posted on 5-Feb-2002 12:30:21 AM by Destinee

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

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

Author's Note: Well, I was truly beginning to wonder if I would ever get this chapter done, and I imagine you guys probably were too. LOL. I can't apologize profusely enough for how long this has taken to get posted. This has to have been the case of writer's block to end all cases, and I'm not really sure I've broken through it yet. I struggled right up to the very last word in this part, and I feel like some parts of it are pretty weak, but once I had it finished I just wanted it out of my face. LOL

It really turned out long because I couldn't seem to get the M/T confrontation resolved to my satisfaction. I lost one version of the chapter due to deletion, *sad* and in trying to recall the way I'd written it, I decided to re-write the ending of the conversation. The situation still didn't completely work itself out, but it will all come out in the end. *tongue*

Thanks so much to anyone who stuck around, who bumped my last thread up to encourage me to finish, and who let me know through other venues that you were still waiting patiently on me. This is really all due to you guys, because if not for you, I'm sure I would've given up on it long ago.

Here's a link to the previous chapters in case you want a refresher, because I know it's been a long time.


Again, I'm sorry for making you wait so long, and I really appreciate your patience. *happy*

Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 56

Leaving school together, Michael and Maria headed for the Crashdown, where they were both scheduled to work that afternoon. Maria was driving them in the Jetta, and all throughout the brief trip, she kept casting uneasy glances at Michael, who sat fidgeting in the passenger seat. He’d been overly-hyper all day. And seeing as she hadn’t exactly been cool and collected herself, his excessive jitteriness was beginning to wear on her nerves.

She knew they were all worried over the situation with Tess. Liz had practically been a basket case today. But Michael didn’t seem very far below basket-case-level himself. It made Maria suspect that the two of them were doing their super-connection thing, but she wondered if it might not be something more than that.

She’d noticed Michael and Max both, acting a little weird today. Weirder than the usual friendly-enemy thing they had going on, or so she thought. It was kind of hard to be sure though, and it was at times like these that she wished she had a connection with Michael herself, so she could see what was going on in his head.

She was especially sensitive lately to the idea that he was hiding things from her. She didn’t like feeling that he was shutting her out. She knew he’d always done that, and probably always would to some extent, but it was just harder to deal with knowing he was closed off to her, while being completely open to Liz. She just wished he would let her in on the things that were bothering him. Especially when they were putting him so on edge.

When he began drumming his fingers on the armrest at his side, Maria sighed and looked over to catch him ducking slightly in his seat to glance out his side-view mirror.

“Alright, what’s going on with you, Michael?”

“What?” he asked, startled from his preoccupation out the passenger-side window. He straightened and threw her a quick look. “What do you mean?”

I mean, look at you,” she gestured with a sweep of her hand. “You’re like a chihuahua on speed or something.”

Momentary confusion clouded his features, then he hastily dropped his hand from his mouth, where he’d been chewing on his thumbnail, and halted the nervous jiggling of his leg, scowling at her description all the while.

Maria ignored his irritation and said, “This is the same way you act when you and Liz have the sympathetic energy thing going on. Are you like, feeling her or something?”

Shifting in his seat, he answered, “Not exactly.” He inclined his head in a brief movement. “Kinda, I guess,” he amended. “But not really.”

Shaking her head over the obscurity of his answer, she asked impatiently, “Which is it?”

Glancing over at her, Michael sighed and ran a hand through his hair. She wasn’t far wrong in saying this felt almost the same as when Liz’s energy activated his, but that wasn’t really what was happening. There hadn’t been any energy involved, but all day long he’d somehow been able to sense Liz’s feelings. Her nervous apprehension had seemed to roll off her in waves, and he’d felt every rippling effect whenever they’d been anywhere within three yards of each other. The insistent barrage had evoked corresponding feelings of trepidation in him that had stayed with him all day. Add that to his worry over Tess and the end of the world thing, his troubled leeriness over the watcher, and feeling torn at the moment between the need to be at his apartment with the others to keep an eye out and the need to stay with Maria for the same reason, and he did feel about as strung out as she’d accused him of. He objected to the tiny, bald dog part though.

As to whether anything he felt at the moment was due to Liz, he really couldn’t say. But he thought she was probably too far away for him to actually feel her right now.

So in actuality, all three of his answers had been valid. But to Maria, he said, “I don’t think I can feel her now, but I did at school today. She’s really been uptight, and it’s been making me feel uptight.”

“Oh,” Maria replied mutedly, feeling a small pang at the verification that he was reacting to the connection.

“You asked,” Michael reminded her defensively, instantly feeling guiltily responsible for her subdued voice.

“I know,” she returned, her tone equally defensive.

She knew it shouldn’t disturb her that they were feeling each other’s feelings. After all, she’d suspected as much. But each new confirmation of how strongly this thing tied them together, and how it made them react, was like a small reality check for her, and she wondered if she would ever be able to resign herself to the connection’s existence completely.

But in spite of how much it disquieted her, Maria couldn’t help but feel a wave of sympathy over what Michael’s behavior reflected of Liz and what she was going through at the moment. Her thoughts were definitely over there in that apartment with them. She wondered if Tess had made her appearance there yet and what they were saying her. She hoped Max and Liz could make her see reason. They so deserved some happiness together. They’d been through enough that they’d earned it. She really would like to tell that alien prima donna a thing or two about love and destiny.

It was probably a good thing Max and Liz had made it a private meeting, Maria acknowledged wryly.

She glanced over at Michael as he bent his head to check the side mirror again, and her eyes automatically went to her rearview mirror to see what he was looking at, but there was no one behind them that she could see.

Frowning curiously, she divided her gaze between him and the road as she asked, “So what else is going on? What’s the deal with you and Max today?”

Pulling his gaze from the mirror, Michael scowled lightly. What was this, twenty questions?

“There is no deal with me and Max,” he denied tightly. “I mean, if knowing I get to go along for the ride every time he turns his girlfriend on isn’t enough to make him put on the brakes whenever they make out, who am I to get all huffy about it, right?” he said acidly.

Maria made a face. “Well, that wasn’t what I meant, but since you brought it up... you didn’t say anything to Max about what happened last night, did you? ‘Cause you know, if you did, that’s pretty hypocritical of you.”

“How is it hypocritical?” he demanded indignantly.

Maria gave him a look of mild disbelief. “Because, Michael. We were doing the same thing they were in case you’ve forgotten. You can hardly say anything to Max about what they were doing, when we weren’t exactly being perfect angels ourselves. You didn’t, did you?”

Instead of answering, Michael said defensively, “We were not doing what they were, Maria, alright? We were kissing. They were... I don’t even wanna know what they were doing,” he said emphatically, firmly pushing away the image of the two of them as he’d seen them in the club the other night. “Whatever it was, it was more than kissing. I told you. Liz’s energy wouldn’t get so stirred up if that was all they were doing.”

“How do you know that?” she challenged.

“Because. Mine wasn’t doing anything,” he pointed out as evidence.

“We’d only just started kissing, Michael,” she protested. “How do you know what would’ve happened if we hadn’t been interrupted?”

Michael’s jaw worked for a second before he insisted,”I just know, okay? Can we drop this?”

Discussing Max and Liz’s sex life was not something he felt comfortable even thinking about, much less discussing. The energy thing with Liz when the two of them made out was the most disturbing thing Michael had ever experienced. And that was saying a lot for a displaced, reincarnated alien, who had an evil alter-ego running around, and who could kill with a single blast from his palm.

Sighing, Maria let it go. She knew Michael was going to have to deal with it someday. Unless the connection with Liz disappeared into oblivion, they were going to have to do something about the situation. But it didn’t have to be today.

“So there’s tension between you,” Maria stated, her lips twisting wryly at the huge understatement. “But that doesn’t explain why you two have been looking over your shoulders like every two seconds today. What’s up with that?”

Guiltily jerking his eyes from the rear-view mirror yet again, he answered irritably, “You know what’s up with that. Somebody’s watching us.”

“Yeah, I know somebody’s watching us,” she said impatiently. “But you weren’t acting this paranoid yesterday, Michael. Did something happen?”

She could tell by his look of caginess that she was right.

“It did,” she said positively. “Tell me, Michael,” she insisted apprehensively.

For a moment, Michael considered lying to her, but he didn’t want to do that. He’d found himself wanting to be as honest as possible with her lately. To make up in some way for the whole connection business, he supposed.

“Max thinks the watcher was on Liz’s balcony last night,” he admitted.

“Are you serious?” she asked incredulously, her heart immediately thumping in dread. “Why didn’t Liz tell me?!”

“Because Liz doesn’t know,” he informed her smoothly. “And you’re not gonna tell her,” he added with a mildly warning look. “She’s got enough on her plate right now without worrying about this,” he said, repeating Max’s words, which, miracle of miracles, he happened to agree with in this instance.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Maria nodded in agreement. “But what is this guy doing, Michael?” she asked with a sharp feeling of uneasiness. “I mean, he was right outside Liz’s window? Watching them, while they...” she trailed off without finishing the thought, appalled distaste written all over her face.

The idea of this sicko watching Max and Liz while they made out disgusted Michael too, and he offered the only salve he could for Maria and himself, both.

“We don’t really know how long he was out there. Maybe he only watched them sleep.”

Maria hoped that was true. For Max and Liz’s sakes if nothing else. But even if it were, it was still pretty creepy.

“But still... he’s getting way too close, Michael,” she said worriedly.

“I know,” Michael agreed darkly. “Which is why we’re keeping a sharp eye out. And the next time this creep slips up, we’re gonna be right there to catch him.”

He took grim satisfaction in that thought.

* ~~~~~~~~~* * ~~~~~~~~~*

Before opening Michael’s door to Tess, Max and Liz looked at one another in foreboding and took a fortifying breath. With his hand on the doorknob, Max’s gaze turned questioning, as if asking whether she was ready, and Liz silently nodded her head, though her heart was pounding heavily.

Greetings between the three of them were subdued and leery as they let Tess into the apartment, then the trio silently trailed over to the main living area.

Eyeing them both watchfully, Tess eased off her coat and asked, “What’s up?” Lowering herself to the single chair in the room, she perched on the edge of the cushion and braced herself for their answer.

Max and Liz took their time seating themselves on the couch, and after a brief silent exchange between them, Max took another deep breath and started, deciding to just jump in with both feet.

“Kyle told us you were talking about leaving Roswell, Tess,” he informed her softly, his gaze on her intent.

Tess blinked in surprise. That hadn’t been what she’d prepared herself to hear.

“He did?” she asked falteringly, abruptly trying to switch tracks in her brain.

“Yeah,” Max answered somberly. “Is that true?”

In lieu of an answer to the question, Tess said without meeting their eyes, “I wish he hadn’t told you that. If I left, I was planning to just go without saying anything. It would’ve been easier for everybody that way.”

Liz looked at Max, and they shared a dark look. She’d been right. Tess would’ve just taken off without any warning.

“How can you even say that, Tess? Don’t you think we would’ve worried about where you’d disappeared to?”

Surprisingly, the query had come from Liz, and Tess looked at her in consternation. She would’ve thought Liz would be the first one to applaud her leaving.

“Actually, no. It never really occurred to me that you would care that much,” she replied with a direct look at Liz.

Holding the other girl’s gaze, Liz replied soberly, “Well we would, Tess. We’re your friends. You can’t think you could just disappear from our lives and we’d go on as if you’d never even been here.”

Ridiculously, her words brought a lump to Tess’ throat, and she looked at Max to see if she’d find a similar sentiment on his face. She actually had thought they could do that. She didn’t feel like she’d really made that much of an impact on their lives. On Max and Liz’s, yeah, maybe. But it had been a negative impact. If she were gone, they would be free to ignore Max’s destiny and be together. But here they were saying they wanted her to stay.

She couldn’t help but ask herself why. Could it be possible that they honestly had no plans to be together, she wondered, looking at them assessingly. A part of her knew it was foolish to think so, after all, she’d come over here convinced they were going to tell her the opposite was true. But she couldn’t see any other reason why they wouldn’t regard her presence as the proverbial thorn in their sides, and would even go so far as to try and stop her from leaving.

Max studied Tess carefully, trying to read her expression. At first, he’d thought maybe Liz had made some significant headway with her warm statement to the other girl, but now the speculative light in those gleaming blue eyes made him change his mind. It was as if she were trying to second-guess their motives.

“We want you to stay, Tess,” he told her, making his expression as sincere as he knew how. “You’re one of us. This is where you belong. I know we may not have made you feel that way in the beginning, but– I thought we’d become better friends in the past couple of months,” he said somewhat questioningly.

“We have,” Tess agreed, her eyes on her lap.

“Well then why would you think about taking off without a word to any of us? Is it because of what we found out about Ava and Khivaar? Because I told you, that doesn’t matter,” he reiterated.

“How can it not matter, Max?” she asked with a twinge of almost angry despair. She hated the whole idea of this. It made her feel guilty and ashamed to be so closely associated with the bad guy. “I’m the sister of your enemy! We don’t even know what I’m doing on this planet. It’s all well and good to say I belong here, but we don’t know that. I mean, what about all these dreams you’ve been having about our past? It wasn’t Ava that was with you then.”

“Tess, those are just moments out of time,” Liz protested. “We don’t have any idea when they took place. Who knows what happened that led up to them? Or, what happened afterwards? You can’t base anything on those dreams. We don’t know enough about what we’re seeing.”

“Liz is right,” Max agreed. “Until we find out what happened to Michael’s sister, we can’t really say anything for sure. And it doesn’t mean anything that Ava wasn’t in the dreams. Maybe they all took place before she joined Zan and the others.”

What they were saying was true, but Tess had the advantage of knowing something they didn’t. Though it didn’t feel like an advantage, and she wished she were still in perfect ignorance of the fact, she knew that Ava had betrayed Zan in the end. According to Nicholas, anyway. And if that were true, it meant any place she’d held among them had been that of a spy and a traitor. If they knew that, it would change the tone of this conversation really quick, Tess thought with a deep-seated feeling of guilt.

Almost as if he’d heard her thoughts, Max went on to say, “All we can do is go on what we know. And we know there were eight pods on the ship, and two of those held Ava’s essence. Regardless of the reason why that came to be, you’re here now. You’re not Ava, or Khivaar’s sister, you’re Tess. And you’re one of us. That won’t change no matter what happened back then,” he told her with dark-eyed sincerity.

Tess dropped her eyes from his and swallowed hard. How did he know the perfect words to say to salve her guilt and fears when he didn’t even know what all those fears were, she wondered emotionally.

“Yeah, and there’s something else we know, too,” Liz said, her voice laden with meaning, as she locked anxious eyes with Max’s.

Max pulled in another breath to calm his nerves, and wished he could hold her hand while they did this. He consoled himself with the thought that in a few short moments, he could touch her however he wanted to without worrying about consequences.

At least, he hoped so anyway.

Taking the opening Liz had given him, he said nervously, “Right. Uh... that’s actually why we asked you here, Tess. There’s um- there’s something you should know.”

Here it comes, Tess thought apprehensively, looking at both of them searchingly. Her instincts had told her she was here so they could announce their couple status. She should’ve listened, she berated herself. Although– they certainly didn’t look like a newly-reunited couple. They weren’t even touching, she noted.

“This is... pretty big, Tess. And it’s– kind of out there,” Max tried to prepare her.

“But we’re completely sure it’s all true,” Liz put in, folding her hands together in her lap and weaving her fingers tightly. This was it, she thought. Do or die time. Inwardly, she grimaced at the aptness of the expression.

“Yeah,” Max quickly agreed. “It may sound a little crazy and outlandish, but we definitely believe it was real.”

“Max, what are you talking about?” Tess asked with a confused frown, feeling completely lost. This wasn’t sounding anything like a ‘we’re together’ speech.

Max and Liz’s eyes met again, and he said in invitation, “Liz, you tell her. You were the one who was there.”

His gaze expressed warm encouragement and a willingness to take over if she faltered, and Liz clung to that for a moment, before tucking her hair behind her ear and turning to face Tess.

“Okay, well...” she began, trying to pull her thoughts together and decide where to start. “A couple of months ago someone came to see me. Someone... who looked like Max, only older.” She looked at Tess steadily and said carefully, “He told me he was Max, at 31 years old, and he had used the Granolith to travel back in time from the year 2014 because something terrible had happened.”

Her face twisting into an expression of doubtful skepticism, Tess quickly switched her gaze to Max. Were they being serious? He actually believed this story?

Noting Tess’ dubiousness, Liz told her, “He knew things about the future, Tess. He predicted things before they happened. It was Max, I’m sure of it. He said the Granolith hadn’t actually been intended to be used for time travel, but they were able to modify it to work for that because it has this really incredible power.”

Studying her, Tess could tell Liz was utterly convinced all this was true. And of course, Max accepted it, coming from Liz, she thought sarcastically.

Playing along with it for curiosity’s sake, she said, “Alright. Why did he come back then? What was the terrible thing that happened?”

Max fielded this one, saying darkly, “He said Earth had been taken over. By our alien enemies.”

Tess’ eyes widened a little. That was a scary thought. Totally something out of an epic Will Smith movie, but the possibility that it could really happen, all at their instigation, was disturbing. Not to mention guilt-inducing.

“Max- the future Max- said we had to change things so that wouldn’t happen. And one of the reasons it happened–“ Liz hesitated, then continued almost gently, “Was because you left Roswell, Tess.”

Tess just looked at her without quite comprehending as the words rang in the stillness of the room, but her heart suddenly started pounding in dread.

“Why?” she asked, her voice slightly strangled.

“Well,” Liz darted a quick glance at Max. “He said Max and I– got together. Became inseparable. And because of that... you ended up leaving Roswell.”

Despite her numb confusion, Tess felt a small pang at hearing that.

“No. I meant... why would it make that much difference if I left?” she corrected.

“He said the four of us were made to be a complete unit,” Max replied softly. “We weren’t complete without you,” he stressed. “It made us weak, and we couldn’t defeat them.”

Stunned that what she’d been on the verge of doing could’ve had such a profound affect, Tess just shook her head dazedly and looked at Max as if struggling to understand. It sounded so horrifically possible, she didn’t know if she doubted what they were saying anymore.

“That’s why we couldn’t let you leave,” Max said earnestly. “Not without telling you what could happen. It could be disastrous, Tess. We need you here.”

A heavy moment of silence ensued, and Max and Liz looked at each other worriedly when Tess continued to sit there without saying anything, her gaze seemingly turned on an inward path. It wasn’t until that moment that it occurred to Liz that this was the second big shock Tess had had in the past two days. She fretted that they’d hit her with this too soon and should have waited, but she reminded herself that they hadn’t had a choice. They might have only barely caught her before she left as it was.

As she sat there unseeingly in Michael’s well-worn chair, Tess’ thoughts were whirling dizzily. It was almost impossible to comprehend the fact that by the very act of leaving her friends to protect them, she could’ve been the cause of their downfall. Heck, of the entire earth’s ruination. It seemed so inconceivable that her powers could hold that much importance. Especially in light of all the power Michael and Liz were capable of together. Her own powers were nowhere near that strong.

That fact was all it took to give form to the sickening thought that had tickled at the back of her mind ever since Liz had first spoken of this future scenario. The thought that maybe it hadn’t been so much the loss of her contributing powers that had led to their defeat, but that she had actually defected to the side of their enemies.

She cast a furtive look towards Max and Liz as if they might have somehow heard the guilty secret.

What if, in another time, she hadn’t resisted Nicholas’ efforts to get her to turn on Max and the others, she worried. What if she’d done her ‘brother’s’ bidding, and had spied on and betrayed them? She was ashamed to admit it, but there had been a time in the late fall that she’d been feeling so frustrated and resentful of the whole thing with Max and Liz, that things could have gone very differently than they had. After passing the whole summer waiting for him to come around while Liz was out of the picture in Florida, and still being patient during the few months after Liz had come back, Tess had fast been coming to the realization that she was wasting her time. She’d been really angry at Max then, and the thought that she had an option to get back at him had occurred to her more than once during that period while he’d totally ignored her to pursue Liz. It had been shortly after the whole ordeal with Whitaker had taken place, and she’d been trying to figure out how she was going to handle Nicholas, after promising to do what he wanted.

What if she had done what he wanted her to? What if she’d led them all to their deaths? Just like she had on Antaar.

The speculations produced a crushing sense of guilt.

She looked up to find Max’s concerned gaze on her, and shook her head slightly. “I’m sorry, Max,” she said with heavy sincerity, her voice hushed and choked.

Frowning a little at her fraught tone, Max assured her gently, “It’s okay, Tess. You didn’t know. But– now you do, so, just... no more talk about leaving, okay? We’re your family now,” he told her, hoping the thought would dispel her seeming disheartenment over her tie with Khivaar.

Tess smiled sadly at his words. He was so very sweet and caring. But so utterly clueless about the intrigue going on around him.

She didn’t know what to do about Nicholas now, she thought with despair. She really shouldn’t stay, but she couldn’t leave either. Or this planet would fall into enemy hands just as their own had.
posted on 5-Feb-2002 12:32:25 AM by Destinee
Laughing humorlessly, Tess shook her head at herself. Here she’d been worrying about this discussion because she’d thought they wanted to talk about their love-life, and instead, they’d wanted to tell her the fate of the entire world was hanging in the balance because of their actions. Could their lives be any more absurd?

At her low burst of dry laughter, Liz frowned and looked at her oddly. She and Max were sitting here trying their best to tell this as gently as possible so it wouldn’t upset her, and the girl was actually laughing? What on earth could she find funny in all this, Liz wondered with a flash of irritation.

“What’s so funny?” she asked shortly, exasperated at the complete unpredictability of Tess’ emotional responses.

Shaking her head again, Tess confessed, “I am. I’m such an idiot. It seems ridiculously insignificant now, but I actually thought you guys asked me over here to tell me you were back together.”

Biting her lip, Liz looked at Max and found the same questions in his eyes that were probably reflected in hers. It felt like they’d accomplished their mission. It didn’t seem likely Tess would leave now. Was it really necessary to reveal their relationship at this moment, they silently asked one another.

But the look that passed between them took the decision out of their hands. Tess had looked over at them, expecting them to share in her amusement over the irony of her worries, and instead they sat there exchanging one of their patented Max/Liz stares, looking decidedly uncomfortable.

And suddenly Tess knew she’d been right.

“You are,” she stated flatly.

Feeling an instant of slight regret for the loss of choice in the matter, Max met Tess’ eyes warily, and nodded. “Yeah, we are,” he affirmed gently.

Liz desperately wanted some form of physical contact with Max as they waited anxiously for Tess’ reaction, but she was almost afraid to make a move, especially in Max’s direction, for fear of negatively impacting the other girl’s response. It felt like they were perched on a precariously balanced see-saw, breathlessly waiting to see which way it would tip.

“When did this happen?” Tess asked coolly, trying not to let on how affected she was by the announcement. She didn’t know how she could possibly feel surprised at the news when she’d been expecting to hear it since early this morning, but somehow she was just a little bit. So much for Max’s assurances that the group had any input on the matter, she thought bitterly.

Max’s gaze bounced from Liz and back to Tess again. “Uh... r-right after we came back from New York, actually,” he admitted hesitantly, unsure if it was wise to reveal that detail. “Liz told me about all this stuff then, and once we got everything cleared up between us, we- just...” Max ended with a small, expressive shrug, and once again waited tensely for her response.

For a moment, Tess just looked at him, growing angry in slow increments while she held her silence.

He’d lied to her.

That wasn’t what hurt the most in all this, but somehow, that was the part she became focused on. And it completely infuriated her. Better to feel that than the pain.

Out of all the people in the world, Tess respected Max more than anybody, and had thought she could trust him to always be straight with her. She’d thought he was her truest friend.

She really was an idiot.

“So you lied,” she said harshly. “This whole week, every time you said you were just friends, all that stuff you said to me the other day in the jeep about wanting what’s best for the group and my opinion mattering, it was all just a bunch of lies,” she accused.

“I never lied to you that day, Tess,” Max denied with a forestalling expression. “We do want what’s best for the group. And your opinion does matter. We’re just... hoping everyone can agree that we’re better together than we are apart. You saw how I was without Liz these past few months, Tess, you know that’s the truth.”

Refusing to acknowledge that claim, she said tightly, “What about our mission, Max? Our people? We have a purpose for being here on this planet,” she reminded him, conveniently forgetting her doubts from a moment ago over her own purpose here. “We don’t have time to be skipping off through fields of daisies with the local inhabitants.” At this she sent a hard look of resentment towards Liz, who bit her lip at the enmity in Tess’ gaze, and dropped her eyes to the floor.

Max noticed the hostile interchange, and reached over for Liz’s hand in comfort. He knew the action was likely to incite more wrath in Tess, but he didn’t care. Her words were striking too close to where Liz was most vulnerable, and he couldn’t stand idly by while she struggled with this.

“Our cause isn’t going to suffer if we’re together, Tess.” He gave Liz’s hand a small reassuring squeeze. “It’s just the opposite, really. I feel like I have a better handle on things when I’m with Liz.”

Narrowing her eyes on their joined hands, Tess made an irate sound of disbelief. “How can you possibly say that? Everything else pales in comparison next to your precious Liz whenever you’re together.” She snorted in angry disgust. “Even when you’re not together that’s true. She distracts you from your duty, Max. She makes you weak. Why can’t you see that?” she asked in seething frustration.

She looked at Liz in virulent accusation as she said the words, and Liz held tightly to Max’s hand and tried not to let what she said affect her. It was hard though, when the other girl was voicing some of her greatest fears. That she would stand in the way of Max fulfilling his obligations to his people, and that they were behaving selfishly in this.

“Because it’s not true, that’s why,” Max replied unshakably, sensing Liz’s doubts were on the rise, and wanting to reassure her, as well as make Tess understand. He hated talking around Liz like this, as if she weren’t even in the room, but he couldn’t let Tess’ accusations go uncontested. “I’m not weak when I’m with Liz, Tess, she makes me stronger. She– makes me believe in myself, and it’s easier for me to make decisions I can be confident of with her next to me.” His gaze drifted to Liz as he spoke and he brought his free hand up to cover the back of hers where they lay clasped together in her lap. Lifting dark eyes from the loving handhold, she met his look with a slight smile. “When I’m not with her, I feel like... I’m just– completely lost.” Turning back to Tess, he entreated, “Why can’t you see that?”

A small ache bloomed in Tess’ chest over his words of devotion. Why couldn’t he have felt that way about me, she thought with hurt resentment. It was supposed to be me!

But it was like Liz Parker had a spell over him or something. And he’d never been able to see beyond her. It wasn’t healthy!

“Because you’re only proving exactly what I’m saying, Max,” she answered stridently. “You place too much importance on her. I mean, listen to yourself! You can only make good decisions if you’re with her? What is that?” Without giving him a chance to reply, she said, “You wanna know what I think? I think that’s just some excuse you’ve invented in your mind to give yourself permission to be with her, when you know it’s not meant to be. She’s human, Max. And you’re the king of another planet! Do you not see the disparity here?” she demanded, her tone biting. “What’s gonna happen when it comes time to choose between Liz and going home? What kind of ‘good decision’ are you gonna make then?” she asked caustically.

Tess was pushing all the right buttons. That one rattled even Max’s confidence just a little. Because it was something he’d struggled with himself. It was one of the reasons it had taken him so long to get involved with Liz in the first place, knowing that somewhere down the line, his being ‘different’ would mean they’d have to part. But he reminded himself that the future version of himself had had fourteen years with his Liz, apparently without having had to make a choice between staying or going. Things had changed, and it was possible they wouldn’t have that long together now, but then again, they might have even longer. All they could do was live for the moment, and love each other for whatever time they had.

He looked over at Liz to find her eyes trained on him in concern. Surprisingly, she didn’t look all that shaken by Tess’ words, but instead seemed to be watching for his response, and he gave her hand another reassuring squeeze.

Liz returned the pressure, taking confidence in his refusal to let Tess back him down in his belief of them. For her part, she’d known from the very beginning that she’d have to let him go one day. All they’d ever really had was ‘today’ in their relationship. And when the time came that he had to leave to do his duty, he would make that choice. She wouldn’t allow him to do anything else, no matter how painfully wrenching it would be for them both. Because that was the condition that had to be met before she could permit herself to go forward with this in spite of all the reasons not to.

Once more assured of their stance, Max said with renewed conviction, “Look, Tess. I know you don’t understand this, and you think we’re making a mistake. And... maybe there’s not anything I can say to you that’ll make you change your mind, but... I love her,” he told her gently, looking directly into her eyes. “Even– when I tried not to... I couldn’t do it. It’s like, she’s a part of me. And whenever we aren’t together,” he shook his head helplessly, “It’s like an essential part of me that’s missing.” He took his earnest gaze from Tess’ to warmly meet Liz’s eyes for a brief instant, and once again, pressed her hand lovingly.

Liz felt like she was glowing inside from hearing him declare himself in front of Tess like this. She couldn’t tell if he was getting through to the other girl or not, but it made her feel more secure in his love than she ever had before.

Looking back at Tess, Max told her, “I know you think we don’t belong together, and I thought that too for a long time. But... not that many people are lucky enough to find what Liz and I have, Tess. This...deep- connection with someone else. And I have to believe there’s a reason why it exists. Why it’s existed ever since I first saw her when we were kids.”

Outwardly, Tess seemed to be taking in his words with stony indifference, but inside, her heart was literally aching. She’d really never even stood a chance at gaining his heart, she realized painfully. Even though it was supposed to have belonged to her all along.

In her hurt, she lashed out at him angrily. “Not that many people find that connection, Max? Well apparently your girlfriend doesn’t find it all that difficult,” she sneered. “Seems like she can find it with just about anybody. Say- Michael, for instance.” Tess took delight in Max’s suddenly taut jaw. Good! She wanted him to hurt just as much as she was. “Doesn’t seem to me like your deep, hidden reason for its existence can be all that profound when it’s hardly unparalleled,” she said mockingly.

Max’s hand tightened around Liz’s as Tess’ barb hit its mark, and Liz caressed the back of it soothingly.

“That’s not true, Tess,” she said firmly in denial. “My connection with Michael is nothing like the one I have with Max. It is powerful, and there are things we can do that it seems Max and I can’t, but... even though Michael and I can hear each other’s thoughts, and- we can see things inside each other without trying... it still feels like Max knows me better than Michael ever could. Because it’s not just those kinds of things that make me feel connected to Max. goes deeper than that. Like– soul deep.” She tipped her chin up a little, as if daring Tess to mock the sentiment. “Maybe it sounds corny, but it’s true. It’s like something so deep inside it has to be our souls just, like– knows each other. There’s this...this communication between us that just feels like it’s instinctive or something... so, even when we aren’t connected, somehow, Max and I share more of ourselves than when Michael and I are.” Feeling as if she were explaining it badly, she gave a tiny shake of her head, and stopped trying. “I can’t explain why I’m connected to either one of them, but they are different. And Max is right. The way he and I have always had this... familiarity, this link, it’s too incredible to just be some arbitrary thing.”

Max’s grip closed tightly around hers again, incredibly touched by her words of affirmation, and Liz smiled at him gently.

Watching them, Tess grit her teeth, then bit out, “You know, fine. If you two want to delude yourselves into thinking you’re long-lost soulmates, go ahead. It’s obvious you’re gonna do whatever you want, whether it means shirking your duties or not.”

“Tess, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Max insisted. “I can be with Liz and still do my duty to Antaar.”

“No, Max, they are mutually exclusive,” Tess contradicted heatedly. “Because to do our duty we’re supposed to pair up. You and me, and Michael and Isabel. You were there when your mother told us that, you know it as well as I do. But if you three aren’t going to concern yourselves with what we’re supposed to do, I’m not gonna do it anymore either. I’m sick of being the only one worrying about it. Why don’t we all just pretend like we’ve never heard of Antaar, so we can get on with what’s really important, like high school dating,” she said derisively. “You know, I could get something going with Kyle, then we could ALL have interplanetary relationships.”

She made the statement with some vague notion of making Max see what he was missing by taunting him with the prospect of another guy. But even as the words were coming out of her mouth, she knew she was fooling herself yet again if she imagined he would care one way or another who she dated.

But as it turned out, she was wrong. Only it wasn’t that Max didn’t care for the idea. It was that he did. That was more than apparent in the way he and Liz were suddenly eyeing her with avid interest.

After throwing a brief look at Liz, Max asked casually, “Are you saying it’s a possibility that you and Kyle might... get something going?”

Tess narrowed her eyes at him angrily. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? It would tie everything up all nice and neat. Well, you can forget it!” she said perversely. “I’m not interested in taking Liz’s leftovers.” She felt a stab of remorse for referring to Kyle as such, but she didn’t let it deter her. At the moment, putting the screws to Max was uppermost in her mind. “It might not bother you that they’ve seen each other naked, Max, but I’m a little more discriminate,” she said with a malicious smirk.

Liz tensed and bit her lip. Absently, her thumb moved over Max’s knuckles in short, agitated movements as she debated with herself over whether to reveal the whole sleeping with Kyle thing as a hoax. Something in her rebelled at telling the other girl, insisting it was between Max, Kyle, and herself. And even poor Kyle wasn’t a fully-informed participant. But if it was going to put some kind of a stumbling block between Tess and Kyle, Liz concluded that she really didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t as if practically everyone in the group didn’t already know it for the lie it was anyway.

With lowered eyes, she quietly confessed, “That never really happened.”

“What?” Tess said shortly, shaking her head with irritable perplexity.

Liz flicked a glance at Max, then Tess. “Me and Kyle,” she clarified. “We never really slept together. We just– set it up to make it look that way.”

Tess looked at her in consternation. They’d set it up? She turned her gaze questioningly toward Max. For his benefit? Somewhere deep inside, a tiny part of her that she didn’t take time to examine was drooping in relief to learn that this was untrue, but for the most part she was just confounded as to why Liz would hurt Max like that if she truly loved him. Didn’t she know how much it had devastated him? Tess knew very well. She’d seen it first-hand.

She felt like she should be able to reason all this out, but her brain didn’t seem to be processing. It was too much to take in all at once.

“Why would you do that?” she finally asked in bewilderment.

Liz hesitated, reluctant to answer. If there was any part of this she would’ve liked to have kept from Tess, this was definitely it. But she thought it would probably be best to just get it all out in the open now. That way, there would be less of a chance for it to crop up later and blind-side them.

She shifted uneasily on the couch cushion. “Because, it was the only thing we could think of to– make Max stop pursuing me,” she slowly admitted, sending a remorseful look towards Max. He smiled slightly in return and gave a tiny shake of his head, letting her know she didn’t owe him any more apologies over this. It was behind them. In all ways but this one anyway.

Tess was blind to the exchange between them as things finally began falling into place in her mind. This had all taken place around the time of Max’s ridiculous stunt with that mariachi band, she suddenly recalled. His antics had been all over school the next day. In a small town like Roswell, you couldn’t just stand on a public street wearing a sombrero and singing ai-ai-ai without people taking notice, and at the time, Tess couldn’t believe he would draw attention to himself like that, all in the name of winning back Liz. She’d been incensed to see what lengths he was willing to go to for this human girl, and it had almost been the last straw as far as giving him time and remaining loyal to him against Nicholas had been concerned. She might have left right then and there, but it had actually been Liz who had stopped her, when she’d come to her that day after school and offered to try and help her get together with Max. She’d eventually accepted the other girls help, but she’d been highly suspicious of her motives. Tess knew that if Max had done anything so cheesy as to serenade her with a goofy, romantic Spanish love song, her response certainly wouldn’t have been to rush right over to Liz Parker’s house and offer her matchmaking services.

Was this something else that future Max guy had told her to do then, Tess wondered, a speculative light entering her eye. If the plan had only been to get Max to back off, had it really been necessary for them to actively try and get Max to turn to her? And that was what they had done. She could see that now. That night she’d found Max so desolate after seeing Kyle and Liz in bed together, Kyle had actually suggested to her at home that it was possible Max could use a friend at that moment. She’d instinctively sought him out at the park she’d often gone to when she’d been dealing with Nacedo’s death, half-expecting him to rebuff her and send her on her way, but he hadn’t done that. He had actually seemed to take some comfort in her presence there. That night had changed everything between them. And though it had been hard to see him going through so much pain, she’d often thought afterwards that the situation had worked perfectly to her advantage.

Because Liz had planned it that way.

Tess looked at her in appraisal. “So you did it to get Max to back off,” she stated, as if looking for confirmation of the fact.

Liz swallowed, feeling a little nervous about the gleam shining so brightly in Tess’ eyes. “Right,” she affirmed cautiously.

“So, what was with the Liz Parker Plan to get Max in ten easy steps?” Tess challenged smoothly.

Her grip in Max’s tightened crushingly as they shared a quick look of trepidation.

“What do you mean?” Liz stalled, not quite meeting the other girl’s eyes.

“I mean if all you had to do was to get Max to stop chasing after you, why try and get us together? It just seems a little... excessive,” Tess drawled.

“Oh,” Liz replied, as if she hadn’t known all along what she was getting at. Her hand closed in a death-grip around Max’s, she answered haltingly, “Um... because– at the time– it was what we thought we needed to do.”

“You and this... Future Max,” Tess said, gesturing vaguely with her hand. She spoke as if she were once again only looking for verification, but it was clear she knew the answer and was only toying with Liz.

When it became apparent she wasn’t getting a reply this time, Tess said with deceptive softness, “So let me get this straight. Max came back from the future to tell you that you two had been together but it made this terrible thing happen, and to get you to try and get us together to make it right, and yet.. here you are, clearly together, and just as clearly, not with me.” Her voice had risen accusingly at the end and now she gave Max a deadly look. “Wanna tell me again how much you want to do what’s best for everyone?” she challenged scathingly.

At the venom with which the charge was delivered, Max falteringly dropped his gaze from hers. But an exchanged glance with Liz soon steadied his resolve, and with determined surety, he quietly replied, “He was only guessing at things, Tess. Maybe he thought he knew what went wrong, but he couldn’t have known things would actually turn out better if you and I had been together. I mean, how could he?”

“I don’t know, Max. How does someone go back in time fourteen years to right their wrongs? Compared to that, I’d say speculating on occurring events would be a pretty small matter, wouldn’t you?”

Ignoring the acid in her tone, he argued, “We don’t know if he was operating under all the facts, though. He might not have known about Liz’s powers. He never mentioned them to her. We think maybe it’s possible they never even showed up in her in that timeline. And he also didn’t say anything about you being related to Khivaar,” he said pointedly.

Tess’ posture became brittlely erect. “What are you saying?” she asked tersely. “That if he’d known I had ties to the enemy camp, he never would’ve entertained the idea of us together?”

“No, Tess, that’s not what I’m saying,” Max said evenly, trying to hang on to his patience. “I just meant that if he didn’t know these very important details, who knows what else he didn’t know? Or how many things have already been changed.” Capturing her gaze and holding it, he said insistently, “All he really knew was that we needed to keep you from leaving. Maybe– he thought getting us together was the only thing that would accomplish that.” His expression turned imploring. “But that’s not true... is it? I thought– these past months... I thought you seemed happy with us just being friends. And I thought it was possible you might even have feelings for Kyle,” he fished, watching her carefully. “I’ve never seen you act so– carefree as you do with him, Tess. I know you don’t feel that way with me. And, you have a home here in Roswell, with family and friends who really care about you. Isn’t all that enough to stay here for?”

Though all that was true, maybe even the part about Kyle, she no longer had a choice in the matter of leaving. Tess knew Max was aware of that as well, but it made her angry that he seemed so desperate to offer up everything but himself, her rightful mate, as an incentive to stay. Once again, she turned resentful eyes on the reason for that, and Liz met her look defiantly for a moment this time, before turning her gaze away.

“None of this is important anyway. It’s all just temporary, Max,” Tess reminded him impatiently. “We aren’t going to be on this planet for long. We just have to finish our mission and we’re leaving. It’s stupid to form ties here with humans,” she said shortly, angry with herself because she knew she’d done that too, despite the foolishness of it.

Max shook his head. “There’s nothing to say we won’t be here that long, Tess,” he contradicted. “We were still here fourteen years from now in that other timeline. Do you really want to live here all that time, no matter how long it might be, staying separate from everybody? Because I don’t,” he said definitely. “We’ve done that all our lives, and it’s no way to live, even if it is temporary. It’s not wrong to get involved with humans,” he said, as if correcting a precocious child who’d learned the principles of mathematics all wrong. “I can’t believe the people who sent us to this planet could’ve expected us to exist here all this time without interacting with the people around us. Maybe– they didn’t exactly mean for us to get romantically involved with them,” he allowed. He sent Liz an apologetic look and added quickly, “But we don’t know that. And we don’t know they intended us to be together either, Tess. My mother never actually said that, she only said we’d been- together, before.” His voice clear and decisive, he said, “But it really doesn’t matter what they intended. As long as we live up to our responsibilities, we should be able to choose our own paths. Don’t you want that, Tess? To be able to make your own choices, without worrying about what anyone else has told you you were supposed to do?”

For a moment he thought he’d finally reached her, as her expression softened, and a look of longing darkened her eyes. But it was quickly gone, leaving him doubting he’d seen it there in the first place.

“Yeah, Max, that would really be great,” she agreed softly, making hope leap in his chest. But it was slowly snuffed out by her subsequent words. “And maybe in a perfect world, you could have your cake and eat it too,” she said, sending Liz a hard look, letting her know who she thought to be the superfluous dessert. “But this isn’t a perfect world. And neither is our own,” she told him relentlessly. “It’s desperate and war-torn... and our people are counting on us to save it. That means the decisions we make are crucial. It means facing reality and seeing things the way they really are, not twisting them so they’ll work the way we want them to. None of this is about choosing who we want to live our happily-ever-afters with, it’s about doing what we were sent here to do. And maybe your mother didn’t exactly say we were supposed to be together in this lifetime,” she conceded. “But Nacedo did. He told me that all my life. And he ought to have known, Max, he was there. He should know what the plan was better than any of us. I think you would see all that, if you just didn’t have all this... emotion clouding your vision.” Again, she shot an accusing look towards Liz with the words.

“So what is it that’s clouding yours, Tess?” Max asked with gentle pointedness, making her turn her head sharply back towards him. “Because ever since I’ve known you, I think you’ve been seeing something between us that just isn’t there. That isn’t ever going to be there,” he said with soft insistence. “You keep- pushing this destiny thing, even when the rest of us don’t think it’s necessary. And you refuse to see how– vital Liz is to me, and that I really am a better person when I’m with her, which can only benefit everybody. So which of us is twisting things to work the way we want them to?” he asked meaningfully, returning her own words to her.

Tess looked at him wordlessly, her expression unhappy. They seemed to be at such cross-purposes here, she didn’t think they would ever see things the same way. Abjectly, she turned her gaze on the dark-haired girl at his side, her face upturned toward his. Maybe Max was right, Tess thought defeatedly as she looked at the picture they made sitting close together, hands linked in a united front against her. She’d spent all this time- her entire life it seemed- hoping for something that was obviously never going to be. As long as Liz Parker was alive and breathing on this planet, he would only ever have eyes for her. Even with duty and destiny on her side, she couldn’t win him to her. And she was only one out of the four of them who thought they needed to follow their destinies. Maybe she was the one who was looking at everything wrong. And even if she wasn’t, she couldn’t keep fighting them all. It was useless. And she’d grown weary from the effort.

Tess’ posture spoke of despondency, and Max felt a sudden wave of compassion for her. He could understand why this was so hard for her to let go of. She’d practically been programmed all her life to think like this. And he had to admit, she’d made a few valid points for her view, not the least of which was their protector’s conviction that they were to follow the destinies that had been laid out for them. It was actually a little unsettling even for Max to ignore that one. But what he had with Liz was real and more strong than anything he’d ever felt before, and he wouldn’t dismiss that as unimportant in the scheme of things. He couldn’t.

Liz was feeling a little sorry for Tess too. She’d never seen the other girl looking so dejected before, and for once, she thought they were seeing a genuine depth of emotion on her face. Liz couldn’t help but empathize with her. She knew how it felt to have to give Max up, and she hadn’t even been weaned on the idea of a destiny with him like Tess had been. But it hadn’t been the real Max she’d held onto all those years, Liz assured herself. All she’d really ever had was an idea of him that Nacedo had planted in her head. A dream of the way things would be. She felt like she was watching Tess realize the death of that dream now, and it was strangely difficult to view. Because she knew it could so easily have been her in the other girl’s place, having to let go of Max for good. It possibly even should be her, she thought with a twinge of guilt.

Max was thinking Tess looked as if she might finally be on the road to acceptance, but any triumph he felt over that was tempered by a feeling of regret for putting such a look of unhappiness on her face. He wanted to make her face facts, but he hated that the truth had to be painful for her.

“I’m sorry if this hurts you, Tess,” he apologized sincerely. “That’s the last thing I want to do. You’re a really good friend, and– this past month or so... I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if it hadn’t been for you.”
posted on 5-Feb-2002 12:33:29 AM by Destinee
Liz dropped her eyes guiltily as he voiced that sentiment, and Max winced slightly in apology. He hadn’t meant to resurrect her misplaced guilt over everything that had happened, he’d only wanted to assure Tess that she was important to him too. But it suddenly felt a little awkward doing that with both girls in the room, and he consciously made an effort to pick his words with more care to keep from saying something that would hurt either of them.

“Your friendship means a lot to me,” he reiterated carefully. “And I don’t want to lose that, Tess.”

Glancing at Liz, Tess felt as if she were being offered a consolation prize, or even worse, being condescended to, and a sound of bitterness escaped her throat. “Please. Spare me the ‘I hope we can still be friends’ speech,” she grated.

Max sighed and rubbed at his temple with his thumb.”That’s not what this is, Tess,” he said with strained patience. “Don’t say it like that, like it’s some standard speech. You make it sound like this is a- a break-up I hope we can keep friendly or something, but that’s not what’s happening here,” he told her on a note of sternness.

Tess stared at him in mute resentment, incensed that he found it so easy to dismiss her and what they were supposed to be. “Call it whatever you want, Max, but you are breaking vows you made to me. We were married,” she reminded him with angry emphasis. “And I realize that’s nothing so mysterious and romantic as a ‘soul connection’,” the term was bitten out scornfully, “but I would think marriage vows might have a little more meaning than some... intangible feeling that probably only exists in your head.” She shook her head while her lips curved humorlessly. “Ever since the day we found out who we are to each other, it’s meant absolutely nothing to you though, hasn’t it? It’s always just been a- nuisance that’s gotten in the way of you being with your true love,” she said bitterly. “Well, I’m so sorry to be such an inconvenience to you, husband,” she stressed the word harshly, making Liz flinch. “Maybe if you had let mommy know I meant so little to you, she wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of having me fitted for the latest in pod-wear. Then you could form whatever attachments you wanted to in this life without having to deal with these awkward little scenes where ‘we’re not really breaking up’.”

Stormy eyes glared at him in accusation and betrayal, and Max clenched his teeth and tried not to let her words provoke him into saying something he shouldn’t. He could understand her hurt, but he refused to be made to feel guilty for not following through on a relationship that no longer existed. She couldn’t honestly believe they still had the commitment of marriage between them, could she, he wondered with incredulous exasperation.

After sending a grimace of apology Liz’s way for how ugly this seemed to be getting, Max said in grim displeasure, “Tess, I am not breaking any vows, because I’ve never made any vows to you. That was Zan and Ava, and that’s not who we are anymore,” he admonished.

Tess’ lips flattened. “Really. Well then somebody had better tell that to all those people back home who are waiting for their king to come back,” she said, her voice witheringly sharp.

She and Max locked eyes contentiously, frowns darkening both their faces, and Liz sat by and watched, feeling tense and out of place. This had evolved into an argument she no longer seemed to have a voice in, and she was beginning to feel like a mere bystander. And an unwanted one at that. As far as Tess was concerned anyway. Her wrathful glares had made it perfectly clear that she would like nothing better than to obliterate Liz’s presence from the face of the earth. And if there had been any doubts left as to her feelings regarding Max, those had been thoroughly erased as well. Hearing her refer to him as husband had left Liz with a sick feeling in her stomach that reminded her strongly of the way she’d felt that day in the pod chamber when Max’s mother had revealed Tess as Max’s bride. She remembered how the announcement had sent her reeling, and she’d felt as though she’d suddenly been thrust from her place at Max’s side. Not by him, of course, he’d told her none of it mattered, but she’d felt as if she didn’t have a right to him anymore. As if Tess had a prior claim.

Liz fought not to let thoughts like that take hold now, as Tess insisted their former commitment was still valid. She knew that Max in no way felt tied to Tess like that, but it was obvious that the other girl felt just the opposite.

So what exactly was the rule of thumb when it came to marriage laws and dead aliens whose essences were prettily gift-wrapped inside a human’s DNA, she wondered with grim irony.

Max wasn’t liking the way this was going any more than Liz was. He hadn’t expected Tess to be quite so sharp-tongued and hostile. And all this talk about marriage vows that were still binding was making him feel positively claustrophobic. He could only imagine how it was making Liz feel. Tess couldn’t be more wrong though. There was no way he could regard her as his wife. It was hard to imagine being so intimately bound to her even a lifetime ago. He’d just never been able to make himself feel connected to her that way. He’d always felt more of a bond with Liz than he did with the girl he had once been married to.

“Okay... maybe some part of Zan and Ava are still inside of us,” he finally said in concession. “But we’re part human too, Tess. If the person who supplied your human DNA had a husband, do you think that makes you still married to him too?” he asked with a look that was part quizzical, part challenge.

He knew he’d made his point when he received nothing but a nonplussed silence in reply, and he went on to supply the answer himself. “It doesn’t. Because you aren’t that person now any more than you are Ava. You are your own person, Tess, and so am I,” he stated firmly, determined that that was so. “We have different hearts- different souls from whoever we used to be, and those belong to us alone. Whether that means I’m really this king our people are waiting for...” he shrugged uncertainly, “If you wanna know the truth, I wish it didn’t. But as long as there are people who are counting on me to do this... I’m gonna try my best to do what they sent me here to do. Except for this,” he qualified, his face set in immutable lines. “If they expected us to come here and just...pick up where Zan and Ava left off– I’m sorry, but I won’t do that. That’s not something they have a right to dictate,” he said objectionably. “Marriage vows are ‘till death do us part’, and death parted Zan and Ava. What they had is over, and whatever you and I choose to do now is up to us and no one else,” he insisted. “And yeah, we have to be careful with our choices, but... I have to do what my heart tells me is right, Tess. That’s the only way I know how to be this- leader that everyone expects me to be. To follow where my instincts lead, instead of following along blindly with what someone else has told me to do.”

Tess looked at him balefully when he’d finished his little speech. She almost wanted to admire him for his convictions, but everything she’d ever been taught by Nacedo told her that letting his heart rule his decisions was an act of stupidity, and that was no way to be a leader. But she had to admit that his argument about them being someone entirely separate from Zan and Ava, and therefore free to disregard what had come before, held some small amount of appeal. How many times had she wished that could be so in the past couple of months? It would really make things so much simpler if she could believe it. But he was wrong, wasn’t he? She’d been raised to believe that she was Ava, the queen of Antaar, and Max’s mate. If that wasn’t who she was, she wouldn’t even be sure who to be.

Liz could sense the other girl’s conflict, and she thought maybe inserting a gentle reminder of the feelings she suspected Tess held for Kyle might help to sway her.

“Tess... you know, you’re free to follow your heart too,” she offered hesitantly. “Max isn’t saying he’s the only one who’s allowed to do that. And if your heart is telling you something besides what Nacedo has always drilled into you...” she prompted, remembering Tess’ dream the other night when she’d dreamwalked her, “You should just– go with that, you know? You can’t let Nacedo tell you how to feel. As long as we’re all careful not to let those things from the other timeline happen, why shouldn’t you find your own happiness? Wherever that might be.”

If Liz had known exactly how much rancor the other girl was feeling towards her, she might have saved her breath, because Tess wasn’t prepared to receive anything she had to say in a positive manner at that moment. In Tess’ eyes, Liz was the girl who was in firm occupation of a place she had no right to be. And if it weren’t for her, Tess was sure everything would be as it should be right now.

Turning a hateful glare on Liz, Tess said with vitriolic harshness, “You don’t care anything about my happiness. If you did, you wouldn’t be here. Being with Max is what would make me happy. And fulfilling our destiny together is what my heart is telling me to do,” she insisted, ignoring anything that whispered to the contrary. “But because of you, that will never happen,” she accused. “Because of you, Max has never been willing to listen to anything but the gospel as dictated by the perfect Liz Parker,” she intoned disparagingly.

“Tess,” Max said sternly in reproval, but Tess heedlessly continued her diatribe.

“If you hadn’t been in the way, he might have been a little more amenable to what we had to tell him when we first got here. But you’ve had your claws in him so deep that he thinks anything that might take him away from you is a threat,” she charged angrily. “I hope you realize that he never got a chance to see anything clearly that we’ve learned about our pasts, and he never will as long as he’s– obsessed over you like this. You influence him in everything! And you’re going to end up being his downfall.”

“That’s enough, Tess,” Max said sharply again in warning.

But as before, Tess ignored him and continued to blast Liz with corrosive accusations that were striking at her very heart. “So you go ahead, and you keep him to yourself. After all, your hearts are all that matters, right? Just let them tell you what to do and everything will turn out hunky-dorey. Never mind what happened the last time you did that.” Her voice lowered venomously as she volleyed a final perfectly-aimed blow. “But when everything falls apart, and millions of people end up dead or suffering, you just remember that it’s all on your head, Liz. You could’ve done something to save them, but you didn’t. You chose love.”

“I said that’s enough, Tess!” Max said with commanding fury, looking at Liz’s stricken face, and drawing her underneath his arm protectively. He knew Tess couldn’t have said anything more calculated to stir all Liz’s doubts, and it made him feel almost violent towards Tess for playing on her fears like this.

He looked over to find her sitting there with an impassive gaze fixed on Liz’s shaken form, and when she felt his eyes fall on her she jerked her gaze up to his with a flicker of something that might have been trepidation, then lifted her chin in a show of defiant remorselessness.

The muscle in Max’s jaw bunched with the clenching of his teeth, and he wanted nothing more than lay into Tess with a tongue-lashing she wouldn’t soon forget, but before he did that, he wanted to remove Liz from harm’s way. He didn’t want her here to receive the backlash of Tess’ temper again if he made her more angry. He was beginning to think it might not have been a very good idea to have made Liz sit through all this in the first place. If he could have anticipated exactly how vindictive Tess was going to end up being, he would’ve spared her the entire confrontation.

“Liz?” he said gently, chafing the arm farthest from him with the hand that held her against his side. She lifted eyes filled with uncertainties to his, and if there were anything he could’ve said that would’ve erased them instantly, he would have. He promised himself he would smother her in reassurances just as soon as they were alone, but first he had a few things to say to Ms. Destiny over there.

“Would you give us a few minutes, sweetheart?” he asked softly, his eyes willing her to understand why he was asking. “I have a few things I need to say to Tess, and then she’s going home,” he told her, throwing a hard look at Tess, whose own expression had tightened upon his utterance of the soft-spoken endearment to Liz. “We’ll only be a minute,” he promised Liz.

Feeling vulnerable and riddled with the doubts that had been brought once again to roaring life, Liz looked from Max to Tess, though she avoided making direct eye contact with the other girl. She wanted nothing so much at that moment as to get out of that room away from Tess’ malevolent glares and have a few minutes to herself to calm the turmoil of her thoughts. But she could tell Max was angry, and she was worried about what he might say to Tess if she left the room. They couldn’t afford to antagonize her any further. This whole thing was going so badly, and Liz was very afraid they were headed down the very same path they’d so desperately tried to alter.

“Max,” she said softly, her tone a cross between caution and mild protest.

Max read the fear in her eyes, and thought he could guess at what she was thinking. It was true Tess hadn’t exactly given them a guarantee that she was staying to complete the four-square, and that small fact would save her from the severe chewing out he would dearly love to give her. But there was no way he could let such maliciousness go unanswered. Tess had been deliberately cruel in the things she’d said to Liz, and he wouldn’t stand for it. Especially not after everything Liz had done for them, Tess included.

“It’s okay,” he assured her. “Tess and I just have a few things we need to get straight, that’s all,” he said, casting another forbidding look towards the girl in question. “And after she leaves, we’ll talk, okay?” His tone of voice was tender as he stroked her shoulder blade in a soothing manner.

Liz’s eyes lingered on his as he silently reassured her that he understood what her concerns were, and he’d do his best to keep a lid on his temper.

Finally, she nodded her assent. “Okay,” she agreed quietly. “I’ll just–“ her gaze swept the apartment for a suitable retreat,”I’ll just be in the bedroom,” she finished, and Max hugged her to him in the briefest of instants before she got up to head that way.

“I’ll be in to get you in a few minutes,” he promised again.

Liz nodded and made her way to the bedroom, thankful to escape.

Max waited until the door had closed behind her before he said anything, but the banked fury in the eyes he turned Tess’ way had her swallowing with nervous apprehension, and she was forced to acknowledge that maybe she’d gone a little too far in her tirade against Liz. It had all just seemed to come tumbling out of its own volition. But looking at him, she doubted he would accept that as an excuse, even if she were prepared to offer it to him.

“How could you say something like that to her?” he demanded tightly, the moment they were alone. “Do you have any idea how much she’s been through over all this? She’s literally had the weight of the world on her shoulders, without anyone to share the burden with, all because of a situation that was created by you and me,” he grated out, feeling the sharp sting of regret at the truth of that. “I don’t ever want to hear you trying to lay this off on her if something bad happens, Tess,” he warned harshly. “If things go down the way they did before, it’ll be because of YOU. Because you didn’t get things your way so you packed up your toys and left. Liz has done everything possible to make sure that didn’t happen. She’s not the one being selfish here, and I won’t have you trying to lay some sort of guilt trip on her purely out of spite, do you understand?” he remonstrated severely, his voice quivering with wrath.

Tess looked at him somewhat sullenly, hurt that he’d intimated that Liz wasn’t the one being selfish, she was. How could he think that? Was it selfish to want what was best for their people?

“Max, I’m sorry,” she apologized. Unhappy at being the object of his displeasure, she conceded, “Maybe– I shouldn’t have said what I did about all the death and suffering being on her head-“

“No. You shouldn’t have,” Max agreed in an implacable tone, not prepared to let her off the hook easily.

She faltered slightly at the unforgiving coldness of the interjection, then went on. “I know Liz has done a- a lot to help us,” she allowed with a small grimace. “And I don’t mean to sound like I’m- ungrateful for that, but... I won’t take back everything I said. It was all true. She has colored your judgement, ever since the day Nacedo and I got here. And I can’t believe that’s a good thing, no matter what you say,” she told him, her mouth set stubbornly. “You’ve let her stand in the way of everything, Max. All because of her, you’ve never once opened your mind to the idea of our destiny together,” she charged in a voice teeming with frustrated resentment.

She was a bit surprised when he readily agreed. “You’re right. It is because of her. Because she’s shown me what love is, Tess,” he said meaningfully, no longer being careful to pull his punches. “And that’s not something that makes me soft, or weak,” he insisted. “Liz’s love has given me strength at times when I didn’t think I had any strength left. Whenever I’ve felt completely hopeless– it’s thoughts of Liz that have kept me going. Just having her in my life... it’s made me capable of things I wouldn’t have believed I could do. And the most amazing thing is, she feels the same way. When I think of all the- incredible things she’s done this past year... all because she loves me,” he shook his head. Sometimes he still had trouble believing she could feel as strongly as she did about him, the non-human. “It makes me want to be better than I am just to be worthy of her. If you and Nacedo had come before I knew all that, maybe I could’ve convinced myself that your way was what was best. But I can’t believe that now, Tess. I know I don’t want to be the person I’m afraid I’d become, without Liz’s love to- to help guide me.”

A huge lump formed in Tess’ throat, and she swallowed tightly. Max was only pointing out yet again how completely Liz had displaced her, and had taken what should’ve been hers. Nacedo had always told her that it would be her love that would give Max the strength he would need to become the king their world needed.

“Max, we had a love like that too once, and I know we could have it again if you would only let me help you remember. But you’ve never even tried,” she said almost pleadingly. “Just- give me a chance, that’s all I’m asking. You might be surprised. What we had– it might end up completely surpassing anything you think you feel for Liz.” Inside, Tess was cringing at the way she was humiliating herself. Even to her own ears she sounded like she was begging for crumbs from him. But she couldn’t seem to stop herself from making a last desperate attempt to win him over.

Max sighed, impatience warring with a reluctantly reemerging compassion. What was it going to take to get her to drop this?

“Tess, you have to stop living your life based on something that you think happened in another lifetime,” he told her emphatically. “If Ava and Zan loved each other the way you think they did, don’t you think at least some small trace of that might still be in our hearts?” he questioned pointedly.

“It is. In mine,” she said softly, all pride gone as she looked at him with doleful eyes.

At that, compassion won over. He was still very not happy with her over the things she’d said to Liz, but the vulnerability in her expression, coupled with that heartfelt admission, made it hard for him to hold on to his anger. Not that he believed that that was really what lay in her heart. He would allow that she might truly think so, but he honestly felt she was only confused.

“You wanna know what I think?” he asked gently. “I think maybe you don’t really even know what’s in your heart, Tess.” He watched the protest form in her eyes, but went on before she could verbalize it. “I imagine living with Nacedo was a pretty... cold, emotionless existence. Don’t you think it’s possible you got through all that by telling yourself when you found us- when you found me- we’d give you all the love and- the caring you’d been missing all those years?”

Her lack of response gave him hope that she was actually considering the possibility. “We really let you down in that respect, and I’m sorry for that,” he told her sincerely. “But we do care about you, Tess. I care about you. As a friend. As family, even. But not romantically,” he said with firm emphasis. “I’m not ever going to feel that way about you. You need to just accept that and stop trying to- recapture something that only exists in your imagination because of things Nacedo told you, and open your eyes to what’s going on here and now. I think if you take a long look at what you have here, you’ll see that it’s not really me you want to be with at all.”

Standing to the side of Michael’s bedroom window with her arms wrapped around her middle, Liz glanced over at the door when sudden silence reigned in the room beyond. She hadn’t been able to make out any of their words from there, but she had heard the low angry tones of Max’s voice, that had been followed by the sounds of appeasement coming from Tess, then Max’s voice had gentled, and now- nothing. What was happening out there, she wondered. Had Tess left? She hadn’t heard the front door open.

She didn’t wonder about it for very long before turning back to gaze sightlessly out the window once more. If Tess had left, Max would be there shortly to join her. Liz knew she should feel more concern about what was being said between the two of them. After all, she thought Max was most probably out there continuing to fight for their right to be together. But it only heaped guilt on top of the jumble of emotions that were already churning inside her to know that he was staunchly upholding his belief in them, while she stood here steeped in doubts, and wondering if they were doing the right thing. Her heart said they were, but her head was a different matter. Because no matter how much she tried to tell herself that Tess had just been trying to get to her, that she’d only been driving whatever wedge she could between them in an attempt to get Liz to back away from Max once again, that didn’t change the fact that everything she’d said had rang with the truth.

It was more than possible that she was keeping Max from seeing things clearly in his determination for them to be together. And she was so terribly afraid of being the one that might lead him to his doom because of that. She’d been wondering the night before what Future Max might have known that present Max didn’t that could have changed his viewpoint so drastically, and maybe this was it. Maybe he’d finally seen all those years later that being with her had somehow always skewed his judgement, and had made him follow paths he’d realized he shouldn’t have taken. What if, in being with her, he had ignored anything that might constitute a threat to their being together, and had ended up making all the wrong choices? The words Tess had said to her there at the end only seemed to bear witness to that. That she and Max could have done something to avert the disaster Future Max had warned them of, but they hadn’t. They’d chosen love.

Oddly, that statement was a haunting echo of the one that fortune teller had made to her the very night Future Max had shown up on her balcony. She’d told Liz then that Max would disregard his destiny and would choose love instead, and in doing that now, in spite of all they’d learned since then, it felt like they were wiping away everything that had taken place between the moment she’d been read that fortune and now. And once again, the fear that had never completely left her of being the one responsible for the destruction of so many lives took hold of her.

She shook her head in incredulity. What were she and Max thinking? That they could go ahead and do what Future Max had expressly told them not to do and everything would turn out alright anyway? How could they possibly take that chance, she wondered now, her worries getting the better of her. Even now it seemed that they were turning a blind eye to the likelihood of events playing themselves out exactly as they had before if they continued down the path that had started it all.

Troubled and conflicted, Liz dropped her forehead to rest against the window’s wooden frame and absently watched as a huge yellow tomcat outside crossed her line of vision. The corner of her lip turned up the slightest bit at the comicalness of his actions as he walked across the narrow band of wet grass that separated Michael’s apartment from the house next door. The rain she’d heard pounding on the roof earlier had slowed to an intermittent sprinkle now, but it had left the ground completely saturated, and the cat picked up each paw to give it a delicate shake with every footstep it took in an effort to keep his feet free from the moisture that had collected on the grass. It made for very slow traveling as he crept alongside the row of hedging that lined the outside wall of the adjacent house. Just as he’d reached the corner of the building, he suddenly stopped next to the shrubbery and peered beneath it as something in the darkness there captured his attention

Liz continued to watch with vague interest, more than willing to be distracted from her thoughts, while the cat crouched low and examined the shadows in perfect stillness, his only movement the curious twitching of his nose. After only a few moments, apparently satisfied that he’d discovered exactly what he’d thought he had, he slowly lowered his belly to the ground and took on a predatory stance, every muscle on point underneath the rippling butterscotch fur. Liz wondered abstractedly what poor creature he had cornered underneath there, as the large feline began shifting his weight slightly from one side to the other, paws flexing slightly, as though he were winding himself up like a tightly-sprung coil in preparation to leap. His tail swished back and forth jerkily, as he continued his side-to-side motion for long moments, and Liz’s heartbeat picked up the tiniest bit in perfect empathy with the unknown victim while the charged moments passed.

Just when the cat’s feet had left the ground in the process of launching himself at his hapless quarry, the sight was blocked from Liz’s vision by the sudden appearance of a figure on the other side of the glass, not three feet away from her.

It was Nicholas.

And he hadn’t stepped in front of her, he hadn’t popped up from an undisclosed hiding place, he had simply- materialized, his form seeming to take on substance from the very molecules in the air.

Jerking violently, Liz gasped at the unexpectedness of his abrupt appearance before her, then stood there frozen in fear as the depths of his malevolent eyes seemed to fix her in place. She’d never actually seen him this close-up before, and she saw now that it was his eyes that gave him such a look of evilness. They honestly seemed to glow with a dark, demonic light, and there looked to be no bottom to the malicious intent that seethed there. She felt helplessly ensnared by them, much as she imagined that small rodent had who had just fallen victim to the cat.

She stood transfixed as his lips slowly began to curve in a satanic, lopsided smile, and ridiculously, the irrelevant observation flickered through her mind that he was wearing the exact same clothes she’d seen him in the other two times she’d encountered him previously. When his hand began to rise from his side to assume the familiar deadly position of an attacking alien’s, Liz finally managed to break herself free of the spell he had cast over her, and began to scramble backwards, away from the window.

Though she’d gained control over her limbs, she seemed completely unable to tear her gaze from him, making her wonder vaguely if he was using some kind of power to hold her body captive. But in the very next moment, the thought was swept away, as the sudden electric coursing of her energy pulling together forcefully, stole her breath away. Hot and aggressive, it boiled within all her inner channels, attaining an immediate strength that was startling. Her powers had only ever reacted this way when they’d been combined with Michael’s, but Liz didn’t stop to ponder why she was able to call them up by herself this time, she only raised her hand in a pose that mirrored Nicholas’, in preparation of taking advantage of the aberration.

She had continued to backpedal across the room, until she crashed into a solid wooden object that banged noisily against the wall with the jarring movement and effectively put a stop to her attempted escape. Nicholas had moved as well, until he was directly outside the window, and as they faced off across the room in identical stances of aggression, Liz shook inwardly, feeling like a child playing at a deadly game of pretend. She was utterly unprepared to face this challenge. Although the building force of her energy said otherwise. It occurred to her to wonder if the pane of glass standing between them would do anything to dull the impact of his powers if he sent a blast her way, but then she realized it would probably just remove the obstruction by shattering the glass. Maybe it would slow it down somewhat, though. She could only hope.

Only seconds after whatever piece of furniture she’d backed into shook with a resounding clatter, she heard Max’s voice from the other room faintly calling her name in a questioning tone. When she didn’t answer right away, she heard the heavy tread of quickened footsteps across the floor, and he said her name again, more urgently, as though sensing something was wrong.

“Max!” Liz called in panicked response, unsure whether she was calling him to come to her rescue, or warning him to stay away.

If it was the latter, she failed in her attempt miserably, because in the very next instant she heard the bedroom door crash against the wall as Max threw it open wide behind her. When Nicholas turned away from her slightly to swing his palm in Max’s direction instead, Liz screamed his name in warning again.

With lightening-fast reflexes, Max threw his hand up to engage his energy shield, throwing the shimmering green barrier up between Nicholas and themselves. But the very minute the protective force manifested itself, the need for it disappeared. Once again, Nicholas had vanished as though he’d been nothing more than a mirage.

“What the–“ Max muttered the exclamation as he called his energy back to disengage the shield, then hurried across the room to the window. Once there, he peered outside in every direction, but his view was limited to just the few yards directly outside the window. Shoving it open abruptly, he thrust his head outside for a better look, but no one was anywhere to be found.

Jerking his head back inside on a burst of angry frustration, he slammed the window closed. Who was doing this, he wondered wrathfully. And why were they terrorizing Liz like this? As he turned back to face the room, the sight of Liz, white-faced and trembling, roused his fury towards their unknown foe still further. Whoever he was, he couldn’t keep doing this, Max fiercely determined. He wouldn’t let him. It was time to put a stop to this thing right here and now.

Crossing the room swiftly, he stopped in front of Liz and wrapped his hands around her upper arms to look her over briefly.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice gentle, yet abrupt.

Pressing her lips together to halt their trembling, Liz nodded.

Max pulled her to him to press a quick kiss to her forehead, then told her, “Stay here with Tess and I’ll be right back, okay?” Lifting his gaze to Tess, who was standing wide-eyed in the doorway, he hesitated only a second before saying, “Look after her, Tess, please. I’m counting on you.”

While Tess nodded automatically in response to the directive from her leader, Liz threw her hands up to clutch at his forearms to keep him from moving away from her.

“Wait, where are you going?” she asked, slightly panicked.

Gently extricating himself from her hold, he answered, “I’m going after this guy. He can’t have gotten far.”

He was moving to the door even as he spoke, and Tess hastily moved out of his way, as Liz followed close behind him.

“Max! You can’t go out there alone. It’s too dangerous!” she objected.

“I’ll be fine, Liz” he said dismissively, disregarding any possible danger in his determination to catch this scum bag. “Just stick close to Tess and stay away from the windows,” he instructed while striding quickly across the living room floor.

At the front door, he paused and turned back to them to say soberly, “Lock the door behind me. And remember, your powers are stronger together if you have to use them.”

“What are we gonna do, Max? Mindwarp them to death?” Liz said, her fear for him making her voice sharp. “If our powers are stronger together, then let us come with you.”

“She’s right, Max, we should come,” Tess agreed, all differences forgotten in her worry over him.

“No. You’ll both be safer here,” he insisted. “The longer we stand here arguing about this, the further away he’s getting. Just stay here, okay? Please. I won’t be gone long,” he swore, opening the door without giving them a chance to protest further.

But once the door was pulled open fully, his exit was abruptly terminated by the sudden entrance of Michael from the opposite side, his arms wrapped around the torso and upper arms of a furiously struggling figure. Max was crowded backwards as Michael lurched inside drunkenly with his burden, obviously hard-pressed to contain the squirming captive.

“So. What kind of criminal charges can you press against peeping toms these days?” he asked in triumphant satisfaction, his words breathless from exertion.

It was a good thing he hadn’t really expected an answer to the question, because everyone in the apartment seemed to have been momentarily shocked into silence at this unexpected turn of events. All eyes were focused on the person struggling desperately to be free of Michael’s hold, and at first glance it was hard to tell whether it was a male or a female he held prisoner, dressed as they were in baggy jeans and a bulky over-sized coat. And the way they were bent over his imprisoning arms in their bid to escape completely hid their face from view behind the bill of the dark baseball cap pushed down low on their head.

One thing Liz became sure of in those few brief moments of dumbfounded silence was that although this person was dwarfed by Michael’s large frame, this was definitely not Nicholas. Michael had been right yesterday. This person was a bit bigger than the adolescent Skin.

But never in a million years would she have guessed the true identity of the one who had been watching them all this time, spying on them and, most recently, harassing them terrifyingly. It was revealed to them all with a seeming flourish, as the individual suddenly threw their head back with an animalistic shriek in the midst of a backwards bucking motion against Michael’s chest, and Liz gasped when she realized who it was.

It was a face she had never expected to see again in this lifetime. And though the countenance had changed drastically since the last time she’d seen it, there was no doubting who it belonged to.

“Topolsky,” Liz breathed in dismay.



Bet ya didn't expect that to come along this chapter, huh? *tongue* LOL

I know several of you guessed, a few of you long, long ago, that Topolsky was the watcher. Kudos to you guys! *big*

Hope you all liked, and I'll try not to take so long with the next part. Although I'm definitely not promising, 'cause I feel like that's what got me into trouble the last time. LOL

I'd love to hear what you thought about it! *happy*

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 5-Feb-2002 2:05:59 AM ]
posted on 5-Feb-2002 3:45:07 AM by Destinee
I've just had a blast reading through all your responses. I'm tickled everyone was so surprised at the ending. I knew that was exactly where I wanted to end up with this part, and that was one of the reasons why it took me so long to get it to wind around that way.

I wanted to answer some of your questions, but it is way, way past my bedtime, and I have to be up early for work, so I promise I'll respond to individuals tomorrow. For now, I just wanted to say thanks so very much for the feedback. I've really missed this interchange, and I'm feeling kind of hopeful that it's going to lead me on my way back to an easier time of writing.

You guys are simply awesome!! {{hugs}}
posted on 6-Feb-2002 10:44:52 PM by Destinee
Oh, so much to respond to! I meant to get by here last night to post a response, but I got all caught up in a discussion of last night's ep on FF. Wasn't Ch-ch-changes great?! I just love that the writers have finally gotten around to addressing Liz's powers. It kinda made me feel a need to go back and revise this story though. I need more cool special effects! LOL

Okay, on to answer some questions...

Sablaine, I was so glad to see that you and several others still felt for Tess. I've been trying so hard to make her character sympathetic, and I was afraid some of her behavior in this scene might undo any good I had managed to do on her part. I'm glad to see that's not the case. *happy* And you're right about how stunned she will be about the future news. It will be a huge thing for her to have to deal with. As will it be for Liz. I think they may end up helping each other through it. *wink*

Angeleyes, I think it will probably be the next chapter that reveals who Liz really is. That's what the plan is anyway. *tongue*

burntofferings, you have absolutely no reason to feel sheepish. *wink* Your line about Tess waking up and smelling the bleach cracked me up. LOL. And your comment about Liz showing more backbone in this conversation really got me to thinking about her, and worrying that I wasn't keeping her true to her character by making her too weak. But I think with all she's having to deal with, she's just not in a very strong place right now. She's having to deal with all these alien changes taking place in her body, a situation that is making her feel completely out of control, which is an issue in and of itself since she's such a control freak. And now to have to deal with TEOTW situation on top of that, one which is tearing her between her heart and her strong sense of responsibility, it's just a lot to handle. She's filled with so many uncertainties at the moment, I feel like it would probably be making her feel pretty vulnerable. So that's why I didn't have her be confrontational with Tess. I hope that makes sense.

And the thing about the Mi/L connection working both ways? I think it probably will, but it won't be nearly as strong coming from Michael's direction. And there will be a reason for that. *tongue*

Chon, sorry, girl, but you will have to wait. LOL. I'll try not to make it a long one. *big*

ER, yes, having that conversation out of the way is a BIG relief. LOL. I know it didn't seem to really resolve anything, but it did give Tess a lot to think about, which she definitely will. *happy*

mara is a dreamer, I figured a lot of people would share your response to Tess in this part. LOL. And she will let go. Eventually. There will be more about who Topolsky is in the next part. *happy*

crazeesmilee, (love your name *big* ), I'm so tickled that everyone was so shocked by the revelation of Topolsky as the watcher. For some reason, I guess I wasn't expecting it to be such a shocker. Makes me feel ever so clever in creating a surprising twist. LOL

Lynn, it was a lot of pages, wasn't it? LOL. I can't tell you how flattered I am that I'm up there towards the top of your list of priorities. Thanks so much for that compliment! Hope the kids weren't too late. *wink*

woodwinds, so many questions! LOL. And I think pretty much every one of them will be answered in the next part. *tongue*

frenchkiss, it really gave me a thrill to know you found this one so suspenseful. *happy*

LOL. Sorry about the cliffhanger, I'mASlave. But it did answer one of the big questions, right? Am I forgiven? *tongue*

BLS40, it really gave me a boost to know that you thought Tess' was a realistic reaction. I thought that too. After living her life believing all this, I thought it was unrealistic for a single conversation to change all her views. Thanks for agreeing! *happy* And about Max apologising to her, I didn't really mean to make it sound as if he was sorry for not reacting the way she'd expected in the very beginning, but just that she hadn't exactly found the acceptance and affection she'd been looking for among them even to that day. I think Max is really the only one from the Pod Squad who counts Tess as a real friend, and even he has kind of cooled things with her since reuniting with Liz. So that was what I intened to have him apologising to her for. *happy*

Tobasco Liz, I'm so glad you found it worth the wait. *happy* I thought that was probably too much to hope for since you guys had to wait so very long, but I'm really happy that you and several others thought it was. {{hugs}}

LittleBit, thanks so much for the compliment on my banner. *angel*

Heidi, girl, you make me smile. I'm so glad you liked it. I take it as a real compliment that you were so captured by the scene with Nicholas. And yeah, I thought if I didn't have Liz telling Tess off, Max was the next best thing. *tongue* Tess would have taken it more to heart coming from him anyway, I think.

DayDreamBeliever, (another really awesome name! *big* Are you a fellow Monkees fan? Or am I just dating myself by asking that? LOL) Thanks so much for welcoming me back. Thank you for waiting for me to come back with this one! *happy*

True Blue Healer, thanks for the compliment on my Tess. *happy* And don't worry, there will definitely be no killing of Alex in this fic. You can take that to the bank. ;) I'll bet your barking dog is annoying. I actually own several of those myself. Thank goodness mine live outside though. LOL. And the question about how Michael came to be there will be answered first thing next chapter. I will tell you that it's a lot more mundane than you're guessing though. *tongue*

Scottie, this is me blushing furiously. Thanks so much for the compliments. And that actually did occur to me as I was writing it, that the whole conversation was taking on the air of a debate. I almost had Max acknlowledge that in his mind, but that part got cut. You're more right than you know with that Crazy Topolsky comment too. *wink*

RoswellLady, I'll truly try my best not to make you wait so long next time. *big* And I promise the thing with Nicholas will be answered in the next part.

Sanne, you know, I bet you're right about a quietly angry Max being more scary than a shouting one. I wish I had thought to write that in. ;) Your comment about disliking Liz feeling so doubtful played a big part in the concern I was telling burntofferings about, that I was writing her to be too weak. But I never would have had her run away. I think the surety of her heart would have kept her from doing that. It's just that scientific, selfless mind she needs to overcome. LOL. I'm glad you liked the tiny bald dog line. I think that was my favorite line of the chapter too. LOL. And I have to tell you how much I loved the way you worded your wish for me to break free from my writer's block. It was lovely. Thank you. *happy*

Snow dove, your questions about Nicholas and the Mi/L connection will be answered in the next part, promise. *happy*

kurtsook, I'm glad you liked Max's line about Zan and Ava's marriage ending in death. That was something I really wish they would have said on the show. That, and the fact that Tess was no more Ava than she was the donor of her human DNA. And if she was still Max's wife, that had to have meant that she was also the wife of her human donor's husband, if she had one. That junk about Tess and Max still being married just didn't sit right with me at all. *sad* Oh, and I wanted to thank you for the e-mail too. It was an encouragement that kept me plugging on. *happy*

AJK, I promise, Tess will change. She just needs a little time. *happy*

Lillie, I have to agree, Tess is being delusional about Max being with her. But I imagine that when he finally turned to her for friendship she couldn't help but hope that it might turn into more. It's what she thinks she's wished for all her life. I thought it would take an awful lot to make her let go of that. I hope that sounds realistic. *happy*

Wow, crimson, your compliments on the fic were extremely warming. Thank you so much for the kind words. *angel* And I think what you were saying was that you were really able to put yourself in Tess' shoes and see things from her point of view, right? That you felt just as empathetic of her as you did of Liz. That is really such a compliment, and I'm thrilled you felt that way. I really love the way you put it too. *happy* And to answer your question, I don't really write in any forum other than this one. I used to love to write in school, but that was many years ago. LOL. Taking this up as a hobby has truly been a joy to me, and it's gratifying to know that others find as much enjoyment in reading this fic as I have had in writing it. *happy*

kittens, it did occur to me fleetingly for them to show Tess via connection what they felt for one another. But I think Tess sees for herself how much they mean to each other, she's just desperately trying to dismiss it because Liz is human, and Tess can't make herself believe that what they have can be what's meant to be. She's going to let go of that destiny soon though. She'll be forced to. *wink*

Heatwave, nope. Not a shapeshifter. *tongue* I'm sorry Tess bugged you. I was afraid that might happen to more than one. LOL. She'll turn out okay, though. Hopefully. *happy*

Realspacecadet, thanks a bunch for the reassurances. I really appreciate that. *angel*

Schurry!!! Long time no see, girl. Yeah, Tess has really done a good job of pushing her feelings for Kyle aside. But I think he's probably gonna make her wake up pretty soon. *wink* And yes, you do seem to have many questions. LOL. I think all will be cleared up with the next part. I'll do my best to relieve your curiosity soon. *tongue*

rattlebox, so glad to see you still reading! *happy* The conversation did turn rather novel-length, didn't it? LOL. And it's true it didn't conclude with a definite resolution, but I just kind of though a tidy little wrap-up wasn't realistic. Tess will be thinking about all Max said in the next few days, though, and I think she'll be seeing the light soon. Not in this fic, but in the immediately-to-follow sequel. *big*

Linda, I'm not quite sure a Master of Suspense is a good thing, is it? LOL. If it's a good kind of suspense then I'll accept the title gladly. *tongue* Next part, I promise it's gonna come out. And you're so right. This part was exhausting. I think I must have played out every argument in my head at least a hundred times over the weeks. LOL. It might not have brought all that much relief to the characters for the moment, but I suppose it was good for my character. Exercising those writer's muscles and all. :p

Boy, this turned out to be a good chapter-length in itself! I just wanted everyone to know how much I appreciated your feedback. I hope I answered everyone's questions, or gave a promise of answers, anyway. *tongue* Thanks again, so much, for sticking with this fic despite the delays. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your patience. And thanks to everyone for their well-wishes over the writer's block. It seems to be going a little better with the next part, so hopefully, it won't be long.

Thanks again, guys! xoxoxoxo

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Feb-2002 10:54:16 PM ]
posted on 22-Feb-2002 2:30:40 AM by Destinee
Lizzie, woodwinds, angeleyes, thanks so much for the bumps, guys. I really appreciate it. But once again, this is me, apologizing for taking so long with the new part. *sheepish smile*

It has just become such a chore to write this lately, and I can't figure out why, when we're so close to the end. I'm playing around with the idea of trying to do a new one- or two-parter for fun and see if that will get the creative juices flowing again. If I do, don't worry, I will definitely be finishing this one, even if I have to keep working on it till I'm 50. But we'll hope it won't take that long. LOL

Jennifer, mia, Tara, I know it's taken me forever to respond to your fb, and you may not even see this, but I had to tell you how much it meant to me for you guys to say that I portrayed the characters, and especially Tess, realistically. I've really been working to make her sympathetic, and I'm so glad I managed to succeed. I always thought she got a bum-wrap on the show. *sad*

Mia, you will definitely be getting your dreamer ending. Guaranteed. *wink* I wouldn't have it any other way. And without revealing too much, what I meant by that comment I made in my response was that it's not so much that someone will be telling her off to put her in her place, as it will be an opening of her eyes to her 'place'. *tongue* And that probably was revealing too much, but there you go. LOL.

Zannyb, glad you enjoyed the Mi/Ma bit about the chihuahua. *big* Very interesting speculation at the end of your post too. *wink*

Lealea and Brittney, welcome! It's so good to have you reading. Sorry for the stall with the next part, but I'll do my best to get it out soon. *happy*

Thanks again for all the feedback, guys! It definitely keeps me motivated. {{hugs}}