|posted on 22-Sep-2001 2:03:13 PM by Carol000|
|Author: Carol (spacemom)|
Rating: All over the place, including NC17
Setting: Their junior year.
Disclaimer: I own everything related to Roswell. I bought it this morning. That includes rights to the fictional characters (esp. Max) as well as to Jason Behr's wonderful body. I might be willing to rent out the others from time to time, but don't even ASK about JB. Meanwhile, I have fired ALL the writers and am now taking applications from this board for staff writers. Several of you already have a definite leg up!
(Okay, for legal reasons, I should admit that the above is a lie, and I don't own anything, but this is a FIC board, right?)
Trilogy note: This is the third story in a trilogy. By an odd coincidence, the others are called Epiphanies 1: The Ties that Bind and Epiphanies 2: The Anasazi Road. These are posted at both Crashdown (where the NC17 epilog is sitting sad and lonely by itself in the Afterhours section) and Jenn's repost board. I hope you take the time to read them before you start this one.
From Part 42
“Max, I’m just saying that what I’ve been telling you is not my attempt to stroke your ego. Nobody talks about you in front of me, but Maria hears things all the time--girls who’ve had erotic dreams about you, guys who wonder what kind of workout you do to get this body, the way girls rake their eyes across you when you are walking down the hall. Sometimes, those eyes of yours get people in trouble and you don’t even know it. Do you have any idea what you can do with those eyes? But the worst one . . . no, I can’t even tell you.”
In spite of himself, Max had gotten harder and harder as she talked, his fingers rubbing her nipples more aggressively, making it hard for Liz to maintain her train of thought.
“Don’t stop now, Liz,” he whispered hoarsely in her ear. A shiver shot through her, and she realized they were both getting turned on just talking about this. On impish impulse, she slid off of Max to tell him the rest, but he immediately brought her under him, his eyes dark with desire.
“What’s the rest, Liz? Tell me.”
Liz was amazed at how this was affecting him. Not one to let an opportunity pass by, she plowed forward.
“A few weeks ago, the volleyball team had played an away game, and Gina Graham hadn’t come out to get on the bus. The coach sent somebody in to get her and they found her alone in the shower. She was . . . ,” Liz blushed, questioning her decision to tell him this, but as he pressed his hardness against her thighs, she couldn’t believe what this was doing to him . . . and to her!
“She was . . . pleasuring herself, and . . . and calling your name. The volleyball team couldn’t stop talking about it, and Maria said that some of them confessed to doing the same thing.”
He entered her abruptly, and she gasped with pleasure. She just might have to ask Maria for more stories. Their effect was . . . impressive! Liz threw herself into loving her Max, and thanked her lucky stars that she had the real thing.
It was a deliriously happy and sated couple who pulled into the school parking lot the next morning. Max yawned as he killed the engine and leaned back against the seat, reaching for Liz’s hand.
“Don’t do that,” she complained, stifling a yawn herself. “It’s contagious.”
“I wish we didn’t have to waste time sleeping,” he agreed with a grin. “I much prefer spending our nights like we did last night.”
“How about we just stay here and nap for a while,” she mumbled, leaning across the gearshift to nestle into his shoulder. It wasn’t working too well. “We can tell everyone you had a flat tire on the way to school.”
“At least you got an extra half hour of sleep. Between leaving you to go shower at home and then getting out early to pick you up again, I don’t think I slept at all. Anyway, I don’t think the flat tire trick will work,” he chuckled. “We only live a few blocks from school.”
Sighing, Liz straightened. “Okay, school it is.”
They climbed from the Jeep, and Max hurried to help her with her backpack. “So, we’re not telling anyone about the engagement yet, right?”
Liz looked at him, her inner debate obvious in her frown. “I guess not. I think you’re right. It’ll just cause a stir, Vidoni will get on his high horse again, and it’ll bring too much attention down on you. Still,” she smiled wistfully, “I’m so happy, I want to share it with anyone who’ll listen! We’ll tell in the spring, won’t we, Max?”
“Absolutely. I want everyone to know that we’re forever, Liz. I’d shout about it all day long, if I could. I sure as hell think about it all day long. I just don’t think it’s the right time yet.” He stroked her cheek, searching her eyes for sadness or disappointment. “Okay?”
Her smile melted his heart. “I know about it, Max. That’s all that counts.” She took his hand and they headed toward the building.
Max had never been so self-conscious in his life. Last night’s revelations about how the female population of Roswell High saw him had turned him on beyond belief. He and Liz had ridden a wave of hormones through the night, and it had been incredible. Now, though, as he walked the halls of the school, he felt naked. Every glance in his direction, every burst of laughter from behind him, every brush against him in the crowded hallways took on a whole new meaning. He had always felt invisible, had cultivated his invisibility. Never had he interpreted a word or sound or look that had been directed at him in any but the most casual way. Now . . . now he felt like a neon sign on a dark street, and he felt his skin prickle with sweat.
Liz, entering a distant classroom, paused, feeling a strange sensation building in her own body. She searched Max’s thoughts and grinned. Max, calm down. They’re not all staring at you!
I was glad you told me those things last night. It made me crazy for you. But today . . . I feel like I can’t look anyone in the eye!
Just be yourself, Max. That’s who I love, and that’s who they respond to. Don’t think about it.
I’ll try, he promised, and quickly tried to shut her off from his thoughts. No use making her nervous all morning, too.
In English, he sought out Slade. After her first day of school, when she had been so obviously flirting with him, she had backed way off. He never knew why she’d done such a sudden turn-around, but he’d been relieved, and since then, they’d developed an easy friendship. She never pressed him or turned that now-infamous killer smile on him. They just chatted amiably about unimportant things, and Max had discovered her wicked sense of humor. More than once, she’d hit the nail on the head with her whispered characterization of a classmate and forced a chuckle from Max, in spite of himself.
“Hey, Max,” she yawned, as he took his seat next to her.
“Don’t get me started, Slade,” he chastised her. “I can’t stop yawning either. Why are you so tired?”
“Well, three guys called and asked me out last night—some hayride thing the school’s sponsoring—and I can’t decide who to go with. Kept me up all night.”
Max grinned at her. “Tough one. Who are the candidates?”
“Jeff Tiller asked first. He’s cute, but he thinks he’s James Dean and I’m afraid all that grease might make me slip off his motorcycle.”
Max chuckled. “Okay, next?”
“Phil Juarez. He has a Corvette and great eyes, but his ego is bigger than his brain, and I don’t know if I can take a whole night of South Park impersonations, ya know?”
Max was laughing openly now. “And bachelor number 3?”
“Ryan Peterson. He’s been real nice to me, but everyone says he treats girls well until they fall for him, and then he dumps them. I’m not into jerks.”
“Some choice. What’re you going to do?”
Slade eyed him tentatively. “Kyle Valenti is really sweet. You think I have a shot with him?”
Max pulled his mouth to one side in thought. “I can’t speak for Kyle, Slade, but I know he’s been working on something with Tess Harding. I think it’s working out pretty well. You’ll have to decide whether you want to test those waters or not.”
Slade frowned. “Nah. I’ve watched your group, Max. Everybody seems really tight, close. I envy that, actually. We always seem to be moving, so I’ve never really had super close friends or long-term boyfriends. Man, you and Liz . . .”
Max knitted his brows in confusion. “What about us?”
Slade smiled at him, a smile of open friendship. “I saw you two at lunch that first day—remember, you pushed me off on Pam Troy?”
Max looked down in embarrassment. “Sorry about that.”
“No, I deserved it. I was coming after you hard, I admit, but that day at lunch, I saw your face change when you saw Liz. I watched you kiss her, and I swear, Max, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. You guys have something special, and I realized right then that I didn’t want to mess up anything that beautiful.”
Max stared at her in obvious surprise. “You could see that?”
“See it, Max? The whole school can see it. It’s like having our very own Romeo and Juliet on campus!”
Max blushed again but couldn’t keep the broad smile from his face . . . or his eyes. Slade grinned in response. “See? There it is. That look. I hope I put that look on someone’s face someday.”
“Of course, you will,” Max mumbled encouragingly. “I . . .”
“Waiting for Godot,” their teacher began. “Thoughts?”
Max reached for his book with one last glance at Slade. Her grin was still there, a teasing in her eyes. He looked away. Girls fantasizing? Classmates analyzing his kisses with Liz? Vidoni watching his every move? Had he ever been behind that tree he’d always imagined?
The morning dragged by, and Max’s self-consciousness had only escalated. He was afraid to scratch his ear or smile or . . . or anything, wondering constantly who might be watching or what they might be thinking. He hurried to Trig, anxious for Liz’s calming presence. As soon as he swung through the door, he caught her eye and every other thought left his mind.
He lowered himself into the desk adjacent to hers and she reached for his hand, acutely aware of his difficult morning. “You okay?” she asked gently.
“Yes, now that I’m with you.”
Focusing well for the first time today, Max was working through the sample problems their teacher had just written on the board when an office messenger entered the room. Curious eyes watched the teacher unfold the piece of paper and read it. When he raised his eyes, he searched the room, his gaze landing on Max and then Liz.
“Max, Liz? You’re needed in the school office right after this class.” He tossed the paper away and turned to answer a question about the problem on the board. Max and Liz exchanged glances, and this time, they shared their nervousness through the rest of 4th period.
As soon as the bell rang, they made their way to the main office. Dismayed to find Mr. Vidoni waiting for them, they approached the counter. Liz looked up at the vice-principal. Was he taller today? He sure seemed taller.
“Did you need to see us, sir?” Liz began politely.
“Yes. When I last spoke with your parents, I was led to believe you two planned to graduate in the spring.” His scowl left no doubt as to his feelings about that meeting or about this decision. “I trust you’ve all come to your senses since then, but we are compiling the list of graduates who need to be measured for caps and gowns right after winter break, and I need to know what your plans are.”
“Yes, sir,” Max said firmly. “We are going to graduate.” Good grief, Max thought. Is this guy standing on something or what?
Liz suppressed a giggle. She wondered if this pathetic man’s insecurities were as obvious to everyone else as they were to Max and her. Vidoni moved to reach for a binder that was lying toward the end of the countertop when he suddenly pitched sideways. Papers went flying, the intercom microphone tipped, and a loud “Ummpphhh, shit!” erupted from the floor behind the counter.
“Goddammit!” Vidoni sputtered as he scrambled back to his feet, his face contorted in pain and anger, his stature visibly diminished. Max and Liz’s shocked expressions did little to hide the humor fairly bursting from their eyes and lips, and Vidoni became furious.
“You find this funny? Let me tell you something, Mr. Evans, Ms. Parker. You two have been a thorn in my side all semester. I won’t be sorry to see either of you go. You want to graduate early? So be it. But when you’ve left high school behind and found out that the world out there is not full of fun and romance and naïve parents fixing your messes, I’ll be the one laughing. You think you’ve got it made, but college will be harder than you think, and what you see as love right now will be a painful memory when one of you trots off with someone new.” He stopped abruptly, suddenly aware of the extent of his outburst.
The humor had left Max’s eyes, and now they burned with anger. “Mr. Vidoni. I’m not sure why you see us as trouble, but I assure you, we’ve never done anything to hurt you or this school. We will graduate early, we will succeed in college, and we will be together. We’re getting married in August. So please put our names down on your list and get the hell off our backs.”
He took Liz’s hand and they left just as Principal Forester burst through the office doors. They weren’t there to see him march grimly to the counter, pick up the microphone, switch it to “off,” and yell, “Vidoni! In my office. NOW!”
The hum of lunchtime conversation and laughter bounced off the walls surrounding the quad. The weather was unusually warm, and most students had chosen to eat outside in the sunshine and fresh air.
“Hey, where are Max and Liz?” Maria asked as she sat at the gang’s usual table.
“I don’t know,” Isabel shrugged. “I saw Max in the hall after third period. He was headed to Trig. Actually, he looked a little nervous. You don’t think something’s wrong, do you?”
The quad fell silent as the crowd of students stopped talking, chewing, or moving. Every eye stared at the large speaker mounted against the building.
Quiet laughter bubbled up from scattered tables, and almost every face broke into a smile. They waited, frozen, for the next words.
“You find this funny? Let me tell you something, Mr. Evans, Ms. Parker. You two have been a thorn in my side all semester. I won’t be sorry to see either of you go. You want to graduate early? So be it. But when you’ve left high school behind and found out that the world out there is not full of fun and romance and naïve parents fixing your messes, I’ll be the one laughing. You think you’ve got it made, but college will be harder than you think, and what you see as love right now will be a painful memory when one of you trots off with someone new.”
Michael stood suddenly, almost tipping the bench where Maria, Tess, and Kyle were also sitting. Isabel looked at him, then to Alex.
“Oh my god!” she breathed. Their eyes were wide as they waited to hear what was happening. Then it came.
“Mr. Vidoni. I’m not sure why you see us as trouble, but I assure you, we’ve never done anything to hurt you or this school. We will graduate early, we will succeed in college, and we will be together. We’re getting married in August. So please put our names down on your list and get the hell off our backs.”
A whoosh, then a clanking, then silence. The quad remained in suspended animation, hoping for more, but it was soon obvious that today’s eavesdropping session was over. Like a light switch, the noise level zoomed from nonexistent to deafening. Everyone was laughing, speculating, and cheering at the verbal whipping Vidoni had just taken. Michael sat down as quickly as he’d stood up, a smirk on his face.
“This is gonna be good,” he observed. Everyone at their table turned to watch the entrance to the quad, knowing that Max and Liz would be joining them shortly.
It was only a moment before the unsuspecting couple appeared in the doorway. They stopped short as they heard the unusually loud crowd noise dim to a whisper and realized everyone was staring at them. They exchanged looks nervously. This was turning into a seriously weird day.
They were startled yet again when the quiet gave way to loud cheering, whistling, and clapping. Liz was starting to get frightened, and she looked at Max to see his reaction was much the same. Soon Isabel and Maria reached their side.
“Oh my god, Max! What was that all about?”
“What was what all about?” he asked, more confused by the minute.
“That whole thing in the office with Vidoni!” Maria explained. “It was on the PA system! Everybody heard it!”
“What?” gasped Liz, taking in the cheering crowd with embarrassment.
“Oh, and Max?” Maria giggled. “You know how you wanted to keep the wedding a secret for a while?” She smiled and batted her eyes. “Forget it.”
The crowd noise had started to take shape, and soon a chant of “Kiss her! Kiss her! Kiss her!” was vibrating the walls. This crowd had gotten their happy ending to the Romeo and Juliet story that played out daily in their school, even though they only knew the tip of the iceberg. Max saw Slade standing off to the side, and she winked at him. What she’d told him had been right on . . . again.
Max looked at Liz, struck by the happiness in her eyes. So everybody knew. Big deal. Max asked her silently for a decision, and she nodded. He gathered her into his arms and descended to her lips, letting the familiar magic control him. In spite of the huge audience and deafening roar, they stood apart from it, wrapped in the protective cocoon of their love, and savored each other for a rare, public moment. As soon as they felt the beginning warmth that signaled the formation of their unique glow, they pulled apart amidst shouts of approval.
“Well, Mr. Evans,” Liz whispered in his ear. “I guess the cat’s out of the bag.”
“Well, Mrs. Evans,” he answered her, eyes radiating happiness, “I guess I couldn’t care less.”
The cheering accompanied them all the way back to their lunch table. Their friends greeted them, laughing at the irony of the situation.
“Way to be inconspicuous, Max,” Alex drawled.
Max could only grin. His tree days were definitely behind him.
The next few days were busy ones for the friends and families of Max Evans and Liz Parker. Max and Michael got in touch with Josh and Jasar, who agreed to take responsibility for contacting Antul. It had also been decided that Mark, Gregory, and Kurt, who had shown their ability and loyalty during the hard days at Apache Point would serve as ex officio members of the Council, taking notes and communicating decisions to the Earthbound Voyans. They would also be available if one of the regular members was unable to attend a meeting.
Josh, Tess, Isabel, Alex, and Philip worked with Max and Liz to write up a formal proposal to present to Rana while Jasar and Zeval brainstormed the specifics for an appropriate meeting environment. Sheriff Valenti was going to arrange for an official-looking but fictional reason for the area around the pod chamber to be blocked off for the big meeting, and Kyle was helping him with the physical follow-through.
The other focus was lighter in nature but every bit as intense. At first, Amy, Maria, Diane, and Nancy (drafting a reluctant Jeff to help) began to make plans for an August wedding, but at the first brief meeting about the general theme and nature of the wedding, Max and Liz reminded them of a crucial detail.
“Mom, Diane, I think if you take a minute, you’ll realize we can’t have a regular church wedding in town.”
I guess that was too subtle, Liz thought, as she glanced up at Max. He bit his lip and returned her look. He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Uh, you’ve all seen what happens when Liz and I . . . you know, kiss or . . . or when our feelings get too strong . . .”
“The glowy thing!” Maria squealed. “I forgot. Can’t you control that? Even just for a few minutes at a wedding?”
Max felt his face get warm, and he looked helplessly at Liz. She blew out a deep breath.
“It comes on pretty quickly now,” she explained, trying not to look anyone in the eye. “We’re hoping Rana can help us figure out how to control it, but she’s never seen this before either, if you recall. The fact is, I don’t see how I can say my wedding vows to Max and then kiss him . . .” She smiled at him shyly, and he squeezed her hand. “How can I do that and keep my emotions under control?”
“I couldn’t do it, either,” he agreed. “I don’t want to have to try to feel less on my wedding day.”
“So what do we do?” asked Nancy. “I don’t want you to just stand in some courtroom.”
“No, not a court room,” Liz said softly. She looked to Max to continue.
“We want Rana to be there, and Michael’s grandfather Marcus,” he began excitedly, “and all of the cadre who helped us so much at Apache Point.” He looked at their expectant, confused faces. “We want to be married in the Star Chamber, with all the people who love us and support us—the people who know the truth and will share in this new beginning.”
Understanding dawned on them, and they began to smile. “I can’t think of anything more appropriate,” Diane said, awed by the possibility her son had just presented. “But how? We have no idea what to do!”
“Rana and Antul,” Max answered hopefully. “Once we’ve secured approval of our plan for political change, we’ll ask for help with this.”
Nancy and Diane exchanged a look. “Well, we’ve adjusted to everything else,” shrugged Nancy. “I guess we’ll figure this one out, too.”
Liz stooped to give her mother a happy hug. Everything would work out in the end. She just knew it.
The orbs had worked their magic, and the desert was alight with the contained glow of another interplanetary meeting. Rana had been surprised at the number of people waiting for her arrival, but the happy looks on Max and Liz’s faces assured her immediately that nothing was amiss.
“My son, we are many tonight. Is this a celebration?”
“That’s going to be up to you, I guess,” Max told her. Hand in hand, Max and Liz approached his Voyan mother. “Mother, you have taught me so much over the last few weeks about our planet and the others in our system, the turmoil that plagues them, your hopes for the future. I’m here now, with my queen, my family, and my friends to present a plan that I hope will offer our world a better future. Those you see here have helped formulate the plan and support it. May I tell you about it?”
Rana smiled. “Of course, my son. You are our king, and whatever you say is of importance to us.”
“Well, you’ve stumbled on the first and most important element of the plan,” Max said tentatively. “My plan involves abdicating the throne, dissolving the royal line, and introducing democracy in which every planet would have a say.”
Every onlooker tensed as Rana absorbed her son’s—her king’s—shocking statement. She surveyed the faces of Max’s supporters and came back to look on Liz and then Max. “This is what you want? To cease to be our king? I had not expected this.”
“Mother, that doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on you or our people. On the contrary, I want to help lead them to a new way of life, a way of thinking that could drastically reduce the animosity in our system and give the planets a way to resolve differences without violence.”
“Rana,” Liz interrupted softly. “We know this requires a huge leap of faith on your part, and on the part of every being in your system, but Max plans to start slowly and carefully. Let us explain how this would work.”
Rana nodded her agreement, still looking shaken. For the first time ever, she called for a seat and folded her hands in her lap, waiting to hear the details of this astonishing new proposal. Max began with an outline of the slow evolution from a monarchy to a democracy. As he continued, others who had worked on the plan jumped in with clarifications and reassurances. What struck Rana most was the group effort this represented. Through his presentation, Max was demonstrating the very plan he was endorsing. He had enlisted the support and advice of full-blooded Voyans, hybrids, and humans. He planned to include residents of each planet, including Earth. He had foreseen the need for slow, incremental progress toward the final goal. And he intended to provide the leadership to which he was born without exercising the privileges and authority that usually came with it. She watched as he welcomed every interruption from a participant who could add more detail or a different perspective. She noted when he invited someone with more experience or expertise to correct him if he misstated something. She realized she was witnessing the group thinking, the give-and-take, and the mutual respect that this plan embraced.
The enthusiasm among the group charged the atmosphere, and Rana sat back, impressed with the genuine respect that governed the proceedings. Granted, all of these people were predisposed to democracy and to support Max, but she saw real potential in their ideas and for the first time, a tangible hope for her people.
At her extended silence, Max tensed once again. He’d been caught up in his presentation, and had lost track of how Rana might be responding to it. Now, as he looked at his Voyan mother, Max could tell she was thinking deeply about what she had seen. He just couldn’t tell how she felt about it. He looked at Liz for a hint, but Liz shook her head. She couldn’t read Rana.
Her gaze fell on him, and his heart leapt at what her eyes were saying. He saw pride and determination, and his breath caught as she rose and walked toward the royal couple.
“Zan. Max. You are truly the leader of our people as you were meant to be. Liz, you are truly his soulmate, his strength and solace. Do you remember the night you came to me to meet your Earth families?”
“Your joining symbols melded together that night, and a shower of sparks descended on you. I told you then that this seemed to be the realization of an ancient prophecy that said after centuries of political unrest, we would one day have a king and queen whose joining embodied a perfect love--a love for the ages, and that they would turn the tide of our history and lead us to a lasting peace.”
She raised her hands toward them, eyes shining. “What you have shown me tonight is that path to peace. You and Liz have fulfilled the prophecy we almost dared not believe anymore. You have my blessing, dear ones, and you have my support in thought and deed whenever you need it. I will choose my advisor, and we will be at your disposal. Just let me know what I can do.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Rana pledged her love and support. Max had never wished so hard that he could hold his mother in his arms, but he knew that was impossible. Instead, he clung to Liz and let his eyes speak of his gratitude.
“There is one thing,” Max smiled.
“Anything, my son.”
“There’s the small matter of the wedding. We have a few questions for you.”
Laughter rung out in the desert, and the bond among the members of this extraordinary group grew stronger yet again. Max and Liz surveyed the wondrous scene, and the joy in their hearts burst upon the gathering with a blinding glow. Max bent to kiss his soulmate, his queen, his bride, and a cheer went up. The destiny they had lost sight of for a brief time had finally found its fulfillment in this time, in this place, and with these people. As they always knew they would, even in the darkest of times, they had found it in each other.
To Come: The Epilogue (Can you hear wedding bells?)
Edited by - Carol000 on 10/02/2001 00:41:00
Edited by - Carol000 on 10/02/2001 00:54:57
Edited by - Carol000 on 10/05/2001 10:58:55
Edited by - Carol000 on 10/05/2001 10:59:46
|posted on 4-Oct-2001 10:58:01 AM by Carol000|
|WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, ROSPALS!Here we are, on the brink of Season 3! They tried to deny us, but we made some noise and here we are. It's been 18 months since I started EPIPHANIES 1, and now you are about to read the last installment of the trilogy--about 500 pages later! I have loved writing this more than you can ever know. But above all, I love how it's brought me closer to so many wonderful new Rospals. Some I've met, and some I haven't, but this little community of ours has been a joy, and I look forward to this next year.|
I plan to take it a little easy for the foreseeable future. Next up will be the Halloween installment of a fluffy little series of 1/1 stories I've been contemplating called "Dreamer-Friendly Holidays." Keep a look out for that. Meanwhile, THANK YOU for being there with me on this long journey. I hope you enjoy the wedding--it's certainly "different"! I hope it's worthy of the great faith and support you've given me!
Sayonara for now,
I love you.
Liz stopped adjusting her wedding dress abruptly, closed her eyes, and let a smile soften her tense features. She could feel Max so strongly, and it calmed her to know that he was close by, fighting his impatience for the wedding to begin so he could call her his wife in front of all the world. The ceremony was only an external ritual; in their hearts, they'd been married for a long time.
"Hey, the groom isn't supposed to see the bride before the ceremony!" Maria scolded, correctly diagnosing Liz’s faraway expression. "And I'm pretty sure that includes telepathically."
I love you, too, Max. I'll see you in a few minutes, and then no one will ever keep us apart again. She felt his happiness and excitement, and it warmed her all over. She opened her eyes and smiled affectionately at her best friend. "It was just a peek," she assured her, "and it calmed my nerves, so you should be thanking him."
Maria tried to frown, but her friend was radiating happiness, and she just couldn't pretend not to feel it, too. It hadn't been easy reaching this point. Everything about the ceremony represented a compromise between Earth custom and Voyan tradition: the setting, the clothing, the symbols, the ritual. Only the vows had been left out of the discussions. Max and Liz were adamant that they be allowed to say what they wanted to each other. There was so little they were unwilling to negotiate that the families and advisors wisely left that one alone. In the end, Liz and Max were both thrilled with the result. The wedding would be unique to them, as was everything else about their lives.
The immediate families of the bride and groom had rented a large vacation home in the mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona, away from Roswell’s well-meaning but prying eyes. It was there that everyone prepared for the wedding, and it was from there that Isabel and Josh would accompany each member of the wedding party into the Star Chamber. The home's three levels had been ideal, with the Evans family settling in on the sub-level, the Parkers on the second floor, and the main floor open to everyone. It had worked out beautifully—except for the part where Max and Liz weren’t supposed to see each other the night before or the day of the wedding. Although the bride and groom had agreed to honor this tradition from both cultures, they found themselves struggling to contain their thoughts and emotions on the eve of the realization of their dream.
Flashback: Last night
Max stretched unconvincingly. “I’m bushed. Think I’ll turn in,” he yawned, rising from the chair.
Isabel’s radar sounded. Max was wound too tight to sleep just yet. Her eyes narrowed as they followed him down the stairs to the lower level. Instantly, she went in search of Maria only to find her suspicions confirmed. Liz, too, had claimed to need a good night’s sleep before the next day’s activities and had skipped off to bed, looking decidedly unsleepy. Sighing with amused frustration, Isabel grabbed Alex and hauled him toward a bedroom. Grinning suggestively, he slid his arms around her waist.
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands off me the whole night.”
Isabel rolled her eyes and kissed him soundly. “Sorry, loverboy, this is about keeping the bride and groom’s hands off each other. They’ve gone to bed. Early. Why do you suppose they did that?”
Alex nodded knowingly. “We couldn’t give them a few minutes?” he pleaded, understanding their need.
“No!” Isabel retorted. “They’re not supposed to see each other. It’s bad luck.”
Alex resigned himself to his role as “calming influence” for Isabel, and they climbed onto the bed. Deep breaths signified Isabel’s effort to will herself to sleep and into her brother’s dream. This had gotten her in trouble before, and she hoped she wasn’t too late to avoid catching them “in the act.” When she emerged into Max’s dream, though, she was greeted by a warm and loving sight. Max and Liz were standing on a promontory overlooking a calm sea that sparkled under a red sunset.
“I’ll make you happy, Liz,” she heard him say as he framed Liz’s face with his large, gentle hands.
“You already have,” she sighed, raising her lips to his.
The Kiss. Isabel could feel the intense emotion radiating from that kiss, and her eyes teared up in spite of herself. She loved Max so much, and she knew the fear and loneliness of their lives had weighed on him even more heavily than it had her. She couldn’t help but rejoice in the peace of mind and great love that was finally his. She let them have their moment.
Then she cleared her throat loudly, and they looked back at her, totally unsurprised at her appearance.
“Looks like the Gestapo didn’t waste any time,” Max chuckled, watching his sister bristle at the reference. Then he surprised her by letting go of Liz and walking toward her, sweeping her into a great bear hug. “I love you, Izzy,” he whispered, his voice brimming with happiness.
She threw her arms around her brother and hugged him fiercely. “Be happy, Max.”
Now Liz was the one to tear up, and she sighed contentedly. Max needed this, too—this closeness with his family. And he deserved it; he had been their strength for so long.
Isabel finally pulled back. “You’re breaking the rules,” she scolded weakly.
Max put on his little boy face. “I couldn’t go all night without seeing Liz, Izzy. I had to at least say goodnight.” His puppy-dog eyes melted her heart, and she laughed.
“Then mission accomplished,” she said firmly, winking at Liz. “Let’s see, what’ll it take to keep me out of your dreams tomorrow night,” she mused loudly.
At the horrified expression on his face, the dream had dissipated, Isabel’s laughter echoing into nothingness.
Isabel poked her head in the door. "Ten minutes!" she reminded everyone excitedly. Then her eyes lit on Liz, and she stopped cold, her mouth agape. She walked slowly toward her future sister-in-law and bit back an emotional sigh.
"Liz, you've made my brother so happy. I know I can never make up for my original attitude toward you, but I want you to know, I believe in you–in both of you. You are meant for each other, and for this future we're forging together. God bless you." She leaned forward and placed a light kiss on Liz's cheek, smiled shakily, and left. Liz stared at the door that closed behind her. Isabel had just improved upon what Liz had already considered the perfect day. Sometimes, Liz could almost see why Max loved her so.
A tiny sob escaped Nancy Parker's lips as she gazed upon her beautiful daughter. In spite of the many astonishing truths she had struggled to accept over the last year, she realized there was one central truth she would never doubt: Max Evans loved her daughter to the core of his being, and he would keep her as happy and as safe as was humanly (or otherwise) possible. She'd never seen such devotion and electricity between two people before, and she couldn't bring herself to wish for anything more "normal" for her daughter. She had finally accepted that this was meant to be.
Her daughter's image blurred as the tears threatened to spill down Nancy's cheeks. Liz was a vision in white. Her dress's off-the-shoulder lace bodice draped gracefully in the front, tracing a soft line from arm to arm, and the empire waist gave way to a textured satin that lightly skimmed her tiny figure all the way to the floor. The train was a flat panel that attached at the top of the dress between her shoulder blades and fanned out modestly to trail only a couple of feet behind her. Down its length, burgundy stitching, the only nod to the Voyan royal color, outlined the new symbol of the evolving alliance: a circle around which perched the symbols of each of the six planets. From each symbol, a vine grew toward the talishe in the center, the only bird native to each of the planets in the alliance except Earth. The vine was meant to symbolize both strength and flexibility leading to common ground as symbolized by the talishe. The same symbol appeared in the center of the wide satin choker that graced Liz's neck, which had been left uncharacteristically bare beneath the thick, shining waves atop her head. Graceful tendrils escaped around her face, and a wreath of white flowers crowned the elegant effect. It was perfect. It was Liz.
Max paced in the large room that had been set aside for his entourage. He had insisted on limiting the "help" that was offered, wanting only his and Liz's fathers, Michael, Alex, and Kyle to wait with him. Alex and Kyle had kept him laughing, a godsend for his frayed nerves, and the dads were so busy reminiscing about their own weddings that they stayed blissfully unaware of Max's growing impatience. Michael saw it, of course. But instead of trying to calm his friend, he just kept picturing himself in that position in the not-too-distant future, and soon he was as nervous as the groom.
"I'm eloping!" he blurted out unexpectedly. "I would never survive this shit."
Alex eyed him skeptically. "Have you mentioned this to the girl who teethed on 'How to Find the Perfect Man and Plan the Perfect Wedding'?" he asked straight-faced.
Michael paled, and laughter filled the room.
"I'm supposed to be the nervous one," teased Max, relaxing suddenly. He reached out for Liz, even though they'd agreed not to.
I love you, he told her, sensing her tension. Then he felt her relax, too.
I love you, too, Max. I'll see you in a few minutes, and then no one will ever keep us apart again.
Tess knocked and then opened the door. "Ten minutes, guys!"
Everyone left the room to assume their places, leaving Max alone for a few minutes. The quiet moment prompted a reflective train of thought, and Max smiled to think how far they'd come. The preceding months had been both frightening and exhilarating. There had been plenty of skepticism and suspicion when Max's plan was first introduced, and his abdication had been postponed to ensure stability during the initial stages of the transition. Their first serious crisis had come to a head when Durin wanted to raise the price of a valuable ore they mined. The Voyan and Theronian representatives were outraged, and the Council vote was tied. After reviewing the claim, Max cast the deciding vote in favor of Durin, and the shocked Council members began to realize that Max’s decisions would not always be “Voyan” decisions, and that maybe, just maybe, this could work.
Since these seeds of trust were planted, the Council had expanded to include four representatives per planet, and Max had abdicated the throne, assuming the role of Prelate. From that position, he was currently nurturing the fledgling democracy and gaining the support and respect of a growing segment of the alliance's population.
Liz had also become a respected member of the Council, offering reasoned opinions and a compassionate perspective on a wide range of issues. The easy and open way of communicating and the spirit of compromise modeled by the hybrids quickly put the alien Council members at ease, and there was more optimism about the future than had been evident for generations. As a result, there were layers and layers of officials vying for the honor of attending their leaders’ wedding, and their guest list had grown by leaps and bounds.
Fortunately, the very nature of the Star Chamber gave them unlimited resources. It was, after all, more a state of mind than a tangible place. As a result, their imaginations took flight, and the result was idyllic. The setting was the valley where Claudia had taken them so many months ago to explain the journey they would take to find their Anasazi roots. The large meadow at the base of a mountain was home to abundant flowers and a meandering stream. The night was calm and, at first, very dark, but that was by design, for one of the most cherished Voyan traditions was being observed.
At each distant location, Star Chamber members were on hand to bring the guests into the ceremony. As each guest entered the Star Chamber, they were greeted by one of the wedding party: Kurt, Mark, Gregory, Josh, Jasar, or Zeval. Enfolding the new guest’s hands in their own, the greeter asked the guest to put their good wishes for the newlyweds at the forefront of their minds. As the guest complied, the greeter would draw out the essence of these positive thoughts until they became a shimmering globe of light—“lunettes” Rana had called them. Once released, the small globe floated upwards and came to rest above the gathering. As more people arrived, the dark sky began to sparkle with more and more of these lunettes until the night was alight with the love and good thoughts of the guests.
The strings of the Voyan lutan and the airy notes of the flute combined into a light, festive strain, and the guests quieted, standing at all times out of respect for their former king and his mate. In many minds, they would always be the royal couple, in spite of their protestations. King or Prelate, Queen or Council member, these two had already earned loyalty and respect.
Max strode to the front of the gathering, where a raised platform allowed all of the guests to see the ceremony. Marble stairs leading to the burgundy-carpeted platform were placed at each side and up the center. It was the only non-natural element in this rustic setting, but most of the advisors from both Earth and Voya had felt it would be expected that the site of their official “joining” impart a sense of importance and leadership. Feeling their obligation to their people, Max and Liz had agreed.
Taking his place on the top step of the center stairs, Max spread his arms to quiet the last hushed whispers among the guests. Looking toward the rear, his eyes searched for the light of his life. He could feel her so near, but he couldn’t see her. Liz, on the other hand, peeked surreptitiously from behind a tree and drank in the sight of the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on. He, too, was dressed in white. The fitted pants were only visible from the mid-thigh down, being covered above that by the long white jacket that hugged his hard, muscular body. Its stand-up collar was trimmed in burgundy, and the long sleeves touched the tops of the white gloves. The wide sash that encircled his trim waist folded over at the front, allowing the two ends to hang crisply down his front. The outer panel of the sash carried the new alliance’s symbol, matching the stitching on Liz’s gown and choker. His tanned skin, dark hair, and piercing golden eyes contrasted starkly with his suit, and Liz was immobilized by the striking beauty of her husband. Had she never known the kindness of his heart or the gentleness of his soul, she would still have felt herself drawn to this gorgeous, dignified, intense man. She was giddy with anticipation.
Max could feel Liz’s intense scrutiny from just beyond his sight. He knew he had pleased her, and he wasn’t sure just how much more happiness he could hold. His smile to their guests was genuine as he uttered the traditional Voyan wedding greeting.
“ Gratan tu venissur scearar summitta tut dies. Thank you for coming to share the best of all days.”
Then Max descended the stairs and made his way to the rear of the gathering, where the attendants prepared to precede the bride and groom to the front. Unlike Earth weddings, they were arranged not by gender, but by ancestry: Tess, Isabel, and Michael for Max; Kyle, Alex, and Maria for Liz. They paired themselves off for the regal procession to the front, where Pastor Lancaster was waiting. He was a hybrid who had actually become a minister, finding great peace and purpose in the God that he believed had created them all. He was the perfect answer to making this a legal union on Earth while understanding the unique other-worldliness of the proceedings. His sense of humor and flexibility about the ceremony had relieved a lot of tension along the way, and Max and Liz had come to call him friend.
Michael and Maria were the first couple in the procession, followed by Isabel and Alex and then Tess and Kyle. As each couple reached the platform, the hybrid would take the hands of the human and draw out a lunette for each of them. Then they would separate, walking to either side of the platform and taking their places up the side stairs. By the time all three couples had done so, an arch of lunettes hung suspended above the spot where the couple would say their vows.
Max, flanked by his Earth parents, came solemnly down the aisle. He glanced at the faces of their guests, human and alien, and was momentarily overwhelmed by the unlikely place he’d found himself today. No guest had hidden his or her identity behind a human form. The Voyans and their closely related neighbors from other planets in the alliance were there as themselves, and the trust, honesty, and acceptance this represented was a strong testament to the difference Max and the Council had made in less than a year. His tendency to loathe what he was had long since passed, and he realized he’d lost count of the many blessings that made up his life now.
A collective gasp rippled through the crowd, and Max knew that Liz, his greatest blessing, had appeared at the entrance to the ceremony. He felt her thoughts surging with excitement in spite of their Herculean efforts to keep them bottled up for just a while longer. Max beamed; Liz would have been enough to make his life complete all by herself. He wasn’t surprised that her beauty had awed their guests, but he resented the fact that he would be the last to see her, not the first. He fought the urge to turn and look at her, but it would have been considered a breach of protocol. He’d just about had it with protocol.
As Liz started down the path, her parents on either side of her, the shake of a tambourine marked each step, building a sense of excitement. Liz didn’t need any help being excited. As soon as she had appeared, she felt Max’s acknowledgment of her presence, sensed his sudden response to her powerful emotions, even through her enormous restraint. Linking her arms through her parents’, she held on tightly as the first startling vibrations of the tambourine reverberated around her.
When Max and his parents finished their interminable march to the front of the gathering, Max turned with them to gaze on his bride stepping slowly toward him up the aisle. Their eyes met and time stood still. God, how beautiful she was! And how she looked at him! They loosed their emotions, flooding each other with wave after wave of love, excitement, happiness, gratitude, and hope. A tear slid down Max’s face, shocking the guests who observed this tumultuous but silent exchange. Most of the guests had the ability to pick up on strong emotions, and the impact in the room was visible. Wide eyes, open mouths, and a marked increase in what had been the subtle glowing of the natural Voyan forms left the room in eerie quiet. Even the lutan and flute were silenced momentarily as everyone adjusted to the heightened electricity in the room.
The parents flinched when actual physical sensations tingled through their bodies as a result of the contact with their children. “Max!” Diane Evans whispered, looking worriedly at her son. “What’s happening?”
Shaken from his strong connection with Liz by the worry in his mother’s voice, he looked at her, assessing quickly what impact they were having on his parents, and from the look of it, Liz’s parents, too. Having released the explosive build-up of emotion, they were able to reign themselves in, and the charged atmosphere in the room subsided a notch, although the glow that had become routine when they touched had already begun to swirl. The music resumed, and Liz and her parents joined them at the front.
Liz was lost in Max’s eyes, and it took a squeeze of her father’s hand to bring her back to the ceremony. Smiling with embarrassment, she looked at Max’s parents, still standing on either side of him. They smiled back, understanding and a hint of humor in their eyes. They had long since realized how totally besotted these two were with each other. They just hoped they'd make it through the next 15 minutes!
Liz and her parents faced Max and his parents for several seconds as Rana and Pastor Lancaster said a blessing in both Voyan and English. Then the six of them joined hands, forming a circle. Adhering to Voyan custom again, the two fathers stepped forward to kiss Liz’s cheeks; then the two mothers kissed Max. Finally, the parents lifted Max’s and Liz’s hands, pressed them together, and stepped back, leaving Max and Liz, palm to palm, alone at the base of the center stairs.
It was Max’s turn to fall into Liz’s loving eyes. Finally being able to see her, touch her, meld his thoughts to hers, he felt he had already satisfied all of his goals for the ceremony. His heart was racing and his body burned for her. Liz’s reaction was no less extreme. His urgency brought color to her cheeks and her shallow breathing threatened to make speech impossible. Rana made a rare intrusion into their thoughts, and smiled in satisfaction as they blinked, the spell broken . . . for the moment.
They turned toward the platform and slowly ascended the steps, Max’s left hand on the small of Liz’s back, his right hand holding her right hand until they reached the top.
“Honored guests,” Rana began, “this is truly the best of days. My son, Zan of Voya, Max Evans of Earth, has found his soulmate in his bride, Liz Parker. They have come together in love and joy, fulfilling a destiny foretold long ago. It not only brings happiness to them and to our people, it brings a new way of life that bodes well for our future with each other. Their union represents the fruition of 1000 years of hope and the promise of a lineage of leadership to come. Their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren will be a source of strength and promise for generations.”
No pressure, Max teased Liz without changing his outwardly dignified expression. Think of the fun we’ll have practicing those kids’ conceptions!
Liz reacted with a wide-eyed glance at her mate, surprised at his lighthearted thoughts. Seeing him working to contain a smile, the resultant smirk struck her funny, and she choked on her laughter, covering it up quickly with a light clearing of her throat.
“Liz, Max?” Rana continued, giving them a gentle warning with her eyes. “Are you ready for the joining?”
They extended their palms, as they had done twice before with Rana. Rana’s hand hovered over Max’s, then Liz’s; immediately, the identical glowing joining symbols appeared in their palms. There was a murmur of approval throughout the crowd at the outward confirmation that this joining was meant to be. Everyone watched, mesmerized, as the symbols rose into the air, high above the couple’s heads, and then began to float toward each other until they touched. It was what happened next that began a rush of astonished whispers, for the symbols began to merge into one identical but larger, brighter symbol. The glow grew more and more intense until the onlookers were forced to shield their eyes. Then, with a burst, the symbol shattered, showering the happy couple with tiny shards of glowing energy.
The stunned crowd was quiet for a moment, and Rana waited patiently for the inevitable reaction. Then it came. A loud burst of applause, cheering, and shouts of approval filled the meadow and bounced off the mountain’s walls. No one except Rana and the parents had ever witnessed such a thing before, and it almost sent them into a frenzy of excitement. If any doubts had existed about this union, they had been wiped out in those few seconds. Word of this would reach the few skeptics who remained and who had stubbornly refused to attend this ceremony. No one would argue with this. It was the stuff of legends.
Max and Liz could only grin at each other. Even though they had experience this once before, there was a certain thrill in seeing such a spectacular stamp of approval for their love. Max broke tradition and pulled Liz to him.
“That’s how my heart feels every time I look at you,” he told her softly, his voice easily hidden by the noise of the crowd.
“Funny, that’s just what I was thinking,” she smiled at him.
Once the bedlam had settled down, Rana nodded at Pastor Lancaster to continue the ceremony.
“I have only known Max and Liz a short time, but that’s all it took for me to be convinced that each of them is the best thing that could have happened to the other. They each bring something strong and selfless to this union, and together, they have answered each other’s prayers as well as the prayers of nations.
“Max? Liz? You have written your own vows. Are you ready to share them now?”
They nodded, already withdrawing into the private space that encircled them whenever they focused only on each other. Again, the golden glow began to form, giving the already surprised guests one more thing to tell everyone about when they got home.
“Max, I always hoped that someday I would find that one special man, a man I could love with all my heart and who would love and cherish me with that same depth of feeling. I wanted someone who would open my eyes to new ideas and new experiences, who would know what I needed before I did, who would be someone I could look up to, respect, and honor. I prayed for someone who would accept all of me, who would acknowledge me as an equal, and who would find that my value enhanced his own.
“Never in a million years could I have anticipated finding that man, with the noblest of human qualities and the amazing gifts of an alien king, in my own hometown. You saved my life one day, and you’ve saved it every day since. I know there is a God, because only God could have opened that world to me, created the man of my dreams, and allowed me to feel such happiness and love as I never imagined.
“I will love you to the depths of my soul for eternity, Max. I will honor you, offering all of my love, my skills, and my support to our marriage and our mission. I will hold you first in my life forever, trying each day to deserve the happiness and love you have given me."
She turned to look at Maria, who stepped forward with Max’s ring in her hand. Liz had insisted on keeping Max’s ring a surprise, since hers had been a surprise from Max when he proposed. She’d had one of the hybrid craftsmen create a wide gold band encrusted with diamonds in the shape of the same spiral symbol that her matched set formed. She heard him take in his breath as its design registered. He looked at her in awe and offered his hand to her.
“Max Evans, you have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color.” She slipped the ring on his finger and then bent to kiss it. She could feel him shaking.
Max took a moment to gather himself. Her words, the design of the ring, her pledge had touched him to his very core. She was always surprising him, even with their intimate connection, and he just didn’t know how he would ever deserve this incredible woman.
“Liz, you are my heart. All of my life, you have been the center of my universe. I knew from the first day I saw you that somehow, you would be the most important part of my life. Now we have come so far together; we have learned so much about each other, about our history, about ourselves, that I know our union was truly written in the stars. If I am strong, it is because you support me; if I am wise, it is because you council me; if I love, it is because I am loved beyond my wildest dreams.
“Our worlds may never know what they owe you, Liz, but I know, and I will never forget. I will love you and care for you and cherish you above all else with every fiber of my being. And if, one day, we are blessed with the children I long to have with you, know that they have been conceived from the truest love the world has ever known.”
Max saw the tears slipping down Liz’s cheeks and felt the honest intensity of her response to his words. Turning, he took the ring from Michael’s hand and lifted Liz’s trembling fingers.
“Liz Parker, my life is not my own. It is yours. Do with it as you will.” He slid Claudia’s ring onto her granddaughter’s hand, then leaned down to kiss it. The glow around them was brilliant now, and onlookers were squinting into it, unwilling to miss a magical second.
Having been warned, Pastor Lancaster donned his sunglasses and proceeded happily.
“Unatant! They are joined!”
Liz and Max leaned in for their kiss, a passionate, electrical, mind-blowing kiss. They had done it! They were officially, publicly, eternally bound on Earth and any other planet in the universe life might take them. Max had never felt such a feeling of well-being and joy. His Liz was in his arms, and no force in the universe would ever take her away from him!
Liz was dizzy with happiness. She could feel Max’s love invading every cell of her body, every corner of her mind, and she was swept away in the avalanche. Neither of them even noticed what was happening, totally absorbed in each other’s thoughts and lips.
The crowd of onlookers, though, quieted once again as they witnessed another unprecedented phenomenon. The glow began to take shape, focusing in on itself until it had formed their joining symbol, this time rotating and pulsing as if it were alive. As the oblivious couple shared their wedding kiss, the symbol began to spin wildly until it narrowed into a thin shaft, forking at the base. Then, it shot down into the two newlyweds, terrifying the alarmed parents. Even Rana looked stunned.
Max and Liz felt a strong tingling in their bodies and they broke off their kiss, breathing heavily. “What was that?” gasped Liz.
“I don’t know,” answered Max, looking around for answers but finding only shocked faces watching them.
Then the faces broke out into smiles and Rana stepped toward the couple. Max and Liz were literally glowing—from within! They looked down at their hands and feet and saw the glow emanating from them, just as it did from the true Voyans. Max turned to Rana, half pleased, half worried, but his questions died on his lips as his Voyan mother enfolded him in her arms. Max’s shock lasted only seconds when he joyously responded, wrapping her in their first hug in over 50 years.
As a hushed crowed looked on at the unbelievable reunion, Liz tried to understand what had just happened. When Max and Rana finally pulled back, Max turned immediately to Liz and pulled her to him.
“What does this mean?” he asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“I didn’t tell you this before, my son, because it was only hypothesis, and I didn’t want to get your hopes up, but after I witnessed this glow you and Liz share, I went to my people for an explanation. There was some well-founded speculation that this was the combination of your mutual Voyan ancestry growing stronger when you two combined your life forces—a perfect example of the total being more than the sum of its parts, if you will. It just grew to such an extent today that it has become a part of you. It has elevated your Voyan side to a higher level, and now you are truly one of us. You both are. It’s possible now for us to touch, and for you to tolerate the Voyan environment!”
Liz listened to Rana’s words with mixed feelings. “Does this mean we have to be on Voya?” she asked warily.
Rana turned understanding eyes toward her new daughter. “If the same people who came up with this explanation are correct,” she assured her, “these tendencies will only be obvious when you are in a Voyan environment, as you are now. When you leave the Star Chamber, I expect you will return to normal—your normal. This shouldn’t change your lives, dear ones; it only gives you more options.”
Liz and Max turned to face their guests, a little stunned but deeply happy. No matter where they were, they would be together, and that, above all, meant everything to them. They had one last surprise waiting for them. At the base of the steps stood Zeval and Jasar, each holding a gold replica of their joining symbols. They climbed the steps to the platform and handed them each one of the symbols.
“Do you remember,” Rana asked, “when I first told you Zeval was coming to Earth? I said she was bringing you a special gift? This is your gift—a permanent reminder of your joining symbols and the love that brought you together. I hope every time you see them, it will remind you both to cherish each other with all your hearts.”
“I won’t need reminding,” Max smiled, “but the gift is beautiful. Thank you.”
“They will hold a place of honor in our home,” Liz promised, leaning in for her first hug from Rana.
Max and Liz kissed lightly this time and descended the stairs amidst a wild ovation. They greeted as many guests as they could and did their best to honor their friends by enjoying the party that followed. Eventually, though, their urgent need to be alone together won out.
I want you. Her thoughts interrupted him mid-sentence.
Max looked up from across the room and locked eyes with her. Without breaking their gaze, he said something to the people around him and strode toward her, intent on his goal. His single-minded look thrilled her, and she fought to stay in one place, waiting for him to take charge. When he reached her, he picked her up and shouted, “Isabel!”
Isabel assessed the situation immediately and hurried to her brother’s side, a sisterly smirk on her face. “In a hurry?” she asked.
“Get us out of here,” he growled.
Laughter faded behind them as Isabel helped them out of the Star Chamber, and Liz sighed with relief to see that her body no longer glowed—at least not visibly. Inside, she was glowing brightly. Max read her thoughts and fixed a penetrating gaze on her exuberant face.
“Remember how I told you once that I was glowing on the inside?” Liz felt an erotic jolt as she recalled the circumstances that night. He had touched her and made her glow, but she hadn’t been able to do it to him. He had told her then that he was glowing on the inside. It all took on a whole new meaning now.
“Well, I’m dying to see if this has any . . . um . . . affect on our lovemaking, aren’t you?” she asked breathlessly.
She hardly knew what hit her. All she knew was, seconds later she was tearing down a mountain road in a Jeep with Max, hair flying, heart soaring, the universe at her doorstep.
Not a bad destiny for a couple of kids from Roswell, New Mexico. She remembered Maria telling her once, “Destiny sucks.” Now she was prepared to disagree.
“You got that right!” Max shouted over the rush of wind, and he reached for her hand.
Destiny was damn wonderful!