posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:30:15 AM
Title: Union

Summary: Third in a trilogy that includes Out of the Woods and Legacy. If you don’t read them, you will be seriously lost. If you DO read them, I congratulate you, because even I am horrified by their length. I will also be tickled pink!

Some important information: This story began with Out of the Woods, which was Post-Destiny, so everything that has occurred during Season 2 is not applicable here. All couples are currently together except for Kyle and Tess. Jennetta is Michael and Maria’s daughter. Why she is grown-up is a long story and is told in Legacy. Max and Isabel also consider her to be their sister because she was raised by their alien mother on their home planet of Illyria. Max’s alien name is Jaxon Falconer, Isabel’s is Mirana, Tess’ is Sabrya and Michael’s is Tristandor. Michael and Tess are siblings.

Category: This story will be mainly Max/Liz, but will include all conventional couples, in particular Kyle/Tess.

Rating: PG-13, might reach an R. We’ll see if my innocent eyes can handle it! In Canada we call it PA.

Disclaimer: I own the story, the characters Jennetta, Ren, Andrina and Tarsus. I am just borrowing the others with thanks.


Prologue

December 2, 1812

Salisbury, England, Earth

My dearest,

It is difficult to comprehend that as I transmit these words to you, you are asleep on a far distant planet, circling another star.

I feel you with me everywhere, at all times. If my brother knew how he was torturing me by ordering this mission, I do not doubt he would regret it. And yet, I know that he was right as well. If we can endure this trial, our union will only be stronger, proving once again that peace and love are the only way to save our world.

My journey through the portal was uneventful. The humans did not note our arrival, Jemma’s mind-warp working as it was meant to. We have set up temporary headquarters above a small tavern in the town of Salisbury. The task force is currently researching where a more permanent colony might be established. Preliminary research seems to indicate that somewhere in the wide expanses on the continent of North America might be appropriate. We will book passage to cross Earth’s great expanse of water shortly.

I find myself restless this evening. I crave information, knowledge that you are safe, that Gordian has kept his word and is slowly allowing your fellow Dernians into Illyria. I trust my brother implicitly, but I do not trust your Duke. Lazar has spoken falsely too often to be believed. I fear that the truce that he has instigated will not last, especially now that he has an heir.

My fear is great my love. And yet so is my hope. The births of Jaxon and Mirana seem to have revitalized my people in a way that nothing else could. Their lives guarantee that the portal between this world so like our own and our beloved Illyria will remain open for at least another generation. This only proves again that our decision to come here is the correct one.

And yet I long to return to you. My greatest desire is to do so soon. In the meantime, I look forward to your transmission through my brother.

Know that I love you and that this only becomes more true as the days pass. Be safe my heart.

Your Andrina

Part 1

She sees him laying in the bed alone tonight,
The only thing touching him is a crack of light
Pieces of her hair are wrapped around and 'round his fingers
And he reaches for her side, for any sign of her that lingers.

And she says you are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight.

One of them bullets went straight for the jugular vein.
There were people running, a flash of light
Then everything changed
Nothing really matters in the end you know
All the worries sever
Don't be afraid for me my friend, one day we all fall down forever.

She says you are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight.

The wedding date was June just like any other bride,
She loved him like no one before and it was good to be alive.
But sometimes that can slip away as fast
As any fingers through your hands,
So you let time forgive the past and go and make some other plans.

You are not alone
Laying in the light
Put out the fire in your head
And lay with me tonight…

Patty Griffin

May 2002, Roswell, New Mexico

The sun shone far too brightly on the day of Liz Parker’s funeral.

It should have been over-cast, the heavens threatening to erupt at any moment. Even nature should have been mourning the loss of the girl Isabel Evans had come to regard as a sister.

Isabel rubbed her temples gently, willing the head-ache she had had all day to leave her in peace. And yet, in some way, the steady thrumming pain was comforting. At least it assured Isabel that she could still feel. She had been emotionally numb for so long now, she was beginning to wonder.

Isabel glanced up at her mother as Diane Evans came into the living room. "Jennetta’s almost ready." Diane told Isabel.

"Is Max dressed?" Isabel asked, sighing as she stood.

Diane just shook her blonde head, her worry reflected on her face. "He still insists he isn’t coming. I’ve tried to reason with him, but he’s still reading that book. He won’t even acknowledge me anymore."

Isabel sighed again. "I’ll go try." She told her mother. She knew that it was going to do little good though.

Isabel knew that he would regret for the rest of his life if he didn’t go to Liz’s funeral. She understood that it was going to be the hardest thing he would ever do, saying good-bye to his soul-mate, but he needed to do it, if only to even take one step on the long road to re-entering the world of the living.

For Isabel did not doubt that Max wanted to die - that for her brother, living without Liz Parker wasn’t living at all.

She knew that he hadn’t even really accepted what had happened yet. It almost seemed like his mind REFUSED to accept it, knowing that if it did, Max WOULD curl up and die.

It had been five days since the fire at the Crashdown and even Isabel was still having trouble accepting it.

The Evans had all been in bed when Sheriff Valenti had come to tell them the news.

Isabel swallowed as she remembered the look of impending doom that had crossed her brother’s face when he had realized that the Sheriff was there to tell him something was wrong with Liz.

His voice had been disturbingly quiet when he had asked the Sheriff what was going on. "Where’s Liz?"

The Sheriff had looked visibly distraught as he had recounted the horrible story.

"There was a fire…at the Crashdown." Sheriff Valenti had halted, clearly struggling to find the words. "It started in Liz’s bedroom. She apparently left a candle burning when she fell asleep. The firefighters tried to get in, but the flames were too much. The investigators found three bodies fifteen minutes ago. One was in Liz’s bed and it was clearly a teen-aged girl." The Sheriff had paused again, taking a deep breath. He had not had to elaborate that that was about all they had been able to tell from the remains.

Isabel had almost thrown up. The grief that had claimed her had been so intense, she had had to sit down on the stairs, or she would have fallen down them.

She had been aware of her sister Jennetta quietly sobbing behind her. But Isabel’s only thought had been for Max. Her brother had been frowning slightly, as though he was having trouble comprehending what the Sheriff was telling him. Isabel’s mother had moved up next to her son, had put her arm around him.

"Are you trying to tell me that Liz is dead?" Max had finally asked, his tone perplexed. He sounded so absolutely confused, Isabel had closed her eyes to try and compose herself. She knew that she was going to need to be strong for her brother. She had to be strong for him.

"I’m sorry Max." The Sheriff said, shaking his head. "I wanted to come tell you myself. Liz and her parents are gone."

The front hall-way of the Evans’ house had been silent with shock for so long, Isabel had almost been frightened to break it when she finally said, "Max…"

And that was when Max had started to laugh. It was the most terrifying sound Isabel had ever heard, no humour in it at all. Considering her brother didn’t laugh very often anyway, the sound was highly unnatural as well.

Isabel had exchanged a look of concern with her mother. Diane had tried to lead Max into the living room, but he had pulled away from her, shaking his head. "It’s not true. It’s impossible." He had looked at Isabel, his eyes bright with something that she couldn’t even begin to analyze. She had realized finally that it was certainty. "I would know Izzy. I would know if she was gone." And then his expression had changed, to one of deep sorrow. "Oh God. The poor Parkers. Liz is going to be absolutely devastated."

Mrs. Evans had looked at the Sheriff desperately. He had looked so sad, Isabel had almost wanted to go comfort HIM. "Honey…" Diane had tried again. "I think you need to come sit down."

"Why?" Max had looked at her like she was crazy. "I need to go find Liz. I have to be the one who tells her about this. She needs me."

Isabel had pressed her lips together, moved over to her brother. She had placed her hands on both sides of his face, forcing him to look at her. "Max. You can’t. She’s gone."

Max had just shaken her off. "I’m telling you!" He had practically yelled. "It’s impossible! I only left her two hours ago! How the hell could the entire building have been destroyed in two hours? I would have known, would have felt something!"

Isabel had hoped that meant that Liz hadn’t suffered. If Max hadn’t felt anything through their connection, it seemed likely that had been the case. "Max, you have to accept this. Its a terrible tragedy…but its true. You know that Sheriff Valenti wouldn’t lie to you."

Max had just glared at her. "You’re all crazy! I’m telling you, I would know." He had looked around at them all, disgusted. "I’m going to call Maria. I’ll bet that Liz is over there."

But, of course, Liz hadn’t been at Maria’s - or Alex’s - or even Michael and Tess’s. She hadn’t been anywhere.

She was gone.

But as Isabel prepared to knock on her brother’s bedroom door now, she knew that Max still had not even begun to accept that Liz was really gone.

She knocked, didn’t wait for Max to respond.

Her brother was lying on his stomach on his bed, flipping through one of the many books that were scattered around his bedroom. He had a frown of concentration on his face.

"Max?"

Max looked up. "It’s just another stupid book about farming." He told her, slamming the book shut and throwing it on the floor.

Isabel looked around the room in astonishment. "Max! When did you bring all of this here?" She could see that the books weren’t just regular volumes. They were silver and made of a material that was definitely not of this Earth.

Apparently her brother HAD left his bedroom and had raided an alien library in the process.

They had found the library by chance. Or, rather, their friend Kyle Valenti, the Sheriff’s son, had found it. It was buried deep under the desert in the extensive compound their people had built outside of Roswell, when it had been built still a mystery. They had barely begun to uncover the secrets and information the library contained.

"What are you doing?" Isabel asked now as she went to sit beside Max on his bed. He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

"I’m looking for ways that Tarsus could have gotten to Earth without coming through the portal." Max replied, stretching and then rubbing his hand across his face wearily. "I just can’t figure it out."

Isabel felt a pang of sorrow. She hadn’t realized that Max was this delusional with grief. He was beginning to invent scenarios for why Liz had disappeared. This needed to be stopped. If it continued, when his hopes came crashing down around him, the fall-out was going to be even greater.

"Max." She said quietly. "There is no other way - or at least no other way that doesn’t involve years and years of space travel. You know this. Ren told us." Isabel continued, referring to the shapeshifter from their home planet who had come through the portal over a year ago.

Max just looked at her. "Clearly there IS a way Isabel. Because I know that he came here and he took Liz. It’s the only explanation that makes any sense."

Isabel sighed again. She decided to humour him for the moment. "Okay, say you’re right. Why? Why would he do this Max? Why Liz of all people?" She stood up, compulsively smoothing her black silk skirt to erase any wrinkles that might have appeared. "Why wouldn’t he take Jennetta - she’s the Chosen One after all - or you or me or Michael or even Tess? Why Liz?"

Max just eyed her for a moment. Then he strode across the room, picked up another volume and tossed it at her. "Because of this." He replied.

Isabel frowned at him in confusion. She obediently opened the silver book though. She gasped despite herself at the picture on the page that the tome fell open to.

Liz Parker’s face was staring up at her from the centre of the this book that had clearly been alien-made. And beside her was Max’s face.

"What is this?" Isabel managed to croak after staring down at the page for what seemed like years.

"I don’t know." Max replied. "But I do know that its the reason Liz is gone."

Isabel slammed the book shut. She had to get through to him. Whatever this book was, it didn’t change the fact that Liz had died in a fire five days before. "Max. I don’t have any idea what this is either, but I do know that Liz is gone. And this isn’t why. She’s dead Max - you have to accept it."

Max just rolled his eyes. "She’s not dead. How many times do I have to tell you people that I would know if she was dead?" He turned away, picked up another book and began to flip through it. "Close the door on your way out."

Isabel just stared at his back. "Max…you need to pull yourself together here. The funeral is in an hour. You have to be there - for Liz. You have to accept this for her."

Isabel saw Max’s back tense. He stopped turning pages. "I said to close the door on your way out." He repeated through gritted teeth.

Isabel felt tears fill her eyes. There was absolutely no reasoning with him. He had gone crazy.

But that didn’t mean that Isabel had given up. It only meant that it was time to call in reinforcements…

Part 2

Michael Guerin rubbed a hand tiredly across the back of his neck as he loped across the Evans’ front yard. His tie was practically strangling him, but he had decided to dress for the Parker’s funeral before coming to talk some sense into Max.

He hadn’t seen Max since the night of the fire. While Isabel and Jennetta had been giving him daily updates on how he was coping - not well by all reports - most of Michael’s time was spent with his girlfriend, Maria Deluca. She had gone into deep mourning for her best friend. Since Isabel was preoccupied with Max, Alex Whitman, HER boyfriend, had been spending a lot of time with them as well. Both Maria and Alex were absolutely devastated by the loss of Liz and Michael had been doing his best to help them through the worst of it.

But did the worst ever end when the glue that held you all together was gone? And that was what Liz had been - the one person that had bonded all of them. They all knew that it was unlikely any of them would have been friends if it wasn’t for her.

Michael almost snorted as he reflected on how he would have sneered if someone had told him at the beginning of his sophomore year that two and a half years later not only would he be dating Maria Deluca, they would have a child together AND he would have admitted to himself that he loved her. He would have flat out laughed at the idea that he would be GLAD that humans knew the truth about he and Max and Isabel.

Liz Parker had been responsible for giving him the half-way decent life he now enjoyed.

Yes, it had been Max who had brought her in on their secret when he had healed her on that horrible day in the Crashdown - on that day that had only been delaying the inevitable it seemed - the inevitable that Liz Parker was meant to die young. But the things that she had done in the two extra years she had been given…she had enriched all of their lives by steamrollering her way through Max and Michael and Isabel’s defenses. She had made them trust her, had brought them other friends they could trust.

Above all, she had given them hope. Hope that they could form relationships, could be HUMAN, something Michael had never realized he wanted until Liz….until Liz and MAX…

Michael and Liz had never been extremely close - their friendship had never fully recovered from the time when Max had been lost to them on Illyria. Liz had barely held herself together during that time, but one thing that had helped her to be strong was to blame the whole debacle on Michael. Michael had been perfectly willing to shoulder that guilt because he had blamed himself too. While they had managed to move beyond that dark period in their relationship after Max came back - mainly because neither of them wanted to upset the one person who connected them - they had never really made any effort to bond with each other on the same level as they had with other members of their group.

And yet Michael mourned Liz…

He mourned the way she always looked out for everyone else before herself. He still remembered the feel of her small hand on the small of his back as she comforted him when it had seemed that Jennetta was going to die in her pod several months before. She had seen his pain, had wanted to ease it, and in her own small way, she had.

He couldn’t even begin to imagine how Max must be feeling.

Michael had his own brush with almost losing the two most central people in his life - Maria and Jennetta. He remembered the almost unbearable pain - it had felt like his heart was being torn in two - when Maria had flat-lined in the hospital before Jennetta had been brought back to her. He still felt the agony of the loss of his daughter Jennetta’s childhood. It was now a dull ache, but it was still there…

But Max and Liz had always been different. Neither was complete without the other.

Michael knew deep down that if he lost Maria, he would go on. Life would totally suck - but he would survive.

But Max…Michael hated to think it, but he was actually a little surprised that his best friend was still alive…

And the scary part was that it seemed that the only reason Max was dealing with this situation at all was that he was in total denial…or at least from what Isabel had said on the phone. Michael had no idea why she thought that he would be able to get through to Max. Max NEVER listened to him.

Getting through to Max might not be the best thing anyway. Because Michael really believed that if he started to accept that his Liz was gone, Max Evans would not be long for this world.

Michael had paused under Max’s window to gather his thoughts. He knew exactly the approach that he had to take to get Max to that funeral. It wasn’t going to be pleasant, but Max would never forgive himself if he didn’t go.

It had to be done.

As Michael pounded on the window he realized that there was really no reason to be going into the Evans’ house that way. He knew that everyone else had already left for the funeral…he could just walk in the front door. But somehow this seemed the natural thing to do, and so he did it.

Max’s face appeared a moment later. He looked like crap. He had dark circles under his eyes and his hair was standing on end, like he had been constantly running his hands through it - or maybe trying to tear it out would be more accurate. He also looked like he had lost weight. Michael guessed that he probably hadn’t eaten a bite since the day of the fire.

Max stared out at Michael for a moment, an eyebrow raised, then rolled his eyes and opened the window. "Aren’t you supposed to be at the funeral?" He asked as he turned and walked towards the desk, picking up a volume that lay open there.

Michael climbed through the window frowning. "Aren’t you?" He demanded, going into annoying Michael mode right away. The way to get through to Max was to piss him off and if anyone could do it, it was Michael.

Max didn’t even look up. "I’m busy." He replied. He sighed in frustration, threw the book down on the desk. "Nothing! I can’t find anything."

Michael eyed him for a moment as Max started shifting other alien volumes around on the floor. "What are you looking for exactly Maxwell?" He picked up a volume that sat on the bed, his eyes nearly crossing at the gibberish that stared up at him from the silver pages. Michael might have had his memories of Illyria returned to him, but the language was still a mystery. He knew that he had been unable to make heads or tails of it when he had been on the planet with Maria too.

Max stopped fumbling around, looked at him suspiciously. "Give me a break. I know Isabel told you that I’ve gone crazy." He rolled his eyes, shaking his head in annoyance. "Clearly I must be insane since I KNOW that Liz isn’t dead and that Tarsus came and took her. I mean there was a body and everything. We SAW the smoldering ruins of the Crashdown. Liz’s parents are both gone too. Liz MUST be dead and so I MUST be crazy - driven completely loony-tunes by grief…Isn’t that right?"

Michael swallowed. "Well, she might have said something to that effect." He admitted. "You can’t deny that it looks a hell of a lot like that Maximillian."

Max narrowed his eyes. "I know Michael. I know she’s not dead." His tone was so certain, Michael blinked.

"But what if she is Maxwell?" He finally asked. Max froze in the process of throwing some of the books on the floor onto his bed.

"She’s not." He said quietly, swallowing hard.

"But what if she is?" Michael continued. "And you don’t go to her funeral and pay your last respects? I mean, its LIZ Max. You owe this to her. It’s going to suck big time - but you have to do it."

Max straightened, looked sad. "I know she’s not Michael."

Michael clenched his fists in frustration. It was like talking to a brick wall. "And if you’re right? What about her parents? If Liz comes back someday, how are you going to explain to her that you didn’t go to her parents’ funeral?"

Max just looked at him. "I never thought of that." He glanced down uncertainly at the book in his hand. "I just need to read all of these. And I haven’t even been to the Crashdown since they took down the police tape. There’s got to be something there. I don’t have any time to go to the funeral. I need to find out how Tarsus did this and then I need to find her. She needs me Michael."

And then Michael knew exactly what to say to get Max to the funeral. "I’ll help you."

Max stared at him, perplexed. "What?"

"I said I’d help you - but only AFTER the funeral. And ONLY if you come with me." Michael knew that it probably wasn’t the best plan in the world to humour Max - not in the complete state of mania in which he currently existed - but he was desperate here. The funeral began in fifteen minutes. He needed to be there. It might be the only way to get him to start accepting that this nightmare was legitimate.

Max’s expression brightened. Michael sighed. Isabel was NOT going to be pleased. "Okay! Great! I really should go so that I can tell Liz about it. She is just going to be devastated. I owe it to her to be there." He threw the book down, looked around in confusion. "What the hell am I going to wear?" He looked completely lost suddenly.

And it was in that moment that Michael knew that although Max might want to believe with his entire soul that Liz was still alive - he wasn’t one hundred percent certain.

This was only going to get worse.

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

Kyle Valenti sat in a pew near the back of the church, his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands.

He was still having trouble believing it but being there was making it entirely too real.

Liz was really gone.

Kyle had not been surprised at the intensity of his grief. He had loved Liz. She had been his best friend in a lot of ways. If there was anyone who believed in him, it was Liz. Even when he had become the distant jerk he had been for the last few months, she still cared about him, worried about him…

And she was the only other person on the face of the planet who understood what it meant to have been healed by an alien king.

He was completely alone now.

It had been his choice to distance himself from the others, to deny what they meant to him, but his regrets were immense now. Death had a way of doing that to you - especially the death of someone so young, so beautiful, so full of life, so full of hope…

How were any of them going to go on?

Kyle raised his head, realized that the service was half over. A friend of Mr. Parker’s was at the podium giving a eulogy about what a wonderful person Liz’s dad had been.

The church was absolutely packed. Kyle and his dad had been late, the Sheriff having been delayed at work. It had been a lucky thing that Hanson had been in charge of crowd control or they might not have been allowed in at all. Apparently even the Mayor was in attendance. The death of the family who had owned the Crashdown Café, one of the biggest landmarks and tourist cash cows in Roswell, was a fairly big deal in this one horse town. Some of those security guards hadn’t seemed to give a crap that Kyle’s dad was the Sheriff. As it was, they were stuck back in the nose bleed seats.

Kyle glanced up the aisle. He could see Maria’s blonde head near the front. She was sitting with Jennetta, her daughter’s arm around her shoulder.

He had almost had a heart attack when he had seen Liz’s best friend walk in with the tall dark-haired beauty. He had not laid eyes on Jennetta since she had emerged from the pod - had not even been aware that it had even happened. He recognized her right away though.

She was the spitting image of Maria, although she had apparently inherited Michael’s height and his dark eyes too. Jennetta had turned in her seat at one point and had stared right at him. He knew that she recognized him. He had felt a little woozy after that. Some of this alien stuff was still too weird for him.

This woman was Michael and Maria’s DAUGHTER. And she was older than them…it was just plain freaky.

Kyle shook his head. Now was not the time to reflect on the insanity that was their lives. Now was the time to think about Liz and to try and figure out how he was going to fix the mess he had somehow gotten himself into.

Tess.

As usual, it always came back to her.

He hadn’t seen her yet, but he knew she was there. Of course she was there. She would be there to support Max most of all, but she had loved Liz too in her own way. She had even been willing to share Max with Liz towards the end there. Just the thought of it still made Kyle feel sick, but he knew that it was time to mend fences.

He missed her. And he was tired of being mad and sad and lonely…

He was willing to take whatever she was willing to give. He wanted her friendship back, if that was all she was willing to give. He knew that he would never be a Max Evans, but she seemed to want him, Kyle, in her life. He would be grateful for what he could get.

Life was just too damn short.

He remembered the last words she had spoken to him at the prom: "I have things to say to you - things you haven’t let me say. I’m tired of running Kyle." She had reached out and touched his cheek. "I’m so tired. And I think you are too. I just want…"

He had never found out what she wanted -they had been interrupted by his date Vicky Delaney - since then he hadn’t even let himself speculate, to hope too much…

He just knew that he would give her whatever it was she wanted.

And he would thank Liz everyday for making it happen. Because he didn’t doubt that she was responsible.

He was going to miss her so much.

Kyle felt his father nudge him. "Kyle, its ending. Stand up son."

Kyle stumbled to his feet. He watched as the three coffins were carried down the aisle.

"Good-bye Liz." He whispered, swallowing hard against the tears that threatened to fall.

And that was when he saw him.

Max Evans was staring right at him, his dark eyes unreadable.

Kyle took a deep breath, preparing to go over there to give his condolences…

It took him a moment to realize that Max was not the only one looking at him. His eyes shifted to the right and down.

Tess Harding was there too, holding Max’s hand, and glaring at him.

Kyle had not realized that it was possible for him to be more miserable than he had been two minutes before. And yet, apparently it was, because it really felt like his heart broke when Tess put her arm around Max and turned him towards a side door, effectively showing Kyle her back.

Her meaning could not have been more clear if she had marched down the aisle and screamed in Kyle’s face.

It was over. Before it had ever begun.




[ edited 5 time(s), last at 28-Jun-2002 9:29:04 PM ]
posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:32:08 AM

Part 3

I didn’t hear you leave
I wonder how am I still here?
I don’t want to move a thing
It might change my memory.

I am what I am
I’ll do what I want
But I can’t hide
I won’t go
I won’t sleep
I can’t breathe
Until you’re resting here with me.
I won’t leave
I can’t hide
I cannot be
Until you’re resting here with me…

Dido

Max Evans stared down at the freshly turned Earth, swallowed hard.

Even though he knew that it wasn’t Liz buried there, just the thought that it COULD have been…it was enough to make him physically ill.

The funeral had been horrible. He and Michael had almost been late, arriving just as the security guards had been closing the doors into the sanctuary. They had almost been refused entrance until Deputy Hanson had caught sight of them through the crowd gathered on the sidewalk outside the church.

"Let him in! That’s Liz Parker’s boyfriend." The Deputy had yelled so loudly, everyone and their neighbour could not help but turn to look.

And so the staring had begun.

Max had felt eyes on him all through the service. He knew that everyone felt horrible about this whole situation, but that they were morbidly fascinated too. After all, just over a year ago it had been HIS funeral they were all attending. And here he was, not dead. That his girlfriend should then perish so horribly…well, it was just TOO tragic. He knew they were all thinking it and he didn’t blame them.

That didn’t mean that he didn’t hate it though.

It was one of the reasons he had not wanted to come. If there was one thing he despised, it was being the centre of attention. But Michael had been right. He had owed it to Liz to attend - to say goodbye to her parents for her. Max would miss them. He had not known the Parkers extremely well but they had given him Liz, and for that he would always be grateful.

Max had spent the service staring at the Cross that hung at the front of the church. He had not wanted to meet anyone’s eyes. The whole experience had been ridiculously surreal. They were all sitting there mourning a girl who was not dead.

He wondered if anyone was ever going to believe him.

He had been seated between Tess and Isabel at the front of the church, Isabel holding his hand tightly, squeezing it every few minutes or so. In the end though, Max had had to comfort Isabel when she started to sob during the short eulogy Alex gave for Liz.

Alex had obviously had difficulty beginning. His eyes had been shining with unshed tears and when Max heard Maria start to cry in earnest, Alex had clearly almost lost it. But he had persevered as was Alex Whitman’s way.

Liz would have been proud.

"Liz Parker was my best friend." Alex had begun. "She was the first person to talk to me when I moved to Roswell in Grade 4 and even though we didn’t become great friends until the fifth grade, I knew that she always looked out for me. That was Liz. She was all about friendship. When she became your friend, you knew that you always had someone watching your back."

Max had glanced back worriedly at Maria when she began to weep even harder. Jennetta had her arm around her, was soothing her quietly. Max just sighed. This was killing them all. Tarsus was going to pay for hurting his friends if it was the last thing he did. Max had wished that his friends would believe him that Liz was NOT gone, that they could work together to try and bring her back.

"Liz loved three things," Alex continued. "Science, her friends and Max Evans, not necessarily in that order." A faint ripple of laughter sounded through the large room. "I will mourn forever that we will never find out what Liz could have been to the world of the first. Probably something great because that was our Liz - everything she touched was never the same. It became better - golden. I already know what she was to the worlds of the last two. She was everything and we will never forget her or stop loving her. I know that wherever she is, she’s watching over all of us and that she is still watching our backs."

After Alex finished, a soloist in the choir had stood up and started to sing. Max had just stared at him in disbelief. Had someone planned this funeral to MAKE him lose his mind?

It was an old Garth Brooks song, one Liz had once told him made her cry.

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment, all the word was right
How could I have known
That you’d ever say good-bye?

And I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain,
But I’d have had to miss the dance.

Holding you I held everything
For a moment, wasn’t I the king?
But if I’d only known
How the king would fall
Then who’s to say
No, I might have changed it all.

And I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance.

Alex HAD lost it then. His eyes had met Max’s from the front of the church and he had started shaking. He had begun to wipe his eyes in a way that conveyed the fact that he didn’t know what to do next. He had obviously been holding himself together to get through that speech and now that it was over, it was just too much. Max had wondered if he should get up and go help Alex back to his seat, but he realized that that would have seemed weird. Everyone probably already thought it was weird that he wasn’t sobbing all over the place. Especially AFTER that song.

The song had conveyed everything Max had always felt about opening himself up to Liz. Every single minute of it had been perfect, but a small part of him had always been secretly worried that what he was - WHO he was - would end up hurting her. And it had…she might not be dead, but she certainly was NOT safe - never would be as long as she loved him.

But he wouldn’t give her up. He couldn’t. He had tried that too many times - after the healing when he had told her that they were different, that they couldn’t be together; after Michael had gotten sick in their sophomore year; when Liz had walked away from him after the destiny message; when he had had to pretend to date Pam Troy on Tarsus’ orders to protect Liz and the others. It had never worked.

He couldn’t be Max without her. She was his other half. And she felt exactly the same way. He knew that she would kill him before she would let him give up on them.

And so he wouldn’t give up on her. He knew that she was out there somewhere and he would never rest until he found her.

In the end, Michael had risen from his seat next to Jennetta and had gone to lead Alex back to his place beside Izzy. Alex had just been standing there, looking around, lost. Isabel had stopped crying and Alex went straight into her embrace when he sat down. Max had felt another flare of anger.

Tarsus. He was going to pay for this. Big time.

The funeral had finally ended. Max had just wanted out of there, wanted this ludicrous farce to end. He had stood, felt Tess stand beside him, take his hand.

"Are you okay?" She had asked quietly. Max knew that Isabel had convinced them all that he had gone crazy with grief, but Tess sounded open. He had wondered if she would help him. He hadn’t talked to her since the day of the fire, had no idea what was going on with her. He knew that she had been on the verge of laying all of her cards on the table with Kyle when they had all been called away from the prom to go to the transformation chamber for Jennetta’s rebirth. He had wondered where Kyle was, if that had worked out. It didn’t bode well that Kyle was not sitting with them.

Max had felt a pang. Liz would not be pleased. She would have exclaimed that Kyle belonged with them, would have gone to find him wherever he was in that church and would have dragged him to sit with them.

They were already falling apart without her.

"I’m okay." Max had replied. "What was with that song?" He had asked Tess, trying to change the subject. "That was really TOO brutal. Were they TRYING to make me lose it?"

Tess had shrugged. "I don’t even know who planned the funeral." She peered up at him. "Max, really. Are you okay?"

Max had just sighed. "I’m sad Tess. Liz’s parents are dead and some other poor girl is too. I have no idea who she was, but someone, somewhere, is going to be devastated. But I know that Liz isn’t gone. She’s out there somewhere. And because that’s true, I’m really okay."

"Max…" Tess had trailed off suddenly. Max had felt relieved, sure that she was about to start lecturing him à la Isabel. Max had followed her gaze towards the back of the church, met Kyle Valenti’s eyes.

The guy looked terrible - like he hadn’t slept in days, which he likely had not. Kyle had made a move forward as though he was going to come and talk to him, when his gaze had shifted to Tess.

Max had felt Tess put her arm around him, steer him in the opposite direction.

"What the…Tess, Kyle’s over there." Max had said, perplexed.

"I can’t deal with him right now Max." Tess had replied.

"Why?" Max had demanded. "I thought you were working things out!"

"We were. Now we’re not." Tess had replied. "I don’t want to get into this with you right now." She continued. "Let’s just say that I think you’re right. I think Liz is alive and I don’t want Kyle involved in this anymore."

Max had just stared down at her in shock. "WHAT?" People had turned to stare at them. Max reddened. He had seen his mother eyeing him with concern. He had quickly looked away.

Tess had clammed up after that. Max had been pulled away by Isabel, who had insisted that he accompany she and Alex to the cemetery where the internment was to take place.

Which was where Max now found himself. The others had left him alone at "Liz’s" grave site, sure that he would want to be alone with her.

There was no grave stone yet. Maria had told him briefly that it would be simple though. It was going to read "Elizabeth Anne Parker - September 1983 - May 2002 - Beloved Friend and Daughter - She reached for the Stars." Max had liked it, although he had wanted to yell that this was all unnecessary, that all of this pain was false.

Liz was still alive.

He and Michael were going to find the proof of that today. And if it wasn’t today, it would be tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that.

Max would not rest until he brought Liz back.

He turned away from the fresh grave, wondered briefly who was buried there, wondered if they would ever know.

The death of that innocent girl was just one more thing Tarsus would pay for - another crime to add to his long list. When Max reclaimed his planet from that bastard, before he handed it over to Michael and Maria’s daughter - Jennetta, the Chosen One - his last act as King of Illyria would be to order the emotionless monster’s death.

Max was not a vengeful person, but, in this case, vengeance was not even an issue. Justice had to be served. The pain that Tarsus of Dernia had caused would reverberate for generations.

Max set his jaw, went to join his friends. They were standing near the cars, talking quietly.

He was greeted by complete silence as he walked up beside Maria. Max put his arm around her, squeezed lightly. "Are you okay?"

Maria just nodded mechanically, didn’t say anything, continued to stare at him worriedly.

Max sighed. The sooner he had proof that Liz still lived, the sooner his friends would stop treating him like he was a maniac on the verge of a complete break-down.

He couldn’t wait.

"Ready?" He asked Michael. Michael grimaced, glanced at Isabel. Max’s sister was staring at Michael suspiciously.

"Ready for what?" She demanded.

"I told Max I would search the Crashdown with him." Michael replied, sounding belligerent. As usual, Michael was on the defensive immediately. Max looked between the two of them, felt like rolling his eyes. Clearly Isabel was not happy that Michael was "humouring" him in his quest to find out what had happened to Liz.

"Michael!" Izzy sighed in exasperation. She turned to Max. "Max, this is crazy! Will you please just come home with me?"

Max pressed his lips together. "Isabel, if you won’t believe me, then I have to ask for help from people who do."

"I never said I believed you Maxwell." Michael cut in abruptly.

Max frowned at him. "But you said you’d help, which is more than I can say for the rest of them." Max felt himself getting angry. He looked around at the group. Isabel looked furious, Maria scared, Alex upset, Tess torn, and Jennetta concerned. "Liz is alive. That funeral was brutal and I know you’re all upset, but it wasn’t for OUR Liz. She still exists and I’m going to find her if its the last thing I ever do."

"Max!" Isabel exclaimed.

But he ignored her, turned on his heel and stalked away. He was relieved that he could hear Michael telling Maria that he would see her later, to go home and try and get some rest.

Max knew that Liz lived, but he was going to need all the help he could get to prove it. Getting Michael’s help, even if it had been under duress and even if Michael thought he was bonkers, was a giant step forward.

Michael joined him at the Jeep a moment later. Max was surprised to see that Tess was with him.

"What are you doing here?" He asked.

"I told you I believe you." Tess replied. "Now I’m going to help you prove it."

Michael just rolled his eyes. "I can’t believe I’m going along with this. I barely escaped with my life back there." He eyed Max for a minute and then said. "Maxwell, give me the keys." He ordered. "You’re in no condition to drive. Have you even eaten today?"

Max shrugged. "No."

Michael sighed again. "Great. Okay, first stop McDonald’s." He put up his hand when Max looked like he was about to protest. "Not a word out of you your mightiness." His tone was the epitome of Michael sarcasm. "Even though I don’t buy any of this for a minute, if Liz IS alive, she is going to be severely pissed off if you die of starvation before she can find her way back to you. I’ve seen that girl pissed and I don’t want to see it again." He looked at Tess for confirmation. "It’s scary I tell you."

Max blinked. "Okay." He said quietly.

He could wait half an hour. They were finally DOING something.

It was only a matter of time now.
******************************************************************

Tess followed Max and Michael down the back alley that led to Liz’s balcony.

She knew that she was going to have a hard time climbing that ladder in her funeral attire, but she had already kicked off her shoes and was willing to rip her dress if she had to. What they were doing was much more important.

Michael and Max were bickering as usual.

"I don’t think its a good idea to go up there Maxwell." Michael was saying as Tess joined them beneath the balcony. "The whole place is condemned. We’re going to fall through that balcony."

"It’s made of stone Michael." Max retorted. He put his hands on the ladder, looked at Tess. "Maybe you should stay down here though."

"No way." Tess snapped. "If you’re going up there, I’m going up there."

They had already been into the restaurant area of the building, had spent a good hour sifting through burned out rubble.

The Crashdown was actually in fairly good shape, the main destruction being from water damage. The fire had not been centered there after all.

Liz’s bedroom had borne the brunt of it.

Max had been like a machine, relentless, searching under everything for the smallest clue. She and Michael had exchanged more than one concerned look. He was like a man possessed.

Max had only paused once. He had stopped in a spot near the back of the restaurant, had looked up towards the ceiling.

"What’s wrong?" Tess had asked him, going forward to take his arm.

"This is where I healed her." He had replied sadly. He had looked around at the shell of their favorite hang-out. "This is going to devastate her Tess. She loved this place."

"Maybe you can rebuild it?" Tess had suggested, reaching for any words to comfort him.

But Max had shaken his head sadly. "Liz can never come back here." He had replied. "My return from the dead was weird enough. There is absolutely no way we’ll be able to explain how Liz escaped this fire - especially because there was a body. Our secret would come out. Liz and I are going to have to live somewhere else." He looked towards the counter. "With her parents gone, there’s nothing left in this town for Liz anyway."

Tess had felt like crying. Roswell was their home! "Poor Liz."

Max had turned to look at her. He had frowned slightly. "You DO believe me Tess. You do believe that she’s still alive. Why?"

Tess had swallowed, but she decided to tell him the truth. She needed to tell SOMEONE the truth. "Because I would know if something happened to Kyle." She had replied quietly. "They’re BOTH different Max. You did something to both of them when you healed them. I never realized it until Liz was gone, but I feel them both - feel their presence. It’s like when you healed them, you connected ALL of us to them."

Max had blinked. "Hmmmm…" He had murmured. Finally he had taken her hand, smiling sadly. "I believe that. But then why don’t Michael and Isabel believe me?"

Tess had shrugged. "Maybe they haven’t allowed themselves to feel it. You opened yourself to it because you love Liz and I did because I love Kyle. Neither Alex or Maria was ever healed and so don’t have the same connection to us. I’m not saying we don’t love them just as much, just that we don’t have that little bit of alien holding us together."

Max had nodded. "You do love Kyle Tess." He had stated the obvious, as though it had finally been confirmed for him. "Then why aren’t you together?"

"Because what we are did this to Liz’s parents." Tess had replied, waving her hand around the burned out restaurant in which they stood. "Tarsus taking Liz is directly related to what we are. It wasn’t until this happened that I really realized how we put them in danger Max. I won’t risk Kyle. I just can’t do it."

Max had smiled sadly again, as though he understood completely but didn’t quite believe her. "We’ll see." He had said cryptically. "Sometimes we just have to follow our hearts Tess. We don’t have a choice."

"I have a choice." Tess told him stubbornly. "Kyle has gone through enough because of us - ME. He’s starting to move on. I have to let him. It’s the only way he’ll be safe."

Max had just shaken his head again. "We’ll see." He repeated, going to help Michael move some debris away from the counter.

Tess still didn’t know what Max had meant, but she knew that she was right.

Kyle would only be safe if Tess stayed away from him.

But, of course, her staying away from HIM wouldn’t be enough. She had to keep HIM away from her too, which was why she had turned her back on him at the funeral. She knew it would take him days to figure that one out.

She hoped that he would get ticked off - he had every right to after all, since she had practically thrown herself at him at the prom. Angry Kyle was the best route to take, because angry Kyle would not confront her, his pride would be too strong.

Tess knew that if he confronted her, she would give in, would tell him how she felt. Maybe that’s what Max had meant, that when you loved someone, sometimes the safest route just wasn’t a possibility.

And so she had to stay away from Kyle.

Now, as she climbed the ladder to Liz’s bedroom, she swallowed hard, trying not to cry. It was going to be torture, hurting him AGAIN.

She reached up and grabbed Michael’s hand. He hauled her the last couple of feet to the top.

Max was standing near the window into Liz’s bedroom, staring in. Tess could see that the room was completely destroyed. The floor didn’t even look safe.

"We can’t go in there Maxwell." Michael said to his friend’s back. "It’s too dangerous."

The balcony was still fairly solid beneath Tess’ feet but she could see that Michael was right. One of them was likely to fall through that floor if they tried to walk on it. She gasped when she saw that Max was about to swing himself through the window.

"Max! Get back here!" She shrieked. But it was too late. He was in.

"Jesus!" Michael sounded petrified with fear. Tess’ brother rushed to the window, crouched down. "Max! Get the hell back here!"

Max was standing in the centre of the room, looking around. He started rummaging through the debris. "I’ll just be a minute." He told them, sounding completely unconcerned. "You guys stay out there. You’re right that this floor probably couldn’t take all of our weight."

Tess felt her heart pounding a mile a minute as Max moved carefully around the bed. She felt her eyes widen when he suddenly reached behind the shell of the bed and pulled a brick right out of the wall. "I knew it." She heard Max mutter to himself. He pulled a leather bound book out of the wall. "It’s still here. It’s a little singed but it looks okay."

Liz’s journal.

"She told me where it was hidden when she got it back last time." Max told them, picking his way cautiously back toward the window. "It was fairly protected from the fire because it was in the stone wall."

Tess could see that the leather was slightly melted, that the pages were browned, but that, for the most part, the journal was in excellent condition.

Max handed the journal to Michael through the window. He paused before climbing out, taking one last look around. "He’s going to pay." Tess heard him mutter. She knew that he meant Tarsus.

Max was back on the balcony a moment later. "You idiot!" Tess screeched at him, smacking him lightly. "You could have been killed in there!"

Max just looked at her steadily. "Nothing is going to happen to me." He told her firmly. "I will not allow it - not until I find Liz."

Michael just sighed in frustration. "Can we go now? There’s nothing here Maxwell. I’m glad you found Liz’s journal, but its not going to prove anything."

Tess saw that Max’s back was stiffening in annoyance, but before he could snap back at her brother, Michael bent over and picked something up. "Hey! What’s this?"

"It’s a hairbrush." Tess told him. "So? Liz must have left it out here."

But Michael was staring at it in astonishment. The next minute he went flying across the balcony, landing flat on his back.

"Michael!" Tess shrieked. Both Max and Tess flew to his side.

"What happened?" Max demanded.

Michael just stared up at him in complete stupefaction. "You were right Maxwell. Tarsus WAS here."




posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:33:02 AM
Part 4

They all met at the transformation chamber later that night.

Maria Deluca frowned in concern when she entered the room where her daughter had been transformed from a little girl into the beautiful young woman she was presently. She felt Michael stiffen beside her. They had gone through a lot of bad stuff in this chamber - and it looked like they were about to go through some more.

Max was already there, pacing, a look of utter impatience on his face.

Most of the others were there too, scattered around the room. Alex was chatting quietly with Tess and Ren, Jennetta’s bodyguard, near the five now dark transformation pods. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked exhausted. Maria understood why. They had sat up late the last two nights looking at pictures of Liz and planning her funeral. It had been absolutely brutal and yet cathartic at the same time.

Maria knew that she would never stop missing her best friend. She had sobbed at the funeral, sure that she was never going to be able to go on without her conscience, because that’s what Liz was, the person who always made her think before she did anything too loopy. The one time they had been separated, when Maria, Michael and Max had been trapped on Illyria, Maria had ended up pregnant with an alien chosen one, THEN had ended up with her baby torn from her arms and almost dead as a consequence.

Maria had once told Liz that none of that would have happened if Liz had only been with her. Liz had smiled and laughed but hadn’t disagreed.

But Maria also knew that Liz would not want their lives to end without her. She would be furious at them all if they let that happen. They had to go on. Liz would be the first to say it…

Maria gazed towards the person who was her reason for going on.

Jennetta was seated on the cot in the corner, watching Max, her dark eyes unreadable. She looked concerned and upset.

Maria could see that Isabel was staring at him too, her frown matching Maria’s own.

It always amazed Maria how Isabel and Jennetta loved Max so intensely. She knew that occasionally they even resented each other a little bit because of it. Being his sister was a central component of both of their lives - it might have had something to do with his role as the leader of his planet, but it might be something else too. Maria had no siblings, didn’t know what the relationship felt like. She was just glad that her daughter was able to have that relationship with Max, wished that it could be the same with Isabel.

The only one missing - as usual - was Kyle. Maria wondered if any of them would ever get used to his absence.

She knew for sure they would NEVER get used to Liz’s absence.

Maria felt her eyes well with tears again as the thought appeared unbidden. If Liz were here, Max would be calm and rational - the great leader he was meant to be.

As it stood, he was clearly on the verge of totally losing his sanity.

It could not be allowed to happen. They needed him. Liz was gone - he would never be the same - but they needed him. Jennetta had to be protected and Max needed to help them do it.

Maria’s first concern was for her daughter’s safety - and Jennetta had told her earlier that day that the preparations for the return to Illyria, which had been put off due to the tragedy of Liz’s death, were going ahead full-steam. They all needed something to focus on - something to make them live again.

The other factor contributing to the rush was that Isabel’s nightmares had stopped - completely, entirely, without warning.

Isabel had been haunted by nightmares of her home planet for months now - but their cessation was even more scary. Izzy had told Maria that it felt like the whole planet had suddenly disappeared…and if not the planet, then surely Max and Isabel’s mother. For Isabel had figured out long ago that it was Milena who was sending her the dreams.

That was one thing Maria did not understand at all - how this Milena could do that to her daughter. She would die before she ever did anything to hurt Jennetta. She would do anything to keep her safe.

And to keep her safe, they needed Max.

The Four Square, together and strong, was vital for putting Jennetta on the throne - or at least so Ren had told her.

And yet Maria knew that Max wasn’t going to be a lot of help. Not after Michael told him what he had to tell him.

Max stopped abruptly when he caught sight of Maria and Michael. "You’re late." He told them tersely.
"We don’t have any time to waste."

Maria reached out and took Michael’s hand. She knew that he was absolutely dreading what he was going to have to tell Max, but it couldn’t be helped. They finally had undeniable proof that their Liz was really gone.

Maria had been upset that Michael was going to help Max search the Crashdown, but she had understood why. Michael had no idea how to help Max deal with his grief, thought that the best way to do it was to humour him, to keep him active. Michael had also found it difficult to understand when he was trying to comfort her that she didn’t need him to DO anything…she just needed him to listen, to hold her, to let her cry.

She had ended up finding more solace with Alex. He understood what she needed because he needed it too.

And so Michael had helped Max, which in the end was only going to hurt Max more.

Michael had been late picking up Maria. She had been pacing by the door when he had finally pulled up in the Jetta.

"I would have gone with Alex and Isabel if I’d known you were going to take this long." She had snapped at him as she had practically jumped into the passenger seat. "Where were you? Tess and Max picked Jennetta up almost an hour ago. I thought you were with them?"

"You could have gone with them." Michael had retorted, sounding seriously annoyed, more annoyed than he should have during one of their typical bickerfests.

Maria had turned to stare at him. "What’s wrong?" She demanded. Michael was glaring through the front windshield, his hands tightly clenching the steering wheel, his knuckles white.

"Nothing." Michael had muttered.

"Michael…" Maria had said warningly.

Michael had just sighed heavily. "I had a flash this afternoon." He finally ground out.

"What do you mean you had a flash?" Maria had demanded. "Where?"

"On Liz’s balcony." Michael had replied. "I picked up a hairbrush and it practically knocked me to kingdom come."

Maria had continued to stare at him, waiting for him to continue. Michael had rubbed his face tiredly, finally went on. "It was Liz’s obviously. She must have been using it when he showed up."

"Who?" Maria had asked, although the way her stomach had clenched up she realized that she already knew.

"Tarsus." Michael replied, sounding upset. "Max was right. Tarsus was there."

Maria had felt her heart practically leap out of her chest. "So then Lizzie isn’t…" She had started to jump up and down in her seat, her joy so great she wanted to fly out of her skin.

Michael had clamped his hand down on her shoulder, gently but firmly. "Maria, don’t do this to yourself. Liz is dead. Tarsus WAS there, but she’s still gone."

"What do you mean?" Maria had demanded, her hopes deflating instantly.

"I went to see the Sheriff, to ask him how this could be - how they could have gotten it so wrong about that being Liz in that bed." Maria had peered closely at Michael. If she wasn’t mistaken, Michael’s voice had cracked. "Max was so thrilled Maria. I mean he never believed it anyway, but to finally have the proof…but I had to know for sure."

"I don’t understand Michael." Maria had been seriously confused. "What did the Sheriff tell you?"

"They just got the forensics back." He had taken his eyes off the road to glance at her. "Dental records." He elaborated. "It was Liz."

"Why didn’t we know this before?" Maria had demanded. "The Sheriff WASN’T sure?"

"Well, who else could it have been?" Michael replied. "He was sure enough - and he was right. It wasn’t like he lied to us."

"But I don’t get any of this. Why was Tarsus there?" Maria had asked, shaking her head at all of this horrifying information. The evil shapeshifter was back - the one who had stolen her baby from her…

"The only explanation is that he started that fire." Michael had answered evenly. "He killed her Maria. He killed Liz. Her death is OUR fault." Maria had heard the guilt in her boyfriend’s voice. Michael and Liz had not been close, but he had loved her - just as they had all loved her.

They had sat in silence the rest of the drive to the compound. Maria had let silent tears trickle down her cheeks. Liz - poor Liz - had never had a chance. She had been murdered because of who she was to Max.

This was going to kill Max. He wasn’t going to survive this news.

And the moment of truth had arrived. They had to tell him.

"Well?" Max was looking directly at Michael. "Tell them Michael. Tell them what you saw this afternoon." Maria could see Tess, still standing near Alex, moving closer to Max, obviously trying to show that she supported him.

Maria held her breath. Michael looked like he wanted to be sick. "Maxwell…"

Max frowned. "Michael, tell them! You had a flash. Tell them you saw Tarsus."

"I saw Tarsus." Michael repeated mechanically. "It’s true. I did see him." He said quickly when Isabel stood up in irritation. "I had a flash - just like that time with the key to Atherton’s house. Izzy, he was there." Michael insisted. Isabel’s expression reflected her shock.

"Michael, tell him." Maria whispered. "You can’t leave it like this." Michael flinched.

But the moment was lost. Ren stepped forward. "How can this be? The only way to get here is through the portal and Mirana," he indicated Isabel, "has to open it."

"I told you. Obviously there’s another way. Danala got here somehow after all." Max said calmly. Ren looked perplexed at that. "And now we can figure out what we’re going to do about it…how we’re going to get Liz back."

"Maxwell…" Michael tried again. Maria wasn’t surprised when Max ignored him. He had heard what he wanted to hear. He was in full leader-mode now.

"We’re obviously going to have to go through the Ring in England. We don’t want the timeline to get all screwed up." Max said, sounding like he was mentally planning. "But we need to figure out what we’re going to do once we get to the planet. The Ring is under Dernian control now. We can’t let them take us the minute we come through."

"Maxwell…" Michael stepped towards his friend, put a hand on his shoulder. "You have to listen to me." He said seriously. For the first time ever Maria suddenly saw the man Michael must once have been - Tristandor of Dernia, Max’s right-hand man and closest advisor. He voice was quiet, authoritative and firm, like he was used to giving Max news he was not going to want to hear.

The room was deadly silent. Everyone except Max seemed to realize that there was a lot more going on here than just finding out that Tarsus had been back on Earth.

Max blinked at Michael. "What’s wrong?" He asked, sounding irritated. "Whatever it is, it can wait. Liz is in the hands of that maniac and I refuse to allow her to stay there a minute longer than necessary."

Michael swallowed hard. "Max, she’s not there."

"What do you mean? Of course she is." Max said dismissively. He turned towards Ren, looked like he was about to ask him something.

Michael went ahead in a rush, determined to get it out this time. "Max, the Sheriff got the forensic report back today. The dental records….they match. That was Liz."

Max froze. He just stared at Michael. "What?" He shook his head. "I don’t get it."

"Max, that was Liz in that bed. The dental records match. Tarsus was here - he very likely started that fire - but it doesn’t change the fact that Liz died in that fire." Michael looked pained at having to be so brutal, but they had to get through to Max. He HAD to start accepting this.

Maria shivered. The expression on Max’s face…. She hoped she never saw the like again. He looked absolutely astounded, but terrified as well, as though if he let this information penetrate he was going to totally lose it.

"Max…" Isabel was moving towards him, her hands outstretched. Jennetta was close behind her.

But Max was already shaking his head. "No, its impossible." He said, his voice faltering. "I would know if she was dead." Maria saw his certainty begin to harden his face. He looked at Tess, who was staring at him like she had seen a ghost. "Tell them Tess. Tell them what you told me earlier - that you can still feel her too."

"Max…I…thought…" Tess croaked. "I was so sure…but if the Sheriff says that the dental records prove it…"

"Tess, Tarsus is a shapeshifter." Max said, rolling his eyes. "Don’t you think he could have gone into that dental office to change the records?"

But Maria was fairly sure Tess didn’t catch that because Isabel had already rounded on her. "What did you say to him Tess? Why would you play along with this? You had to know it was only going to hurt him more in the long run!"

"Izzy…" Alex grabbed her by the hand.

Isabel wrenched away from him. She now had a target for her frustration and grief and she wasn’t about to stop now. "Why would you do such a thing? You ARE still trying to get him aren’t you? You played the sympathetic little waif, hoping that in his grief he would turn to you!" Isabel barked out a laugh. "God - Kyle was right all along! I should have known it! Liz is gone and its smooth sailing for you now."

The rest of them just watched the scene play out in absolute horror. Maria wanted to do something, say something, but she was completely frozen. Tess’ face was crumbling. She looked trapped…and devastated.

"ISABEL! Stop it!" It was Max. Maria swung around to stare at him. He didn’t sound like someone who had just had his entire world end. In fact he sounded mightily pissed. "This isn’t Tess’ fault." He moved forward and put his arm around the small blonde, who was trembling. "She’s the only one who believes me at all. She’s the only one here who’s REALLY my friend."

"Max, what do you mean?" Isabel demanded. "I’m your sister. I love you."

But Max ignored her. "I find it completely ironic that Tess is the only one who understands the bond that Liz and I share." Max said. "I would know if she was dead. That’s all there is to it." He looked at each and every one of them in turn, his brown eyes blazing with fury - Isabel, Michael, Maria, Alex… "Don’t take it out on Tess just because you don’t want to believe that the bond we share is special…and I’m NOT just talking about Liz and me anymore…all of us…" He pointed at Michael. "WE saved your life - the bond between us saved you. None of you gave up on ME when I was gone…why are you giving up on Liz? I just don’t get it. She would NEVER give up on any of you."

And that was when Maria knew it. No amount of physical proof was ever going to convince Max that Liz was gone. He was completely insane…they couldn’t help him because he didn’t want to help himself.

She felt tears begin to fill her eyes. They had already lost Liz…what were they going to do without Max too?

"Max…" Isabel tried again. Her face was completely white with shock, but she wasn’t going to give up on her brother. She would try and get through to him until it killed her.

Max’s voice was shaking with disgust. "Don’t even say it. I don’t want to hear it. I’m leaving. I can’t be with any of you right now." He turned on his heel, stormed out.

They all stood there staring at each other for what felt like an eternity.

"Oh God." Isabel finally broke the silence, her knees giving out on her. Alex barely caught her before she collapsed onto the stone floor. "What are we going to do?"

Maria wished she knew.


posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:34:46 AM
Part 5

Isabel stared at her brother’s closed bedroom door, a frown on her face.

She couldn’t figure out whether she should knock or not. She had never seen Max as furious as he had been when he had stormed out of the transformation chamber a few hours before. He had literally been shaking with rage, most of it directed at her.

Isabel knew that he was hurt that she didn’t believe him about Liz - but she couldn’t stand to see him putting himself through this pain. He needed to accept that Liz was gone - he would never start to heal if he didn’t.

SHE would never start to heal if he didn’t.

Isabel had known that Liz was important to all of them, had even recognized how much she had loved her. But it wasn’t until she was gone that Isabel realized how she held them all together. Liz had always been the strong one, the one who bonded them all.

Isabel had decided that with Liz gone it was her job to be the strong one. And she was failing miserably. All she wanted to do was curl up in her bed and mourn the best friend she had ever had. In the meantime they were all being torn apart faster than you could say Czechoslovakian.

Something had to be done. She had to be stronger. She had to keep them all going.

It was what Liz would want.

Isabel bit her lip, stared at Max’s door for a moment longer, then retired to her own room. She would apologize in the morning, ask Max what he wanted from her. She had been wrong in trying to force him to listen to her. Maybe it was HER turn to listen.

That was what Liz would have done.

She would do anything to help her brother survive this because SHE couldn’t survive losing him too.

She entered her bedroom, sat down stiffly on the bed. She wasn’t at all tired. Her mind was whirling with a thousand different things, most of them centred on the fact that a week from now they would all be traveling to England to open the portal for the return to Illyria.

They were going to end this once and for all - they would bring Tarsus, that emotionless bastard, to his knees, avenge Liz’s murder and place Jennetta on her rightful throne, reuniting their planet in the process.

But before that they had to help Max. They needed him. He was the King. He was the only one who could pass the throne to Jennetta. He was the one born to do it.

And then she could go back to being Isabel Evans, go back to pretending that she had never heard of a place called Illyria, pretend that she never knew that she was a princess, that she was one of only two links between this world and another.

She could go back to trying to forget that what she was - what her brother was - had killed her best friend.

But right now she had an apology to make.

Isabel picked up the phone on her bedside table, dialed Michael and Tess’s number from memory.

Michael picked it up on the fourth ring, barking in annoyance as usual. "Yeah?"

"Jeez Michael. Rude much?" Isabel demanded automatically.

"I’m not really in the mood to talk to you right now." Michael snapped back. "And I think you’re the last person who should be lecturing on the virtue of being polite."

Isabel felt a pang of guilt. "I know." She sighed. "Is Tess there? I need to tell her I’m sorry. I just totally lost it this afternoon and took it out on her."

She could almost hear Michael soften on the other end of the line. "I think she understood that." He said shortly. "But I’m sure she’d appreciate hearing it from you." He added. "Unfortunately she’s not here."

"What?" Isabel glanced at the clock. It was after eleven. "Where is she?"

"She wouldn’t tell me where she was going." Michael replied, sounding put out. "How am I supposed to protect her if she won’t tell me anything?" He demanded, as though Tess was driving him insane, which Isabel knew was partly true. Michael had always wanted a family. Now that he had a sister, he was taking the over-protectiveness to an extreme. Isabel knew that part of it was to mask his frustration over the fact that he had no control over his daughter - that she had a destiny that was dangerous and unstoppable. And so Tess got the full big brother treatment as a result.

Of course this never stopped Tess from doing exactly what she wanted to do. She was unused to anyone looking out for her, one of the consequences of growing up in a "loving" household run by an emotionless, murderous alien. And so Michael was constantly in a frazzle.

"Well I guess tell her to call me when she gets home." Isabel told him. "I’ll be up late."

"Fine. I’ll see you in the morning. We need to go over the finances." Michael replied.

"Right. The finances."

The finances. How ludicrous was that? Their best friend was not even cold in her grave and they were going to be going over the finances. England WAS expensive after all. It was insane.

Isabel hung up, flopped back on her bed, stared at the ceiling. She felt so useless, so helpless.

She ran a hand through her hair, squirmed around. There was something under her pillow. Whatever it was, it was darn uncomfortable.

The minute her fingers grazed it, she knew exactly what it was.

It was a filthy orb, or so Maria would have called it.

Isabel bit her lip, pulled the orb out, stared at it.

She hadn’t seen this particular orb in months, wondered where it had come from. She was sure that Max had gotten rid of it after the time she had used it and it had ended up giving her nightmares for three months.

Isabel shivered as she recalled those horrible dreams. She had almost become trapped in them that first time. Only Max had been able to pull her out, and it had been a VERY close thing. She had almost lost her mind.

The images tried to become clearer in her mind as she remembered. She forced them away. She refused to allow herself to remember those horrible pictures - of her brother, Alex, Tess, Michael, Liz, her Illyrian mother in various states of death…of a planet in flames, of millions of people dying in agony…

After the first time, Isabel had not had to use the orb to have the dreams. They had refused to go away. They returned every night, never as bad as that first experience, but bad enough.

Then one day, they stopped. In fact, it had been the day that Liz died. The day the visions had started coming true.

Isabel had not dreamwalked in months. She was afraid too, afraid that she would lose herself in someone else’s mind. It had been so close that horrible night - she had almost gotten lost in her OWN mind - how could she control what happened to her in someone else’s?

It was why she had not tried to dreamwalk Liz, had not tried to prove to Max once and for all that Liz was really gone.

She was scared to death.

She told herself that if Max was right, if Liz was on Illyria, it would be too far anyway, she would be unable to reach her. Liz might not even be LIZ anymore. It was highly likely that Tarsus would have brain-washed her if he had taken her.

Isabel had not been able to dreamwalk Max when he had been lost on Illyria - they had figured out afterward that it had to be because he hadn’t been Max anymore. He had been Jaxon Falconer.

She sat up, stared down at the purple orb in her hand. Ren had told them that it was a communicator orb, that it’s original purpose had been to communicate with the home planet. He had been unable to explain why it had done what it had done to Isabel.

When she had first used it, she had been trying to communicate with her mother, her alien mother that is. She had not heard from Milena in many months, had not had any more of the weird flash communications. She had even tried direct contact in the transformation chamber, tried to use the stone walls as a channel, just as she had used Stonehenge all those months before. Nothing had happened.

And then she had been too scared to try.

She knew that the Citadel had been taken. Her mother HAD reached her the week before at the prom. The flash had been short but concrete.

The end was near. Milena had been positive that she wouldn’t survive the annexation of Illyria by the Dernians. She had caused them too much trouble already, had held the kingdom for a generation, awaiting the return of its rightful king…

Isabel was a coward. She didn’t want to try and contact her mother again, didn’t want to know once and for all that the mother she barely remembered had been extinguished forever. She HAD a mother - Diane Evans. She didn’t need that grief.

But as Isabel balanced the purple orb in her hands she knew that she had no more excuses. She had to try. She had to find out as much as she could before they returned to the planet…had to know for sure if her mother was gone.

She had to know if her mother knew anything about Liz.

She had to do it for Max.

She would do anything for him.

But she couldn’t do it alone.

Isabel picked up the phone, dialed the number that wasn’t even memorized anymore. Her fingers danced over the buttons automatically.

He answered on the second ring.

"Alex, I need you."

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

"Are you sure about this Izzy?" Alex was reclined on her bed, his hands behind his head. He knew he looked relaxed, but he felt deadly serious. "I hate when you do this to yourself. Those things are evil." He added, nodding towards the orb sitting on her bedside table. "Can’t you try it without that?"

"Alex, I don’t have any choice." She told him as she pulled her hair back and tied it with a ribbon. "I have to do this for Max. I have to do it for Jennetta. I have to do it for Liz. I can’t believe that I’ve been such a coward up until now." She sat on the bed beside him, ran her hand down his chest. Alex shivered. "But I’m not taking any chances here. That’s why I needed you. You’re the only one who anchors me properly. I think that might be why I got so lost last time I used this thing." She picked up the orb, balanced its heavy weight in her hands. "You make me stronger."

Alex rubbed his temples. He had absolutely no desire to let her do this. But he had never been the type to stop her from doing what she felt had to be done. He knew his Isabel. Ordering her around was the first step to losing her.

And Alex Whitman had absolutely no intention of losing Isabel Evans - ever.

It was the price he paid for being in love with an alien princess. She would never be completely his - or completely safe. But he was willing to take his chances.

Max and Liz took a chance, a small voice in the back of his head taunted him. Look where they ended up…

Alex quickly suppressed it. He didn’t want to think about Liz - not right now. He was exhausted with mourning her. Losing her was the worst thing that had ever happened to him…she was his best friend. He couldn’t think about her right now.

He had to be strong for Isabel.

"Okay." He finally sighed. He patted the bed beside him. "Let’s get this over with."

Isabel crawled over him, kissed him lightly on the lips. "Thank you." She settled down with her head on his chest, the orb in her hand. Alex swallowed hard, breathed in the clean scent of her hair.

He wondered if he would ever get over his amazement that this girl - this goddess - really loved HIM, goofy Alex Whitman. It was like a dream, one from which he hoped he never awoke.

Alex could feel Isabel beginning to take deep breaths as she settled into a trance state. He stroked her silky blonde hair, tried to send her the calm she needed to make this work. Of course, he was sure that the fact that his heart was beating in his chest a mile a minute, directly under her ear, wasn’t helping matters.

"Pull me out in twenty minutes." He heard her mutter as she began to go under.

Alex turned to stare at the clock sitting on her bedside table.

It was bound to be the longest twenty minutes of his life.

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

*Dreams* Isabel

Isabel awoke in the stark white chamber with the high ceiling and floor-length windows, freezing cold, just like the last time.

She shivered, sat up. This was beginning exactly as the last nightmare had. Was she destined never to be able to dreamwalk anyone ever again? Was she only going to see horrible flashes of her loved ones dead or dying?

Isabel climbed unsteadily to her feet, decided that the first thing she had to do was take care of the cold. She imagined Alex’s arms around her, knew that they WERE around her in the real world. She felt a thread of warmth begin in her heart, begin to wind its way through her veins until she didn’t feel the cold at all.

She had known that having Alex anchor her would change things. It was a sign. She was going to find out something good. She knew it.

She looked around, bit her lip when she realized that there was still no door. She had to go look through the windows, had to go look at whatever it was that had started the whirl of horrible visions the last time.

Isabel took a deep breath, clenched her hands into fists at her side. She took one step towards the nearest window…

"My daughter."

She whirled. Standing directly across from her was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

She was dressed in a floor-length emerald green dress. Her hazel eyes, exactly the same shade as Max’s, were gazing steadily at Isabel. Her blond hair, the same colour as Isabel’s own, tumbled around her shoulders. She didn’t look a day over thirty. How could this be her mother?

And yet it was.

"Mother!" Isabel rushed across the chamber, threw her arms around the smaller woman.

"My child." Milena stroked her hair lovingly. "I have been waiting for you."

Isabel pulled back, realized that there were tears streaming down her face. "Mother! I have so much to say to you…but there is no time. I am only here for a very short time…Alex is going to wake me up! Oh, why did I only tell him twenty minutes?" Isabel could have kicked herself. A lifetime wouldn’t be enough!

"It is all right my Mirana. I don’t have long either. The guards will be returning to question me soon. They have not left me in peace since the Citadel fell."

"Mother! Are they hurting you?" Isabel felt a flash of fury so intense she almost burned with it. Another crime to add to Tarsus’ long list.

"I will survive it my child. I have survived this long. It will take more than a Dernian guard to bring me down." Milena told her, her eyes sparkling. "And I am not alone."

"What are they asking you?" Isabel demanded. "What could they not know by this time?"

"They don’t know what my role is."

Isabel felt her heart stop at the voice. It came from behind her, but Isabel recognized it immediately. She almost couldn’t bear to turn around, couldn’t bear to find the owner of that voice NOT there…

"Isabel."

Isabel turned, her eyes filled with tears.

Liz.

It was really her. She stood there, her hands folded in front of her, her face bright with affection.

She looked healthy…and ALIVE! She was alive!

"He was right…" Isabel breathed, her guilt for not believing her brother almost overwhelming her.

Liz smiled wryly. "I’m assuming you mean Max." She looked past Isabel at Milena, who still had her arm around her daughter’s waist. "I told Tarsus he wouldn’t believe it." She said, her eyes reflecting her love. "He won’t give up on me."

Isabel hurried over to Liz, reached out to hug her, but Liz stepped back out of her reach. "You can’t touch me." She explained regretfully. "I am only here with Milena’s help. I’m not solid. If you touch me, you’ll fall right through me."

Isabel just continued to stare at her in amazement. "How could we have been so stupid?" She asked. "How is he ever going to forgive us for not believing in him?"

Liz’s eyes darkened. "Is Max all right?"

Isabel just shook her head in disbelief. "This is the first time I’ve realized how all right he is!" She exclaimed. "We’re the ones who have totally lost it. Liz, we are lost without you."

Liz continued to smile gently. "You’re not lost Izzy. You are all strong. You just needed to have your hope renewed. But it couldn’t happen until you let it happen." She gestured around the chamber. "Just your being here means that you were ready to let go of your fear."

"ISSSSAAABBEEELLLL!"

"No!" Isabel looked around frantically. "No! Alex! I need more time!"

"ISSSSAAABBBEEELLLL!"

Liz began to fade away before Isabel’s eyes. Isabel reached out frantically for her friend, but she met only air. "Tell Max that I’m trying to…" Liz was shouting at her, but the last was completely lost as Isabel felt herself beginning to emerge from the dream plain.

"Mother!" She screamed as Milena began to back away, looking sad.

"I will see you soon my daught…"

Isabel tried once more to wrench herself back into the white chamber but the pull of Alex’s voice was too strong. It was like a beacon calling her home…

"ISSSSSAAAABBBEEEELLLL!"

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

Isabel sat up with a gasp. She could feel tears streaming down her face.

Liz was alive! It was a miracle!

"Izzy!" Alex grabbed her by the shoulders, clearly trying to get her to focus. "Are you okay? What did you see?"

"I saw…" She could barely catch her breath. "I saw…"

She jumped off the bed, bolted out of her bedroom, burst through her brother’s bedroom door next door.

"MAX! Liz is alive!"

Isabel stopped abruptly, stared around in confusion.

The room was empty. The bed was made, but the drawers of Max’s dresser were hanging open with clothes scattered everywhere.

The window was open, the curtains waving in a breeze that seemed to pick up suddenly, blowing a paper sitting on Max’s bed directly into Isabel’s hands.

It was in Max’s handwriting, short and to the point. Isabel could almost feel the anger he must have been trying to suppress as he wrote it.

I’ve come to two conclusions.
1)Jennetta must be kept safe at all costs. It is too dangerous for her
to return to Illyria with Tarsus still alive.
I am going to kill him.
2)I have to prove to you all once and for all that the bond we share is
special - sacred. I will bring Liz back to you if it is the last thing I do.

Since none of you believe it, I’m going alone.

Max

Isabel stood frozen with shock, didn’t even notice that Alex had come in behind her, had gently taken the paper out of her hands. She stared directly at Max’s dresser - at the empty dresser top actually.

The picture of Liz that had always sat there was gone.

She needed no more proof.

Her brother was gone. Alone. Into danger.

And it was all her fault.




posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:36:04 AM
Part 6

The Citadel, Illyria - That Same Day

"Liz, sweeting. Open your eyes."

Liz Parker felt herself pulled out of the pleasant dream she had been enjoying. After she and Milena had left the dream plain Liz had ended up in a dream of her own, one that included a secluded desert island and, most importantly, Max Evans.

The best dreams always faded the most quickly it seemed. She barely remembered the details as she sat up yawning. She knew that it had been wonderful though. How could it not have been if Max had been involved?

"What’s wrong?" Liz asked groggily as she began to get her bearings. Milena was seated beside her on the cot, stroking her forehead affectionately.

"Nothing my darling. I just wanted to make sure that you were all right. It is not usual for humans to go wandering on the dream plain - at least not consciously." Liz saw Milena’s dark eyes - so much like Max’s it was often painful to Liz - scan her face closely for any sign of damage. "It seems that your connection to my son has made that possible for you as well."

Liz sat up, hugged Milena quickly. "I told you that I’ve done it before. I spoke to Max on the dream plain a couple of times when he was last on Illyria. I never had anything bad happen to me."

Well except for that time I stopped breathing, Liz remembered ruefully. But there was no need to fill Max’s mother in on the small detail. And besides, Liz thought, Isabel and Michael woke me up in plenty of time. It wasn’t like anything happened…

Milena was looking at her with an eyebrow raised, a very typical motherly expression of disbelief on her beautiful face. "Well, it never pays to be careless." She replied. Milena stood up, smoothing her skirt down as she did so. It was a gesture reminiscent of one Liz had often seen from Isabel. It seemed that everything Milena did reminded Liz of Max or Isabel in some way.

It made the separation from her friends - from Max in particular - somewhat easier to bear.

But not much.

Liz’s fear for her friends had been confirmed after the visit with Isabel on the dream plain. Liz’s friend had looked terrible - tired and hopeless and - as Isabel herself had said - lost. Liz had hoped that Tarsus had been lying to her when he told her that everyone on Earth thought she was dead, but after seeing Isabel, Liz knew that it was true. They had all thought she was gone.

All except Max. But Liz had known that he would know better. Just as SHE would know if the unique spirit that was Max Evans was extinguished from the universe, Liz had known that he would never believe it.

But the rest had mourned. Liz felt terrible for them. She knew how she would feel if any of them were to die. She would be devastated and inconsolable. She remembered how she had felt when it had seemed that they were going to lose Maria - she had had to block the whole thing out or she would have been unable to function emotionally. All she wanted was to be back with them, to reassure them…

Soon. Very soon. He was not going to win.

Liz wandered to the large barred window, gazed out on the early Illyrian morning. The sun was just beginning to rise over the Golden Plain, its rays weak in the yellow sky.

That had been the hardest thing to get used to on this planet - the oppressiveness of that unnaturally coloured sky. Milena had explained that its colour was a reflection of the yellow grasses that spread over the largest portion of the planet, but Liz could not accustom herself to it.

"When are they coming for us?" Liz asked Milena, turning away from the window.

"Very soon sweeting." Milena replied calmly, folding the blankets on Liz’s cot as she spoke. Another thing Liz was trying to get used to was how cold Illyria was. Maria had told her about that, but it was worse than she had imagined. For a girl from the deserts in New Mexico it was terrible. The lack of central heating was also trying.

She found it hard to believe that she had been a prisoner in the Citadel for just over a week. It felt like eons. But then a day away from Max felt like a millenium, so it shouldn’t have surprised her. She knew that her worry for her friends also made the time seem to stretch. Everyday that went by with them thinking that she was dead was another day of pain for them.

Liz didn’t remember much of when Tarsus had come for her. The last thing she recalled was kissing Max good-bye as he climbed down the ladder to her balcony on the night of the prom.

It had almost been dawn and they had both been exhausted but she had stopped him as he had started down, placing her hands on each side of his beloved face for one more kiss. "Sweet dreams." She had whispered against his lips, hating to see him go, wishing as always that he didn’t have to…

"Don’t worry." Max had replied lovingly, his dark eyes smoldering. "I have every intention of dreaming of you. I’ll see you in the morning Liz."

But she hadn’t seen him in the morning.

When she had woken, she had been here, in this cold, white room, her hands bound behind her back.

Her first instinct had been absolute terror. She had been alone, freezing, still in her pajamas.

Liz had managed to sit up, had climbed to her feet, her hands still behind her, had stumbled to the window, had seen the yellow sky, had known where she was….

Her fear had been replaced by absolute rage.

They had failed AGAIN. She had known that something was going to happen, had felt the tremors of premonition for weeks…but they had been careless.

Liz was almost certain that she knew who was behind this too. It was Tarsus and she and Max had let him do the one thing they had sworn would never happen again.

They had been separated.

But the question had been, as it had been since they had found that book in the alien library, the one with her picture in it right alongside Max’s, why?

Were they never going to be at peace, all of their questions answered once and for all?

She had wanted to cry, but had suppressed the urge. If she cried, he would win. The emotionless shapeshifter, who had done nothing but give them grief from the moment Max and Michael had met him,
would win.

Liz had determined right then that she would defeat Tarsus. She would find out what he wanted with her and then she would return to Max.

They would win.

She refused to allow anything else to happen.

She had returned to the cot, a mutinous expression on her face, anger coursing through her veins, giving her strength…

No one had come for a long time.

As the hours had passed, Liz’s determination had begun to waver. She had watched the sun go down in the strange alien sky, hopes that she would awaken from this nightmare fading with that bright orb.

She had been on the verge of a complete breakdown when Tarsus had finally deigned to show his face.

The room had been completely dark by that time and even more cold. Liz had been shivering in her thin pajamas, miserable and scared for her friends. It had suddenly dawned on her a few hours earlier that perhaps she wasn’t the only one who had been taken. Maybe they had ALL been taken, were being kept separated…maybe some of them were even being tortured, or were dead!

She had worked herself into quite a state before they had finally come.

The room had not seemed to have any door when Liz had still been able to see, but she had suddenly seen a faint glow on the wall across from the one barred window. A door had slid open and a slim young woman carrying a glowing orb had entered.

The woman had started when she had seen that Liz was awake but her face had remained placid. "He said…" She cut herself off, left as abruptly as she had come.

"WAIT!" Liz yelled after her. "PLEASE!" She had been left in the dark again, still with her hands tied behind her back. She HAD almost lost it then.

She had not had long to wait this time though. The door had slid open again several minutes later and in came a tall young man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, his expression unreadable. He had waved his hand in the air and the room lit up as though with a thousand candles, although Liz hadn’t been able to see a source for the light anywhere. "I see that your little ordeal didn’t do quite the damage I was told it would." He had said. "I was informed that you would be asleep for days."

"Who are you?" Liz had demanded, making herself stand stiffly, her chin high, trying to hide her fear. She had not expected a stranger.

The man had blinked. "Oh, of course." He had raised his hand, the familiar glow of an impending shapeshift lighting it up. Moments later River Dog had been standing in front of her. "I apologize Liz. I had forgotten that you have never seen me in my true form, well in the only true form I would ever allow a human to see anyway."

Liz had just glared at him. It WAS Tarsus. She had known it. "I’d prefer that you not look like River Dog either." She had told him. "You murdered that sweet old man."

Tarsus had shrugged. "Very well." He had shifted again quickly, the young man’s face incongruous with a being the Liz KNEW had been alive for at least a hundred years. "How are you feeling?" He had asked, sounding for all the world like he was visiting her in the hospital.

Liz’s anger had returned with a vengeance. "How do you think I’m feeling you maniac?" She had practically yelled. "Why have you brought me here? Where is Max?"

Tarsus had tilted his head to the side, examined her as though she was under a microscope. He hadn’t seemed at all disturbed by her outburst. "The traitor king is still on that puny planet of yours." He had finally replied. "He thinks you’re dead."

Liz had felt her heart stop. "What do you mean?" She had asked, choking on the words.

"They all think you’re dead." Tarsus continued. "I burned that ridiculous restaurant of yours to the ground. A body was found - yours according to the dental records."

Liz had collapsed onto the cot, horror coursing through her. "My parents?" She had managed to ask.

Tarsus had shrugged again. "I have no idea. They could be dead, perhaps not. But for all the world, you ARE dead Liz."

MAX! He was going to be losing his mind… Liz’s entire soul had screamed out for him, her vision blurring. Oh God! Her parents! "Why? Why?" She had struggled against her bonds, desperate to get at him. She wanted to rip that blank expression off of his disturbingly handsome face.

Liz Parker had never hated as much as she hated in that moment. Even during the worst times with Tess, the worst times with the anti-Max, the worst times with Danala, she had never felt like THIS. She would have gladly murdered Tarsus in that moment.

Tarsus had come towards her, paused when she flinched away from him. "I am just going to undo your ties." He had explained. "I never asked them to keep you tied up. Where would you run to anyway?"

"I don’t think you want to untie me." Liz had told him, barely keeping her rage under control. "I WILL kill you."

Tarsus had snorted, shaking his head, and stepped back. "My, my. I can see what Jaxon sees in you. You are quite the little spit-fire. We never did get to know each other very well before Liz. I know Maria so well - but she is nowhere near as important as you are."

Liz had frozen. "What do you mean?"

Tarsus had gestured behind him. Suddenly another shapeshifter had seemed to melt out of the wall. It was another lovely young woman. Had she been there the entire time? Liz had shivered, majorly creeped out.

"Fetch Her Highness’ belongings." He had snapped at the servant.

"My belongings?" Liz had been annoyed that he hadn’t answered her last question, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to keep trying.

"You packed before we came." Tarsus had told her.

Liz had just blinked. "I did?"

"You came quite willingly Liz." Tarsus had turned away as the female servant returned actually carrying Liz’s school back-pack. Liz had felt her eyes widen in shock. "When I found you, you were in the middle of reading this." Tarsus had opened the bag, pulled out a leather bound book that looked strangely familiar.

"I was?" Liz had whispered, frantically searching her memory. She couldn’t remember any of it. Her last memory was of Max’s voice…

"I have every intention of dreaming of you. I’ll see you in the morning Liz…"

Tarsus had been looking at her closely. "I always wondered why you were so special Liz Parker, wondered how Jaxon had been able to avoid his destiny with Sabrya…I even told Max that once - that your importance was only just becoming evident to me." He had lifted the leather bound volume, looking actually pleased. Liz had frowned. That was NOT good. He wasn’t supposed to have any emotions.
"This made it all much clearer. I now understand why I always knew you were so important." He had snorted again. "To think I just went to get you to force Jaxon back here, knowing that he would follow his little concubine. Who knew the prize I was claiming!"

"What are you talking about?" Liz had pronounced each word slowly and clearly as though she was addressing a four year old.

Tarsus had continued to eye her, a slight smirk on his face. "All in good time my Queen." Another servant, this time a male, appeared in the doorway carrying her suitcase. Liz had stared at it in astonishment.

Tarsus had made his way to the door. "Try and sleep. We will talk more in the morning. I have a surprise for you as well. I have no desire for you to be fearful. You are in no danger Liz Parker. Not from me."

He had paused on the threshold, snapped his fingers. Liz had felt the bonds fall away from her wrists. She had brought her hands in front of her, rubbing her aching wrists gently. She had barely felt the pain. Her confusion was too great.

He had disappeared a moment later, glancing once more at her face, his expression again unreadable. "I will see you before morning my Queen. I have every intention of dreaming of you." With another smirk he was gone.

Liz had felt her heart stop again. Bile had risen in her throat as she had realized that Tarsus had been there the entire time that Max had been with her on her balcony. That Max had been in so much danger…and they had not even known. She had literally felt ill.

Tarsus’ ‘surprise’ the next morning had, oddly, been wonderful.

Liz had awoken to find a table set up in the corner with food on it. And seated on a chair beside the table had been the most beautiful woman Liz had ever seen.

She would have recognized her anywhere. The only other time she had ever seen that face, her entire world had been turned upside down. The day they had heard the destiny message had seemed then like the worst that Liz would ever endure. They had, of course, been horrifyingly wrong about that, but just seeing the woman sitting there, watching her, her gaze kind, had brought all those memories flooding back.

Max and Isabel’s mother…

She was even more beautiful in person. And she had been very pleased to meet Liz.

"Hello Liz." Milena had stood up. "I didn’t think you were ever going to wake up! Tarsus told me that you have been asleep for many hours."

"Hello." Liz had replied, at a loss.

"Are you well sweet girl?" Milena had inquired, sitting beside her on the bed. She had reached out, gently sweeping a lock of Liz’s hair behind her ear. Her touch had been so motherly, Liz had felt tears fill her eyes. Her worry and fear for her own mother had returned full-force….

What if her parents were dead?

"Why are you here?" Liz had asked, at a loss. She didn’t understand any of this. What on earth was Tarsus’s plan?

"Tarsus thought that you might prefer not to be alone." Milena had replied. "It must be frightening for you to be here all alone."

"Why is he so concerned about me?" Liz had asked, her confusion at the shapeshifter’s behavior more upsetting than simply hating him had been.

"I don’t know sweeting." Milena had replied. "But it is nice to be together, is it not? You can tell me all about my Jaxon and my Mirana."

Liz had looked closely at Milena’s face, had suddenly seen the lines of worry and pain etched on her seemingly ageless countenance. "Has he been kind to you?" Liz had asked, knowing that Max was going to be furious if Tarsus had mistreated his mother,despite the fact that the only time he had ever met her in this lifetime he had been at odds with her, sure that she had betrayed him.

"Kind enough." Milena had replied dismissively. "I am his enemy."

"Am I not?" Liz had asked.

"It appears that he does not think so." Milena had replied, sounding unsure.

"Weird." Liz had shaken her head.

They had spent the rest of the day getting acquainted. It had amazed Liz how quickly she and the woman had bonded, but in a way Liz had felt like she already knew her. She wasn’t sure why, but that’s how it felt.

It was only later that she had realized that Milena reminded Liz immensely of Diane Evans. They were both compassionate and kind but with an underlying backbone of steel where their children were concerned.

The way that Milena spoke of her "Jaxon" and "Milena" - Liz had been able to understand how this woman had held the planet for her children for a generation.

And she had done it not knowing if they would EVER return.

Liz had told her all about Max and Isabel’s lives on Earth. Milena had listened avidly, her eyes bright. It had made Liz feel better too, to talk of Max. It was a subject of which she never tired after all.

And it also helped that she knew that he was coming for her. It was only a matter of time.

They had also discussed all the strange things that Tarsus had said to Liz about her importance.

"I don’t think he really understands anything." Milena had told her. "I think he knows that you are important to Jaxon and thus you are important to him."

Liz had shaken her head. "But Milena, the way he spoke….he seemed to know SOMETHING." Liz had quickly explained about the strange alien volume with Max and Liz’s pictures in it.

Milena’s face had changed as Liz spoke, dawning understanding appearing. "She actually did it…" She had finally breathed as Liz finished.

"Who did what?" Liz asked.

"But he can’t know the TRUE importance…" Milena had still talking to herself. "Andrina would never have been so stupid as to write THAT down…"

"Write what down?" This question had not come from Liz, but rather from Tarsus himself who had appeared in the room without either of them being aware of it.

Milena’s face had paled, but disdain had been dripping from her voice when she had replied. "It is none of your concern traitor."

Tarsus had been tilting his head again in that irritating way of his. "So she has even more significance does she? Well, well, well…" He had snapped his fingers and two guards had been there instantly. "Take Queen Milena back to her own cell. We’ll find a way to make her talk." He sounded so unconcerned, something inside of Liz had snapped.

"NO! Leave her alone!" She had flown at Tarsus, smacking him hard across the face. "I insist that she stay here with me."

Tarsus had grabbed her arms, pinning them behind her with one hand. His expression didn’t change at all. "Don’t worry little queen. She will be returned to you." Tarsus had held her until the guards had escorted an unprotesting Milena through the door.

"It will be all right Liz. Worry not sweeting. I’ve survived their idiocy this long." She had called cheerfully over her shoulder.

Liz had started to sob. Tarsus had patted her on the back awkwardly, had gently led her to her cot. "I hate when you do this your highness. You let your emotions rule you." A strange gleam appeared in his eyes. "If only you could be cleansed…you would be perfection itself…"

Liz had pressed her lips together. "THAT will NEVER happen. Not as long as I have a breath left in this body. I will DIE first."

Tarsus had shrugged in his unconcerned way. He was so different from the time Liz had met him during that horrible weekend in Fraser Woods. Then he had been a caricature of evilness, doing his master’s bidding. Now that the power lay in his hands, it sat comfortably.

It freaked Liz out even more.

Tarsus had left moments later, telling her that he was going to send her some reading material while she waited for Milena to return.

The same female servant that had melted from the wall had returned several minutes later, the same leather bound - clearly earthly - volume in her hands. She had given it to Liz without a word. None of the servants ever spoke. It was most peculiar.

But Liz had never had a chance to read it. Milena had returned several minutes later, looking none the worse actually.

Her first words had been, "We’re going to see Mirana."

And they had.

Now as Liz watched Milena fiddle with breakfast on the table in the corner, she remembered the book. She pulled it out from her backpack which sat at the end of the bed.

Tarsus had sent word that he would be taking them to the Ring early this morning. Liz wasn’t really sure why, but then she was unsure of everything here so it wasn’t anything new. Milena had also accepted it calmly, seeming to understand what was going to happen there but unconcerned.

Liz stared down at the leather volume, ran her hands over its soft surface. It made her think of her journal, safely hidden in the wall of her bedroom. She was glad that she had told Max where it was hidden. He should have it…just in case. That journal was still extremely dangerous. She knew that he would have gone to get it almost immediately.

Max was anything if not careful.

But neither of you were careful enough, a small voice in the back of her mind taunted. You let them separate you.

Liz squashed the voice ruthlessly. They would find their way back to each other. It was only a matter of time.

They belonged together.

She closed her eyes briefly, pictured his beloved face in her mind. "Be safe Max." She whispered, sighing as a wave of emptiness swept over her. It was entirely too familiar, being the same emptiness she had felt the entire time Max had been lost to her on Illyria.

Now it was her turn to be lost…but it would not be for long. Neither she or Max would allow it.

And in the meantime, she needed to find out as much as she could. Knowledge was power. While Tarsus had more knowledge than she did, he had the power.

But not for long. For some strange reason, he seemed to want her to know what was going on. And she wasn’t going to NOT find out just to spite him.

She wanted to know too badly.

Liz ran her hand down the front of the volume once more and finally flipped open the cover.

October 28, 1999

Dearest Honeybear,

Liz felt her heart stop. Tears began to form in her eyes. Only one person had ever called her "honeybear" - the one person she had loved above all others before Max Evans had patched a bullet hole in her abdomen over two and a half years ago.

Her grandmother.

And Liz suddenly remembered every single minute of the night Tarsus had brought her to Illyria.

Tarsus had not lied. She HAD chosen to come.

She had chosen to leave Max.

Part 7

Roswell, New Mexico

Kyle groaned, pulling his pillow over his head as the pounding began. "Go away." He muttered.

The pounding continued. It was accompanied by an insistent ringing noise. "Oh for…" Kyle threw his pillow aside, glanced at the clock on his bedside table. It was just before 1 AM.

He had just managed to fall asleep after tossing and turning for a good two hours, mulling over Tess and why she suddenly seemed to hate him again. It hadn’t helped that he had ended up wishing that Liz was still there to be his sounding board - which had resulted in actual tears, which had resulted in a temper tantrum. He could still see all of his various sports trophies piled in the corner of the room where he had thrown them in a complete rage a couple of hours before. There was even a hole in the wall where his football MVP trophy had smashed into it particularly hard.

He had felt a lot better after blowing off all that steam. He realized that he hadn’t really cried since he was ten years old, since the day his mother had left he and his dad high and dry. This sucked ten times worse. At least his mother was still alive somewhere.

Liz was gone forever.

It took Kyle a minute after waking to realize that someone was at the door downstairs. His dad had been called into work around ten to sort out some big-wig having been pulled over for a DUI, so Kyle was going to have to be the one to answer the door. He stumbled through the dark house, scratching his head in annoyance.

Flipping on the porch light he was surprised to see Isabel Evans standing there, her hands cupped up against the window, her dark eyes peering in at him. Alex was standing behind her, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other in his gangly way.

"What’s going on?" Kyle demanded the minute he threw open the door. He knew that it had to be something bad to actually bring Isabel to his house in the middle of the night.

His heart was in his throat. Had something happened to Tess?

"Is your dad here Kyle?" Isabel asked, her voice hoarse. Kyle realized for the first time that she was completely strung out.

"He’s at the station." Kyle replied, narrowing his eyes. "I repeat - what’s going on?"

Isabel seemed to collapse into Alex. "It’s okay Izzy." Alex stroked her blonde hair comfortingly. "Maria and Jenny will find him there."

"WHAT’S GOING ON!!!" Kyle practically yelled. Both Isabel and Alex jumped, stared at him.

"Liz is alive." Isabel told him without preamble. Kyle felt his eyes widen, put his hand up against the door-jamb for support.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I just found her on the dream plain - Tarsus kidnapped her. She’s on Illyria." Isabel replied. "Max told us all along that she was still alive and none of us believed him. He went after her Kyle. He’s all alone. He’s going to get killed and he’s going to strand us here so that we can’t help…oh God…" Isabel started to cry. Alex pulled her into his arms.

"Why would he do that?" Kyle demanded. "Is he a complete moron?" He paused, felt a flash of complete annoyance. "Oh wait - I forgot - his mightiness NEVER asks for help."

"But he DID!" Isabel replied, managing to get a hold of herself. "He kept trying to get us to believe him and we wouldn’t. He had no choice."

"We practically told him he was insane." Alex told Kyle, sounding ashamed. "Tess was the only one who believed him."

"TESS!" Kyle exclaimed. "Does she know about this?" She was going to be so worried. Kyle knew how she felt about Max. He might not like it but he didn’t want her hurt in that way.

Isabel’s eyes seemed to become even wider. "Oh God! Michael never told me if she came home when I talked to him a few minutes ago." She stared at Alex. "I bet she went with Max."

Kyle closed his eyes briefly, felt the pain, quickly pushed it aside. Tess was following that imbecile Max onto a planet full of danger. He had to try and stop them - if only to protect the girl he loved. He didn’t care if she didn’t love him back. He preferred her alive and in love with someone else to being dead and his. "I’m assuming they’re going to take the portal in England?" He demanded. Isabel licked her lips, nodded.

"I assume so. We wanted your dad to put out an APB for Max at all the airports so that they would catch him either here, in Miami, or in London. I already tried to dreamwalk him, but not only is he awake, he’s blocking me." She lowered her voice, sounded sad. "He’s getting WAY too good at doing that."

"Has anyone gone to the airport?" Kyle asked. Alex nodded.

"Michael."

Kyle nodded resolutely. "We need to catch them. Maria’s gone to the station?" When Isabel nodded again, Kyle hurried back towards his room. "Just let me get dressed."

He was back moments later, having pulled on jeans, a white t-shirt and his letterman’s jacket. He grabbed the keys to the mustang off of the kitchen table. Isabel and Alex were still standing on the porch, staring at him. They both looked shocked that he was taking such initiative. He didn’t blame them. He was only beginning to realize what a completely selfish bastard he had been for the last few months.

This wasn’t just about he and Tess. He had had a responsibility to all of these people. They were his friends and he had basically abandoned them like a spoiled little boy, just because the girl he liked liked someone else.

"You guys stay here and wait for my dad." Kyle ordered. "Isabel why don’t you keep trying to use your mind stuff to get a hold of his mightiness and I’ll go help Michael at the airport."

He was out the door and peeling out of the driveway a moment later.

Alex and Isabel just stared after him. Alex looked at Isabel. "Who was that masked man?" He asked, sounding mystified.

Isabel shrugged. "Whoever he was, I hope he sticks around." She grabbed Alex’s hand, pulled him through the Valenti’s front door. "If this whole debacle has taught me one thing its that we ALL need each other. We were wrong not to believe Max but HE was wrong to take off like this. And if he brought Tess with him? They’re both in a lot of trouble Alex. They’re going to be taken the minute they go through the Ring. The Dernians control it now." She paused, felt tears well up in her eyes again. "We HAVE to stop them."

"We will Izzy. He’s not going to be able to get a flight to Miami at this time of night anyway. Michael and Kyle will catch them at the airport." Alex told her. Isabel could hear the doubt in his voice though. It was the same doubt that was swirling through her own mind - tinged with panic.

Because they both knew that, when it came to Liz Parker, nothing was going to stop Max from doing what had to be done.
****************************************

Max forced himself to refrain from pounding his fist on the airline counter in frustration. "You’re sure that there are no flights before six?" He asked one last time.

The airline rep snapped her gum, yawned. "I’m sure sir." She said. He could hear the annoyance in her voice. As Max turned away he could hear her muttering to herself. "NORMAL people don’t want to take a plane at two o’clock in the morning."

Normal people.

Well, he had never tried to pretend that he was normal. If he was normal none of this would be happening.

Liz would be safe.

Max sighed heavily, glanced at his watch. It was just after two. He wished now that he hadn’t left that note sitting on his bed. If Izzy found it before he was able to get on the plane they would try and stop him.

He refused to be stopped.

He wouldn’t even know if she did find it. He had shut down his mind, refusing to allow her access. He knew that the first thing she would do was try and contact him on the dream plain or, rather, because he was awake, telepathically. Isabel’s control of her mind had increased greatly over the past year. She WOULD be able to reach him.

But he wasn’t going to allow it. He was just as strong as she was, if not stronger.

He refused to be stopped.

Max swung his backpack over his shoulder, made his way to a bench nearby. He knew it was unlikely that he would be able to sit still. He would be watching the door constantly, hoping to hell that no one showed up to drag him home, or at the very least to try and guilt him into coming back.

He had made up his mind. He was doing this alone. He had determined that he was going to take care of Tarsus once and for all, making the planet safe for Jennetta’s triumphant return. Tarsus was the only thing standing in the way of the reunion of Illyria and Dernia.

Max knew this for one main reason. It was he, after all, who had led the Dernians the last time he was on his planet. He knew them - knew them inside and out. Without Tarsus, they would lose their way. The emotionless Dernians could not survive without a leader telling them what to do.

Max would become that leader and he would order them to follow Jennetta. It would be as simple as that.

Now he just had to get there. What had he been thinking leaving in the middle of the night? Of course there were no flights…

They were going to try and stop him. He just knew it.

And it was then that he heard it. "….ride to Albuquerque?"

He perked up. Was someone flying to Albuquerque? If he could at least get of Roswell, he’d be half-way there. They’d never find him in Albuquerque.

"I’m leaving in twenty minutes." Max heard a voice saying. "The tower has given me leave."

Max swallowed, followed the voice. He could see a young man nearby, talking to another airline rep. "Sounds good." She was saying. "Just let me get my bag. It will be good to be home earlier than I expected."

And suddenly Max realized that he had FINALLY had a stroke of good luck. He knew that girl.

Her name was Tina Mathers and she had sat in front of him in English during his sophomore year. She was a year older than him but as West Roswell didn’t have Advanced Placement for all of their courses, sometimes the more gifted students took the next year’s course, which was how Max had ended up in Eleventh Grade English - right behind Tina Mathers who, Max reddened at the memory, had once told him that she wanted to jump his bones.

The girl was anything but shy.

He had heard that she had become a flight attendant.

"Tina?" Max approached her.

She turned to stare at him wearily. She looked like she had been on her feet for five years, but her face brightened with recognition. "Max Evans!"

"Yeah. How are you?"

And so it was arranged. She was getting a lift back to Albuquerque on a small charter flown by a friend of hers. She had agreed almost instantly that he could come too. He could tell by the look on her face that she knew about Liz, thought that he just needed to get away. He wondered if that’s why she had been here - for Liz’s funeral. Max knew that Tina and Liz had done a few projects together at school.

But Tina didn’t say anything, just smiled willingly when he asked for her help.

It looked like things were going to be okay. Max went to wait near the gate, shifting impatiently from one foot to the other.

He almost made it too….

He could see Tina coming towards him, her friend the pilot in the lead. It was the person behind Tina that almost gave Max a heart attack.

It was Michael - and he looked pissed.

He was stalking along, his head down, glancing up every few feet to stare at the random people in the airport at this hour.

Max looked around frantically. There was nowhere to hide. Michael was going to see him any second and he was going to end up in a gigantic yelling match in the middle of the Roswell Airport. Tina and her friend were going to leave without him.

Max sighed resignedly as Michael approached. His best friend’s gaze flew past him, paused…

And Michael kept on walking.

Max blinked.

He followed Michael’s retreating figure with his eyes, tensed again when he saw Michael stop to talk to someone. It was Kyle Valenti, who was staring around the airport, an irritated expression on HIS face.

And then Max knew.

Tess.

And suddenly there she was, standing at his elbow, her blue eyes serious. "Don’t even tell me I’m not coming with you." She told him frostily, without preamble. "There is no way that you are going alone and clearly you need me."

She had mind-warped them. Michael was going to be EVEN more pissed.

"It’s too dangerous…" Max began, about to shake his head. Tess raised an eyebrow.

"What did I just say?"

Max sighed, then grinned with relief. He had tried. He admitted to himself that he hadn’t really wanted to be totally alone in this. Tess had been supportive from the beginning. He could trust her. "Let’s go. I’ll introduce you to Tina."

"I hope you know this is really stupid." Tess told him as they boarded the plane several minutes later.

"So then why are you coming with me?" Max asked, refusing to acknowledge that she was probably right.

"Because I’m just as big an idiot as you are." She told him sighing. "If we can get rid of Tarsus, maybe I can be with Kyle." She said quietly. "He’ll be safe then."

"He was here." Max told her unnecessarily. Tess nodded sadly.

"He won’t give up. I see that now. And you know what? I don’t want him to. Which means I need to help you."

"Thank you." Max returned, pleased that at least someone believed in him enough to support him, even if she did sort of have ulterior motives. At least her ulterior motives were close enough to his own to make it okay.

They were going to keep their loved ones safe by getting rid of the one threat left.

"Don’t thank me until Tarsus is just a bad memory we can pretend was a nightmare." Tess replied.

And that was going to be soon Max thought firmly. Very soon.




posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:38:00 AM
Part 8

They met at the Valentis. Isabel and Alex were already there of course, Isabel having had no luck trying to contact Max telepathically. Kyle and Michael joined them there after their useless trip to the airport and Maria and Jennetta had come back with the Sheriff.

Jennetta watched Michael pace, the expression on his face enraged. "I just cannot believe how irresponsible Max is! I mean, didn’t he learn his lesson last time? Tarsus BRAINWASHED him last time he refused help. And to bring Tess along with him…"

Isabel interjected angrily. She had become Max’s biggest champion since her dream talk with Liz. Jennetta imagined it had to do with her guilt over not believing their brother in the first place. "You’re one to talk Michael! I seem to recall many an occasion where you didn’t exactly ask for permission before you did something, or does YOUR memory need refreshing?" She began to tick numbers off on her fingers. "One: stealing that key from the Sheriff. Two: hijacking Maria to Marathon. Three: stealing the orb and going to talk to Topolsky AFTER we had agreed that we wouldn’t…"

"Stop yelling at him!" Maria shrieked, her hands over her ears. "Can’t you two EVER have a conversation without it turning into a battle royal?"

Alex stood up, his hands raised. "ENOUGH!" He yelled. The entire group shut up, staring at him. Jennetta had never heard Alex raise his voice, let alone with a tone like that. "This is wasting time. Michael, clearly Max had his reasons. We might not agree with them, but get over it." He said firmly. "Iz, I know you’re upset, but its time to move on. You can apologize to Max when we track him down. THAT’S what we need to think about right now. We have to figure out how we’re going to fix this."

Jennetta smiled slightly to herself. She had always liked Alex. She remembered how he used to make her giggle with his jokes before she had gone into the pod. She had quickly learned since emerging again that his humorous approach to life masked a good deal of common sense and a backbone of steel. She admired the way he was able to calm Isabel down with just a gentle touch. He would have made a good peace negotiator - he was always calm AND fair.

Michael raked his hands through his spiky hair in frustration, nodded. "I’m sorry." He grumbled to Isabel. She pursed her lips, nodded.

"Me too." To Jennetta’s ears neither of them sounded particularly sorry though.

But then that was Michael and Isabel. They were closer to siblings than friends, sparking off of each other quickly but just as quickly pretending it had never happened. That apology had been to make Alex happy, nothing more.

It had not taken Jennetta long to analyze how all of these relationships worked. She NEEDED to analyze them. She NEEDED them.

She needed Isabel’s passion and her fire and her vulnerability. Jennetta understood that Isabel was not her biggest fan. She was jealous of Jennetta’s relationship with Jaxon -er Max, she was TRYING to think of them all by their Earth names since those were the ones they favoured- and Isabel also resented that they had to deal with the Illyrian issue at all. If it hadn’t been for Jennetta, they might not have to. They could have reveled in Max’s return, tried to forget about their war-torn planet. Jennetta didn’t blame Isabel - understood it. Her sister was scared, scared that she was going to lose everything she loved.

Michael, her father, on the other hand was the complete opposite. While he had accepted his humanity by admitting his love for Jennetta’s mother, he was still driven by his need to secure his planet, so that he could LIVE the way he wanted to, happily with Maria, guilt-free. Jennetta knew that Michael could never be happy with the knowledge that his home planet was still in turmoil. He wasn’t pleased by the fact that it was HER job to solve the problem, but he had begun to accept it. With that acceptance came the determination that they would succeed. He would not rest until she sat on the throne. They had been the victims of destiny once again and again they would have to make the best of it.

Or so Michael thought. He was very pragmatic that way. He was exactly who Jennetta needed.

Because what some of them had not yet come to understand was that Jennetta WANTED her destiny to be fulfilled. She wanted to save her planet, she wanted to be queen.

And there was one reason that she wanted it.

She wanted it so that her loved ones wouldn’t have to be responsible anymore.

If Jennetta let destiny run its course Max and Liz could be together, as they were meant to be; Michael and Maria could be together as they WANTED to be. Mirana could be Isabel, Kyle and Tess could stop acting like complete idiots and admit they loved each other.

And Alex…

Well, Jennetta wasn’t sure exactly what Alex wanted. But whatever it was, she wanted him to have it.

Because a small little part of her heart had begun to admit that he was her favourite. He represented everything that was good about humanity. He made her proud to call herself half-human. He was the best and brightest this world had to offer.

Of course she loved her parents, she loved Jaxon, she felt sisterly towards Mirana - even if Mirana didn’t always feel the same way - but she liked Alex because of who HE was, not because of some previous relationship.

She liked Kyle and Liz too, but Alex was her favourite. No question about it.

And at this moment he was showing why.

"So, as I see it." Alex continued. "We have two things that need to be done."

"Two?" Maria asked. "I only see one. We need to catch up with Tess and Max and yell at them. A lot."

"And possibly pummel King Max…" Jennetta heard Kyle mutter.

Alex sighed. "Well, yes, that IS number one." He admitted. He looked at Kyle. "Not what YOU said, but what Maria said. Anyway, number two is JUST as important. What happens if we don’t catch them in time?"

Isabel sat down wearily. "Nothing happens. We have to sit here and do nothing. There is no way to open that damn portal without Max."

Alex raised his hand in protest. "Okay, could we for ONE minute please try and remember what Max has been telling us ALL along. There IS another way through." He pointed at Michael. "Did you or did you NOT see Tarsus in that flash?"

"I did." Michael replied.

"And he got here somehow." Alex finished. "And we need to figure out HOW…"

"We could ask Ren…" Maria suggested.

"Yeah, he’s been a ton of help so far." Alex replied sarcastically, shaking his head. "It’s time for us to attack that library with a vengeance. The answer HAS to be there somewhere."

"But what about Max and Tess?" Kyle demanded. "We’re not just going to let them go?"

"Of course not." Alex sighed again. Jennetta didn’t blame him. Everyone seemed to be particularly dense tonight. The explanation might lay in the fact that it was three thirty in the morning. Jennetta was exhausted too. "Half of us will follow them to England." He glanced at his watch. "And we had better go now. We need to be on the first plane out of Roswell this morning."

"So who stays and who goes?" Kyle interjected. "I’m going." He added quickly. Jennetta saw the Sheriff eye his son.

"If Kyle goes, I go." He said, speaking up for the first time. Jennetta looked at him. She didn’t know the Sheriff well, understood from her mother that they were trying to keep him out of things as much as possible, trying to protect him.

He didn’t look like he needed protecting to Jennetta. In fact, he looked quite ticked off at the moment. He did not seem to appreciate that he had been out of the loop for so long.

"What about your job?" Kyle demanded. "Dad, you can’t."

"I can and I will." Kyle’s father replied, raising an eyebrow. "Just because the lot of you kids seem to think I am incapable of really helping you, doesn’t mean I’m not going to try." He stared at Kyle. "And I think that you and I have a little catching up to do in certain departments."

Jennetta saw Kyle pale, smothered a smile. If anyone was a confused soul it was poor Kyle. Tess had him so tied up in knots he could barely think straight. Losing Liz on top of that had almost been the end of him. He needed his dad.

"Obviously Isabel and I should go to England." Michael was saying. "We’ve been before and if anyone can open the portal, Izzy can."

Alex was nodding. "I agree. And Jennetta has to stay here. She and Ren are the only ones who can read Illyrian."

Jennetta saw her mother exchange a loaded glance with her father. "I’ll stay here too." Maria supplied. Jennetta knew it was because neither of them wanted to leave her alone. She smiled to herself again.

"I’ll stay too." Alex decided. "Maybe I can create some sort of translation program…to make it easier."

"Are you trying to tell me that you’re going to move a computer system into the library?" Michael demanded, smirking. "Typical Whitman!" Jennetta frowned. She didn’t like the way the others treated Alex sometimes - like they were humoring him. She knew that her father was just teasing Alex, but it annoyed her.

Didn’t they understand that he was one of their greatest strengths?

Alex didn’t seem to mind though. He just grinned. "No alien hocus pocus for me." He glanced at his watch again. "And alien hocus pocus ain’t going to get you guys to England any faster. You need to get there NOW."

The Sheriff moved off to call into the station. Kyle hurried off to his bedroom to pack while the other four made their way to the door. "We’ll see you in half an hour." Michael yelled in the general direction of Kyle’s departure.

Jennetta closed her eyes briefly. FINALLY! They were working as a team. She opened her eyes to the sight of Maria holding out her hand for her. "Let’s go Jenny."

"Coming."

Maybe everything WOULD work out.

Or maybe not.

Part 9

The Citadel, Illyria

Liz ran her hand down the front of the volume once more and finally flipped open the cover.

October 28, 1999

Dearest Honeybear,

Liz felt her heart stop. Tears began to form in her eyes. Only one person had ever called her "honeybear" - the one person she had loved above all others before Max Evans had patched a bullet hole in her abdomen over two and a half years ago.

Her grandmother.

And Liz suddenly remembered every single minute of the night Tarsus had brought her to Illyria.

Tarsus had not lied. She HAD chosen to come.

She had chosen to leave Max.

Roswell, New Mexico - eight days earlier - the night of the Prom

Liz felt a gentle hand stroking her hair. "Liz? Wake up. We’re here."

She lifted her head off of Max’s shoulder, yawning. "Are we home?"

She blinked. She hadn’t realized that she had fallen asleep. She looked up at Max, glanced into the back seat of the Jeep. "Where is everyone?" She asked. Michael, Maria and Jennetta had all been back there the last thing she remembered.

"They’re at home in bed, which is where you should be." Max replied, kissing her lightly on the top of her head. "Everyone’s exhausted. We all need a good night’s sleep to get up the energy for what lies ahead."

Liz was tired but she wasn’t THAT tired. She pouted up at him. "So are you trying to tell me that you’re not coming up?" She asked innocently. "I am feeling mildly insulted here Max. Isn’t prom night supposed to be "the" big night?"

Max raised an eyebrow at her. "Are you propositioning me Miss Parker?" He asked, sounding prim but with an underlying note of amusement. "I’m sorry but I am a gentleman."

Liz lowered her lashes. "We’ll see about that." She replied before throwing her arms around him and kissing him breathless.

Liz had felt in complete control of this situation until she felt his mouth start to move down her neck. She wrapped her hands in his hair, pulling him closely against her.

Max was flushed when she finally pulled back. She could feel her own heart beating at about fifty times the usual speed. She wondered if she would ever get enough of him?

They had agreed awhile ago that neither of them was ready to move on to the next step in their relationship. There was no question that they were together for good, but a sexual relationship was a serious thing to both of them. They wanted to be careful and responsible. While Jennetta was well loved by all of them, she had definitely NOT been planned and Michael and Maria had had to endure a lot of heartache because they had let themselves lose control that one time.

If there was one thing that Max and Liz had most in common it was their need to be in complete control of their lives. They had so little control over so many other aspects, this one was one place neither of them wanted to make a mistake. And so they had made the serious decision together.

But they had been moving dangerously close to the edge lately. Sometimes Liz’s love for Max almost overwhelmed her to the point that she just wanted to tell him that they should throw all of their grandiose promises out the window….she loved him and wanted to BE with him.

She knew it wouldn’t be tonight - they were both exhausted and when it finally did happen it was not going to be a spur of the moment thing.

Liz sighed, ran her hand down his face lovingly. Why did he have to be so darn beautiful to her though? All the good intentions in the world were no match for the expression that was currently on his face. He was looking at her like he wanted to attack her - in a good way.

"Well, I think you convinced me." Max finally managed to tell her in a strangled voice, sitting back. "But I can only stay for a while." He was breathing heavily.

"I’ll see you in five minutes." Liz told him, bouncing out of the car. She could feel Max staring after her. It felt like his eyes were burning into her soul. It might take him more than five minutes to recover. It gave her plenty of time to lock up and say goodnight to her parents.

She needed some time to recover herself too.

Liz let herself through the front door of the Crashdown, was not surprised to see that her father had left a light on for her. She paused behind the counter, poured herself a glass of water. It was when she put the glass down in the sink that she noticed the package sitting on the counter.

Liz narrowed her eyes. She went and picked it up, saw that the note on top was in her father’s handwriting.

She examined the package carefully. It felt like a book. She opened the note, her curiosity peaked.

"Dear Lizzie,

When your mom and I saw you leave with Max tonight I think it finally hit us that you are all grown up. You looked so beautiful sweetie, but I was a little sad too because for the first time I saw you as the young woman you have become and not as the little girl I wanted you to stay. We’ve tried to protect you for so long, tried to let you grow up independent with the right to make your own choices.

Looking at you and Max tonight, I think the choice was made a long time ago.

I know you must be shaking your head right about now, wondering what on Earth your dorky old dad is talking about. Well, this book says it better than I ever could. I’ve never been very good with words Lizzie. My mother was always the silver-tongued member of our family. It might be why you were always so close to her. You could talk to her about things - things that I found difficult to say.

Your mom and I decided that it is time for you to have this. Remember a few months ago when you asked us if you were adopted? We didn’t lie to you. You’re not honey. You’re my flesh and blood as much as you are your mother’s.

But you were right about one thing. Our heritage is a little different then what you might expect. I have known for a long time but it never really mattered to me. But I think that it might matter to you. And so I give this to you with all my love. It’s yours anyway. Grandma always intended to give it to you herself. We just didn’t expect that she would be taken from us so soon.

We also didn’t expect that you would be the one this book speaks of. It was a hell of a coincidence. Your Grandma knew before she died. She seemed somehow at peace didn’t she? She wrote the preface to this the same night that she went to the hospital. I saw her writing it, never understood why it seemed so important to her at the time. I think she knew her time was coming. She didn’t want to leave you without her blessing.

That’s what this is Lizzie. It’s a love story and a blessing all wrapped up in the story of a girl who loved a boy but couldn’t be with him. Her story is OUR story and will be YOUR story too I think, if what I see between you and Max is real. I’m pretty sure it is honey. I know how I used to look at your mom when we first met. Max has that look.

Anyway, enough blather from me. This is yours. Read it and decide for yourself what it means for you. We can talk about it after you’re done. Your mom and I are always here for you. Never forget that honey.

Love Dad"

Liz felt like her heart was in her throat when she was done reading her dad’s loving words. She felt tears of affection for her parents trying to squeeze their way out of her eyes. She flipped through the book, saw her grandmother’s familiar handwriting, realized that it was her journal.

What a completely precious gift.

Liz swallowed, pulled the journal close to her heart and bit her lip. She wondered what her dad had meant with all those mentions of Max. It was very weird, but she knew one thing.

The key to why her face was in that book Tess had found in the alien library was likely clenched to her chest at this moment.

And Max was upstairs waiting for her.

Part of her wanted to fly up the stairs and out onto her balcony, throw herself into Max’s arms and then go through the whole thing with him. This was evidently about both of them if she was reading her dad’s letter properly.

But another part of her, the cautious part, the part that remembered how leaping before you looked could end up…it stopped her.

The destiny message had taught them all that lesson too well.

She needed to do this alone first. She had every intention of sharing this with Max, but in a way she NEEDED to do it alone. This was her grandmother, HER family. Clearly Max was involved, but to what extent she had no idea.

She would go up and spend a wonderful hour in her boyfriend’s arms and then she would read her grandmother’s journal.

Tomorrow morning she would call Max and tell him everything.

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

The Citadel, Illyria

Of course tomorrow had never come.

Liz had kissed Max good-bye on her balcony and had woken up in a cold white chamber on Illyria.

She shivered as she remembered how that had come about…

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

Roswell, New Mexico - eight days earlier

"Sweet dreams." Liz whispered against Max’s lips, hating to see him go, wishing as always that he didn’t have to. But in the back of her mind, her grandmother’s journal called to her….

"Don’t worry." Max replied lovingly, his dark eyes smoldering. "I have every intention of dreaming of you. I’ll see you in the morning Liz."

"First thing." Liz insisted. Max had smiled that smile he only reserved for her and moments later he was gone.

Liz waited until she heard the Jeep’s motor start up and the car pull away before she moved. It took all of her effort. She felt frozen, scared.

Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe she should call Max, leave him a message, ask him to come back…

NO! Stop being silly, Liz ordered herself. This can’t be bad. Dad would have said something in his note. He wouldn’t have just sprung this on me. He would have prepared me if it was bad.

Liz quickly retrieved the leather bound book off of her bed. She returned to the balcony, curled up under the blanket, the precious volume cradled on her lap. She could still feel Max in the air, felt his presence all around her.

She could do this.

Liz bit her lip, opened the cover.

October 28, 1999

Dearest Honeybear,

This is a letter more than a journal. I write it tonight after an amazing coincidence that I still have not quite grasped. The moment the name "Max" fell from Maria’s lips this evening, I knew that what I had always dreamt of for you was about to come true.

I have been watching your Max for a long time my Liz. I don’t know how much you know about who or what he is, but if he is truly what you hinted he might be - your soulmate - you are destined for a journey that I must prepare you for.

Let this journal serve as a guide. It is an explanation of who you are and where you are going - IF you choose to follow the path on which you have only just taken the first steps. For you still have a choice my Liz. I have only tried to ease your path slightly with my actions. I hope that someday you will understand.

I have been keeping a journal for a long time - longer than you can possibly imagine. You know this. It was I after all who gave you YOUR first journal, back when you had just learned to read and write. I saved the first page of this journal for the days before my death - for the days when I would write the dedication for whom it was intended. I knew that someday it would go to someone special - someone who had been chosen by my king. I always secretly hoped that it would be you my darling girl - I suppose that somehow I always knew that it would be.

If you are reading this then your father has found the courage to give it to you. I know that it scares him, what this book contains, but it is not bad my darling. It is what is meant to be - what could only have happened to two people who followed their hearts. I hope that when you have finished reading this, some of your questions will have been answered. I also hope and pray that your ending with your Max is what mine should have been.

Remember above all else my honeybear - follow your heart.

All of my love,

Your Grandma

Liz felt the tears streaming down her face by the time she had finished her grandmother’s inscription. She missed her so much. Her grandma had been one of the few people who had ever really "gotten" her. It was very rare to find those people. Max was one. Maria another. Alex too. But her grandma had been the first.

She flipped the page over, felt her eyes widen…

"Well, well, well. I knew you’d be happy to see me Liz, but I didn’t expect tears of joy."

Liz gasped. Her head snapped up and she watched in incredulous horror as the wall next to her window seemed to come alive. It began to change, ooze, glow, until the wall was suddenly back to normal.

But she was no longer alone.

"Tarsus!" She knew it was him. He had taken River Dog’s form again, was staring at her blankly.

"Right on the first try. Most impressive." He moved forward, plucked the journal out of Liz’s lap. He flipped through it passively. "What have we here? A little light reading?"

Liz just stared at him, frozen. She thanked God that Max had gone home when he had. He was safe. Now she just had to figure out how to keep him that way.

"What do you want?" She demanded, trying to keep her voice steady, strong. She could show no fear. She had tried to do the same the last time she had confronted this maniacal shapeshifter. She had succeeded in getting answers from him that last time, that time at the Santa Anna Hot Springs, before all hell had broken loose. She could do it again.

"The question is WHO do I want?" Tarsus replied, sounding completely unconcerned. "And you know the answer to that question little human."

"Max." Liz said evenly. "That isn’t going to happen."

"Not just Jaxon." Tarsus corrected. "Although I wouldn’t mind hauling his traitorous carcass back to the Ring for judgment. No, who I want is much more important. I want the little chosen one."

Liz set her jaw. "What on Earth are you talking about?" She demanded. She had no idea whether Tarsus and Danala had been in contact during Danala’s reign of terror. She would not be tricked into giving him information that he might not have.

"Tisk, tisk Liz. I was there the day she was born, or did Maria not tell you the whole story?" Tarsus asked, shaking his head. "I know all about Jennetta and it is time to take her back to claim her throne."

Liz stood up carefully, moving towards the window. "We have every intention of putting Jennetta on the throne." Liz told him. "But YOU are not going to have any part of it. Your time is over Tarsus."

"Is it?" Tarsus smirked at her. "We’ll see." He was still flipping through Grandma’s journal. "What is this anyway?" He glanced down at the page his meandering had landed him on. "Andrina? Hmmmm…" He glanced up at Liz. "What is this?" He demanded again.

"It’s mine." Liz told him, moving forward to snatch it away from him. Tarsus held it just out of her reach though.

"I think not. I want to get a closer look at this." Liz stepped back, scowling at him. Her heart was pounding in her chest at twenty times the normal speed. She could not allow him to see her fear.

He seemed to peruse the journal forever although she could tell that he was not really reading it. He seemed to have the scanning ability that Max and the others were still trying to perfect.

Tarsus finally looked up, still smirking. "Well, well, well…" He said again. His gaze raked from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Liz suddenly felt incredibly dirty. "This is VERY interesting."

He was not going to get to her. "You have to know that I am never going to let you anywhere near Max OR Jennetta." Liz told him. "Why did you come here anyway?"

"I wasn’t sure until just now." Tarsus admitted. "Something drew me here…fate perhaps." He lifted the journal. "This I suspect. Andrina’s essence is still all over it."

Liz frowned again. "That was my grandmother’s." She snapped. "Who is this Andrina person you keep talking about?"

Tarsus sighed. "I see that I interrupted your reading too soon little queen."

Liz blinked. "What did you just call me?" She managed to whisper after what felt like three years.

Tarsus merely stared at her. Finally he stepped forward, picked up a lock of her hair and let it fall through his fingers. "You really are exquisite aren’t you? Almost as lovely as Mirana in your way."

Liz felt her skin crawl, took a step back. "Don’t touch me again." She ordered, her voice shaking. "Max will kill you for this."

"Hmmmm…we’ll see." He said again. He tilted his head. "Well, I think my plans have changed. I think that our goals might intersect after all my beauty."

"What do you mean?" She asked, fright beginning to truly claim her. She did not like the way his eyes were glinting. His elderly face - the countenance of a man who had been truly kind and wise - was overshadowed by those glittering eyes.

"I only have one question for you Liz." He stepped towards her again. "Would you come with me if you knew that all of your questions about your history and your future could be answered?"

"Never. I’d rather die." Liz replied, trying to make her voice drip with disdain. She wasn’t as good at it as Isabel, but he seemed to hear it. His eyes flared with something again - respect this time she thought.

"Well, let me rephrase that then." Tarsus shrugged. "Would you come with me if it meant that I never bothered your Max OR the little chosen one again?"

Liz’s heart stopped.

He had just offered her the one thing she was willing to die for.

Max’s safety.

"Why should I believe you?" She whispered desperately, looking for a reason to turn him away again.

"Because I have no cause to lie." He lifted the journal casually. "This has shown me that you will do quite as well as either of them."

Liz could feel the air closing in on her. She felt as though she was caught in a web, one of her own making. How had he known exactly what would bind her to him?

"He’ll come after me." Liz told Tarsus as she forced herself to step up to him. The minute he had offered to leave Max alone, the choice had been made.

She would do anything to protect him - even leave him.

"Don’t you worry my little queen. There will be no one to come after." Tarsus replied silkily, bringing his hand up to her face.

The next instant everything went dark.




posted on 29-Sep-2001 12:39:44 AM
Part 10

The Citadel, Illyria

Liz’s head snapped up when the door slid open, revealing the silent female servant who had been taking care of Milena and her needs for the past few days. She shut her grandmother’s journal with a sigh, wondered if she was ever going to get the chance to read the thing. It was very irritating.

The servant was carrying a bundle of clothing, which she handed over to Liz without a word. Liz looked at Milena, who stood across the room, her arms folded across her chest, an expression of worry on her face.

"What is this for?" Liz asked the girl. But the servant only smiled serenely and didn’t reply, turning on her heel and leaving. "Why will no one talk to me?" Liz asked Milena in frustration. She was beginning to feel so isolated, her only consolation Max and Isabel’s mother and, horrifyingly, Tarsus’ brief visits.

She missed Max and her friends so much. And her parents…her parents who might be dead for all she knew. Liz felt tears fill her eyes, forced herself to squash the thoughts before they could truly form. She refused to accept that her parents were gone until she had proof. Tarsus was a master liar. Nothing that came out of his mouth could be believed and even he was unsure of the fate of Jeff and Nancy.

"I don’t think Tarsus wants any of them to get close to you." Milena replied, moving close to take the bundle from Liz. "After all, Ren turned on him when he became friendly with Maria." She smiled, reached out her hand to push a lock of Liz’s hair off of her face. "He sees that you are too lovable I think."

Liz grimaced. "Well, there’s a disgusting thought. As if I would want any of these people to love me. They’re Max’s enemies!" She paused, feeling confused. "Besides, I thought they were all cleansed. How can they feel any affection anyway?"

Milena smiled sadly. "I think that the Dernians are just beginning to learn that their cleansing isn’t as fool-proof as they once thought. And don’t forget Liz that all the inhabitants of this planet are Max’s subjects. The Dernians are rebels yes, but there is always hope that reconciliation will be achieved. This is what Jennetta is supposed to do for us. But that is a conversation for another time." She moved to the bed, put the bundle down, picked up the top article of clothing. It was a long white robe of some sort. "I think they want you to wear this for our journey to the Ring."

"Why?" Liz asked. "What’s going to happen there? Do you know?"

"It’s nothing to be afraid of sweeting. I think Tarsus is going to have the Ring judge you so that he can advance whatever plan it is he has for you. His people will likely not accept your place on our world unless the Ring does." Milena passed the white robe to Liz, continued quickly when she saw Liz shiver. "You will be fine Liz. You are my son’s future wife. The Ring will welcome you. This is actually a positive thing, even if Tarsus seems to think it will benefit him."

The Ring. The centre of everything on this planet. It was strange to Liz that the Illyrians spoke of it as though it lived. Their entire culture revolved around it. In a purely scientific sense she was eager to see it. She had seen Stonehenge on Earth of course, but she had been unconscious when Tarsus had brought her to Illyria. She had not seen the Illyrian original yet.

And yet the news that she was likely to be "judged" was frightening. Maria had told her all about Judgment. She and Michael had had to go through that when they had been on Illyria. Apparently, in some sense, the Ring WAS alive because it formed the only judge and jury on this planet. Robbers, thieves, murderers, traitors…they were all sent into the Ring for punishment. If they were guilty or unworthy they were apparently incinerated. If they were innocent they were spared. Michael and Maria had been spared of course, so the result of being deemed guilty was still a little unclear. Which was what scared her so much.

What Liz wanted to know was who was doing the judging? She couldn’t believe that a bunch of stones were the real power here. Who was using this Ring as their instrument? It was a question that plagued her. Ren had once spoken of the Creator and the mysterious Lucianus. Was this God? Why was God, if he existed, playing such a huge role in politics on one small planet? It was all very strange and unexplainable - and scary too. They were being forced to examine exactly what it was they believed.

And the scary thing was, Liz had no idea WHAT she believed. She believed in a higher power but also accepted that religion was something that was often created by societies to explain the mystery of life and death. But if some higher power was so involved in life on Illyria, what did that MEAN? Was Illyria somehow a reflection of all worlds? Would Earth reach the point where God would start to intervene directly there?

If there was one thing Liz Parker could not stand, it was finding more questions when she was looking for answers.

And if she couldn’t find answers about the Ring right now, she COULD find answers about what the heck it was Tarsus wanted from her. She took the robe from Milena, quickly removed her own clothes and put it on. It was too thin. She started to shiver almost immediately. Apparently Illyrians and Dernians were more warm-blooded than humans. Liz had been bundled up for days but the Illyrian clothing was so thin as to sometimes be almost transparent.

Liz moved to her bag, took out a sweater, which she drew on over the robe.

"How long will it be?" Liz asked, still shivering.

"I have no idea." Milena replied. "But try not to worry too much. It will all be fine sweeting."

"Well, in the meantime…" Liz picked up her grandmother’s journal. "I think I’ll keep reading. To keep my mind off of it." Milena smiled at her and nodded, moved over to a nearby table where her embroidery was sitting waiting for her.

Liz flopped down on her bed, kicked the irritating robe out of the way and flipped open the journal. She quickly scanned her grandmother’s preface again, felt a swell of affection for that beloved woman.

She noticed an introduction had been added to the journal, directly after the letter to herself.

"This is the story of a princess who came to a new world full of hope for the future. It is the story of how that hope disappeared and how, in the end, love did not conquer all. But love did live on as these pages will reveal."

Liz’s grandmother had scrawled her signature under the words. She frowned, didn’t understand. She had thought that this was her grandmother’s journal? But then Claudia Parker had been an historian. Had she experienced something like Liz had experienced? A close encounter of the alien kind? And had she recorded it for posterity?

Liz flipped through the pages, sighed at the length. She was in for a long read it seemed. She hoped she could make a dent in it before Tarsus came to get them.

She began to read.

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

December 14, 1812

I have decided to keep a journal of my time on Earth in the language of the country in which we came through the portal. It will be good for me to practice my English. Lucianus has, of course, instructed me so that I am fluent, but practice makes perfect. I will also date this journal in accordance with the calendar here, as that only makes sense.

I am not entirely sure why I am writing this all down, but I feel the need to do so. Perhaps it is so that I can share the details with my brother and with my love when I return to Illyria. Of course, any treaties that are negotiated with the humans will be historic in value as well. My journal might find itself enshrined in the Citadel’s great library. Wouldn’t that be a laugh? Silly Andrina’s thoughts left behind for an entire world to admire!

The plans continue apace for the move to the North American continent. We have all agreed that no overtures will be made to the humans until we have well established ourselves here. We must be comfortable with our environment if we wish to approach them with any semblance of a position of strength.

I transmitted a message to my brother this morning. I stayed near the Earth Ring, called Stonehenge by the humans, for close to an hour, but there was no reply. I have not heard from Gordian in over a week. It frightens me. We agreed that we would transmit every three days, at least until we departed for North America. Communicating through the portal is so much easier than trying to use those untrustworthy dream orbs. Gordian has never been extremely patient in the use of the dream plain either. It is often more trouble than it is worth to speak to him there. We might be twins, but sometimes I do not understand my brother at all.

I do understand why he sent me here as his ambassador though. He wanted me as far away from Laren as possible. Doesn’t he understand that nothing will come between our love? If Laren is willing to fight that evil " the cleansing" to be with me, of course he is trustworthy! It is most upsetting and frustrating. But I don’t blame Gordian. He is ever so much more cautious since the birth of Jaxon and Mirana.

Lazar’s position is precarious, to say the least, since their arrival. The whole treaty between my people and the Dernians rested on the tenet that Lazar would be my brother’s heir. Gordian only agreed to this because it seemed unlikely that Milena would ever bear children. They had tried for so long, but they were still young. I don’t know why Gordian ever signed that wretched document in the first place. Didn’t he realize that Milena was only immature, that the children would come eventually? He should never have married her when she was so young. But he needed the trade treaty with Pilea. It was a mistake, but an understandable one.

Lazar is bound to be on the war path again. It was why I was sent here. A treaty with the humans is the only hope my brother has left.

Well, enough relaying of old details that will turn up in the history books anyway. I am off to London to see if Jemma has solved any of the questions regarding who is the real power on this planet - or at least in this country. We don’t want to offend any leaders by broaching the wrong one.

***************************************************************
Liz looked up, a frown of confusion on her face. Laren? That was Nasedo’s real name! Was he the hero of this great love story? What a joke. He was a murderous shapeshifter as far as Liz was concerned - nearly as bad as Tarsus. While Liz understood that his entire goal while on Earth had been to protect Max, Tess, Isabel and Michael, it still did not justify all the evil he had done.

But there were more pressing questions at the moment.

She saw Milena calmly working on her embroidery in the corner. "Milena?" Liz asked. Max’s mother’s head rose. She looked at Liz questioningly. "Who were Gordian and Lazar?"

A shadow passed over Milena’s face. "Gordian was my husband. Lazar was Tristandor and Sabrya’s father. He was the leader of the Dernians before Danala."

Liz stood, went to stand near Milena, the journal tucked into the crook of her arm. "Why won’t you tell me about Andrina?" Liz asked her. Max’s mother had turned away every question Liz had tried to direct at her since the journal had fallen into Liz’s hands. She didn’t understand it at all. And now it was clear that Milena HAD known her. She was her sister-in-law for Pete’s sake!

Milena stared back at her, her face pale. "I think that Andrina would want you to find out from her Liz. That is what that book is for." The tone of her voice made Liz frown even more.

"Why are you so frightened of what she wrote in here?" Liz asked. When Max’s mother bit her lip, Liz realized that she had hit the nail on the head with that question.

"I am not afraid." She said, in a tone that was completely unconvincing. "But I do not know all the details. It is better for you to read and then come to me with your questions. That way we can put all the information together."

Liz sighed. "Are you sure that you don’t know why Tarsus thinks I’m so important?" She asked finally.

"I do not." Milena replied firmly.

But for some reason Liz did not believe her.

She wondered if she could really trust this woman at all.

Liz eyed her a moment longer, then went and sat back on the bed, pulling the journal towards her. She would do as Milena asked, read the whole thing and then ask her questions.

She turned back to the journal and was instantly engrossed.
**************************************************************

February 15, 1813

I have not written in ages as there is very little to report. We are largely sitting here twiddling our thumbs. I still have not heard from Gordian. If we do not hear from him soon, I fear that we will have to proceed to North America without having done so. My brother does not even answer me on the dream plain. I will try once more tonight. If I cannot connect, I will try Milena. She is strong on the dream plain.

I am frightened. My brother has never left me alone for so long. I fear what this means for Laren and for Illyria.

February 16, 1813

I could not reach Gordian. I am almost scared enough to try and return to Illyria through the portal. I could not reach Milena either.

February 17, 1813

I managed to reach Milena this evening. She was wandering on the dream plain, seemingly in a daze. I could not connect with her though. Something horrible has happened, I know it. I have contacted the members of the mission. We will all reconvene at Stonehenge in three days. I am going to open the portal. We are going home. None of this has any merit if something has happened to Gordian.

Oh my brother! I pray to the stars that you are safe! Our planet is doomed without you.

Laren, are you safe my love?

February 22, 1813

It is unspeakable. I have been weeping for two days straight, can barely see through my tears as I pen these words.

My brother is dead.

Part 11

Roswell, New Mexico, Earth - 24 hours later

"Any luck?"

Alex jumped at the sound of the voice close to his ear. He turned to stare at Jennetta, who had appeared suddenly near his elbow.

"I thought you were helping Ren and Maria bring books in here?" Alex asked, narrowing his eyes.

It had been almost a full day since Isabel, Michael, Kyle and the Sheriff had boarded a plane to Miami, hoping to catch Max and Tess before they made their connection to London.

When Isabel had called late the night before she had sounded totally bummed. They had had no luck at all, having made it all the way to London without even finding a hint that Max and Tess had even come through the United Kingdom’s customs. The Sheriff’s APB should have caught up to them at least by then.

There was only two possible answers to the riddle of how Tess and Max seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet.

Either they already had "fallen" off the face of the planet, literally, and had somehow used super-speed to make it to the portal (Alex would NOT have put this past Max Evans at this point) - or else Tess was mind-warping like a maniac.

And if the latter was true, then the luck of one stubborn alien king was about to run out. Possibly at the worst possible time too - right when Max and Tess landed on Illyria and were confronted by a legion of Dernian troops.

There was no way that Tess was going to be able to keep up with the pace. She was strong, but she wasn’t THAT strong.

As Michael had told Maria on the phone earlier this morning, Tess was exhausting herself to the point of complete drainage of her powers. He could feel it.

Both Isabel and Michael were certain that they would know if the portal had been opened, also both felt that they would know if the two AWOL members of their four-square had left the planet. The energy that it took from the planet and from Max as well would be felt by both of them.

Just as they could feel when Max used a great quantity of energy, they could feel it from Tess too. And if Michael was to be believed, he could barely feel her anymore. Max’s spirit still burned somewhere on Earth, but with every passing hour, Tess’s aura faded a little more.

She was draining herself completely.

But at least they were still on Earth, if not answering their mental cell phones at the moment, Alex reflected wryly. Tess had shut off her dreams to Isabel as well, but they were still THERE to shut her out.

There was STILL a chance of catching them at Stonehenge.

Everyone was even more on edge, not only concerned that they weren’t going to be able to find Max and Tess in time, but also now horrified at what might happen to them once they made their way to Illyria.

The best possible scenario was capture.

Alex wasn’t even convinced that this wasn’t what Max had originally intended. At least if Tarsus caught him, Max would be taken to Liz. But Alex also trusted that Max wouldn’t deliberately bring Tess into such a dangerous situation. It was entirely possible that once Tess made it clear that she was going with him, Max had changed his mind about how he wanted the whole operation to play out, depending on Tess’s mind-warp to see them through those first initial moments on the planet.

But he had clearly not counted on the fact that Michael and Isabel would be pursuing him so determinedly and so quickly. And since he still likely thought they were going to try and stop him, he was letting Tess waste her powers in order to avoid them.

Which meant that they were in REAL trouble. Because if they resisted capture once they reached Illyria, relying on Tess’s mind-warp to save them, hoping that she would still have enough strength to create one of such a magnitude, they could be killed.

It was entirely possible that Tess wouldn’t be able to mind-warp at all.

They now knew for sure that Max had NOT originally intended to take Tess. Maria had found the note on Michael’s messy bedroom floor last night. It had apparently fallen off the bed. Tess had begged them NOT to blame Max for her decision to accompany him. Apparently she had not even known for sure that he was going, had just gone to the airport on a hunch.

As she had written in her closing line: "He’s only doing what I should have done a long time ago. Michael, please tell Kyle that I am going to try and resolve this once and for all."

Kyle had been absolutely silent on the other end of the phone when Maria had read him that part.

To top it all off, Jennetta was behaving VERY strangely.

Like right now for example.

Alex eyed her for a moment as she blushed, clearly unsure how to answer his question. "I just wanted to see if you needed more help with the vocabulary program." She finally said quietly.

"Er - okay." Alex moved over, let her pull up a chair.

They had set up Alex’s PC in the pod chamber. Ren had somehow figured out how to hook it into the Compound’s main energy source and it was humming along more happily than Alex had ever heard it. Alien juice clearly agreed with it.

Alex had started loading Illyrian vocabulary into one of his translation programs early yesterday morning. It had not taken very long for the computer to find an earthly language VERY similar to Illyrian.

Illyrian apparently was almost exactly the same as ancient Sumerian, one of the first recorded human forms of writing.

Alex and Maria had exchanged a look at this news. "Apparently Stonehenge wasn’t the Illyrians first contribution to our civilization." Alex had finally managed to choke out.

Aliens had been on their planet for a VERY long time.

The good news was that the computer had been happily translating silver metal books for close to twelve hours. With Jennetta and Ren filling in certain words here and there, it had all gone very smoothly.

Too smoothly in fact. Alex now knew more than he had ever wanted to about Illyrian agriculture, industry, fashion and, most horrifying of all, sewage - or at least the lack thereof.

Maria had giggled slightly at that. "Didn’t I mention that little detail?" She had asked him. "It’s outhouse city there babe. Or at least sometimes."

"And I’m choosing to go to this planet?" Alex had asked, feeling pained. He was NOT, never had been, a camper. Alex Charles Whitman liked his creature comforts. Both Father’s Camping trips into Fraser Woods had practically killed him. Even his dad’s raid of every camping store in Roswell for the latest state-of -the art camping equipment on their last journey into the woods had not helped.

At least he knew that if he and Isabel ended up together he wouldn’t be expected to be "outdoorsy dad." She was even less outdoorsy than he was.

Alex propped his cheek up on his left hand, stared at the scrolling computer screen. "Are you bored of reading the old-fashioned way?" He asked Jennetta, trying to stop his eyes from crossing.

"I WAS bringing some more books in here to read, but Maria insisted that I rest my eyes for a while. She said they were getting blood-shot." She looked at him from under lowered lashes, her cheeks still slightly pink. Her dark lashes swept upward until she was staring right at him. "Do you think they look okay?"

Alex blinked.

Her eyes didn’t look the least bit blood-shot to him. In fact, they were actually really pretty. He had never noticed before. They looked a lot like Michael’s, but they had a peculiar ring of green around the edge of the iris that made them seem even darker…

What the hell was he thinking???

Alex sat back abruptly. "They look okay." He muttered, swallowing hard and turning his own eyes back to the computer.

If Alex Charles Whitman was not mistaken, Jennetta Elizabeth Evans was FLIRTING with him!

But he HAD to be mistaken. She was a kid for criminy’s sake - well, sort of. How old WAS she anyway? Alex wondered, casually looking at her from the corner of his eye. She was now staring at the computer screen too, her full lips, almost identical to Maria’s, pursed in concentration.

As far as he knew she was supposed to be about twenty-one, or at least that’s what Ren had speculated she would be. But then she had only been in existence for just over two years.

So not only was she was also TOO young for him, she was ALSO too old.

It was too weird - and disturbing.

Not to mention she was sort of Isabel’s sister. Alex mentally smacked himself. She was so NOT flirting with him. Was he insane?

And yet Alex swallowed again, tried to inconspicuously move his chair away from Jennetta’s.

He blessed his lucky stars that Michael was currently on the other side of the Earth. If he had been there with any inkling of the way Alex’s thoughts had just turned, Alex Charles Whitman would not be long for this world.

Must turn train of thoughts…MUST do it now! Alex ordered himself. "So, why’d you decide to call Michael and Maria by their first names?" He blurted out.

Great you fool! Remind her that she has an abnormal and sad relationship with her biological parents. What the hell is the matter with you?

Jennetta did not seem upset as she replied though. "We just decided it would be easier. It has to be natural that I call them by their names - I mean, at least on Earth. I can’t slip up and call them mom and dad. How could we ever explain that? Not even the Evans’ know our real relationship."

"Are you okay with that?" Alex asked quietly, feeling sorry for her, but even more so for Maria. He knew that this whole grown-up child thing had almost killed her. His best friend seemed to be bouncing back now but Alex had a feeling that she would never be completely the same again. Maria might still be wacky, but she would never again have the innocence she had lost since Jennetta’s arrival.

"I wish things could be different." Jennetta replied matter-a-facty. "But this is my destiny."

Alex grinned sadly at her. "Don’t you know yet that that’s a dirty word around here?" He asked teasingly.

Jennetta smiled at him. "Not always." She replied. "There are lots of things I want in this world…" She paused, bit her lip, looked away from him. Alex frowned slightly. What was going on in that head of hers? "That I can’t have." She finished. "But I DO want to be Queen and that is one thing that I CAN have."

Alex couldn’t help himself. He reached out and took her hand reassuringly. "I really don’t think any of this is fair but I really do hope you get the happiness you deserve Jenny."

Jennetta just gazed at him, her eyes bright, her expression unreadable.

Alex let her hand drop when Maria appeared at the entrance to the transformation chamber, stumbling under a pile of silver books. "Help!" She yelped. Alex jumped to his feet to help her, but not before Alex saw Ren standing nearby staring at him.

Alex grimaced. How long had HE been standing there? Too long if the weird expression on his face was any indication.

The fact that there was any expression on Ren’s face at all was NOT reassuring. Alex knew that the shapeshifter took his duties as Jennetta’s bodyguard VERY seriously. If he even suspected that Alex might have harboured even one inappropriate thought about his queen - which he so had NOT! - it might not be pretty.

He had ONLY been comforting a very brave girl. That was it. Point blank.

Of course, that very brave girl’s face was currently a shade of red that had never been seen before, but it meant nothing. NOTHING!

Fortunately Maria seemed oblivious. "Alex! Help!" She screeched again as the pile of books went tumbling onto the floor. He managed to catch one before it hit. "Gee. Thanks." She said sarcastically. "Anything new?" She asked though, quickly changing the subject.

"No." Alex said firmly, turning back to the computer, refusing to look at Jennetta OR Ren. "But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to give up. But let’s hope that Isabel and Michael are having more luck."

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

*Dreams* Isabel

"What are you doing? Tris, I’m coming with you!" I grabbed him by the arm, but he shook me off easily.

"I’m going to check on Jax and Sabby." He replied. "He said that he spoke to them a few minutes ago, but I don’t believe him. He’s behaving strangely Mirana."

"I’m coming." I repeated.

Tristandor turned, stared at me with his dark eyes. "Miri, I won’t be able to do what I have to do with you there. I’ll just be worrying about you."

"I’m coming." I repeated stubbornly. "He’s my brother." I felt tears filling my eyes. "Tris, I can’t feel him anymore!"

Tristandor sighed, nodded. "Fine. But you stay behind me. Do you understand?"
I nodded quickly.

We left our chamber, hurried down the long corridor to the Royal Quarters of the Citadel.

It was hard to believe that we had only left Jaxon and Sabrya an hour before. It was their wedding night after all. But they had insisted that we stay, that we play Quintus well into the night. I knew that Jax hadn’t been eager for this match, but he had affection for Sabby. He shouldn’t have been dreading it as much as he was.

They had both been on edge, nervous. Only looking back could I see it now. Why had I not demanded that Jaxon explain himself to me?

It was even worse than we could have possibly imagined.

Had he known even then what was going to happen to him?

Later, as I held Tristandor’s dying body in my arms on the battlefield, I reflected, realized that my brother had known very well…

Because I knew when it was my time. I stared up at our enemy, glared, determined not to let him see me cry. My beloved was already gone. I had felt the last of Tris’s life-force slip away moments before.

I had nothing left to live for.
**************************************************************
Isabel gasped. She realized that someone was shaking her on the shoulder. "Isabel? Wake up." It took her a moment to get her bearings, to realize that it was the Sheriff, that he had woken her from her nightmare.

"Are you okay?" The Sheriff asked. "You were talking in your sleep."

But Isabel couldn’t answer. She didn’t remember any of it, but she knew that the dream had been bad - dreadful.

It was then that she noticed Michael on the other side of the van, staring at her, his eyes wide. He seemed to be barely breathing.

And it was then that she knew. He had seen it too.

Stonehenge, near Salisbury, England - 12 hours later

"Where the hell are they?" Michael growled, staring through the night-vision binoculars Kyle’s dad had "borrowed" from the Roswell Sheriff’s Station for their little expedition.

"Give me those." Isabel snapped, grabbing them out of his hands. "We’ll catch them Michael. Tess has to come out of mind-warp for Max to open the portal."

"Why?" Michael demanded. Kyle could see his scowl even in the dark. "Why would she have to come out of it? She hasn’t bloody well come out of it for the past two days! She’s killing herself - and if that happens, I will kill Maxwell myself before Tarsus gets anywhere near him."

"Would you two kindly shut up?" Kyle whispered heatedly. "No wonder they won’t come out. They can probably hear you guys all the way back in Roswell. I thought we were trying to keep the royal moron from knowing we were here."

Michael and Isabel had been arguing all day, helping Kyle to achieve one of the biggest headaches of his lifetime. He and his dad had shrugged at first, thinking that they had both just gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning - not that Kyle had officially seen a bed since Isabel had woken him up two nights before.

They had headed straight to the stone monument from the airport. His dad had rented a va