posted on 17-Mar-2002 1:27:25 AM by RosDeidre
Author’s Note:
So we all meet again! Well maybe not all of us, but hopefully a few of those who read ANTARIAN SKY will check out ANTARIAN NIGHTS. This is Max’s companion POV. It’s something of a prequel, though some of the story will track simultaneously to the other one, as well. But we begin in Antar, in a galaxy far, far away…

And keep in mind, that this story will have its own unique feeling, and like ANTARIAN SKY, begins in a pretty dark place. A huge thanks to Angela35, who helped me brainstorm this one, and who beta read the first part.

Hugs to all! Deidre

antariannights




PART ONE



The night had always been a thing of mystery. Especially on Antar, when the world was cloaked in shadow, ambiguous and unknowable.

It was also when everything usually seemed the worst to Max.

In thick darkness, he often heard the guards shuffling in the hall just outside his cell, and his heart would freeze within him. Would they enter and torture him? Would they drag him away again, this time to a fate worse than the last? He’d press his eyes shut and try to catch their murmured alien phrases, pray to discern some fractured sentence in the muffled sounds that might indicate his fate.

The problem was, he spoke so little Antarian, even after years on the planet, because he wasn’t around people enough to truly learn the language. The sparse bits he did understand were because of Zeph’s kindness. Max shifted his weight where he huddled awkwardly beneath the window, easing the burden on his knee-- and tried to suppress the mounting anxiety that Zeph was gone for good.

Five days was an eternity down here in the palace depths. And five days was forever without your only ally. Max rested his forehead against the cool stone wall, searching within his mind for a plan. That’s what Liz would do, he reminded himself, fighting to regain control over his rampant thoughts. Liz, he half-cried inside his heart. She was his talisman, the balm that knit the disjointed bits of his soul together. She was the only thing that kept him alive, day after day.

And Liz would have a plan.

But Max Evans had nothing, he reminded himself with a weary sigh. Correction, not Max Evans. Zan. Erstwhile King of Antar, despised by many, reviled by most. Followed by only a few.

And then there was Zeph.

Zeph, he whispered aloud, not really intending to. The sound of his own thick voice startled him, and he glanced around the darkened cell, feeling frantic and paranoid. But there was only darkness, folding around him like a tight shroud. Only darkness, piercing the silence like a siren. Max turned slowly back to the wall, and gazed up at the small opening that allowed a sliver of golden moonlight to bathe his hands. Outside, the twin moons shone brilliantly, full and huge, uncommonly so for this time of year. For a moment, Max was captivated by their spell, and reached a hand as if he could caress them both.

As if he might somehow touch Liz.

The moonlight washed over his hands, highlighting the mangled fingers of his left, and for a moment he was suspended within the mystic glow. Time melted away, catapulting him through space and distance, to Liz’s balcony. To one night when they’d lounged together on her lawn chair, just gazing upward at the stars. He’d cradled her within his arms, pressing tender kisses against the top of her head. He’d felt the even rhythm of her breathing, been keenly aware of the way her small hand rested on his knee. It had been just the two of them, whispering in one another’s ears, daring to hope that his world might be a good one.

But he’d abandoned those childish hopes long ago. In fact, the memory of them was barely more than an echo in some dim sector of his mind now.

Max grasped the jagged stone of the wall, struggling to his feet. Piercing waves of pain shot through his knee, radiating upward into his thigh. For a moment he could only gasp for air at the sudden intensity, his eyes watering in protest. He should never have crouched on the floor, never have put such strain on his knee, especially after the way the guards had worked him over last time. But that corner of his tiny cell was the one place where he felt safe-- hidden behind his cot against the wall. God, he knew he’d been cowering, but it hardly made any difference. They’d find him if they wanted him anyway. They always did. And in the meantime, at least the corner allowed the illusion of safety.

Slowly, he dragged himself upward along the wall, pulling on jagged stones until he stood gazing out the tiny window overhead. He groped in the darkness for his cane, until he clasped it greedily, resettling most of his weight. Instantly, the pain ebbed, providing some relief.

The position of the moons in the sky indicated it was probably the middle of the night by now, which would mark the fifth day without Zeph, five nights of wondering if he’d been truly marooned within his cell, once and for all.

Max had stopped painting on the third day, conserving his small supplies like some desperate miser. Relying on any of the other guards for canvas and paint would prove impossible, so he had to ration things, had to proceed as if his worst fears were true.

Zeph had been missing from duty for almost a week, and he knew that wasn’t a good sign. When Nalek had brought his dinner earlier, he’d tried asking if Zeph were only sick, but it had proved quite difficult. It was hard enough to speak at all, but wrapping his impaired jaw around the alien words only made it more daunting.

Nalek had stared at him, his large black eyes fathomless and cold, then simply turned away without answering. The cell door had closed shut again and Max had hobbled to his cot, collapsing for hours in despair. He’d slept a bit in the fading twilight, and then darkness had come, bringing with it his usual stifling fear.

But now it seemed that the danger had passed, as the twin moons ascended further into the sky, indicating that the thick of night had fallen. Max plodded slowly through the darkness to his cot, settling heavily on the edge. He buried his face in his hands, and tried again to imagine what Liz would do in his position—adrift without an ally, with only the walls closing around him. And for the first time in six years, he became convinced that he might actually die in this dungeon.

He’d not truly feared death, not thought it imminent like this, since the night he had died, when he’d drifted outside of his body, hovering overhead like a spectral prisoner. But Liz had coaxed him back from the brink then, whispering to him across the galaxies with her urgent promise. I’ll never leave you…

And he’d held onto her vow ever since, held onto Liz just as tightly.

Yet tonight felt different, eerie in its stillness, and Max couldn’t deny the foreboding pall that hung in the air.

He raked his fingers through the wild, long strands of hair that tangled about his face. Beneath his hands he felt the thick scars, raised and etched with light beard stubble. He could only imagine what he looked like, though he’d not glimpsed his reflection in years. There wasn’t a mirror in his cell and he’d never wanted to see the wicked truth of his appearance, so he’d not created anything that might allow him to see.

It was easier to simply feel the bands of scar tissue, to know how swollen his jaw was than glimpse the damage in a mirror. Several months ago, he’d even rendered a self-portrait of what he believed he might look like now, based on the textured planes of his features. Zeph had seen the painting, his large black eyes narrowing as he gazed at in silence.

Finally, Max had asked uncertainly, “Good?”

Zeph stared at him, seemed about to say something, then assessed evenly, “Your paintings are all exceptional, Zan.” But that wasn’t what Max ached to know.

He wrestled for a moment, unspoken words burning inside his heart. “Look…me?” He finally managed to whisper and Zeph didn’t respond. Instead, he turned to the wall, running his hand over a section of stone so that a mirror materialized. He then stared at Max in challenge, daring him to gaze upon his own reflection.

“You should see,” was all Zeph said, his almond-shaped eyes narrowing keenly. At moments like that, Max never knew how to read his Antarian friend, especially not then. Max’s face burned painfully with instant shame, at what a hideous spectacle his face must truly be.

After a long moment, Zeph sighed heavily. “Zan, look at yourself,” he encouraged boldly. “You haven’t in a very long time. Years.”

Max shook his head firmly, decisively. “No.”

Zeph stepped closer, gazing up into Max’s eyes with surprising authority and warmth. “You are curious.”

And he was. But he was more frightened to confront what he knew to be true.

“Why will you not?” Zeph asked gently, cocking his head to the side.

“Mon…ster,” Max managed to spit out angrily, hobbling to the window, as far from Zeph as he could within the tiny confines of his cell. “Me.”

“No, Zan, you are not. You look well.”

“Tess…said.”

“And she is to be believed?” Zeph growled, his gray cheeks staining a surprising pink in anger. “The queen wishes only to destroy you.”

“Tess…know…me.”

“So do I,” Zeph whispered fiercely, joining Max by the window. “And I’ve been here since you arrived.” He clasped Max’s shoulder, his light touch radiating undeniable compassion, and Max knew he had a brother in Zeph. A friend who would die for him if need be.

Max leaned his head against the wall, aching to know what he did truly look like. Zeph remained behind him, challenging him and supporting him all at once in the thick silence of his cell. The knowledge of the makeshift mirror burned in Max’s consciousness, even after Zeph finally dropped his hand, and left him alone in the cell. Max knew the mirror remained on the wall, yet he never ventured closer, and finally used his powers to transform the reflective surface back to stone, without so much as a further glance.

That had been months ago. Yet tonight, as he listened to his own shallow breathing in the darkness, he still wondered what he would have found that day. Slowly, he traced his fingertips across his features, feeling the familiar thick striations along his cheeks, his forehead. The one that slashed so harshly down his swollen jaw. Then his fingers wandered beneath the soft material of his shirt, exploring until he located the thickest scar of all—the one that slashed across his heart.

A memento of a wound intended to slay him, one that had quite nearly proved fatal some six years earlier.

Max stroked the raised place along his chest, feeling his heart’s steady rhythm beneath his fingertips and wondered if maybe Tess had been right all along. If he ever did find his way home to Liz, what made him think she’d be anything other than repulsed by him? Tess had called his face hideous, monstrous. God, what hadn’t she called him in the six years since his disfigurement at her hands?

King. Friend. Human. Leader. Just to name a few words that hadn’t passed her lips in all the time she’d lurked in the shadows of his life on Antar.

Max ran a hand across his eyes, rubbing them in exhaustion. Why should it matter what Tess thought, he wondered. Perhaps because despite her propensity for cruelty, despite her role in ruining him, she was his only remaining link to earth. And ironically, she was his last connection to Liz, because out of an entire planet of millions, Tess was the only other one who had known her. And somehow that made Liz a little more substantial in his memory, even if she lived on in the mind of his greatest enemy.


****


Max moved in and out of sleep, uncommonly restless for such a late hour. He couldn’t shake the sense that Zeph’s disappearance signaled some sort of danger. Zeph had never minced words in his royalist leanings, had been very vocal in his support of Zan’s family. Yet somehow he’d always been allowed to remain as a palace guard. Max had questioned him about that once, and Zeph had hedged in his answer, lowering his dark gaze such that Max knew he concealed something. But he’d never figured out what that secret was.

The hallway remained perfectly still, and Max ached to find slumber. Slowly, the dreams came, as they always did once bidden, and with them so came his solace. Liz.

They sat together on the rocky promontory outside the pod chamber, she with her knees gathered close to her chest, and he close beside. A tapestry of glittering stars spread overhead, unfolding like a road map to their dreams. He felt so quiet, almost as if there was nothing he longed to say. Being together was all that he needed, as he followed her gaze upward.

“What are you looking at?” he finally asked, noticing how the wind caught her hair. A warm breeze blew off the desert, kicking up a light dust that stung his eyes.

“I’m looking for Antar,” she explained with a smile, still gazing upward. “I mean, I know I can’t really find it, not this way. But I still look.”

“Why?” He meant it as an honest question, couldn’t help wondering why she’d bother looking after eight years of his being gone. Eight years when she’d believed he abandoned her that day on this very hillside.

She smiled, causing familiar warmth to erupt low in his abdomen, a heat that instantly spread through his entire body. “I’ve never stopped loving you, Max,” she said, her voice airy as the wind blowing near them. “You know that. I tell you that every night.”

The warmth crept into his face, which he suddenly touched in self-consciousness. He prayed that she couldn’t see the marks, and was relieved to feel the smooth features of his seventeen-year old self. But she’d seen his panic, and lifted a hand to his cheek, slowly stroking.

“I love you, Max,” she reminded him again softly. “Just as you are. And I can’t let go.”

“Maybe you should,” he lamented quietly, turning away from her. And he meant it, even with as much as he craved her nightly visits.

“How could I ever?” she whispered, leaning closer against his side.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever come home,” he explained heavily, aching to touch her. Yet he still averted his face from her, kept his gaze focused on the distant twinkling lights of Roswell. “I may die here on Antar.”

“They can’t kill your spirit, Max,” she urged, slipping her hand through his. Their fingers twined easily together, and she settled their hands against her thigh. “Your hope is wavering, I hear it in your voice.”

“It’s hard to hope anymore,” he acknowledged quietly, turning back toward her. “It’s been so long, Liz.”

“I’m still waiting…please come home to me.”

“But do you know that you’re waiting?” he asked, the question suddenly presenting itself with undeniable force. “Do you even know about these dreams?” Liz only smiled, a slow beautiful thing that spread across her whole face, until finally she leaned close, kissing his cheek as she answered.

“No, I don’t,” she half-whispered, closing her eyes. “But my heart does.”

“I love you, Liz,” he said, reaching to draw her close. She moved into his embrace, the feel of her so warm and familiar, as if she were within his very arms. “If I can just hold you like this…tonight,” he asked, feeling utterly vulnerable in his need.

“Hold me like this forever,” she answered, folding her hands gently around his back. “Just don’t give up, Max. Don’t die on Antar without me.” Max swallowed hard, feeling years of unspent tears brim in his eyes. “Promise me you won’t die there,” she repeated quietly, holding him even closer within her arms. He felt how she trembled, that she was desperate for his assurances.

Finally, he nodded wordlessly, because it was all he could truly give her. His promises always had been, for more than eight years of separation.













[ edited 20time(s), last at 22-Jan-2003 10:41:09 AM ]
posted on 18-Mar-2002 12:54:32 AM by RosDeidre
Author’s Note:
You guys are all so encouraging. Thank you for your enthusiasm about this new story! A number of people seemed really surprised that I would already start another one with the baby’s arrival imminent, but honestly, I wanted to get something new underway before the big event. This way, I’ll have both CRAZY (I haven’t forgotten! Swear!) and this one to work on after my life turns upside down!! LOL! Hugs and thanks, Deidre

PART TWO

Golden rays filtered through Max’s prison window, rousing him from slumber. He’d held Liz in his arms for hours, neither of them speaking much. That was the beauty of the netherworld where they met, where he touched her that way. They could be intimate and tender in the silence, or as loquacious as they longed to be. But Liz was always his, fully and without reservation. And he was never scarred.

Other times, he remembered things in his dreams, recalled shattered pieces of his life in Roswell that he’d yet to assemble into a sensible puzzle. Those nights weren’t nearly so comforting, haunted as they were by images of Kyle in Liz’s bed, or a dimly lit dance floor where Liz always seemed to be walking away. But the dreams that grieved him the most, without fail, were the ones of Alex.

He knew Alex had been his good friend, but he’d been far more important to Liz. Somehow, though he wasn’t sure why, he understood that he was personally responsible for Alex’s death. Yet he could never riddle the truth out of the dreams, could never discern how it was that he’d caused his accident. So he tried to avoid those memories, because the places they led him within his mind were hard to climb back out of.

Instead, he channeled those dark, hidden thoughts onto the canvas. He attempted to translate the way the murky dreams felt into a lively world of color and shape, but even that often left him hopelessly somber.

And it wasn’t just Alex. It was the way his mind housed all the memories from that painful time. Max often sensed that the mindrapes had scattered his memories, rearranged them such that entire sectors within his mind were now faulty. Especially after the night when Tess had exacted her true vengeance on him, the night he’d later died on the floor of his cell.

That was when she’d embedded things inside his mind that he hardly understood. Zeph called them blocks, though he acknowledged that explanation was far too simple. She’d implanted memory impairments, even as Khivar had literally raped his mind, robbing him forever of other key recollections. But that wasn’t the only damage; the blocks were also meant to prevent his healing. Max learned that much when he tried healing himself, over and over, but to no avail. Later, Zeph had even failed in using the healing stones. In time, it had become painfully clear that Max’s disfigurement was a permanent condition.

These days, Max tried in vain to piece together what he could remember of his past, and sometimes all he held within his hands were such nonsensical scraps it left him nearly in tears. So mornings like this one were a gift, when Max woke blinking back the warm sunlight, with only the memory of Liz’s tender embrace. Max rolled onto his side slowly, still aglow from her loving caresses.

The gray walls of his cell were bathed in early Antarian sunlight, the purest joy that lit Max’s soul each day. It was impossible for him to understand what he responded to in those gilded hues, except he often felt the nagging memory of an experience once known. Or something he might know. He was never really sure which one.

Summer was approaching quickly this year, and the quality of light had changed remarkably in just the past weeks. The harsh Antarian winter had given way effortlessly to a time of promised renewal, to vibrant greens and violets just beyond Max’s small window. He couldn’t see much of the terrain outside, but glimpsed enough to know that the free world buzzed with new life and tender beginnings.

If only things were the same in the palace depths, he lamented, brushing his hair away from his eyes.

Yet, amazingly enough, as he gazed around his cell, at the way the walls were bathed in golden hues, his own heart lifted slightly. Everything always felt different in the morning; full of possibility and renewed hope. But he also knew he had Liz to thank for that. She’d kindled his dreams anew during the night, once again.

Max rose slowly to his feet, and plodded to the window, his cane tapping an uneven rhythm on the stone floor. Beyond his small window, he could nearly hear crashing ocean waves in the distance, which meant the tide was high. For a moment, he braced his hand against the wall and smiled, pressing his eyes closed as he nearly remembered something. Something distant and forgotten… running on the sand, his feet bare and wet, the sun warming his thin body. Small, he was so small. And Isabel chased him, giggling and carefree. He lifted his face to the light, feeling it warm him, and he was free.

Max leaned against the wall, eyes shut, just remembering. The moment morphed, became another. Liz rode in the jeep beside him, her long hair whipping in the wind. Free. They were both so free. And young.

Slowly, Max’s eyes fluttered open and though the memories dimmed, he knew he had to paint now, if only for a very little while. His body still burned from Liz’s touch, even as his hands burned with the need for expression. So he moved to his cot, and withdrew a small half-painted canvas from underneath, retrieving nearly empty tubes of cobalt blue and burnt ochre and sienna red. He leaned back against the wall, dabbling tiny portions onto the edge of his canvas, as he attempted to capture the ocean scene before it completely dissolved from his memory.

A jarring noise at the door caused him to jolt, as he glanced at the sun’s position in the sky. Not breakfast, he realized and his heart began pounding in sudden fear. The door creaked open in loud complaint, as Max thrust his canvas and paints beneath the bed in one smooth gesture. Cobalt blue smeared across his fingers and he waved his other hand desperately to clean it, as suddenly two guards appeared in the doorway.

They were royal centurions and Max swallowed hard at the sight of them. The senior of the two addressed him harshly in Antarian, as Max struggled painfully to his feet. For a moment, he lost his grip on the cane, and stumbled forward a step. Words flew so quickly, that he only caught piecemeal snatches, as he glanced between the two palace guards.

Prisoner…come…queen…

Finally, the guard fell silent, and stared at him with empty black eyes. Max wasn’t sure what they’d just asked of him, yet he knew an answer was required by the expectancy in their alien gazes.

“Not…under…stand,” Max managed in halting English, then with greater effort repeated in Antarian, “Metosa…lek…

“You come with us,” the guard enunciated in perfect English, black eyes narrowing to icy slits. “To your queen. Now.

Max stared at the guard, terror and confusion beating within his heart. Because his queen hadn’t called him forth to her chambers in nearly three years, and Max could only wonder why she’d summon him now. After all, it was far too late for any resolution in their longstanding battle of wills.

Well, there was one final solution, but it was the one he’d promised Liz he’d avoid at all costs. And Max prayed it wasn’t a promise he’d finally break this very day.


****

Max’s hands were bound tightly behind him, and he stumbled repeatedly as the guards shoved him down the intricate stone corridors of the palace. The men gave no heed to his handicap, or to the way his leg failed him so miserably in the ascent upward from the prison depths. Several times he stumbled forward, his knee smarting violently as they jerked him with their hands.

Finally, the dark hallways gave way to golden ones, when they surfaced in the most radiant part of the palace. And instantly, his mind flashed with forgotten memories as he surveyed the wide hallways they marched him through. He heard laughter and warm alien voices in his mind, felt a mother’s love, a father’s touch…

Quickly, he jerked his head to the left, expecting to see Isabel, yet found nothing. Then the echoing memories stilled, replaced instead by the feel of harsh alien hands on his forearms, wrestling him forward toward rooms he recognized as the royal chambers.

He’d been there once before, shortly after they’d first arrived on Antar. Just before Tess and Khivar had married, when she’d summoned him to her suite in this very manner.

Tess had sat before a large mirror that day, slowly brushing the flaxen length of her hair. It had grown unbelievably long in the six months since they’d arrived together on Antar. Something about the climate or the atmosphere, Max wasn’t sure which one, caused their human hair to lengthen and thicken at an undeniable rate. His own dark locks had already reached his shoulders, and he caught sight of his reflection in her vanity mirror. Dark circles marred his eyes, and he’d grown a bit thinner, yet he was still striking enough. He knew it by the way her gaze roamed over him, lingering especially on his muscled forearms, then lower still.

He felt cheap, exploited by her hungry gaze. And he also understood why she’d brought him there that morning.

“Max,” she smiled, a thin veneer of pleasantness covering her true intention.

“Tess,” he answered simply.

“You look pretty damn good for a prisoner,” she laughed, resuming the slow brushing of her hair. Yet her eyes never left his body, never ceased their pointed exploration of him. He remained silent, shifting awkwardly on his feet. She nodded wordlessly to her guards, and they left the room, closing the sweeping doors behind them.

She sat up a bit taller, as she turned on her vanity stool, and he caught a clear glimpse of her full voluptuous breasts. She’d worn a tight shirt—intentionally, he was sure--one that revealed every curve of her womanly body. Her figure had somehow grown even more mature since their arrival, too; perhaps for the same reasons her hair had lengthened so easily. It was almost as if she’d made some devilish bargain with a god he remained unfamiliar with. While his own body had withered a bit, her figure had grown more full and supple.

Slowly, she licked her lips in a gesture of clear invitation. Max closed his eyes momentarily, then dropped his gaze to the floor. “Oh, please, Max,” she huffed sarcastically, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “I know you want me. You’ve been down in that prison for what? Six months? Away from Liz for more than nine? You’ve got to be growing restless by now.” She laughed then, a mocking sound that was shrill and set his teeth on edge.

“Tess, why did you ask me here?” he replied, ignoring how she baited him. He allowed his gaze to flicker upward, and found her own eyes wide and filled with something frightening.

“Isn’t it obvious, Max?” she teased, standing so that he glimpsed her entire figure, including the way her leather pants clung to her thighs and hips, defining every curve.

He remained silent and saw her eyes flare with anger. “Listen, Max, you’re just lucky you’re still alive. Khivar wanted you dead, and I’m the one who begged for your life.”

“Why?” he asked, before he’d even intended to. Tess took a single step backwards, and he sensed that he’d caught her by surprise with the question. But she quickly recovered, moving closer toward him until she gazed up into his eyes, her own blue ones cold and empty.

“Because I still want you.”

Max’s jaw clenched as she moved even closer, yet he remained silent even as she crowded so very close to his body. “Khivar may be my…intended,” she explained huskily. “But you were always my husband, Max.”

“No.”

Tess’s face grew red with instant anger. “No?” she cried. “Just like that? No?”

“I’m not going to sleep with you,” he clarified. “I understand what you’re up to, Tess,” and Max glanced around the royal suite, at the large bed draped in seductive fabrics and sensual tapestries. He knew precisely why Tess had summoned him while Khivar was away from the palace for the night. “I know why I’m here.”

“You’ll sleep with me if I decree it.”

“You are not the queen.”

“I will be in another week, and the guards will do whatever I want. Khivar will require it if I ask. He has no interest in my physical needs.”

“I will die first, Tess,” Max hissed, his chest rising unevenly with emotion. He felt trapped, cornered by her in the adorned suite, alone.

“You slept with me on earth, Max,” she laughed coyly. “What’s different here?”

“I…I…didn’t.” He knew logically that he had, yet something deep in his mind rebelled against her statement, even against solid memories of their bodies moving as one. Something was wrong, off in the recollections.

Tess smiled slowly, raising her hand toward him, as her eyes narrowed. “Remember as you must,” she pronounced quietly and suddenly the memories solidified. He knew how she’d pleasured him, and he the same of her. Yet he was utterly repulsed at the thought of that kind of raw physical intimacy with her.

He bowed his head, feeling the muscle in his jaw tremble. “I won’t sleep with you, Tess,” he answered again, this time more firmly. “And certainly not this way.”

“This way?” she asked, voice rising shrilly.

“As your whore.”

“Max, if you don’t, you’ll pay the consequences,” she threatened in a tight voice. “I’ll make sure of it. We’re not on earth anymore, and you’re not in control. I am.”

“It’s a risk I have to take, then,” Max answered quietly, looking up at her challenging eyes.

But what he’d not known then was just how dearly he would pay for refusing Tess’s open bed, and that his payment would begin that very night.

****

The guard knocked loudly on the royal chamber door, and he heard Tess beckon them inside. The scene was eerily familiar, almost a perfect recreation of that other time more than seven years earlier. The guards clasped him roughly, thrusting him forward so that he stumbled, landing on his knees. He cried out as his knee made harsh contact with the stone floor, and unable to use his hands to catch himself, he sprawled forward. The guards wrestled him onto his knees and he felt a wave of nausea, as sharp pain shot through his leg. Tess only smiled in pleasure, as she drew near.

“Max, you’re looking,” she hesitated, her gaze wandering across his features. “The usual,” she finally assessed, reaching her hand to stroke his face. He flinched, recoiling from her touch. Slowly, she reached again, tracing the length of his most vicious scar. “It’s this one I love the most,” she teased breathily, then began laughing as she turned away.

“Listen, there’s no need for me to beat around things this time,” she explained coarsely. “And I can promise you I didn’t bring you here to sleep with you.” She stared at him, her expression shaming and pointed. “That time has definitely passed, Max.”

“Why…here?” he asked, the words escaping his lips with a choked sound.

Why… here?” she mocked lightly, folding her arms across her chest. “Good question,” she observed after a moment, moving closer toward him. She wore a royal gown that clung greedily to her form, snug and revealing in its definition of her body. Tess had grown a bit heavier over the years, yet the way the weight had distributed had only given her more womanly curves. Even Max couldn’t deny that, as repulsed as he was by her.

“Seems I need you to disappear a while,” she finally answered. “I could just kill you, that would be easier, but I’m feeling a little sentimental with all that’s happened.”

Max puzzled over her statement. All that’s happened. He had no idea what that meant precisely. Between the two of them? He couldn’t be sure, and finally gazed up at her in hesitation.

“What…happen?” he managed thickly and he didn’t miss the smile of satisfaction that lit her features at his broken sentence.

“Oh, Max,” she laughed bitterly. “I’m sorry about the jaw. It’s a problem isn’t it?”

He felt his face flush in angry shame, and instantly regretted that he’d even tried to talk to her. She lifted her fingers to his face again, this time slowly cupping his disfigured jaw, just touching it. “I suppose I should do something about the healing blocks. Perhaps if you asked nicely?”

Max panted, wrestled with her implication. He could be healed, it was what she alluded to. Yet if he let her win now, what else might she demand? Her small hand lingered against his face, offering a seductive promise of wholeness. Suggesting that his endless pain might actually cease.

“Zeph is a healer,” she offered softly, and Max’s heartbeat quickened painfully. What was she getting at now? “We know he’s tried healing you numerous times.”

Max met her gaze, yet refused to speak. “If you just ask, Max, I’ll remove the block…at least this one,” she indicated, softly stroking his jaw.

“Why?”

“Because I’m feeling very helpful today,” she answered happily. “I might be inclined to give you a going away present.”

“Wh…at?” he asked, feeling his jaw tremble beneath her fingertips. “Mean?”

“What do I mean,” she repeated, emphasizing his words as if they’d been nonsensical. “I mean, Max, that I’m the true queen now. Khivar is dead, as of last night. That means I’m completely in charge. It also means that I need you gone. Dead. Finished.”

“O…kay.” He had no more fight left, and if she’d brought him here to toy with him some more, to tease him and then have him tortured as mercilessly as last time, he wouldn’t survive it. He had no doubt on that point.

“No, Max, it’s not okay,” she snapped irritably. “Because I need to make peace with that ridiculous group of idiots who still follow you. The faction that Zeph is part of.”

She finally dropped her hand from his face, and turned away, pacing the length of her suite. Her waist-length blonde hair was knit into a tight braid that swished as she walked. For a moment, Max had to admit that she’d managed to acquire a royal mien in her seven years of sharing the throne with Khivar.

But was he truly dead? Max found that difficult to believe—except that her sense of being in control seemed actual and complete.

“How…dead…king?” He referred to Khivar as the king intentionally, in an effort to convey a certain loyalty to his house, to Tess herself. Tess didn’t even seem to notice as she spun on her heel, her silken gown rustling in a sibilant whisper.

“In his sleep,” she explained, her voice surprisingly hushed. “Last night. He had a heart attack a week ago, and lingered on after.” And Max was certain that genuine grief shadowed her features for a moment, as her blue eyes watered. Max had never fathomed the strange bond between the couple; how a purebred alien might marry a human hybrid like Tess. Yet all the whispers throughout the palace over the years had been that some twisted affection did indeed exist between the royal couple.

“I…sorry.” And for a brief moment, Max did mean it. As much as he loathed Tess, as thoroughly as she’d destroyed him, their paths wound far backward in time.

“Yeah, right,” she answered sarcastically, rolling her eyes. “All you care about is getting out of here, Max.”

He bowed his head, unwilling to fight her, or to attempt an argument when every one of his words came at such a bitter price. But then, despite his better judgment, he added quietly. “Loss…hard.”

“Yes, you have known loss, haven’t you, Max?” she reflected solemnly, moving near him again. He wavered on his knees, had to blink back the water that filled his eyes at the sheer pain of kneeling on the hard stones. She reached a small hand and steadied his shoulder, a reminder that he knelt before her. Servant to the queen.

“Haven’t you, Max?” she repeated, cueing him that she expected an answer.

“Yes.” He never looked up, never met her keen gaze, even though he felt it burning into him.

“Because of me,” she pressed, and he heard the true glee in her voice, the way it lilted over the words in victory.

“Yes,” he acknowledged, even without her prompting. He wasn’t sure what game she was up to, whether she’d really have him killed now that Khivar was gone. Somehow, he no longer cared, as she toyed with him, humiliated him this way. He’d fought her far too long, and his energy had ebbed for it.

“Well, today is my day to be generous,” she announced, slowly stroking his tangled mass of hair away from his eyes. “Though, you should know it’s Khivar’s doing, not my own.”

“How?” he asked, the word slurring softly.

“I’m granting your freedom, Max,” she half-whispered, and his head snapped upward instantly. Her water-blue eyes danced with mischief, and he feared her manipulative intentions. “I’m serious, Max,” she continued. “You’re to be let go tonight.”

Max swallowed hard, working his jaw in an effort to speak, yet no words came. “Ex…plain,” he finally managed with great difficulty. “Tess….pl…ease…”

She sidled closer to him, so that her full breasts pressed near his face, and he noticed that her chest had begun rising quickly. God, despite her protests, she did want something with him; it was obvious. Her hands wound through his hair, and she slowly combed the strands with her fingers. “Liz will never have you now.” It was all she said, yet as she herself looked at him, there was unmistakable desire in her gaze. “I haven’t seen another human in years. You’re horrendous looking, Max, but for some strange reason, I’d still welcome you into my bed.”

And then he understood. If he’d relent, if he’d sleep with her, he could gain his freedom. Perhaps his healing, as well. He swallowed hard, as she drew even closer. “You’re hideous, Max, you do know that?” she laughed, outlining the length of his deformed jaw with her finger.

He refused to answer, and her other hand tightened in his hair, twisting hard. “Don’t you?

“Yes.”

“Say it. Say that Liz will not have you.”

“No.”

“Then you will remain here always. I’ll defy the king’s decree.” Max felt tears burn his eyes. “Unless you admit that Liz will never want a monster like you.”

“Not…want…no,” he offered weakly.

Liz, not want…no,” she coached, mimicking him harshly at the same time. “Say her name, Max. Say Liz.”

“Liz not want…me…ever.” He embellished, because just admitting it aloud was perversely freeing. “Yes…monster.”

“Ah,” she purred in deep satisfaction, slowly stroking his shoulders. “Thank you, Max. Beautiful to hear that confession.”

“Please…heal.”

“You?” she laughed. “After that admission? Am I a fool?”

“Jaw…hurt…much.” The pain in his jaw was debilitating; it encompassed his entire existence. He didn’t even really care what he looked like anymore. He just wanted the pain to end.

“I know it does. I like knowing that,” she admitted, and moved away from him, dropping her hands from his shoulders, his body. She paced the length of her chamber, swishing her braid as she moved. “One of these days, Max, you will remember your other life. That’s why I’ve blocked your human memories… don’t you know that?” she asked sharply, whirling to face him. “Because I wanted you to remember, to know why I really hate you so much. But you still don’t realize, do you?”

He swallowed, watching her progress across the room, feeling his hands tremble where they’d been so tightly bound behind his back. “No.” He had no idea what she even referred to, because he’d never recalled anything of their marriage. There was a dim recollection of a first kiss once, but it always floated into this lifetime, at a party or a dance. He wasn’t sure, but it never made him happy.

“Forget it,” she announced, her voice suddenly dull and sullen. “I’m done with you, Max.” She seemed no longer interested in drawing him into her bed, or her offers to heal him. “Zeph’s coming for you tonight, anyway.”

Zeph? Max’s mind buzzed at the mention of his friend’s name, and he still wondered why she would release him, even if Khivar were dead. Somehow Zeph was tied into the mystery.

“I was only joking about sleeping with you, Max,” she laughed offhandedly, turning toward her vanity. “God, surely you must know that.” Yet he’d been certain that somehow she had meant it, had still longed for him, even after all the years. After all that had happened between them. He heard her fumbling with something on the dresser, though her back remained to him. He debated answering, wondered if he should placate her. Anything that might cause her to remove the healing blocks in his mind, he’d even beg if need be.

But before he could think, she spun on her heel, extending something in her hand. It flashed a moment, a brilliant flicker of light, and he was momentarily blinded by the object’s glittering brightness. Then in one painful instant, his eyes focused. But it was too far too late to turn away once he understood, once his own twisted reflection gazed back at him.

And Tess began laughing, her hand just holding the mirror close to his face. As every lie he’d told himself about his appearance, every assurance he’d clung to, faded into the reality of the man who stared back at him.

Because it was obvious that the disfigured man in the mirror—with one eye half-swollen shut and deep red marks scoring his entire face-- was every bit the monster Tess had always assured him he was.

Max gaped at the mirror soundlessly, blinking in disbelief, until finally his shoulders slumped forward in defeat. “I knew you’d never looked before,” she whispered, her voice nearly filled with awe. “Something, isn’t it?”

“Kill…me,” he answered fiercely. “Or…heal.”

“No, Max, I think I’ll choose another option altogether,” she explained, lowering the mirror away from his face. She turned from him, dropping the mirror on her vanity, and he saw her open a panel on the wall, pressing a button. Instantly, he heard an answer behind him, as the door to her suite swung open loudly, and shuffling footsteps echoed on the stone floor. Max’s throat tightened with panic, at the knowledge of what the royal guard had done to him before.

“You should have accepted my offers,” Tess smiled, as he wrestled to gaze over his shoulder at the approaching soldiers. “I would have removed at least some of the blocks if you’d taken to my bed.”

Max felt strong hands close around his shoulders, his arms. Perhaps a dozen hands, just grasping at him, as he began struggling in vain. He gazed up into Tess’s satisfied eyes, right as he felt an indescribably sharp pain explode between his shoulder blades. He cried out, as a foreign heat radiated outward instantly, down his back, through his shoulders.

“Tess,” he begged softly, feeling suddenly like he might collapse. “Help…”

Tess leaned forward, surprising him with a soft kiss on his forehead. “Goodbye, Max.”

Tess turned away from him with an air of dismissal, moving out onto her open balcony. He stared after her blankly, as the unnatural warmth undulated down his spine, pressing into his hips and thighs, then swept strangely upward into his abdomen. It was wrong. The entire sensation was utterly wrong. He gasped for several quick breaths, even as he felt alien hands wrestling him to the ground, fighting him into a prone position.

And then his whole world simply went black.

















[ edited 1 time(s), last at 18-Mar-2002 7:55:29 AM ]
posted on 18-Mar-2002 7:50:25 AM by RosDeidre
Anne and Woodwinds--
Good question about it being that simple for Max to get away, I.e. Tess simply releasing him. However, note the very end and what happens...it seems that Anne's observation of it seeming *too* easy just might be true???? ;)

Off to the baby doctor! LOL! D
posted on 24-Mar-2002 9:32:42 PM by RosDeidre
Author's Note:
Thanks for all the awesome fb everybody. No baby yet, for those who have asked! I mean, there's a BABY for sure, but she's still nestled firmly inside mommy! And dont' worry, I'll keep on writing regularly even once my wee bundle arrives. I can't stop at this point, apparently. Thanks to Angela for beta-reading this section!



PART THREE


Tightness. That’s what Max woke to throughout his entire face; a perverse tightness mingled with unnatural burning just beneath the skin. He blinked back the bright sunlight dancing on white walls, feeling drugged and disoriented.

But of all the unfamiliar sensations swimming through his body, the rigidity in his face was the most disconcerting one. Slowly, he reached a hand to his cheek and felt texture cool as porcelain, in contrast to the fever blazing beneath the surface of his skin.

For a moment, his fingers lingered against his cheek, lightly touching the smooth jawline that should have been viciously scarred. A thought formed in his head, a shocking one related to the way his entire face seemed unnaturally…hard. Like a perfectly sculpted statue, made flesh and blood man. But before the thought could solidify, his eyes drifted shut, unpreventable sleep falling over him, and the white room went black as night again.

Black as the desert. Black as the sky overhead, as he ran across sagebrush and sandy rocks, panting heavily, pursued. He could see nothing, could only feel his heart slamming painfully in his chest, then hands wrestling him to the ground, fighting him hard.

“Help…me,” he begged, the words lost within his mouth. He could barely speak at all, and his jaw throbbed painfully.

Nyla metosa li!” The Antarian words came quickly, faster than he could understand as unseen hands grappled him facedown into a prone position. His lips parted, as he cried out, but he met only sand, bitter and thick in his mouth. Was this Earth or Antar? He couldn’t even be sure, as they rolled him onto his back, clasping his face tightly within their alien hands. They were doing something to him, striking at him with fists and gilded weapons, and he was powerless to stop them. Immobilized by indescribable pain in his chest and leg. He opened his mouth to scream, but shards of pain exploded through his jaw, his mouth, his cheeks.

Then there was only sharp tautness, radiating through his entire face, into his hairline. Max gasped thickly, “What…do…me?” and was met with harsh, alien laughter.

But then suddenly warmth exploded through his shoulders, causing them to ache in terrible complaint, and everything changed. The nightmare changed.

Peace fell over his heart, as something like cool liquid moved upward along his forearm, soothing him beyond description. Darkness grew light again, became the Crashdown. And it was yesterday.

Max pushed open the door from the street, entering the busy restaurant. His eyes scanned among the patrons, searching desperately for Liz, even as he gulped fiery breaths of air. And then he spied her, just behind the counter, laughing joyfully with Maria by the milkshake machine. Max’s eyes filled with instant tears at the familiar scene, at the innocent page from his youth. Some long-forgotten music played loudly overhead, muffled by the din of laughter and clinking plates, and he was seventeen again.

He walked toward the counter in a daze, wiping at his damp eyes, until Liz looked up, smiling radiantly at him. Her little antennae bobbed, a sweet smile spreading across her features as she waved in his direction. But then her face darkened instantly in concern, and she moved quickly around the counter toward him. He dropped his head, wishing he weren’t so desperate for her, wishing he weren’t in such a bleak place, showing up at her work this way.

“Max,” she said, hurrying toward the barstool where he stood, frozen in time. His heart hadn’t ceased its frantic pounding, and his mouth was completely dry with fear. “What’s wrong?” she asked, clasping his arm lightly. He gazed down at her small hand, as if it were some disembodied object, not a vital part of his beloved. The warmth of her touch transfixed him momentarily; he hadn’t felt a human hand in so many years. At least not the warm hand of someone who loved him, who would protect him at all costs if need be.

Max glanced upward briefly, aching to tell Liz everything, but there was too much to explain. Too many unfathomable years had elapsed since this time. The Liz who gazed up at him in indescribable concern was but only a young girl, even if she remained the love of his life. The restaurant hummed eternally around them, buzzing with life and noise. Human life. Human noise. And Max seemed literally unable to move, or speak.

Finally, Liz clasped his hand, tugging him toward the back of the restaurant with determination. “Come with me,” she urged gently, and their fingers threaded instantly together.

Without speaking, she led him upstairs into her parents’ apartment, then past their familiar furnishings until they reached her bedroom. He stumbled after her, and was reminded of the night they’d run from Pierce, through the pipes and ravines, down scrappy hillsides. Liz had led him just this way then, offering shelter to his battered heart and body.

She closed the bedroom door behind them breathlessly, turning to face him. “What’s happened?” she asked, pulling him into her arms. One of the antennae brushed against his cheek, tickling it, and for some reason that struck him as an absurd detail as she held him closer than life itself. “Tell me, Max,” she said, her voice calming him instantly.

“I…I’m not sure,” he finally answered thickly, folding his hands around her small shoulders. She was so delicate and familiar in his arms, more precious than life itself. He buried his face against the top of her head, stifling a sob as her scent washed over him. Eight years and he’d only smelled an alien world, only caught the scents of his enemies. And now his sweet Liz, in his arms just like it was yesterday.

“Try to tell me,” Liz encouraged softly, slipping her hands beneath the edge of his t-shirt, so he felt her soft palms just resting against the small of his back. Their skin brushing together that way caused his heart to pound, and for a moment he felt utterly human.

“They…did something…to me,” he finally answered. “I don’t know what.” Liz drew back to stare up into his eyes, and he looked sharply away. She couldn’t see him like this, he couldn’t stand her knowing how broken he’d become. But she reached gentle hands and cupped his face, turning it toward her until their eyes locked. He felt his cheeks burn beneath her loving touch, knew the secret lay just beneath her fingertips.

“Max,” she said, slowly stroking his cheek in a loving gesture. “You’re okay.” It seemed such a strange thing for her to tell him, as he realized his breathing was labored and out of control, his eyes moist with unspent tears. “You’re okay,” she repeated softly.

“How…know?” he asked, falling into his habitual syntax, even though in the dream his words flowed freely. Yet Liz didn’t even seem to notice the change in his speech pattern.

“Because I’m holding you. Right now,” she assured him, her dark eyes widening intently. “No matter where you are, I’m holding you and I feel your heartbeat. You’re okay, Max.”

“Scared,” he whispered, bowing his head in shame. “So…scared.”

“I know, sweetheart,” she soothed, still just lovingly stroking his face beneath her fingertips. “But I’m with you. You’re never alone.”

Liz leaned up on her tiptoes, and softly kissed his cheek, her tender lips grazing the skin. He felt an answering warmth beneath her mouth, almost as if cool flesh burned with life again—and knew that her hands, her mouth, everything in her was drawn to his face. That therein lay the problem, the key to how they’d hurt him again. Liz had somehow known.

“You’ll be okay,” she murmured fiercely against his cheek. “I feel it.”

“Will I ever see you again?” he asked, his voice thick and choked with emotion. “Because if I know I will, I’ll keep fighting.”

“Somehow, you’ll find your way to me,” she nodded, stroking his hair away from his face. And he realized it was long, like he’d only ever worn it on Antar, when he’d been apart from her. Instantly, his hand flew self-consciously to his face, and he felt the raised scars. She was staring right at him, as if the harsh marks were irrelevant to her. Liz reached a hand, and covered his fingers against his cheek. “I don’t care, Max,” she promised softly. “No matter what, know that.”

He stared at her, wide-eyed and unable to speak, but she only smiled as tears welled within her eyes. “The only thing I’ve ever cared about is you, Max. Just come home to me.”

He was about to ask how his ruined face could matter so little to her, but then he felt something else—someone else—tugging on him, pulling him from her. He opened his mouth to speak, reaching a silent hand toward her, but the dream ended abruptly with a flutter of light and wind.

The sound of soft chimes trilled around him, and Max found himself blinking back muted daylight again.


****


Apart from the sounds of crashing surf and tinkling wind chimes, the first thing Max noticed was that he couldn’t move his hands. They were bound at his sides, tied to the edges of a small bed where he lay on his back. All around him, the only color he saw was white—so ethereal and bright; he could only blink for several long moments, as he strained within his bonds.

The next thing that struck him, just as it had when he’d woken earlier, was the tightness that pulled and burned at his facial features. He worked his jaw, finding his taut face only marginally malleable, even as he tried again to reach a hand to touch the fevered skin.

“Zan,” a deep familiar voice said, and he turned his head toward a rustling sound just near his bed. Zeph moved quickly toward him, his hands clasped in unusual agitation--he was normally more studied and purposeful in his movements than that.

Max opened his mouth to speak, but heat ricocheted through his face, his jaw. “Where…me?” he finally managed in a thick voice, glancing around the white room as he pulled at his wrists. “Hands?” he asked as Zeph dropped to his knees beside the bed. Zeph quickly began untying soft strips of cotton that had bound his wrists at his sides, his large black eyes focused and intent.

“I apologize for the bindings,” Zeph said, swiftly loosening the ties. “But given your mental state upon arrival, they were necessary.”

“Where?” Max repeated, wondering what kind of cell might be this luminous and breezy. Everything gleamed far too beautifully to be a sector in the palace depths; this room most certainly belonged in the main royal house. “Palace?”

“No, you’re with me, at my home,” Zeph explained gently. Yet Max glimpsed something surprising in Zeph’s dark gaze, something akin to fear. “They’ve released you into my custody.”

As the soft bindings slipped free from his wrists, Max’s hands flew instinctively toward his cheek, but Zeph caught him by the wrist.

“No, Zan,” Zeph advised, his voice almost harsh in its intensity. “Let me explain first.”

“My…face?” Max said, his voice rising in shrill panic. Something was definitely wrong; he sensed it in Zeph’s entire demeanor, and knew it by the unnatural sensations that kept spiraling over his facial features.

“Zan, I must explain a great deal to you,” his friend began in a quiet voice. “Please try to be calm, or you will require sedation again.”

Max struggled within Zeph’s grasp, and for a moment he contemplated using his energy to free himself. But the strained expression on his friend’s gray face cautioned him otherwise, and he relaxed within his grip.

“Thank you,” Zeph nodded with a respectful bow of his head. “Thank you, my king.”

Max shivered because in more than eight years of knowing Zeph, he’d never once called him king. He’d been unable to address him by that title, perhaps; or maybe something significant had changed.

“Face?” Max asked again, reaching to untie his other hand from the bedside. “Feels… odd,” he added thickly, the muscles in his jaw rigid with every syllable he annunciated.

“Zan, the palace guards…they,” Zeph’s voice wavered momentarily, then he cleared his throat and continued. “The guards have acted on Tess’s order. What feels so strange to you, about your face…is an organic seal.”

“What…seal?” Max asked sharply, his heart racing at the words.

“It is reserved normally for the most elite classes here on Antar because it’s quite costly,” Zeph explained evenly. “The purpose is to prevent aging by quite literally sealing the molecular structure within the face. For women like Tess, it’s a guarantor of youth.”

Max stared at Zeph, his mouth falling slightly open in disbelief. It almost seemed that Zeph’s lips were moving yet the words were nonsensical, despite being in English.

“What?” Max finally whispered hoarsely, and lifted his fingers to his cheek. Hard. Cold. Inhuman. “What…this?” Max’s fingertips trailed across the drawn surface and felt only rippling smoothness.

“Tess did it. To set your scars permanently.” Zeph didn’t elaborate further, didn’t explain, he simply stared at him, blinking soundlessly. His large almond-shaped eyes were like black orbs, unrevealing and deep.

“Set…scars?” All he could think was that it made his face sound like a broken arm, or leg, and that the mask was something of a cast. But apparently the purpose wasn’t healing, not even close. The purpose was to set into eternal permanence the pain and disfigurement that had riddled his existence for more than six years. “Why do…me?”

“In case the healing blocks could be overcome,” Zeph explained softly. “I begged for your healing Max. I begged Tess to remove the mask before it solidified, but,” Zeph paused, running a hand over his hairless head. “She refused. Wouldn’t allow your release on any other terms. I’m so very sorry.”

“Forever…this…now,” Max observed flatly, staring at the shimmering white walls all around him. White. Like Pierce’s room, yet instinctively he knew that these walls were meant to inspire peace, of body and spirit.

“No, no,” Zeph rushed to explain. “The mask is quite temporary. It remains for a month, no longer…”

Max interrupted him. “But scars?”

Zeph rose to his feet with a weary sigh. “Difficult for me to say, Zan. The sealant suspends molecular change for prolonged periods. Usually at least ten years. And it’s not just for the wealthy; it’s used with shapeshifters as well, when they are imprisoned, to prevent their shifting. With the prisoners, it is reapplied every seven years, just to be safe.”

Just to be safe. Just to be safe…was he safe now? Safely frozen within the confines of this mask? Safely scarred and mutilated and ruined? Safe enough to please his queen? Max could only wonder if she were well and truly done with him now.

“Zan?” Zeph asked, gazing at him in concern. Max wondered how long he’d left him standing there because he couldn’t really be sure how much time had elapsed.

“Show me,” Max finally replied, sitting up in the small bed. “Face.” For the first time he gazed down and saw his familiar prison garb, the faded t-shirt and pants. He stared at his hands, the soft strips of cotton still dangling from his wrists. There were bruises on his arms, marks that he couldn’t recall acquiring, though he had a dim memory of struggling as the guards had forcefully sedated him in Tess’s chamber.

“The mask is quite unusual to behold, Zan. Please don’t let it upset you,” Zeph explained cautiously.

For a moment, Max considered questioning what might be more unusual than the face that he’d worn for all the past years, but instead shook his head compliantly. Zeph stared at him uncertainly, studying him in obvious concern until finally he extended his small hand to him.

Max struggled to his feet, glancing about for his cane, which Zeph quickly retrieved from where it rested against the bedside table. The floor felt unsteady beneath Max’s bare feet, even with the support of his cane, and Max hesitated a moment, just resting most of his weight. When the world seemed to steady, he plodded toward a wall mirror that Zeph indicated on the far side of the bedroom.

The room felt disconcertingly huge, so open and breezy—an utter contradiction to his cramped cell. In every direction there were lovely tapestries and rugs, plush furniture, yet Max could only focus on the mirror on the distant wall, as he hobbled unsteadily toward it.

“Almost there,” Zeph encouraged quietly, placing a light hand along his back for support.

“You worry,” Max observed, glancing sideways at the alien.

“You’ve been through much, my king.” Again, that title, and Max started at hearing the word pass his friend’s lips.

“Not king.”

“Yes, Zan, you are. The true king. The only one I will ever acknowledge,” he declared fiercely. “Only now I am free to say it, away from the palace.”

“Not king,” Max repeated softly, as they neared the mirror. This time, Zeph didn’t argue, just sighed heavily in the silence.

Max drew a tight breath, preparing himself, though for what he wasn’t sure. For a moment, his eyes drifted shut as the crashing surf beyond the huge windows filled his senses; he caught the aroma of sea breeze and cries of ocean birds on the wind. Perhaps they were like seagulls, Max thought momentarily, losing himself in the sensation of memory. Perhaps he’d never left Earth. Perhaps he only slept, a long gauzy journey where his imagination had played infinitely cruel tricks upon him.

If he only slept, then if he opened his eyes, he might find his bedroom in Roswell. He might find himself home.

Hesitantly, Max’s eyes fluttered open, but he didn’t find Roswell or his childhood bedroom. Instead, he caught his reflection in the glass, and gasped involuntarily at the sculpted figure gazing back at him like some lost Michelangelo. That man wasn’t human, wasn’t even alien. He was a marble figure, cast from flesh. His entire face was shockingly pale, hard as stone, except for where his golden eyes peered out and his lips remained exposed, his nostrils open for breathing. The rest of his features had been cast like an intricately rendered carving, as if a craftsman had labored for hours perfectly capturing the line of jaw and angle of nose. Some artisan like himself, who reveled in slowly chiseling a perfect man from marble.

And his skin was perfect, that was the great irony, Max thought, laughing at the notion. The thick scars were completely eradicated in favor of the hard, polished surface that gleamed over his jaw and cheeks and face.

Zeph stepped closer, concerned, but Max couldn’t stop the hysterical laughter from bubbling up from deep inside. He buried his face in his hands, stroking the smooth planes, an icy counterpoint to the unbelievably fevered sensations beneath the mask.

“Zan, it is only for a month,” Zeph reminded him again, and Max heard fear in his alien voice. Max glanced sideways, trying to suppress the giddy laughter.

“Not Zan.”

Zeph hesitated, seemed unsure what he wanted, and then finally offered, “Max.”

“Not Max,” he managed seriously, though the corners of his mouth tugged upward with suppressed humor.

“What shall I call you then?”

What should Zeph call him? The laughter died on his lips as Max studied his reflection in the length of the mirror again. Not king. Not Zan. Not Max Evans, for certain.

In truth, he had no notion what he should be called at all, especially now that his face had been perfectly obliterated by his former wife.

“Leave…me,” he finally choked, his gaze never ceasing its intense study of the man in the glass before him. “Please.”

Zeph hesitated a moment, until finally he clasped Max’s arm firmly and assured him once more. “We’d remove it now if we could, but it would only scar your face more.”

Max nodded, amazed that Zeph understood his thoughts so little. Finally, Zeph backed away silently, leaving him alone at the mirror. Max didn’t fully relax until he heard a door slide open with a quiet humming sound, then close again and he knew by the hollow silence that he was alone. Only then did he step much closer to the mirror, his eyes widening in wondrous disbelief.

His enemies had taken his face one night more than six years earlier. They’d fallen on him, and taken it with their weapons, their hands, and in the space of a few breaths, he’d been forever changed. And Max had no doubt that in masking him now Tess believed that she’d finished their handiwork once and for all. That what she’d begun that night, was now made perfectly complete.

But as Max cocked his head sideways, studying his strange reflection in the long mirror, he had to admit that there was something that appealed to him in his new visage. Something that he was oddly taken with, as he ran his fingertips all along the mask that now encased his features perfectly. Slowly, he explored the way the seam melded effortlessly into his hairline, without even so much as a demarcation. Over and over, Max touched the porcelain material with his fingertips, marveling at the sealing of it to his own skin. That his own body simply ceased and the synthetic material began, no division, no separation. The inhuman shroud was an inextricable part of him now.

Max’s fingers lingered across the misshapen jaw, slowly stroking, and he had to admit that he even admired the feel of the cool surface, how unlike his scarred and ravaged skin it was. And he realized that the texture of it unlocked something hidden and dark inside of him, something feral that exhilarated him strangely. He staggered backwards a step, still just staring at the man in the mirror, the hybrid in a mask. And realized that he lusted after something he glimpsed in that man’s eyes, something he wanted indelibly as his own.

A month was not nearly long enough. Couldn’t possibly be, Max thought, not when he gazed into his own eyes and for the first time in eight years felt himself perfectly reborn. Max blinked, still just studying his hardened, ghostly features, and resolved to find a way--a way to make the mask a permanent part of himself.

A way to become a brand new man.






posted on 25-Mar-2002 7:20:45 PM by RosDeidre
Hey, Guys!
I'm going to be editing this into the front of the thread, but wanted to share this yummy piece of fan art that Schurry made me! Isn't this a gorgeous companion for the story? Schurry used Tara's posted photo, and built around it!!!

Let's see if this works:

antariannights




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 25-Mar-2002 8:19:57 PM ]
posted on 28-Mar-2002 3:57:00 PM by RosDeidre
Tiger!
Oh, girl, it's on the repost board now. I had it moved over b/c I didn't want it to get bumped off this board eventually. It's right on the front page of the repost, okay? Hugs! D
posted on 31-Mar-2002 11:47:33 PM by RosDeidre
Author’s Note:
I hope everybody had a great weekend and for those who celebrated it, a happy holiday. Here’s the latest chapter, and I have a feeling it may raise some questions. We’ll see. LOL!
Hugs, d


PART FOUR

Max stood in the corner of a room he didn’t recognize; more than a room really, a small series of rooms, leading one into another. In every direction he glimpsed paintings, exquisite in their bright splashes of color and undulating form. Desert images, sand against sky, explosions of burnt umber and fiery red. Images so much like home that his chest constricted painfully. As he glanced about again, he recognized the place as a gallery of sorts, with hardwood floors polished to a warm sheen, and soft spotlights accenting each hanging canvas.

Across the room hung a series of works uncannily like his own, though somehow…different. Rendered in his style, yet not of his own hand, almost as if he’d yet to create them. Like they existed outside time and space, simply waiting for his artist’s spirit to capture them by applying brush to canvas.

He tried to walk toward the display, but found himself literally unable to move. Frozen solid, captive.

Then, from a far door Liz entered, flanked by Michael. He attempted to cry out their names, yet no sound escaped his lips. In fact, just as with his efforts at movement, he found himself literally unable to speak—frozen solid, his facial features almost unbearably tight.

Max watched Liz as she approached, but she seemed unable to see him, as she and Michael spoke in rapid animation. Max strained, aching to know what they said, and finally caught brief snatches of their conversation.

“I’m worried, that’s all,” Michael said, glancing around the main gallery room. His gaze wandered to the corner where Max stood in silent vigil, then roved meaningfully to the paintings on the opposite wall—the very ones Max felt so personally attached to.

“Michael, please,” Liz groaned, and as she brushed her long hair away from her face, Max couldn’t help but notice that she seemed almost frail. He never recalled her as being that small and delicate, fragile even, and there were dark smudges beneath her eyes. But it was more than that; it was something in how she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, almost as if she were trying to find warmth.

“We don’t know anything about him at all,” Michael blurted, and Max recognized a familiar tone of irritation in his best friend’s voice. “He could be anyone.”

“Anyone alien,” Liz prompted, cutting her eyes sideways. Was someone after Liz? Was that was this dream was about? Max’s heartbeat escalated painfully, as he again struggled unsuccessfully to move. “That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?” she pressed in obvious irritation.

Michael lowered his voice, glancing about the gallery, as they moved nearer toward Max. “No, I’m not saying that.”

“Then what?” Liz suddenly frowned, staring up at Michael, as she stepped right toward the corner. Then her expression changed, as she met Max’s insistent gaze, and her cheeks colored a deep pink.

“I don’t get your reaction to him, that’s all,” Michael said.

Without hesitation, Liz answered. “He moves me.” Her voice was a reverential whisper.

Liz, Max cried out silently. It’s me, right here. And she did step closer, extending her palm gingerly. “He’s just… beautiful.” She ran an appreciative hand down the length of his arm, causing fire to trail unexpectedly across his chilled skin.

Michael’s own cheeks stained a deep red, though Max recognized anger in his features, as he snapped, “He is a freakin’ statue.” For a moment, Max tried to process that statement, glancing around the gallery filled with paintings, his eyes desperately searching for the sculpture they discussed. Yet Michael stared straight into his eyes as he spoke, never recognizing him.

Liz lifted her hand gingerly toward Max’s face, cupping it within her palm. “He’s more than a statue, Michael,” she whispered and his face flamed hot beneath her fingertips. “He’s pure magic, like some forgotten Michelangelo.”

“He makes you think of Maxwell.” Michael’s voice was flat, almost resigned and Max smarted at his tone.

Liz instantly dropped her hand, and Max’s cheek cooled from the absence of her human touch. Slowly, his heart pounding, he glanced downward—and saw only pure sculpted marble; his hands, his arms, every visible part of his body, were all cut from stone.

Liz’s gaze became guarded and dark, as she stepped backward. “And that bothers you, Michael?” she asked coolly. “That I’m reminded of Max?”

“Max is gone, Liz,” Michael answered, dropping his gaze to the floor. Max didn’t miss the pain that flashed in his friend’s eyes, the way his expression changed as he uttered the words.

“Max is dead,” Liz corrected forcefully, spinning to face Michael. “I do know that, Michael. I’m the one who felt it happen, remember?”

Max is dead…Max is dead….

Max’s rigid form began thrumming with energy at her pronouncement, as he literally ached to move. Yet no matter how he strained, he was nothing more than cold marble, stony and silent. Perhaps he really was dead, he suddenly thought. Maybe that’s why he felt so cold, and why his entire body was so unnaturally hardened.

“That’s not what I said,” Michael responded quietly, staring at the floor.

“You didn’t have to!” she cried, walking to the other side of the gallery, to the long wall of paintings that felt so eerily familiar.

“Liz, what are we really talking about here?” Michael asked without looking in her direction. “David or this sculpture?”

Who was David, Max wondered, glancing around the gallery. Liz stood with her back to him, her shoulders slightly hunched, as if she bore a great weight upon them. Max ached to simply hold her and stroke her hair, to comfort her as she had him on so many nights in the past eight years. He wanted her to know how deeply loved she was; that she didn’t stand alone in the universe, as he suspected she must feel.

“I love his work. That’s all,” Liz finally said quietly. “What’s so wrong about that?”

“Nothing,” Michael admitted, glancing upward again, so that his wary gaze met Max’s momentarily. “Nothing at all.”

“Good. So you’ll leave me alone about David?”

Max started at the mention of the name; the way Liz pronounced it with tender familiarity, as she had once whispered his own name. He felt heat spiral upward through his cold chest, into his extremities, especially when she glanced again in his direction. Only then, it wasn’t just her voice, it was the smoldering expression in her eyes; the way the frailty vanished, replaced by something volatile and real.

“David’s your business,” Michael grumbled, and a soft smile of satisfaction spread across Liz’s features as her gaze met Max’s meaningfully.

David. She’d called him David. Something about that felt so very right, and Max moved his lips to whisper his beloved’s name in return. But he’d forgotten he was nothing more than a statue now. Not human, not alien. God, not even a hybrid anymore. He worked to force a throaty cry from his lips, only no sound escaped, and his mouth remained firmly closed as Liz turned away from him.

“Liz!” he cried again, this time her name echoing forcefully in the void. But instead of his soulmate turning back toward him, she dissolved, and he found himself surrounded by white walls glimmering with moonlight. His hands flew to his face, and he felt the cool porcelain of the mask, more taut than even a few hours earlier. He worked his jaw, and gasped to realize that while he could still speak, his features had become less pliable during sleep—and the fevered burning beneath his skin had only intensified dramatically.

“Liz,” he whispered into the darkness, only he slurred her name so badly, that it sounded more like “Luzzzz.”

He bolted upright in bed, damp tresses clinging to his smooth face. The nightmare had been so powerful he’d literally sweated in the cool sheets. He glanced down at his bare chest, relieved to glimpse his warm skin bathed in the silver moonlight. Still, he trailed his fingers across his ribs and lower onto his stomach to be certain. Just a dream, he assured himself, though the panicky sensations didn’t cease. He needed to glimpse himself in the mirror, had to know that he was truly a flesh and blood man.

He staggered to his feet, and his knee gave way awkwardly beneath the sudden weight, as an undeniable explosion of pain shot through his thigh and leg. He grasped desperately for his cane, but it seemed hopelessly lost in the dark room, until he found it leaning just against the night table. He had no memory of placing it there, or of drifting off to sleep in the first place. His last clear recollection had been of gazing at himself in the mirror earlier, but he’d felt weak shortly thereafter, and he had a vague memory of falling asleep again in the late afternoon.

The unfamiliar house was silent all around him now, and one glance at the position of the moons in the sky told him it was well after midnight. He padded barefoot toward the mirror, his cane echoing softly on the stone floor, until he stopped in front of his full-length reflection. Staring back at him was a man whose face had been cast from perfect porcelain, but the rest of him-- his bare chest, his arms and hands--were still warm flesh and Max closed his eyes in relief.

He could hardly recall the nightmare now, though the one detail he remembered was that he’d seen Liz and Michael in an unfamiliar art gallery. That he’d been David. Liz’s David, beloved by her. Max’s eyes fluttered open and he studied the hauntingly sculpted man in the mirror.

He tried out the name, working his jaw to annunciate it clearly. “David,” he said, the word muffled as it passed his lips. He cocked his head to the side, studying his reflection and felt a certain pride in the name; it suited his new self perfectly. “David…Evans,” he murmured into the darkness, but something was off in the sound of the two names together. Max Evans was dead now—at least the one who’d once existed—which meant he was in want of a new last name, not just a first.

Again, Max studied his reflection, moonlight causing strands of silver gray to shimmer in his hair, and Max wondered when he’d aged so prematurely. Then again, that’s what eight years of captivity simply did to your body—especially the harsh years he’d passed in the palace depths.

Max glanced around the large, airy room, and felt suddenly disconcerted by its spaciousness. Beyond the closed bedroom door, he swore he heard the even cadence of palace guards patrolling and his hands grew clammy with fear.

He backed up against the length of glass windows, straining to hear the guards, yet the only sound was the tinkling wind chimes overhead, stirred by the late night ocean breeze. Max blinked, staring at the door for any sign of movement, and sniffed the air for unfamiliar scents of his enemy. Instead, only salty brine tickled his nostrils, and he sighed because the ocean wind should have comforted him, yet it was impossible for Max to feel secure.

Not when it was the time of night he’d always feared the most on Antar, when the darkness had often proved an enemy, not an ally.

And he had to get out. Right then.


****

The dew-soaked grass felt foamy beneath Max’s bare feet, as he plodded carefully through the darkness toward a rocky overlook. A quick glance revealed a beautifully manicured garden, bathed in the perfect moonlight of the twin Antarian moons. They were so full, that Max might have read a book had he chosen to, might have painted even. But instead, he glanced warily about, feeling watched and paranoid; this freedom seemed far too easy, even with Zeph’s apparent help.

Max reached the edge of the lawn, which melded effortlessly into a jagged cliff of rock and stone. Wind rushed from off the water, salty air stinging Max’s eyes as it swept up off the ocean far below him. A long incline wound perilously down along rock and loamy sand, until it seemed to meet an expense of brilliantly white beachhead below. But in between, Max saw nothing but unforgiving rocks and stone, paving the steep way downward.

For a moment, the rocks felt like a lover wooing him, luring him dangerously close. It would be so easy to just take a few steps and vanish into the Antarian night-- Zeph might never even find his shattered body down below.

Max stroked his smooth jaw, closing his eyes at the feel of the unfamiliar mask, so different than the ravaged features it obscured just beneath. A month, only a month, he reminded himself, opening his eyes and staring heavenward at the perfect lover’s moons overhead, mated eternally as one.

He lifted his hands, yearning for all that he’d lost in the past years, all the love and friendship, his humanity even. So much washed away, eroded by the waves of time eternally robbing him of remembrance and life. Yes, it would be wondrously easy to let go; after all, he was little more than a broken man who’d been holding on for far too long. And after his dream, he had the sense that it might just be time to admit that fact.

But what had the nightmare even been about? Max could barely recall now, could only remember the intense emotions of it, and that it been about Liz somehow. Something about an art gallery and Michael being jealous—because Max remembered that emotion clearly, the sense that Michael had been threatened by him, protective of Liz at his own expense.

He gazed into the blackness of the crashing waves below, and for a moment wondered if it had been of one of his lost memories. He grappled within his mind to know the truth, wondered why the remembrance of it left him feeling so utterly lonely, even as it felt like something from his future, impinging upon his past.

Again, the roaring ocean beckoned from below, and Max took a hesitant step forward, staring down into inky blackness. He lifted his cane high above his head, hesitating for a moment, as it hung suspended between what might be and what no longer was. Then, he hurled it forcefully into the rocks below, until he heard the faintest answering clatter when it met harsh stone.

He took yet another step closer, his legs unsteady without the support of his cane, and heard a rushing sound fill his ears, a sound akin to the void beyond him. Easy, far too easy to keep walking—easier than it had ever been in all the past eight years.

But behind him, he heard a gentle, familiar voice call his name. He closed his eyes, standing still as a statue, shivering at the sound of her draw him back from the brink. “Max,” Liz called again, like a whisper along the wind. “Come back!”

Back where? To Earth…to her? Or perhaps she merely meant for him to come back to life.

Slowly, he turned and glimpsed her on the distant side of the expansive garden lawn, an ethereal white dress billowing in the ocean breeze. She lifted a silent hand, waving him closer, like some loving apparition. Carefully, he limped over the thick carpet of grass, each step shatteringly painful without his cane. Almost as if floating, she moved closer toward him, until the distance between their two souls dissolved, until he faced his beloved beneath the pure moonlight.

“Max,” she whispered again, a gentle smile playing at her lips. “What were you thinking?” She shook her head in disbelief, yet she wasn’t chiding him.

He bowed his head, realizing he had no words to offer her, no way to defend the action he’d almost taken a moment before.

“What would I have done without you?” she asked softly, running her hand down the length of his arm. The gesture felt strikingly familiar, as if he might have just dreamed it. “I’ve never let go, Max.”

“Should,” he answered simply, closing his eyes. “Best.”

“Not best, Max,” she disagreed, taking his hand within her own warm one. “Not even close.”

He blinked a moment, and found her just staring up at him, such love shining in her eyes that he was nearly overwhelmed. “Eight…years,” he said, searching her eyes. “Long time.”

“Max,” Liz sighed, her eyes becoming unthinkably melancholy. “I would wait forever for you. Don’t you know that by now?”

Max is dead…I’m the one who felt it happen. Max is dead.

The words hammered inside his brain, distant and hollow. Liz’s voice…was it a memory? He couldn’t be sure, but he staggered backward from her, feeling suddenly wary.

“Max?” she asked, matching each of his steps on the darkened lawn. “What is it?”

He worked his jaw a moment, wrestling to speak. “Dead…you think.”

Liz chewed her lip, clearly trying to follow his meaning, until suddenly her dark brows arched significantly. “Oh,” she said in sudden understanding. “That.”

“That,” he nodded, and didn’t miss the way her eyes flickered with painful intensity for a moment.

Finally, she placed her warm palm against his chest, just softly stroking his bare skin, her caresses seductive and tender all at once. “You feel very much alive to me, Max Evans.”

“Not…Max,” he whispered fiercely, just as he’d argued with Zeph earlier in the day. Only he could gauge Liz’s reaction by the way her black eyes grew large and gently amused.

“Yes, Max,” she countered easily, shaking her head. “That’s exactly who you are.”

“David.” Where had that name come from? He wasn’t sure, yet he knew he felt it to be the right one now. Liz cupped his sculpted cheek within her palm, yet he felt nothing of her touch.

“Because of this?” she asked gently, stroking the hardened synthetic of his mask. “That’s why you’re calling yourself that?”

He nodded slowly, as she drew his face downward until their lips met with searing intensity. “But you’re alive, Max. And you’re a man, not a statue,” she breathed as she kissed him slowly. “And I’ve never stopped loving you…even though I’ve thought you were dead.”

“Am…dead.”

“No, Max, you are not!” Liz cried impatiently. “You are absolutely alive, and so am I. Please just come home to me. I’m begging you.” Tears filled her large dark eyes, and Max drew her into his arms, his lips parting as they met her own. The explosion of heat that followed, as the kiss deepened and their tongues twined together was unlike any he’d ever known with her before. Slowly, he lowered her toward the grass, ignoring the way his knee protested painfully.

Her hands tangled in his long hair, and he sensed that she stroked his smooth face, even though he didn’t feel her touch. Yet the only sensation that showered over his senses, crashing like the waves in the distance, was the heat of her lips, just crushing against his own. So human and real…so completely alive.

Without even meaning to, he moaned in her ear as they tumbled together on the grass, their bodies drawing flush together. Her hands explored his hips, his chest, no place remained untouched. It was utterly different than any of his other dream encounters with her.

“Why…now?” he murmured against the small of her throat, feeling her pulse flutter wildly beneath his lips.

“I had to show you,” she admitted breathlessly. “So you would live. You had to see what still exists between us--so you would come home to me.”

Max trailed kisses upward, until their lips met again for a moment, but then he pulled back, and stared into her eyes. He lost himself in their dark depths, and then repeated his earlier words softly, “Dead…you think.”

“Yes, true,” she agreed, her breathing uneven and ragged against his throat. “My waking self does think you’re dead. Probably my dream self, too.”

“What… this?” Max asked in quiet confusion. Her dream self? Wasn’t this her dream self? “Now?”

Liz smiled slowly. “These are the deepest places of my heart,” she explained. “God, Max, of my very soul. And those places know that you live.”

Max panted softly, poised between his desire to roll her onto her back and make love to her for hours, and his need to understand what she truly wanted from him. Was she asking him to come home, even though the Liz Parker who existed galaxies away believed him lost forever? He had to understand what she begged of him, because everything hung in the balance, even his very life.

“Liz,” he slurred softly, hesitating before continuing. “Want…me… still? This?” he asked, gesturing at his face. Yet he prayed that she would know how much more he meant; that the scars were only an outward reflection of all that had been extracted from his soul by their enemies. Their enemies—not just his own, he realized, because those same people had stolen their shared youth, the years when they should have been together, precious and sacred.

“I’ve never stopped wanting you,” she said, stroking his long hair away from his eyes. “Never in all these years. Don’t you understand that whether I believe you dead or alive, I can’t stop loving you? I might as well stop breathing, Max.”

He bowed his head, just resting it against hers and the tears came in sudden torrent. Burning and desperate, after so many years on Antar alone, they finally spilled. For hours it seemed, she held him that way, just slowly stroking the warmth of his bare skin, the planes of his shoulders and back.

When finally he drifted into genuine sleep, he knew that he would find a way home to her, no matter the cost. No matter the emotional risk, because he could never stay away from her now; he might as well stop breathing.

If death came, so it would, but he would never welcome it again as he nearly had on the rocky cliff-side. And he would never suffer that kind of separation between his soul and Liz’s again, no matter what unknown destiny drew near them both.




posted on 1-Apr-2002 9:07:44 PM by RosDeidre
I just wanted to answer the question about Baby Riley, since several people have asked about the baby update. Right now, she’s still on schedule to arrive on April 12th, but I’ll keep everybody posted!!!

I know several people raised questions on this last part, and while I’m tempted to explain (I just deleted a rambling analysis of my own story! LOL!) I think I’ll just say that the first dream was fairly prophetic…that in a sense time folded back on itself and Max knew about David Peyton. And he understood that this “David” was somehow himself—but what he couldn’t account for was the fact that he was getting the idea for the name from his own prophetic dream. It was kind of a time loop with a twist, and it wasn’t precisely a prophetic dream, either, since he wrote himself in as an observer, and also because it wasn’t a scene that ever exactly unfolded that way. It was more that he knew the essence of what was coming.

Beyond that, there are some answers in the next part that will bring a certain sanity to some of the rest. I really liked Tasyfa’s observation that this wasn’t even a dreamwalk—it was a soulwalk. Great term and I think I’ll just coin it!
Hugs to all, d

posted on 2-Apr-2002 5:53:44 PM by RosDeidre
You know what? I forgot to edit into my topic heading that I'd added a note last night. I'm going to do that now, but be sure to look back a few posts!! D
posted on 3-Apr-2002 8:04:44 AM by RosDeidre
Yonkersme--I don't think you have all of ANTARIAN SKY if you don't have the healing and their reunion and all that. But I'm thrilled you loved what you read! Here's a link to the repost thread:

http://pub44.ezboard.com/fthespoilerslutsfanficwhorehousefrm6.showMessageRange?topicID=72.topic&start=1&stop=20


posted on 6-Apr-2002 9:34:03 PM by RosDeidre
Hey, Guys!
You're all so wonderful! Michelle that fb was beautiful, thank you! Really encouraged me this week when I was feeling really blah about writing. I guess I'd be expecting a lot out of myself to be on a writing whirlwind with only five days to go in delivering the baby!! LOL! But it's like my HEART wants to write, but the energy just isn't in it. So nothing's wrong guys, just not feeling very up to writing. Still, am working heartily on this next part of ANTARIAN NIGHTS and even began the first chapter of a tag fic I'm going to do for HOW TO DISAPPEAR. That one is a long term thing, though.

Anyway, never you guys worry, I plan to post another part of this before going into the hospital on Friday. And I *definitely* anticipate a lot of good writing while on my two month maternity leave. I won't leave any of you wanting, to quote Madame Vivian.

Again, thanks for the wonderful feedback on the story. I so appreciate it.
lots of hugs, d
posted on 12-Apr-2002 5:15:06 AM by RosDeidre
Michelle and my wonderful friends--
JUst popped in before heading off to the hospital! But you asked, M, and the time of surgery is 8 am! ;-) And, hey, I am all FOR discussion...and in fact, if nobody else comments on YOUR commentary, I"ll jump on in when I return. I just feel a little silly commenting too much COUGH on my own COUGH story. LOL!!!

Ah, the golden days of Roswell discussion threads. Those aren't *really* over yet, are they? Let's just say no to that. It can happen here--more than happy to provide a little home for such. HEe hee. I'm giddy, and I bet you can tell. Or is it punchy since I couldn't sleep half the night!
Hugs and love to all...will talk to you when I return next week with a baby girl!!!!
d
posted on 6-May-2002 12:37:28 AM by RosDeidre
Author's Note!!!
I'm alive!! I swear!!! I AM in that new baby land. You know the one, the surreal one where sleep means nothing and time fades into nothing. That's me! But I DO swear I'll be writing again soon. The brain is functioning, but it's a matter of TIME! And what little I DO have has been devoted to the upcoming fanfic auction. To that end, I wanted to post this very exciting press release. Hopefully I"ll be back before long, with new installments of ANTARIAN NIGHTS! Hugs to all and read below...

Date: May 7, 2002-May 17, 2002
Event: A live, online fan fiction auction on e-bay to benefit FSMA
Questions: Contact RosDeidre⊕aol.com or link to:
http://pub82.ezboard.com/froswellfanficfsmafundraiserfrm1


Ever since the pilot of Roswell, the series’ hallmark has been memorable writing. So it comes as no surprise that this beloved television show has generated one of the Internet’s most imaginative and devoted group of fan fiction authors. And although Roswell may be ending forever on May 14th, you have a rare opportunity to own some of your favorite stories permanently. You can treasure them year after year; long after Roswellian fan fiction sites vanish from the Internet. All auctioned stories will be professionally bound, with laminated original covers—many beautifully designed by artists such as Schurry, Blanca, EmilyluvsRoswell, Piper, and fishish25.


Roswriters for FSMA is an informal collective of fan fiction authors and artists banding together to help find a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. On May 7, 2002, we are launching an auction on e-bay, and approximately 35-40 original fan fiction stories will be gathered in eight separate tote bags being auctioned off individually. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bid on these hand-painted totes, each with a different specialty theme, such as Dreamer Tote, UC Couple Tote, NC-17 Tote, just to name a few.

As a special bonus, three Dreamer Totes will also contain CDs of more than 800 of bigspam’s original photos, including images from one of Roswell’s last days on location, while filming the finale. Further, each tote will contain two originally designed posters, and a CD of music.

One very unique Dreamer tote will also contain a gorgeous, hand-designed “Dreamer Quilt.” This lovely work of art has been crafted by Cookieman789 (Stacey), and will be a great way to snuggle up with the Dream Guy himself. This original quilt will be 62”x 62.”




Each of the below totes will be listed separately on e-bay. We will be uploading pictures of the quilt and the posters in the next few days.


DREAMER NC-17 Tote #1
Poster by Destinee: The Best Thing
http://www.netsnapshot.com/users/4372/images/PFjy3sCoBQIAAEZFD6M_4372_60.pjpeg

Poster by fishish25: Globe
http://fishish25.bravepages.com/globe.jpg

Breathless—A Special Kind of Love
LivE—The Experiment
RosDeidre—How To Disappear Completely
Majesty—Senseless

Compilation of the following:
Majesty—Arms Wide Open
LivE—Missing Max
LivE—An Evans Valentine
Tasyfa—The Forging of a Lifebond (Short version)
Cookie2697—Breathing

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/HTDCpromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/ForgingPromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/TheExperimentPromo.jpg



DREAMER NC-17 Tote #2
Poster by Destinee: Breathless Moments
http://www.theddd.com/fanart/destinee/BreathlessMoments.jpg

Poster by fishish25: Dancer
http://fishish25.bravepages.com/Dancer.jpg

bigspam Photo CD

LivE—All for You
Linda—Inside My Heart
Majesty—Heart of the Phoenix
Cookie2697—Everything
Breathless—Dying Embers

Compilation of the following:
Carol000—Dreamer Holiday Series
Majesty—Pulse

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/DYINGpromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/EverythingPromo.jpg



DREAMER PG-13 Tote #3
Poster by Destinee:Gravity
http://www.netsnapshot.com/users/4372/images/PFjq5sCoBQIAAAvHPiw_4372_22.pjpeg

Poster by fishish25: Doors
http://fishish25.bravepages.com/Doors.jpg

bigspam Photo CD

RosDeidre—Antarian Sky
Carol000—Epiphanies 1 & 2
Kath7—Between the Sand and Stone

Compilation of the following:
Ash—Flood
LivE—Poor Liz
N/A—Little Prince
Red—Wondrous Strange

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/FloodPromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/BTSASpromo.jpg



DREAMER PG-13 Tote #4
Poster by Destinee: Keep Me Alive
http://www.netsnapshot.com/users/4372/images/PIppl8CoBQIAABFhs-Q_4372_100.jpg

Poster by Flycat64: Catch My Breath


bigspam Photo CD

RosDeidre—Antarian Sky
EmilyluvsRoswell—Pilgrim Souls
LizParkerEvans—Snowmass
LizParkerEvans—Serendipity
Tasyfa—Veracity

Compilation of the following:
Ash—Flood
LivE—Poor Liz
N/A—Little Prince
Red—Wondrous Strange

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/ASpromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/LittlePrincePromo.jpg





Conventional Couple PG-13 Tote # 5
Poster by Schurry: Roswell, the Dramatic Movie
http://www.schurry.com_69/multimedia/fanart/schurry/roswellposter_small.jpg

Poster by Schurry: Roswell, the Sci-fi Movie
http://www.schurry.com_69/multimedia/fanart/schurry/roswellposter2_small.jpg


Kath7—Out of the Woods
EmilyluvsRoswell—Homes 1-3
Linda—Us Six Against the World

Compilation of the following:
BennieBA—Before I Sleep (Liz POV)
BennieBA—For All (All)
BennieBA—I'm No Buffy (Liz/CC)
EmilyluvsRoswell—Crash Into Me (Alex)

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/OotWpromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/BeforeISleepPromo.jpg
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/UsSixPromo.jpg


Conventional Couple NC-17 Tote # 6
Poster by Schurry: Michael and Maria
Poster by Schurry: Sensual Conventionality

DocPaul—The Praetorians (Michael/Maria)
RosDeidre—Gravity Always Wins (Max/Liz and Marco/Tess)
Red—Hail Jing Bang (CC)

Compilation of the following:
StarGazerGirl—Sins of the Mother (Isabel POV)
DocPaul—All Our Tomorrows Were Yesterday (Michael/Maria)
Tasyfa—Always, Spaceboy (Michael/Maria)

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/GRAVITYpromo.jpg



Unconventional Couples NC-17 Tote # 7
Poster by Schurry: I Want All of You
Poster by Schurry: Sunset Awakening
http://www.schurry.com_69/multimedia/fanart/schurry/zanposter6_small.jpg


Tasyfa—Firsts (Max/Liz/Michael)
Watcher Tara—Two Down, Two to Go (Slash/het)

Compilation of the following:
ShellSueD—Need
ShellSueD—Pain

Compilation of the following:
BennieBA—Watch Her Fall (CC/UC—Mi/L)
Elizabeth—Days of Grace (Max/Michael slash)
Elizabeth—Paradise Lost (Kyle/Isabel)
Reese—Thirteen Years Ago (M/T K/L Maria/Brody)
ShellSueD—The Very Thought of You (Kyle/Liz)

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/FirstsPromo.jpg




Quilt/Dreamer PG-13 Tote # 8
The centerpiece of this tote is a beautiful Dreamer quilt, handmade by Cookieman1234.

Poster by Schurry: Roswellian Outlaws
http://www.schurry.com_69/multimedia/fanart/schurry/roswellianoutlaws_small.jpg

Poster by Terri: Drawing of Max Evans

Max and Liz quilt, 62 X 62, designed by Cookieman1234 (Stacey)

Poetry collection

Compilation of the following:
Kath7—Silent Lucidity
Lauren2135—The Game

Compilation of the following:
Cookie2697—Behind the Lies
Tasyfa—Inside My Mind
EmilyluvsRoswell—Ripple Effect

SAMPLE COVER ART:
http://www.geocities.com/ntempest/GamePromo.jpg

SAMPLE QUILT ART:
http://public.fotki.com/LongTimeFan/charactersactors/jasonvarious/lizmax.html

http://public.fotki.com/LongTimeFan/charactersactors/jasonvarious/biggerchairjason20_too.html

http://public.fotki.com/LongTimeFan/charactersactors/jasonvarious/jason_on_a_rock_enlarged.html



posted on 25-May-2002 7:37:15 PM by RosDeidre
Hey, Guys:
You know, I haven't been able to *find* this thread for a while b/c it doesn't come up on the search engine, and plus, the board was loading too slowly! But I'm just stopping by to tell you that 'm definitely still working on this one. It's a bit intense for my sporadic wrting schedule at the moment, but I would suspect within the next ten days or so you'll see an update! ;-) THanks for all the kind words, and meanwhile, I have begun posting the HTDC/GRAVITY sequel--BACK TO SAVE THE UNIVERSE. The prologue is up here somehwere...
Hugs, D
posted on 30-May-2002 10:45:56 PM by RosDeidre
Guys:
Don't worry, this one isn't forgotten. It just requires more brainpower than my current sleep-deprived state (new mother and all that) tends to allow. My hope is to get a new installment up VERY soon. So please just hang with me in the meantime. Note--I have begun the GRAVITY ALWAYS WINS sequel, BACK TO SAVE THE UNIVERSE. So for those who have read that series, be sure to check it out! Hugs, d
posted on 6-Jun-2002 10:54:36 AM by RosDeidre
Ah, but you have to love all my children (aka stories) LOL! Not really, I am joking. Well the very funny thing is that I woke this morning and for the first time since having the baby felt ready to re-approach this one for a bit. The problem, as mentioned, is that this is actually a lot more creatively strenuous to write than UNIVERSE. The voice, the emotional *place* that I write it from are all more difficult.

But life is settling a bit, so I'll see what I can do for you! LOL!
posted on 7-Jun-2002 1:50:56 AM by RosDeidre
Carol--
Oh my. Busted giving a time frame. What was I thinking, eh? ;) I AM working on the next chapter, for the first time in two months, so hang with me. And guys--UNIVERSE rocks! Where are y'all on that one? I had so many people tell me they wanted the third gravity story, but I'm not hearing a huge response on it. I'm writing it for me, but this is MAAAARCCCCOOO. ;-) LOL! Hee hee. I'm silly.
posted on 11-Jun-2002 2:05:12 AM by RosDeidre
And that new part? I really am working on it! LOL! I wrote another page tonight. I had a real breakthrough on some stuff with this one tonight. So hang tight, guys. LOL!
hugs, d
posted on 19-Jun-2002 1:59:31 AM by RosDeidre
PENS, Michelle. P-E-N-S. We can all see that spells...cough...pens.

I am on a huge writing roll on this one. You needn't despair right now. Actually, the UNIVERSE readers should despair, only in as much as this story is totally presenting itself. But now--off to bed! More tomorrow.
d
posted on 20-Jun-2002 7:21:25 PM by RosDeidre
Author's Note:
Well, it's finally here! NEW ANTARIAN NIGHTS! Thanks for being patient! Hugs, d



CHAPTER FIVE

Everything had changed.

Overnight, in the span of a few hours, Max Evans had found a new trajectory for his shattered life.

David, his mind corrected on a whisper. You are David…a wholly reinvented man.

If only someone had told his body that fact, Max lamented, wrestling to sit up on the lawn outside of Zeph’s home. His knee throbbed with indescribable pain, the result of sleeping all night long on the cool ground. Meanwhile, he was nearly unable to move his jaw at all, which meant that his face ached to the point of miserable distraction. He’d rarely felt so betrayed by his body, as if it were aging exponentially beyond his mere twenty-seven years with every passing moment.

Ancient. Defiled. Not the body of a king, not by any stretch, Max thought, blinking back the liquid rays of the Antarian sunrise.

Max bent forward, massaging his knee, and searched the dew-soaked lawn for his cane, but it was nowhere to be found—and then he remembered. Well, heard really, the sound of it clattering on the jagged cliffs leading down to the beachhead below. God, what he’d almost done, if not for Liz’s sweet intervention.

Liz. He sniffed the air, and his body grew taut as he caught her scent. It was on his skin, his hair, permeating the atmosphere all around him, as definite as yesterday. How was it possible? He wondered, tracing his fingertips across the cool mask that shrouded his features. She had come to him in his dreams, he was certain of it--so then how could her scent be this fresh on his lips? He touched his mouth wondrously, in awe of how he still burned from kissing her only a few hours before.

He might have made love to her; the visitation had been that real, his desire for her that undeniable, as if she’d been right there in his very arms. Not a girl anymore; a woman, all curves and heat and energy. All that he’d once loved, but now so very much more.

And she still wanted him, wanted him to come home to her, which changed everything. All the odds had shifted in a heartbeat.

He struggled to his knees uncomfortably, trying to keep the weight off of his mangled left one, which proved impossible, as he fell forward, splaying a desperate palm on the grass. His eyes watered sharply in painful response, as for the briefest moment, he knelt on both knees, struggling awkwardly to stand.

“Here!” he heard a familiar voice cry, and looked up to find Zeph hurrying across the lawn toward him. “Zan, wait!”

As Max watched Zeph’s anxious approach, he caught a good look at his friend’s home for the first time, and the world seemed to spin a bit as he gazed at the beachside mansion. No palace guard would live in such a manner, Max thought, as Zeph dropped beside him onto the ground.

“Zan, we had no idea where you were,” he announced breathlessly, cupping Max’s shoulder. “I thought the Queen had…”

Max shook his head reassuringly, still gazing past Zeph at the white, multi-storied home. Glass windows met chrome, and pale stones were polished to an almost unnatural sheen.

“Zeph?” Max asked, pointing at the palatial home. “Yours?”

Zeph stared at him blankly, panting and flushed. His friend had obviously become quite upset in his effort to locate him-- and of course he’d never searched the garden. After all, why would he have?

“I…okay,” Max assured him, and as Zeph nodded, he saw his large black eyes flicker with relief.

Zeph blinked, rocking back onto his heels. “What were you saying, Zan? About my house?” he asked softly, yet his large eyes narrowed with emotion. That was the way with these Antarians—they could hide so little of what they felt. Or in Khivar’s case, what they didn’t feel. Everything was reflected in their huge, black eyes, and most especially with Zeph, whose generous heart was full of honesty and goodness. He’d never been able to conceal his true feelings from Max, not without a great amount of effort.

Which was what made the incongruity of his home so striking.

Max just stared at him, trying to assess the facts, wondering why this simple palace guard’s home was nothing less than a palace unto itself.

“What about my house?” Zeph repeated, his voice wavering slightly. He’s hiding something, something crucial, Max thought, studying his friend.

“Huge,” Max answered simply, gesturing at the imposing heights of marble and glass, glimmering in the early morning sun.

Zeph looked back over his shoulder, as if he’d never considered that fact before; as if Max had pointed out something wholly undiscovered about the seaside mansion. Finally, Zeph simply nodded in acquiescence, turning back to face Max, and when he did, his features had become oddly guarded, though he’d blushed a bit, his gray cheeks staining a decidedly pink hue.

“You…guard?” Max asked, brushing his disheveled hair away from his eyes.

Zeph sighed heavily, bowing his head for a long moment, until slowly he met Max’s keen stare. “No,” he whispered.

“Not…guard?” Max asked, trying even with his halting speech to be clear about his question.

“Not really, no,” Zeph answered in a quiet voice, holding Max’s gaze. “Loyal to King Zan in every possible way, yes, but not a guard. Never.”

“Then…” Max paused, rubbing his jaw, then finally continued. “Who?” Who was this one who’d supported him endlessly, had taken so many chances in helping him, had risked his life on countless occasions with his very loyalty? Had even brought him paint and canvas, when it was a risk unto itself?

A pained expression came over Zeph’s features momentarily, something Max had glimpsed on countless occasions over the past years. He’d seen it whenever the guards had entered his cell and beaten him, and then Zeph had come in afterward, visibly shaken. And he’d seen the same pain in Zeph’s eyes when Khivar had ruined his face, his body. When Khivar had nearly killed him that night long ago. Had killed him, in fact, if not for Liz reaching toward him even then, across the galaxies, space and distance, whispering, “I will never leave you.”

Her words had caused him to hope when he no longer felt it within himself. Liz had caused him to hope that she might still love him, that he wasn’t a fool for holding onto her. Just as she had last night, which made twice now that she’d saved his life.

Yes, Liz had saved him seven years ago, and afterwards Zeph had made his way to Max’s cell for the first time, six days later. Six endless days he’d lain on the floor of his cell, desperately clinging to life, to Liz, with every ragged breath he’d drawn into his lungs.

And then on the sixth day, Zeph had come. A stranger to him then, he’d dropped beside him on the floor of the cell and begun his healing, splaying his warm hands over all the wounds, fixing what he could of the nearly infinite damage. But it had been far beyond the capacity of a minor healer; especially with the blocks Khivar and Tess had placed all through Max’s mind.

Max saw that same kind of flickering regret, undisguised and visible in his friend’s eyes again now. Except this time, Max could only wonder what it meant, emanating from his friend’s heart at such a simple question as to who he truly was.

Max cocked his head sideways, studying Zeph, who averted his eyes guiltily a moment, as if he had much to hide. “Let’s go inside, Max,” he said quietly. Zeph’s use of his Earthly name jarred him momentarily, seemed quite significant, but he simply nodded in agreement. Zeph rose to his feet, and extended a smallish gray hand to Max, helping him to his feet. But his expression remained oddly…guilty. As if Max had discovered something Zeph had never intended him to know.

***
Max stared at his breakfast, dipping his large spoon into what could only be described as soup. Well, soup was the closest Earthly equivalent that Max could think of. The substance was composed of berries and purple thickness, really almost a mixture of soup and yogurt. He and Zeph had been eating in silence for more than fifteen minutes, the weight of their previous conversation permeating the air between them. Yet neither spoke, just kept fumbling silently with the fruits and breads, their silverware piercing the silence periodically.

Zeph was stoic, just bowed his head silently, avoiding Max’s gaze for the duration of breakfast. A breakfast the likes of which Max had never known in the past eight years. Toasted rolls and muffins filled large baskets on the table, and warm liquids that Max guessed were the Antarian equivalent of tea or coffee filled small mugs beside both their plates. Nothing like the meager fare he’d known in the palace depths during his long years of captivity—that had been little more than hot water and toast in the mornings.

Zeph continued in silence; avoided his gaze most decidedly. Max had no idea how to respond, even as he glanced all around the large dining room, observing servants scurrying about them, nervous and aware. Obviously aware that their master was more important than Max had ever guessed.

“Good?” Max finally asked, attempting to meet Zeph’s lowered gaze. “Soup?” After all, it was soup, wasn’t it?

Zeph’s gaze flickered, finally meeting his own. “Soup?” he asked in confusion.

“This,” Max explained, gesturing toward the large bowl of liquid before him. For a moment, Zeph squinted, then broke into gentle laughter. “Aeioto,” he finally observed, dipping his own spoon into the liquid. “It’s liquefied fruit. Classic Antarian breakfast.”

“AA—Eee-too,” Max annunciated, repeating Zeph’s word, as he dipped his spoon through the thick liquid.

“It’s good,” Zeph assured him gently. “You’ll like it.”

“Yes…do,” Max agreed after tasting another spoonful.

They fell silent again after that interchange, Max toying with his breakfast, just swirling the Aeioto in his bowl, even with as hungry as he suddenly felt. Zeph seemed to feel awkward, and Max wondered if he was concealing as much as he’d begun to imagine.

Finally Zeph swallowed audibly, saying, “You know, there’s a legend about you. About King Zan.”

“Yes?” Max asked, his eyebrows arching curiously.

“Yes, there’s a legend about Zan and Daeia.”

Max shook his head, feeling suddenly foggy at the way Zeph met his gaze so intently. Still wondering about this rich Antarian—the one who’d once seemed a palace guard—who he really was.

“DI-E-a?” Max asked, rubbing his eyes.

“Daeia. It means…soul twin. Among our people,” Zeph explained. “The name comes from our twin moons. It’s the Antarian word for their ascendance.”

Max nodded, wondering where this story was leading, as Zeph continued, “The legend is that King Zan had a Daeia on Earth. Was sent to her, and she to him. That his Daeia was sent to Earth for a purpose. Just as he was.”

“No,” Max interjected, feeling suddenly…very angry.

“No?” Zeph asked, his eyes widening in surprise. “Max did not have a soul twin on Earth?”

“Not…true.” Why did Zeph’s words anger him so irrationally? Why did he feel the need to deny everything that his beloved was to him? He wasn’t sure, all he knew was that he felt slight tremors begin to shake his hands instantly at Zeph’s mention of her, at the knowledge that the people whispered about his love for her.

“The people say it is true. Say that his Daeia was sent to Earth. For him.”

“Sent…from…where?”

“It doesn’t matter, does it, Zan? Just that his Daeia was meant to await him there, on Earth. But the people also say that the queen understood this. That he’d found his soul twin, and for that, she loathed the king. Loathed him because it was not she. So the queen did all in her power to interrupt their bond. To stop it.”

“Stop!” Max cried, running an anxious hand through his long hair, feeling trapped and inexplicably odd in the large dining room. God, he was utterly trapped, with these words of soul twins and mates, of his Liz. Because that’s what Zeph was really describing. And it was something Max had thrown away the moment he’d slept with Tess all those years ago. Yes, he was angry, terribly so. Angry at himself, and that he’d been such a fool. That he’d cost them both their love with his stupidity and arrogance.

But Zeph’s words also caused his heart to beat erratically, as his chest tightened almost inexplicably. Daeia. It resonated within him, as if he remembered the word, what it should mean. His alien side flared a bit just upon hearing it.

And it left him painfully curious as to where this conversation with Zeph was leading.

“What…Daeia?” Max managed, his jaw suddenly unbearably tight. “What this?”

“The people say she had a name,” Zeph whispered, leaning across the beautifully appointed table. “A human name that King Zan would always know.” Zeph tilted his chin upward with those words, almost as if he were challenging Max. The metallic spoon suddenly burned within Max’s hand, as silence spun between them, and Max wondered if Zeph could possibly know her name. Could possibly know the name of Elizabeth Parker.

“What?” he choked. “Name?”
“The people say the Daeia is called Liz,” he almost whispered, bowing his head in quiet reverence, then added softly, “That’s what they say. Liz.”

“Liz,” he repeated, almost feeling dazed. How could her name have circulated around the palace and its courts? Had Tess spread rumors? That made no sense, because the story was of a great love, and she would never have circulated such a tale. Yet he had never once, not in all his years on this planet, spoken her name to anyone other than Tess. He’d never so much as painted her image for fear that it might draw his enemies back to her. No, he painted her in disguised forms—angels and moons and the roaring ocean. Anything that seemed to encapsulate his feelings for her, anything at all, save capturing her literal image for others to find.

“Is she real?” Zeph asked.

“Why?”

“Because if she is, Zan, I want to help you return to her. I can do that, you know.”

“Why…help?” Max managed, his throat tightening like a drum.

“Because I can. Because you are my friend, and the one true king I will ever serve. But your time here is at an end, and if you do have this Daeia, this Liz, I want to help you.”

Max deliberated a long moment, clinching his hands into tight fists where he’d gathered them in his lap. He’d never discussed Liz with Zeph, not with anyone, and he still wondered if he could trust this man he’d always called friend. But as he gazed upward, he knew in his heart that Zeph was telling the truth. That he could help him return to Earth, and would do whatever it took, if only Max gave the word. Softly, he whispered, “She…real…Liz.”

“And you would go home to her if you could?” Zeph asked gently, and Max could only nod in silence, unable to even speak of such hope.

“I will help.” It was a simple pledge, but Max recognized the fire in Zeph’s words. He’d heard that same determination before, and it never failed him when it appeared in his friend’s musical voice.

Max nodded, then asked the one question that still remained unanswered. “Who…are…you?”

Zeph glanced around him at the servants, waving his hand with a quick gesture, and spoke so quickly in Antarian that Max could understand nothing of what he even said. But the servants instantly dispersed at his words, nodding obediently, as Zeph rose and walked across the room. For a long moment, he stood with his hands neatly folded behind his back, gazing out at the ocean. And when he did finally speak, Max had to strain to even hear the words. Yet he did hear them.

“I am Zeph, bastard son of Khivar… and loyal servant to King Zan.”







posted on 21-Jun-2002 12:05:30 AM by RosDeidre
Taffy, I'm so happy to disappoint you. LOL! ;-) I can understand why you were worried, but it really just has been the undeniable stress of a new baby. This fic is an odd one. When it works, it's easy, but when I have to wrestle, it's very hard to write. It's so dark and tortured, in some ways--even though it ultimately leads to a place of hope (as we know.) I think I just had to get back rolling b/c I tell you, I just sat here and wrote a HUGE chunk of the next chapter tonight! WOO HOO!
So I'm excited. When the muse behaves, she's my beloved. When she doesn't, shes the resident bitch. LOL!

Hugs, d
posted on 13-Jul-2002 11:26:20 PM by RosDeidre
I love you guys for reading this without ANTARIAN SKY first, because I wonder if it would make any sense whatsoever! But AS is on the repost board so feel free to give it a gander. Thanks so much for reading!!! Hugs, d
posted on 26-Jul-2002 4:17:31 AM by RosDeidre
Ah, sheesh. The Yonkman Cometh. ;-) See, I can pun with the best of em. I have *most* of a part, but it's going to have to come together, guys. We're missing critcal connective stuff. There's actually some of two parts, but minus the goodies. So hang loose, be patient, and your reward will be upon thee. It's interesting to me that this fic persists in even being remembered. But I guess you guys must be enjoying it!! ;-)
hugs, d
posted on 27-Jul-2002 8:49:44 PM by RosDeidre
Michelle:
The pressure...the pressure. The fact is that a LOT is written. But it relates to how I sometimes write, which is...AHEAD! *happy* I've learned the hard way that things have to get on paper as they present themselves. But, alas, I have the next part mostly done and it's even had a first beta. I am *hoping*--not promising--to post it tonight. I also suspect that shortly thereafter another new part will follow since it's largely finished.

But, hey, you know I *do* have other fics. You resisted one of the ones I am MOST proud of, WINTER SOLSTICE, and you'd think you'd at least read it for artistic COUGH COUGH COUGH value, no? I mean, with as much as you always love my work? Even if it were just to see how the quality of writing stacks up to my other stories??

Wow, look, guilt can go both ways. I rock! I'm resorting to guilting Michelle now!!!!! I am also joking btw, but Michelle, I know you know.

Off to polish some more! *happy*

Hugs, d (who is in a wacky mood after a full day with two children, plus a visiting toddler. You can only scrape so much playdough off the carpet without becoming weird.)

posted on 27-Jul-2002 11:54:43 PM by RosDeidre



PART SIX

Zeph had spoken the truth about his identity, Max was certain of it. And despite his better instincts, he couldn’t help feeling incredibly uneasy, even with Zeph’s pledge that he was sworn to him, not his father.

Yet Zeph’s persistent loyalty over the past years was undeniable. He’d also just promised to help him return to Liz, to his Daiea.

Just the thought of that alien word caused Max’s pulse to skitter madly, and his body to electrify with strange power. Everything within him yearned to understand it, to know more of what it meant.

Daiea…Daiea…Za’nastre Dle Daiea.

For a moment, Max’s thoughts pressed inward and he knew that he’d heard the Antarian words in another lifetime, even though his memories surrounding them were fractured and ruined.

It required keen discipline to focus his will, but he knew that his burning questions would have to wait.

Max opened his eyes, and watched Zeph warily. He couldn’t miss how sadness and regret shadowed his familiar, black eyes. For a moment, they seemed empty, frightening--as utterly alien as they’d always been. Only before, Max had always trusted what he glimpsed in their dark depths.

Now trust felt like an elusive thing, as Max studied his friend’s familiar gray features, his small frame.

I want to help you return to her. The words shivered across Max’s senses, seductive in their promise of what might be. Seductive in the way they caused Max to believe Zeph’s intentions.

Max squinted, as morning sunlight refracted off the glass windows of the dining room, half-blinding him as he tried to meet Zeph’s intent gaze. “You…king…son?” he asked quietly, shielding his eyes with his hand. “Lied…me?”

Zeph walked to the window, staring out at the ocean as he nodded wordlessly. For a long moment, neither man spoke.

“I didn’t want you to know,” Zeph finally admitted in a thick voice. “Not about my father and not about my bloodline. I never wanted to lie, but neither could I bear you knowing the truth.”

Zeph ran a shaking palm over his bare head, and spun to face him. “I despised my father,” he admitted, blinking his almond-shaped eyes. “I despised all that he stood for, all that he’d done. And most especially, I despised him for murdering my king long ago.” For a moment, Zeph stared down at his hands, fisting them until he whispered fiercely, “My only prayer is that Khivar’s blood does not course through my veins.”

Zeph’s features had taken on a pleading quality, almost as if he were begging for Max to understand, to forgive his deception. Slowly Zeph stepped closer, rounding the table until he stood just beside him.

Max turned away, glanced down at his lap as he took a sip of the warm liquid before him. It burned going down, had a slightly intoxicating effect. “What…this?” he asked, trying to be casual. Trying to act like everything happening between them was perfectly normal.

“You are upset,” Zeph observed flatly, sighing. He planted his palms heavily on the edge of the table, leaning on it for support.

Max shook his head, as he drained the mug of the hot drink. “No…” He reached for an easy word to express what he felt. The only ones that came to mind were far too difficult and complex to utter. Finally, as Zeph glanced sideways at him, Max simply pointed at his head, and tapped with his forefinger.

“Confused?” Zeph interpreted and Max nodded.

“Yes.”

“I am sure that you must be.”

Max gestured at Zeph’s empty seat at the table, encouraging him, “Tell…me…all.”

“The entire sordid, horrible story of my family you mean?” Zeph asked with a weary laugh, shaking his head derisively. “Certainly, Zan, all the details that you want. Happy to give them to you.”

Max frowned, hearing such pain in his friend’s voice. It was unlike him to resort to sarcasm this way; there were clearly deep wounds in Zeph’s heart.

“Tell…Zeph,” he encouraged again, pointing to the empty seat across the table. “Tell…friend.”

Zeph blanched visibly at the word, blinking a long moment, then said. “Yes, you are my friend, Zan. I hope you still believe that.”

“Of…course.”

Zeph stared at him warily, as he dropped into his seat with a heavy sigh. “Good, because if I thought you no longer trusted me, Zan, I doubt I could bear it.”

Max thought a long moment, stroking the strange cool features of his mask. Already, the gesture had become a familiar habit, a soothing one. The kind of gesture that crystallized confusing thoughts; that painted his feelings in stark relief. For a moment, he allowed his fingertips to trace the outline of his jaw, and wondered if he could indeed trust this man before him.

Finally, he met Zeph’s steady gaze, and nodded. “Trust…yes.” It was the only possible answer for one who had sacrificed so much to help him in the past years.

Zeph bowed his head instantly, whispering, “Thank you.”

“Owe…you,” Max said. “Know that.”

“You don’t owe me anything, Zan. My father took everything from you, stole so much…” his words faded, as he shook his head. “From our people, from this world. How could I possibly support a man like that? Not when you’d been such a very good leader to us all. My choice to serve you was made long ago.”

“He…let you?”

“Khivar only wanted for one thing in all his life…me,” Zeph laughed bitterly, folding his arms over his chest, as he stared at some unseen point in the distance. “He tried anything to win my loyalty, even allowed me to serve you with the palace guards. I’m sure in his mind, there was nothing I could get away with down there anyway.”

Max considered Zeph’s words, trying to make sense of his friend’s strange admissions. It seemed nearly impossible that Khivar had allowed their friendship.

Max worked his jaw a moment, forced words through his tight features. “He…knew?”

Zeph cocked his head to the side, as he smiled oddly. “Khivar arranged it.”

Max’s heart raced. The idea that Khivar had sent his own son into the palace depths to help him, his worst enemy, was simply unfathomable.

Max ran his fingertips along the smooth mask of his features again, then finally asked quietly, “Why?”

“Because he wanted me. He wanted me, and he thought if he supported,” Zeph hesitated a moment, gesturing at the air as if trying to capture something. “What did he call it? My obsessive little rebellion. Yes, that’s what he called it. He thought if he only indulged my loyalty to you, that in time it would fade, and I’d come around to his side.”

“What…side?”

Zeph met his gaze intently, hesitating until finally he admitted, “He wanted me to take the throne upon his demise.”

“I… see.”

“He needed an heir, and in the end, I was all he had.”

“Your…mother?”

“He destroyed her. She was a young girl, his servant, and he seduced her, ruined her reputation…then once she became pregnant with me, he had nothing more to do with her,” Zeph said, again staring at some unseen point over Max’s shoulder. “He didn’t care, not one bit. Nor about me, until he knew how much he needed me.”

“No heir.”

“No, he was unable to sire again,” Zeph smiled. “Isn’t that ironic? So sure of himself in his youth, and then so humbled in the end.”

Max ached at his friend’s words, at the undeniable pain he heard in them.

“What…now?” Max asked, suddenly remembering Zeph’s promise that he might help him return to Earth. “Me?”

“You are free, Zan, as you already know,” Zeph explained, then paused a moment, his jaw twitching visibly before he continued quietly. “But that freedom came at a cost.”

Max shook his head in confusion. “What?”

“I signed a treaty with my father on your behalf. The terms were your freedom in exchange for your renouncing of any claim to the throne,” Zeph said. “Your choice, once you were released. Still your choice,” he emphasized, his large eyes widening. “You may return home, but only if you sign official documents relinquishing your true heritage.”

“Not…king,” Max said. “Never.”

“Yes,” Zeph snapped, his eyes suddenly fiery. “You were a great king.”

“Not…me,” Max argued gently, rubbing an open palm across his chest. “Zan. Not me.”

“I always believed that you would rule again,” Zeph whispered and Max swore that tears filled his large eyes. “I swore it to myself.”

Max shook his head, smiling—a strangely uncomfortable sensation because of the mask. “You, Zeph,” he urged. “You…king.”

“Tess is queen now,” he said. “She will not allow it, and the terms of my accord with Khivar are…open.”

Max thought of what she’d already done to him, of the harsh mask she’d cast upon his features. What more might she do? he wondered, before allowing his passage to Earth.

“Home?” he asked, his voice thick. “Tess…let…me?”

“The terms of my treaty with Khivar require it,” he explained. “Though the terms also require her nominal approval…not to be withheld.”

Zeph rose from his chair and paced a moment, wringing his hands in an anxious gesture. Max had the sense that he awaited a decision of sorts, although certainly he must already know his answer.

“Please…home,” Max finally answered, drawing in a staggered breath. Then, after pausing a moment, gathering his courage, he added the one word he’d barely allowed himself to hope for during all his years of imprisonment.

“Liz.”

“Your Daiea.”

“Yes,” Max agreed, nodding, even though he was uncertain what the word really meant. Yet it was true, he felt it in his marrow.

“You have no idea what she really is to you,” Zeph observed, rounding the table. He stood just before Max, meeting his gaze evenly. “Your Liz. Do you?”

Max didn’t understand Zeph’s implication, yet his words left him undeniably curious. “What?” he asked simply, frustrated by his throbbing jaw, by the way the mask had made speech even more difficult. Max closed his eyes, focused his energy. “Daiea…what?”

“The elders knew of her. Before,” he explained quietly. “She was foreknown. It is why you were sent to Earth upon your death.”

Max shook his head, trying to make sense of words that couldn’t possibly be accurate; they were simply too outlandish.

“I speak the truth,” Zeph said, dropping to his knees beside Max’s chair. “King Zan was given to Queen Avara, bound to her as was expected and decreed. But his heart was never given. Nor his soul. He was restless in his need for another, one he could always feel just beyond his heart. So the Mystics were brought to court, secretly. And they foretold a Daiea for the king, a soul twin that lived not here on Antar. She lived on Earth.”

“Queen…knew?” Max asked, feeling his heart hammer out a strange, staccato rhythm.

“She found the prophetic writings in the king’s secret chamber,” Zeph explained. “And she was furious. A party was ordered to Earth, and scouts searched for Daiea.”

Max’s eyes widened at the incomprehensible words. “Liz…not…born.”

Zeph smiled slowly. “But the queen did not know that. So she searched, and searched in vain without the king’s knowledge.”

“King…trust…queen?”

“Zan never loved the queen, could not love her, and his heart keened for a distant lover that he already knew,” Zeph paused a moment, his eyes narrowing with deep emotion. “Because on some level, Max, you did know your Liz, even in that lifetime.”

Max nodded, feeling tears burn his eyes. Zeph placed a gentle hand on his arm, as he continued. “But as the queen’s hatred for her king grew, she formed a plan. A plan to destroy him, and to keep him from his Daiea forever. She would have him murdered. Only she did not account for the king’s own orders… that upon his death, he would be sent to Earth.”

“Why…queen…sent, too?”

“A misunderstanding among the people. They believed she was to be sent as well.”

“Khivar?” Max asked, rubbing his jaw. Khivar had murdered him; it’s what he’d always known, and even Zeph had just admitted as much. So how did Tess figure into his death? And what about Vilandra? Facts felt suddenly indiscernible, as he pressed hard into memories that were long forgotten, fractured even.

Zeph’s features twisted harshly. “My father forged an alliance with the queen. He would arrange Zan’s murder, in exchange for a royal marriage.”

“But queen…died.” Max observed, thinking of Tess’s own death.

“Yes, the queen was also murdered the day of the coup. But it was not my father’s intention,” Zeph answered, his voice suddenly thick. “No, he wanted to take everything from Zan, not just his throne, but his palace, his life’s blood. His queen. He wanted it all.”

“But…not…Daiea?”

Zeph smiled, the absolute warmth of it lighting his features. “Khivar did not believe in such things. He counted Zan a fool for relying on the mystics, and most especially because he hoped for a soul twin.”

Max’s heart thundered painfully within his chest, countless questions warring for dominance. For a moment, Zeph averted his gaze, studying his hands.

“Is…more?” Max asked, sensing that he was hesitating somehow, was withholding something critical.

“The night before Zan’s murder, he called forth the mystics again,” Zeph explained in a voice barely more than a reverential whisper. “And they placed a seal upon Zan’s heart, a seal that only the Daiea could open when they formed a connection. She would see into his soul, and he into her own. That was how the bond would be ignited between them both.”

Max felt his face burn beneath the mask, and he staggered awkwardly to his feet. He needed air, space. There was no way Zeph could know the kind of connection he’d shared with Liz in the beginning, how it had bonded them permanently. Sharp pain radiated outward from his knee, as he searched desperately for his cane.

“These words ring true?” Zeph asked, rising to his feet again.

Max felt something unsettling stir within his loins, his center, as he swallowed hard.

“Queen…hated king?” was all he asked, though countless words beat their way to the surface of his mind.

“The queen hated only one person more than the king,” Zeph answered evenly. “The promised Daiea…the one foretold as Liz. She bartered her very life and power to betray them both.”

Max nodded, fisting the cane between his fingers. Slowly, he walked toward the large windows that overlooked the crashing ocean. Max thought of his twisted features, his broken body…of the horrible scars that now permanently etched his once handsome face. And now he understood it all, the motivation that had driven Tess from the very beginning.

“She…won,” he answered, drawing in a tight breath. “Killed…love.”

“Only if you let her,” Zeph answered. “And I believe that King Zan ached for his Daiea too much to let her go so easily.”

Max wanted to fight. He wanted to believe that he stood a chance with Liz still—that she wouldn’t merely run from his ruined appearance. But he was afraid, afraid to believe that a king once received a prophecy of a love so great, it could transcend such things.

But if he stayed away, if he believed what Tess said about his appearance, that he was a monster, then she would have won in two lifetimes. And something about that caused a warrior to arise in the deepest places of his soul, an erstwhile king who had long fought for the love of his soul twin.

Max turned to face Zeph, feeling his jaw twitch painfully as he half-cried words that begged to be spoken. Words he’d longed to utter for more than eight years of imprisonment, to anyone who might listen.

He said, “Take…me…home.”



posted on 29-Jul-2002 9:36:49 PM by RosDeidre
quote:
YonkersMe originally wrote:
quote:
Sorry about the heavy-duty guilt trip from my end, but you left me no choice - - to dangle a new part-iciple in front of me just drives me ... beyond!


Certainly didn't realize I was dangling anything. Just thought I was sharing that the story was rolling again, since several people--including you--had asked. There is a new part up now, and probably several more to follow in the next two days or so. They're written, just polishing them up.


posted on 29-Jul-2002 9:51:35 PM by RosDeidre
Ah, come on, it's not that exciting. Not really. Can't be. Can it??? *happy*

Well the happy news is I really do have two all but done. One will go up in a bit, then I'll hold the other until tomorrow night. Then the waiting pattern will start again, but at least I'm reignited on the overall fic.

And if I wanted you to read the other story, it's because I'm probably more proud of it than any single fanfic I've written--seriously. And it has nothing to do with the coupling, which is all about imagination and little to do with the show in my book. I'll read any fanfic coupling--Zan fics included, I.e. DUPE JONES, so long as they're well-written. But if you refuse on principle, so be it. It just makes me sad that so many people took that stance on what I think was my best piece to date--as you can imagine. I wish those who abstained would have at least made the choice to see what they thought of the writing.

Carol, for instance, wrote that she couldn't accept it as Roswellian fic, but as a piece of writing it was one of the best stories she'd read. That's all I wish the rest of my readers would do. I'm sure you can understand. It's like one of my children is unpopular at school or something. LOL!

Well off to polish I go.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Jul-2002 9:55:16 PM ]
posted on 29-Jul-2002 10:56:20 PM by RosDeidre

Author’s Note:
As always, mega thanks to my beta goddess, Angela. You rock, woman! Thanks for helping me shape this story along with such incredible deftness. Also note that this is the second update in just a couple of days, so don't miss part six accidentally. I know, stop the world, I'm actually rolling on this fic again. Some of you might not believe it! LOL!





PART SEVEN

Max had been painting for hours, a strange vortex of time that hovered somewhere between eternity and a moment. It was the only way he could handle the anxiety that Zeph’s visit to the palace elicited within him. Especially because the summit with Tess had taken far too long already—hours longer than it should have, in fact.

And so to pass the time, Max painted, his brush gliding across the canvas, dipping madly into vibrant hues. He’d never been this free in his art before, not once in the past six years. But now he found himself surrounded by empty canvas and dozens upon dozens of paint tubes. An artist’s dream, that’s what Zeph had created for him in this studio at the far end of his home.

Zeph had led him there after their breakfast meeting, just before heading out to confer with Tess on his behalf. He’d been almost shy, as he’d opened the door to the large, airy room, indicating the rows of blank canvases and the array of paint colors with a wave of his small hand. He’d planned the moment for a long time, Max was sure of it. He knew by the way Zeph asked softly whether he needed any other supplies, if the studio was appointed with all that he required.

Max had only been able to gape, overwhelmed as he ran his fingertips over the pristine tubes of paint, more colors than he’d ever even seen before, some of them strange and unearthly in their hues. Antar was definitely a world filled with rich and vivid colors. Unfortunately, Max had glimpsed few of them from his prison cell over the past years; most everything there had been drab and gray.

But not now in his freedom, Max reflected joyously, as he studied the colorful tapestry beyond the windowed studio where he worked. He perched on a stool in front of a large canvas, paintbrush poised between his fingers. Large, floor to ceiling windows overlooked jagged cliffs, and the ocean hammered into the rocks below. The sun was low on the water now, causing a soft bluish light to filter through the room, even as it shrouded the water below.

The light would have been wintry, had Max not felt the first warmth of summer, as a faint breeze wafted through open windows, tinkling several wind chimes in the process. Zeph’s home was a place of peace, filled with airy breezes and gentle musical sounds. Already, Max’s heart felt centered here, as if he might truly rest during his short stay within his friend’s home.

The thundering ocean brought him peace, too, even as wave upon wave broke against the rocks. Nature in all its primal elegance, the essence of freedom, Max thought as he surveyed the alien landscape. Beautiful, raw, it stirred something lost within his soul. He was connected to this strange world, as connected in some ways as he’d always been to Liz—yet he would have no regrets in leaving it behind. Because as wildly beautiful as it was, it was a place colored by too much heartache. He’d known too much pain here to feel otherwise, even though something strange beat within his heart at the promise of the twin moons, low on the horizon. They would rise in time, and later in the night, fill the sky, pregnant and full.

He’d watched them year after year, and always felt this same familiar stirring, this connection with the Antarian sky. But this was his first moment to glimpse them in freedom.

The soft light within the studio reflected off the darkening windows, and Max caught a glimpse of his eerie reflection, the ghostly features of his sculpted face. He’d avoided mirrors all day, even though he’d noticed a number of them around Zeph’s home. Only last night, after his fevered dream, had he dared to gaze upon his awkward reflection.

Yet something about his face intrigued him now, half-glimpsed as it was in the windows. Max dropped the paintbrush onto his easel, and rose cautiously to his feet. For a moment, his knee smarted with a familiar shot of pain, but he ignored it, hobbling closer to the window where his reflection stared back at him.

For some reason, he suddenly thought of The Phantom of the Opera, and Isabel’s high school obsession with the musical. He’d never understood it, how a man who was horribly disfigured and hidden behind a mask might become a romantic hero. How could he hope that a real life woman, his Liz, might find him tolerable? Not when his features were twisted and misshapen, his eye half-shut from the brutal beatings?

And yet, as he stepped closer to the glass, lifting a hand to his cheek, he thought of his dream again. Of the way she’d looked at him, and called him beautiful. Of how she’d touched him, her hand stroking his sculpted form. He moves me; that was what she’d told Michael in the dream, as she’d stared at him in undeniable fascination.

She’d touched his chiseled features with undeniable desire; he’d been certain of it. Max lifted a cautious hand to his face even now, marveling at how like a statue his features did seem--that much had been true in the dream.

But the piercing white of the mask bothered him, gleaming so harshly against his skin. Perhaps it was the long afternoon he’d spent contemplating color, but it just seemed wrong, inconsistent, and so he did something he’d felt tempted to do the night before. Slowly, he allowed his energy to bank, as he touched the hardened surface of his seal, altering its color until slowly, carefully it assumed the exact shade of his own golden skin. Until it was more a natural extension of him, not so glaring in its porcelain surface.

In the half-glimpsed reflection, the mask no longer stood out, but instead melded seamlessly with the rest of his features; so much so, that for one startling moment, he nearly believed that he’d been made whole again.

David…David, he heard Liz’s dream voice beckon again. You move me, beautiful David.

He turned from the glass with a shiver, because as he’d imagined Liz’s voice, had felt himself to be David, he knew he’d begun to admire the mask far too much. He’d wanted its protection, had craved the way it hid his harsh scars so perfectly.

He’d wanted Liz to glimpse him as her beautiful David, not as the broken, disfigured man that he truly was.

****

By the time night fell like a shadow over the ocean, Max had become genuinely anxious, retreating from the studio to the generous great room at the center of Zeph’s home. The servants made Max uncomfortable, with their deferential glances and subtle gestures that indicated they considered him their true king.

He was used to such behavior from Zeph, even though it had long made him feel embarrassed. But at least Zeph was his dear friend, and it was an accepted custom between them, something Max knew the relationship somehow required in its odd balance.

But the way the servants scurried as he entered the room, helping him into the plush fireside chair, left him feeling awkward. Especially as they spoke rapidly in Antarian, quiet words of respect that he could hardly discern.

Honor…you…drink?

He tried to smile, but that was a pointless venture with the seal, and finally he murmured the Antarian words for, “No…thank you,” as he settled beside the fireplace. The men watched him dubiously, asking other unintelligible questions until finally they seemed satisfied, leaving him to his solitude.

The crackling fire warmed his spirits instantly; although summer was quickly approaching, the evenings were still chilly, so fires had been laid in every hearth throughout the mansion. They only added to the peaceful feeling that wrapped around Max’s senses the longer he stayed at Zeph’s house. His friend’s kind and gentle spirit had seemingly infiltrated every corner of the dwelling, and it was impossible not to respond to the strong feeling of peace. Even as worry threatened to choke his very thoughts, Max still felt oddly calm inside.

Max’s eyes drifted shut, as the warm fire and cozy lounge chair lulled him into a drowsy state. He’d been tired for such a long time, years now, that finding himself this free, this pampered, was enough to cause every one of his weary muscles to relax.

Sleep wooed him like a lost lover, until finally he drifted off right beside the fire. One perfect moment later, he found himself drawing Liz into his arms, between his legs, so that they snuggled before the dancing flames together.

“Are you willing to fight?” she asked quietly, settling there against his chest.

He wondered what she meant exactly, and asked, “What do you mean?”

“You know Tess won’t give up this easily.”

He nodded, silent, feeling his heart thunder against Liz’s back. His desire for her reached a quick crescendo, just feeling her between his legs, within his arms. He ached in sudden need, swallowing hard. Liz laughed, a rich throaty sound that caused him to grow instantly aroused.

“Max, you’ve got to stay focused,” she teased softly, but her voice was serious.

“I know. Of course I know.”

“You’ve still got last night on your mind,” she laughed, reaching a hand backwards so that she stroked his inner thigh. “That’s the problem.”

“Last night?” he asked thickly, feeling confused.

“You know, our little tumble out on Zeph’s lawn.”

“Oh, yeah,” he smiled, slipping his hands low around her waist. “That was…nice. Amazing.” He fingered the button on her jeans, teasing it halfway open. She placed a careful hand atop his own, stopping him.

“We have to wait, Max,” she cautioned, her voice husky with restrained desire.

“Why? I want you now,” he complained, pressing light kisses against her shoulder. She wore a thin sweater, and he swept her long hair away from her neck, such that he trailed tender kisses along her nape. “Why wait?”

“So I can give myself to you truly.”

He groaned, aching for her, the need thrumming through his extremities. “But we’re so far apart,” he said, and suddenly remembered his appearance, feeling self-conscious. But he seemed to have no difficulty speaking, and as his fingers wandered to his face, he was surprised to find it whole, warm flesh.

“Not for much longer,” she said, running her open palm along his leg. “Not much longer at all, Max.”

“What about Tess?” he asked, remembering her initial warning. He sat up a bit straighter, holding her tight against his chest, as if he might protect her from their enemy.

Liz pulled his hands around her waist, securing them there with her own hands. “Will you fight her, Max?” she asked. “For me? Will you do whatever it takes to find your way home?”

He nodded without a moment’s hesitation. “Yes, absolutely.”

“Then I’ll be waiting,” she promised, as he continued kissing her neck, her shoulder. “I want you, Max. I’ve never stopped…it only grows stronger every day.”

He became aware that he could hardly breathe, that his chest had tightened with strong emotion. “Love…you,” he answered, and suddenly felt tightness in his jaw, his face. All through his body. “So…much…Liz.”

“I love you, too, Max,” she promised, turning within his embrace so that she faced him. She lifted a hand gently to his jaw, stroking it. “Just like you are.” She smiled, and as he raised his hand to his cheek, he was horrified to realize she was staring at his scarred features. “Like this, Max. Remember, that, okay?” she urged, tears welling within her eyes.

He nodded, swallowing hard, and felt a hand on his shoulder. In surprise, he glanced upward, and then Liz was gone. Liz was gone, and instead Zeph stood beside him, shaking his shoulder gently to rouse him.

“You were sleeping,” Zeph explained, dropping his hand. “I’m sorry to wake you, but we must speak, Zan.”

Max nodded, and remembered Liz’s urging that he do whatever it took to find his way home. As he gazed upward into Zeph’s worried eyes, he knew those words had been more than mere dreamspeak. They’d been her soul, walking gently through his, with his again. They’d been Liz, begging him to come home, once again.

****

Tess had never backed down without a fight, and as Max studied Zeph’s weary features, he wondered why either of them had thought she’d acquiesce to their terms easily.

“The queen will hear nothing of your leaving,” Zeph announced as he collapsed into the chair beside Max’s own. “She intends to keep you here indefinitely,” Zeph finally continued. “She’ll breach my father’s accord if need be.”

Max nodded wordlessly, and for a moment felt hatred flare to life within him. He’d despised Tess for so long now, he hardly recognized the emotion anymore—except at certain moments when he was keenly reminded of how she’d violated him over the years.

And now, in the wake of Zeph’s revelations about the Mystics, of their foretelling of his Daiea, and the knowledge that Avara had done everything in her power to separate Zan from his love, the familiar hatred spiraled anew.

Especially now. When for the first time in more than eight years, he might actually be reunited with his beloved. When Khivar had granted approval for his return to Earth, yet the queen still despised the love that beat between his heart and Liz’s so much, that she maneuvered to rend their bond forever.

“Stop…her,” Max said.

“Yes, we will,” Zeph agreed with a nod. “We will find a way to ensure the treaty.”

“I…stop her,” he said, rubbing his open palm across his chest. “Me.”

“How, Zan?”

Max thought hard, and closed his eyes for a moment. Tess still wanted him. How he knew it, he wasn’t sure, yet the thought was there nonetheless. It wasn’t just that she yearned to separate him from his Daiea; it was that she wanted him as her lover. Even now.

She still sought to bind himself to her in a way that she’d been unable to accomplish in either lifetime--in a manner that even their night together at the observatory years ago had never accomplished. And therein lay the one bit of persuasive power that Max held over her.

“Take me…her.”

Zeph cocked his head for a moment, then said, “Zan, I am uncomfortable bringing you to the queen. Back to the palace. She might try something there, might attempt to re-imprison you.”

“The treaty?”

“Well the terms are much more specific about your freedom than about your return to Earth.”

“Then…safe…palace.”

Zeph shook his head, staring into the flames. “Again, I am insecure with such a plan.”

“Queen…want me.”

“Then why should I take you there, Zan? It would only grant her power that she otherwise does not possess.”

“She talk…me,” Max asserted. And he was certain, somehow, that he was the one who could reason with Tess, get her to acknowledge what Zeph had negotiated on his behalf with Khivar. But he also knew that he could use her desire for him to gain his complete freedom.

“Zeph, trust…me.”

Zeph rubbed his large eyes, sighing heavily. “Of course I trust you. It’s the queen I cannot possibly trust. Not with your life, Zan.”

“Home,” Max said simply, an easy reminder for Zeph of how much the one word meant to him.

“I know it’s what you want.”

“Queen…key…home.”

Finally, after a long moment, Zeph nodded reluctantly, folding his hands beneath his chin. “That is true. But you must allow me to continue negotiating on your behalf.”

“You come…me,” Max explained. “Palace…protect.”

“But what if I cannot protect you?” Zeph asked, shaking his hand. “I am only one man.”

“One man who,” Max paused, drawing in a breath. “Save me…already.”

Zeph’s eyes closed instantly at the words, and he bowed his head. For a long moment, neither man spoke, and the silence was only punctuated by the crackling of the fire.

Finally, Zeph opened his eyes, and in a hushed voice said, “I will go with you. I will speak for you, Zan, and protect you as well as I can.”

“Tomorrow?” Max asked, as Zeph rose from his seat, pacing slightly before the fireplace. “We go?”

“I see no use in waiting,” Zeph agreed with a firm nod of his head. “Time only serves the queen’s advantage. We must move swiftly in order to secure your passage home.”

But then he turned to Max, his eyes large and serious. “But we must be very careful, Zan. I cannot abide your being imprisoned again. I will make no excuse for my actions should the queen move against you.”

“Of course,” Max agreed.

But he wondered if Zeph had any idea how much he longed to destroy the queen himself; that a plan had already begun to form within his very heart.







[ edited 2 time(s), last at 29-Jul-2002 10:59:24 PM ]
posted on 30-Jul-2002 9:35:23 PM by RosDeidre
Well, I just tried posting a few moments ago, just to let you all know that I appreciate the wonderful feedback on this story. Taffy, I also thanked you for the encouragement b/c your words really resonated about it being hard to get re-ignited on a fic once it's been dormant. But I do think I've got the rhythm back with writing in general, now that my newborn is a tad older (three months) and nearly sleeping through the night. So let's hope we can keep the pace up!

Anyway, hope to post the next part either late this evening or tomorrow some time.
hugs, d
posted on 31-Jul-2002 12:25:38 AM by RosDeidre
Michelle--Your comments make sense to me. TPTB raped us all, didn't they? *happy*

Night and more tomorrw, I'm sure...d


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 31-Jul-2002 12:33:17 AM ]
posted on 31-Jul-2002 6:36:41 AM by RosDeidre
quote:
YonkersMe originally wrote:

New Ex.: Now that you're all happy about the lovely, completed M/L story you've been eagerly awaiting, take a little walk on the wild side and try something different.

See? It's all in how it's pitched. *big*


Just had an insight that should make sense re: my own creative process. There's a wonderful movie called THE COMMITTMENTS, made by Alan Parker. If you haven't seen it, it's just great. Anyway, it's all about a bunch of Irish kids who form a band. They're learning to really play, and an older guy, one who's been around the block, kind of takes them under his wing. So he's teaching this one kid to play saxophone and he helps him learn what he calls "lip looseners." These are little exercises where he thinks of beautiful women, imagines (oh let's just say kissing them. It's more than that) and that's how he loosens his lips for playing sax.

As a writer, I tend to need the same thing. I get hung up one place, say on AN, and then I wander over to CRAZY or WINTER SOLSTICE, or whatever, and it's my lip loosener. It gets my creative mojo in play again. Hence, if you'll notice, I recently posted three parts of CRAZY, then suddenly TA DA! My AN mojo is restored! And then, now, I'm suddenly posting three parts of AN. I may now do a few more parts of CRAZY...

It's all about the lip loosener, I think.

Anyway, this is just how my own creative process tends to work.

I do understand what you're saying, though--if TPTB hadn't monkied with your head, you'd be open to a lot more stuff. Makes perfect sense to me.


posted on 31-Jul-2002 9:47:52 PM by RosDeidre
Pixi--Thanks for the encouragement! I'm actually getting ready to do a part on CRAZY next I think. I have part of the next chapter of AN done, but I feel the need to be a bit lighter for a day or so. *happy* I find that I'm missing that fic today, and wanting to work my way back to it. But, a good section of Chapter NINE of AN is done. Oh--I should probably clarify. I'm getting ready to post EIGHT as soon as I finish this note!

Michelle--no, you didn't offend me, but I do understand your position better. I'll admit that it has hurt at times when my more devoted readers beg out on a story that means a lot to me, or that I worked particularly hard on. It's just the honest truth. But I also can't fault a reader who tells me a good reason when it's just too painful to read a particular fic of mine.

The thing is, I think that as a writer my perspective tends to be different than it is for my "pure readers" as I'll call them. I have a dear friend, for instance, who has had a very difficult time forgiving Max (let's not go there in this discussion, though. I'm actually making a point that's different. LOL!)

Anyway, what she and I finally worked out was that as a WRITER a different version of Roswell, an alternate version, is what lives in my head. Period. My own Roswell is really a hybrid of all my stories, of HTDC and GRAVITY, and a whole host of other things. So to me, I don't have too much venom that I feel toward TPTB because I have total control over my Rosworld as a writer. Fans who *don't* write, don't feel that same sense of control and it's a terrible feeling.

Similarly, as I was just discussing on the writers thread on my board, I tend to see the Roswell fanfic realm as a sort of "pre-fab" world for my writing. I have readymade characters, and then I can utilize that canvas to do something else with my writing other than create new people. In other words, if I want to write a story that confronts grief, I might come up with ANTARIAN SKY and use it as a backdrop for certain emotions, or certain kinds of plotting--that was really the other thing I wanted to explore there. But I also wanted to write a purely DREAMY fic. Similarly with WINTER SOLSTICE, I specifically tried to think of something that I'd never once seen in a fanfic. I sat in the movie theatre with my three year old, and thought, "What hasn't been done?"

So I guess I'm just saying that while the shipper thing can be an element, I think I approach it from a writer's mentality and you naturally approach as a READER and viewer. Makes total sense! And you didnt' have that sense of control over the show that I felt as a writer, which is key to sanity I think. I am GRATEFUL that I had that, or the Roswell experience would have left me far, far, far more bitter. Seriously.

Long way of saying--I hear you! ;)
d (who is now posting part eight in next post.)
posted on 31-Jul-2002 9:49:22 PM by RosDeidre

Author’s Note:
Thanks again to my awesome beta reader, Angela35. Woman, you’re fantastic, and you’re really helping me keep this story on track! I’m only going to issue one caveat on this section: trust me. LOL!

PART EIGHT


“Like I told you yesterday, Max isn’t going anywhere.” Tess stared defiantly at Zeph, her gaze unwavering in the early morning light.

Max’s grip on his cane tightened as he heard her words of unmistakable challenge. It was impossible for him to enter these royal chambers without feeling unsettled; he’d suffered here too much during previous encounters with his enemies to feel otherwise.

He’d suffered here too much in another lifetime, and it was almost as if a spiritual imprint lingered in the air all around him. Events lay just beyond his memory, and yet, they still whispered, offering up half-known secrets even now.

By willful strength, he blocked those impressions, focusing instead on the moment at hand, as Zeph stepped closer to Tess, his posture defiant.

“My father and I reached an accord on his deathbed, Tess,” he said in an even voice. “You’ve seen the terms, you know you are in violation of the treaty.”

“The terms are irrelevant. They don’t matter to me.”

Max leaned on his cane, wishing that words wouldn’t come at such a terrible price because of the seal. But he was wise enough to remain silent for now, at least in the beginning, and allow Zeph to intervene for him. Zeph who could call forth more words in a moment than Max possessed in an hour.

“It should matter to you,” Zeph said, his voice tense. “Should matter very much. I am the heir to this throne now.”

“Not quite right, Zeph,” she smiled. “You’re heir, but only after my death, and only if I don’t produce a royal heir myself.”

“My father is dead,” he cried, his face flushing deeply. “Are you saying….”

For a moment, Max panicked. Had she conceived prior to Khivar’s death, was that what she was implying?

“No, I’m not carrying Khivar’s child,” she answered quietly, and for the faintest moment, Max glimpsed sadness in her expression. It was perverse and mystifying, but it wasn’t the first time he’d been struck by the notion that she had truly cared for her late husband.

“Then I am the heir,” Zeph asserted again, throwing his shoulders back with unusual boldness. “But more than that, I have the written accord, the terms, with my father’s royal seal and signature.”

“Khivar was always a fool when it came to you, Zeph,” Tess said, shaking her head. “He spoiled you despite your constant rebellion. He should have exiled you ages ago.”

“As stated yesterday, Zan goes home. I have my father’s written agreements.”

“And as queen, I overrule them.”

“If you do, all the people will know. I’ll make sure of it. You’re alien to them, Tess. You may have once been their queen, but they will mutiny if you defy Khivar’s edict.”

Tess seemed to consider his words for a moment, as she strode slowly away from them. She reached for a silver-handled hairbrush on the vanity, and wound it slowly through her golden hair. Max couldn’t help but wonder if she meant the gesture to be seductive, if it wasn’t yet another ploy to somehow gain his attention.

“Max goes home on one condition,” she answered quietly, still remaining with her back to them both. “One condition, and then I will honor Khivar’s treaty.”

“Name…it,” Max managed, stepping closer. Suddenly, Tess spun on her heel, her full bosom heaving slightly as she gazed up at him. A smug smile spread across her features. “He speaks?”

“Name…it,” Max ground out again, ignoring the way she baited him.

She continued to stare up into his eyes, yet spoke to Zeph. “Max may return to Earth once he has given me a child. Only then.”

“Not…happen,” Max objected tightly.

“Then you will never see your precious Liz Parker again,” she cried, her blue eyes growing wide. “Because you will give me the true heir. You will, or you will stay here until your death.”

“Stay,” he managed, feeling shards of pain shoot through the side of his face, all the way into his scalp.

“Then so be it,” she pronounced, tossing her hair with an affected royal mien. Her small hand gave a little wave, as if her proclamation was done, just by the very saying of it.

Max didn’t move, didn’t flinch, and simply said, “Daeia.” Something made him cry it out, made him want to lash out at Tess in the worst possible way, to hurt her as much as she’d hurt him so many times before.

Tess froze where she stood, and then pivoted slowly until her gaze met Max’s. “What did you just say?” she asked, blue eyes flaring.

Max was aware of the sudden shallowness of Zeph’s breathing, of how he stood poised beside him, ready to spring to his defense if necessary. And every muscle in Max’s body had grown taut, as he repeated, “Daeia.”

“What do you know about that word?” Tess asked carefully.

“Liz…the Daeia.”

“Is that right?” she asked, her voice cool and bitter.

“You…know,” Max whispered.

“There’s no such thing as a damned Daeia!” She roared suddenly, waving her small hands in the air as she spoke. “That’s just a crazy legend, started by people who still wanted Zan on the throne, and hated me.”

“I’d beg to differ,” Zeph laughed, folding his arms across his chest. “It is truth, not legend. And such a thing exists.”

“Liz,” Max repeated, his grip tightening forcefully on his cane, as he felt his pained knee grow weak beneath him. “Mine.” He cursed his weakened body for the way it betrayed him in this crucial moment, for how ancient it felt, in the face of Tess’s bold challenges.

“And you’ll never see Liz again, because I won’t let you,” Tess said. “Come to my bed, Max, and give me an heir, or suffer the consequences.”

“Already.”

“You haven’t given me a child,” she laughed. “We both know how that ended, don’t we?” Max flinched knowing how she taunted him, mocked him for having wrongly believed that she carried his child all those years ago.

“No…suffer,” Max explained slowly, feeling his hand grow clammy where he clutched his cane within his palm. “Already.”

“You’ll suffer more, I’ll make sure of it.”

Max smiled broadly, unconcerned with the tendrils of pain that shot through his jaw, as he said, “Can’t. Liz…here.” He thudded his chest with his hand. “Here,” he continued, touching his head. “I…free.”

“Max is completely free, and that can’t be overridden. My father signed it into place,” Zeph interjected suddenly.

“But his agreement for Max’s return to Earth was much more tentative,” Tess smiled, glancing between them both. “That much is up to me. So I issue this contingency…Max won’t leave Antar until he gives me what I want.”

With that, she spun on her heel, her small sandals clattering loudly on the stone floor as she stepped onto the balcony adjacent to her room.

“Zeph…leave,” Max said, watching her through the doorway. She moved to the ledge, her back to them both. Max knew she’d calculated her movement carefully, allowed him this moment of decision.

“I will not,” Zeph announced defiantly, planting a steady hand on Max’s shoulder. “I cannot leave you here.”

Max turned to his friend. “Please…leave.”

Zeph shook his head firmly, glancing toward the balcony. “You will be unprotected. Anything could happen…her guards…”

“Will…do nothing,” Max assured him. “Tess…” he paused, his eyes watering in sudden pain. “Want…” Finally he simply gestured at himself.

“You’re not possibly considering?” Zeph asked incredulously. “You needn’t do that. The compact is secure, Max. She is toying with you, trying to gain what she desires.”

Max nodded. “Yes…play… game.”

“Play game?” Zeph repeated in clear confusion, his head jerking toward the balcony, the front door. He was more agitated than Max had probably ever seen him. “I don’t understand, Zan.”

“Leave…wait,” he said, gesturing toward the door with his hand. A slight waving motion of his fingers indicated that he wanted Zeph on the other side.

Zeph hesitated one final moment, then bowed his head, and turned toward the door. Max stood, frozen as a statue for a long moment after Zeph had gone, just staring out at Tess through the long doorway. Slowly, he began to move toward the exterior, every step echoing loudly on the stone floor.

He knew she heard him, knew that she felt his approach, and he saw her thrust her shoulders back a bit more, though she never turned or spoke. When he reached the point where she stood, he slipped a single hand onto her shoulder, cupping it, and she instantly shivered.

“You changed your mind,” she said, her voice husky.

“Yes.”

“Because of Liz?” she asked, as he allowed his fingers to slowly trail down her bare arm.

He leaned low, whispering in her ear. “You…know.”

“I don’t care why,” she breathed. “You know what I want.”

“Heir.”

“No, Max,” she laughed softly, as he slipped his hand around her waist. “It’s what I’ve always wanted. You.”

Max drew in a sharp breath. It seemed inconceivable that someone who didn’t love him, someone other than Liz, could gaze upon him with any level of physical desire, yet the way she shivered slightly at his touch betrayed her lust for him.

“Me?” he asked.

“You will become my lover until you give me a child,” she stated certainly. “Whether it be one night, three months, or a year, you will remain my lover until I conceive. Once I am pregnant, you are free to go to Liz. You will have the granolith at your disposal. But only this way.”

“Yes,” he agreed simply, and Tess slowly pivoted until her full breasts brushed against his chest, she’d moved that close. She looked up into his face, her eyes flaring strangely with desire.

“We are alien, Max, you and I. Not human. Liz could never ignite this side of you the way I can. I can give you things you’ve only dreamed of,” she said, slipping a warm hand beneath his t-shirt. “If you’d only let me.” With that, she dipped her fingers beneath the waistband of his pants, toying with it suggestively. “I can be so much more than Liz.”

Max’s heart rebelled, longed to cry out at her lies. Because he knew that her only desire for him was because she ached to destroy him, to separate him from a soulmate she’d always resented. But he fought the urge to argue, and instead nodded.

“Bed,” he said simply, glancing over his shoulder, back into her chambers. “Now.”

She began laughing giddily. “That’s what I’ve always loved about you, Max. You don’t waste any words. Sure, bed. Now,” she mocked softly. “Sounds like a plan.”

****

The odd thing was, he felt strangely aroused. Only it wasn’t by Tess and her efforts at seduction, but rather by the knowledge of how he planned to hurt her. He knew he should despise it in himself, that he wanted to lash out at her this way, wanted to cause her pain, and yet…it stirred him. The taste of the slightest vengeance on his lips was sweet, even as they stood facing one another beside her bed, as she tugged on his t-shirt, pulling it over his head. Instantly, Max’s bare skin grew chilled from the ocean breeze filtering into her room.

“Max,” Tess breathed, her breath catching huskily, as she cupped his cheek within her palm. “What do you think of the mask? Comfortable? It’s permanent, you know,” she met his gaze intently, and he blinked a bit despite himself, yet remained inexpressive otherwise.

“What will Liz think of it?” she coughed into her hand, her eyes watering at the twisted humor of her question. “I wonder how she’ll react to you this way,” Tess asked, cocking her head sideways and studying his face. “Oddly appealing, somehow. Maybe Liz will like it after all. Much better than if she saw the man underneath.”

“Off,” he managed tightly. “Will.” He hated how it sounded more like, “Woool.”

What, Max?” she asked, her eyes bright. God, she was enjoying this far too much. “I haven’t a clue what you’re mumbling.”

“Will…off…month,” he worked his jaw painfully, the hard covering of the mask preventing much movement at all as he strained to utter one last word. “Then.”

Her expression soured instantly. “Oh, that. Is that what Zeph told you? That it would come off after a month? Well Zeph is a pathological liar, Max. Haven’t you figured that out yet? The mask is yours, my beautiful husband. Forever.”

She was screwing with his head. He knew it logically, and yet her words were meeting their mark, causing fear to escalate sharply, choking all other thoughts from his mind.

And then, even more disturbingly…not. In the short period of time since the organic seal had been placed over his features, he’d already developed an ambivalent relationship with it. Tess staring up at him, the familiar blue eyes flashing, only underscored his confusion about the mask, only left him feeling horribly exposed. As if she had gazed deeply into his heart and knew how uncertain he felt, that a part of him craved its protection.

Her eyes widened slightly, as she stepped further into his physical space. Slowly she extended her forefinger and traced the misshapen side of his face, drawing a line along his jaw. He swallowed hard, resisted the urge to thrust her hand away.

He was here for one reason, and had to remain focused if his plan was to succeed.

“You wouldn’t really mind, would you, Max?” she breathed, slowly drawing her fingertips over his jaw, then lower onto his chin. “Having the mask forever, I mean. You like it,” she observed, tracing its seamless edge, the place where it melded effortlessly with his neck, became his own skin.

Don’t answer, he coached himself, blinking beneath her piercing assessment of his face. Just don’t answer.

“No, I don’t think you would mind at all,” she finally smiled, brushing his hair back as she studied his features. “Some creation, don’t you think?” she asked, pressing a kiss against his stony cheek. He felt nothing, as her lips lingered against his face. “Strangely appealing, isn’t it?” she whispered, until her mouth nipped at his ear. “No scars, no past, just this seal.”

For a moment, she just stared up into his face, then she added quietly, “You changed it. The color…” He felt his face burn sharply, knew she’d seen into his confused motives. “I like it,” she breathed huskily. “Liz will, too.”

She slipped her hands around his waist. Slowly, she stroked his hip, drawing her hand further down onto his thigh. Everything in him fought this, wanted to flee, but he forced himself to remain impassive, swallowing hard. He would play this game of hers, allow her to toy with him, but he would get what he was after.

And destroy her in the process.

“Max, talk to me,” she laughed suddenly, cocking her head up and staring at him. “At least a little.” Her voice was perversely tender in its quiet tones.

“No.”

“Well, you just did,” she said simply, but didn’t move her hand from his thigh. His awareness of its presence burned in his consciousness, and slowly, he reached one hand to capture it against his leg. Tess’s eyes widened a bit, her blonde eyebrows arching in question. They stood like that, almost transfixed, and he sensed that she was trying to read his motives.

“I see,” she finally assessed softly, slipping her other hand around his waist, drawing closer against him. Then she added, “I’ve told you what I want, Max.”

He didn’t answer, just stared at her, feeling his face burn strangely beneath the mask.

“And if I get it, you can have what you want.”

“Yes.” She leaned forward and slowly kissed his bare chest, her mouth scoring the line of his scar.

“Then good,” she said. “We understand one another.”

He nodded, swallowing hard. The moment required every bit of willpower that he possessed, allowing her to violate him this way, feeling utterly repulsed by her advances. But he didn’t flinch, even as she slipped her other hand slowly between his legs.

“It’s as I promised. You can go home,” she said, pressing her body closer against his. “Come to my bed, and you can go home to Liz.”

Max had to strangle the pained cry that rose within him. Somehow, while he’d begun this game with a definite plan in mind, he felt himself being controlled by Tess. He couldn’t explain it, but he no longer felt that the notion of sleeping with her was mere fancy. It seemed as if she could actually lead him there, own him that way.

He felt wholly unable to resist, despite how revolted he was by her very touch.

And if it didn’t prove a ruse, then Tess had him precisely where she wanted him. Hearing her blunt proposition, knowing that he could never win back Liz--not possibly if he gave Tess what she wanted--only emphasized how badly he had fallen by sleeping with her so many years before. And he was still paying for his mistakes, even now.

“You’ve been with me once, what are a few more times?” she breathed, slowly stroking him, running her hand over his bare chest, teasing him. Yet surely she felt how absolutely she failed to arouse him. “Home, Max. Think about it.”

As if he hadn’t, thousands and thousands of times. But if he gave her this, it would ruin any hope he had of ever going home to Liz again. Because how could Liz possibly understand this? How could she forgive him for giving his body to Tess once again, all in an effort to return to her? Tess had worked him into an impossible bind, and by the smug look on her face, she was delighting in his shame—once again.

He closed his eyes and remembered the dreamwalk that he’d shared with Liz just last night. The soulwalk. That was more what it had been. Liz had reached across the galaxies and touched his soul, still believing in him even now. How could he betray her by sleeping with Tess again, even if it was the only way to return to her? And more than that, what would ensure that Tess would even keep her end of such a devil’s bargain?

He simply could not fail in his fragile plan.

Gingerly, he began edging Tess backwards, toward her large, sensually appointed bed. “Yes,” she whispered, taking him by the hand, leading him there; easing him onto it. His cane slipped from his fingers, clattering to the floor, as she dropped onto her back, a shower of blonde hair spilling across satin pillows and draped fabrics. Opulent, seductive…the kind of bed that Tess Harding would naturally possess.

He followed her down, easing on top of her. His knee instantly ached, even as his entire body cried out in rebellion. But he didn’t stop.

She cupped his face within her hands, her fair skin having instantly reddened at what was unfolding between them. She wound her fingers through his hair, sweeping it back from his face, and perversely, he swore she gazed upon him in appreciation. “Yes,” she encouraged softly. “Yes, Max, just like this.”

And suddenly it was Liz’s arms he found himself in, and it was her dark sheen of hair that he touched, her body that he covered with his own.

His soulmate…right in his very arms.

“Oh, so…good,” he murmured happily, leaning down to capture her lips in a kiss. Like in all of his dreams, she tasted so sweet, felt so delicate beneath him.

“Umm,” she purred and Max laughed, even as she slowly wound her hands along his back, just touching and exploring. A strong tugging began in his groin in response, as he instantly hardened against her.

“Liz,” he breathed, as he opened her shirt, causing her lovely breasts to spring free from beneath the tight bodice. He’d seen them before, years ago, but they were just as perfect now. “You…amaze.”

She smiled up at him, her familiar dark eyes filled with emotion as he combed his fingers through her silken hair.

“Make love to me,” she whispered, drawing him down for another kiss. “Please, Max.”

“So…easy,” he nodded happily. “Yes.”

But then something truly inexplicable happened. A series of short-circuited images spiraled through his head. Senseless ones. He saw Tess. Why Tess? He was with Liz, his love, his Daeia. But then there were more abrupt and fractured images, and suddenly he was with Tess in the observatory, all those years ago. She was tugging his t-shirt over his head, adoring his body, and he was enjoying it so much. Too much. But then more discordant flashes collided with one another, even as wildly disparate emotions hammered in his heart.

He broke the kiss with Liz, gasping, so confused. But instead of gazing down at his love, he found himself atop Tess Harding. The queen, and a bitter smile spread across her features, even as she rocked her hips upward against him. “Yes, Max,” she murmured. “It’s me, Liz.”

She had no idea that her mindwarp had just bitterly crumbled, anymore than she knew that he’d finally solved the mystery of their night together nine years before.

And for once, Max Evans was pleased to find himself in the dominant position with his enemy, as he settled atop her, whispering, “Liz, love…yes… this.”













posted on 1-Aug-2002 12:45:08 AM by RosDeidre
Sansucry--right with you on the need for a "mental cleanse" sometimes. (why am I, as a Farscape fan, thinking of the Nabari Mental Cleansing??? You may not watch it, but if you did...)

Anyway, you might enjoy our new writers craft thread over on my fanfic ezboard. Follow the link below (the rosdeidre fanfics link) and then select "message board." We'd love to have you join our ruminations on the creative process, and how frustrating it can be!! *happy*

As for the last installment, yep, I knew it would be a skin crawler for you guys. That's why I issued the caveat of "trust me." Bwaaahaaahaaaa.
hugs, d
posted on 1-Aug-2002 12:06:46 PM by RosDeidre
I knew this part would be controversial. I can understand why!! ;) Araxie, at the end Max realizes that Tess mindwarped him all those years ago at the observatory, and made him see Liz. That's what he suddenly understands. At least that's what we're to know AT THIS POINT. more is coming.

Then, he pretends that he doesn't know she's trying to mindwarp him, by calling her Liz. but he definitely knows she's NOT Liz, hence his comment about finding himself in the dominant position with his enemy (a sort of play on words, obviously. Literally he's in the physically dominant position, but he's also the one with the power now.)

So, that's the story at this point! LOL! More to follow very soon.
posted on 1-Aug-2002 3:19:03 PM by RosDeidre
Tiger--What great commentary on BOTH boards! Loved the remarks! Yeah, well Max has reached a point of desperate anger, you know. I can hardly blame him...so we'll have to see how well-formed his plan turns out to be.

So are you guys getting spoiled? THree parts in one week is pretty aggressive, isn't it? It's like the days of ANTARIAN SKY! I think this is truly rolling now, which related to life settling down with the baby. It was hard when she had colic every single evening, which was my writing time. Not now!

Michelle--totally missed that you were traveling to LA. have a good time. And actually, I'm going to have at least two chapters up by the time you return. Hee hee! One is already up and I'm a lot the way into the next one.
posted on 1-Aug-2002 9:51:28 PM by RosDeidre
Ah, Nina, now you know me better than that. Since I began writing fanfiction in December 2000, I have always posted parts with methodical regularity up until one time--the advent of my new baby. Even then I kept writing, but it was an anomaly for me to taper off on my writing so much. I'm addicted, plain and simple. But my schedule for a while just didn't allow much writing. I am rolling on this one now, and past the hard parts. The parts I've longed to do are coming up! So be of good cheer, I don't *think* I'm just luring you into comfort, only to torturously stop posting. LOL!!!! :-)
Next part is roughed in now, so probably tomorrow night.
hugs, d
posted on 2-Aug-2002 2:26:52 PM by RosDeidre
Author’s Note:
Well, Jacki begged me to write this next section before her trip to Italy, and since she’s one of the very first people who ever encouraged me to try my hand at fanfic, how could I say no? Jacki, here’s looking at you, kid! Hope your trip is glorious.



PART NINE



She no longer held him under her spell. It was as if her magic had crumbled within her very fingertips, so that now she lay beneath him like some disenchanted temptress. She was nothing, and he finally held all the power.

Only she hadn’t realized it yet.

Max slipped his palms around her flushed cheeks, and whispered. “Daiea. My…Daiea.”

“Yes, Max,” Tess panted breathlessly, teasing his lips apart with her tongue.

“My…Daiea…is…Liz,” he murmured against her cheek, and she stiffened instantly within his arms. For a moment, she didn’t move at all; just lay flush beneath him, clearly uncertain of his meaning.

“Yes,” she finally whispered, and Max felt something seize his mind, as seductive tendrils wrapped around his thoughts, choking and powerful. She fought to control him again, but he arched his back, pushing her down hard against the silken pillows.

“Not…you. Liz,” he half-cried, feeling his face burn painfully beneath the cool sheath of the seal.

Tess drew in a sharp breath, pressing her eyes shut tightly. For a moment, his lovely Liz materialized within his arms again, and he wanted to believe. His need for her to be real crushed his heart, but he wrestled against it.

“Tess, stop,” he ordered, pinning her arms over her head. “Now.

“Max, don’t fight me,” she purred, her voice strangely musical, almost Antarian in its odd lilting quality. “Just be with me.” This time the woman who gazed up at him was truly Tess, not some strange mirage of his Daiea. The tactic had altered, become more persuasive now, as Tess moved her hips upward against his, teasing him toward arousal.

But she failed to awaken him, at least in the ways that she endeavored, though he wouldn’t let her know that.

“Can’t…fight,” he admitted.

Her blue eyes narrowed, as she whispered, “No, Max. Don’t fight me.” He felt a surge of alien power coil tightly around his hips, then snake upward into his abdomen. “Just enjoy this. Me.”

She pressed her lips against his, and he answered the kiss as he continued subtly working her hands together over her head, until her wrists were perfectly aligned. Then, just as he’d planned, he shot a flashing jolt of his energy directly into her chest, and she jerked at the impact. She hadn’t expected it, not during such physical intimacy, and she simply stared at him in wide-eyed shock.

The moment for his plan was at hand, as he reached beneath the pillow for a thin cordon of rope, right where he’d concealed it when they’d taken to her bed together. With a swift gesture, Max bound her hands firmly together, and she cried out, a perversely wounded sound, as he fastened her hands against the headboard of the bed.

“Now…ends,” he repeated, as she writhed beneath him. He had taken a gamble that her powers would be useless in the wake of his energy blast, and so far it seemed to be paying off.

“My guards,” she began with a gasp, but he instantly clasped one strong hand over her mouth.

“I know…you did…to me.”

Her blue eyes widened, as he drew his mouth close to her cheek. He’d begun trembling with anger, with the need to finish what had begun between them. Like some strangely repressed sexual desire, it was careening crazily within his body. An alien sensation of power, coupled with piercing need. The need to hurt another. The need for vengeance.

“You…kill…me,” he asserted boldly, the tremors now spreading through his entire body, as he pinned her hard beneath him. “Killed…Zan.”

The blue eyes darted madly, toward the door, back to him. “Hate…Liz because mystics…told me,” he hesitated as his jaw throbbed painfully. “Told Zan he had…Daiea. You hate…us.”

She nodded, the cold eyes widening with pleasure. He could feel the smile spreading beneath his hand where he’d cupped it over her mouth. And maybe it was her clear enjoyment of his suffering, her pleasure that he finally knew the truth, but something inexplicable spiraled within his center. Pure power, indomitable and intoxicating. For one frightening moment, he felt himself lose control, as the tremors quaking through his body turned violent.

And Tess capitalized on his weakness, regained her power, as the cordon fastening her wrists suddenly melted away in front of his very eyes. Before he could stop her, she had clasped his face firmly within her hands, and he was under assault. A terrible connection was unfurling between them, something forbidden and long dormant. Something from their past life.

He struggled as he felt the current open between their minds, and even slightly between their bodies.

“Stop!” he cried, feeling too much of her touching him from within. “No!” This couldn’t be, she couldn’t force a connection with him like this. This intimate territory belonged only to Liz—and yet, he couldn’t move, couldn’t stop her, as a semi-bond began to open between them.

She thrust her power into unity with his, and images began rushing like lightning flashes within his mind. Again, he saw the observatory and she was caressing him, pleasuring him. His shirt was off, her own shirt open, as they fell to the ground together. Only, it was Liz’s name that he heard in his mind. Liz’s name that he murmured over and over, half-crying in her arms at the sheer joy of being reunited with her.

Then he heard more words pass between them, disjointed and strange. He was whispering, “You came back to me. God, Liz, you came back,” and Tess was smiling, nodding as they tumbled together, half-naked.

Now, the connection was deepening, beginning to roil slightly with alien power, and he battled to shake it off…to shake her off. But Tess only drew her mouth close to his, whispering with perverse tenderness, “You are mine, Max. You have always been mine. Be joined to me now.”

Instinctively, he threw up his protective shield in an effort to fight her, right as a pure bolt of energy shot from within her center. He’d felt how she was trying to deepen their bond, solidify it into permanency, and everything within him had rebelled on pure instinct.

He cried out harshly, feeling her power course directly into his mind, all through his fragile body. What pulsed into his heart was so strong that he was instantly catapulted off of her small frame and onto the floor. His shield wavered, faded, as he gasped for air, and she was on her feet, atop him before he could stop her.

“How dare you?” she cried breathlessly, straddling him hard. “How dare you try to take control of me this way, Max!”

But his alien energy was still restless, quickly swelling beyond his ability to rein it in. As she lifted her hands toward him again, he focused and his shield instantly repelled her efforts. She ricocheted forcefully off of him, hitting the far wall with a sickening thud. He watched as energy sizzled across her skin, with strange green and blue sparks of power—almost as if his shield had penetrated her in some damaging way.

He could actually hear the sound of it as it crackled like livewire over her hands and arms, then her legs.

Finally, the electric display faded, and she lay crumpled there on the floor, as he crawled breathlessly toward her, all the while maintaining his protective shield. He’d learned enough about her tactics to trust none of what he saw.

“Tess?” he asked cautiously, moving toward her. His knee complained bitterly as he edged along the floor toward her seemingly unconscious form. “Tess?” he repeated, this time more insistently, yet she remained impassive against the wall.

Outside in the hallway, he heard scuffling and voices, and he turned just as the door to the royal chambers opened and Zeph entered, flanked by three guards. Max’s stomach tightened sickeningly as he saw the truth reflected on their faces. He really had harmed the queen in some serious way, and his culpability would be undeniable.

Zeph hurried to his side, as the guards moved to Tess’s aid. “Zan!” he cried breathlessly, dropping to the ground where Max half-knelt. “What happened?”

“Queen…hurt,” he said, but Zeph cut him off.

“Yes, we see that,” Zeph nodded, glancing at Tess’s fallen form.

“No…queen hurt,” Max repeated. “Me. Queen…hurt…me.”

One of the largest guards turned to Max, studying him with interest. Yet none made a move against him. “My shield…” Max gestured at the air, frustrated by his inability to explain the events quickly. Finally, he illustrated his shield, and then showed how her bolt of energy had rebounded back into her own body. “Her energy…hit…her. Not me…her.”

Another guard who knelt beside her spoke in rapid Antarian, glancing warily at Zeph, then to Max again. Words flew in quick succession and Max could understand little of the exchange. He saw Zeph stiffen visibly, as he moved to Tess’s side.

“What, Zeph?” Max asked, feeling raw panic begin to choke him. They couldn’t force him back into captivity. He would die rather than enter the palace depths again.

“Tess is…not dead. But her life force is ebbing. We all feel it,” Zeph explained, as one of the guards moved away, into the hallway. “We must call a healer immediately, but the guards are concerned for you, Zan.” Zeph’s eyes narrowed with undisguised emotion. “Concerned for you,” he repeated. “They want to ensure your safety in this affair.”

“Why?” Max asked, running a shaking hand over his masked features. Suddenly he realized that he sat on the floor, half-naked and vulnerable, as Zeph handed him his discarded shirt from where it lay on the bed.

“They all recognize you as the true king,” Zeph explained, his voice filled with undeniable pride. “With Khivar dead, it is you they serve in loyalty, not Tess.”

Max nodded, staring down at his hands wordlessly. He felt oddly embarrassed, unworthy, as he sat there on the stone floor. All around him, a flurry of activity ensued, as the Antarian men worked to stage events appropriately, straightening the bed and destroying the small cordon of rope. Max slipped his shirt over his head again, and continued to sit on the floor in stunned silence.

Zeph extended his hand to Max, clasping him beneath the elbow as he urged him to his feet. “Now come, my king,” he said softly. “We must leave right now.”

“Tess?” Max asked in confusion.

“The healers will be summoned, but you will not have been here,” Zeph explained with a gentle inclination of his head. Beside him the guards mirrored the gesture, and Max felt something strange stir in his depths. “Not at the moment of her…accident.”

“No,” Max agreed uncertainly, staring among them all. One guard spoke swiftly in Antarian and Max caught a few words.

Protect…king…all costs. Protect. The guard repeated the word “protect” several times, probably seven in total, and Max understood instinctively that this was a pledge, a swearing of his fealty in some key way. The others nodded in unison.

Max whispered the Antarian word for thank you, as they turned and led him toward the chamber door. His gratitude seemed inadequate, especially as he glanced one more time at Tess’s fallen form. He had inadvertently caused the queen’s death, and yet these men would risk all to say otherwise. Max felt more humbled than he’d ever been in his life, as they flanked him on each side, leading him into the hallway to safety.


****

Hours later, they still waited for news of Tess’s condition, and Max had become deeply unsettled. As absurd as it was, he felt himself somehow to blame for her injuries, even with all that she’d done to torture him over the past ten years. Zeph reassured him forcefully that he was not to blame, that the queen had fallen victim to her own wicked machinations, yet somehow Max was disturbed by how he’d wanted to hurt her. By the vengeance that he’d sought against her.

Finally, when Zeph became frustrated with his moody silence, Max retreated to his studio and began to paint in a wild flurry of expression.

Ever since Liz’s soulwalk out on the lawn, Max had been haunted by the image of her as an angel of sorts. An angel reaching down and retrieving him, just as he stepped out into the ether, ready to plunge to a rocky death far below. But the angel was a dark one, haunted and midnight, just as their moment had been. He couldn’t paint her in white and gold, that wasn’t how her soulwalk had felt.

It had been inky velvet, purplish black. Deep, soulish colors. Colors of night and tumultuous passion. Colors of mourning and loss. Colors of intense bonding.

So that’s what he painted, as he waited for news of his enemy’s death.

His brush dabbed and twisted, blotting the vivid hues onto the canvas, and his thoughts wandered far from the studio.

He stood in an observatory. Seventeen years old, foolish and angry. Angry that their dear friend was dead at his hand, angry that his soulmate had just left him, angry that he was alien in a human world.

Angry that for almost a year, Liz had been walking away from him, when she was all he’d ever wanted—and it made such little sense.

But that was all he could remember. He’d seen flashes of the truth earlier in Tess’s arms, but he still didn’t understand what he’d done with her that night so many years ago. Apparently, she’d deceived him, led him to believe that it was Liz he made love to.

He’d lost his virginity to Tess, all the while believing he was giving his body to his beloved.

His Daiea. He’d thought he was giving his innocence to her, not their enemy.

Foolish, stupid…he deserved every curse that had fallen upon him for being so weak-minded and fragile. He deserved the scars and the broken body.

Max felt tears burn his eyes, as he kept painting, dark, silken hair catching in a breeze…half-obscuring the gorgeous black eyes. He wanted to lose himself in those eyes, but she was a world away. He could only paint them now, could only ache for her.

Stupid, foolish…he deserved the brutal scars, the harsh mask.

The painting blurred before him, yet still he continued to work at the easel, was unable to stop.

Are you willing to fight, Max? she’d asked. He heard her voice, even now, as clearly as if she stood behind him. Promise me you’ll fight for us…

Yes, he’d fought today—if only he’d fought so hard those many years ago, when he’d stood facing their enemy in an observatory. If only he had never let her caress him that night, soothe his wounded heart for the briefest of moments. Foolish, unworthy…broken and ruined. A suitable curse.

“Zan.” Max startled at Zeph’s quiet voice, and he wiped at his eyes, just staring out the window at the ocean far below the windowed studio. “The queen lives.”

Max nodded. Of course she did. And he would never return to Earth now. He would reside in the palace prison for all his days, just as the fates had decreed.

“She lives, yet she is dead in the mind. In Spirit.”

Max turned to Zeph. “What?” he asked.

“Her life force is nearly gone, but she hovers in a sort of stasis. A coma, if you will,” Zeph explained. “She may continue for some time that way.”

“What…happened?”

“Apparently the queen had opened a bond of sorts with you,” Zeph answered. “The healers say that she suffered what is known as an energy recoil. It happens when a connection is open, yet violence is suffered. She was trading on your past life union, Zan, and sought to bind herself to you anew that way. But she didn’t count on your protective instincts, and her own energy rebounded inward.”

Max thought of how he’d seen the electricity shimmering over her skin, how it was almost like raw current, coursing terribly through her body.

“I…see,” he answered simply.

“You are not to blame, Zan,” Zeph said. “It was the queen’s own doing. Had she not sought to open a dormant bond, one you did not seek, then she would live even now.”

“Does…live?”

“Nominally.”

Max nodded in understanding. Tess would never wake again; she lived, yet only in body. “What…now?” he asked.

“I am to act as Regent in the queen’s stead,” Zeph explained, stepping closer. “It is what was decreed by my father’s edict. But I still serve you as king. Advise me as you will, and I shall follow.”

Max saw the emotion on his friend’s features. “Zeph, you…king. Your heart…pure. Good king,”

“I serve King Zan.”

“And Zan,” Max hesitated a moment, swallowing as he continued. “Serves you, King Zeph.”

Zeph’s gray cheeks stained a deep red, and he stared at the floor. “I am Regent only…as long as the queen lives.”

“Then…true king.”

“Yes, I suppose so. Unless you stay.”

“Home, Zeph,” Max said softly. “Earth.”

“I know it’s what you want,” Zeph agreed. “To go to Liz.”

Max nodded, staring at the angel in his painting. “How soon?” he asked, feeling his heart hammer with unbridled anticipation, even as he felt horribly unworthy to even return to her.

“Once the mask comes off,” Zeph explained. “Not before, because a process is required to remove it. It’s a delicate procedure, or there will be…well, more scarring.”

“A month?”

“Nearly, yes,” Zeph agreed. “My home is yours until then, Zan. Surely you know how welcome you are here.”

“You…my…family,” Max affirmed. “Like…brother.”

Zeph’s gentle features broke into a beaming smile and he nodded, “You are very much my brother, Zan. Very much.”

For a long moment, neither spoke, as suddenly the intimacy gave way to embarrassed awkwardness. Max stared at his painting, and Zeph stepped closer to examine it.

“It is as beautiful as all your pieces, Zan,” he said, folding his arms across his chest as he studied the painting appreciatively. “Liz is beautiful.”

Max smiled, feeling undeniable pride in sharing his beloved with his friend, even though it was a darkly whimsical version of her, an abstracted one. Yet Zeph had known precisely who Max painted.

“Perfect…yes.”

“Before you return to her, there is something I wish to do, Zan,” Zeph said, turning to face him. “A gift I wish to bestow upon you.”

Max nodded silently until Zeph continued.

“I wish to call forth the Mystics again,” he said, his voice eerily soft. “Have them speak over you. Here, at the house. Give a blessing of sorts.”

Max’s chest tightened with indescribable emotion at the words, as something ancient stirred powerfully in his depths. “Mystics?” he asked simply, staring at Zeph in surprise.

“I wish them to prophesy over you, Zan,” Zeph explained, staring out at the roaring ocean for a moment. “Prophesy over you and your Daiea. They can speak healing to your heart…and hers. To your bond.”

Max had no idea how to respond, didn’t even understand precisely what Zeph meant. Finally, he simply cocked his head in confusion, as he stroked his smooth jaw.

“The Mystics have much power, Zan,” Zeph explained patiently. “I wish them to impart it to you. Before you leave here for good.”

“Power…what kind?”

“Spiritual power. Healing. Truth. So many beautiful and perfect gifts, we cannot even comprehend them all. The Mystics are always hidden, but they will come for Zan. They will beg to come for Zan.”

An indescribable thirst grew within Max, just at the mentioning of the Mystics, of how they might minister to him. He wasn’t sure what it all meant, but he knew he believed in their power. After all, they had prophesied his soulmate’s existence some fifty years prior to her birth. Maybe if they spoke over him now, Liz might possibly love him again, even with as ruined and hideous as his face had become. Perhaps the Mystics might unlock something, a way that she could see past his curse.

He nodded vigorously, and answered, “Yes, please… Mystics…come.”

Zeph bowed his head in reverential respect, and whispered, “It is done.”




posted on 2-Aug-2002 5:28:17 PM by RosDeidre
Tiger,
I'm so glad that the new AN part gave you some non-Covina solace. *happy*

Very astute for you to catch the appearance of the famous angel, but I do have to issue a little caveat. This isn't actually *the* OPEN YOUR EYES painting, but what you've caught is the origins of the artist's fascination with the image. You'll remember that when "David Peyton" and Liz are first talking in his studio, she sees other paintings with angels and asks him what it means. He says, "Angel...many things." And goes on to say that at the moment, it's her. (I'll admit, now I can't remember if she might not KNOW it's Max by the time that convo happened. I'll have to see.) At any rate, it's an image that recurs in lots of Max's paintings once he first locks in on it...and it is birthed in this scene, as you just observed! Very clever, oh gentle reader. LOL!

Hugs, d
posted on 2-Aug-2002 5:52:24 PM by RosDeidre
Tiger,
Exactly! The angel wore black and the little girl said the angel must not be a happy angel, because otherwise it wouldn't be in black. You are VERY cool to remember the story so well.

Hugs, d
posted on 3-Aug-2002 12:51:17 AM by RosDeidre
Nina!
You are the bomb! That's all I'm going to say about the new part and your posting. *happy* Hopefully more in a few days. I just turned back to CRAZY and wrote about ten pages tonight, but you won't be waiting long on more for AN! Hugs, d
posted on 3-Aug-2002 10:08:50 PM by RosDeidre
Thanks for the great feedback, guys. I am working on a new part to CRAZY, since I figure four new parts of AN in one week is so much, I just need to let people catch up. But don't you worry, I'll be turning right back to this one.

So many great comments. I'll scroll back through, because I know I wanted to remark on some.
hugs, d
posted on 10-Aug-2002 10:10:19 PM by RosDeidre
Well, sorry to say that I'm leaving for the beach tomorrow, but no new part. :(
I did write a long section, but it just isn't what I want, so it will be a week before I get back. HOWEVER, I have definitely written while traveling, as far back as HTDC, and even posted. So if I get struck by the muse and have some time, you may just get a new part from Florida.

Meanwhile, have a great week and when I return, all shall be back in the swing once again.
*happy*
Hugs, d
posted on 4-Sep-2002 7:33:25 AM by RosDeidre
This is the one I'm working on right now. *happy* I haven't forgotten you guys, just keeping it all balanced--life, family, fic, business, and all that. Hopefully before long I'll have a new part since I'm working on chapter ten now. Thanks for your patience.

I don't want to give an estimated time, but just will say that it's what I'm working on this week.
hugs, d (who prefers positive inspiration, like yummy pics of Max.)

posted on 4-Sep-2002 3:48:07 PM by RosDeidre
FMax preferences for this story, please. LOL! ;)

You know, it occurs to me that you guys are frustrated that I can't write faster, and you have no clue how frustrated I am that I don't get any more time to write than I do. I would *love* to spend hours every single day just writing on these stories.
posted on 6-Sep-2002 11:34:28 PM by RosDeidre
Author’s Note:
Yes, I am back. :-)
I hope to cotinue working on this story and CRAZY simultaneously—I have half of a CRAZY chapter done already. So here’s to keeping them both rolling!! Hugs, d


PART TEN



After nearly a month of waiting, the mystics had finally gathered within Zeph’s meditation chambers to minister to Max. They were in the adjoining anteroom, chanting and singing, and something about the alien sounds drifting through the open doorway electrified him.

In the past weeks, he had bided his time, as he’d painted and tried to fathom what it would mean to return to Earth. He’d warred through a month of questions and desperation, a month of staring at his stony reflection in the mirror. And he’d spent that time awaiting the mystics, wondering what they might say to him, if they would somehow explain his unshakeable need for the seal.

More than ever he needed their insights, because early in the morning he was scheduled to visit the palace, to see the very same healers who had applied the mask in the first place. Then, the unthinkable would happen—it would be removed and his brutal disfigurement once again made evident for all to see.

After the procedure, he would be taken to the granolith for a first alignment of his energy with the device in preparation for his journey home. That was, if he could find the nerve to return to Earth without this mask.

The fact was he’d become too reliant upon it, too desperate for the way it cloaked his marred features.

How could he possibly go to Liz without it? That single question kept rolling through his mind, never ceasing its insistent cry.

Yet, even as he touched the polished surface of his face now, he knew he could never approach her so long as the mask remained a part of him like this—even if there were some way to keep it.

No, his moment was at hand. The moment for receiving his prophecy. The moment for relinquishing the seal that had safely hidden his harsh scars for all these weeks.

Max sucked in a tight breath, folding his arms around himself with a slight shiver. Despite asking Zeph countless questions about the mystics, he had no idea what to truly expect tonight.

Gazing around the small room, dozens of tapers glowed from atop small ledges, causing a gilded display of light and shadow in every direction. The intent was as with the rest of Zeph’s palatial home, to soothe the inner places of the parched soul.

But Max’s spirit would not be calmed, not by the candles, nor the strange chanting; he was far too restless, knowing that the Mystics had gathered in the adjoining chamber. He was poised on the edge of the unknown, teetering precariously between a past that was already carved into permanency, and a future that these seers might foretell.

Even knowing that they were merely a room away caused his heart to hammer in sharp anticipation. Somehow, he knew that after this night, he would emerge from this sacred chamber a changed man.

Nervously, Max gripped the arm of the lanthar, a small settee that Zeph had guided him to moments before. He’d explained that the word’s translation was roughly “point of immediacy.”

Point of immediacy. A strange description for this hard bench, Max thought, as he studied the way candlelight bathed the small chamber. The colors in the room were vivid, surreal. Antarian in every possible way.

He narrowed his eyes and knew that he would paint this scene. He was sure of it already, as he listened to the musical cadence of the Antarian mystics chanting in the adjoining antechamber.

Zeph entered the room, wearing a strange hooded robe, and knelt just before Max. “They are ready now,” he announced in a reverent voice.

Max nodded, as he heard a quiet rustling sound just behind his back, and then a warm sensation began to fold around his shoulders. He glanced sideways and saw a small, gray hand waving over him. It was a delicate, feminine hand, he realized, as it touched his back with unexpected tenderness.

“My king,” she said, her voice lilting and soft. “We have come.”

For a moment, Max had no idea how to even respond. Finally, he spoke the words he most felt. “Yes…so glad…you here.”

“We minister now,” the woman explained, caressing the length of his arm. It was a bizarre gesture, oddly intimate, especially with the way little shivers of power rippled over his skin in answer. “To our king,” she added, inclining her head.

“Yes…thank you.” His pulse quickened in anticipation, even as he felt strangely frightened. This was perhaps one of his most purely alien experiences in all these years on Antar; the most removed from what it had always meant to be human. On Earth, there were prisons and palaces, queens and kings. But there were no mystics—at least not like these aliens who had gathered around him, forming a tight knot of surging spiritual energy.

The prophetess stood before him, and he gazed upward in curiosity. She bowed her head, which was covered in an intricately woven scarf of sorts, glittering in the candlelight. It seemed to have jewels within the fabric, and they caught the light beautifully. But he could not clearly see her features, though a large pair of almond eyes peered out at him.

She said, “I am Alith. Behind you stand two others.” But she didn’t give their names, and something about that struck Max as curious. He glanced at Zeph for an explanation, but he only smiled, as Alith knelt slowly before him.

“Are you ready, my king?”

Max nodded, and wondered if there was something to this prophesying that he’d not understood, because otherwise why had she essentially asked permission to begin several times now?

“We ask to speak because you will be opened.” She’d seemingly heard his unspoken question, and Max suppressed a slight shudder at her words.

Max swallowed hard, just nodding.

Alith reached outward with her small, gray hands and cupped his face. Slowly, she tipped it until their eyes met across the twinkling shadows.

“Mask,” she said simply. “The queen masked you.”

Max swallowed hard, nodding.

“Yes, this was not good. A serious weapon against you, a serious wound. Worse than the scars. This mask.” Alith tenderly traced her fingertips over the hard casing. Max flinched beneath her inspection, thinking again of how he dreaded its removal in the morning.

“You’re too fond of this now, my king. And it must be removed.”

“Yes…I know.”

“The problem is how you want it, this mask.”

How could she know his most hidden feelings about it? How perversely he longed to keep it? He closed his eyes and nodded, feeling his face grow feverish beneath the porcelain sheath.

“So we will work with this problem,” she said gently, still outlining his face with incredible gentleness. “Because it is most powerful against you.”

Max couldn’t open his eyes, couldn’t look at this strange mystic who was speaking into his heart like the keenest of arrows.

“David,” she said quietly, her voice changing in its very tonal quality, becoming oddly familiar. “Oh, beautiful, perfect David. Why do you wear this mask? Why do you hide this way?”

She sounded very much like Liz. He gazed up in intense panic; at her easy use of his new name, of how she sounded like his Daiea.

She lifted fingertips to his forehead and suddenly his recurring dream unfolded within his mind. He was a statue; naked and glorious in the midst of a room, a gallery of sorts. There were paintings in every direction, and Liz stroked his chest appreciatively beneath her tender palm. “He moves me,” she said as she caressed his hard, cool form.

“Daiea,” Alith whispered, her musical voice rising joyously. “Yes, Daiea sees mask. Daiea sees mask and loves David. Loves David despite mask. Oh, yes, yes,” she laughed softly. “Loves David with scars and mask, and longs for him so desperately. If only David understood.”

Max had no idea what was happening, and he’d begun to feel slightly dizzy. The dream imagery altered, and he stood in the middle of a house. It looked Southwestern, as if maybe it was in Roswell. But the lights were dim, and Liz stood beside him. His hand flew to his face, and he felt a mask encasing his features. But it was different, not smooth. It was rough and synthetic, yet perfectly formless, just like this mask.

“I love you,” Liz whispered, reaching to caress his smooth features. “David Peyton, I love you. Believe me now, before you come. Believe that I love you just this way.”

Max gasped softly. David Peyton? Why was she calling him that?

Alith cupped his face again, and Max opened his eyes, the image fading. “We show you things that are to come. Do you understand them?”

“No…no I do…not.”

She closed her eyes, bowing her head slightly. “But you will remember them later, my king.”

“Mask?” he asked, feeling shamefully needy as she ran her fingertips along it. Will you help me keep it? Help me understand why I crave it this way?

“Has become part of you,” Alith explained simply. “Organic, living, it is sealed to your own body. Extension of you. Perfect extension, unlike your scars. So you long for it, but it will be taken from you.”

“Why?” he asked. Why must everything always be taken from him?

“You have lost much, my king. The pain has wrapped itself around your heart and is choking the life from you. But restoration is now at hand.”

“Saw…mask…vision.”

“Yes,” she agreed, but said nothing more. His heart slammed within his chest, as she slowly stroked his cheek. “And you saw your Daiea.”

“Yes, she…saw mask.”

“Not this one.”

“What am…I to…do?” he asked, sincerely wondering how he could go to Liz so brutally scarred and ruined—especially now that he’d seen another mask. One he did not possess. He would have to have it now, could not go to Liz without it.

“Believe in your Daiea’s love for you.”

“I…not David.”

Striking. Ruggedly handsome. Beautiful. The Daiea believes this of her beloved.”

“I…cannot…go Liz…with scars.”

“The scars are not the problem,” Alith whispered, repeating her earlier words. “Mask is the greatest problem.”

Alith waved over his shoulder, apparently at the two other Mystics who stood behind him. They moved closer with a hushed, rustling sound, and both began speaking in Antarian. She nodded, and then extended her palm over Max’s heart.

“Yes, the seal was activated,” she interpreted quietly. “The seal we placed on Zan’s heart. The bond was formed with Daiea. A love bond of great intensity. Oh, yes,” she smiled. “You are bound to one another. It is strong, tight. Unshakeable.”

Alith reached upward, and swept the scarf back onto her shoulders, and for the first time, Max could really see her face. There were unmistakable lines of age around her eyes, creases around her mouth. She had smiled for years, and now the marks pulled at the edges of her mouth. Her black eyes sparkled with power and energy, something different than what he’d glimpsed in other Antarian eyes.

“But the bond is damaged, Zan,” Alith explained seriously, glancing at her companions who he sensed nod in agreement. “Fractured. Strong, but fractured.”

He felt tears sting his eyes at her words. “We will heal,” she explained, as the other two Mystics placed their palms squarely over his chest. All three hands just covered his heart, and he felt warmth begin to penetrate his chest. Hypnotic, soothing energy. “Yes, now…receive,” she instructed. “Ah, the bond is healing…healing between you and Daiea.”

Max pictured Liz in that moment, as beautiful and young as she’d been the last time he’d seen her. They were in the jeep together. I can’t believe this is all I’ll have of you…after everything.

“Innocent,” Alith whispered softly, and he glanced upward in surprise. “You, Zan.”

“What…mean?” he asked thickly.

“Virgin…you are virgin.”

“No, I…not.”

“But you are,” she said with a smile. “The queen has deceived you. This is what caused the rupture in the soulbond with Daiea. Your belief in the lie.”

“I remember,” he winced, as he finished. “Night with queen.”

“You remember falsely,” Alith answered. “I see truth. I speak truth.” She lifted her hand to his forehead, while the other two Mystics continued to place their palms over his heart. “See the truth,” she commanded, and the visions began again.

This time he was on the floor at the observatory, holding his beloved Liz in his arms. He was nearly crying with joy that she’d come back to him; that they were together, despite all their recent fighting. He was half-naked, and she was completely so, delicate and bare just beneath him. They would make love, and it was all he wanted, all he’d ever wanted. Such a perfect dream, realized in that one moment with his sweet Liz.

But then something perverse happened, as he lifted his hips to unfasten his pants. He looked at Liz again, but she had altered, changed just before his eyes. He was with Tess. He shook his head, confused, and he felt something happening in his mind. Then there was arguing between them both. She’d been mindwarping him, and he knew it. He accused her of witchcraft against him, and then suddenly, everything went black. Then he was there on the floor, and Tess was peeling his pants off of him, stripping him bare while he wrestled to maintain consciousness. Then everything went completely black.

A terrible cry escaped his lips, as the vision faded. He’d slumped forward there on the small sofa, just clutching at his heart. Their hands had drawn away at some point, leaving a faint burning sensation beneath the skin. He could hardly breathe with how it had caused his chest to tighten, forced the very air from his lungs.

Tess had deceived him. All this time he’d believed he’d given his virginity to her; that he’d betrayed Liz that way.

“The bond is healed,” Alith pronounced quietly. “Daiea and Zan are restored. They are made one again.”

Despite himself, he began shaking terribly, unable to speak at all. He literally felt the bond mend, felt something like a thin, golden thread weave between the two of them. It was as if across the galaxies, across the very universe, they had just been joined anew.

“Wh-what mean?” he managed, gazing into Alith’s large, alien eyes.

“It means that neither of you will ever belong to another. It means that when you do find your way to Daiea, that the bond will heal all.”

“All?” he asked, rubbing the jagged scar across his heart. He could feel how raised it was even through the soft fabric of his shirt.

“All, Zan. Bond will heal you.”

His eyes fluttered closed and he simply nodded. There was nothing more he could say, nothing more to ask. Somehow he would endure the mask’s removal in the morning, and somehow he would find his way back to Liz.

“Remember, Zan, that Daiea does not need this mask,” Alith whispered, then pronounced something in Antarian that he couldn’t comprehend. He heard the word Daiea, then love, then scar. Otherwise, it was a stream of words that made no sense to him, except he felt his eyes sting with tears at the hearing of them. The words held life, of that he was certain, just by how they seemed to impact his soul.

Then, the longer she chanted and spoke, the drowsier he became, literally unable to keep his eyes open.

He longed for sleep, for rest. “Yes, Zan, be at peace,” Alith suddenly sang over him, stroking his hair, as the other faceless mystics began quietly joining with her. “Peace, my king. At last you receive peace.”

With those words, Max allowed his eyes to drift shut, and for the first time in nearly a decade, he finally stopped fighting.






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Sep-2002 12:49:49 AM ]
posted on 23-Sep-2002 8:50:14 PM by RosDeidre
Ah, Elena! What a sweetheart you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for such terrific and heartfelt fb. It means a lot to know that you felt the emotions I was aiming for. Thank you, dear.

To Michelle and Tiger, et al, I am hoping to get back into this one now that my taxes are all put to bed. I have a business trip this week, then life settles considerably. I wrote some on this in my notebook while at the beach, but it was hard (as I knew it would be) to *feel* this fic out in the sunshine. It's just a nighttime kind of story to me!!
hug to all, d
posted on 14-Oct-2002 6:50:46 PM by RosDeidre
I'm not ignoring you guys, honest. I've been traveling a lot, plus there's been some family things happening. Meanwhile, I've found it easier to write TAKING YOU HOME because it comes from a less demanding place inside of me (while all the stressful things are happening.)

It was also easier for me to write that one while traveling. But I believe that within a few more weeks, I'll have something to post. It's hard, though, because all my readers have their favorite stories, but they aren't all the same.

So my plan is to finish HOME, then turn my attention to this and CRAZY (which is nearly done.)

Stay tuned...
d
posted on 22-Jan-2003 10:39:17 AM by RosDeidre
Okay, how seriously weird is it that I came to find this thread to leave an author's note and it was on the FIRST page??? Last I checked this thread seemed to have vanished in the board transfer, so I've missed some notes from you guys. SORRY.

Anyway, the scoop on this story is that I'm going to wrap it up in another couple of parts. I realized that I was kind of stumped by moving it from Antar to EArth, and that it made most sense to write a third story with Max's POV on Earth, set in NYC and Santa Fe. I even have a title, but I'm not saying just yet.

So my hope is that within a few weeks, to finish this one up, then evaluate when I'll write story three. I haven't forgotten, but I'd be dishonest if didn't say this story has been the hardest of all my fanfics to write. I'm not entirely sure why, just has, so thanks for your patience, guys.
hugs, d