posted on 11-Mar-2002 8:36:11 PM by sheeperz
Title: Double Jeopardy IV: "Priceless Gifts"

Author: Sheeperz

Category: M/L & CC

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Usual stuff applies. I don't own it, I'm just off fantasizing about a better future for our beloved aliens, than what I feel we have been getting for the last 2 seasons....

Summary: Our favorite aliens give and receive some wonderful gifts.

Distribution: please ask first

Previous Parts in the series:

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

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

Double Jeopardy III: viewthread?forum=dreamer-fanfiction&id=28738

*It is advisable to read the previous installments in this series, in order to understand what is going on in this fic.*

Part One

Back on Earth, Sheriff Valenti had finally decided to have the Evanses and Parkers file missing persons reports on their children, as he did with Kyle. He figured that listing them as missing was the safest explanation, since none of them would ever be found. He allowed people to make their own speculations as to what had happened, and speculate they had. Some felt the kids had all run away and joined a cult; others were convinced they were the victims of foul play. There were even rumors that they had all been abducted by the aliens from the '47 crash, and taken back to the home planet. Jim had shuddered when he heard that one. It was so close to the truth, it was eerie.

A little over six months had passed since Max's coronation, and everyone was settling into life on a new planet. With the exception of Michael, who was working closely with Tan'-dar to establish and train the new Antarian army, everyone in the "I know an alien" club was busily working to rebuild the city of Antarra. Even Jim Valenti would come and help out on his days off from the Sheriff's Department, and quite often, Nancy would tag along as well, to visit with her girls, and do volunteer work. Eddie would often come and stay for a week at a time to help out.

Max had spent several days immediately after being installed as king talking with the citizens, and had come to the conclusion that Ge-lar' and Tan'-dar had been correct about the rebuilding of the palace - it was a really big deal to the people. So after much consideration, he had decided to offer the people a compromise. The palace would be rebuilt, but first their society needed to recover from the long years of oppression. He didn't want to see another child or elderly person die as a result of poor leadership. So their primary focus would be on providing health care and adequate nutrition for those whose bodies were taxed to the limit, as well as restoring private homes, so that they would have adequate shelter for the long winter months ahead. The weather was already getting cold enough to be a threat to those without proper housing.

For his part of the compromise, Max had instructed the work crews that had organized to deposit any debris and leftover materials from the reconstruction efforts at the palace site. This had raised a lot of questioning eyebrows, as the people wondered why their king was asking them to turn the ruins into a dumping ground. With a mysterious smile, he had merely urged them to trust him, and that had been all they had needed to hear. No one questioned his motives from that day on. After all, how could you question the intentions of a king who worked tirelessly from morning until night alongside the common men, trying to restore order to his kingdom? It wasn't unheard of to see him wielding a hammer to help fix a roof, or performing some other menial task. It was obvious that his heart was with his people.

Over the following months, a great amount of materials was amassed at the palace site, and each time Max saw more being deposited there, he smiled secretly. Not even his closest friends had a clue as to what he was planning. Liz had been frustrated with him more than once, when she felt him blocking off a part of himself during their lovemaking. She knew that he was hiding something, and being pregnant, her hormone-induced fears caused her to speculate all sorts of horrible things. Max had patiently reassured her that it had nothing to do with her, or his desire for her. After all, he had reasoned, when would he ever have found time - or energy - to be unfaithful to her, between working all day, and making passionate love to her nearly every night?

The only person who probably had an inkling as to what was going through Max's mind was Da-nar'. Max had asked him some rather specific questions regarding the purpose of the Granilith, shortly after his coronation. Soon after that, he had started having the work crews leave their leftovers at the ruins. Max knew it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together, and Da-nar' was nothing, if not smart.

So here they were, several months down the road, the city already looking better, and the people's spirits greatly encouraged. During the last few weeks of fall, the women and children had pulled together, to gather in the harvest that had been planted in the government fields which Ki-var' had established. Even Liz and Karanna, both in the early stages of pregnancy, had put in long hours in the fields. When the harvest was over, the food had been preserved in a community effort, and distributed among the citizens according to family size. Everyone had ample provisions for the first time in decades, and there was still much left over, which was placed in a community storage facility. For the first time, it became truly apparent just how much Ki-var' had taken from the people. Where before, the same amount of food had been woefully short of feeding their people, now there was an abundance. Without having to feed Ki-var's gluttonous army, there had been far more than enough to go around.

And while the women had been gathering the harvest, the men had worked tirelessly at home repairs. Buildings that were destroyed had been cleared away, leaving room for the eventual rebuilding project. Homes that were previously in sorry disrepair had effectively kept out the harsh temperatures during the winter months.

Even Ge-lar' had worked tirelessly, with Courtney's able assistance, collecting and preserving herbs. Now, more than ever, his skills would be needed, to get the residents of Antarra through this first trying winter. He knew that in preceding years under Ki-var's rule, the death tolls had always been alarmingly high during the winter months. And given the fact that Max had discovered the traitorous nature of many of Antarra's healers, he had anticipated being very busy indeed. He had been grateful that Courtney demonstrated a great aptitude for the healing arts, and a strong desire to be trained.

Finally, winter had given way to spring, and the air was filled with the fresh scent of calaba blossoms. Max and Liz were taking a short walk after dinner, and now stood by the palace ruins in the light of Antar's twin moons. Max stood behind his very pregnant wife, his arms wrapped around her waist, gently stroking the great swell of her belly. His son within her womb kicked against his daddy's hand, as if to say hello, and Max smiled against the crown of her head, where he had been placing soft kisses.

"I worry that our son is going to be more interested in playing sports with his Uncle Kyle, than assuming his father's throne," Max teased.

Liz's giggle floated on the night air, and she leaned back against her husband's strong chest, absorbing his heat, as the warm temperatures of the daytime began to wane. "Maybe for a while," she agreed. "But let's not forget, that it took his father some time to get used to the idea of being a king, shall we?"

Max sighed. "True. You know, I don't know if I would have ever come around, if it wasn't for you, Liz."

She looked up over her shoulder, to gaze into his amber eyes. "How can you say such a thing?"

He shrugged, as if to diminish the seriousness of what he was going to say. "I just know that I never would have had the will in me to fight for Antar, without you. If you don't believe that, just look at the fact that the future version of me came back from three years ahead in time, and his life was a shambles. He was no closer to being a 'king' then, than he was the day he learned his supposed 'destiny'. And all because he had been prevented from embracing his true destiny - you." He paused reflectively, resting his cheek on the top of her head, before finishing. "Besides, without you, I wouldn't have had the strength to defeat Ki-var'. You're my balance Liz - the other half of my soul. Everything good that I am or do, stems from you."

"Oh, Max, please don't say things like that. You are the most noble - the most honorable man that I know. I am pleased to be a part of your life, but I can't take credit for who you are inside. You were that person long before I fell in love with you."

Max chose not to continue the debate, although he could remind her that he was that person because he fell in love with her, back in the third grade. But arguing would do no good. She would never be able to accept the profound impact she had on him, so it was best to treasure that knowledge in his heart. The heart that beat only for her.

Thankfully realizing that Max had closed the subject with his silence, she decided to open a new topic. "Are you ready to tell me yet what your plans are for all this.... junk?" she asked softly, as the stared at the mounds of debris.

Max smiled over the top of her head. She looked, and she saw junk. Waste. Rubbish. He, on the other hand, saw only the possibilities. "Actually, I think the time has about come to tell the whole group what this is about. I'll need to meet with Da-nar', first though .... I have one little matter to attend to, before I can reveal my plans."

Liz sighed. "All right. But I want to log my objections to having my husband keeping all sorts of secrets from me."

" 'All sorts of secrets'? Is that what you think, Liz?"

"Well, aren't you? You won't tell me what this is about -" She indicated the elusive palace project with a wave of her hand. "And you are always blocking me out of your mind and heart," she added in a small, quivery voice. "What am I supposed to think?"

Max turned her to face him, and was devastated to see the tears running down her cheeks. "Oh, sweetheart, please don't cry. You're making more of this than you ought to. Did it ever occur to you, that what I'm blocking from you, and what I won't tell you, are one and the same thing?"

"Are they, Max? Is that what this is all about?"

Max speared his fingers into her hair, and lifted her face up to his, merging their lips in a slow, deep kiss. "Yes, my love, that's all that it is. For the life of me, I don't understand why this has had you so perpetually upset. Is it the pregnancy? Is that making you more sensitive than usual?"

"Damn it, Max, quit trying to blame my hormones for everything!" she snapped with a scowl on her face. Max was startled at her uncharacteristically sharp tone. She continued, taking care to soften her voice. "Look, Max, my hormones have nothing to do with this." Then she got an idea. She closed her eyes for a minute, imagining herself making love to Max, and when she was sufficiently aroused by the thought, she looked up at him, knowing that he would be able to read her naked desire in her eyes. His responding flare of passion rolled over her like a tidal wave, and she put her plan into motion. "Max, let's go home," she said seductively.

Max wasn't sure what had triggered the abrupt change in his wife, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He fused his lips to hers, probing the deep recesses of her mouth with his tongue. He broke it off after a minute, and started leading her back toward their home. "You don't have to ask me twice," he growled by her ear as they walked.

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

Once in the privacy of their own room, Liz gave herself to Max with her usual passion and zeal. But when Max opened the connection between them, she closed off a part of herself to him, as if she were keeping a part of her soul hidden. Max pulled back from his sensual adoration of her, and looked at her quizzically. Liz merely moaned in response to the loss of his marauding mouth on her heated flesh, begging him not to stop. Disturbed, he returned to his ministrations, finding that he was distracted by the fact that there were shadows in their connection. He worked diligently to bring her to her pleasure, and when the time came, he climaxed as well. But it was different. Stifled, somehow. When they were through, they lay next to each other in strained silence - Liz wondering if Max understood yet what had happened, and Max feeling a strange emptiness that he couldn't name.

After several minutes, Liz bit her lip, then worriedly broke the silence. "Max?"

"Hmmm?" he responded, still in a dazed state of confusion. What the hell had just happened?

"Are you all right?" She was starting to worry that he might be misinterpreting this as revenge, instead of realizing she was trying to communicate to him what the last 6 months had been like for her.

"I - I don't know, to be honest," he answered. "I mean, you know I love making love with you and all...."


"But it was... different this time, somehow. Why did you close yourself off to me?"

So he did notice. She skirted his question with one of her own. "What was it like, Max? You said it felt different. Tell me."

"I'm not sure I can adequately describe it," he started. "It - it was all right, you know, but just not.... explosive, like it usually is between us. I felt disoriented and off balance... and kind of empty inside. I guess that probably doesn't make much sense."

"Oh, it makes perfect sense to me," she said softly. By the dim moonlight in the room, Liz could see the questioning look in Max's eyes. "Max, the reason I closed a part of myself off from you, is that I knew that I would never be able to explain what I was feeling to you. You had to experience what it's like for yourself."

"Liz? What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that what you felt tonight, I've been feeling for the last 6 months." She began to cry. "And it's been killing me, Max. I miss that wide open connection we used to share."

Max felt as if he'd been punched in the stomach. "Sweetheart, why didn't you tell me this sooner?" He gently kissed her. "I had no idea what this was doing to you, honest."

"I know, but when I tried talking to you about it, you just kept insisting it was my hormones acting up. But it wasn't. I've been feeling frightened and alone without you, Max. I mean you're here -" she patted him, indicating his physical presence, "but you haven't been fully with me in months. And that scares me, Max. Will I ever get you back?" She collapsed against his chest, sobbing.

Max wrapped her tightly in his arms, being careful not to squish her tummy. "Shh, love, I'm here, and I'm so sorry for what you've been going through. If only I had known...." Resolving within himself to make things right with her, Max slowly began kissing and caressing his beloved wife.

Soon, her sobbing subsided, as he began to bring her to an aroused frenzy. Part of her wanted to resist - she was so tired of making love to him like this. It only served to remind her of how empty she felt.

Sensing her fear and resistance, Max whispered, "Trust me, my love." And trust him, she did. This time, she held nothing back from herself, and when they were joined in body and soul, she was overjoyed to find that Max was no longer withholding anything from her, either. As they became wild with their lovemaking, images of the former palace began to flood her mind - mingled with some rather erotic fantasies that Max had been harboring about what he'd like to do in various locations in said palace....

Just as they hurtled over the edge into bliss, Liz became aware of what Max's plan for rebuilding that glorious structure was. When their bodies had begun to return to normal, Liz muttered, "Wow."

Max chuckled. "Is that comment about my skills as a lover?" he teased.

Liz grinned against his chest. "Well, that too, but... I was referring to the palace, and what you have planned." She levered herself up so she could look into his face. "So, is this why you've been so adamant about Karanna and me learning how to manipulate molecular structures?" she asked.

Max nodded. "It's going to be a big project, and we are going to need all the power we can muster to pull it off."

"So we finally know what the Granilith is for," she breathed in awe. "To channel and focus psychic energy. Cool."

"Very cool," Max agreed. "No wonder Ki-var' was so desperate to get his hands on it."

Liz shuddered. "Thank God, he never did."

"Mmm. But everyone thinks he did."

"You mean, you never told anyone that you have the Granilith?" she asked surprised.

Max shook his head. "Da-nar', of course, knows where it is. But I swore him to secrecy."

"Why, Max? Why wouldn't you want to give our people the peace of mind, of knowing where it is?"

"Well, first off, I don't want to do anything that might attract attention to us, until we are back on our feet here. Who knows if we have other enemies who might want it in their possession? I don't want to have to deal with fighting off more Ki-var's, until we have some of these other things taken care of."

"Then how are you going to use it to rebuild the palace?" she asked, confused. "Surely, people will recognize it, when you bring it back to focus our energy."

"Not if we do it in the middle of the night."

"In the middle of the night?" she asked, incredulous.

"It's the only way I can think of, to pull this off, without all of Antarra witnessing it. Once we are finished, and the Granilith is safely hidden again, we can explain how we used it, without putting our possession of it in jeopardy. Unless you have another suggestion?" he asked with a quirked brow.

Liz sighed. "No, you're right. It's the only way. So... when?"

Max pulled her close to his side, and kissed her forehead. "Soon. Very soon."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Somehow, Liz managed to contain her excitement over the next four days, and guarded Max's secret closely. At the end of that time, Max gathered his wife, Da-nar', Zan, Karanna (who was carrying little Zan'-dar), Isabel, Michael, Ava and Kyle all together in the middle of the night at the palace ruins. Da-nar' and Michael had retrieved the Granilith from the pod chamber, and transported it to the site.

Kyle stood rubbing his hands together, trying to keep them warm in the chilly night air. "Evans, do you mind telling us what the hell you're dragging us out here in the middle of the night for?"

Max stood and watched, as Michael uncovered the Granilith.

"Holy shit," Kyle exclaimed softly, and quickly followed it with, "Forgive me, Buddha. What's that doing here?" The last time Kyle had laid eyes on the Granilith, it was safely nestled in the pod chamber.

"I found out what the Granilith is capable of," Max informed them. "It seems it is able to harness raw psychic power, then focus and amplify it. Tan'-dar is the one that unwittingly gave me the idea to do this. He had no idea that we had the Granilith in our possession. Everyone seems convinced that Ki-var' had it, and had hidden it away. Anyway, here's the deal: Kyle, you are our lookout. You need to watch for signs of anyone wandering around the area. Take Ava with you. If you see anyone, she can mind-warp them, so they don't see what we're doing."

"Why the big hush-hush?" Kyle wanted to know.

"Because I don't want to end up with an audience here, for one thing. We've never used this before, and I don't want the added pressure of spectators. Besides, I want it to be a surprise, when the city awakens tomorrow morning. Not to mention the security concerns..."

Kyle grinned broadly. "Gotcha, boss. C'mon Ava, let's go patrol." They took off, hand in hand, to walk the perimeter of the palace grounds.

Max turned his attention back to the others. "Okay, this is the plan. We will all connect, and then combine our power to manipulate molecular structure, and feed it into the Granilith. King Zan's essence knows exactly what the layout of the palace was, and his energy will be directing the reconstruction of the building. I have no idea how draining this will be, or if we'll be able to complete it all before morning, but we'll give it our best shot, and deal with the rest as it comes." He nodded to Da-nar', who came forward, pulling a crystal from his hand. Max took it from him, and explained to the others, "The crystal will activate the Granilith, and allow it to funnel our energy. Let's all of us join hands, and form a connection." They did as he instructed, and soon there was a strong link flowing between them. Max looked in surprise at Zan, to see if his brother was sensing the same unusual thing that he was.

Yeah, I feel it too, Zan fed his thoughts to Max through the link. It's the kids. Our babies and Zan'-dar have joined the link.

Their energy is so pure, Max marveled.

That's 'cuz all the ugliness in the world hasn't had a chance to taint them yet. Max nodded at his brother's assessment. He was probably right.

All right, everyone, here goes. If anyone has any problems during this, please communicate it to me. We can stop as often as we need to. Everyone ready? A chorus of affirmative voices rang in Max's head. Carefully, he inserted the crystal where Da-nar' had indicated, and watched the energy in the Granilith seem to build in intensity. When it seemed to level off, Max placed his hand on the conical part of the machine, and immediately felt the power of all of them being sucked through his body, and into the Granilith. A perfect image of the palace appeared in his mind, and he was certain the rest of them could see it as well. It was then that things began to happen.

The color and motion inside the Granilith seemed to almost take on a life of its own, and the debris and leftover materials littering the ground started to move. Slowly, the rubble started to shift and swirl, until nothing was left touching the ground. Then it began to move into place over the foundations, and little by little the walls began to emerge from the ground up. It was almost like magic, they thought, as they saw the palace begin to take shape. As each section was constructed, a vivid image of what the finished part would look like passed through the link. Max knew it was coming from his father. But where was he? Although Max could feel the king's and queen's essence still in the link, it no longer felt like it was a part of him.

When the structure was about halfway completed, Max heard Isabel's tired voice call out to him. Max, I don't think I can hold on much longer...

Okay, Iz. Ease out of the connection. If you feel better in a bit, you can come back in. Soon, they all felt her absence.

* * * * * * * * * *

While walking around, Kyle and Ava overheard feminine giggling, followed by a masculine groan. Kyle looked at Ava with raised eyebrows, and she averted her eyes and blushed. "Give you any ideas?" he whispered seductively into her ear.

"Actually, it does," she admitted, cleverly letting him think she was referring to the same thing he was.

"Hot dog!" He was as excited as a kid in a candy store. "I wonder how much longer Evans is gonna take with his little 'project'. The sooner that he finishes, the sooner we can -"

"Kyle? I was referring to mind-warping that couple, so they don't see what is going on over there."

His face fell. "Oh," he responded flatly. "Right. Whatever."

Ava was careful to wipe the smirk off her face, before she turned back to him. Standing on tiptoes, she traced the outline of his lips with the tip of her tongue. "After that.... who knows?" she whispered in a husky voice.

Kyle's expression was guarded. "Yes, we'll see, won't we?"

Ava looked at him nervously. Maybe he had taken her seriously. She didn't mean to hurt his feelings. Well, they had a job to do. She would sort it all out with him, when they got back home. Focusing on the task at hand, she created the appropriate illusions, should the couple let their attentions wander from each other, to where the palace was being rebuilt.

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

With Isabel gone, it seemed like there was a greater drain on the rest of them. It took a few minutes, under the strain, for Max to realize what they could do to compensate. Zan, I know that with our wives pregnant, this won't be as effective as it was before, but if we can generate a little more energy here.... He broke off the thought, and felt a wave of amusement trickle through the link from his twin.

Gotcha, Max. Without breaking the physical link between them all, Max and Zan enfolded their very pregnant wives, and began to kiss them with great expertise. As their passions flared up, so did the power flowing to the Granilith, and the palace wall began materializing at a good clip. When Isabel finally rejoined the link, the project was almost complete, and with her energy giving them one last boost, the job was soon finished.

Everyone broke the physical contact, but when Max went to remove his hand from the Granilith, he discovered that some strange energy was holding him to it. At first, he panicked, thinking that something was really wrong. But when he felt the awareness of a very familiar energy washing over him from the Granilith, he relaxed. After a few minutes, the energy was completely separated from the Granilith, and Max was able to let go. Max turned to Liz, who had been watching him intently. "Hey, it's nothing to worry about," he assured her, when he saw the stark fear in her eyes. "I'm not sure how it all happened, but Father's and Karanna's essence was actually transferred inside the Granilith. I couldn't break contact until they were safely outside again."

Liz looked visibly relieved to know that it had been nothing serious. "Well, now what, Max?"

Max looked at the sky. The first signs of the sunrise were casting a glow around them. "It's almost dawn. I think we better get the Granilith back to the pod chamber, and prepare to greet our people with our gift to them." The guys all worked together, to lower the Granilith back through the hidden entrance in the floor of the palace, onto a wheeled platform in the central chamber of the catacombs below. From there, they pushed it to the portal, and returned it to the Earth side. Their task finished, they went and woke Ge-lar' and Courtney, who had both chosen to continue living in the catacombs, and escorted them above ground and to the front steps of the new palace, just as the city was beginning to awaken to a new day. Max and Zan stood with their arms around their wives, admiring their handiwork, while Michael and Isabel went to find Kyle and Ava, to bring them back. Ge-lar' and Courtney were speechless.

"Max? How -?" Ge-lar' couldn't even seem to formulate the question.

Max chuckled. "Do you remember the conversation I had with Tan'-dar, the day of my coronation? About the usefulness of the Granilith?"

Ge-lar' looked at him warily. "Yes..."

"Well, I know you said our people aren't lazy by nature, and that certainly has been proven repeatedly these past months. But rebuilding the palace was such an enormous undertaking... I decided that this could be our gift to our people. A symbol of hope for our future."

"I still don't understand," Ge-lar' said, shaking his head. "If Ki-var' had the Granilith, how did you -"

"He didn't," Max interrupted.

Ge-lar's head snapped up in surprise. "Then where -?"

"The Granilith was sent to Earth, and left in my care all these years. Although I admit, I didn't know it, until shortly before we came here the first time."

"Why didn't you ever mention it?" Ge-lar's tone wasn't accusatory, merely curious.

"Well, at first, we didn't want Ki-var' to even know that we had it. As long as he was alive, we needed its whereabouts to remain a secret. After he died -" Max shrugged. "I figured that there might be other parties that would love to get their hands on it. I didn't want to 'advertise' that we had it in our possession, when we were weak, defensively speaking. But now, Michael and Tan'-dar have our military in order, and I think we will be less apt to be seen as an easy target. So I decided to take the risk -"

A joyful shout pierced the air, and an Antarian man began running through the streets laughing, calling to all his neighbors to wake up, and "Come look - quick!" People began pouring out into the streets, and the sounds of jubilant squeals and shouts and laughter surrounded the king and his friends on the steps. Max watched with a glad heart, as the excited citizens of Antarra began assembling before him. Having seen their king standing on the steps to the newly rebuilt palace, they began to gather around, knowing that as soon as a good crowd was present, he would make an announcement as to just how this had happened. And they couldn't wait to hear what he had to say!

When the steady stream of people joining the crowd had waned to a trickle, Max addressed his subjects. "Good morning, everyone," he said in a casual greeting. "As you can, things have changed somewhat, since last night." Elated laughter rose from the group congregated before him, causing a broad smile to break out on his own face. "I suppose an explanation is in order...." Whistles and applause sounded in response. "We have been so blessed by the kindness and generosity of all of you.... We just wanted to give you something special - a gift. I know how much this palace means to our people, and the emotional devastation that it's destruction caused. Rebuilding it the way we have been laboring over the other buildings in the city would have taken forever, and so I decided to use less conventional means to restore the structure.

"Which leads me to an important announcement. If you haven't figured out yet how we accomplished this, let me tell you - we have the Granilith in our possession." A collective gasp swept through the assembly. "Yes, I know that Ki-var' told everyone that he had it, but as usual, he lied. The Granilith has been with us, ever since we were sent from Antar to Earth, to be raised among the humans. For obvious reasons, I can't disclose where we are keeping it, but proof of my claim stands before you. You see, an ability that is rare on Antar, we have all thought of as common, because we all possess it. And that is the gift of manipulating molecular structure. So when we learned that the Granilith can channel psychic energies, we decided to put it to good use. And voila. We have a palace again." Max beamed, as the crowd went wild at the conclusion of his speech. After several minutes, he announced, "Well, we are all tired, so I hope you won't mind if we slack off today and get some rest. But I do want to encourage you to feel free throughout the day to walk through the palace, and enjoy this gift we offer out of love to you all." That said, he led Liz down the steps, and began walking through the crowd, greeting individuals as they passed. Zan and Karanna wound their way through the throng on a different path, as did Michael with Isabel, and Kyle with Ava. In so doing, they were able to greet a greater number of the people.

[ edited 30time(s), last at 21-Feb-2003 10:53:53 PM ]

posted on 13-Mar-2002 4:42:37 PM by sheeperz

Hi all!

Well, sorry for the confusion. I didn't know how much space I would have in the subject line, and I didn't want to abbreviate the title for the first few days, so that you would all recognize this as a DJ fic. But this wasn't a one parter (as I'm sure you now realize!) This second part was originally going to be the last part of this FF, but I'm contemplating whether to add to it or not. We'll see. This is all I have written for now, though.

Linda - yes, experience is a great teacher, is it not? *big* Just remember, we have at least another year and a half fanfic time, before the Evanses come back into the kids' lives.

Izzy - hope this gives you another *glow* *angel* This is supposed to be a "feel good" fic. With a name like "Priceless Gifts" - how could it be anything else?

Robbin - Well, hon, if I had an inkling as to what I could use to fuel a DJ IV, I'd write it. But at the present time, there doesn't seem to be any one thing that has enough umph to write a full length fic around. Of course, as I've said before, I thought the original DJ was only going to be 5-6 parts, so who knows what could happen? *smirk*

Lara - thanks for the kind words... and is this soon enough? LOL *wink*

Shel - goodness girl! Let's see if I can answer some of these questions! About Isabel getting tired... well, there's the obvious sexist remark, about her being the "fairer sex" and all (LOL! Don't start throwing things at me, woman!), but also, she has probably been emotionally drained over the past months, grieving the loss of her parents in her life. And grief can weaken you physically as well.

Maria and Alex are still on Earth - I probably should have written them into the fringes of this, like I did Valenti, but alas, I didn't. I'm sure they have seen their hunnies on various occasions though. They are pretty busy, what with school and work and all.

Glad you like the way that Max acts as King. I really couldn't see him being a cold-hearted arrogant jerk. (Which is why I have rebelled against the image they are portraying of him on Roswell. *sigh*)

Kittens - yes, they *could* have restored everything that way. But 1) It would have required them exposing their control of the Granilith much sooner, before they had an army raised, and 2) If you recall, the Antarians are a proud people, and don't like to take the "easy way out". It was a matter of restoring their pride, that kept Max from doing it all with the Granilith.

Roswellluver - yes, I hope to have some activities in the palace soon!

Woodwinds - LOL! I hadn't noticed that, but it's amazing, is it not? A whole day transpired in the span of one chapter. Incredible!

sablaine - thanks, I'm glad that you are continuing to enjoy this. Personally, I'm a bit surprised myself that I launched right into this future fic. I still have a couple other projects I'd like to get to, as well. Very different from this one. (Both AU) There just isn't enough time in the day, I tell you! *big*

m!dn!ght - I'm glad that you approved of that part. *wink* And yes, Liz has a great way for getting her point across, doesn't she? *smirk* It'll give Max pause, before he tries to keep any more secrets from her, I'm sure!

Frenchkiss - In the immortal words of Max Evans - "No, thank you." I appreciate knowing that you are enjoying reading my trip through fantasy land! LOL!

Brigitte - You are *such* a naughty girl! *giggle* And I'm amazed the LINDA and PHAE (yes, you, ladies!) didn't ask me the same thing, about glimpses of Max's fantasies! You are SO BAD! LOL!!! Hmm... I'll have to see what I can do... *giggle*

Jane and Ladylou - LOL! Yeah, it's kinda like the ultimate recycling center, don't you think? *big*

ckkitten - not sure there's going to be a big bad here. Maybe further down the road...

Robyn - yeah, that idea with the kids joining the connection just sort of "popped into my mind". LOL The kids must have been clamoring for some screen time. *big*

Tara - well, life has its ups and downs, but I can't conceive of anything irreparably damaging the bonds that tie them all together. They've been through too much together, first on Earth, and then Antar, don't you think? *angel*

mrsjbehr - oh, I LOVE that pic!!! And you'll see why, in just a few minutes (I mean, besides the obvious aesthetic beauty of it...!)

mara - well, this isn't another fic, but more to read, anyway! Hope you enjoy it. *wink*

Tabby - Yes indeed, having powers could be a handy thing. Why, we could zap TPTB with a good mind-warp, and get them to fix all the damage on Roswell, right?

Cinder - yes, Karanna is prego too! And you'll get your wish! Patience, spacegirl! lol

Phae - *giggle* I love ya, girl! Yes, Max SHOULD have known better! But what can I say? He's been busy being a king. He wasn't paying attention. Or... he just didn't want to admit to himself what he was doing. Choose one of the above lame excuses that he could use, or make up one of your own! LOL!

As to the safety of the Granilith, it's been secure in the pod chamber all these years. Why should now be any different? I'm hoping that things won't go wrong for them, for having revealed they have it, but you never know. That is, *I* never know, until the muse hits me. I'm not plotting anything right now, but ya never can tell with muses.

Faith - well, it's not quite a book four (don't get your hopes up THAT high! LOL!), but I'm glad you are still enjoying it.

Kay - Perhaps this contains some more of the details that you felt were missing. Let me know if there is something specific that is haunting you? It is quite possible, in all the hullabaloo here, that I've overlooked something. Or, it may be something that will be resolved in a later fic.

And now, here's the next part. Hope you all enjoy it!

Part Two

Ava looked up to see Kyle watching her, as she undressed for bed. Normally he would be making suggestive comments and trying to get her riled. But now, his face was an expressionless mask, as he watched her strip and don her nightgown, without uttering a word to her. Trembling, she finished her task, and climbed into bed, facing away from him. Kyle lay so still on the other side of the bed, if she hadn't known better, she would have thought he wasn't there at all.

After listening to the pounding of her heart in her ears for several minutes, she finally couldn't stand it any longer. "Kyle?"


"Is something wrong?" She hated the fact that he could undoubtedly hear the quiver in her voice.

"Wrong?" he asked, sarcasm evident in his tone. "Why, whatever could be wrong?"

"I - I don't know. That's why I'm asking you. You were fine earlier, and then all of a sudden you got really sullen and broody. That's not like you." She swallowed against the cottony feeling in her mouth. "And so I wondered what the problem is."

Kyle gripped her shoulder, urging her to turn and face him. "You really don't know, do you?" he asked incredulous. Ava shook her head. "It's really simple. I'm getting tired of the way our relationship is going. I told you months ago that I wanted us to get married, and you keep putting me off. Just like tonight, when we were on patrol duty. You deliberately led me to believe that you were thinking about us being intimate, and then put me off, like my feelings for you are some source of amusement to you."

"Kyle, no! How can you say that? I don't feel that way at all."

"Then why won't you set a date for our wedding, and make an honest man of me? Or do you just want me for my body?" He posed the question in an attempt to lighten the mood, but it didn't fly. The hurt he couldn't filter out of his voice made it sound more like an accusation than a joke.

"I - I can't believe you're saying these things," Ava whimpered, pulling back from him. "What do you want from me?"

"A real simple answer, sweetness," he drawled. "Do you, or do you not want to marry me?" Ava's lashes lowered, as she looked away. "Well, I guess that about sums it up, huh? You've just been stringing me along, but now the ride's over, right?" Kyle jumped out of the bed, thereby missing the look of shock on Ava's face. "I can't believe I let you lead me on like this," he growled, as he wildly began throwing clothes into his duffle bag.

"Kyle? What are you doing?" Ava wailed, panic-stricken.

"What's it look like I'm doing, princess? I'm packing up, and getting the hell out of here. I know when I'm being toyed with, and forgive me, but I don't want to play along any more."

"Kyle, please..." Ava began crying, and the sound of her choked sob brought Kyle's head around to look at her over his shoulder.

"What are you crying about?" he demanded. "I should think you would be relieved that you don't have to pretend to have feelings for me any more."

"You know what I think?" she wailed. "I think you were just spoiling for a fight, so you could walk out on me. I knew this was going to happen. Why do you think I refused to talk about the wedding?" She vaulted from the bed, and ran out of the room crying.

Kyle was stunned. What the hell was that supposed to mean? he wondered. He ran out the door after her, and was further shocked to discover that she had run out of the house in her nightgown. Thankfully she had run out the back door, and into the woods directly behind the house, where no one else could see her. Even from a distance, the sun shining on her revealed everything to him through her thin cotton nightgown. If he wasn't so scared of losing her, he'd probably be dying from arousal by now, he thought wryly. He finally caught up with her, and grabbed her arm, hauling her up against him with her back to his chest, and wrapping his arms tightly around her.

Ava fought him for all she was worth, until she was too exhausted to struggle any more. Giving in to the inevitable, she collapsed against him, as sobs continued to wrack her body. "Just go. That's what you really want. I knew it would happen sooner or later. People like me ain't s'posed to be happy," she told him, slipping back into the street dialect she had used for years.

Kyle's confusion was beginning to clear. "Is that what this is all about?" he asked her. "You've been convinced that I was going to leave you, so you decided to push me away first?" Ava nodded defiantly.

"Good grief. What do I have to do, to convince you that I love you, woman? I don't want to leave. But I can't keep on the way we're going. I want a... a... commitment!" The word shocked him, even as he said it. Kyle Valenti, Super Jock and former ladies' man, longed for nothing more than to settle down with one woman. One very beautiful, sexy, lovable woman. More than sex and popularity, which used to be at the head of his list of priorities (and in that specific order), he longed to know the feeling of being completely and unconditionally loved and accepted by this woman that he desired for his lifelong mate. He shook his head to clear his thoughts, so he could continue. "I want to know that every morning when I wake up, I can look at the woman curled up in my arms and say to myself, 'This woman's mine.' Forgive me, but when it comes to you, Ava, I can feel pretty damned possessive at times. Most of the time, actually."

"How can I be sure you won't change your mind later? I mean, like, if we can't have kids, or sumthin'..."

Kyle turned her gently in his arms, and cradled her face in his hands. "Sweetheart, let's cross that bridge when we get to it, okay? I'm sure, if we can't have kids the old-fashioned way, we can become parents somehow. Adoption, or some other way. It doesn't matter. What matters is, we'll get through it together. We can get through anything, as long as we're together. Can't you believe that?"

"I - I want to believe it, but I'm so scared," she admitted, the last of the sentence a choked whisper.

"You're scared? Like you don't think I am? Hell, I'm scared every time I think about us. I've most recently been scared that you've been slipping beyond my grasp. The thought of losing you was enough to scare the bejeebers out of me! And then there's the responsibility of providing a home and all for you, and any family we might have. Oh yeah, I got lots of scary stuff to think about. But I'm willing to tough it out and face it all, just to know that I'll be spending the rest of my life with you. You told me that day in the woods that you would take the chance, if I would. So I guess what I need to know is: did you really mean what you said, or are you going to let your fears ruin what we could have together?"

"I -" Ava swallowed hard, trying to rally her thoughts.

"Please, Ava, trust me - trust us," he pleaded. "I know we can make this marriage work."

She lifted teary eyes to his. "All right," she agreed. "I'll trust you. Please - just don't make me regret it."

Her trust in him was a gift he would cherish for years to come. Kyle grinned broadly. "Don't worry, I won't." He captured her lips in a fiery kiss. When they broke apart, he said, "Come on, let's go home. And after we get some rest, we're talking wedding plans. Okay?" Ava nodded her head vigorously. With arms wound around each other's waists, they headed back to the house.

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

Once back in their room, Max pulled Liz into his arms. "Well, I'd say that was a good night's work. What say you, wife?"

Liz giggled. "I'd say the people were pleased. It made me feel so good, to be able to do something like that for them."

"Yeah, me too. They were due for something good to happen. Now how about we get some rest? I really am exhausted. I can't imagine what you must feel like, waddling around like that -"

"Waddling?!" Liz was horrified. "I don't waddle!" she exclaimed, and then with less certainty, added, "Do I?" She bit her lower lip, self-conscious at the thought.

Max chuckled. "No, you don't really waddle. You just sort of.... sway, I guess you could say."

Liz groaned, and buried her face in her hands. "And it's only going to get worse," she moaned. "How is it that Tess only had to carry her baby for several weeks, and I have to 'waddle' around for months?"

"You know that Da-nar' said you would probably have a normal human gestation period, even though Antarians normally only carry for 6 months. Since our bodies are mostly human, he said it stands to reason that you would have a normal human -" Max stopped abruptly at the odd look on Liz's face. "Liz?" No response. He watched as she laid a hand on her stomach, and began to breathe funny. "Babe, what is it?"

Liz gave a little whimper, and Max was by her side, helping her to sit down on the edge of the bed. "Sweetheart, please - tell me what's wrong," he begged.

Liz finally released a ragged breath, and started breathing normally again. After relaxing for a moment, she answered him. "It was just a contraction," she told him evenly.

"A what?!"

"Now Max, don't get all excited," she chided. "It's perfectly normal for a woman to get false labor pains this early. It's just the body's way of preparing for - Oooh!" Liz clutched her swollen belly again, as she felt the muscles of her womb tighten painfully. She took deep, cleansing breaths, trying to keep the pain from becoming unbearable. When the wave of discomfort started to subside, she sighed, and leaned into his shoulder. "Wow, that was intense," she murmured.

"I should say so," Max retorted with a quiver in his voice. His hand came up to brush a stray lock of hair from her face, and she noticed that it was shaking.

"Max? Are you okay?" she asked in a teasing voice. Typical guy. She's the one in pain, and he's flipping out. Still, she thought it was cute.

"Laugh if you must," he groused, "but I don't like seeing you in pain."

Liz quirked a single eyebrow. "Well, I guess we won't be seeing you in labor and delivery, will we?"

Max looked hurt. "Of course I'll be there!"

Liz snorted delicately. "Out cold on the floor, perhaps. Max, listen, if you think what I went through just now is bad, let me tell you, it's going to get a whole lot - oh boy! Here comes another one!" she howled, as she squeezed Max's arm, until he was sure she was going to draw blood. "Oooh!!" she shrieked, doubling over.

"Oh my God, Liz! What can I do for you?"

Liz felt a rush of liquid between her thighs. "Get Da-nar'! I think this is the real thing, Max! My water just broke!"

"Holy sh- hang on! I'll send Zan for him." Max ran to the door and flung it open, screaming his brother's name.

Within seconds, a disheveled, haphazardly dressed Zan came running to his brother's room. "What is it?" he asked, breathing heavy more from having the wits scared out of him, than from physical exertion.

"It's Liz! She's in labor! Go find Da-nar' - now!" Max didn't need to elaborate further. Zan was out of there like a shot.

Minutes stretched before Max like hours, waiting for his brother to return with Da-nar'. Finally he heard pounding footsteps ascending the stairs, and racing down the hall to where he sat with Liz. She was in the middle of another hard contraction, and her breath was coming in little pants, as she tried to keep herself from coming unglued.

"How close are the contractions?" Da-nar' asked breathlessly the minute he cleared the doorway, taking immediate command of the situation.

Max was more than relieved to relinquish control of this situation. "Uh... about every 2 minutes. Her water broke just before I sent Zan to get you."

Da-nar' was already rolling up his second sleeve, and heading toward the bathroom to wash up. "Zan, go to the closet, and get the birthing kit I put in there," he called over his shoulder, as he left the room. He was relieved that he had taken the extra precaution of putting the kit together earlier that same week. He gathered some towels from the bathroom, and nearly collided with Zan in the hallway outside Max's room.

"Zan? What's going on?" the sleepy voice of his wife asked at that moment, from behind him.

Zan thrust the towels into Da-nar's hands, and turned to face her. "Liz is in labor."

Karanna's eyes grew wide, and her mouth formed a little "o". After all, if Liz was in labor, she could expect that her own labor should be commencing sometime soon, since they got pregnant within a couple days of each other. Unless there's a problem, and Liz is in premature labor, Karanna thought worriedly. She prayed silently that nothing would be wrong with her sister's baby. She knew how thrilled both Max and Liz were about the child. It would devastate them to lose it.

Zan could read her thoughts on her face, and pulled her into his arms. "Let's not go borrowing trouble," he warned her. "It's probably just an indication that your gestation rate is going to be different than either that of Antarians or humans. 7 months seems like a good compromise, don't you think?" He tried to keep his voice light, hoping she wouldn't sense his own worry.

Karanna gave him a tight smile. "Yeah, I guess," she answered in a distracted manner, her eyes drifting to the closed door of Liz's room. Just then, they heard Liz cry out with another contraction. "I can't believe how quickly this came on her," Karanna commented. "She was fine when we got in just a little bit ago. We barely got into bed, when Max called for you."

Zan rubbed her back soothingly. "I know. But that doesn't mean that anything is wrong. Maybe you'll just have quick labors?" he hazarded to guess.

"Mmm, maybe," she responded, again staring at the door.

"If you're worried about her, why don't you stick your head in, and see if she needs you?" Zan suggested.

"Do - do you think that would be all right?" she inquired hesitantly, chewing on her lower lip.

"I think it would be perfectly appropriate," he encouraged. "After all, she is your twin sister."

Karanna smiled at him gratefully. "Thanks, I think I will." She rose up on her tiptoes, and brushed a kiss across his lips. "I really love you, you know that?" she whispered.

"Yeah, I kinda got that impression," he teased with a roguish grin. "Now, if you're going in there, you better do it now, before I drag you back to bed, and make love to you until your senseless."

Karanna pretended to be weighing her options. "Weelll," she drawled, "Since you put it that way...."

Zan's eyes lit with expectation. "Yes?" he asked hopefully.

Stepping out of his embrace, Karanna concluded with a smile, "I'd better go in and check on my sister, while I still can."

Zan's face fell in a dramatic show of disappointment. Karanna laughed softly, and promised, "I'll take care of you, later."

Winking at his wife, Zan swatted her rear playfully and retorted, "You'd better believe it, Mrs. Evans." He watched with longing, as she opened the door to slip inside, firmly closing it again behind her. Knowing that Liz was in good hands, he turned and went down the hall to his own room, to get some rest, and wait for the final outcome.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Karanna was unprepared for the sight that greeted her, once she gained entrance to Max and Liz's room. Max was sitting on the far edge of the bed, pale as death, stroking Liz's hair absently. Liz's legs were apart, a sheet discreetly draped over them, allowing Da-nar' to check the progress of her labor.

"You're almost fully dilated," she heard him announce. "One more good contraction, and you should be on your way."

Karanna saw Liz's body tense, her hand tightly squeezing Max's. "And here it comes," Max proclaimed unnecessarily. Anyone with eyes could tell she was gearing up for a doozy. As hard as Liz was trying to relax and let nature take it's course, she found it was difficult to fight the urge to tense up, as the contraction bore down on her like a locomotive. Karanna was proud of her, to see her utilizing the breathing techniques Da-nar' had taught them, but she was alarmed that in spite of them, Liz seemed to be struggling through the contraction. Her sister's loud cry at the peak of the contraction assured Karanna that no amount of breathing technique was going to dull the worst of the pain. She fought the swirling sense of dizziness that tried to overtake her. She would be no good to Liz if she passed out.

When the contraction was over, Da-nar' checked Liz again, and confirmed that she was fully dilated, and could push with the next contraction. Karanna saw him regard Liz with concerned eyes, as she lay still and limp against the pillow, her face drained of any color. It was obvious that the labor had already taken a great toll on her, coming on the heels of being up through the entire night, and expending the energy that had been required to power the Granilith. That thought brought a crease of worry back to Karanna's brow, thinking that perhaps the strain had caused Liz to go into premature labor. She wondered if that spelled trouble for her own child.

She inadvertently made a small sound of some sort, that alerted Da-nar' to her presence. He looked over his shoulder to see her standing there, looking rather worried.

"Karanna, come in child," he urged her, as she stood leaning against the closed door. "We may need your help here."

That was the one thing Karanna needed to hear, to set her in motion. She pushed away from the door, and purposefully crossed the room to the bed. "Anything," she whispered, staring at her beloved sister with concern. "What do you want me to do?"

"I'm not sure she has the strength to accomplish this on her own," he confided quietly, not wanting to break Max out of his meditative vigil over his wife. The less he worried at this point, the better. "She has done well so far, but as you can see, she is just about wiped out. And the babe hasn't begun to move through the birth canal yet. She has a bit of work left to go. I could ask Max to help, but I'm afraid his hold on his emotions are tenuous at best right now. I may need you to help her birth the child."

The look of surprise on her face warned Da-nar', that Zan may not have shared the details of Zan'-dar's birth with her. So drawing on what he knew Ge-lar' had done, he calmly explained what Karanna would need to do to assist Liz in birthing her baby. He could tell she was nervous, but nonetheless willing to do whatever she could to help her sister. He was impressed with the loyalty and concern for her sister, that overrode her fears.

"Here comes the next one," Max voiced solemnly. Karanna could see Liz's body reacting to the contraction, but Liz was so exhausted, she didn't even make an effort to breathe her way through the contraction. Her face tightened in response to the pain, and she cried out, although her eyes never opened.

"Now, Karanna," Da-nar' directed, realizing that his concern for Liz was not unfounded. She would never get through this without some help.

Nodding at him, Karanna placed her hands on Liz's protruding abdomen, and was startled to find herself drawn into a connection with Liz. This wasn't going quite the way Da-nar' had explained....

She could feel Liz's exhaustion and pain, and tried to help her focus on something other than the pain, to get through this first contraction. She conjured up an image of the four of them in that hot spring fed pool in the catacombs, the day after their weddings. She felt a glimmer of joy from Liz, and knew that at least in some small way, the distraction was helping. When the contraction was over, Karanna explained through their connection that she was going to try and help Liz bear down with the next contraction. She felt a whisper of gratefulness from her twin.

When Karanna had sat down on the other side of Liz and put her hands on her sister, Max's head had snapped up to assess the situation. He turned imploring eyes on Da-nar', who gave him a reassuring smile. It was then that Max realized that he was trying to replicate what Ge-lar' had done for Tess. An arrow of panic pierced through him, and he had to fight hard against letting it overtake him. Surely Liz wasn't in the same physical danger that Tess had been? The thought that Liz might die was incomprehensible. No way would God be so cruel, as to take her from him now. Would he? Max began to plead with the unseen deity for his wife's safety, and that of his unborn son. The only reply he received came in the form of two words: "Trust" and "Faith".

When the next contraction began to wind up, Karanna was ready for it. Lending her strength to Liz, together they managed to produce a productive push. Da-nar' murmured encouragement to the two young women, and after three more such episodes, the heir to the throne of Antar came squalling into the world.

Max watched intently as Da-nar' tied off and cut the cord, subconsciously taking an inventory of fingers and toes, and observing his son's hearty protests about being thrust from his warm haven into a cold world. A son. My son. And obviously perfect in every way. Max was completely oblivious to anything else going on around him, until he heard Karanna's sharp cry, and felt Da-nar' thrust the wailing infant into his arms.

"Max, you have to get off the bed now," Da-nar' insisted, breaking through his haze of disorientation.

"Liz? Is she all right?" he questioned, still not comprehending what was going on.

"She'll be fine. She just needs rest. Now get off the bed!"

He stood up, and looked back down at the women on the bed; Liz, still limp from exhaustion, and Karanna sitting next to her, doubled over with pain. He didn't have any time to ask questions, before Da-nar' began shifting Liz over to the side of the bed where Max had been sitting, making more room for Karanna. "It seems two little someones are anxious to enter the world tonight," he explained.


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 13-Mar-2002 5:03:54 PM ]

posted on 13-Mar-2002 5:05:56 PM by sheeperz

Max's eyes nearly popped out of his head, when he grasped what Da-nar' was saying. "I should go and get Zan," he muttered, rushing to the door.

"You better get Isabel as well," Da-nar' instructed him. "I'll need her to watch your boy, so you can be available to help, should Karanna need assistance."

"Uh, don't you think Zan should do that?" Max asked uncomfortably, not quite sure what Da-nar' was going to ask him to do.

"No, I don't!" the Talerian snapped. "For the very reason I didn't want you to assist Liz, I don't want him working with Karanna. You boys are too emotional about these girls, and I need someone that can keep a level head, to help her body push the baby out. If you can't do it, perhaps Isabel can help."

"No, you're right. It would be better if it was me, in case there are any complications, and I need to heal her." Da-nar' nodded in agreement, and Max took his screaming little bundle along with him, as he went to retrieve his siblings.

First to appear in the room was a frantic Zan. "Karanna! Oh God, is she all right?" he demanded, as he sat down by her side.

"Nothing wrong with her, that hasn't ailed women for millennia," Da-nar' muttered wryly. "I guess when she connected with Liz to help her with her labor, it triggered her own."

Karanna cried out with another contraction. "Zan! Oh God, it hurts...." She tried desperately to follow Da-nar's instructions to breathe properly, but the pain was like lightning coursing through her, and it took her breath away.

"Damn!" Zan exclaimed. "She was too young for this, wasn't she?" he queried fretfully. "Her body can't handle it."

"Zan! Don't go getting hysterical on me!" Da-nar' ordered, just as Max was coming back into the room, Isabel hot on his heels.

"I see now why you don't want Zan to be the one to work with her. Do we have any sedatives around here?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. Obviously, he had recovered his senses, and was ready to help out.

Ava appeared in the doorway, Isabel having alerted her to the situation. She and Kyle had returned from their escapade in the woods only moments earlier. Da-nar' seemed profoundly relieved at her presence. "Ava? Would you go and get me more bath towels? Several of them," he clarified. "I'm going to need some boiling water, too, to wash things off from Liz's birth."

"Right away," Ava called over her shoulder, as she flew out of the room.

By this point, Karanna's water had broken, and Da-nar' estimated that 3 or 4 more hard contractions would leave her fully dilated, at the rate she was going. He could tell that she was growing weary, but he admired her attempt to remain strong. It took another twenty minutes, and some serious help from Max, to bring Karanna's baby into the world.

"It's a girl!" Da-nar' told Zan, as he placed the baby on Karanna's bare stomach, until he could tie and cut the cord. Max stepped away, allowing his brother to sit next to his wife and infant, as soon as Da-nar' finished.

Karanna was barely able to keep her eyes open. "Did you hear that, honey? We have a little girl," Zan whispered to her in awe, as he pushed a damp tendril of hair off the side of her face. He kissed her forehead and complimented her. "You did great, babe. She's beautiful." A gift of love, he thought, as Karanna reached for the infant that was screaming away on her stomach. "Help me, Zan," she said wearily.

"What are you trying to do?" he asked, gently lifting his daughter.

Clasping his wrists weakly, Karanna's hands guided him, until the infant was placed at her breast. The abrupt silence was deafening. Zan watched in wonder, as the baby suckled in earnest, and he was sure he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. For a moment, he knew a pang of jealousy, that he would now have to share his wife's perfect breasts with this little person, but he quickly dismissed the errant thought. He would be content for now, to watch the breasts that inspired him nourish their child. Although, he had to admit to himself, that the sight of it was making him mighty hard. Who would have thought that watching the woman you love nurse your child could be so erotic? he thought in amazement.

While Zan and Karanna were caught up in their fascination of the little one their love had created, Max helped Liz to pass her afterbirth. She finally started coming around, and gave Max a feeble smile. "Is the baby okay?" she asked.

"He's perfect, Liz. Just like his mother." He dropped a whisper of a kiss on her lips.

Liz tried to laugh, but it came out more like a bark, her voice was so hoarse, her throat dry. "I'm hardly perfect. I must look about ready for the scrap heap," she lamented.

"Not at all," Max disagreed, as he nuzzled her nose with his. "You look like a very perfect wife, who has just birthed a very perfect son. You're beautiful, my love."

"And you're too kind." Liz noticed Karanna nursing her baby, and realized that she hadn't had a chance to even see her baby, much less place him to her breast. "Where's the baby?" she asked anxiously.

"Isabel is holding him, right over there in the corner," he told her, pointing.

"He's so quiet - are you sure he's all right?"

"He's fine, Liz. Just exhausted from the whole ordeal of being born, I'd suspect."

Liz closed her eyes for a moment. "Yeah, I know how he feels." Rallying her strength, she looked up at Max. "Can I see him?" Her question was punctuated by the silent yearning in her eyes.

"Of course," Max assured her. Isabel was at his side, before he ever got a chance to ask her for the baby. Taking him from his sister, he lifted the top that Liz never had time to shed, and deftly unhooked the front clasp of her bra with one hand, pushing the cups aside. He couldn't help taking a moment to admire the view, and his index finger gently stroked the fullness of her that was even now swelling in response to having birthed her child. Liz's breath hissed through her teeth. "Hurts?" he asked with great concern.

"Not... hurt, really," she tried to explain. "Just... tender, I guess you'd say. Can you... you know? Place him up here?" Her eyes locked with Max's heated gaze. How could she still be sore from birthing his child, and yet feel that delicious hunger for Max that always slammed into her, when she looked into the golden fire in his eyes? She tried to shift slightly, and winced from the soreness.

"What is it, Liz?" Max questioned her again. The fire was gone from his eyes, and was replaced with worry.

"I'm just... sore. You know, from everything stretching and... oh! Did I tear at all?"

Max's eyes grew huge, and he swallowed hard. "T-tear?" he stuttered. God, he never knew such horrible things happened to women. "I-is that, I mean, does that happen usually?" He felt his face growing hot from embarrassment.

Da-nar' had just come to stand next to him, and tried to salvage the situation for the poor boy. Placing a hand on Max's shoulder, he explained, "Yes, and it isn't unusual, especially in a quick birth like Liz and Karanna had. I didn't even have time to think about doing an episiotomy."

"A what?!"

"That's where they make an incision, so that you don't tear," Liz tried to explain.

"But that isn't always effective either," Da-nar' added.

Max groaned. "So - did Liz.... tear?" He could barely get the word out.

"Yes, she did. I'll stitch her, and she'll be sore for a few -"

"Can't I heal her?"

Da-nar' looked up in surprise. "Why, yes, I don't see why not. I just didn't think of it. I'm just so used to women being in this condition after giving birth, it didn't occur to me."

"Yes, well, I don't see any reason why she should have to suffer, if I can do something about it." Max slipped his hand under the sheet that covered the lower half of Liz's body, and placed his hand at the juncture between her thighs.

Liz felt a warm, soothing sensation in the area that was so sore. When Max removed his hand, she realized the pain was all gone. She smiled up at her husband. "Thank you," she said softly.

Max leaned down, and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "Anything for you, my love." Liz yawned. "Tell you what - why don't I take junior here, and let you get some rest?"

Liz yawned again. Drowsily, she asked, "Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Absolutely not. You just relax, and let your body regain its strength. You've been through a lot these last few hours. Baby and I will be fine."

"Mmm, good," she said, as she began to drift off. "And when I wake up, we can talk about names...."

"It's a deal," he responded, and then realized that she was already sound asleep. Cradling his son in his arms, he walked quietly from the room. Out in the hall, he stopped to look down at the sleeping infant, and revel in the miracle that he held. Silently, he gave thanks for this priceless gift from heaven.

posted on 22-Mar-2002 11:18:01 PM by sheeperz
Hi gang!

Sooo sorry this has been so long in coming. I had it mostly done, but was struggling with some of the reactions between A/I. Yes folks, this part is for all my Stargazing friends. Don't worry - for those of you who hate what Isabel on the show has become, I've been told my Isabel is rather almost... tolerable. Hope you give it a shot.

Anyway, it appears that in my absence, y'all have not missed me tooo much. Seems you've been busy having a little party here, and without me!! hehehe. Glad to see you all interacting with each other, and having a good time. If you're busy playing, you aren't so apt to notice me being derelict in my duties....

So... here's the next part. Obviously, you will be able to ascertain that the next section is for the M&M peoples. ;-) Not sure what I'm going to do there, yet.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this!

Part Three

Three figures stood concealed in the shadows of a cliff, out in the middle of the New Mexico desert at night. They watched from their hiding place, as a pair of headlights came racing toward their location. Within minutes, Jim Valenti's SUV skidded to a stop, and the three figures emerged into the moonlight, quickly climbing into the vehicle.

Jim turned in his seat to greet his passengers. "So - what's so all-fired important, that you had to drag me out in the middle of the night to come fetch you?" he questioned them groggily. He glanced at the clock on the dash - 1:08 am.

"You certainly don't expect us to show up in town in the middle of the day, do you?" Isabel asked somewhat haughtily. Even she winced at her snooty tone. She had come a long way from the Ice Princess of Roswell High, but remnants of her insecure self still lurked in the recesses of her personality. Usually she could curb the urge to act on her frostier impulses, but this one slipped through somehow. "Uh, sorry, Sheriff. I didn't mean to be rude. But it is a fact that we have to sneak around now, if and when we come to visit."

Jim smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry, too, Isabel. I had no right to be so crabby. Chalk it up to being woken from a sound sleep. Not that I mind, of course. I told you all once that whenever you need me, I'm here - and I meant it. Please, forgive me. Now, what brings you Earthside?" He let his gaze lock with his son's in the rearview mirror for the first time.

"Liz and Karanna had their kids," Kyle offered, hoping to distract his father. He kind of wanted to discuss his impending nuptials privately. He had a feeling that he dad might be a little hesitant about the whole thing.

"Really? That's great!" Jim responded with a grin. "How're the new moms doing?"

"Fine, just recuperating. This all just happened yesterday. So it's all pretty new to them. Max and Zan are floating on the clouds right now. Fatherhood seems to agree with them."

"That doesn't surprise me. Zan has been just crazy about little Zan'-dar since he was born."

"Yeah, well, Max isn't any better. He's been walking around with this ridiculous grin on his face ever since the new heir to the throne popped into the world."

Jim chuckled. "I'll just bet." He looked over his shoulder at Kyle again. "But I seriously doubt that all three of you came out here in the middle of the night to visit the Parkers, and spread the news. Now what else is up? There must be another reason you're here."

"Well, Dad, I guess my plans to marry Ava eleven days from now would be that reason."

"What?!" Jim just stared in the mirror at Kyle, who was grinning like a besotted fool. "Kyle, are you sure about this?"

"Never surer of anything else in my life," his son assured him. "Took the woman long enough to agree to it, so I figured I better get a ring on her finger in a hurry, before she changes her mind."

Jim shook his head in disbelief. His little boy was a man now. And going to have himself a wife. And soon, probably a fam- "Kyle?" he asked suspiciously. "There isn't any other reason that you are in such a hurry to marry her, is there?"

Michael and Isabel roared with laughter, knowing that Kyle was turning twelve shades of crimson, without even seeing him. They knew him well. That absence of a retort meant that the Sheriff had embarrassed his son.

"Go ahead and laugh," Kyle snapped sarcastically at his friends. "No, Dad, she's not pregnant. At least, not that I know of," he amended under his breath. No matter. Jim heard him.

"Somehow, I didn't think you'd been living chastely with her all this time," his father commented with a note of disapproval in his voice.

"Kind of a double standard, don't you think?" Kyle retorted hotly.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, please, Dad. Like you haven't been intimate with Mrs. DeLuca?" He snorted at his dad's shocked expression. "Hey, give me some credit, will ya? I'm not totally blind."

The other three occupants in the car responded to this revelation simultaneously.

"Kyle, that's enough!" Jim was obviously mortified to have his personal escapades broadcast to the general public.

"Ewww! Way too much information!" This from Isabel.

"Cool. Maybe you can help us break the news to Mrs. D about the alien factor here...." Michael's mind was toying with the possibilities.

Kyle laughed and shook his head. "Never mind, let's just get going, huh? These two want to see their intendeds, and then we need to get out of here before sunrise. Can't risk having anyone spot us in town. Has the speculation about our disappearances died down any?"

Jim put the SUV in drive, and sped off into the night as he answered. "Yes and no. No one seems particularly obsessed with locating you. But that could be because they are convinced that you are being held hostage on another planet. The, uh, alien conspiracy theory seems to have come into full bloom lately. People are more worried about being the next target, than they are in finding you all. They probably figure that looking for you would just draw more attention to themselves."

"Well, that's good, I guess. The fewer questions, the less hassles," Michael said distractedly. Already he was getting anxious to see Maria. He hoped that she wouldn't mind him surprising her in the middle of the night like this.

By 1:30 they had reached Roswell, and Jim pulled up alongside the Whitman house first. Isabel climbed out of the vehicle, and gently shut the door. She didn't want to make any loud noises that would alert the neighbors. Kyle rolled down the window of the rear passenger's door, where he was sitting. Leaning out, he quietly conferred with her. "Don't forget, now," he reminded her. "Meet us at 5:00 behind the UFO Museum. Dad will pick you up there, and take us back to the chamber, so we can go home." Home. Strange, how in such a short time, that had come to mean something far different than it had the first 17 years of his life. Now, home was an alien planet. But more importantly, home was wherever Ava was. It didn't matter where he lived, as long as she was with him.

"Don't worry, Kyle. I'll be there." Isabel turned, and she heard Valenti's SUV pull away and drive down the street as she circled the house to the rear, where the window to Alex's room was located. Picking up a handful of small landscaping stones, she tossed one up to hit the building just to the side of the second-story window. The last thing she wanted to do was send a stone sailing through the glass, and leave Alex with having to explain that to his parents. She waited a few seconds, then pitched another stone. After the third one, she heard a muffled thud, and then a noise at the window. In the semi-darkness, she could see Alex's shadowed form framed in the opening, as he fumbled with the lock, and eventually pushed the bottom pane upward. Leaning sleepily out the window, he called down, "Who's there?"

"It's me, Alex," she whispered loudly, so he could hear her.

Alex snapped awake. Isabel? What was she doing here? "Hang on," he called softly, then disappeared back inside. A moment later, he came around the corner of the house, his pants still unzipped, and his hands fumbling with the buttons on his shirt as he walked. Isabel noticed that he was walking across the cool, dew-dampened grass in bare feet. Finally he came to stand in front of her, frantically tucking in his shirttails. "What are you doing here at 1:30 in the morning, Iz?" he asked breathlessly, fumbling with the fly of his jeans.

"Well, hello, and nice to see you too," she snapped. Damn. The Ice Princess strikes again. "Look, I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a little tense. You know, having to sneak around and all, so no one sees I'm here on planet Earth."

Alex chuckled. "So you know about the alien abduction theories, huh?" he teased, then pulled her into his arms. "Personally, I have no reservations about being kidnapped by aliens. Er, one in particular, anyway..." Holding her tightly, he fused his lips to hers in a searing display of passion that had too long been denied. When he finally released her from the lip-lock, he repeated his original question. "Now why are you here, Iz? I mean, I'm thrilled to see you and all, but I don't think you risked being discovered just to come tuck me in for the night. Although the image is rather pleasant..."

Iz gave him a quick, smacking kiss, then backed out of his arms, chuckling. "Yes, well, you hold on to your little fantasies, playboy. I'm here on a mission."

Alex arched an inquiring brow. "A mission? And that would be -?"

"First, to let you know that Liz and Karanna both had their babies, and everyone is healthy and happy. Max and Zan were a little green around the gills for a couple hours after the babies were born, but other than that, everyone's fine."

Alex grinned broadly. "That's great! I can't imagine my little Lizzy being a mommy. Amazing. So... Liz had a boy, right? I mean, I'm assuming, from the prophecy and all..."

"Yep, Max and Liz have a beautiful little boy, and Karanna gave birth to a little girl, so now they have a matched set," she giggled.

"What did they name them?"

"They aren't telling. Said they would announce the names at the christening. From what I understand, they are planning to hold a service to dedicate the babies after Kyle and Ava's reception."

Alex nodded, as he took in the information. "Cool. So, what else did you want to tell me?"

"That Kyle and Ava are getting married eleven days from now. Or, er, nights, in your case. The wedding will be at 5 pm, Antar time, in honor of our esteemed human guests. We didn't want you to have to sneak out in the middle of the night to come to a wedding," she said with a grin. "Anyway, that's a week from this Saturday, according to Earth days, so it isn't like you have to cut school, or anything."

"And I suppose you think that I just sit around day after day, ready to be available at your beck and call, Miss Evans? Did it occur to you that I might already have plans?"

Isabel's face fell, and she felt something in her stomach twist painfully. She suddenly realized just how selfish and demanding she was being. But the thought of Alex's life carrying on like normal without her hurt. She spent most of her time secretly pining for the only man who could make her heart sing. Even when she was engaged in other activities, her mind would frequently wander to Alex. Tears sprang to her eyes, as she whispered, "Do you?" She almost hated to hear his response.

"Well, no," Alex answered, a little peevishly she thought. "But that's not the point. The point is, I haven't even heard from you in over three weeks, and now you wake me up in the middle of the night to inform me that my presence is required on Antar, like it's some royal command performance, or something."

Isabel flung herself into his embrace, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. "Please don't be angry with me," she pleaded in a hoarse whisper. "I love you, Alex. I need you."

"Then why do you insist on keeping me at arms length, Iz? When will you let me into your heart, all the way?"

"I'm sorry," she sniffled, tears spilling over her eyelashes. "It's just not easy for me to open up that completely. Doesn't it mean anything to you, that I have opened up to you more than I have anyone else in my life? Even Max and Michael don't know me quite as well as you do."

"It's a start, Iz, but I'm afraid I'm much to selfish, when it comes to you. I want to be announcing our wedding to our friends and fam-" Alex bit off the end of the word, knowing the pain it would bring her. But it was too late. She knew what he was going to say.

"Yes, well, that won't ever happen, I guess," she grumbled bitterly. Her parents' rejection still stung. "And not my parents alone," she added. "How would you tell your parents that the rumors were essentially true? That we had gone to live on another planet, and that you were going there to join us? To marry an alien?" Alex averted his eyes. "As I had suspected. Listen, Alex, finish school. Go to college if you want. We have time. And nothing says that we can't be together in the meantime, right?"

"If by together, you are referring to the travesty of a relationship we've had lately -"

"No, I mean together, together. You know." She gazed at him expectantly, willing him to get her meaning, without having to say the words, and appear to be begging him to make love to her. She was Isabel, the consummate flirt, but she had never given herself to a man in that way before, and she was nervous. She wanted to be intimate with Alex, but she wasn't sure he would welcome the opportunity.

"Isabel, are you suggesting what I think you are?" His confused eyes searched hers, looking for an answer to his question. He could see the uncertainty and fear in her gaze, as she deliberated her response. Was she hesitating because she was having second thoughts, or because she was afraid of being rejected? Wanting to dispel any such fears, he pulled her close again, molding her to his length, allowing her to feel his body's reaction to being near her. She lifted questioning eyes to him, wondering what he was thinking. "As you can see, the idea holds a certain appeal for me," he teased. "That is, assuming that's what you were referring to?" Mutely, Isabel nodded, and Alex heaved a sigh of relief. Then a more disturbing thought entered his mind. "I wonder, though, why you are willing to give yourself to me in that way, and yet resist the idea of marriage? Are you just using me, Isabel? Or do you have any real feelings for me?"

Isabel gasped. "How can you even suggest such a thing? I'll have you know that I never - that is, you'd be the, uh..."

Alex felt a self-satisfied grin spread across his face. "You mean I'd be the first?" he asked hopefully.

Isabel's eyes dropped to study his mouth. "Uh, yeah," she mumbled.

"Wow, I'm honored," he admitted in all sincerity. "And for the record - you'd be my first as well."

"Really?" Isabel brightened considerably at the news.

Alex nodded. "The first - and last," he stressed, emphasizing his intentions. "When it happens, that is."

Isabel scowled. "What does that mean?"

"It means that I am not about to rush into a sexual relationship with you, in some misguided attempt to hang on to you. If and when we make love, I want it to be for the right reasons."

"Loving each other isn't a right enough reason?"

Alex winced at the hurt in her voice. "It's a right reason. But it has to be the only reason is what I meant. Not a desperate grab for some sense of security on either of our parts. Just a pure celebration of the love that we have for each other. I'm just not ready for that right now. As much as I long to be with you that way, I know that a part of me doesn't feel secure in this relationship, and I would be sleeping with you as a way to convince myself that everything is going to be all right between us, eventually."

"But it will," Isabel insisted. "And you certainly don't have to do it to 'hang on to me', as you put it. I'll never belong to anyone else."

Alex's heart did back flips at her words. "Maybe," he agreed, "but I'd like to give us a little time to work toward that goal, before we complicate things between us by making love. I hope you can understand that."

Isabel pouted slightly, but told him that she did understand. Even though she didn't like what she was hearing. "So - are you going to come to Kyle's wedding?"

"Yeah, you know I wouldn't miss it. After all, what a great bargaining chip. If they can embrace their feelings, and enter a 'mixed marriage', so to speak, maybe I can convince you -?"

Isabel flashed him a brilliant smile. "Yeah, you never know. So. I have three hours to kill, before I have to meet Valenti and company behind the UFO Museum. You have any ideas how I might fritter away my time?"

Alex broke into a goofy grin. "Well, I suppose we could go somewhere and neck for awhile...." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Sure, give a girl mixed signals. Well, okay. I'll go along. Besides," she added in a seductive tone, "who knows what I might be able to convince you to do, in the heat of the moment?"

Alex kept his smile firmly in place, but underneath the cool exterior, he was shaking in his... bare feet. He feared that it wouldn't take much for Miss Isabel Evans to get him right where she wanted him. Because the truth was, he wanted that too, more than his next breath, his raging arousal painfully reminded him. But he still thought it was ill-advised. "I don't think that would be such a good idea, Iz. Maybe we'd better just stick to necking."

"All right, if you think that's best," she acquiesced. Alex eyed her suspiciously. She had capitulated far too easily. "Come on," she urged, "I know a place we can go and be alone." She grabbed his hand, and tugged him along behind her.

"Ooo! Ouch! Iz, wait, I'm barefoot!"

Isabel halted in her tracks. "Well, hurry up and get some shoes, will you?" she ordered, her arms crossed impatiently across her chest.

Grinning, Alex snapped her a smart salute. "Yes, ma'am! I'll be right back!" He ran to the front door, and grabbed a pair of sneakers out of the front hall closet.

When he returned, Isabel led him stealthily down the streets of Roswell, being careful to stay in the shadows. She came to a halt suddenly, and Alex nearly bowled her over when he didn't see her stop quickly enough. "I don't believe it," she muttered.

Alex looked over her shoulder, curious to see what had arrested her attention. Scanning the scene in front of him, he wasn't quite sure what she was surprised by. "You don't believe what, Iz?"

"The Navaho," she whispered. "It's been - or had been - sitting vacant for months. I just assumed...." her voice trailed off.

"Oh, that," Alex responded casually, staring at the motel across the street. "Yeah, they finally got a buyer about four months back. Took them a couple of months to renovate and get up to snuff, but it's open again." He took in her look of obvious displeasure. A question lighting his eyes, he stated, "Really, Isabel, I didn't think you'd get so emotional about a mote- Wait a minute. Is that where we were headed?" Isabel averted her gaze, and stared off down the street. "It is, isn't it?" he pressed, a sensual gleam lighting his eyes. When she still wouldn't look at him, he placed a finger under her chin, and lifted her face up until their eyes met. "Isabel?"

"Well so what if it was? I mean, it seemed a perfect shame to have it sitting there and not being used. But I guess that's not the case now. So, my idea's a bust, okay?" she huffed dispiritedly. "Your turn."

Alex wrapped his arms around her waist, and held her close. "Maybe all is not lost. Just because they're open, doesn't mean that all the rooms are rented out..." He left the implication of the suggestion hanging in the air.

Isabel pounced on it with a grin. "No, it doesn't, does it? But how will we know which ones are rented?"

"Well, milady, the first clue that a room is rented is the car parked in front of the door," he teased.

"Oh, yes, of course," she said, hitting her forehead with the heel of her hand. "I knew that." She and Alex exchanged a look, and then both erupted in laughter. "Okay, so we rule out the rooms that have cars in front of them. Wait - how do we know for sure all the rooms aren't rented?" Before he could respond she snapped her fingers, and added, "Right. The Vacancy sign. Duh. Okay, I have an idea. How about this. I pretend to be the maid, and if someone is in the room, I make hasty apologies, and an even quicker exit?"

Alex's heart was hammering. He couldn't believe they were going to do something so devious. "Yeah, that could work. Come on, let's get to it, before the whole night is shot, and you have to leave." They crossed the street, and quickly selected a possible vacancy.

Isabel waved her hand over her clothing, and was instantly dressed like a maid. Alex wiggled his eyes, and said something about loving a woman in uniform. Stifling a giggle, she slid the lock back with her powers, and eased the door open. The sound of soft snoring came from the bed, and she quietly shut the door and bolted it. "Must be the trucker that parked his rig out front," she muttered. They tried another room. Isabel slipped inside, straining in the nearly pitch-black room to see if there was anyone in the bed.

"Harry? Is that you?" a woman's voice asked from the nearest bed, making Isabel's heart miss several beats. "Damn it, Harry, you said you were just going to shoot a couple of games of pool at the bar. But I can smell a woman's perfume on you all the way over here! Who is she?" Isabel heard her fumbling around, searching for the switch on the bedside lamp. Isabel bolted from the room, and shut the door, just before they saw a glimmer of light in the middle of the window, where the curtains were slightly parted.

"We have to hide!" she whispered to Alex.

They disappeared around a corner, just as the door opened, and the woman hollered out, "Harry! You get back here, you snake!" Alex and Isabel muffled their giggles, hoping that no one could hear them. The door slammed shut, and Alex peeked around the corner.

"Coast is clear," he informed her.

Isabel sighed. "This isn't going very well," she grumbled.

"No, but you have to admit, it's kind of fun, in a demented sort of way." Isabel agreed with a giggle. "Come on, we have one last shot at a room," he advised her, pointing to an empty parking space in front of number 13.

"Lucky 13?" Isabel challenged him, her voice laced with sarcasm.

"Hey, who knows? Maybe 13 is lucky for aliens," he shot back with a grin. "Besides, the third time's a charm, and all that."

Isabel rolled her eyes. "Oh heck, why not." They ran across the darkened parking area, and Isabel efficiently slid the lock. Giddy with daring, she boldly flicked on the light. Paydirt! The room was empty! She grabbed Alex's arm, and dragged him inside, and shut the door firmly. Feeling empowered by their success, she pinned him up against the door, pressing her womanly curves enticingly along the length of him. "I guess 13 really is my lucky number," she murmured, nibbling on his earlobe, as her body moved suggestively against him, eliciting a gasp.

"I-I-Isabel?" he stammered. "D-don't you think we should slow down?" he mumbled against her lips, which she now had pressed against his.

"No, I don't," she answered, as she nipped at his bottom lip, then ran her tongue along its softness. "What I think is that we have wasted far too much time as it is." This was said in between fervent kisses, and when she finished, she melded their lips together in a passionate kiss that nearly made his toes curl. It certainly affected other parts of his anatomy, he realized with a flush of embarrassment. The whole scenario reminded him of their first trip to the Eraser Room.

"Isabel, we shouldn't..." he mumbled against her lips.

"Feel free to stop any time," she told him. "If you can...." she challenged, before kissing him deeply once more.

It wouldn't have been so bad - he may actually have pulled it off, he thought - if Isabel hadn't pressed against the evidence of his desire for her just then, responding with her own moan of desire. Her instinctively sensual movements were rapidly relieving him of any ability to think clearly, and against his better judgment, he abandoned himself to the exquisite torture she was inflicting upon him, as her tongue sought and found his repeatedly. He was barely aware when she flicked the light switch, plunging the room back into darkness. Maybe it was the late hour, or maybe it was just the headiness of knowing how much Isabel desired him, but Alex couldn't seem to muster up the will to fight her, like he knew he should. So much for all that resolve...

Soon, their kisses turned into a parody of the act that they both were longing to engage in. As their breathing became more labored and shallow, they felt driven to experience something... more. Without abandoning their frantic kisses, they moved toward the bed, realizing they had reached the goal when they bumped blindly into it. Isabel deftly worked the buttons of his shirt free, pushing it off his shoulders, and letting it fall to a heap on the ground. She ran her fingers over Alex's shoulders and chest, pleasantly surprised to realize how much he had filled out in the last six months. Yes indeed, many things had changed in Roswell....

Isabel couldn't stop the unbidden thought of her broken relationship with her parents. The one thing she wished with all her heart had changed since she had been gone. Her reaction was merely a blip in the radar screen, as far as what was happening between herself and Alex, but he sensed it anyway. "Iz?" he inquired, his breathing fast and ragged.

"Yes?" she replied breathlessly, her teeth and tongue alternately stimulating the flesh on his neck.

Alex shivered at the sensual assault. "W-what's wrong? You - oh, God, Isabel, that feels... incredible."

Isabel smiled into the warm curve where his neck and shoulder met, as her hands continued to sensuously stroke the muscles of his chest. "Nothing's wrong," she purred, sliding her hands down the firm expanse of his abdomen, until they found the snap of his jeans. "Nothing, except you have way too many clothes on," she corrected herself.

"N-no, I mean a second ago there, you hesitated. I know you. Tell me what's wrong? Are you having second thoughts? Because I told you before, we don't have to -"

"No!" she insisted. "I'm not having second thoughts. Well, I am, but they are all about which way I want you first," she whispered seductively into his ear. Alex groaned as his mind began rapidly producing one fantasy after another. "I guess that means you won't be much help in deciding," she teased.

Isabel traced the shell of his ear with her tongue, and Alex shuddered in response. He could feel himself falling deeper and deeper under her spell. He was becoming convinced that she must have been an Enchantress in that other life. In an outstanding display of hormonal logic, he deduced that since she was weaving magic around them, there was no longer any point in fighting the inevitable. He abandoned his attempt to find out what had caused her hesitation, and surrendered himself to the desire that was gripping him. Sweeping Isabel up in his arms, he gently laid her on the bed, and began to undress her, taking time to thoroughly explore every bit of sweet flesh he uncovered with his mouth and hands. By the time they were both completely naked, she was writhing and begging him to come to her, and he did so, his own body shaking with need of her.

Afterwards, Isabel lay in his arms, relaxed and truly happy for the first time in months. She had gotten flashes from Alex as they were making love, and she knew for certain now just how he felt about her. It was nice to feel loved by someone who didn't have to love you. Someone who wasn't family. She felt a twinge of guilt, for not having opened herself up to him in the same way, but vowed to herself that the next time they made love, she would truly let him see her. She smiled in the darkness. The next time we make love. The mere thought of it sent a shiver through her.

Alex traced lazy patterns on her shoulder, and waiting for her to break the silence. After several long minutes, he decided to take the initiative. "Penny for your thoughts?"

Isabel giggled. "Is that all they're worth?"

Alex's response was totally sober. "I'd give just about everything I own, to know what's going on in that pretty head of yours."

"Oh, Alex..." she sighed. "I've got a better idea," she said in a husky whisper, thinking there was no time like the present for another round of lovemaking. She began kissing and stroking him, thrilled when he hardened at her touch.

Several minutes later, they came together again, and this time, she withheld nothing of herself from him. When it was all over, Alex flopped onto his back with a satisfied sigh. "Wow," he muttered, contemplating the gift she had just given him.

"Penny for your thoughts," she parroted his earlier question.

"Somehow, I think you already know what they are," he teased. Isabel giggled. "Do you really love me that much, Iz?" he asked, not able to believe the feelings that he had sensed from her, let alone the images of her private fantasies, all revolving around him. Just thinking about it brought a smile to his face again.

"Flashes don't lie," she informed him. "What you see, is what's really inside me."

Alex pulled her closer, placing tender kisses everywhere he could reach. "I just wish that you could let go, and let that love guide you," he murmured. "It would be so much simpler. We could get married, and be together always -"

Isabel stopped the flow of words by placing her fingertips against his lips. "Please, Alex, be patient with me. I need time. And I think, in all fairness, you do to. There are things you need to do. You are so smart - it would be a waste for you to not go to college, and further your education. Wherever we end up living, an intelligent guy like you is going to be a valuable commodity. No sense in wasting such a great resource."

Alex pulled back, and looked at her in the faint light that was seeping in through the part in the curtains. He stared at her face, looking for something that would indicate she was just making up excuses. She appeared to be utterly guileless. "You really mean that, don't you?"

"Of course I do! You have no idea how much I admire you, Alex. I'm in awe of your technical abilities... not to mention, I love your music... You have so many talents, it would be a shame to waste them."

Alex bent his head, and gave her a long, thorough kiss. "I admire you, too, you know," he confessed. Cupping a breast in his hand, and gently fondling her, he added with a lecherous grin, "And not just because you have the sexiest body in the universe, either."

Isabel slapped him, and then giggled, as she pushed him over, and rolled on top of him, pinning him to the bed. "Oh really? And so what do you admire, then?" she demanded playfully.

Alex's laughter subsided. Isabel's breath caught at the intense look in his eyes, as he stared up at her. "So many things, Iz, so many things... like your fierce loyalty to those you love; your kindness when you forget to put your walls up; your strength; your courage; your determination. Just to mention a few," he concluded with a soft smile, as he reached up to lace his fingers through her hair, and gently cradle her head in his hands. "I love you so much, Isabel, I feel like I could die from wanting to be with you."

Isabel laid her hand alongside his face. "Oh, Alex," she whispered, "We have our whole lives ahead of us now. I almost can't believe things have finally come together for us, and nothing can ever separate us again. I love you so much." She leaned down, and kissed him, allowing him to roll her over onto her back, and nestle between her thighs. It wasn't long, before they became one with each other again.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Mar-2002 11:26:43 PM ]

posted on 1-Apr-2002 9:50:55 PM by sheeperz
Well, here I am, finally! I have been really busy, plus, I've been fighting with my muse. She is adamant about getting me distracted with a new story idea, but I finally laid down the law, and she backed down. So here is the next part.

I hope you enjoy it - and that you leave lots of feedback! LOL I know, I'm shameless....

Part Four

Maria sat bolt-upright in bed. Her heart was hammering in her chest, but whether from the erotic dream she had been having about Michael, or a strange presence in the house, she was not quite sure. Shaking off the last vestiges of sleep induced lethargy, she struggled to clear her mind, and calm her erratic breathing, so she could listen for any sounds that did not belong in the DeLuca household at -she looked at the clock - 1:40 am. She swallowed, and was just about to alight from her bed, when she sensed a motion in the deepest shadows of her room. She was gearing up for a good, loud scream, when a shape loomed in front of her, and a hand firmly clamped over her mouth. As she began to struggle against her unknown assailant, a second hand reached out to restrain her in her bed, accidentally grabbing her breast in the process. The uninvited intimacy so shocked her, that she fell completely still for the span of a few seconds, giving the perpetrator the opportunity to get a word in. "Sh, blondie, it's just me," Michael Guerin whispered, purposely neglecting to remove his hand from her breast. It just felt too damn good, he thought to himself.

At his announcement, he felt Maria's tense body go limp with relief, and he did remove the hand covering her mouth. "Michael Guerin!" she scolded in a harsh whisper. "What are you doing, sneaking into my house - my room - at this hour of the night?" Michael's thumb casually whisked over the nipple that had grown erect beneath his touch. "And kindly take your hand off of me!" she added through grated teeth.

Michael gave her breast one last affectionate squeeze, intentionally abrading the little protruding jewel he had found, and was gratified to hear her hiss of pleasure, before he regretfully removed his hand. He heard her ragged sigh, and smiled in the darkness, knowing that she couldn't see the triumphant gleam in his eyes. For all her virginal protesting, the girl wanted him. Bad. He had to stifle a chuckle of male victory.

"Well?!" she pressed, still awaiting an explanation.

It was Michael's turn to sigh. "Okay, okay. First, your best friend had her baby - and so did her sister."

Maria started to squeal, and Michael quickly clamped his hand back over her mouth. "Will you be quiet, for heaven's sake? Do you want to wake your mother?" The moonlight coming in through the window washed over her face, and he could see her eyes widen in fear, as she vehemently shook her head in a negative response. "All right then, I'm going to take my hand away. Behave." Maria nodded.

"So, did everything go all right for them?" she asked anxiously.

Michael nodded. "Yep, two healthy mommas, two healthy babies. We're batting a thousand," he announced with a grin.

Maria sighed in relief. "I know they weren't expecting any complications, but I couldn't help but worry."

"Of course you couldn't," Michael teased. "You wouldn't be Maria, if you didn't worry."

Maria gave him a playful swat, and started to protest his evaluation of her character, when he covered her mouth with his own, sealing in her words with a kiss. Maria instantly forgot that she was about to argue a point, as she became wholly absorbed in Michael's ardor. She moaned, as she felt his hands caressing her bare skin, of which there was quite a bit to find. She had been rather warm earlier when she dressed for bed, and had only donned a tank top and skimpy pair of undies, before climbing beneath the covers. He stroked the bare skin of her stomach, and then his hand trailed downward, seeking to claim the treasure that had so far remained undiscovered. The tips of his fingers slipped beneath the elastic band at the top of her underwear, and Michael was overjoyed when her hips reflexively raised toward him, as he felt the vibrations of another moan enter his mouth. Just as he was about to take the fort, so to speak, the unthinkable happened.

"Oh, my GOD!"

The unmistakable hysteria of Amy DeLuca reached his ears, and Michael momentarily froze. Lifting his mouth to a fraction of an inch above Maria's, he mumbled an appropriate expletive, and removed his hand from its strategic location.

"Maria DeLuca, what the hell is going on in here? I knew you were depressed about Michael's disappearance, but now you're sneaking strange boys into your room in the middle of the -"

Her words stuck in her throat, as Michael turned for the first time to face the open doorway, the light from the hall illuminating his features. The look of panic that contorted Amy's face grabbed at Michael's newly discovered heart. This wasn't the way he wanted to clue his future mother-in-law in about his alien status. But one must take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, he decided. Just before she freaked out.

Michael jumped up, and rushed to stand before her. Grabbing her in his arms, he pushed her face into his shoulder, muffling her screams, until she collapsed into a quivering heap against him. As he ran his hand over her back in long, soothing strokes, he told her, "Sh, it's okay, Mrs. D. No need to get upset. I'm okay, as you can see. The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." It was then that he felt the wetness of her tears soaking through his shirt, and moistening the skin on his chest.

Suddenly realizing how foolish she must seem, Amy pushed herself back away from him, and gave him an assessing look. "So where have you been?" she demanded, reaching out to swat him up side the head. "You've had us all worried sick, thinking the absolute worst, and then you come waltzing into my daughter's room in the middle of the night, intending to do God knows what, from the looks of what I walked in on!" she scolded.

Michael looked to Maria for some moral support, and found that none would be forthcoming from that quarter. Maria was still sitting on her bed, frozen in shock. So much so, she didn't even realize that her state of undress was readily apparent to her mother, what with the sheets wadded up down around her feet, where she had inadvertently kicked them in the rising tide of passion. He turned to face Amy again, only to find her standing with her arms crossed severely over her chest, and one eyebrow arched accusingly, as she glared at him. An exasperated sigh issued forth from him, and he slumped back onto the edge of the bed.

"It's not what you think," he assured her. When her eyes widened in disbelief, he clarified, "Well, not exactly."

"Oh, do go on. I'd like to know just what this is - exactly."

"Well, I, uh, came to deliver some news to Maria."

"At this hour?" she challenged him, incredulous.

"Well, I kinda had to come now," came his evasive reply.

"Suppose you explain that, so it makes some shred of sense."

By this point, Maria had managed to regain some semblance of coherence. "Mom, it's okay, really. Please don't be angry with Michael. He had to come in the middle of the night, because he couldn't risk anyone seeing him. He's supposed to be missing, and he wants everyone to continue thinking of him as having disappeared. If he shows up, then goes away again, well, that would look suspicious, wouldn't it?"

Amy's laugh was almost mocking. "My God, Maria! And this isn't suspicious? I want to know where he's been, and why he has to be sneaking around."

Maria nodded. "Okay, Mom, we'll tell you everything. But first, let's get dressed, and go over to the Valenti's. I want help trying to explain all of this to you. Or, at the very least, some moral support."

"Valenti's?" Amy questioned. "Do you mean to tell me that Jim knows what's going on? And he never bothered to tell me, even as upset as I've been?" Then it hit her. "But then, come to think of it, you knew what was going on, didn't you? And you let me believe that Michael and the others - Oh God! Do you know where the rest of them are, too?"

Michael gathered his courage, and once again rose to meet Amy, putting an arm around her shoulder. "Yes, Mrs. D, she does, and we're all fine. We're also sorry if you suffered, not knowing what happened to us. But it was too dangerous for you to know. It was better this way. Please, go get dressed, and we'll go visit the Sheriff." Amy shook her head in confusion, but turned to do as he asked anyway. While she was gone, Maria dressed, and Michael called and warned Jim that they were heading over there.

A scant 15 minutes later, the three of them stumbled in through the back door of the Valenti home, to confront Jim and Kyle in the kitchen.

"How could you?!" Amy immediately accused Jim.

His shoulders slumped, and a sigh escaped him. He knew that Amy wasn't going to like knowing he had been keeping secrets from her, but the reality of it took the wind out of his sails. "Come on in and sit down, Amy. We'll tell you everything."

"Well, that's big of you," she snapped, "considering I stumbled onto the truth myself. I wonder, if I hadn't, how long you would have kept lying to me?"

"Not long, Mrs. D," Michael answered for the sheriff. "Actually, we were going to have to tell you pretty soon, but I'll explain that in a bit. Let's clear the air first."

"Wonderful idea." Michael winced at her sarcasm.

Jim's firm hand on her shoulder urged Amy to sit down on the sofa, and he dropped down beside her. Michael and Maria sat across from them, using the coffee table as a bench. Kyle remained in the kitchen, rummaging for something to eat, and wisely staying out of the line of fire.

Maria clasped her hands between her knees, and stared at her sneakers, as she sought a way to broach the subject of Michael's other-worldly status. "Mom, there is a lot that has happened over the last almost two years, and so you are going to have to be patient, as we try to bring you up to speed. No freaking allowed, understand?"

"Hey, this is me you're talking to," Amy said by way of assurance.

Maria smiled, thinking how she had had this same conversation with Liz, the day Liz told her that Max was an alien. "Yes, I know it's you, and that's what worries me."

"Gee, thanks for the high opinion of me," her mother grumbled.

"Oh, don't take it so personally, Mom. In fact, when I first learned what you are going to hear, I flipped out royally. Like mother, like daughter, I always say. Anyway, let's start from the beginning." Maria proceeded to recount the shooting in the Crashdown, and how Max had actually healed Liz, culminating in them all discovering that aliens really did inhabit Roswell. Amy's eyes bulged in response, but Maria had to admit to herself that she was proud of the way her mother continued to sit quietly, as her whole world was turned on edge.

"So, you see," Maria said as she began to wind the story down fifteen minutes later, "when it came time for them all to go back to their home planet and fight against Ki-var', there had to be some sort of cover story for their disappearance. Short of telling the world they were really beings from another planet that had been seeking asylum here for the last 53 years, Sheriff Valenti thought it was better just to list them as missing persons. There would be less fallout from that, even though there had to be an investigation. But since we knew they would never be found, it was no problem. The Evanses and Parkers knew the truth, so it wasn't like they were searching for their missing kids. They all agreed to go this route as a way to explain their children's absence."

When Amy was sure that Maria was done, she croaked, "So you're an... alien?" This was directed at Michael.

"Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid I am. Well, half, anyway. Maria was just giving you an overview, but the truth is, we are each half human, as well as half Antarian."

"And Liz is too?"

"Yes, Mom, she is. But she never knew it, until just recently."

"I see." Amy looked at Jim, for the first time since Maria began weaving this tale. Her expression was odd, almost as if she felt hurt by what she had learned. "Is this some kind of joke, Jim? Are you all laughing inside at me?"

Jim wrapped an arm around her, and pulled her close to his side, gently kissing her forehead. "No, Amy, no one is laughing at you. Believe me, we all had our moments of disbelief, when we first learned the truth."

"How did it happen for you?" she asked him. "I mean, what convinced you that this wasn't some prank?" She knew that Jim was much to keen to be taken on some teenagers' idea of a practical joke.

"Well, about the time that I had to rescue Max from being tortured by the FBI, I knew that something was up," he confided. Amy's gasp of horror encouraged him. He didn't want to think she would be callous enough not to care about the torture of another being, even if it wasn't all human. "But what really clinched it for me, was when I saw Michael use his powers for the first time, trying to save Max and Liz's lives, when the FBI were hunting them down. The boy is a real powerhouse." None of them mentioned the confrontation with Pierce, and the man's unfortunate demise. Michael had put the whole incident behind him, and he intended for it to remain there permanently.

"Oh God," Amy whimpered in response to the mention of Michael's special powers. This was Michael - her daughter's boyfriend. And she knew that Maria was crazy in love with him. What did all this mean, regarding their relationship?

Michael had seen Amy's eyes darting back and forth between him and Maria, and had a pretty good idea what was on Amy's mind. He figured, as long as they were getting things out in the open, best to deal with it all head on.

"You're wondering about Maria and me, aren't you?" he asked directly. She could only nod in response. "Well, I'll be honest and up front with you, Mrs. D. I love your daughter, and I want to marry her."

Amy gasped. "But what about - have you - I mean...." her voice trailed off, and her face turned bright crimson.

Michael chuckled. "Are you asking if we have been intimately involved?" Again her voice failed her, and Amy resorted to bobbing her head up and down. "No, we haven't. Maria wanted to wait until we were married, and I respect that - at least as far as my hormones will allow me," he teased, winking at Maria, who blushed a pretty pink.

"Then, how do you know -?" Amy left the question unfinished, hoping that Michael would follow her train of thought.

"Oh, that. Well, Maria isn't the only human involved here," he explained. "As a matter of fact, Kyle is getting married to Ava in a few days, and -"

"What?!" Maria shrieked. "You didn't tell me about this!"

"When have I had time?" he challenged her with a smirk.

Maria smiled shyly. "I guess you have a point. You're off the hook on this one."

"Anyway, like I was saying, Kyle and Ava have... anticipated their vows, you might say," he told Amy, putting it as delicately as he could manage.

Amy cleared her throat nervously. "And there hasn't been any... complications?"

"None whatsoever. Except that Kyle walks around like a whipped puppy," he said loud enough for his voice to carry into the kitchen.

"Hey, Guerin, I resemble that remark!" Kyle shouted back at them from the kitchen. Michael, Maria, and even Jim laughed at Kyle's characteristic sarcasm.

Amy just sat there at a loss. Finally, she addressed Jim. "I can't believe how well you're taking this," she said. "Your son is marrying an alien, and you act as though he'd announced he was captain of the football team again. Like it was business as usual."

"Well, remember," he responded, "that I have had a year to get used to all of this. Ava is a wonderful girl, and she loves my son to distraction. And I have never seen Kyle act as responsible and mature as he has these past months. He's worked damn hard helping the people of Antar rebuild what Ki-var' had managed to destroy over the years. For the first time in over 60 years, the people of Antar have hope again, and it's all because of these kids - these young adults - that we have all known and loved. I don't know about you, but it gives me a really warm feeling inside. Maybe some day you'll be ready to visit Antar, and see all they've accomplished."

"That's a great idea!" Maria exclaimed with enthusiasm. "Why don't you come to Antar and see for yourself what it's like? Then you'll know more about where I'll be spending the rest of my life," she added meaningfully.

"We'll see."

Michael slipped his arm around Maria's shoulder, and held her close, as he looked down into her eyes, and smiled. "Does that mean your answer is yes? Finally?"

Maria beamed up at him. "Yes, Michael, and the sooner the better." She leaned in and whispered in his ear, "I don't know how much longer I can keep you at bay."

Michael threw back his head and laughed, as he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her hard. "Neither do I, blondie, neither do I."

At the sound of Michael's laughter, Kyle appeared in the doorway. "I take it this means that everything's sort of okay now?"

"Just one more thing," Amy pressed. "What about finishing school? How are you going to take care of yourselves without an education?"

"Mrs. D, things are different on Antar," Kyle informed her. "There are those that are highly trained in academic fields, but there are also many occupations that require a basic education, and then apprenticeship. I've been working with the men doing construction work, as they rebuild the city of Antarra, and I know that Maria is eager to start learning how to heal with herbs from Ge-lar'."

"Ge-lar'?" Amy's eyes questioned Maria.

"He's a holy man - sort of like a priest or something," she explained. "He's been really wonderful to all of us. And he can do the most amazing things with herbs..." She blushed, as she remembered Liz recounting to her the events of her wedding night, over a tub of ice cream that Maria had brought from Earth, just for the occasion. It had taken some coaxing, but Liz had finally told Maria what the herbs were for, and Maria nearly choked on her ice cream. Just remembering it now, she shivered as she imagined what her wedding night would be like with Michael.

Feeling the shudder that ran through her, Michael tipped her face up to his, with a finger hooked under her chin, and had the breath knocked out of him, when he saw how her eyes were darkened with desire. He managed to swallow, and turned his attention back to the couple sitting on the couch, before he drowned in the depths of her gaze. He dimly heard Kyle chuckling softly, as he returned to the kitchen.

"So, Mrs. D - do you think you can handle having me for a son-in-law? I mean, I know I'm not as cute as E.T., but I do love Maria an awful lot." He was trying to joke about it, but Amy sensed the underlying apprehension in his voice. She realized for the first time, that he was afraid of her rejection.

"Just as long as my grandchildren don't come out looking like Klingons, I guess I can handle it." She flashed him a broad smile, and her eyes twinkled with mischief.

Michael chuckled, and the tension visibly drained from his body. "I don't think that will be a problem."

After exchanging farewells, Amy, Maria, and Michael returned to the DeLuca house, leaving Kyle and his dad to discuss Kyle's upcoming nuptials. Michael spent the remainder of his visit listening to the love of his life and her mother chatter tirelessly about wedding plans, occasionally asking for his input. Despite the fact that he wanted to be alone with Maria, he was in surprisingly good spirits. Maria had finally said yes. She was going to marry him, and soon, they wouldn't have to be apart ever again.

posted on 2-Apr-2002 10:01:07 PM by sheeperz
So, I'm wondering. Is it that only a few people have seen this new part on the board? I know it's easy to drop through the ranks quickly. Or was I gone so long, people forgot about me?

posted on 3-Apr-2002 2:15:04 PM by sheeperz
Linda, and all... please forgive my whining. I figured that if it was buried all the way down on page 8, no one was interested... *Blush*

Sablaine - I have a nice room reserved at the palace for both you and Michelle - it's called the DUNGEON. From there, NEITHER of you will be able to get your mitts on MY ZAN!!! (Although I might have to struggle with Karanna over possession...)

As for room service, rest assured, you will be periodically supplied with flat bread and water...

The only pets you will be allowed to keep in there are the rats, I'm afraid... *bigevilgrin*

Meanwhile, KK and I will be living the highlife, attending weddings, eating bon-bons... the usual stuff that goes with a privileged life.

Why does KK get to remain above with me? Well, isn't it obvious? He isn't interested in ZAN!! OOO!! Just had a great idea!! KK, you with me here? How about you whisk Karanna off, and that way, I can have Zan all to myself?

Ah, I love being the storyteller. That way, I can place y'all wherever I want you!! hehehe
posted on 9-Apr-2002 12:15:50 PM by sheeperz
Sablaine - Thanks for the capitulation. You won't regret it! Now I just have to keep on top of Michelle.... she can be one tough cookie. Anyway, KK has assured me that the holoprograms are fully functional....

Sorry the parts are coming so slow peoples. I haven't been feeling well at all, and am just now getting my voice back after a nasty bout of laryngitis. The respiratory infection just keeps lingering...

Hope you all like this part. It, uh, kinda got away from me. I had INTENDED to keep this fic PG-13, but then, I didn't intend to lump all these episodes together into one fic. So....

*****WARNING: NC-17******

There. No one can say they weren't warned, right? *big*

Let me know what you think.

Part Five

"You may now kiss your bride." Ge-lar's words rang out into the courtyard from his place on the top step of the palace. These Earth traditions were becoming more familiar to him, and he smiled, as he waited for the young couple in front of him to seal their vows with a kiss.

On the step just below him, Kyle Valenti swept his bride into his arms, and laid claim to her luscious lips with unreserved eagerness. By the time he lifted his head, it was necessary for him to steady Ava, lest her legs give out from under her entirely. He grinned at her knowingly, as he felt her trembling need. He knew just how she felt. He leaned forward to whisper against her ear, "Just a little longer, and then we can be alone."

Truth was, he was the one that needed reassuring on that score. He could barely contain himself, for the anticipation he felt. He couldn't wait to peel that beautiful dress off of her sexy body, and take her to paradise in his arms. Not that he hadn't done that many times in the past. But this time it would be different. This time, they would go to that magical place as husband and wife. Kyle couldn't explain it to himself, let alone anyone else, but he just knew that it would be different. Now that he had the reassurance of her wholehearted commitment to him, he could make love to her without reservation. No longer would he have anxious thoughts about whether she would leave him or not. They had joined themselves together, and divorce was virtually unheard of on Antar. His only regret was that they would never experience bonding, the way that Max and Liz, as well as Zan and Karanna had. Neither humans nor Talerians had that ability. And though he had never admitted it to anyone, and probably never would, he was jealous of that special bond those couples shared.

He shook off the momentary wave of melancholy. No sense brooding over what can never be, he thought. After all, he needed to think positively. Alien hocus pocus mating rituals aside, he was married to the girl of his dreams. What did he have to complain about? Before he joined the "I Know an Alien Club", he would have never thought to be dropping out of high school and getting married at 17.

As he and Ava stood facing the crowd that had gathered to witness their union, he felt a strange warmth, as he saw the expressions of love and respect on the faces that they had come to know and love these past 7 months. And beside them stood their closest and dearest friends, with whom they had walked through so many trials in the past. But now was a time for rejoicing, and he intended to enjoy the reception that only a queen could plan!

A great cheer rose from the crowd, as Ge-lar' declared them officially husband and wife. The entire wedding party waved to the citizens congregated outside the palace, and then turned to lead the way inside, where the reception would be held in the massive ballroom. As soon as they entered, soothing music played on Antarian instruments began to fill the air. Kyle was stunned, when he caught his first glimpse of the decorations. Liz had spared no expense for them. He fought the tears that threatened to fill his eyes. He and Liz had shared some rough history along the way, especially concerning Max, but that no longer had any impact on who they were now, or posed any threat to their friendship. He turned to see her staring at him and his bride, waiting for their reaction.

"Liz, this is incredible," he told her sincerely. "I can't believe you did all this."

"Well, I had a great deal of help. A lot of people here love you and Ava, Kyle." His heart warmed at the sweet smile Liz bestowed upon Ava.

Just then, Isabel joined them, draping an arm around Ava's shoulders. "Nah, we love Ava. We just put up with Kyle to make her happy."

"I love you too, Isabel," Kyle quipped with a grin. Everyone listening to the exchange chuckled. "Hey, seriously," he said, addressing her again, "you did a great job on Ava's dress. You really ought to think about starting your own business, y'know?" Kyle's forefinger absently touched a white rosebud embroidered on the bodice of the dress. The way it clung to Ava's every curve, revealing just the top swell of her breast, was enticing, yet the addition of full, puffy short sleeves made it enchanting as well. The gentle scent of roses surrounded her, from the circlet of tiny white rosebuds and baby's breath that she wore on her head, with streamers of tulle streaming down her back. Kyle thought she looked every bit a princess. He could still recall the way her train had trailed down four steps behind them, as they stood before Ge-lar', reciting their vows.

"Kyle?" Ava's sweet, gentle voice brought him back to the present.

"Hm? I'm sorry, did someone say something to me?"

"Liz was just commenting that Isabel designed all the bridesmaids' gowns as well. But never mind that," she said softly. Kyle was surprised at her attitude, until he realized the reason for it. Liz had already wandered off, as had Isabel. He and Ava were standing by themselves, temporarily. He knew it wouldn't last. "Where were you, just now?" Ava asked. "You looked like you were a million miles away, yet you were touching the bodice of my gown."

Kyle smiled, and led her into a secluded alcove nearby. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you look. Absolutely perfect."

Ava blushed and smiled shyly. "Really?"

"Mmhmm," he mumbled. He pulled her closer, and pressed a feather-light kiss to her ear, whispering, "Nevertheless, I can't wait to strip away that magnificent creation, and have my wicked way with you." She gave a quiet moan, and leaned into him subtly, her breasts softly pressing against the wall of his chest. Kyle looked down, enjoying the view greatly, as the gentle pressure caused her breasts to further swell above the neckline of her gown. Of their own volition, his fingertips grazed the milky skin that begged for his touch. Ava gasped with pleasure, her eyes closing as she savored the rioting sensations his touch induced. Oops, enjoying the view too much, he thought, as he felt the ever familiar ache in his loins stir to life. "Okay," he panted against the sensitive skin behind her ear, causing her to shudder, "tell me again how long etiquette dictates we have to hang around here socializing, before we can lock ourselves away and make love all night?"

"Kyle," she groaned, "if you don't stop talking like that, I'm liable to throw you down on the floor right here, and be done with it."

"Oh, baby, I love it when you get aggressive," he growled playfully in her ear.

"Am I interrupting something?" Zan asked in feigned annoyance. He had long since gotten over his suspicions and hostility toward Kyle. Now he just wanted to torment the newlyweds.

"Yes, Evans, as a matter of fact, you are," Kyle shot back, although the light in his eyes betrayed his amusement. He could give as good as he got, and relished these verbal sparring matches with Zan.

"Oh, well, then by all means, don't let me interrupt your mating ritual. I just thought perhaps you should know that the King and Queen are looking for you."

That got Kyle's attention. Zan never referred to Max and Liz as the king and queen, unless they were acting in their official capacity on some matter. "What do they want?" he asked hesitantly.

"I think they're hoping that the guests of honor will grace us with their presence at the head table, so that the meal can be served."

Kyle's face grew hot with embarrassment. "Uh, yeah, sure. Be right there." Zan turned and walked off, laughing as he went. "You know," Kyle sputtered to no one in particular, "some days that guy really irritates me." Ava giggled. Kyle looked down at her, and was immediately caught up in her gaiety. Hell, there was no reason to let Zan Evans get under his skin and ruin his wedding day, he thought. He wrapped his arm around Ava's waist, and escorted her to where their friends awaited them.

After the meal, the guests began dancing to the gentle strains of music. The Parkers, as well as Jim and Amy, joined in, learning the simple yet graceful steps that moved the Antarians around the floor. Isabel stood watching on the sidelines, brooding. Alex, having finally hunted her down, came up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her.

"Whatcha thinking?" He always worried when she got to sulking. Isabel had a way of working herself up over things she couldn't control.

"I just don't get it," she replied.

Alex waited for her to elaborate, but no explanation was forthcoming. "Okay, I'll bite." He nipped at her earlobe to prove his point. "What don't you get?"

Isabel seemed not to notice Alex's playful antics, but continued as if he'd never spoken. "What's with Amy DeLuca, anyhow? I mean, I can understand why Liz's parents have stood by her and all. She's Jeff's flesh and blood. Mrs. Parker gave birth to Liz, and has always thought of her as her true child. But I don't get Amy. How is it, that she can be so calm about her only daughter marrying an alien?"

"What you really mean," Alex hazarded a guess, "is how can she accept Michael, when she barely knows him, when your adoptive parents couldn't deal with the truth about who you and Max were. Am I right?"

Isabel sighed, this time responding directly to his comment. "You know me too well, Alex."

"Yes, I do, Miss Evans. And I also know that sometimes you can worry needlessly, and imagine evil intent, where there isn't any. Now, I know I wasn't there when you confronted your parents, but isn't it just possible that you misread them? Did they actually say they never wanted to see you again?"

"You're right, Alex, you weren't there," she snapped in anger. "And in case you haven't noticed, Max has pretty much accepted that they rejected us. So do you think he's misreading the situation, too?"

Alex shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe. All I'm saying is, you dumped all this on them, and then took off before they had a chance to even adjust to the idea. Maybe they needed to let it all sink in."

"It seemed like it had sunk in pretty well, if you ask me. Dad practically said that he didn't care to listen to anything we had to say."

Alex shook his head. "I don't know why, Iz, but I just find it hard to believe that those are his true feelings. Maybe if you went to them, talked to them -"

"No! Enough!" She wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. "God, can't you see how painful this is for me? To see my friends all getting married, their parents rallying behind them, wishing them well?"

"You know, you could have that too, Isabel. At least the marriage part. I've practically begged you to become my wife, but you turned me away, as I recall. You think that doesn't smart? Think again, princess." With that curt response, he left her standing there to brood alone, as he went back to rejoin their friends and family. Isabel watched him cross the room, painfully longing for what she couldn't bring herself to reach out and grasp. They had come so far in their relationship, but she just needed time. Time to heal from the rejection that she felt from her parents. She couldn't risk being that vulnerable to Alex yet. If he ever turned away from her, before she healed from losing her parents, she wasn't sure she would survive it. But oh, how she longed to be the one in the white dress, pledging her love to the man of her dreams. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, she thought ruefully. But some day, my turn will come. It has to.

After another hour had passed, the newlyweds decided it was time to take their leave from the festivities. Ava retired to the bridal chamber Liz had ordered prepared, accompanied by Liz herself, who would be preparing Ava for her first joining with Kyle as husband and wife. Although they couldn't bond as Antarians would, they knew that the herbal potions that Ge-lar' concocted were effective on human physiology, and therefore Ava would be similarly prepared for her wedding night. Liz had spoken with Courtney, and had her ask Ge-lar' to make up a big batch of the stimulating herbal oil, supposedly for Liz's own personal use. She didn't mention that she had intended to share it with her sister, and Ava as well.

Arriving in the bridal chamber, Liz shut the door behind them, and followed Ava to the dressing table, where she had gone to remove her jewelry. Wordlessly, Liz began to unbutton Ava's gown - over a dozen tiny buttons down the length of the back. She methodically worked in silence, allowing Ava to set the tone for her own preparation. If she wanted to chat, she would initiate it.

As the last button was slipped free, Liz slid the garment off Ava's shoulders, and pushed the sleeves off her arms. The dress dropped to the floor in a cloud, and Ava gingerly stepped out of it. Liz bent down and lifted the gown up, slipping it onto a hanger, which she hooked over the front of the wardrobe door. When she turned around, Ava had shed her undergarments, had turned back the bed sheets, and was laying face down on the mattress, awaiting her anointing.

Liz moved to the bed, and picked up the bottle of herbal oil that sat on the bedside table. As she began to apply it to Ava's backside, the new bride commented, "This seems familiar, huh? Only the roles are reversed."

Liz smiled softly at the memory of her own wedding night. "Yes, very much so. I just hope you have as good a time as I did that night," she confided.

Ava chuckled. "That good, huh?"

Liz's heartbeat quickened, and she groaned at the memory. And why not? Her own baby was twelve days old, and she and Max had not been intimate since he was born. Even though Max had taken away the soreness, Da-nar' had suggested that they give her body a chance to recover from the trauma of childbirth. Liz wasn't sure she could hold out much longer though. She ached for Max constantly.

Ava looked back over her shoulder at Liz, when she didn't get an answer to her question. "Liz? You okay?"

Liz blushed and averted her eyes, when she realized how apparent her sexual frustration had been. "No, but it's nothing serious. But to answer your question, yes, it was 'that good'."

"I see." Liz's eyes darted to catch the knowing smirk on Ava's face, before the new bride pillowed her face on her hands again, waiting for Liz to continue massaging in the oil.

Once the task was finished, Liz smiled down at her friend. "Well, I guess I'll just go now, and see about sending your groom in here to, ah, attend to your needs." Liz giggled at Ava's groan. Toward the end of her massage, Ava was becoming obviously aroused, thanks to the herbs in the oil. Seeing her so acutely stimulated reminded Liz further of the exquisite sensations the oil could produce, and felt an ache within her to be joined to her husband. Forget postpartum abstinence, she thought with resolve. Tonight the man is mine.

After Liz left, Ava lay on the bed, trying not to crawl out of her skin from the deep sensations of longing caused by the herbs. When Kyle delayed in coming to their marriage bed, Ava thought she would go insane from the extreme state of arousal her body was in. In an effort to ease her torment, she rubbed her hands over her breasts, willing them to relax. As soon as her palms brushed over the hard, distended nipples, she knew she had made a grave error in judgment. Instead of relieving the ache, it intensified, every wisp of stimulation sending searing jolts of sexual stimulation deep into the core of her femininity.

A desperate moan issued forth from her. She yanked her hands from her breasts, only to have them return almost of their own accord, driven by her body's agitated state. She had never been one for self-pleasuring, far more interested in making love in order to feel connected to someone, than for the pure, undiluted euphoria of sexual release.

Not that she hadn't experienced some wonderful climaxes in the past. But this? This... this.... this hunger she felt made her body seem alien to her. As the thought crossed her mind, she would have laughed at the ironic choice of words that came to her, except that her mounting need made it impossible. Her eyes squeezed shut as a particularly potent wave of desire flooded her senses. Kyle, where are you?

As if in response to her unspoken plea, Ava felt her husband's touch on the swollen flesh nestled between her thighs. She cried out in pleasure, as her eyes flew open to lock with his passion-darkened gaze. Guiltily, her hands lowered to rest at her sides.

"Starting without me?" he asked in a husky whisper. Ava flushed with embarrassment, and turned her head to the side, avoiding his penetrating stare. "No, don't feel ashamed," he told her, continuing to stroke her. "Watching you was the most erotic thing I've ever seen in my life."

"Better than the dog-eared girlie magazines under your bed back home?" she snapped waspishly, her head still averted.

Kyle's hand stilled. "Ouch." He grimaced as though struck. "Pull the claws in, will you? Why should you be offended that I think you are sexy? And hell, yeah, you're way better than any centerfold I ever saw."

She couldn't believe that he had been watching.... She swallowed audibly and asked, "God, Kyle, how long had you been watching? I didn't even hear you come in."

"That's cuz I slipped in while Liz was leaving. Your attention was obviously somewhere else."

Kyle remembered staring at her intently, even as he had silently slipped out of his clothes. Before he could move toward her, though, he had noticed her reach up to caress her breasts, and he had frozen in rapt fascination. Reflexively, he had reached down to his swollen manhood that was insistently aching, and had been shocked to discover himself to be more fully aroused than he had ever dreamt possible. He knew that watching Ava touch herself was stimulating, but it didn't account for the appreciable difference in the fullness of his erection. No wonder it ached so much to be buried deep insider her... Did Ge-lar' somehow slipped me some sort of herbal brew? he'd suddenly wondered. If he did, I'd better get the recipe, he decided with a sensual smirk.

He'd been here since Liz left? Ava's head snapped around to glare at him. Here she was, dying from wanting him, and he had been there in the shadows all along? "I can't believe you!" she exploded. "You have no idea what this is like - the way these herbs are affecting my body. I waited for you to come in, and when you didn't, I thought that I'd crawl out of my skin from being so..."


"Yes." One word, yet it conveyed the extent of her frustration.

"Then what's the problem? I'm here now. I'm ready, willing and able... so what are we arguing for?"

Tears sprang to her eyes unbidden, spilling over her lashes. "The problem is that I don't make a habit of playing with myself, Kyle Valenti. And I resent that you were here, and knew I needed you, and yet you didn't show yourself."

Kyle nestled himself between her thighs, which were still spread in an enticingly inviting position, and laid himself over her length. Provocatively, he rocked against her, capturing her cry of ecstasy in his mouth, as he fused his lips to hers. She obviously was going to be ornery and irritable, until she was relieved of her sexual pique, so he decided to take matters into his own hands... literally, he thought with lustful glee, as he captured her aching breasts in his hands. He could feel her moans of pleasure vibrating against his tongue, as it plundered the honeyed recesses of her mouth. As his steely length glided over her, he began to feel a new, unaccountable sensation building in him. Was it possible that he was growing even harder?

When she couldn't take it any more, she reached between their bodies, and guided him to the portal of her womanhood. Kyle released her lips, and kissed a path down to her breasts, nuzzling first one and then the other. Ava watched, as he opened his mouth and latched onto one of them, sucking it greedily into the depths of his warm, wet mouth, as his manhood flirted at the entrance of her femininity. It all combined to make her mindless with need like she had never known before, and she arched up into him.

He knew that she wanted him completely within her, but chose to tease her with short, shallow strokes, further inflaming her arousal. Finally, she begged him to take her completely. Kyle was about at the end of his self-control by that point, anyway, and thrust into her deeply, giving her all of him.

He watched as her eyes widened, the pupils dilating sharply. "Oh-oooh!" she cried out.

As Kyle began to move within her, Ava's eyes immediately rolled back into her head, and her hips took on a life of their own, as she bucked wildly against him. She couldn't get over how different he felt this time. It was only a matter of seconds, before she erupted into a fiery orgasm, her entire body wracked in spasms that reached the core of her.

Kyle felt the familiar tension in his loins, and buried himself completely in her, as his seed erupted forth, filling her with the essence of his love. Although he was completely ensconced within her, he ground his hips into her, as if wanting to come completely inside her. In some ways, that was how he felt. Like he wanted to crawl inside her skin, and never come out.

Still sexually strung tight, Kyle's rotating motion set off another release in Ava that was so violent, she couldn't even breathe. Kyle murmured feverish words of praise for her body's responsiveness in her ear, prolonging her fierce orgasm which drew tightly on his still rigid length, milking him to completion.

When the storm had passed, a temporarily sated Kyle moved to lay on his side next to his wife. "So? Are you still mad at me?" he asked with a lecherous grin.

One corner of Ava's mouth lifted in a lazy, seductive smile. "I don't know. Perhaps you need to remind me again why it is I shouldn't be mad at you?" She stroked his now relaxed manhood, and was delighted when it immediately sprang to life again in her hand. "My goodness, you are just full of surprises tonight, aren't you?" she purred.

Kyle looked as surprised as she. "Geez, I swear, I don't even know my own body tonight."

"Well I'd like to get to know the new you a lot better," she whispered. "You were amazing, Kyle."

"Was I?" he asked with a smug, self-satisfied look on his face.

"Oh, yes," she affirmed enthusiastically.

"You were pretty incredible yourself." He rolled onto his back, and pulled her astride him, entering her in one smooth, sure stroke. Then each of them gave to the other, without reservation, the most exquisite gift one person can give to another - the gift of himself.

posted on 15-Apr-2002 10:58:33 PM by sheeperz
OK! I be back. A few notes....

First off, WELCOME! to Paula. Glad you are enjoying the story.

KK - Ah, my dear, BOTH the kissing booth, and the shower, eh? I could have told you that going to the kissing booth would have only heightened your, uh, "problem". But, some people just have to learn the hard way... *tongue*

Phae, you naughty, naughty, girl. Keep it up, and the others who congregate here will begin to think you have a one track mind. Oh! Yeah, that's right. YOU DO! hahahaha I think you'll get your answer in this part. Although, no nookie to be seen. *giggle* I know, I'm just loving torturing you here.

Michelle - FYI, remember, Jeff reconciled with Liz and Karanna at Max's coronation.

Cinder - Actually, that Epilogue was set only TWO years in the future that found Isabel and Alex talking about her parents. But I think I am going to go back, and change that to read one year. You'll see why at the end of this part. Two years is rather beating a dead horse, the way things have worked out.

WELL!! So, I'm glad y'all have been able to amuse yerselves in my absence. I'm still feeling lousy (ask YonkersMe, who thought someone left an obscene phone message when I called to wish her happy birthday last week, teehee.) Anyway, my throat is still really sore, and the voice keeps cutting in and out. Maybe if I'd SHUT UP and let it rest a bit.... NAH!!! *big*

So... here is the next installment. Hope that you enjoy it. A few different things going on, just to confuse you real good. (Just kidding, I hope!)

Let me know what you think.


Part Six

Leaving Ava in Kyle's capable hands, Liz returned to the ballroom, where the crowd was still celebrating her friends' marriage. As she stood in the doorway, her eyes eagerly scanned the room for her husband. Finally, she spotted him, standing off in a corner, conversing rather seriously with his brother. He and Zan stood with their heads inclined toward one another, no doubt to be able to hear over the celebratory din surrounding them. Her breath hitched in her throat as, undetected, she surveyed him. He was definitely the finest specimen of male flesh she had ever hoped to lay eyes on, and he was hers.

The tingling sensation in her breasts and between her thighs, which had begun as a result of anointing Ava for her wedding night, began to escalate into something much more serious and undeniable. Her breasts began to ache, and it had nothing to do with a need to nurse her son. They ached for his touch. Her king. Her soulmate.

Likewise, the tingling at the apex of her thighs metamorphosed into a warm, insistent heat, accompanied by a tension inside her that demanded tending. She could feel the moisture begin to bathe her heated feminine flesh. She knew she was ready for him, and he hadn't even laid eyes on her yet. No sooner had she thought that, when his head came up suddenly, his eyes unfalteringly piercing her own.

A peculiar sensation had gripped Max, as he stood conversing with Zan, and his eyes were drawn to the doorway of the ballroom. Standing there was his wife - his queen, his lover. Lover. With that word on his mind, his heart began to thunder in his chest, as he saw the heat of paradise promised in her smoldering eyes. Without any further suggestion, his body responded in the way it always did to her.

Damn, but the last twelve days had seemed more like twelve years, the way he constantly hungered for her. There were times that he would find himself drifting off into a fantasy of what he'd like to be doing to her, and embarrass himself in front of those who were patiently awaiting instructions for one thing or another. Fortunately, those who had been subjected to his lapses in attention were more often sympathetic, than not.

Max's face flushed, as he continued to stare at his wife across the crowded room, while remembering just how sympathetic some of the young maidens had been to his plight. Apparently, it was not unheard of in Antarian custom for the king to turn to one of the local girls to assuage his "discomfort". Or so these young women had assured him. Naturally, he had politely refused their offers, stating that he had every intention of being faithful to his wife. He did, however, wonder if the young ladies had somewhat distorted the truth of the matter. His first clue was when one particular girl's father angrily seized her, and made profuse apologies to Max for her unseemly behavior, before dragging the protesting youth off behind him. Max was just relieved that Liz hadn't been around to witness the proposition, or the girl would have been far worse off. Max smiled at the thought of his little hellcat wife taking a strip off of any woman that tried to lure her husband away.

Liz had been watching the play of emotions skittering across Max's face, as he stared at her. She wondered just what he was thinking of, but the rakish grin that twisted his lips sent her senses into complete pandemonium. She began to cross the floor, approaching him even though she was afraid to be near him in her present state. She feared she might behave in a manner not befitting the Queen of Antar. She wanted to jump him where he stood. Dear God, how was she ever going to make it through the rest of the evening?

Max's eyes hungrily devoured Liz as she approached him. He was unaware of Zan shaking his head, and wandering off, after trying three times, unsuccessfully, to recapture his brother's attention. Liz was in the room, and Max was a lost cause. As she neared him, he could see the impressions of her impudent nipples pressing against the bodice of her gown, just begging for attention. Max felt a pang of intense possessiveness in the pit of his stomach. It was one thing for him to notice her nipples, but he was aware that several other men had stopped in the middle of conversations as she passed by, commanding their full, male attention. There was no mistaking the power that his beautiful wife unknowingly wielded over the opposite sex. Especially now, with her breasts ripe and full with milk to feed their son. And the way they swayed so provocatively within the silken sheath of her dress....

Max groaned softly, as he felt his body harden further, as if demanding to be buried within her silken sheath - now.

The journey from one end of the room that in fact took only a minute or so, seemed to take a lifetime to Liz. With each passing second, her blood pounded harder, flowed hotter through her veins, until she finally reached him, feeling flushed and lightheaded.

When she swayed in front of him, Max reached out, grasping her tiny waist in his hands, steadying her, lest she fall. "Liz? Sweetheart, are you all right?"

"F-fine," she stammered. "Is it really hot in here? Can't something be done to cool this place down?"

Max leaned in to whisper in her ear, "It really isn't hot in here, Liz. It just feels that way to you."

"Really? You don't feel hot?" She looked at him accusingly, as his face was as flushed as her own.

"Oh, I'm hot all right," he drawled. "But I was fine, until you walked into the room. My being overheated has nothing to do with the temperature in here. And I suspect that yours doesn't, either."

"Probably not," she admitted in a throaty whisper. "M-max...."

"I know, love, I know. I want you too."

Liz swallowed audibly. "H-how much longer?" She knew she was being vague, but in her current state of sexual upheaval, she couldn't seem to communicate very effectively.

"We need to have Ge-lar' christen the babies first, Liz. We promised everyone that we would announce their names tonight. We can't go back on our word." Liz nodded, not trusting her voice to remain steady. "But after that..." Max cocked an eyebrow at her, the gesture fraught with meaning.

Liz shuddered, as her body responded to the mere promise of the euphoric satisfaction that a night in Max's arms would produce. In the interest of not torturing themselves, Liz had been sleeping in the nursery with the baby, insisting that this way, the middle of the night feedings wouldn't disturb his sleep. But the truth was, she knew that if she slept in their marriage bed, there would be no period of abstinence. She simply could not keep her hands off her husband. Nor was she about to deny either of them, any longer. Enough was enough.

"When can the christening take place, Max?" Her voice was laced with an unspoken plea that it be done immediately.

"I'll tell Ge-lar' that we're ready. Give me five minutes to find him, and Zan and Karanna. In the meantime, you can go and get the baby. Then we'll get this over with." Liz's head bobbed enthusiastically in response. Max quickly pressed a firm kiss on her lips, and then turned to his task.

Liz retreated from the room once again, racing up the stairs to the second floor, and entered the nursery. In the soft lighting, she saw Belara rocking the prince of Antar. Belara looked up at the sound of Liz's footsteps crossing the room, and smiled at her queen. "Look who's awake, Momma. He just woke up a few minutes ago. Must be he sensed you were coming for him."

Liz returned her warm smile. "Or maybe he just wants me to fill his belly again. I swear, this child wants to eat constantly."

Belara's soft laugh filled the room. "Yes, well, that's quite natural." She fixed Liz with an intent gaze. "Everything is all right, yes? You have plenty of milk to fill his demanding tummy?"

Liz nodded, trying not to be overcome with embarrassment. She still wasn't used to the frank discussions that women on Antar were prone to have. Her own mother had struggled through the "birds and the bees" speech with her, and even with Maria, Liz had been painfully shy about discussing her body and her sexuality.

"Oh, dear," she heard Belara mutter, as she stood and handed the babe to his mother. Liz looked at her questioningly, but the other woman merely crossed to the changing station, where various nursery supplies were located. She returned to stand before Liz, holding out two white, circular pads.

Immediately comprehending, Liz looked down at the front of her gown, and groaned at the two wet spots clinging to her swollen nipples. "I can't even talk about nursing, and my milk let's down," she complained, handing her son back to the sitter. Pulling the neckline of her gown out, she reached inside the bodice and slipped first one pad and then the other over her leaking breasts, trying her best to ignore the arousal that speared through her as the pads chafed against her sensitive nipples. But the pads couldn't do anything for the stains already on the front of her gown. "Now what do I do?" she moaned. "I don't have time to change my dress. Max is waiting for me to bring the baby down to be christened."

"Don't fret," Belara chided, moving to the closet. Reaching toward the back of the clothes rack, she pulled out a long coat-like garment. She removed it from the hangar, and handed it to Liz.

"What is this?" Liz asked. "I know someone gave it to me as a gift when the baby was born, but I didn't have the heart to ask what it was."

"It's a nursing robe," Belara patiently explained. "You wear it over your clothes, so that when you need to nurse your baby, you just open your top, and slide the baby inside the robe. You remain covered while he nurses. That way, you don't have to retire to the privacy of the nursery, every time the little one demands a feeding."

"Oh, how wonderful!" Liz exclaimed. "I wish I had known sooner! So then... it would be all right for me to wear this over my gown?"

Belara nodded. "The garment is most beautiful. Whoever made it for you, did so with much love and care. It is truly befitting a queen."

"Yes, it is lovely, isn't it?" Liz murmured. "I just hope that whoever made it wasn't offended by my not wearing it sooner. I'm sure I'll get a lot of use out of it now, though!" She pulled the robe on, and was pleased to see that it fit loosely, it's fullness more than adequately covering her stained gown. She hooked the single closure that held it together in the front, and then took her child back in her arms. "Thank you so much for everything," she whispered gratefully to Belara, tears gathering in her eyes. "You have been so kind to Karanna and me, helping us not only get used to being new mothers, but the customs and culture of our people. We appreciate it so much." Liz reached out a hand, and clasped Belara's with it, squeezing it gently to underscore the sincerity of her statement.

"You are most certainly welcome," Belara replied. "I'm more than glad to do anything to help you. You're a wonderful queen, and it is my pleasure to serve you."

Liz shared her husband's aversion to the idea of the people of Antar being subservient to them. "Perhaps someday, I will be able to return the favor," Liz mused aloud, thinking that true friends served one another. She smiled at the look on Belara's face, as the young woman struggled with the notion of her queen serving her in any capacity. But Belara wisely held her peace, not wanting to offend the woman she admired so greatly. "Well," Liz said at last, "I'd better get back downstairs, before Max sends the guard out looking for me."

Belara chuckled, and together, the two women descended the stairs, to rejoin the festivities below.

As they entered the ballroom, Liz noticed Amy DeLuca standing by herself, watching everything with curious interest.

"Hey, Mrs. DeLuca," she said softly, as she approached her from behind.

"Liz! Hi! This is some... wow. What a beautiful reception you put together for Kyle and Ava. I don't suppose you'd be willing to help me with the plans for Michael and Maria's wedding?"

Liz was momentarily flummoxed by Amy's apparent ease with the situation. She hadn't been quite sure how her best friend's mother was going to take her introduction to alien society. But then, this was Amy....

"Uh, sure, Mrs. DeLuca. I'd be happy to help you. But tell me... how are you handling all of this? And please, be honest. I won't be offended by anything you say."

Amy smiled warmly at Liz, and reached out to cup the girl's cheek in her hand. "No, you wouldn't be, would you, sweet Liz?" She let her hand drop back to her side. "To answer your question, I'm doing okay with it, really. You know, after the initial shock and all. I guess I've always believed there were aliens 'out there, somewhere, but the idea of them being in Roswell was more of a lark than anything to me. Kind of like Big Foot, or the Loch Ness Monster. That sort of thing. So the reality of it was a bit of a shock, at first. But once my brain processed that the aliens in question were a bunch of kids that I knew and loved..." She shrugged. "I guess I decided that what difference does it make, really? I abhor bigotry, whether it's across racial or, in this case, species lines. Besides, I think you kids are the best ambassadors Antar could have hoped to have."

Liz blushed under her praise. "Thanks. But, um, what about Michael? You know, and Maria? How do you feel about your daughter marrying an alien?"

"I'm okay with it. Really. I mean, the fact that he isn't 'three feet tall, green and slimy' as Maria puts it, definitely works in his favor here," she confided with a chuckle. "And don't tell Michael, but I absolutely adore the boy, and the way he treats Maria, now that he's given up fighting his feelings for her." Amy saw Liz's eyes widen, too late to stifle the statement.

Michael wrapped his arms around Amy from behind. "Gee, 'Mom', it's great to know that you have fond feelings toward me," he teased.

Amy turned around, and swatted him on the arm. "Just don't think that gives you license to abuse my 'fond feelings', buddy. I'm still going to be your mother-in-law. You mess with my baby, and there'll be hell to pay, mister."

"Oh, Mom," Maria whined. "I'm not your baby any more. I'm a big girl, and I can take care of myself." She paused. "If the beast messes with me, I'll make sure he gets what's coming to him!" Liz and Amy laughed along with Maria, while Michael merely raised his eyebrow in silent challenge. "Oh, Michael, lighten up," Maria chided. Raising on tiptoes, she whispered in his ear, "You never know what it might be that I think you have coming to you." She blew lightly in his ear, and was rewarded when he shuddered. She chuckled as she pulled back from him, and looking up into his eyes, gave him an exaggerated wink.

He grabbed her wrist to stall her retreat, and pulled her closer. Leaning down to her level, he growled in a low, menacing voice, "Keep playing with fire, blondie, and we'll see what I think you have coming."

"Promises, promises," she panted out breathlessly.

"Indeed. And I'm nothing, if not a man of my word." He looked down at the front of her gown, pleased to see the effect his words were having on her. "Cold, love?" he asked with a lecherous grin.

Maria gasped at his forward comment, in the presence of her mother. She looked over her shoulder, relieved to see that Amy was chatting with Liz, and had missed the whole thing. She turned back to Michael, and whispered, "No, quite the opposite. But then, you knew that already, right?" She glared at him with narrowed eyes.

Michael laughed, and pulled her into his arms, pressing a gentle kiss upon the crown of her head. "Yes, I know that. And believe me, it thrills me to no end. I can't wait until I can get you into my bed."

"Why, you randy beast, you," she accused him, being careful to speak quietly. "Is that all I am to you? Someone to warm your bed and your loins?"

"My loins? You've been reading those damned romance novels again, haven't you?"

Maria shrugged. "So what if I have?"

"I'll tell you so what. If you're that desperate for steamy sex, why don't you spend the night with me? I mean, why just read about it, when you can make it a participatory event?" Michael smiled knowingly, as he relished the signs of her arousal. She was so hot for him, and he hadn't even laid a hand on her. He never realized how much fun it could be to make love to her, just using words. He wondered just how hot he could get her...

"Hey everyone," Max greeted the group, slapping Michael on the back, and ruining the moment. Max had to bite back a laugh, as he observed the way Michael was glowering at him, clearly perturbed at the interruption.

Michael saw the sparkle of merriment in his friend's eyes, and clenched his teeth. Curse his married hide, he silently railed. He did that on purpose. Just because he's married, and can slake his desire anytime he wants - His silent musings were suddenly cut short, when he noticed that Max's attention was no longer on him, but on Liz. Ouch. If that look gets any hotter, the whole place is going up in flames, he thought. Maybe Max hasn't been as lucky as I thought. Just then, the baby started to fuss. As Liz's gaze instantly broke from Max's to fix itself on her child, she began to sing and coo to the infant, lulling the babe back to sleep. Well, hell. I never even thought about the baby getting in the way of Max's sex life. Poor guy. Michael decided to cut his friend a little slack under the circumstances, and let the offense rest.

"Are you ready?" Max asked Liz quietly, stroking her cheek with his fingertips.

"Oh, yes," she breathed meaningfully, staring up at him.

Max chuckled, and leaned down to clarify in a hushed voice, "I meant for the christening." He smiled at Liz's blush. "The other comes afterward," he added.


"Most definitely. I couldn't stay away, if my life depended on it."

Liz searched the depths of his heated amber gaze, and knew what he said to be true. Every cell in her body began to tingle in anticipation of the time they would finally be alone in their chambers.

Lacing his fingers with hers, Max led Liz to the dais, where Ge-lar', Zan, and Karanna awaited them. Once there, he assisted her onto the platform, then turned to escort his grandmother, the queen dowager, up onto the platform with them. Her eyes shone with pride, that Max had insisted upon having her alongside them during the ceremony. When they were all assembled, Ge-lar' motioned to the instrumentalists, who immediately ceased playing. The sudden absence of the music drew the attention of the guests, and they all looked upon their beloved king with expectation.

It was Ge-lar' who spoke to the crowd, however. "In Earth tradition, it is customary for a couple to dedicate their newborn infant to the Creator in a ceremony known as a christening. Since The Mighty One is God over all, both human and Antarian, these couples have requested that we perform such a rite for their children. Because little Zan-dar' is the first born of the children, and several months old now, King Maxwell has suggested that we begin with his brother's family.

"Zan, Karanna," he addressed the couple, "Your children are a gift to you - a blessing from the Creator of the heavens and all that lies within them. Is it your desire to dedicate your children to Him, purposing in your hearts to raise them in the knowledge of the One who Created them, and gives their life purpose?"

"It is," they agreed in unison.

Ge-lar' turned to Zan, and laid his hand upon the head of the child he held in his arms. "Zan-dar', may the Lord of All anoint you with wisdom beyond measure, so you may fulfill the destiny to which He has called you. May your life be filled with love, joy, and strength in your times of need." Turning to Karanna, he reached out to the sweet little babe cradled against her breast. A smile graced his lips, as he cupping his hand around her tiny head. "What name do you give your daughter?" he asked Zan.

"Katherine Diane," he replied, adding, "after our Earth mothers."

"Katherine Diane, may the grace of God be upon your life. May you be gentle and kind in spirit, sharing the goodness in your soul with those around you, as you walk the path that God has ordained for your life. May your life ever be a testament to all that is good and admirable in womankind." With tears in his eyes, he placed a sweet kiss on the little girl's forehead, and smiled proudly at Zan and Karanna. After what they all had been through together, he felt like God had given him a special gift, by bringing these little ones into his life, to take the place of the grandchildren he would never have. It was almost becoming hard to remember the loneliness of the solitary life he had led all those years.

"Max, Liz," he continued with the ceremony, "Your child is a gift to you - a blessing from the Creator of the heavens and all that lies within them. Is it your desire to dedicate your son to Him, purposing in your hearts to raise him in the knowledge of the One who Created him, and gives his life purpose?"

"It is," they responded.

He then reached out to take Max and Liz's son in his arms. Cradling the infant with the utmost care, he asked Max, "And what name do you give to your son?"

"His name will be Philip Michael," Max declared with a strong voice. He looked down at the group standing closest to the dais, and his gaze locked with Michael's shocked one. Max's lips lifted ever so slightly at the corners, his expression warm with genuine fondness, letting Michael know that they had intentionally chosen to name their son not only after his grandfather, but also their good friend. He was surprised to see a sheen of moisture filling Michael's eyes.

Ge-lar' faced the crowd, and announced, "I present to you the heir to the throne of Antar, Philip Michael Evans." Placing his hand on the child's head, his eyes remained fixed on the babe as he blessed him. "Philip, may the Lord bestow upon you not only wisdom, but also great courage and strength of character. May you grow strong both in body and in spirit, under the careful direction of your parents, and those whom the Lord sends across your path to mold you into a man fit to rule this kingdom. May your spirit be a discerning one, able to judge easily between good and evil, and your desire be to take a stand for that which is right, ever living your life in faithful service to your people. May your life be blessed, prospering at whatever you set your hands to do, in the name of the Lord." He stroked little Philip's cheek, and then returned him to his mother's care.

Lifting his hands high, he prayed, "Holy God, you have heard the intentions of these parents, that they wish to raise your children in Your ways. Grant them grace in the years to come, as they nurture these young ones in body, mind, and spirit, and bless their homes with love. We thank You for your goodness."

Out of habit, Amy and Nancy both responded to the conclusion of the prayer with a quiet "Amen."

Max thanked the guests for coming and sharing the celebration of both the wedding and the christening with their family, and encouraged all in attendance to continue to enjoy the rest of the evening. With a nod, he signaled to the instrumentalists, who immediately resumed playing.

The royal family proceeded to descend from the platform, and as Max was escorting his grandmother down the steps, she gripped his arm tightly. Max thought it was fear of falling that caused her to clutch at his arm in such a way, but when he looked down at her, he saw that she was staring up at him with pride and love shining out of her eyes. "I'm so very proud of you, Max," she told him, her voice quivering slightly. "You are so like your father in many ways, but in some ways, you are an even greater leader than he was. We are so blessed to have you back with us."

As they stepped onto the floor, Max bent and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Thank you, Grandmother. You don't have any idea how much your love and support means to me."

The elderly woman looked hard at him, noticing the shadows of pain in his eyes. "What is it, child? What is it that disturbs you so?"

Max clenched his teeth, swallowing against the tightness in his throat, as he fought the urge to cry. For the first time, his turbulent emotions regarding his parents came rushing to the surface, overwhelming him. He took in a deep, shuddering breath. "It's rather painful to talk about, Grandmother."

Without a word, she led him to a quiet corner of the room. "I realize that whatever it is causes you pain, my dear, and that is precisely why you need to talk about it. Nothing good will come of burying your sorrow within yourself."

Max hesitated, then nodded. He proceeded to relate the events of the morning they left Earth, and the subsequent rejection he and Isabel had felt from the couple who had raised them for over 10 years.

The queen dowager, a wise woman, listened patiently, as Max poured out his heart to her, tears streaming down his cheeks, in spite of his desire to keep his emotions under control. When he finally finished, she wrapped her frail arms around his waist, and held him close, as if he were a little boy she was trying to comfort.

It was nearly Max's undoing, and he had to fight for the last vestiges of emotional control, to keep from sobbing out loud. In the telling, the pain was a fresh, the wound as raw, as if it had all happened just yesterday.

As she stroked his back soothingly, she told him, "Don't believe that the situation is beyond hope, my dear. Sometimes we say and do things in the heat of a moment, that are ill-advised, at best. Words can be a deadly weapon, wounding the heart and soul of those we lash out at. The worst of it is, once spoken, they can never be retrieved. Quite often, those hastily spoken words become the greatest regrets in our lives. I wouldn't be surprised if your parents eventually come to regret the way they dealt with the situation, if they haven't already. My advice would be to let some time pass, and then make an effort to contact them. Allow them to try and rectify the hurt they have caused you, Zan, and Isabel. And if they wish to restore their relationship with you, by all means, release the hurt and bitterness, and reconcile with them. Life is too short to waste it harboring ill feelings toward others. Our hearts and spirits were created to love, not to hate. Hatred will consume you, but love - true, unconditional love - will be the thing to heal your wounded heart."

Max stared at her, speechless for a moment, letting her words settle deep in his heart. "How did you get to be so wise?" he asked in a choked whisper.

His grandmother gave a sad little chuckle. "By making a lot of unwise choices, and living with many regrets over the years. What I wouldn't give, to be able to go back and change some of the mistakes I've made. But it is the very knowledge of what it means to harbor regrets, that causes me to believe that the situation between you and the Evanses is not hopeless."

Max gave her another hug. "Thank you so much for your advice. I'll do as you suggest."

The former queen patted his back as he hugged her. "That's my boy. I knew you weren't the type to let a problem overcome you. It's just in this particular case, you were a little too close to the situation to see things clearly. We all need help at one time or another, in order to gain proper perspective."

Max nodded at the truth of her words. "You're right. I just couldn't see beyond my own hurt to find an appropriate course of action. But you could, and for that, I thank you." He sighed. "I never considered how much Dad and Mom could be hurting in all of this. I've been extremely selfish." He looked up to see Liz approaching them. "Here comes Liz. Let's keep this just between the two of us, shall we?"

"If that's what you wish." She patted Max on the arm. "And now, I'm afraid I must take my leave, and go home for some rest. I'm not as spry as I once was," she told him, with a twinkle in her eye.

"Somehow, Grandmother, I think you are a lot heartier than you want us all to believe," he teased. His comment was rewarded with a guilty grin. He kissed her once more, then motioned to her escort to come and take her home. Liz had joined them by this time, and kissed her goodnight as well. "Sleep well, Grandmother," Max bid her, as she turned to leave.

Smiling at him over her shoulder, she confided, "I sleep soundly every night, now that you're home. Good night." And then she left.

"Max?" Liz asked softly. "What was that conversation with your grandmother about? It looked pretty intense."

"Oh, nothing much," he hedged. "She was just giving me some advice about how to deal with a particular problem. The woman is a marvel," he whispered the last, staring at the door where she had disappeared into the night.

Liz looped her free arm through his, and said, "So - things seem to be winding down here. Do you suppose we could leave Isabel in charge as hostess for the remainder of the evening?"

Max sucked in a ragged breath at the look of hopeful anticipation in his wife's eyes. He knew what she was hinting at. "Uh, yeah, sure, I'll, um, just go and see if she'd mind." Listen to me. I'm stammering like an idiot. For a few brief seconds, he felt like that awkward misfit that had admired the perfect Liz Parker from afar all those years. There were times, like now, he still couldn't believe how incredibly blessed he was that his dream girl was now his wife. And it struck him suddenly, that if a miracle like that could happen, then there was no reason not to hope that another one could reunite his family. His heart felt lighter than it had in months. "Come on," he urged Liz, wrapping his arm around her shoulder, "Let's go find Iz."

***Please give me your input: I think I should go back, and change the Iz/Alex Epilogue to be set only ONE year in the future, so as not to drag this Evans thing out any more than necessary. It is now 7 months from that ugly scene, so one year would leave Max 5 months before the confrontation with his parents. What do you think??***

posted on 22-Apr-2002 1:04:24 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone!

Well, I did it. I went back, and edited the Epilogue of DJII to read that Alex/Iz's "encounter" and discussion was only one year in the future, instead of two.

Michelle asked about the length of their pregnancies. In the first part of this future fic, it was mentioned that Liz was delivering at 7 months. So 7 months had passed since they left earth. Now, when Kyle told his dad he was getting married, it was the day after the babies were born, and he said that he was getting married in 11 days. So the wedding puts us at almost 7-1/2 months. So... one year after the fall-out with the Evanses would be in about 4-1/2 more months..

KK, loved the idea about them showing Diane the baby photos. Mind if I use that?

Jane - thanks for the tip on the gum. Actually, I have been drinking a lot of peppermint tea! Same basic idea. Plus the warm liquid feels wonderful... And yes, there will be relief (?) in this part. Or maybe, it will just make it worse, I'm not sure. LOL

About Grandma, actually, we met her at Max's coronation. For a refresher, go back and read the Epilogue to DJIII.

Ladylou - sorry you were left... wanting. hehehe Not sure this will solve anything for you though!

Jane (BITL) - Indeed, if I were Liz, I'd fit Max for a chastity belt of sorts! LOL! After all, she of all people should know how irresistable that man is!!!

And actually, Liz's parents were at the christening. I tried to clear that up a little in the beginning of this part. I just didn't make it clear before. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Michelle - yeah, well, Max may have the hots for his wife, but I think it's commendable that he can overcome the ache in his loins enough to tend to other matters as well! A far cry from some of the earlier scenes, I know. Possibly because he's not so Liz deprived as he was before they were married? LOL Just as long as he isn't too close to Liz. Remember, the proximity issue tends to make the longing stronger... being across a crowded room helps. Somewhat, anyway!

As for Diane seeking out Nancy (She would have no way of knowing that Amy had a clue), my take on it is, that besides being in denial somewhat, Diane/Philip are really hurting over the breach in their relationship with M/I/Z. They really do love their kids. Oops. Have I said too much?

Perhaps the Antarian addenda to their names will come in time.

About Michael - I feel that having the responsibilities he has, as well as the confidence of the king, has done a lot to boost his self-confidence... and self-control. Yes indeed, our boy is growing up nicely.

Oh dear, I don't know about "over the rainbow"! But like I told you on the phone, I think that the things I chose to focus on between them in this part are more significantly tied to where their relationship is at, than the nitty gritty details of the actual coupling. Hope you aren't disappointed.

Well, enough chatter. On with the show! (Speaking of which, tomorrow is the big night on UPN!!)

So... hope you enjoy this, and I'll look forward to your comments!!*bounce**bounce*

Part Seven

After saying goodnight to their guests, issuing private farewells to Liz's parents and the other visitors from Roswell, Max and Liz left the remainder of the party in Isabel's capable hands. Each struggling to maintain some sort of dignity, despite the heat of desire flowing through their veins, they climbed the stairs, and walked in silence to the nursery with their fussing son. Apparently, little Prince Philip was thinking it was time to eat... again. Liz smiled at the thought of what her son would be like when he reached his teen years, if he was unable to be appeased at such an early age. Men and their appetites, she thought to herself. She drew in a sharp breath, as it occurred to her that Max's most insatiable appetite had little to do with food, and how she couldn't wait to satisfy it. In response to that realization, she immediately felt the familiar longing between her thighs roar to life. She wondered if Max could hear the pounding of the blood through her veins, that resounded so loudly in her own ears.

Reaching their destination, they entered the nursery, which was growing cool in the late evening air. Even though summer was fast approaching, the nights still held a slight chill. Max crossed the room to light the wood that had been laid earlier in the fireplace, while Liz removed the nursing robe, and settled into the rocker to feed her son.

Before submitting to Philip's demands, she took a moment to run her fingers over the polished arm of the wooden chair, a smile of remembrance on her face. She had been so surprised, when Alex had brought the rocker to her as a gift shortly after she had given birth. "It may not be Antarian," he had explained, "but there are just some things no mother should be without." She could still see the enormous grin that covered his face, when she exclaimed her pleasure over the gift. His eyes had shone so full of love for her in that moment, that she felt completely humbled by the friendship that she had often taken for granted. Alex was one of the most loving, selfless people she had ever known.

A frown creased her brow. I just hope that Isabel doesn't ruin her chance with him, holding on to her bitterness. Alex had shared with Liz about Isabel's hesitance to marry him, and of the anguish she suffered regarding the broken relationship with her parents. He had confided that he believed that some part of Isabel couldn't believe that he could truly love her, because she still felt like a "freak", unworthy of being loved, even in spite of the fact that they were now intimately involved. After all, if her own mother hadn't been able to accept her, what man in his right mind would? It was as if two sides of her were warring against each other - the side that knew deep down that she could trust Alex versus the side that couldn't bear the pain of one more rejection. Liz could see how deeply this troubled him, and her heart ached at the way his shoulders slumped in defeat, as he confessed his fear that Isabel might never be able to trust him. He was willing to give her some more time, but he couldn't see himself spending the rest of his life hanging around her like a witless puppy dog, waiting for her to make a commitment. He knew, in his rational mind, anyway, that he would eventually have to get on with his life, if she refused to come around.

Liz sighed, as she reviewed the conversation with Alex, trying to distract herself from the hunger she felt for Max's touch. She needed to focus on getting Philip fed and put down for the night, and allowing herself to dwell on her body's craving for her husband would not facilitate that project! She lowered the bodice of her gown to free her breasts, to discover that milk was already oozing from her nipples, as Philip's incessant crying had triggered her milk to "let down" in anticipation of meeting his need. She heard Max adding more wood to the fire, as she lifted her son from where he lay flat across her thighs, to cradle him at her breast. With the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile, Philip latched on and began greedily (and rather noisily) gulping down his mother's offering. All troubling thoughts banished for the moment, Liz smiled as her son snorted and snuffled, trying to breath and swallow at the same time. "My little piggy," she giggled softly, as she ran her finger along his cheek.

Max reached around from behind her, carefully cupping her free breast, and commented, "Lucky little piggy." Max teased the nipple with his thumb, telling himself he was just readying it for his son. Yeah, right, a little voice inside his head taunted.

Liz gasped, and pressed her breast against his warm palm. "Jealous, are we?" she moaned out. She felt everything that was feminine in her tighten in anticipation, when Max nuzzled the side of her neck, and began nipping and sucking at the sensitive flesh.

"You know it. Believe me, there's no other male I'd share your beautiful breasts with."

Liz snorted delicately. "Well, that's reassuring. I'm glad you cleared that question up."

Max shifted and took her mouth with barely leashed passion. Breaking the kiss momentarily he breathed against her lips, "Lady, I think it's time I taught you something else to do with that smart mouth of yours, besides tormenting your poor, deprived husband with your sarcasm." Without waiting for a comeback, he began feverishly kissing her again, thrusting his tongue in and out of her mouth, letting her know exactly what he had in mind to do to her as soon as she was finished feeding Philip.

Liz moaned, and was so lost in Max's kiss, that she temporarily forgot the babe at her breast. It wasn't until Philip released the nipple and began to fuss, that she floated back to reality. Max raised his head at the commotion, and both were straining for air, as she lifted their son upright.

"Here, let me," Max encouraged her gently. As he reached down to retrieve the boy, his gaze locked with Liz's, and she felt an erotic tingling all over, when she saw the flames of desire in his passion-darkened eyes. Max moved to place the boy on his shoulder, alternately rubbing and patting his little back. "Come on, son, give it up. I know you have a burp in there somewhere." Philip let out a big baby belch, and Max chuckled. "That's my boy! Any more in there?" he questioned, as he continued to lightly thump the baby. After a minute, he said, "I think that's it, Mommy," he announced to Liz, handing their son back to her. He knelt on the floor in front of the rocker, observing intently as his son suckled with renewed purpose on the second breast. Max felt the insistent throbbing of his manhood, as he imagined himself at Liz's breasts, suckling on them urgently, but for an entirely different purpose. He watched as Philip's little hand came up to rest on the soft, white mound of Liz's breast, his fingers curling and relaxing, as he kneaded the tender flesh. Again, Max fantasized holding those same glorious breasts in his hands, feeling the stiff nipples tormenting his palms, as he flexed his fingers around the fullness of her in the same sort of kneading motion his son was using.

At the sound of his now labored breathing, Liz lifted her eyes from the child she held close, to look at her husband. What she saw caused her to flush with deepening arousal. Max's eyes seemed to be devouring her, as he stared at her bared breasts. She highly doubted he was watching her son nurse with paternal pride. The look in his eyes was purely predatory, and she knew that she was the prey. She shivered in anticipation, fighting the urge to lay Philip in his cradle at that very moment, and throw herself into her husband's arms. The sheen in his eyes promised that he would take her to heaven and back, as soon as he could get his hands on her. And oh, how she wanted his hands on her.

As if discerning her thoughts, Max wrapped his big, warm hand around her ankle, and slowly began to run it up the length of her calf, gently kneading it as he went. When his progress was halted by the seat of the chair, he paused to stroke the sensitive skin behind her knee, which caused her to shudder, before sliding his hand around to the inside of her leg. Then he continued his journey upward, his fingers whispering over her inner thigh, his hand gently urging her to part her legs more, the further he ascended. When at last he reached the apex of her thighs, his fingers tentatively sought that part of her that was all woman. His breath hissed in through his teeth, as he realized that she was naked beneath the gown. Gently questing, his fingers teased the soft, damp curls that hid her feminine mysteries. His heart raced in anticipation, knowing that she was as ready for their lovemaking as he.

Liz thought she would go mad, if he didn't stop tormenting her. Every nerve in her body seemed to be on alert - all waiting, wanting, begging for his touch. She moaned, when at last he lightly brushed his fingertips over the flesh that was swollen and longing for him. She couldn't stop her body's instinctive need to press herself more firmly against the hand whose touch set her on fire. When she realized just how aroused she was, it occurred to her that without touching her intimately, Max had been engaging in foreplay with her all evening. By the time he actually did touch her, she was wild with her need for him. "Max...." she moaned as he continued to stroke her. The pounding of her heart was out of control, her breathing ragged and shallow. "Max, the baby," she whimpered weakly, not wanting to interrupt the delicious things he was doing to her, but knowing that she had to put the baby down, before they could be free to follow through on their mounting passion.

Understanding her dilemma, Max somehow rallied the strength to withdraw his hand from under her skirt, and took the sleeping baby from her arms. He gently laid his son in the cradle, and covered him with the soft blanket that was draped over the edge. Normally, he would stand and stare at this little person, trying to believe that he was his son. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined being a father at 18.

Tonight, however, he had other things on his mind. Once Philip was safely tucked in for the night, Max returned to kneel before the rocker where Liz was still sitting. Immediately, his eyes noticed the glistening sheen of breast milk that surrounded her nipple, left behind when Philip had fallen asleep at her breast. Unable to stop himself, he leaned forward, gently licking the moisture from her skin. Liz gasped, as his tongue repeatedly lapped at the sensitive flesh, and she instinctively arched her back, offering him not only her breasts, but the gift of her very self.

The feeling of her firm nipple pressing against his tongue swamped his senses with longing, and he drew her breast into his mouth, suckling her every bit as hungrily as his son had been just minutes before. But Max's hunger didn't originate in his stomach. It came from deep in his soul. Every cell in his body was screaming to unite with hers, to once again become one flesh. The tide of desire that rose within him finally robbed him of all self-control.

In the moments that followed, Max and Liz became lost in an all-consuming passion that ended in an intense culmination, the likes of which they hadn't experienced since their wedding night. Shaking all over, Max gently moved to lay by her side, both of them struggling for breath. As he marveled over the explosive nature of what had passed between them, he couldn't help wondering what had caused this particular joining to be so utterly profound. Certainly, it had been several days since they had been together, but still. He thought back over their marriage, wondering if anything like that had ever happened before... and it brought him all the way back to their wedding night. His eyes grew wide, as an incredible possibility hit him. Could Liz possibly be fertile? His heart lurched in his chest. What if she were to get pregnant again this soon? Would it harm her? Would she welcome another pregnancy so soon? Or would she be angry with him?

Liz felt Max tense beside her, and looked up into his face, to see the worry etched on his features. "Max, honey? What's wrong?" What could possibly be wrong, she wondered, after the beautiful joining they had just shared?

"Uh, nothing," he muttered.

"Max," she said threateningly. "Let's not start with the secrets again. What has you so troubled?"

A sigh escaped his lips, as he ran a nervous hand through his sweat-dampened hair. "It's nothing that troubles me, per say, except that it might trouble you..."

"Whatever it is, Max, you don't need to be hesitant to talk about it. Whatever it is, we'll work through it," she calmly assured him. But inside, Liz was tied up in knots. What could possibly bring this mood on him, especially so quickly on the heels of the explosive passion they had just shared?

Max brought his hand up to cup her face. His thumb traced over her lower lip. He could see in the soft glow of the firelight that it was swollen from their love play, and he remembered the taste and feel of her kisses. "It's just... what we shared just now was so intense." He looked at her questioningly, seeking her affirmation of his statement.

"Yes, it was," she whispered, breathless. Max stared at her a moment, and Liz wondered what he was waiting for.

For his part, Max hoped she would put two and two together, and realize where he was leading. But he was destined to be disappointed. She seemed confused by his actions. "Well, I was just thinking about how intense it was, and if it had ever been quite that explosive before," he said slowly and carefully, continuing to watch for signs of enlightenment. "I mean, making love with you is always a wonderful experience, but this was... beyond. When I tried to remember if we had ever experienced anything like that before, I realized that the last time I was so mindless with need of you was..." He took a big breath. "It was on our wedding night." He waited for his words to sink in.

Liz's brows knit together in a perplexed expression. "So.. what are you saying, Max? That this is the first time that it's been really good for you, since our wedding night?"

He couldn't miss the trace of hurt in her voice. "No! God, Liz, every time with you is a spiritual experience for me," he admitted with a trembling voice, as he pulled her against him, her head nestled just under his chin. "It's just... think about it, Liz. What was different that night, than any of the others?"

"Weelll," she drawled, thinking. "I was a virgin? But that hardly applies to what happened between us now." She continued to think aloud, after hearing his agreeing, "Mmmhmm." "Okay, let's see. There were the herbs.... are you referring to the fact that I had some of the herbs in my system, from preparing Ava for her marriage bed? Or do you think that Ge-lar' slipped you some laced drink?"

Max sighed. He wasn't going to get out of this one easy, apparently. "No, neither of those. What I was referring to, is the point in your cycle that you were in, when we made love that first time." His body went completely still, waiting, waiting....

Liz breathed in sharply. "Ohhh," she exclaimed on a wispy breath. "You mean...?"

"Yes. Look, I'm really sorry. I didn't even think about the possibility of you getting pregnant again so soon. I just knew that I had to be with you - be in you, and I didn't consider the consequences." He paused, and when she didn't say anything, he squeezed his eyes shut from the pain lancing his heart. "Are you very angry?" he asked in an anguished whisper, his lips and breath stirring the hair on the top of her head as he spoke.

Liz pulled back abruptly, nearly clipping his chin with her head, as she arched to look up into his beloved face. "Angry? Why should I be angry?"

"Wh-what if you're pregnant again, Liz? So soon? Your body is barely recovered from giving birth to Philip."

"Well, I'd say that if I'm able to get pregnant again, I'm probably healed, don't you think?"

Max grimaced. "I don't know, Liz. I mean, you had a really difficult birth."

"Yes, I did, but you healed me, Max. And now I'm fine."

"But what about having another baby so soon?" he pressed.

"Would that bother you? To have two little infants demanding more of our time and attention?" Now Liz was starting to worry.

"No! But I'm not the one that would have to birth another baby, and then feed another -"

Liz halted the flow of words by placing her fingers against his lips. "That wouldn't bother me, Max." Her husband searched her eyes for any signs of uncertainty, and was relieved to find none. "In fact," she continued, "I want to have a whole bunch of your babies, your majesty. At least a dozen," she added with a wicked grin.

Max's eyebrows nearly met his hairline. "A dozen?" he croaked, wondering if he would survive watching her give birth a dozen times.

Liz's soft laughter eased the tension out of his shoulders. "Okay, maybe not a dozen," she amended. "Although... if all our babies turn out as sweet as Philip, it could become habit-forming," she teased.

She lay quiet for a few minutes, remembering the feelings she had gotten from Max through their connection, as they made love. She knew that deep inside, he was still struggling with his estrangement from the Evanses, the hurt being something he had never shared with her verbally. But it was there, humming in the background of his conscious mind.

Wanting to heal his soul, as surely as he had healed her body that day in the Crashdown, Liz nuzzled up against him again, placing warm, openmouthed kisses on his chest. She might not be able to heal the wounds in his soul, but she knew that her love acted as a soothing balm against his parents' rejection. She could sense the temporary peace that flooded him, when they were joined together in this most elemental of ways. To her credit, she never felt threatened or hurt by the fact that her love wasn't enough to erase Max's desire for his parents' love. She knew all to well from her own experience, that as much as they loved each other, it wasn't the same as having the support and acceptance of the people who had nurtured you since infancy. Or, in Max's case, early childhood.

Subtly, she leaned against him, causing him to slowly roll onto his back, as she came to rest on top of him. Max captured her mouth in a fiery kiss, and her squirming body inflamed his male flesh immediately. Governed by the urgency of his desire, Max suspended all thought about babies, pregnancy, and birth-control. All he could focus on now was joining with Liz again.

As their bodies came together in a flash of raw need, Liz cried out in pleasure at the sense of being filled with Max. When they had both reached their completion, she collapsed on his chest, and murmured, "Speaking of habit-forming..."

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-Apr-2002 1:12:43 PM ]

posted on 1-May-2002 9:17:10 PM by sheeperz
Okay, Uncle KK, here I am. But alas, no new part as of yet. I've been really dragging, and having all I can do to get the necessary things done.

But I hope to have a new part this weekend.

posted on 3-May-2002 11:54:09 AM by sheeperz
SFOL!! ROTFLMHO!!! Oh, Uncle KK, you are TOO MUCH!! That was priceless. I'll be walking around with a wicked grin on my face all day long now... It'll make Dom wonder what I've been up to... hehehehe

posted on 6-May-2002 9:43:46 PM by sheeperz
Wow, KK, you never TOLD me about the manual!! *Fran searches frantically* Always looking to "expand my horizons" so to speak.... *sigh* Too bad *I* wasn't the one that found Sablaine's aborted program. I'm sure I could have figured out *something* to do with Zan... *snicker*

Aw, geez, did I just say that? *Blush*

Anyway, thanks for all the bumps and hilarity, kiddos. Sorry this part has been so long in coming. I hope you enjoy it. I wasn't quite sure where it was going in the middle there, but by then end, I was having a good time writing it (I think you'll understand why! *big*).

So... without further ado... here ya go! Let me know what you think!*angel*

Part Eight

Two and a half months later found the girls all gathered together for final gown fittings again - this time for Maria's wedding. Isabel had just finished altering Maria's gown, and everyone was admiring it, with the appropriate "oohs" and "aahs" accompanying. With the eye of a master artist, Isabel Evans had once more created a masterpiece. But while other artists worked with oils, pastels, and the like, her medium was silk, satin, and lace. And pearls. Lots and lots of pearls.

"Isabel, you did it again," Karanna murmured in awe. "I wish I had half your talent."

Isabel blushed at the praise, but shrugged it off, uncomfortable with the heartfelt comment. Superficial flattery she could handle, but sincere compliments were another matter entirely. She plunged ahead with her next project, thinking that she would divert attention from the comment. "Okay, Liz, your turn," she announced to her sister-in-law, who was to be Maria's matron of honor.

Liz took the dress that Isabel handed her, and disappeared into the bathroom to change. When she was gone an unusually long period of time, Isabel tapped on the door to the bathroom. "Liz?" she called in. The room had fallen silent around her, chatter temporarily suspended at the sound of concern in Isabel's voice.

From beyond the door came Liz's tremulous answer. "Wh-what?"

Isabel exchanged glances with Maria and Karanna, who had crossed the room to stand next to Isabel, leaving Ava, Amy, and Courtney sitting in chairs by the balcony doors. They all recognized the unusual tone of melancholy in Liz's voice. "Liz, are you all right?" Maria chimed in.

After a tense moment of silence, they heard a sob break forth from Liz. That was all it took for them to spring into action. Like a flash, Maria whipped open the door, and the three of them barged without invitation into the oversized bathing area. There stood Liz in the gown, her face buried in her hands, weeping. Maria wrapped her arms around her friend, and held her, rocking her gently, until the tears subsided.

"Okay, babe, out with it. Why all the waterworks?" Maria asked.

Liz sniffled loudly. "I-it doesn't fit," she wailed, and a renewed burst of tears burst forth.

Karanna scrunched up her face in confusion. "So? It wasn't supposed to fit perfectly, Liz. That's why we have fittings, remember? Now, what is this really about?"

Liz shook her head vehemently. "No, you don't understand," she persisted. "It doesn't FIT!" With that, she turned around, and they could see that while it had molded fairly well to her shapely figure in the front, the back was gapped open about 3 inches, where she couldn't draw the bodice together at the waistline to fasten it.

Isabel was dumb-struck. "How did I ever blunder so badly?" she mused aloud. With a shrug, she dismissed the blunder, saying, "Well, no matter. You know that it can be fixed, Liz. It's certainly nothing to get this emotional over." She began to reach for Liz to make adjustments, but was brought to a halt as Liz shook her head again.

"It isn't your fault, Isabel. It's me," she wailed. "The dress isn't too small... I'm too big!" And that revelation set off yet another torrent.

Isabel's patience was wearing thin. Her nerves had been fairly stretched to the limit lately as it was, and she really didn't need this. "Oh for Pete's sake, Liz, snap out of it, will you?" she scolded harshly. "It's just a damn dress!"

"Isabel!" Karanna exclaimed in a chiding tone. "It's not like Liz is prone to fits of insanity. Something must be bothering her. Try to have a little patience," she demanded, with a withering look.

Isabel hung her head, duly chastised, and returned to the other room. Fine. Let Maria and Karanna handle her. I'll just wait out here for Liz to pull herself together.

"Okay, Lizzie-babe," Maria crooned, "Out with it. What's the real problem here? And don't keep going on about the dress. Isabel's right on that much, at least. Altering it is child's play, with her Antarian voodoo. So what's really got you so upset?"

Liz collapsed in a heap on the vanity chair. "There's no point in her altering the dress now. She'll probably just have to alter it again next month, right before the wedding."

Karanna knelt down in front of her sister, and looked at her with such love and concern, Liz nearly lost it again. "Liz what is this all about?"

Liz sighed. "I might as well tell you - I'm pregnant again."

"WHAT?!" Maria shrieked, drawing the women in the other room to the doorway.

"What's the matter?" Amy asked her daughter.

"Liz is pregnant!" Maria exclaimed in shock.

"Oh, sure," Liz moaned, "announce it to all of Antar while you're at it, why don't you?"

Ever the practical, unemotional one, Courtney squatted down by Liz's side. "Liz? Are you okay with this?"

"Huh?" Liz sniffled, blind-sided by the question.

"Well, I just mean, if it's too soon - you know, after Philip and all.... well, there are herbs you can take to stimulate your body into aborting -"

"NO! Oh, I'm sorry, Courtney, I didn't mean to yell. But I don't want to get rid of my baby. I'm actually rather excited about it," she asserted with a weak smile.

"Then what's the problem?" Isabel asked, totally confused.

"Nothing's the problem," Liz insisted. "Oh! You mean about the hysteria over the dress?" She sighed in defeat. "I guess my hormones are just making me oversensitive or something. That, on top of the fact that before I could fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, I'm blowing up like a blimp again. And this time is even worse than the last time. I didn't start to bust out of my clothes with Philip until I was almost four months along."

"Every pregnancy is different, Liz," Amy hastened to assure her. Maria raised an accusing brow at her mother, as if to say, "How would you know, when you only had one child?" Defensively, Amy hastened to add, "At least that's what my friends all told me."

"Come on, Liz," Isabel ordered, holding her hand out to help her sister-in-law up from the chair. "We're going to fit this dress to you, and then we can make any minor adjustments the night before the wedding. Sound fair?" Liz nodded numbly, and followed her out into the sitting room of her suite. Once they were finished, Isabel proceeded to alter the other gowns.

When the dresses were hung up and put away, Liz had a luncheon served for them.

"So, how far along are you?" Amy asked Liz.

"Two and a half months," came the timid reply.

Amy thought for a moment. Two and a half months. She counted backward. Kyle and Ava got married two and a half months ago, she realized. Then, thinking back to that night, she remembered noticing the definite arcing of passion between Max and Liz that night. "The wedding?" she inquired simply.

Liz's eyes grew wide, and then she blushed heartily, realizing the Amy must have noticed the way she and Max were mooning over each other that night. She lowered her eyes, and nodded.

Amy chuckled. "It's okay, Liz. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be intimate with your husband. But you didn't plan on getting pregnant that night, did you?" Liz gave a negative shake of her head. "Do you think it's physically safe for you to be pregnant again so soon?" she gently asked the younger woman.

"I - I think so," Liz hedged. She had been meaning to talk to Da-nar' about that very thing, but hadn't been able to bring herself to tell him about her delicate condition. He had been so adamant about warning her and Max to be careful.

"How's Max dealing with this?" Karanna asked. Zan had been so careful, trying to prevent her from conceiving again, after the difficult delivery she had endured with little Katherine. She highly suspected that Max and Zan were more alike in their fears than either of them would ever admit.

Liz looked away, but not before her sister saw the tears gathering in her troubled eyes. "He, uh.... he's worried," she confessed in a tortured whisper.

Karanna enfolded Liz in her arms. "Of course he's worried. He loves you, and he doesn't want anything to happen to you. You just have to be patient with him."

Liz sniffled. "I know, it's just... I want him to be happy about the baby, and all he does is fret. The tension is eating me alive. My pregnancy with Philip was such a joyful thing for us, and I want that again. I don't want all this stress between us."

It was Isabel who spoke up next, surprising everyone with her declaration. "I'll talk to Max. Don't worry about anything, Liz. Just leave him to me." When she saw the wild-eyed look of fright on her sister-in-law's face, she assured her, "Hey, no problem. I've had lots of years of dealing with his pigheaded nature. Trust me," she finished, beaming, and sending Liz a conspiratorial wink that promised she'd whip Max into shape, before he knew what hit him.

Somehow, that did little to alleviate Liz's concern, but she surrendered herself to the inevitable, knowing Isabel would do just as she pleased, and that she meant well. Maybe it would stir things up enough, so at least Max would discuss the situation with her. The silent tension that had characterized their relationship lately was becoming unbearable. Especially when he hesitated to make love to her, citing concern for her and the baby as the lame excuse for denying them both what they longed for. Despite the technically honorable motives behind his mute brooding, part of her wanted to scream at him for being such an insensitive jerk. But then, that would be totally out of character, or so she had convinced herself, and had instead continued to suffer in her own silence.

Liz was shaken from her private hell, when Amy, who had been taking pictures for Maria's wedding scrapbook, asked Liz to pose for a "beginning of the pregnancy" photo. She lamented that she hadn't been able to chronicle the girls' first pregnancies in a photo journal, and declared it was only fair that she be allowed to do a series this time around. Liz succumbed to the request, and went through the motions of playing the happy mom-to-be. She couldn't help wondering if the camera would accept the lie and let it stand, or if its discerning "eye" would capture the tormented woman she had become these last few weeks, and expose her for the fraud she was.

Once the fitting was over with and Maria and Amy had returned to Roswell, Liz went to her chambers to rest. Despite her agitation, she fell into a restless sleep, tossing and turning, as each horrible dream melted into another that was even worse, characterizing her worst fears and suspicions that lurked beneath the surface. Finally, her body hopelessly twisted in the bedding, she awoke sobbing, wondering what was going to become of her relationship with Max, if things didn't get resolved between them soon.

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

Max strode purposefully toward his and Liz's private quarters, as soon as he had finished receiving a thorough tongue-lashing from his sister. Normally when they fought, he disregarded most of what she said, because she tended to be so irrational when she was angry. But this time was different. Their normal roles had reversed, and Isabel was the calm, rational one, bringing forth the clear-headed reasoning Max was so well known for. He, on the other hand, had reacted emotionally to everything she said, in a temper that would have matched hers - or Michael's, for that matter - any day of the week.

Isabel had continued on with the patience of a saint, explaining that he needn't be so fearful of Liz's condition, that she was physically healthy, and wanted to be excited about the baby, if only he'd let her. Max heatedly countered her comments by saying that while she might appear to be physically healthy now, what would happen as the pregnancy progressed? And how was he supposed to be happy about a baby that might endanger his wife's life? Besides, this was really none of Isabel's business, and maybe she ought to just butt out. If she wanted to worry about a relationship, she need look no farther than her own troubles with Alex.

Stung by his venomous comment, Isabel finally abandoned trying to reason with him. But not to be outdone, she left with her final parting shot. "Fine. I won't interfere with your relationship with Liz any more. But let me enlighten you on this one issue: while you're being such a class A jerk, your wife, whom you claim to love and cherish, is eaten up with depression over this, and the way you're treating her will more than likely be the very thing to bring about what you claim so much to fear. If you don't do something to ease her stress level, you will be the one responsible for harming her well-being - not the baby." With that, she turned smartly on her heels, effectively dismissing any chance for Max to respond, and marched off to parts unknown, to let off a little steam.

Having been so wrapped up in replaying the confrontation in his mind, Max was surprised to find himself standing at the door to the bedroom he shared with Liz. He slowly opened the door, not wanting to disturb her if she was resting. But he hoped that she was awake, so they could discuss what had been happening between them the last few weeks. He didn't want her to think that he was upset with her for being pregnant. If he was upset with anyone, it was himself, for being so irresponsible.

As the door cracked open, his ears honed in on the sound of Liz's quiet weeping, as she lay facing away from him on the bed. His heart twisted in his chest, as Isabel's words came crashing back through his mind.

If you don't do something to ease her stress level, you will be the one responsible for harming her well-being...

God, he'd never stopped to consider how his attitude could be upsetting her. He just assumed that she would understand it was his deep concern for her that caused him to worry about the pregnancy. Did she think it was something else?

Silently, he crept across the floor, until he reached the edge of the bed. Her despair crashed over him like a tidal wave. He knew that her emotions must be running high, if he could feel them without being totally connected to her. Under normal circumstances he wouldn't be able to distinguish her feelings so clearly. Bracing one knee on the edge of the bed, he reached out a trembling hand to touch Liz on the shoulder. "Liz?" His voice sounded strained to his own ears, as it was forced out of his throat, which was now constricted with emotion. To his regret, he felt his wife's body stiffen in reaction to him - whether to his touch, his voice, or both, he wasn't sure.

Liz sniffled before responding. "What is it, Max?"

Her voice sounded weary and... defeated. Like she had given up. But given up on what? he wondered. "I'd like to talk to you... if that's all right," he requested softly. Something told him that he needed to exercise the utmost care and caution with her at that point. He had never seen Liz so... fragile.

Max saw her hand come up to her face, and could tell she was swiping away the tears that had been running down her face, uninhibited. It grieved him to know that she even felt it necessary to try and hide her tears from him. He would do his level best not to let her see how that bothered him, though. She obviously already had enough to deal with. He took a deep, steadying breath, as she slowly began to roll over to face him.

He wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted him, though. Sure, he had expected the tearstained cheeks, and the red puffiness around her eyes. But when she looked up at him, the hopelessness and pain in her big, brown eyes sent him reeling. He was used to those eyes laughing when they looked at him, or better yet, burning with passion.... He thought how he loved to see the tender, loving care or motherly pride in them, as they looked at young Philip.... So many times he had seen genuine concern for others who were facing struggles reflected in their luminous depths, and he would know that she would stop at nothing to help that person.... Yes, those eyes were made to reveal many things, but never this. He had sworn to himself that he would never let her be hurt, and yet it appeared that now, perhaps, he was the very one causing her hurt? So it would seem, if what Isabel had said was true, anyway.

Between the despair he sensed from her, and the painful way his own heart was twisting at the sight of her, Max's eyes burned with unshed tears. "Liz, sweetheart, what's wrong?" he managed to choke out around the massive lump in his throat.

Knowing she wouldn't be able to answer him without bursting again into full-fledged sobs, Liz lowered her lashes, and dropped her head to her chest, in an attempt to avoid looking at him.

Her reluctance to even speak to him underscored just how serious things had become, and all without him even realizing it. He only wished he knew exactly why she was so upset. "Please," he pleaded in a choked whisper. "Tell me what has you so upset."

The reappearance of the tenderness that had been strangely absent in his voice and demeanor lately drew Liz like a fly to honey. Still unable to control her emotions, she hurled herself into his arms, wrapping her own tightly around his waist, as if to never let him go. "Hold me, Max. Please, just hold me."

Dear God, is this what it has come to? That she feels she needs to beg for me to even hold her? Max thought back over the last few weeks and was chagrined, when he took an honest look at his actions. Had she somehow felt he was spurning her, when he refused to make love to her fully? He had taken care to bring her satisfaction, even if he hadn't physically joined with her. Didn't she see that if he was attentive to her needs, that it wasn't his intention to reject her? Didn't she realize what kind of torture it was for him, to find release at her hands, but not in her warmth? How empty he felt -

Max's own line of reasoning brought him up short. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain that was piercing his heart. What have I done? he lamented silently. Because for the first time, he was forced to acknowledge that if he was suffering, so was she. And she obviously doesn't even understand why, he admitted to himself finally.

"Liz, I'm so sorry," he told her in a tortured whispered.

Liz wasn't sure that she had heard him right, what with him speaking so softly, and her own sobs making his words even more indistinguishable. Gulping back a sob, she sniffed, "What did you say, Max?"

Max pulled back just enough to look into her water-logged eyes, which were searching him for some clue as to what he was thinking. "I said that I'm sorry, Liz. I never intended to bring you this kind of pain. But I did, didn't I? This is all because of the way I have been treating you, am I right?"

Liz lowered her eyes, and refused to answer him. She could hear the grief in his tone, and didn't want to send him on a guilt trip. In her heart, she knew that the way he had been acting was out of fear for her well-being, but her mind... that was the devil's playground - the place where battles for her sanity were continually being waged, and more often than not, lately, lost. And despite her own torment, she didn't want to put any additional burdens on Max. He already had so much to contend with, between ruling a kingdom, trying to rebuild Antarra, worrying about a possible confrontation with his parents in the not too distant future... Yes, he had stress aplenty, and she didn't want to be the one to heap any more on him.

Although he couldn't see her eyes, to read emotional battle there, Max could feel the internal struggle she was wrestling with. Her need to understand and be understood was quickly being extinguished by her need to protect him from stress. He almost snorted at the thought, except that it was so serious. As hurt as she was, she was trying to protect him. The irony of it didn't escape him. If they didn't stop trying so hard to protect each other, they were going to end up ruining their marriage.

"It's all right, Liz. You can be completely honest with me. I can feel your emotions as strongly as if they were my own right now, anyway. I know you're upset, and it has something to do with me, and since Isabel thinks I'm a 'class A jerk', I'd say you're probably justified in being upset." When she remained quiet, he continued, "I think I'm starting to get an idea of what's going on, but I'd really appreciate it, if you could tell me exactly what the problem is."

Liz went perfectly still beside him, as she fought the battle to contain her emotions. At last, on a shuddering sigh, she confessed, "I feel like I'm losing you, Max. All you seem to do when you see me is scowl anymore. You are edgy and unhappy, and I know that I'm the reason you are so miserable. I just never thought -" The sob that she had been holding back burst forth.

After giving her a few seconds to compose herself, Max prodded, "Never thought what, Liz?"

"I never thought that something like having a baby could come between us. I know you don't want this child, and I'm sorry, but I won't get rid of it, Max. Whether you ever choose to acknowledge it or not, this child was made by our love. How could I get rid of something that reminds me so much of you?" She paused to wipe away her tears. "Especially when it seems that may be all I have left of you," she ended in a whisper, as fresh tears cascaded over her cheeks.

"Liz, no," Max moaned. "Please don't talk like that. You aren't going to lose me - although, you may want to boot me out on my ear yourself, for being so insensitive. My only defense is, I've been so preoccupied, that I didn't notice how adversely my mood has been affecting you. At least, not until Isabel 'enlightened' me, as she so humbly puts it."

"But what about the baby? I know that you don't want it -"

Max pulled her more tightly into his arms. "That's not true, Liz. It isn't that I don't want the baby - I just don't want anything to happen to you. I love you to distraction, and the thought of you being pregnant and being harmed because of my carelessness has been a heavy load of guilt to bear. I guess I haven't done such a good job of bearing up under it, because I certainly never meant to make you feel insecure in my love."

Liz was stunned at this revelation. Max felt guilty? "Max, you have nothing to feel guilty about," she admonished him.

"I should have known, when I couldn't keep my hands off you that night, that something was up. I should have known, Liz. God, I feel so stupid. How can all of Antar trust me to lead them, when my own wife can't rely on me to exercise simple birth control measures as needed?"

Liz laughed out loud. She couldn't help it. She knew this was a serious discussion - that Max was beside himself with self-incrimination was evident. But the pressure had been building for the last few weeks, and now here was Max, trying to shoulder all the blame for them not using preventative measures when they made love. Maybe it wasn't humorous in the classical sense of the word, but it struck Liz's funny bone.

At first, Max watched helplessly, as Liz became consumed in a fit of hearty laughter. He was slightly hurt, that she would laugh at his heartfelt confession. But as she continued to laugh - so hard at times, she forgot to breathe - he realized that it was most likely a pressure valve for her against the stress. She finally quieted, and wiped the tears that had been brought on by her laughter. It was then that Max addressed her.

"Care to share? What, pray tell, do you find so amusing?" His tone was dry, but there was no censure in it.

"Oh, God, Max, I'm sorry. It's was just - the thought that you -" She stifled a snort of laughter. "Let's just say, birth control was the farthest thing from my mind that night, Max." She did giggle, then. "I mean, be serious, will you? I'm the one that is ultimately responsible for my body. And I'm here to tell ya, if you had tried to put me off, while you scrounged for a condom, I probably would have wrestled you to the floor, and jumped your bones."

Max arched a dark brow in challenge. "Oh - really? I would have liked to see you try."

The darkness inside Liz's soul shattered, at his playful banter. God, how she had missed this. Feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders, she joined in the game. With her eyebrows lifted nearly to her hairline, she retorted in mock disbelief, "Ex-cuse me?"

"You heard me, woman," her husband growled in return. "You have a might high opinion of yourself, if you think you could actually take me down, and keep me subdued, while you have your wicked way with me."

Never let it be said that Liz Parker Evans refused to take up the gauntlet.... "Mmmm," she purred, in feigned agreement. "Perhaps you're right." She shrugged carelessly. "Besides, I can think of better things to do, besides argue."

Now, Max was nobody's fool. He couldn't help but wonder what his vixen of a wife was up to now. "And just what things would you be referring to, m'lady?"

"Oh... a little of this," she replied, leaning over to nibble on his ear, and then his neck. "And a little of that..." She cupped her hand around his male flesh, and was delighted that even through his clothes, her touch could ignite a raging inferno in him at a moment's notice. Max groaned, as she continued to caress him. "Hmmm. Maybe a whole lot of that," she mused aloud. She lifted her face toward his, and saw the look of raw need that she felt so deeply, reflected in pools of amber before her. Desiring to meet that need, she wrapped her hand around the nape of his neck, and pulled his mouth down to hers, their tongues immediately mating in the frenzy of passion that was exploding between them.

While he was thus distracted, Liz deftly worked the fastener on his pants, and quickly freed him from their confines. The touch of her hand on his bare flesh made him go wild. Frantically, he began removing her clothing, urgent with the need to feel her soft flesh fully along the length of him. In the midst of all of it, Liz somehow managed to rid him of the rest of his garments as well. Their lips still fused together, Liz took the initiative, and pushed him backward onto the bedding, stretching herself out along the full length of him. Max sighed in what could either have been ecstasy, or exquisite torture. At the moment, he wasn't quite sure which.

He moaned a protest when he felt her break the kiss, but quickly had other sensations to deal with, as her body glided down along the length of his, causing him to nearly explode, as the soft skin of first her belly, and then one of her breasts stroked his inflamed manhood. But that was nothing, compared to what she had planned. Unfortunately for Max, his eyes were closed, as he fought for control, and he never saw it coming.

The mighty King of Antar nearly jumped out of his skin, when he felt her warm, wet mouth close around him. Every muscle in his body went taught at the exquisite torture. There was no longer any lingering doubt in his mind on that issue. "God, LIZ!" he cried out. Threading his fingers through her hair, he intended to lift her away from him. But his hands weren't sure if that meant to push her back, or pull her closer... "Sweetheart, you have to stop," he whimpered, his hands now tight fists in her silken tresses. "I can't hold back much longer...." But there was no stopping her. When his hips involuntarily lifted in anticipation of his release, she quickly moved over him, and took him deep inside, where he finally convulsed in a shattering climax.

For several moments, he lay still on his back, eyes closed, trying to come back to his senses. Between the physical joining and the intense connection that crashed over him at the moment they joined, Max had felt suspended somewhere between heaven and... God, what's beyond heaven? he thought in a sated stupor. "The little death" indeed.

Finally, he regained his strength and presence of mind. Realizing the Liz was still lying on top of him, perfectly motionless, he opened one eye to see what she was doing. He was met with the sight of his wife, chin propped on her arms, which were crossed over his chest, smiling smugly at him. The brow over his one opened eye lifted in silent inquiry.

With mischief in her eyes, she taunted, "Now, what was that, about my lacking ability to take you down, and have my wicked way with you?"

Max closed his eye and groaned. "All right, all right. You win."

Liz moved seductively, and felt him harden again within her. With a giggle she murmured, "Yes, indeed, my lord - I believe I do."

posted on 7-May-2002 3:40:20 PM by sheeperz
Hi again! So, just a warning... y'all are going to have to be patient with me. I have NO IDEAS for the Michael/Maria wedding yet. But we are traveling the next couple of days, so maybe that will allow me some down time to simply fantasize a bit...

thanks so much for reading, and I appreciate the feedback so much!!

posted on 15-May-2002 10:24:21 PM by sheeperz
*wheezing as I come running into the thread* Here I am! Here I am!

Lordy, I'm SO SORRY it has been so long since I posted the last part. First of all, this is a busy season on the homestead here... between lambing, shearing, and chicks coming in, as well as getting ready to hatch some of our own... my my, the days fly.

Then, I had some of this written, as well as some more stuff, but that has now been put off for the next chapter. But I think I have everything in order now. I hope.

And I also hope that you enjoy this. Let me know what you think, okay? *giggle* I had a lot of fun writing the first part, didn't I, Phae? *snicker*

Now, on with the show!! (And crossing my fingers - I hope this formats right...)

Part Nine

"Nope. Nope. Hmmm.... nope." Michael ran down the list of songs on the Metallica "Reload" CD. "Nothing." He tossed the case down onto the desk, and picked up another CD. The one known as "the black album". "No good. Nope..." He sighed, as he continued down the list, until he hit Number 8. "Whoa. This might be what I'm looking for...." He popped the CD into his portable player, and cued up the song.

So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters....

Michael sat absently drumming along with the music, as the mellow strains began to gain momentum. Yeah, this might work, he thought to himself, with something akin to arrogant male pride. And I bet Maria thought I couldn't pull this off...

Just then, a knock sounded at the door. "Yeah, come on in," he called out over the thudding bass and lead guitar.

Isabel entered the room, her hands over her ears for protection. "Michael!" she hollered, her voice nearly being swallowed by the music. "TURN THAT DOWN!"

Scowling at her, Michael paused the CD. "What do you want, Isabel?" he asked, totally annoyed. "Do you have a purpose for this visit, or are you just here to aggravate the hell out of me?"

"Well, I was coming to see how you were making out with the selection for your wife's wedding processional -" She quirked an accusatory brow. "But obviously you aren't even working on the project at the moment. Tell me - have you already come up with a song, or are you going to fool around until the morning of the wedding, before making a choice?"

"Goes to show what you know," he muttered under his breath.

No matter. She heard him. "Excuse me? Perhaps you'd like to clarify that remark, Michael?"

Michael gave one of his patented smart-ass smirks. "No, not really." He hit the play button, and the music blared to life again.

Isabel reached across the desk, and hit the stop button. "Michael, stop being so rude, and childish. God, I thought you were beyond this kind of behavior now."

"Sorry to disappoint you, your highness, but I am not being childish. I am being responsible at the moment. I told Maria that I wanted to pick out her processional, so I could make it something special. And so here I am, busy listening to potential songs. So buzz off." He hit the play button and restarted the song.

Isabel's eyes went wide in disbelief. Surely he wasn't thinking.... She caught her errant thought immediately. Oh God, since when does Michael ever think?! She reached over and snapped the player off again. "You don't mean to tell me you are actually thinking of making her walk down the aisle to that?" she bellowed in horror.

"Why the hell not?" he roared. "Have you ever listened to the words? I think it's very appropriate!"

"Appropriate?! HA!! You don't even know the meaning of the word, Michael! My God, this is her wedding day. Think romance, Michael. Valentine's Day, times a hundred. Are you starting to get the picture?!" Isabel was furiously pacing the floor around the desk.

"What's more romantic than telling the woman I love that nothing else matters, but her?" He was really getting irritated.

Isabel drew a deep, calming breath. "Okay, let me explain this to you from a different point of view. See, walking down the aisle to her man is every woman's dream. And it is supposed to be soft, feminine, graceful... HOW THE HELL DO YOU EXPECT HER TO BE GRACEFUL, WALKING IN ON THAT?!"

That stopped Michael in his tracks. "You don't think that she'd like the music?"

Isabel closed her eyes, and silently prayed for strength. "It isn't that she wouldn't like it, necessarily... it's just not the right kind of music for a wedding processional. Perhaps you could use the song at the reception?" she offered diplomatically.

"That could work," he agreed, albeit reluctantly. "But then, what do I use for the wedding? My choices are rather limited here...."

Isabel smiled her "Wedding Nazi" smile. "So glad you asked," she informed him smugly, as she plopped the canvas tote she was carrying onto the desk. "Personally, I knew you were going to need some major help here, so I got Mrs. Parker to bring some CDs with her to our dress fitting yesterday. You know - appropriate music."

"Yeah, yeah," Michael mocked, trying to hide his disappointment that he couldn't manage this one simple task on his own. But thank God that Isabel had decided to ride in to the rescue. It could save him a ton of heartache and embarrassment at the wedding. Not to mention a very cold and lonely wedding night.

Isabel tamped down the smirk that wanted to quirk up the corners of her mouth. Michael knew he needed her, and that was satisfaction enough. "All right, here are our selections. On each case is a post-it note, where I listed the song or songs that would possibly be good choices, so you don't have to listen through all of them. Any one of these would provide a graceful entrance for your bride. I'll leave them with you, and then we can get together in say... an hour? I can help you narrow them down then."

"Isabel..." Michael snarled, his tone a warning. "Don't think that you are going to completely take over. I appreciate your snatching my butt from the fire here, but don't push your luck."

"Noted," she said with a wide grin. "See you in an hour," she added, as she ducked out the door.

Michael threw his Nerf football at the closed door. "The woman is a menace. A dictator in the first degree." He picked up the first CD, and played the song she had indicated. Sappy. Totally Sappy. He took the CD out of the player, and returned it to this jewel case. He reached for another disc. Next... NSYNC?? Michael snorted. "No way that's happening." He tossed the case aside without even checking out the song Isabel had chosen.

Rather than waste his time listening to every song, he began to skim the lyrics, looking for something - anything - that would strike him as remotely applicable to his relationship to Maria. He passed over song after song, expressing cliche sentiments about two becoming one, and love everlasting. If she didn't know by now that she was the only woman he ever would love - ever could love - no dumb love song would be able to convince her of it. No, what he wanted was something that would tell her how much her love had touched him - how one sweet, blonde-haired little pixie had turned his life around for the better. In short, he wanted her to know how precious she was to him. Damn. I'm turning into a sentimental fool in my old age, he thought, but smiled nonetheless. Maybe that was one of those changes for the better. All he knew was, he was happier now than he had ever been before. And it was all because of Maria.

He ran across some instrumental music - a bunch of classical stuff, and pondered that a moment, before rejecting the idea. It would be an easy out, since he wouldn't have to deal with lyrics at all. But then, any moron could do that. He wanted his selection to show Maria that he could be a sensitive, caring husband. One who appreciated her worth. No, instrumental music just would not do.

The last disc in the pile was Celine Dion's "Falling Into You". He cringed. Talk about offending one's masculine sensibilities. Celine Dion was definitely high on his "to listen to" list. But then, it was the last disc remaining. Something urged him to put aside his musical prejudices, and see what Isabel had chosen from among the songs listed. He was astounded at what he saw. With trembling hands, he removed the disc from the case, and inserted into the CD player. Now if only he could stomach the music... He pushed the play button, and closed his eyes, as he imagined Maria's reaction to the song, as she came down the aisle toward him. By the time the song was half over, he knew this was the song. Funny, how he could find something he normally would find unpalatable to be so perfect.

Just as the final chorus of the song was playing, Isabel breezed into the room. "Geez, Iz, did you ever think to knock? What if I had been standing here in my birthday suit?"

Isabel's eyes widened in astonishment at the mental picture that statement painted. "Standing around naked listening to Celine Dion? Dear God, Michael, now I'm seriously worried about you."

"Ha ha, you're a regular riot. Forget that. I've found the song."

"This one?" She inclined her head toward the portable player, as the final strains of the music faded out.

Michael nodded, then held up a hand to stifle any further snide comments. "Now, I know you think I've taken leave of my senses, but hell, Isabel, the words are perfect."

Isabel picked up the insert, and read through the words. When she finished, she looked up at Michael with tears in her eyes. "This - this is what you wanted to say to her?"

Michael grew concerned. Was Isabel going to criticize his choice? "Uh, yeah..."

She gave him a trembling smile. "She's going to love it, Michael."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I know she will. Trust me."

Michael nodded. "If I didn't, I never would have looked at these CDs to begin with. Do me a favor, though - let's keep my first selection just between the two of us, all right?"

Isabel giggled. "Yeah, your secret's safe with me. Although, I imagine Maria will have a hard time believing you came up with Celine Dion on your own."

With a sigh, Michael agreed. "I do believe you're right again."

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

Liz sat nervously chewing on her lower lip. Why doesn't he say something? Anything? Seconds seemed to stretch for an eternity in the deafening silence.

"You're what?!" Da-nar's voice pierced through the stillness like a crack of thunder.

Max leapt to his feet, and positioned himself between Liz and Da-nar', shooting the older man a warning look. "If you have anything to say about this, you can say it to me," he growled.

Da-nar' stared incredulously at Max's fiercely protective response. Did he honestly believe that I would hurt her? he wondered. "All right," he replied to Max's challenge, his words slow and deliberate. "Then I'll ask you - did you listen to nothing that I told you about letting her body take a rest?" Max's face turned crimson - whether from anger or embarrassment, Da-nar' was not sure. Only time would tell.

"Yes, we listened," Max answered, his words curt. "For your information, this was not something that we planned. But if you could try and be a little understanding, you would realize that we are still getting used to these new... uh... urges, that come along with being more attuned to our Antarian heritage. At any rate, what good will scolding us like errant children accomplish at this point? We came to you for help, not a lecture. I thought that Liz's health would be of concern to you. Was I mistaken?"

Da-nar' was stunned at being chastised by Max. This was a side of him that Da-nar' had never seen before.

Liz was just as shocked to hear Max dress down Da-nar', but she understood what prompted it. While Max had stopped turning away from her, he was still feeling guilty about what happened, and the last thing he needed was to be made to feel like a fool over it. She reached up and took his hand, gently tugging on it, until he sat back down beside her. "Da-nar', you need to realize that Max is taking the weight of the responsibility for this on himself, and is already punishing himself enough over it. Please don't make his burden any greater. I've been trying to convince him not to be so worried over this pregnancy, and I will repeat what I have told him to you. I feel fine. So please, let's not be looking to point fingers and assign blame. Can't we just relax, and look forward to a new little screaming infant in the palace?"

"Yes, of course, your majesty," Da-nar' replied respectfully, suddenly remembering his place.

"Oh, no," Liz groaned. "Please don't start that, Da-nar'. I'm not ordering you as your queen, I'm asking this of you as a friend."

Da-nar' hesitated, and then responded. "Then, as your friend, let me say that this probably wasn't the best move for you, but if we get you on a strict diet designed to strengthen your body, and nourish the baby, you should come through this fairly well. But let me warn you now - after this child, you need to let your body rest."

"I suppose - but Max healed me after Philip was born. Doesn't that count for anything?"

"Well, some," Da-nar' agreed, "but not enough to keep abusing your body repeatedly. It may make the difference with this pregnancy, though. And that's what we have to focus on right now."

"I don't understand," Liz pressed. "If Max healed me, what else is there?"

"Time," Da-nar' said simply. "It takes a lot out of a woman's body to nurture a developing fetus. It taxes every system in your body, in one way or another. The only remedy for that kind of stress is time. A chance for your body to rest."

"I see." For the first time, Liz was beginning to understand what Max obviously had already comprehended. In her innocent optimism, she had chosen to ignore the fact that there were indeed risks involved with being pregnant too soon after giving birth. She looked up at Max, who was watching her intently, trying to gauge her reaction to what Da-nar' had just told her. "I guess this is what you've been trying to tell me all along?" she asked meekly.

Max closed his eyes and nodded. He hadn't wanted to press the issue any further with Liz, because he could see how much it upset her to argue with him. And the last thing she needed right now was stress.

Liz laid her palm against his cheek. "I'm so sorry, Max."

Max turned his lips into her palm, and kissed her tenderly. "I'm the one that's sorry, Liz. But there's nothing we can do about it now. And we have a new son or daughter to look forward to, and so we need to make sure you stay healthy, okay?"

Liz wrapped her arms around his neck, and hugged him tightly. "Yes, Max. I'll do whatever you and Da-nar' tell me to do, to make sure that nothing goes wrong."

"That's my girl," he whispered in her ear, before placing a gentle kiss on her temple. He looked up at Da-nar' over her shoulder, telling him, "Make a list of everything she needs to eat, and anything else important for a healthy pregnancy. I'll make sure she sticks to it."

"Certainly. And of course, I'll be more than happy to help you keep an eye on her, so that she behaves," Da-nar' added pointedly, for Liz's benefit.

Liz sighed. "There's no hope for it, then. My life is about to be dictated to me by two domineering men." Another sigh. "Ah, well, I suppose it could be worse."

Max arched a brow inquiringly. "Oh? How's that?"

"It could be three domineering men." She paused, momentarily in thought. "Oh - wait. It is. I forgot about Philip. Your gender begins at an early age, I see," she stated with an accusing look at her husband and their friend.

Max chuckled. It was good that she could retain her sense of humor in the situation. Something told him, that once she got Da-nar's instructions, she was going to need that particular trait to remain sane.

**Song is "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica**

[ edited 4 time(s), last at 15-May-2002 10:37:21 PM ]

posted on 17-May-2002 7:49:49 PM by sheeperz
Hi all!

Well, doesn't look like we'll get into the wedding in the next part, either. Got the bachelor party to look forward to, and some other pre-wedding scenes. But definitely the next one after that!

Thanks so much for your feedback, and I'll try not to leave you hanging so long on this next part!

posted on 30-May-2002 10:46:29 PM by sheeperz
Welcome, Heidi and Taffy!

And thanks to everyone else, for your great feedback, and continuing patience with me!! Of course, it is easier to have patience, now that Uncle KK is providing y'all with such great Holosuite programs, to keep you occupied in the interim!!! Thanks KK!!

So... here it is, finally. All the hooplah, leading up to the wedding day. Next part begins the morning of the wedding. *PHEW*

I hope you enjoy this - I was going for some lighter moments in this part. Something to lift our spirits, now that Roswell is officially over. *WAAAAH!* Oh, sorry. Excuse my little emotional outburst....

I hope this is coherent, since I wrote it over the span of several days. All that stopping and starting does a number on the flow of a part. *sigh* But I'm too hot and tired to do a thorough editing job. If you see anything outrageous, leave me a note, and I'll try to fix it....

Meanwhile, just FYI, I've gotten through the first part of Chapter Five in the new fic. It won't be posted for a while yet, but just something to (hopefully?) look forward to. It's an AU, set to start when Max and Liz meet as little kids.

So now... on with the show! Let me know what you think!

Part Ten

The night before the wedding, after the rehearsal, Liz had arranged for a dinner to be served for their intimate group of friends and family. Throughout the evening, she would casually observe Michael and Maria together, and was pleased to see the love they felt for each other no longer being denied. It was heartwarming, to see the way they would gaze into each other's eyes, suddenly becoming oblivious to everyone else in the room.

After the meal was over, and things began to wind down, all the young men of the "I Know an Alien" club decided to take off to celebrate Michael's last night of "freedom". Likewise, the young ladies decided to have somewhat of a bridal shower/ bachelorette party for Maria. Not your typical bridal shower, mind you. That had already been held a few weeks prior, and had been quite the event, attended by humans and Antarians alike. Marrying the king's second in command made Maria quite the popular bride.

The guys all headed back to the house that had once housed them all, before the palace had been built. Max and Zan had moved their families into the palace, and just before their wedding, Kyle and Ava had been presented with a house of their own as well. Now, this would be Michael and Maria's home - a place to themselves.

"So - what are we going to do?" Michael asked, as they walked up the path to the house.

"Well, we tried to find a stripper - can you believe they don't believe in strippers on Antar?" Kyle said with all seriousness. Michael blushed deeply, and Kyle threw back his head and laughed. "Gotcha, Guerin."

"Funny, Valenti."

"Well, thank you," he replied with a bow. "I thought so, but it's always nice to hear it from someone else's lips, ya know?"

Michael rolled his eyes. "Whatever."

"To answer your question," Alex interrupted their bantering, "we thought we'd have just a quiet little game of cards, and some male bonding."

Kyle pretended to stick his finger down his throat in a "gag me" gesture at the male bonding comment. "And don't forget the booze," he added with a naughty grin.

"Booze?" Max inquired. "Kyle, you know that isn't a good idea. At least, not for those of us with dual heritage."

Zan slapped Max on the back. "Never fear, brother mine. This is Antarian ale - no wild side effects after one sip. You have to work at getting a buzz with this stuff."

Max arched an accusatory brow at his twin. "And just how do you know so much about this?"

"Er, well, I had to give it a trial run. I mean, we didn't want to send our beloved leader off into orbit, or anything quite that wild."

Max's brows furrowed, as he mulled over that information. "Oh, well, still...."

"Max, Max, Max," Kyle addressed him in a chiding tone. "You really need to learn to loosen up a little, your kingship. All work and no play makes for a very dull monarch."

"Better to be dull, than to humiliate myself in front of those who look to me to be responsible and levelheaded," Max replied dryly. "It's rather hard to maintain an image of reliability, when those who look to you for leadership have seen you behaving disgracefully."

Kyle stared at him for a moment. "Yeah, okay, whatever. Now like I was saying, this stuff won't react with your delicate Antarian system the way that alcoholic beverages on Earth were known to. So relax and loosen up a little, your lordship. After all, we're all friends here."

Max resented the implication that he was boring to be around. Just because he didn't drink himself into a stupor, and behave like a fool? He had to repress the urge to snort at the notion. But maybe Kyle was right - a little bit anyway. He could stand to loosen up some. Just not to the extent Kyle seemed to think was appropriate. "All right, I'll make you a deal. I'll try to loosen up, if you agree not to push me too hard."

Kyle grinned in triumph, as they entered the house. "Deal!"

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

"DEAL!" Kyle snapped 20 minutes later, as Max sat fiddling with the cards, instead of passing them out to the players.

Max simply chuckled, took another swallow of ale, and returned to his artful shuffling of the deck. "Kyle," he said in a long-suffering tone, "weren't you the one that thought I should 'relax and loosen up' a little? If I might say so, you are the one that seems to be a little high-strung this evening."

Kyle scowled back at him. "Evans, if you were any more relaxed, you'd be unconscious," he grumbled.

Max pursed his lips thoughtfully, and nodded. "Perhaps," he agreed. "But my life is filled with pressure and deadlines - even if many of them are self-imposed. It feels good to just take things slow and easy," he confessed, as he continued his play.

"Geez, Max, where'd you learn to do that?" Michael asked after one particularly tricky move.

Max's eyes glimmered, and he leaned forward over the table, as he addressed his friend like an excited little boy. "You like that, Mike? Lemme show you another one." Moving with lightning speed that contradicted his mellow mood, he began maneuvering the cards like a pro.

"Dear God, our beloved king must have been a Vegas dealer in a former life," Kyle muttered sarcastically.

"Nope," Max replied with a grin. "I was a king then, too." He flipped over the top card - the King of Hearts. "And, of course, I had a queen." He exposed the next card - the Queen of Hearts. "But oddly enough, I had to wait until this time around..." He turned over the next card, and placed it in front of Kyle. " find the joker," he finished with an amused grin.

"Oh, right, thanks. Ouch, my poor self-esteem," Kyle whined.

Max snorted. "Kyle Valenti? Self-esteem problems? Oh man, that's rich. Tell me another one."

"Aw, come on, Max. Leave the hatchet buried," Zan chided.

"Yeah, okay," Max agreed with a sigh.

"Hey, how'd you do that, Max? And where'd that Joker come from?" Alex was

With a false air of condescension, Max raised one eyebrow and remarked, "Ve have our Vays." He quickly scooped up the three cards he had laid out on the table, and mixed them into the deck.

Alex thought a moment, then his eyebrows rose high, and he said, "Aahh. I see. A little molecularly enhanced sleight of hand."

Max looked at Alex like he had just sprouted three heads. "Uh, yeah, I guess so..."

"Hey, I got an idea. You know, to make the evening more interesting," Zan said.

"Oh? Well, out with it Evans!" Kyle demanded. "We need something to liven up this party. Especially with some of these old ladies here," he remarked, giving Max a pointed look.

Zan chuckled. "Yeah, well, I was thinking that we could come up with a drinking game. Say.... every time Max mentions Liz, he has to take a chug of ale." Everyone laughed. They knew that Max would be passed out within the hour at that rate.

Kyle, still chuckling, suggested, "Well, maybe we better make it just a small chug, Zan. After all, we don't want him totally shit-faced while we're trying to play a serious game of poker here." That induced another round of laughs. Max merely blushed, refusing to comment.

"How about," Alex joined in, getting into the spirit of the game, "anyone who mentions the name of their significant other has to take a chug?"

"Okay, fair enough," Zan allowed on that one. Everyone else agreed, though Max was still somewhat reluctant. "Now, what else?"

"How about, since we aren't betting on the game, whoever wins each hand has to take a swig?" Michael offered.

"Yeah, I can hear it now," Kyle chortled. He did his best imitation of Karanna. "Why is Zan passed out, smelling like Antarian ale?" Then, impersonating Michael, he answered, "Cuz he's too good a poker player. The boy needs to learn how to lose." Kyle gave Michael a meaningful look. "You try making sense of that for her."

Looking sheepish, Michael admitted, "Yeah, you're right." After all, it was only reasonable to assume that Zan would win nearly every hand. He always did, when they got together. "Okay, revision. How about, anyone that folds has to take a chug?"

With mischief in his eyes, Zan said, "Sure, that'll work. After all, Alex isn't married to Izzy yet, so if he gets bombed out of his mind, she can't make his life hell, like my wife can."

"Ah-ah-ah!!!" Alex shouted, pointing excitedly at Zan, distracted from the derogatory reference Zan made to his poker playing skills. "Take a chug, my friend."

"Huh?!" Zan exclaimed. "What are you talking about?"

"You just mentioned your significant other," Kyle explained sympathetically, refilling Zan's near-empty mug. "Time to chug up."

"But I didn't mention Karanna's name," Zan protested.

"Two chugs!" Michael shouted, pointing at Zan.

"No way!" Zan argued hotly. "You guys aren't playing fair."

"Hey, we never said you had to mention your mate's name - just refer to her in any way," Alex insisted.

Zan scowled. "Oh, very well." He tipped the mug up to his lips, and took two healthy swallows, like the man he was. Slamming the mug down on the table, he said with a challenge, "Satisfied?"

Kyle and Michael exchanged high fives, while Alex grinned like an idiot, proud to be the one to call Zan on the offense. Max just sat quietly, continuing to play with the deck of cards.

"Okay, so back to the other, anyone who folds has to take a swig, correct?" Michael posed the question, and heads nodded their assent all the way around.

In an official voice, Kyle announced with glee, "All right, then, let the games begin!"

Max responded to Kyle's command, and dealt the cards around. They all got right into the spirit of the game, and were enjoying the competitiveness of it, even if they weren't betting. After all, Max had reasoned with them, how would it look to the people of Antar if their king had too much to drink, and gambled away the royal palace? The image that conjured up brought snickers from the rest of the group.

Not willing to let Max totally off the hook, prude that he was, Kyle decided to be a little devious. "So, Max," he said casually, as they were playing out their hands, "How's little Philip doing?"

Max grinned at the mention of his son. "He's getting so big, I just can't believe it," he fairly crowed with pride.

Kyle distracted him, by trumping his King. This is gonna be easier than taking candy from a baby.... "Bet he eats a lot," Kyle remarked in nonchalant innocence.

"Yeah, poor Liz says that all she ever does -"

"CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!" the other young men chanted, to Max's horror. He hadn't meant to talk about Liz...

Realizing that he had been had, Max's eyes narrowed, as he gave Kyle a hard, sidelong look. Kyle shuddered, feigning terror at his lord's wrath, then laughed raucously. Seeing that he would get nowhere trying to intimidate Kyle, Max gave a resigned sigh, and took the required swig of ale.

And so progressed the rest of the evening. As had been predicted, Alex was more than a little tipsy from having folded too many hands early on. But as soon as he wised up that they weren't playing for money, he recognized, albeit a little late, that it would be better for him to lose every hand than to fold.

Once Max had succumbed to Kyle's treachery at the onset of their drinking game, they each began trying to best one another into mentioning the names of their beloved women. It would have been laughable after a while, had they been able to see and appreciate the humor in their antics. As they consumed more ale, their ability to devise skillful tricks to ensnare each other diminished rapidly, but oddly enough, so did their ability to discern said ploys. The net result was a whole lot of chugging and drunken giggling. Never be let it said that hybrids don't know how to party. Especially with an incorrigible human to light the way.

Two hours later, Michael decided it was time to shoo out his tipsy friends. After all, he was cognizant of the fact that he, too, was slightly inebriated, and knew he'd best sleep it off and be in prime shape for his wedding, if he wanted to live to tell about it. One by one his guests stumbled out the door. Just as Max, who was last in line, was about to cross the threshold, Michael wrapped his fingers around the king's arm.

"Hold up a minute, Maxwell. Can you stay and talk for a few minutes?"

Max was about to object, when he looked into Michael's eyes, and saw the nervousness and insecurity in them. It was then that he knew Michael wanted to have a serious discussion about something, not just engage in more tomfoolery. He nodded his head in response. "Sure, I can stay for a little bit."

Max followed Michael into the living room, and sat down in one of the chairs. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

Michael blushed, and cleared his throat nervously. Staring at the floor by his feet, he said quietly, "I, uh, wanted to talk about... well, you know...."

Max smirked, even as he felt the room sway around him. "Are you saying that you want to have 'the talk', Michael?"

Michael frowned at his best friend. "Damn it, Max, this is no joking matter. Now you know perfectly well that I know... the technical aspects of what to expect." He leaned forward then, his face and body language intense, conveying to Max just how important this was to him. "But what's it like, Maxwell? A-and how do you... please a woman? Especially the, uh, first time?"

Max's tormenting smirk softened into one of brotherly love for this, his best friend. While he loved Zan dearly as his own true brother, and quite often the other half of himself, he and Michael had thought of themselves as brothers for far to many years, to let the truth of their relationship change any of the fraternal dynamics flowing between them. Now, this special friend was baring his soul to him, and he considered it a rare privilege, that Michael Guerin would expose himself in such a way to anyone, even him.

"Forgive me," Max quietly asked of his friend. "I didn't realize this was going to be that kind of a talk. So..." He took a deep, steadying breath, and released it slowly. "Um... let's start at the beginning - which was really your last question. If I am reading behind the lines correctly here, you want to know how to go about making love to Maria, without hurting her overmuch?" Max shook his head, as if to clear it. Was this him, casually discussing something as private as sex with a woman you love? And overmuch? Where the hell had that come from?

Michael, too, appeared somewhat surprised at Max's confidence - or was it the 'overmuch', Max wondered? At any rate, Max was more perceptive than Michael seemed to have believed. When Michael merely nodded in response, Max went on.

"All right, here's the straight story. You have to exercise some self-control. If you let your raging hormones dictate your actions, rather than your brain, you might as well hang it up. The first time... well.... you need to treat her delicately. Make sure, first of all, that she's really ready for you. You know what I mean, right?" Michael nodded again.

"Well, that's a start." Max continued explaining the finer points of readying his bride, and breaching her barrier. By the time he paused, Michael was beat red, but listening intently, nonetheless. "As for how it is..." Max paused. He got a faraway look in his eyes, and Michael could see his expression change, his eyes darkening with desire. It was Max's turn to clear his throat. "It's the most wonderful thing God ever created," he admitted in hushed reverence.

They sat in silence a moment, until Max came back from wherever his thoughts had transported him. He smiled knowingly at Michael. "You'll see what I mean, soon enough," he assured his friend. "And as for Maria - just pay attention to her, and the way her body responds. If she tells you what she likes, that's great. But if not, let her body tell you."

Michael stood, eager to get to bed and get some sleep, now that Max had given him some advice of how to handle things on his wedding night. "Hey, thanks, Max. I really appreciate your advice."

"No problem." When Max rose, Michael extended his hand to him. Taking it, Max pulled him into a brotherly hug. It was over quickly, mainly because Max knew how uncomfortable Michael was with physical displays of affection. It was rather remarkable how Maria had managed to breach that defensive wall around him.

They said their goodnights, and Max disappeared into the night, his thoughts filled with Liz.

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

At the palace, the ladies were having a pre-wedding celebration of their own.

"Maria, I think a shrine should be erected in your honor," Isabel was saying, as they all walked down the corridor to Liz and Max's private quarters. "The inscription could read something like: 'To the outstanding woman, who caused the Mighty Stonewall Guerin to crumble'. What do you all think?" she inquired with a devilish smirk.

"Yeah, 'You've come a long way, baby,' " Liz chimed in.

"Not far enough," Maria quipped back. "Michael has changed a lot, but his defenses aren't completely down yet. There's still much work to be done, my friends."

Liz opened the door to her suite, and led her friends inside. "True. But perhaps we can help you with that task," she offered enigmatically.

"Help me? How?"

"Oh, you'll see," Ava teased.

As they entered the sitting room, Maria gasped at the assortment of wrapped packages neatly arranged on the table. "What are these for?" she asked in a small voice filled with awe.

"We wanted to have our own private bridal shower for you," Karanna explained. "After all... some of these articles might shock the socks off our Antarian friends..." she finished with a silly grin.

Maria cocked an eyebrow. "Do tell," she replied, her eyes glittering with anticipation. "Well, if you expect me to stand on ceremony and give the ritual 'Oh you shouldn't have' speech, you are all going to be sorely disappointed. I'm tickled that you decided to do this. And -" She continued with a squeal, "I can't wait to see what you brought!" Giggling, the girls all scurried to the furniture and sat down, immediately beginning to thrust packages at the bride-to-be. She was about to tear into the first present, when Liz stopped her.

"Wait!" Liz exclaimed. "We forgot something."

"What's that?" Maria pouted, disappointed at being interrupted.

"You have to guess what room in the house you are going to use each gift in."

Maria groaned. "Do I have to?"

"If you want the gifts you do," Liz taunted.

"Oh, very well!" Maria conceded impatiently, and returned to the gift that had been handed to her. "I'll guess.... the kitchen."

With all the enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, Maria eagerly ripped into the first package. The tag had indicated it was from Isabel. Her breath caught in her throat, as she removed a beautiful silk nightgown from the box. It was very short, accompanied by a pair of thong panties, in a rich, emerald green made just to complement her eyes. She looked at Isabel with such gratitude, and appreciation, that Isabel blushed. She was never one for verbally expressing her feelings, but Isabel could tell by the look on Maria's face that she had gotten her silent message. She had come to think of Maria as a close friend these past few weeks. They shared a special bond, being the only two in their group still unmarried. And their being engaged to each other's closest male friend further deepened the bond.

Everyone started laughing, when they remembered Maria had said she would use this in the kitchen. "Well, you will look good enough to eat," Karanna commented, and gave her a wink.

Maria rolled her eyes, and turned to Isabel. Her voice merely said, "Thank you," to her friend, but her eyes held a world of unspoken gratitude.

"Open mine next!" Ava said with a chuckle, thrusting a package the size of a shoe box at her.

"Oh dear," Maria moaned. "Do I dare?"

Ava threw back her head and laughed. "Probably not, but go ahead anyway."

Maria shook the box. It was very light, and something shifted slightly inside. "Hmmm. I'll guess.... the bathroom."

Shaking her head, Maria ripped off the paper to reveal... a shoe box. She grinned, wondering what Ava had chosen to conceal inside. She lifted the top, and turned six vibrant shades of red, before fanning herself with the lid to the box. "Oh my...."

"What is it Maria?" Liz asked, straining to see what was in the box.

Maria quickly slapped the lid back on the box. "Oh, uh, nothing."

"Nothing?" Ava asked, feigning hurt feelings. "I give you a six week supply of condoms, and you call it nothing?"

"Six weeks?!" Maria gasped. "More like six months!"

"We'll see, won't we?" Ava challenged with a wink. "Of course, if you'd rather have another set of glasses to add to your collection -"

Maria cleared her throat. "Uh, no, actually, this will be just fine. Very.... useful. Thank you."

"No problem," Ava replied with an impertinent grin.

"So... the bathroom, huh?" Liz teased. "Hmmm... our little Maria is more adventurous than I thought. Tell me, Maria - would that be on the floor, or pinned up against the shower stall wall?"

"Liz!" Maria gasped.

The young ladies all giggled at the horrified look on Maria's face. "Don't worry. None of us are shocked by what she said," Isabel assured her.

"Really?" Maria questioned meaningfully, with a look of complete interest in her eyes. "So - is there something that you would like to tell us, Isabel? About one of my oldest and dearest friends, perhaps?"

"Mmmm.... no. Besides, what could I possibly tell you that you don't already know?"

Maria stared at her, unconvinced. Something was up with those two, she was certain of it. But she'd never hear it from Alex. He had a firm policy against kiss and tell.

"Here - open mine," Karanna said, holding out another gift.

Maria took the brightly wrapped package. She frowned as she felt that it was heavier on one end than the other. She couldn't imagine what it was, but she figured she had noticed a trend with her friends' gifts, so she confidently declared with a chuckle, "I'm sure I'll be using this in the bedroom."

Karanna placed her fingers over her lips in a thoughtful pose, that was truly nothing more than a way to conceal her grin, and stifle a giggle.

Maria ripped into the package, and turned red yet again. Everyone else was begging to know what was inside, and she knew there was no hope of keeping it a secret, so she silently began to display the items contained inside, her self-consciousness preventing her from saying anything.

Ava, however, found the whole situation amusing, as soon as she saw the first item. "Whipped cream in an aerosol can," she announced thoughtfully. "Hmmm." Maria shot her a glare, that made Ava thankful that looks can't really kill. She merely giggled in response to Maria's perturbed countenance. She watched as the bride-to-be reached in and pulled out the next item. "Ooo! Chocolate sauce in a squirt bottle! My my my!"

The other girls joined Ava's laughter, and despite her acute embarrassment, Maria couldn't repress her own urge to chuckle along. She decided there was nothing for this, but to take it all in stride. She eagerly lifted up the next item for inspection. "Maraschino cherries!" Isabel crowed, and they all dissolved into a screaming fit of laughter. By the time Maria resumed her task, they were all wiping tears from their eyes.

Maria looked into the box, and gasped. Closing her eyes against their reaction, she lifted a bunch of five long, slightly unripe (hence, very firm) bananas. She heard the sharp intakes of breath around their little circle. "How... interesting," Isabel murmured, casting a sidelong glance at Karanna, who merely blushed, making no excuses or explanations.

Maria cleared her throat loudly. "Ahem - yes, well.... moving along...." She pulled out the last item in the box. "Chopped nuts?!?" Ava shrieked. She turned to Karanna. "Dear God, girl, just what were you thinking?!"

"Well certainly not what you're thinking, that's for sure!" Karanna huffed. "Why is it you people always have your mind in the gutter?"

"Oh, gee, I don't know, let me see...." Ava retorted. "Maybe the fact that we agreed that all our gifts should be -" She bit off the rest of the sentence. "Well, Maria said she was going to definitely use it in the bedroom. What were we to think?"

"Well, for your information, all of these items were for making banana splits for our girls' night, after Maria and Michael consummate! So she can tell us all about it!" Everyone laughed in relief, then after a brief moment of silence, Maria started to giggle.

"What's so funny, 'Ria?" Liz asked.

"I was just thinking that maybe I would use this in the bedroom - some of it, anyway." This remark spawned another round of laughs.

After everything was replaced in the box, Liz handed her the last gift. It was relatively small, but rather heavy. "This one's from me."

Maria looked at Liz, trying to get some clue from her expression as to what she could expect. So far, she hadn't guessed the right room for any of the gifts. Liz carefully schooled her features not to give any hint of what was inside, but the one thing she couldn't control was her blush, and the way her eyes darkened. "Oh, I think maybe this I will use in the bedroom." Carefully opening the parcel, she removed an exquisite lead crystal decanter. She could see that there was something inside of it. She gave Liz a questioning look.

"It's herbal oil," Liz clarified. She waited a moment for Maria to catch on.

"Herbal oil.... OH!" Maria turned crimson again. "That kind of oil?"

Liz chuckled and asked, "What other kind of oil is there?"

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 31-May-2002 7:38:21 PM ]

posted on 31-May-2002 7:40:15 PM by sheeperz
*blinks rapidly at Uncle KK* Candy nookie?? Oh my....

Well, I suppose I'll have to try to rise to the occasion...?? *sigh*

I'll be interested to see how YOUR scene comes out... AHEM. I wouldn't worry - I have a feeling you'll do just fine. You big teddy bear you.

As for the guys' party being tame... well, hehehe, you see, they are properly whipped little puppies. I think it's funny that the girls were naughtier than they were! *big* Now, you KNOW that Liz, Karanna, Isabel, Maria, and Ava would never have stood for their hubbies/hunnies ogling some playmate.

Thanks for the feedback, folks! Hope not to keep you hanging on til the next century for part 11! (I do have the first part of it done, btw)

Ciao for now!
posted on 1-Jun-2002 6:46:34 PM by sheeperz
Hi again! Guess what? Yep! I finished another part! I felt you guys deserved it, for your patience these past few weeks.

No... no nookie YET. Patience, Spacekiddos! But we do make it through the wedding and reception...!

I hope you all enjoy this, and please! Feel free to leave feedback! I love to read it! (even when it has nothing to do with the story LOL!) Seriously, I truly enjoy all the antics back and forth. You guys are terrific!

You know who

Chapter Eleven

"He's a sadist, Max. That's all there is to it." Liz stormed around their bedchamber, trying to get herself ready for Maria's wedding.

Max winced, and grabbed his head in his hands. "Liz, could you please not shout?" He asked in a pathetically weak moan.

"Oh, fine! you expect me to have pity on you, while I'm suffering at the hands of a madman, and all you're trying to do is nurse a hangover! You'll get no pity from me, Maxwell Evans! Your misery is of your own making. Mine is being forced on me! Geez!"

"Aww, come on, babe, it isn't that bad." Max grimaced inwardly, even as he squeezed his eyes shut against the splitting pain in his head. Who was he kidding? No one in their right mind could choke down some of the stuff that Da-nar' was making her eat. Max couldn't help wonder if this wasn't some underhanded punishment, designed to leave them with the distinct impression that they never wanted to repeat this particular blunder. He didn't know how Liz had gone this long without rebelling.

If looks could kill, Liz would have had Max's hide pinned to the wall. Unfortunately, her glower was wasted on him, as he still had his eyes closed. "I'll tell you what. You try eating this stuff for a week - no, even a day, and I'm sure you would be begging for mercy. I swear, Max, some of it makes me just gag. You have to talk to him."

"What ever happened to 'I'll do whatever Da-nar' tells me to do'? My, how quickly they forget..." His voice was weak, attesting to his weariness, as well as the pain.

Liz was about to rip into him, but then figured he was suffering enough at the moment. She let out a loud sigh. "I don't mind being on a strict diet, and you know I'm not a picky eater, but the man must have chosen the worst tasting fare that Antar has to offer. I have to believe that there are other foods that are more palatable, and still would be nutritious enough."

Max caught her hand as she marched past the bed, and pulled her down to him. She fell gently against his chest. "I promise, I'll talk to him after the wedding. I'll do my best to get some sort of alternate menu for you." He thought for a moment. "Perhaps I'll invite Ge-lar' to sit in on our discussion. He might have some suggestions as well."

"Thank you," Liz mumbled against his shirt front.

"You're welcome," he replied, kissing the top of her head. "But now, I think we have a wedding to prepare for."

Liz tipped her head back, smiling radiantly up at him. "Do you suppose we could celebrate later in our own special way, like we did after Kyle and Ava's wedding?"

Max felt his lower body tighten at the invitation. "Why, I do believe we could work something out," he answered in a husky voice.

"Wonderful. That will give me something to think about, besides all the wonderful, naughty foods I won't be able to eat at the reception."

He released her, and they both got up. It was a bit of a struggle for Max, but he managed. He decided in that moment to seek out Ge-lar' for some sort of hangover remedy. The man had a brew for every condition under the sun. Surely he must have something to combat the more unpleasant effects of Antarian ale. When he was finally upright, Liz stood on her tiptoes, and brushed a tender kiss to his lips.

Bending down, he captured her lips in a long, fiery kiss. Grasping her hips, he fit her to him, and began moving their lower bodies together in a maddening rhythm. When they broke apart, both of them were gasping for air. "Think that will hold you until later?"

Liz shrugged. "Maybe. If it doesn't, I'll just have to molest you in the linen closet, won't I?"

Max groaned. "Makes me think of the Eraser Room back in Roswell High."

"Ah, sweet memories," she teased.

"Yes, like the embarrassing scene of being caught, having our moms called in to the office, and then the ensuing detention. Have I missed any of the highlights?"

Liz giggled. "No, I believe that about covers it. Well, except for those incredible flashes..." she reflected. She hugged his waist fiercely, then returned her attention to getting ready for the ceremony. "I'm so glad that Michael and Maria finally worked things out between them. I wondered if we would ever see this day."

"Yeah, me too. But Maria is really good for him, and I'm pretty sure he sees that clearly, now. I've had to repeat myself a couple of times this week, when I caught him daydreaming during a briefing. I never thought I'd see that faraway 'in love' look on Michael's face, but I have. He's got it bad for her." He wouldn't betray Michael's confidence, and reveal the discussion they had had the night before, as tempting as it might be.

"That's good to know. Maria deserves to be loved like that. After all, her childhood was less than ideal, with her dad walking out on them. And that makes her more in tune with the pain in Michael's past. I think that's part of why they are so good for each other. All the love they never could share with their families, they can shower on each other. It'll be fun to watch their relationship develop."

"I can't believe how much it already has changed, just since we've been on Antar, and Michael has found his purpose in life," Max observed.

Liz nodded. Silently she prayed that their friends would find the same kind of happiness that she and Max shared.

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

"This is it, Maria," Liz said, the excitement in her eyes belying the calm tone in her voice. "Are you ready?" They both watched as Amy linked her arm through Alex's, as he escorted the very lovely mother of the bride to her seat.

"Yes," was the one word reply Liz received, and she looked suddenly at her friend when she heard the thready whisper.

"Maria? Are you all right?"

"J-just a little nervous," she admitted.

"Hey, we'll have none of that," Jim Valenti scolded, wrapping his hand firmly over the one that clung desperately to his arm. Not having a father, Maria had told him there was no one else she would rather have walk her down the aisle. He had been honored at her sincere request. She would never know, of course, just how deeply touched he had been. He already thought of her as a daughter. Once things settled down, he would have to talk to Amy about making that relationship official.... He nearly yelped, when he felt Maria's fingers tighten their hold beneath his hand, and her nails bit into his flesh through the tux sleeve.

"Oh, sorry," she apologized. "I - I'm just really nervous... Liz! Where's my cypress oil?"

"Glued to the back of your bouquet, remember?" Liz teased. "So you would have it handy at all times?"

"Right, right," Maria answered distractedly, frantically working to get the cap off the little vial. Success at last! She lifted her bouquet to her nose, and inhaled deeply several times. She slowly felt the tension easing somewhat. "Maybe I'll just leave the top off," she muttered to herself, and did just that.

Maria heard the soft, Antarian instrumental music, which she had chosen for her attendants to walk in on, begin. She took deep breaths, as one by one, the bridesmaids disappeared through the door to the temple, as they approached the altar. Finally, Liz's turn came, and then she, too, was out of sight.

"Good to go?" Jim asked, with a sweet, paternal smile.

The breath Maria had been holding whooshed out of her. "As good as I'm gonna get," she answered. Truth be told, she was terrified. Not of marrying Michael, but what exactly had he chosen for her processional? He was being very mysterious about the whole thing, and when he told her not to condemn him for his taste in music, but to listen to the words... well, she started to get more than just a little worried. Oblivious to her distress, Jim nodded, and positioned them at the entrance to the temple.

The Antarian music ceased, and there was a moment of lingering silence. Maria took several deep breaths, trying to still her raging pulse. Her eyes traveled down the length of the aisle, to fix their gaze on the tall, fit form of the handsome man waiting for her at the other end.

And then, out of the silence broke the following lyrics by Celine Dion:

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through - through it all

At the first words, tears sprung into Maria's eyes, and rolled unhindered down her cheeks. She knew how much he detested Celine Dion, and yet he had chosen this song, because of the message it conveyed. She listened carefully, as the first verse played.

Having received specific instructions from Michael, Jim held their position at the entrance, waiting for the chorus before escorting Maria down the aisle. He watched, as Maria's tears of joy streamed down her face, a trembling smile on her lips. He could see that her eyes were glued to Michael, and he knew that the groom had just scored some pretty big brownie points. He grinned, thinking of the rewards that boy would reap for pleasing his bride so.

Michael wished he could see the look on Maria's face - to know if she was pleased, or if he was going to have to talk her down afterward. Isabel had assured him this song was safe, but with Maria, one never knew. Damn, if only that veil wasn't in the way.... He thought he was going to expire from a bad case of nerves while waiting for the chorus, and the procession of his bride.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cuz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Jim and Maria began the long walk to the front of the temple. He could feel her trembling, as she clung to him for support. He had to work at keeping her pace slow and steady - he got the impression that if it were left up to Maria, they would sprint down the aisle!

Maria was moved beyond belief at the words to the song. She had to suppress a giggle, though, as she listened. She would have a little surprise of her own for Michael at the reception.

All eyes were on Maria, but Max slid a glance at his best friend. He was sporting a smile, but up close like Max was, it was evident that he was nervous. Poor guy. Michael looked like he was frozen solid, except for the slight trembling of his hands.

Max's gaze drifted to the other side of Michael, where Liz stood. Feeling his eyes on her, she turned, and met his molten amber gaze. She could tell from that look, that he was thinking the same thing she was - how much the words to this song spoke about their relationship, as well as Michael and Maria's. It had been a long road for both couples, but the love that each shared had carried them through some pretty hairy times. She smiled shyly at Max, and mouthed, "I love you," to him.

His own lips curved in a trembling grin, and he mouthed back, "I love you, too." God, how long before he could get her alone, and make love to her until they both screamed from pleasure, he wondered?

On either side of Max and Liz stood Isabel and Alex. Their eyes met, and Isabel could almost hear his thoughts. She knew that they would be something along the line of: This is what I want for us, Isabel. I want us to be there for each other, always. I want us to bring out the best in each other. Because we love each other.

It was amazing that her alien powers didn't allow her to read minds. Because that's exactly what he was thinking.

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Jim and Maria reached the altar, and Michael looked through the tulle of her veil, hoping to gauge her reaction. He was relieved when he saw her tremulous smile, and felt a warmth well up deep inside him from the way she was looking at him with all the love in her heart shining in her eyes. They stood entranced, as the song continued to its conclusion.

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'coz you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

Jim gently removed Maria's hand from his arm, and placed it in Michael's. Smiling, he squeezed her hand gently, and together, they faced the altar and Ge-lar', who was there waiting to unite them in marriage.

The rest of the service went by in a blur for Maria. After the shock of Michael's romantic gesture in choosing such a meaningful song for her approach to him, she suddenly couldn't wait for the wedding to be over with, so she could be alone with him, and tell him how much that meant to her. How much he meant to her. She was barely even aware of reciting her vows, but her attention was fully arrested when Michael slipped the shining band of gold, set with sparkling diamonds, on her finger.

Finally they were pronounced married, and he lifted her veil. As he feasted his eyes upon her, his heart swelled with the knowledge that she had promised to love and cherish him for the rest of her life. No one had ever made such a commitment to him before, and the enormity of it took his breath away. She was his for all time, and in that moment, he suddenly realized that he had been half expecting her to change her mind, even up to the moment he saw her ready to walk down the aisle. Because no one had ever loved him like this. Ever.

It was with this realization, that something snapped inside Michael Guerin. The stone wall of protection that he had erected from the day he emerged from his pod on Earth.... crumbled. For the first time in his life, he was ready to let someone in. Completely in. There were things hidden in him that even Max and Isabel weren't privy to. Who would have thought that this little slip of a woman could sneak behind his best laid defenses, and bring him to his knees? A smile graced his face at that thought, and he gently reached up to brush his knuckles against her soft cheek. In that instant, he knew more joy than he had experienced in his entire life, as he looked down into her face, alight with love for only him.

A reverent hush had fallen over those gathered to witness this momentous occasion, as they watched the tender scene unfolding before them. Most, if not all, knew of Michael's reputation regarding relationships. But the ice was melting before their very eyes, and they were in awe of the miracle they were being allowed to witness.

Even Maria stood breathless, seeing a depth of emotion on Michael's face that he had never exposed to her before. Then he moved to kiss her and her heart hammered wildly, as his face descended toward hers. Her lashes fluttered shut, as she felt his lips barely brush hers - her first kiss from her husband. That thought caused her to shudder in anticipation of what was yet to come, and she felt her body responding to even this, the most subtle of kisses.

"Maria?" Michael's whisper finally penetrated the haze of passion that was threatening to overtake her. She blinked several times as if to clear her vision, and looked at him questioningly. "Are you all right?" he whispered, his concern touching her deeply.

She smiled tentatively at him, feeling somewhat embarrassed at how aroused she had gotten from such a simple, innocent gesture. What was wrong with her, that she couldn't keep her hormones under control? "I'm fine," she whispered back. He smiled and nodded. Then he emerged from the private moment that had engulfed them, remembering where they were. With a blush, he smiled at Ge-lar', who grinned knowingly back at him, and proceeded to conclude the ceremony. They were presented to those assembled, then walked down the aisle and exited the church, followed by the wedding attendants, and the guests. The wedding procession ended back at the palace, where the reception was to take place.

Entering the ballroom, everyone marveled again at what a wonderful job Liz did at organizing these events. She was sure to give credit where it was due, citing Isabel's enormous amount of help with this project, since she herself couldn't have managed the entire affair in her current condition.

After the meal, the bride and groom were called to the floor for the first dance. Michael had known that Maria was going to select the music for their bridal dance, and he was anxious to see what she had chosen. He was sure it would be something feminine and mushy, but for the first time in his life, he was actually looking forward to that. Because that was part of who Maria was, and now that he no longer feared her rejection, he admitted to himself that her romantic streak was rather endearing.

As he escorted her to the dance floor, she said in a low voice for his ears only, "Just bear in mind, I had no idea what you had chosen for the processional at the church." He looked down at her, his obvious confusion stamped on his face, but she merely smiled up at him. Holding her gaze, he took her into his arms as the soft piano chords began to play, and began to gently sway to the music.

I don't know how I survived
In this cold and empty world
For all this time
I only know that I'm alive
Because you love me

When I recall what I've been through
There's some things
That I wish I didn't do
Now I do the things I do
Because you love me

And now that you're in my life
I'm so glad I'm alive
'Cause you showed me the way
And I know now how good it can be
Because You love me

Michael concentrated on the words, amazed at how they had not only chosen songs with the same message, but the titles were almost identical. His mind returned to the scripture that had been read, "...and they shall become one flesh." Already it seemed, they were on the same wave length. He pulled her closer to him, placing a chaste kiss on her forehead, his lips lingering there, as he continued listening to the lyrics of the song while they danced.

I believe in things unseen
I believe in the message of a dream
And I believe in what you are
Because you love me

With all my heart and all my soul
I'm loving you and I never will let go
And every day I'll let it show
Because you love me
Because you love me

Because you love me**

As the song wound down, Michael brought them to a halt, and merely held her close, closing his eyes, and thanking God for bringing her into his life. Never again would he deny the place she held in his heart. And he would begin making up to her all the hell he had put her through the past year and a half, just as soon as they were alone.

Maria stood in his embrace, overwhelmed by the emotions flowing through her. She wasn't even sure if they were merely her own, or if somehow she was attuned to what was going on with Michael. But she knew for certain that something had happened in Michael, and she couldn't wait to be alone with him. She silently prayed that whatever change had taken place, he would be willing to share with her. She knew it was asking a lot, to think that Stone Wall Guerin would open up to her, but she was nothing, if not an optimist. She had to be, marrying this man.

And then their private thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of instruments, as they began playing the traditional dance music of Antar. Michael relinquished his bride to his best man, who was requesting a dance, and then took Isabel in his arms, when she materialized at his elbow, looking to have him take her for a spin around the floor.

They laughed and reminisced about things from their childhood, and even recent memories. All the while, Isabel was marveling at the apparent change in his countenance. He smiled - not the cold, mocking smile that he was famous for, but a warm, open smile - and there was an animation to his words that she had never heard before. Dare she think it? Michael Guerin actually looked happy, for the first time in all the years she had known him.

The rest of the evening passed quickly, and Maria was inwardly rejoicing, when Liz approached her, to escort her to the bridal chamber the women had prepared for the newlyweds, in a remote section of the palace. Initially, Maria had planned on spending her wedding night in their new home together, but Liz had insisted that they stay at the palace, where the servants could attend to their needs, freeing them to just enjoy being together. Touched by her friend's offer, Maria had accepted gratefully.

Liz gave her a few minutes to say her good-byes and take her leave. When she was finished, Liz caught Max's eye, just before she led Maria out of the ballroom, and gave him a nod - the signal that she was taking Maria to prepare her for her wedding night. He winked back at her, with a seductive smile - not the agreed upon signal, and it made her blush - and she knew that he would wait a suitable length of time, then send Michael up to join his bride.

Linking her arm through that of her best friend, they left the guests to continue the celebration in their absence.

* Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion
** Because You Love Me by Jo Dee Messina

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 1-Jun-2002 7:14:34 PM ]

posted on 5-Jun-2002 11:27:05 PM by sheeperz
Well, here it is. I do so hope y'all won't be disappointed! *angel* You have a way of building up these expectations... and then I'm always afraid I won't live up to them!!!

Glad you liked the wedding. After 3 of them, I was wondering if I could pull it off, and make it different....

So - here's the new part. Let me know what you think!

Part Twelve

As Liz helped Maria out of her wedding dress, she couldn't help noticing that her normally chatty friend was unusually silent. "Maria? Is something wrong?"

Maria darted a nervous look at her. "Wrong? Uh, no... why? Should there be?"

"Well, it's just that you are being awfully quiet, and I wondered if something was troubling you." No response. "So - is there?" Liz lifted the gown over Maria's head, as she asked the question.

"Nothing a good sedative wouldn't fix," Maria mumbled into her petticoats, on their way up.

Liz smiled at the admission she figured she wasn't intended to hear. "Nervous?" she asked, with a kind smile.

"Nervous doesn't even begin to cover it, babe," Maria lamented. She began wringing her hands in front of her, staring at Liz in the mirror. "What if I make a fool of myself? I've never... you know," she said, blushing. "What if he's disappointed?"

Liz chuckled. "I'd say, he's probably having the same doubts right about now," she assured the anxious bride. "If, for some reason, it isn't all fireworks for you, will you be angry with Michael? Or love him any less?"

"Well, no, but -"

"No buts," Liz said firmly. "And if you don't expect him to be perfect, do you think he will demand that of you? Michael is a sweet guy, and he obviously loves you, if that show we got during the ceremony means anything. You'll make it through this fine. Remember - if he wants you to do something specific to enhance your lovemaking, he has a mouth. He can ask."

"I suppose...."

"Trust me. The important thing is that you go in focused on Michael. If you both are looking to please the other, you'll do fine."

"Well, that's just great, until he touches me. And then... I don't know. I kind of lose focus. I mean, the feelings that come over me when we kiss... and stuff...." Maria broke off, blushing.

"If you think that's good, just wait 'til you get to the grand finale," Liz teased. "It's incredible."

"What if I can't... you know?"

Liz grinned mischievously. "That, my dear, is what this is for." She held up the bottle of herbal oil that she had given to Maria the night before.

"Oooh," Maria said, having forgotten about it, until Liz mentioned it. "Uh, so... um, should I put that like... everywhere?" she asked, embarrassed at having to ask such a question.

"I kind of expected to help you with it," Liz said tentatively, wondering how her friend would react to that. "And yes, it goes everywhere."

"Oh. Uh, you're sure you don't mind?"

"Honey, nothing shocks me anymore, if that's what you're worried about. I'm an old married lady now, remember?"

Maria giggled. "Yeah, real old. All of 18, and over the hill. Although, I gotta hand it to you, you must know what you're doing, pregnant with your second child in under a year."

"Don't remind me," Liz grumbled. "I'm being suitably punished for my indiscretion by Da-nar'." She shuddered. "His diet plan for me is enough to make me give up eating altogether."

"That bad?"


"Ah, babe, I'm sorry about that." She fidgeted a little. "So... what now?"

"Well, you'll need to finish getting undressed, and then lay down so I can massage the oil in."

As she was stripping, she asked Liz, "So what exactly will this oil do again?"

"It does a couple of things, actually. First, one of the herbs will heighten the sensitivity of any area it comes in contact with. That will make it easier for you to become aroused. And then the other herbs will be absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin, and they stimulate the pleasure center in your brain. Working together, I'd say that you should have no trouble achieving an orgasm - or two," she teased. "So stop worrying about it."

At this point, Maria had turned back the covers on the bed, and was laying down. Liz followed her to the bed, and sat on the edge of the mattress. "Ready?" she asked Maria. The only answer she got was a nod. She carefully opened the decanter of oil, and with Maria lying on her stomach, she drizzled a line along the length of her spine, over her buttocks, and down each leg. Setting the oil aside, she began massaging the warmed liquid into Maria's skin, starting with her neck and shoulders, and working her way toward her feet.

Maria was glad Liz couldn't see her face. The herbs in the warm oil, combined with Liz's gentle touch, began to arouse her. She didn't want Liz to think that she was weird, or anything. She had to bite her lip to keep from moaning, when Liz's hands kneaded her derriere, and then when her hands worked the insides of her thighs. Soon, she was giggling, as Liz tried to rub the oil into the soles of her feet, which were very ticklish. That helped to relieve some of the tension, momentarily.

But then Liz had her roll over.

Laying there, exposed to her best friend of over ten years, Maria felt extremely self-conscious. She and Liz had always been closer than sisters, comparing notes on when they started their periods, and got their first training bras - eventually sharing the excitement of growing cup sizes.

But never had they touched one another in any of their private places. Maria tensed when Liz poured the oil down the front of her. So a profound wave of relief washed over her, when Liz told Maria to smooth the oil over her breasts, while she rubbed her arms, stomach and legs. When they were finished, Liz told Maria to coat her feminine flesh, while she went to get Maria's gown.

Handing the emerald silk to the young bride, Liz shared, "Let me give you a little tip. The oil will get all over this, but don't worry. You can have Isabel clean it for you, and it will be just like new."

"Voice of experience?" Maria asked with a nervous laugh.

"Exactly," Liz replied.

Maria nodded, and let her friend help her into the gown. She opted to skip on the little thong panties, figuring they would just be in the way. For that matter, so would the nightgown, but she couldn't bring herself to lay there naked, waiting for Michael to come in.

"Well, I guess that's it," Liz stated. "I'd better take off, before the anxious groom shows up."

"I suppose...." Maria twisted her hands together slightly.

"Maria? Are you really that nervous?" Maria nodded. "I wish I had known. I could have gotten you something from Ge-lar' to help with that. I know he made something for Karanna."

"Uh, no, that's okay. I mean, I'll be okay... I guess...."

"You will be. Just relax, and go with the flow."

Maria sighed. "All right."

"That's my girl. Just one thing - try to act a little more enthusiastic at the prospect of making love to Michael. You don't want to damage his fragile male ego." They both giggled, and then Liz gave her one last hug, before she left the bridal chamber, and went to her own quarters.

Maria laid on the bed, trying to calm herself before Michael arrived. But after waiting for several minutes, she leapt off the bed, and began pacing the floor. What if he thought her body was ugly? Was it possible that the anticipation of making love to her was arousing, but that once he saw her, he would lose his interest? She knew that she wasn't well-endowed like many women. Maybe he would be disappointed.

Back and forth she stalked, her worrying mind at conflict with her ever increasingly aroused body. At first, she was so agitated, that she barely noticed the effects of the herbs. But as she marched around the room, the silk of her nightie gently chafed her erect nipples, sending streaks of warmth to her aching womanhood. As the minutes passed, she subconsciously began squeezing her thighs together as she walked, to try and ease the ache between them.

It was a highly agitated, extremely aroused Maria that Michael found, when he arrived in their room. At first she didn't see him enter, and he watched her prowl the perimeter of the room. When she turned the corner and faced him, he gasped at the sight of her flushed cheeks, and her aroused breasts straining against the fabric of her nightgown.

Maria heard the harshly drawn breath, and froze in her tracks, even as her eyes unerringly swung to meet his. She might have been a novice at sex, but there was no mistaking the flames of passion she found dancing in his eyes. Held captive by his dark, sensual stare, she felt herself shivering in anticipation.

"Maria," he said in a deep, husky rumble, as he advanced toward her.

Maria felt her legs begin to quiver, and just when she thought that they would give out on her altogether, Michael swung her up into his arms, his lips seizing hers in a deep, hungry kiss that drove her wild. She felt the room spinning, as he turned to go to the bed, and then she felt herself being gently lowered to the satin sheets.

Once her body was supported by the mattress, Michael's hands took the liberty of exploring every inch of her, while his tongue plundered the recesses of her sweet mouth. His hands slid from shoulders down to the calves of her legs, and on the trip back north, he slipped them under her nightgown, pushing it up as he went. He marveled at each new texture and form that he found on his journey.

Finally, he was able to lift her back off the bed, and remove the garment completely, exposing the entirety of her womanly form to his appreciative gaze. "So beautiful," he whispered in reverent awe, as his fingertips skimmed over her collarbone, stopping to revel in the rapid pulse pounding at the base of her neck - proof of her desire for him. As his fingertips investigated all the things that made her different from him, he felt himself throbbing inside his pants, and was grateful for the loose-fitting wedding attire Antarians preferred. He knew that if he was wearing jeans at that moment, the pain would have been excruciating.

His obvious approval went a long way toward helping Maria to relax. And once she did, the feelings that swept over her as his fingers stroked her swollen, feminine flesh brought her to a rapid climax. Michael quickly covered her mouth with his, drinking in her cries of release. When the height of it had passed, he gentled her with warm, tender kisses.

He was amazed at how easily she had succumbed to her passion, and how intensely it seemed to hit her. He had no idea that a woman's orgasm could be so overwhelming. Just watching her and hearing her initial scream of pleasure nearly did him in. He knew that if they didn't join soon, it would be a lost cause.

Maria was still throbbing with need, despite having achieved release once already. Some primitive part of her knew that she wouldn't be satisfied, until she was joined in one flesh with Michael. She began frantically pulling at first his shirt, and then his pants, desperately trying to get him as naked as the day he was born. With a chuckle, Michael helped her, all the while giving thanks that she was obviously as hungry for him as he was for her.

When at last his clothes were removed, Maria's hands began frantically roaming the vast expanse of flesh that was exposed to her. She gloried in the feel of his firm, well-defined muscles, and the taut skin that covered them. When her hands caressed his buttocks, instinctively pulling him closer, Michael told her to still her questing hands, the request ending in a pained groan. Immediately she became self-conscious, apologizing for whatever she did wrong.

"I'm so sorry - I - it's just... I don't know much about this. Did I hurt you?"

Michael's laugh was choked, as he teetered on the brink of exploding. "I'm in pain, all right," he admitted. "But you didn't do anything wrong. It's just - I don't want to come, until I'm inside of you. Do you understand?"

Blushing, Maria nodded. Locking her gaze with his, she pleaded, "Make love to me, Michael." .

"Oh, God, Maria." He kissed her hard and deep, as he positioned himself between her legs. Remembering what Max had told him, he was careful to be gentle with her. He clenched his teeth together, as he tried to maintain control, until he could breach her barrier. When she was wild in her passion once more, he pressed deep and tore the membrane.

No sooner had Maria felt the flash of pain and realized that Michael had just taken her virginity, than she experienced a warm, pleasant sensation replacing the pain. It took her a few seconds, through the fog of arousal, to comprehend that Michael had just healed her. She'd have to ask him about that.

But her question became insignificant compared to what followed. As Michael began to move inside her, something truly amazing and wonderful happened. Suddenly, she started getting flashes from him. Or at least, she was pretty sure they were from him. She saw Michael growing up in near squalid conditions, trying to avoid being beaten by Hank, when his foster father was in a drunken rage. She not only saw what he went through, but felt what he had felt at the time. The anger. The humiliation. The fear. It was all as if it had been her living through the experience.

Michael's breathing became more ragged and harsh, as his desire spiraled out of control. He drove faster and deeper with a kind of desperation, as if he could somehow unite them as one for all time.

And the flashes continued.

Maria saw him as a young child going to school, and being all alone. All the other kids would be playing, and Michael would sit off to the side and watch. Sometimes he would hide behind a tree and observe from there. Lost. Lonely. Afraid. And determined to never need anyone else. To never let anyone else in.

Then he found out he wasn't the only one of his kind. But the stone wall was already up. He made an effort to let Max and Isabel in, but he always guarded his heart, even from them. He firmly believed that you could trust no one, could count on no other person but yourself. He ached inside to be able to really lean on someone else, but forced himself to keep an unbreakable barrier between himself and everyone else on the face of the Earth. Even those who were like himself.

Until one day, he met an angel with blonde hair and green eyes, who turned his whole world upside down.

Maria relived the road trip to Marathon, Texas, through the perspective of Michael Guerin. She learned for the first time, that his whole macho, condescending attitude with her had been a defensive maneuver on his part, to camouflage the intense desire he felt toward her. When she had jumped off the bed and landed on top of him in the dark at the motel, he was half asleep, and in that vulnerable state had nearly grabbed her hips in his hands so he could grind his hips against hers, in an attempt to relieve his aching need. If Isabel hadn't opened the door just then, he undoubtedly would have followed through with that instinctive gesture. At least, he believed that's what would have happened.

The scene changed to the day Michael killed Pierce in the UFO Center. Maria could sense that this memory was really important to Michael. And then she understood why - it was the day he first admitted to himself that he was hopelessly in love with her. Even though he maintained his protective wall, behind the fortress was a heart that beat with tender affection for one feisty young woman by the name of Maria DeLuca. He trembled inwardly with fear, when he slipped and admitted his feelings out loud. Because even though it was true, had he not allowed her to see his heart, he would have remained somewhat protected. But his unfortunate admission left him feeling raw and vulnerable. That left him petrified that she would take advantage of his feelings, and use them to manipulate him and then discard him when he was no longer "useful". Even though he was fairly certain that this would be out of character for her, he couldn't help his paranoia. Old habits are hard to break.

As Michael's seed erupted in a mind-blowing climax, the last of his barriers came down. As he shuddered and pushed deep one last time, all the love that he had been hiding was exposed to her, and the impact of it was so intense, that it sent Maria into the throes of release once again. This time, the culmination was more powerful, because she was able to sense his emotions as they reached that point together. When it was over, Maria went limp, Michael collapsing on top of her in a sweaty heap.

As he lay there waiting for his heart rate to return to normal, he felt her hands begin to stroke up and down his back, taking occasional detours to knead his firm buttocks. He could feel himself hardening again, but was momentarily distracted from the thought of another round when Maria spoke.

"I love you, Michael."

Michael propped himself up on his elbows, and looked down into her face. He was moved to see tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. Leaning down, he tenderly sipped at the moisture, and whispered into her ear, "I love you, too, Blondie."

Maria invited him to make further comment. "Care to tell me how much?"

Michael felt that old, familiar twinge of fear at revealing his inner self to another living soul. Rather than analyze his feelings and deal with them, he pulled back and grinned seductively at her, once more beginning the rhythm of love within her. "I'd much rather show you," he said, his voice low and husky.

Maria moaned, and began to move her hips instinctively. The passion built so quickly, she was unable to carry the conversation any further. When they had reached completion again, she swatted him lightly on the butt.

"Hey! What was that for?" he pouted.

"That was for trying to change the subject."

"What try?" he teased. "I'd say I was fairly successful in the venture."

"For a time, perhaps." Her voice conveyed the ache she felt, when she asked, "Michael, why won't you talk to me about your feelings?"

Rolling off to her side, he gathered her close, reveling in the warmth he felt, as she laid her head on his shoulder, her hand lightly caressing his chest and abdomen. "Is it that important to you?" he said after a couple of minutes.

Tears sprang to her eyes again. She knew how he felt, but he didn't know that she knew, obviously. And he obviously didn't want her to know. Maybe she was a fool to think he would ever change. She rolled over to the other side of the bed, facing away from him, extracting herself from his embrace. But not before one big, wet teardrop splashed onto his chest.

Michael's heart constricted with pain, knowing that he had caused her to cry, and this time not from tender emotions. He had hurt her - had let her down in the worst way - and he felt like a total heel. Hadn't he purposed in his heart just a couple hours ago to make up to her for all the heartache he had caused her in the past? But could he completely bare his soul to her? Could he trust her not to use his tender feelings for her against him? He wrestled against himself, as the tense silence loomed like a malevolent presence between them. He wanted more than anything to lay himself open before her, but the fear made him hesitate. He cringed, when he felt the bed shaking, as Maria's silent sobs wracked her frail form.

And then it hit him. Hadn't she laid her soul bare to him, over and over again? And what did she have to show for it? One rejection after another - just an endless series of slaps in her face. And yet she persisted in coming to him, reaching her arms out with love and acceptance, despite all the shit he had dished out to her. God, could he be any more stupid? While he was worrying about how he could survive being rejected by her, he was putting her repeatedly through the very hell he himself was so terrified of.

He reached his hand out, and held it just above her shoulder, wondering if he had finally managed to push her away one too many times. And on their wedding night, no less. He decided that if she did tell him to go to hell, he would deserve that, and worse, for what he had done to her. He let his fingers wrap around her shoulder, and he scooted up behind her, cradling her body with his.

"Maria, babe, I'm so sorry," he apologized in a choked whisper. "I have been such a jerk to you, and I know I don't deserve your forgiveness, but I'm going to ask for it anyway, because... well, because I'm such a selfish bastard." No response. "Aw come on, you know you want to agree with me," he goaded her. He was rewarded with a single, sniffling chuckle. He smiled fleetingly. "See, I knew you did."

He pulled gently on her shoulder, hoping to convince her to turn and face him. When she resisted at first, he pleaded, "Please, Maria. Turn over and talk to me. Or at least - listen? There are some things I think are long past due for being said. I just hope I haven't waited too long."

Whether out of curiosity, or lack of will to fight he wasn't sure, she did allow him to reposition her so that they were face to face. He felt like someone had punched him in the gut, when he saw the tear stains on her cheeks, and the incredible sadness in her eyes, as they looked up at him. There was no hint of excitement in them, like he had seen earlier during their wedding ceremony. Now there was just a look of dispirited resignation. Like she had given up the last of her hope. Dear God, no, please don't let her give up on me now, he prayed fervently, longing for some divine intervention to help him clean up the mess he had made of his life. And hers.

"Maria, please forgive me," he repeated his urgent request. "It's just - I've been so afraid of making myself totally vulnerable to you." He brushed a lock of her hair off her face. "My earliest memories are of being abused and rejected by the people who should have given me love," he admitted in a voice so soft, she had to strain to hear. "I knew I was different, and I cursed that difference, even as I blamed it for making me unlovable to those around me. The hurt and pain I experienced made me hard at a young age. Obviously too hard. I determined then that I would never give anyone the power to hurt me like that again. And even when I met Max and Isabel, knowing that they were different, like me, I couldn't bring myself to open up, and see inside me. I was content to go on like that - never really knowing others, and never being known. Until I met you.

"God, Maria, you changed everything," he confessed, unaware of the tears that now streamed silently down his own face. "For once in my life, I really wanted to be close to someone. But the fear - it was like this insurmountable object that I couldn't seem to overcome. Every time you tried to get close, I felt like I had to retreat in self-defense. I couldn't seem to help myself. And even tonight - when you asked me to talk about my feelings - that well-honed instinct rose to the surface again, trying to deflect any potential opportunity for rejection."

Maria stiffened at the word rejection. Yes, she knew all about that, Michael acknowledged. And she had learned everything she knew from him. Damn.

"I want you to know, I realize now that I was hurting you in the same way I myself feared being hurt," he admitted with aching tenderness. His hand reached up to cup her face. "I never meant to hurt you, Blondie. God, it was the last thing that I would want to do. It wasn't that I was rejecting you - I was protecting myself, can you see that?" He waited while she thought a moment.

Maria remembered the flashes that she had seen - and everything that he was saying was supported by them. Finally, Michael was being completely honest with her, and she thought she would burst from the joy she felt. She nodded, her response indicating that she could understand where he was coming from.

One more hurdle. "Can you forgive me?" he asked, holding his breath in anticipation.

"Don't I always?" she whispered back.

It was the last straw. The floodgates opened, and Michael began weeping - with relief, to be sure, but also with the release of all the emotion he had been suppressing for what seemed like forever. He pulled Maria to himself, and clung to her, as if she were a lifeline. "I love you more than anything else in this life," he told her in a choked whisper, as he squeezed her tightly. "I'm sorry I fought telling you that for so long." He looked her straight in the eye. "You know now that you hold the ability to completely crush my spirit. I just pray that you will never feel the desire to use that to your advantage."

Maria moved so quickly, Michael never saw what was coming, until her lips were fused to his in a passionate kiss. When she finally released him, she vowed, "I will never do anything to betray the trust you have placed in me, by opening your heart to me. I meant what I said during our wedding Michael - I'll love you forever." She snuggled against his chest, suddenly tired from not only the vigorous lovemaking, but the emotional upheaval she had been through that day. With a yawn she commented, "You best get some sleep, Spaceboy, because I want you well rested for another round in the morning."

"Never fear, my love. I'll be primed and ready. You'll see." He kissed the top of her head, and smiled into her hair when he felt her breathing even out as she drifted off to sleep.

Oh, yes indeed. She certainly would see.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Jun-2002 11:28:56 PM ]

posted on 14-Jun-2002 10:54:28 PM by sheeperz
Hello, kiddies! I'm back, finally! Thanks so much for all the awesome feedback - you guys are the best!

This part may raise a few eyebrows, but I hope you like it. At least, try to be patient, and hang in there with me, okay? *big*

Let me know what you think!

Part Thirteen

Max managed to sneak away from the party as soon after Michael left as he could, without being rude. He knew that Liz had been the one to rub herbal oil on Maria for her wedding night, and he could count on her being ready for some lovin', from the effects it would have on her as well. Once he was out of sight of the guests, he began racing toward their chambers, taking the stairs two at a time, in an effort to get to her faster. Already he was unbearably aroused.

He burst into their bedroom with all the grace of a bull in a china shop, his eyes darting around the room, looking for his wife. He felt the fire of passion race through him, when his gaze encountered her slightly swollen form, as she stood profiled in front of the window. She was leaning one shoulder against the frame, but her face was turned looking out the glass panes. The soft glow from Antar's twin moons illuminated her in such a way, that she appeared to be glowing. Max smiled. My own personal angel.

Something else beside passion kindled in him then as well - a sense of protectiveness like he had never felt before. It threw him somewhat off balance, as it appeared to come out of thin air. Surely, he felt on instinctive need to guard her and his unborn child. But this was something more than that. He wondered what caused it.

He walked up to stand behind her, looking over her head at the night sky. Reaching up, he gently swept her hair to one side, and bent to place his lips to the side of her neck, interspersing kisses with provocative little nibbles and teasing strokes of the tip of his tongue. She leaned back into him, but it didn't feel right. It wasn't a passionate surrender - it seemed to be more of an inability to hold herself erect.

His hands reached down to clasp her hips, and he gasped to feel her pelvic bone clearly defined beneath her skin. When had she gotten so thin, that he didn't notice? He tried to think back to the last time they made love - it had been several days ago, due to the whirlwind of preparations for the wedding. Liz had fallen into bed exhausted every night that week, often sound asleep before he even made it to bed himself. There had been no tender caresses, no naked body displayed to his view. When mornings came, he didn't have the heart to wake her to make love, she seemed to be so soundly asleep. He knew that her body needed the rest, and so he had opted to begin his days with a cold shower instead.

But now he was concerned. Was the protectiveness he experienced a moment ago due to some instinct that things were not well with her?

"Liz?" He said her name softly, but loud enough for her to hear. Yet she made no response. He tried to turn her to face him, but instead, she began to crumple to the floor. His arms quickly encompassed her, and lifted her close to his chest. He looked down into her face, and saw that she wasn't even conscious - her body was totally limp in his arms. He hastened to the bed, and laid her upon the mattress, then ran out of the room.

Da-nar'. Must find Da-nar'. Max feverishly prayed that their former protector was still in the building, enjoying what remained of the wedding reception. His feet barely grazed the steps as he descended to the lower levels of the palace, and within no time, he was back in the ball room. Fortunately, he hadn't had time to undress yet - only the top few buttons of his shirt were undone. Frantic with worry, he scanned the room for signs of the man who had become his good friend, and felt relief wash over him, when he spotted him - and none too soon. Da-nar' was just getting ready to leave by the exit on the other side of the room.

Making his way through the dwindling crowd, he managed to catch up to Da-nar', just as he was saying goodnight to Zan and Karanna.

"Da-nar'!" he called from a few feet away.

Da-nar' spun around, his heart pounding from the tone in Max's voice. He could tell that something was very wrong. He had never heard his king sound so distressed. Zan and Karanna looked up anxiously as well.

When Max reached them, Da-nar' demanded, "What is it? What's wrong?"

"It's Liz," Max panted out, sucking wind after dashing around the palace. "Collapsed.... upstairs... unconscious."

"Oh my God," Karanna moaned, tears coming to her eyes. "I knew something wasn't right with her, but she kept insisting she was fine."

"Come, let's not waste time," Da-nar' ordered. He raced through the ballroom, and up the stairs, letting himself into the bedroom, with Max, Zan and Karanna close on his heels. He sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling her forehead for signs of fever. He was somewhat relieved to find her skin of a normal temperature. He lifted her arm, and felt for her pulse. It was strong, but somewhat erratic.

Just as he was about to lay her arm back on the bed, it registered with him just how thin she was. "My God, she's absolutely gaunt! Max, what's going on here?"

If he hadn't been so concerned for his wife, Max probably would have taken exception to the high-handed tone of voice. But right now he could only focus on one thing - Liz. "I - I don't know exactly," Max stuttered. "I just noticed it myself, right before she collapsed."

Zan raised an eyebrow at that. "You didn't notice that your wife was turning into a friggin' skeleton right in front of your eyes? Are you really that unobservant? Or don't you touch your woman when you mate?"

"Lay off, Zan! You don't know what you're talking about!" Max balled his fists at his side, irritated that Zan was trying to somehow blame him.

"Well then, how about you explain it to me, bro?"

"Not like it's any of your damn business," Max ground out between his teeth, "but Liz has been completely exhausted this last week, trying to get ready for the wedding. I didn't think it would be very loving of me to wake her up from a sound sleep when I came to bed, just so I could jump her bones. Does that satisfy you?!"

Zan held up his hands in a defensive gesture. "Hey man, sorry. I just assumed, the way that you are always all over each other, that you would have been... intimate more recently than that."

"Well, we haven't. And I'd appreciate in the future if you wouldn't try to cast me as the villain, based on your own stupid assumptions!!"

"Enough!" Karanna shouted, startling both men. "My sister is lying here unconscious, God only knows why, and all you two can do is have a cock fight? Take it outside, if you can't control yourselves!"

Zan reached out to her. "Hey, sweetheart, I'm sorry..." He pulled his wife into his arms, as she collapsed in a heap of sobs against his chest.

"Yeah, me too," Max added, looking at his brother in apology.

"Are you all quite through?" Da-nar' said with a reprimanding bite to his words. Max nodded sheepishly. "Well, then, I'd like to report, that it appears her condition is from her blood sugar dropping too low. When was the last time she ate? And what was it?"

Max just stood there staring at Da-nar'. When did Liz last eat? He thought back, and couldn't remember seeing her eat anything that day. "Nothing that I saw," he finally admitted. "But then, I haven't been with her every minute, either."

"My guess is that she hasn't eaten for a considerable period of time." Da-nar' frowned with disapproval. "I just can't understand why she would do something like that, when she knows her body is already at risk. It's of the utmost importance that she -"

"I know why she wasn't eating, if that's the case," Max interrupted. "Just this morning she was on a tirade about how god-awful the food you were forcing her to eat was. She said that it made her gag, and that she thought you had chosen the worst tasting foods you could." Max stared at him assessingly. "Is that true? Did you do that, to try and make an impression on her?"

Da-nar' felt his heart race at Max's words. Had his diet caused her to abstain from eating altogether? "I, uh, didn't do it to punish her, if that's what you're suggesting. But I suppose I could have been more sensitive to her human palate when I selected the foods for her to eat." He turned to Karanna. "Could you get some Gungaari juice? It's high in sugar, and if we can get it in her, it might help to revive her." Without a word, Karanna quickly turned and scurried from the room after the juice.

Once she had left, he motioned to Max and Zan to come to the bedside. "I'd like the two of you to try and connect with Liz, and make sure there doesn't appear to be anything else affecting her," he explained. "I intentionally sent Karanna after the juice, to give you an opportunity to do this, without alarming her." The two of them agreed with Da-nar's decision, and moved to initiate the link with Liz.

Once they were in, Max attempted to communicate with his wife. He and Zan were standing in a dark place - he wasn't sure where he was, but he could faintly sense Liz's presence. "Liz? Where are you?" he called out.

"Here, Max." Liz's response was feeble, and he was frightened at how faint his sense of her was.

"Liz, love, you need to keep talking - I need to find you. I can't help you, if I can't reach you."

"I - I can't, Max. Weak. So weak..." Her voice trailed off until it was barely audible.

Not wanting to overtax her, he and Zan came to a consensus as to which direction the sound had come from, and made their way through the darkness. After a bit, Max called to her again. "Liz? Can you hear me?"

"Yes," was all she replied, but Max was encouraged that the voice seemed closer, as they wandered around in her mind. They continued following the sound, and finally saw a little pinprick of light ahead. They hastened toward it, and found Liz's essence, rapidly dwindling in strength.

"Liz!" Max shouted, kneeling beside her mental image of herself, curled in a fetal position. "Baby, what's wrong? Why did you pass out?"

Wanting to cut to the chase, Zan asked the questions his brother was too emotional to ask. "Liz? Have you not been eating well?"

Liz's eyes drifted shut. "Awful," she murmured.

"Is there anything else wrong? Besides the weakness, I mean?" Zan pressed on.

"No. Just so... weak. Tired. Must sleep...."

Max could feel her essence beginning to slip away from him. He knew he couldn't let her essence go to "sleep". "Liz! You can't go to sleep! Not yet. Da-nar' sent for some Gungaari juice for you. You know how you love it. Wouldn't you like to taste some?"

Liz's sunken eyes looked up at him hopefully. "Gungaari juice?" she asked, almost afraid to believe it. Max nodded, and she unconsciously licked her lips, her eyes closing blissfully. "Sweet," she moaned, just thinking about the juice.

"That's right, love. Sweet. And wet." He cast a sideways look at his brother, and then leaned closer to her and whispered provocatively, "Just like you, when we make love."

Liz felt something stir inside her and moaned. Max let his lips brush over hers, and as their essences touched, something like electricity arced around them. As Zan observed the power between them, he was reminded of the way his shield had flared so strongly when he and Liz had dispensed with Jose in New York. If it wasn't for the fact that he had Karanna, who perfectly completed him, he would be jealous now, watching Max and Liz. As the pair separated, Zan thought that Liz appeared to be a little stronger. Somehow, it seemed that Max had transferred some of his energy to her.

On the periphery of his awareness, Max heard Da-nar' tell him that the juice had arrived. Max told Liz that he was going to go, so he could give her the juice. She protested weakly, and Zan suggested that he would leave their connection to tell Da-nar' to go ahead and give it to her. Max smiled gratefully at Zan, and then his brother was gone.

Max encouraged Liz to try and cross the threshold into consciousness, but she was too weak. He knew when Da-nar' had managed to get some of the juice into Liz, because the darkness surrounding them began to dissipate. As the light of her essence began to glow more brightly, Max again urged her to try and surface into wakefulness. Adding his strength to her own, she managed to finally break the barrier. Liz opened her eyes slightly, to see Da-nar', Karanna, and Zan watching her with great concern, and the motionless form of her husband, who was still linked with her.

"All right now, love?" Max asked inside her mind. She gave a barely perceptible nod. Now that she was awake, Max slowly emerged from the deep connection that was all-encompassing, to a more normal one. He could still sense her feelings and thoughts, but it wasn't like his essence was completely immersed inside her psyche.

"Good heavens," Da-nar' muttered. "You gave us one hell of a scare, lady. What happened?"

Liz could have been offended by his words, which might have been rather condemning, had it not been for the look that accompanied them. She wasn't sure quite what his expression said - it seemed to be a cross between concern and guilt. In her weakened state, she couldn't decide what it all meant. What had he asked her? She struggled, trying to focus. Finally she closed her eyes, exhausted from trying to remain awake.

Da-nar' wiped her face with a cool cloth. It marginally revived her. "Come on, Liz, stay with us." He held the cup of Gungaari juice to her lips, and she managed to take several swallows, before collapsing back against the pillows. This time, she was able to keep her eyes open, and when he repeated his question, the words finally registered with her.

"I, uh, guess I must have passed out," she hedged. She was well aware of what had caused it.

"Haven't you been following the diet I gave you?" Da-nar' quizzed her, silently hoping that the whole incident could be chalked up to some other reason.

"Well... yes," she said hesitantly. She wasn't really lying - she was just omitting some pertinent details.

Da-nar' frowned at her in confusion. "I don't understand. If you've been eating what I instructed, you shouldn't be losing weight. But you're nothing but skin and bones, Liz. There has to be a reason for it."

Max had been sitting quietly by her side, but his connection with her was still intact. Suddenly, he understood what was going on. "She's been throwing up after she eats," he exclaimed, as startled by the sudden revelation as those who were hearing it from his lips. Liz merely groaned in frustration.

Fear gripped Da-nar's insides. Was Liz forcing herself to throw up? She had complained occasionally about her enlarging waistline - surely she hadn't developed an eating disorder as a result? That just seemed so unlike their Liz. "Why have you been vomiting, Liz?" he demanded.

This time, the look in his eyes did nothing to soften the impact of his words, and Liz found herself not only feeling defensive, but angry. Staring back at him, her pupils drawn to little pinpoints, she snapped, "Because every time I eat the disgusting things that you have prescribed for my good, it makes me gag and throw up! I didn't have one bout of morning sickness, until I started on your insufferable diet!"

Da-nar' recoiled from her vehemence, as well as the accusation she hurled. He could tell that she blamed him for this whole situation, and damn, but if he didn't have to agree with her, up to a point. "All right," he returned defensively, "I'll accept the lion's share of the blame here, but let's get one thing straight - you should have spoken up about this long before things escalated to this level. We could have made some sort of substitutions, or... or... something," he finished, frustrated at his own lack of ability to think coherently. He couldn't remember ever feeling as emotionally shaken as he did right now. Just thinking about what might have happened, if Max hadn't found her in time, and gotten help....

Liz lowered her eyes, ashamed of the way she had attacked Da-nar'. He was right. She should have said something long before that conversation she had with Max that morning. "You're right," she conceded rather sheepishly. "My only excuse was that with the wedding and all, I didn't want to get into some big argument over my dietary restrictions with you. I had too much other stuff on my mind." In her own defense, she added, "I did try to sneak a snack once from the kitchens, but apparently someone had given them explicit orders regarding what I was to be eating." She arched a brow accusingly at Da-nar'. But the lopsided smile that accompanied it took any challenge he might have read out of the statement.

"Guilty as charged," Da-nar' confessed. "But now the question is: what are we going to do about the situation? Not only do we have to make sure that you are eating healthy, but now we have the added burden of making sure you regain the weight you lost."

Liz shrugged. "All I know is - you have to get me something different to eat. I just can't keep that stuff down that you were giving me before."

"Yes, well, there is that. I also am going to have to insist that you get plenty of rest. I don't want to restrict you to total bed rest, but I only want you up and about for an hour at a time, maybe three or four times a day, until your strength returns."

"Oh, no, I couldn't possibly," she objected. "I have too many things to take care of to be confined to -"

"Shh, my love," Max interrupted, placing his index finger across her lips to seal in her protests. "You need to cooperate here. Please - think of the baby, if you won't do it for yourself."

Liz hung her head in shame for being so selfish as to not consider her unborn child. Meekly, she nodded her acquiescence.

Sensing how deflated she was from this latest turn of events, inspiration struck Max. "Da-nar', is it possible to create a diet from Earth foods for Liz? Something that would be a little more to her liking?"

"I suppose," Da-nar' answered cautiously, "But getting the food would be a challenge. Things need to be fresh to be best, and you certainly can't be running back and forth to Roswell, arousing suspicions. Besides - how would you pay for it?"

Liz looked at Max with a puzzled expression, and he smiled gently at her. His gaze never wavering from her beloved face, he revealed his idea. "What if Liz went home to stay with her parents for a little while? A week, maybe? I'm sure that her mother would love pampering her, and we would be sure that she got her rest that way. If she stays here, she will be alone a good portion of the day, while I'm busy with other things."

Liz bolted upright in the bed. "Do you mean that, Max?" she asked excitedly.

Max grinned at her first show of being back to her normal self. "Yes - would you like that?" he teased.

"Oh yes!" She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him until he thought he would pass out from lack of oxygen.

"Uh, Liz..." he choked out.

Liz let go of him, and smiled bashfully. "Sorry. I guess I got a little carried away."

Max kissed her forehead. "It's quite all right. I'm glad you like the idea."

"Oh, I do!" As soon as the words were out of her mouth, though, she frowned. "But what about Philip? Who will take care of him?"

"Don't worry," Max told her, soothing her worry away as he stroked her hair. "I've got a couple of ideas. But I don't want you having to worry about caring for him while you're trying to get your strength back."

Liz willed her body to relax, sinking back against her pillows with a yawn. "All right," she murmured, suddenly feeling very sleepy. "I trust you, Max." She laid her hand over his, where it rested on her stomach, and promptly fell asleep.

"That's good," Da-nar' commented. "She needs all the rest she can get. Now, how do you propose she is going to be able to stay with her parents, when all of Roswell thinks that she is missing?"

Max flashed him a conspiratorial grin. "Don't you see? Once she's at her parents', she can't leave. She can't take the chance of anyone seeing her. Here, she might try to take off and do things, but she'll be confined to the apartment there. Even if she doesn't stay in bed, she can hardly strain herself in such close quarters, unlike here, where just walking up and down the stairs alone would be taxing."

"You're a genius, bro," Zan complimented his devious scheme. "So who's going to go to the Parkers' and approach them about this?"

"I will," Da-nar' volunteered. "After all, I can show up, and no one will think anything of it. That way, I can leave now, while it is still daytime in Roswell. Beats having Max sneak into the Crashdown in the middle of the night, and giving Jeff and Nancy a heart attack." All present agreed with his reasoning, and then the room cleared out for the night.

Once they were gone, Max stripped and climbed into bed next to his sleeping wife. "Good night, my love," he whispered, then placed a feather-soft kiss on her lips. His hand reached down to rest on her belly, and he made a connection with their child. Max smiled, as he gained reassurance that the babe was doing all right. Daddy's little girl, he thought to himself, and marveled at the fierce wave of protectiveness that flooded him for the second time that night. As much as he was going to miss his family, he knew he would do anything - including letting them go back to Earth temporarily - in order to insure their well-being.

Weary from the day and all the stress it had contained, Max settled down beside his wife, and pulled her into the safety of his arms, then promptly fell asleep.

posted on 14-Jun-2002 11:35:18 PM by sheeperz
Britterz -

Thanks for the fb! Yes, you recall correctly about Zan talking to his son about being king. But he will not be king of the Antarians. *wink*

And no, Liz wasn't making herself throw up. Shoot, I thought I had that clear. It was just that the food was making her gag. She just couldn't keep it down. Sorry for the confusion.

posted on 19-Jun-2002 10:52:22 PM by sheeperz
Well, here we are again! After the trauma of the last part, hopefully this will calm you all down. Yes, Michelle, I'm talking to you. *giggle* *big*

Kind of a transitiony chapter, but hey. They're important too, right?

Hope you enjoy - let me know what you think.

Part Fourteen

Knowing that Liz was in good hands, and safe for the time being, Da-nar' prepared himself to make the trek to Earth, where he would approach the Parkers about Liz coming home for a while.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The dinner rush was just getting under way at the Crashdown, when the Parkers, accompanied by Jim Valenti and Amy DeLuca came through the front doors, dressed to the nines, laughing and having an obviously good time. The sounds of their laughter echoed through the restaurant, causing Jose's head to swing around abruptly where he stood at the grill. His brows knit together in apparent bewilderment over the way these parents seemed to be carrying on with life, in the face of their children's disappearances. Less than a year had passed since the kids had come up missing, and yet they looked like they had been out somewhere partying. He shook his head, unable to grasp the absence of grief. About the closest any of them came was Jeff's short brooding period right after they vanished.

And then there was Ms. DeLuca. For a mom as protective as her, it seemed incredible that she should be taking her daughter's decision to move away and live with her father with such apparent ease. Odd, but he had always thought they didn't know where Maria's father was....

As he flipped a batch of burgers, Jose glanced back over his shoulder at the two couples, who were now seated in one of the booths. But his were not the only eyes fixed on the happy little group. Their merriment was the object of much speculation from the local regulars who were in for an early dinner. But the foursome was completely oblivious to the wondering stares... and one other set of eyes that catalogued everything they did.

Agnes approached the booth, and after speaking briefly with the couples, headed for the coffeemaker. She returned several minutes later, bearing cups of hot java and assorted condiments. The four adults chatted casually as they drank their coffee, turning down Agnes' offer to put in an order to the kitchen for them. There was, of course, no way that they could tell her they had already eaten their main meal of the day on a distant planet...

Eventually, Jim excused himself, stating that he had switched with Hanson to pull the night shift so he could go to the wedding. He leaned over and gave Amy a quick kiss, but the look in his eyes told her to be looking for the squad car to show up in her yard later that evening. Shaking Jeff's hand, and nodding at Nancy, he took his leave.

Jeff saw it as a prime opportunity to make his escape and leave the women to talk. He had an order to finish for supplies, and he had to do some work with the books. He kissed Nancy, and told her he was going to go upstairs where it was quiet. She nodded, and after saying good-bye to Amy, he exited into the back room.

Amy sighed, and Nancy smiled. "Well, it was some day, wasn't it?" Nancy asked her friend in a hushed voice.

"I'll say. But worth every minute of planning and stress."

"Be thankful. I didn't get to participate in any of Lizzie's plans. But I'm grateful, nonetheless, that she's so happy." She started to say something else, but cut off the comment, as she saw someone approaching. She didn't take notice of who it was, but when the young woman stopped by their table, she finally took a good look at her. "Oh! Dana! I didn't recognize you at first - how have you been?"

Dana smiled. "Just fine, thank you, Mrs. Parker."

"I'm glad to hear that," Nancy said sincerely, returning the smile. "I was a little concerned, when you left us without a word, last time you were in town. I hope there was nothing wrong." Please don't ask about Liz, please don't ask about Liz...

"Oh, no. Something just... came up. I had to leave rather suddenly."

A chill ran through Nancy. There was something oddly familiar with this young woman that had never affected her before. She shook her head, trying to rid herself of her fanciful notions. That was the price one paid, when one's daughter was married to an alien king, she supposed. It could tend to make one's imagination run amok.

"So, how long are you planning on being in town this time?" she found herself asking, hoping that the young woman wouldn't take it as an invitation to hang around. Truth be known, the idea of Dana staying with them disturbed her greatly. She chalked it up to the fact that she didn't want to be forced to answer any uncomfortable questions regarding Liz's disappearance.

Dana smiled with secret knowing, as she answered, "Oh, not long. I'm just passing through, actually. But I did want to drop in and see you and Mr. Parker for just a bit." It was then that Dana locked her gaze with Nancy, willing her to understand that she meant to talk to them in private.

But Nancy saw far more in that look than the silent message being transmitted. Her eyes widened like saucers, as the arresting black eyes pierced into her soul. "Oh my God..." she whispered. Dana's eyes revealed her surprise, that Nancy had recognized her for who she truly was.

"What? What is it?" Amy questioned her friend.

Nancy snapped out of her visual bond with Dana. "Uh, nothing, Amy. I, uh, think I'd better take Dana upstairs now. I'm sure she has a lot of things to do, and would like to get her talk with us out of the way." Dana nodded her agreement.

Reluctantly, Amy stood, her eyes quietly assessing Nancy, noticing the fine trembling in her hands. "All right. But you know where I am, if you need me," she declared, giving Dana a pointed look that suggested she best not be messing with the Parkers.

"Thanks, Amy," Nancy replied, leaving the booth herself, and giving her friend a hug. "I'll talk to you later," she whispered.

Amy rubbed her hand on Nancy's shoulder. "Okay, I'm holding you to that." Amy bent down and picked up her coat from the bench, and with one last look at Nancy, turned and left the Crashdown.

Shifting her focus to Dana, Nancy simply said, "Shall we?" and then headed for the swinging doors in the back of the dining room.

As Nancy mounted the stairs to the apartment, Dana asked softly from behind her, "How did you know it was me?"

Nancy halted her progress, and turned to look down at the young woman who was standing 2 steps below her. "It's your eyes. There's something in the way that you looked at me - I just knew." Without another word, she continued her ascent, letting them into the living room at the top of the stairs. "Jeff?" she called into the quiet apartment. "We have a visitor."

Jeff's form appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. His eyes sought out his wife, and then the guest with her. He smiled broadly when he recognized the woman. "Dana! We wondered what happened to you."

"Actually," Nancy interrupted, wanting to cut to the chase, "Dana isn't exactly who she appears to be. You see, this is Da-nar', the kids' protector."

The smile drained from Jeff's face, and his jaw clenched, as he struggled to maintain his composure. Never mind that he had come to terms with the fact that his daughter was part alien - he still resented the man who had made that decision for them, without having the decency to discuss the situation with them. "What do you want?" he asked in a less than friendly tone.

"I'm here because Liz needs your help. She's, uh, taken ill -"

"What?!" Nancy demanded. "But we just saw her less than two hours ago! What happened?"

"It seems that the foods I prescribed for her to insure a healthy pregnancy have not been setting well with her. She's lost weight, and generally is feeling weak. I was hoping that if you were willing, we could bring her here, and she could have a healthy diet of foods that she might find more palatable."

"I don't understand," Jeff interrupted. "Why didn't you mention this when we were there for the wedding?"

"Because I didn't know about her difficulties at the time," Dana answered carefully.

Nancy saw right through his lame answer. "What aren't you telling us?"

Dana let out an audible sigh. "After the reception, when Max went up to their room, Liz collapsed in his arms. We discovered that she had been having trouble with the foods for several days, but neglected to mention it to anyone. She claims she didn't want the hassle while she was planning Maria's wedding."

"Sounds like Liz," her father commented, shaking his head.

"Yes, well... Anyway, since Liz's gestation seems to be 7 months instead of 9, I think you can see why proper nutrition is so vital to supporting the developing fetus. If she can't get it on Antar, I'm not too proud to ask for some help. Liz's health is my uppermost concern."

"And we appreciate that," Nancy voiced for them both. "Of course she can stay here - but what if someone sees her?"

"We will bring her in during the middle of your night, and get her settled. Once she's here - she's in for the count. We figured this is one way of making sure she stays put and gets some rest. She can't very well leave the apartment and take the risk of being seen."

"Ooo, very sneaky," Nancy beamed with obvious approval. "So - do you have a list of foods that Liz should eat or avoid?" she asked, her playfulness now overshadowed by her mother's nurturing instinct.

"Well, basically healthy foods - fresh fruits and lean meats in moderation, as many fresh vegetables as she can eat... Do you have a juicer by any chance? Juicing a lot of raw vegetables would be a great way to get extra vitamins and minerals into her."

Nancy frowned in thought. "No, but... I think Diane Evans does, and I heard they have finally come back into town after being away the last several months. I'm sure she would allow us to use it, under the circumstances."

Dana shifted uncomfortably. "Under the circumstances..." she echoed hesitantly.

"What?" Nancy encouraged her to finish.

"If you want to borrow it from her, fine, but I think it would be better not to let her know why you are using it."

"But why? Surely for the sake of their own grandchild -"

"Because none of the kids have been in contact with them, and there is still a lot of hurt. But Max is dealing with it in his own way, and I think he is intending to approach his parents in the near future. I wouldn't want to do anything to interfere with his plans."

"I suppose not," Nancy agreed solemnly. But that didn't mean she couldn't talk to Liz about it later. Then another thought came to her. "What about little Philip?"

"Ah yes, Philip. I was going to ask for your counsel on that matter. I see a few different options available to us. One is, Liz could bring him with her, if you didn't mind having him here. Naturally, Liz will need assistance with him. But at least he would be here for her to nurse.

"The second option would be to ask Karanna to take him, since she is nursing little Katherine, and would be able to nurse Philip as well. The last and least desirable choice would be to find a suitable wet-nurse for him among the Antarian women."

Nancy looked at Jeff, her eyes pleading with him. "What kind of a monster do you take me for, that you think I would separate Lizzie from her baby?" he questioned his wife. "Of course little Philip can come with her." Nancy gave him a trembling smile, obviously pleased with his decision.

"Good, then it's settled. I'll bring her in about... 9 hours or so. That will give her a good long rest, and a chance to pack a few things."

"Right. Well, I guess I'd better give you a key -"

"Oh, that's all right," Dana broke into Jeff's sentence. "I'm sure that Max will want to come along, and, well.... having him is like bringing along the local locksmith." Jeff and Nancy chuckled in agreement. "So - I guess I'll be going. See you in a few hours." She crossed to the door, and Nancy followed her.

As she held the door open behind Dana, she said, "Thank you so much for taking such good care of Liz."

Dana smiled at her. "I couldn't do anything less," she assured her. "Especially after what we went through to get her here, hmmm?"

Nancy blushed, remembering how instrumental Da-nar' had been in Liz's conception and birth. Of course he would feel protective of her. "Yes, of course. I should have thought -"

"No need to apologize. But I really should be thanking you - both of you -" Dana clarified, including Jeff with a glance, "for doing such a splendid job of raising Liz to be a woman of great character, perfectly suited for her role as Queen of Antar. The people of Antar are profoundly grateful."

Nancy simply nodded, her throat tight with emotion. When she had signed on to be a mom, she never figured she would be sharing her baby with another planet full of people. But she couldn't deny how proud she was of her little girl.

Dana could easily read the emotion on Nancy's face, and smiled at her - a sad smile full of remembered feelings that Da-nar' would rather not dredge up again. "Well, see you later." With that, Dana spun around and descended the stairs to the back door of the Crashdown.

As soon as she was gone, Nancy grabbed her purse and keys, and started to head for the door. "Where're you going, Nance?" Jeff asked.

"I thought I'd run to the store, and stock up on some fresh vegetables, and a few other healthy things." Her eyes gleamed mischievously. "And maybe a half gallon of ice cream, just to help her gain a little weight. You know how she loves her ice cream."

Jeff chuckled. "She sure does. Do you want me to come with you?"

Nancy shook her head. "I want a little time to sort out my thoughts, and make some mental plans. When I get back, I'll be ready to talk about what we're going to do with Liz home for the next week."

Jeff held her chin with his fingers. "All right. I'll be here waiting." He leaned down, and placed a tender kiss on his wife's mouth. "Hurry back," he said against her lips, his voice growing a little husky. He realized, if she didn't, that tonight would be the last time they would have the freedom of their apartment for a whole week. He had grown fond of the more uninhibited, vocal lover his wife had become in the months since their daughter had moved out, and he intended to take advantage of their last night of privacy.

Nancy recognized the predatory gleam in her husband's eyes, and felt herself growing warm under his heated gaze. Unable to get her vocal chords to function, she merely moved her head jerkily in an affirmative response. When Jeff released her, she walked out of the apartment on shaky legs, and went about her business.

* * * * * * * * * *

Liz couldn't help but notice how uncharacteristically silent Isabel was, as her sister-in-law helped her to pack her things for the trip back to Earth. She decided to give Isabel some breathing room, and not pester her about what was bothering he, but by the time they were nearly finished, Iz had yet to utter a word. Overwhelmed by compassion for whatever was troubling her friend, Liz gave in to the temptation to pry.

"Isabel, what's wrong? You haven't said a word this whole time. Did something happen with Alex?" That seemed the most obvious direction to look. It was no secret that things had been pretty up and down between Isabel and Liz's best friend lately.

"Hmm? Oh, no, Alex is fine," Isabel answered distractedly.

"Well then what has got you so upset?" Liz pressed. "I've never seen you so withdrawn."

Isabel sighed and dropped down to sit on the edge of Liz's bed. "It's just... I'm so envious of you, Liz."

That admission came as a surprise. "Me? Why?"

"Because more than anything, I wish that I could just go home and be with my parents - to hang out for a week at their house, having them be excited to see me." She looked down at the floor. "That must seem incredibly selfish, huh? I didn't mean that I begrudge you having that kind of relationship with your folks."

Liz sat down next to her, and squeezed her shoulder. "I know that, Isabel. And I'm truly sorry that things between you and your parents are the way that they are. But maybe in time things will get better."

"Oh, I wouldn't count on that," came the skeptical reply. "I think their position has been pretty clear." She bounded up off the bed, and started packing again. "But, that's as it is, and there's no use whining about it. Let's get you finished here. I know that Da-nar' is getting anxious to leave."

Playfully, Liz just grabbed a bunch of unfolded clothes off the bed, and tossed them in on top of the neatly folded clothes that Isabel had already packed. She slammed the top of the suitcase down, and latched it. "There! All done!" she grinned.

Isabel rolled her eyes. "You are hopeless, you know that?" She grabbed up the heavier pieces of luggage, leaving Liz with the smaller, lighter pieces. "Come on, Your Highness. Let's get this show on the road." Giggling, the two of them descended to the lower levels, where Max and Da-nar' were waiting.

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

Under the cloak of night, Max opened the secret doorway at the base of the rock formation that housed the pod chamber. Da-nar' pulled the nondescript, late-model car that Jim Valenti had provided them from the secret "garage" that they had come to refer to as "the Batcave". Max waved his hand over the control again, causing the door to slide shut, as he climbed inside the vehicle. They drove the distance to Roswell in tense silence. Liz held Philip, and was curled up to Max's side, facing for the first time the reality that she would be separated from him for an entire week. And it wasn't like she would be busy - she was under strict orders to be bored out of her skull, at least from her point of view. Thank heavens she would at least have Philip to give her some sense of purpose for those days.

When they arrived at the Crashdown, they slipped in through the alley entrance, and quietly padded up the stairs. Fortunately, Philip had fallen asleep in his mother's arms during the 40 minute drive, and didn't awaken when Max took him from her. When they reached the apartment, though, they found Nancy up and waiting for them. She had all the blinds drawn tightly, so as not to alert the neighbors to unusual activity. She welcomed Liz with a hug, as well as Max, and immediately relieved him of the sleeping bundle he carried. She explained that Jeff had gone to bed, since he had to be up for the early shift downstairs, and then escorted Max and Liz into Liz's old room. The blinds had been drawn there, as well, shielding Liz from the view of those who would do her harm.

Sensing that Max and Liz needed a few private moments to say their good-byes, Nancy went back into the living room, where Da-nar' was awaiting his king for the return trip. She motioned to him to have a seat and be comfortable. "Max will be out shortly," she informed him. "They just needed a few private moments. I've never seen two people so attached to each other." Her mouth quivered with a suppressed grin, even as she made the observation.

"What they have is special indeed. That kind of love -" Da-nar' abruptly halted the flow of words coming from his mouth, as he realized the direction his thoughts were leading him. It would do no good to bring up the painful memories of the love he continued to harbor for Nancy. Redirecting the conversation slightly, he commented, "I'm glad to see that you and Jeff seem to have worked things out."

Nancy's eyes slid away from him, to stare at the wall on the other side of the room. Despite her reconciliation with her husband, Da-nar's penetrating gaze could still shake her to the core. Obviously he didn't face the same struggles, since he seemed genuinely pleased that she and Jeff had ironed things out. "Yes, things are much better, thank you."

"I'm glad. It's never a good thing, when a marriage is ended prematurely," he commented softly. "On Antar, divorce is almost nonexistent. There are only rare instances where it is even permitted. Antarians believe firmly in couples working out their problems. Through the generations, my people have willingly adopted their ideals."

"You're right of course. It really is for the best. And now that Liz is gone - well, Jeff and I have spent a great deal of time really getting to know each other again. We're not just 'Mom' and 'Dad' anymore. We spent so many years focusing our lives around Liz, that we'd kind of lost sight of who we were as individuals, and as a couple. It's almost like courting all over again..." It was her turn to bite her tongue, realizing that she was running off at the mouth about her marriage, to a man who undoubtedly did not want to hear all about it. One glance at his now rigid posture confirmed her suspicions. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go on and on about it."

Da-nar' relaxed, and offered his own apology. "No, I'm the one who is sorry. I didn't mean to give you signals like I didn't want to hear what you were saying. I guess... I'm just not as immune to the pain as I would have liked to think."

"I wish it didn't have to be this way. I have tried to minimize the occasions where we would be forced to socialize. I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable."

Da-nar' smiled. "I've done the same thing. I wonder how many times we've both missed out on something, because we were trying to spare the other?"

"Maybe we ought to work out some sort of system," she suggested with a shy grin.

"No - I think we should both just attend whatever functions we wish to," he countered. "Seeing you wasn't as painful as I had anticipated. I won't say that it doesn't bother me at all, but I can handle it. Can you?"

Nancy nodded. "I'm glad we talked about this. Something about hiding from you just seemed so unnatural. I'd like to think that we could still be friends - or at least, friendly."

"So would I," he answered, relief showing in his eyes. They fell silent for a moment, and Max entered the living room with silent footsteps.

"Liz is nursing Philip, and then she plans on them both taking a nap afterward," he informed Da-nar' and his mother-in-law. "Are you sure you don't mind having the baby here?" he asked. "I don't want to make a lot of extra work for you, and he can be pretty demanding at times. Liz, of course, will try to keep up with him -"

"Don't worry, Max," Nancy reassured him, laying a hand on his forearm. She caught herself before reacting in surprise to the steely strength that lurked under the sleeve of his shirt. She had no idea he was so muscular. She continued in a steady voice, "I'll make sure that she doesn't overdo it with him. She'll be fine here."

Max nodded, the gratitude in his eyes revealing the trust he had in her abilities to do just that. Reluctantly, he said, "I guess we'd better go." He reached out to pull Nancy into a hug. "Thank you so much for taking care of her for me. I just hope that I don't go crazy without her."

Stepping back as he released her, Nancy reminded him, "You're always welcome to come and visit, Max. You know that. You can spend the whole week here with her, even."

Max sighed wistfully. "I wish I could, but unfortunately, I have things to care for back on Antar. But I may show up occasionally," he added with a timid, boyish grin. The thought of another whole week without feeling her writhing beneath him seemed a total impossibility. In fact - wasn't that how they got in this whole predicament to begin with?

Nancy gave him a knowing smirk. "Yes, I imagine you will. Don't bother knocking if you come in the middle of the night - just make sure you lock up before you come upstairs." She winked at him, and he chuckled.

"All right, I will. Come on, Da-nar', duty calls."

Together the men left the apartment, and Nancy turned off the lights, and headed toward the bedroom. On her way, she peeked into Liz's room, to see her daughter and grandson asleep side by side on the double bed. Her heart warmed at the sight, and she quietly closed the door and went to bed.

posted on 20-Jun-2002 2:48:31 PM by sheeperz
Just a little note for all of you regarding the idea of Max sneaking in to sleep with Liz...

Y'all just need to remember that time in Roswell and time in Antarra do not coincide. I went back through some of the previous fics trying to locate it, but I couldn't find it... I'm pretty sure it was about an 8 hour difference. So when it is 10:00 at night in Roswell, it is 6:00 am in Antarra. Just something to keep in mind!*wink*

Yes, poor Da-nar' is still hung up on Nancy, although he will never act on it. Indeed, he needs a love of his own. Maybe then he'll mind his manners, and butt out of M/L's reproductive business, eh Michelle? *giggle*

Thanks so much, everyone, for staying with this story, considering how long it has been. It means a lot to me!

posted on 25-Jun-2002 10:18:18 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone! Here's the next part. Some of this may seem a little familiar to you... now that we are starting to incorporate part of the glimpses of the future.

Hope you enjoy, and I look forward to your comments!

Part Fifteen

Isabel laid curled up next to Alex watching him sleep, dreaming about how differently she wished things could be between them. She wondered if she would ever be able to let go of the ghosts in her past, and give herself completely to him.

As if sensing her scrutiny, Alex opened one eye and looked at her. "What?" His voice rumbled deeply, husky from sleep.

She smiled sadly at him. "Nothing - I was just thinking."

"About -?"

"About how differently I wish things could be. You know...."

Resisting the urge to go another round with her at the moment regarding the merits of marriage, Alex sighed and pulled the soft, warm body lying next to him closer. "Remind me again how it is, that I am so blessed to have you?" he asked her.

"Oh, Alex," she whispered, trailing her hand absently across his chest. "I'm the one that's blessed. To be able to have a second chance with you. When I think of how it could have ended up - how it did end up once, because I was too stupid to trust you with my heart...."

"Shhh, we've been over this a hundred times or more. Let's not waste any more of the precious time that life affords us, thinking of what might have been, all right? Let's focus on the gift we've been given, and enjoy every minute of it to its fullest."

"You're right," she sighed, snuggling closer. "Still, I'm glad that Max and Liz found a way to come back from the future, and change all that."

Alex smiled, as his lips placed a kiss on the top of her head. "Well, that makes two of us. I certainly prefer lying here with you, to lying in the bottom of a hole six feet down," he joked.

"Alex! That isn't funny! If I'm not supposed to dwell on it, you can't joke about it!"

"Okay, okay, my apologies. So tell me, princess, how does it feel, slumming with the common folk of Earth?" he said teasingly. "Like the makeshift bed?"

Isabel raised up on one elbow, leaning partially over him, her long blonde hair falling around them like a curtain. "I don't care where I am, or where I sleep, as long as it's with you," she told him, her face serious, and her eyes shining with all the love she felt for him.

"Still," he griped, looking around the pod chamber, "this is hardly the way I prefer to woo my lady love."

Isabel gave him a 1,000 watt smile. "Well, maybe your lady love is so enamored with your presence, that she doesn't even notice." She leaned down, and kissed him soundly, her bare breasts pressing against his chest.

When she ended the kiss, he reached up to brush her hair behind her ear on one side, while giving her a rueful smile. "I want more for us than this, Isabel," he told her softly. "I want a house with a yard, and half a dozen kids running around screaming, filling our lives with laughter, and more love than we can imagine. Your world, my world... it doesn't really matter where. Just as long as we are together. Because you are my world."

"I don't think that your parents are quite ready to embrace the concept of an alien daughter-in-law, do you?" she asked, struggling with that familiar pain of being rejected, just because she was "different".

"If they can't handle it, we have our answer. We live on Antar."

"I can't even consider living on Earth right now. You know that."

"Right. Antar it is."

Her eyes probed his, as if trying to see into his very soul. "Alex, do you really want to do that to your family? To walk away from them, and never come back?"

"What? Like you did?" he said with a slight edge to his tone.

"Alex, that's not fair. You know why I had to leave."

"Maybe I do, but they don't. Your mother and father have finally returned to Roswell, Isabel. Couldn't you at least come for a visit? I know that it would mean so much to them. I'm sure they miss all of you terribly. They look so... sad. So distant. Like their hearts were ripped out, and all that is left are these empty shells that are just going through the motions. Surely you don't want to leave them like that?"

Tears started to stream down her face. "No," she whispered, choking back a sob. "But I don't know what else to do! If we go to them, we could put them in danger. What should I do Alex? How can I face them, now that they know that I'm not even human? When that is what's responsible for them being the way they are?"

"Don't you get it, Iz? That doesn't matter to them, it never did. They don't care that you aren't even from this solar system, for crying out loud! They were a lonely couple who couldn't have children, and one night, God in His mercy decided to place two homeless children who needed a mom and dad into their care. That's their reality, can't you accept that?"

Isabel started to cry. "I want to believe it, Alex. But the look on their faces... the shock.... I don't know if I'll ever forget it."

"Honey, listen to me. Anyone would have been shocked. Don't you remember the denial that I went through? How you had to prove to me that you were more than human? Do you still doubt that I love you?"

"No! You know that I don't."

"Then try and understand that your parents had to adjust to this new reality, too. But they can't, fully, because your staying away is only making them hate themselves. They feel like they let you all down. Like they failed to let you know how much they love you, and need you in their lives."

"You don't know that, you're just assuming." Alex went very still, holding her gaze captive with his. "Aren't you?" she whispered, a spark of hope flickering in her heart.

"No, Iz, I'm not. Your parents always asked about you - how you, Max and Zan are doing. So I went over to the house one day, shortly after you left, to tell them that I'd seen you, and that you were doing well." He took a deep breath. "They asked me never to tell you this... but when I got there, your mom was crying, and your dad was just holding her on his lap, trying to comfort her. That's when they told me they felt like they had failed as parents. They wished they had known better what to do for you - how to help you. They even asked if you ever mentioned them. They think you despise Earth, and everything about it - including them. It was shortly afterward that they left Roswell."

Isabel began to sob. "No! God, how could I despise them?! They are everything good and kind and perfect about Earth. If it wasn't for them, we would have despised this planet. They showed us that not all of humanity is evil."

"Then see them, Isabel. If you're afraid for them to be seen with you, we can meet somewhere else. If you won't do it for them, do it for yourself, Isabel. You don't want them to pass away, not knowing you love them, do you? Do you want to carry those regrets with you for the rest of your life? The rest of our life together? Are you going to just exchange one set of regrets for another? Or are you going to learn from the mistakes that you have been spared from making?"

"You're right," she sobbed out. "Will you arrange it? A place for us to meet?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. "Isabel, I promise, you won't regret it. When? When should I bring them?"

"Tonight," she said, laughing through her tears, as she wiped the moisture from her cheeks. "Tell them - I can't wait to see them. And I'll try to get Max and Zan to come - but don't mention that, in case they can't make it."

"All right, I won't. Usual time?"

"Yeah, that'd be great. You'll come and get me?"

He grinned at her. "I certainly won't make you walk. They'll be so thrilled to see you, I know they will." He looked at his watch. "But right now, we have to say good-bye, my love. I have to get to class, and you have a planet to help rebuild." He kissed her tenderly, and then got up and started to dress, as she pulled her Antarian dress over her head, and tied the sash. When they were both clothed, they met for one last kiss, and then he walked her to the portal.

"I'll be waiting all day, just to be in your arms again tonight," she whispered against his lips.

"So will I. You take care of yourself, and be careful. Even though your people have found peace with the Talerians, I still worry about you. Don't let your guard down, okay?"

"I won't Alex. And have I mentioned that you give me this same pep talk every time I leave you?"

He pulled her so her body was flush with his. "And I will continue to give you this 'pep talk' every time you leave me, until you agree to marry me, and be with me always."

Isabel stroked the side of his face, and smiled up at him. Things were changing for her. She was going to see her parents for the first time in almost two years. Maybe things could turn around for her and Alex. Maybe.... "We'll see," she said softly, then kissed him one more time, before she turned and disappeared through the portal.

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

"Max?" Pause. "Max!"

"Huh? Oh, what? What did I miss?"

Zan let out an exaggerated sigh. "This is so not going to work, Maxwell, if your body is on Antar and your mind is on Earth. I can't keep repeating everything five and six times, just so you can get it once."

Max closed his eyes and hung his head, taking several slow, steadying breaths. How could he explain what he was feeling to Zan? This was more than just pining away for Liz, being that they were separated for the first time since their marriage nearly a year ago.

"Zan, I'm sorry. It's just... something feels off. I can't place my finger on it, but my spirit has been restless all day."

"Ever since you left Liz in Roswell. Max, it's no big mystery. You miss Liz. But you gotta press on, man. There are too many decisions to be made here."

Max shook his head. "If it was just missing Liz, I could do that, Zan. I don't know how to explain it, but this is something different entirely. I'm jumpy and irritable, and I don't have a clue why."

"PMS?" Zan teased.

Max expelled his breath with a loud whoosh, mixed with a chuckle. "Yeah. If this was Karanna or Liz, that's what we'd chalk it up to, huh?" he grinned. "So what's my excuse?"

"A build up of testosterone?" This time Zan waggled his eyebrows in a leering fashion.

"Shh! Do you have to like, freakin' announce that to the whole damn kingdom? Some brother you are!"

"Hey, I calls 'em likes I sees 'em. You, my boy, need to get some serious lovin' from your woman."

Max raked a hand through his hair. "How I wish I could. But her health has to come first. Still - that's not the crux of my problem."

"Then what is?"

"Damn, but I wish I knew, Zan. I wish I knew."

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

Liz had no trouble adjusting to the time difference between Antarra and Roswell. Thanks to her spell from the day before, she was still physically drained, and after getting Philip fed and settled in, she laid down for a "nap" that effectively took her through the rest of the night hours of Roswell. When she awoke at 8:00 the next morning, it was to the smell of ham and eggs, no doubt to be accompanied by toast and juice. Her mother's favorite breakfast to make, when she was trying to spoil her "baby".

Baby. Liz sat up with a jolt, aware that Philip was no longer in the bed with her. She had been too tired to get up and lay him in the cradle after feeding him in the middle of the night, so she had curled a protective arm around him and joined him in slumber land. But now he was gone!

Panic-stricken, Liz bounded out of the bed and dismissed any thoughts of donning a robe over the T-shirt she had worn to sleep in. Flinging open her bedroom door, she raced down the hall to where her mother worked busily in the kitchen. "Mom -" Liz shrieked out, and then stopped dead in her tracks. There, sitting securely strapped into a sitting position in a high chair was little Philip, busy playing with various brightly colored objects that her mother had littered his tray with. She grinned when his chubby little hand managed to grasp the rim of a small red cup and bang it on the tray, as if in demand that someone get him a drink. Of course, he was too small to be drinking from a cup, but it was still precious.

Letting her heart rate return to normal, she walked over to where he sat. "Good morning little man," she sing-songed to him, as she knelt beside the highchair and stroked his head full of soft, black baby curls. "I see Grandma sneaked in and woke you up, huh? She just couldn't keep her hands off you," she told her son with a giggle. "That's the price you pay, for being such a beautiful baby," she added in a conspiratorial whisper.

"While it's true there isn't a sweeter baby anywhere to be found," Nancy called over her shoulder from the stove, "I must speak in my defense. I did not wake your baby up. When I peeked in the room, he was wide a wake and singing to his toes."

Liz would have grinned at the thought. She had seen him play with his toes and coo at them, and it was too cute by half. But the thought that he was awake and she hadn't stirred bothered her. More so, that her mom could have come in and taken him, without her awakening. Nancy discerned the look on her daughter's face, and addressed her fear.

"Liz, your mind knows that you are safe her with us, and your body desperately needed the rest. It doesn't make you a bad mother, just because you have limits. We all do. And the whole purpose of you being here is so that I can help you take care of Philip, while you regain your strength."

Liz sighed. "I know you're right, Mom. But it's just so hard. We were looking over our shoulders for so long here, always waiting for an attack from an enemy we couldn't tell from any other humans on the planet. It makes you a little paranoid after a while."

Nancy set a heaping plate of food in front of Liz. "I'm sure it does, honey. But you have defeated your enemy Ki-var', and now Max is the rightful ruler of Antar, as it should be. You can relax, and stop worrying so much."

"I only wish I could believe it."

Nancy's face twisted into a grimace of confusion. "Why can't you, honey? With Ki-var' gone, what threat is there?"

Liz swallowed a mouthful of ham and eggs, and nearly groaned in ecstasy. She suppressed the urge, and instead answered her mother, "The FBI, for one."

"The FBI?!" Nancy shrieked, placing her hand over her heart and sinking into a chair.

"Forgot about that, did you?" Liz asked wryly. "I don't think I need to tell you how imperative it is that we keep our presence here a secret. If the Special unit is still working secretly, or even any renegade agents that knew about it, I can't begin to tell you the danger that we all would be in."

"Dear God...."

"Exactly. Anyway, who knows what other enemies are still lurking around? Just because we managed to defeat Ki-var' on Antar, doesn't mean some of his henchmen aren't still floating around on Earth like a bunch of loose cannons. They came here to kill us, and regardless of the fact that Ki-var' is dead, they may still be gunning for us on his behalf. Or for their own reasons. Truthfully, we don't even know how much contact they had with the forces back on Antar. They were sent here to do a job, and that may be all the communication they ever had. We just don't know."

"And here I thought that coming home would be relaxing for you."

Liz reached out and covered her mother's hand with her own. "It is, Mom. We just have to be cautious is all I'm saying."

"Well, Jim and Amy are the only ones who know you are here, and you know they're not going to tell anyone."

Liz smiled. "Yes, they have been very good friends to us. We're so blessed to have them, and you and Dad...." Her voice trailed off, and the look of sadness in her eyes tugged at Nancy's heart.

"Baby, what is it?"

Liz fought the tears that were threatening. "I was just thinking about Isabel... and Max."


Liz knew that her mom was opening the door for her to share, without trying to put any pressure on her. "They've had a really hard time over this business with their parents. More than anything, they wanted their parents to be loving and supportive, the way that you guys and Amy have been. It was a crushing blow to have the Evanses basically turn their backs on them."

"Is that really what they think? That Philip and Diane don't care about them?"

"Mom, you were there. Mr. Evans didn't leave so much as a ray of hope for them to cling to. He was pretty furious, if you'll recall."

"If you'll recall," her mother countered, "so was your father. And look where he is now. Did it ever occur to any of you what a shock this all must have been for them?"

Hope swelled in Liz's heart. "Have they said anything to you? Do you know for a fact that they want to see Max and Isabel?" she asked excitedly.

"Well... no," Nancy admitted hesitantly. "But that doesn't mean anything. Shortly after you all left for Antar, Philip and Diane packed up and left Roswell. Rumor has it that they went to Clovis to open a new office there. To be honest, I didn't expect them to ever come back to Roswell, but lo and behold, they moved back into the house on Murray Lane last week. I personally haven't seen Diane, but you know how it is. You hear things."

"Things? What kinds of things, Mom?"

Nancy shrugged, as her fingers picked at the threads on the placemat before her. "Oh, I don't know. Just that Diane looks unhappy.... 'haunted' was one word I heard used. Naturally, no one thinks twice about it, being that their three children disappeared mysteriously." Nancy looked up and locked gazes with Liz. "But we both know that she isn't 'haunted' by the mysterious disappearance of her children. So one has to ask just what would cause her to be so upset."

"Do you think that she regrets losing Max and Isabel? And Zan?"

"Honey, you're a mother now. What do you think?"

Something quickened inside Liz at her mother's words. Despite all the love and support that Nancy had shown her and Max over the past months, she still always felt like her mother viewed her as a little girl trying to play grown-up. Or maybe she was just projecting her own insecurities onto her mother. Who knew? But now... it was like her mom had just initiated her into some sort of private club, consisting only of "real women". By asking Liz to draw on her experience as a mother to understand Diane Evans' heart toward her own children - it was like saying they were now on a level playing field. No longer just mother and daughter, but equals. Friends.

"Well, I know that hell would freeze over before I stopped loving Philip," she answered with great conviction. "And I also can't imagine anyone not loving Max. Or Isabel or Zan either, for that matter, even though they are a little more standoffish."

"Exactly," Nancy replied, as if Liz had just proved her point. "Coupled together, I can't imagine that Diane isn't in a great deal of torment over the destruction of their family."

Liz nodded in agreement. "Yes - but what about Mister Evans? You know the saying - 'As the rudder goes, so goes the ship'. What if he's forbidding her to have anything to do with us?"

"That would not be a wise move on his part, trust me. Your father learned that lesson the hard way. A woman can take a lot from a man, but don't mess with the relationship between us and our babies. If forced to choose, the babies would win."

Liz tried to imagine Max trying to force her to choose between him and their children. The concept was so incomprehensible to her, she couldn't begin to imagine what she would do in such a situation. She snapped herself out of her silent musing after a moment. "So... what can we do to get their family back together?" she asked, hoping against hope that her mother might have a plan.

"Well, probably nothing right now. I don't want to take any chances while you are here with us. But as soon as you and little Philip are safely back on Antar, I'll get together with Amy, and see what we can do."

Liz got up to take her empty plate to the sink, and hugged her mom's neck on the way by. "Thanks, Mom. It would mean so much to Max and Isabel if they could be reconciled with their parents."

"No problem, sweetie. I can't make any promises, but I'll give it my best shot."

"That's all anyone can ask."

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

Alex left the pod chamber through the door that Isabel had opened before she left him. He squinted, as his eyes made the adjustment to the bright New Mexico sun that was high overhead. From the looks of things, it must have been close to noon. My, how time flies when you're having fun, he thought amusedly, a goofy grin stealing across his face. He felt better than he had in months, and all because Isabel was willing to try and put this business with her parents to rest. In his mind, once that issue was resolved, they could get on about their lives, and finally get married. Because he was sure that her worst fears were about to be dashed, and once she had the security of her parents' love again, she would be much more amenable to the idea of settling down with him.

With that thought firmly in mind, he hustled to where he had left his 4 wheel drive pickup parked. Hopping in, he revved the engine, and took off in a cloud of dust for the city limits of Roswell. It was Sunday, so he had the whole day to himself, and he knew just where he wanted to go first.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Jun-2002 10:22:56 PM ]

posted on 26-Jun-2002 9:30:18 PM by sheeperz
Hey Cinder!

Must be you were MIA when we took a poll, and I asked what people thought about me changing that to ONE year, instead of TWO. General consensus was to go ahead and change it, so if you go back to the Epilogue of DJ2, you will see that it has been changed to reflect that. I also made some subtle changes from the original text of the Epilogue, to make it transition into what is currently going on (which I could not forsee at the time). Hope that clears up any misunderstandings!

posted on 3-Jul-2002 12:17:17 AM by sheeperz
Hey guys! Here I am, finally. *Phew* I've been working on a new project that I'm finding hard to put down - hope to start posting it soon. It isn't the other new one I mentioned before - it's a THIRD story. *sigh* My muse is going to have me on overload soon.

My thanks to you all for your patience.

I have an email list that I use to send out notices of new parts (and will also be announcing new stories that are posted). If you are interested in being placed on the list, please send me an email to fanfic⊕ You can put "Fanfic List" in the subject line, and I would appreciate it if in the message field you at least listed your board name. That way, I don't send you b-mail as well! I'd really like to go to an all email list, but I'll understand if some of you prefer to keep the anonymity of the b-mail system.


JANE! (BITL) - Whoops, did I do a boo boo? *blush* I'll check into that little slip about the classes and Sunday bit. Remember, when I wrote that Epilogue, this book wasn't even on the horizon. I had to make some subtle changes to the Epilogue to get it to dovetail into current events. I guess I overlooked one particular little detail, hm? Thanks for pointing it out!!

So, that said... Hope you all enjoy this part! Some surprises along the way... Hints of things buried in the text - I'll be interested to see what your reactions will be! (BTW - I didn't have a lot of time to edit - if there are any glaring errors, please feel free to point them out.)

And thanks for the awesome feedback guys! (AND the shameless bumps!*big**bounce*) And now... ON WITH THE SHOW!*angel*

Part Sixteen

Liz was sitting on the floor playing with 3-1/2 month old Philip, when a harsh knock came at the door to the apartment. Instantly gripped with fear, she grabbed the gurgling infant off the floor, and fled to her bedroom, hoping that he wouldn't make any loud noises, alerting whoever was on the other side of the door. Her mother had gone downstairs to help her father with the lunch rush, which dragged on for hours on Sundays. She didn't expect her mother back upstairs until at least 3:30, and a quick glance at the clock by her bed told her that wasn't for another 2 hours yet. Grabbing the portable phone that her parents had left in her room, she darted into the bathroom with her son in her arms, and locked the door. With trembling hands, she frantically dialed the number for the restaurant downstairs. Please, she prayed, let Mom or Dad be the one to answer....

"Crashdown Cafe. May I help you?" Liz let out an audible sigh of relief. "Hello?" her mother's voice spoke into the conversational void.

"M-mom, it's m-me," she stuttered, willing her thundering pulse to still, so she could hear above the rush of blood in her ears. "S-someone's knocking at the door!"

"I'll be right there! Hide!" The last was an urgent command, spoken in a harsh whisper, and then the line went dead.

With great effort, Liz managed to disconnect the phone, and fought back an irrational urge to laugh hysterically at her mother's instruction. Did she actually think that her daughter was loopy enough to answer the door?

Although the seconds dragged by in torturous anticipation, it was only a few moments later that she heard her mother call out to her. "Liz! It's all right honey, you can come out."

Liz hesitated for a moment. What if whoever had been at the door had only pretended to go away, and just waited for an opportunity to get inside? What if -

"Liz!" She heard a familiar male voice call to her from her bedroom. The locked handle on the bathroom door jiggled, and then a fist rapped lightly on the wood. "Come on, Lizzy. I'm sorry I scared you like that. Open the door."

Liz let her breath out in a rush, as she fumbled with the lock, until it released. With no help from her, the door swung open, and she lunged into Alex's open arms. He quickly enfolded her in a fierce embrace meant to restore her sense of security. She didn't even notice when her mother rescued a squirming Philip from her death grip. Stroking her hair, Alex crooned softly to her, encouraging her to release the emotions raging through her adrenaline ravaged body from the aborted fight-or-flight response she had just experienced. Her body was quivering with reaction, and as Alex continued to soothe her, she finally released the sob that had been firmly lodged in her chest.

"That's it, Lizzy, that's it. Let it all out."

After a few more shuddering sobs, she finally pulled back, and speared the fingers of both her hands into her hair, holding it back from her face. "God, Alex, you scared me half to death."

Alex cupped her face in his hands. "Aw, Liz, I'm so sorry. I never would have done that to you on purpose. I guess it never occurred to me that you would be so on edge here at home." Seeing the fire flare in her eyes, he added emphatically, "And justifiably so! I'm not criticizing - I just wasn't thinking. At all. Dumb. Stupid man. Bad, bad," he continued berating himself in a comical monologue, hoping that the absurd lengths he was going to, to apologize to her, would ease her tension.

A mischievous grin slowly worked its way across her mouth. Her eyes sparkled with merriment, as she chided, "You're right, of course. Thank you for sparing me the need to chew you out myself."

"Any time, my lady," he said submissively, bowing with a grand flourish. "I live to bring you pleasure."

"Yes, of course," she returned with a stuffy, snobby air. Holding her hand out, she declared, "You may kiss the royal ring."

"Oh, thank you, my lady," he gushed, then knelt before her, and kissed her wedding band. "Please, if I may be so bold, mistress.... am I.... forgiven?" He uttered the word in a whisper of desperate hope.

Liz had all she could do to keep a straight face. Feigning boredom, she distractedly examined her nails and answered, "Oh, I suppose so. But do get up from there, knave. If you must grovel, go and fetch me a quart of Moose Tracks ice cream. That should be sufficient penance."

Alex sprang to his feet. "Certainly, my lady! You are too gracious! I, thy humble servant, shall return momentarily!" Each fervent proclamation was punctuated with a deep bow, as he backed out of the room. When he disappeared down the hall, Liz chuckled into the empty room. No one but Alex could be goofy enough to have her laughing after the terror she had just experienced. She sighed, exhausted from the range of emotions she had just endured. She sank back onto the bed, waiting for her breathing to calm the rest of the way after her fright.

She was laying there with her eyes closed, when she felt something cold against her lips. The corners of her mouth kicked up in a smile, and her little pink tongue darted out to take an unintentionally seductive swipe at the frozen offering.

"Oh, God...."

The frustrated groan that reached her ears caused her eyes to fly open, as she sat bolt upright on the bed. "Max? What are you doing here? In broad daylight?! My God, how could you take such a risk?"

Max frowned. "Gee, it's great to see you too." Hurt, he got up from the bed, jamming the spoon back into the carton with much more force than was necessary, bending the handle. Obviously, she hadn't missed him nearly as much as he had her. He turned to leave the room.

"Wait!" Max paused in the doorway, although he didn't turn around to face her. "Where are you going?"

Max's shoulders slumped dejectedly. "Back home to Antar, I guess." He took another couple steps, propelling himself into the hallway.


He turned to look back at her. She was sitting up on the edge of the bed, staring at him. Sighing, he asked, "What is it, Liz?"

Tears shimmered in her eyes. "Please, don't go," she pleaded, patting the mattress next to her.

"It's okay, Liz," he said gruffly, trying to reassure her. He didn't move so much as one step in her direction. "I didn't mean to invade your peace and quiet. If you need your space, apart from me, I understand." Bull. He didn't understand at all. But he'd be damned if he would force his presence on her.

"Max, please come here," she urged. "I didn't mean to make it sound like I didn't want you here. I was just surprised, because I was expecting Alex to be bringing me ice cream... and it is the middle of the day, and I thought we agreed to only roam the streets of Roswell in the wee hours of the morning...."

Max shrugged, then rubbed his neck wearily, stepping just inside the door. "I had a hell of a day, and all I could think about was being with you. It seemed worth the risk... at the time."

Liz's heart dropped into her shoes. Her husband had needed her, and all she could do was nag at him like a fishwife for his careless behavior. She should have taken into account that Max was not prone to irresponsible behavior, and factored that in, before chastising him. "I'm sorry, Max. I didn't mean to sound like I was complaining. Of course I'm glad to see you - I just worry about you. Don't you understand that?"

Max's tense features softened, and he strode gracefully to the bed, sitting down beside her. "It's nice, having you worry about me," he confessed, kissing her softly. "Not, mind you, that I like you to be worried. But what I mean is, it's nice to know you love me enough to worry. Does that make any sense?" he asked with a shy smile.

Liz reached up to push a lock of hair that hung across his forehead back into place. "Yes, I understand. Because it means everything to me, that you love me enough to not be able to stay away. Although," she added, as her fingertips trailed down to trace his lips, "I do wish you would be a little more careful. We have no idea who might be watching and waiting for us. It's only been a year since we 'disappeared'. You know as well as I do that the Special Unit had been hunting for you far longer than that, and didn't give up, even when they had no idea who or what they were looking for. And even though they are supposedly disbanded... well, let's just say it seems too good to be true. And now that they know who you are, they may be just lying in wait for you - or any one of us, for that matter - to surface again."

Max sighed, hanging his head in shame. "You're right, of course. And I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you or Philip -" He placed his open hand over her womb, "or this little darling, all because I couldn't control my urge to be with you. But in my defense, I have been having some really weird feelings lately, and it's very unsettling."

"What kinds of feelings, Max?"

"Feelings of overprotectiveness for you and the children," he told her without apology. "And I stress the "over" part. I came damn near having an anxiety attack this afternoon. That's why I'm here. I had to make sure that you were all right."

"Oh, Max..." Liz wrapped her arms around his neck, and pulled him down with her, as she lay back down on the bed. When he merely hovered over her, instead of coming all the way down, she lifted her upper body, until her lips could fasten onto his. Her kiss was hot and hungry, and left no question in Max's mind that she was extremely pleased to be with him.

"Liz... oh, God.... Liz...." he panted in between passionate kisses.

"AHEM! Shall I get a bucket of cold water for you two?"

Max growled. "Go away, Alex! Can't you see we're busy?"

Alex chuckled. "Oh, I see, all right. But I was here first, and I have something important to talk to Liz about. And you too, as long as you're here. So put the reunion on hold, and I'll try to make this quick."

"It would be much appreciated," Max snarled back, rolling to the side, and sitting up on the edge of the bed.

Alex grinned. He knew that although Max was frustrated by the interruption (for the evidence was irrefutable), his irritable demand was delivered without any true malice. "Okay, then I'll just jump right into it, and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. I talked to Isabel this morning, and she's agreed to allow me to set up a meeting with your parents and her for tonight. And she said that she would try to get you and Zan to come, too," he added, directing his comment to Max.

"Absolutely not." Max, Liz, and Alex looked up to see Nancy standing framed in the doorway, little Philip asleep in her arms. "I'm all for a reconciliation between Phil and Diane and you kids, but this is not the time for it."

"I agree," Max added hastily. Something in his eyes alerted Alex that this was not a frivolous request made from fear of confronting his family.

Alex's face turned red all the way to his ears. "Care to tell me why not?"

"Because I don't want to do anything that could potentially trigger a manhunt, while my baby is staying in town," she declared with great fervor, and Alex was afraid he would wilt under her piercing stare. He had never known her to be so assertive.

"O-of course," he stammered, realizing his blunder. "I'll just explain to Isabel that we'll have to wait a few days. I know that it will be hard for her to wait, now that she's made the decision to face your parents. But I'm also certain that her first concern will be Liz's safety."

"As well it should be," Max said with authority.

Alex got the underlying message - if Isabel balked, he was to let her know in no uncertain terms that Max would not tolerate Liz being put in jeopardy unnecessarily. He nodded in a silent promise. But while Max had visibly relaxed some at his gesture of compliance, Alex still observed a haunted look in Max's eyes. It baffled him, but he reasoned that Max would not want to discuss it in front of his wife. If there were any concerns he had, he would not wish to alarm Liz, especially in her fragile condition. Determining to address him on it later, he temporarily shelved his curiosity.

Seeing that everything had quickly resolved to her satisfaction, Nancy disappeared into the living room. Once she was gone, Alex shook off his uneasiness regarding Max and smiled broadly. "Well, I guess that's that. I suppose you'd like some privacy now, your majesty?" He directed the comment at Max, with no small measure of amusement.

Max threw a pillow at his friend, beaning him on the head. "Yes, I would! Now scram."

"Max!" Liz exclaimed in mock horror. "Must you be so rude?"

Max arched an eyebrow at his beautiful wife. His amber eyes were alight with sensual mischief, as he pinned her to the bed with his hard body. "You betcha, baby." Alex's laughter rang out, as he left the room, shutting the door firmly behind him.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Isabel was waiting impatiently, when Alex arrived at the pod chamber that evening. As soon as she saw him coming, she raced down the path that led to the base of the rock formation. Hurling herself into his arms, she clung tightly to him, absorbing his strength as he held her against himself. After a few moments, she regained her emotional equilibrium, and leaned back to look up into his face expectantly. "So? Is everything all set?" she asked, then bit her lower lip anxiously.

Alex rubbed his hands over her upper arms in a soothing gesture. "Well, there has been a slight complication -" he began.

"But they don't want to see me," she interrupted dejectedly.

"No! That's not it at all," he quickly assured her. "In fact, I haven't even approached them yet -"

"Alex, you promised!"

Alex took a deep breath and uttered a silent plea to the heavens for patience. "Isabel, will you please let me finish, before you jump to all the wrong conclusions."

"Sorry," she mumbled, looking suitably chastised.

"Good. Now - here's the deal. I talked to Max and Liz this afternoon, and between Mrs. Parker and Max, I was instructed not to set any reunion up while Liz is convalescing at her parents' home. They both thought it was too risky for her to have the potential of us attracting unwanted attention to the families. As soon as she goes back home to Antar, then we can proceed with the plan. It'll only delay things for a few days, all right?"

It wasn't all right, but Isabel recognized her selfish reaction for what it was, and immediately dismissed it. After all, they were right. Liz's safety had to come first. It wasn't worth the risk, just to have the meeting take place a few days earlier. "Of course," she answered meekly, laying her head on Alex's shoulder.

Letting his fingers trail up and down the length of her spine, Alex praised her for her understanding. "You've really changed this last year, Isabel. Your parents will be so proud of you. They always were, of course, but now they will be doubly so."

Isabel sighed. "I hope you're right, Alex. I just keep thinking that this whole plan is a recipe for disaster. Stir the pot, and who knows what will happen?"

"Isabel, you worry too much."

Maybe so, she thought. But she couldn't shake the feeling of impending doom, every time she envisioned the reunion with the couple that had literally saved their lives all those years ago. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what would have happened to them, had some government agent gotten their hands on them for any length of time. But as she examined the looming sense of malignancy surrounding the proposed meeting, she knew its source was not the Evanses. It was as though there was an evil presence lurking....

Isabel shuddered in Alex's embrace. "What is it, sweetheart?" he asked her.

"I - I can't explain it, really," she answered truthfully. "I just sense... some menacing force, or something. I know, it sounds stupid."

Alex clasped her face in his hands. "No, love, it doesn't sound stupid. In fact, it may shed some light on something that was bothering me earlier."

"Really?" Isabel was astounded to think that perhaps her impressions weren't as irrational as she had originally feared. "What happened earlier?" she probed.

"When I was talking to Max and Liz... it was like something was bothering Max. More than just Liz being sick. After all, she's out of danger, and convalescing quite nicely at her parents' apartment. So there isn't any need for him to be worrying on that score. But there were shadows in his eyes, like something was making him uneasy. I'm wondering if he might be sensing the same thing that you are."

"But it doesn't make any sense!" Isabel wailed, finally giving voice to the internal struggle she had been having the last couple of days. Pulling away from Alex's grasp, she began to pace restlessly, as her mind tried to work through the puzzling situation. "I know what I feel, of course, but why am I feeling it? This is not my gift, Alex. Or even Max's. It belongs to Liz. Yet she doesn't seem to have any of these irrational fears plaguing her. Shouldn't that be some sort of indication that we're off-base here?"

Alex stood silently, pondering Isabel's arguments. True, Liz was the one with the ability to discern evil. Why wouldn't she be the first one to be aware of its presence, if indeed a threat existed? As soon as the thought entered his head, he was forced to acknowledge that her body was seriously out of balance at the moment. Perhaps it was affecting her ability to perceive potential threats? He expressed as much to Isabel, wondering if he was even making sense.

Isabel stared at him blankly for a moment. Just as he was about to apologetically denounce the whole suggestion as frivolous, she breathed, "Oh, my God. Do you suppose, that she isn't perceiving the threat consciously, but somehow her subconscious mind is aware of it, and trying to warn us through some sort of low-level telepathy? I mean, I know it sounds far-fetched, but Max and Liz have that incredible connection, and we've all joined essences on more than one occasion - maybe it opened up some sort of 'emergency channel' or something between us. Is that even possible?" she whispered, feeling like her breath had been trapped in her lungs.

"Hell, Isabel - with you guys, who knows? I mean, you are genetically the best of both humanity and Antarians. You're still in your teens - you've yet to reach full physical maturity. And look at how long it has taken some of your abilities to manifest themselves. You're still discovering new things that you can do - maybe this is just another one of them."

Isabel covered her mouth with a trembling hand, in order to prevent the shriek of terror lodged behind her lips from escaping. When she was confident she could maintain her control, she whispered hoarsely, "I have to talk to Max. Maybe he'll know what's going on - what to do."

Alex looked at his watch. It was only 10 pm. "I don't know, Iz. It's a little early yet to be wandering around Roswell. But if you disguise yourself, we can probably slip into town undetected. I can park in the alley behind the Crashdown, and we can take the back entrance into the building...."

"Yes. Let's go," she said decisively. "This is something that just can't wait." Nodding in understanding, Alex wrapped his arm around her waist, and silently, they walked to the car together.

Less than an hour later, Alex hurriedly escorted a young woman with short, dark hair into the service entrance of the restaurant.

Across the street, a cell phone jangled in the jacket pocket of a man located on the roof of the UFO Center. Cursing under his breath, he lowered the field glasses from his eyes, and snapped the offending item open. Answering its insistent ringing he growled, "What the hell is it now? I told you not to call me when I'm working!"

A woman's cold, hard voice answered on the other end. "Let's just remember who gives the orders, shall we?"

"Let's just remember whose ass is on the line, if a ringing telephone exposes my covert surveillance, shall we?" he hissed back mockingly. Damn, the bitch was really getting on his nerves. One of these days...

"All right, let's dispense with the niceties," she purred facetiously, "and get down to brass tacks. Have you got anything to report? You've been in Roswell for the last two months, and the sum total of evidence I have before me as a result of your assignment merely indicates that you have been eating well and sleeping in comfort. The gravy train is over, buddy. Either there is something there to warrant your attention, or there isn't. Now, which is it?"

"Is," he answered simply.

"Do tell," she retorted dryly. "Care to elaborate, since I'm signing your paycheck?"

"Subtle. Very subtle. As a matter of fact, you might be interested to know that it appears the Evans kids are skulking around town. Apparently they weren't abducted by aliens after all." He chuckled at the irony. If only the local yokels knew they were the aliens...

"The Evans kids?" The voice that came back at him changed noticeably. It was now alert, and very interested. No longer was there an air of dismissal. Perhaps, just perhaps, he had redeemed himself, he thought. "Are you sure?" Nope. Back was the familiar tone of suspicion that reminded him that she considered him to be an incompetent fool. He couldn't help wondering why she hadn't fired his ass long ago, what with the way they launched into a cat fight every time they spoke to one another these days. He certainly never made an effort to smooth the feathers he continually ruffled on her.

"Yes I'm sure," he spat out indignantly. "Sorry to disappoint you, love, but I'm not the blundering fool that you constantly insist that I am."

He could practically hear her tension humming through their connection. Knowing her as he did, he envisioned her standing at the window of her apartment, her free hand clenched into a fist of rage, her body coiled and ready to strike at his sarcastic use of the term of endearment. She hadn't been his love now in months - ever since he found out that she had slept with the director in order to further her career - placing her in the enviable position of being his boss. A position that had once been held by his own brother. He highly suspected that it was her way of getting revenge on him for refusing to allow her to railroad him into marriage. At one time he himself had considered tying the knot with her. But as they grew closer, she began to reveal more and more of her true self to him, and he began to seriously question her stability. Just his luck, that he ended up in a position subordinate to hers. One way or the other, either personally or professionally, she was determined to henpeck him to death.

"Anyone else show up?" she finally managed to grind out.

"Just the Whitman kid. They're all hanging around the Crashdown - using the service entrance to boot. Looks like our dismissal of Whitman was premature. He might not have taken off with their merry band of followers, but he's definitely in cahoots. He's the one that brought Miss Isabel in just a few moments ago."

"I wonder why they are meeting there?" she pondered aloud. He heard a rhythmic drumming sound as she thought in silence. Her fingers tapping on the window perhaps? "You don't suppose that Max's little girlfriend slipped into town without your noticing, do you? That would explain them hanging around her parents' place."

He sighed into the phone. "I suppose it's possible. Especially if she snuck into town in the wee hours of the morning. Damn it, woman, you stranded me out here all alone on this assignment. What do you expect? That I should work 24/7 with no sleep, or time to get something to eat?"

"Hmmm," she intoned, as if considering the prospect. "It would lead to a quick solution to my problem of how to deal with you in the future. Seeing how you would be absent from it, and all," she drawled. Now he was the one to tense in anger. Although why he should be surprised that the idea of seeing him dead would please her, he hadn't a clue.

"Don't get your hopes up too high, darlin'," he drawled back. "You may sign my paychecks, but you don't own my soul. I'll do the best I can on the job, but if it isn't enough...." He left the inference hanging.

Sighing theatrically, she moved to end the caustic bantering. After all, "the company" was paying for the call. "Keep me informed of their movements. I'll have my cell with me at all times, and I'll be on the first flight out of here in the morning."

He groaned his displeasure loudly into the mouthpiece. "Just what I need," he groused. "Shall I book you a room at the same hotel I'm staying in?"

"Are you sure I can't bunk in with you?" she purred seductively.

"When hell freezes over, honey," he returned in a low, sexy rumble that he could just have easily used to tell her that he'd be looking forward to having her naked in his bed. And then with a deliberate, angry stab, he disconnected the call. Well, shit. His peaceful reprieve from the amoral barracuda was about to come to an abrupt end.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Jul-2002 12:20:26 AM ]

posted on 9-Jul-2002 2:54:04 PM by sheeperz
Hehehe, I see I got y'all going on that last one. Let me just say, to make this as clear as mud, that some of you were almost on the right track, and some of you were way off. But I won't say who and what. *big*

Jane, Tess is dead, remember. She is not the barracuda. Although we may wish she was by the end of this.... NOT. *giggle*

Jane (BITL) - your question about why he was watching the Crashdown will come out in this part. Very astute, m'dear.

Linda - hehehe, yeah, I couldn't just get them together in one swift, easy motion, now could I? *giggle*

Izzy - glad you liked my "baddies". They sort of took on a life of their own there. Guess I was needing some new characters to spur on my creative juices! LOL!

Thanks to you all for your comments. Unfortunately, this will not come to a rapid resolution, so hang on. The ride is about to get bumpy!

Hope you all enjoy this next part. Let me know what you think!

Part Seventeen

Max quietly pulled the door to Liz's bedroom shut, a smile gracing his lips that felt like it originated in his toes. It never ceased to amaze him how his beautiful wife could make him feel like he was glowing all over. And now she had the help of little Philip, and their precious daughter that she was carrying. He swore that if he felt any more love for them, his heart would literally burst.

After having spent the evening with his family, just cuddling on Liz's bed, the two of them playing with little Philip as they talked about their future, his sense of well-being was at an all-time high. After all, with the duties he had on Antar, and all the commotion with Maria's wedding, there just hadn't been a lot of quality time for them lately. But even basking in the afterglow of the intimate family scene, there was still this niggling fear at the edge of his brain. Something that just wasn't right.

He padded down the hall, and made a beeline for the refrigerator. Liz was the pregnant one, but you couldn't tell it from Max's appetite. He surprised himself that he could be so hungry, after the abundant spread that Nancy had laid out for dinner just four short hours ago.

He was bent over with his head in the fridge, when he heard his sister's voice say, "Max!" He straightened reflexively, banging his head on the edge of the refrigerator.

"Geez, Iz, way to scare a guy out of five years of his life," he complained, rubbing his head. "What are you doing here, anyway?" He narrowed his eyes accusingly at Alex, as he shut the refrigerator door.

Alex threw his hands up in surrender. "Don't shoot! It isn't what you think!" he pleaded.

Max's features softened, and he chuckled at his friend's response. Alex always knew just how to play the alien card to get a laugh, and ease the tension. "All right, I'll hold my fire - for now," he teased with a smirk. "So why are you here?"

Seeing her tremble, Alex wrapped an arm around her Isabel's shoulders. "Go ahead, Iz. If you share it with Max, it won't be so bad." This comment earned a concerned look from Max.

Isabel drew a deep breath. "I - I've been having these weird feelings lately," she told her brother hesitantly.

"Weird? How so?" Max asked gently, trying to encourage her to open up.

"I know this is going to sound crazy, but I keep having this strange sense of impending danger - like there is some evil lurking nearby, waiting to pounce." The blood drained from Max's face. "Max? What is it?" Isabel asked on the verge of hysteria, seeing her brother's reaction to her statement.

"I've been having the same kind of feelings," Max whispered in response.

Isabel stabbed her fingers into her hair in nervous frustration. "I was afraid of that," she confessed.

Max looked at her in surprise. "Why? What made you think that I was having similar concerns?"

"Actually, that what would be who, not what, and the answer is me," Alex informed him. "I sensed earlier that you were uneasy about something, and when Isabel told me about her unexplained fear, I kind of put two and two together."

"And we talked about what it could mean," Isabel added in.

Max arched an eyebrow. "Oh? And what did you come up with?"

"Well, it's only a guess, mind you," Alex clarified. "After all - what do I know about the inner workings of the alien mind?"

Max rolled his eyes in mock impatience. "Disclaimer noted, Alex. Now, what's the theory?"

"I was lamenting how this isn't my gift - you know, to sense evil," Isabel said in a rush, picking up the ball. "I didn't know why I would be sensing it, and not Liz, since that is her gift. Anyway, Alex mentioned that you had been acting uneasy, and suggested that maybe Liz just wasn't picking up on it, being that her body is out of whack with the pregnancy and all that has happened. And that got me to thinking... what if Liz's conscious mind wasn't perceiving the threat, but her subconscious was, and was sort of - oh, I don't know. Like, broadcasting it out to us?"

Max's eyes grew round in his face, as he considered the implications of Isabel's theory. What if Liz's mind was trying to warn them of something that her conscious mind wasn't able to deal with right now? Sort of a self-preservation kind of thing? "There's one way to find out for sure," Max replied distractedly.

"Connect with Liz," Alex guessed.

"Exactly. But she's asleep, and I don't want to disturb her rest right now. Besides, I have to get back to Antar," he concluded after glancing at the clock. "Liz should be safe enough for now. No one knows she's here."

"Can you be so sure?" Alex said, voicing his worst fears.

"No, I can't," Max admitted. "But neither can I be sure that the threat we're sensing is here and not on Antar. I could just as easily be moving her into danger by taking her home."

Alex sighed. "You're right, of course. Look, I'll do my best to keep an eye on things here while you're gone. You'll be back tomorrow to check on Liz? And try a connection?"

"Do you really need to ask?" Max asked dryly.

Alex grinned. "I guess that was pretty stupid, huh?"

"Quite. So listen, I'll take Iz back with me, and save you a trip back out to the desert tonight." He held his hand out, and firmly shook Alex's when it was offered in return. "And thanks, for taking care of my women for me," he added with a wink.

"My pleasure," Alex responded with a lecherous grin.

"Hey - confine those baser thoughts to my sister, will you?" Max warned playfully. He felt no brotherly duty to protect Isabel from Alex. He knew that Alex loved her to distraction. In truth, he was more worried about Alex in that relationship.

Alex sighed theatrically. "Oh, all right," he agreed, sounding totally disappointed.

Max laughed. "C'mon, Iz," he urged, ushering his sister to the front door to the apartment. "Time to slink off toward home." Isabel turned and wrapped her arms around Alex, giving him a heated kiss goodnight.

"Ahem." Max raised a brow in silent reprimand, as Isabel turned to face him once the kiss was over.

"Oh, stuff it, Max. You're just jealous, because Liz is asleep, and you aren't getting any."

Max chuckled. "Can a man have no secrets?" he lamented to Alex.

Alex grinned widely. "Not with Isabel. Be warned - she has us all figured out."

Isabel laughed in delight at Alex's assessment. "Let's go, brother mine," she said between giggles, grabbing his arm and dragging him through the door. Alex watched from the window as they disappeared into the night - totally unaware of the lone figure watching them from across the street.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Hot damn," Adam muttered under his breath, as he saw Isabel leaving the Parkers' apartment. Only this time she wasn't escorted by the lanky Alex Whitman. No, if he wasn't mistaken.... could he really be this blessed? Had he discovered the one and only Max Evans hiding out over the Crashdown? Looks like his patience had paid off in spades this time, contrary to what that tyrant he worked for expected. Although he had to admit that things hadn't shaped up just the way he had imagined. He assumed that if they ever showed their faces in this town again, they would go to the Parkers because the human girl would be their weak link. She would want - no, need - to see her parents. And when she did, he would be lying in wait for her. Instead, it was the Evans kids that had blown into town and headed to the Parkers'. But why?

He hastened to the side of the building as his thoughts continued to plague him. Tossing a rope over the edge, he lowered himself quickly, jumping in his car and tailing the vehicle he saw emerge from behind the Crashdown. With his lights shining in their back window, he could clearly discern two figures, and was confident that he had the right car. Staying at a safe distance, he followed them through the city streets, until the car finally stopped in the parking lot of a sleazy motel. Now what the hell are they up to? He parked the car, and cut the engine, waiting to see what would happen. He saw the male get out of the car and come around to open the passenger's door. As the female emerged, the driver pulled her into his arms for a long, steamy kiss, grinding his hips into hers unashamedly.

Adam watched, incredulous, if not a little fascinated. Well, if this ain't kinky. Wonder what their mama would think. He felt his jeans become increasingly restrictive, as he watched the erotic display. And then a horrible thought occurred to him. Snatching up his binoculars, he focused in on his prey, just as they were breaking apart. Damn! These aren't the Evanses at all! Somehow, they must have taken another way out of the back alley, and I ended up following someone else! Cursing them, himself, and the forces of fate, he started the car, peeling out of the parking lot like a man running from demons. He snorted at the thought. If he didn't figure out what was going on above the Crashdown Cafe before that witch flew in on her broom, dodging demons would be the least of his worries.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In the early afternoon on Antar, Zan studied Max as he was making his way across the great hall, heading toward his private chambers. Zan could see weariness in his bearing, but there was something else there - a weight of concern that caused his shoulders to droop under the burden. He wondered what had happened while Max was with Liz, to cause his brother such grief. Deciding not to let him carry the burden alone, Zan stepped out from the shadows, just as Max was about to pass by him.

"Hey, bro', what's up?" he asked.

Max nearly jumped out of his skin - he had been so lost in his thoughts, that he hadn't noticed Zan until he spoke. "Oh, uh, hi," Max said wearily, and his eyes shifted away from Zan's, as if he was afraid to let his brother read the fear and confusion swirling in their depths.

"Come on, Max, you'll have to do better than that," Zan chided softly. "This is me, remember? I know something is up, and you know full well I won't let you rest until I know what it is, too. Your burden is my burden."

Max sighed, alternately disgruntled at his lack of ability to hide his feelings from his twin, and grateful that he could share this problem with him. Then a thought occurred to him. "Have you been feeling anything... unsettling lately?" he asked hesitantly.

Zan looked startled. "Well, yeah - you too?"

Max nodded. "And Isabel. We're wondering if Liz is sensing some danger subconsciously and passing it along to us. Say - Karanna hasn't been sensing anything, has she?" He doubted it, knowing that Zan would have come to him immediately if Karanna sensed any imminent threat.

"Actually, she has," Zan informed him, causing his head to snap up in surprise. "But she said it's really odd - not like anything she's ever felt before. She said it's almost like an echo...." His voice trailed off, and his eyes widened, as he realized the potential implications of what he was saying.

"So maybe she isn't sensing the danger, because it's not near her... but she's getting this echo of discernment through her connection with Liz?"

"I'd say, given the fact that we are all sensing the same thing, that it's quite possible. God, I hate to even think it."

"Because that means that the threat is back in Roswell, not here on Antar. And like a jackass, I left Liz there unguarded."

"Well, as long as she stays out of sight, she should be okay," Zan countered, trying to reassure Max.

"Still - I need to get back to her as quickly as I can. I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to her because of my stupidity."

"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. You aren't omniscient. You can't be expected to know everything."

"No," Max agreed, but then challenged, "I should, however, know enough to not let my wife out of my sight. That woman is my very life's blood, and if I lose her..." He swallowed against the tightness in his throat.

Zan hugged his brother. "It's going to be okay, Max. We'll go back to the Crashdown as soon as night comes to Roswell, and bring her home again. All right?"

Max checked his watch, and realized that it was almost dawn in Roswell. There was no chance now of making it back there for another 16 hours, at the very least. He sighed, and nodded. "All right. I'll try to be patient. But if this feeling gets any stronger... I don't know what we'll do."

"Whatever you do - don't go running off without backup - promise me."

"Fine," Max growled, hating the restriction where Liz's safety was concerned. "You'd best not be disappearing where I can't find you in a hurry, then. If I have to hunt you down, all bets are off."

"Understood. Think we should interrupt Michael and Maria in their little lovenest, and apprise them of the situation? We might need to enlist Michael's help, if things turn ugly."

Max shuddered at the thought of the situation escalating that far. The idea of Liz in that kind of danger was enough to drive him mad. "Yes, let Michael know - and Ava as well. I don't want to take any chances. I'd rather be armed to the teeth and not need it, than to be caught shorthanded."

"Okay, I'll take care of it. Everyone will be told to remain at the ready, just in case." With that, Zan turned and was gone.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Adam looked at the clock on the car dash. 4:30 am. He sipped at the cup of hot, black coffee that he had gotten from the 24 hour mini-mart just down the street. He knew it was chancy leaving his post for even that long, but he figured that if Max and Isabel hadn't returned yet, they probably weren't going to. Most likely, they were going to be doing any movement under the cloak of darkness, and that was almost gone now.

He snorted in self-disgust. Why he hadn't thought of that before boggled the mind. What did he think? That they would waltz down Main Street in the middle of the afternoon, when they had taken such pains to disappear? He should have known that they would be sneaking around in the middle of the night. Who knew how many times they had slipped past, right under his nose, as he slept during the wee hours of the morning? He took another sip of his coffee. Nope - that was one blunder he wouldn't be confessing to the she-beast.

As it was, he was tired from keeping vigil all night, and dreading facing that redheaded bat from hell in just a few hours. She had called to let him know her flight would be arriving at just before eleven that morning, and he dreaded the coming confrontation. It would be the first time they had actually met face to face, since the day he had learned of her betrayal. It was a meeting he would rather have put off until the twelfth of never, but apparently some cosmic force delighted in cruelly tormenting him.

Besides the fatigue, he was soaked to the skin. He had returned to his post atop the UFO Center after being duped into following the wrong car earlier. Just his luck, that around 3:00 am, it started pouring. He had been drenched before he could make it to the shelter of his car. Cursing his luck yet again, he dove into the driver's seat and kept watch from there. Normally he wouldn't opt for such a situation, knowing that his chances of being discovered were greater, and that the view from the top of the building was much better. But he laid his concerns to rest, figuring that in the driving rain, no one would be stupid enough to be walking around looking into parked cars for suspicious characters. He chuckled to himself. Suspicious character. That, he was.

As the hot brew warmed his insides, he returned his attention to the nagging sense that he was overlooking something. What could it be? He eyed the exterior of the Crashdown, as he mentally rehearsed the facts he had so far.

1. Somehow, Max Evans had slipped into the apartment unnoticed before 10 pm.

Adam frowned. How the hell did Evans manage that? he wondered. He had been observing the comings and goings around the Crashdown all evening. As a matter of fact, the only time he hadn't been keeping a close eye on the place was when he had run down to the deli a few blocks over to get some subs to keep himself going for the rest of the day. Well, hell. If Evans snuck in during the day, that blew his theory about them only moving around at night all to pieces. With a sigh, he ticked off the next tidbit of information.

2. Max and Isabel had been together inside the Parker's apartment.

Granted, they hadn't stayed long after Isabel had arrived. But if his assumption about the time of Max's arrival was accurate, he had been there for a good, long time. Now, why would he be hanging out at his girlfriend's parents' place, when he could just go home? Adam was well aware that the Evanses were back in town. He couldn't help wondering if there wasn't some connection between their return to Roswell, and the reappearance of their adopted son and daughter.

3. Alex Whitman was involved with the group of missing citizens of Roswell.

What was his connection? Supposedly he and Isabel had broken up months prior to the disappearance of the small band from Roswell High. And more importantly - why didn't he leave the Parkers' when Max and Isabel did?

He continued to turn these pieces to a very vague puzzle over and over in his mind. There was something here that he was missing. Some elusive connection...

He nearly dropped his coffee cup when the thought hit him. What if he had been right all along? What if the human girl did go home after all? If Max Evans had managed to elude his watchful eye, could Liz Parker have been with him? She didn't exit the apartment with the Evanses, but then, neither had Whitman. And while he was off chasing phantoms, she probably got away too.

He groaned as his head fell back against the headrest. Stupid, stupid, stupid.... He wondered if he would ever catch his prey. But despite his self-abasement, he had to admit that if he wasn't so exhausted from trying to wage this battle on his own, he might not have been so careless. Not that it mattered. He was going to pay in blood if he screwed this up. That fiend he once thought he loved would tear him open and rip out his still beating heart if given half the chance. He grimaced. What difference? he thought. She's already done it once before.

Taking his wayward thoughts captive, he returned his attention to the Crashdown. The rain had let up, and visibility had greatly improved. As he took a gulp of the now cooling coffee, something on the side of the building caught his notice. He hadn't noticed it before, because it was on the opposite side of the structure from the door to the apartment. But from where he sat now, he had a straight line of site down the alley. He squinted, trying to determine just what he was seeing in the pre-dawn light. A fire escape?

Before he could even question the soundness of his judgment, he set the styrofoam cup on the dash, and climbed out of the car. Looking around cautiously, he crossed to the other side of the street and slipped undetected into the narrow alley. Well shoot and damn. It is a fire ladder. And lookee, lookee. It goes right up to a balcony above the restaurant. No doubt adjacent to the Parkers' apartment. After checking around for witnesses, he jumped up and grabbed the bottom rung, then stealthily climbed to the top. Peeking over the edge, he saw that the balcony was deserted, and hoisted himself up and over the wall. Stepping lightly, he approached the shaded window. He was almost to it, when he stopped dead in his tracks.

Fact #4, he thought. For the last two days, all the shades in the apartment had been drawn.

At the time he had cursed it as just dumb luck. Up until then he had had an unrestricted view of life in the Parker residence. He smiled lecherously to himself, remembering the one time that Mrs. Parker had streaked out into the living room for something in just her little panties. Umm. Nice breasts, he thought with a fond remembrance that heated his loins. He entertained his lewd thoughts for a moment or two, until reality came crashing back on him. It was going to be getting light soon, and he'd best not have his ass caught up here.

Tiptoeing to the window - which to his delight was open a couple inches at the bottom, he was surprised to hear a baby fussing. Even more surprising was the young feminine voice that crooned to the distraught child. "Just a minute, baby," she sing-songed. "Let Mommy change your diaper, and then you can nurse to your little piggy heart's content." He heard the tearing sound of diaper tabs being ripped open (which he recognized from an undercover stint as an orderly in a hospital), and the squalling of a baby who did not like to have his diapers changed.

The woman obviously made short work of it, though, because before he knew it, the screaming stopped. He leaned closer to the window, listening carefully. A smile broke out on his face at the sound of vigorous suckling. No wonder the kid was content. Adam knew just how he felt. His lips itched at the thought.

Chastising himself silently again, he focused his attention on trying to figure out who was in the room. To his knowledge, Nancy Parker didn't have a young baby. And besides, he'd heard her speak before, when he casually dropped in to the Crashdown for breakfast one morning. Her voice was lower and huskier... and sexier... He redirected his thoughts again, before his mind had a chance to wander too far down that road.

Somehow, he had to find out who was in that room. The answer to his dilemma presented itself a moment later.

"That's right, sweetheart," he heard a hushed voice murmur. "You go back to sleep, while Mommy takes a shower." He heard a whimper, and then the squeak of a cradle rocking back and forth. Finally, a soft sigh drifted out to where he stood. He listened as footfalls padded around the room, and finally a door shut. To the bathroom, perhaps?

He knew what he was about to do was risky, but it was the only way he could satisfy his curiosity. Kneeling before the window, he lifted up one corner of the shade, and peeked under it. Glancing around the room, he saw the cradle still gently swaying, where she must have given it a final nudge before leaving the room. The sound of someone retching reached his ears. Seeking the source of the painful sound, his eyes noticed the two doors on the opposite wall from the window. One must go into the apartment, and the other to a bathroom, he surmised. He jumped at the sound of a door handle turning, and quickly lowered the shade back into place. Scarcely breathing, he tried to still his thundering heart so he could hear what was transpiring just beyond his sight.

"Liz? Are you okay?" He immediately recognized the husky timbre of Nancy Parker's voice, accompanied by a knock on the bathroom door. And she was calling to her daughter! So that was it! Liz Parker had come home! And then he was struck anew - she came home all right, bringing that hybrid's bastard child with her! Surely he was the father. The fear of failure that had been plaguing Adam since he lost sight of Max and Isabel earlier fled. If Liz was here, there was no doubt that Max would come back. It was just a matter of biding his time, now. He snorted under his breath. Indeed, Max Evans' human side was going to be his downfall.

Silently he stole back over the balcony wall, and descended to the alley below. He decided to return to his hotel room, confident that his quarry would soon be in his clutches. It was enough for now. His body was screaming for sleep, and he had a little under six hours before he had to be at the airport to meet the demanding ogre that was his boss. Adam knew he would need to be well-rested for that encounter.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Zan was approaching his own quarters, where Karanna awaited him, when he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. This sense of danger was stronger than any he had felt yet. But what really alarmed him was Karanna's sharp cry of distress, piercing the air in the hallway. He dashed the last few yards to their suite and flung open the door, frantically searching for his wife. He found her pale and shaken, standing half dressed in the middle of their bedroom. Crossing quickly to her side, he enveloped her in his strong arms.

"Sweetheart, what is it?" he inquired of her.

"Oh, God, Zan," she whimpered, clutching at him in an attempt to feel secure. "The feeling of danger was so strong, it was almost as if it was right here - and yet it wasn't." Pulling back, she tugged at her hair in frustration. "I know that doesn't make any sense, but I don't know how else to describe it."

Zan's fingers curled around her upper arms in support. "You don't need to worry - I understand what you mean. I felt a jolt of fear pierce through me, right before I heard you scream. You just had a stronger reaction to it than I did is all - probably because of your relationship with Liz. No doubt you have a stronger connection with her than I do."

Karanna nodded, grateful for his understanding. She looked up at him then with haunted eyes. "What do we do?" she whispered despairingly.

With firm resolve he answered, "We go find Max."

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 9-Jul-2002 9:08:31 PM ]

posted on 9-Jul-2002 8:35:44 PM by sheeperz
Note to those of you who have already read this... After doing a little research, I discovered that the she-beast couldn't arrive in Roswell by ten, so I made a little time adjustment in this last part. Just letting you know, so that when it is referenced in the next section, you won't be confused. *wink*

posted on 10-Jul-2002 11:51:50 PM by sheeperz
Cruel! What form of supplication do you accept? Bended knees? Pretty please? Sacrifices of young virgins and fresh fruits?

Hmmm... weeeelllll.....

If the sacrificial virgin is season one Max Evans.... oh, and fresh fruit? Yes, strawberries would be just fine. maybe with a little whipped cream....*bounce*

Yes, I believe we can cut a deal here!*wink**big*
posted on 19-Jul-2002 11:02:12 AM by sheeperz
Well, you aren't going to believe this.... (Shaking my head, because *I* don't believe it)

I had the next part all written, but because I finished it on another computer last night, I had it on a disk. And when I opened the disk this am, guess what? Everything I wrote last night was gone, and there was this weird gibberish there instead. *sigh* So cross your fingers, kiddies, that I will be able to reconstruct this. Dang, and I was so looking forward to posting it this morning. Oh well.

Hope to have something for you soon.

posted on 19-Jul-2002 9:15:43 PM by sheeperz
ah, well, we have 2 computers, and I had copied what I had written on the part to a disk, and took it to the other computer to work on. So it was in the same program (which is on both computers). I didn't delete the file, and I SAVED it at the end of the session, but somehow what I had written isn't what got saved! So... back to the drawing board. Fortunately, it was only about 40% of the chapter. UNfortunately, I haven't had a chance to work on it today, as we went to the calling hours for my cousin's husband who passed away. And tomorrow, we have a memorial service for a friend's father who just died. So say a prayer that I can find some time to work on it! I'm at my mom's right now, so I can't even be working on it. I need my story handy for atmosphere. *giggle*

TTY'all Later!

posted on 25-Jul-2002 8:27:46 PM by sheeperz
Phew! Hi, all y'all! So, here I am finally. I couldn't reconstruct the section I lost as well as it was the first time in some respects, but improved in others. Wish I could remember what I wrote. *sigh*

Did you see I finally capitulated, and changed the title to DJ IV? I finally figured it's going to be long enough to be a full length fic. lol Guess you all knew me better than I knew myself, huh?

So... here we go. I hope you all enjoy this. Things are going to be building in this part, and I don't know how many more to come. Probably not too many. I'm not such a drama queen. I like resolution. *wink*

Let me know what you think, 'k?

PS - Thanks to those who rated my fic! *big*

Part Eighteen

Antar - 10:30 p.m.

Karanna left Zan'-dar and Little Katherine with a servant, and sent another to fetch Belara to stay with the children until she returned. Even thought Zan'-dar no longer needed Belara as a wet nurse since Karanna's milk had come in, the two women had become close friends, and there was no one else that Karanna would prefer to leave her children with in Liz's absence.

She had to practically run to keep up with Zan, as his long strides covered the halls between their quarters and Max's private suite. They turned a corner, Zan barely missing a head-on collision with Max. When they regained their balance, Zan simply asked, "You know, then?" Zan got his first good look at his brother then, and his pallor told Zan all he needed to know, even before Max wordlessly nodded his response. He grasped Max's shoulders reassuringly, and offered the only words of comfort he could think of. "We felt the fear, Max, but it's gone, too. So she probably is in no immediate danger. Let's cling to that thought, okay?" Again Max nodded. "Good. Because we can't afford to be distracted. It's broad daylight in Roswell now, so we'll all have to stay alert. I sent someone to let Michael know what's going on, and not to worry, unless we aren't back by seven tomorrow evening. I figure the safest thing is for us to hole up with Liz to be there and protect her, until well after dark. Then we can whisk her out of there without being seen." He looked at Max for his reaction - he knew that he was technically overstepping his bounds, but under the circumstances, he was concerned that his brother might not be thinking too clearly. He knew that he would be beside himself if Karanna and his children were in danger. He relaxed at the grateful look Max bestowed upon him.

"Let's go, then," Max said, his voice shaky. With no further comment, they descended to the catacombs below the palace, and headed straight to the portal.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Outside Washington D.C. - 10:15 a.m./Dallas - 9:15 a.m.

The director sat in his high backed executive chair, viciously squeezing a little rubber ball. Anyone watching him might have thought he was merely trying to relieve some stress. In fact, he was - by imagining he had his hands wrapped around his subordinate's wiry little neck. "What do you mean, you don't know where she is? How the hell could you lose her? Damn it, Crawford, I might have expected this kind of ineptness from Saunders, but I thought that you were more reliable than this. What are you doing to find her?"

Crawford was highly insulted. Everyone knew what a total screw-up Saunders was, and to be lumped in the same category with him really rankled. "I have a team out searching for her now. Going through her apartment for clues, trying to track down her car..." Suddenly, it was too much for him to maintain his self-control, and he snarled, "Let's just remember that you were the one that said we didn't need to keep such a close eye on her anymore. In your own words, you said that 'she passed her probationary period with no problems', and that she was going to 'work out nicely'. You were the one who told us to lighten up on security where she was concerned," he reiterated.

"I didn't mean you could ignore her altogether, you imbecile! I swear, Crawford, if it wasn't for your connections, I'd kick your ass to the moon and back. Maybe even farther."

"Promises, promises."

"Listen up, you twit. I don't give a shit what kind of excuses you make for this blunder, but you damn well better fix it, before something unthinkable happens."

"Like what?" Not for the first time, Crawford was curious as to the story behind Ms. O'Malley.

"Look, that's none of your business. Just see to it that she's returned immediately."

"Yes sir! Will do, sir!" Crawford barked out in a parody of a military response. He was getting damn sick and tired of being ordered around like some young greenhorn.

Ignoring the sarcasm, the director growled menacingly, "Find her, Crawford, or you're history. I don't give a damn who you know." He slammed the receiver down in his subordinate's ear.

Replacing the handset, Crawford sank deeper into the chair at his desk. His elbows propped on the arms of it, he steepled his fingers and rested them against his lips, deep in thought. After several moments, he pushed himself erect, and reached out to pull his laptop in front of him. His fingers began feverishly punching at the keys, as he started to hack into computers at the airport and bus terminal, trying to find out if she had purchased a ticket for her little adventure. Damn bitch. Women were just not worth the trouble it took to keep them in line, he groused to himself. He sighed in frustration, when his search came up empty.

Staring sightlessly at the screen, he tried to imagine where she might have gone. It was almost too much to hope for, that she had merely taken a little jaunt to Fort Worth for some inane reason. More than likely, she was getting them all into hot water. He could just feel it in his bones.

Where could she be? She didn't have any friends or family, that he knew of, that could lure her away from Dallas on personal business. That just left company business. But there was nothing that demanded her attention away from the city. Unless....

Crawford blanched at the thought of it. Oh hell, their collective asses were going to be toast, if she turned up where he feared. And he had a keen sixth sense about these sort of things - an uncanny ability to know when he was on the right track. And he had a strong sense now that he was right about this. God, and they ridicule women for their intuition, he thought. Better to not let anyone know about his "hunches". He'd never hear the end of it. He was just reaching for the keyboard again, when the phone rang. Propping it on his shoulder, he once more began poking at the keys. "Crawford. Whaddaya got?" He knew without even asking who was on the other end of the line. He could hear the whir of the chopper blades, as Jefferson, the head of security, flew over Dallas searching for some sign of Katie O'Malley's vehicle.

"We finally got a signal from the tracking device on her car. Good thing we didn't remove it, huh?"

"Very good thing," Crawford agreed.

"Funniest thing about where the signal's coming from."

"No, don't tell me, let me guess -" he said dryly, as his fingers flew over the keys. "It's at Dallas-Fort worth, right?"

"Well hell. Why is it I never get to tell you the good stuff? You always seem to know before I do. I sometimes wonder why you even bother with me at all."

"Calm down, Jefferson," Crawford crooned with a smirk. "It's just because I'm so damned good."

"Making a matched set with 'so damned arrogant'," Jefferson replied dryly.

Crawford chuckled. "Yes, well, when you're right so much of the time...."

"Yeah, yeah, you and those frickin' hunches of yours."

Crawford stiffened. "Jefferson -" The single menacing word was fraught with meaning. His chief of security was the only one privy to the existence of his "hunches". It was an understanding between them that the information was to go no further.

"Geez, don't pee your pants, man," Jefferson chided. "No one's listening. I came up alone on this assignment. I figured the fewer people who knew she was missing, the better."

Crawford released a pent up breath. "You're damned lucky, then," he grumbled. His fingers kept busy at the keyboard, searching through passenger lists from the morning's flights. He stiffened suddenly. "Oh shit."

"You find something?" Jefferson asked, as he swung the chopper in an arc to retrace his path to home base.

"You could say that," came the murmured reply. If he didn't know better, Jefferson would have thought that he just lost his best friend. But that was ridiculous, because he was Crawford's best buddy. Well, as far as it went, anyway. And then all hell broke loose in his head, when he heard his friend's next words: "She's heading for Roswell. I missed her the first time I checked the lists, because she didn't use her own name. If it weren't for the fact she used a company card to pay for the ticket, I'd have never found her."

Jefferson's heart was pounding like a hammer. He knew as well as Crawford that their collective asses were grass, when the director found out where she was. Of all the instructions they had been given when Katie transferred into their unit, his most vehement had been that under no circumstances was Katie ever to go to Roswell, New Mexico. He had always thought it was a little bizarre, them putting her in charge of the project, when she wasn't allowed to go to ground zero. Which was why she had that monkey Adam working for her. Must be his incompetence finally got the best of her, and she decided against all orders to make the trip there herself.

"I wonder why she used an alias?" Jefferson found himself thinking aloud.

"Damned if I know. Probably didn't want us to be able to track her. I wonder what the hell the big deal is about her and Roswell, anyway? That jackass back east puts her in charge of the project, but is adamant that she is to never set foot there. Yet when she sneaks off, what's the first place she runs to? Roswell. There's something fishy going on here, I'm tellin' ya."

"Hey, you don't have to convince me. I've always gotten a spooky feeling from the broad."

Crawford chuckled. "Spooky? Shit, that's a new one for you. Since when has anything ever given you the willies?"

"Since I met Katie O'Malley. I'm telling you, there's something weird about that one."

Crawford pursed his lips and nodded in response, even though Jefferson couldn't see him. "Yeah, well, I have a feeling that we're going to find out just what the deal is with her before this is out."

"Another one of your hunches?"

"Oh, yeah. And the hell of it is, I don't think we're going to like what we discover." He sighed wearily. "Well, I guess I better call His Eminence with a report, and take my lumps like a big boy."

Jefferson gave a short bark of laughter. "Well, that's something I'd like to see. There's a first time for everything."

"Very funny, pal. Just get your ass back here on the double. We're undoubtedly going to be heading to New Mexico shortly."

"I'm on my way."

Crawford dropped the phone into the cradle, and ran a hand over his face in frustration. How do I always wind up in these messes? he asked himself. With resignation, he picked up the phone and dialed the director's office. His perky secretary answered the phone.

Taking a deep breath, Crawford plunged forward. "This is Crawford. I need to speak to Margolin...."

* * * * * * * * * * *

En Route to Roswell from Dallas - 10:00 a.m.

Never had she felt the level of anxiety that she was experiencing at this moment. She had been filled with apprehension during the flight from Dallas to Albuquerque, which she had chalked up to taking a hasty flight without notifying her superiors. They all would have gotten her e-mail with her itinerary, when they checked in at around 9:00 am. But by then, she had been in the air for nearly an hour.

Once she had boarded the flight from Albuquerque to Roswell, however, she found herself on the edge of a full-blown panic attack. Her heart was racing, her breathing was labored, and she couldn't help but drum her fingers nervously on her seat's arm rest. This was totally unlike her - she flew often on business, and yet had never had this kind of fear before. She simply couldn't wait for it to be over with. Yet the minutes seemed to drag on for hours. When would they finally get there?

Finally they touched down, and she was sorely disappointed to find that her anxiety did not abate once the plane landed. If anything, it grew worse. Surely she wasn't tied up in knots over seeing Adam again. The foolish man. He could have had her position if he would have applied himself a little more. Well, maybe not. He had the wrong equipment to catch the director's eye.

Her body fairly trembled as she gathered her things and exited the plane. If she wasn't careful, she'd be apt to fall and make a spectacle of herself. As much as she despised the idea of spending any time with Adam, she hoped that he was waiting for her inside the airport. The sooner she put this place behind her, the better, she figured. She hurried toward the luggage claim area, her eyes sweeping the crowded airport for signs of a familiar face. She frowned. What did Adam look like again? It was as if her mind was trying to superimpose some other image in place of his face. She shook her head to clear her mind. Oh yes. Now she remembered. 6' 2", sandy hair, green eyes, handsome face.... She let out a sigh. Oh yes, she'd give him that. Adam was one in a thousand when it came to looks. And he had some other very impressive, uh.... attributes as well.

As quickly as it had surfaced, the mental image of him disappeared again, the warmth she had felt at the memory of him turning once again to ice. None of that mattered any more. She had done what she had to, in order to insure her rise in the organization. Adam had discovered her secret, and tossed her out on her ear. After that, there really was nothing left to say between them, at least on a personal level. Curse the tides of fate that made her have to deal with him on a professional level. But she wouldn't fire him. He was too valuable. He was patient, and willing to do the crappy jobs no one else would touch.

She grabbed her one suitcase from the carousel, and turned toward the doors. That's when she saw him. Her breath came in as a ragged gasp at the sight of him. Dear God, who would have thought he could be any more handsome than she remembered? But now, he had a rather rumpled look, and he obviously hadn't shaved in a couple of days. His hair looked like he had combed it with his fingers as an afterthought. Dark smudges under his eyes from too little sleep gave an edge to his features, and she had to admit the truth, if only to herself - he looked dangerously sexy. She could feel her body responding to the sight of him with a swirl of desire.

Raising a hand to her forehead, she rubbed it absently in response to a stabbing flash of pain. Why was it again that she had betrayed him? She tried to recall, but suddenly it all seemed so fuzzy.... oh, yes, she remembered now. She slept with the director in order to secure her advancement. Just as quickly as it had come, her headache was gone again. She straightened her spine, and approached Adam.

Adam saw her heading his way, and stopped dead in his tracks. God, she was so beautiful. Her red hair was full around her face like a great mane. His fingers itched to bury themselves in the thickness of it. Her vibrant green eyes - almost too vibrant, he had always thought - were locked on him, as she strode purposefully toward him. His gaze lowered to her lips, and he frowned. The lips that had always entranced him with a gentle smile or an erotic invitation were now pressed together tightly in displeasure. He sighed at the reminder of their current status, but couldn't resist letting his eyes sweep the rest of her. The lush breasts, the narrow waist. The seductive swell of her hips... Oh, yes, everything from the neck down was the Katie O'Malley he remembered well. Uh, minus the clothes, of course. Damn, but she had always had the power to - He stopped the thought mid-flight, ruefully correcting it at his body's insistence. She still had the power to make him hard with just one look at her. He hoped that she wouldn't notice the effect her presence had on certain parts of his body. Self-consciously, he held his hat down in front of his fly.

Katie came to an abrupt halt before him. "Adam." The one word was spoken curtly, with a slight inclination of her head. She was about as cold as a block of ice. This was not his Katie. And he'd do well to remember that.

"Ms. O'Malley," he returned, his voice tinged with sarcasm. He refused to be baited into using her first name, her being his boss and all. Oh yeah, that still stuck in his craw. "Shall we?" he asked, working hard to appear unaffected by her.

"Certainly." She hesitated, waiting for him to pick up her suitcase. But Adam pivoted, plopping his hat back on his head as he began to walk briskly toward the exit. Peeved at his churlish behavior, she snapped up the weighty piece of luggage, and hustled to try and catch up to him.

Hearing the click of her heels frantically scampering after him, Adam smiled to himself. She had given up any rights to expecting him to treat her like a lady, the day she decided to prostitute herself for her career. She wanted to play with the big boys, she better expect to be treated like one, he reminded himself to keep from giving in to the urge to turn around and grab the bag from her. Who knew how long they were going to be stuck with each other on this assignment - and it would be better that she didn't get some crazy fool notion that she could wrap him around her little finger, just like old times.

To that end, he opened the back of his Ford Explorer, and got into the driver's seat while he waited for her to load her luggage. He flinched when she slammed the back end shut considerably harder than was necessary. Obviously she didn't approve of his twentieth century, enlightened male attitude, he perceived with a smirk. It would seem that she preferred to be pampered as a woman. What would her fellow feminists say to that? he wondered. He had to suppress a chuckle when she let herself into the passenger's seat of the vehicle, slamming that door as well. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that she was silently fuming over his rude behavior. Ignoring her pique, he started the vehicle, and navigated the SUV through the twists and turns of the side streets, on his way to 285 North back to their hotel in the heart of town. Even the thought of the what her reaction to the hotel would be made him want to laugh. She'd no doubt be looking forward to some high class accommodations. But he was a man, and his needs were simple. The Navajo suited him well - it was cheap, and one of the closest to the Crashdown. Besides, she should be grateful to even have a room, what with that orthodontist convention in town and all.

They rode in complete silence, which was just fine with him. He was sure that once she got going, he wouldn't be able to shut her up. And no doubt, it wouldn't be anything he wanted to hear. She was obviously here to check up on him. He couldn't help but wonder how she would react when he told her what he had found out. It might be worth the hell of having her here, just to see her speechless for once. Even if it didn't last for long.

As predicted, Katie turned pale when he turned in to the parking lot of the Navajo. Although Adam wasn't quite sure what to make of her expression. She looked more like she had seen a ghost, than someone who was about to rail at him for putting her up in low-class accommodations. He didn't attempt to initiate any conversation, though, but rather parked the car, and got out. When he realized that she was still sitting in the vehicle, he looked through the windshield to discover her still sitting there in a daze. His face contorted into a thoughtful frown, and against his previous decision to not coddle her, he walked around and opened her door. When she still didn't move, he reached in and wrapped his large hand around her slender upper arm, tugging gently. "Come on, Katie. It really isn't that bad," he tried to assure her.

Katie shuddered, and then looked up at him as if just now realizing that he was there. She looked around frantically, trying to get her bearings. "Wh-where are we?" she asked, thoroughly confused.

"We're at the motel," he said shortly, thinking that it must be rather obvious. "Come on, let's get you checked in." Katie allowed him to guide her out of the SUV, and into the office area. He waited for her to say something to the clerk, but when she stood there zoned out, he quickly took over and filled out the paperwork, retrieving her key. Finally, he turned to walk back out to the parking area, and barked on his way past her, "Snap out of it Katie. Let's get a move on." It only took a few of his long strides to carry him to the door. Just as he was about to push it open he heard her weak voice call out to him.


Peeved, he spun around, only to find her white as a sheet and trembling. "Katie?" he asked uncertainly. But before she could answer, he saw her eyes roll up, and he dashed to her side, just in time to catch her in a dead faint. Lifting her up against his chest, he felt like a total ass for the way he had been treating her. Obviously she wasn't well. No matter how much he might despise what she had done to him, he couldn't wish her ill.

"Sir?" the clerk called from behind the desk.

"Uh, I think the flight just took too much out of her, and she probably hasn't been eating well. I'll see her to her room, and make sure she's okay." The clerk nodded, relief etched in his features, and he went back to some papers he had been working on.

Never lifting his eyes from her too pale face, Adam carried her to the Explorer, and drove to the space in front of her room. Gently, he lifted her out again, having first unlocked the door, and carried her frail form inside, kicking the door shut in his wake. He laid her on the one double bed that occupied the room, before allowing himself to consider the changes he had noted in her. She was much thinner than she had been when they were together. That, coupled with the way she fainted made him wonder if she wasn't eating properly. It would certainly be odd, but he supposed that anything was possible.

He went into the bathroom, and wet a washcloth with cool water, and returned to sit next to her on the bed. He hesitantly began to wipe her face, hoping it would help to bring her back around.

Katie was trapped in the darkness. She felt as if the world was tilting on its axis, but she couldn't see a blasted thing. She could hear voices speaking, but they were faint, and seemed to be coming from far away. Just when she thought she would scream at them to be quiet, she felt something cool and wet on her face. It felt so good. If only she could get some of that moisture in her mouth, which felt like it was stuffed with cotton balls....

"Come on, Katie-girl, wake up," Adam urged, calling her by the pet name he had always used for her. "We have work to do, remember? You know how important your work is to you..."

Who was that speaking? This voice seemed close - like the speaker was close enough to reach out and touch.

"Listen, Katie, I don't have all day to play nursemaid to you, so up and at 'em. Nap time is over." A hand gently slapped first one cheek and then the other.

Adam. Of course. She should have recognized the voice - would have recognized it, in fact, except he had been speaking nicely to her for a change, and that just didn't compute in her weary brain. She struggled to open her eyes, not wanting to give him any more ammunition to taunt her with. Finally, she succeeded.

Adam was starting to get really nervous, when she wouldn't come around. Even speaking in a commanding voice to get her riled up wasn't working. What could he do? He was just about to officially swing into panic mode, when he saw her eyelashes begin to flutter. "That's it, Katie-girl. Come on. Come back to me."

A sharp arrow of pain lanced through him. Coming back to him was one thing Katie O'Malley had no intention of doing, he was quite sure of that.

Katie moaned. "Oh, God, I have such a headache," she complained. "What happened?" Her eyes slowly focused, seeing Adam sitting on the bed next to her. If she didn't know better, she'd think he was actually worried about her.

"You passed out in the motel office. Would you care to tell me why?"

Katie blinked at him. "How should I know? All I remember was hearing this strange buzzing noise, and my head felt like it was going to explode. I called out to you, and then everything went... black. Very black. And very still, except for the voices."

"Voices?" This didn't sound like a normal bout of unconsciousness. How could she be aware of what was going on around her, if she was out cold?

Katie started to nod, and then thought better of it, when her head began to throb. She held her head between her hands, hoping to stop the room from spinning wildly. "Uh, yeah, I heard people talking - two women, I think - but I couldn't hear what they were saying. They sounded like they were far away. It was really strange."

Adam raised a brow in surprise. Strange, indeed, considering the only people talking around her when she was out of it were two men. What she had heard obviously wasn't grounded in present reality.

There was only one thing that he could think of that would cause the symptoms she had described. But for the life of him, he couldn't imagine why they would be affecting her.

"Adam?" He looked up to see Katie staring at him, curious as to what he was thinking.

"I, uh, was just thinking about what you said. You're right, it is strange. I'll have to think about this some more." For the first time since she had cheated on him, he began to wonder if there wasn't more to the story than a simple betrayal. Perhaps other forces were at work, causing her to behave like a stranger, instead of his sweet, loving Katie. Pulling the covers of the bed back, he quietly suggested that she lay down and rest. Obediently, she slid between the sheets, while looking up at him with gratitude and a softness that he hadn't seen in her eyes for months. Surely, this wasn't the same woman that had broken his heart. Seeing the way she looked at him now, he was more convinced that things just weren't adding up. He tucked the covers around her, gently brushing her hair back from her face, as her eyes drifted shut. "Sleep well, Katie-girl," he whispered, then stole quietly from the room.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Jul-2002 8:35:26 PM ]

posted on 3-Aug-2002 3:27:58 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone!

Thanks for the fb, and the bumps. You guys are the best!

I haven't had a chance to even start writing the next part yet. We had our chicken processing this week, and I fell into bed exhausted every night. I didn't even turn on the computer to check my mail for days. =( Anyway, this weekend is crazy, but I'm hoping next week to get a chance to write.

Hope to see you all soon!!

posted on 11-Aug-2002 4:36:52 PM by sheeperz
Okay, trying this again. I tried to post this part a couple days ago, but the board wouldn't take it. So... *crossing my fingers* Here goes nothing....

Part Nineteen

Pod Chamber - 9:30 a.m.

Max sprang to his feet, and began pacing the pod chamber restlessly. "Max, you're going to wear a hole in the floor there," Zan chided lightly. He hated seeing his brother so twisted with worry, but he couldn't blame him one iota. He knew that if it had been Karanna in danger, he would have been beside himself, until he could be by her side.

Max grimaced, and softly admitted, "I know. I just can't stand all this damned waiting."

Zan sighed. "I know, but we promised Valenti that we'd stay put, until he could get word to us after checking things out around the Crashdown."

Max reviewed again their decision to call the sheriff from the cell phone they kept in the pod chamber, and have him spy out the area around the Crashdown, making sure that there were no suspicious looking characters lurking around in the immediate area, before they breezed into town down the back streets and snuck into the Parkers' apartment in broad daylight. Even with this interminable waiting, he had to acknowledge that the precaution had been a necessary one. None of them would be any good to Liz, if they were captured like a herd of wild animals.

He shuddered, the memory of the White Room flashing through his head for the first time in months - a clear testimony to the healing power of love. He hadn't even suffered from any more nightmares since the night he claimed Liz as his bride, body and soul. It was as if their joining had freed him.

And now his mate's safety was being threatened. It was worse knowing that, than being a victim himself. The idea of anything happening to her - well, it was just unthinkable.

Just then, he felt a warm hand gently touch his arm. "She's going to be okay, Max."

He turned his head to glance over his shoulder into his sister's compassion-filled eyes. He forced one corner of his mouth to lift in a lop-sided grin, sad though it was. "Thanks, Iz." Bringing her along had been a last-minute decision. It had cost them precious minutes, or so he thought at the time, but now he was glad that they had her with them. Not just for the extra fire power, but because he knew she could anchor him in reality, if his fearful imagination began running amok on him. She knew him better than Zan and Karanna did, and knew just how to talk him down from an anxiety attack, should he have one.

Correction - when he had one. He could already feel every muscle in his body clenching in anticipation of a total freak out. Ah, how glad he was his loyal subjects couldn't see him at this particular moment. Normally he was calm in a crisis - except where Liz was involved. He took several deep, cleansing breaths, trying to release the mounting tension.

"That's it," Isabel crooned by his ear, as her fingers gently massaged the tightness in his shoulders. "Just try to relax. There is nothing we can do right now, until Valenti contacts us. He said that as soon as morning rush hour was over and traffic cleared out a bit, he'd get on it. It was a good call, Max. In the height of rush hour, it would be too easy to miss a lurker. At least this way, someone like that will be more noticeable."

Max's eyes were closed, and he emitted a low groan of mingled satisfaction and frustration, as his sister's fingers worked magic on his shoulders, relieving some of the stress. "Don't you think I've told myself that a thousand times since I hung up with him?" he grumbled. "But it doesn't make the waiting any easier. If this were Alex we were trying to protect, maybe you'd understand."

Isabel's fingers stilled momentarily. She put herself in Max's place, imagining Alex's life being threatened. The impact of her vivid imagination made her gasp, a tightening of fear squeezing her heart.

Max heard her sharp intake of breath, and looked back her over his shoulder. He saw her face, pale and drawn, as if she had just witnessed something awful. He knew how vivid her imagination was - he should have known better than to suggest something like Alex dying to her. Especially after that whole Future Max revelation. He turned around and wrapped her in his arms, pulling her close, as tears began to stream down her cheeks. "Shh, don't cry," he told her. "I wasn't thinking, or I wouldn't have said that. Nothing is going to happen to Alex." He felt her head nod against his shoulder, even as her shoulder shook from her suppressed sobs. He ran his hand soothingly up and down her back, until she settled down. "Sorry about that," he murmured, "but I guess it made my point?"

"Yes, it did," she admitted quietly, inhaling on a shuddering sob as she tried to regain control. "I guess I was keeping myself somewhat detached from the horror of the situation, so as not to be hindered by my emotions. But it must be nearly impossible for you."

"Damn near," he grumbled, stepping back from her, and running an agitated hand through his hair. "All I want is to have her wrapped in my arms. Then I'll know she's safe."

"Soon, Max, soon," she reassured him, nodding her agreement with his assessment. They fell into silence again, knowing there was nothing else that could be said or done, until they could leave for Roswell.

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

Sheriff's Office, 9:49 a.m.

Jim Valenti looked up at the clock for the fifth time in as many minutes, wondering when the damned hands were ever going to move. Maybe the batteries were wearing down? He shook his head. No, they had just been changed earlier that week. This was just a case of wanting time to speed by faster than it would, he realized. He sighed, looking down at the report in front of him. He had been trying to get through it for almost an hour now, but his concentration wasn't worth diddly this morning. Everything had been off-kilter since he got that phone call at home just before 8:00.

In the nearly two hours since then, he hadn't been able to shake the terror that gripped him at the thought of Liz being captured by the FBI. Since they were the only ones that would be gunning for the aliens, now that the war was over, he at least knew where to focus his attention. All he had to do was run interference and allow Max and the others to reach Liz safely. Beyond that, all bets were off. After what Pierce had done to Max, he wasn't going to lose any sleep over anything Max had to do to protect his family. Even if it meant killing humans.

Jim snorted. How far he had come in his views of alien life forms over these past three years, he realized. His dad would flip out if he ever knew.

He looked down at the report again, and the letters seemed to be nothing but a jumble of squiggly lines. He struggled valiantly, trying to make sense of it for several minutes, but then pushed it away in disgust. He couldn't give it his attention right now. He looked up at the clock again. 9:53. Four whole minutes had passed. Amazing. He had set the goal of 10:00 for himself, before he would go out and do the surveillance for Max. He rose to his feet, stuffing the report into the manilla folder beside it. Close enough, he thought. Besides, it would be nearly 10:00 by the time he got out of here, and over to the Crashdown. He supposed he ought to call Jeff and Nancy to let them know what was going on, and what he would be doing when he "just happened" to stop by. It wouldn't hurt to warn them not to leave her alone in the apartment, either. Damn, he should have thought to do that sooner.

He had just lifted the handset to make the call, when he heard a commotion in the outer office. Irritated at yet another delay, he dropped the phone back to its cradle, and strode across his office, flinging the door open. "What's going on out here?" he demanded in a rather surly tone, that silenced the entire office staff, as well as any visitors.

Deputy Hansen cleared his throat. "Uh, Sheriff, sir, this is, uh, Agents Dunning and Thompkins. You know - FBI," the young officer added meaningfully, indicating the two suited men standing across the counter from him.

Valenti's heart slammed into his ribs. FBI?? Shit, so they were here. Not that he thought Max to be prone to hysterics, but he had wondered if the boy wasn't just suffering from separation anxiety, what with the way he and Liz were so inseparable and all. Apparently, the threat was very real. What he didn't understand, though, is why they were being so very up front about their presence?

"Agents," he greeted them coolly, trying to keep his turbulent emotions hidden. "What can we do for you gentlemen?"

Agent Thompkins slid a sideways glance at Hansen, who was standing there eagerly hanging on every word. "Uh, would it be possible for us to discuss this in your office?" he suggested.

Son-of-a.... Valenti closed his eyes and counted to ten. No sense blowing up and getting them suspicious, he told himself. But what he really wanted to do was call Max. He had the agents here, he could keep them occupied... but Max wouldn't know that he was in the clear. What to do -? He opened his eyes to see Thompkins staring strangely at him, one eyebrow cocked inquisitively. Jim consciously relaxed his clenched jaw. "Certainly - after you," he answered, indicating his office with a sweep of his arm.

Thomkins followed Dunning into the smaller room, turning to take the door handle in his grip, as Valenti entered the room behind him. His eyes sparkled with malice, as he blocked Hansen's entry. "Sorry, son. This is a private conversation." Before Hansen could even form a protest, Thompkins decisively shut the door in his face.

Normally, Jim would have found humor in that, but even seeing Hansen get a set-down couldn't jar the foreboding feeling that had him in its clutches. He dropped into the chair behind his desk, and motioned to the chairs opposite him. "Please, have a seat," he offered, hoping his voice was congenial, when all he wanted was to throttle the bas-

"Thank you," Thompkins responded, as he claimed one of the seats, simultaneously cutting off Valenti's murderous thoughts.

"So - what's on your mind?" Valenti managed to ask in a fairly civil tone.

"Actually, we're investigating the disappearance of one of our agents," Thompkins began. He was obviously the senior agent, but Jim couldn't help noticing that the other man had yet to utter a word.

Jim's eyebrows rose significantly. "Really? I find it hard to believe you boys would misplace on of your own." Damn, why had that sarcastic comment issued forth from his lips? The last thing he wanted to do was antagonize these men.

Something hardened in Thompkins' eyes - and Dunning's as well. "That's precisely the point, Sheriff," Thompkins said coldly. "We don't 'misplace' our agents, and we find having them disappear... intolerable. We suspect foul play, and intend to get to the bottom of the matter."

"I see," Jim replied, absently fiddling with a pencil on his desk. Suddenly the pencil stilled, and he leaned forward with his forearms on the desk, his expression intense. "So, if I may ask - what does that have to do with us?"

"It's very simple, actually. We have been backtracking from our agent's last-known whereabouts, trying to find anything unusual in his activities preceding his disappearance. Several people have testified to his rather odd behavior in the weeks just prior to his disappearance. So we decided to go back further with our investigation."

Jim's brows furrowed. "I still don't see what that has to do with -"

"Roswell was the last place he had been, before he returned to Washington a changed man, by all accounts."

The hair on the nape of his neck began to prickle. Surely they weren't referring to - "Who is this agent, gentlemen? The only FBI agents I've had contact with were Agent Stevens, and Agent Topolsky, both of whom curiously met with untimely deaths." With the exception of the few agents that had seen him gun down Pierce at Eagle Rock, no one knew that he had ever seen Pierce as anything other than hickboy Deputy Fisher. And he wouldn't be at all surprised if Nasedo had dispensed with the lot of them after what happened when they rescued Max. At any rate, he wasn't about to reveal anything they might not know. Better to play stupid. They might be looking for someone else entirely.

"The agent's name was Pierce." Ho, Agent Dunning speaks.

Careful to school his expression to prevent tipping his hand, Valenti parroted, "Pierce?" He pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Can't say the name rings a bell." He met their stares with a level one of his own. He couldn't afford to let them see any hesitation in him, or they would know he was lying.

"Perhaps," Thompkins drawled softly, "but you knew him, nonetheless." Jim raised his eyebrows as if to convey bafflement. "You knew him as Deputy Dave Fisher."

"Pardon?" Hell, if he pulled this off, he ought to be in the running for an Oscar, he thought. Thompkins' brow arched with something akin to amusement, he noticed, although Dunning merely scowled.

"I suppose it never occurred to you to question the lame story about Fisher's elderly grandmother needing him to come and stay with her back in Santa Fe?" Thompkins taunted.

Valenti shrugged casually, as he recalled the false resignation Nasedo had turned in as Deputy Fisher. "No reason not to. Not terribly unusual behavior for such a good boy," he drawled sarcastically. "Not to mention, I didn't want to examine his motives for leaving too closely. Let's just say... he was a little overly ambitious for my liking. I was rather relieved when he left." He couldn't hide the satisfied smirk that crossed his lips at the truth of that statement.

Thompkins cleared his throat. "Yes, well, Pierce did tend to have that affect on people. But he was a damned good agent, nonetheless. And we intend to find out what the hell happened to him."

"Well, I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I don't know what you think I can help you with. You already know that he left here to go back and tend his sick Grandma, so the story goes."

Dunning leaned forward in his seat, his piercing gaze suddenly disturbing in its intensity. "Yes, but that's just the problem, you see. He told the Bureau the same story. Problem is - there was no sick grandmother. All of Pierce's grandparents, as well as his parents, are deceased. So if he wasn't looking after an ailing old woman, where the hell did he disappear to?"

Jim inhaled deeply as his mind churned out possible scenarios. His gaze drifted to the clock on the wall. 10:30. Now how the hell did that happen? When he was watching the damned thing, it wouldn't move, and the minute he got involved in a conversation, the minutes dissolved into nothingness. He cursed inwardly, knowing that Max must be frantic at that point. He had to get rid of these clowns so he could contact Max.

"Look, I'll say it again - I don't know where your boy is, or what happened to him. Maybe he just got sick of all your bureaucratic nonsense, who knows? What does seem to be apparent to me is that he doesn't want to be found, wherever he is. So why don't you just leave the man in peace?"

Dunning snorted. "You obviously don't know Pierce. If you did, you'd understand the utter absurdity of your suggestion. To put it mildly, Agent Pierce exists above any kind of bureaucratic nonsense. He's an entity unto -"

"That's enough," Thompkins growled at his subordinate. He rose, pinning Valenti with a hostile stare. "Sorry to have taken up so much of your time." He paused, momentarily lost in thought. "Tell me, Sheriff - what projects was Pierce working on while he was here?"

"Well, let's see..." Jim drawled, a smirk making his lips twitch at the memory. "As I recall, he cleaned out the coffee maker, and washed my truck...."

A muscle in Dunning's jaw twitched. Jim wondered not for the first time why the man seemed so all-fired defensive on Pierce's account. It was like he worshipped the man or something. "Surely you didn't confine someone of Agent Pierce's intelligence and abilities to such menial tasks?" Dunning accused.

"Why, no," Jim admitted, trying to suppress a laugh. "I think he might have typed up a memo or two for me. I can't right recall. Remember, he wasn't here for long." He wasn't sure, but he thought he saw steam coming out Dunning's ears.

Thompkins forestalled any retort from that quarter by laying a hand on the younger agent's arm. "Please try to remember. What other tasks did you assign to him? Paperwork? Filing? Anything like that? Think back, Sheriff. It could be important." Dunning nodded in appreciation of his superior's line of questioning.

Valenti saw the gleam of hope in the agents' eyes. He pretended to be thinking back to the time that Fisher was in his employ. But inside he was weighing the situation. Obviously, they felt that Pierce might have left a clue as to his whereabouts or activities amongst the paperwork. It wouldn't do to let them know the truth. Pursing his lips, he shook his head slowly. "Nope, not that I can recall. Like I said, he wasn't here that long, and we had no warning he was even coming. So we hadn't gotten around to assigning him any specific tasks. Now, if there's nothing else, gentlemen?" He prayed that there wasn't.

Thompkins sighed. "No, I guess not, then. If you think of anything -" He reached into the inner pocket of his suit coat, and pulled out a business card, handing it to Valenti. "Anything at all," he stressed, "don't hesitate to call me."

Jim gave him a tight smile. "Yes, of course. Now, if you'll excuse me - duty calls." He fingered the folder on his desk meaningfully.

"Right. Well, thank you for your time, Sheriff." Jim followed them to the door of his office as they let themselves out. Standing in the doorway, he watched them cross the outer office. As they stepped into the hall, Dunning looked back over his shoulder, his eyes savage as they locked gazes with Jim's. The barely leashed hostility sent a shudder through Valenti that he was glad Dunning hadn't seen before he turned to follow Thompkins to the stairs.

Jim retreated into his office again, shutting the door. Leaning back against it, he closed his eyes, and tried to get his bearings. He knew he had to call Max. And he had to check out the Crashdown. Maybe what they had all been sensing was the presence of these two FBI agents, even though they weren't specifically hunting the young aliens. Or maybe the agents being here was nothing more than coincidence. Either way, he would do his best to keep them safe.

But first, there was something even more important to deal with. He walked over to the window, hoping to see the agents beating feet out of town. To his dismay, he saw them all right. But they were standing by their dark sedan, staring thoughtfully up at his office window, as they spoke to each other. What he wouldn't give to hear that conversation.

Stepping back from the window, he crossed to the bank of filing cabinets. His mind instantly replayed the scene from two years earlier....

    "What the hell are you doing, Deputy?" Valenti demanded of the new officer.

    "Working the files…" had come Fisher's response, sounding surprised at getting scolded for his apparent efficiency.

    Valenti wasn't going to back down. "That's private," he informed Fisher.

    Unable to discern the source of the sheriff's hostility, Fisher informed him, "I was just organizing them, sir. Color-coding them."

    Valenti felt a stab of guilt for riding the young upstart so hard. With somewhat less venom, he commented, "Your commanding officer in Santa Fe said that you're a bit of an overachiever. Listen, kid, from now on, just do as you're asked. Nothing more."

Valenti bent down, and pulled open the drawer that Fisher had been working in. There had been nothing confidential - alien-wise, at least - in that cabinet, so he had never given it a second thought. Things had been too hectic at the time, with Liz's, and then Max's abduction, and by the time the dust had settled and they were both safe, the color-coded files had long been forgotten.

Now, he stared down at the colored labels that adorned the folders, and wondered what kind of secret message Pierce might have been able to convey without being detected. He stared for several minutes at the folders, searching for a pattern, some inconsistency that would provide a clue....

Chills went up his spine, when he realized that there was only one file in the cabinet with a red sticker on it. A single, lone file, tucked in the very back of the drawer, almost hidden by the other files. A red flag? he wondered. Kneeling down, he reached into the back of the drawer and removed it. His hands were unsteady, as he opened the folder. To his surprise, there was nothing in it, except a key taped to the inside. He peeled it off, turning it over in his fingers as he examined it. A safe deposit box, he realized. Well, at least the agents wouldn't be able to upend his office and find information about the elusive Agent Pierce. He didn't need anything to expose the fact that he knew who Deputy Fisher really was. He pocketed the key before shutting the file drawer, and then doubled the folder over on itself a couple of times. He wrapped it carefully with his jacket, slinging the coat over his arm as he prepared to leave.

He went to the window, and staying in the shadows, checked to see if the FBI agents had left. Sure enough, the dark sedan was gone. He breathed a sigh of relief. Not that he felt that was the last he would see of them. He was certain that tomorrow morning he would find evidence of a middle of the night raid in his office. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was keeping Liz and the others safe.

He looked up at the clock again. It was nearly 11:00. With a muttered curse, he snatched up the phone, and dialed the number of Liz's cell phone. Max answered on the first ring. "Hello?"

"Max. It's Jim. Listen, I'm just leaving now. Something.... unexpected came up, and now I have an errand to run first. I'll tell you about it later. Just stay put, until you get the all clear from me, all right?" He winced at the soft curse that drifted over the line. "Max? Promise me?"

A loud sigh. "All right. I'll wait to hear from you. We haven't sensed any imminent danger since that bout early this morning. But be warned - if I do, all bets are off."

"Fair enough. It's possible all of this is a false alarm, anyway," he told the young king, hoping to calm his fears.

"How so?"

"Like I said, I'll explain when I see you. Right now, I'm heading for the bank."

"The bank? Good God, Valenti, get Direct Deposit, will you?! This is Liz's life we're talking about!"

"Now, now, it isn't what you think. Settle down. This is work related - and actually may effect you, although I'm not certain. I don't want any surprises lurking when you come wheeling into town, understood?"

"I don't understand what in hell you're talking about, but I'll try my best to be patient. Now get off the damned phone and get busy!"

Jim chuckled. "Yes, Your Majesty," he teased, knowing how that would cool Max's jets faster than any scalding retort.

"Sorry," was the mumbled response.

"Hey, no problem. I'd hate like hell for anything to happen to Liz either, and you have a much more vested interest in her safety than I do. Just sit tight. I won't be long." Without waiting for a reply, he replaced the receiver, and pulled his keys out of the desk. He stormed out of his office, the phone call to the Parkers long forgotten. He glanced up at the clock in the outer office as he blew through. 11:02. Hell. Some days, nothing went according to plan.

* * * * * * * * * *

Crashdown - 11:10 a.m.

Adam maneuvered his car through the back streets of Roswell, finally parking in the small lot behind the Crashdown. He hated the thought of what he was about to do - doing it in broad daylight, that is. He had no compunctions whatsoever about abducting the Parker girl and her alien bastard baby. They would make excellent bait for one Maxwell Evans. And that, quite frankly, was the ultimate goal, as far as he was concerned. The bastard was going to pay for his part in Adam's brother's death.

He smiled wickedly, acknowledging a lesser goal. He wanted to see Katie O'Malley eat humble crow for treating him like an incompetent buffoon. Funny - all those months they had been together, he thought her admiration of him was genuine. Come to find out, it was all an act. Apparently, she harbored nothing but contempt for him.

He frowned, as he recalled the soft way she had looked at him, just before she drifted off to sleep. It was almost like the old Katie again. He shook his head to clear the web of deceit that threatened to ensnare him. No, she had fooled him once. She wouldn't get a second chance to destroy what little had been left intact after her previous assault.

Stealthily he approached the ladder to Liz's balcony. Looking around, he ascertained that no one was peering into the darkened alley, and he quickly ascended the fire ladder. Standing at the window, he listened for signs of anyone in the room. All was quiet.

He lifted the window and slid inside, grateful that the door to the hall was shut, thereby concealing him. He drew the window back down, and gave the room a sweeping glance. No baby in the cradle. Bathroom door open. That drew his attention. He would hide in there, until she returned to her room. Then he would abduct her and the brat. He opened the door to the shower stall, and stepped inside. Hopefully, he wouldn't have long to wait.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 11-Aug-2002 4:38:13 PM ]

posted on 19-Aug-2002 12:20:44 AM by sheeperz
Here I is!!

Well, I hope I'm not digging a hole I can't get myself out of here... lol. I keep plodding along at this, hoping I'm not going to inadvertently include something that will trip me up later....

Sorry, Isis, luv, but the bad guys don't go *poof*. At least not yet....

Hope you all like this part. Let me know, 'k?

Part Twenty

Streets of Roswell - 11:00 a.m.

Dunning swung the rental car around the corner, then down into an alley. Thompkins, who had been lost in his thoughts somewhere, came crashing back to reality, as Dunning pulled into a little parking lot not more than a stone's throw from the Sheriff's Department, yet cleverly concealed. He turned and looked at Dunning quizzically.

"What the hell are you doing?" he asked the younger agent.

Dunning yanked the keys out of the ignition, and opened his car door. "Come on. I'll explain in a minute."

Not used to taking orders from subordinates, Thompkins frowned, but nevertheless obeyed the command. There was an intensity about Dunning that made him acknowledge that the man was very results oriented, and he wondered what he was up to. He followed Dunning across the lot to a sleek white sportscar. "What the -?" he barked, as Dunning began unlocking the driver's door.

Dunning grinned for the first time in Thompkins' memory. Something about it sent chills up his spine. It was not a pretty sight. "I figured we wouldn't get anywhere with Roswell's finest." He followed the comment with a derisive snort, as if Roswell's finest barely surpassed borderline pathetic. "There was no way we could follow Valenti in that government look-alike car you rented us, without him knowing who was behind him. So I took the liberty of securing this little beauty for our surveillance."

"Following Valenti?" Thompkins echoed hollowly, dismissing the whole spiel about not being conspicuous.

Senior moment, Dunning thought to himself. God, save me from ignorant morons. "Following Valenti," he repeated firmly. When Thompkins didn't reply, he figured he'd better connect the dots for the geezer, before he had a meltdown, and made a mess all over the seat....

Starting the engine, he condescendingly remarked, "Did you not find it the least bit.... intriguing, that Valenti had no response to our revelation that Dave Fisher was an FBI plant in his department? Or that he didn't even bother to ask why Pierce was there undercover?"

Shit, he was slipping, Thompkins realized, as Dunning pointed out the obvious. He had been so concerned about trying to ferret out information, he overlooked the obvious. "Of course," he responded, not wanting to appear totally inept. "I guess I was just a little surprised that you had figured it would be necessary before we ever even met with the man."

Dunning shot him a sidelong look. Thompkins may have been his superior, but he had been pulled in for the investigation of Pierce's disappearance. He didn't know the first thing about what the Special Unit's function really was. If he knew half of what Dunning knew, he wouldn't even have to ask such absurd questions. "Let's just say, Agent Pierce had made comments which led me to believe that Sheriff Valenti would be... less than cooperative. Now, I don't believe for a minute that Pierce didn't leave some sort of signal behind for us, that would give us some insight here. My guess is, Valenti started tearing the place apart the minute we left."

The words had no more than crossed his lips, when they saw Valenti exit the building. "My, my, my. That was quick. I wonder where he's going in such an all-fired hurry?" Dunning asked with a sneer.

Sheriff Valenti climbed into his SUV, and stared out the windshield, lost in thought. A safe deposit box. But where? Pierce had left no clue as to the location of his box. Jim thought of the banks in Roswell. First Federal, maybe? Did he think that would be the obvious choice?

Even if that were the case, which branch? There were three offices scattered throughout the city. Where to start?

Frustrated, he reached down to turn the key in the ignition. Putting the vehicle in drive, he pointed it toward the home branch. He was well acquainted with the manager there, and hopefully he could persuade the man to at least help him locate the box.

Dunning shifted the sporty little car into gear, and pulled out at a discreet distance behind, in order to follow.

* * * * * * * * * *

Parker apartment - 11:05 a.m.

"Mmm, Mom, that was great," Liz groaned, rubbing her expanding belly with satisfaction. Her internal clock was still messed up from the time change between Antar and Roswell, so she had just finished her breakfast, although it was past 11:00 already. Her mom had assorted fresh fruits and low-fat muffins prepared and waiting for her, when she had come out after nursing Philip. Liz didn't think anything had ever tasted so good to her.

She looked across the breakfast table at where her son was propped up in a high chair, his grandma lovingly spooning mashed bananas into his eager mouth. Liz giggled at the sight. He reminded her of a baby robin. She winced in sympathy, when the most recent spoonful came spraying out of his mouth to shower her mother. She was surprised to hear her mother chuckle, as she wiped the mush off her eyelids with her finger.

"Looks like somebody's had his fill," she commented. "Sorry for the mess."

"Oh heavens, Liz, don't apologize. It isn't the first time I've been covered in baby spray." She pinned Liz with an accusing look, a hint of a suppressed smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Liz's eyes widened in feigned innocence. "Moi? Surely you don't mean -"

"Oh ho, yes I do. You were the champion, girl, and don't you forget it. I've never seen a baby spit farther, before or since. So don't you be worrying about me and the little man here. We're getting on just fine." She tweaked Philip's nose. "Aren't we, precious?" Philip giggled at the silly voice she addressed him with. "See? We understand each other."

Liz laughed. "Okay, you win. But I think I'll double check with Daddy about my distance spitting. I don't want to go down in the annals of history in such a crude fashion, without at least verifying the data."

"Suit yourself," Nancy replied with a smirk.

Liz ran her hand through her hair, which was flattened to her head, in need of a wash. "Suit myself, eh? Then how about I leave you two to your own devices, while I take a shower? My skin is starting to crawl here."

"Sure, honey, you go ahead. I'll get Philip cleaned up, and we'll play while you shower and dress. Then when you come out, I'll head downstairs to help your father with the lunch crowd."

Liz flashed her a grateful smile. She stood up, and walked around to wrap her arms around Nancy's neck, and plant a kiss on her cheek. "Thanks, Mom. I really appreciate everything you are doing for us."

"No problem. That's what moms are for." Liz gave her one more squeeze, and then disappeared into her bedroom.

* * * * * * * * * *

300 Block, Pennsylvania Ave - 11: 15

From half a block away, Agents Dunning and Thompkins watched as Jim Valenti entered the building on the corner. First Federal Bank. Arching a brow, Dunning gave Thompkins a look that said, "What did I tell you?" Obviously Valenti had found the key that would be to Pierce's safety deposit box. It was his standard practice to keep one whenever he was working undercover, just in case anything went wrong. They sat for several minutes in silence, waiting.

"So you think that Valenti is somehow mixed up in Pierce's disappearance?" Thompkins finally asked his temporary partner.

"Let's just say, I think he knows more about it than he's letting on. If he isn't directly involved, he more than likely knows what's going on."

"You think he's covering for someone?"

Dunning shrugged. "Dunno. But it gives one pause, huh? Why would he be so interested in beating us to whatever Pierce has stored in that box, unless he was covering his own tracks, or those of someone he's involved with?"

"A dirty cop?" Thompkins made no effort to contain his surprise. "I usually have damned good instincts about people, and I have trouble casting Valenti in that role."

"Probably not dirty," Dunning agreed. "More like, naive, misinformed, gullible.... a real bleeding heart," he finished with contempt.

Thompkins was more confused than ever. Dunning was saying that Valenti was covering tracks, as if there was something illegal going on, and yet he didn't think the sheriff was a dirty cop? That whatever he was doing could be interpreted as gullible? Just what the hell was going on here? He opened his mouth to ask, but the words never had a chance to form, as Valenti reappeared. Without a word, Dunning started their vehicle and pulled out into traffic, once again tailing the local law enforcement. The questions would have to wait.

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

Parker residence - 11: 20 a.m.

Liz was humming as she entered her bedroom and closed the door. She was seriously glad that she had taken the opportunity to come home and rest, while recuperating and getting her strength back. It was so nice to have time to spend with her mom, now that there were no secrets between them. All the animosity that had flowed between them when Liz had started dating Max, and behaving more like a woman in love than a little girl, was now gone. Her mom thought the world of Max, and now their son. Now they were more than just mother and daughter - they were friends. Two women who had common experiences to share. Liz smiled at the thought.

She shed her robe, and walked into the bathroom. Pulling the clip from her hair, Liz placed it on the counter by the sink, as she shook out her long silky tresses. She studied herself in the mirror for a moment, looking for signs of improvement in her physical condition. The circles under her eyes had almost completely faded, and there was a healthier glow to her face. She was unable to contain her smile. Soon she would be able to go home and be with her husband - lie beside him at night, and make love to him with all the passion she was storing up.

With that thought in her mind, she closed her eyes, and ran her fingers through her hair, lightly massaging her scalp. If she tried really hard, she could almost imagine that it was Max's hands caressing her, causing that sigh of contentment to slip past her lips. She imagined his hands roving restlessly on her, as she trailed her fingertips down the milky column of her throat. Instinctively, her breasts tightened in remembrance of the way his hands would slide down to gently knead their soft, feminine curves. The soft brush of Max's old t-shirt against her taut breasts caused a shiver of longing to shake her. Inhaling deeply, she could still detect faint traces of Max's scent on the cotton that encased her. it was as if he were all around her. She stood there, spellbound in the fantasy. With very little effort at all, she could swear she felt the heat of his strong, masculine body all along the backside of her.

And then a hand covered her mouth. Her body tensed, and her eyes flew open, realizing this was not part of the fantasy. Looking in the mirror, her gaze met that of an angry young man with cold eyes. Her body shuddered reflexively at the sight. Who was this man, and what did he want with her? And then reality hit her like a bucket of cold water in her face - why hadn't she sensed this man's presence? Even knowing he was there, seeing the malice in his eyes, she felt... nothing. No warning of impending danger, just.... nothing.

Panic swelled up in her breast at the realization. What else had she not sensed? Could Max be in danger? Zan? Karanna? She began to fight wildly against the fierce grip the stranger had on her. In the ensuing struggle, his hand accidentally clamped over her breast as he sought to restrain her, and Liz thought she would retch from such an intimate touch. Who was this man?

Her eyes, wild with fear, looked at him again in the mirror. The twisted, sadistic smile that greeted her chilled her to the bone. She knew in that instant, that what he had planned was something totally horrible. That she probably wouldn't live through the ordeal. Going limp in his arms, she closed her eyes, and began to pray. For the protection of her son. For the life of her husband. And for her own immortal soul.

"That's better, you little whore," he whispered next to her ear. "I suggest you come along peaceably, or else I'll be forced to destroy anyone else who gets in my way. Understand?"

Tears welling in her eyes, Liz nodded. She hoped that he would remove his beefy hand from across her mouth, where it was impeding her breathing as it half blocked her nostrils. That was not to be.

All of a sudden, Adam realized where his hand was and tentatively squeezed her breast, measuring it with his hand. "No wonder that bastard wants you so bad," he whispered seductively. He groped her again. "Very nice." He felt something wet splash on his arm, and his head jerked up to look at her in the mirror again. Her eyes were closed, and tears were streaming down her face, dripping off her jaw onto his flesh. Something inside him softened marginally at the vulnerability of such a fragile creature, but then he caught himself, and steeled himself to resist her allure. She was Evans' whore, and he'd do well to keep that in mind.

"Time for us to take a little ride," he whispered. "Where's your brat?"

Panic slammed through Liz's veins again. What did he want with Philip?

Adam felt her respiration accelerate and become shallow, her heart beating wildly against the hand that covered her breast. His arm across her chest tightened as he asked, "Is he in the bedroom?" He watched as her eyes frantically darted around the room, undoubtedly searching for a weapon. Interesting. She might panic over her own abduction, but she would fight to the death to protect her son. He began dragging her out of the bathroom, into her adjoining bedroom. "Let's see, shall we?" he murmured. When they came to the empty cradle, he sighed. "Too bad," he said regretfully, in a low voice. "I'll just have to come back for him later. I'd rather not confront your parents, but I will if I have to. I just hate the thought of two more bodies to dispose of...."

Liz whimpered, and the hand covering her mouth jerked her head backward until it slammed into his shoulder. "Be quiet," he hissed, "Or I'll march in there and kill them all right now." His comment elicited the desired response, and Liz silenced herself, hoping to buy a little time for her family. Maybe they could get a message to Max, and somehow... Her spirit sank into despair. She didn't want anything to happen to Max, while trying to save her.

It was then that she realized that if she was going to protect Max, she would need to find a way out of this herself. And in order to do that, she would have to be calm and alert. Taking a deep breath, she shoved all her fear and anxiety to the side, and pulled herself together to face the challenge that lay ahead. And none too soon.

"Come on, you little alien-loving slut." There. Let her wonder about that. And wonder, she did. "You're coming with me, and you better be on your best behavior, or I'll make sure that no one you love is left alive." With that, he marched her to the window, and with a stern, no-nonsense look, removed his hand from her mouth. "One peep out of you, and they all die, bitch. Remember that." Liz nodded, and he smiled that wicked, tormentor's smile. "Out you go," he said, as he pushed her head down to go out the window. He shoved the rest of her to follow it, and she landed face first on the balcony. "Oops!" he said in feigned surprise. "Did I do that?"

Realizing that he was baiting her, Liz merely stood and dusted herself off without a word. Her captor frowned, obviously displeased that he had failed to evoke an emotional response from her. He was about to order her to the ladder when she softly asked, "Do you think I could at least get dressed before you parade me through the streets?"

"No." One word, spoken flatly, with finality.

Liz was not to be easily denied. "Why?"

Surprise at her sassiness registered in his eyes for the briefest of moments. "Why? Because I said no. Does it offend your maidenly modesty for me to see you in that skimpy t-shirt? By the way, do you have any panties on under that thing?" he brazenly asked, as he boldly reached for the hem of the shirt, to lift it and check. Liz slapped his hand away, and he had to choke back a bark of laughter at her spunk. He hadn't thought she would have so much spirit, and he found himself rather amused by her. No wonder Evans found her so appealing.... He shook his head to clear away the images that were beginning to form in his head. Lusty images of her writhing form beneath him.....

He gritted his teeth against the heat swelling in his loins. Irritable at his own reaction to her he snapped, "Answer me, damn it."

Knowing that he would never do anything to accommodate her, or her wishes, she refused to acknowledge that indeed, she didn't want him leering at her scantily clad body. What she needed to do was come up with a reason that would benefit him. Smiling serenely, just to keep him from thinking that she was a terrified little priss, she calmly explained, "If I go parading around town in a nightshirt, people will notice. I would think you would want to draw as little attention as possible. Or am I mistaken?"

Adam scowled. The bitch had a point. The last thing he needed was to arouse anyone's suspicions. All he wanted was to get her back to the motel as quickly and painlessly as possible. "All right," he conceded. "But I'll pick out your clothes. And you'd best be quick about it."

With a jerk of his head, he motioned for her to go back inside. Adam followed her in through the window, and went to her dresser. Rummaging through her things, he found a skimpy top with little spaghetti straps, and a pair of short shorts. He thrust his arm out, and told her to put them on. Liz stood there staring at him, as his gaze never left her.

"I said, put them on," he whispered harshly, looking for all the world like he might slap her at any moment.

"Not with you watching," she hissed back.

"You think I'm going to turn my back on you?" he asked incredulously. "You take me for some kind of fool?"

"I'm not stripping naked in front of you!" she reiterated in a furious whisper.

Adam's fists clenched by his side. He ought to just knock her out, and carry her out of here, he thought. If only it wouldn't look so suspicious.... "Fine," he snarled finally. "You have one minute. After that, I turn around. If you aren't covered.... Guess I get a little show, huh?" he taunted.

"Don't hold your breath," she muttered. She waited while he turned around. Furiously she began stripping and redressing herself, painfully aware that he wasn't even allowing her the luxury of a bra, all the while thinking what she could do to leave a message. Something to let Max and her family know that she hadn't taken off, but that she was missing against her will.

As soon as she was dressed, she laid out Max's T-shirt on the bed, and decided to try out the skills she had been learning from Isabel. Using her index finger like a pen, she concentrated as she traced the word "HELP" across the shirt, the black of the fabric turning white as she went along. This, she decided, was much more useful than changing the color of nail polish. She quickly flipped the shirt over, so the side that was still all black was facing up.

"I'm ready," she said softly.

Adam spun around, surprised at how quickly she had changed. He remembered waiting hours for Katie to get dressed sometimes.... Damn. He had to stop letting his mind wander. There was too much at stake. He wrapped his hand around her slender arm, and roughly escorted her to the window. "Let's go," he ordered.

Without any further resistance, Liz obeyed his command, and followed him to the car waiting in the back parking lot. Somehow, some way, she was going to find a way out of this mess. She just had to be ready.

* * * * * * * * * *

Pod Chamber - 11: 20 a.m.

Max had been frantically pacing the pod chamber for the past ten minutes, ever since he first felt the awareness of danger humming through his consciousness. He had looked at Zan and Karanna, and the tension he observed in them confirmed his suspicions. Liz was in danger.

Zan had reminded him that they had sensed the same thing several times before, and so far, it hadn't culminated in disaster. Danger might be near, but whoever was responsible still might not know where Liz was. At least they could hope.

Max was just about to go out of his head with worry, when he felt the first stirrings of passion interlaced with the sense of foreboding. Passion? What was that all about? He looked surreptitiously at his brother and sister-in-law. They didn't seem to be aware of anything unusual happening. He separated himself off in a dark corner, and closed his eyes, concentrating on this newest sensation. As he focused, he knew that it was Liz. She must be thinking about him, and longing to be with him....

Max felt the blood rush to his loins - hot, heavy, and demanding. He had been too long without joining with Liz, and every cell in his body was screaming for her. Max gasped for breath, willing his body's response to come under control. He could almost feel the smooth skin of her throat against his lips, and sense the softness of her swollen breasts in his palms. His hands instinctively cupped, as if caressing her hard-tipped breasts....

Panic slammed through him like a sucker punch to the stomach. This was no warning of danger - this was a blatant message that she was under attack. His knees threatened to give out as fear held him in its grip for several moments. He was so overwhelmed, it took him a minute to realize that someone was repeatedly calling his name.

"Max. Max!" Slowly he returned to his senses. Zan. Zan was calling him. Blankly, Max stared up at him. "Max, what is it?"

Unable to respond under the onslaught of emotion, Max looked up imploringly at his brother. As if understanding the silent plea, Zan touched Max, and looked straight into his eyes. Immediately the connection was made, and he realized the source of Max's distress. Fighting the overwhelming flood of terror together, Zan was able to help Max to pull out of its stronghold over him.

When they felt Liz's sudden resolve in the face of her danger, Max sank to his knees, shaking. "My God, what has happened to Liz? What evil is she having to face alone? Damn it! I should have been with her! We never should have waited for Valenti!"

Zan had to agree with him, but he didn't want to get caught up in a lot of "what ifs" and assigning blame. They needed to focus and find a positive course, moving ahead instead of looking behind. "Let's not dwell on that now," he told Max. "We need to find a way to get to her, and put a stop to whatever is happening." He picked up the cell phone, and walked out of the cave to make a call. Pushing the speed-dial for Valenti, he waited while it rang.

Jim drove the scant couple of blocks between First Federal and the Courthouse on Main Street, where he intended to snag a judge friend of his regarding a search warrant. He was just about to park his truck when his cell phone went off.

He pulled into a spot in front of the Courthouse. "Valenti."

"Sheriff, this is Zan. There's been some trouble."

"Trouble?" Jim tensed at the sound of the word.

"We believe that Liz had been abducted. The particulars are vague, as all Max was able to sense from her was fear and panic. We need to get to the Parkers' on the double."

Jim turned on his flashing lights and pulled back into traffic, swinging in a wide arc to make a U-turn. "Shit. Listen, use your alien hocus pocus, and change the color of your car to.... dark green, in case anyone has been watching and seen the car before. And tint your windows so they are really dark. That should conceal you from prying eyes. Drive in, and park out behind the Crashdown. I'll meet you there, after I've done a check around the immediate area. All right?" He turned off the emergency lights, and continued down the road toward the Crashdown.

"Fine. We'll see you shortly." He ended the call, and went back into the cave. He immediately saw Max still on the ground shaking, and shot a look at his sister. She quietly crossed to where he stood.

"What did Valenti say?"

"He wants us to meet him behind the Crashdown ASAP. We need to... modify the car first, though. Can you turn the car dark green, and give the windows a dark tint, while I help Max get to it? I don't think he's quite up for walking on his own, from the looks of things."

"Yeah, I can take care of that. See you in a few minutes." With that, she headed to the smaller cave that housed the car, to make the necessary adjustments.

Zan went to his brother, and putting an arm around his waist, helped him to his feet. "Come on, ya big lug, time to go rescue that woman of yours. That's right, one foot in front of the other. I know, it feels like your bones have been sucked out of your body, but I assure you, they haven't been. Try to focus on something else, so that your body can release the numbing sense of fear. Think about little Philip, and how he giggles when you tickle him."

"Philip," Max croaked, a fresh wave of panic racing through him.

"Oh, no, don't think that way," Karanna chided. "I don't sense that Philip is in any immediate danger. So stop borrowing more trouble than we already have, hmm?" Max nodded his assent. "Good. You're walking a little better, too. Keep it going - we're almost there, and then you can rest while we drive to town." Soon they were in the "Batcave," and they bundled Max into the back seat with his sister for the ride to Roswell.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Parker residence - 11:40 a.m.

Nancy rapped on Liz's door. "Liz?" When she didn't hear an answer, she figured her daughter was taking a leisurely shower, and couldn't hear her knock. Her arms laden with freshly laundered towels and clothes, she opened the door and stepped into the room. Immediately, a breeze blowing the curtains drew her eyes to the open, unprotected window. She couldn't believe that Liz had been so careless. She knew how important it was to conceal her presence here.

Nancy placed the clothes on Liz's bed, noting the T-shirt that lay there with a frown. Usually Liz didn't undress until she got into the bathroom. She quickly shut the window, and pulled down the shade. Picking up the stack of towels, she crossed to the bathroom door, and knocked. When she got no response this time, the skin on the back of her neck prickled. She opened the door, and was met with silence. If Liz was in the shower, the water should have been running. Yet there was no sign of Liz in here at all. She opened the shower stall door, just to be sure.

Setting the towels on the edge of the sink, she spun around to reenter the bedroom. Her eyes landed on the shirt Liz had been wearing earlier. She still thought it was odd to be there if Liz had gone to shower. Thoughtfully, she picked it up, and began to fold it. Something about it seemed strange... she turned it around, and gasped in horror at the message that Liz had somehow found a way to leave on the back of it. HELP. Nancy's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a sob. What had happened to her daughter? Before she could think any further, she heard someone frantically pounding on her front door.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 19-Aug-2002 1:56:19 PM ]

posted on 19-Aug-2002 10:39:37 PM by sheeperz
Is anyone but me having the fanfic board blues? I can only seem to access half of what I try....

One of the things I've been trying to get into is bmail. So for those of you who wonder why I haven't bmailed you about the new part... now you know.


If you want to be put on my list to receive email notification of new parts (more reliable), please drop me a note at fanfic⊕ and ask to be put on the list.

Welcome, LivinInCin, and thanks for the encouraging FB. Awww, now you just KNOW that things couldn't keep on going quite that smoothly, right? hehehe Hopefully you won't be disappointed.

Thanks again to all of you who read this faithfully, and are kind enough to leave me notes of encouragement. Oh yes! And THANKS!! for those of you who have rated this fic with such a generous heart! *big*

posted on 30-Aug-2002 2:41:28 PM by sheeperz
Hi all!

Just want you to know, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Just been busy, and we've been out of town quite a bit the last couple of weeks. But I am well into writing the next part, and hope to have it up by the first of the week at the latest, maybe sooner, if all goes well.

Thanks for your patience, and for the bumps along the way! *big*
posted on 5-Sep-2002 10:29:56 PM by sheeperz
Thanks to all of you who have rated my fic. I see my rating has slipped... hmmm. Wonder if that's someone's comment on this new story line? *wink* I promise, it WILL get better.

So, sorry this part took so long. Life seems to be spinning out of control lately. But I'll keep plugging away, as long as y'all keep reading.

Hope you enjoy the new part - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Part Twenty-one

Nancy Parker stood frozen to the spot, even as the insistent knocking on her door continued. Someone had taken her baby, and she had no idea who. Could that be who was trying to bang down her door?

"Nancy, open up! It's Jim!" she heard through the door. With a sob of momentary relief - however slight, under the circumstances - she ran through the apartment, and flung open the door. Taking in her appearance, he knew that there was no chance that Max had simply been overwrought with worry. "Liz?" he asked with a choked voice, seeking a denial he was sure would not be there.

Tears flooded Nancy's eyes. "She's gone," she confirmed in a harsh whisper.

"Damn it!" he exploded. "How the hell did this happen?" Nancy backed away a step from him, obviously shaken by his seemingly accusatory tone. "Hey, I'm sorry," he said in a more soothing voice, as his hands reached out to gently grasp her shoulders. "I wasn't blaming you. If anything, I blame myself for this mess. What I meant to ask was, how did she get abducted?"

"A-apparently she was taken out through the window in her bedroom. She had gone in there to shower, so I don't know how long she's been missing...."

"Not too long," Jim mumbled, looking around the apartment for signs of Philip.

"How do you know that?"

"Because Max called me. He and Zan and Karanna were able to sense that something was wrong with Liz, and they're on their way now. I'm supposed to meet them here."

Nancy covered her mouth with a trembling hand, as her whole body began to quiver in reaction to the situation. "Oh, God, what will we do?" she moaned in a hushed voice, as the tears pooling in her eyes finally broke free and ran down her cheeks.

Moved with compassion, as well as his own concern for Liz's safety, Jim pulled Nancy into his arms, in a comforting embrace. "I don't know," he replied honestly, "but once Max and the others get here, they'll figure something out. They always do."

With a shuddering sigh, Nancy rested her head on Jim's shoulder, as he gently stroked her back. "Yes, they do, don't they?" she responded, taking great comfort in the way that Max had protected Liz through so much already. She clung to the knowledge that Liz was Max's life, and that hell would freeze over before he let anything happen to her.

Such was the scene when Jeff Parker entered his home.

"What the hell is going on here?" he demanded, thoroughly incensed to find his wife in another man's arms, and in his own home no less. Painful memories of the marital strife that he and Nancy had worked so hard to overcome were still too close to the surface. But he had never suspected the sheriff, of all people....

Nancy pulled back from Jim's arms, turning to stare at her husband in annoyance. "Don't start, Jeff. This isn't what it looks like."

"Oh? Well then just what is -"

"Liz has been abducted," Jim interjected bluntly, cutting off Jeff's pending tirade.


Nancy nodded. "It's true. She went into her room to take a shower, and when I took some clean clothes and towels in for her a couple minutes ago, I discovered she was missing. Her bedroom window was wide open - whoever it was must have taken her out that way."

Jeff stared at his wife for a long moment. "Are you sure that Liz was taken against her will?"

Nancy gasped in response to what he was suggesting. "How can you even think such a thing? She is madly in love with her husband, and she adores that little boy of hers -"

"You're right," Jeff admitted sheepishly. It seemed that the integrity of more than just his own marriage had been tainted by the disillusionment of their struggles. "Forgive me?" He spoke the words in broken humility, extending his arms to her. Touched by the gesture, she walked into his embrace without hesitation, and cuddled against his chest. Somehow, the evil in the world didn't seem so near when he held her, she thought.

"Where is Philip, by the way?" Jim inquired. "I didn't see him when I came in."

"I left him on our bed, where he fell asleep while I was folding clothes."

"For the time being, I'd suggest you not let the little guy out of your sight. He may be a target as well, now that someone knows they are here."

"Dear heavens, he's just a baby," Nancy breathed.

"And heir to the throne of Antar," Jim reminded them both. "We don't know who has taken Liz, but suffice it to say that there are interests on both planets that would love to have their hands on him. It's our duty to make sure that they don't get the chance."

"Maybe we should take him somewhere else," Jeff suggested.

"Like where?" his wife asked, looking at him in astonishment. She hadn't thought of moving the boy. "Out of town? But if someone knows he's here, we'll be watched, won't we? Whoever has Liz could just follow us, and take him anyway."

"I, uh... have something else in mind." Jeff's enigmatic answer caused Jim's eyebrows to raise in silent question. "Of course, we can't make any decisions until Max gets here. But here's what I had in mind..."

A minute later, Jeff felt like he was 10 feet tall, the way his wife beamed up at him in that moment with blatant adoration in her eyes. "Oh, Jeff, that's a wonderful idea."

Jeff kissed her forehead tenderly, and then held her tightly to him. "When is Max due to arrive?"

Looking at his watch, Jim estimated how much longer it would be before Max and the others made their way into town. "I'd say about 20 minutes."

Nancy looked discouraged. "I guess there isn't anything else we can do now, except wait, is there?"

"Actually, there is," Jim confided. Nodding toward the telephone, he asked, "May I?"

"Sure," Jeff told him, curiosity shining in his eyes.

Jim quickly dialed a number, and turned to look back at the anxious couple. "The kids should have the cell phone with them. I figure we can pass this by Max now, and then set the wheels in motion while we're waiting -" He cut off his explanation as the ringing in his ear gave way to a masculine greeting. "Max? Yeah, this is Jim. I'm at the Parkers' now, and we had kind of an idea I wanted to bounce off you. If you think it's workable, will get things moving here. Actually, it was Jeff's idea...." He proceeded to outline the plan for securing Philip's safety. When he finished, he listened quietly for a minute, and then concluded the conversation. "Right. Okay, Max, will do. See you when you get here." Quietly, he hung up the phone.

"Well?" The suspense was killing Nancy.

"Max said to go ahead, he thought it sounded like the best possible solution, if we can get things ironed out on this end. I have to tell you, though, that he seemed a little nervous about it, all the same. I think he's wondering if Philip will be any safer in the long run."

"Oh, posh," Nancy said with a dismissive wave, as she reached for the phone. "I'm as sure of this as I've ever been of anything." She efficiently punched out the numbers, and stood tapping her foot, waiting for an answer at the other end of the line.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Where are you taking me?" Liz was surprised at the calm in her voice. Quite truthfully, she was terrified out of her wits.

"You'll see soon enough," came the non-answer.

Not to be dissuaded by the lack of information, she pressed ahead with her inquisition. "Well, then, at least tell me who you are. What this is about. I'm afraid you don't look the least bit familiar to me, and I can't imagine what you want with me." Best to play the helpless ignorant female, she thought. It might just provide her with the time she needed to formulate some sort of plan. But first, she had to regain her emotional equilibrium. She felt on the verge of hysterics, between the situation, and her concern for her son, whom this man had already threatened. Oh, yes, she was nearly ready to be fitted for a straight-jacket at the thought, and she didn't like it one bit. She wasn't used to being so out of control of her emotions. Perhaps it was the pregnancy. Buoyed by the thought that her current tendency toward irrationality could very well be attributed to hormones, and not some personal weakness, Liz took a deep breath, and rallied herself. There. That wasn't so hard. She noticed the driver watching her from the corner of his eye, as he maneuvered through the city streets. She drew her brows together in disapproval of his silence. "Well? Out with it. What is it you want from me?"

"Ah, it isn't what I want from you, precisely. You, my lovely little whore, are just the bait."

Liz ignored his comment about bait for a moment, not wanting the fear to come flooding back, and felt her blood boiling at his degrading comment. Now that she had momentarily quelled her fear, his demeanor irked her no end. "You know," she commented tartly, "I'm getting a little put out with your constant references to my moral integrity - er, rather, my supposed lack thereof. Why do you persist in referring to me as a slut and a whore?" She glared at him for a long moment, then turned forward to stare back at the road.

Adam was nonplussed by her frank question and stared silently at her, his mossy green eyes searching her features for some indication of hidden terror. He had kidnapped her, threatened her son, and here she was demanding answers of him? And she was so haughty, like she didn't have a clue what he was referring to. She had spread her thighs for that bastard Evans like some common tramp, even gave birth to his kid, and she acted as if she were the essence of feminine purity itself. Damn, but it was too much. He was about to give her a tongue-lashing, when she braced her hands on the dashboard and yelled, "Watch out!", just as he heard a car horn blaring. His head whipped back around to look out the windshield, and it was only his lightning-quick reflexes that saved the day. Jerking the steering wheel harshly to the right, he managed to narrowly avoid a head-on collision. Another coat of paint, and it would have been all over.

Liz noticed that his knuckles were going white on the steering wheel. So. Mr. Bully Man had his limits, and had just had himself a good fright. Maybe now that he was distracted....

Cautiously, she began to reach for the handle to the door. He wasn't driving that fast, since they were still in the city. Surely she could survive jumping from the car. But damn, where was a red light when you wanted one? She realized he was slowing the car, and was about to make a break for it, when the car swung to the right, and pulled into the parking lot of the Navajo Motel. Liz felt her blood freeze in her veins. Why was he bringing her here?

As he parked the vehicle in front of one of the doors, he reminded her, "Don't try to run off on me. Just remember - I know where your family lives, and if you pull anything, why, I guess I'll just have to go back and hunt them down, won't I?"

The fear she had managed to keep under control slammed through her entire being full-force at his threat. It bore down on her so suddenly, she had no chance to school her expression, and her terror was displayed for her captor's viewing.

Adam laughed. "So. You aren't quite as fearless as you would have me believe, hmm? Well, that's convenient. At least now I know I can keep you in line."

"You still haven't told me what you want," she snapped a little waspishly.

"Why, I want Max Evans. And what better way to bait him, than with his little whore?"

Well. Whoever he was, the jerk didn't know everything. Didn't know that she was his wife. That gave her an idea. "What makes you think that Max will care enough about a simple whore to be bothered with your little game?"

Adam frowned at her sudden change of attitude. "I'm not at all certain. I mean, you must be a good lay for him, if he's willing to cross species boundaries and all. But I need a trump card. That's why I'm going to go back for the brat."

Liz's stomach twisted so painfully at that statement, that she thought she would retch. God, forgive her for what she was about to say. "You think that the bastard son of a whore would mean anything to him? Do you realize who he is?"

Not willing to give away any of his secrets, Adam merely arched a brow as if waiting for her to explain. She didn't disappoint him. Throwing herself into the role of the woman scorned, she wailed, "He's the king of an entire planet of people! In the face of that, just how significant do you think I am in the scheme of things?"

Adam momentarily suffered from uncertainty. Was she right? Was she as meaningless to Max as she claimed? Then he realized what she was up to. Sneering at her, he growled, "Nice try, but it won't work. You've had Evans panting after you like you were a bitch in heat for years now. Nothing can change that." He gave her body an appreciative once-over, his eyes finally settling on her breasts. They were heaving with her shallow, frightened breathing. Liz didn't miss the way his eyes darkened significantly as they roved her rounded breasts. "If anything, he has more reason to want you now," he told her, his voice thick with growing arousal. "Motherhood obviously agrees with you. You've filled out from that scrawny little girl you were in high school."

He had been watching them since high school? He knew who she was all that time? Why had she never seen his face before? Liz was mightily confused. She wished to hell he would tell her who he was. "I'm afraid," she began, trying to keep her voice unaffected by her mounting panic, "that you have me at quite a disadvantage. Apparently, you've known who I am for quite some time. Unfortunately, I have no idea who you are." She stared at him meaningfully, hoping he might say something that would at least give her a clue as to what she was up against.

"Yes, I've known who you are for a long time, Liz Parker," he replied, but made no further attempts to shed light on the situation. He did, however, get out of the vehicle, and come around to her side, opening the door and holding it until she emerged. Without a single word exchanged between them, he wrapped his long, very masculine fingers around her slender upper arm, and steered her in the direction of the room he had left Katie in. He had to fight the temptation to appreciate the softness of her, and the accompanying jolt of desire it had unleashed in him.

Angry with himself far more than with her, he stuck the key into the lock, and once the door was opened, shoved Liz inside. She lost her balance, and would have fallen to the floor if his hand hadn't shot out to steady her once again. He was a mass of confused emotions - wanting to punish her for her affect on him, and yet desiring to protect her as well, in equal measures. Well, hell.

Liz blinked, her eyes straining to become accustomed to the low level of light inside the room, the heavy drapes being drawn. It was a bright, sunny day outside, and the sudden change left spots swimming in front of her eyes. Removing his dark sunglasses and tossing them on a nearby table, he ordered her to sit down. When she didn't move, he looked at her, noticing the way she squinted and blinked. Realizing what her problem was, he gently steered her to the chair, and after fumbling to locate the seat, she obediently sat in it.

As her eyes adjusted, she heard her kidnapper moving about in the room, and then another strange sound greeted her ears. A moan. A feminine moan. There was someone else in the room with them! Liz wondered who it was. Maybe the woman would give her some clue as to what was going on.

"Hey, Katie-girl," she heard him say softly, as her eyes finally focused on a blob that she discerned to be him, moving around in the near darkness.

"Adam?" The woman's voice was thready and weak, yet husky from sleep. Something about it tickled the edges of Liz's mind. She disregarded the feeling, realizing that now she at least knew her captor's name. "Where - where are we?"

Liz was surprised. Obviously these two knew each other, if they were on a first-name basis. Surely he hadn't abducted this Katie as well?

She watched as the dark figure that was Adam reached out to touch this Katie. "You don't remember? You're in Roswell - we're at the Navajo motel." His hand trailed tenderly down her arm.

"Roswell - right," she said, trying to get her bearings. "Why is it so dark in here?"

"I pulled the drapes when I left, so you could get some decent rest. Do you want me to turn on a light now?"

"Yes, please," she answered in a near whisper. Liz could hear Adam fumbling with the lamp on the bedside table, and then a glaring light pierced the room. She squinted, bringing her hand up to shade her eyes.

"Better?" Adam asked the woman huddled on the bed.

"Mmm," came the murmured response, as she struggled to sit up. Liz's eyes had adjusted enough to see Adam slide his arm under this Katie woman, supporting her back and easing her into an upright position. The woman appeared to be very weak, and was blinking against the harsh light. Liz took in her features. Her hair was mussy from sleep, but she could see that it was full and thick, and a deep shade of red. Something about her face looked vaguely familiar, but she wasn't quite able to place where she might have seen her before.

She was still staring assessingly at the woman, when Katie's eyes finally came to rest on her. She regarded Liz quizzically at first, but just as Adam was about to explain who she was, Katie's eyes rolled up in her head and she shrieked in apparent pain, clutching at her head and falling back to the bed.

"Katie! My God, what's the matter?" Adam demanded as he scooped her up into his arms.

Katie's body spasmed uncontrollably as he held her, low, guttural sounds coming from her. Finally she ground out, "Liz - warn Max....", and then she lost consciousness, falling limp in Adam's arms.

Adam looked up at Liz, wondering if she had been able to understand Katie's words. Seeing her pallor, he was convinced that she had. "Well, this is certainly an interesting turn of events. I didn't even know you two were acquainted. How cozy."

"We aren't," Liz managed to utter, although her voice was so soft, Adam had to strain to hear her.

Adam snorted at the denial, even as he spread Katie back out on the bed. "Right. So that's why my boss, the woman who has had me hunting Max Evans is suddenly telling his.... woman to warn him? Don't you find that a bit odd?" he asked with a sneer.

Liz didn't answer him, because her mind was otherwise occupied. She merely stared at the woman who had just tried to get her to warn Max. Something was still nagging at her... this woman's looks, her voice.... why couldn't she place her?

The next thing Liz knew, Adam was grabbing her, and hauling her up out of the chair. "Ow, you barbarian! Quit manhandling me!"

Adam grinned down at her, unable to help himself. "Nope, I can't blame Evans a bit. You're a feisty little thing, and you must be something in bed. I bet you even yowl like a wildcat." That said, he yanked her arms behind her back, and began tying her wrists together.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

"Aw, come on, Lizzie. You can't be that dumb. I'm tying you up."

"Don't treat me like some airhead. Of course you're tying me up. What I want to know is: why? You haven't felt the need to before now, so why all of a sudden the ropes?"

As he yanked the rope tightly into place, securing the knot, he answered, "Because I have to go out for a while, and I want to make sure you stay put." He pushed her down on the bed next to Katie, then took up another rope to tie her feet. "Of course, I don't know how long Katie will be out, but I'll have to tie her up, too, now that she's proven herself to be a traitor." Without further comment, he finished tying Liz, then proceeded to bind the other woman. When he was finished, he stood and glared at the two figures on the bed for a long moment, then turned and left the room quietly.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 5-Sep-2002 10:31:14 PM ]

posted on 16-Sep-2002 11:06:36 PM by sheeperz
Hi Gang!

Well, here's the latest installment. Wow, you all have so many questions... I hope this will answer a few of them.

I'm sorry that it is taking so long between parts, and that there are so many concurrent scenes running, but I hope you will continue to be patient with me. I didn't get back to Liz or the other podsters in this part, but that should happen in the next chapter. I hope this doesn't confuse you too much... although I am having a time of it keeping things straight, when I don't get the chance to write regularly, and have to keep rereading to refresh my memory as to what I've covered!

Forgive me, too, if this formats weird. If it does, I'll try to fix it!

Be sure and let me know what you think!

Part Twenty-two

Nancy was still on the phone, when an insistent knock came at the door. Jeff and Jim turned sharply to look at each other. There was no way that Max and the others could have gotten there already. Jim motioned with his head for Jeff to get Nancy to interrupt her conversation until they knew who it was. As he headed to the door, gun in hand, he heard Nancy quietly say, "Hold on a second, there's someone at the door." He peered back over his shoulder, and saw her wide, frightened eyes following his progress through the apartment. He nodded, indicating he knew she had temporarily cut off her conversation, and he reached his hand out to the doorknob. Quick as a flash, he whipped the door open, swinging his gun to level at the person waiting on the other side, all in one fluid movement.

Amy DeLuca gave a little shriek, slapping her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming in reaction to having a gun pointed at her heart. Jim immediately dropped the gun, pulled Amy into his arms, and drew her inside, shutting the door after them.

Jim held her pressed against his chest, rubbing her back comfortingly as she trembled, his own heart racing wildly after pulling a gun on the woman he loved. This day was continuing to go downhill - fast. When she finally came back to her senses, he asked her, "What are you doing here?"

"I heard what happened to Liz, and I thought maybe Nancy might need someone - you know, another woman...." Her voice trailed off, as she realized how lame it sounded. Obviously, Nancy had a husband to comfort her. But at a time like this, Amy felt like she just needed to be in the company of those "who knew". Periodically, her heart would twist in her chest, imagining - much against her own will and better judgment - how she would feel if it was her baby that was missing. She would want all the love and support these people could give her.

Wrapping his hand around her neck, Jim bent and placed a warm, reassuring kiss on her lips. Just when Amy was sure her bones were about to melt, he pulled back, and quietly asked, "How on earth did you find out?"

"Isabel. She called me from the cell phone. She thought I'd want to know." She looked around the room. "Are they here yet?"

Jim glanced up at the clock. "No, not for another 15 minutes or so," he informed her.

"God, this is awful. How's Max taking it?"

"He's rallied himself, thankfully. I was afraid he was going to fall to pieces, but he's back in charge of himself now - and of the situation," he added with no small measure of relief. Jim had always been confident as a law enforcement officer, but fighting alien wars was something he didn't want command of. He was more than willing to relinquish the responsibility to Max on that front.

Nancy had gone back to her telephone conversation, and Amy overheard a few snippets of it - just enough to send her surprised gaze rocketing to Jim's, the unspoken question plain. He simply gave her a reassuring smile, and pulled her close to his heart again.

Hanging up the receiver, Nancy turned to her friends and spouse, giving a slight nod of her head. "Everything is arranged. I - I better go get Philip ready," she finished hesitantly, swallowing around the sudden lump in her throat that formed as she contemplated the unthinkable; no, she would die before letting anything happen to their precious little grandson. Seeing Jeff's nod of approval, she disappeared into Liz's room to gather Philip's things, and then went to her own room to get the baby ready for his rescue.

Kneeling before the antique cedar chest at the foot of her bed, Nancy opened the lid, and stared down into the contents, a great wave of sadness washing over her. With great longing for the additional children she had wanted, but could not conceive, she began rifling through the frilly little dresses that had once been Liz's. Jeff had often teased her about being such a pack rat, unable to bear parting with those precious reminders of their daughter's babyhood. Ironically, those same hoarding tendencies might now help to save the life of Liz's child, she thought. She finally found the pile of dresses that were Philip's size, and pulled them out. She removed his clothing from the shoulder bag Liz had packed it in, and buried it in the bottom of the chest.

As she began stripping her grandson, she began talking to him in a soothing, loving voice. "Here we go, little man. I hope this doesn't offend your masculine pride too much," she teased. "I'd hate to think that you were scarred for life as a result of this." She slipped a beautiful pink and white dress over his head, then slipped on a little pair of panties, with frills all over the butt, over his diaper. Next came the little frilled, white anklets, and patent leather shoes. A lacy bonnet completed the ensemble, and she hoped that the transformation would fool anyone who might be looking for her daughter's little boy. She had done her part; now all that was left was to wait.

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

Diane Evans hung up the phone, her face pale and hands trembling. She couldn't believe what was happening. As she turned to exit the living room, her husband observed her pallor, and quickly rose from the sofa, tossing the paper he had been reading aside. "Diane? Honey? What's wrong?"

Dazed, she seemed oblivious to his words, and continued on her path in a trance-like state. Philip followed her, an eyebrow arching as she opened the basement door. It was totally unlike her to go down there; whenever she needed anything she usually asked him or Max -

His heart twisted painfully at the thought of his son. Even after all this time, he was amazed at how naturally Max came to mind, as if he had never left. Abruptly, his mind returned to the present situation. Why would she go down there, when she normally resisted it? Curious, he followed her down the steps, and through the open storage area.

His breath caught in his throat when he saw where she had halted. It was where they kept all of the baby things - the crib, swing, playpen, stroller, even a diaper bag. His heart came up in his throat at the memories. They had been so excited when they found out Diane was pregnant early in their marriage. They had spent hours planning out the nursery, painting and decorating, then finally shopping for the furniture....

Remembered sorrow for the child that had been stillborn brought tears to his eyes, as he watched his beloved wife lovingly run her hands over the long ago stored items. They had never been able to bring themselves to get rid of the things, even after they had adopted Max and Isabel. There was always that hope, they told themselves. Hope that maybe someday she would conceive again. When she didn't, they had agreed to save them for their grandchildren. But why was she drawn to these things now?

A fleeting thought crossed his mind, that perhaps that call had been from her doctor. Could she be pregnant after all these years, he wondered? He discounted the possibility as soon as it had crossed his mind. The chances of that happening were slim to none. So that left...


Philip sucked in a shocked breath, somehow knowing in his gut that this was what had driven his wife down to the one area of their home that she despised. But Max, Isabel, and Zan were long gone from Earth. Even if they had grandchildren, they would never see them, he thought sadly. Shaking off his troubling thoughts, he walked up behind his wife, and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Sweetheart? What is it? Why are you down here?"

For the first time, his presence broke through her preoccupation, and she turned wide, haunted eyes to his. In that moment, he wasn't sure he was ready to hear what she had to say.

"That was Nancy Parker on the phone," she told him. He waited patiently for her to continue. She searched his eyes intently, looking for some sign of disapproval at the mention of their son's mother-in-law. When she found none, she went on. "It seems that Liz has been ill, and staying with them for the last few days. She was kidnapped just a little while ago..." Her voice trailed off at the end of the sentence, her mind seeming to take her away for a moment or two.

Philip cupped her face in his hands. "How is Max taking it?" he asked quietly.

There was no mistaking the genuine concern in his voice, and Diane was relieved to hear it. "Not well, but he's holding himself together so he can find her." Philip watched as her mind appeared to wander again.

"There's more, isn't there?" he prodded.

Nodding, Diane continued, "Liz had their infant son with her at the Parkers'. Jeff and Nancy are concerned that Philip might become a target as well."

"Philip?" her husband croaked out through the lump in his throat.

Again she nodded. "They named their first son after you," she confirmed, looking into his eyes, her own bright with unshed tears.

"My God," he whispered, tears of his own springing forth. "We have a grandson," he murmured in awe.

"Phil, it's time we made peace with our children." She immediately held up a hand to stay any comments from him. "I don't care what you say, Max, Isabel, and even Zan are our children - are my children," she emphasized. "Maybe they aren't children of my womb, but they are children of my heart," she finished on a broken sob as she pounded her fist on her chest over the spot that ached with emptiness.

Philip gasped at her words. "Of course they are!" he exclaimed, and pulled her close to comfort her. "I was wondering when you were going to realize it."

Diane stiffened, and pulled back in his arms so she could look up at him. "What do you mean? I've always felt this way!"

Philip frowned. "Then why, when I tried to talk about the kids, would you always change the subject, or walk away? You would never listen to anything that I had to say!"

"B-because I didn't want to listen to you rant on and on about how they aren't human, and how irresponsible they are, and who knows what else! You made your feelings clear, the day they left!"

"No, I didn't! I was in shock, Diane! How did you expect me to react? For heaven's sake, I had just found out that my kids were aliens! That's not something that happens to a guy every day!"

"Well they're my kids too, and I didn't go all cold on them. You let them think that you didn't give a damn about them anymore! It's because of you that they've stayed away!"

"You don't know that!" he bellowed.

"Yes, I do!" she hurled back at him. "Nancy told me that she and Jeff have seen them numerous times, and Liz was staying in their home! Obviously, they felt loved and accepted by Liz's parents!"

"Oh, really? Well, as I recall, Jeff's reaction that day was far worse than mine!"

Diane took a deep breath, her eyes falling away from the fire in Philip's glare. "That's true," she conceded, "but he made the effort to admit his wrong and make amends with them."

"Don't you think I've wanted to do that?" Philip asked his wife in a pained whisper.

"Do you?"

"Every day since the day they left. But I was waiting for you to be ready. I figured when you wouldn't talk about it, it was just too painful for you to deal with the truth of their identity. And when you wouldn't eat, and you got so pale and sick, I thought it was from the shock, and your inability to deal with what had happened. God! We've wasted so much time. We have to make it up to them."

"Well, we're about to get our chance," Diane informed him, turning to the pile of baby accessories, and pulling the car seat out into the aisle. Philip's eyebrows lifted toward his hairline in mute question. "Jeff and Nancy want us to take Philip and hide him, while Max looks for Liz."

"I'm game, but how are we going to take him out of there, without someone seeing? I mean, what if someone is watching their place?"

"No problem," Diane reassured him, smiling brightly. "We have a plan."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"I guess the old stereotype of cops sitting around drinking coffee and eating donuts must be true," Dunning muttered in disgust, as they sat parked across the street from the Crashdown Cafe. He was beginning to think he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Perhaps Valenti didn't have a clue as to Pierce's whereabouts. What if he really was just following his typical routine? The young agent shook his head to clear it of such thoughts. Valenti had to know something. Because if he didn't, Pierce's trail died cold right here. And that was something Dunning couldn't accept.

He felt a familiar aggravation bubbling up inside him. How many times had he told Daniel that he needed to let them in on his whereabouts? But Pierce had always been his own man, disappearing for months at a time, deep undercover on one mission or another. Having no other choice, Dunning had accepted it as a fact of life. That was why, when Pierce had simply vanished after the debacle before the Congressional Committee that led to the shut down of the Special Unit, Dunning had tried not to worry.

But something had bothered him about the way Pierce had been acting, ever since he returned to Washington. Frequently, Dan wouldn't return his phone calls, and when he did, he was distant and aloof - almost cold. He knew that Pierce had captured his alien subject in New Mexico, because he had phoned to share his triumph with him. What he had trouble reconciling was that somehow the subject had escaped, and that the man he knew as Daniel Pierce had come back home an entirely different individual. To Dunning's knowledge, he never spoke to anyone about what had happened at the Eagle Rock facility with the alien.

Still, he had tried to give Pierce some latitude - after all, having an alien to study in his possession, and then losing it, had to have set him on edge. That, and the fact that several more agents had been massacred, silver glowing handprints adorning their lifeless bodies. He knew how badly Pierce despised these aliens, although he himself thought his obsession was a little overblown. After all, it was a natural reaction for a hunted animal to try and defend itself. And he knew that it wasn't remorse over his subordinates' deaths that drove Pierce. He merely viewed it as a way that the enemy was taunting him - besting him - and the insult stung. It was a decidedly cold-blooded view of the situation, but then, that was Dan.

Dunning had done his best to give Pierce the space he so obviously needed, to try and come to terms with whatever demons were haunting him. It hadn't been easy, but he knew Dan well enough to know that pressing him would only make matters worse. But before they could ever discuss what had happened, Pierce was gone.

Despite his agitation as the months went by, Dunning continued to hold out hope that Pierce had just decided to get away for awhile to recover from the whole ordeal. Perhaps get alone to regroup and plan their next strategy. After all, he knew him well enough to know that shutting down the Special Unit wouldn't interfere with Pierce's agenda.

The months turned into a year, however, and then almost two, with still no word. Dunning was beside himself. Nothing, though, had prepared him for what he learned at a cocktail party hosted by the president last month. He had been assigned to plainclothes security for the evening, and was mingling with the other guests, when he overheard a conversation that was burned into his memory for all time.

    "So I hear that Pierce hasn't showed his face in town for almost two years," an elderly congressman said.

Dunning had been engaged in a stirring conversation about favorite fishing holes when he heard the mention of Dan's name. Without a word to his companion, who was in mid-sentence, he turned to locate the speaker. It only took a second, as he honed in on the young woman who responded to the comment.

    "Well, why should he? After all, they shut his unit down. Although I must say, he didn't do much in the way of defending its existence."

Having located the pair, Dunning casually drifted toward them, not wanting to miss a word. He nonchalantly sipped at a glass of champagne, as he nudged his way past a couple who were between him and his goal.

    "I don't think it was the closing of the Special Unit that sent our boy away," the congressman retorted with a chuckle.


    "Let's just say, it looks a might suspicious that Congresswoman Whitaker died at just about the same time. She left Washington to go back to Roswell, then Pierce leaves town. Next thing we know, Whitaker is dead, and Pierce has disappeared. Makes one wonder..."

    "But what makes you think the two incidents were related?" his lovely companion asked, her voice almost indignant at the suggestion. "After all, it's a big world. Pierce might have gone anywhere when he left D.C."

    The congressman gasped in surprise at the same time he tipped up his glass, some of his champagne going down the wrong way. He coughed and sputtered, while his companion thumped him on the back, until he finally managed to say, "Well, that's true, except that he and the congresswoman were having an affair. I heard him bragging to a friend that he had been 'diddling' with her all summer."

    "No!" the woman exclaimed in horror, her face going ashen.

    "Why, yes, my dear. It's true enough. I caught them kissing rather passionately in a coat closet during a banquet a month earlier." He assessed her with concerned eyes. "Why has this upset you so?"

    "Because I... that is Dan and I... we were..."

    "Involved?" the congressman supplied kindly. The woman merely nodded, tears of humiliation stinging in her eyes. "Oh, love, I'm so sorry," he said, as he pulled her into a fatherly hug.

Dunning had been shaken to the core. He somehow managed to maintain his composure long enough to place his champagne on a table, and walk on trembling legs to the men's room. Thankful to find it empty, he locked himself into a stall, and proceeded to retch. Now he knew for sure that something had happened to Dan. There was a reason that he had been acting weird when he came back to town after his excursion to Roswell, NM. Because it wasn't really Dan. It was an impostor. And he was the only one that could possibly know it. Because he knew something that no one else on the face of the earth knew about Daniel Pierce.

Daniel Pierce was gay. And Christopher Dunning was his one and only lover.

While Dan had always made a pretense of being "one of the guys", only Chris knew that his flirtations were all an act. Occasionally Dan would take a woman to a party, maybe even give her a chaste kiss goodnight - but that was as far as it ever went. Chris knew that Dan detested women, and after every one of those dates, he would show up at Chris' apartment to spend the night. But before he did anything else, he would go into the bathroom and take a long, hot shower, washing away any lingering scent of the woman he had been with. Only then would he come to Chris, seeking consolation, in a desperate attempt to blot the entire episode from his memory.

Chris had been devastated by Dan's cool aloofness when he returned, treating him as nothing more than a colleague - a member of his elite little team of alien hunters. After growing up together, and discovering their feelings for each other at an early age, he couldn't understand why for the first time in over 15 years of being together, his best friend and lover would treat him so indifferently. But now he knew.

The next morning, he attempted to convince his superior that Daniel Pierce had met with foul play, and that the man who had appeared before the Congressional Committee had been, in fact, an impostor. When asked what evidence he had to support his claim, he explained that he had overheard someone say something about Dan's actions during that time period that he knew to be totally out of Dan's character. Something that Dan would never in a million years do. Although he couldn't repeat what he had heard, out of respect for his friend, he urged his superior to trust him, and allow him to launch an investigation. Knowing only that Dunning and Pierce had been close friends since childhood, the man agreed.

Thompkins took a swig of his now merely lukewarm coffee. The stuff was vile, and he grimaced as he forced himself to swallow it. "That must be one hell of a cup of coffee Valenti's having," he declared enviously, breaking into Dunning's private thoughts. Dunning turned to see his partner staring at the Crashdown. "Certainly better than this swill. The man's been in there for a good twenty minutes. Don't the taxpayers care that he fritters the day away?"

"Apparently not," Dunning replied distractedly. He was still thinking about Pierce, trying to imagine what could have happened to him. He couldn't wait until nightfall to ransack the sheriff's office. Maybe that would turn up something. He half noticed an older model car slowly cruising by their position, then turning into the alley alongside the UFO museum. Probably the owner. After several minutes passed, he leaned his head back against the head rest, his eyes gazing upward. That's when he saw the man standing on the roof of the building. He was watching the Crashdown through a pair of binoculars. What the hell?

Dunning's eyes shifted back to the café, just as a middle-aged couple walked up, pushing a baby stroller. He watched as the man held the door open for his wife to push the little carriage inside. Something inside Dunning ached at the scene. He loved babies - he just didn't like how you went about getting one. But he had adored his nieces and nephews, constantly doting on them, and showering them with presents.

Ten minutes later, the same couple emerged from the restaurant, and wheeled the stroller back in the direction they had come from, carrying a take-out bag. His stomach rumbled at the thought of food, and Dunning impatiently raked his hand through his hair. When would the Sheriff come back out? He was now pushing half an hour in there.

Dunning's eyes narrowed suddenly, as three shadowy figures entered the building through a side entrance. An abrupt movement on the roof of the building next to him drew his attention back around. Whoever was up there was on the move. He remained alert, and watched as the man crossed the street, slipping into the alley on the opposite side of the Crashdown Café. When he saw the man look around suspiciously before climbing up the fire escape. Just what the hell was going on?

* * * * * * * * * *

"I don't think anyone is following us," Philip Evans mumbled to his wife, who was pushing the stroller along at a brisk pace. "Maybe whoever is after the kids wasn't watching."

"Or we fooled them," Diane whispered in a trembling voice.

"Well, I don't want to count on that too much," her husband reminded her. "As soon as we get home, we'll throw some clothes in our suitcases and hightail it out of here. We have to get the baby out of town, until this is all settled."

Diane nodded her head vigorously in agreement. "You remembered to leave our new cell number with Nancy, right?" She had already asked him twice, but she was so nervous that something would happen, and the Parkers wouldn't be able to reach them.

Philip wrapped an arm around her trembling shoulders, as they continued to walk toward Murray Lane. "Relax, sweetheart, everything will be fine."

Teary eyes looked up at him. "Do you think so, Phil? Really?"

Philip closed his eyes, offering up a silent prayer. "Yes, love, I do. They have to be fine, because we have to have a chance to make things right with the kids. We're so close now - I just won't believe that God would prevent that from happening."

"I was so hoping that Max, Isabel, and Zan would get to Parkers' before we left with little Philip," Diane confessed. "I just wanted to hug them and tell them to be careful." She lost the struggle to suppress a sob. Philip pulled her close, taking over the job of pushing the stroller as he comforted her.

"I know, me too," he admitted. "But it's better this way. Who knows if anyone was following them? This way, Philip was out of danger before they arrived. We'll see them soon, don't doubt it. OK?"

Diane sniffed indelicately, wiping the tears away with the back of her hand. "All right, I'll try," she told him, just as they rolled the stroller up the driveway. "You get the car seat from the living room and buckle it in the back of the van. I'll go start packing." Philip nodded, as he pushed the stroller through the open doorway into the house. Thankfully, little Philip had fallen asleep during the walk home, and they were able to leave him in the stroller while they quickly packed. Within 20 minutes, Philip was locking the house, while Diane strapped the infant into the car seat. Getting behind the wheel, Philip started the van, put it in drive, and pointed it toward the Indian reservation.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Sep-2002 11:08:28 PM ]

posted on 17-Sep-2002 6:31:27 PM by sheeperz
Thanks for the feedback, folks. I appreciate knowing what y'all are thinking!

Limegreenli: Yeah, things are going poorly at the moment. But just remember: I'm a DREAMER!! That means that everything turns out well in the end!

BLS: ROTFLMHO!!!! I didn't even consider the idea of Nasedo diddling Dunning as Pierce. That would have been a scream for Nasedo to walk into THAT situation blind. Phewie! *Fran wipes tears of mirth from her face*

And yes, Uncle KK, I do believe that Freud would have had a field day with it all!

Is his hatred of aliens a transference of his own self-loathing of his nature (which is alien to society at large and very alien to the subculture he moves in)

Very interesting thought, KK. You are obviously thinking on a much deeper plane than I was at the time! *big* But then, you usually do! Thanks for making me appear deeper than I really am. I won't tell if you don't. *wink*

Say hey, Ladylou! You know me... always stirring the pot! *chuckle*

So... did I not tell you all that I had a plan to get the Evanses back into the picture? I just wanted there to be a trigger to get it all in motion. How did I do?

Looking forward to hearing what some of the rest of you think.... *angel* (Or additional thoughts that some of you who have already fb'ed might have)


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 17-Sep-2002 6:33:20 PM ]
posted on 1-Oct-2002 9:32:46 PM by sheeperz
Howdy-hi! Here I am, straggling in late again. I'm so sorry, but I can't seem to get the quality time I need to do the story justice. I have written this part... I hope that there aren't any glaring errors in judgment contained in it. I'm trying not to let things get ahead of where I know they're going... but it's hard sometimes, y'know? My muse just takes off running, and I'm left scrambling to catch up. *giggle* Ah well....

Sorry - still no resolution in this part! We'll have a couple more parts before things start to settle down. Hope you can hang in there with me until then!

{{HUGS}} to you all, for your faithfulness, and the wonderful feedback that you leave.


WELCOME!! to MaryJean!! Glad to have you with us. Folks have settled down somewhat in recent months, but don't let Sablaine, Uncle KK, and YonkersMe scare you off, when they get going about the holoprograms....

Okay, enough dilly dallying. On to the story! And as always... let me know what you think!!!

Part Twenty-three

Liz struggled furiously, trying to loosen the ropes binding her wrists. She could feel them cutting into her flesh, but she wasn't about to let that deter her. Somehow, she had to get free and get back to her family.

At first, she had tried to use some alien voodoo on the knot, but unfortunately, her skills weren't as developed as Max's. She still needed to actually place her hand over the object she was trying to manipulate, and had never seen a need to progress beyond that point. The unfortunate reality of the situation was, however, that the way her hands were bound, she was unable to contort them to position them over the knot. So much for doing things the easy way.

Her companion in this misery was still unconscious, lying next to her on the bed. As she struggled with the knot, she thought about the outburst that had come from this Katie person, just before she passed out. She had urged her to warn Max. Warn him about what, exactly? She still didn't know why Adam wanted Max, although it was obvious that it wasn't for anything good.

And who was this woman? Liz had to admit, there was something familiar about her, but she couldn't quite place it. She wondered, though, how any woman who was friends with this whacko that had abducted her could possibly be trying to help her. However, Adam certainly seemed to think that she was now a problem, since he tied her up, too. So that had to be a good sign.

Tears stung Liz's eyes, as she felt the rope biting into her delicate flesh. Would she ever see Max again? she wondered. Or Philip? Or her parents? God, there are so many people I love, she prayed silently. Both on this world, and on Antar. Please, help me to get back to them. Send me help. Please. She felt so weak, begging God to deliver her, when she had always tried to be so strong. But she knew she was in an impossible situation, and the only way she was going to get out of it was with some help.

In the next moment, Katie groaned behind her, and Liz stiffened. She didn't know whether she should rejoice, or tremble in fear. Would the other woman help her to escape, or would she somehow prevent her from reaching her goal?

Katie's trembling voice broke the tense silence. "Adam?" she asked fearfully. "Adam, why am I tied up?"

"Adam's not here," Liz informed her flatly.

"He left?"

"Mmm," Liz intoned, compressing her lips to stifle a cry of pain, as the ropes dug deeper into her skin.

"You - you're Liz, aren't you? Liz Parker?" Katie's voice was thin and frightened.

Liz couldn't help wondering if the woman was afraid of her. But then, that would mean she would have to know she wasn't human. Or maybe she was smart enough to know to be afraid of Max, if he showed up here to rescue her. Finally, she answered, "Yes.... Katie. It's Liz."

"Oh God," Katie groaned. "Is anyone else here?" she called out, seeming as though she didn't relish the idea of being alone with Liz.

" 'Fraid not," came Liz's dry response. "Just you, me, and the TV set. Adam took off right after he tied us up."

Katie heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank God," she muttered under her breath. "How long ago did he leave?"

"Probably about fifteen or twenty minutes ago." Liz didn't know what to make of Katie's sudden change in mood.

"Did he say where he was going?"

"Nope. Just walked out without a word."

"Why did he tie me up?" Katie wondered aloud.

Liz snorted delicately. "After what you said to me, he branded you a traitor. Guess there'll be no more prisoner privileges for you."

"Prisoner privileges? I'm not a prisoner!"

"Oh, I hate to burst your bubble, but you are," Liz insisted. "Tell me, though - if you don't fancy yourself a prisoner, just what is your role in all of this?"

"I'm his damned boss!" Katie bellowed.

Liz's blood ran cold. "So then, you're the one responsible for me being kidnapped, and my entire family being threatened?" she gritted out.

"Oh, Liz, I'm so sorry," Katie moaned. "Everything is so messed up. All I ever wanted to do was to protect Max. If only you hadn't shut me out!"

"Shut you out?! Look, I don't know who you are, or what your game is, but I don't appreciate being trussed up like a Christmas goose, while some madman stalks my family and tries to kill my hus- " Liz bit off the word, and amended, "boyfriend."

"Liz, for God's sake, will you listen to me? You wouldn't listen before, and look at the mess you're in. Well, now the stakes are even higher. It isn't just the FBI after you this time."

"The FBI? What do you know about that?" Liz snapped.

"You really don't recognize me, do you?" Katie asked quietly.

"No... should I?" She didn't want to admit that the other woman did seem vaguely familiar, but just how, she wasn't quite sure.

"I know they altered my appearance somewhat, and even were able to make my voice sound different - although now that I've come back to myself, I've noticed my voice is my own again. Forget about what I look like, Liz. Just listen to my voice, and see if you can place it."

Liz tried to relax, and let the woman's words wash over her, hoping it would trigger a memory. It seemed so close - like she could almost remember....

When the connection eluded her, she let out a fierce growl of frustration. "Enough with the games!" she exclaimed in a commanding voice truly worthy of her current station in life. She had never before spoken to anyone - not even her servants - in such an authoritative manner. "Stop messing with my head, and just tell me who you are. And what you are doing here, and what reason I should possibly have to trust anything that you say!"

"Anything else?" Katie asked dryly.

Refusing to feel chagrined for her demanding tone, Liz shot back, "That'll do for now, thanks."

Katie couldn't help but let a little giggle escape. "Ah, little Liz Parker. You sure have changed from that sweet, naive school girl I met a few years ago. I can't wait until we have a chance to catch up. I want to know what has happened to you during this time to make you grow up so fast. But before we chat about all that, what do you say we work together to get out of these ropes, and away from this flea-bag motel, before Adam gets back?"

Liz shook her head in confusion. Even though it was dark, Katie recognized the movement on the pillow next to hers. "I don't get it," Liz confessed. "If you are Adam's boss, why do you want to hide out from him?" Liz could feel her companion wiggling next to her, undoubtedly trying to loosen her bonds.

"I need to get away from him before he realizes that I'm not really his boss. I'm an impostor - against my will, you understand - that was made to look like the woman he believes is his boss. Actually, the real Katie O'Malley is dead. Has been for some time now. God! Could he have tied these any tighter? I can barely feel my fingers!"

Liz was running an internal debate, having heard this latest confession. So if this wasn't Katie O'Malley, who was it? She could no doubt free the other woman, but if she couldn't trust her, she had no way of knowing whether Katie - or whoever the hell she was - would free her in return, or take off and leave her stranded. Maybe if she knew her true identity. Obviously the woman felt she would know her. "You still haven't told me your real name."

Katie smiled in the darkness at Liz's blunt comment. "No, I haven't. I must admit, I'm not quite sure that I want you to know."

"Let me put it to you this way, then," Liz countered testily. "I can get you untied. But right now, I have no reason whatsoever to consider you trustworthy. So if you have any information that might cause me to change my opinion of you, it would be in your best interests to enlighten me now, before your henchmen friend returns."

Liz felt Katie shiver next to her. "He's no friend of mine, just for the record. As for trusting me - you didn't trust me before, but maybe now that you've seen where not trusting me leads, you'll change your mind." And without any further delay, she revealed her true identity to Liz.

* * * * * * * * * *

Crawford and Jefferson shouldered their way through the crowd of passengers disembarking from their flight. They were eager to get the situation in Roswell back under control, and return a favorable report to their director. The verbal tongue-lashing that Crawford had endured still rankled, and he wanted in the worst way to prove Margolin's accusations were just so much hot air.

"Where to?" Jefferson asked, as they cleared the outer doors of the terminal, and waited for a taxi to pull up.

"The last place we know that Adam was hanging out. Thank God Katie gave me regular reports."

"And where would that be?" Jefferson pressed.

"You're gonna love this," Crawford drawled. Jefferson raised an inquisitive brow. "The UFO Museum." Jefferson's roar of laughter was heard all the way to the other end of the terminal.

* * * * * * * * * *

"So they were okay with this?" Max asked his mother-in-law, once he, Isabel, and Karanna were safely inside the apartment. He looked around nervously, trying to assess how secure the apartment was at the moment. They had felt a frisson of alarm as they were coming into town, and it seemed to be waning, even as he knew his parents were taking his son further away.

Nancy beamed with self-satisfaction and pure joy at him. "They were more than 'okay', Max. They didn't have time to go into a lot of details while they were here - after all, their first thought was to get Philip to safety." She paused a second to let that tidbit sink in and have its effect. "But they both pleaded with us to make sure you knew that they love you all, and can't wait for this to all be over, so they can be with you again." At her words, Isabel burst into tears.

"Hey, now," Nancy crooned, as she pulled Iz into her arms and held her while she cried. "I know it's been a stressful time for all of you, not knowing how to reconcile with your folks. But it's going to be all right, and so right now you need to focus all your energy on finding Liz. Okay?" She smoothed Isabel's long, blonde hair back from her face, and smiled at her in encouragement.

Isabel nodded in response. "You - you're right. And I'm fine. It was just the last thing I needed to break the floodgates, but I'm better now." She saw her brother looking on her with great concern. "Really," she insisted, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a slight grin of empathy. He, too, was feeling a little overwhelmed by the news. "So - what now?" she asked him.

Just then, they heard a muted thud coming from the direction of Liz's bedroom. Nancy took a breath as if to cry out in surprise, and Max slapped a hand over her mouth, holding the index finger of his other hand to his own lips in a signal to the others to remain quiet. On a whisper, he instructed Jeff and Nancy to continue to talk normally, then signaled to Valenti to accompany him down the hall, Isabel and Karanna bringing up the rear.

The minute they stepped in front of Liz's door, it began to slowly crack open. Max realized immediately that someone was trying to open it enough to spy into the living area. Without a beat of hesitation, he charged the door, knocking the intruder on his backside. Although stunned, the man lurched out of reach on instinct, and sprung back to his feet. He turned on his heel and dove back out the open window, rolling into a somersault that allowed him to once more regain an upright position. He vaulted effortlessly over the balcony wall, and was halfway down the ladder, when he heard the sheriff call out to him to halt. With a chuckle, Adam looked up at the uniformed officer who had trained his gun on him. He locked eyes with the man, and soon the weapon fell from limp hands, even as Valenti collapsed at the edge of the balcony.

"Oh, my God!" Isabel exclaimed, running to catch Valenti as he fell. She gently laid him on the ground, while Max bounded over the edge onto the ladder in pursuit of this unknown enemy. Isabel's heart constricted with fear. Should she get help for Valenti? Or should she follow her brother, knowing that he might need her strength to face whatever evil was stalking them?

She was relieved of the decision, when she saw Karanna at the window. "Call 9-1-1!" She hollered. "I don't know what's wrong with him, but he needs help!" Sprinting to the ledge, she called back over her shoulder, "Stay here and do what you can to keep the Parkers safe!" Before Karanna could answer, Isabel disappeared over the ledge. She hit the ground running, just as Zan arrived in the alley by her side. "This way!" she instructed him, having seen Max chase the stranger across the street toward the UFO Center.

"Well, hell," Zan muttered under his breath, as he realized they were heading for the main street in broad daylight. "I guess our cover is blown now."

* * * * * * * * * *

Dunning sat up abruptly in his seat, when he saw the commotion next to the Crashdown. The suspicious lurker shot out of the darkened alley onto the brightly lit street, running as if the hounds of hell were nipping at his heels. And then Dunning saw what the all-fired hurry was about. Another man, younger, was in hot pursuit of him. Somehow, the hunter had become the hunted. Well, this should be interesting.

Weaving their way between oncoming cars, the two figures began crossing the street, provoking a cacophony of screeching brakes and blaring horns from irate motorists. Before the halted vehicles had a chance to resume their previous course, Dunning noted another pair of figures darting out into the melee. He squinted his eyes at the approaching pedestrians - something about the young man in each pair struck a chord with him. He lifted his field glasses that he had set on the seat next to him - simultaneously noting that Thompkins had laid his head back against the seat and fallen asleep - and lifted them to his eyes. He checked out first one young man, and then the other. "Holy Shit!" he exclaimed rather loudly, jarring his partner back to the real world with a snort.

"Wha -?" Thompkins demanded, blinking rapidly to focus his eyes.

"Ten o'clock!" Dunning barked out, indicating the direction Thompkins should look.

"What the hell is going on?" the elder agent asked.

"Damned if I know, but if I'm not mistaken, that's the missing Evans kids! And two of them look like that damned alien Dan was after!" In his excitement and fury, he was unaware of using his superior's first name in a gesture of familiarity that was generally unheard of in the bureau. Everyone addressed each other by their last names, as a rule. Especially with respect to seniority.

The slip was not lost on Thompkins. He had always wondered why Dunning seemed to take Pierce's disappearance so personally. Perhaps here was a clue as to why. But he couldn't indulge himself the time to entertain those thoughts. Not after what Dunning had just revealed. Alien?! Unfortunately, he wasn't afforded the opportunity to indulge his curiosity on that issue either, as the first pair went sailing by right in front of their parked vehicle, and into the adjoining alley.

The man in the lead had a smug smile on his face, as if somehow this chase was all according to some plan of his. Was he setting a trap for the alien? Dunning wondered. At that moment, the other two in pursuit crossed in front of them. He couldn't help wondering if the one Evans boy wasn't the only alien hanging around town. Curiouser and curiouser.

Not wanting to miss the exciting conclusion, Dunning flung open his door and jumped from the car, taking off in pursuit, his SIG-Sauer already drawn and held down at his side. He heard Thompkins' car door slam from somewhere behind him, but he couldn't - no, wouldn't - let himself be distracted from his prey. This was no ordinary chase he was on. If he were after a serial killer or some whacked-out drug dealer, he would have dutifully waited for his back-up. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, to be chasing a purported alien that had seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth for the last two years. An alien Dan had captured, and that had managed to escape. Now the aliens were running around on the loose, and Dan had been missing for those two years. Somehow, in his gut, he knew that his lover's disappearance was all tied in with that incident. He wasn't sure how, but his gut never lied.

He stopped at the end of the alley, which opened onto a parking area behind the UFO Museum. Carefully peering around the corner, he saw something that nearly made him wet his pants. The man that had been pursued had turned to face his predators, and was staring at the one who had been right behind him. As he did, Dunning could see the young man swaying, fighting to keep his knees from buckling under him. He staggered a couple of steps, trying to reach the man in front of him, but seemed unable to make much progress.

"What the hell?" Dunning heard Thompkins breathless voice rasp next to his ear, as he peered over Dunning's shoulder. "What are they doing?"

"Damned if I know," Dunning whispered tersely, holding his unencumbered left hand up over his right shoulder, palm back, accompanied by a dark scowl that clearly indicated he wanted Thompkins to shut up. Sometimes the man's jaws flap worse than a friggin' woman's, he thought.

The two FBI agents watched in amazement, as the couple bringing up the rear caught the attention of the man they had been chasing, and their movements became labored and sluggish, as they continued to press forward toward their companion. Did the man they were pursuing possess some sort of telepathic ability? Shit, this is like watching something out of the X-files, for God's sake, Dunning mused. He had never been a believer in the paranormal, but seeing was believing. Besides - if it weren't for Dan, he never would have believed in aliens, either.

He couldn't help note the irony that Dan had warned him often about how powerful and dangerous the alien he was tracking was, and yet here were three of them, and they couldn't hold their own against one man. Interesting. His mouth twitched in a half-grin, as he thought how lucky he was that one of his own kind was endowed with abilities to defend humanity against an invasion of these sinister beings.

He realized then it probably expended a great deal of energy for the man to defend himself against three assailants, and that he might be getting tired. Obviously, these aliens weren't much of a threat, and there was no reason he couldn't step in and help the poor soul out.

His heart pounded strongly against his ribs with anticipation. Raising his firearm, he called out, "Hold it right there - nobody move!" Damn, but he'd always wanted to say that! Unfortunately, Pierce had always managed to keep him tied to a desk. For his own protection, Dan always said. And look where it got him. But now was Dunning's chance to make things right. To avenge whatever atrocities these beings had committed against his partner.

Dunning's intrusion was all the distraction it took. Adam's concentration broke, and with it the mind-control. The moment they were released from its insidious power, Max, Isabel, and Zan dove for each other. Max and Zan threw up a shield on either side of them, until they all met in the middle, the two glowing barriers met at the edges to form one larger sphere of protection. Adam stared at the scene in disbelief.

Dunning, too, was momentarily stunned by the image before him, but then decided to test out the situation. Without any particular forethought, he fired a shot directly at Zan, who was closest to him. To his amazement, the bullet hit the energy field and the field seemed to stretch toward the three aliens, as it absorbed the impact of the projectile. But what happened next struck terror in his heart. For once the bullet had come to a dead stop, it turned toward the direction it had been fired from, and the shield acted like some sort of psychic slingshot, hurling it back toward the aggressor. Unable to speak from the sheer horror of it all, Dunning barely managed to hit the dirt in time to save his sorry hide. Sadly, Thompkins, who was standing directly behind him, was not so fortunate. Not having seen what was transpiring, he was left completely vulnerable when Dunning dodged the bullet, and it struck him in the shoulder.

Dunning, who was curled in a near fetal position, was unaware of what had happened, until he heard Thompkins fall beside him, a string of obscenities issuing out of him in a tight voice, strained from the pain. Dunning looked over at his partner, just as he ground out, "Damn it, you yellow-bellied imbecile! Call an ambulance!"

"No, wait!" Max called to them, as he started to make his way over to where the fallen man lay, dragging Zan and Isabel in his wake.

"Max, no," Zan warned quietly.

Max shot his brother a mutinous look. "What harm can there be now? They already know we're different, if they don't know exactly why. If I do this, perhaps it will sway them to our side."

"What about him?" Zan reminded Max, jerking his head in Adam's direction.

As if being discussed suddenly broke through his stupor, Adam's fury flashed in his eyes. "You haven't won yet," he threatened smugly. "That shield of yours may protect you from physical danger, but it can't defend against my power." He raised his hand toward them, and concentrated his mental energy upon the one called Max. He was supposedly the leader.

"Oh, God," Max ground out the heavenward plea for intervention through a haze of pain. With more than a little difficulty, he instructed his sister, "Listen, Iz, we are going to have to dissolve the shield. The second we do, grab the guy's gun - it's lying over there on the ground where he dropped it. Hold him at bay until we finish with this jerk." When Isabel nodded her assent to the plan, Max and Zan combined and redirected their energies from the shield into turning Adam's power back against him. Within seconds, a male scream of pain rent the air, and Adam was lying unconscious on the ground.

Isabel had reached the gun at the same time Dunning made a grab for it. They wrestled for control of the weapon, and in the struggle it discharged.

Max and Zan swung their gazes from assessing Adam, to where Isabel's and the FBI agent's bodies were sprawled, intertwined on the pavement. Terror gripped both of them, as the two combatants lay still in their embrace.

posted on 18-Oct-2002 10:57:46 PM by sheeperz
Howdy-hi! Well, here I am again (finally!), and I hope this part will whet your appetite for more! I'm telling you, it's getting harder and harder to find quality time in which to sort out all the details of where I want to take this story. I'm trying not to forget anyone, what with all these concurrent scenes I've got running. *sigh* Send me some good ole Roswell vibes, when you think of it?

Welcome to Lattegirl - glad to have you with us!

The story is going to be winding down soon. (Don't panic - I think there's a few more chapters to go yet! LOL You know me...) I have to admit, I'll almost be relieved when it's over. I have another story I want to work on, too! It gets tough, when I REALLY want to work on the other one, but I feel guilty if I don't work on this one.

Anyway, enough whining, right? On with the story, right? Right!

And as always... let me know what you think!! *big*

Part Twenty-four

"Miss Topolsky?" Liz's voice was little more than a squeak. "But you - you're -"

"Dead?" Katie supplied dryly. Seeing Liz's head bob in an affirmative response, she explained that the fire at the hospital in Bethesda had been staged, so that they could change her identity.

"They?" Liz asked. "Just who are we talking about here? Adam? Someone else? Is this all part of the Special Unit's activities? I thought they had been disbanded...." Liz rattled the questions off in rapid-fire succession.

"Slow down, Liz," Katie chided. "These people have some way of blocking your mind so you forget everything you ever knew, and implanting new memories into you head. Somehow, my mind has managed to break free of their manipulations, but it left me with one hell of a headache. So let's take this nice and easy, okay?"

"Look, I'm sorry if I'm a little uptight, but that bastard Adam has threatened my son's life. I don't have time to mince words here."


"Yes - Philip!" Liz snarled impatiently, not discerning the other woman's surprise.

"My God, Liz," Kathleen breathed out, "Who's the father?"

"You mean you really don't know?" Liz asked incredulously.

"No! I didn't even know you'd been pregnant. We lost track of you for so long, I didn't know if we'd ever find you." Katie felt Liz's body tense. "Liz, I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. The only reason I was tracking you was because I was under some sort of mind control. But I swear to you, now that I'm myself again, I want to help. Please, trust me this time."

Liz thought back to other offers of help that Miss Topolsky had made in the past. Quite possibly, she had not been in on the plans to capture Max, if her own harrowing ordeal was any indication. She had insisted that she wanted to help them - to protect them - but they had always refused her offer out of fear. But something back then had caused Liz to want to trust her, and now she wondered if maybe things would have been different, had they taken that chance. Feeling desperately out of options, Liz decided to go with her instincts this time around. "Max is his father," she confessed quietly.

"You had a baby with an alien? Heaven help us all if Weekly World News finds out," came the dry retort. When Liz didn't respond, Katie apologized. "I didn't mean that as a put-down, Liz," she said cautiously. "I guess I was just surprised that you had carried your relationship with Max Evans that far."

"There are a lot of things about me that you don't know," Liz told her enigmatically. "And there is a lot I'd like to know about what you've been doing the last couple of years. But we don't have time to go into that now. So, if you're serious about helping me?"

"Yes, Liz, I definitely am that. Do you think if I flip over with my back to you, we can pick each other's ropes loose?"

"Oh, I think I can do you one better. But you have to promise to release me, if I get you untied first. Deal?"

"Of course." Katie proceeded to roll over onto her other side, lining her hands up with Liz's. She felt a strange warmth, and suddenly her bonds were loosened. "What did you do?" she asked in amazement, even as she extracted her wrists from the ropes, rubbing them to alleviate the tingling sense of numbness.

"I'll explain later. Just untie my hands, and then we can do our feet. We need to get out of here before Adam gets back."

"Yes," Katie agreed. "If he finds out that he can't just tie us up to confine us, who knows what he'll come up with next?" They quickly freed themselves, then cautiously stole to the motel office, where Liz called her father to come and pick them up.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As soon as Jeff had hung up from calling 9-1-1 for Sheriff Valenti, the phone rang again. He nearly collapsed with relief, when he heard Liz's voice on the other end. "Liz, baby, where are you?" he pleaded weakly.

"I'm all right, Daddy," she reassured him, knowing that he would need to know that, before anything else would register in his mind. "I need you to come and pick me up, though, at the Navajo Motel. I'm in the office. And it's very important that you hurry!" she finished impatiently, hoping her father wasn't falling apart on the other end of the line.

"I know, sweetheart. A lot has happened here since you were taken." So, they realized what had happened. Good, Liz thought. "Hang tight - I'll be right there," his voice came back over the line.

Without waiting for a response, Jeff dropped the phone back in its cradle. He grabbed his keys, and then ran to stick his head in the door to Liz's bedroom, where Karanna and Nancy kept vigil over their fallen friend, waiting for the paramedics. "That was Liz on the phone. I have to go and pick her up now," he said with authority, and then turned on his heel and left.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Diane twisted the piece of paper Nancy had given to her in her trembling hands. They were driving down the main road through the reservation, and the residents were all stopping what they were doing to stare at them as they passed by.

"Why are they staring at us like that?" she asked her husband. "Surely they've seen outsiders driving through here before?"

"I don't know," Philip answered honestly. "But right now, I don't care what there problem is. All I want to do is find this... what was the name that Nancy gave you again?"

Diane uncrumpled the paper she held in her fisted hand. "River Dog," she said.

Phil nodded. "Right... River Dog." He saw the sign of tourist shop ahead. "We'll stop at that place up there," he told her. "Maybe they can tell us where to find him." Diane gave a jerky nod in response.

Just then, a shout went up from one of the men who had wandered into the roadway to watch them go by. Several more shouts rang out, as more of the residents filled the street. Philip had to slow way down, in order to safely navigate the sea of men, women, and children hovering continually closer to their vehicle. He was squinting his eyes against the bright morning sunlight that was shining in through the windshield, making it difficult to see, when suddenly the black outline of a man appeared before him. Slamming on the brakes, he brought the van to an abrupt halt, and watched with dread as the tall man, now accompanied by another, shorter one, rounded the front end to approach his door. What were they about?

Some of his panic subsided when the two men moved to stand patiently next to the van, waiting for him to lower his window. At least they didn't appear to be interested in wrenching him out of his vehicle and initiating any violence. In compliance with the silent request issued by their steady stares, he lowered his window. Swallowing back his uneasiness, he greeted the two men. "Hello. I'm -"

"Philip Evans," the shorter man finished for him.

Philip made no effort to hide his surprise. Gathering himself, he continued, "We're looking for -"

"River Dog," the tall man provided, with a knowing look.

Now Philip was starting to get a little annoyed. If they knew who he was, and what he wanted, why were they just standing there staring at him? His brows drawn together in a slight scowl, he responded, "Then perhaps you would be kind enough to tell me where to find this gentleman?"

The first man smiled. "I am River Dog," he informed the Evanses. "And I have been expecting you."

* * * * * * * * * *

For the span of two heartbeats that seemed to last an eternity, silence reigned supreme in the parking area behind the UFO Museum. Reality then shattered the haze of disbelief that held Max and Zan captive.

"ISABEL!!" Max screamed in terror, as his body launched itself toward the two still forms lying on the pavement, Zan following only a couple paces behind. Just as they reached the seemingly lifeless bodies, Isabel, who was on the bottom, rolled Dunning's body off herself with a grunt. Max's first reaction was relief, and he dropped to his knees, gathering his sister in his arms and holding her tightly, as if to assure himself that she was really still alive.

"Hey, I'm okay, I'm okay," she crooned soothingly, rubbing one hand over his upper back. Finally she was able to pull back enough to look over her shoulder and comment, "But I can't say the same thing for him. Help him, Max," she softly demanded, as she pushed him toward the fallen agent.

Max took in the bloody sight next to them, and had a moment of wondering if it was worth saving the man's life. He had tried to kill them, for God's sake. But then he realized, he very well could be in on Liz's abduction, and might possibly be useful. Without further hesitation, Max crawled over to Dunning's side, and placed his hand over the gushing wound in his upper abdomen. Thick, red liquid oozed between his fingers. Dear God, so much blood. He wasn't even sure he could save the man, he'd lost so much of it.

Blocking out everything around him, he stared into the man's dazed eyes, making a connection with him. He worked feverishly to repair ruptured blood vessels first, to contain the blood loss, then proceeded to heal the remaining internal damage, and close the wound. Gasping, he fell back onto his backside, trying to regain his strength. "He's going to need lots of water," he instructed between panting breaths. "I might be able to stimulate his body to replenish some of the blood he lost, but he'll need fluids." Isabel nodded, and quickly ducked into the UFO Museum through the back door. Hopefully Brody had some cups or something she could "borrow".

* * * * * * * * * * *

Liz and Kathleen Topolsky, aka "Katie," stood in a corner of the motel lobby, their faces obscured by the surrounding shadows, as they awaited the arrival of Jeff Parker. Katie not so much saw, but felt, Liz growing stiff and frightened beside her. "Liz?" she questioned softly. When there was no response, save for Liz's breathing becoming labored and shallow, Topolsky touched the girl's arm and spoke again. "Liz? What is it? What's the matter?"

Liz thought her heart would escape out her throat, it was racing so wildly. For despite the fact that she had been totally unaware of the danger around her, her ability to sense the strong emotions of Max, Zan, and Karanna was not in the least impaired. She had been sensing a heavy load of worry from Karanna for the last few minutes, but now there were sharp waves of horror from Max and Zan. The terror was so stark, that she couldn't even respond to Miss Topolsky's questions. All she could do was grab the woman's hand in hers, and squeeze as if her life depended on it. When at last Max and Zan's relief blossomed within her, she relaxed suddenly, causing her body to slump against Katie's. Sensing that something important had just happened, Topolsky wrapped her arms around Liz's frail body, holding her upright.

Liz was about to speak, when the scent of blood overwhelmed her. She knew it was coming from Max. "So much blood," she murmured.

"Blood? Liz, what's going on?" Kathleen was beginning to get concerned. Was Liz delusional? Or was there something else at work here? She felt Liz's body growing weaker by the minute, as it became harder to hold her increasingly limp frame erect. Topolsky heard the bells on the door ring, and looked up to see Jeff Parker enter the lobby. He looked around the interior, but had failed to spot their concealed forms. "Mr. Parker?" she called out in a subdued voice, hoping to attract a minimum of attention. Fortunately, there were only a couple other people milling around at the moment.

Jeff heard the quiet plea, and unerringly turned toward its source. Squinting into the shadows, he made out the form of two women. With long strides he covered the distance between them, gasping when he saw Liz's condition. Lifting her frail form up into his arms with little effort, he asked, "What happened to her?"

It was as he held her, and her clothes draped just so over her body, that Katie saw the swell of her lower abdomen. She swallowed down against the rising tide of nausea, at the thought of what Adam would have done to her, even in her condition. She knew firsthand how ruthless he could be. "I- I don't know," Katie finally stammered. "She was fine one minute, and then stiffened. Then she mentioned something about blood - I don't know what came over her."

Jeff closed his eyes and groaned. "Sweet Jesus, something must have gone wrong," he muttered. "Come on, let's get out of here, before anything else happens." Carrying Liz, he led the way to the care he had left running outside the door. He no more than got her inside, when Liz cried out, "Max! Oh, Daddy, hurry! Something awful has happened. I need to get to him now!"

Relieved that Liz's color was coming back with her ability to speak, Jeff nodded, and slammed her door shut. Once he was behind the wheel and the car was in motion, he asked, "Do you know what happened?"

Liz rubbed at her arms nervously, trying to ward off the chill that had come over her. "Not exactly. All I'm getting is feelings. Karanna has been upset, and then Max was terrified... He had to heal someone," she revealed, "and it took a lot out of him. He's pretty weak right now."

"Do you know where they are?"

"No - but we're heading in the right direction. The feelings are getting stronger."

"You were right about Karanna," her father confirmed. "Valenti was... we don't know what happened to him. Some guy had broken into your room - again - and when Jim went after him, the guy did something to him."

Katie felt her heart slam against her ribs at the mention of Jim Valenti being injured. She looked upon him as one of the good guys - a man of character, integrity. Weren't the good guys supposed to win? Yeah, right, but only in the movies, she thought bitterly. She came out of her private musings to hear Jeff tell Liz, "Your mother and sister were waiting for the paramedics to show, when I left to come get you."

"Sister?" Katie asked Liz with a raised eyebrow.

"I'll tell you later," Liz promised.

Katie watched Liz fidget as they drove back toward the Crashdown. With every red light they were stopped at - which seemed to be just about all of them - she could see Liz's tension mount. She laid a hand gently on Liz's arm. "We'll be there soon," she reassured the girl. But what happens then? she continued to wonder to herself.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Thompkins sat and stared in utter disbelief at the situation that had just played out before him. It wasn't until the bullet still lodged in his shoulder sent a wrenching shaft of pain through him, that he came back to himself. "Ouch, damn," he muttered, his curse drawing Zan's attention. He had forgotten about the other man's injury.

Kneeling down beside the other agent, Zan placed his hand over the bullet hole. Thompkins watched, as Zan's hand began to glow a bright white, emitting a pleasant heat that seemed to ease the pain from him. When Zan removed his hand, the man looked down, amazed to see no signs of the injury - only a blood stain on his shirt around a hole. "Is it - gone?" he asked in astonishment.

"Completely," Zan confirmed, then whirled around, when he heard the man they had been chasing groan. He felt a moment of panic, since Max was still so weak, and Isabel hadn't yet returned. How could he keep an eye on all three men?

Answer: He couldn't.

That left Zan with only one option - rather, one acceptable option - at the moment. He snatched up the gun that lay on the ground next to the dazed man who had shot at them, then hurried to where their quarry was just regaining consciousness. He wished he could just interrogate the man and be done with it, but neither he or Max were back in top form yet. He needed to buy them a little more time.

"Sorry about this," he murmured, and placing his hand on the man's head, short-circuited him again, and Adam slipped once more into unconsciousness. Zan staggered back to where Max lay recuperating, and sat down on the pavement, drained, trying to regain his strength. He dropped his head onto his bent knees, but was keenly aware of when the man he had healed rose and began to approach them. Zan's head snapped up, and his eyes narrowed, as he watched the man come nearer. He didn't appear to be hostile, but then, looks could be deceiving.

"That's close enough," he told the older man. He saw Isabel reappear with a glass of water and rush to where the other man lay, struggling to survive, and begin forcing the liquid into him. He felt mildly relieved, knowing that she could handle their assailant, leaving him just the other two now to keep track of.

Thompkins held his hands out in front of him in a gesture to indicate his lack of malicious intent. "I - I just want to talk to you, is all," he explained. Zan arched a thick, dark brow, silently inviting the man to continue. "I-it's true then? You really are aliens?" he blurted out. Zan stiffened noticeably. But there was no point in denying it. The man had seen too much for that. He let his silence speak for itself. "Hey, don't worry. After what you did here, when you obviously could have snuffed us all out... well, I figure that means you aren't evil," he allowed. He looked meaningfully at his partner over his shoulder, and was surprised to find Isabel gently helping him to take in some fluids.

"Thanks for that, I guess," Zan acknowledged the lame compliment, relaxing a bit. His eyes noted the shoulder holster that housed the man's weapon, and determined to be ready for any sudden movements he might make. Zan knew this man could do nothing to him, and that there was no reason to be fearful. "In truth, we are just as much human as we are 'alien'. Only half our genetic makeup is Antarian."

"Damn," Thompkins said with a grin and a shake of his head. "When Dunning mentioned something about an alien that Agent Pierce had been after... well, I wondered if he hadn't tipped off his rocker. But after what I saw here... Mind if I ask what you're doing here - and why you are half human?"

Zan ran his hand down his face wearily before answering, "It's a really long story, but believe me, we have no desire to take over Earth, if that worries you. Actually, we have taken up permanent residence back on Antar, but one of our group came back to spend some time with her Earth parents, and then was -" Suddenly, Zan remembered that he didn't know for sure who had Liz. Could it be this man was responsible for her abduction? "Just who are you, anyway?" he asked, his voice suddenly brusque with barely leashed hostility.

Thompkins jumped with a start at the sudden change in Zan's demeanor. "I - I'm Agent Thompkins, with the FBI," he introduced himself. "I'm in Roswell with Agent Dunning over there, looking into the disappearance of another one of our agents, Daniel Pierce."

The blood in Zan's veins froze, as he heard the name of the man that Max had never mentioned, and yet Zan knew all about. He knew every instant of horror that Max had endured at the hands of that insane maniac. He had seen it all - felt it all - when his essence had merged with Max's. And now this man in front of him had just confessed to looking for Agent Pierce. Zan's mind screamed, "Guilty by association."

Agent Thompkins saw the predatory look that clouded Zan's eyes, and began to tremble. He fought the urge to run - after all, if this alien wanted to kill him, what good would running do? He hoped that if he waited out whatever was driving the young half-breed, he might survive this ordeal.

Zan did eventually manage to curb his desire to extinguish the agent before him, and find the strength to ask, "Just what is your association with this Agent Pierce, anyway?"

"Actually, I've never met the man," Thompkins admitted hesitantly. Did the aliens know about Pierce? "Have you?" he asked in as casual a voice as he could muster.

"No, not personally," Zan answered. "But I can guarantee, I wouldn't be as kind to him as I have been to you," he offered, his voice was laced with menace.

The hair on the back of Thompkins neck began to prickle. "Oh? Why is that?" he asked in a voice somewhat breathless from a sense of foreboding.

"Tell me - do you know anything at all about what this Agent Pierce did, while he was chasing down aliens?"

Something in the younger man's tone set chills rippling the length of Thompkins' spine. "Uh, n-no, I didn't," he confessed falteringly. "I wasn't part of his team. The Special Unit was always very hush-hush, and I didn't even know it had anything to do with aliens, until Dunning let something slip just a few minutes ago. I was simply brought in to investigate Pierce's disappearance, and keep an eye on Dunning." He indicated the other recovering agent with a jerk of his head. "That man has a hot temper, even if his fuse does burn quietly beneath the surface. He was determined to look into what happened to Agent Pierce, and the Bureau didn't want him running around unsupervised, given his unpredictable behavior at times."

Zan digested that bit of information. He wondered if this Dunning character could take out his anger by kidnapping Liz as retribution. If he had any clue whatsoever as to how Pierce actually died, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to the imagination. In the interest of finding his sister-in-law, he decided to probe for a little more information, and hope that he could get some straight answers. "So - how long have you been in Roswell?" he asked nonchalantly.

"Just since this morning," Thompkins replied, with no trace of suspicion.

The same time that Liz was kidnapped, Zan thought to himself. But then he remembered that they had been sensing danger before that, so if the man was telling the truth, chances were he and his partner weren't involved in her abduction. "Have you learned anything about your missing agent?" Again, he tried to keep his tone casual, as if his interest were merely cursory.

Thompkins shook his head in defeat. "No, not a thing. We thought perhaps the sheriff might know something, but so far, that's turned up a big fat zero."

No motive for revenge, then, if they didn't know what happened to Pierce. Zan was mulling on that, his silence providing Thompkins ample opportunity to reflect on their conversation. His eyes narrowed, as he suddenly realized Zan had failed to answer his question regarding the aliens' antagonism toward Pierce. "Tell me, now," he coaxed, "just what is it about Agent Pierce that leaves you feeling so, shall we say, hostile toward him?"

Zan's eyes widened at the agent's perceptiveness. He thought he was covering his interest fairly well. "What makes you think I have anything but ambivalent feelings toward this Agent Pierce?" he asked as he picked at a broken fingernail in apparent disinterest.

"You admitted you wouldn't have been kind, had I been him," was the blunt reply.

Zan sighed in self-disgust, for having tipped his hand. "Long story."

"Got time."

Zan looked up into the older man's eyes, and searched them for a long silent minute. He fancied he saw compassion and a desire to understand lurking in their depths, although that could have just been wishful thinking on his part. The past couple of years living on Antar in peace and safety had grown on him, and he had quickly left the darker side of humanity, which he had experienced in his former life on earth, locked away in the past. He nursed no latent desire to resurrect it at this point, but he would, if it meant protecting those he loved. Still, something about this man made him want to trust him....

With a careless shrug of his shoulder, Zan gave in to the urge to trust this stranger. After all, they weren't vulnerable now, the way Max had been, when Pierce had taken him. They were certainly strong enough to protect themselves from mere humans, if they had been able to defeat Ki-var'. "The man was a crazed lunatic, if you must know. He abducted my brother, and tortured him in ways that were not only cruel, they were downright barbaric. If our friends hadn't rescued him, no doubt your precious Agent Pierce would have killed him gleefully. Or perhaps he would have left Max hovering on the brink of death, just to prolong his misery. Your animal rights activists would shudder in horror, if such things had been done to a lab rat, let alone a sentient being. To put it bluntly, he was a disgrace not only to your organization, but to the entire human race. And he had the nerve to accuse Max of not being human," Zan finished with a snort of disgust. He fought hard to fight the blackness in his soul, that resurrecting the memories he shared with Max induced.

"My God," Thompkins breathed, stunned.

"Well put," Zan agreed. "So you'll have to forgive me, if I don't share your concern for that beast's welfare."

Agent Thompkins shook his head in disbelief. "You just never know, do you?" he mused aloud. "How can anyone be capable of such evil?"

Zan raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You're with the FBI," he said, almost as if to remind the man. "Surely you've seen your share of crazed lunatics during the course of your career."

"True," he conceded, but his pallor was beginning to concern Zan. "But I've always consoled myself with the fact that the crazies were outside the Bureau, not in it. My God, how could I have been so blind?"

A shot rang out, and Zan reeled back from the impact of a bullet striking him in the shoulder. Thompkins spun around to discover Dunning on his knees, brandishing a small pistol that he kept tucked in his boot for just such occasions. And he was taking aim again, the intent to finish off what he had started clearly stamped into his implacable features.

posted on 20-Oct-2002 12:19:33 PM by sheeperz
Okay, so that *was* a dastardly place to cut that off, huh? LOL Just remember all the epilogues, and the glimpses into the future. You just KNOW that Zan is gonna be okay. Right?

I promise I'll do my best to get the next part out asap, but not making any promises, mind you.... things are going to get more complicated in a hurry. That takes concentration that I don't have in abundance. lol So it's gonna be a stretch here.

Phae - You betcha, girlfriend. That's the one! *wink*

Thanks for the FB, and I hope to have more up soon!


posted on 8-Nov-2002 10:25:18 PM by sheeperz
Hey gang!

Sorry I haven't posted to this in a while. Life has been extremely crazy here. Been doing the farming thing again with the chickens, etc. Takes up too much time that I could be playing with y'all! *wink*

Anyway, I have most of the next part written, it's just a matter of having the time to sit down and edit and make sure everything is as it should be. I apologize for the long absence, but hopefully when we finish off the rest of these birds, I can move on to other things that are more FUN.

Thanks so much to you all for your loving BUMPS, and for whoever has been giving me the nice ratings. HUGZ to you all.

posted on 19-Nov-2002 11:19:25 PM by sheeperz
Isis, you silly girl! *snicker*

This is the first time I have even been on the computer to check my MAIL in days, let alone write. *sigh* I'm really sorry, but things are just insane around here. I do hope to have some time soon to post another part, but I can't say for sure when that will be. Send a shout heavenward for me to get some peace and quiet, eh? LOL

Hugs to all,
posted on 18-Dec-2002 8:57:50 PM by sheeperz
Hi everyone!

Thanks for the bumps, and the holiday wishes. Happy Holidays to all my *wonderful* Roswell pals!! I love y'all!!

Sorry this story has been silent for so long. Life takes some weird, unexpected turns at times. I can safely say there will be no update before Christmas. I don't know about NEw Year's. Maybe that will be my resolution? To get a new part posted? LOL I really AM going to finish this story, I promise!! (There. Now that it's in black and white, I can't go back on my word, can I? *big*

So, that having been said, I'll wave goodnight, and once more wish you and yours the merriest of holidays!

Hugs, love, and Christmas blessings,
posted on 21-Feb-2003 10:08:35 PM by sheeperz

Anyone who is interested in not losing touch with me and the conclusion of this story... when it happens... may send me an EMAIL to the following address:


I will add you to my list, and will try to find and post links for the various books.

Thank you all SO MUCH for your support, encouragement, and of late, your understanding. They mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Hope we all find each other on the other side of this transfer... until then, Blessings on you all.

Love and hugs,