posted on 14-Nov-2001 9:48:54 PM by sheeperz
Well, I told you I'd try to stay on top of this! I hope you like this part of the story. The Prologue mirrors the Prologue from #2. All setting up for what is to come.

Let me know what you think! *wink*


Title:"Double Jeopardy III: The Fulfillment"
Author : Sheeperz (Fran P)
Disclaimer: You know the drill. I own nothing... and after the First two sections of this fic, you know that most of season 2 no longer exists in my warped mind!!!
Category:M/L
Rating: R
Summary: Sequel to "Double Jeopardy II", which picked up where DJ left off, and created a whole new set of questions (why do I do that to myself???). This fic will attempt to address those issues.
Distribution: If you want to use it, please just ask.

On the repost board:

Double Jeopardy:
viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=314

Double Jeopardy II - viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=1138



Prologue

Several days have passed, since Gelar received the word of knowledge, that Antar's salvation was imminent. He is tending to his duties in the catacombs, beneath the city of Antarra when he hears the still, small voice whisper in his soul.

Prepare ye the way, for soon the Son of Light shall be brought forth into your hands, Ge-lar', son of El-dan.

Gelar waits for something more, but that is all there is. What does it mean? The Son of Light? He knows of the King of Light, and the prophecies concerning him, but who is the Son of Light?

Figuring that whatever he needs to know will be revealed at the appropriate time, he continues his chores, finally ending in the chamber containing the sacred scrolls. As he dusts the sparse furniture and rugged altar, the room begins to shake, as if rocked by a mighty earthquake. He manages to maneuver his frail body under the table, expecting debris to begin falling around him. But all he hears is a soft thump on the floor across the room, and then the tremors cease. Cautiously creeping out from his place of protection, he spies one of the scrolls lying on the floor, partially unrolled.

As he reaches out to gather it up, he hears the inner voice speak again. Read, Ge-lar' and gain understanding.

Looking down at the scroll, he sees that it is unrolled in such a way as to present one particular prophetic portion. The words "Son of Light" jump off the page at him. Excited, he gathers the scroll, and takes it to the table, sitting down to relieve his aching limbs. His aging eyes squint in the dim lighting, as he begins to read the short section.

The first Son of Light shall be conceived on a foreign shore, and brought forth among thee, yet spawned out of darkness. His coming shall not be attended by healers, but by the Learned One in the secret, Holy Place. Though no trumpets herald his birth, mighty will be his reign. Despise him not, nor tremble in fear; he is not given for thee, Antar, but his destiny shall be to assume his rightful place as ruler among another people.

At his appearing, the King of Light shall return to thee, O Antar, wearing the face of another. His names shall be "Great" and "Support" for he shall rule over two kingdoms: Antar being the greater, and the lesser receiving support from him, and returning it in like kind.

The second Son of Light shall be the long awaited Son of Promise, the rightful heir to the throne of Antar. United with the First Son, they shall forever bridge the gap between the two worlds, securing peace between the houses of the Warrior of Flame and the King of Light.

Having finished reading the prophecy, Gelar replaces the parchment in its rightful place with trembling hands. He knew that he was to see the salvation of his people. But now, he learns that he is to receive this Son of Light into the world! He has no training - no idea of what to expect. But he knows of a woman who does. Perhaps she will help him to prepare. But how to ask her assistance, without raising a lot of questions? Perhaps she will just think him eccentric, and leave it at that. He can but hope.

Dropping to his knees at the rugged stone altar once more, he petitions the All Powerful One to bless his mission of preparation. Rising again, he wraps a cloak around his frail body, and braves the bitter cold, to travel to the ancient healer's house. She must help me, he pleads in continued communion with the One who is over all. She must help me, because I find I do not have the faith to accomplish this without instruction.

Just then, he comes up in front of the healer's house, and sees the warm glow of firelight in the window. Just as he raises his hand to knock, he hears the voice again. Gelar, have I not always given you all that you need?

Yes, he thought with shame. Yes, you have always watched over me, all these years.

Then why do you not trust me now? Is your fear so great?

I must confess, it is, my Lord. Please have mercy on me, your humble servant. I have no experience with these matters. All I wish, is to know what I will need to carry out Your Plan.

Ah, but Gelar, I do have experience in these matters. Trust me now, Gelar. This child is important to me. I will not allow anything to happen, that you and I cannot handle together. Trust me.

Gelar lowers his hand. As you wish, my Lord. As always, my life is yours to command. Guide me, and watch over the infant that is to come.

I am, Gelar, I am.

With that assurance, Gelar turns from the door, and starts back toward the cave that leads to the hidden catacombs.

Inside, the old healer woman watches him hobble away. What is that superstitious old fool up to now? she wonders.


[ edited 51time(s), last at 11-Mar-2002 8:17:27 PM ]

posted on 27-Nov-2001 8:57:38 AM by sheeperz
Well, I don't if all of you managed to make it back to Jen's old board or not, so I'm going to try and catch you up over here. We're already into part 10! Happy reading - hope you enjoy! Let me know whatcha think!


Part One

The sun was shining brightly when Max drove the Jeep into Las Cruces shortly after the lunch hour. They had decided to wait to have lunch until they got there, and so they pulled into a fast food joint in town, to grab a quick bite to eat. Over their burgers and fries, they firmed up their plans for the afternoon. They wanted to work efficiently, so they could be on the road heading home as soon as possible. They still had the long drive home to face. If they could locate Alex and get him out of there quickly, they might be on the road by 5:00, and home by 11:00. Max had promised his parents he would try not to get home much later than that.

"So Michael will go with Zan to the Administrative Offices, so he can visit Admissions and Financial Aid, and get information packets to take back home. That should satisfy Mom and Dad," Max went over the plan a final time. "Be sure to get a campus map, too, so we can find the computer building."

"Sure thing, Maxwell, we got it covered," Michael replied, around a mouthful of fries. He took a swig of soda, and gulped it all down. "While we're doing that, you and Da-nar' are going to be scoping out the campus. Then we'll all meet back outside the Administrative building. Am I right?"

Max sighed. "Sorry. I just want us to cover all our bases as quickly as we can." He finished the last bite of his burger, and gathered his trash. Everyone else followed suit. "Okay, we're outta here."

There was a pensive air in the Jeep, as they approached the campus. They had no idea what they would find once they got there, or how much trouble Tess would cause in a public setting. She was becoming more and more of a loose cannon these days. Max didn't like it. He didn't like not knowing what to expect from her.

He pulled the Jeep up in front of the Administrative Building, and parked. Everyone sat still in a moment of silence, as they all reflected on what they were about to do. They had to get Alex back, but there was the looming threat of being drawn into some freakish "Alien Showdown" with Tess. Besides the threat of discovery, there was the safety of innocent lives to consider. Max inhaled deeply, his breath almost shuddering as it entered his lungs. "Well, this is it. We meet back here in 45 minutes. Let's do it."

They all piled out of the Jeep, and took off for their designated tasks. Zan and Michael headed into the nearby building, and followed the sign to the Admissions Office. They were greeted by a thirty-something secretary with deeply tanned, slightly leathery skin, and bleached blonde hair. Zan willed himself not to stare. Why would anyone want to ruin their skin like that? he wondered. She might have actually been attractive, if her skin was smooth and supple. Like Liz's. Zan sighed. Time to get the brain out of Liz-land. He realized then that the secretary was staring at him. What was her problem?

Michael nudged him with his elbow and whispered, "The lady asked if she could help you, brainiac. How 'bout you answer?"

"Oh, uh, sorry," Zan apologized, blushing slightly. "My mind was somewhere else," he explained to the woman. He reached up and scratched the back of his head as he continued, "Um, I'm going to be graduating in January, and I'm looking at schools - well, this one in particular - and I was wondering if you could give me some information on your Computer Science program, as well as admission requirements, an application, that sort of thing?"

"You thinkin' about Spring semester?" she inquired, eyeing him skeptically. There was something about the boy that screamed he was wasting her time.

"Well, yes, actually, I was."

"Gettin' started a little late for that, aren'tcha?" she drawled.

Zan's face registered his confusion. "I'm sorry? Spring semester doesn't begin until the end of January, right?"

"And of course, you've taken the ACT's? Or at least the SAT's?" she asked, pinning him with a piercing stare.

Zan swallowed nervously. "The what's?" he choked out on a hoarse whisper. This woman was a barracuda, and he wasn't so sure she wasn't looking for a late lunch.

"As I suspected," she huffed haughtily. "Look, I don't know what kind of weird game you're playing here, kid, but I'm not wasting my time with some smart-ass punk. You can just turn yourself right around, and march right back out that door. Don't let it hit you on the way out, y'hear?"

Zan's mouth dropped open in shock. He couldn't believe that he was being tossed out like yesterday's trash. He could feel the heat rising from his neck to his scalp, and knew he must be turning 12 shades of red by now. The experiences that he had had since moving to Roswell had softened him, and caused him to forget just how cruel and mean some humans could be. He wondered if Antarians were this miserable to each other. All he knew was, he couldn't remember ever being so embarrassed in his life. At least, not since Nasedo had disappeared from his life.

"I, uh.... just wanted to um -"

"Yeah, well you can forget it, kid. No way you can convince me you are graduating in January, as incoherent as you are. Unless, of course, they're passing you just to get you the hell out of their hair. How many extra semesters have you been stuck in high school, trying to graduate? That's why you're graduating in the middle of the year, no doubt. Couldn't graduate on time, so you had to take an extra semester." She looked him up and down, trying to determine his age. "Or... is it and extra THREE semesters?"

That was the final straw!! She was stripping him of the single most important thing he'd achieved in his 17 years on the planet, and he wasn't going to stand for it.

Michael felt Zan stiffen next to him, and laid a hand on his arm. "Easy, buddy, she's just a witch with a nasty mouth. Don't let her make you lose your cool."

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING A WITCH?" she yelled, jumping up from behind her desk to get in Michael's face.

Michael jumped back, a startled look on her face. This woman had no limits. He was about to come back with a stinging retort, when the door to the Dean of Admissions office flung open.

"What's going on out here, Martha?" he demanded, glaring at her for the unprofessional way she was obviously behaving. He had heard her all the way in his office, with the door shut.

"These two hooligans are wasting my time! I don't know what kind of strange game they're playing, but when I told them to leave, the scruffy one actually called me a witch!"

The Dean turned to Michael with an upraised brow, and Michael could see that he was struggling to keep the corners of his mouth from quirking into a grin. "Is that right young man?"

"Well, not exactly.... I mean, I did call her that, but it didn't happen quite the way she said. And perhaps it would be of interest to you to know how unprofessionally this woman was behaving toward my friend here?" he added, trying to sound very scholarly and proper.

The man looked at Zan, who was red to the tips of his ears. "Yes, I can see she has humiliated the poor young man.... Martha? What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Oh, please, Howard. This boy is no more interested in attending college than I want to be a truck driver. He doesn't even know what the ACT's are, for heaven's sake! And he expects me to believe that he is here looking for admissions information for the spring semester. Now how ridiculous is that?"

Howard looked at the boys. "Is what she said correct?"

Zan cleared his throat. "Uh, yes sir, but I can explain -"

The Dean was impressed by Zan's polite manner. "Please, come into my office for a moment, won't you? We can discuss this privately in there." He led Zan in, and shut the door, leaving Michael in the outer office with a very irate secretary. Michael just smiled triumphantly, and sat down to wait. He had to suppress a chuckle, when he felt her hard glare on him. He didn't care what she thought. Zan was getting the attention he needed, and that was all that mattered.

"So tell me, young man," the Dean began, "what is your name, by the way? I don't think I caught it."

"Oh- it's Zan. Zan Evans."

"So, Zan, I'm listening. Would you care to explain your academic situation to me?"

"Yes, sir!" Zan said with a sigh of relief, glad that someone would finally listen. "I just moved to Roswell, New Mexico from New York, where I homeschooled. The principal in Roswell allowed me to take placement tests for classes, and I tested out of both the Junior and Senior year classes. He has agreed to let me graduate in January, because he feels that even though I just turned 17 three months ago, I am emotionally mature enough to handle it. Part of what convinced him is the fact that I am an emancipated minor, and have been responsible for my own care these last few months."

"Really?" the man said with great interest. "And what brought you out to New Mexico, may I ask?"

"Well, sir, I learned recently that I have an identical twin brother - we were separated as small children, and unaware that the other existed before now. Anyway, he and his adopted family live in Roswell, and they welcomed me into their lives and their home. They wanted my brother and I to have the chance to get to know each other like real brothers."

"They sound like a wonderful family."

"Oh, they are sir. But about the admissions information -?"

"Certainly, Zan. I'll personally gather the information. But you need to know, this will be just to help you to prepare for Fall admissions - if you haven't taken your ACT's, you'll need to do that before we can even consider your application."

"Thank you sir. That will probably be a good idea, anyway. It might wise for me to take that semester and get a job or two, to save toward tuition."

The Dean smiled at him. "You are an industrious young man, and not afraid of hard work, I see. Those are admirable qualities. While I'm gathering things for you to take home and review, why don't you visit the Financial Aid office? It's the third door down the hall on the left. Being an emancipated minor, I would imagine you are eligible for all sorts of grants and loans."

Zan smiled gratefully. "Thank you sir, for taking the time to understand my situation, and for being patient with my lack of knowledge in these matters. Everything has been happening so fast, I'm still trying to adjust to it all. I think that extra semester off will do me a world of good, all the way around." He stood, and extended his hand to the Dean, who grasped it in a firm handshake.

"As soon as you are done at the Financial Aid office, come back here. It won't take me but a few minutes to gather what you need."

"Yes, sir," he said, opening the office door, and starting out into the reception area. "Thank you again. I'll be back in a few minutes." Totally ignoring the secretary, he nodded to Michael. "Come on - I need to go to the Financial Aid office." Michael got up and followed him out the door.

Just as they were shutting the door, they heard the Dean say to the secretary, "You can clear your things out of the desk, Martha. We won't be needing you any more." Zan and Michael looked at each other in surprise. Neither of them had expected that kind of swift retribution for her actions.

They went to the Financial Aid office, and there was a gorgeous work-study student manning the desk. When she saw Zan come through the door, her face lit up, and the charm came on full force. Completely dismissing Michael, she stared into Zan's eyes. "May I help you?"

Zan smiled kindly at her, but with no trace of sexual interest. "Yes - I'd like to find out about financial aid that's available to me, and pick up application forms."

"Please, have a seat," she urged, pointing to the one chair on the other side of her desk. She totally ignored the fact that Michael was left standing uncomfortably. "So tell me about your financial situation. That will give me an idea of where to start."

"Well, I'm an emancipated minor, and I'm certainly not sitting on a trust fund or anything," he said with a shy smile. "Just a plain, poor kid, trying to get an education so I can better myself."

"Wow, that's really great," she said with undisguised admiration. She stood, and started to move from behind her desk. "Just give me a couple minutes, and I'll gather some things together." Zan nodded, and she went into a storage room just behind where her desk was, and he could hear file drawers opening and closing. It seemed she had barely been gone, when she was back again. He realized that she must really know her job well, to be so efficient at it.

When she returned, she walked around to his side of the desk, and set the small stack of papers on the desk in front of her. With a smile, she said, "I didn't catch your name... and I'd really rather not call you 'hey you'." She giggled. "My name is Susan."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Forgive my manners. Zan," he said holding his hand out to shake hers. "My name is Zan Evans." Susan shivered slightly at the contact with his hand. He was so very handsome. She looked into his eyes, though, and saw nothing to encourage her amorous thoughts.

"Well, Zan Evans," she began, as their hands released, "There are many financial resources available to someone in your position. Let me show you a few of them." She began laying out the various forms, one by one, on the desk in front of him, explaining each in a simple, straightforward manner. She couldn't help but brush up against him occasionally, as she moved things around, or reached to point to certain sections of a form or brochure. Her skin tingled every time she did. This guy was HOT. She watched his hand, as it pointed to something, and she couldn't help but fantasize what those strong hands would feel like all over her...

"Susan?" It was Zan's voice calling her name, and it snapped her out of her reverie.

"Yes?"

"I asked you if it made a difference that I have been taken in by a family - they are giving me a place to stay, although I am not really a part of their family." He looked at her with concern. "Are you all right?"

Susan blushed, remembering where her thoughts had been. She wondered if it was written all over her face. "Uh, yeah, sure. My mind just kind of drifted off to something else there for a minute. To answer your question, your current situation shouldn't have any affect on your eligibility for financial aid."

Judging from her blush, he didn't want to know where her mind had been. She was a pretty girl, he acknowledged to himself, but she didn't interest him in the least. Because she isn't Liz, he thought sadly. He wondered if he would ever be able to put this longing for Liz behind him.

He managed to finish their meeting with polite detachment, and then thanked her for her assistance. She gathered everything together for him, and placed it in a large envelope for his convenience.

"I hope everything works out for you," she said sincerely. "You seem like a nice guy. You deserve a fair shot at success."

"Thanks," he mumbled, uncomfortable with the sultry look in her eyes, that betrayed her deeper interest in him. "Come on, Michael. We need to get back to Admissions for that other information."

"Right behind you," Michael said with a smirk, completely aware of the young woman's interest in his friend. In the hall on the way to Admissions, he tormented Zan by saying, "Women. Guess they either love you or they hate you, huh? You sure have a way about you, Evans."

Zan backhanded Michael in the stomach with a chuckle. "Yeah, and you're just jealous."

"Ho-ho-no," Michael denied. "You can keep that blonde bat from hell all to yourself, thank you very much."

Unfortunately, said shrew happened to be opening the door to the Admissions office, just as Michael said that. Being that they were only one door down from there at this point, she heard the unflattering remark. She stepped out into the hall in front of them, carrying a box with her belongings, and glared at them. "I hope you're satisfied," she hissed. "You two punks cost me my job."

Michael was surprised, when Zan responded to her, coolly and confidently. "No, ma'am, I must insist that we didn't. You did a fine job of that on your own. Perhaps in your next place of employment, you will consider reigning in that viperous tongue of yours, before it causes you untold grief."

The woman gasped in outrage. "Who do you think you are, that you can talk to me in that manner?" she demanded.

"If only you knew," Michael whispered under his breath.

Zan preferred a more tactful approach. He reached out his hand to her shoulder, and looked straight into her eyes. He got a short flash from her, and realized that she had an abusive husband, that had caused her to abhor men. And the man was built like Zan, with similar coloring and features, which had made her instantly despise him. "I'm no one special," Zan told her, his eyes soft with new understanding. "But you can't let things eat you up inside, and cause you to be so caustic with people that you meet. You deserve to be more than a bitter woman. There is goodness inside of you. Find a way to let that dominate your life. Get help for what troubles you, soon. Otherwise, you'll end up a hate-filled, lonely old woman some day."

The compassionate caring in his voice completely disarmed her, and tears sprung to her eyes. He had somehow seen into her soul, and recognized the demons that tormented her. "How can you be so kind to me, after the way that I treated you?" she sniffled.

Zan gently squeezed her shoulder in a supportive gesture. "My life has not always been easy," he told her quietly. "In fact, it has only recently begun to turn around. I know too well, the temptation to let bitterness and hatred set in. But they are negative, destructive forces that will eat you alive, if you go that route. You have a choice to not become enslaved to their dark energy. But you have already traveled a good ways down that road. You must make the choice now, before you no longer have the will to turn onto another path."

Her moist eyes looked into his with awe and admiration. What was there about this young man? "You have such insight for one so young. Is that because of the hardships you have faced? Such wisdom makes you seem so much older than you are. Like you have a lifetime of experience to back up your words, instead of a mere 17 years."

Not able to tell her any of the truth about himself, he latched onto her own explanation. "Yes, my experiences, that must be it," he agreed. "I'm really sorry about your job," he continued, quickly diverting the discussion away from himself. "But sometimes these things happen for a reason. Maybe this can signal a new beginning for you, all the way around." He looked at Michael, as she shifted the box to her hip, trying to support its weight. "Why don't you help her out to her car with this stuff, and I'll meet you out there in a minute? I just have to stop in and pick up that admissions information, and then I'll be right out."

Martha saw the look of shock that overtook Michael's features. "No," she said hastily, "that's okay, really."

She started to walk past them, when Zan reached out, taking the box from her arms. "Don't be silly. Michael is a big, strapping guy, and there's no reason that you should have to struggle with all of this." He lifted an accusing brow at Michael, and handed him the box. "I'll be right out," he reiterated to Michael. Martha was amazed at the boy's commanding presence, and the response it evoked from his friend.

Michael nodded, and followed Martha out to her car. Once he had placed the box in her trunk, she turned to him. "Thank you," she said in a soft voice that he was still wary of. He couldn't believe the change in her. "I'm really sorry about being so rude to you and your friend."

Michael shrugged. "Hey, I guess I was a little rude myself. Truce?"

She smiled at him. "Truce." Then she looked over his shoulder, her brows knit together in confusion.

"What?" Michael asked, then turned to see Max and Da-nar' approaching from the opposite direction of the Administrative Building.

"How did your friend get over there?" she muttered. "We just left the building -"

Her words were cut off by a hand on her shoulder. "Everything okay here?" Zan asked, not realizing that she had been watching Max's approach.

Martha spun to face him, then looked back at Max. "My God, there are two of you?" she breathed in amazement.

Zan's eyes widened, and then he chuckled at her shock, when he spotted Max. "Yeah, it's like a cruel joke, isn't it?" he teased her.

"Not at all," she mumbled, now watching Max as he was almost to them. There was something almost... majestic about him. And that's when she realized what it was about Zan that she couldn't quite place. She turned and looked up into his eyes with reverent awe. "Who are you?" she whispered.

From across the parking lot, Max noticed the petite woman that was staring at Zan with worshipful eyes. He wondered what that was all about.

Zan took a step back from Martha, startled by her words. "What do you mean?" he said coolly, narrowing his eyes at her. Could she be one of the enemy, trying to flush them out? Did Tess have help here? How he wished that Liz was here, with her built-in alien detector. Liz. It always comes back to Liz.

Martha recoiled slightly, when she heard the sudden chilly tone in his voice, and saw the detached look in his eyes. Why did her question affect him in such a way? "N-nothing," she stuttered. "I didn't mean anything by it. It is just that you and your brother have such a.... regal bearing about you. Like you are more than high school kids. That's all."

Zan relaxed, and forced a smile. "Oh, well, I don't know what makes you think that, but we're just a couple of guys from Roswell, New Mexico. Nothing special. Now, if you'll excuse me, we have to finish checking out the campus and such, so that we can be on our way home. It's a long drive, and our parents don't want us getting home really late."

"Of course," she said. "Look, I'm sorry again about the way I acted earlier. And I want to thank you.... for what you said before," she told him, laying a hand on his forearm, where his arms were crossed over his chest. "I'm going to try and figure out how to get my life back on track."

"Just remember," he said, his voice soft and encouraging again, "that there's no shame in asking for help."

"I'll remember. You take care. And good luck." Zan nodded in response, and then he and Michael walked over to meet Max and Da-nar' by the Jeep.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:03:33 AM by sheeperz

Part Two

"You wanna tell me what that was all about?" Max muttered under his breath, when he was close enough for Zan to hear.

"Just some lady that we had a little run-in with in the Admissions office. She has a rough life at home, and she took it out on us."

"Didn't look like you were at odds with her a minute ago," Max observed.

"Uh, no. See, she got fired for the way she spoke to Michael and me, and then she was that much angrier with us. But then I talked to her, and helped her see the error of her ways..."

Max's heart pounded with a bad case of nerves. "Exactly what does that mean? You didn't do anything... you know?"

"No - no alien 'hocus-pocus' as Maria would say," Zan replied with a smile, thinking of their saucy little friend. "Just took a few moments to 'gain some insight' into her motivations, and then suggested she might want to take a more positive attitude toward life."

"Oh. No harm done then," Max commented. "While you were being the model student, we had us a look around," Max said, his eyes continually scanning their surroundings, watching for any signs of trouble, or evidence of Alex and Tess. "We found the computer science building - figure we might as well start looking in the obvious place."

"Right. So let's go." Zan opened the door to the Jeep and hopped in the back tossing the packets of information behind his seat. Max motioned to Michael and Da-nar' who then joined them in the vehicle. They would drive to wherever they went from now on, so that the Jeep would never be far away, if they needed to make a sudden getaway.

When they pulled up in front of the building, Max issued instructions. "If we find her, I'll approach her alone at first. If she sees all four of us, she's liable to flip out. I don't want her to feel threatened, and do something that could get Alex hurt.... or worse." They all nodded in silent agreement. "If she starts to go whacky on me, and you can see I need help, that's the time to come in. Da-nar'," Max addressed their protector, "When we locate Tess and Alex, try to disrupt her mindwarp."

"Understood."

With no further discussion, they all walked somberly into the building. Da-nar' and Michael fell naturally into the role of "lookouts", watching for impending danger, as Max and Zan opened doors on either side of the hallway, searching for their missing friend. Suddenly, Da-nar's voice broke the silence. "She is near," he whispered. "I can sense her energy brushing the edges of my subconscious. It must be the mindwarp." Max nodded his understanding.

They continued down the hall, and then came to an intersecting corridor. Max turned them to the left, but after 15 feet or so, Da-nar' spoke. "We must be heading in the wrong direction. My sense of her is weakening." Without a word, Max and Zan spun about, and headed in the other direction. They were grateful that the building was fairly quiet for the middle of the day. Most of the students were probably in classes.

Max cracked open yet another door, and finally, they hit pay dirt. Through the small space, he could see the back of Alex's head, sitting at a terminal, Tess standing over his shoulder, watching his every move. Obviously, even under a mindwarp, she didn't trust him to do what he was told.

Soundlessly, Max gestured with his hand to indicate that he had found the target of their search. The others came and peered into the computer room, and then backed off. Max motioned that he was going to come in, and for Da-nar' to start trying to run psychic interference. He mimed to Michael and Zan to keep watch on the situation, and enter if he got in trouble.

Once everyone indicated their readiness, Max quietly opened the door, and cautiously stepped inside the room. He walked up until he was right behind them, surprised that Tess hadn't sensed his presence. She must be expending a lot of energy on the mindwarp, he realized. Stopping, he casually said, "Find anything interesting?"

Tess nearly jumped out of her skin. Alex just looked over his shoulder, and greeted his friend. "Hey, Max! You should see this! The computer hasn't come up with a translation yet, but it has singled out some key symbols, and provided meanings."

"Shut up, you fool!" Tess hissed at him. "Just keep working. Leave Max's education to me."

Alex rolled his eyes. "Sure, right, whatever," he said, and returned his attention to the computer.

Tess glared at Max. "What are you doing here?" she snapped.

"I'm here to get Alex back, and to keep you from making the biggest mistake of your life."

Tess snorted. "Too late, buddy boy. I already made it, mooning over you like a total fool. All I'm trying to do now is to go home."

"No, you're trying to figure out how to get your hands on the granilith." He held up a hand to still her forthcoming protests. "Don't even try to deny it. But the game is over. You aren't taking the granilith."

A devilish smile curved her lips, accented by the resolve that turned her eyes to an icy blue. "We'll see about that."

"Well, well, well," a voice said from behind him. Max spun around, to find himself facing Nicholas. Shit. "If it isn't the royal wimp. Tessandra, love, is this idiot bothering you?"

Tess put on her best pouty face. "Yes, he is. He's trying to tell me that we can't have the granilith to go back home. Are you going to let him stop us?"

Nicholas went to stand next to her, placing a possessive arm around her shoulders. "No, of course not. You just continue to 'help' Alex to translate the book, and I'll take the trash out."

Tess kissed Nicholas on the cheek. Max thought he was going to be sick. "Thank you. You are too good to me." She looked straight at Max then. "This is all your fault, you know. All you had to do was accept your destiny, and all of this could have been avoided. But you had to insist on sniffing after that pathetic human like she was a bitch in heat. Whoops! Well, that's half right, anyway. She's a real bitch."

Max's hands clenched into fists, and his jaw muscles worked, as he struggled to maintain his composure. "Don't talk about her like that," he warned. "She's more woman than you'll ever dream of being. And as for accepting my destiny, I have." Tess looked at him surprised. Had he come to tell her that he was going to accept her as his bride? She looked in his eyes, and saw only contempt. Nope, guess not.

"What do you mean, Max?" she demanded. "I'm your destiny, and you certainly don't look like you're real acceptant of me right now."

"Now, we both know that's a lie, don't we.... Tessandra," he growled, emphasizing her full, given name. She stared back at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Yes, that's right. I know who - and what - you are. The game is over, and you've lost. You never were, nor ever will be, my bride. So for your own sake, just let it go."

"I'm afraid that isn't possible, Max," Nicholas replied for her. "You see, we both have our hearts set on going back to Antar. And for that, we need the granilith, and the translation of the book. So unless you can provide those for us, we'll just keep your little friend here with us a while longer. When we're through, maybe we'll return him. If we feel like it," he added maliciously.

"In the other timeline, Tess' little mind games killed Alex. I'm not about to stand by and watch it happen again."

"Oh? You don't want to watch?" Nicholas taunted. "Well, you're in luck. I can arrange that quite nicely for you -" Nicholas stretched out his hand, and Max's body jerked, as his face wrenched at the incredible pain that made his head feel like it would explode. "Not such a tough guy now, are ya?" Nicholas scoffed. "Say - as long as you're here... and we're here... let's scrounge around in that measly brain of yours, and see if you know more about running the granilith than you are letting on about...." He walked up to Max, placed his hand on Max's head, and began rummaging through his memories. Max fell to his knees and cried out in pain, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Outside the room, Da-nar' hadn't been having much luck disrupting the mindwarp, probably because of the lack of proximity, he realized. Suddenly, Max's companions saw Nicholas attack Max, and realized that their leader was in some serious trouble in there. Michael and Zan looked to Da-nar' for guidance, who had abandoned his attempts at interfering with Tess, in favor of the more pressing issue before them. He closed his eyes trying to collect his thoughts, and then just as quickly, they snapped open again, comprehension lighting their black depths. He looked into the room again, noting that Tess was ignoring Nicholas and Max now, her attention back on Alex. Nicholas still had his back to the door behind which the three of them hid.

"Zan!" he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. "If you can get in there while Nicholas is distracted with Max, and reach your brother, make physical contact with him, and try to form a connection. Then this is what I want you to do..." He outlined the simple, yet hopefully effective plan to Zan.

Da-nar' and Michael watched intently, as Zan stole into the room, and was around Nicholas and touching Max, before the Little General had a clue what was happening. Zan grabbed Max's face, and commanded him, "Look at me, Max!"

Max struggled to focus his eyes on his twin, as pain lanced through every cell in his body. "Zan-" he croaked, as if in warning. He clearly didn't want his brother to suffer the same fate. But Zan looked deep into Max's eyes, and a connection roared to life between them, before Nicholas realized what was happening. Zan tried to block the pain, and as the pain faded, Max was able to add his strength to Zan's effort. Together, they were quickly able turn Nicholas' energy back upon him. Nicholas frantically tried to pull back and break the connection, but Zan had masterfully chosen to short-circuit his nervous system, so he was rendered immobile, and totally susceptible to whatever Max and Zan chose to do to him.

Now that Max was released from any power Nicholas had over him, Zan telepathically asked Max what he wished to do with the other alien. I know that you have reasons for not killing Tess and Kivar, but what about this one? He is powerful, but he is not royalty. And this is war after all....

Nicholas' body was rigid and still, his being poised precariously between life and death, depending upon Max's answer. After a moment of thought, Max answered Zan. There is no reason to let him live. As much as I hate death and killing, to not take him out would leave us too vulnerable to further attack. Future Liz warned me about this one. He must be dealt with now, to insure the safety of not only ourselves, but the humans as well.

So be it, Zan replied. And with no further ado, Zan directed a wave of their combinded energy through Nicholas' nervous system, which was so strong that it instantaneously overloaded his system, and he crumpled to the floor.

That was the first Tess was even aware of what was going on behind her. She had assumed that Nicholas had everything under control. She turned with the intention of gloating over Max's disabled body, and was shocked to find that it was Nicholas who was incapacitated on the floor. Not to mention, that Max was no longer alone, but that Zan was also with him. Obviously, the two of them together were far stronger than either she or Nicholas had imagined.

Max and Zan broke their connection, and stood up to face Tess. Seeing the determined look on their faces, she began backing away from them, until she ran into the desk where Alex was working. And still Max and Zan approached. Max got right in her face, and demanded, "Now let Alex go. Release him from the mindwarp now, unless you want to end up like your little friend over there."

Tears sprung to Tess' eyes. "Please, Max, you don't understand. I have to have the translation for the book. I can't stay here any longer. Alex is my only hope."

"You didn't give a damn about Alex or his safety - why should I care about yours, Tessandra? All you care about is securing the granilith, so that you can take it home to your brother, isn't that right?"

Tess' mouth fell open in shock. "Wh-what do you mean, my brother?" she squeaked. No way could Max know that Ki-var' was her brother!

"Don't play me for a fool, Tess," Max ground out in his rage. "I know that you are Ki-var's sister. His full-blooded sister."

Tess gasped. "H-how do you know that?" Then she turned accusing eyes on Zan. "YOU! You betrayed me, didn't you! Ki-var' is not going to be pleased, when he learns that you double crossed him!"

Zan grinned maliciously. "Oh, but I didn't betray him, princess. You see, I never made any deals with him. That was my future self, in a time line that no longer exists."

Tess' eyes widened in horror. "B-but - the other night, I saw you! You were him - the one that came to me for help!"

"No, I wasn't. I was merely myself, pretending to be the Future Zan. You naturally assumed that I was, because of my appearance. But this is my time period - right here, right now. And I think my brother asked you to release our friend from your mindwarp. I suggest you obey his instructions."

"W-what are you going to do with me?" she asked, consumed with fear.

"A lot of that depends on your cooperation, Tess," Max informed her icily. "Let Alex go now, and I may be persuaded to let you live."

Tess swallowed hard, practically choking on the lump in her throat. "A-all right," she agreed. She closed her eyes, and broke off the mindwarp.

Alex immediately spun around, his eyes wild with fear. "Where the hell - oh! Max! Thank God you're here... where's 'here' anyway? What are we doing here?"

Max smiled. "It's a long story, my friend. I'll explain it on the way home. Right now, we have other matters to attend to." He glared at Tess, and was satisfied to see her terror. Good, it serves her right, for the havoc she's wreaked on our lives all these months.

"Oh, my God," Alex choked out, when he saw the crumpled form of Nicholas on the floor. "Who is that? And is he -?"

Max and Zan exchanged a look, and then Zan knelt beside Nicholas to check. "Yep, he's dead."

Just then, Da-nar' and Michael darted into the room, and Michael used his powers to lock the door behind them. "People in the hall," he explained. "Didn't want to take the chance." He looked down at where Nicholas lay at his feet. "Hey - good work guys. What do we do with the body?"

"I have heard tell of a way to destroy these 'husks' that the Skins use," Da-nar' told them. He bent down, and rolled the body over onto its stomach. Lifting Nicholas' shirt, he pulled a fake patch of skin back, exposing the husk's seal. "Take any hard, pointed object, and smash it into this seal, and it destroys the husk," he directed.

Max's eyes roved the room, looking for such an object, but was unable to find one. "Allow me," Zan offered, from where he still knelt by the body. He placed the tip of his index finger on the seal, and directed his energy into it, destroying the seal completely. The body instantaneously disintegrated into a pile of ash before them.

"Aw, damn, and I just swept," Alex muttered. "How many times do I have to tell you boys not to track dirt in on my floors?" Despite the solemnity of the moment, they all couldn't help but chuckle. Everyone except Tess, that is.

"How can you make a joke out of this," she choked out, tears streaming down her face. "Have you no decency at all? Just because he was a different species from you, his life is meaningless?"

The air was charged like a live wire, as Zan slowly stood, and turned to hover over her. His voice broke the tense silence with a growl. "Don't you take that holier-than-thou attitude, missy. We all know what you are capable of. You and that insane brother of yours." He looked down to the pile of ash, and then back to Tess' pale face. "Perhaps you'd care to join your 'friend' here - if you can call him that. I can't imagine someone as amoral as you having a clue about the concept of friendship."

"Y-you wouldn't," she whined, feeling hysteria beginning to bubble up within her. "No, of course you wouldn't. Ki-var' would hunt you down and exterminate you. You can't take that chance -"

Zan's hand circled her throat. "Don't tempt me, you little bitch. Not after what you pulled."

"I -I didn't know it was you, honest," she squeaked. "Please - you're hurting me...." She struggled to get a breath past the point where his grip was cutting off her air supply.

It was Max's hand on his arm, though, and not her desperate plea, that caused him to relent. "Let her go, Zan," Max said gently, fully understanding his brother's rage with this treacherous female. Zan nodded, and slowly released his fingers from their death hold around her neck.

Tess smiled weakly at Max and rasped out, "Thank you. I always knew that you were kind -"

"Aw, stuff it, Tess," Max spat out. "I didn't let you live for you. I did it for Antar. Do you think that I am so stupid, that I don't understand what killing you would do to our cause back home? Making you a martyr in this insane war of Ki-var's is not on my 'to do' list today. Sorry to disappoint you. If I had my druthers, I would have let Zan finish what he started. He's right. You're a total bitch. You deserve to die. But not until the time is right."

She cleared her throat and swallowed, trying to get everything back into its rightful position. "Nevertheless, I'm grateful. Now as I was trying to explain before, I need to get off this God-forsaken planet, and back to Antar. So if you'll just tell me how to work the granilith, I'll be on my way, and out of your hair -"

"Out of the question is more like it," Max snarled. "Sorry, blondie, but there's no way you're getting your hands on the granilith. Not in this lifetime. However, we would be more than thrilled to send you back to Antar, wouldn't we, boys?"

A hearty round of consent circled the room. "I - I don't understand," Tess faltered. "You're going to send me back to Antar? But you aren't going to use the granilith?"

"That's right," Max said with a nod.

Tess began to laugh hysterically. "Dear God! What are you going to do? Shoot me out of a rubber band slingshot, and hope I make it?" She threaded her fingers into her blonde curls, and pulled at her hair. "What kind of sick plans are you making?"

"Tessandra, settle down," Da-nar' scolded. "You're not going to be hurt. You'll be back on Antar before you know it, with our profound gratitude. Maybe if Ki-var' has to worry about you for a change, it'll take his mind off warring with Max's people."

For the first time, Da-nar's presence actually registered with Tess. "Who the hell are you, anyway?" she demanded, still on the verge of becoming irrational.

"Of course you wouldn't recognize me in this form, but I, too, am a Talerian."

Tess' eyes narrowed accusingly. "You're their true protector."

Da-nar' inclined his head in response. "Indeed, I am."

Tess then spat on him. "Traitor. What kind of a man goes against his own people, to serve the enemy? I hope that Ki-var' has devised some horrendous torture to inflict upon you, when he gets his hands on you!"

"Tess!" Max spoke sharply. "That is enough! Don't try my patience, or I may yet decide we'd be better off doing away with you altogether."

She looked at him with utter contempt. "Yes, your majesty," she hissed loudly at him. Max ignored her, and he and Zan began to scoop up Nicholas' remains with sheets of paper, and dump them into the wastebasket. Da-nar' went to Alex's side, to look at the computer he was using. He was amazed at how well the computer had done at deciphering the Antarian symbols. When Alex mentioned that they hadn't been able to produce any sort of intelligible text, Da-nar' admitted that there really wasn't anything there to translate. Just symbols representing disconnected thoughts.

Tess felt a wave of nausea flood her, and she grabbed the edge of the desk to steady herself, closing her eyes to fight the sudden dizziness that accompanied it. Michael was the only one who noticed. He clamped his hand around her upper arm. "What is it, Tess? Is this another one of your games, or is there something wrong with you?"

"No game," she whispered, trying to swallow down the bile rising in her throat. "I think I'm going to be sick -" Michael snatched the wastebasket away from Max and Zan, and thrust it under Tess's chin, just as she emptied the contents of her stomach.

Having seen what was about to occur, Zan had jumped to his feet, and was beside her, holding her hair back out of the way. He was totally grossed out at the strange, greenish color of her vomit. He looked up at Da-nar'. "Is that normal for your people?" he asked.

Da-nar' looked curious, not having actually seen what Tess had brought up. He peered into the garbage pail, and his eyes grew wide. He looked at Tess, whose eyes were pleading with him to keep her secret. He shook his head in response to both her plea, and Zan's question. No, it's not normal - well, I take that back. It's normal for Talerian females, under certain circumstances."

Zan quirked an eyebrow. "And what kind of circumstances are we talking about?" He almost hated to ask. He had a strange feeling that he knew the answer to the question already. Tess suddenly screamed in pain, doubling over, clutching her stomach. Zan put an arm around her, and guided her into the chair that Alex had jumped up out of, to make a spot for her.

"No doubt about it," Da-nar' murmured. "Tess is with child."

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:04:34 AM by sheeperz

Part Three

Zan and Max looked at each other, horror stricken. "Damn," they said in unison.

"Thanks for the fond sentiments," Tess ground out through the pain.

Zan grabbed her face in his hands. "Is it mine?" he demanded to know.

"Of course it's yours, you imbecile! Who else would the father be?" She groaned again, rocking back and forth.

"How the hell should I know! You weren't a virgin! God knows how many men - of how many species - you've taken to your bed, you slut! For all I know, it could be Nicholas' brat!"

Tess lifted her face to look at him with frightened eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Please help me," she begged. "Something's wrong with the baby."

Zan looked to Da-nar' for confirmation. "It is unusual for there to be this kind of pain in early pregnancy," Da-nar' agreed. "She could be telling the truth."

"I am!" she sobbed through another wave of pain.

Zan pulled her shirt up, to reveal her stomach. He was startled to see a little glowing hand print on her abdomen. Instinctively, he placed his hand over it, and instantly connected to the child in her womb. After several seconds, he fell backwards, gasping for breath. "It's the atmosphere here, it's killing him," he managed to say.

Tess looked at him with tear-filled eyes. "Him?" she asked. "Did you just say him, as in a generic him, or -"

"A son," Zan declared numbly. "You're carrying my son." Tess was amazed to see tears pooling in Zan's eyes as well.

But she totally misunderstood their meaning. "Our son," she emphasized, taking Zan's hand, and replacing it on her belly. She was proud to be the one bearing his child, even if he weren't the chosen king of Antar. He was still part of the royal family. Perhaps that would be enough to satisfy Ki-var'.

Zan flinched, snatching his hand away, as if he had just been burned. "Don't remind me!" Zan snapped, shocking Tess out of her scheming thoughts.

"Zan -?"

"You are the last woman in the universe I want to be the mother of any child of mine!" he hollered. Tess was crushed by his all-consuming hatred of her. "But since I have no choice, I'll have to make the best of the situation. The first thing we need to do is get you back to Antar, where my son will be safe. Will Ki-var' take you in? Or will he kill my son, if you go to him?"

Tess knew now what she must do. "He is expecting me to come home pregnant," she admitted softly. "He is expecting it to be Max's son. I'll just lie, and tell him that it's Max's, and he'll be satisfied. The child will be safe."

Zan's eyes drew to pinpoints, glaring at her suspiciously. "What does he want with Max's child?" he asked hotly. "What are you going to let him do to my son?"

"I promise I won't let him hurt our baby," she said quietly, placing a protective hand over her abdomen. "If Ki-var' starts acting crazy, I'll take the child, and go into hiding."

Zan was quiet for a few moments, deep in thought. Without warning, he pulled Da-nar' aside, and spoke privately to him. "What is the gestation period for Talerians?"

"Uh - usually it is 3 months, but being that there is so much mixed blood involved, I'm not quite sure what to expect."

Zan nodded. "All right. But we are going to have to come up with a way to know when Tess has the baby. I want to be there to protect him."

"I believe I know a way," Da-nar' answered. Then he addressed the others. "Let us clean up this mess, and leave for home."

When they left the building, it was late afternoon, but it was still daylight out. Da-nar' had his arm around Tess, helping her out to the Jeep, because she was still weak, and in a good deal of pain. Alex trudged along behind them, tired, but doing fairly well, all things considered. Michael had gone on ahead to unlock the doors, and make sure the seats were cleared. As it was, Tess was going to have to sit on someone's lap for the ride home. He wondered who the lucky chap was going to be.

Max and Zan walked side by side, bringing up the rear. When they were half way to the Jeep, Zan told Max that he needed to go for a short walk. "I have to get some fresh air and relax, before I get in that Jeep for a 5 and a half hour ride," was his excuse. What he wasn't saying, was he needed time to process what he had just learned. At the age of 17, he was going to be a father. There was so much that was uncertain in his life, he hated the thought of an innocent child getting mixed up in all of it.

"Do you want company?" Max asked, reaching out to touch his brother's arm in support.

Zan stopped walking, staring off across the campus. Then he answered, "It's up to you. You can come if you want. But I don't expect to be much of a conversationalist, I'm warning you now."

"I didn't expect you would be," Max told him, and then called to the others, to tell them he and Zan would be back shortly. Then they started their trek around the nearby buildings. "I did want to ask you though - do you feel... different, since we connected?"

Zan continued to stare off into the distance. "Yeah, I do. Stronger. More attuned to my surroundings. You?"

Max nodded his head. "I had thought it best to talk over the idea of us connecting with Da-nar' before we tried it," he said, "but I'm glad that you were there. I never would have survived it without you. He was too strong. I owe you my life," he admitted emotionally. "Thanks."

"Actually, Da-nar' was the one that came up with the idea," Zan confessed. "So I guess he had the final say anyway. And it was nothing. I know you would have done the same for me."

Max smiled. "Yeah, I would have. I kind of like having you for a brother."

They continued on, walking in companionable silence for a few minutes. Coming around the corner of a building, Zan felt a strange sensation. His head came up, and he was instantly alert. Sensing the change in him, Max asked, "What's up?"

"I'm not sure," Zan confessed, scanning the area. He didn't feel comfortable telling Max that out of the blue, something had caused him to suddenly go rigid in the zipper region. He continued to look around, and then he spotted her. "I thought so," he mumbled. "Look," he said, pointing to a figure just ahead of them. "Isn't that Liz?"

Max's brows snapped together, as he strained to make out the features. "It looks like her from the back, but it can't be. I mean, I know she's impulsive, but I didn't sense anything from her that indicated she would do something as foolish as following us here."

"But it is her, I know it," Zan insisted. "Can't you tell? The minute I walked around the corner, I ... uh.... responded to her presence."

Max's eyebrow peaked over his left eye. "Responded, huh? Do I dare hazard a guess at the definition of that particular usage of the word?"

"You know what I mean," Zan grumbled back. "She's your woman. I'm surprised you didn't notice."

"Well, see, here's the thing, Zan - it can't be Liz. Last night, when I took her home? We kissed good night... and stuff. And it appears that Da-nar's theory has some merit. That sexual urgency that we have been experiencing around her? It was gone. She is obviously past her fertile period. So whatever you are sensing now - it isn't Liz."

"But look at her," Zan protested. "That's Liz's walk! Don't you recognize it?"

"I have to admit, it does look like Liz." He didn't want to tell Zan that he also was reacting to this woman. He didn't want to believe it himself. "Come on, let's catch up to her, and figure out what's going on." They broke into a jog, and rapidly closed the distance between themselves and the petite brunette.

When they were almost to her, Zan called out, "Liz!" but the girl kept walking. He sprinted toward her, leaving Max in the dust, and called her name once more, just before he overtook her. Still no response. But the closer he got, the stronger his reaction to her became. He reached out, and clasped his hand around her slender arm, pulling her to a halt.

Frantically, she spun around, and he saw her face, just before she kicked him in the shin. "Ouch! Damn it, Liz, what was that for?!"

There was something so familiar about this young man, but the way his touch affected her scared her. It was as if an electrical current was surging through her. She had never had this kind of reaction to any man before. "Look, I don't know who you are, or what kind of sick game you're into here, but let me go! Otherwise, I'll scream bloody murder, and tell everyone you tried to rape me!" Zan was surprised to detect faint traces of a Brooklyn accent. And it almost seemed.... familiar.

"Liz, what the hell are you talking about? Have you lost your mind? I would never hurt you like that!"

"Stop calling me that! My name is not Liz! Now LET. ME. GO!" she ground out, trying to wrench her arm free.

Zan couldn't let go. Besides the incredible pull that fastened him to her, he couldn't bear the thought that she might take off on him. He needed to know who she was! "Please, just calm down. I don't want to hurt you, I just need to ta-"

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed, when Max came up alongside Zan. "Liz?" Max asked, not able to believe that she was really here. And as Zan had experienced, Max's body was keenly reacting to her presence. That's weird, he thought. Why didn't she affect me last night?

"I am NOT LIZ!" she insisted in a loud voice. "Now who the hell are you people?"

Max and Zan stared at her in amazement. Then Zan remembered where he had heard the voice before. A thought occurred to him, and he decided to take a gamble. "Karanna?" he said softly, almost under his breath.

The young woman's eyes grew huge in her shocked face, as they snapped up to meet his. "H- how do you know my name?" she whispered fearfully.

Zan closed his eyes, unable to believe what was happening. When he reopened his eyes and looked directly into hers, the girl felt her heart start to pound, as she saw how dark and sensuous his eyes had become. "Do you have any idea who you are, Karanna?" he asked softly. The thumb of his hand that continued to grasp her arm began to subconsciously stroke her flesh, as if to soothe her.

Karanna began to tremble. "I don't know what you are talking about," she hedged.

"All right," he continued in that same, soft voice. "Do you know who I am? Or my brother? Don't you recognize us?"

She shook her head violently, trying to deny to herself, what she suspected to be true. "Do you remember a moonlit beach, and a wall of rock, where we met in our dreams?" he continued.

Karanna's whimper resonated in the back of her throat. This couldn't be happening! Zan was overwhelmed by compassion, when he saw the fear that she couldn't disguise. He pulled her rigid body to him, and wrapped his arms around her. "Shh, baby, it's all right," he crooned softly to her. "Everything is going to be okay, now that we've found each other."

"But I don't know you," she insisted, her voice little more than a whisper. "Why do you act as though you know me?"

"Because I do, Karanna. You and I - we're the same. I know you feel it. We belong together." He felt her shudder in his arms. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be frightening you. I'm really not some crazed lunatic. It's just that I'm in shock myself over this. I didn't really believe that you existed. I thought that Liz was - wait a minute." He pulled away enough so that he could look in her eyes. "Did you ever have any other dreams before that one on the beach? One where there was just you, and a guy that you didn't know?"

"Y-yes," she stuttered, shivering again, although whether from fear, or the sensual way he was looking at her, she wasn't sure.

"Do you remember his name?" Zan asked quietly. Karanna nodded. Zan closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them to watch her reaction to his next question. "Was his name Zan?"

Karanna's jaw went slack, her eyes searching his for an explanation. "How did you know about the dreams? About the man? What his name was?" she whispered in awe.

Zan brought his hand up to cup the side of her face. "Because, Karanna - I'm Zan." The realization was too much for her, and Karanna fainted in his arms. Gently, he lifted her, and carried her to a nearby tree, where he sat down and leaned against the trunk, holding her in his arms.

Max sat next to him, totally astounded. "How did you know her name would be Karanna?" Max asked, staring at her unconscious form.

"Before I met Liz, I had been having dreams about a woman named Karanna. Until now, I thought Liz was Karanna, and that Karanna had just been her Antarian name. I didn't dream that Liz could have a double out there, whose name actually was Karanna. I wonder why Da-nar' didn't tell us about her?"

"I don't know, but I certainly intend to find out," Max assured him. "But what are we going to do about her? We can't take her back to Roswell with us. Surely she has a family. And we can't just say, 'Lookee here - Liz has a twin she never knew about.' I think her parents might freak out."

"I don't know, Max," Zan admitted, "but I do know that she belongs with me. I just don't know how to make it happen."

Karanna began to stir. Zan held her close, whispering words of comfort to her, as she regained consciousness. When her eyes opened and fastened on him, her breath caught in her throat. "I thought it was a dream," she told him. "But you're really here."

Zan smiled lovingly at her. "Yes, I'm really here. But more importantly, we need to find out how you came to be here. Does your family live in Las Cruces?"

Karanna nodded. "My parents died several years ago - we lived in Brooklyn then. After their death, I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle here. My uncle is on staff in the Biology department here at the college."

"So what are you doing on campus? You're too young to be taking classes."

"Oh, I like to come and use the library here," she said shyly. "There are so many books to choose from."

Zan smiled broadly, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. "Girl after my own heart." He looked at Max. "Think we should take her to meet Da-nar'? Or do you want to go and bring him back here? He has some explaining to do."

"I think I'll go and get him," Max answered. "That'll give you two a few minutes of privacy to talk about things, and besides - Karanna doesn't need to deal with Tess right off the bat." He gave Zan a look that brought back the whole situation with Tess and the baby back to the surface.

Zan groaned. "Yeah, good idea. Thanks." He watched as Max started jogging back in the direction they had come from. Then he looked down at the beautiful woman lying in his arms, unable to get over how identical she looked to Liz. His eyes drifted to half mast, as he nuzzled her nose with his, their lips almost touching. "Hey," he whispered.

Karanna looked up at him through her own lowered lashes, strangely aroused by the warmth of his breath rippling over her skin. "Hey," she whispered back. She wanted nothing more than to feel his lips kissing hers. And then they were. She had kissed boys before, but none of them made her feeling anything special. Kissing Zan, though - it was as if all the passion in her had been held in reserve for this magical moment, when he would come with the key, and unlock the secret place in her heart where it was stored.

And his lips were doing such wonderful things... she felt his tongue slide teasingly across her lips, which elicited a little moan from her. That act parted her lips just enough, that he was was able to slip his tongue along the underneath side of her lips. "Open wider for me, Karanna," Zan directed her in a husky whisper. Her heart left her no choice but to obey. Who was this man that inhabited her dreams, and could command the desires of her heart? This man that she had never met, and yet knew in the core of her being?

Her body was suddenly strung tight as a bow, when his tongue thrust past her lips, and invaded the virgin territory of her warm, willing mouth. Never before had anyone tried to kiss her in such a manner, nor would she ever have allowed it. Yet here she was, aching to submit to anything that he asked of her. Twining her arms around his neck, she pressed her self closer to him, and was warmed in her secret places, when she heard his groan of desire in response to her innocent display of affection. But when his hand moved and grazed her breast, she pulled back as if he had burned her.

Breathing heavily, she looked at him with wild, frightened eyes. "I - I don't know what came over me," she told him in a quivery voice. "I have never even kissed anyone like that before. But you must think I'm really easy."

Zan stroked her hair. "No, love, I don't think you're easy. I just think that your heart recognizes that we are meant for each other. That is why you respond to me so readily."

"If you don't think that I'm easy, then why did you - uh - you know...."

Zan smiled at her innocence. "That was my fault. You see, I have already accepted that our lives are intertwined, and that we belong together. I have been waiting for you for months, Karanna. I guess I just lost my head, knowing that you were finally in my arms. I had given up on you being real. There is more to the story, but I don't want to dump it all on you at once. You are going to have enough to deal with, once Da-nar' sees you."

"Da-nar'? The man your brother went to get?"

"Yes."

"Who is he?"

"He is our protector."

Karanna stared at him. "You need... a protector? Please tell me who you are. And why I feel so drawn to you." Her eyes continued to plead with him, even after her words ceased.

"Oh, my love," he said, and placed a gentle kiss on her lips, "I don't even know how to begin to tell you what you want to know, if you don't have any idea who you really are." He thought for a moment. "You mentioned in the last dream, that you had strange experiences - what kinds of experiences?"

"I - I don't know if I should talk about it -"

"Karanna, please. I will tell you now, that nothing you say could shock me, or cause me to turn from you. The things that have happened to me will no doubt be far more difficult for you to handle than what you have to tell me. And besides, I will tell you that someday - when you have had time to adjust to everything, and learn about who we are - that we will share everything as husband and wife. So we might as well set a precedent of not keeping secrets from each other at the onset. Okay?"

She lowered her eyes and nodded. "Well, you know about the dreams. And there have been times that I have thought I was not dreaming at all - that somehow...." She took a deep breath. "Somehow I traveled outside my body to other places. This one time, it was really weird. I was walking through these tunnels -I'm pretty sure they were under New York City somewhere - and came to this big underground room, where these four green, glowing chambers were attached to the wall, in what appeared to be a living room -"

"I don't believe it," Zan mumbled in awe.

Karanna looked offended. "Listen, don't ask me to tell you stuff, and then call me a liar," she said, bristling.

"Oh, no, I didn't literally mean I didn't believe you. I just meant that what you said was so incredible. What you just described? That's where I grew up. That was home for me, until a few days ago."

"You - you grew up in a.... sewer?" she asked incredulously.

Zan chuckled. "Well, not exactly a sewer, but yeah, I grew up in the tunnels under the city. So while you were living up top, I was down below. Who knows? You might have walked over the top of our lair one day."

"Our?" she inquired. "Who else lived there?"

Zan flinched. "Well, that's part of the complicated part of the tale. And here comes Da-nar', so I don't have time to get into it right now. I want to hear what he has to say about you."

"Why would he have anything to say about me?"

Zan looked her straight in the eye. "Because he is also your protector."

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:08:01 AM by sheeperz

Part Four

Karanna had no time to react, or question Zan's statement, because Max and Da-nar' were now standing before them. As she looked up into Da-nar's face, she gasped. "Doctor Roberts?! You know these guys?"

Da-nar' smiled broadly. "So! You do remember me, Karanna!"

"Of course! How could I forget you? You were such a good friend to my parents."

Da-nar's smile grew sad. "Yes, I was so sorry to hear about their deaths. I was out of town at the time, and by the time I returned, they had been buried, and you had been taken away to live with relatives. Unfortunately, no one I talked to knew who they were, or where they lived," he recounted, his eyes misting from the emotions of seeing her again after all those years.

"You - you tried to find me?" she asked, clearly surprised at the news.

"Yes, but it was like you had fallen off the face of the earth," he told her in a choked whisper. "I thought I would never see you again."

Karanna was confused. "I know you were my parents' friend, but why would it be so important to you to keep track of me?"

Da-nar' sat down on the ground next to Zan, and took Karanna's hands in his. "Because I wasn't just a friend to your parents, Karanna. We had a history together, and it was all centered around you. And because there were things about you that I never told your parents, for your own safety. Things that you need to know about now. The timing of you coming into Zan's life now is extraordinary. The things that are happening - the group will be much stronger with you in it."

Zan felt Karanna's body tense, and she speared her hands into her hair, holding her head. "You aren't making any sense, Doctor," she protested. "Please - help me to understand. I need to understand."

"First, please call me Da-nar'. It is my rightful, given name. I'd prefer you use that, than some title that these humans have bestowed upon me."

"H-humans?" she asked, swallowing. Then she laughed nervously. "The way you said that, you almost sound as if you don't consider yourself one of us."

He locked her gaze with his for a moment, and then softly revealed, "I'm not human, Karanna - and neither are you. Not totally, anyway." Max continued to scan the immediate vicinity, to make sure that none of their conversation could be overheard.

Her eyes went wild, as they darted first to one of the men, and then to another, back and forth. "What do you mean, I'm not human? I was born of human parents - wasn't I?" she asked on a fearful gasp. She had always known that she was different, but she had never in her wildest dreams thought that it was due to anything like this.

"Yes, you were, but you were not conceived through natural means. Your parents were infertile, and they came to me for treatment, hoping to have a child. I had interviewed and treated many couples, before I found your parents. They were the perfect couple to be gifted with you. And so I implanted your embryo within your mother's womb, and here you are."

"But if I'm not from their seed - who am I?" she asked, quivering with apprehension over the answer that she wasn't sure she really wanted to hear.

"Well, you are part human, and your were designed to be human in all appearances, for safety's sake," he began. The other part of you comes from the queen of a distant planet, who was killed on her wedding day. Her name... was Karanna."

Her eyes bugged out. "A queen of another planet? You must be kidding. Do you really expect me to fall for this?"

"I don't expect you to 'fall' for anything," he returned curtly. "I expect to you listen, and gain understanding of who you are. I have many ways to prove what I claim is true. That is not an issue."

"Maybe not for you, but it is for me," she huffed.

Da-nar' sighed impatiently. "Very well, if you insist. It is difficult to tell what gifts you may have been exhibiting, since you have not had contact with any of us, to help bring your Antarian side to the surface -"

"Wait. Antarian?"

"The planet of your people is called Antar. The people are known as Antarians."

"What do you mean 'my people'? Aren't they your people as well?"

"Not technically. My species inhabits the same world, but we are not indigenous to it. We were taken in and given sanctuary three generations ago, by the former king of Antar. Now, as I was saying -"

"But if this Karanna was the queen - who is the king? And who killed her, anyway?"

"She was killed by my people's prince, named Ki-var', who wanted to take over the rule of Antar. And the king's name.... was Zan."

Karanna's eyes immediately shifted to Zan. "So, are you...?"

Zan nodded. "Yes - I'm half human, and my Antarian half came from the king's DNA, as did Max's."

That thought hit her square between the eyes. "They made two of you?"

Zan chuckled. "Well, at first, before we met Da-nar', that's what we thought. Actually, we had even wondered if my alien half wasn't even from the king. But it turned out, that Max and I are actually identical twins. When they created us, the embryo split, and so there are two of us." He looked at Da-nar'. "What about Karanna? Is she a dupe, or -?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "No, she is not a dupe."

"What's a dupe?" she asked, her anxiety level continuing to rise. Sensing her emotional distress within his own nervous system, Zan began to soothingly stroke her back, as he subconsciously allowed calming energy to flow out of himself into her. Immediately, he felt her begin to relax in his arms, allowing her body to rest against his.

"Dupe," Da-nar' explained, "is short for 'duplicate'. You see, once the embryo split, and there were two kings, we decided to duplicate the rest of the royal family that was being sent to earth to be raised to retake Antar. Well, that isn't exactly accurate. They weren't duplicates so much, as they were decoys. They had the same human DNA, so they looked alike, which was intended to mislead our enemy into thinking that they were the original hybrids of the royal family. But with the exception of Zan, the rest of the hybrids in his group were not of royal descent."

Karanna looked at Zan. "So these are the others that you mentioned lived in that underground hideout of yours?"

Zan smiled, pleased with how quickly she was assimilating and adjusting to this massive influx of information. "Yes, they were the ones that I referred to."

"I still don't know if I believe all of this."

"Well, as I started to say before, I can prove it to you. Let me ask you this - have you ever experienced being someplace, other than where your body was located?"

Karanna looked at Zan. He nodded for her to answer the question. "Yes, I have. How did you know?"

Da-nar' smiled triumphantly at her. "Because that was one of Karanna's gifts, before she was killed. And Liz seems to have this ability, although undeveloped."

"Liz! Who is this 'Liz' you all keep talking about?"

Da-nar' looked at Max. "Do you have a picture of Liz?" he asked.

Max pulled out his wallet, and retrieved a picture that Maria had taken of Liz and him, during the brief period they had been a couple last spring. He handed it to Karanna, who gasped when she saw what looked like a picture of her and Zan sitting together, cuddled up on a picnic bench. "Th-this is you and Liz?" she inquired, just to make sure.

"Yes," Max affirmed. "The resemblance is incredible. Da-nar', you said she isn't a dupe. Does that mean what I think that it does?"

"What does it mean?" Karanna interjected, before Da-nar' could answer.

"It means, that you and Liz weren't created separately. You are identical twins, just as Max and Zan are," Da-nar' was finally able to say.

Karanna's heart felt like it stopped beating, and she forgot to breathe. "I - I have a sister?" she whispered.

"That's correct. I would have told you all of this much sooner, of course, if I hadn't lost track of you when.... you were younger." He hesitated to mention her parents' untimely demise any more than necessary, since he didn't know how sensitive she still might be about it.

"You don't have to avoid the subject of my parents' death, Da-nar'," she said softly. "I came to terms with it a long time ago. Now please, tell me about my sister."

"Well, she is very much like you. Obviously, you both look identical. But beyond that, you both seem to display the finer qualities of our queen - you are both gentle and compassionate, full of love and kindness. You'll love Liz, I'm sure, just as the rest of us do."

Karanna nodded, but Da-nar' could tell that her mind was working feverishly, trying to process everything - perhaps even refute it. His assessment was confirmed, when she abruptly changed topics again. "You said that I was created from the queen's genetic material, but that none of the hybrids in Zan's group are of royal descent. Yet from what I gather, he seems to feel that I am a part of his group, not Max's. These aren't compatible." Zan could feel her tension level beginning to rise again.

"They aren't incompatible at all," Da-nar' insisted. "But you have to know the rest of what happened. The Talerians wanted to keep the queen from being recreated into human form. They would have succeeded, if they had asked anyone else to destroy the queen's essence. But they asked me, and so I hid it. Then they substituted the essence of the rebel leader's sister, and made a fake bride for the king. When we made the set of dupes to go with Zan, we had to make a dupe of the fake bride, as well. You were not considered part of the dupe grouping."

"What did they have against the queen, that they didn't want her to be reborn in human form?" Karanna asked, still confused by all of this. "I would think that the KING would be the one that would threaten this rebel leader - what's his name by the way? - and the one that they would want to stop from being recreated."

"His name is Ki-var', and I know that it would seem the most logical to destroy the king's essence, but you have to understand something else - Ki-var's sister wanted to be King Zan's bride. When he refused to marry her, and chose Karanna instead... let's just say, she saw the recreated king as her second chance to be queen." Da-nar' went on, explaining the whole sordid plan to her.

"Well I'm really lost now. Why did you hybridize the queen then? And how do I fit in? Why did the rest of them know each other, and I got left out?"

"Starting with the easiest of those questions," Da-nar' said with a smirk, "You were kept separate from the others for your safety. I had intended to introduce Zan to you, when you both were in your early teens. But you disappeared without a trace, and so I was unable to bring you together. As for the rest of it, I created the queen's hybrid, because I knew that our king would need help to defeat his enemies, and because the Antarians had wanted to replicate the king and his bride, the sister of the king, and his second in command. The four of them were to make up a unit. You see, in Antarian legend and religion, the number four has always represented strength, flowing from the blessings of the All Powerful One -"

"All Powerful One?"

"That is one of the names that the Antarians use to refer to their deity. You humans call Him God."

Karanna nodded. "Sorry for interrupting. What were you saying about the number four?"

"When Antarians would battle in hand-to-hand combat, they always fought in a "four-square" pattern. They did this for several reasons. On the purely physical plane, it gave them protection, because someone you trusted was always at your back. Envision a square - by having each member of a unit stand with their shoulders at 90 degree angles, a four-square literally had 360 degrees of vision and protection. The second reason they did this, was connected to what I told you a minute ago - they believed it represented the four directions, and thus the four corners, if you will, of God's creation. They felt that was the reason that four always represented strength endowed by their Creator - by acknowledging and calling upon the strength that had created the worlds, they would invoke His blessings, insuring their victory. I must admit, it was very successful. They had never experienced defeat, until Ki-var' came along."

"Why was he successful, when others weren't?" Max asked, captivated by this new information, even though his attention seemed to be elsewhere, as he continued to scan their surroundings. He had always wondered what the significance of the four-square was.

"Ki-var' didn't fight honorably," Da-nar' snorted, ashamed of the other Talerian's treachery. "There was no declaration of war - he came to the King's wedding as a friend, and proceeded to slay the royal family during the feast."

"I still don't see what this has to do with me," Karanna interjected, trying to return the discussion back to her earlier question. "I mean, there were already four of them in each unit, if I understood correctly?"

"Yes, there were four, but remember - one in each group was the enemy. She wasn't Antarian - she was made from the essence of Ki-var's sister, Tessandra, and designed to be their downfall, not the completion of a unit. Ki-var' wanted to be sure that while his sister was attempting to seduce an heir out of Max, that the unit would not have enough strength to overcome him, and reclaim Antar. You and Liz are the ones who truly complete each four-square unit, even though you weren't podded as a part of the group."

Karanna raised an eyebrow. "Podded? What does that mean?"

"Do you remember how you said that when you traveled without your body to our lair, you saw those green, glowing chambers?" Zan asked her. Karanna nodded. "Well, those are what remains of our incubation pods. We weren't born from human parents like you and Liz were. We developed in the pods, until we looked to be about the age of normal 6 year olds, and then we.... hatched."

Karanna buried her face in her hands. "My God, I can't believe this. This can't be happening."

Zan could sense her conflicting emotions, and pulled her close, gently stroking her to help her relax. He felt her soften against him again. "I think we've dumped enough on her for one day, Da-nar'," he voiced.

Karanna had been on the verge of freaking out, when she felt a wave of peace rush into her, causing her body to relax. That was twice that she had been totally stressed out, and then suddenly felt the anxiety drain from her. She wasn't sure how she knew it, but she was convinced that somehow Zan was influencing her emotions, bringing them back into a healthier balance.

"Yes, perhaps we have," Da-nar' responded. "I never meant for you to find out this way, Karanna. Please believe me. But I am so relieved that we have found you again."

Karanna laid her head on Zan's chest, enjoying the sense of peace and well-being that he was projecting into her. "It's all right, Da-nar'. I don't hold it against you. You had no way of finding me." She looked up at Zan. "So then, you never had a family? A mom, a dad?" Zan shook his head. Tears came to her eyes, as she placed her hand on the side of his face. "How sad for you. All the 'family' you had was the other three, and one of those was your enemy. God, Zan, under such circumstances, how did you turn out to be so wonderful?" She didn't know how she was so certain of his character, but she was.

Zan closed his eyes, turning his face into her hand, and kissed her palm. "None of that matters anymore," he whispered to her, his eyes burning her with their sensual heat. "Not now that you're here." He had to fight the strong, sensual pull that would have him claim her lips in a fiery kiss. But that would have to wait for a private moment. He nearly lost the battle, though, when he saw the quiver in her lips, and felt the subtle shift of her body, as she tried to get closer. Obviously, she was feeling the same urge.

He forced himself to look away, and with a husky voice asked, "So what do we do now? I can't stay here with Karanna, and she certainly can't come back to Roswell with us."

"We're going to have to leave her here for the time being, while we figure some other things out," Max said, again reminding Zan with a look about the pending problem of Tess' pregnancy. "Get her phone number, address, e-mail address... whatever, and we'll keep in touch with her. We'll come back for a visit as soon as we can. Maybe even over the weekend." Max turned to Da-nar'. "Come on, let's go back and check on... the others. Zan, we'll wait for you at the Jeep. Don't be too much longer."

"Okay, thanks," Zan answered, and watched as they got up to head back to the parking lot. When they were out of earshot, he turned his attention back to Karanna, and emitted a low, sensual growl from his throat. "Come here," he commanded, as he lifted her up closer to him, so he could capture her lips in a searing kiss. As his blood began to run hot and fast through his body, he deepened their kiss, his desire for her flaring like an all-consuming fire. And then the flashes started.

*Karanna and Da-nar' talking, when she was a young girl - feeling her fascination at what he was telling her*

*The day of her parents funeral - feeling her grief, and her fear over what was going to happen to her*

*Being in school, and refusing to buckle under peer pressure - feeling her sadness, because she didn't "fit in"*

*Karanna waking up in a sweat, the night that she had her out of body experience - feeling her fear of being a "freak"*

*Karanna and Zan talking before - feeling her fear, and yet her also sensing that what he was saying was true, and that they belonged together*

At the same time, Karanna was receiving flashes from Zan.....

*Zan emerging from his pod - she felt his confusion and loneliness, his need for an adult to comfort him*

*Zan, Rath, Lonnie, and Ava roaming the streets, stealing food to keep from starving - feeling his regret at doing something he instinctively knew was wrong*

*Zan kissing and caressing Ava - feeling his emptiness at being with her*

Zan making love to what appeared to be her - Could it be Liz? she wondered - she felt his guilt at being unable to stop what was happening*

At that point, Karanna pushed abruptly away from Zan, her chest heaving with each labored breath. Zan noticed her eyes were wild with - what was it? Fear? Anger? He reached for her, wanting to hold her and comfort her, to help her overcome whatever was upsetting her.

She slapped at his hands and jumped off his lap. Rising, she stood in front of him, and snapped, "Don't touch me!"

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:04:51 AM by sheeperz
Chica and Phae - What?!?! 4 parts in one day isn't enough? LOL! Trying to catch this board up with the other one. Seems no one is reading over there much now... getting like precious little feedback over there all of a sudden! *g* I'll be adding it in blocks over here, til it's current.

RoswellLady - hehehe you could be onto something there... maybe... could be... ya never know... *big*

Here's some more for ya!

Part Five

Zan was temporarily speechless, as he tried to figure out what had just gone wrong. His outstretched arms dropped back to his side like they were made of lead, and he stared at her, his eyes filled with pain at her sudden rejection.

Karanna turned her back to him, not being able to watch the way that her attitude seemed to be affecting him. It was probably all an act, anyway. Tears spilled from her eyes, and she swiped at them furiously, disgusted with herself for letting herself be hurt so deeply by a man she barely knew.

Zan got to his feet, and came to stand right behind her. He forced himself to keep his arms at his sides, despite how desperately he wanted to wrap them around her, and tell her that he - that he what? That he loved her? How could she possibly believe that, when they had just met? But it was there. That same feeling of rightness that he had with Liz. With one exception - no guilt. If Liz had truly been his soul mate, would he have felt guilty for wanting his brother's woman? No - no more than Max felt guilty for loving and being with her, knowing how much it hurt Zan.

But now he had bigger problems. He finally found the one that was meant for him - and there was no guilt involved. And yet suddenly, it was as if her blood had frozen in her veins. He shuddered, just thinking about how cold and removed her look had been, when she had told him not to touch her. Something had happened. They had been kissing, and he knew that she liked it, from the way she responded. And then he had gotten the flashes... The flashes! Could that be it? Did she see something from my past that is upsetting her? he wondered. And then Zan's stomach twisted in his gut, when he realized just what she might have seen. He hadn't thought to block a connection between them - he had never done anything he was that ashamed of. But if she saw things that she couldn't understand - what might she be thinking?

"Karanna?" he said softly, hoping that if he spoke gently, she wouldn't come unglued on him. "Baby, what is it? What happened?"

Taking one last angry swipe at her tears, she spun around to face him, surprised at just how close he was standing. She instinctively took a couple steps back away from him. Being so close to him muddled her thinking, and she couldn't afford to be vulnerable like that to him again.

"You must be pretty proud of yourself, huh? Just how many other women have you seduced with your lies and empty promises?" Her sharp words pierced through the air, inflicting a mortal wound to his heart. He had finally found her, and now she hated him! How was he supposed to survive this one? He had barely managed to keep himself together when he realized that Liz would never be his. But this? This would be the one that brought him to his knees. His heart breaking in two, he hung his head, partly from the pain, and partially so she wouldn't see his tears. When he didn't answer her, her pain caused her to lash out again. "I see you have nothing to say in your own defense. Not that there is anything you could say that would ever excuse lying to me. That's one thing I can't stand. Lies."

"I never lied to you, Karanna," he said, struggling to keep his voice from quivering. "Not ever."

"Yes, you did!" she insisted. "I saw, Zan. I saw you with two different women! One of which must have been Liz, for heaven's sake! Your own brother's girlfriend! And some other woman with blonde hair, colored with some pinkish tint. How many others were there, Zan? To think that I actually believed that you meant it, when you said you had been waiting all your life for me."

"As I recall, I said I had been waiting for months for you. Ever since the dreams."

"That's what you said a little while ago. But in the dreams, you told me that you had been waiting all your life for me."

"Well, it is true."

"Then explain the other women, Zan! That didn't look like waiting to me! That looked like taking your pleasure wherever you can get it! Why would I trust you, after what I saw?"

"Before I answer that, let me ask you something - have you ever gotten visions like that from anyone else?"

Karanna's face became a mask of indifference. "No. What does that have to do with anything?"

"Don't you think that difference makes our relationship special? That it means something?"

"How should I know," she said icily. "Maybe you can do that with every girl you kiss."

"Not like that, Karanna. Not without even trying to. The connection between us is spontaneous."

"If you believed that, you'd be able to look me in the eyes. But you can't. You've been staring at your sneakers the entire time you've been spouting your lies."

"That's not why I'm not looking at you," he informed her, so softly she almost couldn't hear him.

"Then look at me, damn it! Look at me, and be honest for once!" She gasped, when he lifted his face, revealing the tears that were streaming down his cheeks.

"As you can see," he told her, closing his eyes against the pain in his heart, "I wasn't avoiding looking at you because I was lying. I was merely trying to salvage what little was left of my pride and my heart. Now that I have completely humbled myself, will you even listen? Will you let me explain whatever it was that you saw from inside me? Or am I a man judged and condemned, handed a life sentence with no hope, based on what you think you know about me?"

"Can you explain it, Zan?" she asked softly, her voice betraying her pain. "Can you explain, if I'm the one you've been waiting for, why you slept with those other women? With my sister? Do you know how that makes me feel? Like I am just a stand-in for the woman that you really love?"

"Baby, no," he protested on a choked whisper. "It isn't like that at all. In fact, that wasn't even Liz. It was Tessandra."

Karanna's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "The enemy?" she squeaked. "You slept with our enemy?"

"Yes, but I didn't know that it was her. Can I please just explain from the beginning?" Karanna nodded. Zan held his hand out to her. "Then come, sit, and let's talk." Karanna eyed him suspiciously, not wanting to touch him, for fear of losing her resolve, and the protective shield she had raised around her heart. Avoiding all body contact, she walked around him, and sat down under the tree once more. Zan sighed, his shoulder slumped in shame and defeat. "I guess I deserve that," he said, feeling total despair at the thought of losing her. And even though she was still here, he could tell that the respect that she had so freely given him had been replaced by a wariness of him.

Sitting down beside her, he relayed how it was that Tess had ended up in his room that night, and why. "So you see," he said in conclusion, "it wasn't even me she wanted, it was Max. If I hadn't been delirious from waking up with a raging arousal from her devious scheme, it never would have happened."

"But you must have had some sort of feelings for Liz, or you wouldn't have let it happen. I mean, if you had known it was Tess, I bet you would have stopped it."

Zan was shamed by her words. She was right, and he could tell that she knew it. "I'm not going to even try to deny it," was his response.

"Well, thank you for that much honesty, at least."

"Do I even get to try to explain?" Karanna shrugged. Inside, she secretly hoped that he could explain it, but she wasn't going to let him know how vulnerable she really was. If he failed to accomplish the task, she didn't want him knowing how devastated it would leave her. "All right, here's the thing: Yes, I was attracted to Liz. More than attracted. I would become insanely aroused around her, from the first time I met her, which was only 3 days ago."

Zan paused at her shocked gasp. "This is supposed to make me feel better? To trust you?" she managed to say.

"You have to listen to the whole story, before you make your judgment. All right?"

Karanna glared at him, as if to say that there was nothing he could say now, to undo the damage that last admission had inflicted. She crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back against the tree. "Say whatever you want. Heaven knows, I can't stop you."

Zan stared at her, wondering how things could end up so mixed up. Maybe it really is hopeless, he thought despairingly. But he loved her too much to give up without at least trying to make her understand. "Okay, well, here's the thing - I thought that she was the Karanna from my dreams - because she had Karanna's essence. I knew that I loved Karanna - and when I had such a strong physical reaction to Liz, it was easy to equate that feeling of passionate desire with the love that I had growing inside of me for the woman in my dreams. And I thought at the time that was all they were - just dreams. But then I came to realize that Liz loved Max and vice versa. That they considered themselves to be true soul mates. So despite my attraction to her - and hers to me, I might add, I decided I had to let her go. She needed to be with the man that she truly loved, no matter how difficult I found it. Then things started getting crazy, when I realized that Max was having some sort of sexual awakening toward her as well. Beyond the normal teenage hormone kind of thing, I mean. He, too, started experiencing this overwhelming urge to mate with her. So when Da-nar' showed up, and we told him what was happening, he explained that it is most likely caused by a biological directive common to Antarian couples, linked to the female's reproductive cycle. Max told me that last night, the passion level between him and Liz was back to normal." He looked at her, waiting for a reaction, since she had listened without so much as flinching a muscle, or displaying any kind of emotional reaction.

"Is that it?" she asked flatly.

"Basically."

"So what you're telling me is... you want me to be your woman, but when Liz is 'in heat', all bets are off? Do I have this straight?"

Zan's eyes were hard, and his face revealed his disgust at what she had said. "You know what? Just forget it. Forget I ever laid eyes on you, and came after you this afternoon," he said coldly, rising to his feet. "Because that's what I intend to do. I can't begin to tell you what a total disappointment this has been. When we met in our dreams, I thought I could trust what I sensed about you - about your character. I thought you were a kind, compassionate woman, who wouldn't judge a man for mistakes he'd made in the past, and things that were beyond his control. I thought that once I found you, my previously pathetic life would somehow transform itself into something worthwhile. Thanks for disabusing me of the notion up front. I'd have hated to waste precious time growing more attached to you, just to find this out down the road. You won't have to worry about me bothering you anymore." With that, he spun on his heel and began the walk back to the Jeep.

Karanna felt justified in her anger the entire time, but when Zan turned and walked out on her, she felt something inside her begin to wither and die. It hurt so much to know that he had been with other women! And that he wanted her sister! But despite her rage, she knew that this was the love of her life, and she would never get over him. As she watched him walk away, she covered her mouth with her hand, to stifle a heart-wrenching sob. As hot tears splashed down her face, she whispered after him, "I'll always love you, Zan. I only wish that you could have loved me, too." And then she buried her face in her arms that were propped up on her knees, and cried her heart out.

As she wept, she felt two strong arms wrap around her, and pull her close. "Baby, don't you understand? I do love you. Why else would I even care what you thought of me?"

Karanna's head jerked up, her face stained with tears, to look into the eyes of the man that had hurt her so badly. "I thought you said you were through with me," she said bristling, hating that he could see how vulnerable she was.

"That was before you said you loved me."

"I didn't -"

Zan cut her words off with a finger over her lips. "Don't, Karanna. Please, let's not start lying to each other. I heard what you said, so there's no point in denying it."

"How could you hear me?" she asked, astonished at this revelation.

"I've always had good hearing," he told her, "but earlier, Max and I had to connect for the first time, in order to fight off one of our enemies. When we did, it further heightened my senses. Especially my hearing."

"You weren't supposed to hear that," she grumbled.

Zan threaded his fingers through her hair, until he was holding her head in his hands. "Why not, Karanna? Why don't you want me to know you love me? Or is it that you don't want to love me, period?"

"I just don't think I can do this, Zan. How can I give my heart completely to a man who wants to jump in bed with my sister? Biological directive, or no, it's too much to endure. Can't you understand that? If and when I ever give myself to a man, I don't want to share him with anyone. Ever. Maybe it's selfish, but it's the way I am."

Zan knew just what she meant. He'd never be able to tolerate sharing her, either. "Do you suppose it would make you feel less threatened, if I told you that Max had the same kind of reaction to you, that I had to Liz?"

Her eyes grew wide. "He told you that?"

Zan gave her a meaningful look. "He didn't have to."

"Well then how do you know -"

Zan again sealed in her words with a finger over her lips. "Sweetheart, there are some things a man just cannot hide," he said with a smirk.

"Oh," she said against his finger. He waited a few seconds for it to sink in, and then chuckled when she said, "Oooh!" and blushed a deep pink.

"So you see? You aren't the only one that will be suffering. And I'll tell you a secret." He leaned in, and whispered in her ear, "I don't intend to share you, either."

His warm breath against her ear, combined with the husky timbre of his voice, caused a shiver to run up her spine. Feeling her response, Zan traced the shell of her ear with the tip of his tongue, ending with a little nibble on her earlobe. He could hear her breathing come in short, shallow gasps, as her body strained to come closer to his, of its own volition. He nuzzled his face into her neck, and sucked on the sensitive flesh he found there, further inflaming her by tracing her neckline with his warm, wet tongue.

"Zan," she moaned.

"Yes, love?" he asked breathlessly, as he continued his sensual assault. He knew that he was rapidly losing control, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

"How are we going to - aaahh - um, resolve this, then?"

He brushed his lips across hers , and then lightly nipped her bottom lip. "Resolve what?" he asked, all coherent thoughts of their conversation long gone at this point.

"This business of you and Liz being attracted to each other."

He kissed her soundly again. "And let's not forget about you and Max."

She gasped. "There is no me and Max. I don't feel that way about him."

"You will. Trust me."

"But I don't want to feel that way about him! I only want to feel that way about you."

"Welcome to my private hell," he muttered. "You think I want to have the hots for my brother's woman? Do you really think I'm that masochistic?"

It finally sunk in with her just how upsetting this must be for him. "Oh Zan, I never thought about how awful it must be for you. I mean, that is... if you don't want to be attracted to Liz."

"Why would any man want to be attracted to a woman he can't have? Trust me, in a situation like this, there isn't enough cold water in the state of New Mexico to deal with the problem."

"Excuse me?"

"You know, cold show - uh, never mind," Zan finished sheepishly, realizing for the first time just how innocent she was.

Karanna scowled at him. "Whatever," she said, choosing to dismiss the cryptic statement. "So tell me about this Tessandra. How did you deal with what she did? Is she still in Roswell? Do I need to be worried about her?"

Zan's heart warmed at the jealousy she barely seemed able to keep reigned in. Despite the obstacle it presented, it was nice to know that she cared enough to be jealous. "Actually, she's the reason that we came here. She had kidnapped one of our friends, who is a computer ace, and brought him to the university to try and decode a book that supposedly our people sent to earth with us. It was written in an ancient Antarian language of symbols. Tess thought if she could decode the book, she could find out how to get back to Antar."

"And you wanted to stop her? Forgive me if I don't follow that logic. I'd think you'd be dancing in the streets if she left."

"Nah, that would draw too much attention," he said with a straight face.

Karanna swatted him. "You know what I mean. I say, let her go, and good riddance."

"Oh, that's what we plan to do," he responded.

"Then... I don't get it. I mean, if she can get the book deciphered, and get off the planet, why are you trying to stop her?"

"Well, first, the book is a useless hoax, that was just designed to be a decoy for our enemies. Second, she was mind-warping our friend Alex, in order to get him to do what she wanted. If she had continued, she would eventually have killed him. So we came to stop her from hurting him."

"How do you know he would have died?"

"It's a really long story, and we have to leave to go back to Roswell. It'll have to keep for another time. Because before I go...." He pulled her to himself again, and fastened his lips to hers, pouring all of his love and desire for her into the kiss. As he deepened the kiss, and seductively claimed her mouth once more, her moan vibrated against his tongue and lips, driving him wild with need. He could feel the same spiraling arousal begin to shake him that he had felt with Liz, only not quite as strong. He wondered about that, and filed it away, to ask Da-nar' about when he could get him alone.

The sun was dipping low in the sky, and between the deep shadows cast by the nearby building, and the shade of the tree, Zan and Karanna were afforded the illusion of privacy in this out of the way spot on an otherwise busy campus. And Zan couldn't help but take advantage of it. Without breaking the kiss, he slowly lowered Karanna to the ground, and covered her body with his, being careful to support his weight, so as not to crush her. Using his knee, he gently urged her legs apart, so that he could settle comfortably between them.

Shaking with desire for her, he hesitantly allowed his arousal to graze over her sensitive, feminine area. A shiver ran up his spine at her soft gasp, and then his heart lurched, when he felt her hips reflexively lift in response, seeking to repeat the experience. Slowly, so as not to frighten her, he gently stroked her body with his again, all the while making passionate love to her mouth, showing her just what he intended to do with the rest of her someday. Someday soon.

Karanna was quivering below him, frightened by such new and yet wonderful feelings. She never knew that being with a man could make a woman feel this way. The more that he teased her body, the more she wanted to learn all the mysteries of love. But only with him. Zan began to feast on the ivory column of her neck, his lips tingling from the contact with her satiny skin, even as his hands came up to cautiously touch her aching breasts. Feeling her insides starting to throb with sexual tension, she moaned, "Zan...."

"What, love?" he asked, his lips vibrating against her jaw, just below her ear.

"I feel - so - strange," she gasped out, every nerve in her body thrilling at his touch. Instinctively, she raised her hips higher, pressing even closer to him. She couldn't seem to get enough of him..... never enough....

Reaching down, he ran his hands along the outside of her thighs, until he could urge her legs to come up around his waist. "Wrap your legs around me, baby," he pleaded. When she did, he took advantage of her more vulnerable position, to increase the pressure and intimacy of the contact. "Do you like that?" he whispered in her ear, making her shudder anew.

"Yeessss.... oh God, Zan, what is happening to me?"

"Don't fight it, Karanna. Relax, and let it happen."

"Let what happen?" she asked, now totally breathless. Before he could answer, he heard her whimper, "Ooohh-"

"That's it, baby, let go. I'm here...."

Karanna cried out, as the tremors of her first climax shook her to her very soul. Without even knowing what she was doing, she opened herself to a connection with Zan, and as he felt the intensity of her pleasure crash through him, he exploded in a release that left him quivering. Never had he experienced anything like it. It was just the way that he had always known it would be, when he found the woman that haunted his dreams.

Zan realized that Karanna was clinging tightly to him, and he could feel her hot tears on his neck. He pulled back so that he could look down at her. "Sweetheart, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Did I hurt you?"

"No," she whispered. "It's just that I - I've never, um...."

He kissed her lips sweetly. "Was that the first experience you've ever had with a man?" he asked, hoping that he had judged the situation accurately. When she nodded, he smiled. Then suddenly, he got worried. "Was it so bad, that it made you cry?" He held his breath, waiting for her response.

"No," she whispered again. "It was so beautiful, it made me cry. I love you, Zan."

Zan rolled them on their sides, and drew her close to himself. "I love you too, baby, with all my heart. I don't know how I'm supposed to go back to Roswell after this."

"I wish you didn't have to go," she pouted.

Zan smiled against her hair. "I know. But we will be back soon. You can count on that. In the mean time - do you have some paper and pencil in that backpack you were carrying? So you can give me your phone number?" Karanna lifted her face, and kissed him soundly, and then rummaged through her things, until she found the paper and a pen. She jotted down every piece of information that she thought he could possibly need. Without showing it to him, she folded it, and stuck it in his back pocket, playfully squeezing his rear, before she pulled her hand back out.

"I'd return the gesture," he said playfully, "but I'm afraid I'd never get out of here. And I'm willing to lay odds that Max and Da-nar' are ready to have fits. I really have to go."

"I'm going to miss you," she admitted tearfully.

Zan kissed her deeply, and then quickly got up and moved away from her. Already he could feel his blood starting to heat again. Waving a hand over the front of his pants, he erased the evidence of their recent encounter, and held out a hand to pull her up. When she was standing in front of him, he cupped her face in his hands. "I'll call you soon. Tomorrow," he promised. He kissed her one more time, and then turned and literally ran from her, as if trying to escape her sensual influence, that now had him raring and ready to go for round two.

"I love you Zan - always," she said quietly, through her tears, as she watched him go.

He stopped suddenly and turned to face her. Waving, he called, "I love you too!", and then he went around the corner of a building, and was gone.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:07:16 AM by sheeperz

Part Six

Max drove the Jeep into the town of Roswell at 10:30 that night. The trip home had seemed extraordinarily long, the air in the vehicle charged with so much tension, it was almost palpable.

For the most part, Zan had sat in brooding silence, staring out the window, trying to make some sense of his suddenly very complicated life. Less than a week ago, his biggest problem was staving off his growing sense of restlessness. How had he managed to go from that, to discovering he had a twin, becoming part of a family, pending fatherhood, and finding his soul mate, all in the matter of a few days? It boggled the mind.

He also struggled with feelings of guilt for the one big thing that he hadn't told Karanna. It hadn't been intentional - it was just that in Karanna's presence, he didn't want to spend any more of his time and breath on Tess than was necessary. But looking back, he realized that she would undoubtedly consider that a breach of her trust and faith in him. His stomach knotted, as he pondered just how potentially volatile the situation was. He didn't care if she got angry with him, called him names, hit him - he could deal with that, and felt that she would be more than justified in it. He hadn't exercised any kind of good judgment or self-control, and even he was no longer convinced that having woken up with a major hard on was any kind of excuse. Not after he saw the pain that it caused his precious Karanna. Yep, he was going to have to calculate every word he was going to say to her, complete with major groveling, to prove how deep and true his love for her was. She didn't deserve any of this, but he couldn't help being selfish enough to want to fight to keep her, anyway.

Max had been mulling over the whole Tess issue. As king, he knew that the final decision rested with him. But it was not one that he relished making. It seemed like a no-win situation. If they killed Tess, which he knew she ultimately deserved, Zan's son would die. If they kept Tess here, the baby would die, and Tess would live. That would be an even greater travesty of justice. The only other viable option was to do as they said they would, and send her back to Antar. But that held its own set of perils. What if Tess was lying to them? What if, once she got what she wanted, she aborted her child? Or gave him to Ki-var', claiming he was Max's son? And if Ki-var' got the child, what would he do with him? Surely he wouldn't ask her to get pregnant, just so he could torture her child - would he? After all, it was his own flesh and blood, and an heir.... an heir that would be accepted by both peoples. Wasn't that what Tess had told Zan the plan was? No, Ki-var' wouldn't harm the child. Surely, though, he would turn him against Zan, and the rest of their family. Max knew that he couldn't let that happen.

There would be no harm, though, in them letting her give birth on Antar, and then taking the child from Tess, to prevent it from remaining under Ki-var's control. Yes, Ki-var' was strong, but what had Da-nar' told them about the four-square? He said it had never been defeated in battle, and that it was only through a sneak attack that Ki-var' was able to prevail. But the four-square was a physical battle formation. Max wondered what kind of weaponry their people used to battle an enemy like Ki-var', whose power was mostly that of the mind. Nicholas had been strong - so strong that it had taken both he and Zan to conquer him. But Ki-var' was rumored to be much stronger. Would they be any match for him? Especially with him being endowed with full alien powers, and them having a mixed heritage? Did his people know something that he was yet unaware of, regarding their powers? He would have to discuss this with Da-nar' as soon as possible, if they were going to send Tess back. He wanted assurance that he would indeed be able to extract the child from Ki-var's evil clutches, when the time came.

Da-nar', for his part, was wallowing in self-doubt. If only he had kept a closer eye on Tessandra, none of this would be an issue. He could even have told Max earlier who she was, and they could have deported her back to Antar, and Zan wouldn't be having to deal with all of this. He couldn't seem to see beyond his own shortcomings, to reach an awareness that all of this might serve a higher purpose somehow.

Michael had slept a good deal of the time, just wanting to shut out all the problems and tension for a little while. He didn't envy Max or Zan for what they must have been going through. As far as he was concerned, Tess was heading back to Antar, and when the time came, he would stand by their side, and they'd kick Ki-var's alien ass into oblivion. Sounded like a perfect plan.

Alex, too, had slept, his body exhausted from the way that Tess had been driving him, making him work through all of the previous night, with no breaks. Between that, and the effects of the mind-warp, his body needed some down time.

Basically, the only sound in the vehicle was the moans and whimpers coming from the source of everyone else's distress. Tess drifted in and out of consciousness, now in the grip of a raging fever that left her in a sweat. She sat on Da-nar's lap, with her legs stretched over Zan's and Alex's, her body shivering in reaction to the fever. At one point, she cried out loudly and began to thrash in pain, and Max had asked Zan if he should pull over. Delaying an answer, Zan connected with the baby again, and managed to direct some healing energy into Tess and their son, and Tess calmed again. Zan had told Max to keep going, that the situation was under control for the time being.

Now as they arrived in Roswell, Max headed straight for Michael's apartment. It had been decided they would keep Tess there, rather than at the Valenti's. God knew, the Sheriff and Kyle didn't need to be dealing with a high-risk alien teen pregnancy, on top of everything else they had endured. Besides, tomorrow they would hopefully be sending Tess back to Antar, and that would be that.

Michael ran into the apartment, and cleared the couch off, spreading a couple sheets on it, to keep the sweat from soaking into the upholstery. Maria was definitely starting to affect him, he thought with a little smile.

After Max determined that the coast was clear, Zan carried Tess' now limp body inside, and gently laid her on the sofa. As much as he would have preferred to drop her on her head, for all that she was putting them through, he couldn't chance risking his son's life over his desire for revenge. Once she was settled, he motioned to the others to join him outside, where they could talk.

"So what's the plan?" Zan asked his brother, once they were gathered. "I sensed you were struggling with it all the way home."

"As much as I hate it," Max admitted, "we have to send her back. But Da-nar', you said something about being able to protect the child some way? And for us to know when he is born?"

"Yes," Da-nar' confirmed. "I'll have to go to Antar first, and then return for Tess. There is someone there that I will have to see - if he is even still alive. Then I will find out if he will be able to help us. I will go there first thing in the morning."

"So who is this person, Da-nar'?" Max wanted to know. "Is he Antarian, or Talerian? Will he be able to provide proper medical care for Tess? We don't know how much the baby has been affected, and if any treatment will be necessary after Tess arrives back on Antar."

"The man I have in mind is Ge-lar', the Learned One of your people."

"Learned One?" Zan asked.

"The Learned One is a Holy Man of God among your people. He is charged with keeping the sacred scrolls of prophecy in the catacombs beneath the city. To my knowledge, Ki-var' doesn't know the existence of the place. It's location is known to only a few Antarians, and it was almost unheard of for a Talerian to possess such knowledge."

"How is it that you came to know its whereabouts, then?" Michael inquired.

"Well, of course, the royal family knew the location - after all, they were considered to be chosen ones of God to lead your people." Da-nar' paused, fighting back an emotional memory. "As for me? Normally a Talerian geneticist wouldn't know about the catacombs, but I had a rather unique relationship with King Zan, and came to know not only where they were, but developed a friendship with the Learned One as well."

Max stared deep into Da-nar's black eyes. "What exactly was your relationship with the king?"

Da-nar' turned away from Max's probing gaze. When he was certain his voice wouldn't falter, he replied, "My father was the head of Zan's father's security detail, and eventually Zan's. Because of that, I practically grew up in the palace. Zan and I were only a year apart in age, and we spent many hours as young boys playing and studying our school lessons together. We attended many of the same social functions, and our families even had outings together. In short? Zan was my best friend."

Max walked up behind Da-nar', and placed a hand on the man's shoulder. Da-nar' looked back over his shoulder at Max, who smiled warmly at him. "I certainly can believe that, Da-nar'. Apparently, Zan had good taste in friends."

A weak smile formed on Da-nar's lips. "Thank you."

"So tell me - how did you learn about the catacombs?"

Da-nar' turned to face them again. "One day, when we were out exploring in the woods, we ran into Ge-lar', and Zan introduced me to the Learned One. Ge-lar' was a kind man, and he took and interest in both Zan and myself. After that, we would regularly go to the catacombs to visit him. It was always an exciting time when we went there - Ge-lar' would tell us stories, or let us read passages from the prophetic scrolls that had been fulfilled. He would tell us all about what was happening on our world at the time the prophet was given the message, and how it had come to pass. The night before we left on this mission, he came to me, and prayed for the All Powerful One's blessing upon our journey, and that our endeavor would be successful. He also told me, that he believed the message in one of the prophecies actually was about what we were doing! He said that if he was correct, the new king would return and successfully reclaim Antar. I will have to ask him about that prophecy, if he is still alive."

"How are you going to go back without being seen?" Max inquired.

"I will use the portal, and arrive inside the catacombs. The only portal left on Antar that was not destroyed is also located there, so I will be able to return. It shouldn't take me long to set everything up - if he's still alive."

"What if he's not alive? And consequently, there is a new Learned One, who is not as friendly? Or what if the Talerians have discovered the catacombs? What will you do then?" Michael asked, agitated. "I don't think that it's wise for you to go alone. At least let me accompany you."

"He has a good point," Max agreed. "Perhaps Zan and I should also join you. If it has been taken over by Ki-var's people, you'll need all the fire power you can get."

"I don't know," Da-nar' responded. "I'm not sure that I want to risk your lives in the process. If you're worst case fears are correct, the last thing we need is to have the three of you walking into an ambush."

"I'm not letting you go alone, and that's final," Max decided.

Immediately, Da-nar' backed down. "As you wish."

"I also want to make it clear that Tess will not be allowed to stay with Ki-var'. She will have to be kept somewhere secure, under house arrest. I don't want Ki-var anywhere near Zan's son. Ever." Da-nar' nodded his understanding. Zan felt a wave of protectiveness emanating from Max, and he was profoundly grateful that his brother was committed to making sure his son was kept safe. "All right then," Max continued, "here's the plan - we'll go to school tomorrow, and then shoot over here on our lunch. That way we'll only miss our afternoon classes, and be back before any parental figures miss us."

"Gotcha," Michael answered. "Meet here, and pick us up. I'll work on getting Valenti to stay with Tess while we're gone."

"Good. Well, we better get Alex home, and then check in at the house, before Mom sends out the State Police on a missing persons report," Max added with a grin.

"Wait a minute," Da-nar' interjected, "Tess hasn't had a chance to wipe the mind-warp from Alex's parents. If he shows up now, they'll get really confused."

"Damn, I didn't think of that. Tomorrow, we'll have to try and infuse her with enough energy, so she can undo whatever the heck she did to them. We can't have Alex hiding out for six weeks. Michael? Can we leave him here?"

"Why not? The more the merrier!" Michael grumbled, and rolled his eyes as his comment on having his house invaded and taken over.

"Thanks. You're a pal." Max ran to the Jeep to wake Alex, who had never even flinched when they all got out earlier. He returned shortly, Alex trailing him, looking dazed. "I think we need to do a little mental checkup on our friend here," he told Zan. "You up to help?"

"Sure, let's take him inside." When they got inside, they had Alex sit down, and then Max and Zan connected with each other, before drawing Alex into the connection with them. They scanned his memory centers, and repaired the vascular damage that had already developed, as a result of being under Tess' influence. It was easy to see how several weeks of it could have finally taken its toll, and claimed Alex's life. That done, Zan and Max said their goodnights, and headed for home.

After they left, Michael watched Da-nar' for a few minutes, as he tended to Tess, as he sponged her off to reduce the fever, and then covered her. When he finished, Michael walked over to stand next to the couch. Looking down at Da-nar', he said, "Looks like you have everything under control here, huh?" Da-nar' nodded. "Well, uh, would you mind then, if I -" Using his thumb, he pointed over his shoulder toward the door, his eyes completing the question, as to whether or not he could slip out for a little while. Again, Da-nar' nodded. Michael smiled and thanked him. He grabbed his jacket, and headed out the door.

Five minutes later, he walked up to Maria's house. The light was on in her room, and he watched her pacing back and forth. Damn, he thought, I should have listened to Maxwell and called her. He sighed. Time to get my ass chewed out, I guess. He reached up and tapped on the window. He saw her spin on her heel, and when she noticed him standing there, her eyes narrowed in preparation for the tongue lashing she was just aching to give him.

Whipping the window open, she snapped, "Where the hell have you been, and why didn't you call me? I've been waiting to hear from you!"

"Geez, Maria, don't have a coronary. Didn't Liz call and tell you that we saved Alex from the Wicked Witch of the West?"

"Of course she did! That's not the point!"

Michael raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Pardon me, then - what was the point? She knew Alex was rescued, and everyone is okay - well, except for Nicholas, but he doesn't count..."

"Nicholas?! You see! I knew there was more that we weren't hearing about! The way Liz told it, it was just a little walk in the park but I know that if Nicholas was there it was more serious than that and yet you didn't call me and I always have to find out everything second hand because you never have the decency to call me and let me know you're all right when you know that all I'm doing is sitting home and worrying about you a-"

Michael clamped his hand over her mouth, being sure not to cover her nose. "Breathe, blondie, before you pass out - please?" Maria nodded, his hand still covering her mouth, and took two really big breaths. "Good, that's better. Now before I release you, so your mouth can start chattering away again, let me just say, that I knew you would find out we were okay, and a lot of emotionally draining stuff went down, and I just didn't feel like talking at the time. But I'm here now, and we can talk about it if you want, okay?" She nodded mutely again. "Okay - I'm going to take my hand away now...." He pulled his hand back with exaggerated slowness.

Maria looked up at him with tender eyes that were misting over. She took a deep breath, and then gushed, "And I love you, ya big lug." She no more than finished her statement, when she hurled herself into his arms, and worked to choke back her tears. Michael pulled her into a warm embrace. "I was so worried," she told him in a ragged whisper. "I knew that you had gotten Alex, and that Tess was coming back too. But for all I knew, she could have mind-warped you all, and had you drive off the edge of a cliff."

Michael blinked in surprise. "You know, I never thought about that," he admitted.

"That's because you don't know how the female mind works," she mumbled against his chest. "I keep trying to tell you that, but you don't listen."

Michael chuckled, as he rubbed her back and shoulders soothingly. "You're right, as always. I promise, as soon as things settle down around here, I'll whisk you away somewhere, and you can give me an intensive tutoring session on the female psyche. Okay?"

Maria raised her face, and grinned up at him through her tears. "If you whisk me away, I don't think the female psyche is what I'll be wanting to tutor you in," she said with an impish smile.

"How does tomorrow sound?" he returned with great enthusiasm.

Maria laughed. "Okay, I guess you win this one. It's hard to maintain the upper hand, when your opponent makes you laugh."

Michael clutched at his heart. "I must be dying, and having hallucinations. I could have sworn you said I just won my first fight with you."

"And your last," she said, nodding, as she gave him a meaningful look.

"Figures."

"So what had you so upset, that you couldn't talk about it? You mentioned that Nicholas was there?"

"Yeah - WAS is the operative word. The shrimp is history."

"You mean you -"

"We toasted him. Rather, Max and Zan did. Nothing left but a pile of ashes on the floor."

Maria shuddered. "Max and Zan, huh? Well, then - does that dispel your negative self-assessment, that you're just born to kill people, and that Max can only do good? I hope you've learned something here."

"My little cheerleader," he smirked, lightly pinching her cheek. "Yes, I've finally come to grips with the notion that this is war, and what I have to do in the interest of survival is not a reflection of my character. If I have a choice, I would choose not to kill. That's what's important - isn't it?"

"Yeah, spaceboy, it is. I'm just glad you finally realize it, too." She wrapped her hands behind his head, and gently pulled his lips down to meet hers. "I was so afraid while you were gone. I don't know what I'd do, if something happened to you."

Michael's face flinched. "Maybe it isn't such a good idea for you to be so attached to me, Maria. I mean, things are going to be heating up, I think. Some other things have happened, and this confrontation with Ki-var' might not be too far off..."

"What kinds of things?" she demanded. "I knew there had to be more to this, besides the Little General getting fried. What happened?"

"If I tell you, you have to promise to keep this to yourself. This is not something that can get out."

Maria mimed zipping her lips shut. "Now talk."

"Tess is pregnant."

Maria suddenly felt light-headed, and started to sway. Michael wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her close to steady her. "Who's the.... father?" she choked out. She'd kill the little bitch, if she had somehow managed to get in Max's pants this go around, too.

"Zan."

"Oh my God, the poor boy...."

"Yes, the poor boy, and I don't think he has exactly come to terms with it. So I don't want you even bringing the subject up, do you understand me? And no telling Liz, either. If Max tells her, fine. But I don't want to be responsible for her doting on Zan, and getting Max all tied in knots.

"Noted."

"Anyway, Tess is having a hard time, because the atmosphere here is harming the baby. So tomorrow, we are going to go to Antar with Da-nar', to visit someone he knows about keeping Tess until she has the baby, and -"

"You're WHAT?! What do you mean, you're going to Antar? Just like that, you're going to up and leave?"

"Maria, calm down. It isn't like we have to take a spaceship there, remember? We have the portals, and Da-nar' knows how to operate them. We'll be fine. It should only take us the afternoon to get things arranged, and hopefully settle her in."

"But what if you run into Ki-var'? And what about you breathing the atmosphere there? What if you can't survive there?"

"Maria, think about what you are saying. Da-nar' designed us. Don't you think that he would have mentioned it, if we couldn't live in that environment?"

"Not necessarily! I mean, look at Nasedo! You all trusted him, and look how that turned out!"

"We didn't all trust him, Maria."

"No? Who objected? I don't recall any discussions about it at the time."

"Much to our shame. That's because the one who objected was Liz. Maybe if we had known who she really was, it would have made a difference. But regardless of the past, she has some sort of ability to discern the evil in people. And she has complete confidence in Da-nar'. So stop worrying."

"Fine. Is there anything else I should know?" Michael averted his eyes, and scowled. "Michael..." she growled threateningly. "What are you still hiding?"

"Something that I can't tell you. It's something that Max and Zan need to tell Liz first, before anyone else knows. But don't worry, it's something really great, actually. So don't lose any sleep over it. I'm sure Liz will tell you all about it, when the time is right."

Maria nodded. "You know that I'm terrible about wanting to know secrets, but I promise I won't even ask Liz about it, in case they don't get a chance to tell her right away. Ack! I can't believe I just said that!"

Michael chuckled. "Neither can I, to tell you the truth!" That comment earned him a swat. "Ow! That hurt!"

"Want me to kiss you, and make it all better?" Maria asked, batting her eyelashes.

Michael grabbed her, and pulled her in flush to his body, growling in a predatory fashion. "I thought you'd never ask!" With that, he swooped down, and devoured her full, sexy lips, until they were both shaking with need. As the kiss ended, Michael managed to gasp out between heaving breaths, "One of these days, blondie, one of these days...."

"Promises, promises," she mumbled breathlessly.

Michael gave her one more, tender kiss. "I better leave now, or today will be the day," he confessed.

"Mmmmm. Don't I wish."

"You and me both." He forced himself to leave her embrace, and jumped out the window into the cool night air. "Hopefully the cold will calm me down, before I get home and have to face Da-nar' with a raging hard on," he joked.

"You could always walk in with your jacket strategically draped in front of you," she suggested with an impertinent grin.

He shook his head and chuckled. "Goodnight, Maria."

"Goodnight." He started to turn from the window. "And Michael?" He stopped and looked back. "I really do love you, ya know?"

"Yeah blondie, I know. I love you, too." He gave her a wink, and headed out into the night.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:08:15 AM by sheeperz

Part Seven

Max and Zan walked in the house just after 11:00 pm, to find their Mom and Dad watching TV on the couch, waiting for them.

"Hi boys! How was your trip?" Diane asked, getting up to hug them both.

"It was great, Mom," Zan told her. "I got some information from the admissions office, and also a bunch of financial aid applications to fill out. But it looks like I won't be able to go until next Fall."

"Oh? Why not, honey?" she inquired, brushing his bangs aside. "Not for financial reasons, I hope? Because your father and I -"

"No, Mom, it's nothing like that, really. It's just that I have to take these ACT tests before I can apply, and they told me there wouldn't be time enough to get everything done before the Spring semester starts."

"Oh." Diane seemed rather disappointed by the news.

"Is there a problem with that?" Zan asked uneasily. "I mean, if my staying here is an inconvenience I can -"

"Oh heavens, no, sweetie! You can stay here as long as you like," she responded, giving him another hug. "I just felt bad for you, after all you've achieved, to be told that you have to wait to start your classes, that's all. I hope you aren't too upset about it?"

"No, actually, I'm a little relieved. This will give me a chance to work for a semester, and save some money before I go. Besides, the girl in the Financial Aid Office said I should be eligible for all sorts of scholarships and grants, between my grades, and my emancipated minor status."

"I'm happy for you, son," Philip told him, "but you know, you could always take some online courses, if you wanted to. Not that you need to feel pressured to," he hurried to clarify, "but it's just an option."

Zan smiled. "Thanks, Dad, I'll keep that in mind." He yawned. "It's been a really long day - I hope you don't mind if I act antisocial, and just go to bed?"

"Of course not, sweetie. You need to get your rest. We'll see you in the morning." Diane gave her second son a kiss on the cheek, and then turned to begin picking up the dishes, and the popcorn that she and Philip had been snacking on.

"Well, good night then," Zan said, as he started toward his room. "You coming, Max?"

"Right behind you," he said, and yawned loudly for effect. He hugged his mom, and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Good night, Mom, Dad."

"Goodnight, son."

Up in their room, they collapsed on the beds. "You going to see Liz later?" Zan asked.

"How did you know?"

Zan chuckled. "I know what I'd be doing, if Karanna lived nearby. Question is - can I come with? I thought it would be good if we told her about Karanna - and the baby - together."

"I don't know -" A knock sounded on the door. "Come on in, Iz," Max called.

Isabel stuck her head in the door. "How did you know it was me?"

Max grinned at her. "Now who else would it be? We just said good night to Mom and Dad downstairs."

"Oh. So tell me what happened!" she she demanded, coming in and shutting the door behind her. She plopped down in the chair at Max's desk, and waited for the report. "Alex is okay, right? No one got hurt?"

"Everyone's fine, Iz," Max reassured her. "Alex is staying at Michael's tonight, because Tess has to undo her mind-warp on his parents before he can go back home."

"So why didn't you just have her do it and get it over with?"

"There have been some complications," Zan informed her.

"Complications?" Her brow furrowed in worry.

"Don't worry - nothing bad about Alex," he rushed to confirm Max's previous assertion. "It's Tess, actually. You see... God, there's no easy way to say this." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "She's pregnant, Iz. With my son."

Isabel's hand flew up to her mouth, to stifle her gasp. "Oh, my God," she whispered. "Zan, how are you doing with that? Oh, you poor thing!"

Zan gave her a weak smile. "Thanks. Let's just say, I'm not thrilled. But there isn't anything that can be done about it now. The immediate concern, though, is that the baby is in distress, and it's making Tess really sick. So we have to take her back to Antar on the double, before the atmosphere here causes her to lose the baby."

"Back to Antar? Just like that? We have wondered all our lives where we come from, why we're here - then we find out about Ki-var' - oh God! You can't go back there! Ki-var' will kill you!"

"Take it easy, Isabel," Max told her. "We aren't planning on running into Ki-var'. Da-nar' knows of someone in a secluded location that may be able to help us with Tess, and we are going to transport through the portal directly there. The risk will be minimal."

"When are you going?"

"Tomorrow. We're going to leave school during lunch, and plan to have this all wrapped up by the end of the afternoon."

"I should go with you," she stated decisively.

"No, Isabel, you shouldn't," Max returned.

"Why not?"

"Someone has to stay here and keep an eye on everyone."

"What about Michael? He's going too, then?" she asked.

"Yes, he is."

"This doesn't make any sense, Max. I should go, and you should stay here. You're the king, after all. You're the one that needs to be protected."

"We'll have more firepower if I go," he told her. When he could see she was going to protest his assessment of who was stronger, he added, "Let me just tell you, before you start arguing that point, that Zan and I connected while we were in Las Cruces. We killed Nicholas, Isabel. Despite how strong we were warned that he is, when Zan and I connect, it multiplies our abilities somehow. That's why I have to go. Not that we're expecting any trouble, mind you, but we want to be prepared." Isabel reluctantly agreed.

"There's something else that you need to know, Iz," Zan chimed in. "We met someone while we were there. A girl." He took a big breath. "Her name is Karanna, Iz. She's Liz's identical twin sister."

Isabel stared at him mutely, stunned into silence.

Zan chuckled. "Yeah, I know the feeling. It's hard to believe, and we are going to slip out in a bit to go tell Liz about what happened."

"I can't believe it," Isabel croaked out. "So where does she live? In Las Cruces?"

"Yeah, with her aunt and uncle. They are her legal guardians, since her parents died a few years ago. Seems that when Da-nar' was doing the hybridization of the queen's essence, it also split into two, and so he found a couple in New York City to implant the second embryo into."

"Why New York?" Isabel asked, confused.

"So she'd be near me," he answered meaningfully.

"Then you - she - you're -?"

"Mates, yes. Like Max and Liz. We aren't the king and queen, but we will have the same abilities as they do. And the attraction certainly is there, as well. I just hope that when she finds out about the baby, she doesn't toss me out on my ear."

"You didn't TELL her?" Max and Isabel exclaimed in unison.

Zan winced. "That bad, huh?"

"Oh my God, do you have a lot to learn about women," Isabel moaned, rolling her eyes. "You can't keep something like this from her, if you are going to be her husband. She has to know."

"I realize that. I'm hoping we can go back to visit her this weekend, and I'll tell her then. I just hope that she's willing to listen. We already had one major blowout."

"You did? When?" Max asked in surprise. "I thought it looked like you two were doing great."

"Well, after you and Da-nar' went back to the Jeep, I, uh, kissed her. She got these flashes of me and Ava, and of me and Tess, when she showed up here that night...."

"Oh, the poor girl!" Isabel sympathized with Karanna's situation. "She must have freaked out."

"That's putting it mildly. I thought that she was going to write me out of her life right there and then. She's never, um... you know, been with anyone before, and when she found out that I had - and with more than one woman - let's just say she didn't appreciate it."

"I can imagine," Max said. "I know it means a lot to Liz, that she's going to be my first and last, when the time comes. All I need to do to know how true that is, is to remember how hostile Future Liz was to my future self. My sleeping with Tess in that timeline screwed my chances of ever being with Liz."

Zan groaned. "I hope that Karanna can be more forgiving than that. I don't want to live my life with that kind of regret, over something that was meaningless. She's all I've ever wanted in a woman, and I can't lose her, now that I've found her."

"Well, we'll work on it," Isabel said cheerfully. "We'll just have to make the girl see reason, right?"

Zan chuckled. "Okay, if you're on my side, the poor girl doesn't stand a chance, does she?"

"Not a one!" Isabel assured him, with a big, confident smile.

They heard their parents talking, as they approached the bedrooms, and started talking about the college. Diane knocked on the door and called in, "Time to let the boys get some sleep, Isabel. They've had a long day."

"I'll be right out," Isabel called back through the door.

"Okay, honey, good night."

"'Night, Mom." Once they heard their parents' door shut, she whispered, "I'll be heading over to Michael's once they're asleep. I just want to check in on Alex."

"He'll probably be sleeping, Iz," Max warned her. "He was pretty wiped out, from what he's been through. I doubt you'll get to talk to him."

"That's okay," she said softly. "I'll just watch him breathe. It'll make me feel better." She got up, and headed back to her own room.

Max smiled. He was happy to see that his sister seemed to be regaining the common sense she had seemingly misplaced for a while there. He secretly hoped that she and Alex would work things out, and find a way to be together. They were good for each other.

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

Max and Zan waited until they were certain their parents were asleep, before they slipped out the window, and headed over to Liz's house. It was really late, but they were too excited to wait until the following evening to talk to her. Besides, they needed to let her know what they had planned for the afternoon.

Climbing up onto her balcony, they saw that her light was off. She was apparently in bed, as they had expected. Max unlocked the window, and climbed into the room, leaving Zan to wait on the balcony. For a moment, he stood just watching Liz sleeping in her bed, looking like a heavenly vision. Her face was peaceful, and there was a slight smile on her face as she slept. He hoped she was dreaming about him. Her hair was spread across her pillow, framing her angelic face in a border of ebony, against the pale rose color of her sheets. Her mouth was open just a bit, and her breasts rose and fell with every breath that she took. Max could feel his body beginning to stir, just seeing her like that.

He tiptoed over to the bed and knelt next to the edge she was sleeping on. With the very tips of his fingers, he lightly traced her collarbone, then trailed his index finger down between her breasts. He smiled at her body's natural reaction to his simple caress, even in her sleep. It was like her body knew his, and responded automatically.

Leaning over her, he lightly pressed his lips to hers, in a tender kiss. In her sleep, she mumbled something, he couldn't tell what, but she was still smiling - a little wider even than before. With a grin, he sucked her bottom lip gently, rubbing his tongue back and forth over it, all the while driving himself a little more insane with need for her. He nearly jumped, when her arms wrapped around his neck, and pulled him close, so she could kiss him soundly. She encouraged him to deepen the kiss, and he complied, wondering if she was awake and just faking, or if she was really still asleep. When she murmured, "I want you, Max - make love to me," he knew she must still be asleep. Much to his dismay, he knew that she wouldn't be begging him to take her, if she was awake. But before he woke her up, he wanted to tease her just a bit more. He dragged his fingertips over her breasts, and had to suppress a chuckle, when she arched up with a little moan. He figured he better stop, though, before she got too loud, and woke her parents up.

Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her again, and then softly said, "Liz, honey, wake up. I need to talk to you." She mumbled something in her sleep again, and he gently shook her. "Come on, baby, Liz, wake up."

Liz woke with a start, and Max had to cover her mouth quickly, to stifle her scream. Naturally, he used what was closest to her lips - his. Liz squealed into his mouth, at first, until she got herself oriented, and realized it was him. Then she dragged him onto the bed with her, and pushed him onto his back, so she could climb on top of him. Then she broke the kiss, grinning down at him. "What are you doing here, Max? Do you have any idea what time it is?" she asked, looking at the clock.

"Uh - about 12:15?"

"Mmmhmm," she replied against his lips, as she began to kiss him in earnest again.

Max reveled in her sensual assault for a few moments, and then remembered Zan on the balcony. "Liz," he said, pulling back from her kiss, "Zan is with me, too. He's out on the balcony waiting for us."

Liz jumped off of Max, and grabbed frantically for her robe. If she had known Zan was there, she wouldn't have been so quick to expose herself, clad just in her tank top and bikini panties. Watching her tantalizing body disappear beneath the thick, fluffy terry robe, Max stuck out his bottom lip in a pout. "And just when things were getting good," he groused. "I liked the view better without the robe."

Liz grinned at him. "That's okay. You can have a show another time."

Max's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline. "I can?" he asked in surprise. "Really?"

He was sporting such a hopeful grin, Liz had to stifle a laugh. "Yeah, you can. But not tonight. Now - what did you guys want?"

"We need to tell you about a bunch of stuff that happened today. Come on, let's go outside and join Zan," he whispered to her.

"Max? Why couldn't this wait until tomorrow?"

"Because we may not be around much today," he answered, correcting her, pointing at the clock. "And I wanted you to hear this stuff from us, and hear it soon." He took her by the hand and led her to the window. They both climbed outside, and lowered the window so their voices wouldn't travel inside.

"Hey Liz," Zan greeted her.

"Hey, Zan." She squinted her eyes at him. "You look - different. Did something happen while you guys were gone?"

Zan rolled his eyes in Max's direction. "Nothing slips by her, does it?" he asked.

"Not much."

"Okay, you two, out with it. What's going on, that you have to wake me up in the night to talk to me?"

"Well, like I told you on the phone," Max began, "we got Alex away from Tess' influence, and now he's at Michael's, safe and sound, all patched up from the effects of the mind-warp. So you can rest easy on the issue."

"I wasn't worried about it. I knew that you had everything under control."

"Oh, if only that were true," he sighed, and dropped onto the lounge chair, rubbing his face with his hands.

Liz sat down next to him. "Okay - so what's out of control?"

"Zan, I think you ought to tell her."

Zan nodded. "Well, we had some rather interesting revelations while we were gone. First - Tess is pregnant with my son."

"Oh, Zan -" Liz muttered, her voice full of compassion for him. "What are you going to do?"

"Well, actually, that's kind of what we needed to tell you. We need to get Tess back to Antar, or the baby is going to die. Tess is really sick right now. So... we're using the portal, and going to Antar tomorrow afternoon with Da-nar'."

"Is that safe?" she asked, biting her lower lip with worry.

"Relatively," Max answered her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Da-nar' is going to take us to these tunnels beneath the city of Antar, where he hopes to find an old friend of his, and ask him to help us."

"Tunnels under the city, huh? Sounds like Zan's kind of place," she teased with a grin.

"Cute, Liz," Zan kidded back.

"Anyway," Max continued, "We hope to have Tess settled tomorrow afternoon. I'll let you know, as soon as we get back."

"Please do. Antar," she said, staring off dreamily. "I wonder what it's like? Do you ever try to picture it, Max?"

Max, too, stared off into space. "Yeah, I've always wondered if it was anything like Earth. How they found out about this planet, why they chose it for this experiment. There are tons of questions I haven't had time to even ask Da-nar'. But I don't think we'll get to see any of the planet tomorrow. We'll be underground the whole time."

"Please be careful," she told Max, and then looked up at Zan. "Both of you."

"We will. And Michael and Da-nar' will be there, too. So we aren't going in unmanned."

"Good." Liz let out a big yawn. "Is that it, then?"

"Well, uh, not exactly," Max hedged, looking at Zan, again giving him the first opportunity to break the news.

"We met someone in Las Cruces, Liz," Zan informed her.

"Met someone?" she repeated, looking concerned. "What kind of someone?"

"A special someone," he said with a smile.

"Oh? So are you going to tell me about it?"

"Yes, I am, but this person isn't going to be just a special someone for me, Liz. It's a special someone for you, too."

Liz raised an eyebrow. "Well, now, this sounds kinky."

Zan chuckled. "Okay, not the same kind of special for both of us. The thing is - " He looked at Max, who nodded for him to go ahead. "She's your twin sister, Liz. Her name is Karanna."

Liz's eyes grew huge in her face, and her heart began to beat so hard, she could barely hear over the rush of blood in her ears. "M-my twin?" she asked in a quivery whisper.

"Yes. Your embryo split, just the same way that Max's and mine did. So Da-nar' implanted her into another infertile woman. Apparently, the couple that Da-nar' had chosen to be her parents were killed a few years ago, and she went to live with her aunt and uncle in Las Cruces. When she disappeared suddenly, without a trace, Da-nar' thought he had lost her for good. But we ran into her on the campus, and figured out quickly who she was. She looks just like you."

Liz was trembling in Max's arms. "What did you tell her? Did she have any idea who we are?" she whispered.

"She didn't even know who she was. Da-nar' hadn't wanted to tell her, until she was a little older, and then she disappeared, and he never got the chance. She knows now, though."

"Wow - a sister. Imagine that. Wait a minute - you said someone special for you. What did you mean?"

"Don't you see, Liz? She's the Karanna I was dreaming about all this time, not you. I thought that because you had Karanna the queen's essence, that it was you in the dreams, and I knew you as Karanna because of the past association. But that wasn't it. Karanna was actually there in my dreams with me - just like we all had that shared dream the other night. That was her that I met on the beach in that dream."

"Oh, wow. So you guys are like -?"

"A couple," Zan finished with a shy grin. "She's really great, Liz. You're gonna love her."

"She must be pretty great," Liz agreed. "How did she take the news about Tess?"

Zan's face fell. Was he never going to be able to get away from this issue? "She doesn't know yet."

"Oops. Well, you better tell her first chance you get. Secrets like that can blow you out of the water."

"I know. I'm hoping to be able to go back this weekend. I'd really like it if you could come along, and meet her. I mean, I just figured that you'd want -"

"Oh yes! I definitely want to! And maybe I can help soften the blow, you know - when you tell her about Tess. If I can make her realize that you aren't some hound, maybe she won't kick your alien butt all the way to Antar and back," she said with a grin.

"Thanks. I think I'm gonna need all the help - and character references - I can get." Liz laughed.

"Well, that's all the big news," Max concluded, standing up, and pulling Liz with him. "Time we went home, and let this lovely lady get some sleep." He pulled her into his arms, and gave her a sweet, lingering kiss. "I love you Miss Parker. I'll see you later in school. We'll be around for morning classes."

"Okay. Sweet dreams, Max. I love you, too." With one last kiss, Max headed to the ladder where Zan was waiting. They descended to the alley, and jogged home.

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

Isabel peeked in the window of Michael's bedroom, and saw Alex sprawled on the bed. A visual sweep of the room revealed that he was alone. She pushed up the window, and raised her self up and in through the opening, landing on the floor with a soft thud.

"Huh - wha?" Alex said, bolting upright in bed.

"Shh, Alex - it's just me," she whispered. "I just came to check up on you. I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Oh, that's okay," he assured her, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Check up on me, huh? Didn't Max tell you I was all right?"

Isabel smiled, as she came and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yeah, he told me. But you know - I just wanted to see for myself. To be sure. So - you feeling okay?"

"Fit as a fiddle," he grinned. He took a deep breath to puff up his chest, and struck a studly pose. "See?"

Isabel covered her mouth with her hand to mute a giggle. "Yes, I see," she said with a straight face, and then buried her face against his neck, to keep from laughing out loud.

Alex's arms came up to circle her shoulders, and a shudder ran through him, when he felt her lips pressed against the hollow of his neck. As he gave her a little squeeze, he felt her lips gently nibble and suck on his flesh. "Isabel?" he asked, swallowing hard to keep his heart from coming up in his throat.

Isabel kissed her way up to his ear, and whispered, "Yes, Alex?" Her tongue dipped quickly into the shell of his ear, and he shuddered again.

"Wh-what are you doing?" he squeaked.

Isabel leaned her body into his, causing him to lie back against the mattress. As her face hovered a hair's breadth above his, she whispered, "If you don't know, I'm really gonna worry about you, Whitman." She traced his lips with her tongue, while his eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"N-no, I mean, you said you just wanted to be friends," he clarified.

"Maybe I changed my mind," she suggested, stretching out over him. His arms slid down, to rest around her waist.

"Maybe? Just - maybe?"

Isabel grinned. "Definitely. I definitely changed my mind. I want us to start over again, Alex. Is that possible?"

Alex tried to be calm and cool. "Uh, sure, yeah, that's okay, I guess."

Isabel's smile faded. In it's place was a worried frown. "You guess? You aren't sure?"

Alex flipped her over onto the bed, and covered her body with his in a split second. He was sporting a goofy grin, that was pure Alex, and said, "So if you're my girl again, does that mean we can make out?"

Isabel giggled in relief, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Oh, yes, Alex, it certainly means that." She pulled his face down to hers, and engaged him in a mind-blowing kiss, that left them both breathless.

"Mmmm," Alex voiced in satisfaction, "I think I'm gonna like this. But are you sure that this is what you want, Iz? You aren't just doing this out of some sort of guilt trip about the way things ended for me in that other timeline?"

"No," she answered, tears in her eyes. "All that did, was make me realize how lonely and empty my life would be without you in it. I have been acting so spoiled and selfish, always assuming that when I got ready to have you back in my life, you'd be waiting. Finding out that Tess killed you in that other timeline was a wake-up call. None of us knows how long we have. Heck, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. And what will my life have to show for it? I at least want to know that when I leave this life, I have loved, and I have loved well."

"And you think that will be with me?" Alex asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"No, Alex, I don't think that will be with you," she voiced with certainty. Alex's face fell, until he heard her next words. "I know it's with you."

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:09:24 AM by sheeperz

Part Eight

The next afternoon, Max and Zan arrived at Michael's apartment, ready to take the first trip back to their home world. They were relieved to see Sheriff Valenti there, tenderly caring for Tess, as if she were his daughter. Max watched him for a few moments, and the way Tess responded to him, forcing a weak smile, and looking at him with eyes that were soft and full of emotion. Almost as if she were - human. He couldn't help wondering, if having a dad like the Sheriff wouldn't have been her salvation. He shook himself from his reverie, and accepted that fact that they would never know the difference it could have made. But one thing he knew for certain - Zan's son would know that kind of loving care. One way or another, Tess would not be allowed to raise his nephew.

As Michael came out of the bedroom, Da-nar' asked the three young men if they were ready. They all responded in the affirmative. As they were about to leave, Tess weakly called out Zan's name.

Zan, who had been trailing behind the others toward the door, stopped and turned to face her. "What is it, Tess?"

She tried to talk to him, but her voice was so weak, he couldn't hear her. He came and knelt next to the couch by her head. Pushing a lock of her hair off her face, he asked her to repeat what she had said.

"Please," she whispered, "come back for me soon. I don't know how much longer I can hang on. I feel so weak - so sick. I'm afraid I'm going to lose the baby."

"Max!" Zan called out, his eyes frightened. He turned back to Tess. "Hold on - let's see if we can't do something to help you make it through, until we get back."

"What's up, Zan?" Max asked, when he reached his brother's side.

"I think we need to try to infuse Tess with some of our strength, and hopefully help the baby. She's getting awfully weak, and she's talking like she thinks she won't make it until we get back. I'm worried about my son Max - please."

Max squeezed his brother's shoulder. "You don't have to plead with me, Zan. I'll do whatever I can to help your son." He knelt next to Zan, and spoke softly to Tess. "Tess? It's Max - can you hear me?" Tess barely could open her eyes, and nodded. "Good. Zan and I are going to try and use some of our healing energy, to give you a little strength, and try to help the baby, okay?" She nodded again, licking at her dry lips. "Do you want some water?" Max asked, his voice tender and filled with concern. Even if he didn't like the way she had manipulated them all, she was weak and vulnerable, and needed their care. And above that, she was carrying an innocent child, who deserved to be protected.

"Please," she managed to croak out.

Zan was on his feet in a flash, and brought back a glass of water. Max propped her up, and Zan carefully tipped the cup, so that she was able to sip from it. After she had drunk several swallows, she pushed it away. "No more," she whispered. Zan handed the glass to the Sheriff, who set it aside for later.

Max gently laid her back against the pillows. "You just rest and relax, and let Zan and I do our thing, okay?" he instructed. Again, she merely nodded her response. Max motioned to Zan, and they connected, then laid their hands on Tess - Zan placing his hand directly on her abdomen, and bringing the baby into the connection with them. When they finished, Tess had fallen to sleep, peaceful for the first time in hours, the fever having come down considerably.

Max looked at Zan. "Did you feel that?" he asked.

Zan nodded. "He's scared, Max. My son is terrified. I wonder if he understands that we are going to try to help him?"

"I don't know, but I think he must to some degree. I noticed that his fear seemed to lessen, after you tried to reassure him with feelings of love and security."

"You can really communicate with the baby?" Sheriff Valenti asked.

"Not so much in the concept of words, as in feelings. But yes, there is conscious communication."

"Incredible. Listen, I'm glad you are trying to get her the help she needs. Just don't take too long."

"We'll be back, as soon as we find a safe place for her and the baby," Max promised. "Thanks for coming to stay with her."

"I wouldn't be anywhere else," Jim said with conviction.

"Too bad she didn't have a dad like you," Max voiced his former thought aloud. Jim smiled, and nodded in understanding.

"We need to leave," Da-nar' called from the door. Max and Zan rose, and followed him outside. They all piled into the Jeep, and headed out into the desert. It wasn't long before they reached the pod chamber, and entered the secret room that Future Liz had showed Max. She hadn't known, however, where the crystal that powered the portal was located. Da-nar' walked to a wall that had alien symbols written on it in a circle. He waved his hand over the inner part of the circle which contained no writing, and a silver hand print appeared. He reached inside the wall, and retrieved the long crystal that they required, as well as a small book. Walking to the portal, he inserted the crystal into the panel on the side of the portal, and opened the small book. As he flipped through the pages, Max could see they were covered with strange symbols, but they definitely looked like more of an alphabet than the symbols on the wall of the cave. When he asked Da-nar' about them, he was told they were written in the Antarian language, and the book contained a list of several locations on the planet, accompanied by their coordinates. Each one was where there had been a portal on their world, before Ki-var' destroyed them. Now there was only one remaining - and that was where they were headed. Locating the coordinates, Da-nar' inputted them into the control panel, and the portal, which had looked like a part of the wall, began to hum, and the center of it began to change in appearance. Slowly, the desired destination became visible - they could look through it, and see a long tunnel, lit with torches down the walls.

"Well, this is it," Da-nar' announced. "Although, I'm surprised to see this particular part of the tunnel lit. Perhaps you'd better let me go through first, and make sure that everything is all right. When I give you the all clear, you can come through."

"Okay," Max agreed. "Just be careful. I'd hate for anything to happen to you."

Da-nar' smiled. "I will." He walked forward, and stepped through the portal. A couple seconds later, as they looked on, they could see him walking down the corridor, looking to the right and left, apparently down intersecting passageways. Finally he returned, and waved to them to join him.

Each of them materialized on the other side in a flash of white light. When they were all on the Antarian side, they followed Da-nar' through what appeared to be an endless maze of tunnels. "How do you know where you're going?" Max asked their protector.

"You get used to it," Zan answered knowingly. Da-nar' smiled at him, aware that Zan indeed understood what it was like. That had been what attracted Da-nar' to the subway tunnels in New York - the sense of familiarity. It seemed the perfect place to hide the pods.

"Zan's right," he told Max. "You get used to it. And as children, King Zan and I explored every inch of these tunnels. You learned to remember where you were going in a hurry, if you ever wanted to make it back out," he explained with a chuckle. As they continued to walk, Max noticed that the only corridors that were lit, were the ones that they were passing through. He mentioned it to Da-nar', asking if this was normal.

"No, it isn't," came the reply, "but I don't think we have anything to worry about. If Ki-var' was here, he would have been guarding the portal, and captured us as soon as we came through."

"I hope you're right."

Just then, they entered a large, circular, open chamber. "This is the center of the catacombs," Da-nar' explained. "You will see that there are tunnels branching off from it, like spokes on a wheel. Eventually, each of the other passages leads to an exit somewhere in the city, except for this one," he told them, as he led them into another well lit tunnel. Suddenly, there were no more torches. Da-nar' did not seem phased in the least, as he turned and knocked on an old, wooden door.

Slowly it opened, to reveal a humanoid male who, from his slightly hunched posture, appeared to be getting on in years. He smiled as he saw them standing there, and bid them enter, with a wave of his hand. "I've been expecting you," was all he said. When they had all stepped into the room, he shut the door behind him, and turned to Da-nar'. "I don't recognize you in this Earthling form, but you must be Da-nar', yes?"

Da-nar' smiled broadly, and embraced the man. "It's good to see you again, Ge-lar'," he told him. "I've brought some friends with me - I hope you don't mind."

Ge-lar' studied Max, Zan, and Michael. Seeing the identical appearances of Max and Zan, he proclaimed, "Praise be - the king has returned to Antar at last." Max and Zan looked at each other startled. How did he know who they were? Before they could even ask, Ge-lar' asked with obvious confusion, "Where is the woman?"

"The woman?" Max asked him.

"The one who will bear the child. I have been waiting for you to bring her to me."

"So the Learned One is now also prophet?" Da-nar' asked.

"No," Ge-lar' answered humbly. "At least, not in the way that you mean it. The messages I receive are purely of a personal nature - designed to instruct me as to what the Mighty One requires of me. I was told that the prophecy concerning the First Son of Light was soon to be fulfilled, and according to the writings, I am to usher the child into the world."

"We didn't know of the prophecy," Da-nar' explained, "and we wanted to come ahead, to make sure that there would be a place for Tessandra, once we arrived. It has been so long since I was here - I didn't know if Ki-var' had found the catacombs and placed armed guards here or not. I wasn't even sure that you were still alive. But we need help. The girl is very ill, because the child that she carries cannot survive in Earth's atmosphere."

"I am prepared to receive her - follow me." Taking a torch, he led them to a chamber just two doors down from the room they had first been in. In it was a table and 2 chairs, as well as a pallet for sleeping on, and a stack of linen cloths, jugs of water, and lanterns. "This is where she will stay, until the child is born. I must tell you, I have never attempted to deliver a child, but the Great Creator has assured me that all will be well. It is time for me to exercise my faith."

Zan looked around nervously. He hoped that there wouldn't be any complications, when it came time for Tess to give birth to their son. Ge-lar' noticed his unease, and inquired, "You would be the child's father?" Zan nodded. "Your child has a great destiny to fulfill, so don't be concerned. The All Powerful One will not allow any harm to come to this child who will be His servant of peace."

"Destiny?" Max asked, practically choking on the wretched word. "What sort of destiny?"

"Because the boy will be part Talerian, and part Antarian, he will become a bridge between the two peoples. Come, I will show you." He led them into the scroll room, and removed the parchment from its appointed place, unrolling it to the passage referring to the Sons of Light. He read the words aloud, and then explained that the Warrior of Flame referred to Ki-var', and the King of Light referred to the returning King of Antar. "The child will rule over the Talerians - obviously the assumption here is that somehow you will release them to find a new homeland," he stated, directing the comment to Max. Max still wondered how this old man seemed to know who was who, and what was going on, without being told.

"How do you know that the child is a male?" Zan asked.

Ge-lar' chuckled. "He could hardly be called the SON of Light, if he were a female, now could he?"

Zan smiled. "No, I guess not. And it is a boy. I was just wondering how you knew."

"Your first child will be the second Son of Light to be born," Ge-lar' again addressed Max. "His destiny is to inherit the throne of Antar. Together, your sons will secure the peace between our people and the Talerians."

"My son? I'm not married, and I certainly wouldn't expect Liz to give birth to a child out of wedlock."

"Liz?" Ge-lar' repeated, obviously confused.

"She possesses Karanna's essence," Da-nar' informed him.

"Ah, yes. Well, weddings can be arranged with very little notice," Ge-lar' commented with a knowing look.

"Maybe on Antar, but Earth customs are different," Max explained.

"Maybe you should marry on Antar anyway, since this will be your home."

"Perhaps we will have a ceremony, in an effort to finish Zan and Karanna's ceremony that was cut off so prematurely. I trust that we can have our friends and family join us here?" he asked of Da-nar'.

"Perfectly acceptable," Da-nar' told him. They should have only minimal shortness of breath from the change in atmosphere. Your people have been visiting Earth for generations, with no adverse reactions."

"It will have to be a small, private ceremony, held here in the catacombs," Ge-lar' advised them.

"Why? It hardly seems worth having it here, if not to show the strength of our union to the people."

Ge-lar' replaced the first scroll, and removed another. He read the words that had been burned into his soul over the last 54 years. Then he explained. "The king must take his brides, and THEN he will have the strength to overcome the Warrior of Flame," he told them, interpreting the meaning of the vision. "You cannot go above, until you are ready to face Ki-var'."

"Whoa whoa wait a minute!" Max protested. "What do you mean brides? As in plural?"

"That is what the sacred writings foretell."

"No way. Even if I wanted to marry two women, which I definitely do not, Liz would never stand for it."

"I do not profess to have complete understanding, as to the meaning of the prophecy," Ge-lar' admitted. "But whatever it is, you will see that in time, all will come to be fulfilled."

"Well, I still don't plan to marry anytime soon."

"My child, you must reconsider. I am an old man, and yet the Great One has declared that I will live to see the salvation of our people, through your return. If this is to be, then you must take your rightful place on the throne soon. And again, I stress, this will only be possible after your marriage."

"I haven't even finished high school yet!" Max insisted.

Zan place a hand on Max's shoulder. "You know as well as I do, that graduation is a mere technicality in your educational process, and besides - do you think the people of Antar are going to check your Earth credentials, before they allow you to sit on the throne, as is your rightful heritage?"

Max scowled. "No, but -"

"Max, I have always known that I was destined for something beyond what we experienced on Earth. Didn't you sense it, too?"

"Well, yes, but -"

"No buts, Max. We know that Liz and Karanna are our future. Our people need us. I think it's time we begin to prepare ourselves to return to Antar, and reclaim the throne."

"Your brother speaks with much wisdom, Max." Something about the look on Ge-lar's face caused Max to refrain from further argument. He was, after all, a man of God. And apparently he had a direct pipeline for information, judging from what he knew of them before they even arrived. But he planned to discuss this with Michael and Isabel, before any decisions were made.

Thinking that Max's silence meant he was ready to submit to the path ordained for him, Da-nar' agreed that they should immediately begin planning a strategy for reclaiming Antar from the Talerians. "But first, we need to bring Tessandra here, and get her settled in," he amended. Max did agree with that, and so they took their leave from Ge-lar, and left to return to Earth.

They traveled back through the portal, and then Da-nar' removed the quartz from the transport machine, and handed it to Max, who replaced it in within the rock.

They arrived back at Michael's apartment, to find a very worried Jim hovering over Tess, who was once again hanging on by a thread. Max directed Michael to take her to the Jeep, while he spoke with Sheriff Valenti. Zan grabbed a pen and notebook that Michael had left laying on the table, before he headed outside.

"Would you like to come with us?" Max asked Valenti. "Da-nar' says that the only problem with you visiting our world would be some minor shortness of breath for a short while, until your lungs adjust. Want to be our guinea pig?" he asked with a smirk. "If you have an adverse reaction, you can always go right back through the portal."

"Yeah, you know, I'd really like that, Max. This way I can see where Tess is going to be, and make sure she is well taken care of. I'd rest easier."

"I understand. I think you'll like Ge-lar'. He's a very kind man." Jim smiled at Max, and followed him out to the Jeep.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:10:14 AM by sheeperz

Part Nine

Remembering that Alex's parents were still under Tess' mind-warp, they drove by the Whitman house on the way out of town. Once again, Max and Zan helped Tess rally her strength, and this time, they instructed her to undo her mind-warp. Concentrating, Tess broke out into a sweat, and finally collapsed in Zan's arms.

"Is it done?" Zan pressed her, despite her obvious fatigue.

"Yes," she whispered weakly.

"Good. We can go now," he told his brother. Max put the Jeep in gear, and sped off toward the desert.

In less than half an hour, they were winding their way through the catacombs again, until they reached the room where Ge-lar' would be waiting for them to bring Tess. Zan had taken over carrying Tess by that point, and so he brought her in, and laid her unconscious form on the thick pallet of furs where she could rest. Already they had noticed a remarkable improvement in her pallor and respiration. "She will be much better now," Ge-lar' assured them. "I only hope that she agrees to remain here. An old man such as myself is little match for a strong Talerian such as she."

"Then you are aware of who she is?" Max asked.

"Of course. She is Ki-var's sister, is she not?"

Max nodded. "Perhaps we should take turns coming and assisting you with her. That way there will be no problems."

"That would be much appreciated," Ge-lar' said gratefully.

"I kind of want to stay here and look over those prophecies anyway," Zan stated. "I might as well take the first shift."

"You know, that's a good idea, Zan. Da-nar', why don't the two of us stay here with him, and look those over? Michael, you can take Sheriff Valenti back. Zan and I will be along later, leaving Da-nar' here until you get out of work tonight. Then you can take a shift, all right?"

"Sure thing, Maxwell." Michael turned to leave.

Da-nar' called after him, "Michael? When you go through the portal, remove the crystal, and put it back in the wall. We will initiate the portal from this end when Max and Zan leave. I don't like to leave it open indefinitely."

"Gotcha. C'mon Sheriff, let's get while the gettin's good."

As soon as they left, Ge-lar' pulled out the scrolls of prophecy again, and handed them to Zan. "Take care with these ancient writings. The parchment is getting fragile from age."

"We will, sir," Zan assured him. Sitting down at the table in the scroll room, Zan copied the prophecies into the notebook, as he read it aloud again to Max and Da-nar'. When he finished the one about the King of Light and the Warrior of Flame, his eyebrows were drawn together in concentration. "There's just something about this that strikes me as odd," he confessed. "It always refers to the King of Light as a single entity, so that would be Max, right? And yet my son is called the First Son of Light in the other prophecy. How could he be a son of light, if I am not the King of Light? And then here -" He pointed to a passage in the prophecy he had just copied. "It says, 'For a season, one side shall war against the other...' What does that mean? Does it refer to Max's human side vs. his Antarian side? Or does it refer to him and me - the way that we chafed each other when we first met? Then it goes on, 'He shall behold himself as one who gazes into a mirror...' Couldn't that refer to him looking at me, and seeing his own image?"

"Yes," Da-nar; agreed, "Especially if my theory that you are mirror image twins is correct. That would make a lot of sense."

Zan nodded. He continued reading, " 'Comprehending the reflection, he shall be made whole.' Okay, that's where I lose it. I mean, I think it must be significant, because it's right after that, that the mention of the King taking his destined brides - plural - is mentioned. As if the king needs to 'be made whole' before the marriage. But what does that mean?"

"I have been praying about that, since I first saw you," Ge-lar' spoke, as he entered the room, after checking on Tess. "I had always been baffled by the apparent implied duplicity of the king's nature in that passage. But when I saw the two of you, immediately I understood it to refer to your physical being. I must ask you, Zan - you mentioned not only Liz, but Karanna as well. I thought that Liz was of Queen Karanna's essence. Is it this, to which you referred?"

"Oh, no, you see, Liz and Karanna are also identical twins, like Max and I are. Max and Liz are together as a couple, and although Karanna and I just met, we also feel deeply for each other."

"Perhaps, then, this is the meaning of the prophecy? That the 'brides' referred to, are Liz and Karanna?"

"But why, then, does it only refer to the King in the singular? Surely you aren't suggesting that Max marry them both?" Zan was horrified, and feeling a little queasy at the thought of losing two women to his brother, for the simple reason that Da-nar' had chosen to slip Max's embryo into one set of pods with the other royals, and his in with a bunch of criminals. Something just wasn't fair about that.

"No, I am in no way suggesting that," Ge-lar' reassured Zan, seeing the young man's struggle written on his face. "Our holy teachings forbid us from having more than one spouse, so surely that would not be the Great One's intention here. We must open our minds to other possibilities. Sometimes thinking 'in the box' can make one blind to a greater calling."

"Do you have any suggestions?" Max asked him.

"Comprehending the reflection, he shall be made whole," Ge-lar' quoted from memory. "If we consider Max to be the king - he is the one with the royal seal, correct?" he inquired of Da-nar'. Da-nar' nodded. "So if Max is the king, Zan is the reflection.... if we substitute their names in the passage, it would read, 'Max shall behold Zan as one who gazes into a mirror, comprehending Zan, Max shall be made whole.' Now, what could that possibly refer to? In what way, could Zan bring wholeness to Max? And what might 'comprehending' mean?"

"Well.... comprehending is understanding," Zan started.

"It can also mean to include, or take in," Max relayed spontaneously, without apparent thought. The others stared at him in wonder. "What? Liz and I went through some rough times over this Tess thing," he defended himself. "I memorized the dictionary to keep myself from going insane." They chuckled at his explanation.

"All right, let's substitute words, and see what we get," Da-nar' suggested.

Zan looked at the words on the paper in front of him. " 'Understanding Zan, Max shall be made whole', or 'Including Zan, Max shall be made whole'.... the last one is 'Taking in Zan, Max shall be made whole'. Well, Max and his family 'took me in' to their home when I moved to Roswell. But I don't see how that made Max 'whole'."

Ge-lar' closed his eyes for a few moments, and everyone sat in silence. There seemed be an almost reverent hush in the room, until Ge-lar' finally spoke. "I don't believe the wholeness that is referred to would be a physical wholeness - I mean, that would require your two bodies merging into one person, to become 'the king'. But what if your nature was to become one, bringing you wholeness? How could you become one on a say - spiritual level?"

Max and Zan looked at each other, and whispered in unison, "The connection."

"Connection?" Ge-lar' asked. "Explain this to me."

"It's rather difficult to explain," Max began, "but it is like we see into each other's souls - we can hear each other's thoughts, feel each other's feelings, share each other's memories. It's like we become almost a single unit...." The implication of what he had just described hit Max. "The King, singular," he breathed.

Ge-lar' nodded. "So it would seem. But there is still the reference to being made whole, that we don't understand."

Zan looked at Max. "Actually, I think we do. The first time we connected, it was as if we had a greater strength. And our senses became more acute. Do you suppose that the connection becomes a medium through which all of King Zan's essence in the two of us is somehow reunited? When we connected, it felt as if a part of me that I wasn't aware of was... awakening."

"I felt it, too," Max agreed.

"This very well could be the answer we are looking for," Ge-lar' speculated. "Tell me - did you feel different only the first time? Or do you feel changed, somehow, after each encounter?"

"We have only connected one other time, but I did feel stronger, after we did," Max revealed. "How about you, Zan?"

"Yeah, it definitely affected me. But you know, when we have connected, it has never been a deep connection - I mean, we have always done it because there was a need to. I wonder what would happen, if we simply connected? And let it take us wherever it wanted us to go?"

"I think that might be a worthwhile venture," Da-nar' agreed. "But I don't want you trying it when you are alone. I prefer that Michael and I are there to monitor the situation, and intervene if necessary. We still don't know exactly what will happen."

"Wise counsel," Ge-lar' confirmed.

"We'll be sure not to," Max promised. "But there's something else that is plaguing me here. If Zan and I can connect in such a fashion, why can't Liz and Karanna do the same thing? And if they do, why wouldn't the prophecy refer to them as the bride, singular, instead of plural?"

"I'm not sure, but I will pray and seek divine counsel on the matter," Ge-lar' assured him. "However, I would say that it seems imperative that they not connect and meld their essences, until after the weddings."

"Let's just run this again - Zan and I have to allow our essences to merge before the wedding, but Liz and Karanna cannot," Max recapped. "Is that the gist of it?"

Ge-lar' nodded. "If my understanding of the prophecy is correct, that is the way it must be."

"One more question before we leave," Max announced. "Just out of curiosity - how is it that you speak our language so well?"

Ge-lar' smiled. "For centuries now, most children here have grown up with the dream of visiting Earth someday. Since English is the most universal of the languages on Earth at this point in time, all Antarian children are taught to speak it as a second language. Our people have been visiting your planet for many generations now, and our hope it to one day make ourselves known to your people. We were about to embark on that very endeavor, under King Zan's rule. But then Ki-var' killed Zan, and the dream along with him," Ge-lar' relayed sadly.

"Well, you of all people should appreciate the apparent hand of God in all of this, then," Max told him. "You see, the people of Earth are not ready to accept other life forms visiting their world. In fact, because of who I am, at one point I was captured and tortured by a secret branch of the American government. They do not welcome us, Ge-lar' - they fear us."

Ge-lar' shook his head in dismay. "It is too bad, after all we have invested in their growth and development, that they would not look upon us as a friendly people."

"Investment?" Zan asked. "What kind of investment?"

"Through the centuries, as mankind progressed, we would introduce new ideas or inventions to help them rise to the next level of development."

"What kind of inventions?" Max inquired.

"Oh, many things. From small things like light bulbs, to your technological revolution - much of it has been inspired by our people."

"But those things were all invented by humans," Max protested.

"Perhaps it seems that way," Ge-lar' allowed. "However, the people who invented those things were stimulated and challenged by Antarians through the ages. Ideas and seeds were planted in their minds, and encouraged to bloom into new inventions for their race."

Max was in awe. "That's incredible."

Tess' scream split the air, and brought them out of their comfortable conversation. Max and Zan were the first to race down the hall, with Da-nar' and Ge-lar' close behind. When they burst into her room, they saw her sitting upright and rigid on the sleeping pallet, breathing heavily, sweat causing her hair to cling to her head.

Zan ran to her side, and knelt down. "Tess? What is it? What's the matter?"

Turning frightened eyes to him, she cried, "Where am I? What's going on?"

Zan smiled, and waved his hand over her, removing the dampness from her hair, and making her more presentable. "You are back on Antar, Tess. Have you noticed, you seem to be feeling better? At least you are conscious now."

Tess looked startled, and her hand quickly went to her abdomen. "Y-yes! I am better, aren't I? What about the baby?" she demanded, suddenly frightened again. "Did something happen to him, while I was unconscious?"

Zan stroked her back soothingly. "No, Tess, he's fine. But you need to relax. After what the two of you have been through, being upset can't be good for either one of you."

Tess nodded, and then laid back down. "So tired," she murmured.

"You rest now, Tess," Zan instructed. "You're safe here, all right? But you have to promise me something."

"Anything," she said, looking up at him with trusting eyes.

"You have to remain here with our friend Ge-lar'. He will take good care of you, and the baby as well, when your time comes. Do you promise?" Tess nodded. "Good. We will be here to check on you regularly, and make sure that you are feeling all right. I don't want you to think that we've abandoned you down here."

"Down here?" Tess mumbled sleepily. "What do you mean, 'down here'?"

"You are below ground on Antar," he told her, omitting the details of where she precisely was. If she ever were contacted by Ki-var' somehow, he didn't want her being able to inform him about the catacombs.

"You mean that I can't go above ground and see our homeland?" she asked, wrapping her hand around his.

"All in good time, Tess. But it isn't safe for you, or for the baby, for you to be wandering around up there," he improvised. "Someone might not realize who you are, and harm you," he added, trying to frighten her into staying put. "You have to remember, Tess, there is a war going on. Things are not safe up top."

Tess nodded, her eyes fluttering shut. "Yes, you're right. I hadn't thought about that. Must protect our son," she mumbled, and then drifted off to sleep again.

Zan stood, and herded everyone out of the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. "She's sleeping now, " he whispered, as they headed back to the scroll room. Once inside, he spoke in a normal voice. "I think I have her convinced that it is in her best interest to remain here for now. I don't think she'll give you any trouble," he told Ge-lar'.

"Zan, we better head back," Max stated. "We need to tell everyone what we've learned."

"All right - but when are we going to try this connecting thing, Da-nar'?" Zan asked.

"Actually, it would probably be best to do it right away, while it is relatively safe to leave Ge-lar' alone with Tess. She is still weak, and sleeping for the time being. Why don't I come with you now?"

"Okay, good idea," Max concurred. "Ge-lar', thank you for everything you're doing for us." He held out his hand to shake that of the Learned One.

"It is my honor to serve you, your majesty. I don't have many days left on this planet, but I want them to count for something."

"You will be remembered well by our people," Max declared. "I'll make sure of it."

Ge-lar' bowed his head humbly. "I don't not need recognition for my deeds. But thank you for your kindness."

Max impulsively gave the older man a quick embrace. "Okay, then, let's go join the others, and see what happens!"

After they left, Ge-lar' invoked the blessings of the Holy One on the adolescent king, and his friends.

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:14:18 AM by sheeperz

Part Ten

It was 3:05 on the dashboard clock in the Jeep, when they left the cliffs. Returning to Roswell, they headed straight for Michael's apartment, hoping to find him there. He had mentioned to Max at one point that his shift at the Crashdown didn't start until 5:00. They weren't expecting what they found when they arrived, although Max had to admit to himself that he wasn't in the least bit surprised. Maria's Jetta and Kyle's Mustang were both parked in front of the building, and when they entered the apartment, they discovered Liz, Isabel, and Alex also there waiting. Liz jumped up from her seat on the couch between Maria and Kyle, and hurled herself into Max's arms. Pulling her close, he swiftly lowered his lips to hers, and kissed her deeply, momentarily forgetting there were others in the room.

"Okay, alien loverboy," Kyle groused, "we get the point. You're glad to see your queen. Now, could you cool it? Or are we going to have to institute a six inch rule for the two of you, so that you keep your hands off each other, while in the company of others?"

Reluctantly, Max released Liz from the kiss, and pulled her close to his side, as he turned to face Kyle. "Sorry. It's just been a really long couple of days," he said by way of explanation.

"Yeah, well, rent a room, then," Kyle quipped back. "Someplace private."

Max smiled shyly, looking down at Liz. "Maybe sooner than you think," he said enigmatically. Liz's eyes widened in shock, as a bright crimson blush stole over her cheeks. Could he possibly know what she had planned?

"Whoa, WTMI," Kyle croaked out. "Did I stress the word 'private'? Yes, I think I did..." Everyone chuckled at the exchanged. Maria, however, wondered exactly what Max was planning for her Lizzie. She didn't want him pushing Liz into something she had recently said she wasn't ready for.

Liz quickly changed topics. "Michael said that you got Tess settled in. Is everything okay? You stayed quite awhile after he came back." She suddenly noticed that Da-nar' had come home with them. She was just about to ask when Michael beat her to it.

"Why did Da-nar' come back with you?" Michael asked. "I thought he was going to stay with Tess until I relieved him later."

"Yes, everything is fine, and Da-nar' is going back shortly," Max explained, "but there's something Zan and I need to do, and Da-nar' thinks that it's best for you and him to be with us, in case something strange happens."

"What are you're planning, Maxwell? It's not like you to rush headlong into dangerous situations," he added, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

"No, it's nothing like that - exactly," Max defended himself. Then he proceeded to tell them about the prophecy, and how they were thinking that the key to the reference of the king being made whole had something to do with Zan and him connecting. "So we want to try to do it, without any pressing need diverting our attention and energy. You with us?"

Michael shrugged. "Sure, I guess. I don't have to be to work for an hour and a half yet. Where did you want to do this?"

"I was thinking out at the pod chamber. It's secluded, and then Da-nar' can go straight back to Antar when we are finished."

"Speaking of," Michael returned to his former line of questioning, "how come you left Tess alone with Ge-lar'? I thought we decided it wasn't safe."

"Tess woke up disoriented, but feeling much better. She's still weak and tired, though, so we didn't think she'd be much of a threat. Besides," he added, smirking at Zan, "my brother managed to convince her that she wouldn't be safe above ground, with the war going on. If nothing else, I can say she seems to genuinely care about the welfare of the child. Of course, her motivation in that regard is anyone's guess, but I don't think she'll do anything to willingly endanger the baby," he grudgingly admitted, his voice reflecting his lack of good will toward her. Michael nodded, indicating his acceptance of Max's rationale on the matter. "Well, let's get going. Liz - I'll see you when we get back, okay?"

"Why can't we come with you?" she pouted.

"Don't you have to work?"

"No, not today. That was yesterday, when you were gone all day on me," she teased.

He smiled tenderly at her. "Well, if you want, I guess there's no reason you can't come?" he said with a question in his voice, looking to Da-nar' for a reaction.

"I don't think there will be any problem with it," Da-nar' agreed.

"Great!" Maria interjected. "Count me in!"

"Me too!" Alex joined in.

Everyone looked at Kyle, who was the only non-alien to have not spoken. "What?" he snapped defensively. Realizing they were waiting for him to jump on the bandwagon, he grumbled, "Aw hell, count me in."

When they reached the cliffs, Da-nar' explained to them exactly what they were going to attempt to do. He suggested that they all watch from a safe distance, and had them back way off. Only he and Michael stayed closer, and even then, they stayed at a distance of 20 feet or so, one behind each of the brothers, so they could see the face of the other. They wanted to monitor them for signs of pain, or any other complication that might arise.

Max and Zan reached out, each clasping his hand around the other's forearm. Then slowly, they looked up, to stare straight into each other's eyes. And the connection was instantaneous.

At first, they each saw a series of flashes from the other's mind, slow at first, and then gaining speed, until they became a near blur. The entire time, their eyes remained locked, neither one blinking. And then as suddenly as they began, the flashes stopped. The connection seemed to deepen, and it seemed to Max and Zan as though they were almost a part of each other. They could hear each other's thoughts and share feelings. They also were highly attuned to their surroundings. They were aware of Liz whispering her concerns to Maria over 50 feet away. A sense of great love and possession swelled through them both at the thought of Liz. Whether it originated with Max, Zan, or both of them, they couldn't tell. Any thought that one had became the thought of both.

It was only natural that thoughts of Liz should transform into thoughts of Karanna. After all, she was Liz's twin, and the second bride of prophecy. There was an overwhelming sense of anticipation and "rightness" associated with the concept of marrying their chosen mates. The thought of bonding to these women, who filled their lives in a way they had only ever dreamed about, caused them both to immediately become rigid with desire. And being linked by the connection only served to give them the most potent arousal either had ever experienced. A thought fluttered between them, wondering if this would be a permanent side-effect of their connection.

Their joint stream of consciousness associated their arousal with intercourse, and the thought of having children. Suddenly there was a sense of regret and fear piercing like an arrow through their connection. There was no question where this originated. The regret centered around Tess and her pregnancy - the disappointment a result of Zan knowing his first child would not be born to his wife and soul mate. His source of fear was that Karanna wouldn't forgive him for what had happened. With the focus on Tess, conflicting emotions began to emerge. Max despised Tess, and everything that she stood for: his break up with Liz; her ultimate betrayal, with her lies as to who she really was; the seduction of his brother....

Yet Zan's input into the whole was of a different nature. Despite his heartbreak, at the thought of his son being born to someone other than his beloved Karanna, he felt protective of Tess, as she was the vessel through which his first son was to be born. He felt pity for her, because he knew what it was like to feel like you didn't have a place to belong. He had felt that way for too long in his life. He still found it hard to believe that it hadn't even been a week, since he had finally had a real "home". He saw the way that Tess responded to the Sheriff - and yes, even to himself - and knew that all she had ever longed for in life was to be cherished for who she really was. Granted, that desire had driven her to do unspeakable things, but nonetheless, it was a very real part of who she was. Although, admittedly, it was no excuse for her behavior, he acknowledged that in some ways, she was as much a victim as he was; a mere pawn in Ki-var's quest for vengeance. And he couldn't find it in his heart to condemn her for that.

Oddly, instead of engaging in a battle for dominance, these clashing sentiments began to meld into a balanced view of who Tess was, and how they should respond to her. Things like bitterness and rage were tempered by pity and understanding. Equally, pity was not allowed to overlook the seriousness of the crimes that had been perpetrated against the crown. Justice must be served.... but tempered with mercy. That was the kind of man the true King of Antar must become. There was no room on the throne for a self-serving, hostile man.

The connection continued to wind its way through their subconscious minds, retrieving and revealing their inmost beings, awakening them to the full potential of both their alien and human natures, as it wove their thoughts and feelings together into a unified whole.

There was much in Max's alien nature that would be beneficial to a reigning monarch, but there were things about that aspect of himself which had plagued him, since Liz had awakened them in him. Things like being able to make a calculated decision to kill Nicholas, without feeling an ounce of remorse. But now that these character traits were integrated into the whole of who he was, he no longer denied nor feared them, because he knew that his human side would have the control to temper them His fear that somehow his alien side would one day surface and take over his life, like some sort of demon possession, was finally laid to rest.

Conversely, Zan had been awakened by Liz to his human side, which Karanna had further stimulated. This was evident in the capacity for caring that he had shown to Tess. What he once had considered weakness, he now understood to be a source of incredible strength. The nature of the alien king was to view everything in terms of black and white, right and wrong. Which was great for decision making, but it was the colors of things like forgiveness and mercy, that gave meaning and fulfillment to life. And that was the precious gift of humanity.

There was no longer any question as to the course their lives would take in the coming months. They would wed their young loves, and leave Earth behind to reclaim their homeland. They would rejoice in liberating their people from an insufferable tyrant, allowing their joy to overcome the aching sorrow that would arise, as a result of leaving their adoptive parents behind. Perhaps one day, Philip and Diane would come to realize the immeasurable gift they had given to an entire species, through their selfless act of love.

Feeling a sudden, bone-deep unity, they each spontaneously lifted the hand that was free, to place it behind the other's head. At that moment, a brilliant white light flashed out of both their palms, to pulse through their heads, and emerge on the other side, each projecting into the air above the other's head. Within seconds, the backdrop of a sky appeared over each of them, with the V constellation formed in the middle of both. They were aware of gasps and reverent comments made, by those who were looking on from a distance, when the two seals of the King of Antar mysteriously were drawn together, until they became one, positioned between the two young men. Then it vanished, leaving them standing there, amazed by what they had just shared.

Once they released each other's arms, the others ran up to them asking a million questions at once, and both Zan and Max stood in the midst of the chaos, serene and unruffled. Finally, Da-nar' emitted a shrill whistle that silenced the group. Then he encouraged Max and Zan to describe the experience, which they did. Max began, and when he would pause in the middle of a sentence, in search of perhaps the best word to describe something, Zan would immediately pick up the ball, and continue the tale, until he paused, giving Max a chance to jump back in. This happened several times, as well as an occasional comment spoken simultaneously by both. Liz stood in total amazement at the change in both of them, as well as the singleness of mind that they now seemed to possess. She had never seen Max so confident and assertive before - as if he somehow gained wisdom reaching far beyond the scope of his 17 years. His words rang with an air of authority that she had never detected before now, and he seemed totally at ease with his regal status for the first time in his life.

Max and Zan began to outline the plan they now had for dealing with the situation with Tess, no questions asked, no apologies given. Although Max encouraged them to share any additional insight that they might possess, no one felt a need to tamper with the plans he and Zan had announced. Something about their quiet confidence instilled complete faith in their judgment.

When they finished, Max urged the rest of them to go on back to Roswell, telling them that he and Liz would be along in a bit. Everyone complied with his wishes, leaving Max, Liz, and Da-nar' standing at the base of the cliff, as the cars disappeared in a cloud of sand and dust. As soon as they were alone, Da-nar' indicated that he probably should be getting back to Antar. Max detained him with a gentle hand on his arm. "Da-nar'."

"Did you need something before I leave, Max?"

"Actually, I was hoping you could give me your opinion on this whole brides thing. We know now the Ge-lar' was correct - that together Zan and I represent the singular King in prophecy. So if I marry Liz, and he marries Karanna, the prophecy comes to pass. But why shouldn't Liz and Karanna connect before we are all married? We aren't talking about a very long time here. What difference could it possibly make?"

Liz looked at him in surprise. This was the first she had heard about it. And what was all this serious talk about marriage? They had always talked about it in a far-off, someday kind of reference, but the way Max was speaking, you'd think they were getting hitched next week.

"I'm not really sure, your highness," Da-nar' replied, reverting to the protocol he had been raised with. It was a natural reaction to what he had just witnessed.

"Da-nar', please," Max pleaded, his tone weary. "We've been through this before. It's just 'Max'. I may be your king, and I may issue orders at times that you don't agree with, but I don't like the implications of inferiority associated with you calling me things like 'highness'. So don't go getting all proper on me now. We have too much to work toward in the future, to be erecting social barriers between us. Agreed?"

"If that is your wish -"

"No, Da-nar', my wishes have nothing to do with this. Yours do. Do you wish to stand with me? As a friend?"

"I would be honored, but -"

"I don't want you to feel honored, either." Splaying his hand on his chest for emphasis, he asserted, "I am just a man, who has been given the extraordinary privilege of leading his people. I don't believe that the blood of the gods runs through my veins, or any such nonsense. Perhaps God ordains who shall come into power; but if that is so, it's to the fulfillment of His own purposes, and not to the glory of the one who is chosen. So please don't impose that kind of stigma on me. If anything, we should both be in awe of Ge-lar'. Now there's a man who stands head and shoulders above the rest, in my book."

Da-nar' smiled. "Indeed he does. Ironically, though, he would probably give you the same lecture that you just gave me. I think that is the mark of a humble man. And Ge-lar' always drilled into Zan's and my heads that it is the humble whom God can use." Liz listened in fascination, storing up questions for when she was finally alone with Max.

"So what about the brides?" Max pursued again. "Do you understand the significance of them refraining from connecting to each other?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "No, but I'll speak with Ge-lar' about it." He looked at Liz with apology in his eyes. "And I'm sorry I won't be able to work on those blood tests until tomorrow, when Michael comes to relieve me with Tess. I know you are anxious to have answers about this bonding business." He shot a look at Max. "May I speak with you in private, before I return to Antar?"

"Yes of course. Liz, honey, would you mind waiting for me in the Jeep?"

Liz smiled adoringly at him. She was in awe at the change in him. She rather liked it, actually. "No problem. Da-nar' - be safe, okay?" she implored him.

"Don't worry, Liz. I don't plan to take any unnecessary risks." That earned him a relieved smile, just before she turned and headed for the Jeep.

"What is it, Da-nar'? I saw a definite question in your eyes."

"I need to know - for my research, of course - how you reacted to Karanna. Apparently Zan had a fairly intense reaction to her, from what I gather. Did you have any sort of.... physical response when you met her?"

Where before, Max Evans, the 17 year old high school student might have blushed profusely in embarrassment, to Da-nar's surprise and delight, before him stood Max, King of Antar, unashamed, and willing to discuss this alien enigma. "Yes, I did," he answered without hesitation or apology. Connecting with Zan helped him to come to terms with the fact that his arousal, in response to the alien equivalent of pheromones, did not constitute unfaithfulness to Liz. Not as long as he refused to act on it. "May I ask what the significance of that question was?"

"I'd say that about clinches my theory regarding King Zan and Karanna bonding. It's the only logical explanation for why both you and Zan are attracted to both women. I mean, there was still the off-chance that Zan was attracted to Liz because he was lonely, and he sensed on some level that she was the same, species-wise. And that could have accounted for why he didn't feel as strongly for Ava. Somehow he knew that she wasn't Antarian."

"But if I'm attracted to Karanna," Max picked up the thought, reasoning it out as he went, "when I am far beyond content with my relationship to Liz, and there is no reason in the universe for me to be even looking at other women, then there has to be something more at work here."

"Precisely."

"Good. Well, one mystery solved. Mind if I share with Liz?"

"That's your call. She's your woman. If you want to tell her that you got a hard-on when you met her sister, be my guest."

Max winced. "Somehow, I think I might want to find a slightly different choice of phrasing on that."

Da-nar' chuckled. "Yes, I'd think so."

"So - any ideas how we get around this particularly inconvenient situation?"

"Not a one. Since the Learned One is often involved in the bonding ceremonies, perhaps Ge-lar' can explain to me exactly what the physiological processes are, that are involved in the phenomenon. If we understand it, perhaps we can circumvent it somehow."

"Well, I'd best let you get back there, then," Max said decisively. "That way you can keep and eye on Tess, and research our little 'problem'. Contact me when you get back on this side, tomorrow."

"I'll call you first thing," Da-nar' promised.

Max nodded. "Until we meet again -" He held his arm out to Da-nar', and they clasped forearms, their free arms encircling each other's shoulder in a brief embrace, " - be well, my friend."

"And you also," Da-nar' responded, completing the traditional Antarian blessing of departure between friends. He wondered if Max even realized what they had done.

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:19:45 AM by sheeperz

Part Eleven

As Max turned the Jeep and headed for town, Liz said, "So, Max, I think we need to talk about a few things..."

"Oh? What's on your mind?" he asked, as he shifted gears.

"Forgive me if I appear a little dense here, but I couldn't help being curious about your conversation with Da-nar' back there. What's this business about a prophecy, that forbids Karanna and me to connect until we are married? And why did it sound almost like you all have been making plans for our future, that I know nothing about?" She looked at him accusingly.

Max reached over, and took her hand in his, bringing it up to his lips for a kiss. "Liz, I'm sorry if that's the way it seems. And I guess, in the strictest sense of what you said, that's pretty much what we have been doing. But nothing definite will be decided on, without bringing you and Karanna in on the discussion. It's just that we learned so many things from Ge-lar' -"

"Okay, who is Ge-lar'?"

"He is the Learned One on our planet - he is in charge of keeping watch over the sacred writings of our people, including the scrolls of prophecy." He looked over at Liz with an excited expression on his face. "I still find it amazing, that there was actually a prophecy written hundreds of years ago about us! I have to tell you, it blew me away."

"How do you know it's about us, Max? From anything I've ever gathered, prophecies are vague, ambiguous sorts of things."

"You know, that's what I always thought. And the thing is, until you actually see the fulfillment of them, they probably seem difficult to comprehend. But I'm telling you, Liz, you should read this prophecy. It is so obvious that it is referring to us. I mean, it starts with the whole situation with Ki-var' taking over Antar, and how he destroyed the palace.... then it talks about the king, who beholds himself as one looking into a mirror - that's me and Zan, because we are twins and all. Da-nar' says he has even suspected that we are mirror image twins, which would make that passage even more startling."

"All right, so what is this brides business about, then?"

"The prophecy states that the king, singular, will take his chosen brides, plural. Needless to say, that caused some concern for Zan and me, when we heard it."

Liz was wide-eyed with disbelief. "Well, I should say so! I don't intend to be part of a harem, Max," she declared, horrified at the thought.

Max chuckled. "No, I don't imagine you do. But that's okay, because we've figured out what it was referring to. That's why Zan and I did the connecting thing. By connecting the way we did, it was as if we completed the other half of each other, and brought our alien and human sides into balance. You initiated the process of awakening in each of us, but we needed to finish what had begun."

"I initiated it?"

Max nodded. "When I healed you, we knew that you were changed. Well, the thing of it was, so was I. Because of you, my alien side began to awaken. That's why we were able to get those flashes, and find the orb out in the desert. When you connected deep enough with Zan to affect his energy shield, you began the process of change in him, too, awakening his human side."

"Wow. So you still haven't explained the multiple brides thing, though. What's that all about?"

"Well, Zan will marry Karanna, and I will marry you. If Zan and I are considered 'the king' in the prophecy, then technically, 'the king' has two brides."

"I see. So what does that have to do with Karanna and me not connecting?"

"If you connect before we marry, then there would only be one bride, as well. So since the prophecy is very clear on the issue, we don't want to do anything to go against what was foretold."

"Oh-kay.... so do you want to enlighten me, as to what these plans are that you all have been making?"

Max smiled, and squeezed the hand that he was still holding. Then, realizing that what he was about to tell her might get an intense reaction from her, he pulled off the road onto the sand, and parked the Jeep. Turning sideways in his seat to face her, he said, "Okay, Liz, the thing is this - we can't defeat Ki-var' and reclaim the throne of Antar, until Zan and I are married to our destined brides. So... the idea is, that perhaps we'll get married a bit younger than is customary here. But remember - people marry younger in other cultures on Earth, too," he added quickly, hoping to diffuse any negative reaction.

Liz eyed him suspiciously. "Max? Just how young are we talking here?"

"Uh, well, we were thinking that - you know, soon? A couple months, maybe?"

"Max! Are you crazy? Do you have any idea what all is involved in planning a wedding? And we'd need parental consent at our ages! No WAY will my dad and mom sign off for us to get married, and I don't think yours will either! What are you guys thinking?! No, that's the problem! You aren't thinking!"

Max laid a finger across her lips, to stem the tide of words flowing from her. "Liz, I know how you feel, and that was my first reaction to the idea, too. I thought about the fact that we aren't out of high school yet, and all these reasons why it couldn't happen. And then Zan pointed out that I was limiting myself, by defining who I am and what is right by human standards. But we aren't going to be living on Earth, Liz. As hard an adjustment as it's going to be, leaving our families, we're going to be ruling a people of another planet. You've seen what our minds are capable of, what with how much Zan has been able to learn. And now - everything that he learned, Liz, I know. So technically, I have the capability to graduate from high school. But that's not even the point," he sighed, spearing his fingers into his hair. "The point is - I'm the rightful king of Antar, and Ki-var' is destroying our planet and our people. He has to be stopped, and I don't intend to sit around, going to PE class, while people are being tortured under an insufferable tyrant. Not when I can stop it. Can you understand that?"

"Can you really stop him? Are you strong enough, Max?"

"Zan and I are both stronger now, than we were before we connected. And you remember how you affected Zan's strength in New York. Who knows what we'll be capable of now? Yes, I think that together, we will be able to defeat Ki-var'."

"So how do you propose we get around parental consent?"

"Think out of the box, Liz. Who says we have to be married on Earth?"

Tears sprung to Liz's eyes. "This just isn't how I pictured it Max," she said forlornly, as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. "I wanted to have our friends and family with us, sharing in the day with us. Now it's being reduced to some quickie ceremony on a planet whose wedding traditions I'm not even familiar with. What if they have some sort of weird rituals?"

"Then we become trendsetters, and change them," he said seriously. He hated seeing Liz upset, but he knew this was something they needed to do. "Besides - who says our friends can't be there? We have the portal - they can come to the wedding, and then be back, all in the same day. No sweat. As for family... I've been struggling with how we say good-bye to the people that have raised us all these years. I think the time to tell them the truth may be approaching. If we are going to up and leave the planet, the least we can do is tell them what's going on."

Liz nodded. "I agree. It would be just too cruel to disappear, and leave them wondering if we were kidnapped and murdered, or some other horrible thing."

"Exactly. I know this will thrill Isabel to no end, because she has wanted to tell Mom about us for years. I figure, even if they freak out, and don't take it all in stride the way Iz hopes, we'll be gone, and we won't have to face their constant rejection - or worse."

Liz gasped. "You don't honestly think that your parents would turn you in, do you?"

Max shrugged. "I don't know what to think, to be honest. You have to admit, finding something like this out would have to shake a person. How do you thing your parents are going to react?"

Liz's eyes dropped to stare at the floor of the Jeep. "It's going to be worse for them, you know. All these years, they thought I was really their little girl. Well, I am Dad's daughter... but the idea that his DNA was crossed with an alien's? And not his wife's?" She looked up at him with sad eyes. "I'm afraid he's going to look at me as some sort of freak. And Mom? How will she ever get over finding out that she carried an alien in her womb for nine months, and that her daughter is really no relation to her at all?" By the time she was finished, tears were streaming down her face again. "Of course, that will probably take care of the parental consent issue. They probably won't care what happens to me, once they know the truth."

Wanting to comfort her, Max moved on impulse. He hopped out of the Jeep, and walking around the back, grabbing a blanket, on his way to her side of the vehicle. She was staring at him with curiosity, wondering what he was up to. He leaned in, unbuckled her, and then lifted her in his arms, holding her close, as he pressed his lips to hers in a sweet kiss. He set her on her feet long enough to spread the blanket on the ground, and then kneeling on it, held his hand out to her in invitation. Taking his hand she knelt down in front of him, and welcomed his embrace, wrapping her own arms around his waist.

Nuzzling his face into the side of her neck, he mumbled, "I'm so sorry, Liz. Sorry that you can't just live the rest of your life like a normal human, never having to reveal any of this to your parents. But I love you, Liz, and I can't live the rest of my life without you. And our people need you. Can you forgive me for being so selfish?"

"Oh, Max, don't say that. You know there is no place in the universe that I want to be more, than at your side for the rest of our lives. Losing the love of my parents will be hard - but losing you would be unbearable. There really is no hesitation as to what I should do. Don't ever think that I will regret a moment of my life with you." She squeezed him tighter, wishing they could just melt together, and never again be apart, even for a moment. "I love you so much, Max, I sometimes think the intensity of it is more than I can withstand."

"I know just how you feel," he returned, and then began kissing her. At first, he swept his lips across hers in lazy, teasing caresses, until the taste and feel of her began to inflame his passion, and his kisses became hungry and more demanding.

Liz was with him every step of the way - tasting, sucking, nipping.... and moaning from the pleasure of it all. She barely even noticed when he lowered her to the blanket, his hands roaming possessively over her body, lingering on her womanly curves, enjoying how his touch aroused her, making her gasp with pleasure.

Max could feel the beat of her heart, and knew from it's accelerated rhythm that she was as aroused as he was. He thought that he would die trying to restrain himself, whenever she arched herself to beg for more of his touch. How he desired her! Every cell in his body screamed to unite with her... And this isn't even her fertile time, he thought remotely. God, help me....

He felt her hand stroke down the outside of his thigh, and then slip around to the front, to slide up the inside of his leg, inching closer and closer to the heat of his desire. If he thought the anticipation was maddening, he nearly came unglued, when her timid hand finally brushed over the length of his arousal. It was the first time she had ever been bold enough in the flesh to touch him so intimately, and he was astounded how even through the heavy denim, her innocent touch made him shudder with overwhelming need. Feeling like he was going to climax at any moment, his hand caught her wrist, and pulled her devious little fingers away from the bulge in his jeans.

Liz's face flamed in embarrassment. "I, uh, I'm sorry, Max," she apologized weakly, mortified that she had been so bold, and obviously disgraced herself with him. Either that, or what she did wasn't pleasing.... she was crushed to think that her inexperience could make him push her away.

"Sorry?" he croaked out, trying to keep from placing her hand back onto his arousal, for the last stroke that he knew would be all it would take to send him into oblivion. He shuddered at the mere thought of her hands on him. "Don't be sorry. I doubt you had any idea how powerfully your touch would affect me," he panted. "God knows, I didn't. I think it has something to do with my connection with Zan. All my senses are heightened, and I guess that includes this."

Liz was startled by his confession, glad that she hadn't made a fool of herself. She did feel rather sorry for him, though, knowing what torment it was to be on the verge of climax, and not being able to find release. A mischievous grin graced her face, as she came to a decision.

Noticing the devilish light in her eyes, he warned, "I'm trying to be noble here, but I swear, if you so much as brush against me, I'm going to explode, I'm that aroused." The heat in her eyes made him groan in despair. He wanted nothing more at that moment, than to be able bury himself in her, and find the release his aching flesh was screaming for. But he had promised himself that he would honor her wishes, and wait to consummate their relationship on their wedding night. He was so absorbed in his thoughts, that he never saw it coming.

Like lightning, the hand he wasn't restraining reached out, and scraped her fingernails over the straining denim. No longer able to fight the intensity of his sexual response, Max cried out her name in climax. He pressed her hand against his now pulsing erection, his hips bucking to thrust himself rhythmically against her palm, as he continued to pour himself out.

When it was over, he collapsed in a heap beside Liz, his body giving one last shudder of completion. Closing his eyes, he continued to gasp for breath, as his body came down from ecstasy. "Ah, Liz," he breathed out, "why did you do that? I warned you what was going to happen if you did. I tried to fight it, really I did, but when you touched me..."

Liz smiled lovingly at him, brushing a damp lock of hair off his forehead. "I didn't want you to fight it, Max. I wanted to see you lose control. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, when you pulled my hand away," she admitted shyly.

Max groaned. "As you can see, that wasn't the case."

Liz grinned broadly. "Um hum. So I noticed," she teased.

"Why did you persist in doing that?" he asked, bringing her hand up to his lips, so he could kiss her palm.

"I told you. I wanted you to lose control."

"I know that's what you said. But why?"

Liz shrugged. "I guess because there was such a change in you, after you connected with Zan. You were more... confident. Decisive. In control. As proud as I was of you, I guess a part of me wondered if the abandoned lover in you was gone, too."

Max chuckled. "Well, I guess you can see that you have nothing to worry about, hmm?"

Liz leaned over him, and kissed him deeply. "And for that, I am extremely grateful."

"Grateful enough to marry me? Soon?"

Liz sighed. "So you want to marry me, out of duty to your people, do I have this right?"

Max snorted. "Where did you get a screwy idea like that?"

"From you."

"From me? What am I missing here? You know damn well I've been in love with you since I laid eyes on you in third grade. And yet you can accuse me of wanting to marry you out of some warped sense of obligation? Girl, I worry about you."

"Max, don't belittle me like that," she retorted indignantly. "Maybe if we rehearse what you told me earlier, you'll realize that your motives are less than romantic. How did you put it? Something about 'needing to be married before you can reclaim the throne', and then later you said you 'couldn't just sit around, while your people suffered under Ki-var's rule'. Sounds to me, like getting married is just a means to an end for you."

Max gathered her into his arms, and cradled her close. "Oh, babe, don't ever think that. Maybe the timing isn't what we would have originally chosen, but I have to be honest with you - the more I think about us tying the knot soon, the better I like it. I'm tired of constantly being separated from you, Liz. I want us to climb into the same bed at night, and be able to make love to each other freely - none of this quasi-lovemaking that we've had to settle for. Do you have any idea how much I wanted to be inside you a few minutes ago, joined as one flesh with you? God, Liz, don't you know how much I adore you? I want to be able to make love with you whenever we want, without having to plan stolen moments like this, so we can be alone. I've always known that you were the only woman for me, and that will never change. So I asked myself, 'What reason is there to wait?' And you know what? I couldn't think of one good reason, when it came right down to it. But I can think of a dozen why we should go ahead and officially join our lives." He suddenly looked nervous and fearful. He pulled back, so he could look into her eyes. "Is there some reason you don't want to marry me, Liz? Is that the problem here?"

"No," she told him in a choked whisper, as tears began falling freely down her face. "I just want you to ask me, because you love me, and it's right for you - for us - to get married. Not because you feel that it is somehow your duty to our people."

"Liz Parker, I love you with all my heart, soul, and strength. There has never been another woman that I have looked at with the kind of love a man feels for his mate. And there never will be any other for me. You are all I want - all I need - in a lifemate. I can't bear the thought of being without you any longer. Even if it weren't for Antar, I don't think that I could wait until we were out of school to marry you. My life will never be complete, until I have you by my side as my wife. And so I'm asking you again - I'm begging you Liz - will you please marry me?"

Liz had to cover her mouth to stifle a sob of joy. Max had such a way with words - he always knew just the right thing to say to reassure her, and make her feel cherished. Unable to speak, for fear her voice would fail her, she just nodded her head vigorously in an affirmative response to his proposal.

"Really?" he asked in disbelief. Another nod. Max crushed her against his chest, showering kisses in her hair, and whispering over and over how he would make sure she never lived to regret her decision. His heart was so full of his love for her in that moment, that he wasn't sure he wouldn't pass out from the emotional overload. He felt his insides start to quiver, and the blood heated in his veins, at the thought of making love to her as his wife. His appreciative kisses began to trail down from the top of her head to her face, running along her jaw, and up to her lips, each successive one becoming more heated and suggestive. "I want to make love to you so much," he confessed against her lips.

"I want you too, Max, but not now," she warned. When he pulled back in surprise, she explained, "I want everything to be perfect our first time, Max."

Max's eyes fell, and his face flamed in shame, at his lack of sensitivity. Surely Liz deserved better than to be taken in a moment of mindless passion on the desert floor. "Oh, Liz, forgive me. I let my desire for you cloud my judgment. You're right - you deserve so much more for our first time - any time - together."

Liz captured his face in her hands, and lifted it so he would look at her. "Oh, no, Max, you don't understand. It's just - oh, heck, I might as well tell you. When we first learned that King Zan and Karanna had most likely bonded before their wedding, and then seeing what happened to them, it got me started thinking about how uncertain life can be. And I decided -" She took a deep, steadying breath, "I decided that the next time I'm ovulating, I wanted to make love to you."

Max couldn't conceal his shock at the news. "Liz? Are you sure?" Liz nodded. "I, uh, wasn't going to even ask this, but since you brought it up - why don't we get married when you come into the fertile time in your next cycle? We don't have to spend a lot of time making plans - I know that the ceremony will be small, but we can only have immediate family and friends present, anyway. A trip out of the solar system isn't something you spring on unsuspecting wedding guests." He looked at her apologetically, and admitted hesitantly, "I hate the thought that you aren't going to have the wedding that every girl dreams of -"

She smiled sweetly at him, placing her hand on his cheek. "But in the ways that count, I am, Max," she replied honestly. "Because I'll have the groom that every girl dreams of...." She leaned in and kissed him tenderly. "I love you so much."

"So is that a yes?"

Liz smiled shyly. "Yeah, I guess it is."

Max squeezed her so enthusiastically, Liz thought that she would pass out from lack of oxygen. "You just made me the happiest man in the whole wor- uh, universe," he amended.

Liz laughed. "By the way, has Da-nar' mentioned if he's thought of a way to deal with this alien attraction thing going on between Zan and me? I really don't want to spend a lifetime avoiding my own brother-in-law, four days a month."

Max averted his eyes, not sure if he was up to explaining about his reaction to Karanna. "Uh, no, he said he was working on it. He was going to discuss it with Ge-lar' this evening."

"Max?"

His eyes grazed her face quickly, and then fell away again. "Hmmm?"

"Why can't you look at me? What do you know, that you aren't telling me?"

Max sighed. "I can't get away with keeping anything to myself, can I?" he asked teasingly.

"Not likely. Now spill."

"It seems that the problem is a little bigger than you and Zan being attracted to each other."

Liz's eyebrow quirked. "Oh? And what, pray tell, does that mean?"

"Well, when we met up with Karanna - it seems that I have a similar reaction to her, as Zan does to you."

"Excuse me?! You've been getting all hot and bothered over my sister, and you were going to keep that from me?"

"Liz.... " His tone warned her to be careful what she said. "It wasn't like that. I barely even spoke to the girl. Yes, when I got within a certain distance to her, my body did react. But what you also have to realize, is that I wasn't even tempted to do anything about it. My body may have a physiological response to her chemical makeup, but you own my heart and soul, Liz. Nothing can ever change that."

Liz felt really embarrassed at her outburst. After all, she had actually acted on her attraction for Zan, to a certain degree. Who was she to be a shrew, and lash out in jealousy at Max? "Okay, well, as long as you don't have any kind of feelings for her..."

Max kissed Liz soundly. "Believe me. You're all the woman I need."

"Good. Let's keep it that way," she said with a smirk.

"So - are you ready to go back home now?"

"Yeah, I guess. But about this wedding - are we going to tell people?"

"Well, here's my thought - we tell our friends in 'the club' - but we leave telling the parents until right before the wedding. We can tell them about it then, and also tell them about who we really are. Does that sound okay?"

"I always thought that my mom would help me plan my wedding," she told him sadly. "But maybe Isabel and Maria will help me."

"You might want to ask Karanna, too, when we visit this weekend," he suggested.

Liz smiled. "Yeah - at least maybe my sister will be there for me." She got to her feet, and helped Max fold the blanket.

"Come along, soon-to-be Mrs. Evans," Max said, taking her hand in his own. "Let's go home."

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:20:28 AM by sheeperz

Part Twelve

"You're going to what?!" Maria shrieked, her spoon falling unheeded back into the ice cream container. She and Liz were sitting on the same bench in a booth at the Crashdown, bonding over a carton of ice cream after closing. "Girlfriend, have you gone around the bend on me here? No, no, wait a minute, I've got it...." She placed her palm against Liz's forehead, and then with a look of disbelief, flipped it over to place the back of her hand against Liz's skin. "Nope, no fever. Damn, I was so sure...."

Liz batted Maria's hand away, giggling. "Stop it Maria, you know perfectly well there is nothing wrong with me -"

"Ho ho no! I know nothing of the sort! I mean, I could have sworn you just said you and Max are getting -"

Liz clapped her hand over Maria's mouth. "Shh! Maria, do you think you could like, announce it to the whole world here? I mean, Michael's still in the kitchen cleaning, and Max hasn't had a chance to talk to him yet! Geez! Besides, you have to know that we aren't going to tell our parents, until right before the ceremony."

Maria slapped herself on the forehead. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" She reached out, and cuffed Liz lightly up side the head. "Oh, I remember! A little thing called PARENTAL CONSENT!!"

"Maria, please!" Liz pleaded in a hoarse whisper. "You are going to ruin everything, if you don't get yourself under control here!"

"And that would be bad, because -?"

"Because I want to marry Max."

"It's a mind-warp, isn't it? That's what this is all about. Somehow, Max has learned to - or no! Da-nar' is Talerian! Maybe he's mind-warping you both!"

Liz grabbed Maria's shoulders and shook her. "No one is mind-warping us, Maria! Will you please just let me explain?"

"Oh, sure, explain away," she retorted sarcastically, leaning back against the booth, and crossing her arms over her chest. "This should be really good."

Liz proceeded to explain the whys and wherefores of the decision that she and Max had made, and even told her about Zan and Karanna. "So you see, there really isn't any reason for us to wait. We know this is what we want, and the timing is just better if we do it now."

"Lizzie, you're only seventeen, chica...." Maria whined pleadingly, hoping that Liz would come to her senses.

"I know that, Maria, but this feels right. Like nothing I've ever done in my life ever felt so right before. This is it, Maria - this is my destiny."

"Aaahhh!" she shrieked, covering her ears. "I can't believe I heard that word tumble across your lips!! I thought we agreed we never wanted to hear that word again!"

"But don't you see, Maria? That's because Tess was trying to force a false destiny on Max, and preventing me from embracing mine. But true destiny? It's a whole different matter."

"I still say you're too young...."

"Maria, what do you honestly think is going to change in two years? Except that I'll probably - no, I'll definitely break down and make love to Max. Soon. And if we make love for two whole years, there's the chance that something unexpected could happen, and I'd end up pregnant and unwed.... is that the life you want for me? Would that be so much better?"

"No, I suppose not," she conceded. "And I do know, that you and Max belong together -"

"So be happy for us, yes?"

"I don't know...."

Liz opted to play hardball. "And be my maid of honor?" she tempted Maria sweetly.

Maria gasped, a huge grin on her face. "That's right! I get to be the maid of honor! So when do we get to go shopping for this gala event?" Liz suddenly grew quiet. "Chica? What's the matter? What did I say?"

Liz shook her head, swallowing against the emotional constriction in her throat. "It's nothing," she lied.

"Liz, don't be lying to me. I'm your best friend. Out with it."

"It's just - well, it won't be a gala event. We, uh, need to keep it small, you know? Just our little group. And hopefully our parents..."

"Oh, God, I got so caught up in the thought of it, I forgot my own warning about the parental consent issue. How are you going to get them to sign off on this?"

"We aren't?"

"Huh? Uh, hello? Earth to Antar? Come in Liz? No consent equals no wedding."

"We aren't getting married on Earth. Antar doesn't have such restrictions, I guess. At least not for the king."

"O - oooohhh," Maria voiced in dawning comprehension. "So we go back to the home world for the ceremony."

"Yeah, well, we are still Antarian, after all, and I imagine we'll go through an Antarian ceremony, if Max is to rule his people. They'll want to know that he was married according to their customs. I just wish I knew what they were," she admitted, biting her bottom lip.

"You mean, he didn't tell you?"

"I don't think he knows. He'll probably talk to Da-nar' about it. Soon, I hope. I'd like some time to gear myself up for it."

"Wait a minute. If you are getting married on another planet.... how are you going to get your parents there, without them knowing who you are?"

"We aren't. Max is planning on telling them right before the wedding, when he tells them we're getting married."

"Oh boy, this should be interesting."

Liz sighed, and slouched on the bench. "Tell me about it. The thought of my parents never wanting to see me again, because they think I am some sort of freak is really depressing. Add to that, the stress of telling them on my wedding day? I'll be ready to be fit for a straight-jacket by the time we get to the actual ceremony."

"Oh, Liz, I'm so sorry. I wish there was something that I could do to help."

"There is."

"Name it."

"Be my friend. Help me plan my wedding. Stand up with me. Be happy for me. That's all I really need. Someone who understands, and will make me feel like I haven't been totally abandoned by the people that I love the most."

Tears sprung to Maria's eyes. "I could never abandon you, Liz. God, girl, you're my best friend in the... UNIVERSE!" She giggled through her tears. "And to think - I'm not just exaggerating!"

Liz leaned over, and gave Maria a hug. "Thank you so much," she whispered.

"For what?"

"For being my friend. For not feeling different about me, now that we know the truth. And mostly, for standing by me. It means a lot."

Maria dismissed the notion of her doing anything out of the ordinary with a wave of her hand. "It's nothing, really. I know if the roles were reversed, you'd do the same for me."

Liz rested her forehead against Maria's. "You got that right."

Michael came into the dining room just then, and raised a brow toward the girls. "Should I be jealous?" he asked with a smirk.

"Haha, very funny," Liz shot back. She looked up in time for her eyes to lock with Max's through the front door of the cafe. It took her a second to react, and then she saw that Isabel and Zan were with him. She hopped up, and unlocked the door for them.

She was about to close the door, when she heard Alex call, "Wait for me!" While she held the door for him, Sheriff Valenti and Kyle pulled up in front of the building. She turned to look for Max, and found him standing right behind her.

"Max, what did you do? Ask everyone here? What if my parents come downstairs?"

"Then we all act like we are just having a little party. No biggie. It wouldn't be the first time we hung out here after closing."

Liz sighed, reaching up to rub the back of her neck. "You're right. I guess I'm just a little tense about this whole situation. I don't know how you managed to hide your alien status all these years. It would have driven me insane."

Max pulled her into his arms, while they waited for Alex to walk through the door, followed by Jim and Kyle. Once they were all inside, he told her, "Go ahead and lock the door. I promise, I didn't invite anyone else," he teased.

"Good thing," she mumbled. "No one else knows."

Max smiled reassuringly at her. "Why don't you go check the back room, and make sure your folks aren't lurking around? Then we can get down to business."

"Lurking, Max? My parents don't have to lurk in their own place of business," she informed him testily.

"Hey - I was just kidding. You really are upset, aren't you?" he asked worriedly.

"I told Maria already," she confessed. "And as you might expect, she flipped out on me."

Max looked over at their friend. "I don't know - she looks pretty okay with the world right now."

"Oh, she came around, and is supportive and all now, but the tension hasn't left me yet."

"Mmhmm, so I see. Turn around."

"What?"

Max took her by the shoulders and spun her to face away from him. Slowly, he began to massage the tight muscles in her shoulders and neck. "Mmmm, that feels wonderful...."

"Really?" he asked, and she could hear his smile in her voice.

"Really. You have that magic touch, Max Evans."

"You ain't seen nothing yet," he replied mysteriously. With that, he allowed gentle waves of healing energy to flow through his hands, warming and relaxing her stressed muscles.

"O-oh... Max, what are you doing?"

"Just giving you the premium service."

Liz felt so good, that she melted back against his chest. "Please tell me I don't have to move...." she drawled lazily. "This feels wonderful."

Max swept her up into his arms, and carried her over to the booth where they had pulled up a table to join it. Sitting in a chair, he held her on his lap. "Michael, you wanna just go check and make sure no one has come downstairs?"

Michael nodded, and was back in a few seconds. "All clear. Now what's this about? I have to go relieve Da-nar', remember."

"This shouldn't take long. Liz and I just have something we want to tell you all. Please remember, her parents are upstairs, and if we make a ruckus, they'll more than likely come down to investigate. And since this is 'family business', so to speak..." He gave them a telling look.

"So what's the big announcement?" Zan asked with a smirk. He had a feeling he knew already what Max was going to say.

"First, let me say, that this is not a decision we made lightly. We have discussed this thoroughly, and having done so..." Max breathed in deeply. "Liz has agreed to marry me."

Isabel snorted. "Big surprise there. Although, I don't know how mom and dad are going to feel about you getting engaged so young."

"No, Isabel, you don't understand. Liz and I aren't just engaged. We're getting married. Soon. Like, within the month."

Dead silence. Two seconds, three, four.... and then everyone started talking at once. Well, everyone except for Zan and Maria, who looked on in amusement.

"Zan! Will you please talk some sense into our brother?" Isabel wailed, when she noticed that he wasn't participating in the tongue lashing the rest of them were bestowing on Max and Liz.

Zan shrugged. "Sounds ta me, like he's got the right idea. Might even try it myself sometime soon."

"What?! Has the whole world gone mad?"

Zan chuckled. "No, dear sister. But there are 'alien forces' at work here. Don't fight it. Just trust that Max and I know what we're doing, okay?"

Max held up his hands to silence everyone. "Okay," he began, "here's what happened..." He proceeded to explain the whole extent of their reasons for marrying so soon. "So you see," he concluded, "there's really no reason for us to wait any longer. We may be young, but we are already committed to each other as if we were married. This would just make it 'official'. We're hoping you can all be happy for us, and will come to the ceremony. Obviously, it will be a very small affair." He looked apologetically at Liz. "We would have liked big wedding, but how do you explain to your wedding guests that they have to go to another planet for the ceremony?"

"Whoa, wait a minute... you mean to tell me we have to go to Antar for the wedding?" Kyle asked.

"Yes. Besides the fact that we would need parental consent to get married here, it would look better to our people, if we were married according to their traditions and laws. I, uh, just have to talk to Da-nar' and Ge-lar' about what all that entails...." His voice dropped off, and he looked sheepishly at Liz. He was hoping they weren't getting into anything that she would find objectionable.

Reading the worry on his face, she reassured him, "Don't worry, Max. We'll work through it together." He smiled in relief, and nodded.

"So - is everyone in with us on this?" There were nods all around the table, and Max smiled at their show of support.

"Max? What are you going to tell Mom and Dad? You know - about the wedding? About your leaving?" Isabel questioned.

Max looked her straight in the eye. "I - I'm going to tell them the truth, Iz." He watched for her reaction.

"The truth? All of it?" she whispered.

"Yes. I mean, I know that you have wanted to tell them for a long time, and it only seems fair, after all they've done for us, that we give them that much. If they take it well, you can come back home, after we take care of business on Antar. And if they don't? At least now you have somewhere else you can go, where you'll be safe."

Isabel fought back the tears, and welcomed Alex's comforting embrace, as she dealt with her conflicting emotions. This was what she had always wanted, but it was easier to want it wholeheartedly, when she knew that Max would always forbid it. But now, she had to come face to face with her own fear of rejection. In her fantasy world, her parents would receive her with open arms, and assure her that nothing could ever change their love for her. The truth was, she knew that it might not come down that way, and she had to be prepared for that.

"So - does this mean you'll all be moving back to Antar?" Sheriff Valenti asked. He had been part of their little conspiracy for several months now, and he was going to miss these kids if they left.

"Yes, we will," Max confirmed. "Liz and I will obviously need to take up permanent residence on Antar. The rest of you - uh, those of the alien persuasion, that is - will need to make your own decisions, in that regard. However, I would request that you all stick with us, until the threat from Ki-var' is satisfactorily dealt with." All present agreed. The only one they had left to convince now, was Karanna. In their hearts, they all acknowledged that talking her into moving to an alien planet on such short notice was going to be a challenge. After all, she was just finding out who she was. They had no way of knowing how easily she would adapt to her new life.

"Okay, then," Max concluded, "that about wraps it up. We'll obviously keep you informed about the plans. The date is tentatively... 23 days from now?" He looked to Liz for confirmation. She nodded in response. "Right. 23 days."

"What's so special about 23 days from now?" Alex asked.

"Uh, never mind," Liz said blushing. "Just an Antarian tradition."

"Oh - okay," Alex replied, easily satisfied with her explanation.

"Thanks everyone for coming on such short notice," Max said, standing up. "I'll see you all tomorrow." Everyone followed suit, and got up, filing out of the Crashdown. He caught Michael as he was about to leave. "You heading to the catacombs now?"

"Yeah."

"Great. Tell Da-nar' I'll be out to see him, as soon as I can sneak out of the house."

"Gotcha." Michael turned and left the building.

"Max?"

Liz's sweet, soft voice made him shiver. He looked down at her, where she now stood at his side. "Can I come with you to see Da-nar'?"

"You sure? I don't want you to get in trouble with your parents."

Liz giggled. "So what if I do, anyway? What are they going to do to me? Ground me? They really don't have any power to enforce punishment on me any more."

"I know, but you don't want to leave Earth at odds with them, do you?"

"No, but after we tell them the truth, they'll be better able to understand why I had to do certain things."

"You're right, I guess. All right, wait for me out on your balcony, as soon as you think it's safe. I'll come by and pick you up."

Liz stood on her tip toes, and kissed him sweetly. "Thank you. I'll see you in a little bit."

Max had to fight the urge to wrap his arms around her, and kiss her senseless. "Okay, I'll see you then." Liz locked the door after him, and went back through the dining room, shutting off the lights as she left. She went upstairs, said goodnight to her parents, and went to her room to wait.

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:23:03 AM by sheeperz
Phew! Well, there, I got it all caught up now. Hope someone is reading this?!? Let me know what you think!
posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:38:35 AM by sheeperz
oops! Sorry, Jane. I'll go fix that! Darn typos.
posted on 29-Nov-2001 1:38:58 PM by sheeperz
Omby - no *giggle* This is like a comedy of errors! hehehe What I had to fix was that I accidentally typed through part 13, instead of 12. No, 23 days stands. We are 3 days past ovulation for her, and I am figuring her fertile time is 2 days before, 2 days after. So it is now FIVE days past the beginning of their hot hormones. LOL 28-5=23. That's where I'm coming from. Hope that clears it up.

posted on 30-Nov-2001 2:16:23 PM by sheeperz
Okay, finally a new part! I guess after this part, I will only be posting the new parts here, as the old board is going to be shutting down, I hear.

Hope you enjoy this! Please feel free to leave feedback!!*wink*

Part Thirteen

Da-nar' was busy in his lab, when Max and Liz walked in. "Hey, Da-nar'," Max spoke, startling his Talerian friend. "Oops - sorry," he chuckled. "Didn't mean to sneak up on you."

Da-nar' grinned, as he continued working on his project. "That's okay - I just get really absorbed in my work sometimes, and I'm not aware of what's going on around me. Newsflash - Liz was within her fertile period when I drew blood the other night. From the hormone levels, I'd say it was the last day of fertility."

"Yeah, well, we kind of figured that out. When I took her home, and kissed her goodnight - things weren't quite so out of control."

"Well, that's good. At least you won't have to worry about it now for another 3 weeks or so."

"Uh, well...." Max hedged, running his hand through the hair on the back of his head. "That might not be totally the case."

"Oh?" Da-nar' asked with and upraised eyebrow.

"Yeah. It seems that, uh, since Zan and I connected, my senses are extremely heightened. When Liz touches me..." he left the sentence dangling.

When Da-nar' looked up at his silence, he saw the expression on Max's face, and filled in the blanks. Smirking, he said, "So - you're not out of the woods after all, huh?"

"So it would seem," Max grumbled. Brightening, he added, "But, hey, we've got some good news to tell you."

"Really? And what would that be?"

Max took Liz's hand in his, and gave it a squeeze. "Liz and I have decided to get married."

"You're kidding." One look at his face told them he was in shock.

"No, I'm totally serious." Max hesitated, his concern growing. "I thought you would be pleased."

"Oh, I am - I guess. I just hope that you aren't doing this because you feel pressured. Neither Ge-lar' or I would want to make you feel you had to do something like this."

Max smiled in relief. "No, we don't feel pressured. We've talked it over, and besides the obvious reason - that I don't think I'm going to be able to stay out of her bed much longer," he teased her with a wink, "we realized that there are a lot of other really good reasons to not put off what we have already committed to in our hearts."

"Well, in that case, congratulations."

"Thanks. Now - did you talk to Ge-lar' about the bonding? How that works, and how we might get around it?"

"Actually, I did. Ge-lar' came up with a rather interesting theory. The man would have made a great geneticist, if he hadn't received a higher calling."

"Well, do tell! Don't leave us in suspense here! What did the man say?"

"Well, first you have to understand what happens when an Antarian couple bonds. Simply put, it's connected to hormones, and the rupturing of the virginal barrier. If she loses her virginity during her fertile time, it triggers another chemical to be released into her bloodstream. The rupture also creates an avenue for a certain chemical in the seminal fluid to enter the bloodstream, and the combination of the two are what is responsible for the chemical bonding of the couple.

"Now, you both still carry the chemical bond of Zan and Karanna in you, because of genetics. But the good news is, since Liz is still a virgin, we are hopeful that once you mate, the process will repeat itself, and create a bond that is unique to just the two of you. But only if you mate during her fertile period," Da-nar' warned them sternly.

"Yes, well, we have already agreed to do that anyway. We plan to be married at the beginning of her next fertile cycle," Max informed him.

"So soon?" Da-nar' voiced in surprise.

Max shrugged. "Why wait? We want to do this right, and hormones being what they are and all," he added sheepishly.

Da-nar' nodded. "I suppose there is some wisdom in your decision. The longer you wait, the greater the opportunity for you to be tempted to mate unwisely. You only get one chance at bonding properly. My advice is - don't blow it."

Max smiled down at Liz, as he vowed, "We won't." After discussing some other minor concerns with their friend, Max and Liz left him to his work, and headed back to Roswell.

When Max parked the Jeep behind the Crashdown, Liz unbuckled her seat belt, and leaned over to kiss him goodnight. When he felt the heated passion between them begin to escalate, he pulled back, holding her at arm's length, while he breathed heavily.

Liz's hurt was evident on her face. "Did I do something wrong?" she choked out. "Are you upset with me for something?"

Max fought the urge to pull her close, and crush her lips under his. "No, Liz, but we have to set some new ground rules. For the next 23 days, we can't indulge in any more of these wild make-out sessions."

"Why not?" Liz pouted.

"Because I want to make sure that we don't lose control of the situation, and end up making love before the wedding. If there is the slightest chance that we can overcome this attraction-hormone-thing that we share with Zan and Karanna, I want to make sure that we don't 'blow it', as Da-nar' put it."

"But things haven't gotten out of control yet," she complained.

The sound that came from Max was a mixture of a pained groan, and a tormented chuckle. "Liz, you are far too innocent and trusting for your own good. You have no idea how close I've come on more than one occasion, to acting on my need to bury myself deep inside you. God, Liz, I have felt the sensation of what it must be like through our connection, and it is almost unbearable, it's so pleasurable. And the soul connection that we share makes it even sweeter. Yet, somehow, I know that it will be even more so when we experience the real thing. I can't tell you how my body - even my soul - aches for that. If we keep flirting with this, we are courting disaster. I don't know how much longer I can resist you."

"Oh, Max," she crooned, placing her hand on his cheek, "I long for that, too. And I'm sorry, if I've put an extra burden on you, by tempting you to such a degree. It just seems, that when I'm with you, I lose all sense of the way I should behave. I turn into some wanton creature that just can't seem to keep her hands to herself, whenever I'm around you," she said with a shy smile.

Max growled. "Believe me, in 23 days, I'll be eternally grateful for your.... wanton tendencies," he assured her with a sensual smirk.

Liz giggled, as her face turned bright pink. "Yeah, well before you go casting stones, just remember - it's all your fault."

"My fault? Moi?" he asked with mock innocence.

Liz gave him a playful swat. "Yes, you. If you weren't so incredibly sexy, I wouldn't find you so irresistible."

"So then, it's just my body that you're after - is that it? Why can't I find a woman who will love me for my mind?" he wailed in feigned anguish.

Liz stared at him for the space of a couple heartbeats, and then they both broke out in laughter. "Shhh!" Liz admonished him, even as she fought to control the volume of her own giggles. "If Mom or Dad find us out here, I'm dead meat."

"You're right. You better -" He gestured to the balcony with a jerk of his head, his smoldering gaze never leaving hers. "And you better do it now, before all my noble intentions go up in flames." Liz nodded mutely, and started to swing her body around, to get out of the vehicle.

"Liz?" At the sound of her name, she turned back to face him, and in a rush of unrestrained passion, Max practically lunged across the distance between them, to capture her soft, pink lips in a fiery kiss. To her dismay, it ended as quickly as it began, leaving her hungry - oh, so hungry - for more of him. The next 3 weeks were going to be hell.

"Goodnight, Max," she whispered longingly, and then she was out of the Jeep. His eyes never left her, until she vaulted over the balcony wall, and out of his sight.

Liz was so absorbed in her thoughts of Max, and their upcoming nuptials, it didn't even register with her, that her desk light was on, until she had crawled through the window. She nearly jumped out of her skin, at the sight of her mother sitting in the chair at her desk, her legs crossed, and her arms folded across her chest.

When she spoke, Liz heard the words she had been dreading hearing, every night that she snuck out of the house. "And just where have you been?"

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

Ge-lar' had prepared a tray for Tess, hoping that some nourishment would help her regain her strength. He had specially made some broth, seasoned with herbs from the nearby meadow, that were known for their restorative qualities. Beside the bowl were two slices of fresh baked bread, and a soft, sweetened substance, much like pudding. He left Michael, who was pouring over a book on recent Antarian history, to slip across the hall with the simple meal.

Entering her room, he noticed Tess' eyes were closed, and she appeared to be sleeping peacefully, for which he silently uttered a prayer of thanks. As he crossed the room to place the tray on the table, he felt a wave of dizziness come upon him, and he barely managed to make it to the table, where he promptly dropped himself into a chair. As the room continued to spin, he began to get nauseous, and felt the bile rising in his throat.

He looked at Tess, worried that perhaps his rough movements had awakened her, and was temporarily confused by what he saw. Her eyes were still closed, but her face was all squinched up, as if in pain. I must go find Ki-var', and bring him here. Ge-lar' bolted out of his seat, as the thought crossed his mind. Suddenly, it all became clear to him.

"Michael!" he bellowed, as loud as his lungs would allow. Tess' eyes snapped open in surprise, wide and frightened, as she saw Ge-lar' staring at her disgustedly.

Michael burst in the room. "What? Is there a problem? Is she sick again?"

"No, I'd say she's recovering even better than we suspected," Ge-lar' informed him, his voice icy, as he continued to stare at the girl.

"Come again?" Michael requested. "Why is this a problem?"

"Because," Ge-lar' said with growing impatience, "she just tried to mind-warp me. At first I didn't know what was happening. I got dizzy, nauseous.... I saw her face contorted, I thought perhaps from pain, but then this single thought popped into my mind - that I must find Ki-var', and bring him to her. That's when I knew what she was up to."

Scowling harshly at her, Michael went to kneel by her pallet on the floor. "You just never give up, do you?" he snarled. "No matter what anyone ever does for you, you always have to look for a way to screw them over good. Well, not this time, Missy. We're onto you."

"Oh, really?" she countered haughtily. "And just how do you propose to stop me? Soon, I'll be strong enough, and when I successfully mind-warp you, you won't even know what's happening. You're weak, and pathetic, compared to my strength. You'll see."

"I've listened to all of this that I can take," Ge-lar' grumbled, picking the tray up off the table, and heading out the door.

"Wait!" Tess called. "Aren't you going to leave that for me?"

"Not right now," Ge-lar' called over his shoulder. "Maybe it would do you good to fast, and think on your transgressions. A prayer for forgiveness wouldn't be a bad idea, either."

"But I don't want to fast!" she whined.

"Too bad," he answered, as he stepped into the hall. "I didn't want to be mind-warped, either. Guess this makes us even." Then he disappeared from sight.

"Is he planning to starve me?" Tess asked Michael, frightened by this man that Zan had promised would take care of her.

Michael shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe. Can't tell you what goes on in his head. I'd watch myself, if I was you," he warned, hoping that his avoidance regarding Ge-lar's character would stir some good old-fashioned worry into her. It would do her good. He rose from his place beside her. "I'm going to go check on him. I'll be back. Don't do anything foolish, do you hear me?"

"Yes, I hear you," she mocked back at him, and then shrieked in frustration, when he had the gall to laugh at her! As he left the room, she wanted nothing more than to hurl a heavy object at his head, but she could barely lift her hand, she was so weak from expending all her energy, trying to mind-warp Ge-lar'.

Michael closed the door, and met up with Ge-lar' in the hall outside the scroll room. "Keep an eye on her," Ge-lar' said in a low voice. "I have to run out and get something. I shouldn't be gone too long." Michael nodded. Ge-lar' started to walk past him, and then paused. "And make sure you don't give her anything to eat or drink," he added. At Michael's questioning look, he explained, "I want to make sure she is good and hungry, as well as thirsty. I'll explain the rest later."

"All right," Michael agreed, having great confidence in the wisdom of the older man. Whatever he was up to, Michael was sure it was in all of their best interests. He stood in the hall, thoughtfully watching Ge-lar', until he disappeared down one of the intersecting corridors.

Ge-lar' made his way through the tunnels, taking the passage that opened in a cave, at a point just north of the city. Standing in the shadows, just inside the cave entrance, he looked out onto the bright Antarian day, and scanned the area for movement. When he saw none, he stealthily slipped out into the sunshine, quietly covering the short distance to the woods, making sure to keep himself concealed within the lower lying brush. Once under the canopy of trees, he walked with his eyes trained on the forest floor, searching for something. After going only a short distance, he smiled in satisfaction, and knelt down, plucking up several plants which bore small, white flowers. These were just what he needed.

He stood, and hustled quickly out of the forest, never looking backward. He didn't want to leave Michael alone with Tessandra any longer than necessary. Although he was fairly certain she had exhausted herself for the time being, with her unsuccessful attempt at mind-warping him.

Just remembering it brought his hackles up. It wasn't like him to rile so easily, but he detested the thought of someone making him act out their will, against his own. As far as he was concerned, that was the workings of The Evil One, and such a person would be condemned for eternity. It was beyond him, how the Righteous One could use the offspring of such a being for a good purpose. But he knew it was not his right to question his Creator, who could see the good in things that he could not.

Once he cleared the edge of the forest, a shadowy figure emerged from a thicket in the woods. Hobbling to where Ge-lar' had just been, the healer woman looked down at the spot where he had been foraging. She scowled, as she observed the particular plant growing in a profuse patch there. What does Ge-lar' need with Suppression Plant? she wondered. The old man's actions of late were beginning to rouse her curiosity. She thought about following him, but realized that by now, he would be too far ahead for her feeble body to catch up to him. She headed back to her cottage, determined to somehow find out what the old fool was up to.

Back in the catacombs, Ge-lar' replaced his soup pot on top of the special heating stones. After carefully washing the plants, he ripped off the leaves and flowers, dropping them into the broth. He dumped the broth from the bowl he had prepared earlier for Tess back into the pot as well. Feeling weary, Ge-lar' turned to Michael, who had been watching his actions with undisguised interest. "Would you mind?" he asked the younger man. "I'm afraid my energy is rather depleted at the moment."

"Oh - yeah, sure," Michael answered, crossing the room, and kneeling before the pot. Placing his hands on the outermost stones, he allowed energy to flow through his hands, causing the rocks to glow a brilliant orange as they heated. He continued to pour his energy into them, until he could see they were all fully heated. Backing away, he said, "You know, it would be much simpler, and quicker, for me to just pass my hand over the pot, and heat it instantaneously."

"Yes, I'm sure it would. But it is important that this heat evenly, and slowly, to diffuse the chemical properties of the herb into the broth."

Michael arched one brow. "So you gonna tell me what this herb is for?" he asked with a smirk, somewhat teasing Ge-lar', who had given him a crash course on Antarian herbal remedies earlier, as he prepared the broth. "Or is this a 'secret ingredient' to your recipe, that you accidentally forgot?"

Ge-lar' looked at him with a mischievous grin. "Something like that." He went to the door, and looked down the hall, making sure that Tess wasn't up and wandering around to hear him. He closed the door, and said quietly, "This one is called 'Suppression Plant'. It gets its name from its primary usage."

"Okay, I'll bite," Michael said. "What does it suppress?"

The corners of Ge-lar's mouth twitched, as he suppressed a full-blown smile. He knew he shouldn't be so vindictive, but the girl had pushed him past his limits. The chance for a little vengeance felt sweet. "It is used to suppress the area of the brain that is responsible for psychic abilities."

"Like mind-warping," Michael finished the thought. Ge-lar' nodded with a sigh. Standing behind Ge-lar' as he stirred his brew, Michael clasped the man's shoulder. "You know, you're a handy guy to have around, Ge-lar'," Michael teased.

Ge-lar' grinned again. "Glad to be of assistance," he retorted.

"Just one thing," Michael said thoughtfully.

"What's that?"

"Will this affect the baby?"

"Goodness, no!" Ge-lar' replied vehemently. "As much as I relish the idea of squashing her powers, I wouldn't harm the child in my quest for revenge," he confided. "Zan is trusting me to watch over his unborn son, and that will always remain my first priority."

Michael nodded, satisfied. "Good."

After allowing the pot to simmer for an hour, Ge-lar' ladled up a generous portion, straining the herbs out, allowing only clear broth to fill the bowl. "Well - here we go," he announced. Michael accompanied him to the other chamber, in case Tess tried to pull anything.

They found her sitting up on the pallet, running her fingers through her hair, trying to make some semblance of order to it. She looked up nervously, when she saw them enter, wondering if they had devised some new way to torment her. Like being kept a prisoner wasn't bad enough.

"Brought you some nourishment," Ge-lar' grumbled, as if the last thing he wanted was to give her anything. He fought the urge to smile in victory, when he saw her subconsciously lick her lips in anticipation. Yes, she was hungry, and would likely consume a goodly portion of the broth. Setting the tray on the floor next to her pallet, he explained that the broth would help her body to regain its strength. He was glad that he didn't have to lie - the broth would make her stronger, while at the same time suppressing her psychic abilities. But she didn't need to know about that.

Tess reached for the bowl, and lifted it to her lips, drinking deeply of the potion that she was relying on to help her recover, so she could leave this place. When she finished, she greedily consumed the rest of the meal, and then laid back on the pallet with a sigh. Soon, she had drifted off to sleep again.

Michael retrieved the tray from the floor, and handing it to Ge-lar', flashed the old man a conspiratorial grin. All they had to do was keep her drinking the broth, and everything would work out just fine.


posted on 1-Dec-2001 3:13:38 PM by sheeperz
Hi gang!

Well, I won't be able to post tonight. :( House full of company, no time to write. Hoping to have a new part up for you tomorrow night, but no promises. Just got a new computer, and am having a dandy of a time (not in a good way!) trying to figure out how to set up another email account. It is all messed up... *sigh* The cable guy made it look so easy... but when I set it up, it keeps asking for the password, but won't take it! (My machine must be PMS, huh? LOL)

Anyhoo... I'll miss writing tonight, but hopefully I'll be back in the saddle tomorrow!

Thanks for the feedback!

Fran
posted on 3-Dec-2001 4:15:23 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone! Sorry it took so long for me to get this part out. Things have been a little hectic. Hope to get back on schedule, with a new part tomorrow night.

This is kind of a transitiony part, but some interesting things happen (I think). Karanna in the next part!


Part Fourteen

"Well Liz? I'm waiting?" her mother pressed, impatience oozing out of every pore. "Where have you been, and more importantly, who were you with?"

Liz weighed her choices. She could try to lie to her mother, and hope that her mother didn't catch her at it, or she could tell her the truth. Oh, what the heck. They were gonna tell her parents everything in 3 weeks anyway. She figured if she told the truth now, what was the worst that could happen?

She sat down wearily on the edge of her bed. "I was with Max, and we went for a drive."

"At this hour of the night, on a school night no less? Elizabeth Parker, you know better. Your curfew on school nights is 10:00, and here it is just after midnight. Now, where exactly did you drive to, and what were you doing?"

"Mo-om," she whined, "I think I'm entitled to a little privacy here."

"Don't you get smart with me, young lady, or I'll tell your father what you've been up to."

"You mean he doesn't know?" Liz asked in wide-eyed wonder.

"No, and I'd prefer we kept this between us," she admitted. "Your father has some things in his past that would make him... unbearably harsh about something like this. Not to mention, I don't want him to feel the disappointment of knowing that his beloved daughter is sneaking around behind his back. But that doesn't mean I won't tell him, if you don't come clean with me."

Liz sighed. "We drove out into the desert, and we talked. End of story."

"Talked?" Nancy echoed suspiciously. It was obvious she didn't believe Liz.

And with good cause, Liz thought sadly. Her mother apparently believed that she and Max were "involved". Liz's heart tore at having to deceive her mother. Not that she was lying about tonight, but there were certainly activities between her and Max in the last few days that would have set her mother's teeth on edge.

In the end, she merely replied, "Yes, talked. Just talked."

Nancy's left eyebrow quirked. "If all you did was talk, why didn't you just use the phone?" Her tone was bordering accusatory.

"Look. I've been struggling with some things lately, and Max knew that I was upset. So he offered to take me for a ride, and talk things out with me. Whenever I get so tied up in my problems that I can't see my way clear of them, he is like an anchor in my world - he can listen to me, and then cut through all the garbage, and get down to the heart of the matter. Help me sort things out. Tonight, I needed some answers about some things that have been bothering me, and he knew right where to find the solutions. That's where we were, Mom. Nothing sinister. No wild orgies. The biggest thing that happened, was that he kissed me goodnight, when he dropped me off a few minutes ago."

Nancy shook her head sadly. "Used to be, you would come to me with your problems. I hope that Max is giving you good advice." She grew quiet and thoughtful for a few moments, staring at her hands, before continuing. "It's like I don't know who you are any more, Liz. I want to trust you, but it seems like too often, you appear to be going against our wishes, and what you were raised to believe as acceptable behavior. I don't know how much 'space' I'm supposed to allow you, before I start to get worried."

"You don't need to worry about me, Mom. I'm a big girl, and I know what I want out of life. And as for Max and me... we both have agreed that we don't want to have sex until we're married. So if that's what's bothering you...?"

"You mean you've discussed this with Max?" her mom asked, shocked.

"Well, yeah," Liz said, wondering why this should surpris her mother. "I'd think that you would be happy that we did. I mean, we're committed to not sleeping together, until we're married."

"Oh, I'm glad for that, all right, but I must say, I'm a little surprised to hear that you've been talking about marriage," she explained.

Liz wanted to scream. How is it, in an effort to reassure her mother, she started blurting out things that upset her mother further? "Well, I don't know what to say, Mom, except that Max and I love each other very much, and that we know that we belong together. Weren't you and Daddy our age, when you started to date?"

"Yes, we were," Nancy agreed. Something in her eyes told Liz that her mom was lost in the memories of another time and place. When she snapped out of it, she warned Liz, "If I were you, I wouldn't ever use that argument with your father. Nothing good would come of it."

"Mom? What happened, when you guys were younger?" Liz asked worriedly.

Nancy shook her head. "Nothing you need to worry about - just let it go. But please, don't ever mention the past to your father. Not unless you want to be grounded until you're 30."

Liz wanted to laugh. She wouldn't be under their roof when she hit 18, much less 30. But it wouldn't be wise to tell her mother that, she thought ruefully. She hated lying to her mother. Even though technically, with carefully chosen words, she hadn't actually lied to her mother. "Okay, Mom, I promise, I'll be careful what I say around him." And you.

Nancy nodded, and stood up. She leaned down to give Liz a quick hug, and then went to the door. "Just be careful, Liz. And know that I'm always here, you know - to talk to. Just in case you ever get the urge." A sad look covered her face, and she left the room.

As she was pulling the door shut, she heard Liz's timid voice say, "I love you, Mom."

She leaned back in, and said, "I love you, too, honey. Sleep well."

Liz smiled back at her. "Thanks. I will."

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

The next couple of days flew by, fortunately, with very little trouble. It was a rather nice change of pace, considering all that had happened the past week.

Zan had called Karanna every day after school, and sometimes again in the evenings. He winced to think what the Evanses would say, when they got their phone bill. Fortunately, Isabel had some extra time on her cell phone, and she let him use that for one of his calls. He found the conversations with Karanna made him more and more eager to be with her again. He felt incredibly drawn to her, and knew that it was because they were meant to be together. He worried, though, that she might not feel the same way.

Max and Liz chose to spend much of their time together in the company of their friends, neither of them feeling sure enough about their self-restraint to chance being alone together for very long. Liz had told him about the confrontation with her mother, and they both agreed that they would have to be more careful about their comings and goings. The last thing they needed was for Mrs. Parker to be spying on them, thinking they were just a couple of lovesick teenagers, and then finding out what they were really up to.

Friday, after school, they firmed up their plans for Saturday, and Max made up some excuse to tell their parents, about him and Iz taking Zan hiking for the day. Liz told her parents the same story, adding how they had invited her to go along. She even assured them that Maria was all lined up to cover her shift for her. Nancy had a worried look in her eyes, but remained silent, when Jeff told Liz to go and have a great time. While she may not have approved of Liz taking off for the day with Max, she didn't want to give Jeff any reason to not trust his daughter. If he lost faith in Liz, it would have to be because Liz herself had done something to warrant it. To do anything else, she realized would have created irreparable damage in her own relationship with Liz.

So it was, that 6:00 Saturday morning found the Evans siblings pulling up outside the Crashdown to pick up Liz - who was eagerly waiting at one of the outside tables. When the Jeep came to a stop, she hopped in the back with Isabel, and tossed her backpack behind the seats.

As they began their journey to Las Cruces, Max, Isabel, and Liz talked about all the changes that were going on in their lives. Isabel confided her gnawing fear about telling their parents who they really were, to which Max raised an eyebrow, as he stared at her in the rearview mirror.

"I know, I know," she admitted in response to his expression. "It was always easier to live in the fantasy world, where they knew about us and loved us anyway, when the reality was that I would never find out. But now that I'm faced with knowing for certain how they'd feel, it's kind of scary."

"Tell me about it," Liz sympathized. "Not only do I have to tell my parents what Da-nar' did, but then I have to spring on them that I'm getting married at 17. Not a pretty prospect, by a long shot."

That statement ushered in a discussion about the upcoming nuptials, and speculation about the wedding traditions on Antar. Max and Liz hadn't had time to talk to Da-nar', nor to meet with Ge-lar', to find out what would be expected for a traditional Antarian wedding ceremony.

Through it all, Liz noticed that Zan was remote and quiet, staring off into the desert, rather than listening to or participating in the conversation. As Max and Isabel were engaged in a discussion, Liz leaned forward, and placed her hand on Zan's shoulder that was closest to the door. He had been staring out the passenger window, and so at the touch of her hand, he swiveled his head slightly farther, and cast a sideways glance at her, their eyes locking in silent exchange.

With her head leaning on the edge of his seat, she asked in a low voice, "What's wrong?" Zan closed his eyes, and then refocused them elsewhere, unable to even answer her question. Max glanced back over his shoulder, when he heard Liz say something that he couldn't quite make out. Seeing her concerned look that was directed at Zan, and Zan's refusal to speak, he decided to intervene.

"Zan's just dealing with a lot right now," he explained to Liz, hoping his brother wouldn't be offended. He took Zan's indifferent silence as an unspoken permission to continue. "Michael and Da-nar' have split up the guard duty over Tess, and that is exactly what it has become. We found out last night, that Tess had tried to mind-warp Ge-lar' into going to Ki-var', and bringing him back for her."

"Oh no! How awful! How did they find out what she was doing?"

"She wasn't strong enough to actually pull it off. The problem has been dealt with, but Zan is still concerned that she might find a way to get away from them, and end up endangering his son in the process."

"How are they going to keep her from successfully mind-warping them, when she is stronger?" Liz inquired.

"Apparently, Ge-lar' is quite into herbal remedies and such, and there is a plant that can be used to suppress psychic abilities. They have been lacing her food and drink with it, so that she won't be able to pull any more of her shenanigans."

"Oh, Zan, I'm so sorry," Liz mumbled near his ear, as she gently squeezed his shoulder. "With everything else going on, you shouldn't have to be worrying about Tess' antics."

"Huh," he grunted, still staring off at the passing landscape.

A connection suddenly opened up between them, and Liz could feel the swirl of his emotions churning within her own soul. Despite the tenuous grip she had on her sanity at the moment, she silently wondered how he could possibly sit there so calm, when she was near to crawling out of her skin from it all. Her first instinct was to recoil, and break the connection, in order to restore order to her own nervous system. But something deep within her responded to his emotional anguish, and for him, she hung on in desperate hope of being able to help.

Closing her eyes, and breathing deeply, she tried to clear her mind and heart of all the things that were pressing in on her from her own life, and focus solely on the demons that were tormenting Zan. On the surface, she felt his frustration and helplessness, over the situation with Tess and the baby. Totally understandable. She tried directing her thoughts deeper, to see what lay further down. She was amazed, when she sensed a strong undercurrent of fear associated with Tess. She didn't know why he should be afraid of Tess, when they basically had her under lock and key, and nearly helpless, as far as her powers went. As she focused on the fear, she felt her consciousness begin to blend with Zan's until she was able to isolate the source of his fear - Karanna.

She was shocked to realize the depths of his fear, concerning his budding relationship with her sister. Obviously, he was concerned about her reaction to the news he had to tell her, that Tess was pregnant with his son. But there was more than just anxiety that his destined mate would be upset at his having slept with another woman. No, she could tell that wasn't what was troubling him at all... his main worry was that she would shut him out of her life, for not having been honest with him. The intensity of the anguish that thought aroused inside of him shook Liz to the core. She had no idea that he had fallen so hard and so fast, for this girl that shared her essence. She was about to withdraw from the connection, when Zan's mind consciously reached out for her, and she heard his voice in her head.

"No, Liz, you don't have to go. I already know you're here."

"I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry. The connection opened up, and I knew you were hurting...."

"It's okay, really. That's one of the things I've always lo- uh, admired about you. Your compassion."

Liz subconsciously squeezed his shoulder in reassurance. "I'm always here, if you need me."

"I need you now," he confessed wearily, more as a thought to himself, than a directed thought meant for her. She heard it nonetheless.

"Then talk to me. Tell me what you are so upset about."

"I'm jealous," he admitted bluntly.

"Jealous? Of what?"

"Of what you and Max have. That you are secure in your relationship. That he has your unqualified love. That you are getting married. I want that with Karanna, but yet I know that I could lose it all in just a little while from now. Forever."

"I think that you underestimate her, if she is truly my sister. She might need some time to deal with the shock - but once she realizes that she'll have to live without you if she doesn't get over it, she'll come to her senses quick enough. You aren't the type of man a girl can ignore her feelings for."

"You did," he accused.

"Hardly! Do you think that if I could have ignored you, I would have allowed myself to be so drawn to you? You underestimate yourself, Zan."

"But the bottom line is, it wasn't enough to draw you from Max. What if she's able to find love with someone else?" Liz sensed his overwhelming despair at the thought.

"Think about what you are saying. Max is my soul mate. Karanna is yours. For the same reason that you couldn't ultimately draw me away from Max, no one will be able to take Karanna from you."

"But it was easier for me to influence you, when you weren't with Max - when we were in New York. What's to say that when I'm all the way in Roswell, she doesn't find it easier to forget me?"

"Trust me - even when my hormones were on a full rampage with you in New York, Max was a larger than life presence between us. If he hadn't been..." Zan felt the involuntary shudder that ran through Liz. He knew that she was remembering the passion that had held them in its grip, during their brief time together in the city. He felt his own body begin to harden in response, as flashes from their intense interludes assailed them both. Liz, too, began to feel the stirrings of arousal, and each of them were aware of the other's dilemma, through the now electrically charged connection that they shared.

Liz snatched her hand off of Zan's shoulder, as if she had been burned. Which was pretty accurate, when you consider that she felt a scorching heat in her soul, that would gladly have branded her with its presence, had she not pulled away when she did. The connection that they shared was deeper than she had ever experienced - to be able to converse freely with one another astounded her. Our alien sides must truly be getting stronger, she thought.

Having looked over his shoulder to see why Liz had grown so quiet, Max frowned at the troubled expression on her face. Surely she wasn't that concerned about the prospect of Antarian wedding rituals? "Liz?"

"Hmmm?" she responded distractedly.

"What's wrong?"

Liz stiffened, thinking about the exchange that she had just had with Zan. She couldn't explain it to Max, without letting him know that once again, Zan had been the first one she experienced a new ability with. Not that she probably couldn't have experienced the same thing with Max, now that he and Zan had connected. Max's alien king side seemed to be more and more evident in the things he did now. But she and Max had purposely been trying to keep a respectful distance between themselves for the time being, and therefore the opportunity for any kind of connection between them had not been present.

There was, however, something else that had been nagging at the back of her mind that she wished to discuss. So she used it as a distraction now, hoping that Max would assume it was the thing on the forefront of her mind. "Max, how are we going to juggle school, planning a wedding, keeping tabs on Tess, work, and planning to overthrow Ki-var', all without having our parents get suspicious? There are moments when I feel like I'm going to stress out, trying to keep everything in its proper 'slot' in my life, and not say something that will cause them concern. I mean, my poor mom. The biggest of her worries is that I'm going to be some teenage statistic if I keep seeing you. I can't imagine what knowing the truth is going to do to her."

Max smiled sadly. "I wish there was some way to spare our parents all that they will have to go through, really I do. But it can't be helped. We can't change who and what we are."

"Oh, and I wouldn't want to!" Liz insisted with great conviction. "I mean, if we were different, then maybe you and I wouldn't be together," she added softly. "And I can't possibly regret that."

Max reached back between the seats, and placed his hand on her knee, as his eyes met hers in the mirror. "Me either."

The rest of the trip was filled with conversations about their parents, and how they would break the news to them, what they intended to do once Tess had the baby, and trying to brainstorm some way to overcome Ki-var' with as little bloodshed as possible. Their discussions were interspersed with companionable silences, each mulling over the massive changes that were about to occur in their lives.

Sensitive to his brother's growing anxiety, Max pushed the speed limit the entire way, managing to make the trip in just over 5 hours. At 11:15, they arrived in Las Cruces, and 5 minutes later, they pulled into the driveway of the house where Karanna lived.


posted on 4-Dec-2001 11:08:32 PM by sheeperz
Hi! Sorry this is so late, but here I am!

Just some quick notes...

Mpls muse - you'll get the answer to your questions about their take on the connection threat between L/K in this part.

Mitra - hehehe thanks, I love Zan too. We want him to be a happy boy, so never fear!

Jiggers - As it turns out, I discovered, Karanna had some issues of her own to deal with. Oh - you'll see what I mean! *wink*

Ladylou - *giggle* I love your take on the wedding necessities. And come to think of it... you're right! *big*

Linda - yes, that connection thing could be interesting, now couldn't it?? *big* As for Karanna's reactions... we'll lay one trip on her at a time? I think.... LOL!

Oh - still waiting for more of Forbidden, in case you were wondering *wink*

DayDreamBeliever - *giggle* Yeah, it does seem like things come together and fall apart rapidly around here, huh? hehehe More of the same in this part...!! *wink*

About the connection - nah, nothing Max should worry about at all.*angel*

Fresa - you're right. This part has the answers you seek! Happy reading!


So... I hope you all enjoy this part. I couldn't get it all in one part, so the next one will be a continuation of their Saturday together.

Let me know what you think! And thanks for all the kind words everyone. It means a lot, to know when you enjoy something I've written. you guys are the best!!!


Part 15

Max parked the Jeep and turned the key in the ignition, the ensuing silence near deafening, as power to the engine was cut off. The four of them sat and stared at the house in front of them for what seemed like hours, when in actuality, it was probably less than a minute.

Finally, Zan inhaled sharply, and jumped down onto the paved driveway, his eyes never leaving the house. He started to step away from the vehicle, when he heard Liz's gentle voice drift to him.

"Do you want us to come with you, Zan? Or do you want to tell her about Tess alone?"

Looking back at her over his shoulder, he smiled bravely, like a man about to face the executioner's ax. "Let me go first, and then I'll bring her out to meet you. I don't want to overwhelm her first thing." Liz nodded her agreement, glad that he was being sensitive to her sister's feelings, when he obviously was struggling with so many of his own. She watched intently, as he marched up toward the front door, his shoulders slouched in anticipation of defeat.

Straighten up, and look proud! Liz cried out in her mind at him. To her amazement, he did exactly that. She wondered if he had actually heard her. She watched, as he lifted a hand toward the doorbell, and then paused with it in mid-air. After a brief hesitation, his finger pushed the little white button, and he rolled his shoulders, in a vain attempt to work out the tension while he waited.

He didn't have long to suffer. Liz wondered if Karanna had been standing just on the other side of the door the whole time, waiting for him to ring the bell. She was pleased to see her sister smile brightly at Zan, then reach up to wrap her arms around his neck in a brief hug, and Liz wished she could have seen the expression on his face at the warm reception. She watched, as Zan said something to Karanna, and received a shake of the head in response. She held up her hand to him, as if to tell him to stay put, as she stepped just inside the door to retrieve her backpack and a basket, and then rejoined him on the step, shutting the door firmly behind them. Zan reached out, and lightened her load, by carrying the backpack for her. She spoke a few more words to him, and he nodded. Taking her hand in his, he led her back to the Jeep.

As Karanna and Zan came around the side of the vehicle, she got her first look at Liz, and their eyes met and locked. They were both astounded to see how identical they looked. Even Isabel was amazed. Sure, Max and Zan looked that identical now, but their different upbringings had made their previous appearances like night and day. It wouldn't have occurred to most people that they were twins, just looking at them back then.

Liz faintly heard Zan making introductions. "Karanna? You remember Max. This is our sister Isabel..." He noticed that Karanna's eyes had never left Liz's. "And I see you have figured out which of our passengers is your sister," he joked lamely, trying to dispel his own nervous fear.

"Hello, Karanna," Liz said softly. Impulsively, she started to reach a hand out to her twin.

"Liz, no!" Max cried sharply, drawing the attention of both girls in his direction.

"I - I wouldn't hurt her," Karanna said defensively, wondering what she had done wrong, to make Max distrust her.

Zan wrapped his arms around her from behind. "No, it isn't you, love. But you and Liz mustn't touch each other. I'll explain it when we find somewhere quiet to be alone and talk. Where can we all go?"

"There is a quiet spot not far from here, with a small pond and a couple of big, shady trees. I like to go there to be alone sometimes. I, uh, made us a lunch." She lifted the picnic basket, as evidence of her claim.

Max smiled at her, putting her at ease once more. Zan took the basket, and put it behind the back seats. Then he helped Karanna into the front passenger seat, hopping into the seat behind her, to sit next to Liz. Karanna pointed Max in the right direction, and they took off.

Zan was impressed with Karanna's refuge from the world. It was a small, yet beautiful oasis in the surrounding desert landscape. They all clambered out of the vehicle, and headed for the bigger of the two shade trees. Max unzipped and spread a sleeping bag that he had in the back of the Jeep, and Isabel spread a blanket that she found wadded up behind the seat. The five of them collapsed onto the blankets, and sat in stunned silence for a moment.

"So why can't I touch Liz?" Karanna asked timidly, her hurt and disappointment evident.

"Well, this is rather a personal topic, so I hope it won't embarrass you," Max began, "but, as you know, Zan's and my essence came from the King of Antar, and yours and Liz's from his queen - the woman he loved." Karanna nodded, indicating her knowledge of that fact. "The thing is - when Antarians mate, under proper circumstances, they bond for life," he went on to explain. "Changes occur in their bodies that bring them into harmony with one another in a physical sense. They sort of... imprint on each other, if you will, and there is a chemical reaction between them, during the fertile part of the woman's cycle. This causes an arousal in both partners that is so highly pleasurable, it's practically impossible to resist." Max noticed Karanna's vivid blush, and the way that she had averted her eyes from everyone. "I know this is pretty intimate talk," he told her, "but you really need to understand about it." Karanna motioned for him to go on. Taking a deep breath, he continued. "Well, because King Zan and Karanna had bonded, we carry the genetic alignments that their bodies underwent within us. Now that our alien sides are awakening, we are experiencing the same effects, as if we had bonded ourselves."

"You and Liz?" she asked for clarification.

Max looked at Zan. This was really up to him to tell her. "Not just Max and Liz," Zan explained. "All four of us."

"What?" Karanna looked mortified, and Zan sensed that she had partially misunderstood his meaning.

"What I mean is - you remember me telling you that both Max and I feel the effects of being close to either you or Liz, during your fertile time?" She nodded. "That's why you mustn't touch Liz. It is a long, complicated explanation, involving an ancient prophecy on our world, and all, but the gist is this: if you and Liz touch, there is a chance that a connection will form between you, and your bodies will sort of... complete each other, I guess you could say. That's what happened with Max and me, when we connected. It was like we were two halves of a whole. Now, normally, that would be a good thing for you and Liz to do. But Max and Liz are hoping that when they marry and mate, that the new joining will override the other one, and they will then be bound to only each other, no longer affected by you and me."

"And by connecting with Liz, I could jeopardize that?" Zan nodded. "I can't believe I can't touch my own sister for - years yet," she pouted, looking longingly at the girl who wore her face.

"Uh, well, it won't be nearly that long," Zan assured her. Karanna gave him a puzzled look. "Max and Liz are getting married in 3 weeks."

Karanna gasped. "No...." she breathed out in disbelief.

Liz smiled up at Max, who was holding her between his legs, and then looked back at her sister. "It's true. We're getting married in 3 weeks." She virtually glowed as she said it.

"How -? You mean your parents are all right with this?" she inquired incredulously.

"Well... our parents don't know," Liz confided.

"Then how can you get married, when you aren't of legal age yet?"

Liz looked at Zan, wondering how much he wanted to lay on her. He nodded for her to answer. "We aren't getting married on Earth," she explained. "The ceremony will be held on Antar."

"Antar?" Karanna choked out on a whisper, her face blanching. "You are going back to Antar? How can you possibly get there in three weeks?" Liz was aching to reach out and comfort her sister, and was delighted, when Zan wrapped his arms around her.

"Actually, there is a portal that allows travel between our worlds," Isabel spoke up. "It's quite convenient. Max and Zan have been back and forth to Antar several times this week, as has Da-nar'."

Karanna's eyes bulged in her pale face, as she looked up over her shoulder at him. "You have?" she asked Zan. "Why have you been going there?"

Zan swallowed around what felt like a baseball lodged in his throat. Now was the moment of truth. His eyes darted frantically to Liz, and her soft, understanding eyes reassured him, even as she nodded for him to go ahead. Zan turned Karanna in his arms, until she was looking up into his face. It humbled him to see the trust that she had in him evident in her eyes. "Well, uh, that's kind of something I need to talk to you about, Precious One," he started, holding his hand along the side of her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "Do you remember that nasty flash you got of Tessandra and me, when she was disguised to look like - you?" Pain clouded the brightness of her eyes, and she nodded. Just bringing up that unfortunate incident disturbed Karanna. Zan wished he could spare her the pain his next words would bring. Taking a deep breath, he blurted out, "She's pregnant, Karanna. With my son."

Tears welled in Karanna's eyes, and began to course down her lily white cheeks. "No," she whispered brokenly, her throat tight. "No, no, NO!" she cried out on a sob. She wrenched herself out of Zan's grip, and began to run away.

"Karanna, wait!" he called, and when he could see she wasn't going to stop, he shifted his weight as he prepared to run after her. But before he could take his first step, Liz was beside him, gripping his arm.

"Zan, please, she's understandably upset. I don't think she's going to feel like chatting with you right now. Let Iz and me talk to her first, please?"

Zan finally tore his gaze away from Karanna's retreating form, and slid a sideways glance down at Liz. Seeing the love and compassion in her eyes, he nodded. Liz took a couple steps, when Zan's hand reached out to capture her. As she looked up into his eyes, her heart broke for this man who was soon to become her brother. The anguish and guilt that were written on his face were almost too raw and intense for her to look at. "Please," he whispered to Liz, "bring her back to me. I - I....."

Liz nodded in response to the sentence he couldn't finish. She knew just what he was feeling. Hadn't she felt that kind of despair in the past, enough for ten lifetimes? To face losing the one person in the universe whose soul completed your own... the prospects of it were devastating. A brief flash of anger welled up within her, when she remembered that the same loathsome creature that inflicted that pain on her, was responsible for Zan's misery. If it weren't for Zan's child growing in Tess' womb.... Liz shuddered to think what heinous acts of violence that she herself might be tempted to commit on the Talerian slut.

"Liz?"

Zan's voice brought Liz from her deep thoughts to the present. Liz looked up at him, and gave him a smile. "Don't worry," she reassured him, stroking his arm lightly in support. "I'm sure she'll come around, after the shock is over."

"I hope you're right," he mumbled, not nearly as convinced as Liz was. With one last pat on his arm, Liz took off after her sister, Isabel walking beside her.

They caught up with Karanna beneath the other tree that grew by the pond. She was sitting on the ground on the opposite side of the trunk. Hearing their approaching steps, she called out miserably, "Go away. Leave me alone."

"Karanna? It's just me and Isabel," Liz informed her. "Please - can we just talk?"

They heard a loud sniffle, and then Karanna's voice weakly saying, "I guess."

Walking around the tree, they found her sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest, her chin resting on top of them. Both girls sat down facing her, and Isabel reached out to gently pat her forearm, knowing that's what Liz would have done, if she could. Well, okay, Liz would have hugged her, but there are limits.... Isabel thought.

"Karanna?" Liz ventured. "Can we talk about what just happened?" Karanna shrugged, but didn't forbid the topic, so Liz dove in head first. "You have to understand that there was no kind of emotional thing between Tess and Zan. She manipulated him, because she thought he was Max. All she cared about was getting pregnant with the king's child. Well, she got the pregnant part, but unfortunately for her - and damn lucky for us - she got the wrong brother."

Karanna looked appalled. How selfish could Liz be?

Recognizing the look on her face, Liz clarified, "Hold the phone, there. That didn't come out quite right. I didn't mean lucky for us, as in Max and me. I meant as in for all of Antar. If Ki-var' could get his hands on the King's heir, it would greatly increase his hold on the throne of Antar. I think you can be objective enough to admit that wouldn't be a good thing."

"I suppose," Karanna mumbled. "I don't really understand all of this alien business. But I get the part where Ki-var' is an evil, low-down good-for-nothing scoundrel."

Liz and Isabel grinned at her description. Seeing their faces, Karanna grinned back. And then they all burst into giggles. Karanna sobered again, though, and declared, "But that doesn't change the fact that it hurts, that he not only slept with other women, but that one of them is going to bear him a son. He told me that we belonged together, and I honestly thought that I felt the truth of it. Maybe I just wanted to believe it so bad, because all my life, I've felt disconnected from everyone around me. And then in comes Zan, like a knight in shining armor, telling me all these wonderful fairytale stories about a King and a Queen from another planet, and that somehow we're connected from that other life - that we're destined to be together." Her tears began falling freely again. "It really hurts, you know?" she admitted in a hoarse whisper. "I mean, why did he have to sleep with those other women? Why?"

"Okay, there are some things you probably should know about Zan," Liz said gently, "and they aren't the types of things that he would probably be rushing to tell you about himself, because they are part of a painful past. But I'm hoping that knowing them will help you to understand and accept Zan for who he is now, instead of chaining him to that past. Did anyone tell you about the dupes?" she asked. Karanna nodded. "Good. That will save some time. Okay, here's the thing - they made a fake bride for each king -"

"I know about that, too," Karanna said, nodding again.

Liz looked confused. "Okay - so you know that the fake bride, Ava, is the one that Zan slept with? I mean, besides Tess?" Karanna looked surprised, but said nothing. Exasperated, Liz pressed the issue. "Don't you get it? Zan grew up thinking that Ava was his bride, the one he was supposed to mate with. And so he did - out of duty. But he never loved her. He knew that there was something missing between them. He had withdrawn from her, and avoided sleeping with her by the time I met him. And now that he's found you, he knows why he was never happy with Ava. You are the one that he loves, Karanna. Don't punish him for doing what he thought he was supposed to do. And don't lose your own chance at true happiness, because you are too proud to forgive the man for making mistakes. Isn't it more important, how he acts now that he's found you? I've never seen him happier, than when he is talking about you. Believe me, I can't imagine him ever being unfaithful to you."

Karanna lifted her hand to stifle a sob, and Liz instinctively started to reach for her. Realizing in time what she was doing, she pulled back, and sent Isabel a pleading look. With a sigh, Iz put her arm around Karanna's shoulders, and patted her stiffly. "Hey, it's going to be okay," she said, hoping her generic words of comfort would somehow work a miracle.

"I was so awful to him!" Karanna wailed. "What if he won't forgive me?"

Liz and Isabel looked at each other, and then laughed. "Not much chance of that happening," Isabel told her with a grin. "My brother is totally smitten with you. You'll be lucky if he doesn't try to sleep at your feet like a cocker spaniel. The boy is whipped."

Karanna smiled through her tears. "Really?"

Liz laughed. "Oh, definitely," she replied, suddenly serious. "He, um, has actually been scared to death that you won't have anything to do with him after finding out about Tess. See, the other thing you need to understand about Zan, is that he didn't have much guidance growing up, and the adult input he had in his life came from another alien he thought was their protector, but was actually one of Ki-var's men. He was made to feel pretty worthless. Talk about low self-esteem - Zan could have been the poster boy."

"Oh my God," Karanna whispered in anguish for him.

"Yeah, well, we're working on him," Liz said with a grin. "But this whole business has really set back his progress. He doesn't think that you could possibly find enough about him that is good, to make you able to forgive him for what he did with Tess. He feels that he failed you."

"But it wasn't his fault!" Karanna protested, remembering how Zan had told her he had been sound asleep, when he woke up with the hussy on top of him.

Liz and Isabel exchanged a look. "Oh, please...." Isabel joined in, "no one held a gun to his head, did they?"

"No! But he was sleeping, and when he woke up, he was really.... uh..." She turned bright pink.

"Aroused?" Liz supplied flatly.

Karanna nodded fervently. "I know - I mean, I felt it through the connection, how excited he was. And yet, he didn't really want to do it - he really tried to fight the urge to mate," she insisted, surprising herself, that she was just now remembering that strong sense of confusion that had been mixed with his driving desire.

"I don't know," Liz pushed a little farther. "Seems to me, if he had any backbone at all -"

"Enough!" Karanna shouted, her pupils drawing down to little pinpoints. "How can you call yourself his friend, and talk about him like that? God! Hasn't he had to deal with enough in his life, without the two of you maligning his character behind his back? He is the most kind, gentle, sweet man I've ever met, and I won't sit here and -" Karanna's tirade was cut short by the raucous outburst of laughter from Liz and Isabel. "What are you laughing about?" she scowled at them.

"Do you hear yourself?" Liz howled. "Sounds to me like Zan isn't the only one who's smitten."

"Wha-? I don't understand..." Karanna mumbled in confusion.

"Karanna, we don't really feel that way about him. We just did that, to help you acknowledge your true feelings for him. I know that in a perfect world, it would be bliss, if Zan was a virgin, and none of this other crap happened. But it did. Now you have to decide where to go from here. Sounds to me like you still want to be with Zan, but you're scared, and you're using this whole pregnancy thing as a smoke-screen, right?"

Karanna blushed. "Well, maybe a little," she confessed.

Liz snickered. "Girl, from the way that you jumped to the boy's defense, I'd say that Zan has very little to do with why you are running like a scared rabbit. Wanna spill?"

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

Zan had taken to pacing, and stopped to look at Max nervously, when the sounds of feminine laughter floated to them on the dry desert air. "What do you suppose they are laughing at over there?" he grumbled.

"Probably just making jokes at our expense," Max answered dryly.

Zan looked startled. "Ya think so?" He wasn't used to being the butt of women's jokes. He was sure he didn't care for the idea.

"Down, boy," Max said with his best authoritative voice. "No, I can't see Liz poking fun at you. I think we should regard it as an encouraging sign, that Karanna isn't crying any more, don't you?"

"Yeah, I s'pose," Zan sighed

Max smiled, as he heard Zan's carefully cultured speech begin to revert to a looser kind of street lingo. Just a little. Poor guy must really be stressing. He saw that Zan had resumed pacing. "Hey, why don't you have a seat, and relax a bit? You don't want to face Karanna looking like a crazed lunatic, do you?"

"No." Zan bit the word off, and plopped down next to his brother. "If they don't get back here soon, I'm going to march right over -"

"Uh-uh, not a bright move," Max warned. "When the squaws are having a powwow is not a good time to organize a raid. Just chill. Let Liz work her magic. I've been on the receiving end before. If anyone can get through to Karanna, it's Liz."

"Huh." Zan's grunt made the corners of Max's mouth twitch, but he fought the urge to laugh. Zan would find out soon enough, just what a smooth-talker Liz could be.

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

Karanna averted her eyes, and looked out over the surface of the pond, to the desert setting beyond. "It's just so overwhelming. I've always been a loner - even when my parents were alive. They showered me with all sorts of love and everything that I could ever possibly want... and yet I felt so alone. I never felt comfortable around the other kids in school, and I was always teased for being shy." She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe that was a defense mechanism of sorts, too. But when I met Zan... suddenly I felt like I was alive for the first time. I felt like I had a place where I belonged. And it scared me. It still does. How can I feel so at home with him, even intimate, when I don't even know him? And yet feel so distant from people who have loved me all my life?"

"I never had the feeling of being isolated," Liz confessed, "but when Max healed me, and we connected - for the first time in my life, things started to feel right. It was like I had been walking around in a fog before then, and suddenly I was alive. I remember thinking that it was like he had put a force on me, I was so drawn to him. So I understand part of what you're saying."

"So then, maybe this sense of familiarity is normal for us?" Karanna asked hopefully.

"I think when you meet the one person that completes you, alien or human, you know it deep down. Don't you think so, Isabel?" Liz raised an inquisitive brow at her future sister-in-law, hoping to make her point.

"Definitely," Isabel concurred, with great conviction, leaving Liz to wonder just what she had missed out on. Seems she'd be having a talk with Mr. Alex Whitman when they got back home.

"I've been a real jerk, haven't I?" Karanna whispered. "Poor Zan. I wonder if he's mad at me?"

"Why don't we find out?" Liz suggested.

"Um... how about if you go back, and ask him if he'll come talk to me?" Karanna countered. "I don't think I could bear to have him reject me, in front of everyone."

"Well, that won't happen, but if it will make you feel better -"

"Oh, it will," Karanna gushed, cutting Liz off.

Liz nodded. "Come on, Iz, let's go get the boy." Liz saw Karanna biting her bottom lip nervously, as they started to walk away.

"She's got it bad," Isabel murmured, as they walked toward where Max and Zan were anxiously waiting.

"Oh yeah," Liz agreed with a straight face. "Real bad." Then they both giggled.


posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:47:46 PM by sheeperz
Okay, no long intro here, cuz it's late, and y'all are probably thinkin I forgot you. At least Mitra is! *giggle* hey girlie, I'm just running late tonight getting it written. Had to start from ground zero tonight, as I didn't have any written ahead.

So... hope you all enjoy. Let me know what you think!

PS - I didn't have time to even proofread it for typos. Hope it isn't atrocious. If it is - be merciful, 'k? *angel*


Part Sixteen

As they walked back to where Max and Zan were waiting, Liz whispered to Isabel, "Shall we have a little fun with your brother?"

Isabel slid her a conspiratorial glance. "What did you have in mind?"

"Well, he's naturally going to worry, when we come back without her..."

"Oh, girl, you are so bad. Do you think it's fair to mess with his head like that?" Isabel asked in a worried voice. "The poor boy has been through hell as it is."

"Probably not a good idea," Liz concurred.

"Right." Pause. "So what are you going to do to him?" Isabel inquired with a smirk.

Liz had to stifle a snicker. "You are something. Just follow my lead," she instructed.

Zan bolted to his feet, when he saw Isabel and Liz heading their way. "Damn it, Max, where's Karanna?"

Max stood, scowling. "I honestly don't know. I can't believe that Liz couldn't make her see reason," he said, baffled, just as the girls reached them.

"Liz?" Zan's voice was laced with fear. "What happened? Why didn't Karanna come back here with you?"

Liz gave him her saddest, most pitiful look. "I- she - "

Zan grabbed Liz's shoulders, and stared into her large, frightened eyes. "What? Tell me Liz, please!" He was nearly frantic with worry now.

"She didn't want to come back here with us," she murmured.

Zan swallowed down the howl of despair that was threatening to erupt from him at any moment. "Why not?"

Isabel sent a distressed look at Liz. Maybe this wasn't the best idea they ever had. She could see by the nervous look in Liz's eyes, she was rapidly coming to the same conclusion. "She - uh... " Liz stuttered.

"She's afraid that you are angry with her, and didn't want to face you rejecting her apology in front of everyone. So she asked us to send you down to her," Isabel spoke up.

Zan looked deep into Liz's eyes. "Is this true?" he whispered, afraid to hope. Liz nodded, still unnerved by Zan's dark intensity. He pulled Liz into his arms and hugged her tightly. "Thank God," he breathed out. "You had me worried there for a minute." He held her out at arm's length again. "And thanks, for talking to her for me. I owe you. Big time." Then he stepped around her, and broke into a dead run, in the direction of the other tree.

When he reached Karanna, he came to a screeching halt, and just stood there, staring into her eyes, trying desperately to read her expression. They stood there, gazing at each other, until tears welled up in her eyes, and began to spill over.

"Karanna?" he whispered.

She brought a hand up to her quivering lips, fighting the urge to sob. After a few seconds, she managed to choke out, "Yes, Zan?"

He took a step closer toward her, his hand reflexively starting to reach toward her, and then dropping back to his side. "I - I don't know what to say, to make things better between us," he told her haltingly. "There's no excuse for what I allowed to happen, and if I could go back and change things, I would," he confessed, "but the only thing I can say, is that I love you, and I'm sorry. I realize that this is a lot for you to deal with, but maybe someday you can forgive me." As a lone tear streamed down his cheek, he offered, "If you want, we can take you back home now. Or if you want to get to know Liz, I can stay here, until you all are ready to leave." His eyes dropped to stare at the ground at his feet.

"No," she said simply. She saw the raw pain in his face, as he winced at her words.

"I see," he whispered hoarsely, his heart wrenching painfully in his chest.

Karanna walked up to stand right in front of him, reaching out to hold his face in her hands. "No, I don't think you do," she told him softly. Her breath caught in her throat, when he lifted his tortured eyes to meet her gaze. "When I said 'no', I meant 'No, I don't want to leave,' and 'No, I don't want you to wait here alone,' and 'No, I won't forgive you someday'." As she heard him swallow down his pain, she stepped even closer, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I won't forgive you someday, because there's nothing to forgive, Zan. I was just too afraid to admit it, because I wanted something to use as an excuse to not get involved with you. But it isn't fair to you, to blame you for something that wasn't your fault, just because I'm a coward. I'm the one that is sorry. Can you forgive me?"

Zan stared at her, totally devastated, as he looked into her pleading eyes. "So you don't want to be with me," he managed to say. "I see. I wish you had told me this before. But hey, it's okay, I'll just -" He looked around desperately for somewhere he could escape to, until it was time to leave.

"No," came her strangled reply. "I didn't mean that I don't want to be with you. It's just - I was scared. I know it's a lame excuse, but there you have it," she said, turning away from him in shame. She wrapped her arms around herself in a protective gesture. She felt as if she were literally holding herself together. "Maybe you're right," she added, her voice quivering, even as her body began to shake. "Maybe you better take me home. I don't feel so good all of a sudden."

Zan was at her side in a flash. "Are you sick?" he questioned worriedly, as he turned her to face him.

"Just heartsick," she confessed, as she broke down sobbing.

"Hey, hey, what's this?" he asked, drawing her into his arms, and pulling her close to his warmth. "Why the tears, love?"

She pushed herself back out of the circle of his arms, trying desperately to find the strength to let him go, even though he would take her heart with him. "It's okay, Zan. I can understand you not wanting to have anything to do with me now. Seems like all I ever do is disappoint you, and mess things up between us, anyway. Who needs that kind of grief in a woman, right?" she said with a wry chuckle.

"What? Karanna, where did you ever get the idea that you are a disappointment to me? The only thing that I'm upset about, is that it seems like I just can't get on a square footing with you. Somehow, I always manage to screw things up for us."

"You haven't messed anything up. But I'm not like Liz," she protested weakly. "Already I can see that. She is strong, and confident, sure of the love that she shares with Max. That's the type of woman you need, Zan. Not someone like me."

"You're wrong, Precious One," he told her softly, as he approached her again, cupping her face in his hands. "You are exactly the woman I need. No one else will ever do. I went along with the program, as far as Ava was concerned, because I didn't know any better. But now that I've met you - you've ruined me for anyone else," he confided, one corner of his mouth lifting in a sad grin. "If you won't have me - I guess I go through life alone." Okay, so he was playing dirty, using guilt and all, but hey. Whatever works.

"I'm just so scared, Zan," she admitted.

"Of what, babe? Of me? I promise, I won't ever do anything to hurt you. Not on purpose, anyway."

Karanna shook her head. "I know that. It's just - I'm afraid of my own feelings. How can I feel so much for you, when I don't even know you?"

"But you do know me. Because we're the same. Deep in your heart, you feel that. And remember - we have met before, just not in the flesh. But those dreams were just as real as us standing here talking. And that's when I first knew that I was in love with you. We belong together, Karanna - you're the other half of me. Without you, I'm lost."

"Oh, Zan," she cried, as she fell into his arms, reveling in the strength of the arms that held her, and the chest that she snuggled against. "I know in my heart I love you - it's just my head keeps trying to tell me that I must be insane. It's just so hard to fathom, that I could be so sure about this."

"I know," he said comfortingly, as he stroked the length of her spine with his gentle hands. "But I plan to make it my goal, to help you learn to trust in our love - every day, for the rest of our lives."

Karanna shuddered at his words. "The rest of our lives? That sounds pretty serious, Zan," she whispered.

"It is serious. I want you to marry me, Karanna. Spend your life with me, bear my children -" Zan choked, when he realized what he had just said.

"It's okay," Karanna assured him. "We'll deal with that situation - together. Don't feel you have to avoid talking about it with me. After all," she said with a shy grin, "if I'm going to be your wife someday, we better not be keeping secrets, right?"

Zan sucked in his next breath audibly. "Do you mean that?" he asked in surprise. "You're willing to marry me?"

Karanna looked up at him, her eyes shining bright with the love that she felt for him. "Yeah, Zan, I'll marry you. After all, we belong together, right?"

Zan hugged her close, and then loosened his hold again to look into her face. "When, Karanna? When will you marry me?"

She eyed him curiously, wondering what was going through his mind. "I don't know," she replied hesitantly. "Right after graduation?" She was amazed, when his face fell, revealing his disappointment. Did he want to wait longer? "Is that too soon?" she asked.

"No!" Zan answered emphatically - so much so, that she jumped within his arms. "I'm sorry - I didn't mean to startle you. It's just.... I was hoping we could get married sooner than that."

"Sooner?" She practically choked on the word. "How soon?"

Zan averted his eyes. "Maybe we better wait to have this discussion. I, uh, think you've had enough surprises for one day," he hedged.

"Zan -? Don't do this to me. What are you not telling me?"

Nervously, he allowed his eyes to gravitate back to hers. "It's, uh, rather complicated," he commented, hoping to put her off.

"I'm not going anywhere," she said firmly. "Now stop avoiding the question."

Zan sighed heavily. "Okay, here's the deal. When Max and Liz get married, they are going to be living on Antar. Before the wedding, we are going to tell our parents and Liz's the truth about who we are. Depending on how that goes - I might have to leave, too."

Karanna gasped. "You mean, move to Antar?"

"Yeah. You just don't know what could happen, once people know about us. You can't ever say anything to Max, that I told you, but -"

"What? Told me what, Zan?" she asked, a trace of fear in her voice.

"They spent a good deal of time running from a secret branch of the FBI back in the spring. They caught Max, and... they did unspeakable things to him, Karanna. They locked him in a room, and they -" Zan choked down the bile that was rising in his throat. "They did horrible experiments on him. Tortured him. Because they knew he wasn't human. So you see, if word gets out, none of us are safe. Except for you, of course. They don't know about you."

Karanna was in shock. How could people be so cruel? Her body began to shake from the horror of what she had heard. Zan pulled her closer, and rocked her in his arms. "Sh, baby, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you so badly. You're safe, as long as you stay away from Roswell."

"B-but if you leave," she sniffled, as her tears began to fall, "we might never find our way back to each other."

"There is that possibility," he acknowledged.

Karanna wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly, as if he were a lifeline. "What are we going to do?" she wailed softly.

He looked down into her wide, trusting eyes. "I want you to come with us, Karanna," he revealed in a desperate plea.

"B-but that's like in three weeks!" she exclaimed. "Surely you don't mean -"

"Yes, Karanna, that's exactly what I mean. I want you to come to Antar with us, and marry me."

"Oh my -" she began to sway, as things around her began to spin. Zan caught her up in his arms, and cradled her close to his chest. Carefully, he slid down the trunk of the tree, to sit against its base. "Precious One, I'm so sorry. I didn't want to spring this on you like this. I knew it would be too much for you."

"J-just give me a minute," she whispered. "Hold me, Zan. Just hold me close. Please."

Zan eagerly complied with her request, raining soft kisses on the top of her head, and forehead. "I love you so much," he professed over and over again, as his lips moved on to her temple, and then he shifted her, so he could continue his sensual adoration of her, finally meeting her lips in a frenzy of desire.

Karanna opened her mouth, eagerly returning his ardent kisses. As his lips left hers, to kiss and suck the length of her throat, she moaned, "Yes. Oh, God, yes, Zan!"

Zan sat up abruptly, staring down into her passion-darkened eyes. "Yes? Yes, what, Karanna?"

"Yes, I'll marry you!" And then she pulled his head down, to engage him in another fiery kiss.

Several minutes later, he pulled away again, breathing erratically. "When, Karanna? When will you marry me?"

She giggled, feeling truly happy for the first time in her life. "Whenever you say, Zan. I can't risk losing you. Not ever."

"Oh, baby," he breathed. "Are you sure? What about your aunt and uncle?"

She bit her bottom lip. "Well? What do you think we should do? Tell them? I don't want them feeling like they failed with me, or did something wrong. Oh Zan, what are we going to do?"

"We'll have to talk it over with Max and Liz. Maybe they can help us figure the best way to handle it." Karanna nodded in agreement. "You do know, that you just made me the happiest man alive, right?" he asked her, with a big, goofy grin.

"Mmmm," she murmured against his lip, kissing him softly. "I think I got the better end of this deal."

"Did not."

"Did so."

"Did not."

"Did so." She looked up at him, the light of love in her eyes, and a huge smile on her face. "Did we just have our first fight as an engaged couple?"

Zan laughed. "God help us, I hope all our fights are that insignificant."

Karanna burrowed against his chest, not able to get close enough to him. "I can't believe this is happening to me. I have been so alone all my life - I never dreamed I could be so happy."

"Me either, Precious One. Me either." They sat there, quiet and contented, for several more minutes, before deciding that they needed to go back and join the others.

The rest of the day was spent planning the upcoming weddings, as well as how they were going to break the news to the adults in their lives. It was decided that they would pick Karanna up in the wee hours of the morning, on the day they were to leave for Antar. She would leave a note for her family, telling them what had happened. When they returned to Roswell, they would gather the Evanses and the Parkers, tell them everything, and then leave. How they responded would largely determine if they ever came back again to visit. But the underlying sentiment was, it was time for them to all make the move back to Antar. They hoped that Michael would understand. It wasn't like he and Maria could never see each other again. After all, Isabel and Alex were going to have to find a way to be together, too.

It was late afternoon, when they dropped Karanna off at her home. Zan walked her to the door, and promised to call her every day, to let her know what was going on. He bent his head, and kissed her softly, wishing more than anything that they were already married, and that he didn't need to leave her. The way her lips lingered against his reassured him that she felt the same. Reluctantly, he took a step back, caressed her cheek with his fingertips, and then turned to run for the Jeep, before he lost his resolve. As Max backed out of the driveway, he saw her blow him one last kiss, and then wave at him, until they turned the corner, and her house was out of sight.


posted on 7-Dec-2001 10:27:52 PM by sheeperz
Well, this is fun. I can't get into the board for some reason. I was able to go into my history folder and get this page to load, but I can't get onto the listing pages. *Sigh* So I can't read anyone else's stuff!!! *sniff*

In the interest of getting this out, I'm posting without a lot of comments. Hope you all enjoy - and as always... Feel free to leave comments! *wink*

Part Seventeen

On Sunday, Max, Liz, and Zan met with Da-nar' at the pod chamber, to discuss the wedding plans. Da-nar' told them that Ge-lar' would be much more help with that than he would, but that Antarian tradition was that the bride and groom were not involved in the planning of the wedding. The actual ceremony and wedding feast, as well as the garments worn for the ceremony and the bridal chamber, were all prepared by the friends and family of the couple being wed.

Liz began to protest, saying that was a lot of work for their friends to do, especially on such short notice, but Max interrupted her, reminding her that it wasn't going to be the major event that it would have been, if they were older, and getting married on earth. There were only a few people who would actually be attending the ceremony and feast, so it really wasn't even going to be that big an ordeal. With a sigh, Liz acquiesced.

And so it was, that Jim, Kyle, Isabel, Alex, Michael, and Maria all came to meet with Ge-lar' the next afternoon. After briefly outlining the ceremony to them, he told them that they were welcome to embellish the traditional Antarian service with things that would bring joy to their friends, and make the day special, such as flowers, favorite foods, and the like. He also informed them that he had in his possession the royal wedding rings, but that if Zan and Karanna wished to exchange rings, they would have to provide them as well.

While they were discussing the details about where the actual ceremony would be held, and where the bridal chambers would be, Tess wandered into the room. Michael jumped up from his seat, and ran to where she stood in the doorway. "Tess! What the hell are you doing in here?! You should be in your room resting!" He attempted to turn her around, to escort her back to her room, but she wrenched her arm free of his grip

Her eyes narrowed, as she looked around the room, to see the people who had been the major players in her life for the last several months. People who had trusted her, and whom she had subsequently betrayed. But not everyone, she noted. Where are Max and Liz? And Zan? "What's going on here?" she suddenly demanded in a shrill voice.

Michael gripped her arm again. "It's really no concern of yours, princess, so how about I take you back to your room?" he grated out.

"Take your hand off of me," she ordered, her tone venomous. She looked at Kyle, hoping to find some sympathy from that quarter. "Kyle? What are you doing on Antar? Are you here to make them see that it's wrong to make me a prisoner like this?" she whined in a pitiful voice.

Kyle chuckled. "You're kidding, right? After I trusted you? We took you into our home, I gave up my room for you, and I even took you into my heart, and then you screwed us all big-time? No, sister, don't be looking for any kind of goodwill from me. As far as I'm concerned, you probably deserve worse than these people will ever give you. Max is too softhearted for his own good, if you ask me."

Tears welled in her eyes at his bitter words. "Kyle, you don't really mean that," she choked out.

"Don't delude yourself, Tess. No one here gives a damn about what happens to you, after the stunts you pulled. Zan is the one we're saving our sympathies for."

"Fine!" she yelled. "I don't need any of you, anyway! Zan will take care of me! After all, I'm carrying our child. He'll come around soon, and realize that if he wants to be a part of his son's life, that includes me! I'm the boy's mother! I'm sure that Zan will see that we all belong together!"

The room fell deadly silent, and they all looked at each other, but no one would meet Tess' gaze. She stood there watching, realizing that they weren't telling her something. "What are you hiding from me?" she demanded. "Has something happened to Zan?" Suddenly, her face blanched, thinking that some horrible fate had come upon the one person who cared what happened to her. Because of her baby.

"Uh, well, you could say that," Jim acknowledged. Isabel and Maria both looked at him with wide, concerned eyes, shaking their heads to tell him not to let on to Tess what was happening. "What?" he questioned in defense of his action. "What harm could it be for her to know? She isn't going anywhere."

"Tell me!" she shrieked.

Ge-lar' walked over to her, and placed a hand on her arm. "Come with me, Tessandra, back to your room, and I will tell you what you wish to know."

Lifting her nose haughtily in triumph, she turned from the assembled group, and walked back to her chamber. They all sat in silence, waiting for the moment when Ge-lar' would break the news to her. It was only a matter of a few seconds, before her scream reverberated through the catacombs. "Nooooooo!!"

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

Liz looked up from behind the counter, when she heard the bells on the front door of the Crashdown jingle. A smile graced her face, as she spotted Max and Zan coming through the entrance, and one pair of warm, amber eyes fixed their gaze on her. She silently said a prayer of thanks that there were currently no customers in the cafe. Max walked up to the counter, and leaned over it, sliding his hand to the back of her head, pulling her forward for his kiss. "Miss me?" he murmured against her soft lips.

"Mmmm. Every second I'm not in your arms," she purred. She felt his smile against her own.

"Good answer," he said with approval. He stole one more lingering kiss, before he released her, and sat down on the stool.

Liz moaned softly at the loss of contact. "So. What brings you boys by?"

Max shrugged. "Just feeling kind of at loose ends, with everyone off plotting - uh, you know."

Liz sighed. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm having a hard time keeping my mind on my work. Already I've messed up two orders," she lamented. "Say, Zan, did you talk to Karanna yet today?"

"No, not yet. I'm trying not to act too pathetic here. The poor girl is going to start thinking I'm checking up on her, or something."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Liz told him with a mysterious smile.

"Oh?" He raised an eyebrow, looking for an explanation of her comment.

Liz smirked. "I just happen to know that she is wild about you, and more than likely counts the seconds between phone calls. After all, I see Max all the time, and it's never enough." Her smoldering gaze fixed on Max, and Max could feel the blood rushing through his veins.

"Really?" Zan asked, oblivious to the sexually charged exchange between his brother and Liz. "Maybe I should go call her -"

"Here," Max said, holding out his cell phone, his eyes never leaving Liz. "Just keep it short. Those minutes have to last me for almost three more weeks."

"Hey, thanks!" Zan answered excitedly. "I promise to keep it short."

Max snorted, briefly sliding a glance at Zan. "Yeah, right." Zan clapped him on the back, and went to sit in the corner booth, where he could talk privately with Karanna. Max's eyes snapped back to Liz.

Liz felt the heat of his gaze to her core. "Uh, Max? Could you come in the back with me for a second?" she asked, pointing to the swinging door. "I was hoping you could give me a... hand with something."

What was it about her whole demeanor, that made Max suspicious of her motives? Every inch of him was tingling in anticipation, as he mumbled, "Sure." He slid off the stool, and walked purposefully into the lounge area beyond the dining room, where Liz met him.

"Um, this way," she instructed, taking his hand, and leading him to the bathroom. "There's just a little problem that I'm hoping you could take care of," she continued, as she placed her hand in the middle of his back, and gave him a little shove into the small room. She quickly followed behind him, and shut the door, locking it behind her back.

"Hmmm," Max said quietly. "Doesn't look like the toilet's plugged." His eyes slid to the sink. "Or the sink, for that matter. So what's your problem, ma'am?" he asked with an innocent look, as he turned to face her fully.

"Well, it's rather complicated," she hedged. "Perhaps I should call in a professional."

"Oh, I don't know. I'm pretty... handy, you know. And my fees are much more reasonable."

"Is that a fact?" she asked demurely. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to know exactly what services I require, before you make such an offer?"

"Mmm. I'll take my chances." He reached out, and pulled her close, bending his head to capture her lips in a searing kiss. His hands ran down the length of her back, over her buttocks, and down her legs, to just below her hemline. Then they began an upward sweep, dipping beneath her uniform, and pushing it up as he went. His hands fairly shook at the feel of her tiny little bikini panties, that left little to the imagination. He slid his hands down inside them, and stroked the flesh of her derriere, before gently grasping it in his hands, kneading it gently. Liz's labored breathing further inflamed his desire, and he backed her up, until she was against the sink. He gently lifted her, and perched her bottom on the edge of the lavatory, stepping between her spread legs, until his hardened flesh was pressed intimately to the juncture between her thighs. Slowly, with agonizing precision, he rotated his hips against her, leaving no room for doubt as to how much he wanted her.

Liz's arms went around his neck, in an effort to steady herself. Her head fell back, exposing her delicate neck, and she wrapped her legs around Max's hips, grinding herself against him, as her arousal escalated. "Oh, Maaax," she moaned, rubbing herself fervently against the straining denim. "God, I need you!"

"Oh, baby, I want to bury myself inside you," he groaned, and pulled back to give himself access to the front of her, where he pulled on the snaps of her uniform, quickly separating the bodice to reveal her lace clad breasts. With a groan of intense desire, he dropped his mouth to kiss the swell of her breast, as his hand cupped her, and gently kneaded her tender flesh. His mouth slid up from her breast to her throat, his tongue leaving a trail of fire as he went. When he reached her ear, he growled. "Just you wait, until we get married. I'm going to love you so long, and so hard, you'll be begging for mercy by the time I'm done."

Max grinned at her aroused gasp, and his tongue darted into her ear, tracing it's contours, causing her to writhe against him, desperately seeking a release for her torment.

"You s-sound awww - awfully sure of yourself, cowboy," she managed to moan out.

Slipping his hand inside the lace cup of her bra, his fingers teased her sensitive flesh, and she arched into him, silently pleading for more. "Am I hearing any complaints?" he asked, as he continued to press himself against her rhythmically.

"N-no!" she gasped out, as she felt her insides clench in anticipation of her pending climax.

Gently squeezing her breast, he reminded her, "I told you I was handy."

"True," she panted. "But that was some mighty big claim you just made." She shuddered, as she teetered on the verge of release.

"Don't worry, baby," he ground out, trying to hold off his own release, waiting for her. "I'll make good on it, I promise."

"Ooohh!" Liz wailed, burying her face in Max's chest to muffle her cry as she came apart in his arms. Feeling her bucking against him, as spasms rocked her body, sent him over the edge. He held her tight to himself, fighting the urge to emit a shout of satisfaction as he came.

As their breathing returned to normal, Max murmured with a smirk, "So. What was it you needed help with?"

"Uh, actually, I think you took care of the problem rather nicely. Thank you."

"No problem, ma'am. We aim to please." Liz gasped and turned bright red, as her mind caught the double entendre. Max chuckled. "Yep, it's gonna be some fun wedding night."

Liz swatted him. "As much as I hate to break up this little party -"

A knock sounded on the door. "Liz? You in there?" It was Zan.

Liz cleared her throat. "Uh, yeah. What's up?"

"You have customers waiting. Thought you should know."

"Okay thanks." She listened intently for the sound of retreating footsteps, that never came.

Silence. "Max, let the girl get back to work," Zan suddenly called through the door. He chuckled at Liz's embarrassed gasp, and went back to sit in his booth.

Max helped Liz put herself back together, and then swatted her playfully on the rear, as she exited the bathroom. She gave a little shriek as she jumped. "Cut that out!" she ordered in a harsh whisper. She flung the swinging door open, missing Michael by a narrow margin. "Oh!' she cried. "I'm sorry!"

"No problem. You break my nose, I'll just get Maxwell to patch me up."

Liz giggled at his casual attitude. He sure had changed over the last year. She was proud to have him for a friend. Looking out into the dining area, she saw Maria, Alex, and Isabel sitting with Zan. "Oooo! Max! They're back!" she squealed. She quickly waited on her customers, who were beginning to get impatient, and placed their orders with the kitchen help. Then she made a beeline to where her friends were sitting. "So? Did you get everything planned?" She asked excitedly. "What are we wearing? Are there any strange traditions we have to follow? What about the food?"

"Liz!" They all said at once. She stopped the flow of questions, and looked at them, puzzled.

"First of all," Maria said in a hushed tone, "Where are your parents? Do you have any idea how loud you were just now? What if they hear?"

Liz gave a dismissing wave of her hand. "They went out to dinner, and then a movie. They won't be back for hours."

"Aside from that," Isabel broke in, "we can't tell you anything about the arrangements."

"Wait. I know we weren't supposed to be in on making the arrangements, but now you're telling me they have to be kept a secret?"

"That's right," Alex confirmed, lending weight to the assertion.

Now Zan looked worried. "You guys wouldn't do anything.... weird, right? Cuz, I mean, we all could take it in stride, if you planned some joke or something, but I don't know about Karanna. She's pretty sensitive."

Isabel gave her brother a sympathetic look. "Don't worry, brother of mine. I don't want to do anything to get off on the wrong foot with one of my new sisters." Zan heaved a sigh of relief.

"Just remember," Liz warned, looking at Maria, "You screw up my wedding with some sort of prank, and I won't be happy either."

"Chica, you wound me," Maria pouted, her hand clasped to her chest over her heart. "This is the event of the century for me. I get to be a wedding consultant for a Royal affair! Imagine it, me, little Maria DeLuca from Nowhere, USA. No, I'm not risking my reputation by making a circus of your wedding."

"Thank you." Liz was profoundly grateful for the reassurance, although she really would have rather known what the plans were.

"All you need to do," Alex informed Liz and Zan, and Max, as he stepped up behind Liz, "is to make sure you're at the portal, at the time we tell you to be. Simple as that. So relax, and enjoy the next three weeks. Okay?"

Liz felt Max's strong, warm hand caress her back. "Yeah, okay," she agreed. Giving Max a quick kiss, she left the table, and began taking care of the customers that had begun pouring into the restaurant.

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

"Where da hell is he?!" Lonnie shrieked. "I've checked every place I could think of!"

"How should I know?!" Rath hollered back. They both turned to glare at Ava, who was cowering in the corner, scared spitless by their violent tendencies. "What do yous know about where da man went?" Rath spat out at her.

"N-nothing," she answered nervously. "He - he does this a lot lately, ya know? He's been disappearin' for days on end for weeks now. He neva told me where he was goin'."

Rath grabbed her by her hair, and yanked her to her feet. "Issat right? And what if we don't believe you? I thought yous was supposed to be da man's queen? Yous expect me to believe that he just up and takes off, without tellin' ya where he'll be?"

"That's right!" Ava snapped back, in a rare show of courage.

It was short-lived, however, when Rath yanked her head backwards, by the hair he still held firmly in his fist. "What did yous say to me?" he barked at her.

"N-nothing," she replied, cowering, her teary eyes huge in her pale face.

Rath flashed a cruel smile. "Yeah, that's what I thought." With that, he threw her away from him, as if she were no more than a rag doll.

"What da hell do we do now?" Lonnie griped. "Only da man can go to da summit meeting. No King, no deal. And where is Nicholas? Little weasel - haven't seen him in a week now. Prob'ly off tryin' to get in Tess' pants, behind the other's back."

Rath went still. "That's it."

"Huh? What's it? What da hell is you babblin' about?"

"The other. Da man in Roswell. We can get him to go to da summit."

The corners of Lonnie's mouth lifted in a devious grin. "Not bad, soldier boy. I knew there was some reason I was keepin' yous around. Yo, let's head out," she commanded them, as she grabbed her jacket from the shabby couch. When she saw that Ava was dazed, and still slumped against the wall where Rath had thrown her, she nodded toward her and told Rath, "Help the little princess get movin'. We ain't got no time to be wastin'." Grumbling, Rath did as he was bidden, and they left the lair, in search of some wheels to "borrow" for their trip.






posted on 9-Dec-2001 11:59:22 PM by sheeperz
Hehehe. Well, glad that I entertained AND surprised you with that last part. *big*

Hope that you aren't disappointed with the turn of events in tonight's part of the continuing saga. Let me know what you think!


Part Eighteen

Thursday afternoon, a 1996 Grand Marquis pulled up across the street from Roswell High, its occupants hoping to catch a glimpse of the person they were searching for. As luck would have it, a couple walked into the parking lot, their arms around each other, and got into a Jeep. The one driving appeared to be the one they sought. The similarities were obvious. The outsiders sat and waited, wondering why the young man didn't start the vehicle and leave.

That was when they saw him. Hopping into the rear seat, was another young man, identical in appearance to the first. Was it possible? Could this be where he had disappeared to? And why?

Suddenly seeing red, Lonnie started the car, and slammed it in gear, following the Jeep back into the heart of Roswell. When the Jeep pulled up in front of a restaruant, ironically called the "Crashdown Cafe", she snorted, and parked the car across the street. As she turned the engine off, she looked up at the building she had parked in front of. The UFO Center. Dear God, could it get any worse?

Lonnie and Rath watched the twins and the petite brunette enter the cafe, as Ava cowered in a corner of the back seat. After waiting for 15 minutes, it became apparent that they weren't planning on leaving any time soon. Through the window, they could see the king and his dupe sitting at a booth, one of them slipping covert glances to the brunette, as she waited on other customers. When she brought them food and drink, Lonnie lost what little patience she had been hanging onto.

"That's it. I say we go in and confront them right here, right now. I'm tired of this stupid cat an' mouse game."

"Do you think it's safe?" Rath questioned. "What if our dupes show up? Then what do we do?"

"Chance we gotta take," she growled. "Beats sittin' here like a bunch of losers. Le's go." Rath and Lonnie got out of the car, but Ava remained curled in a ball in the back seat. Lonnie whipped open the door, and Ava nearly fell out onto the pavement. "Yous too, princess. We ain't leavin' yous out here, jus' waitin' to make trouble." She grabbed Ava's arm, and yanked her out of the car.

Striding purposefully, Lonnie made a beeline for the Crashdown, trailing Ava in her wake. Rath brought up the rear, just in case Ava tried anything. With no effort at subtlety, Lonnie flung open the door to the Crashdown, and marched right up to the booth where Zan and Max were sitting. Both young men looked up at the same instant, one's face registering shock, the other groaning in dismay. Speaking to the latter, Lonnie said, "Yo, bro, what da hell yous doin' here? An' lookin' like that? Did yous forget da summit?"

"No, Lonnie, I haven't forgotten a thing. And before we go any further, let me introduce you to Max Evans." He lowered his voice. "The King of Antar."

"What da hell -?!"

"Max? Is there a prob -" Liz's voice came from behind Lonnie. Lonnie turned toward the voice. "Oh my God," Liz whispered.

"Well, well, what have we here?" Rath asked, his eyes raking the length of Liz's shapely form. "What say, we ditch these freaks, and go have some fun, beautiful?"

Max stood, pulling Liz into a protective embrace. "I don't think you really want to do that," he informed Rath.

Lonnie slapped Rath up side the head. "Use da little brains yous got," she ordered. "She's da man's bitch. Hands off."

Liz turned six shades of red. "What did you call me?!"

Max tightened his hold on her, to keep her from lunging at Lonnie. "I don't think that Liz appreciates your vulgar street lingo, and neither do I. Show some respect."

Rath scowled at Lonnie, and held up his hands in a placating gesture to Max. "Yo, we's cool. No need to be gittin' testy, duke."

Zan finally got a word in edgewise. "Where's Ava?" he queried, with a menacing tone.

"Yo, here, Zan," came a meek voice from behind Rath and Lonnie. They had been purposely keeping her screened from his view.

"Let me see her," he demanded, when neither Rath nor Lonnie moved. Lonnie inclined her head, and did as he requested. Rath stood staring him down, but Ava walked around him, and came into plain view.

Max and Liz gasped, when they saw the purple bruises on her face, but Zan merely stood there, his jaw working as he held back his rage, while his fists alternately clenched and relaxed at his sides. The hell of it was, he felt responsible. He should have known that something like this would happen to her, without him there to protect her from Rath and Lonnie.

"Max, I think we need to take these two someplace private to talk," Zan gritted out, his eyes never leaving Rath's.

"I'll be back later, Liz," Max murmured to her, and gave her a quick kiss, before leading the group outside. "Get in your car, and follow us," Max ordered, not even looking at the dupes.

Lonnie started to cross the street, and Rath reached for Ava. Zan stepped in front of her, blocking Rath's attempt. "You go with Lonnie. Ava's coming with me."

"Yo, yous not da man anymore. What makes you think I gotta listen to what yous say?"

"Because he -" Zan pointed to Max, "is 'da man', and if you mess with me, you mess with my brother. And it won't be pretty for you. So be a good little boy, and go get in the car with Lonnie."

As he finished, Lonnie pulled her vehicle up next to the Jeep. She rolled down the power window. "Is there a problem, boys?"

"No problem," Zan replied cheerily. "Just explaining the way things are to Rath, here." He shifted his gaze to Rath. "Now, run along." Rath was seething, but he complied with the command. He didn't want to have an alien showdown in clear view of the entire town of Roswell, New Mexico. But it was coming. Zan was going to pay.

Zan helped Ava into the back seat of the Jeep, then vaulted into the front passenger's seat next to Max. Max backed out of the parking space, and headed out of town. He checked his rearview mirror, to make sure Lonnie was behind them. Returning his gaze to the road, he asked Zan, "What do I need to know about this situation?"

"I told you about the summit meeting. It's coming up in another week. Lonnie is hell-bent that we have to be represented at this meeting. She's convinced that we can negotiate for peace for our planet. For some strange reason, she wants to get home."

"She wants to get back to Ki-var'," Max revealed. "Lonnie must have discovered that Vilandra and Ki-var' were lovers. Vilandra betrayed her family to help him, because she was in love with him. Then he killed them all. End of story."

"Including her?"

"I'm not sure how Vilandra died. But none of that is important. Lonnie knows the story, but what she doesn't know is that she isn't really of Vilandra's essence. If she thinks she can go and pick up where Vilandra left off with Ki-var', she's going to have a rude awakening."

"I say let her go. They deserve each other."

"Maybe. But we don't know if Ki-var' even knows there are two sets of us. My guess would be no, if he is contacting your group in New York, instead of ours. Now, I can't see Lonnie keeping information like that to herself. Especially if she thinks it will somehow get her back in Ki-var's good graces."

"Good point. So, what are we going to do about the summit?"

"In the past two timelines, I went in your place, because Lonnie and Rath had killed you. From what I gather, it was a royal waste of time - uh, pardon the pun." Zan chuckled. "Anyway, all Ki-var' wanted was the granilith, and we weren't about to give it to him. We still aren't. Although, it would be interesting to see who he sends to represent him at the summit," Max added, his mouth quirked in a lopsided grin.

"That would be Nicholas," Ava spoke from the back. "Although, Lonnie is pretty upset with him. He ain't contacted her for near 2 weeks."

Zan turned to face her with a scowl. "Lonnie has been meeting with Nicholas?" he demanded, as he noted again the bruises on her face. Ava nodded. "How long?"

"Three, maybe four months."

"And you neglected to mention it to me?"

"When would I do that, Zan?" she snapped, her underlying hurt evident in the look in her eyes. "Yous ain't nevva around. And when yous there - " She dropped her eyes. "we's nevva alone. Yous want, I should talk about this right in front of her?"

Zan sighed, regret etched in his features. "I'm sorry, Ava, you're right. I really couldn't expect you to tell me with Lonnie standing there."

Ava reached between the seats, and laid her cool hand on Zan's cheek. "I'm tellin' yous now, though, right? And she and Nicholas are up to no good."

Max looked at Zan, and Zan read the silent question in his eyes. He nodded to Max, that Ava could be trusted. "You don't have to worry about Nicholas, Ava," Zan told her.

"No? Why's that?"

"Nicholas is dead."

"OH!" Ava clamped her hand over her mouth to stifle her shriek of surprise. Once she'd pulled herself back together, she inquired, "What happened?"

"He and Tess kidnapped one of our human friends, and endangered his life, trying to get information. Nicholas tried to kill Max, but we connected, and were able to stop him. Translation, we fried him."

"Yous have that kind of power?" she asked wid-eyed, totally in awe.

"Together, we do, yes," Zan told her. "There's something you should know. Max and I aren't dupes, Ava. We are brothers. Identical twins, actually."

"Oh, my God...." She sat quietly for a moment, then turned to Max. "So - why are yous with the human, instead of with Tess? She's s'posed to be your bride. Like me and Zan."

Zan reached out to take Ava's hand. "Ava, that's something else I need to tell you. All that destiny crap? That's all it was. Nasedo was working for Ki-var', and that's why he told us all of that stuff. Tess is Ki-var's sister. And you are made from her essence." He watched her for her reaction. When all he saw was confusion on her face, he asked, "Do you understand what that means, Ava? You aren't even Antarian. You're Talerian."

Tears sprung to Ava's eyes. "So it was all a lie? We aren't meant to be?"

Zan cupped her cheek in his strong, warm palm. "I'm sorry, princess, but no. I'd give anything not to hurt you, but I can't lie to you anymore."

A single tear ran down her cheek. "It's okay, y'know? I knew I wasn't makin' yous happy, and it was eatin' me up inside. But when we couldn't even talk anymore -"

"Ava, I am so sorry. I just didn't know what to say to you. I love you - but just not that way. I'd like for us to be friends, but I'll understand if -"

She wrapped her hand around his, where it still held her cheek, as she interrupted. "I'd like that."

She gave him a watery smile, and he brought her hand to his lips, and tenderly kissed the backs of her fingers. "Now, let's see what we can do about those bruises -" Zan lifted his hand to her face, and tenderly laid it on the purple blotches, repairing the tissue damage. He smiled at his handiwork. "That's better," he said tenderly. "You're much to pretty to walk around looking like you've been someone's punching bag." Anger flashed from his eyes, and his nostrils flared, as he imagined what she had been subjected to, in order to obtain those marks of abuse.

"Hey," she whispered. "I's all right. I can take what that jerk Rath dishes out."

"Not anymore," Zan proclaimed with great conviction. "From now on, you're under our protection. I don't want you going anywhere near Rath or Lonnie - understood?"

Ava smiled shyly. He really did love her and care about her, even if it wasn't as her man. "Sure, I got it," she answered.

Zan sighed in relief, and turned around to face the front again, collapsing into the seat. He needed to get his tension under control, before they stopped and confronted Rath and Lonnie. "So what are you going to tell Rath and Lonnie?" he asked Max.

"That there's no deal. Neither one of us are going to waste our time going to the summit. We don't need anything that Ki-var' has to offer. We are taking back our homeland, and there will be no negotiations. As far as I'm concerned, turnabout is fair play. We don't stop, until Ki-var' is dead." Max looked over his shoulder, when he heard Ava gasp.

"Do yous think yous can do that?" she asked in surprise. "He's much more powerful than even Nicholas. How will yous take him out?"

"We have recently acquired some knowledge of Antarian battle strategy that may aid us," Max told her. "We'll just have to see how things play out. All I know is, we are going home - on our terms. Now - the question that begs to be asked is: are you with us, or against us, Ava?"

"Yo, I'm no fool," she replied adamantly, with pride. "Any friend of Lonnie's is an enemy of mine. Count me in."

Max smiled. "I'd be glad to. Welcome to the war." Max turned the Jeep off the road, and pulled up in front of the Old Soap Factory. "Well, here we are."

"Where's here?" Ava asked.

"It used to be a soap factory, but now it gets used for a variety of things, most of which are outside the realm of legal activity," he revealed with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "It's a hot spot for wild parties, or as a hideout spot for unsavory types. A lot of drug dealers conduct business out here, I'm told. Which means it's a good place for private meetings, like this one." Max scanned the area. "Good. Looks like we have the place to ourselves. Let's get this over with." He hopped out of the vehicle, and strode over to where Lonnie had stopped their car, a few yards away, Zan and Ava following close behind.

"Charmin' place yous got," Lonnie said snidely, scanning the run-down building.

"Yeah, well, it beats the sewers," Max retorted, in a moment of uncharacteristic condescension. His patience was wearing thin.

"Yo, we don't live in da sewers, knothead," Rath snapped, making a threatening advance on Max.

Not backing down, Max flashed him an insolent grin. "Sorry, soldier. Guess the finer points of distinction are lost on me. Now, what do you two want?"

"Zan tell yous about da summit?" Lonnie queried, shooting Rath a look that told him to keep his mouth shut.

"Yeah, I know about it."

"Well? One of yous needs to be there, to represent da family. Guess that would be yous, being that yous da man, an' all."

"Oh, I'm 'da man', all right. But I'm not going to the summit."

"What?! Maybe I haven't made myself clear here," Lonnie growled through gritted teeth. "Someone from Antar has to represent da family. And it has to be da King. There'll be a test, and only da King can pass. No king, no summit."

"Well, guess that settles that, then," Max announced disinterestedly. "Cuz I'm not going. You can phone your boyfriend back on Antar, and tell him for me, that the granilith is not on the auction block, and we aren't going to negotiate with a coward." He pinned her with an icy stare. "Do you get my meaning, Lonnie?"

She stood there, slack jawed, wondering how in hell he knew so much about her plans. Her eyes narrowed, and she demanded, "What are you accusing me of?"

"Hmmm, let me think. How many ways can you say 'betrayal'? Zan?"

"Let's see," Zan began, thoughtfully. "Well, there's betrayal, of course. Then there's also treachery, treason, sedition, consorting with the enemy -"

"Yo, hold on a minute," Rath interrupted. "That's twice now yous insinuated Lonnie has somethin' goin' with Ki-var'. But Lonnie's my woman. Tell them," he commanded her. Lonnie just stared at him, one brow lifted as if to tell him he was being naive. "Damn it, Lonnie! When was yous gonna tell me? When we got back to Antar?"

"Oh, I'd be willing to bet that you were never going to make it back to Antar," Zan interjected, totally bursting Rath's bubble. "Isn't that right, Lonnie? You were probably going to kill him and Ava, just like you had planned to kill me."

"I nevva -!"

"Oh, yes you did," Max halted her lie with his sharp statement. "Zan would have refused to go to the summit, and you would have killed him, to get him out of the way. Then you would have been here on my doorstep, begging me to take his place. Don't even try to deny it."

Lonnie's hatred for Max knew no bounds. With daggers in her eyes, she hissed, "How do yous know so much?"

"That's none of your concern. Oh - but something that might interest you... you aren't really from Vilandra's essence. All you are is a decoy. A poor imitation of our sister. So you see? You go running back to Ki-var', and you'll probably end up dead. He's not going to be interested in some sort of royal reject. Especially when he learns that your Antarian essence - and Rath's for that matter - came from a couple of criminals. You'll be baggage better left behind."

"You're lying!" Lonnie shouted. "My name is Lonnie - short for Vilandra! Why else would they call me that, if not because that's who I am?"

"Tsk, tsk, Lonnie. You really aren't very bright, are you?" Max taunted. "What good is a decoy, if you call the original by the name everyone recognizes, and the decoy by a name that's totally foreign?" Max saw the dawning comprehension in their eyes, accompanied by Lonnie's gasp of horror. "Yes - I see you are following along now. Very good," he mocked. Something about the dupes just brought the worst out in him.

"Yeah? Well what about them?" Rath exploded, pointing at Zan and Ava. "Aren't they some sort of criminal decoys, too?"

"Actually, no," Max explained, rallying his dwindling patience. "Zan is from the same essence as I am - we are identical twins. Ava - she is a hybrid of Ki-var's own sister, Tess."

"Tess is Ki-var's sister?" Rath asked in surprise.

"In the flesh," Zan confirmed. "No hybrid about it."

"Then she ain't the bride?" Lonnie guessed.

"You catch on quick," Max snorted, belying the compliment.

"Well damn, if dat don't beat all," Rath muttered.

Straightening herself to her full height, Lonnie declared, "It don't matter, anyway. Nicholas said we'd get safe passage home, if we got da granilith for Ki-var'. And so we shall."

"I don't think so," Max contradicted her. "You see, Nicholas isn't in any position to provide you with anything right now."

"What's dat s'posed to mean?" she snapped.

"Nicholas is dead," Ava announced, entering the conversation for the first time. She was thrilled to impart that little piece of news to her tormentor.

"He's what?! How da hell did that happen?"

"Zan and Max killed him," Ava proclaimed proudly. "So yous see? We're done playing games with yous -"

"Ava -" Zan said in a menacing tone. "Zip your lip, girl." Ava looked chagrined, instantly falling silent.

"Yeah, listen to da man, you bitch," Lonnie growled, as she stepped toward Ava, her malicious intent clearly written on her face.

"That's far enough, Lonnie," Max warned. "Ava is staying with us, and she is under our protection now. Translation - off limits."

"I don't have to listen to yous!" Lonnie barked at him. "Yous think yous can just toss us aside, and make decisions that affect all our lives. but I won't stand for it!" She lunged toward Ava, and Max threw up a shield to protect Ava. Lonnie screamed, when her momentum carried her into the sphere of energy, jolting her but good, and knocking her on her backside. "How pathetic. Yous think yous can stop us like that?" she taunted, getting to her feet.

"Uh, I think I just did," Max answered derisively.

"Only cuz you caught me by surprise," she snorted. "Rath?"

"With yous, Lonnie." The two of them connected, and came at Max's shield together, stopping short of it's outer perimeter, and focusing their energy into trying to blow a hole in the protective field Max had around himself, Zan, and Ava.

Max felt a slight drain in his energy, but nothing significant. He feigned a yawn of boredom. "That the best you two can manage?"

Lonnie's hatred fueled her powers, and she channeled it into their effort. A small weak spot began to emerge in the energy field that Max was using. Ava bit her lip in worry. Zan saw her fearful gesture, and reassured her. "Don't worry. Everything's gonna be all right."

Zan exchanged a look with Max, and at Max's nod, Zan clasped his brother's forearm, and looked him in the eye, opening himself to the connection that would change the face of this battle. The bond that they shared linked them instantly, and with a loud crackle, Max's shield intensified, enlarging until it had overtaken Lonnie and Rath, leaving them lying motionless on the ground in its wake. Max broke the connection, and Zan bent to check on the two alien hybrids he had grown up thinking of as family.

"They're dead," he reported dispassionately. He looked back over his shoulder, when he heard Ava's sharply indrawn breath.

"My God -" she whispered.

"Well, we can't be leaving dead alien bodies lying around," Max reminded Zan. He knelt beside Lonnie, Zan already being at Rath's side. Placing their hands on each of the fallen dupes, they focused their energies into disintegrating the bodies. When the finished, they simply swept some loose sand over the charred remains.

Standing, Zan looked into Ava's eyes. "I guess you don't need to worry about being abused by them any more."

Ava couldn't respond. She just stared at the spot where the bodies had been laying, unable to process what had just happened. Zan put his arm around her shoulders, and guided her back to the Jeep. Once he had her settled in, he climbed into the front, and they took off for Roswell.

"Better tell Valenti about the car," he mentioned to Max. "It's undoubtedly stolen."

"Right. Thanks for thinking of it."

"No problem," Zan answered distractedly.

"You okay?" Max questioned him.

Zan closed his eyes and nodded. "What bothers me the most is - it doesn't bother me. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do," Max admitted softly. "I don't want to get to the point where killing becomes so easy, that I don't hesitate to take another life. But we have to be prepared to face the fact, that we are going to have to fight for what is rightfully ours. This is war. People die. We can't fall apart every time it happens."

"You're right, of course. And Lonnie and Rath were a big liability. They never could have been turned to our side, and we certainly couldn't leave them here, to wreak their vengeance on humanity."

"Well said." He glanced into the back seat. "Is she going to be okay?" he asked of Zan.

"Yeah, I'll take care of her. Do you suppose Valenti would be willing to take her in? She's gonna need a place to stay."

"I think if we explain that she's nothing like Tess, they'll be okay with it. Besides, it'll keep people from wondering what happened to Tess, if we can get Ava to impersonate her. Think she'll go along?"

"I'll ask her. But first, I just want to get her someplace safe. The poor girl's been through a lot." Max nodded, and they rode the rest of the way back to town in silence.




posted on 10-Dec-2001 11:28:37 PM by sheeperz
Hi guys! Well, I still can't get onto the main page, so I can read other people's stuff, but thank God for the history folder, so I can get into my own thread!! Oh well, at least this keeps me writing, instead of reading, huh? LOL

Thanks so much for all the feedback, guys! Some thoughts for y'all....

Robyn - Yes, it would seem Tess has lost the last ray of hope, where the podsters are concerned. Not much incentive for her to behave any more, you're right.

Linda - Yes, Zan *was* protective of Ava, wasn't he? Are we noticing the shift, from the restless Zan that avoided her at all costs? Yes, indeedy, the human side of that boy is emerging, in all its glory. A beautiful thing to behold, IMO. *sigh*

Roswellluver - That will be the $64,000 question, won't it? Will they have enough power to overcome Ki-var'? I'm not tellin! hehehe

Lara - I know you all are still wondering what is up with those weddings. Well, they're coming! Soon, I hope! Now that the dupes are history, and Ava has a place to stay, there isn't much more that has to happen twixt now and then. Oh my. Guess I better get busy, huh?

Jiggers - LOL! I love your enthusiasm! Contain yourself no longer, sweets!

Mara - I was glad to see that many of you didn't think my "offing" the dupes was too quick and callous. But to be honest, I find them to be a pain in the tush. Now *I* don't have to deal with them any more! LOL! *bounce*

Izzy - Kyle, Kyle, Kyle, Kyle, Kyle..... There! I said it! *silly grin* You'll understand, when you read this part!

Brigitte - You hit the nail on the head, babe. "Misguided human compassion" is the catch phrase. Indiscriminate killing is not a good thing (Reflection: Nasedo), but neither is being a doormat for evil to roll you into the ground. Discernment is the name of the game. And I think that Max and Zan have a good handle on that one. Notice, despite his initial reaction to fry the evil ones, Zan always looks to Max for confirmation? Doesn't want to let blood lust control his life.

Ladylou - Oh, I'd say that Ava is gonna be more than "okay"... *giggle*

Jane - yeah, I could have left the dupes around for a while longer, but why? So they could be an interminable menace? I think Max and Zan had the same thought... LOL

Mudshovel - "Power Twins"... *big* too cute. And appropriate!

Kittens - Loved your take on the upcoming summit. Actually, it won't ever take place. That is ONE thing that I need to deal with, before the weddings.

Jane (BITL) - The herbal broth was not supposed to sedate Tess. They want her to think that she is recovering, and besides, it probably wouldn't be safe to sedate her, with her being pregnant and all.

No, the herbs are to suppress her ability to mind-warp. Actually, and psychic abilities she has would be impeded by its usage. Ge-lar' is using them, so that they don't have to worry about her playing head games with them again! *wink*

Here's the new part. I'll be interested to see what you all think of this latest development. I know *some* of you will be pleased (winks at Izzy), but I hope you don't think things are moving too.... FAST. Who'd have ever thought I could be accused of that, huh?

Hope you enjoy!

Part Nineteen

Max pulled into the Valenti's driveway right behind the Sheriff, who was just returning home from work. "Hey, Max," Jim called, as the Evans twins got out of their vehicle. "Zan." Zan nodded, and then turned to help Ava out of the back seat, lifting her gently to the ground. When Jim caught sight of her, his eyes widened. "Max - what's going on?" he asked warily.

"Uh, we have a favor to ask of you," Max said uncertainly, scratching the back of his head nervously, as he looked sheepishly at the older man.

"You're kidding, right? After all she's put us through, you bring her back here?"

"No!" Max declared emphatically. "You don't quite understand -" Max looked around, and noticing neighbors out in their yards turning to look, he suggested, "Maybe we should go inside."

Jim followed Max's line of sight, and nodded. Silently, he led the way into the house, tossing his keys on the ledge by the door. Once they were all in, and the door closed behind them, he inquired, "Damn it, Max, what don't I understand?" He was looking Ava over, wondering what Tess was up to now.

"See, the thing is - this isn't Tess," Max informed him, and noted the Sheriff's surprise. "You remember that Zan came from the city, and there was a duplicate set of hybrids there with him? This is Ava. She was their version of Tess."

"Fine. Nice to meet you. Now what does this have to do with me?" he asked curtly. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next.

"Well, see... she kinda needs a place to stay -"

"No way, Max! After the havoc that Tess wreaked on our family, you want me to take in her clone, and go through all that again? And I must confess, I don't know why you are taking her in, knowing what she's capable of."

Putting his arm around her protectively, Zan spoke up sharply, in Ava's defense. "Hey, Ava's nothing like that betraying bitch Tess. Ava's never hurt a soul in her life, and I doubt if she'd even know how. As much as Tess is bad, Ava is good. And I lived with the girl everyday of my life here on Earth, up until a week and a half ago. So I think I know her pretty well."

Jim assessed her with obvious skepticism. "She's not Antarian, is she?"

"No, she's Talerian, like Tess. Well, half. The other half is human."

"Max, you know what Kyle's reaction is going to be if he comes home and finds -"

"Finds what?" Kyle asked from the open doorway. "What are you frickin' aliens hatching now? Oops, no pun intended," he added sarcastically.

"Hey, Kyle," Max greeted wearily. He had really hoped to have this settled without Kyle getting involved in the discussion, turning it into a three ring circus.

"Max is looking for a place their friend Ava can stay for a while," Jim explained.

"Geez, Evans, what do you think this is? An alien boarding house?" Kyle caught his first glimpse of Ava, and flipped out. "Damn! What is this? Are there two of all of you? And why in HELL would you think we'd let Tess' clone stay here, after the way the bitch screwed with us?! I'm surprised you even want anything to do with her!"

"Yous know what? I think I'd rather just find a quiet alley somewhere, Zan," Ava said softly to him, looking up in his amber eyes. Normally she could get lost in their depths, so full of life and laughter. But now a chill ran down her spine, seeing such coldness reflected there.

"You'll do no such thing," Zan replied, his own voice quiet and soothing, despite the rage he was feeling inside. These people didn't even know her, and yet they were judging her, based on her physical resemblance to Tess. Even though he had to acknowledge that the Valentis had taken on more than they bargained for with the Talerian princess, he still couldn't deal with anyone hurting Ava.

It was Jim that spoke up on Ava's behalf to Kyle. "Zan assures me that Ava is nothing like Tess. He's lived with her all his life, and he ought to know better than anyone what kind of person she is."

"I don't believe this! You're actually thinking of letting her stay here, aren't you?" Kyle exploded.

"It'll only be for a couple of weeks, Kyle," Max informed him, hoping to defuse his anger. "Just until the weddings. She'll have to move back to Antar with us then."

"Why not just send her back there now?" Kyle snapped. "I'm sure Ge-lar' could find some place to put her."

"We could," Max agreed, "but I was thinking that if she was here to impersonate Tess, it might keep people from suspecting that something was up. I mean, Tess disappeared so suddenly... if she 'reappears', it will take away the necessity for explanations. Once we are all gone back to Antar, it won't matter any more what people think."

Kyle looked at Max skeptically. "Two weeks, huh?"

"Well, two and a half."

Kyle looked at his father. "You think this is a wise idea?"

"I think that I trust Max and Zan, and if Zan says she's okay, then I'm not worried. We all knew that Tess was an unknown quantity, being raised by a ruthless killer like Nasedo. She was a risk I chose to take, and it backfired. What she did wasn't right, and we can't change that. But to punish someone else for Tess' evil ways isn't right, either. I say we let the girl stay here. Like they said, it's only for a couple of weeks."

Kyle sighed heavily, and threw his hands up. "Fine. But I swear, Evans, if she messes with our heads, you're gonna pay."

"Fair enough," Max agreed.

Kyle looked back at Ava, and noticed that she was crying, as she was looking up at Zan. She was speaking softly, but he could barely make out the words.

"Please, Zan, don't leave me here alone with them. They hate me already, and I'm scared. What if they -" She managed to choke back a sob.

"What, princess? What has you so worried?"

"Lonnie and Rath," she sniffed out.

Before she could explain further, Zan reminded her, "Lonnie and Rath can't hurt you anymore, sweets." He stroked her cheek with his thumb, in an attempt to soothe her.

"No, that's not what I mean. But they had so much hate, and they took it out on me," she choked out. "An' now yous want me to stay with people who have that same kind of hate for me? Please, Zan, don't make me stay here," she pleaded.

Hearing her beg Zan with such fear in her voice, and knowing that he was the source of that fear, made Kyle feel ashamed. This girl really was different from the arrogant, self-absorbed alien that had commandeered his bedroom for the last month and a half. Something about her tugged at his heart. Damn, he thought to himself, I must be a real sucker for alien chics, or something. He wanted to fight his urge to protect this mite of a girl, but found he didn't have the strength of will it would take, when he looked at her big, fear-filled eyes. "Hey," he said softly, walking up to stand next to her. When she cowered at his approach, his heart ached. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I'm sorry, okay? I promise, even though my mouth runs away with me sometimes, I'll never hurt you." Looking at Zan, he demanded with a lethal softness, "Who the hell brought such terror into her life?"

"Lonnie and Rath - Isabel and Michael's dupes. They liked to use Ava for a punching bag," he told Kyle, his jaw clenched in anger.

"The bastards," Kyle gritted out in response. He placed a gentle hand on Ava's back, and refused to pull it away, when she flinched. He wanted her to know that his touch would never bring her pain. "I promise you - no one here is going to hurt you. I hope you can believe that, and feel free to stay here. I haven't even gotten rid of Tess' things out of my room yet, so you can have her clothes and junk to use."

Warming to him, she asked innocently, "Where will you sleep?"

"On the couch."

"Oh, no, I couldn't -" she began to protest.

Kyle chuckled. "Don't think anything of it. I've gotten used to it." He searched Ava's eyes for any trace of the deceptive, treacherous characteristics that were so prevalent in Tess. But all he found was a sweet innocence. No wonder Lonnie and Rath were able to beat on her at will. She may have grown up on the streets, but she wasn't street tough. She needed someone to protect her. Kyle was shocked, to find himself wanting to be that someone. "You really are different from her," he mused aloud. "First thing Tess did was kick me out of my room without a second thought. And here, you act like you're guilty of driving me from the room, when I willingly offer it to you." His hand lifted from her back, to stroke her hair. "I think we'll get along just fine. After all, it's only for a couple of weeks, right?" Damn, but why did it make his gut twist, just thinking of her leaving? I need to have my head examined. I just met the girl, for heaven's sake....

Ava looked to Zan, who nodded. "I - I guess so," she answered haltingly. "I'm not sure I understand what's going on, but I guess I'll find out the plan, soon. I appreciate yous lettin' me stay here, though," she said gratefully, looking from Kyle, to his dad. "Thanks."

"Hey, no problem," Kyle quickly assured her. Giving her a warm smile, he turned her, with and arm around her shoulder. "Come on, I'll show you where you'll be staying." Ava looked over her shoulder to Zan for guidance, and he nodded his approval. She gave him a shy smile, and turned again to let Kyle lead her to the bedroom, as three pairs of eyebrows behind them shot up in surprise. Jim shook his head in disbelief. Max shot Zan a grin, and Zan rolled his eyes. All he knew was, Kyle better treat Ava right, or there would be hell to pay.


Max and Zan left Ava in the capable care of the Valenti men, and proceeded to return to the Crashdown. When they entered, Max motioned to Liz to meet them in the kitchen. Michael looked up, when the three of them walked in. "Hey, Maxwell, what's up?" he asked, when he saw the somber expressions on Max and Zan's faces. "Liz told me the dupes showed up - what happened?"

"Long story short - Lonnie and Rath are dead, Ava's staying with Sheriff Valenti."

"Guess that's cuttin' to the chase," Michael snorted. "Any pertinent details you might want to share?"

Max shrugged. "They wanted me to go to the summit, I told them no, and that the granilith was off limits. They didn't like it, they made threats - they're history. At least now Ava doesn't have to be waiting and wondering when she's going to be beat up next." Zan winced at the words. He still felt responsible for what had happened to Ava in his absence.

"They beat her?" Michael echoed incredulously.

"Yeah, she was too soft to be hanging around street thugs like them," Zan explained. Guilt continued to twist like a knife within him.

Liz could feel the inner turmoil coming from him. Placing her hand on his arm, she told him, "It's okay to let go and forgive yourself. Ava isn't harboring resentment toward you, so you have to move past this. The important thing is, she isn't in danger any more, and for that, I'm sure she's grateful."

Zan smiled down at her, and she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him, as he brushed his lips across her forehead in a chaste kiss. Pulling away, he whispered, "Thanks," a smile of relief gracing his face.

Liz beamed up at him. "For you, any time. Now. What is the plan for Ava?" she asked, stepping back out of his embrace.

"She'll have to come back to Antar with us," Max answered.

"Ohh, Karanna's so not gonna like that," Liz anticipated, shaking her head.

"Why no- oh," Max stopped short, seeing Liz's eyes dart to Zan. "I didn't even think about that. Zan? I think you better talk to Karanna tonight, and tell her what's happening. Find out how much of an issue this is going to be for her."

"And Zan?" Liz interjected. "Be sensitive. Don't belittle her if she gets jealous or upset. God knows, I would be. This is a girl's worst nightmare, to have her husband's ex-lover hanging around. Especially for someone as innocent and insecure as Karanna is. Your patience with her is key."

"Got it. Believe me, I don't like the thought of having to tell her something like this. She's just starting to trust me. I can't help but wonder if she'll think I'm playing head games with her."

"Look, if she's really upset, I'll call her when I get off work, okay?"

"Thanks, Liz. I appreciate it."

"It ought to be interesting having Tess and Ava in the same place," Michael mused. "Let's hope Tess doesn't corrupt her."

"I don't think we have anything to worry about," Zan reassured him. Ava tends to shy away from the strong, mean types."

Michael chuckled. "Well, that's our gal Tess, all right. Still, I think it would be best to keep them apart as much as possible. Who knows what Tess might pull, if she gets her hands on Ava."

"Good point," Max concurred. "I'll have to talk to Ge-lar', and tell him we'll need space for one more."


"Tess' things are still in this dresser, and the closet," Kyle told Ava. "Feel free to use whatever you want. She's not going to be needing the stuff."

"What happened to her?" Ava asked, her eyes avoiding contact with his.

Kyle was stunned. "You mean, they didn't tell you?"

"Well, we didn't really have much time to talk. Lonnie was pretty much runnin' the show, til they offed her and Rath," she revealed, staring at the floor. "Then we came straight here."

"Well, it's no big secret, I guess," Kyle stated, convincing himself that telling her wasn't a problem. "Tess is back on Antar."

"Antar?! How da hell'd she get there?"

"I, uh - better let Max or Zan explain all that to you," he told her. "But the long and the short of it is - she's pregnant with Zan's son."

All the blood drained from Ava's face, and the room began to spin. She stumbled, and reached out blindly for something to support herself. Kyle realized what was happening just in time to sweep her up in his arms, before she collapsed. Holding her close, he carried her to the bed, and sat down with her in his lap.

"Hey, now, what's this all about?" he asked softly, cupping her cheek in his hand.

"Sh-she's having ZAN's baby?" Ava rasped out, hoping she'd misunderstood.

"Yeah...." Kyle confirmed, his face twisted in confusion. "What am I missing here?"

"Zan and me - we was... close, if ya get my drift," Ava said, blushing.

Kyle lifted a brow. "Close, as in -"

"Hey, we was told that I was s'posed to be his bride," she said defensively. "Anyway, Zan was always so careful. You know - not to get me pregnant," she told him, staring at her feet. "I'm just surprised that he would knock her up, and in less than a week, tha's all."

"Well, don't feel hurt, it wasn't really any of his doing." Ava laughed, and Kyle couldn't suppress a grin. "Okay, that sounded really weird, huh? What I mean is, Tess snuck into his bedroom the first night that he was in Roswell, and thought that he was Max. She wanted to get pregnant with Max's baby, not Zan's. But she didn't know that Zan was in Roswell. Anyway, the way I heard it, Zan was sound asleep, and when he woke up, he had a major hard on, and Tess was on top of him, pretending to be Liz. She jumped him, and got what she wanted - just not from the right twin."

"What a mess."

"Tell me about it. Still - what a way to wake up," Kyle admitted with a lusty sparkle in his eye. He was suddenly aware of the soft look Ava was giving him, and the familiar way her arm was wrapped around his shoulder to support herself. Because she was still in his lap, their faces were close enough, that he could feel her warm breath on his cheek. Suddenly, his jeans were getting rather confining. He wondered how he could gracefully get her off his lap, without hurting her feelings. He could have sat there holding her forever, if not for the fact that he didn't want her to know that he was unbearably aroused at the moment. He didn't want to embarrass her - or himself, for that matter. Her soft, husky voice interrupted his thoughts.

"So - seems yous don't hate me so much now. How come?"

"Aw, geez, I didn't hate you," he confessed, his eyes hooded from desire. "It's just that we're still trying to get over this thing with Tess... I know. That's no excuse. Buddha says, 'Let us live in the peace and harmony of love

among those who are confused in hate.' I just let my emotions run off with me for a few minutes there. I'm over it."

An invisible force was drawing them closer to each other, a hair's breadth at a time. "Buddha, huh?" she asked with a twinkle in her eye. Her mouth felt dry, and she unconsciously licked at her lips. Kyle somehow managed to swallow the groan that was begging to be released, at the sight of her little pink tongue caressing the soft bow of her mouth.

Think, damn it, he commanded himself. Buddha. She asked about Buddha. Kyle cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah, I got into Buddhism, after Max brought me back from the dead, when I got shot. Somehow, it seemed fitting." And still he couldn't stop his body's pull to lean in even closer, until his lips were almost touching hers.

"Buddha's cool," she whispered against his mouth, sending a shiver up his spine, and an ache in his loins that could not be ignored.

"Ava..." He breathed her name with a tone of reverence, as their lips met in a tentative kiss. "Ava? What's happening here?" he asked in confusion.

"I don't know," she whispered, pressing her lips to his again, briefly. "Didn't Buddha have anything to say for a moment like this?"

"I'm sure he did, but I'll be damned if I can think of what it was right now." His tongue traced the shape of her lips, in an imitation of the way she had licked them, just moments ago. "So sweet," he murmured, and then captured her lips in an ardent caress, sucking at her bottom lip. "Open your mouth," he pleaded breathlessly.

"Kyle." Ava groaned his name in pleasure, and gave him what he requested. Her arms tightened around his neck, as the kiss deepened and became increasingly passionate.

Kyle was careful to keep his hands in a chaste spot, however, not wanting her to think that all he wanted from her was a quick roll in the hay, so to speak. He was feeling things for her that no other woman had ever awakened in him before. It was as if a surge of electricity was pulsing through every cell in his body. And he had the most pleasant ache in the area of his heart. He knew it was longing for him to be closer to Ava. With that thought, he wrenched his mouth from hers, before things got out of control His lungs were heaving, as he fought for much needed air, and he was secretly pleased to see that she, too, was breathless, as well as showing other signs of arousal. Maybe she was experiencing the same inexplicable draw to him that he felt toward her. He leaned his forehead against hers, as he continued to suck in air. "Whoa," he panted. "That was some kiss."

Ava nodded in response, her forehead rubbing against his. "I ain't nevva reacted like that to bein' kissed before," she confessed. "Why do you s'pose that is?"

"I have no idea, but I'm not about to lodge any complaints," he teased with a grin.

"Me neither. I think I'm gonna like stayin' here," she added with a seductive gleam in her eyes.

Kyle groaned. "Hell, it's gonna be a long two weeks." When he saw her face fall, he knew that she had misinterpreted his meaning. "No, don't get insulted, I didn't mean that the way you took it. It's just - if I'm having this much trouble keeping my pants zipped when I just met you, what am I gonna be like two weeks from now?"

"Who says yous gotta keep them zipped?" Kyle pulled back slightly, revealing his startled look to her. "What? It ain't like I'm a virgin or somethin'," she reminded him, blushing despite her straightforward approach.

"I know - but we barely know each other," he said hesitantly. Damn. Isn't that supposed to be her line? There really must be something wrong with my head, turning down an offer like this.

Ava looked deep into his eyes, and Kyle felt as if she somehow touched his soul in that moment. "What's to know? I ain't nevva felt like this about anyone before. I used to think I was in love with Zan, but that was just because I was raised to believe that was what was expected of me. But he nevva made my heart sing. Not like bein' with yous."

"Really?" Kyle asked hopefully.

"Yeah, really."

"I feel the same way," he told her, barely recognizing his own voice, it was so thick with his barely restrained passion.

"Then why don't you do something about it?" she mumbled, then nipped gently at his ear lobe.

"What? Now?" he exclaimed, embarrassed when his voice squeaked. "My dad is in the other room. If he heard us, or God forbid, walked in -"

"Kyle?" Jim's voice rang through the house.

Kyle took a deep breath, hoping his voice wouldn't betray him. "Yeah?" he called back.

"I've gotta run back to the office, and then stop by the grocery store. I'll be back in about 45 minutes. Help Ava get settled in, will you?"

Kyle flashed Ava a suggestive smirk. "Sure, Dad. No problem." He listened, until he heard the car pull out of the driveway, and head down the street. Thank God for that noisy muffler, he chuckled to himself. Then he focused all of his attention on Ava. "Now - where were we?" he asked, sliding his hand up to quickly undo the buttons on her blouse....





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Dec-2001 11:42:48 PM ]

posted on 13-Dec-2001 12:49:33 PM by sheeperz
*giggle* Ah, I love messin' with yer heads! *big*

Many of you were asking about the Kyle/Ava affair, and Zan's reaction. This part gives some insight into that, as well as the next part. Hope you all don't start throwing things at me!*wink* Glad you all seem to be in favor of Ava and Kyle. I think they're cute. It's like the best of Tess, and none of the crap.

Libs, glad to have you back! I thought maybe you fell off the edge of the earth, or something! *big*

Brigitte - we can't really have Liz and Karanna together too much, lest we run the risk of them connecting - but they do have a lengthy phone conversation in this part.

Shel - I opted to not have Ava stay with the Parkers, because if we are going to try and pass her off as Tess, it would seem strange for her not to be still staying at the Valentis' house, right?

Mary - OH YES, I AM A DREAMER!!! And you're right, it will be a happy dreamer ending, all the way around!!!

Well, I gotta get this posted, but my undying gratitude goes to ALL of you that left feedback! It means so much! You guys are terrific!!


Part Twenty

Kyle slammed his Mustang into third gear, and floored the accelerator, as he crossed the city limits, and headed out into the desert. His mind was racing in several directions at once, and only one of them didn't make him want to scream and hit something.

Damn that Zan Evans anyway, he thought murderously. And I thought Max was a pain in the ass....

Kyle replayed the whole scene in his head. There he had been, his body entwined with Ava's, both of them naked from the waist up. A smile came to his face, as he thought of her soft, round breasts lifting up to him, as she arched her back in sensual pleasure. He had never seen anything quite so beautiful in all his life. The ache that was still screaming in his loins continued to bear testimony to that fact.

But just as he had started to slide his hand up under her short leather skirt, he had felt his body being lifted up, and tossed across the room. Damn, those aliens are strong. Kyle remembered the night that Michael had thrown him across the motel room, as if he weighed no more than a pillow.

Kyle had to admit, that as ticked off as he had been at that moment, fear kept his mouth shut, when he saw the rage in Zan's eyes. What the hell? Does he still have a claim on Ava? Even though he had left her behind in New York, without so much as a by-your-leave? And now he's planning on marrying Karanna, Liz's sister. What gives him the right to still run Ava's life? Is she the royal mistress, or something? Kyle felt his blood begin to boil anew, as he pondered these things. He also couldn't help wondering how Karanna would feel about Zan's possessiveness toward Ava. He knew he sure as hell didn't appreciate it, and he wasn't about to marry one of the parties involved.

He vividly recalled hearing Ava sniffle, as Zan barked at her to get dressed. His eyes wouldn't quite focus, but he could see the blur of her clothes go sailing through the air toward her, from where he lay slumped against the wall.

That was when all hell broke loose. Zan and Ava started fighting, worse than any married couple Kyle had ever met. Zan was being heavy handed, and Ava was rebelling against his attempt to control her. Shaking off the last of the stupor, Kyle decided he had heard enough. That was when he jumped up, slid into his sneakers, grabbed his keys and his shirt, and took off. He wasn't sure, but he didn't think either Zan or Ava had even noticed his departure, they were so busy battling each other.

He couldn't help but wonder who had won. For obvious reasons, and some even less apparent, he hoped that Ava had. He thought that Zan had a hell of a lot of nerve treating the girl like that. He dumps her and doesn't even tell her, picks up another chick and gets engaged, all within a week, and he thinks he has the right to tell her who she can and can't get involved with? The whole idea of it was ludicrous.

He didn't realize it, but he was grinning, just remembering her spunk. She was truly something to behold when she was all fired up, he reminisced. Although he was certain he didn't ever want to be the one that provoked her to such a state. He chuckled reflexively, as he thought about her beating the tar out of Zan, in a hissy fit. God, she's so beautiful, the way her eyes practically crackle like lightning, when she gets angry. Almost as beautiful as when she's....

Kyle groaned, his still hard manhood twitching, as he recalled how it had felt, when their hips had strained toward each other, desperately seeking relief from their passion-induced torture. Damn it to hell! he fumed inwardly, slamming his hand on the steering wheel in frustration. This beautiful creature is going to be living under the same roof with me - sleeping in my bed, for God's sake! - and I'm supposed to pretend not to notice? To not respond, when something about her calls out to me, like no one I've ever met before?

"Look," he spoke aloud, lifting his eyes, as he addressed God, "I know I've done some really rotten things in my life - but do you think this kind of punishment is necessary?!" Naturally, he didn't get an audible response - Lord knows, he would have freaked if he had - but he couldn't get past the feeling, that somewhere out there, God was having a good chuckle about the irony of all of this. Half the girls in Roswell High would have died to be in Kyle's bed, despite his "love 'em and leave 'em reputation", but the one woman that Kyle Valenti wanted all the way to his soul, the one that could have changed his womanizing ways, was off-limits. To him, anyway.

"Well, Zan Evans, we'll just see about that," he vowed aloud, as he slammed on his brakes, fishtailing into a 180, and heading back to town.

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

Liz sighed heavily, and ran her hands through her hair, as she stared at the phone. She had just hung up with Zan, who was more than just a little upset, after the conversation he and Karanna had about Ava. As he had feared, she jumped to all the wrong conclusions about his concern over Ava's welfare. When she finally got frustrated enough, she had hung up on him. Not sure what else to do, he called Liz, in hopes that she could get through to Karanna.

That was ten minutes ago. And she still was dreading getting in the middle of this, even if Karanna was her sister. She didn't want Karanna to resent her, thinking that she was taking sides. But the girl was going to have to grow up a lot in the next few weeks, if she was going to make a life for herself on Antar with Zan. She obviously had been sheltered her whole life, which would have been bad enough, if she was human, and only had human concerns to worry about. But she wasn't going to have the sort of life that required baking cookies and cleaning house. She was going to have to move into a war zone to be with her groom. Liz wondered if Karanna really grasped that concept.

Deciding that she could no longer postpone the inevitable, she removed the phone from the cradle, and dialed the number that Zan had given her.

Karanna stared at the ringing phone at her bedside. Her heart lurched in her chest, wanting so badly for it to be Zan calling back. But she had hung up on him in a rage almost fifteen minutes ago, and he hadn't attempted to contact her again. Perhaps he never will, she thought with great despair. What was it about him, that caused this ugly streak of uncontrollable jealousy to flare within her? Realizing that she may very well have pushed his last button, she gave into the urge to cry. Tears had been rolling down her cheeks for the last few minutes, but now her body began to shake, as she buried her face in her pillow to muffle her sobs. She barely heard her aunt's voice calling her from downstairs.

"Karanna? Karanna!"

She took a big gulping breath, and called as steadily as she could, "What?"

"Telephone!"

Karanna suddenly couldn't breathe. She felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. Zan! He hadn't given up on her after all! She grabbed the receiver with a trembling hand, and her shaky voice spoke eagerly into the phone. "Hello? Zan?" She heard the click which signaled that her aunt had hung up the other extension. She let out a sigh of relief.

"Uh, Karanna?"

Karanna was momentarily stunned to hear a female voice on the other end of the line, but then she realized how similar it was to her own, and knew immediately who it was. "Oh, hey, Liz."

Liz's smile was evident in her voice. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, sis. But if it makes you feel any better, Zan asked me to call. He was worried about you."

"Really?" Karanna asked, all her hope evident in that single word. Then she began to worry about how he was portraying her to her own sister. "What did he tell you?"

"Not much, actually. We had talked about him calling you tonight, and telling you about Ava being in Roswell and all... when he called me, he just said that you took it kinda hard, and you might need someone to talk to." Actually, he had begged her to talk reason into Karanna, but Liz wasn't about to repeat that. Zan was already in enough hot water.

"That was thoughtful of him," her sister responded with a sniffle, as more tears fell unbidden down her cheeks. "And took it hard is like the understatement of the year. I was awful to him, Liz."

"You wanna talk about it?" Liz wished she could blister the girl's ears but good, but she knew that would only make Karanna dig her heels in out of sheer stubbornness, if she was anything like Liz herself. Best to let her direct the conversation, and try to gently point out things from a different perspective.

"Oh, Liz," Karanna whimpered softly, as she began to cry again. "Is this what my whole life is going to consist of? Watching Zan constantly fawn over ex-lovers? I just don't know if I can do this."

"Fawn over them?" Liz asked, confused. "Where did you get the idea that Zan is fawning over Tess and Ava?"

"From Zan! All you have to do is listen to him talk about them for five minutes!" she ranted. " 'Tess was so sick - we didn't know if she and the baby were going to die' he tells me. 'It's my responsibility to make sure she's safe and cared for.' Bah! And then there's Ava. You told me she was in his past, and that he didn't have any feelings for her. But you shoulda heard him going off about how he left her in the care of some friends, and when he went back to check on her, he caught this guy named Kyle gettin' all hot and heavy with her, both of them half undressed. He sounded like a jealous lover!"

"Oh my God!" Liz exclaimed. "Kyle and Ava? Really?" She couldn't help the grin that crossed her face. But she could understand Zan being a little ticked about the situation. What was Kyle thinking? She'd have to have a talk with him.

"You know this Kyle?" Karanna questioned, interrupting her thoughts.

"Yeah - he's part of the 'I know an Alien Club', and we dated for a few months last year."

"Oh. Well, anyway, I just don't understand why he thinks he has to be so protective of her. It's obvious he still has feelings for her. I don't want to constantly be looking over my shoulder, wondering what woman he's going to be off protecting, like a knight in shining armor. I want him to belong to me - not the entire female population," she groused.

Liz chuckled. "Girl, it's time you understood some things about your man," she told her sister, "and about Ava. Let's back up even further. Has Zan ever mentioned Lonnie and Rath?"

"They were the other two in his pod grouping, weren't they?"

"Exactly. Well, they are -er, were, really nasty individuals. When Zan left to come to Roswell with me, he left Ava behind - with them. Earlier this afternoon, they showed up here in Roswell, dragging Ava along behind them. She was sporting some really nasty bruises." Liz listened to Karanna breathing mutely on the other end of the line. "They beat her, Karanna."

"Oh God," Karanna moaned.

"Max and Zan took the three of them out into the desert to have a little meeting of the minds - Zan was able to heal Ava on the way. But he felt guilty just the same, that his not being there to protect Ava from Rath and Lonnie, had caused her to endure so much. He told me later, that when he healed her - there was even some minor brain damage caused from the beating." Liz could hear her sister crying softly now. She knew this was hard on Karanna, to have to understand why Zan did these things, when she had jumped to all the wrong conclusions again. Time to grow up, sister mine.

"You're absolutely right," she continued on. "Zan does have feelings for Ava. Deep feelings. But not the kind you think. He sees Ava as a sister. What brother wouldn't want to protect his sister at all costs? She's family to him, Karanna, despite the fact that they really have no blood ties. They grew up together. And yes, they shared a bed, but it never meant to him what it should. It was a way to get and give physical pleasure and comfort to each other, but she didn't stir his passion. That part of him that reaches into a person's soul, and makes them take complete leave of their senses. You know what I'm talking about, right?" Liz had to fight a laugh, as she could almost hear Karanna blush over the phone, as she mumbled something barely intelligible, indicating she understood what Liz was referring to. "Okay, I take that as a definite yes," she retorted.

"Zan already felt way guilty enough about the way he had been treating Ava the last few months, and then leaving her to Lonnie and Rath's mercy - or lack of it, as the case may be. He knew he had hurt her, and that she is emotionally fragile and vulnerable right now. Because besides all I've told you, she also watched Max and Zan have to kill Rath and Lonnie this afternoon. Zan is all she has left. At least until she gets to know the rest of us. If we don't take her in, she'll be all alone.

"So that brings us to Kyle. When Zan saw him moving in on Ava in such a hurry, he was afraid that she was going to get hurt again. And he cares about her. He wants her to be happy - the way he is with you, when you let him be.

"You asked me if this is what your whole life is going to consist of? In truth, I'd have to say yes."

"Oh God," Karanna whispered in defeat.

"Just listen to me, will you? I'm saying that, because you are going to spend your life living with one of the kindest, most caring and compassionate men I've ever met. Second to none, save Max. But having that kind of character means that he feels responsible for those around him. Everyone is his 'neighbor', if you're familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan?"

"Yeah."

"Well, Zan's compassionate streak will undoubtedly resurface on a regular basis, prompting him to care for those who are in need. Sure, it's going to take some of his focus away from you at times, but could you truly love and respect a man who thought nothing for the needs of others? Especially those for whom he felt responsible? Because if he was like that, what's to say he wouldn't eventually turn his back on you? Do you see? Because of who he is, you have the security of knowing that when you need him, he will always be there."

"But I need him now," Karanna pouted. "And I feel him slipping away."

Liz took a deep breath. This was the moment of truth - a time of testing for her relationship with her twin. "If he is slipping away, Karanna, it's because you're pushing him."

Liz heard her sister gasp. "How can you say such a thing?"

"Karanna, you're my sister, and nothing will change that fact that I love you. And because I love you, I'm going to have to tell you something really difficult here. You need to set aside your selfishness, and grow up, sis. The honest truth is, you don't need him right now. You want him. You want him all to yourself, and the rest of the world be damned. That's not love, Karanna. That's just plain selfish indulgence. We can't afford to be acting like spoiled little children. Our husbands are going to have their hands full, trying to reclaim and restore the Antarian Empire. They need us to stand with them, by their sides, and do whatever it takes to help them achieve their goal. Because it's our destiny, too. I'm not going to lie to you here. It's going to be a rough row to hoe, when we get back to Antar. You better make sure that it's what you want, before you commit to a marriage with Zan. There isn't time for whining about their attention not being on us 24/7. But in his defense, there is one thing that I know for certain - no matter what a day may bring - you are the one he will always cuddle up next to in bed at night. Zan has a capacity for love within him that goes so deep, you'll never find the bottom of it. And you can take that to the bank." Karanna was so quiet on the other end, Liz wasn't sure she hadn't hung up. "Karanna?"

"Yes, I'm still here."

"I hope you aren't angry with me. I really said what I did, because I love you."

"I know."

"What are you thinking?"

"That despite my good intentions, I can't change who I am overnight. I love Zan, but I'm afraid that I'm going to fail him over and over again, until he can't stand the sight of me any more. I mean, take tonight, for example. He didn't call back. He had you call me. Already he's getting tired of my immature behavior. How patient is he going to be, waiting for me to grow up? He wants to get married in two weeks, but he hasn't accepted that in some ways, I'm still a child. I may be sixteen, but I've led a very sheltered life -"

"Wait a minute!" Liz interrupted. "How old did you say you are?"

"Sixteen, why?"

"But - that can't be right! How can you only be sixteen?"

"Liz? What does my being sixteen have to do with anything?"

"But we're twins! And I'm seventeen! How can you be a year younger than me? Hold it - when's you're birthday?"

"August 22. I turned sixteen two months ago. When's yours?"

"August 28. So, I'm like almost a whole year older than you. That's too weird." Then Liz realized just what the implications of this were. "Dear God, Karanna. None of us had any idea you were so young. Are you sure you want to go through with this wedding?"

Tears welled in the other girl's eyes, and Liz noted the quiver in her voice, as she answered. "I love Zan with all my heart. But I don't want to be a negative force in his life. He is destined for great things."

"So are you, can't you see that? But it's going to mean shaking off all that protective pampering that you've had, to become a little stronger, in order to be a helpmeet for Zan. And grow up a little sooner than you would have had to, otherwise. Do you think you can do it?"

Karanna swallowed against the lump in her throat. "I want to, Liz, truly I do. But I'm afraid of failing him. I couldn't bear to see him look at me with disappointment in his eyes."

"He won't, I promise you, as long as you try. The important thing is - when you feel the urge to go off on him, ask him why he's doing whatever it is that's bothering you. Give him the chance to erase your fears. And I'll be there - you know, to give you a swift kick when you need one," she teased.

Karanna giggled through her tears. "Thanks. You really are the best sister a girl could have."

Liz smiled, her heart warmed. "So are you, hon. So are you." After a few more words of parting, Liz and Karanna hung up. Liz laid back on her bed, and heaved a sigh of relief. Her head immediately began to spin, though, with thoughts of conversations she still had to have, before she went to bed. So much for studying for that Chem test tomorrow.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Dec-2001 3:36:10 PM ]

posted on 14-Dec-2001 1:01:18 PM by sheeperz
hehe Glad you guys didn't get all up and arms about Zan's little "interruption" with K/A. I didn't think you'd mind tooo much...

Shel - Yep, I decided to make her younger, like I bounced off you the other night. Something about it just felt... right.

Thanks to the rest of you, for rolling with the punches on this one. Hannah, you were close! But Phae wins the prize this time, for analyzing the situation, and coming up with the correct answer! It will be confirmed in... the next part, I'm hoping. Still trying to figure out how to tuck the revelation in there....

Well, I'd love to chat, but I'm heading out in a few minutes, and gonna be gone right through the evening. So I wanted to get this posted for you all before I left.

Hope you enjoy it! Thanks for all the great feedback - I reaaalllly appreciate it!! Some "different" things happen in this part (and the next one, too). Let me know what you think!


Part Twenty-one

Zan nervously paced the perimeter of the room that he shared with Max. It had been over half an hour since he had called Liz...

"Zan, you're going to wear a hole in the carpet, if you don't sit down."

"Huh," Zan snorted, dropping into the chair. "Easy for you to say. You aren't the one whose pending marriage is hanging in the balance here. Why am I such a lightning rod for this stuff?"

"Because you have a heart as big as all outdoors, and Karanna doesn't know you well enough to understand that yet," Max stated. "But I'd be willing to bet, that by the time Liz finishes with her tonight, she will."

"God, I hope so. I don't do this stuff to upset Karanna, but it seems like every time I open my mouth, that's exactly what happens. I don't want to have to keep all the things I think and feel locked up inside - I want to be able to share them with her. But how can I do that, if she is always going to get upset with me?"

"Zan, are you sure that you want to marry her?"

Zan looked at Max in consternation. "How can you even ask me that? Of course I want to marry her!"

"Then you are going to have to accept the fact, that this is the way she is. She may - or may not - change. You have to be prepared for the possibility she won't, and then be grateful if she does. Know what I mean?"

Zan nodded. "It isn't even that I can't understand her being upset with me, y'know? It's just that she shuts me out when she does. She doesn't even try to let me talk it out with her. If she did, I know that we could work through these things together. I don't want to always have to look to Liz to run interference for me with my wife."

"Nor do I want you to," Max said, quirking a brow in an expression that punctuated his statement.

"Touché, brother. Point taken."

Max grinned. "Well, now that we have that settled," he teased, "you want me to go get you a soda or something, while we wait?"

Zan smiled in gratitude for such an understanding brother. "Yeah, thanks. That would be great."

Max got up off his bed, and ambled toward the door. "I'll be back in a couple minutes. Try to relax." Zan nodded.

While Max had his head in the fridge, retrieving the cans of soda, the phone rang. He chuckled and shook his head, when the jingling was cut off in the middle of the first ring. Zan had obviously been sitting on top of the phone.

Upstairs, Zan's stomach was in a knot, as he snatched up the phone. "Hullo?"

Judging by how fast the phone had been picked up, Liz hazarded, "Hey. Zan?"

"Liz! God, I didn't think you were ever gonna call back! What took so long?"

Liz chuckled at his nervous impatience. "Hey, these things take time, ya know. Besides, I had to do my nails, and -"

"You WHAT?! I've been sitting here stressing out, while you do your nails?!"

Liz laughed out loud. "Chill, boy. I was just bustin' your chops. I just got off the phone with Karanna."

"Lucky for you. Now, enough chit chat. What happened?"

"We talked. Mostly, I talked, she listened. She realizes now why you feel so protective of Ava. And she also knows that she needs to grow up fast, if things are going to work out between you."

"I hate that this is robbing her of her carefree time as a teenager. But then, isn't it doing that to the rest of us, too?"

"Yes, but it's worse for Karanna."

"Yeah, I guess so. I mean, she has always kept herself so isolated from her peers. Between that, and the sheltered way she's been brought up, she doesn't have a lot of the street savvy someone her age should have. She's way too innocent. And I feel like a creep for having to take that innocence away from her."

"There's more to it than that, Zan."

"More? Shit. What more could there be?"

"It came out while we were talking that... Zan, she's a whole year younger than I am. She's barely sixteen."

Zan groaned. "Tell me this is a joke. How can that be, anyway?"

"Sorry, no can do, and you'll have to ask Da-nar' about that one. I'm totally clueless here. All I know is, we're talking a real child bride here. I mean, the life we all have been living, with the dangers and everything, has matured us beyond our 17 years. Karanna hasn't had that, and on top of it, she's had a whole year less of maturing than we have. It's no wonder that she's struggling so hard to keep up with us. This has got to be overwhelming for her."

"Damn, no kidding! What should I do? I don't know how I can let her go, Liz. I love her too much."

"And she loves you, too. She is trying, Zan, and now that we've talked, I'm hoping that she will make more of an effort to talk to you, when she gets upset, instead of pushing you away. She really wants things to work out between you."

"So, she still wants to go through with the wedding?"

"Yeah, she does. But she's scared, Zan. She's afraid of being a disappointment to you. You need to let her know that you're there for her. And she still doesn't know the difference between needing you and wanting you. That's why she gets so jealous, you know? She sees these other women who truly need you, getting your attention, when she feels she needs you, too. I tried to point out to her the difference between needing and wanting, and told her that she has to learn to be stronger, but it's going to take some time, Zan. Growing up time. You may find that you are going to have to be stronger for her, too, than you would if she was older. In some ways, you may find you need to guide and protect her in an almost... parental way. I don't mean baby her," Liz hurried to stress, "but she'll need you to teach her to become the woman she's destined to be. At least until she gets up to speed."

Max walked in to hear Zan respond, "This stinks, you know? I wouldn't choose to do this to her, for the world. But I don't know what else to do. Max and I can't come against Ki-var', until after we're married, for whatever reason. And even if we could go ahead without her - I don't know if I'd be able to do it. If I left her behind, my heart and mind would always be back here with her, instead of focusing on what I should be doing."

"So tell her that. Make sure she understands how much you need her, as well as love her. Maybe that will give her the backbone she needs to grow up."

"You're right - as usual," he said with a soft smile on his face, that Liz could almost see through the phone, at the change in his voice. "Listen - thanks so much for being such a good friend. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without you."

"Well, you aren't out of the woods yet, Zan. But hopefully, we made some real headway tonight. Time will tell."

"Okay, well, I'll let you go. I think I have a phone call to make," he said, feeling much more lighthearted than he had half an hour ago. "Thanks again."

"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Right. Bye."

"Trouble in paradise?" Max asked, when Zan had hung up the phone. He handed Zan the can of soda, before flopping down onto his bed. He listened patiently, while Zan repeated the gist of his conversation with Liz. "She's only 16?" Max asked, stunned. " I wonder how the hell she can be a whole year younger than Liz, if she's her twin. But, that certainly helps to explain her reactions."

"Yeah, it does. Am I doing the right thing, Max? Marrying her, when she's so young, I mean? And why didn't Da-nar' say anything?"

Max shrugged. "I intend to grill Da-nar', and find out. Maybe Antarians traditionally marry younger than humans?" he guessed. "Or maybe he realizes that in spite of our ages, it is important that we do this. None of us can afford to indulge ourselves in behaving like children, even though in the eyes of American society, that's what we still are."

"You're probably right."

"And growing up, means learning to make our own decisions - and our own mistakes," Max continued, trying to make a smooth transition into his next topic of concern.

"O-kay," Zan agreed hesitantly, eyeing Max with suspicion. "And where is this heading?"

"Ava."

Zan's eyebrow shot up. "Ava? What about her?"

"I understand you feeling responsible for her, and protective - to a certain degree. But she is a big girl, now, and she needs to be free to make her own decisions about life... and love."

"But she doesn't even know Kyle! How can she make a decision to jump into his bed so soon?"

"And how well did you know Karanna, when you decided you wanted to marry her?" Max countered.

"That's different!"

"Is it?"

"Yes, and you know it! Karanna and me - we're the same. We were meant to be together. Kyle is a... human. Ava isn't."

"Whoa boy, back this mule train up a minute. Think about what you are saying, will you? First of all, did it matter to you, when you thought that Liz was a human, and you wanted her? Even though she was human, something about her felt right to you, didn't it? Who's to say that Ava doesn't feel that for Kyle?" Max held up a hand to silence Zan, when he attempted to interrupt. "And the other thing I'd like to point out is - Ava isn't human, that's true. But she isn't Talerian, or Antarian, either. She is a Talerian-human hybrid. She's the only one of her kind, Zan. Do you mean to tell me, you expect her to spend her whole life alone, because of that?"

Zan had the good grace to look chagrined. He hadn't really considered the implications of his heavy-handed attitude toward Ava. The truth was, he really did feel like she was his little sister, and that no one was good enough for her. That was what was at the heart of his objections to Kyle. He realized now, that he was being extremely unfair about the whole situation, and that while he intended to have a talk with Ava about Kyle, and men in general, ultimately, the decisions that were made would have to be her own. "You're right," he mumbled to Max.

"Excuse me? I couldn't hear you?" Max taunted with a silly grin.

Zan dove at Max, and yanked him to the floor, wrestling with him, as he panted out, "I said you're right, you moron!"

"I thought that's what you said," Max grunted out, as he flipped Zan off of him, and rolled over to try and pin him to the floor. "I just wanted to make sure."

Their struggles were interrupted by someone clearing his throat in the doorway. "Well, if this isn't cozy."

Immediately the two boys ceased their wrestling, and looked up at the intruder. "Oh, by all means, don't let me interrupt you. This is fascinating. It's good to see you beating up on each other for a change, instead of exercising your alien brawn on weak little humans."

Max jumped to his feet, and slammed his bedroom door behind the visitor. "Geez, do you think you could say that a little louder? I'm not sure our parents heard you."

"Zan," the young man said flatly, by way of greeting, as Zan stood up to face him.

"Kyle. What brings you by?"

"Oh, gee, I don't know," Kyle began, his voice laced with sarcasm. "Maybe I just wanted to talk, and get you to understand a few things," he informed Zan, his hostility barely leashed.

"Look, Kyle, about what happened earlier -"

"Yes, let's talk about that, shall we?" Kyle snapped. "Just where the hell do you come off pulling that kind of shit, anyway? Is Ava some sort of personal property of yours? Is she like your royal mistress, or something?"

"No, it's nothing like that -"

"Then where the HELL do you get off, telling her who she can and can't be involved with? Did it ever occur to you, that she has feelings? And that maybe she doesn't need you telling her what they should be?"

"Now just a minute!" Zan roared back. "I'm very well aware that Ava has feelings! And that's the problem! She has been hurt too much in her life, and I don't want to see some jock with overactive hormones using her for a little amusement. She deserves better!"

"Better than what you gave her, you mean?!" Kyle retorted, his face turning red with rage.

"Exactly." That one word, spoken softly, in humble regret, took the wind out of Kyle's sails.

"Did it ever occur to you, Evans, that I might actually have feelings for Ava as well?" Kyle asked, in a much calmer, rational tone.

Zan snorted. "Kyle, be serious. When you first met Ava, you flew into a rage, because she was going to stay at your house for a couple of weeks. And you expect me to believe that suddenly, you're in love with her? Come on, what kind of fool do you take me for?"

"A big one, but that's beside the point," Kyle returned with a smirk. "The fact is, as soon as Ava opened her mouth, I realized that I was wrong about her. She's nothing like that manipulative bitch Tess. There is something sweet and pure about Ava - even having lived the kind of life she did with you, Rath and Lonnie, she has this... innocence. I can't explain it, but something about her just draws me to her. I want to protect her, take care of her. Is that so hard to understand?"

"Not hard at all," Zan admitted. "But what I saw didn't look like being protective, to me," he growled out.

"Zan, the long and the short of it is this - what Ava and I choose to do, or not to do, is really none of your damn business. But for the record? I'll bust anyone's head that tries to mess with her happiness. You included. Do I make myself clear?"

"Are you telling me, that she's gonna find happiness with you?" Zan challenged.

Kyle snorted. "Damn straight, if I have anything to say about it."

"And for the record, if you hurt her, you know I'll have to hurt you. Do I make myself clear?"

"Clear as glass," Kyle acknowledged, holding his hand out. Zan took it, and they shook, sealing their "bargain".

Max sighed in relief. "Somehow, I get the impression doing battle with Ki-var' will be a piece of cake, compared to watching the two of you together."

"Yeah, well, it's been fun, but now it's over," Kyle returned. "I'm gonna head home. Hopefully, Ava will still be speaking to me, after this."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that too much," Zan said with a sheepish grin. "She blistered my ears pretty good after you left."

"Really?" Kyle asked with a goofy grin. Maybe she really does have feelings for me, too.

"Yeah, go on. Go talk to her. Just don't hurt her, Kyle. She's had enough hurt to last her a lifetime."

Kyle looked Zan straight in the eyes. "I won't. I really do care for her." Zan nodded, and Kyle left.

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

Kyle was driving down the streets of Roswell toward home, when his cell phone rang. "Valenti!" he answered curtly.

"Hey, Kyle, it's just me."

"Hey, Liz, what's up?"

"Uh, I heard about what happened with Zan at your place earlier...."

"Geez. Good news travels fast. Look, I'm on my way home now, to try and talk to Ava. What did you need?"

"I just wanted to talk to you about Ava, Kyle. She's really been through a lot lately, you know, and -"

Kyle groaned loudly. "Here we go again," he muttered.

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

After Zan called and patched things up with Karanna, telling her they would talk more the following night, he and Max settled in, to study for the Chem test. They no more than got their books out, though, when the phone rang again. Max was sitting at the desk, so he picked it up. "Hello?"

"Is this Max?"

"Yeah, it's me. What's up, Brody?"

"I, uh, need to talk to you. Could you meet me at the UFO Center?"

"Sure. When?"

"Now. And bring Zan with you."

Max thought the request was a little odd, but shrugged to himself. "Okay. We'll be there in a few minutes."

Brody sighed in relief. "Great. I'll be waiting."

Max hung up, and turned to his brother. "That was really strange."

Zan looked up from his science text. "What? What did he want?"

"He wants me to meet him at the UFO center to discuss something, and he wants me to bring you along."

Zan sat up, a nervous chill making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "Me? Why would he want to see me? I barely know the guy."

"I honestly don't know."

"Do you think this could be some sort of... trap?" Zan asked concerned.

"It's possible. I mean, Brody has been on this crusade to figure out what happened to him, when he supposedly was abducted by aliens. If he somehow found out what we are... but how could he?" Max mused aloud.

"Do you think he was?"

"Was what?" Max asked, confused.

"Abducted by aliens."

Max chuckled. "Come on. You know we don't really do that kind of thing to people."

"We don't. But what's to say, someone else doesn't?" Zan challenged.

Max shrugged. "I don't know. I just always wrote the whole thing off as a lot of media hype."

"Maybe it isn't. I think we should take Michael and Isabel along with us, just to be safe," he suggested.

"Good idea." Isabel was out, so Max called them both, and told them to meet him and Zan at the UFO Center on the double. By the time Max and Zan got there, both Isabel and Michael were waiting out front. Max took his key, and unlocked the door, letting them into the darkened building, then locking it again, once they were inside.

"Come on, Brody's office is this way," he said, leading them to the stairs. From the top, they could see light coming from the lower level. When they reached the bottom of the steps, Brody came out of his office.

"What are they doing here?" he snapped in accusation, as he glared at Max and Zan. "I only asked for the two of you to come."

"They, uh - were with us when you called. This is my sister, Isabel, and our good friend, Michael."

"Your sister?" Brody asked, intrigued. "Your biological sister, or adopted?"

"Biological," Max answered hesitantly. "Why?"

"Which of you is Zan?" Brody asked suddenly, ignoring Max's question.

"I am," Zan replied. "Why did you want me here? We've barely met."

"I need to speak with you - privately," Brody continued, again refusing to respond to any questions.

Zan looked to Max, who apparently shared his concern. "Look, Brody," Zan replied, "Anything you have to say to me, you can say to my brother - and in front of Michael and Isabel."

"Anything?" Brody inquired, implying the nature of the discussion he had in mind.

"Absolutely anything. Now tell me, Brody, what's on your mind?"

Brody sighed. "Okay, first off, I'm not Brody." When he saw their looks of concern, thinking the man had finally gone off the deep end, he explained, "I mean, this is Brody's body. I've just borrowed it for a short time. My name is Larek. I need to talk to Zan about the upcoming summit in New York."

"The summit?" Max asked. "What do you know about that?"

"I represent one of the four worlds besides Antar, that will be negotiating for peace there. We were told that Ki-var' had issued you our invitation to the meeting, but as yet, no one has heard a response from you either way, and Nicholas has disappeared as well. I was sent here to find you, and make sure you were prepared to meet with us. Imagine my surprise, when I took over this vessel, to realize that you were right here in Roswell. Pretty convenient."

"Yes, it must have been. So then you're a - uh...." Zan stuttered.

"Alien? Yes, Zan, I am. But I need to know why you are here, and not preparing for the summit?"

"Actually, Max is the one you need to talk to about that. He's the king, not me."

Larek looked at Max in surprise. "Really?"

"Yes," Zan continued, "the royals were -"

"Zan!" Max spoke harshly, stopping the flow of words. "We don't know anything about this Larek," he cautioned. "I think it would be a good idea to play our cards close to the vest, if you follow."

"Oh, yeah, right. Sorry. There's just something about this guy...."

"Your predecessor and I were best friends," Larek informed them. "Perhaps some of the trust he had in me still lingers. Anyway, Max, since you are the king, can we count on your attendance at the summit?"

Max shook his head. "No, Bro- er, Larek. We won't be attending. I have no intention of negotiating with Ki-var' for the release of my people, or for anything else, as a matter of fact. I know that he is after the granilith, but you can relay the message for me, that the granilith is not up for discussion."

"The granilith? You mean, Ki-var' no longer has it?"

"No. I will tell you only, that we are in possession of it, and that's the way things are going to remain."

"I see. You're making a mistake, you know. The others aren't going to like this."

"I can't help that, Larek. I have every intention of wresting control of Antar from Ki-var's evil clutches, and when I do, the granilith will return to our world. But until then, it stays with me, out of his reach. Please make my apologies to the others, whoever they are."

"I'll do whatever I can to help. I'm just not sure how effective it will be."

"Well, they don't have much choice, but to accept my decision. So they may as well live with it, and learn to be a little patient."

"I hope you know what you're doing, Max."

"So do I. Now, is there anything else?"

"No, that about covers it. I'll leave now, and take your message back to the council. Good luck, Max. I hope you are successful in your attempt to reclaim your kingdom. I look forward to renewing our friendship, when you do."

"Thanks, Larek."

Brody's eyes rolled up into his head, and Max and Zan managed to catch him, before his body slumped to the floor. They lowered him gently, and waited until he regained consciousness. They told Michael and Isabel to go ahead and leave, so Brody wouldn't be as suspicious when he woke to find them there.

His eyes blinking in protest against the bright, fluorescent lighting, Brody groaned, "Max? What happened? Why are you here?"

"I, uh, just stopped by to see if you had made up the schedule for next week yet. We found you lying on the floor, unconscious."

"We? Who's with you?"

"Just Zan. Are you okay?"

Brody carefully rose to a sitting position. "Yeah, fine, I think. I just feel a little odd. Kind of like I did after the last time I was ab -" Brody cut off the word, looking at Max. "Never mind. You probably would think I'm nuts, just like everyone else does."

"Maybe. Maybe not," Max confided, as he helped Brody to his feet. "Anyway, I think you should probably go home and get some rest. Would you like someone to drive you?"

Brody managed to smile, through the pounding headache he had. "Yeah, that would be great. I am feeling a little strange."

"All right. Get your stuff, and we'll take you home."

Brody nodded, then disappeared into the office to get his things. When he came out, he had a puzzled look on his face, and a piece of paper in his hand. "Look at this," he said confused, handing the paper to Max. "I don't remember writing this, but it's my handwriting. Or, rather, my doodling. Why would I have scribbled Zan's name all over this piece of paper that I found lying next to the phone?"

Max and Zan exchanged a look, then he shrugged his shoulders. "Beats me, Brody. Probably just a stress release or something. Come on, let's get you out of here." Obediently, Brody followed them out, letting Max lock up behind them.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 14-Dec-2001 1:03:03 PM ]

posted on 16-Dec-2001 8:04:21 PM by sheeperz
Hi all! Thanks for the feedback!*bounce*

S. Shortcake - yep, that was really Larek. No sinister plots there, my friend! Aren't you relieved?

Jiggers - yep, explanation of Karanna's age in this one.

Linda - yeah, she's young. But she's gonna get a crash course in growing up. LOL. I'll leave you wondering about that.

Mudshovel - *giggle* Yeah, I had fun with that Kyle thing in the car. Poor tortured boy... And Zan is just the man to help Karanna through her difficulties, huh? What a honey he is. *sigh* Oh, sorry, I drifted off into Zan-land there for a minute....

Roswellluver - yeah, I hope that Larek will make another appearance before we're done. Or maybe in a short future fic that I might write, as an offshoot of this series.

Brigitte - *giggle* Like, can we see Kyle taking that lying down? I DON'T THINK SO! LOL!!

Izzy - I'm pegging everyone at 17 in this fic. Remember, this is built off of last fall's shows. Although, I would think they would be 17 now... oh the heck with it. They're 17. Let's leave it at that. *tongue*

Lara - Yeah, I'm thinking that Ava and Kyle would be really good together. She is more like the kind of girl Kyle *thought* Tess was. But in reality, she was just a manipulative... you know.

Razz - glad you had a chance to catch up. I've been missing hearing from a LOT of people who used to leave feedback. Wonder if they got bored?

Mitra - Yeah, you know, I kind of see the Max/Zan relationship in this paralleling what I would have liked to see between Michael and Max on the show. I got so sick of the constant hostility... *sigh* No, Khivar won't leave them alone (ooo... foreshadowing!), but Larek is out of the loop pretty much now. No summit. Not on earth, anyway... *wink*

Okay - on with the story! Our gang is trying to wrap up some loose ends here... hope they can pull it off! *big*

Part Twenty-two

The following Tuesday, after school, Liz was working at her part-time job in Congresswoman Whitaker's office. Ever since Isabel had killed the Skin masquerading as a human named Vanessa Whitaker a month ago, Liz had kept the phones forwarding to voice mail most of the time, going in two or three times a week as she was able, to sort through phone calls, and check the mail. Then she would return messages, with vague promises that the Congresswoman would be in touch, or forging letters in response.

Liz's thoughts wandered to her sister, as she rifled through the stack of envelopes, discarding the obvious junk mail, and opening the others. She couldn't help but be concerned about the huge step that Karanna was preparing to take, by marrying Zan. As much as she loved Max, could she have even considered marrying him a year ago? And yet that's the situation that faced Karanna.

Max had talked to Da-nar', and discovered why the girls were a year apart in age. When the original embryo split, he had taken it as a sign, that there was to be a bride for each of the young men endowed with the king's essence. He had frozen one of the embryos, deciding to work with only one at a time, so he could give his undivided attention to the experiment. This had never been attempted before, and he didn't want to be off tending to one expectant mother, while the other could be having difficulties. So he waited until Nancy Parker had delivered her daughter, and he was sure the child was healthy, before relocating to New York City, and beginning his search for a woman to bear the other child. As good fortune would have it, by the time that Liz was 3 months old, he had selected the perfect couple, and implanted Karanna's embryo in the woman. So even though they were technically identical twins, they had been born just days short of a full year apart.

Liz's attention returned to the task she was supposed to be performing, as she ripped open the next envelope. Max had asked her to try and keep up as normal an appearance at Whitaker's office as possible, so that no one would think anything unusual was going on.

That plan had worked well, until now. Liz sat behind her desk, the door locked and shades drawn, staring at a letter from some place called the Universal Friendship League.

    Dear member:

    Your failure to report as scheduled violates protocol. We must receive word by the 25th of this month or terminate your membership, effective that date.

    Sincerely,
    T. Greer, senior coordinator
    Vilandra project



The name Vilandra jumped out at her. They had learned about Isabel's predecessor from Future Max, who explained that Vilandra had betrayed her family, out of misguided loyalties to Ki-var'. But they had seen in their time, that Isabel's loyalties to Max were trustworthy. At one point, Ki-var' had tried to get Isabel to return to Antar with him, using some sort of weird mind-warp on her, but even that wasn't strong enough to force her to betray Max. She managed to break the hold Ki-var' had on her, and send him packing, threatening to kill him, if he ever dared to show himself again.

But now, here was a letter to Vanessa Whittaker, referencing the Vilandra Project. And they were looking for a response by the 25th - tomorrow. What could it mean? Whitaker had been after Isabel, because she was Vilandra's hybrid. But what was this Universal Friendship League?

Liz picked up the phone, and dialed Max.

"Hello?" he answered cheerily.

"Max, it's me, Liz. Listen, I need to see you right away. Can you meet me at the Crashdown?"

"Sure - I can be there in five minutes - is that quick enough?"

"Yeah, that's fine."

"Okay - but if you need me this badly, shouldn't we meet somewhere more private?" he teased.

"Ha ha, very funny, mister," she retorted. "But truthfully, this is serious business. I'll see you in five. Bye." With that she hung up. Max stood staring at the phone on the other end for a second. It wasn't like Liz to hang up so abruptly. Something must be wrong. He whipped his sneakers on, grabbed the keys to the Jeep, and sprinted out of the house.

When he walked into the Crashdown, he saw Liz sitting in a booth toward the back, a piece of paper on the table in front of her, and she was nervously biting her lip. When he reached the booth, he bent down with his face right in front of hers, and told her, "Stop biting your lip. That's my job." Then he captured her lips with his own, running his tongue repeatedly over her abused lip, in hopes of soothing the reddened flesh. Liz moaned, as her desire was aroused, and Max slid into the seat next to her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders, and placing his other hand high on her thigh, his long fingers stretching to almost touch her sensitive feminine secrets.

"Max," she moaned softly, "please, we can't do this here. And not now. We have a problem."

Max pulled back suddenly. "A problem? What kind of problem?" Liz handed him the letter, which he quickly read.

When he looked at her in confusion, she asked the obvious. "What do you suppose the Universal Friendship League is?

"I have no idea. Where did this come from?"

Liz pulled an envelope out of her pocket. "It's postmarked from Copper Summit, Arizona. Do you suppose that this is some sort of cover for the -" Liz gulped hard, not wanting to think of the enemies that they had out there.

"Copper Summit? Why does that sound so familiar?"

They had been so engrossed in their conversation, they hadn't noticed that one of the waitresses had been standing behind them, eavesdropping. Courtney slid into the seat across the way from them, causing them both to jump. Chills went up Liz's spine, when she saw the intense look that Courtney gave her.

Courtney leaned over the table toward them. "Where did you get that letter?" she demanded in a hushed tone.

"None of your business, Courtney," Max answered, suddenly remembering why he knew about Copper Summit. He decided to play ignorant with her, so as not to let her know he was onto her. "Why do you care?"

"Look, Copper Summit is.... different. You two don't belong there. Trust me."

"I don't make a habit of trusting people who can't give me a straight answer to a simple question."

"Fine!" she snapped. "Don't say you weren't warned!" She sprung to her feet, and was about to walk away, when Max grabbed her arm. As he did, her arm slipped through his grasp, leaving a layer of shed skin in his fist. Max looked at the skin, then at Courtney, who was frozen in place, eyes wide with fear.

The skin disintegrated into a pile of dust at her feet. "Courtney..." Max growled menacingly. It was enough to shake Courtney out of her stupor, and send her flying out the back doors, in an attempt to escape. Max was in hot pursuit, and managed to catch up with her in the alley. Liz came upon them, just as Max spun Courtney around. With his forearm pressing against her just below her collar bone, he pinned her up against the brick wall of the building. Liz listened, as he began to interrogate the waitress. "I probably should just kill you right now, and be done with it. But first, I want some answers. I know how you know about Copper Summit - but it's time for you to tell what you know about the place. Other than the fact that it is a base of operation for the Skins." Liz looked surprised at Max's revelation. Courtney looked absolutely terrified.

"Max, I'm not what - who you think I am. Yes, I'm a skin, but I'm from a rebel faction that doesn't want Ki-var' in control of Antar. I managed to infiltrate the group of Skins that were sent here to keep an eye on you, and report back to Ki-var'. My orders were to warn you if Ki-var' decided to send the Skins to attack you."

"I know about your true loyalties. What I want to know is - how much are you willing to help us?"

"How do you -"

"Long story. Answer the question."

"I'll tell you everything you need to know about Copper Summit - and I'll help you."

Without releasing her, he commanded, "Start talking."

"You were right. Copper Summit is a community of Skins. They pretend to be a normal town, but they're not. The Universal Friendship League is just a fake organization that they refer to themselves as, instead of just waving a flag and saying, 'Hey, we're your enemies, the skins. Over here! Come annihilate us!' That letter to Vanessa? That is a code for saying, 'You haven't checked in with us, and if we don't hear from you by this date, we'll assume you are dead.' There will be a funeral and everything."

Max's eyebrow raised in fascination. "A funeral? Without a body?"

"Oh, there'll be a body...."

"What?!" Max and Liz exclaimed in unison.

"You see, the reason we are shedding, is because these husks that we live in are dying, and -"

"Wait. Husks?" Liz inquired.

"Their bodies," Max said flatly.

"Yes," Courtney confirmed. "This isn't what we look like, really. The husks are like a shell that protects us from being ravaged by the harsh environment here on this planet. Anyway, these husks only last for 50 years, so our race started to grow a new set of husks 20 years ago, when we realized that we were liable to be here for a really long time. The new husks are just about ready to be harvested."

"So then, they can just use Whitaker's new husk for the funeral?" Max surmised.

"Exactly."

"What happens if we destroy the husks? Will the Skins die?"

"Yes - eventually. It may take a few years for all of them to finally die. There's no telling what they might do, in the meantime, knowing that their fate is sealed. If you can do it, you need to eliminate the skins, as well as the new husks."

"Seems to me, that still means we need to go to Copper Summit."

"But that will be like walking right into a nest of vipers," Courtney argued. "You can't possibly take them all."

"Maybe, maybe not. But we have to try. At least go and assess the situation, and destroy the husks. The funeral will be a perfect cover for our 'visit'. And you'll be accompanying us, as well." Courtney nodded. Max was somewhat surprised that she didn't try to weasel out of it. He wasn't sure if that was a good sign, or a bad one. "When do you figure the funeral will be?"

"Typical scenario, the death is announced on the termination date, and the funeral is the following day. When is Whitaker's termination date?"

"Tomorrow."

"Then the funeral will be on Thursday. We should probably leave tomorrow, so we can get there early the day of the funeral."

Max agreed, and looked at Liz, concern in his eyes. Thursday. That was cutting it pretty close to their wedding day. If anything went wrong, and they got stuck in Copper Summit, they'd have to wait another 4 weeks to be married. But there wasn't time to worry about that now. There was no way that he could go back to Antar, knowing that he had left this scourge on the Earth.

The following morning at 7:00, Max, Zan, Liz, Isabel, Courtney, and Michael met just outside of Roswell, for their "aliens only" road trip. Max had Zan, Liz and Isabel with him in the Jeep, and Michael roared up on his motorcycle, with Courtney seated behind him. Michael nodded to Max, signaling that they were all set and ready to go, and Max pulled out onto the highway. There was no time to waste - Copper Summit was a good 10 hours from Roswell, not counting any stops they made along the way. And they wanted to be there before nightfall. It was going to be close.

Liz had told her mom that she was going to Maria's right after school, for girl's night with her and Isabel. Isabel told her folks the same thing. Fortunately, Amy was out of town for the night, so Maria could make up various excuses, why they didn't answer the phone, if either of the girls' parents tried to call. Max was supposed to spending the night with Michael, and Courtney had no one to answer to. They each hoped that their cover would hold for the two days they would be gone.

It was just after dark, at 6:15, when Michael pulled in front of the Jeep as they drove, and Courtney pointed to the lights of a small town in the distance. Max honked that he understood, and pulled off the road a ways, where they could make camp. Everyone was relieved to get their feet on the ground and stretch. They hadn't stopped once since their one break at noon to use the restrooms, and have a quick bite to eat.

Zan and Max immediately set to erecting the tents they had brought, Michael and Courtney went to scrounge up wood and brush to build a fire, and Liz and Isabel began rummaging through the coolers for the dinner they had brought. Within half an hour, they were sitting around a campfire, eating hot dogs, chips, and other various muchies. Afterward, they made s'mores, while Zan kept everyone entertained with his unique sense of humor.

When a silence fell over the group for a minute, Max quietly asked, "So, what can we expect in Copper Summit?" His querie was obviously directed at Courtney.

"Well, as far as population - there's probably close to 75 Skins based there. Judging from what I heard on the radio at the rest area, Whitaker's funeral is apt to be a media circus. No way to know for sure, until we get there. If there is media present, you can be sure that the cameramen and reporters are going to all be skins. They'll want to be in control of what the public does, and doesn't see.

"The replacement husks are all located in an underground facility, the entrance of which is located in this big barn at the end of the street. If it's okay with you, Michael and I can handle destroying the husks, and that will free the rest of you up to deal with the Skins. I could do it alone, but it would be nice to have Michael along, for added protection. It shouldn't take very long, and then we could come and help you deal with the rest of the Skins."

"I'm thinking I'd rather we all stuck together," Max responded. Courtney seemed sincere enough, but for all he knew, she could be laying a trap. He didn't think so, given what Future Max had said in his note, and the fact that Liz hadn't uttered any words of warning. But he still didn't want to take any chances. Not with his wedding day so close, and the scent of victory in the air. "We'll take care of the situation with the Skins together, and once they're eliminated, there won't be any problem disposing of the new husks."

Michael knew Max well enough to tell that Max didn't fully trust Courtney. It rankled him, because he had developed a rapport with the girl, as they worked together at the Crashdown. Sure, Courtney was an incorrigible flirt, and that drove Maria crazy, but he never felt like she was any kind of a threat. He had been mighty surprised to find out that she was a Skin. Somehow, he just couldn't see her as his enemy. But obviously Max could.

Michael sat in brooding silence for the rest of the night, pondering the issue, until they all split up to go to bed. He watched the girls go into the one tent, while Zan and Max headed for the other. "Coming, Michael?" Max asked, turning around to look with concern at his friend.

"Yeah, I'll be along in a minute." As he sat staring at the glowing remains of their campfire, he realized that Max might not trust Courtney fully, but he must have some sort of faith in her, to believe the things she had told him. He was merely operating under the principle, "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer". After tomorrow, they would know for certain which of those two groups Courtney fell into. And he had to admit to himself, at least, that it made sense. He smiled to himself. Who would have thought that he would ever agree with Max about strategy? He guessed the old saying was true - there's a first time for everything. With that last thought, he got up, kicked dirt in on top of the burning embers, and went to bed.





[ edited 4 time(s), last at 16-Dec-2001 8:29:17 PM ]

posted on 18-Dec-2001 7:15:46 PM by sheeperz
Hi all! Gonna have to make my notes quick. It was bad enough that we have a funeral to go to tomorrow for a young (33 yo) man who died suddenly, for as yet unknown reasons. But we just got word a couple hours ago that my hubby's uncle died down in Brooklyn, and so we will be going to a funeral there on Saturday as well. Needless to say, this wasn't how I planned to spend my holidays. Makes me really appreciate what all those who lost loved ones in the 9-11 tragedies, as well as through natural means, are enduring this holiday season. We'd all do well, to keep them in our prayers.

*deep breath* Onward....

Chris, you silly thing you! Well, I'm flattered that you at least read *one* chapter of this twisted tale I'm writing! If it weren't for the fact that I love your stories, I'd boycott them til you reciprocated! LOL! But you know me, I'm a sucker when it comes to your stuff.

***IMPORTANT NOTE EVERYONE*** You'll notice in Chris' signature on the preceeding page, he has a link to his new fanfic archive. I think it is really cool, and he has spent a lot of time tweaking it, adding interesting features and such. No emoticons or such, but some great functional features. I'd really encourage you to go take a look, and consider archiving your stories there. It even has a cool feature that links sequels, so no one misses out on any of your tall tales! LOL!

OH! CHRIS TELLS ME I HAVE TO POST THE LINK *tongue* Sorry, Chris, you know I love you, right? *giggle* Here's the addy people! Go check it out! Please?

http://www.fanficarchive.net/

Sabline - LOL! Loved your post. Yep, Max really dropped the ball, when he got so wrapped up in getting married, he forgot about the letter from F.Max. So now he's going to have to sneak back to earth to mop up some of these messes.

As for Serena... *sigh* I have had so many ideas for her, but it seems the opportunity has come and gone to bring that thread in. I *could* leave it alone, because now that they are leaving for Antar, she never will meet Serena. If Serena is human, that is... *wink* Also, the way I plan on dealing with the gandarium, there will be no occasion for them to run into Laurie D. Sorry.

Shel - well, you'll get to see the answer to your Q about Lizzie in this part! Hope it meets with your approval!*big*

Linda - Well... ALMOST everything will be resolved on Earth, before they take off for the nether regions of the universe. *giggle* AND WHERE ARE YOU? LOL. I haven't been able to find you online anywhere. Are you hiding out from me? *shy*

Snowdove - OH NO. I couldn't stand having to make them wait another 4 weeks. Don't worry! Be happy! LOL

Lara - well, nope, nothing goes wrong. In Copper Summit, anyway.... I'll let you mull that over, and worry for a while. hehehehe

Mitra - here you go, babe. Sorry to keep you waiting! *wink*

Chinablueeyes - Hey! Great to see you again! Trouble? Did you say trouble? I think it's more... what kind of trouble are the royals cooking up for the Skins? LOL!

Well, everyone, here goes! Hope you all enjoy this - I got a little silly when it came to the confrontation with the Skins. Let me know what you think - even if you think it's stupid.

This will probably be the last part before Christmas, since I won't have much time to write, if any. I'll try to get one more part out, but it ain't lookin' good. If I don't make it back - Happy Holidays to you all, and God Bless you and yours!

~Fran~

Part Twenty-three

The next morning, they woke up early, and had a "no-cook" breakfast of bagels, fruit, and orange juice. Not knowing how the day was going to turn out, they decided to leave their camp set up, in case they needed to spend another night. When the Jeep drove through town ten minutes later, all they had to do was follow the tv vans to the site of the memorial service. They pulled up in front of the building, and stared at the sign that hung there: "Universal Friendship League".

"Looks like this is the place," Zan mumbled to Max.

"So it would seem. Listen - everyone keep an eye on Courtney, in case she turns out to be on their side after all."

"I didn't sense any sort of evil intent in her, Max," Liz informed him.

"I figured you hadn't, or you would have mentioned it," he told her, one corner of his mouth raised in a halfhearted smile. The situation was too serious to be grinning about. "But I'd rather err on the side of safety on this one. We're going to be greatly outnumbered. We can't afford to be careless." Liz nodded. "Well, let's go in and, uh, pay our respects, shall we?" Max asked, a thin sheen of perspiration beginning to bead on his upper lip.

Zan placed his hand on his brother's forearm. "You okay?"

Max nodded. "Just a little concerned. If I misjudged our strength - or theirs - this could very well be our downfall. I don't mind telling you, that knowing I made the decision to put us in this kind of danger is a little overwhelming."

"Yo - we're all here, because we agreed with you. Nobody came here at gun point. Remember that."

Max stared for several seconds at Zan. "Thanks. That helps."

Zan slapped Max's arm, where seconds ago he had gripped it. "Good. Now let's kick some alien ass." Max couldn't help but snicker at Zan's courageous optimism, despite the tension of the situation.

Michael had parked his motorcycle behind some brush on the edge of town, where it would be out of sight. He and Courtney walked up to the Jeep, just as the others were getting out. Max looked at Michael, to gauge his mood. The response he got from his friend was, "Let's do it."

Quietly, they mounted the stairs to the building, and entered a room full of people, many of whom were seated. Inside the door, they were instructed to sign the guest registry, by a man who stared unflinchingly at them. As a result of a bad case of nerves, Liz introduced herself to him as Congresswoman Whitaker's assistant. After signing the registry, they stood in line in the center aisle, and waited their turn to view the "body". Liz felt like she was going to crawl out of her skin - no pun intended - the presence of evil was so strong. The place had to be crawling with the enemy. She began glancing surreptitiously around the room, alert for signs of danger. When their group made it up to the front, Zan and Isabel were in front, Michael and Courtney in the middle, and Max and Liz were bringing up the rear. Out of the corner of her eye, Liz saw a man reach up and scratch at his neck, peeling away a chunk of skin. All around him, various other individuals were scratching, some also peeling off shedding skin.

"Max, the whole room is full of them," she whispered.

Max swallowed, and kept staring ahead, as he mumbled, "I know. Stay close to me at all times, so I can protect you."

Liz shivered. "Don't worry - you wouldn't be able to shake loose of me if you tried."

Still staring straight ahead, he reached out and found her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Good girl."

Finally, it was his and Liz's turn to pay their respects. Kneeling briefly, they lowered their lashes, to appear as if they were praying. Stealing glances to either side, they realized they were completely surrounded. Max whispered the observation softly, as if his lips were moving in supplication to an unseen deity.

Standing again, they turned to join the others, who were waiting right behind them. Together, the six began the seemingly endless journey to the back of the room. All around them, "people" were staring at them, more and more of them scratching and peeling with every step the teens took. All that scratching made Liz's skin start to itch, and she reached up to scratch her neck, eliciting a few surprised looks. From the front, Mr. Greer stood watching their attempt to steal away quietly, a devious smirk on his face. Just as they were about to reach the exit, the doors swung shut in their faces. A strong surge of energy threw them to the floor, and dragged Max and Liz back toward the front. When their bodies stopped moving, they rolled over and sat up, to find Mr. Greer smiling down at them with an unholy gleam in his eyes.

"Well, well, well... what have we here?" he mused aloud. "I sense something different about these young people, my friends," he announced, addressing the gathering of "mourners". "It would seem they are not the innocent little humans we are expected to believe they are. And since they aren't of us - my guess is, we have the royal four... and a little extra." He looked at the six young people who were now all rising to their feet. "Courtney," he said plainly, in acknowledgment of one of their own. Of the rest he inquired, "Whom among you are the king and queen?" When no one responded, Mr. Greer continued, with a lopsided grin, "Playing hard to get, are we? Well, that's all right. I have other ways of getting my information." He raised his hand in an aggressive manner, that caused both Max and Zan to erect energy fields around their group.

Mr. Greer was pleased - but only for a brief moment. Confusion quickly blanketed his features, as he saw the evidence of not one, but two kings. "What is this?" he demanded, staring at the two young men who looked identical. "There can be only one king! I don't know what kind of cheap parlor trick you have devised to confuse us, but we will know which of you is king!"

"This is no cheap parlor trick, as you call it," Max said boldly. "But if having two kings to deal with is too confusing - we can simplify things for you." He caught Zan's eye, and the two of them began walking toward each other, until the edges of their green shields were a mere inch apart. Making sure that everyone was still contained within the protective spheres, they continued until the shields touched and merged, making one larger blue sphere, in place of the two smaller ones. As Max and Zan drew closer, the size of the sphere grew smaller, yet more intense.

"Enough!" Greer shouted. "We don't have time for these games! Attack them!" All the Skins sprung from their seats, and began assaulting the energy shield from all sides, trying to weaken Max and Zan. The Evans twins gripped each other's hands, and formed a connection, strengthening the shield. It held, but try as they might, they couldn't get it to flare enough to overtake their enemies and kill them, due to the drain the room full of Skins was making on their energy reserves. They surveyed the situation, to find the only exit from the building was blocked. Liz watched, as Max and Zan looked at each other in dismay. It was a stalemate.

It was a long-shot, but Liz didn't see that they had any other choice. So she quietly walked up to Max and Zan. Just before she placed her hand over their clasped ones, Max realized what she was about to do. With a devious grin on his face, he turned to Greer.

"Hey, Greer!"

"What do you want, you spoiled royal brat?" he spat back.

"Now, is that any way to address me, when I'm trying to have a civilized conversation?"

Greer gritted his teeth. "If you have something to say, say it."

"Well, you mentioned games, and I was just wondering... did you ever take time to learn a card game the humans call 'poker'?"

Greer looked startled at the question. "I know some about the game, why?"

"You should have paid more attention to the rules, I guess."

Greer scowled. "Why do you say that?"

"Because if you had, you would know that a royal flush beats a full house," Max answered simply, then a satisfied grin crossed his face. "Right, Liz?"

Liz nodded. "Oh, yes, definitely."

"What the hell are you kids rambling on about? You obviously can't defeat us, so what are you getting at?"

"Well, why don't we... 'lay our cards on the table', so to speak, and we'll see what happens," Max suggested.

With that, Liz whispered into Michael and Isabel's ears, and they laid their hands on Max and Zan, lending their strength. The shield intensified, and the Skins were obviously struggling to maintain their assault.

"Impressive," Greer ground out, "but still not enough to defeat us," he taunted with an evil chuckle. "Now what are you going to do?"

"Well, remember, I said a royal flush? Now, granted, none of us is a joker - but there are five of us for you to contend with -"

"I only see four of you doing battle. Courtney can't help you, and what good is the little human girl?"

"Human, you say?" Max asked in surprise.

"Yes, she identified herself at the door when you entered. Vanessa told us all about her."

Max smiled from ear to ear. "Well, obviously, there were one or two things that Vanessa didn't know about. Time to ante up, Greer. Liz? Shall we show him the last card we hold?"

Liz stepped forward. As she did, Max couldn't resist revealing to Greer and his mob who was going to be the key to their undoing, before they went down. "May I have your attention please?" he called out in his best official voice. "Before we conclude today's activities, I would like to introduce you all to..." He wrapped his arm around Liz, and finished, "The Queen of Antar!"

Gasps of disbelief were heard around the room, as Liz positioned herself to join in the connection, as she had done in the alley that day a month ago with Future Max and Future Zan. Greer watched in horror, as she cleared her mind of any distraction, closed her eyes, and channeled her energy into the five way connection. She felt the rush of power through her body, but this time it didn't startle her. She had felt it before. A loud crack was heard, as the energy of the five of them combined ripped through the air. For the briefest of seconds, Liz thought she heard screaming - but then all was silent. And then the energy drain was gone. Liz opened her eyes, to see that there was only the six of them left standing in the room, the air filled with floating ashen remains of the skins who had just been their a moment before.

They all released physical contact, breaking the connection. "Well, that was invigorating," Isabel commented.

"Sure was," Michael agreed. "Nice shootin', boys. But little Lizzie - my goodness! What a surprise you've turned out to be," he added with a grin. Liz blushed and smiled, looking down at her feet in embarrassment.

"I've got to say, I've never seen anything like it," Courtney said in a hushed voice, filled with awe. "That's an incredible amount of power. On Antar, the men's shields can only be used in a defensive manner. This is absolutely phenomenal."

Max and Zan looked at her surprised. "Really?" Max spoke for them both. "The shields are only for protection?"

"Never once have I seen them used in any other way," she confirmed.

Max and Zan smiled at each other, both knowing what the other was thinking. The element of surprise would be on their side, when they finally faced Ki-var'.

"I'd say our work here is done," Max announced. "Let's go take care of those husks, and then get out of here." They all filed out of the building, Zan bringing up the rear. As the others continued on toward the barn, Zan turned in the doorway, facing the now empty room. He gave a silent salute to Greer and his little army, then turned to trail after his friends. As he stepped out onto the porch, he softly started to sing under his breath, "You got to know when to hold up, know when to fold up, know when to walk away, and know when to run..." He chuckled to himself, then flung his arms wide, taking a deep breath of hot, desert air. It was a great day to be alive.

At the other end of the street, Courtney and Michael were the first to reach the old barn. "So this is the place?" he asked.

"Yeah - there is an underground vault where they keep the husks. It should be simple to destroy them, unless that's where Nicholas is keeping himself these days."

"Nicholas? Uh, I don't think so," Michael said, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other.

"What about Nicholas?" Max questioned, as he, Isabel, and Liz came up behind them.

"I just mentioned that since we haven't heard anything about Nicholas lately, maybe he's holed up with the husks down below."

"I can guarantee he isn't there," Max declared.

"Oh?" Courtney was astounded that Max would know anything about Nicholas' whereabouts.

"Nicholas is dead, Courtney. He has been for weeks."

Courtney gasped. "How -?"

"Max and Zan had a little run-in with him, and he ended up a pile of ashes," Michael said bluntly.

"Oh, I see." They watched as Courtney struggled to assimilate that information.

Zan walked up at that moment. "Whassup?"

Courtney's eyes shifted from Max to Zan, and then back. "You are so much stronger than King Zan was," she marveled. "And a helluva lot smarter when it comes to knowing your enemy, I think. Maybe you really do stand a chance of reclaiming the throne from Ki-var'."

"Geez, I hope so," Max admitted. "I'd hate to think that we went to all this trouble, just to lose in the end."

"If there's anything at all that I can do to help you, let me know," Courtney offered.

"Thank," Max answered with a smile of approval. "I will. For starters, how about you show us how to get rid of these husks?"

Courtney nodded. "Okay, but I think the rest of you should get in the Jeep and have it running. Michael and I can handle the harvest, and then we'll hop in the Jeep. You have to be prepared to book it out of here," she cautioned. "What I have in mind is going to blow the whole place to kingdom come."

"Okay, folks, you heard the lady, load up," Max instructed, getting into the driver's seat, and starting the vehicle. He nodded to Courtney to proceed, and watched as she and Michael disappeared into the barn. A few minutes went by, and Max began to get nervous. What if he had misjudged Courtney, and she had done something to Michael? He was about to suggest that Zan accompany him into the building, when Michael came out, carrying a cylinder containing fluid, and what was obviously Courtney's replacement husk.

Seeing Max's questioning look, he said, "Hey, I couldn't let her destroy her own husk. That would be suicide." Max nodded his approval of Michael's action, and Michael put the cylinder into the back of the Jeep.

Suddenly, Courtney came barreling out of the barn, screaming, "Let's go!" Michael hopped into the empty spot behind Max's seat that Isabel and Liz had left, and Courtney jumped into Zan's lap, as Max slammed the Jeep into gear, speeding off down the dirt street. They hadn't even reached where Michael left his motorcycle, when the barn exploded, sending pieces of burning wood sailing through the air. They had somehow managed to get just far enough away, to avoid being showered on by the fire that came raining down.

When they reached the edge of town, Max stopped so Michael and Courtney could reclaim the bike. Silently, they all turned to watch the inferno that blazed brightly under the hot Arizona sun. It was hard to believe that they had overcome another major enemy threat. Max knew that victory hadn't come this easy in the other timeline. As they stood there in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts, he silently offered up a prayer of thanks that Ki-var', in his ignorance, had sent Future Zan back in time, and started the whole chain of events that finally led to Zan uniting with them all, and bringing the missing piece that would assure them total victory. After all - was it not prophesied as such?

He smiled to himself. He'd never been a religious sort, feeling that if there was a God, he must be cruel to have placed himself and the others on a planet that was so hostile, where they had to always be careful to hide who they were. But now he could see the wisdom in all that had happened, and was reconsidering the possibility that all of it had somehow been orchestrated by an omniscient deity. After all, their human heritage had somehow strengthened them, if what Courtney said about them being stronger than King Zan was to be believed. The very thought was reassuring.

Max inhaled a deep breath in relief, the scent of smoke filling his nostrils. "I think it's time we got out of here," he announced. He released the clutch, sending the Jeep into forward motion once again, as they began the journey back to their campsite.

Once there, they loaded their supplies, and headed back toward the New Mexico border, with plans to stop in Las Cruces for lunch. Zan was hoping to see Karanna, if only for a few minutes. She had shown them where she attended school, when they had been there the weekend before. Then, if all went according to plan, they'd be back in Roswell by dinnertime. Hopefully, their parents would be none the wiser.




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 18-Dec-2001 7:59:02 PM ]

posted on 20-Dec-2001 8:05:34 PM by sheeperz
Hey everyone!

Thanks so much for the feedback - I'm glad you are enjoying this. I feel absolutely horrible, that I just am not going to have time to write before Christmas. I hope you guys won't forget me while I'm gone?!?!

Tomorrow we have to pack and leave to go downstate for the funeral on Sat., and to celebrate the holidays the following day with family. So that knocks out the next 3 days. Of course, I have to do a marathon wrapping session tonight, to get ready!*big*

Then, Christmas eve, I have to wrap the presents for MY family, and get ready to spend the evening with them. Christmas day we'll head to some friends' for dinner. So... don't expect anything until at least Wed, unless a miracle happens, and I get some computer time! *sigh* I'm going to be in withdrawal! I have all these ideas, and no time to write them down!!!

I pray you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Blessings to you and yours!

Love and hugz,
Fran
posted on 26-Dec-2001 10:26:47 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the kind wishes, and the patience and understanding. This is the first I have had a chance to get on the computer!

Sorry, I won't have a part out tonight (Wed, 10 pm now), but I am starting to write on it. Hope you can be patient with me a little longer. This part is going to be more of a transition part, although I anticipate (if the characters cooperate!) some significant occurrences in this part.

Anyway, my poor 12 yo boy needed a serious re-do of his bedroom, so I've been busy stripping wallpaper (a totally unglorifying job, lemme tellya! LOL) and then I'll have some spackling and painting, and border to put up... making curtains, blah blah blah! But in and amongst it all, I'll try to get some new parts out! I feel like I have been away forever, and I don't want to lose all my momentum here!

NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION:

After the wedding and reception, do you want a... ahem... *real* bonding ceremony/consummation? If so, let me warn you...

What has been reeling in my mind (totally unbidden, mind you) would involve more than just the two couples. We're talking Antarian bonding rituals, people.

What this means, in practical terms, is that:

(1) Some of it could be loosely construed as "slash", although that is not the intention of it. But the girls will have to help L & K "prepare" for their consummations.

(2) Also could be some minor scene that would possibly be viewed as UC, probably between Maria and Max, although AGAIN, there is nothing of the heart in it, just Antarian ritual, again.

(3) I have always stood on principle to avoid NC-17, but I don't see how I could do this as a full-blown ritual, without venturing into that territory. I could tone it down to R though, if y'all prefer (Or, I could just gloss over it altogether, in a PG-13 type of account).

What can I say? Those Antarians are a sensual lot! *wink*

Please leave me feedback on these 3 issues (again, they are: 1) mild slash? 2) short UC interaction -Max/Maria? 3) NC-17/R/PG-13?), and let me know what your preferences are. Obviously, I probably won't be able to satisfy everyone, but I'd like to know how the majority of you would like to see this handled.

You can either leave me feedback here, or email me at:
fanfic⊕twcny.rr.com.

Thanks for your input! Love you guys! *bounce*

Fran


posted on 26-Dec-2001 11:31:11 PM by sheeperz
In reference to my Q: Oh, maybe I need to clarify this a bit....

the rituals would NOT consist of bonding between the girls, or between Max and Maria.... the only sex going on will be between our beloved couples.

How to put this? It would have to do with the ritualistic application of herbal oils, which were created by Ge-lar' to enhance the bonding between M/L and Z/K. That is what I meant, by the girls preparing L & K for bonding with M & Z. Sorry if I didn't say that quite right before. But obviously, in the application of the oils, the girls would have to touch L & K. Does that make a difference?

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Dec-2001 11:32:02 PM ]
posted on 29-Dec-2001 12:33:44 AM by sheeperz
Hi all! FINALLY, I have the next part written, and ready to post. It is longer than usual, and I purposely didn't split it up, as my way of saying thanks for your patience!

Thank you to those who left their opinions on the consummation issue. It helped me get my bearings on the whole thing. Here is what I have decided:

Breathe a sigh of relief, dreamers. NO MAX AND MARIA.

I will go with the Antarian rituals preparing for bonding, but I will attempt to tone it way down.

In response to the suggestion of their being two separate bonding passages, one being pg-13/R and the other being NC-17, I am tending to agree. Then everyone can choose what they want to read, and not feel left out! *wink*


But alas! That is not to be for a few parts yet, so here is the next installment, bringing us one part closer to the moment you all are waiting for! hehehe

I hope you enjoy this, even though it is somewhat a transition part. It still has some significant things to throw at you all! Let me know what you think! I love to hear your opinions!


Part Twenty-four

Karanna was waiting on the edge of the school grounds, when Max drove up and screeched to a halt. Zan had called her cell phone, and told her they were on their way to Las Cruces. She had been understandably surprised, but pleased nonetheless, that she would get to see Zan one more time before their wedding day.

When the Jeep came to a stop, Zan opened the door, and helped Karanna up onto his lap, shutting the door as Max started to drive away. Once the door was fastened, he brought his hands up to thread through Karanna's hair, and pulled her lips to his in a kiss that told her just how much he had missed her. He didn't release her, until Max turned off the engine, once he had stopped at a nearby park that they had been to on a previous visit.

Isabel helped Max spread the blankets under a tree, while Courtney and Michael gathered the bags of take-out that they had stopped to get on the way to the school. As Courtney handed Zan and Karanna their lunches, Zan introduced the two girls, who seemed to take to each other right away, chatting amiably for a few moments.

When everyone else was assembled, and began to eat, Zan quietly asked Karanna, "So - are you all set for the wedding?"

Karanna looked up at him. "As ready as I can be, for something I'm allowed to know absolutely nothing about."

Zan's face twisted into a confused expression. "Are you having second thoughts? Do you want to postpone our wedding?"

"No! That wasn't what I meant at all," she insisted, laying her hand against his hair roughened cheek. She couldn't believe how incredibly sexy he looked, when he hadn't shaved for a couple of days, and his hair was slightly wind-tousled. Big surprise there, she thought to herself with a smile. No matter what he looked like, he always looked like some sort of Greek god in her eyes.

"What are you smiling about?" he asked, breaking her out of her thoughts.

Karanna leaned forward, and kissed him sweetly on the lips. "I was thinking how absolutely gorgeous you are," she admitted with a blush.

As much as her confession, the innocent blush that stole across her cheeks warmed his heart. She was so sweet, and inexperienced, and yet she trusted herself to him. He wasn't sure that he deserved such an honor, but he certainly was grateful for it. "I'm glad you think so," he mumbled against her lips, "but nothing can compare with the beauty I see, when I look at you. And I don't just mean physical beauty," he hastened to add. "You are beautiful to the core of your being. I love you."

"Oh, Zan, I love you, too. And no, I'm not having second thoughts. I just meant, it's a little strange, not knowing what is going to happen at your own wedding, you know?"

Zan nodded. "Yeah, I can see what you mean. I guess being a guy, it doesn't have the same effect. We aren't usually in on the planning, anyway," he said with a grin.

Karanna giggled. "I hadn't thought of that. Well, I guess I get to know how the other half lives, on this issue, anyway."

Zan and the others then proceeded to fill her in their trip to Copper Summit, and the outcome of the adventure. She was stunned to learn of the way that Liz had been the one to give them the advantage they needed over the Skins. She noticed that even Courtney and Isabel were in serious awe, when relating the events following Liz's joining into Max and Zan's connection. She listened with fascination, as Michael recounted every minute detail, and noticed the astonishment on Liz's face, at his obvious pleasure in exalting her role in the incident.

"I have to admit," Max interjected, once Michael related the dramatic conclusion, "I can't wait to see what happens, when you join into the connection as well, Karanna. Of course, that experiment will have to wait until after the wedding," he said, as a reminder that Liz and Karanna couldn't share in that special connection with each other, until after they had each consummated their vows with their respective mates.

"So, then, you think she will further increase our power?" Zan asked his brother.

"I don't see why not. She and Liz are identical twins, as are we. It would only make sense that what one can do, so can the other."

"I agree. But there is something about it that has been rattling around in my brain, ever since that episode in Copper Summit."

Max quirked an inquisitive eyebrow. "And that would be -?"

"It has to do with what Da-nar' told us about the four-square. Could it be possible, that since we are two sets of twins, and mates as well, that if we form a four-square, the outcome would be rather... unique?"

Max, too, had wondered about that same thing. He continued to marvel at the way his thoughts and Zan's were so intertwined. He shifted his gaze from his brother, to Courtney, who had been sitting quietly, listening to the exchanges between the leaders she had been sent here to support and protect. "Courtney? What do you know of the Antarian fighting formation, known as the four-square? Have you ever encountered it?"

"Not personally," she said haltingly. "I have only heard stories of it, never having been engaged in battle with Antarians myself. But I know that Ki-var' was aware of the technique, and it was one of the factors in his decision to attack the King and Queen during the wedding feast, when everyone's guard would be down. That way, he was assured no four-square could form quickly enough to prevent the assassination."

Max pondered that for a moment. "I guess I need to talk to Da-nar' about what exactly a four-square consisted of. I mean, did they connect, making themselves a single consciousness? Or was it purely a physical formation? Courtney, you told us before that the shields were only for defensive purposes, so what did a four-square use for weapons? And did they use their shields as a single unit, or four separate ones? These are things we'll need to know, if we hope to engage Ki-var', and win. I'm sure we have the firepower we need, but Antarian strategy may be useful as well, in assuring our success."

"Well, the first thing we need to do, is get the four of you married," Michael spoke up. "I may be able to bust rocks at 20 feet, but I don't have anywhere near the strength the three of you -" with a pointed look at Karanna, he added, "and hopefully the four of you - have when you are connected. With that kind of incredible power at your disposal, war should quickly become an obsolete notion on Antar."

Max managed a halfhearted smile. "We can only hope. But you're right. We need to forget all of this alien stuff for a couple of days, and focus on our brides, right Zan?"

Zan grinned. "You betcha!" he exclaimed, wrapping his arms around a squealing Karanna, and pulling her onto his lap. The rest of them couldn't help but laugh at Zan's carefree antics. They were all glad for the lightheartedness, which helped to dispel the horror of the ordeal they had just been through.

Once they had finished their lunch, they drove Karanna back to the school grounds, and Zan regretfully said his good-bye to her, with promises to see her in another 36 hours. He kissed her deeply, and whispered to her how he couldn't wait to officially claim her as his own on their wedding day. The love and tenderness that radiated from him to her left her feeling weak in the knees. She knew that going to classes in the afternoon was going to be nothing more than an exercise in futility. Nothing would penetrate the haze that surrounded her, keeping her thoughts firmly fixed on the man she so loved.


Some five hours later, Max cruised the Jeep into Roswell, and headed for the Crashdown. His intention was to leave Liz there, and then take his siblings back to their own home, acting as if nothing were out of the ordinary, and they were all coming home for dinner, after a study session at the library.

His plans were upended, though, when they pulled up in front of the cafe, discovering his parents' car parked there already. A prickling sensation traveled up his spine, which he took as an indication that something was seriously amiss here. He looked in his rearview mirror, to see Liz's frightened face. Apparently, she shared his apprehension at the scene before them.

Max blew by the restaurant, to take a spin around the block, affording him time to assess this newest glitch in their plans, and decide on a course of action. "Okay," he spoke aloud, addressing the entire company present. "I think we all just saw that our parents are at the Crashdown. God only knows what that means. I'm torn as to how to proceed from here, and some input would be greatly appreciated. As I see it, we have two options: one, we could just carry out the original plan, dropping Liz off, and then the rest of us proceed home, as if nothing unusual has occurred. Our second option would be to all go into the Crashdown together, and face whatever situation may await us. As for pros and cons, the first option, however deceitful, would testify to our supposed innocence of any wrongdoing. The mark against it, of course, would be to leave Liz to face the firing squad of both sets of parents alone, should they happen to be on the warpath. Which, of course, is the merit in the second alternative - by all going in together, the burden would be lessened from Liz's shoulders, and redistributed more evenly between her, and the three of us. After all, it hardly seems right that our parents should hold her responsible for our deception. The down side of it, though, is that it appears we are adopting a herd mentality for safety purposes, thus displaying guilt. Opinions? Suggestions?"

"I vote we present a united front," Isabel offered from the back. "Like you said, it hardly is right to leave Liz high and dry, if our parents are worked up over our absence."

"I agree," Zan seconded. "I think we can still maintain an air of innocence, and yet all come into the building together. We can merely suggest that we were studying together, and were about to drop Liz off, when we saw our parents' car, and decided to come in and see what was up."

Max nodded his opinion that the plan might work. "Then it's decided?" Max asked, looking for confirmation of the decision from all parties involved. A chorus of affirmative murmurings put the issue to rest. Now that they were close to the Crashdown, he pulled to the side of the street, coming to a stop in the space next to his parents' car. "Well - here goes nothing," he mumbled, and opened his door, turning to assist Liz in extricating herself from the back seat, while Isabel climbed out through Zan's door. Taking Liz's hand in his own, he led the group to the front doors, and entered with an air of confidence that he didn't feel.

The first sight that greeted them was Maria, looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Her wide-eyed fear was apparent to Max and Liz, but fortunately shielded from Jeff Parker, who was approaching them from behind her. Max's eyes flicked briefly to Maria, as he saw her lips form two simple words - "They know." He felt Liz's small hand tremble, as he tightened her hold on his. Max's stomach instantly knotted, and he wanted to scream, cursing this life of deception they were forced to live out in front of the people they loved the most.

Knowing that everything hinged on how they played out the next few moments, Max assumed his role, as if vying for an Academy Award. Pasting a carefree, happy smile on his face, which didn't quite reach his eyes, he greeted Jeff Parker, as if he hadn't a care in the world. "Hello, Mr. Parker," he addressed Liz's dad. His eyes darted quickly around the room, trying to ascertain his parents' whereabouts. When he didn't see them, he proceeded to ask, "We saw my folks' car out front, and assumed they were here, but I don't see them? Have they been here?"

Mr. Parker's eyes were cold and hard, and there was no warmth in his expression, as he looked from Max to his daughter, and back again. Clearly, he was peeved. "Have they been here?" he echoed, almost mockingly, Max thought. "You could say that. They came to see us late last night, totally distraught. You mother has been here since early this morning, and your father stopped by, as soon as his office was closed for the day. They are both upstairs with Nancy now."

"I see," Max responded, feigning confusion. He hoped that somehow they could convince their parents that there had been some sort of mix-up. He wished to hell that he knew exactly what it was that they supposedly knew. What had Maria said to them?

"Do you really, Max?" Jeff shot back. "Somehow, I don't think you quite grasp the seriousness of the situation here."

"Perhaps you're right," Max answered meekly, hoping to quell Jeff's wrath, before it got out of hand in front of a dining room full of observers. Jeff's raised voice had already attracted more than one glance from curious onlookers.

Realizing that he was potentially making a spectacle of his family's trials, he demanded, "All of you need to come with me. We can discuss this further upstairs." With that, he turned and marched through the swinging doors, assuming that the four teens would follow obediently.

He was partially correct - Max motioned for Zan to accompany the girls upstairs, while he pulled a petrified Maria to the side in the back room for a debriefing. When Max was satisfied that they wouldn't be overheard, he asked softly, "What happened? What do they know?"

Tears gathered in her eyes, as she apologized. "I'm so sorry, Max. I don't know what happened, but somehow it all got away from me. I did the best I could to cover for you, insisting that I didn't know where you were, but when they found out that Liz and Isabel weren't with me last night, they turned Roswell upside down looking for you all. When none of you could be located, they assumed the absolute worst, since you had chosen to lie about your true intentions for the evening. And when you didn't come home, they checked with the school, discovering that you were AWOL from classes today as well. It was like the last straw. The tension in the air here has been so thick, you could cut it with a knife."

Maria was trembling with fear, and Max knew that it was not for herself that she worried, but rather for them. He pulled her into the circle of his arms, comforting her, as she had done so often for him last spring, when Liz suddenly disappeared to Florida, in her quest to avoid him, after learning of his supposed destiny with Tess. Gently stroking her back in a soothing rhythm, he offered her solace in the simple truth. "We always knew that this was a risk we were taking, every time we went out on one of these missions. God knows we've been fortunate to get away with it as long as we have. The irony of it is, in another two days, none of it would matter any more. Fate has a way of toying with us, don't you think?"

Expecting his lighthearted banter to ease her grief, Max was devastated when she burst into tears, burying her face in his chest in an effort to muffle her uncontrollable sobs. "Hey, now," he chided, "there's enough of that. I can't have you falling to pieces on me, when I need you to be strong."

"But I f-f-failed you all," she protested. "I j-just didn't know w-what to t-tell them, when they s-started to g-grill me for the t-truth."

"You did the best that we could have hoped for, under the circumstances, so relieve your mind of that concern, all right? At least they aren't sure what we were up to, or where we were, which gives us some room to play with. Now if I can just figure out what to do with that extra rope, so I don't end up hanging us all...."

Maria took a deep shuddering breath. "Maybe you could just tell them that you all felt the need to get away, and you went camping? It wouldn't exactly be a lie, right?"

Max stared at her for a moment, then gave her an enthusiastic smack on the cheek. "Maria, you are a genius."

Maria stared at him skeptically, trying to determine if he was mocking her or not. "I am?" she asked in disbelief.

"Indeed you are. If they think we are lying about going camping, we have all our stuff in the car to prove that's exactly what we were doing! Of course, they'll want to know why we felt the urge to take off, and take Liz with us, no less..."

"Yeah, that's a serious concern. Although, no matter what you tell them, or how they react, the truth of the matter is, any punishment they decide to dole out will be a moot point the day after tomorrow, right?"

"True, but I'd just as soon not have to call a meeting with them on Saturday, while they are all still fuming over this issue. Although..."

"Max? What are you thinking?"

"Well, just that this would give us the perfect excuse in their minds to be summoning them for a meeting. It wouldn't arouse any kinds of suspicions. Yes, I think that this could actually work to our advantage." For the second time that day, he marveled at how situations that appeared at first to be hopelessly conspiring against them, could actually be to their benefit.

"So what are you going to do?"

"I think I won't try to offer a reason for our impromptu camping excursion. Let them stew about it, and punish us, hoping that we'll crack and tell them what they want to know. That way, when we call them together, they'll think it's because we are going to come clean. What do you think?"

"Me? I think you are amazing. No wonders you're the -"

Max clapped his hand over her mouth. "Careful, girlfriend. Don't get too loose with your lips just yet. I need to have some secrets, you know," he teased with a grin.

When he released her, she mumbled, "I was just gonna say, 'No wonders you're the man,' as Ava would say."

Just then, Zan appeared at the bottom of the stairs, a harried look on his face. "Max! Do you have a death wish? You are not winning points with the parental units waiting upstairs. Time to face the firing squad, fearless leader."

Max hugged Maria one last time, and whispered to her not to worry. On the way up the stairs behind Zan, he softly remarked, "For your information, I was devising our strategy. I think this may all turn out relatively okay. They are gonna probably freak, but don't worry. That's the reaction I'm counting on."

Zan glanced back over his shoulder at Max, his face contorted with concern. "Sometimes, I truly worry about you," he confessed. "Why do you want them to freak?"

By now they had gained the top of the stairs. "Here we are," Max whispered. "No time to explain. Just follow my lead, and trust me."

"Like I have a choice," Zan grumbled, following on his brother's heels.

"Max, so nice you could join us," his father greeted, with no small measure of sarcasm. "Considering the way you all lied about your plans, and disappeared last night, I'm surprised you'd even bother to show your face at all. Did you think that we wouldn't find out?"

"Well, I was hoping..."

"Don't get smart with me, young man! I'm in no mood to trade verbal barbs with you. Normally I'd enjoy your banter, but this is far too serious to allow you such liberties. I want answers regarding your whereabouts for the last 24 hours, and I want them now."

Max cleared his throat, and looked sheepishly at the four angry adults before him. The two women were seated, eyes red-rimmed from obviously crying off and on all day. Phillip was perched on the arm of the sofa next to where Diane sat, his hand placed in silent support on her back. Jeff was the one that really worried Max. He was prowling the length of the room like a caged lion, just waiting for his prey to weaken, before coming in for the kill. Max could see the blood pounding through the vein on the side of his neck, and worried that the man was going to give himself a stroke, if he didn't settle down.

Making eye contact with Liz, and detecting her fear, Max casually moved to her side, and took her hand, willing her to look in his eyes. When she did, he quickly connected with her, and proceeded to align the wild beating of her heart to his own slower, more steady one. When he sensed her beginning to calm, he flooded their connection with his immense love for her, and immediately felt hers in return. Shifting his eyes from her, he kept the connection open, so that she would be able to sense his emotions, as he dealt with the interrogation at hand. He couldn't verbally prepare her for what was about to happen, so he hoped that she would get the sense that things weren't as hopeless as they seemed, when everything inevitably went south at the conclusion of this confrontation.

"Max, I'm waiting. And just so we understand each other, I'm holding you personally responsible for this whole incident."

Isabel started to protest, but Max sent her a quelling look. "And that's as it should be," he rejoined, acknowledging the validity of his father's placement of blame. Phillip's eyes momentarily registered his surprise, but instantly grew piercing again. "The truth of the matter is, we went camping," Max informed them, specifically addressing his father.

Phillip's eyebrows shot up. "Camping? In the middle of the week, in the middle of November? And cutting classes, to do so? You'll forgive me if I don't swallow that one, Max."

"Believe what you will," Max challenged, "but that's precisely what we did last night. All our camping gear is still in the back of the Jeep, if you require proof, as this is our first stop since we got back."

"I'm quite sure that I don't appreciate the insolent tone of voice you've taken to here, son. You clearly are in the wrong here, and yet you're coming off as though we are the villains, because we caught you in your lie. Tell me - if you really were camping, what was the reasoning behind it? What could you possibly hope to accomplish, by sneaking off like that? Are you running drugs, or something?"

Max couldn't help the bark of laughter that escaped him. "If I were going to run drugs, do you think that I would be so conspicuous, as to take so many people with me who would obviously be missed? Trust me, drugs have nothing remotely to do with this."

"Trust you? Surely you don't mean that, Max. Trust is earned, deserved. And up until now, you had mine. Unreservedly. But this stunt makes me wonder just how much of a fool you've been playing me for all along. How many other times have you pulled stunts like this, and we just haven't caught you at it? I shudder to imagine."

And well you should, Max thought ruefully. He'd hate for it to be known just how many times he had betrayed the trust he so valued from his father. But soon the lies would be over, and everything would be exposed. Then his father could judge him on the truth of who and what he was. Either he would love and accept him, understanding why Max had needed to circumvent his father's authority on numerous occasions, or he would despise everything about him. He hated to even contemplate the latter.

Liz felt an incredible wave of regret and sadness pass through her from Max. She silently lent him her support, with a gentle squeeze of his hand, and a flood of unconditional love through their connection. Max returned the squeeze, and steeled himself for the worst of what was yet to come. In order to pull this off, he would have to keep his breaking heart out of sight. If his parents knew how difficult what he was about to do was for him, they would use his weakness to their advantage, something he couldn't allow to happen. Not yet. He had to stall them off for just one more day. Why, oh why, did that feel like an eternity?

"Unreserved trust?" Max mocked back at his father. "I find it amazing that one can fall from grace so quickly, after a lifetime of obedience." Okay, so that wasn't quite the truth, but his father didn't know that.... "Tell me - does your unconditional love also go by the wayside so quickly?"

The mere accusation brought a gasp from Diane, and pierced Phillip's heart. He sighed, the pain of regret etched into his features. "Son, that wasn't fair. Your mother and I love all three of you very much. But this... this stunt that you've pulled bears some explanation. You can't expect that I will just take it on good faith that you 'had your reasons', so to speak. I need to understand. I want to understand. Why don't you just explain it, so that we can put this to rest?"

Max hated what he had to do, but there was no escaping it. If they told their parents everything now, they would have to flee to the cave tonight. And it would make gathering Karanna far more dangerous, as there would undoubtedly be police scouring the countryside for them if they disappeared. Especially if his parents or the Parkers took exception to the fact that they had raised alien nobility these past several years. The FBI might even catch wind of it, and all hell would break loose.

"I'm sorry, Dad, but I can't tell you what you need to know. Not now, anyway. Maybe in a couple of days, when I've sorted through things, I can explain it to your satisfaction. Or at least to your understanding. But until then, the subject will have to remain closed between us."

Fury caused Phillip's eyes to spark, and his face to turn red, as he suppressed the urge to rail at his eldest son. But before he could collect himself and speak again, Jeff came to the forefront, standing toe to toe with Max, his gaze boring into Max's.

"I'm not surprised that you wouldn't give us a straight answer. What liar does?" He glared down at Liz. "You, I'm surprised at. Your grandmother would roll over in her grave, if she could see what you've become, Lizzy."

"You're wrong, Father," Liz said softly. "Grandma would understand perfectly why I did what I did. I only wish she was here to tell you so in person."

Jeff's eyes widened in surprise at his daughter's firm, yet gentle assertion. He turned narrowed eyes back on Max, and declared, "Whether she would or wouldn't isn't the issue here. What is the issue, is that Max is a bad influence on you. I don't know what you were up to for the last 24 hours, but know this - you are hereby forbidden to see him any more. You are not to talk to him at school, after school, on the phone - anywhere. Is that clear?" Without waiting for her answer, he addressed Max, as he continued to stare the young man down. "And as for you - you are not welcome in this establishment, or my home, any longer. If I find you on the premises once you leave this evening, I will personally call the Sheriff's Department, and have you arrested for trespassing. That's not a threat, either. It's a promise."

Max could feel Liz gearing up for a protest. He squeezed her hand, to let her know to drop it. "I understand," he replied quickly, effectively shutting off her opportunity to object. "I will respect your wishes, of course," he added in a submissive tone, intended to placate Mr. Parker. He was aware that Liz had not agreed to abstain from speaking with him, and that was not a stipulation that Mr. Parker had placed on him. He could live with that. If need be, he could go without talking directly to Liz, anyway. He could always relay messages about their plans through Maria.

Jeff seemed to be satisfied with Max's acquiescence. He turned to Phillip, and with a heavy heart he said, "I'm sorry it's come to this. But we seem to be at an impasse for any other kind of resolution at this moment. I hope you'll forgive my poor manners, but I think I'd like some time alone to deal with all of this."

Phillip rose, offering a hand up to his wife, as he replied, "Certainly. I regret that my son's actions have caused your family undue stress. Please accept my apologies." Jeff could only nod, he was so overcome by the emotions swirling around him. Phillip turned to his children. "We'd best take our leave. Jeff and Nancy have been more than patient throughout this ordeal. Come along."

Max leaned down to give Liz what appeared to be a kiss on the cheek. He knew that would be inflammatory, but not nearly as bad as if her father knew what he was really doing. "Balcony, midnight," he whispered in her ear.

"Max -" Jeff growled from behind him.

"Yes, sir," Max answered obediently, bringing himself up to his full stature again, and making to follow his family out the door. He could feel Mr. Parker's eyes drilling into the back of his head, as he exited the apartment.

"How could you?!" Liz accused, the moment the door was shut. "You have no right to prevent me from seeing him!"

"Oh, I have the right, young lady, and you better watch yourself, or you'll find yourself in an all-girls boarding school back east, quicker than you can blink your eyes. Understood?"

"OOOOO!" Liz shrieked, her hands balled tightly into fists, and she spun around and ran to her room, slamming the door behind her.

Jeff sighed, and sank to the couch to sit beside his wife. "Do you think she'll hate me forever?" he asked her defeatedly.

"No," Nancy replied, giving him a sympathetic look. "Just until she's 18 and out of the house, and out from under your rule."

Jeff closed his eyes on a groan, and pulled her close to himself for comfort. "When did parenting become so hard?" he mumbled to himself.

"If it means anything to you," his wife offered, "I think that the kids had some reason for what they did, and why they deliberately kept us in the dark. And I think, if we're patient, they'll eventually let us know what that reason was."

"What makes you say that?" Jeff questioned.

Nancy shrugged. "I'm not sure," she said thoughtfully. "Just a feeling."


posted on 30-Dec-2001 12:12:30 AM by sheeperz
Hey gang! Thanks so much for the feedback. Sorry I don't have time to leave personal comments, but I wanted to get a new part posted for you tonight.

This part is a little shorter than usual, but it is where the natural break is. Unless someone can remind me of any loose ends (except the gandarium thing, which will be dealt with after the wedding) that I have left hanging (GOD FORBID!), I think we are ready in the next part for them to go get Karanna, and 'fess up to the parents. That part may take a couple days to prepare, so don't think I've forgotten you, if you don't see it tomorrow, okay? LOL

And now, with no further ado - here's tonight's installment! Let me know what you think!!

Part Twenty-five

Max was in front of his siblings, as they followed their parents out of the Crashdown. The three of them had stopped to say good-bye to Maria, and let her know that things weren't as bad as they could have been. When Max exited the front door, he was met with the sight of his father looking in the back of the Jeep, presumably to see if there was indeed camping equipment in it. Max's heart thudded loudly, and his feet froze to the sidewalk, as he waited to see what his father would do.

Isabel nearly ran into him, when he stopped so suddenly. "Max! What are you - " she started, and then saw what he was staring at. "Oh my God," she whispered in his ear from behind him. "Courtney's husk is in there!"

Max nodded. "I know, but there's nothing we can do about it now. Come on, maybe we can distract him." Max strode purposefully to where his father stood. "Hey dad. Checking out the camping gear?" he asked sarcastically. Maybe if his dad got riled, he'd just yell at him, and forget about rummaging through the gear.

Phillip turned reproving eyes on Max. "As a matter of fact, I was. It appears that you indeed went camping. But that still doesn't explain what you were doing taking off like that, and skipping school." He turned, and started toward the car, where Diane was waiting. "I'll see you at the house."

"Okay," Max responded. "We'll be right along. We just have to stop and drop off a few items of Michael's that we, uh, borrowed." He held up his hands to ward off his father's pending tirade. "I promise, we won't stay and chat. We'll be home in 10 minutes, tops."

Phillip checked his watch. "10 minutes it is, starting now." He slid behind the wheel of the car, started the engine, and backed out. With one last look of disapproval through the windshield at Max, he put the car in drive, and headed toward home.

"Damn, that was close, bro," Zan mumbled. "A+ for quick thinking."

"Yeah, well, get in. We're playing beat the clock here. Let's ditch this husk and go home."

When they got to Michael's, Courtney was there as well. "Maxwell!" Michael greeted him with concern. "We saw your parents' car at the Crashdown when we rolled through. Is everything okay?"

"Hardly. Come help me bring in Courtney's husk. We'll talk while we walk." Michael nodded. As they transferred the cylinder to the apartment, Max briefly told Michael what happened.

"Wow, talk about putting a crimp in things. But we'll manage," Michael said with conviction. "How are you gonna get out of the house, and get Karanna tomorrow night, though?"

"We'll have to sneak out, once they think we're asleep. Zan and I will have to put the Jeep in neutral and push it out of the driveway and down the street a ways before starting it, so they won't hear. It'll work out. It has to."

"Yeah, I guess. We've come too far, to have everything ruined now. Say listen, there's something else I need to talk to you about."

"Oh? Better make it quick. Dad is timing me. I have about 4 minutes to get home as it is."

"Okay, well, here's the thing - this husk wasn't quite mature, and it's a gamble at best that it will do Courtney any good. But if she came back to Antar with us... there's something about the granilith, as well, that can restore their husks. I'm not sure how that works. I just feel like we owe her, you know? I'd hate to leave her here when we go back. So I was thinking... maybe she could come to the wedding? I know the girls could use some extra help the day of the wedding with some of the ceremonial stuff they need to do. And it would save Courtney. What do you think?"

"I'll talk it over with Zan, and call you later. I don't see any reason why it can't work, though. I think she's proved which side she's on."

Michael gave him a big grin. "Great! I won't say anything to her yet, but thanks. I know she'll really appreciate it."

"No problem. But I've got to get home, before Dad has a coronary. I'll let you know soon," he called to his friend, as he hopped in the driver's seat.

Phillip opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, just as Max turned the corner and pulled into the driveway. He checked his watch, looked at Max, and retreated inside to wait for his children. Max looked at Zan, who was riding shotgun.

"Man, he's really ticked at you, Max," Zan observed. "Good thing we weren't 15 seconds later pulling in. He probably would have called the police, and reported the Jeep stolen."

Max rested his forehead on the steering wheel. "The worst of it is, I'd like to say he'll eventually mellow out about all of this. But when we tell him the truth on Saturday... let's just say, I can't picture him easing up after that."

"No, not likely. Come on, we may as well go in, and deal with it." They all piled out of the vehicle, and with heavy hearts, entered the house.

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

Liz looked at the clock beside her bed. 11:49 pm. She had heard her parents go to bed almost an hour ago, and prayed that they were sleeping. She was worried that her father might actually be laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and devising ways to dispose of Max Evans, instead of counting fluffy white sheep. In all her 17 years, she had never seen Jeff Parker so angry. It didn't leave her with much hope in her heart for how he was going to take the news that his beloved daughter was an alien. And she wouldn't blame him, or her mother, for feeling violated when they learned the truth. She knew that Da-nar' did what he had to do, but she wasn't certain that her parents would feel the same.

She stared down at the page she had been writing on. Somewhere during the evening, her anger with her father had subsided, and she felt truly sorry for what they were about to put their parents through. In the wake of her empathy, came a desire to write a letter to her parents, to try and explain things from her point of view, and to let them know how much she loved them both, and how grateful she was to have had them for parents. As she reread what she had penned, the reality of what was about to occur really hit her for the first time, and she reached up to wipe the tears from her face. In two days, she was going to be married, and living on another planet. She wondered if they would ever want to see her again. To see their grandchildren - the sons and daughters she hoped to bear for Max. She closed her eyes, and placed her hand on her abdomen, gently caressing the area over her womb, where her children would someday grow. In her mind, she imagined her tummy protruding, little hands and feet poking and kicking away. She smiled at the thought.

Such was the vision that greeted Max, as he looked in her window, wondering why she wasn't out on the balcony to meet him. He stared in silent fascination at her secret musings. But he could tell what she was thinking about, as she stroked her now flat belly. And his heart swelled with his love for her, to think that she was fantasizing about being with child - his child. In his mind's eye, he too, could see her great with child, waddling around with her hand on her lower back. He imagined how it would feel, to place his hand on her swollen stomach, and feel his child moving within her. Then he envisioned sitting with Liz, as she held their newborn to her breast to feed. What a beautiful sight that would be.

Liz came out of her daydream, to see Max standing at her window, with a silly grin, and a faraway look on his face. She wondered where his thoughts had taken him. She crossed to the window, unlatched it, and climbed out. Her presence brought Max back to the reality of this moment, and he swept her into his arms, and gave her a kiss that expressed his deep love for her. He carried her over to the lounge chair, and sat down, holding her in his lap.

"Wow," she murmured. "What was that for?"

Max rubbed his nose lightly against hers, his lips barely brushing against her mouth. "That's for the children you are going to bless me with," he told her, his voice husky with emotion.

Liz was startled by his response. "What made you think of that?" she asked.

"You. I saw you on the bed, and I could tell you were thinking about the children we are going to have, weren't you?"

"Yes," she answered softly, averting her eyes in embarrassment, that Max had caught her fantasizing.

"Hey, don't look away, Liz. I'm ecstatic to know that you were thinking about that. I can't wait to see you all big and round with our baby inside you. You'll be beautiful."

"Huh," she grunted. "That's what you say now. But when you have to help me tie my shoes, I'm sure it will lose it's charm."

"Never, soon-to-be Mrs. Evans. No matter what, to me, you will always be the most beautiful girl in the universe." He pressed his lips tenderly against hers, so that she couldn't argue the point any further.

When he finally broke the kiss, she dreamily commented, "Whatever you say, Max." With a sigh of contentment, she snuggled against his chest, and rested her head on his shoulder, her face nuzzled against his neck. "So, what did you want to see me for?"

Max kissed the top of her head. "I just wanted to make sure that you were all right. I knew you were really upset earlier, and I wanted to tell you that everything went pretty much the way that I hoped it would."

Liz pulled back, and looked up at him in surprise. "It did?" Max nodded, then proceeded to tell her what his strategy was. "Oh, I see. Well, I'm glad that things are going the way you wanted. I just wish that there didn't have to be all this tension between us and our parents."

"Liz, you have to be prepared to face the possibility that there may end up being more than just tension with them, after we tell them the truth on Saturday."

Liz sighed. "Yes, I know. I just keep hoping that somehow, they will understand."

"So do I, love, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high. The last thing I want is to be depressed, going into our wedding."

"Nothing is going to ruin that day for us Max - nothing. If our parents can't be happy for us, then we will have to live with that. But either way, I can't wait until you put that ring on my finger, and promise to be mine forever."

"I'm glad to hear you say that. By the way, Michael had a suggestion earlier, and I wanted to see how you felt about it."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, well, he was wondering if we could have Courtney attend the wedding. And then she could remain on Antar with us. But I didn't want to make any decisions about our wedding without asking you first."

"Is it safe, Max? I mean, can we trust Courtney not to go running to Ki-var', the minute we get her back on Antar?"

"Well, there are no guarantees, but I think she's earned our trust. She didn't have to help us in Copper Summit, where we annihilated a whole group of her species. And she didn't seem too distraught over it. I think it's safe to say she is loyal to our side in this war."

"Well, I certainly have no objections to her being at the wedding, as long as you're convinced she isn't a threat. Because like I said before, nothing is going to ruin our day." She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, holding him close. She felt at peace with the world, as his arms tightened around her as well.

Just then, they heard a knock on her bedroom door. "Liz?" Jeff's voice filtered out onto the balcony.

"Max!" Liz whispered harshly, hopping off his lap. "Go!" Max was up and over the wall in a flash. His head dipped below the ledge, just as Liz heard her dad open her door, and enter her room.

"Lizzy?"

"Out here, Dad," she called, hoping her voice wouldn't betray her. She was thankful that Max had chosen to walk over tonight. If he had had to start the Jeep, their cover would have been blown.

"What are you doing out here?" Jeff asked her, as he climbed out onto the balcony.

"Couldn't sleep," she mumbled. "I came out for some fresh air."

Jeff closed his eyes in remorse, and nodded. "I know. I couldn't sleep either. I noticed your light on, when I got up to go to the kitchen for a glass of water. I thought maybe we could talk, now that we've both had time to calm down."

"Have you?" Liz asked.

"Have I - what?"

"Calmed down?"

Jeff put an arm around Liz's shoulder, and pulled her close to his side. "Yeah, I have. And I want to apologize for coming so unglued. Not that I've changed my mind about the irresponsibility of your actions, but I never meant to get so angry."

"I - I forgive you, Dad. I don't want to fight with you, y'know?"

"Your mother says she has this feeling that you kids had a reason for what you did, and that if we're patient, you'll tell us what it was, when you can." He looked hopefully at his beloved daughter.

"She's right. I can't tell you any more about why we had to be gone, but I can tell you that you will know everything very soon. Can you try to accept that for now? Just for a few days?"

"I don't understand what difference a few days could possibly make. Why can't you just come clean with me now?"

"Oh, Daddy, I wish I could," she confessed, tears streaming down her cheeks. "But when we do tell you, you'll be able to see why we had to wait." Liz choked back her tears. "I just hope that you'll be able to accept what we have to tell you. I love you and Mom so much, and I don't want to lose you."

"Hey, Princess, your mom and I love you, too. Whatever it is, we can work through it together, as long as you're honest with us, okay?"

Liz wrapped her arms around her dad, and cuddled up in his embrace. "I hope so, Daddy. I really hope so."

Jeff continued to hold his daughter, but his heart was heavy with worry. What could Liz possibly be involved in, that would make her so fearful of losing his love? He had never given her cause to doubt the depth of his feelings for her before today, and he had apologized for overreacting earlier. Whatever it was, he wasn't so sure now that he wanted to know. He could feel Liz's arms start to slide down his ribs, and realized she was starting to drift off. "Come on, Princess, let's get you to bed."

"Mmmhmm," she mumbled sleepily, as he helped her to her feet, and walked her to the window. Half asleep, she climbed through the window ahead of him, and crawled into bed.

Jeff stopped to pull the covers up over her, and tuck her in, the way he used to do when she was little. Kneeling by her bed, he watched as her breathing evened out, and she fell into a deep sleep. How he missed those days of innocence - it seemed like they were just yesterday. And yet here was his little girl, all grown up, and making decisions about her life without any help from him. It made his heart ache. With tears in his eyes, he leaned forward, and placed a kiss on her forehead. "Sleep well, my little princess. I love you." Rising to his feet, he turned out the light next to the bed, and tiptoed out of the room.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 30-Dec-2001 12:13:20 AM ]

posted on 2-Jan-2002 9:34:30 PM by sheeperz
Shel - Here I is! Here I is! *giggle*

HEY! Did you guys all catch the reference to the song the Gambler last night on Roswell?? I just about died, seeing how I just used that in the story! I thought that was spooky... ~VIBES~

Brigitte - well, Courtney wasn't staying with Michael. She just stopped off there when they got back from Copper Summit. Wanted to clear that up.

Linda, hon, you make be break out in a sweat with expectations like that! I don't know how good this will be, but it's as it is...

This is just the first installment of "The Revelation". More will be coming later in the week here.

Hope this doesn't leave you all "wanting". LOL! Let me know what you think!


Part Twenty-six

It was 2:00 am Saturday morning, when Karanna finally rose from her bed. She knew that her aunt and uncle would have long been asleep by now. Quietly, she moved about her room, gathering what few things she had decided ahead of time that she would take when she left. Mostly she took her clothes, a few favorite books, the few items of jewelry she had inherited from her mother, and some supplies she wasn't sure would be readily available on Antar, such as pens, paper, and personal items. As an afterthought, she added her cell phone to the pile. She loaded everything into two suitcases and her backpack. She had delayed actually packing until now, knowing how prone her aunt was to coming in to her room when she was at school, to put away her freshly laundered clothing. She couldn't take the chance that the woman would notice anything unusual about her belongings.

An hour later, she finished the last of her packing, and sat down to wait. Zan had called her at 10:30, saying he and Max were on their way. That would put their arrival at somewhere near 4:00. With nothing but time on her hands, she decided to write a short note to her aunt and uncle, to leave with the video that Max, Liz, and Zan had helped her make the previous weekend, explaining to her guardians in a roundabout way, why she had to leave. She hadn't come right out and explained on the tape about being an alien, or anything. She merely told them that all her life she had felt "different", and that she had finally figured out why. She had a special purpose in life, and she needed to embrace it. Because of that, she would have to leave them, but she was profoundly grateful for all that they had done for her. And she thanked them, because unwittingly, they were responsible for bringing her to the place where she could discover what the purpose of her existence was. She also pleaded with them not to worry about her. She would be well taken care of, and would try and get in touch with them as soon as possible. She couldn't promise when, but she would do her best to call, and let them know how she was doing.

Now she felt compelled to write them a note, asking them to please watch the video, that it would explain as much to them as they could know at this time, and urged them not to contact the authorities. It would do them no good, anyway, because where she was going, they would never be able to locate her. When she called, she would try to provide them with some information, to help them understand what she was doing, and why. She ended by telling them how much she loved them, and that she didn't want them to feel she was messing up her life. She knew what she was doing, and asked that they trust in her.

She folded the note, and placed it in an envelope. She carefully wrote their names on the front, and laid it atop the tape, which was placed on her bed for them to find.

She took one last check around her room for any items she might have missed packing, and then checked the clock. It was almost time for Max and Zan to arrive. Quietly, she slipped into the straps of her backpack, then cautiously opened her bedroom door. Seeing that the house was indeed quiet, she hefted her two suitcase, and slipped out into the hall. Noiselessly, she closed the door to her room, picked up her bags again, and tiptoed down the hall to the stairs. Fortunately, the upper floor was covered with wall-to-wall carpeting, which cushioned her steps. She was fairly sure she wasn't making any sound, but the blood rushing through her ears was so loud, she wasn't sure how well she could hear right now, anyway.

She was very careful going downstairs, purposely skipping the step that always creaked. She was afraid she might lose her balance, trying to perform the stunt loaded down with her luggage, but she managed to pull it off. At the bottom of the stairs, she turned away from the front door, and headed to the kitchen. She would go out the back way, as the dead bolt on the front door would make too much noise. She waited patiently at the back door, until she saw Max and Zan through the windows in the top half of the door. She held up a finger, indicating for them to wait a minute. She cautiously punched in the code for the alarm system, and waited for it to deactivate. She put her finger to her lips, indicating they shouldn't talk, and then painstakingly opened the door, so as not to create any unnecessary bangs or thumps, as she stole out of the house.

Once she had exited, she closed the door, and turned to Max, handing him a slip of paper, with the instructions for arming the alarm system. Staring through the window at the control panel, Max concentrated on each step, and managed to arm the system from outside the house.

Max and Zan each took one of her suitcases, and they crept through the darkened yard to the Jeep that was parked around the corner. Once they had the luggage deposited in the back, they silently got in the vehicle, and took off for Roswell.

Despite the fact that they could now talk freely, there was a pensive air in the vehicle, caused by the awareness of the finality of what was occurring in their lives, and it kept them from any discussion until they were outside the city limits.

Once they hit the highway, Zan turned around in his seat, and softly asked Karanna, "You okay with this?"

Karanna nodded, still not sure if her voice would fail her. Zan reached back, and held his hand out to her. She placed her hand in his, twining their fingers together. Finally she managed to inquire, "Is everything all set?"

Max glanced at her in the rearview mirror. "Yeah, Izzy assures me all the details for the wedding are in place. Personally, I'm more worried about the confrontation with our parents when we get back to Roswell. But we'll get through it - we have no choice. Then we'll be on our way to Antar. After that, we'll take it one day at a time."

It was shortly after 9 am, when they pulled up in front of the Evans home. Max cut the engine, and they all sat in silence, as they psyched themselves up for the ordeal ahead. "Well, no sense in delaying the inevitable, now that we're here," Zan commented. Simultaneously, he and Max opened their doors and got out of the Jeep, Zan turning to help Karanna out of the back seat. Together, they ascended the front stairs, and entered the house.

What they hadn't counted on, was Phillip and Diane being just on the other side of the door, waiting to pounce the minute they walked in.

Max was the first one through the door, and bore the brunt of Phillip's fury. "Where the hell have you been off to now?" he demanded. "I woke up at 6:00, to discover that the Jeep wasn't in the driveway, and that you and Zan here -" He immediately lost his train of thought, as he saw Zan enter, holding hands with... Liz? What the -? Phillip looked at first one boy, then the other. The differences in them were so subtle, at times he had trouble telling them apart. But... no, that definitely was Max that had entered first. His brows furrowed in confusion, as he looked at Max for some kind of explanation.

Max rubbed his hand over his face, his only sign of weariness, from the long, sleepless night. "It's a long story, Dad, and we only want to tell it once. If you'll excuse me for a moment, I need to make a couple of phone calls. Once everyone is here, we'll explain everything." In mute shock, Phillip nodded his head in acceptance of Max's terms. Max disappeared into the kitchen to call together the alien population of Roswell, and the Parkers as well. Phillip collapsed into the sofa next to his wife, and the two of them continued to stare at Liz, who was holding Zan's hand like a lifeline. But something seemed different about her. It was as if she seemed.... younger, somehow. But of course, that simply couldn't be....

Isabel, bless her heart, sensed Karanna's tension, and gently patted the loveseat next to where she was sitting, inviting her future sister-in-law to join her. Zan was grateful for Isabel's kindness toward Karanna, and escorted his betrothed to the empty seat, perching himself on the arm rest next to her. Isabel reached out, holding Karanna's other hand in silent support.

It was then that Max reappeared, nervously glancing at the scene before him. His parents' gaze was still riveted to Karanna, as if she looked as alien as she was. His voice disrupted their intense stares, and shifted their focus to him. "It won't be long now. Everyone that needs to be here should arrive in the next 15 minutes."

"Are you sure you can't tell us what this is all about, Max?" Diane questioned. "Does this have to do with why you were gone for two days earlier this week?"

Max nodded. "And why we were gone last night, as well," he imparted, confirming their suspicions, that he and Zan hadn't merely gotten up at the crack of dawn, to go out for donuts.

"What is it, honey?" she pressed further. "Are you kids in some sort of trouble? Or a cult, or something?"

Max's eyes darted across the room to his two siblings. "Nooo," he drawled slightly, "nothing like that. There may be some trouble blooming on the horizon, but I'm confident that we can handle it. And we're definitely not in any kind of a cult. Although, when we get done explaining everything, you may wish that we were," he added wearily. He realized that probably wasn't one of his wiser statements, when he heard his mother's sharp intake of breath. "I'm sorry, Mom, I didn't say that to worry you. I'm just really tired from driving all night."

"All night?" Phillip asked incredulously. "What time did you leave here?"

"Around 10:30," Max confessed with a sigh. "Zan and I climbed out the window, and pushed the Jeep down the street, before starting the engine, so we wouldn't alert you to our departure."

"Dear God," he gasped. "How often have you employed that tactic?" he asked in a tone of parental defeat.

"That particular trick? Last night was the first, in all honesty. But I must admit, there were times I thought about installing a revolving door in place of the windows in my room," he admitted in a halfhearted jest. Seeing his father's dismay, he repentantly said, "Sorry, not a good time to joke. Actually, it's more truth than joke, though. For the past year, someone is usually either climbing in or out of that window in the middle of the night. We've hated sneaking around, but it is the only way we could accomplish what had to be done." He held his hands up palm out, to quell the questions he could see forming on their lips. "Which, as I said before, I will explain, as soon as everyone is -" Just then, the doorbell rang.

"Ooo! Visitors!" Isabel exclaimed cheerfully. "I wonder who that could be?" she said with perky sarcasm. She was doing her best not to let her total fear of rejection be evident for all to see. Hopping up from her seat, she rushed to the door, and flung it open. "Michael!" she greeted him with a plastered on smile. "So glad you could join us! Won't you come in?"

Michael stood stunned at the reception he had just gotten from the girl he had always considered a sister. When he didn't move to come in, she grabbed him by the arm, and yanked him in, giving the door a good swing, so that it closed with a resounding thud. That snapped Michael out of it enough to ask her in a low voice, "Iz? Are you okay?"

"Just peachy!" she declared with a big smile that was frozen in place.

"Nervous, are we?" he murmured near her ear, kissing her on the cheek in the process.

"Of course not," she said through gritted teeth, her smile still firmly in place. "Whatever would I have to be nervous about?"

Michael put his arm around her, and pulled her to his side. "It's going to be okay, Princess," he whispered in her ear, leading her back over to the loveseat. Once she was seated, he balanced himself on the other arm rest. No sooner had they settled, when the bell rang again. "I'll get it," Max said with a pointed look at Isabel. Deflated, she sunk further into the cushions.

Opening the door, revealed Jeff and Nancy Parker, none too happy to be called away from the restaurant so early in the day. There were deliveries to receive, and Jeff had had to leave Jose in charge of the place. He was just grateful there weren't any customers in the dining room at the time.

"Mr. and Mrs. Parker, come in," Max invited cordially. "I'm glad that you could make it on such short notice."

"Well, given the fact that you promised to finally clear up the incident from the other day -" Jeff's sentence died, as he saw Liz cuddled close to Zan across the room, holding his hand. "Liz? What are you doing here? You told me you were at Maria's-"

*Ding Dong* Saved by the bell, Max thought with wry amusement, as he cut around the Parkers to answer the door. "Please have a seat," Max urged them as he passed by, indicating the big, overstuffed chair in the corner. It was plenty big enough for the both of them, and he knew from experience that Jeff had no qualms about his wife sitting on his lap, anyway. Glancing back over his shoulder to make sure they were sitting down, he swung the door open wide, revealing Liz and Courtney.

The silence was deafening.

The quiet chatter that was being exchanged between the Evanses and Parkers came to an abrupt halt. Four pairs of eyes took in the form of the Parkers' only child, and then glanced at the young woman sitting next to Zan. Then they looked at each other, each couple trying to discern if the other knew what was going on. But none of them had the answers they sought. At that realization, they all turned their direct focus onto Max, who had closed the door, and was standing with his arm around Liz.

"As you can see," Max began, running a nervous hand through his hair, "this is not going to be some simple explanation that can be doled out in a sentence or two. What we are about to share with you, we have guarded with our lives, all our lives, in order to protect our lives. What we ask of you now, is that you listen carefully to what we are going to tell you, and try not to overreact. We understand, it will be shocking to you, and it's going to literally tilt your world on its axis. But our hope - our greatest desire - is that you will all be able to come to terms with it, and still want to accept us as your children, despite our.... differences."

"But... you are our children, Max," Diane insisted. "Nothing will ever change that."

Max smiled sadly at the woman who had taken such care to raise him and his sister, and had welcomed Zan into their family this last month with open arms. "Maybe legally you are our parents," Max said softly, "but we all know the truth, that biologically we have a different origin. I pray that the bonds that we have formed over the years will be enough to compensate for the lack of blood ties between us." Max gazed with fondness upon each of the four adults, every speech he had rehearsed repeatedly over the last few weeks now gone from his head. "This is going to be so much harder than I ever dreamed," he breathed out, and closed his eyes in silent supplication to the One he was now convinced was governing their lives. A prayer for wisdom, guidance, and open hearts that would be willing to receive the devastating news they were about to have imparted to them.

Opening his eyes, he stated, "I suppose the best way to handle this, is to just deliver the bottom line, and then work our way back from there. Mom, Dad.... Mr. and Mrs. Parker.... the seven people before you are not who - or rather what - you think we are. You see, none of us are fully.... human."

posted on 3-Jan-2002 10:56:26 PM by sheeperz
Hehehe Okay, okay. I decided to take pity on you all, cuz that was really mean of me, wasn't it? But I wanted to give you something, rather than leave you wondering if I gave up!

This part STILL doesn't complete the convo with the parents, but it advances it quite a bit. Again, I wanted to give you something, instead of leaving you continuing to hang.

Isis - gotta say, I loved your rewrite of that particular phrase! LOL!

Jiggers - welcome back, babe! Your questions will all be answered in due time! *wink*

Robyn - thanks for the encouraging words! Glad that you could feel the tension!

China - had to laugh at the way you expressed your experience (the flat-lined comment). Very creative! Hope this little tidbit helps to tide you over... hehehe

Shel - Okay, sweetie, no need for threats. Here ya go! *big*

Brigitte - Oh good, I'm glad the video works. I kept going round and round about that whole issue after we talked about it. I was hoping this would be a reasonable solution.

Linda - Hey, look at this, wouldya? Got it out sooner than I thought! *bounce* Not that anyone will be thrilled when you all see the way I ended it... *ducks flying objects*

Well, folks, here's the next part. Don't throw things at me, please, but I *would* like to know what you think! *wink*

Part Twenty-seven

"What the hell are you up to, Max?!" Jeff Parker demanded, springing from his seat, and nearly toppling his stunned wife onto the floor in the process. "I don't know what kind of stunt you're trying to pull, but I'm not impressed. You told us that you were ready to give us answers about the mysterious way you have all been behaving, and not you start spouting this nonsense? What kind of fools do you take us for?"

"Max, I'm disappointed in you, son," Phillip added, rallying with Jeff. "This is like adding insult to injury."

"Dad, Mr. Evans, please listen to what Max is trying to tell you, and if you need proof, we are plenty more than capable of providing it as well. But you have to listen. It's important that we make you understand this today, before -" Liz stopped abruptly, and bit her bottom lip, realizing that she was about to reveal something that would cause them to totally turn a deaf ear to what needed to be said.

"Before what, Lizzie?" Jeff pressed his daughter.

"N-nothing," she stuttered back. "That is, we'll explain it all, but we need you to understand some other things first. Please, Daddy, sit down, and let Max finish?" she pleaded with him. With a hard stare at his daughter's boyfriend, he sank back into the chair, pulling Nancy close to him. Looking down at her, he was perplexed to see how the color had completely drained from her face. Surely she didn't think -?

Once the uproar had settled, Max took a deep breath, and holding Liz's hand tightly for support, he said, "I suppose it would be best to start at the beginning.

"Sometime prior to 1947, on a planet called Antar, there was an uprising, led by a man named Ki-var', who wanted to overthrow the reigning king, and become the new ruler. Part of this was due to the fact that his own people had been displaced from their planet several generations prior, and became indentured servants, in exchange for asylum on Antar. Ki-var' would have been king of his people, called Talerians, had they been free, and he wanted the right to govern them as he saw fit.

"He approached the king of Antar, and appealed for the right for his people to become a sovereign nation while remaining on Antar. The king of Antar refused the request, his reason being that he doubted two sovereign nations could coexist in the same territory. His firm refusal angered Ki-var', and so Ki-var' began to plot a way to overthrow the king.

"Not long after, the king announced his pending marriage to a young woman from a nearby village. Ki-var' saw the opportunity to advance his cause, and took it. During the wedding feast, as an invited guest, he approached the king and his new queen, and murdered them in cold blood, along with the king's sister, and his best friend, who was betrothed to the princess. People from his own race who supported him, as well as those of another warrior race, whose help he had enlisted, stormed the palace, murdering and plundering, until all was left in ruins. Then Ki-var' burned the palace to the ground, signifying the end of the Antarian monarchy.

"Some loyal subjects had managed to smuggle the bodies of the royal family out of the palace during the melee, taking them to a nearby genetics lab. Understand, Antarians have been visiting Earth for centuries, observing them, and have even had interaction with certain races. Because of this, they had genetic samples from several humans stored in the lab. Anyway, they knew that Ki-var' was a madman, and that his desire for vengeance did not bode well for the Antarian people, who would now be under his rule. In a desperate effort to try and save their people, they mixed the human genetic material, with essence from the royal family, and created hybrids to be sent to Earth. Their hope was that the hybridized versions of their royal family would return to Antar, and wrest control back from Ki-var', freeing their people.

"There was a whole series of events that would be too lengthy to explain just now, but a hybrid version of Ki-var's sister replaced that of the real queen. The queen's essence was never hybridized, but rather smuggled to Earth, and eventually combined with the essence of a human male, creating her hybrid.

"Something unanticipated occurred, though, in their quest to recreate their king and queen. Antarians were unfamiliar with the concept of multiple births. So when the kings embryo - and eventually the queen's - split into two sets of identical twins...." Max looked at Zan, who rose with Karanna, and came to stand next to Max and Liz. They stood in silence for a moment, to let the implication hit home. "The king's name was... Zan," Max then continued, watching the two sets of parents for a reaction. "And the queen was named Karanna."

Liz looked at her sister. "Mom, Dad.... I know this is going to be a shock, but I'd like for you to meet my twin sister, Karanna."

Nancy covered her mouth to muffle the sob she couldn't control. Jeff's reaction was incredulous. "That - that's impossible!" he insisted. He got up, and came to face Liz, holding her shoulders in his hands. "Liz, you are our daughter. You grew inside your mother for nine months, and I watched you be born. Granted, you weren't conceived in the normal fashion, but we are nonetheless your biological parents. How can you possibly suggest anything else? Especially anything so... bizarre?"

With a nod of his head, Max indicated to Michael to open the front door to the one remaining guest he knew would be waiting there. Michael did as he was bidden, and invited Da-nar' into the tension filled room. "Mr. and Mrs. Parker - Mr. and Mrs. Evans," Michael began, "this is our friend and protector, Da-nar'."

The four humans in the room stared at the man they had never seen before. Or had they? Jeff thought he looked somewhat familiar. Perhaps he had come into the Crashdown recently?

Da-nar' was the one to break the silence. "Mr. and Mrs. Parker, I would say pleased to meet you, but then, we've already met. You just don't recognize me in this... form." With that, he shapeshifted in front of them, into the doctor who had given them the one thing they wanted more than anything else in the world - a child.

Nancy gasped. "No," she whispered, "it can't be."

"Oh. my. God." Jeff was sure his heart had ceased to beat.

"Jeff? Nancy? Do you know this... man?" Phillip asked, still stunned by what he had witnessed.

Never taking his eyes from Da-nar', Jeff nodded. "He's the doctor that helped Nancy get pregnant with Liz." Suddenly, he understood the implications of what he had just admitted. He dropped his hands from Liz's shoulders, stepping back in revulsion, and his eyes grew cold and hateful as they glared at Da-nar'. "You bastard! How dare you use us for some sort of sick experiment! All these years, we thought that Liz was our baby. And all along, you just used my wife as some sort of incubator?!"

Da-nar's heart went out to his queen, when he heard her anguished cry. "Mr. Parker, Liz is your daughter, as well as our people's queen." Despite the element of truth in Jeff's accusation, Da-nar's eyes narrowed in reproof, as he revealed, "For your information, had it not been for me, you never would have had a child at all. Your wife's reproductive system never could have produced a child in any way, let alone carried a pregnancy. Her ovaries were malformed, and I know for a fact that no doctor on this planet has the knowledge that would have allowed her body to carry any implanted pregnancy to term. For this, you wish to condemn me?" He drew Jeff's eyes to Liz, when he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You would regret that we created this beautiful woman that calls you Father and Mother?"

"No!" Jeff exclaimed. It was then that his haze of anger dissipated enough to allow him to realize the bone deep anguish he had caused his beloved daughter. "Oh, God, no, Lizzy, I didn't mean it like that! Oh, honey -" He reached out to touch Liz again, but it was her turn to recoil from him. Her heart was shattered. One minute she was their precious child, and the next she had become a "sick experiment". She wasn't sure she would ever recover from the rejection.

His daughter's reaction was like a slap in the face. Jeff never thought that he could ever be capable of hurting his own child in such a fashion. Didn't she understand that he still loved her? That it was just the thought of being lied to and used without their consent that he objected to? His heart wrenched painfully in his chest, as Max gathered her weeping form in his arms, and cradled her against his broad chest.

Max felt torn. He could see the regret and anguish in Jeff's eyes, and knew that he didn't mean to hurt Liz. But he couldn't help but be sympathetic to her feelings as well. After all, he was still waiting for his own parents' reaction to the news. "Give her time," Max mouthed, when he managed to catch Jeff's eye. Jeff nodded, and went to console his sobbing wife.

"So, this is it, isn't it, Max? This is the big secret that you've been hiding from us all these years." This from Diane, who sat on the couch looking quite dazed by everything that was happening.

Max closed his eyes against the wave of pain that swept over him. Summoning all his courage, he opened them again, to look squarely into the face of the woman he had thought of as his mother all these years. "Yes, Mom, this is it. And now I hope you understand why I couldn't tell you the truth. Not only would it have risked our safety if word of this got out, but by knowing the secret, your lives would have been in danger as well."

"What danger, Max? What could possibly be so risky about us knowing the truth regarding your origins?" Phillip asked.

"It's more dangerous than you could imagine, Dad," Isabel answered, knowing that the telling of this part of the story would be too difficult for Max. She knew that he still had nightmares about the white room. "Back in May, a secret unit of the FBI figured out that Max was... 'different'. They captured him, and took him to the old military hospital, where they... tortured him," she told them, staring at her feet. Remembering the horror of trying to get him out of there was overwhelming, and tears ran freely down her cheeks.

Diane's gaze immediately snapped to her son, to see if this was really true. She saw a misty-eyed Liz now holding him and stroking his back, as tears escaped from under his tightly shut eyelids. How could their son have been in such grave danger, and they never knew? She felt the muscles in her stomach clench with the realization that she didn't know the first thing about her children, after all these years. She couldn't seem stop the flow of tears coursing down her cheeks.

"You see, if people knew who we really are, they wouldn't care that we aren't here to take over the world, or abduct people for strange experiments," Isabel continued. "We've always wondered who we really are, where we come from, and why we're here. And now we do."

Max had pulled himself together, and resumed his role as spokesman. "Besides the danger from the human population, some of our enemies are -er, were - on Earth as well. The reason we were gone earlier this week, is because we needed to eliminate the threat that Ki-var's hired goons posed, not only to ourselves, but more importantly to humanity."

"If it's so dangerous for us to know the truth, why are you telling us all of this now?" Phillip asked suspiciously.

"Because it would be totally unfair of us not to tell you the truth before we... leave."

"Leave?!" Diane and Nancy exclaimed in unison, as Jeff demanded, "What the hell do you mean by that?!"

Phillip waited until things died down, before asking, "Where are you planning to go?"

"We're going back to Antar," Max answered directly. No point beating around the bush.

Phillip's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Antar? And just how do you plan to accomplish that? Do you have a space ship coming to pick you up, or something?"

Max didn't miss the cynicism in his father's tone. "Actually, we don't need a space ship. There is a ... portal, that allows us to travel back and forth between Antar and Earth. We have already been there several times over the last month, meeting with someone that has helped us learn more about the current state of affairs on Antar, as well as the history of our people."

"Who all is going?" Phillip asked, not sure they were going to like the answer.

Max's gaze never faltered. "We all are."

"No way!" Jeff Parker bellowed, springing to his feet again, bearing down imposingly on Max. The rage that had contorted his facial features was nearly palpable. "You have another think coming, if you honestly believe that I'm going to let my little girl go anywhere with you unchaperoned!" He turned to look at Zan and Karanna. "And what do her parents have to say about this?" he demanded, pointing at his daughter's twin.

From behind him, Jeff heard Max's voice tell him, "Her parents are dead."

Jeff spun back around to face him again. "Well someone must be responsible for her!"

Max nodded. "She's been living with her aunt and uncle since her parents died a few years back. She left them a videotape saying good-bye. There just wasn't any way that we could have a discussion like this with them, and know for certain that we could make it back here to meet with you, and still leave on schedule."

"Well, I hate to disappoint you, Maxie-boy, but my little girl is staying here, where she belongs! For God's sake, you haven't even finished high school yet! Do you recall that you are only 17?"

"Mr. Parker, I understand how you must feel protective of Liz, but I'm afraid that Liz has made her decision, as have we all, to go back and fight for our planet. All of us are necessary, but Liz... she is going to be the queen of our people. She's needed."

Jeff stared at him dumbfounded. "Th-the queen? I thought you said that Karanna was the queen."

"No - the original queen's name was Karanna. When twins were born of the royal couple's DNA, the ones appointed to be king and queen were given different names from our predecessors, as a way of protecting us. The other set were given the original names, in case our enemies came looking for us. It's hard to admit, but basically, Zan and Karanna were... decoys. Liz and I are the next king and queen of Antar." He looked at their twins. "But I have a feeling that Zan and Karanna are going to be very involved in our reign."

"Still - I wouldn't let my daughter go on an overnight camping trip with you, if I had known," Jeff argued. "What makes you think that I'm going to let some healthy, red-blooded male - regardless of his species -" Jeff added sarcastically for emphasis, " take off with my young, unmarried daughter?"

"Well, about that..." Max said hesitantly, scratching the back of his head nervously.

Jeff glowered at him. "Yes?"

"You see, Liz and I are getting married this afternoon, as are Zan and Karanna -"

"OVER MY DEAD BODY!" Jeff yelled, just before he lunged at Max. Max pushed Liz to the side, just as her father's fist slammed into his face, breaking his nose. Jeff then grabbed Max around the throat, and pushed him up against the wall, continuing to choke him. "Just who the hell do you think you are, making decisions about my daughter's future without consulting me?"

"Would you freely give your permission for me to marry her?" Max managed to rasp out.

"ABSOLUTELY NOT!"

"Well, there you have it," Max managed to choke out, with what little breath he had remaining.

"Dear God!" Phillip exclaimed, lunging at Jeff, when he realized that the man's anger was completely out of control. He didn't intend to let Max go until he was injured... or dead. "Jeff, let the boy go," he implored, pulling on Jeff's arms. But it was no use. Jeff's rage had given him an unholy strength that Phillip couldn't overcome.

"DADDY, STOP IT!" Liz screamed, clawing at her father's arms, in a vain attempt to get him to release Max.

"Liz, you stay out of this!" Jeff ordered.

"No! I won't stand here and watch you harm Max. And he's letting you do it, do you realize that? He could kill you in the blink of an eye, if he wanted to!"

"Enough of your lies!" Jeff spat back at her. "He's just a teenage boy, trying to be a man. And not doing a very good job of it either, I might add!"

Liz noticed that Max's face was rapidly draining of color, and he looked about ready to pass out. "ENOUGH! Max, stop letting him do this to you! Let him know that he has no choice but to accept our decision."

Max managed to open his eyes briefly to look at her. "Are you sure?" he whispered.

"YES!"

Max nodded almost imperceptibly, and then his eyes closed. Liz was afraid at first that he had lost consciousness, yet her father still held him by the throat in a death grip.

At first, Jeff merely felt a strange vibration underneath his hands. He was in such a state, that it didn't even faze him initially. But when the vibration turned into tingling, his grip loosened ever so slightly with his distraction. He couldn't figure out what was going on. Suddenly, he felt a slight electrical shock zap him, almost like touching a light switch with wet hands. That startled him enough to ease his hold on Max a little more. Dragging precious air into his lungs, Max managed to regain some of his focus and strength, and the next thing they knew, Mr. Parker was landing on his butt on the floor.


posted on 4-Jan-2002 11:31:05 PM by sheeperz
Hi all! Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback! You guys are the best!

It is really late here, and I'm fading fast, but I want to get this posted for you. So forgive me for not responding to your feedback. But I DO appreciate it!

This part was tough, trying to find the right reactions. Let me know what you think! Even if you have to be brutal. If it needs a rewrite, I'd rather know.

Part Twenty-eight

"What the hell was that?" Jeff asked, stunned.

Liz stood over him, her hands on her hips. "That, Father, was a small sampling of the power that my soon-to-be husband can wield, if he chooses. Kindly remember that it is his love for me, and his respect for you, that prevented him from doing that in the first place."

Diane, Phillip, and Nancy all sat in stunned silence at this revelation. Jeff merely nodded to Liz, before scrambling to get up off the floor. "Well, I guess that's it, then, isn't it?" Jeff said coldly. "You kids are going to do whatever you please, and there isn't a damn thing any of us can do about it. Obviously, the years we've dedicated to raising you have been a waste, and our feelings are of no concern to you. So... go." He glared at Liz. "Go marry your alien king, and fight some damnable war that none of us has ever heard of. Maybe get yourselves killed. And we'll just stay behind, and try to pick up the pieces of our lives. Nothing for you to concern yourselves with."

"Jeff, no!" Nancy protested.

"Daddy, please...." Liz begged coming forward and reaching toward him. But Jeff just backed away. Liz gasped, as the rejection pierced her anew. "Fine! If that's the way you're going to be, I'm out of here! I had hoped that one day our children could know their grandparents, but I see that won't be possible. I hope you enjoy spending the rest of your lives alone and bitter!" she wailed, as she turned and fled the building.

"Liz!" Nancy called after her, but her only response was the slamming of the front door. She rounded on her husband. "How could you!" she accused, and then took off after Liz.

Max fought the urge to go after them; it was obvious that Nancy didn't intend to bring any more grief to Liz. Surprisingly, she seemed to want to maintain her relationship with her daughter. His eyes traveled the room, taking in the three human adults that remained. Jeff was still glaring at him. No surprise there. His own parents, though... they seemed to be looking to him, as if he could somehow "make it all right." Like he could suddenly deny everything that had just been said, turn back the clock, and return things to the way they were, before the truth had come out. He wondered if they were now regretting pushing so hard to know what that truth was.

These were the people that had given of their life, their home, their possessions, to take in two abandoned children some 10 years ago. And they had been a happy family. Yet now, it was as if those years never existed. Max felt like a stranger in his own home, and he felt himself not knowing how to act, or what to say around them. Perhaps it was just best to leave.

He was shaken from his thoughts, when he felt Zan's hand on his shoulder. He looked at his brother questioningly. Zan raised his hand, and covered Max's nose, healing the break, and stopping the blood flow. He smiled his thanks at his twin, and then saw the looks of disbelief on his parents' faces. Like they were some sort of.... monsters.

Taking a deep breath, he announced, "Well, I guess that's about it, then. I suppose we should be going. It's going to be a busy day." He looked at the rest of the alien contingency. "You guys ready?" The rest of the group mumbled their responses, which he took to all be in the affirmative. He looked toward his parents, waiting for one of them to say something. He didn't want to just walk out of their lives. His heart sunk, when his mother burst into tears, and burrowed her face into her husband's chest, receiving some small measure of comfort from his loving arms wrapped around her.

"Son, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Phillip finally asked.

"Yeah, Dad, I am. This is my... destiny." He almost choked on the word, having previously harbored such ill feelings regarding the concept, thanks to Tess. But it was the only word that aptly described the sense of rightness Max now felt, regarding his roles as King and husband.

Jeff looked wound so tight, like he might snap at any moment. Upon hearing Max's words, he angrily swept up his jacket, and stormed toward the back of the house, not wanting to chance running into Liz and her mother out front. Soon, the sound of the back door slamming reached the occupants of the front room, signaling Jeff's departure.

"Well, then, I guess there's nothing we can do to dissuade you," Phillip finally replied. "But for the record, I think you are making a big mistake, rushing into marriage at such a young age."

"Dad, I know how strange this all must seem to you, but this isn't something that we decided on a whim. There are very practical reasons for why are not waiting to marry Liz and Karanna. I mean, we would have married them anyway eventually, because we love them. But timing is crucial, if we want to stand a chance as we fight to reclaim our homeland."

"I hate to think what will happen, when you are faced with the real horrors of war," Phillip remarked.

"We know far more about it than you would think," Max assured him. "Maybe sometime I could sit down, and explain the rest of what we've been through? It's so hard, trying to help you understand so much in such a short period of time."

Phillip stared at Max for a moment. Then, with no indication as to his emotional frame of mind, he merely answered, "We'll see."

Figuring that was code for, "When donkey's fly," Max's shoulders slumped dejectedly, and he nodded in response. Then to the others he said, "Come on. Let's go." As he headed for the door, he heard Isabel's strangled sob, and Michael's voice murmuring low and soothingly to her, but he didn't stop and turn to see what was going on. He knew if he did, what little composure he had would be shot to hell. He couldn't get clear of the house, with it's oppressive atmosphere, quick enough to suit him.

When they reached the vehicles outside, they found Nancy holding Liz in her arms, rocking her back and forth, as they both wept. Max was so moved, he couldn't speak, so he merely walked up to the two of them, wrapping them both in his embrace.

Nancy looked up at him, her eyes red-rimmed, and full of tears. "Take care of my baby, Max. Please. Don't let anything happen to her."

Max couldn't fight the tears any longer. As they streamed down his face, he promised, "I'll guard her with my life, Mrs. Parker. I - I'm sorry that things had to be this way. I wouldn't have hurt you for the world, if it could have been avoided."

Nancy placed a hand on his cheek. "I know Max. I can see it in your eyes. This is as hard on you kids, as it is on us. Maybe harder. But you have a responsibility to your people. I can respect that. Just please - don't rush into anything, until you are sure that you are prepared? And I don't just mean marriage, Max. Don't take unnecessary risks with your lives. Please."

"We won't." He leaned down, and kissed Nancy on the cheek. "Thank you," he said through the tightness in his throat.

Nancy smiled sadly. "For what?"

"For not turning away from Liz, now that you know the truth." He looked down into Liz's face, where it was cradled against her mother's breast. "It means more to us than I can tell you."

"Biology aside, Max... she's my daughter." She lovingly caressed Liz's hair. "Nothing will ever change that."

Max smiled warmly at her, and placed a hand on Liz's shoulder. "I'm going to go and wait in the Jeep, so you can have some privacy. Take your time."

Nancy nodded. Once Max was out of earshot, she pulled slightly back from Liz, and looked into her daughter's face. "I may not think that getting married this young is the brightest idea you've ever had, but I trust you, Liz. I know deep in my heart that you have your reasons for doing this. You have been too levelheaded and mature for too long, for me to believe otherwise. So I'm believing for the best for you, my sweet baby." She stopped to choke back a sob. "I only wish I could be with you. I always assumed that when the time came, I would be there with you, to see you join your life to your husband's. If I have any regrets, that's it."

"What about giving birth to a child that isn't your own?" Liz whispered. "That isn't even fully human? Surely you regret -"

"No!" Nancy declared, shaking her head in vehement denial. "I have no regrets. I love you more than anything, and it doesn't matter what circumstances brought you into my life. You were destined to be my daughter, don't you see that? Here I was, a lonely woman with no hope of ever having a child, and you came to me from... where Liz? Across the galaxy? Another galaxy even? All that way, to be my baby. How could I ever regret that?"

This brought on a fresh torrent of tears from both women, as they clung to each other for comfort. Finally, Liz whispered, "There is a way."

Nancy sniffled. "A way? For what?"

"You can be with me for my wedding, Mom." Liz turned teary, hopeful eyes to her mother, holding her breath in anticipation of being refused.

Nancy's hands clasped Liz's face. "How?! Tell me, Liz! Oh, God, I want to be there!" She held Liz, while her daughter sobbed from relief.

Finally, Liz told her, "We told you there's a portal between Earth and Antar. You can go there, and then come back, all in one afternoon. Oh please, Mom, will you do it? Will you come to our wedding?"

"Sweet Jesus," Nancy murmured her heartfelt thanks. "Liz, how can you even ask? Of course I'll be there! Just tell me how - when?"

"We're leaving for Antar now," Liz informed her. "We'll spend a few hours getting ready, and then the ceremony will be held this afternoon. Can you come with us now? If not -"

"Now would be just fine!" Nancy insisted. "But can we go by the house, so I can get something more appropriate to wear?"

Liz suddenly became nervous. "I, uh... don't know if that would be such a good idea," she stammered.

"Are you worried about your father?"

"Well.... yes." There, it was out in the open.

"Liz, I am not going to let him stand in the way of my being present for the most important day of your life. If he doesn't like it, well... too bad."

Liz was startled. She had never heard her mom speak with such spunk, such... determination. At least not about defying her father. She had always been the perfect wife - loving, kind, agreeable. A slow smile crept over Liz's lips. Not that she wanted her parents to argue, but she kind of liked this sassy side to her mom! "Okay," she said at last. "If you're sure that it won't cause serious problems with you and Daddy..."

"Don't worry about him," Nancy told Liz. "He'll come around, eventually. He's just had quite a shock. But you are his daughter, and if nothing else, that ought to make him think long and hard about driving you away. Give him time, honey."

Liz nodded. "Come on. We'll squeeze you into the Jeep, and take you by the Crash on our way."

Max watched with keen interest, as Liz led her mom to the Jeep. When she opened the door, his eyes asked the words his mouth didn't seem to want to form.

"She's coming with us," Liz told him excitedly. "She wants to be with us for our wedding!" Max grinned broadly at the news. Liz was just about jumping out of her skin with pleasure, and he was profoundly grateful for the gift that Mrs. Parker was giving his bride. "She just wants to stop by the apartment to grab some clothes first, okay?"

Max was a little apprehensive, but he decided that it was worth the risk of running into Mr. Parker, if it made Liz and her mom happy. "Sure, climb in."

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

Back at the Crashdown, Jeff was wearing a path in the floor of the back room in a rage. Aliens! Who would have ever thought that all that hype about spaceships was true? He stopped pacing long enough to look out through the little diamond shaped window in the swinging door, viewing the dining room of his restaurant with new eyes. Wiser eyes. What had been simply a ploy to draw customers in this alien-crazy town, was actually closer to the truth than any of them ever imagined.

And his own daughter was one of them! His fists clenched in rage at the thought. The beautiful baby that was supposed to be his and Nancy's in every way. And now they discover, she is half alien! What right did that alien have to switch the DNA? He should have asked permission!

Jeff snorted at the thought, then returned to pacing. Hell would have frozen over, before he ever agreed to such an atrocity. He winced. Was it an atrocity? Stopping abruptly in his tracks, he thought of the beautiful young woman that Liz had become. Normal in every way, or so it had seemed. What could be so wrong about creating a life like that? And what had the doctor said to them earlier? That there was no other way they ever could have had their own child? That it was only his special knowledge that allowed Nancy to carry the child to term. Could that be the truth?

His private musings were interrupted, when the back door opened, revealing his wife entering the building, her eyes red, but... a smile on her face? "What the hell do you have to be smiling about?" he growled at her, as she shut the door.

Nancy sighed. She had hoped that he wouldn't even know she had been by. Now, it seemed, they were going to have to have a row over her leaving. "I'm going with the kids," she told him meekly. "To see Liz married."

"The hell you are!" Jeff bellowed. "I'm against this marriage, and so should you be! If you go, it is like saying that you - you - you approve!"

"Maybe it wouldn't be my first choice," Nancy agreed, "but I love my daughter enough to trust her. Something you should learn to do. Because if we don't trust her - even if she is making a mistake, which we don't know for certain - we are going to lose her! Is that what you want?" Nancy hissed.

"Of course it isn't! But Liz has to know there are limits, Nance, and this time, she has gone way over them. She didn't just cross the line - she steamrolled over it! You can't expect me to pat her on the head for a job well done, can you?"

"No," Nancy answered dejectedly. "I certainly can't expect that - or anything else - from you. But I am going to the wedding. End of discussion."

Jeff glared at her. "You would defy me on this?" he grated out accusingly.

"If it comes to that, yes," she answered honestly. "I'd much prefer you be reasonable, but under the circumstances, I'd be asking a bit much. I haven't seen any signs of your reasonable side since the kids came back from that overnight a few days ago." Her face twisted in concentration. "Come to think of it, they never did tell us where they went." She shrugged. "Oh well, I'm sure we'll find out in time. Now, if you'll excuse me -"

"Why are you doing this?" he demanded. "What kind of example are you setting for our daughter? That you ignore your husband when it's convenient?"

Nancy's back stiffened, and her chin lifted proudly. "I beg your pardon! My daughter is well aware of how often I have conceded to your wishes over things through the years. Now I'm teaching her, that you honor your husband... but when he's totally unreasonable, you have to take a stand!" With that, she defiantly brushed past him, and ran up the stairs.

Jeff stood momentarily shell shocked, and then lit off after her, taking the stairs two at a time. "I don't want to argue with you about this," he declared, as he entered their bedroom, going wide-eyed to see her packing a suitcase. Was she leaving him?

"Fine," Nancy said calmly. "Then don't. I don't want to argue either. So just accept the fact that I'm going."

"Going where? Why are you packing a suitcase?" Jeff asked with a tremor in his voice, fearing the worst.

"I'm taking some clothes to change into for the wedding," she answered, with her back to him. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Good, let him get a little worried.

"I-is that all?" he pressed.

"Weelll," she drawled.

"Nancy, please! You wouldn't... leave me, would you?"

Nancy felt guilty when she heard the anguished terror in his voice. She turned to face him. "No, I'm not leaving you. Not now, anyway," she qualified. "But I'm telling you, you need to get past this irrationality, for all our sakes. Your daughter loves you, Jeff, and she feels abandoned. Regardless of how she came to us, can you honestly say that you don't love her any more?"

"Of course I love her! How can you even say such a thing!"

"Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it," she chastised him. "Your daughter thinks you view her as some sort of... 'sick experiment', I think were your words."

"She knows I didn't mean that! I was just shocked! How did she expect me to react? 'Oh, isn't this great, honey? Our daughter is an alien!' No, I don't think that would have been a realistic expectation on her part at all."

"No, but neither is it realistic to expect that your 'Daddy' - have you noticed her calling you that again, by the way? God, Jeff, she is torn up inside over this. She is longing to know that the relationship she had with you when she was little - when things were simple and innocent - still exists! She doesn't expect that her 'Daddy' would suddenly disown her, because he found out she's a little... different."

Jeff collapsed onto the edge of the bed. "I haven't disowned her, for heaven's sake," he said wearily, rubbing his hands over his face.

"Then come with us. Come see her join her life with Max's. Let's see where they are going to live - where they are going to raise our grandchildren." Jeff's sharp intake of breath told Nancy she had hit her mark with that one. They had both always dreamed of the day Liz would have her own babies.

He flopped backwards, until he was sprawled on the mattress. "I can't, Nance. I can't go and pretend that I'm happy about all of this, and that I approve. I love her, and maybe she does know what she's doing. But it's too much too soon for me. I need time to adjust."

Nancy turned back toward the closet, so he couldn't see the tears of regret in her eyes. "I understand. You'll be missed, though."

"I wish that I could feel differently, but I can't. Please try to help Liz understand."

"I'll try. I just hope you haven't caused a permanent breach between yourself and our daughter."

Jeff sighed. "Me too."

posted on 22-Jan-2002 8:59:21 PM by sheeperz
Okay, everyone, I am going to be trying to repost all the parts that were lost. Unfortunately, I had posted a new part, right before the board went down, and all the personal notes I had sent you all were lost. So... I'll just post the new part, and let you know that the wedding scene is written!! So... things will move right along, up to that point, anyway.

Here we go....

Part Twenty-nine

Liz was nervously pacing in the alley when her mom reappeared. She hurled herself into Nancy's arms, holding her tight. "I was so afraid that you had changed your mind, or that Daddy -"

"Don't worry, honey, I didn't change my mind. I did talk with your father, though."

"Oh?" Liz tried to act unaffected by the news, but Nancy knew how deeply wounded her daughter was.

She stroked Liz's hair. "He loves you, y'know? He just needs time to adjust."

Liz shook her head sadly. "I don't think any amount of time will help him get over this one, Mom."

"You might be surprised," was all Nancy said, as she walked over to hand her suitcase to Max. "Come on, let's go get you gussied up for your wedding! Oh! You haven't even told me any of your plans!" Nancy squealed, hugging Liz briefly. "I can't believe you planned a whole wedding, and I didn't know anything about it!"

They both got in the Jeep, Liz climbing in the back next to Zan, so her mom could have the more comfortable seat up front. They were very careful to keep Zan between her and Karanna, so the girls wouldn't accidentally connect to each other.

Zan's back stiffened (along with some other less visible part of him) when Liz sat next to him, and Max's head swung around so fast, Zan was surprised he didn't give himself whiplash. Max lifted an inquiring brow at Zan, and Zan nodded his answer to the silent question, as perspiration began to bead on his brow. He noticed that Max's breathing had become as erratic as his own, and his pulse, visible by the vein pulsing on the side of his neck, was beating wildly. It could only signal one thing.

Liz had come into the fertile part of her cycle.

Totally oblivious to the interchange between the two young men, Liz continued her conversation with her mother. "Well, actually, I didn't plan anything for the wedding," Liz confessed to Nancy. "You see, it's Antarian tradition, that the friends of the bride and groom plan the ceremony and wedding feast, and prepare the... uh...." she realized suddenly what she was about to admit to her mother. It felt really odd.

"Yes, Liz? Go on," Nancy urged.

"The - uh, er..."

"The bridal chamber," Zan choked out, realizing that his brother, too, was blushing like a virginal bride, as much from his discomfort at being aroused in front of his mother-in-law, as he was with the topic under discussion. Poor Liz would never get any help from that quarter, he thought, and chuckled to himself. Karanna playfully swatted his arm, correctly discerning the direction of his thoughts.

"O-oh!" Nancy exclaimed, and proceeded to blush herself. Recovering, she asked, "So what kinds of arrangements have they made? For the, uh, wedding, I mean."

"Well, that's just the thing, Mom. We won't know until we get there. It's supposed to be a surprise."

Nancy looked worried. "Doesn't that... concern you a little bit?"

Liz laughed. "Well, to be honest, yes, I was a little anxious. But Maria and Isabel have assured me -"

"Maria?" Nancy gasped in astonishment. "Maria knows about - about -"

"Our 'other-worldly' status? Yes. After all, she's been dating Michael for several months now."

Max joined the conversation, trying to distract his body from its wayward thoughts, as he sent the Jeep speeding through the desert. "You see, we didn't even know ourselves until just recently that Liz was one of us. I have always been in love with her, from the first time I saw her in third grade," he confessed to his future mother-in-law, "but I never understood the incredible pull I felt toward her. And then when I healed her from the gunshot wound -"

"WHAT?!"

"Easy, Mom, it's okay, I'm fine," Liz crooned softly, squeezing her mother's shoulder, and trying to bring her down out of orbit. "Remember the shooting at the Crashdown last September? How I said the ketchup bottle broke?" Nancy nodded with wide, frightened eyes. "Well, Max broke the bottle and poured the ketchup on me, to disguise the blood on my uniform. I had been shot in the stomach, and Max brought me back to life."

"Ohmygod!" Nancy gasped into her trembling hands. She looked at Max, then leaned across the space between the seats, to wrap her trembling arms around his neck and hug him. "Thank you," she whispered reverently. I know that is so inadequate, and horribly late in coming, but I..."

"You didn't know," Max finished for her, as he gently patted her arm. "It's okay, Mrs. Parker. I'll admit freely, I saved Liz for purely selfish reasons, so no thanks is needed," he admitted with a grin.

Nancy laughed. "Well, I'm glad you're the selfish sort, then!" She playfully gave him "the look". "Just don't let it get out of hand, you hear?"

It was Max's turn to laugh. God it felt good. "Yes, ma'am!" he answered smartly. Max pulled up at the base of the cliff. "Well, here we are."

Nancy looked confused. "Here we are.... where?" she asked.

Liz smiled mysteriously at her. "You'll see."

Since they had dropped Karanna's things off at the pod chamber before going into town, Nancy's small bag was all they needed to take with them. Max took it out of the back of the Jeep, and then led them to the path that went up the side of the cliff. Nancy noticed that Maria's car was parked nearby, as well as Michael's motorcycle, and... wasn't that Jim Valenti's SUV?

She was still pondering over that, when they suddenly stopped their ascent. With great curiosity, she watched Max wave his hand over the cliff wall, and saw a glowing hand print appear. She was still stunned from that, when he placed his hand upon the print, and the side of the cliff moved away, revealing some sort of cave! Liz heard her mother gasp behind her, and smiled to herself, not turning around, lest her mother think she was making fun of her reaction.

Mutely, Nancy followed them all into the chamber, and she shivered when the door slammed shut behind her. She knew that effectively she was now trapped, unless Max let her out. She didn't want to mistrust Max, but how much about him did she really know? I mean, all these years, he seemed like the typical "boy next door", and now they find out he's an alien. What other misconceptions was he perpetrating for his own benefit?

Mentally shaking off her paranoia, she looked around, puzzling over her surroundings. "What is this place?" she asked in a soft, awestricken voice.

"This is where Michael, Isabel, and I were... born. Hatched, actually, if you want to be technical about it," he grudgingly admitted. Although, he couldn't quite get as worked up about it as usual, with his hormones on red alert around Liz.

Nancy looked at him, her eyes wide and questioning. "Why are there... four? Was one for Liz?"

Max smiled warmly at her. "Actually, that was the original plan, yes. But the fourth pod was used to incubate the hybrid of Ki-var's sister, when he gave the orders to destroy Liz's DNA."

"Oh, my God," Nancy whispered, her hand covering her mouth, as she attempted to fight the urge to vomit. How close she had come to never having Liz! The thought of never having been a mother - never knowing what it was like to have her sweet daughter to love - was unbearable. And she realized that it was nothing short of an act of God that brought Liz into their lives.

"Mom?" Liz asked worriedly. "Are you okay?"

Nancy's voice quivered as she answered, "Yeah, uh, I just realized just how much of a miracle it was, having you for a daughter."

Liz reached out, and held her mother tightly, as silent tears streamed down Nancy's face. "Hey, it's okay. I know it is overwhelming - I remember when I first found out about Max. I used to think how incredible it was, that he had traveled across the stars, and been reborn in hybrid form, just for me to love."

She looked lovingly at Max, and noticed the sizzling look in his eyes, as he managed a smile, despite his... discomfort. Her face momentarily registered surprise, and then - joy! She realized that if Max was having that kind of reaction to her, without provocation, she must be fertile! Her heart started beating faster, realizing that meant that they wouldn't have to wait to consummate their vows. She had begun to worry that perhaps her cycle had been thrown off, what with the excitement of the wedding, coupled with all the stresses they had been under lately. When Max hadn't shown any signs of uncontrollable passion around her, she began to brood about having her wedding night ruined. But fortunately, her body came through for her, just in the nick of time. Talk about cutting it close to the wire!

She slid a glance over at Zan and Karanna, who were talking quietly between themselves. Zan showed no signs of sexual hunger - except when he looked up at her! Liz blushed, and then felt really bad for her poor sister. Not only did it appear she was not going to be consummating her vows, her husband would be reacting all day to Liz. She sighed softly. Hopefully, she and Max could stay out of sight and... busy, for the four days she would be fertile. That way, Zan wouldn't have to be in torment, and Karanna wouldn't feel jealous. The poor girl already had enough to deal with, Liz thought.

The door to Da-nar's lab slid open, revealing the secret chamber to Nancy for the first time. "You mean... there's more?" she gasped, astounded.

Max let out a somewhat strangled chuckle. Taking a deep breath to compose himself (which turned out to be a bad idea, as it caused him to further succumb to Liz's pheromone-like "scent"), he let out a soft groan of dismay, before admitting, "Yes, there's more. Much more. You'll see things today that you probably never imagined," he informed her in a near growl, before brushing past her, and walking purposefully into Da-nar's lab. "Liz, please remain out there for now," he instructed over his shoulder, as he disappeared into the next chamber, followed by Zan and Karanna.

Nancy was stunned. "Why , I don't think I've ever seen Max act so rude. What got into him? Was it something I said?" she asked with concern.

Liz chuckled. "No, you didn't do anything wrong, Mom. It's just his alien physiology is giving him some... trouble, you might say," she revealed with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

"What kind of trouble?" her mom pressed, now worried about her future son-in-law. "Will he be all right?"

Liz laughed. "Probably not, until after the wedding feast. He, uh, well, it's complicated...."

Nancy arched one perfectly shaped brow.

Liz sighed. "Okay, Antarian mates have this thing, that when the female comes into her fertile period, the male gets..."

"Horny?" Nancy offered with a smirk.

Liz blushed. "Uh, yeah, that's it."

"Liz, you said mates. Does that mean that you and Max -?"

"Oh! No! You see, it is complicated, but basically, it's due to the fact that the original Zan and Karanna were bonded mates. So that got somehow genetically passed on to us. And to Zan and Karanna." Nancy looked as if she were wrestling with something she wanted to ask. "What is it, Mom?"

Nancy hesitated, then blurted out, "Is that why Zan has been shooting these heated looks your way?"

Liz could feel the heat rising from her chest to her hairline. "Yeah, because he and Max are identical twins, from King Zan, and Karanna and I are twins from Queen Karanna, both men respond to both of us, as if we were their bonded mates."

"Goodness! Isn't that a little.... inconvenient?"

Liz gave a delicate little snort. "Understatement of the year on that one, Mom. But Da-nar' thinks that once we bond with our own respective mates, that will override the physical directive from the king and queen's bonding. So, theoretically, we will only be drawn to our own spouses."

Nancy stroked Liz's hair. "Let's hope so, for all your sakes."

Just then, Da-nar' appeared at the doorway. "Liz? Mrs. Parker? You can come in now." The two women followed him into his lab, and Nancy gaped at the apparently sophisticated equipment that he had stored in this primitive work area. Some of it even looked familiar....

Nancy was brought out of her reminiscent thoughts by the sound of Da-nar's voice. "Liz, if you'll just sit right here, we can get this over with, so you can go on to Antar and get ready," he said with a somewhat paternal smile. "Are you sure you're ready for this? No one will think anything less of you, if you decided to postpone the wedding, you know," he told her. Nancy was pleasantly surprised at his words. She had been concerned that Liz and Max were being pushed to marry so young, "for the good of their people," so to speak.

Her joy and relief were short-lived, however, when she heard Liz's reply. "Oh, Da-nar', thank you," she answered him sweetly. "But I'm marrying Max tonight, because I love him, and I can't wait to be his wife. And I think you know that," she added with a mischievous grin.

Da-nar' pursed his lips, to try and hold back his own smile, but it was no use. "Well, yes," he admitted. "I didn't think you would change your mind. But even if you had, I still would have offered you the out. Never let it be said that an Antarian married for any reason other than love," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Is that true?" Liz asked, surprised to learn this new little tidbit about their society. "Antarian marriages are based on love, the same as humans?"

Da-nar' nodded, as he fitted a collection tube to the needle. "That's what got King Zan in trouble with Ki-var'. Talerians arrange marriages, much as humans did in earlier centuries, for reasons that have nothing to do with love," he told her, swabbing her arm over the vein. "More commonly, wealth, title, and politics were at the heart of such decisions. So when Zan refused to marry Tessandra, Ki-var' was totally insulted. Politically speaking, at least for the Talerians, it would have been an excellent match. Okay, a little prick here..."

Liz winced as the needle pierced her flesh. "But Zan was in love with Karanna," she finished his train of thought, more to keep from succumbing to lightheadedness, than anything else.

"Yes. And as I said, Antarians take great pride in the fact that they will only marry for love. I can't say as I blame them. It has kept their world peaceful for many millennia. So unlike the our own war-torn past." Da-nar' popped the little tube out of the shield, and placed it on the counter. Taking a cotton ball, he placed it over the vein, and pulled out the needle. "Put pressure on that for a moment," he instructed, as he wrote her name on the vial of blood, and placed it in a rack with the one other tube, which he had just collected from Karanna.

Seeing her sister's name on the tube prompted Liz to ask, "So, they have all gone on to Antar, then?"

Da-nar' taped the cotton ball to her arm. "Yes. The others left before the four - er, five - of you arrived, and we thought it would be best to keep you away from Max and Zan, until the ceremony. Otherwise, nothing will get done," he teased with a wicked grin.

"Oh, you!" she huffed in feigned outrage, and then laughed.

Nancy was amazed at the familiarity and ease with which Liz related to this alien, even about personal matters. She felt a slight twinge of jealousy, that Liz had always been so guarded around her, when it came to the topic of boys and sex. Even Claudia, God rest her soul, had known more about what was going on in that area of Liz's life than she did. She only hoped that now, since she was supporting her daughter in this major step in her life, that Liz would open up to her, and trust her. She prayed that neither of them would live to regret the decisions they made this day.

During a moment of silence, Nancy asked, "So what is the blood work for?"

Da-nar' looked up from where he had begun working with Karanna's blood. "Oh. I, uh, am testing their hormone levels, to indicate whether or not they are in the fertile part of their cycle," he answered, while continuing with his task.

"Oh," she said thoughtfully, then added, "What is the significance of that? Does it have something to do with their bonding?"

Da-nar' looked up at her in surprise, and Liz smiled, as she gathered up the rest of her things. "You know about the bonding?" he asked Nancy.

"Well, not much, but Liz did explain to me why Max and Zan were so... interested in her before."

Da-nar' chuckled, as he returned his focus to the blood samples. "That's a very polite way of putting it, Mrs. Parker." His voice lost it's joking quality, as he continued, turning to look at her intently. "I'm glad to see that you are adjusting so well to all of this. I only wish the rest of the parents had done half so well."

Nancy gave him a genuine smile. "Hey, you don't live in Roswell your whole life, without accepting the idea that their just might be aliens on Earth. As for the others, I believe they'll come around. They just have to get over the shock. I'm positive that Jeff will come around soon. He admitted to me that he still loves Liz very much. But it was just 'too much too fast', in his words. And I'd be surprised if Phillip and Diane shut their kids out. They've always been so close."

Da-nar' could see that Liz was getting impatient to head through the portal. He wasn't sure if it was her eagerness to get ready for the wedding, or her discomfort at the subject being discussed, but he had to ask Mrs. Parker one more question. "So what makes you different? Why were you able to 'get over the shock' so quickly?"

Nancy's gaze softened, as she looked at her daughter. "Liz and I have been drifting apart over the last year, and I've been feeling shut out of her life. I knew that if I didn't accept this now, and be there for her at her wedding, that it would probably create the final rift between us - one that would never heal. I couldn't risk losing my baby, don't you see? So I had to just accept that which I can't change anyway, and move on."

"Oh, Mom," Liz said, tears gathering in her eyes. "I'd hug you, but my arms are kind of full..." She and Nancy laughed at the sight of Liz burdened with her luggage.

"Here, honey, let me help you with some of that. I only have just my one bag."

"Thanks," Liz said, handing her mother one of the smaller suitcases. "Are you ready for this, Mom? Traveling to another planet?" she said with a wide grin.

"You're sure it's safe?" Nancy asked nervously, in a last minute surge of apprehension.

"Yep, perfectly safe," Liz assured her. "Other humans have made the journey, and lived to tell about it," she teased.

"Others?" Nancy said in disbelief. "As in, 'more than one'? So far, you've only mentioned Maria knowing your secret -"

Liz giggled. "You'll see soon enough," she told her mother mysteriously. "Come on, let's go. Da-nar', we'll see you in a bit?"

"Yes, I'll be along shortly. These tests will only take half an hour or so, and then I'll join you all."


posted on 22-Jan-2002 9:01:47 PM by sheeperz

Part Thirty

Liz led her mother to the portal, which was still open, Da-nar' having left the crystal in after Max, Zan, and Karanna went through. "Well, here we go." She smiled at Nancy, and then stepped through into the catacomb entrance. She turned and waited for her mom to appear. She frowned, when Nancy wasn't right behind her. About half a minute later, Nancy appeared, clinging tightly to Da-nar's arm. "Mom?" Liz was concerned at how pale her mother looked.

"First time jitters," Da-nar' informed her. "She was frightened to enter the portal alone, so I brought her across." He turned to Nancy. "Mrs. Parker? You can let go now. We're safely on Antar."

Nancy turned wide, surprised eyes on him. "You mean - that's it?"

Da-nar' chuckled. "Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid it is. No fancy light show, no bells and whistles. Just walk through, and there you are."

Nancy suddenly heaved a sigh of relief, the tension draining from her body, as she released his arm. "I - I'm sorry for being such a baby. This all still takes a bit of getting used to."

"No need to apologize, Mrs. Parker. I know Antarians who wouldn't set foot into a transport portal. I think you are remarkably brave, for all that you have had to deal with today."

Nancy blushed. "Thank you. Oh, and please - call me Nancy?"

"All right - Nancy," he agreed. "You all go and have a great time, doing whatever it is you women do to get ready for a wedding, and I'll see you later, okay?" He was posing the question to both Liz and her mother, but his warm eyes never left Nancy's. There was a latent sensuality in them - in the way they seemed to look deep inside her, to her very soul - that caused a slight shudder to run through her.

Liz was a little disturbed to see the way that Da-nar' and her mother were gazing at each other - as if they couldn't take their eyes off of each other. "Well, thanks for bringing her across," Liz said, with a chipperness she didn't feel. "Come on, Mom. Lots to do. We need to make sure that Maria and Isabel didn't forget anything," she insisted, tugging at her mother's arm. Nancy obligingly followed, but her head turned to continue watching Da-nar' over her shoulder. Liz glanced back, and was annoyed to see that he hadn't yet moved a muscle. "Mom!" she hissed in a low voice. "What is the matter with you?" She continued dragging her mother through the corridor, and heaved a sigh of relief, when they went around a bend in the corridor, and Da-nar' was suddenly out of visual range. It was then that Nancy seemed to halfway snap back to her senses.

"I'm sorry, honey, did you say something?"

"What was that all about?" Liz demanded, as if their roles were now reversed.

"What do you mean?" Nancy hedged.

"You know perfectly well what I mean! 'Oh please - call me Nancy.' And those looks! Mom, you were flirting with Da-nar'! What do you think Daddy would say, if he knew?"

"If your father was so worried about either of us, he'd be here, now wouldn't he?" Nancy snapped. She closed her eyes, and bit back a swearword, when she saw the impact that thoughtless remark had on Liz. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that the way it came out. Of course your father loves you. He just needs some time. But for the record, I was not flirting with your Mr. Da-nar'. There's just something very... intriguing about him, is all."

Liz gave a hollow laugh. "Well, that's a new way of putting it," she murmured to herself.

Not quietly enough, apparently. "Listen to me, young lady," Nancy reprimanded her sternly. "I can take care of myself. Since when do you, a 17 year old bride-to-be think you have the wisdom to question the actions of your mother, anyway?"

Liz stiffened at the rebuke. "Of course, excuse me. God forbid that someone else might be able to see something that is a blind spot to you. But 'for the record' - you might want to be a little more discreet about staring longingly at Da-nar' around the others. People might.... talk."

Nancy glared briefly at Liz, and then averted her eyes, as they continued down the tunnel. She could have come back with some scathing retort in response to her daughter's sauciness, but she didn't have it in her. Mostly because she knew that Liz was right, even if she wouldn't admit it out loud. Something about Da-nar' drew her like a magnet, and it probably did look bad to anyone observing. She silently agreed to take Liz's advice.

After they walked a couple of minutes in silence, Nancy cleared her throat. "So - what is this place?" she asked, trying for a casual tone.

Liz slid her mother a sideways glance. She hadn't bit back after Liz's last remark, so maybe she was going to actually heed her advice? "These are the catacombs," she informed her mother. "They run beneath the capital city, Antarra, where the palace used to be."

"Used to be?"

Liz nodded solemnly. "Yes, if you recall, Max mentioned that when Ki-var' killed the royal family, he razed the palace. Since he is still in control, the palace has never been rebuilt."

"Do you think Max will want to rebuild it?" Nancy questioned her daughter.

Liz shrugged. "We haven't really talked about it," she confessed. "But if I know Max, he won't go for building something of such grandeur. To hear tell, it was an incredible structure. That kind of expenditure is frivolous, and our people are going to need all their available resources, to recover from this reign of terror that Ki-var' has had them under."

"So... catacombs, huh? What are we doing down here?"

"Well, we haven't actually been to the surface yet," Liz stated hesitantly. She wasn't sure how her mother was going to take the news. "You see, we have to stay out of sight, until we have our plan all laid out, and are ready to strike."

"Okay, but where will you live?"

"Um... Ge-lar' said they have been preparing a room for Max and me, and one for Zan and Karanna. We will probably all share common living quarters and kitchen, that sort of thing, for the time being."

Nancy stopped, rooted to the spot. "Liz, are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into here?"

"Oh, Mom, you worry too much. I know that it isn't what humans would consider ideal circumstances for beginning a marriage, but we are all in this together. And we are young, like you yourself have pointed out. We'll have lots of years to enjoy the privacy of our own home, and such. But for now, we have to live here."

"I guess I just don't understand what the rush is to get married," Nancy admitted.

"Oh, well, there's this prophecy concerning us, actually," Liz said shyly. Somehow, claiming to be the subject of an age old prophecy smacked of arrogance to Liz. "Anyway, according to the prophecy, we can't defeat Ki-var', until we are married. We think it has something to do with the power that comes from us all making a mental connection with each other. Max, Zan, and I have done it, and the amount of power with just the three of us is incredible. So we figure adding Karanna into the equation would make it even stronger. But we can't add her into the connection, until after we are all married."

"Why?"

"Because as near as Da-nar' can figure, if Karanna and I connect, and in essence truly become "one", we will always have the four-way bonding problem. Our guess is, that's why the prophecy indicates that Karanna and I need to be separate, until after the wedding."

"I see - I think," Nancy said, shaking her head, to clear her thoughts, just as they reached the center of the catacombs. She looked around the circular chamber, noting all the tunnels. "Where do they all lead?" she asked.

"Well, the one we just came out of ends at the portal, as you saw. Four of the others lead to exits outside the city gates - one each in the north, south, east, and west. The last one is a dead end. That's the one that we are going to."

Nancy followed, as Liz led her to one of the other passageways. They hadn't gone far, when she began to hear the muffled sound of voices. Soon, she was able to recognize some of them. Max's deep timbre, Maria's squeal - she looked at Liz in surprise, when she heard a voice very similar to Liz's. She had never heard her daughter's twin speak, the entire time they were at the Evanses. "Karanna?" she mouthed. Liz nodded.

Just as the reached the room where everyone was congregating, Jim Valenti's voice rang out, "So where is the other blushing bride?"

Nancy thought her heart was going to stop. That was Jim's SUV parked at the base of the cliff! She glared accusingly at Liz, who merely burst into laughter, and ducked through the door, before her mother could throw a fit. "Here I am!" she announced, in response to the sheriff's inquiry.

Ge-lar' noted, with great interest, the immediate reaction of the Evans twins to her arrival. So that's the way of it, eh? he thought to himself with a smirk. Actually, he was more than pleased that at least one of the brides was apparently capable of bonding. There was nothing more irritable than an Antarian groom, who couldn't consummate his vows on his wedding night.

"Lizzy!" Maria squealed. "Thank God you're here! I've been going crazy, waiting to get started! Well, amigos, adios! We ladies are off to get ready for a wedding!" She noticed Nancy coming to stand inside the doorway, and gasped. "Mrs. Parker?! Liz - your mom -?"

Liz beamed. "Yep, she's here to party with us, Maria!"

Overcome with emotion, Maria hurled herself into Nancy's arms. "I'm so glad you're here. It's nice to have an adult lady with us - and especially you."

Still stunned, she took in the faces of not only Jim Valenti, but Kyle, and Alex Whitman, as well. Absently, Nancy returned Maria's embrace, and murmured, "Me too, sweetie."

Jim smirked at Nancy's look of astonishment. "Morning, Nancy," he greeted her.

Nancy came out of her shock, and narrowed her eyes menacingly at her longtime friend. "Just how long have you known about this, Jim?" she demanded.

Valenti shuffled his feet nervously, and cleared his throat. "Well, uh, I knew about Max, Isabel, and Michael back in the spring - May, it was. As for Liz..." he smiled warmly at the bride-to-be. "None of us knew about her until a month ago. Except for Da-nar', of course."

"Of course," she retorted tartly. "And I don't suppose it occurred to you to fill any of us in on this little secret?"

"Now, Nancy, it wasn't my secret to tell. And I'm sure the kids have already explained to you how dangerous this business is. We came damn close to losing Max, and Isabel and Michael have had some pretty tight scrapes along the way. They didn't want to put anyone else in danger."

Nancy's stomach knotted. They almost lost Max? Would that have been when Isabel said he was tortured? Struggling for a response, she replied, "Yes, I know. They've explained all of that. It's just so odd, realizing that there is so much about your own child that you don't understand."

"I'm sure that it must be unsettling," Ge-lar' conceded, making Nancy aware of the man's presence for the first time. "If it helps you any, you can take pleasure in knowing that out of all the women in the universe, you were chosen to bear the queen of our people. A queen who is not just a symbol, but will be an integral part of the salvation of her planet, as we struggle to rid ourselves of an evil tyrant."

Liz felt her mother tense beside her, as she sighted Ge-lar' for the first time. This was the first her mother had seen an actual alien in his natural form. Da-nar' always retained human form around them, but Antarians couldn't shape shift. So when Nancy saw the frail, elderly Antarian male, complete with irregularly shaped ears, golden yellow eyes, and skin that was a shade too green to still be considered olive, the reality of the situation came crashing down on her. These people were aliens. Real live, honest to God aliens. Suddenly, the room began to spin...

Jim managed to sweep Nancy up into his arms, right before she collapsed. "Is there somewhere I can take her to lie down?" he asked Liz.

Liz's gaze turned helplessly toward Ge-lar'. The only bed she knew of, was the one that Tess was using. She wasn't even sure where Ge-lar' slept. Ge-lar' saw her look of desperation, and intervened. "Follow me," he told them. He led them down the hall, and opened a door to a darkened room.

As he entered with the lamp, they could make out the bed against the far wall. Jim carried Nancy to it, and gently laid her down, then sat on the edge of the bed next to her. "You both go and get ready for the wedding," he urged. "I'll stay here with her, until she feels up to rejoining the group."

"Very well," Ge-lar' agreed. "I'll send one of the young men back with some stones to warm the room." With that, he escorted Liz back to the main room.

On the way, she murmured, "I'm sorry about that, Ge-lar'. I hope you aren't offended. I just think that seeing you was the final shock for her. She's had a rather stressful day."

Ge-lar' smiled warmly at Liz, and patted her shoulder. "No need to apologize, my dear. I understand perfectly well what ails your mother. I'd say you should be proud of her, under the circumstances. She must love you very much, to be willing to make the journey here, after all she has endured this day."

Liz stopped and turned to face him, just before they entered the common room. "You know, that's what amazes me. I mean, I always knew that she loved me, but we haven't been exceptionally close. I was always more of a 'Daddy's girl'. I- I'm just so glad that she wanted to be with me today."

Ge-lar' pulled her into a hug. "I'm sure you are. Now, what do you say, we get this show on the road, so that she has something to be here for?" he asked with a teasing grin.

"I thought you'd never ask!" Liz giggled back.

As they rejoined the others, the sexual tension that immediately emanated from Max and Zan, who were clear on the other side of the room, was nearly palpable. Instantly aware of it, Ge-lar' murmured to Liz, "First things first. We need to do something about their discomfort." Liz blushed. "Now, now, my dear, no need to be embarrassed. I'm an old man, and I'm well aware of these things." That only served to make her color deepen further. Somehow, dancing around the subject of sex with a celibate man of God seemed tantamount to sacrilege.

Fortunately, Ge-lar' didn't seem to notice. He merely drew the attention of those in the room. "I think now would be a good time for the young ladies to take Liz and Karanna to the room dedicated for their preparation. Once they are settled, those of you who have other tasks to tend to may return. And Michael, would you take some heating stones to Mrs. Parker's room? Fourth door on the right." Michael nodded, and left to the task.

As the girls filed out the door, Ge-lar' pulled Courtney aside. "I have a special mission for you," he mumbled. "Come." When they reached the circular chamber at the center of the catacombs, he turned and spoke. "You have been gone from this planet for a long time," he began. "Do you think you could recognize the Vandera plant, if you saw it?"

Courtney looked at him in shock, recalling the use the plant had among the Antarians. So that was his secret, she thought. And then her husk proceeded to blush in response to the embarrassment she felt over her wayward thoughts. She always loathed that telltale human sign of humiliation. What Ge-lar' did and didn't struggle with in his service to their God was none of her business....

Correctly divining the source of her distress, Ge-lar' chuckled. "No, Courtney, it is not for me. I am much too old to be plagued with those problems anymore." WTMI, Courtney thought, realizing that was too close to a confession that he once had struggled with this problem. "Rest assured, the need I have for the Vandera root is to ease the tension for our two young grooms. It seems that Liz is now fertile, and I'd prefer to make it through the festivities without some sort of unfortunate incident. Especially considering that Karanna appears not to have entered that phase of her cycle yet."

Courtney loudly expelled the breath that she had been unconsciously holding. "Yes, I remember what the plant looks like. It is very distinctive."

"Good. I need for you to get me the root of one of the plants, so I may brew a tea that will temporarily counteract the affects that Liz is having on those two young men." He pointed her toward one of the tunnels. "If you follow that to the end, it will open into a cave outside the North Woods, beyond the city. Are you familiar with that area?" Courtney nodded. She had often played there as a child. "If you go about 100' down the path that leads from the cave, and look to your right, you will see a large boulder. At that point, take a left off the path, and walk into the woods a little ways, and you will see a small patch of Vandera." He looked intently at her. "Make sure that no one sees you," he admonished. "It is imperative that our location remain a secret. Lately, I have felt as if there were a threatening presence nearby, though I've never seen anyone. Please - be careful."

Courtney nodded. "I will, Ge-lar'. I'll be back soon." Just as she was about to leave, the other friends of the two couples began bringing decorations for the wedding into the "hub" of the catacombs, which was now affectionately being referred to as "The Rotunda". Maria had declared it had a "grand and romantic" ring to it, which elicited snickers all the way around. Indignant, she had placed her fists on her hips, and declared that none of them had any imagination or vision at all. So in keeping with the occasion, and to humor her, they had all adopted the name for the circular chamber. Courtney smiled, remembering the incident, and then nodded to the others, before disappearing down the corridor.

Once she had determined that the coast was clear, Courtney stepped out into the waning sunlight of early evening. It was then she realized for the first time, that day and night were not synchronized between Earth and Antar. Having been confined to the underground chambers, it had never occurred to her to ask what time it was on their own planet. Courtney returned her thoughts to her task. She needed to move quickly - first, because Ge-lar' needed the root. But most importantly, the longer she remained here, the greater the chances were of encountering someone else.

With near-silent steps, she hastened to the area that Ge-lar' had described, extracted the root, and rushed back toward the cave. On her return flight, she felt the hair prickle on the back of her husk - another annoying human reaction, but one she had come to realize had great benefit. She spun around, expecting to find someone behind her, but there was no sound, no movement - nothing to indicate that someone was following her. She quickly darted into the cave, her heart still pounding for some unknown reason. As she headed toward the rotunda, it hit her. No sound, no movement. Not the chirp of a bird, or the blur of a ground animal. Nothing. She realized, belatedly, that with their stillness, the inhabitants of the forest had been warning her, confirming her worst fears. There had been someone out there. Someone watching. And she couldn't shake the feeling that it spelled impending disaster.

posted on 22-Jan-2002 9:03:14 PM by sheeperz

Part Thirty-one

Once Courtney was on her way, Ge-lar' watched the decorating of "The Rotunda" for awhile, and then left it under the capable supervision of Isabel and Maria. With Ava there to help, as well as Kyle and Alex for muscle, he knew they would do just fine. He returned to the room where he had abandoned Max and Zan, and found them sitting at the table, munching on some fruit, and talking with Michael.

"Somehow, we have to find a way to get Ki-var' alone. We don't know how strong he is, and I'd just as soon not have to worry about anyone else, while we're fighting him," Max commented.

Michael took a big bite of a native calaba. "I agree," he said, around a mouthful of the sweet fruit. "There aren't enough of us to make up another foursquare, to cover you while you battle it out with Ki-var'."

"We might be able to enlist some help from other Antarians, if it came to that," Ge-lar' spoke up, joining their conversation, as he moved around the food preparation area he had set up. He began assembling a few things on a tray. When they saw the familiar broth join the plate of fruit and greens, they knew who it was for.

"But how would we know who to trust?" Zan countered. "I kind of had the impression you don't mingle much with the outside world."

"That's true," Ge-lar' conceded. "But you forget - I have connections."

"Connections?" Ge-lar' looked up, as if lifting his eyes to heaven. Zan was momentarily confused, and then uttered, "Ooh."

"Precisely." Ge-lar' turned to Michael. "Would you care to take this into Tessandra for me? Courtney should be returning any moment, with some roots I need. I will have to get started preparing them right away."

Michael shrugged. "Sure," he answered, stuffing the rest of the calaba in his mouth. He took the tray from Ge-lar', and left the room.

"So - what's the root for?" Max asked.

"Oh, just a little something to ease what ails the two of you," he answered with a knowing grin. Max and Zan looked at each other and blushed. "It's all right," Ge-lar' consoled them. "As hard as it may be to believe, I once was a young man myself."

Max cleared his throat. "So this will -?"

"Basically, it will block the hormonal effect that Liz is having on the two of you."

"But - what if Karanna should go into her fertile cycle while we are numb to the effects?" Zan asked worriedly. "She could be ready to bond, and I'd never know it!"

Ge-lar' grinned. "Never fear, young Zan. The effects of the tea you will drink are only temporary. They will only keep your hormones at bay for 2 hours or so. Just long enough for the wedding and the feast to conclude. By the time you are escorted to private chambers, you should be, uh, fully functional again."

Max grinned like an idiot. "Well, that's good to know!"

Zan glared at Max, clearly envious of his being assured of a wedding night. "Yeah, just great," he grumbled.

"Aw, come on, don't be such a spoiled sport," Max chided. "Remember, I've been waiting a long time for this. I've been in love with Liz for years. You just met Karanna. Use the time to get to know her better."

Zan sighed. "Yeah, I suppose you're right. Still...."

Just then, Courtney walked in, putting a damper on the conversation. One look at her, and Max knew something was up.

"Here's the Vandera root," she said, as she handed Ge-lar' a small cloth bag.

Ge-lar' reached out to take it from her, but his eyes searched her face intently. "What is it, young one? What has you so troubled?" Taking the root from the sack, Ge-lar' began to crush it, in order to open it's fibers, so they would release their medicinal substances.

Courtney looked nervously at Max and Zan, then back to Ge-lar'. "I think someone was hiding in the forest," she blurted out. "When I was returning to the cave, I felt this odd sensation - a prickly feeling - up the back of my neck. I've come to realize that this is my husk's reaction to danger. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but then I realized that the forest was completely still. Something had frightened the birds and animals into silence. I just have a really bad feeling, Ge-lar'."

"As do I," he murmured in agreement. He placed some of the root into two mugs, and poured boiling water in them. They would have to set for half an hour, in order to make a potent tea.

"Who do you think it is?" Max inquired, hoping that Ge-lar' would have some sort of insight as to who they were dealing with.

"I'm not sure," he admitted, "but I, too, have had the feeling of being watched. We must be very careful from now on. We don't want Ki-var' to know the location of these catacombs. They are the only true safe haven we have left."

Da-nar' entered, just in time to hear Ge-lar's last statement. "Trouble in paradise?" he asked.

"We're not sure," Max informed him. "Ge-lar' and Courtney think the entrance in the North Woods is being watched."

"Ooo, that's not good," Da-nar' said with a worried frown. "What are we going to do about it?"

"We'll have to avoid that area for as long as we can," Ge-lar' answered, "but I'm going to need more suppression plant, before too much longer. It wouldn't do for Tess to be able to use her powers against us. We may have to try some of the other areas, and see if we can locate more of the herb in a different quadrant. And with winter soon to arrive, I must get out to do a major harvest of herbs to last through the winter."

"Well, we'll work something out," Da-nar' assured him. "Even if we have to exit the tunnels from another quadrant, and walk to the woods in disguise. You'll have what you need." He glanced around the room. "So - where are the blushing brides, and Nancy? Getting ready for the wedding?" He picked up a chunk of raw kwaffle, and popped it in his mouth.

"Well, Liz and Karanna are in preparation, and Jim is tending to Mrs. Parker in a chamber down the hall."

Da-nar' choked on the kwaffle, and couldn't swallow it fast enough. "What? Why does she need tending?" he squawked out between coughs.

Zan chuckled. "Well, she took one look at Ge-lar', and passed out. Guess seeing a real alien was too much for her."

"Oh, God," Da-nar' groaned. "I should have thought -" Ge-lar' was watching Da-nar's reaction with intense curiosity. Why did he have such concern for Liz's mother?

"Da-nar', you need to chill. There's no way any of us could have predicted that. She seemed to be handling everything so well," Max reminded him.

"Not as well as she would have liked everyone to believe," Da-nar' countered. "She's having intermittent difficulty dealing with all of it. It would be unrealistic for us to think she wouldn't be. Where is she?" he asked of Ge-lar'.

"Fourth door down on the right." Da-nar' nodded, and hurried from the room.

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

Michael stood outside the door to Tess' room, her tray precariously balanced on one hand, as he used his powers to "unlock" the door. He was relieved that her powers were being suppressed, so the molecular manipulation of the lock could keep her contained. Opening the door, he was surprised to find a very pregnant Tess prowling the perimeter of the room, frustration fairly oozing from her.

"Finally!" she shrieked. "I was beginning to think you people forgot all about me! What the hell is going on out there? I've been hearing all sorts of voices for the last hour. Is there a party you forgot to invite me to?" she asked with feigned sweetness.

"Uh, no," Michael said bluntly. "If we'd wanted you there, you would have known."

"So there is something going on! What is it?" Michael just looked at her with a complete lack of interest. "For God's sake, Michael, I'm bored to death in here! What harm could there be in my knowing that there is some sort of life that still exists outside these walls?"

"What is going on out there has nothing to do with you. Why torture yourself, over something that can't be a part of? Just to make you more miserable than you already are?" he countered.

"OOOO!" she howled, and grabbed a dirty cup from the table, which she flung at his head.

He ducked to avoid the impromptu missile. "You see?" Michael smirked. "You're a miserable shrew. Why would I want to feed into that nasty aspect of your personality? Oops! I forgot! That's the only aspect of your personality, isn't it?"

"You go to hell, Michael Guerin," she hissed. "Just you wait. I'm going to get out of here one of these days, and then you'll all pay for the way you've treated me!"

He sighed theatrically. "Tsk, tsk, and delusional to boot," he murmured with feigned pity. "I wouldn't waste too much of my energy pondering those thoughts. You're not going anywhere. And for the record... you are paying for the way you've treated everyone else. What went around already came back around. The payback stops here."

"We'll see! Once Ki-var' knows that you're holding me hostage, he'll blow you to smithereens, and then we'll see who's so frickin' smug!"

Michael threw back his head and laughed. "IF Ki-var' finds out you're here, it will be because we let him know where you are. Trust me, you'll get no help from that quarter."

Tess snorted. "You think you are such hot shots, because Max and Zan were able to kill Nicholas. Well I have news for you. Ki-var' is far more powerful than Nicholas ever dreamed of being."

Michael shrugged indifferently. "Whatever. I'm growing bored with these verbal battles with you. And I have more important things to do. There's your meal," he pointed out with a jerk of his head in the direction of the table. "I suggest you eat up, if you want to keep up your strength for your escape." His eyes sparkled with humor. She clenched her fists, knowing that he was silently laughing at her. "So, if you'll excuse me..." he stepped through the door, and just as he was about to shut it, he called back to her, "I have a wedding to prepare for!" He slammed the door and melted the lock, before she could react. He heard her shriek, just before a rather solid object hit the door.

Tess could hear his laughter, as he strode down the hall.

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

Jim was sponging Nancy's forehead with a cool cloth, when Da-nar' burst into the room. The sheriff looked up, and saw the Talerian watching the scene with calculating eyes. "Da-nar'," Jim greeted him, a note of caution in his voice.

"Jim. What seems to be the problem here?"

Jim returned his attention to Nancy, and the damp cloth. "She just had too much excitement, and it finally caught up with her," he replied.

"I was afraid this would happen." Jim didn't miss the genuine concern in Da-nar's voice, or the worried expression on his face, when he turned to look at the alien over his shoulder. Da-nar' stepped closer. "I'm sure there are things you need to attend to, before the ceremony," he suggested to Jim. "I can stay here with Na - uh, Mrs. Parker."

"You sure?" Jim probed. "Aren't you needed, too?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "No. Not for a while yet."

Jim dropped the cloth into the bowl of water he had been using, and stood from the edge of the bed. "All right, then," he agreed. "I'll come and relieve you, if they need you for anything." Anything at all, he added silently, as he tried to judge the other man's interest in Liz's mother.

"Fine." Da-nar' took the seat that Jim had just vacated, grabbing up the cloth and wringing it out, before placing it on Nancy's forehead.

"Well, I guess I'll just mosey on out of here, and see what the others are doing," Jim said by way of parting comment. His words generated no response, and in fact, Da-nar' acted as though he hadn't even heard him, his attention was so focused on Nancy Parker. I sure hope Jeff doesn't find out about this. It could be the last straw. With that thought, he turned on his heel, and left.

Once he knew that Jim was gone, Da-nar' reached into his pocket, and withdrew an aromatic herbal oil, which he had selected from Ge-lar's collection. Uncorking the bottle, he lifted it up under her nose. Almost instantly, she snapped awake, struggling to push the vial away.

'Ugh! What is that stuff?!" she wheezed, trying to catch her breath.

Da-nar' chuckled. "I know it's pretty awful, but it worked, didn't it?" He corked the bottle, and set it on the table next to the bed.

Nancy scowled at him, but he could see the humor in her eyes. "I suppose, that depends on what you were expecting it to do," she accused. "If you were looking to steal my breath away -"

Da-nar's intent eyes held her gaze captive, and his body leaned in slightly closer, stemming the flow of words coming from her. "Could I steal your breath away?" he whispered the question, almost as if to himself.

As if in involuntary response, she gasped, her breath catching and holding in her throat, as her heart thudded loudly against her ribs. At that moment, Da-nar finally understood the Earth expression about someone looking "like a deer caught in headlights." Chagrined, he sat back upright and averted his gaze, mumbling an apology. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Parker," he told her, reverting to formalities. "I shouldn't have said that."

He waited for Nancy to respond, but she didn't. At least not, verbally. But her labored breathing told him that she felt the pull of attraction between them as well. He closed his eyes, and groaned, cursing himself a fool a hundred times over, for even opening this Pandora's box. It was bad enough that she was married, but the fact that she was Liz's mom as well, put her on the completely off-limits list. He could never do anything to hurt Liz.

Determined to put this incident behind them, he stood up, and made to move from the bedside, when her cool, slender hand reached out to clutch his. Startled, he looked back down at her. Timidly, she smiled back up at him, and quietly said, "I thought I asked you to call me Nancy."

Relief flooded through him, when he realized that that was her way of extending forgiveness for his social blunder. Squeezing her hand gently, he spoke the words that were on his heart. "You are a remarkable woman, Nancy. I will treasure your friendship always." He lifted her hand to his lips, and gently kissed the backs of her fingers. "Now, I believe we have a wedding to prepare for? Are you feeling up to joining the others?"

Nancy suddenly remembered what had caused her to faint in the first place. "Oh!" she exclaimed, covering her mouth with her hand.

"Nancy? What is it?"

"That poor man," she mumbled, blushing. "He must think I have no manners at all."

Da-nar' was momentarily confused, and then realized what she was concerned about. "Oh! Ge-lar', you mean. No, he wasn't offended at all. He understands the kind of stress you have been under today. He'll be relieved just to know that you are all right."

Nancy sighed. "I feel so stupid. I mean, I was just getting used to the idea that there really are aliens... But the rest of you look human, and I never thought -"

Da-nar' laughed. "It's okay, really," he assured her. Inwardly, he regretted the fact, that she would probably faint dead away, if she saw him as he really was. Pasting on a smile, he inquired, "Are you ready to get up, now?"

Grinning broadly, she allowed him to help her rise, then lead her to the chamber where the brides were getting ready.

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

Ge-lar' was sitting at the table, conversing easily with Max and Zan, when he noticed both of them go rigid in their seats, their pupils dilating, and their breathing become erratic. He looked up, expecting to see Liz standing there, but instead, found Karanna. He grinned, as the boys spun around to face the door. Zan's groan was more of relief, than of ecstasy. He realized that Karanna must now be in her fertile time, and they would be able to consummate their vows after all.

Oblivious to the sensual hunger in the twins' eyes, Karanna shyly addressed Ge-lar'. "Would it be possible for us to get some more of the heated stones, to put in our bath water?"

Max nearly knocked his chair over, as he jumped to his feet. "I'll take care of it," he told Ge-lar'. The old man just grinned knowingly, as he watched Max grab up several stones, and place them on an insulated rack for heating. Then Max slipped out the door, and headed to the room where Liz was waiting.

He nearly ran into Jim Valenti in his haste to get to the brides' preparation chamber. "Oh, uh, excuse me," he mumbled, as he stepped around the sheriff.

Why is everyone acting so odd today? Jim wondered. It seemed to him like everyone had taken temporary leave of their senses.

Oblivious to the sheriff's eyes watching him with concern, Max slipped into the room where Liz and Karanna were to prepare for the wedding. "Karanna?" he heard Liz call from behind a dressing screen. There were lamps lit for her to see by, and they projected a beautiful silhouette of Liz's naked body standing next to a tub.

His senses reeling from the visual effect, as well as his hormones, Max struggled to retain what slight grip he had left on his sanity. Clearing his throat, he said, "No, Liz, it's me, Max." He couldn't help but grin, when he heard her little squeak of embarrassment, and then watched her dive for her robe, that was draped over a chair, next to the tub. Peeking around the edge of the screen, she demanded, "What are you doing here, Max?"

Holding up the rack of stones to prove the legitimacy of his presence, he announced in a husky voice, "Karanna asked for more stones to heat your water."

Still belting her robe, she came out from behind the screen to face him. "I know," she answered impatiently, hands on her hips. "I sent her, after all. What I meant is, why are you here, bringing them?"

"Uh, well," he faltered, blushing furiously at being caught trying to sneak a moment alone with his bride. "Oh, heck, Liz. Is it a crime to want to steal a few moments alone with you? We've been hustled and bustled all over the place all day, and I haven't even gotten a proper kiss from you yet."

"Somehow, I don't think a proper kiss is what you have on your mind, Mr. Evans...."

Carelessly dropping the stones to the floor, he crossed the distance between them in a flash, and gathered her in his arms. "You've got me on that one, Miss Parker. I definitely have improper on my mind right now." And he bent his head, crushing her lips beneath his, in a wild, reckless kiss. Before she knew what was happening, he had slipped the sash on her robe, and his hands were on her naked flesh, stroking her to near madness. Their tongues darted in and out of each other's mouths, tasting, teasing, promising.

In a state of desire she had never known, Liz began to fumble with the fastener on Max's jeans. Before she could get the zipper down, they heard Da-nar's voice. "This is where the girls are getting ready. I'm sure they would love for you to be with them, and help them."

Liz and Max sprang apart, struggling to right themselves, before the door opened. Max was piling the stones that had scattered back onto the rack, when the door swung wide to admit Liz's mom. Max looked up casually at her, but Nancy didn't miss his slightly rumpled appearance, shallow breathing, and the way his hands shook, as he handled the stones. Fascinated, she watched as he held his hands over the rocks, and his hands began to glow.

"Ouch!" he yelped, pulling his hands back quickly. Nancy gasped, to see the rocks glowing red. Max quickly grabbed the handles of the rack, and tumbled the semi-molten stones into the bath water. Immediately the water hissed and sputtered, and a cloud of steam rose from the surface. Max looked sheepishly at Liz. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I guess I got them too hot," he confessed, while his embarrassment gave way to a searing look that threatened to melt her bones, just as the rocks had been.

"Well, Max," Nancy broke in with a cheerful voice, "you better get going. I need to get these girls ready for a wedding!" She gave him the once over. "And I think you better start getting dressed, mister. I won't tolerate you keeping my baby waiting at the altar!"

Despite his discomfort, Max managed to grin. "Yes, ma'am. I'll be there. On time. You can count on me..." he rambled, backing out of the door, and then slamming it shut.

He collapsed on the other side of the door, trying to catch his breath, when he heard Nancy laugh and tell Liz, "Oh, honey, are you going to have some wedding night!"

posted on 22-Jan-2002 9:18:33 PM by sheeperz
Here is the new part that I posted, just as the board went down....

Part Thirty-two

Max opened his eyes, as he pushed himself away from the door, and came face to face with Karanna. "Hey, Max," she said shyly, her eyes focused on the door to his right.

Max shuddered from the desire running rampant in his veins. He willed himself under control, reminding himself that this was not Liz. Cautiously, he reached out a hand, and hooked his index finger under her chin, lifting her face upward. When her eyes swung to his in question, he said, "You and I need to have a little talk about something." His eyes glanced up and down the corridor, mentally recalling what lay behind each door, and choosing his destination. Knowing how skittish and uncertain Karanna could be, he spoke gently to her, so as not to frighten her. "Please - come with me, so we can talk in private?" Karanna nodded, and Max led her down the hallway. Taking a torch from the wall, he guided her into one of the rooms. Inside, he turned and put the torch into a sconce on the wall, then shut the door.

"Wh-what did you want to talk about, Max?" she asked timidly, crossing her arms over her breasts.

"Actually, it has to do with Zan," he informed her. "I know that you had flashes of him and Liz together, when you first met him." Karanna's eyes widened, and she nodded mutely again. "I also know that it was difficult for you to believe he could have those feelings for your sister, and then profess to love you."

"Yes, it was," she whispered meekly. "But I've forced myself to move on, and tried to let go of that."

"I know you have," he acknowledged. "However, I worry that deep in your heart, you might still harbor doubts - questions, at least." He paused. "I know a way that we can eliminate your insecurities for good." He traced the line of her jaw with his finger, and she shivered at the contact.

"H-how could you do that?" she inquired warily.

"Let me ask you a question," he countered. "Do you love Zan?"

"With all my heart."

Max nodded his acceptance of her profession. "Would you say you love me?"

Karanna stiffened. "Well, I love you like a brother, if that's what you mean."

"Have you ever desired to make love to me?" he pressed on.

Karanna gasped indignantly. "Certainly not!"

"Good. Then this should work just fine. You see, I'm going to prove to you, that the attraction that Liz and Zan had for each other had nothing to do with loving each other. It was a biological reaction, and nothing more."

"You are?" she asked, swallowing nervously.

"Yes, I am," he said in a tone that indicated he would not entertain any arguments from her on the matter.

"I - I don't think this is such a good idea," she stuttered, backing away from him.

"Karanna, I'm not going to hurt you," he crooned softly, as he reached out and lightly grabbed her wrist.

"Max, please -" she pleaded, struggling to free herself. She found his nearness disturbing.

"Karanna, trust me. This is the last time I will ever be able to give you the total peace of mind you deserve, regarding this issue."

She looked at him puzzled. "O-okay," she stammered, and stopped fighting against him. She tried to breathe slow and steady, in an effort to relax and get her heart rate under control. Surely it was fear that was making her pulse race so?

Max tugged gently on her wrist, and pulled her closer. Cupping her face in his hands, he explained what he was going to do, so she wouldn't be frightened. "All I'm going to do is kiss you, Karanna. I want you to see how your body reacts mine, when we do something as simple as kiss. You have already admitted that under normal circumstances, you don't desire me. Let's see what happens, now that you have come into your fertile time."

Karanna inhaled sharply, as if to protest, but Max bent his head quickly, and covered her mouth with his own, trapping any argument. He fought to maintain his own control, as he felt his blood rushing hot and heavy through his body, collecting in his loins. He was hard and ready, and beginning to wonder just how stupid he was to attempt something like this. But he loved his brother, and didn't want his marriage to constantly be shadowed by the specter of his previously uncontrollable attraction to Liz. If only he could make Karanna understand...

Max groaned, as Karanna's arms came up to circle his neck, and her tongue slipped eagerly between his teeth. Lost in the moment, as their kiss deepened, Max lifted her, so that their hips were pressed in intimate contact with each other. Karanna's legs wrapped around his waist, as her passion was inflamed. She moaned, and her hips undulated with a mind of their own against him.

As he wrenched his mouth away, Max's hands slid down to grip her buttocks, and press her tightly against his body, in an attempt to still her movement. Breathlessly, he commanded, "Stop! Karanna, you have to stop moving against me like that, or I'm going to explode right here."

Suddenly coming back to her senses, Karanna turned deep crimson, and buried her face against his shoulder. "Oh, God, I'm so embarrassed," she murmured.

"I'm going to put you down now, okay?" Karanna just nodded, not being able to look up at him, for fear of seeing ridicule in his eyes. Max, however, could feel the heat of her blush against the side of his neck. He gently lowered her to her feet, and held on to her, until her legs were steady enough to hold her up. "There's nothing to be ashamed of," he told her. "What happened is exactly what I expected to happen. Uh, except I didn't mean for it to go quite so far," he mumbled. "Sorry about that."

Karanna's head snapped up. "Why are you sorry?" she asked. "I'm the one that got out of control."

Max smiled, but his eyes were full of kindness, and she knew he wasn't making fun of her. "I've had more practice than you at controlling my sexual urges. I shouldn't have let things get so out of hand."

"Well, it happened kinda fast," she answered thoughtfully, as understanding dawned. "So that's how it was? For Zan and Liz, I mean?"

"Yeah, that's just how it was. I hope now you understand that pheromone induced lust has little to do with love. And Zan has told me on a number of occasions, just how much he honestly loves you. And how different it is, from what he felt for Liz."

"I don't know what to say," Karanna admitted. "I'm a little overwhelmed, that you would stage something like this, in order to teach me that lesson."

"Make no mistake about it," Max told her. "I love my brother. And I just couldn't bear the thought of there being any lingering doubts in your mind about his trustworthiness. I hope that when Zan tells you something in the future, you'll know that you can believe him."

Karanna bit her lip, ashamed of the lingering doubts she had harbored. "You were right, you know," she admitted quietly. "I did still wonder if Zan secretly had feelings for Liz. Thank you for caring enough to set me straight."

Max smiled affectionately at her. "You're welcome. Now, I think your sister is waiting for you. You two better get ready - Zan and I don't want to wait a minute longer than we have to, to get you two to the altar!" he teased.

Karanna giggled. "Okay. I'll tell her we need to hurry it along!" she answered with a grin.

Max reached out, and pulled her into a brotherly hug. "Things are going to work out just fine for all of us," he declared with conviction. "I'm just so glad we found you."

"Me too," she sighed, stepping out of his arms. She smiled up at him and reiterated, "Me too."

Max and Karanna stepped out into the corridor, and came face to face with Zan, who gave them a quizzical look. What were they doing in that room, alone? he wondered.

"Hey, Zan, kiss her quick if you're going to," Max tormented his twin. "She has to scoot so she can get ready to marry you!"

Zan looked guardedly from Max to Karanna, and then back, pinning Max with his stare. "Is there something I should know about?" he asked evenly.

"I'll explain it to you, after you leave Karanna off with Liz," Max told him. "I'll be waiting down with Ge-lar'. Don't be too long - we still have to get dressed for the ceremony."

"Right," Zan agreed, and led Karanna to the door of the chamber where she was to get ready. He watched as Max continued down the corridor, until he disappeared into another room. "So," he said on a rush of breath. "Is everything okay?"

"Oh, yes!" Karanna exclaimed, and threw herself into Zan's arms. "I can't wait until we say our vows!" Threading her fingers through his hair, she urgently tugged on his head in a silent plea for him to kiss her.

Zan lightly brushed his lips across hers, fighting the rampaging arousal that was tightening his body. "I must say, this is the most enthusiastic I've seen you, as far as our wedding is concerned. Does this have something to do with Max?"

"Mmhmmm," she moaned, nipping at his lower lip. "Really kiss me, Zan."

Zan growled, as he pressed his lips to hers in a feverish assault. It was over way too soon, as far as Karanna was concerned. "That's enough for now, woman, or I'm going to take you right here in the passageway." He stiffened, as he felt her brush herself against his swollen manhood. "Did you hear me?" he choked out. "You're playing with fire, little girl...."

Karanna giggled. Standing on her tiptoes, she whispered in his ear, "I can't wait to make love to you, Zan."

"Oh, baby, you have no idea what hearing you say that does to me," he moaned. He gave her one more quick kiss, and then playfully swatted her bottom. "Off with you now," he commanded. "Get yourself ready, so we can have a wedding!"

"Anything you say, dear." Despite the way she was teasingly batting her eyelashes at him, it couldn't mask the sensual gleam lighting her eyes.

Groaning loudly, he spun on his heels, and strode purposefully down the corridor. He heard her laughing in delight behind him, as he marched away. "Minx," he growled under his breath. Then his face erupted in an idiotic grin. It was going to be a great wedding night, after all!

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

Kyle, Ava, Isabel, Michael, Courtney, Alex, and Maria stood back to assess their work. A low whistle of appreciation from behind them caused them to turn, and see Da-nar' standing just inside the Rotunda. "I believe I need to take back every teasing comment I made, Maria," he declared in awe. "You all have done a fantastic job here."

Maria grinned widely. "I told you people, all you needed was a little imagination," she crowed.

"Well, it certainly appears that you were right," he conceded. "My compliments, people. Our brides are going to be blown away. I would say brides and grooms," he added, "but I don't think Max and Zan are going to even care what planet they're on, tonight." Everyone's laughter indicated they all shared his assumption. Da-nar' looked up toward the ceiling. "I am surprised that you didn't do anything overhead," he commented absently.

"Well, we wanted to," Maria pouted, "but Ge-lar' said the ceiling was strictly off-limits. He wouldn't say why, just insisted that we not put anything up. But it looks okay anyway, doesn't it?" she asked, once again needing confirmation that her labor hadn't been wasted, even if she couldn't do the job up completely right.

"It's beautiful, Maria. You really know how to set an atmosphere for romance."

Maria glowed under the compliment. "Yes, well, I get so little opportunity to exercise my gift," she explained, her glance darting to Michael, who blushed. "It's nice to know that I can spread a little joy in someone else's life. And especially Liz. She's been my best friend, for like forever."

Da-nar' gave Maria's shoulder a squeeze. "I'd say Liz is one lucky girl."

Maria blushed, but her heart sank, when Michael stormed out of the room. With a sigh, she told the girls, "We'd better go and help Karanna and Liz finish getting ready, and get changed ourselves." With that, they all trooped down the passageway, until they came to where they had left the brides to ready themselves. Maria rapped three times on the door, then proceeded to open it, and lead the way into the chamber.

Karanna was sitting on a chair, looking on wistfully, while Nancy combed out Liz's hair, after her relaxing soak in the tub of hot water. Her skin was flushed pink, though whether from the bath, or her anticipation of the wedding night, was anyone's guess.

"Well! Looks like everyone is about ready to get dressed!" Maria said with bubbling enthusiasm.

"Yes," Liz agreed, "but what are we supposed to wear?"

"Aahh," Maria sighed. "Good question. Did you think we would send you to the altar stark naked? Although that could produce some rather interesting effects...."

"Maria!" Liz scolded.

Maria giggled. "Yeah, well, as interesting as it sounds, we're all a bit too conservative to actually follow through with such a decadent plan, sooo...." She turned, and looked over her shoulder at Isabel, who was carrying two garment bags. "You can thank your soon-to-be sister-in-law for the wedding attire," she said, crediting Isabel. "On such short notice, we didn't have time to sew things the, uh, 'old-fashioned way'. So Iz used a little of her 'magic', and whipped up some delightful dresses. And, obviously, if any alterations are needed...." Everyone giggled, except Nancy, who was totally lost with Maria's ramblings.

Liz noticed her mother's confusion. "You'll see, soon enough," Liz told her, and stood up to take the hanger that Iz was offering to her. Karanna took hers as well, and they hung them from hooks on the wall. "Shall we open them together?" Liz asked her sister. Nervous, Karanna could only nod her response. "Okay," Liz said giggling, "hands on your zippers, ladies. On the count of three... One.... two.... three!" The girls raced to get their zippers to the bottom of the bags, and shed the protective coating that hid their dresses from view.

As they caught their first glimpses of the dresses, they gasped in awe, the only other sound in the room being Nancy's reverent, "Oh my God...."

Hanging before them were two beautiful dresses made of flowing white silk. Each bodice was detailed with a bounty of tiny white pearls, arranged into specific designs, which were apparently Antarian. They reminded Liz of the types of symbols found in River Dog's cave. .

Liz reached out hesitantly, and allowed her fingertips to graze the material. "They're so beautiful," she whispered, then turned to Isabel, her gratitude shining in her eyes.

Isabel smiled in response, and then shifted her gaze to Karanna, who was standing transfixed before her gown, tears coursing down her cheeks. Her smile faded, worried that Karanna didn't approve of her dress. "Karanna? What's wrong?" she asked, her stomach in knots, thinking that she had offended the other girl somehow. "I can change it, if you'd like..."

"No," Karanna sniffed. "Please, don't change a thing. It's gorgeous - thank you."

In an uncharacteristic move, Isabel wrapped her arm around Karanna's shoulder, and held her close. "Then what is it? What is upsetting you so?"

"It's just - " Karanna closed her eyes tightly against a fresh torrent of tears, and clamped her lips together tightly, to prevent herself from sobbing out loud. When she felt she was under control, she managed to speak. "It's just that I miss my mom so much," she admitted. "I wish she was here to see this dress - to watch me marry the man I love."

Moved with compassion that she rarely displayed, Isabel pulled Karanna into a hug, and held her, gently stroking her back. "I know how you feel," she empathized. "I love my mom so much, and now - now I have to find a way to go on without her in my life." Tears were streaming down her face as she continued. "It isn't going to be easy, is it?" she asked, knowing how Karanna had dealt with this issue years ago when her mother was tragically killed. Unable to speak, Karanna shook her head in a negative response. The two girls just stood together, holding each other, comforting each other, and shedding tears together over their losses.

Surprisingly, it was Nancy who broke the pain-filled silence in the room. She approached the two girls from the side, and wrapped her arms around both their shoulders. Seeking the maternal comfort they sensed she was offering, they both leaned into her. With tears in her own eyes, Nancy told them, "I know that I can't ever replace the mothers that you both love, but I want you to know that I'd be honored to stand in for them, when you need a mom." The two girls released each other, and turned to be held in Nancy's arms, one on each side. "Karanna, you're my little girl's twin sister. Biologically, Liz's dad is your dad, also. So that kind of makes you my baby, too, right?" Karanna, nodded against Nancy's shoulder, and she could feel the girl's tears soaking through the fabric of her dress. "And Isabel," she continued, "your brothers are marrying into our family. So since I'm gaining them as sons, it only makes sense that I'd think of their sister like a daughter, doesn't it?"

Isabel pulled back, her face wet with tears, and smiled at Mrs. Parker. "Thank you," she whispered. "You don't know how much your being here means to all of us."

That having been settled, Liz and Maria walked over to them, and joined in for a group hug, while Courtney and Ava watched in awe. They had never experienced such emotional ties, and were fascinated by it all. Finally, Ava clapped her hands commandingly, and stated with great enthusiasm, "Okay, people, enough mush! Time to get ready for a wedding!"

All the women burst into laughs and giggles, and broke apart, moving back to the dresses. Maria and Ava helped Liz into her gown, while Courtney and Isabel worked with Karanna. The brides were slightly embarrassed to learn that they weren't allowed to wear undergarments with the dresses, but Isabel assured them that for the sake of modesty, the silk was actually doubled, to protect their modesty. Once the girls were in their wedding attire, Isabel made the last minute alterations. Looking on, the whole thing totally blew Nancy's mind. She shook her head, and told Isabel, "To think what you could do on Earth with this ability, in the clothing industry alone!" That statement drew a smile of pride from Isabel, who had always been fashion conscious.

The bodice of each dress was fitted, and the ankle length skirts flowed gently around them. More pearls adorned the cuffs that bound the long, sheer sleeves. The brides were standing before a mirror, admiring Isabel's handiwork, when Liz asked, "Where did you get the idea for the dresses? And what do these symbols mean?"

Excited that she was going to be able to relay the story of how special the garment were, Isabel said, "I'm glad you asked! Actually, they are a blend of Antarian and Earth wedding traditions," she explained. "We used silk, because it is the closest thing to the type of material that Antarians used for their wedding garments. White, obviously, is an Earth tradition. Just as we do on Earth, Antarians would decorate their gowns with various jewels or beads, that sort of thing, depending, of course, upon their status and wealth. However, Antarians would arrange their decorative items into various patterns, which held special meaning to them. Because of the symbols that we had found in the cave, we decided that it would be neat to use the ancient hieroglyphics on your dresses. So, with Ge-lar's help, we chose the symbols for long life, health, happiness, fertility, and peace to cover your bodices."

Unexpectedly, Liz spun around, and hugged Isabel. "Thank you so much, for making these so special for us."

Isabel smiled in return. "Hey - would I do anything less, for my sisters?"

Liz turned back to the mirror. "I just can't get over how beautiful they are."

"I can't get over how beautiful you are," Nancy whispered, as she stood behind the two girls, looking at their reflections from over their shoulders. "How beautiful both of you are." She met their eyes in the mirror. "Come, I have something for both of you." Liz and Karanna looked at each other in surprise, and then followed Nancy over to the table, where she had placed her little suitcase. Opening it, she took out a wooden box, and placed it on the table. Nodding to Liz, she urged, "Open it."

Doing as her mother requested, Liz lifted the lid to the box, and gasped. Inside was an obviously old pair of lace gloves, and a lace trimmed handkerchief. She turned questioning eyes to her mother. "They were given to me for 'something new' at my wedding," Nancy explained, "but now, they can be 'something old' for the two of you. One of you can wear the gloves, the other can carry the handkerchief."

"Oh, Mom..." Liz murmured, as Nancy removed the items from the wooden box. "Which would you like to use?" she asked her sister.

"I don't care," Karanna replied timidly, feeling a little awkward, that she was going to be taking something away from Liz - her mother had obviously intended for them to be given to Liz as a set at her wedding.

Understanding her sister's hesitation, Liz encouraged her, "Please, choose one. It would make me happy if you would."

Karanna looked into Liz's eyes, and saw the honesty of that statement in her eyes. "All right," she said softly, "I'll use the handkerchief." Nancy held it out to her, and Karanna received it with a quiet, "Thank you."

Liz reached for the gloves that her mother offered, and slipped them onto her hands. Then she noticed a cardboard jewelry box inside the wooden chest. She watched her mother lift it out. "This is from your grandmother, " she told the girls, and then looked meaningfully at Karanna. "From Grandma Claudia Parker, your father's mother," she explained for the girl's benefit. She pulled the top off, and removed the hinged jewelry box that was inside. Snapping back the lid, she revealed a beautiful emerald and diamond necklace, and matching earrings. "When Claudia died, these were in her safe deposit box, with a note to be given to you on your wedding day, Liz," she continued. "But knowing Claudia, she would have been thrilled to know about you, Karanna, and would have wanted you girls to share this gift. So, one of you will get the necklace, and the other the earrings. You can decide between yourselves as to who gets what."

"Oh, no, I couldn't," Karanna protested vehemently. "These were meant for Liz, and she should have them."

"Karanna, Mom is right. Grandma definitely would have wanted us to share this gift." She wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes. "I wish you could have known Grandma. You would have loved her, just as she would have loved you. You know, sometimes I almost think that she knew something was different about me - or at least about my purpose in life."

"Why do you say that?" her mother asked.

Liz shrugged. "I can't really explain it," she answered. "It's just a feeling. Things she said sometimes, almost had a mysterious air about them. Like the way she used to talk to me about finding my soul mate. And right before she died -" Liz stopped abruptly. She had never confessed to anyone what had happened the night her grandmother passed away.

"What is it, Liz?" Nancy asked gently. "What happened before Claudia died?"

Liz stared at her feet. "I, uh, asked Max is he could do anything to, you know, heal her," she started. "When he came to the hospital, he told me that he couldn't stop what was happening to her, but that maybe he could help me say good-bye to her. I never asked him afterward, but I think that he was trying to help her regain consciousness, but it didn't work. At least, not the way I expected it to. I was sitting by the bed, looking at her, and the next thing I knew, Grandma was calling to me - from behind me. I turned around, and somehow, whatever Max did, allowed her spirit to shed the confines of her failing body, and spend her last moments with me. Anyway, the point of all this is, Maria and I had told Grandma about Max, and I know that she picked up that Max was very special to me. So when she saw a boy she didn't know leaning slightly over her own body, she immediately asked me if that was Max. Like, it was no big deal that he had liberated her spirit, and she was standing there, looking at her own dying body." Liz paused to sniff back her tears. "She had once told me, when we were talking about Max, 'if it isn't complicated, he probably isn't your soul mate.' And then, right at the end, she made me promise her that I would follow my heart. It was like she knew."

Nancy smiled at her. "Your grandmother always was a very perceptive woman. She may not have understood herself the intuitive understanding she had of your situation, but she always listened to her own inner voice, and let it guide her. Your father always figured it was a result of the time she had spent doing research on the Indian reservation, around the time your grandfather died. She always said that her research helped her to focus on something besides her grief, but Jeff thinks that during her time on the reservation, she gained some sort of spiritual insight, or something. He remembers her taking him to the reservation to visit her Native friends when he was growing up, and he said her mood always got really reflective while they were there."

"I don't know, maybe," Liz allowed. "But it seemed like more at the time. Maybe I just wanted so badly to be able to share that one secret with her. It was the only thing I never could share with her." Liz noticed the hurt that flickered through her mother's eyes at that revelation. "Oh, Mom, I'm sorry," she said, reaching out to hug Nancy. "I didn't mean that to sound so hurtful. But I think you know that Grandma and I were very close," she finished, releasing her mother from the embrace.

"Yes, I do. I just always wished that you and I could have had that kind of bond. But you and Claudia were always drawn to each other, from the very first. Just like you and your dad. You are a Parker, through and through, no doubt about that. And now we know why." Nancy turned away, so that Liz wouldn't see her tears.

Liz's heart ached for her mother. She came up behind her, and placed her hands on Nancy's shoulders. "Please, don't do this to yourself. Biology may determine a mother, but it doesn't make a mom. You always have been, and always will be, my mom."

Nancy sniffed, and reached up to wipe away her tears with the back of her hand. "Thank you, honey," she choked out. "You don't know how much that means to me."

Liz chuckled. "Oh, yes I do. About as much as it meant to me, to not have you turn your back on me, when you found out the truth."

Nancy turned and gave Liz a watery smile. "Yeah, I guess you do understand, don't you?"

"Okay, you two," Maria scolded playfully, "that's enough tears for one day. Sheesh, we haven't even hit the wedding yet, and you're going to be all cried out, Mrs. P! Isabel, we need a makeup cleanup over here!'

"Yes, general!" Isabel saluted her friend. Waving her hand over first Liz's face, and then Nancy's, she restored their make-up to perfection. Then she glanced at Karanna, and declared, "You, too!" Isabel quickly took care of her as well. "Okay, ladies, the rest of us need to get dressed now! It's almost time for the ceremony to start! Think you can handle your shoes by yourself?" she asked the brides.

"I think we can manage," Liz answered dryly. With much chatter and bantering, the women set themselves to their task.


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 22-Jan-2002 10:18:09 PM ]

posted on 23-Jan-2002 10:30:17 AM by sheeperz
Just so's you all know... you can be looking for the part that takes us up to the wedding processional late this afternoon/early evening. *big*

Hope this wedding passes muster, for all the anticipation you guys have worked up!! *wink*

Love,
Fran
posted on 23-Jan-2002 8:40:56 PM by sheeperz
Okay, this is the last of the hijinx, before the ceremony starts! *big*

I am having some coding problems, so bear with me, if I need to get back in and edit, ok? Thanks!

And as always, let me know what you think, ok?


Note: Wedding Processional is "KEEPER OF THE STARS" by TRACY BYRD

In another room, the grooms and their friends were getting ready as well. At first, Max and Zan were a little ruffled at what Isabel had created for them to wear, until Ge-lar' assured them that it was traditional Antarian royalty wedding garb. That took the sting out of being confronted with the loose-fitting, white silk pants, and matching shirt with full sleeves. Over the top of that was to be placed a deep purple tunic, which would be held in place by a belt made of pure gold, the fastener of which was embedded with emeralds and diamonds, arranged to represent the crest of the royal family. Ge-lar' explained that the gold and jewels had been part of what was salvaged from the ruins, after Ki-var' destroyed the palace, and that originally, the gems and precious metal had been brought back to Antar from Earth, centuries ago. After Ki-var' seized control of Antar, they had been smuggled from the burning palace, and kept in a hidden nook in the wall of the catacombs, concealed by a loose stone. The materials had been formed into belts similar to the one that King Zan had worn on his wedding day. Ge-lar' pointed out the symbols that were embossed over the length of each belt, which represented valor, virility, long-life, health, happiness, and peace. Both young men were relieved to find out that Ge-lar' had been the one to create the belts. Somehow, the idea of Isabel concerning herself with their virility was not a comforting notion.

As they began to exchange their Earth clothing for their wedding garments, Ge-lar' instructed them that undergarments were not to be worn beneath the clothing. Blushing furiously, Max inquired why not. Ge-lar' merely insisted that it was not customary. Antarians, more than any other species he knew of, were very sensual people. He assumed that the tradition was started, so the silky material was next to the skin. Grudgingly, Max and Zan complied with the request. It was then that they appreciated the wisdom of wearing the long, dark tunic. Even though they had drunk the tea that blocked their reaction to the pheromone-like substance in their mates, they apparently could still be roused "the old-fashioned way". Feeling the brush of the silk against his skin, Max groaned, as his manhood began to swell. He decided to wait until right before the ceremony to fasten the belt over his tunic, hoping he would be back to normal by then. If not, it was going to be a long ceremony.

Michael laughed, and clapped Max on the back. "Sorry, Maxwell, but I can't feel bad for you this time. Soon you're going to be married to the girl of your dreams. Just one more reason for me to be jealous of you. Now, I have one last errand to run, before the wedding," he informed the group. "I'll be back shortly, so don't start the festivities without me!"

"Michael, where are you going?" Max demanded with a scowl. "The wedding is supposed to start in 20 minutes."

"I can't tell you," Michael answered with a grin. "It's a surprise. Trust me, I shouldn't be gone long."

"All right, but hurry it up. We can't get married without a best man!"

"Gotcha, Your Highness!" Michael turned and sprinted out the door.

Max sighed. "Sometimes, I swear he lives to stress me out," he mumbled.

"Nah, you're just keyed up with pre-wedding jitters," Jim stated. "Happens to all of us. Take a deep breath, and try to relax. Michael will be back in no time."

"Do you know where he went?" Max inquired.

"Well, sort of. I mean, I have a general idea of what he's up to, but no specifics. He's been pretty secretive about whatever it is that he has planned."

"Hey, I heard that Tess went ballistic when she learned that you guys were getting married today," Kyle chimed in, trying to offer Max a distraction. Well, it certainly was that.

Max sensed the pensive mood that produced Zan's scowl. "How did she find out about it?" Max questioned Kyle.

"I guess she was being her usual charming self, demanding to know what was going on," Kyle told him hesitantly, suddenly discerning that this topic wasn't going to go far toward lightening the mood. "After listening to her rant on and on, Michael finally told her, just before he shut the door on his way out. Rumor has it, she threw something at the door in response."

"I wish Michael wasn't so prone to bait her," Zan grumbled. "It can't be good for her, in her condition."

"I didn't know you cared," Kyle said sarcastically.

"I care about my son," Zan replied tightly. "I don't want anything to interfere with the pregnancy. After she gives birth to him, Michael can torment her all he wants, as far as I'm concerned."

"Glad to hear you haven't gone soft on us, Evans," Kyle returned.

Now that they were all dressed, with fifteen minutes left to wait, Max and Zan began pacing the perimeter of the small chamber they were all using to get changed in. Jim and Da-nar' chuckled, making lighthearted comments about nervous grooms. After watching the twins prowl like two caged tigers for a few minutes, Kyle and Alex grabbed them two chairs to sit in.

Finally, it was almost time for the ceremony to begin. Max and Zan were beside themselves with anxiety over Michael's continued absence, when Jim and Da-nar' excused themselves, to go to the brides' chamber. The two men had agreed to walk the girls "down the aisle". Jim knew that it had been hard for Liz to ask him to fill in for her dad, but he felt honored that since Jeff wouldn't be there, that she had wanted him to escort her.

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

"Well," Isabel said, "your mom took care of something old. Now Maria has your something new. Maria?"

From a box she plucked off a nearby shelf, Maria produced two golden circlets, decorated with flowers and streamers of tulle off the back. "They're beautiful," Liz murmured. "Did you make them, Maria?"

Maria beamed with pride, as she nodded her response, and moved to place Liz's on her head. Now Liz understood why Isabel had insisted they wear their hair pulled back low on their necks.

When both brides had their headpieces in place, Ava chimed in, "Now, for something borrowed." She reached into the same box, and produced two solid gold bangle bracelets. "It's not much, but it was all I had to contribute to the effort," Ava told them, her eyes lowered in embarrassment. Liz reached out and pulled Ava to her in a hug. "They're lovely, Ava," she assured her new friend, "and they mean so much, just because they came from you."

"So cornball," Ava muttered with a grin, as she pulled back out of Liz's embrace. She handed one bracelet to Liz, and the other to Karanna.

"Thank you," Karanna said timidly. "I know this can't be easy for you -"

Ava smiled warmly at the younger girl. "It's okay, you don't need to worry. I'm over Zan, and just seein' the two of you togetha - it's obvious you were meant to be."

"Really?" Karanna questioned with hope in her eyes. If Zan's ex-lover could see that they belonged together, that was a good sign, she thought.

"Yeah, really," Ava insisted. Karanna smiled with great pleasure.

"Time for something blue!" Courtney said in a sing-song voice, as she held up two blue garters, one dangling from the fingers of each hand.

Liz groaned and rolled her eyes, but Karanna looked confused. "What are they?" she asked Liz.

"Haven't you ever been to a wedding?" Liz questioned her sister. Karanna shook her head no. "Well, they're called garters. It's a tradition, that after the wedding, during the reception, the groom removes the garter from his bride's leg, and tosses it over his shoulder to a waiting group of eligible bachelors. Are you familiar with the tradition of the bride throwing the bouquet?"

"Yes, I've seen that in movies, and on TV."

"All right, this is the guys' version of that. Then, after the bride throws the bouquet, the guy who caught the garter has to place it on the leg of the girl who caught the bouquet." Karanna raised and eyebrow as she looked at the eligible girls in the room with them, and thought of the guys who were waiting down the passageway. This should be interesting, she thought.

"Okay, you two, sit yourselves down," Courtney ordered, turning two chairs from the table. The brides did as they were told, and then lifted their skirts, exposing their bare legs. "Good thing you shaved," Courtney teased, as she slid the garter halfway up Karanna's thigh, causing her to blush. Courtney laughed, and turned to Liz, gently shaking the garter that dangled from her fingers. "Well, dearest queen. Won't we have fun watching King Max fish for this during the banquet?" She slid the garter up until it rested almost at the top of her thigh.

"Uh, Courtney," Liz protested, "I think that's going to cut off my circulation, if you leave it there. It's awfully tight."

"Not to worry!" Courtney grinned. "Isabel?"

"Oh, why certainly!" Isabel laughed, and waved her hand over the garter, so it fit better. "There, that should do it."

Liz groaned. "I should have known there would be no reasoning with the likes of you two!" she sputtered in feigned annoyance. Then everyone in the room burst into laughter.

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

Jim could hear the ladies talking and laughing, before he knocked. "Everybody decent?" he called through the door.

Instantly, the door was opened by Maria, who was still chattering away to the women behind her. "I can't wait to see the look on Max's face!" she howled between giggles, as she waved Jim and Da-nar' into the room, and shut the door. When she had pulled herself back into some semblance of order, she asked the men, "So is everything all set?"

"Uh, well," Jim began hesitantly.

Isabel groaned. "No, please, don't tell us. I don't want to know!" Liz and Karanna got worried looks on their faces.

"Oh, it's nothing that bad," Da-nar' assured them, watching the brides relax at his words. "Michael just had to run a surprise errand, and he hasn't gotten back yet. He should be along any minute."

"Michael?!" Maria shrieked, launching into a fit. "What is it with that boy? I swear, his sole mission in life is to drive everyone around him crazy! Did we not tell him what time this wedding was scheduled to start?"

"Easy, Maria," Jim crooned, massaging her shoulders. "Why don't you go and join the men down in the Rotunda, and come back to let us know when it's time to begin? It won't kill us to wait a few extra minutes." Then he thought of Max and Zan. "Although, I'm not so sure about the two anxious grooms," he added with a chuckle.

"Fine," Maria ground out. "But I plan to deal with Michael Guerin in my own way, after this is all over," she huffed, as she stomped out into the hall.

Closing the door after her, Jim joked, "It's nice that she took that so calmly." That earned another round of laughter.

Still chuckling, Da-nar' crossed the room, to where Liz and Karanna stood partially in shadows. Reaching Karanna first, he was about to ask if she was all ready for the ceremony, when his eyes landed on the emerald and diamond earrings she wore. His mouth had opened to speak words, but no sound came out, as he studied the jewels. His eyes darted to Liz, and noted that she was wearing a matching necklace. His eyes went back to Karanna, and subconsciously, his mouth snapped shut, while his face twisted into a frown. Seeing the jewelry reminded him of a painful failure in his past. He sighed, as he realized that Ge-lar' must also have known of the failure. He remembered seeing the belts that the holy man had designed for Max and Zan, and though he hadn't recalled telling Ge-lar' what had happened all those years ago, apparently he knew.

Karanna felt uneasy under his apparently disapproving scrutiny. Finally, she asked, "Da-nar'? What is it? Have I done something wrong?"

"Hmm?" Da-nar' mumbled, distracted.

"Y-you're scowling at me," she stuttered timidly. "What have I done to make you upset?"

Da-nar' looked momentarily surprised by her comment, then his features softened, though his eyes retained a haunted look. "Ah, dear heart, you have done nothing wrong, nothing at all," he assured her. "I was lost in painful memories of past failure, is all. Nothing like a little self-abasement to brighten one's disposition, eh?"

Karanna placed her hand on the side of Da-nar's face. "I find it incredible, that a man as kind and wonderful as you are should have regrets over anything," she said for his ears only. "You have accomplished so much in your life - given so selflessly for the good of others - please don't let anything from your past steal away the satisfaction that should rightfully be yours, on this day, above all others."

Da-nar' was startled by her words. "Whatever do you mean, child?" he asked.

"Don't you see? Today - these weddings - this is the culmination of your handiwork, isn't it? This is what it was all about - that the king and queen of Antar would be reestablished. And now, Max and Liz are marrying, and preparing to take on the role intended for them. Zan and I are also here, and together, we will reclaim what was stolen from the people of Antar. For that, we all owe you a great debt of gratitude."

Da-nar' reached for her, and she walked into his embrace. "Thank you, Karanna," he whispered hoarsely, then released her. "Your compassion reminds me so much of Queen Karanna. She was a lovely woman. She would be so proud of you and Liz."

"As she would be of you." She smiled at him, and was relieved to see the shadows of a painful past leave his eyes.

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

Maria stormed into the Rotunda, and discovered Max, Zan, Kyle, and Alex waiting with Ge-lar', for Michael's return. Seeing Maria enter, Alex joined her, in hope of keeping her from blowing her cork.

"I'm gonna kill him, Alex, that's all there is to it," she fumed through gritted teeth.

"Now, Maria, don't get so worked up. He could show up here any minute now. Let's wait until there's real cause to be upset, shall we?"

Maria was watching Max and Zan pacing back and forth. "Try telling that to them," she said with a little snort.

Maria suddenly felt warm, moist lips on the nape of her neck, which was exposed by her upswept hairdo. "Try telling them what?" Michael's voice rumbled next to her ear, just before he nipped at her earlobe.

Maria closed her eyes, and leaned back into him. "Stop that," she moaned. "I'm mad at you, and when you do that, I have trouble remembering why." Alex chuckled, and walked away, leaving the two of them to work out their own problems.

"That's kind of what I was counting on," Michael confessed quietly, then sucked gently on the side of her neck, making her shudder.

"You don't play fair, Michael Guerin," she hissed unconvincingly.

He chuckled softly. "Hey, I do what I can to even the odds. You think I'd stand a chance of winning an argument with you, without some sort of a handicap?"

"Not on your life, Spaceboy," came the retort. She giggled, and turned into his arms. "You're just lucky you didn't return a minute later," she scolded. "I was just working up into a good snit for you."

"Mmm, there is a God after all," he teased, then kissed her full on the mouth.

When he pulled back, she swatted his upper arm playfully. "So where were you, anyway?"

"Went to bring some honored guests to our little soirée."

Maria looked around. Not seeing anyone besides those who had been there all along, she arched one delicate brow. "Oh? How many guests, Michael? Remember, we have to feed these people..."

Michael stopped her from launching into a tirade, by placing his index finger against her lips. "Just two, so relax. If I have to, I'll skip eating." Maria's tongue darted out to tease his finger. Michael groaned, and suggested, "Perhaps you could skip the meal, too, and we could go somewhere and amuse ourselves...."

"Nice try," she commended him, "but not without a ring on my finger. All this wedding business has made me realize that I don't want to give what I have away for free."

"Really?" Michael asked, with amused interest.

"Yeah, really," Maria snapped. "Don't act like it's some big joke."

Michael gave her a quick kiss, and told her, "I don't think it's a joke, Blondie. But we can talk about it later. Right now, though, I think we better get this show on the road, don't you? Because it appears that now you are the one holding up the wedding."

Maria blushed, and then left all flustered, to tell the rest of the wedding party that it was time to begin. Michael chuckled, as he watched her disappear down the corridor. She hadn't even asked him who the guests were.

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

"Time for a wedding!" Maria announced, as she breezed into the room where the brides were patiently waiting. She was greeted with a chorus of relieved sighs, and a flurry of activity, as the ladies picked up their bouquets, and each gave their hair and makeup a final check, before filing out the door.

Isabel went first, as a bridesmaid, followed by Maria, who was the maid of honor. Next came Nancy, whom Liz and Karanna had begged to being their matron of honor. Not that Nancy put up much resistance. It was decided that since Liz was to be the queen, she would be escorted in first. Behind her and Sheriff Valenti came Karanna on Da-nar's arm. Not being part of the wedding party, Courtney and Ava trailed behind them, and would remain several paces behind the wedding party, along with Kyle and the two men, once they had successfully "delivered" the brides.

As they walked down the corridor, Isabel slowed to allow Maria to close the gap between them. "So what was Michael's surprise?" she whispered.

Maria frowned. "He said he went to bring a couple of honored guests to the wedding, but in all the excitement, I forgot to ask him who they were!"

Isabel nodded, then resumed her normal pace. But her mind was running full tilt. Honored guests? And a couple usually meant two, didn't it? She couldn't stop her heart from pounding, wondering if that meant what she thought it did. Could Michael have convinced her parents to attend the wedding?

As Isabel appeared at the entrance to the Rotunda, Kyle pushed the play button on the portable CD player, that was to provide the music for the wedding. Isabel paused while the opening strains of music played, taking time to search the room for the mystery guests. She was disappointed, when she didn't see anyone unusual in the group. With a sigh, she started her walk to the altar, as the vocalist began to sing:

It was no accident, me finding you

Someone had a hand in it

Long before we ever knew

Now I just can't believe

That you're in my life

Heaven's smiling down on me

As I look at you tonight

As Liz and Karanna entered the Rotunda during the chorus, their eyes filled with tears at the magical transformation their friends had wrought. Gone were the cold, stone walls, and in their place, yards and yards of white silk had been artfully hung, interspersed with an iridescent tulle. Two huge vases of native Antarian flowers flanked the altar, matching the specimens found in the bouquets carried by the brides and attendants. All of it was illuminated by hundreds of candles strategically placed around the circumference of the room, and at the altar. For added effect, hundreds of white miniature Christmas lights had been woven with the tulle. Liz smiled, knowing that it was Isabel's own brand of magic that made them glow. She wondered with a smile, if her mother would even realize the inconsistency of having electric lights glowing in the room. Then she noticed that nothing had been done to conceal the stone ceiling overhead. She briefly wondered at that, but was distracted from any further thought, as her eyes rested on Max.

Max and Zan were completely mesmerized, as their brides came into view. The thought occurred to both men, that their brides looked like angels, as they gracefully approached the altar in their virginal, white silk dresses. With the candlelight softly illuminating their faces, and making the rich highlights in their dark hair practically glow, the blushing brides had an almost ethereal appearance about them.

I tip my hat

To the keeper of the stars

He sure knew what he was doing

When he joined these two hearts

I hold everything when I hold you in my arms

And I've got all I'll ever need

Thanks to the keeper of the stars

Once Liz and Karanna had joined their grooms at the altar, Ge-lar' smiled serenely at the two couples, his delight in the proceedings obvious. His eyes briefly flickered with surprise, as he looked from Liz to Karanna, but he quickly recovered. As the first chorus was finishing, he walked over to the wall, pulled back the silk covering, and waved his hand over the area. A silver handprint appeared, and he placed his hand over it. Suddenly, a rumbling sound was heard overhead, and a portion of the ceiling slid away, directly over the altar. Soft, blue shafts of Antarian moonlight filtered through the opening, and rested on the couples being wed, as the song continued.

Unseen by any of the others in attendance, the two guests that Michael had brought with him slipped silently into the shadows, behind those gathered at the altar.

Soft moonlight on your face

Oh, how you shine

It takes my breath away

Just to look into your eyes

I know I don't deserve

A treasure like you

There really are no words

To show my gratitude


So I tip my hat

To the keeper of the stars

He sure knew what he was doing

When he joined these two hearts

I hold everything when I hold you in my arms

And I've got all I'll ever need

Thanks to the keeper of the stars


It was no accident, me finding you

Someone had a hand in it

Long before we ever knew

As the music faded away, Max looked inquiringly at Ge-lar', who then explained, "This was the palace entrance to the catacombs, before it was destroyed. We are now under what was once King Zan's throne room. Although, I must admit, it never had a view like this," he added, the corners of his mouth lifted in a slight smile. The bridal party and guests looked overhead, and were treated to an unobstructed view of the huge Antarian moon, as well as a smaller celestial body off to its right. Another moon, or perhaps a nearby planet? Max wondered, thinking of the other four planets that had been in alliance with Antar at one time.

Max's eyes returned to the beautiful woman standing beside him. Smiling down at her, his heart was filled with joy and gratitude for the wonderful gift she was to him. If he had nothing else in his life, he knew that he would be content, just having Liz by his side for the rest of his days.

Liz looked up into his eyes, and was instantly lost in the love she found there. She thought of the bizarre circumstances of their even being here, and how incredibly fortunate she was to be marrying such a man. Her heart was so full of love for him, she thought it would explode.

Standing next to the King and Queen, Zan and Karanna were exchanging similar looks, as they eagerly waited for the ceremony to begin.

As if from far away, they heard Ge-lar' say, "Who gives Liz and Karanna, to be married to Max and Zan?"

From beside Liz, Nancy's voice rang out, "I do."

posted on 24-Jan-2002 11:04:31 PM by sheeperz
Geez, I had a few comments written out, then lost the page. *sigh* Hope this formats correctly....

So here is the long-awaited wedding scene. Hope y'all aren't disappointed. PLEASE let me know what you think - good, bad, or indifferent (just remember to be civil, if you are expressing discontent.. *wink*)

THE WEDDING!!!

NOTE: The song in this part, following the vows, is "From this Moment On" by Shania Twain. Vows are a conglomeration of ideas from several places, as well as a goodly amount of my own original material. (Which will be obvious, as good portions of it are personal thoughts of the brides and grooms). Blessings, prayers, readings, and such are taken from ideas I gleaned from other sources, and personalized for this special occasion!


Part Thirty-four

"Despite the vast differences in culture between Earth and Antar, as well as the unusual circumstances surrounding this wedding, we all 'put our heads together', as you humans say, to create a unique service that would reflect the joy, as well as the solemnity of this occasion," Ge-lar' stated with a smile, beginning the ceremony.

"Max, Liz.... Zan, Karanna... We, your friends and family, are gathered with you, in the presence of the Everlasting One, Creator of both Antar and Earth, to witness the joining of your lives, in the sacred covenant of marriage. For that is what marriage is: a promise, a contract, a profession of commitment between the husband and wife. It is not only binding and legal in the eyes of mankind, but holy and consecrated before God. Though joyous, this is also a serious occasion, in which these two couples will join their lives in such a permanent bond."

Looking first at the couples, and then at those gathered with them, he implored, "If you, or anyone present, know of any reason why you may not freely enter into such a lifelong commitment, I charge that now, before God, the Searcher of all hearts, that it be declared." When the room remained silent in response, he smiled, and continued, "Please join with me in prayer.

"Almighty One, you are the Creator of all things. You make us, and You sustain us; we depend on You. Grant to us all purity of heart and strength of purpose, so that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing Your will, and no weakness prevent us from doing it. We ask now, that you bless Max and Liz, Zan and Karanna, as they come before You to join in this holy covenant of marriage. Help us to rejoice with them, and support them in all their endeavors. Amen."

Smiling at both couples, Ge-lar' spoke again. "As we worked to prepare this service, I was delighted to find much in common between the writings of Earth's Bible, which you are familiar with, and our own religious writings. Among those similarities, is the recurrent theme of the importance of love. Reading in the Bible, in first Corinthians thirteen, verses four through seven, and the beginning of verse eight, we find a blueprint for perfect love:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

"In Antarian sacred writings, we are advised, that if a man would know true love, he must not concern himself with gratifying his own desires, but rather seek the welfare of those who are under his authority, be they family, friends, or countrymen.

"The common thread in these writings is that true love does no focus on self-promotion, or advancing one's own agenda, but rather, the loving one humbles himself - or herself - to be a servant who meets the needs of others.

"As the four of you stand here this evening, I will ask you to affirm before these witnesses, what I have previously asked you to declare to me in private. Is it your intention, as you enter into the covenant of marriage, to endeavor to love your spouse with the selfless love of which I have just spoken?"

Four voices responded in unison, "It is."

"Just as two very different threads woven in opposite directions can form a beautiful tapestry, so can two lives merge together to form a beautiful marriage. To make your marriage work will take the love which I have spoken of. It should be the core of your relationship. But it will also take trust - to know in your hearts that you want the best for each other. It will take dedication - to stay open to one another; to learn and to grow together, even when this is not always easy to do. It will take faith - to always be willing to go forward to tomorrow, never really knowing what tomorrow will bring. And it will take commitment - to hold to the journey you now pledge to share together."

Addressing their family and friends, Ge-lar' said, "In anticipation of this special time, each bride and groom have written the vows that they will speak to their respective partner. We will begin with Max and Liz. Max?"

Turning to face Liz, Max gently clasped her hands in his own, and took a moment to gaze into her eyes, reveling in the love he saw shining in their depths. With a smile, he noted the radiant glow that surrounded her, making her more beautiful than he had ever seen her. He hadn't thought that was even possible, until now. With tender affection, he reached up to tuck a loose tendril of hair behind her ear, and then began to speak.

"Liz, through the connection that we share, you know that you have always held a special place in my heart, from the first moment I saw you, back in the third grade. Although I only watched you secretly through the years, I made it my mission in life to know everything I possibly could about you. And each new thing that I discovered always had the same effect on me - it made me love you even more.

"Ge-lar' quoted to us scriptures about love, but there is another passage that's always stuck with me, although I never understood why. It says that there is no greater love, than that a man lay down his life for his friend. The day that you were shot, I finally knew why that had been impressed so deeply into my heart. I realized that at that moment, my love for you was being tested. Did I possess the greatest of loves? Did I love you enough, to put your life before my own? Scarcely had the question had time to flash in my mind, when my heart screamed in response, 'Yes!'. And I have never regretted for one second, the danger that I faced as a result of that decision. If I have any regrets, it is the times since then, when I have failed or disappointed you in some way.

"Although we face an uncertain future, while we strive to love and serve our people together, tonight, I set aside all other cares, and focus on you, and the love that we share. For now, in front of our friends and family, I take you as my wife, my lover, my friend, my companion, my confidante, and my soul mate. I will ever seek to bring joy into your life, even in times of sorrow. When you fall, I will catch you, when you cry, I will comfort you. I promise to love, honor, and cherish you always, ever protecting you, until I draw my dying breath. Everything I am, and everything I have is yours, from this moment forth.

"Liz, will you take me as your husband, to love, honor, and cherish, as long as we both live?"

As tears ran freely down her cheeks, Liz bit her bottom lip, to keep at bay the soft sob of joy that was lodged in her throat, aching to be released. Never before had she felt such overwhelming love and admiration for the man she was about to entrust her life to. Once the urge was successfully choked back, she took a deep breath. "Sorry," she mumbled in apology, not realizing that the eyes of every female in the place, and even a couple males, were brimming with similar moisture.

After another deep breath, she looked into Max's eyes, and smiled. "Max, all my life, I felt like something was missing. Like I was this shell of a person walking around, but not really living. I was empty and incomplete, yet not knowing what would fill the void. As we entered high school, I became more and more aware of you, and how drawn I felt to you." She giggled, seeing Max's startled look. "You never knew, did you?" she teased. "Well, it's true. When providence, in the form of Mrs. Hardy, made us lab partners last year, I had all I could do, to contain myself from doing a little victory dance right there in the middle of class. But we only had a few short weeks to begin to know each other, when providence again intervened, on September 23. After you healed me, risking that the truth about who you all were in order to save my life, I finally realized what had been missing from my life. It was you, Max.

"My soul has two parts, Max - the half I was born with, and the half I found in you. It is with the acceptance of that truth, that I join my life with yours tonight, as I emerge from the lonely darkness of my past, into the light of your love, finally to be made whole.

"So, yes, Max, I will take you as my husband, my lover, my friend, my companion, my confidant, and my soul mate. I promise to love, honor, and cherish you always, remaining faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live. I will rejoice with you in good times, and help to ease your burden, when times are difficult, and if God should so choose, I will bear your children with great joy. As you have pledged to protect me with your life, so I would be willing to die for you, if it becomes necessary. Everything I am, and everything I have, is yours, from this moment forth." Quoting from the book of Ruth in the Bible, she concluded her vows, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people will be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me."

At the conclusion of her vows, Ge-lar' asked, "What symbol do you share, as a token of the promises you have made to each other?"

Max reached into his pocket to retrieve the wedding rings that had originally been worn by King Zan and Queen Karanna. "These rings," he answered, his voice husky from the emotion that still welled within him, as a result of Liz's moving profession of love and fidelity.

Taking them in his hands, Ge-lar' explained, "The perfect circle of a ring symbolizes eternity, each having no beginning and no end. As gold is refined by fire, so your love will become purer and more valuable, as it is tested through the trials you will face together, as well as the personal trials you help each other to overcome. As you give these rings to each other, our desire is that your love will be the same: pure and eternal."

Lifting the rings toward the heavens, Ge-lar' then prayed, "Father of Light, bless these rings, as they forever remind these two, and everyone else who sees them, of the commitment that is made between Max and Liz tonight."

Handing the smaller of the two rings to Max, Ge-lar' instructed him, "Place this ring on Liz's finger, and repeat after me." Once the ring had been slipped on her finger, Ge-lar' began. "I give you this ring, as a symbol of my abiding love and faithfulness." Max echoed the words. "Liz, repeat after me. 'I receive this ring, as a sign of the covenant that we have entered into this day'." Liz repeated the acceptance of the ring, and then held out her hand, to receive from Ge-lar' the ring she would give to Max. As she slid it onto his finger, "Ge-lar' again told her, "Repeat these words. 'I give you this ring, as a symbol of my abiding love and faithfulness'." When she had finished, he had Max repeat the words to accept the ring she offered.

When it was over, Ge-lar' then turned his attention to Zan and Karanna, who had been standing, patiently observing the exchange between Max and Liz, and eagerly awaiting their opportunity to pledge their love to each other. "Zan, Karanna, now it's your turn," he told them with a smile. "Face your bride," he instructed Zan, "and speak to her the pledge of love you make from your heart."

Zan turned to Karanna, and took her hands in his own, as he looked down into her trusting face. "Karanna, as I contemplated what to say to you, I was at first frustrated by the fact that we didn't have the history that Max and Liz do, from which to draw upon. But then I realized, that it doesn't really matter. Because I feel like we have always known each other, even before we were born. For the first seventeen years of my life, my heart was restless and uneasy, living in a planet full of people who were different from me, and who I knew would never accept me as I am. But even that didn't account for the deepest yearnings of my heart. It was as if I was always looking for someone to love, only to be disappointed. I prayed to God for a companion who could understand me, and accept me as I am; for a special friend who would share laughter and tears with me; for a woman to be the love of my heart - and He sent you. From the moment we met, I knew I had finally found what I had been searching a lifetime for. No longer did it matter what planet I was on, because 'home' was in your arms. We were meant to be together, forever, you and I. I know that I'll love you that long. In this life, and the next, you will always be a part of me, and I of you.

"Somewhere around 200 years ago, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned these words: ' That is the true season of love, when we believe that we alone can love, when no one has ever loved so before us, and no one will ever love in the same way after us.' I don't know how he did it, but somehow he looked across the centuries, and perceived the deepest thoughts and feelings of my heart, the day I met you.

"It is as an expression of my devotion to you, that I take you now to be my wife, my partner in life, and my one true love. You are the treasure of my heart, and I will love, honor, and cherish you today, tomorrow, and the rest of our lives, not just because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you - and who we are together. I promise to be your strength in times of weakness, your protector in times of danger, your companion in lonely times, your joy in times of sorrow, and your guide when life is uncertain. It will be my joy and honor, to support, encourage, comfort, and defend you, as we face together the days of joy and sorrow that lie ahead of us. Will you, Karanna, consent to have me as your husband?"

Zan squeezed her hands in reassurance, as he felt her tremble at his words. Reduced to tears, as her sister had been, Karanna's voice quivered, as she began her vows. "I, too, went through a lot of lonely years, distancing myself from other people, because I knew I was 'different'. Even though I didn't understand in what way that was true, I instinctively knew that it was. But despite my self-imposed isolation, I longed to be loved and accepted. That need became even greater, after my parents passed away.

"Zan, when I was a little girl, I remember my mother reading 'Cinderella' to me. Ever since then, I dreamed that someday a handsome prince who was brave, and strong, and true, would come and claim me for his bride." She smiled up at him, as her tears continued to fall. "And here you are. Only you are far more than I had ever hoped for. For while I had dreamed of being in love, I never imagined sharing my soul so completely with someone - to have him be able to see into the deepest part of me, and still love me for who I am, with all my faults, weaknesses, and insecurities. I love you, because you are the one who completes me. And though danger and conflict may encompass me from every side, I know I shall always find peace and safety in your love. I shall forever be grateful for the gift that I have been given in you.

"To answer your question, Zan, I am pleased to have you as my husband. I will trust you without doubt, and live my life in such a way as to bring honor to you. I promise to love you without reservation, comfort you in times of distress, and encourage you to achieve your full potential. I will laugh with you and cry with you, and if God should choose to bless us so, I look forward to being the mother of your children. I will walk by your side faithfully, through the good and the bad. This I promise you, because in you, I have found the one that my soul loves."

"What symbol do you share, as a token of the promises you have made to each other?" Ge-lar' asked, when she had finished.

Karanna gasped, as Zan held out two beautiful rings made of gold, and encrusted with emeralds and diamonds. "These rings," Zan answered as best as he could, around the lump that had taken up residence in his throat, while Karanna was speaking. Ge-lar' took the rings, and blessed them, repeating the ritual of exchanging rings that had been done with Max and Liz.

At the conclusion, Kyle pushed a button on the small, battery operated stereo, and the opening note of a song struck. The two couples waited with eager anticipation to hear what their friends had planned next. They were all surprised, when the words to the song did not come from the speakers, but from Maria, as she sang the opening lyrics of the song.

I do swear that I'll always be there.

I'd give anything and everything and I will always care.

Through weakness and strength, happiness and sorrow,

For better or worse, I will love you

With every beat of my heart

Then, to their added delight, Alex joined her.

From this moment life has begun

From this moment you are the one

Right beside you is where I belong

From this moment on

Max reached over, and took Liz's hand, twining their fingers together, as he turned his head, and looked down at her standing next to him.



From this moment I have been blessed

I live only for your happiness

And for your love I'd give my last breath

From this moment on

Liz looked back up at him, her eyes shining with love, as her heart soared with the knowledge that the love of her life was now her husband, and they had a lifetime of loving to look forward to. Max didn't have to say anything - she could tell by the smoldering look in his eyes, he was specifically looking forward to the loving they were going to share later that night.



I give my hand to you with all my heart

Can't wait to live my life with you, can't wait to start

You and I will never be apart

My dreams came true because of you

Zan felt Karanna's hand wrap around his arm, as she leaned into him slightly. He looked down at her, and realized how shaky she was. He was instantly worried about her, until she lifted her tear-streaked face, and smiled at him with complete adoration.



From this moment as long as I live

I will love you, I promise you this

There is nothing I wouldn't give

From this moment on

Realizing the Karanna was getting overwhelmed by her emotions, Zan slipped his arm from her grasp, and wrapped it around her waist, pulling her closer to his side, to give her extra support. Her gratitude was evident in the look that she gave him, and he had to fight the urge to lean down and kiss his beautiful bride. My bride. He felt a ridiculous grin claim his face at the thought.



You're the reason I believe in love

And you're the answer to my prayers from up above

All we need is just the two of us

My dreams came true because of you



From this moment as long as I live

I will love you, I promise you this

From this moment

I will love you as long as I live

From this moment on

When the song finished, Michael and Isabel stepped forward, to stand next to Ge-lar', and face the wedded couples. Nervously rubbing at his eyebrow, Michael told them, "We would like to share with you a small part of Dante's 'Divine Comedy'. Although I really like this passage, I wasn't sure at first how it would fit in with the rest of the service. But once I heard the other things that were planned, I decided that maybe it fit after all. So I asked Ge-lar' if I could share it, and then I roped Iz into helping me." He took a deep breath to calm his nerves, and then looked at Isabel. "Ready?" She nodded in response, and began to read.

"My master and I journeyed up together,

We two alone, and I thought while we walked

To benefit here from his conversation,

And I turned toward him to ask him the question,

"What did that spirit from Romagna mean,

Speaking of 'goods' and 'may not share with others'?"

Michael recited the reply,

"He knows the punishment for his worst fault,

And so it is no wonder If he reproves it, to have less to weep for.

Since your desires are focused on the goods

Which lessen when apportioned out to others,

Envy pumps your bellows full of sighs.

But if the love within the loftiest heaven

Turns your desires toward the good on high,

That craving fear would not be at your heart,

"For the more there are who call out 'ours,'

The more of the highest good each one possesses,

And the more charity kindles in that cloister."

Continuing the role of the pilgrim, Isabel spoke,

"I hunger more now to be satisfied, than if I had kept still before,

And I collect more doubts in my own mind.

How can one good that is apportioned out

Make more of those possessors wealthier

Than if it were possessed by just a few?"

As the master, Michael answered,

"Because you still affix Your intellect to the things of the world,

You gather darkness out of the true light.

That ineffable and infinite Good

That is in heaven hastens forth to love,

Just as a sunbeam strikes a shiny surface:

It gives back as much ardor as it finds,

So that the more unlimited the love

The more eternal goodness grows in it,

And the more souls on high there are in love,

The more there are to love and the more love,

And like a mirror each reflects the other."

Clearing his throat, Michael confessed, "I was always like that pilgrim. I worried that if more people shared the love that was between Max, Isabel and myself, there would be less for me." He looked at Liz with apology. "I couldn't admit it at the time, but now, I'd like to say to Max, thank you, for following your heart, and understanding what I couldn't seem to grasp. Because it took Liz, Maria, and Alex coming into our group, as a result of your love for Liz, to teach me that when you share love, it isn't divided - it's multiplied." His gaze drifted to Maria, and he looked on her with great tenderness, hoping that she understood what all he was admitting. "Just as Dante expressed, the source of true love is infinite, so we can never 'give it all away'. But the more we share of it, the more we ourselves can receive.

"So as you each give your love freely to your bonded mates, you will share together more love, than what you each could retain separately. And as the sphere of your love increases to include you family, friends, and those who come under your rule, your selfless expression of love to all will be reflected back to you in kind." Michael shrugged self-consciously, and looked down at his feet. "I guess that's it."

As he and Isabel moved to reclaim their places in the wedding party, they all heard Maria's voice, filled with awe, saying, "Michael Guerin waxing philosophical. Who'd have thought?" Lighthearted chuckles reverberated through the chamber. Michael blushed, but smiled to himself, knowing that he had managed, if only in some small way, to upend Maria's preconceived image of him being a self-absorbed moron.

"Thank you for sharing that with us, Michael... Isabel," Ge-lar' said. "And now it is time for the blessing of the marriage. I was going to offer up a prayer on your behalf," he told the couples, "but we have two special guests that have come to join us. Because of the special role that one of these guests has played, in bringing us to this joyous occasion, I decided to ask him to share with you the traditional blessing of his people." He looked to the back of the room, and said, "Would you please come forward and join us?"

Everyone turned and faced the back of the room, to stare at the place where Ge-lar' had directed his request. From the shadows, two forms appeared - one, a tall, young man, and next to him, an aging man with long, grey hair. "River Dog," Liz said with breathless wonder.

River Dog's eyes trained on Da-nar', at the same moment Da-nar' heard Liz breathe his one-time friend's name. In shock, they stared at each other for a few seconds, before River Dog continued his approach toward the two young couples. Standing in front of them, he recited the Blessing of the Apaches.

"Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years, May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.



"Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship - as they threaten all relationships at one time or another - remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives - remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight."

Overwhelmed by not only his presence, but by the beauty of the blessing, Liz stepped forward, and embraced River Dog. "Thank you so much," she whispered in his ear, through her tears.

"It is my pleasure, little one," he murmured in response. "I'm pleased that my warning to you was not necessary." Liz pulled back from his embrace, and gave him a watery smile in response.

"Let's conclude this service with one last prayer," Ge-lar' suggested, returning everyone's attention to the man at the altar. Keeping her arm around River Dog, Liz pulled him forward with her, to stand at her side, between her and her mother. Nancy was somewhat perplexed, having no idea who this man was, that her daughter felt so close to. Her thoughts were interrupted, when Ge-lar' began his prayer.

"O God, Lord of life and love eternal, author of all good, and giver of the gift of marriage. We thank you for the joy that Max and Liz, and Zan and Karanna have found in each other, and for the covenant that they have made before you.

Grant, O Lord, that these two couples may dwell together in unity and love all the days of their life. Give them health, prosperity and peace. Strengthen them to obey and serve you, that they may walk in your ways, and when the joys and sorrows and all the good and evil of this passing world are ended, may they rest in Your eternal Glory.

"Almighty One, look too in favor upon all of us gathered here. Defend us from evil from within and without, and supply our needs according to the riches of your grace. Direct us by your spirit, that we may look to the good of others in word and deed and grow in grace as we advance in years. Amen."

With a smile of satisfaction, Ge-lar' happily announced, "Now it is my great honor and blessing, to declare to all gathered here, that these two couples are now officially united in marriage. Gentlemen, you may now kiss your brides!"

To a wild chorus of hoots and whistles, Max and Zan gathered their respective brides in their arms, and kissed them soundly, sealing the covenants they had just made. Overwhelmed by the reality that they were now truly married, the kisses deepened, as the eager young grooms pulled their brides closer, their bodies now touching along their entire length. This caused their garments to caress the sensitive skin that was bare beneath the silky material. As their bodies began to respond, the faint sound of harmonic notes became barely discernible, amid the admonitions from their friends to "get a room". Within seconds, the music grew loud enough to be heard clearly, and suddenly, everything else in the room went quiet. Everyone was looking around, trying to discern where the harmonic chord was coming from, when they suddenly realized it was coming from the two entwined couples.

"I've heard about your body humming with sexual energy, but this is ridiculous," Kyle muttered, then dodged Michael's hand that flung out blindly to swat him.

Finally, Max and Zan released their brides, and took a step back. They were somewhat startled to hear a collective gasp spread through the assembly gathered around them. Still dazed from the kiss, Max looked at Isabel for an explanation.

"Look at the jewels, Max!" she exclaimed in awe. "And do you hear the music? It's coming from the jewels!"

Max's eyes darted quickly to Liz's necklace, and he saw the emeralds glowing, as if lit by an inner light, and the fire in the diamonds sparkling, as if they had been placed under a jeweler's lamp. Liz, Zan, and Karanna also stared at the jewels found in their mates' accessories. As the jewels slowly returned to normal, the sound of the beautiful chord faded into silence.

"Whoa," Alex eloquently articulated. "What was that?"

Ge-lar' and Da-nar' smiled. "That is why, of all the precious gemstones found on Earth, our people chose to bring back emeralds and diamonds for our king and queen," Da-nar' explained. "You see, the compositions of those two stones allows them to resonate in response to an Antarian's sexual energy. The more aroused the wearer is, the louder the frequency. When a couple is together, and both are aroused, the tones are even louder yet, and the stones will vibrate in harmony, if the couple are bonded. Because of the bonding you share from the previous king and queen's essence, the stones responded as if you were already bonded, and sounded in harmony. Since you are twins, the notes were harmonically compatible, making a complete chord."

Alex looked at Isabel, who was completely mesmerized by the phenomenon. He could see her excitement, and it made him sad to realize, that if they were to marry, that would be just one more thing she would never be able to experience. With a heavy heart, he looked away, trying to find something else to focus his attention on. As everyone was chattering wildly, he noticed River Dog making his way over to where Da-nar' was standing.

"All right, people!" Isabel's voice rang out. "Time for a wedding banquet!"

"So declares the Wedding Nazi!" Michael called back with a grin.

Isabel pinned him with a glacial stare. "Click your heels and salute, when you say that, soldier," she commanded. Then, with a lift of her chin, she marched across the room, and down one of the corridors.

"Everyone follow Isabel," Maria instructed. Obediently everyone trooped after her, as they were told. That is, everyone except River Dog and Da-nar'.

posted on 27-Jan-2002 9:58:24 PM by sheeperz
Hi all!

Thanks for the feedback on the wedding. I'm relieved to know that you thought it was okay. Now, I KNOW you are getting impatient... hehehe But there are still things that need tending to, before we get to the lovin'. so be patient. Please?

Here is the next installment. This is getting to be worse than a soap opera, eh? *big*

Hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think about the story I concocted. *wink*

Part Thirty-five

Once they entered the chamber where they would be sharing the wedding banquet, Liz managed to maneuver herself through the group, and approach the other guest that Michael had brought with him. "Hello, Eddie," she greeted him softly.

Eddie stopped walking, and turned to face her. "Hello, Liz," he answered, his eyes looking her over appreciatively. "You look absolutely beautiful," he murmured in awe.

Liz lowered her eyes and blushed. "Thanks. I - I was surprised to see you and River Dog here," she stated, hoping to change the subject. "How did you find out about the wedding?"

Eddie chuckled. "Michael. He was so excited when you all set the date, he came out to tell River Dog about the impending nuptials," he told her, a teasing gleam in his eyes. "For all his bravado, Michael has a tender heart for those he loves. You know this, right?"

Liz smiled. "I had suspected as much," she admitted, "but hearing him read Dante today clinched it. I just hope Maria was paying attention."

Eddie threw back his head and laughed. "Yes, she noticed. From where I stood, it was easy to see how flustered she became, when Michael revealed his inner self in front of everyone. I must say, I was a bit shocked, myself. I didn't think he would ever grow enough in trust to be able to reveal that part of himself to even the woman who loves him, let alone to your entire group."

"Well, I'm certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth," Liz said with a smirk. "Maybe now, things will iron themselves out between him and Maria. I so want for them to be happy."

Eddie grinned at her indulgently. "You just want everyone to be happy, because you yourself are so delirious with joy," he teased.

"And so what if I am?" she huffed in mock anger. "Do you have a problem with that?"

Eddie laughed out loud again, drawing questioning looks from the rest of the group - especially Max. Liz could see his eyes smoldering from across the room, but she wasn't sure if it was passion or possessiveness she saw flaring in their depths. Her attention returned to her friend. "I certainly have no problem with you having found great happiness," he was saying with great sincerity. "I'm thrilled that things have finally worked out for you. I hated seeing the shadows in your eyes, when you felt you couldn't be with the man you love." He drew a deep breath, then said with a chuckle, "But I do have a problem with the way your husband is glaring at me. I'm afraid if you talk to me much longer, I'm going to be in for a royal beheading."

Liz gasped at the thought of something so horrible. "Surely you don't think -?"

Eddie smiled at her. "No, I was just joking. About the beheading, that is. But I know a jealous husband when I see one. You better go soothe away his fears, Liz."

Liz stiffened. "I will not. If he doesn't trust me, that's his problem. You're my friend, and I'm not going to behave as if I have something to feel guilty about."

"Liz, you have much to learn about the male mind," he told her, shaking his head. "When it comes to his mate, a man can be irrationally possessive. It isn't meant as an insult to his woman - in fact, you should take it as a compliment. Max obviously believes that you are so desirable, that other men won't be able to control their urges to try and steal you away from him." He gave her a soft smile, and said in a low voice, "And you know something? He might just be right."

Liz looked at him with wide, astonished eyes. "Wh-what do you mean by that?" she choked out.

"Oh, don't worry," he was quick to assure her with a smirk, realizing what she thought he was suggesting. "I am a man of honor, Liz. I don't pursue other men's wives. But you are a very beautiful and desirable woman," he said, his tone now serious, instead of playful, as he look deep into her eyes. "A less honorable man would have no conscience to see your husband as a deterrent. You need to be mindful of the way you behave around other men now, Liz. Your heart is so pure, and so innocent, that you don't realize the power you have to arouse deep passion in the men around you. And your role as queen will put you in an even more vulnerable position. Not only do you need to guard against the sexual passions of men, but greed as well. Men will do unconscionable things to other men's women, in order to secure power or wealth."

"You're thinking of Ki-var', aren't you?" she questioned.

Eddie nodded. "He is very dangerous, Liz. Don't be fooled into thinking that he can be reasoned with, or eluded."

Liz looked at him puzzled. "What are you trying to tell me?" She could sense that what he was saying to her was coming from something deep inside him.

"I - I have had visions, Liz," he confided. "I believe they were a warning - a warning for you."

"A warning?" she choked out. "What kind of warning?"

"Ki-var' is a clever man, and one of many resources. Do not be fooled into thinking that you are ever beyond his reach - even here," he cautioned her. "You all must be prepared to face him at any moment."

Liz blanched. "What happened in your visions?" she demanded in a hoarse whisper.

Eddie's eyes bored into hers, and it was evident that he warred within himself about revealing the contents of the visions to her. Perhaps he should be having this conversation with Max. No, he decided, she needs to know the danger she is in. "All right, I'll tell you. Perhaps then you will be more alert. In the visions... you were abducted, Liz. Ki-var' found you, and kidnapped you, in an effort to control your husband." At Liz's gasp, he noticed her beginning to sway, as if she might collapse, and his arms shot out to steady her. "Don't be afraid, Liz. The visions have come to warn you. Heed the warning, and all will be well with you."

Having seen Liz's sudden pallor, and her unsteadiness, Max had quickly moved to cross to where she stood talking with Eddie. His jaw tightened, and his hands clenched, when he saw Eddie reach out and hold Liz's upper arms in his grip. Frickin' Eddie, he grumbled to himself, as he pushed past Maria, sending her flying into Michael's steadying embrace. He wondered what the hell Eddie was doing pawing his wife. He reached them, just as Eddie finished delivering his admonition to Liz. "Is there a problem here?" he asked coldly, piercing Eddie with his gaze.

"Hopefully not," Eddie said with no apology, as his hands released Liz. Immediately, she began to sway again.

Max wrapped an arm around her waist, and drew her close to his side. He raised an eyebrow in silent response to Eddie's cryptic comment. Then he looked down at Liz. "Are you going to be okay?" he asked her tenderly.

Liz nodded. "Yeah, I think I - I just need to sit down for a few minutes," she answered, not revealing the cause of her distress. There would be time later to share with Max what Eddie had told her.

"Okay, then, let's go sit down. I think Isabel and Maria are getting anxious to serve dinner, anyway. Not like I could eat a bite... of food," he clarified the last, as he whispered his suggestive comment in her ear, before tracing its contours with the tip of his tongue. "My hungers lie in an entirely different area," he growled, seductively nipping at her earlobe.

Liz shuddered, her color returning in a flood. "I can't wait," she whispered her confession for his ears only. Eddie had already walked away, to speak with Michael. "I wish we were alone..."

"If we were -" His question was interrupted by Isabel, who was now at his side. "Max, we're just about ready to serve dinner. I'm going to send Kyle to find out what's keeping Alex, Da-nar', and River Dog. Then we'll be eating."

"Don't bother Kyle," Max said, trying not to sound too eager. He sought out Kyle with his eyes, and when he saw him, he continued, "He and Ava seem to be enjoying themselves. Liz and I will go and see what is keeping the others."

Isabel frowned. "Are you sure? I mean, this banquet is in your honor, and all. You shouldn't be having to chase people down."

"It's not a problem, Iz," Max assured her. "We'll just take a casual stroll back to the Rotunda, round up the strays, and come back."

With a sigh, Isabel accepted his offer. "Thanks, Max. You'd think that Alex would know how important this is to me, that he would make an effort to be a little considerate."

Max hugged his sister. "Don't be too hard on him, Iz. Even though he's usually very thoughtful, he is still a guy," he teased. Linking his fingers with Liz's, he whispered conspiratorially to his bride, "Come on. Let's go find our errant friends." Giggling, Liz followed him out of the room, her worries about Ki-var' temporarily assuaged.

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

Alex concealed himself in the shadows of the corridor, just outside the Rotunda. His mother had brought him up with enough manners to know that eavesdropping was extremely rude, but he couldn't help himself. There was something going on between River Dog and Da-nar', and he was dying to know what it was.

"Hello, River Dog," he heard Da-nar' say.

"It's been a long time, Nasedo," came the reply.

Alex was confused. Nasedo? Why would River Dog call Da-nar' 'Nasedo'? Nasedo is dead.

"I think it's best that you don't refer to me as that," Da-nar' suggested. "The young ones used that name, when talking about the other shapeshifter."

"Another shapeshifter? Where did he come from?"

"I told you there were four of us on the ship. Only two of them died."

"You said that the other one had been captured," River Dog persisted, confused.

"Apparently, he escaped. Anyway, somehow the kids picked up on the name 'Nasedo', to refer to him, although, for the life of me, I don't know why."

"It must be because I told them about you," River Dog admitted. "Max and Liz came to the cave several months ago, seeking answers. I told them everything I knew - including how you killed Atherton." Da-nar' closed his eyes, as all the terror and pain of that day came flooding back to him. "Why did you do it, my friend? Why did you kill that man? Was he somehow a threat to your safety?"

With a weary sigh, indicating the heavy burden that he had carried with him all these years, Da-nar' answered, "I don't know why he was killed. But it wasn't me that killed him. It was the other."

River Dog's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I saw the man killed with my own eyes," he revealed to his former friend. "I saw you, and when you realized I recognized you, you turned and ran away. You never returned. And now you expect me to believe it wasn't you at all? I know what I saw."

"No, I'm afraid you know what you think you saw, which is exactly what the other wanted you to believe. He took on my human form, and made damn sure that you would see him murder Atherton. I was just coming back from a walk in the woods, when I saw what was happening from a distance. I watched in horror, as you witnessed his unspeakable crime. I had to hide behind a large rock, when the other fled in my direction. He ran right past where I was hiding. I knew I had to leave, because the police would be swarming the area soon, investigating the murder. All I could do was pray that you would keep the location of our cave a secret."

River Dog sighed with regret. "In my heart, I could not believe that you would commit such an evil act. But I could not reconcile what my eyes saw, with what my heart knew to be true. But no, in all these years, I have never revealed the secret of the cave, except to the young man who is with me today, and the group of young ones who were assembled for the wedding."

"Who is this young man that you shared our secret with?" Da-nar' questioned.

"His name is Eddie, and I told him of the cave, at a time when I was very ill. I knew that someone trustworthy had to know the secret, if I didn't make it, just in case your young king came seeking answers. I must admit, I had about given up hope, when Liz came to the reservation last year."

"Liz came first? Alone?" Da-nar' asked surprised.

"This is so," River Dog confirmed. "She is a brave young woman. Her young man was being watched by the FBI at the time, and so she came alone, trying to find out about the symbol on Atherton's necklace. When I saw the pendant, I suspected that she was one of your people. I was surprised to learn that it was not her, but her friend that was seeking answers."

"She had no idea at the time of who she really was, or she would have been there on her own behalf," Da-nar' replied.

River Dog nodded. "It is amazing, how it all worked out in the end. I never would have guessed that Liz was the special one that you were hoping to find a family to raise." He chuckled to himself. "And to think that I tried to warn her about making sure he was worthy of her trust."

Da-nar' smiled. "You did, huh?" His smile quickly deteriorated into a frown. "Well, I suppose that's understandable, considering you thought I had turned into some sort of rabid murderer, betraying your trust. I'm sorry that I never got a chance to tell you the truth. By the time I felt it was safe to venture back to the cave, you were no longer coming there, and I didn't dare venture to the reservation to seek you out, even in a different form."

River Dog looked puzzled. "Why not?" he asked. "Who would have recognized you, if you had taken a new face?"

"No one - but I was afraid that when I revealed to you my true identity, you would turn me in to the authorities, thinking that I had killed poor Atherton."

River Dog shook his head. "It is unfortunate how things worked out. Neither one of us trusted in our friendship enough, to believe in the other. Can you forgive me, my friend, for having doubted you?"

"Only if you will return the favor," Da-nar' said, his voice thick with emotion. "You were the closest friend I ever had - on Earth or on Antar."

"Mmmm," River Dog intoned. "Perhaps. And perhaps not. Have you so easily forgotten Sky Eyes?"

A knot formed in the pit of Da-nar's stomach, at the mention of River Dog's beautiful friend. "No," he whispered hoarsely. "I've never forgotten Sky Eyes. Who could forget such a kind and gentle woman?"

"Your manner tells me that my memory is true - I believe she was the closest "friend" you ever had."

"Perhaps. But I lost any chance at making a life with her, when I was forced to flee after Atherton's murder."

"Yes, but at least you managed to find her again, before she left this Earth."

Da-nar's eyes snapped to meet River Dog's, pain evident in their depths. "Left this Earth?" he choked out. "Do you mean, that Sky Eyes has passed into the next life?"

"I'm afraid so, my friend. I would have thought that you knew. Surely you kept in touch with her, after you met up with her again?"

It was Da-nar's turn to be puzzled. "I don't understand why you think that I found Sky Eyes," he said sadly. "Our paths never crossed again, after that fateful day."

"Then how is it, that you come to be in possession of the Antarian jewels again?" River Dog inquired, perplexed.

"The jewels?" Da-nar' asked with disbelief. "What do you know about the jewels? I assumed they had been stolen from the cave in my absence. When I came back after things died down, they were missing. I never saw them again."

"But - I saw Liz and Karanna wearing them during the ceremony," River Dog persisted.

"Oh, that? I guess Ge-lar' somehow learned of their disappearance, and he fashioned a replicate set for the wedding."

"I see," River Dog said, somewhat dejectedly. "I assumed, when I saw them, that Sky Eyes had managed to return them to you."

"Sky Eyes?" Da-nar' croaked. "Do you mean to tell me that she had them, all these years?"

"Yes, she was in possession of them, until she died, apparently. I know that she had one living child - perhaps they were bequeathed to her offspring."

"How did she end up with them?"

River Dog smiled in remembrance. "After you disappeared, I knew that the jewels would not be safe, left in the cave, where thieves could steal them. And I obviously had no way to access your inner chamber in the cave, to put them in a safer location. So I gave them to Sky Eyes for safe keeping. I knew that, if you never returned, that you would have wanted her to have them."

"What makes you say that?" Da-nar' grumbled.

"Do you think that I, your friend, was unable to see the great affection that you bore for Sky Eyes? Do you honestly believe that I did not know that you were in love with her?"

Da-nar' stared at his feet. "It was that obvious, huh?"

River Dog chuckled once more. "Yes, my friend. But there is no shame, when two people share love."

"I don't know about sharing it," Da-nar' said with a sigh. "I always wondered how she really felt about me. Did I ever tell you, I once let her see my true form?"

River Dog's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Indeed? And what did she have to say about that?"

Da-nar' smiled as he thought back to that poignant moment. "She took my hand, and told me that it wasn't what was on the outside of someone that gave them value in her eyes. It was what they carried within their heart."

River Dog nodded. "That sounds like Sky Eyes. So why do you doubt that she shared your feelings?"

Da-nar' shrugged. "I guess all these years, it was easier to think that she didn't love me, and that we didn't get cheated out of a life together, than it would have been to believe that she shared my tender affection, and that I had lost the most important relationship in my life, because of the evil in one of my own countrymen. He was supposed to be one of the protectors for the Royal Four. But instead, he turned on us all. Fortunately, he's dead now." They stood together in silence for a few moments, and then he asked, "So what ever happened to Sky Eyes?"

"As you know, she was only one quarter Apache," he began. Da-nar' nodded that he recalled the fact. "Although she preferred the Apache way of life, her white father demanded she get educated. Even in a time when women did not generally have careers, he packed her up, and sent her off to college in the east," River Dog recalled with bitterness. "In this man's mind, it was done more to keep her away from the reservation, and the influence of her mother's people, than it was for her own good. We kept in touch while she was pursuing her studies, but just before she graduated, her father began pressuring her to marry the young man she had been dating while at the university, even though she was not in love with him. She wrote to me just before the wedding, and told me it would be her last letter. Her fiancé didn't approve of our friendship. Because I chose to live as my ancestors did for thousands of years before me, he dubbed me a savage heathen, and forbid her to communicate with me. Sky Eyes was risking not only his, but her father's wrath, by sending me her farewell missive. But she was too honorable to break off ties with me, without attempting to explain."

Da-nar' groaned. "Poor Sky Eyes. How horrible for her to be married to a man she didn't love."

River Dog shrugged. "She said that it really didn't matter, anyway."

Da-nar' looked up at him in surprise. "Why is that?"

River Dog's piercing gaze drove his answer straight into Da-nar's heart. "She told me that there was only one man in the universe who would ever own her heart. And since she could not share her life with him, it did not matter who she married, or if she married at all."

"Really," Da-nar' said with surprising calm, considering his heart was beating faster than it ever had in his life. "So, who was this man that she loved?"

"Look within your own heart, if you would know the answer," was River Dog's reply.

Da-nar' felt as though someone had run him through with a knife. So it was true. She had loved him, and yet fate had conspired to keep them apart. In an attempt to conceal his inner turmoil, he asked, "So, you never saw her again?"

"Oh, many times," River Dog rushed to assure him. "Several years had gone by, and she had a grown son when she returned to the reservation for her first visit. He husband had just died, and her father had passed away many moons before that, so she was finally free to return to our people. When we saw each other that first time, we just held each other and cried. We cried for all the wasted years, that we had each been forced to pretend the other didn't exist. But mostly, we cried for the grief we both shared, over our lost friend. I can tell you, until the day she was called from this life, she never gave up hope of seeing you again. She loved you alone, until the end."

Da-nar turned away and wept silently, repeatedly brushing the tears from his face. Finally he managed to say, "I wish I had known that she was still in the area, and didn't hate me for what she must have assumed that I did to Atherton. I never would have stayed away from her, if I had known she had that much forgiveness in her heart."

"Oh, it wasn't a matter of forgiveness, my friend. She refused to believe that it was really you that had killed Atherton. Even when I struggled with what I had seen with my own two eyes, she insisted that it couldn't have been you." He looked at Da-nar' apologetically. "I only wish I had had her faith. She knew the kind of man you are, and that there was no way that you could have done such a horrid thing."

"When -" Da-nar' paused, not really wanting to ask the next question. He swallowed hard around the lump in his throat, and continued. "When did she die?"

"That is the sad thing," River Dog told him. "She has only been gone from us for a year. I wish that she could have seen you again, before she went to walk with her ancestors. I myself hadn't seen or heard from her for over two years, while she was traveling, and doing research out of the country. She had just come to Roswell to visit her son's family, when she died. She had called me when she got into town, and we were going to get together. But she died before we ever got the chance."

"So her son lives in Roswell, then?"

"Yes. He owns a very successful business there."

"Really? Perhaps I've heard of him, then. Who is he?"

"He's the owner of the Crashdown Cafe. His name is Jeffrey Parker."

posted on 31-Jan-2002 7:35:00 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone! Sorry I have been so long in posting this part. Things have been a little on the wild side here lately. One of our ewes went into premature labor with triplets... I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say that in the end, none of the little lambies survived. *sad*

On to happier topics....

I get a real kick out of reading your feedback. It is interesting, how little snippets of the true storyline manage to seep into your hypotheses. *big* Of course, I won't tell you which ones are right, and which aren't! That would spoil all the fun, right?

Now, I KNOW you are all hanging on by a thread for the nookie... hang in there just a bit longer, eh? I hope you won't refuse to read the second half of this part, just because M/L or Z/K aren't in it! *tongue* I am just kind of tying of... for the time being anyway.... one of my own "loose threads". Which may or may not get revived at a later date in a future fic spin-off from this series.

Sheesh. I can't believe how much longer DJ3 is going than the other 2. But I am sticking to "The Fulfillment" even after the bonding, because it is all about how the prophecies come to pass. Hope you all will hang in there with me! *wink*

Heh heh, I knew I was gonna throw you all with the River Dog and Eddie storyline. I just really miss the two of them, and wanted to see them back. After all, River Dog had a real history with the aliens. Er, one of them, anyway. And so, if you found it confusing, my apologies. Indulge me my fantasies, ok? *angel*

So... guess that's about it for now. Hope you don't throw things at the monitor when you find no serious nookie (although, some gratuitous kissing, etc is found at the beginning *tongue*). Rest assured, the next part begins with the girls preparing for their big night!! *wink*

Let me know what you think - just no screaming at me , okay? hehehe


Part Thirty-six

Max led Liz down the corridor, until he came to a recessed doorway. Wrapping his arm around her waist, he pulled her into the shadows, and backed her up against the door. Before she could even make a sound, his lips were on hers, moving expertly as they sought to incite her passion. When they were both breathless, he lifted his mouth from hers and breathed against her lips, "Can we ditch this reception, and move right into the wedding night?" He pressed his hips against hers, revealing that he was more than ready to perform his husbandly duty, when they were alone.

Closing her eyes, Liz reveled in the sensations that Max was arousing in her. "I wish we could. But you know that Isabel would have an absolute fit, after she and Maria planned this whole banquet for us."

Max groaned. "Yes, I know. But I don't know how much more of this I can take. Do you know, that I wasn't allowed to wear any underwear under this outfit? Every time I move, the material rubs over my skin...." He growled. "And all I can think is how it feels so silky, just like your skin does...." He pressed himself more firmly against her, and moaned at the incredible desire that was raging through him. "I - I think Ge-lar's herbal remedy for blocking my attraction to you is wearing off early. Or is it just that you are so incredibly sexy, that I don't need an excuse to want to throw you to the ground, and make love to you, til neither of us can see straight?"

"Oh, Max, I want you so much," she whispered, as she pulled his head down to engage him in another heated kiss. When they finally broke apart, she suggested that they go find Alex, and get the reception over with, so they could finally be alone. Max reluctantly agreed, and they continued their journey toward the Rotunda.

Just as they were about to enter the central chamber, Liz saw a shadow move out of the corner of her eye. She was about to scream, when Alex stepped out enough for her to see who it was. Covering her heart with her hand, she scolded, "Alex, you scared me half to death. What are you doing, hiding there like that?"

"Sshh!" He said, gesturing wildly with his hands to indicate they should be silent. He pointed toward the Rotunda, and then cupped his hand to his ear, signaling they should listen. They all stood there, waiting to hear the conversation between Da-nar' and River Dog.

"Jeffrey Parker?!" they heard Da-nar' exclaim. "He was Sky Eyes' son?" Liz looked questioningly at Alex. Who was this Sky Eyes that Da-nar' referred to?

The sound of shuffling feet was heard, but they were unable to see that it was caused by River Dog rushing to Da-nar's side, when he realized his friend's legs were threatening to give out at this news. "Easy, my friend," River Dog said, as he grasped Da-nar's arm, to offer him support. "Why does this news trouble you so? Do you know this Jeffrey Parker? Is he not what you would expect of Sky Eye's son?"

Da-nar' rubbed his forehead. He wasn't prone to headaches the way Earthlings were, but he felt a doozy of one coming on just then. "Yes, I know him," Da-nar' acknowledged. "And you aren't going to believe this. Because I sure as hell don't." He looked at River Dog, trying to rally his emotional reserves to admit what had happened out loud. Taking a deep breath, he revealed, "Jeffrey Parker is Liz's father."

River Dog's eyes widened in shock. "And you did not know this until now? That Sky Eyes is Liz's grandmother?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "Not a clue. Whenever Jeff talked about his mother, he always referred to her as Mom, or Claudia."

"Claudia was the name that her father insisted she go by. But among our people, she was always known as 'Sky Eyes'. It was her Apache name, and she preferred it to her white name."

"My God," Da-nar' breathed so low, that Max, Liz, and Alex could barely hear him. "What are the chances of this happening? Of all the men that I could have chosen to father our queen, I chose Sky Eyes' son. It is too incredible to believe."

"Is it?" River Dog asked. "The Creator is very wise in how he guides the steps of man," he assured his friend. "Can you not see now, why it had to be, that you were to give up the woman you loved? If you and Sky Eyes had made a life together, Jeffrey Parker would not exist. And neither would Liz, as we know her. You would have had to find someone else to be her father."

Liz's eyes nearly popped out of her head, when she understood that Da-nar' had been in love with Grandma Claudia. Could things get any more bizarre?

"This is true," she heard Da-nar' agree. "I had a plan all worked out in my head of how I would accomplish the hybridization of our queen. But it wasn't meant to be. Although, I was on the right track." He added mysteriously.

"Were you now?" River Dog asked with a quirked brow. "Just what was your plan, anyway? If I may ask."

Da-nar' reached up to nervously rub the back of his neck, averting his eyes from River Dog's probing stare. Clearing his throat, he admitted, "I was going to try and talk you into fathering Liz, and then I would have implanted her in Sky Eyes. That way, she and I could have raised Liz as our daughter. Talerians are not genetically compatible with humans, so this was the only way that we would have been able to have a child of our own, had we been able to share a life together. Isn't it ironic, how it was Sky Eye's son that actually got to parent our queen? And my greatest wish, then, did come true. From what I have heard Liz tell of her grandmother, Sky Eyes certainly had great influence in her life, helping her to become the kind of woman we need for our queen. I could sense that she would be a great one to help mold the future of Antar. My only regret is that she didn't know who Liz was."

Moving as though in a trance, Liz stepped out from where she was concealed in the shadows. "I think she did know, in some strange way," Liz whispered.

Even though her voice was soft, Da-nar' nearly jumped out of his skin. Looking nervously from Liz to River Dog, and then back to Liz, he asked, "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough to realize you must have loved Grandma very much," she admitted.

"Liz, I'm so sorry you had to find out about this - especially this way." He frowned at her then. "Come to think of it, what were you doing, eavesdropping on our conversation?"

Liz blushed. "I, uh, Isabel sent Max and me to find the two of you, to tell you that she's waiting to serve dinner until you join us. When we heard you talking, it seemed like a serious discussion, and we didn't want to interrupt. But your voices carried into the corridor...."

Da-nar' visibly relaxed. "Yes, of course. Now, what did you mean, you think that Sky Eye- er, Claudia knew who you were?"

"I can't say for sure, just a feeling I have from some things she said. She used to always tell me that I was destined for great things, for one. How could she have known that? And she wasn't surprised at all, to find out how strongly I felt about Max, even though she hadn't met him. When I told her our relationship was extremely complicated, and she told me that if it wasn't complicated, he probably wasn't my soul mate. But then, if she suspected there was something different about me, how did she know that Max was different too, if she had never met him? And then there was the incident right before she died..." Liz's voice trailed off, as if she was no longer even aware of the people intently listening to her ramblings.

Max and Alex had come out to join her when they heard her speaking to Da-nar' and River Dog, but she didn't seem to notice them, either. She was caught up in her private musings, wondering just how much Grandma Claudia really knew. All the time that Max was explaining about Claudia's last moments on Earth, it appeared as though Liz was in another world. When he finished, she added in a faraway monotone, "She told me to follow my heart. She made me promise."

"Perhaps that was her own regrets being voiced - because she had not had the chance to follow her heart, and knew that her life could have been so much more, if she had been with the one she loved," River Dog suggested.

Liz snapped out of her trance and shuddered. "It's so hard to think of Grandma being married to a man that she didn't love. It's so tragic." She laced her fingers with Max's, and smiled up at him in blatant adoration. "Well, she got her wish for me, anyway. I ended up with my soul mate."

Max couldn't fight the urge to lean down and gently brush his lips against hers. "I'm glad I could fulfill your Grandmother's dreams for you," he teased. Liz giggled.

Then suddenly, she gasped, as an idea hit her. "Max! Maybe Grandma had figured out who you were! Da-nar', did Grandma know what your mission was?"

"Yes," he admitted hesitantly. "But what does that have to do with anything? She would have no way of picking Max out in a crowd."

"Maybe she did, though. Think about it. How normal is it, for a couple to be driving in the desert at night, and find two young children wandering, abandoned and alone? Not to mention naked? Maybe the whole scene triggered something in Grandma's head, and she figured that these were two of the children you were sent here to care for."

River Dog nodded in agreement with Liz's theory. "It is possible, my friend," he told Da-nar'. "You know how clever our Sky Eyes was." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You know, it may even be possible that she thought you were watching her all those years, only in a different form. Then when two abandoned children showed up that were the same age as Liz, she could have thought you purposely gave the queen-child to her son. After all, she must have known the circumstances of Mrs. Parker's conception, did she not?"

"Yes, Grandma knew that my parents had seen a fertility specialist," Liz confirmed. "Although she never met him, I suppose it is possible that she saw a picture, or my parents described him..."

"Actually," Nancy's voice came from behind them, "when Claudia and I were having lunch one day, I happened to see our doctor, walking down the street, through the window of the restaurant we were in, and I pointed him out to her. At the time, I thought her reaction was odd, but I just brushed it off."

"Odd, how, Mom?"

"Little things. A sharply drawn breath. Squinting to look studiously at his face. When I asked what was wrong, she merely said, 'He looks familiar'. And that was it. She didn't make any further comment, and I didn't ask." Nancy looked at Da-nar'. "Did she know you? Is that why she responded that way?"

"Yes, I knew her," Da-nar' admitted. He rubbed his neck again, in an effort to relieve the throbbing in his head. Then he told Nancy the basics of what they had been discussing.

"Oh my God," Nancy whispered. "That's so bizarre." Quickly, her eyes swung to meet Da-nar's. "That she knew you, and probably knew who Liz was, I mean. Not that the two of you were in love." The softness in her eyes said what she couldn't. That she could understand how Claudia would come to love a man as kind and gentle as Da-nar'.

"Yes, well, I only wish that I could have seen her one more time before she died. You know, to let her know that her faith in my innocence all those years wasn't misplaced," he voiced with a sad smile.

"I really hate to break up this party," Max said sheepishly, "But I think that we need to get back to the banquet, before Isabel comes out and hauls us all in there by our ears."

Alex chuckled. "That would be so like Isabel to do that -"

"Do what?!" Isabel demanded from the edge of the room. "And are you people aware of the fact that we spent a lot of time and energy planning this meal, and we can't even get the guests of honor to show their faces? What kind of a princess am I going to be, if I can't even throw a successful dinner party?" she lamented.

Max was the only one that dared to laugh. "Don't worry, Iz. Not all your guests in the future will be as difficult as your baby brother."

"Dear God, I hope not!" she exclaimed, horrified at the thought.

"Okay, everyone, by royal decree, I issue forth this proclamation - time to go and eat!" Chuckling at Max's announcement, they all made their way back to the banquet room.

When they returned, Maria had already gotten everyone else seated, so that with the arrival of the missing bride and groom, dinner could be promptly served. Isabel sent her a grateful look, and before they began serving, she asked Ge-lar' to say the blessing over the meal. Pleased that humans seemed to share that tradition in common with Antarians, he readily agreed.

After the words had been spoken, Isabel, Maria, Ava, and Courtney began serving the meal to the tables. Various dishes, consisting of both Earth and Antarian cuisine, were passed to the hungry guests. It had been a long day, and most of them hadn't had time to eat more than a snack of the Antarian fruits and raw vegetables that Ge-lar' had thought to set out earlier. True to form, Isabel had made sure everything was perfect - not only did the meal smell and taste delicious, there was a great show of color and texture, making it a total sensory experience. There was only one tense moment, when Max inadvertently commented that it was a good thing Isabel hadn't learned to cook from their mom.

Throughout the meal, it became apparent to Ge-lar's watchful eyes that Max and Zan were becoming increasingly uncomfortable and fidgety, while fighting the intense sexual urges that were overcoming them, as the effects of the herbal tea diminished. As soon as the meal was over, Ge-lar' announced that it was time for the ladies to take the new brides to their chambers, to prepare for their wedding night. As the girls were hustled from the room, Ge-lar' had to restrain himself from chuckling at the obvious relief the Max and Zan felt.

Nancy started to rise and join the young women, when Da-nar', who was sitting next to her, clasped her hand in his, and urged her to remain seated. "Shouldn't I join them?" she asked, confused.

Da-nar's fingers remained intertwined with hers, and his thumb gently caressed the back of her hand. "No, I don't think that will be necessary. The girls know what needs to be done. And besides, would you have wanted your mother helping you to prepare to receive your new husband, on your wedding night?" he asked, with a mischievous look in his eyes.

Nancy sat temporarily frozen in place, as Da-nar's rhythmic stroking worked a kind of hypnotic magic on her. But his question, and the devilish look on his face, broke her trance-like state. She giggled at his point, and replied, "No, my mother would have been the last person I wanted with me! Point taken." She looked around the room, observing the remnants of their feast. "Perhaps I should begin cleaning up this mess." Again she started to rise, but Da-nar' squeezed her hand gently, once more indicating that she should remain seated.

"You do not need to concern yourself with cleaning up this mess. We rather domesticated males can take care of the clean up." He arched a brow at Michael, who sat directly across from them. Immediately, Michael stood, and nodding to Kyle and Alex, they began to clear away the mess. It had been a fight to the end, but Isabel had finally relented, and allowed them to use disposable plates, much to the guys' delight. Fewer dishes to wash. Soon Jim joined the clean-up brigade.

"Well, I suppose I'd better go home, then," Nancy said, not knowing what else to do at this point. She hated the idea of leaving, not knowing if or when she would be able to see Liz again. And she wasn't quite sure what kind of mood to expect Jeff to be in, once she returned home.

Sadness flickered in Da-nar's eyes briefly. In the next instant it was gone, and Nancy wasn't sure if she had perhaps only imagined it. He nodded in response to her statement and stood, offering his hand to help her rise. Slipping her hand into his, she got up, and turned to say good-bye to Ge-lar', who had been seated on the other side of her. "Thank you so much for all you have done for Liz," she murmured appreciatively. "I feel better knowing that you and Da-nar' will be watching over the children... giving them guidance..." She trailed off, tears misting her eyes.

Ge-lar' reached out, and clasped her other hand between his two. "We will do our best to keep them in line," he teased with a playful grin. "But please, feel free to come and visit as often as you wish. I know that this will be a big adjustment for you - and for your husband," he added, with a pointed look at Da-nar', who was still possessively holding Nancy's hand. Da-nar' raised a challenging brow toward the holy man, and continued to hold Nancy's hand in his grasp. He would have to relinquish his hold on this intriguing woman soon enough.

And she was indeed that. Intriguing. What was it about her, that so captivated him? Was it because she reminded him in some small way of Sky Eyes? Both women were beautiful, there was no doubt about that. And they both had a gentle way about them. But Sky Eyes was more of a "grab hold of life" kind of woman, where Nancy was more... resigned to life. Or at least she had been. He smiled, remembering the spunk Max said she showed, when she stood up to her husband about coming to the wedding. Maybe she just needed the right circumstances to awaken the assertive side of her. But no, she was not a substitute for Sky Eyes. For the first time in his life, being around this woman helped him to forget the tragedy of losing his first true love.

He came out of his thoughts, when he realized Nancy was asking him something. "I'm sorry - did you ask me something?" he asked, chagrined at being caught drifting in his private daydreams.

Nancy giggled. "You had the most interesting smile on your face," she told him. When he averted his eyes in embarrassment, she quickly continued, "What I was asking is - is it really possible for me to come and visit Liz? I mean, how would I be able to access the cave and the portal, without one of you there to open the doorways?"

Da-nar's pulse quickened its pace, as he turned his head to look down into her eyes. "You mean you wish to come for visits?" The prospect of seeing her again gladdened his heart.

"I-if that's all right?" she questioned, unsure of whether he would welcome her presence or not.

He squeezed her hand reassuringly. "It would be more than all right," he mumbled huskily. Nancy smiled at him, with undisclosed admiration. Clearing his throat nervously, he tried to regain control of his wayward thoughts. He had to remember that she was a married woman, and his queen's mother. It would not be good to wreck her marriage. "That is," he amended, "I'm sure that Liz would be thrilled to have you come. It will make her being wrenched from your family more bearable for her."

Nancy's smile faded at his clarification, and the light went out of her eyes. "Oh, I see," she responded, slipping her hand from his. Then, bravely forcing a smile, she added, "Now, I really must be going. I don't want to cause Jeff any unnecessary worry." She wasn't sure if she was bringing up Jeff's name to remind herself where her thoughts and affections were supposed to be, or if she was doing it to spite Da-nar' for his cutting remark. Seeing Da-nar's nearly imperceptible wince brought her a certain perverse satisfaction. She didn't dare examine the source of it too closely. She merely turned and walked out the door.

"I'll return shortly," Da-nar' told Ge-lar' flatly. He pivoted and rushed out the door after Nancy, missing the look of relief on Ge-lar's face. He hoped that Da-nar' would not do anything to destroy the relationship between Liz's parents.

Da-nar' walked quickly, steadily gaining on Nancy, as her brisk pace propelled her toward the Rotunda, on the way to the portal. His heart ached, to see her stiff posture, and obvious determination to get as far away from him as possible. The pain he carried in his heart over discouraging her feelings toward him was almost unbearable. First he had lost his beautiful Sky Eyes, and now this. Was he forever destined to exist alone, without the comfort of a woman's love? Frowning, he considered that perhaps once Antar's rightful king was once again on the throne, life would return to normal, and he would find a woman of his own species to love. He sighed aloud. The unfortunate part of that plan was, no one can ever determine when and where love will come to them. And it just didn't seem fair, that the two times in his nearly 100 years of existence, when he found a woman he could love, the objects of his affection would be forever beyond his reach.

Da-nar' reached the central chamber just in time to see Nancy head down the wrong tunnel. He called her name, but she didn't respond. He couldn't believe she hadn't heard him. Obviously, she was choosing to ignore him. Fortunately, she hadn't chosen the corridor where the bridal chambers were located. It would have been awkward if they had stumbled into the rituals the women were performing, in anticipation of their bonding with their new husbands.

"Nancy, wait!" he called again, as he began to run toward her. He saw her back go ramrod straight with defiance, as she kept up her vigorous pace. He finally overcame her, and took her elbow in his hand, attempting to halt her progress.

Wrenching her arm free, she glared at him. "I'm quite capable of walking unassisted by you, or anyone else for that matter," she snapped.

Da-nar' tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smirk. "Yes, I'm sure you are," he conceded. "I just thought that perhaps you might be interested to know, that you are in the wrong passageway."

Nancy's eyes widened in surprise. Then embarrassment took over, and her face went hot, as it turned a deep crimson. "I, uh, um," she stuttered. She saw the amused look on Da-nar's face, and it was the last straw. She raced past him, back toward the center of the catacombs, hoping he hadn't noticed that she was crying. Just before she reached the central area, she felt his strong arm wrap around her waist, pulling her to a standstill. She bowed her head to prevent him from seeing her tears, but he knew immediately that she was weeping, by the way her body shook from the stifled sobs.

His heart broke anew, certain that he was the cause of her distress. Overwhelmed by his compassion for this gentle woman, he pulled her into the circle of his arms, and held her close to his chest, as she continued cry silently. Unconsciously, one hand traveled up and down her spine in a soothing motion, as he moved their bodies in a subtle rocking motion, in an effort to comfort her.

A few moments later, she abruptly pushed away from him, wiping the last of her tears from her face. "I'm sorry," she said, her voice lacking its usual warmth. "I must be more tired than I realized. Please, I need to go home. I've proven sufficiently that I am incapable of finding my own way out of here, so I would appreciate any assistance -"

Da-nar' tenderly placed his fingers against her lips. Closing his eyes in painful regret, one lone tear slipped from beneath his lashes, as he begged in a choked whisper, "Please don't do this, Nancy. This situation is painful enough, without listening to you belittle yourself, and beg for what you know I would freely do for you."

Nancy wrenched her mouth from under his hand. "Painful?" she asked with a cynical chuckle. "Painful for whom? Certainly not you! You made it quite clear back there that my presence, or lack thereof, means nothing to you, " she grated out, fighting back a fresh torrent of tears.

"No," he answered around the lump in his throat. "That isn't true at all, and if you'll look deep in your heart, you know how false that statement is."

"Then why? Why did you behave so... so... God! I don't even know how to classify it! Indifferent? Callous? Insensitive?" She straightened to her full height. "All of the above?!" she finished in a raised voice.

Da-nar' sighed. "Nancy, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. But surely you can see, that the feelings I have for you are not appropriate. You're married - to my queen's father, no less! How would you have me to behave?!" he bellowed accusingly, more out of frustration, than anger with her. When he saw that he had hurt her feelings yet again, he was instantly contrite. "Nancy, I'm sorry. I wasn't yelling at you, I was just venting my frustration at this insufferable situation."

Looking at him through tear laden lashes, she meekly asked, "Just how do you feel about me? That is so inappropriate, I mean."

His face softened into a smile at her question. She would have to be blind not to know the truth, but still she was so uncertain of herself - of her own feminine charm, that she couldn't believe what was as plain as the nose on her face. "Are you sure you want the answer to that?" he queried.

Nancy swallowed hard. "W-well, not if your feelings are... hostile -?"

Da-nar' chuckled. "I'd hardly consider them hostile. The truth is, Nancy...." He paused to run his hand through his hair, a purely human mannerism that he had picked up somewhere along the way. He looked up at her, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a sheepish grin. With his heart beating wildly, he confessed, "I'm extremely attracted to you. Under different circumstances..." He felt like a heel, because he was still lying to her. He was falling in love with her, but it would do no good to admit that. Would it?

"Oh, I see," she said dejectedly. "So what you're saying is... it's just a physical thing?"

When she looked deeply in his eyes, he knew that he couldn't deceive her like that. She deserved better. Shaking his head, he turned and faced the other way, not able to look at her, and confess what was truly in his heart. "No, it isn't just a physical thing," he admitted.

"Then - what is it?" she persisted.

"Do you mean to tell me, that you can't even tell when a man is in love with you?" he whispered, just loud enough for her to hear.

For several seconds, the only thing Nancy could hear after that, was the thunder of her own heartbeat in her ears. Finally she placed a hand on his back, and said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you to admit that." Her voice was soft, and full of sincere regret.

Da-nar' spun to face her, hurt and confusion apparent in his features. "Then why did you?"

Nancy blushed. "Because I have feelings for you, too, and I didn't know if I was just imagining that you felt something for me, because I wanted so badly to believe that you did."

"It makes no difference," Da-nar' told her. "Whatever we do, or do not feel for each other is irrelevant. You are a married woman, and therefore, beyond my reach."

Nancy nodded. "As much as I dread going back and facing Jeff - especially after seeing a side of him I never knew existed - I couldn't allow my feelings for you to break up my marriage. Jeff and I have been married for 20 years, and I can't just throw that away, without at least trying to work things out first."

"I understand that," he assured her. "And that's why I pulled back from you. Not because I don't love you, but because I do. I want what's best for you, and as much as it pains me to admit, I'm not it. Now, before this conversation gets any more depressing, what do you say, I take you home?"

Mutely, Nancy nodded her agreement to his plan. Hand in hand, they walked together to the portal. When they were on the Earth side, he picked up the keys that Max had left on the table there, and escorted Nancy to the Jeep. For the ride back to town, they both remained silent, lost in their private thoughts. When the lights of Roswell came into view, he pulled over on the side of the road. Nancy looked at him questioningly, and he simply reached over, wrapped his hand around the nape of her neck, and pulled her to him for a tender kiss. Nancy's lips quivered as his brushed softly across them. She realized that this was not his way of starting an affair. He was saying good-bye. Tears streamed down her face, at the thought of never seeing him again.

Da-nar' tasted her tears, as his lips softly brushed her cheeks. "Hey, now," he chided, "we'll have none of that. You have a husband at home who loves and needs you. You'll be fine." The sadness in his eyes told her that he, on the other hand, would wrestle with this situation for quite some time to come.

"I'm sorry. You must think all I ever do is cry," she said on a choked laugh.

"Hardly. You have always been one of the strongest women I knew. Things will work out for the best for you. I have to believe that. I hope that you do, too."

"I'm trying, but -"

"No buts. Nothing could make me more miserable, than knowing you are unhappy. If I have to live without you, at least let me go, knowing that you will be okay?" Nancy nodded. "Good. Now, Liz brought her cell phone with her. Once they are through their honeymoon, I'll have her come back to this side, and call you. Then she can make plans for you to visit. I'll make sure that Michael comes to escort you at that time."

The finality of what those words implied pierced Nancy's heart. He truly intended to avoid her at all costs, never wanting to see her again. Unable to find her voice, she nodded in response, and then turned to stare out the window. Without another word, Da-nar' put the Jeep in gear, and drove her home.

posted on 2-Feb-2002 8:48:25 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone!

I'm here to ask for your patience and understanding. I am really having a struggle with myself as to how best to handle this whole nookie issue. I know that you all are hanging by a thread, but I need to work this through in my head, so that I can post something that I won't be totally embarrassed by. There are just too many roads to choose from, and so I beg your forgiveness, while I wrestle with this. I hope to have a new part out for you soon. I actually have the whole next part almost written, but am not sure now if I will post that, or toss it out.

Feel free to send me those infamous Roswell vibes! I could sure use some!

Love,
Fran
posted on 3-Feb-2002 11:02:15 PM by sheeperz
Hi again! Thanks so much for your kindness, patience, and encouraging words. It means so much!

Welcome to the new folks - Cinder and Cybrclouds!

A special thanks to Linda and Phae, for their sweet spirits, and their loving support, helping me work through this stuff! You guys are great! *bounce*

I won't spend a lot of time chatting, cuz it's late, and the board is working slow for me. So, here's the next part - hope you all aren't disappointed!

Part Thirty-seven

Isabel had dragged Max and Zan out of the banquet chamber, before they took the brides to get undressed. The two young men looked at each other, wondering what was up, but they weren't about to question their sister. They both valued their health too much.

When they were all congregated in one of the other rooms, Isabel clued them in. "There is one more wedding tradition from Earth that we wanted you to have the pleasure of experiencing," she told them with a devious gleam in her eyes. "But we figured under the circumstances, it would be better for all involved, if you didn't participate in this rite in mixed company." All the girls, except for the blushing brides, were chuckling at the grooms' apparent confusion. "The ladies are, uh, wearing... garters," Isabel said, with a much too serious voice. "It probably would be a good idea, if you were to remove them. You can take them back, and do the garter toss with your single buddies, while we get your brides all spiffed up for you."

Max looked first at Zan, then Isabel, and shrugged. "Sure - whatever. But why the secrecy? Isn't this usually performed at the reception?" Zan rolled his eyes. His brother could be so naive sometimes, he had trouble believing they were actually related.

"Zan, why don't you go first?" Iz suggested. She wanted to save the best for last!

Zan shook his head, an amused grin plastered on his face. "Sure, Sis, no problem. You should know by now, I have no shame," he joked. Karanna gasped at his declaration. "Sh, baby, I was just kidding," he told her. "I promise, I won't embarrass you."

"You may not be able to help it," she murmured. Zan raised an inquiring brow, but she wasn't about to comment any further.

Lifting the hem of her gown, she held out the leg that bore the garter, and he wrapped his warm, trembling hands around her ankle, and seductively slid his hands up her calf, and over her knee. His shallow, labored breathing ceased, and his breath caught in his throat, as his hands began their achingly slow ascension up her soft, bare thigh. He let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding, when his hands finally found the garter. And none too soon, he thought in relief, as the all too familiar tightening in his groin screamed from being in such intimate contact with her, his face close enough to smell the scent of her arousal. Sliding the elasticized item downward, he swept it over her foot, and held it over his head in triumph. "See, Max?" he crowed, waving it in the air. "Nothing to it." He heard giggles coming from the circle of women surrounding them, and saw how deeply Liz blushed. He bit back the roar of laughter that was bubbling up inside him. Obviously, they decided to give their new king a challenge.

Blissfully unaware of the undercurrent in the room, Max boldly went to kneel before Liz. He raised one knee, and patted it, giving her an unspoken instruction to place her foot on his outstretched leg. Repeating his brother's sensual approach, he slid his hands up under the skirt of her gown, over her knee, and up her thigh. He got a puzzled look, when he didn't encounter the garter where he had assumed it would be. Slowly, he inched his outstretched fingers higher, his eyes raising to lock with Liz's, his chest heaving with the erratic respiration caused by his intense arousal. His heart pounded hard and loud, as his fingers ventured higher, higher... Finally, the tips of his fingers touched the frilly lace on the garter, and he exhaled on a great gust. Wanting to get this over with, he quickly slid his hands up to hook his thumbs in the elastic.

Big mistake. He had miscalculated just how high his hands already were, and that move sent his fingers into the moist curls between her thighs. His hands froze in place, and his eyes practically popped out, as they flew up to again meet Liz's. He saw her acute embarrassment, but more heady than that, was the way she bit her bottom lip in that sexy way she had, and her eyelids were at half-mast, which wasn't enough to conceal the arousal that was evident in her eyes. When he didn't move, she relaxed enough to release her lip, and darted her little pink tongue out to glide over her lips, wetting them. Seeing the way her lips glistened, made Max think of the moist flesh between her thighs, that was warm against the tips of his fingers. Watching her intently, he subtly traced the outside of her feminine folds with his questing fingers. She gave a little gasp, and then grabbed her lower lip between her teeth again. There was something so erotic about teasing her like this, right in front of a room full of people, while his actual actions remained hidden under the skirt of her silken dress.

With maddening precision, he nudged his fingers into her femininity, and found the swollen bud of her desire. He was breathing nearly as heavy as she, as his finger teased her into greater arousal. The scent of her was strong and heady, and he wanted to take her right then. To hell with bonding rituals. He ached to bury his throbbing hardness deep inside her.

Isabel looked from Max to his bride, and back. Their expressions said it all. "Max!" she shrieked. "What are you doing under there?! Never mind - rhetorical question! Just get the damn garter off!" A chorus of disapproving noises came from the group assembled around them.

Max and Liz exchanged a heated look - and then both burst into laughter. Seems they had turned the tables on their friends. They thought to embarrass Max and Liz, by having the garter so high on her thigh, but in the end, they had been the ones to become uncomfortable. Max wisely wiped the moisture off his fingers, onto the underside of her skirt, before removing the garter from Liz's leg. If he had pulled his hand out with evidence of her arousal glistening on his fingers, he never would have heard the end of it. Although, he was quite sure that Zan would have been proud of him. Just the thought made him chuckle again.

"All right, you two," Maria scolded the grooms, hands on her hips. "Time for you to scat. Go back to those other juvenile delinquents you call friends, and do whatever you want with those things," she gestured with a wave of her hand at the garters, "and leave us ladies to our business."

Max and Zan grabbed their brides simultaneously. "We're thinking that they don't need to do anything to get ready to bond. We like 'em just they way they are," Zan announced.

Isabel gave her brothers "the look", and snarled, "If you don't get out of here, you are going to be mighty sorry."

Max and Zan knew better than to mess with Iz in her commando mood. Dipping their heads like whipped puppies, they released Liz and Karanna, and mumbled, "Yes, ma'am," as they made their hasty retreat.

Once the door closed behind them, the bridal attendants broke into fits of laughter. Maria had tears rolling down her face. "Did you see the way they cowered, when you gave them that death stare?" she asked Isabel. "Priceless!"

Isabel smiled slyly. "Yes, it was, wasn't it. I'll have to remember how effective that look can be. Now," she said, clapping her hands in command, "let's get our brides to their new quarters!"

Isabel, Maria, Ava, and Courtney escorted Liz and Karanna through one of the corridors they hadn't yet been in. Stopping before one door, Courtney opened the way into a dimly lit chamber. "This way, your highness," she teased Liz.

Liz smiled at her friend's jesting, before turning to face her sister. "Well, I guess this is it. Just think - the next time I see you, I can finally give you a hug!"

"I'll look forward to it," Karanna confessed quietly. "All my life I've felt so alone - it will be good to have connections with other people finally - and some real family."

"You'll never be alone again, Karanna," Liz assured her. "Now, enjoy your wedding night," she said with a wink.

Karanna laughed. "You too, big sister." Liz gazed for another moment at her twin - who was a whole year younger than she. Life certainly had its bizarre twists. Then, with a smile, she turned to follow Maria and Ava into the room. Courtney and Isabel would accompany Karanna to her bridal chamber.

Once inside, Ava waved her hand to light several candles, revealing the rest of the transformation the cold stone room had undergone at the hands of Liz's talented friends. "Oh, you guys, this is so amazing," she whispered in awe. Her eyes excitedly roamed the room, taking in the walls that were draped in silk, as the Rotunda had been. Colorful flowers that Liz decided must be Antarian, were in two vases, located on the ledges that ran along the length of two of the walls. The floor was covered with red rose petals.

Maria saw Liz looking at the floor. "We were going to go with white for the virginal bride theme," she said with a smirk, "but then we decided red for passion was much more fun!" She burst into a wide smile, seeing Liz's blush.

Recovering, Liz commented, "Well, you did a beautiful job, anyway. Thanks so much. I - I guess I probably ought to, uh, you know..." She gestured nervously toward the bed. "What I mean, is, I better get ready for bed. I don't know when Max will be, um, joining me...."

Liz noticed Maria looking nervously toward Ava, who rolled her eyes in response. Taking her cue from Maria's hesitation, Ava informed Liz, "We can't leave you just yet. There are certain... preparations that need to be attended to, before you receive your groom."

"Preparations?" Liz choked out, her face growing hot with embarrassment.

"Yes, you see, Ge-lar has prepared a special herbal oil, which we are to massage into your skin. The herbs in it will heighten your bonding experience," she explained, totally unaffected by talking about such personal matters. "One of the herbs' properties will be absorbed through your skin, and once in your blood stream, it will stimulate the pleasure center in your brain. The other main herb in the oil will sensitize your nerve endings, making the pleasure of Max's touch more stimulating."

"Oh, is that all?" Liz asked with playful sarcasm.

Ava giggled, but then grew serious again. "Actually, no, that's not all. If you inhale, you can see there is a rather pleasant scent to the oil. It is an Antarian form of aromatherapy, again, designed to stimulate a couple."

"I don't understand why this had to be spread over my body, though," Liz grumbled. "I mean, why couldn't we just drink a tea, like Ge-lar' made earlier for Max?"

"Mmm, you could," Ava agreed, "for most of the herbs, anyway. The one that stimulates your nerve endings is actually most effective by being applied topically, which is why it is placed in a carrier oil. And as long as you have the one in the oil, why not them all? Besides, it's more fun for you both, to have Max ingest the herbs this way."

"I-ingest?" Liz stuttered.

Ava's eyes twinkled. "Yes, ingest. You see, when Max makes love to you... well, you know what's going to happen, right?" she asked, wondering if Liz was that innocent.

Embarrassed, Liz averted her eyes as she mumbled, "Pretty much, yeah."

"Okay. Well, whenever Max, uh, sucks or licks your skin... he'll be getting a healthy dose of the herbs himself. Over all, it should make for quite the experience," she told her bluntly. "I must say, I rather envy you," she added with a wink.

"Uh, I don't know about this," Liz hesitated. "I mean, the encounters that Max and I have already shared have been plenty stimulating enough. I'm liable to go into orbit if the experience gets any more pleasurable. And he certainly doesn't need any more stimulation." She looked up at Maria's gasp. She could see her friend's shallow breathing, and the way her breasts were responding to the discussion about sexual response. She couldn't help wondering if Maria was thinking about Michael. The thought of it brought a smile to her face.

Ava, too, saw Maria's reaction. "Down, girl," she commanded their friend. "If you're a good girl, maybe Ge-lar' can concoct something to help you and Michael have a good time." She laughed at Maria's outraged gasp. "Yeah, yeah, don't try to deny you have the hots for the boy. I have eyes in my head, remember." Maria blushed in response.

"Ava? Why would Ge-lar' have to make a different oil for Maria?" Liz asked, wondering just what was in the mixture.

Ava guided Liz toward the bed, as she began to answer her question. "Well, you see, these herbs are only effective on Antarians. Talerians are immune to their effects, and I guess humans must be too, because Ge-lar' felt that it was perfectly all right for either Maria or me to apply your oil. On the other hand, Courtney has to prepare Karanna, because Isabel is part Antarian, and would herself be affected by the oil. Besides, Isabel and Maria have too many hang-ups, to be able to perform the ritual of bonding preparation."

"Hang-ups? Just what all does this entail?" Liz asked suspiciously.

"Nothing awful, don't worry," Ava assured her with a smirk, as she began unfastening the buttons at the back of Liz's gown. "It's just that humans tend to suffer from a lot of sexual inhibitions that Antarians and Talerians don't have. Our peoples are very sensual by nature, as you will soon discover. There is nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality, Liz. It's what you do with it that matters. As long as your passion is for your husband, why not enjoy it? It's certainly what God intended, isn't it?"

"Y-yes, I suppose so," Liz answered nervously, as Ava peeled the gown away from her, leaving her naked body completely exposed to her two friends. She had never like being naked in front of other people, even when it was just the girls in the locker room at school. Heck, she didn't even like her mother to see her unclothed. She slid a glance in Maria's direction, to assess how her best friend was responding to all of this. She could tell that Maria was as uncomfortable as she, because her eyes were roaming the room, looking at everything but what was transpiring between Ava and Liz.

Ava's voice cut into her thoughts. "We'll leave your hair pulled up for now, so that it won't get in the way while I'm massaging the oil into your skin." She pulled back the covers on the bed, revealing the satin sheets. "Lie down on your stomach, Liz, and we'll get started. The sooner we finish, the sooner you can make love to your husband."

Not knowing what else to do, Liz complied with Ava's wishes. Sliding onto the sheets, she reveled in the feel of them against her naked body - especially the way it felt against the sensitive tips of her breasts. With a soft moan, she relaxed into the mattress, realizing that she was actually tired, now that she was stretched out. Bringing her arms up and crossing them under her head, she closed her eyes, and waited for Ava to complete her task.

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

Courtney had just finished explaining what was going to happen to Karanna. Her heart went out to the young girl, who was lying curled up on the bed, naked, trembling at the thought of what they were about to do. Courtney reached out and placed a comforting hand on Karanna's shoulder. "Hey, it's going to be all right," she told the young girl. "I'm not going to do anything to hurt you. As a matter of fact, this should be very pleasant, from everything I've ever heard about it."

"It - it just seems wrong," Karanna choked out. "I don't want a woman touching me in ways that are meant for Zan to touch me. Why can't he apply the oil?"

Courtney smirked. "Because, dear heart, your groom is so horny right now, that if he gets these herbs in his system too soon, he'd be over the moon, long before he ever got inside you - do you understand my meaning?"

Karanna's eyes widened like saucers. "The herbs make you -?"

"Horny as hell," Courtney said baldly. "They stimulate the pleasure center in your brain, and the nerve endings in your skin. When Zan touches you, you'll think you've died and gone to heaven," she predicted with a wink. "The whole purpose is, that Zan is not going to have a lot of restraint coming out of the starting gate tonight, and the herbs are kind of like your handicap.... they'll level the playing field, so that hopefully you can have an enjoyable experience your first time out."

"You mean, they'll help me to, uh, um..."

"Achieve an orgasm. Yes. God, girl! You better loosen up before Zan gets here, or you are gonna have one rough night ahead of you."

"W-what do you mean? Zan would never hurt me!"

"Not intentionally, but you have to understand - he isn't just aroused with normal male hormones. You have this whole other bonded thing going on, and that is going to create an urgency to mate, that he might not be able to suppress. You need to relax, and let the herbs do their job. Then you'll be more than ready to join with Zan, okay?" She didn't tell Karanna that Ge-lar' had slipped a trace amount of an herb that would relax her into the formula.

Gathering her resolve, because she wanted more than anything to please Zan, Karanna reluctantly nodded her agreement, and Courtney began the massage.

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

Liz's skin quivered, when she felt a slow, sensual dribble of warm oil being poured down her spine. She heard Ava set the container down on the table next to the bed, before straddling Liz's legs, to position herself to begin. Liz was so tense, that she nearly jumped when Ava first placed her hands on her back. With slow, methodical movements, she spread the oil out from Liz's spine, to cover her back, shoulders, and neck. She massaged the tense muscles at Liz's nape, then fanned out to rub the oil into her shoulders, and upper arms. Dragging her fingertips lightly downward, she positioned her hands, and covered the expanse of Liz's back with broad, sweeping strokes, that casually grazed the sides of her breasts, as she smoothed the herbal mixture over her sides.

Where the massage had seemed soothing at first, Liz now found her body becoming stimulated by what Ava was doing. Her body felt like it was humming with sexual anticipation, each stroke of Ava's hands making her more aroused. She was amazed at how quickly the herbs were working. At least, she wanted to believe that it was the herbs making her feel this way.

Ava reached for the oil again, this time drizzling it over Liz's buttocks and thighs. She dispersed the oil, and then began to knead it into Liz's firm, smooth flesh. Her fingers dipped between Liz's thighs, as she distributed the warm liquid all the way to their very tops.

Liz bit back a moan, when the backs of Ava's fingers inadvertently brushed against her warm femininity, where Max had been stroking her not that long ago. She could feel an ache beginning between her legs, that she knew only Max could satisfy. She wished that Ava would hurry up and finish this, so that she could be alone with Max.

When Ava finished Liz's backside by rubbing her feet, she commanded, "Turn over."

"What?!" Liz shrieked, looking back at Ava over her shoulder.

"I said to turn over. I need to do your front."

"M-m-my front?" Liz rasped.

Ava laughed. "Don't worry, Liz. I'm not going to ravish you, and ruin you for Max," she teased. But even as she said it, Ava had to acknowledge to herself that the prospect of touching Liz was appealing. Where the hell did that idea come from? she wondered. It was then that she realized that her own body was feeling strangely warm and aroused, her hands tingling, as they touched Liz, to urge her to flip over. Could it be that humans are susceptible to the effects of the herbs, and Ge-lar' is unaware of it? Then she had a shocking thought. Ge-lar' said he had doubled the strength of the herbs in the traditional oil, since Liz and Karanna were only half Antarian. But if their human half responded to the herbs as well, what kind of reaction would that cause? The thought was lost, when she heard Liz addressing her.

"I didn't think you were going to ravish me," Liz told her curtly, as she rolled over. The truth was, Liz was embarrassed by the way that her body was responding to Ava's touch. She wanted it to be Max's hands roving over her body, inciting her senses to riot. She was afraid that if he knew how Ava was arousing her, he would think she was unnatural, or something. The feel of the warm oil pooling between her breasts brought her attention back to the present. She watched, as Ava reached toward the puddle on her chest, but stopped with her hand poised mere inches from Liz's skin.

Pulling back, Ava turned to Maria. "Would you please go tell Max that Liz will be ready in about 20 minutes?"

Relieved that she had an excuse to be anywhere but here, watching another girl touching her best friend in such an intimate way, Maria leaped at the opportunity. Pivoting on her heel, she made haste, as she exited the room. Later would be soon enough to think on why she found the whole process so arousing.

Once she was out of the room, Liz asked Ava, "Why did you really send Maria away?"

"Because I knew she was uncomfortable, and I thought it might be less embarrassing for you, if you didn't have an audience for the rest of this."

"Thank you."

"Sure, no problem." Ava looked at the pool of oil between Liz's breasts. "Would you like to, uh, do this part yourself?" she asked. Liz sighed in relief, and nodded. As Liz spread the oil over the ivory mounds, Ava began to pour more oil slowly over Liz's abdomen. Ava watched as Liz's breasts heaved with her shallow, labored breaths. Obviously the herbs were having a pronounced affect on her as well. Max is going to be one lucky guy tonight, she thought with a smile. Ava covered the length of Liz's body with the oil, and just when Liz thought they were through, Ava even blushed, when she informed her there was one more place to cover. Correctly interpreting the source of Ava's distress, Liz whispered, "No. You don't mean -?"

Ava nodded. "Look, you can take care of that, while I get out the nightgown you'll be wearing. Just let me know when you're done."

Liz covered her face with her hands. "I don't believe this. Why did Ge-lar' insist this be done?"

"I don't think he realized just how uncomfortable it would be for you. Like I said, this is a traditional ritual on Antar." With that, she turned and walked to the armoire on the other side of the room, and pretended to be busy, while she waited for Liz to finish.

Liz sighed. "Okay, I'm finished." Closing her eyes, Liz tried to ignore the exquisitely arousing sensations, as her fingers quickly applied the last of the oil there. She couldn't help but wonder how Karanna was faring with this whole ritual thing.

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

Karanna was lying as stiff as a board, while Courtney tried in vain to get her muscles to relax. She was glad that Isabel had devised an excuse to leave the room. The last thing she needed right now was an audience. Karanna could never have admitted it, but having Courtney touch her in such a sexual way was actually stirring the passion in her. Her breasts tingled, and ached to be caressed, as Courtney rubbed the oil over them. How she wished that Zan was here to touch her - even more intimately than Courtney was.

As the thought came to her mind, Karanna was surprised and relieved in equal measure. The herbs must be doing their job, she thought, now pleased that she had relented, and let Courtney plaster her with the thick, warm liquid. She had been almost dreading their wedding night, afraid and inhibited to let Zan see her totally naked. Yet now, here she was, anticipating the time that she would be in his arms, taking him deep inside of her. Man and woman, becoming one in body, soul, and spirit. She sighed, as her body relaxed under Courtney's ministrations, and Courtney smiled to herself. She'd have to remember to tell Ge-lar' that the sedative was a good choice.

When they were finished with Karanna's rubdown, Courtney went to an armoire that stood in the corner of the room. Opening it, she removed a nightgown that was guaranteed to set Zan's blood on fire. Courtney snorted softly, as she thought, Like he needs any help in that department. She went back to the bed, where Karanna was sprawled on her stomach, unwound to the point of almost drifting off. Courtney smiled to herself, thinking how Karanna's sense of peaceful relaxation would go up in flames, the moment that Zan touched her.

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

Liz gasped, when the nightgown that Ava had pulled over her head fell into place. Looking down at the sheer garment, she had the fleeting thought that a nightie made out of a spiderweb would probably cover her more substantially. In her estimation, she might as well not be wearing anything it all, with the way the gossamer-like material adhered to her oil-slicked body. It certainly left nothing to the imagination.

Liz looked up, to see Ava watching her with a broad grin on her face. "What?" Liz asked defensively.

"Nothing," Ava quickly assured her. "I was just thinking."

"About what?"

"I wish I could see the look on Max's face, when he gets his first glimpse of you, is all. I bet he gets so hot and bothered, he passes out." She tossed back her head and laughed at the image it conjured in her mind.

Liz worried her lip, then smiled shyly in response. "You think so?" she asked, wanting her remaining insecurities banished.

"Oh, definitely," Ava said, nodding with approval. "If I were you, I'd resign myself right now to the idea of being completely ravished, by the time this is all through." She let out a giggle, then added, "Oh! I almost forgot!" She went back to the armoire, and pulled out a tube from the drawer at the bottom. She shook it playfully in the air. "This is a little gift you can share with your groom," she told Liz with another giggle.

"What is it?"

"It's another of Ge-lar's special concoctions," she informed her.

Liz waited a few seconds for further explanation. When none was forthcoming, she cocked an inquisitive brow. "And?" she prompted.

Ava blushed. So much for Talerians having fewer sexual hang-ups than humans, she thought to herself. Taking a deep breath, she said on a rush, "And this one's for Max. Only, you don't have to put it all over him. Just... on a certain rather hard part of him, if you follow." Ava couldn't believe how difficult this was to talk about. She never had any inhibitions about being buck naked and doing all sorts of wild things with Zan, but discussing sex with another woman, she discovered, was a little unsettling.

"Uh, maybe I'll let him take care of that," Liz suggested, blushing.

Ava shrugged. "Whateva," she said, slipping back into that street dialect she was trying so hard to overcome. "I don't think it makes much difference how it gets there. But Ge-lar' seemed to think it would make things, uh, easier for you if Max used it. And to answer your question from before, this will help Max to keep from getting overstimulated." She abruptly handed it to Liz, and then fussed with the curtains that hung from the old-fashioned canopy on the bed.

As they fell into place, blocking her from Liz's view, she said, "Max should be here any minute. Just relax, and enjoy your evening." Liz heard her footsteps as they crossed the room. The hinges on the door creaked as it opened, and then she heard Ava's startled cry, "Max! Geez, I didn't know you were out here! Scare a girl to death!" Pause. "Well, go on in! Liz is waitin' for ya."

Ava cringed, when she caught herself talking with a slight accent again. Her nerves were shot. She couldn't wait to get to her room, and wash this stuff off her hands. Then maybe her libido would settle down. She heard Max close the door, as she scurried down the hall.

Max felt like the air in the bridal chamber was practically humming, as he entered. His arousal was so swift, he gasped with the onslaught. He swallowed once... twice... and then managed to softly call to his bride. "Liz?"

"In here, Max," came the husky reply.

Max walked to the bed, and parted the curtain. He didn't know what he was expecting, but it sure wasn't what he found. Liz was on her knees in the middle of the bed, in a nightgown - could it even classify as one? he wondered - that made her look more naked than if she had nothing on at all. He wasn't quite sure how that worked, but the blood pounding through his veins assured him it was so. For several moments, he stood and simply stared at her, like a kid in a candy store. He had determined in his own mind that he was going to be slow and gentle with his virgin bride, not only to avoid hurting her, but to let her know how loved and cherished she was. But faced with this? He wondered if he'd even get out of his clothes before he exploded. Well, that certainly would slow things down, he thought ruefully.

"Max? Are you okay?"

"I, uh - wow. " He nervously scratched the back of his head. "That's, uh, some nightgown, Liz." He felt the heat of his blush all the way down his neck and onto his chest. Perfect counterbalance for all the heat he was experiencing in his lower regions.

Liz blushed too, under his appraisal. "I feel ridiculous in it," she confessed, "but I didn't want to hurt Ava's feelings."

"Ava gave you that? Geez, no wonder Zan -" He bit off the rest of the sentence, when he realized what he was about to say. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I guess I'm just a little overwhelmed here, and without any blood left going to my brain, my tongue is sort of on its own."

"Hmmm, yeah, that could be a problem," Liz said thoughtfully. It didn't escape Max's notice, that her breasts heaved with every breath - and oh! what breasts they were! - and her voice was thready, as if she were aroused as much as he was. This gave him great hope. "Perhaps we could engage your tongue in some sort of activity, other than talking?" she suggested.

"I - yeah, that would be great," Max agreed eagerly. "But I need to warn you - I think I may be beyond any form of self-control at this point. So please, don't go out of your way to tease, okay? Not the first time, anyway."

First time? Liz thought. Oh, this is going to be a great night! She smiled broadly at him. "Okay, Max, I'll try to be a good girl."

"Well, let's not get carried away," he growled, as he knelt onto the edge of the bed, and reached for her.

Liz jumped back, as if she had been burned. Her next words were like a slap in his face. "Max! No!"

posted on 6-Feb-2002 1:16:52 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone.

Sorry for the delay. When I finish, I will actually be posting TWO parts, because it is so long. But I refuse to keep you hanging any more, by only posting one part.

However, I have to go for an endometrial biopsy this afternoon, and am not quite sure how I will feel afterward. I have quite a bit written already, but Max and Liz are not being as cooperative and Zan and Karanna were. Although they are having some fun in the process of getting there. ;-) And some heartache, I will admit. And I refuse to leave you in the middle of such torment. So if you can hang in there just a bit longer....

Thanks to all of you, who have made writing this a true labor of love. I never dreamed when I started this, that it would turn into an epic such as it has, but I've had a blast with it.

Oh, and a special thanks to Jason Behr and Shiri Appleby, for bringing Max and Liz to life for us, eh? Too bad they can't get some decent script to work with, though.... *grumblegrumble* *sad*

Anyway, I'll hopefully be posting the next TWO PARTS *hehehehe* soon!

Love,
Fran
posted on 6-Feb-2002 10:33:39 PM by sheeperz
**WARNING**
The next two parts skate around the NC-17 line. May be considered to cross it, not sure. Explicit, but tasteful language, I believe.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! LOL *big*

Moving on....

Okay - my test market wasn't around tonight, so I hope this passes muster! LOL sorry for the wait, hope you all enjoy it. Let me know!

Part Thirty-eight

The gang had all congregated back in the banquet room, after the festivities had concluded. The girls came in giggling, Maria and Isabel carrying the bridal bouquets they had managed to catch earlier in the evening. When they walked in, the guys had completely restored order to the room, so that it was impossible to tell a wedding reception had just taken place there.

"So," Ava called out impishly, as she entered, "who caught the garters?"

"That would be me!" Kyle. Ava's heart sank into her shoes. She wished she had caught one of the bouquets, now.

"And me!" Eddie wiggled the garter from the ends of his fingers. Oh, this is going to be interesting, she thought.

"Well, well, well," Courtney said, amused. "Who'd have ever thought it? Okay, who caught Max's garter?"

"I did," Kyle answered, suspicious of her wide grin.

"Okay, let's see... Isabel caught Liz's bouquet, so you two are together. That means Maria and Eddie are paired together." Courtney cast a sideways glance in Michael's direction, to see how he would react. She was surprised, when he just stood there impassively.

Jim Valenti pulled out two chairs, and invited the ladies to have a seat. Maria buried her face in her hands. "I can't believe this," she muttered. "First that whole scene in Liz's room, and now this!" She didn't realize that Eddie had already come to kneel in front of her.

"What scene in Liz's room?" he asked innocently.

Maria looked up and gasped, then promptly turned a becoming shade of pink. "Uh, never mind," she mumbled. "Can we just get this over with?" Eddie nodded with a mischievous grin, and began to run the garter up Maria's leg.

Watching Michael from the corner of her eye, Courtney spurred Eddie on, as the garter slid over Maria's knee. "Keep going!" she encouraged, clapping her hands. "Remember, the higher the garter, the longer the marriage will last!"

Courtney knew the exact moment, when Michael finally caught on to what was going to happen. She wouldn't have been surprised to see flames coming out of his nostrils, he was so angry.

When Eddie had worked the garter halfway up Maria's thigh, Michael stepped forward and put a hand on Eddie's shoulder. "I think that's far enough. That ought to buy Zan and Karanna a good 50 or 60 years, don't you think?" he snapped. Maria blushed, and everyone else, Eddie included, had a good chuckle.

When Eddie got up, Michael reached out for Maria's hand. Pulling her out of the chair, he wrapped his arm possessively around her waist. "I hope you all won't be offended, but I need to talk privately with Maria. Excuse us." With that, he ushered her out of the room, accompanied by hoots and whistles.

"Well, I guess that leaves Kyle and Isabel," Courtney said, returning to the festivities.

Kneeling before Isabel, Kyle stretched the garter, and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Ready, Princess?" he asked with a leer.

Just to prove he couldn't rattle her, Isabel hiked her dress up to just below her panty line. "Ready when you are, handsome," she cooed, fluttering her eyelashes.

Caught in his own trap, Kyle just stared at the great length of exposed leg that was in front of him. It was so smooth, and firm, and.... Dear Lord. He swallowed hard, and his mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton. Clearing his throat, he attempted to make a lighthearted statement. "Okay then," he squeaked, "here we go." Isabel smirked at his discomfort, and lifted her foot to his hands. With trembling fingers, Kyle lifted the garter over her shapely foot, and slowly raised it upward over the calf of her leg, his palms lightly grazing her skin in the garter's wake.

Isabel managed to keep a bright smile on her face, but her teeth were clamped tightly together. Kyle's fingers were wreaking havoc with her senses. When he reached her knee, he paused, and looked into her eyes. Lifting her brows, she said tauntingly, "Well?"

"H-how far do you want me to go with this thing?"

"Hmmm. Well, I do love my brother and Liz an awful lot," she said, looking upward, as if contemplating her answer. "And I certainly want them to have a long and happy marriage." She paused, and lowered her eyes to bore into his. "Don't you?" she said, almost accusingly.

"O-of course," Kyle agreed quickly. He didn't know what game she was playing, but he learned a long time ago, you don't piss off an alien.

"Well, then," she said casually, as if the matter was settled, "act accordingly." Isabel just wanted to push Kyle's buttons, but what she didn't anticipate, was that she was simultaneously pushing Alex's as well. He stood off to the side, arms crossed over his chest, the heat of his anger evident in the red stain on his cheeks.

"Okay, Princess," Kyle retorted lecherously, catching on to her game. No woman, human or alien, or any combination thereof, was gonna make him look like a wuss. "A loooong and happy marriage it shall be."

Isabel caught the look of defiance and determination in Kyle's eyes, as his hands slid up her thigh, intentionally stroking her ivory flesh as he went. Her heart began to thunder in her chest, wondering if she had pushed him too far. When he reached the middle of her thigh, and showed no indications of stopping, she should have slapped his hands away. But she was frozen in shock, and sat mutely, as he continued to push the garter higher on her thigh.

At the point where the garter disappeared under the folds of Isabel's hiked up skirt, Alex stormed out of the room, slamming the door as he left. Startled, Kyle looked up to see what the commotion was about, and his eyes fell on Ava, just as she was turning to run out the door herself. But she didn't turn away before he saw the tears spilling over her lashes.

"Oh shit," he muttered under his breath, and pulled his hands away from Isabel's leg, which caused the elastic to snap against her thigh.

"Ouch!" she cried, and slapped him on the side of the head. "What the hell did you do that for?"

"Sorry, but we have bigger worries right now."

"Huh?" She regarded him with total confusion.

"Alex and Ava both just flew out of here, like they were being chased by the Hounds of Hell. My guess is, we crossed the line with our antics."

"That would be my guess, son," Jim spoke up. "Far be it from me to be a party pooper, but you don't live this long, without coming to the realization that sometimes you have to consider how your shenanigans are going to affect other people." He gave Kyle a pointed look.

Isabel had the good grace to look chagrined. "It's my fault. I shouldn't have provoked you so," she apologized to Kyle. Vaulting to her feet, she urged him, "Come on, we better go catch up with them."

"Tea, anyone?" Ge-lar' asked casually, after Kyle and Isabel had rushed out.

"Yeah, might as well," Da-nar' answered. "No one but us old folks left now."

"Da-nar'!" Jim said disapprovingly.

"What? I realize you aren't as old as I am, but - "

"Not me." He inclined his head in Courtney's direction.

Da-nar' laughed out loud. "Courtney? You're worried about her being classified as an old timer, with the rest of us?" He laughed again.

"I fail to see what's so funny," Valenti groused.

"What amuses Da-nar' so," Courtney interjected, "is the fact that in Earth years, I'm several years older than you are. So don't worry that he's offending my youthful sensibilities."

"Wow," Jim said reverently. "You sure age gracefully, Courtney."

Courtney gave him her best smile. "Why thank you, Sheriff."

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

Zan slipped into the room where he had been told Karanna awaited him. The room was bathed in a soft glow from the candles that were burning around the room. He inhaled deeply, and instantly felt the tightening in his loins. No doubt about it. Karanna was in there somewhere. He noticed the curtains that hung presumably around the perimeter of the bed. With a pleased smile, he approached them, and parted them, eager to find his waiting bride.

Despite the overriding urgency his hormones were creating, his heart swelled with tenderness for the beautiful young woman who was stretched out on his bed, waiting for him. Her soft, warm eyes looked up at him with adoration, and drew him in. As he climbed up on the oversized bed, and moved toward her, the emeralds in his belt began to hum. He was startled at first, and then looked shyly toward Karanna. "Well, I guess there's no doubt now, how being near you affects me, is there?" he said in a low, seductive voice.

Karanna smiled gently, and looked at him through lowered lashes. "Come closer, then," she invited. As he did, the emeralds sounded louder. Or at least, Zan thought perhaps they did. He wasn't sure. His heartbeat was echoing so loudly in his ears, he wasn't sure if anything he heard was real of imagined.

As he knelt right beside her, he whispered, "God, baby, you are a vision." He reached out to lightly run a finger over the hardened tip of one breast. He was shocked, when she moaned, and arched her back, silently begging for more. His heart came up in his throat. He never imagined she would be this responsive. Things had been hot between them before, but never like this. "Karanna?" he asked softly. "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not okay," she pouted. "They put this oil all over me, Zan. It has these herbs in it, to make me, uh, um..."

"Responsive?" he ventured.

Karanna nodded. "God, Zan, I'm dying here," she whispered. "Will you please, make love to me, before I crawl out of my skin?"

"Oh, sweetheart," he groaned. He started to reach for her, and then stopped.

"Zan? What is it?"

"I was just thinking," he said. "What did they do with the earrings from your grandmother?"

"Uh, I think Isabel put them in a drawer in the armoire over there," she said, pointing across the room. "Why?"

Zan laid his fingers over her lips. "Just wait a sec." He rummaged through the drawers, until he found the earrings. He brought them back to her, and asked her to put them on. Karanna rose to her knees, looking at him, puzzled. "Just trust me. I want to see something." She nodded, and slipped them into her ears. While she did, Zan stood and removed his pants, before climbing back onto the bed. He left the tunic and shirt on under the wide gold belt. When she was finished donning the jewels, he reached out, grasped the hem of her nightgown, and slowly lifted it over her head.

"You are so beautiful," he complimented her in a husky voice. "I feel like a starving man at a banquet. I don't know what to go for first." He reached out and ran his fingers over her in reverent awe. Her head fell back, as she arched, seeking more contact with his masterful hands. Her eyes were closed, her body swimming in delightful sensations that were so intense, they were almost painful. So it was, that she never saw him lower his head to her breast, and the stimulation his mouth caused as it gently worshipped her tender flesh produce a soft shriek of ecstasy to burst forth from her. She grabbed his head in her hands, holding him closer, as he continued to torment her in the sweetest of ways. The emeralds in her ears began to glow softly, and they resonated in harmony with the ones in Zan's belt. The ache building inside her was demanding to be satisfied, but she was so swept up in the passion he was building, she couldn't utter one articulate word to save her life, let alone her sanity.

But Zan knew. With the expertise of a well-seasoned master, his fingers went to the juncture of her thighs, where she ached to be touched. "Zan!" she cried out, reflexively grinding against his hand. "Oh, God, we have to stop. I forgot about the cream!"

"Cream?" he echoed, continuing his ministrations. "What cream, baby?"

"S-something herbal Ge-lar' sent for you," she choked out. She ran her hand over his arousal, eliciting a groan. "For this," she said, stroking him again.

Zan grabbed her hand, to still her movements. "Sweetheart, please stop. I want to be buried deep inside you when I come. Don't deprive me of that pleasure."

Karanna peered at him with hooded eyes. She could see his jaw working with the effort to maintain control. "That's what the cream is for," she told him breathlessly. "To make you... less sensitive."

"Huh?! What the hell would I want to do that for?" he asked, shaking his head. Surely his thinking was muddled. Nothing she was saying made sense.

She bit her bottom lip, before responding, "Courtney said it would help, so you wouldn't be too.... aggressive the first time." Her voice dropped to a choked whisper. "So it won't hurt so much."

Zan could see the fear that was lying beneath her intense arousal. As eager as she seemed to be for him, she was still afraid he would hurt her. "Oh, my sweet love," he crooned softly. "Are you so afraid of me?"

Tears welled in her eyes. "I - I don't want to be," she confessed. "But I've read that it can hurt, and there's bleeding..."

Keeping a tight lid on his passion, as well as his temper, Zan lovingly brushed the hair back from her face, stroking her cheeks with his thumbs. "Yes, I suppose it can hurt, but I promise I'll be gentle." He brow creased with agitation. "And I don't need some damn cream to give me the self-control to do it, either. I may be an over-stimulated teenage male, but I'm not an inexperienced virgin." He saw the injured look that his egotistical declaration produced. "I'm sorry, baby, I didn't say that to hurt you," he said, and softly kissed her lips. "I just meant, that I know enough about my body, to be able to hold back my more violent urges, so I can be gentle with you. Can you trust me, Karanna?"

Her response was of the nonverbal variety. She began insistently tugging on the tunic he wore, pulling it free from the confines of the belt. Once it was released, she tugged it off over his head.

"I take it, that's a yes?" he ventured, with a satisfied grin.

Karanna looked up into his eyes, hers burning with passion for him. Their eyes locked, she deftly worked the buttons loose down the front of his shirt. When it gaped open, she slid her hands inside the parted material, running her fingers over the firm muscles of his chest, reveling in the rock-solid feel of him beneath her palms. Zan's eyes closed, as he tried to maintain his control, while allowing her to explore his body. It didn't take long for him to realize that it just wasn't going to work.

"Sweetheart, you have to stop," he gently urged. "After the first time, you can explore me all you want. But I've been waiting so long for you, that if you want me to have some self-control, you're going to have to save your exploring for the next go-round, all right?"

Karanna's face registered her disappointment, but she nodded, and slid her hands up to his shoulders, to push the shirt off and down his arms. If she couldn't touch him, the least he could do was let her have an eyeful, she figured.

Once his arms were free of the sleeves, Zan pulled the tails out from under the belt. Gently, he pushed her down onto her back. "Well," he said with a smirk, "I never thought I'd make love wearing nothing but a belt." Karanna giggled, as she gazed up at him. "Although, I must say, the sight of you lying there in nothing but your grandmother's jewels warms... well, it ain't my heart, darlin'," he finished in his best western drawl.

With a sensual growl, he straddled her thighs, and bending down, buried his face in the side of her neck. He nuzzled her until she tipped her head, presenting the smooth expanse of her neck for his pleasure. As his tongue teased the sensitized skin of her neck, her pulse beat wildly in the vein at its base. He placed the tips of his fingers over it, delighting in the rapid pounding that signified her desire for him. His eyes drifted down to watch the rapid rise and fall of her firm breasts, as she fought to catch the breath that his actions seemed to be robbing from her.

As his hands slid down to capture her soft flesh, he lowered his mouth to hers, gently sucking on her bottom lip, until she opened for him. With great gentleness, his tongue began its quest into the sweetness of her mouth. With slow precision, his tongue stroked hers, then sought greater fulfillment, as it delved more deeply into her honeyed recesses.

While his hands and mouth continued to work their alien magic, he casually slipped first one knee, and then the other, between hers. Ever so slowly, he began to inch his knees farther apart, cautiously parting her legs, lest she become frightened. One of his hands left its post at her breast, and slid down to where she was now open and waiting for him to discover her feminine secrets. He carefully cupped her in the palm of his hand and rubbed her with gentle pressure, stoking the fires in her higher and higher, making her hungrier for him with every passing second. He felt jubilant, when, mindless with desire, she lifted her hips, pressing herself against his hand. The emeralds in her ears were glowing brightly now, their music like a sweet voice in the otherwise silent room.

It was only a few seconds, before Karanna's voice broke into the jewels' music. "Oh, God, Zan, please," she begged. "I need you, now!"

Zan chuckled, as he lowered himself toward her waiting body. "Far be it from me, to deny you what you really want," he told her. Even though his voice was teasing, Karanna could see the absolute conviction of his words, and the love that motivated them, written on his face. Never before had she felt so cherished. As he positioned himself, he asked her softly, "Are you ready?"

Unable to speak, she nodded her head vigorously. Zan smiled at her enthusiasm. Slowly, he began to enter her. He tensed, when her heard her gasp, but one look at her assured him that it was pleasure, not pain, that caused it. Stopping when he reached her barrier, he remained still for a moment - first, to keep from falling apart himself, and also to give her time to adjust to him. She was so small, and he was harder than he had ever been in his life. After a few seconds, it was Karanna who began wriggling beneath him, trying to get things going. Zan quickly began to withdraw, but stopped when he heard her whimper.

"What's the matter?" he asked with grave concern.

"Where are you going? Why are you pulling away?" she questioned him.

Zan chuckled. "I'm not going anywhere, don't you worry about that," he teased. He pulled back a little more, before plunging back in as far as her barrier. He repeated this a couple of times, before Karanna began to protest.

Clasping his buttocks firmly, she tried to draw him closer. "Deeper, Zan. I need to feel you all the way to my soul."

Zan fused their lips together in a bone-melting kiss. When he released her, he said, "I will, when the time is right. But for our bonding to be truly effective, you have to be patient." He began a slow rhythm, that Karanna was sure would make her go insane. Her muscles began to tighten with the exquisite torture she was being subjected to. When Zan heard her gasp, and felt her muscle grip him tighter, he knew that she was ready. He abandoned his own restraint, and opened himself to the mind-shattering culmination that he had been keeping at bay.

He called out Karanna's name in a hoarse shout, as ecstasy like nothing he'd ever known before seized him. Knowing that she was in the throes of her own release, he breached her feminine barrier, finally claiming her fully.

"Oh, God, ZAN!" she cried out, her climax intensifying as he rocked deep inside her. Her body jerked with the spasms of her release, which seemed to her to go on forever.

The gems that they wore no longer sounded a single chord, but with each pulse of their release, they resonated in varying pitches, creating, as it were a musical expression of their love.

For his part, Zan was amazed, that once he had spilled his seed within her, that he had the urge to continue their lovemaking. As he began the rhythm of love anew, he gave himself up to the desires of his passion. Now that she had fully received him, there was no more concern for her pain. Using his mouth, hands, and all his expertise, he brought them from one plateau of fulfillment to the next, until they both collapsed from sheer exhaustion.

Even then, Karanna begged him not to pull away from her. Now that they were joined, she ached at the thought of ever being apart from him again. Zan chuckled, and teased her that they might look a little funny, walking down the streets of Antarra in their present condition. Karanna slapped at his chest playfully, and told him that maybe she'd let him go - in a week or two. With a lazy grin, he told her that sounded fine to him. He bent and claimed her mouth, first languidly, and then with greater insistence, until they once again created a symphony of love.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Feb-2002 10:54:11 PM ]

posted on 6-Feb-2002 10:35:03 PM by sheeperz
***WARNING***

I'd say this definitely crosses the line. Be warned: NC-17 to follow.


Part Thirty-nine

"No?!" Max croaked. Was she kidding? After all they had been through, now that they were married, she wasn't going to let him touch her? "What the hell do you mean, 'no'?!" he demanded, shaking with need.

Liz held out her hand like a shield in front of her. "N-now Max, don't get upset," she pleaded, trying to reason with him. Then she realized what he thought she meant. "Oh, geez, Max, I didn't mean it like, 'No, don't make love to me', she said with a nervous giggle. I meant, 'No, wait just a second'. There is this, uh, herbal cream that Courtney gave to me for you..." She fumbled in the folds of the bedding, until her hand found what it sought. She held it up triumphantly. "Here!" she announced, as if that explained everything.

Max quirked a suspicious brow. "Here? Here what? What the hell is that stuff?"

"I told you," she scowled impatiently. "It's an herbal cream."

"Am I supposed to be psychic? What's it for?" Max could feel the perspiration beading on his chest and back.

"Oh! Well, um, uh...." Liz licked her lips nervously. Max felt himself grow harder, if it was possible, as he watched the tip of her tongue tease her luscious lips. He thought about how he wanted his tongue to be able to run around the perimeter of her mouth... Subconsciously, he began to move toward her again. "Now, Max!" she scolded. "Just wait a minute, will you?"

Max frowned. "So far, you haven't given me much of a good reason to," he grumbled.

"Well, Ava told me that you're to use this cream, before we... uh... consummate," she finished, proud of herself for coming up with the least sexual sounding term she could for what was about to take place.

"Use it how, Liz?" He had a pretty good idea what she was driving at, by the mere fact that she couldn't just come out and say it. He loved to see her all flustered, and decided to have a little fun with it, despite the aching insistence of a certain part of his body.

He had to restrain himself from laughing out loud at her blush. Apparently, he had surmised correctly. "Y-you have to put it... uh...." She pointed to the region between his hips. "There," she said decidedly.

"On my tunic?" he teased.

Liz put her fists on her hips. "No, 'not on your tunic'." she saucily mocked him. "Beneath it."

Max scratched his head, as if he hadn't a clue what she was talking about. "On my shirt?"

"Oh, for the love of heaven! You can't be this dense, Max Evans! I don't believe it for a minute!"

Max threw back his head and laughed, in spite of the fact that he was growing more and more uncomfortable by the minute. "Perhaps, if you can't articulate what you mean, woman, you should show me," he suggested helpfully.

Liz narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "Just what do you have up your sleeve, Max?" she accused.

Max pulled on his cuff, and looked up inside the garment. "Nothing up there," he remarked seriously.

"Haha, very funny, mister. I don't know if I dare get close enough to you to show you."

"Oh, I'll be a good boy." He held up his fingers in a pledge. "Scouts honor," he promised, tongue-in-cheek.

Liz crossed her arms over her chest. "Funny, I don't remember you ever being a scout."

"Oh, but I was," he insisted, his eyes wide and his expression serious. "Back in fourth grade. I was a scout for..." He stopped to count on his fingers, as he looked toward the ceiling in concentration. His eyes snapped back to hers, as he declared, "3 weeks. I was a scout for 3 whole weeks."

"And I suppose you can verify this?" she asked skeptically.

"Well, that might be kind of hard, now that we aren't on Earth anymore," he hedged.

"Oh! I bet Isabel could tell me!" she exclaimed, jumping off the bed and heading to the door. She knew what his game was now, and she was going to make him work for what he wanted.

Max chased her across the room, and caught up with her, just as she reached the door. She squealed as he grabbed her and spun her around, pinning her up against the door, caging her with his arms. "I'm sure Isabel wouldn't remember my stint in the Scouts," he told her.

"Yeah, you're right," she readily agreed. "3 weeks is pretty insignificant. Therefore, your use of the 'Scouts Honor' is hardly valid."

"Now wait a minute," he growled, leaning down and biting the side of her neck. "It may have only been 3 weeks, but it was hardly insignificant. It had a profound impact on me."

"Oh, really? So all of Antar has the Boy Scouts of America to thank, for shaping the future of their planet?"

"Something like that," he said, flashing her a disarming grin. "Now, enough nonsense. You're evading the issue, Mrs. Evans. Show me what to do with the cream," he demanded, nuzzling the side of her neck.

The sensations he was arousing in her, as his tongue licked over her heated skin, nearly overwhelmed her. To hell with the cream, she wanted him. Bad. "What cream?" she asked coyly, as she rubbed her body against his.

Max's breath hissed, as he inhaled sharply through clenched teeth. "You're playing with fire, Mrs. Evans. You'd better be careful."

"Careful is that last thing I intend on being," she murmured seductively.

"Oh, God," Max groaned, as she undulated against him again. His forehead came to rest against the door, over the top of her head. Liz felt his body stiffen suddenly. "Do you hear that?" he whispered.

Liz was running her hands over his back, as she held him close. "Hear what?" she inquired. "All I can hear is the pounding of the blood rushing through my veins."

"Sshh." He placed his fingers over her lips to halt the flow of words. "Listen." They both went totally silent, barely daring to breathe.

Then Liz heard it. It was a beautiful, clear sound - two notes sounding in perfect harmony. "What the heck?" Max was no longer leaning against the door, and she spun around to open it.

"Liz!" Max reprimanded her, as she darted out into the passageway. "Get back in here!" She turned to give him a inquisitive look. "You shouldn't be out there, dressed like that! What if someone comes along?"

"Geez, Max," she whispered, still intrigued by the music. "Who's going to 'come along'? Honestly. Zan and Karanna are busy..." She waggled her eyebrows at him. "And no one else is going to come along to spy on us. You worry too much." She placed her index finger over her lips, instructing him to be quiet. With that, she tiptoed down the hall, following the hauntingly familiar music. Where had she heard something like that before?

With Max following her, she tracked the sound to a door down the hall from their room. What could be in there? she wondered. Just as she reached for the handle to the door, she heard voices echoing into the hallway. Her brows furrowed, as she tried to make sense of the sounds emanating from within. Then her eyes went wide, and her hand slapped over her mouth, to prevent a startled gasp from escaping. She looked up at Max, to see if he had deduced what they had stumbled upon.

His eyes were alight with laughter, and the corner of his mouth twitched, as he tried to hide his amusement. "Well, Inspector Clouseau, is your curiosity satisfied?"

"Yes. Perhaps we should return to our room," she replied, in her cheesiest imitation of the Peter Sellers character. "By the way," she added cheekily, striking a seductive pose, "what do you think of my disguise?"

Max grabbed her by the wrists, and drew her so her aroused body was flush against the length of him. "I'm afraid, Inspector," he said with a growl, "that I can see right through it." Liz buried her face in his chest, to muffle her laughter at the double entendre.

Before either one of them could move away, the sounds of two people in the throes of ecstasy rang out, accompanied by music whose melody was almost... sensual. And then Liz remembered where she had heard the sound before. The jewels. Apparently Zan and Karanna had chosen to wear their wedding jewels during their bonding. Liz silently wondered what her gems and Max's would sound like, resonating with their lovemaking.

Discerning her thoughts, Max suggested, "Why don't we go back to our room, and make some beautiful music of our own?" Liz smiled sweetly at him, and wrapped her arms around his waist, as he led her back to their chamber.

When they were once again ensconced in the romantic setting, Max prodded, "Where's this confounded cream we're supposed to use?"

"Uh, it's still on the bed, I believe," she said, blushing. Max walked her over to the bed, and watched with undisclosed longing, as she leaned over and grabbed for the small container. Unable to restrain himself, he reached out and caressed her sweetly rounded bottom through the sheer fabric of her gown. Overcome with desire, Liz found she couldn't move, and remained leaning over the bed, while Max's hands did wicked things to her nerves. Before she knew what was happening, he had taken the hem of the nightie in his hands, and rent it from bottom to top, completely exposing her backside to him. "Max!" she scolded.

"Don't worry," he mumbled, stepping to her side, so he could reach to place kisses all down the length of her spine. "If you'll recall, I can repair that just as easily as I tore it." His hands began a tentative exploration of her posterior. Eventually, he bent and placed a little love mark on her tender flesh, branding her as his own. He shifted to stand behind her again, and grasping her shoulders, pulled her into an upright position. His fingers slipped inside the parted fabric on her shoulders, and pushed the flimsy material down her arms, until it fell from her into a cloud at her feet. Reaching around her, he trailed worshipful fingers over the bounty of femininity that was now completely unveiled and waiting to be claimed.

While he placed hot, openmouthed kisses on her neck, and nibbled on her ear, his hands tenderly stimulated her sensitive flesh, until she was moaning and writhing in ecstasy against him, her breath coming in short pants. Since he had drawn her back flush with his front, every twist and turn she made in response to his ministrations created a sensual torture for him, as well. Finally, in self-defense, he reluctantly pushed her away from him.

He walked over to the armoire, as he had seen her necklace laying on the top of it earlier. Picking it up, he carried it over to where she stood, and lovingly clasped it around the ivory column of her throat. A soft glow shimmered in the depths of the gems, and the jewels began to "sing". "Personally, I can understand why Ge-lar' would give you an herbal treatment to aide your response," he commented, "but I can't imagine why he would think that I need one." Liz turned to face him, and found him impatiently removing the tunic and shirt from his torso, opting to leave the belt in place. It was gently humming in response to his arousal. As he reached to remove the last article of clothing that remained between him and his bride, Liz reached out to still his hands.

"Please, Max, let me," she implored.

Max dropped his hands to his side. "Okay, wife, have your wicked way with me," he invited with a lecherous grin.

"Well, there's an offer a girl doesn't get every day," she mumbled under her breath, as she unfastened his pants.

As she lowered them over his hips, he assured her, "It's one you'll get, every day for the rest of your life." The pants gathered on the floor at his ankles, after Liz dropped them. She stood frozen in place, staring at the prize she had uncovered. Max felt awkward, wondering what she was thinking. "Liz?"

"Hmmm?" she purred, tipping her head up to search his eyes.

"Is something wrong?"

"Wrong?" she inquired, as if in a drug-induced haze. "Why do you ask that?"

Max swallowed around the nervous lump in his throat. "Because, you are - er, were, staring. I just wondered -"

"No, nothing's wrong," she interrupted. "It's just... even with all the dreams and everything..." Liz licked her lips, as she lowered her gaze again.

Max bit back a groan, imagining that tongue and those lips doing amazing things to his body... "Yes, Liz?" he managed to squeak out.

She ran her hands over his chest, tracing the contours of his muscles, venturing over his abdomen, then allowing her hand to drift over his hipbone, and down the front of his thigh. Slowly, her hand stroked back up his thigh, slipping toward the inside of it, rising higher....

Stopping just shy of touching him where he ached the most for her, she sighed, "It's just that you are even more beautiful in real life, than you are in my dreams."

"Nothing can hold a candle to you in the perfection department, Liz." The certainty in his voice gripped Liz's heart. She had never dreamed someone could love her as much as Max seemed to. And they hadn't even bonded yet....

The cream. Suddenly she remembered what they had set out to do, before they got so distracted. Reaching out a hand, she fumbled around the comforter, until she located the little tube Ge-lar' had sent to her. Dangling it from her fingers, she asked, "Are you ready for this, Mr. Evans?"

Max sighed. "As ready as I'll ever be. I don't mind telling you, I would have been just as happy having a conventional wedding night, where we just get naked and horny, and mate like a couple of bunnies all night long, without interference from a lot of well-meaning friends," he groused.

Liz giggled at his description. "Well, I agree with you about the well-meaning friends, but who's to say we can't still get naked and horny, and mate like a couple of bunnies all night long?" Her eyes were alight with mischief, as she posed her question.

"Mmmm, good point," he agreed, reaching for her.

"Ah-ah- ah," she said, putting him off. "Cream first, bunny mating rituals second."

Max drew in a ragged breath. "Okay, fine. Just hurry up, so we can get on to bigger and better things."

With eyes as wide as saucers, Liz looked pointedly at his erection. "From the looks of things, it better not get any bigger, or it won't fit." She giggled at Max's gasp. "Did I shock you?" she teased.

"N-no," he stammered. "It's just going to take me some time to adjust to engaging in blatantly sexual banter with my wife," he confessed. Regarding her with narrowed eyes, he asked, "Underneath all that prim exterior you've been sporting all these years, there's been a real little minx just waiting to be set free, hasn't there?"

"We'll see," she answered mysteriously. Opening the tube, she dispensed some of the cream into her palm, and recapped the container. Setting it aside, she turned back to Max. Her eyes locked with his, and without a word, she dropped to her knees in front of him. She lifted her hand, and smeared the cream with one long stroke over his hardened length.

The feel of her hand moving slowly down his arousal caused a shudder to run through Max. Liz looked up at him in concern. "Did that hurt?" she asked worriedly.

One corner of his mouth lifted in a wry grin. "Yes, but it's the sweetest kind of pain," he admitted.

"Should I stop?" she inquired.

Max reached down, and placed his hand over hers, wrapping it around his aching length. "No," he whispered hoarsely, as he taught her how to please him. He removed his hand, caught up in the driving desire that was flooding him. The jewels in his belt were vibrating in an increasingly loud pitch. "Oh, God, Liz, you better stop," he moaned after a few moments.

"Just a minute," she answered, concentrating on her task. "It isn't all rubbed in yet."

"Never mind. If you don't stop, none of this will matter, anyway."

She looked up at him in feigned innocence. "Why ever not?"

"God, Liz, what did I tell you about teasing," he rasped, breathing harshly. Despite his protests, he couldn't seem to convince his hips to stop rocking forward, sending him surging through her warm grasp once more. Oh, the agony....

Liz stroked him twice more, and just as he feared he would come completely unglued at her touch, the urgency created by the friction of her hand began to abate. What the hell...?

Suddenly, he could feel none of it. He was still more aroused than he ever had been in his life, as was evidenced by the aching fullness that Liz held in her tiny hand. And by the continued resonance of the emeralds in his belt. But he was aroused from the inside out. And the out wasn't responding to anything. He stood and watched woodenly, as she dutifully attempted to rub the rest of the cream into him. And then it registered.

Grabbing her hand and flinging it away from his heated flesh, it was his turn to yell, "NO!" He strode purposefully to the washstand, and took a clean cloth, dipped it in the warm water that had been left there for them, and wiped the excess cream off himself. For good measure, he washed of his hardened length, all the while admitting to himself that it was no doubt a wasted effort. The herbs had obviously done their job, and now he would have to wait until they wore off. But how long would that take? He wondered if Ge-lar' was having himself a good laugh, thinking how he had deviously been able to pull the plug on the young king's wedding night. Or maybe there was more to Ge-lar' than he was letting on. Maybe he wasn't just some innocent holy man. Maybe this was a way to keep him from bonding with his bride. Maybe he was in cahoots with Ki-var'. Maybe, maybe, maybe....

Max shook his head, trying to dislodge the wayward imaginings buzzing through his head. Amazing, what frustrated arousal could do to a man. He placed the damp cloth on the edge of the basin, and turned back toward the bed. He had been so lost in his private hell, that he didn't even notice how still the room had become. The sight that greeted him stopped him dead in his tracks.

Liz was on the floor, curled into a ball, rocking back and forth as she silently wept. She didn't know what she had done wrong, but to have her husband cast her off like a whore, when she wanted him to take her now as his lover, stung all the way to her soul. The music coming from her necklace now seemed almost like a mournful wail, instead of a joyful sound.

Max, for his part, was stunned and confused. What had gotten into her? Why was she crying? Had he injured her in his haste to break free of her so he could wash the cream off? He crossed the room in long strides, dropping to his knees at her side. Taking her bare shoulders with his warm hands, his thumbs stroked her skin lazily, as he inquired what was wrong. When she didn't respond, he sat beside her, and lifted her into his lap, being careful not to injure his projecting arousal. At this point, he was afraid he wouldn't even be aware of it, if he did.

Cradling her next to his heart, his hands skimmed the surface of her back and hips, making soft shushing sounds, gently encouraging her to tell him what he had done to reduce her to tears. Finally, through snuffling sobs, she apologized for whatever she had done to anger him, and make him push her away.

"Dear Lord," he breathed in disbelief, "is that what you thought?" He was rife with guilt, thinking that his impulsive reaction had wounded her spirit in such a way. Liz nodded her head against his bare chest. Despite the traumatic incident unfolding between them, the feel of her silken hair brushing against his naked body sent shivers of longing through him. He had come to accept the fact that, as long as she was near him, it didn't matter what was transpiring - he was going to be in a perpetual state of arousal.

"Shh, sweetheart, listen to me," he crooned. "I wasn't angry with you. I'm sorry I didn't take time to explain myself, but I needed to move quickly, before the situation got any worse. That cream that Ge-lar' gave you? It - it numbed me Liz. At the end there? I couldn't even feel your hands gliding over me any more. All I could feel was a slight tugging sensation, and a bit of pressure, when you wrapped your hand around me a little tighter. But that's it. Did you know what the cream would do?" he asked. Liz shook her head in a negative response. "Then you probably don't know how long the effects will last, either," he stated, rather than asked. She shook her head again anyway.

Max sighed. "Well, there's nothing we can do about it now, except wait it out." Then he had an idea. Without saying a word, he began to lovingly stroke her body, inciting her senses to riot once more. When she began to respond to his touch and his ardent kisses, he carefully lifted her from the floor, and sat her on the edge of the bed. Kneeling in front of her, he gently parted her legs, and bent to kiss the inside of her thighs. Working first up one leg, and then the other, he rained hot, wet kisses on the sensitive flesh.

Liz's whole body tingled, as he continued with this delightful torture. Finally, she fell backwards onto the mattress, her legs dangling over the edge, when Max's warm, wet mouth came in contact with her budding femininity. Her hands clenched in the bedding, as she fought the urge to thrust her hips toward him. The next thing she knew, Max was leaning over her.

His eyes held hers captive, as he slowly nestled his manhood where his tongue had just been exploring. With his hands braced on either side of her body, he started a rhythmic motion that caused his engorged flesh to glide over her own swollen folds, while his head dipped to pay homage to her perfect breasts. Never could he have imagined anything as perfect as his Liz. God, how wonderful that sounded! For almost all of his conscious life, he had been in love with this exquisite creature - dreaming about her, fantasizing.... and now she was his. More beautiful than any goddess ever dreamed of being, she embodied not only his ideal of physical perfection, but emotional, mental, and spiritual as well.

His loving foreplay produced immediate and drastic results. Liz's body began to write beneath him, her head thrashing from side to side in her highly aroused state. And the more that Max's mouth drew on her perfectly formed breasts, the more his own desire grew. He was sure that if he swelled any more, his skin would split, even though he still had no sensation in that region of his body. What neither of them realized, was that with every thrust of his hips, the stimulating oil that Liz had applied to her most private area was gently being massaged over his numbed manhood.

The first twinges of feeling that manifested themselves took him by surprise. He hadn't expected the effects to wear off so soon. He jerked his head up, and looked at his bride, wondering if she had any idea that the feeling was returning to his stiff flesh.

Apparently she sensed it. Maybe from the change in his own body, as he stiffened in surprise. She was watching him closely, though, no doubt about it. Their eyes met and held, and soon, she gloried in seeing his eyes roll up into his head, just before his lids closed on a wave of total ecstasy. Her body shuddered, when he told her in a husky voice, "Liz, baby, I need you. I need to be inside you."

"Please - oh, yes, please, Max!" she begged, in between panting breaths, as her arousal began to escalate out of control. Almost there....

Max positioned himself at her threshold, ready to discover the hidden treasure awaiting him. Carefully, he nudged against her, until he had barely begun to sink into her ready warmth. "Watch, Liz," he urged her. "See how perfectly we fit."

Liz opened her eyes to half-mast, and lifted her head to peer between her breasts. Just past the expanse of her flat abdomen, was the most erotic sight she had ever seen. Max was standing between her legs, his proud flesh disappearing inside of her. Suddenly, every nerve in that region of her body seemed to slam into overdrive. As he slowly pressed himself deeper in her, she bit back a scream of pure pleasure.

Max paused at her barrier, and he trembled at the enormity of what was taking place. Liz was giving to him the most sacred gift any woman could offer the man she loved. She was offering herself, pure and unblemished, never having been touched by another man. He was awed, and he was humbled.

He was lost in his private thoughts, until he heard her begging him to go deeper. The corner of Max's mouth lifted in a grin. Add eagerness to the list of gifts she was giving to him. After all, what kind of husband wouldn't feel blessed to have a passionate wife?

Max then explained why he couldn't completely take her yet, and then he began making shallow movements. He had regained almost full sensation, and as he slowly withdrew, he sucked in a ragged breath. Sinking back in, he moaned, "Liiiizzzz....." He repeated the hissing intake of air, and the moaning of her name, with every thrust, the speed of his chant increasing, as he picked up the pace, ever mindful not to breach her barrier.

After little more than a handful of thrusts, the release he had feared would never come (no pun intended!) was upon him. He heard Liz's cry of pleasure as her body began to tremble in her climax, and the sensation of her body pulsing around him pushed him over the edge. As the first surge of his release exploded, he plunged all the way into her. He thought for a fleeting second, that it felt like a bolt of lightning coursing through his loins, erupting in a violent release of his seed into her most secret place.

Once they had floated back to Earth - er, Antar - Max lifted himself up from where he had collapsed on top of Liz. He began to withdraw, but she quickly wrapped her legs around his hips, locking her ankles at the small of his back.

"Liz?"

"Mmm?" she mumbled languorously.

Max chuckled. "Are you going to let me go? Or are you planning on keeping me hostage here?"

"The latter," she informed him on a sigh.

"Well, if that's the case - " With her legs locked around him, he bent forward and scooped her up against his chest. Moving with extreme caution (!) he knelt on the bed, and began to scoot them more toward its center. When they finally were surrounded by mattress on all sides, he twisted and lay down on his back, their bodies still coupled, with her sprawled atop him.

With lazy pleasure, she began to kiss him, melding their mouths together in a reflection of their joined flesh. As passion flared to renewed life within her, she began squirming against her husband. Max felt the desire that never truly abated once more thunder through his veins. In response to the call, he subtly insinuated one of his legs between hers, and then the other. Slowly, he began to raise his knees, finally planting his feet firmly on the mattress. Liz was totally consumed by the kiss, and appeared not to notice what was happening. Once he had the leverage he was seeking, he spread his legs wider, opening her more fully to him. He then lifted his hips in a sharp movement, sending shafts of incredible pleasure racing through her, and together they sought to give and receive that sacred pleasure once more.

posted on 8-Feb-2002 10:10:25 PM by sheeperz
Wow, for all the hounding you guys were doing about wanting those wedding scenes, I was surprised that feedback went down! Hmmm... am I supposed to read something into this? I do accept critical f/b, as long as it is nicely worded, and not flaming!! If you have comments, feel free to post them!

But Thanks so much, to all of you who did leave feedback - I really appreciate it! And I'm glad to know that you didn't feel you had been "left wanting!" Er, well, okay, you could always use MORE, I know, but you know what I mean! LOL

Someone asked me about the sound that M/L's jewels made. I was so flabbergasted that I left that dangling! All I can say in my defense, is that I was so caught up in the scene, I overlooked it! *blush* So, okay, I like M/L lovin', too! hehehe I'll try to tie up that loose end when I get back to our young couples. Not in this part, though!

And so... on with the show! Hope you enjoy. I'll look forward to your comments!

(Michelle L - there's a nod to one of your favorite lines in this part! hehehe. I was thinkin' of you, hon!)


Part Forty

"Michael, what is wrong with you?!" Maria demanded, when they were alone.

"What's wrong with me?! I'll tell you what's wrong with me!" Wrapping his hands around the column of her neck, he held her still, while his mouth swooped down fast and furious to claim hers.

His kiss was rough and demanding, but Maria could also feel him trembling with need. Need for her. It was a heady thing to know she had that effect on him. So instead of fighting his bruising kiss, she surrendered herself, allowing him to have his way with her, parting her lips at the insistence of his thrusting tongue.

When she opened to allow him access to her, Michael groaned, taking the citadel by storm, as it were. His ardent attack was more than a kiss - he was making love to her mouth. With unrestrained passion, his tongue first swept to the deepest corners of her warm, willing mouth, before he began a thrusting rhythm that left her with no doubt as to his intentions. And they certainly weren't honorable. And just in case she missed the message, he cupped her rounded bottom in his hands, and lifted her, to fit his swollen manhood in the apex of her thighs, rocking his hardness against her in a rhythm that matched his tongue's.

Before she even knew what was happening, he captured her scream of release with his kiss. Driven by a primal urge she wasn't even aware of, she wrapped her legs around his hips, as hers bucked and ground against the firm bulge behind his zipper, seeking to prolong her first climax. When it was all over with, she collapsed against his shoulder, until she caught her breath. Finally, her breathing returned to normal, and she released her legs, sliding down over his still rigid arousal, which caused a shudder to run through her. As her feet hit the floor, she choked out, "Damn you, Michael Guerin!"

"What?! You can't tell me you didn't enjoy that," he snarled in fury at her reaction.

"That's not the point! You had no right! God, Michael, do you ever listen to anything I tell you? Or do you just think that if what you want is not what I want, you'll just have your way, anyway?"

"What the hell are you talking about?!" he roared, stepping away from her.

Maria felt like there was this big, gaping void where her heart should be, but she wasn't going to back down. Not this time. She loved Michael, but she wasn't going to allow him to take advantage of her. "Don't you remember what I told you, right before the wedding?" she snapped. "I told you I'm not giving it away for free, Michael, and I meant it. I love you, but I'm not going to sleep with you, just because you're horny. If and when you take me to bed, it will be as your wife. And not a moment sooner."

"So who says I was going to try to get you into bed, anyway?" he shot back.

"Oh, please! You mean to tell me that after what just happened, you wouldn't have been looking for me to relieve some, uh, pressure for you? I wasn't born yesterday, Michael." Michael had the good sense to appear chastised. He couldn't deny her accusation. "That's what I thought!"

"All right, dammit!" he shouted. "Can you blame me for wanting to make love to my very beautiful, very sexy girlfriend, whom I just happen to be crazy in love with? Especially after watching some other man pawing all over her?! For all your lofty morals, you certainly didn't seem to mind having someone besides me running his hands up your leg. Why is that, Maria? Just because he's human? Because if my mixed heritage is a problem for you, you better spit it out right now, lady."

Maria gasped, and recoiled as if he had struck her. "How can you suggest such a thing?" she demanded in a harsh whisper.

"How could you let him paw you like that?" he countered hotly.

"I - I didn't let him paw me. It's a wedding tradition, and it isn't like he was fondling my breasts, or - or - grinding his erection against me!" she spit out accusingly.

"Well pardon me. I'm sorry if I offended your delicate sensibilities. But I'm not holding you here against your will. There's the door," he reminded her, making a sweeping gesture with his hand in the direction of the opening. "Feel free to leave at any time." He turned his back to her, and began removing his things from his suitcase, and arranging them in the dresser against the wall.

Tears overflowed Maria's lashes, and ran down her cheeks. She watched him for a few moments, thinking how he wasn't going to be around Roswell anymore. When she walked out the door, she had no way of knowing if she would ever see him again. Her heart felt as if it would break in two for wanting him. The only thing that she could possibly salvage from this situation was her self-respect, by refusing to sleep with him. Was he thinking this would be a great way to say "good-bye"? Maria knew better. Once she had Michael Guerin buried deep inside her, she'd never be able to let him go.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to compose herself. Finally, she whispered, "Good-bye, Michael." She watched, as his back went stiff, and he ceased his activity. But he stubbornly kept his back to her. They both stood there, unmoving, for several seconds, before she quietly pivoted, and left the room. No sooner had she shut the door, when she collapsed against it sobbing quietly.

Hearing her cry of anguish, even though it was almost inaudible inside the room, Michael ran to the door, and yanked it open. Fortunately, his reflexes were quick, and he caught Maria in his arms, before she landed on the stone floor. "Are you all right?" he asked, his voice choked with emotion.

"I'll be fine," she insisted, pushing to get free from his arms.

"Maria, why are you doing this to us?" he challenged.

"Because I want love and commitment from the man I give myself to, and you want a quick roll in the hay, and then I'll be left to live my life alone. And what if I get pregnant? Did you think of that?"

Michael blushed, but he wasn't through arguing with her by any means. "What do you mean, you'll be left to live your life alone? Is that what you think? That I just want a one night stand, and then I'm going to cut you out of my life?"

"Aren't you?!" she yelled, a fresh flood of tears streaming down her cheeks. "You aren't ever coming back to Roswell, and how would I ever get back to Antar? Once the pod chamber is sealed, no human can get back in there. My hands don't glow, remember?" she bitterly threw at him.

"You could stay here with me," he suggested softly.

"As what?! Your mistress? No thanks, Michael, I have more self-respect than that. I want it all, or I don't want any of it."

Michael took her face in his hands. "Are you telling me, that if I ask you to marry me, you'll say 'yes'?"

Maria's eyes widened at his words. "Are you asking me?"

"Yes."

"Yes."

"Yes, what, yes? Are you repeating my yes, or are you saying that yes, you'll marry me?"

"Yes, I'll marry you."

Michael searched her eyes for any sign of uncertainty. There was none. But just to be sure...

"I think you better go home and sleep on it," he told her. "I don't want you making a decision like this, without thinking on it very carefully. Max and Zan marrying Liz and Karanna is a whole different situation here. They needed to marry and bond, so we could fight Ki-var'. Now, or later, it didn't matter. They were definitely going to marry. But I don't want you doing something that you'll end up regretting for the rest of your life."

"Trying to back out already?" she accused.

"No! But damn it, Maria, if I let the last barrier down between us - if I give you total possession of my heart, I want to be sure that you aren't going to change your mind, and walk off with it someday."

"Never, Michael. I love you. I don't want to think what my life would be, without you in it."

"Still, I'd feel better if you would think about it for a few days, okay? Why don't we say, you meet me at the cliff three days from now, at 3:00 Earth time? You can come right after school."

"All right, if you think that's best," she conceded. It didn't matter. She knew what her answer would be.

Michael kissed her gently, and then hand in hand, they walked back to where the others would be waiting for her, so they could return to Earth.

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

Almost immediately, Kyle and Isabel were forced to go separate ways, in search of the two people they had hurt. "Good luck," she whispered to him, giving him a quick hug. She wasn't sure what was coming over her today, but she was starting to act like a sentimental sap. Not good for the Ice Princess image.

"You, too," he told her, returning her brief embrace.

Isabel then followed the direction she had seen Alex go, when he left the Rotunda. It was no great mystery as to where he was heading. The portal. Isabel's pace quickened, as she sought to stop him before he gained access to the desert back on Earth. Once he left the pod chamber, he would be forever beyond her reach. However, her heart sank, when she arrived at the portal and had yet to encounter him. She impatiently dove through it, and had to struggle to regain her balance on the other side.

Having righted herself, she started for the door that would lead to the pod chamber. And then it hit her. If the door was closed, Alex would have no way to get out of this room. She smiled in relief, and realized he must be hiding from her. She slumped onto a stool at Da-nar's worktable. "Alex?" she called out. "Alex, I know you're in here." Silence. "Don't make me get off this stool," she threatened.

"Go away, Iz. Just go away." The mumbled words were issued on a weary sigh.

"I'm not going away, Alex, so just forget it."

"There's nothing for us to say, Isabel Evans. Stop prolonging the inevitable."

"Alex Charles Whitman! I've never known you to be a coward. I must say, I'm surprised."

"Coward?!" he bellowed. After a brief pause, he sighed. "Yeah, I guess I am a coward. Just one more, in a long line of deficiencies, I guess." He hadn't heard her footsteps, as she stealthily moved toward the sound of his voice.

Kneeling down beside him, she placed her hand on his arm, and he jumped. "Please don't talk about the man I love like that," she pleaded in a soft voice.

Alex's eyes snapped to meet hers. "Love? LOVE? After what I witnessed today, you have the nerve to expect me to believe you love me?"

Isabel hung her head in shame. "I'm sorry for that, Alex. Please, you have to believe me. I don't know what came over me. I just got so swept up in everything today, and the horsing around was part of it. I carried it too far, though, I realize that. I never intended to hurt you. It was just this stupid baiting thing that Kyle and I do to each other sometimes. But he doesn't mean anything to me, except as a friend. You're the one I love. Please, Alex, try to forgive me?"

Isabel had never begged for acceptance from anyone in her life. But to have Alex's meant more to her than all the popularity she had ever enjoyed at Roswell High. Alex was her life, her soul, her very heartbeat. If she lost him, nothing would ever be right in her world again.

It wasn't until she lifted her face, and Alex saw the tears streaming unabashedly down her face, that he relented in his anger. He understood with great clarity what a fool he would be, to continue punishing both of them, by refusing to forgive her. And after all - hadn't her antics shown her to be all the more... human?

Wrapping his arms around her, he began kissing away her tears. She looked up at him with such love, he felt a strange tightening around his heart. He could never love anyone else the way he loved her. He was sure of it.

"Does this mean I'm forgiven?" she whispered, hope evident in her tear-filled eyes.

Alex smiled down at her. "Yeah, I guess it does." He brushed a lock of hair that had fallen from her otherwise perfect hairstyle back behind her ear, and then bent to nip at her earlobe. He smiled against her cheek, when he felt a shudder run through her. Her sigh of contentment, as she wrapped her arms around his waist, told him he had chosen wisely, by not holding a grudge. "I love you, Isabel," he assured her in a whispered profession.

"I'm so glad," she mumbled against his neck, where her tantalizing lips were restlessly placing feather-light kisses.

"The question is, though," he said soberly, "what are we going to do about it?"

Isabel tipped her head back to look into his eyes. "What are we going to do about it?" she echoed.

Alex nodded. "I mean, so we're in love. Are we going to just go on the way we are forever? Or is there - something more? What does the future hold for us, Miss Evans?"

"I -I don't know," she replied, averting her gaze. What did he want her to say? It wasn't her place to suggest what their future held in store. She was the freak. If they had any future at all, it would have to be his idea. He was the one that would be marrying a freak of nature. He was the one that would have to accept the fact that any children they produced - if indeed, they could - would not be human. And where would they live? She couldn't ever go back to Earth now. Not after the rejection she had suffered at the hands of her parents. Even if it weren't for the danger being there presented, she never wanted to go there and be reminded of that final humiliation.

Alex's heart sunk. She loved him, but not enough to plan a future with him, obviously. His body stiffened, and he eased out of her embrace. He stood, and went to the panel that led to the pod chamber. "Would you please open this, so I can leave?" he asked, his voice devoid of any emotion.

"Alex?" Isabel asked cautiously, frightened by the sudden change in him. "What's wrong?"

Alex snorted. "What's wrong? Do you need to ask?" She stood there staring at him, a mixture of hurt and confusion shadowing her eyes. "All right," he snapped, "I'll spell it out for you. I'm tired of being your play toy, Isabel. You say you love me, but you aren't willing to plan any kind of a future - a LIFE - with me. As much as it kills me, I'd rather leave you now, loving you as much as I do, than to go on like this for God knows how long, and eventually watch you leave me for someone else. Someone that you can see yourself committed to for the rest of your life. I realize that everyone thinks of me as 'Good ole Alex', but dammit, I have feelings too, you know! My whole freakin' life has been turned upside down this last year, and all I want - selfish though it may be - is to have hope for my future. Our future. But since you obviously don't want to share that future, I think it best if I leave right now. Before I find that I can't." He slammed his hand on the wall of the chamber. "Now open the damned door!!"

"You're wrong," she told him, her chin lifted proudly in an attempt to hide her anguish. But there was no disguising the shimmer of unshed tears in her eyes. "I'm not the one that would end up walking away from us, Alex Whitman. You are. And you're proving it right now. I'll always be that freak alien to you. You know? The one who is responsible for your 'whole freakin' life being turned upside down', as you put it. I'm different, Alex, and that isn't going to go away. I didn't ask to be born a freak, but I am what I am, and I have to live with the consequences of someone else's decisions. But you don't. And I think that deep down inside you, you know that, and you're just looking for excuses to put this whole relationship behind you. Because if you truly loved me, you wouldn't just care about your own pain. You'd care about mine, too!" She bit back a sob, and waved her hand over the locking mechanism, then placed it over the glowing hand print, causing the door to slide open. "So go! Go find a normal human girl, get married, have babies, and live the American dream. And I'll go back to my little hole in the ground, and map out a war with my family. The people who can love me for who I am." She turned her back, and waited for him to leave.

She knew he hadn't gone, when she felt his warm breath on the nape of her neck. Ever so lightly, his hands wrapped around her upper arms. "Is that really the way you see yourself, Iz? Do you really think that I see you that way? As some sort of freak?"

Without turning, she simply nodded. Her fist was pressed tightly against her lips, to keep from crying out. After all, isn't that what your own parents thought? an inner voice taunted her.

"Then you're the one who's wrong Isabel. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love you with every breath in my being. If I leave you, rest assured, my life will not be worth living. I will never - I repeat never - love anyone else. Why else do you think I want to plan a future with you?"

Isabel sniffed. "You do? Honestly?"

Alex chuckled. "That's what I've been trying to tell you. But you only hear the parts you want to hear, so that you can build a wall up against me. Why, Iz? Why are you so afraid of me?"

Isabel began to cry again. "Because I'm afraid that I'm not good enough for you. That someday, you'll wake up and realize you made a big mistake, and want out. Just like my parents did. And my heart couldn't take it, Alex. It just couldn't." Desperate sobs shook her, and he pulled her close, rocking her gently.

"Isabel, you're talking nonsense," he gently chided. "You're more than good enough for me. Do you have any idea how grateful I am, to have you love me?" She shook her head, where it rested on his shoulder. "Damn grateful," he qualified. "Don't you ever forget it, Princess." He pulled back to look at her. "Will you be my wife, Isabel? I mean, not right now, but sometime in the not too distant future?"

She gasped at his proposal. "Are you serious?" she whispered in awe. "You want to marry me?"

Alex pulled her up against himself, until their faces were a hair's breadth apart. "More than anything else, Isabel. Say you'll marry me."

"Yes. Yes, I'll marry you!" she exclaimed with a quivering giggle. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, and pulled him down to receive her kiss.

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

Kyle made his way to the room that Ava had showed him was hers. She had joked earlier that it wasn't quite as nice as staying in Hotel Valenti, but she would make do, since it would only be temporary, until Max regained control of Antar.

Inside her room, Ava was getting ready for bed. She wrote off the trembling of her body as reaction to the herbs, and not due to the scene she had watched play out between Kyle and Isabel. Her heart broke all over again, just thinking about it. She quickly slipped the dress she was wearing over her head, and picked up a hanger. The sensuous feel of the material gliding over her naked breasts as she adjusted the dress to hang straight, caused a delicious fire to spread to the juncture between her thighs. She wondered how long the effects of the herbs were going to last. Closing her eyes, she purposely brushed the dress back and forth over her straining breasts, enjoying the feel of her escalating arousal. It had been so long - too long - since she had last made love with Zan. Although he was out of her life - in that regard, anyway - her body still hungered for the fulfillment she found in his arms.

And then her thoughts strayed to Kyle, and the night they had almost made love. What would he be like as a lover? she wondered. Would he be rough and impatient? Or would he be tender and giving, like Zan was? She frowned. At least, until Zan had started pulling away from her. No matter how much she acknowledged that he truly belonged to Karanna, Ava couldn't help feeling that there was some deficiency in her, that caused him to abandon her as a lover.

With a depressed sigh, she opened her eyes, and hung the dress on the rod in her armoire. She was about to close it, when she saw the reflection of herself in the mirror on the back of one of the doors. She was completely naked, except for a tiny pair of bikini panties. Already aching with arousal, she eyed her reflection critically. She was short, but her petite figure fit her height. Her breasts were full and well shaped, she thought, reaching up to cup them in her hands.

Her head lolled back, as electric sensations speared through her from touching her breasts. Slowly, she ran her hands across their fullness, abrading the tips into hardened peaks. She could almost imagine that they were Kyle's hands gliding over her heated skin. She could even feel the warmth of his breath on her nape....

"God, you're beautiful," Kyle murmured in her ear.

Damn. This fantasy is so good, it's starting to take on a life of its own. I must be more sex-starved than I realized. Still she continued to stroke the sensitive mounds. She could feel two hands rest in the curve of her waistline, then slide down until the fingers slipped under the elastic at the top of her panties. Ava began breathing heavy, her panting breaths laced with a sensual moan, as her fantasy lover slid the tiny garment down her legs, and she envisioned stepping out of it. She could imagine warm, moist lips gliding up the insides of her thighs, stirring the longing deep within her.

Ava's eyes flew open, when Kyle's tongue found her hidden bud. No fantasy could be that real. She gasped when she saw his back in the mirror, and looked down to see the top of his head by her belly. "KYLE!" she shrieked, jumping back. "What are you doing here?" she demanded, fumbling for a robe to cover herself with.

Kyle stood, and took her hands in his, halting her frantic movements. She looked up into his passion-darkened eyes, and swallowed hard. Her heart was thundering against her ribs, as her face grew hot from embarrassment. Averting her eyes, she mumbled, "What do you want, Kyle?"

"I should think that would be fairly obvious," he said seductively.

Ava struggled to get free from his grip. When he held her fast, she huffed through grated teeth, "Let me go, Kyle. We have nothing to say to each other."

Kyle took a step closer. "See, that's where you're wrong, Ava. Because I definitely have something I want to say to you."

"Oh? What? Some scathing insult?"

"No," he murmured in a contrite voice. "I wanted to apologize for what happened in the other room." Ava looked at him in mute shock. Kyle turned one clenched fist over, and brushed his lips across the inside of her wrist. "What happened with Isabel was just horsing around. We tend to bait each other, but it doesn't mean anything." He grinned up at her. "Although, I'm kind of glad we did it. I had no idea you cared so much." At her indignant gasp, he remarked, "Now don't get your panties in a bunch, I'm just kidding. But I am glad to know that you have feelings for me." His expression sobered, as he moved closer still, until their lips were almost touching. "And just in case you're wondering - I have some pretty powerful feelings for you, too." He leaned in the rest of the way, tentatively pressing his lips to hers. When she didn't fight, or try to pull away, he increased the pressure, gently sucking and nipping at her lips as well. Finally, his tongue traced the fullness of her swollen lips, and teased her, until she opened for him. His marauding tongue insinuated itself into her mouth, plundering the sweet recesses, until Ava thought her knees would collapse from the sensual onslaught. Without breaking the kiss, Kyle lifted her into his arms, and carried her to the bed. Placing her on top of the covers, then quickly shed his own clothes, before laying down beside her. "I want you to know - this isn't just about satisfying a sexual urge for me, Ava," he told her, as his hand stroked the side of her face. "There is a sweetness in you, that I need in my life. When I'm with you... well, I can see us having a future together. I've never felt that with anyone else."

Ava gave him a tremulous smile. "I feel the same way, Kyle. I don't want to have sex with you tonight," she declared. Seeing the hurt in his eyes, she rushed to explain, "Tonight, I want to make love with you."

Kyle smiled in relief. "I think I can handle that. I - I love you, Ava."

"I love you too, Kyle." And they spent the rest of the night, celebrating their discovery.

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

In the middle of the night, on the other side of the main continent of Antar, a soldier banged loudly on a closed door, behind which his commander slept. A roar laced with foul expletives raged from behind the wooden barrier. The hardened warrior looked down at the woman by his side in silent apology. Then, despite the clear warning to leave his leader in peace, the soldier repeated his insistent thumping. Another string of curses seared the air, and the door was violently flung open.

Stark naked, the inhabitant of the chamber demanded, "What the hell is the matter with you? Didn't you hear me say to go away? What does a man have to do to be afforded some peace and quiet around here?!"

Out of the corner of his eye, the soldier caught a blur of movement, and a quick glance revealed an Antarian prostitute stretching like a cat upon the bed. "Sir," the soldier replied, standing stiffly at attention. But any explanation he was about to give was interrupted, when his commander spied the gnarled old woman standing by his subordinate's side.

"Who the hell is this?" he demanded, his face turning red from embarrassment at his current state of undress. He reached behind the door for a robe, and donned it quickly. He didn't mind shamelessly parading in front of his men, or the whores who frequented his bed, but his previously aroused manhood withered under the censorious stare of the haggard woman.

"This is Holandra," the warrior said by way of introduction. "She is a healer, and a resident of the North Woods outside of Antarra. She has come with important news."

"What could you possibly have to tell me, old woman, that warrants you rousing me from a warm bed, on a cold night?" he asked derisively, as he leaned against the door frame in a casual manner that belied the anger coursing through him.

"I believe there is cause for concern, where your power and authority on this planet are concerned," she announced without preamble. "I have seen unusual things in the woods as of late, and thought you should be warned."

Ki-var' arched a thick brow. "Indeed? What kinds of unusual things?"

"Twice - no, three times, I have seen the Antarian holy man emerging from a cave in the woods. He didn't see me, but I hid and observed his movements. He was collecting herbs."

Ki-var's patience was growing thin. "Collecting herbs?" he parroted. "What's so unusual about that? You yourself must engage in such practices."

"True, true. But it was which herbs he was gathering that aroused my interest. He was collecting Suppression plant, for one, and in great quantities."

"Suppression plant?" Ki-var's face was a study in confusion. "What is that? Why is it significant?"

"Suppression plant is used for just that - suppression. It blocks the center in the brain, which controls one's psychic abilities. The question is - who is he using them on?"

Ki-var' had to admit, she had a good point. "What other herbs was he harvesting?"

"That is the other odd thing," she commented. "They were herbs that used to be used in traditional Antarian bonding ceremonies, especially among the nobility."

Ki-var's blood ran cold at her words. An eerie sense of foreboding prickled up his spine. "Of course, we know that's impossible. There is no Antarian royalty," he grated harshly, in a show of false bravado. He only wished he believed his own declaration. "Now, was there anything else you wished to say, before you are escorted back to your dwelling?" Never let it be said that he didn't watch out for his informants. The fact that she had chosen to thrust herself into such a role was beside the point.

"Actually, there was one more thing." She looked up into Ki-var's hard, black eyes. Although she was extremely aged, her eyes were not clouded, but snapped with intelligence, as if she were decades younger. It was this very thing that caused Ki-var' to give weight to her words. "Earlier today, I saw a young woman come out of the same cave, and also collect herbs." She paused, before hitting him with the final blow. "A human girl." She smiled smugly at his sharply drawn breath.

"You're sure?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper.

"Unless one of your kind is masquerading as a human, yes," she replied indignantly.

Ki-var' gave a curt nod of his head at her response. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'll look into it immediately. Tan-dar', see that she gets -" His order was cut short by the sound of pounding boots on the stone steps just below them. "Now what?!" he bellowed, just as a small group of Skin guards approached in haste.

"Forgive us for intruding, Ki-var'," their leader said, breathing heavy. "We thought you should know what we discovered right away."

"Well?! Don't just stand there sucking wind, for God's sake, spit it out!"

Catching his breath, the guard rushed to explain. "We were on guard duty in Antarra, in the sector by the palace ruins. We heard strange noises... unusual music... it was coming from the ruins. We went in to investigate, and nearly fell through a hole in the floor of the old throne room. We hovered near the edge of it, listening, and there were voices coming from down inside it. We knelt down so we could hear better..."

"Forget the details!" he bellowed. "Just tell me what you learned!"

"It was a wedding ceremony. But not just any wedding. There were emeralds resonating, and the names we heard..."

"Names?! Who was it?"

"We heard the holy man call them Zan and Karanna."

The blood drained from Ki-var's face, and he staggered backwards, as if he had received a mortal blow. "No," he rasped in disbelief. It couldn't be! How did they get back here? Surely someone would have noticed the Granilith coming into the atmosphere! And why the hell didn't Tess contact him, and warn him?! His fists clenched in an impotent rage. Obviously, the enemy was planning to catch him off-guard, and retaliate with the kind of devious tactics that he himself was famous for. Well, they made a grave strategical error. I know what they are up to. And the best defense is a good offense, he thought smugly. I'll just have to make the first strike.

"All right, listen up," he said in an imperial tone, recovering quickly from the shock he had received. "You, guards, make sure this woman gets to her home safely. On the way, ask her to show you the cave in the woods she came to tell me about. Then meet up with us in Tamarra. We will have our camp set up there, just outside the town. Tan-dar'! round up the elite forces, and have them set up camp on the south side of Tamarra. While they are doing that, we will move into position, and observe the enemy." Without a further word, he retreated into his chamber, and slammed the door shut on the lot of them. Everyone scurried from the scene, intent on carrying out his orders.

posted on 10-Feb-2002 10:49:36 PM by sheeperz
I'm baaack! See, you just can't get rid of me! Mwaahahaha

Well, for all you peeping Thomasinas out there, here's a little more lovin'. *bounce**big*

But lest you think that you are going to be left with nothing but gratuitous nookie (Down Phae! Down Linda! I KNOW that's what YOU want! LOL!!!) There are some interesting (Well heck, I'm biased, so sue me!) twists in our story.

Hope you enjoy the direction I'm taking. Let me know what you think!! PLEASE! (Okay, so I'm not above begging! *big*)


NOOKIE WARNING!!! Possible NC-17

Part Forty-one

When Isabel entered Tess' room the following morning, the Talerian princess was prowling the perimeter of the room like a caged tiger. "Good Morning!" Isabel greeted her with a perky voice, just to antagonize her. "I brought your breakfast!" She set the tray down on the table, and eyed the other girl. Her pregnancy was well-advanced, and she was really starting to show. She obviously was in discomfort, supporting her lower back with her hand, as she stopped her pacing, to regard Isabel with hard, angry eyes.

"Good morning? Good morning? ARE YOU KIDDING?!" she screamed. "You people leave me locked up in here like some sort of animal, with only four stone walls to look at. Meanwhile, you're all off partying! Zan says he is concerned about his son, but how good do you think it is for the baby if I don't get any fresh air, or exercise?"

Isabel frowned. Tess did have a point. "I'll be sure and mention that to him, when I see him," she told Tess.

Tess responded with an arrogant nod of her head. "Good. I'm sure he'll be reasonable."

"Probably, if I know my brother," Isabel agreed. She turned to leave the room. On her way out the door, she called over her shoulder, "But don't expect to see him too soon. He and Karanna are busy consummating their marriage. It may be a while before I see him." She closed the door, smiling, as she heard Tess' answering scream of rage.

When Tess had regained control of her emotions, she crossed to the table, where her breakfast was waiting for her. On the tray was the ever-present bowl of herbal broth, some bread, and a sizable portion of fresh fruit. She snatched up a piece of the native fruit, and ate it with relish. It had been so long since she had enjoyed the foods she had grown up on. As she consumed it and reached for another, she eyed the bowl of broth. Before she selected the second piece of fruit, she snatched up the bowl, and carried it across the room. Kneeling down, she carefully poured it into the chamber pot, with a satisfied smirk on her face. And then she passed her hand over the pot, causing the broth to look like urine. They'll never know what hit them, she thought to herself.

She had first realized what was going on, when she had thrown the bowl Michael left her at the door in the heat of anger. As the evening had progressed, she began to get the sense of regaining her mental powers. It was then that she suspected she was being drugged. Time would tell. If her powers continued to increase in strength, as she avoided Ge-lar' herbal concoction, she'd know for certain. She stood and returned to the table, and heartily ate the rest of her meal.

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

Waking after an eventful night, Liz stretched lazily next to Max, sensually rubbing her naked body against his side, where she lay in his embrace. Max opened one eye, to observer her antics. A chuckle rumbled low in his chest, as his arm shot out to scoop her up on top of him. "You are insatiable, woman," he growled in appreciation. "Looks like I woke the sleeping giant of latent sexuality in you."

Liz rotated her hips over his, quickly achieving the desired effect. "No, I think waking the sleeping giant is my privilege," she purred, reaching between their bodies to intimately cup her hand around him.

Max groaned. How could they have made love so many times last night that he lost count, and yet this morning he wanted her so badly, it was as if he had never had her at all? His mind remembered the way their emeralds had sung together, as they reached the culmination of their first union. It had been the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. Now, Liz's questing fingers were quickly arousing him to the point of madness, and it brought his mind back to the present. "You'd better stop that right now," he warned her playfully, "or you know what will happen."

"Mmm, I'm counting on it," she confided in a conspiratorial whisper. "Think the important King of Antar can fritter away the whole day in bed with his wife?" Not waiting for his answer, she positioned herself over his proud manhood, and lowered herself to the hilt.

"Oh, God, yes," Max moaned, thrusting his hips in time to the cadence of her lovemaking. "I think he can manage to - aaahhh - arrange his schedule to accommodate you."

"Oh, I'm sooo pleased," she gushed breathlessly. "I hope he won't regret it."

"Not a chance," came Max's husky response. He was enjoying the view too much to bother with a witty comeback. The fire in his loins was consuming him, and he watched her well-loved breasts sway and bounce, as her body lifted and fell over him. Eventually, it became too much to bear, and planting his hands firmly on the mattress beside him, he levered himself up, until he was able to capture one of her breasts in his mouth.

Max's insistent suckling quickly sent Liz over the edge, and once they had reached that magical place of ecstasy together yet again, she collapsed on top of him. She gloried in the rapid pounding of his heart, knowing that she was the one that made it hammer inside his chest.

"God, Max," she mumbled against him. "Where did you learn how to do this so well?"

"What? You don't believe that I just have a natural talent for this?" he teased.

Liz shuddered with an aftershock of her climax, just remembering the numerous orgasms she had experienced as a result of Max's masterful lovemaking. "Nobody can be that perfect the first time out, Max," she said suspiciously.

Max saw the concern in her eyes, as she looked down at him. "Hey," he said softly. "You don't have anything to worry about. I haven't been practicing on anyone else, if that's what you're thinking." Liz blushed, and looked ashamed, because that was indeed what had crossed her mind. "I can see I'd better explain," Max commented. "You see, when Zan and I connected - I inherited whatever knowledge he possessed. I never asked him, but I assume he obtained the same from me."

Liz looked horrified. "So, then, what? When you are making love with me, you have his memories of making love to Ava, and you use those techniques?" The thought made her stomach lurch.

"No! No, Liz, it isn't like that at all! Our memories didn't transfer, just our knowledge. For example, if Zan knew that touching a woman like this...." Max's fingers traveled between her thighs, to tease her there. "Then I have that knowledge in my head. So when I get in a situation where I need that knowledge..." He flipped Liz onto her back. "Or maybe this knowledge...." His head dipped, and his warm, wet tongue replaced his fingers. "Well, then I have it at my disposal. It's the same as if I had read it in a book. Understand?" he mumbled against her curls. Liz's hips lifted reflexively, as his tongue returned to its sensual foray of her feminine stronghold. Within seconds, Liz was begging for him to fill her with himself. Hard and ready, he rose to the challenge, uniting their bodies once more in the quest for ultimate fulfillment.

After napping in one another's arms for a couple of lazy hours, Max insisted that they get up. "What for?" Liz whined. "No one is expecting us to show our faces today, are they?"

Max chuckled. "No, I don't imagine they are. But I have something that I want to show you."

"What is it?"

Max tapped her nose with his index finger. "You'll just have to come with me, and find out. Trust me, you'll like this surprise."

Groaning, Liz got up, and walked gingerly over to the washstand. "All right, but it'll take me a little bit. I need to get cleaned up, and dressed, and -"

Max spun her around, and halted her babbling with a kiss. "Never mind all that. Just put your robe on, and follow me." He grabbed two towels, wrapping one around his waist, and carrying the other one.

"What are the towels for?" she probed, trying to get a hint of what he was up to.

"Just never mind," he scolded playfully. "You'll know all, soon enough." Pouting, Liz followed him out the door, and further down the corridor, past Zan and Karanna's room. Their door was still shut, and silence greeted the king and queen, and he noticed Liz's frown, as they passed by. "What's wrong?" he whispered, not wanting their voices to carry into the room, and disturb the other couple.

"I just wonder if Karanna is all right. She was pretty nervous yesterday about, uh, consummating...."

Max grinned at her. "I don't think you have to waste your time worrying about that," he said with conviction. "From the sounds of things last night, she definitely got over her inhibitions. Besides, that brother of mine is a wily devil. One way or another, he would have put her at ease, and completed their bonding."

Liz sighed. "I guess you're right."

"I am right. And here we are. Now, close your eyes." Liz did as she was told, and Max led her through a door on the left. Liz noticed a difference in the air around them - it was warmer, and humid, and the air had a different scent to it. Max's hands on her shoulders brought her to a halt.

"Can I open my eyes now?"

"Nope. Just be patient." He removed the towel from around his waist, then slipped her robe off her shoulders.

"Max! What are you doing? What if someone sees us?"

"Huh. You weren't worried about that last night, were you?"

"This is different! Where are we?"

"You'll find out in a second." He scooped her up in his muscular arms, and cradled her close. He almost lost his grip on her, when she jumped at the feeling of warm water lapping at her backside. "Okay, you can open them," he told her, lowering her the rest of the way into the pool.

"Oh, Max! This is wonderful! What is this place?"

"It's a natural pool, fed by a hot spring. Great place to wash up, and soothe away the soreness and tired muscles...." He looked at her with molten amber eyes. "Then we can go back to the room, rested and relaxed.... and start all over again." He whispered the last into her ear, then teased the shell of her outer ear with his tongue, causing a shiver of anticipation to race through her. He eagerly left a trail of kisses along her jaw, until he reached the perfect bow of her mouth, and captured it in a fiery kiss that threatened to melt her insides. Within seconds, he had an aching arousal, and he pulled her astride his lap, entering her with one deep thrust. "God, Liz, I'll never get enough of you," he exclaimed, panting as he took her fast and hard.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Zan and Karanna walked with their arms around each other, kissing each other deeply. Finally, he pulled her in front of him, and undid the belt on her robe. Her front side bared to him, he slipped his hands inside her robe, and bent to grasp her buttocks firmly, pulling her up so she could wrap her legs around his waist. He fumbled with the cloth tied at his waist, and finally freed himself of it, bringing it up to wrap around his neck. His fingers slid over her firm bottom, and dipped between her thighs, testing her readiness. He felt a fresh surge of heated blood race to his already hardened member, causing it to strain painfully toward her warm, welcoming sheath. He helped her shift, until she slid down over him, encasing him fully.

"Oh, Zan, you feel so good inside me," she moaned, her pleasure causing a responding groan from deep inside his soul. He never knew that being joined to someone could be such a spiritual experience. It was what had always been missing from his encounters with Ava.

He continued to walk down the corridor, their bodies rocking together in time to his steps, their arousal escalating with every subtle nudge he made within her. Kissing her deeply, he found his way to their destination more by sound and feeling, rather than sight. His eyes were closed, as he reveled in every aspect of their lovemaking. By the time he entered the chamber they sought, both of them were breathing hard, as they sought to devour each other. Zan knew when he had located her special spot, because she whimpered with every movement he made.

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

Max felt his control about to snap, and he arched Liz's back over his arm, her perfect breasts lifted as an offering to him. Struggling to keep from reaching his climax without her, he teased her aroused breasts, until he felt her muscles tighten around his throbbing erection. With moans, and erotic professions of love and praise, they reached the pinnacle of pleasure simultaneously.

They almost didn't notice that their hoarse cries of fulfillment weren't the only ones resounding in the chamber. Despite the awareness that they weren't alone, they gave themselves up to the flood of rapture that carried them along in its wake.

The first thing they were able to consciously assimilate, was Karanna's cry of embarrassment. Liz looked up, to see her sister's head buried against Zan's chest. Her robe hung from her shoulders, but she didn't have any feet.... Liz giggled, when she realized that Zan and Karanna were as intimately joined as she and Max were. Despite the fact that Zan and Karanna had stumbled upon them in the throes of passion, Liz made no attempt to extract herself from Max's embrace.

"Hey," Max called to his brother and sister-in-law, in a friendly voice. "Looks like we had the same idea."

Zan chuckled. "Must be that twin thing," he joked. "We'll just head back to our room, and wait for you two to finish," he said, starting to turn away.

"No, you don't have to go," Liz called. Max looked at her with surprise, while Zan regarded her with uncertainty. "I mean, the pool is big enough for all of us, and I'd like a little time with Karanna, now that we are bonded to our respective husbands."

Her expectant look melted away any objections that Zan might have had. He knew how hard it had been on her and his wife, having to avoid each other these last weeks, so they wouldn't accidentally connect to each other. "All right," he said softly, "if it's okay with Karanna." His bride nodded, even though he could see the pink tinges on her cheeks.

To afford them some sense of modesty, Max and Liz reluctantly slid apart from each other, and turned around, so that their siblings could enter the pool. Max stood behind Liz, with his arms around her shoulders, waiting for the other couple to join them. Soon they felt the ripples, from Zan and Karanna moving through the water, lapping against them. Before they had a chance to turn back around, Karanna laid her hand on Liz's shoulder. Liz felt a strange tingling spread over her at the contact, and turned in Max's arms to face her sister. Max let his hands slide to Liz's waist, to offer her more range of motion, and she reached out to take her sister in her arms. As she did, their eyes met, and with the physical contact, they connected. When they did, they could feel an energy force building between them. Max looked at Zan, whose hands rested on his wife's shoulders, curious as to whether he was sensing what was happening. Their eyes met, and they were immediately drawn into the connection with their brides.

It was nothing like anything Max had ever experienced before. More than just a connection of mind and soul, this encompassed his entire being, almost as if it were on the cellular level. It was like in some strange way, they were melding together as one, the energy in each of them feeding the whole, and multiplying in the process. He had experienced a dim foreshadowing of it, when he and Zan had joined together to defeat Nicholas, but that was nowhere near the amount of power he felt coursing through him this time.

Suddenly, they shed the encumbrance of their bodies, and were transported out of the catacombs, to a position overlooking the city of Antarra. Their disembodied energy was free to float wherever it willed, and it was clear that there was no strife or division among them, as their combined essences moved with one purpose. For as their energy had combined to create one life-force, so did their minds meld to be one consciousness, in complete harmony.

Below them, they saw the people of Antar - their people - walking with slumped shoulders, their very wills broken by the oppressive hand of an evil tyrant. Their eyes were listless, devoid of any hope. In a field nearby, workers who were not aggressive enough in their labors were lashed with a whip, and ordered to increase their pace. The four watched in horror, as one elderly man collapsed from the strain, only to have the overlords kick him where he lay, demanding he rise and return to his labor. All too soon it became apparent that the man was not going to get up. The man was dead.

Despair, rage, compassion - these and more were the shared emotions of the foursquare who looked on from their watch above. Allowing themselves to continue on, they spotted the palace ruins, and drifted to the site where their predecessors had met their untimely demise.

It was there, that something even more unusual happened.

From behind a charred remnant of a wall, another energy field appeared. It was glowing so brightly, the foursquare wondered why it could not be seen by the people passing by. Perhaps energy fields such as this one, and themselves, were not visible to physical eyes. As the foursquare watched, this new energy approached steadily, until it was hovering inches away. Finally, it melded with the foursquare energy, and new awareness came to their consciousness. This was the united life-force of King Zan and Queen Karanna. It had been waiting for these many years, for the salvation of their people to arise. Everything that had happened on Antar, as well as the lives of the former king and queen, was made known to the foursquare. A sense of wholeness - of completion - was present among them now.

Eventually, the melded energy made its way back into the catacombs, to the pool where Zan, Karanna, Max, and Liz were still physically connected. By tacit agreement, the king and queen's energy split off from the others, who then returned to their own bodies, and came out of their trance-like state in a rush. Before anyone could recover enough to speak, the energy that had been created between them was released in a great burst of power, sending shock waves crashing into the stone walls around them. This created great stress which undermined the stability of the chamber, and the ground above, below, and around them began to quake from the impact. As debris began to fall, they realized that collapse of the chamber was imminent. "Let's get out of here!" Max yelled, yanking Liz out of the pool. As the tremors increased, Max and Zan suddenly had the urge to create a shield around themselves and their brides. As they did, rocks that would otherwise have struck them, bounced off and rolled to the floor. They quickly retrieved their robes and towels as they passed by them on the way to the door. Once they cleared the entrance, and the affected part of the corridor, their shield was no longer present to prevent the tunnel from caving in. And that's just what it did. Wrapping themselves in their robes and towels as they ran, they hastened back to Zan and Karanna's chamber. No sooner had they gained entrance, then Da-nar, Michael, and Isabel came bursting in through the open door.

"What happened?!" Da-nar' demanded breathlessly, taking in the frightened and disheveled appearance of the two young couples.

"Well, I'd say it's safe to say that Liz and Karanna are bonded now," Max said with a straight face, the only indication of his amusement being a slight twitch at the corners of his mouth.

"That was from them bonding?!" Michael exclaimed. "Hot damn, but Ki-var' better watch his ass!" Liz and Karanna were still trembling, but they giggled at Michael's statement.

A sudden calm came over the girls then, and Liz clarified the situation. "It wasn't just Karanna and I bonding that caused such a stir. The four of us bonded together."

Max picked up with the explanation then, as a sense of authority settled on him. He explained all that had happened, and about King Zan and Queen Karanna's essence joining theirs.

"You're sure that theirs separated from you, before you reentered your bodies?" Da-nar' asked.

"Yes," Max replied. "Why do you ask?"

"Because there is something.... different about you. Something that reminds me so much of them."

"Probably from the fact that they bonded with us. We will all carry their knowledge with us from now on," Max explained.

Da-nar' shook his head. "Not to be disrespectful, but it seems more than that."

Liz was the one who heard the voice in her heart. I am with you now, daughter, as my Zan is with your Max. The Creator allowed our spirits to remain here, to assist you in the mission ahead of you. We will watch over you, and empower you when you are in need, as you seek to right the wrongs committed against our people. You will be our bodies, and we will add to your strength and wisdom.

"Oh my God," Liz whispered, when the former queen had finished speaking to her.

"Liz?" Max addressed his wife with concern. "What's the matter?" His hand rubbed over her upper back in a comforting gesture.

Liz looked up at him. "Zan and Karanna - er, the king and queen, that is - are going to stay with us. They'll be watching over us, and adding strength to our foursquare, as we go against Ki-var'."

Max was about to challenge her assertion, when these words came to him: She speaks the truth, my son. Karanna and I will help you to reclaim the throne of Antar. Instead of quarreling with Liz, he merely nodded and said, "Liz speaks the truth."

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Feb-2002 11:01:15 PM ]

posted on 13-Feb-2002 10:38:28 PM by sheeperz
Hi! Sorry I didn't get this up earlier, but I ran out of time. This part is a little smattering of what's going on with various people. Hope the hopping around doesn't break the continuity for you!

Things are building up for the dramatic conclusion to this series. Hopefully, we'll be done in just a few more parts.

Let me know what you think!

Part Forty-two

Deep in the North Woods, Ki-var' and two of the five scouts he had brought with him were thrown to the ground, when an apparent earthquake shook the area. "Good Lord, now what," he grumbled. "We've never had an earthquake on Antar to my knowledge. What the hell do you suppose caused that?" His men seemed as perplexed as he.

A minute later, one of the other three scouts, who had been traveling together, approached their position. Ki-var' noticed the man was hobbling, and there was blood oozing from a gash on his arm, which hung limp at the soldier's side. When he finally reached them, he fell to the ground, exhausted from the effort it took to rejoin them with the injuries he had sustained. Ki-var' could tell the man was on the verge of losing consciousness, so he dropped to his knees and bent over the soldier, to immediately begin interrogating him.

"What happened to you? Where are the others?"

"Explosion," the soldier ground out between teeth that were gritted in response to pain. "Others trapped."

"Explosion?!" Ki-var' raised his voice, incredulous. Well, that explained the earthquake. "Where did this happen?"

"Checked out cave... collapsed... trapped...." The soldier's head lolled to the side, as he lost consciousness.

"Damn it!" Ki-var' howled, as he beat his clenched fists on the ground.

"Ki-var'?" Tan'-dar had moved to his commander's side. "Was he able to tell you what happened?"

Ki-var' closed his eyes, and groaned in frustration. "Yes," he finally answered. "He said they were checking out that cave where the holy man has been spotted, and there was an explosion. The entrance collapsed - the other two soldiers with him were buried alive."

Tan'-dar was silent for a moment, out of reverence for his fallen comrades. After an appropriate amount of time had lapsed for him to show his respect, he asked, "What should we do now?"

"We're going to have to find the opening to this underground haven that is in the palace ruins. We'll go there first, and if it is hidden, which I suspect it must be for us to never have seen it before, we'll have to send back to camp for the guards who discovered it."

Tan'-dar nodded. "Very well. I'll go and inform Sha-var' that we leave immediately for the palace site. He backtracked the direction that Lo'-mar came from, to make sure that no one followed him." When Ki-var' didn't respond, verbally or otherwise, Tan'-dar turned on his heel, and sprinted off in the direction of the cave. He hadn't gone far, when he came upon Sha-var' returning. He informed his subordinate of the change in plans as they walked back to where Ki-var' waited. When they rejoined him, Ki-var' rose wordlessly, and the three started their journey to the center of the Antarra in silence.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ava was in the throes of an intense climax, when the bed began to shake. Kyle plunged deep one last time, his body going taut as he shuddered his release, before collapsing over her.

"God, Kyle, you're good," she said with a satisfied smile, her breaths coming as little pants as she ran her fingers through his hair. "Right at the last there, I could have sworn I felt the earth move."

Kyle levered himself up, so he could look in her eyes. "Damn, but I wish I could take credit for that one," he muttered.

"Well who else do you think is responsible?" she asked with wide, startled eyes.

"No! I'm not talking about the - you know. I mean the part about the earth moving. It really did. That wasn't a side-effect of a great climax." He bent and kissed her deeply, molding her breasts with his eager hands. Her back arched in a silent plea for more. "However, if you'd like, we can try to replicate it." Ava let out a wild cry of pleasure, as he began to move within her again. Kyle chuckled. "I guess that's a yes...."

* * * * * * * * * *

Tess was terrified. They lock me up in some freakin' hole in the ground, the place starts shaking, and do they come to check on me? No! Of course not! They probably figure I'm expendable, so why bother? Then her rage turned to worry. What if something serious happened? What if they are all dead out there? Then what will I do? I'll be stuck here, until I starve to death! Reflexively, her hand went to cover her abdomen. And what about my baby? What will become of him? She couldn't even bear to think of what the reality would be for her son in such a situation.

She lay down on the bed that Zan had been thoughtful enough to get for her, so she didn't have to sleep on a pallet on the floor. She had mentioned just once to him that it was drafty, and made her back ache, and he had seen to it that she had a real bed to sleep in. She smiled at the memory. Maybe he didn't love her, but he was a good man, nonetheless. Just like King Zan. She hoped that Karanna knew how lucky she was.

Tess dozed. She didn't have any idea how long she had been asleep, when she was suddenly jolted awake by... could it be? She felt this incredibly strong life force nearby. There was only one person she knew of that embodied that much power. Ki-var'. Could it be possible, that he had found out she was here, and had come looking for her? Could that disturbance have been him, blasting his way into the catacombs to rescue her from this living hell? She lay still, and tried to clear her mind of the myriad thoughts swirling through it. If only she could reach him, let him know where she was...

She reached out with her mind, trying to make some sort of mental connection with him, but the effort was too overwhelming. She wasn't strong enough yet, and he apparently wasn't anywhere really close by. But he was in the vicinity, and that gave her hope.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Isabel eventually suggested to her two companions, that they leave the young couples to their honeymoon. After all, just the way they were attired screamed private moments. And they deserved this private time. All hell would break loose soon enough.

Once they were gone, however, the four newlyweds were reluctant to split up. Something about the whole experience left them needing to share their concerns.

"God, Max," Liz groaned, "Did you see how hopeless the people seemed? And the land! It looks as if it has been forced into overproduction every year since Ki-var' has been in control of it. The place looks... ravaged."

"I know," her husband replied, wrapping a comforting arm about her shoulders, drawing her close. "But we will rectify the situation as soon as we can. And once Ki-var' is gone, hopefully our people's spirits will rise."

"Well, one good thing came out of all this," Zan interjected. "If anyone did follow Courtney the other day, they won't get in to the catacombs from the North Woods, where they spotted her. Now that the tunnel is effectively sealed," he added, with an amused grin.

"Yes, there is that," Max agreed with a sigh. He was not nearly as amused over the irony of the situation. "Next question is: How do we find Ki-var' - especially since we don't know what he looks like - and engage him in mortal combat? We have no real idea what we are up against."

You are more than ready to defeat him, my son. Your foursquare is much more powerful than any that have come before you.

"Okay, so maybe we have what it takes to defeat him," Max said aloud, confusing the other three, when he seemed to be responding to some unspoken statement. At their perplexed expressions, he said, "Oh, sorry. King Zan was just reassuring me that we have the power to defeat Ki-var'. I'm really not talking to myself here, honest."

"So, what?" Zan asked, curious, and also feeling a little left out. "Has he like, possessed you or something?"

"No," Max said slowly, trying to think of how to describe what was happening. "It's kind of like having someone whisper inside your head, if that makes any sense."

This is the way I speak to your brother, my son. King Zan's thoughts came into Zan's head. I can speak to any of you at any time, but only one at a time, unless you are all connected. I simply chose to speak through Max, since he will be my successor. Your destiny lies in another land, when the time comes for you to embrace it.

"All right, I understand," Zan replied aloud, though his answer clearly wasn't directed at Max.

"I take it, he explained it better than I did," Max said with a smirk.

"Yeah. You know, he called me son. I never thought about it before, but he's really our father."

"True, but let's not look at that too closely, okay? It reminds me of that silly song, 'I'm My Own Grandpa'. Isabel would be our cousin, not our sister, and Liz and Karanna would really be our step-sisters...." Max shook his head and laughed. "It gets way too complicated."

"That would make a really great genealogy project for school," Karanna said jokingly. The room went silent, as the implication of what she said hung in the air. School was a thing of the past. There would be no more projects, papers, research. Plans for college and careers were a thing of the past. They stood in silent reflection, absorbing the impact their decision to marry and move to Antar was going to have on their lives. Finally, nervous that they might be upset with her slip-up, Karanna apologized.

"Hey, there's nothing to be sorry for," Liz assured her. "I think we were just lost in our thoughts about how different things are going to be, from the plans we had previously made for our lives." She turned on the "bedroom eyes" for Max, and added, "I think it's time to focus on more, uh, short-term plans right now, anyway. What say we leave these two alone, and go back to our room?" she suggested to him.

Max buried his face in the side of her neck, sucking and nipping the tender flesh. "Mmm, sounds like a plan to me."

"Maybe you could wait until you get there to seduce your wife, instead of making us watch?" his brother suggested with one brow arched reprovingly.

"Oh, if you insist." Max huffed the comment in feigned annoyance. Zan and Karanna laughed, as Max and Liz turned to leave. "Listen, I don't know what you were thinking," Max added over his shoulder to his brother, "but I say, we take the rest of the day to ravish our wives, and then tomorrow, we really ought to spend some time with the others, planning strategy."

"Agreed," Zan replied with a nod. "See you in the morning!" With a chuckle, he shut the door behind them.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Courtney, Isabel, Michael, and Da-nar' sat around the table, trying to absorb what had just happened.

"You mean, that explosion was power from the four of them?" Courtney asked, unsure that she had understood them correctly.

"That's the size of it," Isabel confirmed. "Apparently, the four of them were connected, and it created this intense energy field that slammed into the walls of the chamber. You should see the North Tunnel. It's completely destroyed."

"Well, at least we won't have to worry about someone sneaking in and attacking us from that direction," she said with a sigh of relief. She had been worrying considerably, since she had that feeling of being watched in the woods.

"That is one advantage, although Ge-lar' will no longer be able to go out there and harvest herbs. He'll have to go out one of the other tunnels, and walk to the woods. It'll be a long trek. I don't know if he can make it." Da-nar's deep concern for the holy man was etched into his expression.

"I can go for him," Courtney offered. "I'm familiar with most of the plants he uses. I'm sure he can describe the other ones he needs."

Da-nar' shook his head. "I don't think that would be wise. It was dangerous enough sending you out there, when you had a direct route. In human form, you would stick out like a sore thumb, if you had to walk through the streets of Antarra to get to the North Woods. Your presence would raise all sorts of questions, not to mention, attract Ki-var's attention."

"Hmm. Maybe that could work to our advantage," she mused. "After all, I could be a lure to get him here, so that the others could defeat him."

"I don't know. Let me think on that, and talk with Max," Da-nar' hedged. He didn't think it was a very plausible plan. "In the meantime, no one should leave the catacombs. We can't risk having you seen. If we need anything from the outside, I can shift back to my natural form, and move around the city unnoticed."

"Next order of business," Isabel interjected. "Tess. What are we going to do with her? She is going stir crazy, and it's driving me nuts. She wants fresh air and exercise. Is there anything we can do for her?"

"I'm afraid not," Da-nar' answered firmly. "She's too much of a risk to allow her any freedom. Besides, her time is growing short. She won't have to endure it much longer."

"Too much of a risk?" Michael questioned. "Even with the herbs?"

"Forgive me, but I don't trust Tessandra any farther than I could spit. And since Talerians don't have saliva glands..."

"Point taken," Michael said with a chuckle.

"How much longer do you think she has, before the baby is born?" Courtney wanted to know.

"Judging from the examination I performed this morning, another month, give or take. I can't be sure. But I will say that this gestation has gone much quicker than I would have anticipated. The baby is already well-developed, and growing steadily."

"Are all the supplies gathered, that will be needed for the birth?" Isabel asked. The last thing she wanted was to be running around panicked, looking for clean rags and such at the time of the birth.

"Yes. Surprisingly, Ge-lar' had already rounded up most of what would be needed. He and I worked together, and got the rest of things ready, while you all were working on the wedding plans. I'd say we're prepared for any contingency. And if we have an emergency situation, we can always head to the pod chamber, where all my equipment is. You forget, I've had practice with this whole gestation-birthing business. I don't anticipate any problems."

Isabel sighed in relief. "Good."

"Geez, Iz, you'd think you were having a baby, the way you're carrying on," Michael teased.

Isabel glared at him. "I don't think there is anything shameful about wanting to be prepared," she told him.

"Uh, oh. Behold - the Baby Nazi." Courtney and Da-nar' laughed, and Isabel herself couldn't subdue a smile. "I'll tell you what, Da-nar'," Michael said conspiratorially, "when the time comes, I'll keep Isabel occupied and out of your hair. That way, she won't be driving you nuts."

"Oh, come on, I'm not that bad!" Michael gave her a pointed look. "Am I?" she asked in a small, uncertain voice.

Michael wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her close to his side, kissing her lightly on the forehead. "Yes, Isabel, you are. But don't worry - we love you just the way you are."

Isabel relaxed, and laid her head on his shoulder, blinking as she fought back the tears. "Thanks. That means a lot."

Michael noticed she seemed to be a million miles away, and the melancholy look on her face told him just where her thoughts were taking her - Roswell, New Mexico. It was going to take her a long time to heal from the rejection she felt from her parents. He himself didn't think that they had necessarily rejected Max and Isabel, but that their shock didn't allow them to react the way Iz had hoped. But then, what did he know about family? Hank Guerin was hardly the person to hold up as an example against which all other parents should be measured. All he knew was, he would do whatever he could to try and erase the hurt that she had suffered. Something about this vulnerable side of Isabel touched him deeply, and it made him want to protect her. She might not be his sister in the biological sense, but that didn't stop him from feeling like she was a sister of his heart.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim Valenti tossed and turned in his bed, back on Earth. He had hated leaving Antar without Kyle, but he had a sneaking suspicion that his son wouldn't have appreciated it, if he had gone looking for him. Besides, Kyle's Mustang was still parked by the cliff, so it wasn't like he needed a ride home. Jim was a little uncertain about the romance he had sensed budding between Kyle and Ava, but his son was nearly a man now, and he had to learn to follow his heart, wherever that might lead him. Even if his choices turned out to be unwise later on. After all, it was Jim's own foolish choice of a wife, that produced the fine young man he proudly called son. So even mistakes had their benefits. He only wished that he knew what his son's plans were. After all, it was going to be difficult explaining to everyone what happened to five of Roswell High's students, come Monday morning. He really didn't care to have to explain his son's absence as well.

And just what was he going to tell the principal? That six of the local kids, if you counted Tess, that used to go to school here were really aliens? And now they were back on their home planet, getting ready to engage in battle, to reclaim their homeland? And that two of them were the king and queen of said planet? Jim heaved a weary sigh. If he didn't know it was true, he wouldn't believe it, that's for sure. So why should anyone else? He could bring in witnesses, he supposed, but then, wouldn't people just look at all of them like they were nutcases? He was gaining a real appreciation for the ridicule his father had endured, just anticipating the reactions he would get.

And then there was the Evanses. What was he supposed to do there? He was bound to run into them. Then what? Pretend like they didn't know the truth? Or that he didn't? He still couldn't believe that they would turn their backs on those two kids that they had raised since they were little. Didn't they understand just how special Max and Isabel - and Zan - were? Couldn't they see that by raising them, they had helped to shape the future of an entire planet? Seemed to him, they should have been honored to have had such an opportunity, instead of feeling like the kids were no longer worthy of their love. Of course, he wasn't there, so he didn't want to judge Phil and Diane too harshly. After all, he, too, had been shocked to find out that the kids were aliens, even though he had suspected it all along. Somehow the finality of the truth had blown him away. The fact that they had been facing a life and death crisis at the time was the only thing that kept him grounded those first 24 hours. By the time the danger was over, he had managed to assimilate the fact that his father had been right all along.

He tossed back and forth a couple times, trying to get comfortable, and finally landed on his back, staring at the ceiling. His mind drifted to Jeff and Nancy. He hoped that Jeff would come around, and soon, before he chased Nancy away. She was a good woman, and she didn't deserve to be mistreated. And with the way that Da-nar' looked at Nancy, with such longing in his eyes, he knew that Jeff was treading on shaky ground. Especially since Liz was his biological daughter, and no physical relation to Nancy at all. And yet, she was the one that had given Liz her unconditional love. Funny how things turn out sometimes. But he was glad for Nancy's staunch support of her daughter. With all that Liz had dealt with in the last month, she didn't need to be abandoned by both her parents on top of it. At least Max and Isabel always knew who they were, and knew there was a chance that their parents wouldn't be able to handle the truth. All of it just sort of snuck up on Liz.

Flipping over to his stomach, he hugged his pillow under his head. Maybe he should go back out to the pod chamber tomorrow, and wait for Kyle. Then when the entrance to the pod chamber was open, he could go to Max, and find out what he was supposed to tell the authorities about them. Was Max ever planning on coming back to Earth? If not, it didn't make any difference what Jim said. But if they were planning on return visits in the future....

Jim jumped out of bed. It was obvious that he wasn't going to get to sleep anytime soon. Maybe if he went for a long walk, it would relax him, and the cold night air would help clear his head. Leaving on the sweats pants and T-shirt he had worn to bed, he pulled on a sweatshirt, socks, and a pair of sneakers, grabbing his coat on the way out the door.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Feb-2002 11:06:38 PM ]

posted on 15-Feb-2002 8:30:08 PM by sheeperz
Well, here I am again! Just want to tell you how much I love all your feedback! And I get a kick out of reading your theories... some of them are dead on, some are out there... it's great to see you all trying to dream up what's coming next! *wink*

This is another round-robin kind of part. I wouldn't be surprised if things continue this way, now that everything is barreling toward the conclusion.

Hope you enjoy this - let me know, 'k? *hugz*


Part Forty-three

Ki-var' paced the small area inside his tent, frustrated at the way everything seemed to be conspiring against him this day. First the cave-in, which claimed the lives of two of his best soldiers, and blocked his access to some underground hideout. Had that been deliberate? he asked himself for the umpteenth time. Then their search among the ruins at the palace site had turned up nothing. But the crowning glory of this mess, was that when he and his remaining two men had been returning to camp, the skies had opened up, and poured out the wrath of the heavens upon them. He had never seen such a storm - thunder, lightning, rain, hail.... all in grand proportions. Was it some sort of omen? he wondered. He shook off the feeling of impending disaster. After all, he was the mighty Ki-var', was he not? Who could possibly prevail against him? Certainly not some weak human replica of the former king of Antar, who couldn't defend himself against Ki-var's great power.

With a frustrated sigh, he pulled back the flap of his tent, and surveyed the area. Mud, everywhere. And the storm raged on, as if it were seeking personal retribution for some grievous transgression. It didn't look like it was going to let up any time soon. He let the flap drop back into place, and sank down on the sleeping pallet. He really needed to relax, before all this tension caused him to snap. Then he'd definitely be defeated. He needed all his senses keen when it came time to confront this threat to his reign. Once the little hybrid wonder was disposed of, that would be the end of any possible rebellion to his reign. He bolted upright again. The sooner the better. He would send for the guards, and find out exactly what they knew, and be ready to move out first thing in the morning, if the rain let up.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning, Max and Zan, along with their brides, showed up unexpectedly for breakfast with the rest of the group. Several eyebrows were raised in silent inquiry, as they entered the room.

"What?" Max asked in feigned innocence, as if he had no idea what was so shocking. Then he smirked. "We just thought that perhaps it was time we all sat down to discuss our next course of action." He turned to Ge-lar'. "First things first, though... do you have any more of those herbs you gave us before the wedding?" he asked sheepishly. "I think Zan and I could stand to have some tea about now." There was no mistaking the rather large, firm bulges in their zipper regions.

Ge-lar' chuckled. "Two cups of tea, coming up."

Max's brows knit together in concern. "Kyle, what are you still doing here?" Ava bowed her head in embarrassment, but not before Max saw the furious blush that spread over her cheeks. He glanced at Zan briefly, and noted that he had seen her reaction as well.

With tender affection, Kyle reached over and twined his fingers with Ava's. Surprised, she looked up at him, and was stunned by the look she saw in his eyes. But not nearly as stunned as she was by his answer.

"Get used to me being around, Evans," he said flat out. "I'm in love with Ava, and I don't do well with long-distance relationships." Ava couldn't believe he had admitted his feelings to a whole room full of people. But a smile broke out on her face. Now she was glad that Zan hadn't settled for the relationship that they had. She never could have dreamed that being in love could be so... wonderful.

"So, just what are your plans, Valenti?" Zan demanded in that overprotective big brother voice. "I mean, if you've been here since the wedding....?" The insinuation was clear, that Zan assumed the two were sleeping together.

"Let's just say, I intend to travel the road to marital bliss myself, as soon as I can. Uh, providing that Ava will have me. I just need to figure out some things - like where we'll live, what I'll do... that sort of thing."

"Forgive me if I seem to be interfering here," Max spoke up, hoping to forestall Zan blowing a gasket, "but Ava really can't return to Earth. It isn't safe for her. If you're really serious about this, you'll have to plan to take up residence on Antar." His eyes traveled to Ava, to see if her face registered any objections to the idea of spending her life with Kyle Valenti. He found quite the opposite. He was glad for them. They would make a good couple.

"Yeah, I kinda was coming to that same conclusion," Kyle admitted, glad that Max seemed to be taking this all in stride. It couldn't hurt to have Max on his side, to keep Zan from wanting to strangle him.

"Good. Then, as far as what you'll do... I'm sure once we get things rolling around here, we'll need someone to help with constructing a place for us to live. I don't intend to rebuild the palace in all its grandeur, but certainly there will be plenty of work to be done. And once it's finished, I see no reason why the two of you can't reside there with us, at least until you start a family of your own. And there will be plenty to do, in order to rebuild our land. You won't lack for good, honest, hard work. The decision, of course, is yours."

"No, that sounds great, Max. Are you sure? I mean, I don't want to impose, or anything..."

"Kyle, I'm sure. Listen, for all our differences, you're okay. You've been more than patient with all of this business, and helpful whenever you could be. I say, it's time to put our past behind us, and start fresh. What do you say?"

Kyle stood, and held his hand out to Max. They clasped each other's hands in a firm handshake - a resolve to work together, instead of against each other, from now on. Kyle sat back down, and faced Ava. "So, what do you think, babe? Could you stand to wake up next to me for the rest of your life?"

Ava threw her arms around his neck, and hugged him so hard, he thought he'd never take a breath again. "Oh, yes!" she cried, her heart filled with joy.

"Uh, Ava?" Max spoke hesitantly, nervously scratching the back of his head. "Don't you think you ought to let the poor guy breathe? He's turning purple...."

Ava sprung back from Kyle. "Oh, my God," she whispered contritely. "Kyle, I'm so sorry. It's just... I'm just... so happy!" she confessed, breathless.

Kyle, now able to breathe, chuckled. "I'm glad you're happy, darlin'. Evans - looks like I'm already in your debt. Thanks," he said with a grin.

"No problem. Ava never would have forgiven me, if I let her kill her future husband without trying to stop her." Everyone chuckled at the blush that tinted Ava's cheeks again. But Max knew she wasn't offended by his comment. He could tell by the shy smile that graced her lips.

"So what's the big plan?" Kyle asked, trying to divert attention from his private plans with Ava, until they could discuss things alone. He hadn't meant to blurt out his desire to marry her, without consulting her first. Damn that Zan Evans, anyway, for making me defend my feelings for Ava. Thank God, she'd been receptive to the idea.

"Well, I've been giving that some thought," Max replied.

Michael smirked. "Oh? And when would that have been?"

"Ha ha, Michael, extremely amusing."

"Thanks, I thought so."

Max rolled his eyes. "Anyway, as I was saying, I was thinking that Da-nar' could maybe go out on a scouting mission, and see what he could find out. Where Ki-var' is holed up, how well guarded he is, that sort of thing."

"When would you like me to go?" Da-nar' asked.

"As soon as possible. The quicker we get a handle on the situation, the sooner we can neutralize Ki-var' and get on with our lives. I, for one, don't want a Vietnam War scenario here. Get it over and done with ASAP, that's my philosophy."

* * * * * * * * * *

"You're sure this is the place?" Ki-var' grilled the guard for the third time since they had arrived.

"Absolutely positive," was the response. "It was right - here." He pointed, indicating the exact location. "A panel in the floor was raised up, and slid off to this side," he continued, gesturing to the right of where the hole had been.

"There must be some sort of mechanism here, that releases the panel," Ki-var' growled, growing tired of the delay. He wanted to spring into action, taking the new royalty off guard. This new Zan was an unknown. He'd rather not take any chances. "Spread out in this area that used to be the throne room, and scour it for some sort of hidden device." Immediately, the men began to comb the area.

"Ki-var'! I think I found something!" Tan'-dar exclaimed a few minutes later.

Ki-var' rushed to the soldier's side. Sure enough, there was some sort of mechanism buried under the rubble on the floor. Getting his bearings, Ki-var' tried to recall the layout of the room, when the palace had stood tall and proud. From the nearest he could figure, it was located right about where Zan's throne had been, where he would meet with his subjects. "Well, I guess all we can do, is to push it, and see what happens." Holding his hand out, signaling for Tan'-dar to wait a minute, he moved into position next to where the guard assured him the opening was. He assembled the rest of his men, and had them take up their arms, in case of attack. Then, with a nod of his head, he gave the order for Tan'-dar to activate the release. Before Ki-var's feet, the floor lifted and slid to the side, just as the guard had claimed it would.

Ki-var' motioned that they all be quiet, until they knew what they were up against. He lay down on the ground, flat on his stomach, to survey the situation below. He saw the stone floor of what appeared to be an underground chamber, but as he leaned in farther, he saw the silk and flowers decorating the area. Then he remembered that there had been a wedding. Must be, this stuff was some sort of strange human tradition associated with marriage rites.

He listened carefully, and heard no sounds coming from below. Using hand signals, he conveyed his intention to enter the chamber. He also indicated that Tan'-dar and Sha-var' were to accompany him. With the stealth of a stalking predator, the three men lowered themselves to the underground room. Once there, they took in the various corridors that extended from this central hub. With silent footfalls, he went to the entrance of each passageway, and peered down into the shadows. Only two of the corridors were lit. Surely that bore some significance.

* * * * * * * * *

Karanna, who was cuddled up next to Zan, let out a yawn. She covered her mouth with her hand in embarrassment. "Geez, I'm sorry Max. I didn't mean to interrupt. I'm just so tired for some reason."

Zan kissed her on the forehead. "Why don't you go back to the room and lie down?" he suggested. "I'll come get you later, after you've had a good nap."

Karanna looked at Max. "Would that be okay? I mean, do you need me here for this?"

Max smiled at her, kindness in his eyes. "No, you go rest. Zan can fill you in on everything later." Nodding, Karanna rose, and left to go back to bed.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ki-var' was about to venture down one of the tunnels, when he and his two companions heard footsteps. Because the sound reverberated off the stone walls, it was difficult to tell what direction they were coming from. There was only one thing to do - hide.

Quickly glancing around, Ki-var' smiled deviously. How ironic that the decorations from the wedding would be the very thing that would conceal him from discovery. He motioned to the others, and they slipped behind the yards of silken material. Ki-var' managed to part two sections just enough to peer out. He wanted to see who was wandering around down here. If he was lucky....

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, than a petite, dark-haired girl came into view. Ki-var's face screwed up in concentration. She looked familiar somehow, but that was impossible, wasn't it? His eyes followed her, as she emerged from one lit passageway, and entered the other. Listening intently, he discerned that hers were the only footsteps he could hear.

With wordless signals, he conveyed to the soldiers that he was going to follow her, and for them to remain where they were, watchful for anyone who might sneak up on him. He crept out of his hiding place, and trailed after her, making sure not to attract her attention in any way. Before too long, he saw her disappear behind a door. He lurked outside her door for a few moments, listening carefully, to try and determine if she was alone. When he didn't hear any noises, he carefully opened the door a mere crack, and listened again. Still nothing. With extreme caution, he pushed the door to create a crack that was large enough to allow him to see into the room. It took his eyes a minute to adjust to the low lighting provided by a single candle inside. Eventually, he was able to make out a bed, and a couple other pieces of unusual furniture. His eyes focused on the bed, and saw the shadowed outline of the small woman lying upon it. Her face was turned away from him, which gave him the element of surprise. He crossed silently to where she lay, but before he could grab her, she jumped with a start. Apparently, she had sensed his presence. Interesting.

Karanna had flipped over, and pushed herself to the far side of the bed, all in one swift motion, when she sensed an evil presence near her. She was petrified, when she realized how close he was. Her mouth opened to scream, but her terror had rendered her momentarily mute.

That was all it took for Ki-var' to gain the upper hand. Focusing his mental energy, Karanna immediately slumped in unconsciousness. But not before Ki-var' realized who she was. He had seen her, when he delivered that bogus message to the young royals a few months earlier. She had been in that chamber, where Tess had led the king and his cohorts, and they had attempted to contact their people. And just before she passed out, despite her lack of ability to rail at him, he had finally realized who she must be. It was something he couldn't put his finger on - just an inexplicable sense of the woman. This was the king's bride.

Suddenly, he was filled with rage. So, those bastards had found a way to replicate the bride, after all? He had been assured that her essence no longer existed, but someone had betrayed him. He wondered who, but realized that he didn't have the luxury of pondering that right now. He needed to get out of here, before he was discovered. If this king and queen were anything like the originals, Zan would figure out something was amiss with his ladylove.

And then it hit him. Who better than the queen herself, to hold as a hostage? He quickly lifted her in his arms, and broke for the central hub of the tunnels in a dead run. When he arrived, his men vaulted from their posts, and signaled to the guard waiting above, to lower the rope ladder they had with them. In a flash, the three men and their hostage were above ground, and one of those waiting had triggered the closing of the entrance.

Ki-var' passed the woman in his arms off to one of the other men, his chest heaving from the exertion. He was fit, as far as that goes in Talerian physiology. But the fact that this girl had nearly as much mass as he, had made his abduction of her an ambitious undertaking. When he finally caught his breath, he gave the order for them to move out, and take her back to their camp.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tess had just finished her morning meal, and was sitting on the edge of her bed, when she felt it. His presence. There was no mistaking it this time. It was stronger than before. She could almost feel phantom emotions coming from him. Anxiety, anticipation... Where was he now, and what is he doing? Her heart lurched, when his energy began to fade slowly, then seemed to stabilize for a few minutes. Then it returned strong again, filled with a sense of exhilaration and triumph, mixed with a little fear. Fear of what? Her sense of him diminished again, but she was aware of his relief.

She suddenly realized, there was only one thing that would ever cause Ki-var' self-doubt and thus, fear: Zan. That revelation led her to the startling realization that he knew that the new king was here, and that could mean only one thing - he must have been in the catacombs. Damn! He had been so close. Maybe he was still close enough....

Concentrating for all she was worth, Tess tried to make her brother aware of her presence. And that she was in trouble. After several moments, she collapsed back against the pillows to rest. She had done all she could do. The rest was up to Ki-var'.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Max and company were still discussing strategy, when Liz shrieked "No!" and slumped to the floor, grabbing her head as she curled into a little ball.

"Liz! Baby what's wrong?" But Liz couldn't respond to her husband. She just lay on the floor, her body rocking in response to the pain. He could feel something strange in his spirit, but wasn't able to place his finger on it. It must have had something to do with what was happening to Liz, but for the life of him, he didn't know what it meant.

Max turned to look at Zan, and saw him staring blankly at the wall. Was everyone going weird on him, he wondered. But a glance at the concerned faces of the rest of the group told him that whatever the problem was, it was confined to the four of them. Four! Oh, God, what about Karanna? Please, let her be all right, he prayed fervently.

Not sure if he could help Liz or not, he placed his healing hands on her head, and tried to make a connection. Her mind seemed locked on an image he had never seen from her before - an alien being that looked like the figures he worked with at the UFO museum. It was standing over her, staring at her for a second, before closing its eyes in concentration. And then a blast of pain ripping through her head. It was so intense, Max screamed from experiencing it secondhand. He managed, however, to break her out of the repetitive loop of the waking nightmare, and her body went limp in his arms, her breath coming in shallow pants, as she tried to regain her senses.

While she was coming back around, Max looked to Da-nar'. "You know the image of aliens that humans have? Little grey beings, with black, almond shaped eyes?" he asked.

"Yes..." Da-nar' responded hesitantly, almost as if he were... uncomfortable.

"Tell me - is that how your species looks in its natural form?" Da-nar' closed his eyes in embarrassment, then nodded. "Liz has an image of one standing over her, making her head feel as though it's splitting in two. I don't know where it's coming from -"

"Karanna," Liz rasped.

"Karanna?! Oh, God!" Max groaned, passing Liz off to Courtney, so he could get up. At the same time, Zan gulped in a huge breath, then cried, "No! God NO!!"

Max shook his brother's shoulders. "What is it? What did you see?"

"It's Ki-var', that slimy bastard! He has Karanna!"

"Damn! Are you sure, Zan?"

"It has to be Ki-var'. The amount of power.... so intense." Zan whispered the last, as his body shuddered.

"Come on!" Max shouted, expecting everyone to follow who was able. "We need to get to Zan's chamber, before it's too late!" He tore out of the room on a dead run, in the direction of the bridal chambers.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Still winded, Ki-var' waited for the others to precede him out of the ruins. He was just about to get in motion himself, when he sensed a strange sort of psychic power prowling around the edges of his consciousness. His vision started to blur, and it was as if he saw a specter in front of him - like the image of a person that was not clearly defined. Why would he be seeing things that weren't really there? The hair stood up on the back of his neck, when he realized what it was. Tess. Somehow, she was nearby, and trying to reach out to him. But why? And why was she so weak? His Tessandra's power was almost as developed as his own. Surely she should be able to communicate more effectively with him....

The words of the old healer woman came back to him. She had said the holy man was collecting Suppression plant, in great quantities. Were they drugging Tess? Was that why she was so weak? He wanted to call his men back, and go in after her, but he wouldn't know where in the tunnels to look for her. He decided to come back later, when he had a plan. Troubled over this latest development, he rushed to catch up with the rest of his men.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Exercising caution, Max approached Zan and Karanna's room. His caution was unwarranted, he noticed right away, when he saw the door standing wide open. They were too late.

Zan burst forward from the back of the group, to find his bride missing. With grief beyond measure, he ran to the bed, collapsing on top of it when he realized that his worst fears were confirmed. When he touched the spot where Karanna had been, he was flooded with a sense of her terror, just before Ki-var' rendered her unconscious. Coming out of it, he told them what he had felt, his voice breaking on a sob. Max pulled his brother into a comforting embrace. "Don't worry, Zan, we'll get her back. We'll get her back," he repeated, trying to reassure himself, as much as everyone else.

posted on 16-Feb-2002 10:58:09 AM by sheeperz
quote:

While she was coming back around, Max looked to Da-nar'. "You know the image of aliens that humans have? Little grey beings, with black, almond shaped eyes?" he asked.

"Yes..." Da-nar' responded hesitantly, almost as if he were... uncomfortable.

"Tell me - is that how your species looks in its natural form?" Da-nar' closed his eyes in embarrassment, then nodded. "Liz has an image of one standing over her, making her head feel as though it's splitting in two. I don't know where it's coming from -"



Brigitte - Is this the part you were referring to? Where Max asks Da-nar' if that's how HIS species looks? Remember, Da-nar' is Talerian.

Or did I inadvertently screw up elsewhere? If so, can you reference where, so I can fix? Thanks!
posted on 16-Feb-2002 11:23:31 PM by sheeperz
OMBY -

No, Kivar doesn't realize that there are two kings and queens (well, technically there aren't, but you know what I mean). He thought that the queen's essence was destroyed all those years ago. So having one queen is a major surprise.

Clear as mud?
posted on 18-Feb-2002 7:31:52 PM by sheeperz
Hey! Here I am!! Sorry for the 3 day lag here.

First off, I'd like to thank those of you who have nominated this series, or parts thereof, on the Nominations board. A friend of mine alerted me to one of the recent nominations, and that got me curious. I did a search, and was flattered to see there were other ones, as well! THANK YOU!


Well, I have a few minutes, so I'll try to answer some of yer questions/comments! *big*

Yes, Eddie was mistaken. He assumed it was Liz in his vision, because he had never met Karanna before. By the time he did, he had it so ingrained in his mind that it was Liz in the vision, he didn't consider the alternative. Besides, makes sense that Ki-var' would want the real queen, right?

LOL, Kittens, about the "Sorry, but no queen. Go Fish." Too funny!

Which leads to Omby's question: No, Ki-var' doesn't know there are two sets of them. (Didn't know if you saw my note above). Especially two queens. Remember, Tess did tell Ki-var' about the dupes, but there was no queen dupe. He didn't even know there was a queen period.

Speaking of Dupes.... S. Shortcake asked why Ava couldn't sense Ki-var', since she and Tess are the same. Answer: They are not the same at all. If you will remember, Ava is a hybrid, made from Tess' essence. Tess, however, if Ki-var's sister, a full-blooded Talerian. Yep, she's one of them little greylings, folks. She just shapeshifted to look human. Took on the form of the hybrid that was supposed to be Ava's dupe. The one that Nasedo killed... well, y