posted on 14-Nov-2001 11:20:05 PM
Title:"Double Jeopardy III: The Fulfillment"
Author : Sheeperz (Fran P)
Disclaimer: You know the drill. I own nothing... and after the First two sections of this fic, you know that most of season 2 no longer exists in my warped mind!!!
Category:M/L
Rating: R
Summary: Sequel to "Double Jeopardy II", which picked up where DJ left off, and created a whole new set of questions (why do I do that to myself???). This fic will attempt to address those issues.
Distribution: If you want to use it, please just ask.



Prologue

Several days have passed, since Gelar received the word of knowledge, that Antar's salvation was imminent. He is tending to his duties in the catacombs, beneath the city of Antarra when he hears the still, small voice whisper in his soul.

Prepare ye the way, for soon the Son of Light shall be brought forth into your hands, Ge-lar', son of El-dan.

Gelar waits for something more, but that is all there is. What does it mean? The Son of Light? He knows of the King of Light, and the prophecies concerning him, but who is the Son of Light?

Figuring that whatever he needs to know will be revealed at the appropriate time, he continues his chores, finally ending in the chamber containing the sacred scrolls. As he dusts the sparse furniture and rugged altar, the room begins to shake, as if rocked by a mighty earthquake. He manages to maneuver his frail body under the table, expecting debris to begin falling around him. But all he hears is a soft thump on the floor across the room, and then the tremors cease. Cautiously creeping out from his place of protection, he spies one of the scrolls lying on the floor, partially unrolled.

As he reaches out to gather it up, he hears the inner voice speak again. Read, Ge-lar' and gain understanding.

Looking down at the scroll, he sees that it is unrolled in such a way as to present one particular prophetic portion. The words "Son of Light" jump off the page at him. Excited, he gathers the scroll, and takes it to the table, sitting down to relieve his aching limbs. His aging eyes squint in the dim lighting, as he begins to read the short section.

The first Son of Light shall be conceived on a foreign shore, and brought forth among thee, yet spawned out of darkness. His coming shall not be attended by healers, but by the Learned One in the secret, Holy Place. Though no trumpets herald his birth, mighty will be his reign. Despise him not, nor tremble in fear; he is not given for thee, Antar, but his destiny shall be to assume his rightful place as ruler among another people.

At his appearing, the King of Light shall return to thee, O Antar, wearing the face of another. His names shall be "Great" and "Support" for he shall rule over two kingdoms: Antar being the greater, and the lesser receiving support from him, and returning it in like kind.

The second Son of Light shall be the long awaited Son of Promise, the rightful heir to the throne of Antar. United with the First Son, they shall forever bridge the gap between the two worlds, securing peace between the houses of the Warrior of Flame and the King of Light.

Having finished reading the prophecy, Gelar replaces the parchment in its rightful place with trembling hands. He knew that he was to see the salvation of his people. But now, he learns that he is to receive this Son of Light into the world! He has no training - no idea of what to expect. But he knows of a woman who does. Perhaps she will help him to prepare. But how to ask her assistance, without raising a lot of questions? Perhaps she will just think him eccentric, and leave it at that. He can but hope.

Dropping to his knees at the rugged stone altar once more, he petitions the All Powerful One to bless his mission of preparation. Rising again, he wraps a cloak around his frail body, and braves the bitter cold, to travel to the ancient healer's house. She must help me, he pleads in continued communion with the One who is over all. She must help me, because I find I do not have the faith to accomplish this without instruction.

Just then, he comes up in front of the healer's house, and sees the warm glow of firelight in the window. Just as he raises his hand to knock, he hears the voice again. Gelar, have I not always given you all that you need?

Yes, he thought with shame. Yes, you have always watched over me, all these years.

Then why do you not trust me now? Is your fear so great?

I must confess, it is, my Lord. Please have mercy on me, your humble servant. I have no experience with these matters. All I wish, is to know what I will need to carry out Your Plan.

Ah, but Gelar, I do have experience in these matters. Trust me now, Gelar. This child is important to me. I will not allow anything to happen, that you and I cannot handle together. Trust me.

Gelar lowers his hand. As you wish, my Lord. As always, my life is yours to command. Guide me, and watch over the infant that is to come.

I am, Gelar, I am.

With that assurance, Gelar turns from the door, and starts back toward the cave that leads to the hidden catacombs.

Inside, the old healer woman watches him hobble away. What is that superstitious old fool up to now? she wonders.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 8:58:30 AM

Part One

The sun was shining brightly when Max drove the Jeep into Las Cruces shortly after the lunch hour. They had decided to wait to have lunch until they got there, and so they pulled into a fast food joint in town, to grab a quick bite to eat. Over their burgers and fries, they firmed up their plans for the afternoon. They wanted to work efficiently, so they could be on the road heading home as soon as possible. They still had the long drive home to face. If they could locate Alex and get him out of there quickly, they might be on the road by 5:00, and home by 11:00. Max had promised his parents he would try not to get home much later than that.

"So Michael will go with Zan to the Administrative Offices, so he can visit Admissions and Financial Aid, and get information packets to take back home. That should satisfy Mom and Dad," Max went over the plan a final time. "Be sure to get a campus map, too, so we can find the computer building."

"Sure thing, Maxwell, we got it covered," Michael replied, around a mouthful of fries. He took a swig of soda, and gulped it all down. "While we're doing that, you and Da-nar' are going to be scoping out the campus. Then we'll all meet back outside the Administrative building. Am I right?"

Max sighed. "Sorry. I just want us to cover all our bases as quickly as we can." He finished the last bite of his burger, and gathered his trash. Everyone else followed suit. "Okay, we're outta here."

There was a pensive air in the Jeep, as they approached the campus. They had no idea what they would find once they got there, or how much trouble Tess would cause in a public setting. She was becoming more and more of a loose cannon these days. Max didn't like it. He didn't like not knowing what to expect from her.

He pulled the Jeep up in front of the Administrative Building, and parked. Everyone sat still in a moment of silence, as they all reflected on what they were about to do. They had to get Alex back, but there was the looming threat of being drawn into some freakish "Alien Showdown" with Tess. Besides the threat of discovery, there was the safety of innocent lives to consider. Max inhaled deeply, his breath almost shuddering as it entered his lungs. "Well, this is it. We meet back here in 45 minutes. Let's do it."

They all piled out of the Jeep, and took off for their designated tasks. Zan and Michael headed into the nearby building, and followed the sign to the Admissions Office. They were greeted by a thirty-something secretary with deeply tanned, slightly leathery skin, and bleached blonde hair. Zan willed himself not to stare. Why would anyone want to ruin their skin like that? he wondered. She might have actually been attractive, if her skin was smooth and supple. Like Liz's. Zan sighed. Time to get the brain out of Liz-land. He realized then that the secretary was staring at him. What was her problem?

Michael nudged him with his elbow and whispered, "The lady asked if she could help you, brainiac. How 'bout you answer?"

"Oh, uh, sorry," Zan apologized, blushing slightly. "My mind was somewhere else," he explained to the woman. He reached up and scratched the back of his head as he continued, "Um, I'm going to be graduating in January, and I'm looking at schools - well, this one in particular - and I was wondering if you could give me some information on your Computer Science program, as well as admission requirements, an application, that sort of thing?"

"You thinkin' about Spring semester?" she inquired, eyeing him skeptically. There was something about the boy that screamed he was wasting her time.

"Well, yes, actually, I was."

"Gettin' started a little late for that, aren'tcha?" she drawled.

Zan's face registered his confusion. "I'm sorry? Spring semester doesn't begin until the end of January, right?"

"And of course, you've taken the ACT's? Or at least the SAT's?" she asked, pinning him with a piercing stare.

Zan swallowed nervously. "The what's?" he choked out on a hoarse whisper. This woman was a barracuda, and he wasn't so sure she wasn't looking for a late lunch.

"As I suspected," she huffed haughtily. "Look, I don't know what kind of weird game you're playing here, kid, but I'm not wasting my time with some smart-ass punk. You can just turn yourself right around, and march right back out that door. Don't let it hit you on the way out, y'hear?"

Zan's mouth dropped open in shock. He couldn't believe that he was being tossed out like yesterday's trash. He could feel the heat rising from his neck to his scalp, and knew he must be turning 12 shades of red by now. The experiences that he had had since moving to Roswell had softened him, and caused him to forget just how cruel and mean some humans could be. He wondered if Antarians were this miserable to each other. All he knew was, he couldn't remember ever being so embarrassed in his life. At least, not since Nasedo had disappeared from his life.

"I, uh.... just wanted to um -"

"Yeah, well you can forget it, kid. No way you can convince me you are graduating in January, as incoherent as you are. Unless, of course, they're passing you just to get you the hell out of their hair. How many extra semesters have you been stuck in high school, trying to graduate? That's why you're graduating in the middle of the year, no doubt. Couldn't graduate on time, so you had to take an extra semester." She looked him up and down, trying to determine his age. "Or... is it and extra THREE semesters?"

That was the final straw!! She was stripping him of the single most important thing he'd achieved in his 17 years on the planet, and he wasn't going to stand for it.

Michael felt Zan stiffen next to him, and laid a hand on his arm. "Easy, buddy, she's just a witch with a nasty mouth. Don't let her make you lose your cool."

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING A WITCH?" she yelled, jumping up from behind her desk to get in Michael's face.

Michael jumped back, a startled look on her face. This woman had no limits. He was about to come back with a stinging retort, when the door to the Dean of Admissions office flung open.

"What's going on out here, Martha?" he demanded, glaring at her for the unprofessional way she was obviously behaving. He had heard her all the way in his office, with the door shut.

"These two hooligans are wasting my time! I don't know what kind of strange game they're playing, but when I told them to leave, the scruffy one actually called me a witch!"

The Dean turned to Michael with an upraised brow, and Michael could see that he was struggling to keep the corners of his mouth from quirking into a grin. "Is that right young man?"

"Well, not exactly.... I mean, I did call her that, but it didn't happen quite the way she said. And perhaps it would be of interest to you to know how unprofessionally this woman was behaving toward my friend here?" he added, trying to sound very scholarly and proper.

The man looked at Zan, who was red to the tips of his ears. "Yes, I can see she has humiliated the poor young man.... Martha? What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Oh, please, Howard. This boy is no more interested in attending college than I want to be a truck driver. He doesn't even know what the ACT's are, for heaven's sake! And he expects me to believe that he is here looking for admissions information for the spring semester. Now how ridiculous is that?"

Howard looked at the boys. "Is what she said correct?"

Zan cleared his throat. "Uh, yes sir, but I can explain -"

The Dean was impressed by Zan's polite manner. "Please, come into my office for a moment, won't you? We can discuss this privately in there." He led Zan in, and shut the door, leaving Michael in the outer office with a very irate secretary. Michael just smiled triumphantly, and sat down to wait. He had to suppress a chuckle, when he felt her hard glare on him. He didn't care what she thought. Zan was getting the attention he needed, and that was all that mattered.

"So tell me, young man," the Dean began, "what is your name, by the way? I don't think I caught it."

"Oh- it's Zan. Zan Evans."

"So, Zan, I'm listening. Would you care to explain your academic situation to me?"

"Yes, sir!" Zan said with a sigh of relief, glad that someone would finally listen. "I just moved to Roswell, New Mexico from New York, where I homeschooled. The principal in Roswell allowed me to take placement tests for classes, and I tested out of both the Junior and Senior year classes. He has agreed to let me graduate in January, because he feels that even though I just turned 17 three months ago, I am emotionally mature enough to handle it. Part of what convinced him is the fact that I am an emancipated minor, and have been responsible for my own care these last few months."

"Really?" the man said with great interest. "And what brought you out to New Mexico, may I ask?"

"Well, sir, I learned recently that I have an identical twin brother - we were separated as small children, and unaware that the other existed before now. Anyway, he and his adopted family live in Roswell, and they welcomed me into their lives and their home. They wanted my brother and I to have the chance to get to know each other like real brothers."

"They sound like a wonderful family."

"Oh, they are sir. But about the admissions information -?"

"Certainly, Zan. I'll personally gather the information. But you need to know, this will be just to help you to prepare for Fall admissions - if you haven't taken your ACT's, you'll need to do that before we can even consider your application."

"Thank you sir. That will probably be a good idea, anyway. It might wise for me to take that semester and get a job or two, to save toward tuition."

The Dean smiled at him. "You are an industrious young man, and not afraid of hard work, I see. Those are admirable qualities. While I'm gathering things for you to take home and review, why don't you visit the Financial Aid office? It's the third door down the hall on the left. Being an emancipated minor, I would imagine you are eligible for all sorts of grants and loans."

Zan smiled gratefully. "Thank you sir, for taking the time to understand my situation, and for being patient with my lack of knowledge in these matters. Everything has been happening so fast, I'm still trying to adjust to it all. I think that extra semester off will do me a world of good, all the way around." He stood, and extended his hand to the Dean, who grasped it in a firm handshake.

"As soon as you are done at the Financial Aid office, come back here. It won't take me but a few minutes to gather what you need."

"Yes, sir," he said, opening the office door, and starting out into the reception area. "Thank you again. I'll be back in a few minutes." Totally ignoring the secretary, he nodded to Michael. "Come on - I need to go to the Financial Aid office." Michael got up and followed him out the door.

Just as they were shutting the door, they heard the Dean say to the secretary, "You can clear your things out of the desk, Martha. We won't be needing you any more." Zan and Michael looked at each other in surprise. Neither of them had expected that kind of swift retribution for her actions.

They went to the Financial Aid office, and there was a gorgeous work-study student manning the desk. When she saw Zan come through the door, her face lit up, and the charm came on full force. Completely dismissing Michael, she stared into Zan's eyes. "May I help you?"

Zan smiled kindly at her, but with no trace of sexual interest. "Yes - I'd like to find out about financial aid that's available to me, and pick up application forms."

"Please, have a seat," she urged, pointing to the one chair on the other side of her desk. She totally ignored the fact that Michael was left standing uncomfortably. "So tell me about your financial situation. That will give me an idea of where to start."

"Well, I'm an emancipated minor, and I'm certainly not sitting on a trust fund or anything," he said with a shy smile. "Just a plain, poor kid, trying to get an education so I can better myself."

"Wow, that's really great," she said with undisguised admiration. She stood, and started to move from behind her desk. "Just give me a couple minutes, and I'll gather some things together." Zan nodded, and she went into a storage room just behind where her desk was, and he could hear file drawers opening and closing. It seemed she had barely been gone, when she was back again. He realized that she must really know her job well, to be so efficient at it.

When she returned, she walked around to his side of the desk, and set the small stack of papers on the desk in front of her. With a smile, she said, "I didn't catch your name... and I'd really rather not call you 'hey you'." She giggled. "My name is Susan."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Forgive my manners. Zan," he said holding his hand out to shake hers. "My name is Zan Evans." Susan shivered slightly at the contact with his hand. He was so very handsome. She looked into his eyes, though, and saw nothing to encourage her amorous thoughts.

"Well, Zan Evans," she began, as their hands released, "There are many financial resources available to someone in your position. Let me show you a few of them." She began laying out the various forms, one by one, on the desk in front of him, explaining each in a simple, straightforward manner. She couldn't help but brush up against him occasionally, as she moved things around, or reached to point to certain sections of a form or brochure. Her skin tingled every time she did. This guy was HOT. She watched his hand, as it pointed to something, and she couldn't help but fantasize what those strong hands would feel like all over her...

"Susan?" It was Zan's voice calling her name, and it snapped her out of her reverie.

"Yes?"

"I asked you if it made a difference that I have been taken in by a family - they are giving me a place to stay, although I am not really a part of their family." He looked at her with concern. "Are you all right?"

Susan blushed, remembering where her thoughts had been. She wondered if it was written all over her face. "Uh, yeah, sure. My mind just kind of drifted off to something else there for a minute. To answer your question, your current situation shouldn't have any affect on your eligibility for financial aid."

Judging from her blush, he didn't want to know where her mind had been. She was a pretty girl, he acknowledged to himself, but she didn't interest him in the least. Because she isn't Liz, he thought sadly. He wondered if he would ever be able to put this longing for Liz behind him.

He managed to finish their meeting with polite detachment, and then thanked her for her assistance. She gathered everything together for him, and placed it in a large envelope for his convenience.

"I hope everything works out for you," she said sincerely. "You seem like a nice guy. You deserve a fair shot at success."

"Thanks," he mumbled, uncomfortable with the sultry look in her eyes, that betrayed her deeper interest in him. "Come on, Michael. We need to get back to Admissions for that other information."

"Right behind you," Michael said with a smirk, completely aware of the young woman's interest in his friend. In the hall on the way to Admissions, he tormented Zan by saying, "Women. Guess they either love you or they hate you, huh? You sure have a way about you, Evans."

Zan backhanded Michael in the stomach with a chuckle. "Yeah, and you're just jealous."

"Ho-ho-no," Michael denied. "You can keep that blonde bat from hell all to yourself, thank you very much."

Unfortunately, said shrew happened to be opening the door to the Admissions office, just as Michael said that. Being that they were only one door down from there at this point, she heard the unflattering remark. She stepped out into the hall in front of them, carrying a box with her belongings, and glared at them. "I hope you're satisfied," she hissed. "You two punks cost me my job."

Michael was surprised, when Zan responded to her, coolly and confidently. "No, ma'am, I must insist that we didn't. You did a fine job of that on your own. Perhaps in your next place of employment, you will consider reigning in that viperous tongue of yours, before it causes you untold grief."

The woman gasped in outrage. "Who do you think you are, that you can talk to me in that manner?" she demanded.

"If only you knew," Michael whispered under his breath.

Zan preferred a more tactful approach. He reached out his hand to her shoulder, and looked straight into her eyes. He got a short flash from her, and realized that she had an abusive husband, that had caused her to abhor men. And the man was built like Zan, with similar coloring and features, which had made her instantly despise him. "I'm no one special," Zan told her, his eyes soft with new understanding. "But you can't let things eat you up inside, and cause you to be so caustic with people that you meet. You deserve to be more than a bitter woman. There is goodness inside of you. Find a way to let that dominate your life. Get help for what troubles you, soon. Otherwise, you'll end up a hate-filled, lonely old woman some day."

The compassionate caring in his voice completely disarmed her, and tears sprung to her eyes. He had somehow seen into her soul, and recognized the demons that tormented her. "How can you be so kind to me, after the way that I treated you?" she sniffled.

Zan gently squeezed her shoulder in a supportive gesture. "My life has not always been easy," he told her quietly. "In fact, it has only recently begun to turn around. I know too well, the temptation to let bitterness and hatred set in. But they are negative, destructive forces that will eat you alive, if you go that route. You have a choice to not become enslaved to their dark energy. But you have already traveled a good ways down that road. You must make the choice now, before you no longer have the will to turn onto another path."

Her moist eyes looked into his with awe and admiration. What was there about this young man? "You have such insight for one so young. Is that because of the hardships you have faced? Such wisdom makes you seem so much older than you are. Like you have a lifetime of experience to back up your words, instead of a mere 17 years."

Not able to tell her any of the truth about himself, he latched onto her own explanation. "Yes, my experiences, that must be it," he agreed. "I'm really sorry about your job," he continued, quickly diverting the discussion away from himself. "But sometimes these things happen for a reason. Maybe this can signal a new beginning for you, all the way around." He looked at Michael, as she shifted the box to her hip, trying to support its weight. "Why don't you help her out to her car with this stuff, and I'll meet you out there in a minute? I just have to stop in and pick up that admissions information, and then I'll be right out."

Martha saw the look of shock that overtook Michael's features. "No," she said hastily, "that's okay, really."

She started to walk past them, when Zan reached out, taking the box from her arms. "Don't be silly. Michael is a big, strapping guy, and there's no reason that you should have to struggle with all of this." He lifted an accusing brow at Michael, and handed him the box. "I'll be right out," he reiterated to Michael. Martha was amazed at the boy's commanding presence, and the response it evoked from his friend.

Michael nodded, and followed Martha out to her car. Once he had placed the box in her trunk, she turned to him. "Thank you," she said in a soft voice that he was still wary of. He couldn't believe the change in her. "I'm really sorry about being so rude to you and your friend."

Michael shrugged. "Hey, I guess I was a little rude myself. Truce?"

She smiled at him. "Truce." Then she looked over his shoulder, her brows knit together in confusion.

"What?" Michael asked, then turned to see Max and Da-nar' approaching from the opposite direction of the Administrative Building.

"How did your friend get over there?" she muttered. "We just left the building -"

Her words were cut off by a hand on her shoulder. "Everything okay here?" Zan asked, not realizing that she had been watching Max's approach.

Martha spun to face him, then looked back at Max. "My God, there are two of you?" she breathed in amazement.

Zan's eyes widened, and then he chuckled at her shock, when he spotted Max. "Yeah, it's like a cruel joke, isn't it?" he teased her.

"Not at all," she mumbled, now watching Max as he was almost to them. There was something almost... majestic about him. And that's when she realized what it was about Zan that she couldn't quite place. She turned and looked up into his eyes with reverent awe. "Who are you?" she whispered.

From across the parking lot, Max noticed the petite woman that was staring at Zan with worshipful eyes. He wondered what that was all about.

Zan took a step back from Martha, startled by her words. "What do you mean?" he said coolly, narrowing his eyes at her. Could she be one of the enemy, trying to flush them out? Did Tess have help here? How he wished that Liz was here, with her built-in alien detector. Liz. It always comes back to Liz.

Martha recoiled slightly, when she heard the sudden chilly tone in his voice, and saw the detached look in his eyes. Why did her question affect him in such a way? "N-nothing," she stuttered. "I didn't mean anything by it. It is just that you and your brother have such a.... regal bearing about you. Like you are more than high school kids. That's all."

Zan relaxed, and forced a smile. "Oh, well, I don't know what makes you think that, but we're just a couple of guys from Roswell, New Mexico. Nothing special. Now, if you'll excuse me, we have to finish checking out the campus and such, so that we can be on our way home. It's a long drive, and our parents don't want us getting home really late."

"Of course," she said. "Look, I'm sorry again about the way I acted earlier. And I want to thank you.... for what you said before," she told him, laying a hand on his forearm, where his arms were crossed over his chest. "I'm going to try and figure out how to get my life back on track."

"Just remember," he said, his voice soft and encouraging again, "that there's no shame in asking for help."

"I'll remember. You take care. And good luck." Zan nodded in response, and then he and Michael walked over to meet Max and Da-nar' by the Jeep.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:02:48 AM

Part Two

"You wanna tell me what that was all about?" Max muttered under his breath, when he was close enough for Zan to hear.

"Just some lady that we had a little run-in with in the Admissions office. She has a rough life at home, and she took it out on us."

"Didn't look like you were at odds with her a minute ago," Max observed.

"Uh, no. See, she got fired for the way she spoke to Michael and me, and then she was that much angrier with us. But then I talked to her, and helped her see the error of her ways..."

Max's heart pounded with a bad case of nerves. "Exactly what does that mean? You didn't do anything... you know?"

"No - no alien 'hocus-pocus' as Maria would say," Zan replied with a smile, thinking of their saucy little friend. "Just took a few moments to 'gain some insight' into her motivations, and then suggested she might want to take a more positive attitude toward life."

"Oh. No harm done then," Max commented. "While you were being the model student, we had us a look around," Max said, his eyes continually scanning their surroundings, watching for any signs of trouble, or evidence of Alex and Tess. "We found the computer science building - figure we might as well start looking in the obvious place."

"Right. So let's go." Zan opened the door to the Jeep and hopped in the back tossing the packets of information behind his seat. Max motioned to Michael and Da-nar' who then joined them in the vehicle. They would drive to wherever they went from now on, so that the Jeep would never be far away, if they needed to make a sudden getaway.

When they pulled up in front of the building, Max issued instructions. "If we find her, I'll approach her alone at first. If she sees all four of us, she's liable to flip out. I don't want her to feel threatened, and do something that could get Alex hurt.... or worse." They all nodded in silent agreement. "If she starts to go whacky on me, and you can see I need help, that's the time to come in. Da-nar'," Max addressed their protector, "When we locate Tess and Alex, try to disrupt her mindwarp."

"Understood."

With no further discussion, they all walked somberly into the building. Da-nar' and Michael fell naturally into the role of "lookouts", watching for impending danger, as Max and Zan opened doors on either side of the hallway, searching for their missing friend. Suddenly, Da-nar's voice broke the silence. "She is near," he whispered. "I can sense her energy brushing the edges of my subconscious. It must be the mindwarp." Max nodded his understanding.

They continued down the hall, and then came to an intersecting corridor. Max turned them to the left, but after 15 feet or so, Da-nar' spoke. "We must be heading in the wrong direction. My sense of her is weakening." Without a word, Max and Zan spun about, and headed in the other direction. They were grateful that the building was fairly quiet for the middle of the day. Most of the students were probably in classes.

Max cracked open yet another door, and finally, they hit pay dirt. Through the small space, he could see the back of Alex's head, sitting at a terminal, Tess standing over his shoulder, watching his every move. Obviously, even under a mindwarp, she didn't trust him to do what he was told.

Soundlessly, Max gestured with his hand to indicate that he had found the target of their search. The others came and peered into the computer room, and then backed off. Max motioned that he was going to come in, and for Da-nar' to start trying to run psychic interference. He mimed to Michael and Zan to keep watch on the situation, and enter if he got in trouble.

Once everyone indicated their readiness, Max quietly opened the door, and cautiously stepped inside the room. He walked up until he was right behind them, surprised that Tess hadn't sensed his presence. She must be expending a lot of energy on the mindwarp, he realized. Stopping, he casually said, "Find anything interesting?"

Tess nearly jumped out of her skin. Alex just looked over his shoulder, and greeted his friend. "Hey, Max! You should see this! The computer hasn't come up with a translation yet, but it has singled out some key symbols, and provided meanings."

"Shut up, you fool!" Tess hissed at him. "Just keep working. Leave Max's education to me."

Alex rolled his eyes. "Sure, right, whatever," he said, and returned his attention to the computer.

Tess glared at Max. "What are you doing here?" she snapped.

"I'm here to get Alex back, and to keep you from making the biggest mistake of your life."

Tess snorted. "Too late, buddy boy. I already made it, mooning over you like a total fool. All I'm trying to do now is to go home."

"No, you're trying to figure out how to get your hands on the granilith." He held up a hand to still her forthcoming protests. "Don't even try to deny it. But the game is over. You aren't taking the granilith."

A devilish smile curved her lips, accented by the resolve that turned her eyes to an icy blue. "We'll see about that."

"Well, well, well," a voice said from behind him. Max spun around, to find himself facing Nicholas. Shit. "If it isn't the royal wimp. Tessandra, love, is this idiot bothering you?"

Tess put on her best pouty face. "Yes, he is. He's trying to tell me that we can't have the granilith to go back home. Are you going to let him stop us?"

Nicholas went to stand next to her, placing a possessive arm around her shoulders. "No, of course not. You just continue to 'help' Alex to translate the book, and I'll take the trash out."

Tess kissed Nicholas on the cheek. Max thought he was going to be sick. "Thank you. You are too good to me." She looked straight at Max then. "This is all your fault, you know. All you had to do was accept your destiny, and all of this could have been avoided. But you had to insist on sniffing after that pathetic human like she was a bitch in heat. Whoops! Well, that's half right, anyway. She's a real bitch."

Max's hands clenched into fists, and his jaw muscles worked, as he struggled to maintain his composure. "Don't talk about her like that," he warned. "She's more woman than you'll ever dream of being. And as for accepting my destiny, I have." Tess looked at him surprised. Had he come to tell her that he was going to accept her as his bride? She looked in his eyes, and saw only contempt. Nope, guess not.

"What do you mean, Max?" she demanded. "I'm your destiny, and you certainly don't look like you're real acceptant of me right now."

"Now, we both know that's a lie, don't we.... Tessandra," he growled, emphasizing her full, given name. She stared back at him with wide, frightened eyes. "Yes, that's right. I know who - and what - you are. The game is over, and you've lost. You never were, nor ever will be, my bride. So for your own sake, just let it go."

"I'm afraid that isn't possible, Max," Nicholas replied for her. "You see, we both have our hearts set on going back to Antar. And for that, we need the granilith, and the translation of the book. So unless you can provide those for us, we'll just keep your little friend here with us a while longer. When we're through, maybe we'll return him. If we feel like it," he added maliciously.

"In the other timeline, Tess' little mind games killed Alex. I'm not about to stand by and watch it happen again."

"Oh? You don't want to watch?" Nicholas taunted. "Well, you're in luck. I can arrange that quite nicely for you -" Nicholas stretched out his hand, and Max's body jerked, as his face wrenched at the incredible pain that made his head feel like it would explode. "Not such a tough guy now, are ya?" Nicholas scoffed. "Say - as long as you're here... and we're here... let's scrounge around in that measly brain of yours, and see if you know more about running the granilith than you are letting on about...." He walked up to Max, placed his hand on Max's head, and began rummaging through his memories. Max fell to his knees and cried out in pain, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Outside the room, Da-nar' hadn't been having much luck disrupting the mindwarp, probably because of the lack of proximity, he realized. Suddenly, Max's companions saw Nicholas attack Max, and realized that their leader was in some serious trouble in there. Michael and Zan looked to Da-nar' for guidance, who had abandoned his attempts at interfering with Tess, in favor of the more pressing issue before them. He closed his eyes trying to collect his thoughts, and then just as quickly, they snapped open again, comprehension lighting their black depths. He looked into the room again, noting that Tess was ignoring Nicholas and Max now, her attention back on Alex. Nicholas still had his back to the door behind which the three of them hid.

"Zan!" he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. "If you can get in there while Nicholas is distracted with Max, and reach your brother, make physical contact with him, and try to form a connection. Then this is what I want you to do..." He outlined the simple, yet hopefully effective plan to Zan.

Da-nar' and Michael watched intently, as Zan stole into the room, and was around Nicholas and touching Max, before the Little General had a clue what was happening. Zan grabbed Max's face, and commanded him, "Look at me, Max!"

Max struggled to focus his eyes on his twin, as pain lanced through every cell in his body. "Zan-" he croaked, as if in warning. He clearly didn't want his brother to suffer the same fate. But Zan looked deep into Max's eyes, and a connection roared to life between them, before Nicholas realized what was happening. Zan tried to block the pain, and as the pain faded, Max was able to add his strength to Zan's effort. Together, they were quickly able turn Nicholas' energy back upon him. Nicholas frantically tried to pull back and break the connection, but Zan had masterfully chosen to short-circuit his nervous system, so he was rendered immobile, and totally susceptible to whatever Max and Zan chose to do to him.

Now that Max was released from any power Nicholas had over him, Zan telepathically asked Max what he wished to do with the other alien. I know that you have reasons for not killing Tess and Kivar, but what about this one? He is powerful, but he is not royalty. And this is war after all....

Nicholas' body was rigid and still, his being poised precariously between life and death, depending upon Max's answer. After a moment of thought, Max answered Zan. There is no reason to let him live. As much as I hate death and killing, to not take him out would leave us too vulnerable to further attack. Future Liz warned me about this one. He must be dealt with now, to insure the safety of not only ourselves, but the humans as well.

So be it, Zan replied. And with no further ado, Zan directed a wave of their combinded energy through Nicholas' nervous system, which was so strong that it instantaneously overloaded his system, and he crumpled to the floor.

That was the first Tess was even aware of what was going on behind her. She had assumed that Nicholas had everything under control. She turned with the intention of gloating over Max's disabled body, and was shocked to find that it was Nicholas who was incapacitated on the floor. Not to mention, that Max was no longer alone, but that Zan was also with him. Obviously, the two of them together were far stronger than either she or Nicholas had imagined.

Max and Zan broke their connection, and stood up to face Tess. Seeing the determined look on their faces, she began backing away from them, until she ran into the desk where Alex was working. And still Max and Zan approached. Max got right in her face, and demanded, "Now let Alex go. Release him from the mindwarp now, unless you want to end up like your little friend over there."

Tears sprung to Tess' eyes. "Please, Max, you don't understand. I have to have the translation for the book. I can't stay here any longer. Alex is my only hope."

"You didn't give a damn about Alex or his safety - why should I care about yours, Tessandra? All you care about is securing the granilith, so that you can take it home to your brother, isn't that right?"

Tess' mouth fell open in shock. "Wh-what do you mean, my brother?" she squeaked. No way could Max know that Ki-var' was her brother!

"Don't play me for a fool, Tess," Max ground out in his rage. "I know that you are Ki-var's sister. His full-blooded sister."

Tess gasped. "H-how do you know that?" Then she turned accusing eyes on Zan. "YOU! You betrayed me, didn't you! Ki-var' is not going to be pleased, when he learns that you double crossed him!"

Zan grinned maliciously. "Oh, but I didn't betray him, princess. You see, I never made any deals with him. That was my future self, in a time line that no longer exists."

Tess' eyes widened in horror. "B-but - the other night, I saw you! You were him - the one that came to me for help!"

"No, I wasn't. I was merely myself, pretending to be the Future Zan. You naturally assumed that I was, because of my appearance. But this is my time period - right here, right now. And I think my brother asked you to release our friend from your mindwarp. I suggest you obey his instructions."

"W-what are you going to do with me?" she asked, consumed with fear.

"A lot of that depends on your cooperation, Tess," Max informed her icily. "Let Alex go now, and I may be persuaded to let you live."

Tess swallowed hard, practically choking on the lump in her throat. "A-all right," she agreed. She closed her eyes, and broke off the mindwarp.

Alex immediately spun around, his eyes wild with fear. "Where the hell - oh! Max! Thank God you're here... where's 'here' anyway? What are we doing here?"

Max smiled. "It's a long story, my friend. I'll explain it on the way home. Right now, we have other matters to attend to." He glared at Tess, and was satisfied to see her terror. Good, it serves her right, for the havoc she's wreaked on our lives all these months.

"Oh, my God," Alex choked out, when he saw the crumpled form of Nicholas on the floor. "Who is that? And is he -?"

Max and Zan exchanged a look, and then Zan knelt beside Nicholas to check. "Yep, he's dead."

Just then, Da-nar' and Michael darted into the room, and Michael used his powers to lock the door behind them. "People in the hall," he explained. "Didn't want to take the chance." He looked down at where Nicholas lay at his feet. "Hey - good work guys. What do we do with the body?"

"I have heard tell of a way to destroy these 'husks' that the Skins use," Da-nar' told them. He bent down, and rolled the body over onto its stomach. Lifting Nicholas' shirt, he pulled a fake patch of skin back, exposing the husk's seal. "Take any hard, pointed object, and smash it into this seal, and it destroys the husk," he directed.

Max's eyes roved the room, looking for such an object, but was unable to find one. "Allow me," Zan offered, from where he still knelt by the body. He placed the tip of his index finger on the seal, and directed his energy into it, destroying the seal completely. The body instantaneously disintegrated into a pile of ash before them.

"Aw, damn, and I just swept," Alex muttered. "How many times do I have to tell you boys not to track dirt in on my floors?" Despite the solemnity of the moment, they all couldn't help but chuckle. Everyone except Tess, that is.

"How can you make a joke out of this," she choked out, tears streaming down her face. "Have you no decency at all? Just because he was a different species from you, his life is meaningless?"

The air was charged like a live wire, as Zan slowly stood, and turned to hover over her. His voice broke the tense silence with a growl. "Don't you take that holier-than-thou attitude, missy. We all know what you are capable of. You and that insane brother of yours." He looked down to the pile of ash, and then back to Tess' pale face. "Perhaps you'd care to join your 'friend' here - if you can call him that. I can't imagine someone as amoral as you having a clue about the concept of friendship."

"Y-you wouldn't," she whined, feeling hysteria beginning to bubble up within her. "No, of course you wouldn't. Ki-var' would hunt you down and exterminate you. You can't take that chance -"

Zan's hand circled her throat. "Don't tempt me, you little bitch. Not after what you pulled."

"I -I didn't know it was you, honest," she squeaked. "Please - you're hurting me...." She struggled to get a breath past the point where his grip was cutting off her air supply.

It was Max's hand on his arm, though, and not her desperate plea, that caused him to relent. "Let her go, Zan," Max said gently, fully understanding his brother's rage with this treacherous female. Zan nodded, and slowly released his fingers from their death hold around her neck.

Tess smiled weakly at Max and rasped out, "Thank you. I always knew that you were kind -"

"Aw, stuff it, Tess," Max spat out. "I didn't let you live for you. I did it for Antar. Do you think that I am so stupid, that I don't understand what killing you would do to our cause back home? Making you a martyr in this insane war of Ki-var's is not on my 'to do' list today. Sorry to disappoint you. If I had my druthers, I would have let Zan finish what he started. He's right. You're a total bitch. You deserve to die. But not until the time is right."

She cleared her throat and swallowed, trying to get everything back into its rightful position. "Nevertheless, I'm grateful. Now as I was trying to explain before, I need to get off this God-forsaken planet, and back to Antar. So if you'll just tell me how to work the granilith, I'll be on my way, and out of your hair -"

"Out of the question is more like it," Max snarled. "Sorry, blondie, but there's no way you're getting your hands on the granilith. Not in this lifetime. However, we would be more than thrilled to send you back to Antar, wouldn't we, boys?"

A hearty round of consent circled the room. "I - I don't understand," Tess faltered. "You're going to send me back to Antar? But you aren't going to use the granilith?"

"That's right," Max said with a nod.

Tess began to laugh hysterically. "Dear God! What are you going to do? Shoot me out of a rubber band slingshot, and hope I make it?" She threaded her fingers into her blonde curls, and pulled at her hair. "What kind of sick plans are you making?"

"Tessandra, settle down," Da-nar' scolded. "You're not going to be hurt. You'll be back on Antar before you know it, with our profound gratitude. Maybe if Ki-var' has to worry about you for a change, it'll take his mind off warring with Max's people."

For the first time, Da-nar's presence actually registered with Tess. "Who the hell are you, anyway?" she demanded, still on the verge of becoming irrational.

"Of course you wouldn't recognize me in this form, but I, too, am a Talerian."

Tess' eyes narrowed accusingly. "You're their true protector."

Da-nar' inclined his head in response. "Indeed, I am."

Tess then spat on him. "Traitor. What kind of a man goes against his own people, to serve the enemy? I hope that Ki-var' has devised some horrendous torture to inflict upon you, when he gets his hands on you!"

"Tess!" Max spoke sharply. "That is enough! Don't try my patience, or I may yet decide we'd be better off doing away with you altogether."

She looked at him with utter contempt. "Yes, your majesty," she hissed loudly at him. Max ignored her, and he and Zan began to scoop up Nicholas' remains with sheets of paper, and dump them into the wastebasket. Da-nar' went to Alex's side, to look at the computer he was using. He was amazed at how well the computer had done at deciphering the Antarian symbols. When Alex mentioned that they hadn't been able to produce any sort of intelligible text, Da-nar' admitted that there really wasn't anything there to translate. Just symbols representing disconnected thoughts.

Tess felt a wave of nausea flood her, and she grabbed the edge of the desk to steady herself, closing her eyes to fight the sudden dizziness that accompanied it. Michael was the only one who noticed. He clamped his hand around her upper arm. "What is it, Tess? Is this another one of your games, or is there something wrong with you?"

"No game," she whispered, trying to swallow down the bile rising in her throat. "I think I'm going to be sick -" Michael snatched the wastebasket away from Max and Zan, and thrust it under Tess's chin, just as she emptied the contents of her stomach.

Having seen what was about to occur, Zan had jumped to his feet, and was beside her, holding her hair back out of the way. He was totally grossed out at the strange, greenish color of her vomit. He looked up at Da-nar'. "Is that normal for your people?" he asked.

Da-nar' looked curious, not having actually seen what Tess had brought up. He peered into the garbage pail, and his eyes grew wide. He looked at Tess, whose eyes were pleading with him to keep her secret. He shook his head in response to both her plea, and Zan's question. No, it's not normal - well, I take that back. It's normal for Talerian females, under certain circumstances."

Zan quirked an eyebrow. "And what kind of circumstances are we talking about?" He almost hated to ask. He had a strange feeling that he knew the answer to the question already. Tess suddenly screamed in pain, doubling over, clutching her stomach. Zan put an arm around her, and guided her into the chair that Alex had jumped up out of, to make a spot for her.

"No doubt about it," Da-nar' murmured. "Tess is with child."

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:05:42 AM

Part Three

Zan and Max looked at each other, horror stricken. "Damn," they said in unison.

"Thanks for the fond sentiments," Tess ground out through the pain.

Zan grabbed her face in his hands. "Is it mine?" he demanded to know.

"Of course it's yours, you imbecile! Who else would the father be?" She groaned again, rocking back and forth.

"How the hell should I know! You weren't a virgin! God knows how many men - of how many species - you've taken to your bed, you slut! For all I know, it could be Nicholas' brat!"

Tess lifted her face to look at him with frightened eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Please help me," she begged. "Something's wrong with the baby."

Zan looked to Da-nar' for confirmation. "It is unusual for there to be this kind of pain in early pregnancy," Da-nar' agreed. "She could be telling the truth."

"I am!" she sobbed through another wave of pain.

Zan pulled her shirt up, to reveal her stomach. He was startled to see a little glowing hand print on her abdomen. Instinctively, he placed his hand over it, and instantly connected to the child in her womb. After several seconds, he fell backwards, gasping for breath. "It's the atmosphere here, it's killing him," he managed to say.

Tess looked at him with tear-filled eyes. "Him?" she asked. "Did you just say him, as in a generic him, or -"

"A son," Zan declared numbly. "You're carrying my son." Tess was amazed to see tears pooling in Zan's eyes as well.

But she totally misunderstood their meaning. "Our son," she emphasized, taking Zan's hand, and replacing it on her belly. She was proud to be the one bearing his child, even if he weren't the chosen king of Antar. He was still part of the royal family. Perhaps that would be enough to satisfy Ki-var'.

Zan flinched, snatching his hand away, as if he had just been burned. "Don't remind me!" Zan snapped, shocking Tess out of her scheming thoughts.

"Zan -?"

"You are the last woman in the universe I want to be the mother of any child of mine!" he hollered. Tess was crushed by his all-consuming hatred of her. "But since I have no choice, I'll have to make the best of the situation. The first thing we need to do is get you back to Antar, where my son will be safe. Will Ki-var' take you in? Or will he kill my son, if you go to him?"

Tess knew now what she must do. "He is expecting me to come home pregnant," she admitted softly. "He is expecting it to be Max's son. I'll just lie, and tell him that it's Max's, and he'll be satisfied. The child will be safe."

Zan's eyes drew to pinpoints, glaring at her suspiciously. "What does he want with Max's child?" he asked hotly. "What are you going to let him do to my son?"

"I promise I won't let him hurt our baby," she said quietly, placing a protective hand over her abdomen. "If Ki-var' starts acting crazy, I'll take the child, and go into hiding."

Zan was quiet for a few moments, deep in thought. Without warning, he pulled Da-nar' aside, and spoke privately to him. "What is the gestation period for Talerians?"

"Uh - usually it is 3 months, but being that there is so much mixed blood involved, I'm not quite sure what to expect."

Zan nodded. "All right. But we are going to have to come up with a way to know when Tess has the baby. I want to be there to protect him."

"I believe I know a way," Da-nar' answered. Then he addressed the others. "Let us clean up this mess, and leave for home."

When they left the building, it was late afternoon, but it was still daylight out. Da-nar' had his arm around Tess, helping her out to the Jeep, because she was still weak, and in a good deal of pain. Alex trudged along behind them, tired, but doing fairly well, all things considered. Michael had gone on ahead to unlock the doors, and make sure the seats were cleared. As it was, Tess was going to have to sit on someone's lap for the ride home. He wondered who the lucky chap was going to be.

Max and Zan walked side by side, bringing up the rear. When they were half way to the Jeep, Zan told Max that he needed to go for a short walk. "I have to get some fresh air and relax, before I get in that Jeep for a 5 and a half hour ride," was his excuse. What he wasn't saying, was he needed time to process what he had just learned. At the age of 17, he was going to be a father. There was so much that was uncertain in his life, he hated the thought of an innocent child getting mixed up in all of it.

"Do you want company?" Max asked, reaching out to touch his brother's arm in support.

Zan stopped walking, staring off across the campus. Then he answered, "It's up to you. You can come if you want. But I don't expect to be much of a conversationalist, I'm warning you now."

"I didn't expect you would be," Max told him, and then called to the others, to tell them he and Zan would be back shortly. Then they started their trek around the nearby buildings. "I did want to ask you though - do you feel... different, since we connected?"

Zan continued to stare off into the distance. "Yeah, I do. Stronger. More attuned to my surroundings. You?"

Max nodded his head. "I had thought it best to talk over the idea of us connecting with Da-nar' before we tried it," he said, "but I'm glad that you were there. I never would have survived it without you. He was too strong. I owe you my life," he admitted emotionally. "Thanks."

"Actually, Da-nar' was the one that came up with the idea," Zan confessed. "So I guess he had the final say anyway. And it was nothing. I know you would have done the same for me."

Max smiled. "Yeah, I would have. I kind of like having you for a brother."

They continued on, walking in companionable silence for a few minutes. Coming around the corner of a building, Zan felt a strange sensation. His head came up, and he was instantly alert. Sensing the change in him, Max asked, "What's up?"

"I'm not sure," Zan confessed, scanning the area. He didn't feel comfortable telling Max that out of the blue, something had caused him to suddenly go rigid in the zipper region. He continued to look around, and then he spotted her. "I thought so," he mumbled. "Look," he said, pointing to a figure just ahead of them. "Isn't that Liz?"

Max's brows snapped together, as he strained to make out the features. "It looks like her from the back, but it can't be. I mean, I know she's impulsive, but I didn't sense anything from her that indicated she would do something as foolish as following us here."

"But it is her, I know it," Zan insisted. "Can't you tell? The minute I walked around the corner, I ... uh.... responded to her presence."

Max's eyebrow peaked over his left eye. "Responded, huh? Do I dare hazard a guess at the definition of that particular usage of the word?"

"You know what I mean," Zan grumbled back. "She's your woman. I'm surprised you didn't notice."

"Well, see, here's the thing, Zan - it can't be Liz. Last night, when I took her home? We kissed good night... and stuff. And it appears that Da-nar's theory has some merit. That sexual urgency that we have been experiencing around her? It was gone. She is obviously past her fertile period. So whatever you are sensing now - it isn't Liz."

"But look at her," Zan protested. "That's Liz's walk! Don't you recognize it?"

"I have to admit, it does look like Liz." He didn't want to tell Zan that he also was reacting to this woman. He didn't want to believe it himself. "Come on, let's catch up to her, and figure out what's going on." They broke into a jog, and rapidly closed the distance between themselves and the petite brunette.

When they were almost to her, Zan called out, "Liz!" but the girl kept walking. He sprinted toward her, leaving Max in the dust, and called her name once more, just before he overtook her. Still no response. But the closer he got, the stronger his reaction to her became. He reached out, and clasped his hand around her slender arm, pulling her to a halt.

Frantically, she spun around, and he saw her face, just before she kicked him in the shin. "Ouch! Damn it, Liz, what was that for?!"

There was something so familiar about this young man, but the way his touch affected her scared her. It was as if an electrical current was surging through her. She had never had this kind of reaction to any man before. "Look, I don't know who you are, or what kind of sick game you're into here, but let me go! Otherwise, I'll scream bloody murder, and tell everyone you tried to rape me!" Zan was surprised to detect faint traces of a Brooklyn accent. And it almost seemed.... familiar.

"Liz, what the hell are you talking about? Have you lost your mind? I would never hurt you like that!"

"Stop calling me that! My name is not Liz! Now LET. ME. GO!" she ground out, trying to wrench her arm free.

Zan couldn't let go. Besides the incredible pull that fastened him to her, he couldn't bear the thought that she might take off on him. He needed to know who she was! "Please, just calm down. I don't want to hurt you, I just need to ta-"

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed, when Max came up alongside Zan. "Liz?" Max asked, not able to believe that she was really here. And as Zan had experienced, Max's body was keenly reacting to her presence. That's weird, he thought. Why didn't she affect me last night?

"I am NOT LIZ!" she insisted in a loud voice. "Now who the hell are you people?"

Max and Zan stared at her in amazement. Then Zan remembered where he had heard the voice before. A thought occurred to him, and he decided to take a gamble. "Karanna?" he said softly, almost under his breath.

The young woman's eyes grew huge in her shocked face, as they snapped up to meet his. "H- how do you know my name?" she whispered fearfully.

Zan closed his eyes, unable to believe what was happening. When he reopened his eyes and looked directly into hers, the girl felt her heart start to pound, as she saw how dark and sensuous his eyes had become. "Do you have any idea who you are, Karanna?" he asked softly. The thumb of his hand that continued to grasp her arm began to subconsciously stroke her flesh, as if to soothe her.

Karanna began to tremble. "I don't know what you are talking about," she hedged.

"All right," he continued in that same, soft voice. "Do you know who I am? Or my brother? Don't you recognize us?"

She shook her head violently, trying to deny to herself, what she suspected to be true. "Do you remember a moonlit beach, and a wall of rock, where we met in our dreams?" he continued.

Karanna's whimper resonated in the back of her throat. This couldn't be happening! Zan was overwhelmed by compassion, when he saw the fear that she couldn't disguise. He pulled her rigid body to him, and wrapped his arms around her. "Shh, baby, it's all right," he crooned softly to her. "Everything is going to be okay, now that we've found each other."

"But I don't know you," she insisted, her voice little more than a whisper. "Why do you act as though you know me?"

"Because I do, Karanna. You and I - we're the same. I know you feel it. We belong together." He felt her shudder in his arms. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be frightening you. I'm really not some crazed lunatic. It's just that I'm in shock myself over this. I didn't really believe that you existed. I thought that Liz was - wait a minute." He pulled away enough so that he could look in her eyes. "Did you ever have any other dreams before that one on the beach? One where there was just you, and a guy that you didn't know?"

"Y-yes," she stuttered, shivering again, although whether from fear, or the sensual way he was looking at her, she wasn't sure.

"Do you remember his name?" Zan asked quietly. Karanna nodded. Zan closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them to watch her reaction to his next question. "Was his name Zan?"

Karanna's jaw went slack, her eyes searching his for an explanation. "How did you know about the dreams? About the man? What his name was?" she whispered in awe.

Zan brought his hand up to cup the side of her face. "Because, Karanna - I'm Zan." The realization was too much for her, and Karanna fainted in his arms. Gently, he lifted her, and carried her to a nearby tree, where he sat down and leaned against the trunk, holding her in his arms.

Max sat next to him, totally astounded. "How did you know her name would be Karanna?" Max asked, staring at her unconscious form.

"Before I met Liz, I had been having dreams about a woman named Karanna. Until now, I thought Liz was Karanna, and that Karanna had just been her Antarian name. I didn't dream that Liz could have a double out there, whose name actually was Karanna. I wonder why Da-nar' didn't tell us about her?"

"I don't know, but I certainly intend to find out," Max assured him. "But what are we going to do about her? We can't take her back to Roswell with us. Surely she has a family. And we can't just say, 'Lookee here - Liz has a twin she never knew about.' I think her parents might freak out."

"I don't know, Max," Zan admitted, "but I do know that she belongs with me. I just don't know how to make it happen."

Karanna began to stir. Zan held her close, whispering words of comfort to her, as she regained consciousness. When her eyes opened and fastened on him, her breath caught in her throat. "I thought it was a dream," she told him. "But you're really here."

Zan smiled lovingly at her. "Yes, I'm really here. But more importantly, we need to find out how you came to be here. Does your family live in Las Cruces?"

Karanna nodded. "My parents died several years ago - we lived in Brooklyn then. After their death, I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle here. My uncle is on staff in the Biology department here at the college."

"So what are you doing on campus? You're too young to be taking classes."

"Oh, I like to come and use the library here," she said shyly. "There are so many books to choose from."

Zan smiled broadly, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. "Girl after my own heart." He looked at Max. "Think we should take her to meet Da-nar'? Or do you want to go and bring him back here? He has some explaining to do."

"I think I'll go and get him," Max answered. "That'll give you two a few minutes of privacy to talk about things, and besides - Karanna doesn't need to deal with Tess right off the bat." He gave Zan a look that brought back the whole situation with Tess and the baby back to the surface.

Zan groaned. "Yeah, good idea. Thanks." He watched as Max started jogging back in the direction they had come from. Then he looked down at the beautiful woman lying in his arms, unable to get over how identical she looked to Liz. His eyes drifted to half mast, as he nuzzled her nose with his, their lips almost touching. "Hey," he whispered.

Karanna looked up at him through her own lowered lashes, strangely aroused by the warmth of his breath rippling over her skin. "Hey," she whispered back. She wanted nothing more than to feel his lips kissing hers. And then they were. She had kissed boys before, but none of them made her feeling anything special. Kissing Zan, though - it was as if all the passion in her had been held in reserve for this magical moment, when he would come with the key, and unlock the secret place in her heart where it was stored.

And his lips were doing such wonderful things... she felt his tongue slide teasingly across her lips, which elicited a little moan from her. That act parted her lips just enough, that he was was able to slip his tongue along the underneath side of her lips. "Open wider for me, Karanna," Zan directed her in a husky whisper. Her heart left her no choice but to obey. Who was this man that inhabited her dreams, and could command the desires of her heart? This man that she had never met, and yet knew in the core of her being?

Her body was suddenly strung tight as a bow, when his tongue thrust past her lips, and invaded the virgin territory of her warm, willing mouth. Never before had anyone tried to kiss her in such a manner, nor would she ever have allowed it. Yet here she was, aching to submit to anything that he asked of her. Twining her arms around his neck, she pressed her self closer to him, and was warmed in her secret places, when she heard his groan of desire in response to her innocent display of affection. But when his hand moved and grazed her breast, she pulled back as if he had burned her.

Breathing heavily, she looked at him with wild, frightened eyes. "I - I don't know what came over me," she told him in a quivery voice. "I have never even kissed anyone like that before. But you must think I'm really easy."

Zan stroked her hair. "No, love, I don't think you're easy. I just think that your heart recognizes that we are meant for each other. That is why you respond to me so readily."

"If you don't think that I'm easy, then why did you - uh - you know...."

Zan smiled at her innocence. "That was my fault. You see, I have already accepted that our lives are intertwined, and that we belong together. I have been waiting for you for months, Karanna. I guess I just lost my head, knowing that you were finally in my arms. I had given up on you being real. There is more to the story, but I don't want to dump it all on you at once. You are going to have enough to deal with, once Da-nar' sees you."

"Da-nar'? The man your brother went to get?"

"Yes."

"Who is he?"

"He is our protector."

Karanna stared at him. "You need... a protector? Please tell me who you are. And why I feel so drawn to you." Her eyes continued to plead with him, even after her words ceased.

"Oh, my love," he said, and placed a gentle kiss on her lips, "I don't even know how to begin to tell you what you want to know, if you don't have any idea who you really are." He thought for a moment. "You mentioned in the last dream, that you had strange experiences - what kinds of experiences?"

"I - I don't know if I should talk about it -"

"Karanna, please. I will tell you now, that nothing you say could shock me, or cause me to turn from you. The things that have happened to me will no doubt be far more difficult for you to handle than what you have to tell me. And besides, I will tell you that someday - when you have had time to adjust to everything, and learn about who we are - that we will share everything as husband and wife. So we might as well set a precedent of not keeping secrets from each other at the onset. Okay?"

She lowered her eyes and nodded. "Well, you know about the dreams. And there have been times that I have thought I was not dreaming at all - that somehow...." She took a deep breath. "Somehow I traveled outside my body to other places. This one time, it was really weird. I was walking through these tunnels -I'm pretty sure they were under New York City somewhere - and came to this big underground room, where these four green, glowing chambers were attached to the wall, in what appeared to be a living room -"

"I don't believe it," Zan mumbled in awe.

Karanna looked offended. "Listen, don't ask me to tell you stuff, and then call me a liar," she said, bristling.

"Oh, no, I didn't literally mean I didn't believe you. I just meant that what you said was so incredible. What you just described? That's where I grew up. That was home for me, until a few days ago."

"You - you grew up in a.... sewer?" she asked incredulously.

Zan chuckled. "Well, not exactly a sewer, but yeah, I grew up in the tunnels under the city. So while you were living up top, I was down below. Who knows? You might have walked over the top of our lair one day."

"Our?" she inquired. "Who else lived there?"

Zan flinched. "Well, that's part of the complicated part of the tale. And here comes Da-nar', so I don't have time to get into it right now. I want to hear what he has to say about you."

"Why would he have anything to say about me?"

Zan looked her straight in the eye. "Because he is also your protector."

posted on 27-Nov-2001 9:06:43 AM

Part Four

Karanna had no time to react, or question Zan's statement, because Max and Da-nar' were now standing before them. As she looked up into Da-nar's face, she gasped. "Doctor Roberts?! You know these guys?"

Da-nar' smiled broadly. "So! You do remember me, Karanna!"

"Of course! How could I forget you? You were such a good friend to my parents."

Da-nar's smile grew sad. "Yes, I was so sorry to hear about their deaths. I was out of town at the time, and by the time I returned, they had been buried, and you had been taken away to live with relatives. Unfortunately, no one I talked to knew who they were, or where they lived," he recounted, his eyes misting from the emotions of seeing her again after all those years.

"You - you tried to find me?" she asked, clearly surprised at the news.

"Yes, but it was like you had fallen off the face of the earth," he told her in a choked whisper. "I thought I would never see you again."

Karanna was confused. "I know you were my parents' friend, but why would it be so important to you to keep track of me?"

Da-nar' sat down on the ground next to Zan, and took Karanna's hands in his. "Because I wasn't just a friend to your parents, Karanna. We had a history together, and it was all centered around you. And because there were things about you that I never told your parents, for your own safety. Things that you need to know about now. The timing of you coming into Zan's life now is extraordinary. The things that are happening - the group will be much stronger with you in it."

Zan felt Karanna's body tense, and she speared her hands into her hair, holding her head. "You aren't making any sense, Doctor," she protested. "Please - help me to understand. I need to understand."

"First, please call me Da-nar'. It is my rightful, given name. I'd prefer you use that, than some title that these humans have bestowed upon me."

"H-humans?" she asked, swallowing. Then she laughed nervously. "The way you said that, you almost sound as if you don't consider yourself one of us."

He locked her gaze with his for a moment, and then softly revealed, "I'm not human, Karanna - and neither are you. Not totally, anyway." Max continued to scan the immediate vicinity, to make sure that none of their conversation could be overheard.

Her eyes went wild, as they darted first to one of the men, and then to another, back and forth. "What do you mean, I'm not human? I was born of human parents - wasn't I?" she asked on a fearful gasp. She had always known that she was different, but she had never in her wildest dreams thought that it was due to anything like this.

"Yes, you were, but you were not conceived through natural means. Your parents were infertile, and they came to me for treatment, hoping to have a child. I had interviewed and treated many couples, before I found your parents. They were the perfect couple to be gifted with you. And so I implanted your embryo within your mother's womb, and here you are."

"But if I'm not from their seed - who am I?" she asked, quivering with apprehension over the answer that she wasn't sure she really wanted to hear.

"Well, you are part human, and your were designed to be human in all appearances, for safety's sake," he began. The other part of you comes from the queen of a distant planet, who was killed on her wedding day. Her name... was Karanna."

Her eyes bugged out. "A queen of another planet? You must be kidding. Do you really expect me to fall for this?"

"I don't expect you to 'fall' for anything," he returned curtly. "I expect to you listen, and gain understanding of who you are. I have many ways to prove what I claim is true. That is not an issue."

"Maybe not for you, but it is for me," she huffed.

Da-nar' sighed impatiently. "Very well, if you insist. It is difficult to tell what gifts you may have been exhibiting, since you have not had contact with any of us, to help bring your Antarian side to the surface -"

"Wait. Antarian?"

"The planet of your people is called Antar. The people are known as Antarians."

"What do you mean 'my people'? Aren't they your people as well?"

"Not technically. My species inhabits the same world, but we are not indigenous to it. We were taken in and given sanctuary three generations ago, by the former king of Antar. Now, as I was saying -"

"But if this Karanna was the queen - who is the king? And who killed her, anyway?"

"She was killed by my people's prince, named Ki-var', who wanted to take over the rule of Antar. And the king's name.... was Zan."

Karanna's eyes immediately shifted to Zan. "So, are you...?"

Zan nodded. "Yes - I'm half human, and my Antarian half came from the king's DNA, as did Max's."

That thought hit her square between the eyes. "They made two of you?"

Zan chuckled. "Well, at first, before we met Da-nar', that's what we thought. Actually, we had even wondered if my alien half wasn't even from the king. But it turned out, that Max and I are actually identical twins. When they created us, the embryo split, and so there are two of us." He looked at Da-nar'. "What about Karanna? Is she a dupe, or -?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "No, she is not a dupe."

"What's a dupe?" she asked, her anxiety level continuing to rise. Sensing her emotional distress within his own nervous system, Zan began to soothingly stroke her back, as he subconsciously allowed calming energy to flow out of himself into her. Immediately, he felt her begin to relax in his arms, allowing her body to rest against his.

"Dupe," Da-nar' explained, "is short for 'duplicate'. You see, once the embryo split, and there were two kings, we decided to duplicate the rest of the royal family that was being sent to earth to be raised to retake Antar. Well, that isn't exactly accurate. They weren't duplicates so much, as they were decoys. They had the same human DNA, so they looked alike, which was intended to mislead our enemy into thinking that they were the original hybrids of the royal family. But with the exception of Zan, the rest of the hybrids in his group were not of royal descent."

Karanna looked at Zan. "So these are the others that you mentioned lived in that underground hideout of yours?"

Zan smiled, pleased with how quickly she was assimilating and adjusting to this massive influx of information. "Yes, they were the ones that I referred to."

"I still don't know if I believe all of this."

"Well, as I started to say before, I can prove it to you. Let me ask you this - have you ever experienced being someplace, other than where your body was located?"

Karanna looked at Zan. He nodded for her to answer the question. "Yes, I have. How did you know?"

Da-nar' smiled triumphantly at her. "Because that was one of Karanna's gifts, before she was killed. And Liz seems to have this ability, although undeveloped."

"Liz! Who is this 'Liz' you all keep talking about?"

Da-nar' looked at Max. "Do you have a picture of Liz?" he asked.

Max pulled out his wallet, and retrieved a picture that Maria had taken of Liz and him, during the brief period they had been a couple last spring. He handed it to Karanna, who gasped when she saw what looked like a picture of her and Zan sitting together, cuddled up on a picnic bench. "Th-this is you and Liz?" she inquired, just to make sure.

"Yes," Max affirmed. "The resemblance is incredible. Da-nar', you said she isn't a dupe. Does that mean what I think that it does?"

"What does it mean?" Karanna interjected, before Da-nar' could answer.

"It means, that you and Liz weren't created separately. You are identical twins, just as Max and Zan are," Da-nar' was finally able to say.

Karanna's heart felt like it stopped beating, and she forgot to breathe. "I - I have a sister?" she whispered.

"That's correct. I would have told you all of this much sooner, of course, if I hadn't lost track of you when.... you were younger." He hesitated to mention her parents' untimely demise any more than necessary, since he didn't know how sensitive she still might be about it.

"You don't have to avoid the subject of my parents' death, Da-nar'," she said softly. "I came to terms with it a long time ago. Now please, tell me about my sister."

"Well, she is very much like you. Obviously, you both look identical. But beyond that, you both seem to display the finer qualities of our queen - you are both gentle and compassionate, full of love and kindness. You'll love Liz, I'm sure, just as the rest of us do."

Karanna nodded, but Da-nar' could tell that her mind was working feverishly, trying to process everything - perhaps even refute it. His assessment was confirmed, when she abruptly changed topics again. "You said that I was created from the queen's genetic material, but that none of the hybrids in Zan's group are of royal descent. Yet from what I gather, he seems to feel that I am a part of his group, not Max's. These aren't compatible." Zan could feel her tension level beginning to rise again.

"They aren't incompatible at all," Da-nar' insisted. "But you have to know the rest of what happened. The Talerians wanted to keep the queen from being recreated into human form. They would have succeeded, if they had asked anyone else to destroy the queen's essence. But they asked me, and so I hid it. Then they substituted the essence of the rebel leader's sister, and made a fake bride for the king. When we made the set of dupes to go with Zan, we had to make a dupe of the fake bride, as well. You were not considered part of the dupe grouping."

"What did they have against the queen, that they didn't want her to be reborn in human form?" Karanna asked, still confused by all of this. "I would think that the KING would be the one that would threaten this rebel leader - what's his name by the way? - and the one that they would want to stop from being recreated."

"His name is Ki-var', and I know that it would seem the most logical to destroy the king's essence, but you have to understand something else - Ki-var's sister wanted to be King Zan's bride. When he refused to marry her, and chose Karanna instead... let's just say, she saw the recreated king as her second chance to be queen." Da-nar' went on, explaining the whole sordid plan to her.

"Well I'm really lost now. Why did you hybridize the queen then? And how do I fit in? Why did the rest of them know each other, and I got left out?"

"Starting with the easiest of those questions," Da-nar' said with a smirk, "You were kept separate from the others for your safety. I had intended to introduce Zan to you, when you both were in your early teens. But you disappeared without a trace, and so I was unable to bring you together. As for the rest of it, I created the queen's hybrid, because I knew that our king would need help to defeat his enemies, and because the Antarians had wanted to replicate the king and his bride, the sister of the king, and his second in command. The four of them were to make up a unit. You see, in Antarian legend and religion, the number four has always represented strength, flowing from the blessings of the All Powerful One -"

"All Powerful One?"

"That is one of the names that the Antarians use to refer to their deity. You humans call Him God."

Karanna nodded. "Sorry for interrupting. What were you saying about the number four?"

"When Antarians would battle in hand-to-hand combat, they always fought in a "four-square" pattern. They did this for several reasons. On the purely physical plane, it gave them protection, because someone you trusted was always at your back. Envision a square - by having each member of a unit stand with their shoulders at 90 degree angles, a four-square literally had 360 degrees of vision and protection. The second reason they did this, was connected to what I told you a minute ago - they believed it represented the four directions, and thus the four corners, if you will, of God's creation. They felt that was the reason that four always represented strength endowed by their Creator - by acknowledging and calling upon the strength that had created the worlds, they would invoke His blessings, insuring their victory. I must admit, it was very successful. They had never experienced defeat, until Ki-var' came along."

"Why was he successful, when others weren't?" Max asked, captivated by this new information, even though his attention seemed to be elsewhere, as he continued to scan their surroundings. He had always wondered what the significance of the four-square was.

"Ki-var' didn't fight honorably," Da-nar' snorted, ashamed of the other Talerian's treachery. "There was no declaration of war - he came to the King's wedding as a friend, and proceeded to slay the royal family during the feast."

"I still don't see what this has to do with me," Karanna interjected, trying to return the discussion back to her earlier question. "I mean, there were already four of them in each unit, if I understood correctly?"

"Yes, there were four, but remember - one in each group was the enemy. She wasn't Antarian - she was made from the essence of Ki-var's sister, Tessandra, and designed to be their downfall, not the completion of a unit. Ki-var' wanted to be sure that while his sister was attempting to seduce an heir out of Max, that the unit would not have enough strength to overcome him, and reclaim Antar. You and Liz are the ones who truly complete each four-square unit, even though you weren't podded as a part of the group."

Karanna raised an eyebrow. "Podded? What does that mean?"

"Do you remember how you said that when you traveled without your body to our lair, you saw those green, glowing chambers?" Zan asked her. Karanna nodded. "Well, those are what remains of our incubation pods. We weren't born from human parents like you and Liz were. We developed in the pods, until we looked to be about the age of normal 6 year olds, and then we.... hatched."

Karanna buried her face in her hands. "My God, I can't believe this. This can't be happening."

Zan could sense her conflicting emotions, and pulled her close, gently stroking her to help her relax. He felt her soften against him again. "I think we've dumped enough on her for one day, Da-nar'," he voiced.

Karanna had been on the verge of freaking out, when she felt a wave of peace rush into her, causing her body to relax. That was twice that she had been totally stressed out, and then suddenly felt the anxiety drain from her. She wasn't sure how she knew it, but she was convinced that somehow Zan was influencing her emotions, bringing them back into a healthier balance.

"Yes, perhaps we have," Da-nar' responded. "I never meant for you to find out this way, Karanna. Please believe me. But I am so relieved that we have found you again."

Karanna laid her head on Zan's chest, enjoying the sense of peace and well-being that he was projecting into her. "It's all right, Da-nar'. I don't hold it against you. You had no way of finding me." She looked up at Zan. "So then, you never had a family? A mom, a dad?" Zan shook his head. Tears came to her eyes, as she placed her hand on the side of his face. "How sad for you. All the 'family' you had was the other three, and one of those was your enemy. God, Zan, under such circumstances, how did you turn out to be so wonderful?" She didn't know how she was so certain of his character, but she was.

Zan closed his eyes, turning his face into her hand, and kissed her palm. "None of that matters anymore," he whispered to her, his eyes burning her with their sensual heat. "Not now that you're here." He had to fight the strong, sensual pull that would have him claim her lips in a fiery kiss. But that would have to wait for a private moment. He nearly lost the battle, though, when he saw the quiver in her lips, and felt the subtle shift of her body, as she tried to get closer. Obviously, she was feeling the same urge.

He forced himself to look away, and with a husky voice asked, "So what do we do now? I can't stay here with Karanna, and she certainly can't come back to Roswell with us."

"We're going to have to leave her here for the time being, while we figure some other things out," Max said, again reminding Zan with a look about the pending problem of Tess' pregnancy. "Get her phone number, address, e-mail address... whatever, and we'll keep in touch with her. We'll come back for a visit as soon as we can. Maybe even over the weekend." Max turned to Da-nar'. "Come on, let's go back and check on... the others. Zan, we'll wait for you at the Jeep. Don't be too much longer."

"Okay, thanks," Zan answered, and watched as they got up to head back to the parking lot. When they were out of earshot, he turned his attention back to Karanna, and emitted a low, sensual growl from his throat. "Come here," he commanded, as he lifted her up closer to him, so he could capture her lips in a searing kiss. As his blood began to run hot and fast through his body, he deepened their kiss, his desire for her flaring like an all-consuming fire. And then the flashes started.

*Karanna and Da-nar' talking, when she was a young girl - feeling her fascination at what he was telling her*

*The day of her parents funeral - feeling her grief, and her fear over what was going to happen to her*

*Being in school, and refusing to buckle under peer pressure - feeling her sadness, because she didn't "fit in"*

*Karanna waking up in a sweat, the night that she had her out of body experience - feeling her fear of being a "freak"*

*Karanna and Zan talking before - feeling her fear, and yet her also sensing that what he was saying was true, and that they belonged together*

At the same time, Karanna was receiving flashes from Zan.....

*Zan emerging from his pod - she felt his confusion and loneliness, his need for an adult to comfort him*

*Zan, Rath, Lonnie, and Ava roaming the streets, stealing food to keep from starving - feeling his regret at doing something he instinctively knew was wrong*

*Zan kissing and caressing Ava - feeling his emptiness at being with her*

Zan making love to what appeared to be her - Could it be Liz? she wondered - she felt his guilt at being unable to stop what was happening*

At that point, Karanna pushed abruptly away from Zan, her chest heaving with each labored breath. Zan noticed her eyes were wild with - what was it? Fear? Anger? He reached for her, wanting to hold her and comfort her, to help her overcome whatever was upsetting her.

She slapped at his hands and jumped off his lap. Rising, she stood in front of him, and snapped, "Don't touch me!"

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:16:41 AM

Part Five

Zan was temporarily speechless, as he tried to figure out what had just gone wrong. His outstretched arms dropped back to his side like they were made of lead, and he stared at her, his eyes filled with pain at her sudden rejection.

Karanna turned her back to him, not being able to watch the way that her attitude seemed to be affecting him. It was probably all an act, anyway. Tears spilled from her eyes, and she swiped at them furiously, disgusted with herself for letting herself be hurt so deeply by a man she barely knew.

Zan got to his feet, and came to stand right behind her. He forced himself to keep his arms at his sides, despite how desperately he wanted to wrap them around her, and tell her that he - that he what? That he loved her? How could she possibly believe that, when they had just met? But it was there. That same feeling of rightness that he had with Liz. With one exception - no guilt. If Liz had truly been his soul mate, would he have felt guilty for wanting his brother's woman? No - no more than Max felt guilty for loving and being with her, knowing how much it hurt Zan.

But now he had bigger problems. He finally found the one that was meant for him - and there was no guilt involved. And yet suddenly, it was as if her blood had frozen in her veins. He shuddered, just thinking about how cold and removed her look had been, when she had told him not to touch her. Something had happened. They had been kissing, and he knew that she liked it, from the way she responded. And then he had gotten the flashes... The flashes! Could that be it? Did she see something from my past that is upsetting her? he wondered. And then Zan's stomach twisted in his gut, when he realized just what she might have seen. He hadn't thought to block a connection between them - he had never done anything he was that ashamed of. But if she saw things that she couldn't understand - what might she be thinking?

"Karanna?" he said softly, hoping that if he spoke gently, she wouldn't come unglued on him. "Baby, what is it? What happened?"

Taking one last angry swipe at her tears, she spun around to face him, surprised at just how close he was standing. She instinctively took a couple steps back away from him. Being so close to him muddled her thinking, and she couldn't afford to be vulnerable like that to him again.

"You must be pretty proud of yourself, huh? Just how many other women have you seduced with your lies and empty promises?" Her sharp words pierced through the air, inflicting a mortal wound to his heart. He had finally found her, and now she hated him! How was he supposed to survive this one? He had barely managed to keep himself together when he realized that Liz would never be his. But this? This would be the one that brought him to his knees. His heart breaking in two, he hung his head, partly from the pain, and partially so she wouldn't see his tears. When he didn't answer her, her pain caused her to lash out again. "I see you have nothing to say in your own defense. Not that there is anything you could say that would ever excuse lying to me. That's one thing I can't stand. Lies."

"I never lied to you, Karanna," he said, struggling to keep his voice from quivering. "Not ever."

"Yes, you did!" she insisted. "I saw, Zan. I saw you with two different women! One of which must have been Liz, for heaven's sake! Your own brother's girlfriend! And some other woman with blonde hair, colored with some pinkish tint. How many others were there, Zan? To think that I actually believed that you meant it, when you said you had been waiting all your life for me."

"As I recall, I said I had been waiting for months for you. Ever since the dreams."

"That's what you said a little while ago. But in the dreams, you told me that you had been waiting all your life for me."

"Well, it is true."

"Then explain the other women, Zan! That didn't look like waiting to me! That looked like taking your pleasure wherever you can get it! Why would I trust you, after what I saw?"

"Before I answer that, let me ask you something - have you ever gotten visions like that from anyone else?"

Karanna's face became a mask of indifference. "No. What does that have to do with anything?"

"Don't you think that difference makes our relationship special? That it means something?"

"How should I know," she said icily. "Maybe you can do that with every girl you kiss."

"Not like that, Karanna. Not without even trying to. The connection between us is spontaneous."

"If you believed that, you'd be able to look me in the eyes. But you can't. You've been staring at your sneakers the entire time you've been spouting your lies."

"That's not why I'm not looking at you," he informed her, so softly she almost couldn't hear him.

"Then look at me, damn it! Look at me, and be honest for once!" She gasped, when he lifted his face, revealing the tears that were streaming down his cheeks.

"As you can see," he told her, closing his eyes against the pain in his heart, "I wasn't avoiding looking at you because I was lying. I was merely trying to salvage what little was left of my pride and my heart. Now that I have completely humbled myself, will you even listen? Will you let me explain whatever it was that you saw from inside me? Or am I a man judged and condemned, handed a life sentence with no hope, based on what you think you know about me?"

"Can you explain it, Zan?" she asked softly, her voice betraying her pain. "Can you explain, if I'm the one you've been waiting for, why you slept with those other women? With my sister? Do you know how that makes me feel? Like I am just a stand-in for the woman that you really love?"

"Baby, no," he protested on a choked whisper. "It isn't like that at all. In fact, that wasn't even Liz. It was Tessandra."

Karanna's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "The enemy?" she squeaked. "You slept with our enemy?"

"Yes, but I didn't know that it was her. Can I please just explain from the beginning?" Karanna nodded. Zan held his hand out to her. "Then come, sit, and let's talk." Karanna eyed him suspiciously, not wanting to touch him, for fear of losing her resolve, and the protective shield she had raised around her heart. Avoiding all body contact, she walked around him, and sat down under the tree once more. Zan sighed, his shoulder slumped in shame and defeat. "I guess I deserve that," he said, feeling total despair at the thought of losing her. And even though she was still here, he could tell that the respect that she had so freely given him had been replaced by a wariness of him.

Sitting down beside her, he relayed how it was that Tess had ended up in his room that night, and why. "So you see," he said in conclusion, "it wasn't even me she wanted, it was Max. If I hadn't been delirious from waking up with a raging arousal from her devious scheme, it never would have happened."

"But you must have had some sort of feelings for Liz, or you wouldn't have let it happen. I mean, if you had known it was Tess, I bet you would have stopped it."

Zan was shamed by her words. She was right, and he could tell that she knew it. "I'm not going to even try to deny it," was his response.

"Well, thank you for that much honesty, at least."

"Do I even get to try to explain?" Karanna shrugged. Inside, she secretly hoped that he could explain it, but she wasn't going to let him know how vulnerable she really was. If he failed to accomplish the task, she didn't want him knowing how devastated it would leave her. "All right, here's the thing: Yes, I was attracted to Liz. More than attracted. I would become insanely aroused around her, from the first time I met her, which was only 3 days ago."

Zan paused at her shocked gasp. "This is supposed to make me feel better? To trust you?" she managed to say.

"You have to listen to the whole story, before you make your judgment. All right?"

Karanna glared at him, as if to say that there was nothing he could say now, to undo the damage that last admission had inflicted. She crossed her arms over her chest, and leaned back against the tree. "Say whatever you want. Heaven knows, I can't stop you."

Zan stared at her, wondering how things could end up so mixed up. Maybe it really is hopeless, he thought despairingly. But he loved her too much to give up without at least trying to make her understand. "Okay, well, here's the thing - I thought that she was the Karanna from my dreams - because she had Karanna's essence. I knew that I loved Karanna - and when I had such a strong physical reaction to Liz, it was easy to equate that feeling of passionate desire with the love that I had growing inside of me for the woman in my dreams. And I thought at the time that was all they were - just dreams. But then I came to realize that Liz loved Max and vice versa. That they considered themselves to be true soul mates. So despite my attraction to her - and hers to me, I might add, I decided I had to let her go. She needed to be with the man that she truly loved, no matter how difficult I found it. Then things started getting crazy, when I realized that Max was having some sort of sexual awakening toward her as well. Beyond the normal teenage hormone kind of thing, I mean. He, too, started experiencing this overwhelming urge to mate with her. So when Da-nar' showed up, and we told him what was happening, he explained that it is most likely caused by a biological directive common to Antarian couples, linked to the female's reproductive cycle. Max told me that last night, the passion level between him and Liz was back to normal." He looked at her, waiting for a reaction, since she had listened without so much as flinching a muscle, or displaying any kind of emotional reaction.

"Is that it?" she asked flatly.

"Basically."

"So what you're telling me is... you want me to be your woman, but when Liz is 'in heat', all bets are off? Do I have this straight?"

Zan's eyes were hard, and his face revealed his disgust at what she had said. "You know what? Just forget it. Forget I ever laid eyes on you, and came after you this afternoon," he said coldly, rising to his feet. "Because that's what I intend to do. I can't begin to tell you what a total disappointment this has been. When we met in our dreams, I thought I could trust what I sensed about you - about your character. I thought you were a kind, compassionate woman, who wouldn't judge a man for mistakes he'd made in the past, and things that were beyond his control. I thought that once I found you, my previously pathetic life would somehow transform itself into something worthwhile. Thanks for disabusing me of the notion up front. I'd have hated to waste precious time growing more attached to you, just to find this out down the road. You won't have to worry about me bothering you anymore." With that, he spun on his heel and began the walk back to the Jeep.

Karanna felt justified in her anger the entire time, but when Zan turned and walked out on her, she felt something inside her begin to wither and die. It hurt so much to know that he had been with other women! And that he wanted her sister! But despite her rage, she knew that this was the love of her life, and she would never get over him. As she watched him walk away, she covered her mouth with her hand, to stifle a heart-wrenching sob. As hot tears splashed down her face, she whispered after him, "I'll always love you, Zan. I only wish that you could have loved me, too." And then she buried her face in her arms that were propped up on her knees, and cried her heart out.

As she wept, she felt two strong arms wrap around her, and pull her close. "Baby, don't you understand? I do love you. Why else would I even care what you thought of me?"

Karanna's head jerked up, her face stained with tears, to look into the eyes of the man that had hurt her so badly. "I thought you said you were through with me," she said bristling, hating that he could see how vulnerable she was.

"That was before you said you loved me."

"I didn't -"

Zan cut her words off with a finger over her lips. "Don't, Karanna. Please, let's not start lying to each other. I heard what you said, so there's no point in denying it."

"How could you hear me?" she asked, astonished at this revelation.

"I've always had good hearing," he told her, "but earlier, Max and I had to connect for the first time, in order to fight off one of our enemies. When we did, it further heightened my senses. Especially my hearing."

"You weren't supposed to hear that," she grumbled.

Zan threaded his fingers through her hair, until he was holding her head in his hands. "Why not, Karanna? Why don't you want me to know you love me? Or is it that you don't want to love me, period?"

"I just don't think I can do this, Zan. How can I give my heart completely to a man who wants to jump in bed with my sister? Biological directive, or no, it's too much to endure. Can't you understand that? If and when I ever give myself to a man, I don't want to share him with anyone. Ever. Maybe it's selfish, but it's the way I am."

Zan knew just what she meant. He'd never be able to tolerate sharing her, either. "Do you suppose it would make you feel less threatened, if I told you that Max had the same kind of reaction to you, that I had to Liz?"

Her eyes grew wide. "He told you that?"

Zan gave her a meaningful look. "He didn't have to."

"Well then how do you know -"

Zan again sealed in her words with a finger over her lips. "Sweetheart, there are some things a man just cannot hide," he said with a smirk.

"Oh," she said against his finger. He waited a few seconds for it to sink in, and then chuckled when she said, "Oooh!" and blushed a deep pink.

"So you see? You aren't the only one that will be suffering. And I'll tell you a secret." He leaned in, and whispered in her ear, "I don't intend to share you, either."

His warm breath against her ear, combined with the husky timbre of his voice, caused a shiver to run up her spine. Feeling her response, Zan traced the shell of her ear with the tip of his tongue, ending with a little nibble on her earlobe. He could hear her breathing come in short, shallow gasps, as her body strained to come closer to his, of its own volition. He nuzzled his face into her neck, and sucked on the sensitive flesh he found there, further inflaming her by tracing her neckline with his warm, wet tongue.

"Zan," she moaned.

"Yes, love?" he asked breathlessly, as he continued his sensual assault. He knew that he was rapidly losing control, but he couldn't seem to stop himself.

"How are we going to - aaahh - um, resolve this, then?"

He brushed his lips across hers , and then lightly nipped her bottom lip. "Resolve what?" he asked, all coherent thoughts of their conversation long gone at this point.

"This business of you and Liz being attracted to each other."

He kissed her soundly again. "And let's not forget about you and Max."

She gasped. "There is no me and Max. I don't feel that way about him."

"You will. Trust me."

"But I don't want to feel that way about him! I only want to feel that way about you."

"Welcome to my private hell," he muttered. "You think I want to have the hots for my brother's woman? Do you really think I'm that masochistic?"

It finally sunk in with her just how upsetting this must be for him. "Oh Zan, I never thought about how awful it must be for you. I mean, that is... if you don't want to be attracted to Liz."

"Why would any man want to be attracted to a woman he can't have? Trust me, in a situation like this, there isn't enough cold water in the state of New Mexico to deal with the problem."

"Excuse me?"

"You know, cold show - uh, never mind," Zan finished sheepishly, realizing for the first time just how innocent she was.

Karanna scowled at him. "Whatever," she said, choosing to dismiss the cryptic statement. "So tell me about this Tessandra. How did you deal with what she did? Is she still in Roswell? Do I need to be worried about her?"

Zan's heart warmed at the jealousy she barely seemed able to keep reigned in. Despite the obstacle it presented, it was nice to know that she cared enough to be jealous. "Actually, she's the reason that we came here. She had kidnapped one of our friends, who is a computer ace, and brought him to the university to try and decode a book that supposedly our people sent to earth with us. It was written in an ancient Antarian language of symbols. Tess thought if she could decode the book, she could find out how to get back to Antar."

"And you wanted to stop her? Forgive me if I don't follow that logic. I'd think you'd be dancing in the streets if she left."

"Nah, that would draw too much attention," he said with a straight face.

Karanna swatted him. "You know what I mean. I say, let her go, and good riddance."

"Oh, that's what we plan to do," he responded.

"Then... I don't get it. I mean, if she can get the book deciphered, and get off the planet, why are you trying to stop her?"

"Well, first, the book is a useless hoax, that was just designed to be a decoy for our enemies. Second, she was mind-warping our friend Alex, in order to get him to do what she wanted. If she had continued, she would eventually have killed him. So we came to stop her from hurting him."

"How do you know he would have died?"

"It's a really long story, and we have to leave to go back to Roswell. It'll have to keep for another time. Because before I go...." He pulled her to himself again, and fastened his lips to hers, pouring all of his love and desire for her into the kiss. As he deepened the kiss, and seductively claimed her mouth once more, her moan vibrated against his tongue and lips, driving him wild with need. He could feel the same spiraling arousal begin to shake him that he had felt with Liz, only not quite as strong. He wondered about that, and filed it away, to ask Da-nar' about when he could get him alone.

The sun was dipping low in the sky, and between the deep shadows cast by the nearby building, and the shade of the tree, Zan and Karanna were afforded the illusion of privacy in this out of the way spot on an otherwise busy campus. And Zan couldn't help but take advantage of it. Without breaking the kiss, he slowly lowered Karanna to the ground, and covered her body with his, being careful to support his weight, so as not to crush her. Using his knee, he gently urged her legs apart, so that he could settle comfortably between them.

Shaking with desire for her, he hesitantly allowed his arousal to graze over her sensitive, feminine area. A shiver ran up his spine at her soft gasp, and then his heart lurched, when he felt her hips reflexively lift in response, seeking to repeat the experience. Slowly, so as not to frighten her, he gently stroked her body with his again, all the while making passionate love to her mouth, showing her just what he intended to do with the rest of her someday. Someday soon.

Karanna was quivering below him, frightened by such new and yet wonderful feelings. She never knew that being with a man could make a woman feel this way. The more that he teased her body, the more she wanted to learn all the mysteries of love. But only with him. Zan began to feast on the ivory column of her neck, his lips tingling from the contact with her satiny skin, even as his hands came up to cautiously touch her aching breasts. Feeling her insides starting to throb with sexual tension, she moaned, "Zan...."

"What, love?" he asked, his lips vibrating against her jaw, just below her ear.

"I feel - so - strange," she gasped out, every nerve in her body thrilling at his touch. Instinctively, she raised her hips higher, pressing even closer to him. She couldn't seem to get enough of him..... never enough....

Reaching down, he ran his hands along the outside of her thighs, until he could urge her legs to come up around his waist. "Wrap your legs around me, baby," he pleaded. When she did, he took advantage of her more vulnerable position, to increase the pressure and intimacy of the contact. "Do you like that?" he whispered in her ear, making her shudder anew.

"Yeessss.... oh God, Zan, what is happening to me?"

"Don't fight it, Karanna. Relax, and let it happen."

"Let what happen?" she asked, now totally breathless. Before he could answer, he heard her whimper, "Ooohh-"

"That's it, baby, let go. I'm here...."

Karanna cried out, as the tremors of her first climax shook her to her very soul. Without even knowing what she was doing, she opened herself to a connection with Zan, and as he felt the intensity of her pleasure crash through him, he exploded in a release that left him quivering. Never had he experienced anything like it. It was just the way that he had always known it would be, when he found the woman that haunted his dreams.

Zan realized that Karanna was clinging tightly to him, and he could feel her hot tears on his neck. He pulled back so that he could look down at her. "Sweetheart, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Did I hurt you?"

"No," she whispered. "It's just that I - I've never, um...."

He kissed her lips sweetly. "Was that the first experience you've ever had with a man?" he asked, hoping that he had judged the situation accurately. When she nodded, he smiled. Then suddenly, he got worried. "Was it so bad, that it made you cry?" He held his breath, waiting for her response.

"No," she whispered again. "It was so beautiful, it made me cry. I love you, Zan."

Zan rolled them on their sides, and drew her close to himself. "I love you too, baby, with all my heart. I don't know how I'm supposed to go back to Roswell after this."

"I wish you didn't have to go," she pouted.

Zan smiled against her hair. "I know. But we will be back soon. You can count on that. In the mean time - do you have some paper and pencil in that backpack you were carrying? So you can give me your phone number?" Karanna lifted her face, and kissed him soundly, and then rummaged through her things, until she found the paper and a pen. She jotted down every piece of information that she thought he could possibly need. Without showing it to him, she folded it, and stuck it in his back pocket, playfully squeezing his rear, before she pulled her hand back out.

"I'd return the gesture," he said playfully, "but I'm afraid I'd never get out of here. And I'm willing to lay odds that Max and Da-nar' are ready to have fits. I really have to go."

"I'm going to miss you," she admitted tearfully.

Zan kissed her deeply, and then quickly got up and moved away from her. Already he could feel his blood starting to heat again. Waving a hand over the front of his pants, he erased the evidence of their recent encounter, and held out a hand to pull her up. When she was standing in front of him, he cupped her face in his hands. "I'll call you soon. Tomorrow," he promised. He kissed her one more time, and then turned and literally ran from her, as if trying to escape her sensual influence, that now had him raring and ready to go for round two.

"I love you Zan - always," she said quietly, through her tears, as she watched him go.

He stopped suddenly and turned to face her. Waving, he called, "I love you too!", and then he went around the corner of a building, and was gone.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:17:51 AM

Part Six

Max drove the Jeep into the town of Roswell at 10:30 that night. The trip home had seemed extraordinarily long, the air in the vehicle charged with so much tension, it was almost palpable.

For the most part, Zan had sat in brooding silence, staring out the window, trying to make some sense of his suddenly very complicated life. Less than a week ago, his biggest problem was staving off his growing sense of restlessness. How had he managed to go from that, to discovering he had a twin, becoming part of a family, pending fatherhood, and finding his soul mate, all in the matter of a few days? It boggled the mind.

He also struggled with feelings of guilt for the one big thing that he hadn't told Karanna. It hadn't been intentional - it was just that in Karanna's presence, he didn't want to spend any more of his time and breath on Tess than was necessary. But looking back, he realized that she would undoubtedly consider that a breach of her trust and faith in him. His stomach knotted, as he pondered just how potentially volatile the situation was. He didn't care if she got angry with him, called him names, hit him - he could deal with that, and felt that she would be more than justified in it. He hadn't exercised any kind of good judgment or self-control, and even he was no longer convinced that having woken up with a major hard on was any kind of excuse. Not after he saw the pain that it caused his precious Karanna. Yep, he was going to have to calculate every word he was going to say to her, complete with major groveling, to prove how deep and true his love for her was. She didn't deserve any of this, but he couldn't help being selfish enough to want to fight to keep her, anyway.

Max had been mulling over the whole Tess issue. As king, he knew that the final decision rested with him. But it was not one that he relished making. It seemed like a no-win situation. If they killed Tess, which he knew she ultimately deserved, Zan's son would die. If they kept Tess here, the baby would die, and Tess would live. That would be an even greater travesty of justice. The only other viable option was to do as they said they would, and send her back to Antar. But that held its own set of perils. What if Tess was lying to them? What if, once she got what she wanted, she aborted her child? Or gave him to Ki-var', claiming he was Max's son? And if Ki-var' got the child, what would he do with him? Surely he wouldn't ask her to get pregnant, just so he could torture her child - would he? After all, it was his own flesh and blood, and an heir.... an heir that would be accepted by both peoples. Wasn't that what Tess had told Zan the plan was? No, Ki-var' wouldn't harm the child. Surely, though, he would turn him against Zan, and the rest of their family. Max knew that he couldn't let that happen.

There would be no harm, though, in them letting her give birth on Antar, and then taking the child from Tess, to prevent it from remaining under Ki-var's control. Yes, Ki-var' was strong, but what had Da-nar' told them about the four-square? He said it had never been defeated in battle, and that it was only through a sneak attack that Ki-var' was able to prevail. But the four-square was a physical battle formation. Max wondered what kind of weaponry their people used to battle an enemy like Ki-var', whose power was mostly that of the mind. Nicholas had been strong - so strong that it had taken both he and Zan to conquer him. But Ki-var' was rumored to be much stronger. Would they be any match for him? Especially with him being endowed with full alien powers, and them having a mixed heritage? Did his people know something that he was yet unaware of, regarding their powers? He would have to discuss this with Da-nar' as soon as possible, if they were going to send Tess back. He wanted assurance that he would indeed be able to extract the child from Ki-var's evil clutches, when the time came.

Da-nar', for his part, was wallowing in self-doubt. If only he had kept a closer eye on Tessandra, none of this would be an issue. He could even have told Max earlier who she was, and they could have deported her back to Antar, and Zan wouldn't be having to deal with all of this. He couldn't seem to see beyond his own shortcomings, to reach an awareness that all of this might serve a higher purpose somehow.

Michael had slept a good deal of the time, just wanting to shut out all the problems and tension for a little while. He didn't envy Max or Zan for what they must have been going through. As far as he was concerned, Tess was heading back to Antar, and when the time came, he would stand by their side, and they'd kick Ki-var's alien ass into oblivion. Sounded like a perfect plan.

Alex, too, had slept, his body exhausted from the way that Tess had been driving him, making him work through all of the previous night, with no breaks. Between that, and the effects of the mind-warp, his body needed some down time.

Basically, the only sound in the vehicle was the moans and whimpers coming from the source of everyone else's distress. Tess drifted in and out of consciousness, now in the grip of a raging fever that left her in a sweat. She sat on Da-nar's lap, with her legs stretched over Zan's and Alex's, her body shivering in reaction to the fever. At one point, she cried out loudly and began to thrash in pain, and Max had asked Zan if he should pull over. Delaying an answer, Zan connected with the baby again, and managed to direct some healing energy into Tess and their son, and Tess calmed again. Zan had told Max to keep going, that the situation was under control for the time being.

Now as they arrived in Roswell, Max headed straight for Michael's apartment. It had been decided they would keep Tess there, rather than at the Valenti's. God knew, the Sheriff and Kyle didn't need to be dealing with a high-risk alien teen pregnancy, on top of everything else they had endured. Besides, tomorrow they would hopefully be sending Tess back to Antar, and that would be that.

Michael ran into the apartment, and cleared the couch off, spreading a couple sheets on it, to keep the sweat from soaking into the upholstery. Maria was definitely starting to affect him, he thought with a little smile.

After Max determined that the coast was clear, Zan carried Tess' now limp body inside, and gently laid her on the sofa. As much as he would have preferred to drop her on her head, for all that she was putting them through, he couldn't chance risking his son's life over his desire for revenge. Once she was settled, he motioned to the others to join him outside, where they could talk.

"So what's the plan?" Zan asked his brother, once they were gathered. "I sensed you were struggling with it all the way home."

"As much as I hate it," Max admitted, "we have to send her back. But Da-nar', you said something about being able to protect the child some way? And for us to know when he is born?"

"Yes," Da-nar' confirmed. "I'll have to go to Antar first, and then return for Tess. There is someone there that I will have to see - if he is even still alive. Then I will find out if he will be able to help us. I will go there first thing in the morning."

"So who is this person, Da-nar'?" Max wanted to know. "Is he Antarian, or Talerian? Will he be able to provide proper medical care for Tess? We don't know how much the baby has been affected, and if any treatment will be necessary after Tess arrives back on Antar."

"The man I have in mind is Ge-lar', the Learned One of your people."

"Learned One?" Zan asked.

"The Learned One is a Holy Man of God among your people. He is charged with keeping the sacred scrolls of prophecy in the catacombs beneath the city. To my knowledge, Ki-var' doesn't know the existence of the place. It's location is known to only a few Antarians, and it was almost unheard of for a Talerian to possess such knowledge."

"How is it that you came to know its whereabouts, then?" Michael inquired.

"Well, of course, the royal family knew the location - after all, they were considered to be chosen ones of God to lead your people." Da-nar' paused, fighting back an emotional memory. "As for me? Normally a Talerian geneticist wouldn't know about the catacombs, but I had a rather unique relationship with King Zan, and came to know not only where they were, but developed a friendship with the Learned One as well."

Max stared deep into Da-nar's black eyes. "What exactly was your relationship with the king?"

Da-nar' turned away from Max's probing gaze. When he was certain his voice wouldn't falter, he replied, "My father was the head of Zan's father's security detail, and eventually Zan's. Because of that, I practically grew up in the palace. Zan and I were only a year apart in age, and we spent many hours as young boys playing and studying our school lessons together. We attended many of the same social functions, and our families even had outings together. In short? Zan was my best friend."

Max walked up behind Da-nar', and placed a hand on the man's shoulder. Da-nar' looked back over his shoulder at Max, who smiled warmly at him. "I certainly can believe that, Da-nar'. Apparently, Zan had good taste in friends."

A weak smile formed on Da-nar's lips. "Thank you."

"So tell me - how did you learn about the catacombs?"

Da-nar' turned to face them again. "One day, when we were out exploring in the woods, we ran into Ge-lar', and Zan introduced me to the Learned One. Ge-lar' was a kind man, and he took and interest in both Zan and myself. After that, we would regularly go to the catacombs to visit him. It was always an exciting time when we went there - Ge-lar' would tell us stories, or let us read passages from the prophetic scrolls that had been fulfilled. He would tell us all about what was happening on our world at the time the prophet was given the message, and how it had come to pass. The night before we left on this mission, he came to me, and prayed for the All Powerful One's blessing upon our journey, and that our endeavor would be successful. He also told me, that he believed the message in one of the prophecies actually was about what we were doing! He said that if he was correct, the new king would return and successfully reclaim Antar. I will have to ask him about that prophecy, if he is still alive."

"How are you going to go back without being seen?" Max inquired.

"I will use the portal, and arrive inside the catacombs. The only portal left on Antar that was not destroyed is also located there, so I will be able to return. It shouldn't take me long to set everything up - if he's still alive."

"What if he's not alive? And consequently, there is a new Learned One, who is not as friendly? Or what if the Talerians have discovered the catacombs? What will you do then?" Michael asked, agitated. "I don't think that it's wise for you to go alone. At least let me accompany you."

"He has a good point," Max agreed. "Perhaps Zan and I should also join you. If it has been taken over by Ki-var's people, you'll need all the fire power you can get."

"I don't know," Da-nar' responded. "I'm not sure that I want to risk your lives in the process. If you're worst case fears are correct, the last thing we need is to have the three of you walking into an ambush."

"I'm not letting you go alone, and that's final," Max decided.

Immediately, Da-nar' backed down. "As you wish."

"I also want to make it clear that Tess will not be allowed to stay with Ki-var'. She will have to be kept somewhere secure, under house arrest. I don't want Ki-var anywhere near Zan's son. Ever." Da-nar' nodded his understanding. Zan felt a wave of protectiveness emanating from Max, and he was profoundly grateful that his brother was committed to making sure his son was kept safe. "All right then," Max continued, "here's the plan - we'll go to school tomorrow, and then shoot over here on our lunch. That way we'll only miss our afternoon classes, and be back before any parental figures miss us."

"Gotcha," Michael answered. "Meet here, and pick us up. I'll work on getting Valenti to stay with Tess while we're gone."

"Good. Well, we better get Alex home, and then check in at the house, before Mom sends out the State Police on a missing persons report," Max added with a grin.

"Wait a minute," Da-nar' interjected, "Tess hasn't had a chance to wipe the mind-warp from Alex's parents. If he shows up now, they'll get really confused."

"Damn, I didn't think of that. Tomorrow, we'll have to try and infuse her with enough energy, so she can undo whatever the heck she did to them. We can't have Alex hiding out for six weeks. Michael? Can we leave him here?"

"Why not? The more the merrier!" Michael grumbled, and rolled his eyes as his comment on having his house invaded and taken over.

"Thanks. You're a pal." Max ran to the Jeep to wake Alex, who had never even flinched when they all got out earlier. He returned shortly, Alex trailing him, looking dazed. "I think we need to do a little mental checkup on our friend here," he told Zan. "You up to help?"

"Sure, let's take him inside." When they got inside, they had Alex sit down, and then Max and Zan connected with each other, before drawing Alex into the connection with them. They scanned his memory centers, and repaired the vascular damage that had already developed, as a result of being under Tess' influence. It was easy to see how several weeks of it could have finally taken its toll, and claimed Alex's life. That done, Zan and Max said their goodnights, and headed for home.

After they left, Michael watched Da-nar' for a few minutes, as he tended to Tess, as he sponged her off to reduce the fever, and then covered her. When he finished, Michael walked over to stand next to the couch. Looking down at Da-nar', he said, "Looks like you have everything under control here, huh?" Da-nar' nodded. "Well, uh, would you mind then, if I -" Using his thumb, he pointed over his shoulder toward the door, his eyes completing the question, as to whether or not he could slip out for a little while. Again, Da-nar' nodded. Michael smiled and thanked him. He grabbed his jacket, and headed out the door.

Five minutes later, he walked up to Maria's house. The light was on in her room, and he watched her pacing back and forth. Damn, he thought, I should have listened to Maxwell and called her. He sighed. Time to get my ass chewed out, I guess. He reached up and tapped on the window. He saw her spin on her heel, and when she noticed him standing there, her eyes narrowed in preparation for the tongue lashing she was just aching to give him.

Whipping the window open, she snapped, "Where the hell have you been, and why didn't you call me? I've been waiting to hear from you!"

"Geez, Maria, don't have a coronary. Didn't Liz call and tell you that we saved Alex from the Wicked Witch of the West?"

"Of course she did! That's not the point!"

Michael raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Pardon me, then - what was the point? She knew Alex was rescued, and everyone is okay - well, except for Nicholas, but he doesn't count..."

"Nicholas?! You see! I knew there was more that we weren't hearing about! The way Liz told it, it was just a little walk in the park but I know that if Nicholas was there it was more serious than that and yet you didn't call me and I always have to find out everything second hand because you never have the decency to call me and let me know you're all right when you know that all I'm doing is sitting home and worrying about you a-"

Michael clamped his hand over her mouth, being sure not to cover her nose. "Breathe, blondie, before you pass out - please?" Maria nodded, his hand still covering her mouth, and took two really big breaths. "Good, that's better. Now before I release you, so your mouth can start chattering away again, let me just say, that I knew you would find out we were okay, and a lot of emotionally draining stuff went down, and I just didn't feel like talking at the time. But I'm here now, and we can talk about it if you want, okay?" She nodded mutely again. "Okay - I'm going to take my hand away now...." He pulled his hand back with exaggerated slowness.

Maria looked up at him with tender eyes that were misting over. She took a deep breath, and then gushed, "And I love you, ya big lug." She no more than finished her statement, when she hurled herself into his arms, and worked to choke back her tears. Michael pulled her into a warm embrace. "I was so worried," she told him in a ragged whisper. "I knew that you had gotten Alex, and that Tess was coming back too. But for all I knew, she could have mind-warped you all, and had you drive off the edge of a cliff."

Michael blinked in surprise. "You know, I never thought about that," he admitted.

"That's because you don't know how the female mind works," she mumbled against his chest. "I keep trying to tell you that, but you don't listen."

Michael chuckled, as he rubbed her back and shoulders soothingly. "You're right, as always. I promise, as soon as things settle down around here, I'll whisk you away somewhere, and you can give me an intensive tutoring session on the female psyche. Okay?"

Maria raised her face, and grinned up at him through her tears. "If you whisk me away, I don't think the female psyche is what I'll be wanting to tutor you in," she said with an impish smile.

"How does tomorrow sound?" he returned with great enthusiasm.

Maria laughed. "Okay, I guess you win this one. It's hard to maintain the upper hand, when your opponent makes you laugh."

Michael clutched at his heart. "I must be dying, and having hallucinations. I could have sworn you said I just won my first fight with you."

"And your last," she said, nodding, as she gave him a meaningful look.

"Figures."

"So what had you so upset, that you couldn't talk about it? You mentioned that Nicholas was there?"

"Yeah - WAS is the operative word. The shrimp is history."

"You mean you -"

"We toasted him. Rather, Max and Zan did. Nothing left but a pile of ashes on the floor."

Maria shuddered. "Max and Zan, huh? Well, then - does that dispel your negative self-assessment, that you're just born to kill people, and that Max can only do good? I hope you've learned something here."

"My little cheerleader," he smirked, lightly pinching her cheek. "Yes, I've finally come to grips with the notion that this is war, and what I have to do in the interest of survival is not a reflection of my character. If I have a choice, I would choose not to kill. That's what's important - isn't it?"

"Yeah, spaceboy, it is. I'm just glad you finally realize it, too." She wrapped her hands behind his head, and gently pulled his lips down to meet hers. "I was so afraid while you were gone. I don't know what I'd do, if something happened to you."

Michael's face flinched. "Maybe it isn't such a good idea for you to be so attached to me, Maria. I mean, things are going to be heating up, I think. Some other things have happened, and this confrontation with Ki-var' might not be too far off..."

"What kinds of things?" she demanded. "I knew there had to be more to this, besides the Little General getting fried. What happened?"

"If I tell you, you have to promise to keep this to yourself. This is not something that can get out."

Maria mimed zipping her lips shut. "Now talk."

"Tess is pregnant."

Maria suddenly felt light-headed, and started to sway. Michael wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her close to steady her. "Who's the.... father?" she choked out. She'd kill the little bitch, if she had somehow managed to get in Max's pants this go around, too.

"Zan."

"Oh my God, the poor boy...."

"Yes, the poor boy, and I don't think he has exactly come to terms with it. So I don't want you even bringing the subject up, do you understand me? And no telling Liz, either. If Max tells her, fine. But I don't want to be responsible for her doting on Zan, and getting Max all tied in knots.

"Noted."

"Anyway, Tess is having a hard time, because the atmosphere here is harming the baby. So tomorrow, we are going to go to Antar with Da-nar', to visit someone he knows about keeping Tess until she has the baby, and -"

"You're WHAT?! What do you mean, you're going to Antar? Just like that, you're going to up and leave?"

"Maria, calm down. It isn't like we have to take a spaceship there, remember? We have the portals, and Da-nar' knows how to operate them. We'll be fine. It should only take us the afternoon to get things arranged, and hopefully settle her in."

"But what if you run into Ki-var'? And what about you breathing the atmosphere there? What if you can't survive there?"

"Maria, think about what you are saying. Da-nar' designed us. Don't you think that he would have mentioned it, if we couldn't live in that environment?"

"Not necessarily! I mean, look at Nasedo! You all trusted him, and look how that turned out!"

"We didn't all trust him, Maria."

"No? Who objected? I don't recall any discussions about it at the time."

"Much to our shame. That's because the one who objected was Liz. Maybe if we had known who she really was, it would have made a difference. But regardless of the past, she has some sort of ability to discern the evil in people. And she has complete confidence in Da-nar'. So stop worrying."

"Fine. Is there anything else I should know?" Michael averted his eyes, and scowled. "Michael..." she growled threateningly. "What are you still hiding?"

"Something that I can't tell you. It's something that Max and Zan need to tell Liz first, before anyone else knows. But don't worry, it's something really great, actually. So don't lose any sleep over it. I'm sure Liz will tell you all about it, when the time is right."

Maria nodded. "You know that I'm terrible about wanting to know secrets, but I promise I won't even ask Liz about it, in case they don't get a chance to tell her right away. Ack! I can't believe I just said that!"

Michael chuckled. "Neither can I, to tell you the truth!" That comment earned him a swat. "Ow! That hurt!"

"Want me to kiss you, and make it all better?" Maria asked, batting her eyelashes.

Michael grabbed her, and pulled her in flush to his body, growling in a predatory fashion. "I thought you'd never ask!" With that, he swooped down, and devoured her full, sexy lips, until they were both shaking with need. As the kiss ended, Michael managed to gasp out between heaving breaths, "One of these days, blondie, one of these days...."

"Promises, promises," she mumbled breathlessly.

Michael gave her one more, tender kiss. "I better leave now, or today will be the day," he confessed.

"Mmmmm. Don't I wish."

"You and me both." He forced himself to leave her embrace, and jumped out the window into the cool night air. "Hopefully the cold will calm me down, before I get home and have to face Da-nar' with a raging hard on," he joked.

"You could always walk in with your jacket strategically draped in front of you," she suggested with an impertinent grin.

He shook his head and chuckled. "Goodnight, Maria."

"Goodnight." He started to turn from the window. "And Michael?" He stopped and looked back. "I really do love you, ya know?"

"Yeah blondie, I know. I love you, too." He gave her a wink, and headed out into the night.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:18:48 AM

Part Seven

Max and Zan walked in the house just after 11:00 pm, to find their Mom and Dad watching TV on the couch, waiting for them.

"Hi boys! How was your trip?" Diane asked, getting up to hug them both.

"It was great, Mom," Zan told her. "I got some information from the admissions office, and also a bunch of financial aid applications to fill out. But it looks like I won't be able to go until next Fall."

"Oh? Why not, honey?" she inquired, brushing his bangs aside. "Not for financial reasons, I hope? Because your father and I -"

"No, Mom, it's nothing like that, really. It's just that I have to take these ACT tests before I can apply, and they told me there wouldn't be time enough to get everything done before the Spring semester starts."

"Oh." Diane seemed rather disappointed by the news.

"Is there a problem with that?" Zan asked uneasily. "I mean, if my staying here is an inconvenience I can -"

"Oh heavens, no, sweetie! You can stay here as long as you like," she responded, giving him another hug. "I just felt bad for you, after all you've achieved, to be told that you have to wait to start your classes, that's all. I hope you aren't too upset about it?"

"No, actually, I'm a little relieved. This will give me a chance to work for a semester, and save some money before I go. Besides, the girl in the Financial Aid Office said I should be eligible for all sorts of scholarships and grants, between my grades, and my emancipated minor status."

"I'm happy for you, son," Philip told him, "but you know, you could always take some online courses, if you wanted to. Not that you need to feel pressured to," he hurried to clarify, "but it's just an option."

Zan smiled. "Thanks, Dad, I'll keep that in mind." He yawned. "It's been a really long day - I hope you don't mind if I act antisocial, and just go to bed?"

"Of course not, sweetie. You need to get your rest. We'll see you in the morning." Diane gave her second son a kiss on the cheek, and then turned to begin picking up the dishes, and the popcorn that she and Philip had been snacking on.

"Well, good night then," Zan said, as he started toward his room. "You coming, Max?"

"Right behind you," he said, and yawned loudly for effect. He hugged his mom, and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Good night, Mom, Dad."

"Goodnight, son."

Up in their room, they collapsed on the beds. "You going to see Liz later?" Zan asked.

"How did you know?"

Zan chuckled. "I know what I'd be doing, if Karanna lived nearby. Question is - can I come with? I thought it would be good if we told her about Karanna - and the baby - together."

"I don't know -" A knock sounded on the door. "Come on in, Iz," Max called.

Isabel stuck her head in the door. "How did you know it was me?"

Max grinned at her. "Now who else would it be? We just said good night to Mom and Dad downstairs."

"Oh. So tell me what happened!" she she demanded, coming in and shutting the door behind her. She plopped down in the chair at Max's desk, and waited for the report. "Alex is okay, right? No one got hurt?"

"Everyone's fine, Iz," Max reassured her. "Alex is staying at Michael's tonight, because Tess has to undo her mind-warp on his parents before he can go back home."

"So why didn't you just have her do it and get it over with?"

"There have been some complications," Zan informed her.

"Complications?" Her brow furrowed in worry.

"Don't worry - nothing bad about Alex," he rushed to confirm Max's previous assertion. "It's Tess, actually. You see... God, there's no easy way to say this." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "She's pregnant, Iz. With my son."

Isabel's hand flew up to her mouth, to stifle her gasp. "Oh, my God," she whispered. "Zan, how are you doing with that? Oh, you poor thing!"

Zan gave her a weak smile. "Thanks. Let's just say, I'm not thrilled. But there isn't anything that can be done about it now. The immediate concern, though, is that the baby is in distress, and it's making Tess really sick. So we have to take her back to Antar on the double, before the atmosphere here causes her to lose the baby."

"Back to Antar? Just like that? We have wondered all our lives where we come from, why we're here - then we find out about Ki-var' - oh God! You can't go back there! Ki-var' will kill you!"

"Take it easy, Isabel," Max told her. "We aren't planning on running into Ki-var'. Da-nar' knows of someone in a secluded location that may be able to help us with Tess, and we are going to transport through the portal directly there. The risk will be minimal."

"When are you going?"

"Tomorrow. We're going to leave school during lunch, and plan to have this all wrapped up by the end of the afternoon."

"I should go with you," she stated decisively.

"No, Isabel, you shouldn't," Max returned.

"Why not?"

"Someone has to stay here and keep an eye on everyone."

"What about Michael? He's going too, then?" she asked.

"Yes, he is."

"This doesn't make any sense, Max. I should go, and you should stay here. You're the king, after all. You're the one that needs to be protected."

"We'll have more firepower if I go," he told her. When he could see she was going to protest his assessment of who was stronger, he added, "Let me just tell you, before you start arguing that point, that Zan and I connected while we were in Las Cruces. We killed Nicholas, Isabel. Despite how strong we were warned that he is, when Zan and I connect, it multiplies our abilities somehow. That's why I have to go. Not that we're expecting any trouble, mind you, but we want to be prepared." Isabel reluctantly agreed.

"There's something else that you need to know, Iz," Zan chimed in. "We met someone while we were there. A girl." He took a big breath. "Her name is Karanna, Iz. She's Liz's identical twin sister."

Isabel stared at him mutely, stunned into silence.

Zan chuckled. "Yeah, I know the feeling. It's hard to believe, and we are going to slip out in a bit to go tell Liz about what happened."

"I can't believe it," Isabel croaked out. "So where does she live? In Las Cruces?"

"Yeah, with her aunt and uncle. They are her legal guardians, since her parents died a few years ago. Seems that when Da-nar' was doing the hybridization of the queen's essence, it also split into two, and so he found a couple in New York City to implant the second embryo into."

"Why New York?" Isabel asked, confused.

"So she'd be near me," he answered meaningfully.

"Then you - she - you're -?"

"Mates, yes. Like Max and Liz. We aren't the king and queen, but we will have the same abilities as they do. And the attraction certainly is there, as well. I just hope that when she finds out about the baby, she doesn't toss me out on my ear."

"You didn't TELL her?" Max and Isabel exclaimed in unison.

Zan winced. "That bad, huh?"

"Oh my God, do you have a lot to learn about women," Isabel moaned, rolling her eyes. "You can't keep something like this from her, if you are going to be her husband. She has to know."

"I realize that. I'm hoping we can go back to visit her this weekend, and I'll tell her then. I just hope that she's willing to listen. We already had one major blowout."

"You did? When?" Max asked in surprise. "I thought it looked like you two were doing great."

"Well, after you and Da-nar' went back to the Jeep, I, uh, kissed her. She got these flashes of me and Ava, and of me and Tess, when she showed up here that night...."

"Oh, the poor girl!" Isabel sympathized with Karanna's situation. "She must have freaked out."

"That's putting it mildly. I thought that she was going to write me out of her life right there and then. She's never, um... you know, been with anyone before, and when she found out that I had - and with more than one woman - let's just say she didn't appreciate it."

"I can imagine," Max said. "I know it means a lot to Liz, that she's going to be my first and last, when the time comes. All I need to do to know how true that is, is to remember how hostile Future Liz was to my future self. My sleeping with Tess in that timeline screwed my chances of ever being with Liz."

Zan groaned. "I hope that Karanna can be more forgiving than that. I don't want to live my life with that kind of regret, over something that was meaningless. She's all I've ever wanted in a woman, and I can't lose her, now that I've found her."

"Well, we'll work on it," Isabel said cheerfully. "We'll just have to make the girl see reason, right?"

Zan chuckled. "Okay, if you're on my side, the poor girl doesn't stand a chance, does she?"

"Not a one!" Isabel assured him, with a big, confident smile.

They heard their parents talking, as they approached the bedrooms, and started talking about the college. Diane knocked on the door and called in, "Time to let the boys get some sleep, Isabel. They've had a long day."

"I'll be right out," Isabel called back through the door.

"Okay, honey, good night."

"'Night, Mom." Once they heard their parents' door shut, she whispered, "I'll be heading over to Michael's once they're asleep. I just want to check in on Alex."

"He'll probably be sleeping, Iz," Max warned her. "He was pretty wiped out, from what he's been through. I doubt you'll get to talk to him."

"That's okay," she said softly. "I'll just watch him breathe. It'll make me feel better." She got up, and headed back to her own room.

Max smiled. He was happy to see that his sister seemed to be regaining the common sense she had seemingly misplaced for a while there. He secretly hoped that she and Alex would work things out, and find a way to be together. They were good for each other.

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

Max and Zan waited until they were certain their parents were asleep, before they slipped out the window, and headed over to Liz's house. It was really late, but they were too excited to wait until the following evening to talk to her. Besides, they needed to let her know what they had planned for the afternoon.

Climbing up onto her balcony, they saw that her light was off. She was apparently in bed, as they had expected. Max unlocked the window, and climbed into the room, leaving Zan to wait on the balcony. For a moment, he stood just watching Liz sleeping in her bed, looking like a heavenly vision. Her face was peaceful, and there was a slight smile on her face as she slept. He hoped she was dreaming about him. Her hair was spread across her pillow, framing her angelic face in a border of ebony, against the pale rose color of her sheets. Her mouth was open just a bit, and her breasts rose and fell with every breath that she took. Max could feel his body beginning to stir, just seeing her like that.

He tiptoed over to the bed and knelt next to the edge she was sleeping on. With the very tips of his fingers, he lightly traced her collarbone, then trailed his index finger down between her breasts. He smiled at her body's natural reaction to his simple caress, even in her sleep. It was like her body knew his, and responded automatically.

Leaning over her, he lightly pressed his lips to hers, in a tender kiss. In her sleep, she mumbled something, he couldn't tell what, but she was still smiling - a little wider even than before. With a grin, he sucked her bottom lip gently, rubbing his tongue back and forth over it, all the while driving himself a little more insane with need for her. He nearly jumped, when her arms wrapped around his neck, and pulled him close, so she could kiss him soundly. She encouraged him to deepen the kiss, and he complied, wondering if she was awake and just faking, or if she was really still asleep. When she murmured, "I want you, Max - make love to me," he knew she must still be asleep. Much to his dismay, he knew that she wouldn't be begging him to take her, if she was awake. But before he woke her up, he wanted to tease her just a bit more. He dragged his fingertips over her breasts, and had to suppress a chuckle, when she arched up with a little moan. He figured he better stop, though, before she got too loud, and woke her parents up.

Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her again, and then softly said, "Liz, honey, wake up. I need to talk to you." She mumbled something in her sleep again, and he gently shook her. "Come on, baby, Liz, wake up."

Liz woke with a start, and Max had to cover her mouth quickly, to stifle her scream. Naturally, he used what was closest to her lips - his. Liz squealed into his mouth, at first, until she got herself oriented, and realized it was him. Then she dragged him onto the bed with her, and pushed him onto his back, so she could climb on top of him. Then she broke the kiss, grinning down at him. "What are you doing here, Max? Do you have any idea what time it is?" she asked, looking at the clock.

"Uh - about 12:15?"

"Mmmhmm," she replied against his lips, as she began to kiss him in earnest again.

Max reveled in her sensual assault for a few moments, and then remembered Zan on the balcony. "Liz," he said, pulling back from her kiss, "Zan is with me, too. He's out on the balcony waiting for us."

Liz jumped off of Max, and grabbed frantically for her robe. If she had known Zan was there, she wouldn't have been so quick to expose herself, clad just in her tank top and bikini panties. Watching her tantalizing body disappear beneath the thick, fluffy terry robe, Max stuck out his bottom lip in a pout. "And just when things were getting good," he groused. "I liked the view better without the robe."

Liz grinned at him. "That's okay. You can have a show another time."

Max's eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline. "I can?" he asked in surprise. "Really?"

He was sporting such a hopeful grin, Liz had to stifle a laugh. "Yeah, you can. But not tonight. Now - what did you guys want?"

"We need to tell you about a bunch of stuff that happened today. Come on, let's go outside and join Zan," he whispered to her.

"Max? Why couldn't this wait until tomorrow?"

"Because we may not be around much today," he answered, correcting her, pointing at the clock. "And I wanted you to hear this stuff from us, and hear it soon." He took her by the hand and led her to the window. They both climbed outside, and lowered the window so their voices wouldn't travel inside.

"Hey Liz," Zan greeted her.

"Hey, Zan." She squinted her eyes at him. "You look - different. Did something happen while you guys were gone?"

Zan rolled his eyes in Max's direction. "Nothing slips by her, does it?" he asked.

"Not much."

"Okay, you two, out with it. What's going on, that you have to wake me up in the night to talk to me?"

"Well, like I told you on the phone," Max began, "we got Alex away from Tess' influence, and now he's at Michael's, safe and sound, all patched up from the effects of the mind-warp. So you can rest easy on the issue."

"I wasn't worried about it. I knew that you had everything under control."

"Oh, if only that were true," he sighed, and dropped onto the lounge chair, rubbing his face with his hands.

Liz sat down next to him. "Okay - so what's out of control?"

"Zan, I think you ought to tell her."

Zan nodded. "Well, we had some rather interesting revelations while we were gone. First - Tess is pregnant with my son."

"Oh, Zan -" Liz muttered, her voice full of compassion for him. "What are you going to do?"

"Well, actually, that's kind of what we needed to tell you. We need to get Tess back to Antar, or the baby is going to die. Tess is really sick right now. So... we're using the portal, and going to Antar tomorrow afternoon with Da-nar'."

"Is that safe?" she asked, biting her lower lip with worry.

"Relatively," Max answered her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Da-nar' is going to take us to these tunnels beneath the city of Antar, where he hopes to find an old friend of his, and ask him to help us."

"Tunnels under the city, huh? Sounds like Zan's kind of place," she teased with a grin.

"Cute, Liz," Zan kidded back.

"Anyway," Max continued, "We hope to have Tess settled tomorrow afternoon. I'll let you know, as soon as we get back."

"Please do. Antar," she said, staring off dreamily. "I wonder what it's like? Do you ever try to picture it, Max?"

Max, too, stared off into space. "Yeah, I've always wondered if it was anything like Earth. How they found out about this planet, why they chose it for this experiment. There are tons of questions I haven't had time to even ask Da-nar'. But I don't think we'll get to see any of the planet tomorrow. We'll be underground the whole time."

"Please be careful," she told Max, and then looked up at Zan. "Both of you."

"We will. And Michael and Da-nar' will be there, too. So we aren't going in unmanned."

"Good." Liz let out a big yawn. "Is that it, then?"

"Well, uh, not exactly," Max hedged, looking at Zan, again giving him the first opportunity to break the news.

"We met someone in Las Cruces, Liz," Zan informed her.

"Met someone?" she repeated, looking concerned. "What kind of someone?"

"A special someone," he said with a smile.

"Oh? So are you going to tell me about it?"

"Yes, I am, but this person isn't going to be just a special someone for me, Liz. It's a special someone for you, too."

Liz raised an eyebrow. "Well, now, this sounds kinky."

Zan chuckled. "Okay, not the same kind of special for both of us. The thing is - " He looked at Max, who nodded for him to go ahead. "She's your twin sister, Liz. Her name is Karanna."

Liz's eyes grew huge in her face, and her heart began to beat so hard, she could barely hear over the rush of blood in her ears. "M-my twin?" she asked in a quivery whisper.

"Yes. Your embryo split, just the same way that Max's and mine did. So Da-nar' implanted her into another infertile woman. Apparently, the couple that Da-nar' had chosen to be her parents were killed a few years ago, and she went to live with her aunt and uncle in Las Cruces. When she disappeared suddenly, without a trace, Da-nar' thought he had lost her for good. But we ran into her on the campus, and figured out quickly who she was. She looks just like you."

Liz was trembling in Max's arms. "What did you tell her? Did she have any idea who we are?" she whispered.

"She didn't even know who she was. Da-nar' hadn't wanted to tell her, until she was a little older, and then she disappeared, and he never got the chance. She knows now, though."

"Wow - a sister. Imagine that. Wait a minute - you said someone special for you. What did you mean?"

"Don't you see, Liz? She's the Karanna I was dreaming about all this time, not you. I thought that because you had Karanna the queen's essence, that it was you in the dreams, and I knew you as Karanna because of the past association. But that wasn't it. Karanna was actually there in my dreams with me - just like we all had that shared dream the other night. That was her that I met on the beach in that dream."

"Oh, wow. So you guys are like -?"

"A couple," Zan finished with a shy grin. "She's really great, Liz. You're gonna love her."

"She must be pretty great," Liz agreed. "How did she take the news about Tess?"

Zan's face fell. Was he never going to be able to get away from this issue? "She doesn't know yet."

"Oops. Well, you better tell her first chance you get. Secrets like that can blow you out of the water."

"I know. I'm hoping to be able to go back this weekend. I'd really like it if you could come along, and meet her. I mean, I just figured that you'd want -"

"Oh yes! I definitely want to! And maybe I can help soften the blow, you know - when you tell her about Tess. If I can make her realize that you aren't some hound, maybe she won't kick your alien butt all the way to Antar and back," she said with a grin.

"Thanks. I think I'm gonna need all the help - and character references - I can get." Liz laughed.

"Well, that's all the big news," Max concluded, standing up, and pulling Liz with him. "Time we went home, and let this lovely lady get some sleep." He pulled her into his arms, and gave her a sweet, lingering kiss. "I love you Miss Parker. I'll see you later in school. We'll be around for morning classes."

"Okay. Sweet dreams, Max. I love you, too." With one last kiss, Max headed to the ladder where Zan was waiting. They descended to the alley, and jogged home.

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

Isabel peeked in the window of Michael's bedroom, and saw Alex sprawled on the bed. A visual sweep of the room revealed that he was alone. She pushed up the window, and raised her self up and in through the opening, landing on the floor with a soft thud.

"Huh - wha?" Alex said, bolting upright in bed.

"Shh, Alex - it's just me," she whispered. "I just came to check up on you. I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Oh, that's okay," he assured her, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Check up on me, huh? Didn't Max tell you I was all right?"

Isabel smiled, as she came and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yeah, he told me. But you know - I just wanted to see for myself. To be sure. So - you feeling okay?"

"Fit as a fiddle," he grinned. He took a deep breath to puff up his chest, and struck a studly pose. "See?"

Isabel covered her mouth with her hand to mute a giggle. "Yes, I see," she said with a straight face, and then buried her face against his neck, to keep from laughing out loud.

Alex's arms came up to circle her shoulders, and a shudder ran through him, when he felt her lips pressed against the hollow of his neck. As he gave her a little squeeze, he felt her lips gently nibble and suck on his flesh. "Isabel?" he asked, swallowing hard to keep his heart from coming up in his throat.

Isabel kissed her way up to his ear, and whispered, "Yes, Alex?" Her tongue dipped quickly into the shell of his ear, and he shuddered again.

"Wh-what are you doing?" he squeaked.

Isabel leaned her body into his, causing him to lie back against the mattress. As her face hovered a hair's breadth above his, she whispered, "If you don't know, I'm really gonna worry about you, Whitman." She traced his lips with her tongue, while his eyes nearly popped out of his head.

"N-no, I mean, you said you just wanted to be friends," he clarified.

"Maybe I changed my mind," she suggested, stretching out over him. His arms slid down, to rest around her waist.

"Maybe? Just - maybe?"

Isabel grinned. "Definitely. I definitely changed my mind. I want us to start over again, Alex. Is that possible?"

Alex tried to be calm and cool. "Uh, sure, yeah, that's okay, I guess."

Isabel's smile faded. In it's place was a worried frown. "You guess? You aren't sure?"

Alex flipped her over onto the bed, and covered her body with his in a split second. He was sporting a goofy grin, that was pure Alex, and said, "So if you're my girl again, does that mean we can make out?"

Isabel giggled in relief, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Oh, yes, Alex, it certainly means that." She pulled his face down to hers, and engaged him in a mind-blowing kiss, that left them both breathless.

"Mmmm," Alex voiced in satisfaction, "I think I'm gonna like this. But are you sure that this is what you want, Iz? You aren't just doing this out of some sort of guilt trip about the way things ended for me in that other timeline?"

"No," she answered, tears in her eyes. "All that did, was make me realize how lonely and empty my life would be without you in it. I have been acting so spoiled and selfish, always assuming that when I got ready to have you back in my life, you'd be waiting. Finding out that Tess killed you in that other timeline was a wake-up call. None of us knows how long we have. Heck, I could be hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. And what will my life have to show for it? I at least want to know that when I leave this life, I have loved, and I have loved well."

"And you think that will be with me?" Alex asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"No, Alex, I don't think that will be with you," she voiced with certainty. Alex's face fell, until he heard her next words. "I know it's with you."

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:20:24 AM

Part Eight

The next afternoon, Max and Zan arrived at Michael's apartment, ready to take the first trip back to their home world. They were relieved to see Sheriff Valenti there, tenderly caring for Tess, as if she were his daughter. Max watched him for a few moments, and the way Tess responded to him, forcing a weak smile, and looking at him with eyes that were soft and full of emotion. Almost as if she were - human. He couldn't help wondering, if having a dad like the Sheriff wouldn't have been her salvation. He shook himself from his reverie, and accepted that fact that they would never know the difference it could have made. But one thing he knew for certain - Zan's son would know that kind of loving care. One way or another, Tess would not be allowed to raise his nephew.

As Michael came out of the bedroom, Da-nar' asked the three young men if they were ready. They all responded in the affirmative. As they were about to leave, Tess weakly called out Zan's name.

Zan, who had been trailing behind the others toward the door, stopped and turned to face her. "What is it, Tess?"

She tried to talk to him, but her voice was so weak, he couldn't hear her. He came and knelt next to the couch by her head. Pushing a lock of her hair off her face, he asked her to repeat what she had said.

"Please," she whispered, "come back for me soon. I don't know how much longer I can hang on. I feel so weak - so sick. I'm afraid I'm going to lose the baby."

"Max!" Zan called out, his eyes frightened. He turned back to Tess. "Hold on - let's see if we can't do something to help you make it through, until we get back."

"What's up, Zan?" Max asked, when he reached his brother's side.

"I think we need to try to infuse Tess with some of our strength, and hopefully help the baby. She's getting awfully weak, and she's talking like she thinks she won't make it until we get back. I'm worried about my son Max - please."

Max squeezed his brother's shoulder. "You don't have to plead with me, Zan. I'll do whatever I can to help your son." He knelt next to Zan, and spoke softly to Tess. "Tess? It's Max - can you hear me?" Tess barely could open her eyes, and nodded. "Good. Zan and I are going to try and use some of our healing energy, to give you a little strength, and try to help the baby, okay?" She nodded again, licking at her dry lips. "Do you want some water?" Max asked, his voice tender and filled with concern. Even if he didn't like the way she had manipulated them all, she was weak and vulnerable, and needed their care. And above that, she was carrying an innocent child, who deserved to be protected.

"Please," she managed to croak out.

Zan was on his feet in a flash, and brought back a glass of water. Max propped her up, and Zan carefully tipped the cup, so that she was able to sip from it. After she had drunk several swallows, she pushed it away. "No more," she whispered. Zan handed the glass to the Sheriff, who set it aside for later.

Max gently laid her back against the pillows. "You just rest and relax, and let Zan and I do our thing, okay?" he instructed. Again, she merely nodded her response. Max motioned to Zan, and they connected, then laid their hands on Tess - Zan placing his hand directly on her abdomen, and bringing the baby into the connection with them. When they finished, Tess had fallen to sleep, peaceful for the first time in hours, the fever having come down considerably.

Max looked at Zan. "Did you feel that?" he asked.

Zan nodded. "He's scared, Max. My son is terrified. I wonder if he understands that we are going to try to help him?"

"I don't know, but I think he must to some degree. I noticed that his fear seemed to lessen, after you tried to reassure him with feelings of love and security."

"You can really communicate with the baby?" Sheriff Valenti asked.

"Not so much in the concept of words, as in feelings. But yes, there is conscious communication."

"Incredible. Listen, I'm glad you are trying to get her the help she needs. Just don't take too long."

"We'll be back, as soon as we find a safe place for her and the baby," Max promised. "Thanks for coming to stay with her."

"I wouldn't be anywhere else," Jim said with conviction.

"Too bad she didn't have a dad like you," Max voiced his former thought aloud. Jim smiled, and nodded in understanding.

"We need to leave," Da-nar' called from the door. Max and Zan rose, and followed him outside. They all piled into the Jeep, and headed out into the desert. It wasn't long before they reached the pod chamber, and entered the secret room that Future Liz had showed Max. She hadn't known, however, where the crystal that powered the portal was located. Da-nar' walked to a wall that had alien symbols written on it in a circle. He waved his hand over the inner part of the circle which contained no writing, and a silver hand print appeared. He reached inside the wall, and retrieved the long crystal that they required, as well as a small book. Walking to the portal, he inserted the crystal into the panel on the side of the portal, and opened the small book. As he flipped through the pages, Max could see they were covered with strange symbols, but they definitely looked like more of an alphabet than the symbols on the wall of the cave. When he asked Da-nar' about them, he was told they were written in the Antarian language, and the book contained a list of several locations on the planet, accompanied by their coordinates. Each one was where there had been a portal on their world, before Ki-var' destroyed them. Now there was only one remaining - and that was where they were headed. Locating the coordinates, Da-nar' inputted them into the control panel, and the portal, which had looked like a part of the wall, began to hum, and the center of it began to change in appearance. Slowly, the desired destination became visible - they could look through it, and see a long tunnel, lit with torches down the walls.

"Well, this is it," Da-nar' announced. "Although, I'm surprised to see this particular part of the tunnel lit. Perhaps you'd better let me go through first, and make sure that everything is all right. When I give you the all clear, you can come through."

"Okay," Max agreed. "Just be careful. I'd hate for anything to happen to you."

Da-nar' smiled. "I will." He walked forward, and stepped through the portal. A couple seconds later, as they looked on, they could see him walking down the corridor, looking to the right and left, apparently down intersecting passageways. Finally he returned, and waved to them to join him.

Each of them materialized on the other side in a flash of white light. When they were all on the Antarian side, they followed Da-nar' through what appeared to be an endless maze of tunnels. "How do you know where you're going?" Max asked their protector.

"You get used to it," Zan answered knowingly. Da-nar' smiled at him, aware that Zan indeed understood what it was like. That had been what attracted Da-nar' to the subway tunnels in New York - the sense of familiarity. It seemed the perfect place to hide the pods.

"Zan's right," he told Max. "You get used to it. And as children, King Zan and I explored every inch of these tunnels. You learned to remember where you were going in a hurry, if you ever wanted to make it back out," he explained with a chuckle. As they continued to walk, Max noticed that the only corridors that were lit, were the ones that they were passing through. He mentioned it to Da-nar', asking if this was normal.

"No, it isn't," came the reply, "but I don't think we have anything to worry about. If Ki-var' was here, he would have been guarding the portal, and captured us as soon as we came through."

"I hope you're right."

Just then, they entered a large, circular, open chamber. "This is the center of the catacombs," Da-nar' explained. "You will see that there are tunnels branching off from it, like spokes on a wheel. Eventually, each of the other passages leads to an exit somewhere in the city, except for this one," he told them, as he led them into another well lit tunnel. Suddenly, there were no more torches. Da-nar' did not seem phased in the least, as he turned and knocked on an old, wooden door.

Slowly it opened, to reveal a humanoid male who, from his slightly hunched posture, appeared to be getting on in years. He smiled as he saw them standing there, and bid them enter, with a wave of his hand. "I've been expecting you," was all he said. When they had all stepped into the room, he shut the door behind him, and turned to Da-nar'. "I don't recognize you in this Earthling form, but you must be Da-nar', yes?"

Da-nar' smiled broadly, and embraced the man. "It's good to see you again, Ge-lar'," he told him. "I've brought some friends with me - I hope you don't mind."

Ge-lar' studied Max, Zan, and Michael. Seeing the identical appearances of Max and Zan, he proclaimed, "Praise be - the king has returned to Antar at last." Max and Zan looked at each other startled. How did he know who they were? Before they could even ask, Ge-lar' asked with obvious confusion, "Where is the woman?"

"The woman?" Max asked him.

"The one who will bear the child. I have been waiting for you to bring her to me."

"So the Learned One is now also prophet?" Da-nar' asked.

"No," Ge-lar' answered humbly. "At least, not in the way that you mean it. The messages I receive are purely of a personal nature - designed to instruct me as to what the Mighty One requires of me. I was told that the prophecy concerning the First Son of Light was soon to be fulfilled, and according to the writings, I am to usher the child into the world."

"We didn't know of the prophecy," Da-nar' explained, "and we wanted to come ahead, to make sure that there would be a place for Tessandra, once we arrived. It has been so long since I was here - I didn't know if Ki-var' had found the catacombs and placed armed guards here or not. I wasn't even sure that you were still alive. But we need help. The girl is very ill, because the child that she carries cannot survive in Earth's atmosphere."

"I am prepared to receive her - follow me." Taking a torch, he led them to a chamber just two doors down from the room they had first been in. In it was a table and 2 chairs, as well as a pallet for sleeping on, and a stack of linen cloths, jugs of water, and lanterns. "This is where she will stay, until the child is born. I must tell you, I have never attempted to deliver a child, but the Great Creator has assured me that all will be well. It is time for me to exercise my faith."

Zan looked around nervously. He hoped that there wouldn't be any complications, when it came time for Tess to give birth to their son. Ge-lar' noticed his unease, and inquired, "You would be the child's father?" Zan nodded. "Your child has a great destiny to fulfill, so don't be concerned. The All Powerful One will not allow any harm to come to this child who will be His servant of peace."

"Destiny?" Max asked, practically choking on the wretched word. "What sort of destiny?"

"Because the boy will be part Talerian, and part Antarian, he will become a bridge between the two peoples. Come, I will show you." He led them into the scroll room, and removed the parchment from its appointed place, unrolling it to the passage referring to the Sons of Light. He read the words aloud, and then explained that the Warrior of Flame referred to Ki-var', and the King of Light referred to the returning King of Antar. "The child will rule over the Talerians - obviously the assumption here is that somehow you will release them to find a new homeland," he stated, directing the comment to Max. Max still wondered how this old man seemed to know who was who, and what was going on, without being told.

"How do you know that the child is a male?" Zan asked.

Ge-lar' chuckled. "He could hardly be called the SON of Light, if he were a female, now could he?"

Zan smiled. "No, I guess not. And it is a boy. I was just wondering how you knew."

"Your first child will be the second Son of Light to be born," Ge-lar' again addressed Max. "His destiny is to inherit the throne of Antar. Together, your sons will secure the peace between our people and the Talerians."

"My son? I'm not married, and I certainly wouldn't expect Liz to give birth to a child out of wedlock."

"Liz?" Ge-lar' repeated, obviously confused.

"She possesses Karanna's essence," Da-nar' informed him.

"Ah, yes. Well, weddings can be arranged with very little notice," Ge-lar' commented with a knowing look.

"Maybe on Antar, but Earth customs are different," Max explained.

"Maybe you should marry on Antar anyway, since this will be your home."

"Perhaps we will have a ceremony, in an effort to finish Zan and Karanna's ceremony that was cut off so prematurely. I trust that we can have our friends and family join us here?" he asked of Da-nar'.

"Perfectly acceptable," Da-nar' told him. They should have only minimal shortness of breath from the change in atmosphere. Your people have been visiting Earth for generations, with no adverse reactions."

"It will have to be a small, private ceremony, held here in the catacombs," Ge-lar' advised them.

"Why? It hardly seems worth having it here, if not to show the strength of our union to the people."

Ge-lar' replaced the first scroll, and removed another. He read the words that had been burned into his soul over the last 54 years. Then he explained. "The king must take his brides, and THEN he will have the strength to overcome the Warrior of Flame," he told them, interpreting the meaning of the vision. "You cannot go above, until you are ready to face Ki-var'."

"Whoa whoa wait a minute!" Max protested. "What do you mean brides? As in plural?"

"That is what the sacred writings foretell."

"No way. Even if I wanted to marry two women, which I definitely do not, Liz would never stand for it."

"I do not profess to have complete understanding, as to the meaning of the prophecy," Ge-lar' admitted. "But whatever it is, you will see that in time, all will come to be fulfilled."

"Well, I still don't plan to marry anytime soon."

"My child, you must reconsider. I am an old man, and yet the Great One has declared that I will live to see the salvation of our people, through your return. If this is to be, then you must take your rightful place on the throne soon. And again, I stress, this will only be possible after your marriage."

"I haven't even finished high school yet!" Max insisted.

Zan place a hand on Max's shoulder. "You know as well as I do, that graduation is a mere technicality in your educational process, and besides - do you think the people of Antar are going to check your Earth credentials, before they allow you to sit on the throne, as is your rightful heritage?"

Max scowled. "No, but -"

"Max, I have always known that I was destined for something beyond what we experienced on Earth. Didn't you sense it, too?"

"Well, yes, but -"

"No buts, Max. We know that Liz and Karanna are our future. Our people need us. I think it's time we begin to prepare ourselves to return to Antar, and reclaim the throne."

"Your brother speaks with much wisdom, Max." Something about the look on Ge-lar's face caused Max to refrain from further argument. He was, after all, a man of God. And apparently he had a direct pipeline for information, judging from what he knew of them before they even arrived. But he planned to discuss this with Michael and Isabel, before any decisions were made.

Thinking that Max's silence meant he was ready to submit to the path ordained for him, Da-nar' agreed that they should immediately begin planning a strategy for reclaiming Antar from the Talerians. "But first, we need to bring Tessandra here, and get her settled in," he amended. Max did agree with that, and so they took their leave from Ge-lar, and left to return to Earth.

They traveled back through the portal, and then Da-nar' removed the quartz from the transport machine, and handed it to Max, who replaced it in within the rock.

They arrived back at Michael's apartment, to find a very worried Jim hovering over Tess, who was once again hanging on by a thread. Max directed Michael to take her to the Jeep, while he spoke with Sheriff Valenti. Zan grabbed a pen and notebook that Michael had left laying on the table, before he headed outside.

"Would you like to come with us?" Max asked Valenti. "Da-nar' says that the only problem with you visiting our world would be some minor shortness of breath for a short while, until your lungs adjust. Want to be our guinea pig?" he asked with a smirk. "If you have an adverse reaction, you can always go right back through the portal."

"Yeah, you know, I'd really like that, Max. This way I can see where Tess is going to be, and make sure she is well taken care of. I'd rest easier."

"I understand. I think you'll like Ge-lar'. He's a very kind man." Jim smiled at Max, and followed him out to the Jeep.

posted on 28-Nov-2001 11:21:34 AM

Part Nine

Remembering that Alex's parents were still under Tess' mind-warp, they drove by the Whitman house on the way out of town. Once again, Max and Zan helped Tess rally her strength, and this time, they instructed her to undo her mind-warp. Concentrating, Tess broke out into a sweat, and finally collapsed in Zan's arms.

"Is it done?" Zan pressed her, despite her obvious fatigue.

"Yes," she whispered weakly.

"Good. We can go now," he told his brother. Max put the Jeep in gear, and sped off toward the desert.

In less than half an hour, they were winding their way through the catacombs again, until they reached the room where Ge-lar' would be waiting for them to bring Tess. Zan had taken over carrying Tess by that point, and so he brought her in, and laid her unconscious form on the thick pallet of furs where she could rest. Already they had noticed a remarkable improvement in her pallor and respiration. "She will be much better now," Ge-lar' assured them. "I only hope that she agrees to remain here. An old man such as myself is little match for a strong Talerian such as she."

"Then you are aware of who she is?" Max asked.

"Of course. She is Ki-var's sister, is she not?"

Max nodded. "Perhaps we should take turns coming and assisting you with her. That way there will be no problems."

"That would be much appreciated," Ge-lar' said gratefully.

"I kind of want to stay here and look over those prophecies anyway," Zan stated. "I might as well take the first shift."

"You know, that's a good idea, Zan. Da-nar', why don't the two of us stay here with him, and look those over? Michael, you can take Sheriff Valenti back. Zan and I will be along later, leaving Da-nar' here until you get out of work tonight. Then you can take a shift, all right?"

"Sure thing, Maxwell." Michael turned to leave.

Da-nar' called after him, "Michael? When you go through the portal, remove the crystal, and put it back in the wall. We will initiate the portal from this end when Max and Zan leave. I don't like to leave it open indefinitely."

"Gotcha. C'mon Sheriff, let's get while the gettin's good."

As soon as they left, Ge-lar' pulled out the scrolls of prophecy again, and handed them to Zan. "Take care with these ancient writings. The parchment is getting fragile from age."

"We will, sir," Zan assured him. Sitting down at the table in the scroll room, Zan copied the prophecies into the notebook, as he read it aloud again to Max and Da-nar'. When he finished the one about the King of Light and the Warrior of Flame, his eyebrows were drawn together in concentration. "There's just something about this that strikes me as odd," he confessed. "It always refers to the King of Light as a single entity, so that would be Max, right? And yet my son is called the First Son of Light in the other prophecy. How could he be a son of light, if I am not the King of Light? And then here -" He pointed to a passage in the prophecy he had just copied. "It says, 'For a season, one side shall war against the other...' What does that mean? Does it refer to Max's human side vs. his Antarian side? Or does it refer to him and me - the way that we chafed each other when we first met? Then it goes on, 'He shall behold himself as one who gazes into a mirror...' Couldn't that refer to him looking at me, and seeing his own image?"

"Yes," Da-nar; agreed, "Especially if my theory that you are mirror image twins is correct. That would make a lot of sense."

Zan nodded. He continued reading, " 'Comprehending the reflection, he shall be made whole.' Okay, that's where I lose it. I mean, I think it must be significant, because it's right after that, that the mention of the King taking his destined brides - plural - is mentioned. As if the king needs to 'be made whole' before the marriage. But what does that mean?"

"I have been praying about that, since I first saw you," Ge-lar' spoke, as he entered the room, after checking on Tess. "I had always been baffled by the apparent implied duplicity of the king's nature in that passage. But when I saw the two of you, immediately I understood it to refer to your physical being. I must ask you, Zan - you mentioned not only Liz, but Karanna as well. I thought that Liz was of Queen Karanna's essence. Is it this, to which you referred?"

"Oh, no, you see, Liz and Karanna are also identical twins, like Max and I are. Max and Liz are together as a couple, and although Karanna and I just met, we also feel deeply for each other."

"Perhaps, then, this is the meaning of the prophecy? That the 'brides' referred to, are Liz and Karanna?"

"But why, then, does it only refer to the King in the singular? Surely you aren't suggesting that Max marry them both?" Zan was horrified, and feeling a little queasy at the thought of losing two women to his brother, for the simple reason that Da-nar' had chosen to slip Max's embryo into one set of pods with the other royals, and his in with a bunch of criminals. Something just wasn't fair about that.

"No, I am in no way suggesting that," Ge-lar' reassured Zan, seeing the young man's struggle written on his face. "Our holy teachings forbid us from having more than one spouse, so surely that would not be the Great One's intention here. We must open our minds to other possibilities. Sometimes thinking 'in the box' can make one blind to a greater calling."

"Do you have any suggestions?" Max asked him.

"Comprehending the reflection, he shall be made whole," Ge-lar' quoted from memory. "If we consider Max to be the king - he is the one with the royal seal, correct?" he inquired of Da-nar'. Da-nar' nodded. "So if Max is the king, Zan is the reflection.... if we substitute their names in the passage, it would read, 'Max shall behold Zan as one who gazes into a mirror, comprehending Zan, Max shall be made whole.' Now, what could that possibly refer to? In what way, could Zan bring wholeness to Max? And what might 'comprehending' mean?"

"Well.... comprehending is understanding," Zan started.

"It can also mean to include, or take in," Max relayed spontaneously, without apparent thought. The others stared at him in wonder. "What? Liz and I went through some rough times over this Tess thing," he defended himself. "I memorized the dictionary to keep myself from going insane." They chuckled at his explanation.

"All right, let's substitute words, and see what we get," Da-nar' suggested.

Zan looked at the words on the paper in front of him. " 'Understanding Zan, Max shall be made whole', or 'Including Zan, Max shall be made whole'.... the last one is 'Taking in Zan, Max shall be made whole'. Well, Max and his family 'took me in' to their home when I moved to Roswell. But I don't see how that made Max 'whole'."

Ge-lar' closed his eyes for a few moments, and everyone sat in silence. There seemed be an almost reverent hush in the room, until Ge-lar' finally spoke. "I don't believe the wholeness that is referred to would be a physical wholeness - I mean, that would require your two bodies merging into one person, to become 'the king'. But what if your nature was to become one, bringing you wholeness? How could you become one on a say - spiritual level?"

Max and Zan looked at each other, and whispered in unison, "The connection."

"Connection?" Ge-lar' asked. "Explain this to me."

"It's rather difficult to explain," Max began, "but it is like we see into each other's souls - we can hear each other's thoughts, feel each other's feelings, share each other's memories. It's like we become almost a single unit...." The implication of what he had just described hit Max. "The King, singular," he breathed.

Ge-lar' nodded. "So it would seem. But there is still the reference to being made whole, that we don't understand."

Zan looked at Max. "Actually, I think we do. The first time we connected, it was as if we had a greater strength. And our senses became more acute. Do you suppose that the connection becomes a medium through which all of King Zan's essence in the two of us is somehow reunited? When we connected, it felt as if a part of me that I wasn't aware of was... awakening."

"I felt it, too," Max agreed.

"This very well could be the answer we are looking for," Ge-lar' speculated. "Tell me - did you feel different only the first time? Or do you feel changed, somehow, after each encounter?"

"We have only connected one other time, but I did feel stronger, after we did," Max revealed. "How about you, Zan?"

"Yeah, it definitely affected me. But you know, when we have connected, it has never been a deep connection - I mean, we have always done it because there was a need to. I wonder what would happen, if we simply connected? And let it take us wherever it wanted us to go?"

"I think that might be a worthwhile venture," Da-nar' agreed. "But I don't want you trying it when you are alone. I prefer that Michael and I are there to monitor the situation, and intervene if necessary. We still don't know exactly what will happen."

"Wise counsel," Ge-lar' confirmed.

"We'll be sure not to," Max promised. "But there's something else that is plaguing me here. If Zan and I can connect in such a fashion, why can't Liz and Karanna do the same thing? And if they do, why wouldn't the prophecy refer to them as the bride, singular, instead of plural?"

"I'm not sure, but I will pray and seek divine counsel on the matter," Ge-lar' assured him. "However, I would say that it seems imperative that they not connect and meld their essences, until after the weddings."

"Let's just run this again - Zan and I have to allow our essences to merge before the wedding, but Liz and Karanna cannot," Max recapped. "Is that the gist of it?"

Ge-lar' nodded. "If my understanding of the prophecy is correct, that is the way it must be."

"One more question before we leave," Max announced. "Just out of curiosity - how is it that you speak our language so well?"

Ge-lar' smiled. "For centuries now, most children here have grown up with the dream of visiting Earth someday. Since English is the most universal of the languages on Earth at this point in time, all Antarian children are taught to speak it as a second language. Our people have been visiting your planet for many generations now, and our hope it to one day make ourselves known to your people. We were about to embark on that very endeavor, under King Zan's rule. But then Ki-var' killed Zan, and the dream along with him," Ge-lar' relayed sadly.

"Well, you of all people should appreciate the apparent hand of God in all of this, then," Max told him. "You see, the people of Earth are not ready to accept other life forms visiting their world. In fact, because of who I am, at one point I was captured and tortured by a secret branch of the American government. They do not welcome us, Ge-lar' - they fear us."

Ge-lar' shook his head in dismay. "It is too bad, after all we have invested in their growth and development, that they would not look upon us as a friendly people."

"Investment?" Zan asked. "What kind of investment?"

"Through the centuries, as mankind progressed, we would introduce new ideas or inventions to help them rise to the next level of development."

"What kind of inventions?" Max inquired.

"Oh, many things. From small things like light bulbs, to your technological revolution - much of it has been inspired by our people."

"But those things were all invented by humans," Max protested.

"Perhaps it seems that way," Ge-lar' allowed. "However, the people who invented those things were stimulated and challenged by Antarians through the ages. Ideas and seeds were planted in their minds, and encouraged to bloom into new inventions for their race."

Max was in awe. "That's incredible."

Tess' scream split the air, and brought them out of their comfortable conversation. Max and Zan were the first to race down the hall, with Da-nar' and Ge-lar' close behind. When they burst into her room, they saw her sitting upright and rigid on the sleeping pallet, breathing heavily, sweat causing her hair to cling to her head.

Zan ran to her side, and knelt down. "Tess? What is it? What's the matter?"

Turning frightened eyes to him, she cried, "Where am I? What's going on?"

Zan smiled, and waved his hand over her, removing the dampness from her hair, and making her more presentable. "You are back on Antar, Tess. Have you noticed, you seem to be feeling better? At least you are conscious now."

Tess looked startled, and her hand quickly went to her abdomen. "Y-yes! I am better, aren't I? What about the baby?" she demanded, suddenly frightened again. "Did something happen to him, while I was unconscious?"

Zan stroked her back soothingly. "No, Tess, he's fine. But you need to relax. After what the two of you have been through, being upset can't be good for either one of you."

Tess nodded, and then laid back down. "So tired," she murmured.

"You rest now, Tess," Zan instructed. "You're safe here, all right? But you have to promise me something."

"Anything," she said, looking up at him with trusting eyes.

"You have to remain here with our friend Ge-lar'. He will take good care of you, and the baby as well, when your time comes. Do you promise?" Tess nodded. "Good. We will be here to check on you regularly, and make sure that you are feeling all right. I don't want you to think that we've abandoned you down here."

"Down here?" Tess mumbled sleepily. "What do you mean, 'down here'?"

"You are below ground on Antar," he told her, omitting the details of where she precisely was. If she ever were contacted by Ki-var' somehow, he didn't want her being able to inform him about the catacombs.

"You mean that I can't go above ground and see our homeland?" she asked, wrapping her hand around his.

"All in good time, Tess. But it isn't safe for you, or for the baby, for you to be wandering around up there," he improvised. "Someone might not realize who you are, and harm you," he added, trying to frighten her into staying put. "You have to remember, Tess, there is a war going on. Things are not safe up top."

Tess nodded, her eyes fluttering shut. "Yes, you're right. I hadn't thought about that. Must protect our son," she mumbled, and then drifted off to sleep again.

Zan stood, and herded everyone out of the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. "She's sleeping now, " he whispered, as they headed back to the scroll room. Once inside, he spoke in a normal voice. "I think I have her convinced that it is in her best interest to remain here for now. I don't think she'll give you any trouble," he told Ge-lar'.

"Zan, we better head back," Max stated. "We need to tell everyone what we've learned."

"All right - but when are we going to try this connecting thing, Da-nar'?" Zan asked.

"Actually, it would probably be best to do it right away, while it is relatively safe to leave Ge-lar' alone with Tess. She is still weak, and sleeping for the time being. Why don't I come with you now?"

"Okay, good idea," Max concurred. "Ge-lar', thank you for everything you're doing for us." He held out his hand to shake that of the Learned One.

"It is my honor to serve you, your majesty. I don't have many days left on this planet, but I want them to count for something."

"You will be remembered well by our people," Max declared. "I'll make sure of it."

Ge-lar' bowed his head humbly. "I don't not need recognition for my deeds. But thank you for your kindness."

Max impulsively gave the older man a quick embrace. "Okay, then, let's go join the others, and see what happens!"

After they left, Ge-lar' invoked the blessings of the Holy One on the adolescent king, and his friends.

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:15:35 AM

Part Ten

It was 3:05 on the dashboard clock in the Jeep, when they left the cliffs. Returning to Roswell, they headed straight for Michael's apartment, hoping to find him there. He had mentioned to Max at one point that his shift at the Crashdown didn't start until 5:00. They weren't expecting what they found when they arrived, although Max had to admit to himself that he wasn't in the least bit surprised. Maria's Jetta and Kyle's Mustang were both parked in front of the building, and when they entered the apartment, they discovered Liz, Isabel, and Alex also there waiting. Liz jumped up from her seat on the couch between Maria and Kyle, and hurled herself into Max's arms. Pulling her close, he swiftly lowered his lips to hers, and kissed her deeply, momentarily forgetting there were others in the room.

"Okay, alien loverboy," Kyle groused, "we get the point. You're glad to see your queen. Now, could you cool it? Or are we going to have to institute a six inch rule for the two of you, so that you keep your hands off each other, while in the company of others?"

Reluctantly, Max released Liz from the kiss, and pulled her close to his side, as he turned to face Kyle. "Sorry. It's just been a really long couple of days," he said by way of explanation.

"Yeah, well, rent a room, then," Kyle quipped back. "Someplace private."

Max smiled shyly, looking down at Liz. "Maybe sooner than you think," he said enigmatically. Liz's eyes widened in shock, as a bright crimson blush stole over her cheeks. Could he possibly know what she had planned?

"Whoa, WTMI," Kyle croaked out. "Did I stress the word 'private'? Yes, I think I did..." Everyone chuckled at the exchanged. Maria, however, wondered exactly what Max was planning for her Lizzie. She didn't want him pushing Liz into something she had recently said she wasn't ready for.

Liz quickly changed topics. "Michael said that you got Tess settled in. Is everything okay? You stayed quite awhile after he came back." She suddenly noticed that Da-nar' had come home with them. She was just about to ask when Michael beat her to it.

"Why did Da-nar' come back with you?" Michael asked. "I thought he was going to stay with Tess until I relieved him later."

"Yes, everything is fine, and Da-nar' is going back shortly," Max explained, "but there's something Zan and I need to do, and Da-nar' thinks that it's best for you and him to be with us, in case something strange happens."

"What are you're planning, Maxwell? It's not like you to rush headlong into dangerous situations," he added, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

"No, it's nothing like that - exactly," Max defended himself. Then he proceeded to tell them about the prophecy, and how they were thinking that the key to the reference of the king being made whole had something to do with Zan and him connecting. "So we want to try to do it, without any pressing need diverting our attention and energy. You with us?"

Michael shrugged. "Sure, I guess. I don't have to be to work for an hour and a half yet. Where did you want to do this?"

"I was thinking out at the pod chamber. It's secluded, and then Da-nar' can go straight back to Antar when we are finished."

"Speaking of," Michael returned to his former line of questioning, "how come you left Tess alone with Ge-lar'? I thought we decided it wasn't safe."

"Tess woke up disoriented, but feeling much better. She's still weak and tired, though, so we didn't think she'd be much of a threat. Besides," he added, smirking at Zan, "my brother managed to convince her that she wouldn't be safe above ground, with the war going on. If nothing else, I can say she seems to genuinely care about the welfare of the child. Of course, her motivation in that regard is anyone's guess, but I don't think she'll do anything to willingly endanger the baby," he grudgingly admitted, his voice reflecting his lack of good will toward her. Michael nodded, indicating his acceptance of Max's rationale on the matter. "Well, let's get going. Liz - I'll see you when we get back, okay?"

"Why can't we come with you?" she pouted.

"Don't you have to work?"

"No, not today. That was yesterday, when you were gone all day on me," she teased.

He smiled tenderly at her. "Well, if you want, I guess there's no reason you can't come?" he said with a question in his voice, looking to Da-nar' for a reaction.

"I don't think there will be any problem with it," Da-nar' agreed.

"Great!" Maria interjected. "Count me in!"

"Me too!" Alex joined in.

Everyone looked at Kyle, who was the only non-alien to have not spoken. "What?" he snapped defensively. Realizing they were waiting for him to jump on the bandwagon, he grumbled, "Aw hell, count me in."

When they reached the cliffs, Da-nar' explained to them exactly what they were going to attempt to do. He suggested that they all watch from a safe distance, and had them back way off. Only he and Michael stayed closer, and even then, they stayed at a distance of 20 feet or so, one behind each of the brothers, so they could see the face of the other. They wanted to monitor them for signs of pain, or any other complication that might arise.

Max and Zan reached out, each clasping his hand around the other's forearm. Then slowly, they looked up, to stare straight into each other's eyes. And the connection was instantaneous.

At first, they each saw a series of flashes from the other's mind, slow at first, and then gaining speed, until they became a near blur. The entire time, their eyes remained locked, neither one blinking. And then as suddenly as they began, the flashes stopped. The connection seemed to deepen, and it seemed to Max and Zan as though they were almost a part of each other. They could hear each other's thoughts and share feelings. They also were highly attuned to their surroundings. They were aware of Liz whispering her concerns to Maria over 50 feet away. A sense of great love and possession swelled through them both at the thought of Liz. Whether it originated with Max, Zan, or both of them, they couldn't tell. Any thought that one had became the thought of both.

It was only natural that thoughts of Liz should transform into thoughts of Karanna. After all, she was Liz's twin, and the second bride of prophecy. There was an overwhelming sense of anticipation and "rightness" associated with the concept of marrying their chosen mates. The thought of bonding to these women, who filled their lives in a way they had only ever dreamed about, caused them both to immediately become rigid with desire. And being linked by the connection only served to give them the most potent arousal either had ever experienced. A thought fluttered between them, wondering if this would be a permanent side-effect of their connection.

Their joint stream of consciousness associated their arousal with intercourse, and the thought of having children. Suddenly there was a sense of regret and fear piercing like an arrow through their connection. There was no question where this originated. The regret centered around Tess and her pregnancy - the disappointment a result of Zan knowing his first child would not be born to his wife and soul mate. His source of fear was that Karanna wouldn't forgive him for what had happened. With the focus on Tess, conflicting emotions began to emerge. Max despised Tess, and everything that she stood for: his break up with Liz; her ultimate betrayal, with her lies as to who she really was; the seduction of his brother....

Yet Zan's input into the whole was of a different nature. Despite his heartbreak, at the thought of his son being born to someone other than his beloved Karanna, he felt protective of Tess, as she was the vessel through which his first son was to be born. He felt pity for her, because he knew what it was like to feel like you didn't have a place to belong. He had felt that way for too long in his life. He still found it hard to believe that it hadn't even been a week, since he had finally had a real "home". He saw the way that Tess responded to the Sheriff - and yes, even to himself - and knew that all she had ever longed for in life was to be cherished for who she really was. Granted, that desire had driven her to do unspeakable things, but nonetheless, it was a very real part of who she was. Although, admittedly, it was no excuse for her behavior, he acknowledged that in some ways, she was as much a victim as he was; a mere pawn in Ki-var's quest for vengeance. And he couldn't find it in his heart to condemn her for that.

Oddly, instead of engaging in a battle for dominance, these clashing sentiments began to meld into a balanced view of who Tess was, and how they should respond to her. Things like bitterness and rage were tempered by pity and understanding. Equally, pity was not allowed to overlook the seriousness of the crimes that had been perpetrated against the crown. Justice must be served.... but tempered with mercy. That was the kind of man the true King of Antar must become. There was no room on the throne for a self-serving, hostile man.

The connection continued to wind its way through their subconscious minds, retrieving and revealing their inmost beings, awakening them to the full potential of both their alien and human natures, as it wove their thoughts and feelings together into a unified whole.

There was much in Max's alien nature that would be beneficial to a reigning monarch, but there were things about that aspect of himself which had plagued him, since Liz had awakened them in him. Things like being able to make a calculated decision to kill Nicholas, without feeling an ounce of remorse. But now that these character traits were integrated into the whole of who he was, he no longer denied nor feared them, because he knew that his human side would have the control to temper them His fear that somehow his alien side would one day surface and take over his life, like some sort of demon possession, was finally laid to rest.

Conversely, Zan had been awakened by Liz to his human side, which Karanna had further stimulated. This was evident in the capacity for caring that he had shown to Tess. What he once had considered weakness, he now understood to be a source of incredible strength. The nature of the alien king was to view everything in terms of black and white, right and wrong. Which was great for decision making, but it was the colors of things like forgiveness and mercy, that gave meaning and fulfillment to life. And that was the precious gift of humanity.

There was no longer any question as to the course their lives would take in the coming months. They would wed their young loves, and leave Earth behind to reclaim their homeland. They would rejoice in liberating their people from an insufferable tyrant, allowing their joy to overcome the aching sorrow that would arise, as a result of leaving their adoptive parents behind. Perhaps one day, Philip and Diane would come to realize the immeasurable gift they had given to an entire species, through their selfless act of love.

Feeling a sudden, bone-deep unity, they each spontaneously lifted the hand that was free, to place it behind the other's head. At that moment, a brilliant white light flashed out of both their palms, to pulse through their heads, and emerge on the other side, each projecting into the air above the other's head. Within seconds, the backdrop of a sky appeared over each of them, with the V constellation formed in the middle of both. They were aware of gasps and reverent comments made, by those who were looking on from a distance, when the two seals of the King of Antar mysteriously were drawn together, until they became one, positioned between the two young men. Then it vanished, leaving them standing there, amazed by what they had just shared.

Once they released each other's arms, the others ran up to them asking a million questions at once, and both Zan and Max stood in the midst of the chaos, serene and unruffled. Finally, Da-nar' emitted a shrill whistle that silenced the group. Then he encouraged Max and Zan to describe the experience, which they did. Max began, and when he would pause in the middle of a sentence, in search of perhaps the best word to describe something, Zan would immediately pick up the ball, and continue the tale, until he paused, giving Max a chance to jump back in. This happened several times, as well as an occasional comment spoken simultaneously by both. Liz stood in total amazement at the change in both of them, as well as the singleness of mind that they now seemed to possess. She had never seen Max so confident and assertive before - as if he somehow gained wisdom reaching far beyond the scope of his 17 years. His words rang with an air of authority that she had never detected before now, and he seemed totally at ease with his regal status for the first time in his life.

Max and Zan began to outline the plan they now had for dealing with the situation with Tess, no questions asked, no apologies given. Although Max encouraged them to share any additional insight that they might possess, no one felt a need to tamper with the plans he and Zan had announced. Something about their quiet confidence instilled complete faith in their judgment.

When they finished, Max urged the rest of them to go on back to Roswell, telling them that he and Liz would be along in a bit. Everyone complied with his wishes, leaving Max, Liz, and Da-nar' standing at the base of the cliff, as the cars disappeared in a cloud of sand and dust. As soon as they were alone, Da-nar' indicated that he probably should be getting back to Antar. Max detained him with a gentle hand on his arm. "Da-nar'."

"Did you need something before I leave, Max?"

"Actually, I was hoping you could give me your opinion on this whole brides thing. We know now the Ge-lar' was correct - that together Zan and I represent the singular King in prophecy. So if I marry Liz, and he marries Karanna, the prophecy comes to pass. But why shouldn't Liz and Karanna connect before we are all married? We aren't talking about a very long time here. What difference could it possibly make?"

Liz looked at him in surprise. This was the first she had heard about it. And what was all this serious talk about marriage? They had always talked about it in a far-off, someday kind of reference, but the way Max was speaking, you'd think they were getting hitched next week.

"I'm not really sure, your highness," Da-nar' replied, reverting to the protocol he had been raised with. It was a natural reaction to what he had just witnessed.

"Da-nar', please," Max pleaded, his tone weary. "We've been through this before. It's just 'Max'. I may be your king, and I may issue orders at times that you don't agree with, but I don't like the implications of inferiority associated with you calling me things like 'highness'. So don't go getting all proper on me now. We have too much to work toward in the future, to be erecting social barriers between us. Agreed?"

"If that is your wish -"

"No, Da-nar', my wishes have nothing to do with this. Yours do. Do you wish to stand with me? As a friend?"

"I would be honored, but -"

"I don't want you to feel honored, either." Splaying his hand on his chest for emphasis, he asserted, "I am just a man, who has been given the extraordinary privilege of leading his people. I don't believe that the blood of the gods runs through my veins, or any such nonsense. Perhaps God ordains who shall come into power; but if that is so, it's to the fulfillment of His own purposes, and not to the glory of the one who is chosen. So please don't impose that kind of stigma on me. If anything, we should both be in awe of Ge-lar'. Now there's a man who stands head and shoulders above the rest, in my book."

Da-nar' smiled. "Indeed he does. Ironically, though, he would probably give you the same lecture that you just gave me. I think that is the mark of a humble man. And Ge-lar' always drilled into Zan's and my heads that it is the humble whom God can use." Liz listened in fascination, storing up questions for when she was finally alone with Max.

"So what about the brides?" Max pursued again. "Do you understand the significance of them refraining from connecting to each other?"

Da-nar' shook his head. "No, but I'll speak with Ge-lar' about it." He looked at Liz with apology in his eyes. "And I'm sorry I won't be able to work on those blood tests until tomorrow, when Michael comes to relieve me with Tess. I know you are anxious to have answers about this bonding business." He shot a look at Max. "May I speak with you in private, before I return to Antar?"

"Yes of course. Liz, honey, would you mind waiting for me in the Jeep?"

Liz smiled adoringly at him. She was in awe at the change in him. She rather liked it, actually. "No problem. Da-nar' - be safe, okay?" she implored him.

"Don't worry, Liz. I don't plan to take any unnecessary risks." That earned him a relieved smile, just before she turned and headed for the Jeep.

"What is it, Da-nar'? I saw a definite question in your eyes."

"I need to know - for my research, of course - how you reacted to Karanna. Apparently Zan had a fairly intense reaction to her, from what I gather. Did you have any sort of.... physical response when you met her?"

Where before, Max Evans, the 17 year old high school student might have blushed profusely in embarrassment, to Da-nar's surprise and delight, before him stood Max, King of Antar, unashamed, and willing to discuss this alien enigma. "Yes, I did," he answered without hesitation or apology. Connecting with Zan helped him to come to terms with the fact that his arousal, in response to the alien equivalent of pheromones, did not constitute unfaithfulness to Liz. Not as long as he refused to act on it. "May I ask what the significance of that question was?"

"I'd say that about clinches my theory regarding King Zan and Karanna bonding. It's the only logical explanation for why both you and Zan are attracted to both women. I mean, there was still the off-chance that Zan was attracted to Liz because he was lonely, and he sensed on some level that she was the same, species-wise. And that could have accounted for why he didn't feel as strongly for Ava. Somehow he knew that she wasn't Antarian."

"But if I'm attracted to Karanna," Max picked up the thought, reasoning it out as he went, "when I am far beyond content with my relationship to Liz, and there is no reason in the universe for me to be even looking at other women, then there has to be something more at work here."

"Precisely."

"Good. Well, one mystery solved. Mind if I share with Liz?"

"That's your call. She's your woman. If you want to tell her that you got a hard-on when you met her sister, be my guest."

Max winced. "Somehow, I think I might want to find a slightly different choice of phrasing on that."

Da-nar' chuckled. "Yes, I'd think so."

"So - any ideas how we get around this particularly inconvenient situation?"

"Not a one. Since the Learned One is often involved in the bonding ceremonies, perhaps Ge-lar' can explain to me exactly what the physiological processes are, that are involved in the phenomenon. If we understand it, perhaps we can circumvent it somehow."

"Well, I'd best let you get back there, then," Max said decisively. "That way you can keep and eye on Tess, and research our little 'problem'. Contact me when you get back on this side, tomorrow."

"I'll call you first thing," Da-nar' promised.

Max nodded. "Until we meet again -" He held his arm out to Da-nar', and they clasped forearms, their free arms encircling each other's shoulder in a brief embrace, " - be well, my friend."

"And you also," Da-nar' responded, completing the traditional Antarian blessing of departure between friends. He wondered if Max even realized what they had done.

posted on 29-Nov-2001 10:19:06 AM

Part Eleven

As Max turned the Jeep and headed for town, Liz said, "So, Max, I think we need to talk about a few things..."

"Oh? What's on your mind?" he asked, as he shifted gears.

"Forgive me if I appear a little dense here, but I couldn't help being curious about your conversation with Da-nar' back there. What's this business about a prophecy, that forbids Karanna and me to connect until we are married? And why did it sound almost like you all have been making plans for our future, that I know nothing about?" She looked at him accusingly.

Max reached over, and took her hand in his, bringing it up to his lips for a kiss. "Liz, I'm sorry if that's the way it seems. And I guess, in the strictest sense of what you said, that's pretty much what we have been doing. But nothing definite will be decided on, without bringing you and Karanna in on the discussion. It's just that we learned so many things from Ge-lar' -"

"Okay, who is Ge-lar'?"

"He is the Learned One on our planet - he is in charge of keeping watch over the sacred writings of our people, including the scrolls of prophecy." He looked over at Liz with an excited expression on his face. "I still find it amazing, that there was actually a prophecy written hundreds of years ago about us! I have to tell you, it blew me away."

"How do you know it's about us, Max? From anything I've ever gathered, prophecies are vague, ambiguous sorts of things."

"You know, that's what I always thought. And the thing is, until you actually see the fulfillment of them, they probably seem difficult to comprehend. But I'm telling you, Liz, you should read this prophecy. It is so obvious that it is referring to us. I mean, it starts with the whole situation with Ki-var' taking over Antar, and how he destroyed the palace.... then it talks about the king, who beholds himself as one looking into a mirror - that's me and Zan, because we are twins and all. Da-nar' says he has even suspected that we are mirror image twins, which would make that passage even more startling."

"All right, so what is this brides business about, then?"

"The prophecy states that the king, singular, will take his chosen brides, plural. Needless to say, that caused some concern for Zan and me, when we heard it."

Liz was wide-eyed with disbelief. "Well, I should say so! I don't intend to be part of a harem, Max," she declared, horrified at the thought.

Max chuckled. "No, I don't imagine you do. But that's okay, because we've figured out what it was referring to. That's why Zan and I did the connecting thing. By connecting the way we did, it was as if we completed the other half of each other, and brought our alien and human sides into balance. You initiated the process of awakening in each of us, but we needed to finish what had begun."

"I initiated it?"

Max nodded. "When I healed you, we knew that you were changed. Well, the thing of it was, so was I. Because of you, my alien side began to awaken. That's why we were able to get those flashes, and find the orb out in the desert. When you connected deep enough with Zan to affect his energy shield, you began the process of change in him, too, awakening his human side."

"Wow. So you still haven't explained the multiple brides thing, though. What's that all about?"

"Well, Zan will marry Karanna, and I will marry you. If Zan and I are considered 'the king' in the prophecy, then technically, 'the king' has two brides."

"I see. So what does that have to do with Karanna and me not connecting?"

"If you connect before we marry, then there would only be one bride, as well. So since the prophecy is very clear on the issue, we don't want to do anything to go against what was foretold."

"Oh-kay.... so do you want to enlighten me, as to what these plans are that you all have been making?"

Max smiled, and squeezed the hand that he was still holding. Then, realizing that what he was about to tell her might get an intense reaction from her, he pulled off the road onto the sand, and parked the Jeep. Turning sideways in his seat to face her, he said, "Okay, Liz, the thing is this - we can't defeat Ki-var' and reclaim the throne of Antar, until Zan and I are married to our destined brides. So... the idea is, that perhaps we'll get married a bit younger than is customary here. But remember - people marry younger in other cultures on Earth, too," he added quickly, hoping to diffuse any negative reaction.

Liz eyed him suspiciously. "Max? Just how young are we talking here?"

"Uh, well, we were thinking that - you know, soon? A couple months, maybe?"

"Max! Are you crazy? Do you have any idea what all is involved in planning a wedding? And we'd need parental consent at our ages! No WAY will my dad and mom sign off for us to get married, and I don't think yours will either! What are you guys thinking?! No, that's the problem! You aren't thinking!"

Max laid a finger across her lips, to stem the tide of words flowing from her. "Liz, I know how you feel, and that was my first reaction to the idea, too. I thought about the fact that we aren't out of high school yet, and all these reasons why it couldn't happen. And then Zan pointed out that I was limiting myself, by defining who I am and what is right by human standards. But we aren't going to be living on Earth, Liz. As hard an adjustment as it's going to be, leaving our families, we're going to be ruling a people of another planet. You've seen what our minds are capable of, what with how much Zan has been able to learn. And now - everything that he learned, Liz, I know. So technically, I have the capability to graduate from high school. But that's not even the point," he sighed, spearing his fingers into his hair. "The point is - I'm the rightful king of Antar, and Ki-var' is destroying our planet and our people. He has to be stopped, and I don't intend to sit around, going to PE class, while people are being tortured under an insufferable tyrant. Not when I can stop it. Can you understand that?"

"Can you really stop him? Are you strong enough, Max?"

"Zan and I are both stronger now, than we were before we connected. And you remember how you affected Zan's strength in New York. Who knows what we'll be capable of now? Yes, I think that together, we will be able to defeat Ki-var'."

"So how do you propose we get around parental consent?"

"Think out of the box, Liz. Who says we have to be married on Earth?"

Tears sprung to Liz's eyes. "This just isn't how I pictured it Max," she said forlornly, as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. "I wanted to have our friends and family with us, sharing in the day with us. Now it's being reduced to some quickie ceremony on a planet whose wedding traditions I'm not even familiar with. What if they have some sort of weird rituals?"

"Then we become trendsetters, and change them," he said seriously. He hated seeing Liz upset, but he knew this was something they needed to do. "Besides - who says our friends can't be there? We have the portal - they can come to the wedding, and then be back, all in the same day. No sweat. As for family... I've been struggling with how we say good-bye to the people that have raised us all these years. I think the time to tell them the truth may be approaching. If we are going to up and leave the planet, the least we can do is tell them what's going on."

Liz nodded. "I agree. It would be just too cruel to disappear, and leave them wondering if we were kidnapped and murdered, or some other horrible thing."

"Exactly. I know this will thrill Isabel to no end, because she has wanted to tell Mom about us for years. I figure, even if they freak out, and don't take it all in stride the way Iz hopes, we'll be gone, and we won't have to face their constant rejection - or worse."

Liz gasped. "You don't honestly think that your parents would turn you in, do you?"

Max shrugged. "I don't know what to think, to be honest. You have to admit, finding something like this out would have to shake a person. How do you thing your parents are going to react?"

Liz's eyes dropped to stare at the floor of the Jeep. "It's going to be worse for them, you know. All these years, they thought I was really their little girl. Well, I am Dad's daughter... but the idea that his DNA was crossed with an alien's? And not his wife's?" She looked up at him with sad eyes. "I'm afraid he's going to look at me as some sort of freak. And Mom? How will she ever get over finding out that she carried an alien in her womb for nine months, and that her daughter is really no relation to her at all?" By the time she was finished, tears were streaming down her face again. "Of course, that will probably take care of the parental consent issue. They probably won't care what happens to me, once they know the truth."

Wanting to comfort her, Max moved on impulse. He hopped out of the Jeep, and walking around the back, grabbing a blanket, on his way to her side of the vehicle. She was staring at him with curiosity, wondering what he was up to. He leaned in, unbuckled her, and then lifted her in his arms, holding her close, as he pressed his lips to hers in a sweet kiss. He set her on her feet long enough to spread the blanket on the ground, and then kneeling on it, held his hand out to her in invitation. Taking his hand she knelt down in front of him, and welcomed his embrace, wrapping her own arms around his waist.

Nuzzling his face into the side of her neck, he mumbled, "I'm so sorry, Liz. Sorry that you can't just live the rest of your life like a normal human, never having to reveal any of this to your parents. But I love you, Liz, and I can't live the rest of my life without you. And our people need you. Can you forgive me for being so selfish?"

"Oh, Max, don't say that. You know there is no place in the universe that I want to be more, than at your side for the rest of our lives. Losing the love of my parents will be hard - but losing you would be unbearable. There really is no hesitation as to what I should do. Don't ever think that I will regret a moment of my life with you." She squeezed him tighter, wishing they could just melt together, and never again be apart, even for a moment. "I love you so much, Max, I sometimes think the intensity of it is more than I can withstand."

"I know just how you feel," he returned, and then began kissing her. At first, he swept his lips across hers in lazy, teasing caresses, until the taste and feel of her began to inflame his passion, and his kisses became hungry and more demanding.

Liz was with him every step of the way - tasting, sucking, nipping.... and moaning from the pleasure of it all. She barely even noticed when he lowered her to the blanket, his hands roaming possessively over her body, lingering on her womanly curves, enjoying how his touch aroused her, making her gasp with pleasure.

Max could feel the beat of her heart, and knew from it's accelerated rhythm that she was as aroused as he was. He thought that he would die trying to restrain himself, whenever she arched herself to beg for more of his touch. How he desired her! Every cell in his body screamed to unite with her... And this isn't even her fertile time, he thought remotely. God, help me....

He felt her hand stroke down the outside of his thigh, and then slip around to the front, to slide up the inside of his leg, inching closer and closer to the heat of his desire. If he thought the anticipation was maddening, he nearly came unglued, when her timid hand finally brushed over the length of his arousal. It was the first time she had ever been bold enough in the flesh to touch him so intimately, and he was astounded how even through the heavy denim, her innocent touch made him shudder with overwhelming need. Feeling like he was going to climax at any moment, his hand caught her wrist, and pulled her devious little fingers away from the bulge in his jeans.

Liz's face flamed in embarrassment. "I, uh, I'm sorry, Max," she apologized weakly, mortified that she had been so bold, and obviously disgraced herself with him. Either that, or what she did wasn't pleasing.... she was crushed to think that her inexperience could make him push her away.

"Sorry?" he croaked out, trying to keep from placing her hand back onto his arousal, for the last stroke that he knew would be all it would take to send him into oblivion. He shuddered at the mere thought of her hands on him. "Don't be sorry. I doubt you had any idea how powerfully your touch would affect me," he panted. "God knows, I didn't. I think it has something to do with my connection with Zan. All my senses are heightened, and I guess that includes this."

Liz was startled by his confession, glad that she hadn't made a fool of herself. She did feel rather sorry for him, though, knowing what torment it was to be on the verge of climax, and not being able to find release. A mischievous grin graced her face, as she came to a decision.

Noticing the devilish light in her eyes, he warned, "I'm trying to be noble here, but I swear, if you so much as brush against me, I'm going to explode, I'm that aroused." The heat in her eyes made him groan in despair. He wanted nothing more at that moment, than to be able bury himself in her, and find the release his aching flesh was screaming for. But he had promised himself that he would honor her wishes, and wait to consummate their relationship on their wedding night. He was so absorbed in his thoughts, that he never saw it coming.

Like lightning, the hand he wasn't restraining reached out, and scraped her fingernails over the straining denim. No longer able to fight the intensity of his sexual response, Max cried out her name in climax. He pressed her hand against his now pulsing erection, his hips bucking to thrust himself rhythmically against her palm, as he continued to pour himself out.

When it was over, he collapsed in a heap beside Liz, his body giving one last shudder of completion. Closing his eyes, he continued to gasp for breath, as his body came down from ecstasy. "Ah, Liz," he breathed out, "why did you do that? I warned you what was going to happen if you did. I tried to fight it, really I did, but when you touched me..."

Liz smiled lovingly at him, brushing a damp lock of hair off his forehead. "I didn't want you to fight it, Max. I wanted to see you lose control. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong, when you pulled my hand away," she admitted shyly.

Max groaned. "As you can see, that wasn't the case."

Liz grinned broadly. "Um hum. So I noticed," she teased.

"Why did you persist in doing that?" he asked, bringing her hand up to his lips, so he could kiss her palm.

"I told you. I wanted you to lose control."

"I know that's what you said. But why?"

Liz shrugged. "I guess because there was such a change in you, after you connected with Zan. You were more... confident. Decisive. In control. As proud as I was of you, I guess a part of me wondered if the abandoned lover in you was gone, too."

Max chuckled. "Well, I guess you can see that you have nothing to worry about, hmm?"

Liz leaned over him, and kissed him deeply. "And for that, I am extremely grateful."

"Grateful enough to marry me? Soon?"

Liz sighed. "So you want to marry me, out of duty to your people, do I have this right?"

Max snorted. "Where did you get a screwy idea like that?"

"From you."

"From me? What am I missing here? You know damn well I've been in love with you since I laid eyes on you in third grade. And yet you can accuse me of wanting to marry you out of some warped sense of obligation? Girl, I worry about you."

"Max, don't belittle me like that," she retorted indignantly. "Maybe if we rehearse what you told me earlier, you'll realize that your motives are less than romantic. How did you put it? Something about 'needing to be married before you can reclaim the throne', and then later you said you 'couldn't just sit around, while your people suffered under Ki-var's rule'. Sounds to me, like getting married is just a means to an end for you."

Max gathered her into his arms, and cradled her close. "Oh, babe, don't ever think that. Maybe the timing isn't what we would have originally chosen, but I have to be honest with you - the more I think about us tying the knot soon, the better I like it. I'm tired of constantly being separated from you, Liz. I want us to climb into the same bed at night, and be able to make love to each other freely - none of this quasi-lovemaking that we've had to settle for. Do you have any idea how much I wanted to be inside you a few minutes ago, joined as one flesh with you? God, Liz, don't you know how much I adore you? I want to be able to make love with you whenever we want, without having to plan stolen moments like this, so we can be alone. I've always known that you were the only woman for me, and that will never change. So I asked myself, 'What reason is there to wait?' And you know what? I couldn't think of one good reason, when it came right down to it. But I can think of a dozen why we should go ahead and officially join our lives." He suddenly looked nervous and fearful. He pulled back, so he could look into her eyes. "Is there some reason you don't want to marry me, Liz? Is that the problem here?"

"No," she told him in a choked whisper, as tears began falling freely down her face. "I just want you to ask me, because you love me, and it's right for you - for us - to get married. Not because you feel that it is somehow your duty to our people."

"Liz Parker, I love you with all my heart, soul, and strength. There has never been another woman that I have looked at with the kind of love a man feels for his mate. And there never will be any other for me. You are all I want - all I need - in a lifemate. I can't bear the thought of being without you any longer. Even if it weren't for Antar, I don't think that I could wait until we were out of school to marry you. My life will never be complete, until I have you by my side as my wife. And so I'm asking you again - I'm begging you Liz - will you please marry me?"

Liz had to cover her mouth to stifle a sob of joy. Max had such a way with words - he always knew just the right thing to say to reassure her, and make her feel cherished. Unable to speak, for fear her voice would fail her, she just nodded her head vigorously in an affirmative response to his proposal.

"Really?" he asked in disbelief. Another nod. Max crushed her against his chest, showering kisses in her hair, and whispering over and over how he would make sure she never lived to regret her decision. His heart was so full of his love for her in that moment, that he wasn't sure he wouldn't pass out from the emotional overload. He felt his insides start to quiver, and the blood heated in his veins, at the thought of making love to her as his wife. His appreciative kisses began to trail down from the top of her head to her face, running along her jaw, and up to her lips, each successive one becoming more heated and suggestive. "I want to make love to you so much," he confessed against her lips.

"I want you too, Max, but not now," she warned. When he pulled back in surprise, she explained, "I want everything to be perfect our first time, Max."

Max's eyes fell, and his face flamed in shame, at his lack of sensitivity. Surely Liz deserved better than to be taken in a moment of mindless passion on the desert floor. "Oh, Liz, forgive me. I let my desire for you cloud my judgment. You're right - you deserve so much more for our first time - any time - together."

Liz captured his face in her hands, and lifted it so he would look at her. "Oh, no, Max, you don't understand. It's just - oh, heck, I might as well tell you. When we first learned that King Zan and Karanna had most likely bonded before their wedding, and then seeing what happened to them, it got me started thinking about how uncertain life can be. And I decided -" She took a deep, steadying breath, "I decided that the next time I'm ovulating, I wanted to make love to you."

Max couldn't conceal his shock at the news. "Liz? Are you sure?" Liz nodded. "I, uh, wasn't going to even ask this, but since you brought it up - why don't we get married when you come into the fertile time in your next cycle? We don't have to spend a lot of time making plans - I know that the ceremony will be small, but we can only have immediate family and friends present, anyway. A trip out of the solar system isn't something you spring on unsuspecting wedding guests." He looked at her apologetically, and admitted hesitantly, "I hate the thought that you aren't going to have the wedding that every girl dreams of -"

She smiled sweetly at him, placing her hand on his cheek. "But in the ways that count, I am, Max," she replied honestly. "Because I'll have the groom that every girl dreams of...." She leaned in and kissed him tenderly. "I love you so much."

"So is that a yes?"

Liz smiled shyly. "Yeah, I guess it is."

Max squeezed her so enthusiastically, Liz thought that she would pass out from lack of oxygen. "You just made me the happiest man in the whole wor- uh, universe," he amended.

Liz laughed. "By the way, has Da-nar' mentioned if he's thought of a way to deal with this alien attraction thing going on between Zan and me? I really don't want to spend a lifetime avoiding my own brother-in-law, four days a month."

Max averted his eyes, not sure if he was up to explaining about his reaction to Karanna. "Uh, no, he said he was working on it. He was going to discuss it with Ge-lar' this evening."

"Max?"

His eyes grazed her face quickly, and then fell away again. "Hmmm?"

"Why can't you look at me? What do you know, that you aren't telling me?"

Max sighed. "I can't get away with keeping anything to myself, can I?" he asked teasingly.

"Not likely. Now spill."

"It seems that the problem is a little bigger than you and Zan being attracted to each other."

Liz's eyebrow quirked. "Oh? And what, pray tell, does that mean?"

"Well, when we met up with Karanna - it seems that I have a similar reaction to her, as Zan does to you."

"Excuse me?! You've been getting all hot and bothered over my sister, and you were going to keep that from me?"

"Liz.... " His tone warned her to be careful what she said. "It wasn't like that. I barely even spoke to the girl. Yes, when I got within a certain distance to her, my body did react. But what you also have to realize, is that I wasn't even tempted to do anything about it. My body may have a physiological response to her chemical makeup, but you own my heart and soul, Liz. Nothing can ever change that."

Liz felt really embarrassed at her outburst. After all, she had actually acted on her attraction for Zan, to a certain degree. Who was she to be a shrew, and lash out in jealousy at Max? "Okay, well, as long as you don't have any kind of feelings for her..."

Max kissed Liz soundly. "Believe me. You're all the woman I need."

"Good. Let's keep it that way," she said with a smirk.

"So - are you ready to go back home now?"

"Yeah, I guess. But about this wedding - are we going to tell people?"

"Well, here's my thought - we tell our friends in 'the club' - but we leave telling the parents until right before the wedding. We can tell them about it then, and also tell them about who we really are. Does that sound okay?"

"I always thought that my mom would help me plan my wedding," she told him sadly. "But maybe Isabel and Maria will help me."

"You might want to ask Karanna, too, when we visit this weekend," he suggested.

Liz smiled. "Yeah - at least maybe my sister will be there for me." She got to her feet, and helped Max fold the blanket.

"Come along, soon-to-be Mrs. Evans," Max said, taking her hand in his own. "Let's go home."

posted on 30-Nov-2001 2:18:47 PM

Part Twelve

"You're going to what?!" Maria shrieked, her spoon falling unheeded back into the ice cream container. She and Liz were sitting on the same bench in a booth at the Crashdown, bonding over a carton of ice cream after closing. "Girlfriend, have you gone around the bend on me here? No, no, wait a minute, I've got it...." She placed her palm against Liz's forehead, and then with a look of disbelief, flipped it over to place the back of her hand against Liz's skin. "Nope, no fever. Damn, I was so sure...."

Liz batted Maria's hand away, giggling. "Stop it Maria, you know perfectly well there is nothing wrong with me -"

"Ho ho no! I know nothing of the sort! I mean, I could have sworn you just said you and Max are getting -"

Liz clapped her hand over Maria's mouth. "Shh! Maria, do you think you could like, announce it to the whole world here? I mean, Michael's still in the kitchen cleaning, and Max hasn't had a chance to talk to him yet! Geez! Besides, you have to know that we aren't going to tell our parents, until right before the ceremony."

Maria slapped herself on the forehead. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?" She reached out, and cuffed Liz lightly up side the head. "Oh, I remember! A little thing called PARENTAL CONSENT!!"

"Maria, please!" Liz pleaded in a hoarse whisper. "You are going to ruin everything, if you don't get yourself under control here!"

"And that would be bad, because -?"

"Because I want to marry Max."

"It's a mind-warp, isn't it? That's what this is all about. Somehow, Max has learned to - or no! Da-nar' is Talerian! Maybe he's mind-warping you both!"

Liz grabbed Maria's shoulders and shook her. "No one is mind-warping us, Maria! Will you please just let me explain?"

"Oh, sure, explain away," she retorted sarcastically, leaning back against the booth, and crossing her arms over her chest. "This should be really good."

Liz proceeded to explain the whys and wherefores of the decision that she and Max had made, and even told her about Zan and Karanna. "So you see, there really isn't any reason for us to wait. We know this is what we want, and the timing is just better if we do it now."

"Lizzie, you're only seventeen, chica...." Maria whined pleadingly, hoping that Liz would come to her senses.

"I know that, Maria, but this feels right. Like nothing I've ever done in my life ever felt so right before. This is it, Maria - this is my destiny."

"Aaahhh!" she shrieked, covering her ears. "I can't believe I heard that word tumble across your lips!! I thought we agreed we never wanted to hear that word again!"

"But don't you see, Maria? That's because Tess was trying to force a false destiny on Max, and preventing me from embracing mine. But true destiny? It's a whole different matter."

"I still say you're too young...."

"Maria, what do you honestly think is going to change in two years? Except that I'll probably - no, I'll definitely break down and make love to Max. Soon. And if we make love for two whole years, there's the chance that something unexpected could happen, and I'd end up pregnant and unwed.... is that the life you want for me? Would that be so much better?"

"No, I suppose not," she conceded. "And I do know, that you and Max belong together -"

"So be happy for us, yes?"

"I don't know...."

Liz opted to play hardball. "And be my maid of honor?" she tempted Maria sweetly.

Maria gasped, a huge grin on her face. "That's right! I get to be the maid of honor! So when do we get to go shopping for this gala event?" Liz suddenly grew quiet. "Chica? What's the matter? What did I say?"

Liz shook her head, swallowing against the emotional constriction in her throat. "It's nothing," she lied.

"Liz, don't be lying to me. I'm your best friend. Out with it."

"It's just - well, it won't be a gala event. We, uh, need to keep it small, you know? Just our little group. And hopefully our parents..."

"Oh, God, I got so caught up in the thought of it, I forgot my own warning about the parental consent issue. How are you going to get them to sign off on this?"

"We aren't?"

"Huh? Uh, hello? Earth to Antar? Come in Liz? No consent equals no wedding."

"We aren't getting married on Earth. Antar doesn't have such restrictions, I guess. At least not for the king."

"O - oooohhh," Maria voiced in dawning comprehension. "So we go back to the home world for the ceremony."

"Yeah, well, we are still Antarian, after all, and I imagine we'll go through an Antarian ceremony, if Max is to rule his people. They'll want to know that he was married according to their customs. I just wish I knew what they were," she admitted, biting her bottom lip.

"You mean, he didn't tell you?"

"I don't think he knows. He'll probably talk to Da-nar' about it. Soon, I hope. I'd like some time to gear myself up for it."

"Wait a minute. If you are getting married on another planet.... how are you going to get your parents there, without them knowing who you are?"

"We aren't. Max is planning on telling them right before the wedding, when he tells them we're getting married."

"Oh boy, this should be interesting."

Liz sighed, and slouched on the bench. "Tell me about it. The thought of my parents never wanting to see me again, because they think I am some sort of freak is really depressing. Add to that, the stress of telling them on my wedding day? I'll be ready to be fit for a straight-jacket by the time we get to the actual ceremony."

"Oh, Liz, I'm so sorry. I wish there was something that I could do to help."

"There is."

"Name it."

"Be my friend. Help me plan my wedding. Stand up with me. Be happy for me. That's all I really need. Someone who understands, and will make me feel like I haven't been totally abandoned by the people that I love the most."

Tears sprung to Maria's eyes. "I could never abandon you, Liz. God, girl, you're my best friend in the... UNIVERSE!" She giggled through her tears. "And to think - I'm not just exaggerating!"

Liz leaned over, and gave Maria a hug. "Thank you so much," she whispered.

"For what?"

"For being my friend. For not feeling different about me, now that we know the truth. And mostly, for standing by me. It means a lot."

Maria dismissed the notion of her doing anything out of the ordinary with a wave of her hand. "It's nothing, really. I know if the roles were reversed, you'd do the same for me."

Liz rested her forehead against Maria's. "You got that right."

Michael came into the dining room just then, and raised a brow toward the girls. "Should I be jealous?" he asked with a smirk.

"Haha, very funny," Liz shot back. She looked up in time for her eyes to lock with Max's through the front door of the cafe. It took her a second to react, and then she saw that Isabel and Zan were with him. She hopped up, and unlocked the door for them.

She was about to close the door, when she heard Alex call, "Wait for me!" While she held the door for him, Sheriff Valenti and Kyle pulled up in front of the building. She turned to look for Max, and found him standing right behind her.

"Max, what did you do? Ask everyone here? What if my parents come downstairs?"

"Then we all act like we are just having a little party. No biggie. It wouldn't be the first time we hung out here after closing."

Liz sighed, reaching up to rub the back of her neck. "You're right. I guess I'm just a little tense about this whole situation. I don't know how you managed to hide your alien status all these years. It would have driven me insane."

Max pulled her into his arms, while they waited for Alex to walk through the door, followed by Jim and Kyle. Once they were all inside, he told her, "Go ahead and lock the door. I promise, I didn't invite anyone else," he teased.

"Good thing," she mumbled. "No one else knows."

Max smiled reassuringly at her. "Why don't you go check the back room, and make sure your folks aren't lurking around? Then we can get down to business."

"Lurking, Max? My parents don't have to lurk in their own place of business," she informed him testily.

"Hey - I was just kidding. You really are upset, aren't you?" he asked worriedly.

"I told Maria already," she confessed. "And as you might expect, she flipped out on me."

Max looked over at their friend. "I don't know - she looks pretty okay with the world right now."

"Oh, she came around, and is supportive and all now, but the tension hasn't left me yet."

"Mmhmm, so I see. Turn around."

"What?"

Max took her by the shoulders and spun her to face away from him. Slowly, he began to massage the tight muscles in her shoulders and neck. "Mmmm, that feels wonderful...."

"Really?" he asked, and she could hear his smile in her voice.

"Really. You have that magic touch, Max Evans."

"You ain't seen nothing yet," he replied mysteriously. With that, he allowed gentle waves of healing energy to flow through his hands, warming and relaxing her stressed muscles.

"O-oh... Max, what are you doing?"

"Just giving you the premium service."

Liz felt so good, that she melted back against his chest. "Please tell me I don't have to move...." she drawled lazily. "This feels wonderful."

Max swept her up into his arms, and carried her over to the booth where they had pulled up a table to join it. Sitting in a chair, he held her on his lap. "Michael, you wanna just go check and make sure no one has come downstairs?"

Michael nodded, and was back in a few seconds. "All clear. Now what's this about? I have to go relieve Da-nar', remember."

"This shouldn't take long. Liz and I just have something we want to tell you all. Please remember, her parents are upstairs, and if we make a ruckus, they'll more than likely come down to investigate. And since this is 'family business', so to speak..." He gave them a telling look.

"So what's the big announcement?" Zan asked with a smirk. He had a feeling he knew already what Max was going to say.

"First, let me say, that this is not a decision we made lightly. We have discussed this thoroughly, and having done so..." Max breathed in deeply. "Liz has agreed to marry me."

Isabel snorted. "Big surprise there. Although, I don't know how mom and dad are going to feel about you getting engaged so young."

"No, Isabel, you don't understand. Liz and I aren't just engaged. We're getting married. Soon. Like, within the month."

Dead silence. Two seconds, three, four.... and then everyone started talking at once. Well, everyone except for Zan and Maria, who looked on in amusement.

"Zan! Will you please talk some sense into our brother?" Isabel wailed, when she noticed that he wasn't participating in the tongue lashing the rest of them were bestowing on Max and Liz.

Zan shrugged. "Sounds ta me, like he's got the right idea. Might even try it myself sometime soon."

"What?! Has the whole world gone mad?"

Zan chuckled. "No, dear sister. But there are 'alien forces' at work here. Don't fight it. Just trust that Max and I know what we're doing, okay?"

Max held up his hands to silence everyone. "Okay," he began, "here's what happened..." He proceeded to explain the whole extent of their reasons for marrying so soon. "So you see," he concluded, "there's really no reason for us to wait any longer. We may be young, but we are already committed to each other as if we were married. This would just make it 'official'. We're hoping you can all be happy for us, and will come to the ceremony. Obviously, it will be a very small affair." He looked apologetically at Liz. "We would have liked big wedding, but how do you explain to your wedding guests that they have to go to another planet for the ceremony?"

"Whoa, wait a minute... you mean to tell me we have to go to Antar for the wedding?" Kyle asked.

"Yes. Besides the fact that we would need parental consent to get married here, it would look better to our people, if we were married according to their traditions and laws. I, uh, just have to talk to Da-nar' and Ge-lar' about what all that entails...." His voice dropped off, and he looked sheepishly at Liz. He was hoping they weren't getting into anything that she would find objectionable.

Reading the worry on his face, she reassured him, "Don't worry, Max. We'll work through it together." He smiled in relief, and nodded.

"So - is everyone in with us on this?" There were nods all around the table, and Max smiled at their show of support.

"Max? What are you going to tell Mom and Dad? You know - about the wedding? About your leaving?" Isabel questioned.

Max looked her straight in the eye. "I - I'm going to tell them the truth, Iz." He watched for her reaction.

"The truth? All of it?" she whispered.

"Yes. I mean, I know that you have wanted to tell them for a long time, and it only seems fair, after all they've done for us, that we give them that much. If they take it well, you can come back home, after we take care of business on Antar. And if they don't? At least now you have somewhere else you can go, where you'll be safe."

Isabel fought back the tears, and welcomed Alex's comforting embrace, as she dealt with her conflicting emotions. This was what she had always wanted, but it was easier to want it wholeheartedly, when she knew that Max would always forbid it. But now, she had to come face to face with her own fear of rejection. In her fantasy world, her parents would receive her with open arms, and assure her that nothing could ever change their love for her. The truth was, she knew that it might not come down that way, and she had to be prepared for that.

"So - does this mean you'll all be moving back to Antar?" Sheriff Valenti asked. He had been part of their little conspiracy for several months now, and he was going to miss these kids if they left.

"Yes, we will," Max confirmed. "Liz and I will obviously need to take up permanent residence on Antar. The rest of you - uh, those of the alien persuasion, that is - will need to make your own decisions, in that regard. However, I would request that you all stick with us, until the threat from Ki-var' is satisfactorily dealt with." All present agreed. The only one they had left to convince now, was Karanna. In their hearts, they all acknowledged that talking her into moving to an alien planet on such short notice was going to be a challenge. After all, she was just finding out who she was. They had no way of knowing how easily she would adapt to her new life.

"Okay, then," Max concluded, "that about wraps it up. We'll obviously keep you informed about the plans. The date is tentatively... 23 days from now?" He looked to Liz for confirmation. She nodded in response. "Right. 23 days."

"What's so special about 23 days from now?" Alex asked.

"Uh, never mind," Liz said blushing. "Just an Antarian tradition."

"Oh - okay," Alex replied, easily satisfied with her explanation.

"Thanks everyone for coming on such short notice," Max said, standing up. "I'll see you all tomorrow." Everyone followed suit, and got up, filing out of the Crashdown. He caught Michael as he was about to leave. "You heading to the catacombs now?"

"Yeah."

"Great. Tell Da-nar' I'll be out to see him, as soon as I can sneak out of the house."

"Gotcha." Michael turned and left the building.

"Max?"

Liz's sweet, soft voice made him shiver. He looked down at her, where she now stood at his side. "Can I come with you to see Da-nar'?"

"You sure? I don't want you to get in trouble with your parents."

Liz giggled. "So what if I do, anyway? What are they going to do to me? Ground me? They really don't have any power to enforce punishment on me any more."

"I know, but you don't want to leave Earth at odds with them, do you?"

"No, but after we tell them the truth, they'll be better able to understand why I had to do certain things."

"You're right, I guess. All right, wait for me out on your balcony, as soon as you think it's safe. I'll come by and pick you up."

Liz stood on her tip toes, and kissed him sweetly. "Thank you. I'll see you in a little bit."

Max had to fight the urge to wrap his arms around her, and kiss her senseless. "Okay, I'll see you then." Liz locked the door after him, and went back through the dining room, shutting off the lights as she left. She went upstairs, said goodnight to her parents, and went to her room to wait.

posted on 30-Nov-2001 2:19:16 PM

Part Thirteen

Da-nar' was busy in his lab, when Max and Liz walked in. "Hey, Da-nar'," Max spoke, startling his Talerian friend. "Oops - sorry," he chuckled. "Didn't mean to sneak up on you."

Da-nar' grinned, as he continued working on his project. "That's okay - I just get really absorbed in my work sometimes, and I'm not aware of what's going on around me. Newsflash - Liz was within her fertile period when I drew blood the other night. From the hormone levels, I'd say it was the last day of fertility."

"Yeah, well, we kind of figured that out. When I took her home, and kissed her goodnight - things weren't quite so out of control."

"Well, that's good. At least you won't have to worry about it now for another 3 weeks or so."

"Uh, well...." Max hedged, running his hand through the hair on the back of his head. "That might not be totally the case."

"Oh?" Da-nar' asked with and upraised eyebrow.

"Yeah. It seems that, uh, since Zan and I connected, my senses are extremely heightened. When Liz touches me..." he left the sentence dangling.

When Da-nar' looked up at his silence, he saw the expression on Max's face, and filled in the blanks. Smirking, he said, "So - you're not out of the woods after all, huh?"

"So it would seem," Max grumbled. Brightening, he added, "But, hey, we've got some good news to tell you."

"Really? And what would that be?"

Max took Liz's hand in his, and gave it a squeeze. "Liz and I have decided to get married."

"You're kidding." One look at his face told them he was in shock.

"No, I'm totally serious." Max hesitated, his concern growing. "I thought you would be pleased."

"Oh, I am - I guess. I just hope that you aren't doing this because you feel pressured. Neither Ge-lar' or I would want to make you feel you had to do something like this."

Max smiled in relief. "No, we don't feel pressured. We've talked it over, and besides the obvious reason - that I don't think I'm going to be able to stay out of her bed much longer," he teased her with a wink, "we realized that there are a lot of other really good reasons to not put off what we have already committed to in our hearts."

"Well, in that case, congratulations."

"Thanks. Now - did you talk to Ge-lar' about the bonding? How that works, and how we might get around it?"

"Actually, I did. Ge-lar' came up with a rather interesting theory. The man would have made a great geneticist, if he hadn't received a higher calling."

"Well, do tell! Don't leave us in suspense here! What did the man say?"

"Well, first you have to understand what happens when an Antarian couple bonds. Simply put, it's connected to hormones, and the rupturing of the virginal barrier. If she loses her virginity during her fertile time, it triggers another chemical to be released into her bloodstream. The rupture also creates an avenue for a certain chemical in the seminal fluid to enter the bloodstream, and the combination of the two are what is responsible for the chemical bonding of the couple.

"Now, you both still carry the chemical bond of Zan and Karanna in you, because of genetics. But the good news is, since Liz is still a virgin, we are hopeful that once you mate, the process will repeat itself, and create a bond that is unique to just the two of you. But only if you mate during her fertile period," Da-nar' warned them sternly.

"Yes, well, we have already agreed to do that anyway. We plan to be married at the beginning of her next fertile cycle," Max informed him.

"So soon?" Da-nar' voiced in surprise.

Max shrugged. "Why wait? We want to do this right, and hormones being what they are and all," he added sheepishly.

Da-nar' nodded. "I suppose there is some wisdom in your decision. The longer you wait, the greater the opportunity for you to be tempted to mate unwisely. You only get one chance at bonding properly. My advice is - don't blow it."

Max smiled down at Liz, as he vowed, "We won't." After discussing some other minor concerns with their friend, Max and Liz left him to his work, and headed back to Roswell.

When Max parked the Jeep behind the Crashdown, Liz unbuckled her seat belt, and leaned over to kiss him goodnight. When he felt the heated passion between them begin to escalate, he pulled back, holding her at arm's length, while he breathed heavily.

Liz's hurt was evident on her face. "Did I do something wrong?" she choked out. "Are you upset with me for something?"

Max fought the urge to pull her close, and crush her lips under his. "No, Liz, but we have to set some new ground rules. For the next 23 days, we can't indulge in any more of these wild make-out sessions."

"Why not?" Liz pouted.

"Because I want to make sure that we don't lose control of the situation, and end up making love before the wedding. If there is the slightest chance that we can overcome this attraction-hormone-thing that we share with Zan and Karanna, I want to make sure that we don't 'blow it', as Da-nar' put it."

"But things haven't gotten out of control yet," she complained.

The sound that came from Max was a mixture of a pained groan, and a tormented chuckle. "Liz, you are far too innocent and trusting for your own good. You have no idea how close I've come on more than one occasion, to acting on my need to bury myself deep inside you. God, Liz, I have felt the sensation of what it must be like through our connection, and it is almost unbearable, it's so pleasurable. And the soul connection that we share makes it even sweeter. Yet, somehow, I know that it will be even more so when we experience the real thing. I can't tell you how my body - even my soul - aches for that. If we keep flirting with this, we are courting disaster. I don't know how much longer I can resist you."

"Oh, Max," she crooned, placing her hand on his cheek, "I long for that, too. And I'm sorry, if I've put an extra burden on you, by tempting you to such a degree. It just seems, that when I'm with you, I lose all sense of the way I should behave. I turn into some wanton creature that just can't seem to keep her hands to herself, whenever I'm around you," she said with a shy smile.

Max growled. "Believe me, in 23 days, I'll be eternally grateful for your.... wanton tendencies," he assured her with a sensual smirk.

Liz giggled, as her face turned bright pink. "Yeah, well before you go casting stones, just remember - it's all your fault."

"My fault? Moi?" he asked with mock innocence.

Liz gave him a playful swat. "Yes, you. If you weren't so incredibly sexy, I wouldn't find you so irresistible."

"So then, it's just my body that you're after - is that it? Why can't I find a woman who will love me for my mind?" he wailed in feigned anguish.

Liz stared at him for the space of a couple heartbeats, and then they both broke out in laughter. "Shhh!" Liz admonished him, even as she fought to control the volume of her own giggles. "If Mom or Dad find us out here, I'm dead meat."

"You're right. You better -" He gestured to the balcony with a jerk of his head, his smoldering gaze never leaving hers. "And you better do it now, before all my noble intentions go up in flames." Liz nodded mutely, and started to swing her body around, to get out of the vehicle.

"Liz?" At the sound of her name, she turned back to face him, and in a rush of unrestrained passion, Max practically lunged across the distance between them, to capture her soft, pink lips in a fiery kiss. To her dismay, it ended as quickly as it began, leaving her hungry - oh, so hungry - for more of him. The next 3 weeks were going to be hell.

"Goodnight, Max," she whispered longingly, and then she was out of the Jeep. His eyes never left her, until she vaulted over the balcony wall, and out of his sight.

Liz was so absorbed in her thoughts of Max, and their upcoming nuptials, it didn't even register with her, that her desk light was on, until she had crawled through the window. She nearly jumped out of her skin, at the sight of her mother sitting in the chair at her desk, her legs crossed, and her arms folded across her chest.

When she spoke, Liz heard the words she had been dreading hearing, every night that she snuck out of the house. "And just where have you been?"

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

Ge-lar' had prepared a tray for Tess, hoping that some nourishment would help her regain her strength. He had specially made some broth, seasoned with herbs from the nearby meadow, that were known for their restorative qualities. Beside the bowl were two slices of fresh baked bread, and a soft, sweetened substance, much like pudding. He left Michael, who was pouring over a book on recent Antarian history, to slip across the hall with the simple meal.

Entering her room, he noticed Tess' eyes were closed, and she appeared to be sleeping peacefully, for which he silently uttered a prayer of thanks. As he crossed the room to place the tray on the table, he felt a wave of dizziness come upon him, and he barely managed to make it to the table, where he promptly dropped himself into a chair. As the room continued to spin, he began to get nauseous, and felt the bile rising in his throat.

He looked at Tess, worried that perhaps his rough movements had awakened her, and was temporarily confused by what he saw. Her eyes were still closed, but her face was all squinched up, as if in pain. I must go find Ki-var', and bring him here. Ge-lar' bolted out of his seat, as the thought crossed his mind. Suddenly, it all became clear to him.

"Michael!" he bellowed, as loud as his lungs would allow. Tess' eyes snapped open in surprise, wide and frightened, as she saw Ge-lar' staring at her disgustedly.

Michael burst in the room. "What? Is there a problem? Is she sick again?"

"No, I'd say she's recovering even better than we suspected," Ge-lar' informed him, his voice icy, as he continued to stare at the girl.

"Come again?" Michael requested. "Why is this a problem?"

"Because," Ge-lar' said with growing impatience, "she just tried to mind-warp me. At first I didn't know what was happening. I got dizzy, nauseous.... I saw her face contorted, I thought perhaps from pain, but then this single thought popped into my mind - that I must find Ki-var', and bring him to her. That's when I knew what she was up to."

Scowling harshly at her, Michael went to kneel by her pallet on the floor. "You just never give up, do you?" he snarled. "No matter what anyone ever does for you, you always have to look for a way to screw them over good. Well, not this time, Missy. We're onto you."

"Oh, really?" she countered haughtily. "And just how do you propose to stop me? Soon, I'll be strong enough, and when I successfully mind-warp you, you won't even know what's happening. You're weak, and pathetic, compared to my strength. You'll see."

"I've listened to all of this that I can take," Ge-lar' grumbled, picking the tray up off the table, and heading out the door.

"Wait!" Tess called. "Aren't you going to leave that for me?"

"Not right now," Ge-lar' called over his shoulder. "Maybe it would do you good to fast, and think on your transgressions. A prayer for forgiveness wouldn't be a bad idea, either."

"But I don't want to fast!" she whined.

"Too bad," he answered, as he stepped into the hall. "I didn't want to be mind-warped, either. Guess this makes us even." Then he disappeared from sight.

"Is he planning to starve me?" Tess asked Michael, frightened by this man that Zan had promised would take care of her.

Michael shrugged. "Dunno. Maybe. Can't tell you what goes on in his head. I'd watch myself, if I was you," he warned, hoping that his avoidance regarding Ge-lar's character would stir some good old-fashioned worry into her. It would do her good. He rose from his place beside her. "I'm going to go check on him. I'll be back. Don't do anything foolish, do you hear me?"

"Yes, I hear you," she mocked back at him, and then shrieked in frustration, when he had the gall to laugh at her! As he left the room, she wanted nothing more than to hurl a heavy object at his head, but she could barely lift her hand, she was so weak from expending all her energy, trying to mind-warp Ge-lar'.

Michael closed the door, and met up with Ge-lar' in the hall outside the scroll room. "Keep an eye on her," Ge-lar' said in a low voice. "I have to run out and get something. I shouldn't be gone too long." Michael nodded. Ge-lar' started to walk past him, and then paused. "And make sure you don't give her anything to eat or drink," he added. At Michael's questioning look, he explained, "I want to make sure she is good and hungry, as well as thirsty. I'll explain the rest later."

"All right," Michael agreed, having great confidence in the wisdom of the older man. Whatever he was up to, Michael was sure it was in all of their best interests. He stood in the hall, thoughtfully watching Ge-lar', until he disappeared down one of the intersecting corridors.

Ge-lar' made his way through the tunnels, taking the passage that opened in a cave, at a point just north of the city. Standing in the shadows, just inside the cave entrance, he looked out onto the bright Antarian day, and scanned the area for movement. When he saw none, he stealthily slipped out into the sunshine, quietly covering the short distance to the woods, making sure to keep himself concealed within the lower lying brush. Once under the canopy of trees, he walked with his eyes trained on the forest floor, searching for something. After going only a short distance, he smiled in satisfaction, and knelt down, plucking up several plants which bore small, white flowers. These were just what he needed.

He stood, and hustled quickly out of the forest, never looking backward. He didn't want to leave Michael alone with Tessandra any longer than necessary. Although he was fairly certain she had exhausted herself for the time being, with her unsuccessful attempt at mind-warping him.

Just remembering it brought his hackles up. It wasn't like him to rile so easily, but he detested the thought of someone making him act out their will, against his own. As far as he was concerned, that was the workings of The Evil One, and such a person would be condemned for eternity. It was beyond him, how the Righteous One could use the offspring of such a being for a good purpose. But he knew it was not his right to question his Creator, who could see the good in things that he could not.

Once he cleared the edge of the forest, a shadowy figure emerged from a thicket in the woods. Hobbling to where Ge-lar' had just been, the healer woman looked down at the spot where he had been foraging. She scowled, as she observed the particular plant growing in a profuse patch there. What does Ge-lar' need with Suppression Plant? she wondered. The old man's actions of late were beginning to rouse her curiosity. She thought about following him, but realized that by now, he would be too far ahead for her feeble body to catch up to him. She headed back to her cottage, determined to somehow find out what the old fool was up to.

Back in the catacombs, Ge-lar' replaced his soup pot on top of the special heating stones. After carefully washing the plants, he ripped off the leaves and flowers, dropping them into the broth. He dumped the broth from the bowl he had prepared earlier for Tess back into the pot as well. Feeling weary, Ge-lar' turned to Michael, who had been watching his actions with undisguised interest. "Would you mind?" he asked the younger man. "I'm afraid my energy is rather depleted at the moment."

"Oh - yeah, sure," Michael answered, crossing the room, and kneeling before the pot. Placing his hands on the outermost stones, he allowed energy to flow through his hands, causing the rocks to glow a brilliant orange as they heated. He continued to pour his energy into them, until he could see they were all fully heated. Backing away, he said, "You know, it would be much simpler, and quicker, for me to just pass my hand over the pot, and heat it instantaneously."

"Yes, I'm sure it would. But it is important that this heat evenly, and slowly, to diffuse the chemical properties of the herb into the broth."

Michael arched one brow. "So you gonna tell me what this herb is for?" he asked with a smirk, somewhat teasing Ge-lar', who had given him a crash course on Antarian herbal remedies earlier, as he prepared the broth. "Or is this a 'secret ingredient' to your recipe, that you accidentally forgot?"

Ge-lar' looked at him with a mischievous grin. "Something like that." He went to the door, and looked down the hall, making sure that Tess wasn't up and wandering around to hear him. He closed the door, and said quietly, "This one is called 'Suppression Plant'. It gets its name from its primary usage."

"Okay, I'll bite," Michael said. "What does it suppress?"

The corners of Ge-lar's mouth twitched, as he suppressed a full-blown smile. He knew he shouldn't be so vindictive, but the girl had pushed him past his limits. The chance for a little vengeance felt sweet. "It is used to suppress the area of the brain that is responsible for psychic abilities."

"Like mind-warping," Michael finished the thought. Ge-lar' nodded with a sigh. Standing behind Ge-lar' as he stirred his brew, Michael clasped the man's shoulder. "You know, you're a handy guy to have around, Ge-lar'," Michael teased.

Ge-lar' grinned again. "Glad to be of assistance," he retorted.

"Just one thing," Michael said thoughtfully.

"What's that?"

"Will this affect the baby?"

"Goodness, no!" Ge-lar' replied vehemently. "As much as I relish the idea of squashing her powers, I wouldn't harm the child in my quest for revenge," he confided. "Zan is trusting me to watch over his unborn son, and that will always remain my first priority."

Michael nodded, satisfied. "Good."

After allowing the pot to simmer for an hour, Ge-lar' ladled up a generous portion, straining the herbs out, allowing only clear broth to fill the bowl. "Well - here we go," he announced. Michael accompanied him to the other chamber, in case Tess tried to pull anything.

They found her sitting up on the pallet, running her fingers through her hair, trying to make some semblance of order to it. She looked up nervously, when she saw them enter, wondering if they had devised some new way to torment her. Like being kept a prisoner wasn't bad enough.

"Brought you some nourishment," Ge-lar' grumbled, as if the last thing he wanted was to give her anything. He fought the urge to smile in victory, when he saw her subconsciously lick her lips in anticipation. Yes, she was hungry, and would likely consume a goodly portion of the broth. Setting the tray on the floor next to her pallet, he explained that the broth would help her body to regain its strength. He was glad that he didn't have to lie - the broth would make her stronger, while at the same time suppressing her psychic abilities. But she didn't need to know about that.

Tess reached for the bowl, and lifted it to her lips, drinking deeply of the potion that she was relying on to help her recover, so she could leave this place. When she finished, she greedily consumed the rest of the meal, and then laid back on the pallet with a sigh. Soon, she had drifted off to sleep again.

Michael retrieved the tray from the floor, and handing it to Ge-lar', flashed the old man a conspiratorial grin. All they had to do was keep her drinking the broth, and everything would work out just fine.