back, closing her eyes. Liz considered that she might be able to use her telekinesis, but the darts were too fast for her to stop them individually. How could she stop something that she couldn’t even see until it was too late? Since Max was obviously occupied, she tried frantically to think of some way to get them out of this.

Despite wanting to blast whoever it was to pieces, she realized with a cynical smile that it wouldn’t be practical to start blowing up trees at random. We can’t do anything from here and I don’t know what that dart is going to do to Max, she thought hurriedly. Finally, she decided retreat was their only option.

“Max, start walking back to the Jeep. We have to get out of here. Fast,” she said quietly.

He didn’t move.

“Max?” she asked distractedly, eyes scanning the woods for movement. “Did you hear me?”

Just as she said the words, she felt Max’s power stutter. Her eyes widened and she gasped to see that the green bubble protecting them was shimming strangely.

“Your shield!” she hissed, as their only defense began to flicker alarmingly, completely disappearing before reappearing a second later. “Max, your shield!” she repeated apprehensively. Suddenly, he stared to slump in front of her and the shield died for the last time.

“Max?” she said uncertainly. Liz held him as he dropped sharply to the ground and slowed his fall as she went to the pavement with him. “Max!” she cried again, more frightened now. This can’t be happening!

Max is in trouble… The sudden panic her thought heralded made her pant for breath. She turned him over so that his head rested in her lap.

Thinking quickly and knowing she couldn’t allow herself to be hit if she was going to save Max, she threw up her hand towards the woods, where the darts had come from. Pushing with her telekinesis, she forced everything that was within a foot of them, air, falling leaves, the light drizzle of rain… away.

Liz flinched as another dart flew at her and sighed anxiously as it slowed, coming into contact with her power, and dropped to the ground a few inches away. This wasn’t a very efficient use of her power and she couldn’t keep it up indefinitely, not like Max’s shield, but it would have to do for now. She looked back to Max worriedly.

His vision was getting hazy, but he could still see her face and reached up to touch her cheek. “Liz, run!”

She shook her head frantically in denial.

“Please love, go!” he rasped agitatedly. “Sorry… know I promised… protect you… leave me… please, Liz, go…” he pleaded, absolutely frantic that she get away… try to escape while she still could. He didn’t want her staying for him… Her job requirements as a royal protector be damned!

“Max, no,” she whispered, still shaking her head violently. “Max!” she yelped as his eyes began to glaze over.

“Run, Liz… that’s… order…” he whispered hoarsely, terrified for her, before his eyes rolled up into his head and his arm fell limply to the pavement.

“No, Max, wake up!” she wailed.

This… this is my nightmare! she realized in alarmed confusion. But how is that possible? This can’t be happening! How could I have seen this, how could I have seen this in my nightmare?

We can’t see the future! No Antarian could do that! They couldn’t; it’s not even possible!


But then her eyes widened in fear as she remembered what else had happened in her nightmare. He had been hurting! He left me… he went away!

Oh no, no! Oh, please! PLEASE! No, no, no... what if he’s not just asleep?


She reached down to his throat and found a thready pulse, but it felt painfully slow beneath her shaking fingers. No, please… what if he’s dying? And with that, her mind began to shut down completely.

Fortunately, her survival instincts kicked in yet again and she mercilessly forced the dangerous thoughts away. I can’t save him just by whining about it, she told herself frostily. And I can’t do anything about it while I’m on the ground like a sitting duck. I can’t change what’s happening by getting hit by another one of those darts.

Do something, Liz!


She looked indecisively between Max and the Jeep. I can’t keep pushing like this forever, she though rapidly, already starting to feel the steady drain on her resources. But I don’t want to leave him here. Unprotected.

Suddenly she realized that Michael was still asleep in the car, totally defenseless. Of course, he’ll help, she thought in relief. But in rising horror, he throat tightened. Oh God, Michael was gone in my nightmare, too!

“MICHAEL!” she yelled aloud.

Liz began to crawl on hands and knees towards the back door. Moving fast and having finally having passed the back door, she quickly turned around so that she could open it. She reached up for the handle and shrieked as a fifth dart thudded into the Jeep, less than an inch above her shoulder. She ducked her head and then reached up for the door.

*MICHAEL!* her mind screamed to him, cursing the fact that he slept like the dead.

At his sister’s screaming in his head, Michael woke in a frenzy. He flung open the car door only to see Liz staring up at him from where she kneeled on the ground, her eyes wide and bright with terror and determination. His own hazel eyes widened at the state of her and the fear he could feel coming off her in waves. He quickly bent down to grab her hand, intending to yank her into the Jeep. She reached for him when another dart hit its mark, planting itself in his forearm.

Liz let out a strangled cry and her eyes grew impossibly large as she stared up into his face. He cursed and ripped it out. Realizing that they were in very serious trouble, he yanked her into the Jeep.

“GET IN! NOW!” He slammed the door shut behind her. “We’re getting out of here!”

*But, Max!* she thought to him as she huddled on the seat. “Max is out there!”

“Shit!” he cursed, looking out the window of the Jeep, his eyes wild. “Get in the front seat, Liz, you’re driving.”

“But, Michael!”

“No. Liz, listen to me! For once!”

“Michael,” she started hoarsely. “We can’t leave Max! Please!”

“Got to… get you… out…” he trailed off strangely.

“Michael!” she shouted as she looked up at him. His eyes were unfocused and staring.

*Fight it!* she screamed at him. *Don’t leave me here alone!*

*God… can’t move. Sorry… Liz… so sorry…* She saw his lids slide shut as he tipped over towards the window, his body no longer under his control.

“No, no, no! Don’t say that! Please don’t, Michael. I can’t do this by myself!” she sobbed as his eyes closed and she felt his presence drop sharply from her mind and she was alone.

Her breath now coming in whistling gasps, she frantically considered her options and then crawled over the stick into the front seat.

I’m going to HAVE to do this by myself, she thought grimly. OK, OK… the keys… keys in the ignition, she thought. Forget the damn tire; you’ll have to use your powers.

Staying low in the vehicle, she turned the key and drove forward a few feet, so that she could see in her side mirror that Max was lying right next to the back door.

Putting the Jeep in neutral, but leaving the motor on, she crawled to the back again. Keeping herself low in the seat and on her knees, she carefully opened the back door with her powers. Her eyes darting from the woods and then down to Max’s still form, she reached down and put both hands under his arms and pulled with all her might, using her powers to get him inside. Too much, she thought as her head cracked against the window on the other side of the Jeep and she saw stars.

Shaking her head and blinking away tears, she telekinetically closed the back door and moved back to the front seat. She reached for the gears when she felt a sharp stinging, pain in her neck. Hands shaking, she reached up to her neck and pulled out the needle lodged in the side of her throat. It fell the floor of the Jeep through her trembling fingers.

Stupid, stupid, Liz! The window was open! she berated herself.

Turning her head towards the open window, she saw a black-masked face only inches from her own and shouted out in alarm.

She flung the tall man away from the Jeep, but when she reached again for the stick, intent on getting Max and Michael away from whoever it was that was trying to hurt them all, her body suddenly stopped obeying her.

Move your arm, Liz! Do it! she ordered herself. Do something! Anything!

But as hard as she tried, she couldn’t. She couldn’t move and wasn’t even able to access the place inside of herself where she knew that her powers resided. She slumped over to the left, her body leaning against the door, her head next to the open window.

No, please, somebody, please! It can’t end like this, she thought desolately. I can’t do this again. Please, please, please. Anyone... Help us!

Help Max.

Oh, please help Michael
, she despaired.

…help me…

Suddenly she heard a soft, feminine voice. *Liz?* she heard the hesitant question.

*Tess?* she asked hopefully. *Oh, Tess… please…* she pleaded.

*Yes! It’s me! Liz, what’s happening?* Tess asked frantically. *I felt you… heard you… Are you OK?*

*No…* Liz gasped as her vision began to cloud. *Tess, we’re in trouble,* she added more steadily. *But we’re all down… all three of us! Get the others!*

*Liz? Liz are you still on the road?* the voice was barely audible.

*Yes…* she shouted as loudly as she could, but she could feel the connection getting fainter. Whether it was because she was getting weaker because of the drug or because she was losing consciousness, she couldn’t have said.

*…liz…*

*Tess!* she shouted again, but there was only silence.

She heard footsteps and through her blurring vision, she was only able to make out a vague shape in the side mirror as someone approached her side of the Jeep. She forced herself to look upwards as the person stopped at her side. After a moment of intense concentration, she was able to focus on the face… only to wish she hadn’t.

“Hey, baby… Did you miss me?” Nick asked as he hunched over the window. Pulling off his gloves, he reached out to caress her smooth cheek with his rough hand. Nearly paralyzed by whatever drug was now in her system, she could only whimper at his vile touch.

Oh, nonononoNO… Please, not again… Not again…

“I’ve missed you,” he added chillingly and opened the car door.

He swung her limp form up in his arms. His left arm was beneath her knees, curled up to rest on her jean-clad thigh, while the other wrapped beneath her shoulders, hand on her side. As her head lolled to the side, he pulled her tightly to his chest. Bending forward over her, he kissed her insistently, his mouth hard and demanding.

Liz whimpered again as he smiled. “Happy birthday, baby.”

…oh, Max, help me… please… not again…

She dimly heard the far off sound of another car speeding back towards them. It sounded like the convertible.

…kyle… tess… no… stay away… you’ll be caught…

“Get over here!” Nick called loudly to someone, as he peered into the distance at the approaching car. “And make it quick! We’re leaving!” he added as he hurried her back to his waiting vehicle.

“Oh, Ren… sweet, Ren,” he whispered in her ear before she willingly surrendered to the darkness. “I’ve got you again…”

-End Chapter 19-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Jan-2003 8:54:41 PM ]
posted on 14-Feb-2003 2:13:23 PM by Finn
Hello you guys. Thanks for being so patient with me and bumping despite my lack of posts. To follow is my next part and things are starting to move a little more quickly now... Answers are forthcoming!

Thanks for the feedback as well and I'm desperately sorry for leaving it that way. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Like I said, I considered not posting it, but then it would have been like 6 weeks until you got anything because I would have then had to post two chaps! Hopefully this was a better idea… I just figured you'd rather have a part than no part... Was I wrong?

the better twin - You were first!! I realize this isn't soon, but better late than never, right?

Strawberry88 - Intense is good, right? Thanx!

Gigo - Sorry (giggle), but I warned you ahead of time, didn't I? Evil, huh? I've never been called that before. It has kind of a nice ring to it, mwah hah hah!

AZNroSweLl anglgrl - Nope, Nick didn't die (did anyone REALLy think that he did?). Glad you're liking it and I'm trying hard to make it exciting!

roswellluver - It is pretty horrible huh? Me leaving it there or the situation. Or both *wink*

BelevnDreamsToo - Sorry to give you a tummyache. Well, I'm not sure this part will relieve it, but at least now you know, right?

frenchkiss70 - Yup, they're in trouble now. And actually, I'm having a heck of a time figuring out how they're going to get out of it...

Lolita Behrbuns - It wasn't QUITE nuclear, but when you read the next part, you'll find out how he survived. I'd like to see you reach through the computer... Interesting visual *big*

Erin - Geez, what is with this calling me evil stuff? A girl might get a complex! But well, Nick’s motivations aren’t exactly black and white, they’re a little more complicated and murky… They probably won’t be fully explained here in this story, but if I ever write the Antarian stuff, it’ll be crystal clear. Champion nof cliffhangers... wow, do I get a medal or something? Or a dummy prize?

Sharon - I am starting to feel really bad as I wade through all this feedback and everyone's so upset with my cliffhanger (not!). Actually, I'm enjoying the fact that I did it, 'cause it got such a rise out of y'all! You're asking good questions...

Katalina - Thanks for the bump!

ps_dreamer - Drumroll please... Nick is back in town... I'm back, now, huh?

Twilighteyes1974 - Well actually, I did just leave it there, but apparently that is absolutely a horrible thing to do. Oh well *wink*. Love the begging, BTW.

Starlight - Hey, I'm back. Although, I'm sure you were hoping for a bit sooner, eh?

kittens - Yeah, it is a bummer, huh? And don't think they're not going to feel like total morons about it *happy*

On to the good stuff (hopefully)...
posted on 14-Feb-2003 2:14:52 PM by Finn
Haven't posted my great banners from BorderInsanity or Talena for a while. Enjoy!

Desolation

fd11c3b5

Chapter 20 – In the Labs

“Shit,” Michael croaked as he awakened, cold and aching, several hours later on a cold cement floor. “And just why the hell am I on the floor?” was his next muttered question.

“Michael?” Max asked, looking over briefly at his friend before returning quickly to the girl who lay next to him.

Michael opened his eyes blearily. Groaning at the instant headache, he shut his eyes again immediately, trying to block out the bright lights. He gagged as a feeling of nausea rose in his throat.

“I felt it, too, but it’ll go away soon,” Max said in a low voice. “Just breathe deeply and don’t move to much for a while,” he suggested quietly. Then he suddenly shook his head angrily. “I think it was whatever drug they pumped into us,” he added heatedly.

Max’s voice brought Michael back to the present. They? Drugs… They… they what?

Liz!

As he remembered what had happened, he sat up suddenly, ignoring the piercing pain that blinded his eyes, and barked, “Liz!”

“She’s here, Michael,” Max reassured him quickly without turning his head.

Despite his intense relief that Liz was here, the sudden movement hadn’t helped Michael’s unsettled stomach. He bent over quickly and putting his head between his knees, he closed his eyes miserably. Three chains shackled him to the wall, both legs and his right arm, and they rattled across the floor as he moved. He was wearing different clothes as well: white cotton tank and shorts, feet bare.

Coughing and swallowing hard, he tried not to vomit and wished that he hadn’t moved at all. After only a minute, though, he began to gain control over his stomach and feeling better, he opened his eyes again. He sat back up and looked over towards his friend.

Max was sitting against the same wall to which Michael was chained. He was fettered similarly and dressed in the same light cotton clothing. He had moved as far towards the wall to his left, however, and as Michael blinked his eyes into focus, he saw that Max had moved to be closer to Liz.

Edging as close as the chains allowed, Max had then somehow managed to pull her towards him, also stretching her chains to the limit. Her head lay in his lap and Max pulled her long, dark hair behind her ear, revealing that her eyes were closed. Her thick lashes lay against the dark circles under her eyes. Michael grimaced to see her too pale face, but was relieved that if she had been taken, too, at least she was with them.

“How… how is she?” he asked hesitantly, his voice rough. “She hasn’t been awake?”

“No,” Max said softly. “But she has a bruise, here,” Max continued hoarsely, touching her neck gently. “I think she was shot, just like I was. You, too?” he asked almost absently. His eyes were still glued to Liz’s still face.

Michael nodded angrily, and rubbing his sore forearm, saw a small bruise. “All that work… all those hours practicing. And for what?” he muttered irately. “Just to get taken down by some drug,” he spat out. “How incredibly stupid!”

“What the hell happened, Maxwell? I just saw her for a second before a dart hit me,” he said, disgusted with himself. “She was trying to get into the Jeep… I didn’t know what was going on and so I started to pull her in when I got hit. Only a few minutes later, I was out.”

“I don’t know…” Max responded vaguely before trailing off.

Although Max hadn’t been awake much longer than Michael, the implications of their plight had begun to sink in. This was not good. Not good at all.

They had no idea where they were, the others had no idea where they were, they’d been drugged, weren’t able to use their powers, and they’d been chained to a wall in a large sterile room that looked suitable for God knows what… How much worse could this get?

He was silent for several minutes and stroked Liz’s hair with his left hand, freely moving from her head and her bare arm. This situation was so unreal and so completely terrifying and out of his realm of experience that his only comfort was the fact that he could feel her, know that she was real. So he could reassure himself that she was here and that she was whole.

At least for now…

“Max,” Michael said firmly. “Look at me.”

Max looked over at him wearily.

“Max, focus,” Michael continued determinedly, knowing that if Max went off the deep end, they’d be in even more trouble. “We have to get out of here. We will get out of here… but you have to focus now. Can you tell me what happened?”

Max shrugged uncomfortably. Though his gaze was still troubled, Michael was relieved to see that Max’s eyes had cleared somewhat.

“I don’t really know,” he whispered. “We got a flat and," he swallowed hard,” we were so close to home, I just sent Tess and Kyle on ahead…” He paused.

“Liz was going to fix it,” he continued more evenly under Michael’s steady gaze, “and I was waiting at the front of the Jeep. Something was starting to feel off, though…” He shook his head uncertainly. “Next thing I know, Liz is running towards me. Her face…I don’t know how she knew something was wrong, if she heard something or felt something, but Michael, she was terrified…” he stopped and shuddered, remembering the look in her eyes.

“And?”

“And then I was shot,” Max said tiredly with a shrug.

He’d been up and thinking about it for only a few, after finding the small telltale bruise on her throat, but he had already pictured Liz being hit with a dart more times than was good for his sanity. He forced himself to continue.

“I put up my shield, tried to keep her safe, but I couldn’t hold it. The drug, or whatever it was, was so fast and I dropped. I told her to run. Michael, I told her!” he exclaimed, practically in tears that it had probably been because of him that she was captured. “She just wouldn’t go.

“Then I was out,” he finished shakily.

“She wanted to protect you, too,” Michael muttered in consolation.

Max stared at him in surprise.

“Damn it, I don’t want her here, Max, don’t get me wrong!” Michael retorted testily. “I want her safe. Far the hell away from here. But she’s not. And this is what we have to deal with.

“Now, look. Do you think they can hear us?” he asked more quietly.

Max nodded silently and Michael shook his head, frustrated already. Although he knew he couldn’t use his powers, there was obviously no need to even discuss that, he hoped that that might not include the mental connection with his sister. He felt a light buzz in his head and although he knew it was Liz, it didn’t tell him much.

He sighed dourly.

But at least it was something.

Michael began to examine the room, hoping that their captors had missed something. The three were held against the long, back wall of the large, rectangular, and very scary white room. There was a sliding glass door at the opposite end from Michael, across from Liz, and the rest of that wall was mirrored. Michael glowered at the mirror and squinted, almost positive that it was a one-way mirror and that there were people on the other side.

Watching them.

He pulled experimentally at his chains, but there was no give. Grunting, he tried harder, but still couldn’t make any headway. He turned again towards Max, to ask him if he’d had any bright ideas, when the door suddenly slid open. Both men turned to see a tall, large man entering the room. He stopped several feet in front of Max and Liz, too far away to touch, but Max’s eyes glittered angrily. He recognized the man from the flashes he had received from Liz that very first day. This was Nick.

Glancing over at Max, Michael was a little confused at seeing his immediate and uncharacteristic response. Michael scrutinized the man suspiciously before turning back to Max. Noting his furious glare at the man, Michael realized who this man must be and clenched his jaw. This was the monster that had been at Liz while she was away. This man was the one who had raped his sister.

“So, my girl’s still asleep, is she?” Nick asked conversationally, his gray eyes shining as he looked at Liz where she lay peacefully on Max’s thighs.

“She’s not your anything!” Max growled protectively, pulling Liz closer towards him.

“What the hell do you want?” Michael snarled, his eyes black with rage.

“Oh, my,” Nick said with a smirk at the two young men’s instant fury. “Do you know who I am, then?” he asked, his gray eyes cold and curious.

“We know who you are!” Michael started furiously. Max gave him a look, but Michael wouldn’t, or couldn’t, stop. “You’re the bastard who’s not even going to live long enough to regret…”

“Michael,” Max interrupted. Wrestling angrily with himself, Michael finally quieted. “What do you want?” Max repeated Michael’s earlier question, his voice chillingly steady.

Nick looked at him reproachfully. “Well for now, it’s not so much what I want,” he said, almost wistfully, glancing down at Liz.

Max glared at him, stroking the girl’s arm gently, but Nick only smirked.

“You’re here for research purposes,” Nick continued coldly. “Which I’m sure should come as no surprise. But as to me… I assume that you’re asking why I, specifically, am here and what do I want?”

Max nodded sharply.

“I’m here for one reason only. To talk,” he said, spreading his arms out almost magnanimously.

“What about?” Michael asked shortly.

“Why, about yourselves, of course,” he exclaimed, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. He wasn’t at all hiding how proud he was at having captured them. “Don’t you have questions? For example, how we found you? Or perhaps how we found the your sister in the first place?”

Michael glowered.

“How did you find us?” Max asked, distantly curious despite himself. “The tracking device was destroyed.”

“Oh, that,” Nick answered, “we knew exactly when you found that and destroyed it. Although,” he admitted, “for a while there, we had trouble with its location. Some kind of interference.”

Probably because you’d terrorized her so much that she spent almost three months underground, Max thought frostily. With no memory at all, except the horrible ones of being imprisoned in this place, and scared of us all…

“But, you know, it wasn’t exactly by chance that you found the compound when you did. Did your friend Alex think he was just that talented?” he asked with a laugh.

Michael cursed under his breath. He didn’t like knowing that they’d been so transparent.

“I was sure that you’d been looking for her and so the Doc ‘accidentally’ let our location slip,” he said arrogantly. “We weren’t positive who was digging into our systems, but we had a pretty good idea.

“Have to give you a little credit, though,” he continued almost admiringly,” you came much more quickly and with more firepower than we’d anticipated. The Doc almost didn’t have time to cut her open,” Max gritted his teeth at this casual comment, “and plant that little tracker before you arrived. We figured you’d find the girl and take her with you. Then he’d have seven more alien hybrids to play with after we tracked you down.

“That was what the Doc was hoping. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive my little explosion… Unfortunately, it also to get rid of the other subjects,” Nick said in morbid satisfaction.

“Oops.”

Max and Michael exchanged a glance. This couldn’t be good. “Then, who are you working for now?” Michael asked grimly.

“Myself,” he responded, a disturbing look in his eyes.

“Then why did you wait so long?” Max asked.

“I was waiting for something in particular.”

“What?” Michael wanted to know.

“Well, to see the future,” Nick responded ambiguously.

When they looked at him in complete bafflement, he frowned, seemingly taken aback by their ignorance. “You don’t know very much about yourselves, do you?” he sighed scornfully. “I had it on good authority that the girl would exhibit precognitive abilities.”

“That’s impossible,” Michael scoffed, but he looked sideways at Max. Isn’t it? he mouthed. Max shrugged and looked down at Liz.

“Well, it’s an extremely uncommon ability,” Nick answered crossly. “Even amongst those such as yourselves.

“But unfortunately, keeping her powers under lock and key never allowed that power to manifest itself. It was that possibility, though, which had been one of the reasons Essex was so pleased to obtain her in the first place. It was I who suggested that the visions might break through if she were released.

“We needed to be able to locate her, though. We knew that eventually you would stumble across the tracker, but it had to be hidden. If it were too obvious, you’d know something was up. We also made it into a second inhibitor, more to disrupt her abilities instead of stopping them completely. In the event that things didn’t work out as planned.”

Max’s eyes widened in comprehension.

“She must have been awfully pissed off,” he said with a grin. “We noticed that little earthquake. I bet she threw quite the tantrum,” he added appreciatively.

“In any case, I thought that after you found it, something big would happen. That you’d try to run, knowing that we were waiting.” Then he sighed again. “I suppose she never had a vision, though, or you wouldn’t have made your little trip to the store.”

“Or,” he continued as he caught sight of a sudden glint of understanding followed quickly by a flare of guilt in Max’s eyes, “maybe you convinced her that it was just a nightmare.” He grinned and nodded at Max, who shifted uneasily. “You made it so easy.”

Michael bit his tongue and cursed inwardly. That must have been what Liz was dreaming. It happened the very night that they had removed the tracking device.

“So, I knew exactly where you were from that day forward. I knew we had to stay far enough away the telepath wouldn’t catch on. Tess, I believe her name is?”

He shrugged when neither one of the young men answered him. “So, we knew that anything too suspicious, anyone too close to the house, anything odd, or strange, would set off the alarms.”

“Why are you being so forthcoming with all this information?” Michael asked suspiciously.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” Nick smiled enigmatically. “You’re never getting out of here. Now as for when they first grabbed your sister…”

“Wait, wait…” Max interrupted. “Why isn’t Liz awake yet?” he asked worriedly.

“Oh, nothing to worry about, I’m sure,” Nick responded nonchalantly and then shrugged. “She got drugged last and she’s quite a tiny little thing. Not like you big, strapping boys.”

“So how did they take Liz?” Michael interrupted impatiently. Neither Michael nor Max really wanted to hear Nick talk about Liz, but they had to know… So they looked at him expectantly.

Nick nodded in acquiescence. “I wasn’t with them in the beginning, you understand, but from what I’ve been told, they took her,” he said, pointing to Liz, “from your high school in Roswell and brought her here. Apparently, there were a few governmental types who thought they could make a lot of money with her.

“I do believe you know the rest of that story,” he said with a shrug and a wicked smirk. “I’m sure she’s told you.”

“But how did they know? How did they know about Liz?” Max burst out angrily. “Why weren’t the rest of us taken?”

“Oh this should be fun,” Nick responded gleefully, pleased that Max had asked the question. He paused dramatically before continuing. “They found out about Liz… from a guy named Langley.

“That name ring a bell?” He smirked at the two young men’s confused expressions.

“Langley?” Max echoed in confusion. “What? How do you know that name?”

Nick smiled and shrugged.

“No!” Max protested in shock. “He didn’t even know about her… And he wouldn’t betray us,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “He was sent to…” he began and then stopped quickly, afraid to reveal anything, but Nick just stared at him knowingly.

“Why?” Max asked plaintively.

Michael remained silent; he was still trying to wrap his mind around the idea that Langley had deceived them.

“Don’t feel so bad. If it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t really you all that he betrayed,” Nick commented. “Just her,” he clarified, pointing again at Liz.

Max again looked down at Liz and laid his arm over her protectively.

“I know what Langley told you. Because he told me. And that’s how I know everything I’m going to tell you right now.

“It’s tough to find out that someone you trusted hasn’t been entirely truthful with you. Hurts, doesn’t it?” Nick asked, voice hard.

Max and Michael just glared at him, in no mood for his games.

“He knew where the six of you were in Roswell,” Nick said grandly as he began his story, pacing the length of the room. He was pleased with his captive audience. “And he knew you were safe there.

“But when he realized that Rath and Renata, or Michael and Liz if you please, had somehow found their way back to the rest of you, he was furious. So he trotted back over to New Mexico,” Nick informed them unpleasantly.

Michael looked at him in confusion. “Oh, it wasn’t because of you,” Nick said, as if concerned for Michael’s feelings. “Langley really was not one of Ren’s biggest fans.”

Liz was waking up and Max felt her head move slightly where it lay against his thigh. As soon as she heard Nick’s voice, though, she froze and her heart jumped to her throat. In her fright, she didn’t even realize how horrible she felt.

Max squeezed her arm firmly and looked hard at her brother. Michael caught his look and hoped that he was still able to communicate with Liz.

*Liz? Liz, can you hear me?* he asked hesitantly, still keeping his eyes on Nick.

*Michael, what’s going on?* she asked. Then starting to feel woozy, she clenched her jaw. *Michael, I think I’m going to be sick…* Her mental voice was paper thin and she swallowed thickly.

*No!* he said, alarmed. *Just stay calm. Breathe slowly and stay still. Don’t move and don’t let him know you’re awake! It’ll be better if he just thinks you’re still under,* he added, letting out a breath in relief that their link was still functional

She did as he instructed. As she remained motionless, her queasiness slowly began to dissipate. *Where are we? Are you OK?* she asked steadily after a moment, pushing her fears that Nick was in the room with them aside.

*I’m fine, Liz,* he comforted her. *And Max is fine,* he added, anticipating her next question. *Now just hang on. We’ll handle this guy,* he said and she caught his dark thoughts.

*Michael, he’s dangerous. Don’t…* she started worriedly.

*I’ll be good, Liz,* he said with a sigh, wanting to reassure her. *For now. But you… you wait for him to go away. And act like you’re still asleep!*

*But Michael, before… when he took us… before he called me Ren... He knew my name from Antar!* she said.

*He seems to know Langley, too,* he said grimly.

*What!?*

Unaware of the silent communication between the siblings or even that Liz had awakened, Nick continued.

“When he got to Roswell, he found that both of you had been accepted, welcomed with open arms as it were. Instead of making himself known, he watched and waited. He knew he had to do whatever he was going to do soon. Before you all got too powerful or before Liz or even Tess’s powers revealed who he was. Finally, he came up with a plan and introduced himself to Dr. Essex.

“The goal was to get Liz alone and make it look like there was a plausible reason that she would have been taken. He didn’t want the rest of you to be in any danger. He’d set it up, but it couldn’t have been any smoother. She made it so easy with that stupid kid she saved.”

Liz had to clench her hands to keep from moving at the mention of her name. He’s talking about me! But what’s this about Langley?

*Michael…*

*Wait,* he ordered fiercely.

“It gave him the perfect excuse and he took it. He informed Essex of her existence. Then, knowing what she was like, Langley helped to lure her away. He was also able to provide a good deal of information about hybrid biology, which helped them to suppress her powers.

“And then, so very pleased with himself, he walked away,” he finished with a smirk. “Leaving her with them.”

Liz couldn’t have moved if she’d wanted to. Why? was her anguished question. Why did he hate me so much?

“But why?” Michael cried out unwillingly.

Nick sneered at him “Why do you think? Didn’t Langley explain anything to you? You know, Michael, it must have been really tough for you all those years without your little sister around to do all your thinking for you.”

Liz bristled at the insult to her brother. Max stilled her instantly with his hand.

When Michael didn’t respond to the dig, Nick finally dropped the bombshell. “Didn’t you ever wonder who it was that betrayed you? The one who let you all die when you were so close to victory? You imbeciles!

“Your sister,” he said in a hard voice and pointed at Michael. “And your fiancé,” he continued, pointing at Max.

“Renata! She was the traitor!” he shouted triumphantly.

-End Chapter 20-

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Feb-2003 2:17:54 PM ]
posted on 15-Feb-2003 2:34:24 PM by Finn
Well, just to let you guys know, I think pretty much all your questions will be answered in the next chapter. I have it blocked out so I just need to find a few hours to write... Good luck with that, huh? By the time I post next, we'll probably be on the new board *happy*.

Thanks!