posted on 3-Oct-2001 10:07:01 AM
Title: "Double Jeopardy II: Echoes of Hope
Author : Sheeperz (Fran)
Disclaimer: You know the drill. I own nothing... and after the Prequel to this fic, you know that most of season 2 no longer exists in my warped mind!!! (And besides, who would want to lay claim to that, I ask???)
Category: M/L
Rating: R
Summary: Sequel to "Double Jeopardy", which undoes the damage of season 2. However, there are still many unanswered questions.... this fic will attempt to pick up where DJ ended, and address those issues.
Distribution: If you want to use it, please just ask.

"Double Jeopardy" can be found here:
viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=314

Prologue

In the hidden catacombs beneath the capital city of Antarra, not far from the palace ruins, an aged Antarian male enters a secret chamber, and places the torch he carries in a hangar on the wall. He surveys the contents of the room in appreciation; nearly 5000 years worth of the prophetic writings of his people line the recesses in the cold stone walls. Inwardly he contemplates the significance of that. For millennia, his people have heard the prophecies, but their hearts receive it as if they, too, were composed of cold stone. He is certain that the prophecies have the power to transform, but only when they are allowed to come to life. Shuffling the length of the room, he ponders the day he received that insight....

He had been a much younger man, when the royal palace had been burned to the ground by Kivar and his army nearly 60 years ago, and the royal family brutally slain. Death and destruction surrounded him that day, and his heart was hard and cold, filled with rage and bitterness, desiring revenge. In one brief, horrific incident, his whole world had been shattered. How could the God that his people trusted and worshipped allow them to come to such ruin? Either He was not a loving being, as He was purported to be, or He lacked the sovereignty to prevent this tragedy from occurring. Obviously, then, everything that he had been told of the Supreme One must not be true. The question was - how much of it was a lie?

As he harbored these thoughts, he heard the sound of weeping, intermingled with the prayers of the faithful. How could they continue to petition an Almighty Power that idly sat by, and witnessed this horror? Where was the sense in that?

He wandered the streets aimlessly, in shock from the devastation all around him. That was when he began to hear the rumors. The Warrior of Flame.... someone mentioned. The prophecy of Bazor has come to pass... a terrified voice whispered. And finally, a mournful wail: The King of Light has been destroyed. How then shall he save us?

What did it all mean? Could this tragic event have been prophesied? If so, why did no one think to prevent it? he thought angrily. What good is a prophecy, if it does not give you the hope to destroy the evil? Surely, there was nothing of hope in this situation. Was there?

Slowly, his anger gave way to grief, as he slowly processed the tragedy that had occurred. The royal palace that had graced the hill overlooking the rest of the city of Antarra had been leveled. It didn't take much to realize, that no one within its walls could have survived. It was then that he remembered the joyous occasion that was to have taken place there today. Today, his King was to have been married.

Crumbling to his knees in despair, he bent until his face touched the ground, his heart crying out in one last, desperate plea for understanding. Dear God, why? Why has this happened to us? We are a peaceable people. And yet our enemy comes from within our borders - a people that we have shown kindness and protection toward for generations. So many senseless deaths. Where is the justice in that? Unable to form any other coherent question, he pounded his fists impotently on the hard ground before him and screamed to the heavens, "WHY?"

Never having been a weak sort, it was uncharacteristic for him to show great emotion, but he couldn't suppress the soul-rending sob that consumed him in those moments. Rolling onto his side, he drew his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them as he began to rock back and forth. Overcome with grief, it didn't even occur to him to feel shame over his open display. Repeatedly, his mind ran only one question: Why? Why? Why? After several minutes, he felt a certain cleansing from the release of emotions, and his spirit calmed. His unconscious rocking ceased, and he lay still and broken. It was then that the miraculous happened.

In that moment of quietness, he heard it: a whisper of revelation, a promise of hope.

My child, do not despair, when all seems hopeless. Eternity is laid out before me, and this incident represents but a blink of my eye. You are trapped within time, seeing neither the beginning of history, nor the end of days. But I see it all clearly. I stand outside of time, viewing it piece by piece. From your vantage point, this tragedy is meaningless. But from my perspective, it will produce an ultimate good. This suffering will cause your people to open their hearts, and cry out to me for help. Rest assured, I will not turn a deaf ear; salvation will be brought to Antar, in the fullness of time. Antar will be avenged, even though for a time, her people will not trust in me. They will fear that the prophecies were not accurate, but not all is as it seems.

Know this then, Gelar, son of Eldan, that your days will not end, until you see the salvation of your people. Then you will know, and believe. This proclaim, that your people may return to their roots, and honor me.


He had remained still for a good time, after the words of comfort had ceased, before he dared to arise and return to his home. He immediately scribed the words he had heard, making certain to note the date. It took him nearly two full weeks to gather his courage, to disclose the encounter to the learned one - the one who was the keeper of the sacred writings.

Upon reading the revelation, the learned one was moved in his spirit, especially at the mention of the prophecies. He was certain which prophecy the Almighty One referred to - all of Antarra was buzzing with speculations about the Warrior of Flame. He invited Gelar to join him in the catacombs, entering by a secret passage found beneath the temple. That was when Gelar first saw the scrolls.

Something stirred in Gelar that day; whether from the revelation he received, the kindness of the learned one, or seeing for the first time the sacred writings of Antar, he did not know. But when the learned one retrieved a scroll from its resting place in the wall and began to read, Gelar's cold, hard heart began to warm and soften. It wasn't a conscious decision, but that day marked a turning point in his life, and claimed him for a life of service to the sacred teachings.

Now, as an old man, he reaches out, and retrieves the very same parchment that the learned one had shown him, and running his fingers reverently over the neat script, he reads it aloud for the first time, since the learned one's passing.

The Word of Counsel, given to Bazor the prophet, during the reign of Ardan, King of Antar, in the year 4042:

In the day of darkness, as in days gone by, there will be singing and dancing, eating and drinking, giving and taking in marriage. But a Warrior of Flame shall be established within thy gates; his name is known among the high places.

The Warrior has two heads, but many faces, too numerous to recount. He seeks and finds favor, but his desire is not to please his master. With deceit in his mouth, he bargains for that which will not be sold.

In that day shall evil overtake you as a sudden calamity; the Glory of Antar shall be destroyed, and all the inhabitants dwelling therein. A cry shall go up from the mountains: mourning and lamenting shall be heard throughout the land; Antarra is weeping for her children, who are no more.

Through a veil, the King of Light shall seek his completion. For a season, one side shall war against the other; but in the appointed time, he shall behold himself as one who gazes into a mirror; comprehending the reflection, he shall be made whole.

Then shall the King of Light take his destined Brides; they shall receive him, and know him, even as they are known.

From that time forward, his border shall be enlarged, and his strength shall be multiplied; his former glory will be surpassed.

Thy enemies, O Antar, shall revisit their former places; they shall try to alter their course, but it will not yield.
They rush to make war against the King of Light; in darkness their feet shall stumble, as they rush to do mischief, and their iniquity shall be a snare unto them.

Then shall thy King return, carrying forth Light and Salvation; justice and mercy shall he dispense in that day, in equal measure. The mercy of his protection will he lavish on the faithful, but the workers of wickedness shall know the justice of his sword.


When he unrolls the last of the scroll, a small piece of paper flutters to the ground. Bending to retrieve it is no small chore in his weakened state, but once he has the note in his hand, he unfolds it, and discovers it is his own account, of the message he had received. The learned one had placed it inside the scroll, to be preserved for the day to come. At the bottom, in the shaky scrawl that had marked the learned one's last days, is clearly written, Now, you are the learned one. You alone hold the truth. Guard it well.

Tears well briefly in the corners of his eyes, but he does not allow them to fall. He replaces the scrap of paper, and carefully rolls the scroll again, replacing it in its slot. With difficulty he sinks to his knees before a rugged altar constructed of chiseled stone, and once again petitions the One who had made him a promise all those years before.

"How long?" he asks, and hears the sound reflect off the stone walls. "I am an old man. I am tired, and my body grows frail. Soon I will no longer inhabit this world. When will your salvation come?"

In the deafening silence, he hears but one word: Soon.



Edited by - sheeperz on 10/04/2001 12:13:43

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Feb-2002 11:21:22 AM ]
posted on 4-Oct-2001 3:13:59 PM
Part One

Once Zan had agreed to return to Roswell, and Future Max and Future Michael had disappeared, Liz retrieved her bags that had been left in the nearby alcove. After taking one of them from her, in an unprecedented act of chivalry, Zan began leading her through the tunnels. She was totally lost, as he was taking a different route than the one she, Future Max and Future Michael had used to come in. As they walked in silence, she thought about the last 24 hours, and all that had happened. It seemed hard to believe that she was here, slumming beneath the streets of New York, alone with an alien she had just met. But she felt oddly at peace with the situation - certainly fear of Zan was the furthest thing from her mind. Especially after what they had shared.

At one point, the tunnels got almost pitch black, and Zan reached out to take her hand in his. "Stay close," was all he said, and then continued moving steadily. Finally, he came to a ladder that went straight up. "Up you go," he said, as he lifted her so her feet hit the first rung. "Climb to the top, and wait for me."

Liz nodded, and then realized that he probably couldn't see her in the dim lighting. "Yeah, okay," she responded. As she climbed up, she heard Zan right behind her, and it gave her comfort, as the light continued to fade. "How much farther?" she asked.

"Almost there," he answered, and she felt his hand tenderly stroke the calf of her leg in a reassuring gesture.
Soon they reached the top, and Liz stopped dead in her tracks. Zan climbed up so that he was standing on the rung just below the one she was perched upon. This had the effect of drawing his body up close to hers, along her entire length. "Here, hold this," he instructed, as he handed her overnight bag to her. She felt her heart start to pound, when he leaned forward to reach over her head, and his body brushed over hers in a way that put every nerve ending she possessed on red alert.

Hearing her respiration increase, Zan paused before lifting the cover above them. "Liz? Are you all right?" He was so close, that his breath tickled her ear.

A shiver wracked her body, causing it to brush provocatively against his. The sensations that stirred in him caused Zan to gasp. He wrapped an arm around her waist, and held her tight. He intended the gesture to be protective, but it evoked a much more sensual response from her body, and she groaned. "Liz?" he asked again.

"I- I'm okay," she managed to answer breathlessly.

Holding her so close, Zan felt his body beginning to yearn for her, and he was helpless to stop it. He wished he could back away, but it was impossible, if he was going to open the manhole cover. He quickly reached up, and pushed the metal disk up onto the street. In so doing, he had to stretch himself along her backside, and he choked back a groan, as his fly rubbed over her soft bottom. As he came back down the length of her, he could have sworn that she gently pressed herself back into him in reaction. Maybe that was just wishful thinking?

"Okay, Liz," he said, in the calmest voice he could muster. "Climb up slowly, and then peek over the edge, and see if everything is clear. It should be - I've never seen another soul in this area at night." Liz followed his instructions, and then whispered back down that all was clear. "Okay, climb on out, then."

When they were both up top in the alley, Zan slid the cover back over the opening, and picked up her suitcase again. He looked deep into her eyes, wanting to know if she had been as affected by that little incident as he had. She lowered her eyes under his intense scrutiny, and felt a heated blush creep over her cheeks. She was glad it was almost dark. "You okay?" he inquired. Liz nodded her head. If she tried to talk now, she knew she would make a fool of herself.

Zan was disappointed, and more than a little irritated, thinking that she refused to speak to him, let alone look at him. He took her hand, and tugged her along in his wake. "Come on, then," he ordered brusquely.

"Where are we going?" she questioned, a little hurt at his abruptness.

He stopped to stare at her, as if she had lost her mind. "Roswell - isn't that the plan?" he said sarcastically.

"Yes, but -"

"We need wheels, if we're gonna get across the country," he snarled, turning to continue his previous course. Figured we might be able to lift something nearby...."

"What?! No way! I am not going to stand by and be an accomplice to grand theft auto! Besides, we have plane tickets we can use -"

That halted him in his tracks. "You have what?!"

"Plane tickets. How did you think we got all the way out here?"

Zan shrugged. He hadn't given it much thought. "Coulda taken a train or a bus - maybe hitchhiked. How was I to figure you had that kind of money to throw around? You a rich kid, or sumthin'?" he asked derisively.

"No, I'm not," she said tartly, clearly irritated with this bad boy attitude he was sporting, all of a sudden.

"Michael got the tickets for us. But let's put that all aside for a minute, shall we? I'd like to know what your problem is here."

"Problem?" He snorted defensively. "I ain't got no problem."

"Well you're gonna have one, if you don't get off the 'tude with me, mister. The whole time we were walking through the tunnels you didn't speak to me, except to give curt instructions, and now that we are topside, you are being downright rude. Now I think I deserve an explanation."

"You do, huh?" Liz nodded, settling down, now that she was sure he would tell her what was bothering him. "Well, sorry to disappoint you, little lady. But I don't owe you squat. Or an explanation." With that, he grabbed her hand, and started to drag her along again.

This time, Liz dug in her heels, and came to a screeching halt. She wasn't going anywhere with a jerk like this. She tugged hard, until she freed her hand from his crushing grip. "You know something? You're right. You don't owe me a damned thing! I mean, just because you were the king of a race of people who sent you here to hide out, and your enemies followed you here, and want to not only annihilate you, but also the inhabitants of this planet that harbors you, of which I am one... and just because you agreed to help us, and seemed to be a really nice guy that I could enjoy being with, and now I find out you are mean and miserable... that doesn't mean you owe me anything." She snatched her overnight bag out of his hand, without pausing to take a breath. "So I will just wander the streets of this totally foreign city, and eventually find my way out of here, and go back home - ALONE. Because I'll be damned if I will stick around so you can vent whatever your problem is on me. I was willing to talk about whatever is bothering you, but noooo... that would be too easy. So fine! Go back to the rat-infested hell-hole you call home, to the sister and 'friend' who are waiting to kill you, and the woman who won't do a freakin' thing to stop it! Because I DON'T CARE!!!"

By the time she finished her tirade, tears were streaming down her face, and as the last words passed her lips, they were followed by a strangled sob. Liz spun on her heels, and started to run from the alley, when she heard Zan call her name out. But she didn't slow down, didn't flinch, didn't even seem to register at all his pleas for her to stop. She reached the end of the alley, and was about to rush blindly across the street, directly in the path of an oncoming truck, when she felt two strong arms wrap around her tightly, and pull her back against an incredibly hard body. But she couldn't even appreciate that at this point. All she knew was, she had to get away from this man. This person whose rejection, for some unknown reason, had an incredible amount of power to wound her spirit.

And so, she transformed into a little wildcat in his arms. She pounded on his arms with her fists, kicked at his shins with her feet, turned and bit his upper arm, pinched, tugged, dug, bit, pulled, wiggled and twisted.... all, to no avail. It was like being held in the grip of a vise. "Let. Me. GO!!" she ground out through clenched teeth. And still his arms held firm.

Finally, exhausted, she fell limp like a rag doll over his arms and wept. As she sobbed inconsolably, she felt his hold on her relax just enough to turn her into his body, and cradle her against his chest. Hands that had moments before imprisoned her, now ran tenderly through her hair, and caressed her back, as he murmured soothing words to her, and rocked her gently.

"Shh, baby, it's all right, it's all right," he crooned softly. "I'm not going to abandon you to fend for yourself on the streets, Precious One." He held her, until her sobs tapered off to intermittent hiccups. "I'm sorry for being such a jackass," he apologized. "I guess I just got a little prickly, when you refused to speak to me after we came out of the tunnels. I didn't know what I did wrong, and you wouldn't tell me, and so I lost my temper. I know it's no excuse, but at least it's an explanation. I don't know why it should have bothered me so much," he confessed quietly. "It's not like I mean anything to you. You said it yourself, you don't care about me. But I guess... after what we shared below, my imagination began running wild on me. I know that you are with Max, but that just didn't seem to matter. Without my even realizing it, you got under my skin. Suddenly, you had all this emotional power over me, and it scared me."

Liz looked up into his eyes. "Oh, Zan, I lied. I DO care about you. I was just feeling hurt and betrayed, and all I wanted to do was hurt you as much as I was hurting. Because somehow you have all kinds of power over me, too. I, uh, suppose I should confess that I struggled with these feelings for your older self, as well..." She averted her eyes in embarrassment.

"Really?" His voice was hopeful. Maybe there was a chance for him to be with Liz after all, if he played his cards right.

"Mmmhmm," she mumbled, as she wrapped her arms tighter around his waist, and let herself absorb his strength, as her body shuddered out the last of her sobs. "That's why I couldn't speak to you before, you know," she confessed softly. "I was struggling with my reaction to you, and I didn't want you to see. I didn't want to make a total fool of myself."

Zan responded with a squeeze that nearly took her breath away. "I just don't know how to think or act toward you," he admitted on a sigh. "Everything in my being wants to -" He stopped abruptly, not sure that such a bold confession would be a bright move.

"Wants to what?" Liz asked innocently.

God, could she be any more precious? he thought. "Nothing. It's not important."

Liz took his face in her hands. "Everything that you think or feel is important, Zan."

"To me, maybe. But it's certainly nothing for you to concern yourself over."

"You're wrong. It's important to me, too. That's why I got so upset, when you wouldn't tell me what's bothering you. I - I feel connected to you, Zan, and what affects you, affects me. If you're upset, then I'm upset. Does that make sense?"

"Sense? No, it doesn't make sense. But I know how you feel, because I feel the same way about you." He smiled down at her, and ran his index finger along her wet cheek, then traced her lips. "I feel a lot of things about you, actually," he said softly, lost in his thoughts.

"You do?" she asked breathlessly. "What kinds of things?"

Zan went utterly still. He hadn't realized that he had spoken that thought aloud. "I'm sorry, Liz. I was just thinking. I - I didn't mean to say that out loud."

"But you did, and I'd like to know. What kinds of things?" she asked again, leaning toward him ever so slightly.
"I don't know," he hedged, his body now leaning in towards hers in response. "Warmth. Safety. Trust." Yeah, those were good. Maybe that would satisfy her, and he wouldn't have to tell her what he honestly felt.

"Oh, I see," she whispered, her face now mere inches from his own. "I'm glad, you know. I want you to know that you are safe with me. You can trust me, Zan."

"I know." The tip of his nose brushed against hers.

Liz looked at his lips, now so close to her own, then lifted her eyes to his again. "So... anything else?" Some remote part of her was ashamed that she should want him to feel things for her. After all, they both knew there could never be anything between them like that.

"What would you like me to say, Liz?" His question was barely audible, it was spoken so softly.

"The truth."

"The truth?"

"Yes."

"Okay, here it is -" And with that, he trapped her mouth beneath his, releasing all his pent up feelings for her, and his frustration with the situation, in a blinding flash of passion. Thrusting his tongue into her warm, willing mouth, he made love to it in such a way as to communicate to her just how attracted to her he was. What he really wanted to be doing with her.

Wildly, her hands twined in his hair, gripping and pulling, urging his lips to continue his sensual assault.
In a heated response, his hands splayed on her back, drawing her body into a shocking intimacy with his own.
Just as Liz was about to become a puddle in his arms, he forced himself to release her. She looked at him through a passion-induced haze, her question evident in her trusting eyes. "I'm sorry, Liz. I know I shouldn't have done that - shouldn't have given into my desire for you like that. I just - oh, hell. There's no acceptable excuse for what I did. I only hope you can forgive me." His hands dropped to his sides like they were leaden, and his head fell forward in a display of total dejection.

The silence was loud. He waited for several moments, his eyes squeezed shut, as he tried to find the will to draw his next breath. Everything he had ever wanted - had ever searched for in his life - stood before him now. And he knew that she would never be his. The knowledge was shattering.

Just when he was beginning to wonder if she was even still there, her hand came to rest on his arm, and her voice pierced the stillness. "Oh, Zan, how can I find fault with you, when you merely had the courage to do what I wanted to, but was afraid to pursue?"

"Liz -" With head bowed and eyes closed, he breathed her name in undisguised longing.

"No, don't worry. I won't try to entice you into repeating what just happened. But right now, don't you think we ought to find somewhere to crash for the night? Or maybe make our way to the airport?"

Zan lifted his face then, and she saw the telltale wetness on his cheeks. Her heart broke, to think that her presence could cause him such grief.

"Yeah, we should get some rest. It's going to be a long day tomorrow," he agreed. "Come on - I know just the place." He picked up her bag, and held his hand out to her. She placed hers in his strong grip without hesitation. They walked in companionable silence for a few blocks, until he stopped in front of a brick building. "Well, here we are," he announced.

"Okay, I'll bite. Where's 'here'?"

He smiled at her. "This is my home away from home, you might say. I've been spending a lot of time here lately, volunteering whenever they need me. Which is pretty often," he added.

"Volunteering? What kind of place is this?"

"Let's see if we can get someone to let us in, and I'll show you." He led her into the little alley alongside the building, and rapped on the door. It was late, but if Jose was there, he'd still be up. Zan wasn't sure if that guy ever went to bed. Since he always worked nights, Zan had teased him on occasion about being a vampire. Jose assured him that even if he was, Zan wasn't his type. Blood type, that is.

There was a muffled sound of footsteps on the other side of the door, and then a little window in the middle of the door slid open. "Who's there?" a disembodied voice inquired.

"Jose, it's me, Zan," he identified himself. "And I have a friend. Can we come in for the night?"

The door popped open without warning, and a handsome young man stuck his head out. "For heaven's sake, Zan, you know how to scare a body, don't you?" he chided with a broad smile. "Don't you know that only crazies come knocking on the door in the middle of the night?"

"Well, then, you shoulda known right off that it would be me, now shouldn'tcha?"

Jose laughed. "Yeah, I guess I should. Who you got with you?" Liz thought she detected a trace of suspicion in his words.

Zan pulled Liz in front of him, where Jose could take a good look. "No worries, mate," he said in his best Australian accent. He and Jose had a habit of slipping into foreign accents when they were horsing around. "Me and the little Sheila here just need a place to crash for the night."

Jose raked his eyes over Liz appraisingly. "What's wrong with your place?" he asked, arching a thick, black brow. He'd been hinting and digging around the last few weeks, trying to figure out just where it was that Zan lived. He seemed to come from nowhere, and disappear at night back into non-existence.

"Too crowded," Zan mumbled in his normal voice.

Jose laughed again. "And I suppose spending the night with 39 of New York's finest derelicts is your perverse notion of privacy?"

Zan's breath hissed between his teeth. "To be honest, I was hoping...."

"Yeah, yeah, I can see it coming. You want to sleep in the office, don't you?"

"The thought had crossed my mind...." Liz was starting to feel uneasy. She wasn't used to begging for a place to sleep.

Just then, Jose swung the door open wide, and urged them to enter. Liz hesitantly followed him, when she felt Zan nudge her forward with a hand in the small of her back. When the door swung shut behind her, she had an eerie feeling of being trapped. She forced herself to shake it off. After all, Zan was here with her, and she trusted him. She knew he wouldn't let any harm come to her.




posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:18:18 AM
Part Two

"So, seriously, man, what are you doing coming here in the middle of the night for a place to crash?" Jose was leading them through the building, speaking quietly as he went, so as not to wake any of the "guests" that were spending the night.

Zan quickly decided how much he wanted to tell Jose. "Well, Liz here found out that I was living in New York, and came to fetch me," he started, being intentionally vague. "She was so eager to find me, that she neglected to even get herself a room for the night. By the time she caught up with me, and convinced me to fly home with her tomorrow, it was late, and we needed a place to stay. So naturally, I thought of here."

"Take you home, huh? Poor girl's that hard up, is she?" he taunted Zan.

"Something like that," Zan retorted brusquely, hoping Jose would take the hint, and drop it. He did.

"You still haven't told me why you didn't just take her to your place," Jose pressed.

"Let's just say, my roommates would frown on me bringing home a lady friend. Besides, I have become aware that perhaps it isn't the safest place for me to be right now, either."

"Not safe? Are you in some kind of trouble, Zan?" Jose sounded more like an interrogator, than a concerned friend. Something about him made Liz uncomfortable.

"Nothin' I can't handle."

"Good. Well, here we are." He turned the handle, and opened the door into a spacious office, that also served as sleeping quarters for the overnight staff. Once Zan and Liz were inside the room, Jose made to leave. "I'll just sleep out on the floor tonight," he offered. "See you in the morning?"

"Hey man!" Zan called out to him. Jose paused, his hand on the doorknob. "You don't have to sleep out there. There's plenty of room here for all of us."

Liz had taken in the sleeping accommodations that were available. There was one bunk bed in the room - a single on top, and a double on bottom. Liz wondered just what kind of arrangement Zan had in mind. Even though she knew it was wrong, she secretly found herself hoping that they would have to share the bottom bed. A tingle ran up her spine just to imagine it, and she shivered. Zan shot her a concerned look, but she just smiled back at him.

Jose looked skeptical. "You sure? Ain't no skin off my teeth, if I sleep out there for one night. You know - if you want privacy," he added meaningfully.

"I'm sure," Zan answered, much to Liz's dismay. She really didn't like Jose, even though he was extremely handsome, and well mannered. "Liz and me - it ain't like that. We're just really good friends."

"Uh huh," Jose intoned blandly. "Wish my friends looked like that." He winked at Liz, and she felt her stomach lurch. Why did he bother her so much?

Wanting to escape his lecherous stare, Liz forced herself to speak for the first time since meeting Jose. "Is there - some place I can at least wash up? It's been a long day, and I feel totally disgusting." Maybe the thought of her being sweaty and slimy would gross him out, and make him stop looking at her like a wolf looks at fresh kill.
Much to her dismay, it appeared to have the opposite effect. She felt the bile rise in her throat, when she saw the unholy gleam in his eyes. Her imagination started running wild, remembering how Zan had joked about Jose being a vampire. She shuddered under his gaze, that looked as if he would like nothing more than to devour her.
She glanced at Zan, who appeared oblivious to the whole thing. Stop it, she commanded herself. I've got to quit watching so much Buffy. I'm getting hysterical over nothing. Just get some sleep, and tomorrow, we're outta here.

"The bathroom's right through there," she heard Jose say. "There's a full shower stall, even. Towels are in the cabinet. Help yourself. I have some work to do downstairs, and then my rounds, before I come to bed. Don't wait up," he said with a wink that made her skin crawl. Then he left, closing the door on his way out.

"Do you want to shower first?" Liz offered, trying to be polite. She hoped he'd say no, though.

"No, go ahead," he told her, noting her weariness. "I can wait and take one in the morning. I'll just wash up real quick tonight."

Liz nodded, and grabbed her overnight bag, hauling it into the small bathroom with her. Twenty minutes later, she emerged from the steamy cubicle, freshly scrubbed, and smelling sweeter than anyone had a right to, Zan thought to himself, as his eyes memorized every movement she made. After all, this would probably be the only night in his life he would be able to sleep with the woman of his dreams. He didn't want to forget one moment of it. His eyes quickly took in her skimpy night clothes. Very nice....

While Liz sat combing out her wet hair, Zan ducked into the bathroom, and quickly took care of his personal business. He didn't spend a second longer in there than necessary, eager to climb into bed, and pull Liz close. He knew that he shouldn't be thinking that way, but it was the nature of the beast. Some things just can't be helped, he thought ruefully. He wished he could turn off his feelings for Liz. It would make his life so much easier.

In not more than five minutes, he joined her by the bed, and looked into the depths of her eyes, as he suggested, "Why don't you take the inside, and I'll sleep on the edge? That way I won't wake you in the morning, when I get up early to shower." Mutely, Liz nodded her assent. Zan smiled shyly at her. "Okay then - shall we?"

Liz again answered with a nod, and climbed under the covers of the bottom bunk. She heard Zan cross the floor, and suddenly, the lights went out. Then his footsteps came back to the bunk, and she felt the mattress shift under his weight. She closed her eyes, and tried to relax, while he tossed back and forth, trying to get comfortable. Hopefully he would settle in soon, and she would be able to go to sleep.

After a few more restless movements, he spoke. "Liz? You still awake?" Liz giggled. "What's so funny?"

More giggles. "You. How could I possibly be asleep, with all that tossing and turning you're engaged in?"

Zan heard the mirth in her voice, and knew she was just joking with him. "I just figured that you were so tired, that you would pass out the minute your head hit the pillow."

"Well... I would have, except..."

"That I am shaking things up to much?"

"No - but you are definitely responsible, nonetheless."

"Me? If not the tossing and turning, what am I charged with?"

"Being you. Just being near you makes me keyed up. The last thing I feel capable of is sleep. Even though I am exhausted."

"Yeah, well, being this close to you makes me restless, too. I have an idea."

"What's that?"

"Roll over, with your back to me."

"Huh?"

"Just do it. Please?"

"Oh, all right." She turned to face the wall. And then she felt the warmth of his body, as it stretched along her length, curving to fit her contours. His arm draped over her side, his hand resting against her stomach. She could feel his breath gently caressing the back of her neck. Was it her imagination, or did she feel his lips press a whisper soft kiss there, too?

She realized then that her body was rigid with tension, not knowing how to react to this situation. But she made an effort to relax, and felt her body melt into his. His body answered hers, by a slight tightening of his embrace, and soft strokes of his fingers over her bare stomach, where her top had ridden up. That seemingly unconscious action further relaxed her, and within minutes, he heard her breathing even out, indicating she was sleeping. Only then did he close his own eyes, and allow himself to drift off.

Half an hour later, Jose came back into the office, and took in the sight before him. He smiled wickedly. Just friends, huh? We should all be so lucky, pal, he thought sardonically.

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, while it was still dark, Liz woke up. At first she wondered where she was, but then she felt movement on the bed behind her, and remembered. She smiled, as she felt a possessive arm encircle her waist. She stretched, amazed to find herself rubbing lightly against the front of him. She was only distantly aware of the sound of the running shower. Sleepy though she was, she realized that they were alone, at least for a short time. She was glad that they would have a few minutes of privacy, in which to greet the day alone together, before being thrust into a hectic pace of travel and meeting up with the others when they were back in Roswell.

"Morning," she murmured to him.

"Mmmm," was the only response.

But something about it bothered Liz. She was about to turn to face him, when she felt a hand slide beneath her top, and begin to fondle her. His touch was not gentle, but rough. Almost bruising. And something else was troubling her, as she fought to make him release her. He didn't....smell right. Zan's smell set her heart to fluttering, every time he was near. Like Max's. She filed that thought away for future examination, as she writhed and struggled, trying to escape the hands that were violently kneading her soft flesh.

"Let me go!" she hissed, slapping at the offending hand. When his grip only grew more painful, she cried out, begging him to stop.

"I don't think so, missy. I think I like the feel of you in my hand." He pulled on her body, until she lay on her back. Quickly, his other hand slipped beneath her shirt, on a quest of its own.

"No, Jose! Stop! Don't do this, please!"

"Oh baby, I love it when you beg. By the time I'm through with you, you'll be begging me not to stop, I promise."

"Never! Let go of me, or I'll scream!"

"Oh, we can't have that, missy." With that, he fused his lips over hers in a crushing kiss that expressed violence, rather than passion.

Liz's face scrunched up in revulsion, her teeth clenched, and her lips drawn tightly together, refusing to admit entrance to his demanding tongue. She shuddered in revulsion, to feel him slobbering all over her, licking her like a dog, as if she would confuse that with a lover's caress and be seduced. Pulleeze. She began to whimper in protest, as his fingers pinched and plucked, committing terrible atrocities against her virginal body. ZAN! she cried out silently. She struggled some more. Hurry! Come and save me!

Zan was standing under the hot spray, when he thought he heard Liz cry out his name. He quickly turned off the water, and listened. He heard nothing, and was just about to turn the water back on, when he heard her again; this time her words were an urgent plea for help. But he didn't hear them with his ears. He heard it only in his mind. But he knew it was real. He could feel her fear clear to his bones.

As Liz continued to try to push Jose off her, she got a series of flashes from him - sick, twisted images of depraved things he had either done, or fantasized about, she wasn't sure which. And then she saw a flash of Jose with Nasedo and a young boy. And they were looking at something - a picture? But what of?

She strained to focus on the photo, and as if she were suddenly in control of the flash, she directed the focus of the image to the picture they were starting at. Finally it was close enough to make out - MAX! Oh God, Jose was one of them He was after Max, and he knew Zan. He had to know who Zan was. How could he miss the incredible resemblance? Max and Zan were like mirror images of each other. She wondered frantically if Zan knew Jose was an alien.

Zan jumped out of the shower in a flash of naked glory, and with no thought to modesty, yanked open the bathroom door, his eyes going directly to the bed across the room. It was the pre-dawn hours, but there was just enough light in the room, that he could make out a struggle going on where he had left Liz sleeping peacefully just minutes before. He raced full speed to the bunks, and reached down, grabbing a startled Jose by the throat, dragging him out of the bed, and away from Liz. With one flowing, economical movement, he punched the offender in the face, sending him flying across the room and into the wall. Jose's body slid down the wall, slumping onto the floor.

Zan's adrenaline was rushing fiercely through his body, and his heart was hammering so loudly in his ears, he almost didn't hear Liz's sob. He was just about to pick Jose up, and pound on him some more, when her cry penetrated his brain fog. He whirled to see her sitting on the edge of the bed, arms wrapped around her middle, rocking back and forth in near hysteria. His heart tightened to see her so upset, and he rushed to her side, kneeling at her feet.

Gathering her into his arms, he began to murmur soothing words to her. "Liz, sweetheart, it's okay. You're okay. I won't let him hurt you anymore. You're safe, Karanna. Shhh...." All the while, his hands were caressing her with bold strokes up and down the length of her back.

Finally, she calmed enough to communicate brokenly what she had discovered. "Zan - Jose - Skin....."

"Skin?" Zan asked worriedly, starting to look her over for injury. "Did he do something to your skin?"

"N-no," she sobbed out. "He is a Skin!"

"Liz, baby, I don't know what that means," he replied in frustration, wanting desperately to know what she was si frightened of.

"Ene-" The rest of her word was cut off.

"What she means," Zan heard Jose drawl behind him, "is that I am here to bust your alien ass. And then me and your sweetie are gonna finish the romantic encounter you interrupted. Isn't that right, sugar?"

Liz thought for sure she was going to vomit. "No! You - you stay away from me!" she screamed, terrified. Zan was in shock, to find out that Jose knew his secret. Had Liz told him?

Just then, the door to the office opened, and one of the "guests" came in. "Wha's goin' on?" he slurred. " 'Sawful loud out there. Sounds like someone is hurting the little gal, there." His eyes grew wide, when he saw a naked Zan hovering over Liz, and a determined looking Jose standing close by. "Say, now, little lady, these two fellas aren't tryin' to hurt you, are they?"

Liz felt Zan's hand on her bare thigh give a little squeeze, and then stroke her with his thumb. She interpreted the action to be his way of letting her know to keep quiet, that he had things under control. She looked up at the drunk who was ready to come to her defense, and managed her bravest smile. "No, I'm fine now, thank you for your concern."

"Are you sure -"

Jose cut him off. "She said she's all right, didn't she? Now take your nosy self back to the other room, and forget what you saw here. You aren't even supposed to be in here."

"Now just a minute," her would-be savior said forcefully. "I ain't leaving until -"

Jose cut off his sentence again. "Oops. Wrong answer." And with a flick of his wrist, the old man started to gag and choke, gasping for air and clawing at his throat, as his trachea was being crushed.

"Stop it!" Liz yelled. "You're killing him!"

That elicited an evil laugh from Jose. "Well that's good to know, since that's what I'm trying to do. I'd hate to be wasting my energy for nothing, after all." With that, the man collapsed on the floor, and gasped his last. In an effort to clean up the mess, Jose opened the window, and using his powers, shot the man's limp body out into the alley.

"You bastard!" Zan yelled. "What in hell did you do that for?"

Jose shrugged. "He was sticking his nose in, where it didn't belong. I don't like that in a man. When he wouldn't leave, I got rid of him the most expedient way I could think of. And now it's your turn."

At the blatant threat, Zan erected his energy shield around him and Liz.

Jose laughed. "You aren't strong enough to withstand me, Zan. You may as well just give up now. You'll only hurt yourself doing this. I can make your passing quick and painless, otherwise."

"No, thanks, I think I'll take my chances," Zan snorted, hoping to hide his genuine fear. Not so much for himself, but for Liz. What if he wasn't strong enough to protect her?

Jose shrugged. "Have it your way." He held his hand toward Zan, mere inches from the edge of the shield, and some unseen force began weakening Zan immediately. Zan could feel the drain, and he tried to direct all his attention and energy into reinforcing the barrier. He needed to protect Liz at all costs.

Liz was stunned at first, to see Jose having such an effect on Zan's defense. Just how powerful was this other race, anyway? She stared, immobile, feeling totally useless. And then it hit her.

Coming from behind Zan, she walked around to face him, and her heart wrenched to see what his effort was costing him. His face was twisted in pain, and sweat was pouring out of him. She lifted her hand, and placed it against his open palm. Instantly, Zan experienced some relief, as Liz's strength flowed into the shield as well. It allowed him to turn a small portion of his attention to her, to find out what she wanted.

She reached her other hand up, to thread through the hair at the nape of his neck, exerting gentle pressure on the back of his head, to encourage him to bring his face to hers. "Kiss me," was all she said. She didn't want to give Jose any warning about what was coming.

"Oh, that's rich," Jose taunted. "You're about to die, and the bitch wants to make out. You sure know how to pick 'em, don't you, your majesty." He snarled the last with contempt.

Zan's face was mere inches above Liz's. His eyes lifted to look at Jose over the top of her head, and the corners of his mouth lifted in a slight smile. "Hey, what can I say? I'm hot, and the babe wants me bad. What's a guy to do?" That said, he wrapped his free arm around Liz, and brought her up tight to his already aroused, naked body. Liz gasped at the contact, instantly feeling her body respond to his. Zan's eyes held hers, pleading with her to trust him, as he lifted her to fit against him, teasing her body, and making her hungry for him. She wondered why he was doing this, instead of kissing her and connecting, but she was to overwhelmed with need to ask.

When her head tipped back involuntarily, revealing that her eyes were closed in ecstasy, he knew she was ready for what he had in mind. Her lips were already parted, as a moan escaped from deep in her throat. Zan's lips swooped down and attached themselves heatedly to hers, his tongue immediately seeking hers out, and engaging it in a mating frenzy.

The connection that flared between them was so swift and so intense, Liz nearly passed out under the onslaught. As Zan had hoped, the shield surged to a blinding white light, and increased in circumference to overtake Jose, where he stood paralyzed from shock. The minute the energy enveloped him, he screamed in pain for a brief second, and then he disintegrated.

Liz and Zan failed to notice what had happened to Jose, they were so caught up in the intensity of their connection, and the heat of their passion. It must have registered subconsciously with Zan that the threat was over, though, because he released Liz's hand, and brought his arm down to wrap tightly around her, his shield dissipating. It wasn't until the director for the shelter came into the office, and caught a stark naked Zan kissing and stroking a barely covered Liz, that they came to their senses.

"AHEM!" Ms. McCaffrey stood with her hands on her hips. She had always like Zan - until now. This - this display, was totally unacceptable.

Zan slowly released Liz's lips from his, but kept her body tightly against his. Not so much from passion, but embarrassment. The passion had subsided, when he realized that Ms. McCaffrey was in the room, and in its wake, he realized that if he released Liz, his boss would see him in all his splendor. Not a good way to start the day.

Liz, for her part, took a minute to register what was going on. She shook off the last vestiges of her passion- induced haze, her new awareness causing a furious blush to stain her cheeks.

"Zan, I don't think I need to tell you how disappointed I am in you. First, I need to know - is this girl with you, or did she come here seeking our help?" Zan could see her concern for the shelter's liability, should that be the case.

Wanting to allay her worst fears, Zan quickly answered, "Oh, no ma'am," as politely as he could. "She came here with me. We needed a place to stay for the night, before we left town this morning."

"I see," she stated, in obvious relief. Then, with a more maternal air, she countered, "And so... you thought you could use my office as your personal playground, is that it?"

"Uh, no, it wasn't like that, honestly..." How could he explain that their apparent sexual foreplay was really a weapon they were using to vanquish an evil alien? Oh crap. How long had she been standing there, anyway?
"I'd ask just what it was like, exactly," she said impatiently, "but I'm afraid I'm not in any mood for your creative explanations this morning," she snapped. "I'm on the verge of a migraine."

"I'm sorry to hear that," he told her sincerely. "Uh, if you could just turn your back, I'd be happy to scoot back into the bathroom, and finish assembling myself..."

"Yeah, sure." She started to turn, and then paused. "By the way - have you seen Jose this morning? He was supposed to be on until 8:00. I can't find him anywhere."

"Noo, can't say as I have," he lied smoothly, with a shrug.

"Fine. Go." She shooed him with a wave of her hand in the direction of the bathroom.

She turned her back to Zan and Liz, and Zan made a beeline for the door on the other side of the office. He quickly finished showering, and when he came out, he was relieved to see that Liz had gotten into her clothes as well. They quickly gathered their things, and readied themselves to leave.

When he faced Ms. McCaffrey to say good-bye, he noticed that she was slumped in her office chair, holding her head. He handed Liz the bag he was holding, and walked up behind the woman who had been his supervisor for the last few weeks. Placing his hands lightly on her shoulders, he said softly, "We're going to be going now. Just so you know - I won't be back. I'm leaving the city, and I'm going to be living with some friends, back in Liz's hometown. But it's been a great experience working with you."

Ms. McCaffrey nodded, and tried to look up at him, through squinted eyes. "You take care of yourself, Zan. And just a word of caution - be sure of what you're doing, before you get involved in any more scenes like I saw this morning. Okay?"

Zan smiled at her concern. "Yeah, okay," he agreed. "Can I give you a quick neck massage before I leave? Sort of a parting gift?" he teased.

Ms. McCaffrey grinned through her pain. "That would be lovely, Zan. I'm not sure it will help, but I appreciate the effort."

Zan began to slowly work at the knots in her shoulders, and threw a little "alien therapy" in. Once he knew that her migraine would be gone, he stopped his massaging, and patted her arm lightly. "Well, I guess we're off. Take care of yourself, and thanks for everything."

"You too," she mumbled. As they were walking out the door, Zan looked back over his shoulder to see her raise her fingers to her temples, as if to rub them, when a confused look came over her face. She suddenly realized that her headache was completely gone, and her eyes snapped up to meet his, as he stood in the doorway. She had no idea how he had done it, but somehow he had taken her headache completely away. She stared at him questioningly, and he flashed her a knowing smile with a wink, before closing the door behind him.
posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:18:44 AM

Part Three

As they walked out of the shelter, Zan asked, "You got money for cab fare?" When Liz nodded, he hailed a passing cab, and helped her in.

"Where to?" the cab driver inquired. He seemed like a pleasant man, for which Liz was grateful, after the scene the night before.

Zan's voice brought her out of her thoughts. "Liz?"

"Oh - uh, Laguardia, please." The driver smiled, and set the cab in motion. Nice man, but still a crazy driver, Liz thought with a smile.

"So -" Zan started. "What time does this flight leave?"

"Uh, I'm not sure," she answered sheepishly, as she started rifling through her backpack for the tickets. Her hand brushed against something paper, and thinking it was the tickets, she pulled it out of the bag. She was amazed to see that it was three envelopes - one addressed to her, one to Zan, and one to Max. They each bore Max's distinctive handwriting. When -? Then she remembered. He must have written them when he was sitting across the aisle on the plane. She had taken a lengthy nap, to escape the situation they found themselves in. He would have had ample opportunity at that point to put his thoughts on paper. She smiled - it seemed that she would have something to remember him by, after all.

"Whatcha got there?" Zan mumbled close to her ear, as he leaned over, to see what had captured her attention.

"Oh - just some notes that.... Max left for us," she replied, her look filling in the blanks about which Max she was referring to.

"O-oh."

She shoved them back into the backpack. "We'll look at them later, when we have more time. Aha!" She pulled out the plane tickets, and checked the departure time. "8:23 am we fly the friendly skies," she announced in relief. She would be glad to be home. She began to think, however, about what being in Roswell would mean to her companion. He was leaving everything he had ever known, and flying thousands of miles away, to be with a bunch of people he had never met. She raised her eyes, and gazed at him with unveiled admiration shining out of them.

"What?" he asked self-consciously, when he saw her staring at him. "Do I have something stuck in my teeth?"

Liz laughed. "Hardly. I was just thinking about how amazing you are."

Zan blushed at the compliment, and then attempted to make light of it. "I think you must have me confused with someone else," he said softly.

Liz shook her head. "Nuh-uh." She placed the tip of her index finger squarely in the middle of his chest, and gave him a brilliant smile. "You Zan, are amazing."

"How do you figure that?" he challenged.

"Your whole world has been turned upside down, you're being hauled across the country, and then there is that incident from this morning...."

"Which we still need to discuss," he reminded her, with an intense look.

"Uh, yeah, well, as I was saying.... what was I saying?" Liz's cheeks were flaming red by this point.

Zan chuckled. "You were rehearsing a litany of hardships I have been forced to endure, since meeting you last night," he prompted.

"Oh, right," she acknowledged, as she tried to get her thoughts back on track. "Anyway, after all of this, here you are, taking it all in stride, and seeming to cope with it all wonderfully well."

"Why, thank you."

"Are you?"

"Am I what?" Sometimes he had trouble following her train of thought.

"Are you coping? Or are you just putting on a brave front?" She reached out, and placed her hand over his, where it lay resting on his thigh.

The compassion in her eyes pulled at his heart. She was such an amazing creature, that at times, he wasn't sure if she was real, or a figment of his imagination, conjured up around his private fantasies. Revisiting their conversation from the night before, he asked, "The truth?"

She smiled, recognizing the reference. "Yes, Zan, the truth."

His let out an audible sigh before he began. "I guess that it's a little overwhelming -"

"A little?"

He smiled. "Okay, a lot overwhelming. But I've had to learn to go with the flow, with the life I lead. So I figure, there's no point moaning and carrying on about what has to be, right?"

"Wow. I really have to admire your attitude. I don't think I could be so brave, and optimistic under such circumstances."

"But aren't you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Look at you, Liz. I mean, the rest of us, this is who we are - it's our fate, if you will. But you? None of this has anything to do with you, and yet under the worst of circumstances, you jump right in and help in any way possible. Most people would run screaming the other way, but not you. You are like a rock, trustworthy and dependable, and willing to go to any lengths to protect the people you love. And the fact that you could love a rag tag bunch of -" He stopped himself short of using the word "aliens." "That you could love people like us leaves me in awe. You are the most remarkable... person that I've ever met."

Liz blushed under his praise. "I'm afraid you give me way too much credit. The things I do, yes, I do because of my love for all of you. And because of that, it does have everything to do with me, and therefore, nothing I've done is all that remarkable. It's what any decent person would do, to help those they love."

He looked down at where her hand lay, covering his. "I wonder what we ever did, to deserve someone like you."

"You were just - you. All of you. What's not to love?" she asked with a smirk.

Zan laughed. "Plenty. Hopefully, when you get to know me better, you won't regret helping me this morning."

Liz shuddered. "Please! If I hadn't, I would have been left at the mercy of that beast. I'm better off taking my chances with you."

Zan grinned. "You think so, huh?"

"Yeah, I do," she affirmed. Lifting her brow, she continued, "Now, don't make me regret it."

Zan threw back his head and laughed. "I'll do my best, princess." No sooner had the words passed his lips, than they looked at each other with a vague sense of recollection. "I did it again, didn't I?" he asked quietly.

Liz nodded. "It's weird how that happens. And I hate to admit it, but never once has it happened with Max. I don't mind telling you, that bothers me."

"Why? Do you really think that it means something?"

"Yes - no - oh, I don't know," she sighed in exasperation. "It's just that the feeling of recognition is so strong." Her face contorted in concentration.

"What is it, Liz?"

"This morning, when, uh... you know... you called me something else, do you remember?"

"I did? What did I call you?"

"You called me Karanna." She watched his face intently, for any indication of understanding. She was surprised, when his face drained of color at the name.

"I - I called you Karanna?" he whispered.

"Zan?" She spoke his name tentatively, unsure as to whether or not she was prepared to hear what he had to say on the subject. Judging from his reaction, it didn't look good. In the end, she decided she had to know. "What does that name mean to you?"

"I - I'm not quite sure the importance of this... but in the last few months, I have been having dreams. Dreams of an unknown woman, to whom my heart is tied. Always in the dreams, her name is... Karanna."

Liz gasped. "And you think that I'm somehow this Karanna you have been dreaming about?"

"Why else would I be moved to call you that, without even realizing it?"

Liz raised a trembling hand to push her hair behind her ear. "I don't know. I mean, is it a name? Or is it just a word, like a term of endearment or something?" She shuddered visibly. "I have to tell you, this is very unnerving."

Zan was baffled by Liz's reaction. Did she really find the idea of being someone special to him repulsive? "I'm sorry if it upsets you Liz. But as you recall, you were the one that brought this all up. If you didn't want to know, you shouldn't have asked," he finished testily.

"Zan, what are you getting all bristly over? You don't even know what it is that disturbs me." Liz was feeling a little miffed with his attitude.

"It sounded to me like you were upset about even the idea of having any kind of connection to me."

"Well, see, you are jumping to conclusions. What I was referring to is that this pull between us.... well I had similar feelings about Future Max - in fact, there was an incident with him on the plane. And then he called me Karanna."

"He did?" Zan was unable to contain his surprise. "Did he tell you what it meant to him?"

"No - he had no idea what it meant, or why he called me that. It happened during a very unusual connection - much deeper than I had ever experienced with his present self. Just being in each other's presence was.... intense."

Zan flipped his hand over and captured hers in it. "More intense than what we've shared?" he asked with a flare of jealousy. Whoa. That was something new. "Because I don't mind telling you, that what went on back there in the office was the most intense thing that has ever happened to me in my life. I'm not sure you quite understand yet, the enormity of what almost happened."

Liz looked puzzled. "What almost happened -?"

Zan turned sideways in the seat, and leaned in close, so he could talk in a very low voice. He didn't want the cab driver to overhear him. "After Jose... you know." He looked at her, his eyes questioning if she knew what he was referring to. Liz nodded that she was onboard so far. "By the time the uh, 'threat' was over, I wasn't really paying much attention to anything else that was happening. It was like on instinct, I knew that you were safe, and then all I cared about was you - about being close to you..." He blushed at what he was about to say. "At that moment, if Ms. McCaffrey hadn't come into the room...."

Liz just sat there, staring intently at him, as he struggled for words. Her eyes scanned every inch of his flushed face, thinking how beautiful he was. And wondering what had him so flustered.

In a nervous response to her steady gaze, he cleared his throat. "Do you understand what I'm trying to say here, Liz?"

Her eyes locked with his, and she slowly shook her head.

Zan closed his eyes on a frustrated sigh. She was really gonna make him say it out loud, wasn't she? In barely more than a whisper, he confided, "If she hadn't walked in on us, I would have laid you down on that bed, and known you, Liz. Do you know what I mean by 'known'? As in the Biblical sense of the word?"

Liz's eyes grew wide with dawning comprehension.

A corner of Zan's mouth quirked in in self-contempt, before he continued. "That's right, sweetheart. That's how far gone I was. I have never been out of control with need for a woman in my life. I mean sure, I've been plenty aroused and all, but it is just a physical thing. This - this was beyond that, Liz. This crossed the lines into the spiritual. It was like my body was getting its cues from something much deeper inside of me. Something that longs to be joined with that same part of you. To be united with you all the way down to our souls."

Looking into the amber depths of Zan's eyes, Liz was truly frightened for the first time. She had struggled with her feelings for Future Max on the plane, but even then, it wasn't really like she was cheating on Max. But this - Zan was not Max, and now he was talking about spiritual union with her.... she shuddered as a cold wave of dread passed through her. What if she couldn't control him at some point? Worse yet, what if she couldn't control herself? Whatever was happening between them was totally out of the realm of what could be considered "normal", and there was no telling what kind of turn this situation might take.

The thought that she could actually give herself willingly to someone other than Max was the single most terrifying thing that had ever happened to her. Even worse than finding out that Tess was his bride. Because no matter what his supposed Destiny was, she had always known that there would never - could never - be another man for her. After all, he was the love of her life. And now, as she sat on the threshold of having her relationship with Max restored, she found herself wildly attracted to someone else. Possibly more than attracted. And not to just anyone else. God, did it have to be his freakin' twin?

Zan watched, as the emotions inside Liz played like a movie across her face. He wasn't sure, but he was beginning to think that he made a major mistake in revealing so much to her. He let go of her hand, and turned to stare out the window, wanting to avoid the pending rejection.

His body tensed, when he felt her lay a hand on his shoulder. Didn't she get it? That even a simple touch like that set a fire in him that he could barely control? He vaguely recalled telling her last night, that he wouldn't try to change her mind about Max. Why had he even said such a stupid thing? Maybe she wouldn't remember. After all, it had been quite the eventful evening. As much as the idea of pursuing Liz lacked honor, he'd never been a real honorable sort, anyway. But then, his itty bitty conscience reminded him, that was probably one of the things that she loved about Max. Well, he'd just have to find a way to get in her good graces, without making himself look like a disreputable lout, because he couldn't bear the idea of letting her go.

Liz had felt the tension in his body, when she reached out to touch him. Thinking that he would say something to her, she sat silently for a moment, waiting. When he made no effort to speak, she sighed, and let her hand fall back into her lap. Was he angry with her? What had she done, to cause him to shut her out, after all that had passed between them?

Feeling suddenly uncomfortable, she slid back to the other side of the cab, and watched the buildings go by. Soon, she was unable to make out anything, since everything was blurred by the flood of tears flowing from her eyes. She didn't know how long she sat there, before she felt Zan stir on the other side of the seat.

Zan had been so absorbed in his private contemplation, that he didn't notice right away that Liz had pulled back from him. When it finally registered with him, he turned to see what she was doing. She had her back to him, and was looking out the window, taking in the sights. Obviously, what was happening between them wasn't a really important issue for her, he thought grumpily. Until he saw her hand come up to swipe at her cheeks. When it pulled away, he noticed the wetness on her fingers, and the back of her hand. His heart immediately went out to her - no matter what, he couldn't bear the thought of her sadness.

Instinctively, he slid over next to her, and pulled her into his arms. "Liz? Why are you crying?"

"I'm not," she whispered the lie. She couldn't trust her voice to produce anything louder. It didn't matter. Zan heard her just fine.

"Liz, come on. I'm not stupid here. Please, tell me what's wrong." It occurred to him that he had never begged anyone for anything, before he met her. What was happening to him? He didn't even recognize himself any more.

"That's what I'd like to know. You turned away from me, and wouldn't even speak to me just now. What have I done to make you so angry?" she choked out.

"Angry?" Zan's voice registered his surprise. "I'm not angry with you, Precious One. I am just having a hard time - uh, excuse the unintentional pun - keeping my attraction to you under some sort of control," he explained in a low voice, to avoid the cabby's overhearing them.

"Oh -" Liz's eyes widened, when she realized the nature of her misunderstanding. "I - I'm sorry. I guess I didn't realize that you were, um, well, having a problem with that right now," she managed to say, blushing deep crimson.

Zan chuckled. "Listen, Liz, I might as well be up front with you. All you have to do is be within 100 feet of me, and I have a problem with that." He shrugged. "I can't explain why you affect me so powerfully, but you do. The best I can hope for is to keep a little space between us, at least until we get you back to Max. Then, I'm sure he'll be happy to take over safeguarding your virtue - from me at least."

Liz looked at him funny. "What do you mean by that?"

Zan sighed, and let his head fall back against the seat, his eyes closed. "Just that your virtue may not be any safer from him, than it is from me, if the hungry look in that Future Max's eyes are any indication of the way things are between you two." He rolled his head to the side, and peered up at her. "Is it?"

"Is what?" Liz asked, purposely playing dumb, and turning to gaze out the window, in hopes that he wouldn't see her blush making a revival performance.

"You know perfectly well what I mean, Liz. Is that the way things are between you two? Is Max your - lover?" Zan almost choked on the word.

"No!" Liz squeaked. "God, how could you think such a thing? Much less come right out and ask it! Don't you have any sense of decency?"

Zan felt suitably chastised for his comment. He knew he shouldn't have asked it, but it was driving him crazy, wondering if this woman belonged totally to Max. So, Max doesn't have his name indelibly stamped on her yet. Maybe there is hope....

"I'm sorry, Liz. I didn't mean to offend your delicate sensibilities. But given the way that you responded to me, when you don't even know me... well, I couldn't help wondering."

Liz got all flustered again, thinking of the way she succumbed to her attraction to Zan. It was shameful. She really needed to be more careful in the future.

Finally the cab pulled up in front of the airport, and let them out. After counting out the fare, she thanked him, and turned to enter the terminal.
posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:19:03 AM
Part Four

Once they secured their boarding passes, Liz checked her watch. Still almost half an hour before the plane boards. Okay... if it's 8:00 here, then it's.... 6:00 in Roswell. Liz knew that no way would Maria be up this early on a Sunday morning, but it was Liz's turn to open the cafe for the breakfast crowd at 7:00. Since Future Liz undoubtedly was whisked back to her own time, that meant no one was there to take the opening shift.

As she and Zan approached their boarding gate, she grabbed the edge of his shirt sleeve, and pulled him aside, out of the stream of traffic, to a quieter, sheltered spot.

"What is it, Liz?" Zan's voice was laced with concern.

"I have to call home, and get Maria to cover for me at the Crashdown," she replied, not even thinking that the comment would seem like gibberish to him.

"The Crashdown?" he echoed, incredulously. "What is the Crashdown?"

Liz flushed a light pink with embarrassment. "Oh, sorry. That's the name of the restaurant my parents own. Actually, the full name is 'The Crashdown Cafe'."

"Alien theme?" She nodded in response. "Mmm, nice touch," he teased. "What's on the menu?"

Liz laughed. "You don't want to know."

Zan arched a single brow. "Really? Try me."

"Okay, I'll tell you about it later, I promise. But first, I have to call Maria. She's my best friend, by the way. Anyway, now that my future self isn't there to cover my shift, I need to get Maria to fill in. She is not going to be happy about it, either, I can promise you."

"I take it she's not a morning person?" He hazarded the guess with a grin.

Liz laughed out loud at that one. "Hardly. Gimme a minute."

She fished her cell phone out of her backpack, and hit the speed dial for Maria. On the third ring, a very sleepy sounding Maria answered, "Hu-llo?" followed by an exaggerated yawn.

"Morning sleepyhead," Liz teased.

Maria snapped instantly awake. "Liz? Ohmigosh, where are you?"

"I'm - well, I'm kinda indisposed right now."

"You're calling me from the bathroom?" Maria asked, confused.

With a sigh, Liz hedged, "Well, not exactly. Let's just say, I had to take a little trip out of town. We're on our way home now." She figured vague was good. Maybe Maria would think she meant her parents were with her.

"We?" Maria inquired. "As in, you and the future peoples? Have you left New York yet??"

Liz was aghast. "How did you -"

Maria snickered. "Really, Liz, did you think that your best friend in the whole world wouldn't know something was different with you? It took me all of 10 minutes, before I had the truth out of her."

Liz sighed. "You're right. I should have known that you, Miss Relentless, wouldn't let something like that slip by unnoticed - or unchallenged."

"Darn straight. So - I guess you didn't find Zan, then?"

"Oh, yes, we found him." Liz looked up at Zan, and flashed him a brilliant smile. His heart started thundering like a buffalo stampede in response. He really wished that she would stop doing that.... didn't he?

"But the future peoples are still with you? I'm confused. I thought that would send them back to wherever they came from?"

"Oh, no, they aren't with me. Just Zan. He's the other part of the 'we' I mentioned." Now Zan was watching her tantalizing lips, as they formed the words, and then her perky little tongue swept them, to moisten their surface. He wanted nothing more than to let his tongue do that for her.... and then kiss her thoroughly. His body began to react at the mere thought of it.

"Oh, I see...." Maria replied. "So... he's coming back to Roswell? To what? Visit?"

Liz shook her head out of habit as she spoke. "No, he's going to move to Roswell. Listen, I'm low on minutes, so we'll chat later. What I need is for you to shag yourself out of bed, and open the Cafe for me. Obviously, if Max and Michael went back to their times, the other me did to. So there's no one to cover for me."

"Aw, geez, Liz, why did you have to pull this on the morning shift??" she whined pitifully.

Liz laughed at Maria's complaining. "Sorry, pal, it couldn't be helped. Up and at 'em. And if you see Max, tell him we should be in at around 4:30 this afternoon. Flight 367 on Mesa. Ask him to pick us up, okay?"

"3-6-7... " she repeated carefully, as she jotted it down on a scrap of paper. "Got it. Will do. I guess I'll see you tonight, then?"

"Yep, see ya later." Liz turned off the phone, and tossed it back into her backpack. Before she could make a move or say anything, Zan cupped her neck in his hand, and pulled her in for a slow, mind-drugging kiss. Liz's hand instinctively came up to his chest to push him away, but by the time it got there, she forgot what it was she was going to do with it. Zan slowly started pushing her backwards, deeper into the shadows of the corner they were in, never once breaking the kiss. He knew if he did, it would be all over, and he wasn't ready for that just yet.

After a few steps, Liz felt her back press against a wall, halting her from any further retreat. But Zan's body continued forward two more steps, until she was pinned firmly between him and the wall, one of his hands flattened against it at either side of her head. And still the kiss went on. Liz knew that she should stop what was happening, but she felt totally incapable of calling a halt to it. What was happening to her? Never before had she wanted to kiss anyone since Max - why, then, couldn't she resist Zan?

She knew that he was aroused - she could feel it - but it still startled her, when he pressed himself intimately against her, and began stroking her body with his. Despite the overwhelming hunger it awoke in her, the shock of it was enough to bring her back to her senses. She pushed as hard as she could on his chest, and while it didn't move him back much, his surprise at her action gave her enough leverage to wrench her mouth from under his.

"Liz -" Zan gasped in a tortured plea, next to her ear.

"Zan, you have to stop this. Please."

His hips continued to press into her. "Baby, I can't. God, I want you so much. I've never felt this way before. You have to help me." Liz felt sorry for him on the one hand, that he was in such agony. But then, it's his own fault, she reasoned. If he would just leave her alone, none of this would be happening. She twisted her body, and he groaned at the momentary increase in contact, but she had managed to work just enough space between them, that she slipped out under his arm.

Zan collapsed face first against the wall, his eyes shut tightly, and his shoulders heaving from his shallow, accelerated breathing, as he tried to regain control of his body. "Just give me a minute," he mumbled, sensing that she hadn't left him, but was merely standing back a few steps out of reach. He was glad that she didn't know just how close to totally losing control he had just come. What she did know was bad enough.

He refused to turn around to look at her, afraid of the disgust that he was sure he would see on her face. "Liz, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to force you to - that is, uh, when you kissed me back, I thought.... " He sighed. "Never mind. I'm sorry, okay?"

"I'm sorry too," came the soft reply. "I don't know why I can't seem to control myself around you. I don't mean to be leading you on, really I don't. Please don't think I'm a tease."

Zan spun around to face her then. He was surprised to find sadness on her face, instead of disgust, and a trickle of tears running down her cheeks. "Oh, Precious One, please don't cry. I don't think you are a tease. I just think, that whatever is making me want you so badly, has you in its grip as well. Don't you think?"

Liz nodded with a sniff. "I just don't understand, Zan. I've never even looked at another guy, since Max came into my life. He's all I ever wanted. And then I met you, and my whole world started spinning out of control."

Zan reached out to stroke her face, but when he saw her stiffen, he let his arm fall back to his side. "I think that maybe this means something, Liz. Like, maybe you aren't supposed to be with Max after all. Have you even considered that possibility?"

Liz shook her head vehemently. "No! Max is the one I love, and I'm going to be with him, now that we know that Tess is up to no good. I'm not going to let myself get carried away with you, and ruin my chances for happiness with Max."

Zan gave her a pointed look. "Who are you trying to convince here, Liz? Me - or yourself?" he challenged crossly. "Are you so certain that Max is the one that will be able to make you happy for the rest of your life? Does he inflame your passion the way that I do? Does he need you more than he needs his next breath? Because that's how I feel, Liz. I feel like I'll wither up and die without you."

"Stop it, please! This isn't doing either one of us any good, Zan. Surely you see that. The best thing that we can do, is to keep our hands off of each other, and hope that whatever this is between us eases up over time."

He pinned her with his heated gaze. "I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen, Liz. If anything, it will probably just grow stronger."

"Don't say that! You don't know that for sure." Liz was beyond distressed now, almost panic-stricken.

"No, I don't know it for sure. Let's just call it an educated guess. This kind of hunger doesn't seem like it's going to go away."

"What are we going to do?" she whispered in desperation.

"The question is, what are you going to do, Liz? You know what I want to do. I want to be your man - your lover - the other half of you. But the choice is yours. As much as I want to be with you, I won't force myself on you. If I was that kind of guy, believe me, with as strongly as I feel about you, it would have already happened. But I'm not going to pretend like this wild thing isn't happening between us. You can bury your head in the sand about it all you want, but I'm a little too practical for that. You are my one shot at happiness, Liz. Don't think I'm going to throw that away lightly."

"I'm not asking you to throw it away, Zan," Liz said with a teary voice. "I just want you to understand that it can never be between us. I've made my choice, and it's Max. Can't you please respect that?"

Zan dropped his head in defeat. "If that's the way you want it, Liz, then I'll do my best to honor it. But don't expect me to be doing cartwheels over it, and I can't promise I won't ever try to change your mind. And if you do change your mind.... know that I will be waiting, all right?"

"Zan," Liz said regretfully. "I won't be changing my mind."

"If you say so."

Just then, they heard their flight call for boarding. "Oh! That's us!" Liz said, donning a weak smile in an attempt to try and shake off the sadness she felt at having to hurt Zan.

"Okay, well - shall we?" Zan asked, holding his hand out for her to take, as a gesture for a truce between them.

Liz eyed him skeptically. "Are you sure?"

Zan smiled warmly at her. "Yeah, I'm sure. I don't want to lose our budding friendship over this."

Liz sighed in relief. "I'm so glad." She took his hand, and they went to the gate and boarded. Roswell, here we come, she thought, with more than a little reservation.


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Maria opened the cafe at 7 am sharp. At precisely 7:02, Max came through the front door. After taking orders for the few regulars that came in for breakfast, she strolled over to his booth.

"Max! So good of you to drop by, and mingle with the masses," she teased, with a veiled reference to his royal status. "What brings you by, at this ungodly hour?"

Max chuckled, as he watched Maria let out a big yawn. He remembered how she never got out of bed before 10:00 during the summer. "Actually, I'm really surprised to see you here," he remarked. "I thought that Mr. Parker finally gave up trying to get you to show up for the early shifts."

"Oh, he did," she confirmed. "He has nothing to do with me being here this morning."

"Well, then why are you - wait a minute. Did something happen to Liz?" Max whispered hoarsely in alarm, as he imagined all sorts of worst case scenarios.

"Easy, Romeo, everyone is fine," she assured him. "Fine, and where they belong, if you get my drift."

"You mean -?" His eyebrows lifted in surprise. He didn't think that they would accomplish the task in NY so quickly.

"Exactly," Maria said with a nod. "And there is a flight coming in at 4:30 that you might be interested in." She pulled the scrap of paper out of her apron pocket. "Here's the info I got. Mission accomplished."

Max didn't know whether to smile or scowl. He was glad that they had managed to accomplish what they set out to do, but the thought of Zan and Liz being alone together for hours did not amuse him. He had to keep telling himself that they weren't really alone on a crowded airplane....

He suddenly realized that Maria was staring at him, waiting for a response. "Oh, uh, yeah, thanks," he muttered, as he folded the paper, and tucked it in his front jeans pocket.

"Oh, my, you're in a good mood. To what do we owe this pleasure?" She punctuated the question with an upraised eyebrow.

"What?" Max asked defensively.

"Oh come on, Evans, this is me you're talking to. Something is bothering you. Spill."

Max sighed. "It's probably nothing. I'm just overreacting. I'm sure that's what Liz would say."

"And just what are you overreacting to?" she prompted.

Max reached up to rub the back of his neck wearily. Every time he thought of Zan with Liz, the tension in his neck became unbearable.

Maria noted this telltale sign. "That bad, huh?"

Max leaned forward, propping his elbow on the table, as he continued to massage his neck. "I just don't like the idea of Zan and Liz being alone together."

"Oh?" Now Maria was getting concerned. "Why? Is he - is he dangerous?" she asked fearfully.

"No, nothing like that - at least, not that I know of. Besides, I doubt he would harm a hair on her head. I think that Future Zan was half in love with her, and I'm concerned what might happen between them, when there is no one there to make sure that he restrains himself."

"You don't think he'd rape her, do you?" Maria gasped.

"No, not exactly...."

"Then what?"

"I'm probably being oversensitive, but I don't think he'd need to rape her, if that's what he wanted."

"What are you saying?! That Liz would give herself to some guy that she doesn't even know?!"

"Maria, I don't really know how to even explain it. It's like this attraction that Liz and I have for each other has escalated. At least, it was kicked up a notch for me, when Future Liz was here. And somehow, I got the impression that Zan - the future Zan - was extremely attracted to her. Which makes me wonder, if the present version of him won't be attracted to her as well."

"So that's how it is," Maria returned with a grin.

"How what is?" Max asked, peevishly.

"You're jealous! Another man looks at Liz, and you go all green -" She leaned in close, her eyes twinkling with mischief, and whispered, "Or is that just your natural color?"

Max couldn't help the laugh that erupted from him. He noticed that she was looking pretty smug, having gotten him to stop brooding long enough to laugh at her ridiculous joke. "Thanks, Maria. I know, I'm being stupid, aren't I?"

"Weeell.... not stupid, exactly. I mean, I can see you being a little possessive, given the fact that you two have just gotten back together and all. But if all of this hasn't taught you anything else, you sure ought to know by know how much Liz loves you, and that you alone are the one that holds the key to her heart."

"I know, you're right. I'll stop being so prickly about Zan. Chances are, they've been so busy trying to talk him into coming to Roswell, that he hasn't had time to think about Liz that way."

Maria held up her hands in a "Stop right there, buddy" pose. "Now wait a minute. I didn't say to throw caution to the wind. If this guy has the hots for Liz, you better keep an eye on him. I'm just saying, that it would be one-sided if he does, you know?"

"Yeah, I gotcha."

"Great. Now, I better get my butt in gear and start feeding these people, before I have a riot on my hands."

Max smirked. "Somehow, Maria, I think you'd handle it."

"You know it, girlfriend," she said with a chuckle, and then scooted off to start serving her customers their breakfast.


posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:19:26 AM
Part Five

When Liz and Zan got on the plane, they discovered that their seats were not next to each other, to Liz's relief. It would certainly make the trip back more bearable for her, than being in close quarters with Zan. She blushed as she recalled what happened on the way from Roswell to New York, when she had been crowded in with Future Max.

Her face was just starting to cool off a little, when a young woman with blonde hair and dark brown eyes came rushing in, and sat down beside her. She had just managed to get on board at the last minute. Liz smiled, and said hello, and was greeted back with a warm smile, and a breathless, "hi". The girl tossed her backpack overhead, and then settled into her seat. She pawed through her purse, and came up with what she was looking for. Popping a couple Tic Tacs into her mouth, she turned to Liz. "Want some?"

"Yeah, thanks," Liz said, as she shook a couple of the mints into her hand. "It seems like forever ago that I brushed my teeth this morning!" The other girl chuckled. "By the way, I'm Liz," she introduced herself. "Liz Parker."

"Hello, Liz Parker," the girl repeated with a smile. "I'm Dana. Never mind the last name. You'd never get it."

Liz laughed. "One of those, huh?"

"Definitely!" she affirmed, with a wide grin. The seat belt sign came on, and both girls buckled up. They sat patiently through the stewardess' spiel about oxygen masks and barf bags, and then heaved a sigh of relief, once the plane was off the ground.

Dana spoke first. "So - are you from New York? You don't have an accent," she observed.

"No, I'm not from New York. Actually, I'm from Roswell, New Mexico."

"Really? How interesting. I'll be traveling through there myself. Looks like we'll be getting to know each other better this trip."

"That'll be nice." Liz leaned toward the girl slightly and whispered, "It sure beats sitting here and listening to some old man with bad breath snore for 10 hours!"

Dana laughed out loud. "Now there's a picture! You sound like that's happened to you before."

Liz nodded, with a very serious expression on her face. "Oh yes, indeed it has. And believe me, it is no laughing matter." And then the two of them proceeded to burst into giggles.

"Do you travel alone often?" Dana asked.

"No, hardly ever. Actually, I'm not alone on this trip, either. It's just that my friend and I didn't get seats next to each other."

"Oh! Would you like me to switch with her, so that you can sit together?"

"That's really sweet of you, but no thank you. HE and I could use some time out of each other's hair right now."

"He? Oh, I see - a lover's spat?" Dana's eyes were glowing, undoubtedly hoping to hear the "scoop" on Liz and her beau.

"What - oh! No, nothing like that. We really are just friends," Liz assured her. "We just had a little.... disagreement before we got on the plane. We patched things up, and all, but I think it will still be good for us to have a little 'cooling off' period."

"Okay, if you say so. Tell me though - where is this friend of yours? I'd like to take a peek! If you don't mind, that is?"

"Why should I mind?" Liz asked, a slight edge in her voice. Damn, there was that jealousy rearing its ugly head again. Liz leaned across Dana's lap, and looked to the rows of seats behind them. Dana craned her neck around to see what Liz was looking at. "He's the one 5 rows back on the aisle, in the black shirt and jeans, with the denim jacket," Liz whispered to Dana. "See him?" Zan looked up just then, from the magazine he was reading, to see the two girls staring at him. His eyes locked with Liz's, and he gave her a smoldering look.

"Yep, I see him. What do you think, Liz? Is he a hunk, or what?" Dana looked at her, as if Liz's answer was of monumental importance to her.

"Well, I can hardly say no to that," Liz confessed, as she sat back into her seat again. "You see, I'm in love with his identical twin brother." It was the easiest way to explain a very weird relationship. What else could she do? 'Yeah, I'm in love with his genetic duplicate?' That would go over really well.

"Let me get this straight," Dana replied, lifting one delicate brow in challenge, "You are in love with some guy, and you are jetting around the country with his twin brother? Am I missing something here?"

Liz was dumbstruck for a moment. How should she answer that? Keep it vague, that's what she'd do. "Well, it's really a very long story, and to be honest, I really don't feel like going into it right now. Suffice it to say, I can't wait to get home to Roswell, and see Max."

"Max is the boyfriend?"

Liz smiled that smile of a woman smitten. "Yeah, he's the boyfriend. Actually, he's more than a boyfriend..."

"You two are engaged?" Dana sounded impressed.

"Oh, no, nothing like that. It's just, we have this incredible connection. Like we are soul mates, you know? That's what I meant. Boyfriends come and go, but soul mates are a once in a lifetime thing. Don't you think?" Liz bit her bottom lip nervously, after she asked the question. She found herself wondering if that was true. After all, if she and Max were soul mates, and it was a once in a lifetime thing, then why was she so attracted to Zan?

"I've always believed that," she heard Dana say. "That it is a once in a lifetime occurrence, that is. You're lucky you found yours at such a young age."

"Yeah, well, it hasn't been paradise, though. Like my Grandma used to say, 'Honeybear, if it isn't complicated, he's probably not your soul mate.' Well, if that is any kind of a barometer to measure it by, we must be off the soul mate scale. Complicated doesn't even begin to describe our relationship."

"Really? This sounds better than a soap opera! Tell me about him."

Liz realized belatedly, that she was running off at the mouth, and would do well to curtail any further detailed discussion, before she let something important slip. She didn't know why it was, that this girl was so easy to talk to. Maybe because she reminded her a little of Maria. In a quick attempt to cover herself, she faked a yawn. "Maybe some other time," she stalled. "I got up really early, and I hate to admit it, but it is really catching up to me." She yawned again. "If you don't mind, I need to take a little nap, before I pass out."

Dana smiled. "Oh, of course, go right ahead. I'll just read or something, to pass the time." She stood up, and extracted a book from the backpack she had stowed overhead. When she sat back down, she looked over at Liz, who was now sound asleep. She smiled as she thought to herself, Yes indeed, Liz Parker. This is going to be an interesting trip.

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Around 10:30, Max invited himself into his sister's bedroom, and bounced his rear down on the edge of her bed, in an attempt to wake her up.

"Max Evans, when I get conscious, I am going to throttle you for waking me up!" Isabel snarled.

"Good morning to you, too, Miss Sunshine. I hate to wake you up so early," he drawled sarcastically, "but I do have some rather good news to report."

"It better be good, if you hope to get me out of the grumpy mood you put me in, by waking me up like this."

"Well, let's see. Liz is on her way back with Zan, as we speak, and all the future versions that were floating around have returned whence they came."

"God, Max, you need to get a life. You talk like my English Lit book." She shuddered. "And on a Sunday, no less. Don't I get a day off for good behavior?"

Max chuckled. "Maybe, if I catch you displaying any," he joked.

"Haha, very fu - " Isabel bolted upright in her bed. "Did you say that Liz and Zan are on their way back here?"

"Well good morning! Now my sister is officially awake!"

"Can it, Max. When do they get in?" She was already getting out of bed, and padding over to her closet to pick out her outfit for the day. One thing about Isabel, once her feet hit the floor in the morning, she didn't stop.

"They fly in at 4:30," he answered. "The reason I got you up now is, I talked to Michael, and he has to go in to work at 2:00 this afternoon. So if we want to have a little council meeting here, before our guest arrives, we have to get over to his place soon. Can you be ready in 15 minutes?"

"Geez, Max! You don't give a girl much warning, do you?"

"Well, it was either let you sleep, and not have much time to get ready, or get you up earlier, and listen to you crab even worse than you already are. I think you can see my dilemma," he added, with a barely suppressed smirk.

"You're just full of it today, aren't you?" she shot back in feigned exasperation. "Okay, 15 minutes it is." She snatched up her clothes, and dashed into the bathroom.

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Half an hour later, Max and Isabel were on Michael's doorstep. At their knock, he bellowed, "Come in!" They proceeded to let themselves in, to find Michael washing the last of his breakfast dishes, dressed for the occasion in nothing but sweat pants.

"God, Michael, do you think you could put some clothes on, when you know you have people coming over?" Isabel griped.

"Maybe I just wanted to stay half-naked to turn you on, Ice Princess," he shot back.

Isabel gave a delicate little snort. "You gotta do better than this, if that's your goal," she taunted. She locked eyes with Michael, and then they both burst out laughing.

"You guys are too weird by half," Max commented.

"Must be the alien half," they both countered in unison.

"Okay, you two, can we get serious here, for a minute at least?"

"Sure thing, Maxwell. What do we need to discuss, anyway?" Michael dried the plate, and put it away, marking the completion of his cleanup.

"Well, as I told you on the phone, Liz and Zan are going to be getting in this afternoon," Max began. "And once Zan is here, we need to figure out what we are going to do with him. I mean, we can't hide him away forever, and we can't have him running around Roswell, attracting attention, without some logical explanation of who he is, where he came from, and why he's here. Especially with Mom and Dad," he finished, giving Isabel a meaningful look. "You can imagine how they would react, if they bumped into him on the street."

"They'd flip out, that's how they'd react," she said definitively.

"Exactly."

"So, what do we do?" she asked. She had a feeling Max had a plan. He always did.

"Well, I have an idea - mind you, it's just the skeleton of a plan. Plus, Zan has to be willing to go along with it."

"So? What's this brilliant plan?" she countered.

Max briefly outlined the idea for them, to get their initial reaction.

"That might work," was Michael's surprised reply.

"If Zan agrees to it," Max reminded him. "And we can get Mom and Dad to cooperate."

For the first time, Isabel seemed enthused about his idea. "Oh, I don't think we'll have any problems there," she exclaimed cheerfully. "You know what pushovers they are, whenever we want something."

"Yeah, well, let's hope their benevolent streak holds, when we spring this on them."

Isabel waved a hand in the air impatiently at her brother. "Oh, Max, you worry too much. I'm telling you, it will all work out. You've probably just had one of the best plans in your young reign. Stop second guessing yourself."

Max rolled his eyes, at her reference to his position of authority in their little group. Normally, she'd be chafing under it. That she would now invoke it as a means to encourage him, amused him somewhat. "If you say so, Princess," he retorted.

Isabel lifted her chin proudly. "I do say so, and thank you for recognizing superior counsel, when it is given."

Michael feigned coughing spasms. "Oh - kay you two. Enough of the mutual admiration bs here. It's getting pretty thick."

Max looked suitably chastised. "Right. So. You go in at 2:00. Liz and Zan's flight is supposed to come in around 4:30. Do you mind if we bring them back here, so we can meet up with everyone, and plan our strategy?"

"Hey, mi casa su casa. You always have a key to the door," Michael answered flippantly, with a lifted brow.

"Yeah, just as long as Future Liz doesn't come back and play with the locks, huh?" Max asked teasingly, knowing how much her being able to so effectively locked him out of his own bedroom had perturbed Michael.

"Ha ha, very funny," Michael shot back with an annoyed look. Max laughed. It wasn't usually that easy to get under Michael's skin. "Well, if you're quite through tormenting me, I think I'd like to get showered an changed."

"Please," Isabel said in a pleading tone. "Don't let us stop you, by any means!" Her obnoxious comment was rewarded, when Michael, walking around behind her chair, leaned down and wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug. "EWW!! Get your smelly body off my clean clothes!" She shrieked. Michael laughed, and continued on his previous course to the bathroom.

"Do you ever feel like you've been dismissed?" Max asked, looking at the now closed bathroom door, as they heard the shower running.

"Yes, in fact, I feel that way a lot, to tell you the truth," she said, giving him a pointed look.

Max looked repentant. "Is, I'm sorry if I make you feel that way. I know I've been a little difficult to live with these last few months -"

"A little?" she interrupted.

"You don't have to be so quick to point out my shortcomings, you know," he groused. "Anyway, I know you probably think that it was because I got a swelled head, when I found out about my responsibilities... I just want you to know, that isn't what changed me."

Isabel's eyes were full of compassion then, as she looked at Max. "I know," she said softly, placing her hand over his on the table. "I've always known. It's Liz. When she.... walked away from you, something died in you. I saw it. You tried to be strong and brave, that day on the cliff, but I could see it in your eyes. And I've never told you - or anyone else, either - but I could feel it, Max. I don't know how, but I could feel your heartache and desperation. I've been carrying it with me ever since."

Max was so startled at her confession, that he was speechless for a moment. Finally, he managed to speak. "Isabel.... I'm so sorry," he said, with obvious remorse. "I had no idea. I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you."

"I know that, Max. That's why I never told you. Because I didn't want you adding guilt to all the negative emotions that were already overwhelming you. But I want to apologize to you for the way I have been acting toward you since then. I know I've been rather prickly, but I have to be honest with myself, and with you, finally. The reason that I was so waspish toward you is because I was.... jealous." Her voice dropped to an almost imperceptible level on the last word. But Max still heard it.

"Jealous?" Max asked incredulously. "What do you have to be jealous of?"

Isabel looked up at him, her misty eyes betraying her usual reputation. "I was jealous of Liz, Max. Jealous because I knew that she was the only person in the world - hell, in the universe - that could bring the smile back to my brother's face. I miss that light in your eyes, that makes me believe that no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay. You used to have that, you know, because that's what you believed. Because of Liz. Once she broke it off with you, though, it was like nothing in your world was ever going to be okay again. And it affected every aspect of your life, and spread to the rest of us. How could any of us be happy, when the one person we always looked up to was being forced to leave behind the one thing that made him the great leader we knew he was destined to be?"

Max didn't know what to say. His heart twisted in his chest, full of all sorts of emotions. Regret and sadness topped the list, for what he had put everyone around him through the last few months. Self-loathing, for being so caught up in his own misery, that he failed to see that the others were hurting, too. Not to mention because he actually allowed his bruised pride to blind him to Tess' scheming machinations. And if the future folks hadn't come back, he cringed to think just how far he would have allowed her to lead him down that path.

But something else that she said stuck with him. "Did you mean that, Is? Do you think I have what it takes to lead our people to victory and freedom?" he asked, full of self-doubt.

"I think," she replied, "that my brother could do just about anything he set his mind to. I'm just wondering if I'll ever see him again." She looked at him, hope shining in her eyes.

"Don't give up on me now, Isabel," he nearly begged, his voice thick with emotion. "Not when everything is about to turn around for us."

"You think that Zan will make that much of a difference?"

He shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not."

"Well? Then what?" she prodded.

"Liz. We haven't had much time to talk things out, but we kinda reached an agreement before she was kidnapped, that we would get back together."

"Really?"

Max was surprised to see the bright smile that lit Isabel's features. She seemed genuinely pleased with the news. "Yeah, really. So - will you be okay with that, then?"

Isabel sighed. "Yes! Haven't you been listening to a thing I've said? I realize now, that I was wrong to be opposed to you and Liz being together. She really is the better half of you, y'know."

Max smiled in the face of her mock insult. "Yeah, I know. She is, isn't she?"

Isabel groaned. "Oh man, you've got it bad. I hope Liz knows what a lucky girl she is."

Max shook his head. "Nope, I'm the lucky one. Not only do I have her love, but I have some really great friends, and the best sister in the universe. What more could a guy want?"

Just then, Michael flung open the bathroom door and bellowed, "Are you still HERE?"

Max and Isabel exchanged glances, and then burst out laughing. "Well, you could put 'a tactful second in command' on your wish list," she offered helpfully.

"Noted. What say, we get out of here, before Michael treats us to any more of his gracious hospitality?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," Isabel agreed. "It's such a beautiful day, I thought that I would go for a drive. Want to come?"

Max smiled with pure, unadulterated pleasure. Isabel hadn't offered to spend any more time with him than absolutely necessary over the last few months. "I'd like that, Is. I'd like it a lot." That said, they called out their good-byes to Michael, and left.
posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:19:42 AM
Part Six

At 4:30, Zan and Liz arrived back at the Roswell airport, and Liz had her new friend, Dana, in tow when they disembarked. The two young women had enjoyed the rest of their flight together, after Liz's little nap. Dana sensed it best not to push Liz any more about her relationships with Max and his "twin" Zan, although she did tell Liz that she was eager to get a glimpse of her boyfriend. She wanted to see how much the two looked alike.

Zan and Liz took Dana to the baggage claim area, where she could pick up her suitcase, and they could wait for Max to pick them up. While Dana stood eyeing the carousel, Liz and Zan looked around for Max. Zan, being taller than her, spotted him readily, before Max had a chance to locate them. He also noticed a girl who looked just like Lonnie with him.

Noting that Liz hadn't seen Max yet, either, he turned to her, and cupped one of her cheeks with his hand in an intimate gesture, and looked deeply into her eyes. Liz stiffened, not wanting to have anyone she knew see Zan behaving this way, and get the wrong impression. But he started stroking her cheek hypnotically with his thumb, as he talked to her in a lulling tone of voice, while standing a little closer to her than was probably prudent. "So - I guess this is it, huh?" he asked her, making sure that his facial expressions conveyed his feelings for her.

"What do you mean?" she asked breathlessly. Doggone it, he was doing it to her again, she thought ruefully.

"Just that I suppose when Max gets here, you'll act like you don't even know me, despite all that we have experienced together since you showed up on my turf. I can't help but wonder -"

"Wonder what?!" Max growled in Zan's ear. Liz jumped back from Zan at the sound of Max's voice. She blushed, and dropped her eyes to look at her feet.

Zan insolently turned his head just enough to look at Max over his shoulder. "What I was, or wasn't going to say to Liz is none of your business, is it?"

Max was taken aback by Zan's rude, almost aggressive demeanor - not to mention his hair, goatee, and all those piercings. And yet Liz didn't seem to be offended by his obvious advances. Just what the hell had gone on between them, he wondered. "Well, when you're making a play for my woman, I think it becomes my business," Max snapped back, rising to his full stature, in an attempt to intimidate Zan. It didn't work.

Zan just shook his head mockingly, and said in a weary voice, "If you can't hang on to something, it isn't really yours, now is it?" He had made the comment rather casually, but his eyes declared the challenge. Max realized then that they had a long, uphill road to climb ahead of them.

"Now boys -" Isabel interjected a warning. "Let's play nice, shall we?" She held out her hand to Zan, and flashed him the pearly whites, her eyes blatantly studying his obvious nonconformity to mainstream society. "I'm Isabel."

Zan had to bite back a smile at her open curiosity. He had been "checked out" in a rude manner by people before, but from Isabel, he felt no sense of judgment. Instead of being offended, he was rather amused. He had a feeling he and Isabel were going to get along just fine. Taking her hand, he gallantly told her, "The pleasure is all mine."

"Of course it is," she said smugly, a decidedly impish grin on her face, and a playful sparkle in her eyes.

Zan couldn't hold it back any longer; he let out a laugh at her brazen display of conceit. "You are a prize, Isabel, that's for sure," he complimented her, slinging an arm around her shoulders in a gesture of familiarity. It had only taken that brief few moments to discern that this woman was nothing like Lonnie. Somehow, he knew he would be safe with her.

In response to his gentle teasing, Isabel reflexively brought her arm up around his waist, and gave him a little pinch on his back for good measure. Zan yelped, then gave her an affectionate squeeze.

Max felt the green-eyed monster rear its ugly head in full force. He glared at Isabel and Zan, as they made small talk What the hell? Is he out to take over my whole life, and everyone I love? And damn, if they don't seem to be content letting him do just that! And not just letting him do it - they even encourage him! he raged to himself. He refused to dwell on the fact that Lonnie and Rath had tried to kill Zan in the other future, and that there really would be nothing to stop Zan from doing the same to him, in order to secure a place for himself.

In a maelstrom of emotion, he stepped abruptly around Zan, and put his hand on Liz's shoulder to get her attention, since she was still staring at the floor. "Hello, Liz. How was your trip?"

Liz's head snapped up at the tenderness in his voice, but when she looked at him, his eyes were filled with hurt and questions. Something inside of her twisted painfully. The last thing she wanted to do was to hurt him any more. Because she loved him. Suddenly, it all became crystal clear to her. She loved Zan, but like a brother, despite this bizarre attraction she had to him. When she wasn't with him, she thought of him fondly - like she did Michael, or Alex. But Max - he made her heart sing. Without him, life just wasn't worth living.

In a purely impulsive gesture, Liz reached up and wrapped her arms around Max's neck, pulling him down for a breath-stopping liplock. Right there, in plain view of over 200 people, she put her entire heart and soul into that kiss. She was hurt, when at first Max didn't respond very enthusiastically, but it was only a matter of seconds, and he was swept up in all that was Liz.

Fortunately, before things got really heated, they heard a cheery voice next to them say, "So! This must be the boyfriend!"

Max and Liz reluctantly broke apart, as they slowly came back to their senses, and the reality of their surroundings. Liz turned to see Dana, standing a mere two feet away, watching them intently. Blushing, she made the introductions. "Uh, yeah.... Dana, this is Max, Zan's twin brother," she said, as she sent Max a look, begging him to play along. "Max, this is Dana. We met on the plane when we left New York. She happened to be stopping over in Roswell for a couple of days, and so we kind of buddied up for the flight."

"Nice to meet you," Max said mechanically, extending his hand for her to shake. Dana grasped his hand firmly, and looked straight into his eyes. Max felt a jolt go through him - what it was about her, he didn't know. He just had this weird feeling....

Dana released his hand, and turned to Liz. "Well, would you believe, they lost my luggage?" she complained. "Now what am I supposed to do?"

"Well, we can take you to a store, to buy some necessities, if you like, right Max?" Liz suggested to him hopefully.

"Uh, well, yeah, I guess.... sure," he stammered out.

"Oh, I don't want to be a bother," Dana protested.

"No, it's no bother, really," Liz hastened to assure her. "We'll just take you to the store, and then drop you off wherever you're staying...?"

"Well, actually," Dana began, looking rather sheepish. "I was hoping that you could recommend a good place to stay. I don't have reservations anywhere - this trip was kind of spontaneous. I just needed to get out of New York for a while."

Liz nodded. "Sure, we can help you find something. Since your luggage is AWOL, and Zan and I don't have any, we may as well get going." She looked to Max to lead the troops.

Max walked over to where Isabel and Zan stood a few paces away, talking, and Dana and Liz followed him. "Isabel? This is a friend Liz made on the plane. Her name is Dana. Dana - my sister Isabel." The girls smiled at each other and said hi. "Dana's luggage got lost," Max continued. "So Liz offered for us to take her to the store, and find her a hotel to stay at. So we might as well get going."

For a few seconds, Isabel looked at Max like he had lost his mind, but recovered quickly. "Lead the way, fearless leader," she ribbed her brother. Max's eyes went wide, and his look was an obvious warning to watch what she said.

Isabel rolled her eyes, and when he was along side her, she whispered, "It's a fairly common saying, Max. Don't take everything so damn personally, okay? No one will think anything of it."

When they were almost to the Jeep, Max tossed Izzy the keys, and then put his arm securely around Liz, corralling her into the back seat with him and Dana, leaving shotgun for Zan. Zan pretended to be unaffected by Max's less-than-subtle manipulations, but he said nothing. Not that it mattered. Liz could feel the hostility rolling off him in waves.

Still, she thought, he's going to have to learn to get over it, and move on with his life. Then she remembered the way Tess was with Max. What is it about these aliens that makes them so freakin' stubborn?

"So, where to?" Isabel called cheerfully from the driver's seat.

"You have a Wal-Mart?" Dana asked.

"Doesn't everyone?" Isabel asked with a chuckle. "One stop shopping, here we come!" She started the Jeep, put it in first, and they were on their way.

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An hour and a half later, five weary teens pulled into the Roswell Ramada Inn, the only hotel in town that they hadn't checked for vacancies. So far, the other six were booked solid for the next three nights. Max looked at Dana apologetically, and wished her luck in renting a room, as she climbed out of the Jeep. He was surprised how undaunted she seemed by the situation. He was fairly confident by now, that there would be no room available in this last possible haven for her, yet she seemed joyful. He marveled at her optimism, and almost hated to see that disappear. But for now, she merely smiled at him, and turned to enter the lobby.

It was no more than three minutes, when she emerged, smile firmly in place, and hopped into the back seat next to Liz. "Well?" Zan asked, turning in his seat to glare at her. He'd had little sleep the last 24 hours, and just couldn't wait to settle somewhere himself for the night. Not to mention, it was dinner time, and his stomach was rumbling. He wanted to shake this little blonde girl, and tell her to go find someone else to chauffeur her around.

"No rooms," she reported, without a trace of frustration or disappointment, he noticed. "I'll just have to rent a car and move on to another town, I guess," she sighed. "Who would have thought that there would be such a rush on rooms at this time of year?"

"But you can't leave," Liz chimed in. "I mean, you have to stay in Roswell until your luggage arrives, right? Why don't we all go back to Michael's and order something to eat from the Crashdown, and I'll go to pick it up. You can come with me, so I can talk to my parents and see if they have any objections to you sharing my room for a couple days. At least until your luggage catches up with you," she finished with a grin.

Dana's paused, searching Liz's eyes. "You would do that for me? For a total stranger?"

"Well, it's not like you're a total stranger," Liz reasoned. "I mean, we've known each other for... heck, almost 12 hours now!"

Dana chuckled. "That's putting a positive spin on things." Her stomach rumbled. "I don't know how the room will work out, but the idea of food is very appealing."

"I'll second that!" Zan growled. Everyone stopped to stare at him. "What? I haven't had anything but peanuts and crackers on the plane all day long! Gimme a break, okay?"

Max looked at Liz with concern in his eyes. "You haven't eaten all day?"

"Gee, well..." she thought for a moment. "No, I guess we didn't. There just never seemed to be an time. We had a rather.... eventful morning before we left for the airport. I'll tell you all about it later," she assured him, giving him a pointed look.

"Okay, I'll be looking forward to that story," he told her. "But you are too thin as it is. We need to get some food into you, before you disappear on me altogether."

"Why do I feel like a lamb being fattened for the slaughter?" she asked in a low voice, for his ears only.

Max leaned down and gently nibbled on her earlobe, and then her neck. "Perhaps," he whispered, "it is the predatory gleam that must light my eyes whenever I look at you. You certainly look good enough to eat." He pulled back just enough, so that she could see his wolfish grin.

"You are a very naughty boy, Max Evans," she breathed into his ear. "What ever shall I do with you?" She traced the shell of his ear with the tip of her tongue.

"I can think of several things," he informed her, his eyes rolling back into his head, as her teeth gently nipped and scraped his earlobe.

"So can I." And then she fused her lips to his, wrapping her arms around his neck, holding him securely to her - not like he had any ideas of moving anyway. Max and Liz were oblivious to their surroundings, as the kiss heated up.

Dana watched them with open admiration, a smile of approval on her face. She didn't miss it, either, when Zan turned to see why it had grown so quiet in the back, and his eyes narrowed at the sight that greeted him. But something about him told her it wasn't anger, so much as hurt, that sculpted the look on his face.

Liz didn't miss it, either. As she was pouring out her love for Max in that steamy kiss, she felt all of Max's love and joy at having her back in his life. But she also felt a great undercurrent of sadness and loneliness. She somehow knew that it wasn't coming from Max, though, but rather from Zan. It was odd, how she could distinguish the two, when she felt them simultaneously.

Isabel pulled the Jeep up in front of Michael's apartment, and Max ended their passionate kiss, giving her a slightly confused look, and leaving Liz to contemplate how it was that she could feel Zan's emotions, when they weren't even touching. She had never had that kind of experience with Max. As each of these new occurrences happened to her with Zan, and not Max, Liz grew more edgy and restless inside, and she hoped that she would be able to keep it to herself. She didn't want to worry anyone else with her problems, when there was so much at stake. Max helped her out of the vehicle, and they all piled inside.

Michael and Maria had finished work, and were waiting for them rather impatiently. They had gone by Alex's house and picked him up, giving him a capsule summary of what had been going on. Alex hadn't been sure if he was ready for all of this, but Michael insisted that he be present for their meeting with Zan and Liz. After all, he knew something more than what he had disclosed to Alex - that Alex had the ability to translate the book. They were going to have to talk about that soon, if they were going to stay one step ahead of Tess.

Maria ran to Liz with a squeal and an enthusiastic hug, despite her exhaustion from working a double shift. "I'm so glad you're okay, chica," she murmured.

"Where the hell have you been, Maxwell?" Michael demanded. Zan was startled to find Michael's attitude harsh like Rath's. Must be he was going to mellow considerably with age, if the Future version of him was any indication. He noted that Isabel was nothing like Lonnie, and, in his estimation, he and Max were polar opposites, except in their desire for Liz.

Max ran his hand wearily over his face, and answered, "It's too long to go into right now. We have other things to talk about, but first, Liz has a friend with her that she met on the plane that we need to find accommodations for. And then we have to talk to Liz and Zan about their time in New York."

Amidst all the chaos of everyone talking at once, Liz managed to get them to give her their orders for dinner. After she called the order in, she asked Max if he would be willing to drive her and Dana to the restaurant to pick up the meals, and meet with her parents. He got the keys from Isabel, and they headed out.


posted on 13-Oct-2001 7:20:02 AM
Part Seven

When Max and Liz returned from the Crashdown an hour later, Dana was not with them. Jeff and Diane had been warm and welcoming to her, and wanting to rest, she opted to eat her meal at the cafe, then turn in early. Everyone's tension visibly relaxed a notch at the news, now that they wouldn't have to guard everything they said.

As Liz passed out the food, Max watched with interest at how easily Zan conversed with the others. For a guy who grew up away from society, he had turned out fairly well, Max figured. He wondered how Zan had become so socially adept, with only Nasedo for a role model. He had to admit to himself, he more expected Zan to wipe his mouth on his sleeve, than to use the napkin that Liz had given him. He was pleasantly surprised on that score. Maybe this idea he had for how to integrate Zan into Roswell society wasn't going to be as challenging as he'd first thought.

He watched with a twinge of jealousy, as Liz knelt beside Zan, a bottle of Tabasco in her hand. But the jealousy was overridden with his pride in her sensitive nature, that allowed her to care for people so readily. She'll make a great queen. The thought came unbidden to his mind, and he was startled at the emotions it evoked in him. He hadn't even been convinced himself that he would claim the throne in the end. He was willing to fight for the cause from this end, but go back to Antar? He had never seriously considered it. But the idea of ruling with Liz by his side brought an unexpected warmth to his heart. He smiled, as he overheard her conversation with Zan.

"Really? You've never tried Tabasco on your food? Max, Michael and Isabel won't eat without the stuff."

"What about you, Liz? Do you like Tabasco on your food?"

"Uh, it seems to be an alien quirk," she explained. "I tried it before, but I thought it was going to burn my tonsils out!"

"I don't know," Zan teased. "If you won't eat the stuff, why should I let you put it on my food? Sounds like an assassination plot to me." His eyes danced with merriment.

Liz sighed theatrically in exasperation, rolling her eyes. "Okay, I'll tell you what. I'll put just a drop on my fries, and the same on yours. That way, you can taste it, and you can't insinuate that I'm trying to poison you. How's that?"

"Sounds like an equitable solution." Max was again surprised, this time at Zan's choice of words. He had a terrific command of the English language, it seemed, despite his lack of formal education.

Max looked on in anticipation, as Liz put the Tabasco first on her fries, and then Zan's. He couldn't wait to see Zan's reaction to his first taste of pepper sauce.

Zan and Liz each picked up a doctored French fry, and held them poised to eat. "You first," Zan insisted.

"And just why should I trust you?" she accused. "For all I know, once I eat mine, you'll back down like a coward."

"You would insult my honor, milady?" he challenged, in his best Sir Lancelot imitation. Liz remembered his Aussie persona and smiled - until she remembered Jose. That took the light out of her eyes. "Liz?" Zan asked worriedly. "Precious One, what is it? What did I say to upset you?"

Max's fists clenched at Zan's use of the familiar term of endearment. And yet, somehow, it seemed like an appropriate thing for Liz to be called. Go figure.

Liz swallowed, and shook her head. "It's not you, Zan. It was just the direction that my thoughts took for a moment. I can tell you later." Then she narrowed her eyes at him. "Now stop trying to change the subject, so that you can get out of this," she commanded, returning to their spirited banter.

"Yes, milady," he answered soberly. "How about this for a compromise: on the count of three, we both eat our fries?"

"That might work," she agreed. "Okay, who's gonna count?"

"Ooo! I will!" Alex offered. He couldn't wait to see Liz's eyes watering when she tasted the hot sauce. Liz had nearly gagged the last time she tried it. Alex counted, and Zan and Liz both popped a fry into their mouths.

Already knowing what Liz's reaction would be, all eyes were on Zan. His eyes widened, and a smile of delight graced his lips. A round of applause erupted from the spectators, and Zan reached for the Tabasco. He frowned in confusion, to find that Liz was in possession of the bottle again, liberally pouring it over her fries and burger.

"I thought you said you didn't like the stuff," he commented. His bewilderment caused the rest of them to look at Liz, and a collective gasp was heard, when they saw what had captured Zan's attention.

She eagerly picked up two fries that were dripping in hot sauce, and ate them with obvious relish. "I don't know why I didn't like this before," she exclaimed. "The stuff is wonderful!" And with that, she greedily consumed several more drenched fries. To their amazement, she even dumped some in her soft drink, and then promptly guzzled half of it down.

Max came and knelt down beside her, his concern for her evident. He caught her wrist in his hand, before she could indulge herself any further. "Liz, honey, I think you'd better go easy. You don't know how that stuff is going to affect your system."

"Affect my - what are you talking about? You guys eat it all the time."

"Yes, we do. We've been eating it for years, and because of that, we know we can handle it. But you are overindulging your first time out. I'd hate to see you get sick or anything."

Liz gave him a desperate look. "But it tastes so good," she nearly whined.

"I've been telling you that for months, Liz. Why is it that now, you suddenly agree with me?"

Liz's face went white, as if she was just now realizing what she was doing. "I - I don't know, Max. I have no idea what came over me. I just know that suddenly I am craving the stuff." Everyone else in the room was staring at her in disbelief, their own meals long forgotten.

"Maybe it's time you and Zan shared with us what happened in New York. Maybe there will be some clue, as to what has caused this change in you." Liz looked at Zan, and he nodded to indicate his willingness.

Michael sat across the room with a black scowl on his face, silently brooding over the scene he had witnessed with Future Zan the night before. He secretly wondered if they would hear the whole truth, or if Zan and Liz would weave some elaborate tale to tell. After all, if they had made love with each other, they certainly wouldn't come right out and admit it, would they? When he saw the non-verbal exchange between Liz and Zan, he was convinced that they were conspiring together.

At Max's insistence, Liz relayed everything that happened from the moment the plane landed in New York. She was inwardly relieved to not have to recount the plane trip with Future Max, in front of a room full of people, even if they were her friends. The telling of that, she wanted to be a private matter between her and Max.

Once she got to the part about being in the tunnels, Zan also interjected comments of the situation from his point of view. Michael was very surprised to hear them talk candidly - in front of Max, no less - about the incident with the shield, and how they had connected. Perhaps that is what had caused Future Zan to react as he had. The time lapse between that incident and the disappearance of Future Max and Michael corresponded with the span between Future Zan's hasty retreat to the bathroom, and his return to wherever he came from.

Through it all, Michael had to admit that he was proud of the restraint that Max was displaying. He knew it couldn't be easy for him to hear about the intimacy that Zan and Liz had shared. Yet his arm never dropped from where it protectively circled Liz's shoulders.

The telling of the next morning's events was more difficult, and Max embraced a trembling Liz, who, after mentioning the near rape, and Zan's gallant rescue, had to defer the telling of the rest of the tale to Zan, as she was too shaken to continue. Wrapped in Max's arms, she listened to things from his perspective, and was surprised at a few things. First, she hadn't known that he had actually heard her in his mind, when he was in the shower. Although it did explain how he came upon the scene with Jose in nothing but his birthday suit. This disturbed her, and caused her to shudder. How many more important "firsts" was she going to share with Zan, when her heart so clearly belonged to Max? Something about it seemed grossly unfair.

She also gained insight into him, as she felt his more intense emotions assault her. She was surprised at the degree of rage that he had felt, upon finding Jose forcing himself on her. She would have expected that kind of fierce, protective possessiveness from Max, but Zan? What caused him to care so deeply for a girl he had just met?

She shared his revulsion, as he recounted the incident with the homeless man that Jose had ruthlessly murdered. The combined force of her own intense emotion, coupled with the equally strong feelings she was picking up from Zan, caused her to tremble uncontrollably in Max's arms. She wanted to scream from the pain, as she felt her chest would explode from such an overwhelming onslaught. The sight of her distress distracted Zan, though, and when his focus shifted, so did his emotions, and Liz's body calmed.

Max brushed back a lock of her hair, now damp with perspiration, and stroked her cheek. "Liz? What's the matter, babe? Are you feeling sick? I knew you shouldn't have eaten that damned hot sauce -" He stopped when he saw her shaking her head no. "If you aren't sick, tell me what just happened," he encouraged gently, while the others looked on in concern.

Liz tried to speak, but found that her mouth and throat were completely dry. She looked at him in desperation, and touched her hand to her throat. "Water," she rasped out. Before anyone else could even process what she had requested, Zan was out of his seat, and halfway to the kitchen. He quickly returned with a glass, and knelt before Max and Liz, to help her take a drink.

Max observed Zan's actions silently, and realized that Zan wasn't after Liz just to hurt him. He could see it in Zan's eyes, in the tender way he held the glass for her to drink from, that Zan cared about Liz. And not just in a coarse, lustful way. Max recognized in Zan that same love and devotion that he himself had harbored toward Liz, from the first moment he had seen her in third grade. Granted, it had been simpler back in those days, but nonetheless an honest reaction to her. Something about Liz reached out to both of them, in a way no other woman ever did. As he watched Liz weakly smile back at Zan in gratitude, he learned one other thing - the attraction was reciprocal. He could no longer deny it. The question was - could he live with it?

As Liz was composing herself, his mind wandered to the reports Zan and Liz had shared about their time in New York. He considered the whole thing with the shield in the tunnels, and wondered if Liz would have the same reaction to his energy barrier. He wasn't sure he wanted to risk testing it. And she had been able to increase his energy output dramatically. Why? Why was there such a strong connection for her with Zan? He had to echo Zan's bafflement, that a human could affect his powers at all.

Liz's voice brought him out of his reflection. "When Zan was talking about Jose killing that man," she gasped out, and then stopped to catch her breath again. She looked up into Max's face, her eyes begging him to understand, and not turn away from her, once he knew the truth. "I was reliving the horror of it," she continued, "and then I felt Zan's feelings on top of my own, and the intensity of it was too much. I thought my insides were going to shatter."

"You - you felt Zan's feelings?" Max asked, a pained look on his face. "From across the room?"

Liz's heart ached, to see how deeply this was hurting him. But she couldn't lie, and she couldn't turn back from the course she had begun. She could only nod slightly in response.

"Are you sure that's what it was?" Max pressed, clearly not wanting to believe that Liz could share such a strong bond with Zan, and not with him.

"Max, I'm sorry," she whispered hoarsely, placing her hand on his cheek. "I don't know why this is happening - God knows I don't want it to happen - but I'm sure it was Zan's feelings. Come here." She motioned to Max to bend his ear down to her. She whispered something into Max's ear. "Now, ask Zan how he was feeling, when he was relaying that part of the story."

Max merely looked at Zan in question, and Zan felt almost guilty about telling Max what he was waiting to hear. "I was feeling anger, and revulsion, that he could mercilessly kill a defenseless human being."

Max's face went white, as the truth burned into his soul. Now he knew how Liz had felt, when she learned that he had gotten a flash from Tess, the night he kissed her in the rain. Like maybe what they shared wasn't so special after all - at least not for his people. The fact that she could share an even more intense connection with Zan made him feel like he was somehow lacking. How could it be, that he could be chosen to be the king, and yet Zan was more powerful?

But then he remembered something else - something very important. Even when Liz had been so hurt and felt betrayed, she didn't stop believing in him - trusting in their love. Even when her mind was screaming that he was cheating on her, he insisted that he wasn't doing anything intentionally. She had been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and forgive him, despite how much she was hurting. Could he offer her any less?

"Max?" It seemed like Liz's voice was calling to him from a hundred miles away. Slowly, his mind tried to pull itself back to the present situation, but it was like he had to fight every inch of the way to escape his turbulent thoughts. "Max?!"

Max looked at her blankly. "I'm sorry, did you say something to me?" he asked, with no trace of emotion.

"Max, do you want to wait to hear the rest of this?" Liz suggested with concern. She could tell by the look on his face that he was having a hard time dealing with all of this.

"No - we need to get everything out in the open, so we know what we are up against. Especially since Nicholas showed up here yesterday."

"Who's Nicholas?" Liz asked softly, her voice still weak. Her words came at the same time as Zan's, though, and no one even heard her.

"Nicholas? That no-good jerk?" Zan spit out angrily. "He was here?" This was news. He didn't want his Liz - er, Max's Liz - anywhere near "The Little General", as he referred to him. That dude was bad news, in a big way.

"Yeah, and he knew that Future Liz wasn't the Liz from this time period. He seems to be very astute, even though he's just a kid."

That got Liz's attention. "A kid? What did he look like?" she demanded. Max gave her a brief description. "Oh my God," she breathed.

"Liz? What is it? What do you know?" Max was more than a little concerned... and curious.

"Well, when Jose was..." Liz drifted off, and started to tremble again, remembering how Jose had attacked her.

Max held her close, speaking soothingly to her. "It's all right, Liz. I'm here, and your safe. Can you tell us what has you so upset?" He stroked her hair lovingly, willing her his strength.

Liz nodded. "I got flashes from Jose. In them, Jose met with Nasedo and a kid.. . the kid fits the description you gave of Nicholas. They were looking at photographs. I managed to manipulate my perspective in the flash, and saw that the photographs... they were of you, Max."

The room grew eerily quiet. Liz looked at Max, and then Zan, and noticed that they were both staring at her in unbelief. Even Isabel and Michael seemed surprised. She gathered her courage and asked, "What's the matter? Did I say something wrong?"

It was Zan that spoke first. "You never told me about the flash, Liz. Have you ever done that before? Been able to alter your perspective during one, I mean?"

"No, I haven't," she answered slowly. She hadn't really thought about it at the time, because everything was happening so fast. But now that the words hung heavy in the air around her, she was beginning to realize how significant that was. How did she know to do that? Like breaching Zan's shield, she had no idea. She had just acted on instinct.

"So, then, it would seem that the Skins are very well aware of who you are, and what you look like," Zan said to Max.

Max was starting to get a little annoyed with Zan stating the obvious, as if he thought that Max wasn't smart enough to put it all together. That thought put a scowl on his face, which remained during his next comment. "I find it rather odd that you were friends with this Skin - for how long was it?"

"Just about four weeks, and I'm not sure that I like what you're implying here."

"Implying? I didn't realize I was implying anything," Max said heatedly. "So let me just clarify... I'm accusing you of colluding with the enemy. There. Is that better?"

"Max! How could you think such a thing of Zan?" Liz was mortified.

"Well, let's see.... he is all chummy with this Skin, you show up, and then he takes you to spend the night in harm's way, and the guy attacks you? And God knows what else he would have done! Yet here is Zan, who looks just like me, and Jose had to know who he was... and never once did he make a move to hurt him. Doesn't that seem a little suspicious?"

Liz turned pleading eyes to Zan, encouraging him to defend himself. Zan wasn't sure if it was just because she didn't know how to refute what Max had said, or because she herself needed convincing that he was innocent. "Liz, do you believe that? Do you think I would do anything to hurt you?"

"No, of course not! But I can see why Max would get that idea. And I don't understand why Jose didn't come after you, either. Do you have any idea?"

Zan visibly relaxed. "Actually, I thought about that a lot on the plane. I realized that he had been fishing around most of the time I knew him, trying to get hints about where I lived. Maybe he didn't want to dispose of me, until he knew where the lair was, so he could finish off the rest of them. The only reason that he attacked me today, is because I found out who he really was - thanks to Liz. She saved both our asses today."

Max seemed satisfied with the explanation, but now there was another question rearing its ugly head. "How did she save you? You mean, by letting you know who Jose was?"

"That, and her quick thinking. My shield wasn't strong enough to fight off Jose, and I was so afraid that I was going to fail to protect Liz. In the end, she protected us both."

"How? What did she do, that you couldn't manage?" Max was starting to get agitated with the way Zan had Liz on a pedestal. In Max's estimation, he should be the only one allowed to elevate her to the status of goddess!

"She remembered how we had connected the night before, and the affect it had on my shield," he began, and then an idea came to him. With a smug grin, he continued, "So she came to me, when I was about to collapse, and put her hand to mine, and increased my energy enough to lighten my load. Then she told me to kiss her -" he watched Max for a reaction. Max's face was stoic, except for a telltale narrowing of his eyes. Yes indeed, this was getting to him. Time to crank it up a notch.... "When I realized what she was thinking, I decided not to take any chances of the energy surge not being great enough to kill Jose, so I pulled her close, and started -"

"Zan!" Liz interrupted frantically, her face a bright crimson. "I don't think that this is the time -"

"Why not?" he asked with feigned innocence. "It was all in the line of duty - right?"

"Just drop it. I'll tell Max about it all later, when we're alone. I think it can wait until then. In fact, I know it can," she insisted.

"Well, if you're sure," he drawled insolently.

"Quite sure," she insisted.

Michael watched the exchange between the two with grave misgivings, especially when he saw the unspoken requests that Liz made with her eyes. What was she trying to hide from Max, he wondered?
posted on 17-Oct-2001 11:30:33 AM

Part Eight

It was Alex who broke the tension-induced silence. He had been just observing all the goings-on, and while he could sympathize with Max's apparent insecurities, regarding Liz's relationship to Zan, there were some bigger issues that needed to be discussed. In his humble opinion, of course.

"Uh, Max?" Alex addressed the alien leader cautiously. With all this hormone-induced posturing going on, he wasn't quite sure how Max would react to him.

Max turned toward him, and was just about to snap at him, when he saw the uneasy look on Alex's face. That disarmed his anger temporarily, and he spoke in a civil tone. "What's on your mind, Alex?"

"Well, not to be trying to tell you your business, or anything, but it would, uh, seem to me -" Alex swallowed
nervously. "Um, that maybe we should figure out what we are going to do with Zan here? I mean, we can't have your genetic duplicate running around town without some damn good explanation, and I can't imagine him agreeing to be caged up here indefinitely...." He let the thought drift off, imploring Max for a solution with his eyes alone.

Max gave Alex a genuine smile. It was good that there was a guy in the group that wasn't an alien, to help him keep his head screwed on straight. Sometimes he could get so absorbed in the quest for alien answers, that he could lose sight of the most obvious, common sense things that needed tending first. "Thanks, Alex, for helping me refocus here. You're right of course, and actually, I have come up with a tentative solution, if Zan is agreeable to it."

"And that would be -?" Zan lifted a single eyebrow in a silent challenge to make it good.

"Well, there isn't going to be any way around people noticing the resemblance between us, unless you lurk in the shadows at night. And I agree with Alex's assessment - you don't seem the type to want to stay cooped up all day, when everyone else is free to roam the streets."

"You got that much right, so far."

Max felt a passing urge to knock Zan on his butt, and relieve him of that smart-aleck attitude of his. He restrained himself, however, and trudged on. "So there is really only one human way we can explain our appearances, which Liz has already employed," he stated.

"That we are identical twins," Zan finished the thought. "I agree, that it is the only reasonable explanation. But that opens up another whole can of worms. Things like, 'where did Zan come from?' or 'How did you know he was out there, somewhere?', 'How did you find him?', 'Where are his parents?' Not to mention the questions about school transcripts, birth certificates, social security number, etc., etc.... The list goes on and on."

"Look," Max uttered with an air of exasperation, "I didn't say it was going to be simple. We are going to have to work at covering all the bases here. But I think it is doable, and unless you can shapeshift, we are stuck sharing the same face. So there isn't much choice about how we are going to play this." Max looked at Zan intensely. "You can't shapeshift, can you?"

Zan laughed. "No, don't worry, Max. I mean, I can make little changes - use my powers to change my hair, piercings, clothes... that kind of thing. But I will always look like you. Aren't you thrilled?"

"Not particularly," Max mumbled, causing Zan to snicker. "I'd think the sentiment would be rather mutual," Max snapped.

"Oh, I don't know," Zan drawled, looking at Liz briefly. "It could have its advantages." Liz shuddered in Max's arms at the implication.

The insinuation was not lost on Max, and he held Liz a little tighter. "Yeah, well, you can just forget about that. Now, as I was about to say, Alex here is a whiz on the computer, and can help us with things like the school transcripts and id issues. Right, Alex?" Max grinned at him sheepishly, realizing that he had just assumed that Alex would allow himself to be dragged into these various illegal activities willingly.

Alex read his silent apology, and laid Max's doubts to rest. "No problem, boss. I'm in."

"Thanks, Alex," Max said, letting out the anxious breath he had been holding. "Now, we just have to come up with a reasonable explanation for how we discovered you, and why you don't have any family that will be looking for you."

"Maybe you could invent a past for him that mirrors my own," Michael suggested hesitantly. He still wasn't sure he was sold on the idea of having this dupe of Max's in their little circle. After all, what did they really know about him? Normally, he would defer to Liz's assessment as to the guy's acceptability, but there was something up with her, and that made him less than confident in her judgment. Still, Max was going to go through with this, with or without his approval, so he figured he might as well help them come up with the best cover story they could create. Arousing suspicions would just increase the danger of this whole situation for them all.

"Just what kind of a past would that be?" Zan wanted to know.

"Michael was bounced from foster home to foster home, until he became an emancipated minor at the age of 17," Liz informed him. "Alex? Would you be able to falsify a legal document, granting Zan emancipation, using Michael's for guidance?"

"I don't see why not. By the way - what do we want to use as a birth date for Zan? I mean, Evanses just picked an arbitrary date for yours, right Max?"

"Yeah they did. So I suppose to have his be the same as mine would look really suspicious. You could try making his out to be a few weeks after mine. That way, it will look like the state, or whoever, just picked a date, the same way Dad and Mom did."

"Figures you'd have to be the 'older' brother," Zan grumbled. Max just smiled smugly.

"How did he end up in foster care in New York?" Maria questioned, ignoring their posturing. "That is surely going to come up."

Zan looked suitably impressed by the little blonde spitfire. He had been watching her and Rath's dupe... Michael off and on through the evening. He wasn't sure, but he thought there was something going on between the two of them. "Maybe our parents dumped Max and Isabel off in the desert, while they were driving cross country. They thought that they could manage to feed one kid, but not three," Zan started, getting into the tale. "But when they reached New York, they decided that one kid was still one too many, and dumped me on the county foster care system."

"Use your imagination much?" Max queried wryly.

"Gotta do something to keep the brain cells firing," Zan retorted blandly. He really wasn't in the mood for sparring with Max any more, at the moment.

"Well, I guess that settles that question," Alex interjected, hoping to quell any further barbs from Max.

"That still leaves one major problem," Isabel voiced with uncertainty. "We have to find a way to explain how we discovered him."

"I've given that some thought," Max admitted slowly. "You know how they always say that twins have a special connection? And identical twins more so? I thought maybe I could capitalize on that inexplicable phenomenon, and say that I had begun having dreams about a twin existing somewhere out there. Maybe even have dreams as though I was seeing things through his eyes? You know, little things, like snow or something, that we could have used as an indicator to look in a northern state. Or maybe even a famous landmark - like the Statue of Liberty. Stuff like that. Then maybe we could say that Alex helped us do some research on the Internet, checking records and such... I don't know. Is that idea too unbelievable?"

"I think that it is about the only avenue open that would begin to explain why you would start looking for a brother you didn't know you had," Isabel agreed. "This might also provide answers for some of the things that have bothered Dad and Mom all these years," she suggested to Max.

"Such as?" He wondered where she was going with this.

"Well, things like, why you cried yourself to sleep every night, when we came to live with them. Being separated from your identical twin would explain that. It would also provide a reason for why you have always been so quiet, almost withdrawn." She smiled at Liz. "At least, until Liz broke you out of your shell."

Max looked down at the love of his life, still cradled in his arms, and she beamed up at him, love glowing in her soft, brown eyes. He had never let go of her, from when she had been so shaken up. And even though Zan was sitting right there, periodically glowering at the sight of the two of them together, Liz had made no attempt to extract herself from his embrace. That has to mean something, he decided, his heart glowing with the thought that she would so conspicuously choose to remain in his arms in front of Zan, instead of trying to appease them both. Maybe this thing with Zan really was out of her control, and upset her as much as it did him. He could only hope.

Zan's bitter retort broke into his thoughts. "Well, isn't that touching. At least you had a family and a place to call home." He looked longingly at Liz. "And people to love you." Realizing that he would humiliate himself if he continued to wear his heart on his sleeve, his expression became hard and remote, as he struck out verbally at Max. "One has to wonder if someone of your delicate sensibilities would have ever survived living in the tunnels beneath New York, totally isolated from this humanity that you seem so fond of. But then," he added as an afterthought, "there were some definite benefits. I mean, Ava was a hot little number in bed, and if you'll pardon my saying so, alien sex is out of this world. Much better than mixing it up with a human. You ought to try it sometime, Max."

He hadn't looked at her, but Liz knew that he had intended to hurt her with that last statement. It ran totally contrary to everything that he had told her, when he shared his feelings with her earlier in the day. And the searing pain that was emanating from him cut into her heart like a knife. She didn't have a clue as to how he could manage to keep it from showing on the outside.

Max was horrified by what Zan had said. The last thing he needed was Liz getting some strange idea in her head, that she wouldn't be woman enough to satisfy his sexual needs, when the time came for their relationship to progress to that point. He had to hand it to Zan, though, he was more of a challenge than Max ever expected. He certainly knew how to play all the angles. He decided that he better keep a close eye on Liz, and work very hard at reassuring her that she was the only woman he could ever love. His heart skipped a beat, just to consider the possibilities. Perhaps he would begin mounting that campaign immediately....

While Max and Liz sat in silence following Zan's caustic remarks, it was Isabel who spoke to Zan's need. "You know, Zan," she said quietly, "you have a family now, too. And people who want to love you, if you'll just get off the bad-ass attitude, and let us. And as for a place to call home.... you haven't even asked Max where he intends for you to live, have you? I understand that you have not had the advantages growing up that we have, and that you find it hard to trust people, but your life is going to be different from now on. How different, though, is up to you. We can change your circumstances - the outward part of who you are. But only you have the power to change the man inside."

Her words pierced his soul, and yet at the same time, were a healing balm. She was offering him the moon - everything that he'd never had, yet always wanted. Well, almost everything, he thought ruefully, glancing over at Liz. He was surprised to see her eyes held warm affection, as she looked at him. He realized that she did love him - just not the way that she loved Max. He closed his eyes against the painful constricting in his chest, somewhere in the region of his heart. Was it fair for him to make all their lives miserable, over something that seemed so clearly not destined to be his? He could lie, scheme, and manipulate, and eventually end up with her. He was certain of it. But what kind of hollow victory would that be, if she didn't come to him freely, of her own choosing? He would live the rest of his days, always wondering if she was pretending he was Max, when their bodies lay entwined in passion. He couldn't bear that. It would be worse than never having had her.

When he opened his eyes again, the resignation was clearly visible. He had reached a decision-point in his life, and it was time to let go of the past, reach for what was attainable, and take the rest as it came. Wasn't that what he had told Liz he always did?

"I'm sorry," he finally said faintly. "I guess I've been acting rather ungratefully. It's just that so much has happened all at once, and it's been overwhelming. All my life, things have been pretty much status quo, and uneventful, except for whatever trouble I could stir up on my own to make it exciting. Then Liz shows up - well, I don't think I need to tell you how I feel about her, do I?" His question was directed at Max, who shook his head in response. "I have no idea why I react to her the way I do, but I want you to know, that I am going to make an effort to let go of that. It isn't worth stirring up a hornets' nest with all of you, no matter how painful the letting go is. Just try to be a little patient with me, okay?"

"We can both try to be patient with each other," Max agreed. "Sometimes I let my jealousy get out of hand."

"I hadn't noticed," Zan said dryly. Max laughed, and the tension in the room dissipated.

Outside the open window, hidden in shadows, a lone figure observed the exchange with a twisted smile, then turned and walked away. Information was power. And power was a wonderful thing.


posted on 17-Oct-2001 11:32:00 AM
Part Nine

Zan took a deep breath. "So? Isabel implied that you have a place picked out for me to live? Dare I ask, where?" There was no sarcasm in his question, but rather a lighthearted quality.

Max was amazed at the change. Thank you Isabel. "Well.... I was thinking of taking you home with us. After all, if you are my long lost twin brother, and I went to all the trouble of hunting you down and bringing you back here - it would be strange if I didn't bring you home with me, right?" He smiled genuinely at Zan - maybe it wouldn't be so bad to have a brother.

"Uh, I guess so," Zan said somewhat uneasily.

"Zan? Does that idea bother you?" Liz had picked up his feelings of uncertainty.

"Okay," he admonished her with a pointed look, "you gotta stop doin' that. You were reading my feelings again, weren't you?"

Liz lowered her eyes and nodded. "I - I'm sorry, I don't mean to," she said sheepishly. "I haven't figured out how to turn it off - if I can turn it off." She lifted sorrowful eyes to meet his. "Forgive me?"

For a moment, everyone and everything else in the room faded away, as he felt himself drowning in the rich, brown pools she had for eyes. "There's nothing to forgive, Precious One," he murmured. "I realize that this is all new to you, too. Maybe we can figure it out together, and help you learn to control it, okay?"

Max was aware of how Zan was staring unflinchingly into Liz's eyes. Time to break the spell, Prince Charming. "That's right," Max spoke a little louder than necessary, as he cupped Liz's face with his hand, and turned it toward his own, breaking the eye contact between her and Zan. When she looked up into his eyes, he finished, "We'll all help you with that, okay?" He stroked her cheek gently with his thumb, and she smiled lovingly at him. Without thinking, he bent his head, and tenderly kissed her lips.

"So!" Alex piped up, watching Zan. "What's next, Max?" Isabel smiled at his obvious attempt at distraction.

Max came back to Earth, and chuckled. "Okay, Alex, I can take a hint. And to answer your question, you, my friend, need to get on that paperwork angle asap. Like tonight, if at all possible. We'll have to produce documents quickly, to avoid arousing suspicions. You know how my mom is. I swear, she should have been the lawyer, not Dad, the way she interrogates us sometimes." He shifted his gaze to Zan, to explain. "See, Dad seems content to let sleeping dogs lie where we are concerned, but mom knows that something is different about me, and while she has stopped asking direct questions, I can tell that she still is trying to figure out what it is."

"She doesn't suspect Isabel, though?"

"No, so far she hasn't caught Iz doing any alien hocus pocus that needed explaining."

"Your mom saw you use your powers?" Zan was incredulous. "How could you let that happen?"

"I was only eight the first time," Max declared defensively. "I didn't even know I had powers."

"The first time? You mean, she's seen it more than once?" Oh, this was bad. What kind of situation would he be walking into?

Isabel leapt to her brother's defense. "He had no choice the second time, Zan. Mom was cooking, when suddenly the stove and counter was engulfed in flames. He put the fire out, to keep her from getting seriously hurt, and the house from burning down to the ground."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean seem condemning," Zan apologized. "But it leads me to wonder, if it is such a good idea for me to go home with you. I mean, if she's suspicious of you, and we are identical twins... what is she going to think of me?"

Max started to say something, but Isabel cut him off. "Maybe I'll have better luck getting this through your head, than I have with Max." Her tone indicated to Zan that this was a long-standing bone of contention with the two of them. "Our mother loves us, and would accept who we are. I know she would. She just can't stand the secrets. She knows that we are hiding things from her, and it is breaking her heart that we don't trust her, after all she has done for us. Can you believe, she actually told Max once that she thought that perhaps she and dad weren't enough for him? And that if he wanted to look for his real parents, she would understand?"

"Isabel - " Max's inflection indicated that she was getting close to crossing some predetermined line.

"I'm sorry, Max, but I just hate to see how our secrets affect her. Haven't you seen how much she has changed in the last year? Ever since that day at the Crashdown -" She looked at Liz apologetically. "Not that I think Max should have done anything differently that day," she added. "But since then, the things that have happened have begun to take their toll on her. She doesn't laugh much any more, have you noticed?"

Max closed his eyes against the thought of what his secrets and lies had done to his mom. How could he have not noticed the change in her? But they just didn't have any choice. His eyes betrayed a weariness in him, when he opened them to address his sister. "Yes, Iz, I've noticed the difference in her. But the decision stands. We aren't going to tell her the truth. I'm sorry." His heart twisted when he noticed the tears she was fighting to hide.

"Maybe I'd better find somewhere else to stay," Zan offered into the tense silence. "If things are that unstable where you are...."

"No," Maria spoke up adamantly. "I think it would be good for you to go there. I mean, I know with my mom, that if she's upset about something, the best thing to get her mind off it, is to have something exciting happen. I think that if you took Zan home, your mom would be so excited - it might be just what she needs. You know, to shift her focus." She glanced at Zan. "And it would be good for Zan, too, to have her fussing over him. Don't you think?" She bit her bottom lip nervously, wondering if she had just overstepped her bounds.

Sensing her distress, Michael put his arm around her, and pulled her close to his side, placing a kiss on the top of her head. "I think you're pretty clever, blondie," he complimented her. "Seems like sound reasoning to me, anyway. What do you think, Maxwell?"

"Yeah, I think she has a point. Zan'll bring out Mom's nurturing side, and it seems that she's happiest when she can be 'mothering' someone." Amused, he said to Zan, "Looks like you're her next victim."

"Swell," Zan replied with a resigned sigh.

Max laughed. "Don't worry. It isn't that bad. Actually, it's kinda nice. Uh, except when she gets on her Martha Stewart kicks, that is."

"Martha Stewart?" Zan asked cautiously. "Dare I ask?"

"Let's just say, for the sake of time here, that Mom's cooking skills are... unique," Isabel offered diplomatically.

Zan smiled impishly. "Got it. Watch out for the food. Can we douse it in Tabasco, at least?" he teased.

"Yeah, we use hot sauce at home," she assured him. "We just have to be a little conservative with the amount. She already thinks we're strange enough as it is, without applying the stuff as liberally as we'd like."

"So - when do I get to meet your folks?" Zan inquired hesitantly. He didn't want to seem too eager.

Max surprised him by saying, "I guess we could go home now, if you're ready. I think we're done here."

Zan shrugged. "No time like the present, I guess." What was that freakin' fluttering feeling in his stomach, anyway?

"Hold the phone, you two," Isabel interrupted. "Max, be serious. Can you honestly think we can take Zan home looking like that? I mean, Mom would get all softhearted, thinking she could reform the poor boy, but Dad? He'd have a conniption, and you know it."

Max nodded. "Yeah, you're right." He stared at Zan. "You said you can change your physical features, right?"

"Yeah...."

"Well, how about making yourself look like me, then? I mean - get rid of the piercings and stuff. Look more conservative."

"Trying to make me in your own image, Almighty one?" Zan scoffed. He hated the thought that Max was acceptable, and he wasn't. Then he saw Liz looking at him, and he remembered that it hadn't mattered to her whether he had piercings and such. That helped to smooth his ruffled feathers. He sighed, and agreed to do what Max wanted.

Within seconds, Max was looking at a carbon copy of himself - even Zan's clothes had been transformed, to mirror his own. The change was astounding.

"Better?" Zan asked.

"Amazing," Max uttered under his breath.

"Well, boys, shall we?" Isabel asked. She couldn't wait to see the look on her parents faces, when they presented Zan to them.

"Uh, yeah," Max muttered, "Liz, you ready to go? We can drop you off on the way..."

"Okay, let me just clean up this mess from dinner."

"No, Chica, you run along," Maria insisted. "Michael can clean up." Then she burst out laughing at the stunned look on his face. "Just kidding, spaceboy. I'll help you."

"Gee, thanks."

Alex approached Max. "Max? Got room for one more in the Jeep? I came over with Maria and Michael earlier."

"Oh, yeah, sure," Max replied. "No problem."

Everyone piled out the door, but Max hung back to speak privately with Michael at the door. "You mind a little company later? I was thinking that if things work out with my folks, I'll let Zan have my bed tonight, and I'll slip out to spend the night here. If you don't mind?"

"Mind? Hardly. How many times have I slept on your floor? But just out of curiosity - is this a social call, or have you got something on your mind?"

Max hesitated, looking out to the Jeep, where Liz and Zan were waiting. "Not sure yet," he finally answered.

"Fair enough. Just let yourself in when you get here. If I'm sleeping, and you want to talk, wake me up. I can always skip class if I'm too tired in the morning," he said with a smirk.

Max chuckled. "That's what I like about you Michael. Such a sense of responsibility."

"I'll remember that, next time you want me to do something for you."

"I'm sure you will. Listen, I'll see you later."

"Okay, bye."

When Max got out to the jeep, he was pleased to see that Iz had climbed into the back with Zan and Alex, leaving Liz the front seat. At least he didn't need to wonder what Zan might try in the dark. They all chatted as they drove first to the Whitman house, and then the Crashdown. Max walked Liz to the entrance at the back of the restaurant.

"So -" Max said timidly, putting his hands in his pockets. Suddenly, he didn't know what to expect.

"So." Liz repeated.

"I was wondering - would it be okay if I came up to your balcony later? You know, like much later? When my folks think I've gone to bed?"

Liz's heart did a flip-flop at the very idea. "Yeah, that would be great," she said with a shy smile. "I've missed you, ya know?"

That broke the ice. Max's hands came out of his pockets, and reached out to pull her into his arms. "I missed you too, Liz. More than you'll ever know. Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

Liz snuggled next to him, content to be in his arms. "I'm sure you have, but I could always stand to hear it again," she returned dreamily.

Max smiled against the top of her head. "Well, let's see... my love for you would fill the universe, with some left over to spare," he professed. "At least, that's the way it feels." His hand stroked her hair, his fingers trailing through the silken tresses. "You know, I don't know how to explain how intense my love for you is, Liz. You are my life. If I didn't have you -" He stopped abruptly, a lump in his throat impeding his speech.

Liz hugged him tighter. "But you do have me, Max. For always. Even when I thought that I had lost you to Tess, my heart belonged to only you. You are the only one that it ever will belong to, because you are the love of my life. There could never be another you."

Max captured her face in his hands, and tipped it up to receive his gentle kiss. He wasn't sure his heart could contain all the love that he felt for this precious angel. Reluctantly he released her, and took a step back. "I really need to get home, and try to sort things out for Zan. But I'm coming back, Liz."

She shivered in anticipation, when she saw the look in his eyes. "I'll be waiting," she whispered back. He trailed his index finger slowly down the side of her face, and then left.
posted on 17-Oct-2001 11:33:10 AM
Part Ten

When they reached the Evans house, Max parked the Jeep, and then turned to look at Zan, who had since moved into the front passenger seat. "You ready?"

Zan looked a little rattled, but he nodded his head. "I'll be fine. It's just - I've never taken a risk like this before. I've never been involved with humans, and I find it...." He paused, not sure if he wanted to confess his true feelings.

"It's frightening, I know," Max sympathized. Zan just nodded. "Come on, let's get this over with," Max said as he got out of the Jeep.

Three apprehensive teens entered the Evans' living room. Max could hear his folks talking in the kitchen. "Good. This will give Iz and me a chance to talk to them, before they see you. Why don't you sit here and wait for us?" Max suggested to Zan.

"Sure. Anything that you can do to pave the way and minimize the shock," Zan agreed. Isabel smiled warmly at him, squeezing his upper arm as she walked by.

Zan's hearing was better than the average human's, and he could follow the conversation in the other room.

"Dad? Mom?" Max started. "Can we talk to you?"

Max's serious countenance drew their attention. "Sure sweetie," Diane said, her eyes searching his. "What's on your mind?"

Joining their parents at the table, Max held out a chair for Isabel, and then he sat next to her. Somehow, it seemed like they were stronger if they were together. "Well, something rather... amazing has happened, and we want to share it with you both. But I admit, we're a little nervous about how you're going to react...."

Philip and Diane looked at each other, and then back at their kids. It was Philip who spoke next. "Max, there is nothing that you or your sister can't tell us. Even if it is something difficult, we can work through it together. We love you, and nothing can ever change that."

Zan snorted under his breath, when he heard that. Mom? Dad? We're aliens. Isn't that great? Zan could just picture a calm, rational reaction to that one. He wondered how they would feel, if they knew the truth. The sound of Max's voice brought him back to the situation at hand.

"Look, I know you love us, but some things are just... really big. And really hard to understand, even for me, and I'm in the middle of it -"

"Max? Are you in some sort of trouble?" His dad questioned.

"Uh, not exactly." Max sighed. "I don't even know how to start."

Isabel jumped in, and got the ball rolling. "You know how neither of us could recall what had happened to us, before you found us in the desert. But obviously we had to have had some sort of family that we came from. We just never remembered anything about that other life."

Max picked it up, smiling at his sister approvingly. "At least not until recently. I began to have... dreams. I can't really explain it, except to say that it was like half of me was somewhere else. In the dreams, I would see places that I have never been to before. At first, I didn't recognize the city I was in - until one night, I saw the Statue of Liberty, and I knew then it was New York. Anyway, it was like I was seeing all of this through someone else's eyes - and yet it was still me. I didn't know what to make of it, but I just felt this strange emptiness. I talked to Iz about it, and she told me that a couple of times over the years, she had had dreams where there were two of me." Isabel was surprised to hear him bring her into it, but she had to admit to herself, he was pretty creative. Maybe he ought to become a writer.

"When she told me that, it was like everything started to make sense. I just knew that somewhere out there, I had a twin. It was like we were linked together, and our unconscious minds were trying to reunite us again, or something. I don't know that much about how all this identical twin stuff works, I just knew that I had to find my brother." Diane's hand had come up to cover her mouth, stifling a gasp. Her kids had another sibling that none of them ever knew about?

"Max, I want you to know, that we'll help you in any way we can to find him," Philip assured his son. "I can't believe, after all these years, this is finally coming to the surface. Fascinating."

Max cleared his throat. "Well, actually.... we, uh, don't need any help finding him, but thanks."

"You don't need any help?" Diane asked, confused. "Why not?"

"Because we've already found him."

"You have?" Diane's voice could barely contain her excitement. "Where is he? Do you want to go and meet him? This is wonderful!"

"Mom," Isabel said soothingly, "You need to brace yourself. We've already met him, and...."

"He's here," Max finished. "I know that this is sudden," he admitted apologetically, "and I hope that you'll forgive me, but I just needed to have time with him. So we had him come to Roswell. I was hoping..." He turned his best puppy eyes on his mom. She was the real softy of the two.

"Oh! He needs a place to stay, doesn't he? Well he'll stay here, for as long as he likes. Right Philip?"

"Yes, of course he will. Where is he now?"

Max looked at one parent, and then the other, before stating, "He's in the living room."

"He's in the living room!" Diane exclaimed, her hand splayed on her chest, over her thundering heart. "Well for heaven's sake, why didn't you say so?!" She jumped up out of her chair, and crossed the kitchen and entered the dimly lit room, where she saw the back of a young man outlined on the couch. She stopped dead in her tracks, and Max nearly plowed into her, in his haste to intercept her. He didn't want her scaring Zan to death. Diane turned around abruptly and whispered to her son, "What's his name?"

Max smiled, and took his mother by the hand. Leading her around to the front of the couch, he stopped in front of Zan, who had risen to his feet when he heard them coming. "Mom, I'd like you to meet Zan - our brother."

Diane stood frozen, her mouth slightly opened in surprise. She hadn't expected him to look exactly like Max. This was going to take some getting used to. Philip extended his hand, and shook Zan's firmly. "We're both glad to meet you."

"You too, sir," he returned politely.

Recovering herself, Diane said, "Yes, it's good to meet you Zan. I hope you'll feel comfortable staying here with us."

Zan forced a smile. "Thank you, I appreciate that. You have a lovely home." Diane blushed at his praise.

"Why don't we sit down?" Mr. Evans suggested. They all complied with his request, and a moment of silence fell in the room. Zan sat on one end of the couch, with Diane next to him in the middle, and Philip on the other side of his wife. Max and Isabel sat on a love seat on the side of Zan that faced away from their parents.

Again, Philip took the initiative. "So tell us about you, Zan. Where you come from, what your life has been like? Do you still live with your parents?"

"Uh, no sir, I don't," he answered, shooting a pleading look to Max for support. "Our parents surrendered me to the foster care system when they reached New York. I pretty much bounced from home to home growing up."

Mr. Evans was watching Zan intently. "So you're currently in a foster home? And they let you fly out here alone? Aren't they concerned about where you are?"

"Uh, Dad," Max interjected, "Zan is an emancipated minor. He's been living on his own for a while now."

"Is that so? Well, isn't that a coincidence? I helped Max's friend Michael gain emancipation a few months ago. You and Michael will probably have a lot in common, then." There was a brief pause, and then Philip asked, "What about school? I assume you are a junior this year, the same as Max?"

"Dad, can you kind of go easy on the poor guy? You're liable to scare him off with all these questions." Max was surprised to find himself defending Zan. I just don't want him to feel backed into a corner, and have him say something stupid, he rationalized to himself.

"Max, I appreciate you wanting to protect your brother and all, but you know that we have rules in this house, and even though Zan is perfectly welcome to stay with us, he'll have to abide by the same standards that we have set for you and Isabel," Philip informed him.

Zan's eyes narrowed in suspicion, as he glared at Max. His voice, however, didn't betray him to Mr. Evans, who couldn't see the look on his face. "Oh? What kind of rules would those be?" Rules. What a foreign concept. He returned his attention to Mr. Evans, donning a smile, so as not to appear rude.

"Well, put simply, we expect our children to strive to do their best, at whatever they endeavor to do. Probably the most important application of this rule is their education. Obviously, I don't know you very well, but you are Max's twin, and that would indicate to me that you are probably pretty intelligent. So we will expect you to apply yourself to your studies. Extracurricular activities are only allowed, if your grades are maintained at a B average or above. Preferably above."

Zan shrugged. "Sounds reasonable. When do I start?"

Max had all he could do to keep his jaw from dropping. Zan had never been to school a day in his life, and he thought he could just waltz in and fool everyone? It was obvious that he was intelligent, but with no formal education to his credit, how would he fare being thrust into classes where he was expected to perform at a certain level? He had no idea what he was getting himself into. Max felt control over the situation slipping from his grasp. He had just assumed that they would concoct some sort of story about Zan having graduated early, or dropped out.... something - anything - besides throwing him in a classroom and embarrassing him. The protective feelings that he felt toward Zan startled him. He suddenly realized that his dad was talking again.

"...enroll you tomorrow, and they can send for your transcripts." Max could feel his anxiety level going through the roof. He'd probably end up spending the whole night tutoring Zan on how to survive the first day. And then every night after that, catching him up scholastically, so he could keep his head above water. So much for the perfect plan.

"Actually, I already asked the school to send my transcripts here," Zan informed him, and Max was relieved that they were back to their prearranged story. He hoped they could stick to it from here on out.

Mr. Evans nodded in approval at Zan having taken initiative with the transcripts. "Okay, well, that will be good. Now as to the other expectations... obviously, we insist that our children be respectable members of society. No drinking, drugs, illegal activities... that sort of thing." Max cringed inwardly at the illegal activities part. Thank God his father had no clue.... "I may be a lawyer, but I don't want to be spending all my time defending my own kids in court. Besides, we are respected by the members of this community, and how our children behave will greatly reflect on that. Understood?"

"Yes sir, I understand perfectly. I don't plan on giving you any trouble while I'm here."

Diane looked at Zan uncertainly. "While you're here? Don't you - I mean, I guess we didn't really stop to ask you what your plans were, did we?" she asked. "I guess we just assumed that you would be living with us on a permanent basis, since Max brought you home and all. Do you have other plans?"

Zan could detect a hint sadness in her voice, but he wasn't sure if it meant what he hoped. So he decided to play it cool, and feel out the situation. "Well, I certainly don't want to be a burden on you. I just wanted to come out and meet Max and Isabel - you know, get to know them some. We have years of catching up to do. But I have no desire to overstay my welcome."

Diane's hand flew up to her mouth to stifle a sob, as tears came to her eyes. Her voice was quivering with emotion when she spoke. "Oh you sweet boy.... you won't be a burden. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know that you found each other! Don't you know, that if we knew about you, we would have been on a plane years ago, to bring you home to be a part of this family? Max and Isabel have brought such joy to our lives - the only burden I have is an ache in my heart to think that we missed out on all those years with you...." Tears began running freely down her face, and she tried to swallow down the lump in her throat. Her voice was a near whisper as she continued. "We would be so pleased, if you would consider yourself a part of our family now, instead of just a guest. I realize it's kind of too little, too late, but I'm sure Max and Isabel would love to have you call this home. I know that I would."

Philip reached around Diane, to place a hand on Zan's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "That goes for me, too."

Max and Isabel were surprised to see Zan sitting there, with tears pooling in his lower lids, threatening to spill over. They both felt something pull at them deep in their hearts, as they watched the scene unfold. They had always been grateful to the Evanses for taking them in, and giving them a home. But the words their mom spoke to Zan made them stop and realize how different their lives might have been - would have been - if the Evanses hadn't found them that night, as they were wandering around in the desert.

"I - " Zan stopped, embarrassed at the way his voice cracked. He had never been this emotional about anything in his entire life. He took a deep breath, and said slowly, "I'd like that very much. Thank you." With that acceptance, the last of Diane's self-control went out the window, and she threw her arms around Zan, pulling him into a fierce, motherly hug. "I promise, I'll try not to make you regret this, Mrs. Evans," he said softly in her ear.

Diane laughed through her tears, loosening her hold enough to pull back and look into Zan's face. "Mrs. Evans? My goodness, that's too formal for a family member. Besides, Mrs. Evans was my mother-in-law!" she joked.

Zan searched her eyes, seeing the warmth and compassion he had longed for all those lonely growing up years. He wondered what she would think.... "What should I call you, then?" he asked timidly.

Diane was just as nervous about the subject as Zan was. She didn't want to come on too strong, and alienate the poor boy. He obviously hadn't had much in the way of family living in his past. "Well... you could call me Diane, if you wanted," she suggested hesitantly, as she brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead. Just like a real mom, he thought. Then her heart's desire started to slip past her lips, unchecked. "Or if you prefer -" She went red in the face, when she realized what she had almost blurted out. "Uh, that is, you could call me -"

"Mom?" he choked out, before he could talk himself out of it.

The smile that graced Diane's face was radiant, fresh tears of joy coursing down her cheeks. "Yeah, you could call me Mom, if you like."

Zan smiled back at her. "I'd like that." And this time, he was the one to pull her close for an affectionate hug. It pleased him beyond measure, when he felt Philip wrap his arms around the both of them.

But the most incredible part was three little words, spoken by Mr. Evans. "Welcome home, son."

Son. Zan decided he kind of liked the sound of it. No one had ever called him that before. Because no one had ever wanted him before. Before he could monitor his mouth, he replied, "Thanks.... Dad."
posted on 22-Oct-2001 8:36:21 AM
Part Eleven

"So," Mr. Evans started, as he released his wife and Zan from his embrace, "I guess we need to make some adjustments in the sleeping arrangements around here."

"Well he's not sleeping with me!" Isabel declared with mock outrage. Everyone had a good laugh.

"No, princess, he's not sleeping with you," Philip concurred.

He calls her princess, Zan thought with a smile. Even though he is totally unaware of who she is, she is still his "princess".

"The logical solution is for him to share a room with me, although, I don't know how we'll fit another bed in there," Max said thoughtfully.

"Well, we can go out and get you bunk beds tomorrow," his dad offered. "As far as studying goes, you'll have to share the desk, or maybe one of you can work at the kitchen table? There is no way we can fit a second desk in that room, either."

"Oh, don't worry about that," Zan assured them. "I never had a desk of my own all these years. I can get along without one now."

Philip smiled at Zan's desire to not make things difficult. He couldn't help wondering how the boy turned out so well, with the rough life he'd had. Some kids are just resilient like that I guess. "Well, I guess that settles that, then." He checked his watch - it was almost 10:00. "Listen, you kids have obviously had a long day - why don't you take Zan up, and get him settled, and go to bed a little early? After all, with another one of you fighting for the bathroom in the mornings, someone is going to have to start getting up earlier," he stated, one accusing brow lifted in challenge to his late-rising children.

"Oh, I can get up early to shower," Zan offered helpfully. "I'm used to getting up early. What time do you want me out of the bathroom by?"

Max and Isabel moaned in concert. "Not in the house an hour, and already he's making us look bad," Isabel lamented. Their parents laughed, as Zan blushed at the idea that he could make anyone look bad. Smiling at him, Isabel stood, and held out her hand to her "brother". "Come on," she groaned, "let's go tuck you in."

Zan laughed at the mental picture, and clasped her hand, letting her pull him to his feet. "All right. I'm rather tired anyway, from the flight and all. Besides - my body thinks it's 2 hours later than your clocks do. I'll probably wake up at 4 am, wondering what happened to the sun."

Everyone said their "goodnights", and he followed Max and Isabel to the bedrooms. He gave Isabel a brotherly hug, before she disappeared into her room for the night. Then he went into the room he had seen Max enter, and shut the door behind him. "Hey, thanks for being willing to give up your privacy, to let me stay here. It feels weird, thinking of sleeping in a bed, in a real house, y'know? I bet your parents would flip out, if they knew how I really grew up," he added thoughtfully.

"Freak out doesn't even begin to cover it," Max agreed. "So listen - I have plans to slip out and spend the night at Michael's. You get the bed tonight."

"You sure? I don't want to chase you outta your own bed. I can sleep on the floor."

"No - really, it's okay. Michael and I haven't had a chance to talk much lately, and a lot has happened. I'll come back first thing in the morning, and sneak back into the room, before anyone knows I'm gone. As long as you keep the bedroom door locked, I'll be safe. If they try to talk to me through the door, just pretend you're me, and answer them, all right?"

"Yeah, okay. No problem."

"Great - now, about this school business... I need to warn you, that it's more than just showing up and being polite. I know that you never attended school in the past, so you don't know what you are getting yourself into. I can go over just some basic stuff with you tonight, to get you through the day tomorrow, and then I can start tutoring you at night, bringing you up to speed."

"Hey, I appreciate that, but it won't be necessary," Zan confided. "I think I can manage."

"Zan, look, you don't need to feel embarrassed about needing some coaching. For some stupid reason, they had you holed up underground all these years, with no chance to educate yourself. I've gotta tell you, I'm amazed at how well you do, under the circumstances."

"Well, thanks, but I think you have some serious misconceptions about how I've been spending my time."

"Really? Because at one point Liz - uh, the future one - gave me the impression that the dupes were rather.... uncivilized. Crude, almost."

"Are you saying that I seem crude and uncivilized?" Zan wanted to pop him one.

"No, I'm not saying that at all," Max exclaimed in exasperation. "She was referring to Lonnie and Rath at the time. But being that you all were raised together, and none of you attended school... I just didn't want you to set yourself up for failure, thinking that school will be easy to fake your way through."

"Yeah, well Lonnie and Rath were lazy bums, content to steal their way through their existence on this planet, while waiting around for a spaceship to land, and take them back home. Not me. I spent a lot of time at the library, or one of the local bookstores, reading everything I could get my hands on. I think I've read just about every book ever written. At least, the ones worth reading," he clarified. "I have a photographic memory, and excellent recall capabilities. So even though I didn't have a 'formal' education, I'd dare to say I could probably teach you a thing or two."

"My mistake," Max snarled. "Forgive me for giving a damn."

"All I am saying is, don't underestimate me. I not the ignorant fool you'd like to think that I am," he declared defensively. "Just because you are the king, that doesn't make me the court jester."

Max stared at Zan, perplexed. "Is that the way you think I see you? Like some sort of leftover reject, good only for my amusement?"

"Isn't it?" Zan challenged, his body stiffening in indignation.

"No," Max answered, his voice softening. "It most certainly is not. Listen, the future version of you told us all about the stories Nasedo filled your head with, regarding how you came into existence. I just want you to know - none of us believe he was telling the truth. You aren't here by accident, Zan. None of us are. We just have to discover the truth. And we stand a better chance of doing that, if we work together, instead of against each other. So do you think we can stop getting all prickly with each other, and try to get along?"

The tension eased from Zan's body, and he sat down on the end of the bed. "Yeah, I guess we can give it a go. I really don't want to fight with you. It's just, I hate being made to feel inferior. And the truth of the matter is, I'm always going to be in your shadow. So from time to time I'm going to get.... 'prickly', as you put it. I'll try my best to fight the urge. But just don't expect perfection, okay?"

"Fair enough. Now... about some clothes for you to wear tomorrow...." Max walked to his closet, and pulled out a new shirt that Isabel had just bought him. Then he went to the dresser, pulling out a pair of jeans. He handed them to Zan. Underwear and socks are in the top drawer," he told him. "We can take you shopping tomorrow after school to get some stuff. I think Mom might get a little worried, if she realized you were wearing my clothes. This outfit ought to pass muster for tomorrow - Mom has never seen that shirt before. It's yours now."

"Thanks," Zan mumbled. He wasn't used to having people be so open and giving. He either worked for or stole everything he had ever owned. And even then, he had to fight to keep Rath and Lonnie from confiscating it.

A knock sounded on the door. "Boys?" Mrs. Evans called in through the door. "Everyone decent, so I can come in?"

"Sure, Mom," Max answered.

The door opened, and Diane stuck her head in. "Just wanted to tell you, it's time to turn the lights out and get some sleep. Morning will be here before you know it. Is Zan all settled?"

"Yeah, he is. Thanks for checking in, Mom. We'll go to bed now."

Diane smiled at the boys. Young men. It was hard to believe that Max was fast becoming a man, and now she had a second strapping boy to watch over. I wonder if he likes fritatta? "Okay, honey, sleep well - both of you," she corrected, smiling warmly at Zan.

He beamed up at her. "Thanks... Mom." He really liked the way saying that made him feel.

Diane backed out of the doorway, and shut the door. Max walked over, putting an alien lock-job on it for the night.

"Well, you seem to be fitting in around here pretty quickly," Max commented casually, as he grabbed the bedroll that Michael always used, and rolled it out on the floor.

Zan shrugged. "I guess so. Say - I thought you said you weren't staying here tonight?" Zan asked, confused.

"I'm not, but I have to make it look like I was here all night," Max explained. He rumpled the bedroll, and punched an indentation in the pillow that looked like a head had been laying on it.

"Very nice work," Zan complimented him. "Looks like you could teach me a few tricks after all." They both laughed.

"Yeah, well, I've had a lot of practice the last few months." Max frowned. "I hate lying and deceiving my parents, but I've had no other choice, short of telling them the whole truth. And we both know that can't happen." Zan hesitated. He wasn't so sure Isabel wasn't right, thinking that the Evanses would understand. "Right?" Max pressed him.

Zan sighed. "Yeah, you're right. Not that I don't think that the Evanses would still care about you, but there is always a chance that it could backfire. And we just can't be taking chances. Not now. Not with things starting to heat up."

Max let out the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding. If Zan had decided to go against him on this, it would not bode well for him. As it was, he had a hard enough time reminding himself why they couldn't risk exposing their secret to their parents, when Isabel started hounding him. With two of them pestering him, he would fail in his convictions for sure. "I'm glad we agree on that, at least," he finally voiced. Then the rest of what Zan had said registered with him. "What do you mean, about things heating up?"

"Well, our enemies are starting to show themselves - making advances and such. And now that they have called for this summit meeting.... one has to wonder what that is all about. What Kivar hopes to accomplish by sitting down at the table with us. We have no position of strength from which to bargain, as he must know. He has control of our world, and we are exiled with no way to return home without his help. What could he possibly want with us?"

"Ah, dear brother, there are things you obviously know nothing of. We do have something that he wants, and we do have a way to get home, when the time is right."

Zan looked up at him in surprise. "We do?"

Max grinned. "Yeah, we do. We have the granilith - what Kivar needs it for, I don't know. But he wants it bad. And there are portals on Earth, that will take us back to Antar."

"Wow. Who'da thought?"

"I know, it's pretty incredible. But for now, we are going to sit tight, until we can figure out what our people intended for us, by sending us here. Because I don't think being a bunch of idealistic, headstrong teenagers was the transformation they hoped to accomplish for us. I feel like we are missing something important, and until we figure out what it is, we stay put."

Zan nodded. "Agreed. If Kivar was able to kill us the first time, when we probably had a clue what was going on, rushing in with no information would just be a suicide mission. And besides, our people have waited a long time for vengeance to be wrought on their behalf. What's a little while more?"

"Well, I'm glad we're on the same page here. It will make things a lot simpler." Max shot a glance at the clock. "Listen, we'll have to discuss this some more at length, but I'm gonna go and let you get some sleep."

"What? Michael's got you on a curfew, or something?"

"It's not Michael -" Max realized belatedly, that he had just disclosed more information than he wanted Zan to have.

Zan picked up on the slip. "You're going to see Liz, aren't you?"

Max sighed in defeat. "Yeah, I am. We have some things to talk about, and I don't want it to wait any longer."

"I see."

"Zan, I wasn't going to tell you where I was going, because I know how hard this must be for you. The months that Liz and I were apart were sheer hell for me. Anyway, I always thought that it was because I am in love with her, that I react so strongly to her, but knowing how you feel - and how your future self reacted - I'm inclined to think there is more to it. Maybe we can find out what the source of it is. In the mean time, I want you to know that I don't resent your attraction to her any more. I understand that you can't help it, and that it is its own punishment, in a way." He paused, then added, "Just be sure you remember who she belongs with."

"Message received, loud and clear," he said with a mock salute. "Now you better get out of here, before she falls asleep waiting. She has to be exhausted, after everything we went through today." He yawned. "I know I sure am."

Max chuckled. "Okay, I can take a hint. I'll see you in the morning."

"Bright and early! I don't want to be left to make excuses for you."

"I'll do my best. Be sure and close the window behind me. See ya." With that, Max opened the bedroom window and climbed out. When Zan crossed the room to shut the window, he saw Max jogging down the street, in the direction of the Crashdown.
posted on 22-Oct-2001 8:39:30 AM
Part Twelve

Liz was dozing in the lounge chair on her balcony, when Max arrived. His heart leapt at the sight of her, so warm and soft, and innocent in her sleep. In her face he saw none of the worry and anguish that so often appeared on her face in her wakefulness these days. And what bothered him the most, was that he felt responsible for her pain and sadness. He knew that if it weren't for him, she would be a normal, happy, teenage girl, probably having her pick of guys to date. After all, who wouldn't love someone so sweet and beautiful?

Walking quietly to the chair, he squatted down beside her, and brushed whisper-light kisses on her forehead, cheeks, nose, and finally her mouth. As their lips met, hers instinctively responded to his, first gently to the teasing caresses his were making, then increasing in fervor, her breathing becoming shallow and noticeably faster. Max was amazed at how, even asleep, she could manage to arouse him so much. It was like her body was totally tuned in to his.

Her tongue snaked out to tease his lips, and as he deepened the kiss further, Max had to fall forward on his knees, because his legs were starting to feel shaky. Once his balance was more firmly established, he leaned over her, placing one hand on either side of her on the chair. This gave him the leverage he needed to kiss her with all his pent up passion. He felt her arms come up around his neck, pulling him even closer, until his body was covering hers, from his waist up. It took all of what little self-control he had left, to keep his hands from roaming her beautiful body. After all, he wanted her to be fully awake when he made love to her.

Liz had woken up, and was kissing him with as much hunger as he felt. His lips took a brief detour from hers, raining hot, passionate kisses along her jaw and down her neck. As he did so, he could hear her panting, and his heart skipped a beat, when he heard her moan his name. "Max... oh Max, I want you so much...."

That snapped the last of his resolve to not let things get too heated before they talked. The next thing he knew, he was on top of Liz, their bodies urgently rubbing together, desperately seeking some form of fulfillment, as they continued their deep, penetrating kisses. It was then that the flashes started.

*Liz and Future Max making out on the airplane*

*Finding Zan in the tunnels*

*Liz breaching Zan's shield*

*Liz and a naked Zan, kissing passionately*

Max wrenched his mouth away from hers and quickly climbed off her to sit on the edge of the chair, still breathing heavily, but no longer because of the heat of desire. His heart was breaking, and the emotion that was overtaking him, robbed him of his breath.

"Liz," he whispered hoarsely, "how could you? After all we've been through, how could you betray me like that?" Tears were clinging to his lashes, threatening to spill over.

"Max -" Liz said, her breaking heart in her eyes, "please, you have to let me explain...."

"Explain?" Max mocked with a rueful chuckle. "Right. Like there could be an innocent explanation for what I just saw? Please, Liz, don't try to play me for a fool. Well, at least now I know why Zan was so bent on stealing you away from me. Obviously you've been putting out for him, while you've been keeping me at bay all this time. I can see where I rate." He stood up, and started to walk to the edge of the balcony to leave.

"Max, no! Please, you have to listen! It isn't like you're making it out to be, I swear it. Please -" she broke off on a sob, that wracked her petite frame. "Please don't do this to me, to us!" she managed to gasp out. "Not until you know the truth, at least."

Max stood stiffly, his back still toward her. "Talk fast. I don't know how much of this I can bear to listen to. And spare me the lies, okay?"

"Max, I have never lied to you," she cried in self-defense. "And this was what I said I wanted to talk to you about, when we were at Michael's. It isn't like I was going to try to hide what has happened. Because if you'll just listen, there were some really bizarre, and yet incredible things that have happened since I've been gone."

"You mean, like losing your virginity?" he snapped rather loudly.

"Sh! Dana is asleep in my room, and even though the window is shut, I don't want her to wake up, and start asking questions about us. Or worse yet, overhear anything. And to answer your question, no, I haven't given myself to anyone, Max. That is for you, and you alone. Zan knows that. Why do you think he gave up so easily? He isn't a quitter. But he knew that he could never take your place in my heart."

Max scowled toward the window, as he replied in a hushed tone, "It's not your heart he was after, Liz." He turned and nailed her with a cold glare. "For God's sake, Liz - he was NAKED! You can't tell me there was an innocent explanation for him grinding his nakedness into you, and getting you all aroused. I'm not a fool!"

Liz jumped up off the chair, and scurried to where Max stood. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and was devastated to feel him stiffen, emotionally shutting himself off from her. Her voice quivered, as she tried to explain, "But there was a reasonable explanation, if you'll just hear me out. Can't you give me that much, after all we've meant to each other?"

Max reached up and rubbed his forehead over his right eye in response to the headache he felt coming on. "I don't want to believe you could cheat on me, Liz. But I know what I saw. And yet, if what I saw is the truth, then that means everything I thought we were to each other - everything that I've felt for the last year - is a lie. You can't expect me to be thrilled about this."

"Please, Max - come and sit down with me, and let me take you through what happened that morning, step by step. Some of it you have heard, but Zan was putting his own spin on things, purposely trying to make you jealous, and drive a wedge between us." She took his hand, and tugged on his arm, encouraging him to go to the lounge chair with her. He went - although rather numbly.

Once they were seated, Liz began. "We told you about the effect that I had on Zan's shield in the tunnels. Well, when Jose was trying to rape me, even though I couldn't scream for help, I called out in my mind to Zan, and he heard me. At the time," she said, lowering her eyes, "he was in the middle of taking a shower. When he heard my pleas for him to save me, he ran out of the shower, without stopping to get dressed. He knew I was in danger, and that was his first priority. I'd like to think that you would do the same," she added, pinning him with a hurt look.

"Well, yeah, I would - but that isn't what I saw. If I saw a naked Zan slaying a skin in your thoughts, I would be inclined to forgive and forget that. But we both know what I saw."

"Yes, but you are interpreting what you saw, from the facts that you have available to you. What I am trying to get you to realize is that you don't have the correct frame of reference to interpret the situation. Not yet."

"So enlighten me," he grumbled.

"Well, Zan told you much of what happened after that - the part about the homeless man that stuck his nose in where Jose didn't like it, and got himself killed, as well as Jose attacking Zan, and practically overpowering his energy shield. And this is what led up to what you saw. I remembered the night before, and the effect I could have on his shield, and so I lent Zan my strength, and then told him to kiss me. My intention was to lull Jose with a false sense of security, until we could connect, and use the enhanced shield against him. Zan, however, had other ideas. He didn't want to take any chances that the energy surge wouldn't be strong enough to destroy Jose, and he figured that if I was thoroughly aroused, our connection would flare instantly - and it would be strong. He was right - it did. Immediately, the shield went from green to blinding white, and the circumference of it increased, trapping Jose, and causing him to disintegrate. What we did, saved our lives. I'd like to think that that counts for something with you."

Max's face was still twisted in a scowl. "Of course your safety means everything to me. But that doesn't explain what I saw, Liz. There was no shield, no energy surge, no Jose in that flash I saw. Just you and Zan, entwined in each other's arms, lost in passion. You certainly didn't appear to be in danger of anything except for unprotected sex."

"Max, that's not fair. I am willing to admit to you everything that happened, and why, but you have to stop judging me, without knowing all the facts."

"I'm sorry, Liz, but damn, if it isn't hard not to, with that image floating around in my head."

"Look, I could be hard and unforgiving too, based on what I now know you are capable of. The fact that you aren't going to sleep with Tess now, is only due to the fact that she exposed herself for the treacherous bitch I always knew she was. But the truth is, if you and I hadn't come back from the future to stop it, you would have not only slept with her, but gotten her pregnant. And then expected ME to get over it, and coming running back into your arms. And yet here you sit, Saint Max, judge and jury, ready to send me to the gallows, for what you perceive to be unfaithfulness on my part. I admit, I'm only human, and I did allow some things to happen that I'm not particularly pleased with myself over, but I can't go back and change what's happened. But you have a choice, Max. You can either hear me out, and try to find it in your heart to let us move on from here - or you might as well leave now. If you don't want me, I'm sure I can find someone who does...." Her eyes went wide at her own audacity. She had let her hurt and frustration get the better of her, to where she couldn't resist taunting him with that knowledge. After all, he was being totally unfair.

A lone tear ran down Max's cheek, as he managed to choke out, "It seems like walking away is just what you want me to do. I mean, you couldn't resist throwing that up in my face, could you?"

"I -I'm sorry, Max. I didn't mean to say it. I was just so hurt, and I lashed out at you in the only way I could think of. It was wrong of me. Again. I guess I'm just a worthless excuse for a human being. I think you better go now. You're obviously slumming beneath yourself, staying here with me." Her face went pale with her anguish, and she wanted nothing more in that moment, than to die. Because the pain she was feeling was unbearable, and in death, at least, she would be released from the iminent torment of losing Max again. She turned away from him, and started for the window to her room.

"Liz, no -" She had only taken a couple steps, when he reached out and touched her arm, and nearly collapsed from the flood of despair that slammed through him. As it was, his legs were shaking with the strain of keeping him upright. He knew it was coming from her - especially when he got a mental image of her wish to be dead. "My God, Liz, I had no idea... oh baby, I'm so sorry. I really though that you didn't care...." He was starting to babble, as he pulled her into his arms.

"Max?" Liz choked out. "What is it?"

"I really thought that you would be glad to be rid of me. That way you could be with Zan. But that isn't what you want, is it?"

Liz started crying again, unable to contain the grief that she was feeling. Max just held her close, and rocked her back and forth where they stood. "Shh, it's okay. I'm sorry. I promise I'll try to calm down and listen. Talk to me, Liz."

She finally managed to settle down enough, to try to talk again. "What you saw in that flash was the aftermath of what we did to Jose," she explained. "Zan had intentionally stoked the fires between us, in order to ensure that the energy burst would be strong enough. But it's difficult to just turn off that kind of desire. You know that," she said meaningfully, thinking of all the times that they had come close to losing control together.

"I know that, only when I'm with you," Max said dejectedly. "I guess that's why it hurts so much, that you could experience that with Zan."

"Max, I know this is going to be hard for you to understand, and I have some other information that will shed light on this as well, but try to follow me here. I can't deny that I was.... aroused by what Zan did. But that was just my body reacting to his, Max. Nothing more. But when you and I.... love each other that way, it isn't just about the way you inflame my body's desire. It is about who you are - and how much I love you. When I aceh to be joined to you, it isn't just my body that is crying out for that intimacy - it is my very soul that longs to unite with yours. That is something that Zan can never have, because you are the one that I love, the one that I am saving myself for. Can you understand that?"

"Not really, but I'm trying," he confessed.

"Well, maybe when I tell you about some of the other strange things that have happened, it will help. Although," she said hesitantly, "some of them may be difficult to hear. Think you are up for it?"

Max closed his eyes against the pain and sadness. He owed it to Liz, to let her try and explain. He opened his eyes, and they were bleak, but he managed a weak smile. "Go ahead, I'll try to be brave."

She reached up to place her hand on the side of his face. "I'll try to be kind, but it is most important for me to be honest with you. I don't want to hold things back now, just to have you find out about them down the road, and think that I was trying to hide things from you."

"I appreciate that, Liz. Now, what did you want to tell me?"

"Well, it has to do with you, Zan, and the way the two of you react to me. Now, I know you sensed how Future Zan felt when he was here - I thought I was going to have to pull you two off of each other a couple times. Anyway, Future Max seemed drawn to me, but then, I didn't find that so odd. I mean, after all, he was you, and in that timeline, we separated from each other. Yet I know from something that I overheard him tell Michael, that you still loved me, even though we weren't getting along. You always looked out for me, worrying if I was all right or not. So, if he had been denied the woman that he loved, I can see where being brought back to a time when we weren't at odds, and thrown into the presence of a Liz that didn't harbor hostility toward him, would make him naturally transfer his desire to me. After all, it was me that he had been in love with, at this point in your life. Is that confusing?"

"Kinda, but I think I'm following you. Continue."

Liz sighed. "Okay. So Future Max was attracted to me, and I'll admit that he kissed me, before we all got together out at the Old Soap Factory. It was.... nice. I mean, it was you, after all." She smiled shyly at him.

Max averted his eyes, knowing how he had behaved with Future Liz. He could hardly blame Liz for kissing his future self.

"But we didn't let it go any further than that," she continued. "Now here's where the story gets weird. At Michael's apartment, just before we left for New York, Future Zan came up to him and they talked briefly. When they finished, they shook hands, and it was like they froze for a couple minutes. I walked over to them, and placed my hand on top of their joined ones, and felt a weird jolt go through me, and then they were back to normal. Or at least, so I thought. But then, on the plane, Max got very.... amorous with me. And I can't deny it - I participated willingly. There was some sort of .... force drawing us together - I can't explain it. But it was powerful, and undeniable. And then we connected, and it was like we were both taken out of time and space, into some other strange dimension. I mean, at first, I though it was just me, but then he said he had experienced it too... I'm sorry. I know I'm rambling. But I just want so badly for you to understand."

Max's brows were knit together in concentration. "So then - you think there is some sort of alien influence affecting you? Because I've been wondering myself why Zan is so obsessed with you."

Liz groaned and threw up her hands in frustration. "I don't know anything for sure, Max. All I know, is that the other Max and I weren't all horndog for each other before that weird whatever-it-was happened with Future Zan. Then suddenly, it was like we couldn't keep our hands off each other. I'm sorry, I don't mean to make that sound as awful as it does. But I have to be truthful with you."

Max's eyes locked onto hers, and the beginning of a smile quirked one corner of his mouth. "I'm grateful for that, Liz. I just wish that your honesty didn't have to include telling me about how you were making out with other men."

"So do I. But once you asked me to trust you - to believe that things weren't the way they appeared, and that the things you were doing were beyond your control. I believed in you, Max - in us. Now, all I'm asking is that you try to do the same. Do you really think that it didn't crush me, to watch you kissing Tess in the rain that night? After you had just told me that I was the only one you loved? But we're dealing with forces we don't understand here, Max. If we can't help each other through this - well, then I guess we might as well go our separate ways."

"You know that's not what I want, Liz," he protested. "And I do have faith in you, and our love. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't still make me want to scream, that what we have could be tampered with by forces beyond our control. In my case, we know it was Tess and her damned mind games. But what is responsible this time? I'm the alien, and I haven't got a clue. And the unfair thing about it is.... why couldn't this force have worked on you and I, instead of with Zan? Or the future version of me?"

"But it did affect us, too," she pointed out. "I mean, when I woke up, and found that the delightful dream I was having about making love to you was actually brought on by some very real kissing..." She blushed.

"What, Liz?" he asked with a smile. She had been dreaming that they were making love? Just the thought made his body respond violently.

"Max, I wanted to make love to you, right here on the balcony. I'm not going to lie - it wasn't quite as mind-blowing as what happened with the future version of you, but it was... much more urgent than the way I normally feel when we make out. And you know there have been times when I've been really hot for you..." She smiled shyly at him.

"But it still wasn't as intense as what you felt with the future version of me, was it? Or with Zan."

Her smile faded, and she mumbled, "No."

"Why do you think that is? I mean, the future me was in that weird connection thing you talked about with Future Zan - but this Zan wasn't. And yet you responded to him as well. What can account for that?"

Liz was quiet for a minute, pondering that question. After all, what was the difference? Max and Zan were basically from the same DNA, or so they believed. And Future Max was obviously identical genetically to Present Max... except, that he was more mature, and had had a lot more experiences than this Max did. And she had witnessed how her Max's powers had advanced just since last May... like he was tapping more into his alien power. Weren't the dupes supposedly more alien-like? Could that be the connection?

Hesitantly, she began to voice her thoughts. "Max? Do you suppose... I mean, more of your alien abilities are awakening all the time - look at how much you've developed just in the last few months. And Zan seemed to be almost the opposite of you - more alien than human. Could it be that the more alien you become, the stronger your reaction to me will be?"

Max had to admit to himself, it was a possibility. He certainly wanted to think that it could be true. "I don't know as we'll ever know for sure." He dropped heavily onto the lounge chair, defeat apparent in his body language. "I'm so tired of having more and more questions come up, and never getting any answers. It is like some cosmic joke that our people played on us, sending us here, with no way of knowing what was going on."

Liz sat down on his lap, surprising him. "I don't know why they sent you here, or what is happening, but I do know one thing - I'm grateful that they did." She looked deep into his eyes, all her love for him shining out of her own. "I still can't believe that from separate worlds, and different lifetimes, you ended up here, with me. When you consider what overwhelming odds it took to bring us together, can you casually throw that away, over something that I had little to no control over?"

Max was moved by the tears in her eyes, as she pleaded silently with him to not give up on their love. He cupped her face in his hands, and smiled sadly at her. He wondered if their relationship would ever be "normal". This soulmate stuff was really complicated. "No, Liz, I have no intention of throwing it away. For as much as I was jealous, I love you even more. Even if I had left here tonight, I don't think I could have stayed away. You are my heart, Liz Parker. If the last five months have taught me nothing else, it's that my life isn't worth living, without you in it."

"Oh, Max...." Liz leaned forward, placing her lips against his lightly. "I love you so much, it hurts sometimes. I don't think I can go through losing you again. It nearly killed me the last time."

Max wrapped his arms tightly around her slender body, holding her close. "Don't worry, you're never going to have to find out. I love you, Liz." That said, he fitted his mouth perfectly over hers, kissing her deeply, each of them caressing the other with hands and words, indulging in the desire they felt for each other.

They were so wrapped up in each other, that they didn't see Dana watching them through the window, hidden in shadows. It had been touch and go there for a few minutes, but thankfully, the balance had been restored. Yep, things were moving along right on schedule.
posted on 22-Oct-2001 8:41:02 AM
Part Thirteen

Sometime in the middle of the night, Zan was having a very erotic dream. Ava was running her hot little hands over his body, stoking the fire of desire in him, a sensual gleam lighting her eyes. For his part, he fondled and stroked her most sensitive spots, watching with pleasure, as her eyes began to glaze over with arousal.

He could tell he was dreaming, but it felt so.... real. As pleasurable as it was, he wished that he could shake off his slumber. Ava was in his past, and he didn't love her. With her, all their joining had ever amounted to was physical release.

He had become more and more distant with her in recent months, staying away for days at a time, to avoid having to turn her from his bed. He hated what he was doing to her, but he was beginning to feel that there had to be more to mating than the joining of two bodies - that love should be part of the equation between two people who shared such an intimate act. He had resigned himself to the idea that he would never have that, because there were no others like them on the planet. And the idea of mating with a human was ludicrous.

Or so he had thought. But that was before Liz Parker came into his life. Since meeting her, all he wanted now was to know what that act of intimacy would be like with a woman that he loved. With Liz.

So the obvious question that presented itself now was: why was he dreaming about having sex with Ava?

Feeling his arousal growing harder and more demanding as the dream progressed, he fought his way to wakefulness. Confusion gripped his mind. I am awake, aren't I? Or is this a dream within a dream? Because as he lay sprawled on his back on the bed, he felt a body poised above his, astride his hips. And his hands... were kneading smooth, soft flesh. What the heck was going on? He reached up to rub the sleep out of his eyes, trying to get them to focus in the dark. When he reopened them, there was enough soft moonlight filtering into the room for him to make out the features of the woman who was inflaming his passion. His heart felt like it thudded to a sudden stop.

"Liz?!" he whispered hoarsely, then gasped at what her talented little hands were doing. "Wh- what are you doing here?" He swallowed back a moan, as she caressed his most intimate spots.

She chuckled. "Do you really need to ask? Your body certainly seems to have it all figured out," she commented seductively, stroking him further for emphasis.

"I'm not talking about the aahh - aaah-bvious," he moaned out. "I mean, why?" And then it hit him. He was asleep in Max's room, in Max's bed. God, she thought she was making love to Max, when it was really him! He felt like a dog, but he couldn't help the thought that went through his mind. This would be the only way she would ever make love to him - by thinking that it was Max. This wasn't a dream, he decided - it was a nightmare.

He was just about to tell her that she was mistaken, when she slithered up his body, hers in full contact with it, until her face was right above his, looking down at him. "Make love to me," she demanded, in a sensual command, pressing her hips into shocking contact with his.

The ache that he felt blocked out any rational thought he might have had. He looked at her body, as she sat back up, giving him a tantalizing view. She was beautiful, there was no doubt about it. And she's Max's woman. God, how he hated that annoying little voice that was plaguing him more and more these days.

Again, he tried to speak up, but her name came out a squeak, as she started to squirm around, nearly sending him over the edge. "Liz, please stop. I can't take much more of this."

"Then love me. I want to please you."

"Oh, God, Liz, don't...." His protest was cut off, when she lifted up, and adjusted herself, coming down on him in a swift motion. Reflexively, his hips surged up to meet her. It's too late for confessions now, he thought achingly. What am I going to do, when Max finds out? He's gonna kill me.... And he prayed that Liz would forgive him for taking her innocence. And then it hit him. There had been no barrier - no cry of pain. Liz wasn't a virgin? That knowledge stunned him. She had said she wasn't Max's lover. Then who had she given herself to?

All conscious thought was swept away, as she moved rhythmically above him. All the pent up sexual frustration from the last 24 hours, coupled with the fact that he hadn't slept with Ava in over a month, had taken its toll. Despite the fact that, out of respect for Max, he never would have sought to mate with Liz, now that she was here, he couldn't seem to stop what was happening.

As they approached the point of culmination, he grabbed her hips in his hands, kneading her soft flesh, guiding her movements. He felt her the beginnings of her release, and fitted his mouth over hers, to catch her screams of ecstasy in his mouth. She climaxed suddenly, and it was then that he got the biggest shock of his life - she cried out his name in the throes of her release.

"Zan... oh God, Zan!" That was all it took to shatter the last of his control, and he followed her into that state of temporary bliss.

Several moments later, when they came back to themselves, she laid down on him, her face kissing his chest, before she turned her head sideways to lay it on the muscular expanse, sighing in contentment. Zan wasn't sure what to do or say at that point. She snuck into Max's room to make love to me? None of this makes any sense. There was no way that she could have known that I was here alone, and Max had gone to Michael's, unless.... is it too much to hope for, that Max had told her he was staying with Michael, and that she had come here looking for me? He smiled at the thought. He knew the only way he wanted Liz Parker was for her to come to him willingly, and it seemed that she had.

Yet something was troubling him. He had been so sure that if, and when, he made love to Liz, it would be explosive. After all, any time she touched him, it nearly sent him into orbit. And while their lovemaking had certainly been pleasurable, it hardly would qualify as hot alien sex. Of course, she wasn't an alien, but then, he had never been half as hungry for Ava as he was for Liz that morning in New York. So presumably, both parties being alien wasn't a prerequisite.

As a matter of fact, they hadn't even connected when they made love, so he knew that the experience didn't come close to reaching its full potential. Why didn't we connect? Was she purposely blocking me? But if she came to me, why would she want to block me? Did she not realize how much better connected sex would be? No, probably not, if she's never had sex with Max. And coming back to that... if Max isn't her lover, who HAS she had sex with? Zan's internal monologue was going around in circles, trying to make sense of what had just happened.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, was this nagging feeling that something else wasn't quite right with this whole scenario, but he couldn't think of what it was. Not with Liz Parker snuggled up on top of him, her warm breath caressing the skin on his chest. He reached up to stroke the back of her head, reveling in the softness of her hair beneath his palm. She raised herself up enough, to kiss him firmly on the mouth, teasing his bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. He kissed her deeply, and then broke off the contact. Cupping her face in his hands, he held her where he could look into her eyes. "I love you, Liz. As surprised as I am by what happened here, I want you to know, that it wasn't just a quick roll in the hay for me. It really meant something."

He was surprised to see anger flash across her face for a moment, before she smiled and told him, "I love you, too." She kissed him again, passionately, while she used her body to fuel the flame of passion in him once more.

"Liz - are you sure? Again?" Zan couldn't believe that she wanted him that much. And why did she seem angry when I told her I love her? Why would she want to make love to me, if she thought I didn't love her?

"I'm sure," she said, convincing him of her sincerity by caressing him intimately with her mouth and hands.

He moaned, flipping her over, running his hands over her body, reveling in the soft textures that were so different from his own hard, muscular physique. He kept waiting for his desire for her to kick in, but it never did. Not the way he was used to desiring Liz. This was more like having sex with Ava. He was aroused, he could perform, but the ache to be joined with her that had driven him nearly mad in the airport was nowhere to be found. Where was the magic he had been so sure would accompany making love to the woman who held his heart?

His inner turmoil, however, didn't affect his stellar abilities to incite her body to reckless abandon. When she was aroused and breathless, she begged, "Now, Zan! Make love to me - please!"

Still longing to salvage the experience, he asked, "Will you connect with me, Precious One? That way we can truly join in our souls, as well as our bodies."

She shook her head in vehement rejection of the idea. "No - just make love to me. Please Zan - I need you."

His heart sank at her stark refusal to connect with him. Suddenly wanting this disappointing interlude to be over with, he quickly joined their bodies once more. When they both collapsed afterward, they laid in silence for a few minutes, before she pushed away and got up. "I better get going," she said quietly. "We don't need to get caught together like this." She hurriedly dressed, then sat on the edge of the bed, where he still lay naked, leaning down to kiss him once more. "I'll see you at school later, I guess."

He reached up to caress her face, and said, "Sure, I'll be there. Maybe then we can talk about what just happened here. When I'm more coherent."

He was confused by the almost impish gleam in her eyes, when she replied, "I'll look forward to it." With that, she rose, and crossed to the window, which Zan was just realizing for the first time was open, where she had come in. Hadn't he locked that before he went to sleep?

As she disappeared into the night, his mind began trying to process what had happened. He replayed the incident over and over again, but couldn't seem to grasp what it was that left him with such uneasiness. After a long, frustrating hour, he got up, showered, and returned to bed for the remaining hour before dawn. He wished that he could talk to someone about what had happened, but there was no one that would listen, without blaming him for taking what by all rights should have been meant for Max.

Except that it was my name that she cried out - and more than once, he thought indignantly. If she is so in love with Max, why would she make love to me, and not to him? There was just no logical explanation for what had occurred. Nor could he comprehend why their joining had been so... anticlimactic.

Vowing to try and sort it all out later with Liz, he finally allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

It felt like he had just laid back down, when he heard Max come into the room via the window that Liz had used to make her escape just an hour or so before. He was exhausted from lack of sleep, as well as certain physical exertion, and feeling like a real hound, he was not in any mood to deal with Max, or his own guilty shame. So rather than greeting Max as he would have otherwise, he pretended to be asleep. Too bad Max didn't know enough to let sleeping dogs lie.

"Zan!" Max whispered harshly. "Hey! You awake?"

Zan opened one eye, to glare at Max. "Did it look like I was awake?"

"Well... no... but I thought you were getting up early to shower. What happened?"

"Been there, done that," was the curt reply. "I didn't, uh, sleep very well last night. Thought I might get a little more rest before I got dressed. But the bathroom is all yours, your highness." With that he rolled over, giving Max his back. He really didn't want to deal with Max right now.

Apparently Max took the hint, because he slipped into the bathroom, and did the old shower and shave routine. He strolled back into the bedroom in his T-shirt and underwear, and proceeded to rifle through his closet. He wanted to wear something that he knew Liz would like. He had been a totally selfish idiot last night with her, letting his baser instincts control him, when she needed him to be rational and help her try to understand what was happening to her. It had to be frightening - after all, he had been dealing with this alien influence over his body all his life, and he still got freaked out at times. How must it be for her, being human, to suddenly start having strange forces controlling you? Hadn't Future Liz told him that night out in the desert, that Ava had said his healing her had changed her? What did that mean? Did that have something to do with what was happening to her now? It would be just his luck, that he was the one responsible for sending her into another man's arms.

He looked back over his shoulder at Zan, to find him still sprawled on the bed, eyes closed. What did he think about, when he was alone in bed last night? Did he think of Liz, the way I do, every night of my life? Did he think about holding her, kissing her - making love to her? Or was he telling the truth, when he said he would back off?

Realizing that he was torturing himself for no good reason, he turned back to the closet, and pulled out a sweater, since it was a chilly morning. He smiled, remembering the last time he had worn it. Liz had cuddled up to him, loving the softness of the sweater against her face. Nestled in his arms, she had confessed that she wished she could stay there forever. Then they had begun kissing, and he had been sure he was going to die, he had been so aroused by her sweet, innocent sensuality. The memory was so vivid, he could almost taste her on his lips. Yanking the sweater on over his head, he cursed the arousal that filled his jeans now, and wondered if she would remember that night, too, or if everything that happened last May had eclipsed the happier months preceding that fateful day at the pod chamber.

He finished getting dressed, and then gathered everything he would need to take with him to school. He couldn't seem to shake this odd feeling that something was wrong, though. He checked the clock - they had 45 minutes before they had to leave for school. He decided he better go rouse Sleeping Beauty, so she could shower and spend half an hour picking out an outfit. They had to be prompt this morning, since their parents would be following them in, to register Zan.

After waking her, he took a tour of the kitchen, grabbing some toast and juice, just as Diane entered the kitchen. "Oh, honey - did you want me to make you some breakfast? That doesn't look like much to fuel a growing body on."

"Uh, no, Mom, but thanks," he said as sincerely as possible. He slipped out of the kitchen, and made tracks back to the bedroom. He'd just had a narrow escape. He would share his toast and juice with Zan, to spare the poor guy having to be initiated on their mom's cooking just yet. He didn't want Zan spending his first day of school in the nurse's office.

He heard the shower still running as he walked by, and banged on the door twice, to let Isabel know her time was running short. Then he entered his own room, and set the remains of his meager breakfast on the desk. "Zan!" he called, smacking him on the bottom of his foot. "Come on, you gotta get up, or we'll never make it. And Dad is a really stickler about punctuality."

Zan groaned. "How did I let myself get talked into this? You'd think they would at least give me one day off, to get over the jet lag...."

Max laughed. "Yeah, right. You don't know Dad. There are days he makes joining the Marines look appealing."

Zan groaned again, and flopped back on the bed. "Remind me again why I'm here?"

"Uh - cuz you want to save the world from certain destruction?"

Zan snorted. "If I last that long."

"Aw come on, it isn't that bad. So you're a little tired. Just wait until you go out with us on your first all-night excursion to a neighboring state, tracking down hostile aliens. Then you can tell me you're tired."

"I wish it was just fatigue," Zan mumbled to himself.

But Max heard. "What else is there? Something on your mind?"

Zan was startled. He hadn't thought he had spoken that loud. "Uh, yeah, but nothing I want to talk about right now, thanks."

"All right. But I'm here, if you get the urge to talk. I can be a good listener." He thought again about the way he treated Liz the night before. "Except when I'm being a total jackass," he ammended.

"Happen much?" Zan asked dryly.

"Only around Liz," Max sighed out in self-contempt. "My jealousy tends to heighten my capacity to act like a horse's behind. Fortunately, Liz loves me enough to forgive me. God knows, I don't deserve it."

Zan had to bite his tongue, to keep from telling Max what had happened right in that very room, in his bed, no less. He wondered if Max would be so self-deprecating, if he knew where his girlfriend had been just a couple hours before.

In an attempt to redirect his own thoughts, he addressed another topic of concern for him. "Max, there's something that we haven't discussed, regarding my becoming a member of the community and all."

"Oh? What's that?" Max dropped into the chair at his desk.

"I don't have a last name."

Max closed his eyes and groaned. "Damn! Why didn't we think of this before?"

Zan shrugged. "Never been an issue for me before. But I have observed that humans use family names, and since I don't have one... what are we gonna tell your folks?"

"Well, I suppose we could just make something up... I mean, since we are having fake id and all made for you."

"God help us, if anyone tries to check on this stuff. It will be like I appeared out of nowhere."

"Alex is a whiz on the computer. I'm sure he can cover some of our tracks - enough to make it look like someone else botched their record-keeping, I hope. So - what do you want to be called?"

"I haven't a clue. I wish I could just use your last name. It would be much simpler."

"Hmmm... maybe you can."

"What? How?"

"Let me talk to Dad about it while you get dressed. Still - we have to give him a last name that you were using prior to coming here." Max grabbed his phone book, and started flipping through the pages. "How about... Reed?" he asked, as he thumbed through the "R" section.

"Zan Reed? Yeah, I guess I could do worse. So, you think you can fix it for me to use Evans, though?"

Max was amused by the hopeful look in Zan's eyes. He really had taken to the idea of being part of a family much quicker than Max would have suspected. "I'll go talk to Dad now - if you promise to get your lazy butt up and get ready. We leave in 20 minutes."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm up already," Zan grumbled, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, and reaching for the clothes he had left on the floor the night before.

Max chuckled, and walked to the door. He stopped in the doorway, and turned back to say, "Oh - I almost forgot. I brought the rest of my breakfast up for you. It's on the desk."

"What?" Zan asked incredulously. "You folks are so poor, you gotta share your breakfasts?"

With a grin, Max explained in a low voice, "No, but Mom had this idea that she was going to cook breakfast. I escaped by a narrow margin, and I decided to take pity on you, offering you the toast and juice. If you'd prefer to take your chances in the kitchen...."

"No! I mean, that's not necessary." Zan quickly covered his reaction, trying to not sound totally petrified of Diane's cooking, after the horror stories that Max and Isabel had terrorized him with. "Toast and juice will be fine."

Max laughed out loud. "That's what I thought you'd say." He closed the door, leaving Zan to get himself together.
posted on 22-Oct-2001 8:44:01 AM
Part Fourteen

Max headed straight for his dad's office, where he could usually be found in the mornings, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading the paper, before starting his day. The door was closed when he got there, so he knocked lightly.

"Come on in," he heard his dad call.

Max opened the door, then shut it behind him. When he was seated across the desk from his dad, his dad folded the newspaper shut, and looked up at him. "Yes, Max? What's on your mind, son?"

"Uh, it's about Zan."

Philip waited a few seconds. "All right. What about Zan?" He wondered why Max seemed nervous talking about his brother. Were there problems already?

"Well, you see, he's been bounced around from home to home, as you know," Max continued, picking at some lint on his shirt. He was surprised how hard this was to bring up. "Anyway, he's never really had a home - a family... that sort of thing."

"Max, we know all of this. Why don't you just get to your point?"

Max sighed. "It's just... I think it would mean a lot to him if he could use our last name. You know, it would make him feel like more a part of the family." He looked at his dad, trying to gauge his reaction. "That is - I mean - is that kind of thing even possible?"

Philip smiled broadly at his son. The boy's compassion never ceased to amaze him. "So this is what has you all tied up in knots? What - were you afraid that your mother and I would object to this?"

Max's face was very serious, when he replied, "I didn't really know what to think. This has all been so sudden, I couldn't blame you for having reservations about certain things."

"Max, son, you worry too much. Zan is going to do just fine, I'm sure of it. And as for the name business - he most certainly can go by Zan Evans if he wants to. Your mother will be ecstatic, of course..." He gave Max a knowing wink. "He'll have to have his official documents in his current name, naturally, until such time as he decides if he wants to permanently change his last name to ours. That is a legal matter that we can deal with later, if he wants."

"Great. I'll go tell him," Max said enthusiastically, as he sprung up from the chair. When he got to the door, he turned back to look at his father. "Thanks, Dad."

"No problem. Now go get that brother and sister of yours shagged around. We have to get out of here in 5 minutes."

Max smiled broadly and replied, "Yes, sir," then left the office.

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Dana had left Liz's room early that morning, having volunteered to fill in for a waitress who called in sick. She said she wanted to be able to repay the kindness that the Parker's had shown her. It worked out well, because that left Liz with her privacy, to get ready for her day.

She was humming, as she gathered her schoolbooks and other items she needed together. She shoved them in the main part of her backpack, and then opened the pocket on the front, to put some extra pens and pencils in it. It was then that she rediscovered the letters from Future Max.

"Oh my God...." she said to herself. "I completely forgot about these!" She pulled them out of the pouch, and finished packing her stuff. Once she was finished, she looked at the three envelopes again. Her hand was trembling with anticipation, when she picked them up off the desk, and found the one marked "Liz".

She ripped the envelope open, and quickly extracted the single sheet of paper inside. Taking a deep breath, she unfolded it, and began to read.

My Dearest Karanna,

I hope you don't mind me addressing you that way. Ever since I called you that earlier, it just seems so... right. I think it must be an alien term of endearment, or something.

There are so many things that I am thinking and feeling right now, I could fill an entire library, if I tried to write it all down. But I will try to be brief. Mostly for my own sanity. Can you believe, just thinking about you as I write is making my pulse race?

Which is part of what I want to say to you. I don't understand what happened between us, but it was never intended to shame or offend you. I've always known that my love for you was strong, but the intensity of what we shared on this airplane takes my breath away. Their has to be an explanation for what happened. And I trust that you will search for the truth until you find it. I have a feeling that the answer will prove to be valuable to us in our future together.

Our future. Doesn't that have a nice ring to it? It won't be "normal" by any stretch of the imagination. But I still dream of us someday having a little girl who looks just like her beautiful momma. I know I'm being fanciful, but I can't help it. After all, we don't even know if things will.... work, if you know what I mean. I wish I could promise you the moon, Liz, but I'm not God. I'm not even... natural. There's no telling what that will mean for us, as far as having a family. I pray that you can love me enough to take the risk. God knows, I certainly love you enough.

Well, I have two more letters to write, but I wanted to let you know again how much I love you. I hope with all my heart that you and my younger self can work things out - because when I return to our future, I want to be able to finally make love to you, and fall asleep with you in my arms, the way I have desired to every night for the last 4 years.

Take care, my love, until we meet again.
F. Max

By the time she finished reading the letter, she was crying, and she had to bite her bottom lip to hold back a sob. Because more than anything, she wanted that future with him. No matter what it held in store for them, she wanted to be his for a lifetime. And beyond.

She pulled her journal out of its hiding place, and placed the envelope between the pages. She would have to think of a special way to preserve that letter, and the memories it represented, when she had more time. Right now, though, she needed to get to school. Not so she could learn and take tests - but so she could be with the one true love of her life. Her skin tingled, just thinking about it.

She shoved the other two envelopes for Max and Zan back into her bag, and headed out the door.

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Zan opted to ride in the Jeep with Max and Isabel, and their parents followed them to the school. They all headed to the office together, receiving many startled looks from the faculty and students, as Zan and Max walked side by side down the hallways. When they reached their destination, Max said to Zan, "Well, this is it. Ready?" Zan nodded in response. "Okay, great. Listen - I have no idea what they are going to do with you, as far as placing you in classes and such. I'll look for you at lunch - hopefully they'll at least put us in the same lunch period. If not, you know where the Jeep is parked. We'll meet there after school."

"Yeah, no problem. I'm adaptable, remember? I'll muddle through somehow."

Max smiled broadly at his "twin". "Yeah, you know, somehow I don't doubt that anymore." He clapped Zan on the back once in a show of support, and then backed away a few steps.

Isabel then approached Zan, and gave him a fierce hug, and said softly in his ear, "I'm really proud of you, y'know? Knock their socks off, okay?"

Zan gave her a quick squeeze in response, and said, "Just for you, princess." His eyes twinkled with mischief, when she looked up at him in surprise, at the term of endearment. It didn't matter that they hadn't grown up together. They were bound by a common heritage - a common secret. And that bond gave them a sense of family.

"You two better hurry, or you'll be late for homeroom," the principal warned Max and Isabel. "Don't worry - we'll take good care of your brother."

Max and Isabel nodded one last time at Zan, and then headed for their lockers.

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Liz had ridden into school with Maria, filling her in on the juicier, albeit more confusing aspects of the last couple days. Maria was still half in shock when they walked into the school, and she started walking down the wrong hallway.

"Uh, Maria?"

"Yeah, Liz?"

Liz grabbed her arm, and spun her around. "Your locker is this way, remember?"

Maria blinked a couple of times, looking rather disoriented, as she observed her surroundings. "Oh, yeah, right. Thanks."

"Maria, I'm sorry, I guess I shouldn't have dumped all this on you so early in the morning. But I had to have someone to talk to. Someone who knows me, and would understand."

Maria smiled. "It's okay, chica, I just - wow." She dropped her voice to a whisper, checking the immediate area for nosy bystanders. "Four versions of an alien king kissing you in one weekend?" She fanned herself for emphasis. "What have you got, that I don't?" she playfully accused, as they reached her locker.

"A major headache," Liz grumbled. "Max is so jealous, he can't see straight. And I am so frustrated -"

"I can see why!" Maria interrupted with a chuckle.

"Not that kind of frustrated," Liz said with a stern glance.

"Well why not?" Maria asked surprised. "Oh my - you didn't 'get some', did you?"

Liz clapped her hand over Maria's mouth. "Sh! Geez, why don't you take out an ad, Maria? NO, I did not 'get some', " she hissed back. "What I'm trying to say, is that it is frustrating trying to understand why these things are happening to me."

"Perhaps because your boyfriend is an a-l-I-e-n?" she joked.

"So? So is yours. You don't seem to have these problems."

"Yeah, but then, your relationship with Max has always been a breed apart, anyway - pardon the pun. When was the last time you saw me with a glowing hickey?"

"Okay, you're right. I seem to be a lightning rod for this stuff. I just wish I knew why," Liz groused.

Maria slammed her locker shut. "Well, I'm just the whacky friend, remember? You are the one that is the brainy scientist. Let me know when you figure it out, okay? Well, this is me," she announced, as they reached the door to her homeroom. "I'll see you at lunch."

"Sure, lunch," Liz echoed. "See ya." Maria ducked in the classroom, and Liz turned to leave, colliding into a hard, male body. Every nerve ending she had went on red alert. She looked up into the face that haunted her every waking moment these days. "Hey, Max."

Max smiled at her. "Hey." He pulled her off to the side, and bent down to brush his lips lightly over hers. He didn't dare do anything more than that, for fear he would forget they were in a crowded hallway. "I dreamed about you last night," he told her, his eyes turning to molten amber as he remembered what they had been doing in his dream.

"Really?" she asked shyly. "I dreamed about you, too." Her blush confirmed that her dreams had run along the same vein as his.

His whole face reflected his intense pleasure at this knowledge. He leaned in and whispered in her ear, "You better watch out, Miss Parker. Because I intend to make your dreams come true."

Liz felt her face go hot with embarrassment, and buried it in his chest. She felt the softness of the sweater against her skin, and cuddled up closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. "Ohmigosh, Max, I remember this sweater," she purred, rubbing her face against him like a cat.

Max shuddered from the stimulation caused by her innocent gesture, feeling his body harden in a lightning fast response. Only his Liz had that kind of power over him. And he was glad that she did. He cupped her chin in his hand, and lifted her face so he could see her. "I was hoping you would. I couldn't help getting all aroused this morning, when I went to put it on, just from remembering that night."

Liz's lips parted in a soft gasp. Just hearing him talk like that made a curious tension begin to coil in her belly. Being near Max when she was in this state was just overwhelming. She figured she better get away from him, before her legs wouldn't carry her anywhere. She was about to say something to him, when she noticed he was staring at her mouth. "Max?" she asked breathlessly. "Is something wrong?" He nodded, his eyes never leaving her sensual lips. "What is it? Do I have something on my face?" He shook his head in a negative response. "Then what's the matter?"

"I want to slide my tongue between those soft, luscious lips, and taste you until I die," he groaned softly. "Among other things."

"Max -" Her breathing became shallow, and her pulse was beating wildly. She felt the most aching desire to be intimate with him. And they were standing in the middle of the hall at school. Life was just not fair. Or maybe it was. At least here, she wouldn't be tempted to let him take her innocence, with half the school watching on. She hoped. "I - uh, I better get to my homeroom," she managed to get out.

"In a minute." He bent his head and claimed her mouth, sliding his tongue inside, and teasing hers gently, sending both of their hormones on a rampage.

From down the hall, Tess Harding watched in silent fury, turning an interesting shade of red, as her anger began to boil over. "That bitch," she hissed. "Is there nothing he won't forgive her for? And yet he won't give me the time of day?" She smiled wickedly. "Well, enjoy it while you can, you little slut. Because it won't last much longer." With that, she stormed off to her own homeroom.

Max regretfully ended the kiss, and released her from his embrace, hoping to regain some sense of control over his rioting body. "I'll see you in an hour, I guess."

Liz nodded. Longing for more than just a kiss from her alien king, she forced herself to walk away, and slip into her homeroom, just before the bell rang.


posted on 23-Oct-2001 2:58:38 PM
Part Fifteen

Tess was brooding in a corner of her Chem lab classroom, refusing to participate in the experiment with her partner, who just happened to be Alex. He had just finished reading the directions aloud, when he realized that she hadn't been paying attention to a word he said. He followed her line of sight to where Max and Liz sat close together, busily working on their lab. Occasionally, Max's fingers would graze over Liz's, and Liz would shiver from the contact. Alex looked back at Tess. He could tell she was livid, and about ready to explode. He was pondering what to do to distract her, when a knock came at the door.

Most of the class looked on, as the lab instructor, Mrs. Anderson, went to answer the knock. When she opened the door, the principal was standing there, and several of the known troublemakers in the class began to shift in their seats nervously. Alex smirked, watching the instinctive reaction to the presence of authority.

"What the hell is so funny?" Tess growled at him.

"Huh? Oh nothing. Just these bozos getting all nervous when the principal shows up, thinking that they're gonna be found out for something."

Tess snorted, indicating her disinterest in human affairs, and continued staring at Max and Liz. She just couldn't understand how Max could still be so smitten with her, after -

"Class? May I have your attention for a moment?" Mrs. Anderson's voice assured that the few students who weren't watching the door with curiosity, were now fully aware of what was taking place at the front of the room. "Our principal would like to have a word with you all."

"Good morning, students," he began. "I'd like you all to welcome the newest student to Roswell High." He turned to the door and called out, "Come on in."

Tess looked puzzled, when she saw Mr. Evans come through the door. But when he stepped aside, she nearly had a heart attack. It was a- a- another Max!

"I'd like you all to meet Zan Evans. And in case you hadn't guessed - he's Max's twin brother. He and Max just found each other, and he has moved to Roswell to join the Evans family. His transcripts haven't arrived yet, so we thought it would be best for him to just go to Max's classes, and see how he fits in. Then we can make any adjustments from there."

"Welcome to Roswell High," Mrs. Anderson said warmly. "If you'd like, you may pull up a stool at Max's lab table. Once you're settled in a permanent class, we'll assign you your own lab partner.

"Yes, ma'am," Zan said politely. "Thank you." It was then that he finally scanned the room, and saw Max for the first time. He started to smile at his brother, until he saw Liz sitting next to him. Right next to him. Almost on top of him, from Zan's point of view.

Tess gasped, when she got her first good look at the "new and improved" version of Zan. Dear God, he looked just like Max. She watched him from the back of the room, her muscles seized in tension, noticing the emotions playing across Zan's face. When he saw Liz sitting so close to Max, his expression went from joy, to misery, to angry in a flash, as he shot Liz a dirty look. She furrowed her brows in confusion, trying to figure out why Zan would be angry seeing Max and Liz together. Hadn't she overheard him just last night, saying that he was going to back off from Liz? Why all of a sudden did it seem like he thought Max was the intruder? It was as if he thought he had a claim -

"Oh God, no!" she whispered hoarsely. "It - it can't be...."

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Max smiled when he saw that Zan had spotted them. Zan started to smile, but that changed to a hurt and confused frown, which was promptly replaced by a frigid look shot in Liz's direction. What the hell was that all about? he wondered.

Zan grabbed a stool, as he had been instructed by the teacher, and sat by Max, crossing his arms over his chest, in a clearly perturbed gesture. Max looked around, and was relieved to see that everyone else had gone back to doing their lab - except for Tess, of course. She was just staring at him with panic-stricken eyes. God only knew what she was thinking. He leaned over toward Zan and whispered, "What's wrong? You were fine just two seconds ago. What happened?"

Zan shook his head. "Not here, not now. We'll talk later."

Max nodded. "All right, but if you don't want to get on Mrs. Anderson's bad side first thing, you best stop looking like a thunder cloud, and at least pretend to be paying attention to the experiment."

Zan dropped his arms, and sat up straighter, opting for a more civilized approach than he would have employed in his former surroundings. "Sorry. Don't worry, I'll try not to embarrass you," he drawled.

"Hey, that's not what I meant, and you know it. I don't know what set you off, but don't bite my head off over it. I'm trying to help you out. So stop treating me like the bad guy."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever."

Max gave him one last curious look, and then turned back to the lab they were working on. Once his back was to Zan, Liz became the recipient of one very hostile glare. It chilled her to the bone, and she shuddered, as she felt a wave of intense anger and bitterness crash into her. She couldn't figure out why Zan was so angry with her, when they hadn't even seen each other since they dropped her off at her apartment last night. What could have set him off?

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Alex turned to Tess, wondering what all her babbling was about. "Tess? Is something wrong?"

She recovered quickly, pasting a fake smile on her face. "Uh - um, no. Sorry. I just was surprised at how much he looks like Max, is all. Is that what he looked like when Max met him?"

"Actually, Liz met him first," Alex corrected her, "and no, he looked quite different when he first got here. He did a little... reconstructive work on himself, you might say."

"Oh, really?" she asked, trying to appear nonchalant about her inquiry. "When did he do that? Must be before he met the Evanses, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess," Alex answered somewhat vaguely. He wondered why Tess was so interested in Zan all of a sudden.

"I wonder where they are gonna put him?" she asked, doodling on her notebook. "It's not like they have a spare bedroom in that house."

Alex gave her a funny look, perplexed about why she should give a hoot about the sleeping arrangements. Unless she thought she was gonna sneak in on Max during the night again, like she had that one time shortly after she moved to Roswell. Well, nip that in the bud... "I think I heard Max say that they are gonna get bunk beds for his room, and Zan'll stay there."

"Must be he slept on the floor last night, then, if they didn't even have a bed for him."

"Nope - Max slipped out and slept at Michael's last night. Zan got the room all to himself." He watched Tess' reaction to that answer, the same as all the others he'd given her. But this time, she blanched so pale, he would have sworn there wasn't an ounce of blood left in her. "Tess? You all right?"

Her hand came up to stroke her head, as if she had a violent headache. "Yeah, you know, I'm really not feeling so well, all of a sudden. I think maybe I better go to the nurse's office and lie down...."

"You need any help?" Alex couldn't give a flying fig about helping her, after learning that she had killed him with no remorse in the other timeline. But if he went with her, he could keep an eye on her.

"Uh, no, I - I think I can manage," she croaked, gathering her stuff, and shuffling up to the front of the room.

Alex watched, as she went to Mrs. Anderson and asked to be excused for the remainder of the class. He wondered what it was that had sent her into a panic. He'd have to be sure and talk to Max about it later.

Alex wasn't the only one watching Tess. Zan got his first look at her, and nearly choked. She looked just like Ava - and just thinking about Ava made his skin go all clammy. He didn't understand it, but his reaction to Ava kept getting worse over time. Used to be he could take a tumble in the hay with her, and not think anything of it. Lately, though, he seemed to be getting more and more squeamish about her with each passing day. Was it because of that weird dream he had last night, that he felt so off-balance seeing Tess? After all, he'd never met her before. But this odd sense of familiarity really shook him. It had to be just because they looked so much alike. What other explanation could there be?

Max noticed Zan staring at Tess, and the way the color had drained from his face. "You gonna be okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," Zan said shortly, embarrassed that his emotional turmoil was so evident. "She just looks so...."

"So much like Ava," Max finished.

"Yeah. And for some reason, I was drifting away from Ava. Something about her just left me...."

"Cold?" Max guessed, thinking about his own reaction to Tess.

"Yeah. How'd you know?" Zan asked with a frown.

"It's the same way I feel about Tess. Guess we are more alike than we thought."

"Well, at least our reaction to women is consistent -" He bit off any further remark, remembering why he was upset with Liz. He was going to have to find a way to talk to her, without Max around. He didn't want to say anything to Max about what had happened, until he had a chance to confront her about her treachery.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the class, and Max helped Liz quickly clean up the mess they had made. Once everything was put away, they headed toward their English Lit class. Halfway there, they passed the men's room, and Max asked Liz to go ahead, and take Zan to class, while he used the facilities. Hesitantly, she agreed, wondering why Max would leave her alone with Zan, when Zan was obviously so agitated with her.

Once Max was out of earshot, Zan growled, "You and I need to have a talk, missy."

Liz shuddered, mostly at Zan's anger, but the way he said "missy" reminded her too much of Jose. And she didn't need to be remembering that right now. "Okay - when?"

He grabbed her arm in one of his large, warm hands. Despite his apparent anger, she shuddered at the stimulation of his touch. "Now," he grated out. "Where can we go that's private?"

"Let me get this straight," Liz scowled at him, "You want to cut class the first day you're here? Way to make an impression, big guy. And did you ever stop to think what Max's reaction would be to the two of us disappearing on him?"

"I don't give a damn about what Max thinks right now, any more than you did last night - er, this morning. Whatever."

Liz's brows snapped together in question. "Zan? What are you talking about?"

He grabbed her by the upper arm, and pulled her into a darkened classroom. "Come on, Liz. You don't have to play coy with me. What I want to know is - do you enjoy stringing me along, giving me false hope, and then running back to Max?"

Liz went pale, cold fear flashing in the depths of her normally warm brown eyes. "Zan, please, you're scaring me. I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Oh, really? Let's see if we can refresh your memory." With that, he yanked her up flush with his body, and fused his lips to hers in a kiss that was surprisingly gentle and arousing, considering how angry he was.

And he had been angry. No woman was gonna play him for the fool. But the minute his lips touched hers, it was electric. The sense of urgency to touch her, love her, be inside her - it flared in the blink of an eye, overwhelming him to the point where he had to lean back against the closed door for support. As he did, he pulled her to where she was cradled between his thighs, pressed intimately against him.

At first, Liz had struggled to get away, but it only took a few seconds for her to feel the heat beginning to build - a slow-burning ache to be close to him.... and then she was. She whimpered, feeling her cheeks burning from the way his arousal was pressing against her.

Zan dimly remembered why this all got started, and focused on the visit he had had from Liz the night before, hoping she would get a flash of it. Which she did.

Liz was shocked to see images of herself astride Zan, doing wild things that she had only dreamed about doing with Max. Was this some sort of fantasy that Zan was asking her to live out? She wrenched her mouth from under his, and panting for breath, struggled until he released her.

"What was that all about?" she demanded breathlessly. "I thought you had finally gotten it through your head, that I'm with Max!"

"Well, I guess you should have thought of that, before you came through that window last night in the middle of the night, begging me to make love to you, huh?" he snapped. "What kind of a little tease are you, anyway?!"

"Zan, I swear to you, I don't know what you are talking about! I never left the apartment, once you guys dropped me off last night. Max came over for a little while, and we, uh, talked, but then he left, and I went to bed."

"Then how do you explain what I know you just saw?"

"What? Some stupid fantasy? Get real, Zan. If I had made love to you, I would have remembered it!"

"Damn straight you would! But it's not the remembering that is your problem, I think - it's the admitting. My God, Liz, you were screaming my name when you came. I know you didn't think that I was Max."

Tears came to Liz's eyes. "Please, Zan, you have to believe me. That wasn't me. I have no idea what happened - a weird alien dream or something? A shapeshifter, maybe? But I swear to you - it wasn't me!"

Zan could feel the genuineness of her emotional distress wash over him, and he realized that she wasn't lying. Either that, or somehow she had made love to him without realizing it.

"Zan?" Liz said his name timidly.

"What?" he grumbled back, thoroughly annoyed with the whole situation. Just when he had decided to get past this thing with Liz.....

"I know this may seem rather... vain," she admitted, "but what you felt when you made love to whoever that was - is that really all you feel, when you kiss me?"

Zan was struck by her question. So she, too, noticed that it wasn't explosive like their other encounters? Maybe there was some clue in that.... "No, Liz, it didn't even come close. As a matter of fact, I found the whole matter to be rather... disappointing. I expected that making love to you would be like sitting in the middle of a fireworks display. The reality was rather... boring." He watched her carefully for any signs of hurt or offense at his words. He saw none. But what he felt from her was a sense of relief. Her next words confirmed it.

"So you see? It couldn't have been me. Because it didn't even feel right - that is, the way that it normally feels when we, uh... you know."

Zan's mouth quirked in one corner, in a sad smile. "Yeah, I know. I also know that Max is one lucky dog. He better treat you right, or I'll have to teach him some manners."

"Speaking of Max - please don't bring this up with him - not until we figure out what is going on. If you tell him what happened to you - he'll never forgive me. I could prove to him that I'm still a virgin - but I doubt he'd let me close enough, if he really believed I'd betrayed him like that. Not after last night...."

"What happened last night?"

"When he, uh, kissed me - he got flashes. Of me. And you. Right after Jose disintegrated. Getting the picture?"

Zan let out a low whistle between his teeth. "Bad, huh?"

"Real bad. At that point, he was convinced that we had slept together, and that I was just toying with him. But nothing could be further from the truth. I love him to distraction, and if I lose him again, Zan...."

"What, Liz? What if you lose him again?"

Liz turned bleak eyes up to meet his. "I'll really have no reason left to live."

Zan gasped, and he grabbed her by the upper arms, giving her a light shake. "Don't say such things, Liz! Do you have any idea what that would do to the rest of us?"

"I can't help it, Zan. He is my life. Nothing else matters much any more." Tears began to run down her cheeks, and Zan could feel her desolation, at just the mere thought of a life without Max. She wasn't kidding. She really couldn't go on without him.

There really was no way, then, that it could have been her in his room last night. Because she never would have put her relationship with Max in jeopardy like that. In fact, if she wanted to give herself to anyone last night, it would have been Max. Zan sighed. He had known it was too good to be true, that he'd end up with the girl.

Suddenly, the door to the room opened, and Max froze, staring at the two of them, Zan still holding her arms in his hands. When he finally could trust himself to speak, he demanded, "What the hell is going on here?!"
posted on 23-Oct-2001 3:09:33 PM
oops. Double post. Sorry.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Oct-2001 3:10:33 PM ]
posted on 26-Oct-2001 5:02:37 PM
Part Sixteen

Zan closed his eyes, and took a deep, steadying breath. "Max, please don't get upset. This isn't what it looks like."

"Oh? What does it look like? Let's see.... just my brother and my girlfriend getting cozy in a dark, empty room, while I'm sitting in English Lit class, wondering where the heck they are? Sheesh, Zan, I'm surprised that you think that I would be upset by such an innocent-looking scenario..."

"All right, cut the bull, Max. I have enough weirdness in my life, without your damn sarcasm."

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Zan. I didn't mean to upset you," he crooned with lethal softness. "Perhaps Liz should take you home. I'm sure she could find some way to... soothe you. She seems to have a real talent for taking the edge off a guy's anger. Too bad she isn't so good at alleviating our.... hunger. Or does she take care of that, for you? I haven't decided yet, if I'm the only one she arouses to the point of insanity, and then leaves dangling. How is she with you?"

Zan cringed at the gasp that came from Liz, followed by the intense emotional pain and embarrassment that rolled off her. "That's enough," he warned Max. "You don't know what you are talking about, and you are making a total ass of yourself. Remember how just this morning, you confessed your tendency to do that very thing?"

"Well, it would appear that you all beat me to the punch this time. You are managing to make me look - and feel - like a complete fool, with no help at all from me. You should be very proud of yourselves."

"And you should shut your fat yap," Zan spat out. That said, he drew a chair up behind Max in a flash of movement, pushed Max down, and then bound him to it, all without moving a muscle. Ah, the wonders of alien powers. When Max started to protest, one look from Zan robbed him of his ability to speak.

Very casually, Zan slouched down in a chair, and stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing them at the ankles. He clasped his hands over his abdomen, and sat there studying Max for a few moments. Max looked like he was ready to kill someone, and Liz stood in shock, unable to believe what she had just witnessed.

"Liz," Zan addressed her finally, "I know you didn't want to drag Max into this, until we had some answers, but that was before he bulldozed his way into the situation. Do you wish to reconsider?" With wide, disbelieving eyes, she shook her head no. If he already felt so much hostility toward her, she couldn't bear the thought of giving him any real ammunition. Zan could feel her fear pierce through him like a knife. "Fine. Okay, Max, here's the deal. Something happened to me, and I blamed Liz for it. Turns out it wasn't her fault. So we are going to try and figure out what the hell is going on, and when we do, you'll be the first to know. The terms of this association are nonnegotiable, so you'd best just deal with it.

"And while you're at it - if you want to keep this little beauty happy in your camp, I'd suggest you adjust your attitude toward her. Cuz right now, it stinks. Big time. She has done nothing except love you more than her own life - which, by the way, is far more than you deserve, judging by your actions - and you reward her with rude insults and accusations. The girl is as pure as the driven snow, and she wants nothing more from life than to be with you. Most of us would think we'd died and gone to heaven, to have a woman half that loving and loyal. As a matter of fact, I'd offer to take her off your hands, if I thought for a millisecond that she would have me. But alas! My name isn't Max, so I'm doomed to be forever left to wonder what it would be like to have a mate like her."

With cat-like grace, he got to his feet, and walked over to where Max sat helplessly. He gave him a "dope-slap" on the back of the head - not hard, just enough to make his point, that Max needed to get a brain. "You know, if you're going to rule a planet, brother, I suggest you first learn to rule your own stubborn, suspicious nature. Because this woman doesn't deserve your wrath. If you can't be any more discerning than that, you don't deserve to be king. Long Live Kivar."

"Zan!" Liz hissed, as she rushed to Max's side - and his defense. She walked over to the chair, and ran her hands through Max's hair, trying to soothe the angry tension that had gripped him at Zan's words. "That's not fair. God, don't you think that Max has gone through enough, without enduring your ridicule, too?" She bent down to kiss Max on the forehead. "From all accounts, Kivar is a heartless warrior, that governs with a selfish, iron fist. What kind of a ruler is that? Max is kind, and compassionate. And he's still learning and growing." She stroked his cheek with the palm of her hand. "I think it is to his credit that he has the capabilities of such deep emotion." She looked into Max's eyes. "But he does have a point, Max. You really have to learn to control your emotions, instead of letting them control you. That way, your logical mind can work through things. It's the only way you can be a just ruler." Touching him as she was, Liz realized that she could feel his remorse and self-loathing. So it wasn't just something that she shared with Zan. It just wasn't as strong with Max - yet.

Still unable to speak, Max closed his eyes, and Liz saw the lone tear that escaped his lashes, as it traced down one cheek. He had been humbled by her quick rise to his defense. Gently, she reached up, and wiped it away with her thumb. "Zan, I think that you can release him. He seems to be understanding the situation a little better now."

"What about it, Max?" Zan challenged him. "Are you gonna be a good boy, if I let you go?" Max nodded, but Liz noticed that the light was gone from his eyes. He looked... desolate. "Oh, very well then." With no apparent effort on Zan's part, Max was suddenly released, and once again able to speak.

"Liz, I'm sorry. I just can't seem to control my jealousy where Zan is concerned. Can you forgive me - again?"

Liz straddled his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. "What a silly question. Of course I can. And I do. Now, how about you thank me properly, for being so understanding?"

He lowered his eyes in shame and humiliation. "I don't think there is any way possible to express the gratitude I feel, for having you in my life."

"Oh, I'm sure we could think of something," she suggested with a sensual smirk.

Max's arms came up and wrapped around her tightly. "Hmmm. Did you have anything in particular in mind?"

She leaned in, and kissed him lightly. "Mmmhmm. First you could..." She kissed him more firmly. "And then you could..." She traced his lips with her tongue, finishing by nipping at his bottom lip. "And if you were really sorry...." She kissed him hungrily, parting her lips, in a blatant invitation for him. Right on cue, he slid his tongue into her mouth, tasting her, and inciting her. His hands instinctively dropped to her hips, pressing her against that part of him that ached for her touch, feeling her respond to the intimate contact, by rocking against him. They were so wrapped up in their love-play, that they forgot about Zan.

"Ahem. Uh, excuse me? Do you think you could save taking the girl, for when you have some privacy? I really don't need to watch you initiate this sweet little virgin, you know."

Max reluctantly ended the kiss, both he and Liz blushing at the thought that they could get so carried away in front of someone else. Liz just buried her face in his neck, and relished the smell of him, as she tried to get her rioting senses under control.

"Well, what now, oh fearless leader?" Zan asked, with no remaining traces of animosity. "We are all cutting class, so I guess that we can't just waltz back in there, without a lot of explanations - am I right?"

"You do catch on quick," Max observed. "We better get out of here, though, before the teacher that uses this room next period comes in to get things ready." Stealthily, they snuck out of the room, and made their way outside, where they would wait for the period to end.

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Tess hadn't actually gone to the nurse's office, when she left Chem Lab. She just had to get out - get away from everyone and everything, so she could think. So she had gotten in her SUV, and taken off for parts unknown in the desert.

When she finally made it out of town, and was far enough away, that there was no traffic, she pulled over to the side of the road and parked. She was shaking with the intensity of her emotions. She had gone to the Evans' house last night to mate with Max, and get pregnant with his child. But somehow, she managed to be at the right place, at the wrong time, and slept with Zan instead. All her scheming, to look like Liz, and then call Max "Zan", in order to drive a wedge between Max and Liz, had been a royal waste of time. No pun intended.

Slamming her hands against the steering wheel, she screamed, "WHY? Why does this crap always have to happen to me! Every time I come up with a plan, they manage to outmaneuver me, and they aren't even trying!! OOOOOO! It makes me so damn MAD!!!" She finished her tirade, her chest heaving with every labored breath she took. What the hell is happening to me? she wondered. I'm usually so calm - so in control of myself. It's that damn Zan. No matter what timeline he's from, he is a pain in my butt. I ought to just have Kivar mop the floor with the idiot....

An unusual sensation in her belly made her breath catch. It felt like her muscles were rippling back and forth. What the -? Understanding dawned. Oh God, no... it can't be. Could this situation get any worse? She felt it again, and placed her hand over her lower abdomen. Well, at least this explained her sudden loss of self-control. Not only did Zan drive her crazy - apparently, his child was going to pick up where he left off. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry... she wanted to go home. Home to Antar.

Once she acknowledged what needed to be done, it gave her enough vision and purpose to stop wallowing in her self-pity. She was a survivor. Somehow, she would take this miserable situation, and turn it around for her own advantage. But what she needed right now was a plan. She still had the same dilemma that she had shared with Kivar - how to get to Antar. Until she knew how to operate the granilith, she was stranded on this seedy little planet. How she longed to be back on Antar, with all its beauty and splendor. Even if it wasn't where her people were originally from, it had become their "home" more than 3 generations ago, when the few surviving members of their species sought refuge there after escaping the Great War.

If she was going to learn how to use the granilith, she would have to have the book decoded. Surely, it held the answers. After all, Nasedo said he had found it in the pod chamber. The Antarians must have left it there for Max and the others. Although, a fat lot of good it would have done them. They couldn't read the Antarian hieroglyphics any better than she could. She had been totally demoralized by that fact, when she had come to the realization that Max wasn't lying, when he said he didn't have a clue what it said. Some King. Can't even read his own culture's ancient writings, and hasn't a clue about how to get them translated.

But she did. She had been formulating a plan for over a month now, and was sure she could get the book translated. She grinned wickedly to herself. It had been a kind stroke of fate, that had landed her as Alex Whitman's lab partner this year. She always knew the boy was smart, but he was turning out to be far more impressive - and valuable - than she ever would have guessed.

Her first insight into his rare genius came the day that she had gone to his house after school, so they could work on organizing some data that they had gathered that day, in an experiment in Chem Lab. She had been amazed at the computer that he had, and the extensive knowledge he displayed. She had begun asking him questions, and he had been more than willing to share his passion for technology with her. After all, his friends were grateful for his expertise in the field, but none of them ever wanted to talk to him about it. Tess had seen the excitement light his eyes, when she showed an interest in his work. And if nothing else, she knew an inroad when she spotted one. He had fairly glowed at her high praise for his knowledge.

With a little encouragement, he had shown her the web site that he was building, and chattered happily about all sorts of technical things. One of which had been this new computer that NMSU at Las Cruces had installed. Supposedly, it was capable of decoding complicated encrypted messages. It was then that she had gotten the idea that perhaps it could be used to decode the book. But she didn't have the first clue about operating a computer, beyond the normal e-mail and surfing the net stuff. She knew that she would need Alex, if she was going to pull it off.

Tess sat there, deep in thought, considering the possibilities. She knew that if she asked Alex to help, he would tell Max about it. And she didn't want Max to know she was looking for a way home. Not yet. Originally, she needed time to accomplish the task that Kivar had commissioned her to do - get pregnant with Max's child. But now that she was pregnant with that royal reject's baby, she was going to have to step things up, and find a way to get Alex to help her. With or without his consent.

More than likely, she realized, it would be without his consent. Even though he wasn't treating her any differently, she had to assume that he knew about her being involved in Liz's kidnapping. After all, Liz certainly wouldn't have hesitated to slander her, the first chance that she got. And Future Zan? If he was under Liz's spell, there was no doubt that he would betray her. There certainly was no love lost between them. He hadn't even tried to contact her, since he took off with her SUV.

And now he was getting all chummy with Max and the others. Pretending to be Max's twin brother. She couldn't believe how well he had managed to transform himself, so that he looked like a teenager again. Even the gray hairs were gone. She wondered what he was up to. She only hoped that he wasn't planning on totally double-crossing Kivar. She had thought that perhaps he was going to try and steal Liz from Max, but then he had told Max he wouldn't. Well, not that Zan's word means anything. He was probably lying through his teeth.

That thought helped ease her tension somewhat. If Zan was still trying to ultimately please Kivar, he certainly wouldn't make an issue of her involvement in the kidnapping. Maybe he could find a way to downplay the whole thing. And no one had approached her, to confront her about the incident. Certainly, that was a good sign, right?

She redirected her thoughts back to the dilemma of how to get Alex to help her with the translation. Obviously, he wouldn't be willing to help her behind Max's back. So that left having to get him to do what she wanted, without his consent. Which meant she had to mind-warp him. That was the easy part. But how was she going to get him to Las Cruces, without arousing the others' suspicions, and drawing the unwanted attention of Alex's parents? She needed to come up with a cover story for Alex to give them. But what?

She sat there for several minutes, trying to think of a solution, but coming up blank. Her tension was escalating, and she knew she needed help. Nicholas. Surely he would help her come up with a plan. She thought back to the last time she had seen him, at the Valenti's a couple days ago. He had been so angry with her at the time, and she had no idea why. He told her not to bother him with her petty problems. But this could hardly be considered petty. Why, if she figured out how to use the granilith, he could go home, too! That would appease him, she hoped.

She grabbed her cell phone out of her backpack, and dialed his number. She struck the steering wheel again in frustration, when she was forwarded to his voicemail. She left him a message to call her as soon as he could. Hanging up, she decided there was nothing else that she could do on that project, until she heard from him.

Which left the baby. What was she going to tell the others, if she started to show, before she found a way home? She could always insist that it was Max's baby, and drive a wedge between Max and Liz that way. If Zan was still after Liz, he wouldn't expose the lie. But surely he would realize then that he was the father, wouldn't he? She wasn't sure that she wanted him to know that. But then again, it would be a fitting punishment, for all the cruel things he had said to her at the Old Soap Factory. She wondered how he would feel to know that he had willingly mated with her not just once, but twice, and had planted his seed in her? Of course, he thought it was that slut Liz, but that didn't change the fact that, despite her appearance at the time, it was she that brought him to the peak of ecstasy, not that disgusting little human.

That thought made her feel warm all over. So close to the goal, but no brass ring. Still, there had been a thrill in mating with Zan that she never felt with all the human boys that she had experimented with. She had thought that he was Max, the first time they made love, and it had been so sweet. Beyond the fact that he was the first male that had ever brought her to the point of climax, it was like the alien king belonged to her, if even just for a few moments in time. And even now, she carried a child that had King Zan's genes. Surely that would be good enough for Kivar. Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him. Zan and Max are genetically the same, so who will ever know?

And so the decision was made. She would return to Antar, and claim that the baby was King Zan's offspring. Kivar would have what he wanted - a puppet for him to control, while Tess would be revered as the Queen, once the genetic testing showed that her child's father was King Zan. It would be assumed that he had chosen her this time around as his bride, and had sent her home to Antar, where she and the child would be cared for. She wasn't sure how Kivar planned to explain Max not coming back with her, but her guess would be that he'd claim the hybrids couldn't survive on their world.

She had no doubt, though, that once he had what he wanted, which was the king's child, he would kill them all. A small part of her found that thought distasteful, when she considered that she would lose King Zan for a second time. But she had to let go of that, because it was obvious that he would never come around to wanting her, and therefore, he was expendable. If only you had loved me - I could have spared your life. If only you had loved me....

Tess angrily swiped at the moisture on her cheeks. She was through crying over that egotistical monarch. A king without a kingdom. Not much future in that, is there Max? she thought haughtily. You will be stuck here on this God-forsaken rock, and I'll be living in splendor in your palace! She chuckled at the irony. He may have been able to deny her his love, but everything else that was his, would be at her disposal. And with that kind of wealth, she was certain to be able to find another man who would take her for his. Maybe even one of her own kind.

The ringing of her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. "Hello?"

"Hey, Tessandra, it's Nicholas," came the curt reply.

"Oh, thank the stars. I need you, Nicholas. Immediately. Where can you meet me?"

On the other end, something softened in Nicholas' eyes. She needed him? Could it be possible that she was going to come around and realize the life that they could share? "Where are you now?" She told him the location, and he instructed her, "Stay right where you are. I'll be there in a flash. Okay?"

"Yeah, I'll be here," she promised, her voice starting to quiver. Damn hormones. "Just hurry, okay? I'm about at the end of my rope here."

"Hang on, love," he told her. "I'm coming."

Love? Did he just call her love? She wasn't used to Nicholas using terms of endearment with her. Or with anyone else, for that matter. "I will," she said softly, and then hung up.

Nicholas was glad that he had decided to hang around Roswell for a little while longer. He was still trying to figure out how to deal with the king, and get his hands on the granilith. But that could wait. His Tessa needed him.

posted on 26-Oct-2001 5:03:12 PM
Part Seventeen

At the end of the school day, Max walked Liz out to Maria's Jetta. Normally he would have offered her a ride himself, but he and the other aliens were meeting with Alex at the Whitman's, to work on Zan's paperwork. On the way to the parking lot, Max pulled Liz behind a huge tree in a secluded area behind the school, and pinning her up against it, began to kiss the breath out of her. Not that she was complaining. Her arms were around him in a flash, pulling and tugging, trying to get him as close as possible. But it wasn't enough. It was never enough. Liz was starting to realize that her resolve about not making love to Max until they were married might not be enough to keep her from giving herself to him. More and more, she hungered to know the secret mysteries of being one with her alien king. No one had ever made her feel this way before, and no one else ever would. She didn't know how she knew this for certain, but she did.

As for Max, he could have sworn, that every time he kissed Liz Parker, his arousal came harder and faster than the time before. It was a growing hunger that was demanding to be recognized - and satisfied. And yet, he knew that Liz didn't want to consummate their relationship outside of marriage. As he pressed himself intimately against her, she gasped, and then moaned out his name against his lips. When he resumed his wild, heated kisses, he received a flash from her. Or at least, that's what he thought it was, at first.

He was shocked - not to mention inflamed - to see a vivid picture of himself and Liz, naked, their bodies entwined in the act of lovemaking. Could this be another one of Liz's fantasies? He hungrily drank in the sight of her sweet, beautiful body. So perfect. And all for him.

As he watched the scene in his mind's eye, he started to be drawn into it, and it was as if he could physically feel everything that happened to fantasy Max. In his mind, he fantasized how he would react in that situation - and to his surprise, that is exactly what Fantasy Max did. Soon, it became evident that he controlled Fantasy Max, and that he and Liz were making love - not with their bodies, but with their minds. Distantly, he could hear Liz's shallow panting, as Fantasy Liz writhed in ecstasy under her lover. Max willed his fantasy self to touch her and love her in ways that he had only ever dreamed of.

His efforts were quickly rewarded, as Fantasy Liz came in an explosive release - and then suddenly Max realized that Liz was convulsing in his arms, her own climax crashing through her. He noticed that while they were caught up in the fantasy, he had lifted her up, fitting her body to his. As he held her hips in his hands, he rocked her over the bulge in his jeans, prolonging her ecstasy, as she continued to whimper his name over and over against his ear. It was more than he could bear, and he moaned out her name, as he shuddered violently with his own fulfillment, such as it was. Not quite what he had hoped for, for their first act of intimacy, but it still left him feeling euphoric. Partly because for once, his love play with Liz wasn't going to leave him in aching need. But mostly because he now knew that she desired to be with him that way, too.

Max held her close, while they came back to themselves. When their breathing returned to normal, Liz asked, "What the heck was that all about, Max?"

"I - I'm not sure. That was your fantasy, right?" he asked timidly.

Liz lowered her lashes, and blushed. "Well, at first, I was just imagining what it would be like to - to - well, you know," she stammered.

Max smiled at her innocence. She was a rare jewel indeed. "Yes, I think I get the picture."

"Right. Well. Anyway, it started out as a fantasy, but then it was like, it came to life or something. I mean, suddenly, I didn't have to imagine what I wanted you to do anymore. The Max in the fantasy took on a will of his own, and started acting independently from any thoughts I might have had."

"Really?" Max asked innocently. "And... how did he do? I mean, was it okay? Did he.... please you?" His voice was shaking from nervousness, wondering now if he had disappointed her, by taking control of his part of the fantasy.

Liz laughed. "Oh yeah, he pleased me all right. I never dreamed...." She bit off the rest of the sentence, and lowered her head, to look at her feet. It was embarrassing to be confessing things like this to Max.

Emboldened by her enthusiastic response, Max wasn't going to let her off the hook that easily. He tenderly took her face in his hands, and lifted it so he could look into her eyes. "Never dreamed what, Liz?"

"I - uh, never mind. It's embarrassing."

"Oh, come on Liz. No secrets. That was almost the most intimate thing that two people can share. I want to know what you were thinking."

She averted her eyes. "It's just... he did things I never thought of before. How can that be possible, if it was coming from my mind?"

Max turned crimson. How could he tell Liz, that he had invaded her fantasy? Yet, he couldn't let her feel all embarrassed and vulnerable, like he knew this big secret about her. She deserved to know that she had witnessed his fantasy, too. Just thinking about telling her was embarrassing, and he knew how she felt. But that was all the more reason that he had to come clean with her.

"Uh, Liz?"

"What, Max?" Her trembling voice was little more than a whisper.

"I think there's, um, something else you should know..."

She looked up at him, her wide eyes reflecting her undisguised curiosity. "What more is there, Max?"

Max blushed at her obvious misunderstanding. "No, not about lovemaking - although I could think of one or two other things...." His face was beet red now, and he cleared his throat, before continuing. "Uh, what I was referring to is, there is something else about that vision you should know...."

"Oh. What?"

He looked in her eyes then, and her breath caught in her throat, at the passionate way he was staring at her. "You need to know that... " He took a big breath, the rest of it coming out in a rush: "that it wasn't just your fantasy, Liz. It was mine too." He waited for her reaction.

"I guess I'm not following you, Max. You mean, that you have fantasies about us too?" She blushed. "I don't know why you think that would surprise me."

"No, you aren't following me here." He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. There was no way around it, he was going to have to be blunt with her. "Okay, here's the thing: when I got the initial 'flash' from you, or whatever it was, I was really surprised by it. But then, as you did things to me in the fantasy... my body could feel them. And so then my mind envisioned how I would react to the stimulus in real life.... and the fantasy me did what I thought. It only took a couple times, before I realized that I controlled the fantasy me. What he did to you... that was me, Liz."

Liz gasped. "You mean - you - that is, uh, oh God, this is so embarrassing."

Max smiled. "No, Liz, it's incredible. Do you realize what this means? Somehow, we actually made love to each other just now - only not with our bodies.... with our minds. I still can't believe it happened."

"So what? Is this like the 'ultimate connection', or something? Why didn't this ever happen to us before?"

"I don't know, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth," he said, with a sensual smirk on his face.

"Max!" she gasped, her face flaming again.

Max chuckled. "I'm sorry, Liz. I guess I'm feeling a little... giddy right now. I feel like in some small way, I finally made you mine. I know how you feel about making love before we're married, but my heart longs to be one with you, and bind you to myself as my lifemate. Married or not, when we join, it will be a lifetime commitment."

"In my heart, I've already made that commitment, Max. You are the only man I want to be with, for the rest of my life. I couldn't have even done what we did today, if that weren't true."

Max held her close to his heart. "Me either. I love you, Liz. I know you probably get sick of hearing it, but I just don't want you to ever forget."

Liz snuggled against his chest. "I'll never get tired of hearing it, Max. Because I love you, too."

They stood there for a moment, both silent. Suddenly Max asked, "So it was good?" He felt a rush of heat in his cheeks again.

Liz smiled, to think that he was worried about pleasing her. Keeping her face buried against his chest, to hide her heated blush, she reassured him, "I never dreamed that it could be so... wonderful. Explosive. For so long, when you would touch me, I would ache to know what it felt like to have you.... inside me. But nothing I imagined ever came close to that."

Max squeezed her tighter, and said, "I know what you mean. I never thought it would feel so... intense. I can't wait to find out what the real thing feels like now," he admitted, before his brain had a chance to filter his thoughts. Liz looked up at him in concern. Max groaned at his own stupidity. "No Liz - I didn't mean that the way it came out. Of course we'll wait. I just meant, that I'm really looking forward to the day when we won't have to wait any more."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Max."

"For what?"

"For making you wait. I'm not doing it to be mean."

"I didn't think you were. I love you, and if you want to wait, we'll find a way, somehow. Although this new development could go a long way toward relieving the tension of waiting..." He winked at her, and she laughed.
Max held her for a moment longer, and then released her. "We need to get you to Maria's car, or you guys are gonna be late for your shift." He stepped away from her, and was about to walk toward the parking lot, when he felt Liz's hand stop him.

"Uh, Max?"

"What is it, Liz?" She blushed, and pointed to the front of his jeans. Now it was Max's turn to blush. "Oh, yeah, right. Thanks." He turned away from her, and waved his hand over the front of himself. "There. All taken care of," he announced. With a smile he added, "I always felt jealous of normal human boys. But I guess I have one advantage that they don't have, huh?" He laughed, when Liz dipped her head to hide her blush. "Come on, I'll walk you to the car now." Putting a possessive arm around her shoulders, he proudly pulled her close, and walked her to the parking lot. She was his Liz, now. They both had as much as pledged themselves to each other. Nothing could take her away from him now.

Just as he was depositing her into Maria's car, she turned back to him. "Wait! I almost forgot! I have something for you - and Zan, too." She reached into the pocket of her backpack, and produced the letters from Future Max. Handing them to him, she said, "I found these in my backpack. Future Max must have put them in there while I was napping on the plane. There's one for each of you."

"Thanks. I'll make sure that Zan gets his." He leaned down and gave her a kiss. "I'll see you later, okay?"

She smiled shyly back at him. "I can't wait."

Max beamed with pleasure. "Me either."

[center]* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *[/center]

Maria took off for the Crashdown, as soon as Liz was in the car. They drove for a couple minutes in silence, and then Maria asked with a smirk, "So. You're clothes are all rumpled because.... why?"

Liz groaned, and buried her face in her hands. "Maria -!"

"Hey, Chica, come on, this is me. Spill!"

"It's nothing, okay? Max and I just took a little detour on the way to the parking lot."

"Mmm," she said with a slight nod. "Must've been some detour, by the looks of things."

Liz's head snapped up. "What do you mean by that?"

"I mean - you look totally ravaged, girl. You're lips are swollen, your hair is tousled.... your clothes are wrinkled in the oddest places," she finished, one eyebrow raised accusingly.

"Oh my God.... is it that obvious, Maria? What am I gonna do?"

"What you are going to do, is 'fess up, missy! What were you and Max doing?" She rolled her eyes. "Like I have to ask. But somehow I get the feeling that this was more than a little high school make-out session. Am I right?"

"Maria, why can't you ever let me have a moment's privacy?" Liz grumbled.

Maria broke into a huge smile. "Because as I told you before, we are like the only two people on the planet that can have these discussions. And if you have had some new kind of alien encounter, I want to know about it! Now what has his royal highness been up to?"

Once Liz resigned herself to the fact that she wasn't going to get off the hook, she was glad to have someone to share with. "Maria, it was the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me!"

"Even more than the flash-induced glowing-hickey-orb-thingy make-out sessions last year?" she asked with astonishment.

"Way past that, Maria."

"How far past?!" she demanded. Liz just smiled, and lowered her eyes in embarrassment. "Oh. my. God! Liz, what happened?!"

Liz was just finishing telling Maria what had happened, when they reached the Crashdown. Maria parked the car out back, and then sat staring at Liz, like she has sprouted two heads. "Maria?"

"Liz, this is too crazy to believe. Are you trying to tell me that you actually felt Max, as if he were really making love to you?"

Liz blushed, as she felt her body responding at the remembrance of what it had felt like. "Yeah, that's what I'm saying."

"What was it like?" Maria's voice was a reverent whisper.

"Words cannot describe it, believe me. I thought I was going to fly apart, and go into orbit."

Maria nodded with a smirk. "Appropriate, I guess."

"Maria!"

Maria chuckled. "Okay, I'll stop. But listen, we gotta get you inside and to your room, before your parents get a load of you looking like you just had a wild tumble in the hay. Not good for parent/child relations. Trust me."

"I'm open to suggestions."

"Just stay behind me when we go in. And here - brush your hair first. No sense in making it any worse than it has to be."

Liz took the brush gratefully, and ran it through her shiny tresses. "How's that?"

"Much better. C'mon, we better get you inside and changed pronto. Our shift starts in 10 minutes!"

Liz was relieved to see that her parents were nowhere around, when they went in the back door and up the stairs. She took one look in the mirror and gasped. She really did look ravaged. She blushed, and Maria laughed. "No dawdling, girlfriend. We got hungry customers to feed. Let's get a move on!" Five minutes later they were in their uniforms, and heading down to the dining area.

posted on 26-Oct-2001 5:03:48 PM
Part Eighteen

Max, Zan, Michael, and Isabel went to the Whitman house from school. Alex got them all drinks, and they convened their meeting up in his room.

Alex had already managed to produce some of the documents that they needed for Zan. "Birth Certificate, Emancipation papers... I got into one of the schools' database, but I had no idea what to put down for classes or grades. That part isn't going to be easy."

Zan frowned. "I really don't know what to tell you, either. I wish I could just take some sort of test, or something, and let them put me where they think I should be."

"A placement test?" Alex said, contemplating the idea. "Yeah, that would be a lot simpler. Only problem is, how are you gonna explain why no school will own up to you having been there?"

"What if you made it look like he had attended one of the schools in NY, but somehow his grades got wiped out of the computer?" Michael suggested.

Alex grinned. Michael, the hood. Always thinking of the underhanded ways to get things done. "That just might work."

"But what about teachers? The principal?" Isabel interjected. "No one is going to remember Zan, because he was never there."

"I guess that's a chance we'll have to take," Max said grimly. "I know it's a risk, but I don't see any other way -"

"What if," Isabel continued on, "Zan claims to have been homeschooled? I mean, technically, he was, right?"

"Right," Max agreed. His mind start melding the two ideas together. "If the school in New York somehow lost his homeschool records, and didn't have any data to go by, then Roswell High would have to give him a test. Sounds like a plan. Alex - maybe instead of producing a transcript, give Zan a letter from the school, explaining that he was homeschooled, and about the lost records. Say they are working on trying to recover them, but they have no idea how long that might take. They'll be in touch, as soon as they have anything, etc., etc."

"Okay. I'll just have to find out what their letterhead looks like. It might take a few days."

"Well, do the best you can. We can't take too long, though, without it looking suspicious."

"I'm on it, chief," Alex said with a grin.

Max rolled his eyes playfully. "When the letter comes, maybe Zan can suggest to Principal Glover that he be allowed to take some sort of placement tests. Zan? Does that seem doable?"

"Yeah, no problem. I'll muddle through somehow."

"Great. Now, as long as we're all here, there's something that we need to talk to you about, Alex. It's about that Antarian book that Tess has. I have it on good authority that you can translate it."

Alex's eye bulged. "I can what?!"

"In the other timeline that we managed to abort, Tess mind-warped you, and took you to NMSU at Las Cruces. They have some sort of computer there that -"

"Can decode encrypted messages," Alex finished for him, nodding. "Yeah, I remember telling Tess about that just a few weeks ago. I was just so ecstatic, thinking that someone else was actually interested in hearing me babble about computers." He threw his pen against the desk. "What a fool I was!"

"Alex, don't be so hard on yourself," Isabel said gently, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. "She fooled us all. The trick now is, to let her keep on thinking that we trust her, until we can find out just what she is up to. We know she is connected to Kivar somehow, but we don't know how. Her two main goals are to get pregnant with Max's child, and to get that book translated, so she can use the granilith to get home. Beyond that, we're clueless."

Zan's eyes widened when he heard that. Tess wants to get pregnant with Max's baby? He thought back to earlier that morning.... he had been dreaming about making love to Ava, he woke up to find Liz - no, not Liz - someone who looked like Liz, making love to him... it was like he knew her, but he didn't know her... as all the images spun through his mind, one thought rose above the clamor of the memories: could it have been Tess that came to his room, thinking that he was Max? Could she have mind-warped him into thinking that he was with Liz? It was a place to start looking, anyway.

Max asserted his authority, to regain control of the conversation. "Let's stick to the main issue here. We need to get that book away from Tess, and have it translated, before she finds out what's in it. I don't want to give her the upper hand again. She's messed with us too much already, and it has to stop."

"So, have you talked to Valenti, Maxwell? Has he seen the book?" Michael, as usual, wanted less talk, more action.

"No, he hasn't seen it. But that doesn't mean that it isn't there. He hadn't had a chance to go through her things when I talked to him last. But I somehow doubt she would leave it lying around in plain sight. She probably took it and hid it somewhere."

"Any idea where she might have stashed it?" Michael pressed.

"I can think of a couple places. But Roswell is a big town, and with her powers, she could hide it anywhere."

"Right. So. Where do we start?"

"I can get a bathroom pass during English Lit tomorrow," Max thought aloud. "Tess' locker is right in that hallway. If she takes it with her to school, she certainly wouldn't be carrying it around to her classes. I'll do a quick search of her locker."

"Okay - and I'm the obvious choice to skip school to go through her stuff at home," Michael volunteered. That elicited a round of chuckles.

"You can also go out and check the pod chamber," Max instructed.

"What do you want me to do?" Isabel asked.

"Try not to pull away from her," Max suggested. "I know it's going to be hard, with what you know about her, but if you can keep the lines of communication open with her, you never know what might slip out. Especially if she starts to feel cornered."

"Cornered? Maxwell, how do you plan on making a viper feel cornered, without having it strike out at you?" Michael's face was unusually grave with concern. He had a gut feeling that this whole Tess business could very well blow up in their faces.

"That's where Zan comes in," Max announced.

"Me? What can I possibly do? She doesn't even know me - I'd say I'm pretty useless in this situation."

"Ah, but you underestimate yourself, dear brother," Max said with a grin. "You seem to forget - your future self was in cahoots with her just a few days ago, in an attempt to break up my relationship with Liz. As far as Tess knows, he is still around."

"I don't see wha- wait a minute. You want me to impersonate my older self?" Max raised his eyebrows and nodded. "What good could that possibly do?"

"Because if she is going to confide in anyone, it will be 'Future Zan'. After all, they were working on a common goal. Granted, he ran off with the prisoner, a move that probably didn't endear him to her, but if you can convince her that you decided to steal Liz away from me, she will have to accept that as a reasonable plan to break Liz and me up. It's going to require you working closely together with Liz. Do you think that you can handle that?" Max's look told Zan that if he crossed the line with Liz, he'd regret it.

Zan met the challenge in Max's eyes. "I think that I can manage. What exactly is it that you want me to do?" he asked.

"Well, Tess saw me with Liz today in school. So she knows that Liz and I are together. You're going to have to 'capture' Liz again - pretend to be mad at her, that she would go back to me, after being with you. This will give Tess the idea that you decided to use an alternate ploy to break Liz and me up. We'll have to set something up, to make sure Tess sees you with her, without letting her know that you know she is watching you. You can impersonate your future self, since you can alter your appearance much more than I can. We'll have to convince her that Future Zan is the one that is masquerading as my twin brother, and not the present day Zan. Then, at school, you and I can switch identities. I can take over being Future Zan, when he is supposed to look like me."

"And I play the jealous ex-boyfriend?"

Max smiled. "Good guess. Now, all we have to do is get Liz to agree."

"That may not be so easy, given the way you have been treating her lately. She may be a little gun-shy about spending time with me. Especially if she has to act as though she is falling for me."

"She'll do it. I'll just have to.... reassure her that I won't flip out. It won't be so bad. Once Future Zan turns back into the Max look-alike, I'll be the one spending all his time with her. The worst of this is going to be explaining to her parents and mine why she is suddenly dating you."

"That shouldn't be too hard for them to understand," Zan shot back with a roguish smirk.

Max snorted. "Yeah - right. I forget what a stud-muffin you are."

Zan laughed. "Glad to see you are finally starting to accept the way things are, brother." Max punched him playfully in the arm. "Ooww!" Zan whined. "You hurt me! I'm gonna tell Mommy!" Max looked at him like he'd lost his mind. "Hey," Zan explained with an impish grin, "I'm just making up for all those years that I didn't get to tattle on you!" That earned a round of snickers from the peanut gallery.

"You're deranged, Zan," Max declared.

"Yeah - and we're both cut from the same DNA - so what does that say about you?" More cheers and howls from the audience.

Max just laughed. Holding up his hands, he surrendered. "Okay, okay - you win!"

Zan lifted his fists above his head in a victory dance. "Whooo!"

The merriment was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. Alex ran downstairs and answered it, since his folks weren't home, and was surprised to see Kyle standing on his doorstep. "Kyle! What brings you by?"

"I - uh... is Max here?"

Alex nodded. "Hail, hail, the gang's all here. Wanna join the party?"

Kyle's mouth turned up at the corners in a parody of a smile. "Not really, but it's a necessary evil in this case, I believe."

Alex's face grew serious at Kyle's countenance. Obviously the guy had something on his mind. "Uh - come on in, then. We're upstairs in my room."

Kyle shut the door behind himself. "Lead on."

The room fell silent when a grim-faced Kyle entered. "Kyle? Is something the matter?" Max asked.

"You mean other than the fact that I have an evil mind-warping hell beast living in my house?"

Max closed his eyes in regret. "Objections noted, and understood. Yes, besides that."

"I just thought that you should know that Tess has been AWOL ever since your twin made his appearance in Chem Lab this morning. She never went to the nurse's office like she said she was going to, her SUV wasn't in the parking lot at lunch, and Dad, who has been home all day, hasn't seen her either. Now, I don't know where she went, but I can tell you, she's up to something. I feel it all the way to my bones."

"Damn," Max muttered under his breath. "I wish I knew why she took off like that. It isn't like her. I would have thought she would want to find why Zan came here from New York, and is posing as my brother."

"Maybe she already thinks that he is Future Zan," Michael suggested. "If that's the case, it will make convincing her of the rest a lot easier."

"I don't know for sure why she left," Alex spoke up, "but she was acting really weird, right before she did. She was trying to be subtle, but she was definitely pumping me for information, although what the significance of it was, I have no idea."

Max's scowled in concentration. "What did she say?"

"Well, she actually was curious about where Zan was going to be staying. Mentioned that there isn't a spare room at your house, wondered where would Zan be sleeping.... I told her that you guys were going to be bunking together. Then she wondered where he had slept last night - I told her that you had gone to Michael's, and that Zan had the bed all to himself. That's when she turned white as a sheet, and left to go to the nurse's office."

Zan's stomach was tied in knots. He didn't want to accept where the clues were pointing to, regarding his middle of the night visitor. Tess. He shuddered to think that he had been intimately joined with someone as ruthless and unprincipled as he knew her to be. She wanted nothing more than to betray them into the hands of their enemy, and it was looking more and more like he had mated with her - not once, but twice. How he prayed to God that he was wrong in this.

Being that he wasn't privy to the events that had taken place in his own room, Max was at a loss to make any sense of it. "Well, I'm sure we'll find out what her problem is, sooner or later - whether we want to or not." He turned to Kyle. "I was wondering if you had seen a small leather bound book with an alien symbol on the front lying around anywhere? Your dad hasn't seen it, but I thought maybe, since she's using your room and all... well, that you might have seen it."

"Nope, can't say as I have. But then, I tend to go in there just long enough to grab my clothes and leave. She's turned the place into a freakin' shrine in your honor. Gives me the creeps."

Max shuddered to hear that news. Tess was obviously taking this obsession thing a big far. "Well, if you happen to see it, you have to take it, and get it to us."

"Ex- cuse me? I have to take it? What are you now - like the head of the Roswell Gestapo? Just who do you think you are, issuing me orders?"

"I think I'm the guy that is trying to save Alex's life here, if you must know," Max snapped back. "She is hell-bent that she is going to get Alex to translate that book. And she will mind-warp him to do it. Eventually, he will weaken from being mind-warped so much, and she'll kill him. And just so you know," Max continued, he pointed glare emphasizing his next words, "in the other time line, you witnessed her murdering him - and then carried the body out to her car for her. All the while being mind-warped, of course."

"That evil bitch," Kyle muttered. "Okay. If I see it, it's yours."

Max smiled with satisfaction. "Somehow, I knew you were gonna say that."

"Yeah, well don't get too cocky, Senor Presidente. I'm not doing this to help the alien cause here. This is about keeping the human contingency of the 'I Know an Alien Club' alive."

"So I figured."

"Good. Just so there aren't any misconceptions between us."

"Not a one. Now," Max forged ahead, wanting to get away from Kyle's condescension, "I suggest we all keep our eyes and ears peeled for anything unusual. We have no idea what she is planning, and we need to be prepared at all times. It wouldn't hurt to keep your cell phones with you at all times, in case you need to contact someone for help. Any questions?" Everyone just shook their heads in response. "All right, then. You all now what to do. We may as well adjourn this meeting. We need to get home. Mom had to help Dad at the office today, so we are on KP duty for dinner." He grinned. "We may actually be able to enjoy a meal for a change." A round of snickers echoed off the walls, as everyone started piling out the door.
posted on 28-Oct-2001 7:50:24 PM
Part Nineteen

Maria and Liz burst into the dining room, breathless from rushing to get punched in to work on time. As they came through the swinging door from the back, they practically ran into Dana.

"Hey, Liz!" Dana greeted her with a smile. "How was school?"

"Oh - um, pretty good, actually," Liz said, blushing as her mind traveled back to her time with Max by the tree.

Dana noticed the blush, and the glow that Liz had about her. She was pretty sure something had happened between her and Max. "That's good," she acknowledged, with a mysterious smile. "Say listen - do you mind if I go upstairs and take a shower and a nap? I was thinking about going out to the late show at the movies tonight. I figured that would give you some quiet time to do your homework - or whatever it is you do in the evenings after work..." she said with a wink.

"Uh, yeah, that would be okay," Liz answered, trying not to look too happy about Dana being gone. She didn't want her to feel unwelcome, but it would be nice to have the privacy, when Max came by. He had told her he'd see her later, and she didn't know what was on his mind, but she sure knew what was on hers. And privacy would be a very good thing.

"Great," Dana said, breaking her out of her thoughts. "I'll just head up now, then. Oh by the way - your parents left for Albuquerque this afternoon, to go to some big restaurant equipment supply place, looking for a new milkshake machine. Your dad said that the old one is just about beyond repair. Anyway, they decided to make it an overnight, so they won't be home until tomorrow. So you get to lock the place up." She smiled. "Isn't responsibility grand?" she teased.

"Yeah, just wonderful," Liz agreed, rolling her eyes. "So listen - you can come down and get something to eat, before you go to the movies, if you like."

"Thanks, Liz. I really appreciate all the kindness your family has shown me."

"No problem. I'll see you later." Dana nodded and left to go upstairs.

As Maria and Liz stood staring at Dana's retreating form, Maria said, "Liz, I don't know how to say this, but there is just something about that girl."

"Yeah, Maria, I know."

A male voice bellowed across the room. "Hey! You girls workin', or just decoratin' the place! I'm gettin' hungry over here!"

Maria rolled her eyes at Liz. "C'mon, Chica, our public awaits."

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

When Max, Isabel, and Zan got home, there was a note from Diane on the kitchen table, reminding them to start dinner. She also instructed Max to strip the sheets off his bed, explaining that the new beds for their room had been delivered that morning, and that they could set them up after dinner.

"Zan, why don't you help Iz with dinner, while I go get the sheets?" Max offered. Zan nodded in agreement. Isabel started showing him around the kitchen, as Max left for his room.

When he entered the bedroom, a strange scent greeted him. It was so familiar - Tess? When the hell had she been in his room? Frowning, he dumped his books on the desk, and crossed to the bed. He grabbed the pillow, to take the case off it, when he was assailed by an image of himself and Liz in the throes of passion upon his bed. No - not him. Zan! And the most painful thing was - she was in a position of control. There was no way it could be mistaken that Zan was forcing her in any way. The flash ended, and Max, reeling with grief, stumbled backwards, hitting the edge of his desk. The lamp fell to the floor with a crash, and Max slumped down against the wall, too weak to stand. "Liz, nooooo...." he wailed softly. Wrapping his arms around his legs, he drew his knees up tight to his chest, and buried his face in them.

Zan and Isabel heard the crash of the lamp, followed by a thud, and immediately ran to Max's room to see what had happened. They found him curled up on the floor, sobbing like a child. "Oh my God, MAX!" Isabel cried out, scared to death that something had happened to her brother. She crossed the room in quick strides, falling to her knees beside him. "Max! What's wrong? What happened?" Her intake of breath was audible, when he lifted his tortured, tear-streaked face to look at her. His eyes were filled with misery, and distant. "Max? Tell me what's going on! Please!"

"I - it was Liz," he mumbled. "A- and Zan!" His eyes were accusing, as they landed on his brother, who was now also kneeling in front of him. "How could you? I trusted you - well, sort of. I brought you here, shared my life, my family, my home.... and this is how you repay me? God, I've been such a fool!"

"Max, what are you talking about?" Zan was confused by Max's ramblings.

"I saw it, Zan. When I picked up the pillow, I saw it. You - and Liz - she was here! She must have come here after I left her last night! How could she do that to me? She told me she loved me!"

Zan closed his eyes tightly, and grimaced to think about the hell Max must be going through. "Max, you have to listen to me. Things aren't what they seem."

"You know, you keep telling me that, and I keep believing you. And then the next thing that happens is worse than the last. Is this some bizarre plan to drive me insane?" he hollered.

Zan gently squeezed Max's forearm, where it was still wrapped around his knees. "No, this is no evil plot to wear you down. And I might as well tell you all of it, before you let your imagination go running off wild again. God help me, but Liz is gonna kill me."

"Why? Because she wants to keep stringing me along?"

"No! Listen, I'm not going to lie to you - what you saw in that flash did happen. But it wasn't Liz. That was why I was so mad at her this morning, remember? Because I thought that she had come to me, and then was going to act like none of it had happened, and go trotting right back into your arms. It pissed me off. I know I should have known better - should have known that Liz would never betray you like that. And I think on some level I did. But I was groggy, when I woke up to discover whoever it was on top of me, and I couldn't think clearly. Nothing felt right at the time, but I couldn't reconcile that fact with what I was seeing with my own two eyes. Even when I realized whoever it was wasn't a virgin, I still didn't put it together. Guess it's been so long, that I was thinking with my..." He stopped abruptly and blushed, remembering that Isabel was in the room. "Well anyway, when you found Liz and me in that empty classroom, I had just confronted her about what happened, and it was then that I knew for certain that it hadn't been her at all."

Max swiped at the remnants of his tears. "Why didn't you guys just tell me this, when I asked what you were doing?"

"Oh please, Max. Will you get a clue? Take an inventory of your actions around that poor girl lately. Every time I turn around, you are accusing her of something. She was scared silly to tell you, until we had an idea of what happened, and proof as well, for fear that you would shut her out of your life completely, without taking time to listen. You just don't get it, do you? That girl adores you. But if you don't learn to trust her, she is never going to trust you enough to share the difficult things she is facing. Is that the kind of relationship you want with her?"

"No," Max whispered. "But I can't seem to help myself lately. I feel so possessive of her, and I can't seem to stop seeing you as some sort of threat. If I lose her, Zan, I might as well cut out my heart. She is the love of my life, and without her...." The bleakness in his eyes told the rest of the story.

"You might be interested to know, that she said basically the same thing about you."

"She did?" His look was hopeful, but guarded.

"Yeah. Don't screw this up, Max. Most people live their whole lives, and never find a love like the two of you share. Do you really want to throw it away?"

"Of course not. It's just -" Max stopped, not sure what else to say. He hardly recognized himself these days.

"Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on?" Isabel demanded, since there was finally a lull in the conversation.

Zan sighed wearily. "Max went to Michael's to spend the night," he explained. "Early this morning, I was asleep on the bed, and I was having a very, um, sensual dream, shall we say? Next thing I know, I'm waking up, and Liz is on top of me, making love to me."

Isabel's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a gasp. "Oh my God...." she mumbled into her hand.

"My reaction exactly. Anyway, at school, I saw her with Max, all lovey-dovey, and I got upset. I confronted her about it, and found out that it wasn't really her. So we decided that we need to figure out who it was."

Isabel thought for a minute. "Well, it isn't really hard to figure out, is it?" She looked from Max, to Zan, and back to Max.

"Tess?" Max asked.

"That's what I'm thinking," Zan agreed. "When I heard that she needed to get pregnant with your child - and then she got so upset when she saw me in Chem lab... it fits, doesn't it? I figure she thought that she was with you, and got the surprise of her life. Of course, we have no proof -"

"Yes, we do," Max corrected him, all the pieces suddenly falling into place.

"Max? What do you mean?" Isabel was looking at Max with concern.

"When I came into the room, I knew she had been here."

Zan stared at Max in disbelief. "How did you know?"

"Her scent. The air is saturated with it."

"Her.... scent?" Isabel was stunned. "Max? What do you mean her scent?"

"Of course!" Zan exclaimed, ignoring Isabel's question. "I knew that there was something bothering me about the whole thing last night - well, besides that fact that it was so incredibly disappointing. I mean, I figured that making love with Liz would be like -" The last of his words died on his tongue, when he saw the daggers in Max's eyes. "Uh, sorry. Like I was saying, I was so sleepy, that I couldn't figure out what was wrong. But that's it. It was her scent. I should have known from that, that it wasn't Liz."

"Will one of you kindly answer my question!" Isabel shrieked. "What are you talking about?"

"Her scent, Iz," Max repeated, rather annoyed that she should be asking such a ridiculous question. "You know? The way she smells? Surely you must be able to distinguish one man from another, by the way he smells?"

Isabel looked really confused. "I, uh - this must be some sort of guy thing," she said haltingly. "I've never noticed people smelling any particular way - well, except when they really need a bath," she amended. Zan and Max chuckled. "So, you really can smell her?"

Max nodded. "Much as I wish I couldn't. But under the circumstances, I'd say it's a relief."

"Speak for yourself," Zan grumbled. "Do you have any idea of what this means to me?"

Max gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm really sorry that it had to happen to you, but it's better that it was you than me."

"Gee, thanks, Max. You're all heart."

"No, I didn't mean it to sound like that. What I'm trying to say is, if she slept with me, and got pregnant, she would have what she wanted - my heir in her womb. And under no circumstances can I allow that to happen."

Zan blanched at the thought of Tess pregnant.

Max saw the blood visibly drain from his face. "Zan? What is it?"

"What if - if she's - that is... what if she's pregnant with my child? My God, Max, what will I do?"

"I'm taking that to mean that you didn't use anything to prevent pregnancy?"

"I was half asleep, damn it! What do you think?" Zan growled.

"Settle down, soldier. I wasn't making accusations. Let's just say we'll cross that bridge if we come to it, shall we? No sense in borrowing trouble."

Zan breathed a heavy sigh. "You're right. Maybe I'll get lucky."

"Let's hope. And right now, I need to be more alert. If she would sneak in here in the middle of the night and pull a stunt like this, there's no telling how far she'll go."

The realization of what Tess was up to made Isabel nervous. "Max - if she is this determined to get pregnant now, that means that she'll be needing to get that book translated sooner than we anticipated. Alex could be in real danger. We have to find a way to protect him."

"And we need to get Alex started on that translation asap," Zan added. "Which means, we gotta get busy and find that book."

Max nodded. "We're all in agreement on that. So we start our searches tomorrow. We can't waste any more time. Zan - we'll have to get together with Liz tonight, and work out the details of our plan. Hopefully even tonight, we'll be able to send you to Tess' house to start things rolling." He took a deep breath. "But right now, we better get to our chores, before Mom and Dad get home. The last thing we need is to antagonize them about anything right now. We can't risk having our movements restricted until this is over." They all got up then, and tended to the tasks their mother had left for them.
posted on 30-Oct-2001 10:57:58 PM
Part Twenty

Tess had finished outlining her plan to have Alex translate the book, and was waiting for Nicholas' reaction. She needed him on her side, so that he could help her figure out how to cover her tracks, once she abducted Alex.

Nicholas' look was probing, as he spoke. "So tell me, Tessandra, what the urgency is about having this book translated? You have been in possession of it for the last year, and now, all of a sudden, you are under some time constraint. What are you not telling me?"

Tess looked away, embarrassed for Nicholas to know the truth. If she had been successful in securing Max's child within her, she would have been glowing with her accomplishment. But at the moment, she felt like a complete failure. And no one must ever know that it was not Max's child that she carried, but rather Zan's.

"I - I just want to get off this horrid planet, and go back to Antar. I miss my home, my family - I feel like I have been exiled! I came here in hopes of finding the new king more amenable to the idea of taking me for his queen, but I see now that it won't happen. So there is no reason for me to stick around. And what about you? Your husk is dying - don't you want to go back to Antar as well? If we learn how to use the granilith, we can both go home."

Nicholas was studying her as she spoke. She was obviously nervous, and highly agitated. He knew she wasn't telling him the whole truth. He could mind-rape her, and find out what she was hiding, but he couldn't bring himself to hurt his beautiful Tessa. But how he wished that she would trust him.

Taking a step closer to her, he reached out to stroke the side of her face. "And what then, Tessa? What will we do when we return home?"

Tess looked up at him, her crystal blue eyes wide with surprise. Why was he being so... tender with her? As if he had feelings for her? She swallowed down the nervous lump in her throat. "We, um, that is I... I guess I'll just try to pick up the pieces of my life. Although it won't be easy. Any friends I had will have grown older, and will probably want nothing to do with me."

His fingers grazed along her jaw line, and he wished that he could replace them with his lips, his tongue.... "True, they will be older. But that doesn't mean none of them will want to be your friend any more."

Tess' eyes drifted shut, as Nicholas' fingers worked a strange kind of hypnotic magic on her. The sensuality of it was stirring a strange, wondrous longing in her. "Do - do you really think so?" she asked breathlessly.

He stepped even closer to her, and let her feel the heat radiating from his body. He was on fire for her. "I'm quite sure of it," he assured her, his voice growing husky with rising passion. "Perhaps even - you might find love there?" He knew that he was in danger of exposing his true feelings to her, but in the heat of his desire, he threw all caution to the wind. After all, he had been harboring feelings for her all these years, and she had yet to notice. If he told her how he felt, and she rejected him, he'd be no worse off than he was now, silently suffering because she didn't even know how much he loved her.

Tess squeezed her eyes shut against the pain that his words caused. Tears began to seep out from under her lashes, trickling down to where Nicholas' hand gently cupped her cheek. "Tessa? Dear One, what is the matter? Why are you so sad? If you want to go back to Antar, some way, we will accomplish it -"

"No, it's not that," she corrected him. "I know that we will go home. What saddens me is that there is no way any man would love me now. Not after what I have done."

Nicholas froze. What could be so awful, that she was sure no man could overlook? That he could not overlook? His heart ached to tell her that everything would be all right, but he suddenly had a strange sense of foreboding. He had to know.... "Tessa? What have you done?"

She turned her face in shame. "I - I -" She swallowed hard. Nicholas was the one friend she had left in all the universe. If she told him, and he turned away from her now....

Nicholas took her face in his hands, and turned her head to face him once again. "Please, Tessa, tell me what has you so troubled. Perhaps I can help."

Tess shook her head. "There is no help for it now. I allowed my foolish desire for Zan to cloud my judgment. It was that lack of sense that caused me to agree to Kivar's plan, and now -" She broke off on a sob.

Nicholas gathered her in his arms, holding her head close to his heart. "Oh, my love, please don't cry. Whatever it is, let's work through it together..."

Through her sobs, she choked out, "You don't understand. It's too late. I'm ruined. I'm pregnant with Zan's child." She knew that he would assume it was King Zan that she referred to. She wasn't really lying, she told herself. She was just being somewhat ambiguous....

Nicholas released her abruptly, stepping back from her. She was pregnant with the King's child? How could this be? "Tessa, what are you saying? You actually got him to sleep with you? To father your child?" Tess nodded, not looking at him, for fear of what she would see on his face. "I thought you said that he wanted nothing to do with you?"

"He doesn't," she sniffed. "I took the form of the woman that he loves, and stole into his room last night, and convinced him to make love to me. I was going to use it to drive a wedge between him and that wretched thing, but it backfired on me. I need to get out of here!" she wailed. "The pain and humiliation are more than I can bear! Please, Nicholas, help me get back home."

It was then that she finally looked at him. His eyes were cold, his face lacking any expression. Blandly, he asked, "What does Kivar have to do with all of this?"

"He wished for me to bear the King's child, and return to Antar with it. With the birth of the child, our houses will be forever linked, and Kivar will have a legitimate claim to the throne, until the heir is old enough to rule."

"I'll kill the bastard," Nicholas muttered.

Tess' eyes widened in shock. "Kill Kivar? Whatever for? Nicholas, what's the matter?"

Feeling as though someone had run him through with a knife, Nicholas saw no reason to continue hiding what he had felt all these years. With an air of resignation, he told her, "Since we were young, Tessa, I've been in love with you. Even though we are of different species, there was a wildness about you that captured my heart. I kept hoping that if I gave you enough time, eventually you would grow to have those feelings for me as well."

"Y- you love me?" she whispered.

"For as long as I can remember," he answered, a trace of softness creeping back into his voice.

"Then when we return to Antar, we -"

"No, Tessa! It can never be. As much as it pains me to say this, what I feel for you is no longer an issue."

"You hate me for this, don't you? This is just what I was afraid of! No one will ever be able to let me move past this!"

Nicholas sighed, regret filling his heart. "No, my Dear One, I don't hate you. Far from it. My love for you is strong enough to overlook an error in judgment on your part. My feelings for you, however, no longer matter. All these years, I held out hope that perhaps you and I could someday build a life together, despite the fact that you are a princess of a displaced people, and I, a commoner among my own. But now I see that I was deluding myself. Your obsession with the Antarian king has allowed you to do this thing, which in turn has ensnared you into a life that I can have no part of."

Tess stared at him in disbelief. "What are you talking about? Why should my bearing Zan's child have anything to do with our being together?"

"Think about it, Tessandra," he said impatiently. "If you bear the king's first child - an heir - when you return to Antar, you will be considered the queen mother. Max will not be there to refute the story that Kivar will undoubtedly circulate, that the king chose you for his bride, and sent you back with his child. Now, while I might have been able to rise above my station in life, and marry you as a displaced princess, there is no way that the Antarian citizens will allow their Queen to marry a commoner. Especially not if they believe you to be wedded to their king!"

Tess gasped. She had never considered that before. If she were the Queen, she would be forced to spend her days alone, never being allowed to marry. Suddenly, she wanted to strangle Kivar. Of course, it wasn't really the king's child she was carrying. She wondered briefly if she should confess the truth to Nicholas. Then she had a thought. "While it is true, that I would not be allowed to marry, that doesn't mean that we couldn't -"

"What?!" Nicholas roared. "Have an affair? What would I be, Tessandra? Your concubine? A kept man? Would you put me up in a nice house, hire servants for me, dress me in the finest clothes? And in exchange for what? Secret trysts? Nights filled with wild sex?" He stopped his tirade for a moment, mulling that last one over. Shaking off the passion induced haze that was threatening to take over his higher functions, he continued. "As appealing as that might sound, I have my dignity to think of, Tessa. I will not lower myself to being seen by the masses as the Queen's plaything. I have more self-respect than that."

Tess lowered her eyes in shame. "I - I didn't mean it like that. I'm sorry."

Nicholas calmed. "I know you didn't. But you weren't thinking clearly either. I had to make you see the impossibility of what you were suggesting."

She lifted her tear-filled eyes to him, her heart breaking for what they might have had together. "Why, Nicholas? Why did you never tell me how you felt? If you had told me this even yesterday -" She broke down in another wracking sob. She wanted all the things that being the Queen could offer her - but the price would be forsaking a relationship with the man that loved her, in spite of it all. Damn, life just wasn't fair!

Moved by compassion for her, Nicholas once again drew her into his embrace. "I'm so sorry, Tessa. You're right. I should have told you sooner, but I wanted you to get over this obsession with the king, before I approached you. I wanted you to be able to freely love me, with no shadow of another love looming over us. I shouldn't have waited, and now it's too late. Can you forgive me?"

Tess laughed bitterly through her tears. "Can I forgive you? After all I've done, you can stand there and ask me that? It's myself I can't forgive." She thought again about telling him the truth. It was a difficult choice, between the power and prestige she had always wanted, and the love she had never known. It would take some careful consideration, before she could decide. Lifting her tear-streaked face, she asked, "So. You'll help me with this Alex situation?"

Nicholas kissed the tears from her cheeks. "Yes, Tessandra, I'll help you. In fact, I already have an idea how we can explain his absence.....

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

"A little longer." Pause. "Yeah, that's good. Now, just a few gray streaks along the side here... mmmhmm, that's it. Pull the front into a ponytail kind of thingy on the back of your head. Um.. you need to have a few locks of it haphazardly loose around your face. Whoa! Not that many! That's better. Oh! I almost forgot the facial hair - kind of a scruffy 3 day growth or so.... " A reprimanding look. "You can not convince me you look like a grizzly bear after not shaving for three days." Rolling of eyes. "Talk about delusional." Laughter. "All right, that's more believable. Now the clothes. Sleek black leather pants. Perfect. Next... a black T-shirt, but cut the sleeves off just below the shoulder. No - a little more raggy looking... that'll do. Okay, now a leather vest to go over it. Oh, sorry! I meant like a jacket kind of vest. Right, you've got it. Well, boys, I'd say we've got our man."

Liz stood back and surveyed Zan's handiwork, as he assessed his image in the mirror hanging on her bedroom wall. He looked just like Future Zan. Zan and Max had showed up later that evening, after her shift, and explained the whole plan to extract information from Tess. She had been apprehensive at first, as Zan had predicted, but Max successfully convinced her to play along with them. Once they explained that it had been Tess that had snuck into the room and mated with Zan, pretending to be Liz, Liz was furious, and quickly agreed to assist them. The blonde hussy had to be stopped.

Max came up behind Liz, and wrapped his arms around her from behind, all three of their eyes meeting in the mirror. "So - you know what you have to do, right?" Max asked Zan.

"Yeah. Phase one is to track the Tess monster down, and convince her that I'm still working on Kivar's plan. Just had to take an alternate route to getting to the goal. When she berates me, citing the whole Max and Liz kissy-face in the hall business, I'll just tell her it is a minor setback. Perhaps I will convince her that by 14 years from now, I have developed some mild mind-warping powers of my own, and since Liz won't come willingly to me, I'll mind warp her." He smirked at the idea. "Just borrowing a page from her book of tricks."

"What if she demands to see you demonstrate your mind-warping powers on someone else?" Max wanted to know.

"I'll just have to stress that it is a weak power for me, and that I can't be wasting it. I need to save all my ability to focus on Liz."

"Okay, good. The rest from there should be a piece of cake. We can show up to school, with Liz all starry eyed over... you. Which will really be me. Hopefully we won't have to continue this charade very long. If we're lucky, we won't even have to tell our parents anything's different. And if it drags on, maybe we'll write it off in the end as some sort of prank on our friends or something. I don't know. But let's just try and deal with this as quickly as we can."

"Don't worry, Max, I will. I don't relish the idea of spending any more time with that shrew than I have to. Ava bothered me enough. But something about Tess freezes me right to the core."

"I know what you mean. I can't believe I was stupid enough to trust her at all."

Liz broke into the conversation. "Listen, guys, the important thing is that we are on to her. What's in the past, is in the past. We need to look forward, and secure your safety for the future. Which means you -" Liz poked her finger in Zan's chest, "you need to get out there, and find the little tramp, before she can stir up any more trouble."

Zan gave her a smart salute, clicking his heels, then chuckled. "Yes ma'am! I'm outta here!" He ducked out her window, and Liz and Max watched, as he disappeared over the balcony wall.

"So." Max looked away from Liz bashfully.

"Yeah. So." Liz replied, a smirk on her face. She thought it was so adorable that Max was actually shy with her, after what had happened earlier.

"Liz, about earlier -"

"Yes?"

"I, uh, just wanted to make sure that you know that it wasn't just about... sex for me. I mean, I certainly had no intention of making love to you, when I pulled you behind that tree. I just wanted to be with you, you know? Hold you, kiss you, let you know how much I love you...."

Her heart melted at his confession. "Max, I understand that." She saw his doubtful look. "Really! I do! I mean, you have always been a perfect gentleman. I've never felt pressured by you to do something I wasn't ready for."

He smiled at her tenderly. "I'm so glad you feel that way. Because I never -" Max's words were abruptly cut off, as Liz threw her arms around his neck, and hungrily attacked his lips. He stiffened at first, wondering what was going on, but when her tongue caressed his bottom lip, he groaned, and gave himself up to the kiss.

Maintaining their kiss, Liz slowly led Max over to the bed, and pulled him down, so that he was laying on top of her. Max managed to break the contact between their lips and ask, "What about your parents? They'd kill us, if they found us like this."

"Gone overnight to Albuquerque," she said as she placed kisses all over his face.

"And Dana?"

"At the late show at the movie theater. Won't be back for another hour yet." Her lips went to his neck, where she gently kissed and sucked his sensitive flesh. She smiled against his skin, when she felt a shudder run the length of his body. "Any more objections, Mr. Evans? Or will you shut up and kiss me now?"

That was all the invitation that Max needed, and his lips descended to hers, threatening to devour her in his passion. As their kiss heated, so did the rest of their bodies. Liz purposely began to fantasize about making love to Max, hoping that a connection would open between them, like they had experienced earlier. A moment later, she felt the vibration of Max's moan in her mouth, as he began to rub himself rhythmically against her, in an imitation of the intimacy they both longed to share. The pleasure of the sensations gripping them was intensified by the heated sensuality of the vision they were sharing. Liz was too enraptured to even be embarrassed by the extremely intimate nature of the things that Fantasy Max was doing. All she knew was, she couldn't get enough. How she longed for Max to be joined with her in reality....

And then they reached that magical place of ecstasy together. They broke off their kiss, as they both cried out in release, gasping for air.

Outside in the hall, Maria heard their sensual cries, and stood there shocked. It took her a moment to compose herself, and by then, things had grown quiet on the other side of the door. And then she did what any best friend would do. She banged on the door.

"Liz! Liz, what's going on in there! Open up!"

Liz groaned, as she held Max tighter. "Don't you have some handy alien power to make her go away?" she whined in frustration.

Max snickered. "Uh, sorry, but no," he apologized. "What we need, is for that girl to get a life of her own. Maybe then she would realize how valuable a little privacy can be."

"LIZ!" Maria hollered through the door.

"Maria, go away!" Liz snapped.

Maria was offended to the soles of her feet. "Well! How long have we been friends? I thought friends watched out for each other, took care of each other, kept each other from making life-altering mistakes," she complained. "But I can see that I'm not needed nor wanted around here, so I'll just run along, and you can go back to doing whatever it is -"

The door flew open, and a disheveled - not to mention slightly annoyed - Liz stood in the opening. "Maria, stop being such a drama queen. You know I love you, but you have to accept that I love Max, too. And just like we have times together, when the guys are not welcome...."

"I'm not welcome?" Maria huffed. "Is that it?"

Liz gave her a pointed look. "Let's try this on for size. Suppose you and Michael were in the middle of a heated make-out session. Would you want me sitting on the couch next to you, chattering away?"

Maria had the grace to blush. "Weelll.... no. But that's different."

Liz raised her eyebrows. "Oh, really?"

"Yes, really!" Maria declared emphatically. "What Michael and I share has never ended in those kinds of noises. You know the kind I mean - noises that scream, 'I just went to the stars and back with my alien lover.' Those kind of noises."

"Maria, look - I explained all of this to you earlier. And I'm sorry, but what Max and I share between us from now on is just that - between us. I love you dearly, but you have to accept that Max is an important part of my life, too. And there are going to be times when I need to be alone with him."

"Fine! But just for future reference - you can hear everything out in the hall. So I wouldn't suggest doing - whatever it is you were doing - when your folks are around. Otherwise, you'll be grounded until your 40."

Maria spun on her heels to leave, when Max called out to her. "Maria!"

She stopped in her tracks, but didn't turn to look at him. He walked up behind her, and took her shoulders in his hands, spinning her around to face him. "I know that you are concerned about Liz, Maria. But I want you to know, that I'll take good care of her. I don't have any intention of forcing her to do something she isn't ready for. Okay?"

Maria leveled him with her look. "It isn't that you would force her that worries me. It's that you wouldn't have to that has me concerned."

Max dropped his hands from her shoulders, and stared at her, speechless. With one last knowing look, Maria turned again, and walked away. Max just stood there, staring after her.

"Max?" Liz's voice was soft and questioning behind him.

"Hmm?"

"What are you thinking? I can tell that something about what she just said is bothering you."

"I'm just wondering if maybe she's right. Maybe we're playing with fire here. And if we aren't careful, it'll turn into a raging brush fire, and we won't be able to control it anymore."

Liz wrapped her arms around him, and snuggled against him. "Maybe, maybe not. I say we cross that bridge when we get to it. But for right now, I feel like we have been given a gift, and I for one, don't want to waste it."

"Are you sure?"

"Oh, yes, I'm very sure."

posted on 30-Oct-2001 10:59:35 PM
Part Twenty-one

Dana pulled her coat closer around her body and shivered in the cool night air. She was glad that Tess was walking at a brisk pace. It was probably the only thing that was keeping her toes from freezing. She couldn't wait until this night was over, and she got go back to the Crashdown and warm up.

She smiled as her thoughts turned back to the Crashdown, and consequently Max and Liz. Max and Zan had shown up, just as she was getting ready to leave for the evening. For the movies, she had told them. She hoped they wouldn't ask about the movie she had supposedly gone to see. Because in truth, she had much bigger fish to fry.

She was currently tailing Tess, who was on her way to an undisclosed location, after leaving the house of Roswell High's principal. When she saw Tess' next destination, she gasped. The Whitman house. Surely she wasn't going to try anything on Alex, with his parents right there? Once Alex let Tess in, Dana stealthily crept to the window, hiding in shadows, attempting to find out what the girl was up to.

She wasn't able to hear anything, but she was surprised to see Tess talking to Alex and both of his parents together. What was she up to? And what did it have to do with Principal Glover? Sudden movement in the room revealed that Tess was already heading for the door, followed by the whole Whitman family. She ducked farther into the shadows, completely out of sight. She didn't want Tess to know that she was onto her. Not yet, anyway.

As Alex shut the door behind her, Tess came down off the steps humming to herself. She was obviously pleased with the outcome of whatever conversation had just taken place. That in itself was enough cause for worry. She thought about telling Max and the others what she had seen, but that would require revealing her own secrets to them. And she wasn't sure now was the best time for that. She would just have to keep an eye on Tess, and hope that Max would catch on to whatever her latest ploy was.

Stalking her prey, she was startled when a figure approached Tess, and asked to speak to her. As they stepped under a nearby street lamp, she was astounded to see who it was. How could this be? She knew that the others from the future had gone back to their own times - why not Zan? She strained to hear what they were saying. Good thing her hearing was better than the average human's.

Zan - disguised as Future Zan - rubbed his hands together, hoping the friction would help the circulation and warm them up. "So - can we like... go somewhere warmer?" he asked Tess. "I think my feet are going numb."

You and me both, Dana thought.

"Uh, yeah, sure," Tess said warily. "Where do you want to go?"

"How about you get your SUV, and we go for a ride?" he suggested. "That way we can talk freely."

"Okay, I guess," she agreed. They continued in Tess' previous direction - heading for the Valenti's. "So where have you been the last couple days? I looked around for you, but couldn't find you. And then you showed up at school, dressed like Max's twin. What the hell is that about?"

Dana perked up. Could it be possible that present Zan was impersonating his future self, in order to gain Tess' confidence? She was with Tess - she wondered what was going on.

"Well, as you know, my cover got blown. Once Liz knew that I wasn't Future Max, she wasn't going to believe that whole spiel about her love with Max ending the world. So I figured I have to come up with an alternate plan to break them up...."

"By posing as Max's twin?" she asked incredulously. "What kind of warped thinking is that? Putting yourself in the middle of the enemy's camp?"

" You know they're the enemy, and I know they're the enemy... but the beauty of it is - they don't know they're the enemy! Don't you get it? By me living in the Evan's household, and being taken into their good graces, I'll have access to all kinds of information. They are already beginning to trust me a little bit. It won't be long, and I'll know all their secrets...."

Tess snorted. "You think so, huh? Look, I've been trying to break them down for months, and even though they thought I was one of them, they still didn't trust me. What makes you so sure that you can get anywhere with them?"

"Because I'm not going to come in, guns blazing, and tell them that I'm trying to break them up," he admonished her with a pointed look. "I've learned from your mistakes. No, I'll pretend to be the dutiful brother, not making any moves on the girl... and then I'll mind warp Liz into falling in love with me. She'll leave Max, and then you'll be clear to move in."

Tess just gaped at him. "You'll mind-warp her? Excuse me? I think that's my department."

Zan gave her a condescending smile. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, sister. I know I don't have a lot of strength in that department, but I can exercise enough power over Liz to pull something like this off. At least long enough for you to make your moves on Max." He paused for a few seconds, then added, "However, I suggest you come up with a better tactic than you employed last night." A single brow arched, to emphasize his point.

Tess groaned. "Damn! So you figured it out." Her mind started to drift, thinking about the pregnancy. She wondered if she could get Max to make love to her soon enough, to pass the baby off as his. This situation might be salvageable....

"Well, it wasn't too hard, once I realized it wasn't Liz. Strange thing is, I usually can get a vague sense of when I'm being mind-warped. Why couldn't I sense it last night?"

"Because I didn't mind-warp you," she answered absently, her mind still working on her current crisis.

"You didn't? But I saw...."

Tess' attention was now fully back on the conversation. Giving him a sly smile, she taunted, "Wouldn't you just like to know?"

Zan grabbed her roughly by the upper arm, and jerked her to a stop. "Listen, woman, don't be messing with me! If we are on the same side here, you better tell me what the hell is going on. Now I don't appreciate having you jump my bones when I'm half-asleep, pretending to be Liz. If you want me to keep this to myself, you'd best tell me how the hell you did that."

Tess sighed. "Oh, all right." She wrenched her arm free of his grasp. "If you must know, I shapeshifted."

Zan stared at her, not able to believe what his own ears had just heard. "You what?!"

She flashed him a smug, self-satisfied smile. "Surprised? I thought you might be." She laughed.

"But - how?"

"Well, I suppose that it wouldn't hurt to tell you," she acquiesced. "After all, we're after the same thing here. Truth is, I'm not one of you at all. I'm full-blooded Telarian."

Zan's eyes widened. "Then why -?"

Tess had to work at keeping her anger in check. "Because I wanted King Zan back on Antar, and he looked down his royal nose at my brother's betrothal offer. He refused me, a princess among my people, to marry some common wench from his own race. I never figured him for a bigoted snob, but there you have it. Anyway, the rejection really stung. So when we learned that he had been sent to Earth to be reborn as a human-Antarian hybrid, I had myself placed in cryogenic stasis, and was brought here to await his maturation. When he turned 17, Nasedo revived me, and we began searching in earnest for the new king. I thought that perhaps being a half-breed himself, having been crossed with an inferior race, might humble him enough to accept me."

Zan swallowed hard. "And Ava? Who is she, then? I thought she was supposed to be the bride's duplicate?"

Tess belittled his question with the wave of a hand. "Who knows who the little bimbo is? They switched the real bride's essence with DNA taken from some other Antarian female, and put it in Max's set of pods. When Nasedo found out that the Antarians had created a second set of hybrids, he figured that they might have pulled a fast one, and used the real bride's essence in your pods. So when Ava hatched in Roswell, and the others had already taken off, Nasedo brought her to New York, to replace the suspicious bride."

Zan knew he was going to regret asking the next question. "What did he do with the supposed bride from our pods?"

"He killed her," Tess answered, devoid of emotion.

Zan thought he was going to be sick. All these years, he thought that Nasedo was there to protect them. But obviously that only went as far as their usefulness to his own purposes. What, then, had become of the true protector?

Struggling to cover his reaction, he forced his face to betray no emotion, as he blandly asked, "So how did you get brought into the picture?"

"Once Nasedo located Max and the others, we moved to Roswell, and I took on the form of the hybrid that had been podded with them. From there it was relatively easy to convince them that I was the same girl that they had left behind, when they escaped the pod chamber."

Zan nodded, as if unruffled by all this information. He needed to keep her talking. "So, if you aren't a hybrid, who exactly are you, if you don't mind my asking? And why is Kivar going to such lengths to help you win Max over?" He hoped that she would be willing to take him into her confidence.

Tess smiled. Her reply was short and direct. "He's helping me, because Kivar is my brother."

Again Zan found himself staring at her, incredulous at the turn of events. When his mind was able to begin processing the information, her finally realized what the master plan must be. "So if you're a princess, that makes him a prince, right? And if you were to come back with Max's child, the two royal lines would be united, and it would give "Prince Kivar" a legitimate claim to the throne through his niece or nephew, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, that's the plan. With the Antarian king's heir in the family, Kivar would finally be accepted as the true ruler for Antar. At least until the child came of age, and could assume the responsibility of the throne. By that time, the child will have been reared to be little more than a puppet for Kivar's devices."

Zan's head was reeling. Little did he know, that he wasn't the only one experiencing this side effect of Tess' confession. Dana was aghast at the intricate plan that Kivar had cooked up. If Zan was working with Tess, she would have to be the one to warn Max.

She slid into the shadows cast by a large tree, when Zan and Tess stopped in front of the Valenti's home. Tess was about to unlock the driver's door of her SUV, when Zan spoke up. "Listen, I think we've covered everything that we need to discuss tonight. I need to get back to the Evans house, before they start wondering what the heck I am doing wandering the streets of Roswell this late in the evening. I'll see you tomorrow in school though, right?"

Tess looked away, not wanting him to see the evidence of deceit in her eyes. "Um, I'm not sure if I'll be there or not," she answered with hesitation. "I, uh, have some errands to run. You know, things to see to, regarding the plan. But I'll be in touch."

Zan feigned a disappointed look, but in truth, something about her demeanor as she said that made him uneasy. She was up to something. "And I was so looking forward to having you witness me charming Miss Perfect Parker into my arms."

"I'm sure you'll have all the gratification you need, just getting your slimy paws on her, if your reaction this morning, to what you perceived was Liz pleasuring you, is any indication."

Zan forced a lewd chuckle. "Yes, this deed will certainly be its own reward. Well, I guess I'll wait to hear from you, then. You will contact me? Let me know how things are progressing?"

"Yes, of course," Tess said curtly, dismissing him with a wave of her hand. "Now run along. I have a million things to do tonight. Just make sure that you keep Liz away from Max."

"Just out of curiosity, how do you expect to get Max into your bed, eager and willing to plant his seed in you? You do realize that you can't pull the same trick you did last time. Max and I are sharing a room now."

"So I hear," she scowled. "I don't suppose that you would just go away for a few days?"

"No can do, blondie. I have to be alert and well rested, and in town to pull off my end of the deal. You'll have to find another way."

"Fine. I'll think of something. I always do," she bragged, although in her own heart, she knew the fallacy of that statement.

Zan nodded approvingly, while inside, he wanted nothing more than to wring her neck. "All right then. I guess I'll talk to you later. Goodnight."

Not bothering to respond politely, Tess merely pivoted and strode to the Valenti house. Zan shuddered, and then began jogging back to the Crashdown. He had to tell Max and Liz what he had learned. He was unaware of Dana's pursuit, as she switched to stalking a new prey. She needed to find out what side of the line Zan was really walking on.

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

Zan climbed the ladder up to Liz's balcony, and walked briskly to the window. One thing he hadn't been lying about earlier - he was feeling chilled. This Future Zan outfit didn't provide much in the way of warmth, leaving his arm bare. He shivered as he lifted his hand to knock on the window. He heard a little squeaky sound through the shut window, as if he had startled Liz perhaps. He waited a few seconds, before Max appeared at the window, his shirttail hanging out, and his hair a mess.

As he stepped through the opening, he noticed Liz frantically running her fingers through her hair, trying to make some semblance of order out of it. The coverings on her bed were seriously rumpled, with a depression in the middle, where their bodies had recently been laying. There was a single head-shaped imprint in one of the pillows. Zan looked from the bed to Liz, and then to Max, who smiled sheepishly, and shrugged in response to the unasked question in Zan's eyes. And then Zan laughed, causing Liz to sigh in relief. She had been so worried that he would get upset. He certainly seemed to be taking everything in stride. She only hoped that it wasn't an act.

"So - did you find Tess?" Max asked, eager to hear the news.

"Oh, yeah, I found the little slut." He shivered again, though this time, it wasn't from the cold. He was remembering how she had managed to deceive him, thereby gaining permission to rob him of his seed. He felt violated. "Max, I don't know what she is up to, but she went to Alex's house tonight. I caught up with her about a block from his house - she was on foot, if you can believe that. I didn't think she would be caught dead walking that far."

Outside the window, Dana had plastered herself up against the wall, just to the side of the window, which still hung open. She was pleased to hear that Zan seemed to be informing Max of Tess' activities. This should be good, she thought. She herself never would have dreamed that the seemingly human girl was actually the real Princess Tessandra.

"She was at Alex's?!" Liz cried in alarm. "What was she doing there?"

"I'm not really sure, she didn't say," he reluctantly reported. "But I did find out some rather disturbing tidbits of information. It seems the Future Zan ploy was a good one, Max. She took me into her confidence without a second thought."

"I never said she was bright," Max grumbled. "Sometimes I wonder if she isn't getting outside help. She doesn't seem clever enough to come up with some of these plans on her own."

"Well, I'm sure she is getting help," Zan agreed. "Listen to this - she's not really a hybrid at all! She's a shapeshifter, and Kivar's natural sister - a princess of her people. And I found out why she needs to bear your child - if she does, it will unite the two royal families, and give Kivar legitimate control of the throne. This woman - and I use the term loosely - has got to be stopped, Max! What if she is pregnant with my child even now? Couldn't she pass it off as yours? After all, our DNA is identical - or so we thought..." he finished, suddenly remembering something that Tess had told him about Ava.

"Zan? What are you thinking?" Max probed.

"Tess told me that Ava isn't even part of the royal family. She was a substitute for the king's bride, whose essence was replaced in the hybridization process by that of some other Antarian woman. What if Lonnie, Rath, and I share your same human DNA, but our Antarian essence is from totally different beings? To make us some kind of decoys?"

"I suppose it's possible," Max admitted. "But somehow I don't think that's true. At least not for you. I feel a strange bond with you, that I don't share with either Michael or Isabel. And I don't think it is just from having the same human donor. I can't explain it, but it's there."

"I know what you mean," Zan acknowledged. "I feel it too. And the fact that we react to - certain things in the same way, tends to support the theory," he suggested, as his gaze quickly flicked to Liz and back.

Having seen Zan's line of sight, Max agreed, "Yes, there certainly is that." Liz blushed. "You know, though... if Ava wasn't really the bride, either... then the whole load of destiny crap from Tess' book is a lie. And if that's a lie..."

"How much of the rest of it is?" Zan finished.

"Exactly."

"Wait a minute," Liz interjected. "I thought that Alex translated the book, though, and the directions for using the granilith were in there? So some of it must be accurate, right? The real question is: Why is there false information in there at all? Do you suppose that somehow Nasedo added pages to the book?"

"Possibly," Max said thoughtfully. "He might have done it to create a sense of legitimacy to Tess' claims. Although - if they don't know how to translate it, how could they have added pages that include Antarian symbols?"

"I hadn't thought of that," Liz admitted in defeat. "But then, why would your people want you to think that you were to mate with Ava, if she wasn't really your 'bride', like the transmission from your mother indicated?"

"I really wish I knew."

Outside, Dana was contemplating her next move. These were bright kids - they were asking all the right questions. But unfortunately, there wasn't a source where they could find the answers they sought. For the millionth time, she struggled with how to help them find what they were looking for, without exposing herself. As time went on, it was getting more and more difficult. And it was all because of Tess! She hadn't anticipated having to deal with the Telarian princess, and it was messing up the most carefully laid plans.

She decided that she would go back downstairs, and then come up and enter the apartment in the appropriate fashion. As she pushed herself away from the wall, she knocked over a clay flower pot that had been concealed by the shadows. It fell over with a crash, and she heard the conversation in Liz's room go silent.
posted on 1-Nov-2001 4:32:32 PM
Part Twenty-two

"Did you hear that?" Liz asked in a hoarse whisper.

"Yeah," Zan answered similarly. "I think there's someone out on your balcony."

Max was already to the window, looking out. "I don't see anyone."

Zan stepped up beside him, and whispered in his ear, "There are a lot of shadows. I think it would be best if we both went out, and walked the perimeter." Max nodded his agreement. First he, then Zan, sailed through the window, startling Dana from her hiding spot. As she lunged for the fire ladder, Max grabbed her from behind. She wiggled and kicked a few times, trying to get free, until Zan caught up with them, and restrained her legs. She started to scream, but Max clamped his hand over her mouth. Then they carried her back into Liz's room, and unceremoniously dumped her on the bed, as Liz shut the window.

Max and Zan stared down at her, as she lay wide-eyed on the bed. "No more games, Dana. How long were you standing out there, and what did you hear? Are you following us? And if so, why? Did someone send you? Just who the hell are you, really?"

Dana shut her eyes, trying to decide how to proceed in this delicate situation. She had always been one to carefully weigh her options. Thing of it was - she didn't seem to have any at the moment. When she opened her eyes, Max and Zan could see the resignation in her expression. "That's an awful lot of questions, your highness," she replied softly. "Which would you like to have answered first?"

Max was startled, when she referred to his royal status. "Okay, obviously you know something about us -"

"Correction. I know everything about you."

"Oh? And just how is that?" Max snapped. "How long have you been stalking us?"

"I wouldn't consider it stalking, actually," she told him. "Observing would be more accurate."

"Semantics. Answer the question," he demanded.

She met his angry glare with a steady gaze. "I have been watching you, since the day you emerged from your pods."

"So it was no coincidence that you met Liz on the plane, then, was it?" Max accused.

"Hardly. Nor was it a stroke of fate, that all the hotels were full."

"You lied?!" Max ground out. Dana gave him a weak smile, indicating that indeed she had.

"But what about your luggage?" Liz asked. "How could you arrange for it to get lost in flight?"

"What luggage?" Dana returned with sudden amusement.

"You mean -?" Liz was aghast, to think how easily she had been taken in by this young woman.

"Let's just say, I travel light."

"There was no luggage," Liz stated, rather than asked.

"So why were you following Liz?" Max pressed. "Or was it even Liz you were following?"

"At the time, yes, it was Liz I was attempting to get close to. I wanted a chance to get to know her. You might say I have a vested interest in her welfare. And being close to her gave me an opportunity to get in closer with you all, without risking exposure. Or, at least, that was the theory. Foiled by a flower pot."

"So who the hell are you?" Max bellowed, leaning down, and placing one hand on either side of her on the bed, so that he could get right in her face. "And I want the truth - if you even know what that means," he added.

"This is hardly the way I envisioned revealing myself to you," she muttered. "How demeaning."

"Look - I don't give a rip about your wounded pride. Just answer the question."

"Very well. My name is really Da-nar', and I have been following you all these years, because I was sent to Earth with your pods, to be your protector."

Max froze in astonishment, his face still mere inches from hers. And then he realized - he had heard this claim before, from the mouth of a man who turned out to be foe, rather than friend. As much as he'd like to think that this was really the one who had been sent to insure their safety, he couldn't allow sentiment to cloud his judgment.

"You know, Nasedo claimed to be our protector as well. Why should I believe a word you are saying? Can you prove your claim?"

"Prove is such an ambiguous term...." she hedged.

"Dana..." Max said menacingly.

Dana sighed. "I don't have a badge that says 'Official Pod Protector', if that's what you mean. Not like that would be very convincing, anyway. All I can say is, there is evidence to support my claim, if you choose to see it for what it is."

Max pushed himself back up into a standing position. "Evidence? What sort of evidence?"

Now that she didn't have Max hovering over her, Dana sat up on the bed, leaning her back against the headboard. "Let's start with Liz."

"Me?" Liz said in surprise. "What do I have to do with any of this?"

"More than you know," Dana answered mysteriously. "But for right now, let's talk about your reactions to certain... beings. Nasedo made you very uneasy, didn't he?"

"Well, yes," Liz admitted.

"And Jose? I'm sure you probably felt threatened by him, as well? Before there was any physical threat, I mean."

"How did you know -?"

"I know, because you are able to discern the presence of evil within others, Liz. Your heart is pure, and good, and your spirit is open and sensitive. Therefore, in the presence of evil, you sense the danger it presents." Liz was still dumbfounded, that Dana could know how she had felt. And how could she speak with such certainty, that Liz had some sort of gift to recognize evil in other people? Yet what she said had validity. Liz had known in her heart that Nasedo and Jose were dangerous threats.

"So you have observed Liz's ability to detect wickedness. How does that prove anything?" Max queried.

"Liz - you don't feel that sense of alarm around me, do you?" Dana asked softly.

"No, I don't," Liz replied honestly, realizing the truth of the statement for the first time. "Never once have I felt uneasy or threatened by your presence."

Zan, who was standing next to Liz at the foot of the bed, slipped a supportive arm around her shoulders. "I don't see how that proves anything," he scowled, addressing Dana. "Except that possibly you're better at concealing your inner self than most people."

"If that's your concern, you know there's a way that Liz can know for certain my inner self," she reminded him.

Zan's arm tightened around Liz, drawing her close to his side in a protective manner. "Do you really think that we would allow her to take such a risk? Get real."

"I didn't think so, but I thought I would mention it." Dana was pleased, when she noticed that Max didn't seem bothered by Zan's instinctively protective gesture toward Liz. Perhaps they were moving past the adjustment period in their relationship, where they would be naturally suspicious of each other.

"So, is that it?" Max mocked. "That's your big evidence, that's supposed to make us take you into our confidence, and believe that you are here to help us?"

"Hardly," Dana retorted. "It was just the one that required the least explanation, because you already had experiences to build on. The greatest evidence is that I have the answers that you have been searching for - and answers for questions you haven't even dreamed of asking yet. I have tried to guide you from the shadows over the years, steering you clear of danger, and helping you to discover things about yourselves. But the older you got, the harder it was to predict what actions you might take. The human side of you was a variable that I wasn't prepared to deal with. I've done the best I can, but I always wished that it could have been more."

Max was feeling annoyed. "If you're our protector, and you have all this information that could help us, why would you withhold it - and yourself - from us for all these years? It doesn't add up. I don't know what kind of game you are trying to play here, but it isn't working."

Dana closed her eyes, and took a deep breath, in an attempt to relieve the frustrated tension that was beginning to grip her. "I stayed in the shadows, for a couple reasons. First, if I was found to be 'stalking' you, as you have already accused me of, I would have been taken into custody. When that happened, eventually they would learn that I am not human. And in turn, that would draw attention to you. The unwanted kind of attention. Can you see the danger, Max?"

"Yes, I suppose so," he conceded reluctantly.

"The truth is, I have always been closer than you imagine. I'm a shapeshifter, Max. I have been all sorts of people on the fringes of your life, subtly trying to guide and instruct you, without arousing your suspicion as to who I might be. Do you remember the substitute teacher you had in 6th grade, who stayed after school every night for the week she was there, explaining the mysteries of the universe to you?"

Max's eyes went wide at the mention of the teacher he had only known for a week in his life, that had made such a profound impact on him. "That was you?" he whispered in awe.

"Indeed it was," Dana answered with pride. "And the old man you used to meet occasionally, when you went fishing by yourself? Do you remember him?"

Max felt a strange warmth spreading through his being. He sat down on the edge of the bed, his hostility becoming a fading memory. He looked into Dana's eyes now, not with contempt, but with a strange sort of trust, finally ready to hear what she had to say. "What changed, then? Why did you become more bold, and willing to get closer to us now?"

"When the future versions of you showed up, and I learned why they were here, I realized that the danger was far more imminent than I had realized. Obviously, in the other timeline, my reluctance to get more closely involved in your lives caused serious repercussions for our mission. I had to make sure that I corrected that mistake, now that I am being given a second chance, as it were.

It helped, knowing that Tess is really up to no good. Although, I had no idea that she was the real Princess Tessandra , until tonight. I thought that she was the little one that had emerged from your foursquare, Max. After you, Isabel, and Michael came out of your pods, I was watching over you, until I knew that you had been safely taken in by the humans. Then I went back to get the fake bride, but she was gone. I knew that she had been taken by someone, because the book I had left behind was also missing."

"Oh my God, Max, the book..." Liz said quietly.

"That's right!" Max said with realization. "Now that you are here, and you no longer have to hide from us, you can translate the book for us. That should save us a lot of grief and aggravation."

"Actually, I can save you even more than that," she confided. "That book has little to no relevance to your situation here on Earth. It was planted there, so that if Kivar's people should discover the pod chamber, they would find the book, and assume from the pictures that the Antarians still believed the bride's essence to be present in the fourth child. It was a decoy, nothing more."

"But our friend Alex was able to translate the book in the other timeline. And that was how they learned about the granilith, and how to use it. And the portals. Why would such important information be in there, if it was a decoy?" Liz asked.

"It wasn't," Dana confessed. "I can't say for sure how that ended up with the translation, but somehow, in that other timeline, I must have realized that the information was going to be in Max's hands, and then slipped what I needed him to know in with the rest. I'm sure I would have found a way."

"All right, let's run down the information that we have, and then you can fill in the blank spots for us," Max stated commandingly. "Let's start with the hybridization project." He paused. "Actually, we really don't know much about that at all. So why don't you just start from the beginning, and explain what really happened?"

Dana looked at the clock. "It's a rather lengthy tale - are you sure you want to hear it now? Aren't your parents going to wonder what happened to you?"

Max followed her line of sight to the clock on Liz's night stand. The LED display read 10:22. "You're right, it is getting late. So give us the short and sweet version."

"All right." She should have known that Max would not be willing to wait for answers that were finally within his reach. "Kivar stormed the palace during the king's wedding feast, and killed the royal family. Among those slain were the king and his new bride, the king's sister, and his closest friend and second in command, who was betrothed to his sister. Before the palace was destroyed, the servants managed to remove the bodies of the royal family, so that they could receive a proper burial. I had been at the feast, and felt oddly compelled to collect samples of the essences of the four individuals that I just mentioned. I quickly took them back to the genetics lab where I worked, and froze the samples, not even sure why I had collected them, much less what I would do with the material.

"Two days later, after the funerals, I confessed privately, to the head of the genetics research team, what I had done. After considering the information for a few hours, he called me back to his office, and asked me what I thought the feasibility of combining Antarian and human DNA was. Now understand, we had done extensive research on human DNA over the years - our people have been visiting Earth for centuries. Anyway, when I told him I thought it was possible, we decided to use the human DNA we had available, and mix it with the royal essences.

"It was during the hybridization process, that my direct supervisor told me to dispose of the bride's essence. It became clear to me then, that although he was Antarian, he was a Telarian sympathizer, working for Kivar's cause."

"Wait a minute," Max interrupted. "Telarian?"

Dana nodded. "Telarians are the shapeshifting race that resides on Antar, of which I am one. Brief history lesson here - our world was destroyed more than three generations ago, and we sought asylum on Antar. The king at the time was gracious, and granted us refuge from our enemies, who sought to extinguish our presence from the universe. In exchange, we were to become bondservants to the royal family. We served in many different capacities - wherever the reigning king felt we would be of most use. Normally, we were trained according to our natural inclinations in the sciences, or as protectors for the royal family. I, myself, am a geneticist, for example, working on projects approved by the king. At any rate, it was a good arrangement, and we were always treated with respect and dignity. Our needs were met, and above and beyond that, we were often honored by the royal family with special gifts during the holy celebrations - it was a good life."

"So then what was the problem?" Max asked, confused.

"The problem was, Kivar is a prince among our people, as was his father, and his father's father before him. His ancestors had been content living under the arrangement his grandfather made with the king of Antar, but Kivar chafed under it. He wanted to claim his royal heritage, and rule over his own people, whose numbers were increasing again, under the protection of Antar. The major obstruction to this plan was that our people would have to be free, in order for him to rule over them. While Zan's father was still king, Kivar had approached him about releasing our people from the yoke of bondage that we were under, in order to allow us to once again become a nation of our own. The king, however, refused. Not long after that, Kivar became aware that his younger sister Tessandra was enamored with the king's son and heir, Zan. In a last ditch attempt to secure freedom for our people, he made a betrothal offer to Zan, offering his sister's hand in marriage, while the king was on his deathbed, and Zan had been newly installed as his father's successor. Zan rejected the offer, as well as the ensuing plea to free the Telarians from their bondage. It was widely known that Kivar believed the rejection was a result of bigotry against our people, and bitterness began to poison Kivar's heart against the Antarian monarchy. But bigotry had nothing to do with it. In truth, Zan was already hopelessly in love with a woman of his own race, whom he desperately wanted to marry."

"Okay, so back to the hybrids," Max said, redirecting the conversation, even as he tried to absorb what Dana was saying. "You were ordered to destroy the young queen's essence, then?"

Dana nodded. "I knew I was being tested, to see where my loyalties would lie. So I agreed to destroy the sample, and replace the bride's essence with someone else's."

"Do you know who the new donor was?" Zan asked.

Dana nodded, her look grim. "It was Princess Tessandra."
posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:38:37 PM
Part Twenty-three

"Let's see if I have this straight," Max said. "They hybridized the king, the king's sister, and the king's second in command... but not the bride. Instead, the fourth was created with Tess' essence? I mean, Tess is this Princess Tessandra, right?"

"According to what she confessed to Zan earlier, that's correct," Dana affirmed. "All this time I had assumed that she was the hybrid that had been taken from your pod grouping. It never occurred to me that Kivar would send his own sister here, but I suppose it makes sense."

"Wait a minute," Zan broke in. "How do you know what Tess told me?"

"Because I was there, in the shadows, listening to your conversation."

Zan stiffened. "You were spying on me?"

"Well, actually, I was spying on Tess. I had seen her coming out of the high school principal's house, and I was curious to find out what she was up to. So I followed her to the Whitman's, and peeked in the window while she was there. When she left, and you met up with her, I was confused at first. I thought that perhaps you really were the future you, so I figured I'd better find out what you were up to."

"I see."

"Yes, well anyway, like I was saying, Tess obviously isn't the hybrid from Max's pods."

Max continued to piece together the snippets of information. "But Ava really was our fourth, and she was kidnapped, and taken to Zan's pods in NY. Zan's fourth was destroyed, on the off-chance that she had the true bride's essence. How'm I doing so far?"

"So far, so good."

"Okay - one question keeps coming to mind - if they killed us to gain control of Antar, why did they allow the hybridization to occur? Wouldn't that pose a threat to Kivar? Why didn't they just kill all of us, and be done with it?"

"He allowed it, because he was still hoping for a marital alliance between the two royal houses. True, he had killed King Zan - but if Tessandra could turn the head of the king's heir, there might still be a chance for Kivar to have his legitimate claim to the throne of Antar. You see, he would have settled for ruling over his own people, had he been allowed to do so. But having been denied that right, he decided to go for the whole ball of wax, so to speak."

"All right. Tell us, then, why there is a second set of pods? Nasedo filled Zan's head with a bunch of crap about being royal leftovers, but I don't believe it. Do they even have any royal essence, or were they meant to simply be decoys?"

"Well, when I realized that Kivar had informants in the genetics department, I went to the head of the research unit, who was Antarian, and reported what I had discovered, as well as some other important information that had developed. We agreed to secretly create a second set of pods, which would be used as a decoy, as you have figured. False information was leaked to the Telarians that the pods would be sent to New York City, when they arrived on Earth. The night before our ship left, we smuggled the second set of pods on board, and concealed them, where they wouldn't be found in the preflight inspection."

"Okay, stop right there," Max instructed. "This has been bugging me. If there are portals that will allow travel from Antar to Earth, why use a spaceship?"

"You really have been mulling on this, haven't you?" Dana asked with a grin. "Well, when Kivar laid seige to Antarra, he destroyed the portals that were there. In truth, one still remains, but we couldn't use it for this project, for fear that Kivar would discover it, and then it, too, would be destroyed. And we wanted to make sure the Antarian loyalists would have a way to send reinforcements, and whatever else might be needed, to Earth. So we had to settle for a more archaic form of travel. Needless to say, the pilot was trained for short, shuttle flights between worlds that didn't possess portal technology. But none of them has as strong a gravitational pull as Earth. By the time he realized what was happening, and tried to make the adjustments... let's just say the landing was a little rough.

"Anyway, I digress. The next day we set out for Earth. There were only four of us on board - the pilot and copilot, myself, and another protector. As I'm sure you are aware, two were killed in the crash, which were the pilot and copilot, and the other protector was captured and tortured by the government. I am the only one that survived."

"So that's why we never had a protector," Zan stated thoughtfully.

Dana stiffened. "I beg your pardon, you must certainly did."

Zan looked puzzled. "But you just said that only one of you survived. And you are Max's protector."

Dana lifted her chin proudly. "I am nothing, if not devoted to the idea of seeing the Antarians returned to power. It was important that you both be protected, and so I watched over both of you. Granted, I wish you could have had a more conventional upbringing, but it would have been impossible to see Lonnie and Rath placed into foster homes. They never would have been able to blend in with the humans. And I could hardly have taken you from their unit, without arousing suspicions. As it was, Nasedo eventually managed to discover that there was a second set of pods, and that your set did not contain the designated heir to the throne. But never accuse me of not watching over you, just because I didn't reveal myself to you. As you have already learned, Max was unaware of my watchful care as well. We can discuss that at greater length, another time, if you wish." Zan nodded.

"Why did it take so long for them to mature, and come out of the pods?" Liz inquired. "Do Antarians really have a 42 year gestation period?"

Dana laughed. "No, they don't. I think their race would have been extinct long ago, if that were true. Don't you?"

Liz smirked. "Yeah, I guess it would."

"Actually, once the pods were put in place, their gestation was suspended, until I was able to tend to some other matters, that influenced the time I wished the pods to mature."

"What kinds of things?" Liz wanted to know, ever fascinated by the world of science. And obviously these people were far more advanced than humans. She could learn a lot from Dana. She smiled, when she realized that her easy rapport with Dana was just an outward manifestation of their kindred spirits.

"There were several factors," Dana began evasively, trying to buy some time to think of some non-revealing answers. She didn't think they were quite ready for the whole truth just yet. "Safety, of course, was one," she explained. "I had hoped that by delaying the maturation of the pods, perhaps our enemies would lose interest and leave, assuming that all the pods had been destroyed in the crash."

Liz nodded. "That's understandable. What else?"

"I felt I needed time to engage in research on human physiology, from the humans' perspective. I managed to earn several degrees from various universities, in the fields of biology, genetics, and medicine. I needed to be able to tend to any physical needs the children might have. They obviously couldn't be left to go to the doctor."

Liz just stared at Dana in wide-eyed admiration. She couldn't believe how accomplished she was!

"So back to the dupes," Max prompted, breaking the spell. "Are they from the same genetic makeup as we are? Or do they have different Antarian donors?"

"Well, the answer to that is rather mixed," Dana responded. "First, you already know that Ava is from Tess' DNA. The original dupe bride was a mix of that same human DNA, and the genetic material of one of the Antarian women working at the research center. That child, of course, is no longer with us," she said sadly.

"What about the others?" Max pressed, pulling her out of her troubled thoughts.

"Oh, well, Lonnie and Rath were actually made from some Antarian DNA we had at the lab for another project. We thought it would be a good way to do a little research, as well as accomplish our main objective. I'd say we got more than we bargained for in the process."

"Research?" Liz asked. "What kind of research?"

"Their Antarian donors were hardened criminals. We wanted to see if that tendency is passed on genetically or not. It would seem that the proclivity for violence can indeed be passed down familial lines among the Antarians." Liz shuddered at Dana's blunt synopsis. She had hoped that the stories she had heard from Future Max and Future Michael about Lonnie and Rath were exaggerated. Apparently, they weren't.

"What about me?" Zan asked quietly. He was almost afraid to find out the truth, after hearing about his podmates.

Dana smiled at him approvingly, though. "You, my dear boy, are quite another matter altogether."

"What's that supposed to mean? Am I not even Antarian? Or what?"

"Oh, you are definitely Antarian," she confirmed. "But you were a... surprise, shall we say? An unexpected blessing, for sure."

Max sensed Zan's growing anxiety, and he could certainly understand it. "Dana, just cut to the chase. Zan needs to know who he really is."

"Very well," she agreed. "It's very simple. The two of you are twins."

The room became so quiet, one could have heard a pin drop. Max and Zan just stared at Dana, as if she had sprouted another head. Liz was blown away by the revelation as well, but she was the first to come back to her senses and speak. "Twins? As in the fact that they both had the same donors, human and Antarian? They are both from the king's essence, right? That kind of thing."

"No, not that kind of thing. When I say twins, I mean twins. It was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen. You have to understand - multiple births don't exist among the Antarians or the Telarians, either one. None of us had ever witnessed two beings coming from a single fertilized cell. It was truly incredible. Fortunately, I had been placed in charge of monitoring early cell division, to make sure that it progressed normally. Once we were certain everything was stable, the embryos would then be placed into the gestation pods. Anyway, I was checking the embryo that had been formed using our king's essence. After several divisions - it suddenly split completely, and two beings began to form, instead of one. I stood and watched, as each of the two new groups of cells began to multiply, indicating two viable life forms were now present. Since I have been on Earth, I have become more accustomed to seeing this happen, but it is still no less a miracle to me, than it was the day that I saw the two of you come into being."

"Oh my God...." Liz looked at Max, and then at Zan. "So then - how did Max get chosen to be the king?"

"Luck of the draw. When I said we decided to make a dupe set of pods, after I told the head of research some important information, this was it. Antarians view their monarchy as sacred - there was no way we could destroy one of the embryos. Besides, we took it as a kind of sign, you know? To have a miracle occur before our eyes like that - well, we figured that the blessings of the All Powerful One were upon our work. So we decided to create a second set of hybrids."

"Why didn't you just use the royal essences for the dupes as well?" Liz wanted to know.

"Because we didn't think it was right. If the All Powerful One had wanted all the royalty to be duplicated, wouldn't He have caused them all to twin? The way we saw it, He had made his decision, regarding their being two offspring from the king. We didn't dare to make the same decision for the others on our own."

"Why didn't you just put Zan in with our pods, then?" Max asked. "I mean, you knew the bride was an impostor. You could have given her incubation pod to Zan."

"I know that seems like a simple solution, but there are a couple problems with that. First, I could never bring myself to kill a child, regardless of who or what it was. As much as I despised what Kivar was doing, by implanting his sister's hybrid in your foursquare, I couldn't murder her. Second, we couldn't take the chance of having such a switch discovered by the Talerians. So one of you had to go with the dupes. Besides, we couldn't have two of you in one set of pods. It wasn't safe. We figured by splitting you up, chances were greater that one of you would survive."

"But we have both survived," Max pointed out. "So what makes me a king, and Zan merely a prince?"

To Max's surprise, Zan was the one that answered him. "The royal seal."

"How do you know about the seal?" Dana inquired.

"There's going to be a summit in New York next month. We were contacted by Kivar's general here, Nicholas Crawford. He told us - that is, Lonnie, Rath, Ava and I - where it would be held, and what it concerned. He told me I would first have to pass the Emissary's test - a scan that would prove I bore the royal seal, and could indeed represent Antar in the meeting. If Max is the one with the seal, though, then only he can represent us."

"That is correct. I was responsible for endowing Max with the royal seal, after he was born. It was a fairly simple procedure, which I performed one night, after he went to live with the Evanses. I slipped in and out while he slept, and no one was ever the wiser."

"What if -" Liz swallowed the lump in her throat. "What if something were to happen to Max?"

"In that case, I would be authorized to endow the seal on Zan."

Max looked at Zan then, an odd ache in his heart, for the brother he had never known he had. So much been given to Max, and it seemed that Zan had gotten the short end of the stick all the way around. His regret was evident in his expression, and Zan reached out a hand, and squeezed Max's shoulder. "It's okay, Max, really. One of us had to be chosen. I'm glad it was you. And I'm doubly glad to find out that I'm really not just a bunch of genetic scraps that were left over!"

"Thanks, Zan." Max was humbled by his brother's acceptance and support. His brother! He really had a brother. He couldn't help the smile that burst across his lips.

Addressing Dana, he asked, "What I don't understand, though, is why Zan and I are so different. I mean, I realize twins can have different personalities and all, but we seem to have other differences, as well. He seems to be more... alien than I am, able to use his powers more...." Max's mind drifted to the whole thing with Liz and Zan's shield.

"I can't give you any definitive answers right now, Max," she said. "I have some theories, based on tests I ran while you were in the pods. But I'd like to run a few more tests on the two of you, before I make any conclusive statements. One thing I'd like to know, Zan - are you right or left-handed? I know Max is right-handed, but I've never been able to catch you writing anything."

"Oh - uh, left-handed," he replied.

"That's what I figured."

"So what? You're just going to keep us in suspense?" Max said in lighthearted accusation.

"Well, I can tell you my theory - in part," she conceded. "I believe it has something to do with the way the embryo divided, when it split into two separate cell clusters. I have been doing some research, and after I check a couple more things, I'll be fairly certain if my theory is correct or not."

"Well, at least we got answers for a few questions we've had, huh?" Max said to Zan, with a smile. "Like why neither one of us felt drawn to Tess or Ava? God, what a relief to know that there isn't some pre-planned destiny lurking in the shadows, demanding to take over my life." He reached out and took Liz's hand, as he looked up into her face. "Now maybe you'll believe me, when I tell you that we make our own destiny."

"Uh, well, that's not entirely true," Dana said hesitantly. All eyes swung to meet her, as she glanced nervously at each one.

"Wait a minute," Max protested. "You said before that you destroyed the bride's essence."

"Nooo.... that's not what I said at all," Dana corrected him. "I said I agreed to destroy it, when I was told by Kivar's inside man to do so. You might say I lied to him."

"Well? Then what happened to the bride's essence? All the hybrids are accounted for."

Dana held Max's steady gaze, as she dropped her bombshell. "Not quite all...."

posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:39:26 PM

Part Twenty-four

"What do you mean, 'not quite all'?! " Max demanded.

Dana's eyes shifted from Max's, her gaze fastening on Liz.

"What?" Liz asked, feeling a little paranoid. "Why are you staring at me that way?"

Max looked at Dana, and then to Liz. While his eyes feasted on the beauty of his beloved, Dana announced, "Max, king of Antar - behold your true destiny."

It was a good thing that Zan was standing next to Liz. His arms shot out and caught her up, as her body went limp in a faint. Tenderly, he carried her to the side of the bed, and laid her down next to Dana. "Well," he said to their protector, "you sure broke that gently. Now, from the look on my brother's face, he's not going to be recovering his speech anytime soon, so let me ask the obvious - how can Liz possibly be the Antarian king's bride? From what I understand, she was born of human parents, in the normal human way... she is completely human physically," he stressed. "So what kind of nonsense are you trying to pass off on us here?"

"It isn't nonsense, Zan," Dana insisted. "When Liz asked me why your pods took so long to mature, I didn't explain all of it, because I wanted to avoid a scene like this. But the turn of the conversation was such, that I thought perhaps this was the right time to reveal the truth. I see I was mistaken."

"No," Max whispered, his eyes riveted to Liz's unconscious form, "you weren't. Do you realize what a gift you have given to me?" He lifted his tear-filled eyes to look at Dana. "From the time I first laid eyes on Liz some nine years ago, I have been hopelessly in love with her. Now I finally know why."

"I wish I did," Dana admitted. Max stared at her, puzzled by her statement. "Well, just because you have the genetic material of the king and queen, you have different souls than they did. There is no connection, other than physically, to that past life. Yet your immediate reaction to Liz was noted, and I have been observing it ever since. For instance, I know that your attraction to her was much more intense than was hers to you, until you healed her from the gunshot wound. Suddenly, her attraction to you was just as intense. And then there is the whole connection with Zan thing to consider." She saw Max wince slightly at the mention. "I know that it is painful to acknowledge, but there must be a reason for this recognition between her and the two of you - this instinctive knowing of the other."

"Well, maybe we'll just have to chalk it up to one of those mysteries of the unknown," Max offered. "I don't see any way of finding out the answer to that enigmatic occurrence."

"Still," Dana muttered, her face a study in concentration, "it seems like there is something that I'm missing here. If I could just figure out what it is, we might be able to piece it together."

"Well, try not thinking about it," Max suggested. "If you let it go, whatever it is will probably surface unexpectedly. We can deal with it then." Dana nodded her agreement.

"So then tell us how it is that Liz is the bride?" Zan urged, as he watched Liz's steady, even breathing.

"So much for the short and sweet version," Dana chuckled. "Well, like I said, I was instructed to destroy the queen's essence. But in fact, I hid it, and destroyed some other genetic material in its place, to make it look like I had done the deed. When we loaded the second set of pods, I smuggled Karanna's essence aboard as well."

Zan's head snapped up. "What did you call her?"

Dana looked puzzled. "What do you mean? Her name? Karanna?"

"That was the bride's name?" Zan asked insistently. "Her name was Karanna?"

Dana's eyebrows furrowed together in confusion. "Yes, that was her name. Why does that seem to upset you so?"

"I'm not upset," Zan snapped. "I'm just - confounded. I can't believe this is happening."

"What is so significant about her name, Zan?" Max asked.

Zan rubbed his hand over his face in frustration. Where to start? "The name seems to keep coming up," he finally said. "It started about three months ago, when I started having dreams about this faceless woman named Karanna. It was like I knew that she was someone special to me." Dana gasped. "What?" Zan questioned her.

"Nothing, continue," Dana urged him.

Zan stared at her for a few moments, then resumed. "Anyway, after Jose attacked Liz in New York, I was just holding her, trying to calm her, and let her know she was safe. She claims that while I was doing that, I called her 'Karanna'. And then she told me that Future Max had called her that as well. So somehow, we recognized her as the bride, even though we thought her to be completely human. But she's not, is she?"

Dana shook her head. "No, she isn't." She was about to explain, when Liz groaned, fighting to regain consciousness.

"Max...."

Max took her hand in his, and leaned down to kiss her cheek. "I'm right here, love. Everything is going to be all right." Her eyes fluttered open, as his hand reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from her face.

"Mmmm," she mumbled, "I had the weirdest dream..." Then she saw Dana still sitting on the bed, and squeaked in alarm. She turned frantic eyes to Max. "I wasn't dreaming? Did she really insinuate -"

"That you are the bride? Yes, she did. I know it's a shock, Liz, but think about what this means! It confirms what you and I have known all along. We belong together. Forever." He brought her hand up to his mouth, and tenderly kissed her palm. "Somehow I knew it, even in third grade," he teased, flashing her his most charming smile. "Of course, that could have been the result of you being the cutest girl in the class...."

"Max, cut it out," she admonished him with a shy grin.

"Liz?" Zan interrupted. "Something else came up, while you were, um, unconscious."

Liz searched his eyes, trying to figure out what was causing him to be so serious. "What is it, Zan?"

"The queen - King Zan's young bride? Her name - was Karanna."

Liz's eyes went wide at the mention of the name. "No - you're kidding, right?"

"I'm afraid not," Max confirmed, rubbing his thumb soothingly over the back of her hand, as he held it. "I understand this isn't the first time you've heard the name?"

"No, it isn't," Liz answered. She shot up off the bed, and went to where the loose brick concealed her journal. Max, Zan, and Dana watched her with perplexed expressions, wondering what she was up to. Silently, she opened her journal, and removed the letter that Future Max had left for her. She handed it to Dana, without speaking so much as a word.

Dana read the opening of the note, and smiled. "I have to tell you, things are working out much better than I had hoped. I had figured that you all would be able to sense a certain 'sameness' about each other, but I didn't dare hope there would be this level of recognition."

"What's that?" Max asked, indicating the letter in Dana's hand.

"It's the letter that Future Max left for me," Liz explained. "He addressed me as 'Karanna' at the beginning of the letter, even though he didn't understand the significance of it."

"This is truly remarkable," Dana marveled. "I have no idea how any of you could have known about her, much less remembered her name."

"Perhaps we should get back to the point here," Max suggested, redirecting the conversation again. "You were about to tell us how it is, that Liz came to have Karanna's essence."

"Right," Dana said, mentally shifting back to the story. "Well, after we arrived on Earth, and got everything settled with the pods, I began studying human physiology, like I told you. I took some additional courses in human genetics in pre-med, and then in medical school, I came up with the idea of becoming a fertility specialist. I figured that would give me access to plenty of human hosts."

Liz's eyes about bugged out of her head. "What do you mean, 'hosts'?"

Dana placed a comforting hand on Liz's arm. "Let me finish, and you'll understand. You see, I studied human genetics tirelessly, and combined that with the knowledge I possessed of Antarian genetics, until I finally found a way - theoretically, that is - to combine the two, so that the Antarian traits would lie completely dormant, and the individual would appear to be completely human. Once I had that figured out, it was time to implement phase 2 of my plan.

"I came back to Roswell, and opened a fertility clinic. Do you know, it is amazing how many couples in Roswell suffer from infertility! Makes one wonder if there isn't some environmental factor involved. Anyway, it wasn't long before I was treating several couples. One such couple was Jeff and Nancy Parker. They were just about to give up all hope, when I opened the clinic. Fertility treatments have always been very costly, and their insurance wouldn't cover the expense. Anyway, I convinced them to try a new, experimental method of conception. I didn't go into a lot of details, explaining to them, that it wouldn't make much sense. I likened it to in vitro fertilization, in that I would collect sperm and ova from them, and then when we had a viable embryo, it would be implanted into Nancy's womb. Naturally, I never mentioned that the child wouldn't be fully human. They wouldn't ever know, unless I told them - or unless their child's alien side was awakened.

"Once I had their cooperation, I created a hybrid from Jeff's genetic material, and Karanna's essence. It was very challenging, because I didn't want all of Karanna's traits to be recessive - I wanted some to merely be dormant. That way, later on, they could hopefully be brought to the surface, and utilized."

"What kind of traits?" Liz asked warily, concerned that she was going to turn into some sort of freak.

"Nothing physically visible," Dana assured her, correctly reading Liz's expression of concern. "Although there will be certain physical implications, I would imagine," she added mysteriously. "Anyway, the traits I am referring to are things like special abilities that Karanna had - for example, being able to discern evil in others." Liz's eyes widened. "I see you're starting to understand now," Dana commented. "The reason you have that ability, is because it was part of Karanna. Karanna had many rare and wonderful gifts. She was a very beautiful girl, as well, and the combination, I believe, is what caused our beloved King to fall hopelessly in love with her."

Liz felt Max squeeze her hand, and she turned to look at him. "It would seem that history is repeating itself," he said huskily. She smiled at him, and she tightened her grip on his hand in return.

"Yes, well," Dana continued, clearing her throat. "I'm confident that it was your bringing Liz back from the brink of death, after the gunshot wound, that began to change her, Max. After that day, I noticed that the two of you had a special bond that wasn't there before. Of course, there seemed to be times when it was stronger than others - like the night the two of you found the orb, and spent the night in the desert, for example."

"So by changed, you mean -?" Liz voiced.

"You will begin to display more of Karanna's characteristics, but essentially you will remain human to the untrained eye. Most doctors would never be able to tell that you are part Antarian. It would take a detailed genetic work-up to reveal that kind of information."

Liz breathed a sigh of relief. "This is just a little overwhelming."

Dana laughed lightly. "I'm sure it is. And we will talk more later - privately," she added meaningfully. Liz understood the implication - the alien version of girl talk. She inanely wondered how Dana felt about ice cream....

"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but that's about all the heavy revelations that I can handle for one night," Max declared, briskly rubbing his hands over his face, and then sliding them up to thread through his dark hair. "So how about I ask something a little less intense? If you were following Liz when she went to New York, how come she didn't recognize you when you sat beside her on the plane? Liz is one of the most observant people I know. If you had been tailing her on the trip there, she would have remembered your face when you plopped down beside her on the airplane."

"Well, she couldn't recognize me," Dana informed him, "because I didn't look like this when I followed her to the city. In fact, I was a man then." Dana shifted into the form of an average-looking middle-aged man, and Liz jumped.

"That was you?" Liz muttered in shock.

"Indeed it was," came the deep-voiced reply.

Zan was staring intently at Da-nar's new form. Something about him.... He closed his eyes, and a flash of memory came to him. "You were in the tunnels, weren't you?" It was a statement more than a question. He already knew the answer.

"Yes, I was. I didn't think you saw me."

"I didn't remember that I had, until now," he admitted. "When I turned to run into the tunnels, you stepped quickly back into the shadows. It was such a fleeting image, that it wasn't until you returned to that form, that I realized you had been there."

Da-nar' looked again to the clock - it was now after 11 pm. "I think that we had better call it a night," he declared. "You two need to go and get some rest, and I have things to discuss with Liz as well. Then tomorrow, you begin a busy day. Tessandra is going to be a handful, and it would be best not to underestimate the stamina you will need to defeat her. We don't know what she is up to now, but I can assure you, it won't be anything we're going to like."

"Right," Max reluctantly gave in. "But, uh, just for the record - are you going to change back into Dana?" He cleared his throat. "I, um, don't think that her parents would approve of a strange, middle-aged man sharing her bedroom with her."

Da-nar' smiled wickedly. "Jealous, Max?" He laughed. "Of course I will shift back, before her parents see me. But shifting uses a lot of energy. I'm going to wait a while before I attempt to revert to the other form."

"Of course," Max said timidly, feeling foolish for being jealous of this being that had dedicated itself to preserving the royal line of Antar, and wished to see it's king and queen reunited. "Can I ask a question, though?"

"Sure - what would you like to know?"

"On Antar, in your natural form - are you a male, or a female? I don't mean it like I'm thinking it matters as far as you staying here with Liz, or anything - I'm just curious, that's all."

Da-nar' smiled. "Da-nar' is a male Talerian name. Among my people, names ending with 'ar' are generally male. Names ending with 'ra' are female. Of course, there are names that have neither ending. Our people have begun utilizing other names, besides traditional Talerian designations, since coming to Antar. And some Antarians have adopted Talerian customs as well. It's sad, that things had to end up like this. Antar was a beautiful, peaceful place to live, before Ki-var' started warring with your people. Please understand - most Talerians did not feel the same as Ki-var'. I hope -" Da-nar' stopped, fearing that perhaps he was being too presumptuous.

"What, Da-nar'? What is it that you hope for?" Max inquired.

Something in Max's tone reminded Da-nar' of King Zan. He immediately lowered his eyes in a show of respect, realizing that since meeting Max, he had neglected to honor him, in the manner his king deserved. "Forgive me, your highness, for my inappropriate behavior during our conversation. I have forgotten myself. I have meant no disrespect."

Max frowned. "I'm not quite sure in what way you feel you have been disrespectful, but I have taken no offense by either you words, or your manner. So relax. And please, finish your thought from before.... you hope -?"

Da-nar' lifted his eyes, and met Max's gaze unflinchingly. "I was merely going to express, that I hope you will not hold all of our people personally accountable for the actions of one, crazed Talerian lunatic. He may have the royal bloodline of our people flowing in his veins, but he will never be half the ruler that Zan or his forefathers have been to us. In truth, I believe it was an act of divine providence, that caused us to flee our homeland, to find a safe haven on your planet. Your people, and your predecessors on the throne, have been most kind to us, a displaced race. In truth, our lives have been greatly improved under Anatarian rule. Most of us shall be eternally grateful." Once again, he lowered his eyes in respect.

Max was moved beyond words by Da-nar's speech, and had to choke back the tears welling in his eyes. When he finally managed to swallow down the lump in his throat, he reached out, and grasped Da-nar's shoulder in his hand. "Never would I think to condemn an entire race of people, based on the actions of one, or even several of its members. Those who deserve punishment will be sought out and dealt with. It is my hope, that once thing are settled, both our peoples will live in harmony once more."

"Thank you," Da-nar' voiced in a near whisper, overcome with emotion. "You are a kind and compassionate man, filled with honor and justice, as were your forefathers. I am proud to serve you." He looked up again at Max, and added, "And I do mean just that. Now that you understand more of who you are, you must understand that I am here not only to protect you, but to do your bidding. You have reached an age of maturity, where it is no longer appropriate for me to be lurking in shadows, manipulating circumstances to help you develop your Antarian heritage. From now on, I will no longer seek to protect you as a parent would a child, but as a bodyguard would protect an honored king. And of course, I will serve you in any other way you require."

Max smiled warmly at Da-nar'. "I may be your king, but I'd like to request something right off the bat here. I appreciate your humble spirit, and your desire to see our people reunited in friendship. So let it start right here. You may serve both our peoples, but I wish for you to walk with me as a friend, not as a slave, or even a bondservant. We are no longer on Antar, under its laws, and I will need much advice in the future, as we struggle to determine how to free our planet from the ravages of this war that Ki-var' has engaged us in. I would prefer that we could discuss our plans and feelings openly and honestly, without walking around on eggshells. I don't offend easily, and as long as you don't try to push me into making decisions that I'm uncomfortable with, I would welcome having you give your advice without reservation. Deal?"

"It is highly unusual -" Da-nar' protested hesitantly.

"Yeah, well, it must be that human half of me getting in the way," Max replied with a smirk. "And just so you know, stubbornness is another trait inherent in humanity." He paused. "That means, I won't take 'no' for an answer." Now his eyes were gleaming with mischief.

Seeing the amusement of his king, Da-nar' quickly agreed to his terms. "I think I shall like having you as a - friend," he confided.

Max and Da-nar' clasped forearms in a shake to seal the bargain, and Max wrapped his left arm around Da-nar's shoulder in a brief embrace. "So will I, Da-nar', so will I."

posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:43:59 PM
Part Twenty-five

Max and Zan managed to slip into the house undetected around 11:30, their parents being sound asleep by that point. They quickly got ready for bed, Zan being the last to use the facilities. As he came back into the room, he saw Max standing at his desk, holding two envelopes in his hands, and just staring at them.

"Whatcha got there?" Zan asked, peering over Max's shoulder.

Max turned his head, to look behind him at where his brother stood. He smiled as that thought crossed his mind. He couldn't get over the fact that Zan really was his brother. It was the most incredible feeling.

"You know how Liz had that letter from Future Max?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, he left one for each of us, as well," Max informed him, holding out the one marked "Zan". Zan hesitantly reached out to take it, wondering what on earth the future version of his brother could have to say to him. "Liz gave these to me after school today," Max explained, "and there just hadn't been any time where we could sit down and look at them. So I just left them tucked in my books, until we got home."

"I see...." Zan murmured distractedly. Then he lifted questioning eyes to Max. "So - do we open them now, or later?"

Max smiled mischievously. "I know it's late, and we really ought to be going to sleep, but I don't think I could relax enough to drift off, knowing that this was sitting here waiting to be read. You can leave yours, if you want, but I'm going to open mine, and see what it says."

Zan broke into a wide grin. "Me too." Crossing the room toward the bunk beds that they had assembled earlier, they both stopped short. "So - who gets top bunk, boss?" Zan teased.

Max backhanded him in the arm. "I don't have any preference, knave, so you can choose."

"Great! I always wondered what it would be like to sleep that far up off the floor!" With that, he vaulted up into the top bunk, and laid down. Max dropped into the bottom bunk, and they both ripped open their envelopes. "Hey Max?"

"What?"

"Are we gonna keep these - private? Or are we gonna share what's in them?"

"I don't know," Max answered hesitantly. "It depends on what's in them, I guess."

"Oh."

Max perceived that there was some underlying message in that simple one word response. "Oh? Oh, what, oh?"

Zan was quiet for a minute, staring at the ceiling, wondering why he was suddenly becoming so plagued by emotions, when they had never been an issue for him before.

"Zan?"

"Huh? Oh, right. I guess, I'm just feeling really.... odd about this whole twin thing, and having a brother all of a sudden, after all these years. I'm not sure how I ought to act, or what a relationship like this means."

"Well, I guess it means just about whatever we want it to," Max suggested. "But what's that got to do with the letters?"

Zan brought his forearm up to rest across his eyes in exhausted frustration. "I guess I was thinking about secrets, versus privacy. Where we draw the line, that kind of thing. I mean, I don't want us to keep secrets from each other, but I realize that there is a line there somewhere, that once you cross it, you are into the invading privacy realm. I'm just not sure where that is."

Max smiled to himself. It warmed him to know that their fledgling relationship as brothers was as much on Zan's mind as it was his. "I think we'll just play it by ear, and let's agree to keep the lines of communication open. If one of us feels the other is being secretive, or crossing into the forbidden privacy realm, we need to express that, and discuss it. What one of us perceives to be a secret, might constitute privacy for the other. I'm sure we can adjust."

"Yeah, you're right. You know, my relationships with Lonnie, Rath, and Ava were based on lies and secrets. This is going to be a whole new experience for me. Be patient with me, okay?"

"I'll do my best," Max promised, "and you can remind me, when I forget," he added with a chuckle.

"I'd be delighted, brother," Zan replied. "Now I'll let you get to that letter." Zan turned his attention to the note he held in his hands. Unfolding the paper, he began to read.

    Zan,

    This seems rather strange, writing a note to someone I've never met. But by the time you read this, that will have changed, and hopefully you won't view receiving this to be odd.

    Basically, what I need to tell you, is that we need you. I can't explain how I know this, I just do. Something happened when I accidentally connected to your future self, and it changed me; made me more aware of things. And in some strange way, it seemed to give me a sense of wholeness I've never known before. It was then that I became certain that we were doing the right thing, by coming to find you; not just because we wanted to stop you from joining forces with Kivar, but because we need you in our lives. Hopefully, you will come to feel the same way.

    I will warn you now - I can be pretty possessive when it comes to Liz, as can my younger self, with whom you will be dealing. Don't take it personally - just realize that I love her more than anything in the world, and would be willing to die to protect her. I know your older self was attracted to her, so I felt it important to advise you that there is no future in it. I have loved Liz ever since I first laid eyes on her over 9 years ago, and we have history together. She owns the other half of my soul, and if there is to be peace between you and my younger self, you will do well to accept that fact.

    If you are reading this, then you have obviously consented to return to Roswell. It is my fondest wish that you will be happy there, and find a better life for yourself than you have been offered so far. Take care of yourself, and those you love. When I return to the future, I hope it will be to greet you as a friend, and as a brother in this quest to free our planet.

    Until then,

    F. Max


Meanwhile, on the lower bunk, Max had removed a lengthy letter from his older self, and had immersed himself in its message....

    Max,

    Well, I guess this takes the concept of talking to yourself to a whole new level, now doesn't it?

    I have so many things to say, and little time in which to say them. So if this seems disjointed, you'll understand why.

    First, I don't think I need to warn you any further about Tess. Now that she has begun to show her true colors, there's no telling what she might pull, in order to get her way.

    Second, the Book. Alex translated it before, he can do it again. NMSU Las Cruces has a computer that can decode it.

    The Skins have at least on base of operation located in Copper Summit, AZ. Their husks are dying right now - they only last for 50 years before they begin to die. That's why they are shedding. They are currently cultivating replacement husks beneath the big barn in the center of the town. You will need to destroy them. Courtney is a Skin as well, but she means us no harm. She is obsessed with Michael (long story), and will do anything to protect him, including going against her own people.

    Keep an eye on Sorenson. He has been infected by an alien bacterium, called gandarium, that was aboard our ship. When we crashed, the gandarium was released into the water table on Puhlman Ranch. It looks like blue crystals. We learned that they live in a hive environment, and the queen has possessed Grant. (I know - this sounds like really bad sci-fi, huh?) Anyway, he will kidnap a girl named Laurie Dupree, who happens to be the granddaughter of Michael's human donor. Isabel will get flashes of the abduction, and you will find her buried alive in Frazier Woods, near the abandoned pump house. Look for the dirt to be disturbed, where Sorenson ran lines to some oxygen tanks for her. Then follow them to where she is buried. Valenti was hesitant to help us before, because we had only Isabel's visions to go on, and we couldn't piece together anything substantial at first. But if you show him this letter, I'm sure he'll cooperate, when the time comes.

    Once you rescue Laurie, you'll need to keep her away from Michael. She has been kept drugged by greedy relatives, so that she is incapacitated to administrate her grandfather's estate, of which she is the heir. When she saw Michael, she flipped out. Somehow she knew we were aliens. Perhaps her grandfather had regaled her with stories of his abduction?

    Okay, now for the hard part. I'm not even really sure where to begin, so I'll jump in feet first, and trust you to stay with me until I'm finished. You will have to try and make sense of this on your own, because I haven't been able to myself, and I'm running out of time. In the less than 24 hours that I have been here, something unusual has taken place, between myself and your Liz. Before you get all upset, just hear me out.

    At first, I was attracted to her, because as you know, my Liz and I have been separated for the last 3 years. Seeing her again, at a point in her life when she didn't hate me, brought it all flooding back to me - the way my stomach would rumble, every time that I would see her. I know that you know what I am talking about! Basically, I felt everything that you feel for her - I am you, after all!

    Now, here's the strange part. Before we left for NY, Zan and I talked, then when we shook hands, a spontaneous connection sprung up between us. It was - intense. My senses were incredibly heightened; the effects are lingering even now. It was as if... the alien side of me was being more fully brought to the surface. (Just a thought - when you get to know him better, you might try connecting to him, see what happens.)

    Anyway, Liz touched us while we were linked, which broke the connection. But before it did, I became aware of Liz on like this whole other level. It was as if there was a spark of recognition about her, lodged in my subconscious. I'm not sure what caused it, or what it means... but it definitely wasn't coming from the human side of me. It felt almost... primal. So much so, I finally had to move away from her on the plane, in order to regain control of myself. Just being near her aroused me to the point of near insanity. I admit, I got pretty physical with her at one point. (Yeah, go ahead and get mad at yourself. Then you can have Mom and Dad sign you up for more therapy.) Listen, it wasn't anything that I planned, but the connection we shared was incredible. Maybe Liz will feel comfortable telling you about it.

    I'm telling you this for a couple reasons, the most important being that you must not blame Liz for what happened. I think that she, too, was somehow affected by the connection that I had with Zan. It was as if there was this incredible force drawing us together. It was so strong, it took every ounce of strength that I had to fight it, and move a safe distance from her.

    Something tells me, that besides being downright pleasurable, being with Liz - becoming one with her - will profoundly affect the course of your future. After all, Future Zan admitted that our love didn't cause the end of the world - it saved it. Pretty powerful. Obviously, you don't want to pressure her into cementing your relationship, but it can't hurt to try to persuade her. She is crazy about you, and with a little patience, I'm sure you will be successful.

    The last thing I want to say is about Zan. I know he will probably be a thorn in your side, if he's like his older self. I know how you struggled with Future Zan's attraction to Liz. But truly, can you blame him? And he may be more like us than we care to admit. Which brings me to what I wanted to tell you - when I connected with him, I felt... different. It's hard to describe, actually, but it was like finding the other half of myself. I don't mean in the soul matish kind of way that Liz completes me - I guess I can't adequately describe it. When you connect with Zan, you'll understand what I mean.

    Well, I've probably said way too much here - Serena (a good friend of Liz's) warned me not to try and alter history too much. But given what we know now about the importance of your relationship with Liz - what's a few more details, to aid the cause?

    Just remember to take care of that beautiful woman always, so that what I've done here won't be in vain. And also so that when I get home, I will find myself sleeping in her arms for the rest of my life.

    F. Max

When Zan finished reading his letter, he lay quietly thinking about its contents, and the profound way that his life had changed over the last few days. He smiled to think of Future Max writing what he did, not having known the truth about their relationship, and yet still sensing it in some way. He wondered what the connection thing was all about, and was eagerly waiting for Max to finish reading, so they could discuss it. As he was lost in his thoughts, he suddenly heard a sharp intake of breath from the bottom bunk. He listened for a few seconds, and when he heard nothing else, he spoke.

"Max?"

"Mmm... just a second." Zan waited patiently while Max finished reading. "Okay, I'm finished. What did you want?"

"I just wondered what you were reading that made you gasp a minute ago, that's all."

Max remained silent for a moment collecting his thoughts. Then he quietly revealed, "Actually, it had to do with you."

"Me?" Zan leaned over the edge of his bed, until his head cleared the bottom of his bed, and he could look directly into Max's eyes. "What did he have to say to you about me? He didn't even know me, at the time he would have written these letters."

"Well, more specifically, it had to do with your future incarnation, and something that happened between them."

"You mean the connection?"

Max's eyebrows raised in surprise. "You know about that?"

"Not much - he just mentioned it in passing in my note, is all. Said that it changed him somehow. I wish I knew how my future self reacted to it. You know - if it was the same for him." They sat in silence for a few moments, and then Zan asked, "What do you think it was, that happened between them?"

"I'm not sure," Max admitted. "Although, it must not have been an awful experience, because he suggested that once we know each other, we might want to try connecting."

"Do you think that's wise? I mean, if we don't know what all happens, and stuff..."

"I wish I knew." Then a thought occurred to him. "Perhaps Da-nar' will be able to shed some light on this. We'll have to talk to him about it tomorrow, after school."

"School, right," Zan said with a chuckle, flopping back down on his mattress.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Max asked, sounding a little annoyed.

"Have you ever noticed how ridiculous statements like that sound, given our circumstances? I mean, you're a king of an entire planet, Max, and yet everything comes to a grinding halt, because you have to engage in meaningless activities with human youths, just in order to blend in to their society. I can hear it now: 'I'm sorry, Da-nar', but we'll have to save the planet later. I have to go to Chemistry Lab now.' " Both of them snickered quietly, not allowing themselves the freedom to actually laugh, for fear of waking their parents.

When they regained some semblance of composure, Max protested, "It isn't really meaningless activity. We do learn stuff."

"You could do far better, studying on your own."

"Says you."

"Yeah, says me. And I intend to prove it."

"How?" Max asked.

"Just wait until you find out the results of those placement tests I'm going to convince them to let me take. I may even talk to the principal tomorrow, without addressing the transcript issue. I've been thinking, that perhaps just having been homeschooled would be enough incentive for him to want to test me. Thinking, of course, that he will have to place me lower than the others my age. He won't know what hit him."

"Pretty confident, aren't you ?"

"Enough to get the job done. Just wait."

"Just remember, you represent the family now. Arrogance isn't an endearing quality, even if you have the right to it."

Zan heard Max refolding his letter, stuffing it back into the envelope, and so Zan followed suit, still thinking on Max's words. Max rose to turn out the lights, and then fell back into his bed. "Well, good night., Zan."

"Goodnight, Max. See you in the morning." Exhausted from the day's events, they both fell asleep immediately.


posted on 5-Nov-2001 10:53:02 PM
Part Twenty-six

Once Liz saw Max and Zan off for the night, she came back and sat down on the bed next to Da-nar'. For a moment, she just looked into his face, concerned by the fatigue she noticed there for the first time. In her own kind, compassionate way, she reached out a hand, and placed it gently over his, where it rested on the bed next to his thigh.

"Are you all right?" she inquired softly. "I don't mean to be rude, but you look like you aren't feeling well."

"I'm not," he sighed, closing his eyes, and letting his head sink deeply into the pillow, as if it were made of lead.

"I don't understand," Liz told him. "You seemed okay a few minutes ago, before Max left. What happened?"

Without opening his eyes, Da-nar' made a valiant attempt to lift the corners of his mouth into a smile. "I managed to hold my form in an appearance of health until the king was gone. I didn't wish for him to see me looking as weak as I felt."

"Oh, Da-nar'," Liz whispered painfully. She brought her hand up to brush his hair away from his forehead, and then stroke the side of his face. "You mustn't allow pride to be your downfall. It had to have taken a lot of extra energy you didn't have to waste, in order to keep up the facade. It would be better for you to just be yourself. Max would understand."

Da-nar' opened his eyes then, and stared deeply into hers. Laying his hand over hers, where it still rested on his cheek, he murmured, "So like our beloved Karanna. Joy fills my heart, to know that you have retained her finest qualities. It is as if she never left us at all." He winced in pain, and his eyes drifted shut once more.

"What can I do for you?" Liz cried helplessly. She so wanted to bring comfort to this man who had dedicated his life to serving and protecting them all.

"There is nothing that can be done, except rest," he groaned out. "I know I promised Max that I would change back to Dana, but I am afraid that will be quite impossible right now. I haven't the strength."

"Don't worry about that," Liz insisted. "My parents won't be back until tomorrow, remember? You can remain this way, and then change back to Dana in the morning, before they arrive home."

Da-nar' squeezed Liz's hand in gratitude. "Thank you, my queen. My strength should be sufficiently replenished by then."

"So... is it always this painful to change form?" she questioned.

"No - usually I feel just a slight fatigue. But I was foolish this time, in that I hadn't eaten much today, and my body's energy reserves were already depleted."

Liz stared at him in amazement. "You were working in the restaurant all day, and you didn't eat? What? Do you aliens have some sort of mystical willpower or something? Perhaps you could awaken that in me!" she teased.

Da-nar' chuckled at her attempt to cheer him up. "Well, I had my mind on other things, you know," he joked back. Then his face became serious again. "Actually, that is more truth than jest. I have been concerned about you, and it occupies a good deal of my waking thoughts these days."

"Concerned about us how?" Liz wanted to know.

"Not all of you, Liz," Da-nar' corrected. "You, Karanna. It is your welfare that has been troubling me."

"I don't understand? I'm well cared for, and Max watches me like a hawk now. What could possibly have you feeling so anxious?"

"Many things are leaving me unsettled. It is these changes in you as of late. I am not quite sure what to expect, and there are things happening that make no sense to me. I try so hard to reason them out, but the more I dwell on them, the less certain I become of what is going on. Perhaps if we discuss them, and you describe to me your thoughts and feelings -? Is that too much to ask? I am not certain even then that I will find the answers I seek, but it may at least give me a place to begin searching for understanding."

Liz smiled, as a thought came to her. "Yes, I'll be willing to talk to you about that. But I have to get something first," she said mysteriously. "You just rest for a minute - I'll be right back." Da-nar' nodded his compliance, and she scooted from the room. A couple minutes later, she returned with a pint of ice cream, and two spoons.

Da-nar' opened his eyes, when he heard her shut the bedroom door behind her. He stared inquisitively at the carton she held in her hands. "Ice cream?" he asked, confused as to the significance of the gesture.

Liz nodded purposefully, handing him a spoon. "It's a necessary component for 'girl-talk'," she informed him. When she saw his puzzlement escalate, she quickly explained. "Earlier, when you told me you wanted to talk to me, you were still in the form of Dana. At the time, the thought ran through my head, that it would be like the alien version of 'girl talk'. Whenever Maria and I have our gut-spilling sessions, we always share our innermost thoughts and feelings over a carton of ice cream. So when you, as Dana, mentioned having a chat between just the two of us, I envisioned us doing it this way, trading secrets over a pint of Hagen Daas."

Liz sat down on the bed next to Da-nar', and tugged the lid off the carton, tossing it onto the night stand. "Of course, this really can't be called 'girl talk', since you aren't really a girl and all," she rambled. She wagged her spoon at him, to emphasize her next point. "But the principal is the same. Consider it a bonding ritual."

Da-nar' began to choke. "A - a bonding ritual?" he wheezed out.

Liz gave him a dark look, like she was convinced that he was losing his mind. "And the problem is -?"

Da-nar' thumped his fist on his chest, trying to recover from the coughing spasm. "Uh, well, on Antar, a bonding ritual is the ceremony that follows a wedding - prior to the couple mating for the first time..."

"OH MY GOD!" she shrieked, turning 12 shades of red. "Nononono! I am so sorry! That wasn't what I meant at all!! When humans talk about bonding, we use it in a more generic sense, referring to building bridges of friendship or heart ties with another person, either of the same or opposite sex. But there isn't a sexual connotation to it! Geez! No wonder you were flipping out!"

"Well, glad we got that cleared up," he mumbled, averting his eyes in shame, for even thinking that his queen would make such an inappropriate comment. "So, how does this.... ritual work?"

She drove her spoon deep into the now softening ice cream, and extracted it, heaped with the frozen confection. "We simply eat from the same container of ice cream. Nothing fancy." She handed the little tub to Da-nar', then inserted the spoon in her mouth, closing her eyes, as she savored the taste of the sugary substance, slowly pulling the spoon back out of her mouth.

Da-nar's eyes grew wide, watching Liz's actions. Being a Talerian, trapped on a planet full of beings that were not even remotely like his own species, he never gave the concept of desire and passion a second thought. They were foreign concepts to him. But now, observing Liz's innocent sensuality (for he knew that she was not trying to arouse him), he suddenly understood, at least in part, what had Max and Zan so tied up in knots. This woman was the most incredible creature he had ever known. And then it hit him. He was responsible for her very being - if not for him, she wouldn't exist. So what did that make him - something like her father? Yeah, that's good. Grab hold of that thought, and run with it. Think of her as a daughter.

Suddenly, his body remembered that he had forgotten to breathe. Just as Liz was finishing what was left on the spoon, she heard Da-nar' take a deep gulp of air into his lungs. Her eyes flew open, frantically roaming his face and body with panic in her eyes. "Da-nar'? What is it? What happened?"

Da-nar' chuckled to himself. No way was he was answering that question truthfully! Back on Antar, he could lose his head over such an admission! Thank God, things weren't quite as uptight in this new order of things that his king had established. "Nothing to worry about, Liz. I was just absorbed in thought, and forgot to breathe for a moment. No problem. My body reminds me to breathe, when I forget." He smiled at her, trying to assure her that indeed he was fine.

"Give a girl a heart attack, why don't you?" she chided. She noticed that he still held the ice cream, and an unused spoon. "Well? Aren't you going to join me? Or am I left to participate in this decadent ritual all by myself?"

Da-nar' shook his head, chuckling, and scooped some ice cream out of the carton. Lifting his spoon in salute, he plunged it into his mouth, and then squeezed his eyes shut tight with a moan.

"Da-nar'! What's wrong?!" Liz was beside herself with worry. Then she saw his hand shoot up, and grab the top of his head, wincing as if in pain. "Uh-oh," she said with dread. "Looks like you got a bad case of brain freeze."

The pain had just started to subside somewhat, and Da-nar's eyes flew open in alarm. "Brain freeze?" he croaked.

"Yeah, that's what happens sometimes, when you eat ice cream too quickly. Your brain doesn't really freeze, obviously. Actually, the cold assaults your nerve endings, and causes this major pain in your head. Nasty."

"I'll say," Da-nar' grumbled, tossing his spoon onto the lid that was still perched on the night stand. "I'm done."

Liz smirked. "No sense of adventure, this one," she teased.

Da-nar' snickered. "Right. I've traveled light years in a space ship, performed genetic miracles, protected myself and my charges from sure and swift destruction by either humans or hostile aliens.... but I have no sense of adventure. Curses. Foiled by a spoonful of ice cream."

Liz threw back her head and laughed. "I'm so glad you have a sense of humor," she announced, as she retrieved the round container from her friend. Driving her spoon in for another helping, she asked, "So what did you want to talk about, anyway?"

"I wanted to question you about the unusual things that have been happening to you lately."

"Okay, shoot."

Da-nar' took a big breath. "All right, first off - let's talk about what happened between you, Future Max, and Future Zan in the alley behind Michael's apartment, the day you left for New York. Exactly what happened?"

"Well, Zan wanted to talk to Max privately for a moment, and so I moved off with Future Michael, and was talking to him. When I realized that Max and Zan were locked in some strange, trance-like state, I approached them, and placed my hand over their clasped ones. I felt this little jolt, and then my skin tingled. Then the connection broke, and it was over."

"Did you notice anything else? Besides your skin tingling, I mean?"

Liz thought back over it. "Well, I had this odd feeling at the time - you know, emotionally. But I can't really describe it. It was kind of vague."

"Okay, then let's move on," Da-nar' instructed. "Tell me about the incident with Future Max on the airplane."

Liz blushed, and looked away. "Do I have to?"

Da-nar' furrowed his brows in confusion. "Why would you not?"

"Because it's embarrassing! It was shameful the way that we behaved! And I have no idea why."

Da-nar' placed a hand on her shoulder, and squeezed it gently. "That's why we need to talk about it. You needn't feel embarrassed, as if I am just finding out what happened. I was there, remember?"

"I know! So why do I have to tell you about it?"

"Because I know what was happening on the outside of you," he explained. "What I need to know, is what was taking place on the inside. What you were feeling, thinking."

"I - well, it's hard to explain. It was as if I couldn't get close enough to him... are you sure you need to hear this?" she asked, disturbed by the frankness of the conversation.

"If we hope to get any answers, then yes," he assured her. "I am not trying to invade your privacy. But something unexpected is happening, and we need to understand it better."

Liz nodded, then continued. "When Max started kissing me, it was like I was overwhelmed by this insatiable need to... to, uh, well, you know," she finally said in exasperation.

Da-nar' smiled patiently. "Yes, I think I get the picture. Continue."

"As Max began kissing me... passionately, we suddenly formed this really odd connection. It was as if we were both outside of our bodies, almost like being in another dimension, outside of time, or something. But it was just the two of there. That was the point when Max first called me 'Karanna'. It was like, wherever we were, he knew who I really was. We were so caught up in what was happening, we didn't even realize what our physical bodies were doing. And that's when Michael came and snapped us out of it. We were surprised, when we found ourselves.. uh..."

Da-nar' smiled. "It's all right Liz. I know what you are referring to. I saw the position you were in, when Michael interrupted."

Liz blushed a bright crimson. "Ooo-kaay... so, can we like, move on, then?"

Da-nar' thought for a moment. "Were you able to communicate consciously, within the connection?"

"I'm sorry, I can't tell you for sure. It was so brief - we had barely entered the connection, when Michael broke it up."

"Well, let's move on, then, like you suggested. Let's focus on the incident with Zan in the tunnel. What caused you to attempt to breach his shield? And without fear of bringing harm to yourself?"

"I honestly don't know," Liz admitted with a weary sigh. "I just felt this overwhelming need to go to him - to reassure and comfort him. I knew he... needed me. And in my heart, I knew that anything that was a part of him would not - could not - harm me. I don't know how I knew that, but I was right, wasn't I? Can you explain that?"

"Not yet, but that's what we're hopefully working toward here. What did you experience, when you came in contact with the shield?"

"It was quite amazing, actually," she confided, losing herself in the memory now. "At first, it was like this little jolt, and then my skin tingled -"

"Wait! Do you realize what you just said?"

Liz looked baffled. "Uh, no - what did I say?"

"The description you just gave is the same as what you said happened, when you interrupted the connection between Max and Zan. Now think - did it really feel the same? Or did you just use the same words?"

"No!" Liz exclaimed, getting excited. Maybe they were onto something! "It felt just the same! What does that mean?"

"Would you say that it was like feeling Max or Zan's energy flowing through you?"

Liz thought for a second. "Yes, I suppose that could be what it felt like. I knew whatever it was came from them."

"What about when you actually stepped through the shield? How did that feel?"

"Pretty much the same, as far as the tingling. But there was one point, where it completely engulfed me, and I felt as if I was completely protected. I felt utterly... safe."

"When you touched the shield, though, you actually altered the intensity of it. I saw it change colors. Did you feel any kind of an energy drain at all?"

"Well, not so much at the time - I think I had too much adrenaline running through my system at the time. But later, when it was all over, I felt this odd restlessness, like I didn't know what to do with myself. And I felt tired."

"Interesting."

Liz noticed the thoughtful look on Da-nar's face. "Do you have some theory as to what caused this?"

"Well, from what I can figure, somehow your energy signature is aligned with Zan's which allowed you to pass through his shield, with no harm to yourself. And in fact, it allowed your energy to mingle with his, increasing the strength of the shield. Now as to why that is, I have no concrete proof. My best guess would be, that it had something to do with you being drawn into the connection between Future Max and Future Zan. Although that doesn't seem likely. I mean, if everyone an Antarian ever connected to became immune to their energy field, it wouldn't be much of a weapon - either offensive or defensive - now, would it?"

"Not hardly," Liz agreed. "So - any other ideas?"

"Well," Da-nar' said hesitantly, dropping his eyes to where his hands laid folded in his lap, "there is one way this has been said to occur. But the conditions are very rare - and I doubt if you meet one of the basic requirements."

"What are they?" Liz questioned. "What kind of requirements?"

"What I am about to tell you is based on Antarian legend, you have to understand. I have never witnessed it myself, nor have I ever known anyone who has. Do you follow me?"

"Yes, yes," Liz said impatiently. "Tell me."

"It is said, that once in a great while, when true soul mates are joined in marriage and united in flesh, they truly become as one. In such a case, a wife would be protected, rather than harmed by her mate's shield, for example. But you see? You and Zan are not married, nor have you bonded yourselves as one, so that cannot be the explanation. Unless...."

"Yes? Unless what?"

"Well, with Zan being Max's twin and all, their energy signatures might perhaps be the same, or very close. So if you have been intimate with Max...." Da-nar' let the thought drift into silence.

Liz looked confused for a span of a couple seconds, and then the reaction. "Oh... OH! Oh heaven's, no. Max and I haven't done anything like that. I mean, we've connected and all, but our intimacy hasn't gone farther than what you observed on the airplane."

"I see. Well, that eliminates that theory, then."

Liz bit her lip, as she remembered that what she just told Da-nar' was not accurate. She considered not telling him, and knew that it had nothing to do with this situation with Zan that they were discussing, but perhaps it might be an important piece of the overall puzzle. "Actually, something else has happened - but nothing that would affect what happened with Zan."

Da-nar' lifted one eyebrow in a silent query.

"Uh, earlier today, when Max and I were kissing, things got a little...." Liz's face grew hot, and she swallowed, trying to overcome her nervousness.

"Liz, please don't feel embarrassed. If it helps, close your eyes, and picture me as Dana," he suggested.

Liz nodded. She closed her eyes, and then continued. "Things got a little hot and heavy, you could say, and I allowed my mind to wander to a... lustful fantasy. To make a long story short, Max saw the fantasy discovered that he could manipulate the Fantasy Max in it." She opened her eyes, and looked quizzically into Da-nar's. "Are interactive fantasies normal for Antarian couples?"

"Are you sure that you and Max have never engaged in intercourse?" Da-nar pressed, giving Liz a look that said he thought she was holding back on him. "Remember, I am not going to judge you if you have. What the two of you do, is your business. But I need to know the truth, if we are to get to the bottom of this."

"I swear to you, we have never made love! Not physically, anyway. I mean, in the fantasy, yeah, we did... but that's not the same, is it?!"

Da-nar' smiled. "No, it isn't the same. So you are still a virgin, then?"

"Yes! Why do you keep asking me that?!"

"Because the only way I have ever known Antarians to experience interactive fantasies is when they are married and bonded. You keep displaying signs of this, and yet you maintain you are a virgin. Can you understand my confusion?"

"I suppose, but there is only one way I can think of to prove to you that I am telling the truth... and I refuse to let you touch me like that!"

"Liz, calm down. I don't wish to examine you for proof of your innocence. Your word is enough for me."

"Thank you," she murmured, quieting after her outburst.

"I wish to think on these things in solitude, if you don't mind. I have much to mull over. And you need your rest. It is very late, and you have classes tomorrow. If you have a pillow and a blanket, I can sleep on the floor..."

"Absolutely not, I won't hear of it," Liz stated. "You sleep in the bed, and I can curl up on the couch. Just make sure to wake me up, when the alarm goes off in the morning, okay?"

"If you're sure...?"

"I'm positive," she declared, standing up, and gathering the ice cream and spoons. "I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

"Thank you, Liz. I truly appreciate your kindness."

"No problem. Sleep well." Liz went to leave, and seeing that Da-nar' had pulled a blanket over himself, and was already drifting off, she turned out the light, and closed the door.
posted on 10-Nov-2001 9:35:07 AM
Part Twenty-seven

Shortly before dawn, Liz dreamed she was on a secluded beach. The sands were white, and the water the most incredible shade of blue she had ever seen. The sun was hanging low on the horizon, filling the sky with seemingly infinite hues of red, orange and purple. She wore a white, gauzy dress with a handkerchief hemline, and a scooped neckline that just grazed the upper edges of her breasts.

As she walked along the shoreline, she came to an outcropping of rocks. Being barefoot, she waded in the shallow water, as she made her way along the rocky wall. The sun was dipping lower, and dusk began to settle around her. She had no idea where she had come from, where she was headed, or even where she was. But she knew that she needed to keep moving.

In the twilight lighting, she noticed that there were crevices in the rock wall, that were blanketed in shadows. She shivered, thinking that something could be hiding in one of them, but she didn't slow her pace. She kept moving steadily toward her unknown destination.

She turned her head to look out over the sinking sun's final rays reflecting off the water, and sighed at the incredible beauty in the sun's final surrender to the night. The moon was already overhead, as if chasing the sun from the sky. As the sunlight faded beyond the horizon, the beautiful silvery light reflected by the moon danced on the ripples in the water.

Without warning, two arms circled her like steel bands from behind, rendering her completely helpless. Just as she was about to scream, a low, rumbling voice spoke in her ear. "Don't be afraid, my love."

Liz melted on the spot, and was instantly swung up into the strong arms that moments ago had held her captive. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she threaded her fingers through his midnight dark hair, and pulled his face to hers, fusing him to herself in a fiery liplock.

Max carried her back into the shadows, never releasing her from their kiss. When they were concealed, he placed her on her feet, and pinned her body against the rocks with his hips, allowing her to experience the full extent of his desire for her. She gasped, and he took advantage of the opportunity to thrust his tongue into her warm, eager mouth. With mounting hunger, their tongues stroked one another, further inflaming their passion. His hands began to boldly roam her body, memorizing every curvaceous inch of her within his reach.

As the fire between them grew in intensity, Max wrenched his lips from hers, only to fasten on the soft column of her throat, gently sucking, and teasing it with the tip of his tongue. She was so delirious from her mounting desire, she wasn't even aware of what he was doing, until he broke contact briefly with her - just long enough to sweep her dress over her head. He was about to resume his hungry assault on her delicate skin, when he realized that she had been wearing only a pair of silken bikini panties beneath that virginal dress.

Wanting a better look, he pulled her from the shadows, just far enough from the rocks, where the moonlight could wash over her. Seeing her clearly now, almost completely exposed to his appreciative gaze, he fell to his knees - partly because his legs wouldn't hold him up any longer, and partly out of reverence for her supernatural beauty. He had never seen anything that could hold a candle to Liz Parker's naked flesh, kissed by silver shards of moonlight. His arms reached out to her, and she walked into his embrace, closing her eyes on a moan, as she felt the moist warmth of his mouth on her, paying homage to her loveliness.

His hands moved to her hips, and swept the last remaining covering from her body. Stepping back from him, Liz held her hands out to Max, urging him to rise to his feet. When he did, she huskily murmured, "Your turn." She slowly, seductively, unbuttoned the front of his shirt, trailing kisses down his chest and abdomen, as more and more of his torso was exposed to her. When she reached his waist, she yanked the bottom of his shirt out of his jeans, and finished unbuttoning it. Slowly, she rose to her feet, tracing his hard, muscular form with the tip of her tongue, causing him to groan from desire. Instinctively, his hands came up to thread in her hair, and he held her face close to him, letting her know that he was thoroughly enjoying her sensual torment.

When she was completely upright once more, she slid her small, delicate hands inside the front edges of his shirt. With painstaking slowness, she stroked her hands over his chest, moving upward to his shoulders. She dipped her fingers beneath the shoulder seam of the garment, into the upper part of the armhole, and began to push the shirt down his strong arms, kneading their muscular definition as she went. When at last the material was tossed aside, she took a step back, appraising what was revealed to her. Beautiful, she thought. Absolutely perfect.

Max stood stock still, allowing her to look her fill. But not because of any vain arrogance on his part. The longer she stood looking at him, the longer his eyes could feast on her! She was standing there so uninhibited, he remotely wondered if she even realized how blatantly he was staring at her, while she seemed lost in her own sensual delight, at the sight of his partially unclothed body. He only hoped that she wouldn't be frightened, when she got her first glimpse of how painfully he was aroused right now. She had seen him naked before in their fantasies, but they had been otherwise occupied in their frantic drive toward ecstasy at the time. It was possible that under the circumstances, she hadn't been visually focused on the root of his virility.

The blatant adoration in her eyes was incredibly arousing, and he was beginning to ache with longing to be joined to her. In an attempt to bring her back to the matter at hand, he spoke her name softly. "Liz?"

Liz raised her eyes to Max's, finding them dark and wild with desire. "Yes, Max?" she whispered.

"Do you... I mean, should I... uh...."

Liz smiled, and stepped closer. Her hands went to the snap on his jeans, as her mouth again began trailing sensual kisses down his body. By the time she reached the waistband, her nimble fingers had released the fastener, and lowered the zipper. Kneeling before him, she slid her hands inside his jeans and underwear at the hips, and pushed them downward. When she had worked them to his ankles, he lifted first one foot, and then the other, while she slipped them completely off. Her task completed, she sat back on her heels to admire her handiwork.

Max was at first concerned, when he saw her eyes widen in surprise at the sight of him. Only once had he been in the showers in the locker room, and it was then that he learned he was more than amply endowed in that respect. If he had been the arrogant sort, he would have liked to think that his classmates envied him. But being of a more shy nature, instead of pleasing him, it had made him self-conscious, thinking that perhaps something was wrong with him. He had worried that it was due to his alien heritage, and that surely someone would realize he was different because of it. He had never showered with them after that, instead waiting until everyone else was out, before he dashed in to wash up. He hadn't really thought anything more of it, until now. He wondered what Liz was thinking.

When she lifted her eyes from the object of her scrutiny to meet his gaze, he had his answer. She didn't look shocked, or horrified - not even mildly displeased. She looked.... hungry. For him. And allowing his eyes to graze down over her nude body, he saw further evidence that she was indeed aroused by the sight of him, instead of repulsed. He was so overwhelmed with relief, that he reached down and clasped her upper arms in his hands, drawing her to her feet and into blatant contact with his hard body in one swift motion. The sensation of her skin brushing against the center of his desire was nearly his undoing. Against the backdrop of the water gently lapping at the shore, he moaned in her ear, "I need you Liz. More than anything I've ever needed in my life."

Liz was touched by his honest admission, and despite her own arousal, she felt the strong pull of the water, beckoning to her. Just the thought of it lapping around their naked bodies caused a shiver to shake her petite form, and she stepped back from his embrace.

Max again grew nervous. Why was she pulling away? "Liz? Is something wrong?"

Liz shook her head slowly, licking her lips unconsciously as she stared into the amber depths of his eyes. "Come with me," she said, holding a hand out to him in invitation. He reached out and entwined his fingers with hers, and she tugged gently, setting his frame in motion toward the water's edge. She faced him and walked backwards into the water, leading him until they were in it up to her breasts.

Seeing the water rippling around her soft flesh sent a new surge of fire into his loins, causing him to close his eyes on a groan. "Liz?" he croaked out, when he finally was able to marginally control his desperate longing. "What are we doing?"

Without a word, she stepped up to him, her body flush with his, and began caressing his body with hers, the water making her skin glide effortlessly over his. She reached up around his neck, and using the buoyancy of the water, pulled herself up until her legs were wrapped around his waist.

"God, LIZ!" he moaned, when he felt how she had made herself completely vulnerable to him.

"Love me, Max," she murmured against his lips, and then crushed her mouth to his. With her hands wrapped around the back of his head, she urged him to deepen the kiss, which he did, at the same moment he complied with her spoken request. He felt her little scream reverberate in his mouth at the invasion, and he released her lips, in order to look at her and make sure she was all right. The sight that greeted him made his heart pound like thunder, and the blood pulsed furiously in his veins. Her head fell backwards in wild abandon, as her arched body began to encourage him to begin the rhythmic movements that would take them to paradise.

With her body bent slightly backwards over his arms that encircled her, she lay completely vulnerable to his marauding mouth. Gently sucking on her sensitive flesh, his body became overwhelmed with the sensations that were assaulting him. Hearing her cries of pleasure only served to deepen his hunger, and he felt as if he couldn't possibly get close enough to her.

As her body quivered with her release, Max joined her in that fulfillment. "Karanna!" he cried out, as he convulsed within her. Their bodies still humming from the explosive experience, they clung to each other, kissing feverishly, as if they couldn't get enough. When their pulses finally slowed somewhat, their kisses became gentler, until Max pulled back to look at her. "Wow," he breathed reverently.

Liz smiled. "Yeah, wow." Then a movement on the beach caught her attention. She looked over Max's shoulder, and saw the outline of a man standing at the shoreline, looking out at them. She scowled, wondering who would be standing there, watching them like a voyeur. Something didn't seem right. This beach had been completely deserted just minutes before. Where had he even come from, she wondered.

His stance was defeated, his shoulders slumped as he turned to walk away. As he did, the moonlight reflected off his features, and Liz gasped. "Zan!" she exclaimed softly.

Max gave her a dark look, wondering why she was uttering his brother's name, after they just finished making love. This did not bode well.

Liz saw the expression on Max's face, and sliding down his body so she was standing, turned him to face the shoreline, pointing to where Zan had frozen in his tracks. It was apparent to her, as he stared back at her now, that he had heard her speak his name, even from that great a distance. His eyes fairly glowed amber, as they looked upon her. Her heart wrenched at the tortured look on his face.

She saw him turn his head and look over his shoulder toward the rocky wall behind him. He took one last look at Max and Liz in the water, and then turned and disappeared into the shadows. Liz wrapped her arms around Max's waist, and snuggled in close to his chest, trying not to feel guilty for what they had shared. She had no way of knowing that Zan had been watching. She didn't know why he would even want to. Maybe he hadn't been standing there that long, she tried to convince herself. But something about the pain in his eyes told her he had seen enough. She became aware of Max's mouth working magic on the sensitive skin of her neck, and pushing all thoughts of Zan from her mind, she gave herself up to the pleasure of being loved by him once more.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Zan stood silently watching Max and Liz kissing with abandon, as they clung to each other in the water. He could tell by the fact that Liz appeared to be as tall as Max, that she wasn't standing on the sandy bottom. He was certain what that meant. Inside, he felt as if a knife was twisting inside him. Why was he even here? He realized that this wasn't real - why was he dreaming about Max and Liz making love on a moonlit beach? Was he some sort of masochist or something? He had resigned himself to the fact that he would never share such a relationship with Liz, but to torment himself by dreaming of her being with Max? That bordered on sick. He started to walk away, when he heard Liz call his name - the sound of her soft voice floating to him like a gentle breeze. If it weren't for his exceptional hearing, he never would have been aware she had even said it.

Despite the realization that this situation could only bring him more heartache, he stopped, and turned around to meet her stare. Their eyes met and locked, and he stood frozen, wondering what could be going through her mind, calling to him like that, while she stood next to his brother. Especially considering that it was obvious they had just finished making love. All he wanted to do was get away from this whole situation, which led him again to wonder why he was dreaming this in the first place.

A sound from behind him caught his attention, and he looked back over his shoulder toward the rocks. He couldn't see anything, but he could hear the faint sound of someone crying softly in the deep shadows. Taking one last look toward the water, he decided to take control of this dream - or whatever it was - and choose to walk away. Someone sounded like they needed help, and he'd much rather see to that need, than stand here and wallow in self-pity.

Following the soft, broken sobs, he found himself at the base of the rocky wall, and almost tripped, when his feet got tangled up with something soft on the ground. He heard a low moan, and realized that he had found the source of the crying. Kneeling in the sand, he reached out to touch the huddled body before him. His hand came in contact with what felt to be a shoulder, and he gave it a gentle squeeze. "Hey," he said softly, not wanting to frighten whoever it was.

His greeting was answered by a couple of sniffles, followed by a wobbly, "Hey."

It was a woman's voice, husky and a little hoarse from crying. But definitely a woman. He squinted, trying to get his eyes to adjust, but it was too dark in the little alcove where they were. He wondered what she was doing here - after all, this was his dream, right? Nothing seemed to make sense. He decided to go with the direct approach.

"So - what brings you here? I take it, you don't want to be here, from the sound of your crying?"

"No, I don't," she sobbed out. "I h-have no idea w-what is going on," she managed to tell him. "Where am I, anyway?" she inquired.

"Damned if I know," he growled out under his breath. Then it occurred to him - she wasn't some figment of his imagination. She was sentient. She knew that she was someplace she didn't belong. "How did you get here?" he asked compassionately.

"I d-don't know," she answered on a shaky breath. "I was dreaming about being on a picnic with my family, and all of a sudden I was here, all alone." She shuddered. "But I don't think I'm dreaming any more, am I?"

"It would appear that neither of us are," he replied. "I thought I was dreaming at first, but it didn't make sense for me to be dreaming what I just witnessed. And now you're here, and you have no idea how you got here. Something isn't adding up." He took a deep, cleansing breath. "I just wish I knew how to get out of this nightmare we've been sucked into."

"I - I don't understand," she confessed. "If this isn't your dream, and it isn't my dream - and this certainly isn't real - what else does that leave?"

Zan turned to look back out over the water, where he saw that Max and Liz were now entwined in passion once more. He swallowed hard, trying to fight back his body's response to seeing Liz's form rocking rhythmically with Max's. He remembered what it felt like to be naked, holding her crushed to himself in passion. His jaw began to ache, he was clenching his teeth so hard.

When Zan had turned to look out over the water, he had moved enough that his companion could see past him to where Max and Liz were. She knew without being able to see him clearly, that he was watching the couple. "Who are they?" she whispered.

"My brother and his girlfriend," he ground out.

"They are the only other people around," she observed. "Do they have something to do with us being here?"

"Possibly, although I don't know why. Just to torment me, no doubt."

"But how could we end up inside their... whatever this is? A fantasy? One of their dreams? I mean, he's your brother - at least you have a connection to him. Me? I have no idea who you people are. I don't mind telling you, this is flipping me out. I have had a lot of weird things happen in my life, but this takes the cake."

A lot of weird things? Zan came to realize that she was baffled by all of this, but despite her declaration that she was "flipping out", she wasn't hysterical, like you would expect your run of the mill woman to be. She knew this was real, that he, Max, and Liz really existed, and yet she wasn't freaking out on him. He was just about to ask her why that was, when he heard Max and Liz moaning loudly, as they hovered on the verge of climax. Before he could get his thoughts in order, he heard Max shout "Karanna!" as he once again came in a shattering release. He felt the woman next to him stiffen, and she grabbed his arm in a death grip.

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed, and then suddenly Zan was awake.

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

Liz woke with a start, soaking wet, her secret place still pulsing from a climax that nearly rendered her unconscious. Wait, that's not right. I was unconscious. Or asleep. Or something. But that did not just happen! She vaulted off the sofa, and went to the bathroom to get a towel. As she passed the mirror on the way to the linen closet, she reflexively glanced at her reflection out of the corner of her eye. What she saw made her gasp, and stop dead in her tracks.

She was wet, yes - but she didn't think it was sweat. Did sweat only get just the bottom edges of your hair wet? Her clothes were plastered to her body - but there was no scent of perspiration. More like a fresh, clean scent. And then there were the marks.....

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

Zan heard Max breathing heavily on the bunk below him, sounding like he'd just finished the 400 meter dash in track.

"Max?" More heavy breathing. "You awake?"

"Gimme a sec," Max groaned, trying to get his heart rate to normal. He was drenched, presumably in sweat, and he could tell that his body had taken what he was dreaming way too seriously. He waved his hand over his lower abdomen, eradicating the evidence of his sexual fulfillment. And then embarrassment set in - he must have cried out in his sleep during the point of culmination. Damn, that was the most realistic dream he had ever had. His heart now beating normally, he whispered, "What did you want?"

Zan cupped his hands together, making a little blue ball of light. He leaned over the edge of his bunk, and peered down at Max, a none too happy look on his face. "Mind telling me what the hell that was all about?" he growled.

Max blushed. It was bad enough that he was having these extremely erotic dreams about Liz, but then to know that he had woken Zan up with his moaning was too much. "It's nothing," he lied, trying to save face. "I was just having a dream, that's all."

Zan snorted. "Hell of a dream, Max. But what I want to know is -" His question got cut off by the ringing of Max's cell phone.

Max leaped off the bed, and answered the phone on the second ring, as he clicked on the light. "Hello?"

"Max? It's me," Liz's voice greeted him. A little huskier than normal, he noticed.

"Liz?" Max croaked, embarrassed anew at the dreams he'd been having of her.

"Yeah. Listen, is Zan all right? After what happened - I mean, what he saw...."

"What?!" Max choked. "What are you talking about?"

"The beach, Max? Hello? I wasn't there by myself, was I?"

"Dear God in heaven," Max whispered reverently. "You mean I didn't dream that?"

"I don't know about you, but I woke up soaking wet, like I had just gotten out of the water. At first I thought it was sweat, but when I went to the bathroom to get a drink of water... Max, I have marks on my neck and my, uh ... well, I have hickeys all over me."

Max's eyes nearly bugged out of his head at that revelation. He looked over at Zan, who was still scowling at him. "So then Zan -?"

"Was really there, wasn't he? Did you ask him? Is he awake?"

"Yeah, he's awake. Listen, I'll talk to him." He looked at the clock - 5:25 am. "I better come over there and take care of that little problem of yours, too, before anyone sees."

"Okay - I'm sleeping on the couch, so just sneak in the back door of the Crashdown, and come up the stairs. That way you won't wake Da-nar'."

"Right. I'll see you soon. Bye."

"Bye."

After hanging up with Liz, Max turned to face Zan, who was simply looking at him with one raised eyebrow. "So - were you really... there?" Max squeaked out. This was too humiliating to believe.

"I'm afraid so," he retorted. "Any idea how I got there?"

"Not a clue. How long were you there?"

"The first thing I saw, was Liz clinging to you, kissing you. I got the impression that you two had just been rather.... intimate." Max nodded, remembering that moment. It was just about the time when Liz first noticed Zan was there. "Then," Zan continued, "I discovered that I wasn't the only one that had been sucked into your little fantasy play-land."

"WHAT?!" Max shrieked hoarsely. "Who else was there?!"

"I don't know who she was - I never got a chance to ask her name. But she was not happy being there. And she knew that she wasn't dreaming - she knew it was real. Don't ask me how."

"Aw, hell, this is getting out of control," Max grumbled, defeatedly. "I remember the good old days, when an erotic dream was just that," he sighed. "A guy can't even have a private fantasy life any more."

"Yeah, well, don't think that I was crazy about watching the two of you make love, either," Zan retorted sharply.

"Wait - you said you got there after we made love -"

"The first time," Zan qualified. "The mystery babe and I were there for round two. We were busy talking, and didn't even realize what was happening, but man you guys are noisy when you come! Anyways, once you screamed yourself out, I was knocked out of the dream. I guess you were too, cuz it only took a few seconds for you to answer me, when I spoke to you."

"Yeah, whatever connection I had with Liz ended there."

"So, if you're sneaking out to Liz's, you'd better get a move on. Just what is the problem over there, anyway?"

"She, uh, has some marks on her from this incident," Max answered evasively.

"Marks, huh? You mean, hickeys?"

Max grabbed his jeans, and yanked them on. "Yes, that's what I mean. You don't have to be such a moron about it. Geez."

"Hey, I have to have some way to release my frustration. Not all of us get to have mind-shattering sex in our dreams, to relieve the stress."

Max rolled his eyes, and crossed to the window. "Go back to sleep. I'm outta here." He jumped out the window, and closed it behind him.

"Pfft. Go back to sleep he says," Zan mumbled. "He must be joking. I'm thinking a cold shower is in order," he grumped, as he threw off the covers, revealing his hard, naked body. "I'm thinking that if this keeps up, we're gonna have to get those two between the sheets for real, so I can get a decent night's sleep." Wrapping his towel from earlier around his waist, he slipped into the bathroom, and stepped beneath the icy spray.
posted on 10-Nov-2001 9:36:29 AM
Part Twenty-eight

Max arrived at the Crashdown, and quietly made his way up to Liz's apartment. When he walked in the door, he was greeted by the sight of Liz laying on the couch sleeping. He stood there for a minute, just watching her, thinking how sweet and innocent she looked, all curled up with the afghan pulled up to her chin. Nothing like the wildcat that had come apart in his arms during their shared dream. He smiled, as every cell in his body hummed in remembrance.

He walked over and knelt by the couch, brushing her hair back from her face, and softly kissing her cheek. "My bride," he murmured.

The corners of Liz's mouth turned up, and with her eyes still closed she told him, "Mmm, say it again..."

Max grinned. "You faker. I thought you were asleep."

"Oh? So you only say wonderful romantic things to me when I'm asleep?" she accused. "Of course, you also do the most wonderful things to me when I'm sleeping...." She licked her lips. "Do you know, I can still taste you? And when I woke up, I could smell you all around me. It was amazing."

"You - could smell me?" Max asked startled. He thought back to Isabel's comments. "Do you mean that you can tell when I have been somewhere, by my scent?" he pressed.

Liz's eyes opened. "Yeah, why? Does that upset you? I didn't mean that you stink or anything," she added defensively.

Max laughed. "I know what you meant. I'm just surprised to hear you say it. I just had this conversation yesterday with Isabel, and she thought that I was insane, that I could 'smell' people. Know who had been in a room, for instance, by their scent."

"Oh, well, it isn't anything like that for me," she clarified. "I mean, yes, I can tell if you have been somewhere. Or Zan. But that's it. You two are the only ones that I can even detect."

"Really?" Max asked, disturbed. It made sense, that if she could detect anyone, it would be him, with as close as they were, and the history they had. But Zan? "Why do you think that you can pick up on Zan?" he blurted out, without thinking.

"I'm not sure," she said thoughtfully, "except that his scent is very close to yours. Probably because you are twins and all. You know, I never even thought about it until now. That should have been a dead giveaway. I'm sorry I didn't think of it sooner."

"No harm done," he reassured her. "It wasn't long after he got here, that we found out the truth anyway." He looked out the window, and noticed the sky was starting to lighten. "We better get down to business," he informed her. "Time is marching on, and we don't want to get caught together, looking like we're having an early morning tryst or something," he kidded.

"Mom and Dad shouldn't be back until long after we're in school, so don't worry."

"Actually, I was thinking about Da-nar'."

"What about Da-nar'?" their protector's low voice rumbled from the doorway.

Max closed his eyes, and bit off a curse. This was not how he wanted to begin his day. "I was just saying that we needed to take care of something that I came over here for, before we woke you up," he replied, slightly modifying the truth.

"And just how long have you been here, your highness?" Da-nar' asked suspiciously.

"If you must know, I have been here about 3 minutes." Da-nar' nodded, obviously relieved to learn that Max hadn't snuck in earlier and spent the night. And then it hit Max. "Da-nar', why are you still in your masculine form? I thought we agreed that you would shift back to Dana."

Max's sudden tone of authority brought Da-nar' up short. It was so abrupt, after the easy rapport they had shared the night before. He wondered if Max was having regrets about establishing a relationship of familiarity with him. But then he noticed how Max had protectively wrapped an arm around Liz, and realized it had nothing to do with being the king of a planet. It had to do with being a man in love.

While Da-nar' was wrestling with his reaction to Max's demeanor, Liz spoke up on his behalf. "Max, you need to know something. Da-nar' hid it until you left, but shifting into this form last night left him weak and he really didn't look well. He used his shapeshifting abilities to maintain a healthy appearance until you left, but when I came back in from walking you out, he had let his guard down, and it wasn't pretty."

"Why would you hide something like this from me, Da-nar'?" Max asked with concern. "I might have been able to help."

"It really wasn't necessary. All I needed was a good night's sleep, and once I eat, I'll be all right. Then I can shift again. Like I told Liz, it isn't usually such a traumatic ordeal for me, but I hadn't had much to eat yesterday, and my body wasn't at its strongest."

"Well, I'll make you a big breakfast in a few minutes," Liz offered. "But first, Max and I have something we need to take care of."

"Oh? What would that be?"

Max stared at Da-nar', wondering how to get out of explaining what had happened, without playing the king card. He really didn't want to set a precedent of pulling rank on Da-nar' over every little thing. Not after he had encouraged Da-nar' to be open and honest with him.

Liz watched tensely, as Da-nar' returned Max's stare unflinchingly. She knew that Da-nar' probably assumed that it was something dangerous, and that they were going to go off halfcocked, which, in reality, they were prone to doing from time to time. Wanting to ease Da-nar's mind, she stood, and unwrapped the afghan from around her throat, revealing the little red and purple hickeys that were scattered on her soft skin.

"Liz!" Da-nar' exclaimed, rushing to her side. "Merciful heavens, what happened to you, child?" Max was inwardly pleased to hear Da-nar' call Liz "child", but his pleasure was short-lived, when Da-nar' reached out and lightly ran his fingers over the bruises, causing Liz to shiver. His pupils drew down to pinpoints, and he put his arm around Liz's shoulder, pulling her close to himself, and away from Da-nar's worshipping fingers. This caused Da-nar' to snap his eyes from Liz's neck, to Max's face, repressed anger flaring in their near black depths. "I thought you said you just got here," Da-nar' said accusingly to Max.

Max stiffened at Da-nar's bold accusation. "I said it, and I meant it," he returned hotly. "Are you calling me a liar, Da-nar'?"

Da-nar' backed down slightly, realizing that he was teetering on a dangerous precipice that he would rather not go over. "I'm not calling you anything," he hedged. "I'm merely examining the evidence, and suggesting that Miss Parker did not place those marks on herself."

"I didn't say she did," Max rejoined. "Nor will I deny that I am responsible for their presence."

Now Da-nar' was totally confused. "So what are you saying? You were here earlier, left, and came back?"

"No. It's complicated."

"I have time. I'm not going anywhere," Da-nar' said pointedly.

Max sighed. "Very well. We may as well tell you anyway. Maybe you can shed some light on the situation."

Da-nar' raised a single eyebrow. "Situation? So it's like that, is it?"

"Unfortunately, it is," Max confessed. "Liz and I had a joint dream tonight - if you can call it that," he began to explain. "It was very.... realistic, as you can tell from the evidence before you."

"I see...." Da-nar' said thoughtfully.

"Max? Tell him the rest," Liz encouraged.

"There's more?" Da-nar' said in surprise. Liz nodded her head.

"You see, somehow Zan was drawn into the dream as well -"

"In what capacity?" Da-nar's voice revealed his shock.

His mind was traveling in all the wrong directions, Max realized. "Nothing like that! Sheesh! No - it's just... when Liz and I finished, uh, you know, we realized that Zan was nearby, and was aware of us. I think it must have something to do with the reason that he is so attracted to Liz. But I still don't know what could have brought him into the dream."

"It could be because of you being twins, that if you were having that intense an experience with your young bride, that he would be brought into it. Being that technically, she was his bride too."

Max bristled at that suggestion. "Well, she isn't his bride now, and I don't like the idea of him wandering through our intimate dreams. I mean - when Liz and I finally make love for real, is he going to somehow be drawn into that, too?" he demanded harshly. Liz placed a hand on his arm, offering him her strength and serenity. Oddly, he felt calmed immediately by the gesture.

"I seriously doubt it will come to that," Da-nar' answered reassuringly. "I'm starting to have some suspicions about all of this, after talking with you, and then Liz last night. And now this. But I will have to run some tests in order to be sure. We can get started on that later today, if you wish."

"I wish," Max declared firmly. "This is starting to get irritating." He wrapped Liz in his arms and held her close. "I don't like the idea of sharing our intimacy with anyone else. Surely you can understand that."

"Indeed," Da-nar' replied. "We'll see what we can do about getting you some answers soon. Is there anything else about the event that you feel is significant?" he queried.

"Yes, there is," Max said with a start. "I had nearly forgotten. Zan said that there was someone else there, too. A woman." Liz gasped.

Da-nar's eyebrows shot up. "A woman?" His heart started to pound. He prayed that his reaction wouldn't show, but he couldn't help being curious about this information. "Did he say what she looked like? What her name was?"

"No, nothing," Max responded. "He said he didn't get much of a chance to talk to her, before we were all dumped out of the dream. But he said she was upset about being there, and that she knew she didn't belong there - that it wasn't her dream," he clarified. "He couldn't see her very well, because she was hidden in the shadows.

Da-nar' then seemingly shrugged off the incident. "We'll begin looking into it this evening. For now, you better take care of Liz, and then get yourself back home, before you are missed."

Max nodded, and lifted his hand to the edge of the afghan, to part it away from her skin. Da-nar' stood close by, watching intently. Max wasn't aware of it, but Liz was, and she stiffened when Max started to pull the afghan apart. She grabbed the edges, and held them together tightly, her skin flushing with embarrassment. Max gave her a quizzical look, and then saw where her eyes were fastened. Scowling, he looked over his shoulder at Da-nar'.

"If you don't mind, we'd like a few minutes alone," he informed their protector, working hard to keep the edge out of his voice.

Da-nar' lowered his eyes in shame, and mumbled, "Of course," as he turned to leave the room.

"Thank you," Liz called out to him, wanting him to know she appreciated his being sensitive to her feelings. He looked back over his shoulder, and gave her a slight smile, just before he rounded the corner into the hall.

Max redirected his attention back to Liz. Parting the edges of the afghan again, he let out a low whistle at the sight before him. The trails of little bruises descended down her chest, and disappeared under the edge of her tank top. "Looks like I did quite a number on you," he confessed guiltily. "I'm really sorry, Liz. I had no idea I was being so rough."

Liz smirked back at him. "Did you hear me complaining? But it's nice that you can take care of it afterwards," she admitted. "That way, we can play as rough as we want, and no one will be the wiser." She giggled softly.

Max thought that never had a man lived who was so blessed. This woman was the embodiment of perfection. "I appreciate your eagerness, Miss Parker," he teased, "but in truth, someone as precious as you ought to be handled like fine china."

Liz gave him a reprimanding look. "I'm not fragile Max Evans," she chided. Then she lowered her voice seductively. "I'd think you would realize that, after the way we made love tonight."

Max felt the blood rushing through his veins, making the pulse in his ears pound with his escalating desire. "Liz, we have to stop talking about it, or I'm never going to get out of here. I'll end up taking you right here on the couch, regardless of Da-nar' being in the other room."

Liz blushed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to get you, uh..."

"Aroused? Well, honey, it doesn't take much. All I have to do is think of you, and it sets me off. So don't be too hard on yourself. Now, let's take care of these hickeys." He hooked his thumbs under the straps of her tank top, and slid them off her shoulders, lowering the garment to expose the upper swell of her breasts, which were covered with the remnants of his ardent kisses. Placing his fingers on her neck, he stoked his fingertips over her bare skin in a whisper-soft trail, ending with a gentle caress over the curves of her breasts. When he was done, all the bruises had been erased from her skin.

He knew that he should pull her top back into place, but he couldn't resist bending, and tasting her sweet skin for real. But one taste led to another, and soon he was overwhelmed with a spiraling need. Wrenching his mouth from her, he spun and crossed the room, leaving a disoriented Liz in his wake. "I have to get out of here... now," he groaned. Stopping at the door, he didn't even trust himself to turn and face her, as he confided, "I don't know how much longer I can go on like this, Liz. The need is too... overpowering. I'm on my last shred of self-control." And then he dashed out the door, before she could say anything that would reduce the last of his willpower to rubble.

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

Once Liz pulled herself back together, she went into the kitchen and made a substantial breakfast for Da-nar'. She wanted to see him replenish his energy reserves, before he tried to shift back into Dana. Just as she was about to call him, the enticing aromas led Da-nar' out into the kitchen, his stomach rumbling.

"Oh, good, there you are," Liz said sunnily, despite the unrest she still felt after Max's departure. "Come, sit, eat," she commanded. "You need your strength."

"An alien could get spoiled," he teased. Who would have ever thought that his queen would be cooking for him, like a common servant girl? He almost felt guilty. His stomach rumbled. Yeah, stress the "almost".

"Hey, that's what home cookin' is all about," she enlightened him. "I cook comfort food, whose main purpose it to spoil you, and then to nourish. Now eat up."

Da-nar' looked at the mountains of food before him. "You are going to join me, right? I certainly can't eat this much by myself."

Liz plopped into a chair with a loud sigh. "I'll join you, yes, but I can't promise how much I'll eat. My nerves are shot right now."

As Da-nar' began to eat, he asked, "Why are your nerves... shot?" he repeated the phrase, his brows knit in confusion.

"Oh, that just means that I'm agitated, restless, that sort of thing," she elaborated.

"And this would be because -?"

She put her elbow on the table, and propped her forehead in her hand. "It's this whole thing with Max... and Zan. I love Max to distraction, but this whole intimacy thing is starting to get really intense. Just in the last three days, the need to make love to him has been driving me looney. And I guess he's having the same problem, because he lit out of here this morning like a man hunted. Said he didn't know how much longer he could hold out. And Zan is trying so hard to deny his attraction to me - I feel bad for him." She looked straight into Da-nar's black eyes. "Is this like some quirk among our people? Are they driven to mate?"

Da-nar's eyes widened in surprise, and he swallowed hard to get the food in his mouth to go down. He hadn't thought of this one possibility. "Liz? When did your last cycle start?"

"My cycle? Oh - you mean my cycle?" she said meaningfully.

"Yes. When did the last one start?"

Liz had to stop and think. Everything had been going haywire lately, she wasn't really paying much attention. "Well let's see...." she began counting backwards. "Today is Tuesday... I remember it started on a Monday.... two weeks ago yesterday. Yes, two weeks ago." She saw a spark of comprehension light his eyes. "Why? What does that mean?"

"I'd rather not say," he answered mysteriously. "Not until after I run the tests."

Liz sighed, and stood up. "I'm going to go get showered and ready for school. Then you can take your turn in the bathroom. You finish up eating first - that's an order!" she said forcefully, as if she could command him.

He lowered his eyes to his plate sheepishly, and stabbed some more scrambled eggs. "Yes, your majesty. I will."

"Oh, Da-nar'," she crooned, rounding the corner of the table to give him a hug. "Don't take me so seriously. I was only joking. I didn't think that you might take me to be trying to give you a direct order." She kissed him sweetly on the cheek. "Let's try this again. Please eat as much as you can. I want to see you strong and healthy. Okay?"

He looked up at her, where she hovered just over his shoulder. "Okay," he said softly. "Anything to make you happy."

She wrapped her arms around his neck, and gave him a quick squeeze, as she laughed softly. "You know, I like your attitude. Maybe we can get you to work on Michael, huh?" She patted his shoulder, as she started to walk away. "I'll only be about 15 minutes," she called over her shoulder. And then she was out of sight.

Da-nar' sat staring at the spot he had last seen her, still feeling the warmth of her kiss on his cheek. His queen was truly and amazing creature. He vowed then and there, to protect and defend her, until his dying breath.

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

Liz was putting the finishing putting up her hair, while Da-nar' was taking a shower. She was humming a little tune to herself, when she heard a commotion in the apartment. She went to her door, and cracked it open, in time to hear her dad say something to her mom. They were back!

Liz went into a panic. What was she going to do about Da-nar'? She could hear him humming in the shower - in his very masculine voice! If her parents heard him, she was as good as dead! How would she explain a middle aged man in her shower?? She quickly closed and locked her bedroom door, and went to the door to her bathroom. She knocked on it lightly, not wanting to draw her parents' attention. But Da-nar' couldn't hear her over the shower and his own humming. She tried rapping a little louder, but with no success. There was only one thing she could do.

Opening the door, she snuck into the bathroom. Standing outside the shower curtain, she whispered his name as loudly as she could, to no avail. Funny, she thought, I could have sworn that aliens had superhuman hearing. "Da-nar?" she said softly. When he still didn't respond, she got frustrated, and slapped at the shower curtain.

Da-nar' jumped, and then stuck his wet head around the end of the curtain. "What the -"

"SHHH!" she hissed at him.

Da-nar' reached over and turned off the water. He could tell that something was wrong. He didn't know why Liz was whispering, but he knew that she wouldn't be barging in on him in the shower if it wasn't important. "What's wrong?" he whispered back to her.

"My parents are back!"

Just then they heard a knock on her bedroom door. "Liz? Honey, it's Mom, can I come in?"

Da-nar' saw the undisguised terror in Liz's eyes. He reached out, and held her face in his hand. "Relax, it'll be fine. Go see what your mother wants, and I'll shift now into Dana. I'm feeling strong enough."

"You better do it now, before I let her in," Liz warned. "The last thing she needs to see is a bright other-worldly glow under my bathroom door."

Da-nar' chuckled low. "You're right, of course. Tell her you'll be right there."

"Liz?" her mom called again.

"Just a second!" she hollered back.

Da-nar' winked at Liz, then pulled the curtain shut. Liz had to shade her eyes, when a blinding flash of light filled the room. Once it faded, the curtain pulled back, and Dana's face came into view. "Better?" she asked with a grin.

Liz laughed. "Much. Listen - I have to leave for school in a few minutes, so I'll see you when I get home, all right? I think that Max is going to talk to Michael today about moving you in over there."

"Okay, I'll see you later then," Dana agreed. "And all of you - be careful. We still don't know what Tessandra is going to pull." She reached out to stroke Liz's hair. "You especially watch your back - you're the one she's trying to replace."

"I will," Liz promised. With that, she slipped out of the bathroom, and went to deal with her mother, before she left for school.




posted on 10-Nov-2001 9:37:40 AM
Part Twenty-nine

As was the normal course of things, Maria picked Liz up, to drive her to school. For the first minute or so, they were awkward and silent, both feeling the tension of their abrupt parting the night before. Finally, Liz spoke. "Maria, I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings last night. I didn't mean to."

Maria sighed. "I know, and I'm sorry too. I know I shouldn't butt into your affairs - uh, no pun intended there - but I worry about you, chica. I'm afraid you are going to do something that you'll regret. Besides, we still don't know how safe it is."

"I'm not so worried about that anymore," Liz said without further explanation, and immediately launched into telling Maria about Dana/Danar being the shapeshifting pod protector.

"I knew there was something about her that was different," Maria declared. "I mean, she just popped into your lives out of nowhere - and what was with you being so trusting of her, anyway?" she added, with a twinge of jealousy surfacing.

"I've come to realize, Maria, that if I will pay attention to it, I get these feelings about people, when they can't be trusted. Take Tess, for instance. I thought she was bad news, but convinced myself that it was just because I was jealous of her, because of the way she would practically devour Max with her eyes. But the truth is, I knew deep down, that something wasn't right about her. Ed Harding made my skin crawl the first time I met him. And then there was Jose. As nice as he was, and polite, well-groomed... he gave me the creeps. And he turned out to be a Skin. Seeing a pattern developing here?"

Maria glanced over at Liz, then returned her eyes to the road. "Coincidence?"

Liz shook her head. "No, not coincidence. There's - something else I haven't told you," she confessed hesitantly.

Maria hit the brakes, and pulled over to the side of the road. "What? You've been keeping secrets from me, now? Am I not your best girlfriend? Do I not stand by you, no matter what?"

"Maria," Liz said patiently, placing a hand on her arm, "you have to promise me, you are not going to flip out."

"Flip out? Hey, it's me."

Liz shivered. "Okay, wicked deja vu here. Haven't we had this conversation before?"

Maria laughed. "Yeah, we have. But you know, after telling me that aliens are among us, what could you possibly have to say that could freak me out anymore?" Liz looked out the passenger's window, silent. "Liz? Oh my God! It's something really awful, isn't it? Come on, you have to tell me. I don't want to find out something terrible by accident. Besides, I'll just be worrying constantly, you know I will, and -"

"Maria!"

"Sorry! Ramble over."

"Thank you."

"So what is it Liz? Please, for heaven's sake, just tell me."

"Aliens aren't just among us, Maria," she said cryptically. Taking a big breath, she finished, "They are one of us."

"Huh? Liz, stop with the veiled references, and just spill."

"Maria, I - I'm one of them."

"WHAT?!?! Liz, are you crazy? Nonononono! You are SO not one of them! You are a normal, healthy, happy teenage girl, with normal blood flowing through your veins! You were BORN! You weren't hatched! And you've been to the doctor - don't you think that they would have noticed at some point, that you weren't human? Liz, this is ridiculous!"

"Maria, I know it's hard to accept - but just listen, okay? I wasn't designed the same way that they were. My essence was supposed to have been destroyed, but Da-nar' smuggled it off of Antar, and created me here. The others were already in the incubation pods when they got here. But they couldn't take the chance with me. So he designed me too appear fully human, and implanted me in my mom."

"Implanted? Does she know what you are?"

"No, she has no idea. Danar posed as a fertility specialist that my parents went to see, when they couldn't conceive. He convinced them to try this 'new procedure'. It worked, and here I am."

"Some 'new procedure'! But why, Liz? Why would you be in danger, and not the rest of them? I can't believe I'm even considering the possibility that you aren't human here...."

"Get used to it, Maria. It isn't going away. And to answer your question, it was Tess. She wanted to marry King Zan, and he wouldn't have anything to do with it, because he was in love with Karanna - the woman whose essence is in me. So when Zan was killed, and Ki-var' learned the Antarians were making hybrids, he hatched a plan to give Tess a second shot at Zan. They made a hybrid to impersonate me, which is this Ava that Zan was told was his bride, and placed her in the pods. Due to circumstances, she was removed from them when they came out of the pods, and then Tess was revived when Max was sexually mature, and ready to mate."

"The bitch," Maria mumbled. Shaking off her malicious thoughts toward Tess, she asked, "Okay - revived? Revived from what?! I'm so confused."

"I know, it's a lot to process. I'm a little overwhelmed by it myself. But the important thing here is - Tess isn't a hybrid. She's a shapeshifter."

"Oh my God...."

"Exactly. So you need to be careful around her, do you hear me? Avoid being alone with her at any cost. We know she is up to something, but we just haven't figured out what, yet."

Maria looked at the clock on the dashboard. "Oh geez! We better hurry, or we're going to be late," she said, as she pulled back onto the road. "So... is there any other little tidbits you've failed to mention to me?"

"Well...."

"Liz...!"

"Nothing really new - I mean, Max and I had a shared dream last night...."

"Oh?" Maria voiced with a quirked brow. "And what might this dream have entailed?" she asked, pulling into a the parking lot.

Liz turned crimson, and Maria gasped. She pulled the car into a space, and cut the engine. Opening her door she stated, "You know something? Judging by the color of your face, I don't want to know, okay? Chalk it up to that Max and Liz privacy thing you're so big on these days."

"Maria, please don't be mad at me."

"I'm not mad, Liz. I'm just... worried about you, like I said before. That's all." Then something occurred to her. "Wait a minute. So Tess isn't really the bride, then, is she?" Liz shook her head, her eyes twinkling, and a pleased grin gracing her mouth. "And - and this Karanna? Zan was in love with her?" Maria whispered, as they drew closer to the building. Liz nodded in response. "So then... are you -?"

"Yes!" Liz squealed, and Maria grabbed her in a big hug.

"Oh my God, Liz - no wonder you two have this special connection! This is so romantic! You were reborn, to be together!"

"Well, it has worked out that way, but Da-nar' is confused as to how we have this level of recognition between us. He said it is just a case of simple genetics - after all, you can't recreate a soul. So there isn't any known explanation as to why we are so drawn to each other. Da-nar' wants to run some tests - I think he has a theory, but he isn't sharing it with us just yet."

They walked into the building, and headed for their lockers. "Liz? Now that you know that Dana is Da-nar'... what are you going to do about the sleeping arrangements? I mean, you didn't still sleep with her last night, did you?"

"Actually, she was in the he form last night," Liz whispered, "and no. I slept on the couch."

"Good thing your folks were out of town."

"Definitely." Liz grabbed her books from her locker, and slammed it shut. "We better get to homeroom. I'll see you at lunch, okay?"

"Oh yeah, I'll be there. I have a feeling things are going to get interesting around here," she said solemnly.

"Yeah, I'm sure we'll be wishing for Roswell to go back to being its normal boring self soon. See you," she said with a little wave, as she turned in the direction of her homeroom.

On the way, she ran into Max and Zan in the hall. "Hey guys, what's up?"

Max placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. "Not much. Zan's got an appointment to talk to Principal Glover after homeroom about taking placement tests."

"Really? Well, good luck, Zan. I'm sure you'll do great."

"Thanks," he said with a sheepish grin. "At least someone has confidence in my abilities...." He gave Max a pointed look.

"Hey, I didn't say you wouldn't do well. I just warned you not to be smug about it."

Zan laughed. "Okay, I promise I'll try not to rub your nose in it, when I blow them away with my keen intelligence."

"So humble," Max muttered, rolling his eyes. Then he chuckled, shaking his head.

"Okay, you two are something else," Liz declared with a grin. "You better hurry if you're going to make it to homeroom. Maria's already there. And I think it fair to warn you, I have filled her in on the latest scoop. So don't think you can play dumb with her."

"How did she take finding out about you?" Max asked with obvious concern.

"Fairly well, all things considered. I imagine having chosen to be in a relationship with Michael took the edge off finding out that her best friend is a little... different."

"Yeah, maybe so. Hey, I'll see you in Chem Lab," he said, bending down to kiss her full on the mouth. It was only supposed to be a little kiss, but his lips insisted on lingering.

"Ahem!" Zan cleared his throat loudly. "Speaking of Chemistry...."

Max smiled against Liz's lips, as he broke the kiss. "Yes," he agreed, "we certainly do have that!" He stepped away from her, running his hand down her silky tresses just once. "See you later, beautiful." With a groan of frustration, he walked away. Zan winked at her, and followed in his brother's wake.

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

Zan walked into Principal Glover's office. "Good morning, Mr. Evans," the man greeted him. "Have a seat. What can I do for you today?"

Zan sat in the nearest chair, making sure to maintain a respectful posture. "Well, sir, it has to do with my transcripts, and placement in classes."

"Oh? Have you received your transcripts already?" Principal Glover asked with surprise.

"No, sir, I haven't. But I wanted to discuss the possibility of something with you."

"And that would be -?"

"You see, sir, I was homeschooled in New York, and so I was wondering about my placement in classes. I have done a lot of independent study, and I was hoping that perhaps I would be allowed to take placement tests for my classes. Because I believe that I am capable of testing out of at least some of the classes required for graduation. I'd kind of like to get my diploma early."

Principal Glover arched one brow over eyes that regarded Zan intently. "That's a rather unusual request, young man."

Zan looked properly submissive. "Yes, sir, I realize that, but I was hoping that perhaps you would allow it anyway..." He looked hopefully at the man who held his immediate future in his hands.

Then the principal did something unexpected. He smiled. "Well, you certainly get marks for boldness, son," he said with a chuckle, "and your attitude and manner are exceptional, indicating a level of maturity beyond your years. Normally I would discourage early graduation, for the simple fact that most students aren't emotionally prepared to meet the challenges of the real world. However, you are an emancipated minor, and have been taking care of yourself for some time now anyway, proving that you are ready to face these challenges. Based on this observation, I feel compelled to grant your request."

Zan broke into a broad smile. "Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. When can I start the tests?"

"How long do you want to prepare for them? A week? Two?"

"Oh, no sir. I'd like to start them as soon as possible. I'm ready any time."

Principal Glover was again taken by surprise at Zan's eagerness to prove himself. "All right, then. Would now be too soon?"

"No sir!" Zan replied, ecstatic at the thought.

Principal Glover nodded. "Very well. I'll set you up in the conference room next door, and then I'll have last year's finals removed from the vaults. We'll begin with the Junior level courses, and after you complete those, if you pass them with respectable grades, we can move on to the Senior year exams. Depending on how long it takes for you to complete each exam, we should have an idea of where you stand by the end of the week." He rose to his feet, and headed to the door. "If you'll excuse me a moment, I'll have my secretary call for a substitute teacher, who can monitor you while you test, and do the preliminary grading. Then only the essays will need to be reviewed by the teacher for each subject." Zan nodded, and the man disappeared into the outer room. Zan was elated! Finally, a chance to prove himself! He could barely sit still with anticipation.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, Principal Glover returned, carrying a file folder, and several pencils. "If you're sure you're ready, we can get started." Zan sprung to his feet, and followed the principal to the room adjacent to the one they were in. After he was seated, Principal Glover placed the contents of the folder in front of him. We'll start with last year's Chemistry final. My secretary is busy photocopying the rest of the tests. By the time you finish this one, she should have the rest set for us. There is a teacher on the way, who will be here in time to grade this exam, once you finish, and administer the subsequent exams. If you need anything else before she arrives, my secretary is right outside. I think that's everything - do you have any questions?"

"No sir, I'm all set. Thank you again, for allowing me to do this."

"You're welcome. Just don't make me regret it," he added, squeezing Zan's shoulder on the way out.

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

Second period seemed to never come. Liz knew it was wrong to watch the clock all during her History class, but she couldn't seem to focus on anything else, except when she would be able to see Max again. Finally, the bell rang, and she dashed out the door, eager to get to class to see him.

When she got there, he was already there, waiting. Mrs. Anderson wasn't there yet, and so Max pulled her into the storage room in the back. He took her in his arms, and kissed her soundly. "Liz, I miss you so much when I'm not with you. What am I going to do? I can't concentrate on anything the teachers are saying."

"I know what you mean," she admitted between kisses. "I sat and watched the clock all through History class, just waiting to be with you again."

"We haven't got time to talk about it now, but we are going to have to come to some sort of a solution about this. We can't keep going on this way." He fused his lips to hers, and swept his tongue into her waiting mouth, making love to it as passionately as he wanted to take her body.

"I agree," she finally answered, gasping for breath. "Maybe Da-nar' can give us some answers, after he runs his tests."

"I hope so. Because being with you like this - these stolen moments - it's torture, Liz." They heard the final bell ring, and knew they had to get out to their lab table. Sneaking out of the storage room, they slid into their seats, and waited for class to begin.

Liz looked back over her shoulder, wanting to say hi to Alex, since she had gotten to school late, and hadn't seen him yet. She scowled, when she saw that neither he nor Tess were at their lab station. Max glanced over at her, and caught her perplexed expression.

"What is it, Liz?" he asked, gently wrapping his fingers around her upper arm.

"Nothing, I hope," she murmured. Max's eyes followed her line of vision, and noticed for the first time that Tess and Alex were missing. Liz felt him stiffen beside her. "You don't think... she wouldn't have -?" Liz said fearfully.

"Yes, she would, but I pray to God we're wrong." He felt a tremor rock her, and pulled her into his arms. "After class, you can call his house, and find out where he is. Maybe he just wasn't feeling well."

"Yeah, maybe," she mumbled. "But you don't really believe that, do you?"

"I have to, Liz," he said, crushing her close to his chest. "Because the alternative is too disturbing to consider."

Once again, time dragged by for Liz, but for a different reason altogether. One thing was for sure - this was taking her mind off Max.

As soon as the bell rang, Max took over cleaning up the remains of their experiment, while Liz got out her cell phone, and called the Whitman house.

"Come on, come on," Liz chanted impatiently, bouncing from one foot to the other in anticipation. On the third ring, someone finally picked up.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Mrs. Whitman? It's Liz. How are you today?"

"I'm fine, Liz. But why aren't you in school?"

"Oh, I am. I'm just calling between classes, because I was worried about Alex, when I didn't see him in Chem Lab. Is he sick?"

There was a pause. "Why Liz, he's just fine. I'm surprised that you could have forgotten why he isn't there."

"Excuse me?" Liz returned politely.

"His trip? To Sweden?" she prompted. "He left this morning on that exchange program, remember?"

Max watched, as the color drained from Liz's face. "Oh, right," she answered shakily. "Sweden, how could I forget?" Tears welled in her eyes, and spilled over onto her cheeks. "Well, I'm sorry to have bothered you, Mrs. Whitman. You have a good day."

"You too, Liz. And don't worry - Alex will be back before you know it. I know you two are very close, and you must miss him."

"Yeah," Liz choked out. "I do."

"Well, good-bye."

"Bye." No sooner had Liz turned off her phone, than she collapsed into Max's arms sobbing.

Mrs. Anderson heard her, and looked up. "Liz? What's wrong?"

Max looked over the top of Liz's head at the teacher and told her, "She just got some disturbing news about a friend. I'll take care of her." Mrs. Anderson nodded. "Come on, Liz," he urged, "let's go." He slung her backpack over his shoulder, and then picked up his own books, still cradling Liz in the other arm. He navigated her through the halls, and got her settled in her next class.

Once Liz was seated, Max took her face in his hands. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked, softly wiping her tears away with his thumbs. She could only shake her head in response. He pulled her close, and placed a kiss on her wet cheek. "Try not to worry? We'll get him back. At least this time around, we know where she has taken him. I'll see you at lunch, and we'll all come up with a plan. Okay?" She nodded, closing her eyes tightly against a fresh torrent of tears. "That's my girl. I love you, Liz." He gently brushed his lips across hers. "I'll see you soon." Then he stood, and disappeared into the hall. Liz took a shuddering breath, as she wiped her tears away.


posted on 10-Nov-2001 9:38:39 AM
Part Thirty

Liz and Maria were walking through the hall on their way to their group's "spot" in the quad for lunching together. Neither one of them thought they could eat a bite, but they wanted to be in on the planning session. As they passed an intersecting hallway, they ran into Zan, who was also heading outside. He took one look at their red-rimmed eyes, and knew that something was up.

"Hey now," he said softly to them, putting a protective arm around each of their shoulders, and pulling them in for a "group hug". "Mind telling me what has two such lovely ladies all upset?"

Liz broke down crying again - it seemed she couldn't keep her emotions under control, after all the stress of the last few days. Maria managed to sniffle out, "It's Alex. Tess has Alex."

"Shit. Oh, sorry. How did you find out?"

"W-when they were b-both missing in lab, I c-called Mrs. Whitman, and she s-said that Alex w-went to Sweden," Liz sobbed out against his chest.

Zan stroked her back soothingly, and placed a kiss in her hair, even as he hugged Maria a little closer. "Sh, now, it's going to be all right. We know where he is - all we have to do is go get him, and bring him home."

"But what about Tess?" Maria protested. "She had to have mind-warped him." At the mention of the mind-warp, Zan felt Liz's body start to quiver from her suppressed sobs. He tightened his hold on her, to comfort her, as Maria continued. "How can you break the mind-warp? And Tess is a full... you-know-what. She must be pretty strong. Can you guys stand up to her?"

"Well, we'll have to talk to... Dana," he said cautiously. It wouldn't do to be spouting alien names in the hallway. "Perhaps being similar to Tess, she'll have some ideas in that department. And have you ever heard the expression, 'where there's a will, there's a way'? Applicable in this situation, for sure."

Maria looked up at Zan with trusting eyes. "You sure know how to make a girl feel better, don't you?" she giggled nervously. "Care to train Michael for me?"

Zan chuckled, and kissed her on the forehead. "You love Michael just the way he is, or you would have ditched him long ago, and you know it," he reminded her.

"Yeah, I know - but once in a while it's still nice..."

"Trust me - the unconditional love of a good woman will do a lot more to bring him around than any nagging I could do."

"You think so?"

Zan looked down at Liz, who had brought so much change into his life, just by believing in him. "Yeah, I know so. Come on, let's go find that brother of mine, and do some brainstorming." They turned and walked out of the building, Zan with a comforting arm around each of them.

When they got to the outdoor eating area, Max, Michael, and Isabel were already there waiting. Max and Michael both stiffened when they saw Zan approaching with their loves huddled close to him - until the threesome got near enough to see their tear-filled eyes. Max and Michael both stood up, and had no more than taken a step, when Maria and Liz launched themselves into their respective boyfriend's waiting arms. Zan finished the walk to the table at a normal, if not somewhat subdued pace. Always the stand-in, 'til the boyfriend shows up, he thought ruefully.

"Hey Zan."

Zan nodded. "Michael. You heard, I assume?"

"Yeah, Max called me and told me to meet you all here at lunch. You were the last one to talk to her. What do you think?"

"I think the creature is unstable," Zan snorted out in disgust. "Did Max tell you what she pulled with me the other night?"

Michael shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, he did."

Maria's eyes narrowed. "What did she do?"

Michael pulled her in closer. "Later, babe. It's not good table talk." Maria shuddered. She wasn't sure she wanted to know, now.

"We know where Alex is, and who has him," Max said, taking the lead. "The question now becomes, how do we get him back?"

"Well, obviously, someone has to go and get him," Michael said, "but we need to know how to beat Tess' mind-warp, and how to protect ourselves against her."

"I was thinking that Dana would be a good one to give us advice in that area," Zan suggested.

Max nodded. "Yeah, she'll be an invaluable resource. Next problem is - who goes, who stays? And what is the cover story?"

"I'll go," Michael volunteered. "No one will miss me in school. I'm hardly ever here anyway."

"What about work?" Max reminded him.

"I work tonight, and then I don't have to work again until Thursday night. Liz? Can you cover me?"

"I'll find a way."

"Okay, good," Max agreed. "You can work your shift tonight. It will probably take until the morning to get everything arranged."

"You don't mean to send him alone, do you?" Maria asked in alarm.

"No, of course not. I'll go with him."

"What will you tell Mom and Dad?" Zan inquired. "Won't they mind you missing school?"

"Maybe I'll tell them that an opportunity to tour NMSU came up at the last minute, and I want to go check it out as a potential college. The studious son bit is very effective."

"Maybe I should go too, then," Zan offered. "It would be even more plausible that I would be looking at schools."

"Oh?" Max said with a curious look. "Something you'd care to share with the class, Mr. Evans?"

Zan grinned. "Well... I'm officially at least a Senior now," he announced with pleasure. "I start taking the Senior year final exams after lunch. Who knows? By the time we leave to go home, I may be graduated!"

Zan was showered with squeals, as well as hugs and words of praise and congratulations from all the ladies at the table, but the guys were a little on the quiet side. "Max?" Liz said pointedly. "Aren't you going to congratulate Zan?"

Max forced a smile. "Of course. Congratulations, Zan," he said, and gave his brother a quick embrace.

A moment of silence. Maria gave Michael a swat. "Oh, uh, yeah, congrats, Zan," he said, wincing and rubbing his abdomen where Maria had just hit him.

Zan smirked. "Thanks. So as I was saying, I'd like to be included in this little road trip, if that's all right."

Michael shrugged. "Hey, the more the merrier, right Maxwell?"

"Definitely. We can use all the firepower we can get. So plan is, we talk to Dana right after school, before Michael goes in to work, and then move out in the morning. By the way, Liz," Max continued, lowering his voice, "Michael agreed to let Da-nar' move in with him. So bring him by Michael's after school so he can move in, and we can pick his brains then."

"Good. We almost got caught by my mom this morning, before he changed back. I think it's best if Dana heads on out of town."

"Agreed. Now, let's eat. There's nothing more we can do, until after school."

To her surprise, Liz discovered she was able to eat, now that they had a tentative plan. They would get Alex back. Even if it has to be over Tess' dead body, she thought.

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

After school, Dana said her farewells to Mr. and Mrs. Parker, thanking them for their gracious hospitality. Then she left with Liz and Maria, who were presumably taking her to the airport.

They arrived at Michael's to discover everyone already there and waiting for them. Dana announced that she would wait to shapeshift until after they talked, so that she would be more alert during their meeting.

"Okay, let's get right down to it," Max prompted. "Liz, I'm sure, has told you that Tess took Alex," he directed to Dana. "We intend to go and get him back, but we need your expertise. Being from the same species, we were hoping that you could give us pointers on how to break her mind-warp, and how to overpower her, if we have to."

"I'm not sure you have the ability by yourselves to break her mind-warp," Dana stated, "but I can go with you. Our brain patterns will be more similar, and I may be able to cause some interference in her control."

"How does your species deal with this?" Michael wanted to know. "You can't all run around, controlling each other's minds - do you?"

"No, we don't. To be honest, very few of our people ever have the gift. And most of them are in the Talerian royal family - I think you can understand why. It doesn't take long for a person or family with this kind of ability to overpower those who are weaker than they are."

"Is that how they eventually took control of Antar?" Liz asked.

"No - well, sort of. They tried to use their powers on the king, but he was mentally too advanced for it to work," Dana explained. "But the skins' race... they were a more primitive being, and more susceptible to being controlled. So Ki-var' raised himself an army from among their ranks. Basically, they do whatever he bids. If anyone starts to have an independent thought, he gets zapped."

"You know, I hate to overstate the obvious here," Maria chimed in, "but why don't you just kill the rodent and be done with her? Voila - no more mind warp."

"Don't think I'm not tempted," Max grumbled. "But that isn't the way I want to resolve this conflict. I'd rather try to reason with Ki-var'. If I kill him, and/or his sister, without even trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution, they'll become martyrs for their people, and then our task will be that much harder."

"He's right," Dana concurred. "Ki-var' has convinced the people that the king is an unruly beast, who is only interested in his own welfare, and that of his people. If we can present to them the truth regarding the king, that he is a kind, compassionate man, even showing mercy to his enemies, they may be swayed from their support of Ki-var'."

"Well, there's time for that strategy session down the road," Max declared. "I don't anticipate returning to Antar anytime soon. Right now, though, we need to get Alex back. Dana, your offer is accepted. We will take you with us. The plan as I see it is, we get in, get Alex, let Tess know that she can't mess with us anymore, and get out. Any objections?" When none were voiced, he said, "Good. Now, I think that Zan has some new to share with you all," he told them with a grin.

Zan blushed - not so much because all eyes were on him, awaiting his announcement, but because Max had actually brought the subject up, as if - maybe he was proud of him? "Well, I took the Senior year exams this afternoon..." He took a deep breath. "And I passed them all. I officially graduate in January." After a hearty round of congratulations, he said, "So this ought to make our little road trip look legit, huh?"

"Yeah, and of course, I have to tag along to drive," Max grinned. He looked at Isabel. "Do you mind staying behind? To keep an eye on things while we're gone?"

"No, I trust you to bring Alex home safely to us," she said softly. "And I know that you can defend yourselves from that blonde-headed demon."

"Da-nar'? Do you agree with that assessment?" Max inquired of their protector. "We've never had to be engaged in battle with her before - I'm not really sure how strong she is."

"She does have a good deal of power," Da-nar' admitted. "But from what I have observed, I don't think it's anything the four of us can't handle."

"Well, you all just be careful," Isabel admonished. "I'm not in the mood for any funerals, understand?"

"Yes, Madame President," Michael said, bowing low.

"That's better." A chorus of chuckles filled the room.

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

At the Evans' house, dinner was a cause for celebration. Principal Glover had already called and informed Mr. Evans that afternoon of the results of Zan's tests. Needless to say, Philip was shocked, considering he hadn't even known that Zan was going to request they go that route. Both he and Diane were extremely pleased with the news, and secretly thrilled to know that the boy they had opened their hearts and home to was obviously destined for success.

In honor of the occasion, Diane made a spicy Mexican dish that Max and Isabel always raved over. She had noticed that Zan was as fond of the Tabasco sauce as the other two were, and figured he would enjoy the spicy meal. She also ordered a special cake that was a household favorite.

Zan ate everything with obvious relish, complimenting his new mom repeatedly on the delicious meal. Diane glowed in response to his praise.

More importantly, he basked in their pride over his accomplishment. Even Isabel couldn't stop talking about how proud she was of him. He was overwhelmed by the feelings that their love and acceptance sparked in him. It was as if that cold, hard life of his past never existed.

"So, son," Mr. Evans spoke up, as they ate their dessert, "what are your plans for after you graduate?"

Zan gave Philip a sheepish look. "Actually, I'm glad you asked that, Dad, because I have a kind of favor to ask."

Philip's hand held a forkful of cake paused halfway between the plate and his mouth. "What kind of favor?" he asked hesitantly. He still wasn't sure what to expect from Zan, although he wanted to believe it would be something good.

"Well, an opportunity has come up for me to check out NMSU in Las Cruces. I was wondering if you'd allow Max to take me there tomorrow, to tour the campus. If I'm going to graduate in January, I feel I need to start making some sort of plans."

Philip placed the forkful of cake back on the plate, his face clearly revealing how impressed he was with Zan's maturity. "I'm proud of you, son, that you are being so responsible in this. But if you want to go to Las Cruces, your mother and I would be more than happy to make the time to take you."

Zan's heart dropped into his shoes. How could he discourage them, without offending them? "I - uh, well thank you, but -"

Max knew that Zan was faltering. As great a guy as he was, he hadn't experienced enough of family life yet, to engage in the fine art of parental manipulation. Max to the rescue. "What I think that Zan is trying to tell you, but not wanting to hurt your feelings with, is that he and I kind of got excited about the prospect of checking it out - together," he remarked, with a meaningful look to both of his parents. "We thought it would be a good time for us to just spend some time together, and plan our futures."

Philip looked Max straight in the eye. "Are you telling us that you are interested in going to Las Cruces as well?"

"Well, sir, I'm considering it," he answered, truthfully. For how long he would consider it, was another story altogether.

"I do believe you are having a positive influence on your brother, Zan," Philip told him. "This is the first he's even mentioned any one particular school he'd consider. In gratitude, I'll agree to your request."

Zan gave his parents a brilliant smile. "Thanks! I'm really looking forward to this opportunity."

"When are you leaving?" Diane asked the boys.

"Early in the morning, as soon as we can get under motion," Max told her.

"You boys just be careful," she warned them in her motherly tone.

"Don't worry, Mom, I already gave them that speech," Isabel said with a giggle. Everyone laughed, and went back to their dessert.




posted on 11-Nov-2001 6:40:50 PM
Part 31

After dinner, Max, Zan, and Liz met with Da-nar', who had shifted back to his male form, and was looking in good health. He had asked them to come by Michael's and pick him up, so they could go and do some testing. He had them go out to the cave on the reservation, where Michael had been healed. When they arrived, he led them inside, and then waving his hand over a spot on the wall, a panel that looked like rock slid aside, revealing a hidden chamber. Max was astounded - he knew that there was at least one more secret room in the cave, where Future Liz had showed him the portal. He wondered if there were any others.

They looked around the dimly lit space, and could make out that there was a good deal of sophisticated scientific equipment housed there. Liz's eyes lit up with curious fascination, as she looked around the room. "Where did all of this equipment come from?" she asked in awe.

"A good deal of it was brought with us from Antar," he informed them. "Several of these pieces have no equal on this planet. Our race was much further developed in the realm of genetics, as you probably have already ascertained. The rest of it I accumulated over the years that we've been here."

"You could open your own lab with all this equipment," Liz mumbled in total fascination.

"Well, yes, actually, that was the idea. Only it is a private lab - for private projects," he said with a grin. "I mean, let's face it - I could hardly send my work out to the local lab for tests, could I?"

Liz smiled. "No, I guess that wouldn't have worked too well. So - what are we doing here?"

"Well, I'm going to draw blood from each of you, and then run some tests. Most of them I won't have time to finish until we return from Las Cruces, but I may have some answers by tomorrow morning. I could have drawn blood back in Roswell, but I thought maybe you'd enjoy seeing this place."

"Thank you, yes, it's incredible!" Liz exclaimed. "Maybe someday you can teach me how to use all of this equipment."

"It would be an honor," Da-nar' assured her. Moving to a cabinet, he took out the needles, tubes, and other items he needed to draw and store the blood samples. "Okay - who's first?" Zan and Max just looked at each other in horror - neither one of them had ever had blood drawn before. At least not when they were conscious. The one time Max's blood had been taken, he was out cold in the hospital following an accident. The thought of having a needle stuck in his arm made every muscle in his body tense.

Liz noticed their reluctance to volunteer, so she offered to go first. "Oh for heaven's sake, don't be such babies. It's no big deal, really. You can watch, while he draws my blood first, okay?" They both nodded mutely, partly from embarrassment, and partly out of fear.

Liz dropped into a chair next to where Da-nar' was assembling his supplies. He smiled down at her and said, "You always were a brave one, Karanna." Liz shivered, when she heard the name coming from his lips. Somehow, it made it seem all the more real. While Max and Zan looked on, Da-nar' inserted the needle into Liz's arm, and she didn't even so much as flinch in reaction. They both expelled the breath they had been holding on a whoosh, as they watched Da-nar' swap the first vial out for an empty one. After filling the second one, he removed the needle, and gave her a little cotton ball to press against the vein, before turning to Max and Zan. "Now, who's next?"

Not wanting Liz to think him a total wimp, Zan slid into the seat next, and pushed up his sleeve. Every muscle in his body went rigid, as he watched the needle approach his arm. He fought the urge to close his eyes, but his jaw was already starting to ache from clenching his teeth so hard. When he felt the needle pierce his skin, he sucked in a breath with a hiss. He looked up at Liz, whose sympathy for him was shining out of her eyes. His admiration for her had just increased tenfold. Not only did she brave the ordeal better than he, a former king of a planet had, but she didn't allow it to strip away her compassion for his fear. He managed to force a weak smile of gratitude.

Zan perched on the edge of a table, while Da-nar' drew Max's blood. Once Da-nar' finished, Liz sat on Max's lap, while Zan asked, "Do you have any more ideas about why this outrageous attraction to Liz exists for Max and I?"

"Besides normal teenage hormones, I suppose you mean?" Da-nar' clarified.

"Yes. I mean, for Max, it's always been Liz. He's never been attracted to anyone else. But not having known her, I have experienced normal sexual attraction, and have even engaged in connected sex with Ava, as I'm sure you already know - since you seem to have been observing us so intently," he added with a pointed look.

"I was aware of your relationship with Ava," Da-nar' said with a sigh, which indicated that he hadn't exactly approved of the situation.

"Well anyway, the point I wish to make, is that even the connected sex with Ava was not as overwhelming as being with Liz."

Liz felt Max stiffen beneath her. "Uh, Zan? Could you possibly rephrase that in a less misleading manner?" she asked sweetly.

"Oh, uh - I didn't mean "with her" with her. I mean, being around her - kissing her. I'm not trying to rile you up, Max, but we have to talk candidly, if we want to get to the bottom of this. And the truth is, just kissing Liz aroused me more than hour long orgasms with Ava ever did." Liz blushed to the roots of her hair. She felt so bad for Max, having to listen to this.

"Well, I'll tell you what I told Liz last night," Da-nar' offered. "You are showing signs of being bonded mates. I realize that you and Liz have never been sexually involved, but I wasn't sure if she and Max had ever allowed their intimacy to reach that point. If they had, your being Max's twin, and sharing virtually identical physiology, would account for you also having the same primal reactions to her. But Liz assures me that she and Max have never had intercourse," he stated, looking at Max for any reaction that might be an indication to the contrary. There was no such sign.

"The first test that I am going to run is on Liz's blood. I'll be checking her hormone levels, to determine if she has recently ovulated, which I'm fairly certain she has, from the information she gave me about her cycle. I will be interested to see how you both respond to her when we return from Las Cruces. What appears to be happening is common among Antarian mates - during the period just prior to and immediately following ovulation, there is an enormous increase in the urge to mate. It is caused by something very similar to human pheromones - during ovulation the woman's body produces a chemical that a male detects through certain receptors found in his nasal cavity. It isn't exactly a smell - it is something that causes a subconscious reaction."

"Uh, isn't that a little hard on society? I mean, every ovulating woman that walks by sends a guy into a frenzy of sexual desire?" Zan posed with concern.

"Oh, no! I haven't studied this aspect of Antarian physiology that thoroughly, but something occurs when an Antarian man and woman bond - that first sexual act causes a reaction in their physiology, that in effect 'turns on' those receptors, in both the man and the woman. And each person's chemical 'scent' if you will, although it is technically odorless, is unique. So their receptors are basically tuned into each other."

"Wait," Max interrupted. "I thought you said that the woman emitted some sort of chemical signal. The man does too?"

"Yes. Initially, the male is attracted to the female, because her fertility triggers the release of her mating chemical. But once the male is aroused as a result of the chemical stimulant, his body responds by releasing its own unique chemical trigger, which in turn increases arousal in the female."

"So then, Antarian couples only mate when the woman is ovulating?" Max asked with obvious disappointment.

Da-nar' laughed. "Oh, no. It's just that they experience an overwhelming urge to mate with each other during that time. They can still experience arousal and sexual fulfillment without the aid of the chemical triggers. But during that time, it is nearly impossible for them to be around each other without mating. The attraction is pretty powerful."

"That sounds about right," Max muttered. "But why has this just started to occur? I mean, Liz and I have been around each other for years, and have never - well, except for that one time with the orb - we've never had this kind of reaction to each other. Why all of a sudden?"

"Remember, I told you that I embedded Karanna's traits in Liz, so that some of them would remain dormant, until something triggered them to surface? Well, something must have triggered this aspect of her alien heritage to awaken. I can only guess at what that might be."

"So guess, already. What do you think caused it?" Max urged.

"Best guess? Whatever that connection was that Future Max and Future Zan shared, when Liz interrupted it, even briefly, it somehow affected her. Awakened her alien side, so to speak."

That grabbed Max's attention. "That's almost exactly the way Future Max described what happened to him. Like his alien side was being brought to the surface more. Think that's significant?"

"Given his reaction to Liz afterward, I'd say it is very significant. Apparently, the ability to release these chemical signals was awakened in each of them."

"But if we've never made love before, why are we susceptible to these chemical stimulants?"

"That's a good question," Da-nar' replied. "And given the fact that Zan and Liz have the same general reaction, it would indeed seem perplexing. I mean, if Liz reacted to this Zan, but he didn't react to her, I'd say again, it was because of the connection between your future selves and Liz. But for Zan to respond to Liz? That is more significant."

"I'll say. From all accounts, shouldn't I have had this reaction with Ava? She was, after all, my first sexual encounter."

"Well, had she been Antarian, I would say yes. But given that we now know that she was Talerian, you couldn't have experienced that bonding effect with her, anyway."

"All right. So we're back to wondering why I would be drawn to Liz, given that we haven't mated."

"There is only one solution that I can foresee explaining it."

"And that would be -?" Zan pressed.

Da-nar' took a big breath. "Despite the fact that Zan and Karanna were killed during their wedding feast, they must have, at some point, already consummated their relationship. In so doing, their physiology was altered, and consequently, that genetic alteration was passed along to you."

"So they anticipated their vows," Liz said thoughtfully.

"It would seem that way," Da-nar' agreed, "and that is no small matter on Antar. The bonding ritual that I mentioned to you last night is a very serious affair among Antarians. But I didn't tell you why, or what it consists of. You see, weddings are planned to take place at the fertile point in the woman's cycle. Before the the wedding, the bride is taken into a private chamber, where a matron joins her, and examines her, to insure that she is still... intact. This is done, so the groom is assured that bonding will be possible with his bride, and also to know that she is not accidentally bonded to another. If it is discovered that she is not virginal, the groom is apprised of the situation. At that point, he can either proceed with the marriage, or call a halt to the proceedings.

"After the wedding, prior to the feast, blood is drawn from the woman, and during the feast, tests are run to verify that she is indeed in her fertile stage. At the conclusion of the feast, an announcement is made, either confirming her fertility, or stating the contrary. If she is fertile, the couple is led to a bridal chamber, that has been specially prepared with sacred, aromatic herbs, designed to heighten sexual responsiveness. At that time, they mate, and bond for life. They can, of course, have sexual relations with other partners during the course of their life, but they will never be able to be attuned to the chemical stimulant of another mate."

"What if the woman isn't in the fertile part of her cycle?" Liz asked.

"Then they wait to mate, until she is."

"Whoa, what a drag of a wedding night," Zan commented.

"Indeed, but not nearly as bad as the alternative."

"Oh? What's the alternative?" Max inquired.

"If they should proceed with the initial mating, and the woman is infertile, they will not bond, and will never experience that primal mating urge."

"Would that be so bad?" Liz wondered aloud. "I mean, doesn't it seem almost animalistic?" Max frowned, and wondered if she thought he was an animal, when his desire for her flared so strongly.

"No one on Antar views it that way, Liz," Da-nar' assured her. "And once you and Max experience intercourse during your fertile time, you will understand why," he added averting his eyes in embarrassment. "I'm told that the physical release is uncommonly pleasurable. And Zan himself has already attested to the fact that the arousal is far greater. So it would stand to reason that the culmination would be intensified. Anyway, couples view it as a sacred honor, to bring such pleasure to their chosen mate - the one that they love. That is why they are so careful to go through the bonding rituals, and make sure that they are going to bond. For Zan and Karanna to anticipate their vows... it was something that would have been frowned upon in their society. You are just fortunate, that they somehow knew for certain when she was fertile, and timed their first encounter to coincide."

Zan snorted. "Yeah, real fortunate. This works great for Max, but how am I supposed to resist Liz during that time? Especially if I keep getting dragged into these friggin' erotic dreams of theirs. I mean, if I understand the implications here, and if your theory is correct, I don't get to choose who I'm bonded to. I'm already bonded to Liz, because the Antarian half of my genetics came from a man who was already bonded to Karanna."

"Possibly," Da-nar' admitted. "But we are still early into our exploration of this. Which is why I hesitated to even answer your questions. I didn't want to get you all concerned about something that may turn out to be nothing. Perhaps there is another explanation for what is happening."

Zan pinned him with a candid stare. "You don't believe that anymore than I do, Da-nar'. Don't be feigning ignorance with me."

Da-nar' lowered his head in shame. "You're right, of course," he mumbled. "I really can't imagine any other explanation for this phenomenon. But even so, there may be a solution to the situation that hasn't yet presented itself. We just won't know, until we do some more tests."

"So what other kinds of tests are there?" Liz inquired.

"First, we'll observe your sexual reactions to each other. When Max and Zan return from Las Cruces, if we are on the right track, everyone's attraction levels should be back to normal. That will be a pretty good indicator, that will merely be confirmed by the presence of certain genetic markers I expect to find, when I run the blood tests. Now by 'back to normal', I don't mean you won't experience typical hormonal drives, but the overwhelming urges should subside.

"As for the dreams and mental encounters," he continued, "if these are caused by bonding, I'm not sure what to expect. They somewhat mirror the sexual 'connection' that Zan referred to before, but I have never run across anything quite like it As for active experimentation, there is this reaction to Zan's shield that we should explore. We need to know if you have the same ability with Max's shield, which you should. Their energy signatures must be the same, or nearly identical. I also want to do some testing on Max and Zan, regarding their twinning. Just some very basic tests." Da-nar' looked at his watch. "It's starting to get late. Perhaps you should head back to town. We all need our rest for tomorrow."

"Aren't you coming back with us?" Max asked.

"No, I'll stay here, and work on this one test tonight. Besides, it would be better if I wasn't seen leaving town with you, when you are supposedly heading to Las Cruces to check out colleges. It might raise suspicions."

"You're right, I hadn't thought about that. Thanks."

"No problem. Just get your rest. We don't know what we are going to be up against, once we get there."

"Will do. Come on," Max directed Zan and Liz, carefully sliding Liz off his lap. "Let's hit the road." After saying goodnight to Da-nar', they piled into the jeep, and sped off into the night.

posted on 12-Nov-2001 9:48:10 PM

Part 32

Max had dropped Zan off at the house, before taking Liz home. She went up through the apartment, and then met Max on the balcony. Walking into his waiting arms, she snuggled in close, and reveled in the feeling of his arms holding her tight to himself.

"Promise me you'll be careful tomorrow," she pleaded with him.

"You know I will. I have the best reason in the world to want to come back to Roswell safe and sound."

"Oh? What reason is that?" she asked, in total innocence.

Max brought his hand up to lift her chin, so he could look in her eyes. "Why, you of course."

Liz gasped at the way Max's eyes darkened with desire, as he gazed at her. The sight of her lips, parted and vulnerable to plundering, brought his down in a swift motion, sliding his tongue inside the welcoming recesses of her sweet mouth. For long minutes they held each other, their mouths passionately joining in the way they longed to share their bodies.

When they finally parted, Max commented, "Did you notice anything different, Liz?"

Fingering the hair at the back of his head, she looked at him and nodded. "Yeah, I did. It was like - we were back to normal. I definitely feel aroused," she admitted with a shy smile, "but before, I would have been practically coming apart in your arms about now."

"And no way, would I have stopped kissing you, to stand here and have a little chat," he added.

"So then - Da-nar' is right, isn't he? Zan and Karanna must have bonded before they were killed."

Max stroked her back lightly as he held her close. "It would seem so. So now we have a real dilemma on our hands. How are we going to avoid each other for... what's it been? 4 days now? So 4 days out of every month we have to avoid each other? Because I'm telling you, Liz, I don't know how much more of that kind of sweet torture I could stand, without making love to you completely. When I'm feeling normal I want to make love to you whenever I'm with you. So this just ratchets it up, to a level where I am bordering on insanity."

Liz reached up to kiss him on the neck, nibbling lightly, before responding. "I know what you mean. I want you, too, but when things heat up between us like they did these last few days, I want to just get a room somewhere, and not let you out until it's over," she confessed with a grin, her eyes flashing with desire at the thought.

Max groaned, and took her lips in a passionate assault once more, while at the same time lifting her, until she was intimately pressed against the evidence of his desire for her. He carried her to the wall, and pinned her against it, his hand running down her thighs, then pulling them up to wrap around his hips. He began rocking his hips against hers in a seductive rhythm, until he brought them to a state of near frenzy. Through a sexual haze, he said, "This feels so... incredible. God, I want you Liz. But as aroused as I am, it still isn't like that other was. And have you noticed, that there isn't that fantasy connection thing?"

"Yes," she panted in his ear, as he continued to move against her, "and God knows, it isn't because my mind isn't playing a thousand fantasies right now about having you inside me," she whispered, half out of her mind with need for him. "The other may have been over-the-top intense, but Max, what you are doing to me right now... oh God!" she whimpered the last in his ear, and then cried out his name, as she exploded in a breath-stopping climax.

When Max heard her, and felt her shuddering in his arms, it was all that he needed to spur on his own shattering release. He pressed closer to her, wishing desperately that he could be buried deep in her warmth. When they both regained their senses, he let her slide back to the ground, and then apologized to her. "Liz, I'm so sorry. I don't mean to keep bringing us to this point. I don't want you to think that I'm pressuring you...."

Liz kissed him firmly, nibbling on his lower lip. "Please don't apologize Max. I need you just as much as you need me. I can't wait for the day when we truly make love for the first time. But promise me something?"

"Anything, my love - as long as it's physically possible," he qualified.

"When we do make love for the first time - let's do it during the fertile part of my cycle. I want your first experience of me to be Earth-shattering."

"Oh, Liz," he breathed reverently. "Don't you realize that even these 'near things' we've been sharing are Earth-shattering for me? Truly, I think I'll have a heart attack when we finally make love for real! But yeah, we can plan to do it when you're fertile. Uh, I'll just have to be sure and be prepared."

"Prepared -?"

"You know - like a whole case of condoms on hand," he grinned. "I have a feeling I won't be able to get enough of you, once we get started!"

Liz giggled. "Well, sexy, that makes two of us. Be forewarned - you'll have to clear your schedule for a few days. No one will see or hear from you, until I'm through with you."

"I have a feeling I might need a week to recuperate," he returned with a chuckle. "I definitely won't be walking straight for a couple days!" They both started to laugh, and then Max groaned again at the thought, and clamped his lips over Liz's, kissing her with all his love and pent up frustration at the situation. He finally let her go, and held her at arm's length. "Liz, there's something I need to ask you," he said, suddenly looking worried.

"Max? What is it?"

"It's about something that you said when we were at the cave earlier. You said that this bonding thing seemed animalistic." He bit his lip. "Do you think that I'm an animal, because I desire you so much?"

"Oh, Max, no," she crooned, pulling his head to hers, so she could kiss him. "It's just - I worry, you know? I want to know that your desire for me isn't because of some chemical stimulant that makes you lose your senses. I want you to want me... because you love me." She lowered her eyes, hoping that he wouldn't think her to be vain or selfish.

"My sweet, beautiful Liz. Never think for a moment, that any desire I ever feel for you is based in anything but my total love and commitment to you. The chemical thing may enhance the desire, but it didn't create it. You are the source of all my desire." He groaned, as his body began to respond to her again. He pulled her against his arousal, so she would get the message loud and clear. "No chemical triggers this time. And after one explosive climax, I'm still wanting you. Doesn't that tell you anything?" He chuckled and shook his head. "I think I better get out of here now, or I won't get any sleep tonight. And Da-nar' is right - we don't know what we are going to face tomorrow. We need to be at the peak of our strength."

"Make sure you come back to me," she repeated her plea from earlier, tears in her eyes. "I don't know what I'd do, if I lost you."

He gently stroked her hair. "Don't worry, you aren't going to have to find that out for a very, very long time, if ever," he assured her. "Try to think happy thoughts, okay? We'll be back soon, Alex in tow, and all will be right with our world."

"I believe you," she confessed. "I have to - for Alex's sake, and because I believe in you."

"Oh, Liz," he breathed out on a quivery sigh, as he crushed her to himself again, needing to absorb her love and strength into himself. "I'm going to miss you while I'm gone. I can't stand being separated from you any more. Even though I know it's safer for you, it's killing me to have to leave you behind."

"You forget, I'm not totally helpless anymore - at least not if Zan is nearby, and I'd be willing to lay odds that I'd be able to affect your shield as well." She looked up at him, and knew that he wasn't about to relent and let her go. "Remember that it can be used as a weapon, as well as defensively," she admonished. "And I'm just guessing here - but if you and Zan are twins, you can probably combine your energy to make one stronger shield, as well."

"You know, I hadn't thought of that. But you're right, it probably work." He smiled approvingly at her. "That's one of the many things I love about you Liz Parker. My little scientist, always thinking." He kissed her tenderly. "And now, I really better get going. But I'll look forward to coming home, and testing out that theory about you being able to combine your power with mine. We'll make a formidable team," he finished with a wink. Forcing himself to let go of her, he crossed to the fire ladder, and swung himself over the edge.

"Max!" she said, just before he started to descend. He stopped and watched as she ran across the balcony to where he was waiting.

Taking his face in her hands, she kissed him tenderly, conveying her love for him. "I love you. I just - I just needed to say that," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Shh, baby, don't," Max said, his heart ripping out at the thought of leaving her behind, and her obvious pain at being separated from him as well. "Some day, we'll never have to be apart again. Cling to that thought - God knows I do. Someday, you'll be my wife, and you can be by my side for always." Liz choked on a sob. "Honey, what is it? What has you so upset?"

"Don't you think that's what Zan and Karanna thought, Max? That when they said their vows, they could finally be together for always? And look what happened to them."

Max pulled her head to his chest. "Oh baby, don't do this to yourself. We can't be chained by their fate. We're not them."

"I'm sorry, Max. It just seems like every time we get close, something conspires to tear us apart. It's like the universe is saying that what we have is too wonderful to be allowed." She caught her breath. "I wonder if that's what it was like for Zan and Karanna? I wonder if they loved each other the way that we do?"

Max smiled, as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. "I'd have to say they did, considering they went against everything their society believed in, in order to make love to each other before their wedding."

That triggered something deep inside Liz. If they hadn't anticipated their vows, they would have died, never knowing the joy of sleeping in each other's arms, being joined in the deepest way a man and woman can be united. None of them were ever promised tomorrow, and she knew that there would never be another man for her, besides Max Evans. So what was she holding out for? At that moment, she made her decision. Come her next fertile cycle, she was going to make love with him. And nothing would stop her.

Smiling at him through her tears, she said, "I do believe you're right, Max. And I'm sorry for being such a baby. I'll try to be brave while you're gone. Just do me a favor?"

"Sure thing, beautiful. What is it?"

"Call me when you leave Las Cruces, to let me know that everyone is all right?"

"I think I can manage that." He leaned in, and kissed her sweetly.

"And now, you'd better go. I've kept you here way longer than I should have."

"That's okay. Once we're out of Roswell, I can let Michael drive for a while, so I can nap."

"Oh, wow, now I'm really worried," she teased.

Max laughed. "Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow night." He kissed her one last time. "Damn, but leaving you is torture."

"I think the line is: 'Parting is such sweet sorrow'."

"No, there's nothing sweet about it. It's pure, unadulterated hell."

"Keep reminding yourself of that, when you get on that campus with all those sexy co-eds."

"I'll be too busy to notice. Besides, my woman wrote the book on sexy. No one else holds a candle."

"You just have all the lines, don't you, Mr. Evans?"

He grinned broadly at her. "No lines. Just the facts, ma'am."

Liz laughed. "Go on, get out of here, now, before I drag you back into my room, strip you naked, and make mad, passionate love to you all night long," she teased with a wicked gleam in her eyes.

Max growled at her. "If that was supposed to encourage me to leave -"

"Go!" she commanded with a chuckle. "You know I was only joking. No wild nookie tonight. My alien lover needs his rest."

"Tease," he grumbled, as he started down the ladder.

Liz hung over the edge of the balcony, watching him descend. When he reached the ground, he looked back up, and she blew him a kiss. "Until tomorrow, my love," she called softly to him.

Max's eyes devoured her for a moment, then he waved his hand, and walked away.

posted on 13-Nov-2001 10:29:12 PM

Epilogue ("Future Log")

One year in the future....

Isabel laid curled up next to Alex watching him sleep, dreaming about how differently she wished things could be between them. She wondered if she would ever be able to let go of the ghosts in her past, and give herself completely to him.

As if sensing her scrutiny, Alex opened one eye and looked at her. "What?" His voice rumbled deeply, husky from sleep.

She smiled sadly at him. "Nothing - I was just thinking."

"About -?"

"About how differently I wish things could be. You know...."

Resisting the urge to go another round with her at the moment regarding the merits of marriage, Alex sighed and pulled the soft, warm body lying next to him closer. "Remind me again how it is, that I am so blessed to have you?" he asked her.

"Oh, Alex," she whispered, trailing her hand absently across his chest. "I'm the one that's blessed. To be able to have a second chance with you. When I think of how it could have ended up - how it did end up once, because I was too stupid to trust you with my heart...."

"Shhh, we've been over this a hundred times or more. Let's not waste any more of the precious time that life affords us, thinking of what might have been, all right? Let's focus on the gift we've been given, and enjoy every minute of it to its fullest."

"You're right," she sighed, snuggling closer. "Still, I'm glad that Max and Liz found a way to come back from the future, and change all that."

Alex smiled, as his lips placed a kiss on the top of her head. "Well, that makes two of us. I certainly prefer lying here with you, to lying in the bottom of a hole six feet down," he joked.

"Alex! That isn't funny! If I'm not supposed to dwell on it, you can't joke about it!"

"Okay, okay, my apologies. So tell me, princess, how does it feel, slumming with the common folk of Earth?" he said teasingly. "Like the makeshift bed?"

Isabel raised up on one elbow, leaning partially over him, her long blonde hair falling around them like a curtain. "I don't care where I am, or where I sleep, as long as it's with you," she told him, her face serious, and her eyes shining with all the love she felt for him.

"Still," he griped, looking around the pod chamber, "this is hardly the way I prefer to woo my lady love."

Isabel gave him a 1,000 watt smile. "Well, maybe your lady love is so enamored with your presence, that she doesn't even notice." She leaned down, and kissed him soundly, her bare breasts pressing against his chest.

When she ended the kiss, he reached up to brush her hair behind her ear on one side, while giving her a rueful smile. "I want more for us than this, Isabel," he told her softly. "I want a house with a yard, and half a dozen kids running around screaming, filling our lives with laughter, and more love than we can imagine. Your world, my world... it doesn't really matter where. Just as long as we are together. Because you are my world."

"I don't think that your parents are quite ready to embrace the concept of an alien daughter-in-law, do you?" she asked, struggling with that familiar pain of being rejected, just because she was "different".

"If they can't handle it, we have our answer. We live on Antar."

"I can't even consider living on Earth right now. You know that."

"Right. Antar it is."

Her eyes probed his, as if trying to see into his very soul. "Alex, do you really want to do that to your family? To walk away from them, and never come back?"

"What? Like you did?" he said with a slight edge to his tone.

"Alex, that's not fair. You know why I had to leave."

"Maybe I do, but they don't. Your mother and father have finally returned to Roswell, Isabel. Couldn't you at least come for a visit? I know that it would mean so much to them. I'm sure they miss all of you terribly. They look so... sad. So distant. Like their hearts were ripped out, and all that is left are these empty shells that are just going through the motions. Surely you don't want to leave them like that?"

Tears started to stream down her face. "No," she whispered, choking back a sob. "But I don't know what else to do! If we go to them, we could put them in danger. What should I do Alex? How can I face them, now that they know that I'm not even human? When that is what's responsible for them being the way they are?"

"Don't you get it, Iz? That doesn't matter to them, it never did. They don't care that you aren't even from this solar system, for crying out loud! They were a lonely couple who couldn't have children, and one night, God in His mercy decided to place two homeless children who needed a mom and dad into their care. That's their reality, can't you accept that?"

Isabel started to cry. "I want to believe it, Alex. But the look on their faces... the shock.... I don't know if I'll ever forget it."

"Honey, listen to me. Anyone would have been shocked. Don't you remember the denial that I went through? How you had to prove to me that you were more than human? Do you still doubt that I love you?"

"No! You know that I don't."

"Then try and understand that your parents had to adjust to this new reality, too. But they can't, fully, because your staying away is only making them hate themselves. They feel like they let you all down. Like they failed to let you know how much they love you, and need you in their lives."

"You don't know that, you're just assuming." Alex went very still, holding her gaze captive with his. "Aren't you?" she whispered, a spark of hope flickering in her heart.

"No, Iz, I'm not. Your parents always asked about you - how you, Max and Zan are doing. So I went over to the house one day, shortly after you left, to tell them that I'd seen you, and that you were doing well." He took a deep breath. "They asked me never to tell you this... but when I got there, your mom was crying, and your dad was just holding her on his lap, trying to comfort her. That's when they told me they felt like they had failed as parents. They wished they had known better what to do for you - how to help you. They even asked if you ever mentioned them. They think you despise Earth, and everything about it - including them. It was shortly afterward that they left Roswell."

Isabel began to sob. "No! God, how could I despise them?! They are everything good and kind and perfect about Earth. If it wasn't for them, we would have despised this planet. They showed us that not all of humanity is evil."

"Then see them, Isabel. If you're afraid for them to be seen with you, we can meet somewhere else. If you won't do it for them, do it for yourself, Isabel. You don't want them to pass away, not knowing you love them, do you? Do you want to carry those regrets with you for the rest of your life? The rest of our life together? Are you going to just exchange one set of regrets for another? Or are you going to learn from the mistakes that you have been spared from making?"

"You're right," she sobbed out. "Will you arrange it? A place for us to meet?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. "Isabel, I promise, you won't regret it. When? When should I bring them?"

"Tonight," she said, laughing through her tears, as she wiped the moisture from her cheeks. "Tell them - I can't wait to see them. And I'll try to get Max and Zan to come - but don't mention that, in case they can't make it."

"All right, I won't. Usual time?"

"Yeah, that'd be great. You'll come and get me?"

He grinned at her. "I certainly won't make you walk. They'll be so thrilled to see you, I know they will." He looked at his watch. "But right now, we have to say good-bye, my love. I have to get to class, and you have a planet to help rebuild." He kissed her tenderly, and then got up and started to dress, as she pulled her Antarian dress over her head, and tied the sash. When they were both clothed, they met for one last kiss, and then he walked her to the portal.

"I'll be waiting all day, just to be in your arms again tonight," she whispered against his lips.

"So will I. You take care of yourself, and be careful. Even though your people have found peace with the Talerians, I still worry about you. Don't let your guard down, okay?"

"I won't Alex. And have I mentioned that you give me this same pep talk every time I leave you?"

He pulled her so her body was flush with his. "And I will continue to give you this 'pep talk' every time you leave me, until you agree to marry me, and be with me always."

Isabel stroked the side of his face, and smiled up at him. Things were changing for her. She was going to see her parents for the first time in almost two years. Maybe things could turn around for her and Alex. Maybe.... "We'll see," she said softly, then kissed him one more time, before she turned and disappeared through the portal.

Twelve years in the future.....

"But Father, why must I learn to change my form? I like the one that I have just fine. I'm told that I look just like you," young Zan'-dar said, looking worshipfully up at his father. "And besides, Uncle Kyle said that he would teach Philip and me more about that human game.... football this afternoon. He said he's going to be going home soon, and I really want to spend some time with him."

Zan looked down at his young son, so strong and handsome, and trying to understand the burden that was being placed on him at such a young age. Zan tried to keep his life balanced - to let him be a child sometimes, too. But he was fast approaching manhood, and he had to be prepared for the responsibilities that would soon rest on his shoulders. He smiled at his son - a child that had been conceived in deceit, but had turned out to be a joy without measure in his life. In spite of the fact that he had become a father for the first time at such a young age, he had gladly risen to the challenge of parenthood, and loved his child with everything that was in him.

He smiled down at the boy now, who was impatiently waiting for his answer. "We need to meet with Da-nar' for your lessons, Zan'-dar, you know that. Soon you will be the leader of your people, and you must be ready for the challenge. But you also know that your lessons will be over in plenty of time for us to go and see Uncle Kyle, before he leaves. As for Philip - he'll be there, if his parents don't have something else planned. But I'm pretty sure they tried to clear their schedules as much as possible for Kyle's visit, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him there."

Zan'-dar's eyes sparkled with glee. "Then you'll come too? For sure, Father?"

Zan reached out to ruffle his son's hair. "Yes, my man, I'll come too. Maybe we can get your mother and sisters to join us as well."

Zan'-dar looked at his father in awe. "Do you really think you can get Mother to go? This pregnancy has been very difficult for her."

"I know it has. But if we both take good care of her, the trip shouldn't be too hard on her."

"You know I'll do whatever I can to help, if it means she'll be with us. I miss her so, when we're apart."

"So do I son. Oh, look. Here comes Da-nar' now." The two of them stood and watched Da-nar', as he climbed the hill to meet them. He and Zan embraced, and then Da-nar' turned to Zan'-dar. "I think you've grown half a foot since I last saw you. You're nearly as tall as I am now."

"Father told me you were taller, when you took human form on Earth. Why?"

Da-nar's black eyes looked up at Zan in surprise. "Well, on Earth, I would be considered short for an average man. I desired to look as average as possible, so I wouldn't attract any unwanted attention to myself. So I added a few inches to my height."

"I see," Zan'-dar commented, and then moved on to the next item of interest. "Father says that I need to learn how to do the change, so that I can be a better leader to my people. How will this help me, Da-nar'?"

"Our people have willingly allowed Zan to rule over them, because of their love for him and your Uncle Max, and because he is your father - even though he is not one of us. But our people are shapeshifters by nature, Zan'-dar. If they are to embrace you as their king, you must be able to show that you are truly one of us. Even though they know your lineage, they don't know how much of you is still Talerian in nature, since you are also part human, and part Antarian. Being able to change will help them to accept that you are like them, and will look out for their best interests. Our people have had a troubled past, these last few decades. They need to know that they have a king who desires to see his people flourish again."

"Then I will work doubly hard to accomplish this, Da-nar'," he declared. Zan sucked in a breath - how proud he was of his son!

"Come, walk with me, Zan'-dar," Da-nar' urged. "Let us talk of the change, and then begin your lessons....."

Zan watched as the Talerian man that had become his best friend on New Taleria walked off with his son. He knew, without a doubt, that with Da-nar' taking Zan'-dar under his wing, the boy would do just fine.



DOUBLE JEOPARDY III: THE FULFILLMENT
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[ edited 3 time(s), last at 16-Jul-2002 5:56:13 PM ]