posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:44:35 PM
Nothing Left to Say

Author: Ashton
Email: maxpert88⊕hotmail.com
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything Roswell, etc.
Rating: PG or PG 13
Category: M/L
Summary: This is after EotW, Harvest and WO. Max has seen and been told that Liz and Kyle slept together. Now the whole school is buzzing with rumors. But does he really believe all the evidence piling up in front of his eyes?

Author’s note: I know there could be a million ways that Max finds out the truth. This is just one of the many versions I've dreamed up in my mind.

Hugs,
Ashton

~~~~~~~~~~~
~ chapter 1 ~

The break between first and second period found the students of West Roswell High rushing here and there, calling greetings to their friends and scurrying to their next destination. Heads were bent in concentration over notes as dread filled some hearts when they stepped into their classrooms where quizzes and tests awaited. All of this activity went unnoticed while a quiz of an entirely different nature had already begun by locker 23…


"You've gotta be kidding me." Maria DeLuca firmly stood next to her locker and glared up at Michael Guerin. "Please tell me you don't believe it, Michael." When silence greeted her, Maria took a step closer. "Michael? You can't believe its true…"

Michael guiltily avoided meeting Maria's eyes and shrugged. "What am I supposed to think, Maria? Liz barely says a word to any of us any more. It's like she's a totally different person. It's been like that since she got back from Florida."

"Well its not because she has a choice, you know. I mean really. Do you honestly think this whole destiny thing has been easy on her? Or leaving Max? Or watching…" Maria scrunched her face up in disgust. "…that slut of an alien, Tess, fawn all over the guy Liz admittedly can't resist? She's had the love of her life ripped away from her for some intergalactic war and some high-pitched, bleached blonde bride that he doesn't even remember. What do you expect her to do? Be Ms. Sunshine Pollyanna and do the Royal 4's bidding all the time?"

"Don't be ridiculous. Its obvious she's hurting. I recognize the signs of the stone wall, ok? I know how hard it is to walk away from someone you lov…" Michael's voice hardened and his eyes shifted from Maria's upturned face to focus on anything but those eyes that always drew him in.

He shuffled his feet uncomfortably and slipped a hand into his pocket to hide its obvious shaking while he forced his mind to focus on their current conversation and not draw parallels to their current romantic situation. "Look, all I'm saying is think about it, Maria. It's not like Liz and Max have been civil to each other lately. And Max…" Michael let out a sigh and leaned his shoulder against the locker next to Maria's. "…Max has slipped into his own little world again. Just like he did during the summer. Only worse…and in a way I can’t really describe. It's not that he's overly depressed, but he's just…I don't know…given up. Like he’s…resigned himself to follow his destiny..."

Pulling a book from her locker, Maria hrumphed her way into a shrug as flashing eyes of challenge raised to meet Michael's. "I thought you of all soldiers would be happy about that. I mean, at least he's starting to lead like you've been on his butt to do ever since you guys screwed with all of our lives and pulled that mom-o-gram from the sky."

Michael let out a frustrated sigh. "I'm glad he's leading, Maria, but this…resignation. It's not in a good way. This is a guy that would risk everything…even die for Liz Parker, Maria…and now suddenly he's not even able to look at her.” He hung his head in thought. "I'm telling you, something big happened. This…these rumors about Liz and Kyle sleeping together…they just might be it. How else would you explain Max and Liz's sudden aversion to each other?"

"Well, I know seeing you and Courtney paw each other certainly made me wish you were already back on planet Krypton. After I wanted to wretch, of course." Maria quipped sarcastically before her expression became earnest and her voice softened. "Seriously, Michael, this is Liz and Max we're talking about here. You know how much they love each other. Love like that doesn’t come around every day and it certainly doesn't change over night."

Michael shrugged. "You know what they say…the harder they fall, the nastier the breakup."

Shaking her head emphatically Maria slammed her locked door shut. "No. No, it's impossible. The rumors are false. Liz would never do that to Max. NEVER. She loves Max. More than anyone or anything in her life, Michael. There is no way in this world Liz Parker would sleep with Kyle or…or anyone else for that matter." She shifted her books in her arms and shook her head again as her eyes brightened with a sudden light of rememberance and determination. "No. The way Liz and Kyle were talking in the car about Max that day... Something really weird is going on here, Michael."

She saw Kyle Valenti step around the corner and into the hallway and nodded her head in his direction. "And I think I know just where to go to find out what it is…"

Grabbing Michael by the arm, Maria spun him in Kyle's direction and yanked him forward as she lead the charge down the hall with determination. Almost reaching their intended target, both Michael and Maria stopped short when a dark haired guy came from the middle of nowhere to slam Kyle against the locker in a fit of rage…

Tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:45:41 PM
~ chapter 2 ~

The wimp. A geek. The computer nerd. These were terms usually associated with Alex Charles Whitman. Why? Because Alex Charles Whitman wasn’t one to fight. In fact, in grade school, he had been the punching bag that the jocks of the school used to sharpen their bullying skills on. Cowering in the corner with whimpers and tears, begging them to take his lunch money, copy his homework and even offering to start his own wedgies before the jocks reached him, Alex had never been known for his bravery.

Until this last year.

Until he absorbed the fact that aliens walked among them. Until he realized FBI agents would stop at nothing to torture, kill or maim said aliens. And until he saw his two best friends embrace love as they had fallen headlong into the alien abyss. Not that he was immune. He'd certainly done his share of falling and embracing. But deep down inside, Alex Charles Whitman always knew he was no match for Isabel Evans. He always felt their time would be short. That their relationship was doomed to fall from the steady climb of a budding romance to a comfortable plateau of friendship.

Not so with Liz Parker and Max Evans.

What they had was…unstoppable. Deep and intense. Beyond all earthly reason. A perfect fit. A love written…in the stars…

In the oddest moments over the past year, watching Max and Liz silently communicate often with just a touch or a look, Alex had felt a sense of peace unexpectedly steal over him. No matter what was going on around him—-whether being chased by alien hunters or rescuing his friends from certain torture…even spending an uneventful night at the movies together--observing the silent caresses and earnest, soulful looks that passed between his best friend and her alien other half made Alex's heart smile with hope.

And when moments of frustration concerning his own love life, or lack thereof, threatened to crush Alex’s spirit, somehow the love shining so brightly in Max and Liz’s eyes whenever they were within view tossed out a solid, steady line of faith that Alex could hold on to. To believe that there really was something out there called true love. Max and Liz inspired music deep in his soul. And at night, he often found himself wishing on every distant star that his one true soulmate would drop down from the heavens and wrap her angelic wings of safety and love around him for just one brief moment.

Just like Max and Liz had done for each other…

Which is why the rumors made no sense.

From the first whisper of a reunion between Liz and Kyle, Alex had shaken his head in disbelief. There was no way a spark that had once been between the two could rekindle when the blazing inferno that existed between Max and Liz had clearly never gone out. At times denied, at others hidden, but always there. Simmering right under the surface just waiting for the right moment to explode into a magnificent ball of fire, lighting up the world and leading lonely souls to hope for their own perfect love.

It just didn't make sense.

And that’s when Alex realized he was tired. He was tired of nothing making sense. Tired of people who were meant to be together being torn apart by unknown planets and destinies that no one wanted to follow. Tired of seeing his best friend's eyes clouded with pain and haunted with secrets as her shoulders slumped under the weight of a sacrifice she should never had to make just to save a world she had never seen. Tired of all the secrets and lies…

Alex's gaze settled on Kyle Valenti as he turned a corner and headed down the hall. Suddenly, he was no longer Alex, the wimp. He was Alex Charles Whitman: Defender of Human Hearts with specialties in Intergalactic Matchmaking…


“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Kyle pushed back against his attacker using his position against the lockers as leverage, sending his assailant stumbling back a few paces. A growl of feral anger and a well-timed right hook was his answer. Kyle fell back heavily against the lockers with shock widening his blue eyes.

Raising his hand to his now bloody lip, Kyle glanced once at the growing crowd surrounding the two before locking resigned eyes with his enraged opponent. “Not here. This is between you and me.” He straightened and moved a step forward, his eyes challenging a dispute…his voice low with understanding. “Liz doesn’t need this now…”

“Fine.” Tightly pressed lips barely released the one word agreement as Alex Whitman spun on his heels and forcefully pushed his way through the crowd heading straight for a closed door with Kyle hot on his trail.

Neither were aware of the audience that was waiting for them or the brown eyes that widened in surprise as they slammed the door of the eraser room behind them…

tbc…


posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:46:22 PM
~ chapter 3 ~

The door barely closed behind Kyle when Alex spun around and grabbed him by the shirt pushing him back against the wall. Kyle pushed back with all his might and Alex once again stumbled backwards while Kyle's hands instinctively raised to defend himself. "So help me Buddah, Alex, if you don't want to end up in the hospital you'd better keep your hands off me!"

Alex took a step forward his eyes blazing with righteous anger. "I don't really care what the hell you do to me, Kyle! I want to know why you're going around spreading lies about you and Liz!!"

Kyle's stance relaxed a bit and he took a deep calming breath. Eyeing Alex carefully, Kyle was unsure just how far to take this little ruse of Liz's. Certainly she'd want her best friend to know. Or would she? "Who says they're lies?"

A strangled laugh came from deep inside Alex's chest. "I never took you as a complete moron, Kyle, but I guess I was wrong. No one…NO ONE…who knows her and has watched Liz and Max together for five minutes could ever believe she'd hurt him like that. EVER. She adores him!"

Kyle continued to play Devil's advocate. "Yeah, well, maybe things change…"

Alex took a threatening step forward, his hands bunched up in fists by his side and his eyes blazing with anger. "Not the way Max and Liz love each other. That will never change. Never. And you know what? I don’t care how many lies you spread or how many ways you say it, I know Liz didn't sleep with you. The world as we know it would have to stop spinning before she would break his heart like that…"

"Maybe that's exactly what happened." A soft voice interrupted the heated discussion from the back of the room.

Alex spun around in surprise as she stepped from the shadows into the light. "Isabel? I…I didn't know you were…" Alex paused when he saw the beautiful brown eyes rimmed with redness, evidence of her recent tears still fresh on her lashes and wet cheeks. Alex took a step forward and reached out his hand to raise Isabel's quivering chin till her eyes met his. "What is it, Isabel? What's happened?"

Isabel sniffed back her tears and shrugged trying so hard to don the cloak of Ice Princess but was unable to under Alex's warm gaze of concern. She crumbled like a delicate flower before him. "Oh, Alex. I don't know what's happening to us. To any of us. We're…we're falling apart at the seams. First Max and Liz. Then Max and Michael. Now, Max and me…"

"Isabel, talk to me. Tell me what's going on." Alex prompted gently as he attempted to wipe away her tears. "Why were you crying?"

Isabel ran her fingers through her hair and let out a sigh. "Max…Max and I had another fight on the…on the way to school today. I just…" Tears began to well up in her eyes as she continued to ramble. "I just don't know what to do. I want to tell him the truth, but I'm so scared. And then…then when we got here all the rumors about Liz and Kyle." She shot Kyle a withering look as she took a step toward him. "I know it can't be true no matter what you say, Kyle. They may not be together, but they are far from over. Liz wouldn't do something so cruel to Max. She couldn't. She doesn’t have it in her."

"Maybe she didn't have a choice." Kyle stated quietly. "Maybe he pushed her too far because he couldn't let her go…"

"And maybe you're the one who's cruel." Isabel spat out defensively as she locked eyes with Kyle. "Do you really hate him that much? He saved your life, Kyle. How could you do this to him?" Isabel's gaze dropped as her voice choked back sudden tears. "God, if you could have seen Max's face. He was devastated. He seriously looked like he was going to crumble right there. Right by his locker…"

Spinning away from Kyle, Isabel's eyes closed in sorrow as she tried to block out the painful image of her brother's face when the first whisper reached him. "God, I just wish…I wish we'd never seen our mother. I wish we'd never heard that damn message. I just want…I want everything to be…like it was before…"

"Shh, Izzy. Come here…" Alex's arms wrapped around Isabel as her head dropped and tears began to flow once more. Kyle stood in silent observation feeling very much like an outsider but knowing things between him and Alex were far from over. He jumped in surprise and relief when the door slipped open a crack to reveal the hushed but bickering voices of Maria and Michael.

"Would you stop pushing me?" Michael hissed. "And get your hair outta my face."

"I know being this close to me must be driving you nuts, Spaceboy, but here's a clue…get over it. Really. How else do you expect us to hear what they're saying?" Maria's incessant chatter brought a slight smile to Kyle's face. "I'm worried. They're way too quiet. How do we know they haven't killed each other already? I think we owe it to our friends to investigate…"

"And you owe it to me to keep your big mouth shut right now."

Kyle reached for the handle of the door and flung it open barely stepping out of the way before Michael and Maria tumbled inside. "Hey, guys. Looks like we've got a party going on. Wanna join our little club meeting?"

Maria and Michael exchanged looks before taking in the scene inside the eraser room. Michael's eyebrow raised when he saw Isabel in Alex's arms obviously upset about something. Probably Max again. He held back a groan. God, he hated emotional confrontations…

Sighing with resignation, Michael nodded and pulled Maria into the room before closing the door and locking it behind him. Shoving his hands in his pockets, Michael glanced around at everyone before his gaze landed on Kyle and he spoke. "Well, I guess we're all here for the same reason. And for the record that reason is that none of us really believe Liz and you did the nasty. And we're all pretty pissed that you're telling people you did. So. I guess the question is…why are you spreading these lies and what are we going to do about it?"

Tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:47:28 PM
~ chapter 4 ~

Kyle's gaze shot from Michael to Isabel, Alex, Maria then back to Michael again. "Look, let's make one thing perfectly clear right now. I did not breathe a word about what happened that night. And whatever Liz's reasons for doing what she did, she kept them to herself. So maybe you should just check with her…"

"Wait." Alex stopped Kyle's disclaimer with a raised hand. "So you're actually saying something did happen between you two that night." Kyle's silence permeated the room as his gaze dropped uncomfortably when gasps and mumbles of disbelief erupted from various members of the group. "No. I still don’t believe it."

"Neither do I." Isabel chimed in.

Michael grunted his consent. "Give it up, Valenti. No one's buying your lies…"

Uncharacteristically quiet, Maria's eyes narrowed as she watched him her own thoughts whirling like a tornado. "Guys, wait. He's not lying. Something did happen that night. It just isn't what we're hearing."

Her voice brought all eyes to rest on her, including Kyle's which raised hesitantly to meet hers with a flicker of relief. "She asked you to help her, didn't she?" Maria inquired softly. "Come on, Kyle. I know that look. I've worn that look most of the summer. Lying to Max because Liz asked me to. It was all her idea, wasn't it? A set up. That's what you and her were talking about in the car. That was the truth she wanted Max to know…"

"Maria…" Kyle began but was cut off by Michael's irritated question.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Michael turned to Maria with an upraised eyebrow that screamed his need for an explanation.

Maria didn't even notice. Her mind was once again occupied with the ideas crashing around in her brain. Little hints over the past weeks. Little pieces of a larger puzzle that were starting to fall into place and give her a clearer picture of what exactly had gone wrong between Max and Liz. It wasn't until Alex's voice broke through her thoughts that Maria snapped out of her self-induced session of clue gathering. Suddenly whirling on the group, Maria's eyes snapped with enlightenment. "It's Liz. Liz is the one that's lying. God, I can't believe I didn't see this before. She's the one that's making all this happen…"

"Wait. Liz is spreading the rumors? But I thought we all agreed that Liz wouldn't hurt Max this way…" Michael's clouded with confusion.

"Not unless she felt she had to." Maria stated with determination as her gaze fell on Alex, her words sending a not-so subtle message. "You know its not the first time she's lied to protect him."

Realization dawned in Alex's eyes as he nodded his head. "You're right. She lied and avoided the truth like a plague for about two months before telling me. Even though it killed her. She did it…all to protect Max. She'll do anything for him…"

"Yeah, but lying *for* him and lying *to* him are two different matters." Isabel stated as her gaze swept the group.

"Then I guess that means its one helluva danger she's protecting him from…" Michael added as worry found its way into his eyes as they locked with Isabel's in understanding.

"No, no, guys, Liz didn't start the rumors." Kyle interjected with a shake of his head. "She didn't have to. Max…" He took a deep breath to prepare for their reactions. "…he actually saw us together. In bed."

"What?" Isabel's outraged exclamation echoed through the room. "My God. He's been carrying this around by himself all of this time?" She turned a questioning look on Michael. "Did he say anything to you?"

"Are you kidding? We've barely been speaking…"

"Michael." Isabel came to stand in front of Michael her eyes turned up imploringly. "We've got to fix this. What's going on with all of us. We're not talking to each other any more. Max should have never had to deal with this alone. That Maria or Alex doesn't know what's going on with Liz is unthinkable. There's too many secrets. Too many lies. How can we fight an enemy if we can't stop fighting ourselves long enough to be there for each other?"

Michael swallowed hard. "I know. I was just thinking the same thing." His gaze swept over the rest of the group. "I guess the question now is…if Liz did set this up, if she's lying to protect Max…what is she protecting him from?"

"I know one way to find out." Maria piped up her eyes bright with a plan. "I'll talk to Liz. One of you needs to be with Max during this…"

"Not me." Isabel spoke quietly, tears beginning to sound in her voice. "He…after this morning's fight…he won't talk to me."

"Me either." Michael stated solemnly. "Not after the granolith fiasco. I mean, I think we really do need to straighten things out, but now isn't the time. I don’t' think he's going to listen to anything either of us have to say…especially not about this situation with Liz."

"Because he doesn’t trust us any more." The words were hard for her to say and it was evident in the pained expression on her face. "We've all lied to him. All of us. Except Alex, and they aren't that close. That just leaves…" Isabel's gaze swept the group to fall on Maria.

Maria let out a sigh. "Fine. I'll talk to him. Get him to see past this pain to a little bit of reason. Alex, you can work on the Liz angle."

"Let me." Michael offered prompting a raised eyebrow from Maria. "I think I know exactly where to get all of our answers…"

Maria eyed him carefully through wary eyes. "Why am I not liking the sound of this? You're not going to do anything illegal are you?"

"Maybe." Michael's eyes twinkled with mischief as he shrugged nonchalantly before turning his focus to Kyle. "While I’m digging for info from Liz, why don't you try to figure out who started the rumors if it wasn't you and it wasn't Liz. Cuz I'm betting it wasn't Max. It also might be a good idea for you to be with Liz. It looks like you're the only one who has any details on this. She just might open up to you. In the meantime, let Max see the two of you together while…"

"I'm telling him it can't be true." Maria finished for him. "I'll weave my little truth spell around him and he'll be able to see that nothing could possibly be going on with you two." Maria patted Kyle on the arm. "No offense, pal, but that whole lighting-up-like-a-Christmas-tree look that Liz gets belongs to Max and Max alone. And I'll be certain to point it out to him…"

"Great. So we've got a plan." Alex stated. "But what do Isabel and I do?"

"Tess." Isabel spoke the one name with a bit of reluctance. "I'll uh...I'll check with her and see if she knows what's going on. Max has gotten a little chummy with her lately..."

"Ever since that night. God, things are starting to fall into place. Liz does something unforgiveable to push him toward Tess..." Maria shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe we've all been so blind to this..."

"I think there's more going on than just getting Max and Tess together." Kyle stated. "I mean, there was something...I don't know...something driving her to do what she did. Just the night before she had tried to coach Tess on how to be around Max so he'd fall for her. I overheard them talking at my place. Liz almost seemed desperate to make it happen. Like she knew something bad was going to happen..."

"Well, we need to get to the bottom of this." After a moment's silence, Maria tilted her head in contemplation before her eyes lit up with an idea. "I got an idea. Isabel, after you get the low down from Tess, you and Alex are in charge of creating a back up plan. You know, getting our motley little crew together for a big pow-pow later tonight. I don’t know if this will work with Liz and Max or not and if it doesn't, we're gonna need a club meeting to get it straightened out and to get all the rest of our dirty little laundry aired."

"Communication is seriously lacking and we need to fix that before anything else goes wrong. None of this should have happened in the first place. They shouldn't have faced any of this alone. We've screwed up in the friendship department, guys. Now even if it means we have to kidnap Liz to get her to talk to us and Max, then that's what we'll do."

"Is everyone with me?" She swept her gaze around four precious friends that she now trusted with her life and saw all of their heads nod with agreement. "Guys, we've got to find a way to make this work. I think we've just now all realized that we're nothing without each other. Now, its time to start acting like it…"

Tbc…


posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:48:09 PM
~ chapter 5 ~


The rumors.

God, the rumors were excruciating. It was bad enough for her 'indiscretion' to be known to the few key characters whose lives were directly affected. But this sudden wildfire of rumors only served to add to the charred dreams that were piling up at her feet with each passing second of each and every day that Max believed the lie.

With each inflated version of the tale that was whispered about her, Liz felt yet another piece of her heart crumble into indiscernible pieces of despair. Her first thoughts were of Max and how he’d react to the constant reminder of her supposed infidelity as it floated down the halls and permeated the rooms of West Roswell High.

He’d already suffered enough pain because of her. He shouldn't have to face the snickers and sly glances. Or wonder, as others did, if he just wasn’t good enough for Liz Parker. 'He must not have the stuff to keep her satisfied and happy. Why else would she leave him to go back to Kyle?' was one theory that was already being bantered about. And he certainly didn’t need to hear sorted details of a night that should have belonged to Max and Liz alone.

Her first time. She'd saved herself for her one true love…for Max. Without talking about it, they had both instinctively known when the time came to take that monumental step into intimacy, they would take it together. Because the time would be right…and because they loved each other more than anyone else in the world. Now, Max believed she'd carelessly tossed the treasure of her innocence into the mud puddle of betrayal and lies for a roll in the hay with a guy she never even loved.

If only there had been another way. If only she'd come up with another plan. If only she hadn't known the future…

If only…

Her new mantra. One that would put her in an insane asylum if she didn't watch it. There simply was no use guessing what might have been if. Or wondering what she could have done differently. Or wishing she could change history once again…

Because the damage was done. The trust between them was broken. The love, barely discernible. Even their solid friendship…the basis of their intense and beautiful romance…was crumbling all around her. Communication had come to a screeching halt and even the way he looked at her had changed. Where once she felt secure and treasured, she now felt empty and alone.

If ever she had hoped Max could find it in the depths of his heart to follow his original instincts and believe in her…to forgive her for her seeming betrayal, those hopes were dashed now that the story had been released to the vultures of the rumor mill. How could Max ever take her back now? Certainly his pride wouldn't allow him. And his heart wouldn't be able to see past the damaging words that only served to make the situation even worse than Liz had imagined. Everyone knew an undisputed rumor was as good as truth…

In that moment, Liz felt there was no greater shame than walking the halls of West Roswell High as girls cast envious looks her direction and young teenage guys eyed her with sudden leering interest. Lowering her eyes to the floor in front of her, Liz Parker felt her face flush with embarrassment as she bit on her lower lip and hurried through the crowd toward her locker.

When would the affects of this lie ever end? Not until you tell Max the truth. That annoying little voice in the back of Liz's mind seemed to know exactly when to weave its way through her heart and squeeze with all its might at just the right moment…in just the right way. Tears instantly sprang to her eyes and she blinked them back with superhuman willpower as she rounded the corner and ran right into a human wall of flesh.

"Oh! I'm sor…" Liz's apology trailed off as she felt the familiar touched of his hands on her arms when he tried to steady her. Without looking up, she knew the captor whose gaze still had the power to warm her skin. She recognized his scent. The heady combination of soapy cleanliness and pure masculinity. She felt her cheeks flush as she raised her gaze slowly, instantly crushed by the weight of his sorrow-filled eyes when they finally connected with hers.

Eyes instantly stinging with a well of tears that was just waiting to break through the dam of strength she'd built up, Liz's voice breathed out the words that summed up her existence of late. "I'm…I'm so sorry, Max."

"It's ok, Liz." Max's soft voice could barely be heard above the general hum of the crowded halls as he chose to ignore the pleading look in her eyes and focused instead of the surface offence of slamming into him. He knew what she meant. He saw the depths of her sorrow and regret dulling the usual brilliance of her eyes. That one look tore at his heart like nothing ever had, ripping it open and pouring a ton of salt on still fresh wounds that refused to heal. Unable to bear her pain as it called out to him, Max's gaze wavered as he nervously bit his lower lip.

Liz blinked back her disappointment at Max's evasive gaze as a bittersweet smile touched her lips. She swallowed past a lump in her throat and blinked back furious tears unwilling to let him let him go so easily. "Is it, Max? Will anything ever be ok between us again?"

Max opened his mouth to respond and he rapidly blinked back unwanted tears, his eyes slowly raising to meet hers when an indescribable look suddenly passed over his face. The world around him came to a screeching halt as his eyes locked on the band of midnight blue that delicately hung from a chain dangling around Liz's neck. He swallowed hard, his breath coming in short pants as a shaky hand raised to grasp the familiar ring between his fingers.

The instant skin touched metal, a flash of light filled his mind quickly followed by invading images and emotions. Images that were familiar though he'd never seen them before. Emotions he knew all too well. Anguish. Gut-wrenching pain and sorrow. Desperation. Grief. Despair. Regret. Love. Longing. Joy. Hope.

His mind raced to catch up to the overpowering flood of sensations coming at him from every direction while his heart embraced each and every one. Fully. Instantaneously. Instinctively. One moment brought an unbearable torture. The next, the sweetest swell of completeness. Alternating back and forth between dashed hopes and fulfilled dreams. Carrying Max on the high bubbling waves of ecstasy then throwing him roughly against the jagged rocks of sacrifice.

Just as Max felt himself drowning in the sea of images that were coming at him fast and furiously, a soft hand covered his as Liz's sweet voice called to him from the shore of reality. "Max? Max, what is it? Are you ok?"

Max's eyes shot open to meet a dark soulful gaze full of concern…and love. No, he certainly couldn't miss the love. It was shining so brightly out of Liz's eyes that for one brief moment he considered shutting his eyes against the brilliance of it. But he didn't. He couldn't. He was mesmerized. Captured. Completely imprisoned by the flood of emotions rushing from every part of Liz…her head…her heart…her body. All to pour out of two amazingly beautiful pools of chocolate.

Max didn't think. He didn't reason. He didn't ponder the consequences or question the images.

He simply kissed her.

As Max's mouth hungrily latched onto Liz's, his hands firmly grasped the sides of her face, his fingers curling possessively around her jaw as he pulled her into him. One teasing swipe of her lower lip with his tongue and Max felt Liz eagerly open up to his sudden assault. A light moan escaped her as her fingers threaded through his hair and her arms wrapped tightly around his neck as if she were hanging on desperately to the only lifeline she'd ever known. Lips sliding over lips. Tongues tangling together in a fevered duel. Bodies fully coming into contact as if they were each trying to crawl into the other's skin.

Images immediately sprang up between them. Emotions overpowered them. A voice echoed through their connection. A familiar voice that tearfully whispered words Max couldn't comprehend. "Not everything will disappear…if only you believe…"

At the words, Max pulled away abruptly, his chest rising and falling with shallow breaths, his eyes locked with Liz's as she gazed up at him with a dazed expression. He swallowed hard and blinked rapidly, unsure of all he'd seen and felt…and heard.

The rumble of cheers and hoots filtered into Max's mind and he quickly glanced around them to see that a large audience had formed to take in their impromptu performance. "Max?" Liz's soft voice pulled his attention back to her face and he swallowed again at the sudden hope shining out of her eyes. His hands sprang back from her face as if her skin had burned him. Taking a step back, Max's head began to shake back and forth. "No. No, I…I can't…it doesn't make sense…"

Liz took a step forward. "But Max…"

"NO!" Max's voice raised in pitch silencing the crowd. "You…you lied. I…I left you…" The heartbreaking crack in his voice matched the pain and confusion in his eyes. "Why?"

That one word brought an instant stinging to Liz's eyes. "Max, please. I can explain…"

"No." Max took another step back his eyes filling with the tears Liz herself was desperately trying to hold back. "No, I…I can't…just…just leave me…no one…to trust…" With those final words Max Evans turned his back on Liz and ran as fast as he could away from the only truth he knew…


"Outta my way! I'm coming through!" The shrill voice was heard above the growing mumbles floating on the edge of Liz's consciousness as Maria pushed her way through the crowd of students. A warm arm wrapped around Liz as she crumbled against the locker just as the bell rang for next period. "God, Liz, what happened?" Maria's frantic voice called to Liz as she stared at the door Max had disappeared behind while tears streamed down her face. Taking her best friend's face in her hands, Maria forced Liz to look at her. "Liz! Babe, talk to me. What happened?"

Liz took a shaky breath and closed her eyes against the pain as her head bent in sorrow. "He…knows, Maria. Max knows…and he...he left me anyway..."

tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:50:31 PM
~ chapter 6 ~


Frantic.

That one word summed up all of Max Evans' emotions, thoughts and actions from the moment he ran from the haunting voice he'd heard in the timbre of Liz's kiss.

Frantic to escape the onslaught of pain and grief…and loss. Desperate to block out the images that made no sense yet filled in all the missing blanks of the puzzle he'd been trying to piece together since that night. Running as fast as he could from the inescapable, unbearable truth.

The jeep's tires let out a high-pitched squeal as Max peeled into the driveway of his home. Slamming the breaks on and jumping out in one swift move, Max's pounding feet led him like a homing pigeon through the front door, up the stairs and straight to the dresser in the corner of his room. Yanking open the top drawer resulted in its release from the dresser and landed half-turned on the floor with a dull thud at Max's feet. Max dropped to his knees as his hands simultaneously dove inside the drawer flinging clothes through the air, scraping the bottom of the drawer in a frenzied search for the box...

Max let out a cry of confusion that bordered on relief as cold, shaky fingers stilled mid-air before dipping down to curl around the velvet prize that was nestled in the back corner of his drawer. Max swallowed hard unable to still the beating of his heart or regulate his shallow breathing as he sat back on his heels, held the small box in front of him and slowly lifted the lid...
~~~~~
Shocked, Liz crumbled against the locker as tears fell down her cheeks in careless abandon. "He…he…knows." Liz whispered to herself unaware of the crowd beginning to disperse at the sound of the bell for next period or of Maria as she knelt in front of Liz holding her face in her hands and pleading with her to make sense. "Liz. Liz, babe, listen to me. We need to get you somewhere ok? Like, somewhere less floor-like and germy…"

"Maria! Liz!" Kyle rushed up to the two girls, his eyes wide with confusion. "What's going on? What happened?" The questions were addressed to Maria while his blue eyes remained steadfastly locked on Liz.

"I don't know." Maria glanced at Kyle before turning back to Liz with concern. "Something with Max. They talked or…or kissed or something…"

"Kissed?" Kyle's voice raised an octave at the end of his one word question. He shook his head with a mixture of admiration and disbelief. "Will nothing stop that guy from loving…?"

"The truth…" Liz's voice ended all conversation between Kyle and Maria as they both turned their full focus back to their friend. Snapping out of her daze, Liz's eyes locked with Maria's and her hands gripped Maria's arms tightly. "You have to go. You have to be with him. Maria, he can't be alone right now…"

"I can't leave you like this…." Maria began but Liz interrupted without hesitation.

"You have to." Unlike a few moments before, Liz's voice was steady and strong as determination shone brightly out of her brown eyes. "Max needs a friend right now. Someone he can trust. Someone who…" Liz paused as her breath caught, her gaze wavering. "…someone who hasn't look into his eyes and lied to him." Liz's lower lip began to quiver as bubbles of tears re-formed when Liz raised her pleading gaze to meet Maria's. "Please, Maria. For me. I need you to give him what I can't right now. Give him…the courage to hear the truth…"

A silent communication passed from friend to friend and Maria nodded once signaling that she'd received the message loud and clear. With one last glance at Kyle, Maria rose to her feet with one gentle command to Liz's partner in crime and a sacred promise to her best friend. "Take care of her, Kyle. I've got to convince a friend he needs to listen to his heart…"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Isabel caught sight of Tess as she slipped into the girl's locker room and quickened her pace. Once inside, she glanced around and headed toward the back where Tess' locker was located stopping just short of turning the corner when she heard the nature of conversation between the newest member of their group and a person that sounded very much like Pam Troy.

"So, Tess…how'd you do it?" Though whispered, Pam's shrill words bounced off the walls making it easy to hear without effort.

"How'd I do what?" It was a question laced with understanding.

The steady, even reply came with a hint of a smile. "How did you manage to finally tear Max Evans away from that science geek, Liz Parker?"

A light chuckle was the immediate answer and Isabel poked her head around the corner to gauge the expression that Tess' verbal silence wouldn't reveal. An eyebrow shot up when Isabel spied the satisfied smirk that played on Tess' lips as she tried to feign nonchalance and innocence. "I really don't know what you're talking about, Pam…"

Pam Troy smirked in kind as she leaned against a locker. "Riiiight." A coy smile curved her lips upward. "Come on, Tess. You can't out-skank a master skank. So, in the name of sisterhood…you must, MUST share your secret with me. I mean, anyone that was able to break those two must have super powers or something. They were literally joined at the hip last year…until you came…"

Tess tossed her blonde curls as she reached into her locker and pulled out her bag as slowly as she was stringing Pam along. "Yeah, well, that was then. This is now. I really didn't do anything special."

"Please, Tess." Pam's voice became whiny and insistent. "You've gotta help me. I've been trying to get Kyle Valenti since Vicki Delaney dumped last year. You're living with him so you must know him pretty well. And now the rumor is that Liz Parker and Kyle are an item. You've taken one guy from her…help me take this one too."

Tess' blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she turned to Pam with a catlike grin. "Ok. But you're not going to believe me." Tess waited till Pam nodded eagerly for Tess to continue. "With Max, I just…waited. With open arms."

"Waited?" Pam's brown eyebrow raised in disbelief that such a tactic could actually work and, even more incredulously, that Tess Harding had used that strategy successfully on Max Evans.

"Yeah. Waited. Look, I knew right away that Max and Liz didn't belong together. I knew it the first day we met. The way he looked at me. The sparks between us…" Tess let out a light sigh as she closed her locker door. "And the way he kisses me…"

"Wait. Are you saying that you and Max have done it? Have you two really gone all the way?" Pam's voice was full of awe as she made an obviously fallible leap in logic. A leap she was all too ready to employ in her quest for Kyle. "Cuz that could work ya know…"

Tess' eyes lowered to hide the spark of amusement in her eyes when she remembered the vision she'd created of her and Max getting it on in the science lab. A vision she'd made sure Max Evans saw clearly…along with a few others he didn't know she'd sent him. "Not…not really all the way…" She looked back at Pam with appropriate confidence shining brightly. "Not yet anyway, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. I'm sure of it." She tilted her head to the side and smiled sweetly. "See? Patience. It'll always pay off."

"Patience." Pam repeated, her eyes drifting upward as she tried to mull that one word concept over in her mind.

A smug, superior look masked Tess' expression perhaps showing Isabel for the first time her true nature and just what kind of world-class manipulator Tess could be. "You know, Kyle's a lot like Max. He doesn't like to be pressured. See, I could tell right away that Max wasn't the type to be told what to do, so I knew I'd have to be patient. Pushing him to realize he and Liz didn't belong together would only end up pushing him away from me. See, I'm his…destiny. Max just needed to realize it on his own, that's all. And he did…once he saw Liz Parker in bed with Kyle Valenti…"

Pam's face split into a grin. "Oh, I see. So you sat back waiting for that right moment to
play the part of supporting friend. Giving him that shoulder to lean on when his perfect little Lizzie screwed up. Maybe starting a few rumors once she did…"

"Exactly." Tess slung the bag over her shoulder. "And with those rumors about Kyle and Liz going around, it's only a matter of time now before Max and I are a full-fledged couple…"

Pam interrupted Tess' train of thought as she whirled on her with excitement dancing in her eyes. "So, what's it like?"

Tess blinked unsure of what Pam was asking. "What's what like?"

"Kissing Max Evans." Pam linked her arm through Tess'. "Come on, Tess. You've gone this far now. You've just gotta give me all the dirty little details…"

Hands clenched in rage and a face flushed with anger, Isabel slipped behind a wall as the two unlikely comrades giggled their way past her and out the door. "Yeah, Tess. You've gone this far now…I think it's about time you learned what it's going to cost you…"
~~~~~~~~~~
The climb up the ladder undetected was easy. So was slipping over the balcony wall. No wonder Liz's parents had such a high opinion of Max. Except for that night spent together in the desert, he appeared to be a perfect gentleman to their darling Lizzie.

Michael smirked to himself. That's because they don't suspect how easily Max Evans can get to their daughter anytime he wants…just by climbing through her window…

Michael couldn't stop his mind from wandering to the lay of Maria's house. Sure he could come in through the window if he wanted, but after the night he'd spent in her bed, her mother had taken extra precautions that had discouraged him from using the window as an entrance again. Namely, an alarm system that could make every person in a 20-mile radius deaf from the sirens. And here, Max could just waltz in and out of Liz's room without a second thought. Oh, to have it so easy.

"Lucky dog." Michael murmured as he shook his head. Michael deftly unlocked Liz's window and slipped inside one thought running through his mind….everything always came easily to Max Evans.

Everything except the one thing he wanted most in the world. Everything, it seemed…except Liz. Which was why he was here. Shaking away any resentful thoughts of jealousy, Michael focused on his mission…to figure out what went wrong between his best friend and the only girl he'd ever loved.

Standing in the middle of Liz's room with his hands on his hips, Michael closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. "If I were Liz Parker…where would I hide my most treasured possessions?"

A thought having occurred to him, Michael opened his eyes and immediately began scanning the walls around him to stop abruptly on a picture of the six of them that hung over Liz's desk. "Bingo." Two strides he was in front of the picture. One swift move, it had been removed to reveal a solid wall of brick. He quickly ran his fingers over the bricks knowing he'd been wrong. "Damn."

He quickly replaced the photo and swung around once more taking in every detail of Liz's orderly room. Her dresser. Her bed. Her nightstand. The bookcase. The bathroom…

His eyes flicked back to her bookcase and Michael purposefully made his way over, his eyes scanning Liz's own personal library. Books on biology. Astronomy. History. Literature. Romeo and Juliet. "Now, there's a possibility." Michael touched the book as his eyes took in the title of the book immediately to the right of Shakespeare's famous tragedy. "Time travel? What would Liz care about…"

A feeling in the pit of Michael's gut made his throat constrict unexpectedly. His fingers curled around the binding and pulled the book from his comfortable resting place. His eyes remained fixed on the back of the bookcase as he pulled Romeo and Juliet from the shelf to join the time travel book on the floor. There it was. The slightly loosened brick.

Michael quickly removed the brick to find a black journal hidden in the hollow of the wall. The moment he touched the book a flash entered his mind. Tears. A pen scrawling words across a page. A ring. Pictures…

Michael quickly opened the front of the journal to find the words…

"I'm Liz Parker and today I stopped the end of the world…"
~~~~~~~~~~
Alex Whitman slammed his locker shut and spun around to run into the angel of his dreams. "Isabel! What…what's…" He stopped when he saw pure murderous rage pouring out of her eyes. "Whoa. Have we made a list of all your Czechoslovakian powers, because I really don't want to learn the 'alien-death-blast-from-your-eyes' first hand. I'm a little too young to end up a pile of dust or get vaporized from one look…"

A determined eyebrow raised and Isabel grabbed Alex's arm steering him toward the eraser room. Once inside, Isabel slammed the door and locked it behind her. Whirling on a confused Alex, Isabel's hardened voice shot a chill down his spine. "You know that little plan we've been told to put together for tonight?"

"Uh-huh." Alex nodded once, his eyes fixed on Isabel. He'd never seen her more angry…or more beautiful.

"You know how we're supposed to get everyone together to see if we can figure our way out of this mess we've made for ourselves?"

One more nod.

"Well, we're about to change our objective."

"We are?" Alex gulped. "T-t-to what?"

A malicious smile claimed Isabel's lips. "To annihilate the one who started it all…"

Tbc…



posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:52:59 PM
~ chapter 7 ~

"Isabel…are you sure about this?" Alex's tone was hushed even though he and Isabel were the only two people in the eraser room. After hearing her plan, Alex felt the need to slink back into whatever shadow he could. He'd never seen Isabel so…warlike before. Note to self. Never get Isabel pissed…

"Of course I'm sure, Alex. I'm not deaf, you know." Her sarcastic tone matched her defensive stance as her arms crossed in front of her and her foot began to tap impatiently.

"But why would Tess start the rumors about Liz and Kyle?"

Isabel let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. "For someone so smart, you sure can be dense at times, Alex. She wants Max, ok? It's obvious to anyone who knows him that even though he and Liz aren't together, he's still carrying a major torch for her. These rumors are just one more nail in the Liz-Max coffin. And Tess is playing it for all she's worth."

Fire shot out of Isabel's eyes. "She's just bidding her time. Starting the rumors on one hand then waiting for the right moment to catch Max at his weakest. Playing the part of comforting shoulder when Max needs to talk. Offering him what Liz won't for only God knows why. It certainly isn't because Liz all of a sudden stopped loving my brother, that's for sure." She ran her hands through her hair in frustration. "God, I can't believe we've let that manipulative, low-life, miserable piece of alien trash into our midst…"

"Ok, ok. I got it, Iz. And I'm right there with you, ok?" Alex stopped her by putting his hands on her arms. "Just…just tell me what you want me to do."

The grateful smile only lasted a second before she reverted back to Commando-Isabel, pulling out a piece of paper and a pencil and attacking it with a vengeance. "Ok. Here's the plan…"
~~~~~~~~~~
Max didn't know how long he'd been that way.

His back against his bed. His tear-filled eyes glued to the ring shining so brightly out of its gray velvet home. His long, thick eyelashes fluttered against the stinging pain that shot from his heart to every part of his body, paralyzing him in this world and catapulting him into a recent past.

The ring. That night. The hope that dissolved to unbearable pain…

With his powers, he'd made it specially for her. It was a simple design. Elegant and unique. Just like his Liz. Each and every detail laced with meaning. Every element filled with the strongest and the most unbreakable of all emotions…love.

A midnight blue band the color of an azure sky fading into twilight. Their favorite time of day. The time of day when they often snuggled together under a blanket on Liz's roof together or on one of their many desert outings to stare up at the changing sky. With arms wrapped around one another and fingers intertwined, it was that precious sliver of time when they watched Liz's world as it faded into sleep allowing Max's world to awaken and come alive with twinkling stars and a dancing moon.

Tangled limbs and entwined souls would blend effortlessly leaving both Max and Liz to wonder where one left off and the other began. The purest form of union was symbolized by a thin strand of silver that wrapped itself around the dark ring like roses climbing a trellis while 5 tiny stones formed a 'V' shape in the center and shone against the darkness of the band like stars in the night sky. Shimmering like the five star-planets of his world. The V-shaped stones formed the tip of one single tear-shaped jewel…a pearl. As perfect, petite and unique as Liz Parker was herself.

He had been all set to give it to her. It was part of his plan. To break down her defenses. To show her just how much he loved her. To not give up. Max spent a week after school in Mr. Delgado's hardware store learning the words to a Spanish love song. Then he'd drive out to his special place in the desert…a place not even Isabel or Michael knew about…and he'd fashion his gift for Liz. All in preparation for the night he'd win back his every reason for living. The night he would give her the ring that symbolized the joining of two worlds into one endless circle of love.

The night of the Gomez concert.

With hope in his heart he'd climbed the ladder to her balcony, ring in his pocket and tickets in his hand, prepared to offer her everything he had…everything he was. To argue. To plead his case with a kiss. To drop to his knees and beg her to follow her heart if need be. Even a friendly kidnapping wasn't out of the question at this point. Whatever Max Evans had to do to convince Liz they belonged together, that was what he was going to do.

He straightened his clothes and pulled the tickets from his pocket, determination and love mingled in his eyes as a smile of hope lit his face when he approached the window from Liz's balcony to see the love of his life in bed with another guy…

His world tilted out of control that night. It came crashing down around him, shattering into a trillion little pieces around his feet. Cutting him. Ripping out his heart with grappling hooks of agonizing torture. Slashing away at tender, vulnerable layers of emotions that ran deeper than the vast universe around him. Making him doubt everything he knew to be true. Everything he felt to be real. Liz. Their love. Himself. His heart. The one fixed point of light Max had always been able to look to for courage…for strength…for salvation…had suddenly been snuffed out in the cruelest of ways.

And he didn't know why.

Until now.


A warm hand touched his shoulder and Max jumped at the contact. His haunted eyes turned to take in the worried expression of Liz's best friend. Of his summer pal. The only person he'd been able to truly open up to about Liz. "Maria…"

Her arm slipped around his shoulders as she knelt down next to him on the floor. "Shh, Max. It's ok. I understand."

Max's raven head slowly shook back and forth as tears slipped silently down his cheeks. "No…you…you don't." Raising his gaze to meet Maria's, Max uttered words that brought a look of confusion to Maria's hazel eyes. "Liz…didn't betray me, Maria. I…I…betrayed her…"

"Well, that's certainly one way of putting it." Michael's voice unexpectedly joined the newly formed conversation. "But it wouldn't be true, Maxwell."

Max and Maria's heads snapped up to see Michael leaning casually against Max's window holding a black book in his hand. "Michael. What…what are you doing here? And what do you mean?" Max wiped the tears from his face with the back of his hand as Michael slipped through the window to land with a dull thud on the floor in front of his best friend.

With a shake of his head and a wry smile, Michael continued as he watched his broken-hearted best friend struggle to not break down in front of them. "You know I always thought you had to be the luckiest alien on earth. I wish, just once, that Liz Parker would stop proving me right..."

Tbc…


posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:56:18 PM
~ chapter 8 ~

At Michael's words, something in Max snapped. At the smug look on his face, something raged inside. The injuries of half-truths, hidden secrets and out right lies that had been building for so long descended on Max like a storm. Challenged authority and persistent needling of Max's intense love for Liz…his inability to let her go…grated against any and every last nerve in Max's body and soul. Michael had never accepted Liz…had always mocked their love.

Michael was the last person in the world Max would listen to about Liz…

Max jumped to his feet, his eyes darkened with anger as his fingers clenched around the box that held Liz's ring in his hand. "Get the hell out of my room!"

"Why, Maxwell? Afraid to hear the truth?"

"From who? You?" A harsh smile touched Max's lips. "Are you even capable of knowing what the truth is? Or telling it if you do?" Max's tone was barely controlled as he stepped up to Michael, his eyes locked in challenge. "There's nothing you have to say that I want to hear…" Max started to turn away when Michael grabbed his shoulder to stop him. Max whirled around, one of his hands instinctively brushing Michael's hand away and shoving him backward as Max's other hand raised to strike.

"Stop it! Both of you! Just stop it!" Maria was by their side in an instant, her apprehensive gaze shifting from one angry gaze to the other. She focused on Michael knowing their purpose here was the same…whether Max believed it or not. "Michael, now is not the time for this. The only thing that matters is what's going on with Liz right now."

Max's head snapped to the side, his confused eyes focusing on Maria's face. "Liz? What…about Liz? Is she…" Max let the question hang in the air. Who was he kidding? Of course she wasn't ok. He kissed her. They'd connected. He knew. He'd felt her anguish, her overwhelming pain…and then he ran. He ran like the coward he was…

"We've heard the rumors, Max. About Liz and Kyle." Maria's voice pulled him from his own personal torment as she put a comforting hand on his arm when she saw his gaze drop to the floor. "None of us believe it. Kyle pretty much confirmed it never happened."

At that, Max's head snapped back up to meet Maria's gaze. "He did?"

Maria nodded slowly as confusion began to cloud her expression. "Yeah, he did. I…from what you said, I thought you already knew. Liz said…" Maria cut off her own words and turned to Michael in an effort to get more answers than questions. "Did you find out what's going on?"

Eyes still locked on Max's pained expression Michael nodded once. When he spoke his voice was edge with hardness from the injury of Max's words. "Every last bit of it. But from what I hear, Max doesn't want to hear anyway so…"

"God, Michael, would you stop it?!" Michael's gaze drifted to Maria's upturned face and pleading eyes. "Please…just this once…let it go."

One slight nod was barely discernable before Michael's eyes shifted back to lock on Max. His leader. His…friend. Silence filled the room as the two stared at each other, each challenging the other to give an inch. To concede a point. To take one step, no matter how small, toward each other. Toward understanding. Toward reconciliation.

Michael swallowed hard. "I'm…sorry, Max."

Max's gaze dropped and his stance relaxed hesitantly. When he spoke his voice dulled with weariness. He took a few steps back and sank down onto his bed as if the weight he was holding on his shoulders was about to crush him into oblivion. He let out a sigh as his shoulders slumped. "Me too, Michael. It's just…if there was ever a time in my life that I needed you to play it straight with me without all of the macho-who's-the-better-alien posturing crap…" His steady gaze raised to meet Michael's, the command in his voice unmistakable. "…that time is now. So, either tell me what you know or leave. Because I honestly can't take fighting with you right now. And I certainly can't take any more lies…"

"No more lies. No more secrets." Michael's eyes locked with Max's in a silent bond of understanding and vow. "Never again. I promise."

Max nodded his forgiveness and flashed a brief smile of acceptance. Michael had just gone farther than he ever had before. In his own way, he'd apologized. In his own way, he'd given Max his best friend back. Max relaxed a bit, his fingers absently caressing the velvet box he'd never let go of. "Alright. What do you know?"

Michael smirked and leaned his back against the wall casually, his arms trapping the black book against his chest as he folded them in front of him. "I'll tell you what I know. What I've known all along. From the first time I saw you watch Liz Parker across the playground in 5th grade, I knew she'd be trouble, Maxwell. Your greatest weakness. The one thing in this world that had power over you. The one thing you wouldn't be able to control if you ever gave in to it."

"And I was right." Michael's voice lowered with seriousness. Strangely absent was the accusatory tone that usually accompanied his recounting of their recent history. "From the moment you saved Liz, things have been out of control. For you. For me. For Isabel. Our lives have been repeatedly put in danger all because you couldn't walk away. Because you broke our rules."

Max let out a wearied sigh and dropped his head as he ran his fingers through his hair. "God, Michael, we've gone over this. Time and time again. What's done is done. I saved her. I love her. And if one day, I have to die for her, I will do it without regret."

Michael nodded with satisfaction. "That's good to hear. Because Liz Parker deserves nothing less than your total devotion. And believe me, Max, I'm going to be here every step of the way to make sure she gets it."

Max's head snapped up and his eyes widened in surprise. "What?" He looked at Michael as if he were a stranger. "You're kidding, right? You've never wanted Liz and me together…"

Michael's expression softened and his eyes flicked from Max to Maria then back again before he spoke. "That's not true. I've been afraid…of what you two have. It's so intense. It's bigger than all of us combined. I don't understand it, and I certainly haven't known how to accept it." Michael glanced down at the journal pressed against his chest. "But I've learned things…"

Max swallowed hard, his eyes beginning to sting with fear and emotions he'd been trying to hide for so long. "What…things?"

Michael looked back up to Max. "Things about Liz…and how much she loves you. And how far she's willing to go to save you. It's more than you deserve, you know…"

"Michael…" Maria's raised eyebrow would have been warning enough even if she hadn't had that 'don't-push-it-buster' sound in her voice.

Michael let out a sigh. "I'm talking about this." Michael held up Liz's journal. "I'm talking about why Liz tried to set you and Tess up. I'm talking about why she set it up to look like she slept with Kyle. I'm talking about why she's been lying to you about it ever since."

"I knew it! I knew she'd been lying." Maria's voice rang with triumph. "But…wait. Why?"

Ignoring and answering Maria's question all in one breath, Michael continued with little prompting. "She did it for you, Maxwell. Every last bit of it…she did it all for you." Michael paused before dropping his bombshell. "She did it…because you asked her to…"

Maria's brows furrowed with bewilderment. "Huh? I don't understand. Why would Max tell Liz to break his own heart? For that matter, why would he believe the rumors about her and Kyle if he told her to do it in the first place? And why the heck wouldn't he remember it?"

Michael and Max looked at each other, each knowing the what the other knew. Seeing it reflected in the depths of their eyes. "So, I was a coward. I did leave her. Twice."

"You weren't a coward, Max. You did what you had to do."

Max jumped from the bed in agitation and began to shake his head, unwilling to believe he would be the one to deal the final blow of betrayal to his and Liz's love. "No. No, I'm telling you, Michael, I…I wouldn't do that to Liz. I would never leave her. I'd…I'd die for her…"

"Yes, you would. And she'd die for you." Michael agreed. "But neither of you could stand the thought of others dying in your place. Because of decisions you made. Because of your love."

Max stopped dead in his tracks and turned to Michael, his eyes beginning to water with unexpected tears. "Others…die?" Michael's gaze wavered and Max blinked quickly to erase the film of tears that began to blur his vision. "Who?" When Michael didn't answer, Max took a step forward and swallowed hard. "Michael. Who dies?"

Michael raised his gaze and a slight hint of a smile touched his lips conveying to Max in silence the answer to his question. "I was wrong, Max. Liz isn't your weakness. She's your greatest strength. She's the strength of us all."

Max let out the breath he'd been holding as one solitary tear slipped out of his eye to tumble down his cheek. His eyes closed against the bittersweet emotions that shot through his heart. He'd known it. In the flashes. He'd felt her fear combine with her strength to forge an unbreakable courage. He'd known her resolve in the face of overwhelming temptation to throw herself into his arms and lose herself in their love. He experienced her tears of the gentlest joy and deepest sorrow.

In all of his life, Max had never loathed himself like this.

In all of his life, Max had never loved Liz more.

His brave, beautiful, strong Liz. Liz, who should have never known this kind of sacrifice. Liz, who had suffered because she loved him…

"Ok. Would one of you E.T.'s stop speaking in Czechoslavakian code and give it to me in good old English?" Maria's hands were placed firmly on her hips as she shot a look from Max to Michael. "What the hell is going on?"

"A future version of Max came to Liz. He told her that their being together caused the end of the world. Then he asked Liz to make Max fall out of love with her. To push him toward Tess. If she didn't…we'd all die. And not just us--the six of us…the entire planet." Michael explained as quickly as he could, his eyes still trained on the face of his friend to gauge his reaction to the truth being spoken out loud.

"Whoa." Maria's mouth dropped open. "Pretty heavy stuff." Her gaze drifted to Max who was sitting with his elbows propped on his knees and his head resting in his hands. "You knew this didn't you, Max? That's why you said you betrayed her…"

"I saw it." His voice was soft. Broken. Full of anguish. "When I touched the ring. When I…kissed her. But I…I didn't know why or…or how. So much pain when I…" Max swallowed hard before the barely breathed word escaped him. "…abandoned her. First in the granolith. Then here…on her balcony. I just…he, the other me…just disappeared. God, she…she must…hate me now…"

Maria shot Michael a glance then moved to the bed and slipped down next to Max. Wrapping a comforting arm around his shoulders, Maria began to speak softly and encouragingly. "Hey, stop that. There's no way, Max. You can't believe that. You say you saw this. Felt it…when you kissed her. Then you must have felt her love for you, Max. Maybe the future version of you disappeared, but her love for you hasn't. Not by a long shot…"

"Maria's right, Max." Michael knelt before Max and handed him the black journal that held all of Liz Parker's private thoughts and dreams. The very book that held her every heartbeat and the secret passions of her soul. "Go ahead. Take it. It will tell you everything you need to know."

Max gazed at the book being offered him for the longest time. He knew what would be in those pages. He didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve her devotion or her love or her loyalty. After all her put her through…the fear, the pain, the uncertainties…he didn't deserve Liz Parker. Period.

"Max. This belongs to you. All of it. She doesn't want to give any of it to anyone else." Michael's voice broke through Max's harsh assessment of himself. "Look, these aren't just her words. These are your words too."

Max swallowed hard. "What…do you mean?"

Michael opened the journal and fumbled through the pages to pull out a white envelope. He held it up to Max. "This is a letter. You…" Michael paused to change pronouns in the oddity of the situation. "…he wrote it to her. To Liz."

The breath left Max's body as he stared at the envelope. "Did you…did you read it?"

"No." Michael's soft answer pulled Max's gaze to his face. "There are some things in this life that are just too precious to share with others. Like a love letter from a husband to a wife."

Max blinked as an unexpected, soft smile hovered over his lips when the meaning of Michael's words became clear to him. "W-wife?"

"Yeah. Wife." Michael cracked a smile. "Come on, Max. Since the day you touched Liz Parker, did you ever really doubt she would one day be your wife?" Michael placed the journal and letter firmly in Max's hands then stood and reached out his hand to Maria, pulling her from the bed and to his side. As he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, he gave her a slight smile then turned his gaze back to Max. "We all need Liz…just as much as you do. Together…all of us…its the only way we'll all survive, Max. So, don't stop believing in her. She certainly hasn't stopped believing in you. None of us have…"

A tear ran a straight course down Max's face to plop in the journal in his hands at Michael's words. Max's fingers gingerly, lovingly ran over the top of the envelope as Michael and Maria took their cue and slipped quietly from his room. A recurring image of tears and smiles slammed through his mind causing Max to close his eyes against the onslaught of pain. The waves of unconditional love.

"Not everything will disappear…if only you believe…" Those words echoed in Max's mind as he sat in stunned awe trying to comprehend everything that was happening. Unsure of what the words meant but knowing they had the power to change his world, Max's eyes opened to once more focus on the envelope in his hand. Cold fingers shakily lifted the flap and pulled out the contents as a ragged breath was pulled from deep within Max's tightening chest.

Swallowing hard, Max hesitantly opened the thin sheet of paper unsure of exactly what he'd find. As the letter unfolded, a white strip of thick paper fluttered from its folds to the floor escaping Max's rapt attention. His eyes were glued to the words that jumped from the pages into his heart. Words that had been written in the past from the heart of a man who knew the future. Words that spelled out an unending legacy of a love that was strong enough to save a world…

My beautiful, amazing Liz,

A warrior came to your room begging you to help him save the world. But tonight a man…a husband…begs you to forgive him for asking you to do what he could not. For asking you…to walk away...


Tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:57:22 PM
~ chapter 9 ~

Swallowing hard, Max hesitantly opened the thin sheet of paper unsure of exactly what he'd find. As the letter unfolded, a white strip of thick paper fluttered from its folds to the floor escaping Max's rapt attention. His eyes were glued to the words that jumped from the pages into his heart. Words that had been written in the past from the heart of a man who knew the future. Words that spelled out an unending legacy of a love that was strong enough to save a world…

My beautiful, amazing Liz,

A warrior came to your room begging you to help him save the world. But tonight a man…a husband…begs you to forgive him for asking you to do what he could not. For asking you...to walk away...

Maybe the reason I asked this unbearable request is because I knew between the two of us you could walk away. Of the two of us, you're the one with the ability to pull this off. The conviction to see it through. Please don't ever think its because I believed your love was weak. No, Liz. Never believe that. Because it's just the opposite.

You are at the core of my resolve. The stiff rod of responsibility and conscience that keeps me upright and unmovable with determination to make this right for us. To make it right for the world. Your love…it is so strong that nothing will ever break it, Liz. No enemy. No lie or trick. No broken dream. Not even the end of the world.

Nothing.

Even our enemy knows that this alien leader is nothing but a whisper without you.

For that, you've become somewhat of a legend in the camps of our enemy. They quake in fear of you. Rage against your presence in my life. Scratch their heads in bewilderment. Gaze at you with equal repulsion and admiration. This…human…that they can't understand. That they despise and ridicule. This woman who gives up everything for a creature that is not of this earth. You make them feel, Liz. You make them long for a sense of humanity. It is for that they hate you. Because not even our enemies can see you and not want to bow a knee of respect and awe. And they despise themselves for it.

Because they know the truth as I know the truth. You are the key to my existence, Liz. Because your love is my greatest weapon.

That's why I've come to you. It is because, without you, I am the weak one. I'm the one that hasn't the strength to sever the single soul we share. I'm the one that can't bear the thought of ripping our sacred connection to shreds. I'm the one that crumbles at even the hint of never touching you again. Of never sharing another smile or feeling your lips kiss a healing balm into my soul.

And that alone makes me unbreakable. It makes me a warrior to be reckoned with. A fighter that is fierce and unrelenting. Together, you and I are unconquerable.

They know that. So they used a weapon that neither of us expected. They used the hate within us…within me. Not to destroy our love for each other. But to destroy those around us. Starting with Tess. They used her hatred of us to bring us to our knees. It was a hatred that I began when I pushed her so far away from me that she became a willing pawn in their hands. Her power alone was not enough to destroy us. But combined with theirs, it began a slow destruction that not even our love could stop. Michael. Isabel. Maria. Alex. They were the victims. And now we have the chance to make it right.

You see, Liz, the real reason I came to you at this time…its because you don’t know yet. You and your Max have not yet breached the irreversible barrier. At this point, you have no idea what you’re giving up. I do. That’s why my heart is like a lead weight in my chest. Why my feet refuse to move from the feel of you all around me. Why my eyes cannot bare to look into yours for too long. That’s why I’ve not told you about us…about who we became together. If you knew, you’d run to him and you’d never let go despite the consequences.

You know, I watched you tonight…strong and brave. Beautiful and courageous. Selfless. My best friend. Rising to the challenge. Never hesitating to do as I asked.

I have never been more in awe of you. And I have never loved you as much as I do this night.

And that’s saying a lot. Its saying much more than you’ll ever know. Because I’ve asked a lot of you in the past 14 years. I’ve asked you to lay aside your own dreams. I’ve asked you to fight by my side for a cause that was never yours in the first place. To give up the safe, normal life most people dream about. The life most people have. You always said it didn’t matter. That all you ever needed was me. That you have no regrets because I was more than you ever deserved.

I know better. I know you. You deserved so much more.

I felt the silent tears that rained in your heart the night we decided to not have children until our world was safe. I saw the shadow of disappointment in your eyes when you realized you'd never become a molecular biologist. I heard your heart break the day your parents found out who I really am and made you choose between the safe haven of their home and the life of danger you'd always lead with me.

I rarely asked for your sacrifices in words. I could never bring myself to say them out-loud. The requests were too harsh, the possibilities too cruel…too cold of a reality to plunge the love of my heart into. Yet, I selfishly knew I couldn’t take another breath unless you were breathing it with me. So, wordlessly, I would reach out my hand to you.

You never failed to take it.

You’re holding it now. You do know that, don’t you? You do realize that without your strength, I would give up. I wouldn't ask you to continue this plan. I would crumble into a pile of despair at your feet and let the enemy take me away. I wouldn't care. I'd rather die a thousand deaths in your arms then spend a moment without your love.

And in that way, I am selfish. I admit it freely. You are and always have been everything to me. Without your gentle reminders throughout the years, I would have gladly damned my world to destruction several times over just to have a normal life with you. White picket fence, two-car garage and a house filled with the patter of little feet. If you had granted me the solace of that dream with no guilt, I would have willed it into being in a heartbeat.

But you never let me dream alone, Liz. You loved our imaginary journeys. You also knew the danger. You knew I'd rather wrap myself in the illusion of my dream world of normalcy than face the reality that is my life. That was our life together. The war. The suffering. The struggles. Though painful at times, you were right to open my eyes to the world around me. To keep me balanced…centered. Our responsibilities…our duty...our sacrifices. They bonded us together in ways no two people in the world ever experienced before…or ever will again. You made me who I am.

And I thank you for that. Because despite all the sacrifices…reality with you, Liz Evans, was better than any dream I could have ever imagined.

Even now, with the weight of the world on our shoulders, while you're off breaking his heart…my heart…all I can think about is you…her. Little things assault my mind as you're telling him we can never be. Like the night you and I sealed our destinies. Right here in this very room. That same bed…

God, Liz, I'll never forget that night. The night we found our true home buried deep inside each other. Every second. Every sound and touch. Each look. Each kiss. The way your hair fanned out across the pillow as I laid you down and gazed into those eyes that stole my soul. The scent of the candles that flickered throughout the room casting a soft glow over your perfect skin. The salty-sweetness of your lips as they brushed and marked and seared my skin. Your soft pleas and cries of love that carried us both over the edge. The details are etched in my memory so deep that I even when I am no more, they will remain.

We didn't just make love, Liz. You destroyed me that night.

And it was the most beautiful, delicious surrender I've ever known.

I came to your room the night of the concert to win you back and instead I became your captive. In ways neither of us ever dreamed. Completely vanquished…utterly conquered, every fear and doubt that I ever had crumbled into dust as our fingers entwined and our eyes met. Our hearts didn't just join that night, Liz…they shattered into a million pieces. The gentleness of our caresses…the tenderness of our emotions as we professed our love with tears and kisses after such a long drought of silence completely broke us.

Then all the tiny fragments of sorrow, fear and loneliness that had plagued us for so long melded together with the intense passion that swept over us. It was uncontrollable. Like our love, it couldn't be stopped. We didn't want to stop. And when our bodies became one, the boy that was Max Evans disappeared and in his place was the other half of your soul. It was no longer just me in this life. You destroyed the 'I' in my sentences. From that point on, it was 'us'. It was 'we'. It was 'our'.

Max and Liz. Eternally…irreversibly…bonded. Made inseparable…by destiny.

Am I cruel to tell you these things? About our wedding. Our song. The first time we made love. Am I selfish for wanting a part of us to remain alive somewhere, somehow? Even if only in the memory of the 17 year old girl who is giving up more than even she knows? More than I can ever tell her? More than she's ever dreamed?

Please forgive me, Liz. Forgive me for needing to leave something of myself behind. The me that your love created. The photos of you and Max that you said were private when I first came…I've changed them. My memories are now in the photos. To give you a picture of who we were together…of how happy two people who follow their hearts can be. The first picture, I left untouched. The second is of our wedding day. The third…our ten year anniversary. And the fourth…Maria took this picture last Christmas when we weren't concentrating on anything but our love and the normal tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.

This…these memories of mine…is the only gift I can give to you now. Touch them, and you will see bits and pieces of our past the way I knew it. Stop believing in Max, and my memories will fade till only yours remain. Not everything will disappear…if only you believe. It is up to you now…

The warrior in me knows its wrong to do this. The husband in me couldn't resist. I wanted you to know. I wanted you to understand just what we were together. Maybe if you know, you can find a way to preserve the best that we were. Maybe you can make it even better. Maybe there will be no deaths. Fewer sacrifices. No regrets.

Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to end in this new world of yours.

And maybe you were right tonight, Liz. Maybe you weren't ready then. I'm not sure either of us were. Or ever will be. We didn't know the intensity…the finality of our actions. But who ever is? Had we known, would we have still made love? Probably. Yes. Like I said, we were unstoppable. But you have a second chance now. You have a chance to be sure. To prepare for the magical. To be ready for the consequences.

He was right too, you know. Tess isn't you. She will never be you. I smile as I write that because I know you, Liz. I know that you just read my words, your eyes brimming with tears and your brow furrowing with the question 'how can he be so sure now that we're trying to change the past so the future may continue to be?' My answer, Liz…because I am him. In an older body with graying hairs as you so eagerly pointed out. Oh, but my heart, Liz…it still beats for you. It will always beat for you…

I meant every word when I said I had faith in you. I always have. Even as I disappear from this world, I will still believe. I will believe in our love. I will believe in our destiny together. I will believe in you. Please know that even as he lets you go, he will still love you. There will always be a part of him that holds on. Because he knows deep down inside that if he truly lets go of you, he will lose the best part of him. Without his heart, he'll only be half the man he was meant to be.

I believe he knows that even now. That's why he made this ring I'm leaving you. He wrapped up every ounce of love and hope in this ring. Every dream that's danced in his head since the day he laid eyes on you fashioned it. Just like mine did. The only difference…he'll never get to see the look of pure love and joy radiating from your eyes as he slips it on your finger. Not unless you find a way. And if anyone can, it is you, my love…

Perhaps that's what I'm leaving him. Hope. As I can feel his emotions churning within me, it's possible he feels the faith I do. Maybe he senses the inescapable truth that we do belong together. That the connection my Liz and I forged 14 years ago binds all of us through time and space and pain and loss. That this is only a temporary separation and that in the end there will once again be a 'Max and Liz'…infinitely entwined.

Although I certainly can't predict the future, I can't help but believe that you still have a chance, Liz. You still have a destiny to create. A path to forge. The destruction we level today can be the foundation of a brighter world tomorrow. One where he won't have to ask you to sacrifice. One where, together, you can find a way to defeat our enemies. One where college is a possibility not another broken dream. One where you can have the wedding of a lifetime. Maybe even the patter of little feet that my Liz silently longed for…

Whatever the outcome…no matter what you make of your destiny now…know this, Elizabeth Parker Evans. We were real. We were glorious. And we were love.

Eternally yours,
Max




Max Evans sat in stunned silence as tears spilled unnoticed down his cheeks. All of his thoughts focused on one person. Liz. She'd lived with this knowledge for weeks now. Protecting, saving, sacrificing… All for him…

No more. And never again…

Max scrambled to his feet with one goal: To reach Liz.

In his haste, his foot slipped on something smooth and Max landed with a dull thud on the floor, his eyes resting on the cause of his fall. Slowly reaching out his hand, Max pulled the strip of paper to him and turned it over to see the exact photo strip Future Max had mentioned in his letter. But the photos…they were the same that Max remembered. All four of them taken that day he and Liz went to the carnival. There were no changes. Nothing like what was mentioned in the letter...

Realization hit Max like a ton of bricks. "Oh, God, no. No, Liz, please. Don't stop believing in me now…"

Tbc


posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:58:55 PM
~ chapter 10 ~


"I shall believe."

Kyle's head snapped up in surprise at the three softly spoken words. They had been the first Liz had spoken since watching Maria's retreating figure disappear on a mission that she herself had ordered.

Kyle had been watching Liz for the past hour with growing concern…and awe.

The moment Maria had left the school, Liz resolutely wiped the tears from her face and rose with a grace and strength that gave Kyle Valenti a renew respect for the slip of a girl that was once his. The girl that had somehow blossomed into an amazing woman while enveloped in the safe and unconditional cocoon of Max Evans' love.

A woman who was now valiantly trying to hold together the pieces of her shattered dreams and broken heart while the tightly wound web of lies and betrayals was slowly unraveling around her. A woman who was now finally ready to speak…

Liz turned from the window of the abandoned classroom where Kyle had taken her to face him. A bittersweet smile touched her lips as her eyes shined bright with a film of tears. "It was our song. I Shall Believe. We…we danced…that night…" She slowly sank down into a seat and stared down at a tiny ring she was holding in her hands. The catch in her voice caused Kyle's own eyes to sting with unexpected emotion as she held the ring up to the sunlight streaming in through the window. "Do you know he made this for me?” Love danced in her eyes as a faint smile drifted over her lips. “My Max. He…he actually made this with his own hands. With his heart. His soul…"

Liz's tear-filled gaze moved from the ring to Kyle's face. "I've lost him, Kyle. This time, I've…I've really…lost him…" A tear trickled out of control and fell with a plop onto the floor as Liz's petite shoulders slumped and began to shake with the force of tears she'd been holding back for so long.

Kyle stood rooted to his spot for a hesitant moment, unsure what to do before the sound of Liz's tears spurred him to action. In the next instant, he was by her side wrapping her in a comforting hug in an effort to calm her. "Shh, Liz, it’s not true, ok? You've not lost him. You'll never lose him. He's Max. He loves you so much, he's never going away…"

"But…but…" Liz pulled away from Kyle's embrace and wiped the tears from her face. "…he already has. Didn't you see? He…he just…" Liz swallowed hard and shut her eyes against the painful memory of the future disappearing before her eyes. "Would you, Kyle? Would you be able to forgive me?" Her sniffles began to subside as her eyes pleaded with Kyle for the truth. "If it were you, Kyle, could you…could you take me back after what I've done?"

Kyle shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "I can't answer that, Liz. First of all, I don't even know exactly what it is you *have* done. All I know is that you asked me to make it look like we were…" Kyle looked down at his hands when he saw the crestfallen look on Liz's face. "Look, I'm not Max. I don't know what he knows, Liz." He looked back up at her with compassion in his eyes. "I don't know what it’s like to look into someone's eyes and see your own soul looking back at you."

He reached over and covered Liz's hand with his. "The two of you, Liz…you've always had this…this 'something' together. It surrounds you wherever you go, whoever you're talking to. It's like this private place only the two of you know about…" Kyle shook his head as a wry smile hovered over his lips. "It’s like you share a soul or something. Max wouldn't give that up for anything."

Liz's gaze dropped and her lashes batted back fresh tears that threatened to fall. "But…he did. We…we both did…"

"Liz…"

"No, Kyle. It’s true.” She took a ragged breath and tucked her hair behind her ears. “He told me this would happen, you know? Before we ever even kissed. He told me we would end up getting hurt. I just…I didn’t want to listen to him. I’m the one that pushed him into dating me. I’m the one that urged him to go to Vegas. Telling him we were like Romeo and Juliet. I’m the one that’s to blame for all of this…”

Not fully understanding all of her references, Kyle tried to console her with the one thing he did know. The one thing that was abundantly clear. Had always been clear. “Liz, listen to me. Max had just as much choice in the matter as you, ok? You couldn’t make him do anything he didn’t want to do. He wanted to date you, Liz. He wanted to kiss you and hold you and take you places. And why did he? Because he loves you, Liz. He loves you so much that no amount of possible pain in some imaginary future could stop him. Right now, whatever is going on, Max just needs time…”

“Max had time. He had 14 years of time and it all came down to one thing, Kyle.” Liz interrupted oblivious to the look of confusion that passed over Kyle’s face. “It came down to us or saving the world.” She swallowed hard. “We chose the world.”

“What? Fourteen years? Save the world? What the hell are you talking about, Liz?” Kyle’s frustration level was beginning to rise. He felt as if he’d been dropped in the middle of a maze with no directions how to get out…or even if he could. And what was worse...someone was depending on him to do just that. A lot of someones...

Suddenly realizing she’s said too much, Liz shook her head emphatically. “I…I can't…say…" Standing abruptly, Liz brushed back the hair and tears from her face. Swallowing hard and taking a deep breath of courage, Liz's gaze drifted to the door. "I need to go. I need to be alone."

Kyle stood to block her path, concerned even more now about her fragile state of mind. "Liz, I don't think that's a good idea. I think you need to be with someone. You know, if you want, I can go find Alex or…"

Placing a gentle hand on his arm, Liz smiled at Kyle. Her first genuine smile of the day. "Thank you, Kyle. For sitting with me. For…for doing what I asked without question and keeping my secret. For being my friend." Slipping the chain with her ring back around her neck, she held the ring for a moment and swallowed a lump that rose in her throat as she gazed down at it, her voice barely a whisper in the dead quiet of the room. "But right now, there are some things I have to…to come to terms with. And I really need to do that alone. No one but Max would understand anyway…”

Liz silently gave Kyle a quick hug before moving past him with a dignity and courage that was other-wordly in its effect. Ethereal and regal in her poise, Liz Parker practically floated out of the room like a martyr solemnly ascending the scaffold for her own execution. Reconciled to her fate. Solid in her resolve. Embracing her coming torture of loneliness as fiercely as she had once embraced her love…
~~~~~~
“Ok. Now we just need to get the gang together so we can give that little witch what she deserves…” Isabel was walking quickly down the hall with Alex trailing behind.

“Wait. I thought we were going to do this tonight.”

Isabel stopped short and spun around to face Alex. “Duh! But to pull this off, we’re going to need help…and time. Hence the meeting with the gang now. As in…right this minute.” Isabel glanced over Alex’s shoulder just in time to see Kyle round the corner. “Kyle!”

Kyle turned to see Isabel and Alex motion for him and hurriedly headed down the hall. “What’s up?”

“We found out who’s spreading the rumors.” Alex informed Kyle.

“Who?”

“Tess.” Isabel bit the name off with a vengeance.

Kyle’s mouth dropped open. “Tess? But…why?”

“Because she wants Max and she thinks this is the best way to get him, that’s why.” Isabel rolled her eyes and let out a groan. “Geesh. Am I the only person in this group that understands the female mind?”

“Depends. Would that be the full-blown human female mind or the hybrid variety?” Alex quipped trying to lighten the mood with a smirk. The smirk dropped quickly and he cleared his throat when he saw Isabel shoot him a look that could kill. “So. About that alien death-ray thingy…”

A light smile touched Isabel’s lips before her attention was captured by Kyle’s next words. “There is only one female mind I wish I could understand right now.” Kyle’s voice cut the tension as he shook his head and glanced up to see two pairs of eyes waiting for him to continue. “Liz.”

Isabel’s expression softened immediately. “How is she?”

Kyle shrugged. “How am I supposed to know? For a girl that’s just been kissed by her ex and left standing in a hallway, she appears to be holding it together pretty good. Amazingly, actually. Then again, she was mumbling stuff about saving the world so who knows? She might be on the brink of cracking…”

“Saving the world?” Alex’s eyebrow shot up.

“Max kissed her?” Isabel chimed in with a smile at exactly the same time then switched gears to the more intriguing question. “Wait. Saving the world?”

Kyle put his hands up in a defensive gesture. “Don’t look at me. I have no idea what’s going on at this point. In fact, I’ve not really known what to think or do about anything since Max saved my life that day. I mean, maybe you guys should think about making a handbook for how to deal with all this hocus-pocus-beam-me-up-Scottie stuff for the next one of Max’s victims. I bet it would be a really good seller…”

“Oh, right. And what are we going to name it ‘What To Do When Those Little Green Men Aren’t Really Green’?” Isabel tossed her hair behind her shoulders and leveled Kyle a silencing look. “Look, we may not know what’s going on with Liz, but we do know what’s going on with Tess. And I for one say we take care of her…”

“T-take care of her?” Kyle’s eyes widened at the deadly tone of Isabel’s voice. “And how exactly would you propose to do that?”

A devious smile played on Isabel’s lips. “We’re going to destroy her, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to drive her to the brink of insanity…torture her so badly that she’ll beg us to kill her. Then we’re going to rip her up into little shreds and feed her to the sharks…”

“Right there with ya there, Iz.” Maria’s voice sounded behind Isabel and they all turned to see Maria and Michael join the group, solemn looks on their faces. “The only problem with that…we can’t. We destroy Tess…we all die.”

“What?!” Kyle, Isabel and Alex said the one word in unison and looked from Maria to Michael for explanation.

Michael let out a sigh. “Let’s go. We’ve got a lot to explain…”
~~~~~~~~
A half an hour later found the group sitting in Michael’s apartment in total silence. The weight of the information Michael brought them hung heavily in the air. Finally, someone spoke.

“So, Liz did this because this future version of Max asked her to?” Isabel’s voice was soft and full of awe.

Michael nodded. “Yeah.”

“She…she…” Isabel’s eyes locked with Michael’s. “God, Michael…she gave up Max …to save our lives.”

Michael swallowed hard. “I know. When I think of all the times I’ve been a jackass to her. Dismissing her like she was nothing. Like she was a burden when all she’s ever done is save us…”

Maria put a comforting hand on Michael’s shoulder. “She knows it isn’t about her, Michael. You’ve just got this wall…”

“That’s bull!” Michael exploded and jumped from his seat. “I’ve always blamed her when none of this is her fault. She’s just as much a victim as the rest of us. She was the one who was shot. She’s the one put in danger because of us. She’s done nothing to deserve all the crap I’ve given her. Nothing but love my best friend. And now…now, she goes and does something so noble that I…”

He shook his head in agitation and turned his back to the group. Silence hung in the air once more as every one sat lost in their own thoughts. Whirling on them suddenly, Michael made a declaration that made everyone sit up a bit straighter. “I’m going to make this right. *We’re* going to make it right…”

“But how, Michael?” Isabel stood to face him. “How do we fix this without alienating Tess?”

“I don’t know, but we’ve got to find a way…”

Michael’s words were cut off by the loud pounding on his door. Before Michael had a chance to move, the door flung open and in the doorway stood Max. He took one step inside and glanced around the group before pouncing on them with the question foremost in his mind. “Where is she? Where’s Liz?”

All eyes turned to Kyle who cleared his throat under their intense gazes. “I don’t know.”

A sudden unexplainable sense of doom permeated the air with Kyle three words.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Maria spoke up, her eyes beginning to flash with worry. “You were supposed to take care of her…”

Kyle’s defenses raised. “And I did. Until she told me she didn’t want to be with anyone. Look, what was I supposed to do?” He glanced around then locked eyes with Max. “She said…she said she needed to be alone to come to terms with things…”

Max closed his eyes against the stabbing pain that shot through his heart at those words. “Where’d she go, Kyle?” Max’s voice was low and even but there was an edge of desperation that laced each word. “Did she go home? Did she take a drive?” Each new question intensified the uneasy feeling that washed over them collectively.

When silence greeted his insistent queries, Max took two strides to the couch and yanked Kyle up by his shirt till they were face level. “Dammit, Kyle! Where is she!?!”

“I DON’T KNOW!”

The ringing of Max’s cell phone followed quickly on the heels of Kyle’s outburst. Max dropped Kyle like a ragdoll and fished into his pocket for his phone, hoping…praying, he would hear Liz’s voice on the other end. “Hello?”

“Max…”

Max’s eyes closed and his chest heaved one sigh of relief. “Liz. Oh, thank God….”

“Max…I…I…lied.” Her voice was faint. Weak. On the verge of disappearing.

His relief instantly turned to horror. Max swallowed hard knowing instinctively something wasn’t right. He felt his own body being ripped apart as intense waves of pain washed over him. Without realizing it, he sank to his knees, the knuckles on his hand turning white from the pressure of gripping the phone. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper. “Liz…where are you…”

“I lied, Max. I…will…die…for you…”

“No.” Max’s head began to shake as terror gripped him. “No. No, Liz!”

With the absence of Liz's voice came the sound of a strong, evil chuckle on the line. “The great Max Evans. Thought that would get your attention.”

tbc...


posted on 3-Nov-2001 10:59:36 PM
~ chapter 11 ~


“Who…who is this?”

“Oh, come now, Max. I know we just met here on good ol' Earth, but surely you’ve not forgotten me so soon…”

Recognizing the voice now, Max’s jaws tightened in hatred. “Nicholas."

"In the skin." Nicholas quipped. "Give the king a gold star." Max could hear the disdain in Nicholas' voice. "Ah, that's right. He already had one…and he destroyed it with his own selfishness and stupidity."

Max's voice was tight with anger and fear. "Let her go, Nicholas. She's human and has nothing to do with this. Hurting her will only make it worse for you."

"Worse for me?" Nicholas laughed into the phone. "Oh, now that was a good one." His voice lowered to deadly seriousness. "Especially coming from you. A spineless and weak king who doesn't know the first real thing about ruling or power or winning."

Nicholas paused a moment to let that sink in and reawaken Max's insecurities before continuing. "Although you're right about one thing. You're little…princess here…is certainly all human…" There was a pause in which Max could hear Liz whimper in the background. A rush of anger surged through him and he was on his feet in an instant, his mind reeling with possible images of what was going on the other end of the line. Before he could speak, Nicholas continued. "But you're dead wrong if you think she has nothing to do with this. In fact, this pretty little thing is the key to everything…"

A distant sob and a weak 'No, please, no…' followed closely on the heels of Nicholas' statement throwing Max into a fit of unparalleled agony. To think that Liz was being harmed and not be able to reach her. To feel her fear as if it were his own. Max felt his own skin crawl and every nerve in his body cringe at the thought of Nicholas being close enough to look at Liz let alone touch her. Guilt washed over Max in waves. If he hadn't been selfish…so confused…she'd be with him right now. Protected in his arms…

A wild look raced through Max's eyes at the sound and his anger erupted. "Dammit, Nicholas!! Touch her and I swear to God I'll…"

"You'll what?" Nicholas countered. "Hunt me down? Kill me? Don't bother. I’m going to tell you exactly where to find us."

"Where are you?"

"Oooh, not so fast, pal. I’m kinda liking this view so far." Nicholas' voice lowered suggestively as he continued to bait Max. "Maybe I'll wait a bit. Get to know your princess here. Don' you know that war makes the strangest bedfellows? Besides its never too late to consider possible terms for negotiations, you know."

"No, Max! Don't do it!" Liz's voice rang as loud and clear as the smack and sob that followed. As if trying to reach out to her, Max took an unconscious step forward when he heard Liz's voice as tears began to swim in his eyes. He could hear Liz's cry of pain and his own gut twisted in knots as a wave of nausea swept over him when his mind flashed back to the White Room and the torture he'd experienced there.

He stumbled backward against the wall as his scream split the air. "NO! STOP!" One shaking hand ran through his hair as he bent his head in anguish, his eyes tightly shut against the very image that Pierce showed him of Liz lying dead in the road. With his back against the wall, Max sunk down to the floor, his knees pulled tightly to his chest as a whispered plea escaped him. "God, please…stop…"

The only sound Max could hear was a mumble then deafening silence. After a moment of hearing nothing, Max swallowed hard and forced himself to focus. "Nicholas? Nicholas…" Max's desperate whisper prompted a few sobs in the very room he was in. Through blurry vision, Max looked to Maria who was now fully engulfed in Michael's arms, tears streaming unbidden down her cheeks. Alex had his arm wrapped tightly around Isabel's shoulder and his forehead was pressed against her arm as she leaned forward with her head in her hands. Kyle looked miserable as he sat with head bent as if the weight of guilt was pressing him down into the floor.

Nicholas' voice was smooth and unruffled suddenly when he came back on the line. "Sorry about that, Max. Your girl seems to have a mind of her own, doesn't she? I must admit, I like that in a girl myself. You never seemed to know how to handle it though. Couldn't handle the passion and fire that came with such spitfires. Maybe I should do us all a favor and show your girl what it's like to do it with a real alien instead of some hybrid freak…"

"I'll kill you." Max's voice was hard and his eyes were black with murder as rage and loathing unlike anything he'd ever felt boiled inside him.

"Uh-huh. Right. Tried that before. Didn't work." Nicholas quipped back cheerfully. "So, I'm thinking its time to consider your options. Like making a deal."

Hatred bubbled up inside Max and his jaws clenched as his eyes darted around the room to the terrified expressions of the people counting on him. His sister, his best friend, the humans that knew their secret and accepted them anyway. This group…his real family…these people that he loved and trusted with his life. He'd let them all down so much in the past. And apparently he'd let them all down in the future. Too much had been sacrificed already. He couldn't let them down now. Despite what his heart was screaming was his first priority, there was more than just he and Liz in this predicament. They would all have to suffer the consequences of his decisions if he didn't play this right.

Liz understood that. That's why she'd lied to him. Why she'd let him go. When this was over, he'd make thing right but now…now, he was going to honor her sacrifice and make it mean something.

With that thought in mind, Max wiped his face clear of tears and spoke with a bravado that his heart simply didn't feel. "I'll never make a deal with you."

Nicholas chuckled again. "Oh, I think you will. Since I've been inside your head, Max, I know what makes you tick. I know what keeps you breathing. What one thought makes you get out of bed every day." As if to drive home his point, Nicholas whispered the one name into the phone. "Liz."

Max swallowed hard and shut his eyes against the pain that shot through his heart as the image of her beautiful face flashed in his mind. Her amazing smile. It lit a fire inside of him every time he saw it. It had the power to warm him from the tip of his toes to the top of his head causing every part of him to tingle with sudden life. And her soft, doe-like eyes. They way they looked into his…like she always knew just what he was hiding behind that wall of reserve. She never let him get away with anything. He couldn't lie to himself…because he couldn't lie to her. And when the truth was too hard to face, her arms were always open to give him a refuge. A safe place of healing and rest. A place where he was home…

Nicholas spoke again, his voice full of confidence. "I think we both know who holds the cards here, don't we, Max?"

"What do you want?"

"Oooh, good question. Hmmm, let's see…" Nicholas pretended to be thinking. "I'd love to see your heart ripped out by the roots and stomped on, but from what I understand Liz has already done that for me…" Snapping his fingers, Nicholas' smug smile could be heard in every word. "I know. Maybe I can get her to do it all over again. Just for me. Maybe a private little show as you look on…"

"Quit playing games, Nicholas." Max's voice was low and even now, signaling that Nicholas had reached his breaking point. Taunting and baiting him was no longer an option. The gauntlet of war had been tossed and Max had taken it up.

"Fine. And just when it was getting fun…" Nicholas let out a sigh of disappointment. "I want you and your merry band of men to come to the old cheese factory warehouse on the edge of town. Right off of Route 285. Do you know where that is, Max?"

"Yes."

"Good. Be here in about an hour. Oh, and don't forget your genocidal girlfriend. I want all of you in plain view when I destroy you."

Max rose to his feet with determination. "Nicholas. Get ready to die."

Nicholas clucked the roof of his mouth with his tongue. "Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Don't be so hasty, Your Highness. I've seen into Liz's mind too…and she meant it when she said she'd die for you. I just might have to oblige her…"

With that, the phone line went dead.
~~~~~~~~~~~
Nicholas hung up the phone and crouched near the bed where Liz had been tied and gagged. He reached out and slowly ran a finger down her smooth cheek stained with tears. "Well, princess, lover boy will be here in a bit." His eyes raked over Liz's body and his eyes fueled with desire when they flicked back to meet hers. "I have to admit, I certainly understand his devotion to you…"

He was surprised to find strength and determination waiting for him instead of the customary fear or repulsion. "What? Not afraid of me?" He allowed his hand to drift slowly from Liz's neck lower taking in all of her curves as his voice lowered suggestively. "You know…there's a lot I can do to you in an hour…"


Tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:00:27 PM
~ Part L ~

Numb.

It was the only thing Max felt. And could anyone blame him? This particular alien leader had been living his own personal hell for the past several months, one that encompassed only himself—one he never told anyone about.

Capture. Torture. Pain. Terror.

His memories…his nightmares…of the White Room came flooding back reminding him of the nights he’d awakened to find himself screaming into his own pillow, tears streaming down his face and fear wracking his body. And now those nightmares had somehow found a way to reach out into the realm of reality and claim the one person in the world Max wanted most to protect.

His Liz.

God, would this constant battle for normalcy…for safety…ever end? The question echoed in the back of Max’s mind followed closely by a mockingly whispered response he didn’t want to hear. Not as long as you’re alive and well on planet Earth, your Highness. With that inner pronouncement, Max felt as if he had just been drop kicked into an endless canyon of despair and futility. And now he was free falling straight into the jaws of insanity. And on his way down, ragged, sharp emotional cliffs jutted out slashing and ripping his tender heart to shreds.

Max squeezed his eyes shut against the memory of Liz’s quiet sobs as tears of his own silently slipped down his face. Fear of what Nicholas might be doing to Liz…what he might have already done…washed over him and made his stomach turn with sickness. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t save her. He was inadequate. Too weak. Not powerful enough. His powers were under-developed. He wasn’t ready for something this important. He wasn’t prepared for this kind of battle. He simply wasn’t as strong as Nicholas. What if he couldn’t do it? What if Liz died because of him? What if Nicholas allowed him to see her face one last time before he…

Nicholas. Rage seethed deep inside Max as fury boiled the blood in his veins. That slimy little piece of nothing was going to pay for touching her. He was going to regret ever having even laid eyes on Liz by the time Max got done with him. Using her in this plan of his to get to Max, even speaking her name…he’d pay for it all. With fire and pain and absolute destruction. Every bone in that husk-covered body was going to be broken and Max would find a way to blow him into a million little pieces before oblivion became his permanent home…

Then guilt descended. The dullness in Max eyes momentarily replaced determination as the full weight of their situation squeezed the very life out of his heart. Nicholas had Liz---because of him. Nicholas was already hurting her---because Max hadn't been there for her. Nicholas would kill Liz---if he didn't make the right decisions. It was all his fault. Because she dared to loved him. Because she trusted him to do what was necessary and he let her down. Because he hadn’t been able to let go…

Fear. Rage. Guilt. Fear. Rage. Guilt. Like a form of Chinese water torture, the emotions crashed into him with a steady rhythm that was maddening.

As his hand dropped slowly to his side, Max stood in the middle of the room wearily hanging his head. The world around him became chaos as the rest of the group pounced like vultures. Lost in their own pain, they began firing questions. Bombarding each other with plans and suggestions…and blame.

What was going on? Who had Liz? Why hadn’t Kyle stayed with her? Why had they all split up? Why hadn’t they just grabbed Liz and Max and made them face each other when all this began? When had they become so distant...stopped paying attention to one another? Where did communication break down? Why had the lies and strife been allowed to continue for so long? Who started all the bickering first? How had they let it all come to this?

“STOP!” Isabel’s command was immediately obeyed as all eyes except Max’s turned to her. “God, what are we doing? Liz needs us right now and all we can do is…” Isabel looked worriedly at Max and ran her fingers through her hair and hissed to the rest of them. “Look at us. Look at him. Haven’t we already learned our lesson? Don’t we get it yet? Our strength is in our numbers. We are bound by this secret…held together by a loyalty that should never be broken. And that’s what we’re letting them do…break us. If something happens to Liz…if we lose this, it won’t be because they’re stronger than us. It’ll be because we’ve forgotten that our real power is in honesty and trust…and love.”

Trust. Loyalty. Faith. Love.

The snatched words of conversation echoed in Max’s ears as images of Liz eased in and out of his mind with lightning speed. His Liz. The true definition of trust. And loyalty. Faith…and love. She was everything he was searching for. Everything he needed to hold on to. With Liz in his life, there was no way he could lose. A pebble of warmth hit his heart and spread like wildfire through his body. From the tips of his toes to the top of his head, Max was suddenly bathed in an unmatched sense of peace and strength. Consumed with hope and confidence.

As each individual began to point the fingers of blame inward, Isabel’s quickly turned to open arms of sacrifice. Her voice was soft, but strong breaking the uncomfortable silence that had fallen over the room. “Max. I’ll go. It’s me he wants. I…I mean…Vilandra. He…he wants to take me back. To Khivar. If I…give myself up maybe he’ll let Liz go…”

“No.” Max’s voice was strong and steady as his eyes locked with his sister’s. “You’re not giving yourself up.” Max made eye contact with each member of this family of his. “None of us are.”

“Then what are we going to do, Max?” Maria asked as she reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes. “We have to find a way to save her…”

All eyes rested on their leader instinctively. Each heart swelled with a new sense of hope as Max’s eyes began to shine with determination. “And we will...” Max opened his mouth to say more when he heard a gasp and his gaze immediately snapped to Maria’s astonished face.

“Oh my God.” Maria’s eyes were wide as her finger pointed to Max. “Max…you’re…you’re glowing…”
~~~~~~~~~~
Nicholas hung up the phone and crouched near the bed where Liz had been tied and gagged. He reached out and slowly ran a finger down her smooth cheek stained with tears. "Well, princess, lover boy will be here in a bit." His eyes raked over Liz's body and his eyes fueled with desire when they flicked back to meet hers. "I have to admit, I certainly understand his devotion to you…"

He was surprised to find strength and determination waiting for him instead of the customary fear. "What? Not afraid of me?" He allowed his hand to drift slowly from Liz's neck, lower…taking in all of her curves as his voice lowered suggestively. "You know…there's a lot I can do to you in an hour…"

Liz's gaze never wavered as Nicholas taunted her. Her courage never faltered and her body never betrayed the slightest hint of quaking or fear and revulsion to his suggestive touches and words. Nicholas watched her eyes as they steadfastly locked with his. His hands stopped their casual roaming and pulled back suddenly as Nicholas tilted his head to the side in contemplation. "Still not afraid, are we?" Leaning over Liz, his smirking lips were only a taunting millisecond from touching hers before he bypassed them on his way to whisper in her ear. "You should be."

Nicholas anticipated a shiver of terror. It never came.

When he pulled back to see the result of his menacing statement, he was not only shocked to see that she had not been fazed, he was….unnerved. In a way he'd never been unnerved before. To the very core of his being. Nicholas swallowed hard and looked away as he stood and took a step back...an unconscious show of respect dawned in his eyes.

Liz never blinked.

And a sudden uneasiness began to whisper through his mind. Pebbles of apprehension rumbled through the pit of his stomach. His mind fought to grasp the reason why her serene, unwavering gaze sent a ripple of…something Nicholas couldn't quite name…

His eyes flicked back to hers and a shiver instantly ran down his spine as beads of sweat began to form on his brow. Oh God. The legend *is* true...

Liz Parker was…glowing…

Tbc…



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Nov-2001 11:02:29 PM ]
posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:04:03 PM
Part M


All eyes rested on their leader instinctively. Each heart swelled with a new sense of hope as Max’s eyes began to shine with determination. “And we will...” Max opened his mouth to say more when he heard a gasp and his gaze immediately snapped to Maria’s astonished face.

“Oh my God.” Maria’s eyes were wide as her finger pointed to Max. “Max…you’re…you’re glowing…”

“What the hell…” Michael wrapped his arm tightly around Maria’s shoulders and tucked her safely to his side for safety.

“Whoa.” Alex and Kyle’s simultaneous one word response to the sight before them echoed the awed sentiments of the rest of the group. They all took an unconscious step backward as their eyes widened with wonder and fear.

“How…how…what…” Isabel tried to form the questions but her mind refused to function at the sight of her brother…glowing. Literally. From head to toe, Max was bathed in a warm blanket of light. Shimmering with the radiance of…love.

While the rest of the group tried to grasp the anomaly occurring right before their eyes, Max’s own reaction was surprisingly calm. A wide smile spread over his face and his eyes closed in bliss as one word fell effortlessly from his lips. “Liz.”

“I feel her. Maybe now….” Eyes snapping open, Max immediately fished into his coat as if he’d just remembered something. Pulling from his pocket two items, Max stumbled backward as a bolt of light brightened the strip of paper in his hand then faded away as quickly as it came nearly knocking Max off his feet and taking with it the glow that had previously surrounded his body.

Maria, Michael and Isabel rushed forward to keep Max from collapsing from the force of the blast and helped him to the couch where they eased him down with worried looks and concerned questions. Max’s gaze was fixed on the photos on the strip he’d kept from Liz’s journal. He shook his head slowly. “But…this doesn’t make sense. These…these pictures…”

“Max, what is it?” Isabel slid down onto the couch next to him and wrapped an arm around him in concern.

“The pictures…they’re not the same.”

“The same as what, Maxwell?” Michael’s question prompted Max to look up and lock eyes with him.

“That letter to Liz. My future self changed the photos on this. He added his own memories of him and…” Max’s gaze faltered as he tried to put the absurdity of his words out of his mind and concentrate on the meaning. “…and his Liz.” Max turned the strip around and showed it to everyone. “These are not the pictures he described.”

“So maybe they’re different memories of his.” Maria suggested.

Max shook his head. “No. I felt them…when it flashed. I saw different images. We had…” Max swallowed hard as the image of a little girl who looked like a miniature Liz with her father’s eyes flashed before his mind. “…a daughter. The letter was clear…they didn’t. These are from a different time…”

They all exchanged wide-eyed glances knowing instinctively that they were witnessing nothing short of a miracle. Alex was the first to speak. “Ahem. Guys…as fascinating as glowing bodies and changed pictures are…”

Max stood suddenly and headed for the door with long, determined steps. “Right. We’re wasting time. We’ve got to get to Liz now. Nicholas is holding her at the old cheese factory just outside of town. First stop…we’ll pick up Tess…”

“Tess?” Isabel was on her feet in an instant. “You’re kidding right? You’re actually going to let that manipulative, little…”

“Isabel, we need the strength of four. Liz’s life depends on it and I’m not going to let her down.”

“But Max, Tess can’t be trusted!”

Max whirled around to face his sister as fire flashed in his eyes. He held the photos up to Isabel as he pointed to them. “You see these? This is my life, Isabel. My family. After all the hell we’ve been through, Liz and I deserve this happiness. And not Nicholas or Tess or anyone else in this world or any other is going to keep me from claiming my rightful destiny.” His gaze snapped to each and every face in the room. “If any one has any problem with that, tell me now.”

Silence filled the room and Max nodded his head once in satisfaction. “Good. Now, let’s go kick some alien butt…”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Year 2010

The sound of running feet and heavy breathing preceded the bedroom door flying open to reveal a distraught alien leader. One look at the fading glow surrounding the prone body of his wife and Max Evans’ deepest fears were instantly realized. "Oh, God, no. NO! Stop this! Stop it right now!" Max's voice startled the friend kneeling by Liz’s side and her eyes popped open as her concentration was broken.

Gazing up into his angry face as he rushed into his bedroom, she spoke. “Max. Be careful. She wanted to do this…"

Max rushed forward and fell on his knees next to the bed where his most precious treasure lay. As one shaking hand instantly brushed the damp, dark hair away from Liz's pale face, his other instinctively reached for and grabbed her limp, cold hand. He shot their friend a frantic look. "Dammit, Serena! I don't care! This is dangerous and you know it. Break the connection. Get her out of this…"

“It is already broken. She will be fine. For now.” Serena’s warm, dark eyes held his. "Max, listen to me. She wants to risk it. To be there for him…for you. Look, she needs to remember now. Things have happened, Max, and she can’t go on like she is…"

"And I can’t lose my wife!" The boom of his voice shook the picture frames hanging on the wall.

"M-Max." Liz's soft voice pulled Max's gaze instantly to her face. He felt the gentle pressure of her hand as she squeezed his hand and he swallowed hard at the faint, weak smile that drifted over her lips. "You’re here. You’re…home.”

The waves of dread that had consumed him, prompting his early return from a mission an hour before, began to ebb slightly, momentarily when he heard her voice and saw her smile. She always had that affect on him. Washing away his fears. Calming his storms. “Yeah, sweetie. I’m home. Right where I belong.” Max mumbled lightly before he leaned forward and brushed his lips against Liz’s cheeks, forehead, and the tip of her nose. Capturing her lips next in a gentle kiss, he pulled back to smile down into her eyes with relief as his hand held onto hers more tightly. “Thank God you’re ok.”

“But the mission…”

“Michael has it under control.” Max shrugged when he saw Liz’s upraised eyebrow and knew she expected more of an explanation. He acquiesced to her silent question with a half smile. “I felt you needing me. The rest of the world will just have to wait.” A light teasing smile full of love lit his eyes. “When will you ever learn, Liz Evans, that you’re everything to me…”

She attempted a smile and winced in pain. A worried expression passed through his eyes when he saw how weak she looked and his hands immediately sought to find the source of her discomfort, but failed. His fingers began their usual soft caress over her skin and Max concentrated on slowly bringing a fresh, pink glow of warmth and health back to her sallow cheeks. It only worked for a moment before he felt excruciating pain rip through his body. He nearly fell over from the force of it then just as quickly, it left him. His eyes snapped to Liz’s face and he blinked. “What is going on? Liz, you’re scaring the hell out of me. What were you trying to do?”

“Honey, please…" Liz took a ragged breath. “Don’t be mad. I…was afraid you’d feel me…but I…I had to try…”

“You connected with him, didn’t you?” Even though it was a question, Max had already known the answer. "Liz.” His voice was strangled and low as his hands moved to gently cup her face. “Baby, listen to me. I’m not mad, ok? I’m not. But this…this is too dangerous. What you’re trying to do…I love you for it, but it's…it’s not worth it, Liz…"

“He needs me, Max. Remember you told me that.” She sounded tired, drained of all her energy. And determined to make him understand. “That you needed to…to feel me….before you could believe in yourself again. I needed to try, Max. To be there for him…”

“But you were, angel.” Love for this woman who was so selfless in her love for him swelled in Max’s heart. What he ever did to deserve her, he still didn’t know, but he would spend the rest of his life trying to be the man she believed him to be. “God, Liz, how else can I explain this to you? I did feel you. I knew you believed. In me…in us. I knew you were counting on me to save you. That’s how we defeated Nicholas…”

“It wasn’t enough, Max.” Her voice was steady and strong as her eyes met his in an unspoken message.

The look in her eyes sent a shockwave of fear straight to Max’s heart as impending doom seemed to settle in the atmosphere. That whisper of dread that had vanished for a moment came crashing down on Max like a tidal wave. “What…what do you mean?”

Liz’s gaze moved from the beloved face of her husband to a woman who had proven her loyalty to them time and time again. “Serena, can we please have a moment?”

Serena nodded and stood. “I’ll be just outside the door...” Her sympathetic gaze moved to Max as she added her conviction of the outcome of this conversation. “…when you’re ready to continue.”

Liz pulled herself into a sitting position and her gaze locked with Max’s until Serena had closed the door behind her and silence hung between them like a heavy veil. There was so much to say. So much to explain. And not enough time to say it all. There never seemed to be enough time…

Tears welled up in Liz’s eyes and her lips suddenly began to quiver. Max slowly began to shake his head and he swallowed hard, knowing instinctively what was coming. “No. I…I don’t want to…this isn’t happening again…”

Liz silenced him with a soft finger strategically placed against his lips. As she furiously blinked away her tears, a bittersweet smile appeared as her gaze focused on his lips. "Do you know I don't remember our first kiss? I mean, our real first kiss. I remember mine. The one under the willow tree. But the one we had years ago…in our sophomore year…on my balcony…" Her gaze moved to his eyes and hers filled with sudden tears. "And our first date. Max, I don't remember the butterflies that danced in my stomach. Or playing pool. Or the way it felt to have you take me in your arms for our first slow dance…"

Eager to stop her confessions, frantic to hold on to the only love he’d ever known, Max took her face in his hands and interrupted Liz with a kiss. The kiss was needy. Desperate. Intense. Full of raw emotions and passion that exploded from the inside out. And Liz gave into it. As she threw her arms around his neck and clung to him, Liz completely opened herself up to Max’s kiss…his heart…his soul. Amazed that every kiss was the like first one with Max. Every wave of emotion felt as if she were feeling it for the very first time. This was heaven. This was home.

As his lips effortlessly mated with hers, Max felt himself come alive. He felt himself fill up with so many feelings all at once that he couldn’t tell which were coming from him or Liz. He couldn’t determine the order in which they came or which was more prevalent. Love. Desire. Completeness. Hunger. Possession. But it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was holding Liz. Feeling everything that he always felt whenever she was in his arms. Feeling safe. Feeling free. Feeling…human.

An instant connection sparked between them. Like a home video, images of their life together flashed into their minds. The anniversaries. Being surrounded by families and friends. Their daughter’s birth. Christmases. Hugs and laughter. Tears of sadness and moments of great joy. The emotions tumbled over them like a waterfall, immersing them in love and happiness.

The force of sensations pulsing through their souls prompted the release of tears from under closed eyes and Max felt them stream down his face. He couldn’t tell if the tears belonged to Liz…or him. Then again, that was typical of them. Never knowing where one person ended and the other began. They truly were two parts of a whole.

Taking a moment to swipe the tears from Liz’s face, Max touched his forehead to hers and swallowed hard when he pulled away, his voice beginning to crack as he tried to hold on to hope. His breathing was ragged and uneven as he tried to not face the truth of what she was about to tell him…what he already knew deep down in his soul. "Liz, baby, don’t you see? None of that matters. We have a life now. We’ve created our own memories.” His voice hardened with determination. “I will not let you go…”

Cutting to the heart of what they were both trying most to avoid, the words faltered as they left her lips. “I’m…dying, Max. I know it. And so do you.”

“No.” Max shook his head emphatically and looked away as tears began to swim in his eyes. His jaws clenched in anger. “No, you’re wrong.”

“No, Max. I’m not.” Liz’s gentle words were so full of courage. So light with strength. Max’s body responded instantly as a tear slipped silently down his face and his fingers dug into the blanket surrounding her. What he wouldn’t give to just crush her to him…climb inside her skin if need be and truly become one with her. That way, there would never be separation. There would never be pain. There would never be sacrifice…

Liz’s soft fingers brushed the tear away as she reached up and gently took his face in her hands. “Max, look at me. You know it. You feel it. That’s why you came back early from the mission. Whatever Nicholas did to me then…Khivar is taking control now. I can’t…Max, I can’t die without you. You know what Serena says…it doesn’t work that way for us. If one of us dies, we both die.” Liz allowed Max a moment to let the words sink in before she continued. “We don’t have a choice but to do this, Max.”

“But, it doesn’t make sense, Liz. We destroyed Nicholas.”

“Not before he stole my memories, Max. There is something I knew…some key to our existence…Nicholas stole it from me, Max. He stole it from me before we could use it.” Her chin began to quiver as her gaze faltered. “Max. Please. I need me. I need all of me. All of my memories. All of my past. And that means I need us. The way we were together. I can’t rely on your stories or our flashes any more. I need to remember the things even you don’t know.”

“If we do this…if we connect with them…we’ll change history again.” Max’s voice was soft and low and his gaze refused to meet hers. “Liz, we’ll lose everything…all of our years together…”

“No, Max. Not everything will disappear…if we just believe.” A smile lit Liz’s face as hope began to shine in her eyes. She opened one hand and showed Max a strip of photos that she’d been clinging to. “Remember?”

A strangled chuckle escaped him as he reached for the photos. Leave it to his Liz to think of this. To capture their memories in this old photo strip. To send the images to his younger self in an effort to give him courage and hope. Overcome with awe and love, he hung his head and answered, his voice barely a whisper. “I remember.”

After a moment’s pause, Max reached for her hand and asked the first question that signaled his agreement with her plan. “So. Did…did it work? Did you…connect with him?”

A smile drifted over her lips and even before her eyes opened Max knew he’d see the twinkle of triumph lighting her dark, luminous eyes. A slight nod and a sigh were his answer before she slowly opened her eyes to look at him. “You’re so beautiful. Do you know that, Max? Your soul…his soul…I marvel every time I touch it. After all this time, I’m still amazed that out of every girl in the universe…every girl throughout time, you chose me.”

He couldn’t stop the gentle smile that drifted over his expression and his hands moved to cup Liz’s face. Despite his claims through the years that they choose their own destinies, Max’s heart knew differently. “There was no choice about it. You’re my destiny, Liz.”

“Everything in our lives is still to be determined except that one thing, isn’t it, Max?” Liz asked as she covered his hands with her own, understanding exactly what her husband meant. “No matter what happens, we’ll still have each other. We can always make a new life. New memories. Isn’t that what you told me once?” Liz’s fingers gently stroking their way over his cheeks down to his jaw coaxed his gaze upward to meet hers. She leaned her forehead against his, her quiet promise whispering its way right into his soul. “I will not let you go either. Trust me, Max?”

As tears sprang to his eyes, they began to shine with love and he nodded once. “With my life…with everything.”

The kiss was gentle and slow. Tender and open. Giving and receiving each others’ thoughts and feelings. Pouring into one another every last ounce of love they had ever felt or would ever feel again. After an eternity, they reluctantly pulled away from each other. Raw emotions hung in the air between them as their eyes locked speaking words only their souls would understand. Desperation to hang on to the last shreds of a love that should never die drove Max and Liz instinctively into each others’ arms.

An unspoken commitment of forever having been forged, Max and Liz refused to break eye contact even when they heard the light tap on the door. “Come in, Serena.” Liz called out before the door slowly opened and Serena stuck her dark head into the room. “I’m sorry to interrupt but time is running short.”

“We know.” Max stated softly as his fingers slipped through Liz’s hair. The confidence in her eyes gave him the strength to switch gears from loving husband to commanding leader. Extricating himself from Liz’s arms, Max stood and tossed the blanket covering Liz to the side before scooping her up in his arms. Her arms instantly, instinctively wrapped around his neck and her head nestled perfectly against his shoulder as she gazed up at him. With eyes still locked, Max gave the command that would set things in motion to once again change the history of the world. “Call the others. If we’re going to pull this off, we’ll need everyone. Even Michael.”

“Where shall we meet?” Serena asked as she stepped into the room.

“The circle. Everyone knows what to bring.” Max answered and Serena looked on as Max headed toward the door with Liz in his arms.

“Max. Liz.” Serena called out to them and Max turned to face her. “Are you sure?”

Max and Liz looked at each other and nodded slowly. In perfect unison. Two hearts beating in flawless time. Two minds interlocking as one. Two souls infinitely entwined. One love willing to let go, so that another love, ten years in the past, can hold on for an eternity…
~~~~~~~~~~~
Liz never blinked.

And a sudden uneasiness began to whisper through his mind. Pebbles of apprehension rumbled through the pit of his stomach. His mind fought to grasp the reason why her serene, unwavering gaze sent a ripple of…something Nicholas couldn't quite name…

His eyes flicked back to hers and a shiver instantly ran down his spine as beads of sweat began to form on his brow. Oh God. The legend *is* true...

Liz Parker was…glowing…

“Stop that.”

Liz cocked an eyebrow at Nicholas’s absurd command.

He whirled completely to face her. “I said stop that!”

“Stop what?” Liz’s first words since begging Max not to fall for Nicholas’ trap were innocently stated.

“That…that…” Nicholas pointed haphazardly to Liz’s glowing body. “…that…glowing thingy.”

Liz chuckled. “Thingy? Did they not teach you proper English there on that little planet of yours?”

“Why you little…” Nicholas took a menacing step forward and raised his hand to hit Liz when the glowing suddenly stopped. He swallowed hard. “How…how did you…”

“Oh, my.” Liz’s brow raised even higher. “Are you sure you don’t want to sit down? You’re looking a bit flustered there…”

“Shut up.”

“Suit yourself.” Liz shrugged her shoulders and sat up a bit straighter. “It still won’t change anything.”

Nicholas swallowed hard. “And just what do you mean by that?”

“I mean….” Liz smiled smugly as she locked eyes with Nicholas. “…you just pissed off the wrong king. And now…” Her smile widened. “…you’re going to die…”

tbc…



posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:05:08 PM
~ Part N ~


"I don't believe it!" The shrill voice bounced off Max Evans' bedroom walls. "There is no such thing as time travel!"

"This coming from a vision wielding alien queen who was sent to Earth from another planet as a human-alien hybrid after she was killed in a civil war." Alex quipped from his perch on top of Max's desk on one side of the room.

After having searched most of Roswell for Tess and finding her nowhere, they had all drove to the one last place they could hit before heading out of town either with or without Tess. They found her. Perched on Max's bed waiting for him as if she owned the place. And there was no question what she'd had in mind for the afternoon's activities. Her light blue, almost sheer top plunged dangerously low and her black leather skirt was already riding halfway up her thighs when the gang burst into Max's room. She instantly jumped up from her lounging position and demanded to know what was going on.

To which they told her all they knew. And to which she loudly exclaimed her disbelief…

Tess shot Alex an angry look before turning a disbelieving glare on everyone else as she crossed her arms in front of her. "Say what you will, I still don't believe it. Any of it. It's just another pathetic ploy by Liz Parker to get Max back."

Isabel took a step forward till she was towering over Tess. "You want to say that again?"

Tess swallowed hard and took a step back, stiffening her posture and shook her blonde curls as she did so. "It's true. We've all heard the rumors and know the truth. Liz screwed up and slept with Kyle and now she wants Max back. It's as simple as that."

Glancing at Max who had his back to the rest of the room as he seemed to be staring out the window, Tess lowered her voice. "I'm surprised you're not angry with Liz right now. After the way she hurt him and now…now he's all confused again. The poor guy doesn't know which side is up. I mean, look at him. He's in his own little world again all because of her…"

Maria stepped up behind Tess, her voice low and abrupt. "He's completely aware of which side is up, Tess. As to what he's doing…it's called forming a connection. Something you've probably never done in your life. He's been trying to do it with Liz ever since we left Michael's apartment and went searching all over town looking for you."

"Which brings up another point." Tess interrupted hotly as she cast a glance around the room and put her hands on her hips trying her best to ignore the sting of Maria's words. "Just why wasn't I invited to this meeting of yours if I'm so much a part of this group?"

Isabel tossed her hair back over her shoulders and smirked at Tess while sparks of fire were shooting through her eyes. "Didn’t think you'd be interested in planning your own demise, but next time…we'll count you in."

"And just what is that supposed to mean?"

Maria let out a loud sigh and shook her head. "Boy, you really are dense aren't you? It means we know the truth, Tess. There are four people who knew about that night before today and three of them didn't say a word. You, our latest most manipulative little Czech, are the definition of pathetic." Maria picked up where Isabel left off. She moved to the front of Tess and stood side by side with Isabel, her hands on her hips and her eyebrow raised. "And speaking of pathetic…what are you wearing?"

Tess glanced down at the skimpy, skin-tight outfit plastered to her body and quickly tightened her arms around herself in awkward embarrassment. Her eyes snapped back up when Maria's mocking voice continued. "So, what were the plans? Start the rumors then ambush a vulnerable Max when he got home from an excruciating day of hearing lie after lie about Liz and Kyle? Maybe give him a little afternoon delight he could drown his sorrows in?"

Tess gasped. "How could you say such a thing? I have been the only friend he's had through this! How could you…you all think I started the rumors about Liz and Kyle?"

Maria and Isabel exchanged disbelieving glances at each other then both took a step toward Tess till she backed up so far she fell back against the bed. "You trying to tell us you didn't…"

"Girls. Come on…" Michael stepped forward and intervened by gently pushing Maria and Isabel back a step. "We don't have time and this isn't helping Liz." Taking what little control he could of the situation, Michael turned to Tess. "Look, the bottom line here is Nicholas has Liz. We need to destroy him before he hurts her and we need your help to do it. You say you want to be part of the group, Tess. You say you want to destroy our enemies and save our planet. Now's the time to prove yourself. So are you in or not? Because if you are we have…" Michael glanced at his watch. "…exactly 30 minutes to get there."

Tess let out a mocking laugh and rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. You don't really expect me to believe all of this is about destroying our enemies do you? How stupid do you think I am? This is about one thing and one thing only. Liz."

"You're right." Max's soft voice stilled any protests that were ready to fly. He turned from the window and locked eyes with Tess. "This isn't all about destroying our enemies. It's about me claiming my destiny. To do that, we have to save Liz. Pure and simple."

Anger flared in Tess' eyes. "God, Max, how many times do I have to tell you this? You do not have a destiny with Liz. Anyone with half a brain can tell the two of you only end up hurting each other. Why do you think that is, Max? It's because you're different. Because you don't belong together. Everyone here knows it, Max. They're all just too afraid to be honest with you. Well, I'm not…"

Max took a step forward as his eyes began to shine with inner fire. "You want honest, Tess? Ok, let's get honest. You say you remember feeling me love you. In our past life." Max threw out his arms in a questioning gesture. "How can you be sure it was real? What you felt. How do you know Nasedo didn't do something to you to make you believe in our destiny together? I mean, face it. How well did you really know him if you had no idea how many people he had killed? How far can you trust him if he never told you about our enemies and how to defeat them? Or for that matter, how do you even know it was me you felt loving you? If I loved you so much, wouldn't I remember? On my own? Without you giving me visions?"

"Max, I only did that to…"

"It doesn't matter why or…or even that you did. The principle is the same. I mean think about it. What happened to you the first time you saw me, Tess? I mean really saw me. Not in photos or…or from Nasedo drilling it into your head that I was your destiny."

"Tell me, Tess." The command was gentle but firm. Anger was absent from his eyes. Distrust was gone. Stripped away were any ulterior motives. Max Evans was only seeking the truth. And he was trusting her to give it to him.

Tess swallowed hard and blinked. "I…I don't know what you mean…"

"I mean…" Max continued as and a smile passed over his lips and he began to pace in front of her, his mind clearly drawn to another place and time. "Did you stop dead in your tracks? Did you…did you feel this amazing sense of completeness just…fill up every missing part of your being? When you saw me…did you feel like you were home for the very first time since landing on this planet? Or was every cell in your body…every nerve…tingling with anticipation and restlessness for years until that very first time you touched me?"

His stopped and turned to meet Tess' uncomfortable gaze. "Was it instinctive? Or did you learn it? Was there this…this drive from deep inside of you to know me? To protect me. To trust me. With everything? With who you are…with your heart and soul?"

Max swallowed hard and his gaze moved beyond Tess, beyond the room they were in to a distant past that only he could see. His voice softened with reverence and no one in the room doubted the vision he was seeing in his mind's eye was one beautiful, human girl named Liz Parker. "Were you afraid to take your eyes off of me? Afraid I'd disappear if you blinked. Or did you find yourself rooted to the ground, holding your breath scared to death that I would never look your way. Terrified that I'd walk right past you and you'd never once know what being alive really felt like? Praying for just a moment…just one moment when our eyes would meet and we would know. Without doubt, we would know perfection."

"Can you honestly say that when you looked into my eyes, there was this instant, intense inner knowledge that you were looking at the one person in the universe that would ever make you laugh and sing and dance the way you were made to do? The only one that could ever make your soul spring to life? Your one true soulmate?"

Max's gaze slowly moved to meet Tess' lifeless stare as her gaze bored holes into the floor. "Do you love me, Tess? Me. Not the crown I once had. Not the prestige of possibly being queen one day. Just me. Flesh and blood Max Evans." He held his arms out to the side as if begging her see him. Really see him. The seventeen year old human boy that had once been an alien king. "Because this is who I am. Who I will always be from this point on. Can you honestly say that when you look at me, it is this person that you love?"

"Max…I…I don't…" Tess struggled to find the words when she felt the weight of several stares on her as silence filled the room. "I don't believe in that. What you've described. Soulmates and…and arbitrary connections. All of these…feelings. We can't get caught up in them. They aren't…real."

"They are to me. They are to Liz." Max's voice softened to a plea as he took a step forward, his eyes begging with her to understand. "Don't you see, Tess? You and I are more different than Liz and I will ever be. That's why you and I don't belong together. Ever. And I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I'm sorry about that. Because I'd be saying that I'm sorry that I'm meant to live my life with Liz. That's simply something I won't apologize for. To anyone. For any reason."

"But she's completely human."

"Yes."

Though her words held a hint of mocking, the timbre of her voice was unsure. "Max, that's…that's ludicrous. You were sent here for a greater purpose than to have some pointless love affair. You were sent to rule and to lead and Liz only always gets in the way. She understands that. That's why she walked away from you before. So now, you're telling me after everything she's done to you, all the pain you've gone through these past months because of her, you still believe that she is your destiny. She can never rule with you, Max."

Max shrugged his shoulders. "I don't care about her ruling with me. I just want her to love me. And I just want a chance to love her back."

"But how do you even know you're…compatible." Tess raised an eyebrow to punctuate her meaning. "Physically, I mean."

A half-smile parted his lips as a light of laughter born of secret knowledge danced in his eyes. With all Max had felt, all he'd read, all he'd seen with his own eyes, there was no doubt in his mind that Liz Parker was the only woman he'd ever be truly compatible with. He was born to love her in every way. And loving her was going to be the experience of a lifetime. In fact, it already had been…in a couple of lifetimes, it seemed… "Believe me. We're compatible."

Continuing her list of protests, Tess shook her head to clear away the image of Max and Liz locked together in a loving embrace. He was right. Compatibility was not going to be a problem for them. But other issues were. "Max…she has no powers. She can't help you fight this war. If what you're telling me is true about this future version of you coming back, isn't that the whole reason he did? To warn the two of you that you simply don't belong together?"

Max shook his head slowly. "No. He came back because we need you, Tess. All of us. He came back because I was too stupid to see how wrong I was. I've gotten to know you better over the past few weeks. Something that probably wouldn't have happened if he hadn't come back and if Liz hadn't done what she did. I know things about you now that I didn't before. Like…that you can be trusted to do what is necessary for our people. You do have good in you. And I believe you when you say you were loved back then, Tess. I do." He paused and glanced down before looking back up into her eyes, his voice barely a whisper as he landed a blow that he knew would hurt. "It just wasn't by me. I think you know that…deep in your heart."

Tess' blue eyes began to mist with tears as feelings of rejection and truth washed over her. She drew in a shaky breath and silently walked around Max heading toward the window to contemplate all that he had said. After a moment's silence, she spoke. "You're right. I…didn't feel all those things you said. I…I don't even know if I've ever really felt them on my own. Maybe it all was just…an illusion. Like you said. Maybe Nasedo did something…"

Turning to Max suddenly, Tess shook her head still trying to come to terms with all that he'd said. "But it…it still doesn't fit. You loving a…a human. Belonging with someone so different from us. It goes against everything I have ever been taught, Max. Everything I have ever known leads to one thing…we do not mix with humans. They are our weakness. Liz wasn't sent here as your mate, Max. I was. What you feel…what you want us to do, it just doesn't make sense."

"No. It doesn't. And that's the very reason I believe." Max reached out and gently put his hands on Tess' arms coaxing her gaze upward. "Is a miracle really a miracle if it can be explained away? Haven't you ever wanted to just experience the magic without questioning how or why?" Tess looked away, unnerved by the strength of Max's words…the love shining in his eyes for a girl that was clearly meshed deep in his soul. "To feel the spectacular? To hold the intangible? Tess…" Max gently lifted her chin till she was looking in his eyes then dropped his hands to his side. "…that's what I get to do…every time I take Liz's hand."

Tess swallowed hard as her gaze faltered once more and tears began to fill her eyes. She attempted to blink them away before anyone saw, but failed. Max did see and a silent thrill ran through him. He knew he'd finally gotten through to her. Once and for all. He knew one more tiny push and the fear of Tess leaving Roswell because of his love for another would finally be put to rest. "Tess…please. Help us now. Help us save Liz…destroy Nicholas. We can teach you, Tess. We can show you what it's like to be loved…to be part of a family." Max glanced around the room at Isabel, Michael, Maria, Alex and finally Kyle. "To be part…of this family. Because, whether humans or aliens, without each other, we're nothing."

An unexpected sniffle broke the silence of the room as Tess' uncertain gaze moved from face to face. Blinking back tears, her eyes slowly began to fill with hope when she saw the open expressions on even the hardest of members' faces. Her gaze locked with Isabel's and she saw Isabel glance at Max then back to her again as a slow smile began to turn her lips upward. For the first time, Tess felt she really had a chance to be accepted in this group of theirs. By choice, not by duty. Not as a mate, but as a friend. "R-really?"

Isabel nodded slowly then took a step forward. "Really."

Maria swallowed her pride and stepped forward with a nod. "Yeah. Me too."

The guys immediately closed ranks as Michael slid in next to Maria and wrapped an arm around her shoulder with an accepting nod in Tess' direction. Alex flashed Tess a smile and Kyle completed the circle as a brief smile lightened his expression when Tess and he locked eyes. Being the last member of the group and still feeling responsible for their current situation, Kyle looked away uncomfortably until he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Max looking at him, compassion and empathy shining out of his dark eyes. "Don't worry. She's better than good right now. This is the way things were meant to be. Us working this out so we can face him as one unit." A half chuckle escaped Max as he shook his head in awe. "Besides, Liz actually has Nicholas scared right now."

Kyle's eyes widened in surprise at Max's words and the calm manner in which he'd just handled the past ten minutes of conversation. Not to mention the fact his girlfriend was still in the hands of a lunatic alien with powers that were horrifying at best. "I just don't get you, man. Twenty minutes ago you were freaking out and now…" Kyle's speech failed him as he shook his head in disbelief and flung his arms out in a frustrated gesture. "H-how can you be so calm right now when Nicholas has Liz?"

"Because I know we'll win. If we didn't, Liz and I wouldn't have married again. We wouldn't have had a daughter." Max's chest rose and fell as he took a deep breath and exhaled, unable to keep the pride and love from making it to his voice and shimmering all around him like a protective shield. "And most importantly…because she just told me she loved me. Liz Parker just gave me enough courage and strength to destroy a million Nicholases if need be."

Kyle threw his hands up in confusion. "Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Wait. You…you mean…how did you…you actually…"

"Yes, the connection worked. After time travel, glowing bodies and changed photos, is it really so hard to believe?" Max smiled that smile of secret of knowledge again as he clapped Kyle on the shoulder and shrugged. "I've been married to the woman twice that we know of, Kyle. Believe me, you learn a few tricks along the way."

Michael clapped his hands together gaining everyone's immediate attention. "Alright then. Let's gather whatever we might need and get this over with."

"Yeah! I'm just aching to fry some scrawny, little alien..." Isabel stopped her rant when she noticed Tess slowly easing away from her. "Don’t worry. You're not on the hit list." She narrowed her eyes. "Not tonight's anyway."

Tess swallowed hard and glanced at Max who was trying to hide a smile. It didn't work. As Isabel winked, Tess relaxed and they both shared a smile of understanding. Max nodded toward the door. "Alright. Warm and fuzzies are over. Now it really is time for battle. So…" Max shoed the gang through the doorway. "…get marching troops. "

Hanging back a moment as he watched his 'army' head out before him, Max let out a sigh of relief and contentment. Liz was right. She'd told him through their mental connection to work it out before getting to her. She said it was important. That she felt it deep inside. They would need every last ounce of energy and strength the eight of them could muster. After all she'd done for him, the least he could do was honor her request and pour every ounce of himself into remaining focused on building a solid unit.

And he'd done that. For her.

Now it was time to be selfish…

Max took out the ring that he'd firmly placed in his pocket…the one that had made connection with Liz possible. He looked at it and smiled as he felt all the love and hope he'd ever known swell in his heart. "Hang on, angel. I'm coming for you…" With a whisper and a kiss against the smooth pearl surface, a determined, battle-ready Max Evans could have sworn he heard Liz whisper back. "I know…"
~~~~~~~~~~~
A sudden warmth flooded Liz's heart.

She heard Max's voice telling her to hang on and felt an intense burning against her skin. Right above her heart. Right where her precious ring lay nestled in safety against her chest. She couldn't help the smile that drifted over her lips and her mind instantly formed the one truth Liz Parker knew. Had always known even when it didn't seem possible. No matter where she was or what she was doing, Max Evans would always come for her.

And now, she had proof.

A legend. As old as time. As classic as a fairy tale. With a love that neither time or space could destroy. To know…to believe deep in her bones…that she was part of this legend. A legend that linked to her Max Evans for eternity….it gave her the courage of a thousand warriors.

Now that she believed it.

She had to admit, when she first read the words, she hadn't. Believed, that is. How could she? It was admittedly written as the folklore of a people she didn't thoroughly understand. Read in a moment that was testing her faith and belief in love to the ultimate limits. Every logical bone in her body screamed out to her to dismiss it as nothing more than a fable made up to entertain generations of youngsters as they sat around the fire at night.

But her soul had different ideas. Something deep inside her beckoned the words to seep into all the cracks of her breaking heart. To fill up all the dry layers of hope that had begun to flake and crumble away. To soothe the ragged edges that were ripping her insides to shreds and causing tears to course down her face.

The momentary respite of Nicholas' constant pacing before her gave Liz the much needed time to review all that she'd learned that afternoon. She had left the school with despair squeezing the life out of her heart like a vise. Tears were hanging precariously on her lashes and she blindly strolled down the street not sure where she was going and not really caring.

It wasn't until she found herself standing in front of her grandmother's grave that conscious thought actually made its way into her mind. As she slipped to her knees by the gold, gray headstone Liz's voice shook and cracked with emotion. "Gradma…I wish…I wish you were here. So we could talk, you know? Have one of…one of our long talks about…about love and…and life and…" A sob escaped her as she buried her face in her hands. "Things with Max…they've gotten even more complicated…than I ever dreamed…"

A voice from behind her whispered a pronouncement that was both curse and blessing rolled into one. "And to think, Liz Parker, you haven't even dreamed the half of it…"

tbc…


posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:07:20 PM
~ Part O ~


His knees were shaking. When was the last time *that* had happened? Now his heart was pounding rapidly. He couldn't swallow. And…were those actually beads of sweat appearing on his forehead?

And all because of a human? And a girl, at that. What was *that* about?

Nicholas' fierce pacing increased as his mind whirled with stories from the past. Stories of Zan, restless and wistful, pacing the jeweled halls of his palace. His thoughts light years away capturing the heart of some phantom princess instead of grasping the dull, yet pertinent information necessary for becoming the next king of Antar.

He had always been a dreamer. Zan, the idealist. Zan, the visionary. Nicholas would have been tempted to chuckle if panic hadn't been ruling him at the moment. Zan, the foolish. Always led by his heart instead of his head. Actually believing he could make a better world instead of just ruling with an iron fist like he was born to do. His views were disgustingly compassionate. Wrought with heart-felt plans of equality and justice. As if those concepts have any place in a government. Puhleese.

But Zan believed them. Every single last one. The will of the people. The goodness of the citizenry. The rights of individuals. Absurd. But they were his goals.

As was finding his…'other half'. Not just his 'soulmate'. No, Zan didn't believe he had a soulmate. Zan believed he had a…'twin soul'. A being out there somewhere in the vast emptiness of space that was literally one half of him. Half of his heart. His mind. His soul. His body. His spirit.

Why look in the vastly spacious universe instead of the boundaries of his own planet? Because like one of the insipid fairy tales that human children are so enthralled with, this particular prince was searching for a love….that didn't exist. Every princess paraded before him…every peasant girl that crossed his path…had been inspected and discarded as not being 'The One'.

How could they be? 'The One' simply didn't exist. Something like that wasn't even possible. That one soul could actually be split in two and given to two entirely different beings? In two entirely different worlds?

Well…that was…ludicrous.

That those two beings would search through time and space to actually find a moment of peace and happiness together. That they would feel so incomplete and unbalanced without the other's presence that they would willingly wait for an eternity just to look into each other's eyes. That they would defy the laws of nature and physics just to hold a hand. The rules of order and decorum for just one kiss. And rage against the unbending principles of life and death for just one chance to breathe the same air…

Well, I guess that *could* be considered a bit of a twist in the usually boring fairy tale.

Especially if it were true.

Nicholas swallowed hard. Then he swallowed again. Because he knew this rumored story like the back of his hand. The one that Khivar dismissed as fiction so that the people would not believe and rebel. The same one that made him shake in his boots when Nicholas first told him about seeing Liz's image in Max's head. The one that sent his own shiver of fear racing through Nicholas when he saw the inner glow surrounding a captured girl that held the heart of his worst enemy.

It was a rumor based on the barest of facts, actually. A story promoted years ago by his king, Khivar, to legitimize the murder of King Zan and his family. Or so Nicholas thought. After so many years, it was one easily dismissed as wishful thinking by the masses and a lie by the leadership. Now in power, Khivar couldn't risk the chance his race would find out that he did not hold the ultimate power of Antar in his greedy hands.

Or it was an old wives' tale…a peasant's fable that grew from scattered dreams. A legend of a bond so deep and a love so eternal that it would one day rise from the ashes of death and prove to be the salvation of them all. It was a laughable tale. Only now that Nicholas had seen, he believed.

And it rocked the ground under his feet.

The planet had been in an uproar. Resources were slowly slipping away and the King knew he was passing on to his son the legacy of a dying planet. That was when Zan approached his father. Young, enthusiastic and still unencumbered by a kingly crown he suggested leading an expedition to other worlds to find the resources their beloved Antar required for survival.

After much debate, permission was finally granted and Zan chose his team of experts to accompany him. Their travels would take them to many realms. Mostly unexplored. Some inhabited. Some were not. The goal was compatibility. Research. Exploration. Colonization, if need be. The final destination: Planet Earth.

And after extensive travel, that seemed to be where Prince Zan hit the jackpot. The atmosphere was similar to Antar's. Resources were bountiful and useful. The human species not all that different from their own. And…it's where Zan found the one thing for which he'd searched every planet in the universe.

His twin soul.

And all was right…in both worlds…for a time. Until the unexpected death of Zan's father required his immediate return to Antar. Tears were shed, pleas were made and promises whispered for a reunion with his love, but he ultimately gave in to the duty that called him home.

It was then that all hell broke loose. Encouraged by the lack of a viable figurehead between the time of the King's death and Zan's return, Khivar and his followers took full advantage of the political situation to turn the tide of approval in their favor. Zan barely reached home in time to seize the tenuous crown and stabilize an agitated people.

But only for a time.

Khivar had learned a secret. And from that secret he formed a plan. And that plan included the marriage of his sister, Ava, to the current King of Antar. Which was precisely what Khivar needed to blow Zan's secret out of the water and tip the scales of power in Khivar's favor.

Khivar had learned that Zan had not only taken the source of Antar's power with him on his expedition, but that he left it. Somewhere. With no explanation. And no authority. Not only did he leave it, he also passed on the secrets of its power to someone. Somewhere. In the vast universe…the key to Antar's existence rested in the hands of…an unknown being.

An unknown being that would be recognized by one thing and one thing only…the secret seal of Zan.

A seal that was now shining brightly from Liz Parker's forehead…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The momentary respite of Nicholas' constant pacing before her gave Liz the much needed time to review all that she'd learned that afternoon. She had left the school with despair squeezing the life out of her heart like a vise. Tears were hanging precariously on her lashes and she blindly strolled down the street not sure where she was going and not really caring.

It wasn't until she found herself standing in front of her grandmother's grave that conscious thought actually made its way into her mind. As she slipped to her knees by the gold, gray headstone Liz's voice shook and cracked with emotion. "Gradma…I wish…I wish you were here. So we could talk, you know? Have one of…one of our long talks about…about love and…and life and…" A sob escaped her as she buried her face in her hands. "Things with Max…they've gotten even more complicated…than I ever dreamed…"

A voice from behind her whispered a pronouncement that was both curse and blessing rolled into one. "And to think, Liz Parker, you haven't even dreamed the half of it…"

A deep, soothing voice behind Liz caused her to jump and whirl around. "E-Eddie? What…what are you doing here?" Liz swallowed the lump of fear that had risen in her throat.

"Come. We need to talk."

She stared after him as he began to back away from her with no further explanation. Not particularly feeling all that generous, Liz shook her head in disbelief. "What? Just like that? You expect me to just follow you just because you say?" Liz stood up and brushed the tears away from her eyes. "I don't think so. See, last time I followed you, you ended up leaving Max and me alone to fend for ourselves. I want to know what this is all about and then I'll decide if its worth my time or not."

Eddie quirked an eyebrow at her. "You've gotten bolder. Stronger. That is good. It is as it should be. As you were before. River Dog was right. It is time for you to know."

"River Dog?" Liz eyed Eddie warily. "To…to know what?"

"The legend of your destiny. Yours and Max's…"

"No." Liz took a step back and began to shake her head. "No, I…I don't want to hear this. I don't want to hear whatever you think you know…"

"But…"

"NO!" Liz's dark hair bounced around her shoulders as she shook her head emphatically. "The last time I…I believed. The last time…" She pointed her finger at Eddie as in accusation as if he had been the last person to foretell her future. "… the last time I listened to someone telling me Max and I were meant to be, something…happened…" Liz's dark eyes began to shine with fresh tears. "Something that…that ripped everything apart forever. I will not believe again. No. I won't do it."

Eddie's smile was kind…indulgent…as he took a few steps forward till he was standing eye to eye with Liz. With a light twinkle in his eyes, his gaze dropped and he unexpectedly reached out to grab the ring hanging on Liz's necklace in his hand. He held it up to her eyes and looked back at her with meaning. "You still believe, Liz Parker. If you didn't, you wouldn't be holding this so close to your heart."

Liz ripped the ring from Eddie's grasp and shot him a disgruntled look of defiance. "You've got 20 minutes, pal. Make it good."

Tbc…

posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:08:34 PM
~ part P ~

Twenty minutes later Liz sat on her bed cross-legged, staring wide-eyed at Eddie who was perched on her window ledge waiting patiently for her to speak. She let out a shaky breath and ran her fingers through her hair as she her mind tried to grasp all that she'd heard and seen. Licking her lips absently, Liz squared her shoulders and let out a deep breath. "Wow. When you said I hadn't dreamed that half of it, you weren't kidding were you?"

She quickly swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat allowing her mind to really function for the first time since hearing Eddie's tale. Ever the scientist, Liz took comfort in the facts of this bizarre story instead of dwelling on the shock that threatened to freeze the blood in her veins. "Ok. So what you're telling me is that in this former life I’m supposed to have lived, I was a Native American daughter of your tribe…"

"You were the daughter of the tribe. The chief's daughter. A princess, if you will."

"Right. Princess." Don't tell Maria that one…she'll never let you live it down. Liz raised an eyebrow and continued as her mind was racing to keep up with all of the information. "So, as this princess…there was some kind of ritual performed before I died that would keep my spirit in this sort of limbo until…"

"Until the spirit of Zan came back to Earth looking for you. Correct."

“And we know this because….”

“Because of the book you hold in your hands.” A proud light danced in Eddie's eyes. "Since the time you lived, there has always been one member of our tribe chosen from each generation to carry these secrets with them. The secrets of your death and rebirth. The sacred ritual to call you back to life is in that book and those who have held the knowledge are called Keepers.” Eddie’s voice grew wistful as his eyes took on a shine of remembrance. “My mother was the last. She lost her life trying to protect all that she knew."

"Oh, Eddie…I'm so sorry."

Eddie shrugged away Liz’s apology as his gaze returned to her remorse-filled face. "It is a risk we Keepers take. One life traded for the salvation of two planets…it is a small price to pay."

Silence filled the room as Liz contemplated Eddie's words. That people would risk their lives to save and protect her…people who knew only her name as it had been in the past…it was overwhelming. Until she realized she'd been willing to do the same for Max. And he for her. Before they even really knew each other, they had instinctively known to protect the other. That's what had led to their romance in the first place…that intense need to defend regardless of personal harm or sacrifice.

Maybe she understood it much more than she ever dreamed. "Yeah…I…I see what you mean.” She cleared her throat and pushed the hair back from her face, trying to pull her thoughts back to all the questions running through her mind. “Ok. So, let me get this straight. When Max…I mean, this Zan person that Max used to be…when he first came to Earth and we met we…we…"

"Formed a powerful union." Eddie supplied when Liz's words seemed to fail her. "In fact, after your first bonding ceremony it was so powerful that you were elevated to the level of a great spirit." Seeing the confusion flash in Liz's eyes, Eddie clarified.
"A…a kind of goddess. Th e goddess of the whirlwind."

"A goddess." Nope. Not telling that one either. Alex would have a field day with that one… She cleared her throat. "The…the whirlwind?" Liz shrugged her shoulders and held her hands out in a questioning gesture. "What does that mean?"

"You and you alone had the power to stir up the wind."

"The wind." Liz repeated as she blinked rapidly in an outward effort to clear her inner thoughts as an eyebrow of doubt rose. "As in the…actual…wind."

Eddie tried to hide his smile at her repeated responses and pointed to a weathered book that was lying open in front of Liz. "According to that…yes. But for some reason I have always thought there was more to it than just the actual wind they were talking about."

"What else do you think it could mean?"

“Who knows? It could mean something you and Zan were working on together. Or maybe a result of his ship leaving.” Eddie shrugged. "I really have no idea, Liz. That's apparently one of the things kept secret between you and Zan."

"You're probably going to say that a lot, aren't you?" Liz swallowed hard at the nod of Eddie's head and let out a sigh. Great. Just what I need. More questions without answers. Deciding to focus on what she did know, Liz continued. "Ok. So all of this was because Max…I mean Zan and I…"

"Began the bonding ritual." Eddie finished for her with a nod of his head. "In the past. Yes."

"O." Liz ran her shaking fingers through her hair. "K. So, we got married…"

“Yes and no.” Sensing her increasing agitation, Eddie hastened to divert her attention to something she would understand. Like the love she shared with Max Evans. "It certainly wasn’t the most conventional of relationships. Just like yours with Max is now." Seeing the expression in her eyes soften at the mention of Max's name, Eddie continued. "It was actually much more than just marriage, Liz. The two of you…your spirits…were sealed…bonded together. For eternity. Inseparable."

After a moment's hesitation and thought, Liz tapped the ancient weathered journal at her feet with her finger. "But according to this we did separate."

"Yes. Physically. When Max was unexpectedly called back to his planet." Eddie took a deep breath. "That's what began the legend."

"The legend of this Timeless Land you mentioned. This place Max and I created here on Earth before he took off, leaving me here to wait for him for like a century or so before we died together…but not together…" Liz waited for the nod of Eddie's head before she let out a frustrated growl and fell backward on her bed. "God, this is so confusing."

She heard him chuckle and immediately propped herself up on her elbows to look at him. "This isn't funny. You're trying to tell me that I'm actually old enough to be my grandmother's great-grandmother." Her brows furrowed in question. "Or would that be her great-great-great grandmother?"

Eddie cast her a sympathetic smile. "If it makes you feel any better, Max is just as old as you are and neither of you look the worse for wear." He chuckled at the indignant glare Liz sent him before rolling her eyes. "I must say you're taking the news a lot better than I expected. Not many people would believe even a fourth of what I've told you." Eddie chuckled. "In fact, there are times I question myself. I mean, did all of it really happen? Is there really a place where time doesn't exist? Did you really live there for over a century waiting for Zan to come back to you only to feel him dying one day? And the Keeping ritual that was performed before your life slipped away so the two of you could meet again one day. It all does sound a bit…loony."

"What can I say?" Liz shrugged and admitted a truth that she instinctively knew would never go away. "I'm in love with an alien." She waved her hand at the sacred book. "For quite a while now, if what you're saying is true. After everything I've seen and felt over the past year alone, I think I'm finally beginning to understand that 'weird' or ‘loony’ to other people is just plain normal for me."

Eddie smiled understandingly before he rubbed his hands together and stood as he nodded his head toward the book on Liz's bed. "Alright then. Do we need to start from the top with more details?"

Liz let out a loud, weary sigh. "Yes, please."

"Ok. Here goes…" Eddie sat on the edge of the bed and turned to beginning of the ancient text. "Read this first part…"

Liz looked up at Eddie sharply. "I can't read that, Eddie. It's in a different language."

A secret smile played on Eddie's lips. "Close your eyes, clear your mind, then open yourself up to knowing your past…"

A skeptical Liz held his gaze for a moment before rolling her eyes in concession and taking a deep breath. Another deep breath was simultaneous with the closing of her eyes as silence settled over the room. As Liz cleared her mind, she felt Eddie's hand cover her own and with it a comforting presence fill her. A few softly chanted words echoed in the room and a Liz felt a sudden warmth of familiarity…a light of knowledge settling over her. As Eddie pulled his hand away and ceased his chanting a few moments later, Liz's large dark eyes slowly opened to focus on the words in front of her and her voice softly echoed a story from long ago...

"Here now is the tale of the union of two worlds. A marriage made between heaven and earth. After the rise of the first moon, the earth and sky prepared the way for the Great One. As lightning struck and thunder rolled, the shaking of the earth brought forth the whirlwind. In its midst flew the Great Spirit of the Sky, choosing the form of his servant the Great Eagle and descending upon his people bringing wisdom and healing."

"The Great Eagle was greeted with open arms and full hearts. The fullest of which belonged to the beloved Red Wolf, great protector of Earth's sacred land. Together, they fulfilled the prophesy of harmony. Love and faith give them wings to soar into the heavens. Hard work and determination are the claws that hold them to the solid rocks of this earth. Hand in hand, a new understanding is realized. Side by side, a shield of protection raised. Standing together in the ring of stars, the firestones lead the way to a land where time and space become nothing. The sky and land bring peace to each other and knowledge of the unknown to all of mankind…"

Liz's eyes snapped up to meet Eddie's as realization hit her that she’s just translated at least two pages of ancient, unknown text. "H-how did I…"

"I shared with you enough energy and direction to access hidden memories."

Liz swallowed hard. "But…but how…"

"It's a trick we Keepers are taught. Completely harmless and I didn't even really help you that much. You were already open." Eddie nodded toward the book. "So, what do you think?"

A slow steady gaze dropped back to the book as Liz's fingers gingerly touched the pages, reverently. "It's…it's a beautiful story, Eddie. But…what does it all mean? And how can you be so sure that this is about…us. I mean, Max and me?"

Turning the book so they could both see and pointing to the beginning pictures crudely drawn so many years ago, he took a deep breath and began. "This here…this eagle represents Max…or Zan…when he first came from his planet. The whirlwind, lightning…all of that is the affects of his ship landing. Actually, falling to earth as he did with such power and grace, he was considered our own personal link to the Great Spirit of the Sky. Hence, the Great Eagle reference. He was forever charged with trying to maintain the proper balance and link between heaven and earth."

"He was strong, Liz. Very powerful, with good intuitions about people and things. He was quick to learn and even brokered a peace between two rivaling tribes while he was here. He was very much a visionary with only the best of ideals. In fact, some even viewed him as the Great Spirit god himself. Especially after some of the miracles he performed with his powers."

"Great. Just what he needs. First a king…now a god." Liz glanced up at Eddie with a sheepish grin as she scrunched up her nose. "Can we…keep this part from him? I'm afraid of what will happen to that human male ego of his if he ever finds out."

Eddie chuckled and nodded. "You've got it, Oh Great One."

Liz's smile instantly fell away. "Right. Great One. How…exactly…did we get that part again?"

"This…" Eddie pointed to a drawing of a wolf looking up into the sky howling at the full moon above. "…is how. This is you. The great red wolf mentioned in the story. Loyal to family, brave, strong. The one that stabilizes and finds solutions to problems as they arise…protecting the earth wherever you roamed. Your name then was Chenoa Aquene. The white dove of peace. You were the chosen one of our people. The one they revered as being their salvation in regards to tribal interaction."

"Zan had a problem and he came to this world in search of solutions...in search of peace. Not only was their planet dying a slow death, but they sat on the brink of a civil war that would rip more than just his world apart. So, while his father still sat on the throne, Zan led an expedition to search for other worlds that were compatible with his. To search for knowledge. To run experiments. To colonize, if need be."

Liz's dark brown eyes clouded with disappointment as her gaze faltered. "So…you're saying this marriage-bonding thing of ours…that I was just an experiment to him."

Eddie covered Liz's hand with his to get her attention and shook his head once he had it. "You were his only love. Never doubt that. Never question. If you had only been an experiment we wouldn't be sitting here right now discussing this at all. You would have lived the normal life span of a human and been placed long ago in the Burial Ground of the Ancients. As it is, what is left of your physical body was hidden away in a sacred place where only few have ever been. Because of his love, your spirit still lives on, Liz. In a new body, but just as vibrant and beautiful as ever. With the same hopes and desires. The same purpose."

"And…and what would that purpose be?"

Eddie smiled softly. "To love and live for him. To save him, Liz. He gave you all the secrets of his world. Taught you the ways of his people. Trained you in battle against his enemies. He literally made you the key to his existence. A future king does not place his life and the lives of his people in the hands of a mere experiment."

Blinking back a light film of tears, Liz nodded as the full import of Eddie's words seeped into her heart warming her from the inside out. That Max Evans had loved her long before there was a Liz Parker to love was…astounding. Amazing. It was nothing short of a miracle. Nothing short of Max.

Liz slowly moved her focus back to the sacred book. "So, what, um…what happened to us exactly?"

"What do you think?" Eddie's smile broadened. "You fell in love. It didn't take long, by the way. He was immediately awed by your reputed beauty and wisdom and you were dazzled with his shows of strength and equally by his compassion. It wasn't long before you…"

"Married."

"Bonded." Eddie corrected as his voice lowered with seriousness. "Liz, you have to understand this. You have to let it permeate your thinking. To embrace it with your spirit. Or all will be lost."

Fear raced through Liz's eyes. "What…what are you talking about?"

"He placed his seal on you." Eddie spoke the words as if they would magically explain everything.

They didn't.

"His seal." Liz repeated with a slight shake of her head. "I…I don't know what you mean."

Shifting in his seat, fire of excitement began flashing in Eddie's dark eyes. This was the moment he'd been born to carry out. The mission he'd been sent on. The teaching he'd believed in all his life as the son of a Keeper. "The choice Zan made to be with Chenoa Aquene didn't just link them for the span of a lifetime. It mated them forever. In the ways of his people, when you chose to bond with Zan, you took on a part of his identity…as he did yours. Liz, it linked your spirits and souls…the essence of who you are…together for all time. Past boundaries of space. Beyond life cycles. Beyond any known or even unknown dimensions. It was a choice that cannot be broken. And will result in eternal unrest if the union is not completed and fulfilled. All so you can save his people…"

"No." Liz shook her head stubbornly as the import of Eddie's words sent a ripple of unsurpassed terror through her. "No. I…I…" She quickly scrambled off the bed and began pacing in front of Eddie, her head bent and emotion cracking her voice. "See I knew this was going to happen. That you’d…you’d tell me something that’s just going to end in more pain. Well, you're not…you're not going to do this to me. You're not going to put this on my shoulders. The fate of a world. The fate of their lives." Liz abruptly stopped her pacing and whirled to face Eddie, her hands clenched at her side, her eyes swimming with tears and her voice as small as a little girl's. "I'm not strong enough to do this again, Eddie. I…can't sacrifice anything else. I have…nothing left…to give."

Eddie sent Liz a compassionate smile. "You're so wrong, Liz. You have everything to give. And it's a privilege not a burden. An honor not a duty. You are the key to unlocking the secrets of his past. Just like a person can never truly understand light until they have faced utter darkness, Zan will never be completely open to all of his powers without the light of your wisdom. And you will never reach your full potential without his touch."

Liz persisted, unable to shake the awesome onus of responsibility…the sudden sense of insecurity and panic that rose from deep within her questioning her ability to meet the challenge being placed at her feet. "But what if I don't want this? What if what they did all those years ago is not what I choose to do now? Are you trying to tell me that I'm…I'm forever locked in this…this cycle of loving Max but never being with him? Of being responsible for…for the fate of a world?"

Whirling from him, Liz's head bent in agitated contemplation and her fingers raked through the thick locks of her hair pushing it back behind her shoulders before locking around the back of her neck. "It's…it's not fair. None of this is fair. To…to pull this eternally bound but forever but separate thing…to keep us tied together when we can never really be…its just not…how could they do this to us?"

"They would never be so cruel, Liz." Eddie stood and came up behind Liz turning her gently toward him and taking her lightly by the shoulders. "Look at me, Liz." A tiny tear slipped out of the corner of Liz's dark brown, doe-eyes as her gaze raised to meet his. "They provided a way to change the course of destiny. After all, they…you…both believed that we each choose our own paths."

Liz's sniffled back more tears that threatened to fall. "W-what?"

Eddie led Liz to her window seat and sat her down before beginning to explain. "Just because a particular path of destiny was chosen in one life does not mean it automatically transfers to the next. Things change. They were wise enough to understand that. You have to choose the path given to you again for it to be real."

The wheels in Liz's mind began to turn and Eddie waited patiently for the questions visibly forming in her mind were finally asked. "But…but I don't understand. If you say that Max and I were mated for eternity…that the unfulfilled union will result in eternal unrest…how can there be any choice?"

Sliding back down onto the edge of the bed, Eddie leaned his elbows on his knees and began to explain in earnest. "It is true. Zan's seal is on you. That is permanent. There is no going back on that. He made it that way. But what you have to understand is that it is not only a seal of possession but of empowerment. That was the focus of his action."

"Together, the two of you are empowered to access the secrets of survival. It is only together that you will live and allow others to live as well. It was…in a way…a marriage between heaven and earth, as the story says. A union to save two worlds and to protect the secrets he brought with him."

Eddie took a deep breath as he approached the subject nearest to the heart of a 17 year-old girl who was head over heels in love. "As for loving…being together…building a life…you have to understand that at the time, there was so much uncertainty. So much neither of you knew about the state of his planet…the length of time he'd be gone. He loved you too much to tie you to a love that may never be. So you never completed the union. Mind, soul, spirit…they are all cemented together. But…not body..."

Liz swallowed as she felt heat rush to her cheeks. Knowing the answer, Liz asked the obvious. "Meaning what?"

"Meaning…you never made love. You were not…compatible. You were physically…"

"Different." Liz finished for Eddie as she blinked away her tears. "So how did they plan on…"

Eddie shook his head. "I don't know, Liz. That's another secret locked deep inside of you."

A rueful laugh escaped Liz as she stood and crossed her arms in front of her, defiance shooting out of her eyes. Her heart screamed out to her to believe. But her mind…her mind still wanted answers. Answers she wasn't getting. Answers she instinctively knew would require her all to uncover. She wasn't ready for this. She wasn't strong enough. She wasn't prepared to do this…alone.

And alone was exactly how she felt now...

The denying tilt of her chin and her upraised eyebrow sent a wave of admiration through Eddie. She had what it would take to pull this off. Her inner strength was shining as brightly from her eyes as the unquenchable hope she was trying to deny. "Locked deep inside of me, huh? So, tell me, Eddie. How can I really be sure that what you're telling me…that all this stuff about this…this legend is really true? That it’s really Max and me that you’re talking about? I mean, come on…there are a couple of other hybrids out there who are in love with humans. Michael and Maria for instance. How can you be so sure it isn’t them?"

“It’s not them. And you know it.” Eddie smiled indulgently. "And you know, because somewhere inside of you all of this makes sense. Because the idea of my mother, the Keeper who passed these secrets on to me, being murdered for them is completely believable. Because if you took the time to read your grandmother's book and journals, you would see the same exact tale only in her words." He leaned forward and locked dark eyes with Liz. "And most of all…because you feel it…deep down in your gut. You and Max aren't just in love, Liz. You aren't just soulmates. You are two halves of one soul. You simply can't not know that."

Liz dropped her head in defeat and let out an exaggerated sigh before pushing her hair back from her face and glancing back up at Eddie. A knowing smile turned the corner of her lips upward. "You're right." She eased herself back down onto the window seat and pulled her knees up to her chest wrapping her arms around them. "I've known all along that something connected us. Something…long before he saved my life. It drew me to him, Eddie. Every time we passed in the hall at school or…or every time our eyes met…I felt…balanced. Complete." A reflective smile danced over her lips as her eyes began to shine. "Do you know I remember the first time I ever saw him? It was in 1st grade and I was on the playground playing…" She chuckled and waved her hand in the air. "…oh, I don't know…some silly girls' game."

Eddie smiled to himself as he watched Liz's eyes close in bliss when her memories carried her to another time. "All of a sudden, I felt my skin tingle. My blood roared through my veins. The cells in my body just…came to life. I…I felt the weight of a stare and I looked up…" Liz's voice lowered to a whisper as if she were treading on sacred ground. "….there he was. Just…looking at me with this look of…"

"Recognition." Eddie supplied the word softly and Liz's eyes slowly opened to meet his gaze.

A slightly daze nod of her head and a bright smile were Eddie's reward. "Yeah. Recognition." She looked down at the book lying on her bed next to Eddie. "I guess I know why now."

"Yes, you do."

"But Eddie…" Liz sucked her bottom lip in and began to bit it nervously as her eyes filled with unshed tears. "How can I ever hope to be what he needs? You have no idea what's been going on. We've finally faced some of their enemies and…and they're powerful. And…and there's this other girl…" Liz took a deep breath and blinked rapidly. "Her name is Tess and she's like Max…you know a hybrid."

"And she's supposed to be Max's mate from his planet. And he says he doesn't love her and he says he wants to be with me and…and just when I was ready to give in…everything changed. I found out that Max needs her to survive. Her powers are important to him. He needs her to save lives and…and…" She threw her hands up in the air. "…I'm only human, Eddie. I…I don't have what he needs to fight. I don't have any of their powers. I'm only in the way…he spends more time worrying about me than focusing on what he should be…his role as leader. I just had to give him up so they could be together and…"

"Liz, stop, ok?' Eddie held up his hands to stop Liz's sudden tumble of words. "He may need her to survive, Liz, but it is you that will cause him to win." Eddie moved to kneel reverently in front of her, placing the book in her hands, his eyes shining with faith. "You give him hope. You inspire him. You're the one he'll fight for, Liz. When everything is falling down around him, you'll be the one thing that keeps him standing. He has broken the rules of time and space and even death to be with you. It is you that makes him indestructible by giving him the two strongest weapons a warrior…a leader could ever want. Love…and you believe in him."

Liz nodded slowly. "I do. I do love him…so much. And I believe in him…more than I believe in myself at times."

Eddie stood and held out his hand to Liz. "Maybe…you should go tell him."

A bright smile lit Liz's face as she took Eddie's hand and he pulled her up. "Thank you, Eddie. For telling me about this. For…"

"Hold your thanks, Liz. We're not through yet. There's still so much to explain. But it can all wait." Eddie glanced toward the door. "For now, you've got a love-sick alien king to find and make up with."

Liz's giggle filled the room suddenly as she threw her arms around Eddie for an impromptu hug. "Thank you so much!" She quickly slipped toward the door then stopped suddenly and turned back to face Eddie as he stood silently regarding her. "Just for personal knowledge…what does happen when…if…Max and I ever, um…" Liz felt her cheeks getting warm from embarrassment. "…you know…

"Completed the bonding ritual?" Eddie asked trying to keep his grin in check.

Liz bit her bottom lip as her gaze faltered shyly.

Eddie shrugged. "Guess there's only one way to find out. So…”

“Right.” Liz’s coy smile lit her face as she glanced back up at him and nodded, her dark eyes dancing with sudden mischief, showing yet one more layer of Liz Parker that the world would rarely see. In fact, Eddie had a strong suspicion Max Evans was the only one who had ever seen that particular light in Liz’s eyes. “You know…I always did enjoy experimenting…”

“Just go…” Eddie chuckled as she bounced out the room and was instantly filled with a sense of accomplishment as he heard the lightness of her steps when she skipped down the stairs in search of her other half.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Liz’s step never faltered as she rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and sped out of the Crashdown’s back door into the alley. The smile on her face threatened to become a permanent fixture as the hope springing new in her heart permeated her entire being.

She belonged to Max Evans. Max Evans belonged to her. Nothing could stop them now. It was…a dream come true….

A dream with pretty nasty side effects, it seemed. And they all came in the puny form of one pesky Skin named Nicholas. Liz barely had time to recognize his voice when he jumped out from behind had and grabbed her sliding a cloth over her nose and mouth. As she struggled against the sudden wave of dizziness that hit her, Liz heard the voice whisper in her ear. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t little Ms. Lizzie Parker. Max Evans’ little princess. Time for you to reprise the role of Sleeping Beauty, I do believe…”

Tbc…


posted on 3-Nov-2001 11:09:31 PM
~ Part Q ~

"Can't you make this thing go any faster?" Isabel shouted to Max over the sound of the wind whipping through the open jeep.

"He's already doing a hundred, Iz! What more do you want?" Maria screamed back at her as Isabel's hair blew back and hit her in the face.

Isabel spun to face Maria, Michael and Tess in the back seat and Alex and Kyle crouched low behind them. "I…I don't know. I just have a really, really bad feeling about this. Like something's already happening before its time…"

"Something is happening!" Max yelled in response as his foot jammed the pedal to the floor as he glanced down at the clock on the dashboard. "Dammit! We're supposed to still have ten minutes…"

"I feel it too." Tess added. "I don't think its Nicholas. It's some other kind of power…"

"Yeah. She's right. This isn't normal alien stuff." Michael stated worriedly. Maria's hand gripped more tightly to his. "It's not here yet. Not…completely. But its coming. And its bad."

Kyle and Alex exchanged glances. "How come we can't feel it?" Kyle asked suddenly.

"Because you're not Czechoslovakian, that's why." Maria responded with a 'duh' look on her face. She leaned forward, her face between Max and Isabel. "So, what are we gonna do to get there in time?"

Max, Michael and Isabel exchanged glances. With a slight nod of Max's head, Michael and Isabel put their hands on top of each other and held them out in the direction of the speedometer. "Hang on, guys!" Michael tossed a warning behind him before concentrating with all his might. Michael and Isabel's combined power exploded with a bright white light.

Shrieks of fear and glee filled the desert air as the jeep instantly shot off like a rocket into more danger than any of them ever dreamed…
~~~~~~~~~~~
Liz’s step never faltered as she rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs and sped out of the Crashdown’s back door into the alley. The smile on her face threatened to become a permanent fixture as the hope springing new in her heart permeated her entire being.

She belonged to Max Evans. Max Evans belonged to her. Nothing could stop them now. It was…a dream come true….

A dream with pretty nasty side effects, it seemed. And they all came in the puny form of one pesky Skin named Nicholas. Liz barely had time to recognize his voice when he jumped out from behind had and grabbed her sliding a cloth over her nose and mouth. As she struggled against the sudden wave of dizziness that hit her, Liz heard the voice whisper in her ear. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t little Ms. Lizzie Parker. Max Evans’ little princess. Time for you to reprise the role of Sleeping Beauty, I do believe…”


That’s how she’d come to be here. In this factory. With hands tied to a post behind her and Nicholas pacing before her. Surprisingly, her predicament hadn’t dampened her hope. In fact, as she sat there watching Max’s enemy contemplate her fate, a sense of unshakeable resolve and peace stole over her. It was almost as if another presence filled her from the inside out.

That’s when she heard it. His voice. Loving and gentle. Telling her to hold on. And that’s when she felt it. The warmth of his love flowing through her. Giving her strength. Making her bold. Cloaking her in fearlessness.

Then she saw the glow. The soft shimmer of light that surrounded her. And the shudder of fear that raced through Nicholas’ eyes before spilling throughout his whole body. His command was almost comical. “Stop that.”

Liz cocked an eyebrow at Nicholas’s absurd command.

He whirled completely to face her. “I said stop that!”

“Stop what?” Liz’s first words since begging Max not to fall for Nicholas’ trap were innocently stated.

“That…that…” Nicholas pointed haphazardly to Liz’s glowing body. “…that…glowing thingy.”

Liz chuckled. “Thingy? Did they not teach you proper English there on that little planet of yours?”

“Why you little…” Nicholas took a menacing step forward and raised his hand to hit Liz when the glowing suddenly stopped. He swallowed hard. “How…how did you…”

“Oh, my.” Liz’s brow raised even higher. “Are you sure you don’t want to sit down? You’re looking a bit flustered there…”

“Shut up.”

“Suit yourself.” Liz shrugged her shoulders and sat up a bit straighter. “It still won’t change anything.”

Nicholas swallowed hard. “And just what do you mean by that?”

“I mean….” Liz smiled smugly as she locked eyes with Nicholas. “…you just pissed off the wrong king. And now…” Her smile widened. “…you’re going to die…”

There was laughter in her eyes. Not merriment or amusement, but mocking laughter born of confidence. A haughty flicker, the direct result of firm conviction and secret knowledge.

Secret knowledge was exactly what Liz Parker had. In those few brief moments of heat that radiated through her body and light glowing around her, Liz has experienced something she’d never known before. She heard a whisper. A voice she recognized and loved from a distant past speaking in a language she didn’t know but understood just the same.

It was the voice of Zan speaking to his beloved Chenoa Aquine, instructing her on battle. Through his ancient words, soothing Liz’s current fears. Calming the racing of her heart as it thundered loudly in her chest…

Remain focused. Concentrate on me…on us. Together, nothing can break us. Remember that. Our connection will be our salvation. With one of us, our enemies may win the battle. But without both of us, they will never see ultimate victory. Let them know we are one unit. A unit…a bond….that is indestructible when activated…”

As a serene smile played on her lips, Nicholas watched her with increasing awe. He swallowed hard and forced his voice to work. "So, I don't get it. You're my prisoner. Lover boy is walking into a trap to save you and all you can do is smile?” Trying to don a nonchalant attitude, Nicholas shrugged casually. “What's that about?"

His question triggering a non-verbal response, Liz’s smile deepened eerily and she motioned with her head for Nicholas to come closer. Nicholas eyed her warily. “What?”

"It's a secret." Her soft voice beckoned him. “Come here…and I’ll tell you.” He moved toward her…hesitantly. For Liz, he still wasn’t close enough. She rolled her eyes, let out a disapproving sigh and tilted her head to the side contemplatively, her already dark eyes flashing with a fiery hint of amber. Like a tiger sizing up its prey, Liz’s bold scrutiny swept over Nicholas as a feral grin curved her lips into a dangerous smile. “Awww, come on, Nicky. I’m not going to hurt you. I mean, really…what can I do? I am only human after all…”

Starting to chuckle at her own joke, Nicholas looked at Liz as if she was slowly losing grip on reality. That was only a wish. He knew deep in the recesses of his blackened heart that Liz Parker was completely in control of herself. Going on faith. Drawing from a well of some unknown power. The key was to make sure she didn’t control him in this sudden game of power she’d begun to wage. She’d motioned him closer and continued to do so until Nicholas was finally face to face and eye to eye with her.

Liz leaned forward, imitating his earlier menacing act, her warm breath tickling Nicholas’ ear as her whispered warning shot panic of monumental proportions through his body. "You just made him indestructible.”

Nicholas pulled back and stared into Liz’s calm, confident eyes. A wave of doom swept through him and tried to wrap itself around his heart. He pushed it away. Forcefully. With instantaneous, unexpected laughter as he threw his head back with strained merriment. Liz wasn’t fooled. She’d seen the way he had struggled to swallow. She heard the forced, nervous way his laughter rang throughout the room. She felt his fear as he looked into her eyes.

Calmly, Liz waited for Nicholas to compose himself and begin the task of playing it cool. “Wow. It must be true what they say…love really is blind. Either that or you’re just really stupid.” Nicholas said to her as he crossed his arms in front of him. “You have no idea what powers I have do you? Or how I’ve already used them on lover boy. He almost gave me everything I needed the last time we had a little encounter. In fact, if it hadn’t been for his genocidal girlfriend, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

"You know why?" Nicholas leaned forward to emphasize his point. “Because he’d be dead.” Nicholas chuckled and shook his head. “Once…as Zan…he was not only my match, but my better in battle. Now, the very idea of Max Evans…mild, weak, stupid, teen alien-boy being indestructible…”

Liz’s interruption was strong but softly spoken. “By bringing us together you’ve made him more powerful than he’s ever been. He can't be defeated now.”

Her response was a wide grin. “Is that so? And what are you going to do? Recite the periodic table while he withers under my hand? You yourself said you’re only human.”

“Yes, I am.” Liz conceded as her eyebrow raised to make a point. “A human with something that you want. No…." Liz pursed her lips. "…make that something you need.”

Nicholas scoffed. “Your only purpose will have been served once Max and his merry band gets here.”

Rolling her eyes, Liz shook her head in disagreement as her voice oozed patronizingly. “Nicky. If that were true, you wouldn’t be so scared right now.”

Nicholas stiffened. “I’m not scared of anything. Not of Max. Not the Royal Four. And certainly not of you.”

A slow, knowing smile spread over Liz’s lips as she turned enchantingly coy eyes on him. “Come on now, Nicky…there’s no need to lie. Certainly not to your Queen.”

With a voice shaking with instant anger, Nicholas stepped forward and pointed a defiant finger in Liz’s face. “You are NOT my queen!”

Tilting her head to the side, Liz continued to play her part, nettling Nicholas where he seemed to be the weakest…his sense of truth. His knowledge of the legend. “Sure I am. Since I am Zan’s chosen mate and Zan…”

"Hold it right there, princess." Interrupting Liz's train of thought, Nicholas pulled a chair next to the bed, its back facing Liz and straddled it. Crossing his arms on the back, he rested his chin on his arms and looked across to her, the lies in his head laid out so perfectly he didn't have to think twice about what to say. "I've got news for you. Something you're not going to like hearing but its best we get it out of the way now before you start ordering the crown jewels to be delivered to your door."

Nicholas pointed to the ground. "Here, Max Evans may feel something for you…" Then his eyes raised skyward and his finger pointed up. "…but up there…he was a married man. Complete with his own hot little bride and a royal suite that he rarely came out of." Nicholas chuckled and his eyes snapped with malicious laughter. "I don't blame him, mind you. Ava was a quite a babe…in any species. One night of bedding her and his concentration was shot to hell. No one could get him to do anything. Decisions were left unmade in favor of making it with the sexy new queen. In fact, conquering Zan's throne after that was like taking candy from a baby…"

As Nicholas weaved his tale, a momentary flash of uncertainty swept over Liz as that insatiable pang of insecurity and jealousy hit her. But it was only a moment. In the next, Zan's words to Chenoa Aquine from a previous life came rushing back to her…

"The Elders can drag me to the altar and make me stand at the ceremony but they cannot make me repeat the vows. They can't make me promise her my heart. They cannot make me love her. You wear my seal because you are my chosen bride. The other half of my soul. I cannot live without you now. Never forget that. Once the Elders know what I have done, they may try to destroy the world we've created between us…unless we find a way to stop them. But no matter what happens, no matter what they decide is my fate, they will never destroy my love for you. I choose my own destiny…and that destiny is you…"

Her own voice echoed a heartfelt protest as tears streamed down her face. "Zan, no. No. Please, don't talk this way. Please, do what they say…they will kill you."

"There is a plan to anyway. Whether I marry her or not."

"What?" Dark eyes widened in surprise, instantly knowing Zan was no longer speaking of the Elders. There was another foe to face. A separate evil to conquer. "Who?"

"Chenoa. It doesn't matter. I don't care. Let them do to me what they want. We'll know the truth. I didn't betray my people. All I've ever tried to do is save them. All we have shared together…all I have shown you and taught you is proof of that. And as long as I don't betray our love now…" Zan paused as he struggled with sudden emotion. "Then they can torture me for all I care, but I will never, never betray you. I will never…give you up…for anyone. For anything. We are connected now. Bonded forever. And until I can hold you again there is nothing else for me in this world or any other…"


"You're lying." Liz's eyes raised to meet those of Nicholas. "Everything that you're saying…its not true. He didn't love her. He didn't even marry her…" A sudden fire of remembrance flashed in Liz's eyes as she glared accusingly at Nicholas with more hatred than Liz Parker ever thought she could feel in her life. The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place in her mind. And they were more horrible than she'd dreamed. "Oh my God. Khivar and his followers...and you. There was an uprising. There was a war. But that's not what killed him. You. You…you murdered Zan…"

"Murder?" Nicholas' sneer was lazy and cutting as his eyes turned cold and calculating. "Hardly. He was executed according to the laws of our people. Your precious Zan broke the most sacred rule among of our race. He betrayed his people…his planet. He willingly gave his seal away. His royal seal. The seal of power and possession. And with it all the secrets of the royal house."

Wave after wave of images assaulted Liz. A place…safe and cherished. A place where she met her love nightly, despite time and space, to hear the details of his struggles and share with him the findings of her research. Research they had begun together. Research that would potentially save his race and unite two worlds together.

And she remembered pressure. Immediacy. The need to get the job done. The race to find the answers of survival. Time was running out. Not for Zan's people, but for Zan. For her love. He hadn't told his people yet. He hadn't revealed their love…their plans. He'd not shown that his seal was no longer his to give away but belonged to her now. An outsider. A member of another race. His people weren't ready to hear it, he said. There was too much unrest with the light of his father's life swiftly fading and rebel forces positioning themselves to move. Spreading rumors and twisting facts to make the legend and purity of their love into a sick web of lies and betrayal.

But there was also hope. There was a generation that believed. A hand-full of followers that disputed the lies and stood behind their future king without hesitation. Without doubt. People willing and eager to accept their new queen with open arms. All Zan needed to do was show them. Show his people their unity. Show them their combined power. Then the legend could no longer be denied…

"No. No, I know what happened. I remember now. He never betrayed you." Liz's eyes began to shine with unshed tears as her voice raised in intensity. "You…you all had it planned. Before Zan even returned home, you…" Liz's voice broke as she tried to hold back a sudden sob, the horrible realization of Max's former demise hitting her full force. "Oh my God. You knew. Someone…told you. Someone betrayed him to you. You knew he'd fulfilled the legend…" Liz closed her eyes remembering. "The only person that knew…the only one was…Vilandra."

Shaking her head slowly as an image of Isabel sprang unbidden to her mind, Liz's eyes filled will tears. "No. Not…Isabel…" A pained gaze met Nicholas head on. "How could she? She was his sister. All he ever did was love me and you…you all used that as your excuse to murder him!"

Fury in his eyes, Nicholas stood abruptly and flung the chair away from him. "Love had nothing to do with this! Zan had a duty! A responsibility! A sacred pledge! And he tossed it to the side the first chance he got! Vilandra understood that just like the rest of us did! So, stop saying that! It was NOT murder! It was justice!"

As if Nicholas' words unwittingly called up an unseen power, a sudden, powerful rumble shook the ground catching both Nicholas and Liz off guard. Nicholas stumbled and fell as Liz's body was slammed back into the wall when the bed she was sitting on slid forward, tilted then flew back with a loud, cracking thud. The lights above flickered rapidly then went out as a simultaneous roaring filled the room. Liz shrieked into the darkness as her whole body began to shake in stunned horror. Struggling with the cords binding her hands, she tried to free herself but to no avail. Her body jerked to an abrupt halt as a painful scream split the darkness around her.

"NOOOOOOOOOOO!"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Year 2010

A violent tremble ran the length of her body and she instantly responded by digging her nails into his neck. "Max. God, Max…something's…something's happening…"

His lips were pressed against her hair softly, reverently. His eyes closed in agony as he heard the fear in her voice. "Shhh, baby, I'm here. I'm here and I'm not letting go."

"I'm so scared…" Hot tears fell on Max's neck as he sat on the floor of the cave cradling his wife in his arms.

Pulling back, Max cupped the side of Liz's face tilting it upward till he was staring into her eyes. "So am I, but we're in this together, Liz. You're not going anywhere without me. Got it?"

"You promise?" Her tiny voice echoed the terror coursing through her.

Summoning up all of his willpower, Max forced himself to smile despite the pounding of his heart. Despite the feeling of doom settling over him. He leaned his forehead against hers, a whispered promise breathed heatedly across her lips. "I promise. Just hold on till everyone gets here, Liz. Just please hold on…"

A tear slipped out of the corner of Liz's eye as she nodded slightly. Her eyes squeezed shut in pain and her gasp echoed off the cave walls as her hand fiercely held onto his. "I…I need you, Max. Please. Help me…"

Max's eyes filled with tears as helplessness began to fill him up. Rocking her back and forth, his whisper came out ragged and weary. "How? God, Liz, I don't know how. Just…just tell me…"

Dark eyes full of love opened to meet his. A soft hand reached up to caress his face. A dreamy, dazed smile shadowed her lips as her voice softly whispered promises from another lifetime. "Don't you know, Zan? You…you told me once…together, nothing can break us. Our connection will be our salvation…"

Max's eyes widened in shock as he looked deeply into Liz's eyes. His wife had just called him Zan. His wife…his twin soul…

Courage raced through him. Understanding shot through his mind. Realization came crashing down around him. He wasn't just holding his Liz. He was holding the sum of every Liz that had ever lived. Here. Now. In his arms.

And she needed him.

Max's chest rose and fell as love and pride coursed through his veins. Cradling the face of the bravest person he'd ever known in his hands, Max's lips lowered to meet hers in a kiss of remembrance.

Their eyes met.

And the connection began…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Present Day

All went quiet. All went still.

Liz's shaky, shallow breathing was the only sound in the deathly silent room. Her eyes darted back and forth trying to grow accustomed to the pitch black around her but could see nothing. Nothing but shadows that didn't move. Until the lights clicked on.

Squinting into the suddenly brilliant light beating down on her, Liz voice shook with fear for the first time as the cold hands of terror reached into her heart and squeezed all of the hope out of her. There was evil in the room. Evil too powerful to fight alone.

And Liz knew it.

Before she opened her eyes. Before she whispered with an unexpected hope in her heart. Anyone…even Nicholas…would be better than what her heart was telling her she was about to face. "N-Nicholas?"

An evil laugh boomed throughout the room. "You'll wish it was that sniveling little snake by the time I'm done with you. As it is, I've dispatched him to a place where he won't be bothering us any more."

Liz's head snapped up and her eyes widened at the man standing before her. "My God. Who…who are you?"

A malicious smile curved his lips upward, his voice was hard and cruel. His gaze condescending and cold. "Come now, my Queen…" Despise laced her title. "…as smart as you've been to figure everything else out, I'm hurt that you don't know who I am."

Liz swallowed her lump of fear as realization flashed in her eyes. "Khivar."

His smile broadened as he clapped his hands in loud applause. "Very good." He took a menacing step forward, his powerful muscles rippling with every move. "Now, tell me, Liz Parker. Did you really mean it when you said you'd die for him? For this…Max Evans?"

Liz's chin raised defiantly and her eyes flashed with sudden courage. "Every word."

"Good." He made a sweeping gesture with his arm and bowed low before her. His head slowly raised till his death-black eyes locked with hers, while a devilish smile played on his lips and Khivar stretched out his hand toward Liz. "As my Queen…you're wish is my command…"

There was a flash of blinding white light.

A cry split the air.

The lights exploded.

Darkness prevailed…

Tbc…

posted on 21-Mar-2002 9:12:49 PM
Hey all!!!

Thanks sooooo much for the encouragement!!! I am going to get back to this story...I PROMISE. I'm currently TRYING to wrap up Kiss the Flame and get Where We Were Before done as well...or at least closer to being done. I do plan on getting back to this one though. Probably after the other two and along with Time Will Tell. Thanks soooo much for your patience and support. You have NO idea what it means! *happy*

BehrHugs,
Ashton