posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:52:53 PM by Ashton
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Roswell, etc.
Rating: PG-13 for now
Category: M/L but others are involved
Summary: This story is based on spoilers for the "End of the World" episode of Roswell's 2nd season. It takes place 7 years into the future after "Future Max" came to speak with Liz Parker one fateful night. Following a plan they devised cost Liz the love of her life. This story is of their lives the way they would be if Max believed Liz and Kyle slept together. Read at your own risk--please remember not everything is always as it seems…

Author's note: Hey all! It's been a while. I'm so sorry about that. Hope ya'll not only remember me but this story. For those that need a refresher, I am attempting to post all past chapters then add the first part of chpt 16. I say the first part because I wanted to get something posted and a lot of the second part is done, but it will make for a long long part. So, I decided to split it up for you. Anyway, hope this isn't too boring. Please let me know what ya think!! *happy*

BehrHugs,
Ashton
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 1 ~

October 2007

The door burst open and two armed soldiers appeared with a bedraggled bundle of human flesh between them. The head was bent forward allowing dark cascades of hair to fall almost to the floor as the captive hung nearly lifeless from their rough, vice-like grips on her arms. A human wall of alien soldiers fell in behind the trio blocking any means of escape that might have been available to the prisoner.

It was unnecessary. Escape was the last thing on her mind.

Pain. Fear. Self-loathing. Defeat. Anticipation. Yes, a great deal of anticipation. A blissful thrill of excitement ran through her as her feet fought to keep up the pace the soldiers were setting when they half-dragged her into the room. Because of her actions…because of her high ranking position in the enemy camp…because of what she meant to their enemies' leader, she would be brought before the highest judge her captors knew. Their leader. Their warrior. Their king.

Max Evans spun around when he heard the scuffled just beyond the closed door to his 'war room'. His muscular arms crossed tightly over his puffed out chest when the door swung open to reveal the spoils of their latest raid. As his soldiers pulled the captor toward him, his eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched when recognition hit him like a lightning bolt.

She didn't need to raise her head for him to know her. She didn't need to meet his eyes to feel her presence, to pull her scent into his body through his nostrils or recognize her shaky breath as it came and left her body. He would know her anywhere. Any time. Any planet. Just as he had that first day he stepped off the school bus.

She was his soul…when he had one.

The soldiers stopped a few feet before Max and snapped to attention maintaining their firm grip on their latest conquest. "Our prisoner, sir. And a beaut she is. Drake's very own whore."

A flash of emotion blinked through Max's eyes and his teeth ached from the terrible clench that gripped his jaw at the sound of those words before he consciously forced his stance to relax and silently nodded once. Following their leader's signal, the soldiers dropped their charge to the ground in a heap then took a step back. She let out a faint grunt of pain as she slumped to the ground then remained outwardly motionless, her dark head bent and her eyes scrunched against the agony that ripped through her.

Pain not of body…but of heart. Of spirit. Not created by hands of flesh harming flesh. But words wounding souls.

That title. That label. That possessive condemnation of belonging to someone else. Of being dishonorable. Being dishonored. It meant nothing to her in the past. The sting of the words didn't hurt when whispered throughout the Skins' headquarters. The looks of occasional scorn and envy she endured back at camp went unnoticed. They didn’t touch her. No one had. No one could. She made sure of that years ago when she gave up her heart. When it was crushed into a million pieces as she heard that tears of the only man she'd ever love when he ran from her and her 'betrayal'. A wall had gone up around her then that only one man had the ability to knock down…

It didn't matter that the words were not true. It didn't count that no man had ever touched her. No one except Max Evans.

It only mattered that the words were believed. Only then could she carry on the plan that was forged so long ago. Only then would she have the strength to look in his eyes and not crumble into a heap of tears. Only then would she hear the sweet release of judgement that could mean the end of this charade.

Max couldn't stop the involuntary shiver that ran through him at the sound and sight of Liz Parker kneeling before him on the floor, weary and nearly broken. Her usually silky hair fell over her shoulders in a tangled mess of waves as her shoulders slumped in defeat. A girl once so full of life and possibilities brought to these depths. Made a captive of her choices. Made weary and battle-torn. Pulled into a world where she clearly did not belong.

All because he loved her so long ago.

Utter waste. Excruciating pain. Overwhelming guilt. Prolonged suffering. It would all end. And it would end tomorrow night...at sunset.

Instead of interrogation as expected, the first words Max spoke were an unexpected command. "Take her to the infirmary. See to her wounds."

"The infirmary? But sir…" One of the soldiers spoke up but was silenced by the stern look in Max's eyes as his gaze snapped to the soldier's rugged face.

"I *said* take her to the infirmary." The stern, unwavering command was not to be disobeyed.

"See she gets a private cell for proper rest. Then tomorrow at sunset…" Liz Parker's head snapped up as the command continued only to see the slump of Max's broad shoulders as he turned his back to her. "…execute her."

Tbc…



[ edited 12time(s), last at 28-Jan-2003 10:59:11 AM ]
posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:54:25 PM by Ashton
~ chapter 2 ~

June 2003

It was laughable.

Convincing Drake Banner, Lord of the Skins, that she wanted to join forces with them had been the easiest thing she'd ever done.

No. The easiest thing she'd ever done was love Max Evans. That had come to her as naturally as breathing. Hating Tess Harding ran a close second.

Perhaps it was that exact hatred that had made her so believable to the leader of the alien race that threatened the very existence of the man she loved. Of his family and friends. The people he held dearest.

Perhaps Drake believed her because she was no longer part of that exclusive group. Her membership had been revoked the night she pretended to have slept with Kyle Valenti. Although, knowing Max, if she'd pretended to just sleep with Kyle, he would have forgiven her eventually. Mere sex without emotion, performed in the midst of all the confusion and fear and rejection that was going on at the time…he might have understood one day. But what she did was even worse. She pretended to love Kyle. To have made love to him. To have wanted him to be her first.

That had been unforgivable. Irreversible. Necessary. For his own good and the good of his people. It had broken Max unlike anything had ever done before…or since.

And now, having lived a life without him for 3 years, Liz Parker was finally in a real position to help him. For the first time since finding out about Max's destiny in that cave, Liz felt…useful. Optimistic. Like she wasn't a hindrance. She'd decided months ago that if she couldn't fight Max's cause with him openly by his side, at least she could fight in the trenches. The ones that no one ever knew about. Not even Max…

The young man stared at her nervously. "So, Liz? What do you say? Will you help us? I mean, your place with all of its tunnels is beyond perfect for…"

Liz held up her hand to silence the boy. "I'm fully aware of what I can offer your cause, Gavin. And I'm not opposed to helping such a worthy fight. But…" Liz pursed her lips her gaze moving beyond the teen's face as her mind reeled with the repercussions of her request. "…I need to have your word that no one will know about me. No one but you…and Isabel."

Gavin's eyes widened. "But, Liz…Isabel sent me to you. She'll want to at least tell my leader. Max will want to know…"

"Then the deal is off." Her dark eyes snapped back to his hazel ones. "I'm sorry, but that is only way I can help you. Max Evans must never know about me or my involvement here. Give me your word on that, and everything you need…everything that I can give you is yours."

Gavin swallowed hard and nodded his assent. "I give you my word. Max will never hear your name from my lips."

"And Isabel?"

"Isabel won't tell him either." The familiar voice from the past drifted to Liz from the doorway. " I'm sorry for intruding, Liz. I couldn't wait any longer for your decision so I…"

"Used your powers to get in." Liz provided for her before she took a deep breath and eyed the beautiful blonde standing at the door to her living room. "It's ok, Isabel. I wouldn't want Gavin to swear such an oath on your behalf anyway."

Isabel addressed Gavin, her eyes still trained on Liz's face. "Gavin, could you please give us a moment alone."

Gavin nodded and tossed Liz one last smile. "Thank you."

Once the door had been closed, a moment of tense silence hung in the room until Isabel spoke again. "Wow…it's really…been a while. You look really great. How um…how have you been?"

Liz's lips tightened into a thin line as her eyes filled with unspeakable volumes of sadness. "Surviving. And you?"

Isabel shrugged her shoulders as her eyes glanced nervously around the room. "Same." A light, uncomfortable chuckle escaped her. "At least, we're trying to. Max has never quite been the same since…"

"Isabel, look. Let's not…" Liz took a step forward and then stopped herself abruptly from continuing any further. Raw emotions were hanging thick in the room and Liz instinctively knew showing those emotions was the last thing either of them needed. The last time they had spoken had been right after Liz's infamous betrayal.

Isabel told Liz in no uncertain terms to stay away from Max. She'd called Liz every name in the book and then some. Even threatened her within an inch of her life if she so much as looked at Max again after what she did. Liz had expected it. Especially from Isabel, Ice Princess on the outside, but who had a heart whose every beat was for her family.

It was that same heart Liz was facing now. "Before we start, let's not make this about Max. Or me or…or what happened in the past. This is about all of you. Your people. You need my help and I'm willing to give it to you." She paused and sucked in a shaky breath, the earnestness in her expression rivaling the sorrow in her eyes. "But I have to be sure that Max will not find out. I have to be certain before I can proceed…"

Isabel interrupted with a nod of her head. "I think it's wise. Not to tell him. It'll only screw him up again. He'll only lose focus." She let out a sigh of sadness as her gaze drifted in thought. "God knows it took him long enough to get that…we can't have him lose it now."

"So, we're agreed then." The statement was declared in a low whisper.

Isabel's eyes locked with Liz's and a small smile hung on her lips as a silent truce was formed. "Yeah. We're agreed."

A brief, relieved smile flitted across Liz's face before her rational no-nonsense self took over. "Well, then. I guess we have work to do. Let's get a pad of paper and draw a map of those tunnels, shall we?"

"Liz." Isabel reached out and stopped Liz as began to turn from her. Something in Liz's eyes called out to Isabel. A hint of pride and fear that kept Liz from asking the one thing she wanted most to know. "He never married her, you know. He never even tried to be with her. He never will…"

Liz's gaze dropped and pain thickened each word that she spoke. "That's too bad, then. He would make an amazing husband. A terrific father…"

A light squeeze of Liz's arm brought her eyes back to Isabel's. "Only to someone he loves. And you know what? That's the tragedy of it all...because he gave up on that concept a long time ago."

Lowering her gaze, Liz quickly blinked back the tears that formed like puddles in her eyes before finally finding the voice to speak. "Come on. Let's get started on our communications system…"


Thus began Liz's career as an undercover spy. Now, several months later, Liz Parker had been handed another opportunity of a lifetime to help the man she loved. Only this time, Drake Banner had been the one to hand it to her in the form of a new betrayal…


October 2007

"Izzy?"

Isabel Evans smiled down at the dark-haired bundle wrapped in her arms as she craned her slender neck to look up at her. Isabel brushed her hand through the girl's thick, shiny hair pushing it away from her beautiful dark eyes and let out an unconscious sigh. "What, sweetie?"

"Do ya t'ink my real daddy is a p'ince like in our story?" She batted the book Isabel had just finished with her small hands, her eyes widening with hope.

A secret smile danced on Isabel's lips. "It's a definite possibility."

Her tiny nose scrunched up in thought as she tilted her head once more to look at the pictures in her shiny new book. "Izzy?"

Isabel's smile deepened. That inquisitive mind of hers never stops…just like her father. Isabel's smile faded slightly. Just like her mother… Her arms wrapped protectively around the child as if trying to shield her from the thoughts that saddened her expression. "What, angel?"

"If my daddy's a p'ince…do ya t'ink my mommy's a p'incess then too?"

Isabel opened her mouth to respond only to hear the soft answer come from the direction of the door behind her. "I can answer that one."

Kennedy Anne Philips' eyes lit up at the sound of Max's voice and she twisted in Isabel's lap till she caught sight of Max in the doorway. The moment her eyes rested on him, she immediately jumped from Isabel's lap with a squeal. "Max! Lookie! Max is here!"

Kennedy's childish delight bounced off the walls as she ran to Max as fast as her little legs would carry her, throwing her arms up into the air just as Max reached down and caught her in his arms. Giving Max a fierce hug before pulling back to look in his eyes, Kennedy clapped her hands together in front of her. "Do ya get to stay?"

Max gave Kennedy a broad smile and a nod as his arms wrapped more securely around her. "Yeah, princess, I get to stay…for a while." He tweaked her nose playfully and gave her a wink. "At least until its time for you to take a nap."

A groan of protest proceeded the adorable pout that gathered on her lips. "But I don't wanna take a nap…"

Chuckling, Max headed into the room and tossed Isabel a grin. "Well, then, I guess you won't get to do something really special tonight. Something I'm going to need Izzy's help on…"

Isabel's eyebrow raised when she saw the excited light in Max's eyes. "Really? And what would this something special be?"

Max veiled his expression and shrugged his shoulders. "We'll talk later." The tone of his voice and the impatience of his gaze as it rested on the rocker Isabel was sitting in was hint enough that her brother wanted some alone time with the beautiful girl he was holding in his arms. Boy, some things never change. She could remember a time when it was another girl who claimed all of Max's attention…

"Well, I guess I should go then." Isabel stood and leaned in for a kiss which Kennedy readily provided and headed toward the door as Max slipped into the recently vacated rocker with perfect ease.

As Isabel began to swing the door closed behind her, but stopped short when she heard Max begin to answer Kennedy's question from before. "Now, angel. You wanted to know about your mommy and whether she's a real princess. Well, I can tell you for certain that she is."

Isabel smiled to herself when she heard the awe in Kennedy's voice. "You know my mommy?"

Max kissed the tip of Kennedy's nose before releasing a contented sigh as he rested his cheek against the top of her head and closed his eyes. "Yeah, I do, baby. But you know what? I didn't have to know her to know that she's the most beautiful of princesses. The bravest of the brave. The smartest of the smart. And the sweetest of the sweet." He opened his eyes and tilted his head so he could look down into Kennedye's angelic face. "After all, she gave me you. And you are all of those things…and so much more…"

Isabel closed the door behind her with a sigh and turned to be greeted by a scowling Michael. "What's wrong with you?"

"Where's Max?"

"He's in with Kennedy."

"I need to see him." Michael made a move to sidestep Isabel.

She moved to block him. "Not now you don't."

An eyebrow raised as his scowl deepened. "Iz, we don't have time for games. And he doesn't have time for fairy tales. Something major has happened and Max needs to hear about it now so we can plan…"

Crossing her arms in front of her, Isabel and backed herself against the door. "If you're suggesting we're in for a major battle then that is all the more reason to give him a few minutes of peace with Kennedy. I won't let you ruin this time for him." She pushed Michael back with a steady hand. "Now tell me what's going on."

Michael let out a deep sigh as his eyes snapped with anger. "You want to know? Fine. I'll tell you. Apparently, we captured a prisoner today. A pretty important one. And now, Drake is planning an attack to get this particular prisoner back."

Isabel paled considerably and she felt a slight tremor of fear run through her. "W-who's the prisoner?"

"Drake's very own nearest and dearest." Michael's soft answer was deafening. "We've captured none other than…Liz Parker."

Isabel's gasp echoed down the hall. "Oh my God, Michael. This'll kill Max. What are we going to do?"

The door behind Isabel opened suddenly. "Everyone will do as I say." Max stepped into the hall and closed the door firmly behind him, lowering his voice so only Isabel and Michael could hear.

"And what exactly is that, Maxwell?" Michael had taken his usual warrior stance by Max's side as if awaiting orders.

Max's eyes flicked from Michael to Isabel then back again. "Give me an hour to get Kennedy down for her nap and gather my things. Then we'll meet to discuss the plan of attack. And then tomorrow night…" Max took a deep breath as determination steadied his gaze. "…we execute the traitor…"

Tbc…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 3 ~

October 2007

Drake Banner let out a deep growl of frustration as his gaze flitted over the crudely drawn map of the latest make-shift camp Max Evans was reportedly visiting. He shook his head in disgust. Hell, what was the point? Either the spotting had been a decoy or Max had probably already moved on by now anyway since the report was already a morning old. Max Evans rarely stayed in place too long, making him a difficult enemy to track.

Having been in Max’s merry band of men for a while near the beginning of their conflict and learning the ways of the commanding leader, tracking him should be an easy task for Drake. But Max had gotten craftier, wiser through the years. He was more focused. More cautious. Less heart-driven.

All because of Liz Parker. Drake’s ace in the hole.

As an enemy infiltrator, Drake had seen first hand the effect Liz Parker had on this seemingly fearless leader. She could destroy him with a look.

Drake and Max had taken a brief trip to Albuquerque to pick Isabel up from the airport one late afternoon in the summer of 2001 when Max unexpectedly ran into Liz Parker. The tension in the air was palpable. The raw pain and open wounds were hanging in the air so thick it would have taken a chainsaw to cut through them all. Liz had been the first to speak. But when their eyes finally met in a fire-igniting stare, Max had been the first to break the connection.

He’d been the first to turn his back and run.

Rushing as fast as he could from Liz’s presence, Max barely made it around a nearby corner before he sagged against the wall, his body shaking with pain and his gut wrenching with sudden sickness while a soft moan of soul-tearing pain escaped from deep inside him.

It was in that moment, Drake Banner knew Max Evans could be vanquished. Crushed. Completely, utterly demolished.

But now, six years later, he wasn’t so sure. In fact, he was pretty damn uncertain. With Liz Parker in Max’s grasp and an executioner’s knife hanging over her heard, it was Drake who felt as if he’d been dealt a mortal blow…

Drake’s head snapped up when the door flew open with a bang.

“Where is he?” Maria DeLuca advanced two steps into the room and tried to shove her way past the guards, who secured her failure instead by instantly blocking her. Their defensive stance and guns posed a threat that Maria couldn’t ignore. Not if she expected to carry out her mission.

Her hazel eyes flashed with fire as she glared past the guard’s armored shoulders to the alien leader casually sitting just beyond her reach. “So help me God, Drake, if you don’t call off your goons now…”

“At ease, men. Let her through.” Drake’s order silenced Maria and drove Drake’s personal guards to action. The soldiers parted to allow Maria entrance into Drake’s personal sanctuary…his office.

Maria moved quickly and with purpose stopping short of running into Drake’s desk. She glared down at him, hands on hips and picked up her demand where she left off. “Well? Where is he?”

Drake tossed the papers he held in his hand on his desk. “I take it you mean Kaleb.”

“No, pod-brain, I meant the Tooth Fairy. And they say all you E.T.’s are supposed to be more intelligent life forms…what do they know?” Maria’s flippant response prompted Drake’s jaw to clench when he saw hint of laughter in his guards eyes. “Of course I mean Kaleb! Now, where is he?”

Ignoring Maria’s incessant question, Drake turned his attention instead to his guards. “I can handle this. You are dismissed.” He waited until his guards had closed the door firmly behind them turning back to Maria with an arched eyebrow. “So, you want to see Kaleb…”

“I don’t just want to see him, I’m getting him the hell out of this place.” Maria stated with unwavering determination.

Drake shook his head with a light chuckle. “And just what makes you think I’d let you do that?”

Maria placed both hands on the top of Drake’s desk and leaned down her voice becoming low and laced with malice. “Because you and I both know that little boy isn’t yours. Because we both know there’s about to be a major war over Liz’s capture. And because we both know Liz would want him out of danger when it happens.” Seeing Drake’s gaze lower, Maria continued with confidence. “Now are you going to point me in the right direction or do I have to wander this whole damn camp on my own to find him.”

Drake’s crystal blue eyes raised to meet hers. “Where will you take him?”

“To his father.”

“What makes you think Kyle Valenti can protect him like I can?” The question was a challenge not only of capability, but of a truth deeper than Drake wanted to face and Maria wanted to answer.

Maria didn’t waver. “Kyle would sacrifice his own life for that boy. I know you care for Kaleb, but can you really say the same?” Drake’s jaw stiffened and his generous lips tightened into a thin line. “No, I didn’t think so. To you, destroying Max Evans is the only goal worth dying for, isn’t it? Well, I’ll tell you something now…its not worth Kaleb dying for. He is a three year old human boy and has no business being made the pawn in some ancient alien war!”

Drake jumped up from his seat, his face reddening with anger. “No one is going to die! We will save Liz! We will win this!”

“Fine!” Maria shouted back. “Save Liz and win! Then once it all over and done, I’ll bring him back if that’s what Liz wants! But for now…” Maria drew in a ragged breath her eyes beginning to mist with a film of tears. “…for now…let me take her son to safety. Please, Drake. You know its what she would want…”

Twenty minutes later, Maria opened the door to her car and helped a little brown-eyed, brown-haired boy slip into the back seat. She handed him his favorite stuffed alien and made sure he was buckled in tightly. “There you go, precious.”

“Aunt Maria?” Kaleb turned his big round eyes on Maria, his long thick lashes shading the fear and confusion that was evident in the way he clutched his blanket to his chest.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Are we gonna see my mommy?”

Maria smiled as she blinked back sudden tears and ran her hand through his silky hair. “Not right now, sweetie. She had to go on a tiny trip, but she’ll be back, ok? She’ll be back really soon. Right now, we’re going to go visit Kyle. And then later we might take a short trip ourselves. How would you like that?”

Kaleb lowered his eyes and picked absently at his fluffy stuffed alien as his lower lip began to quiver. “I want my mommy.”

Maria leaned in and kissed Kaleb tenderly on the cheek. “I know you do, baby. And we’re gonna make sure you get to see her really soon. All safe and sound. I promise…”

She closed her eyes and sent up a silent prayer. God, Isabel…please don’t make a liar out of me…
~~~~
Liz paced back and forth in her large but sparse cell. Her head still ached from the bump she’d received when she’d fallen during the most recent raid on one of Drake’s plants, but the medication she’d been given was making it at least bearable. It had been a fierce raid. Most of Drake’s men had been either killed or wounded and Liz had been trapped while trying to make it out the back door to relative safety.

Now, inside these walls, she felt physically safer than she had in the past several years. The medical staff at the infirmary had been gentle when fixing her wounds and she had been a bit surprised to see the advancement of their technology.

Liz smiled to herself. Max had done well with his people. A good leader. A strong man. A great warrior. Just like she always knew he would be.

A rustling noise captured her attention and Liz’s eyes snapped to the only door in and out of her cell. Her gaze traveled the length of the door till her eyes rested on a white scrap of paper that had suddenly slipped through the crack at the bottom. Quickly retrieving the paper, Liz let out a sigh of relief and her eyes watered with unshed tears when she eagerly opened it to read the note inside…

“All is safe. Be prepared to move tonight…”

Tbc…


posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:56:02 PM by Ashton
October 2007

A dreamy smile drifted across Liz’s full lips as she ran her finger over a tiny wallet sized photo. “My baby.” The bright dark eyes that looked up at Liz from the two dimensional picture made her heart swell with pride and love. She was so full of life. So many dreams danced in her little head. Dreams that could never hope to be hidden with her abundance of impish smiles and laughing eyes.

Max had said she was the biggest joy of his life. Liz could see why.

Liz’s eyes snapped up from the photo to the door when she heard a scuffling noise just on the other side. Quickly stuffing her picture deep into her pocket, Liz shot up from her cot when her cell door opened and closed as a syrupy sweet voice called out. That voice alone had the power to her making her blood run hot then instantly cold with overwhelming hatred. And that power hit her full force. "Well, well, well. If it isn't the little traitor, Lizzie Parker."

Liz crossed her arms in front of her, her chin jutting out in defiance. "And if it isn't the alien tramp, Tess Harding."

"That's Tess Evans to you." Tess shot back with a hint of arrogance in her voice as she casually leaned against the closed door, her eyes roaming the sparse cell.

A slight smile parted Liz's lips as she squared her shoulders for a battle that had been coming for years. "Tess Evans? I’m sorry, did I miss something? It's been--what? Six…seven years and last I heard, Max hasn't proposed yet. I was under the impression that a wedding was required to be someone's wife."

“Pleeease.” Tess tossed her blonde curls with a shake of her head and a roll of her eyes. "As if Max and I would ever need the conventions of this world to be married anyway…"

"Then why this world's convention of taking his last name?" Liz countered, her voice growing as cold as her gaze.

Batting eyelashes accompanied a plastic smile and innocent timbre of voice. "Why, Liz, dear, that was for your benefit."

"My benefit?" Liz repeated as a dark eyebrow raised and dark eyes deepened with wariness. "And just what is it you're trying to prove, Tess?”

Tess shrugged and slowly moved from the door toward the tiny metal table in the corner. "How little you know Max. How little you ever really knew him. He obviously doesn't have the same impressions of marriage and love that you do since we've been living together as it was meant to be…man and wife…for quite a while now.” Running her hands over the top of the desk, Tess’ nose scrunched up condescendingly as she turned to look at Liz. “You do know what I mean by ‘man and wife’ don’t you?”

“I assume it’s your feeble attempt to let me know that you and Max are sleeping together.” Liz replied as she sat back down on her cot with a bored sigh. “Not that I care anyway, but you can save me the visuals. I really don’t feel like getting violently ill before I die.” Liz’s eyes snapped back to Tess’ puckered face. “And just to clarify…there’s a big difference between merely sleeping with a man and making love to him…”

“And you would know that, wouldn’t you, Liz?” Tess shot back

Liz leaned back fully against the wall and tilted her head to the side as a devilish gleam entered her eyes. “Actually, I would.” A hint of a smile curled her lips upward, her words bearing a deeper meaning than Tess was able to glean. “I’ve made love the likes of which you’ve only ever dreamed about.”

“Drake’s that good, huh?” Tess responded flippantly with a smirk, proving the density of her brain mass as she leaned back against the desk.

“Actually, no.” Liz shrugged nonchalantly pushing the game a bit further her eyes flicking to Tess to catch her reaction. “I was talking about Kyle.”

And Tess was hit. A flicker of light passed through her crystal eyes warming them for only a moment before coldness returned with a vengeance. “Ah, yes. The human you dumped Max for. Never could quite see the appeal there…”

Liz smiled knowingly. “Couldn’t you now?” She leaned forward eyeing Tess carefully. “I was always under the impression that you and Kyle might have had something real between you. A spark of attraction. A hint of a friendship that could have led to more. That was until you let your obsession to claim Max overtake everything else in your life. It must really gall you, Tess. To know the only two guys you’ve ever cared about…chose me over you.”

Silence deafened the room as pure hatred enveloped Tess’ pained expression. Her razor-sharp tongue took the moment to prepare for its next cutting remarks. Tess took a step forward, her blue eyes flashing with hatred as she glared at Liz. “And it must gall you to know that despite his earlier boyhood crush, I will have what you have always wanted...Max. Completely and forever.”

“See, he knows what real love is…where he belongs now…and he’s not going to let me go.” Tess’ eyes narrowed as she raked her eyes over Liz from head to toe. “In fact, he’s made it very clear to me exactly what he wants when this war is all over and believe me, Liz, it isn’t you.”

A secret smile danced in Liz’s eyes as she stood to meet Tess. “Oh, really? And what would that be?”

“Children. A part of him—a part of me, proving our love…leaving a legacy.” A devious smile claimed Tess’ lips. “See, Max made it clear that I’m the only woman he’s ever wanted to have children with. In fact, we’ve already gotten things underway…”

“Please don’t tell me you’re actually trying to spawn another you.” Liz replied flippantly before Tess’ next words chilled her to the bone.

“Actually, we’re going to adopt. A little girl.” Tess’ cool blue eyes brightened a notch as she watched Liz’s poker face pale a shade or two. “She’s an orphan. Probably a by-product of this on-going war of ours.” Tess let out a sigh as she folded her hands in front of her. A smile played on her lips as she watched Liz’s hands unconsciously clench and unclench by her side. “Anyway, she was dropped at our door about 3 ½ years ago. Max took to her immediately, of course. He has such a big heart. One look in those big doe-brown eyes of hers and he was hooked.”

“Beautiful little girl. Shiny brown hair. The sweetest little laugh. She loves to spend hours just playing and reading fairy tales.” Her brows furrowed as if in thought. “She’s always reminded me of someone, but I’ve never quite been able to figure out who…”

Liz swallowed hard as her eyes narrowed warily. Tess was playing her. Trying to get information. Pushing Liz to give something away. Well, she wasn’t going to do it. She wasn’t going to risk precious lives because she couldn’t control her urge to strangle Tess once and for all.

That resolution was pushed to the limit when Tess continued her attack with an exaggerated sigh and a shrug of her shoulders. “Oh, well. It doesn’t really matter. Its not like she really belongs to anyone anyway. Anyone except Max and me, that is. In fact, the sweet little dear calls us mommy and daddy all the time…”

Hard words pushed through clenched teeth as Liz attempted to smile through thinly veiled hatred. “And what exactly does all of this have to do with me?”

“Oh, I just wanted you to get a very clear picture of Max’s life now. He’s happy and in love…planning for a real family…and none of those plans include you.” Tess took a step forward till she was in Liz’s face. “So, just know this, Liz Parker. Its not going to work. Whatever you’re planning. The wide-eyed innocent act doesn’t cut it with Max any more. When you’re standing there taking your last breath, don’t expect your batting eyelashes or winning smile to mean a damn thing to Max. Whatever power you had over him died years ago when you cheated on him with Kyle Valenti.”

Tess backed away with a smug smile on her face. “Well, sorry I’ve got to run. My sweet little Kennedy and I have a date to take a little walk. Never know what can happen to a little girl who isn’t well protected...” At the door, Tess turned once more to cast Liz a look of triumph knowing her veiled threat had been received. “Who knows, Liz…maybe you’ll get to meet her on the other side of eternity…very soon…”

A wicked laugh echoed the slamming of the door instantly signaling the release of pent up anger and frustration. Jealousy and fear. Closing her eyes against the intense pain that shot through her heart, Liz’s body began to shake with unshed tears as she let out a soul-piercing scream. Her arms wrapped tightly around her stomach to hold back the onslaught of anguish that ripped at a mother’s heart as she slowly sank to the floor in a puddle of tears.

For Liz Parker was a mother who had never once heard her own child’s laughter…and was suddenly faced with the possibility that she never would…
~~
Max’s head snapped up as Isabel swept into his office and slammed the door behind her. “Max. We’ve got a problem.”

Max’s face paled and he sat up straighter when he saw the wild look in Isabel’s eyes. “What? What is it?”

Isabel ran a hand through her hair and took a ragged breath. “It’s Tess. She just…she just left Liz’s cell. God only knows what Liz is…” Isabel grabbed hold of Max as he jumped from his seat and sidestepped her in his attempt to reach the door. “Wait. Max. You can’t go. God, there’s more…”

Desperation etched its mark on Max’s expression as he grabbed Isabel’s shoulders to steady her. “What, Isabel? Tell me!”

“She knows, Max.” Isabel’s eyes began to fill with tears as she looked into her brother’s eyes. “She knows about Kennedy…”

Max closed his eyes as this father’s greatest nightmare just came true. He swallowed hard and drew in a deep, shuddering breath. A thought suddenly struck him and Max’s eyes popped open to see tears streaming steadily down his sister’s face. Max pushed the father in him aside and the leader in Max instantly took charge. “Alright. We’ve got to change plans. Call Kyle and tell him we need him after all.”

“But what will you do…”

“I’m getting my daughter out of danger.” Max stated with determination as he stepped away from Isabel and headed for the door.

“But Max…what if Kyle doesn’t…”

Max stopped and spun around, his hand resting on the knob. “He’ll do it. For the part he played in ruining my life…he’ll do it. Call him. We’re going to end this once and for all…”

Tbc…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 5 ~

October 30, 2003

“Kyle?” Liz bit her lower lip as she watched her high school friend pace in front of her his head hung low as his hand absently rubbing the back of his neck. “Kyle, did you hear me?”

Kyle’s head snapped up and he abruptly stopped his pacing to turn and face Liz. “Yeah, Liz, I heard you. I just…I just don’t understand you. I mean, when did all of this happen? When did things change? I thought…I thought that you and Max…”

“It happened a few months ago.” Liz let out a sigh and ran her hand through her hair as she sunk down onto the bed in her room. “He…he tricked me.” Her dark eyes lit up with unabashed love as a smile tugged the corners of her lips upward. “Ironic, huh? We ended because of a trick…a lie…and now…”

“And now you really need my help.” Kyle supplied for her as he edged his way to the bed and sat next to her. “Even more than you did before back when this all began.”

Liz bit her lower lip again and nodded solemnly. “I’ll understand, you know…if you don’t want to do this…”

“It’s not that I don’t want to help, Liz.” Kyle stated as his gaze dropped to the floor in steady concentration. “It’s just a lot of responsibility.”

“I know, Kyle. That’s why I want you to be sure. I need you to be.” The plea in her voice prompted Kyle’s gaze to move to her face. “Look, once we do this, until this war is over…in the eyes of the world you will be legally and morally responsible. If anything happens to me…”

“Nothing will happen to you.” Kyle stated with determination.

Liz sighed and repeated herself. “If anything happens to me, that’s a lot for you to take on…”

Kyle’s hand bridge the distance between them to cover hers, which were nervously twisting in her lap. “I’ll do it.”

Liz blinked her eyes in surprise at Kyle’s fairly easy agreement. “What did you just say?”

Kyle chuckled lightly. “You heard me.”

“Are you sure?”

Kyle’s twinkling blue eyes met hers, the seriousness of his commitment washing over the both of them as he wrapped his arm around Liz’s shoulder. “I’m positive. Dad’s been dropping hints about me settling down as it is. Maybe he’s right.” A grin started to form on his face when Liz’s eyes instantly brightened with tears of relief. “Mind you, I don’t think its fair in the least that I had none of the pleasure derived in creating this little situation, but I’ll be a chump and bear the consequences of Max Evans’ actions…”

Half-laughing, half-crying, Liz threw herself into Kyle’s arms and wrapped her arms around him tightly in a gratified hug. “God, Kyle. I can’t tell you how much this means. You’ve just saved my life. Our lives…”

She could feel Kyle’s smile against her hair as he pulled back from her. “It’s the least I can do since I wouldn’t be breathing now if it hadn’t been for Max.” At the mention of Max’s name, a crease of worry appeared across Kyle’s brow. “Speaking of Max…is he…does he know that you’re…that we’re…”

“No, not yet.” Liz shook her head and stood with a sigh as she moved slowly toward the window. Shaky fingers raked through her hair and her shoulders slumped with what must have felt like the weight of the world as silent anguish seemed to wrap around her, engulfing her in its tremble of fear. A soft whisper of sadness accompanied the look of pain and loneliness that haunted her eyes. “I haven’t seen him since…” Liz caught herself from revealing more than she should before her gaze dropped to her hands. “…he doesn’t even know about the baby yet so…no, he doesn’t know about…” Liz turned to face Kyle. “…us. This.”

“I see.” Kyle placed his hands on the bed behind him and leaned back as he eyed Liz through narrowed eyes “You’re afraid he’s not going to be happy about this, aren’t you.”

It was more a statement than a question and Liz nodded her head as affirmation that Kyle’s suspicions were correct. The fear of Max’s reaction…the guilt of not having been more careful…the relief of having sidestepped one more landmine--at least for the moment--all came crashing down on Liz.

Tears quickly piled up in her eyes following the direction of her glance as they fell down her cheeks and Kyle swallowed an unexpected lump that had risen in his throat. Unsure of what to do, Kyle’s thoughts flew to Max and how in a perfect world he would be the one standing here listening to and dealing with this news right now. In a perfect world, Liz wouldn’t have to wonder if Max would be angry or scared or overjoyed by the idea of fatherhood. In a perfect world, Max would kiss her tears away and know just what to say…

But they didn’t live in a perfect world. In fact, the only perfect thing Kyle had ever seen in this world they lived in was the love that flowed so easily and so instinctively between Liz and Max. It was so perfect it was…other-worldly. That perfect love had been put on hold for way too long for some greater good that Kyle never did quite understand. And now that they finally seemed to have a chance at a real future together, it was threatening to be ripped away from them in the cruelest of ways.

Rising from the bed, Kyle took a few steps forward and awkwardly wrapped his arms around Liz allowing her the comfort of his shoulder on which to empty her tears. “It’ll be ok, Liz. I promise. Max will understand. And you know what...” Kyle pulled back and tilted Liz’s chin till her tear-filled eyes were looking into his. “…he’s going to be ecstatic about this.”

Liz sniffled and reached up to wipe the tears from her face as a flash of hope flared in her eyes. “Do you…” She gulped back another sob. “…really think so? Because I…I’m not so sure. I mean…Max has so much on him right now…and a baby…is…I mean, this could ruin everything between us…”

Kyle’s hands lay softly against her shoulders and he shook her playfully as a grin split his face. “Are you kidding? The guy’s gonna flip. He’ll be so excited he probably won’t be able to see straight for days.”

A tiny smile began to drift over Liz’s lips as she batted back the residual tears still misting her eyes. “Really?”

“Definitely.” Chuckling, Kyle nodded his head. “Take it from me…a guy who just found out he’d gonna be a dad by proxy…I’ve never been happier.” Kyle tweaked Liz’s nose affectionately. “And I don’t even love you, Parker. Just imagine how jolly your little green man’s gonna be.”

The tinkle of Liz’s laughter filled the room as a bright smile broke out over her face. “Thank you just doesn’t cover it, Kyle.”

A wink deepened her smile. “Don’t sweat it. Just find your alien and tell him the news before he hears it from someone else. I really don’t want a repeat of what happened when he thought we were sleeping together in high school…”

Liz’s smile faded at the memory and a visible shudder ran through her body causing her eyes to dull in brilliance. “He…he won’t, Kyle. I promise he’ll never do that again.”

“Hey. I know.” Kyle tilted her chin upward again. “I was just teasing.”

Liz nodded and swallowed hard as she wrapped her arms around her chest and hugged herself against the chill that suddenly settled in her bones. Walking around Kyle, Liz headed for the bed and slowly slid down as she let out a sigh. “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell Max.”

Kyle turned to her with an upraised eyebrow. “What?”

“It’s too dangerous, Kyle. There’s just no way I can do it. I have to be back at Drake’s in…” Liz glanced at her clock. “…about 45 minutes. Drake will demand to know what’s going on and once I tell him…”

Kyle slumped against the window sill with a sigh. “God, I forgot about Drake.” His eyes flashed with worry. “You don’t think he’ll…”

Liz began to chuckle at the panic that flitted over Kyle’s expression. “Don’t’ worry about Drake. He won’t hurt you. As long as his goal is reached, he won’t care who the father of this baby is.” Liz shook her head with an ironic smile. “See, that’s the beauty of my ‘relationship’ with Drake. He doesn’t care about what is and isn’t true. As long as the appearance of what’s true does the job of hitting Max where it hurts…”

“And my being the father will hit him hard, won’t it?” Kyle asked softly.

Liz’s eyes locked with Kyle’s reading his mind and knowing the truth in his thoughts. This was going to be torture for Max. Like living that night from their junior year all over again. Despite the truth, those memories could very well come back to haunt him…

Determination flashed in Liz’s dark eyes as she rose from the bed with an air of purpose. “No. He’s not going to hurt like that again. I won’t let him.” She took a step forward and grabbed Kyle’s arm. “I’m going to make this as painless for Max as possible…and you’re going to help me…”

Tbc…


posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:57:34 PM by Ashton
~ chapter 6 ~


October 30, 2003

Back at Drake's base of operations, Liz paced back and forth in front of the large picture window of the one building Drake claimed as home. Her thoughts were a endless whirl of activity. A silent prayer became her constant companion as her thoughts drifted to Max and the instructions she’d given to Kyle.

God, she hoped this worked. Even more than that, she hoped she had the fortitude to go through with the next part of her plan…telling Drake about the baby and showing no emotion except hatred and bitterness if and when Max’s name came up.

Max. The father of her child. The love of her life. Her soulmate.

Her hand slid over her flat stomach as she let out a sigh of contentment. How was she ever going to be strong enough to hide the joy of loving Max? Or dull the completeness of knowing a part of him was deep inside of her, growing and changing moment by moment…heartbeat by heartbeat?

A part of Max. What an amazing thought. A child with Max’s eyes full of so many emotions. His shy, slow smile. His gentleness. Inner strength. His quiet way of commanding. That enormous capacity of his to love beyond all hope. From the first sunrise to the very last sunset…Max’s love had been deep enough to span a galaxy. Faithful enough to challenge a world of lies. Powerful enough to stand against time and space. Brilliant enough to rival the stars…

Tears of gratitude and awe stung the back of Liz’s eyes as she paused in front of the window to gaze up into the night sky. Searching for that one star that Max could call his own, that one speck of light so far away belonging to a people that once called her Max their 'king'. “Thank you…wherever you are. Thank you for sending him to me. For loving him enough to let him go. I promise I’ll keep him safe for you. I’ll keep our whole family safe…”

Wiping away a stray tear, Liz once more placed her hands on her stomach and smiled lovingly. “Don’t worry, precious.” Liz whispered to her unborn child. “Mommy will find a way to make it through this. And when she’s done, you—my sweet one—are going to meet your daddy…”

A quick knock on the door pulled Liz's thoughts immediately to the present. "Come in."

The door swung open to reveal the ruggedly handsome features of Max's arch nemesis…Drake Banner. He swaggered into the room and shut the door behind him before coming to stand in front of Liz, his eyes roaming every inch of her face in careful scrutiny. "So? How do you feel?” His hands raised to cup the sides of Liz’s face as his eyebrows furrowed with worry. “What did the doctor say?”

Liz forced a sweet smile and covered his cold hands with hers pulling them away from her face gently. “I’m fine, Drake. The doctor says everything is fine.” Seeing the worry hadn’t decreased, she gave his hands the customary squeeze and smile. “Really. I'm fine.”

Drake released a sigh of relief. “Well, you’re certainly looking better than when you fainted on me, Liz. In fact, you’re actually glowing right now."

Donning her role as pleasant companion, Liz smiled demurely as she lowered her gaze shyly. "What do you expect when you provide so many wonderful comforts?”

Drake shrugged as he eyed her curiously. “Something tells me I’m not the one responsible for that blush on your cheeks and that light in your eyes. Especially since you've made it quite clear that our relationship is purely platonic…”

"Drake…"

"I know, I know. No more aliens pulling on your heartstrings, messing with your head. After how he hurt you, I can see how Max was one alien too many." Drake tried to cover the bitterness in his voice with a smile, but the smile never quite reached his eyes. Dropping the uncomfortable subject as quickly as he dropped Liz’s hands, Drake took a step back before plopping into his favorite chair. “So, tell me. What exactly is going on and how can we use it to destroy our mutual enemy?”

Liz drew in a steadying breath and sat in the seat across from Drake. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she willed herself to picture Kyle’s face instead of Max’s. It was the only way she knew to make it through this confession without betraying the overwhelming love in her heart. Her hands lay gently against her stomach as if unconsciously trying to draw strength from her only living link to the man she loved. “Drake. I’m…pregnant.”

Drake’s blue eyes widened. “You’re what?”

“Pregnant. You know…with child. Soon to be delivered. Beached whale. That kind of thing.” Liz explained nervously as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Drake blinked his eyes unbelievingly as he stared at Liz his lips forming a tight, thin line. “And just who is the father, because I know it isn’t me.”

Liz blinked at the harshness of his tone. “Uh, it’s…it’s Kyle Valenti.”

“I see.” Drake jumped up from his seat and walked past Liz to stand by the window. Lost deep in thought, Drake didn’t even notice when a slightly confused Liz came from her seat to stand behind him.

“Drake? Are you ok?”

“What?” Drake’s absent question was punctuated with a raised eyebrow when he turned to face her. “Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just trying to process the possibilities of this new weapon of ours.”

Liz arms tightened around her. To hear her child…a product of love…being called a weapon was something she’d hadn’t quite prepared for. She should have been prepared. With a heart as cold as Drake’s it would make sense that he would see her baby that way. Somewhere deep down inside of Liz she knew that. But there were times…the way he looked at her…she wondered if maybe he had a heart after all. If maybe there wasn't a way to end this war without more bloodshed…

Drake's voice pulled her from her reverie. "You do realize I'll want everyone to think this is my child, don't you?"

Liz nodded her head. "I thought as much. I mean, everyone here thinks we're together. It really wouldn't do well for your image if they found out I've been sleeping with someone else…especially a human."

"Agreed. And this Kyle…he understands this?"

Liz took a deep breath and launched her plan. "Actually, no. He wants this child, Drake. I mean, it not like he wants to go out an announce it to the world, but he wants to be a part of its life…to be a real father."

"And what do you want?"

"I want him to be a father too." Liz answered quietly, lowering her eyes to give Drake the impression that this was a hard decision for her to make.

"I see." Drake drew in a shaky breath and turned his back to Liz choosing instead to focus on the busy activities of his soldiers below as they unloaded supplies from a truck. One thought kept playing over and over in his mind. One question that needed to be answered before he would know how to proceed. "Do you…love him?"

Liz answered without hesitation. "Yes, I do. Kyle and I go way back, Drake. You know that. He was one of the reasons Max and I broke it off in the first place. There will probably always be something special between us that I will not deny. I don't want to deny it. Especially not now…not since we have a baby on the way. And it's not like I don't have needs, you know? Physical needs. Kyle…" Liz shut her eyes against the words. "…Kyle doesn’t mind meeting those needs without emotional complications."

"But, I guess if you're asking if I'm in love with Kyle…the answer is no." She swallowed the truth and lied through clenched teeth. "I'm not…in love…with anyone."

Liz bit her lower lip as she watched his reaction not quite sure what to make of it. He seemed upset. Genuinely upset. Closing her eyes to draw on some inner strength she didn't know she had, Liz pushed away the disturbing thoughts that had crept into her mind at Drake's reaction to this news. At his sudden interest in her feelings. "Drake, look, all of that is beside the point anyway. I've done a lot of thinking about this. And I think I have a solution that will be acceptable to all of us and still destroy Max in the process."

Drake steeled himself to look into those large, dark eyes of hers before turning to face her with his arms crossed over his chest. "Alright. Let's hear the plan."

Taking courage in Drake's openness to listen, Liz tucked her hair behind her ears and began. "Well, everyone here will assume the baby is yours. Which is great for you…bad for Kyle…and devastating for Max. But I was thinking…what would be even more devastating to him than finding out I'm having your child?" At the blank expression on Drake's face, Liz continued excitement lighting her eyes. "Finding out I might be having Kyle's child. Think about it, Drake. If there's one person in this world that Max hates even more than you…it's Kyle."

Drake pursed his lips in thought as a light of understanding began to brighten his eyes. "Go on…"

"So, we drive Max nuts. Keep him guessing. Since we don't tell anyone who the baby's father is...not officially anyway…he'll never be quite sure whom to hate more. You, Kyle…or me. He'll be torn in so many directions that he'll go crazy trying to figure it out. And believe me, he'll have to know what's going on. He won't be able to let it go. So much so that he'll lose focus. And a leader who has lost focus…"

"Has lost the war." Drake finished for Liz with an appreciative grin.

Liz nodded her head. "Right. And Kyle still gets to be the father he wants. My baby will have your protection as your child no matter where we go. And you…get to stick it to Max in ways we never dreamed before. You not only have me, but you'll be the bigger man for it." Liz allowed bitterness she didn't feel to seep into her voice. "I can tell you know, accepting another man's child is one thing Max Evans would never do."

Drake began to chuckle devilishly at the possibilities. "You know, Liz, I am really glad that deviously brilliant mind of yours is working for me instead of against me."

Liz beamed appropriately at Drake's compliment before noticing the furrow in Drake's brow had returned. "What's wrong?"

"Well, I was just thinking…if Max isn't sure about the father…what about my people? It really won't look good if I can't even keep my 'companion' under control enough to keep her by my side."

Liz shrugged. "People will believe what they want to anyway, right? If we never officially say the baby is yours, but we stay together there will be some who automatically assume you're the father. On the other hand, there will be some who have suspicions that you aren't when they see how much time I'll be with Kyle in the coming months. Rumors will start, which will actually aid in this little emotional war you and I have been waging against Max."

She held her hands up to silence Drake when she saw his mouth open to protest. "But if it becomes a problem, we'll simply tell your people the truth. That Kyle is the father but that you have not only forgiven me for my 'indiscretion', but you're willing to accept and raise the child as your own. That's only bound to make you even more popular in their eyes. I mean, really. Who doesn't want a king with a generous heart leading them to victory?"

Drake shook his head in awe. "You really have this worked out, don't you?"

Liz shrugged her shoulders and spoke a deep truth meant for another's ears. "I've tried. I really don't want this to be a hindrance. I really think it could be the best thing that's ever happened to us."

Drake nodded his agreement and stuffed his hands in his pockets, his eyes suspiciously landing for the first time on a packed suitcase sitting near the door. "So, I see you're packed. What's the great plan now?"

Liz followed his gaze and turned back to him with an apologetic smile. "Kyle wanted us to get away together. Mainly to discuss everything. To get used to the idea of having a child in such…interesting circumstances. I'm going to meet him bright and early tomorrow morning at my house since he can't come here. I'll be back in a few days." Liz reached forward and pulled Drake's hands from his pockets so she could hold them. "Please understand. We need this time to sort some things out. After that, I'll all yours again."

"Ok. Yeah, I'm going to be busy here with plans anyway…" Drake nodded once and leaned forward to plant a quick kiss on her cheek as he gave Liz's hands a light squeeze then called out to her as she started for the door. "Have a good trip and take Luke with you for the drive to your house and to stand guard."

"Oh, Drake, thanks, but that's not necessary." Liz paused halfway to the door with a shrug and a toss of her hair over her shoulders. "I've got the car here and Maria and Alex are coming over for a little 'human' time. They'll keep me safe." Reaching for her suitcase, Liz turned to give Drake one more smile. "Don't win the war while I’m gone, ok? After all this hard work and planning I've at least earned the right to watch while the best man wins…"

Liz slipped out the door and closed it firmly behind her with a twinkle in her eyes. That had gone much better than she'd expected. Her smile faded. Maybe it had gone too well…

Liz hesitated a moment, her back against the door before shaking her head with a self-depreciating smile. You're just being paranoid. Drake bought it hook, line and sinker… Now, if Max will be as easy to convince…
~~~~~~~~
"She's what?!" Isabel's shocked voice sounded like a shrill whistle in the cool, crisp night air.

Kyle glanced around him instinctively though no other living thing was within a 25-mile radius as he and Isabel had planned their meeting for the cliffs in the dessert. Running a hand through his hair, Kyle let out a sigh as he leaned against a large boulder. "She's pregnant."

Isabel cast her glance upward and crossed her arms in front of her and began to pace back and forth. "God, how could be so stupid?! I can't believe he allowed this to happen. He should have had more control…" Kyle's chuckle filled the air between them and Isabel looked at him sharply. "What's so funny?"

Kyle shrugged his shoulders as his blue eyes met hers. "The idea of Max and Liz being able to control themselves when they're with each other. I mean, come on, Isabel. We all remember what they were like in high school before Tess did a crash landing into Roswell. They were all over each other. In fact…I don't ever remember seeing them together without there being some kind of contact. Holding hands or arms around each other. Even the looks they shared screamed their intense need for each other. That's why they were inseparable...they couldn't *not* be together and expect to breathe for very long."

"Did you really think they could stay apart once Liz was back in town? Especially after Max found out the truth?" Seeing her gaze wavered unsteadily, Kyle continued. "Or that they wouldn't reconcile at some point? In fact, from what I hear you even helped Max trick her one night. You can't tell me you didn't know what would happen once they were face to face in a room together with nothing more than the truth and a few layers of clothes between them…"

Isabel threw up her hands and let out a sigh. "Alright. I got the point. I don't need any more visuals, thank you very much." Silence followed her signal of defeat as Isabel's mind began to wrap itself around the idea of a baby…Max and Liz's baby. A small smile began to touch her lips and her eyes began to shine. "They deserve this, don't they?"

"Damn straight they do." Kyle agreed immediately. "After all they hell they've been through…the pain they've suffered…sacrifices they've made. Will still make for each other in the future…"

"The baby...it'll be beautiful." Isabel's soft comment deepened her smile.

Kyle nodded. "Yeah, it will. And loved very much." He let out a sigh. "But that doesn't mean they won't need help. In fact, they'll need it now more than ever to keep this game going without tipping their hands. And I'll especially need your help--starting tonight."

"Why tonight?"

"Max doesn't know yet." Kyle explained softly. "Liz needs this, Isabel. To be with him. But you know what the amazing thing is? All she's worried about is him. How he's going to react when he finds out. What he's going to be feeling when he hears the lie she's off telling Drake right now. She's not even really thinking about what she needs right now."

Kyle took a deep breath. "So I'm going to worry for her. And what she needs right now is to believe everything is going to be ok and the only person I know that's going to be able to really make her believe that is..."

"Max." Isabel finished for him.

"Right. And the sooner the better." Kyle took a few steps closer to Isabel and reached out to touch her arm. "So, can we count on you, Isabel?"

A tear slipped out of Isabel's eye as she looked up at Kyle with a nod. "Yeah, you can count on me. Tell me what we need to do first…"
~~~~~~~
Drake waited till he heard the sound of Liz's footsteps fade down the hall before grabbing up the phone and hitting a button. "Luke. I'm changing your orders. Liz is about to leave the base and she'll be gone a few days. Follow her and report back to me everything you see. Everywhere she goes. Everyone she comes into contact with. Do not leave a single detail unreported…"

Replacing the handset, Drake's blue eyes hardened as he stared at the door, his own private war beginning to rage deep within him. To trust her. Or not. Her story was plausible. Actually downright believable. It made sense Liz would find comfort in the arms of an old friend that wanted nothing more than the pleasure of a moment.

But her eyes.

He couldn't get that look in her eyes out of his mind. Something in her came alive when she talked about her baby. And it was accompanied by more than just the typical pregnant glow Drake had heard so much about. It was the glow of a woman…in love. It was a glow he'd seen only one other time in his life. That day at the airport. The day he and Max went to pick up Isabel.

And it had been at the exact moment when Liz Parker looked into Max Evans' eyes…

Drake quickly picked the phone back up and dialed a new number. He barely waited to hear the sugary voice on the other end before speaking. "It's me. Don't be surprised if your 'destiny' disappears for a few days."

"Why? What's happened?"

"No details now, but if my theory is correct…" A devious smile curved Drake's lips upward. "…you and I, my darling, have just been handed Max Evans' defeat on a silver platter…"

Tbc…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 7 ~

October 30, 2003
10:00 pm

She took a deep breath. Glancing from one anxious face to the other, Liz Parker suddenly felt a wave of nausea sweep over her. And it had nothing to do with the tiny baby growing deep inside of her or the infamous 'morning sickness' she had already begun to experience.

It was fear. Pure, unstoppable fear. And the two people sitting across from her weren't even Max. Her thoughts instantly switched to a room across town where, if Kyle was following her instructions properly, the father of her child was probably hearing about their impending parenthood right this moment. God, how was she going to face Max after this? What would he think? How would he feel? Would he feel as excited and thrilled and blessed as Liz did? Would their love fill him and send a warm glow of hope flowing through him? Or would the crushing weight of his duties in this ongoing war squeeze all the joy out of this moment…for both of them? Casting a pall of despair over a moment that should be full of completeness and utter bliss…

And here…now…in this room. How was she going to explain this? That everything they'd seen and heard from her in the past few years had been a lie. That despite her protests to the contrary…no matter how sure they were that she had moved on, she was entangled in the dangers and intrigues of Max Evans' life so thoroughly now that there would never be an escape. She didn't want to escape. Not as long as Max had to endure. Wherever he was…that's where she wanted to be. No matter what pains or trials it brought her. How was she going to pull her friends back into a world that they'd both willingly walked away from…

"Liz, babe, you'd better start talking." Maria's voice sharp voice cut through Liz's thoughts.

"Yeah." Alex piped up. "Before you faint on us. Maria, maybe you should get the smelling salts…"

"What?" Liz's gaze snapped back to Alex and Maria and it was then she realized how far her thoughts had wandered. "Oh, no, no. I'm fine. Really. I'm just…" Liz took a deep breath to calm her nerves as her gaze shifted from one friend to the other. If anyone would understand, it would be these two. Liz swallowed hard and began. "Guys, I've got news and I'm just not sure exactly how to tell you."

"Uh-oh. This doesn't look good." Alex quipped as he and Maria exchanged glances before turning their attention instantly back to Liz.

"You're right. She's got that 'I've-got-a-little-green-men-problem-that-I-need-your-help-on' look."

"Well, actually…" Liz began.

"See! I knew it!" Maria jumped up from her seat and began flailing her arms in the air. "Every time my life settles down to that dull pace that a somewhat normal life can give, one of our not-so-beloved E.T.'s show up to ruin my perfect misery."

"Maria…"

"Well, not this time, ok? No. I mean it, Liz." Maria plopped down on the couch and leaned forward. "You know I love you right? Like…you're my best friend in the whole entire world and like every other planet we've ever dreamed of, but I just can't…"

"Maria!" Liz's sharp tone of voice silenced Maria tumble of words. Her eyes held Maria's as her voice shook with nervous excitement and fear. "I'm pregnant."

Alex's mouth dropped as wide open in surprise as Maria's eyes while silence gripped them both. Liz looked from one friend to the other suddenly wondering if they'd been frozen in time or something. They both just sat motionless, staring at her. Liz cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Ok, you two. Don't bowl me over with congratulations here…"

Liz's words snapped Alex and Maria out of their shocked trances and they immediately showered Liz with all the congratulations and concern that an expectant mother could ever want. After proper hugs were given and received and given again, Maria was the first to come to her senses with a question that dropped a blanket of silence and tension over the atmosphere. "Whoa, time. We've got the babe. We've got the mother." Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Fess up, Lizzie. Who's the papa?"

"Well…" Liz took a deep breath and looked down at her nervously twisting hands.

"Oh, God. Don't tell me it's that Drake guy. He so gives me the creeps…" Maria's nose scrunched up in disgust before she'd realized what she said then instantly groaned when she did. "Oh, man, Liz. I'm sorry. I…I didn't think…it's just I really don't see what you see in him. He's like totally not your type…"

Liz held up her hand to stop another waterfall of tumbled words. A warm smile eased Maria's fears that she had offended and her next words brought a sigh of relief from both Alex and Maria. "Drake isn't the father."

Alex shifted in his seat and attempted to gain a bit of footing in this conversation. "You've been seeing Drake for a little while now. If he's not the father…"

"I told him that Kyle is."

"Kyle? As in Kyle Valenti?" Maria's shocked voice bounced off the walls around them. Her blonde head began to shake emphatically as she jumped up from her seat on the couch and began to frantically pace as her hands flailed wildly in the air. "No. No, that's not possible, Liz. You…you can't mean it. You said…you said you never wanted to have anything to do with him again. Not after what happened. For God's sake, Liz, Kyle's the reason you and Max…"

"Maria, maybe you should sniff some cedar oil and take a breath to think." Alex's calm voice broke through the beginning of Maria's rant as his eyes stayed steadily focused on Liz's face. There was more going on than Liz was saying. More in her eyes than what her words were revealing. "She said she *told* Drake that Kyle is the father. That doesn't mean he is."

Maria turned confused eyes on Liz. "Liz? Is that…true? Are you…are you saying that Kyle isn't the father?"

Liz nodded slowly, her large eyes trying to gauge her friends' reactions. She didn't have long to wait. Maria sank heavily into a nearby chair and swallowed hard as the implications of Liz’s confession began to crash down on her. After a moment’s silence, during which Alex and Liz exchanged worried glances, Maria’s eyes, wide as saucers, raised to meet Liz’s. “Liz. In my relatively short life, I’ve witnessed many things. Aliens on planet Earth. Glowing hickeys. Shapeshifters. Powers that are clearly out of this world. And, of course, the hardest of all to believe…you and Max Evans actually being able to survive without each other.”

She took a deep breath and continued. “But if you are about to tell me that another Immaculate Conception has just occurred and you are like the 21st Century’s version of the Virgin Mary…I think I’m going to have to find the nearest nut house and admit myself. Or you.” Her voice cracked with an unexpected giggle as she shot a look at Alex and waved her hand at all three of them. “Oh hell, why don’t we just make a party of it and all join the loony bin together? I’m sure we’d fit in just well with all the other UFO conspiracy theorists…”

Liz cracked a smile and shook her head with a sigh. “Don’t get fitted for a straight jacket just yet, Maria. This is definitely not a supernatural pregnancy.” Liz’s hand gently caressed her stomach as a secret smile curved her lips. “No, we did this the old fashioned way.”

“We. So, there is a father.” Maria breathed out a sigh of relief when Liz nodded. “You have no idea how glad I am to hear that.”

“Who is he?” Alex spoke for the first time in several minutes, his own mind already having formed a theory of his own. “I mean, if its not Drake.”

Maria piped, her eyes beginning to brighten with interest. “And it isn’t Kyle…”

“Well…” A pretty pink blush began to settle lightly over her cheeks and the light dancing in her eyes gave Liz an ethereal glow. Alex’s breath caught in his throat and Maria’s eyes widened at the beauty that was suddenly Liz.

“Oh. My. God.” Maria’s eyes widened as realization hit her. There was only one other time in Liz’s life where she’d ever radiated such joy and love. Only one other time when it looked like someone had reached deep inside of Liz and turned on a light switch, causing her to glow from the inside out. And that one time was in high school. When she was young and in love. Before things got complicated. And the one person who had ever had the power to create that look was… “You’re kidding! It’s…it’s not…”

“Yes, it is.” A soft, gentle voice floated into the room from behind Maria and she whirled around in her seat to see Max Evans standing in the doorway. His shining eyes were fixed on Liz’s face and tears choked his voice as he shook his head slowly. “God, Liz, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”

A strangled sob escaped him as his gaze lowered to the floor. "Tonight. We have to...to end..." He stuffed his hands into his pockets and bit his lower lip as tears squeezed out behind tightly closed eyes. "We can't..."

Maria had risen and turned to face Max. "Get it out, Max. What the hell are you trying to tell us?"

Liz's soft, lifeless voice split the silence. "He's saying he doesn't want this baby, Maria." Max's head snapped up and his eyes locked with Liz's. "That's it, isn't it, Max? You're here to...take this baby away from me. Right here. Right now. Before he even gets the chance to grow..."

"Liz..."

Liz shook her head as tears tumbled down her cheeks. "The truth, Max. Is that why you're here?"

Max swallowed hard hoping to dislodge the bile that had risen in his throat. Unable to form a word, Max's answer came in the form of one silent nod.

And for the second time in her life, Liz Parker heard the shattering of her heart as it broke into a million pieces...

Tbc…



posted on 22-Sep-2001 6:58:51 PM by Ashton
~ chapter 8 ~


Suddenly the room darkened with gloom as storm clouds hovered on the horizon. Liz felt her stomach lurch and wasn't sure if it was because her baby instinctively knew its father was suddenly in the room or if it was scrambling to escape the rejection that was close at hand. Liz’s hands reflexively covered her flat tummy as her heart searched for the one reason that would make sense of this sudden pain ripping her apart.

That’s when she looked into his eyes.

Really looked. Past the stone-tough visage of a warrior to the panic racing through a lover's heart. Beyond the course, cruel words he'd tried to utter to the tender dreams he was terrified of losing. She actually saw a shudder wrack his body as his eyes drifted to her hands resting gently, protectively over their unborn child and instantly knew it had nothing to do with rejection and everything to do with overwhelming, desperate fear.

And that’s when things magically cleared.

Liz swiped the tears away from her face and squared her shoulders, her voice steady and calm. “Maria. Alex. If you don’t mind, I’d like a moment with my husband.”

Maria and Alex whirled to face her with one simultaneous question. “Your husband?!?!”

Maria took a step forward. "Whoa, girl. What the hell is going on? Liz. Girlfriend. What's happened to you? Yesterday I went shopping with my best friend and we had some pretty groovy commiserating over how wonderful it is to be single. You remember that, right? Never once did she mention babies and marriage as a possible life choice. Now all of a sudden, you're not only pregnant but you're married too? What is up with that, Liz? Its like…it's like you're a totally different person…"

Liz's eyes flashed with fire as she tore her gaze from Max long enough to address Maria. "Yes, Maria. I am. One who has been living so many double lives lately that I have to remind myself every time I look in the mirror that somewhere underneath all of the lies and tricks, I am still Liz Parker. A small town girl who simply fell in love with an alien." Her gaze moved back to Max's face and the tears that were shimmering in his eyes as her voice softened. "A girl who will give up anything to be with him."

"But…"

"Right. Maria, I'm sure we'll get all of our questions answered but…not now." Alex reached over and grabbed Maria by the arm and started pulling her toward the door. "We'll just…be in the kitchen…if you, you know, need us…"

Liz nodded once, her eyes still locked with Max’s. Once her two best friends had cleared the room, Liz took a shaky breath and swallowed hard. The silence that hung in the room between them was deafening. The emotions so raw in their expressions screamed their mutual pain and anguish at the decision facing them. In Max's eyes, Liz found anger, grief…and self-loathing. Liz's eyes were vibrant with courage through confusion. And love despite the fear and hurt.

“I meant what I said, Max. I will give up anything you ask me to just to so I can be with you..." Her head shook slowly as she swallowed again, trying to force the words through dry lips. "…anything but my baby. Please don't ask me to give up…"

Frozen to his spot, Max took a shaky breath and cut her off. "Babies, Liz."

"W-what?" Liz blinked as Max took a step forward.

"Twins. Liz, we're…we're…" He swallowed, hard. "…a boy and a girl…"

An awed smile drifted over Liz's lips as her gaze moved to her stomach. "Really? But how did you…"

"Please don't ask." Max closed his eyes against the picture of his wife of three months, the love of his life, standing there in the middle of the room lovingly caressing the womb that housed the lives of their tiny twins. His strangled voice came out in a whisper. "Liz, we…can't. This is *not* going to happen…"

Liz's head snapped up, her eyes flashing with protective fire. "Let me remind you of something, Maxwell Philip Evans. In this house you are not a king and I am not one of your soldiers. You cannot just march in here and announce that we're not going through with this pregnancy..."

Max took a determined step forward as his voice hardened. "Liz…"

"No." Liz took a step back and shook her head as her voice began to crack with emotion. "You…you talk to me first, Max. Tell me what has you so scared because…because I know you. I know you're not doing this to hurt me and I know you're not doing this because you don't want these babies." Liz took an unconscious step forward as he pleading eyes bored in to his. "God, Max, I have felt you want this…so many times. So, don't stand there right now and try to lie to me. Don't try to tell me that you aren't dying inside right now just thinking about never holding our babies in your arms."

Max's gaze faltered and he bit his lower lip to keep his tears in check. God, this was the hardest thing he'd ever done. Would ever do. If only he hadn't been driven by his need to see the future. If only he hadn't stepped into the granolith and walked into a different time. If only he hadn't seen…

Liz's voice pulled Max from the horrible images that began to assault his mind and suddenly he realized that Liz had bridged the distance between them and now she was standing just a whisper away. All he had to do was reach out and hold her. All he had to do was let her envelop him in her arms. Then he could just lose himself. Hide from reality. Step into the comfort of their dream and never face pain again….until she let go. Just one touch and she could make him forget…

But he couldn't forget. He couldn't feel. He had to do. And lead. And move without hesitation. The past three years had been spent controlling his emotions. Of firmly placing a thick wall of numbness between him and the outside world. A frantic pace of action had been set to keep him from feeling the sting of loneliness and the stab of love unrequited. To erase the images of his love in bed with another guy.

And images were what he was trying to banish right now. Not of the past. But of a future unspeakable. Of a pain so excruitating that any pain of rejection or betrayal he'd experienced in the past dwarfed in comparison. He could never forgive himself if Liz experienced that. He'd never be able to look at himself in the mirror again if he failed now to do what he had planned. What was necessary to keep them all alive...

"Max, honey…talk to me." Liz reached for Max.

Max shook his head and sprung back from her touch as agonizing terror gripped him. He couldn't let her in. He couldn't let her see. "NO! Don't…don't touch me, Liz."

Tears of hurt welled up in Liz's eyes as she watched Max shutting down in front of her. His emotions. His body. His heart. They were all slipping behind a wall that he'd built years ago when he thought she'd betrayed him with Kyle. That wall of emotionless reserve and cruel bitterness had only recently come tumbling down. And now, he was retreating again. Falling back into the comfort zone of emotional distance.

Liz swallowed hard and closed her eyes against the sight. "Leave."

Max's head snapped up. "W-what?"

"I said leave." Liz's gaze settled on Max's face and she immediately saw the panic in his eyes. She didn't let it hinder her command or determination to keep at least one thing in her life sacred. "Go, Max. And don't come back. What kinda of a wife can I be if you won't let me comfort you? What kind of a best friend if you won't talk to me? You know, I knew this would be hard. The lying and the sneaking around. The way we've had to start our married lives in enemy camps. But it was worth it all for me because of this place. And moments like these. Where we can be together as Max and Liz, without secrets and lies. When we shut the rest of the world out and it's only the two of us and our love."

Liz shook her head as her lips tightened in disappointment and reproof. "But you've broken our rule, Max. You've walked in here with the weight of the world on your shoulders and decided to shut me out. I'm sorry, but I won't let you do it. I won't let you turn our only haven into a war zone. Now, either you leave or I will."

Gaze glued to the floor and hands stuffed in his pockets, indecision and fear raced through Max resulting in a stunned silence. How could he tell her? How could he unload this unbearable weight on her slender shoulders and expect her not to crumble? She'd already lost so much because of him. Even now, she was sacrificing just to be with him. Lying and taunting death day after day. All because she loved him. Now he was being forced to rip another dream of hers apart…

Squaring her shoulders and praying with everything in her that he wouldn't be able to let her go, Liz nodded once at his silence. "Fine. I'll leave then…"

It wasn't until Max felt her arm brush against his as she side-stepped him that Max snapped back to reality. Instantly realizing that he was in danger of losing the only true thing in his life, his hand shot out and spun Liz around. "No! Don't leave me again…" Unable to meet her eyes, Max's voice was barely a desperately whispered plea. "…please, Liz. I'm…I'm so scared…"

Liz's determination to stand firm crumbled and she quickly reached up and took Max's face in her hands as she let out a sigh of relief. Coaxing his gaze upward to meet hers, she smiled at him and felt his body relax a bit at the gesture. "I won't, Max, I promise. No matter what is going on. But, honey…you've got to let me touch you. You've got to let me in."

Swallowing hard, Max nodded in agreement after a moment's contemplation. Taking a deep breath, Max gently took her hands in his, the intensity of his whisper sent a shiver through her. "I'm sorry, Liz. For pulling away. I…I just did want you to see…"

"Just show me." Liz refused to allow the fear his actions were causing to rule her. Whatever he knew, whatever he was going through, it had to be torturing him. She could see it in his eyes. He needed her now, more than ever. And she wasn't going to let him down.

Max nodded again then slowly placed her hands on either side of his head. Repeating the gesture as he positioned his hands, he stared into her eyes and began a connection. Light flashed and images came fast and furious. Liz felt herself being navigated through a world of misery and pain and death. Destruction and chaos ruled. Crumbled buildings and piles of rubble fell into streets making it a collision course of disaster. Wails of motherless children combined with moans of pain to fill the air with the sound of grief. It was all around her. Permeating the air and seeping into her pores.

An overwhelming feeling of nausea swept over Liz as she felt herself turn a corner, her gaze immediately falling on one image that made her heart literally stop mid-beat. A man surrounded by death. Falling to his knees as a yell of inner torment rent the air. Crushing the lifeless body of his wife to his chest as her stiff, cold arms clung tightly to the bodies of her twin children. A boy and a girl. Dark-haired and beautiful. And as lifeless as their mother. His own dark head bent, showering their children with puddles of his staggering grief. As Max Evans of the future began rocking what was left of his family in his arms, tears made wide tracks down his soot-covered face and he threw back his head as another intense wail well up inside him and filled the air, shaking an observing Liz to her very core.

A shocked Liz jerked away from Max and stared up into his tear-filled eyes. Her own pain filtered to the surface as her eyes mirrored the heartbreaking emotion in his and her hands came up to cover the cry that threatened to break lose. "Oh, God, Max…"

"Do you…do you see now?" Max blinked back tears and his shaking knees finally gave out as he sunk down into the chair behind him. "We can't… God, how I want to...I want our children...so much, but we...we...can't..."

Liz dropped to her knees in front of him and began shaking her head. "No, Max, no. Listen to me…we can do something…"

"No, Liz, we can't. I'm telling you. There's more." Max took Liz's face in his hands and swallowed hard. "If we have these babies…Liz, if we have them, it'll lead to…"

"The end of the world." Liz finished for him as her eyes closed against the realization that hit her. She felt Max nod his head and pull her into his arms, his face buried in the crook of her neck and her skin being soaked with his tears. Her fingers unconsciously stroked his hair as her mind fought to grasp the concept that she was once again being called upon to sacrifice her own dreams just to save the human race when a voice from behind them broke through the impending doom.

"It won't be the end of the world. And you two will not have to suffer. Not this time…" Max and Liz pulled away from each other and turned in the direction of the voice to see Isabel, Kyle, Alex and Maria standing in the doorway. Isabel's eyes flashed with determination as she raised an eyebrow, moving her gaze from Liz to Max then back again before she continued. "Not…if we have anything to say about it. And believe me, we have a lot to say..."

Tbc…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 9 ~

October 30, 2003
8:00 pm


"I'm telling you, Max…now is the time to move." Michael's eager announcement was met with silence. Michael eyed his friend and leader a moment in uneasy anticipation as Max turned his back and slowly made his way to the window of his office to stare up at the night sky. As his head rested against the windowpane, Max shoved his hands into his pockets his stance full of melancholy and resignation.

"Look, Max. I know this is…" Michael paused to choose his words carefully. "…hard to hear. I mean, I'm not su