posted on 9-Apr-2002 8:58:41 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where the previous stories “Do What You Have To Do”, and “Learning to Live” left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Here's a link to the first two stories on the repost board.
Do What You Have To Do:
viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=462
Learning to Live:
viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=464

Okay, duckies. Here we go again. Let's do a quick recap on the previous two stories for anyone that doesn't want to pick them up first. In DWYHTD, FMax came back to tell Liz about the horrible future they'd created, and she was taken by Nicholas before she could create an antidote to the poisonous truth serum he created. Liz fought Nicholas with the help of Salia, Max and Isabel's mother, and together they sent Nicholas to Antar for a trial of his crimes. In LtL, we picked it up three years later. Alex and Isabel fell in love, Max and Liz got married. Tess renounced her place by Max's side to Liz. Jeff and Nancy Parker as well as Charles Whitman were killed by an enemy, the Scaribe, who was sent to make sure that the prophesized child was never born to dethrone Khivar. I think that pretty much sums up the gist of it.

Wherever You May Go
Prologue

Northern Antarian Province

The day had started out bleak, the weather reflecting Max Evan’s state of mind better than any words ever could. If you could even call it a state of mind. He had simply been functioning on auto pilot for the last few days. Wake, dress, eat, attend the seemingly endless stream of meetings that had become his way of life. There was no time for thought, or emotion. There was no room for it…yet. But that time was rapidly approaching.

He was dressed in all white, the traditional robes whipping around him with the harsh wind. There would be no black for him today. He could not show outward signs of weakness. He’d seen all to well what the consequences were.

Max had long ago stopped listening to the spiritual leader before him. He had heard too many words of comfort in the last three days to last him a dozen lifetimes. The last thing he needed was for someone to tell him about souls. He was an expert already. Or he had been. He had no use for his now. His had died the instant he had been told that Liz was dead. Oh, he hadn’t believed it at first, had railed against anyone that had insisted he was in denial. He’d known it was a lie, until the moment when he’d tried to connect with the broken and lifeless body his enemies had presented him with. And when he’d been assaulted by the images of what she had gone through in the last few moments before death had claimed her, Max Evans had died too.

Isabel placed an arm on Max’s shoulder, an unheard of gesture outside of the palace walls, but they had always been considered a bit odd to begin with. He knew she was worried about him, that they all were. But they didn’t have to be. It would do no good. He would never be okay again. The best part of him was gone, locked away in the mausoleum he’d insisted on creating as a final resting place for his wife, a Queen the people of Antar had never had the chance to learn to love.

He knew he should have taken the bodies back to Earth, should have given them the proper burial that he couldn’t give them on Antar, but it was just the sort of thing his enemies expected him to do. The rocky earth was not meant for the burials humans expected. And it was just another way he had failed her. He couldn’t even bury her properly, having to settle for a cold, stone temple.

The familiar waves of guilt surged inside of him. He should never have left her alone for even a single second. How could he have underestimated his enemies that way? He’d foolishly given the nomads the benefit of the doubt, had tried to see things from their point of view. And he had learned his lesson. His diplomacy had cost him more than he’d ever feared it could. They’d become cocky, full of themselves, and they’d forgotten about the dangers outside the palace walls.

Beside him, Michael shifted, the first movement his friend had made in close to an hour. And Max’s guilt reached new heights. His misjudgment had cost not only him, but Michael as well. Max returned his gaze to the twin tombstones before them, afraid that Michael would feel the weight of his stare and meet his eyes. They hadn’t spoken once in the three days since the bodies had been brought to them, mangled beyond recognition. And he was afraid that when they spoke next, the words would be ones that would end a lifetime of friendship. Not that Max would blame him. In fact, he expected nothing less.

But not even the guilt could last for long. To succumb to it meant that he allowed himself to feel, and if he allowed any feeling whatsoever to break through the stone barrier he had erected around his heart, he would never finish what needed to be done. There were still plans to be seen through to the end.

So, he listened to the spiritual leader before him. This was only the private ceremony being held. The public one would come later, so that the people could mourn together and rally for the fight that was to come. Someone had tried to feed this man words of comfort from a Human eulogy to speak, and he was trying as best he could with the unfamiliar ceremony. Anything for the King. Even though they teetered on the brink of revolution every day, the people still looked up to him for guidance. They trusted him to do what was right. But only he knew that they had trusted the wrong man. Because the next actions he was planning had nothing to do with the good of the people of Antar. They were plans for revenge. Death and destruction would reign. Liz’s brutal death would be avenged, no matter who he had to go through to do it.

And then it was over and everyone had gone back to looking at him for guidance. How should they handle the news? Who should they blame? What would he do?

“Max?” Isabel whispered with a slight tug on his sleeve.

But he ignored her, keeping his gaze firmly on the immortal words chiseled on the headstone. He couldn’t take the concern, see the fear that he would do something to hurt himself. Didn’t they understand that he couldn’t take his own life even now? At least not until she had been avenged. When that day came and he had seen it through, then he could rest. He could test the theories the spiritual leaders spouted. His soul would be able to join with Liz’s again.

“Maxwell.”

Max heard Michael’s voice, harsh and raw, though from what Max didn’t know. Was it grief? Anger? Or simply misuse? But he owed it to Michael to meet his eyes. He would take whatever his friend had to say. So, he raised his eyes to meet Michael’s steady gaze. His eyes were just as unreadable as Max’s had been. And Max understood the emptiness Michael was suffering from. He didn’t speak, merely waited.

“What do you intend to do about this?”

And Max realized in that moment that as angry, grief stricken and hollow as Michael was, he was still willing to follow him one last time. And he was grateful beyond belief for the support, even if it was only temporary. He forced his features to harden into the mask he had worn for so many days now.

“Now we blast the gypsies to oblivion. The bastards wanted a war, and they’ve got one. Tell your men to shoot to kill on sight.”

Michael nodded. “You know they’ve been moving steadily closer to the palace for the last few days. They might even be here today.”

“Then they’ve signed their own death certificates.” He met Michael’s cool gaze and knew his first in command understood, but wanted to double check the orders before he issued them. “You saw how they killed Liz and Maria, Michael. I want them annihilated.”

Nodding once, Michael turned and walked away, the dark gray cloak swirling behind him as he took swift strides toward where his men waited a restful distance away for their next orders.

Max watched him go, delivering the orders that his advisors had been so torn upon his issuing. But Max knew with a blinding clarity what his future held now. There would be justice and it would be swift and merciless. And when he was sure everyone had paid for their crimes against two innocent women, he would be able to join Liz again, secure that her soul would finally be at peace.



[ edited 6 time(s), last at 18-Jul-2002 1:51:44 PM ]
posted on 10-Apr-2002 8:17:35 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 1

“Order up! Jan, pick up the pace. You’ve got three tables waiting.”

Liz Parker Evans looked up from the ever-growing pile of paperwork in front of her to glance around the crowded restaurant. She had purposefully settled in a booth closest to the back room so she’d be as out of the way as possible. The Crashdown Café was booming as usual. Every seat was filled at the counter and the booths were quickly filling as well. She calculated another hour of paperwork before business became so busy she’d have to give up her table and help out. She eyed her newest waitress, Jan, with eagle eyes. The girl had proven to be as slow as Agnes ever was. Her tables were indeed backed up and she seemed to be flustered by the cash register as two of her customers patiently waited to pay their bills.

Rising gracefully from her booth, Liz headed behind the counter. With the ease that comes from a lifetime of experience, she picked up the waiting dishes and swiftly delivered them to their tables. Pausing momentarily to speak with each one and clear off any empty dishes, Liz made her rounds as Jan attempted to find the correct button on the register. From the other side of the restaurant, the other waitress on duty flashed her a grateful smile.

“Thanks, Liz. I was trying to help her out, but it’s a little crazy today.”

Liz smiled at Cassie. “It’s no problem. Some habits die hard anyway.” Cassie had been a gem and Liz counted on her now to run things when she couldn’t be around. “Besides, if I did anymore paperwork today I’d go cross eyed.” She moved across the counter to Jan. “Why don’t you take a break. I’ll get Mr. Owens here.”

Jan flashed her a grateful smile. “Thank you, Mrs. Evans.” And then she disappeared behind the swinging back room doors, sparkling antennae bobbing behind her as she made her quick escape.

Liz turned her attention to her old Biology teacher. “How are you doing today, Mr. Owens? Here for your usual Saturday brunch?”

“I’m fine, just fine. I saw you in the corner, but I didn’t want to bother you. It’s pretty different owning the place, huh?”

Liz rolled her eyes. “You could say that again. I never knew there was so much work involved. My parents made it look so easy.”


“You’re not neglecting your studies, are you?”

“Never. I’m a working machine these days. I should be finished with my masters by next Christmas.”

“Well, you keep up with it. I never did have a brighter student than you. Except maybe for your husband. How is he?”

On cue, the door chimed behind them and Liz could feel Max’s presence before she ever raised her head to look. When she did, she found her eyes locked with his, caught in the steady gaze that sucked her in every time. The air practically sizzled around them and she thought she could sink into his eyes forever.

Miss me?

Always.

Mr. Owens stepped out of the way as Max made a straight path for his wife. After three years of marriage, he still couldn’t walk into a room without kissing Liz. Almost as if his soul wasn’t at rest until he could touch her soft skin.

Their eyes remained locked as he jumped the counter easily and pulled her into his arms.

“Hi.”

“Hi yourself.”

Max crushed his lips to hers, not caring that they were getting amused stares and that Mr. Owens had mumbled a goodbye and headed out. When Max finally pulled away, he tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear and he found that since he had touched her, he could breath easy again.

“Get a room already.” Michael sauntered in behind Max and hooked his thumbs in his jeans as he approached the counter.

“Hi, Michael.” Cassie tossed him a shy glance over her shoulder as she worked the milkshake machine.

“Hey.” He nodded in her general direction, not in the mood for conversation.

Liz separated herself from Max and smoothed down her shirt. Another fight with Maria?

I wouldn’t ask if I were you. I tried to pry it out of him earlier and he nearly bit my head off.

“You know, some of us still communicate with more than long stares and telepathic mind links. If you have something to say, say it.”

Liz sighed deeply. “Hey, Michael.” She nodded to her booth in the back. “I’m set up back there if you want to sit.”

Michael grunted and headed for the booth before throwing himself in it. He picked up the napkin in front of Liz’s plate of cold french fries and began to rip it into small pieces.

Liz raised her eyebrows expectantly. “You have no idea, do you?”

“I’d tell you if I knew.” He kissed her nose before letting her go. “Are you almost done here? The others said they’d come by in a bit.”

“Yeah, I’ll just clear out that paperwork. It looks like it’ll be a bit busy tonight, so I’ll be stuck down here till close.” She couldn’t help but sigh when she thought of how she would rather spend her evening.

“Need any help?” Max saw her version of the perfect evening, dinner, wine and him. And he smiled, inching closer to her slowly.

“Depends. Do you think you can fit into a waitress uniform?”

“While the antennae would be cute, I don’t think the short skirts would be very flattering to my legs. Yours look much better.” Unable to resist, he began to nibble on her ear lobe, blood rushing to his loins when she let out a breathy sigh.

“God, don’t you two ever give it a rest?” Isabel approached the counter and turned to face the closest customer, a girl she’d gone to school with. “Aren’t they just sickening to watch?”

“Yeah, you make the rest of us look bad.” Alex came through the door and placed a gentle kiss on Isabel’s lips. “Been here long?”

“Nope, just made it in time to catch the noon love-bird show.”

“Act two,” Michael called out from the booth where he was still systemically shredding a napkin.

Used to his moods, Isabel dismissed Michael and pulled Alex over to the booth. Liz gave Max a little push. “Go. I’ll never get any work done if you keep distracting me like that.”

“So, I’m distracting you, huh?” He stalked closer to her until she was backed up against the shake machine. “Just for future reference, what is it exactly that distracts you most? Is it when I lean in close? Or when I kiss you just below your ear?” He demonstrated each activity as he spoke and Liz felt her knees weaken. Idly, she wondered if all married couples continued to feel this fire, this lust that coursed through their systems. And she decided if they didn’t, what was the point?

“Evans, I think your very embarrassed waitress is too polite to tell you you’re in her way.” Kyle came through the door with Tess in tow.

Max reluctantly let Liz go as he spotted Cassie standing nearby with a blush to her cheeks.

Liz laughed and gave Max a final push. “Go. Now. I need to help out, not get in the way. Tess, please help.” Liz sent her a pleading look.

“Alright. C’mon, lover boy. You can stare at Liz all night long. It’ll be just like High School.”

“And college,” Kyle interjected.

Together, they wandered over to their booth. Isabel had been kind enough to pick up her papers in fear of Michael shredding them in to pieces like the napkin pile growing in front of him. Liz watched them together a minute. Her friends were a strange group. But she loved them all like family. In fact, they had become the only family she had anymore besides the Evans and the Valenti’s. It had been a rough adjustment after her parents had died a few years ago, but her friends had carried her when she needed it most.

“Order up!”

The food bell drew Liz out of her daze. Sighing, she turned and grabbed the hot plate, automatically smiling as she moved to deliver the meal.

Reading her thoughts, Max turned his attention back to her again. She smiled at him to reassure him she was fine. He knew she had the occasional stray thought of how she could have gone back to change the events of that day over three years ago. They no longer needed to be touching to read each other, having reached the final stage of intimacy years ago. As each day had passed, their bond had grown stronger, until they could sense each other’s moods and thoughts alike. They had grown so accustomed to it, they had to force themselves to speak aloud sometimes when the others were around. Which had been the cause of great mocking amongst their friends.

“What’s it like?”

“Hmm?” Liz snapped back to attention. She had delivered the order only to return to the same spot behind the counter. And before she could even remember what she had returned to do, she had begun to stare off into space. Cassie had caught her daydreaming again and she cursed herself for it. She had to stop this constant absent-mindedness. What was wrong with her? She was only a short step away from being sappy and sentimental.

“Having someone love you that much. What’s it like?”

Liz stopped scrubbing down the counters long enough to face her younger employee. Cassie had graduated from West Roswell High last fall and had decided to take some time off to discover what she wanted to do with her life. So, Liz had made her manager in the meantime. Cassie had gotten off to a rocky start waitressing, but she had quickly become a good friend. And if she still managed to break the occasional dish, it was a simple enough matter for Liz to reassemble the pieces.

“It’s incredible. We’ve been together almost ten years now and every time he kisses me, it feels like the first time.”

Cassie sighed dreamily. “It’s just so romantic. I can’t imagine anyone ever feeling that way about me.”

“I don’t know. What about Paul Crary?” Liz teased, folding the dishtowel.

“Are you kidding?” Cassie lowered her voice to a whisper and tried to avoid glancing back at the table where the object of their conversation sat. “He’s not interested in me like that. He’s just a friend.”

“Uh huh. That’s why he’s in here every night you work?”

Cassie tried not to turn crimson red, but she knew her fair complexion gave her away. “No, you’re wrong. You have to be. Boys just don’t think about me that way.”

Liz eyed her small frame. She was petite with exotic gray eyes and dark blonde hair she always kept piled up on her head. She would be absolutely stunning if she could only find a small measure of self-confidence. She just needed an ego boost to get her there. “I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I happen to know of a few relationships that have started off like that.” Liz couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for the girl. She had moved to Roswell in the middle of the school year and her inherent shyness had stopped her from making any real friends. So she had spent all of her time at the Crashdown. And as a result, she still hadn’t made any friends beyond Liz and Maria, and Liz found herself wanting to help as much as she could.

Cassie’s parents had died in a house fire before she’d moved to town years before and she had been living with a foster family. The first time Liz had met her, she had been suspicious of a new girl coming into town in the midst of the crisis they had been dealing with. So, it had come as a startling surprise to discover that they believed her to be the fabled Serena Future Max had told her about. And after the discovery, it had made sense to Liz. Cassie had become a quick friend and a kindred spirit. There had been many a night the two girls had closed the restaurant with discussions of quantum physics and abstract biology. So, Liz found herself wanting to help her young friend as much as she could.

“He’s out of soda. Go see if he wants more.” Liz pushed her off before she could even sputter out a protest.

You’re meddling again.

But Liz only smiled at Max’s words as she watched Cassie bumble her way through a polite conversation. The door jingled again and Maria slid through the doorway and did a quick dance step to the counter where Liz stood.

“Hey, chica. Look who I brought to see you. It’s only the most handsome man in the whole world.”

Liz turned a beaming smile to the gurgling baby in Maria’s arms. “Hey, Trevor. Don’t you look handsome today.” Liz leaned in close to nuzzle the baby and her heart felt a pang of loss. She had longed for a baby with Max, but they had agreed it wasn’t the safest idea just yet. Especially not in light of the incomplete translation they’d discovered of a prophecy they were believed to be destined to fulfill. Max panicked whenever Liz remotely brought it up and she knew he merely wanted to keep her safe. Mentally, she put up a block so Max wouldn’t read her feelings. He worried enough about her as it was. She figured another year at the most and she could talk him into one of their own. Belatedly, she realized that Maria was still talking to her.

“So, I decided to take Trev here with me to finish running my errands and I thought what better way to spoil a baby rotten than with chocolate cake?”

“One chocolate cake coming up.”

Kyle detached himself from the booth to approach the counter and sweep Trevor into his arms. The baby laughed and squealed in delight, clapping his chubby hands together. “Are you two spoiling my brother rotten?”

“He’s my brother today and yes I am. He needs a little girl time so he doesn’t end up like his big brother here.” Maria had raised her voice up a notch as she took the baby back in her arms. She continued to smile as he reached a hand out to grab hold of a lock of her hair.

“What’s wrong with him turning out like me? Handsome, athletic, good with the ladies. I could go on forever.”

“So could I,” Maria agreed. “But I’d use words like macho, arrogant and full of himself.”

Tess let out a snort of laughter and quickly tried to cover it up when Kyle shot her a look of death.

Max watched the trio in amusement. Idly, he wondered why Michael was so quiet and turned to examine his old friend. Michael sat perfectly still as if he were memorizing every detail to analyze it for later. Max followed his gaze and was confused to find it rest on Trevor, nestled in the curve of Maria’s neck. Maria laughed at Kyle and leaned down to place a soft kiss on the baby’s forehead. And Max swore he saw something soften in Michael’s eyes, a flash of tenderness he’d never seen in his friend’s gaze before. Then in a blink, it was gone and Michael was pushing his way out of the booth. He escaped out the front door of the Crashdown without a backward glance, leaving Max puzzled as to what had happened.

But Max hadn’t been the only one to notice Michael’s behavior. The group exchanged puzzled glances as Maria and Kyle approached the booth and took their seats. Maria turned Trevor over to Isabel’s waiting arms and watched as the former Ice Queen snuggled the baby close.

“What was that about?” Max asked Maria, gesturing toward the front door. “Have you two been fighting again?”

“Nope. For once, we’ve been getting along great.” She snagged a cold french fry from Liz’s discarded plate, and munched on it thoughtfully. “He’s just been in that mood off and on for a week now. You know, where he reverts back to the old Michael and gets quiet and disappears for long stretches of time to brood.”

“I don’t know how you live with him.” Isabel made gurgling noises at the baby that had him laughing noisily. She passed him to Alex’s eager arms where he began tickling him mercilessly.

“It has its advantages.” She had to hold back a grin thinking about the very particular way he’d woken her up that morning. Oh yes, there were definite advantages to living with a man that had a clever imagination. She only wished he’d tell her what was on his mind. Something had been eating away at him and he’d been shutting her out. She was half-afraid to push the subject, afraid he had thought they were moving too quickly or he needed more space. But then there were amazing mornings like the one they’d had this morning where he’d made love to her slowly until she couldn’t think straight. But like clockwork, he had shut down just when she thought he might confide in her. And she hadn’t seen him since.

“Don’t tell me it was his cold indifference and surly attitude that you fell in love with,” Max teased, but he found himself turning his attention back to Liz. She was wiping down the counters mindlessly as she watched her young waitress talk nervously to a boy in his old booth. Idly, he wondered if that booth attracted the lovelorn.

That booth worked magic for us. Why not them? Liz asked, causing Max to smile.

“Absolutely not.” Maria’s voice reminded him that he was already involved in one conversation. “I fell in love with the only person whose wit and mind were as quick and sharp as my own. And then there was his tongue. Can I tell you the man can do fabulous things with it?”

“Oh, god. I’m going to be sick,” Isabel complained, pushing aside the plate of food she’d been sharing with Alex. “Would you mind not sharing anymore?”

“There are impressionable children present,” Kyle reminded her, having taken back possession of his young brother.

“Fine then. Your loss.” Maria turned her attention to Max. As always, she could tell when he was only paying half attention to her. “What’s Liz doing?”

“Meddling I say. Helping she says.”

“And you guys pick on me and Michael.” Oh, but it stung that after being together for almost the same length of time as Max and Liz, she and Michael had been stuck in the same place for years now. They had connected on a basic level, able to read each other’s thoughts only when they were touching. And even Alex and Isabel had reached that point in their relationship already. She and Michael lacked the deep, emotional ties that their friends had.

Max had turned his attention back to Liz and Maria felt her good mood from earlier die down. Trevor was passed back into her waiting arms so that Kyle could snuggle closer to Tess. Tess had settled herself on Kyle’s lap and she was whispering something in his ear that had his color a bit redder than usual. They’d been together officially for a little over six months and Maria found herself wondering if they had fallen in love yet. She had no idea how it had happened or what had changed overnight, but the couple had been caught making out one afternoon, and had been vocal about their newfound relationship since then. Maria supposed only time would tell if Tess was serious about Maria’s stepbrother. And as much as she liked Tess, she couldn’t help but fear that Tess wouldn’t be able to commit to Kyle the way he deserved.

Alex had his arm draped companionably around Isabel’s shoulders and Maria found herself amazed as always at the difference in what being in love had done to Isabel. She was more open and friendlier now. There was no doubt that they were in love. You could see it in every move, every gesture. Alex adored everything about Isabel, and Isabel in turn had softened and given everything she was to Alex. Maria had a bet going with Liz as to how long it would take Alex to give Isabel the engagement ring he’d bought her almost a month ago. Liz figured he was waiting for their anniversary. But Maria said it was nerves. Deep down, Alex still didn’t feel like he deserved to have Isabel.

Max and Liz were as blissfully happy as they ever were, though she knew her friend had been craving a baby lately. They’d gotten together for a night out last week and Liz had confessed her desire to Maria. It was a difficult situation though. Maria knew any child Max and Liz had would live a difficult life, and would be sought after by every enemy they’d ever known, and probably even a few they didn’t know about. But when she saw how Liz melted whenever she saw Trevor, it pained Maria’s heart for Liz. Something had to give soon. Liz was going to have to sit down with Max and explain how she felt, or there would be trouble and heartache on the horizon. And they’d had enough of that to last a lifetime.

And then there was herself. She’d moved in with Michael a year ago at his suggestion. She’d been surprised, no shocked, when he’d casually mentioned it one night. And she had moved in immediately, afraid he’d change his mind if he had a chance to think about it. But he hadn’t and things had been great. He’d been more open, but still reserved at the same time. It was as if he were afraid to drop the last of the shield he’d always guarded his heart with. And she knew it was the reason why their connection hadn’t strengthened. Michael was still fighting the intimacy of it.

Max left the group to help Liz with the customers and Maria used the free time to play with the baby. Cassie brought over the slice of chocolate cake and she took delight in feeding her younger brother. Tess and Kyle disappeared when they discovered they could have Tess and Isabel’s apartment all to themselves. Alex and Isabel remained at the booth, but stayed glued firmly in their own world. With a sigh, Maria gathered up her and Trevor’s things. She hated being in a funk when there wasn’t a good reason to be in one. With the baby hefted on her hip, she said her good byes to the group and headed out the door to her mother’s house.

Her mom had moved into the Valenti household after she married Jim, and they’d turned the second bedroom into a nursery. Jim had spent Amy’s pregnancy honing his carpentry skills and had actually hand crafted Trevor’s crib among other things. Together, the couple had embraced parenthood with an enthusiasm that made Maria happy for them.

At the house, Maria was careful to knock first even though her mother’s car wasn’t in the driveway. The memory of her and Kyle walking on at the most inopportune moment had made them overly cautious. Maria entered the house and called out for her mother.

“Sorry, just me. Your mom’s out delivering orders.” Jim moved to embrace Maria, glad to see his stepdaughter. “Have you eaten yet?” He took his son from Maria’s arms and scrunched up his face in exchange for the pleasure of hearing his son laugh.

“Sort of. Yes, if you count cold french fries and watered down soda.”

“The old bachelor in me says that’s fine. But your mother’s training says no. Come in the kitchen and let me fix you something to eat. Amy’ll be back soon.”

“No, I was planning to go home. I’ll just grab something there. I know you haven’t seen Trevor all day since I kidnapped him early this morning.” It was too tempting to stay, to prolong going to home to discover that Michael wasn’t there because he was off by himself again. Or worse that he would be there and she would have to decipher his mood first. She could stay, play with the baby and have dinner with Jim. But being around one more happy couple tonight would be the death of her today.

“Are you sure?”

Maria smiled at the concern in his voice. In every way that counted, this man was her father. She leaned forward quickly and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m sure. But tell Mom I’ll call her and you go play with that baby,” she ordered.

After a few more minutes of baby nuzzling, Maria found herself back behind the wheel of her car. She had intended to go home, but she found herself driving, as she did everyday now, to her spot out in the desert. It was her thinking place, the spot she had discovered where she could look out over the vast expanse of desert and reflect on her life. It had become her refuge. She’d been restless lately, unhappy with where she was in life. At twenty-six, she still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life and whether or not it would involve a certain alien. Sure, he was caring and loving with her, but they hadn’t moved forward. She supposed a part of her longed for the comfort and happiness Liz and Max had in their marriage. And damn it, she wanted kids with ridiculously spiky hair running around their home. She wanted a future with Michael, but she was afraid to push him for fear of losing him or having him pull back from her as he’d done so many times in the past.

She’d long ago given up on molding him into the perfect boyfriend. But was marriage too much to ask for after ten years? Maria pulled into her usual spot behind a formation of rocks and slowly climbed the rise to her usual perch. As she rounded the last bend, her alien senses went into overdrive. She could feel another presence with her on the rocky bluffs, but no one knew about this place. She gave fleeing a momentary thought, but the sun was setting and she had forgotten her flashlight. Even as she braced for attack and frantically clawed for a weapon, the rocks around her glowed from a hundred points of light.

In amazement, Maria looked around her, staggered to find candles perched on the rocks. Movement caught her eye and she knew there was no danger to be found here. Michael faced her, bathed in candlelight, an unreadable expression on his face. In his hand, he held a single sunflower.

“Michael? You scared me.” She moved closer, picking her way carefully over the small rocks and giving her heart a chance to settle down. She took his hand in hers. “You did all this for me?”

“I wanted to make tonight special.” Did she know how beautiful she was in the faint glow of the setting sun? From the first moment he’d laid eyes on her in the third grade, he’d thought she was some sort of fairy. She’d always seemed to sparkle, and tonight was no different.

“How did you even know where I was? I didn’t think I told – oh, the connection.” Even after all this time, it still amazed her that he could sometimes see into the depths of her mind and heart. “You saw this place.”

He nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me you were so unhappy?” It had destroyed him when he had discovered how miserable she had been, that she hadn’t felt as though she could come to him with it. He hadn’t realized that she wanted more, had thought she was content to leave things they way they were. And discovering differently had wounded him deeply.

Maria shrugged, avoiding his gaze. “I don’t know. Habit, maybe.”

Michael looked down at their joined hands. “I think that’s something we’re both used to doing, hiding our feelings. You don’t have to do that with me, Maria. Not after all this time. If you’re unhappy with me, you should just tell me.”

“Oh, but I’m not.” Maria rushed to assure him. But when she saw his smile, she knew he’d set her up. “But you already knew that.” What was this mood he was in? She couldn’t quite get a handle on it, though they were joined. She figured he must be blocking her for some reason, and it filled her with a sadness that he couldn’t even open himself up to her after he’d gone to such trouble to surprise her.

Michael sensed her thoughts immediately and quickly moved on. He wasn’t trying to push her away, but surprise her for the first time in her life. He’d been planning this for so long, the last thing he wanted to do was screw this up too. He owed Maria one night of romance for all the crap he had put her through over the years.

He pulled her to the other side of the cliff where the ground leveled out a bit and Maria felt her heart flutter to see the elaborate picnic set up. There were china settings for two, complete with a candelabra centerpiece. Michael led her around to sit and let him, awed by all the work he had put into this. As she watched, soaking up every detail to remember for the rest of her life, Michael pulled off his coat and Maria’s eyebrows raised to find him clad in a tuxedo.

“Okay, something fishy’s going on here. First, you don’t own a tuxedo and you’d never pick out something so nice. Second, this is my mother’s china and my grandmother’s silverware.”

“I had a bit of help.” He waved his hand over the candles and the flames roared to life.

Maria’s lips twitched. “Nice touch.” She was truly amazed at the effort he had put into cheering her up. Maybe there was something to be said for honesty. And maybe Michael was closer to being the perfect boyfriend than anyone had ever given him credit for, including her.

Nerves were threatening to overtake Michael and he knew he had o do this now or never. He couldn’t sit through the carefully planned meal that awaited under silver serving dishes. He watched Maria for a minute as she still struggled to take it all in. She peeked under the silver dish closest to her and he grinned at the childlike amusement on her face. Life with Maria would never be dull, that was sure. He’d known what she wanted from him, known for years now. But he’d been terrified. Now, sitting across from her, the moment at hand, he found those nerves vanish with the last rays of the sun. Why had he ever had them in the first place? Marriage or not, Maria would always be his life.

He cleared his throat and frantically searched for a place to start. His carefully rehearsed speech seemed wrong now. Their relationship had been built on passion and spontaneity. Why should his proposal be any different?

“Maria, we’ve been together awhile now.”

Maria snorted. “I’d say so.” But Michael’s withering glare reminded her that he’d gone to a lot of trouble for her. And she quieted down.

“Anyway, I think that we knew each other pretty well by now and we haven’t actually killed each other yet, though god knows I’ve come close.” Maria scoffed again, but said nothing. And he grinned. “And added to that, I love you.” He watched her soften, just as she always did when he came out and said the words. He knew a part of her was still afraid he would leave her, despite his best reassurances. And he could only hope that he would believe him now.

“I didn’t want to love you at first, and I know I pushed you away and I hurt you along the way. I know I’ll probably hurt you again, even though I don’t want to. But the bottom line is that I’m never going to leave you and I’ll never let you leave me. You showed me that I was more than a punching bag in a trailer park. And before I met you, I never imagined that there would ever be more than two people on this planet that would care if I skipped town. And you showed me that I didn’t have to keep hunting for my home, because it was right here all along with you.”

He leaned in and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “And I also know that I’ve been holding back on you, still afraid to let you all the way in. And I want to stop that. I want all of you, every rambling thought in your head.” He paused, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulled out a velvet box. He watched Maria’s eyes widen with the realization of what tonight was really about. Tears formed anew in her eyes and Michael felt a few of his own as well. He opened the box slowly, awaiting her approval.

Maria gasped when she saw he square cut emerald surrounded by a band of diamonds. It was perfect, everything she could have ever wanted. Then she looked up through teary eyes into Michael’s anxious face. Did he really think she would say no? This perfect face with the lopsided grin was everything she had ever hoped for.

“Maria Deluca, will you marry me?”

She smiled at him, the broad, beaming smile that he had fallen in love with. “Yes. Of course, yes!” She launched herself at him and he caught her easily in his arms. He clung to her as he buried his face in her hair.

“I love you.”

Maria laughed, tears coursing down her cheeks as she showered kisses on his face. “You’d better because you just got me for life.” She leaned back, searching the ground frantically. “Where is it? Where’s my ring?”

Michael picked it up and slipped the ring on her waiting finger. “It fits perfectly. I had to guess. Do you really like it?"

“It’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. But how did you keep this a secret?”

“Easy. I didn’t tell anyone but your mom and it was hard enough to keep her quiet. She helped me pick it out, but I knew the minute I saw it.” He turned thoughtful a minute. “I’m not doing this because it was expected or because I picked the thought out of your head. I want to marry you, Maria. And I’m not going to lie to you, the thought of having children absolutely petrifies me. But I’m not completely opposed to the idea…eventually.”

Maria looked at him with a mixture of surprise and awe. “When did you get to be so wonderful? I’m going to expect you to be like this all the time now.”

“Then you’re going to be disappointed. I go back to being difficult tomorrow.”

Maria laughed and launched herself into his arms again, this time drawing him into a long, searing kiss. Even as she was pulling off his jacket and tie, Michael was pushing their food aside. They would eat much later.



posted on 11-Apr-2002 10:32:41 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 2

“He did not say that.” Isabel had to sit down as Maria retold her story for the second time.

“I think it’s the most romantic story ever.” Liz had never seen her friend so deliriously happy. Maria was positively beaming, and had been since she had barged into Max and Liz’s home at eight that morning to make her big announcement. And it made Liz love Michael all the more for it.

“Can I see the ring again?” Tess angled closer for another look at the emerald.

“And you’re sure this was Michael? Our Michael? And he said those things?”

Liz smiled at Isabel as she tried to adjust to this new image of her brother. “I guess he finally realized what a catch Maria is.” She winked at Maria. “So, when are you planning to have the wedding?”

“I was thinking spring, but I’m not sure what would be in fashion then.” Maria slid a sly glance at Isabel.

“Say no more. We’ll go shopping tomorrow. I’ll help you plan everything. After all, you’ve only got a few months until Spring officially starts.” Isabel tapped her pen against the table top, thinking.

“Be careful. The Wedding Nazi has returned.” Michael came through the Evans door in time to hear Isabel start planning. “You do remember Max and Liz’s wedding, don’t you?”

Isabel stuck out her tongue at him and resisted the urge to pull him into a tight hug. She knew it would only make him uncomfortable with everyone in the room. So, she would do it later. “The first thing you have to do is pick a date. Then we can get started.” She picked up the pad of paper on the table and immediately started jotting down ideas. “I think early evening is better, so it can be a semi-formal event. Maria, you have to have roses…pink ones.”

“Sunflowers. She likes sunflowers.” Michael smiled at his beaming fiancee, pleased that he could remember something so seemingly trivial.

Isabel rolled her eyes at the pair of them. “We’ll compromise. How do you feel about May first?”

Alex entered the room carefully, listening for signs that it was safe for him to enter. He’d seen Isabel in full planning mode before, but they’d only just begun dating then. Here they were three years later and she was going to start looking at him with those big eyes and he would finally give her the ring that had been haunting him since he’d bought it. The question that had been plaguing him was whether or not she’d accept it and him. Isabel Evans could do far better than him. She was a Princess after all. But for some reason, she loved him. He just counted his blessings and lived each day with her to its fullest, still afraid after all this time that she would figure it out for herself.

Kyle followed close behind Alex, hoping that all the crying and ring examining would be over by now. Obviously they had underestimated the women. He sought out Tess, and a smile broke out on his face when he saw her across the room examining Maria’s ring still. As if sensing him, she turned and grinned at him. And he saw some sort of twinkle in her eye and he knew he was in trouble. He made a mental note to slap Michael for putting some sort of romantic jewelry twinkle in Tess’s eye. And he frantically sought to change the subject. “Where’s Max at?” If the three of them had to suffer through more wedding planning, it was only fair that he did too.

“I don’t know. He was gone by the time I woke up.” Liz frowned, unable to help herself. She couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone off without waking her up at least for a kiss. And to make matters worse, he’d been blocking her since she’d woken up alone. She had a bad feeling about this, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that wouldn’t go away. But she pushed her concerns aside for Maria and Michael. Today was their day.

Isabel reached over and squeezed Liz’s hand as the conversation once again turned to the wedding. I’m sure he’s fine.

Liz smiled weakly, accepting the other girls’ comfort. Just as the conversation turned its way to bridesmaid dress colors, Max came through the door. He stopped short, surprised to see everyone gathered together in his living room. Liz noted the tension that held his shoulders rigid, and the worry lines that creased his forehead. And she knew something had happened. She held her breath as Maria rushed forward to greet Max.

“Max! There you are. You missed the big announcement. Michael and I are getting married.”

Max’s eyes went from the excited Maria in his arms to his old friend. “Really?” That was a huge step, one he had feared Michael would never really be ready to take.

“Really,” Michael answered, grinning. “But I’m sure you’ll hear all the romantic details later.”

“Romantic?” Max grinned for the first time that day, but his heart wasn’t in it. He pulled Maria into another congratulatory hug and even examined the ring she thrust in his face. “Congratulations. Both of you.”

Michael straightened when he heard the tone in Max’s voice. It was strained, and Michael knew that tone of voice all too well. “What’s wrong?”

Max wanted to say nothing. He wanted them to be able to plan a wedding. But there wasn’t going to be one. At least not on Earth. “I talked to our mother last night.” He was all too aware of Liz’s eyes boring into him, but he couldn’t meet her gaze yet. He knew it had been cowardly of him to have just left her in bed that morning, but when he had awoken from the dream, shaken to the core, watching her sleep peacefully had been the only thing that had kept him from sobbing.

“Is it Dad? Are they okay?” Isabel immediately jumped to attention at the mention of their parents.

“No, Is. Our other mother.” He watched as Isabel sank back down to the couch, dreading whatever had prompted the dream visit.

Max sighed, running a hand through his hair in exhaustion. “A power struggle broke out a few days ago. Khivar went after the throne and managed to kill the ruling leaders that had been keeping things peaceful. Our home is without a ruler now.” He paused, letting the information sink in. “So far, Khivar is the only one that knows, but once the neighboring worlds find out, they’ll all start battling for the planet.”

“So Khivar takes over to prevent the other worlds from tearing it apart? How is that a better alternative?” Michael resisted the urge to pace. He had a feeling the worst was yet to come.

“It isn’t.” Max met the eye of everyone in the room, letting his gaze linger on Liz last. He saw her fear and wished he could go to her and tell her it would be okay. But it wouldn’t. “The only way to prevent complete anarchy is for the Royal Four to return.”

The room sat in silence. One long minute stretched into two. Finally, Isabel spoke up, her voice shaky. “When?”

“She thinks she can cover for us since time passes differently on Antar than it does on Earth. She can give us until the end of the week…Friday morning to be specific.” He saw his sister all but crumble into Alex’s arms and he was grateful Alex was there to hold her. “They’ve managed to keep Khivar off the throne so far, but he's preparing his men to lay siege to the palace. Thousands of people will die if that happens.”

“What about the rest of us?” Maria found that she couldn’t breathe. She always knew this day would come. Logically, she’d expected it. But being faced with it was another situation altogether.

“The invitation to come home is for everyone. But it’s dangerous. All we know is that the entire planet is on the brink of the biggest civil war it’s ever known. Add the warring worlds around it and you’ve got an even bigger problem. Khivar already managed to kill the rulers before us too. It would probably be safer to stay behind. Maybe when things settle, we could find a way to come back.”

Max’s words hung heavy in the air. Maria once again felt as though all the air had been sucked out of the room. Could she do it? Could she leave her family, her planet behind? She knew Max wasn’t lying about the danger. There was a good chance Khivar was merely lying in wait to kill off the Royal Four one more time. If she stayed behind, she might never know if anything happened to Michael and the others. But if she went, she could die. She knew her next words would be the most important in her life.

“We don’t have to decide that right now, do we?” Michael could all but see the wheels turning in Maria’s head. How could he ask her to leave everything behind and follow him to another planet on the brink of a war? She might never see her family again. And for what? For him? His deepest fears were about to come true. He would lose the girl he had finally let into his life completely. But when Maria slipped her small hand into into his, he turned to meet her eyes.

“Do I get to have an honorary title or something? ‘Princess’ seems more suited for Isabel and Tess. Maybe Dutchess?”

Michael took her shoulders in her hands. “This isn’t a joke.”

Maria placed a hand on his cheek, her new emerald winking at him in the light. “I know. When I said I’d marry you, there weren’t any conditions attached to it. I love you, Michael. Wherever you go, I go too.”

Michael searched her eyes and found none of the doubt he’d feared he’d find. In a single move, he crushed her to his body and held on tight. She was coming with him. She wasn’t going to leave him.

The group watched the couple embrace with trepidation. Alex could sense the fear and sorrow coming off Isabel and he wanted desperately to take some of that away. She really thought he wouldn’t leave with her? He touched her arm lightly until she met his eyes reluctantly.

“You’re my family, Isabel Evans. If you want me, I’ll follow you anywhere.”

Isabel’s eyes shone with unshed tears. She pulled him into a hard kiss, not caring that the others were still watching them. “Of course I want you. I love you.”

“Then I guess I’d better get packing.”

Tess turned to Kyle awkwardly. Their relationship was still so fresh compared to the other couples, the last thing she wanted to do was pressure him into making a decision in front of the others. “You really don’t have to decide now.”

“What, I don’t get to conform to peer pressure? Look, Tess. I know we’re still pretty new at this thing we have, but I’ve never been happier than these last six months. I think we really have a shot at something, and if I have to follow you across the solar system to find out what that something is, then make room for one more. Besides, I never was fond of this rock anyway. What’s it ever done for me?” Kyle grinned at her. She was beaming at him, and he realized she probably hadn’t expected his answer. At least not so quickly or vocally. They were both actually pretty reserved in front of the group, a bit shy when it came to true emotion. But he wasn’t about to let her go that easily.

Tess graced him with a radiant smile, slipping her hand into his. And she turned to Max. “Okay, so now what? We’re all going now.”

“Not quite.” Liz spoke up from the couch where she had been staring at the carpet for the last few minutes, processing the information Max had been giving them, and more importantly, the information Max hadn’t given them yet. “I’m not going.” She raised her head to meet Max’s eyes, and in them she found all the answers she’d feared. “Am I?”

“What are you talking about? Of course you’re going. You two are like one person.” Maria noticed the silent exchange going on between Max and Liz. “What’s going on?”

“Tell them,” Liz urged, fighting the nauseous feeling forming in her stomach. “Tell them the rest.” It all made sense now. Why Max hadn’t been in their bed that morning, why he had been hiding from her, why he was fighting their connection still.

Max closed his eyes against the sorrow he had found etched on Liz’s face. She understood. Somehow, she knew what he had been trying to deny all morning. “Someone has to stay behind to activate the Granolith.”

“What about one of the parents?” Kyle was thinking that any one of them would volunteer. He was beginning to see the big picture now, remembering how they had sent Nicholas back to Antar when he’d tried to kill them six years ago.

“No, the human brain can’t handle that kind of power. Remember what it did to my dad?” Alex gripped Isabel’s hand tighter at the memory. The human brain wasn’t meant to contain that kind of power.

“So, it just has to be one of us that starts it? Why can’t we open the portal and then jump through?” Maria was searching for any way they could all stay together. They couldn’t leave Liz behind all by herself. How could Max even suggest it?

“It doesn’t work that way. Salia removed her hand from the panel and it disappeared.” Tess wished like the others for another way, but she was beginning to see that there wasn’t going to be one.

“Then we draw straws. Why does it have to be Liz automatically? It’s only fair.”

Liz took Maria’s hand. She loved her friends for trying, but the just didn’t get it. “It has to be me. Salia knows my brain patterns. She’s never known any of yours and you’d have to die first for her to be able to find you. It’s settled then. You guys have to go. Your mother wouldn’t have asked if it wasn’t life and death.”

“I won’t leave you behind.” Max closed the distance between them and dropped to his knees, wrapping Liz in his arms. “We’ll find another way. You’re not staying here alone.”

Liz reached a hand up to his face. “You have to be the King now, Max. You can’t worry about me. I know you’ll find a way to come back for me and I’ll be waiting. Forever if I have to. But I’ll wait.” She tried to smile, but found that she couldn’t, not when her heart was breaking from the inside.

“Liz, time passes slower there. You know that. Even if it takes me a year, two will have passed for you. How can I ask you to do that? To wait for me that long?” How could he leave her for even a single minute? She was his life, the only thing that kept him grounded. He couldn’t do it without her.

“You didn’t ask. I told you I was staying. And I’m the queen. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Max pulled her into his arms again, opening his mind for her to read. She saw his sorrow, his grief, his anger, and his love for her, an unending ocean of it that lay before them. He had spent the morning trying to come up with another way, any way to keep from having to spend more than five minutes away from her.

It’ll be okay, Max. We’ll still have our connection. You won’t lose me completely. You never could.

But there were no words Max could form in that moment as his grief overtook him. He clung to her tighter than ever as she smoothed the hair back from his forehead.

The others let them have their moment, watching the couple hold fast to each other as if their lived depended on it. Just when the silence was beginning to become overbearing, Max turned his head and addressed the others, tears still streaming down his cheeks. “Say your good-byes. We leave Friday morning.”



posted on 12-Apr-2002 8:35:05 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 3

“I can’t believe they’re leaving tomorrow.” Diane Evans wiped her eternally moist eyes with the handkerchief she hadn’t been without for a week now.

“I know how you feel.” Amy sat back in her lounge chair, trying not to let the sorrow swallow her whole. “They’re still just babies. And who knows what they’re leaving for. They could be walking into the middle of a war zone for all they know.”

Maria came up behind her mother and hugged her. “We’ll be fine, Mom. Don’t worry. And we’ll find a way to come back. Do you really think I’d get married if you weren’t there?” She and Michael had considered briefly just eloping quickly before they left, but Michael hadn’t allowed her to do more than talk about it. He had insisted that she have the wedding he’d seen within her dreams. And they hadn’t had time that week for any kind of planning a wedding would entail, even a small one.

Movement caught their eyes and the trio watched as Max and Liz strolled through the backyard of the Evan’s home. Neither one had broken contact with the other since Max’s announcement earlier that week. They rarely even spoke anymore, content to keep all their thoughts and words only for each other.

“I can’t believe she has to stay. Look at that. I’ve never seen two people more in love than that. It’s just not fair, Amy. How are they going to live apart? At least Max has Isabel and the others. But what will Liz do?” Diane’s tears began flowing anew when she thought about it. Liz was the strongest person she’d ever known, but could she survive this by herself? It would be different if her parents were still alive, but Liz truly would be alone when Max left.

“We’ll take care of her. She won’t be alone.” Amy put a comforting hand on Diane’s arm.

Maria listened to her mother comfort Diane and she had doubts of her own. She knew Liz wouldn’t be okay and she certainly wouldn’t go to the parent’s when she was down. If anything, Liz would put up a brave front for them. Another flash of guilt washed over Maria. What would Liz do if it were her that had to stay behind?

Breaking contact with her mother, Maria headed off in search of Michael. She had the sudden need to touch him and tell him she loved him.

Deep in the yard, Jim threw a football to his son. Kyle ran hard and fast as he was thrown a long one down the length of the yard. He caught it with a satisfying thump and as his father smiled at him, all was right with the world.

“I don’t know how you can jus throw that back and forth all day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Kyle threw the ball and had the pleasure of seeing his father dive for it. He spared a glance at Tess, saw that she stood with her arms crossed over her chest. “Yeah, well I don’t understand girl stuff either, but that doesn’t mean you’ll stop doing it. I guess we should just stick with what we know.”

“Well, you’d better get it out of your system now,” she teased. “I’m sure our planet is more evolved than to play barbaric games.”

Kyle leaned into the next catch as he took Tess’s words in stride. He was learning to love her candid approach to things. He didn’t take offense to her like he used to. He merely understood that she was a product of her upbringing. And the way he figured it, when you were raised by an alien that didn’t have a care for human life and raised you to be a queen only to discover you never would be…well, a few personality quirks were bound to appear.

“I’m sure you’re right, Tess. But I’m also sure if they’ve evolved so much, they probably won’t have any need for lipstick and multiple pairs of shoes. Shouldn’t you be getting those things out of your system too?” Tess made a slight gurgling noise and she stormed off. Kyle grinned, knowing she would probably spend her last few hours on Earth stockpiling for the trip home.

“You really love her?” Kyle had confessed his growing feelings for Tess a few weeks ago, and though Jim was baffled by his son’s choice, he respected it.

Kyle gave his father a wolfish grin. “Ain’t it grand?”

Isabel shook her head as she listened to father and son exchange conversation. She’d been watching her mother with Amy for awhile, waiting for a break in the tear shed to approach. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. So, she turned her attention to Alex, standing beside the grill with her father. As she watched, he put his arm around Alex’s shoulders and Isabel had to keep from crying again when she saw the broad grins on their faces.

How was she going to say goodbye to the two people who had raised her? For them alone, she wanted to stay, to jump in her bed and pull the covers over her head. But somewhere out there, she had another mother who had lost her entire family in the blink of an eye. She had allowed them to be raised by others in order to give them a second chance at life. And she could have easily called them back years ago to grow and train on Antar.

No, Isabel had a responsibility to fulfill and she would say her good byes tomorrow and hope she would see them again someday. It was all she could do for now.

“Is this a male bonding thing, or can anyone without a Y chromosome join in?” Isabel looked curiously at the duo. Alex looked as nervous as she’d ever seen him and her father almost looked weepy. Something was definitely going on.

“No, no, honey. Come join us. Alex and I were just talking about the future. Weren’t we, son?”

“Yes, sir.” But he still couldn’t relax, not even when Phillip clapped a hand on his shoulder. His stomach jerked a bit at being called ‘son’ again after so much time. But he had something else to deal with first. “Is, do you want to take a walk?”

“Sure.” Isabel narrowed her eyes at him. If she had been suspicious before, she was super suspicious now.

Phillip winked at Alex as the young man took his little girl’s hand and led her away from the crowd. He quickly flipped the burgers and headed over to his wife’s side. He knelt by her chair and noted that she’d been crying again.

“Hey, honey. How are you holding up?” He dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

Smiling up at him, Diane reached for his hand. “I’m okay. You two seemed to be having a deep conversation,” she observed.

Phillip sighed, watching his daughter walk away from him. “Yeah, Alex is a good kid. Our daughter couldn’t have chosen better.” He paused before continuing. “The thing is, Diane, he was asking for our permission to ask Isabel to marry him. Said he wouldn’t consider doing it any other way.”

Diane clapped a hand over her mouth as a smile lit her face. With her free hand, she squeezed her husband’s hand tighter. “You’re right. She couldn’t have chosen better. I know she’ll be okay as long as she has him.”

Amy tucked a strand of hair behind Diane’s other ear, both women crying anew as they watched Isabel and Alex walk hand in hand toward the edge of the lawn.

Alex led Isabel to a more secluded part of the lawn to where Diane had planted a small flower garden with a stone bench. He knew she was suspicious, but he was all but shaking with nerves. What if he was wrong? What if she really didn’t want to marry him? Maybe she had felt obligated to invite him to go to Antar with her. Would he hold her back from her life there?

“Okay, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He rubbed his palms on his jeans and pushed Isabel down to the bench, forcing her to sit against her will. Had he ever been this nervous about anything ever in his life? “Okay, the thing is…I love you. You know that, right?”

Isabel softened a bit. “Of course. And I love you too.”

“Good. Let’s start there. Great. Okay, now we’ve been together for almost three years now. And I know I already said I’d go with you to your planet, but there’s this thing I need to ask you first.”

Isabel’s heart threatened to stop beating in her chest, and she found her smile frozen on her face. He wasn’t coming. With him beside her, she could have done it. She could have left everything she knew behind if she knew Alex would have been there to hold her. But now he was staying and so would she. If Alex couldn’t give up his world for her, then she would give up her world for him. Belatedly, she realized that Alex was still talking.

“-and so I just wanted to make sure you knew I’m not doing this because you expected me to or anything. So, here goes.” He took a deep breath, clasped her hands firmly even while he reached into his jacket pocket to pull out a small velvet box. Slowly, he dropped down to one knee and flipped the lid open. “Isabel Evans, will you marry me?”

“What?” Isabel’s brain had shut down. Here she thought he was going to leave her, and he was kneeling in the dirt with the most exquisite diamond ring she’d ever seen in his hand. She was also acutely aware that she had missed most of his proposal, and she wished she had just listened to him instead of letting her imagination get carried away from her.

Alex quickly backtracked when Isabel continued to sit there and stare at him. Maybe he’d been wrong after all. He might not be the biggest catch in Roswell, but he’d be damned if he’d lose Isabel without giving it his best shot. “Look, I know it’s not much, and I know I don’t have Max’s, and strangely even Michael’s flowery words, but I do love you with everything I am. I understand if maybe you want to put it off for awhile, what with wars and ruling a kingdom and everything to adjust to. And maybe you want to wait for your parents to be able to come, and that’s fine too. I just wanted you to know that I’m serious about us, about you.” She was looking at him like he’d grown a second head and he found himself easing back from her. “You know what? Forget about it. You have a lot on your mind right now. We can talk about it again when things are calmer or never again. Whichever you prefer-“

Isabel had been in complete shock as Alex had been pouring his heart out to her and she’d realized that her lack of response was hurting him. So, she had leapt into his arms and pulled him into a kiss. He could only tighten his grip on her as wave after wave of emotion hit him through their connection. Finally, Isabel pulled back far enough to meet his eyes. “Ask me again.”

Alex took a deep breath, thoroughly confused. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes.” Isabel graced him with the widest smile she’d ever smiled, joy bursting from her heart.

This time it was Alex that pulled her into a heated kiss. And in that moment when their lips touched, they saw more of each other than they ever had in any previous encounter. Isabel saw Alex buying her ring and hiding it from her for months, afraid she would say no. And Alex saw Isabel’s fears a few minutes ago, saw that she would have stayed for him. Slowly, their eyes opened and they broke apart.

“That was-“

“Yeah,” Alex agreed. They had never really connected like that before. They’d gotten flashes off each other, but with Isabel still in his arms, he found that he was able to read her thoughts easily.

“Quick, what am I thinking right now?”

Alex kept his grip on her soft skin, enjoying the feel of the small electrical jolts. “Isabel Evans, I’m shocked. Does your mother know you think those thoughts?” Isabel playfully hit him on the arm and he grew serious. “You were thinking about the first time you realized you couldn’t live without me. It was the time I showed up at your door an hour late, sopping wet from the rain, covered in mud from car trouble, but I handed you a bouquet of wilted roses.” He chuckled. “I thought you were going to kill me for sure. That was when you knew you couldn’t live without me?”

“I couldn’t resist you. It was either fall head over heels in love or kill you.”

“You really want to marry me?”

“Quit sounding so surprised. You’re willing to move to another planet for me. The least I can do is make it official. Oh! It can be one of those grand royalty weddings with beautiful clothes and a horse drawn carriage and everything.” Her eyes glazed over just thinking of the possibilities. “But I really would like to find a way to have my parents there, if you don’t mind waiting.”

“Isabel, I waited for you my whole life. A little bit longer won’t hurt anything. Besides, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your parents should be there, everyone should be.”

“Oh, we have to tell everyone! They’ll be so excited!” Isabel pulled from Alex’s arms and began dragging Alex across the lawn to find her family. She took one look at her mother, who was already on her way across the lawn and the two of them embraced noisily.

Maria heard all the commotion and rejoined the group on the patio. She took in the scene before her and saw Alex’s beaming grin. “You finally asked her, huh?”

Alex pulled Maria into a hug and spun her around in a circle. “You’ll be my best man. Won’t you, Maria? You and Liz both?”

“Why the hell not? I assume Max and Michael get to be the matrons of honor?”

Max and Liz heard the commotion as well and broke away from each other long enough to offer congratulations. Liz pulled Alex into a tight hug and Max went to Isabel.

“Congratulations, Is. You deserve the best.”

Isabel glanced at Alex as he hugged Liz. “I think I found it.”

“Well, I’d say this calls for a celebration,” Phillip announced loudly. “It seems that we’ve just added another member to our family.”

Isabel moved back to Alex’s side, threading their fingers together. “He was always a member of the family. Now it’s just official.”

*~*~

“Did you see the way they were looking at each other? I’ve never seen him so happy,” Maria declared as she pushed open the front door of her apartment with Michael. “I mean, can you even imagine what their wedding will be like? I’m sure it’ll be an event that the people of Antar will never forget.” She chuckled as she stripped off her jacket.

“Maria,” Michael tried to interrupt, knowing she wasn’t really listening to him.

“Not that Alex will care. When Isabel started planning with her mother, he just sat back and smiled. If she told him to show up in a gorilla costume, he’d do it.”

“Maria,” Michael tried again, this time gripping her arm to garner her attention. She had been talking nonstop since they had left the Evans’ home. And while she was a normally chatty person, he’d known this was something more. When she turned slowly to look at him, he knew his suspicions had been right on target. She was holding something back from him, and he had a pretty good idea of what it was. Taking her jacket from her hands, he steered her towards the couch and pushed her down beside him. “Talk to me.”

Maria sighed, her shoulders sagging. Why had she thought she could keep anything from him? “Michael, we need to talk.”

Michael nodded, knowing what was coming. Truthfully, he’d expected it days ago, but things had been hectic since Max's announcement. And a part of him had purposefully kept silent, hoping this conversation would never happen. But he couldn’t run from it anymore.

“You’re not coming.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement of fact.

Maria’s eyes flew up to Michael’s face. “Let me explain. Michael, I swear it has nothing to do with you. I love you and when I told you I’d follow you anywhere, I meant it.”

“I understand.” He closed his eyes. A painful weight had settled on his heart, and he knew this must have been what Max had been feeling all week. Knowing he would have to say goodbye in a matter of hours, even though it would be the hardest thing he would ever have to do in his life. Yet, he knew why she had to do it. Hell, he even respected it, but it had the potential to kill him.

“No, Michael. You don’t. I’m not afraid to go with you. Well, okay, maybe I am. But that’s not the point. I would never let something like that come between us. But I just can’t leave Liz here by herself. How can she be okay after everyone she loves just up and leaves the planet? It would be different if her parents were here, but she doesn’t even have them. She’s my best friend and I love her, but I can’t leave her here, not even for you.”

Michael cupped her face with his palm gently. “Maria, it’s okay. I understand. If the situation were reversed, I’d stay with Max. Hell, I’m leaving with Max because I know he’ll need me. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And it doesn’t mean that it’ll make me bleed any less when I have to leave you.”

Maria saw the raw emotion in his eyes and knew he was speaking from his heart. He really did understand, and it amazed her. When had Michael grown up so much? He was so different from the boy she had fallen in love with all those years ago, but still so much the same. She’d known from the first time he’d kissed her that he would be it for her. She would never love anyone else in her life the way she loved Michael. And seeing him grow into the man she’d always known he had the potential to be had been amazing.

“I’m just sorry I won’t be there to see you take charge.” She ran a finger down the side of his face, memorizing every line. “You’re going to be amazing up there.”

Michael felt emotion clogging his throat. “Maria, I’m going to come back for you. I don’t care what it takes or what I have to do, but I’ll be back. Do you believe me?”

Maria nodded as tears blurred her vision. “I know you will. But I know that you have things to do up there first. You’re right. Max is going to need you. This is going to be harder on Max and Liz, and he’s going to need you to help guide him. Plus, I know between the two of you, you’ll drive everyone up there crazy trying to find a way to bring us up there safe and sound. I have faith in you.”

Michael dropped his forehead to hers, and rested there for a moment. There were so many emotions churning inside of him, he didn’t even know how to put a name to half of them. So, he didn’t bother. Joined, he knew she could feel them anyway, just as he could feel her guilt warring with deep sorrow and pain. Would they survive this? He had no way of knowing how long they would be gone or if there would ever be a safe way to bring them to Antar. But he wouldn’t rest until he’d seen her again.

“I’ll wait for you no matter how long it takes,” she promised as the first tear rolled down her cheek. “You just help your people, okay?”

Michael found himself looking into her eyes, seeing the complete and utter faith she had in him. Would anyone ever believe in him the way she did? She’d seen a screwed up trailer punk that had been angry at the world and her faith had made him who he was. Somewhere along the way, he’d wanted to be able to live up the standards she thought him capable of. And he had let her down enough. “I love you,” he whispered. “And I’ll be back for you.”

Maria let Michael pull her into his arms again and she tried to remember every minute of it. The realist in her knew it could be a lifetime before she was able to touch him again and she wanted to savor the feeling while she could. “I love you too, Michael. Don’t ever forget that. Hey, I’ve waited this long for you. You think another couple of months is going to make a difference? Besides, we have a date at the altar. You can’t weasel out of marrying me that easily,” she teased.

“I will marry you, Maria.” He panicked thinking that she could believe he didn’t want to marry her. Sure, he’d put up a fight over it initially, and it still scared the hell out of him. But he was truly beginning to realize how precious time was. “Hell, I wish we’d gone ahead and done it this week.”

Maria shook her head. “I’m glad we waited. It would have been rushed and we deserve something nice. Plus, I want you all to myself for our honeymoon. You’ll have to pick out some romantic moon for us to vacation to when all this is over.”

“Do you know how amazing you are?”

“I’m planning to use it in my official title, ‘The Amazing Dutchess Maria’,” she teased again, knowing it was the only thing keeping her heart from breaking. How was she going to let him go in a few hours?


Realizing how few hours they really did have left, Maria didn’t want to waste it talking. She could feel something shifting in their relationship, deepening, and she found that she even didn’t care about that. She just wanted Michael for as long as she could have him. She would have plenty of time later to reflect on their relationship. For now, she just wanted the man.

“I love you,” she whispered again, wanting to make sure he remembered after he was gone. Then she was crushing her lips to his, offering them both the release they needed. Sleep would be for another night. Tomorrow Michael could be the brave soldier leading his troops into battle, but tonight, she would make sure he was simply her lover. And she would give him a send off that would last them for however long their separation did.

posted on 16-Apr-2002 12:03:01 PM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 4

Max and Liz sat in silence during the long drive back from the Evans’ home. They hadn’t needed words the last week, and they hardly needed them now. Their hearts, as always, were in perfect sync, laid open to each other, bleeding and bare. And once again, they knew that mere words could never do their emotions justice.

Max pulled to a stop outside of their apartment, but he made no attempt to move after he cut the engine. “I wanted tonight to be special. I was going to fill the place with candles and flowers, cook you dinner. But I couldn’t let you out of my sight for even that long.”

Liz turned to her husband and placed a hand on the curve of his jaw, forcing him to meet her eyes. “It’s the thought that counts.” She smiled at him as she caressed his stubbled cheek, her engagement ring caught the light of a street lamp and set off a dozen prisms of light in the car.

She remembered their wedding day as if it had been yesterday. Max had been nervous enough for both of them, afraid that after everything, she would leave him at the altar for someone a bit more normal. She had teased him endlessly over it, but now she was beginning to understand a fraction of that fear. He was leaving in a matter of hours for another planet, a planet where he wasn’t an outcast, where he wouldn’t have to live in fear of being tortured in the name of science. A world where there would be women of his own species. A world where she would be considered abnormal.

Max cocked his head to the side as Liz’s thoughts and fears filtered through their connection. Did she really think anyone in the universe could compare to her? “Liz, I’m coming back for you. I don’t care if I have to denounce the throne and leave the whole damn planet behind. You are my whole world. Without you…” Tears of frustration blurred his vision and emotion clogged his throat. “I’ll find a way,” he vowed. “Salia said that she already has the most brilliant minds on the whole planet working on a way to bring you over there. So, it might not be very long at all before they figure it out. In fact, we might get over there to discover that it’s already done.”

Liz nodded, struggling against the tears that wanted to flow. “I know. I’m sorry. I know you’ll come back.” Of course he would come back for her. This was Max. He would do anything and everything to come home to her. There was no question about it.

Max cupped her face in his hands. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. How can I leave you here all by yourself? There has to be another way.” He felt the ever-present panic clawing its way into his skin. In all honesty, there was no way of knowing how long it would be before there was a safe way to bring her to Antar. How could he leave her without a friend in the world? And he made up his mind on the spot. “I’m not leaving tomorrow. We’ll make them find another way.”

Closing her eyes briefly, Liz tried to swallow back the emotion. She couldn’t do this to him, couldn’t add to his anxiety right now by making him worry about her on top of everything else. It wasn’t fair. She had to be the stronger of the two of them now. Slowly, she opened her eyes again, and she felt marginally stronger. “Max, you’re leaving at dawn just like you’ve all planned for all week. You have a whole planet full of people that need you. Your mother called you home for a reason. Without you, thousands of people could die and I won’t be responsible for that.”

“Liz-“

“No, Max. Listen to me. I need you to promise me something. Promise me that no matter what happens, you’ll leave tomorrow. I want to say that I can be strong, but I don’t know that for sure. And I want you to promise me that you won’t come back until it’s safe. I don’t want you taking chances just to come back for me. I promise to be strong and wait for you, no matter what. But I can’t do it unless I know you’re going to be careful. You don’t know what you’re really walking into. I don’t want to lose you, Max.”

Max nodded, willing to agree with whatever she asked of him, anything to erase the haunted look from her face. If she could be strong, then so could he.

“Okay, Liz. I promise to be careful.” He managed a smile. “But all this may be for nothing. We’ll still have our connection and I’ll probably be checking in with you so often, you’ll be tired of hearing my thoughts.”

“Not likely.” Liz tucked a bit of hair behind his ear. She’d wanted o get his hair cut before he had to leave, but they hadn’t had the time. Yet, a part of her felt as though she hadn’t done her job. How could she help him lead a planet if she couldn’t even prioritize a haircut?

Max chuckled. “Liz, I hardly think it’s the end of the world, all things considered.”

Liz managed a smile. “I know. You’re right. I’m being crazy.” She lowered her gaze to her lap. “I guess we should go inside.”

Max nodded and climbed out of the car, rounding the hood to open Liz’s door. With his hand at the small of her back, he guided her up the steps and towards the apartment where they had shared so much. Liz let Max unlock the door and enter ahead of her to turn on the lights, and she stood frozen in the doorway. All week, she had been mentally marking whenever they did something together for the last time. Was this the last time they would come home together?

“Are you hungry? You didn’t eat much,” he asked from inside the room as he fumbled for a light switch.

Liz shook her head, waiting until Max had bathed the room in a soft light.

Turning on the lights, Max crossed back to where Liz stood in the doorway and ran warm hands up and down her arms. She had been cold all night and he idly wondered how she would stay warm after he’d left. But the instant their skin touched, Liz threw herself in Max’s arms. Max tightened his grip on her, clinging to her as if his life depended on it.

“I just want to stay right here forever,” she confessed as she buried her face in the collar of his shirt.

“Then we can do that all night if you want to.” He breathed in her scent. It was amazing to know that after all this time, she still smelled like strawberries. He didn’t know if it was her shampoo or his own mind, but he knew that the scent would always remind him of being home in her arms.

But it still wasn’t enough for Liz. She needed to be closer to him, to shed the last of the barriers that stood between them. Slowly, she pulled away from his chest until she could meet his eyes. “Come to bed with me.”

Nodding, Max lifted her until she was cradled against his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck easily, holding onto him though she knew she didn’t have to. Max would never let her fall. She let him carry her into their bedroom, the place where they had spent the last few years in love and laughter. This room had always been a haven for them, a place they could escape to when the pressures of who they were came crashing down. And as Max laid Liz down on the soft comforter, she wondered if it would be the last time they shared the bed together.

Max knelt above Liz, memorizing every detail of her; the way her hair fanned out across the pillow; her eyes, warm and full of love. And when she reached out a hand to him, beckoning him closer, he complied readily. The first kiss was soft, innocent compared to the thousands of other kisses they had shared, yet more meaningful. He allowed the kiss to linger, drawing it out slowly. Time might become their greatest foe yet, but that wasn’t until tomorrow. Tonight, time would cease to exist. It had no meaning within the confines of their bedroom. The night belonged to them.

Liz whimpered, her whole body shaking from one simple kiss, and she was once again reminded of how skillful a lover Max had become. He could still bring her to her knees with a single kiss, pouring his entire soul into it. One hand rested on the curve of her shoulder while the other cradled her face. And she knew she had to feel her skin against his. With trembling fingers, she reached between their bodies and began to tug his shirt from his pants. Her fingertips grazed his bare skin and the old familiar electricity sparked between them immediately, leaving a tingling sensation behind. She remembered the first time they had discovered that trick, and they had tortured each other mercilessly for weeks, taking turns arousing each other in public places where there wasn’t any way possible way to escape and find a physical release. And when they had been discovered by their friends, they had never lived it down.

Max gasped as Liz traced a lazy line down his stomach, knowing she was trying to drive him mad with desire, or push him past the restraints of self-control. But he didn’t care. Nothing mattered as long as she never stopped touching him. He broke contact with her lips long enough to pull the shirt up and over his head, then turning back to devour her neck. She arched beneath him, rolling her head to give him better access to the sensitive flesh. And he was more than happy to comply.

Skimming her fingernails down the length of Max’s back, Liz pulled Max until his full weight was forced upon her. This was real, the only home she had left to her, and she pulled Max into the circle of her arms. She could feel his fingers struggling to untie the straps to her dress, and she wanted to laugh as he fumbled with the knot.

“You won’t think it’s so funny when I rip it off in about ten seconds,” he growled, offering her a half smile when he felt her body shake with laughter. He simply had to feel her beneath him one last time, had to find a way to remember how soft her skin was.

Liz felt the cool air chill her skin as Max succeeded in untying the straps to her dress. He peeled the material off her body slowly and when his movements simply halted, she opened her eyes to meet his.

“You’re amazing. Do you know that?”

Liz cupped his face. “You tell me all the time.”

Max shook his head. “Not nearly often enough.” Then, remembering how little time they really had left, his face fell and despair poured through him before he could stop it.

Liz felt the first of many tears against her skin and her own despair met Max’s until it twined together. “We can do this, Max. We’ve met every other challenge that’s been thrown at us. This one won’t kill us. Nothing can.”

Max nodded, but his passion was already cooling. As much as he wanted to make love to his wife one last time, he wanted to simply hold her in his arms more. “Liz?”

“Shh.” Liz brought her lips up to meet Max’s. “Just stay here with me, Max. I don’t want to leave until we have to.” She felt his arms tighten around her body, pulling them impossibly close. There would be all the time in the world for sleep later. Now, she continued to trace circles on his back, letting her touch soothe him as nothing else could. And she clung to Max with everything inside of her.

Shutting her eyes tight, Liz forced herself not to look at the glowing red dials of the alarm clock beside the bed. She didn’t want to know how late it was. They already knew that each second was precious. Counting the minutes wouldn’t prolong her time left with Max. Nothing would. In a matter of hours, he would leave her and she would be alone for the first time in her life. She couldn’t even remember a time when Max wasn’t in her life. Her memory ceased to stretch back far enough to remember how she had filled the endless void of time before Max had healed the hole in her stomach. What was she going to do? How was she going to go about her day to day life without him? They were questions she hadn’t allowed herself to ask before now, fearing the answers. Her parents were gone and Maria and Alex were leaving too. She still had the restaurant and school, but there were only so many hours in a day you could pretend to be busy.

And as the grief began building in her anew, she was grateful for Max’s arms and the tight grip he maintained on her. As long as he was there, the nightmares could be kept at bay for another few hours. And she was reminded of the words she had spoken to Max only minutes ago. She could survive this. She had to. It was just another long road to travel, and Max would be waiting with open arms at the end. She would simply have to take things one day at a time. And when that was too much, one hour at a time. She could survive their separation, and she would. Besides, they would still have their connection, and she would settle for that communication over absolute silence any day. It wasn’t ideal, but the logical part of her brain told her it was war that Max was leaving for. And with that thought, she tightened her grip on Max, determined to lend him every bit of support and positive energy she could muster. She could do this for him. She could do it for them. Besides, it wasn't as if it were forever. It was just a few months, however long it took for the great Antarian minds to come up with another form of travel. How long could that take really?





posted on 4-Jun-2002 8:47:39 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 5

Dawn came quickly, bringing not only the first few rays of sunlight, but a deep sense of foreboding. Alex and Isabel stood outside the Jeep, close to Phillip and Diane. Isabel hadn’t let go of her mother’s hand yet, and Alex was speaking softly to Phillip. Tess and Kyle were standing with Jim, Amy and Trevor, exchanging last minute good-byes. And Max and Liz stood off to the side, still lingering within each others minds.

Max resisted the urge to check his watch, instead using the steadily rising sun as his guide to count down the remaining minutes. Michael and Maria were late. They should have been there fifteen minutes ago. Max was worried they’d run into trouble, worried that they wouldn’t have time to say good-bye to Jim and Amy, worried that they wouldn’t make it at all. But aside from the worry, Max was also grateful. Until they showed up, he didn’t have to play the role of leader. He could stay Liz’s husband and just stand by her side.

But even as the selfish thought ran through his mind, a dust cloud in the distance signaled the last of the arrivals to the pod chamber. The group watched with trepidation as their last two members arrived and climbed out of Maria’s car.

“Sorry we’re late,” Maria apologized, rounding the hood to clasp Michael’s hand. They’d awoken after a restless hour of sleep and had made love again. Leaving that bed had been the hardest task of the day, signaling that they would actually have to say good-bye shortly.

Max nodded, unable to bring himself to lecture. They had cut it close, but they were there. “It’s almost time.”

“Max?” Diane met her son’s eyes and knew she had his attention. “What’s going to happen?” She’d been holding back her questions, knowing her son was concentrating on Liz until the last second. But that second had arrived.

Max faced his friends and family, bathed in the orange hue of the rising sun. Those that were going had a basic idea of what to expect, but they hadn’t elaborated to anyone else. There was a good amount of risk involved. “I’m going to help Liz fall asleep, bring her to a state of unconsciousness. Salia will be able to find her once we’ve connected. She’ll take over Liz’s body the way she did before. Salia will activate the portal and we’ll leave.” Max’s voice wavered as he thought about it for the first time.

“Will we be able to wake her up?” Jim asked cautiously. He didn’t have to ask about their arrival. He’d seen from the look in Max’s eyes that they had no real way of knowing how safe they would be in those first few minutes on a distant world.

“Yes,” Liz answered. “I might be pretty out of it though, so don’t be worried. Last time, I slept for awhile before I was okay, but I’m not sure how much of that was the injuries from Nicholas.” She clutched Max’s hand tighter, not wanting to think about what would happen to her if they couldn’t wake her up after all. There would be no way for anyone to help her.

“Salia will lock the granolith chamber again before she leaves, just in case Liz can’t do it when she’s on her own.” Just saying the words was enough to make him want to break down and tell his second mother and the whole planet to go to hell. But how did you rectify when your sense of duty pulled you in two separate directions? A part of him knew he had to return home and help the people that depended on him for their very survival. But the other part of him that had vowed never to leave Liz, recoiled at the thought of leaving her alone for ten minutes, much less an indefinite amount of time.

“And Liz will be okay?” Jim asked, hating to seem persistent. But she would remain his responsibility as long as she lived. They all would.

Max nodded. “Salia assured me that she would be fine.”

“It’s just like taking a nap,” Liz assured them. She knew they were wary of letting another alien willingly possess anyone after all the damage the Scaribe had done. But Liz knew she would be perfectly safe.

With a smile, Liz turned to Max. “I think we should go inside.” If she let him, he would put it off forever. And while she was tempted to let him, she knew it was time.

Michael and Maria held back from the crowd as Max moved to uncover the silver handprint at the entrance. Somewhere in the course of the night, they had decided not to announce that Maria was staying until the last possible second. Liz would try to force her to go and it would only result in chaos.

Jim looked on in wonder as a silver handprint appeared in the rock. He’d never actually been out here before and as he watched Max match his hand against the print, it finally struck Jim that his son was leaving for another planet. It hadn’t seemed real until that moment and it made him alternately proud and alarmed. His son was leaving for another planet, a planet that was in the middle of a very dangerous war. And the father in him wanted to order him to stay on Earth. But his son never had responded well to orders, and Kyle was a grown man following his heart.

Max stepped inside the pod chamber first, his backpack slung over his shoulder. Liz was close on his heels and he turned to help her inside. He knew his parents had been out there once before, but that had been almost six years ago. And Amy and Jim had never had a reason to see the place of their rebirth. Instinctively, he wanted to keep them from it still, but Isabel had convinced him that it wouldn’t be real unless they saw it for themselves.

Glancing at his watch again, Max waited until everyone had wearily climbed inside. Panic seized him. There wasn’t enough time. How could he express to Liz in a few short minutes what she meant to him? It was impossible.

As in all things they did, Liz felt Max’s sudden increase of nerves and she knew it was time. Turning to her right, she found Kyle watching her carefully. She pulled him into a sudden hug.

“I’m going to miss you, kiddo,” Kyle promised as he held her tight.

“You take care of yourself and don’t let Tess boss you around too much.” Liz sniffled once as Kyle loosened his grip on her.

Tess offered Liz a forced smile. “I’m sorry, Liz.” This wasn’t the way things were supposed to have worked out.

Liz shook her head, pulling Tess into a swift hug. “You once asked me to take care of him for you,” she whispered, remembering her wedding day. “I’m asking you to do the same for me now.”

Tess pulled away and met Liz’s eyes. She nodded curtly. “I promise.”

Isabel stepped forward to embrace Liz. “I wish there was some other way.”

“There’s not. Isabel, I need you to be the strong one. Make Max be the leader he needs to be no matter what happens. And take care of Alex for me.”

“This is so wrong,” Alex declared as Liz turned to him. “You shouldn’t be here alone. Maybe-“

“Alex, don’t even think about it. Isabel’s going to need you so much more than I will. I’ll be fine. I promise.”

“Liz-“

“Alex…” Liz forced her lips into a smile, even when the muscles didn’t want to move. “I love you, but I need you to let me do this. Okay?”

Alex saw the slightest of quivers in Liz’s lip and he knew how much harder he was making this for her. Reluctantly, sure he would regret it, he nodded and let her throw herself in his arms.

Fighting hard against the tears and knowing that the worst was still to come, Liz turned to Michael. Without saying a word, she hugged him tight for a second. At least in Michael she knew she could expect him to do what had to be done. He wouldn’t try to make apologies for the way things had turned out. And she welcomed it. Then she turned to Maria.

“Maria-“

“Liz, we’re not saying good-bye. Okay?” Maria met Michael’s tortured gaze over Liz’s head. Now was when she was supposed to tell everyone she was staying, but she quickly amended that plan. There was no arguing with Liz when she’d made up her mind to martyr herself. “Don’t waste those tears on me. Save them for Max.” Maria nudged her away and returned to Michael’s side.

Liz nodded, letting the first tear fall as she returned to her husband. She met his eyes and the first stab of panic filled her. How was she going to live without him? They’d been inseparable for so long, she couldn’t remember what it was like not to turn to him with every insignificant detail of her day. Who would she laugh with when it was the only thing that could get them though a rough situation? And a sob welled up in her throat.

Max felt the tremors run through their connection, and he dimly acknowledged the rest of the group backing away to give them a bit of privacy. He cradled Liz’s head in his hands, forcing her to meet his eyes. He had to be strong for her now. And when he spoke, his words were for her alone.

Liz, we only have a minute.

I know. I’m sorry I can’t be stronger, Max.

You don’t always have to be strong.

I’m going to miss you so much,
Liz whispered as the sobs began shaking her body.

I’m coming back, Liz. I swear that I’ll come back for you, no matter what it takes. If…if something happens and they can’t come up with the technology to bring you up right away, I’m coming back to see you.

Max-

Six months, Liz. Will you wait for me? Here, in this spot?

That’s only three months on Antar, Max. You’ll have just gotten there and settled in.

Six months,
Max repeated more firmly. No matter what happens, I’ll be here.

Liz nodded. And I’ll be waiting, she promised. Liz could sense something in their connection, a presence hovering on the fringe of consciousness and she knew it was Salia waiting for them. It’s time, she told him needlessly.

Pushing aside the panic and the fear, Max took Liz in his arms one last time, memorizing everything about it. Needing to feel the curve of her lips beneath his, he pulled back to kiss her, crushing his lips to hers in desperation and need.

Their tears mixing together, Liz poured all of the love she felt for Max into the kiss, wanting to give him something to remember when he was gone. And she felt Max slowly lowering her to the dusty ground. She placed herself in his hands, trusting him to catch her when her knees gave out. And when she felt her back pressed against the cold floor, Max kissed her one last time before pulling away far enough to drop his forehead to hers.

I love you, Liz. I’ve loved you my whole life and nothing will ever change that. This isn’t good-bye.

I know. I love you too, Max. And I trust you.


Feeling Salia’s presence growing stronger in his mind, Max closed his eyes one last time and eased into Liz’s mind. He pushed past her emotions and into her consciousness, making his way to her brain. He concentrated on slowing down her breathing, lulling her to sleep. And he began building her a dream to slip into, drawing on her memories of their honeymoon in Rome. They had made love long into night, a soft breeze billowing through the open windows and past the curtains. And in that bed, they’d pledged their own vows to each other, vows that had been too intensely private to have been shared with anyone else.

Sure that Liz was far enough asleep, Max lingered in Liz’s mind only long enough to make sure he felt Salia’s presence within Liz. And then he forced himself to leave the dream he had woven and break the connection with his Liz.

Taking in a deep breath of air, Max opened his eyes to find that he was still kneeling in the dirt beside Liz. Maria and his parents flanked his sides, looking at them nervously.

“Max? Are you okay?”

Max nodded, unable to take his eyes off Liz. She looked breathtaking, even in sleep and he memorized the delicate lines of her face.

“Is she…”

Before Maria could finish her sentence, Liz’s eyes fluttered open and took in her surroundings before resting on Max. Max held his breath, waiting for any indication of whether or not it had worked. A crazy part of him hoped it hadn’t, that Liz would smile at him and tell him it wasn’t possible for Salia to take over her brain again and they had to find another way. But when Liz’s eyes met his and he saw the first streak of silver flash through her beautiful depths, he knew he wasn’t looking at Liz any longer.

“Salia?”

“Yes.” She sat up, standing shakily on Liz’s legs. Looking around, her eyes settled on the group looking at her in trepidation. “Is everything prepared according to our plan?”

Max nodded curtly, angry though he didn’t know exactly why.

“No,” Maria broke the silence, knowing now was the time to inform the group of her plan. She wiped at a stray tear that had formed from watching Max and Liz’s last few moments. She had no idea what had been shared, but it had looked intense. Clinging to Michael’s hand, she met the eyes of her friends. “I’m not going.”

“What?” Amy asked, completely stunned by the announcement.

Max was trying to figure out what was going on. He turned to Michael. His friend was upset, and looked as if he were trying to hold it together, but he wasn’t surprised. “When did this happen?”

“Last night.” Maria turned to Max. “I can’t leave her alone, Max. Not like this. You guys have to go, but I’m needed here for now.”

“You’re staying,” Amy repeated, handing Trevor off to Jim as she approached her daughter. She could hardly believe it.

“For now, Mom. When Max comes back for Liz, they’ll just have to pick up two instead of one.”

Alex turned wide eyes to Maria. “You can’t both stay. Who’s going to take care of you?”

“Alex, Liz was right when she said you should go. You’re the tech guy. There’s no telling what kind of good you can do up there.”

“But-“

“Alex, you’re going. End of story.” Maria pulled him into a hug, not leaving him any room to argue. She’d known his sense of loyalty would be the last battle she’d have to fight. Alex would never willingly leave his two girls alone.

Sniffling, Maria pulled away from Alex and laughed. “I’m not doing the long good-bye thing with everyone. You know I love you all, and I know you love me. And we’ll see each other again soon. Okay?” She didn’t think she could handle the long, drawn out sniffling hugs from everyone. Instead, she turned to Max.

“Maria? Are you sure about this? I’m not going to lie to you, it makes me feel better to know she won’t be alone, but Michael-“

Maria waved away his doubts. “For once, we’re on the same wavelength. He understands, Max. Really. Don’t worry about me. And besides, with the two of you riding those scientists, you’ll be back here in record time.” She smiled at him broadly. “I’ll take care of her if you take care of him.”

“Deal.” Max pulled Maria into a hug, though he knew she had been wanting to avoid it. Then he released her and let her return to Michael’s side. Slowly, he returned his attention to Salia. It was disconcerting to look at Liz and know that it wasn’t her at all. Salia even held herself differently, more rigid, and he imagined it came from a lifetime of aristocracy. “I think we’re ready now.”

Salia waited patiently until Max addressed her and then she stepped forward. “The arrival site has been secured, but there isn’t much time. Khivar’s forces have been growing stronger and there is always the threat that he will intercede.”

Max nodded, turning back to the group. He knew most of them had already said their good-byes and all that was left was the quick hugs. “We need to go now.” He watched as his parents embraced Isabel and Alex, sharing last minute whispers. Jim and Amy had already turned to Kyle and Tess, offering good-byes of their own. He saw his parents make their way across the chamber towards him and he felt strangely numb.

“Max, I don’t know what to say right now,” Phillip confessed as he pulled his son into a hug. “Your mother and I are so proud of you. We’re going to miss both you and Isabel, but we know we’ll see you again.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

Diane pushed Phillip aside and pulled Max into her arms. “I know you’re going to do great things out there, Max. But when things get rough and a little too bleak, just remember that you have people that love you more than anything. You’re a good person, Max. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Max nodded, not trusting himself to speak. His mother was starting to break down the walls he’d put up when he’d said good-bye to Liz. And that couldn’t happen now if he still had to leave. Everyone would be turning to him now and he had to be able to lead them without hesitation.

Maria pulled out of Michael’s embrace, tracing the lines of his face with her fingertip. “I wish I could see the looks on their faces when you show up.”

Michael closed his eyes. “Maria-“

“Shh,” she whispered. “I meant what I said, Michael. This is not good-bye. So, I’m not going to cry and sniffle. You’ll be back and I’ll be waiting. It doesn’t matter how long. But if I find out you’ve been flirting with space girls, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

“I love you.”

She nodded, serious for a second. “I know. And I love you too, Spaceboy. Why don’t you scout out some romantic moon for us to honeymoon on. You owe me a wedding, and a Dutchess title.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He managed a grin, knowing that as long as she was smiling at him, he would be okay. But the seconds were growing dangerously thin.

“Michael?”

Michael nodded when he heard Max’s voice, but he kept his eyes on Maria. He had run out of words, so he fell back on the silence that had been a large part of their relationship. Maria had always claimed to be able to “read” his eyebrows anyway. He took a step back from her, then a second. Each one was harder than the last, but he continued his path until Maria slipped from his grasp completely.

One by one, the six travelers moved to stand beside Salia. Waiting for a nod from Max, she turned toward the Granolith and placed her palm flat against a panel on the smooth base. On the wall across the room, a small dot appeared, growing larger and larger in size until it took the form of the swirling vortex they had watched Nicholas disappear into six years ago. The wind inside the cave picked up in speed until it was blowing hard enough to force Amy to retreat backwards with Trevor.

Max turned to look back at the remaining members of his extended family. He nodded towards them, not bothering to look at Salia, then disappeared through the wall. Isabel clasped hands with Alex and they walked through together. With wide eyes, Kyle looked to his family one last time before he dove into the inky blackness, Tess on his heels. Michael turned one last look to Maria. Her mother was already holding her in her arms and he knew she would be okay with them around. Flashing her a sad smile, he backed up until he felt the pull of the vortex on his body and he allowed himself to succumb to the darkness.

Maria watched with tears in her eyes as Michael disappeared into the cave wall. She wanted to dart forward at the last second and stop him, but he forced her feet to remain firmly planted. Once they had all safely disappeared, Salia raised her hand from the Granolith and the vortex continued swirling smaller and smaller until it blinked out of existence.

“We should leave,” Salia announced, gliding toward the cave entrance.

Still in shock, the remaining humans followed her out of the Granolith chamber and into the harsh daylight. Maria watched impartially as Salia pressed her hand flat against the silver handprint, closing the entrance. It clicked shut and Maria closed her eyes briefly.

Silence surrounded the group and Salia turned to Maria. “What you have done today was a brave and noble act.”

“Yeah, well, they don’t call me Dutchess for nothing,” Maria replied. She’d really done it. She’d stood back and watched as Michael had left to go home. It was everything her nightmares of the last ten years had been made of. And yet it wasn’t.

“We will find a way to return for you both. I look forward to meeting you in person one day.”

Maria nodded. “As long as Michael’s with you, I’ll be there.”

“I must leave now. The longer I inhabit this body, the greater the chance of damaging it.”

Maria saw the silver in her friend’s eyes begin to fade, and she called out. “Salia!” When the queen merely turned in her direction, Maria hurried to continue. “Take care of them. They mean the whole world to us.”

“I understand.”

Jim was already moving forward, suspecting that when Liz was left unpossessed, she would need a strong arm. He stood at Salia’s elbow, a hand at the small of her back.

“Take care of them all for us,” Diane asked with a sad smile.

“I hope to do as good of a job as you have done.” Salia bowed slightly to Diane and Phillip before closing her eyes.

Liz’s body slumped to the ground, only to be caught by Jim. He lowered her to the ground carefully, automatically feeling for a pulse.

“Her pulse is steady.” He lifted one eyelid. “And she looks like she really is just sleeping.” It made him feel marginally better. If they had been right about that, maybe they had been right about everything else.

Amy hugged Maria to her side. “You’re coming home with us tonight. Nobody should be alone.”

Maria nodded weakly, unable to muster up enough of an argument.

“Liz will come home with us,” Diane decided. She and Phillip had discussed it already. They would be happy to keep her with them as long as she was willing to stay. The loss of both of their children was going to be something not easily forgotten.

Jim swung Liz into his arms and carried her to Diane and Phillip’s car to set her gently in the backseat. He turned back to the others, seeing the same bleak look in their eyes that he carried in his heart. “I think it would be best that we all stay together until Liz wakes up.”

“Our house. We have plenty of room,” Diane decided. Her heart felt as if it had been clenched painfully and it was becoming harder and harder to breath. She felt Phillip’s hand twine with hers and she clutched at it gratefully. They would all get through this one day at a time, but they would have to do it together. She eyed Maria, who was sitting on a large rock, looking down at the sand with a glazed look. And Diane vowed that she would do whatever it took to make sure that all of her children were reunited. They had all lived through enough heartache and pain to last a lifetime.





posted on 4-Jun-2002 8:47:57 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 6

The gentle pressure of warm hands roused Liz from her dreams. Slowly, she opened her eyes, wincing as the light from the windows filtered into the room. Five points of pressure, fingertips, pressed against her arm and she instinctively rolled her head to the side. The sight of Max’s face was enough to jump start her heart.

“Max?” Liz asked, struggling to sit up in bed. Her head hurt and the sudden movement made her wince. But she sat up anyway, wanting to move closer to Max. “I thought you left.”

“A dream,” he whispered, running his fingers through the hair above her ear. “I’m right here. Can’t you feel me?”

The joy Liz had felt at his first words faded as her soul automatically reached out for him. Inside the deepest part of herself where his presence usually lived, it was empty and cold. For the first time in ten years, she couldn’t find Max.

“Max, why can’t I feel you? Are you blocking me?” But she knew he wasn’t. Even when he blocked her, she could still feel him.

Max looked at her funny before he dropped his hand from her face. “You can’t feel me? I’m right here.”

Panic gripped her. “I know. Max, help me. I don’t understand-“

“What don’t you understand?” Max interrupted coldly. His face twisted in a grimace. “It’s simple, Liz. How can we be soul mates if you can’t even feel my soul? We were wrong. We weren’t meant to be together after all.”

“Max, no!” Liz shook her head wildly, despite the pain in her head. “We are meant to be. I love you.” She was sobbing openly now, her heart cracking open in her chest. Why couldn’t she feel him? Was their bond not strong enough?

But Max only rose from the bed, shaking his head sadly. “Well, I don’t love you. How could I? I can’t feel you anymore.” He backed up towards the door. “You’re dead to me now, Liz.”

Liz reached for him, desperate to stop him, to say anything to keep him from leaving her again. But still he backed away from her.

“Good bye, Liz.”

Liz met his eyes, cold and indifferent. They were boring into her, probing for answers she didn’t have. And then he disappeared, a specter that had never been there at all.

Liz bolted upright in bed, gasping for air. She closed her hand over her throat, telling herself it had only been a dream. It was no different from any of the others that had plagued her every night for the last six weeks. The instant she moved, the pain flared anew in her head and she pressed a hand to her temple.

She focused on her breathing, forcing air into and out of her lungs. Some mornings it was easier to abate her fears, but other mornings like today, it was impossible. Climbing out of bed slowly, she padded down the short hallway and flipped the switch to the bathroom. She was hoping that at least some light would chase the demons away. She turned the water on, letting it run down the drain until it ran warm. She splashed water on her face, hoping the warmth would help the chill in the air. She could still feel the cold despair from her dream, continued to wear it like a second skin.

Needing aspirin, she reached for the medicine cabinet door over the sink and caught a quick glimpse of her own reflection. Scowling in disgust, Liz snapped off the light, deciding to skip the drugs. She didn’t need another reminder of how sickly pale her skin looked or that there were dark patches under her eyes from her inability to sleep.

Liz headed to the closet and pulled out whatever items were closest. There was no time to linger. Lingering meant she would notice how Max’s favorite green shirt was hanging beside her brown sweater. Lingering meant inhaling Max’s scent in everything around her. Lingering meant she would sit on the floor and cry. She hadn’t shed a tear since she’d last seen Max’s face. And she wasn’t about to start now.

She dressed quickly, not bothering to even brush her hair. Instead, she flipped it over her head and clipped it firmly in a tight bun. As she locked the door on her way out, she was ashamed to note that her hands were still shaking. Strengthening her resolve, she shoved the treacherous items in her pockets and headed out the door to the Crashdown.

It wasn’t more than a fifteen minute walk usually, but Liz dragged her feet. It was still early and she would already have enough time to kill once she got to the restaurant. And this was the only time during the day she permitted herself to reflect on what her life had become.

Six weeks ago, she had woken in Max’s bedroom to find five desperate faces watching her. And it had only taken her a second to remember what had happened. Max had left and with him had gone their connection. Everyone had been pinning their hopes on their connection, wanting a confirmation that the group had arrived safely. She’d tried for three days to do nothing but connect with Max, hoping only for a sign that everything was okay. But she hadn’t been able to feel even an echo of their connection.

All of her hopes and dreams had revolved around that connection. They had based their relationship on it, relishing every flash, every moment from the past they’d been able to see from each other. And they’d never thought they could lose it. They were soul mates after all. They had achieved the highest level a bond could reach. Hadn’t they? The silence in her head had forced Liz to rethink everything she knew.

She’d been livid with Maria at first, angry because she’d stayed behind when there hadn’t been a reason to. But after those first three days, the anger had shifted until there had been no room for it amidst the piercing sorrow in her heart. But there was a part of her that was still angry, at Maria, at fate, at the world. And she felt as though she walked around in perpetual danger of exploding at any second.

She’d moved out of the Evans’ home and back into the apartment she’d shared with Max for the last three years. It had been painful, still continued to be painful, but when Max came back, she needed for him to be able to find her. She didn’t know if their connection had been severed permanently, but she wanted him to be able to find her right away. What if he came back and only had a narrow window of time to find her?

So, she’d made sure she was in one of two places at all times, home and work. She’d already dropped her classes, not having the time nor the attention to bother going. Plus, she knew Max would be back any day now. And she had to be ready to go at a moments notice.

Liz unlocked the doors to the Crashdown, then bent down to grab all four newspapers on the doorstep. She had subscribed to every newspaper possible in the days after Max left. It had become her morning ritual to scour the papers for any vague hint that Max had been spotted on his way back to her. Stepping inside the dark restaurant, Liz threw her keys on the counter as she slid onto a bar stool, still scanning the headlines. With an absent wave of her hand, she used her powers to flip the lights on.

A loud crash from the kitchen caught her ear and she whipped her head up in the direction of the noise. “Max?”

A second later, Cassie popped her head through the pick up window and flashed Liz an apologetic smile. “Sorry. Just me. You scared me and I dropped a few mugs. But don’t worry, I’ll clean it up and make sure I pay for it.” She hadn’t heard Liz come in and the sudden light had startled her. The only light switch was in the kitchen since the one in the café itself had burned itself out last week. And Cassie didn’t remember Liz calling anyone to come fix it.

Liz’s face fell when she realized it wasn’t Max in the kitchen, and then she felt foolish for saying anything at all to Cassie. She dropped her head back tot he newspaper. “Don’t worry about it, Cassie. Haven’t I told you before? Just put the pieces in the bin and I’ll get it later.” She’d been using her powers to glue Cassie’s broken dishes for years. It had saved hundreds of dollars a year and had earned her a grateful employee.

Cassie hadn’t missed the look that had crossed Liz’s face and she wiped her wet hands on her jeans. A couple of weeks ago, Liz would have laughed it off, asked what she was doing in the restaurant at four in the morning, and would have inquired about her date last night. But Liz hadn’t done any of those things in weeks. Something strange had happened, beyond the odd story she’d been fed about a distant cousin that had offered Liz’s husband and friends a wonderful job out of the country.

She’d worked in the Crashdown for over three years, watching the small group of friends that seemed inseparable. And she’d watched Max and Liz with a longing of her own. Max Evans loved his wife and he never would have left her behind to settle legal issues and tie up loose ends. Plus, there was Liz’s haggard appearance and the rift between her and Maria that seemed to have popped up from nowhere.

Cassie neatly cleaned up her mess and carefully re-stacked a tray of coffee mugs to carry out to the front.

“I couldn’t sleep either,” Cassie confessed, knowing Liz was only half-listening if at all. “I thought I’d come in and see if I could work off some energy. There’s a stack of paperwork almost as tall as I am in the office,” she tried joking. But still Liz said nothing. She’d used to be fanatical about keeping up with paperwork, but like all things, Liz had stopped caring about that too. “Paul broke up with me last night.”

Liz’s head popped up at last when she heard Cassie’s last remark. She took in Cassie’s appearance for the first time. She looked broken. Her shoulders were sagging as her fingers nervously twined. And it looked as though she’d spent the better part of the evening crying. And Liz’s own broken heart reached out to her. “Oh, Cassie, I’m sorry. What happened?”

Cassie concentrated on stacking the coffee mugs, not wanting to break any more. “I don’t know. One minute we were dating and everything was going really good. You know? And then he was just breaking up with me. I think he’s seeing someone else,” she whispered.

Liz rose from the stool and moved behind the counter to pull Cassie into a hug. “I’m sorry. But if he’s doing something dumb like that when he had you already, then he’s not worth keeping.”

“I guess we just weren’t destined to be together,” Cassie joked with a sniffle.

Liz pulled away from Cassie sharply. “There’s no such thing as destiny.”

Cassie took in Liz’s fierce posture and wondered what she’d said wrong. “I thought you believed in destiny?” Hadn’t she heard Liz use the word a thousand times?

“I was wrong. Destiny is nothing more than a cruel word.”

“Liz, are you okay? Is this about Max? Wasn’t he supposed to call you last night?”

Liz closed her eyes, caught in the lie she’d been forced to tell a customer yesterday afternoon. She hadn’t known Cassie had been listening. “Yeah. Of course he called. We talked all night.” The lies continued to pour out of her mouth. Some habits were hard to break. She’d been covering for so long, it was almost second nature.

“Max would never let Liz down, Cassie.”

Cassie turned to the door, smiling at Maria. “Hey. I didn’t hear you come in.”

“I was being quiet. I’m sorry to hear about Paul, sweetie. But if he’s screwing around on you, he’s a bastard and you don’t need him.” Maria crossed the restaurant and pulled Cassie into a quick hug. “Are you okay?”

Cassie nodded. “Yeah. It wasn’t as if I was in love with him or anything. We were only dating a few weeks, but it still stung.”

“Well, I’ll give you a week and then I’m setting you up with the most eligible bachelor I know.” Maria glanced at Liz from the corner of her eye. She had moved back to her barstool, where she was pouring through newspapers again. “Cassie, will you excuse Liz and I for a second? Liz, can I talk to you in the office for a minute?”

Liz met Maria with tired eyes. “I’m in the middle of something right now, Maria.”

“I know, but this will only take a minute.” Maria wasn’t going to let Liz put her off anymore. She’d been trying to talk to her friend for a couple of days now, but there had always been something Liz was busy with.

Liz heard the steel in Maria’s tone and figured she might as well get it over with. She folded up her newspaper and left it sitting on the counter. With a gesture of her hand, Liz motioned Maria to lead the way to the back office. Once the door was firmly closed behind them, Maria wasted no time.

“I heard you in there.”

“That’s what happens when you eavesdrop.” Liz dropped into the chair behind the desk. It wasn’t as if she didn’t know where this conversation was heading. Diane had tried it just a few days ago.

“Liz, you can’t seriously tell me you don’t believe in destiny anymore.” Maria propped her hands on her hips. She’d worked herself into a frenzy this morning. Liz had been shutting her out since the others had left and she was tired of it. Things were going to change starting this morning.

“What does it matter what I believe in anymore, Maria? It doesn’t change anything.” Liz played with the glass paperweight on her father’s old desk.

“Just because you lost your connection with Max doesn’t mean-“

Liz’s face sharpened. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. I have things to do.”

“Yeah, I saw. I’ve watched you for two weeks now. You don’t sleep, you don’t eat. You read every word in every newspaper published in the whole western half of the country and now you’re telling me you don’t believe in destiny. Max is coming back, Liz.”

“Of course he’s coming back,” Liz snapped. “I know that better than anyone. You don’t have to lecture me on Max.”

Maria continued to push forward. She knew Liz was still angry, but she suspected that it really wasn’t directed at her. If only she could get Liz angry enough to push past it, maybe she could figure out what she really was angry about. “Then what do I have to lecture you on? What’s your problem? I stayed behind because I thought you would need a friend. Instead, all you’ve done is push me away. I’m worried about you, Liz.”

“I didn’t ask you to stay. You decided that on your own.” She refused to allow the guilt to creep in.

Maria threw her hands in the air in frustration. “Well, then I guess I have to suffer through the consequences of my actions. I could have jumped the planet with the man I love, who wants to marry me and instead I stayed here because I love you. And this is the thanks I get? I lost the man I love too.”

“Don’t compare you and Michael to Max and I,” Liz warned with venom in her voice.

“Oh, right. Because you two are soul mates?” Maria taunted her. “I thought you weren’t believing in those things anymore. But don’t worry. I won’t compare my paltry relationship with Michael to your whirlwind romance with Max. But you remember one thing. At least you got to marry the man you love. You had the wedding and the honeymoon and the ring around your finger. You and Max have a bond, and Michael and I don’t have that. We haven’t had our chance yet. But despite that, I trust him. I believe that he’s up there kicking ass to get someone to figure out a way to come back for us. Why don’t you believe in Max?”

She did believe in Max. Didn’t she? As Maria’s words penetrated her brain, she began to wonder why she was so angry. “Maybe I don’t have any ties to him either.” Liz’s shoulders slumped, her anger draining. “I might have had the wedding, but there’s no reason he ever has to come back for me. I’ve been having nightmares,” she confessed. She hadn’t told anyone yet, not wanting to give any power to them. But maybe it was time. “Max tells me that we’re not soul mates, that he could never love me if he couldn’t feel me.”

Maria saw Liz’s face crumple and she moved to kneel in front of her friend. “Liz, that’s ridiculous. Max loves you with his whole heart. He would move heaven and earth for you. You know that. Why are you doubting it now?”

Liz sniffled as she wrapped her arms around herself. “I don’t know. It’s just so hard. We’ve never been without that link before, and it’s just so…quiet…so cold. It feels like the world lost it’s color without Max around to give it sparkle.”

“You’ll get it back. Liz, you and Max are separated by a great deal of distance, not to mention space. Who knows how those connection things work. And time travels differently on Antar. There are like a million factors that could be interfering with your connection. It’s not because you two aren’t destined to be together. And it’s not because you two aren’t soul mates.” Maria tucked a strand of hair behind Liz’s ear.

Liz considered Maria’s words and she felt marginally better. It wasn’t much, but it would be enough to get through the day. She could worry about tomorrow when it came. Unbidden, her own words registered in her brain. “Maria! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that you and Michael-“

“It’s okay. Really.” Maria waved away her apology. Liz’s words hadn’t hurt her, surprisingly. She and Michael had reached a place with each other that went beyond fear of losing each other. “I meant what I said. I know Michael is up there working on a plan. I trust him.”

Liz shook her head in disbelief. “Are you two the same couple that I used to know?”

Maria chuckled and plopped down in the chair with Liz. She rested her head on Liz’s shoulder, feeling for the first time in six weeks like she had her friend back. “Things changed in the last week they were here. When he proposed to me. Liz, I could see it in his eyes. He wasn’t proposing to me because I expected it after all that time, he was proposing because he wanted to spend his life with me. And I realized that I didn’t have to worry anymore. When I told him I was staying, he didn’t even question me. Because I think he trusted me too.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Tell me about it.”

“Maria, I really am sorry about what I said. I didn’t mean any of it.”

“Liz, I told you, don’t worry about it.”

Liz shook her head. “No. I’ve been horrible to you in the last few weeks. You’ve been hurting too and I wasn’t there for you. Even though you should have gone…”

Maria shot her a warning look. “I thought we were done with that. Would you have let me stay here alone if it were reversed?”

Liz sighed. “Honestly? The way I feel right now, I’d sell you into slavery to see Max one more time.” Then she giggled, the first one in months.

“Are you laughing? Have you finally cracked up?”

“No, it’s just…god, Maria. How did things get so screwed up? I thought Max and I had gone through the roughest patches and then this happens. I’m afraid to leave the apartment in case he comes looking for me. But everywhere I look reminds me of him and it makes me miss him even more. And all the waiting…”

“Yeah,” Maria agreed with a shake of her head. “But listen, we have to do this together. Okay? Otherwise, we’ll never survive. We’ve gotten through tough times before and we’ll get through this.”

“Do you…feel Michael at all?” She hadn’t known that Maria and Michael’s relationship had deepened and she was happy for her friend. But she couldn’t help but wonder if Maria had been able to get any impressions from Michael.

Maria sighed. “No, but I know he’s alive if that’s what you’re asking. I can’t feel him, but I know I’d feel it if he were dead.”

Liz closed her eyes. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’s just so hard. It’s been a long time since I had to take things on faith.”

“Faith is good for the soul,” Maria informed her wisely. “Things will work themselves out. Now, in the meantime, I see that Cassie wasn’t kidding when she said the paperwork was as tall as she is. What do you say I take time out of my very busy day and help you carve a chunk out of this pile?”

“Thanks, Maria. But I think maybe we should make sure Cassie’s okay. She had a crush on Paul forever.”

“I agree. And I also have the perfect solution. Nothing cures a broken heart like eggs and bacon, and I think that between the three of us, we need a truckload.” Maria nudged Liz in the ribs. “It’ll all be okay. They’re probably just busy learning the ropes up there.”

“Yeah. I know you’re right. And I’m sure they’ll be in the middle of building a utopia by the time we show up.” She tried to smile and found that her conversation with Maria had eased some of the pain in her chest. She still didn’t have any disillusions though. She knew Max was in a dangerous place, surrounded by people that would gladly kill him to take the throne. And she wished she could be there to help him. But she would be soon. At the very least, Max promised to come back for her in six months. That was only four and a half months from now. It wasn’t forever, even though it seemed like it. She could get up everyday and wait it out as long as she knew she had Max in the end.

posted on 4-Jun-2002 8:48:11 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 7

The sun had barely begun to peak over the horizon as Maria stood behind the counter at the Crashdown. But it was hardly a surprise that she was here so early. It had become their new pattern. They stayed in the restaurant almost day and night now, tending to the needs of others, and waiting until their own could be fulfilled. But that was looking less and less likely to happen anytime soon. They had been gone for two months. Eight weeks. 122 days. And Maria had marked each one with a large red X on the calendar in the break room.

Some days it was hard to keep up the constant cheerfulness around everyone. But she found a way to do it, drawing on some hidden strength that she suspected she had stolen from Liz. With Liz still walking around like a zombie, the task had fallen on her shoulders. In the span of the last few weeks, Maria had watched Liz become even more withdrawn than before. And it was almost as if reality was finally hitting her friend. Liz had believed that her separation from Max wouldn’t be a long one. And it was becoming harder to ignore the harsh truth. There was no way of telling how long they would be waiting.

Picking up a rag, Maria wiped down the counter as she watched Liz across the café. They had only been talking again for the last two weeks, and while it was nice to have her friend back, nothing had really changed. Liz still continued to pour through newspapers for the first half of the day, then tried to hide from the rest of the world. She didn’t make plans, clinging to the thread of hope that Max would be back any second. She didn’t jump whenever the bell over the door rang anymore, but Maria had caught her looking longingly at the empty sidewalk more than once. It was as if she were simply waiting for Max to walk in the door as he’d done for ten years.

Diane, Phillip, Jim and even her mother had been amazing though. They had taken the towns’ questions with a smile and had informed anyone that asked of the amazing jobs their children were doing in England. It had been their cover story and while friends of the family found it odd, no one had commented on it yet. At least not to their faces.

So, Liz tried to hide from them all, not wanting to face the endless stream of questions about how Max was doing or when he was coming for a visit. She chose to spend her time now locked away in the office in the back when there were people in the restaurant. And Maria didn’t blame her. At least when it came to her and Michael, people were more willing to believe that they were going through one of their ‘off phases’. It didn’t bother them to think Michael had left her behind. Luckily, Maria was able to brush the opinions aside. Her relationship with Michael might seem odd, but she knew Michael’s heart.

“Maria, can I talk to you for a second?”

Maria shifted until she met Cassie’s eyes. “Sure, Cassie. What’s up?”

Cassie twisted her apron in her hands nervously, her eyes darting around the empty café even though it didn’t open for another ten minutes. Already, she could see Liz beginning to shuffled her newspapers together to move out of the diner. “Well, I was just wondering…and you don’t have to answer because it’s private and I know what it’s like to be asked private questions you’re not comfortable with answering. So, feel free to tell me to mind my own-“

“Cassie? What is it?”

“Is everything okay? With you and Liz? Not you and Liz, but with you and with Liz.” Cassie huffed in frustration. “This isn’t coming out the way I rehearsed.”

Maria laid a hand over Cassie’s nervous one. She’d been afraid Cassie would be the one person to really pick up on something going on. She knew them all too well. “It’s okay. I understand. And I can promise that everything is going to be okay. It’s just hard to be separated from Michael and Max.”

Not convinced, Cassie eyed Liz as she poured through the newspaper in front of her. “Liz looks sick. I haven’t seen her eat anything in a couple of days and I don’t know if she’s sleeping. Does Max know how bad she looks? I mean, I guess I was wondering if you’d said anything to him about it. She looks like she’s going to fall on her face any minute, and she’s been acting really strange.” The newspaper thing had only been the tip of the iceburg ,and she’d grown accustomed to strange things ever since she’d started working in the restaurant.

Liz and Maria had been acting strange in a variety of ways. And it hadn’t only been the two of them. Diane and Phillip Evans, the Sheriff and his wife had all been in the café every day since their children had disappeared, and they were usually putting their heads together, whispering and watching Liz and Maria.

Maria considered Cassie’s words, knowing how odd it must seem from her angle. Diane had been trying to keep both of them busy, but Liz hadn’t been eating. “No, I haven’t spoken with Max yet. I think we should give Liz a little more time. She’ll be okay.” And if she wasn’t, she was going to have to kick her ass.

Liz rose from the table and gathered her newspapers in her arms. She didn’t want to be around when the people started coming in for their morning coffee and gossip. Plus, she was tired of the concerned glares Maria had been giving her. She had spent another sleepless night tossing and turning in bed, afraid of the nightmares that would plague her if she succumbed to the fatigue that had been affecting her body.

She hadn’t told anyone yet, but she had been feeling terrible the last week. The constant headache she’d had since Max had left had increased in its intensity until it was hard to think past it. And there was still the matter of the empty, jagged hole in her chest that still hurt when she thought about Max. And she didn’t even want to think about food. She had been feeling nauseous and irritable for weeks now, and she’d snapped at Maria and Cassie more than once in the last few days. What the hell was wrong with her?

The only thing she could figure was it was a side effect from the loss of her connection with Max. She doubted that once such an intense connection had been formed, it was meant to be broken. It had to be the reason for her headaches and the toll Max’s absence had taken on her body.

She was tired, almost too tired to rise from the table, but she managed. It would only be more tiresome to deal with the pitying looks once the restaurant filled for breakfast. Maybe she would try to lie down and take a nap upstairs. It still clenched at her heart even after all these years to see the apartment vacant, so she usually stayed away from it. But she doubted she was going to be able to get through the day without passing out without some form of rest.

“Maria, I’m going upstairs for a bit.”

“You look exhausted, Liz. Did you sleep at all?” Maria eyed Liz carefully. She was paler than usual and she looked a bit unsteady on her feet.

“A bit. Not enough I guess. I think I’m going to try to take a nap.”

Maria nodded. “Good idea. And I’ll bring you up a late breakfast.”

Liz’s stomach rebelled at the very thought of food, but she nodded weakly.

Maria watched Liz slowly move across the floor to the back room. If possible, Liz looked worse today than ever. Something had to give soon or there would be nothing left for Max to come back for.

Preparing to open the diner, Maria began pulling the chairs from atop the tables and settling them on the floor. Cassie came out from the counter to help her and they worked in companionable silence. She wasn’t stupid enough to think that Cassie didn’t suspect something was going on, but she didn’t know how to deal with it just yet. It was just something else she’d have to think about for later.

Maria caught Diane Evans’ face peering at her from behind the locked glass door and she crossed the café floor quickly to unlock it.

“Hey, Diane. Come in. Have you eaten yet? The new cook isn’t here yet, but I can fire up the grills if you want.”

Diane kissed Maria in a greeting as she stepped inside. Maria left the doors unlocked and followed Diane back into the restaurant. The thought occurred to her that maybe Diane could talk to Liz again and see if she could help cheer her up. Or at least get her to eat something for a change.

“I’m fine. How are you? Not working too hard, right?”

Maria rolled her eyes. “I already have one overbearing mother, but no I’m not.”

Diane looked around the restaurant, frowning when she didn’t see Liz. “Is Liz in the office?”

“Actually, she went upstairs a few minutes ago.” Maria paused, trying to find the right words to relay to Diane her thoughts without freaking her out. “Diane, maybe you could talk to her.”

Always the perceptive mother, her eyes swung to meet Maria’s. “What’s wrong? Has something happened?”

“No, nothing new.” Maria was sure to keep her voice down since she wasn’t sure where Cassie had disappeared to. “I just think that’s she’s pushing herself too hard. She’s convinced that she’s going to turn a corner and Max will be there with a smile.”

“And you don’t?”

Maria sank down into the booth Liz had just vacated. Diane followed her and listened intently. “Realistically, they’ve only been on Antar for a month. And Salia wouldn’t have called them up there if they hadn’t been on the brink of a bloody war. I’m sure Max and Michael are going crazy trying to find a way to bring us up there, but fixing things has to be a priority. We could be waiting a long time, and I don’t think Liz can handle the thought of that.”

“So, what more can we do? I’ve tried talking to her and I’ve tried force feeding her. Nothing seems to work. She doesn’t have an appetite.”

“She’s not sleeping,” Maria confessed. “She has nightmares at night. She thinks…she thinks that because she lost her connection with Max, that they aren’t soul mates after all.” Liz would kill her for disclosing it to Diane, but Maria was at her wit’s end. She needed help.

“Oh, Maria. How can she think that?” Diane closed her hand over Maria’s. Her heart broke for her daughter in law. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like to worry over the person you love and not be able to do anything about it.

“I don’t know. But if keeps this up, she’s going to end up sick. And taking her to the hospital is a bit riskier than I’m up for.”

Diane nodded. “Agreed. So, we double team her? Bring Amy into it and nag her until she gives in to shut us up?”

“It’s the plan I was forming.”

“Well, I think I’m going to go upstairs and see if she’s still awake. Maybe I can make her some tea.” Diane rose. “You don’t need any help down here, do you?”

“No. Cassie and I have it. But thanks for the offer. If you can help Liz, that’ll be enough.”

Diane paused on her way past Maria and laid a hand on the younger girl’s shoulder. “She’s lucky to have a friend like you. And I’m sure Michael is missing you something fierce.”

Maria smiled, her throat clogging with emotion just thinking about Michael. She missed him more than she could bear sometimes. But she wasn’t going to crumble. She could wait him out. Hell, she’d waited him out before. This wasn’t too much different.

She waited until Diane moved past her before she dropped her head into her hands. Allowing herself a moment of weakness, she took a deep breath. Things couldn’t be grimmer at the moment. Being a rock in the face of adversity was one thing, but to do it indefinitely was another.

“Maria! Come quick!”

The shout from upstairs jolted Maria through the back room and up the stairs. She found Diane on the floor in the living room, cradling Liz’s head in her lap. And her friend looked half dead. Maria dropped to the floor, feeling for a pulse at Liz’s neck.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. She was passed out on the floor when I got here. She’s still breathing.” It was all Diane had to offer to Maria as she turned wide eyes back to Liz.

“Her pulse is weak. Damn it!” Maria examined Liz’s face. She was pale and motionless and Maria had never been more scared in her life. What was she supposed to do? She was probably dehydrated, but they could hardly take her to the doctor. They’d never had a reason to test how human Liz still was, but if they did exploratory tests, they were bound to come up with something alien. And Maria wished with all her might that Max was there.

Rolling up her sleeves, Maria stiffened her spine. Max wasn’t there. Liz was in trouble and it was up to her to do something about it. “Okay. I’m going to have to try to heal her.”

Diane turned to Maria. “Can you do that?”

“There’s only one way to find out.” She had been able to master her powers a far cry better than she used to be able to, but she still wasn’t very strong. And she hated that her best friend’s life might very well hang in the balance now, dependant on powers that Maria wasn’t even sure she had.

“If something happens and I can’t bring her out of it, don’t take us to the hospital. Promise me, Diane.” The last thing she needed was for Michael and Max to have to worry about the government getting more information on them by the time they came back.

“Okay. Just…be careful. I don’t want anything to happen to either one of you.”

Maria nodded, moving to Liz’s face. She carefully placed her hands at Liz’s temples and closed her eyes the way she’d seen Max do a hundred times before. Only, she didn’t have the first clue what happened next. Focusing on Liz, Maria forced herself to calm down. That seemed like a logical next step and she took several deep breaths.

Deciding to try to find Liz the same way she had tried to find Michael’s energy in the past, Maria sent a flow of energy out into the space between them. And she found herself connecting to the most powerful current of energy she’d ever felt. It slammed into her with a violent force, nearly knocking her back. She would have been afraid, but she could feel…Liz all around her. And she knew that she had found her friend.

It was an amazing feeling, different from connecting with Michael. With Michael, she could see into his soul, get caught up in his emotions if she allowed herself. But with Liz, it was warm and breezy, and definitely all Liz. But the rush of power confused her. She’d always heard Max talk about how strong Liz’s powers were, but she’d had no idea. She wondered if any of them but Max really did. And she knew it would be a topic for another time. Now, she had to figure out what was wrong.

Before she could even try to determine the best course of action, Maria could sense the problem. It was almost as if she were able to see Liz’s aura. She exuded a light purple color, a soft lavender that was both welcoming and regal at the same time. But even Maria’s weaker powers could detect the dark spot deep within Liz’s body. It was a swirling mass of angry colors and she knew somehow this was the trouble spot.

Concentrating her energy on the spot, Maria was hit with the force of the pain that had been invading her friend’s body. She struggled to push past it, to delve into the source of the blemish, but it was sticky, pulling her backwards when she tried to move. Deciding she was more stubborn than any dark patch, she pushed through the worst of it and found herself safely nestled within Liz’s body.

Pleased with her progress so far, Maria put out feelers, and she was instantly able to sense the problem. There was a small mass that didn’t belong. She could feel Liz’s body trying to reject it, but it clung tenaciously. Instantly, Maria’s mind was filled with the fear of tumors and other horrible things. Had Max’s absence caused something physical to happen to Liz? Well, she wasn’t about to let anything happen to her friend. She didn’t have Michael’s blasting powers for nothing.

Deciding she would simply dissolve it into nothing, Maria reached for the core of the dark patch and found herself instantly sucked into a connection she hadn’t been prepared for. She found herself watching events unfold that she knew she was pulling from Liz’s mind. Images of Liz’s life and marriage with Max flooded her brain. And she could feel the intense levels of love that Liz felt for Max as she watched private moments of their life unfold.

Maria felt like a voyeur watching the images, but she was unable to force herself away. It wasn’t so much the acts of love themselves she was being forced to watch, but she was being forced to feel the emotions. And that was when Maria realized that not only was she being fed feelings of love for Max, but for Liz as well. It didn’t make sense though. Why would Liz send her feelings of how Max felt for her? Unless…

The thought came to Maria so fast, they left her spinning and she yanked back from the connection. Could it be? Tentatively, she moved toward the core again, forcing herself to consider the possibility that maybe she wasn’t receiving the feelings of love from Liz.

The connection solidified around her again and she was able to sense overwhelming power beneath the pain. It welcomed her this time, sending out waves of warmth and love. And Maria instinctively knew what was wrong with Liz. It was as if the answers were being whispered in her ear and she just knew what to do.

Concentrating her energy, focusing it to single beam of light, she directed it to the small tissue tear that she hadn’t seen before. It was a simple matter to fix it once she knew what to do and she accomplished the task in mere moments. And then she stood back to watch as the darker patches began to slowly lighten in shade until they came close to the original color.

Her energy was drained. She knew she should leave, yet she found herself compelled to stay longer, to stay connected to the small bubble. It gave her a reassuring nudge and before Maria could stop her descent, she was flying backwards until she found herself sitting on the living room floor.

“Maria? What happened?”

Maria blinked a few times, greedily sucking in oxygen. She shook her head to clear the fog in her brain, and sat back on the floor.

“Maria,” Diane repeated, near hysterics. “Is you okay? What’s wrong with Liz?” Diane’s attention was caught when Liz’s head rolled in her lap. “Liz? Are you awake?”

Maria watched as Liz slowly opened her eyes and looked around the room. She frowned when she realized she was on the floor. “What happened?” She tried to sit up, but Diane pushed her back down.

“Don’t move. You fainted or something. Maria tried to fix you.”

Liz’s eyes flew to Maria’s. “You…”

“Yeah.” Maria found that she was still in shock, but it was quickly subsiding. “Liz, I don’t know how to tell you this, chica.”

Liz’s eyes welled up with tears as Diane wrapped protective arms around her. She’d known something was wrong with her body, had known it a second before she’d fallen to the ground.

“What did you find? Will Liz be okay?”

Maria let a grin form slowly on her face, even as Liz scowled in confusion. “Liz is going to be just fine. It’s Max I’m worried about. Impending fatherhood has a way of making men crazy.”

Liz’s jaw dropped open as Maria’s words penetrated through her brain. “Did you just…” Maria was nodding at her, her eyes filling with tears and Liz felt a sob well up in her own throat. Disbelief was the first emotion and it came strong and swift. She would have known if she was pregnant. Wouldn’t she? Logic followed next, reminding her of the symptoms she’d been suffering from lately. And on the heels of that came the joy. It spread through her fast, warming the limbs that had been cold and numb since Max had left. She shifted in Diane’s arms, wrapping her arms around her waist. She closed her eyes and concentrated hard, trying to find the small life she and Max had created in love. It took a moment, but she could feel an echo of an emotion that wasn’t her own. Hope.

Diane stared at Maria in shock, then to Liz. “Are you sure?” She could hardly hope to believe it, but the idea was beginning to grow.

Maria nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t know what it was at first, and there was some trouble.”

“Trouble?” Liz’s eyes snapped open at the word.

“Come and gone,” Maria explained. “I connected with the baby and it told me things.”

“What things?” Diane asked, amazed by it all.

Maria grinned wryly. “The birds and the bees…Antarian style. It was sick, Liz, because no one had connected with it yet. I think on Antar, when two people create a child, I think it’s more of a planned event. The father has to connect with the baby in order for it to grow.” She knew she wasn’t explaining it well, but she hadn’t been given words, only images and feelings. “If no one connects with the baby, then it doesn’t know what to do with it’s energy, and it turns inward. The first connection is a sort of an educational event.”

“And that’s why I was so sick,” Liz guessed. She let her head drop back to Diane’s shoulder. She’d been hurting her baby and hadn’t even known. “I just thought…without the connection…”

“You didn’t know,” Diane reassured her. She placed a comforting hand on Liz’s head and stroked her hair. “Do you know what this means? I’m going to be a grandmother.” Her face lit up in a dazzling smile.

“And I get to be the fun Aunt Maria,” Maria gushed. “Oh, the things I’m going to teach this baby.”

Liz found herself grinning slowly, despite the guilt that had settled over her heart. It was no match for the overwhelming sense of joy that was beginning to overtake her body. “I’m going to be a mother,” Liz announced. that had settled over her heart. It was no match for the overwhelming sense of joy that was beginning to overtake her body. “I’m going to be a mother,” Liz announced.

“An amazing one,” Diane added proudly.

“Why isn’t anyone hugging?” Maria asked. She waited a second before pouncing on Liz, tangling her in a tight hug. Diane joined in on the moment, pulling both girls to her.

“Oh, wait until Phillip finds out.” She could already see the look on her husband’s face. He was going to be every bit as smitten as she’d imagined he would be when they’d planned their own children years before. They’d never had the chance to snuggle newborns, so there would be years of lost time to make up for.

“How do you feel?” Maria asked, wanting to make sure she hadn’t missed anything.

“You mean besides the shock? I feel good. No, I feel better than good. I feel great. Happy.”

“Max is going to flip,” Maria informed her. She could already imagine the look on Max’s face when he found out Liz was pregnant.

The joy halted for a second, long enough for the doubt and fear to claw their way in. She’d wanted a baby for so long, had talked about it with Max for years. But every time she’d brought it up in the past, he had changed the subject. Ever since they had learned about the prophecy of a child being born, Max had been reluctant at best to even discuss having children. What if he was less than thrilled to find out she was pregnant?

She tried to push the thought away, telling herself it was crazy to think Max wouldn’t love their child. But she could only banish it to the far corner of her mind. The fear wouldn’t disappear no matter how hard she tried.

“Well, I think this calls for a celebration!” Maria announced. “I’m calling Mom and Jim and we’re all getting together for dinner tonight. You can spring it on them all at once. This is going to be so much fun.” Maria found a new excitement growing in her. She hadn’t felt this happy in months, since Michael had proposed to her. “Oh, and just think about the baby shopping we can do! Have you ever seen some of those little booties? They’re so cute!”

Liz listened to Maria with a grin on her face. She began ticking off different baby items they just had to buy. It felt nice to smile again, and she vowed to find a way to keep it on her face. Somehow, she and Max had created a small, beautiful life and she owed it to both of them to keep it safe until Max could come for them and they had the chance to become the family they were destined to be.


posted on 4-Jun-2002 8:48:30 AM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 8

“And Diane didn’t say why she wanted us to all meet here?” Jim asked for the tenth time.

“You know as much as I do.” Phillip raised his palms upward in frustration. After almost twenty years of marriage, he loved his wife dearly. But she could be the most frustratingly tightlipped woman in the world when she had to be.

She’d called him earlier that morning with an excitement lacing her words that he hadn’t heard in months. And she’d asked him to call Jim and Amy over. He’d wanted to ask her a thousand questions, but he knew from experience she wouldn’t tell him more than she was ready to.

Jim sat back in the couch. “Well, I think it’s obvious. They must have heard something from the kids.” Jim wasn’t afraid to admit that he’d been terrified something had happened to Kyle. He couldn’t protect his son from the interplanetary war he’d thrust himself into. And it was killing him. Not hearing that they had at least arrived safely was his biggest problem though.

Beside Jim, Amy bounced Trevor on her lap. She knew they were excited at the prospect of any news from their children, but she was scared. Maria was still with her, safe on Earth, and not on some distant planet where horrible things were no doubt happening.

She wanted to keep her daughter safe, but if they’d heard from Max and Michael then her days with her baby were numbered. She didn’t have anything against Michael. He’d proven time and again that he was already her son, and had been for years now. She just wished it didn’t mean losing her only baby girl.

The front door opened and all three parents turned immediately. Diane had an arm slung over the shoulder of both Liz and Maria. And the smiles on their faces were enough to light up the room.

“Oh, good. Everyone’s here.” Diane perched on the arm of Phillip’s chair and gave him a smacking kiss.

“What’s this about?”

“You heard from them.” Jim stated eagerly. “How are they? Are they all alright? There wasn’t any trouble with the trip?”

As Jim fired off a series of questions, Liz felt her good mood slipping. She pressed her eyes closed as her old depression threatened to take hold. It would be so easy to slip back into it. Especially now. But she resisted.

And the gentle pressure of Maria’s hand on her shoulder reminded her that she didn’t have to be alone. Not now, not anymore.

Calmly, betraying none of her feelings, Liz turned to Jim. “No, I’m sorry you all though that was why Diane called. We didn’t think.” She turned to look at Diane and she was met with sympathetic eyes.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think either,” Diane apologized, feeling sheepish. She’d been so excited over the news, she hadn’t thought of how the others would take her enthusiasm.

Jim tried not to let his disappointment show, but he was sure it hung in the air. “Don’t worry about it, Liz. So, if that isn’t what put everyone in a good mood, what did?” He hated wiping the smile from her face the way he’d done, and he wanted to do anything he could to fix it.

“Oh.” Suddenly nervous now, Liz laced her fingers together. “Well, okay. First of all, I know I haven’t exactly been the easiest person in the world to get along with lately. And I want to apologize to you guys for that, and to thank you for not giving up on me when I pushed you all away.”

“You’re family,” Phillip stated simply.

Liz smiled and felt the butterflies in her stomach settle down a bit. “So, I should probably tell you that I haven’t been feeling good lately. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. I thought it was from losing my connection to Max.” She looked down at the floor, gathering her thoughts.

“You’re sick?” Amy passed the baby to Jim and hurried to Liz’s side. Automatically, she pressed a hand to Liz’s forehead, looking for signs of illness. “Why didn’t you say something? Diane?”

Diane was biting her lip to keep from spilling the news and she simply shook her head at Amy’s implied question. The story was Liz’s to tell.

“I’m fine. I swear, but it’s nice to know you guys are here to keep an eye on me anyway.” She took a deep breath. “I haven’t been eating, and it’s been hard to sleep, and I thought that was why I was so tired all the time.” How did you go about telling the people you love that you were pregnant? What was the protocol? Did you just blurt it out? Was there a lead up you were supposed to do? Liz had waited for so long to have Max’s child. He’d been able to convince her that it wasn’t safe for them yet. But fate had stepped in once again and taken the decision out of their hands. Not surprisingly, she wondered again what Max’s reaction to the news would be? She knew he would be a loving father, but how strong were his convictions when it came to keeping her safe? It had always been his number one priority in everything he did. And this would definitely put her in a world of danger.

“Liz, are you really okay? Do you need to see a doctor?” Phillip asked with concern. Why had they all been smiling like cheshire cats when they’d walked in?

“No, Maria already checked me out.” Liz smiled gratefully at her friend. She might have given her a hard time at first, but she was happier to have her around than ever before.

“Maria?”

“Oh, well, she’s basically fine. She just scared us when she collapsed earlier.”

“You collapsed?!” Jim asked in horror. He jumped up from the chair, still holding Trevor as he crossed to see for himself that Liz was okay.

“You guys, I’m fine. I swear. Or at least I will be.”

“She’s pregnant,” Diane announced. When every eye turned on her, she clamped her hand over her mouth, then pressed it to her heart. “I’m sorry. I know it was your announcement to make, and I shouldn’t have said anything, but you were just taking so long.”

Liz tried to scowl at Diane, but her good mood had returned at the thought of the life growing inside of her. “Thanks a lot.” Maria was giggling now, and Liz reluctantly smiled with her.

“Pregnant?” Phillip asked, suddenly feeling every one of his years pressing down on him.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” Diane asked, pulling her husband into a hug. “We’re going to be grandparents!”

“Really, Liz?” Amy pulled Liz into a tight hug. “That’s incredible! I’m so happy for you!”

Liz was passed around between them, and Diane managed to squeeze another hug into the mix. They were chatting happily amongst themselves, and Liz thought she heard Diane making up a baby name list already.

“This calls for a celebration,” Jim announced. “Should we go out?”

“Ah, actually, that is kind of one of the things I needed to talk to you guys about,” Liz told them. She saw their looks of apprehension return, and she tried to smile brightly. As much as she hated to be the voice of reason when her own heart was bubbling over with joy, Liz’s instincts were tugging at her. “I don’t think that we should tell anyone else about this yet. I don’t think this pregnancy is going to be normal.”

“What do you mean?” Phillip asked, fear creeping in.

“I don’t know. It’s just a feeling I have. I don’t think it’s going to be a normal nine months.”

Maria nodded in agreement. They hadn’t talked about it yet, but Maria had been thinking the same thing. “You know, I think you’re right. It was more of a presence I detected, not a fetus. It might take longer for the baby to grow.”

“So, we shouldn’t tell anyone else then?” Diane clarified, becoming a bit nervous again at the talk of abnormal pregnancies. Nothing was going to spoil this for Liz. She just knew that everything was going to work out fine. It had to. After all the loss her surrogate daughter had experienced, she deserved something good and pure for once.

“Not until I’m showing.” Liz shrugged. “But we might not have to tell anyone. Max is coming back soon, so we’ll see what he has to say.”

Maria looked at Liz in confusion. “What do you mean he’s coming back soon?” What had she missed?

Feeling foolish for not telling anyone, Liz offered her friend a smile. “Oh, well, Max promised me that if push came to shove and they couldn’t perfect the travel for us, he would at least come back in six months to tell us what was going on.”

“You never said anything.”

“I didn’t know what to say. I thought they’d have come back by now,” Liz confessed.

“Well, then I guess we’ll have to plan another celebration in four months then,” Diane decided. She could hold out four more months if she had to. At least now she knew her son would be coming back if only briefly. “But in the meantime…”

“Okay, we can have a party, but a quiet one,” Liz warned her.

Maria put her arm around Liz when Diane squealed in delight at the prospect. “You know you’re going to be the owner of every baby item in the city of Roswell by the time she gets done.”

“I know. She’s just so excited, I don’t know how to tell her no.” Liz couldn’t help but smile when she saw Diane pull Amy over to the phone in the kitchen. Together, they dug through the phone book for something. “I’m beginning to really see where Isabel gets her compulsive tendencies from.”

Laughing, Maria placed her hand over Liz’s flat stomach. “Don’t talk about Junior’s auntie Isabel that way. He might be listening.”

“He?”

“Or she.” Maria shrugged. “Aren’t you the one that’s supposed to have the maternal instincts? What are they telling you?”

“You mean besides the fact that I’m probably going to be pregnant for closer to a year than the traditional nine months? Not much. But I’m still new at this.” Liz laid her hand over Maria’s on her stomach, and she smiled in awe. She found herself becoming hopeful for the first time. Everything would be okay. It had to be. Her alien instincts had never failed her before. Why would her newfound maternal ones do any different? She would have a perfect baby and Max would absolutely melt when she told him. She knew he would. It would all be perfect. And she had four months to plan out exactly how to tell him. Turning to Maria, she grinned. “Want to help me with a project?”

“Does it involve shocking Max with the knowledge of his impending fatherhood?” Maria chuckled. “I’m in. Man, I wish I could see the look on his face when you tell him though. Talk about a Kodak moment.”

“Liz, what are you doing? You should be sitting down,” Phillip admonished, guiding her to the couch carefully.

Jim appeared at her elbow. “Can I get you anything? Food? Drink? Milk. You should drink milk. I’ll get you some.”

Liz didn’t even try to stop him as he hurried to the kitchen to pour her a glass of milk. There would be no point. She remembered all too well how overly attentive he’d been when Amy had been pregnant with Trevor. Men were simply flustered by the presence of a baby.

“Can I get you something, Liz?” Maria mimicked. “Pillow for your aching back? Ice cream and pickles? I can serve it to you on a silver platter, your highness.”

Liz stuck her tongue out at Maria, then decided it wasn’t enough of a punishment and hit her with a pillow. “Laugh it up, Dutchess. You think it’s all fun and games now. Wait until it’s your turn.”

Maria sighed as she watched her own mother whisper with Diane. “How am I going to tell her I’m moving out? She’s going to flip.”

“She might surprise you.”

Maria raised an eyebrow. “You realize you’re talking about my mother, right? She thought I was going to get in a spaceship and blast away two months ago. Since then, she’s been hanging on my every word, trying to cram in as much bonding time as she can. It’s not normal I tell you.”

“Maria, if you don’t want to move over the Crashdown with me, you don’t have to.”

“No, no. I said I wanted to and I meant it.” Maria waved away Liz’s comment. “Besides, do you really think I’d let you live by yourself pregnant? Max would kill me.”

“I guess you’re right. I just hate to disrupt everyone’s lives like this.”

“Liz, babe? This kind of disruption is the joyous kind. And we could all use some cheer around her for a change.”

Liz listened with half an ear as the four adults conversed in various parts of the house. Phillip had followed Jim to help with the milk pouring and she thought she heard the words baby shower from Diane and Amy. She groaned softly. So much for discreet. She would definitely have to have a talk with them sometime, but she supposed she could let them plan a bit for now. It was nice to have someone around as excited as Diane was. And with the sounds of laughter mingling in the quiet house that had seen her husband grow up, Liz discovered that maybe the next few months weren’t going to be so bad. She’d been so busy concentrating on what she was missing out on, that she hadn’t seen what was still in front of her. Life. And it was marching along around her.

“I’m glad you’re here, Maria.” Liz linked hands with her best friend, and rested her head on Maria’s shoulder.

Maria ran her fingers through Liz’s long hair and sighed, thankful that for once she’d made the right decision. “Me too, chica. Me too.”




posted on 18-Jul-2002 1:44:07 PM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 9

Max struggled not to pace the length of the room, but it was rapidly becoming a hard battle to fight. He’d been in meetings since early that morning and he’d tried to focus his attention on the reports in front of him only to find that his thoughts were elsewhere. A quick glance at his wrist reminded him that he’d stopped wearing a watch months ago. Time ran too differently on Antar to keep up with an Earth device. But he didn’t need it anyway. There was a ticking inside his brain that haunted him day and night now. It marked every second that he was separated from Liz. And he knew there wasn’t more than a few minutes until today’s report was due into him.

Michael strode through the open doorway of the war room, and Max raised his head instinctively. Michael crossed to Max’s side, glancing briefly at the papers in Max’s hand. His agitation was palpable and he used it to his advantage. He was less likely to be questioned or addressed if he snapped at people, and that left him more time to think about his reunion with Maria. “Well?”

“Not yet. I’m still waiting.” From the first minute they’d been in the palace, Max had demanded progress reports every twenty-four hours on the progress of the scientists working on the transportation device to bring Liz and Maria to Antar. And without fail, Michael would always find him minutes before the report was delivered, wanting to hear for himself the progress they were steadily making.

Michael paced in agitation, snatching a sheet of paper from an advisor that had the ill fortune of interrupting them. He scanned it briefly, wishing he had a better understanding of what everything meant. He hated admitting ignorance, especially since he had been looked at as a great military leader from the first step he had taken onto the unfamiliar ground.

“Trouble?” Max saw how Michael paused while trying to read the unfamiliar reports. He brought his head up and waited.

“I don’t know. If I’m reading this right, Khivar’s forces are moving.” He wished that he had more hours in the day to devote to learning the various strategies they were employing. The Antarian armies were impressive, but Khivar’s numbers seemed to be growing every day. Since the return of the Royal Four, previously neutral parties had begun taking sides. Placing bets on who would come out on top. And he was afraid they were going to lose. He was lucky that the acting second in command officer had been willing to patiently teach him things when no one else was around.

Max nodded. “That’s what Tirian was saying earlier.” One of his younger advisors that had been hand picked to help him. He was overeager and some of the older officials didn’t take him as seriously, but Max was beginning to rely on his opinion more and more. “They’re trying to pinpoint where he’s heading and why.” Max continued to stare at the papers, hoping something would make sense and some pattern would unfold itself. But he knew he was only killing time. Everyone had learned by now to break their meetings around the time when the scientist’s reports came in. And while he hated having an obvious weakness, he knew there was nothing he could do about it. Liz and Maria came first.

Max caught a flash of gray and knew Michael was pacing again. They’d tried to insist that the royals wear the proper clothes, but Michael had balked at their suggestions. When they had brought a cape into the room, he had stormed out in a huff. Isabel had been the one to patiently explain to Michael how important it was for them to play the roles expected of them right now. Later, there would be time to buck the system. And Michael had relented enough to wear the gray military uniform with a jacket made from the hide of some animal. And the coat looked more menacing in Max’s opinion anyway

Secretly, Max envied Michael. There was no getting around the white uniform Max was forced to wear. Kyle and Alex had shared a good laugh over it the first time Max had put it on. And when they’d seen the cape he was supposed to wear to official functions, they’d almost died of laughter. And he’d come close to killing them on the spot that long ago afternoon.

In two days, they would have been here three months. Almost six months in Liz’s time. Frustration simmered below the surface of his skin. They’d stepped through the portal and came out on another planet. Liz’s tears were still wet on his skin, and suddenly people he’d never met before were saluting him, expecting a great leader. Instead, they’d found a grieving husband. Their mother had come forward and had welcomed them back, not exactly a cold greeting, but it hadn’t held any of the warmth he was used to from the Evans. And every day since then had been filled with meeting after meeting to catch them up on the entire history of their planet and the current events surrounding Khivar’s ever growing army. And all Max wanted was five minutes with Liz.

The loss of their connection wasn’t something that completely surprised him. He’d been afraid it might happen, and had been shattered to discover that after almost seven years of being able to hear Liz’s thoughts, he had lost her. He really hadn’t expected the scientists to take so long in figuring out a way to safely transport the girls to Antar though. And every day without her was another stab to the heart. He had driven himself crazy for days wondering if Liz was all right. She had to be as heartbroken as he was. And his only comfort had been that Maria was there with her. At least they had each other. The rest was up to him.

“Michael, are you okay?” His friend looked even more agitated than usual today.

“Everything is just peachy, Maxwell.” Michael at least had enough sense to lower his voice. He knew Max didn’t mind his sarcasm as long as it stayed between them. And everything was grating on his nerves today. Before Max even had the chance to ask again, Michael scrubbed his hands over his face. “Today’s just a bad day.”

The puzzle pieces clicked into place and he felt like the world’s worst friend. “Today’s the day, isn’t it?”

Michael let out a deep breath. “They’ll be here any minute.” Michael glanced around quickly to make sure none of the other men in the room could hear them. “Max, what am I supposed to say to him?”

Max clamped a hand on Michael’s shoulder in support. “He’s your brother, Michael. Isn’t this what you wanted your whole life?”

“Yeah, but now I’m afraid I won’t know what to do with it. What if I’m not what he expects? He has all these memories of another person and instead he finds me, a screwed up reject that no one on Earth gave a second thought to.”

“Michael, I wish I knew what to say to you. It’s hard and it’s something we’re all having to deal with. Tess is the only one who doesn’t have any family here.” And it had hurt her when she’d discovered it. Ava’s parents had been killed soon after she had been. Michael had a brother and he and Isabel still had a mother. But Tess was alone. And even though Kyle had been there for her, Max sensed that it wasn’t enough. Tess had wanted to come back to Antar more than anyone. And when she finally made it, it was to discover that she had no ties of her own.

“I know. I’m just frustrated.” He barked out a quick laugh. “I wish Maria were here. She’d know just what to say.”

Max couldn’t afford for Michael to get wistful. There was too much going on. And it was the unspoken understand they had formed. There had been more than one occasion when Michael had kicked him around until he was able to get past the pain and guilt of leaving Liz behind. And Max had done the same for Michael. It was the only way they were going to get through this thing. “Maria would kick your ass for even thinking you weren’t good enough for your brother.” Max offered Michael a smile, but knew his friend needed something more concrete than that. “They’re going to figure out a way to get them up here, Michael. There’s no way I’m living without Liz.”

Michael met Max’s eyes. “You’re still planning to leave tomorrow, even though everyone’s against it.”

Max nodded. He’d had this fight with every single person since he’d announced his intentions. “I promised Liz I would come back. Even if it’s only for an hour. They have no idea that we’re even okay. And…I need to see her.” He hadn’t been geared up for this fight today. “Michael, please don’t-“

“I’m coming with you.”

“What?”

“If you insist in going back to Earth even though it could get you killed, then I’m coming with you.”

Max was amazed that Michael wasn’t going to fight him on the point. But it was more the tone that it had been delivered in that shocked him. Michael had come a long way from the boy he’d once been. He was beginning to sound like the military officer he was destined to be, delivering orders and not expecting anyone to disagree. “You really should cancel the rest of your lessons on issuing demands. I think you have it down cold.”

“Yeah well, Liz isn’t around to tell you what to do so I figure it falls on my shoulders.” It felt good to be able to joke if only for a second.

“Sir?”

Michael turned to find one of his men standing at attention a few feet away. He said nothing, merely waiting for the news he surely brought.

“The ship has arrived, sir.”

Michael turned to Max and the apprehension held for only a second. “Care to do a meet and greet with a couple of supposedly old friends, Your Highness?”

Max glared at Michael, knowing he was as uncomfortable as he was. “After you, Captain.” When Michael grimaced, Max managed a chuckle. “What goes around comes around.”

Max followed Michael out of the room and down one of the many corridors the palace boasted. He remembered seeing it for the first time and being awestruck by the enormity of it all. It hadn’t really sunk in until the moment he’d seen the palace’s glittering walls up close. Thousands of people were employed to do nothing but report to him and look to him for their next orders.

They’d wisely waited a week before telling him about Larek, and even then they had gradually slipped his name into the conversation, waiting until Max outright asked. And he hadn’t quite been prepared for the answer. He knew Larek and Zan had been friends, had even spoken with Larek through Brody a few times, but he supposed he had been expecting for his old friend to have aged along with everything and everyone else in his absence. And then they had told him the truth.

Immediately after the deaths of the Royal Four, war had broken out. No one was safe, regardless of how far they ran or which planet they hid on. Khivar had wanted to destroy all traces of the Royal family. Larek had been one of the leading scientists working on a way to give the Royals a second chance at life. And when the labs themselves had come under attack, Larek had been a part of the group hand picked to board the large craft that headed into deep space. Among the group had also been Michael’s brother, Loren. And they’d been suspended in deep space ever since. As a result, Max had been informed that none of them had aged more than a few days since their departure from the planet. It had been hard to wrap his brain around the concept and after awhile, he’d given up on it. When Liz joined him, she could get the full scientific explanation and explain it to him later. For now, he would accept that there were more people coming to meet him. And he felt like Michael, hoping he would come to par with his past self.

The corridor split into several larger ones and Max saw Tess and Kyle moving towards them from the long hall leading from the garden.

“Is the ship here?” Tess asked as she forced her short legs to keep up with their strides. It had been the only conclusion she could come up with that would bring Max and Michael all but marching toward the dock. They all knew how nervous Michael had been about meeting his brother, and she had to admit that she was more than a bit curious about finally meeting Larek. There was some mystery surrounding him that caused his name to be whispered throughout the palace walls. And she was intrigued.

Kyle had let go of Tess’s hand reluctantly, knowing she hated to make physical contact with him when they were in the presence of people outside their group. But he’d taken it in stride, trying not to let it agitate him. After all, he had hopped onto another planet where he lived in a palace and ran into servants around every corner. There were trade-offs. And as cool as it was, it was becoming harder and harder to find private spots to steal a minute with Tess. Like it or not, she was royalty, though her actual status was a bit uncertain. And even if he thought it odd that she refused physical contact with him in public, she more than made up for it in private.

“We finally get to meet the Lost in Space crew?” When nobody even spared him a withering glance, Kyle knew they had to be nervous.

Standing at attention down the hall from them was one of Michael’s favorite soldiers, Jeren. Michael had taken an instant liking to him, even though he was often a bit too star struck when in the presence of the full Royals. The young man stiffened even further when he saw the progression of royalty and Michael nodded at him as they slowed to a stop.

“Has the ship docked yet?”

“A few moments ago, Sir. You were notified the minute our sensors picked up their signal.”

Michael nodded in approval, and he saw the pride creep into the young soldier’s eyes. He’d decided from the first second on the strange planet that he could never have enough loyal soldiers. “Good work.”

Max tried not to smile as they passed Michael’s protégé. “You’re his hero, you know.”

Michael shrugged off the compliment, feeling uneasy with it. “Yeah, well the kid doesn’t know better yet.” Michael’s heart was hammering in his chest as he entered the hanger and was faced with the enormous ship before him. Even after insisting on touring the hanger bays, he was still impressed by the amazing ships he kept coming into contact with. And if Michael hadn’t known before that his brother was on board, he would have known now. How could he not when his presence was shimmering in the air around them? Was this what Max and Isabel felt all the time? He was frightened to move forward any further, for fear of damaging this new gift he hadn’t even known possible to have.

But the doors to the craft were opening and people were filing out. Some he recognized from pictures in the debriefing he’d come from in order to meet Max for the daily technology update. Others weren’t as recognizable and he figured they simply hadn’t had time to get to them all yet. These men and woman had represented the greatest potential of the time to help regain control of Antar when the time was right.

Max looked past Michael’s worried stance to the people that would be helping him in the time to come. He did his duty as the etiquette experts had drilled into his head the first week he had been here. Bowing stiffly, inclining his head slightly, he me the eyes of each one of them. They had all given up their lives for him. Most of their family and friends had aged normally while they’d been traveling at near light speeds for the last twenty years. It was the least Max could do under the circumstances.

Some of them stopped to speak with Max for a moment, but Michael’s guards were quick to rush them away. They had twenty years worth of information to be briefed on before they would meet with the King. As Max watched, another man stepped onto the platform and took a second to look around and acclimate himself before moving forward.

His dark hair gleamed in the artificial lighting, accenting the occasional streak of blue when he moved. He was young, not more than a few years older than Max himself. His skin had an odd hue to it, a color Max couldn’t identify easily. And he knew without a shadow of a doubt that whoever the man was, he wasn’t Antarian. Max had heard of several of the neighboring planets and their inhabitants. Mostly, they were staying away from Antar, not feeling safe enough to travel to the warring planet, and this was Max’s first glimpse of the other worlders. The man’s eyes moved over the small group of people surrounding Max and finally paused when they rested on Max himself. Grinning wide, he hurried forward towards them.

Tess leaned in closer to Max. “Is that Larek?” He was oddly familiar, but she couldn’t place why. She studied him carefully, wondering what the strange pull she was feeling towards him meant. It was electric and she had the urge to run up to him and…do what? Throw herself at him? This was Zan’s best friend, a friend of Ava’s husband. She had probably been close to him, and was feeling it. That was all.

“Your guess is as good as mine.” But he already knew it was Larek. It was a gut instinct. He could trust the man walking toward them. That was instinct too, but he was still trying to decide if he could trust that instinct or not.

“Max, you don’t know how good it is to see you in person,” he joked, automatically reaching out to shake Max’s hand.

“Larek?”

“But of course. You were expecting a British accent?”

Max found himself grinning at the man and knew he had done so hundreds of times. “I guess so.” And then Max had no idea where to go with the conversation next. But he was saved from having to continue when Larek turned to Michael.

“Michael, it’s good to see you too. I look forward to speaking with you later, to see what they’ve told you and what they’ve been holding back.”

Michael’s eyes widened slightly. So far, no one outside their group had openly acknowledged that information was being held from them. Though they all suspected it. “I’m looking forward to it too.”

And then he turned his eyes onto Tess and his face lit up. He reached for her hand and brought it to his lips to brush a kiss against her knuckles. “Tess,” he all but whispered. “You are even more beautiful now than you ever were before. You surely put all the women of Earth to shame.”

Kyle’s jaw all but dropped open. Was this guy for real? Was he seriously flirting with Tess in front of him like that? He narrowed his eyes and glared at him, but Larek only had eyes for Tess. He half expected Tess to give him one of her infamous scathing remarks. So, when none came, he glanced at her and found that his jaw did drop open this time. She was blushing! In all the time he’d known her, he’d never seen her blush, hadn’t even thought her capable really. And all this guy did was waltz up and lay a big kiss on her hand and toss around a few compliments and she was scarlet? And he knew then that he’d seriously underestimated alien connections.

“It’s nice to meet you, Larek. It’s nice to see familiar faces.” She couldn’t help the tingling sensation that was running up her arm from where he still held her hand. It was even more electrifying than the way his eyes pierced hers. And what eyes they were. She’d never seen a color quite like it. They seemed iridescent, changing shades every time she met them. And they were almost hypnotizing. She knew she should be careful, that she had spent her life being cautious of strangers. But she trusted this man instantly.

Max had watched Larek and Tess interact, and he frowned over the greeting. He glanced quickly at Kyle and saw that indeed, Kyle was getting ready to explode. Needing to do something to stop the freight train threatening to derail in front of his eyes, Max turned back to Larek. “Larek, you remember Kyle.”

Larek turned his gaze to Kyle and nodded briefly, not having had much contact with him over the years, but recognizing him just the same. Reluctantly, he let Tess slide her hand out of his and watched as Kyle moved to stand firmly beside her. Staking a claim, he imagined. And it amused him to watch the exchange. “Kyle, nice to see you again. I’m pleased you were able to make the trip. How are you finding Antar?”

“It’s a planet.” He shrugged, but kept his eyes on his newest foe. Larek might have been an old family friend and confidant, but he was threatening to take the one thing he treasured most in the universe. Tess. “But of course it helps that Tess and I have been exploring together. A lot.” Unable to help himself, he slid an arm around Tess’s waist. Oh yeah, that’s right. She’s mine. Kyle let the message stand loud and clear between them.

Shocked out of her trance, Tess turned to look at Kyle and found him locked in a staring contest with Larek. With practiced ease, she slid out of his arm and took a step away so that she stood perfectly between the two men. Kyle’s blue eyes flickered in her direction briefly and she met them, showing him her anger for a split second. No matter how many times she explained it, he didn’t seem to understand. Her place here was tenuous at best and she wasn’t ready to make a public spectacle of herself with him just yet. But still he persisted, trying to corner her in hallways for a quick kiss or a brief touch. She still didn’t know the rules of this game. She didn’t know enough about Antar to be willing to risk everything for a public display of affection.

Larek turned back to Tess, forcing a smile for her. “If you enjoy seeing the planet, you’ll have to let me show you around some time. As a young boy, I traveled over much of this land. I can show you places no one else knows about.”

Kyle rolled his eyes behind Tess’s back. No way she would fall for such an obvious line. But to his surprise, he found her nodding her head.

“I’d like that. I haven’t been able to see as much as I’d like to yet. It isn’t safe I’ve been told. But I’m sure it would be with you there.”

Kyle felt the blade slide into his heart quickly. It wasn’t a fatal wound, or even one he hadn’t suffered at Tess’s hands already. But it hurt just the same. He didn’t need a constant reminder that he wasn’t equipped to protect Tess here. He knew it well enough. She’d been in a funk since discovering that she had no remaining family, and he’d thought exploring would be a fine way to take her mind off her depression. But she wouldn’t travel outside of the gates with him, insisting it wasn’t safe. But apparently it was with Larek.

Michael listened to Kyle and Larek and heard the underlying tones. Any other time, he probably would have snapped at one of them to shut up. But not now when the shimmering in the air was becoming more noticable. Even before he heard the heavy clang of boots hitting the metal platform, Michael knew who it was.

Raising his eyes, Michael Guerin came face to face with the family he’d spent his life searching for.

Loren was tall, a few inches more so than Michael. He didn’t see them at first and busied himself with the bag he had slung over his shoulders. He wore a uniform, not military gray, but the slate blue that Michael had come to associate with the scientists working on the device to bring Maria and Liz to Antar. His brother was a scientist. It was weird to think about it, and he wished for the millionth time that Maria was there. She would have rushed forward by now and they would probably already be engrossed in conversation.

But Maria wasn’t there. And so Michael watched and waited to see how his brother would react.

Michael didn’t have to wait long. Loren stepped down from the platform and turned towards the group. Michael found himself looking automatically for similar features, then stopped. Why would there be any similarities? He forced himself not to expect anything. But nothing could have prepared him for Loren’s reaction to seeing him.

He simply froze in the middle of the hanger. His bag dropped to the floor and he stared at Michael for a long minute. Michael held his gaze, waiting for some cue as to how to act now. His heart was hammering in his throat and then Loren started moving toward him. He forced his muscles not to coil and brace for some sort of attack, but they did anyway. Loren stopped a foot away from Michael and let his eyes roam Michael’s face.

“It’s really you, isn’t it?”

Michael swallowed. He didn’t want to have to tell this man, his brother, that he didn’t recognize him. So, he nodded. “Yeah.”

Loren took in Michael tense stance and the hint of defiance in the way he held his head and wanted to laugh. The doctors had told him time and again not to expect to see his brother standing before him. And he’d tried. But the man before him was so much like Rath, that he knew at least on some level that it was his brother in front of him. The same brother he’d watched die not more than a few weeks ago. And before he could stop himself, he had crushed Michael in a tight hug.

Taken of guard, Michael could do nothing but return the gesture. Here was family, blood relations, even though the blood that ran through their veins weren’t similar. They were every bit as much family as Max and Isabel were. Loren pulled back after a moment and placed one hand on Michael’s shoulder.

“You have no idea how good it is to see you. When we designed the pods, we had no way of knowing if they would actually work or what you would remember. I have so many questions I don’t even know where to start. What sort of abilities do you have? How much do you remember? How long were you in the pods?”

Michael heard a familiar clicking of heels from the corridor and all of the answers he wanted to give to Loren fled from his mind. He turned in time to see Isabel enter the room. Dropping his hands from Loren’s shoulders, Michael moved to stand beside Max. Isabel had to be there to give them the update on the machinery. But that couldn’t be good news. She never came to do that herself.

“Isabel?” Max asked, sensing her frustration.

Isabel nodded to Max, then Michael. She saw a couple of new faces in their crowd, but they weren’t her concern. “You need to come with me.”

“Have they figured it out?” Michael pressed.

Loren watched the exchange with interest and confusion. He’d observed the way the others had recognized her footsteps and knew she had to be one of the other royals. But which one? Vilondra or Ava? Zan’s wife or sister? His scientific mind observed the hint of frustration and tension in their voices, and he wondered what was so pressing. Not for the first time, he wondered how much he had missed out on in the last twenty-six years.

Isabel sighed. “Just come to the lab.”

Michael swore when Isabel turned on her heels and took off down the hall. He turned to Max. “I hate when she does that.”

Max’s face was hard. This couldn’t be good. “Let’s go.”

Not waiting to see who would follow, Max and Michael took off down the corridor towards the lab. Max could have found the room in his sleep for all the time he’d spent in it. The first few weeks on Antar he’d harassed and pushed the technicians and scientists to work harder and faster. Until he’d finally seen that he hadn’t been helping the situation any, and he’d backed off.

In a matter of minutes, Max and Michael entered the room together. Alex was standing behind a large piece of plexiglass, writing notes on a clipboard. He looked up when he heard them enter and he pulled his safety glasses off. Nudging the man beside him, Alex gestured toward Max and Michael.

“This is bad news, Maxwell.” They had never been called into the lab before. In fact, they were usually happy to get rid of them.

The man hurried up to them and bowed slightly to Max and Michael. “Sir, I apologize for calling you both in here on such short notice. Would you care for a seat?”

“What’s wrong?” Michael asked curtly.

“Michael, just sit,” Isabel commanded, her hands folded over her chest. “It’s not all bad news.”

Seeing that neither man made any sign of movement, the man continued. “We have been testing the safety parameters of the spacial device with some interesting results.” He picked up a clipboard and offered it to Max to view.

“What sort of tests?”

“We have been sending the device to known planets for varying amounts of time before retrieving it. We then test for damages to the transport pod, signs of aging-“

“How do you retrieve the pod?” Max asked. He’d known they had reached the point where they could send the pod out, but he hadn’t approved any test subjects to ride inside of it yet.

“Timing devices inside the pod. We’re able to control it through a remote device and bring it back when we’re ready.”

“Why are you testing for signs of aging?” Michael didn’t know much about the process, but he wanted to know everything.

“To determine how long it takes the pod to transport from place to place,” Isabel explained with a wave of her hand. She and Alex had been working with the technicians to try to offer fresh approaches to the work they’d been doing, but with little success so far.

“So, how long does it take?”

“It depends on the planet. Some planets only a few seconds, some even less than that. But that’s not the real problem,” Alex informed them.

“Then what is?” Max turned to Alex, hoping for a straight answer to what had everyone so upset. “What are we missing?”

“You wouldn’t authorize anyone to actually be inside the pod yet, so we did the next best thing. We included plant life inside of the pod, to see if the atmosphere stayed stabilized, but we found something unexpected.” Alex picked up a small potted plant on the table beside them. It’s purple leaves were long and looked to be covered with some sort of thorn. Though the pot was small, there seemed to be dozens of the leaves. “It’s really pretty interesting and so typical of science and technology, the way we made a breakthrough without even considering the other possibilities we might find.” When Max and Michael glared at him, he sighed. No one appreciated what they did.

“What Alex is trying to say is that we put a few different types of plant life inside the pod. When we brought it back, the plants had grown dramatically.”

Max frowned. “Well, how long was the pod on the planet?”

“Two hours.”

“How long does it take for this plant to grow?”

“Longer than two hours.”

Michael examined the plant again. “What are you saying?”

Loren moved from where he’d been listening and trying to figure out the puzzle and examined the plant. “She’s saying that while the pod they’ve designed may appear on the planet in an instant, there is a time bubble inside the pod itself. If you put someone inside, time will pass differently for them than it does outside the pod.”

Max scrubbed his hands over his face, weary. Talk of time travel and time differences always tired him out quickly. “What kind of time difference are we talking about?”

The scientist shook his head. “I’m afraid we don’t have enough information to determine that yet. We’ll need to run some more tests and –“

“Then run the tests,” Max interrupted. “Just don’t put people inside of that thing until we know more.” Max turned to Michael and saw him turning the new information over in his mind. Hovering on the edges of the group were the rest of the group that had departed from the deep space ship.

Turning to one of Michael’s guards, Max gestured to the people at the edge of the group. “Can you see that they are all assigned rooms and given the materials they need to catch up on anything they’ve missed in the last twenty years?”

The guard nodded and turned towards the group of people. Max reached out for the plant and stared at it closely. He felt Isabel’s presence behind him and she smiled warmly at him.

“We’ll find a way, Max.”

“I’m still going back tomorrow, Isabel.”

Isabel’s face stiffened. They’d been over this a dozen times already. “Max, you know how dangerous that is. What if-“

Isabel was cut off by the sudden, violent shake of the earth beneath their feet. She stumbled along with the rest of the room’s occupants, clutching at anything handy to prevent a fall. The first shake was followed immediately by a second and Max fell to the floor. Around them, the sounds of breaking glass mixed with the alarmed cries as people ducked and covered. The lights flickered once then blinked out, trapping them in darkness.

Max clutched his sister close, wanting to keep her as safe as he could. And it wasn’t long before the back up power kicked in. The lights were faint, but were a welcome change from the darkness. And in the next second, an alarm sounded overhead. Well trained for that sound, the guards around them sprang into action, leaping to their feet even as a third shake rocked the building.

Isabel turned wide eyes to Max. “Max?”

Alex appeared at their side and Max relinquished his sister to him. Alex cradled her close to his body, shielding her from the glass that continued to rain down. Another shake rocked the foundation of the building and Max suspected it was several blasts at once. He forced himself to his feet and slowly made his way over to where Michael was crouched. He’d seen one of the guards talking to him and he needed to know what they were up against. A piece of the ceiling fell on the other side of the room and shattered into a thousand pieces of rubble.

“Michael, what do you know?”

Loren appeared at Michael’s side, steadying himself against the wall as the ground continued to shake violently. He turned to Michael. “We’re being attacked, aren’t we?” He remembered the last invasion all too well. It had led to the death of his family.

Looking to Michael for confirmation, Max swore when he saw the look on Michael’s face. “We have to get to the war room.”

Gesturing to the closest guard, Michael barked out orders. “Get everyone out of here now.” He turned to Max, and saw the defeated look in his best friend’s eyes. “Khivar just declared war.”

posted on 18-Jul-2002 1:50:15 PM
Wherever You May Go
Part 10

Large chunks of the ceiling rained down on Tess as she tried to make a path for the door. Kyle was at her elbow, unharmed, and it was the only reason she was able to stay remotely calm. He had always had that effect on her, lending her strength without ever having to ask for it.

Another explosion rocked the palace walls and she fell to her knees in pain. She gripped the back of her head when she felt the throbbing pain. Looking around in confusion, she saw another piece of the ceiling lying beside her. Had she been hit?

“Tess! Are you okay?” Kyle fell to his knees beside her, pulling aside her blonde locks to look for injuries. A thin trickle of blood was running down the back of her neck and a slick fear raced through him. He swept his thumb over her skull, looking for the injury.

“I’m okay, Kyle. We have to get out of here though. Where is everyone else?” It hurt to move her head and she relied on him, trusted him with her weakness.

Kyle glanced around the room. He’d seen Max and Michael slip out the door a few minutes ago after Michael had barked out some commands. He’d assumed they had been meant for the guards, but he doubted the guards were going to be much help. Two of them were lying prone on the floor, unconscious. While two others were unsuccessfully trying to herd the visitors out of the lab. Alex was in the back of the room, standing amidst the worst of the rubble shouting out orders while he tried to secure the device they had been working so hard on.

“Isabel and Alex are in the back. Max and Michael are gone already. The guards are trying to get the visitors out of here.” They needed their help. He turned concerned eyes back to Tess. “Are you okay enough to help?”

Without having to even consider it, she rose unsteadily to her feet. “Yes. I’ll take the guards. Can you handle Alex and Isabel?”

“I’ve got them. You get the others out of here and I’ll meet you in the War Room.”

Needing the contact, Tess placed her hand on Kyle’s arm. His eyes met hers again and she was content to let her eyes tell him everything he needed to know. “Be careful.”

Kyle’s eyes watered when he saw the sheer emotion in her eyes. It had been more intimate than any kiss goodbye could ever have been. It was a glimpse of the vulnerable side of Tess that he loved. If only they lived through this, he vowed to tell her what she meant to him. Instead, he skimmed his thumb over her cheek. “You too. I’d hate to have to come rescue you.”

Tess laughed, then clutched at Kyle’s arm as another explosion rocked the palace. “Go. I’ll meet you later.”

Kyle nodded before turning and heading back into the room. He could make out some of Alex’s shouts over the shrill alarm that still sounded. And he picked his way over the rubble as quickly as he dared.

“Alex!”

“Kyle, good. Listen, I need you to grab that stack of papers over there. Get it out of the room then come back for the metal box in the corner.”

Kyle latched a hand onto Alex’s arm. “Alex, we need to get out of here now.”

Alex shook his head. “No. We have to save this machine. If it gets destroyed, do you have any idea how long it will be before we can bring Liz and Maria over here?” As Alex spoke, he continued tugging at the large tarp that lay partially over the transporter.

“What good is bringing them over if it’s only for your funeral? Do you think they would want you to risk your life for them? I can guarantee they’d both say no.”

“I’m not leaving this room until it’s secure. I’m not leaving them behind.” Alex paused long enough to meet Kyle’s eyes. They had evolved as friends over the years, becoming as close as two friends could be. And Alex silently begged Kyle to understand him now. Liz and Maria were his only family left. Leaving them behind had been the single hardest thing he’d had to have done in his life. It was why he’d thrown everything he had into the project to bring them back. And it was why he couldn’t abandon it now.

“Alex, I’ve got the data out of the room. Do you need a hand?”

Alex broke the stand off to grab at Isabel when the ground shook again. A large bookshelf behind them wobbled before crashing to the ground. “Isabel, you have to get out of here. Help Tess with the others.”

Isabel shook her head fiercely. “What about you? I’m not leaving you in here by yourself.”

Kyle swore, but made up his mind. “I’ll help Alex. Just get Tess and the others out of here.”

Uncertain, Isabel hovered. Alex stepped forward and planted a kiss on her lips. “Just go. Kyle and I will be out of here in a minute. And I’ll work faster if I know you’re safe.”

Isabel pressed her lips against Alex’s for a quick second. “I love you.”

“I love you too, now go.”

He waited to make sure Isabel was safely out of the deepest part of the room before turning back to Kyle. “Thanks, man.”

“Don’t thank me yet. We might die in this room together and we’ll have eternity to have these discussions. Now, what do I do?”

“I’ve almost got this end done. Just secure the line and I’ll get the other side. It needs to be tight.”

Kyle secured the line while Alex swiftly tied the diagonal end. Chaos continued to reign around them and when another shelf fell, Kyle could feel the sharp sting of chemicals burning through his clothes to his skin. But when he felt the warmth at his back, he knew there was bigger trouble.

A small fire had been ignited by the chemicals and he automatically whipped off his jacket and began beating it back. He coughed as the acrid smell of reached his nose. “How much longer?”

“Almost there.” Alex gritted his teeth and tugged at the line one last time. “Done!” He took a second to glance at it. The tarp that hung above the machine was crude at best, but it would hopefully prevent the larger chunks of the ceiling from falling onto the device. If the entire roof fell, there wasn’t anything much that could be done.

Succeeding in putting out the fire, Kyle tugged his jacket back on. It was a long way to the War Room and he had no idea what would wait them along the way. “Alex, we’re leaving now!”

“Coming,” Alex muttered as he threw the last of the data he’d been working on into a metal briefcase. He wouldn’t be able to carry it, but at least it would be safer than sitting out.

“Alex, now!” If they lived through this, Kyle was going to kill Alex himself. And then his old friend was beside him and they struggled through the growing pile of rubble towards the door.

A loud cry from the hallway caught both their attentions and wordlessly, they moved out into the hallway towards the source of the sound. A woman was fighting against the flames licking the doorway of another room. Down the hall, a loud explosion sounded, causing debris to fly out into the hallway.

Kyle glanced at Alex, wondering if they would ever make it out of this hallway alive. “I’ll take the chick. You check out the explosion, make sure no one was in there.”

Alex nodded and took off down the hall. Kyle turned back towards the burning room, glad he’d kept his jacket. “Who’s in there?”

“My daughter! She ran back inside before I could stop her. Please, you have to help her.”

The hysterical woman was clutching at his arm and glanced at the fire. It looked bad, but not impossible. Shrugging out of his jacket, he wrapped it around his face before leaping into the room.

*~*~

Max reached the War Room to find it in a state of panic. He recognized the military advisors in various states of alarm as they barked out orders to each other. Around them, the room continued to shake, though it was supposed to be one of the most secure in the building.

“What’s going on?” Max asked, leaning against the large table for support. When they all started talking at once, he pointed to one of them. “You tell me.”

“Sir, Khivar’s men advanced on us more quickly than we anticipated. They invaded from the North and took out our scouts before they had the chance to report in. Since then, they’ve advanced along the Eastern portion of the palace and are still moving.”

“He didn’t go through the village at the Southern half yet,” Michael stated. “They should have time to get to safety.” He glanced at the viewscreen spinning in the middle of the table. It showed where Khivar’s men were in relation to their men. “Where are the troops?”

“Deployed, but there was a delay. In your absence we sent them along the Western route, and were unprepared for the attack on the East.”

Michael swore viciously. “How long before they intercept?”

“Five maybe ten minutes.”

“We may not have that long. This place could be taken down any second.” Max paused in thought. “We can get there quicker than they can.” He turned to Michael. “How are your power blasts looking these days?”

Michael met Max’s eye. “Better than yours.” He pushed off from the table, moved to the glowing viewscreen. “I’ll start here. I think I can beat them, hold them off at least for a few minutes until my men arrive. I think that can give us maybe five minutes. But not much more.”

“It’ll have to do. This is dangerous, Michael. Do you want my help?”

Michael shook his head. “I do, but you’re not coming. You’re a King now, Maxwell. Go command someone. Let me do my job.”

Max nodded. “Go then.” He watched Michael turn and sprint out of the room. Then Max turned to one of his advisors. “I need you to make sure the villagers are safe. I don’t care what you have to do, just take care of it.”

*~*~

Michael headed up the last staircase that spiraled to one of the high turrets hidden in the palace. The building had been built for grace and elegance, and such necessities were well hidden to the naked eye. But Michel had taken it upon himself to learn all the tactical advantages he could.

He was amazing himself today with the instinct he’d allowed to take over. He hadn’t stopped to think or doubt himself. He simply knew that he could do these things. It was a natural part of who he was. And it was the first time he truly felt as if he belonged inside the palace walls on this planet.

He could hear the sound of boots pounding against the cool marble behind him and he knew he had three guards following him. He’d thought them obtrusive at first, but he was thankful for their presence now.

They reached the top and Michael scouted as far as he could see. No sign of Khivar’s men now, the familiar green uniforms were nowhere to be seen yet. They still had time.

Luckily, the weapons he’d had stockpiled in each turret were still sitting where he’d asked. And he reached for one of the larger looking weapons. It emitted a power blast akin to Lightening, and in the demonstrations he’d seen, it was a damn powerful weapon. He handed it to the man closest to him and he took it with wide eyes. The guards were palace guards and he doubted they’d ever seen the inside of a war, but then neither had he. They would have to learn together.

“Don’t let them advance any further. No matter what you have to do. We’re here to slow them down until the real troops get here.” Michael caught the first glimpse of green moving toward them and he raised his hand towards them. Pooling his energy, he built up enough to release a blast that sailed through the air and landed a few feet in front of the advancing troops.

They paused briefly before they began to fire blindly at the palace itself. Michael ducked backward and gestured to the man he’d given the large weapon to. They waited for a break in the weapon fire before the young officer aimed and let loose a powerful stream of light. When Michael dared to look, he found that the weapon had created a large crater in the ground.

“We need more of those lying around,” he mumbled before releasing another blast from his hand. Around him, the other men had picked up weapons of their own and had begun firing on the troops.

Michael finally saw the device that had been causing so much damage to the palace itself, and he took only a second to marvel at it as it fired. It didn’t emit a firepower blast like he thought it would, but more than anything the air seemed to ripple where the blast should be. And though there was no streak of lightning or smoking blast, the damage to the palace walls was just the same.

He nudged the guard closest to him. “On the count of three, we fire on that thing. You ready?” When the man nodded, he hoped this would work. It was only a matter of a few minutes before Khivar’s men figured out their location and turned that weapon loose on them. “One…” He raised his hand and saw the guard do the same with his weapon. “Two…” He pooled his energy and the gun beside him glowed blue with the charge. “Three!” Together, they fired, aiming for the cannon. There was a pause in the space of a second when he wasn’t sure if they’d hit it, but for once he’d been on target and the grey machinery exploded into a hundred pieces, sending a shockwave along the ground.

Michael watched as the wave hit anyone standing within fifty feet of it, and the soldiers went down instantly. From the southern side of the building, Michael caught a glimpse of the royal blue uniforms his men wore and he let out a deep breath as the two armies exchanged cross fire.

He turned to congratulate his men when a well placed shot rocked the turret. Michael ducked behind the wall and swore when he saw the red blood trickling down his arm. He forced himself to pull the ripped fabric aside and caught a glimpse of the gash in his arm from the laser fire. He would live, but it would hurt like a bitch.

Pulling at his belt, he wrapped the leather around his arm and pulled it tight. Around him, the three guards continued their fire on the troops below. Beneath him, the ground was tilting and he didn’t know if it was the pain or the attack that was causing it. But he forced himself to rise to his feet anyway. Raising his good arm, he prepared to send another blast onto the troops below.

*~*~

It was hours after the attacks had stopped and still they were waiting for everyone to meet in the War Room. Max had remained, against his better judgment that had told him to go and do something to protect the people he loved. It was a battle he knew he would have to fight with himself constantly now.

Michael had returned an hour and a half after he had initially left and he’d been in no shape to sit in on the meeting. Max had pulled rank on him for once and had ordered him to have his arm looked at. Loren had taken him to the medic, saying something about times never changing.

Tess and Isabel had arrived next, and had been met with fierce hugs. Max hadn’t said anything, but his chief fears had been for the two girls. They were tough, but stubborn sometimes. And he’d known that he wouldn’t see them until they had taken it upon themselves to see that everyone around them was safe. But he had been surprised that Alex and Kyle hadn’t been with them.

The first sun had set outside and the second wasn’t far from following. Ordinarily, it was Max’s favorite time of the day when the sky was lit up in an electric blue. It always made him think of Liz and wish that she was there to share it with him. But for the first time since he’d stepped foot on the planet, he was thankful that she was on Earth, billions of miles away from the carnage they’d seen and lived through today. She was safe, and it had given him the ability to clear his head and do what had to be done.

Tess was nursing a cut to the back of her head that she had been able to heal herself before rejoining Max in the War Room. Isabel had escaped with some cuts and bruises, but nothing more severe than torn clothes and a long scratch down the side of her neck.

One of the Generals was outlining the plan of action he recommended in dealing with Khivar. And Max listened with half an ear. Larek sat beside him, sending notes to him through the electronic devices in front of them. They reminded Max of computers, but as Alex had described them, with about ten thousand times the capabilities. Larek seemed delighted in the turn technology had taken in his absence, and was trying to help outline some of the battle plans the Generals were describing.

Max was grateful for his help, and could see how Larek had been one of Zan’s closest friends. His advice was sharp and incisive, and even though he still hadn’t had a chance to catch up on the last twenty years, his logic was infallible.

The doors behind them opened and Michael and Loren breezed through. Michael nodded towards Max, but smiled. “Look who I found.”

Alex limped in behind Michael, a grin on his face. Isabel was out of her chair in a heartbeat and threw herself into Alex’s arms. He grimaced from the force of Isabel’s vault, but clung to her nonetheless.

“Are you okay?” She pulled away from him long enough to run her hands over him, looking for injuries.

“Please, Isabel. We’re in public,” he joked. “I’m fine. Really. Just some scrapes. How about you? What’s this?” He touched a finger to the long scratch along her neck.

“It’s nothing. God, I was so worried about you.” She pulled his lips back to his and hugged him close. “Don’t you ever do that to me again! I’ve been worried sick over you. We sent guards out to look for you.”

”Yeah, we ran into them a little while ago. Good thing too or we might still be trapped back in that access tunnel.” Kyle followed Alex into the room wearing a matching grin. He turned to Max. “You need to install a sprinkler system in this place.”

Tess’s face crumpled when she took in Kyle’s appearance. His clothes were badly singed and ripped in more places than she could count. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbow and were caked with dried blood. His face was covered in soot, and the jacket slung casually over his shoulder was so badly burned, she wouldn’t have been able to recognize it as his. She rose from her chair and pulled Kyle back into the hallway.

Running her hands over his body, she winced every time he did. “What did you do to yourself? What happened to ‘Be careful’?”

“I was careful. I’m standing here to tell the tale, aren’t I?” Ignoring her protests, he ran a hand up the back of her head. “How are you? You took a nasty bump to the head when I saw you last. Are you okay?”

“Stop worrying about me. I’m fine.” Tears sprang to her eyes and blurred her vision. The unexpected emotion threw her and she didn’t know what to do with herself. But Kyle settled the matter for her and pulled her into his arms.

“It’s okay,” he murmured. “I’m fine. We all are.”

“You could have died today,” she sniffled, clinging to him with everything she had. “I could have lost you.”

“You didn’t.” His heart swelled with joy when she continued to cling to him. It was a huge step for her to admit that she needed him, and even bigger that she was sniffling over it. In all the time he’d ever known Tess, it was the closest he’d come to see her cry. Crying was a weakness that she’d been taught never to show. Nasedo had done his job well, stifling her emotions and burying them deep inside. But he’d done an even better job, pulling her out of her shell and showing her that emotion wasn’t a weakness, but a gift. And for the millionth time, he wanted to tell her he loved her. But as always, the words wouldn’t come.

“I’m sorry to interrupt.”

Tess pulled out of Kyle’s arms and turned to see Larek standing in the doorway. Kyle glared at the man, not caring if he was sorry or not. He’d walked in on an important moment.

“If you two are both feeling up to returning to the meeting, Max would like to start again.”

“Of course.” Tess nodded to Larek, smiling slightly.

Kyle examined her face and saw that she had already erased all signs of tears from it. It disappointed him, but he knew he would have to accept it for now. There wasn’t time to get into it with her. Especially not when everyone was waiting for them to develop a plan of action. Tess should be in there, queen or not, and he knew she wanted to be.

And even though Larek was supposed to be one of Zan and Ava’s oldest and most trusted friends, Kyle vowed to keep an eye on the blue haired smooth-talker. After all, Zan and Ava had been murdered, and most of the players from that time were all back together now. The rumor floating around the palace was that not all of the traitors had been caught twenty years ago. And if Larek so much as looked at anyone funny, he would become Kyle’s number one suspect. And he would make it his goal in life to expose him to everyone.


posted on 18-Jul-2002 1:50:43 PM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 11

Diane carefully arranged cookies on a large plate, taking care to position each one perfectly. She had already poured the milk and now that the time had come to pick up the tray, her arms didn’t have the strength.

“They’re okay, Diane. We have to believe that.”

“I know.” She sighed, accepting her husbands embrace as his arms circled her waist. She sunk into it gratefully. “I just wish we could know for sure.”

“It’s a minor setback. Max didn’t come back today. Our son is a ruler and his planet is at war.” Phillip had long ago accepted his children’s roles and that there would be times of danger. He’d also accepted the role he would have to play in the absence of them all. And he squeezed his arms tighter around his wife.

“I just feel so bad for Liz. She was so excited this morning, so sure they would come. She’s been pregnant for six months now and Max doesn’t even know. She can’t share that joy with him.” And it broke her heart. Max would want to be there for every second of Liz’s pregnancy.

“Maybe it’s better that he’s not here then.”

Diane turned in Phillip’s arms. “How can you say that?”

“Max was only coming back for the day, to see Liz and tell her what was going on. How would he have been able to leave her if he knew she was pregnant? I know our son. He wouldn’t have. And what would have happened to those people that depend on him? Besides, if they really are in the middle of a war, Max would be distracted if he knew about Liz and the baby. It could be the only thing saving his life.”

Diane sighed, lowering her head. “You’re right. It’s just not fair. She needs him, and Maria doesn’t complain much either, but I know she misses Michael like crazy.”

Phillip pressed a kiss to Diane’s forehead. “Then it’s our responsibility to take care of all three of them for now.”

Diane managed a smile. “We should get back in there. Poor Amy’s probably talking their ears off trying to keep them distracted. Thank you for being the best husband ever though.”

“It’s easy when I have the best wife,” Phillip replied. He hefted the tray and followed Diane through Liz’s kitchen towards the living room.

He could see Liz and Maria before he ever reached the doorway. They were huddled together on the couch. Liz had her knees drawn up to her chin, and her head rested on Maria’s shoulder. Maria had draped her arm around Liz’s shoulders and at first glance, it looked as though Maria was holding Liz up. But Phillip knew enough about the two girls in there to know that the only reason they’d survived this long already was because of each other.

Today had been the fabled day when Max was supposed to have come back to at least see Liz, fulfilling the promise he’d made to her in the last few minutes before he’d left the planet behind. Liz’s enthusiasm had been contagious and they’d all gone out to the pod chamber together. And as each hour came and went without a sign of Max or Michael, despair had begun to set in. It had been after ten that night before they could convince Liz that she had to leave so she could at least eat something.

His own heart ached for word of his children and their friends, but like everyone else, Phillip felt that he had to be strong. They all ached in their own way. Jim was the protector, always checking in to make sure everything was as it should be. Amy fluttered over them all like a mother hen. Diane felt responsible for Liz and Max’s baby and had taken it upon herself to make sure Liz ate and took vitamins. And Phillip had decided to take on his son’s role as the silent strength of the group. He’d watched Max do it for years, never truly understanding his son. But the situation had given him a new appreciation of everything Max had lived through.

With a carefully placed smile, Phillip set the tray down on the coffee table and handed a glass to Liz. “Milk for the mommy to be.”

Liz flashed him a grateful smile and took the glass, though she doubted she would drink it. She faced them all together for the first time since they’d left the pods. “I’m sorry. I really though they’d come.”

“Liz, we told you that you don’t have anything to be sorry for,” Jim insisted. “You had every right to be excited. But just because no one came today doesn’t mean anything bad.”

“Maybe they’re finally listening to reason,” Maria joked. “Do you think there’s anyone up there to kick sense into them without us?”

“Are you kidding? I feel sorry for them. Isabel and Tess are probably driving them crazy with their worrying.” Liz liked the image. It was one that she clung to at night when she lay in bed alone. Max would be a striking figure, leading his people bravely. And when no one was looking, Isabel would bring him food to make sure he ate. Tess would gently remind him of the priority level of everything he had to deal with and Isabel would resort to a yelling contest.

Pressing a hand to her still flat stomach, Liz wondered how long it would be before she began showing. She had nothing to go off of, and as far as she could tell, her pregnancy should be developed to a stage that normal three-month pregnancies should be at. And that meant it wouldn’t be too long before she started showing.

She and Maria had stayed up late talking about it a few nights ago. Realistically, they had no way of knowing when she would deliver. And so she would have to hide it until the last possible minute. It hurt to know that she couldn’t share her joy with the world, but at least she had the people in this room that loved her and her baby already. It would have to be enough.

Needing to move, Liz rose from the couch and walked over to the window. She gazed up at the stars, and found herself wondering what went on up there. She crossed her arms over her chest, leaving one hand free to toy with the pendant on her necklace. There had been something bubbling up inside of her all day, a decision that needed to be set free.

Up until a few hours ago, she’d been convinced she would at least get to see Max for an hour or two, to hold him close and be able to tell him how much she loved him. She would have been able to tell him about their child. But when she’d realized he wasn’t coming, it had weighted her heart down. There were two reasons why Max wouldn’t have come today. He was either injured too badly to travel, or he was in a dangerous situation.

The way they had left using the Granolith meant that for Max to have come back through today, she would have had to be there to allow Salia access to her body. She was the only one that could activate the Granolith from the Earth side. And leaving the pod chamber to return to her apartment with Maria meant that she was giving up on seeing Max until he was able to construct some sort of device to come get her.

She couldn’t sit in the pod chamber every day, just waiting on the off chance Max tried to come back. And it was an acknowledgement that she would have to move on. There wasn’t even a guarantee that Max would find his way back before their child was born. And Liz’s first responsibility now had to be for the child she carried. She would have to learn how to live without Max again.

*~*~

“Max?”

Max raised his head from the pile of charts when he heard Alex’s voice. “Alex, hey. What’s up?”

Alex stepped closer, making sure to tread carefully. “Max, I was wondering if you’d heard if it was safe enough for us to go back into the lab and check on the equipment.”

After the attack, Max had been forced to close down all sections of the palace that weren’t essential. He’d needed every person there to help with the injuries and accessing the damage. And the lab where Alex and Isabel had been helping out with the Teleporter had been closed off. “Yeah, I was just talking to Michael about it earlier. That section of the building should be safe. Can you just make sure to let me know how bad the damages are?” He was desperately afraid that the attack had set them back.

Alex nodded. “Sure.” He paused, shifting from one foot to the other when Max returned to the charts in front of him. “Max, it’s not your fault. You had no way of knowing you wouldn’t be able to go back.”

Max raised his head, but kept his gaze directed at the wall. “She was waiting for me, Alex. I know it. And I let her down.”

Taking a seat at the table beside Max, Alex sighed. “She probably was waiting for you. Because she loves you.”

“Alex, this isn’t exactly the pep talk I was looking forward to.”

Alex managed to grin. “Wait. I’m getting to that part. The thing about Liz is that when she loves, she does it with her whole heart. So, if you told her you were coming today, then I’m sure she was there waiting. But she trusts you too. And I’m sure she knows there was a good reason you weren’t there. She’ll never give up on you.”

Max faced Alex now. “Why don’t you hate me?”

Alex tilted his head curiously. “Why would I hate you?”

“It’s my fault they’re both stuck back there, Liz and Maria. They’re your best friends and they’re alone because of me.”

Alex shook his head. “Max, I know that there is a healthy amount of brooding that you’re capable of, but you have to listen to me on this one. I’ve known Liz and Maria for years, as far back as I can remember, they’ve always been there. And I love them. But they’re the most irritating, stubborn and hardheaded members of the female species that you’ll ever meet. If there’s something they want to do, they’re going to do it and god help anyone that gets in their way.”

Max’s lips twisted into a ghost of a smile. “I’ve noticed that.”

“I’m sure you have. But if you can get past the frustration of knowing them, you have to love them. They’re loyal and brave and stronger than you and I put together.” Alex averted his eyes, his heart heavy. “At first, I was upset when they didn’t want me to stay with them. But eventually I figured out that as long as they’re together, they’ll be fine. It’s us that are probably having the tougher time muddling through.”

“Thanks, Alex. Can you do me a favor and make sure they do whatever it takes to finish that device? I just…I don’t know how much longer I can live without her.”

“You got it.” It was the one thing he could and would do. If he hadn’t been able to stay behind with them, then the least he could do was put everything he had into bringing them up to Antar. Alex rose from the table and headed out the open doorway.

It had been almost twenty-four hours since the attack had first begun. Chaos had reigned for most of that time, but it had gradually come back under control. The village had been cleared out and Max had made sure they were all safe within the palace walls. Alex didn’t remember the last time he’d eaten or slept, and he was pretty sure he’d smelled better. He was still wearing the clothes he’d escaped from the lab room in, and though they were torn and bloody in places, he couldn’t bring himself to take the time to change. There were a thousand things to be done still.

“Did you talk to him?” Michael asked. He’d been waiting as patiently as he could in one of the nearby chambers. They’d taken a vote and had decided that Alex was the most capable of dealing with Max.

“Yeah. He said it was fine to go back in.” Alex wasn’t surprised to find Loren standing beside Michael. The pair were amusing enough and already seemed joined at the hip. Wherever Michael had gone, Loren had followed and vice versa. And Alex couldn’t help but think having family was already a good thing for Michael.

Loren turned to Michael. “I’ll see if I can round up the scientists in the east wing if you want to take the west.”

“You got it,” Michael agreed, already walking backwards toward the wing entrance. “I’ll meet you in the War Room in thirty minutes.”

Alex watched them go with a shake of his head. He needed to find Isabel and get the rest of the papers he’d managed to pull from the room. There was already going to be a ton of work to do to test for damages. Every system had to be checked out to make sure it was running before they could send it out for any more test runs.

“Am I the only one that thinks the two of them are weird?” Kyle asked as he came down the hall to meet Alex.

“No, you’re definitely not. Have you seen Isabel?”

“I think she said she was heading over towards the infirmary to check on a few people. Is Tess around here? I’ve been looking all over for her.”

Alex thought back, remembering seeing her somewhere. “I saw her with Larek about an hour ago. I didn’t catch where they were heading though.”

“Oh.” Kyle couldn’t pretend not to feel the slash of jealousy. But then there was no harm in walking down a hallway with someone, was there? Especially an old friend. For as long as he’d known Tess, she’d been obsessed with finding out more of who she used to be. Maybe Larek was helping her with that. And when the bile rose in his throat at the thought, he forced it back. Tess was a big girl. She could make her own decisions. “Where are you going?”

“Back to the lab. Max cleared us to start working again. You doing anything? I could use some help lugging all that data back in.”

Kyle took one more glance down the halls, hoping for a glimpse of Tess’s blonde hair. “I guess I’m not needed here. Let’s go.”

*~*~

“These should fit.” Tess pulled out a stack of clothes and handed them to Larek. She couldn’t say why, but his presence made her nervous. And then there was the way he looked at her, intense, as if he knew all of her secrets.

He held a hand out to take them and their hands brushed together. Warmth spread along his skin, tingling his nerves and his grin was slow. “Thank you.”

Tess pulled her hand away quickly. What the hell had that quick jolt through her system been about? She was careful to side step him as she crossed to the other side of the room towards the door. “I should let you rest. It’s been a long day.”

“Wait. Don’t go yet,” he pleaded with her. “I probably should be tired, but with everything that’s happened, I’m not sure I’ll be able to.”

Tess hovered in the doorway, caught between wanting to do what she was supposed to and wanting to ask him questions. When her curiosity won out, she stepped back in the room as he placed the clean clothes on the bed. “So, you and Zan were close friends,” she prompted.

Larek smiled, remembering. “Inseparable. He and Rath had grown up together and I met them at a party one year. We couldn’t have been more than eight or nine, and it was my first trip away from my home world. I’d had all these grand notions of adventure and intrigue and I found a lot of meetings and lectures instead. It was a wake up call as to what my life would be like if I entered the political world.”

“Is that why you became a scientist?”

“You could say so.” He examined her a minute. She had such curiosity burning in her eyes, he wondered if he could ever give her enough information to fill it. It was hard to remember that she didn’t know him, didn’t know their history. And it also stung. “But then I met Zan and Rath and I knew I’d found kindred souls. We had a wild time or two when Zan wasn’t in some training class or another. I actually stayed in the palace for a few years when I was younger. Then my father insisted that I learn my political role and I wasn’t allowed to return to Antar for many years. By the time I finally returned, you and Zan were betrothed.” As he’d expected, her face came up to study him. And he was caught by her beauty once again. How did she become more beautiful with each passing second?

“Had we met before then?”

Larek shook his head. “No. Though I wish we had. It would have made things so much easier.” He reached down and plucked her hand from the bed between them and held it gently. “Tess, I know that you’re not Ava, but I have to tell you that there are startling similarities. The way you carry yourself, the way you took charge when we were under attack, I saw Ava in those actions. And when I look into your eyes, I see my old friend.”

Tess’s instincts kicked in and warning bells began sounding in her head. What was going on? How had they gone from a friendly conversation about their past to this moment? Was he coming on to her? Impossible. Larek had been one of Zan’s closest friends. To him, the Royal Four had only been dead a matter of weeks, and in his mind, she was still married to Zan. Besides, she was with Kyle now. Happily. And Larek knew that. No, she had to be reading the situation wrong.

With a strained smile, Tess gently but firmly pulled her hand from Larek’s. “Thank you for the stories, but I really should let you rest.”

As quickly as the intensity of the situation had come upon them, it ended. And Larek smiled at her warmly, his hair gleamed blue in the rooms’ lighting as he stood. “I’m sorry to have startled you. I guess it’s just hard to get used to everything. I’ve barely begun mourning my friends’ deaths and now you’ve all been born again and lived separate lives I know nothing of.” He took a step towards her when he saw her eyes soften. “Tess, I know that you’re not Ava. But you do have her inside of you. And I think I’d like to get to know the woman in front me better.”

“Excuse me. I’m sorry for interrupting.” Alex leaned in the open doorway, breaking the conversation.

Tess jumped when she heard Alex’s voice and her first guilty thought had been that she was glad it hadn’t been Kyle who had walked in at that moment. The situation had been innocent, but she realized it might not have been seen that way. But when she turned towards the human, she found that Alex wasn’t alone. Kyle was standing behind him, arms crossed over his chest and a murderous gleam in his eyes.

“Alex. Kyle. Hey. Larek was just telling me about the old days.” She took a step closer to them and one away from Larek.

Larek smiled at Alex. “You’re Alex Whitman? I’ve heard remarkable things about you since I’ve been back. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He held out a hand and Alex shook it eagerly.

“The infamous Larek? It’s nice to meet you in person finally. Cool hair. Listen, I’m sorry to have interrupted, but Max just authorized us to go back into the labs to work on the teleporter. I know you’re just settling in, but I would love to hear your thoughts on what we’ve done so far.”

“Sure. Are you on your way now? I’ll come with you if you don’t mind the intrusion.”

Alex shook his head. “You’re no intrusion at all. Any friend of the kings’ is a friend of mine. Hey, you know Kyle, right?”

“We’ve met.” Kyle continued to glare at Larek, narrowing his eyes when the smug bastard had the nerve to smile at him. Whatever this guys’ game was, it was over. As soon as Kyle could find a minute alone to talk to the blue haired freak, a few ground rules were going to be set. First and most importantly, no one hit on his girlfriend and got away with it unscathed.

“Shall we?” Tess asked nervously. She moved to Kyle’s side and nudged him until he glanced down at her.

Kyle felt Tess’s none too subtle nudge to his ribs and he steeled himself for one of her icy glares. Instead, he found concern and a trace of guilt in her features and he softened. He knew she was worried he had misconstrued the situation, but he knew that he hadn’t. Larek had a thing for Tess, or Ava, and wanted her. It was simple. Tess might not fully understand it yet, but it didn’t mean he would take his frustrations out on her.

She linked her arm through his in a peace offering. And he found himself smiling genuinely. It was rare when she was willing to touch him in public and in front of someone like Larek no less. The gesture softened him. “You look tired. Have you eaten anything?”

Tess felt a hint of annoyance, hating to be looked after. But she ignored it. Kyle didn’t mean any harm, and it wasn’t his fault that she had grown up without anyone to monitor her. “I’m fine. But I’ll make sure to eat something soon if you will.”

“Deal.” He hated to fight with her, and her smile was contagious. Alex and Larek were ahead of them, engrossed in conversation about some sort of experiment.

They headed down the hall slowly, knowing there would be days of work ahead of them to catch up to where things had been before the attack. Up ahead, Isabel skittered around a corner, her eyes lighting on Alex in relief.

“Alex, thank god. You have to come quick!” She had already turned and had begun to back track.

“Isabel, what’s wrong?” Alex began running down the hall after her.

“It’s the teleporter. We have to move it now! The ceiling is getting ready to come down on top of it.”

Alex reached the doorway to the once pristine lab and fear skimmed down his spine. There were three men inside the back portion of the room, trying to move the large device. It stood seven feet tall and measured ten feet across. Alex knew that it weighed about as much as a city bus. He glanced up at the ceiling and saw how precariously it was holding at the moment.

“We have to get those people out of there.” Alex looked behind him and found the others just catching up. “Kyle, I need your help again. The ceiling is coming down, but I need to get those people out of there.”

“Shit.” Kyle pushed Tess to the side, already moving into the room after Alex. “Both of you, stay.” He didn’t have time to make sure they listened to him, instead focusing his attention on the danger before him. The ceiling above him looked safe enough in the front portion of the room, but the back didn’t look like it was going to hold more than a few minutes. “Alex! Get the hell out of there!” When Alex made no moves towards him, he swore to himself.

Kyle carefully edged back to the main lab area and found Alex trying to roll the teleporter out of harms’ way. Alex was shouting orders to the scientists to get out of the room, and they ran past Kyle on their way.

“Alex, what the hell are you doing? Leave it alone.” Small pieces of rubble were falling from the ceiling and he could hear Isabel’s cries from the front of the room.

“Kyle, if this ceiling goes, there won’t be any way to save this thing.”

“Alex, if that ceiling goes, you won’t be around to build another one.” Kyle continued to slink his way towards Alex. He didn’t want to be caught without anything to hide under if that ceiling did come down. But he wasn’t leaving Alex in there.

“I’m not leaving this in here,” Alex insisted as he attempted to push it again.

“And I’m not leaving you in here.” A large chunk of rock hit Kyle square in the back. “Damn it, Alex. What the hell is it with you and this thing? We’re going!” Kyle stepped away from the wall and took a couple of quick steps toward his friend, intending to grab Alex any way he could.

The room shook on its foundation and Kyle only had a second to grab Alex’s arm before he heard the telltale sounds of impending danger. The lights blinked out and the last thing Kyle heard was Isabel’s long scream. And then the world went silent.

posted on 18-Jul-2002 1:51:08 PM
Wherever You May Go
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , Mi/Ma, I/A, K/T
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly, NC-17 will be around occasionally, but you’ll be warned before those parts post.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…blah, blah, blah. We all know this by now. If I owned anything worthwhile, I’d gladly offer it up in exchange for the characters and the freedom to do what I wanted with them.
Author's Note: This story picks up where my previous stories Do What You Have To Do, and Learning to Live left off. Nothing after “Max in the City” happened in my world. Please go read them first. Otherwise, you’ll be lost beyond all help.
Summary: First off, Tess is not evil in these stories. Sorry. Max and Liz are happily married, Michael and Maria are on their way as well as Alex and Isabel. Tess and Kyle have just begun their relationship. When the call from home finally comes, who will go and who will be left behind?

Wherever You May Go
Part 12

Isabel ran the length of the twisting corridors faster than she’d ever moved in her life. Her heels clicked staccato on the tile, a rapid gunfire of sound as her long legs pushed her further and further away from Alex and Kyle. Hysteria was bubbling close to the surface, but she beat it back with sheer will. Falling apart wouldn’t help find them any quicker. She had to set everything in motion first, and once they were found safe and sound, then she could break down.

She grabbed every warm body she passed in the halls, issuing short clipped orders to run to the lab and help the others dig out Alex and Kyle. They needed all the help they could get, and she’d never been more aware of her status in the palace. She was a princess, and though she had never used it to directly order someone to do what she wanted, she would do whatever she had to do now.

Isabel could hear Max’s voice now, the steady cadence of it and she wasted no time as she ran the last few steps through the open doorway.

“Max!” She skittered to a stop in the room, grabbing to her brother’s arm for balance.

“Isabel, what’s wrong?” Max dropped the previous thread of conversation with his advisors to turn to his sister. She had a cut above her left eyebrow and she looked to be covered in a fine dust of some sort.

“Alex and Kyle – they’re trapped in the lab. The ceiling came down on top of them while they were trying to move the transporter out.”

Max vaguely registered that the others in the room had risen and began speaking in low voices. “Are they okay? Where were they when it came down?”

“In the back. We tried calling out to them, but we didn’t hear anything. The others are trying to dig a path, but we need help.”

Max turned to one of the aides in the room. “Find as many people as you can and get them in there now.”

“Sir?”

Max and Isabel turned to one of the technicians against a far wall. He was leaning over a console, and darting nervous glances at them. When he saw that he held their full attention, he averted his gaze. “They are trapped in the far portion of the labs?”

Isabel nodded. “Yes. Why? Can you get a lock on them from here?” She didn’t pretend to know all of the technology they were capable of, but she was willing to take anything she could get that would help her find Alex and Kyle.

“Yes,” he answered reluctantly.

Max caught the note in the man’s voice. “What’s wrong?”

Swallowing nervously, the tech met the eyes of his King. “We could pinpoint the exact location of the humans if their life signs showed up on our scans.”

“What do you mean?” Isabel took a step away from Max.

“I’m afraid I’m not picking up any life signs in that portion of the room.”

“Well, then your sensors are malfunctioning.” Isabel strode the length of the room to slap her palms against the table. “Scan it again.”

The tech swallowed painfully as he ran the sequence through a second time. His console beeped once and he was afraid to relate the answers again. “I’m picking up twelve life forms at the opening of the lab, but nothing inside.”

Isabel turned wide eyes to her brother when the tech hung his head low. “Max, they’re alive. I don’t care what those sensors say. And we’re wasting time!”

“I believe you, Isabel.” If something had happened to Liz, if the unthinkable happened and she was taken from him, he would know it. And he had no doubt Isabel would know if Alex were gone. “Do we have any sort of tools or machinery that can help find them quicker?”

Tirian, the youngest of the advisors, nodded once when Max glanced at him. “There are some that could be modified to aid in the search.”

“Then do it. Tirian, you’re in charge of it. Use whatever you have to in order to get it done.” He wasn’t going to lose Alex and Kyle, especially not because they were trying to save a device to bring Liz and Maria to Antar. If anything happened to them, it would be his fault.

Tirian nodded as he rose from his chair and dashed out of the room. Max turned to Isabel. “Are you okay? Were you hurt?”

Isabel shook her head. “Don’t worry about me. Max, we have to get them out.”

“We will, Isabel. We’ll go down there together and no one is going to rest until we find them.” He ignored the voice in his head that kept repeating the tech’s words. I’m not picking up any life signs in that portion of the room. Alex and Kyle were alive. They had to believe that.

*~*~

Kyle’s eyelids fluttered open for a second as he hovered on the edge of consciousness. Around him, he could hear a steady clang. It grew louder with every second, and Kyle finally gave in to his natural curiosity and opened his eyes. He tried to move his head to the side to trace the source of the noise, but he immediately regretted the movement. His body protested and he moaned aloud.

“Kyle?”

The banging sound stopped, only to be replaced by the sharp ringing in his ears. And he knew he’d made the wrong decision. Staying unconscious was probably the better choice. He closed his eyes tight, afraid the room would be spinning when he opened them again. “Alex?” His mouth was dry and he tried to lick his lips only to discover it didn’t help. “What the hell happened?”

“You saved us,” Alex admitted as he crouched beside his friend. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I didn’t make it.” Chancing it, he opened his eyes and looked around. “Where the hell are we?”

“You don’t remember? The roof came down and you threw us inside the transponder.” Alex looked around the metal box they were trapped in. The walls seemed to be closing in on them the longer they were in it. “I’m not sure if I hate this thing or not now.”

“How long have I been out?” Kyle braced himself for movement, knowing it would hurt.

“About an hour best I can tell. I think the ceiling came down on top of this thing. The entrance is blocked by about a ton of debris.” He’d tried every possible way to get out and had resorted to beating a metal bar against the wall in hopes of something positive coming out of it.

“Excellent,” Kyle quipped. “Help me up.” He tried to sit up, needing to see if he could help, but he felt a ripple of pain slide through him.

“Whoa there.” Alex helped him lay back down. “Don’t do that again. You shouldn’t move if you don’t have to. You took more of a hit than I did. But I don’t think you’re critical.”

Kyle managed to grin. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. My leg? Is it broken?”

Alex nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Look on the bright side. At least we’re not bleeding profusely or trapped under rubble.”

“Some bright side. How long can this thing keep us? Do we have enough oxygen to wait out a rescue?”

Sighing heavily, Alex looked around the space that was about the size of one of Isabel’s smaller closets. “The oxygen isn’t our problem. There’s plenty of that. It’s the carbon monoxide that will kill us first. There aren’t any vents in here that aren’t blocked.”

Kyle tried to glare at Alex, but he was sure it came off without any heat. “I think that at this point I need something positive to hang on to.”

Alex nodded. “Okay. I don’t really think that we’ll die of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

“Thank you.”

“We’ll probably die of starvation first.”

“Alex,” Kyle warned. Then despite himself, he chuckled. “You know, for someone talking about impending death, you’re pretty calm.”

Alex settled on the steel floor beside Kyle, leaning his back against one wall. “I really don’t think we’re going to die in here. Isabel and Tess are out there and I don’t know about Tess, but I’m sure Isabel is out there issuing every royal command she can to get us out of here.”

Kyle huffed out a breath. He wished he could believe that Tess was out there issuing orders to find him, but he was horrified to discover that he couldn’t be sure.

Alex heard the noise, and recognized the frustration in it. It wasn’t possible to live with Kyle for almost five years and not know his noises. Isabel had joked that they had seemed married that way. “What?”

“It’s nothing…Tess,” he admitted. “Things haven’t been as good as I’d hoped they’d be when we got here.”

“What do you mean?” Alex was surprised to find that he and Kyle had begun losing touch. There had been a time when he would have known about any trouble between Kyle and Tess before anyone else.

“I just can’t help but feel like she’s…I don’t know, disappointed.” Kyle tried to settle more comfortably on the floor, deciding if he was trapped with Alex, he may as well make the most of it.

“In you?”

“I don’t know, Alex. It’s weird. She hasn’t said anything, but it’s more of a feeling. I know she was expecting to have family waiting with open arms or something. She’s waited her whole life to be here and I don’t think it’s what she expected. She has no family, no friends, and no real place in the monarchy. And then she has to worry about me too. She’s just distracted.”

Alex frowned. “I thought things were going really good between you two. Weren’t you telling me about how your connection was strengthening?”

Kyle closed his eyes, not wanting to admit the truth to his friend. “Yeah, about that. I sort of…elaborated a bit.” He sighed. “Tess and I don’t have any sort of connection at all.”

“None? Not even when you’re touching or when you’re-“

“None,” Kyle repeated. He knew how inconceivable it sounded to Alex and it was precisely the reason why he’d lied to him about it.

Alex was still trying to wrap his brain around that piece of information. It had taken a bit of time for he and Isabel to form a steady connection, and they weren’t anywhere close to the strength of Liz and Max’s bond, but at least when they touched they could share each other’s emotions and thoughts. It added a whole new level to the physical side of their relationship, and he couldn’t imagine not having that. Kyle and Tess not even having that much went against the very nature of the bond. And then it dawned on him.

“It’s because Max healed you, isn’t it?” When Kyle didn’t answer, he pushed on. “With everyone else, we were healed by our alien counterparts, but Max healed that gunshot wound back in High School long before you and Tess were involved.” It went against the natural progression and Alex had never even paused to consider that it would have affected things between Kyle and Tess.

“Yeah, that’s my theory too.” Kyle decided to concentrate on the throbbing pain in his leg instead of the one in his chest. He couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that he was going to lose Tess over it. She embraced all things alien, and if she couldn’t have that deep emotional bond with him and had to watch all of their friends share it, it would eat away inside of her.

“Wow. I never knew, man. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It’s a touchy subject. Look, the only reason I said anything is because I must be delusional from pain. Maybe I suffered a head injury we don’t know about. Just don’t say anything to her about it. Okay? I don’t want her to know I mentioned it. I could be blowing it out of proportion.”

Though he didn’t agree, Alex nodded his head. “Alright. Just promise to let me know how things go when we get out of here.”

Kyle didn’t answer, not sure he could make that promise. He stared up at the ceiling, letting the silence settle heavily in the transport. “So, Alex? What’s up with you and this big box? You’ve risked your life twice for it in the last two days and I gotta tell you, if you do it again you’re on your own.”

Alex heard the trace of humor in Kyle’s voice, but also heard the concern behind the words. “I’m sorry, Kyle. I didn’t think. And now here we are trapped in this thing. All I could think about was moving it to safety. I could see Liz and Maria in my head and I knew if anything happened to this thing, it would be months before we saw them. I didn’t want to let them down.”

“Do I have to tell you that they’d be pissed if they knew you were risking your life for them?”

“No, I know they’d kill me if Isabel doesn’t do it first. I guess I just threw myself into this project. Every memory I have has them tied to it in some way, and all of a sudden, I was in that pod chamber and Liz is saying goodbye to Max and Maria is announcing that she’s staying too, and I’d never felt more helpless in my life. The only reason I didn’t insist on staying is because I knew they’d need me on this side.” Alex drew his knees up to his chest and watched the steady rise and fall of Kyle’s chest. He hadn’t wanted to say anything, but he was pretty sure Kyle had some internal damage. Kyle had knocked him out of the way, instinctively shielding Alex with his body and taking the brunt of the debris. He really didn’t think it was seriously life threatening, but it was serious enough to keep an eye on.

“Alex, they’ll always need you. But you know how they are. When they get an idea in their heads, there’s no convincing them otherwise. They’re stupid that way. And so they stay on Earth a little longer. Actually, that might not be such a bad idea. You saw how rough it was yesterday with that attack. Earth is probably a far safer place for them to be right now. And it’s not forever. Max and Liz will get through it no matter how long it takes, and strangely enough, I think that Michael and Maria will be okay too. I think they finally figured it out.”

“Maybe,” Alex conceded. “I just miss them.”

Kyle sighed. “So do I, but you have to promise to quit with the heroics. I’m not sure I’m up to saving your sorry ass again.”

Alex grinned. “Deal. But I have a feeling Isabel and Tess won’t be letting us out of their sights anytime soon.”

Kyle nodded, wishing he could believe him. But he couldn’t help but remember the way Tess and Larek had been together before they’d come down to the lab. He loved Tess, but he knew that her sole purpose in life had been to get home. And now that she was here, she was determined to fit in perfectly. And he knew that in order for her to do that completely, she would have to leave him behind. And if given the choice between him and the beliefs she’d had drilled into her, he wasn’t sure which door she would choose.