|posted on 2-Sep-2001 8:39:44 PM|
|Title: Betrayals (Repost) Contains Spoilers up to Cry My Name|
This is the first fic I wrote, and it is pretty embarrassing. I wrote it immediately after I read the spoilers for HOM in February I guess and I was pretty upset about them, but now that it has aired, I figured I’d repost it as an alternative ending of sorts. But I have to warn anyone who wants to try reading this, I was VERY upset with the Tess character, and it shows. It REALLY shows. It’s pretty comical actually. I think my reaction was pretty extreme even for a diehard dreamer. (May have been added to by the fact that my boyfriend once said he thought Tess was kind of cute. Eww!) Anyway, whatever nonsense brought me to this ridiculousness, please, if you are at all a Tess fan, Do not read this. Please. I don’t want to offend anyone.
Rating: (bad words mostly)
Disclaimer: Roswell and its characters belong to the WB, Jason Katims and Melinda Metz, maybe other people that I don’t know. Definitely not me. “I Shall Believe” belongs to Sheryl Crow and A & M Records. I also mention Cinderella, who I think belongs to Disney. No infringement intended all around. I own nothing except a great dog. Please don’t sue me for her because we’re very attached. OK?
Category: M/L, (slight M/T, L/Z)
Summary: SPOILER ALERT!!!! Contains spoilers (Prom, Alex’s death).
Alternative storyline for around time of prom. I apologize that my formatting seems to disappear when I post.
Part 1 of 5
Liz Parker hit the snooze button on the alarm clock for the third time and pulled the covers over her head to get a few more minutes of sleep. She had been doing that more and more lately. She tried to ignore the insistent knocking on the door and her mother’s voice.
“Liz….Liz….Honey, you’re going to be late for school.”
No answer. Nancy Parker opened the door to her daughter’s room and was taken aback by the clothes and papers strewn around the floor. Liz was usually such a neat freak. And there was Liz, again, for the third day this week, with the covers pulled over her head when she should have been up for school a half hour ago. She approached the bed and gently sat on the edge and shook Liz’s shoulder.
“Liz, time to get up.”
“Ummm…, just a few minutes, Mom”, Liz mumbled.
“No honey, now. Besides, I want to talk to you before you leave, okay?”
That got Liz’s attention. She knew her parents had become worried about her. They had noticed the changes in her in the last few months, how could they not? The whole “Future Max thing”, as Maria now referred to it, seemed to be making her life crumble before her eyes. And Maria was the only other person who knew about it. She felt so alone. So lost without Max. So sick of lying to him. So worried that she was going to have to watch him as his relationship with Tess developed. She didn’t think she could tolerate that. Like she and Max could ever really be friends anyway. She wanted so much more than friendship from him and she was beginning to suspect that it was slowly killing her to try and keep up this pretense. And now other people were able to see it too.
Liz tried her best to plaster on a smile before going into the kitchen for the “talk” with her mom.
“Hey, Mom, what’s up?”
“I don’t know, Liz. Why don’t you tell me?” Her mother’s eyes were probing.
“What do you mean?”
“Here, eat the eggs I made while we talk, okay?”
“I’m not really hungry, but I’ll have some juice.”
“See, that’s one of the things I’ve noticed. You’re losing weight, you seem to be unhappy, distracted. Is there something you want to talk about?”
Liz tried to think quickly of something to say that would pacify her mother. She knew that her mother cared, but what could she say? ‘Mom, I’ve been down because the love of my life is an alien king and his future self came back to have me break his heart to prevent the end of the world.’ Not going to happen. Then her mother would really have her committed.
“No, Mom, everything’s okay, I just have a lot of work to do at school.”
Nancy sighed. “I hope you know you can talk to me, honey. Your father and I are here for you always.”
Liz plastered her best fake smile on again before leaving the kitchen and heading off to school.
“Of course, Mom.”
On the other side of town Max Evans was staring at a picture of Liz Parker, trying to make a decision about asking her to the prom despite all that they had been through. He knew Tess had hinted about wanting to go with him, well more than hinted, but deep in his heart he was still in love with Liz. He probably would always be in love with Liz, and he just couldn’t imagine going with anyone else, no matter what had happened between them. He made up his mind to ask her to go as friends. Yeah, as friends, that’s what he would do. As he got up and got ready to go to school, he had alittle extra spring in his step that morning.
Liz walked into chemistry class in a fog. She must have been in a fog not to have noticed Max’s beautiful amber eyes trained on her from the time she walked through the doorway until the time she sat down. But Max noticed. He also noticed that the usual sparkle he so loved was missing from her eyes. She looked up finally and smiled at him briefly, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. He worried what the hell was going on with her. It reinforced his plan that maybe he could cheer her up by asking her to prom, he only hoped she would want to go with him. They hadn’t spent much time together since the whole ‘Kyle incident’, although she was still the focus of most of his thoughts.
Tess sat in the back of the chemistry class watching Max eye Liz with concern in his eyes. Geez, she fumed, he was like a drooling puppy dog, and after what she did to him too! And Tess had thought she had been getting somewhere with Max lately. Sure, she’d been fooling around with Kyle, but that was just for sport. Her serious designs were still on Max. Well, little Liz Parker was not any serious competition for her. And look at her! She looked like something the cat dragged in today. At least she used to look pulled together in that ridiculous preppy sort of way. Now her clothes hung on her and she wore no make-up. What was he even looking at?
As the bell rang indicating the end of class, Max tried to get to Liz, but found Tess holding his arm before he could leave his seat.
“Max, I don’t have anyone to eat lunch with today, could you-”
“Tess,” Max interrupted, not wanting to miss Liz before she left the room, but looking beyond Tess, he saw he was already too late.
“Okay Tess, let’s go. I wanted to talk to Liz, but I guess I can find her at lunch.”
“Good. By the way, I need some help with my chemistry homework, do you think I could come over tonight?”
“Well, I have to work tonight until 7:30.” Max was glad that he could get out of this one. The last time Tess had come over for homework, he felt alittle uncomfortable being with her alone.
“Okay, I’ll be there around 8:00.”
Max sighed. “Great.”
“Hey, chica.” Liz picked her head up from her locker to find Maria standing over her.
“Hey.” Liz returned softly, still rifling through her papers.
“Turn around. We have to fix you up.”
“Ma-ri-a.” Liz whined. She couldn’t believe her friend thought she was ready to start dating again. She heard Maria erupt into giggles behind her.
“Not like that, Lizzie. You just look a mess. Now turn around.”
“Yes, Mom.” Liz said sarcastically, turning around only to have Maria pull down on her shirt, attempting to set it free from wrinkles, then tucking it into her jeans. Liz found herself peering up and down the hallway self-consciously. She didn’t want Max to witness Maria acting like a mother hen. Or rather witness her needing that kind of attention. She felt Maria’s hand smoothing down her hair.
“Okay, chica, you’re gorgeous again. Getting a little thin though” Liz felt Maria’s hands squeeze her waist. “We should feed you before you disappear on us. Let’s go eat lunch.”
“No, Maria. I’m not hungry.” Liz looked down at her feet.
“Liz babe. You’ve gotta eat.” Maria knew Liz’s mother was so worried about her that she wanted to take Liz to the doctor.
Alex came strolling down the hall, interrupting Maria’s would-be lecture. Liz realized how little time she had spent alone with Alex lately, particularly since he had returned from Sweden. Only that one night he had come over and shown her his slides. He seemed so distant to her. She missed him.
“Hey Alex. What’s up?”
“Lizzie, Maria. All’s good, you?” Alex said, stopping by her locker.
“Okay, I guess.”
“Are you going to lunch now?” Alex asked.
“No. I thought I would go to the library or something.” Liz said. She didn’t want to run into Max. Or Tess.
“Can I come? I kind of want to catch up with you.” Alex replied.
“I’d like that.”
“What about me you guys? Remember? The third musketeer?” Maria said, hands on her hips in an exaggerated posture only Maria could carry off.
They each grabbed one of Maria’s hands and escorted her off.
They decided instead to go to the bleachers for some privacy.
“So babe, are you going to prom?” Maria said. “Spaceboy finally agreed to take me after many threats of no more nookie.”
“No. Who would I go with?” Liz said on a sigh “You going, Alex?”
“Yeah, Isabel and I are going as friends. I mean, she is all broken up about this Grant thing, but we thought we could go together.” Alex said as he stuffed chips into his mouth.
“That’s good. Are you okay with that Alex? I mean the friend thing.” Maria said knowing he probably wasn’t.
“I think so. It’s not like it’s anything new.” He grumbled.
“Alex, is something wrong? You seem so solemn, different since you got back from your trip, and I have hardly seen you. Although I know a lot of that is my fault.” Liz said, looking at her fingernails when she added the last sentence.
“I don’t know, Liz. There kind of is something I wanted to talk to you guys about.”
“This stays between us.”
“You know you can trust us, Alex.” Liz said, now very concerned for her friend.
“I think this calls for the special Three Musketeers secret handshake.” Maria offered, trying to lighten the mood. Both of her best friends were clearly having a tough time.
They all giggled nervously.
“Okay then. It’s pretty weird.” Alex started. “I’ve been having a lot of nightmares, headaches too. Sometimes I can’t even account for time during the day. I’m afraid.”
Liz looked up at Alex sharply.
“Do you think it’s something physical? Did you go to the doctor?”
“No. No, I didn’t. Because somehow I know it’s related to the pod squad.”
Both girls gasped at that revelation. “How?”
“I don’t know, but I’m scared. Promise me you won’t say anything.”
“You know we won’t, Alex, not if you don’t want us to, but maybe if you did they could help.”
“Yeah, Alex. I don’t think we should try to handle this on our own.” Maria offered, looking kind of frightened. She also didn’t want to have to keep more secrets from Michael. There was already the whole Future Max fiasco and Maria found she had to bite her tongue every time he made a patented Michael Guerin not-so-nice comment about Lizzie’s supposed infidelity. Of course, ‘infidelity’ was never the word he chose, and Michael had quite a few colorful words for Liz at this point, Maria bristled in remembrance. Maria had hinted to him that she thought he was taking out his continued frustrations at Max onto Liz, but Michael had snorted at her ‘psychobabble’ and dismissed her. Although she suspected she had hit a nerve. No, Maria sighed, she didn’t need anything building back up the walls between she and Michael that she worked so hard to tear down.
“There’s something else.” Alex was still talking.
“In all my nightmares, you’re in danger, Liz. But I can’t remember how or why.”
He grabbed Liz’s shaky hand and the three just sat in stony silence until the bell rang signaling the start of the next class.
Liz never came to lunch that day. He also didn’t see her during any of the times he had peeked out of the windows of the UFO Center across the street to the Crashdown to catch a glimpse of her while she worked, one of the few joys of his usual day of late. Max found himself increasingly worried about her. She seemed to be isolating herself so much recently. He wished he could just take her in his arms and comfort her the way he wanted to. Sometimes, he had to remind himself that she didn’t want that anymore. But only a part of him really believed that she didn’t still love him. He was interrupted from his thoughts by a knock on the door.
“Honey, Tess is here to see you.”
“Oh, hi Tess.” Max noticed immediately that Tess was wearing a very low-cut, very tight black shirt. ‘Wait, wasn’t that the one she wore when Liz tried to set us up a few months back? Yeah, I think so. Her breasts were practically spilling out the top of it then too.’ She bent over indiscretely right in front of him to put down her backpack. Oh no, it was obvious she wasn’t here just for studying. This again. If she brought up the word ‘destiny’ tonight he thought he might just slap her.
Max didn’t want to give her any ideas so he didn’t sit on the bed, rather on the floor, but the study session consisted on Tess touching him every time they laughed about something or when she had a question. At least she didn’t go further than that.
Tess thought she was being brilliantly subtle in her approach, ‘Max will never know what hit him,’ she thought.
As she was saying good night, Tess leaned up to Max and gave him a kiss on the cheek, lingering there longer than necessary. ‘Oh yeah’ thought Tess, when he didn’t pull away at first. She was about to move to his mouth when Max mumbled “Night, Tess,” drawing away from her approaching lips and roaming hands.
“Good night, Max.” she said as she walked away swaying her hips all the way to her car, just in case he was watching.
But the kiss made Max think twice. He picked up his jacket and jumped in the jeep. Liz couldn’t avoid him forever and if she thought she could, he would just go find her. He found himself parked outside the Crashdown and scaling the ladder to her balcony.
Liz hadn’t felt up to going to work that night. While Maria covered her shift, Liz was laying in bed listening to “I Shall Believe” on repeat play, crying, and looking at that same old strip of pictures of she and Max. A few hours into her cry-fest, she heard the familiar tapping on the window that she hadn’t heard in so long. Her sobs increased as she thought it must be a trick her mind was playing on her. ‘You really are losing it now, Parker. Call in the white coats.’ However, when the tapping persisted, she turned her head toward the sound.
“Max?” she said in disbelief, getting out of bed and climbing out to the balcony.
“Hey.” He could see she dressed for bed, wearing a tank and red plaid flannel drawstring pajama pants that hung loosely from her hips, baring just a hint of midriff where the tank wasn’t tucked in fully. There was nothing inherently sexy about the outfit, but it was so cute, and on his Liz… However, he could see her eyes were red-rimmed, and were those tracks of dried tears marring the perfect skin of her cheeks?
“What are you doing here?” Her voice shook him out of his appraisal of her.
“I really wanted to see you. I’ve been getting the feeling you’ve been avoiding me.”
Liz couldn’t meet his eyes. She had been avoiding him. He gently tilted her chin up so her face met his. He couldn’t let her keep hiding from him.
“What’s going on with you Liz? I’m worried about you.”
“You don’t have to worry about me, Max. You have more important things in your life to worry about than me.”
He couldn’t believe that she could think that.
“More important than you? Liz, you have to know I still love you, no matter what happened between us…” Max said softly, not wanting to scare her away, but needing her to know how much she meant and would always mean to him.
Liz got a frightened look on her face and interrupted Max. She started pacing her tiny frame hunched in concentration on her words.
“No, Max. You can’t love me anymore. You can’t. It’s not possible. You have to love Tess. It’s too dangerous. I still love you but we can’t be together.”
Max looked confused.
“What’re you talking about? What’s dangerous?”
Liz got herself under control.
”Ummm…I-I mean… I mean…your destiny…..your destiny with Tess.”
“Is that what this is about? Destiny?” Max’s voice was rising painfully. “How many times do I have to tell you I don’t care about my destiny? Remember, we make our own destinies?”
She was crying by now. His voice softened considerably.
“Liz, I don’t want to pressure you into anything, but I need to at least be around you, be friends with you, and you’re not allowing that. I miss you.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and wiped away her tears with his thumbs.
She nodded. “I miss you too, so much.” She was looking at the ground.
“So can we start there and see where we go?”
“As friends?” she said.
He touched her arm and then took his other hand to lift her chin again. When they made eye contact, it seemed like they their hungry gazes locked for several moments. The heat between them was palpable. Max wanted to kiss her so much. Little did he know that Liz wanted that so much as well. But they were both too scared to let it happen. Max was afraid of scaring her off, causing her to retreat again. And, of course, Liz was afraid of the end of the world. So instead they embraced, bodies curving into each other, clinging to the other desperately. The contact was completely inconsistent with the words of simple friendship that were escaping both of their mouths, but neither moved apart, silently wishing for more.
“So friend, there is something I have been wanting to ask you except that you have been avoiding me for so long. So now that we’re friends again, can I ask you now?” He was whispering into her hair, one of his hands absently twirling a glossy strand around his fingers.
“See there’s been this dream of mine as long as I can remember that I would go to the prom with this one particular girl and that is you. Ever since I learned what a prom is, my every fantasy of it has featured you.” He said with a slight crack in his voice. “Looking spectacular, I might add.” He could feel her smile against the skin of his cheek. “So even if we only go as friends, I was hoping you would do me the honor of going with me.” There, he did it. Sigh. Deep breath. In. Out. In.
“But what about Tess?” That made him pull back from her.
“I don’t want her to feel left out,” she said.
He looked at her curiously for a moment before answering.
“I’m pretty sure Tess can take care of herself, but my bet is that a certain Buddhist would be thinking of asking her anyway.”
“You know Liz, the prom is only a week away, I was hoping for an answer.”
“I’m sorry Max, I’d love to go with you.” She smiled.
Max left Liz’s roof feeling better that night, although still slightly unsettled about the things she said about destiny and the horrified look he’d seen on her face when he said he still loved her. ‘There’s still something she’s not telling me.’
Liz felt better than she had in weeks. She had something to look forward to for a change. She and Maria went shopping for prom dresses.
“You know, it took me two days to convince space boy that he needed to rent a tuxedo for the prom. He wanted to wear jeans, make a statement,” Maria announced as they wandered through the mall. “He can be so difficult.”
“But you like that about him, you’d be bored with someone who wasn’t.”
“Oh chica, I like that dress for you. That color would be perfect on you. Ooh, let’s try it on.”
“I don’t know Maria, it’s so…”
“What? Sexy? Pretty? Bright? You deserve to be all those things. No more pining, or being depressed, or hiding away for you. This whole Future Max thing has been too much for anybody. Time to live a little.”
“Okay, I’ll try it.”
“Don’t sound so excited.” Maria said sarcastically.
“Well it is kind of body-conscious.”
“Liz, you’ve got a great bod!”
“Yeah, right. But I’ll try it anyway. Let’s find one for you.”
Liz was zipping up her dress. She hoped Maria was right about this thing. It seemed awfully tight. But the lavender color was beautiful. She hoped Max liked it. She felt better than she had in such a long time. Maria was putting on the last touches of her make-up in the bathroom. They had wanted to do this together since they were little girls. The prom and their weddings. She sighed. Well, now at least she would have one of them.
“Chica, you look gorgeous. I mean it. He’ll be knocked out.”
“Maria, I don’t need to knock him out. We can’t be together, remember?” But who was she kidding? Only herself. She wanted Max to be enchanted. This night was already a dream come true for her at a time when she’d given up on all of her dreams. She wanted to forget all of her problems for just one perfect night with the man she loved more than life itself. She felt like Cinderella. She had until midnight, when her coach would turn back into a pumpkin, figuratively at least, and her prince would be gone. Again.
“Whatever.” Maria waved her off, taking Liz out of her fairy tale wanderings. “You guys will work it out somehow. You guys belong together. I feel it in my bones. Moreso even than me and Spaceboy.”
Liz had tears in her eyes. How she wished that were true. But Maria and Michael were together and the world wasn’t conspiring to pull them apart. A soft knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.
“You girls look beautiful.” Nancy Parker said. “Max and Michael are here. I have to say, you have two pretty handsome men waiting for you tonight. Are you ready?”
“Liz, I’m glad to see you smiling again. I can’t say that I understand everything that has been going on, but I haven’t seen that smile in a long time.” Nancy whispered softly.
Liz kissed her cheek. “Thanks, Mom”
“We’ll keep her on track, Mrs. Parker.” Maria offered, taking Mrs. Parker’s other hand.
“I know you will, Maria. Now let’s get you to your dates.”
Liz and Maria walked out of Liz’s room to find Max and Michael standing in the Parker’s living room. As Liz raised her eyes shyly, Max and Liz’s eyes met and held. Max thought he’d never seen Liz look more beautiful. She was wearing a lavender sleeveless silk gown that clung softly to her slim curves, draping to the floor with a sophisticated elegance, and a matching wrap around her bare shoulders. The fabric had a slight irridescence that gave her an ethereal glow. Her silky hair was mostly loose and hanging straight down her back, with just the front pinned softly with a rhinestone barette and her soft make-up highlighted her glossy lips. It made her eyes look enormous and sparkling. She looked like his own personal goddess. Gorgeous.
Seeing Max in his tux made Liz want to cry. He was always handsome, but tonight he looked like he stepped off a page in GQ. He was so devastastingly beautiful, and perhaps the most wondrous thing about him was the way he was looking at her like she was the most precious gift in the world. And the fact that she could never really be with him was what made her want to cry. No, she would not let herself think of that tonight. She promised herself. No tears. Not tonight.
“Liz… You look…. I don’t know what to say.” Max started. “Beautiful.” He truly sounded awed.
“Thank you, so do you.”
“Oh God, here they go with that whole stare-into-my-eyes-soulmate-thing again” Maria piped in.
That earned a glare from Max.
“Relax girlfriend, I got your back.” Maria grinned at him and patted Max’s shoulder to show she was just teasing him.
“Maria,” Michael whined, grabbing her hand. “Let’s give them some privacy. Besides, I can think of a few things I’d rather be doing than watching Max stare at Liz.” He said as he raised his eyebrows a few times suggestively. “Anyway” Michael continued loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “I already spent all those years sitting in the Crashdown watching him do that.”
The two walked off with Maria giggling at that. Even Liz had to smile.
“Here,” Max said, swallowing past the lump in his throat and remembering the corsage, “I got this for you.”
“It’s beautiful Max.” Liz said, tearing up again.
They exchanged flowers, let her parents take pictures, and got ready to go.
Max wasn’t sure how exactly to proceed as friends with the love of his life, but he knew he needed to touch her so he decided to just go for it. He took her hand possessively, softly stroking the back of it with his thumb, as they headed out to the car to meet Michael and Maria.
Liz and Max were dancing much of the night away at the prom. Her dress had a low-cut back, giving Max access to quite a bit of skin that his fingers wandered up and down in butterfly-light caresses that were making her insides melt. They found themselves pressing closer and closer together as they swayed to the slow songs, her head tucked under his chin. His nostrils filled with that distinctive strawberry-vanilla scent that was so characteristic of his Liz. He would kiss the crown of her head every so often, noting the sigh that escaped her mouth each time and enjoying her warm breath on his neck. He wondered if she could be feeling everything he was feeling for her. She sure wasn’t acting like just his ‘friend’.
Liz was getting lost in the moment. She loved being in Max’s arms. If she could capture one moment to stay in for the rest of her life, she thought she would choose this moment. It was magical. She wanted him so much. At times, she couldn’t remember why she couldn’t be with Max. And she didn’t want to remember.
Tess had gone to the prom with Kyle, and was dancing with an eye trained on Max and Liz. Her body tensed with each stroke of Max’s hand across Liz’s bare back. ‘That should be me,’ she thought in a snit. If she had alien death ray vision, she would have melted Liz Parker on the spot. ‘Or maybe even better, turn her into a toad. Oh Yeah. That’s it. And keep her in a ridiculously small cage in the house that me and Max would share so she would have to watch him be head over heels in love with me for the rest of our lives. And I’d keep in the bedroom so she’ have to watch Max and I…’ Tess was snapped out of her fantasy as she saw Max tenderly kiss the top of Liz’s head. ‘This is just too much! Are they getting back together? No way!’ She knew she needed to act now or Liz Parker would worm her way back into Max’s heart and bed before Tess had her own chance.
Maria was also watching Liz and Max, but with a sweet smile on her face. She knew how much her best friend deserved this after everything she’d been through in the “alien abyss”. She developed a little plan of her own to help things along and excused herself from Michael with a brief kiss and a promise to return. She went to talk to the DJ to make a request of her own.
A short while later, the DJ announced a special request, “I Shall Believe” going out to Liz Parker and Max Evans.
As Max was holding her, swaying together, the first few bars of the song began to sound. Liz stiffened in his arms and tears started pouring down her face.
“Liz. Liz, what is it?”
She couldn’t speak. She just buried her face in the curve of his neck and her body racked with sobs. He didn’t understand what happened, but he held her close, pressing his cheek into her hair. He recalled that this was one of her favorite songs and that it was the one playing when she was crying in her room the night he went over there last week. Somehow he knew it was related to the secrets she was keeping from him that were hurting her so much.
She wanted to tell him so much. She was having such a wonderful time tonight. She hadn’t felt so close to him in a long time. Kyle and Tess seemed okay. Maybe she wouldn’t be responsible for the end of the world. Maybe they could be together. Especially if Alex was right and she was really in danger, shouldn’t she take the chance she had at life and love now and try to be with Max. Maybe it would be the only chance they would ever get. She looked up at him.
“M-M-Max, I n-need to t-tell you something.”
“You know that you can tell me anything, Liz.”
“Not here. Let me just clean up in the ladies’ room and I’ll meet you outside on the balcony. I must look afright. Okay?” she said with a shaky smile.
“You always look perfect to me.” He dared to brush his lips over hers for a mere second before he let her go.
Tess saw Liz take off, becoming more enraged after witnessing their kiss, and after Max disappeared, she followed Liz to the bathroom. She waited a minute and went inside. She found a tearful Liz wiping mascara from her eyes, seeming embarrassed to see her in her current state.
“Oh, hi Tess.” Liz cast her eyes downward.
“Liz, are you okay?” she said in her sugary voice. Tess walked up next to Liz to face the mirror and pretended to be putting on lipstick.
Tess’ dress was covered in fire-engine red sequins except for a large round cutout that exposed her navel. ‘Geez, she likes to show off that belly button, doesn’t she?’ Liz snickered to herself, glad to have something to pick her up from her tearful mood.
“Fine, Tess.” She finally answered softly, lowering her eyes again to avoid the reflected glare in the mirror off of the Tess’ sequins. It was really too much. She didn’t understand why Tess didn’t try to wear pastels to bring out those amazing crystal blue eyes she was lucky enough to have. ‘Czechoslovakian eyes’, Maria called them. Piercing, like Max’s, though not nearly as warm. She remembered back to when Future Max was here, shuddering slightly, when she had even tried to help Tess soften her look. ‘I guess that didn’t last too long,’ she giggled silently to herself. ‘Oh well, if Kyle likes it…’
“So, you and Max aren’t getting back together, are you?”
Liz snapped her head up and was surprised by the funny smirk on Tess’ face.
“Why do you ask?” Liz asked quickly.
“Well, he said that he wasn’t interested in ever getting back with you after what you did to him and all. I mean, it was pretty brutal, sleeping with Kyle.”
She still had a self-satisfied smirk on her face and Liz was feeling the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. She wanted to get away from Tess all of the sudden. Maybe Tess did want to be with Max. Maybe she had misread the situation. Oh God, maybe Tess was the danger Alex was talking about. The end of the world.
“No, we’re not getting back together or anything.” Liz found herself saying defensively.
Well, that was clear.
“Umm…Bye Tess.” Liz hurried out the door, Tess smiling too sweetly after her.
“Bye Liz.” Tess waved after her like a beauty queen in that false, slow way, then whispered “and good riddance” after Liz was out of earshot.
Liz found Max outside, but she no longer knew what to say to him. She wanted to tell him the truth so badly, but could she? What the hell was going on with Tess? Could she tell Max about that? Where the hell was Maria to talk to about this stuff. She and Michael must have gone to fool around somewhere. ‘Well, good for them, I guess.’
She felt her heart breaking because she decided she couldn’t chance the end of the world and Michael and Isabel’s deaths no matter how selfish she wanted to be. No matter how sweetly Max was looking at her right now. No matter how much love was in his eyes. Oh God, how could she keep doing this to both of them, how could she keep breaking both of their hearts?
' ”I think it’s really over between us. I love you, you know that, but we can’t be friends and we can’t be together. I think this time it’s really over.” Her voice was breaking and the tears were back in her eyes. She could hear the words as they escaped her mouth, but she almost couldn’t believe she was saying them.
“Liz, look at me. Look at me.” She didn’t look at him.
“Liz, this is not what you came out here to tell me. I know it. What happened?”
“It is, Max. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t believe you. Something happened.”
“I have to go.”
He grabbed her and kissed her in desperation before she could turn away from him. Knowing that it would be the last time, she let him. His arms wrapped around her and his tongue pleaded for entrance into her mouth. Their tongues dueled for several precious moments before she pulled reluctantly away.
“Goodbye, Max. I’m sorry, so sorry.” The tears were streaming down her face and down his as well. He stared at her retreating figure as she ran away.
Tess was watching from behind a bush. She watched Max sit there crying, his face buried in his hands, curled into himself. ‘Good time to waltz in and play comforting angel’ she thought. She sat beside him and placed her hand on his arm gently. He looked up briefly and even Tess was shocked by the look of utter devastation on his face.
“Can I help, Max?”
“It’s really over, Tess.”
He nodded into his hands.
She put her arms around him and whispered she was sorry. He was glad for the warm body and held onto her, his body wracked with sobs. They embraced, her soothing him for several minutes in silence. He picked his head up and they made eye contact, their faces only inches apart. He didn’t know what came over him, later thinking about it, but in that moment, he needed comfort, physical comfort, so he didn’t resist when their lips seemed to reach out to one another’s. He brushed his lips tentatively over hers. She grabbed the back of his head and he felt her tongue press through his lips, but the kiss was quickly interrupted by a gasp nearby, breaking them apart. He lifted his head and opened his eyes to find a tearful Liz standing not ten feet away, eyes open in shock and devastation, tears streaming down her beautiful face.
She turned to run away.
“LIZ!” Max screamed.
She briefly turned back.
“It’s not what you think-”
Liz interrupted him, her voice surprisingly flat and lifeless through her tears.
“I can see what it was, Max. I’m not blind, or stupid.” She was still crying. “I just came back to talk with you, but this is the way things are supposed to be anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” She sounded so defeated.
“Of course it matters to me. You will always matter to me. I love you.” He pleaded.
“NO! LIZ!” He called after her as she turned and ran.
This time when Tess grabbed his arm, he shook her off but by the time he got to the exit, Liz was nowhere in sight.
Max ran around the schoolgrounds desperately searching for Liz. He talked with Isabel, Alex, Kyle, Michael, and Maria. Maria had obviously spoken with Liz and refused to give him any clue as to her whereabouts.
“Maria,” he said sternly.
“No way, you know Max, I would never have expected this from you. Maybe from my Spaceboy over there, but from you I expected better.”
“It wasn’t intentional.”
“That one is getting old already. You used that excuse last year when you kissed your bleached blonde destiny bimbo in front of the Crashdown and said it wasn’t intentional, it was alien voodoo. How many times can you hurt Liz like this?”
“I think you’re forgetting what she did to me with Kyle?”
“Don’t get me started on that. And don’t talk about things you don’t really know anything about, okay, BIG SHOT?” Maria’s voice was rising in a way Max had never heard her speak to him before. He had evidently hit a nerve. He shouldn’t forget how protective she gets over Liz, like a mother protecting her young. They weren’t so different in that way, he just approached it in a quieter way. Maria’s irritated voice snapped him back to reality. “You may be a king on some other planet, but NOT here, NOT over me. GOT IT? And anyway, you don’t know jackshit about that.”
There was a moment of silence where neither knew what to say. Max was so confused by Maria’s words and his tender state and Maria was trying to rein in her emotions a bit.
Maria’s tight voice softened and she added. “You’ve betrayed that girl in more ways than you’ll ever know.”
“What does that mean?”
“What don’t I know about it?”
“Forget it, Max.”
“Maria, if you know something…”
“Like I would tell you anything after what you did to my Lizzie.”
“Okay.” Max sighed, knowing he wasn’t going to get anywhere with Maria when she was so angry. “So where is she?”
“Leave me alone, Max, I mean it, and leave her alone already too.” She said before she stormed off.
Max was right, he got nowhere with Maria, so he got in his jeep after dodging Tess again and went over to the Crashdown. He climbed the ladder and opened the window to her bedroom. He wasn’t prepared for what he found.
Part 2 of 5
She was gone. Drawers were empty. Her journal was gone. Pictures had been taken off the dresser. Her suitcase was missing from the closet. Max ran down the ladder to the jeep and drove as fast as he could to the bus station. He searched everywhere. Nothing. He went to the airport. Nothing. He sat down in the terminal and cried. She was really gone. He had lost everything.
Liz couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, couldn’t stop running. It was really happening. Her worst nightmare come true. Max and Tess. She knew that it had to happen eventually, but somehow she always held out the hope that when she sat with Future Max on her balcony and they talked about the future “is yet to be determined” that somehow she and Max would find their way back to each other. ‘You are so stupid Liz,’ she berated herself, ‘You manipulate his feelings and practically push him into her trashy little arms and yet you still expect a fairy tale ending.’ ‘What a moron,’ she added, as the tears streamed down her cheeks. She knew she had to get out of there, out of Roswell. She couldn’t watch another minute of this drama play out. And so she climbed her ladder to her balcony, not wanting to alert her parents to her presence, packed essentials including clothes, photos of Maria, Alex, Max, her parents, and Grandma Claudia, her favorite teddy bear, her journal, and took her savings and ATM card. As she looked around her room for the last time from her windowsill, the tears still falling unchecked, she whispered, “I’m sorry Mom, Dad, Maria, Alex. And Max, most of all, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you and us. I want you all to know I tried, I really did, to do my best. I just can’t do it anymore. Goodbye. I love you.” With that, she left.
Liz got to the bus station and was overwhelmed by her options. She hadn’t thought about where she would go in her haste to leave. Just somewhere where she could get lost and not be found. She left a message on Maria’s answering machine similar to the words whispered in her room and then she boarded the bus that was leaving the soonest and curled up in her seat, drawing her knees to her chest, leaning her head against the window, and closing her eyes. As such, she did not notice the jeep speeding by on its way to look for her at the bus depot with Max Evans at the wheel as they crossed paths for the last time in a long while.
She also didn’t know that she was being followed.
“Alex, could you come over, I think there’s something wrong with Max.” Isabel Evans pleaded. “He won’t talk to me, he’s melted the lock shut to his bedroom, he’s listening to the damned Counting Crows again. Please Alex. I’m really worried and I can’t find Michael.”
“Isabel, it’s 4 am after the prom, can’t it wait?” He still wasn’t feeling like himself, but he wasn’t ready to confide that to Isabel.
“He won’t talk to me at all Alex. I need you.”
God, when was he going to get over this girl? He really wasn’t in any shape to go over there tonight, but her asking like that, he couldn’t really say no.
“Okay.” He muttered in exasperation.
“Good. I’ll see you in a few.”
Sheriff Valenti showed up several hours later instead of Alex. They couldn’t believe it. Alex was dead. Gone. His car had swerved into the path of an oncoming truck on the way to the Evans.
The six of them sat in the Whitman’s living room on the day of the funeral looking shell-shocked. What the hell had happened to their little family? Alex was dead. Liz was missing. Well it was clear that she had taken off of her own volition.
Max was sitting in the middle of the couch trying to comfort a hysterical Isabel, while Tess was clinging to his other arm crying uncontrollably. Come to think about it, why was she crying so much? She and Alex were never really close, were they? And she certainly had no love lost for Liz. But Max, being the gentleman that he was, didn’t do anything to remove her from his side. He kept his attention on Izzy, attempting to console her by rubbing her back, reassuring her that it wasn’t her fault. That by asking Alex over, she had no way to know there would be a senseless traffic accident. Meanwhile, his thoughts kept going to Liz and his own losses of the love of his life and now one of his best friends.
Max also couldn’t help but notice that while Maria was sitting in the adjacent loveseat wrapped in Michael’s arms crying her eyes out, appropriately he thought, she has lost her two best friends, she kept sending glares in his direction.
Tess was shedding crocodile tears. She, of course, saw this mostly as another opportunity to use Max’s losses as a way to worm her way closer to him. Not that she wished Alex dead, of course, but he was just another useless human. ‘What was all the fuss about? Geez!’ And now that little Lizzie Parker has finally taken the hint and disappeared, she could finally get somewhere with her destined mate.
Maria was listening to Michael’s whispered words of comfort and taking in his soothing touches. ‘Spaceboy has really broken down that stone wall for me,’ she thought. She was hurting terribly. She got home the morning after the prom feeling great after a romantic night in the desert with Michael, until she heard the message from Liz on her answering machine. She thought she couldn’t feel any more pain or anger at Max Evans, but she had been wrong. It was immediately followed by a second message, that one from Sheriff Valenti telling her how sad he was to have to tell her about Alex’s death, which she was the only person present who had any knowledge to suspect was related to alien activities, fueling her pain and anger at the pod squad in general, well, except her Michael, of course. Somehow, Tess became an even greater focus of this rage as she watched the little hussy fawn all over Max in supposed grief over Alex’s death. ‘Oh yeah, like she cared about Alex, or anybody for that matter except herself, that bitch.’ Maria thought. It figures she would find something skin-tight and low-cut to wear even to a funeral.
Isabel’s wracking sobs increased and she excused herself, saying she needed to be alone.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay alone, Izzy?” Max said gently.
“Yeah Max.” Isabel managed a shaky smile.
Max stood and embraced her, then sat back down running his hand through his hair in frustration. Tess sat down pinned to his side, practically in his lap. He looked so uncomfortable. He quickly got up.
“Ummm… Anyone need a drink? I’m going to get something.”
No one acknowledged him except Tess.
“Max, hon, I’ll have a cherry coke with lime, and special sauce.” She winked at him as she said the ‘special sauce’ part.
Maria glared again. ‘Hon? Lizzie left two days ago. She sure moves fast. No surprise there. But I could kick Max’s ass from here to Albuquerque.’
“Okay. I’ll be right back.”
Maria thought he didn’t sound so thrilled with her, but still…
When Max returned, he handed Tess her soda and Maria noted how she held his hand for TOO long before accepting the soda into her own. ‘Not cool,’ Maria thought. ‘Way not cool, Maxie boy.’
But instead of sitting down next to Tess, Max sat on the edge of the coffee table across from Maria and Michael. He looked at Maria pleadingly for a moment before speaking softly.
“How are you holding up, Maria, I know this must be the most difficult for you of any of us.”
She glared back at him.
Nothing. Several long minutes of nothing but his pleading eyes and her blazing ones.
He grabbed her hand and said “Michael, I need to speak to Maria alone,”
before leading her away. When they reached the hallway, he asked. “Where’s Alex’s room?”
“What makes you think I want to be alone in a room with you?” She snapped irritably at him in true Hurricane DeLuca-style. “You’ve already killed off all of my best friends, either literally or emotionally. Want to do me in too?”
His eyes widened. “Alex’s room NOW, Maria.” That was King Max giving an order.
“Fine.” She said in a clipped tone before she stomped off and led the way.
When they reached Alex’s room, he closed the door quietly behind them.
He tried to grab her hand as he started, but she pulled it out of his grasp and turned her back to him to face the window.
“Okay Maria, I know you’re mad about what happened at the prom and blame me for Liz taking off, but I love her and I never intended-”
Maria started crying hysterically and pacing around the room. He could see her face turning bright red with emotion as she quickly swiped at her angry tears. She came to a sudden stop in front of him and started poking her index finger into his chest as she started ranting at him.
“You don’t know the half of it Max Evans. You have no idea what that girl went through to save your worthless ass. And you have no idea how she has been suffering since then either. And what does she get in return? Oh. The grand prize. Let me see. Hmmm.” Maria’s hands were gesturing wildly at this point to punctuate her statements. “Oh. Yes. That’s right. How grand of you, Your Majesty.” She mock-bowed to him as sarcastically as she could manage. “What a gift to give the love of your life. To see you kissing Tess at the prom you asked Liz to, the thing that finally lifted her spirits after so long in the dumps. I’m surprised she didn’t beat your ass with a stick after the way you keep betraying her. You know what? I should beat it for her.”
Max looked stunned.
“What’re you talking about Maria? How did she save me? And you seem to be forgetting that she betrayed me first with Kyle.”
Maria hung her head. This again. She couldn’t even justify her anger to him because it always came back to this. Liz’s secret.
“Maria, you keep saying things like that. That I don’t understand what she did. Please tell me.”
“I promised her, Max, and at this point, frankly I don’t think that you deserve to know. I really don’t. You don’t deserve my Lizzie.”
Max grabbed her shoulders gently. “Then let me try. Please, Maria. After everything we’ve been through, I think you do know how much I really love her.”
Maria looked up and saw the tears in Max’s eyes. He really did love Liz. He did. She knew that. She had listened to him all last summer go on and on endlessly about it when Liz was in Florida. And she had seen plenty of evidence of it since then too. She couldn’t do this anymore either. She understood how Liz felt. Forget the end of the world. They would work it out. Max and Liz were smart, smarter than her. Let them figure it out. And she couldn’t forget what Alex had said about Liz being in danger. Maybe it was better to share this, maybe Max could help. Look what had happened to Alex when they hadn’t said anything. She couldn’t lose Liz too. She couldn’t. And she had already lost so much of Liz’s wonderful spirit to this depression she was in since Future Max had stepped into their lives. Maybe Liz was too selfless for her own good sometimes. And it would get Max out of the claws of that bitch Tess. Couldn’t forget that.
“Okay Max, but you better sit down. This is pretty unbelievable, but it’s all true.”
Max listened with rapt attention. He felt like dying inside as he heard what he knew inside to finally be the truth. ‘How could I ever have stopped believing in her? How could I ever have stopped believing in our love? She did this all for me. She did this to save Michael and Isabel, my family, the world. She did this out of love for me.’ He felt like a selfish little boy for turning his back on her. ‘No wonder she’s been falling apart.” And finally, ‘she still loves me, she still loves me, she left because she still loves me and couldn’t stand watching me with Tess.” He felt his heart start to quicken.
Maria watched Max, trying to gauge his reactions. She saw the deflated, lost look in his eyes as she started the recount of events, but then saw excitement, and she could not mistake the look of love in his eyes. He finally made eye contact with her, lifting his gaze from his hands.
“So she did it all for me?” He asked weakly, his voice cracking with undisguised emotion.
Sigh. “She still loves me Maria?” He couldn’t meet her eyes and his voice sounded like that of a small boy.
Maria smiled. “More than you will ever know. She would do anything for you and she did. She gave up her future for you, Max.” Maria added in a whisper, her own voice now hoarse, on the verge of tears again herself. “I guess that’s what makes me so frustrated.”
“Maria, I didn’t know. I would never-”
“I know, Max.” She stopped him. “I told her that, but she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders alone and our Lizzie is just like you, super-responsible, too much so, I think. She couldn’t take that chance. And you have to remember there were two versions of you that she felt responsible to, and one of you was holding the fate of the world over her head.”
He nodded grimly. Maria could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he took in Liz’s sacrifice. “I have to do something to change this. I love her so much, Maria.” His determined look faded and he stopped speaking for a minute before looking back up at her now with tears in his eyes, then looking back down at his hands. “Everyone expects so much from me, you know? Fearless leader and all that. It’s so ironic really that Liz walked away from me that day in the cave when we found out my purpose here, you know, so she could leave me to my destiny to save some distant planet. It must have been someone’s idea of a grand cosmic joke.” He laughed bitterly. “Because I can’t do any of it without Liz. Since May, I’ve been totally useless.” He added after a slight hesitation. “Just ask Michael.” He looked up at Maria again hesitantly and they shared a small smile that implied he was sure Michael had already complained her ear off about exactly how useless he had been. “I’m just no good without her. I love her so much.”
She gently touched his arm and tried to manage a reassuring voice. She was struck by the tears in his eyes and marking the curled ends of those long eyelashes of his. “I know you love her Max. I do.” They were silent for a moment.
“Has she contacted you?” Max asked.
“Just to say goodbye.”
“Did she say where she was going?”
“Would you tell me if she did?”
“I don’t know.” She paused. “I guess it depends on whether you’re gonna be with the bimbo-stripper-wannabe or not.”
He had to smile at her description. “You know the answer to that.”
He knew he owed her an explanation. “Maria, I was so broken up by what Liz said about us being over and Tess hugged me while I was crying, I just wanted some comfort. She deepened the kiss, not me. I pulled back immediately, but Liz was already there. That was it. It was a mistake. One I’ll regret for the rest of my life.”
“Okay.” He sounded so broken talking about it.
Silence. It was all a lot to take in.
“What did you mean when you said that I made you lose both of your best friends?”
“There is something else, Max. I don’t know if it’s real, but it’s something Alex told only Liz and I. I haven’t even had a chance to tell Michael yet. I’ve been so broken up about all this.”
He looked at her quizically.
“Alex told Liz and I that since he returned from Sweden he had been having headaches, nightmares, and blackouts and he felt it was alien-related. He was really frightened.”
“Why didn’t he tell us?” She could see that he was back in leader mode, for the moment at least.
“He was scared of something and we couldn’t convince him. There’s more.”
“In all of his nightmares, Liz was in danger.”
Max had never felt so helpless in his life.
Liz got off the bus at Port Authority feeling stiff and sore. But at least one could get lost in New York City so here she was after her long ride. Only she didn’t know anyone here or her way around. Actually, the size of it was pretty intimidating to a small town girl and she already missed her friends and family. ‘Okay, Liz, no use going down that road, not going to see them again for a long time, if ever, so don’t think about them, especially him.’ Although not thinking about Max was like not breathing for her. She decided to walk downtown, less conspicuous, more different types of people.
She found that she was hungry, and after all the terrible road stop food, she wanted something different so she stopped at a small outdoor café in the village after buying a guide book detailing places to stay. She ordered and enjoyed watching the passersby. She noted that the people dressed more funky here. She looked so conservative, she thought, as she looked down at Max’s old shirt and her blue jeans that she wore. But she so enjoyed smelling his scent on the shirt. At least she still had some part of him with her. She could hold onto that.
Steely eyes watched her from a distance as she drank her coffee and ate her sandwich. What did the leader see in this human girl anyway? She was pretty, sure, but would he be willing to trade the granolith for her? He tapped his foot impatiently. Too bad that last kid had to be disposed of, turns out he didn’t know where the granolith was anyway.
Maria, Max, and Michael were still in Alex’s room, hoping he had left some clue for them somewhere. They had not shared the information with anyone but Michael, who came in looking for the two of them after a while. Tess had also come looking for Max, of course, but they sent her away, saying that Max and Michael were consoling Maria and they needed some privacy. She insisted she could help too, but was ushered out of the room as gracefully as possible. None of them were too sure why they didn’t want to include Tess in this, but they were sure that they didn’t.
“Bingo.” Max said, holding up a receipt for a pizza delivery.
“What? What?” Michael said. “I don’t see anything.”
“Look at the way Alex signed this receipt. It’s a binary code, Michael, the zeroes and ones are a computer language, we just have to break it.”
“Why would he have encoded information?” Michael said.
“I told you he was really, really scared.” Maria said with a shaky voice. She had a bad feeling about this.
They attempted to gain access to Alex’s intricate computer system to get more information. Too bad none of them were whiz kids on the computer like Alex had been. Realizing it was going to take a long time, Max spoke.
“I’m the most computer literate, so I’m going to take this home and work on it, then we’ll meet up later, okay?” Max asked.
“Yeah buddy.” Michael said.
“Okay, let’s just keep this between us. I think Izzy is too fragile, and would blame herself even more if she knew Alex’s death might be related to us, and I don’t know why, but I want to keep Tess out of it.” Max stated.
“Agreed,” Maria and Michael chimed in.
“Michael, can I have a minute with Maria?”
“You’re not going to steal my girl now that Liz skipped town?” Michael said sarcastically with his trademark smirk on his face and his arms wrapped around Maria’s waist.
“Since when did I become your personal property Spaceboy, huh? Now shoo!”
She swatted him lightly on the behind as he left.
Max thought it was sweet to see them so playful with one another. When had that happened? ‘Probably while I was lying around miserable looking at old pictures of Liz and listening to the Counting Crows’ he thought. Time to get his life back on track too. Who would have ever thought Michael would have become a role model for Max? But it was true. The sound of the door closing snapped Max out of his musings.
After Michael closed the door behind him, Maria turned around to Max and said coyly “Don’t tell him, but I actually love that possessive caveman stuff he does before he drags me off to his cave.” She grinned.
Max reached out and hugged her, then whispered in her ear. “Maria, I have so much to be thankful to you for. I guess the first thing is opening Michael up like that. I wouldn’t have believed it could happen, but you did it. Stone wall Guerin is a thing of the past,” he said with a smile against her hair. He continued more softly. “But I really want to thank you for what you did today. I know what it took out of you to tell me what you did, despite how angry you felt with me. Thank you so much. I love her so much you know.” By this time he was sobbing into her shoulder and she was rubbing big circles on his back while holding him tightly. She felt better, she felt certain she had done the right thing by Lizzie. There was never going to be anyone who loved anyone else the way these two loved each other. Never.
“You’re welcome, girlfriend. Anytime. But, and this is a big ‘but’.”
Max lifted his head.
“IF YOU EVER TOUCH THAT GERBIL AGAIN, I SWEAR I WILL PERSONALLY COME AFTER YOU AND KICK YOUR ROYAL ANTARIAN CROWN JEWELS. Do we understand each other?”
He laughed. It was good to see his face, usually so serious, almost giggling. “Yeah, Maria. I get it.”
“Good. Okay then. My caveman’s waiting.”
“So we’re okay now?” He sounded tentative.
“Yeah, Max, we’re gonna be okay.”
“Good. Can I escort you to Michael, milady?” He offered her his arm playfully.
“Thank you kind sir.”
They walked out the door to Alex’s bedroom a lot closer than they had walked in.
Before Max went home he drove by the Crashdown, he couldn’t resist the impulse to climb up to Liz’s balcony. He just needed to feel close to her for a few minutes at least, especially after what he had just learned. He walked around touching the candles, picking one up and smelling that familiar vanilla scent that reminded him of Liz so much. He looked into her bedroom and sighed at the emptiness of the room and the way that it screamed that Liz no longer lived there. As his hand touched the windowsill, he experienced a flash.
//“I’m sorry Mom, Dad, Maria, Alex. And Max, most of all, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you and us. I want you all to know I tried, I really did, to do my best. I just can’t do it anymore. Goodbye. I love you.”//
Max could see her tears shed and unshed, her slumped shoulders in resignation as she said her mournful goodbye. His step faltered and he fell back into the lounge chair that the two of them had spent so many evenings cuddled together in. He leaned his head onto his knees and cried. For Liz, for Alex, for himself.
Liz got up from the café and continued to wander around. She had found in the guidebook the name of an inexpensive place to stay nearby until she found a more permanent room. ‘Good that I’m always prepared.’ Liz thought. She was taking in the sites and enjoying the views, relatively unaware of her surroundings. She didn’t notice the shadowy figure following her until it was too late.
|posted on 2-Sep-2001 8:41:11 PM|
|Part 3 of 5|
Luckily, a third party was watching the alien stalk his prey, wondering why he’d be interested in the pretty young girl who was clearly human. This was the first human in whom he’d ever seen a skin take an interest, and he had been chasing skins for a long time. He decided to follow them both and see where it led. If his enemy was interested in taking or hurting the girl, then he would probably be interested in protecting her, even if he didn’t know why as of yet. He followed them both, careful to remain in the shadows.
Liz felt the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, not a good sign. What was that anyway? Was that from Max changing her? She looked around, no one was there. As soon as she turned back, she ducked into an alley to hide out and observe to see if anyone was following her. As soon as she did, she felt someone grab her arm and spin her around.
She stopped her litany immediately because before shey knew it there was a third person on the scene taking down her assailant and he looked exactly like Max! He put her in a green shield just like Max’s and killed the other guy, vaporizing his body before letting her out of the shield.
She just stared up at him, eyes wide, mouth in an ‘o’, not able to form words except “M-M-Max?”
He looked at her like she was crazy. “Naw girlie, I don’t knaw any Max. I’m Zan. The question is who in the hell are ya?”
“But you’re dead.”
He grabbed her by the arm, somewhat menacingly.
“How ya knaw bout dat?”
“A-Ava told me.”
He let her arm go and smiled. “Ya knaw Ava?”
“Let’s go, Princess.” He said ‘princess’ slightly sarcastically. “We’s gotta talk.”
He picked up her suitcase and led her underground.
Max knew that he needed to break this code if he wanted to work on helping Liz. He went on the internet to learn about binary code, he couldn’t chance going to an expert and exposing them. He sat hunched over his computer until late into the night. It was a distraction at least, he thought, as he rubbed at the sore muscles in his neck. He glanced over at the 5 x 7 photo of Liz that sat on his desk. Her shining face was smiling back at him from happier times, before the whole Kyle thing, before destiny, before they ever heard the name Tess. She was standing in the Crashdown leaning over the counter on her elbows to smile into the camera. She was wearing the turquoise uniform and that silly antannae headband on her head. Her radiant smile that day could have lit up a room. He hadn’t seen that smile in such a long time, and now he knew why. Max reached out his fingers and touched the glass covering Liz’s face lightly, almost reverently, vowing silently to put that smile back on her face. ‘I’m coming for you Liz, stay safe.’ It was almost a prayer.
“So talk.” Zan said as he sat himself down on the couch in his underground abode where he apparently lived alone and crossed his arms over his chest. ‘Not much for words’, Liz thought. But she couldn’t get over how much he looked like Max, those same golden amber eyes, deep and soulful, long beautiful eyelashes that any girl would kill for, sculpted face, hard body like a Greek god. ‘Oh no, I shouldn’t look at that.’ Of course, it was kind of funny to see Max’s face with spiky hair, an eyebrow ring and lip piercing, his body with tattoes and punk clothes, but it was sexy in a way. ‘What did I just say, Liz, don’t go there. You already got in trouble with one of them. Stay away. Besides, remember, he’s not Max.’
“Are ya still there, Princess?” Zan was smirking at her. She hoped he didn’t see her checking him out.
“Yeah, it’s just that you look so much like Max.” She felt a slight chill at seeing a smirk on ‘Max’s’ face staring back at her. He had never looked at her with anything but love and adoration in his eyes, even during the worst of times she had put him through. Although, she felt no threat from Zan, even with the smirk, his eyes shared some of Max’s warmth.
“Who’s dis Max?” His words snapped her back to the present, out of “cloud Max”.
“Did you know that there are two sets of you, one here and one in Roswell?”
“So?” How in the hell did SHE know that? Who was this chick?
“Max is the you in Roswell.”
He looked up sharply and waited a moment before speaking.
“So ya knaw all bout us even though you’re human?” He was beginning to see why the skins might be interested in this particular human. Anyone who knew about them automatically raised Zan’s suspicious nature. He never told any humans about his alien nature, it wasn’t his way. And after what Lonnie, Rath, and even Ava had done to him, well, he wasn’t sure he could trust anybody. He’d been pretty much on his own. But there was something about this girl that kicked up his protective instincts. She seemed genuine. He hadn’t been around anyone like that in a long time. Still, he had to be sure.
“So who is dis Max to ya?”
“Ummm… we were kind of together.”
“Yeah, but not anymore.” She looked down for a second before meeting his eyes again.
“What bout his Ava?”
“Yeah, um, that’s why I left, so he could be with Tess, his, um, destiny.” She looked at her hands. God, she hated that word, destiny.
He noticed her staring at her hands self-consciously. “Ya loved Max.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.”
He wasn’t going to push it.
“Why would a skin be afta a little Princess like ya?” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“He was a skin?” she looked frightened now.
“Ya knaw bout them too?”
“Yes. They want the granolith.”
“Max got the granolith?” He looked up startled.
She thought maybe she said too much.
“Look girlie, I saved ya life, I think ya can trust me. What’s ya real name anyways, Princess?” He kept saying “princess” in a teasing tone, like she was a spoiled little girl who didn’t belong playing in the big leagues. It would have been condescending, except for the slight teasing quality and the playful smirk on his face as he said it.
“Kay, Liz, that’s why the skins want ya then. They want the granolith more dan anything, and if Max loves ya, maybe you’d be a good trade for dem, knaw what I mean?”
“He wouldn’t give them the granolith.”
“Not even for ya?”
“I hope not.” Liz decided to ask a few questions of her own. “So can I ask you a question.” She looked up tentatively.
“Shoot.” He sat back put his hands behind his head, elbows out to each side, and put his feet up. He sure seemed more confident than Max. More comfortable in his own skin. That smirk was back gracing his lips. She thought it looked kind of cute. Max’s expression was always so serious. She reminded herself not to go down that line of thinking before she continued.
“How are you alive?”
“Those idiots didn’t wait round to see dat I was dead, I got pretty good healin’ powers.”
“Do Lonnie and Rath live here too? Max said they lived underground.”
“Ya knaw dem too?” He looked incredulous and slightly suspicious again.
“No, no, not personally.” She reassured him. “But they tried to kill Max when he came to the summit in New York so I don’t really want to meet them.”
“Naw, we’ll be ‘kay, I haven’t seen ‘em since they’s tried to off me.”
“Let’s get some sleep, Princess. It’s late.”
“I was going to go to a hotel.”
“Liz, listen.” His voice got soft, gentle, almost like Max, she thought. “It’s not safe for ya out there. Ya need me. Ya gotta stay here.”
For some reason she trusted him. She hoped it wasn’t just because he looked like Max. So she stayed.
Tess was beyond mad. Why wasn’t Max returning her calls? I mean, this was the perfect time for him to reach out to her and that kiss at the prom was pretty damned good if she did say so herself. Geez, Kyle was laying in bed next to her snoring again. She hoped she could get rid of him soon, have Buddha take him to the next plane of existence or something. The sex was okay, not even that great. Liz Parker had said he was great in bed when they were in Arizona, but why should she know. She looks like a prude, probably is one. Shouldn’t have taken her word for it. Now Max, that’s a whole other story. He’s hot, certain to be very good under the covers. She was getting overheated just thinking about it. Oh Yeah. She looked at the clock, 2:30am. Hmmm. There’s an idea.
Maria picked up the phone at 3 am.
“This better be good,” she mumbled as she answered it.
“I got it, Maria”
“Got what, Max?”
“I broke Alex’s code. Get Michael in the jetta and come over through the window. This can’t wait.”
“Okay.” Maria dragged herself out of bed as quickly as she could manage, physically and emotionally exhausted, but feeling some hope for the first time since she had listened to those two messages on her answering machine after the prom.
Twenty minutes later, Max heard soft knocking at his window. He offered Maria a hand up first and then Michael.
“You look like shit, Maxwell. What’s this about?” Michael said.
“Come here you guys.” Max offered them seats on his bed, which was still made from this morning, having not been slept in yet.
There were computer printouts strewn everywhere, Max though went to pick up one fresh from his printer and sat across from them on his bed. Michael was massaging Maria’s shoulders and she was leaning into him with her eyes half-closed.
“This is it.” Max said excitedly.
They scooted to one side and read silently together.
I have figured out what my blackouts and nightmares mean and have had to encode the information for fear of detection. And no, this is not paranoia. After all our years together, and all the unbelievable things that have turned out to be realities, please believe this one. The skins somehow kidnapped me during my time in Sweden and tried to manipulate me, believing that I would know the location of the granolith. I do not. Now I fear something will happen to me, which is why I leave this message. Somehow I know that you are their next target. I do not know how I know this, but I do. Please be careful. Please.
If I am not there with you, know that I love you and Maria, always.
“Oh God, Max” Maria cried. “She’s in trouble.”
“I know.” He was desperate. He had to get to her before someone else did.
“Maria, don’t you think she’ll contact you eventually, and if you don’t tell her you told me anything, I can go find her.”
Maria sighed. He had that lost little boy look again. She understood it. “I hope so, Max.”
“We’ll get her back, Maria. I’ll bring her back home to us.” Max said as he stared off into the distance, then whispered under his breath more to himself than to anybody else. “I have to, I can’t live without her.”
Tess was standing outside Max’s window wearing some sexy lingerie under another tight shirt, thinking that Max’s not returning her calls just meant he was in too much pain. ‘Perfect time to show up and crawl into bed with him to console him. He loves that kind of sappy bullshit, something little Miss Perfect Parker would have done. Too bad she’s not here to ease lover boy’s pain. Of course, then one thing will lead to another…’ she smiled maliciously to herself until she heard voices inside. She didn’t hear most of the conversation, but she did hear the last part where Max said “We’ll get her back.” Tess knew who HER had to be. She felt like steam was going to come out her ears. Was this ever going to end? Could she ever get rid of little Lizzie Parker for good? ‘Well, my darling husband, you’re not going to find her if I find her first.’ Tess fumed as she stomped away.
Several days passed. The gang reluctantly went back to school, feeling like without Alex and Liz, their better half was missing. Each day that passed without word from Liz, their heart broke a little bit more. Max and Maria hardly said a word to anybody except Michael and occasionally Isabel, who had withdrawn into a shell since Alex’s death. And of course, for Max, Tess, who Max had to respond to if he wanted her not to try to seduce him. But given what he now knew about the end of the world, he knew he couldn’t antagonize her either. What a fine line to have to walk.
One week later, Maria’s cell phone rang while she was working at the Crashdown. Figuring it was Michael, as usual, she answered, “Miss me spaceboy?” in a flirtatious tone.
“Maria, are you alone?” a quiet voice said.
Maria gasped, “I will be in a sec, don’t hang up, pleeeeaaaasse.”
She ran to the back. “Mr. P., I need a break right now, it’s an emergency.”
He smiled for the first time since Liz left. Maria’s breaks were always emergencies. “Five minutes Maria, it’s busy and without-.” He couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence. Liz was scheduled to be working tonight.
“Okay.” Yeah, right, five minutes. She was like a second daughter to him, he never enforced the rules for Maria.
She went into the alley. “Liz?” she whispered.
“Are you okay? I’ve been so worried, chica. Where are you?”
“I’m okay, Maria. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m in New York. How’s everything?”
“Oh God, Liz. I don’t know how to tell you this, but something happened.” She started crying.
Liz knew it must be terrible.
“Maria, What? What? Maria, you have me panicking here. Oh my God. Maria, is it Max? My parents? What?”
“Oh God. Alex, honey.”
Liz was crying. “A-Al-Alex, what, is he okay?” ‘Please let him be okay.’
“No Liz, he had a car accident the night you left. He died, sweetie.”
Maria only heard whimpering on the other end of the line.
“Maria, it-it’s not fair, everything in my life is being taken away from me. What did I ever do to deserve this?” She was sounding incoherent now.
“Liz, you didn’t do anything. You’re too good, that’s all. There’s something else.” Maria was almost afraid to bring it up, but she was hoping to use it to convince Liz to come home on her own.
“What else could there be?”
“Remember when Alex said that you were in danger?”
“He left a note in code that said they’re coming after you because of the granolith. It’s the skins again, Liz.”
“I know,” she said in a whisper.
“You know?” Maria sounded astonished and worried.
“They already did.”
“Lizzie, what happened?” Maria’s voice had risen to virtually a shriek.
“It doesn’t matter, I have help here. I’m okay.”
“Who’s helping you? You can’t trust anyone. Liz.” Maria was crying and pleading now. “You have to come home and let us take care of you.”
“No, Maria, I can’t watch them be together. I can’t.”
“Liz, they’re not together. You have to come home. Please. I can’t lose you too. I can’t. Do it for me.”
“I would Maria, you know I would, but they have to get together eventually. Don’t worry. Remember Zan of the Dupes? He’s alive. He’s protecting me. I’ll be okay. Really.” She tried to sound more reassuring than she felt.
“But we don’t even know him, Liz. I don’t know about this.”
“He’s okay, Maria. For some reason I trust him.”
“For some reason? Lizzie-babe, he is Max’s dupe, right?” Maria’s voice took on a teasing tone.
“Ma-ri-a.” Liz whined.
“It’s not rocket science, chica. And you’re supposed to be the smart one.”
“Ma-ria, it’s not like that.”
“Yeah right. You’re with a Max-clone. Alone. That man is good enough to eat any day of the week, even if you don’t happen to be head over heels in love with the real thing. There’s no threat of the world ending, you’re almost a whole continent away from Roswell, and you’re trying to tell me that your hormones still haven’t kicked in at all? We DO have to bring you to a doctor, girl!” Maria was roaring with side-splitting laughter now, clutching at her stomach with the hand that wasn’t holding the cell phone. She could even hear Liz giggling helplessly through the receiver. ‘Gotcha!’
“ALL RIGHT, ‘Ria. Let’s just say we don’t need to go to any doctors, o-kay?” Liz finally spit out between her giggles.
“Good to know.”
“But he’s not Max, Maria. He never will be.” She added quietly after the laughter died down.
“I know he’s not, hon.”
“I better go.” Liz said reluctantly.
“Will you call me?”
“You promise? Regularly?”
“Yes.” Silence. They just needed a few more moments to hear each other breathing.
“How is he?”
Sigh. “Devastated. Just like you.” They said their goodbyes and ‘I love you’s’’ and reluctantly hung up.
Maria couldn’t call Max fast enough.
“I heard from her.”
“I’ll be right there.”
“No Max, her parents are here. Wait until after my shift and I’ll come there.”
“It can’t wait, Maria.” Max didn’t think HE could wait. He looked down and saw his legs trembling.
“She’s okay for now.”
Maria sighed. “I hope so.”
Max was practically giddy with anticipation. Finally, something tangible he could do to find Liz, to get her back. Maria should be here any minute. If he looked at that clock one more time and the minute hand didn’t move again he thought he might melt it or something. A knock at the window. Finally.
“Tess?” ‘Oh God’ Max thought.
“Max, I just wanted to stop by and make sure you were okay.” Tess said in the sugariest voice she could manage as she helped herself through the window by seductively placing her leg over the edge causing the slit in her skirt to fall wide open to the top of her thigh. She didn’t think he would figure out that she was conniving enough to plan that. But she was. She held out her hand for him to help her up.
“Yeah, but it’s not a good time right now. I have an important study date with Maria. She’ll be here any minute.” He wasn’t taking the hand she held out hoping she’d just turn around.
“Oh.” She didn’t believe that for a second. She stayed in position hoping to at least catch his eye with the creamy flesh exposed on her thigh. It wasn’t working. ‘Geez. Isn’t this a seventeen year-old guy? Didn’t they engineer these Antarian guys with hormones?’
“Can we do it another time?” ‘Like never?’ he thought.
“Of course, Max.” She caressed his arm and he had to stop himself from cringing at the gesture as her hand lingered there with feather light sexually suggestive caresses. “I have been worried about how you’ve been managing with everything on your shoulders, even big and strong as they are, and I’ll always be by your side to support you through this life as I did in our last.”
“I know you support me Tess. I count on that. You’re a good friend and important part of our circle.” He hoped that was clear enough without causing friction. “But I really do have to go.”
“Sure Max. See you later.”
She climbed out the window. Of course, Max had no idea how underhanded and sneaky she really was so he didn’t watch her go to verify that she really left the yard. She didn’t. She was crouched below the window behind some bushes to find out what was really going to happen there in a few minutes.
“New York?” Max said.
“So she says.”
“How does she know he’s for real. I mean he’s supposed to be dead.” He was pacing worriedly now.
“I don’t know, Max. But I got the feeling that someone already tried to hurt her and he saved her.” That earned a pointed look from Max. “So I think we have to trust him.”
“And you couldn’t convince her to come home even after that?” He said with his voice cracking.
“No Max, she wants to do what’s best for both of you. I told you, our Lizzie is selfless to a fault. She’ll bury herself before she’ll hurt you.”
“I won’t let her.”
“I know you won’t Max. So when do you leave.” She said, now smiling at him knowingly. “Bring her back to us, Max.” This time he smiled back.
Tess heard an earful this time. New York, huh. Maybe time to call in a few favors. She did have more resources than Max did. After all, Nasedo left her all that money. That human was never setting foot in Roswell again if Tess Harding had something to say about it. ‘And she will never again touch my man’ thought Tess.
Zan and Liz were getting more comfortable with one another. Getting to know each other better.
“So why aren’t you with Ava now?”
“She wasn’t bad, but she left me for dead like Lonnie and Rath, so we’s not togetha, besides, I don’t knaw where she’s at.”
“I liked her.”
“Yeah. She said she loved you.”
He didn’t say anything about that. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it.
“Zan?” She broke him out of his musings about Ava.
“Yeah, Princess?” He looked up into her chocolate eyes.
“Can I ask you something?”
Liz looked down, she wasn’t sure if this was too personal. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, or if you don’t think it’s my business, or anything, and-” she started picking at the threads in the couch as she was talking, playing with one particularly long thread between her thumb and index finger, still not meeting his gaze. “And I’ll completely understand if you tell me that it’s even inappropriate that I asked you about it-” She felt his gentle hand touch upon her shoulder. She lifted her eyes to find his staring back at her in amusement.
“Liz?” He interrupted her diatribe.
“Yeah?” She was glad at least he used her real name.
“You neva asked nuttin yet.”
“Oh.” She was still stuck staring at those beautiful eyes. “Yeah.” She collected herself and smiled sweetly in slight embarrassment at him as she began asking her question. “It’s just that I was wondering how you survive being all alone, you know, having been betrayed so horribly by your own sister and brother?” She saw his eyes dart to the floor quickly, his posture change in a way that it seemed he curled up into himself, although not literally, before she even finished getting the words out. “It’s none of my business. I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry. Really sorry.” She was talking a mile a minute in apology. She didn’t want to hurt him. That was the last thing she wanted. After a few awkward minutes, she stood and approached his hunched figure cautiously, needing to offer comfort for the pain she inflicted. She wrapped an arm around his shoulder slowly, giving him time to move away if he chose to do so. She brought her face close to his before she started speaking again in a hushed tone.
“Zan, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have intruded into your private affairs. It’s just… It’s just that I’m alone now too, and I think I know the pain of having been betrayed, so-”
He looked up at her appraisingly. “You do?” He said it in a doubtful, yet almost hopeful, voice.
She met his eyes and noted the unshed tears, thinking how difficult it must be for a tough guy like Zan to express his emotions like this. He seemed so skittish. Like the whole ‘princess’ thing, it seemed defensive, a way he kept her at a distance. She spoke softly, reassuringly. “Yes. I think you’d be surprised at everything I’ve been through.” She glanced down nervously, “not that I’d compare it to the traumatic experiences you’ve had.”
They stayed in that position for a few moments silently. Liz’s arm around him, her hand lightly caressing Zan’s shoulder absently where the frayed ends of his torn T-shirt ended in a comforting repetitive motion. She thought at one point she felt him lean into her hand slightly, but she wasn’t sure. He seemed to be silently weighing his option to speak further or not. Until she heard his voice start so quietly in almost a whisper that she had to strain to make out his words. She felt a slight chill go through her at the deadpan tone to his voice, it was almost disembodied, lifeless at the start. It was clear what it had cost him to share this with her. She listened intently.
“Lonnie was my sista, ya knaw, I trusted her. I mean, my own fuckin’ sista. And Rath was my best friend, my only friend really.” He turned to Liz. She could see the tears tracking down his cheeks. “But da real moron was me. Because those fuckas got my trust and offed me, stupid me, at least in Lonnie’s case, not in one, but in two lifetimes! Here and on Antar too. I fell for it twice. How stupid that make me?” His eyes were pleading with hers.
She reached out and drew his head to her breast, cradling him tightly as he cried. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. She cooed soothing sounds at him, telling him that it was going to be okay, and stroking his hair. Finally, she whispered back to him.
“They were the stupid ones, Zan. For not recognizing what they had in you.”
She felt him stiffen in her arms. He pulled back and shook off her arms as if she had burned him.
“No. Ya can’t trust nobody!”
He was up and pacing. She could almost visibly see him recoiling from her, withdrawing from letting her get too close to him. She desperately wanted to change that. But she knew she needed to tread lightly with Zan or risk having him pull away even further. She’d seen this before. Maria called it the stone-wall method, had even dated the founder.
“Zan. It’s never a mistake to let people in. You have to realize that not everyone is like Lonnie and Rath. Even Isabel and Michael, our Lonnie and Rath in Roswell, are two of my best friends. I would trust them with my life.”
“You’d be makin’ one helluva mistake.” He stopped pacing to face her.
“No. No I wouldn’t. And I’ve come to trust you with my life. Have I made a mistake with that?”
“Of course not.” He sighed as he collapsed into his chair, his hand tiredly rubbing his eyes. “Ya can trust me.”
She knelt at his feet and grabbed his hand. When their eyes met, Liz whispered. “You can trust me too.” When he looked doubtful, she added. “You have to start somewhere, Zan.”
They stayed like that for several minutes before Zan excused himself. Liz tiredly sat back on the couch leaning her head back over the top with her eyes closed and rubbing her neck. She only lifted her head when she heard him speak when he returned a few minutes later, looking for all purposes like nothing had transpired between them.
“So how ya find out bout aliens, Liz.” His normal voice and demeanor had returned. He was able to hide the vulnerability again, put it behind the tough guy mask with which he faced the world. She knew he needed to do that.
“Well, Max healed me after I was shot one day in 1999. We got together after that and I guess it goes from there.”
“He healed ya?”
“Yes.” That got his attention she noticed, just like with Ava. Weird.
“So, ya got powers?”
“Yeah, Ava said that too. But so far, all I have been able to do is save Max’s life when he was in New York and Lonnie and Rath tried to kill him I was able to project myself here and warn him of the danger.”
“I betcha ya could do more. Healin’ changes ya.”
“Like whateva ya wanted.”
“Let’s work on it, it’ll help protect ya.”
She was able to do more. Maybe if she and Max had been speaking to each other during these past several months they would have tried the same things and would have known, but since he thought she slept with Kyle, they never really did. Turns out, she had a limited capability to mind warp, and pretty good dreamwalking ability, and some minor ‘blasting’ ability. No healing though. When they tested that, Zan cut her lightly to try it, and when she couldn’t heal it herself, he finally did. She was surprised by the depth of his feelings in the connection. He was actually a lot like Max under that tough exterior. Responsible, thoughtful, smart, protective of his own. But he’d been hurt more times than Max. Wait, what was she saying. She’d probably hurt Max that many times. As he finished healing her, Zan seemed a little uncomfortable with the intensity of the experience, and pulled back quickly. In the haste with which the two broke apart, they bumped heads, literally. Liz started giggling as she held a hand to the back of her head.
“Hey.” She laughed. He loved the warm, throaty sound. “Watch it buddy or you’re gonna be healing me all day and night.” Their joined laughter broke the tension in the air that had followed the connection.
Liz felt exhausted after working on her powers all day and especially after the emotional showdown with Zan. She wasn’t sure what to make of him, but she felt much closer to him now. She felt safe. She leaned into him after he put an arm around her shoulders, encouraging her to rest. It felt good, not so much because she wanted to be with Zan, at least she didn’t think she did despite her undeniable attraction to him, but mostly because he reminded her so much of Max. He even smelled like Max, she noticed as she closed her eyes. She wished she could bottle up that scent and carry it with her all the time to reach for whenever she wanted to remember Max. She fell asleep curled up into Zan’s side, a small smile gracing her lips.
Part 4 of 5
Max had told his family he needed to go find Liz, he couldn’t pull that camping excuse again. No one would fall for that anymore. They seemed to recognize the sorrow in his eyes and let him go. Isabel had held onto him for long minutes at the airport, but then he had carefully placed her in Michael’s arms with a look that said in no uncertain terms to take good care of her. Michael acknowledged the command with a nod of his head and Max knew that she was in capable hands. Maria hugged him and told him she wished she were going with him to slap some sense into that girl’s head and drag her home, but they both knew that Maria needed to stay here and take phone calls from Liz to get further information, as well as cover up the fact that Max was coming after her before she could take off farther away from them.
As Max disembarked the plane, he felt more alive than he had in a long time, Liz was somewhere in this city. He knew he would find her and make things right. He had to. He couldn’t live without her. And now that he understood what was going on, he saw that her staying away from him was slowly killing her as well. Future him was stupid. Definitely stupid to come up with a plan like that. Not to be arrogant, but Max never would have thought he would have been the one that had betrayed both he and Liz so badly. He always thought he loved her too much to ever let it happen, but now he has so much to make up to her. And he planned to.
Max figured his connection to Liz would come in handy in tracking her down. He wasn’t too keen on trying the old subway hangout of Lonnie and Rath after what they did to him, but he figured Zan wouldn’t be there anyway because they had tried to kill him as well. Oh well, that would be a last resort.
Icy blue eyes followed Max’s every move down the street, taking note appreciatively of the way his jeans hugged his backside along the way. ‘Might as well make the best of it’ thought Tess. ‘And Max certainly was the best,’ she thought, as she unconsciously licked her lips, continuing down the sidewalk. She was dressed really over the top today for the big city, in a halter top she was busting out of, too-tight shorts revealing the edges of her butt cheeks, high heels, and wearing loads-o-make-up, as usual. The outfit screamed ‘SLUT’. Little did she know, if she had been walking alittle slower, one guy was going to ask her how much she charged to spend ‘a little time’ with him.
Zan and Liz woke up from their nap on the couch. He watched with captive eyes as she stretched, arching her lithe body as she awakened from slumber, then opened her chocolate doe eyes to meet his.
“Hey, Princess.” There was no longer any condescension in his tone. It was sweet.
“Ya feelin’ betta?”
“I am.” She turned in his arms to face him. “Zan, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I mean, you didn’t even know me and you saved my life, helped me develop powers, even comforted me. I can’t thank you enough.”
He stared hard into her eyes. “But why is it I feel like I do knaw ya?”
She only felt slightly uncomfortable at his scrutiny. Besides having gotten to know him now quite a bit, it still came down to the fact that he felt so much like Max. The trust was almost implicit. “I think it’s because I have this connection to Max. And because you two share the same soul, or essence, or whatever, I feel it somewhat with you too.”
“Yeah, when he healed me, you see, we shared our souls, and allowed me to see him too. Since then, we sense each other’s presences and feelings. It’s pretty special to me. I don’t know, I guess it sounds pretty stupid, huh.” She looked down in discomfort.
He tilted her chin up and then tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. It was such a Max-like gesture, she gasped and teared up.
“M-Max, he does that all the time.”
They stared at each other, not knowing what to say. Then he leaned forward slowly and kissed her. She wasn’t sure why she kissed him back. She knew he wasn’t Max, but he was the closest she was ever going to get to Max again. And she was definitely attracted to him, not just because he looked like Max, although that was clearly part of it, but because he’d been so good to her. And there was something about Zan’s vulnerability that she found oddly sexy, it was such a contrast to his raw masculinity. His vulnerable side distinguished him from Max as well, who always held himself in such tight control. If Max had any faults, and she had to admit, they were hard to find, that would be the one. Zan was truly his alter-ego. She also felt that she and Zan were kindred spirits at this moment in time, two lost souls, each hurt and alone, who had been betrayed by the ones closest by them. It seemed natural to reach out to each other for comfort.
Zan gently probed her lips with his tongue and deepened the kiss. Their tongues caressed the other’s tenderly for several long moments. His hand cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking it softly, while his other hand was buried in her hair. Liz found her hands clutching his cheeks, holding his face to hers. Their upper bodies drew closer together as if by some invisible force. She enjoyed the kiss, she was afraid she was starting to enjoy it too much. She hadn’t been touched in such a long time. She was relishing in his Max scent, the hard body that felt just like Max’s, but, in the end, she couldn’t help but compare it to Max’s kisses. There were no flashes, no sharing of souls through their connection, not even any hair to play with at the nape of his neck. She finally pulled back reluctantly, feeling confused and overwhelmed.
“I’m sorry, Zan. I’m just not ready.”
“It’s ‘kay.” Though he didn’t meet her eyes as he said it.
“No, no it’s not.” This time she grabbed his chin gently and tilted it, forcing him to meet her gaze before letting go. “I want you to understand, it’s not you. As a matter a fact, if I was to move on at all with anybody other than Max, I think that it would be you. You’re an amazing person, Zan. And I feel very attracted to you, not just because you look like Max either.” She looked down at her hands as she said that last part. She wasn’t exactly used to talking openly about her sexual desires, but she felt she owed him honesty. She knew he had been hurt too many times in his past already. She didn’t want to add to that number. She met his gaze again as she continued. “It’s just that I love Max so much and I just left him a few days ago, so I just feel that it’s a little too soon for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready or not, but it’s not that I don’t want to. Do you understand?
“Yeah. I do. Dis Max is a lucky guy.” Zan meant every word. His feelings for Liz were growing in a way he was having difficulty understanding. ‘What in the hell are you doing, man? Where did that come from?’ He tried to rein himself in, it wasn’t his way to get involved, least of all with a human, and he was afraid that he had never felt anything like this before. All Zan knew was that he had just enjoyed that simple kiss with Liz more than he had enjoyed any time he and Ava had made love. Although Zan understood that she was in love with Max, and respected it, his heart broke slightly at her words. He couldn’t help but hold out hope for a little bit more. Maybe in time, he sighed, although he didn’t want to wish for things not to work out between Liz and Max. She didn’t deserve that from him. Realizing how important she was becoming to him, he knew he would accept whatever she could offer him.
She smiled and grabbed his hand. “Thanks Zan, for everything. You hungry? My treat, of course, for my hero.”
“How can I say naw to dat?” Her smile was contagious and snapped him out of his worries for the future.
“Okay, I just have to check in with my friend first.”
Max picked up the cell phone by the second ring. Oh yeah, he was anxious.
“Max, she called again, they’re on their way to Chinatown, but she didn’t give me the name of a specific place and I didn’t want her to get suspicious by asking-”
“Maria, you’re babbling. Is she okay?”
“Yeah Max, she’s okay.” He could feel the constriction in his chest loosening with each reassuring word Maria spoke, allowing him to breathe more freely again in relief. “What about you?” He heard Maria add.
“I’ll be better when she’s wrapped up safe in my arms.” He was picturing it in his mind.
Sniffle. “Yeah Max, me too.”
“You’ll call me the minute you find her, Max, right?” Maria added.
“You know I will.”
“The second you find her.”
“You know I will, Maria.”
“If you know what’s good for you.” Maria teased.
Max sighed. “Look, I’d better go to Chinatown and get there before we lose her again. Bye, Maria.”
“Something else you should know. I don’t know if it means anything but Tess wasn’t in school today. It’s creeping me out.”
“Got it.” Though he didn’t think that much of it. Should have, but didn’t.
Because Tess was within earshot of the whole conversation. ‘Chinatown, huh’ she thought, as she saw Max jump in a cab. ‘I’m right with you, hubby’ she thought as she smirked evilly and flagged down a cab of her own to follow Max, pulling the front of the halter down a bit to get someone to stop for her more quickly. And they did.
Liz and Zan were eating in a small out of the way restaurant in Chinatown. It was pretty empty so they could talk more freely. He was telling her a lot of what had happened to him since he had been on his own. It actually sounded pretty lonely. He really had allowed no one close to him since Lonnie and Rath tried to kill him, facing off against the skins on his own. But in listening to him talk about his experiences, Liz recognized how very committed to the freedom of Antar Zan sounded. Even the way he pronounced the word “Antar”. It was one of the few words seemingly not affected by his time in New York. He always pronounced each syllable perfectly, with a touch of awe, like a prayer as it escaped his lips. She imagined it almost as a sign of respect for his homeworld. Wow, they really were like one soul with two bodies. How did this guy end up with those no good dupes, she wondered.
Zan looked at her expression. “What?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry. It’s just that you don’t seem anything like the rest of the New York four, except maybe Ava. I don’t understand how you ended up with them. You seem more like the four in Roswell.”
“They like me?” He mumbled with his mouth full.
“Yes. Nice, responsible, committed to your people, not out to kill each other. I don’t get it.”
He just shrugged. “I dunna knaw. The marriages on Antar were arranged. I was always different, even then.”
She was gaping at him. “They were arranged?” She whispered.
“But Tess has been telling Max for the past year how much he loved her in his past life, that she has memories of that great love.”
Zan broke out in a belly laugh. “And ya believed her? Geez, dat Avaria was always somethin’ else, girl get anythin’ she wanted, no matta what it took. Nope, no love at all. My fatha arranged it. I was pretty unhappy wit’ her truth be told.”
She didn’t say anything, and he noticed she stopped eating. As a matter of fact, it looked like she was going to cry any second.
“Is that why ya left, Liz?”
“It’s a long story.”
“We’s got time. Besides, we’s friends, ain’t we?” He grinned that lopsided grin that reminded her so much of Max it rendered her speechless for a moment.
She went ahead and told him about Future Max. She was reluctant after keeping it such a closely guarded secret for so long, but there was really no reason not to tell Zan. It didn’t involve him. And he had shared so much of himself with her. She felt so close to him, it was almost inexplicable. It felt good to get it off her chest. He paid rapt attention. At the end, he was just staring at her, an awestruck expression on his face. He didn’t say a word.
“What?” She prodded him gently.
“It’s just-” He started speaking hesitantly, brokenly, trying to get his words out. “It’s just I neva met anybody like ya. I neva heard of anybody doin’ nuttin’ like dat for somebody else, for the world. I would ask if you for real, but I knaw ya are. You’re amazin’.” Tears had gathered at the corners of his eyes as he spoke and she knew he meant every word.
Liz gently took his hand in her own. “But Zan, you do know somebody like me. Yesterday you put your life on the line for me, no questions asked.” She cocked her head to the side trying to meet his eyes which had darted away selfconsciously.
They just stared at each other several minutes in silence. Finally, Zan said. “Wow, ya must really love him.” It was hitting him just how much she really did.
“I do.” She whispered. She stared down at her dinner plate not wanting him to see the tears that had sprung up at those words.
“But I don’t think it has to end the world anymore.”
She looked up sharply at him. “How so?”
“Ya have all those powers, if ya work on dem. Ya could complete the four. Tess could go off wit’out a hitch. Besides I could help and maybe we could find Ava.”
She was getting excited, but afraid to get her hopes up again. “You really think so. You really think I could replace Tess in the four square. And you guys would do that for us, help out against the skins, I mean?” She was talking a mile a minute.
“It’s not just for ya. It’s for Antar too. Dat’s why we’s here anyways.” He looked her in the eye and took her hand, “But yeah, I would do it for ya too. I’ve been waitin’ two lifetimes for what ya and Max have, I kinda wish it was me,” he whispered and looked down. It was an uncharacteristic comment for Zan, to lay his heart on the line like that. “But if one of my reincarnations found it, I guess dat’s good enough for me.” He ended with a tight laugh as he looked back up into her eyes and their gazes locked in understanding.
She squeezed his hand and smiled in gratitude.
Max could now feel Liz. He thought he could almost smell her. He was wandering the streets of Chinatown hoping beyond hope that he found her tonight before she left this area, not knowing how long it would be before they had another opportunity like this again. And knowing that her safety was in question, it was almost too much for him to think about. He was still somewhat suspicious of this Zan, although glad to know someone was there for her when she had needed them, but he really would only feel secure when she was safe, by his side. Having heard about Liz and Zan going out to Chinatown together, Max had a momentary pang of jealousy that maybe Liz would have fallen for this Zan character, but he quickly pushed it aside. He needed to trust in her love for him. Look what had happened when he had doubted her love for him before. That’s what had gotten them into this whole mess. He promised himself he would never let it happen again.
Tess was getting so sick of this. Max wandering through the streets of New York looking for his ‘human’, how pathetic, how ridiculous, how loathsome. Her feet ached, she was pretty sure she had a blister on her heel from these new shoes that she wanted to impress Max with, and she sucked at healing. She would need to ask Max to do that. And given that little Lizzie was not yet out of the picture, and this was still a covert operation, she couldn’t do that, could she? If one more grubby guy tried to pinch her ass, she was going to blast them. Let the FBI come and take her away. She could name Liz Parker as a fellow alien, ‘hmm…there’s an idea if all else fails…’ When she imagined this trip, she thought Liz would be out of the picture by tonight, dead and vaporized, and she pictured she and Max in a hot tub about now all sweaty and naked, steam droplets condensing on all those rippling muscles of his for her to lick off one by one. And of course, he would realize what a mistake he’d made and pray to the divine goddess that is Tess. Oh, yeah. Maybe later. Just a little more work to do.
Zan and Liz continued to enjoy their time together. Zan noticed a huge change in Liz’s demeanor after he brought up the possibility that she and Max might still have a chance. ‘Wow’ he thought ‘I didn’t realize how much this must have been affecting her, it’s like she’s glowing.’ She really seemed to come alive with hope.
The waiter brought the check and Zan reached into his pocket, but felt Liz’s hand atop his own. The contact felt electric. He looked up at her.
“My treat, remember.” She smiled at him. A beautiful, radiant smile, he thought.
“Ya don’t hafta do dat. I enjoyed myself too, more than ya knaw.” He returned the smile. Their hands remained touching.
“It’s my pleasure, Zan. But yes, I do. You’ve done so much for me. Physically and now emotionally too. I didn’t think anyone could restore my hope, I’ve felt so lost,” her voice cracked slightly. “And I know there’s no guarantees, but it’s nice to feel some hope again.”
He didn’t know what to say to that. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. How did this tiny human girl with the big brown doe eyes and brilliant smile get a place in his heart so quickly? She had suddenly become the most important person in his life. Did they meet just yesterday? It seemed impossible.
“And Zan, I feel so very close to you. I love Max. I’ll probably always love Max. But it’s like you’re a part of him, you know, and a part of me now too. And it feels like you’re family.”
Well, it wasn’t what he felt for her, but given who he had as family in the past, betrayed by the people who were closest to him, followed by this terribly lonely existence as an outsider on a planet he didn’t belong to, what she was offering him sounded pretty damned good.
She paid the bill. They grabbed hands and started out of the restaurant.
Only they didn’t see who was lurking outside.
He felt her hand pulled out of his own before he heard her scream reach his ears.
Part 5 of 5
“Zan!” He never wanted to hear her voice sound like that, so frightened and shaky. He saw her eyes were wide with terror and brimming with unshed tears. She was shaking her head as if to say ‘no’. She didn’t want him to put himself at risk for her. Too bad. He saw her in the clutches of a familiar face to him. Nicholas. The powerful skin hidden in the body of a teenage boy. He had an arm around Liz’s neck in a menacing way, his body behind her back using Liz as a shield, with Zan in front of her. Nicholas had his trademark smirk on his face.
“Zan, good to see you again, but a little surprised I must say. Thought we took care of you.”
“Those bozoes botched da job, Nicholas. Watcha want wit’ her?”
“Her boyfriend has the granolith. But you probably know that already. We think he might be interested in a little barter situation. Those idiots in Roswell shouldn’t have told all these humans their secrets. Makes them weak, you know. We already wasted one human there.” His smirk widened as Liz gasped.
“They’s not even togetha anymore, Nicky baby. What makes ya think he’s gonna give up da granolith for her?”
“I’ve seen inside his head. I know how he feels about her, the boy king. He’ll do it. He’s weak.”
“No, he won’t.” Liz spoke up.
“You shut up!” Nicholas got angry.
“Liz.” Zan spoke gently, but Nicholas interrupted him.
“No talking you two!”
“He won’t do it. I’m expendable.” Liz looked at the ground.
Nicholas pressed a hand to her head to mind rape her “What’re you talking about, let’s see. Boring, boring. Geez, what does he see in you? Oooh, you do have some information on the granolith, not the location, too bad. I didn’t know it could be used that way. Time machine, huh. A bonus. I see 2014 will be a very good year for us.” Liz was screaming and writhing in pain. Zan could hardly stand there and watch but he knew if he intervened Nicholas would kill her. “You’re right, you are expendable, just like your friend Alex, turns out the genocidal girlfriend is the one that matters, who would have figured?” Nicholas was practically laughing out loud with a beaming smile on his face.
As Max was walking around, he suddenly developed a blinding headache that almost crippled him. Nearly stumbling to the ground, Max instead fell to his knees. He stopped, trying to figure out what had happened. ‘Liz, the connection’, he realized. She was in trouble. ‘Damn’. Panicking, he tried to follow the connection back to Liz when he heard her scream. He ran faster than he had ever run in his life.
Zan felt helpless. Nicholas was luckily still standing there with Liz, stupid enough to want to stick around for a while to taunt Zan with his victory. But Zan had not figured out any way to help Liz out of this situation and if Nicholas got away with her… well he didn’t want to think about the consequences of that.
He saw a shadow come out of the alley with a finger over his mouth indicating ‘shush’. It was hard not to stare when seeing your identical twin for the first time, but he knew Liz’s life depended on his not doing so, so he kept his eyes trained on Nicholas and Liz and tried to engage the prick in conversation.
Liz, however, felt something familiar at the back of her mind, ‘Max? No, it couldn’t be.’
“So Nicky baby, there must be some otha way outta dis mess? Let’s make a deal.”
“Zan my man.” Nicholas laughed. “I have all the cards. You, just like in your last life, have nothing. What have you got to offer me?”
“I could help ya and Khivar.” It pained him to even say it.
“As a figurehead, to help stop the war. No real powa. What you’ve all wanted.”
Suddenly, Zan saw Nicholas scream out and double over, letting go of Liz as he fell to the ground unconscious. He realized Max must have blasted him from behind. ‘Good going’.
Max grabbed Liz from behind her, spinning her around and embracing her tightly, closing his eyes in relief at holding her again, finding her again, seeing her out of Nicholas’ grasp.
“Max?” She couldn’t believe he was really here.
“It’s me, baby.”
“What’re you doing here?” She was crying.
He pulled back just enough to use the pads of his thumbs to wipe away her tears and then pulled her head firmly back into his chest, whispering softly into her ear.
“I’ll always be here for you.”
Neither was able to speak for several long minutes, clinging to each other desperately, soothing the other’s tears, stroking each other, rocking gently. Finally, Max broke the silence to say the words he had been waiting to say to her, needing for her to hear.
“I love you, Liz. I always will.”
“God Max, I love you too, so much.”
“Did Maria tell you-”
“Everything.” He interrupted. “I’m so sorry I put you through that Liz, I don’t know how I’m ever going to make it up to you, but I promise to spend the rest of my life trying to show you each day how much I love you and trust you. I will never doubt your love for me again.” He still had tears in his eyes.
“I always knew you loved me, Max, I did. I hope you can forgive me for what I had to do.”
“Forgive you?” His voice took on an incredulous, awestruck tone. “Liz, what you did for me, for Michael and Isabel, for the world, all because I asked you to. You are the most amazing person I know. It only makes me love you more.”
“But what about Tess?” She looked up at him, biting her bottom lip as she did.
“We’ll work it out. Liz, I could never be with anyone else. I know somewhere deep down you know that.”
With that they kissed. A long, deep kiss to make up for so many months without one another. They could feel each other’s pain and loneliness. But they could also feel one another’s love that never wavered, not even with the betrayals, or perceived ones. They knew they would never let each other go again.
Then they held each other for a while in silence, trying to get their emotions in check.
Zan watched the tender scene from the sidelines, keeping one eye on Nicholas to make sure he wasn’t waking up. It pained him slightly to see Liz in the arms of another man, but he couldn’t help but feel happy for her that she could have her dreams come true. God knows, she deserved it. Yeah, that Max was a very lucky guy.
Finally, the couple broke apart. Liz took Max’s hand and led him with a smile over to Zan.
“Max, I want you to meet someone very special to me. I know he’ll be a special part of our family. Max, Zan. Zan, this is my Max.” Any passing notions of jealousy Max might have entertained about Zan and Liz went out the window with the way Liz introduced him, Max smiled inwardly at her possessive words.
It was pretty strange meeting, not really your twin, but sort of the other reincarnation of the same soul who also happened to also be genetically your identical twin. Liz looked between the two men as they reached out their hands to each other.
“I can’t thank you enough for taking care of her.” Max said sincerely.
Zan smiled at Liz and said “No prob, there’s just somethin’ bout her I guess dat speaks to our soul.
Max smiled as he took Liz’s hand again in his own. “Most definitely.”
Liz said. “I really want you guys to get to know each other. Zan, can we go back to your place?”
“Sure. But let me take care of the little twerp once and for all.” With that he killed Nicholas before he woke up and vaporized his body.
“Gotta say, I enjoyed killing dat one.” Zan said.
“Thank you.” Max added quietly.
“Let’s get outta here.” Zan said.
They started walked off together, Max and Liz hand-in-hand. Liz looked at each the two men walking along her sides, and realized how important it was to her that they become part of one another’s lives, now that they each figured so prominently in her own life. She looked curiously at Zan’s back, who was now walking a pace or so ahead of she and Max, and silently wondered to herself how he had earned such an important place in her heart in the span of two days. But she didn’t question it, and she no longer related it to his similarities to Max. It was because he was Zan. Just Zan. That was enough. Her lips curled into a small smile as she continued walking.
Tess had been unable to match Max’s running speed, given her high heels and blister, to get to the scene of the confrontation, but cursing her way along, she finally caught up and hid behind a dumpster. She got there in time to see Max and Liz wrapped in each other’s arms, whispering apparent endearments to each other, then kissing? ‘Oh no, not going to happen’ Tess thought. ‘Enjoy it while it lasts little Lizzie Parker, because it won’t be long if I have any say.’ She surveyed the alley and saw a Max look-alike, punk-dressed, with spiked hair, standing nearby. The four-square tattoo on his muscled bicep. Who the hell is that? He, too, was making goo-goo eyes at Liz. ‘What? Does she have these guys under a spell or something? Maybe she’s using an aphrodisiac. She’s not all that. She’s not me. They should be drooling over me. They should be kissing my feet.’ She heard the three talking and realized this was Zan. ‘Risen from the dead?’ She followed the three of them as they walked away, still cursing the high heels, blisters, and Liz Parker, of course.
Liz felt Max tug on her hand, he had abruptly stopped moving. She turned to face him, he was frozen in place. Seeing the fearful expression on his face made her start to panic.
“What, Max. What is it?” she said quickly as she started rubbing his upper arm reassuringly.
“Maria. We forgot to call Maria.”
She looked at him curiously. There had to be more to it than that.
“I promised I’d call the minute I found you, even the second I found you.”
She didn’t say a word and her expression turned to one of amusement.
He could see she didn’t understand.
“Liz, I don’t think you fully understand the wrath of Hurricane Deluca. You’ve never taken the brunt of it. Believe me, I have. Especially in the last few days. This is NOT good.”
Liz couldn’t get over it. He really looked panicked. What the hell did Maria do to him? She couldn’t wait to get the story. She thought she would have started giggling out loud if Max wasn’t in such a state about it.
“Max, how about if I call her? You know, soften her up a little.”
His eyes brightened a bit at the suggestion so she pulled out her cell phone and dialed, still not believing that her best friend had brought the King of an entire alien race to his knees, quaking in his boots about a few minute delay in a phone call. ‘Only Maria’, she sighed, while waiting for the connection to go through.
Max stood ramrod straight next to her, as if a lightning bolt was going to come down and strike him at any second. He was gripping her hand so tightly it was becoming slightly painful.
“Max?” A panicked, breathless Maria answered on the second ring.
“No, it’s me, Maria. But we’re together.” Liz was eyeing Max as she spoke, but he wasn’t meeting her gaze.
“CHICA! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. My question is, what exactly did you do to Max?” she said it in a teasing tone. Max looked at her and quickly started shaking his head ‘no’ furiously to stop her from saying anything more, but she just held up her hand.
“Max? What’re you talking about?”
“Maria, he’s too scared to call you himself because he forgot to call when he first found me-” Liz started giggling. “I don’t think I want to know what happened in Roswell this past week.”
“Babe, I just said what needed to be said. And we bonded. Put the girlfriend on.”
Liz held out the phone to Max. He pleaded to her with his eyes. She reached her hand holding the phone out further. He reluctantly took it.
“Maria,” He started. “I’m sorry-”
She cut him off right there.
“For what, Max? You came through for my Lizzie, therefore you came through for me as promised. I told you, we’re gonna be okay.”
Max took a deep breath.
“Thank you, Max.” Maria continued sincerely, her voice now breaking.
“Maria, It’s me who should be thanking you. You’ve given me back Liz, so really you’ve given me back my life, my everything. And it’s not just that, you’ve become such a valuable friend to me. You’ve become the glue that keeps our little group together. We’d be lost without you.” He meant every word.
“You bet you would, girlfriend. Remember that!”
Leave it to Maria to be able to lighten up even a heartfelt moment.
“I’d better go.” Maria added. “Duty calls, although I hope that alien blast Pam Troy is screaming her pretty little head off about goes straight to her hips. You take care of her, big boy, and yourself too.”
“You know I will.” Max said, now staring at Liz while she casually talked with Zan.
“And now that you have Lizzie back, I need not remind you about pest control, right?”
“What?” Now she had lost him, although he could hear her start to giggle.
What the hell was she going on about now?
“You know, Max, maintaining a gerbil-free environment?” She couldn’t help herself. He was just too easy to tease.
Max broke out into a full-blown smile. She was really something. “GOODBYE, Maria.”
They said their goodbyes and the three walked off together, Max and Liz hand-in-hand. They hadn’t looked so content or relieved in a long time.
Liz and Max were curled up on the couch in Zan’s underground apartment in each other’s arms, murmuring softly and kissing intermittently, but it was apparent to Max that Liz was exhausted after everything she had been through. Her eyes kept blinking closed as she leaned against his shoulder, and her head bobbing slightly. She was struggling to stay awake. In trying to convince her to give in to her need for rest, he reassured her that they had the rest of their lives to enjoy together now. He gently layed her down on the couch, brushed the hair off her face, tenderly kissed her forehead, and then crossed the room to join Zan at the table.
“She ‘kay?” Zan cocked his head slightly in the direction Liz was sleeping.
“Yeah. I think she will be. Thanks to you.”
Zan nodded thoughtfully. “She’s amazing. I don’t think I eva met anyone like her. You one lucky man.”
“I know.” Max returned quietly. The two men sat in silence for a few seconds not quite sure what to make of that exchange. Max could see that Zan had strong feelings for Liz, but he also no longer had any doubts as to her devotion to him. Zan was the first to break the silence.
“Cherry coke?” Zan offered one of what he was drinking.
“Mine too. Figures.” Zan smirked. “Tabasco?”
“Of course.” Max said joining him in the smile.
“This is weird.”
“Yeah.” Max agreed.
“So ya the real king of Antar, huh?”
Max looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“You da man!” Zan punched Max’s arm playfully.
“I guess I am in a way, but it’s ironic, because you’re the one that actually remembers being the King.”
Zan nodded. That was pretty weird.
“So you do have your memories, right?” He’d always been curious.
“All of ‘em. Liz asked bout the marriages. Ya want to knaw?”
“Definitely.” Max was anxious about this. It had basically ruined his life.
“The marriages were arranged. We were none too excited bout marrying Avaria. Neva fell in love and wanted it bad. Real bad. But Fatha set it up. Political sorta thing. Didn’t give us no choice bout it.”
“Really? Tess said-”
Zan laughed, effectively cutting Max off. “I knaw, Liz told me. Avaria’s crafty, always was, do just bout anythin’ to get what she wants, don’t care who gets hurt on the way eitha. It’s not true. Believe me.”
“I do.” Max said thoughtfully, wondering if Tess really believed everything she had told him about their past lives. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, Max decided that she must have been influenced by the way she was misled by Nasedo all of her life. “What else?” Max continued.
“Ya knaw the Vilandra stuff?” Max nodded. “Rath was a pretty good guy, don’t knaw what happened to my version, Liz said yours is okay.”
“He’s my best friend. Michael’s a little rough around the edges, but he always comes through for me. Always.”
Zan noticed Max’s wistful smile as he thought about Michael.
Isabel, I mean, my Vilandra, too. They’re very different from yours. Tess though, I don’t know, I didn’t get to know Ava, but everyone seemed to respond better to her. Especially Liz. She even helped save my life from Lonnie and Rath.”
“Ava’s okay. No angel, but nuttin’ like Lonnie and Rath, dats for sure.” Zan said thinking that he sort of missed her.
They continued to get to know one another. The connection between them seemed to spark up immediately. Liz was right. They did seem like family, like long-lost brothers maybe. Zan thought that the last twenty-four hours might have changed his life in very meaningful way. Max knew that it did.
Tess was hiding behind the post of the subway track, just before the turnoff into the area that Zan lived in. Luckily, in the underground, the sound echoed, and she could make out the voices easily. ‘Arranged marriages, unhappy groom, bullshit!’ thought Tess, growing angrier by the second. In her rage, she felt like her powers needed to be released. A small mouse passing by on one of the rails was the unfortunate victim until she could come up with a better plan. ‘You’re next Liz Parker.’
Tess ventured forward and to her glee, saw that the men were sitting separately from Liz at a table. Even better, the bitch was asleep and would not see her coming. Tess’ body was tingling with anticipation. She had been waiting for this moment for a year. She could get revenge on Max where it would hurt him the most. And she was pretty irresistible, so maybe after Liz was gone he would come around. Oh yeah, delusions, delusions. If not, that Zan fella would do in a pinch. She could fit him into that hot tub fantasy…
Okay, back to the plan. Tess tiptoed into the room, careful to stay in the shadows. She was hoping not to get caught, so she could kill Liz and then go back to “plan A” of playing comforting angel to Max in his time of need, blah, blah, blah. She snuck up to the back of the couch, put a hand over Liz’s mouth and nose, and grabbed her holding her around the waist with the other hand. Wow, she was so skinny, what did these guys see in these shapeless girls, nothing compared to her voluptuous curves. Oh yeah, back to the plan. She started backing out of the room, loser in tow.
Max felt something tickling the back of this mind while Zan was laughing at something he said. What was that? He was afraid. ‘Oh my god. Liz?’ He turned around and froze. There was Tess holding Liz captive. Captive for the second time that day. Liz looked terrified. Tess had her hand over her mouth and nose and a funny smirk on her face, that was until Max jumped up.
“Tess” he screamed in her face. “What in the hell do you think you are doing?”
‘Plan B’ thought Tess, need to think quickly. ‘Crocodile tears. Distraught lover. Gonna need sympathy later on. Can’t have him thinking you’re a psychopath. Crime of passion. Oh yeah, that’s it. He’s such a softy, such a sucker. He’ll go for that.’
The tears started pouring down her face. She started speaking in choked sobs. “M-M-Max, I-I (gasp) thought y-you a-and (gasp) I-I were t-t-together n-now, w-we were going (hiccup) t-t-to follow our d-destiny. W-we belong (gasp) t-t-together. (hiccup) L-Liz is st-standing in our w-way. I c-can’t let that h-happen. (sob). ‘Oh, I’m good, even if I say so myself.’ Tess congratulated herself on her finesse.
“Tess, let her go, now, then we’ll talk.” Max’s tone softened.
“N-no, Max.” The crocodile tears continued.
Meanwhile Zan was watching on with worry about Liz and some amusement. He didn’t buy this act for a second. This was classic Avaria style. The work of a master manipulator. He knew it so well. He had been the victim of it so many times in his first life. This chick WAS different than his Ava, and not in a good way either. She was a carbon copy of the original.
Max was a great guy, and Zan felt that they had hit it off immediately, but he could see that it was hurting Max that they had sent him to Earth with this manipulative bitch for a ‘bride’ and without his memories of his first life with which to guide him. But luckily, Zan did not suffer from that affliction. He had never met this girl before today, but he would swear on his life, and was about to take a big chance on Liz’s life, who he had come to care about a great deal, that these tears were a faucet that could be turned on or off at the will of a certain alien for use at her convenience. He’d just seen her in action too many times. She couldn’t push his buttons anymore. No sirree. And there was no way he would let her hurt Liz. Not Liz.
“Tess,” Max said more sternly.
“W-will you be with me, M-Max (softer hiccup) and only me?” Tess looked up, tears still flooding her eyes. She knew she was doing well. She was betting that Max would sacrifice anything for Liz’s safety, even his future with Liz. Use his feelings against him. Eventually he’d fall for her. I mean who wouldn’t? ‘I’m irresistible’ thought Tess, ‘Especially once I get him in the sack and show him that I’m no prude like that Lizzie Parker of his.’
“Can’t we sit down and talk about this like two reasonable people Tess?” Max was pleading with her now, but staring into Liz’s eyes, now wide as saucers with fear.
“No Max” Tess’ eyes set ablaze at that. “I need to know now.” ‘Oops, gotta stay in the role of scorned, needy lover, no anger.’ She started crying again profusely.
She was scaring him. They had become friends. ‘Was she really capable of this?’ In the intensity of the moment, none of them noticed Zan quietly moving back a few paces, pretending just to lean against the wall, but really reaching his hand back to the wall to press a button, which he did without drawing the attention of anyone else in the room.
“Okay, it’s over.” Zan announced loudly as he waltzed over to Tess briskly and attempted to lift Liz away from her. Max started towards him deathly afraid that he would incite Tess to hurt Liz, and not understanding Zan’s actions.
“Get away from me” Tess screamed as she raised her hand to Liz’s head “I’ll use my powers on her. I’ll kill her if you come any closer, I will. I’ll do it.”
“NO!” Max screamed.
“Save it for someone who cares, girlie.” Zan said all too calmly to Tess as he pulled Liz out of Tess’ grasp just as Tess held her hand to Liz’s head and attempted to use her powers to kill Liz. Max’s heart almost stopped beating. “I’ve had dis place rigged for my safety eva since my supposed sista and brotha-in-law tried to kill me. It prevents the use of any of our alien powas. Yours are now totally useless.” He said while handing Liz into the safety of Max’s arms and grabbing Tess roughly by her blond curls with a smirk on his face.
“NO!” Tess screamed.
“Max!” Liz said in relief as Zan handed her off.
Max grabbed Liz into a bear hug.
“God Liz, I thought I was going to lose you again. I can’t take this.” She didn’t say anything and he felt her tiny form trembling against him. He could feel how overwhelmed she felt through the jumbled emotions he was receiving through their connection. It wasn’t surprising. He felt the same. He pulled away slightly and he kissed her tears away, first on her cheeks, then her eyelids, then kissed her nose, and finally her mouth, first softly, then passionately, feeling the desperation of having almost lost her. He crushed her against his body and she curved her body into his. It seemed like they were made to perfectly fit together, two pieces to a whole. He kissed down her neck and then across her collarbone, warm, wet, open-mouthed kisses that finally warmed her up a little bit after that terrible experience. He stopped finally and drew in a deep breath of her sweet scent, filling his lungs with her fragrance, before raising his head and leaning his forehead gently against Liz’s own in an intimate gesture that had become so characteristic of the warmest moments of their relationship. It was a gesture that said all the words that neither could manage to verbalize in the heat of the moment. They knew they couldn’t be as close as they wanted with Zan there, and of course, Tess, but they both knew that they would be one day, soon.
“Ya knaw, ya haven’t changed one bit since your first life, and dat is NOT a compliment.” Zan said as he tied Tess tightly to his kitchen chair.
“Fuck you.” Tess shrieked her last words before he put tape over her mouth with a satisfied grin on his face.
“Ya wish, honey.” Zan finished tying her up while she made grumbling and hissing noises watching Liz and Max embrace. “Not in dis lifetime.”
Zan ignored Tess’ continued dissatisfied groans and turned around to the embraced pair behind him. He scratched his head and asked softly. “Hey Liz?”
“Yeah?” She lifted her forehead from Max’s and turned toward Zan.
“Is there anybody who doesn’t want to kidnap or kill ya?” Then Zan smiled mischievously and said with a twinkle in his eye that hadn’t been there in a long time, “Gotta protect my family, ya knaw.” He finally had a family again, a real family, one that wouldn’t betray him this time.