posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:30:17 PM
Title: "Double Jeopardy"
Author: Sheeperz (Fran P)
Disclaimer: You know the drill. I own nothing... if I did, season 2 would have read VERY differently! LOL
Category: M/L
Rating: PG-13
Summary: What happens as a result of Liz's interference with the natural course of history. My way of tying up some "loose ends". (And unacceptable story arcs. LOL)
Distribution: If you want to use it, please e-mail me.

SPECIAL AUTHOR'S NOTE!
As this fic got underway, many people expressed concern as to the possible direction this fic was heading in. In response to that concern, I issued Dreamer Insurance and Happy Ending Insurance. So when you hit what appears to be a rough spot, NEVER FEAR. There is a purpose to *almost* everything in this story. Not only to tie up the obvious loose ends from the show, but also some of the more subtle things that we have been left wondering about. (Like what would have happened, if Zan met Liz...)

That said - I hope you enjoy!

~Fran~

Part One

"He chooses love.... he chooses you.... the reading is clear - you marry your true love. You have happiness. The card here? Intimacy... sex.... you will not be left wanting...."

"It's you I trust. It's you I have faith in.... I need you to help me fall out of love with you...."


Liz Parker tossed and turned restlessly in her sleep, her lithe, scantily clad body twisting and contorting amidst the rumpled bedding, as the words and events of the evening replayed themselves in her tortured dreams.

"I, Liz Parker, take Max Evans to be my..." A flash of lightning. Leather clad legs approaching her window. A shadowed form of a man, bending down to peer in at her. "Liz - " "Max?" He enters her room. No, not Max. This man is too old. "I don't know who you are, but you - you're not Max."

"You're not Max.... You are
NOT Max.... Not Max...."

Liz's head wrenched side to side violently, her body refusing to accept what was happening, every bit as much as her mind did.

In the alley next to the Crashdown, lightning split the air for the second time that evening. A tomcat howled, and jumped from the trash bin, scurrying away. In the split second that the alley was lit, had anyone been watching, they would have seen a tall, muscular, imposing figure materialize. But fortunately, no one was there. It had been 4 hours since Max had stood in that very alley, and serenaded his one true love - with his older self looking on, describing to Liz everything that would happen, seconds before it actually did.

Now, there was not a soul in sight. Perfect.

Staying to the shadows, the masculine figure worked his way down the alley to the fire ladder. He paused at the base, gazing up reverently at the ledge above, as if approaching a sacred altar. So many hopes, so many dreams... He mentally shook off the dismal memories. There wasn't time to reminisce about everything that had gone wrong these last three and a half years. He had a mission, and he'd best stick to the plan, while there was still a chance to salvage things.

His superior strength propelled him up the ladder in no time, and he effortlessly vaulted over the edge of the wall onto the balcony. In long, quick strides, he crossed the short distance to the window, hesitating only once at the sight of the lounge chair that always graced the enclosure. Again, he reminded himself to focus on the task at hand.

At the window, he tried to push the pane upward - locked. Who could blame her, after what had transpired here earlier in the evening? But then, she knew that the pathetic little lock on this window was no match for alien wizardry.... *pop* A satisfied smile graced the face that was veiled in darkness. Silently, his strong hands lifted the glass to the top. He looked at the small opening it created, and shook his head. Hard to believe a growing teenage boy could have slipped in and out through that narrow space on numerous occasions.

Gathering his resolve, he lifted a leg up and over the sill. Okay. No way was he going to be able to bend down and put his body through next, he reasoned. So, holding the bottom of the sash, he swung his other leg in through the opening, and slid the rest of his body on through. He managed to steady himself, just before he lost his balance totally, during the last of his descent. A crash on the floor was not the way he wanted to announce his arrival to Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty. There she was. At first, she was but a mound on the mattress, while his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light of her room. But soon, with the aid of what little moonlight had managed to breach the clouds and filter in through the window, the mound transformed into a mass of shapely arms and legs, protruding from a body that was wrapped up so snugly in the dusty rose colored satin sheets, it appeared as if she were being woven into a shimmering cocoon. He paused briefly, taking in a couple deep breaths, in an attempt to slow his racing heart. Now that he was here, he found that his nerves were on edge. Or were those his hormones? He looked again at the dark-haired angel on the bed. Definitely the hormones.

In some distant corner of his consciousness, he knew that he should wake her. Explain himself - his reason for being here. Convince her of his plan. Enlist her aid. Plead with her if necessary. Not that it ever did any good before, he thought ruefully, his eyes still fastened to her prostrate form. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to just admire her for a few moments. It's been such a long time....

A few seconds of "admiration" was all it took to set his fingers to itching. His mind battled briefly with his feet, his feet swiftly winning the skirmish. Before he knew what had happened, he was kneeling next to the bed, his face only about a foot from Liz's. Her most recent bout of thrashing, had left if facing the edge of the bed that she was closest to. He closed his eyes, and slowly inhaled, savoring the fragrance that he had never forgotten. Seeing her like this, smelling her delicate scent - it made it all come flooding back to him. For the first time in three years, his stomach rumbled the way it used to, every time she came near.

His hand reached out of its own volition, sweeping a lock of silken hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he began to draw his hand back toward himself, his fingers insisted on grazing lightly over her cheek, her jaw line, her chin, then....

Once, twice.... three times his thumb brushed over her lips, his lips all the while envying his thumb that privilege.

Somewhere along the line, the nightmare of events that had been endlessly repeating through Liz's dreams vanished, replaced by a warm feeling she hadn't experienced since.... since the night that Max told her he loved her. Max. Beautiful, warm, sensitive, compassionate Max. Only Max had ever made her feel this way. Beautiful. Special. Cherished. This was one dream that she hoped would never end. If she couldn't have the only man she would ever love in the real world, then she had no desire to awaken and return to that reality. Better to live out her days locked inside this dream, where no one and nothing could take him away.

In mere moments, the feeling of tender bliss escalated into a spark of sensual awareness. Instinctively, her tongue darted out to explore the source of this stimulation.

When the tip of her warm, pink tongue emerged to softly stroke his thumb, where it was now resting against her lower lip, he fought to contain a groan of longing. Impulsively, he leaned forward, and gently placed his lips against her soft mouth.

A sliver of disappointment had sliced through her, when she felt the pressure against her lips cease. But her regret was soon forgotten, as she felt a pair of soft, supple lips fasten onto her own. Her heart beat hard against her ribs, threatening to crack one at any moment.... She felt a lightheaded, spinning sensation. But not like the dizziness of passion.... more like struggling to make the journey up - up - up to....

Liz's eyes popped open in surprise. Her hands flew up to his chest for leverage, and she pushed with all her might, her sudden hysteria giving her a surprising amount of strength for such a small frame. It was enough force to send his bulky frame toppling backwards onto his rear. His startled look was mirrored on her face, and he sat on the floor mutely, his well rehearsed speech long forgotten.

Liz strained to see into the shadows, trying to discern the features of the intruder before her. Who had the audacity to sneak into her room and start kissing her breathless....? Wait a minute. I know I locked the window..... Her gaze darted to the wide open portal to her room, confirming her suspicions. The intruder was "not of this Earth". Who then, was he? Surely Future Max had not returned to take liberties with her.... and her Max had left hours ago, seeming perfectly content to have serenaded her.

The moon went into hiding behind a cloud, plunging the room into total darkness. It was just the incentive Liz needed to reach out and turn on her bedside lamp. She squinted for a moment against the sudden brightness, until her eyes adjusted. As she lifted her lids, her eyes viewed the man that had previously been cloaked in shadow. A small gasp was heard, followed by her whispered words of denial, spoken with great intensity, despite the lack of volume. "No! Not another one!"

Part Two

Her exclamation broke through his stupor, and the man chuckled. He hadn't even considered that she might have that reaction to his presence.

Liz sat there staring at him, incredulous that he found the situation amusing. She certainly didn't. She was getting downright annoyed with the whole thing. First, Max comes back from fourteen years in the future to screw up her whole life, and now this? What the heck was going on??

"Explain yourself!" she hissed at him, when he simply smiled at her, offering no reason for his presence. "And just who are you, anyway?"

"Ah, Liz.... do you really need to ask who I am? Do I look so different, that you can no longer recognize me?"

"Of course I recognize you...." She paused to take an assessing inventory of the man before her. Oops, BIG mistake. As her eyes roved over the length of him, she noted the changes that she had been oblivious to in her initial burst of frustration. A frame that once was well defined and yet lean now sported very wide, very nice shoulders..... she gave herself a mental shake, not wanting to let something like those big, bulging biceps distract her from her optical tour of his scrumptious... Lord in Heaven! What is wrong with me??

Before she could get a divine response, her eyes landed on two very strong, muscular thighs, sufficiently outlined by his tight-fitting jeans. Feeling her mouth go dry, she forced her gaze back up his torso, to once again scan his face. Not much different there, she realized. Except for the tan, which only served to set off the pearly glow of his teeth, and those beautiful, captivating eyes.....

For a few moments, their eyes met in a heated stare, and it felt as if they could each see into the other's soul. Their individual hurts, fears, frustrations, shattered dreams.... all were laid open and naked for the other to observe. Overwhelmed by the intensity of what she saw radiating from his face, Liz's lips parted slightly - just enough to allow her to gasp softly.

Seeing her parted lips, he growled low in the back of his throat, wanting nothing more than to leap across the space that separated them, and plunder her luscious mouth. It was all he had dreamed about these last three years. Well, maybe not all he had dreamed about....

Liz shuddered in response to his sensual growl. Where had this man come from, and why could he affect her so strongly? She closed her eyes tightly against the overwhelming sight of him, and composed herself. She wasn't going to get any answers, if she just sat here drooling all night.

When she finally had it together, she reopened her eyes. Calmly, she posed her first question. "Why are you here?"

"Ah, that's my Liz. Cut to the chase." He sighed. "Well, I am here, because of the visitor you had earlier this evening."

"V-visitor?" she asked nervously. "Who are you referring to?" Then she remembered about the serenade. Of course he would know about that. She smiled, reminiscing. "Oh - you mean... the, uh, Mariachi band incident?"

His brows came together in a picture of confusion. "Mariachi band?" he questioned.

Liz's smile faltered. "Yeah, you know - sombrero, white roses, serenade.... any of this ringing a bell?"

She was rewarded with a look of concern. Slowly, he shook his head in a negative response. "I'm sorry, Liz, but I don't know what you are talking about."

Her lips pursed as she pondered his response. How could he not know what she was talking about? She and Future Max hadn't done anything to change that part of history....

"Liz, let's set that aside for a moment. Didn't you have an.... unusual visitor this evening? Or did I manage to arrive on the wrong date?" Then her earlier words rang back through his mind. No, not another one, she had said. This had to be the right day.

Clearly skeptical as to how much he knew, Liz answered his question with a question. After all, Future Max had told her that no one was to know he was here. If in fact he knew about Future Max, that meant that she had not kept her promise. "What do you know of my visitor? Who was it?"

The hard edge in his appearance, caused by the baffling Mariachi reference, softened as he smiled. Of course Liz would guard that secret. No one was ever supposed to find out. It hadn't been until... well, that didn't matter right now. "I know that Future Max came to visit you. To get you to help him make your Max fall out of love with you. And to answer your question about why I am here, I came to stop you, before you even get started."

" Stop me? Why? If you know he was here, and what he wanted, then you must also know why he asked for my help. How can I refuse him?"

"Liz, listen to me. You have to refuse to do this. If you don't...." He swallowed around the lump in his throat, remembering what the consequences would be, if he failed to persuade her to listen.

"If I don't.... what? What will happen?"

He sighed. "If you don't refuse him, things will become worse, instead of better. Oh, temporarily it will seem like things are heading in the right direction, despite the emotional devastation your actions will wreak on the both of us. But in the long run, the very thing that this Future Max is trying to avoid - Tess leaving - it will happen anyway. But this time when she leaves.... well, something awful will happen before she does, and she will leave a breach between you and Max that will never heal."

"You are just trying to confuse me, and make this harder for me to cope with! My heart wants to believe what you are saying, but my mind.... I can't have the destruction of the entire planet on my conscience. Can't you understand that?"

"Liz, whether you attempt to change history or not, Tess will leave. And when she does, whatever happened before will happen again. There will still be only 3 in the unit, instead of 4. Nothing will change."

"How can you be so sure? I mean, until it happens, we won't know, right?"

"I'm sure, Liz."

She looked at him intently, her look a silent plea for him to explain. He sighed.

"I know because... that is my reality, Liz. I came back from three years in the future - the future you created when you pushed me away, by making me believe you slept with Kyle."

"I did WHAT?!"

"Oh, sorry. You haven't gotten that far in your planning yet, have you? From what I understand, you tried several things to push me away, and toward Tess. When none of those worked, you came up with this brilliant plan...." He rolled his eyes in mocking disapproval. "You pretended to sleep with Kyle, and made sure I would see. When you insisted that it was real, it created a chasm between us, that set off a totally unnatural chain of events in our lives. Oh, it kept Tess around all right... for a little while. But in the end, it would have been better if she had left earlier. Because by the time she was gone, Alex was dead, Tess had taken our only apparent means of returning home back to Antar, and...." Max lowered his eyes in shame, whispering the last of the sentence through the lump in his throat, caused by his grief, "... she was carrying my child."





Edited by - sheeperz on 10/02/2001 23:00:30

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Feb-2002 1:40:38 PM ]
posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:32:46 PM
Part Three

For the third time that night, a blinding flash of light appears in Roswell - this time behind the UFO center. This rip in the space-time continuum does not produce an alien King of hybrid descent, however. Materializing in its wake is the form of a petite young woman. A woman with a mission of her own. Her self-appointed task is one of pure revenge.....

Moving stealthily through the shadows of town, she stalks her prey.... she is more cunning, more dangerous than any lioness on the hunt. Although she does not have the lioness' keen sense of smell with which to track her victim, she is endowed with other heightened senses, which allow her to detect his presence. Or so she hopes. This whole venture is risky at best. Perhaps that is why she was forbidden to attempt it in the first place. A gentle snort escapes her, as she recalls the royal decree that was intended to block her journey through time. No king, Antarian or otherwise, was going to thwart her plan. She had waited too long to be able to repay that meddling fool for what he had ruined.....

A figure moving in the shadows in front of her abruptly turned into the next alley. Could it be? She hadn't sensed his presence, as she assumed that she would. Perhaps something was blocking her ability. Maybe he was shielding himself somehow, to escape detection. Not that he would be expecting her to be looking for him, anyway. He would be too busy swaggering around, trying to save the whole world to notice her, until it was too late. Pride goeth before destruction.... she grinned. If she could pull the plug on his plans, and knock him down a few pegs in the process, well, that would be just fine with her. Hell hath no fury... she thought with a chuckle.

When she reached the entrance to the alley, she carefully peeked around the corner. To her surprise, there was no one there. Yet, as she recalled, this street had no outlet... Now where the hell did you go? she muttered at her unseen quarry. A brief smile flashed across her lips, as she thought that indeed, hell would be just the place she'd like to see him go. But her immediate concern was that she sensed a trap, and so decided it was time for a little "fancy footwork" of her own.

Proceeding into the darkened area, she looked carefully at every nook and cranny for evidence that would betray his location. Nearing the end, she passed a large dumpster. She was only a few feet past it, when she heard a noise behind her, and spun on her heels to see what had caused it. Despite the fact that she was trapped between his strong, muscular frame and the wall at the end of the street, she smiled with satisfaction when she saw him. It was indeed the object of her obsession. Her search was over.

"Well, well, well, look who we have here," she sneered. "Why don't you play like you're in the movies, and go 'Back to the Future'?"

14 year Future Max's confusion was displayed on his face. "Liz? Wha- what are you doing here? It's late - shouldn't you be home in bed? What if your mom or dad comes to check in on you?"

She glared directly into his eyes, and something he saw in her caused him to swallow reflexively in response to a nervous feeling knotting in his stomach. "Oh, I wouldn't be worrying about my parents finding me missing, if I were you," she mockingly crooned. "You see, at this moment... I am home in bed. And I am also here. You aren't the only one who can be in two places at once, you know." She gave him an evil grin. "So you see, you should be worrying more about being here alone with me, rather than wondering what will happen if my parents find out something. My bases are covered - you, on the other hand, are in deep trouble, mister."

He scowled at her cryptic comments. He was starting to get annoyed. If this was some future version of Liz, she was undoubtedly here to foil his plans. Why else would she be acting so weird? "Jes' what the hell is you talkin' about, woman?" he spit out in his old, familiar dialect, before he realized what he was doing.

It hadn't been intentional, but he had to smile at her reaction. Standing there like a doe caught in the headlights, her mouth opened to say something, but no sound came out. It was his turn to sport a wicked grin. He started walking toward her, a menacing look in his eyes. "Whassa matta? Cat gotcha tongue?"

Liz let out an exasperated sigh. "Cute, Zan. Tell me - how is it that you come to be alive? Ava told us that Lonnie and Rath offed you in New York."

Zan chuckled. "Well, it ain't for lack of 'em tryin' that I'm here, doll. I'm just stronger then they gave me credit for." He smiled. "Guess I clean up pretty good - even you couldn't tell who I was." He laughed at her mockingly. "You're so pathetic, you know that?"

"Yeah, I guess I must be. How I could mistake an inferior product for the real thing...." she raised her eyebrow in a gesture aimed at mocking him back. His face turned red in fury. Good, she thought. Serves him right, the egotistical son of an alien....

"So, now that we've dispensed with the formalities, and our mutual contempt is laid out in the open, how about you answer some questions for me? Starting with - now that we know the truth about Tess being Kivar's lackey, what was in it for you, to get me to change the natural course of history?"

"Nuthin' much. Just Kivar's promise to stop huntin' me down like a helpless jackrabbit. Lemme live my life in peace. So he sent me back to tweak what needed fixin', when he saw how things were shapin' up."

"So all that bull about them needing Tess to make up the Royal 4 so they would be stronger - that was just a bunch of garbage you made up, wasn't it?"

Zan laughed. "I got to give you credit, woman. You've got all the angles covered. S'okay. Normally, I'd be tellin' you where you could shove all these questions. But since I'm gonna hafta kill you anyway.... it might be kinda fun to torture you with the truth." He chuckled. "Yep, I think I'd be likin' to see you kickin' yourself for bein' so gullible." He threw back his head and laughed heartily.

Once his amusement faded, he became straight-faced again, and began his explanation. "See, the thing is this - Tess wasn't even supposed to be that Max freak's mate. Tess was my woman. that sniv'lin' wimp Ava was supposed to be Max's destiny." Zan feigned a shudder. "Make me almos' feel sorry for the dude - NOT." Another chuckle. "Anyway - where was I? Oh yeah. Ava. Well, lemme back it up for you, so I don't lose you, with that inferior brain of yours... " he taunted, condescendingly. "The shapeshifter yous call Nasedo? He was supposed to be my foursquare's guardian, not Max's. After Max an' them came out of the pods, they all left poor Ava behin'. Nasedo snuck into the chamber an' found her there all alone. So he snatched her, and brought her to New York to stay with us. Then he took Tess from us, and raised her to carry out Kivar's plan."

Liz scowled in confusion. "I don't get it. Why didn't he just raise up Ava to mate with Max, like she was supposed to?"

Zan snorted. "Oh please. Yous met the girl. Too weak. She never woulda been able to pull it off. Nasedo needed a strong woman - 'specially with the strong ability to mind-warp. Ava's power doesn't begin to match Tess'."

Suddenly it all made sense. Liz was amazed that the truth never even occurred to them. Why Tess acted more like the dupes, and Ava was more gentle in spirit, like the Roswell podsters. Not to mention how much stronger Tess' powers were, although it was understandable that they would fall for the line of her having had years of tutoring from Nasedo. And her memories of the home planet. Another trait of the dupes.

"Okay, fine. So tell me then - what was so important, that Kivar had to change history over it?"

"Well, not everythin' I told you was a lie. See, you and Max? Yous two did make love the night of Gomez. And yous did get hitched later on. But yous wasn't weakened when you lost Tess. The love that you and Max share - it was stronger then Kivar expected. You have more potential then you realize, cuz Max, he taught you how to use them powers of yours. Together, yous were too strong. So Kivar had to do sumthin' to keep yous apart."

"I see...." she said blandly. Well, now all she had to do was tell Max what was what, and they could sort all of this out. Still - she couldn't resist some parting shots....

"Well, thanks for clearing up these misconceptions. I should have known that Kivar would have been behind it. I mean obviously, you aren't leader enough to come up with any such plan. I guess when they made your set of hybrids, they forgot to make the leader clever, among all the other screw-ups that occurred. Thank goodness they got it straightened out when they made Max, or Antar would be doomed to remain in Kivar's grips. As it is, I have more hope now than I have in a long time, that Max will prevail in this war with Kivar. And I have your pathetic self to thank for it," she concluded smugly, flashing him a derisive grin.

"You know what? Yous a real pain in my ass. Time to shut you up for good." He smiled menacingly, as he closed the remaining distance between them in a blink of an eye, stretching out his arms to grab her around the throat. Just as his hands were about to make contact with her satiny, ivory skin, she vaporized before his very eyes.

"What the hell -?" He spun around, surveying the entire length of the alley, but she was nowhere to be seen. In the distance he heard the sound of retreating footsteps scurrying away. He sprinted back to the sidewalk, but saw no one. In utter frustration he howled, "Come back here, woman!"

His demand was met with an eerie silence. Staying in the shadow of the buildings, he quickly retreated to a more secure location, to ponder what to do. Tomorrow he had to be ready to face Liz - the Liz from this time - and begin planning her strategy to force Max to fall out of love with her.





Edited by - sheeperz on 09/07/2001 12:33:28
posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:36:55 PM
Part Four

"Your - child?" Liz whispered to Future Max incredulously, convinced that she had not heard him right. She had felt an intense stab of pain at the mention of Alex's death, but quickly reasoned that knowing about it ahead of time, they could take precautions to prevent it. But the thought of Max being with Tess - in that way - pierced her heart like nothing else could. Because even if she managed to prevent its happening, the idea that it could happen - that Max would even consider it - was like a knife twisting in her gut.

Ever since Max had healed her, she knew that he was the one she had been saving herself for. There would never be anyone else for her but Max, she knew that. And if she couldn't be with him - well, then she would have to find fulfillment in her life through other avenues. One thing she knew for certain - she would never settle for second best. It was her soul mate or bust. Grandma Claudia had convinced her of that.

But now here was Max - a slightly older version, anyway - telling her that he had betrayed their love by sleeping with Tess. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, before a sob could escape, as tears streamed down her cheeks. It just wasn't fair - he was saying that she had sacrificed her own happiness, and somehow he just picked up and moved on, with that little blonde hussy, no less. It was enough to make her want to.... she jumped up off the bed, and managed to make it to the bathroom in the nick of time. Thank goodness she hadn't had much to eat at supper that night....

As her stomach gave up the rest of its contents, she felt her hair being pulled back, and two strong, gentle hands came to rest on her shoulders, rubbing them soothingly. "Oh Liz, I'm so sorry. I guess I have been living in this hellish reality for so long, I forget that hearing all this must be a shock to you."

Liz nodded in response, as she got up, and went to the sink to brush her teeth. The entire time, Max's hand gently caressed her back, sweeping up and down the length of her spine. Replacing her toothbrush, she turned around to face him, and was overwhelmed by the pain she saw in his eyes. Obviously the knowledge of what he had done was as difficult for him to face, as it was for her. "Max -"

"Shh..." he said, as he placed the first two fingers of his right hand against her lips, and wrapped his left arm loosely around her waist. She looked up at him, her question in her eyes. "I just need - can I just hold you? Just for a moment? It's been so long - too long...." The words sound like they were being torn from his throat, his heartbreak evident in every syllable. Liz didn't know what had happened between herself and Max in the future, after Tess left, but obviously they weren't together, if that statement was any indication.

Tears filled her eyes, as all the stress of the last several hours finally caught up to her. It had been too long for her, too. She hadn't felt Max's arms around her for months. She stepped closer to him, wrapping her arms around his waist, and clinging to him, as if she were drowning, and he was a lifeline. As his arms enfolded her, she began to weep against his chest - silently at first, and then eventually she was consumed by heart-wrenching sobs.

"Liz -" he began tentatively, "I want you to know, it was never like - that.. you know, with Tess. The truth is, I never loved her. Not like I love you, anyway. I mean, I managed to learn to love her as a friend, but that was as far as it went - emotionally. But when - when you made me believe that you had slept with Kyle, and then you got more and more distant, this ache inside me started growing like a cancer, until it nearly ate me alive. Alex was dead, and then things started going to pieces with Isabel - I felt like my whole world was falling apart. The final straw was when you accused me of being responsible for Alex's death."

Liz started to say something, but he just silenced her with a finger to her lips. "No, let me finish. I knew you were upset when you said it, but the truth was, I felt responsible for his death. I knew, deep down, that it had to be alien related, and that if he hadn't known about us, he would still be alive. The guilt was overwhelming, and coupled with feeling abandoned by you and Isabel...." He paused, and took a deep breath to steady himself for the next statement. "And then - there was Tess... all sympathetic and compassionate, just wanting to take the hurt away - or so I thought. In a moment of weakness, I turned to her for the comfort she was so eager to give me. What a fool I was. I was too busy throwing myself a pity party, to see what was really going on....."

Liz couldn't see it, but Max was now shedding a few tears of his own. Remembering that particular time in his life was to revisit a great deal of pain. His embrace tightened, wanting to gather her so close to himself, that they could never be separated. His mind knew that he was treading on dangerous ground, but right now his heart had the upper hand. After what he had been through these last years, he wasn't above seeking a little comfort in the arms of the woman he loved. Even if she wasn't his Liz - exactly. And thank God for that small favor, he thought regretfully.

His thoughts abruptly returned to his current situation, though, when he felt a warm, moist kiss on his neck. At first, he thought he was hallucinating. After all, it was the way most of his fantasies began. A jolt went through him, though, when he felt her tongue leave a trail of fire over his skin, traveling up his jaw line, on her way up to nibble at his earlobe. With a groan that was as much from despair at his weakness, as it was the heated blood rushing through his veins, he bent his head, and nuzzled her face until he could gain access to her rosy lips. Succumbing to the irrepressible hunger that only she could stir in him, he captured her lips with his own, and all the years of denial and frustration poured into his kiss.

Liz's body melted against his, as she surrendered to the sensual assault. She had almost forgotten how perfectly they fit together - truly, they were made for each other. The months of separation had allowed her to be foolishly convinced that Future Max's plan was workable - that she could give Max up, and make him fall out of love with her. But now, with this one kiss, she knew that it could never happen. This was where she was born to be - orbs aside, this was her destiny.

She realized then, that a part of her had died that day out in the desert. But true to his gifting, Max was here now, healing her, and bringing what was dead back to life. Suddenly, a hunger rose within her that she had not experienced since that fateful day in the pod chamber. A hunger to see into his soul.....

Immediately, flashes began to assail her mind.

*An image of herself in bed with Kyle, and an overwhelming sense of Max's grief....*

*A heated disagreement with herself, as she was getting into a cab - and his deep feeling of hopelessness....*

*A violent argument with Tess in a room with some strange, glowing cone shaped object in the center, and a wave of pure rage flooding through her....*

It was this last flash that snapped Liz back to her senses. She, too, had been experiencing grief and hopelessness, ever since she had walked away from Max that day in the desert, leaving him to fulfill his cursed destiny. But the rage.... sure, she despised Tess and all, but the intensity of Max's rage had all the effect of dumping a bucket of ice water on her head. She forcefully pushed against his chest, separating herself from Max. Her breath came in little pants, her body still humming from the intensity of being loved by Max again, after so long. God, what am I doing? He isn't even my Max... not really. He is the product of 3 more years of experiences that have changed him drastically from the shy boy I fell in love with....

"Liz? What is it?" Max asked, concerned at the pensive look on her face.

Liz shook her head, trying to shake off her confusion, and the last vestiges of desire that had flared within her. "It's just - this isn't right, Max. What we are doing.... it's like playing with fire. And I don't want to be the one to get burned - again. You aren't my Max, any more than I'm your Liz. You are the product of choices that I supposedly am going to make - if indeed I choose to make those same choices, knowing that things aren't really improved, for all my cooperating with Future Max. Er, Future Max #1, I guess I should specify..." She graced him with a slight smile. Then another thought wandered through her mind, that caused her to chuckle lightly.

Max smiled. It had been so long since he had seen Liz smile or laugh. How he missed that. "What's so funny, Miss Parker?" he teased.

"Oh, I was just wondering....."

"About what?"

"Just how many more Max's are going to show up...!"

Max laughed out loud. Gosh, that felt good. "Well, if I accomplish my goal, there shouldn't be any more of me coming back to haunt you," he said with an impish grin.

Liz's face grew serious. "But Max - I mean, if Tess is the key to your survival, then maybe we need to find a way to keep her from leaving Roswell - ever. Just because she left in your timeline, that doesn't mean you can't tell me what happened to make her leave, so I can try to stop that chain of events from occurring. Isn't that what we ought to be planning?"

Liz was startled, and somewhat frightened, when she saw fury come upon Max in a rush. He looked like a volcano that was about to erupt at any moment. She stepped back in an instinctive maneuver designed for self-preservation. "Max -?" she asked haltingly. She saw his jaw working, as he tried to get his rage under control. Even though this was 3 year old news for him, it still had a way of sending him into orbit, just thinking about it. When he hesitated to speak, Liz tried nudging him again. "Max? What happened? Why are you so angry?"

Through gritted teeth, Max did his best to answer her. "There's more, Liz. Tess didn't just get me to sleep with her, and get pregnant with my child. What makes me furious is why she did it. It turns out, Nasedo had cut a deal with Kivar - he's our enemies' leader - and the deal was for him to return to our planet, Antar, with Tess - pregnant with the new heir to the throne, and the rest of us in tow. Presumably to have us executed, and raise my son to be his puppet - the puppet that I refused to be for him. My son would satisfy the Antarians' desire to have my heir on the throne, and he would be able to control him, since he would have raised him as a son, and because he also had control of his mother - Tess. It was Kivar's way of making sure that he would be able to continue to rule Antar from the sidelines, without any further opposition."

"Oh my God, Max, that's awful...." Liz stared at him with wide-eyed shock.

"Yes, well, perhaps armed with that knowledge, you can see why it is so important that you don't allow yourself to be convinced to push me into Tess' arms. As it turned out, she was not the key to our survival, but rather to our destruction."



posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:37:56 PM
Part Five

Future Liz had run for several blocks, until she was reasonably sure that Zan wouldn't find her - at least not right away. Winded, she leaned up against the nearest building and closed her eyes, sucking air into her burning lungs. It was pitiful how out of shape she had allowed herself to become. Depression, she had learned the hard way, tends to take away your desire to do much of anything in the line of self-improvement. Well, as of here and now, NO MORE, she decided. She was through moping and whining about the pathetic state of her life. At least now, she had something important to focus on, and the ammunition with which to accomplish it.

She offered up a silent prayer of thanks, for the changes that Max's healing her several years ago had wrought. By being able to project her image into that alley, she was saved having to walk blindly into a trap.

Opening her eyes, she looked around, trying to get her bearings. It had been a while since she had roamed the streets of Roswell. She had left town after graduation, and only returned for the briefest of visits at the holidays. She thought of the pain that her absence must cause her parents, but it couldn't be helped. She had determined to keep as much distance between herself and Max as possible. Even with Tess out of the picture, the memory of his betrayal made it next to impossible for her to face him. Most anything he wanted her to do to "help the cause" he relayed to her through a phone call from someone else. Only once had he insisted on meeting her, and that was such a disaster, she had determined never to repeat the incident. Obviously, so had he, because it had been almost 2 years since it occurred, and he had never attempted to contact her personally again.

Surveying the neighborhood, she came to the startling realization that she was only a block from the Evans' home. Suddenly, it became clear what she had to do. She needed to let someone know what she had learned. She couldn't go to her Max, because he was undoubtedly with the Liz of this time, and she couldn't risk encountering her younger self. Serena's warnings had been very clear on that issue. Besides, the idea of dealing with him, with all the history between them... it was not a pleasant thought. So that left but one option - the present version of Max. A Max who still loved her, who hadn't felt betrayed by her.... who hadn't slept with Tess. Seeing him would undoubtedly be an emotional event for her, but at least it would be devoid of the hostility that had grown up between them the last three years.

Stalking stealthily from yard to yard through the neighborhood, Liz made her way to the Evanses'. Staying to the shadows, she slipped around the building until she was at Max's window. She paused a moment, to take in the state of the household. It appeared that the whole place - or what she could readily see of it - was dark. Being such a late hour, she took that as a sign that everyone was asleep. Stepping up to his window, she reached out and knocked lightly. She found herself hoping he was a light sleeper. The idea of waking the whole household while trying to get his attention was not exactly a desirable one.

Her fears were quickly put to rest, when a dark outline appeared at the window. She heard the latch unlock, and then the panes were swinging inward in silent invitation. She nearly jumped a foot, when she heard Max's voice coming forth from the shadows. "Michael, since when do you-" he stopped abruptly. He stared at her, not sure if he was hallucinating. He finally found his voice after a moment. "Liz? What are you doing here at -" He paused mid-sentence, looking over his shoulder, presumably to check the clock. "- at 4:00 in the morning? A little late - er, early - to be wandering the streets, isn't it?" He stepped closer to the opening, the light from a nearby street lamp washing over him, and she saw him rub his sleepy eyes.

"Max, can I come in? I'm really sorry about the hour, but -"

Her request was cut short, when he unexpectedly reached out, and effortlessly lifted her over the sill into the room. "Can't have you hanging around outside. Don't want the neighbors to talk," he explained. When he set her down, her one knee started to buckle, and she stumbled up against him. Instinctively, his arms reached out and caught her, reflexively drawing her body up against his. His heart hammering at her nearness, he did what only came natural - he bent his head, and fastened his lips to hers, for a kiss that was long overdue. At first he felt her stiffen, but quickly she became soft and yielding to him.

As Future Liz was kissing young Max, she suddenly developed a memory of her Max, kissing her younger self. The tenderness that he showed that scared, hurting girl that she was, gave her hope that maybe things weren't so hopeless for them after all. That thought fanned the flame of her desire, and she encouraged Max to deepen their kiss.

Suddenly, in his mind, Future Max saw Liz sneaking into his room at his parents' house in the middle of the night, and kissing him breathless. It seemed like a memory, but he knew that it had never happened... had it? Was it a flash? He wondered where it was coming from.

Things heated up pretty quickly, and young Max was pleased, yet somewhat surprised, at how passionately she responded to him. He had become so used to her pushing him away, that this complete turn around confused him, in the farthest corners of his mind that weren't completely overtaken by passion. A slightly uneasy feeling flitted over him, but he chose to ignore it, because he finally had what he had been dreaming of all these months. Liz Parker - love of his life, his true soul mate - was finally in his arms, and WHOA! He wondered when she had gotten so bold, as he felt her hands roaming at will over his body. Something was not right here....

Before he had a chance to take a step back and assess the situation, though, the flashes started.

*An image of himself, Liz, Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Kyle at a gravestone. Where was Alex? Then he saw the name engraved in the marble marker - Alex C. Whitman. He felt Liz's overwhelming grief and anger.*

*A heated argument between himself and Liz, as she got into a cab - accompanied by a great sadness.*

*He saw himself telling Liz that he was going back to their home planet, because he had gotten Tess pregnant, and the baby couldn't survive here. He felt her betrayal as if it had happened to him.*

*He watched helplessly, repulsed as an image of himself having sex with Tess materialized. He felt Liz's heart toward him grow cold, the fire of her love for him extinguished.*

The last was more than he could bear. He wrenched himself from the kiss, screaming, "NOOO!" He held Liz at arms length, tears streaming down his face, his chest heaving, as he labored to get air into lungs that were being squeezed tightly by the grip of so many emotions - fear, anguish, guilt, anger.... he wasn't even sure which of those were his, and which were remnants of Liz's. A little of both, he figured. "Liz - " he managed to choke out, despite the tightness in his throat.

Before he could say anything else, there was a knock on his door. "Max?" he heard his mother call in. "Honey, are you all right?"

Max's pounding heart felt like it came to an abrupt halt. God help him, if she found Liz in his room in the middle of the night. Max ran his hand through his hair, as he frantically tried to remember if he had locked the door last night, or not. "Yeah, Mom," he croaked out. He cleared his throat to try to rid his voice of the huskiness induced by emotion. "I - I just had a, um, nightmare is all. I'm fine, really. Go back to bed."

"Are you sure?" she asked through the still closed door. "I could go downstairs and make you some warm milk, if that would help?"

Liz had to stifle a chuckle. Max looked down at her. "She's such a mother," he whispered, rolling his eyes. Then he called out to Diane, "No, that's okay, mom, really. Go get some sleep." He faked a loud yawn. "That's what I'm planning to do."

"Okay, honey.... if you're sure," she acquiesced hesitantly. "But if you need me, you come get me, all right?"

Max smiled. It touched him, how much his mom loved him. His smile quickly faded, though, when the thought came, that if she knew what he was, that could all change in a second. Liz watched, as pain replaced the joy in his beautiful eyes. Soberly, he answered, "I will, Mom. Thanks." He listened while the sound of her footsteps receded down the hall, and he heard the click of her bedroom door latching behind her. He relaxed and sighed, filling his lungs with the air his fear had deprived them of.

He realized then, that he was still gripping Liz's shoulders, and pulled his hands away quickly, as the memory of those flashes hammered through his mind again. He looked at her like she was a total stranger - and perhaps she was. He couldn't imagine why she would be fantasizing about such despicable things. He found the whole thing repulsive. None of those things had ever happened - so what other explanation could there be, but that she had conjured those images in her own mind? He never figured her for being so warped....

"Max - ?" Liz broke the silence with her uncertain question.

"Hmmm - what?" Max responded, trying to shake his troubled thoughts.

"What were you thinking just now?"

"Nothing," he shot back defensively. "Why?"

Trembling a little at his tone, she whispered, "Because you were looking at me with such.... almost like revulsion. And you seemed to be miles away."

"Well maybe that's because I was feeling revulsion, Liz," he snapped.

Liz shuddered. She couldn't believe that even in this time, Max could hate her so much. He hadn't even seen her sleeping with Kyle yet. What could make him so angry with her? Her voice was quivering from heartache, when she asked, "Max? Why are you so angry? What is it?"

"It was the flashes, Liz."

"The flashes?"

"Yeah, you know - flashes?? When I kissed you, I got flashes. You do remember that that happens, right?" he said mockingly.

"Of course I do! But what does that have to do with -"

"They were sick, Liz! Sick, despicable images that came from your mind. Things that have never happened, and yet - there they were. I must say, I never would have expected such a vulgar fantasy life of you, Miss Parker. I feel like I don't know you at all. Just who are you, really??"

Liz choked back a sob, when she realized what must have happened. He must have seen images of things that had happened as a result of her interfering with this time line. Things from the future. She could just imagine what they were. Probably some of the same sick images that plagued her, night after restless night in her dreams. "Max, I'm so sorry for what you must have seen. You don't understand...."

"You bet your cute little fanny I don't understand!" he hissed. "How could you Liz? How could you wish for those things to happen? What happened to those normal, erotic fantasies, of me sneaking into the girl's locker room and watching you shower, that you used to have? Those I can understand! But imagining me making love to Tess of all people...." He shuddered. "I know things have been strained between us, but I never would have believed that you would want me to sleep with her....." He choked on the rest of what he had to say, the hurt and betrayal shimmering in the unshed tears pooled in his eyes.

"Oh, Max...." Liz cried out, trying to keep her voice down. "It isn't what you think. I'm not who you think I am..."

"That's for sure," he retorted sarcastically. And then her words really registered with him. As comprehension dawned, Max drew him self up to his full height in a reflexive act of self-defense, surprise showing on his face for the briefest of seconds, to be replaced with a battle-ready alertness. "Who - who are you?" he demanded forcefully, even though he spoke in a hushed tone.

"Oh!" Liz exclaimed, realizing where his thoughts were taking him. "No - no Max! It's nothing like that! I mean, I'm Liz and all.... I'm just not your Liz."

"What the hell do you mean, you're not my Liz?! How many Liz's are there?" Then an absurd thought popped into his head. "What? Are you some sort of - of shapeshifter or something?"

"No! I can explain, if you'll just give me a chance -"

He grabbed her shoulders again, and gave her a little shake. "What kind of mind games are you trying to play here??" At that accusation, another thought entirely came to him. "Is this some sort of mind warp?!"

In hopes of hushing his tirade, Liz placed her fingers gently over his lips, even though he continued to hold her arms in a bruising grip. "Max, please, if you'll just listen?"

His eyes remained hard and unforgiving, but he nodded against the fingers that stopped his speech. Liz dropped her hands from his mouth. "Talk," he ordered, "and it better be good."

"Well, I hate to disappoint you right off the bat, Max," she began, "but there isn't anything good about this tale I'm going tell you. It's a story about the annihilation of our love."

Max felt his heart drop into his shoes. How could this be? Liz was his love, his soul mate. What could ever happen to change that?



posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:38:47 PM
Part Six

Around 4:00 am, Future Max - the real Future Max - and Liz had decided it might be best to head out onto the balcony, before their conversing woke Jeff and Nancy. That kind of complication they did not need. Liz was in front of Future Max, with one leg over the sill, when she heard him growl behind her, "Damn it Liz! You never listen, do you?!"
Startled, Liz jumped, bumping her head on the sash above her. Rubbing her head, she scowled at him and demanded, "What was that for? What on Earth - pardon the pun - did I do wrong now?"

"Oh, sorry, Liz, I wasn't talking to you," Future Max returned, blushing. By now, he had seen enough of these "flashes" to realize that they were indeed memories - new ones that Liz was creating with his younger self.

He came back to his senses, when Liz reached out and cuffed him up side the head. "Give me a break, Max. You said 'Damn it Liz...' How many other Liz's do you see around here?"

"Well, there's at least one more," he said grumpily, rubbing his head where she had swatted him. "Before I left, I expressly forbid her to come back to this time, but as usual, she doesn't comprehend the concept of obedience. Personally, I think she lives to defy my every wish. So, true to form, she has followed me back here."

"Oh, sorry about... that," she said, pointing to his head. "So tell me, how do you know she's here? Have you seen her? And why are you getting upset about it now, all of a sudden?" She finished climbing out the window, and went to sit on her lounge chair.

Future Max slipped out right behind her, answering as he crossed to sit at the foot of the chaise. "I don't have to see her to know she is here. She went to see my present self - and now I am beginning to have new memories, as they are being made. But apart from that - I've always been able to sense when you are near. That's about the only thing between us that didn't change. " He smiled secretly. "One thing's for certain - you'll never be able to convince me you aren't in love with me, now."

"Oh? Why is that?"

"Because your future self just spilled the beans about the whole plan the other Max hatched to get me to fall out of love with you, and the chaos that erupted as a result." He paused and closed his eyes, as the new memories kept forming. It was rather distracting. He thought about the passionate kiss she had shared with his young counterpart. Obviously she is still in love with me, despite her denials, he thought. Perhaps it isn't too late for us, after all. If only we can change what happened....

Forcing the memories to the back of his mind, he explained, "It's weird, watching a movie of your past, as it is being created."

"Hmmm. I can see where that would be a little strange. I wonder if she is developing memories of our conversation, too?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Across town at the Evans house, Future Liz suddenly became agitated. "Just great," she spat out angrily. "His royal highness, Mister High and Mighty has figured out I'm here. I knew he probably would, when I started developing new memories of his conversation with my younger self."

"Huh? Liz, what the hell are you talking about?" Max was totally confused by her apparent babbling, not to mention her unusually hostile mood..

Future Liz sighed, knowing it was time to tell him who she really was. "You see, Max, I am Liz - but I am Liz from 3 years in the future. I came back here to settle a score with the person who destroyed my only chance at happiness, by setting into motion a series of events that would destroy our relationship beyond repair. I wanted to make him pay for what he did to us...."

"From the - the future...." Max echoed, incredulously. "Then - then those horrible flashes I got from you...."

"Really happened," she confirmed dejectedly, nodding her head.

Max reached out, and pulled her into a hug. After embracing a few moments, he released her and suggested, "Liz, why don't we get out of here, and go for a walk? That way we can talk, without worrying that we'll wake someone up."

Future Liz nodded in agreement. Max checked to make sure his bedroom door was locked, and then they quietly exited out the window. When they were a sufficient distance from the house, Max resumed their conversation. "So.... what did you mean before, when you said something about someone knowing you were here?"

She smiled. "Well, actually, I was talking about you - the you from my time."

"Uh, not to appear overly sensitive, or anything, but it didn't sound like you were exactly describing me with glowing affection...." He cocked his eyebrow questioningly.

Future Liz averted her eyes in embarrassment. "Yeah, well, in the future I'm from, you and I aren't what you would call on 'good terms'. Hostile would more aptly describe it."

This news troubled Max greatly. He had been so sure that Liz was softening toward him lately. In his mind, they would simply make up, and live happily ever after. Something must have gone awry somewhere along the way. "Liz, I'm sorry, but I just don't understand how that can be. You and I are soul mates - we belong together...."

"And sometimes that just isn't enough." She sighed. "This is a rather lengthy story - are you sure you're up for it?"

"In for a penny, in for a pound," he answered with a sigh, figuring he wasn't going to like what he was going to hear, after what he had seen.

"Okay, then, here goes.... In my past - your present - what appeared to be an older version of you came to visit me from 14 years in the future. Well, at least he convinced me he was you, but I'll tell you more about that later. Anyway, he told me that because you and I were together, Tess left Roswell, and without her, your unit wasn't complete. You were too weak without her to win the war with Kivar - he's the leader of the enemy race that took over your planet - and it caused the destruction of Earth as well. So... " She took a deep breath, "He convinced me that the only way to stop it, was to make you fall out of love with me. He mounted this whole campaign, complete with pep talks, to get me to change our future." They had come to a bridge over a creek, and she turned and crossed her arms in front of her on the edge of the bridge, leaning on them to look down at the water. He could hear the strain in her voice as she continued. "Well, it worked. I managed to convince you that I had betrayed you, by having you find me in bed with Kyle the night of Gomez -" she looked back at him over her shoulder, "which of course, was just a set up. There is no way I would have ever slept with Kyle - not when I love you so much... You didn't believe it at first, but when I continually insisted it was the truth, you finally gave up believing in us...." She turned away again, to hide her tears.

As she struggled to compose herself, she felt Max step up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind, and pulling her back to rest against him. The tender gesture cracked through what little self-control she had left, and her whole body shook as she softly sobbed. And all the while she was crying, Max was rubbing his face against the top of her head, placing kisses in her hair, inhaling the soft scent of her, and murmuring words of comfort to her. Finally, the sobs diminished enough for her to go on.

"Anyway," she continued with a sniffle, "it worked so well, that eventually you turned to Tess for comfort, got her pregnant, and made plans to go back to home to Antar, because the atmosphere here was killing the unborn baby."

"We - we found a way to go back home?" he asked in surprise.

"Oh, yes.... Tess found a way, all right," she spat out, her voice venomous.

Max was unnerved to hear such hatred in Liz's tone. What she must have gone through in those three years, to make her change so much.... he thought ruefully. And apparently, I'm the one responsible for bringing her all that pain. His heart was heavy with that knowledge and self-loathing, to think that he would be capable of crushing the heart of his only love.

"Of course, we won't talk about the fact that she killed Alex to do it...." she finished, stirring him from his thoughts.

Max's heart stopped, pain welling in him over that revelation. Recovering, he blurted, "Tess killed Alex? Bu- but why? He was on our side. Why would she do something like that??" Max remembered the grief mixed with anger that he had felt when he saw the flash of Alex's grave. Now he understood it.

Liz started feeling extremely agitated, as all of the horror of that sequence of events revisited her. "She killed him, because she mind-warped him to get him to decode that damn book of hers! In it were the instructions on how to use the granilith to return home. We all thought that Alex had gone to Sweden on an exchange program, when in reality, Tess had him sequestered away at UNM at Las Cruces. They had some fancy computer there, that he was able to use to translate it. Anyway, shortly after he came home, his mind started to break out of the mind-warp. Personally? I think Tess was juggling too many mind-warps and probably wasn't operating at 100% because of the pregnancy. When she found out that his memory was returning, she killed him. No guilt, no remorse. Just something that had to be done." Her fists were clenched at her side, her jaw working, as she forced herself to suppress a scream of rage. No justice had been served, nor could there ever be any fitting punishment meted out for her crime. If only they could keep it from happening....

Max gently stroked her back. "Liz, I'm so sorry for all that you have had to endure. If - if this is too painful, we can stop."

She shook her head vigorously. "No - no, I have to finish what I've started. Because it gets worse. And we have to try to stop it from happening. Actually, that's why Max came back. I came back just for the revenge. But now, I realize the best revenge is to stop this insanity." She took a deep, cleansing breath. "So, where was I?"

"Tess - Alex...." Max offered, not sure how to delicately put such an awful thought.

"Right. Well. Kyle had witnessed what happened, so she mind-warped him next, and got him to help her carry the body out to her car, convinced it was just luggage. He barely recovered the memory in time to stop you all from going back to Antar with Tess. When you learned the truth, you confronted her. In the end, you decided to stay here, and she went back alone."

"What I don't understand is why she would want to go back to Antar alone? I mean, I know the baby needed to be there to survive - but wasn't she worried about Kivar? About facing him alone?" Max questioned.

"Oh nooo...." Future Liz shot back sarcastically, as all the pain that she had been denying for the last three years came flooding to the surface. "You see, your beloved bride was in cahoots with the enemy all along. It seems that Nasedo had struck a deal with Kivar, your enemies' leader, that required Tess to become pregnant with your heir, and then trick all of you into returning to Antar. My guess? He was going to execute you all, and use your son to maintain his control of the planet. And Tess? She would just get a free ride out of all of it." She shook her head and snorted in contempt. "And to think of all the heartache Isabel endured, thinking she was Vilandra, the betrayer. But she wasn't the one who betrayed you in this life. Your own wife stabbed you in the back."

"She's not my wife, Liz," Max denied vehemently. "She may have been in another lifetime, on another planet, but there is only one woman I could ever want to spend my life with." He reached out, and turned her to face him. Tucking a stray lock of her hair behind her ear, he placed his forehead against hers. "And that woman is you. Only you, Liz."

Liz swallowed against the urge to cry again. "I know you believe that now, Max. But obviously, things changed somewhere along the way. You must have really come to despise me. Otherwise you wouldn't have -" She closed her eyes tight against the pain that thought brought, tears slipping out from between her lashes.

"Slept with Tess," he finished for her, pain evident in his voice. But there was something that bothered him about this. Something about the flashes... and then it hit him. "Liz?"

"Hmmm?"

"Why didn't we - I mean after we found out the truth about Tess, and she left - why didn't we get back together?"

Liz fought bravely to stay the impending flood of tears. "We tried to make it work, but the first time you kissed me - really kissed me -" She looked at him meaningfully, so he would understand what she wasn't saying. "Well, that's when I got the flash."

Max felt the bile rise in his throat, because he was pretty sure he knew exactly which flash she was referring to. The one of him and Tess making love at the Observatory, that he had seen when he kissed her. He knew it couldn't have been her memory - she certainly wouldn't have been present. And if it upset him that much, how much worse must it have been for her, knowing that it was real. But just to be sure....

"Which flash, Liz?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

"The one of..." she got hung up on the words, and swallowed down the lump in her throat.

"Of me and Tess?" he offered. Future Liz nodded her head. Max closed his eyes tight against the pain that he was feeling - pain at the thought that he could have, at some point, caused her that kind of pain. With a voice full of emotion, he assured her with conviction, "I don't know how I could have lost faith in us, and betrayed our love like that, Liz, but I do know, it wasn't for love of Tess. And now that I know what she is really about, there is NO WAY I would ever consider it. As far as I'm concerned, she is public enemy #1. Better to cut her out of our lives now, before she does any more damage!"

"No, Max! You don't know what you're saying! You can't act too rashly, or everything that I have suffered - we have suffered - will have been in vain, can't you see that?"

"Well, what would you have me do? Entrust her with our lives, the lives of our friends - which obviously mean nothing to her! - and with our closest held secrets?"

"No, of course not! Just - now that you know what she is up to, why not use her, the way that she used you? Er - that is - was going to use you.... okay, this is confusing... anyway, she does have a great deal of power, and proved to be very useful to you. Just string her along, let her feel like part of the group, and use her powers to your advantage. The more you accomplish before she catches onto you, the better off you'll be in the long run. We engaged in some skirmishes where her power definitely came in handy. From a tactical standpoint, you'd be wise to keep her around a little while longer."

"Well, if you think so, then that settles it."

"What?! Just like that, on my say so?"

"Sure. Why not?" He couldn't understand her surprise.

Liz stood staring at him in amazement. When she recovered her senses, she explained, "It's just been so long since you listened to anything I said, I guess it just threw me." She didn't say it with any hint of bitterness or sarcasm, just a simple statement of fact.

Max cupped her cheek in his hand. "The day I stop listening to you, Liz Parker, will be the day I prove I am not fit to be a lowly servant, much less the king of an entire race of people."

"Tell that to your future self," she snorted. "I'm sure you could have quite an argument with yourself over it."

"Maybe I will! By the way, where am I?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Oh, my Max is around here some place," she said, not able to look him in the eyes.





posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:39:40 PM
Part Seven

"Liz -" Max growled softly. He took her chin in his hand, and turned her face toward his. She looked up at him hesitantly. "What aren't you telling me here?"

"Well...." Future Liz dropped her eyes from his gaze again. "My Max kinda forbid me to come back here, because he knew I was out for blood .... so I waited until he came back, and then I came a few minutes later - only I materialized behind the UFO center, so he wouldn't see me...."

"Something tells me he's gonna be pretty ticked when he finds out," Max warned her. "If I freak out at 17 when no one wants to listen to me, I doubt at 20 I'm any more understanding. Especially if everything has been falling apart around me for the last 3 years...."

"Oh, he's mad all right. But he's taking it better than I thought he would."

"What do you mean? I thought you said he doesn't know you are here."

"Well, this is really confusing, but as I am here with you, we are making new memories for him."

Curious, Max asked, "How do you know that?"

"Because right now, he is with your Liz, and they are making new memories for me, as well.

"He's where?" Max felt an intense flash of jealousy. He knew that it was irrational - after all, it was merely a future version of himself, but still.... "What kind of memories are they making?!" he demanded, rather irritably. Instantly, the heated kiss he had shared with Future Liz came back to his mind, and he simultaneously wrestled with feelings of guilt for not being true to his Liz, and these irrational waves of jealousy at the thought that she might be doing the same thing....

"Well, one of the memories is of him blowing off steam, when he realized I am here." She blushed, thinking of some of the other things they'd done. She swiftly attempted to diffuse Max's apparent irritation. "This time travel stuff is a real headache, you know?"

"Yeah, so it would seem," he grumbled, not thoroughly satisfied with her answer. But he figured it was probably best to let it go. "By the way - why did you both choose tonight as the time to come back to?"

"Because tonight is the night that 'Future Max' came to visit me. Oh! Only I haven't gotten around to telling you what happened! I found that scoundrel tonight, and gave him a piece of my mind... and it turns out it never was you in the first place! It was Zan that had come back from the future, in an attempt to help Kivar undo certain events of the natural timeline. All that stuff about you needing Tess to save the world was a lie."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!" Max exclaimed, holding his hands up in a gesture meant to stall any further comments from her. "Who is this Zan character?"

Liz ran a hand over her face in exasperation. She completely forgot he wouldn't know what she was talking about. "Okay, this gets pretty weird, so just bear with me. Zan is... another hybrid. You see, there is another set of four hybrids that look just like you, Michael, Isabel, and Tess. And they have powers like you - only more developed. They claim that you are 'more human' than them - that they have more of the 'alien essence'. They live in New York City.... and, well, they are kind of a rough crowd. We refer to them as the "dupes" - you know, short for duplicates? But they seem to think of you as the dupes. Long story, best left for another time. I realize this is a lot to process...."

"You aren't kidding," Max replied, shaking his head in confusion. "It's gonna take me a while to wrap my brain around this one."

"Undoubtedly. But for now, just know that they exist, and that they are less than friendly toward us, if you get my drift. So, you can see the problem in having Zan working with Kivar. We already know that Lonnie - that's Isabel's dupe - and Rath - Michael's dupe - are willing to do anything to make it back home. Including doing Kivar's bidding, and they even thought they had successfully killed Zan... that will happen sometime in the next few weeks. Obviously he survived, if Kivar sent him back. But I'll save all that for later. Nutshell? Kivar is evil, dupes are bad news, probably working against you, even though they are from your race. Got it?" She took a deep breath.

"Yeah - I get the gist of it. Watch out for Zan and his merry band of dupes, and of course, Kivar. But one question - why did Kivar send Zan back to this point in time, from the future?"

"For some reason, Kivar didn't like the original timeline, and he tried to rewrite history. Which, of course, he did, and we are trying to undo that - as soon as we figure out why he did it." She thought on that for a second, and then gasped with the shock of where her imaginings had taken her. "No, it can't be...."

"What is it, Liz?"

"The night he came to me, he was so... adamant about one particular event... something that had to be stopped at all cost...." She stood motionless, staring right past Max, as if returning to another time, another place.

"What did he want you to stop?"

"The night of Gomez, Max...."

"Gomez? Hey, I just bought the tickets this afternoon!" He smiled shyly. "I was gonna ask you to go with me."

"I know," she replied sullenly.

His smile faded at her response. "Oh, right. So - what does Gomez have to do with anything?"

"In the natural timeline... the night of Gomez, you came to my balcony in a last ditch attempt to get me to go to the concert with you."

He grinned widely. "Did it work?"

"Uh - no."

His grin abruptly died. "Oh, I see."

"No, you don't see. It's the reason that we didn't go, that Kivar must have needed to change."

"I fail to see why Kivar would concern himself with our attendance - or lack thereof - at a concert."

Future Liz looked at Max pointedly. "We never made it to the concert that night, because we ended up 'cementing' our relationship."

"Cementing?"

"Yeah, you know.... cementing."

Max's eyes suddenly grew wide with understanding. "You don't mean.... we didn't... that is..." he saw the look on Liz's face, and knew that's exactly what she had meant. "B-but... that's just a couple days from now. You - I mean she - I mean.... God, I don't know what I mean. We aren't ready to take that big of a step, are we? You - she has been so distant for so long. It seems hard to believe that things could change that much so quickly."

"Must have been the roses and the Mariachi serenade," she said with a smirk.

"The what?"

"You know - the roses you tossed up to me, while you were serenading me below my balcony."

"Liz -? I don't have a clue here. Help me out. Is this something that is about to happen?"

Future Liz grew gravely concerned. "Max - how could you forget? You would have done that just this evening. I checked the date on the newspaper in one of those machines outside the UFO center. Today was the day that you serenaded me."

It was Max's turn to look worried about her. "Liz, c'mon. Think about it. Can you imagine me serenading you? Making a spectacle of myself? Drawing attention to myself like that? I don't know where you got that idea from, but it didn't happen. I've never even entertained the thought of doing something like that."

Future Liz put her hand up against her forehead, and closed her eyes. Think, she commanded herself. And then it hit her. "Of course! That's how he knew what was going to happen! I didn't even think about it before. He told me everything that was going to happen, just before it did, and that is what convinced me that it was really you, from the future. Because only you would have known the things that you did. But since it was really Zan, he had to create an event... someone must have mind-warped me into seeing the whole thing! Damn! This gets worse by the minute!" Liz was fairly shaking with anger at the way she had been played for a fool into giving up the one thing in her life that was worth living for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Future Max zoned out on Liz for a few minutes. Finally, a smile slowly lifted the corners of his mouth, and he murmured, "Good work, Liz. I should have known better than to let my personal feelings influence my judgment." He looked at young Liz, who was sitting there looking at him in wide-eyed confusion. "Oh, sorry. I got absorbed in all these new memories for a moment."

"That's okay," Liz assured him. "But what did you mean about letting your personal feelings influence your judgment?"

"Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, you and I eventually got to the point where, basically, we can't stand to be in each other's presence anymore," he confessed sadly. "That was the real reason I forbid my Liz to come back here tonight. But for once, I'm glad she didn't listen."

"Oh, Max, how did things between us ever become so strained?" Liz asked, her heart breaking to think that in any reality, she and Max couldn't find their way back to each other. "I mean - once Tess was out of the picture, why didn't we get back together?"

"We tried, Liz," he said solemnly, running his hand through her hair. The chocolate tresses flowed over his fingers like liquid silk, and when he got to the end, he held a lock, gently rubbing it between his fingers. His eyes closed, he savored the sensation that he had not felt in so long, and he somehow found the strength to continue. "After Tess left, you and I took of for the day, in order to clear the air, and try to start over. That was when you told me the whole story about 'Future Max', and the supposed 'end of the world'." He suddenly remembered something else Future Liz had told his younger self. "You know, if you had only told me at that point about the Mariachi Band incident, we might have figured this out way back then."

Liz looked at him inquisitively. "What do you mean?"

"You know how you saw me serenade you earlier tonight?"

"Yeah -?"

"It never happened, Liz."

"Wh-what?"

He opened his eyes, and gazed off into the night sky. "It seems my Liz found your 'Future Max' earlier tonight, and confronted him. And guess what she discovered?"

"What? Max, I have no clue -"

"It wasn't a future version of me at all, but rather Zan, - another hybrid who looks like me - who had been sent back by our enemy's leader, to keep us apart. You see, apparently our love wasn't the cause of the world's destruction, after all. In fact, it was probably its salvation. Zan told her that together we were too strong, so Kivar - he's the leader - had to do something to stop us. The Mariachi Band must have been part of the plan - Zan's cover story to get you to believe that he was me. Somehow, you were mind-warped - Tess, no doubt, unless my dupe has some hidden talents..."

"Oh my God - and to think that I would have fallen for it - actually, I did fall for it, didn't I? Which is why you are here now..." She trailed off into her own thoughts for a moment. "So you never finished telling me what happened between us...?"

Future Max let out a sigh, finally letting go of her hair, and continued. "After you had finished explaining why you had been pushing me away for months, I reminded you of my belief that we choose our own destinies, and that you always have been, and always would be, mine." Tears began to well up in his eyes, as he relived that fateful day in his mind. He swallowed audibly, and went on. "I took you in my arms, and kissed you. After so many months apart, things between us heated up pretty quickly. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to make love to you...." He blushed, and turned his face away as he finished, "It was then that you got the flash."

Liz placed her hand tenderly on his arm in silent encouragement. "What flash, Max?" she asked softly. She almost hated to hear what he was going to say - from the look of agony on his face, as he glanced back at her over his shoulder, she knew it wasn't going to be pleasant.

Future Max's jaw muscles stiffened, as he fought the feelings of guilt and self-loathing afresh. Turning away from her again, he eventually managed to choke out a reply. "It was of Tess and me - together...."

"Oh, Max...." As much as it hurt to hear, it pained her even more to see the burden that this knowledge had caused Max over the years, and she was overcome with compassion for him. She took his big shoulders in her small hands, urging him to turn around to face her. When he did, she leaned forward, and wrapped her arms around him, holding him tightly. She felt his tears, warm and wet against her neck, as he silently mourned the loss of his one true love for the first time since the day it happened.

When he was finally able to speak, he told her how he had wept then, too, pleading with her to believe that Tess never meant anything to him, and to forgive him for not having more faith in her. But her icy refusal to forgive him had sparked his temper, and like a fool, he had accused her of being responsible for it all, by meddling with their future.

"I argued that if you hadn't interfered, we would have made love the night of the Gomez concert, like we were supposed to, and Tess never would have been able to come between us. But instead, you chose to spend months insisting you had slept with Kyle, knowing how that knowledge was tearing me up inside. And then, when you became so hostile after Alex's death, that was the final straw. I finally lost all hope for us. That's when I slept with Tess." He stood, and walked over to look over the edge of the balcony, his hands braced on the ledge on either side of his body. "After that, things were never the same between us again. We got so we couldn't even tolerate each other, and avoided each other at all cost."

He stopped, and Liz sat silently, tears running down her cheeks, not sure what to say. She was pretty sure she knew how her future self must have felt about his condemning her for sacrificing her own happiness, to do what she thought was best for him and his people - what she thought he had asked her to do. If only she had known then that it was really this Zan....

And then it hit her. She did know it was Zan now - and her Max knew the truth as well. This time there would be no lies, no secrets... and no betrayals. None of the heartache this Max had suffered would ever come to pass. She would make sure of it. The sound of his grief-stricken voice stirred her from her thoughts.

"You know, I just realized that I never told you that it was the despair and hopelessness that made me vulnerable to Tess' seduction - not acceptance of any kind that she was my destiny.." He walked back to the lounge chair, and knelt before her, his face close to hers. He looked soulfully into her eyes, willing her to recognize the truth in what he was about to say. "Tess and I may have united physically, but you are the one that owns my heart and my soul, Liz. So after Tess... I just felt cold and empty inside. Because she wasn't you. And I've been cold and empty ever since. I chose to hide it behind a mask of indifference toward you, partially to salvage what little pride I had left. Mostly it was the only way I could find the strength to carry on. Anyway, to make a long story just a little longer, that was the real reason I forbid Liz to come back with me tonight. It is just too painful to be around her. I should have known better. You have always provided me with insight and help that was invaluable. And now that we know our love is a threat to Kivar... I wonder if we can somehow find our way back to each other...."

Future Max brushed his knuckles softly across her cheek. He leaned forward and gently kissed her lips. He pulled back and looked into young Liz's eyes as he spoke, "My sweet, beautiful Liz... when you get this memory.... that kiss is for you." He had so much more he wanted to say to her - but more than anything, he just wanted to holdhis Liz in his arms again.




posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:40:28 PM
Part Eight

The two of them sat in silence for a while, watching twilight creep into the morning sky. Shortly before 6:00, Liz heard her cell phone start to ring. She dove through the open window, snatching the phone on the second ring. "Hello?" she answered softly, making her way back to the window, so she could talk at a normal level. As she slipped out onto the balcony, she heard a familiar voice rumble through the receiver.

"Hey, Liz. It's me," Max announced. "I figured you wouldn't mind me calling, since you're up and all...." he chuckled softly. "Did you have an interesting night?" he asked teasingly.

Liz giggle back. "Yeah, you could say that. But Max, what do we do now? I mean - we have to sort all of this out, and decide on a course of action. We have a responsibility...."

"Hold it right there, Liz," he interrupted. "If I recall correctly, that's what started this whole mess. I think that what we do is simple: now that we know what we always suspected - that we are stronger together than apart - we do what comes natural, and get our relationship back on solid ground. And let history take its natural course. How does that sound?"

"Uh...." Liz hesitated, remembering what that "natural" course of history had been the supposed first time around. Is Max thinking of that now, by any chance? she wondered. "Well, we can discuss that later... in private," she said, speaking low, and looking over her shoulder to see if Future Max was overhearing the conversation.

"Mmmm," Max intoned into the transmitter. "I'll look forward to that... 'discussion'."

The sensual current of his tone fairly crackled through the cell phone's receiver. Liz felt herself go all hot in the face - okay, let's be honest. She went hot all over. And as if that weren't bad enough, Future Max had erupted into a barely restrained fit of laughter behind her. She was wondering just what his problem was... and then it hit her. He knew exactly what Max had said to her. This was so embarrassing. And yet here she was, trying to keep Future Max from overhearing her conversation with... himself. This was just too weird. For the first time since he had showed up, she found herself wondering just when he was going to leave....

Well, two can play at this game, Max Evans, she thought with a devious smirk. We'll see who gets the last laugh...

"Yes, well," she replied in a sultry voice, "there are many ways to communicate. Perhaps one of them will be conducive to our goal of 'letting history take its natural course', as you so cleverly suggested."

Dead silence on the other end of the phone. A few seconds later, she heard an audible gasp behind her. "LIZ!" Future Max cried in disbelief.

Liz turned to look over her shoulder at him, sporting a feral grin. "Well, you did start it...."

"Yes, well, I suppose I had that coming," Present Max allowed, thinking she was addressing him. "But you have to admit... there is just something a little - dare I say it? - anticlimactic about knowing when and where you are supposed to lose your virginity, don't you think?"

Liz shuddered as she thought about it. And just thinking about it.... "Uh, no, can't say as I would classify it that way," she answered, fanning herself. Time to change the topic. Quickly. "So... how are we going to handle Zan?"

"Good question. I mean, I wonder if he assumes we are on to him, since Liz - er, the Future Liz - discovered his real identity. Oh, is this too weird? An alien with a secret identity. I feel like I fell into a comic book...."

Liz laughed out loud. That was one of the many things that she had come to adore about Max. No matter what was going on around him, he could make her laugh. Make her feel... alive. And well it should be. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't be alive at all. So it was only "natural" for her to slip and admit, "Oh, Max, I love you. You're such a riot."

Max went completely still. Behind Liz, Future Max was frozen in shock. This was all so different from the way things had happened between him and his Liz. He was watching his own history being rewritten. So far, it beat the hell out of the history he came here with.

Quietly, Max's tentative voice reached Liz's ear. "Wh-what did you say?"

Liz thought a second. "I said 'you are a riot'. You can be so funny some times - it feels great to laugh like that with you again."

"I'm glad - but that isn't the part I'm referring to. What you said right before that..."

Liz looked puzzled. Max, of course, couldn't see the look of confusion on her face, but his elder self could. Liz happened to look up at him, and noticed that he was looking at her expectantly. Like he was waiting for her to make some important declaration. "What did I say?" she mouthed silently to him.

With a question in his eyes, and hope in his heart, he gave her the charades version: First, he pointed to Liz. Next, he drew a heart with his two forefingers in the air in front of him. Lastly, he pointed to himself. His eyes locked with hers, waiting for her response.

Liz covered her mouth. She hadn't even been aware that she had said... that. But now the cat was out of the bag. How could she get herself out of this one? And then it hit her. She didn't have to. Despite the mom-o-gram in the pod chamber, and the apparent past that Tess shared with Max, none of it mattered any more. Max would never be with Tess, knowing her intention was to betray him, Isabel and Michael. So as long as they kept it a secret from Tess, there was really no longer any reason why they couldn't be together. Suddenly, she felt as if a great weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. Months of denying her love for Max was over. She almost felt giddy with the relief of it all.

Then she realized that she had two men - or is that one? Glory, this is confusing - waiting expectantly for what she would say. She smiled warmly, looking into Future Max's clear, amber eyes, and declared over the phone to the young man who owned her heart, "I said, 'I love you,' Max Evans! Do you hear me?! I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU!!!"

Liz had to pull the phone from her ear, as Max's exuberant response greeted her ear. "WOOHOO!!" Future Max shook his head and chuckled. After his victory shout, Max continued in a much more sober tone. "You know, Miss Parker, I'm not very pleased with you right now."

Liz was confused. "Wha - why, Max? I - I thought this is what you wanted...." Her heart sank. Now that she had finally given in and admitted her feelings for him, was he going to change his mind? Was this some sort of payback for the hell she had supposedly put him through?

"Oh, babe," Max rumbled back seductively. "It's what I want more than my next breath. You know that. But did you have to do it over the phone, when I can't reach out and grab you, and kiss you senseless? I mean, how cruel is that?!" he whined.

"Oh, Max," she sighed in sheer relief. "Is that all that's bothering you? I mean, we can fix that easily enough.... why don't you and the 'other' me come over here? I bet she and this good lookin' hunk that's with me have some things to talk out, too..." Max felt another pang of jealousy over Liz's description of Future Max. He had to remind himself that she simply saw Future Max as an extension of himself.

Liz shot a glance at Future Max, when she heard him insist, "No, Liz! We can't do that!"

"Wait a minute, Max...." she said into the phone. "Future You is objecting to this plan for some reason...." She looked at Future Max as if to say, "Well?"

"Liz, neither you nor Max can come in contact with your double. If you do, from what we've been told, it would destroy both the present and future persons. We can see each other, but we can't have any physical contact, and no direct communication. Otherwise... PFFFT! We're history." He paused a beat. "Uh, no pun intended."

"Oh-kay.... ix-nay on the eeting-may...." Liz stated in defeat.

"No, wait, don't give up so easily," Future Max said. "There may be a way..."

Liz's face brightened considerably. Then she heard Present Max calling to her through the phone, and she replaced the receiver to her ear. "Liz, are you there? Tell me what's happening!" she heard Max demand impatiently.

"Just a minute, Max. I'm trying to find out how we can all meet safely, without annihilating all four of us."

"Oh, okay." Pause. "Wait a minute. What did you say??"

"Max, you can't come in contact with Future Max, or you will both be destroyed. Same for me and my future self."

"Oh wow. So - what do you want to do? How about we ditch the time travelers, and go make sure their trip wasn't in vain?" he offered in a low, suggestive tone.

"Mmmm.... has possibilities," Liz murmured back. Every inch of her was longing to be reunited with Max. Her Max.

It took Liz a moment to register the voice that was calling her name from a few feet away. "Liz? LIZ?"

She came out of her lapse into fantasy land and turned to Future Max, placing her hand over the transmitter of the phone. "Huh? Oh, um, what? Did you ask me something?"

Future Max rolled his eyes mockingly. Well, at least we know things are back on the right track, he thought with a chuckle. "No, I didn't ask you anything. I was just trying to bring you back to the real world so I could make a proposal."

"Oh! Well, what is it?" she inquired impatiently, anxious to have someone make a decision that would put her in the vicinity of Max's strong, comforting arms. Her skin practically tingled at the thought of his touch.

"Well, why don't you tell them we will meet them out at the Old Soap Factory in say.... half an hour? Can you borrow your folks' car - maybe leave them a note?"

Liz nodded. "Yeah, that'll work. They won't be awake for another half hour, so we can be gone before they're up." She removed her hand from the phone to fill Max in. He agreed, and after they both reaffirmed their love for each other, they hung up the phone.

Liz left Future Max out on the balcony, as she rushed inside and hastily showered, dressed, and scribbled a note to her parents, explaining that she had woken early, and just wanted to take a drive out into the desert for a little while. They would think nothing of it, because since the day she learned of Max's "destiny" with Tess, she often would disappear out into the desert for hours, just to think, and to mourn her loss. She knew that there would never be another man for her. And even if there were, she didn't want him. If she couldn't have Max, there just wasn't any point in it. After all, what man, in his right mind, would want to spend his entire life being measured up against the man who possessed the other half of her soul? And what would I want with a man who isn't in his right mind? she thought with a grin. Man, she felt good. She never thought she would live to see the day when she would feel this kind of happy again.

She grabbed the car keys, and slipped back out onto the balcony, closing the window behind her. She looked at Future Max. "Would you, um, care to do the honors?" she asked, pointing to the window.

He smiled back at her. "Sure. Least I could do, after all you have been put through." He held his hand over the lock, and it latched firmly into place. "There, just like I found it," he teased with a wink.

Liz swatted his arm playfully. "You know, there is something to be said about being invited into someone's bedroom. You might want to just give that some thought," she said, looking at him pointedly. "You know, for future reference?"

Max groaned at her pun, shaking his head. "Now, what fun would there be in that?" he questioned, lifting one eyebrow, a seductive gleam in his amber eyes.

Liz giggled. "You have an answer for everything, don't you?"

"You bet," he replied rather cockily.

"Oh brother. Time has done nothing in the line of producing any humility in you, has it?" she asked with mock disgust, her fists resting on her hips.

Max gave her a sincere smile. "Don't worry - I'm not usually like this. This overwhelming self-confidence that you see? It's a recent development. REAL recent."

"Oh? Like how long?"

Max looked at his watch. "I'd estimate it at about... oh... 20 minutes."

"20 minutes? What is the significance of that?"

"Because it was about then that you told me - my younger self, that is - that you loved him. For the first time in over 3 years, I have hope again. And it's all because of you, Liz Parker. You've given me a reason to believe in miracles again."

Liz's eyes welled with tears, and she stared at her feet. "I - I'm afraid that's credit that I don't deserve."

"Of course you do!" he exclaimed. "Why would you think otherwise?"

"Because the truth is, that if it weren't for me, and my trying to change the course of history, you never would have lost hope to begin with."

Future Max was silent for a moment. Liz didn't want to look up at him, for fear of what she would see in his eyes. But she knew she had to. She needed to know what he was thinking. When she lifted her head, she found him just staring at her, with a gentle look that took her breath away. "Max?" she whispered. "What are you thinking?"

He reached out and lovingly stroked her hair. "I was just thinking that I don't deserve you. And that I'm the luckiest man in the entire universe."

They stood there looking at each other for the space of a few heartbeats, and then Liz spoke with an emotional quiver in her voice, "What do you say, let's go find our soul mates?"

Future Max chuckled, and wrapped an arm loosely around her shoulder, leading her over to the fire ladder. "You got it, beautiful. It sounds like the perfect plan to me."




posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:41:33 PM
Part Nine

Max hung up his cell phone, after talking with Liz. My Liz... he thought with satisfaction. He walked over to where Future Liz was standing at the edge of the bridge, staring into the water. Placing a hand on her back, he said, "They want us to meet them at -"

"The Old Soap Factory," Future Liz finished for him.

Max grinned. "Yeah. So - how will we keep from encountering our other selves when we get there?" he asked. Using the hand that was still resting between her shoulder blades, he gently urged her to begin walking forward, toward the spot where they had parked his Jeep.

Future Liz thought for a moment. "Well, probably we can just stand a ways away from each other, and when I start to walk off in one direction, hopefully my Max will understand to follow. Then you and Liz can meet up. If we need to break up into these... 'odd couples' again, for any reason, one of us can sound a car horn, and we can return to the vehicles we came in."

"Works for me. So.... you looked pretty deep in thought there, when I got off the phone. Is everything all right?" His voice was kind and sincere.

She still wasn't used to having Max treat her that way, and silently prayed that when they returned to their own time, this change would affect her Max as well, and be a permanent one. A distant part of her realized that she was changing, too. "Yeah, I was just thinking," she admitted. "I mean, Zan is still hanging around here somewhere. He knows that I am on to him, but if he is desperate enough to accomplish this mission for Kivar, there's no telling what he will attempt in the process. He must know that I couldn't contact Liz, so he might be foolish enough to believe that he can still pull this off. You'd do well to stick close to Liz until we know he is gone, you know?"

"Yeah, I was just thinking the same thing. I don't know what he is capable of, powers-wise, though. All I do know is that the other dupes were stronger in that respect than any of us were. I just hope that I am able to protect her."

"Hmmm, yeah, well.... maybe we should put my Max on that detail for now, then," she suggested. "I know that over the years, he's worked hard to strengthen his gifts. He's come a long way from where you are now," she confided, with a tone that he understood reflected how proud she was of him. Just hearing her speak that way about him, made him resolve to never do anything to disappoint her again, as much as was humanly possible. Or Antarianly possible, either, for that matter.

"Okay," he agreed with her assessment. "I mean, it makes the most sense that the Liz from this time period will be the one that he goes after, not you. So we need to make sure to have her protected at all costs... You know, maybe I should call Michael and Isabel in on guard duty, too."

He started to dial Izzy's cell number, when a small, soft hand came to cover his. "It's a good idea, Max, but it can wait for just a bit, don't you think?"

Max looked at her questioningly, and then realized what she was about. She wanted them to have some alone time with their significant others, before calling in the troops. He cleared the number he was dialing, and smiled at her. "You're right. It can wait - just for a bit. C'mon, let's go meet ourselves coming and going," he teased.

Future Liz laughed. Spying the jeep about 100 feet away, she challenged, "Last one in the jeep is a rotten alien!" and then she broke out into a dead run.

"Hey!" Max hollered, taking off after her. Reaching the jeep just one stride after she plopped into the passenger's seat, he pouted, " No fair! You didn't say, 'ready, set, go'!"

Liz shrugged. "Girls' rules. We have to do something to even the odds. Besides, life's not fair. Get used to it," she declared breathlessly, her eyes shining with happiness for the first time in years.

Max suddenly went still, and stared into her eyes. What little breath she had left after the race caught in her throat, from the tenderness in the gaze he bestowed upon her. "The truth is, Liz," he admitted quietly, "I could get used to just about anything, as long as I have my soul mate by my side. Thank you for what you have done here, to insure that we will have a future together."

Future Liz blushed, and looked away. "Well, surely by now, you realize this was motivated by purely selfish reasons," she confessed.

Max smiled tenderly at her. "Girl, you can be that kind of selfish all you want, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "And I promise, out of that same pool of selfishness, that I will do everything in my power to make sure that you never have to live without your soul mate again. Deal?"

Liz leaned across the space between the seats, and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Oh, Max, thank you. I always knew that loving you was the right thing to do - even when I couldn't let myself tell you so." Tears were streaming down her flushed cheeks. "I - I think everything is going to be okay now - don't you?"

"I'm counting on it, Liz," he reassured her softly, and then pulled back from their embrace to start the Jeep. "Next stop - the Old Soap Factory!" he announced in joyful anticipation.

Fifteen minutes later, they pulled up outside the abandoned building, and Max cut the Jeep's engine. He looked at the clock on the dash - they still had another five minutes before the other Max and Liz were due to show up. He started drumming absently on the steering wheel, staring off in the direction where Liz would be approaching from.

Future Liz let out a sigh. "I swear, this is going to be the longest five minutes of my life," she groused.

Max turned in his seat to face her. "You know, I kinda feel sorry for you," he told her. Then he added, "Well, and the future me, too."

"Really? Why is that?"

"Because when this is all over, and you go back to your time.... it's like you - this you - will never get to live the next 3 years of us being together. I mean, you'll have all the memories of it, but won't it be kinda like someone else lived it? I have to admit, the whole concept of time travel kinda boggles my mind."

Future Liz smiled, touched by his words. Leave it to Max, to be thinking something so sweet. "Yeah, it is kinda strange. I mean, like when my Max and your Liz are interacting, she is living it, but they become my memories, too. But when I get back in my own time... " She shook her head to clear her thoughts. "I just don't know how that works. But either way, I guess I'll just have a grand old time reliving all the memories of the next three years, when I get back." She thought for a moment, and then blurted out her reflections, without thinking. "Maybe Max and I can, uh, relive some of the better memories you make for us together." She blushed.

Max gave her a sensual look, that made her toes curl. "Here's another vow I'm making you," he declared, holding up his hand in a boy scout pledge of honor. "I promise that I will do my best to give you some very good memories to relive with him. And lots of them," he added with a playful wink.

Liz hid her face in her hands. "You are so bad," she accused him. "But thanks."

"Oh, my pleasure, for sure," he replied with a smirk. That earned him a swat. They had begun laughing together, when something on the horizon caught his eye. "Look!" he demanded. "Is that what I think it is?"

Liz squinted, as the object came barreling closer to their position. "It's a car, all right. But I can't tell if it is my parents' Chevy or not."

Silently, they watched the approaching vehicle, and then Max jumped out of the driver's seat, excitedly announcing, "It's them!" He paced back and forth in front of the Jeep, trying to work off some of his nervous energy before he had to face Liz. He had been waiting for this moment for months, and now that it was here, he wasn't sure he could contain himself. Finally, the car rolled to a stop, and two more anxious people quickly got out, and stood facing the couple that was waiting. Max started forward, as if to go to them. The only thing that restrained him, was the subtle weight of a hand on his upper arm. He looked down and just behind his shoulder, at Future Liz, surprised to realize he never even noticed that she had gotten out of the Jeep.

"Max, no. You can't just waltz over there, while your future self is there. Remember, you cannot, under any circumstances, come in contact with him. It would be fatal. Please," she urged him, with a voice full of fear. "I don't want anything to happen to you. I couldn't bear it, if we came this close to being together, and it was ripped away from me again."

Max nodded that he understood. He took a step back, so that he was standing along side her. "Okay - you go ahead, like you said. I'll wait until he is well away from Liz, before I go over there and kiss the breath out of her."

Liz smiled. "That's my boy! Make me some good memories! And hey - it's Saturday. No time constraints! Who knows what might happen?" she added, patting his arm encouragingly.

Max laughed, and gave her a hug. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" he said jokingly. "Just remember - it's okay for the two of you to make some good memories of your own now, too."

She acknowledged his statement with a shy smile, and began walking off to their right, toward the entrance to the Soap Factory. She looked across the distance to Future Max, and saw him watching her intently. Then, he slowly started walking towards her, his eyes never leaving hers. They both were a little hesitant, given the rocky past they shared, but neither of them was willing to allow their fear to cause them to back down from this second chance they were being given.

Once they entered the building, young Max made good on his word. He began running full steam in the direction of his Liz - his love and his life. When she realized he was coming to her, Liz took off toward him in a dead run as well. Within seconds, she was flinging her petite frame into his arms, and he gathered her tightly to his chest, dipping his head to fasten his lips to hers in a mind-blowing, breath-robbing, heart-stopping kiss.

Liz's hands were running through his hair, stroking his face, testing the firmness of his shoulders and upper arms, as well as his chest. She realized, albeit in a haze, that while leaner, he was harder than she remembered. Those months away from her, he had obviously been doing some serious strength training. Very nice, she thought approvingly.

As for Max, his hands stroked up and down her sides and her spine, wanting to feel every inch of the body that had been withheld from him for so long. He nibbled playfully on her bottom lip, urging her to surrender herself to him.

"Max -" she murmured against his lips, her breath on his skin a caress all its own.

Max was lost. He began to kiss Liz with total abandon, exploring all the hidden recesses of her mouth, that his mind had never forgotten. It was like .... coming home. For the first time in months, he felt, complete, whole... invincible. His mind tried to convince him that the last thought was the hormones talking, but he wasn't so sure. What he was sure of, though, was that he would never, in all his days, get enough of Liz Parker. And then he was beyond all reason, lost in the sensation of loving Liz. And so came the flashes. Flashes of all the wonderful times they had shared, laughing and loving, and caring for each other. All of which served only to intensify the mind-shattering experience they were having now.

Unseen by the two lovers, a shadow loomed inside a window on the second floor of the Soap Factory, watching... waiting...

Max continued to plunder her storehouse of sweetness, until his lungs screamed for air. Using what little self-control he still possessed, he managed to wrench his lips from hers, only to fasten them on the silky skin below her ear, where he began a trail of hot, wet kisses, that got Liz so overheated, she was certain she would burst into flames at any moment. There had always been an intense attraction between them, but this.... this was beyond anything she had ever felt in her life. She couldn't imagine how she had managed to survive without touching him, being with him these last few months. If she was honest with herself, surviving was all she had done. She had walked through each day, a hollow shell of the vibrant young woman she had been before. But no more.

When Max pulled her collar away to expose more skin, and began to nibble and suck where her neck met her shoulder, she moaned softly. She began to sway, as desire ripped through her, causing her knees to seemingly turn to jello. "Max - oh Max.... I want you...." she pleaded breathlessly.

Max groaned at her sensual appeal. He couldn't believe that things were finally working out for them the way he had always dreamed. Obviously, this was the way things were supposed to be, if what Future Liz had told him about them "cementing" the night of Gomez was true. That thought further fueled his body's response to Liz, until he thought he was going to die from wanting her. If his body could have its way, he'd ravage her right there and then. But he wanted so much more for their first time together, than to just get hot and heavy out in plain view in the middle of the day, simply because he couldn't control his raging hormones.

His love for her gave him the strength to resist his own body's overwhelming urges. Gently, he took her upper arms in his hands, and slowly backed away from her, putting some distance between them that was much needed, if things were going to cool off any. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest, when he saw the hurt reflected in her eyes. After all that had transpired the last few months, she automatically had read his action as a rejection of what she had offered.

Tears flooded Max's eyes in response, as he wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly to himself. "Sweet, wonderful Liz," he murmured in her hair. "You just don't know what you do to me, my love."

"Obviously not nearly as much as you do to me," she replied dejectedly.

"You're kidding, right?" Max pulled back, and took her face in his hands, silently willing her to look into his eyes. Finally, she complied. "My love, you have no idea what you are talking about. So let me enlighten you. I love you more than anything, Liz. No one - no thing, could ever mean as much to me as you do. I need you more than I've ever needed anything else in my entire life. And I - I want you. Just as much as you want me. Probably even more. I ache with wanting, Liz. But I also cherish you. And this - what we're doing here - it just isn't good enough for you.... for our first time together. I don't want to make love to you like some sort of wild, rutting animal, out in the open in broad daylight, putting on a show for God and the whole world here. I want...." He stopped suddenly, choked with emotion, and swallowed hard, trying to rid his throat of the sudden lump that was obstructing his airway.

Liz's eyes were now brimming with tears as well, as she saw the truth reflected in those amber pools... the loving tenderness, the adoration, and - the raw hunger, the aching need..... all the things that she herself felt for him. In that instant, she realized how rare and precious a thing they had, the way that they both shared these incredibly deep feelings, all the way to the core of their souls. Perfectly matched. How could I ever have been so stupid, to throw all this away? she wondered. But even as she asked herself the question, she knew the answer: Because I was convinced that Max had asked me to, and I would do anything for him. Anything. She shuddered with the thought, that if he really did ask her to do something that hard, somehow, some way, she would still have to find a way to honor his request, no matter how great the personal sacrifice involved. And yet, look where those noble motives had gotten her in Future Liz's reality. Her mind whirled with the strain of trying to sort out what her obligations were to the whole world, and where those responsibilities ended, and her need to be true to herself could begin. One thing was for sure - as easy as it was to love Max Evans, it was also the most difficult challenge she would ever face.

Max watched, trembling, with a mixture of uncertainty and awe, as he observed a myriad of emotions play out over Liz's delicate features - everything from understanding and joy, to confusion, followed by resolve. He wondered what was going on inside that beautiful head of hers. "Liz?"

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, as she ran her hand down his cheek. "I love you, you know that?" she whispered.

Max let out a ragged sigh of relief. "I'm so glad, Liz," he whispered. "So very glad...." He wrapped his arms around her again, and crushed her to himself, desiring to never let her go. "I need you... so much. These last few months have been a living hell, knowing that where I belong - who I belong with - is you. You are my destiny, Liz. I've always known it - ever since that day in third grade, when I got off the bus and saw you for the very first time. Something deep inside me knew even then - you own the other half of my soul."

Her eyes bright with tears, Liz Parker stared into the eyes of Max Evans, and professed, "As you own the other half of mine."

Inside the warehouse, the shadow in the window whispered, "Well, now, isn't this just convenient." Turning from the dirty glass, the figure said to his companion, "It's time. Cover me."


posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:42:37 PM
Part Ten

As they neared the entrance to the building, Future Max tentatively reached out a hand to Future Liz, in a gesture intended to convey his desire for them to not only call a truce, but also to at least begin their journey towards reconciliation. Smiling shyly, she extended her arm, placing her delicate hand in his. Their fingers closed around each other's, and he tugged on her arm gently, urging her to come closer. "I won't bite, I promise," he told her. Then, with a sparkle in his eyes, he qualified the statement, "Not for a little while, anyway." He kept thinking of the way she passionately responded to his younger self, earlier in the evening. Surely that meant that she still harbored deep feelings for him...?

Liz gave him a shy smile. His teasing went a long way toward helping her to relax. Obviously, he wanted things between them to change as much as she did. After all, hadn't he been like the Max she fell in love with, when he was with her younger self earlier? The memories of how he had treated her then reassured her that he still was a kind and loving man. He just had been keeping his feelings hidden these last years, as had she. For the first time, she realized that perhaps his hostility wasn't born out of hatred for her, but rather a deep love that he was forced to deny. Just the same as hers was. So much wasted time... she thought ruefully.

As soon as they crossed the threshold into the abandoned warehouse, Future Max swung the door shut, and pinned her up against it, his lips swooping down on hers so swiftly, all she saw was a blur, before she felt the incredible sensations that his soft, full lips were creating with his kiss. In mere seconds, she was on fire, and it was as if all the horrible things that had driven them apart no longer mattered. Having seen their younger selves these past few hours, reminded them of all that they shared - how important they were to each other.

Liz decided then and there, that no longer was she going to let her pride and bitterness keep them apart. Loving someone - really loving them - means being willing to forgive them, when they inevitably screw up, she thought to herself. And she was going to adopt on this new philosophy, effective immediately.

As for Max, he was like a starving man who had suddenly had a sumptuous feast set before him - he didn't know what to go for first. He just knew he wanted to sample everything - all at once. His hands roamed restlessly, caressing her everywhere that he could reach, while his lips explored her delicious skin at her forehead, her collarbone, and everywhere in between. He was simply unable to believe that this was really happening, sure that at any moment, he would wake up in his bed, alone and frustrated beyond belief - just as he had so many other times over the years he had known Liz. He had begun having erotic dreams of her from the time he hit puberty, and once he had actually drunk from the well of ecstasy during their all-too-brief stint as a couple, the dreams had steadily increased in intensity.

But this? This was too real to be a dream, wasn't it? He certainly hoped so. There were so many things he thought he would never experience again, things he previously could only vaguely remember, came flooding back to him - the softness of her skin; the cool, satiny feeling of her hair, as his hand slid through its length; the unique scent that belonged to only her.... all these things flooded his senses in a way that no dream ever did.

And then there was the way her hands... WHOA. That definitely wasn't in his memory center.... His lips curled upwards into a smile, as they continued to press against hers. Liz was emboldened, when she felt that smile, and continued to explore him in ways she never had before....

After several minutes of passionate, heated kissing, they broke apart just enough to catch their breath. It was then that Future Max confessed, "I've wanted to do that for every minute of every hour of every day for the last three years, Liz. God, how I've missed you!"

Future Liz ran her hands through his hair, over his shoulders, and up to hold his face, tears streaming down her own cheeks the entire time. "I honestly was to the point, where I didn't care if I lived or died any more, without you," she admitted, voicing for the first time the depths of despair to which she had fallen. "That was why I was willing to come back here. A part of me figured, that if something went wrong, and I did die, I would finally be out of my misery."

He scowled slightly at her. "Don't you think that I knew you were being reckless? That you were putting your life in danger? Why else do you think, that when I heard what you were planning, I left word with Isabel, forbidding you to follow me here?" He tenderly stroked her hair. "Although, I must admit, I didn't think that it was despair over the loss of me that drove you to it. I honestly believed you hated me, you know."

She looked down at he floor, unable to meet his gaze, and whispered, "I know. And at times, I even had myself convinced of it. But the truth is, how can you hate half of yourself? And that's what you are to me, y'know? The other half of me - the better half. But I just couldn't seem to find a way to bridge the gap between us. This Tess thing was like this big, insurmountable object that I just couldn't seem to get around."

He hooked a finger under her chin, and lifted her face, hoping she would look at him. She did. He was surprised to see the tears pooling in her eyes. "So what's changed?" he asked cautiously. A part of him still expected her to respond, "Nothing." If she did, he would die.

"I - I can't explain it Max. I just know that suddenly, none of that seems so important any more. What is important is, that you and I are together. Forever. I mean, if Kivar sent Zan back to this time period to keep us apart, because our love was too strong, doesn't that tell us something? What we have is special, Max. And now we are being given a second chance. Judging from what we witnessed right before we came in here, our younger selves are going to become inseparable. And when we go back to our time, our past will have changed, and so will we. Everything that happened with Tess, and the - baby... it will cease to exist. And so will the painful memories. But I want you to know now, before we lose that history, that... I forgive you, and that I love you. I always have, and I always will."

"Oh, Liz...." Future Max bent and kissed his one true love gently on the lips. This kiss was not hungry and greedy - merely a promise of his unending love. "My love, my life - " he whispered against her lips, as the kiss ended. "Promise me something?"

"Anything, my love," she returned breathlessly.

"When we get back, if we aren't already married..." He smiled at that thought. "Would you promise to become my wife?"

She threw her arms around him, and declared ecstatically, "Yes! Oh, yes!"

Holding her tightly, Future Max chuckled. "You know, I'm thinking that from now on, I am going to thank God on my knees every night, for bringing you into my life. When I think of what it took for us to finally be together...." He shuddered, as the past trials flooded his thoughts.

Future Liz, however, sobered abruptly. "Max - ?"

He pulled away slightly, so he could see her face. There had been no mistaking the concern in her voice, as she uttered his name. "What is it, Liz? What's wrong?"

She stepped out of his arms, and threaded her fingers through her hair at her scalp, holding her head as she thought through what was bothering her. "I - I just realized that this isn't over. Not really. I mean, look at what has happened. Originally, we were together, the way we were meant to be. Then Kivar sent Zan back to break us apart. Then we came back to get us back together...."

Disturbed by what he perceived to be the direction of her thoughts, Future Max said, "I think I see where you are going with this. You're thinking, 'What is there to stop Kivar from sending Zan back to an even earlier time, before our younger selves would know what has happened here, and what they have learned, and then break them up all over again?' Am I close?"

"Right on the money," she mumbled in despair. "We have to find a way to stop them, once and for all. But how?"

Future Max's brows knit together in concentration. After a moment, he stated, "I think I have the beginning of an idea. But the key to everything is Zan. And Tess." He looked at her, wondering how she was going to react to the thought of any dealings with her nemesis.

Cautiously, she asked, "What's your plan?"

Future Max turned slightly, absorbed in thought for a moment. Then he slid her a sideways glance, warning, "It might be rather... unpleasant...."

Future Liz snorted delicately. "Since when has anything we've been through the last three years been pleasant? I ought to be rather used to it by now, dontcha think?"

He smiled approvingly at her. What a treasure she is, he thought. So brave, so strong.... so good. His heart nearly couldn't contain all the love and pride he felt, to think that this incredible woman loved him. "Yeah, I suppose," he replied softly, reaching out to caress her cheek with his thumb. "My only regret about our relationship is that knowing me has made such a mess of your life."

Future Liz's eyes drifted shut, as she reveled in the sensations caused by his feather-light touch. She leaned her face into his hand, as she corrected him. "Actually, knowing Future Zan is what screwed up my life. That, and those damned orbs. Everything was fine until we learned that Tess was supposedly your mate - your destiny." Her final statement had been wrenched from her in an agonized whisper, as a lone tear trickled out from under her closed lashes.
Future Max took her head in his hands, gripping it firmly. "Look at me, Liz," he commanded gently. She was only able to squeeze her eyes shut tighter, in an effort to hold back any further tears. "Please, Liz," he implored her.

Drawing in a ragged breath, she managed to compose herself enough to comply with his request. She gasped softly, when she saw the look of determination in his eyes.

"I don't know what I have to do to get through to you about this," he started, sounding rather weary of the topic. "I've tried in the past to help you realize that there is no way that what Tess and I were to each other in our previous lives has any bearing on us - on our future." She took a breath, as if to interrupt him, and he continued hastily, "Now please, just hear me out on this, okay? When they did - whatever it is they did to create us, all they could have to work with is genetic material. I mean, who can capture a soul, Liz? The man I was on Antar - he's dead. And so is his wife. Tess and I - if you really think about this - we are more like their children. Only half of my genetic material, if that, comes from alien essence. The other half came from another being - a human. So, isn't that kind of like parents? Each contributing to the genetic makeup of the offspring? Anyway, I digress from my original point here... that being the fact that my soul is unique. And so is Tess'. My mother probably thought that we would be ideally suited to each other, because we would both be hybrids and all.... but she was wrong, okay?"

"But Max -"

He continued, as if he she hadn't spoken. "I mean, even if Tess were trustworthy, it wouldn't make me want her as my mate. We could have been friends, worked side by side to free our people, but that would have been the extent of our relationship. Because you are the one that makes my heart sing. You are the one that I was created to be a part of. Not Tess."

"Tess wasn't supposed to be your mate," Liz finally managed to break in.

That pulled him up short. "What? Where did you get an idea like that? You heard the message in the cave."

"That's what I've been trying to tell you. Tess wasn't supposed to be your mate - Ava was."

"Ava?" Future Max asked in surprise. "Why do you say that?"

"Because Zan - Future Zan - admitted to me tonight, that Ava had been in your foursquare, and Tess was supposed to be his mate. But when Nasedo cut the deal with Kivar, he knew that Ava would never have been convinced to betray you. She wouldn't have that - edge - that the dupes all seemed to have. Think about it Max. Think of how nasty Lonnie and Rath are. They thought nothing of betraying Zan, and trying to kill him. But Ava was nothing like them. She was more like.... you, Michael, and Isabel. Tess was the one that fit the dupes mold, not Ava. Anyway, Nasedo found Ava after the three of you had left the pod chamber, and took her to stay with the dupes, while he raised Tess to carry out Kivar's nefarious scheme. But what none of them had anticipated, was that you wouldn't march to the beat of an alien drum, and would instead fall in love with a human..." She lowered her eyes and blushed. How was it that after all this time, Max Evans could still make her go all warm inside, just at the thought that he loved her?

Future Max smiled triumphantly. "So there? You see? I told you Tess wasn't my destiny!" He couldn't help the bubble of laughter that erupted from within. He felt like a new man, hearing this news. Liz, however, remained silent. All it took was one look at her, to know what she was thinking. "Oh, no, Liz. Don't even go there. If Tess wasn't my destiny, neither is Ava. Besides, she's in love with Zan. So there's no problem here."

Future Liz forced a grim smile, and decided to let the subject go for now. "So what was this plan of yours?" she asked, abruptly changing the subject.

"Oh, right. We kinda got sidetracked, huh? Well, in order to keep this from happening again, we need to make sure that Kivar can't send Zan back from the future again. This will be a two-step process here. The first thing we need to do is..." He sucked in a deep breath. "We need to find Future Zan, and kill him."

Future Liz gasped. She had never heard Max talk so casually about killing someone like that. What kind of changes had come over him, in the three years they had been apart?

Future Max felt as if an arrow had pierced his heart, seeing the way Liz's expression indicated that she was horrified with him for suggesting such a thing. "Liz, don't be too quick to judge me. Think this through, okay? If we kill Future Zan, and then we can find the present Zan, and get him to work with us, instead of Kivar - his future will change, too. He'll never come back in time for Kivar, and will probably live to be a very old man."

Future Liz visibly relaxed. "Of course, you're right. I hadn't thought of that. I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions," she said, as she ran her hands lightly over his chest and shoulders. "I should have known that you wouldn't - couldn't..."

Future Max averted his eyes. "You're wrong, Liz. I could, and I would, if I had to. Up until now, I haven't had to plan to kill anyone. But if it means protecting you, my people, or the rest of the human race from Kivar and his goons, then I will do what has to be done. Just because it isn't my first choice, doesn't mean I am incapable of it. As distasteful as I find this situation, we are in a war, and that means sometimes we have to.... do difficult things. I don't like it, but there it is."

Wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him to her in a tight embrace, she whispered, "I know. And I am so proud of you, that you use violence as a last resort, instead of an instant fix for every problem."

Her words were like a healing balm. He was so afraid that when she understood that there were going to be deaths and other unpleasantness in this power struggle with Kivar, she would think he was some sort of murdering monster. He only hoped that when they were in the middle of a battle, and the realities of war hit her full-on, that she would still feel the same way.

"Okay," she said, breaking his thoughts. "Just how do you expect to win Zan over to our side?" she ventured to ask.

Future Max shrugged. "I'm not really sure. I'll try talking reason to him, I guess. But you need to be prepared, Liz, that if I can't talk sense into him..."

"I know. Last resort."

"Exactly."

"So.... that takes care of the Zan problem. What about Tess?"

"Tess.... will be more difficult, I'm afraid. After all, she has been conditioned since she came out of her pod, that she had this 'mission' to fulfill. It is her entire identity. I'm afraid that trying to reason with her at this juncture will be totally pointless. Especially if she learns that she was not supposed to be my mate, Ava was. Of course, once she finds out that she won't get what she wants from me, there's nothing to stop her from going to Zan. Especially if she is working with him like we suspect. That would mean she knows he is still alive in this present time as well, and available for her to work her charms on...."

"And Kivar would never be the wiser, that it was Zan's baby, and not yours, right?"

"Right. I hate to say it, Liz, but I don't see any way around having to dispense with her. As distasteful as it all is, we have to remember that she is really working with the enemy. It's either her or us. And personally, I choose us."

"But shouldn't we wait a while, Max? I mean, I was just telling your younger self earlier, that she was really helpful in some of the skirmishes we had with the skins. She has a lot of power, and she did use it on our behalf."

"Or at least that we thought she did."

"Max? What's that supposed to mean?"

"For all we know, any help she gave us could have just been one of her sick mind warps. How do we know what she really did? Remember when I told you how she wiped out all those Skins at the school, when they captured us?"

"Yeah...."

"Well, Nicholas was there, too. And yet somehow, he turned up again, alive, at the Summit. Now go figure."

"And working with the dupes, no less."

"Mmmm." He was deep in thought again. After a few minutes, he spoke. "You know, there is something that has always bothered me. Why did they make two sets of hybrids? What was their purpose?"

"Yeah, and why are they so different? That has always baffled me."

Future Max shook his head. "These are all questions we may never have answers to," he admitted with a sigh.

"It's so frustrating, though."

"That it is. But we have more pressing problems. We will need to split up again, you with Max, me with Liz. And I'm thinking that we probably ought to have Max call in Michael and Isabel now to help."

"Yeah, he was going to do that earlier - but you already know that, right?" she asked with a grin.

Future Max was just about to answer, when they heard young Max's heart-wrenching, agonized scream pierce the air. "LIZ! NOOOOOO!!!!"



posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:44:18 PM
Part Eleven

Future Max and Liz both jumped at the sound of Max's desperate wail. Future Max wrenched the door open, and ran outside, Future Liz hot on his heels. He stopped just outside the building, where he had a clear view of Max, kneeling on the ground sobbing. His arms were held out in front of him, like he was cradling something, but they were empty. Future Max and Liz looked at each other, both wondering what was going on.

After scanning the immediate area, Future Max said, "Go to him, Liz. I can't do it, but I don't see his Liz around anywhere. Find out what the problem is."

Liz nodded, then faltered for a second when she began to walk away. She quickly regained her balance, and scooted out to where Max was collapsed on the ground. She made sure to stay alert, in case her younger self was still around somewhere. When she finally reached him, she knelt by his side, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Max? What is it? What's wrong?" she asked in a soft, soothing voice.

His head spun around to look at her. "What's wrong?!" he shouted. "How can you sit there and ask me that? They killed her! She's dead, and you ask me what's wrong?!"

"Max," Future Liz continued in that same, calm voice. "Who are 'they'? And who did they kill?"

"Are you blind?! Can't you see her lying in my arms? She's dead, and it's all their fault. It has to be. Somehow, Zan must have known he couldn't split us up, so he killed her! And I don't doubt but that Tess is involved in it, too!"

Future Liz looked at the careful way he was holding his arms. She could just imagine her dead body lying in them. But there was nothing there. They must be mind-warping him. He was right to think Tess was involved. She began stroking his back. "Max, honey, you need to calm down, okay, and listen to me? Liz is not dead. You are seeing her in your arms, but she isn't there. You are being mind-warped."

"H-How do you know that? Maybe YOU are the one that is being mind-warped! Maybe they are trying to convince you I'm crazy, or... or they want you to come in contact with her body, so you'll die too, or something....." His voice trailed off on a sob.

She grabbed his face forcefully in her hands, trying to gain his full attention. "No, listen to me, Max! Think about what you are saying! If I am Liz's future self, and she is dead - then why am I still alive?!" She waited for that statement to sink in.

Startled at the truth of her statement, he abandoned his cradling position, effectively dropping the Liz form he had been holding. Before it hit the ground, it dissipated, leaving Max staring at the spot where she should have been. "My God, it was so... real," he breathed out.

"It wouldn't be a very effective mind-warp, if it wasn't realistic, now would it?"

Young Max looked at her. "No, it wouldn't." And then the relief that had overtaken him, when he realized he wasn't holding Liz's dead body, transformed itself into panic. "If she isn't in my arms, then where is she?" he demanded frantically.

"I'm not exactly sure yet," she answered regretfully. She wished she had better news for him. "Zan has her, I do know that. I had a memory flash, and then everything went black. I think he must have rendered her unconscious somehow. So until she regains consciousness, I won't know anything more. But the one thing we have working for us here, is that I don't think he will stop to think that everything she experiences will become a memory for me, and that we can track her that way." She looked young Max in the eyes. "He isn't like you, Max. He really isn't too awfully bright," she commented, allowing her personal bias to color her opinion of him.

"No?"

"Trust me on this one. After one conversation with him, I know why YOU are the king, and not him."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," he grumbled. "But I'm not sure I deserve it. I can't even keep track of my woman."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. They have to use all sorts of dirty tricks to bring you down. But we have some things working in our favor, too. We just have to get organized and mobilized. So let's stop moping around, and start acting. First things first - we need to get out of here. We have no idea where Zan and Tess are right now, and we don't need them knowing what we are planning. I'm sure by now that Tess knows you have broken through her mind-warp. That alone will be enough to send them into a tizzy. We don't want to do anything else that will endanger Liz. I have a strange feeling they are nearby. So here's what you need to do - call Michael and Isabel, and tell them to meet us... where? Michael's apartment would probably be best. I'll go back and tell my Max what is going on." She stopped and ran her hand through Max's hair. "Don't worry. We'll get her back. Just stay calm, okay?"

Young Max nodded his understanding, and ran to the Jeep for his cell phone. He made the necessary calls, while Future Liz told Future Max what was going on. They decided that she would ride back to Roswell with Young Max, and he would drive the Parker's car back, and park behind the Sheriff's office building. They didn't need Mr. and Mrs. Parker realizing that Liz was missing. In a pinch, they could get Maria to help transform Future Liz into her younger image, but that would be as a last resort. Hopefully, Future Max could find Sheriff Valenti, without being spotted by anyone who knew him well.

Future Liz went back out, and hopped in the Jeep, just as Young Max was ending his call to Isabel. "Everything is all set," he informed her. "Michael is calling in sick to work, and Isabel is heading right over there." He started the Jeep, and peeled out of the parking area, heading back to Roswell.

"Poor Dad," Future Liz sighed, sympathizing with her father's predicament of having to find someone to cover for Michael. "You know," she confided, "Dad eventually has to let Michael go, because he is always calling in sick. Seems like all the alien emergencies surface on Michael's shift to work," she chuckled.

Max smiled, and added hopefully, "Maybe we can do something here that will prevent so many 'alien emergencies' in the future, huh?"

"You just never know," she agreed.

Once they were out on the road, Future Max pulled out in the Parker's car, and followed them back into town.

Reaching Michael's apartment, Max and Future Liz hopped out, and rushed to the door. They didn't want to waste one moment of precious time. Max rapped three times quickly, and then let himself in, just as Michael called, "Come in!"

Max and Future Liz entered, and were relieved to see that Isabel was already there. Her first words were, "Max, what is this all about? I was scheduled to have a makeover at the mall this morning...." Her whining was cut short, when she took in Max's haggard appearance, and the fact that he was with... Liz? This was something new. Liz had barely given him the time of day, and now they were out ramming around together. And she looked... different somehow. Something wasn't adding up here.

Before she could comment further, Max spoke up. "Here's the scoop in a nutshell - Michael, Isabel, I want you to meet.... Liz. Okay, that didn't work. See, she's Liz, but she isn't our Liz. She has come back from three years in the future, to help prevent something awful from happening. My future self has come back as well - but he and I can't be in the same place at the same time, or we both would be destroyed. Same for Future Liz here, and our Liz. There is a long, complicated story that we will tell you some night over pizza when this is all over with, but we need your help right now. Kivar sent Zan back from the future, and he and Tess have kidnapped Liz. Oh, did I mention that Tess is in cahoots with Kivar as well, and that she is really a dupe? Ava is supposed to be one of us -"

"MAX! Take a breath!" Isabel ordered her brother.

"Yeah! Anyway, who are Zan, Ava, and.... Kivar, was it? And what the hell is a 'dupe'?!" Michael demanded, raising his voice.

Max looked to Liz for help. He barely could keep all of this straight in his own mind. That, coupled with the fact that he was frustrated and anxious beyond belief, was making it difficult for him to remain calm and coherent.

"Okay," Future Liz began, sensing Max's distress, "Here it the abbreviated version. Starting with Kivar - he is the leader of the enemy race that has taken over your planet. The name of your planet, for future reference, is Antar. As for Zan and Ava - this is going to be more difficult for you to hear.... You are not the only set of hybrids on this planet. There is another set - a duplicate set - who look just like you, that live under the streets of New York City. Max's dupe is named Zan, Isabel's dupe is named Lonnie -" For a second, she looked meaningfully at Isabel, wondering if she would make the connection to "Vilandra". She knew that Isabel never told anyone about what she learned from Vanessa Whittaker, until after they met their dupes, and Lonnie spilled the beans to Max. She saw Isabel's eyes widen slightly, and knew she understood. "Michael's dupe is named Rath," Future Liz continued, "and Tess' dupe is Ava. Now.... these 'dupes' are not like you at all. They are rough, and rather mean-spirited. One might be tempted to blame it on growing up as street kids, but I think there is more to it. I mean, Lonnie and Rath attempted to kill Zan, for Pete's sake.... they assumed they had, too, but somehow Zan must've been able to heal himself, and survived. Because he came back here from 14 years in the future, to destroy Max's and my relationship, before we could get back together."

"Why would our enemy want to break you two up?" Michael asked. "I mean, that doesn't hardly seem like the sort of thing an enemy -"

"Listen!" Max interrupted impatiently, "We don't have time for a lengthy discussion on this. That can come later. Right now, we need to find Liz, before they do something to her.... I'll never forgive myself if they hurt her...."

"Max, stop talking like that. You can't fall apart here," Future Liz chided him gently, laying a hand on his arm. "You have to stay strong and focused, if we are going to find her."

Max took a deep breath. "Right. Focused." Another deep breath. "Okay, I'm in control, now. Thanks." He smiled at Future Liz, then turned to address Michael and Isabel again. "So here's the thing - everything that happens to our Liz becomes a memory for Future Liz. So we definitely know that it is Zan that has her, and we are pretty sure that Tess is in on it, because I was mind-warped -" He held up a hand to cut off any questions. "I'll explain that later, too. What we need to decide, is how we are going to get her back, once Future Liz here knows where she is. She must be unconscious right now, so all we can do is wait until she wakes up, and gives us an idea of where she is. The question is, what are we going to do when we find Zan and Tess?"

Future Liz laid her hand on Max's arm. "Actually, my Max and I have already discussed the situation..."

Michael jumped in then. "Wait. Did you say before that Tess is working for our enemy?" he asked, putting together the pieces of what he had heard. "I'll kill the bitch!"

"Michael!" Isabel scolded.

"Actually...." Future Liz continued haltingly, "that's, uh, pretty much the plan, I'm sorry to say."

Michael was startled by that. He had meant it figuratively, not literally. Isabel was horrified at this news. "Bu - but she's one of us," she argued. "One of our own...."

"No, Isabel, she's not," Future Liz countered. "Max already told you, she is one of the dupes - Ava was the one who was really in your foursquare. Nasedo kidnapped her when she came out of her pod, and took her to live with the dupes. Then he took Tess to live with him, so he could raise her up to do Kivar's bidding."

"Well, that doesn't matter," Isabel burst out, returning to the topic she had been discussing. "I mean, they are our dupes. Doesn't that make them - part of us, somehow? I mean, if our mother had a set of dupes made, there must have been a reason. I don't know if it is wise to just go around killing them off," she insisted.

"Perhaps we should remember that Lonnie and Rath already tried to kill Zan? If they can turn on each other, they can just as easily turn on you - or one of us," Future Liz contended. "And more importantly, she is working with your enemy, to bring you down. And if you fall, we all lose out. I have reason to believe that Kivar's plans extend beyond dispensing with you, to the destruction of this entire planet. So it's us or them. Which is it going to be?" Isabel sat stunned, not only by the scope of the scenario Future Liz had just laid out, but by the mere fact that Liz would speak to her in such a forceful fashion.

Future Liz noted her reaction, and immediately felt repentant. "Look, Isabel, I'm sorry to be so blunt. It's just that time is very crucial here. Zan and Tess may be part of your race, but they are working for the enemy. That makes them a wild card - a loose cannon. We have no way of knowing what they are thinking, or what their agenda is. Consequently, they could be planning to kill Liz right now. I think you can see where I might have a vested interest in making sure that doesn't happen....? And as far as Zan goes, even if we kill him now, he is from the future. If we alter Present Zan's future enough, he won't ever come back here, and he'll live to a ripe old age - so says my Max."

"Speaking of Future Max," Michael chimed in, "what is he doing now?"

"He was going to try and locate Valenti, and fill him in on what's happening, since Tess is living under his roof, and all."

Michael nodded his agreement. "Best he has the heads up, so he can protect Kyle and himself. Especially if she brings Zan home. She might be just that stupid, trying to pass him off as you. Who knows? Maybe he can take care of the problem for us," he commented, thinking that he would rather just find out that Zan was dead, than to have to do the deed himself. Killing Pierce had been the singularly most disconcerting event in his life. He didn't relish the idea of repeating the experience any time soon.

He was surprised to see Max shaking his head vehemently. "No, no way," Max said emphatically. "I don't want Valenti involved in this if we can help it. I just want him to be aware of the situation, in case it becomes necessary for him to defend himself or Kyle. Even that's risky. Tess' mind-warps are getting better, and stronger." He ran a shaky hand through his hair. "There's no telling if she would mind-warp him to get him to kill someone else. I just don't know what to expect from her, and I don't mind telling you, it's making me a little nervous."

Michael and Isabel were both surprised to hear Max admit he wasn't in total control of the situation. Ever since he had learned he was "the King", they didn't have to look to him for leadership. He had made a habit of cramming it down their throats ever since. Actually, they were beginning to get rather tired of it. So, to see him display a vulnerable side now, and in front of Liz - any version of her - astounded them. They silently communicated their reactions with each other in a single look, and knew they were in agreement.

"Okay, Maxwell, if that's what you think is best. You are closer to Tess than anyone else..." Michael abruptly realized what he had done, sticking his foot in him mouth by saying that in front of Liz, and blushed. "Uh, sorry, Liz - I didn't mean that the way it sounded.... just, that Iz and I haven't really spent much time with her, and she's been helping Max work on recovering his memories of our past -"

"That's enough, Michael," Max barked, cutting him off sharply. "I think you've dug that hole deep enough for now."

"Right," Michael acknowledged, averting his eyes. He didn't want to see the pain he had caused Liz with his babbling. When will I ever learn to shut my mouth? he wondered. He wouldn't hurt Liz for the world. He had to respect her, for all the strength and courage she had shown, in the face of the enormous sacrifice she had made. And he knew what kind of sacrifice that was. He had been keeping Maria at arm's length since "D-Day", as he had come to refer to it, short for "Destiny Day."

Having experienced in the future the great compassion that Michael was capable of, and knowing the tenderness that he worked so hard to conceal, Future Liz felt compelled to ease his burden of guilt. After all, she was not her younger self; she was well aware of how Max had spent his time with Tess. Too aware, to suit her own tastes, actually. Unbidden, the image of Max and Tess kissing at the Prom sprung to her mind, and she fought to bring her thoughts under submission.

"Hey, Michael, it's okay," she told him gently. "You aren't telling me anything I don't already know, remember? After the hell I've lived through the last three years, a comment like that is not likely to upset me. Don't worry about it."
Michael did look at her then, relief and gratitude conveyed in his expression. Isabel sat there humbled. Her thoughts toward Liz Parker had at times been less than flattering, and she had rather thought that the only reason that Liz was "in their corner" so to speak, was because of Max. But seeing her kindness toward Michael, revealed to Isabel the genuineness in the other girl - woman - that she had been missing. Her features softened, and a small smile lifted the corners of her mouth.

"Thanks, Liz," Michael murmured. "I didn't mean to ramble like that."

Liz smiled tenderly. "I know. It's no problem, really." She turned to Max. "So - what do we do now?"

Max sighed. "Now, we wait."


posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:45:42 PM
Part Twelve

"Why can't we just kill her now?" Tess whined, for the third time in fifteen minutes, as she and Zan stood watch over Liz's unconscious form, lying on the dirty floor where Zan had gently laid her moments before. "I just don't see what the point is in keeping her around!" she fumed.

"Why don't you just shut up?!" Zan roared back. "You are the most annoying child I've ever met!"

" Child?!" Tess shrieked. She ran her hands seductively over her feminine assets. "Does this look like a child to you?" she challenged.

Zan snorted mockingly. "Curves, a woman do not make. Looks are deceiving. I base my opinion on actions. And right now, you are acting like a spoiled little child... a real brat."

"Well!" Tess spat back, huffily. And then she fell silent, resorting to glaring at him in displeasure. She really couldn't dispute what he'd said. Not honestly, anyway. Then, thinking of a zinger, she said, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm just glad that I didn't grow up with you after all! You must've been a real drag. No wonder Lonnie and Rath tried to kill you!"

Zan rolled his eyes heavenward, as if seeking strength from a God he didn't believe in. "You know, I never realized what a favor Nasedo did me, when he left Ava with us, and took you away. She may be a weak woman, but at least she doesn't cross me at every turn!"

"Yeah, well too bad for you. You obviously need someone to cross you from time to time. I mean, what the hell are you thinking here, keep Liz around? You do realize, that as long as she is alive, Max will never have anything to do with me, right?"

"If the man had any brains at all, he wouldn't have anything to do with you anyway. Personally, I think he must be a saint, to have even put up with you for this long. For once, I'm glad he's the king. I'd hate to be saddled with the job of mating with the likes of you," Zan taunted mercilessly.

"Well, if you screw this up, you will have to mate with me, pardon the pun," she retorted caustically. "Kivar wants the King's heir, and if I can't beget the brat from Max, guess who is next in line, sweetie?" she said, batting her eyes in feigned flirtation.

"Over my dead body!"

"That can be arranged!" she said hotly, with fire burning in her bright, blue eyes.

"Haha, very funny. You know what I mean. There is no way I'm mating with you, under any circumstances, got it?"

"Mess this up for Kivar, and we'll see how brave you are then. My guess is, you'll mate with me, if it's the only way to save your sorry ass!"

Zan shuddered at the thought. "I'm not sure even that would be enough incentive. Truth is, you annoy me so much, I'm not sure that I could even - uh - do the job."

The rejection she felt with that remark really stung, but Tess refused to let him see. No man had ever been impervious to her charms before. Except for Max, of course. But even then, all it took was a little mental manipulation... Oh well, one good slam deserves another, she thought, and slung back another insult. "Why Zan, my man - I'm shocked to hear that you are impotent. I never would have guessed!" she ridiculed.

"ENOUGH!" That was the final straw, bringing his manhood into question. "That's not what I said, and you know it, you little bitch!" he growled. "Do I need to spell it out for you? You may be cute, but the minute you open your mouth, you spoil the whole effect. In short? You are a total turnoff! Ain't nuthin' wrong with my hormones - they just know what to steer clear of!" He glared at her, to underscore his total contempt for her.

Unflinchingly, she snapped back, "Fine! But I suggest you use your head - you know, the one on your shoulders? - and don't blow this assignment." She snickered, when she realized the additional innuendo there. "Now, suppose you just answer my question - why are we keeping her alive?"

Zan looked down at the petite beauty, who was lying on the ground at his feet. Something softened inside him as he watched her, looking like she was sleeping peacefully, instead of being rendered unconscious by one of Tess' mind games. He could certainly understand why Max would prefer her to the blonde bimbo. "Not that I need to explain myself to you," he ground out, "but she might be useful to us. Until I know for certain that she is worthless to us, she stays alive."

"Fine! Have your way!" Tess shouted.

"Damn straight, I will! And while we're on the subject, just what the hell did you do to her, anyway? She ought to be coming around by now...."

"Oh quit your nagging, will you? I didn't do half of what I would have liked to have done to her."

Zan grabbed a fistful of her hair, and yanked her head back, so that her face was turned up to his. "Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?!" he demanded.

"Nu-nothing," she stammered out, wincing from the pain.

Zan snapped her head forward, before releasing her hair, and cuffing her on the back of the head. "It better be nothing. Any harm comes to her without my say-so, and there'll be hell to pay. Do I make myself clear?"

Tess gave him a mock salute, snapping her heels together. "Yes SIR! Anything else, SIR?!"

Zan smiled maliciously. "No - not anything I can repeat in the presence of a lady, anyway."

Tess relaxed somewhat, the pleasure of his compliment transforming her features. She lifted her chin proudly. "All right then," she replied sweetly, for the first time since the conversation began. "I'm gonna make a run for breakfast. I'm starving. Would you like anything?"

Zan continued to play her. "Oh sure - how about some donuts and Tabasco? Or anything you like, is fine."

Tess looked up at him and nodded. "Ok, well, if you think of anything else you need, that you can say in my presence, I'll be back in 30 minutes. You can tell me then."

Zan looked at her with exaggerated surprise. "That I can say in your presence? Did you - you didn't think I was referring to you, when I said I couldn't repeat it in the presence of a lady, did you? I was referring to Liz here-"

"Ooooo! I HATE YOU!!" Tess shrieked, and stormed out.

"Well, that was fun," he chuckled to himself, when he heard her start her SUV, and peel out onto the highway. "What do I wanna bet, she doesn't bring me back anything?"

Liz had regained consciousness sometime during the beginning of that heated exchange, and had managed to lay completely relaxed, as if she were still unconscious. Neither Zan nor Tess had been the wiser. It hadn't been easy, listening to Zan give Tess the what-for, and not being able to laugh. But she also realized how dire her situation was, and she better keep a lid on it, if she didn't want Tess running for a shovel to dig her grave.

She wondered where she was - she had no idea how long she had been unconscious, and therefore realized she could be just about anywhere. Wherever she was, it smelled dank and dusty, and there was an echo in the place. Something about the smell and the acoustics reminded her of somewhere she had been before.... the Soap Factory? They wouldn't be so stupid to be fighting like that, with Max, Future Max and Future Liz in the vicinity, would they? Oh no - what if they had done something to the others? No, Tess was still talking like she was going ahead with her plan to seduce Max....

She thought about what she could remember of the conversation. Wait a minute. Tess said she would be back in 30 minutes from getting breakfast. That's about how long it would take, from the Soap Factory, to get take out from Roswell. That had to be where she was. But where were the others? Had they just left her here, at Zan's mercy? She couldn't believe they would do such a thing. Unless - she suddenly remembered Max screaming her name, in an agonized cry, right before she blacked out. Maybe he didn't know she was there. How can I let them know where I am? she wondered. And then it hit her. Future Liz would know where she was, as soon as she did. Liz realized that this meant she would have to open her eyes, to know for certain where she was, in order for them to come rescue her. And when she did, Zan would know she wasn't unconscious anymore. Maybe if he just moves away a little.... Liz hoped. After all, he'd have to get bored watching her soon, wouldn't he?

That thought went right out the window, when she felt a strong, warm hand, brushing the hair back from her face. Softly, the fingers that she knew could only belong to Zan began roaming the contours of her face - running lightly over her forehead, her browline, her cheekbones, her cute little nose, teasing her lips, tracing her jaw line.... She felt the reverence in his touch, and had to struggle to keep her respiration even, when he continued his tour, stroking the side of her neck, fingering her pulse point, grazing her collarbone, and then dipping lower into the deep V of her top. She practically stopped breathing altogether, though, when one finger slipped under the edge of her bra, and stroked the silky smooth flesh of her breast. Heat began to spread through her at such an intimate touch, even though it wasn't Max. Max hadn't ever touched her like that, she thought guiltily, and here was some stranger arousing her in ways the man she loved never had.

She wanted to continue the ruse about being unconscious, but she had to stop what was happening, even if it meant giving up a tactical advantage. As his finger slowly dipped farther into the cup of her bra, she reached up in a flash, and grabbed his wrist, halting his bold advance. She opened her eyes, to look up into a face that had, just the evening before, declared himself to be Future Max. He looked so much like Max.... Liz had to mentally shake herself, to break the spell those amber eyes were weaving over her.

Zan smiled, content to sit there with his finger still stroking her breast, as far as it had reached before she grabbed him. Liz scowled at him, and then tugged on his wrist, trying to get him to remove his hand from her top. "What's the matter, my sweet? Don't you like this?"

"No, I don't," Liz whispered hoarsely. "Please remove your hand from my..." She swallowed the word, embarrassed.

"Breast?" Zan finished for her. "But why? It's so lovely - I think I have become rather fond of it..." He said it in a teasing way, but their was more truth in the statement than he cared to acknowledge at this point.

"Well, a gentleman doesn't grope a lady that doesn't want to be groped. Please let go," she requested tersely, continuing to tug on his wrist.

Zan threw back his head and laughed. "A gentleman? Do you see one of those around here?" he asked, turning his head, as if he, himself, was looking for a gentleman. Finally, he feigned a startled look. "Certainly you aren't referring to me? Oh, that's right. You don't know much about me... yet. But you will, love. All in good time." He sighed, then removed his hand. "Very well, there you are."

"Please, Zan," she pleaded, with a quiver in her voice. "Please let me go."

"Now see there," he said in irritation. "That's the problem with you women. You're too demanding. A man gives you what you ask for, and immediately, you begin pressing for something more. Well, I'm afraid I can't be as quick to comply with this request, as I was with the first. You'll just have to accept that you are in my care for the time being."

"Until Tess convinces you to kill me?" she asked boldly.

Zan grinned, his eyes lighting up in admiration. "So, you were playing possum after all," he accused. "I suspected as much, but I didn't want to blow your cover in front of Tess. I didn't want you to have to be subjected to her first thing. She's such a bitch."

"Tell me about it," Liz grumbled, sitting up, and dusting herself off.

"I think you could probably tell me a thing or two about it, from the sounds of things," Zan teased, as he stood up from his crouched position, and held out a hand, to help her to her feet. She allowed him to assist her, and when she came upright, she swayed, feeling strangely off balance. Zan caught her in his arms, and carried her over to a chair, where he sat down with her in his lap. "You wanna tell me what just happened over there?" he asked quietly, running his hands through her hair. I knew it. Silk. It feels just like silk. He closed his eyes, and allowed himself the luxury of feeling the strands run through his fingers.

"I - I don't know, really," Liz stuttered. She was a little unnerved by the sensual look on Zan's face, as he played with her hair.

"Just describe as best you can what you felt, when you stood up," he encouraged her.

"I - it was just a little dizziness, is all." She didn't know how to feel about his apparent concern.

He opened his eyes, letting her hair fall back around her shoulders. "Okay, stand up for me."

Liz did as he asked, and began to sway again, the room tilting and spinning around her. "Ooohh...." she moaned.

Zan wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her back down into his lap. He shifted her slightly, trying to get comfortable, despite the disconcerting effect she was having on his lower anatomy. He finally wrote it off as a lost cause. "So tell me what you felt."

"Dizzy - room spinning - make it stop..." she begged, squeezing her eyes shut tightly, and holding onto her head.

"Damn that Tess," he mumbled. "I knew I shouldn't have trusted her with you." He took Liz's head in his hands, and held her face so that their eyes were level. Gently stroking her cheeks with his thumbs, he said, "Look into my eyes, Liz. Let me in."

Liz obeyed his command instinctively, opening her eyes, and gazing into his. Instantly, a connection sprang to life.

*What looked to be punk versions of Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess, roaming city streets, stealing fruit from the street vendors. She felt his boredom and lack of purpose.* She knew that the one that looked like Max was Zan. Must be the others were hybrids as well.

*Zan being pushed into the street by the one that looked like Michael. A truck bearing down on him, as he lay in the street, and then the truck hitting him. She felt his fear, just before everything went black*

*Zan seeing Liz for the first time, through her window. She felt his surprise, followed by an instant attraction that he could not understand, and a deep longing.*

As for Zan, he tried to ignore the images, as he searched her mind for any damage Tess had done when she made Liz black out. But some of them he just could not ignore....

*Liz being healed by Max. Finding out about his origins. He knew her sense of awe at discovering his secret, and the fierce protectiveness she felt toward Max, not wanting the "wrong people" to learn who he was*

Quickly, he repaired the damage that Tess had left behind. But something compelled him to not break their connection just yet.

*Max and Liz embracing, sharing a passionate kiss. He felt her overwhelming love for Max wash over him*

*Liz seeing him at her window last night. Her heart raced, and her breathing became shallow at the mere sight of him. All she really wanted to do was run into his arms, and love him*

Zan broke the connection then, having not realized that he had been leaning in closer and closer to her the entire time. By the time the images ceased, his lips were only a hair's breadth from her own. Looking at her through lowered lids, he closed the remaining space, and placed a gentle, yet firm, kiss on her beautiful lips. It was like tasting the sweetest nectar he could imagine. He didn't understand these wild stirrings that this woman produced in him. No one had every had such an effect on him. Not even Ava, who had allowed him to satisfy his urges with her, even though she had known that he would never - could never - love her. Ava, who had been his wife in their former life. His wife whom he had loved with a passion that often caused his mother to chastise him for his outward displays of affection in public. Yet, his heart had not connected with Ava. Shouldn't it? Lonnie, his traitorous sister had evoked emotional response in him. Why not Ava? Physically he responded to her, but it never was anything more than that. But this woman - Liz - she aroused feelings deep inside of him, that he never knew he was capable of. What is it about her? he wondered in the back of his mind, as he felt himself drawn to deepen their kiss.

At first, Liz was in shock, when Zan teased her lips with his, in a tender kiss. He masterfully enticed her with his artful technique, causing her to melt in his arms. Momentarily, she forgot that this was not Max, but rather Zan, so lost was she in the sensations that he provoked in her. When she felt his tongue urge her to surrender to him, though, she came to her senses, and pulled back abruptly, nearly causing herself to tumble from his lap.

Zan felt the loss of contact like a slap in the face. "Liz? What's wrong?" he asked, breathless from the passion stirring in him.

" This is wrong," she said in a husky whisper. "Us - here - like this. I belong to Max, Zan. I can't betray his trust like this."

"I know how you feel for him," Zan admitted. "I sensed it when we connected before. But I can't help the way I feel about you - you awaken something in me, Liz - something that I never knew existed. I feel like I have found a priceless treasure, that I never even knew I was looking for."

"Zan, I can't deny that I'm attracted to you, for some reason. But I can't hurt Max like that. I would rather die."

Zan placed two fingers over her lips. "Shh, Liz, please don't say that. I couldn't stand it, if anything were to happen to you." He laced his fingers through her hair, until he held her head within his splayed fingers. "Kivar and Tess both want you dead, but I can't bring harm to you. It would be like cutting off my arm. I'll do whatever I can to keep you safe, but we're playing with a rough crowd here, you understand?"

Liz nodded. "Why, Zan?"

He looked at her puzzled. "Why? Why what?"

"Why did you get mixed up with them? I mean, you and Max obviously share the same essence and all - I know that you must have goodness in you. What went wrong?"

Zan suddenly looked hard and unapproachable. He set her away from himself rather roughly, and rose to his feet, crossing the room to stand at the window, and stare at the highway.


posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:46:44 PM
Part Thirteen

Liz refused to be put off by his brusque manner. She walked up behind him, and placed her small hand on his back. "What is it, Zan? What's troubling you?"

He looked back over his shoulder at her, his eyes cold and distant. Liz felt the chill all the way to her bones. "There is just one flaw in this little scenario that you have formed in your mind - Max and I aren't identical, when it comes to our 'essence', as you refer to it. Not by a long shot."

"But - you look just like him. And I know there are others that look like Isabel, Michael, and Tess, too. I saw it in a flash from you, when you healed me before."

Not even turning to face her, he nodded silently. Sighing, he lifted an arm, bracing it on the window casing, and leaning on it for support. What he was going to tell her now would not be easy. "It's true, we look just like your friends," Zan acquiesced. "But that is where the similarities end."

Liz waited, and when he didn't continue, she remarked, "I don't understand. What's different?"

Zan's arm fell back to his side, and his shoulders slumped in an apparently defeated posture. He rested his forehead on the cool glass, his eyes squeezed tight against the painful truth of his heritage. On a whisper, he confessed the tragic secret: "I'm just the leftovers, Liz. All of my foursquare - Lonnie, Rath, Tess, and myself - we are all just leftovers from their infernal experiment."

Liz wasn't sure she was understanding him correctly. The way she was taking it, seemed to horrible to consider. "Exactly what do you mean by 'leftovers'?" she queried.

It was then that he turned to face her. But his eyes were distant, as if he were caught up in a vision, or memory. "Our people are advanced in genetic research, far beyond what humans dream possible," he began. "For the 50 years preceding the war, Antarians had been actively engaged in genetic enhancements to their offspring. Both the male and female reproductive seed were routinely altered to either enhance or diminish certain physical characteristics, in order to make their young more "desirable". Then the fertilization took place - in vitro, you would call it. And the results of the joining of the male and female seed were predictable - it was known which traits would dominate, and which would be recessive. Shortly before the war, there was rumor of new, experimental genetics, which would essentially remove unwanted genetic material from one partner's seed. Then the desirable trait from the other partner - or even an outside donor - would be replicated, and inserted in its place. That way, the recessive gene was totally removed from the equation, and would never again be an issue in subsequent generations."

"Oh, my God," Liz whispered.

He leaned back, perching on the window ledge, his hands flat on the sill as well, braced on either side of his hips. "Yes, well, that was a prevailing sentiment among our people, to be sure," he continued. "It seemed that our scientific community had gone too far this time. To completely destroy recessive genes - you were making decisions that would affect your progeny for generations to come. If certain physical characteristics - say, blue eyes - were considered unappealing, and everyone purified their genetic code, there would be no trace of it left in the gene pool, and therefore, no recessive trait that could be enhanced. Because our people are as fickle as they are vain, regarding their appearance, the social chaos that could conceivably erupt from such purification was a real threat. Anyway, I am deviating from the point I wish to make here.

"In the process of purifying genetic code, as I mentioned before, unwanted genetic material is eliminated - removed. So what happens to that genetic material? Does it not have as much life-giving potential as the genetic code that was desired? This became a great debate among our scientists, ethicists, and religious leaders. And as the debate was heating up, so were the political tensions between our world, and the other planets in our solar system.

"Seeing a weak chink in our armor, so to speak, with the tensions among our own people running high, Kivar availed himself of the opportunity to overtake us. He stormed our lands, and slaughtered the royal family, with the exception of our mother, who had been sequestered in a remote location. In an act of sheer desperation, on the part of our leading genetics research team, our reproductive 'essence' was extracted from our bodies, as quickly as possible. Unbeknownst to Kivar - and by a fluke, really - we became the first trial experiment for this new genetic procedure. By 'we', I refer to our Antarian predecessors. Anyway, our scientists had stored away human DNA, obtained on previous journeys to Earth, which they had previously only used for research. One of them came up with the bright idea, that instead of cloning us - a practice that was beginning to gain acceptance - they would use the human DNA for part of the genetic material for each of us. That way, we could be made to look like humans, and be hidden on a distant planet to mature. Because we would not look like our Antarian selves, Kivar would never suspect that we had been 'reproduced'.

"The trouble began, though, when they began to select and splice the genetic codes of the King. Outward physical traits were selected mostly from the human DNA, for obvious reasons. They were combined with alien traits that would allow survival on either planet. After all, the goal was to eventually bring the King back to Antar, to take his rightful place on the throne. But when it came to the selection of alien characteristics, there was not the same unity of purpose. Many argued - and they were the majority - that the genetic code that would direct the inner workings of a man should be more human than alien, in order to survive in the humans' culture. This would be the mental and emotional part of the being. There would be 'enhancements' made to the brain, but it would still be largely human. In the other camp, the sentiment was that in order to rule Antar effectively, the new "king" should be Antarian in nature.

"Well, when all was said and done, they had Max. But there was still all this "scrap" alien genetic material. So, say, Max is.... maybe 70 % human - with some modifications, of course. That makes him 30% alien. That left a whopping 70% chunk of the King's genetic code untouched. You have to know the Antarian mind, to know that they view their monarchs as sacred. To discard part of who the King was, seemed blasphemous to them. They knew they had to stick with the appearance of a human, but the remaining alien essence that determines the heart and mind of the man, was put into a second hybrid, that would essentially be 40 % human, 60% alien. I know - the math seems to not work, but they agreed that safety was of utmost importance, and appearing to be human was key for survival. On that stance, they agreed they could allow a minimal amount of the genetic code governing the King's physical appearances to remain unused. At any rate, when they finished putting the scraps together, they had me."

Liz couldn't believe what he had just told her. None of it made any sense. She had a sneaking suspicion that someone had filled Zan's head with a lot of nonsense. "Zan - how do you know this?"

Zan looked up at her questioningly. "Nasedo told us - why?"

"Well, please don't take this the wrong way... but I don't believe it. I have a feeling you were lied to."

"What makes you think that? What possible reason could Nasedo have for lying to me?" Zan asked, with an edge in his voice.

Liz's eyebrow raised in challenge. "Reason? I could think of a couple. And face it, he wasn't a paragon of trustworthiness, you know?"

"Maybe not to you, but I never had cause to think he lied to me."

"Neither did we," she shot back. "He seemed to be on our side 100%, and yet he was busy selling Max and the others up the river. Nice guy."

"It sure is easy for you to be critical, when you have been surrounded all your life by people who love you - adults who are willing to invest their time and energy into you... into your future. Me? Nasedo was all I had. All any of us had. And now you want me to believe that everything that he told me was a lie? You don't ask much, do you, precious one?"

Something deep within Liz stirred, when he referred to her as "precious one". Something on the periphery of her conscious mind. It taunted her, staying just out of her reach. She looked at him in wide eyed wonder - she knew that there was something special about him. She only wished she knew what. "Zan, I know that things weren't easy for you growing up. I'd never try to suggest otherwise. But just because he was all you had, doesn't mean he is trustworthy. If you had had more interaction with adults growing up, you might have been able to learn who to trust, and who to avoid. But before I tell you why I think that he was feeding you a line, why don't you tell me why you believe what he said is true?"

"Okay, fair enough," Zan agreed. "I guess the biggest piece of evidence, is that my foursquare does definitely seem to be more alien than Max's. I mean, we remember what Antar was like - the war, our former lives.... Max and them, they don't remember. And then there is the fact that they are better suited emotionally to assimilate into human society. We tend to be a little more... uh... rough around the edges, I guess you could say. We just have more of a harsh attitude - things like love, and tenderness? That's Max's deal. We deal on a slightly... shall we say 'baser' level? Max is soft, like a human. I'm just a hardass alien, through and through. And from what I saw of Nasedo and Kivar, that seems to be the order of the day on our planet." Zan stared at his feet, as if he were almost ashamed to admit such a thing.

Liz sat silently, waiting. After a few seconds, when Zan made no attempt to continue, she asked, "So... that's it? That's what you base your acceptance of this story on?"

Zan's eyes snapped up to meet hers. "Well, it certainly supports what he said, don't you think?"

Liz shook her head. "Not conclusively, it doesn't. Not by a long shot. There are too many questions - too many holes in the story. I must say, I would think Nasedo would have thought this out a little better."

"Well, not everyone is as smart as you, I guess," Zan retorted harshly.

Liz's eyes widened, and she took a step back, stung by his hostile response. "I- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you... forget I said anything," she whispered, as tears stung her eyes. She turned her face from him, not wanting him to know how much his sharp words had hurt her. She didn't understand herself, why she should care what he thought of her.

But Zan had seen. He saw the tears brimming in her eyes, threatening to spill over at any moment, and he was grieved. He never meant to hurt her. Ashamed of his treatment of her, he quietly came up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her back against his chest. "Liz, I'm sorry. That was really awful of me to say that to you. I'm just frustrated and upset right now. Can you forgive me?" He laid his cheek on the top of her head, closing his eyes. He felt her nod her head in response to his repentant plea, and relaxed. But he continued to hold her close. He wished he could stay like that forever. That thought caused a shudder to course through him. What was happening to him? Since when had he ever apologized to anyone? And he barely knew this girl, yet he was certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he never wanted to be apart from her again.

Warm droplets of moisture splashed against the skin on his arms, and he looked up, wondering where it was coming from. He scanned overhead for ceiling for leaks, or a leaky pipe - but saw nothing. *drop~drop* There is was again. And then he realized - they were Liz's tears. Something tightened in him, in the area of his heart, and he regretted ever agreeing to come back in time for Kivar. All it had done was bring Liz unnecessary heartache, and now she was being held captive. What must she think of me? He surprised himself with that thought, that he should care what she thought. But he did care. He cared a lot. He inhaled deeply, allowing the very scent of her to calm his frazzled nerves. He marveled how such a simple thing like that, could have such a profound affect on him.

"Zan?" Liz managed to choke out on a whisper.

"Yes, Liz?" he answered dreamily, nuzzling at her hair with his face, enjoying the softness of it.

"You still didn't tell me why you hooked up with Kivar. If you were once the King of Antar, why are you willing to aid your enemy - the man responsible for your death?"

"I - I don't honestly know," he admitted. "I mean, it seemed like the natural course to take, at the time. Max had been designated the new king, I had no purpose in life, and yet Kivar was dogging me like there was no tomorrow. Every time I turned around, he or one of his henchman would be right there, trying to end my miserable existence. I got tired of running, if you want the truth. I probably should have just let him kill me, and be done with it, but my instinct to stay alive was too strong, I guess. After all, I managed to survive Lonnie and Rath's bungled attempt to assassinate me. For the fourteen years after that, I was alone, and on the run. I couldn't go back to what had been my home for 17 years, because if I did, they would try to kill me. So instead, I spent my life running from Kivar. My only regret was leaving Ava with them idiots. She deserved better. I just didn't have a choice. Had I known then how I would feel about you, though, and about all the pain I would cause you, I think I would have had the strength to stop running, and face Kivar. I would rather die, than to have to watch you suffer, Liz."

"Then - why don't we just get out of here, before Tess comes back?" Liz asked timidly.

Startled, Zan replied, "You know - that's a really good question. Why don't we?"

Liz turned in his arms, a look of hopeful expectation on her face. "Do you mean that?"

He smiled down at her, threading his fingers through the hair at her nape. "Yeah, actually, I do. 'Cept for one problem."

Liz's hopes fell. Naturally, there had to be a "catch". "Oh? What's that?" she asked, her voice laced with disappointment.

"No wheels." Just then, he heard a noise in the distance. He released Liz abruptly, and strode to the window. In the distance, he could see Tess' white SUV barreling down the highway. He grabbed Liz by the hand, and commanded, "Come on! We've gotta move!" He ran to the stairs, Liz in tow, and descended 2 flights, to the main floor. He led her to an alcove that was not far from the front entrance, yet in the opposite direction from the stairs. They heard Tess slam the door of the vehicle shut, just as they slid into their hiding place. Zan motioned to her to be completely quiet, and she nodded her understanding.

The door flung open, and Tess entered, juggling 3 bags from Dunkin' Donuts. Kicking the door with her foot, she headed toward the stairs. Zan grimaced, as he heard the loud squeaking of the hinges. He wondered how they would ever make it out of the building without Tess hearing. He decided that what they lacked in stealth, they would have to make up for in speed. So once Tess had reached the second level, Zan pulled Liz out of their hiding place, and made a run for the door. When they reached it, they discovered that in her haste, Tess had not made sure that the door shut behind her, and they were able to slip through the opening, without moving the door. One hurdle down, one to go, Zan thought. From inside, he heard Tess call, "Honey - I'm home!" in a sarcastic whine.

When they reached the SUV, he released Liz, so she could go around to the passenger's side. He opened the driver's door and vaulted in behind the wheel. Liz climbed in on the other side, just as he reached for the ignition. No keys.

Liz looked at him with panic-stricken eyes. Zan just shrugged, placed the palm of his hand over the switch, and the vehicle roared to life. With a glint of satisfaction in his eyes, he slammed the vehicle in gear, and just as he was about to pull out, they saw Tess lean out a third story window and scream, "ZAN!!! You're SO gonna PAY for this!!!" As he raced toward the highway, he said with a chuckle, "No doubt I will - no doubt I will."





posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:47:41 PM
Part Fourteen

Future Max parked the Parker's car behind the Sheriff's building. He walked around the front, and entered the offices. Stopping at the desk, he asked if Sheriff Valenti was in.

Deputy Hanson gave Future Max the once over, with a perplexed look on his face. Pointing a finger in Max's direction, he spoke. "You're the Evans kid, aren't you?"

"Yeah...." Max couldn't figure out what the deputy's problem was.

"Something's.... different. You're different. I can't put my finger on it...." he declared, still assessing Future Max's appearance.

"Oh, um...." Future Max thought frantically, to what differences there might be between him, and his younger self. He hadn't gotten a really good look at young Max, when they saw each other briefly at the Soap Factory. He did know that he had filled out quite a bit in the last three years. So he answered, "I've been working out. Lifting weights, you know?"
Hanson nodded. "Yeah, that must be it," he agreed. "You go out for the football team this year, or somethin'?"

Future Max felt his temper starting to bubble. Why the hell was Hanson always so nosy? Part of Max wanted to tell him it was none of his business. But it probably wasn't wise to rile Hanson up at this point. "No, I just wanted to get in shape. Besides," he added, hoping the extra information would satisfy Hanson, and get him to shut up, "I hear the girls really like muscular guys..." He averted his eyes, feigning shyness.

"Aahh..." Hanson gave him a knowing grin. "Well, that is true." Straightening to his full height, and puffing out his chest slightly as he tugged at his belt, he confided, "I work out myself, you know. I tell everyone it's because I want to stay fit for my job, but in truth...." He leaned over the counter towards Max, lowering his voice, "I do it to attract the ladies, too." He chuckled.

Future Max would have rolled his eyes, if he thought he could get away with it. Hanson was a real piece of work. In fact, he kind of put Max in mind of Barney Fife, from the old Andy Griffith Show. That thought brought a grin to his face.

Totally misreading Future Max's smile, Hanson said, "Yeah, I know. No one figures me for the stud-muffin type. But that's what makes it so much fun. Watching the girls' eyes bug out, when they see me in my civs, when I'm off duty."

That comment nearly shattered Future Max's composure. He looked incredulously at the slender officer, wondering where he could possibly be hiding these muscles he was convinced he had. No, never mind, he thought. I don't want to know.... "So.... where did you say the Sheriff is?" he asked flatly, hoping to finally get an answer.

Hanson stood straight, all professional once more. "Well, he ain't here right now. I think he said he had some things to take care of at home, with his boy. He's usually in and out on Saturday, anyway. supposed to be his day off."

"Right," Future Max said with a nod. "Well, thanks. I'll go see if I can catch up with him and Kyle." He hoped that mentioning Kyle, as well, would remove any thoughts that Hanson might be brewing, about this being an "official" meeting with Valenti. He lifted his hand in a farewell wave, as he turned to exit.

"Hey Max?" Hanson called after him.

Future Max halted in his steps, and cautiously turned back, to see what the officer could possibly want now. "Good luck with the girls," Hanson said with a wink. Max just snickered and shook his head, and left the building.

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

Back at Michael's apartment, things were tense. After Liz had regained consciousness, Future Liz knew that she was being held captive at the Soap Factory, by Future Zan and Tess. Max was having a hard time focusing on a course of action, he was so angered by Tess' betrayal. Future Liz tried to calm him, but she was having her own distractions, as she tried to keep the memories that were flooding her in the forefront of her mind. She was hoping that somehow she would get a clue as to how to rescue her younger self from Zan's clutches.

Future Liz was amused by the bantering between Tess and Zan. Obviously, Zan couldn't stand Tess any more than she could. But she was aghast, when the images of Zan fondling her flashed through her mind. The final straw came, though, as she remembered responding to Zan's kiss. Getting up from where she sat beside Max, she went into the bathroom, to attempt to regain her composure, before someone noticed that she was blushing, and breathing oddly. The last thing she needed right now was to have to explain to Max that Liz was making out with Zan, while they were all sitting here worrying about her. Future Liz was relieved when she realized that Liz had broken off the kiss with Zan. She hated to admit it, but there was some strange pull to Zan that she couldn't explain. She splashed cold water on her face, and pulled herself together.

Exiting the bathroom, she heard Max and Michael trying to come up with a plan to rescue Liz. Isabel, for once, seemed to be patiently listening to them, without arguing. One look at her face, though, clearly revealed her worry.

Future Liz walked over to the sofa, sitting down beside Isabel. Diverting her attention from Max and Michael, Isabel asked, "So? Have you learned anything else that might help us get her away from Zan, and that shrew, Tess?" Future Liz's heart went out to Isabel. She could see the anguish in the younger girl's eyes, as if she somehow blamed herself for trusting Tess.

"No, nothing pertinent. Just... Zan and Tess aren't getting along very well. That might be helpful, if we try to turn him to our side...." Her voice faded off, as she suddenly began to concentrate on what was happening with Liz. She was astounded by the way Zan seemed to be softening to her younger self. His tenderness and consideration were something that she never would have expected to see. And she was more than a little amazed at her own reaction to him. She hoped that Liz knew what she was doing. It would be a disaster, if she blew her last chance for happiness with Max on the likes of Zan.

"Wait a minute," Future Liz said softly, so only Isabel could hear. "Something is happening. Zan is... I don't believe it."

"What?!" Isabel asked impatiently. "What's happening?"

"Oh my God!! Max! Michael!"

Max stopped talking mid-sentence, and both of them turned to look at Future Liz.

"Zan is helping Liz to escape! They stole Tess' SUV, and left her stranded out at the Old Soap Factory!!" she giggled. "You should have seen the look on Tess' face, when she saw them taking off! Anyway, they're heading back to town."

Michael laughed. "Guess Tess'll have to ride her broom in," he offered. Isabel snickered at the mental picture.

Max sighed, seeming to miss Michael's comment. "Well, that will make things easier - I hope. Let's just cross our fingers, that Zan can be reasoned with."

"If he can't, we'll have to make sure he sees reason," Michael quipped with an arched brow, giving Max a meaningful look.

"Just remember, violence is a last resort," Max admonished him.

"Yes, boss," Michael said grumpily. "You're just no fun, you know that?"

Max smiled. "No fun at all. Such is the burden of being the voice of reason."

"If you two are quite through," Isabel rebuked them, "we need to decide how we are going to catch up to them, and then we have to do it without Liz, here." She nodded in Future Liz's direction. "Can't have our Liz's sending each other into oblivion."

"I agree. Why don't we wait until Future Liz here finds out where Zan takes our Liz, and then we can go meet up with them." Max was praying that Zan's most recent actions indicated some sort of change of heart on his part. But they still needed to be prepared, in case this was some sort of trap. Voicing his concern, he added, "I still think we need to be prepared for all contingencies, though. We don't know his motivations for helping Liz get away from Tess. It could just be another ploy, in order to get to us."

As much as it rubbed Michael raw to appear to submit to Max's authority, he said, "Agreed."

The corners of Max's mouth turned up slightly in relief, his eyes softening. Drawing Michael aside, he quietly expressed his appreciation. "Thank you, for not fighting me on this."

"Hey, this is Liz we're talking about. I don't want anything to happen to her, either."

Max clasped Michael's shoulder, and gave it a squeeze. "I know you don't. Beneath all that bravado, there beats a good heart. But if you want, we can keep that our little secret?" Max teased.

Michael chuckled. "Yeah, maybe we'd better. Wouldn't want Maria to start developing all these expectations, now that I've gotten her properly trained." They laughed, because they both knew the truth - Maria was the one that was training him.

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

Future Max slipped through the back streets of Roswell, hoping to make it to the Sheriff's house without being stopped by anyone he knew. He had left the car parked behind the Sheriff's headquarters, not wanting it spotted all over town. Arriving at Valenti's, he was relieved, when he saw the police department's SUV in the driveway. He was just about to knock on the back door, when he heard the Sheriff and Kyle arguing inside.

"Aw, dad, come on!" Kyle hollered. "How long do I have to put up with this? As if it wasn't bad enough that she moved in and took over my room - and helps herself to anything of mine she happens to find interesting, may I remind you - but now I have to fight through a jungle of pantyhose draped over the curtain rod, in order to take a shower? Is nothing sacred??"

"Now, Kyle... we just have to be a little patient with her. Let her get settled in, and feel at home, before we start slamming her with rules all over the place. She's had a tough time here these past few weeks. Harding may not have been much of a father, but he's all she's ever had."

"Yeah? Well, I say good riddance to him. That guy gave me the creeps. BIG TIME. And as for Tess... she is gonna turn our comfortable bachelor's life on its ear, before she's done with it. She won't be the one changing and following new rules, we will. Mark my words."

"Well, would that be such a bad thing?" Future Max heard Valenti pose to his son. "I mean, this house could use a woman's touch, after all. Maybe Tess will be good for us."

Kyle snorted. "Don't count on it."

Future Max took that as his cue. With a heavy heart, he knocked on the door. He hated the thought of telling the Sheriff and Kyle that they had all been wrong about Tess. She really was a conniving, manipulative bitch. He should have stuck to his initial impression of her.

The door swung open, presenting a rumpled, unshaven Sheriff Valenti, coffee mug in hand. "Max? What are you doing here?" He rubbed his hand over his eyes, trying to collect himself.

"Can - can I come in?" Future Max asked. "I hope this isn't a bad time?"

"No, it's okay, Max. Kyle and I were just discussing Tess' place in our family. I think we are both about ready for a break from that topic." He stepped back, allowing Future Max to enter the house. As he passed, Jim was taken aback by the size of him. He never noticed Max being so big before. And come to think of it... his voice sounded strange, too.

"Well, I hate to disappoint you, but actually Tess is what I came here to talk to you about."

"Tess?" Jim asked. "What about her? Is she all right? She was gone this morning before either of us got up. She didn't even leave a note...."

"Yes, she's all right... physically," Future Max said in annoyance. "But that could change, when I catch up with her."

Valenti looked at him with a start - he had never heard Max say a harsh or threatening word before. What could possibly have happened? And there was still the unsettling changes in Max's physical appearance... "Max? You look different this morning. What's going on?"

Future Max sighed. "Can we sit down? I think it will be better, for what I have to tell you."

The Sheriff motioned toward the dining room table, and the three men went in and sat, Kyle having gone and snatched the chair from his father's desk in the other room.

"First of all," Future Max began, "I'm not Max. That is, I'm not the Max from this time. I came back from three years in the future, to try to undo a horrible mess that was supposedly created by me from yet another time, in a visit to Liz. But as it turns out, it wasn't me at all that came to see her, but a future version of another hybrid who looks just like me. His name is Zan. Apparently, Michael, Isabel, Tess, and I all have duplicates that grew up in New York City. It's a long story, and it isn't important right now. What is important is that Zan is working for our enemy, Kivar - or at least he was. There is some question now, as to whether he may decide to join with us. But the really bad part is, Tess is colluding with Kivar as well. Nasedo - Harding - had cut a deal with Kivar years ago, for Tess to seduce me, get pregnant with my child, and then return to Antar, escorted by myself, Isabel, and Michael."

Kyle held his hands up. "Whoa whoa whoa! Slow down, Your Highness! Tess is working for the enemy?!"

"Yes, I'm afraid so," he answered curtly, pinning Kyle with one of his patented intense stares.

"Damn it, Evans! And you put her in this house? What - so she can turn us into alien French fries?!"

"Look, Kyle, believe me, if we had known what she was up to, we never would have let you get involved with her."

"Kyle -" Jim said with a pointed look. "Don't be jumping on Max. If you'll recall, having Tess stay here was my idea."

"Oh, don't worry, Dad," Kyle said sarcastically. "I know exactly who is responsible." He glared at Max.

"Stop it, Kyle! Instead of more arguing, why don't we hear what Max has to say? I'm sure he has something in mind." He looked hopefully to Max.

"Well, actually," Future Max said hesitantly, "There has been a - uh - complication...."

Valenti froze, staring unblinkingly at him, his coffee mug halfway to his mouth. "Complication," he echoed flatly.

"Yeah, see, uh... it appears that this Future Zan and Tess have kidnapped Liz...."

"Oh my God!! Liz?" Kyle hollered. "You let them get their hands on Liz??"

"I assure you, Kyle, it wasn't intentional," Max ground out. "And actually, it was my younger self that was with her at the time. Tess used that damned mind-warp on him.... he thought that they had KILLED her. Thank God they had just used that as a cover, to sneak in and abduct her..."

"Evans, are you stupid? Being abducted by Tess won't be any better for her. In fact, it may be worse. Tess hates Liz, because she knows that you love her. I've seen the way Tess looks at her, when she thinks no one is watching. It's almost... crazed. I'm telling you, Liz isn't safe with her!"

"Look, Kyle, getting hysterical isn't going to be any help at this point. I really just wanted to come over, and let you know what is going on. You can't trust Tess, but you can't let her know that you are on to her, either. Just act normal, and she will probably leave you out of whatever plot she is brewing." An odd expression fixed itself on his face for a few moments, and then he let out a sigh of relief. "Well, it seems that Future Zan has helped Liz to escape Tess. Maybe things will turn around here."

Kyle and Jim looked at each other, and then back at Future Max, like he had sprouted another head. Recovering first, Jim asked, "And just how do you know that?"

Future Max took a deep breath. "Well, it's kinda weird. As the Max and Liz of this time period are experiencing things, my Liz and I are obtaining the knowledge of those experiences as memories. Right now, the present version of me is with my Liz from the future. And she is getting Liz's memories, as they happen. So, she knows where your Liz is, and what she is doing; she tells Max, and then I have the memory of her telling me. Confusing, but trust me, it works."

"You'll forgive me, if trusting you isn't high on my list of priorities," Kyle mumbled.

"Kyle!" his father scolded. "That's enough!"

Kyle flashed them both a mocking smirk, and nodded. "You're right, dad. It's quite enough. I'm outta here." Just then the phone rang. Kyle snatched up the receiver as he walked by. "Hello!" he barked. He went deathly still, when he heard the voice on the other end.

"Kyle? It's Tess. Look, can I ask you a big favor?"

"Gee, Tess," he said, deliberately emphasizing her name, gesturing to Max and his father to pay attention. "I guess that would depend on the favor."

"Well, I'm kinda stranded without wheels, and I need a ride," her voice sang sweetly over the phone. "Could you come get me?"

"Come and get you -" he repeated, looking at Future Max.

Max shook his head, and mouthed, "No".

"Gee, Tess, I wish I could, but I have an appointment," Kyle lied.

Tess laughed. "You have an appointment? Please, Kyle, this is me you are talking to. We both know that guys like you don't have 'appointments'. Come on," she whined. "Come and get me, pretty please? I have breakfast here and everything...." She left the thought dangling, figuring his imagination could fill in the "and everything" portion.

Kyle put his hand over the phone. "She's not taking no for an answer," he whispered to Future Max. "Now what?"

"Just tell her you can't pick her up, and you have to go, or you'll be late," Future Max said quietly. Kyle nodded.

"Listen, Tess, I wish I could help you out, but I have to go now, or I'm going to be late. Why don't you try lover boy? Maybe he can come pick you up?" Kyle added helpfully.

"Uh, no, I don't think that will work," she replied hesitantly.

No duh, ya think? Kyle thought. "Well, gotta run! I'm sure you'll find a ride. See you later." *click* Kyle slumped against the wall by the phone. After taking several deep breaths, he exclaimed, "Damn! Just talking to that psycho alien chick freaks me out! I gotta go change my underwear now!" He stormed off in the direction of the bedroom that Tess had appropriated, to have a few minutes of solitude. He wasn't sure what Buddha would say in this situation, but he knew he sure needed to get centered again.




posted on 6-Sep-2001 12:48:55 PM
Part Fifteen

"OOOOO!" Tess shrieked, slamming the cover on her cell phone shut. "Damn them all! When this is over, and Kivar is satisfied, I am going to wreak vengeance on these pathetic, miserable beings - human and alien alike!" she screamed into the empty room. Pacing the floor of the Old Soap Factory, she tried to calm herself enough to plot a beneficial course of action, given this rather unfavorable turn of events. Seething, she continued her rant. "And what the hell did Zan think he was doing, taking off with that little bitch, anyway? Unless...."

A wicked grin lifted the corners of her mouth, lighting the depths of her icy blue eyes with an unholy gleam. "Maybe he decided that he wants her for himself? He was acting strangely protective of her earlier...." Yes, that might work. She pondered the possibilities for a few moments, as her body began to relax, in light of a newly formed scheme. "If Max is the true heir to the throne, than it shouldn't matter if Zan takes Liz for his woman, should it? I mean, Max is the one that is the threat to Kivar, after all. And if Liz is with Zan, Max will have to admit she's lost to him, and then he will finally be free to come to me."

She sighed in relief, realizing that her rash judgment of Zan had probably been too harsh. If only he hadn't acted so foolishly, sneaking off, stealing her vehicle, and leaving her stranded here. That rankled. All he had to do was confide his plan in her, and she would gladly have let him take the SUV - after he had dropped her off back in Roswell.

But such was not the case, and she had work to do. With that thought, she quickly descended the stairs. "But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep..." she muttered, as she exited the building. "Damn, Kivar, what I don't do for you," she grumbled, as she accepted the only option remaining. Shading her eyes with her hand, she scanned the endless expanse of highway that led off into the horizon and groaned. "And miles to go before I sleep," she concluded, and began the long walk back to town.

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


"Well - that went well," Future Max ventured, once Kyle was out of earshot.

"Yeah, well, all this aliens-being-real business really shook him up," Jim defended his son. "I had suspected for a long time, so it wasn't any great surprise to me. Although, I must admit, I never expected that I would become friends with a bunch of alien kids," he said with a grin. "But Kyle? He always believed it was a bunch of nonsense. Learning the truth really rocked his world."

"Yeah, I imagine it did," Future Max returned. "I wonder, though, if he'll ever grow accustomed to it, to where he can stop hating me. I mean, in the future that I came from, he never did. Because he never forgave me for hurting Liz. But now that all that is changing, maybe we can call a truce, somewhere down the line."

"We can hope," Jim agreed. "After all, it isn't easy being caught between the local aliens, and your alien-despising son."

Future Max grimaced. "I'm really sorry that knowing us has put you in such an awkward position. But I want you to know, I appreciate everything you have done for us... and will do. You are a good friend."

Jim rose, his coffee cup in his hand. He squeezed Max's shoulder, on his way past to the coffee pot. "I have no regrets, Max. I don't pretend to understand all the politics and plots of your people, but I do know that you are a good young man, with an awful burden on his shoulders." Pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee, he added, "I see a lot of good qualities in you, that will make you an excellent leader. I'm honored to think that I might, in some way, aid you in getting back what is rightfully yours to rule." He turned to face Max, leaning back against the counter. He took a sip, obviously pondering something. "So - any ideas why Tess is conspiring with this Zan fella?"

Max turned in his chair, so he could see Valenti without craning his neck. "Well, there was that plot that Nasedo had agreed to implement for Kivar... but that doesn't have anything to do with Zan. What drew the two of them together, is that in the future - 14 years in the future - the war is not going well for Kivar. It seems that Liz's and my relationship was somehow key to the success of our people in this war. So he sent Zan back in time to impersonate me, and convince Liz that our love caused the destruction of the world. That the key to our winning the war was for me to be with Tess. So when Zan got back here, he obviously looked Tess up, and got her to help him carry out his plan. And it worked. Which is why my Liz and I both came back here ourselves. To stop it from happening. Because the result was devastating.

Anyway, my Liz came back here with a major chip on her shoulder toward what she perceived was a future version of me.... she found him and confronted him. That's when she learned that he was really a future version of Zan. Thinking he was going to kill her anyway, he satisfied her curiosity, taunting her with the truth." Future Max broke into a full smile. "But Zan, he didn't know my Liz," he stated, proudly. Jim didn't miss the distinctly possessive way in which he'd said it, either. "She's - changed, even more than I realized. She has discovered that she has some special gifts herself, and is learning to use them. She managed to get away from Zan, and tell us what he was planning. Long story short, he must've realized that he couldn't proceed with his original plan, now that at least one of us was onto him, and had probably warned others. So since he figured he wouldn't be able to break young Max and Liz up, he abducted Liz instead, to keep her from being with me - my younger self, that is."

Jim had been listening intently, quietly sipping at his coffee. He inwardly wondered what it would be like to be a normal sheriff, in a normal town, with no alien wars to worry about. Boring, came the answer from inside himself. He shuffled back to the table, and straddled a chair across from Max, staring intently at the mug he held cupped in his hands. "What I don't understand," he confessed after a moment, looking up to meet Future Max's gaze over the top of the mug, "is why he is working for your enemies. I mean, if he looks like you, doesn't that mean that whoever, uh, made you, made him too? So shouldn't you be on the same side?"

"You would think so, wouldn't you?" Future Max concurred. "I'm not sure myself, how he ended up in Kivar's service, but you best believe, I intend to find out."

Valenti raised his cup in an informal salute. "Yeah, well, good luck with that. And be careful," he admonished, then took another sip of coffee

Future Max smiled. "I will," he promised, rising from his chair. "Just keep an eye on Tess, and let one of us know, if she says or does anything you think is significant."

"Will do."

Future Max held out his hand across the table, and the Sheriff clasped it in a firm shake. "Thanks, Sheriff. I'm glad you ended up on our side."

Valenti chuckled. "Yeah, who would have thought, huh? My dad would flay me alive if he knew!"

Future Max searched Jim's eyes. " No regrets, Sheriff?" he inquired earnestly, reflecting back on Valenti's earlier statement.

"None whatsoever, Son. Remember that."

Future Max nodded. "Okay. Well, I guess I better go figure out what to do next. Someone will probably check in on you later. And you can always reach Max on his cell phone, or call Michael's if you need us."

"Got it. And at the risk of repeating myself, be careful - all of you - okay?"

"We will." With that, Future Max turned and headed out the door, traversing the back alleys and side streets of Roswell, until he reached the edge of town, and concealed himself behind a building that overlooked the highway into town. He wanted to know the minute that Zan and Liz arrived.

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


As Future Zan drove toward town, Liz's mind was awhirl. She sat silently for several miles, trying to unravel all that Zan had revealed to her, before she finally spoke to him. "Zan?"

"What is it Liz?" His voice was gentle and kind.

"I was just wondering - where are we going?"

Zan took a deep breath. "Well, I was thinking we ought to get you back to your friends, and see what we can do about Tess. We need to find some place safe to hide you, until this is over with."

Liz sank back against the seat. "If there is such a place."

Zan smiled at her, making her a little more at ease. "We'll figure something out. Don't worry. Now, where would we find your friends, do you think?"

"Probably best to try Michael's place. That's usually where we hold meetings, if we don't want anyone to overhear our conversation. This sure fits into that category."

Zan agreed with a chuckle. "Yeah, not exactly the type of thing you talk about in a crowded park, is it?"

"Hardly." As they entered town, the drove right past the place where Future Max was staked out, watching for them. Liz proceeded to give Zan directions to Michael's apartment.

Once they arrived, Zan pulled up and cut the engine. He looked over at Liz. "Ready?"

"Ready," she assured him. As she got out of the vehicle, she thought of something. As they walked to the door, she suggested, "Um... maybe you better knock on the door first. If Future me is in there, I don't want to bump into her, and obliterate us both."

"Good plan."

Zan stepped up to the door and before he could knock, the door flew open. "Where the hell is Liz?!" Max demanded, grabbing Zan by the front of the shirt.

"Whoa there - easy!" Zan told him. "She's right here." He pulled Max's hand off his shirt, and stepped back, so Max could see Liz. "She just didn't want to chance running into - "

"Liz!!" Max exclaimed, cutting off Zan's sentence. He scooped Liz up in a tight embrace, wanting to hold her close, and never let go. But eventually he did, running his eyes and hands over her lovingly, in an effort to assure himself that she was all right. When he was satisfied, he fastened his lips securely to hers, and held her captive in a deep, penetrating kiss.

"Well, ain't that sweet," Zan mumbled, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Maybe you two oughta take a room?" He knew he shouldn't be pushing his luck right now, after what he had done, but he couldn't help it. It was killing him watching Liz respond so eagerly to Max. And just why does that bother me so much? he wondered.

Liz felt Max stiffen - his ardent caresses abruptly ceasing. He disengaged his tongue from her mouth, and after one final, tender kiss on her lips, he straightened. He turned to face Zan, the ecstasy that had been evident on his face just seconds before, replaced with a burning fury. "You rotten, son of a -"

"MAX!" Liz yelled, grabbing the fist that was pulled back, and ready to swing into the vicinity of Zan's face. "Max, please don't do this. I'm okay - there's no reason to get violent!"

"No reason? How about the fact that I have been worried sick about you for the last hour and a half? And he's the reason!"

Liz continued to tug on Max's fist. "Please, Max," she pleaded. "Don't do this. He's been through a lot of stuff, too, y'know? And what's important is, he came to his senses, and did the right thing here. Why not use this as an opportunity to build a bridge, not a wall?" Still scowling, he acquiesced to her wisdom, relaxing his hand, and dropping it back to his side. Liz threaded her fingers through his, and squeezed gently. "Thank you," she said softly, laying her head against his upper arm.

Max looked down at her, into her beautiful eyes. How could he have done anything, except grant her request? Turning to Zan, he remarked hotly, "I don't know what you have done to instill such loyalty in Liz, after what you pulled, but I hope you realize how fortunate you are. And if you ever do anything to make her regret standing up for you, I'll make sure it's the last thing you ever do, understood?" Liz smiled at Max's macho bravado. He really was her knight in shining armor. Inwardly, she wondered how she had been blessed with this man.

"Gotcha, boss," Zan replied with a snappy salute. "And don't worry. I wouldn't do anything to hurt her, either." Max didn't miss the soft look that came over Zan's face, as he gazed upon Liz. He was quite sure he didn't like it.

"Listen, we really need to get in off the streets, before someone sees you," Max said, indicating Zan. "It would raise a lot of questions we just don't want to answer right now. Probably ever, for that matter." He pushed Zan into the apartment, and instructed him to have Future Liz hang out in Michael's room, so that Liz could come in. While they were waiting, Max asked Liz, "So, how come you are such an advocate for this guy, after everything he has done?"

"Oh, Max," she sighed. "You just don't understand what he has been through - what his life has been like. He told me about it, and about how you were, uh - created. Nasedo filled his head with some stories, that I'm not sure I believe. I'd like for you to listen to what he has to say, and see what you think. I really sense that Zan has a good heart, but he's been alone for a long time. He needs to learn to trust again - and to trust the right people. Please - can we give him a chance?" She melted the ice around his heart with her big brown eyes.

"I'm willing to listen to what he says, but I am reserving judgment on his capacity to be rehabilitated. Fair enough?"

She gave him a little pout. "Yeah, I guess it'll have to be. But I'm sure, once you listen to him, you'll see that he really is a decent sort."

"Funny, your future self doesn't think so. In fact, she doesn't have much good to say about him at all."

"Yes, well, I'm sure that I probably became rather cynical, in that reality. I'm hoping to avoid that pitfall this go-around."

Max pulled her into a hug. "I'm glad to hear that. She can be a little depressing to be around at times. It is hard watching you be so... cranky? Is that the word I want?"

"I don't know, but it sure fits."

Just then, Michael came to the door. "The coast is clear, you guys can come in now," he announced, right before he pulled Liz into a hug. "Glad to have you back, soldier."

Liz flashed him a big smile. "Thanks, Sarge. Good to be back -" She saluted. "Sir." They both chuckled, as Michael slung an arm around her shoulder, and led her into the apartment. Max was surprised, yet oddly relieved, to see the two of them getting along so well.

Zan and Isabel were already sitting on the couch, staring at each other. Neither one knew what to make of the situation - Isabel was looking uncomfortably at this man that looked like her brother, and yet it wasn't him. And Zan - he was sitting as far away from her as he could, and still be on the couch. The resemblance to Lonnie brought back all the old anxieties that he thought were long gone. It had taken him years to stop looking over his shoulder at every turn, wondering if she had discovered he was alive, and if she was following him, waiting for a chance to finish what she and Rath had started. To merely say the atmosphere was tense, would be a gross understatement.

Along with Max, Michael watched, dumbstruck, as Liz stepped out of his loose embrace, and walked over to the couch to kneel next to Zan. Taking his hand in hers, she said gently, "It's okay, Zan. She's not Lonnie. She's nothing like her. No one here wants to hurt you, okay?"

Zan smiled down at her, as the tension eased from his body. "You're right, princess. It just brought back a lot of really bad memories, her lookin' so much like Lonnie and all, y'know?"

"Yeah, I know. I got that flash of the others, remember? It is pretty creepy, how you guys look so much like our Royal Four."

Zan looked up at Max, who was glaring at him. If looks could kill.... "Uh, Liz? You sure no one here wants to hurt me? Seems like your boyfriend here would love nothing more than to dispose of me..."

Liz looked over her shoulder at Max. "What? What's the matter, Max?"

"You got a flash from him? Just how did that happen, Liz?"

"Max, settle down. There's no need to be jealous. Zan healed me from whatever the heck it was that Tess did to me. I couldn't even stand up straight, it left me so dizzy."

"Oh -" Max had the good grace to look repentant. "Sorry - I, uh - "

"Hey, it's okay, man," Zan replied. "I can understand you being possessive of her." His eyes swept Liz with a longing look. "I sure would be," he added under his breath.

Max heard the comment, and raised his eyebrow at Zan, in an unspoken challenge. Zan merely held up his hands in a placating gesture, and declared, "Hey, sorry - I don't want no trouble."

With one last glare for good measure, Max changed the subject. "So, I hear that Nasedo supposedly told you about our past, and how we were created? I'd like to hear about it, if you don't mind." He took in Isabel and Michael with a sweeping glance. "I'm sure they would be interested, too."

Max was irritated further, as he saw Zan look to Liz for direction. When she nodded, he agreed to tell them what Nasedo had raised them to believe. He reiterated what he had told Liz earlier, as well as supplying details of what his life had been like growing up, and the assassination attempt made by Rath and Lonnie. Max listened intently, reserving any comments, until he had heard the whole story. When Zan finished, he looked at Liz. "Can I talk to you for a minute? Alone?" he said quietly. Liz nodded. "Excuse us for a few minutes," Max said to the rest of the group. With that, he escorted Liz outside.

Once the door was closed, he asked, "So - you don't believe what Nasedo told him, then?"

Liz shook her head. "No, I really don't. I mean, there may be some truth in it. I've always believed that the best lies are ones that contain an element of truth. That's what makes them believable. And Zan had so many things to reinforce his belief in this tale, after all. He, Lonnie, Rath, and Ava, were basically left to raise themselves - what better way than that, to convince a child they are worthless? Leftovers, as Zan puts it?"

"True," Max replied thoughtfully. "I have to agree with you, something about that whole scenario doesn't ring true for me."

"Well, how about this, for a particular something?" Liz offered. "If they consider their monarchs to be sacred, do you honestly believe they would have the audacity to tamper with a sacred creation? Splitting up the genetic matter? I'd sooner think they employed the other technique he mentioned, where they augmented certain genes, causing the desirable trait to be dominant. Or perhaps, they really don't view their kings as sacred, which would allow them to tamper with the created genetic code. But then, they would have been able to throw away the 'leftovers' as Zan calls them, so the story would still be bogus.

"As for the part about them being more alien, and you being more human.... I can't deny that there seems to be some evidence to that. I mean, if Lonnie and Rath really tried to kill Zan, they would have to be pretty heartless," she stated, thinking of the casual way that Nasedo had dispensed with anyone that happened to get in his way. "And Tess does seems to fall into that mold as well - uh, sorry," she apologized, as she averted her eyes, not totally sure how Max was feeling about his supposed "bride" at this point.

"No need to apologize," he assured her. "Now that I am aware of her treachery, I no longer have to force myself to be gracious toward her." He reached up to stroke Liz's cheek with his hand. "And you don't have to feel guilty for the way you feel about her. Although I'd like to say, it would be better for you, if you could somehow learn to let go of your ill feelings toward her. Her threat to us - to all of us - is at an end. I'd hate to see her have any kind of power over you, if only in your contempt for her. Don't give her that victory, okay?"

Liz nodded. "You're right, of course. It's just going to take some time."

"I know. And I'm here, any time you need a little positive reinforcement - you know? Rewards for good behavior?" he offered, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. Liz giggled. "Now, why don't you finish your point, about the conduct of these dupes we keep hearing about?"

"Oh, yes, well.... as I was saying, they all have this hard edge to them. Ruthless. Zan has as much as admitted that he too, falls into this tough category. And his contention that this characteristic is prevalent among the other aliens he has known, is a pretty powerful one. I can see where it would make him tend to believe what Nasedo said. But I hardly find it to be conclusive. Again, you and Zan could both conceivably carry the same genes, but they could have just manipulated Zan to be more "Antarian", while you were more human. Or, environmental factors could be responsible for their unsociable behavior. After all, with Nasedo as a role model, is it any surprise they turned out the way they did?"

"Not at all," he answered with a grin. Liz was something to behold, all worked up, trying to unravel the logic in this bizarre situation.

"What?" she asked, her own grin mirroring his. She had no idea what he thought was so amusing, but his smile was infectious.

"Oh, nothing," he replied evasively. "Please - continue."

"Well, his other contention, about them being able to remember Antar... I don't buy that at all. There are other possible explanations for that phenomenon - the most plausible of which would be a mind warp...." She watched Max, curious as to how he would react to that near accusation.

"Could very well be." Max smiled. "Good reasoning, Miss Parker," he teased. "Couldn't have said it better myself. Come to think of it, I couldn't have said it - period." Liz blushed, and smiled at the compliment. Max was just so overjoyed at being with her like this, he couldn't stop himself from bending down to steal a quick kiss. Which, of course, became anything but quick.

A minute later, he groaned quietly, and ended the contact. "Promise me something?" he requested. Liz gazed at him, her eyes asking him to reveal his desire, as she waited for him to voice it. "When this is all over, let's go away for the day, and spend some time together, getting things between us back on track?"

Liz leaned in, and kissed him earnestly. When it was over, Max chuckled. "I take it, that was a 'yes'?"

"Mmmhmmm," she sighed, as she snuggled against his chest.

"Good," Max whispered, as his arms enfolded her, stroking her back, and his hands eventually coming up to tangle in her hair. He stood there in awe, utterly overwhelmed to think that things were finally going to turn around for them. His heart was overflowing with joy.



posted on 8-Sep-2001 8:06:37 PM
Part Sixteen

Max finally rallied his self-control, and led Liz back into the apartment, where Zan was hesitantly getting to know Isabel and Michael. He wasn't quite sure how long it would take, before he could see them as individuals who were separate and distinct from his own traitorous sister and friend. Seeing Liz reenter the room, he met her gaze and smiled in relief, but then quickly wiped the grin from his face, when he saw Max glaring at him.

"Zan," Max began, an irritated edge in his voice, "I have just discussed with Liz, her reservations about the validity of Nasedo's claims regarding our heritage. I must say, I agree with her doubts." He held up a staying hand, when he saw that Zan was about to defend himself. "Now, no one can blame you for believing what you were told - after all, this had been ingrained in you since you were young. And considering the way you were left to raise yourself, it is little wonder that you would view yourself as a cast-off. But I think that Liz has pointed out to me, some serious questions regarding the things that you accept as proof of this alleged truth. If you're ready to hear them...?"

Zan looked at Liz. He was so torn, between what he had always believed to be the truth about their past, and wanting to hear what Liz had to say about it. He instinctively knew that the foundations upon which he had built his life would be shaken, if he listened to her now. And what do I know about her, really? he chided himself. I mean, sure, she's a real babe - what guy in his right mind wouldn't get all hormonal, just looking at her? But he was dumbfounded, when his little pep-talk to himself backfired. For that piece of male logic spawned an intense sense of possessiveness, the likes of which he had never known. Now he knew, beyond a doubt, what Max felt, when he read Zan's own desire for Liz in his appreciative gaze. This is insane! How can I feel this way about a girl I only just met, less than 24 hours ago??

"Zan?"

Oh no, the angel speaks.... Zan took a deep breath, summoning what little sanity hadn't deserted him. "Yes, Liz?"

Liz came and knelt at his feet again, willing her strength to him, through a gentle touch on his forearm. She seemed unaware of the shudder that ran through him. "Can you - do you think that you could just hear my thoughts, and try to keep an open mind? I mean, I certainly am not saying that I know these things to be so, just that they offer enough of a.... reasonable doubt, I guess you could say, to challenge the validity of Nasedo's claims. Is that too much to ask?"

Damn! How can I refuse her, when she looks at me that way?! When she turns those soft brown eyes on me, I'm a goner. And worst - why does it feel like I have succumbed to this charm a thousand times before? In the end, his heart took the lead, and he regarded her with an intensity that made her breath catch in her throat. "I trust you, Liz - don't ask me why. But based on that, I am ready to hear your theories."

"Thank you," she whispered. She shifted to sit on the floor, cross-legged before him, and proceeded to voice her concerns. When she had finished, Zan continued to sit mutely, staring at the floor beside her. It was Michael that broke the silence.

"Wow, Liz," he uttered appreciatively. "That was some pretty slick thinkin'. I never would have given that whole business about the 'sacred monarchy' a second thought. I mean, it isn't unreasonable that they might think that - but you're right. It doesn't line up with what Nasedo told Zan, once you dig below the surface of it. And I can see where the memories thing might be a real trump card for him. I mean, if I thought I was having memories of home - what did you say it's called again? Antar? - I know I sure wouldn't be rushing to think that someone was mind warping me. I know, for a long time, I would have given anything to have those kinds of memories. I wouldn't have cared enough to find out where they came from. It wouldn't surprise me, if Nasedo was counting on Zan's foursquare to feel the same."

Liz blushed at his praise, and lowered her eyes. She wasn't used to this "new and improved" version of Michael, although she much preferred him. She only wish that his considerate nature would spill over into his relationship with Maria. But lately, Maria seemed concerned about Courtney's outrageous flirtation with Michael, and his apparent lack of trying to discourage it. She couldn't imagine why he would pursue Courtney, when he so obviously loved Maria. She made a mental note to ask him about what was going on there.

"Liz?" Max's voice cut into her musings.

"Oh, sorry - did you ask me something?"

"Actually, I did," Isabel answered, "but you were zoned out there for a minute. Is everything okay?"

"Oh, uh, yeah, sure," Liz stammered. "I was just thinking, you know, about something that I have to do later."

That surprised Isabel. This topic was pretty intense. She wondered how Liz could even be thinking about anything else at a time like this. "Oh, well, I see," she replied hesitantly. "Well, what I was wondering is - do you really think that it is possible that our genetic codes are essentially the same as our duplicates, only different characteristics were augmented in each set?"

"Yes, I do," Liz answered confidently. "I mean, look at you, for example. You, Max, and Michael have always been basically human. For whatever reason, Max's healing powers seemed to take off and develop at an earlier age, but your powers are getting stronger now, and Michael and Max are discovering abilities they never knew existed. It's like your alien side is awakening, don't you think?"

Max and Isabel looked immediately at each other, hearing Liz's choice of words. They both knew what the other was thinking. Max was the one to voice their thought. "The three of us were having all sorts of strange experiences last spring," he confessed. "At the time, Isabel and I discussed what was happening, and that is what we decided it felt like. Like something was waking up inside us, and it wasn't human."

"Yeah, and then we started having these really strange dreams..." Isabel continued.

"Dreams?" Zan interrupted. "What kind of dreams?"

Isabel blushed, and cleared her throat nervously. Michael came to her rescue. "Basically, they were dreams about us, and our future. Dreams of how we were to be paired in the foursquare. Isabel and I, uh... we shared the same dreams, about being together, and at one point, we were concerned that she might be pregnant..."

"From a dream?" Zan laughed. "Did you really think that?"

Michael got a little agitated at Zan's ridicule. "If you must know, yes, we thought she was. How the hell were we to know? We don't have any clue about our biological makeup, except that it isn't quite human. We knew enough to not put ourselves in a position where that little tidbit of information might be discovered. Although we almost lost that battle, when Max got taken to the hospital last year.... but it all worked out in the end, and no one was the wiser. So you see... we weren't sure how our race procreated, and with the dreams we had about her being pregnant with my child, what were we supposed to think?"

Zan nodded. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been so quick to laugh. No one had told you that we have to mate the human way."

"Well, Tess explained it to us, that the dreams were to awaken us to how things were meant to be."

"Yeah, she would, the stupid witch."

"I'm sorry?" Max said, conveying his confusion.

"The dreams, Max - they weren't real," Zan explained. "She pulled the same stunt on us, too. By the time we found out about it, Lonnie and Rath were so into each other, they didn't really care. Not that there is any great love between them," he clarified. "They were just hooked by the mind-blowing sex." He saw Liz blush, and drop her head. "Oh, sorry, Liz," he said gently, "I didn't mean to embarrass you."

"N-no, that's okay," she managed to say. "I - I'm not, um, embarrassed."

Too damn cute, that's what she is, Zan thought. Precious one, I wouldn't mind teaching you about some of that mind-blowing -

"Zan -" Max's tone of voice, laced with warning, caught his attention. It was only then, that he realized that he had reached out to caress Liz's face with his hand.
Michael was getting irritated with this constant battle between Zan and Max for Liz's affection. He just wanted to know what Zan had meant about the dreams. "Can we please get back on topic here? What did you mean, the dreams weren't real?" he asked Zan.
"Well, right from the get go, I never felt any... connection to Ava. And when I eventually learned that Tess was really supposed to be from my foursquare, and Ava belonged with you - that brought up the whole question in my mind... how come I had dreams about Ava, if she wasn't supposed to be my real destiny? And yet, I felt nothing but contempt for Tess, which was worse than what I felt for Ava. At least Ava I could tolerate. Anyway, I confronted Tess about it one night, when Nasedo wasn't around interfere. I managed to force it out of her, that the whole dream thing had been a mind-warp. She claimed it was all Nasedo's idea, and that actually she was practicing on us, in preparation for coming to Roswell...."
"So, what you're saying is... Tess - Ava - we weren't really expected to be with them, even though they carried our bride's essence?" Here we go again, Max thought. Talking about myself in the plural. How odd.

"Well, Nasedo certainly expected us to fall in line, hence the mind warp. But considering that he had cut a deal with Kivar to bring back your heir in Tess' womb, my current guess is, that Kivar wanted us paired up. Who knows what was going through the mind of the scientists who concocted this whole situation."

"Well, what about our mother?" Isabel questioned.

"Our mother?" Zan was baffled.

"Yes - see, we found these orbs last year, that were some sort of communications device. When we activated them, we received a transmission from her, explaining about the war, and how we came to be on Earth."

"What did she say, exactly?" Zan wanted to know.

"I don't remember, exactly." Isabel looked to Max.

Max shrugged. "I only remember bits and pieces of it," he admitted. "I guess I just wanted to forget. That message turned my whole freakin' life upside down, and took away the most precious thing in my life." He looked longingly at Liz.

But Liz had a far-away look on her face. "If you are seeing me now, it means that you are alive and well," she began to recite. "I take this form because it will be familiar to you, and it will help you to understand what I am about to say. You have lived before. You perished in the conflict that enslaves our planet but your essence was duplicated, cloned, and mixed with human genetic materials so that you might be recreated into human beings. My son, you were the beloved leader of our people. I have sent with you your young bride. My daughter, the man you were betrothed to, and your brother's second-in-command. Our enemies have come to the Earth. You will know them only by the evil within. Learn enough to use your skills, your knowledge, your leadership to combat the enemy so that you can come back and free us. And that I may once again hold you both in my arms. I live for that moment. Help us. I love you." By the time Liz had finished, she had tears streaming down her cheeks. It was so hard, remembering.

"Liz -" Zan said with tender sympathy.

But before he could reach out to comfort her, Max was there, wrapping his arms around her, and holding her close. "Shh, Liz, it's okay. We're together now, and nothing is going to keep us apart. Nothing," he stated emphatically, as he gently stroked her hair.

Zan felt an unusual pang of loneliness. Not even when he had to leave the only family he had ever known (traitors though they were), had he ever felt as empty as he did watching Max comfort Liz. He tried to shake it off, and focus on the matter at hand. "Does this strike anyone else as odd? I mean, she didn't make it sound like there was two sets of us. She referred to each of us in the singular. Don't you think she would have at least mentioned that there were two sets of us?" he asked no one in particular.

Isabel looked at Michael. "You know, he's right. And how would she know which set of us actually got the message? Or was the idea, that they didn't expect all eight of us to survive?"

"Maybe she didn't know there were two sets of us," Max interjected. All eyes focused on him. Seeing that they desired more of an explanation, he hypothesized, "Suppose that both sets of us weren't created by the same people? Or for the same purpose?"

"Or perhaps," Zan added thoughtfully, "that whole message from our 'mother' wasn't even real. Maybe the whole thing was a fabrication."

"But the orbs - " Isabel protested. "They went off, and then we received the message. And we know that a signal did pulse from that location, on that particular day, at the time we used the orbs."

"Really? Interesting. But that still doesn't mean anything. Wait - when did you set off the orbs?" Zan asked.

"Back in the middle of May - why?"

"Because it was shortly after that, that I was first contacted about the summit...."

"Summit?" Michael echoed. "What summit?"

"We were contacted at the beginning of June, by one of Kivar's underlings, named Nicholas. Said that the leaders from the interplanetary alliance wanted to meet with me, to work out terms for our return home. I kinda thought the whole thing was a little strange - why would they come to me, when you are the king? Anyway, do you think that the pulse somehow signaled to them that you were ready to meet and discuss terms, or something?"

"Possibly," Max answered thoughtfully.

"But what about the message from our mother?" Isabel persisted. "What does any of this have to do with that?"

"Probably nothing," Zan answered with a shrug. "And that's just the point. There very well may have been a pulse sent out, but that might not have anything to do with what you saw. It's possible that the whole message was another of Tess' mind warps, designed to help get what she wanted.... in Max's pants, if you'll pardon the expression. Face it - she probably figured that if she could convince Max that she was his 'bride' and his destiny, then he would fall into line, and come to her willingly. I don't think she ever expected that what Max has with Liz would be such a strong bond."

Max laced his fingers with Liz's. "Well, I'm sure she knows now. The question is, what to do with her. Despite it all, I still hate the thought of killing her - not when all we have are a bunch of theories and suppositions to go on. We don't know who she really is, if in fact, she was not the bride. Why else would she have been hybridized, and put into the pods with us? None of this makes any sense. I wish we could talk to someone who knew what was really going on."

"I wonder...." All eyes were on Liz, as she sat there, obviously engrossed in her thoughts. "Max, didn't you say that Tess - although I guess in truth, it would be Ava - came out of the pods after you? That you weren't there when she actually emerged?"

"Yeah - we were gone by the time her pod erupted."

"Wait a minute - Ava matured late?" Zan asked. "That's odd, because so did Tess. Think that means anything?"

"I'm not sure," Liz answered honestly. "But isn't it strange that they were both delayed? Almost as if, maybe they weren't podded at the same time the rest of you were? But then the question again is - why?"

Isabel put her hand to her forehead. "All of this is giving me a headache. The more possible explanations we come up with, the more questions we get snared with. This is getting us nowhere."

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


Future Max headed back toward Michael's apartment, after he saw Liz and Zan come back into town. By the time he arrived, he knew that they had safely tucked his Liz into Michael's bedroom, where she would be prevented from encountering the present version of Liz. He slipped into the alley that ran along the back side of the building, and went to Michael's bedroom window. Thank goodness for small favors, he thought, that Michael's apartment is on the ground floor....

He peeked in the window, and saw Future Liz reclining on the bed, her arm draped across her eyes. She is so beautiful, he marveled. And finally, she's mine... The feeling of possessiveness that swept over him at that moment was enough to make his knees start to buckle.

He knew that his young counterpart was taking care of things in the front of the apartment, and that all he could really do right now was sit and wait... A smile slowly came over his face. At least I won't have to wait alone...

He gently tapped on the window, and watched as she jumped with a start. When she saw him standing outside the window, she walked over and unlocked it, opening it so he could enter. "So, Max - since when do you knock?" she teased him, with a barely suppressed smirk.

He smiled sheepishly. "Well, someone recently suggested that it might be a nice idea to wait until I'm invited into a room, rather than just breaking and entering my way in everywhere..."

"Oh? Really?" she asked in mock surprise. "And just who might that have been?"

Future Max shrugged. "Dunno - some petite little brown eyed beauty that went by the name of Liz, I think...."

Future Liz giggled in response. "Well, next time you see her, tell her I said 'thanks' for the etiquette lesson she gave you."

"I'll try to remember." He opened his arms toward her. "Come here."

Future Liz eagerly fell into his embrace, and lifted her face to receive his kiss. Soon, they were kissing each other with abandon, running their hands tenderly over each other, memorizing the feel of muscle and softness. "Max," Liz moaned softly, "take off your shirt." She tugged the bottom of his shirt out of his jeans, and began to push it upward toward his chest. Max grabbed the hem, and swiftly tugged it off, revealing his well-muscled chest and abs. He tossed the garment on the end of the bed. Liz sighed with delight, as she stroked him lightly with her fingertips. "Oh, Max, you are so beautiful," she whispered. "I can't believe what 3 years was able to do to a body that I would have sworn was already perfect."

He buried his face in her neck, nuzzling and nipping his way up to her earlobe, where he whispered back, "Now it's your turn...."

Future Liz blushed, because she knew just what he meant. And if there had been any doubt in her mind, the minute she felt his hands move under her top, bunching it up as they quested higher, there was no question. Suddenly, he lifted it up right over her head, her arms instinctively raising in cooperation. He dropped her shirt on the floor, and just stared for a moment at her slender torso, clad only in a lacy black bra. He struggled to get air into his lungs, he was so taken aback by her beauty. He had only dreamed of this day for - well, forever. Then, with a rush of enthusiasm, he swept her up into his arms, and carried her to the bed, where he gently laid her down, coming to rest beside her. He raised himself on one elbow, and leaned over her, wrapping his other arm around her. Stroking her back, he began to kiss her again, insistently nudging her lips with his tongue, until she opened for him to deepen the contact. As their tongues caressed each other, his hand began to slide further up her back, until he was at the clasp to her bra. When Future Liz felt the pressure at the clasp, she knew what he wanted. She wanted it too. But was it too soon? And if she allowed him this liberty, how much more ground would she be willing to surrender? After all, she didn't want to lead him on, and then expect him to have super human self-control, once he was all aroused. And as much as she loved Max, she knew she wanted to wait until they were married, before she made love to him. She wanted to make that vow before God and witnesses, that she would love him for the rest of her life, and then give her body to him as proof of her commitment. Her virginity was the most precious possession she had to offer him.

Sensing her hesitancy, Future Max pulled back to look down at her. His heart melted, seeing her face all flushed with passion, and her lips swollen and red from his ardent kisses. "Liz?" He breathed her name as a question, and his request for permission was evident in that one word.

Future Liz swallowed, and closed her eyes. When she opened them again to look into his eyes, Future Max could feel the heat in her passionate gaze all the way to his... uh... toes. The passion that had been steadily building in him, suddenly flared out of control. He shifted slightly, trying to get more.... comfortable. No use.

He was still waiting for her answer, and so he slipped his hand from its position on her bra clasp, around to the front, where his fingertips made lazy circles on her stomach. "Liz, if this isn't what you want, it's okay," he managed to find the strength to say. Although he wasn't sure where he was going to find the strength to follow through, if she told him to back off. He looked beseechingly at her, with his best puppy eyes. He dipped his head, and ever so slowly began to rub his lips back and forth across hers, teasing, sucking, nipping, licking... using every dirty trick he could think of. Because the truth was... he was on fire for her. And after all, had they not already pledged to each other that they would marry?

Just as Liz was struggling with how to stop the raging fire that was building between them, they heard a thud over by the window. They sprung apart, and when Liz saw a muscular figure coming through the opening, she squealed, and grabbed the first thing she could find, which happened to be Max's shirt. She held it up in front of her, while she frantically searched around for her own shirt. She was so intent on trying to find it, that she didn't realize who had entered the room, until a voice interrupted her hunt, asking, "Is this what you're looking for?"


posted on 14-Sep-2001 11:12:07 AM
Part Seventeen

Future Liz's eyes darted toward the direction the voice had emanated from. There stood a tall, imposing figure, gingerly holding her top dangling from the ends of his fingers. She lunged at him, and snatched the garment from him.

"Michael?! What are you doing here?" she exclaimed in exasperation.

Future Michael shrugged. "Hey, what can I say? I kept getting all these interesting new memories, but so far, you haven't accomplished anything that keeps Tess from splitting with the Granilith, and killing Alex to do it. So, since I knew where you were all hanging out, I decided to join the fun, and come see if you needed any help." He gave them a pointed look, one eyebrow raised. "So how about it? Need any help here?" he asked with a devilish grin.

"No, thanks, Michael," Future Max replied in feigned offense. "If you must know, I was doing just fine on my own, until you showed up."

Future Michael looked at Future Liz in amusement. "Is that true, Liz? Has this beast finally worn down your defenses?" His eyes twinkled.

She sighed. "Yes, I suppose he has. But I'm glad you came along when you did."

Future Max looked hurt. "You - you are? Did I - was it something I said? Did?"

She looked at him with tenderness. "No, not at all. It's just... I really want to wait until we're married. Can you understand?"

Future Max reached out, and ran his hands through her hair. "Yes, I can understand. But that doesn't mean I like it," he teased.

"Yeah, well, sometimes I wish I didn't have these hang ups," she confessed. "After all, supposedly our cementing our relationship somehow gave us the strength to overcome Kivar, according to Zan. It might be nice to have a little extra muscle in our corner."

"Hey, what am I? Chopped liver?" Michael whined, feigning offense.

"Well...." Future Max said.

Future Liz swatted him playfully. "Of course not, Michael. I just meant that we can use all the advantages we can get. Someone is going to have to go to New York City, for example, and work on the present day version of Zan, and get him to come around to our side. We figure that we need to build a bridge with him, so that he will never be vulnerable to be used by Kivar."

"Huh?" Future Michael eloquently asked. "Zan? What does he have to do with anything? Isn't he dead? Or shortly to be so?"

"No," Future Max picked up the ball. "It seems that he wasn't really dead, Lonnie and Rath just thought they had killed him. He was on the run for years, and it was actually a future version of Zan that came to see Liz about changing the future, and not me, after all. And it wasn't to prevent the end of the world from happening, either. Apparently, something happened when Liz and I - uh -" He looked at Liz, blushing. He didn't want to embarrass her.

"When we made love," she finished for him. "It's okay, Max, you can say it." She continued to Michael, "When we made love, something happened, we aren't quite sure what, but Kivar hadn't counted on it giving us enough strength to defeat him. So when he could see he was doomed, he sent Zan back in the past, to keep us from actually consummating our relationship."

"Really? Then what are you waiting for? Ooooh - should I leave?" Future Michael was grinning like an idiot.

Future Liz shot him a dirty look, and then continued her explanation, refusing to grace his question with an answer. "Apparently, Kivar had been hunting Zan for quite a while, and Zan was getting tired of running from him, as well as worrying that Rath and Lonnie would know he was still alive. So he decided he would help Kivar, in exchange for being left alone."

"Too weird. So what's the plan then? Something about trying to prevent Zan from getting that desperate?"

"Yeah. Not quite sure what we'll do, but we'll think of something. First thing is, we gotta find him. If Rath and Lonnie haven't tried to kill him yet, he should be easy enough to find."

"So who all is going to New York?" Future Michael asked hopefully. He really didn't want to be stuck in Roswell, hiding out from everyone he used to know. He had changed a lot in three years, and anyone who knew him would notice. Especially Maria.

"Yes, Michael, you can go," Future Max said wearily. He knew better than to order Michael to stay, unless it was absolutely necessary. He had long since learned to choose his battles, where Michael was concerned. Besides, he himself realized how that Michael would be an asset, with the skills he had developed.

"Hey, thanks Max. I owe you. I always wanted to see the Big Apple. But only you and Tess got to go last time."

Future Max scowled, remembering how supportive Tess had seemed to be during that trip. He wondered now, if Rath and Lonnie had actually hurt her, or if that, too, was just one of her manipulative ploys. "Yeah, well, I'd much rather go with you, if you must know," he replied.

"Does that mean that you're going, too?" Future Liz questioned.

"Yeah, I'm thinking that my powers are more advanced than young Max's, and we're dealing with the dupes here. No telling what kind of reception we're gonna get."

"True," she agreed. "So - what about me? Do I get to join this little outing?"

Future Max shook his head. "I think it would be better if you stayed here. I don't want anything happening to you." He lifted his hand to her face, and stroked her cheek with the back of his knuckles. "You are too precious, to take chances with."

Future Liz smiled. "Well, thanks for worrying about me, but either young Liz or I really should go. It could be the difference between success and failure on this mission."

"Oh?" Future Max gave her a questioning look. "What makes you say that?"

"Well, I'm sure by now you've gotten some of Max's jealousy twinges, over Zan's apparent attachment to my younger self?"

"Uh, yeah...." he answered, blushing when he heard Future Michael laugh. "It's not funny, Michael. If you could have seen the way he was drooling over her..."

"He wasn't exactly drooling, Max," Future Liz gently corrected. "Anyway, there seems to be somewhat of the same reaction for him as there was for you, the first time that you saw me."

"What about for you? Do you feel anything for him?"

Future Liz did not miss the edge in his voice. She looked down at the floor. "I have to admit, I feel drawn to him, Max, but it isn't the same as what I feel for you. You have to believe that. I love you. Zan - I don't know quite how to put it. There definitely something there, though. It's actually quite strange."

"So... when you ran into him, when you first got here? Did you feel anything then? Did he?" Max grabbed her by the shoulders. "Did anything happen between you? Damn it Liz! I have to know!"

Future Liz's eyes grew wide as saucers, and she stared at Future Max, speechless. He had slept with Tess, gotten her pregnant, and now he was going off the deep end about something that he merely was imagining in his own mind?

"Hey there, sport," Future Michael interjected, placing a hand on Max's shoulder. "Calm down, will you? You're scaring the poor woman half to death."

Future Max seemed to snap out of whatever had possessed him. "I - I'm sorry Liz. I don't know what came over me. It's just... I have waited so long to be with you, and had just about given up any hope. The thought of losing you again, now - it just made me crazy."

"So I saw," she retorted. "If you'll recall, I'm still a virgin. Can you say the same?" she asked pointedly.

"No - what? You are?" Future Max asked, wide eyed, his heart swelling with joy.

"What?" Future Liz asked heatedly. "You think just because you were out of the immediate picture, that I was going to fall into bed with the next guy who asked me?! Thanks for the high opinion! And for your information,
nothing happened between me and Zan. First of all, I was in full bitch mode at the time, and second - I wasn't actually there with him. I projected myself, because I sensed a trap."

Future Max sighed in relief. "No, Liz... that's not what I meant," he said repentantly, reaching for her. Pulling her into his arms, he explained, "It's just that - I never expected I'd ever be with you again, much less to be your first...." He confided, gently brushing his lips across hers.

"Ahem," Future Michael cleared his throat, reminding them of his presence.

"Oh, sorry," Future Max apologized. "Didn't mean to get so personal there..."

"Whatever. Can we just move on to the topic at hand? Save your squabbling and making up for later?" he asked hopefully.

"Sure thing," Max replied. He directed his next question to Liz. "Okay, so you think that present-day Zan will respond to you, then?"

"Yeah, probably. But maybe it would be better if you took young Liz with you. We know for sure that Zan responds to my younger self. Maybe because she is less hardened by life - although, I'm softening up rapidly," Future Liz confessed, beaming up at her Max.

"Glad to hear it," he whispered back, capturing her lips in a sweet kiss.

"Aw, c'mon!" Future Michael complained.... loudly. "Will you cut that out, please?!"

"Maybe you're right, love," Future Max admitted, as he nuzzled her nose with his own. "I'd better take young Liz with me, or we might not get anything done in New York. Except maybe eloping..."

Future Michael groaned. This was hopeless.

"Now, that's no way to be convincing me to stay here," Future Liz retorted. "You shouldn't joke like that."

"Who says I'm joking?"

Future Liz stared at him mutely. What was he suggesting?

"Liz?" Future Max asked tentatively.

"Good going, Ace," Future Michael chided. "Now you've done it. You've rendered her speechless." He thought a moment. "Hey - that's pretty neat, actually. Maybe I'll try that, next time I want to shut Maria up."

Future Max rolled his eyes. "I don't think it will work, you dunce."

"Why not?"

"Somehow, I think the suggestion of eloping has more impact, when you aren't already married to the young lady to whom you are making the proposal."

"Oh - that. Well, yeah, I guess you're right. Too bad. It would be nice to have something like that on reserve," he replied with a grin.

"Maybe you should just try being really nice to her," Future Liz offered, recovering her senses. "I'm sure that would stun her speechless."

"Yeah, you're probably right... Hey! Are you saying I'm not normally nice to her?" he demanded.

"Now children," Future Max intervened. "Let's save this for later, shall we?" he suggested, reiterating Future Michael's earlier request.

"No problem, Maxwell," Future Michael complied with a grin. "I was just yankin' Liz's chain, anyway. I know I give Maria a hard time. She wouldn't know what to do with me, if I didn't!" They all burst into laughter.

Someone pounded on the door. "Hey! What's going on in there!" Michael yelled in. "Liz? Is everything okay?" He tried the handle.

Future Max lunged for the door, in an effort to keep Michael from coming in, and encountering his older self. "Don't worry, Max," Future Liz said. "I locked the door."

Future Max looked at Liz in disbelief. "You're joking, right? You know a lock won't keep Michael out."

Future Liz smiled mysteriously. "This one will."

"What the hell?" they heard Michael bellow.

"See?" Future Liz declared proudly.

Future Michael laughed. "Been practicing those little tricks I taught you, eh?" he asked.

Future Liz giggled. "Yep. I think I'm really starting to get the hang of it. But it still takes a lot of concentration. I don't know how you guys do this stuff so effortlessly."

"Years of practice -"

"Liz?!" Michael called in again. "What's going on in there? I hear voices - male voices in there. Who's with you? And why can't I unlock the damn door?!"

She laughed. "Oh, um, just my Max and... well, your future self is here now."

"Oh!" That piece of information startled Michael into a moment of silence. "So... how are we going to make any kind of plans here, if we're all present in duplicate?"

She looked at Future Max, who took the reins. "Listen, Michael? Send your Liz outside, and around to the window to your bedroom. As soon as she leaves the apartment, let us know, and we'll send our Liz out to you. She can fill you in on the plans we've been making."

"Uh - okay..." Michael answered hesitantly. "I just hope that Max approves of your plan. I'd hate to see him go all psycho, arguing with himself."

The bedroom filled with laughter. "I think it will all work out," Future Max assured him. "If he has a problem with it, just remind him that I have seniority."

They heard Michael laugh. "All right, I'll be right back," Michael said, and then he went back to the other group in the living room.

Future Max looked at his Liz. "You'll have to explain to me about the locks later," he informed her. "But for now, are we agreed - you will stay here, and young Liz comes with us?"

"Yeah, I guess," Future Liz said disappointedly.

"What is it, sweetheart?" Future Max asked softly, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

"Oh I - it's just.... eloping sounded so good."

Future Max smiled. "Yes, it does, doesn't it? Well, never fear. When we get back home, there will be a wedding, if we haven't already had one," he said with a wink. "A BIG wedding with the trimmings, and all our friends present... including Alex," he finished meaningfully.

Future Liz burst into tears. "Oh my God, I never thought about that," she confessed. "Alex will be able to be at our wedding...." Future Max held her, while she sobbed quietly against his chest.

"Sh, love, it's okay," he said soothingly. "Everything is going to be okay, you'll see. We'll find a way to set things right in this time, and then we can finally be together, and happy. All right?"

Future Liz sniffed, and nodded her head.

"Good. Now, you need to get ready to go out there. If a message needs to be sent between rooms, send Isabel, okay? Matter of fact, have her stand outside this door, so we can call her if we need her."

"Okay," Future Liz agreed.

"Oh yeah - and you'll need to have Zan do a little 'alien hocus pocus' on you, to make you look like your younger self," he added. "You're going to have to fill in for her, while we are gone."

"Max? What if you're successful, and I just - disappear back to our time? You know, like in front of someone?"

He thought about that for a minute. "Okay, here's the deal. We'll have to approach Zan at night, when you would be in bed anyway. That way, if you do disappear, your parents will just think you took off again for an early morning trek into the desert." He sighed in frustration. Timing was going to mean everything. Future Liz nodded her approval of the plan.

Future Max took her face in his hands. "If this works, this may be the last time I see you, in this time period," he reminded her. "If we can get Zan on our side, then that will probably be the definitive event to secure the change in history that has occurred here. So... I'll see you back home." He gave her one final kiss, just as Michael knocked on the door.

"Okay," they heard him say. "You can send Liz out. Our Liz is outside, making her way around to you now."

With one last, longing look, Future Liz "unlocked" the door, and slipped out of the bedroom, to join the others in the living room. Her eyes filled with tears, when she realized that she missed him already.




posted on 16-Sep-2001 6:32:16 PM
Part Eighteen

Future Liz relayed the plan about Future Max, Future Michael, and young Liz going to New York City, to try to find the present version of Zan. She then suggested that Future Zan go talk to them, before they left, and explain where young Zan would be found. She was relieved to hear him say that the assassination attempt wouldn't be for another couple weeks. That would certainly make it easier to locate him.

After giving them directions, and some tips on what might win his younger self over, they all slipped out the window into the alley. Future Zan pulled Future Max off to the side, as he, Future Michael and Liz were about to leave. "What's up?" Future Max inquired.

"Just wanted to talk to you for a minute," Zan answered. "About Liz." He saw Future Max stiffen slightly, and then remembered that he would have Present Max's memories of being jealous of Zan. "Hey, I'm not trying to steal the girl," he reassured Future Max. "It's just - you are the only one I can talk to about this...." He averted his eyes nervously.

"Uh, sure," Future Max said hesitantly. "What did you want to talk about?"

"Well -now don't get all in a lather about this, til we talk it out - but I have these weird feelings toward Liz." He saw Max's pupils draw down to a pinpoint. "Chill, man. I promise, I don't like having these feelings any more than you like me having them." Okay, so that isn't quite true, he reprimanded himself for the lie. "But here's the deal - I feel... drawn to her. And it isn't a lust issue. It is like this compulsion deep inside me."

"Why are you telling me all of this?"

"Because," Zan continued, "I need to know - is that what it feels like for you? I know you two are in love, and all, and that's cool.... but is that the sum total of your relationship? Or do you feel drawn to her in some sort of... primal way?"

Future Max hesitated. He wasn't sure how much he wanted to tell Zan. And he wasn't quite sure how he felt about Zan having the same sort of reaction to Liz that caused him to notice her in third grade, and kept him crazy with need to this very day. Eventually, he figured a little information to ease Zan's mind might not be harmful. "Well, when I first laid eyes on Liz in third grade, I knew that she was special. Since that day, I have come to love her, and desire her like I desire no other woman on the face of the Earth. So yeah, I feel drawn to her. But it has gone way beyond that now. As for you.... I feel bad that you have those feelings too. Cuz like, you know... she's mine," he said possessively, with a gleam in his eye.

Future Zan chuckled. "Yeah, I kinda got that." Lowering his voice, he added, "I'm just wondering - since we both respond to her this way... maybe there is something more there, that we don't know about."

"Something more?" Future Max asked, clearly not following Future Zan's train of thought.

"You know," Future Zan spoke, his tone meaningful. "Like, she's special. And more than what she appears to be. Don't you find it odd, that neither of us feels drawn to the woman who is supposedly our bride, and yet we both are drawn to Liz? Just coincidence? Or like I said - something more?"

Future Max's brows furrowed in thought. "I - I don't know. Liz isn't a hybrid like us. She's fully human. What more could there be?"

Future Zan shook his head slightly. "I'm not sure. I just know, this ain't normal. You might want to mention it to my younger self, when you catch up to him. I hate to say anything to your younger self. What a hothead."

"Hey, what do you expect, you go messin' with my woman?" Future Max said, playin' the tough dude.

Future Zan laughed. "Yeah, well, she's only yours as long as you can hold onto her." The playful gleam in Future Max's eyes went out, and took on a hard glint, flashing of anger. "Don't worry," Zan insisted. "I was only kidding. My hands are off."

"Okay." Future Max calmed himself, and then said, "Well, we better get going. The sooner we get this over, the better for everyone. Thanks for everything, Zan," he said, and reached out, to shake hands with his dupe. Future Zan clasped his hand firmly, and when they looked into each other's eyes, a wild connection flared between them, like nothing either had experienced before, rocking them as if they had received a good jolt. Suddenly, all their senses were heightened. For example, they could name several specific items contained in the dumpster that sat some fifty feet away. Their visual acuity was enhanced, both far away, and up close, seeing things in fine detail. A spider on the wall 15 feet away, that would have blended into the color of the brick wall before, caught Zan's attention briefly. The sound of a mouse scurrying through the shadows was unusually loud.

Future Michael and Liz noticed that Future Max and Future Zan had their hands clasped in a handshake, that was far too lengthy. Curious as to what was going on, Liz walked over to them, and placed her hand on top of their clasped ones. She felt a jolt course through her swiftly, and then the connection between Future Max and Future Zan was broken. They both looked at each other, then slowly swiveled their heads to look at Liz for a moment, before looking back at each other in bewilderment.

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

After saying good-bye to the team leaving for New York, Future Zan returned to the group in the living room, his senses still keener than normal. He was aware of the fact the he could detect the particular scent of each of the other three people in the room. Especially Future Liz's. He could ignore the others' scents, but hers was very distracting, like his senses were keyed in on it. When she spoke to Isabel, even the sound of her voice resonated with something deep inside him - he found her voice to be comforting, and yet wildly erotic at the same time. Funny, he had never noticed that before... or had he? He had been so busy being miffed with her at the time, that maybe he just hadn't realized how she could affect him.

In an effort to remain functional on some level, Future Zan announced that the others had left for New York. When asked how the others were going to pay for the tickets, he simply remarked that they would be better off not knowing. He explained about having to make Future Liz look like her younger self, and crossed the room toward her to begin. As he neared where she was standing, his body began to react to her proximity with alarming intensity. Where he had felt drawn to her before, he now found himself shuddering with unexpected need. His heightened sense of hearing picked up on Future Liz's quick, shallow breathing. She was obviously affected by him, too, but doing a grand job of masking it from the others, especially Max.

Future Zan took several deep breaths, in an attempt to regain control, and then lifted a shaky hand to Future Liz's face. With Max for guidance, he proceeded to alter her appearance, until she looked remarkably like her younger self. Checking herself out in the mirror, Future Liz giggled. "Looks like I've discovered the elusive Fountain of Youth." With a nervous laugh, she winked at Future Zan, who looked at her with naked hunger in his eyes. Max bristled.

Michael offered to let Zan stay at his apartment, until this whole fiasco was concluded, and Zan accepted. Isabel then excused herself, to go get ready for a date with Grant. Max suggested that he'd better take 'Liz' to pick up her parents' car, before they started to worry about her. So they said their good-byes, and headed out.

On the way over to the Sheriff's department, Max asked her, "Are you okay with this? Do you think you'll be able to pull it off?"

"Yeah, it shouldn't be too hard," she reassured him. "If I forget any little time specific details, I can always just say I've been under a lot of stress lately."

Max smiled grimly. "It certainly wouldn't be a lie, would it?"

"Hardly," she agreed. "Although, it's been worth every minute of it, just knowing that we will be together again."

Max reached out, and took her hand in his. "It sure has." This time, his smile portrayed his genuine pleasure. "So - mind if I ask you something?"

"Not at all. What's on your mind?"

"Well, there's just something that has been bothering me about all of this," he confessed. "I mean, you said that Tess had taken the granilith back to Antar, right?"

"Yes, she did."

"And yet, didn't you say that Zan told you that he used the granilith to travel back to our time?"

"Yes - ?"

"Well... if Tess took the granilith - how did you all get back here?"

"Oh - that," she replied. "Well, how can I say this in 500 words or less?" she said with a grin. "After Tess took off in the granilith, pretty much all that was left of your heritage was that book that she had shown you. And of course, Alex's translation. You began reading through the text -although I only learned of this second hand, you understand, since we weren't getting along too well at the time," she explained sadly.

"Liz, I'm sorry," Max said sympathetically. "I seem to keep bringing up all these sad memories for you."

She smiled weakly. "Yes, well, at least I know that it won't be this way for much longer. Anyway," she continued, "you discovered that the granilith wasn't the only alien technology that had been left behind for your use. Actually, the granilith was supposed to be used for transportation only in an emergency. Two transportation portals had been installed, that would allow you much quicker, and safer, travel back to Antar, when you were ready."

"Portals? You mean like, you step in, and *poof!* you're there? That kind of portal?"

"Yeah, pretty much."
"But then - why did they even bring s
hips here in the first place? Why not just transport in? And what was the granilith supposed to be for, if not a ship to go home?"

"Max, there are still a lot of questions that we don't have the answers to, even 3 years in the future. I do know, that the granilith is an incredible source of energy. Maybe it was supposed to be harnessed for some particular reason. Or maybe your people just wanted to hide it, so that Kivar couldn't get his hands on that power." She shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe better."

"I'm sorry if it seems like I'm being pushy. It's just that I have so many questions, and so few answers. Tell me - how did you find theses portals?"

"The location of the portals, the crystal 'keys' to power them, and the operating instructions, were all recorded in the book. You all knew about them for over a year, before I met Serena."

"Who's Serena?"

"Well, when Zan came to me, posing as Future Max, he told me that in the future, I had a friend named Serena She supposedly helped to alter the granilith, so it could be used for time travel. Obviously he had met her in his reality, because, lo and behold, she really exists. Anyway, I made fast friends with her, knowing that she could be key to turning things back in your favor. Once I had built a solid relationship with her, I began to ask questions about time travel - you know, to make it seem like I was just interested, but actually I was trying to generate some enthusiasm on her part for the idea. Get her thinking about it.

"After I knew her for a while, I introduced her to Michael. I just left the rest of it in his hands. When he was ready to take the risk, he convinced Max to let us tell her the truth about who he was. We didn't tell her about Max or Isabel, until later, when she had proven herself to be as trustworthy as we had hoped. Michael worked closely with her, modifying the portal to allow it to be used for time travel, making sure to document how to reset it for travel back to Antar.

"When it was ready, Max made the decision that he should be the one to travel back to this time, to try and straighten things out. He and I argued before he left, and he told Serena that under no circumstances was I to be allowed back here. Well, as you can see, I didn't listen, and she didn't stop me. I was determined that I was going to find 'Future Max', and somehow make him pay for the way he had totally screwed my life up."

"Wow. So there are portals out there somewhere that we don't know anything about." Then the obvious question sprang from his lips. "Where are they located, anyway?"

Future Liz smiled. "Well, that's the interesting part. They are in familiar places."

"Really? Where would that be?"

She nodded. "One is located in the cave River Dog showed us. Remember when Michael placed the healing stones in the wall, and they lit up? And he said they were a map?"

"Yeah -"

"Well, what we didn't notice, is that there was another round crevice in the wall, near the floor. When you insert the crystal 'key' into it, the wall slides away to reveal a hidden passageway to the portal."

"And the other?"

"In the most obvious place of all - the pod chamber."

"Amazing," he mumbled, pulling up alongside the Parkers' car. "Well, here we are. You better go straight to the Crashdown - I think your shift is starting soon," he advised. "I'll stop by later, and we can make plans to get together when you're off work, okay?"

"Y-you want to get together later?" she stammered. Suddenly, she felt self-conscious under his intense scrutiny. He was looking at her strangely, and she didn't quite know what to make of it.

"Yes, if that's okay?" he answered, running his fingers through her hair, in an attempt to straighten out the wind-blown effect.

Future Liz didn't understand his intent, she just knew that the gesture was intimate and.... arousing. She closed her eyes, as a shudder ran the length of her petite frame. "Max -"

"Are you cold, Liz?" He started to shuck out of his leather jacket. "Geez, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking - you don't really have a very heavy coat on, to be riding in the open air like this."

"Oh, n- no, I'm not cold," she protested. "Please, keep your jacket," she said, placing a hand on the proffered garment.

"Are you sure?" he asked with concern. "I saw you shudder before - "

"It's nothing," she assured him. "Really. I'm fine."

Max shrugged. "All right, then. I'll see you soon. And if Maria wants to make plans with you for tonight, just tell her we're going on a date, okay?"

"A d-date?" she stuttered.

Max frowned. "Liz, are you sure you aren't cold?" She nodded her response. "Well, then, yes, a date. You can tell her we made up, if you want. That way, we can be assured that she won't be wanting to tag along with us this evening."

"Tag along?" Liz asked, wide-eyed. "Tag along where?"

"Oh. Well, I thought that as long as you are here, you could show me where everything for the portal is. I mean, if we succeed in changing your history, Tess won't get the chance to mind warp Alex into translating that book of hers. Any information that you can give us, will give us an edge once you're gone."

Future Liz let out her breath in a whoosh of relief. "Sure - I'll try to tell you anything that I think would be helpful. But unfortunately, Michael would have been a better one to talk to. I really was out of the loop, after Tess left."

"Because I shut you out?" he inquired. "No, because I wanted to be excluded, as much as possible. And once Max became obsessed in trying to find a way to rescue his son, he was away a lot. So that made it easier. Then I went to college on the east coast, purposely to put more distance between us. I kept in touch with Michael, especially after...." A lump formed in her throat, and tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. Even knowing things were going to be different now, she couldn't fight the melancholy feeling that came, thinking about Michael and Maria.

"After what?" Max's questioned softly. He could see that something had caused her a great deal of pain.

Swallowing, she answered, "After Michael and Maria got married," finishing her previous sentence.

"They did?" he asked surprised. Future Liz nodded. "Wow. But I don't understand - why is that so upsetting to you? I thought that you would be happy for Maria? Or do they not have a good marriage?" She heard the concern in his voice, and was touched by his genuine compassion for his friends.

"No - I mean, they have a great marriage. They really do love each other immensely. They just have a rather... unconventional way of expressing it. At least in front of other people. I get the impression things are much different when they are alone."

"Then what is it, Liz? What makes you so sad, when you think about them?"

Future Liz blushed, and turned her face from him. "I don't know. It's difficult to explain...."

"Well, you've always been a good communicator," he said encouragingly. "Why not give it a try."

"It's embarrassing, that's why," she snapped. "And it would mean admitting to a degree of selfishness I'd rather pretend didn't exist within me."

Max reached out, and gently took her chin in his hand, turning her face toward him. "I think you judge yourself too harshly. Why not just tell me what troubles you? Maybe you'll feel better."

"So you can judge me harshly?" she questioned bitterly.

"Hey, now, you have to remember... I'm still crazy in love with you at this point in my life. I haven't been hurt and disillusioned... in fact, my admiration for you in the last several hours has soared to new heights. So whatever it is, I promise, I won't castigate you for it," he concluded with a smile.

"Castigate, huh?" She returned his smile with one of her own. "What normal teenage boy uses words like 'castigate'?" she teased.

Max shrugged. "One whose soul mate is resisting her destiny, thereby leaving him with all sorts of time on his hands, which he uses studying the dictionary," he joked back. "I must say, though, that it has greatly endeared me to my English teacher, and I get higher grades on my research papers, due to my increased vocabulary." He smirked.

"Oh, you!" She swatted him playfully on the arm, and hoped that his attention was now sufficiently diverted from his original question.

Max's expression grew serious again, and she knew her luck just ran out. "I'm still waiting, though, Liz. What upsets you about Michael and Maria?"

She sighed. "It's just - we were the ones that were 'soul mates', Max. We were the ones that everyone figured would go the distance. Michael and Maria? They were always more 'off' than 'on' in their relationship. To see them make it - to have a life together - just seemed so... unfair." She cast her eyes down to the floor of the Jeep. "There. I told you it was selfish."

Max was so still, she almost wondered if he still sat beside her. After a few moments, she looked up, to see him staring intently at her. But there was no sign of disapproval in his eyes. Just... sadness. Maybe he could understand what she felt?

"You're right, Liz, it is a little selfish," he started, confirming her own low opinion of herself, and her heart fell. In her self-condemnation, she failed to notice that his voice held no tone of judgment. So she was surprised when he continued. "Selfish, maybe, but certainly understandable." That earned him a surprised look. "What?" he asked, in response to her astonished expression. "You think it has been easy for me these last months, being good friends with Maria, and watching her and Michael drawing closer to each other? You think that didn't pierce my heart like an arrow? I've been in love with you for almost my entire life," he admitted. "When we finally gave in to our feelings for each other, and became a couple, you took me to emotional heights I never knew existed. In contrast," he added, his voice thickening with emotion, "when you walked away from me, I experienced depths I never knew existed, as well."

Future Liz quickly brought her hand up, to stifle a sob, big teardrops spilling over her lashes. "Oh Max, I'm so sorry," she choked out on a whisper. "I never meant to hurt you. I thought I was doing what was right - what was best for you..."

Max leaned over, and pulled her into a comforting embrace. "I know that now, and I don't hold any of it against you. You endured hell for me - do you have any idea how that makes me feel, to know you love me that much?" he asked, tears pooling in his own eyes. That was Future Liz's undoing. She broke down into racking sobs in his arms, and he continued to hold and soothe her, as best he could. Inwardly, he was relieved to know that his Liz would never have to struggle with these feelings. It made him sad, to think of all this Liz had endured.

Finally, she regained her composure, and pushed away from him. "I'd better get home," she reminded him, and he nodded in response. As she got out of the Jeep, she called over her shoulder, "I'll see you later." With that, she climbed into the car, started it, and drove off.

Max continued to sit there for a few moments, watching her speed off toward the Crashdown. Silently, he wondered how much longer it would be, before this business was over, and they could get on with their lives. On with loving each other.



posted on 18-Sep-2001 10:28:10 AM
**NOTE**
When you see 'Liz', that refers to Future Liz, impersonating Present Liz. I had to have some way to distinguish that.

Part Nineteen

'Liz' entered the Crashdown, and was immediately greeted by her best friend. "Hey, Chica!" Maria called from behind the counter. "I was starting to worry that you were gonna leave me to deal with the lunch crowd on my own."

Even though Maria's tone was teasing, 'Liz' felt guilty for not being more considerate. She should have called before leaving Michael's place. "I'm sorry if I worried you, Maria," 'Liz' replied in apology, as she proceeded to the back room, Maria in tow. She glanced at the schedule. She was due to start her shift in 15 minutes. No wonder Maria was worried.

"Hey, no problem," Maria assured her. "Actually, it wasn't the lunch crowd I was really worried about," she stated, with a meaningful look at Liz.

"What?" 'Liz' asked. "What is bothering you, then?"

Maria rolled her eyes, and looked at Liz as if to say, "Well duh."

"Huh? Me? You were worried about me? Whatever for?"

"Liz," Maria began gently, "you haven't been yourself lately. Ever since 'D-day' you have been sullen and withdrawn. The fun-loving, full of life Liz has disappeared. Now, I don't expect you to be all smiles and faking euphoria, or anything, but it's killing me to see you hurt like this. You're my best friend, Liz. I want good things for you, ya know?"

Liz opened her locker, and took out her uniform, working hard to suppress the smile that wanted to break out all over her face. Slipping into the bathroom, she left the door ajar, so she could continue her conversation with her friend. "I appreciate your concern, Maria, but I'm fine, really."

"Please, Liz, this is me you're talking to. I can tell when you aren't fine. You take off for hours, driving around, I assume, in the desert? Where do you go Liz? To the cliff? To remember?"

"No!" Liz exclaimed emphatically. "It isn't like that - it isn't!"

"Ah, I think my friend, she doth protest too much," Maria chided.

'Liz' squeezed her eyes tight against the pain. She knew that Maria was just fishing for information, but she was too close to the truth for Liz's comfort. "Maria, you don't know what you are talking about," she insisted. She pulled her shirt off over her head, then unzipped her jeans, and began to remove them as well.

"Don't I? Then suppose you tell me how it is, then?" she challenged, opening the door wider. 'Liz' was bent over, stepping out of her jeans, but Maria's eyes darted to her sexy undergarments. "Liz? Have you been shopping without me?" she demanded, her voice laced with hurt.

"What?!" 'Liz' responded incredulously, as she finished removing the jeans, baffled by the absurd turn in the subject of their conversation.

"This is new, isn't it?" Maria asked by way of explanation, pointing at Liz's bra. "I've never seen it before." Her eyes traveled the length of Liz's torso, to her delicate little matching panties. "Or those," she added, pointing again. And then it hit her that something else wasn't right. Her eyes slid back up a few inches to Liz's lower abdomen, and she gasped. "Oh my God! Liz, what is that?" she whispered hoarsely, reaching out tentatively to touch her friend's skin.

'Liz' looked down. "Oh, that? That's the scar from when I had my appendix removed last year, you remember -" And then it hit her. This Maria wouldn't remember. That appendicitis attack wouldn't occur for another two years yet. Her groan mingled with a squeal that Maria was trying desperately to squelch. Maria started backing away from 'Liz', fear clearly evident in her eyes. "Maria," Liz began in a soothing tone, "please, don't be afraid. This isn't what you are thinking - exactly," she amended.

"No? What am I thinking?" Maria challenged, with as much courage as she could muster.

"You're thinking that this is some..." 'Liz' shot a glance out into the back room, to make sure they wouldn't be overheard. "Some sort of alien scheme or something."

"Well, isn't it?" Maria insisted, raising her chin in stubborn defiance. 'Liz' had to smile at her friend's spunk.

"Not really... well, sort of... it's a long story, how about that?" Liz offered hopefully.

By this time, Maria had backed completely out of the bathroom. From where she stood, she could look through the little window in the swinging door that led to the dining area. Everything looked quiet. Good. "Looks like I have time," she retorted, her attention returning to 'Liz', who was now clad in her uniform. "Start talking."

"I can't get into all the details right now," 'Liz' informed her. "But I will tell you that I am indeed Liz - just not your Liz. I am from the future - 3 years from now, in fact."

"You're what?!" Maria cried out.

"Shh!" 'Liz' rebuked her with a stern look. "Do you think we could not alert the entire county, here?"

Maria blushed. It wasn't like Liz to dress her down that way. "Sorry," she apologized humbly.

Liz's expression gentled. "It's okay. I know this must be quite a shock."

"Understatement of the year, there."

'Liz' smiled. "Yes, well, we don't have time for me to go into lengthy explanations, but for now, you're stuck with me."

"Where's... my Liz?" Maria blurted out, concerned for her friend.

"Don't worry," 'Liz' reassured her. "She's safe. She had to go to New York City with my Max and Michael on some... business," she hedged.

"Your Max and Michael? You mean, they came back from the future, too?" This sounded promising. She's really like to know how Michael turned out in the future. Maybe it would make waiting through his harsh treatment of her now worthwhile, if she knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.

'Liz' saw that dangerous gleam in Maria's eyes. "Uh, yeah. But they are in New York, and if everything goes according to plan there, they won't be coming back, after their business is concluded."

"Oh." She was disappointed, but rebounded quickly. What kind of business?" Maria pressed, her eyebrow lifted in a silent demand.

"That kind of business," 'Liz' answered, nodding.

Maria rolled her eyes. "Is there any other kind?"

'Liz' chuckled. "Not usually."

"Oh, my God, Liz," Maria said, shocked by something else altogether.

"What? What's wrong now?"

"You and your Max are back together, aren't you?" she demanded, her hands on her hips.

"Wha-? Why do you say that?"

"Because you have one major hickey there on your neck!"

Future Liz's hand flew up to her neck, and she retreated to the bathroom, to assess the damage in the mirror. "Aw, crap. This I don't need." She was smiling broadly, though, as she examined her reflection. She secretly loved the idea that Max had marked her as his.

"Well, never fear," Maria said with confidence, as she popped open her locker. "At least this one isn't glowing. This, I can take care of." She proceeded to whip out a cover stick from her purse. Liz raised her eyebrow, and Maria shrugged, then defended herself. "Hey! What do you expect? Dating Guerin, a girl has to be prepared at all times!" The two of them giggled, as Maria applied the makeup to Liz's neck. "So tell me, Liz - why didn't you just go to New York, and leave our Liz here, where she belongs?"

"It's a long story. I promise you, I'll explain more later. Just remember - everyone has to believe that I am the Liz from this time period. Be careful what you say, all right?"

"Gotcha."

"Good. And now, we better get out there and start earning our keep, or Dad will fire us both," she joked.

"Nah, he can't fire us," Maria deadpanned with certainty. "Slaves have to be sold."

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


At the airport, Future Max, Future Michael, and Liz sat off by themselves, waiting for the boarding call for their flight to Albuquerque. They had been disappointed to discover that there was no such thing as a direct flight from Roswell to New York, and that the trip would take nearly 10 hours, once layovers were added in.

Acquiring tickets for their flight had been somewhat of an ordeal.....



Future Michael had assured them that all he needed was a computer and printer with online access. Going back to town first, they snuck up to Liz's room, locked the door, and fired the computer up. Being there brought back a flood of memories for Future Max, and surrounded by Liz's things, her scent was strong in his nostrils. He realized that his senses were still extremely sharp. Taking a deep breath, he savored that scent, and felt a sense of peace and well being flood over him.

Once the computer was online, Future Michael's fingers began flying over the keys deftly, amazing Future Max and Liz. For someone who never made an effort at academics, his proficiency with a keyboard was startling. While waiting for a page to load, he looked up at his two rather quiet friends, to find them staring at him in awe. "What?"

"Michael, how did you learn to type like that?" Liz asked, obviously impressed.

He shrugged in response. "Practice. I got a computer with one of those teach yourself to type programs. Seemed like the thing to do. It didn't take very long to master," he added smugly.

"Humble, Michael, very humble," Future Max commented.

"Why, thank you," Future Michael said, receiving the sarcastic compliment.

"So..." Liz started, watching what Michael was bringing up on the computer, "What are you doing?"

"Are you sure you want to know?" he answered, giving her a look that warned her, she might not like what she was going to hear.

"Yeah, well, forewarned is forearmed," she quoted nervously.

"Well, right now, I'm getting flight information," he explained. "I need to know what airline we will be taking, connecting flights, that sort of thing."

"What for?"

"Just a second - " He picked up a pen, and began jotting down all the details of the desired flight on a piece of notebook paper Liz had provided. When he finished, he typed in another url, and waited for the page to load. "I need the information, so I can, uh.... order our tickets."

"Oh, I see."

No, you don't see, he thought, and if I can help it, you aren't going to, either. He continued making his way into the reservations for Mesa airlines, which would take them the first part of their journey. He brought up a list of available seats for the flight to Albuquerque. There were three, two located together, and a third across the aisle. Perfect. Now to get Liz distracted.... "Liz, why don't you take a few minutes to pack a few things for the trip? You'll probably be gone for 2 or 3 days," he suggested softly, not wanting her parents to hear them in her room.

"Oh, right," she agreed, and immediately set about the task. Future Max watched her for a few minutes, and then forced himself to tear his gaze from her.

Future Michael worked quickly, hacking into the airline computer system, convincing it that the tickets were paid for, and then printing them off. He repeated the process for the second and third leg of their journey.

Future Max observed the process with fascination. "Care to share, Michael?"

"Huh?" Future Michael responded distractedly, as he continued to enter the information.

"I know what you're doing, and although I don't necessarily like it, I'm not going to get all self-righteous about it."

"How comforting," came the reply, again in a tone that indicated Future Michael was only half paying attention to him.

"C'mon, Michael. How did you learn to do this?"

"Necessity is the mother of invention," Future Michael quoted. "Or in this case, self-instruction."

"Necessity? What are you talking about, Michael?"

"How do you think I managed to fly east to check on Liz, every time you had a nightmare, or bad dream about her?" Future Michael mocked. "Do you think that I have an unlimited cache of money stashed away somewhere? If I had known that you were gonna be sending me on a fool's errand every couple of months, to keep tabs on your ex-girlfriend, maybe I wouldn't have been so quick to squander the Dupree money. But in the absence of funds, and orders from my beloved leader, I had to improvise. So, I learned to avail myself of the empty seats on the airlines."

"So... this is all my fault, then?"

"Basically."

"Okay. Just checking. Although, I suppose it never occurred to you to ask me to fund the trips?"

"Would you have?" Future Michael asked surprised.

"I was obsessed with keeping track of Liz. What do you think?"

"I think I saved you a whole truckload of cash, that's what I think," he answered with a smirk.

Future Max laughed. "So you did." What neither of them realized, was that Liz was standing just inside the bathroom door, hearing every word. So... even though they didn't get along in the future, Max still obviously loved her, and worried about her. That made her heart warm. She had been devastated to think that Max could just forget her so easily, and move on to be with Tess.

As for Michael, somehow he must be generating tickets without paying for them. Not Liz's first choice, but then, this wasn't just some pleasure trip they were on. They had to get to NYC, and this was the only way they could get the tickets they needed. Once she was sure they were done discussing the subject, she bounded out of the bathroom, her toiletries in her arms.

Michael downloaded their boarding passes, finishing just as Liz zipped her small suitcase shut. "All ready," she announced.

"Good timing," Future Michael declared. "I just finished up here." He put the computer through the shut down routine, and turned the machine off. "Well, guess we better hit the road." Then he groaned. How were they going to get to the airport? They couldn't take the Parker vehicle.

Future Max must have realized the same thing, because he grabbed Liz's cell phone, and dialed Isabel's number. Three rings.... "Hello?"

"Iz, it's me, your 'older brother' Max. I need a favor."

"Uh, sure, what is it?" she asked hesitantly. She really didn't want to get tied up all afternoon with alien business. She had a date to get ready for.

"Don't worry, nothing major," he reassured her. "Can you swing by the Crashdown, and pull up in the alley? We need a ride to the airport."

"Oh, yeah, no problem," she said, relieved to hear what he wanted. "I'll be there in five."

"Great. See you." He hung up. "Isabel is on her way. Let's go wait down in the alley." Future Max grabbed Liz's suitcase, and she snatched up her backpack, and cell phone. Then they descended the fire ladder to the street below.

Though never having been a Boy Scout, Future Michael lived by the motto, "Be prepared." So after Isabel dropped them off at the airport, and they still had a half hour wait ahead of them, he pulled them off into a dark corner, and instructed them to present their id's. At first, Future Max had a panicked look on his face, but when he patted his back pocket, he realized that he indeed had his wallet with him. "Kinda hard to go back and get it," he joked. Then Future Michael gave the three of them new identities, which matched the names on the tickets he had obtained.



Now as they sat in the terminal, they anxiously checked the clock every few minutes. Their minds were preoccupied, and they never noticed the nondescript, middle-aged man watching them from across the lobby.

It seemed like forever until the announcement for their flight came over the speakers. They rose, and grabbed what little they were taking with them, and boarded the plane - without incident. Future Michael sent Liz and Future Max a sly smile from across the aisle, once they were settled in. "No problem," he mouthed silently. Future Max just nodded.

The stranger watched the exchange with interest. Then he took his seat on the aisle, directly in front of Michael.

Once the plane was safely in the air, Liz let go of her death grip on Future Max's hand. He rubbed at it vigorously, as if to get the circulation going again. That earned him a playful swat. "Yeah, right, like poor little me could hurt big hulking you," she said, rolling her eyes. "Pull-eeze."

Future Max leaned in, and nudged her shoulder with his. "Hey, what can I say? You're a lot tougher than you look," he teased with a grin. She giggled.

"So... what is the plan? Are we going to start looking for Zan tonight? It's going to be late when we get into New York - probably will be close to ten o'clock, by the time we would be able to make it to their 'lair', as Zan called it."

Their faces were still close, as he hadn't straightened back up after nudging her. He closed the remaining distance between them to place a chaste kiss on her forehead. "I know, it's going to be a really long day. But I'd like to take care of this as quickly as possible, before anything else has a chance to go wrong. It seems like someone or something is always conspiring to keep us apart," he finished quietly, the pain of years of denied love shadowing his amber eyes. "Promise me something?"

The anguish in his voice would have gotten her to agree to anything, just to see his smile restored. "Anything. You know that."

The corners of his mouth lifted slightly in a rather haunted-looking smile. His fingertips whispered over her cheek and neck reverently. "Do whatever it takes to keep us together. Please. And not because your world or mine depends on it. Do it because I can't live without you."

Her heart lurched at his desperate plea. Through lowered lids she gazed at him, in awe of the man her love was to become. "I wish I could," she began somberly. His heart fell, and his eyes betrayed the crushing hurt he felt. "But you see," she continued, "the truth is, I'm just selfish enough to do it simply for the fact that I can't live without you."

"Oh, Liz," he groaned, his lips descending to brush tentatively over her own. "I'm so sorry," he breathed against her lips. "I know I'm not your Max, and God help me, you aren't my Liz... but we're all the same, right? Just at different stages in our lives. Is it so terrible, that I want to gather you in my arms, and kiss the breath out of you?" His heart was beating like a hammer.

Liz could barely hear him, for the thundering rush of blood in her ears. "I - I don't know," she returned softly. "But if you're terrible, I guess that makes two of us..." She leaned in hesitantly, until her lips barely grazed his. She fought the urge to crush her lips to his, when what she really wanted was to taste him - to greedily explore every inch of his mouth... and beyond. She was shocked at the forwardness of her own thoughts, and at the same time, unbearably aroused by them. She had had plenty of fantasies centered around Max before, but nothing could compare to this overwhelming drive to be intimate with him.

His response was a low moan of pleasure - or was it pain? Even he wasn't sure which it was. But her simple action had shattered the last of his resolve to treat her like a sister. Hungrily, he devoured her mouth, nipping, tasting, thrilling in her responsiveness. He was vaguely aware that since he sat on the aisle, his body acted like a shield against prying eyes. Emboldened by the thought, he cautiously slid his hand from her neck, down to stroke her feminine curves. He gloried in the shudder that shook her at the feeling of his strong, warm hand gently kneading her softness.

Liz felt white-hot desire crash through her, threatening to make her lose all control amidst a plane full of passengers. Even Zan's touch, which had aroused her more than she had ever previously experienced, could not begin to compare to the intensity of this. Everywhere Max was touching seemed to be on fire.. She shuddered again, thinking what it would feel like if he were touching her even more intimately. Surely, she would pass out from it! Suddenly, she understood how it could be, that even though she felt she wasn't ready for a sexual relationship, she had given herself to Max completely in that other reality. Because it feels so.... right. Like this is what I was created for, her heart and mind cried in unison. No - this is who I was created for. Every fiber of her being longed to be united with him in the most elemental of ways. Her body arched slightly, of its own accord, pleading for more.




posted on 22-Sep-2001 7:44:54 PM
Part Twenty

While Liz's body responded eagerly to his ministration, Future Max felt as though he were falling under some sort of spell, his hard-won self-control melting in the wake of the molten lava he was sure must be flowing through his veins. He felt himself spiraling deeper and deeper into the whirlpool of desire that enslaved him. The intensity of it frightened him. If he didn't stop, he wasn't certain he could keep from ravaging her right here in their seats. He tried to convince himself to end the kiss, but the primal force that was screaming through his being refused to let go. And then they started. The flashes. Well, not flashes, exactly.

Future Max felt himself transported to another - something. Dimension? he dimly wondered. He didn't see anything, per say, but rather had the most peculiar sensation of being outside of time. As he floated, disembodied, he was aware he wasn't alone. With certainty, he knew it was his mate - the one to whom he had given his heart. Liz? No - not quite... yet sort of. None of this made any sense. Either it was Liz, or it wasn't... right? He just wasn't sure...

Some people would think the man was a voyeur. He certainly was watching Future Max and Liz with great interest.

Future Max was suddenly wrenched back to reality, by a firm grip on his shoulder, and a shake. "Max!" he heard Future Michael call to him in a hoarse whisper. Another shake. "Snap out of it! You're making a scene!"

The man turned to face forward again. It wouldn't do for them to see him watching them.

From somewhere deep within himself, he found the strength he needed to wrench free from the heated kiss he was engaged in with Liz. It was then that he realized he had leaned so far over her, that he was nearly on top of her. Pulling back from her slightly, he gulped in great breaths of air, trying to satisfy his oxygen deprived lungs. He looked at Liz, who was staring at him with wide eyes. Was that fear he saw in their depths? He was instantly filled with self-loathing. He would never intentionally hurt her. Had he done something unspeakable, while his mind was in some altered state? He tore his gaze from hers, to look over his shoulder at Future Michael. "Wh - what happened?" he asked shakily.

"I was hoping you could tell me," Michael retorted, still whispering. "I was sitting there minding my own business, when I heard the two of you moaning across the aisle. I turned to see what was going on, just in time to witness you practically jumping the poor girl. And then I heard you say, 'Karanna'. I don't know what it means, but you breathed it almost like a... a prayer or something. Now what was going on?"

The stranger didn't know whether to smile or curse. This wasn't going quite the way he had hoped. But it certainly showed promise.

"It was weird, Michael, I -" Future Max stopped abruptly, and then realized this was not the time or the place to be relaying alien experiences. "We better finish this discussion later - when we're alone," he finished, effectively ending the conversation. Future Michael nodded, and sat back in his seat.

Future Max closed his eyes tightly for a moment, trying to erase the frightened image that Liz had presented moments ago. But it was no use. He knew what he had to do. Opening his eyes, he focused all his attention back on Liz, and looked deep into her soft brown eyes. "Liz, I'm sorry - so sorry," he said quietly, with great sorrow in his voice. "I never - God, the thought that I frightened you like that, is more than I can bear! I don't know what came over me, honestly I don't. Please, you have to believe me, I never would have willingly.... you know, right here in our seats. But something was driving me - something primal. I don't know any other way to explain it. I -"

Liz hushed him, by placing her fingers on his lips. "It's okay, Max. I wasn't frightened of you - really, I wasn't," she insisted, when she saw the look of disbelief on his face. "It was just... what happened before... I've never experienced anything like that - have you?" She asked the question, secretly hoping he would answer no. She hated the thought that he would experience a connection that intense with anyone else. Oh God, please don't let him say with Tess, she prayed fervently, realizing belatedly that if he had felt this with anyone else, it would have been her.

Future Max's eyes widened as he stared at her, speechless. How could she possibly think that he could respond to anyone but her that way? Misreading the look, tears coursed down her cheeks, and she buried her face in her hands and wept quietly. That snapped Max back to his senses. "Liz? Sweetheart, what's wrong?" he begged of her.

"It - it was Tess, wasn't it?" Liz whispered in agony. "That happened to you with Tess, right?" She knew that he and Tess had had intercourse, after all. If she had felt this wild connection just kissing him, she couldn't imagine how intense things would get if they actually made love.

Future Max looked somewhat confused. "What happened, Liz? What are you talking about?"

Liz looked down, embarrassed. Maybe he hadn't felt anything at all... "Just now, when we were kissing," she whispered. "Didn't you feel anything.... strange?"

Future Max blanched, as he finally comprehended what she was asking. "You mean the connection? You felt it too? That sensation of being... somewhere else?" he whispered intensely.

Liz nodded slowly. "Yeah, I did. What do you think it means?"

"I don't know exactly." He fell silent for a few seconds, thinking. "Just what did you experience, Liz?" He had to know if it was the same thing that happened to him.

"Well, besides what you already said, I had this feeling that I wasn't alone - that you were there with me. And then I heard your voice saying, 'Karanna,' and I realized, that I am familiar with that word... although I have no idea how."

"I wasn't even aware that I had said that out loud," he told her, "but I was calling out to you. Although, why I called you that, I don't understand."

"Neither do I."

"And to answer your question, no, I never experienced anything close to that with Tess."

Liz breathed a sigh of relief. "Max, what is happening to us?"

"I don't know, Liz. But I think it would be better if I try to exercise a little more self-control. Obviously, there is no longer any such thing as a little 'innocent necking' to be had between us." He grinned mischievously. "If I have a lapse in judgment, feel free to beat me off, okay?

"Oh, right, like I could do that, after that last kiss?!" She fanned herself. "Phewie. You sure know how to get a girl all hot and bothered, Mr. Evans."

A barely suppressed growl resonated low in his chest. "You are going to be the death of me, woman. How am I going to keep my hands to myself, when you say things that just entice me to grab you, and plunder the depths of your sweet innocence?" Just making that confession caused his breath to start coming in short gasps, his chest heaving with the effort. Not to mention some other embarrassing - although not entirely unpleasant - reactions his body was experiencing. He noted with great pleasure, that his words had a similar effect on Liz. He tore his eyes from watching her breasts rapidly rising and falling with her accelerated respiration, and looked up, to find her watching him intently with passion filled eyes. "Liz," he groaned, reaching for her again. What was wrong with him, that he couldn't control his urges around her?

Once more, their mouths fused together in a frenzied mating of lips and tongues desperately struggling to attain some elusive fulfillment. It was as if they couldn't get close enough to each other. Future Max's hand was just starting to slide up the inside of her thigh, when he felt a tug on his arm.

"C'mon, loverboy," Future Michael said with authority. "Show's over. Time to switch seats with your - right hand man," he ordered, smoothly avoiding saying "second in command" at the very last moment.

Future Max ran a shaky hand through his thick, dark hair. He nodded at Michael, although not able to look him in the eye. "Just give me a minute," he requested, closing his eyes, and laying his head back against the headrest. He tried to cool his rampaging hormones, but it was no use. Every cell in his body was aware of the brown eyed angel that sat next to him. Despite his most honorable intentions, his body couldn't help but respond to her closeness. It was like - chemical. He remembered another time when he had felt driven to be intimate with her, several years ago, but that paled in comparison to this.

Future Michael sat back down in his seat across the aisle, but this time, he kept his eyes trained on his leader. This was very disconcerting for him. Normally, he was the one to be rushing headlong into dangerous territory, and Max was always there to bail him out. He wasn't used to playing the role of protector. He wasn't quite sure how to go about it. But one thing was for sure - Max and young Liz needed to cool their physical obsession with each other, before something bad happened.

Realizing that there was no hope for it, Future Max picked up one of the backpacks, and held it strategically in front of him, as he rose to switch seats with Future Michael, who merely gave him a knowing look, followed by an impish smirk. Future Max groaned, and flopped into the seat next to the window. Fortunately, no one had been assigned the seat next to Michael's - perhaps he could look out the window, and divert his attention.

No sooner had he seated himself, then he realized that his body was slowly returning to normal. He was stunned to feel the arousal that had him just about climbing out of his skin moments before draining from his body. Stunned - but grateful. And now that he was rational again, he felt ashamed. What had come over him? Was he some sort of animal, unable to control his own lust? But even as he thought it, he knew that lust had nothing to do with it. He was certain that only Liz could ever have that kind of effect on him. But why? What was different about her?

He decided that he really owed Liz an apology, so he motioned to Future Michael to switch seats with him again. Michael raised his eyebrow in silent challenge, and Future Max lifted both of his, as if to remind Michael who was in charge. Future Michael sighed, shrugged his shoulders, then complied with Future Max's wishes.

Liz was turned to the window, when Future Max sat down next to her. The closer he leaned toward her, the faster and harder his heart began to beat. By the time he reached out and placed his hand on her arm, his breathing was so quick and shallow, he sounded breathless when he spoke. "Liz - I just wanted to apologize for before. But something totally... foreign is happening to me, I think. You know... like Czechoslovakian? I can't imagine what else it could be."

Liz then turned around to face him, and he was mesmerized by the sight that met his eyes. She was flushed, and her eyes were dark with desire, her breath coming in short little pants. "But I'm not Czechoslovakian - so what's my problem?" she asked worriedly. "I was much better, as soon as you swapped seats with Michael. But I knew the minute you came back. My skin began to tingle, and I got all...." she dropped her eyes and blushed bright crimson.

Max swallowed hard. "Aroused?" he asked on a whisper. Just saying that fueled his own intense desire.

Liz could only nod in response.

"Don't be ashamed," Max consoled her. "The same thing happened to me. Something weird is definitely going on here... I hope it is just a passing thing." But somehow he couldn't convince himself of it. He remembered the feeling that he and Zan had shared for her, when they connected, and sensed Liz's presence. A sense of... oneness? He couldn't think how else to describe it, no matter how he tried.

"Do - do you think this will occur, when we are with our respective partners? Or is this something between.... us? Oh God, that is just too awful to contemplate," she groaned.

"Hey, I'm not that bad a guy, really," Future Max joked, trying desperately to lighten the mood. "And I'm not that much older than you."

Instantly embarrassed for her faux pas, she stammered, "I - I didn't mean it that way, really. It's just -"

Future Max pressed a light kiss to her lips, to stop her apology. When he broke the kiss, his lips remained only a hair's breadth from her own. When he spoke, she could feel his breath whisper over her skin. "I know what you meant. I was just teasing a little, to try and ease the tension." His eyes looked deep into hers, probing to her very soul. "I'm thinking that's a hopeless cause, isn't it?"

Liz's lids closed, as she fought the overwhelming fire that he was kindling within her, just by his presence. "Totally hopeless," she confirmed. She felt his tongue run seductively over the contours of her pretty, pink lips, and they parted on a sigh of uncontrollable pleasure.

Trembling all the way to his toenails, Future Max pulled back, and with a shaky voice announced, "I'm just going to take myself and my hormones back over to the other side of the plane now, before this gets out of control."

With tears of frustration in her eyes, Liz nodded. She didn't know what was causing this, but he was right. It was best if they put some distance between them.

Misreading her misty-eyed look, Future Max wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. "Hey, I didn't mean it to seem like I was rejecting you or anything. Please don't cry. I just don't want us to do something we will both regret." He stroked her hair, and then the length of her back. Somehow, he managed to quell the urge to continue on down to caress her cute little derriere. Just the thought of it nearly sent him over the edge.

Her voice quivered as she confessed, "Max, that's not why I'm crying. It's just.... I ache.... all over.... for you...." She couldn't believe she was telling him this.

"Oh God, Liz." He sprung away from her, like he had just gotten scorched. "I ache for you, too. That's why I have to get out of here...." With that, he jumped up from his seat, and motioned to Future Michael to switch seats again. He settled back at the window, staring out at the clouds below them, and soon managed to fall into a fitful sleep, his subconscious mind continuing to struggle with the guilt and frustration.

On the other side of the aisle, Liz returned to gazing out the window. Future Michael put his head back against the seat, and closed his eyes. Something very strange was happening between his two friends, and he had no idea what it was, or how to help. The feeling of helplessness made him want to go blow up some rocks, or something, to relieve his frustration. Maybe when they got to New York, they would get busy, and distracted from this sexual pull between them. He could only hope.

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


Back in Roswell, 'Liz' was doing her best to act like her younger self. But the little things kept tripping her up. Just how much is a piece of "Men in Blackberry Pie" three years in the past? she wondered. There was no way around it. She picked up a menu, and checked the price. She looked around nervously, hoping that no one had noticed. She didn't think anyone had.

Think again. There just so happened to be a short, slender young man, sitting in a booth in the corner, watching her every move.

And there was plenty to notice. Like the way she mixed up the table numbers. Three years in the future, the whole place had been remodeled, and the seating arrangement was quite different. More than once, Maria had to stop her, and turn her in the right direction with an order.

Twice she went to walk behind the counter, and tried to get there from the wrong end. She tried to be cool about it - pretend like she had something to do over in that corner, and then nonchalantly sauntered her way over to the other end of the counter where the entrance was. Like he wouldn't catch that little blunder.

Of course, her errors were compounded by her nervous, virginal responses to the memory flashes she was getting, of Present Liz and her Max on the airplane. She probably would have been furious, if it hadn't been so overwhelmingly stimulating. She had cursed her body's blatant response to the imagery, and went to put a sweater on, to hide the more obvious signs of her arousal. Maria raised an inquisitive eyebrow as she walked past. It was plenty warm in the cafe.

And now, she was sitting down gingerly, wincing as muscles she rarely used any more protested from the vigorous use. College life had made her soft. Instead of standing on her feet for hours at a time, she had managed to land a work study job in the library, manning the front desk from 6 to 10 pm. Most nights it was slow, and she could read some of her course work - sitting down. Yep, she had become entirely too soft, she decided.

She glanced up at the clock and groaned. She still had two more hours on her shift. Lifting her hand to her neck, she began to massage the tired muscles that were screaming for relief. Suddenly, she felt warm, gentle hands push hers away, and begin to work the knots out. "Ooohhh...." she moaned. "I could kiss you...."

"Well, feel free to kiss me, but don't you think we should get to know each other better?"

'Liz' jumped and spun around, to find out who was massaging her. She had thought it was Maria. She wasn't prepared for the face that greeted her, however. For standing there, grinning at her from ear to ear, was Nicholas Crawford. She fought to suppress a shudder of horror. Think, Parker. Do you know him yet? No, of course not. It wasn't until after we 'changed history' that we went to Copper Summit. Okay, breathe. You can do this. Just act like he's any other young kid....

She smiled indulgently at the young man, and drawled, "Well, don't you think I'm just a tad too old for you?"

Nicholas reached up to tuck a stray lock of her hair behind her ear. "Nah - I like older women. Prefer them, in fact. Besides.... you'd be surprised. I'm older than I look."

"Oh?" 'Liz' asked coquetishly. "Is that a fact?"

Nicholas smiled broadly at her. "Indeed it is. Perhaps we could get together, and I could show you first hand just how sophisticated I am?" His expression was now approaching a leer.

'Liz' stood, and took a couple steps back. "Look, I don't know who you are, or what your game is," she lied bravely, "but I never was much of a sucker for bad pick-up lines. So if you'll excuse me...." She had started to step around him, when his hand clamped around her wrist, bringing her to a grinding halt.

"I'm not the one playing games here, am I Lizzie?" he breathed into her ear, then nibbled on her earlobe.

"I - I don't know what you're talking about," she protested, tugging to get away from him. "Please - just let me go. I have customers to wait on - "

"They can wait. This is more important."

"Who do you think you are, coming in here, and harassing me? If you don't let me go, I'll have Maria call the sheriff."

Nicholas laughed. "That two-bit yokel? Please. We both know he's no match for me, sweetness."

"What are you talking about?" she asked, feigning innocence. "And what do you want from me?"

"You can cut the act," he snapped harshly, crushing her wrist in his grip. "You know who I am, and I know who you really are - and why you're here. And I'm here to tell you, you won't get away with it, you little bitch. So why don't you go back to where you came from, and stay the hell out of our business? There's nothing you can do here to stop the inevitable. You can play matchmaker all you want, but we'll just find a way to get around you, sooner or later. And you can't keep popping back here to fix things whenever you feel like it. Because I'll always be here to stop you. Understand?" His eyes were hard as diamonds, and the pupils were drawn to a pinpoint, betraying his fury.

Liz's eyes were wide with fright, wondering what he intended to do to her, when the bells on the door jangled behind Nicholas. She looked up out of habit, to see Max enter the cafe. His eyes immediately were drawn to her, and registered her fear, as well as the abusive way some gangly little twirp of a kid was wrenching her arm. A blinding rage overtook him, and he lunged toward them, prepared to defend 'Liz'.

Before she could stop him, Max grabbed the back of Nicholas' collar, and twisted - hard. Nicholas began to gasp and choke, and 'Liz' was afraid that Max was going to kill him in front of all the customers. "Max!" she whispered harshly, tugging on his arm. "Stop! Think what you are doing!"

Somehow, her plea managed to get through to him, and he loosened his grip on the kid's collar slightly, still holding on to it firmly, though. "What do you say, you and I go talk about your lack of manners, outside?" he asked the kid.

"Oh, wouldn't I love to, your highness," Nicholas hissed. "I'd like nothing more than to whoop your ass."

Well, that took Max aback. With a look of shock, he released the collar altogether, and stood staring at the young punk. "Who - who are you?" he asked, his voice betraying his concern.

Nicholas shook himself to rights again, smoothing his hands over his shirt. "Ask your girlfriend," he quipped, as he turned to walk out. As he put his hand on the door to leave, he called back over his shoulder, "Oh - and one more thing - she doesn't like younger men, apparently. Too bad for you." With that, he walked out.

Max stood staring after him for a couple of minutes, somewhat in shock, to have someone he had never met make a veiled reference to his kingly status. 'Liz' was watching his face intently, waiting for him to process what had just happened. Slowly, his head swiveled to look down at her, perplexed. "Liz?"

"His name is Nicholas, and he knows who I am, somehow," she began.

"That's Nicholas?" Max said in disbelief, looking back outside to study Nicholas' retreating form.

"Yeah - wait. How do you know about Nicholas?" she asked, puzzled.

"Zan mentioned him," he murmured. "He doesn't look so menacing. Are all our enemies a bunch of little kids?"

"Don't let the bod fool you, Max. That 'little kid' wields an incredible amount of power. At one point, he had all four of you tied up, and mind-raped you, trying to discover the location of the granilith."

"Mind-raped? What's that mean?" Whatever it was, it sure didn't sound good.

'Liz' looked around the cafe uncomfortably. "I'll tell you all about Nicholas later - when we're alone. Right now, I better get back to work."

"Right," Max said, raising his hand to tenderly cup the side of her face.

"Max?" she asked breathlessly. Visions of the kiss her younger self shared with Future Max on the plane flooded her mind again, being so close to this Max.

He leaned in, and put a whisper-light kiss on her lips. "Hmmm?" he responded.

"Wha- what are you doing? Why are you -" he silenced her with another kiss.

"We're a couple, remember? We need to behave like a couple," he whispered against her lips, in a voice that didn't seem much steadier than her own.

"Ooh.... right." Swallow. "A couple." The feel of his skin on hers was doing the strangest things to her. "I - I think that I better go, um, you know.... check on my customers."

Nuzzling her nose with his own, Max yielded to her better judgment. "All right. I'll just go sit over there, and wait for some beautiful waitress to come and check on me. Until then...." He kissed her one more time, gently sucking on her lower lip for a brief second. When he pulled back, he was touched to see that her eyes were still closed, and her face turned up toward his, obviously lost in the moment. He rubbed his thumb over her lips, and nearly groaned aloud, when her tongue peeked out to stroke the pad of his thumb in response. He leaned in and whispered a warning in her ear, "We better stop this now, before I do something crazy. We can finish this later, if you like."

'Liz' went scarlet, and Max chuckled softly. "Go take care of your customers. I'll be waiting." With that, he turned and went to sit down in an empty booth on the other side of the cafe. He picked up a menu, and stared at it, not really seeing what was in front of him. He was too lost in thought. He couldn't wait until his Liz got home, so they could finally be together. And this time, he'd move heaven and Earth to keep them together, if necessary.

Within mere seconds, Maria was standing next to his table, impatiently drumming her pen on her pad. Max looked up from the menu he was staring blankly at, to be greeted by a truly annoyed look. Not quite sure what her 'problem' was, Max asked, "I'm sorry. Am I in your section? I thought Liz usually handled this side." Maria cuffed him up side the head. "Ow! What was that for?"



posted on 22-Sep-2001 7:47:00 PM
Part Twenty-one

"That was for Liz," Maria declared, unrepentantly.

Rubbing his head, Max noted that her body language was not improving. Now she was standing with her hands on her hips, angrily tapping her foot on the floor. Max looked past her to 'Liz', who was smiling, and cheerfully taking an order. "For Liz? Maria, what's gotten into you? Liz is over there, happy as a lark, and oh! We're back together - did she tell you that?"

"Don't play innocent with me, Max Evans. You may think I'm just some dumb blonde - and granted, I occasionally act the part - but I wasn't born yesterday. I saw you kissing her."

Max was really bewildered now. "Yeah, Maria, that's generally what couples do. They kiss. Are you like, PMS or something today? Cuz you're really starting to worry me....." He stretched to look over her shoulder, hoping to catch Liz's eye for some support on this one. Maybe she knew what Maria's problem was.

That guaranteed him a smart swat on the arm. "I'll PMS you! Listen up, mister. I know who she really is, all right? What I want to know is, how you could do that to Liz? Or are you and Liz not really together, and this is some twisted way for you to be with her, even if she doesn't want to be with you?"

Max's eyes widened in alarm. "Maria! Sh! Do you have any idea what you are saying?" he hissed. "And if you do, will you please keep your voice down?" His eyes darted back and forth, checking to see if anyone appeared to be eavesdropping. Fortunately, the remaining booths in that section were empty.

Maria dropped onto the bench on the other side of the booth from Max. "I know perfectly well what I am saying," she said in a hushed voice. "Did you really think that I wouldn't know that wasn't Liz?" She placed her open hand on her chest in emphasis. "Me, of all people?!"

Max sighed. He should have known that Maria would pick up on anything unusual right away. The girl had an eye for details. "So, what gave her away?"

"Well, first, she was wearing a br- uh, underthings I've never seen before."

Max looked at her as if to say, "So?" He and Michael weren't in the habit of cataloguing each other's underwear. Women.

"It's like this unwritten code of honor we have, y'know? We don't go clothes shopping without each other. Especially to Victoria's Secret!!" She gave Max a stern look. "And then, she has a scar on her stomach, from an appendectomy... an operation that won't take place for another 2 years!" she hissed.

That bothered Max. If it weren't for his lack of faith in her in the future, they would have been together, and that operation would never have had to happen. He could easily have healed her. He remembered another time, when he had done just that. But now she bore a scar on that perfect, smooth skin of hers. It was... criminal. But then he realized that it wouldn't have to happen like that in the future. He made a note to ask Future Liz when she had her appendicitis attack, so he could be sure and be there for her this time.

"Okay, so now you know. But please keep this to yourself? We can't take any chances of someone outside the circle knowing this isn't our Liz. As it is, that kid that was just in here has figured out who she is."

Maria was lost. "How would some kid we've never met know anything about Liz?"

"Apparently," Max lowered his voice, and leaned across the table toward her, "he's one of 'the enemy'. Can you believe it? Liz says he is incredibly powerful, despite his puny appearance."

"No..." Maria gasped, her eyes wide. "Then Nasedo wasn't lying? Setting off those orbs did lead them to you?"

"So it would seem..." His voice trailed off, as he watched Liz move gracefully around the room, happily waiting on the patrons of the Crashdown Cafe. Her cheeks were flushed, and she wore a big smile - he felt his heart catch at the sound of her sweet laughter. On the surface, it appeared like she didn't have a care in the world. If only that were true. Inwardly, he resolved to do everything in his power to make it so. He heard her laugh again, and felt as though everything in his life was suddenly all right. No alien threat, nothing at all could touch him, as long as she was near. It was the darnedest thing.

He wasn't even aware that he was staring at 'Liz', totally mesmerized, until she felt his eyes on her, and turned to meet his gaze. Even from across the room, the pull he felt toward her was so strong, he unconsciously began to rise from his seat. It was Maria's hand clamping around his forearm that held him in check. He came back to his senses, and realized that he was half out of the booth, and his face twisted into a picture of confusion. "Wha -?" he mumbled, trying to figure out what happened in those last few moments. It was all rather hazy.

"You zoned out there, pal," Maria informed him. "Way out there. We're talking Twilight Zoned. Where did you go?"

Max dropped back onto the bench. "That's just the thing... I - I don't know," he confessed nervously. "It was like, I got absorbed in Liz's laughter, and then when she looked at me, I just.... wow. I can't explain it, really. It was as if everything inside me was reaching out to be with her."

Maria looked worriedly at Max. "Max - are you sure she is who you say she is? I mean, have you ever felt this way about Liz?"

"No - well, yeah, but only just for a few days. Remember back when we found those orbs?" Maria nodded. "Well, it was like we couldn't stand being apart then. We couldn't touch each other, hold each other - love each other - enough back then. We came close to -" He stopped abruptly, when he realized what he was about to admit to Maria. He knew how Liz felt about premarital sex, and wasn't sure if she had confided in Maria just how far things between them had gone.

"It's okay, Max," she reassured him. "Liz told me that she was seriously considering, you know, doing it with you."

"She did?" He was genuinely surprised. He knew that in the heat of her arousal, she had been willing to bond in the most elemental of ways with him, but to know that even when she was not with him, and could think rationally, that she still had wanted him.... just the thought of it began heating the blood in his veins. Despite Tess, and that whole fiasco in the cave with the supposed message from his mother, nothing had changed for him. He still wanted her with a fierce passion that he couldn't shake, no matter how he tried. He came out of his musings, to see Maria intently studying his face. "What?" he asked.

"I'm just wondering where it is, that you keep escaping to," she said, with no trace of humor. "I'm guessing 'Liz-land'. But here's the score: Just because you and I bonded over the summer, don't think for a moment that you can do anything to hurt Liz - any form of her - and not bring down my wrath upon your gorgeous Czechoslovakian head. Are we understood?" The fierceness of her expression underscored the depth of her protectiveness of her best friend.

"Understood," Max agreed. "And for the record, I've never done anything to try and hurt her. It's her freakin' noble intentions that keep hurting us both. I meant it when I told her I loved her, and that we choose our own destiny. As far as I'm concerned, she always has been, and always will be, mine. I think she is finally convinced of it now. Let's hope." With that he stood, deciding to get away from Liz for a while, and get his hormones and thoughts back under some sort of control. "When you get a chance, tell Liz I'll be back for her at the end of her shift, okay? She's off at 7, like usual?"

"Yeah, she is, and I'll give her the message. Just be careful, Max," Maria warned. "Remember, this isn't the Liz you need to be bonding with. I don't know how she got here, or why, but I do know, that things will get really complicated if you cross the line with the wrong Liz."

Max smiled at her. "Thanks, Maria. You're right, of course. I'll just have to make an all out effort to behave myself."

"I'll say." She gave Max a quick hug. "By the way - any idea when Liz is gonna get back from New York?"

"Hard to tell," he answered glumly. "It all depends on how long it takes them to -" he suddenly realized he didn't want to get into a big discussion about Zan and the dupes. "To finish up on their business. Soon, I hope. Listen, I'll probably see you later, when I come back for Liz. Just remember what I said - act normal. And try to cover for any blunders she might make, all right?"

Maria saluted smartly. "Aye aye, Captain. Will do."

"At ease, mate," he said with a wink, then turned and walked out the door.

'Liz' looked up, when she heard the bells on the door ringing, just in time to see Max leave. She scowled slightly, wondering why he left without a word. Oh well, maybe he's planning to come back. Just then, Maria came up to her, and delivered the message from Max. Liz nodded, and thanked her friend. Then she smiled, as she turned to go pick up an order from the window, humming a little tune to herself. Soon all of this would be over, Present Max and Liz were in love, and she and her Max would be back in the future... together. Life was good.

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


Exhausted, a dusty, bedraggled Tess hobbled through the streets of Roswell. "Damned, weak, human bodies," she sputtered to herself. The walk back from the Old Soap Factory probably wouldn't have been nearly so bad, if she weren't wearing such high heeled boots. At one point during her journey, she had contemplated taking them off, but the fear of all the little creepy crawlies she might encounter shoved that thought right back out of her head. So she had endured the pain, stopping every little while to work a little alien magic on her aching, blistered feet. Not that she could actually heal herself, mind you. That was Max's gig. But she could do just enough to keep herself from being in total agony.

She couldn't wait to get home, and soak her feet. Maybe Kyle will even rub them for me, she thought with a smile. But her smile quickly faded. Kyle, whom she had been convinced was totally wrapped around her little finger - the same Kyle who had let her down, by refusing to come to her rescue. Some knight in shining armor, she fumed. She couldn't help but wonder if his sudden neglect to tend to her every whim was due to someone spilling the beans about her part in Liz's abduction. No... Zan and Liz had just left here when I called him. There's no way he could have known.....

She wondered how things had gone with Nicholas. When she couldn't get a ride back to Roswell, she had decided that someone needed to be there to protect her interests. And Kivar's. Thank God for cell phones. She had called in reinforcements, and Nicholas was only too happy to comply. He had been itching to mix it up with the former King of Antar for years. And not just because Kivar gave him orders along those lines. No, this seemed much more personal....

As Tess approached the Valenti house, her thoughts lingered on Nicholas. Just what was his axe to grind with Zan, anyway? Nicholas came from a wealthy family of noble lineage. It was one of the reasons that Kivar had allowed him to rise to such a prominent position in his service. That, and their common hatred for the King. Uh, EX-King. Surely, there wasn't anything that Zan had, that Nicholas couldn't have as well. Except complete rule of Antar. Which serving Kivar didn't get him either. So that couldn't be it.

Tess knew why Kivar wanted Zan out of the way, but Nicholas' motives remained a mystery. Maybe some day, she would get up the nerve to ask him....

Just then, she reached the Valenti house, and was relieved to see that Zan had left her vehicle in the driveway for her, next to Jim's truck. But then, that brought up the question of where he and Liz were? Surely, they wouldn't be in the Valenti house...? That thought caused Tess to shudder. Jim and Kyle were the closest thing she had to friends on this Godforsaken planet. If she had to be involved with any humans, they were the only ones she would willingly choose. Damn that Zan, if he had ruined that for her.

She walked up to the white SUV, and looked inside. The doors were unlocked, and Zan had left the keys on the driver's seat. Maybe that was a good sign. If they had gone in to visit with Jim and Kyle, it stood to reason that they would have taken the keys into the house, and left them there. As she stood staring in the driver's window, she felt another presence walk up behind her.

"Boo!" Tess turned around casually. "Did I scare you?"

Tess rolled her eyes. "Really, Nicholas. You should know by now, that you just can't sneak up on me. I can sense when you are near, remember?"

Nicholas' eyes drifted to half-mast, and he mumbled suggestively, "I hope it is just me that you sense like that. I'd hate to think that you are so tuned in to anyone else."

Tess laughed. That alone irritated Nicholas. "Honestly, you are such a tease! Do you use these lines with all the girls? No wonder you are still single!" Now he was hot. She never took him seriously.

"Funny, I don't see a bonding band on your arm either, princess. What's the problem? Couldn't you find a man who would put up with you?"

Tess' face fell, and tears welled in her eyes. He didn't know just how close to her own insecurities he had just come. "Apparently not," she said in a small, quivery voice.

"Aw, geez, Tess," Nicholas returned, totally annoyed with himself. "Come here," he urged, as he drew her into his arms, and placed a kiss in her blonde curls. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to be so mean. It's just, you really know how to push my buttons, and then I react, before I think about what I'm saying. Forgive me?" Tess nodded with a sniff. Yeah, but would you ever forgive me, if you knew why I really got upset with you? he wondered, with an aching heart.

Afraid of revealing his inner turmoil, he briskly pushed Tess away from where she had nestled against his chest. Too cozy for mere cohorts. Take a step back, before she gets suspicious, he admonished himself. But damn, it had felt so good to feel her all soft and warm next to him. That was one thing about these human shells that he was going to miss.

Of course, who knew when that would be? He'd already been here for way longer than he ever anticipated. Those foxy Antarians had thought they would outsmart him by waiting so long to hatch out those hybrid freaks. But he was a patient kind of being. He had promised Kivar he would take care of it, and he was a man of his word. Even if he did look like a little kid.

His one regret was that he - the being inside the husk - had aged some 50 years, while the woman he loved was not much older than the day he left Antar. He was sure that she would never entertain the idea of being his mate now. Even if they did live on the average to be over 150 years old. At the ripe old age of 70, he was entering his middle years. The chances of anyone taking him for a mate at this stage of his life were slim to none, statistically speaking. Her next words brought him out of his melancholy thoughts.

"So? Did you find her?"

"What? Oh, yeah. She was working at the cafe, covering for the Liz that belongs here. We had words. She knows I'm onto her." He forced a chuckle. "You should have been a fly on the wall, truly. She was trying to play like she didn't have a clue who I am, or what I wanted. But when I let her know that I knew who she was, the fear in her.... you could almost taste it in the air."

Tess smiled broadly. "You're right. I wish I could have seen it. That bitch deserves to be scared down to her perfectly manicured toenails. God, I hate her."

"So you've mentioned - once or twice," Nicholas teased with a wink. "I can't say as I blame you. The thought of one of these ignorant little humans screwing with my plans rather pisses me off, too, you know."

Tess smirked. "You never did like anyone messing with your plans, did you? I remember hearing about the time you planned to sneak out in the middle of the night, and raid the royal stables - to get even with Zan for winning a bet, wasn't it? As I recall, Zan had anticipated your plans, and placed an armed guard around the building. They were hiding and lying in wait for you. I can just imagine your expression when they jumped you, and hauled you off to the palace." She laughed. "Zan may have been young for a king, but he sure knew how to read people. He sure had you pegged, anyway."

Nicholas felt flushed with embarrassment. Is that how she saw him? As some buffoon, that was merely a source of entertainment, while she idolized Zan? Zan, Zan, Zan! ARGH! He wanted desperately to kill the freak. But he couldn't do it, until Kivar gave the high sign. It was times like this, he hated taking orders.

"Well, I just thought you should know that I made contact. Don't call me again with your petty little problems, all right?" he snapped. "From now on, be satisfied to know that I am on Zan's ass, and I'll do whatever is necessary to complete the mission." He looked at Tess, disillusioned, and added, "I hope when you finally get his highness in the sack, he's worth it. Maybe I've been a fool all these years. Perhaps you really do deserve each other." With that, he spun around, and stormed off.

"Nicholas? NICHOLAS!" Tess called after him. Why wouldn't he answer her? What had made him turn so ugly? Her heart constricted in her chest. He was one of her oldest and dearest friends, and she loved him like... like.... Just how did she love him, anyway? That thought made her pause. Nicholas?

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


After her shift ended, 'Liz' went upstairs to her room, to take a quick shower before Max came to get her. When she finished, she came out in just her underthings, racing to her closet to pick out something to wear. She had trouble pulling together an outfit - after all, it had been a long time since she wore this wardrobe, and she couldn't quite remember what things she usually coordinated to make an outfit. She was so engrossed in her decision-making, that she failed to notice the male figure outside her window. But he certainly noticed her.

He let his eyes roam the length of her body, from the soft tendrils of hair at her nape, that managed to escape the ponytail she was wearing, to the shapely curves of her back and hips. Her long, smooth legs just made his hands itch to run up and down them. He wanted to touch her... everywhere. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And this was just from the backside. If only she'd turn around.....

And then she did. Before he could barely register what his eyes were drinking in, she shrieked, and ran for the bathroom, slamming the door. Her reaction startled him at first, but then once she was out of sight, he chuckled to himself. He was going to have to work on Liz's modesty where he was concerned, he decided. And then he realized, that this was not the Liz to be starting that project on. Better cool your heels, boy, he admonished himself.

Liz reappeared, wrapped up in a big, fluffy towel, and scowling out the window at him, as she came over to open it. "Just what were you doing, Mr. Peeping Tom?" she said tartly. "Enjoy the show?"

Max grinned, looking at her with hooded eyes. "Very much so," he murmured seductively. "I was rather sad to see it end. I wonder - will there be a sequel?"

'Liz' burst out laughing. Leave it to Max to defuse the situation. That boy could talk himself out of just about anything. She silently hoped that his charm would come in handy, when it came time to negotiate with the enemy. It sure would make things a little easier.

"Does this mean I'm forgiven?" he asked with big puppy eyes, much like a child trying to get out of a pending punishment.

"Oh yes, you are forgiven. But I do need to get dressed.... if I can figure out what to wear...." She returned to her post at the closet.

"Well, don't let me stop you. On second thought, let me stop you. You are already wearing too much." Where did that come from? Slap my mouth....

"Max!" she exclaimed in shock, wheeling to face him. What had gotten into him? "Why are you being so... so... so...."

"Horny? Suggestive? Blatantly sexual? What?"

"Max! Will you please stop?" she begged, her face flushing, though from embarrassment or arousal, Max wasn't sure. He secretly hoped it was the latter.

He crossed the room, to stand right in front of her. He began running his fingertips lightly up and down her bare arms, then back up, over her shoulders, up the sides of her neck, and then traced her ears. He was trying to decide if he could get away with replacing his fingers with his tongue, when she slapped his hands away. "Max, you have to stop this. It's one thing in public, when you are trying to act the attentive boyfriend, but we are alone now. You don't need to keep play acting."

"Play acting?" he echoed, with a trace of hurt in his voice. "Is that what you think this is?"

"Isn't it?"

Max shook his head slowly, his eyes never leaving hers. "This is no game, Liz. I've been living in this state of torment for months now, waiting for you - er, for her - you know what I mean! Your younger self to let me back into her life. I can't live without you. And seeing you here, now, looking just like her.... it makes my stomach rumble just being near you. You are so beautiful...."

He bent his head, and slowly, seductively, began to kiss her. He felt her stiffen at first, but then his persistence paid off, as she melted into his arms. Emboldened by her submission, he reached between them, and undid the twist in her towel that held it in place. Liz froze, as she felt the towel slide down to the floor around her. She put her hands on his chest and gave him a shove, quickly bending to retrieve her covering.

Max realized suddenly, that the passion he had seen in her eyes just moments before, had been transformed into a glittering look of anger. Oops, crossed that line, I think I did.....

"Max, how could you?!" she hissed at him. "If you can't learn to behave yourself, you can leave right now, and I'll have to figure out another way to accomplish what I need to do here. Maybe I'll go see Michael...."

"Liz, no, you don't have to do that." His voice was pleading.

"Well what do you want me to do? You can't keep putting me in this awkward position. I mean, yes, you are the same man that I am in love with, but you are from the wrong time. As much as I am attracted to you, I don't want to make memories with you, that I won't remember. Only the memories you make with my younger self will be carried into the future."

She thought, then, about the flashes of memory she had gotten earlier today, and pushed out of her mind. Memories of her Max, his passion reeling out of control with her younger self. If it wasn't for the fact that she also had memories of her younger self's inexplicable response to the situation as a point of reference, she might have been totally put out with him. She wondered why the pull was so strong between her Max and Present Liz. Certainly stronger than her own with Present Max. She sighed. All of this was beyond confusing.

Max noticed the faraway look in her eyes. "Liz? What are you thinking about?"

"Huh?"

"You were someplace else for a minute there. Where'd you go?"

Liz blushed. She didn't see any reason, though, to share that knowledge with Max. That was something that her younger self would have to deal with, if necessary. "Oh, nowhere. It's nothing. I was just remembering something, that's all. Now, where were we?"

"You were lecturing me about keeping my hands to myself," he said penitently, looking like a chastised little boy.

"Right. So - do you think you can work with that?"

Max sighed. "I've been working with it this long, what's a little longer?"

'Liz' gave him a stern look. "Yeah, well, when your Liz gets back, just don't think that because you're together, that you can, you know.... take advantage of her."

Insulted, Max tried to keep the edge of anger out of his voice. "Is that how you view my attraction to you - and to your younger self? Like I'm some over-sexed teenage horndog, looking for a girl to get it on with, and you happen to be handy?" He was seething inside at the perceived accusation.

"Max, no, I didn't mean it that way -"

"No? Just how did you mean it then? Because that's sure what it sounded like to me."

"You're twisting my words around," she ground out through gritted teeth.

"Am I? Then please - enlighten me. What was it, exactly, that you did mean?"

'Liz' closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and counted to ten, trying to get her temper under control. "Look, all I'm saying is, to be sensitive to my feelings. Just because you feel ready to take the next step in our relationship, and have sex, doesn't mean that I - she - does. And I know that the draw to 'cement' the relationship will probably be greater for you now, knowing that somehow that gives you an advantage over Kivar. But if you pressure her to do something she isn't ready for, you might end up driving her away."

Max was steaming. "I think I really resent what you are implying here. First of all, let me take you back to the night we spent together in the desert, when we found the orb, since this is a memory we both share. Shall I remind you who was suggesting that we make love that night? Notice I didn't say 'have sex', because I could never just 'have sex' with you. And do you remember, when we laid together on the blanket, what I asked you? Let me refresh your memory. I asked you specifically if you were sure this was what you wanted. Does that sound like someone who is bent on forcing his will on you?"

"N-no...."

"And do you really have such a low opinion of me, that you think I would steal your innocence, just to further my cause against Kivar?"

"No, of course not, but -"

"Then I suggest you hear me, and hear me good. IF and WHEN I make love to you - er, her, it will be because I love her more than anything in this world - more than life itself. It will be because I feel like only half a being without her, and I know that until we are joined together, I will never be the man I am supposed to be. These past few months, while she has been pushing me away, I have been unbalanced - unfocused. I try to attend to my responsibilities, but most of the time, I am just going woodenly through the motions. And why? Because my heart and soul are missing. When I told you once that my life began the day I saved your life, I wasn't just being melodramatic. When we connected, it was like I had finally found the other half of myself, and my life finally made sense. I know I spent a good deal of time running away from it, because truthfully, it scared the hell out of me, that you could be so important to me. But once I accepted it, I knew that you were my destiny. I mean, if all I wanted was cheap sex, for heaven's sake, Tess would be more than willing to put out, I'm sure -" Her pained look froze him in mid-flight of his impassioned speech. "Oh God, Liz, I'm so sorry.... I didn't mean that the way it came out. I just forgot for a moment...." He ran his hands comfortingly over her hair, her face, her arms, her shoulders... desperately seeking to somehow ease the pain that he had just caused her.

'Liz' clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a sob, and her shoulders shook with the effort, as tears rolled down her cheeks. As she started to crumple, Max pulled her into an embrace, and smoothed his hands across her bare shoulders, and up her neck. "Oh, baby, I'm so sorry," he repeated, his voice choked with emotion. He nuzzled his face into her neck, unable to bear looking at her pain-wracked features any longer. "Please forgive me," he begged. "I would never intentionally say something like that to be mean, it's just that I find the whole idea of being with Tess so repulsive and inconceivable, that it didn't even register with my brain quick enough that you lived through something like that. You have to know that I wouldn't hurt you for the world..." By now, his tears were flowing as freely as her own, and she felt them, hot and wet, trailing down her back, from where he had buried his face on her shoulder. "Please, Liz, forgive me," he pleaded in a shaky whisper.

"Max, no, you don't understand," she finally managed to choke out. "I'm not angry with you - with my Max - for sleeping with Tess any longer. I'm angry with myself - for not coming to you with what I knew, for not trusting you enough to tell you this stupid secret about 'Future Max', so we could work out a solution together.... for pushing you away, and right into her arms. God, I was such a fool...."

"Shh, Liz, no you weren't. You were trying to do what was right, and you did it because you love me. Even though it backfired, you can't believe how much that means to me - that you love me so much, that you would sacrifice your own happiness to try and ensure my success. I still have trouble conceiving that you love me, despite that fact that I'm not even human - and yet you never once held that against me, did you? You opened your heart, and gave freely of yourself to me. And I know in my heart, I don't deserve one minute of it. But, oh God, I am so grateful for it. And that's what I am trying to tell you - I won't lie, and say that I don't want to make love with Liz more than I want my next breath. But it has nothing to do with raging hormones and unfulfilled lust." He pulled back enough to take her face in his hands, and look deeply into her eyes. "It has everything to do with never EVER wanting to be apart from her - from you - again. So long as we both shall live."

'Liz' wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, and snuggled close to him. "I'm so sorry, if I came off as insulting you. Can you forgive me?"

"It's already forgiven. Now, suppose you get some clothes on, and you can show me where these crystals and portals are?"



posted on 22-Sep-2001 7:49:58 PM
Part Twenty-two

Tess entered the pod chamber as the sun was beginning to disappear over the horizon. Bone-weary from the long trek she had been forced to take earlier, she let out a sigh. Feeling some better after having had a shower, she had decided to make the drive out to the old Puhlman Ranch, to get some answers.

The door to the chamber slid shut behind her, and she crossed the room to the far wall. Reaching her hand into the surface of the rock, she pulled out an orb, similar in appearance to the communicators she and the others had used in the spring. The one major difference was the symbol that was prominently displayed on its surface. Instead of the swirling symbol the other bore, this one had a symbol that resembled a star, with an orbital pattern around it. Standing in the middle of the chamber, she held the orb in her hand, and focused her energy. Within seconds, an intense beam of light shot out of the orb toward the ceiling, where it was channeled and sent out as a pulse from the top of the cliff.

In response, a ball of light appeared, drifting down to hover in the air above Tess' head. The light took on the form of a humanoid male, late 30's, rather handsome. "I was wondering when I would hear from you, Tessandra," he commented. "It's been awhile."

"Yes, and let me tell you, you made quite a fetching female the last time I saw you - from a human standpoint, that is. Although it is beyond me to know why, when you knew it had to be only me this time, you would chose to adopt human form again."

"Ah, yes. Well, I happen to enjoy the challenge of contorting myself to look like these baser life forms. So - you thought my female form was comely?" His dark eyes twinkled with mirth.

"I personally didn't care for it," she drawled. "You know I think these human bodies are disgusting." She shuddered. "Isabel was thrilled, however. She was all teary-eyed drivel, about how beautiful you were, the ditz. I mean, you came right out and said you were taking that form because it would be familiar. You'd think that she just found out her mother was frickin' Mrs. America or something."

"Tessandra, you know how I hate hearing you adopt their vulgar slang. Please refrain from using it in my presence, at least."

"Oh, of course. My apologies," she said with genuine remorse.

"Now tell me - what is 'Isabel'?"

"Oh, I'm sorry. That is what they call Vilandra now."

The image smiled, and closed his eyes with a sigh. "Ah yes, my precious Vilandra. And the others? How are they designated?"

"Zan is now called Max, and Rath is Michael," she replied.

"Max.... Michael." The figure tested the words. His grimace indicated that he found them lacking. "These words are meaningless to me. What good is a name, with no meaning, I ask?"

"But on this planet, they do have meaning, my beloved brother," Tess corrected him. "And it is rather fascinating, the names that these humans chose for them."

"Indeed? And what are their meanings, do tell?" he scoffed.

"Max comes from one of their ancient languages. It is a shortened form of the Latin word for 'the greatest.' " The image snorted. Tess rolled her eyes impatiently. "Shall I finish? Or are you going to keep interrupting?" she asked testily.

"Forgive me. The irony of it overwhelmed me for a moment. Please, continue."

Taking a deep breath, Tess resumed her explanation. Michael means, 'Who is like God?'. In one of their sacred writings, it was the name of an angel, who led the armies of God. Some consider him the patron saint of Soldiers, I am told."

"That is interesting. After all, Rath was quite a soldier in his former incarnation," the image grudgingly admitted. "However, there is no conclusive proof that this half-breed atrocity will bear any of that skill."

"Well, actually...."

"Tessandra?! What aren't you telling me?" he demanded.

"N-nothing. I mean, it's just that Michael does show some potential in that department...."

"Potential? Just how much potential are we talking about here?"

"Certainly nothing for you to worry yourself over. What abilities he has are in a very undeveloped state, and definitely lacking in any real fire power. Believe me, if it were any different, I would have come to you long before now."

"I hope so, Tessandra, for your sake. But I must admit, I have grave misgivings about all of this. How goes your effort to win the heart of the King?"

Tess sighed. "It is a much more difficult task than I expected. I was sure that once we were together without that she-devil's influence, he would see that we are destined to be together. But before I found him, he had fallen in love with yet another temptress, and she is proving to be a formidable opponent for his affections, human though she may be."

"He is in love with a human?" Tess nodded. "Does she know what he truly is?"

"Yes, she does. And that is the worst of it. She is fiercely protective of him. Although, it may eventually prove to be their undoing." She smiled menacingly. "She was in the chamber when you impersonated the Queen Mother, and heard your little spiel. She was so moved to think that Max had this great destiny, she sacrificed her relationship with him, to free him to fulfill his duty to his people. So damned noble," she growled.

"So why are you angry, then, little one? Is this not beneficial to your cause?"

"It would be, if he could get it through his thick skull that they don't belong together! But instead, her self-sacrifice only seems to make him love her more. He follows her around like a little puppy dog and will not be satisfied, until she relents and takes him back. I fear that he may have already experienced some measure of success," she pouted. "Why can't he realize that I am what's best for him?"

"Tessandra, I don't mean to be hurtful, but some things are just not meant to be, no matter how much we may wish them. I have a feeling that, over the course of a thousand lifetimes, Zan would not be drawn to you."

"SHUT UP!" she shrieked. " Is this the brother that taught me that anything is possible, if you want it badly enough? Have you gone soft on me, in your old age?" What was it, today? First Nicholas, and now this? Couldn't anyone ever share an encouraging word? "You're one to talk, anyway," she added defiantly, with a toss of her blonde curls. "Look at the way you moon over Vilandra, after all these years. Are you going to spend your entire life alone? I know there are scores of women who would consent to be your mate."

"Tess, you try my patience, dear sister. I am merely trying to save you from a world of heartache and grief. There can be no future in loving a man who does not return your affection. And for your information, I am not alone. I married several years ago, and now have 8 children." He registered her look of surprise. "See what happens, when you stay away so long? Why don't you just take the granilith, and come home?"

"Damn it, Kivar, you know I would," she sputtered to the disembodied image before her. "I am tired of competing with this human wench for Zan's attention. But until we locate the crystal to power it, I am stuck here."

"Do you have any idea where it may be located?"

"Not yet. But I do have the book that the protectors left behind for the Royal three. All I need now is to find a way to translate it...."

"But Tessandra, you speak fluent Antarian. What is the problem?"

"The problem is, it is encoded in an ancient hieroglyphic language that the Antarians have not used for centuries."

"I see. That does present a challenge."

"Yes, it does. But I have the beginnings of a plan forming. If all works well, I should have that translation in a few weeks."

"Well, at least one good thing has come of all of this. We disposed of the threat that was foretold in the Antarian Scrolls of Prophecy. Zan never lived to defeat me, and now I rule all of Antar. No one dares defy the warrior whose very presence proves the impotence of their sacred writings." He laughed. "Perhaps I should start a rumor, that I am a god, more powerful than the One that they put their trust in."

"Oh, Kivar, really," Tess said with disgust. "Sometimes your head is far too big. Be careful that your overconfidence doesn't become a weakness our enemies can use against you. After all, if I lose you, then where will I be?"

"Never fear, little one," he consoled her. "With the threat of the 'King of Light' out of the way, what possible enemy could overthrow me?"

Tess scowled. "I'm not sure, but I just have a bad feeling about all of this. Something that Zan said...."

"Zan, the King? Or do you mean Max?"

"Um... neither. I'm referring to the Max duplicate that goes by Zan."

"The what?!"

Tess shrank back, at the sight of barely leashed rage in her brother's features. "Y-You know," she stuttered. "The hybrid that looks like Max?"

"No, I don'tknow, Tessandra. Perhaps you could enlighten me?"

"He is the Zan hybrid from the duplicate set of the Royal three that was sent here."

"A duplicate set? When the hell did this happen?"

Tess frowned. Why wouldn't Kivar know about the dupes? "They were sent here at the same time as the original set of hybrids. They were placed in New York City to mature. Surely, you knew about all of this?"

"I most certainly did not. I was told that the hybrids in New York were the royal three. Is this not so?"

"Well, they are a duplicate set of them, from what I gather."

"Where are the originals being kept? Do you know?"

"Yes - Max, Michael, and Isabel are the originals. I am with them in a hellish place called Roswell, New Mexico. My hybrid, Ava, is with Zan, Rath, and Lonnie in New York."

"Good - so then both sets of them are attended to."

"Didn't Nasedo ever tell you any of this?"

"No. Regretfully, we decided that communication would be too risky for him to attempt. Only in the most dire emergency was he to contact me. He has his orders, and he knows to follow them. You would do well to emulate him, little one."

"Yes, well, he taught me much before... before...." Her throat tightened, and tears threatened to spill over.

"Tessandra? What of Nasedo?"

Tess hung her head sadly, remembering her fallen comrade. "I regret to inform you, that he was killed in the line of duty. We aren't sure yet who was responsible. But I will do my best to find out."

"I'm sure you will." Kivar looked thoughtful for a moment. "You started to tell me about something this Zan said?"

"Actually, it was a future version of him, that came back to this time. He claimed that you had sent him, in order to change events that were about to take place."

"Did I, now?" That aroused his curiosity. "For what purpose?"

"Zan claims that in the future, Max and his little human girlfriend 'bonded', and it turned the tide of the war in his favor. You sent Zan back in time to prevent them from being together, in order to reinforce your position of strength in the war."

"And I trusted Zan?" Khivar looked incredulous.

"Well, Nasedo had him convinced that he was just a cast-off, a useless piece of hybrid trash. He had no purpose in life, and therefore, was an easy target for you to win over. He agreed to do your bidding, in exchange for your promise to stop harassing him."

Khivar nodded to himself. "Sounds reasonable. How's it going?"

"Well, we had captured the little bimbo that Max is in love with, figuring that if we killed her, he might be more amenable to the idea of being with me. Things were going just fine, until Zan up and takes off with the little witch. I have no idea where they are now. And to make matters worse, a future version of Max and this hussy from the altered future also came back, to try and undo what Zan was about to accomplish. I'm tellin' ya, it's a real mess down here," she complained.

"It'll be a worse mess, if I lose control of Antar," he growled. "Just make sure that Zan is successful in breaking up Max and his human sweetheart." Kivar noticeably relaxed. "You know, that boy always was controlled by his hormones, rather than his head. It brought him down once, it'll bring him down again."

"I wouldn't worry about it, anyway," Tess said non-chalantly. "Nicholas is working with us on it now, too. And besides, if something goes wrong, you can just send Zan back again, a little farther back in the timeline, and try again. Sooner or later, he's gonna have to be successful." Her thoughts briefly flicked back to Nicholas. Something about their disagreement disturbed her, but she couldn't put her finger on it.

Kivar stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Under normal circumstances, I would have to agree with you. But if I became desperate enough in the future to consort with my sworn enemy, things must have gotten pretty bad. Well, no matter. Now that I am aware of it, I can begin to make appropriate adjustments in my strategy to compensate. Thank you for this information. You have done well, little one."

Tess blushed under her brother's praise. "You know that my first loyalty always lies with you, Kivar," she murmured.

"Yes, I have always been able to count on you, haven't I?" he asked tenderly.

"Always."

"Just make sure it stays that way," he said, his demeanor abruptly changing, as he admonished her harshly. "You know the penalty for betrayal."

Tess gasped. "I don't believe you! I have never given you any reason to doubt my loyalty! OOOO! You better consider yourself lucky that you aren't really here right now!"

Kivar threw back his head and laughed. "Really, now? And just what would you do to me, little one? Kick me? Bite me? You know I could overpower you in an instant."

"We- well, I'll think of something!" she raged at him. "I damned well don't have to stand here and take your abuse! I get enough of it from these royal rejects. I should have known better than to come to you for help."

"Now settle down, Tessandra. It is not fitting for a young lady to throw temper tantrums. Besides, I was just trying to stir you up. When will you learn to take a joke?"

"Kivar, up til now, my entire life has been a joke," she said painfully. "One rejection after another I have endured. I just want to know - when will the gods ever smile on me? Or am I damned for all eternity, because my brother is assumed to be the 'Warrior of Flame' written of in that infernal prophecy? Just because you burned the capital city of Antar to the ground? What kind of basis is that?"

Kivar shrugged. "You know these Antarians better than anyone, Tessandra. They are a superstitious people, prone to faith in meaningless words, penned by lunatics through the ages."

Tess snorted. "Meaningless words, huh? It seems I recall you being particularly disturbed by some of those 'meaningless words'. Is that not why you killed Zan? Because of these 'meaningless words'?"

"Would you believe, I did it to avenge you, for his heartless rejection of a marital arrangement with you?" he replied, in an attempt to evade the issue.

"Not for an instant," she snapped.

Kivar sighed. "In that case, ever hear the expression 'better safe than sorry'? I believe the application in this instance is apparent."

Tess laughed. "Yes, I suppose it is. You have never been one to leave a vulnerable spot open. If there was the slightest chance that the prophecy was authentic, you had to act on it."

"Precisely. And now, I must take my leave of you, darling sister. It uses a great deal of energy, both personal and manufactured, to communicate with you in this fashion. Please, I beg of you, find the crystal, and then bring the granilith home to me. Then you can pick up the pieces of your life, and move on."

"Yes, Kivar," she replied wearily. "I know you are right. I'll be home as soon as I can. I love you."

"Ah, little one, I love you too. Even when we don't see eye to eye, my heart is always with you. Never forget that."

"I won't. And thank you."

"For?"

"For all you have done, to help me capture Zan's heart. It isn't your fault that it isn't meant to be."

"I'm sorry for your pain, Tessandra. But I am grateful to hear you finally acknowledge the fact. Perhaps now, you can be free to find a man who will love you for the woman that you are."

"Perhaps," she agreed in a choked whisper. "Or perhaps, I'll grow old, and still be alone. Like Nicholas." She let out a shaky sigh. "I'll see you soon."

"Take care of yourself, my sister," Kivar instructed her lovingly. His image blurred, and then disappeared altogether, leaving Tess standing alone in the middle of the chamber, her arms wrapped about herself to ward off the loneliness, as she quietly wept.







posted on 26-Sep-2001 9:22:21 PM
Part Twenty-three

Several hours, and two connecting flights later, Future Max, Future Michael, and Liz arrived in Laguardia airport. Because all they had were their carry-ons, they quickly exited the terminal, and hailed a cab to Chinatown. The stranger who had been following them stood in the shadows, and watched as they piled into the vehicle. He didn't need to follow them. He knew exactly where they were headed.

When they reached their destination, Future Max pulled out his wallet, and paid the fare. Taking the bills, the cab driver scanned the bills for anything unusual. He had gotten stiffed in the past with "funny money", and had been overcautious ever since. He was just about to put the money away, when something caught his eye. "Hey, wait a minute..." he warned menacingly.

Future Michael had just shut the rear door on the driver's side, and Future Max was helping Liz out on the other side. So it was Future Michael who leaned down and looked in the window, to find out what was wrong. "Is there a problem?" he asked the cabby.

"I'll say! What kind of fruit loops are you, trying to pay me off with counterfeit bills?" he barked. "And stupid fruit loops, at that!"

Future Michael's brows snapped together in bewilderment. "Counterfeit? Those bills aren't counterfeit. What are you talking about?"

"Listen, punk, these bills are dated 2002. Just how stupid do you think I am, anyway?"

"What? Let me see those -" Future Michael snapped the bills out of the driver's hand. Future Max was looking over the roof of the car, horrified by the blunder he'd just made. He didn't know what Michael was going to do, but he wasn't sure he wanted to find out. Michael still had a bit of that "loose cannon" spirit in him, despite time having mellowed him some.

The driver started to get out of the car, his face and neck red with fury. For the split second that he was distracted, Future Michael smoothed his thumb over the date, changing it to 2000. "Don't think you are going to take the evidence and split," the driver hollered. Future Michael got his first good look at the man. He was in his late 50's, Michael guessed, and a good 5 inches shorter than himself, and rather out of shape. "You ain't goin' nowhere, until I get the authorities. They're gonna lock you up for a good, looong time," he drawled. "Counterfeiting is a felony, don't you know. Maybe when you finally get out, you'll think twice, before trying to stiff decent, hardworking folks like myself again."

Another cab pulled up to the curb about fifty yards back from them, behind several other parked cars, and the stranger emerged, watching with interest the scene playing out down the street.

Future Michael shrugged, and handed him back the bills. "I don't know what all the fuss is about," he remarked casually. "Go ahead and show those to the cops. I'm sure that they'll be locking one of us up, for sure," he continued lazily. "Although, I'm more inclined that they'll be sending you to the mental ward, than a jail cell, if that's any comfort."

"Why you smart ass! Didn't your momma teach you any manners?" By now, he looked like steam would start spurting out his ears at any moment.

"Ain't got no momma," Future Michael replied, in a pathetic voice.

That was the final straw. Thinking that he was being mocked, the man lunged at Future Michael, and began pounding on him. He had no idea the danger he was putting himself in, by attacking this particular 'punk'. But Michael indulgently took the beating, not returning the punches, but merely blocking the incoming swings, to lessen the impact.

Just then, a NYPD patrol car came into view. Max stepped off the curb, and flagged the officer down, hoping for some assistance, before things turned really ugly. The police car pulled up behind the cab, and turned on his flashing lights, hoping that would divert some of the brawlers' attention, and break things up. No such luck. He and his partner, both of whom were very well built, and appeared to be in their mid thirties, got out of the car, and walked around to the front of the cab, where the driver continued to pound on Michael. The two officers looked at each other in disbelief - at first glance, when they saw the cabby rumbling with a young guy, they figured that the cabby was being assaulted. But the sight that met them was indeed quite different. Here was this cab driver, pummeling a big, strapping guy who was slightly older than they first suspected, and the kid wasn't even attempting to fight back. Every move he made was defensive, and designed to not injure the other man in the process. They just shook their heads.

"Think we should break em up?" the driver, Officer Sullivan asked his partner, Officer Perretta.

Perretta stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I suppose it would be the decent thing to do. You know, before the old guy hurts himself?"

Sullivan sighed theatrically. "Yeah, you're probably right." He walked up to the pair, and grabbed the cabby's arm, just before his next punch landed. "Okay, you two," he said in his most authoritative tone, "break it up." At that point, the man swung around, and cuffed the officer up side the head with his other hand.

The stranger winced, and shook his head. Some people just don't have any common sense, he thought to himself.

Perretta swung into action in a blur of motion, and before the cab driver knew what was happening, he was pressed face first up against the squad car, and his hands were cuffed behind his back. Sullivan just stood there, wincing, and rubbing the side of his head.

Perretta picked up where his partner had left off. "You're under arrest, for assaulting a police officer," he informed the man. "You have the right to remain silent...." he rattled off the cabby's rights, shouting them out over the driver's loud cries of protest.

Sullivan took the opportunity to stroll over to where Future Michael had joined Future Max and Liz on the sidewalk. "So, young man, do you want to tell me what that was all about?"

Seeing the officer talking to Michael, the stranger moved in closer, listening from behind a nearby tree.

"Just a misunderstanding, officer," Future Michael said in a calm voice. "He was under some sort of mistaken impression that our money wasn't good enough for him," he added, by way of explanation.

The officer arched one brow in interest. "Is that so? And why would that be, exactly?"

Future Michael shrugged. "Beats me. The guy seems pretty high strung, if you ask me. Just our luck, to get a cab driver who is just about to go over the edge. Makes me wonder if he even brought us to the right address, you know?"

Officer Sullivan looked at him in sympathy. "I can imagine. Where were you supposed to be heading?" Future Michael pulled out a piece of paper, with the address that Zan had written on it. Fortunately, his map of the subway tunnels was on the back, away from the officer's prying eyes. "Yep, this is where you are, all right. At least you got that much going for you. Sorry for the poor reception to our fair city. It isn't all this bad, really."

Future Michael laughed. "Hey, there's crazies everywhere you go. It's just that with this many people in one place you're more apt to run into one here, right?"

"Exactly." Sullivan smiled, glad to see the kid was taking this all in stride. He looked up then, to see Perretta open the rear door to the squad car, having finished reading the driver his rights, and about to put him in the back seat.

Just then, they heard the angry accusations of the cab driver, as he yelled in their direction. "I want them arrested!" he yelled at Officer Sullivan. "They gave me counterfeit money! I was just trying to protect myself! I drove them all the way here from Laguardia, and they tried to stiff me with fake cash! A man can't feed his family like that!"

Sullivan turned to Future Michael. "Is this the 'misunderstanding' you were referring to?" he asked, with a hard look in his eyes.

"Yes, sir, it is," he answered in that same, calm voice he had used from the first. "I don't know why he thinks those bills are counterfeit. They were minted by the US Treasury, I promise." Well, it's not really a lie, he reminded himself. "Take a look for yourself," he encouraged.

Escorting Future Michael to the patrol car, where Perretta was holding the cab driver, he inquired, "Where are these alleged counterfeit bills?"

"I have them!" the cabby called back. "They're in my front pants pocket," he told Perretta. "On the right side." Perretta reached in and pulled out the bills. He looked them over carefully, and then handed them to Sullivan, waiting for his assessment to confirm his own opinion.

Sullivan, wishing to be diplomatic, asked the cabby, "And exactly what tipped you off, that these bills were phony?"

"You're kidding, right?" the cab driver sneered belligerently. "Look at the date!" he snapped sharply at the officer. "It says 2002! What else could it be, besides fake?"

Sullivan sighed. Some days were just bound to be like this, he figured. "Listen Mr., uh - what is your name?"

"Lawson. Howard Lawson."

"Yes, well, Mr. Lawson, if you'll look more closely at these bills, you will see that they were all minted in the year 2000. There is nothing wrong with these bills. They are perfectly authentic."

The stranger sighed in relief. The last thing he needed was for them to get themselves hauled off to jail.

"No! I know what I saw!" he shouted. He must have switched the bills, when he took them from me before. Check his wallet. They'll probably be in there!"

Sullivan looked apologetically at Future Michael. "I'm really sorry to do this to you, but...."

"Hey, no problem," Michael said, reaching in his back pocket. He opened his wallet to show that it was completely empty. "You see, I couldn't have switched the bills, because I didn't have any money on me to begin with. My friend Max had to pay the cab fare."

"That's right!" Howard exclaimed triumphantly. "It was the other kid that gave me the money. He probably has more in his wallet!" Future Michael panicked briefly. Why didn't he just keep his mouth shut?

"Is this true?" Sullivan asked of Future Max. Future Michael was comforted by the fact that Max seemed unrattled.

"Yes, sir, I gave him our fare."

"Would you mind - could I see your wallet?"

"Oh, of course," Future Max replied, cool as a cucumber. He handed his walled over to the officer. Sullivan opened it and rifled through the bills, some of which were 20's that sported a 1999 date, and the rest read 2000. Satisfied, he was about to close the billfold, when he spied the id behind the plastic window. "Everything appears to be in order, Mr. Phillipson. Sorry for the hassle."

"It's quite all right," Future Max said with understanding. "You're just doing your job."

"Yeah, well, some days it's easier than others," he said with a sigh. "I suppose I should be grateful for something like this, instead of being in the middle of a shoot out. That kind of stuff makes my wife nervous," he confided. "Although, comforting her in the aftermath isn't so bad...." he chuckled, and gave Future Max a knowing wink, just as he heard Liz gasp from behind him. He spun to see her blushing furiously. "Oh, I'm sorry, miss. I didn't see you there. Are you with these two alleged hoodlums?" he teased good-naturedly.

"Yes, sir, she is," Future Max answered, pulling her in close to his side. "We're kind of a unit, you might say," he confessed, smiling down at her lovingly. She buried her face in the side of his chest, embarrassed. He squeezed her tighter to himself, reveling in the feeling of her tiny frame nuzzling into his.

The stranger peeked around the tree to see Max holding Liz close. He didn't know quite what to think about this situation. Didn't these kids realize the trouble they were setting themselves up for?

"Ah yes, I remember the early days," Sullivan said with a smile. "Me and the missus have been married for fifteen years now," he added with pride. "We were high school sweethearts, married right after graduation."

"Really?" Future Max asked with growing interest. Maybe he could put some ideas in Liz's head. "Any regrets? You know, for getting married so young?"

"Not a one," he replied without hesitation. "Marrying Linda was the smartest move I ever made. I'd do it all again, if I was given the choice."

"That's great," Future Max said sincerely. He hoped that Liz was listening. He brought his other arm up, and wrapped it around her as well. Just to make sure the point wasn't lost on her.... "I'm hoping that this little lady will do me the honors in the near future. Maybe hearing your story will allay some of her fears."

Sullivan smiled. "Well, good luck with that." He noticed that Perretta had Mr. Lawson safely tucked into the patrol car, and was waiting for him. "I see my partner is ready to roll. Sorry again for the altercation. I hope you enjoy your stay."

"I'm sure we will."

"Thank you," Liz murmured from her cozy position in Future Max's embrace.

"Thanks officer." This from Future Michael, who had come to stand by Future Max again.

Sullivan tipped his cap at them, then slid into the driver's seat. Pulling out from the curb, he turned off the flashing lights.

As they stood there watching the car drive off into the distance, Future Michael broke the silence. "Welcome to New York."

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


Later that evening, Max and Future Liz headed back to town. They had had a productive evening, locating the crystal "keys" to the portals. After that, they went to River Dog's cave, and Liz showed him how to open the portal. She apologized for not being able to give him more specific details about how it worked, but assured him that the answers were in Tess' book, if they could ever get it translated. Max nodded, but wasn't quite sure how to go about extracting the book from Tess' possession. If she had killed Alex for the information it contained, surely she knew how important it was. He was uncharacteristically quiet, as he drove along the desert highway.

"Max? What are you thinking?"

"Hmm? Oh, nothing," Max answered absently. "Well, that's not entirely true," he amended. "I was wondering how to get the book away from Tess."

"Well.... now that Sheriff Valenti and Kyle know what is going on, perhaps one of them could get it for you? If she has it at the house, that is."

"You mean, ask them to steal it?"

"Well... yeah. I guess so. I mean, it isn't like she should be in possession of it anyway. If you are the king, doesn't that give you certain rights of control over your people's assets? Maybe you should like, make a royal decree that she has to hand it over to you, or something."

Max chuckled. "Yeah, I'm sure she'd honor that after all that happened today. She has to know that we are on to her by now. I haven't seen hide nor hair of her all day."

"Gee, that breaks my heart."

"I can tell." He reached across the space between the seats, and took her hand in his. "Don't worry. Everything is going to turn out all right for us. Tess can't ever come between us again."

"I wish I could believe that, Max. But you guys have history. You were married in another lifetime, for heaven's sake. No matter how much you profess to love me, that's always going to be looming in the background. I'll forever be trying to compete with her in one way or another."

"No, Liz, that isn't true. Whatever Tess and I may or may not have been before, it's over. My life is with you. And I won't let anything come between us again. Nothing."

Future Liz just smiled. She couldn't respond out loud with what she was thinking. Because in her heart, she feared that Max didn't have the power to make such a promise. She had seen first hand of the kind of treachery and deceit Tess was capable of to get her way.

"Now, on to a less volatile topic," Max said, hoping to divert her thoughts from the depressing track they were on. "Didn't you say that Tess mind-warped Alex into translating the book?"

"Yeah, she did. Why?"

"Well, she could mind-warp him to get his cooperation, but she couldn't make him do something he wasn't already capable of. So that means, somehow, Alex has the ability to translate the book. Do you have any idea how he did it?"

"Well, not the technical aspect of it, no," she said, shaking her head. "But I know that Tess had him locked away at NMSU at Las Cruces. They have some special computer there, that can decode the symbols. I don't understand all of it, and Percy explained it to me a long time ago -"

"Wait - who's Percy?"

"Oh, he was one of the students on campus. He remembered seeing Alex, described him acting totally weird and all... he took me to the computer lab where Alex had been working, and managed to find the translation that Alex had been working on. I imagine the location of the crystal that powers the granilith is mentioned in there as well, although I'm not sure. Tess had already found the crystal before we got the translation, and since I never read the book, I'm not sure what else is in there."

"Well, at least we know where to start. I'm sure that Alex will be willing to work on this for us - without being mind warped." Max ground out the last of that sentence, barely containing his fury. He still couldn't stand the thought that Alex had to die, because of Tess' scheming. In silence, he pulled up to the rear entrance to the Crashdown, and bade Future Liz a good night.

She leaned over, and gently kissed his cheek. "I may not be here tomorrow," she warned him. "If they have quick success with Zan, we may all disappear before this night is over. If that happens -" She took his face in her hands. "Have a good life, Max. And make sure that when I get back to my time, I find myself waking up every morning in your arms. Can I ask that much?"

"How could I possibly deny such a request?" he answered with a smile. They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment, and then she got out of the Jeep, and disappeared inside.

Future Liz was humming "I Shall Believe" all the way up the stairs to the apartment. She was surprised to find her mother still up, thumbing through a magazine, and drinking a cup of herbal tea. Mmmm, peppermint, 'Liz' thought, as she inhaled the aroma. "Hey, Mom," she said in greeting, smiling, and walking over to squeeze her mother's shoulders, and plant a soft kiss on her cheek. "Whatcha reading?"

Nancy Parker was stunned. Was this the same daughter who had become distant and withdrawn the last few months? She couldn't remember the last time she saw Liz genuinely smile, or show any sign of affection toward her or Jeff. "Well, just the latest issue of Restaurants USA. Nothing exciting. Just wanted to see what was new, before we leave for the convention next week." She gave her daughter a long assessing look.

"Mom? Why are you looking at me like that?" she laughed nervously. She really didn't want to have her mother figure out that she wasn't quite "right".

"I don't know, honey. You just seem... different. Happier. Like your life is back on track. Is that too much to hope for?"

'Liz' beamed. "No, Mom, it isn't too much to hope for. Actually, I haven't felt this great in months. But I don't want to jinx it by telling you anything more than that yet, okay? Ask me about it again, in a few days."

Nancy smiled at 'Liz'. "Okay, I will." She was inwardly pleased that her daughter would even consider sharing what was going on in her life. Her little girl was growing too fast, and seemed to have a life that Nancy knew little to nothing about. It scared her sometimes.

'Liz' yawned. "But for now, I think I'm going to go get ready for bed, okay? See you in the morning?"

"Sure, Liz. See you at breakfast."

With that said, 'Liz' gave her mom another quick hug, and then raced off to her room. She really wanted to be alone, because she was starting to have memory flashes of New York, and she wanted to be able to be still, and find out what was happening. She quickly changed into her nightclothes - satin shorts and a camisole - and did the bathroom routine. Freshly scrubbed, she grabbed the blanket off her bed, and climbed through the window to the balcony. After lighting several candles, she sat down in the chaise, and just as she was about to cover herself with the blanket, she heard a deep voice inquire, "Where the hell have you been?!"




posted on 26-Sep-2001 9:28:08 PM
Part Twenty-four

Future Liz nearly jumped out of her skin. "M-max? Is that you? Why are you lurking in the dark?" Her eyes nervously darted around the perimeter of the balcony, trying to ascertain his location. A shifting of the shadows in the corner by her bedroom's outer wall drew her attention. Slowly, a tall, dark figure emerged from the darkness, into the gentle candlelight. Future Liz squeaked when she saw who it was, and grabbed the blanket to cover herself. "Z-zan? What are you doing here?" She looked up into his face, and noticed that his usually amber eyes were nearly black. "Is - is something wrong?"

"I'll say something is wrong," he growled. "Where have you been all night? It's late, and I've been waiting for you for the last two hours."

"I was with Max," she said defensively, hating the way her voice trembled. She didn't want him to know how he unnerved her. Why was it, that he found her younger self so appealing, and yet could feel so hostile toward her?

"Max." Zan echoed her word with a frown on his face. "It's always Max, isn't it?" he asked sullenly.

"Wha-what do you mean?" Damn, she wished she could stop her infernal stuttering.

He came closer. "In any time, in any combination, it's always Max and Liz. Liz and Max. Do you have any idea what seeing you with him does to me?"

"N-no." She silently cursed herself for allowing him to see her fear.

He knelt beside the lounge chair, and his hot, charged gaze pierced her defenses. She felt her feminine places react violently to the searing look he gave her. And then she realized, that his eyes were possibly as much dark from passion, as they were from the low lighting. Her breath started coming in shallow pants, as if her lungs were starved for oxygen. Could he really feel that way about me? she wondered. Maybe she was reading more into it than was there.

"Well, then," he drawled, "I'll tell you what it does to me." Future Zan leaned in closer, his face mere inches from hers. "It makes me crazy. With jealousy. With need." He stared at her slightly parted lips, and imagined how they would taste. "With desire," he finished. And then his lips were on hers - coaxing, teaching, learning, tasting.....

As he whipped her into a desire-induced haze, his hand came up to slowly peel the blanket back from her scantily clad body. Then it returned, to lightly stroke her skin at her collarbone, and then oh-so-painfully-slowly, his fingers skimmed closer and closer to the top edge of her camisole, until he could outline the swell of one breast. He continued kissing her deeply, as his questing fingers followed the edge of the camisole to where it joined the strap, and hooking one finger under the string of material, he followed it up to where the it rested on her shoulder.

Aching with anticipation, he moved the thin strap slightly toward her arm, and in the place where it had just been, he placed a hot kiss, accentuated by the sensual strokes he made on her skin with the tip of his tongue. And then he moved the strap a little further, and repeated his kiss in the next spot. With master precision, he continued his thorough seduction, one little step at a time, until he wasn't sure who he was arousing more - Liz or himself. Fourteen years was way too long a time for a man of his passions to be celibate, he suddenly realized. He wasn't sure if he would be able to keep from exploding, before he had managed to completely seduce this beautiful creature.

He had come here just to talk to her, but in the long wait he had endured, things had begun to subtly change. He had needed to use her bathroom, and being inside her room had seemed somehow.... different this time. Last night, he had been a man on a mission, hell-bent on getting her to break up with Max, so that Kivar would leave him alone. A lot had happened since then. He had connected to her younger self, back at the Old Soap Factory. They had shared a very heated and passionate kiss. His fingertips had learned how soft and warm her delicate skin was. And then there was what happened between him and Max outside Michael's building....

Earlier, as he had waited for her, her scent had been an aphrodisiac, tempting and tormenting him, until he thought he would go insane. But that had done nothing to prepare him for being with her like this, holding her in his arms, loving her....

Loving her? The thought surprised him, as much as it excited him. Her sensual moans raced along his nerve endings, causing his already awakened body to tighten even more expectantly. But then, deep within, he knew that she could be sitting there reading him the Dow Jones report, and have the same effect. Something about her voice touched him in a way that nothing else could. Why? How could the sound of one person's voice have such a devastating effect on his self-control? Even hearing Ava cry out his name in ecstasy for over an hour never wreaked havoc with his senses this way.

But then, come to think of it, before now, neither had Liz. She had definitely aroused him before, but not with this kind of heightened response. Just seeing her walk out onto the balcony in that satiny outfit - being near enough to touch her - to smell her - to taste her.... that alone had brought him to the verge of climax. This obsession with her was almost... primal. And he wasn't sure where he was getting the strength of will to hold his own release at bay, in order to make her crazy with need for him, too.

"Za-a-a-an...." she moaned, threading her fingers through his hair, and gently tugging at his head in an attempt to dislodge his lips from where they hungrily tasted and explored the swell of her breast, above the edge of her top. "Zan, we have to stop, please," she begged, hoping he would give up without a fight. Because she knew if he persisted, there would be no hope. She would give in to the raging need within her, and make love to him. Even though she knew it was wrong. She couldn't help the way she responded - the way he made her feel.

Future Zan felt as though a bucket of cold water had been dumped over his head. He reeled back away from her, his rapid breathing matching her own. He muttered a curse, and Future Liz wasn't sure if it was directed at her, himself, or this insufferable situation. He replaced the strap of her camisole, and turned away from her, hoping she wouldn't see the great bulge behind his zipper - the evidence of his continued desire for her. He had made a fool enough of himself already, by allowing himself to become totally enslaved to his passion.

But had he had any other choice? Even as he asked himself the question, he knew the answer was a resounding "no." Something was happening to him - something that he had no control over, and it was frightening. When did this start? he tried to think. He knew that when he first met Present Liz, he had been intrigued. Future Liz had riled his temper the first time he encountered her, but nothing sexual. Of course, she wasn't there in the flesh, then, he remembered, wondering if that was significant. After that, he had felt a growing attraction to Present Liz, when he had kidnapped her, and later at Michael's apartment.

Then his mind returned again to the connection that he and Max had experienced. And then Liz... it was all coming back to him now. She had placed her hand over theirs, and broken the connection. But just before she did, he had felt a jolt of raw desire for her shoot through every cell in his body, it seemed. And he knew that Max had felt it, too. Ever since then, all his senses had remained enhanced - perhaps that explained why his response to Liz was also heightened? He cursed again in frustration, wanting answers, and only finding more questions at every turn.

"Zan, I'm so sorry," her soft voice expressed her remorse for his obvious discomfort. "I didn't mean - that is, I wasn't trying to tease you." He looked over his shoulder, to see her hanging her head in utter shame. "I just couldn't seem to help my response to you," she confessed. Zan snorted. "It's true," she persisted. "I probably shouldn't tell you this, but now that I know how vulnerable I am to you, I won't let us start down that road again, so I feel reasonably safe admitting..."

"Admitting what?" he ground out through clenched teeth. His self-control was hanging on by a thread.

"That I was totally at your mercy just now," she said so low, he wasn't sure he heard her correctly. "I asked you to stop, because I couldn't. And I knew that if you didn't find the strength to stop what was happening, that I would - that is, uh, we would have, uh...."

"Made love?" Zan choked out, in a hoarse voice he himself didn't recognize, as he looked again over his shoulder at her, waiting for her response. A mere nod of the head was all she could manage, but he groaned aloud at her honesty. Another muttered oath sprang from his lips, and he walked over to the edge of the balcony, preparing to leave.

When he reached the ladder, he pivoted to face her. "I should have known better than to come here," he declared, lamenting his lack of good judgment. "I merely wanted to talk to you about something, but that was obviously a mistake. How it is that a girl as young and apparently innocent as yourself could ignite my passion in the blink of an eye, I will never understand. But I am not fool enough to keep coming back for more punishment. You belong to Max, and I am destined to spend my days alone. Who knows? Maybe your lover will end up having to kill me in New York, if I turn out to be uncooperative. At least then, I will never be forced to know the years of utter desolation that have marked my life, because I will be no more."

He spun abruptly, and had moved to mount the ladder, when he heard a sob from behind him. On reflex, he craned his neck to look back toward the chaise. What greeted his eyes made his heart wrench violently in his chest. Future Liz had pulled her knees up to her chest where she sat, her face buried in them, as she rocked back and forth, weeping. He felt like a total creep for making her feel guilty. She hadn't done anything wrong, really. It was just this damnable situation. He was in love with another man's woman. Or at the very least, wildly attracted to her. But in his heart, he knew it was more than mere physical attraction.

"Liz -" he breathed her name reverently, and watched her from eyes that revealed the devastation he felt regarding her emotional state. "Baby, please don't cry...."

Future Liz was crying so hard, she never even heard him. She continued to weep as though her heart were being broken in two. Little did he know, that was exactly what was happening. All he did know, was that he couldn't leave her like this, no matter how dangerous remaining might be. He would just have to be strong, at any cost, to comfort her in her despair.

Quietly, he crossed to the lounge chair, and sat down beside her, to gather her into his arms. "Shh, don't cry. I didn't mean to make you feel guilty -"

Future Liz shuddered. She managed to look up at him, through tear-blurred eyes. "Guilty?" she whispered. "You didn't make me feel guilty, Zan."

He looked perplexed. "Then why the tears, Precious One?"

Future Liz gasped at his term of endearment. Observing her reaction, Future Zan asked, "What is it? Was it that I called you Precious One, that you are responding to?"

"I - yes," she answered, stunned herself at her response to the pet name.

"Why does that fluster you?"

"I honestly don't know."

"Odd."

"Zan? What's odd?"

"The Liz from this time period had a very similar reaction to being called that. I wonder what the connection is?"

"I'm not sure," she answered, obviously disturbed by the whole thing. "It's just that - I feel like I have been called that before, but I don't know when, or by whom. Does that make any sense?"

"No, but I have long since stopped discounting things, based on that criteria. Very little that happens to me makes sense. Like my overwhelming desire to mate with you, for example."

Future Liz was shocked by his candid statement. But then, didn't she have those same feelings for him? As much as she hated to admit it, to acknowledge she was tempted to betray Max with Zan, she couldn't deny the passion he stirred in her.

"Don't act so shocked. You yourself said that was where we were heading to. Now answer me this - why were you crying, if not that I made you feel guilty?"

Future Liz caressed the side of his face with her hand, and a shiver of delight shook her, as she felt the bristly sensation of his unshaven skin against her palm. "I was crying for you, Zan. Because I know that kind of loneliness - that private hell. I had loved Max, and then lost him. Never would there be anyone else that could take his place in my heart. I was consumed with despair. So you see, I know what you are feeling. And it breaks my heart to see someone I love have to endure that kind of suffering."

Zan became instantly still. "What did you say?" he whispered.

Future Liz looked at him questioningly. "I said I hated to see you be so lonely."

"No - what you just said. You said 'it breaks my heart to see -"

"Someone I love have to..." she started to finish the sentence, but halted when she realized what she had inadvertently confessed.

"You love me?" Zan asked tentatively.

"Yes," she replied, almost inaudibly, averting her eyes.

"Oh, God, Liz...." He cupped her face in his hands. "Do you have any idea what that means to me?" Future Liz shook her head. "Oh baby, it's my wildest fantasy come true. If you love me, will you -?" He left the question unfinished verbally, and completed it with his eyes, soft and expressive.

"Zan," she started, as tears began to flow again. "Don't you see? That is why I am upset. Because I love Max, too. And I loved him first. He will always be my first love, and no one can take his place. Not even you." A heart-wrenching sob escaped her lips. "How I wish that I could split myself down the middle, and love you both." She gave him a watery smile. "I guess I'm just a sucker for Antarian males," she joked.

Future Zan did not appear amused. "Do you feel this way about Michael, too, then?" he asked coolly.

"No, of course not -" she protested.

"Then that rules out the Antarian male theory, doesn't it?" he snarled.

"Zan, please -"

"What do you want me to say, Precious One? That I am happy and content to live my days alone, watching what equates to my twin bask in the affection of the only woman I have ever loved? Ever will love? How cruel is that?"

Future Liz was stunned to hear him profess such deep feelings for her. "Zan, I don't know what to say. But I know in my heart that a man who has as much love in him as you do, will eventually find someone to share it with. And she will be one lucky woman."

"I wish I shared your optimism. Because from where I sit, I already found her. I was just too late." He brushed a soft kiss on her cheek, tasting the saltiness of her tears on his lips, and then stood up. "Good-bye, Liz." Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, he was vaulting over the balcony wall, and descending to the alley below. When he reached the bottom, he stood silently, listening to her cry out his name in between sobs. He hoped that soon, they would all return to their own time periods, and then all of this heartache would be behind them. And then he walked away, leaving the heart he had only recently discovered he had behind.

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


Future Max, Future Michael, and Liz followed Zan's directions to the subway entrance, and descended the steps to the world of mass transit below the streets of New York. Once they were down there, they navigated their way into the tunnels that led off the subway, hugging the walls, and trying to remain hidden in the shadows as much as possible. Eventually, they reached the dupes lair.

Concealing themselves in a small, recessed area just outside the dupes living area, they cautiously studied the area, learning the layout, and looking for any signs of the other hybrids. Everything seemed exceptionally quiet, and finally Future Max gave the all clear signal to the other two, and they silently stole into the lair for a look-see. Future Max and Liz did most of the searching around, while Future Michael stood watch. They didn't find anything of any great interest, except that there seemed to be several items of alien origin, bearing some of the symbols that were present in River Dog's cave. Picking one of them up, Future Max wondered if Zan and the others were able to translate any of it.

Future Michael's sensitive hearing picked up the sounds of footsteps reverberating through the tunnels, long before any voices were heard. He simply snapped his fingers to get Max and Liz's attention, and gestured for them to return to the alcove in the tunnel outside the lair. Future Max and Liz moved swiftly, although quietly, and joined Future Michael there, waiting for the dupes to go past.

Barely a minute later, Rath, Lonnie, Zan, and Ava came tripping in, laughing and recounting their latest escapade - Ava had used a mind warp that allowed the others to waltz into the kitchen of a nearby pizzeria, and make off with three pies, and a heaping bucket of wings.

Future Max, Future Michael, and Liz all held their breath as the four dupes passed by their hiding place. Rath and Lonnie went past first, carrying the pizzas. Next came Ava, carrying the wings, quiet as usual, and Zan was just a pace behind her, on the side closest to where the three visitors were shrouded in the darkness. As he passed by, something in him was alerted that something was not quite right. But he couldn't put his finger on it. He shrugged, and continued into their main living area, and headed for the area where their cd's were stashed, next to the boom box.

He picked up a cd, and immediately got a flash of a beautiful, dark haired young woman, and his heart began to pound uncontrollably in his chest. He was certain he had never seen her before, and yet she seemed so... familiar. But why was he getting a flash of her? Who was she? He put the disc down, and picked up another one. Again, he got a flash of her. But in this one, she was smiling approvingly at something that was in her hand... a cd! She was here, he just knew it! Then he saw her hand the disc to someone else - someone that looked a lot like himself. No... it can't be... he thought. How would he know where to find us? And yet he knew in his heart, that this was the king.

He couldn't help wondering why the true king had come searching for them. A stab of fear went through him - perhaps the king wanted to do away with them, thinking they were a threat to his claiming his rightful place as King of Antar. But Zan's mind went back to the young woman. There seemed to be no malice in her. How could anything that lovely be part of a plot to kill them? He just couldn't believe it.

He set down the disc, and turned to find the others already digging in to the pizza. "Yo, Zan! You gonna eat, or what?" Lonnie called over to him.

Zan nodded, as he started to walk toward them. "Hey, Zan, weren't you gonna flick on some tunes?" Rath asked around a mouthful of pizza, seemingly annoyed that Zan had forgotten what he went over there for.

"Oh, uh, yeah, sure," Zan stammered. He walked over, picked up a cd, popped it in the player, and then went to grab a slice of New York's finest pizza. He bit a huge chunk off the end, and moaned in sensual ecstasy, as he relished the exquisite taste of his favorite food.

I wish he'd moan like that over me, Ava thought glumly. It had been bothering her, that more and more lately, Zan seemed to be merely going through the motions of sex, rather than seeking any kind of emotional interaction with her. He rarely connected to her any more during their lovemaking, if you could even call it that, opting for a normal, human climax, to the mind-blowing extended orgasms that their alien heritage provided during "connected sex". Consequently, Ava was becoming even more withdrawn than usual, feeling like a total outsider. She had never gotten along with Lonnie and Rath, and now her only reliable companion was drifting farther away from her with each passing day. She wondered just how much she could take. It was almost like Zan was dissatisfied with her - like he was hoping there was someone else out there waiting for him. Maybe that's why he has closed himself off from connecting with me, she mused. Maybe he thinks that he is sparing me knowing I don't fulfill him. Like it isn't obvious. Men. They can be so dense sometimes.

Stuffing the last piece of his slice into his mouth, Zan said, "I'm going for a little stroll. I'll be back in a few."

Lonnie and Rath looked up at him in surprise, and then Rath shrugged his shoulders. "All the more for us," he said, as he grabbed another slice. Ava watched him with concerned eyes, wondering where he was heading off to now. Lately he had taken to going off alone, sometimes for long periods of time, never saying where he went, or what he did. Or who he was with, she thought achingly.

Zan, totally oblivious to Ava's torment, turned and headed back out the tunnel. When he reached the spot where he had felt the unusual presence, he noticed that he was by a recessed area. He stepped into the darkness, and felt around, but found no one was there. He leaned up against the wall, to stop and think, and got another flash of the girl whose image was beginning to haunt him. So they were here....

He pushed himself away from the wall, and reentered the tunnel, and began to run through the semi-darkness, hoping to catch up to them.




posted on 28-Sep-2001 1:57:14 PM
Part Twenty-Five

Future Michael heard footsteps ringing in the tunnel, approaching them from behind. Being in the lead, he ducked into the next recessed area he came to, Liz and Future Max piling in behind him. They listened as they heard the footsteps grow louder, and eventually pass them by. They were just about to breathe a sigh of relief, when they heard the footfalls come to an abrupt halt. Breathing shallowly, in an attempt to remain as silent as possible, they waited and listened. The only sound they heard was a soft, squishing sound. It continued to approach their location, until it stopped opposite the entrance to their hiding place. Suddenly, they saw a soft green glow penetrating the darkness around them.

"Whoever you are, come on out of there," they heard Zan growl in a low voice.

Liz saw Future Max close his eyes, as if praying for strength, and then he began to move toward the tunnel. Future Michael's hand shot out and grabbed his arm. "What if it's a trap?" he whispered.

Future Max shrugged. "Well, we'll never know if we stay in here, will we? Take care of Liz, if anything happens," he instructed. Future Michael rolled his eyes, as if to say, "No - duh!" Max proceeded out, until he stood face to face with Zan, who had erected an energy shield around himself for protection. After all, he still didn't know what the king was after.

"So - what do you want, your highness?" Zan asked sarcastically. "Come to slay the peons, or what?" Future Max stood there speechless for a moment. "Whassa matter, Majesty, cat got your tongue?"

"Uh, no," Future Max replied. "I was just astounded that you thought I wanted to kill you. Whatever gave you that idea?"

"Oh, hell, I don't know," Zan mocked. "The fact that you are 'da man', and you wanna make sure that I don't screw you over in a power play to secure the position for myself?"

"Believe me, I'm not worried about that. After all, only one of us bears the royal seal, and that's me. Even if you managed to dispose of me, you still don't bear the King's seal. No one would take you seriously."

Zan thought about that for a minute. He knew that what Max said was true. As long as Max did, too, then he must realize that Zan was no threat. Zan lowered his shield, and walked up to Future Max. "So, what brings you to the belly of New York, then? And how did you find me?"

"Well that, my friend, is a very long story."

"I ain't your friend, yet, and I got all night."

Future Max grinned. "Don't you think that Lonnie, Rath, and Ava might miss you?"

"Nah. They're getting used to me disappearing for days at a time. I've been feeling a little.... restless lately."

"I can imagine."

"Can you, now?"
Future Max nodded. "Yeah, I used to feel that way a lot. Especially after Liz walked away from me, to allow me to fulfill my supposed 'destiny' -"

"Liz? Is that her name? The gorgeous brunette that's here with you?"

Future Max stiffened. "How do you know about her?"

"Well, you didn't make much of an effort to keep your hands to yourself, when you were in the lair," he chided. "I got flashes of you and her, when I picked up some of my cd's."

"Oh."

"So - is that Liz then? Like, who is she to you? Is she another one of us?"

Future Max smiled at the rapid-fire string of questions.. "Yeah, that's Liz. No, she's not one of us. She's human. And she's - well, I'm not quite sure what she and I are right now. And it's a little complicated, like I was saying before..."

"So talk."

"Well, my name is Max. We're from Roswell, New Mexico. But the thing is - I'm not from this time. I came back from three years in the future, to try and stop what I thought was myself, from even farther in the future, from messing with history."

"So far, so good. What's that got to do with me?"

"It turns out, that it was you that was messing with history, not me."

"Ouch."

"Exactly."

"So... I came back to now, from sometime in the future, cuz like why?"

"Well, this is the nasty part...."

"Go on."

"You came back, because Kivar sent you back, to break Liz and me up."

"Whoa, dude. Kivar? Why the hell would I do anything for that moron?"

"It seems that you got tired of him dogging you all the time, and you were constantly on the run, after Lonnie and Rath tried to kill you -"

"They what?!"

"Yes, it's true. They conspired with Kivar to kill you, and Rath pushed you in front of a truck. They left you for dead, but they underestimated your power to heal yourself. So you left New York, and went on the lam. Eventually Kivar's men caught up with you, and you cut a deal with him, just so that you could live out your days in peace."

"Damn. I never thought I would sell out to that barbarian. I confessed all this to you, then? What did you do to me when you found out - kill me?"

"No, actually, your future self is still in Roswell with my sister and friend, and the present version of me. He was the one that told us where to find you. He's hoping that you will listen to what we have to say, and decide to leave here, and come back to Roswell with us."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"Because Lonnie and Rath are going to make their move - soon. You know that summit that you got called to?"

"How'd you know about that? Oh - he told you, right?"

"No. Actually, Lonnie and Rath are going to try to assassinate you, because you refuse to go to the summit. Which, of course, would have been futile anyway, because you can't get in, unless you have the royal seal. Anyway, after they thought you were dead, they came to me, and got me to go to the summit with them."

"And you passed the emissary's test."

"Correct."

"I take it things didn't get resolved, if you are still on Earth in three years."

"No, they didn't. Kivar wanted the granilith, in exchange for passage home. Lonnie seemed way too eager, and you'll forgive me if I confess, that I don't really trust her. Not if she could kill her own brother. Not my idea of someone you can trust."

"I shoulda known somethin' was up, when she started actin' so nice toward me, after we got the message about the summit. I just thought that finally she was comin' around." Zan shook his head in self-deprecation.

"Don't feel bad," Future Max commiserated. "If it's any consolation, Isabel knows just how to wrap me around her little finger, too."

"Isabel?"

"Oh, my sister. You know, Lonnie is her duplicate."

"So you still haven't told me - how does this Liz fit in? And where is she, anyway?"

"Liz? Michael? It's okay to come out," Future Max called. The two made their way out into the tunnel, Future Michael standing in front of Liz, to protect her. Zan was amazed at how much Michael looked like Rath. "It's okay, Liz, you can come out here and meet Zan," Future Max encouraged. "I don't think he's going to hurt anyone. He just didn't know why we were here."

"I still don't - " The rest of Zan's comment died on his lips, as he watched Liz move forward, to stand by Future Max.

"Hello, Zan," Liz said softly, her eyes big and round, as she stared at the younger version of her former captor. It was then that she realized how much Zan had changed when he grew up, and moved away from the city.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Did he know this girl? Suddenly remembering what few manners he possessed, he muttered a response. "Liz." He nodded slightly in greeting.

Future Max watched with great interest, as Liz shyly averted her eyes from Zan's intense gaze. "So Zan...." he said, in an effort to break Zan's trance-like stare.

"Huh? Um, yeah, what were we talking about? Oh, right - why you're here." He tore his eyes from Liz. "Why are you here?" he asked, puzzled.

"Well, we figured that the only way to keep from Kivar from being able to change the past, is by eliminating the vehicle by which he accomplished it."

"Which is..? Wait a minute! Are you talking about me?"

"Yes."

"You - you want to kill me! Damn! And I fell right into your trap!" Using his powers, he quickly erected an energy field around himself, and spun around, intending to flee into the tunnels.

The lone figure that was hidden in the shadows, moved deeper into the darkness, to escape Zan's detection.

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


Meanwhile, back in Roswell.....

Future Zan walked around the streets of Roswell, trying to rid himself of the deep sense of loss that he was experiencing. He was angry with this whole stinkin' situation, and even more angry with himself for being angry about it. After all, he had lived 31 years on his own, never needing anyone, when along comes this sweet young thing, and suddenly he felt like someone had picked him up by the ankles and given him a good shake. It was insane. Not to mention a little perverse. He was almost twice her age. And they weren't even the same species, for Pete's sake. Not that that stopped Max Evans from gettin' the girl....

He sighed. The most he could hope for at this point, was for Liz to find his younger self, and bring him back here. Maybe things will be better for me that way, he thought. Who knows what that future might bring? He couldn't help feeling that it couldn't be any worse than the one he had already lived through.

Feeling somewhat more resigned to the situation, he headed back to Michael's apartment.

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


"Zan! Wait!" Liz cried out in desperation.

Zan froze in his tracks. Something in her voice tugged at him, like a distant memory. But of course, that was ridiculous. He had never met this human female before. So what was it that drew him to turn back and face her? Instantly, his eyes locked with hers.

Totally captivated by the young man in front of her, Liz stepped closer to him, until she was almost to the leading edge of his energy shield. As if in a hypnotic trance, she raised a hand toward it, her eyes unblinkingly glued to Zan's.

Suddenly comprehending Liz's intent, Future Max and Future Michael yelled in unison, "No, Liz!". They both surged forward, hoping to block what she was about to attempt.

They didn't quite make it. Her extended hand came in contact with the shield, and Future Max's anguished cry rang through the tunnels. "Nooooo!!" he wailed, as Future Michael screamed, "Liz!!"

But it was they who came to a grinding halt, as they witnessed something totally phenomenal. For instead of being jolted and thrown by the energy in the shield, her hand merely rested on the face of the barrier Zan had erected. And when she did, it's eerie green glow changed and softened to a pale blue. "My God, Liz...." Future Max whispered in awe. He and Future Michael stood paralyzed, as she hesitantly walked closer to the blue energy, so that her arm was no longer stretched out, but almost flush with her body.

The stranger peered out from his hiding place to see what was wrong, figuring that everyone's attention was otherwise occupied. He stood transfixed by the scene unfolding before him.

Liz was feeling cautious. But not out of fear of being harmed. Instinctively, she knew that she was safe. But she was concerned that if she were too bold in her movements, Zan might get frightened, and run from her. She needed to let him know that he was safe, as well.

Zan was stunned. How could this small, human female maintain prolonged contact with his shield and live? Even Rath knew better than to come in contact with it. He had gotten knocked soundly on his butt once, and that was all the lesson he had needed. But this girl had no fear, and rightly so. His shield was no threat to her. How did she do that? How did she know she could? he wondered. And why did its strength increase, when it came in contact with her?

Seeing the confusion and curiosity in his eyes, Liz began to move forward again, one slow step at a time. Her second step brought the entire front of her body in contact with the shield, and Zan stood wide-eyed, to see her take yet another step, breaching through it as though merely walking through water. It's energy ebbed and flowed around her, swirling around to encompass the length of her body from behind. Almost as if providing protection for her, instead of against her.

One more step, and she was completely inside its circumference, and its surface once again became smooth, returning to its normal green hue. Liz searched Zan's face for any signs of fear, and found none. He was completely fascinated with her. Confident that he would no longer retreat from her, she took the few steps required to bring her directly in front of him. She tipped her head back slightly, in order to maintain her eye contact with him.

She raised her left hand, palm out, and fitted it to his right hand, which was creating the shield. For a brief moment, the energy fluctuated, and then the color grew brighter and more intense, changing again to the blue color, as the power in it surged to a new level.

"Who are you?" Zan asked in a hushed voice filled with wonder.

"I- I'm just a girl from Roswell, New Mexico. Nothing more."

"That's impossible. What you just did is impossible. You should be dead right now. And how could any mere human increase the power of my shield so dramatically? There has to be an explanation."

"If there is, I'm unaware of what it is," she replied simply. "But that isn't my main concern now. I need to help you to understand, that we are not here to hurt you. When Max said he wants to eliminate Kivar's vehicle for altering the past, he didn't mean eliminate as in kill you. What we want to eliminate is you being put into a position where you would choose to help Kivar. So, we are here to ask you to join with us - to come back to Roswell with us to live. You'll be safe there from Lonnie and Rath, and if we band together, you won't ever be cut off and all alone, leaving you vulnerable to Kivar. We also figure, that working together, we stand a better chance of defeating him, and securing freedom for your world. Don't you agree?"

"H-how do I know you are telling me the truth? This tale about me coming back from the future to alter this present timeline is pretty wild. I'm not sure that I believe a word of it. I need some proof."

Future Max called to him from the other side of the shield. Zan looked over the top of Liz's head to where Max was standing. "The only solid proof we have, would be for you to meet your future self. But that is impossible. If the two of you were to come in contact with each other, you both would be destroyed immediately."

Zan scowled, apparently dissatisfied with that response. "Then I don't see how -"

"Wait." At the sound of her voice, Zan's attention snapped back to Liz. "There may be a way."

"Tell me."

"We'll need to connect," she informed him.

Zan looked at her incredulously. "Connect? Have you ever done that?"

Liz nodded. "Many times. I used to get flashes from Max all the time."

"Used to? But no more?" Why did the sound of that make his heart race a little faster?

"It's been a while. There have been.... circumstances that prevented us from being together. Hopefully, those issues have been resolved."

Zan shook his head, as if to clear his mind. "I'm confused by all of this. How did you come to be able to connect with Max? And how did you find out that he's not fully human? That doesn't seem like the type of information he would be broadcasting."

"No, it is a secret that we guard very closely. And even then, we have had some pretty harrowing experiences with the Special Unit of the FBI." Zan's eyes went wide, but he remained silent, attentively waiting for the rest of her explanation. "Anyway, I found out about Max, when I was wounded in a shooting, and he saved my life. That was when we first connected - he got a series of flashes from my past. When I confronted him for answers, and found out about his heritage, he purposely tried to reverse the connection, so that I could see him - who he really is on the inside. Ever since then...." For the first time since she entered his sphere of protection, she looked away in embarrassment.

"Since then, what?" he prodded, his breath lightly fanning over her still upturned face.

Liz turned crimson. "The, uh, way we connect.... we, um, it happens when we..." She tried to swallow past the lump in her throat.

Zan smiled. He knew where this was going. "It's okay, Liz. I know what you're trying to say." Inwardly, he had to admit he was excited by the prospect. No other woman had ever captured his interest the way she did.

She looked up at him nervously. "You - you do?"

Zan simply nodded. Holding her gaze, he leaned in and lightly pressed his lips against hers. He felt a jolt clear to the soles of his feet. His eyes went wide at first, and then he increased the pressure, swimming in the heady feeling he got from that simple contact.

Outside the sphere, Future Max's hands clenched at his side, as Zan kissed Liz. He knew that Liz was doing it for information transfer purposes, but still. Did Zan have to appear to enjoy it so much? Then Max brought himself up short. Well, why wouldn't he enjoy it? After all, she turns my blood to liquid fire, when she kisses me.... That thought really got him agitated. What if Zan was having the same kind of response?


posted on 30-Sep-2001 6:11:21 PM
Part Twenty-six
Just as he reached Michael's place, Future Zan started getting flashes of new memories. Leaning against the building, he felt the thundering of his heart when young Zan first discovered that they weren't alone in the tunnels. His breath quickened in fear, with the memory of going after the intruders. He only wished that his younger self knew what he did about these people, and why they were there. He could practically taste the terror the memories brought.

Future Zan entered Michael's apartment. He found Michael sprawled on the couch, watching TV. "Hey Zan," Michael said distractedly, without looking up, obviously absorbed in whatever he was watching.

"Hey. Listen, you got a second?"

Michael looked up in surprise. "You wanna talk?"

"Yeah, if you don't mind?"

"Uh, sure, that's fine..." He hit the remote, and the screen went blank. "What's up?"

"Well, first, I thought you'd like to know that they found the lair." Zan closed his eyes in concentration for a minute. "In fact, Max just met my younger self."

"How'd you - oh, are you like getting new memories now or something?" Zan nodded. "Cool. Guess this will be over soon, then, huh?" Michael looked at Future Zan, trying to gauge his feelings on the subject.

"Guess so," Future Zan mumbled.

"So.... is that all you wanted?"

"No - actually... did I understand that you have a drawing of those symbols from the cave?" he asked.

"Yeah, I got 'em -" Michael looked questioningly at Zan. What could he possibly want with that sketch?

"Well, if they are successful, I won't be here much longer. I thought that maybe I could give you a head start on developing a translation. I'm sure I'll recognize some of the symbols. I managed to get Nasedo to teach some of them to me when I was younger."

"You're kidding! Wow, that would be great. Hang on, I'll go get it..." Michael leapt off the couch, and made a mad dash for his bedroom. Opening the night stand drawer, he pulled out a notebook and pen, and raced back to the living room. He pulled the folded sheet of symbols out of the notebook, and handed it to Zan. "Well? Do you recognize any of them?"

Future Zan quickly scanned the page. "Yes, I do. Okay, let's start here -" He proceeded to point out a symbol, and explain its significance. "This represents the Whirlpool galaxy, of which our solar system is a part." Then he pointed to another character. "This symbolizes Earth's orbit around the sun...." Suddenly, he grew very still.

Michael sat watching him intently, assuming that something must be happening in New York, to capture his attention so thoroughly.

"Oh my God, Liz...." Zan whispered. His eyes closed, and his breathing became more labored.

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


On the balcony above the Crashdown Cafe, Future Liz sat trembling in her lounge chair. Emotionally exhausted from her encounter with Future Zan earlier, she felt almost numb inside. She was just about to go back into her room and go to bed, when the memories of Present Zan began to assault her.

She was amazed at the way she felt, walking through the shield that Zan had erected around himself. Besides the physical sensation of the current lapping around her body like waves, she had this incredible feeling of being almost invincible, once she and Zan's hands connected, and the shield's power increased.

As her younger self was drawn into a kiss with Zan, however, she no longer felt so invincible. In fact, she felt as if she might fall to pieces on the spot. All the heartache from earlier that evening came back to her in a rush.

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


Nothing he had ever shared with Ava had prepared young Zan for this moment. Emboldened, he thrust his free hand into Liz's hair, pulling her head closer so he could deepen the kiss. His eyes drifted shut, and he groaned, as he lost himself in the sensations washing over him. Then something truly remarkable happened.

Instantly, the energy in the shield began to pulse and crackle, and the color turned bluish-white, almost like... lightning, the spherical area it encased expanding to twice its previous diameter. The air in the immediate vicinity became charged, and the hair on Future Max and Future Michael crackled with static. They jumped back to a safer distance. Future Max was pretty certain at this point that Zan was reacting to Liz's kiss exactly the way he had. Without realizing it, his fists clenched and unclenched at his sides, as he fought to control his jealous rage. The only thing that kept him sane, was knowing the depths of Liz's feelings for him.

The hidden man smiled with satisfaction, and had to suppress the urge to let out a whistle of appreciation. He hadn't counted on anything like this happening. This was better than his wildest imaginings. Which led him to marvel at the possibilities of what other surprises might be in store. He wondered if she had the same kind of ability with the king, though. After all, he had seemed thoroughly frightened for her to come in contact with Zan's shield. Perhaps they had just never explored the possibility before?

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


Anxiety was beginning to get the better of Michael. What was happening to Liz? Was she okay? "Zan -"

Future Zan held up a hand to silence Michael. He was completely enthralled in the vision playing out in his head. He couldn't believe what Liz had done. In all his 31 years, he had never seen anyone capable of what she just pulled off. He gasped, when he realized that his younger self intended to kiss Liz. This mixed in with his erotic memories of what he and Future Liz had shared earlier. As the new memories flooded him, his mind was once again overwhelmed by her taste, her touch, her scent....

Michael wasn't sure what was going on, but the changes in Zan's expression were unmistakable. He looked like a man who was getting very... Oh my God! With Liz?!? Where the hell is Future Max? "Zan!" Michael slapped Zan's arm, trying to bring him back to the present. Zan's eyes popped open, looking dazed, and dark with desire. "What is going on?!" Michael demanded.

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


With a rush, the connection was formed between Zan and Liz, intensified by the power flowing through both of them, binding them in a way neither of them had ever experienced. Zan was amazed, as images of an older version of himself appeared to Liz, then conspired with Tess to kidnap her. He nearly gasped, as he watched himself take liberties with an unconscious Liz, and then realize that she hadn't been unconscious at all. He was amazed to feel just how much she had been affected by his touch, his kiss. He was humbled by her basic belief in the goodness in him - no one had ever had that kind of faith in him before. He felt her hurt, when she thought that she had offended him, and his responding... compassion? That was something new. He couldn't recall ever feeling compassion for anyone in his life.

Slowly, he began to notice the changes in his older self, and simultaneously, those changes began to take root in him as well. He felt as if a hard outer shell around his heart was being smashed, revealing a more.... human nature within him. It was unsettling, but at the same time, liberating. As if a fundamental part of him had been asleep all his life, and was just now waking up. His kiss gradually became bolder, hungrier, and the hand that had been tunneled in her hair now slid to the middle of her back, as if under its own will, to press her body into closer contact with his own.

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


The flush on Future Zan's face turned bright scarlet, as he stammered, "I, uh, Liz, that is, we, um.... oh God!" Zan jumped up from the table, overturning his chair, and made a beeline to the bathroom. But not before Michael noticed the obvious bulge behind the fly of Zan's pants.

Michael just sat there, staring at the closed door, wondering what had just happened. When he heard the shower turn on, he felt his fists clench in rage. Had Zan and Liz had sex? He shuddered to think what that would do to Max, if he found out. And what had happened to Future Max and Future Michael? If Future Zan was still here, obviously they must be too. How could they let this happen, when they knew how much was at stake? Their lives, the freedom of their people, their own happiness - all of it hinged on the success of this mission.

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


As the flashes continued, Zan was amused to see himself, and a younger version of the Max he had just met, chafing with each other over their feelings for this little brown eyed beauty. He also felt Liz's tension in response to those outbursts of male posturing. He was touched at her care and concern for his feelings, as he struggled to deal with his fear at meeting Lonnie's dupe.

The flashes suddenly ceased, and Zan reluctantly ended the kiss. Liz removed her hand from his, and at once, the shield returned to it's normal intensity. Zan lowered his hand, stopping the flow of energy.

Future Max surged forward, gathering Liz in his arms, raining kisses over her face and hair. "Oh God, sweetheart, you gave me a heart attack! Are you okay?" He fussed over her, while at the same time shooting killing glances over her head in Zan's direction.

Liz nodded her head against his chest.

"How did you do that?" he rattled on. "How did you know you could? I've never seen anything like that!"

"I don't know," she mumbled against his shirt front. "I just did. It was instinctive."

"Some instincts," Michael snorted. "A moth to a flame kind of thing, don't you think?"

Wrapping her arms tighter around Future Max, and snuggling closer to him, Liz responded, "I can't explain it, Michael. I just knew I'd be safe. Now, can we drop it? It's over, and I'm safe and sound, no worse for the wear."

"Fine," Michael agreed, grudgingly. Future Max was stroking Liz's hair, and relishing the feeling of having her in his arms again.

Zan, however, was watching this whole exchange with more than just a little jealousy. In all his life, no one had cared for him the way these three seemed to care for each other. A good deal of the time, Lonnie and Rath seemed like they'd be happier if he weren't around. A pain pierced him, when he realized that was exactly what they thought of him, and eventually they would act on it, if he stuck around. Ava was the only one that seemed to care for him at all, but something told him that the only reason she did, was because he was the only one that treated her halfway decently. But she had suffered emotional abuse from him, too, what with his indifferent attitude about their relationship. He couldn't help it though. Despite her apparent devotion to him, he didn't trust her in the least. And that was no kind of a basis for a relationship.

All his life he had battled this loneliness, but it had become more and more oppressive in recent weeks. And yet, when he held Liz and kissed her, the sense of isolation disappeared. In those moments, it felt as if he had finally found a reason for existing. And yet, he knew that it could never be. This woman belonged to someone else. Was that his destiny, then? To always be alone? He had been resigned to such a fate, before tonight. But now, having touched and tasted heaven, how could he go back? It was one thing to do without something you never had. To live without it, once you knew what it was you were missing, was another matter altogether.

He was so absorbed in his own private hell, that he didn't hear Future Max calling his name, at first.

"Zan?"

"Huh? What?"

"Did it work? Did you see what you needed to, in order to know we are telling you the truth?"

"Uh, yeah, I did," he grumbled, looking away.

"So? What do you think?" Max pressed.

"Think?" Zan asked in astonishment. Surely Max was kidding. After a kiss like that, who could think?

Liz approached Zan, and took his hand in hers, threading their fingers together. "What Max is trying to ask is - will you come back to Roswell? Will you leave all of this behind, and join us?"

Zan stared at her for a moment. He almost wanted to laugh. Just what was the "all this" that she thought would be so hard for him to walk away from? Especially considering what he'd be walking toward. He knew he wanted to join her. But he wasn't so sure about the rest of them. What would they expect of him? "I don't know," he replied hesitantly.

Future Max reached out to clasp Zan's shoulder. When he did, Zan's shoulder appeared to pass right through Max's hand. Zan looked at Max with fear and confusion, but Max smiled. "I'm glad to see that you are seriously contemplating our offer. You see, if you agree to return to Roswell, Michael and I will disappear. We will have succeeded in changing your future, and thereby securing our own. When that happens, there will no longer have been any need for us to return to this time period, so we will return to our own time, and it will be for us, as if we never were here at all."
Realizing that he was teetering on the edge of giving in, Liz looked up into Zan's face. "We need you, Zan." Her brown eyes pleaded with his, as they searched for some sign of hope. "Please?"

Zan was speechless. No one had ever needed him before. But here was the one woman he had found that he could love, telling him she needed him. And in that moment Zan knew - regardless of whether he could ever be with her, as a man is with a woman, he had to be near her. Because somehow she completed him. He realized that the reason he had been so restless as of late, was because a part of him was longing for something he couldn't name - and that something was Liz. He looked at the expectant faces of Future Max and Future Michael, and then dropped his gaze to Liz's upturned face. For the first time in his life, he had found someone he knew he could trust. And that was worth more to him than anything else he could think of. His free hand lifted to her face, and he traced his index finger gently down the side of her face. "All right, Liz. I'll come."

A shiver ran up Liz's spine. She instinctively knew an important change had occurred. She spun around, to see that she and Zan were now alone. Liz felt a sense of loss - what had passed between herself and Future Max was special, and now he was gone, without a trace of evidence that he had ever been here. She stood staring at the spot where Future Max and Future Michael had just been, and then she was aware of Zan's hand coaxing her to turn back toward him. As she did, she looked up at him. Instantly spellbound by the depth of emotion radiating through his eyes, she realized that something major had taken place inside him.

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


Back in the apartment, Michael continued to listen to the water run. Instinctively, he knew that it was a cold shower that Zan was taking. But sheesh - how long could it take for the guy to cool off? He had already been in there for nearly ten minutes. He got up and went to the bathroom door and knocked. "Zan?" No response. "Hey Zan! How long you gonna stay in there?" Total silence. Michael tried the knob - unlocked. He opened the door, and called in again. "Zan - what's going on?" When he still heard nothing, he self-consciously walked over to the shower, and drew back the curtain. The cold water was running full blast - but no one was there. He stood immobilized for a moment, as the significance of this situation registered. They had been successful. Zan was going to be coming home with Liz. But all of a sudden, he wasn't so sure this was a good idea any more. He shook off this foreboding feeling, turned the shower off, and headed over to the Evans' house.

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


Once Zan and Liz's kiss had ended, Future Liz burst into a fresh flood of tears. Wasn't it torture enough, to have to turn away from him once that night? To be wracked with guilt? Did she have to be tormented afresh, with memories of what it was like to kiss him? To be held close to him? And the worst of it was, unlike the memories she had of Future Zan, these memories she would carry with her into the future. As she wept, hugging her knees close to her chest, her sobs abruptly ceased to fill the night air. Because she was gone.

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


"So - what happens next?" Zan asked Liz. "I mean - your friends are gone - it's just the two of us now."

Unable to tear her eyes from his, she answered, "We go home. Home to Roswell. We just have to get my bags out of the alcove over there...." But she made no attempt to move. It was as if she were held captive by his gaze.

His finger traced her cheek once more, and then hooked under her chin, to hold her face still. "Before we go...." he said softly, and then swooped down to engage her in a passionate kiss.

Liz was helpless to resist. She eagerly returned his affection, giving as good as she got. She felt Zan wrap his arms around her, and pull her in close - so close, that she was fully aware of the changes his body was undergoing. Instead of being frightened or repelled, although some dim corner of her mind knew she should be, she secretly thrilled to know that he was as affected by their kiss as she was. When he lifted her up against himself, though, she knew she had to put the brakes on, before it was too late. She gently pulled her mouth from his, running her tongue over his lips one last time, and savoring the taste of him.

"Liz?" he asked, between panting breaths. "Why? Why did you stop?"

"Oh, Zan, you know why. What we're doing - this can never be. I belong with Max, and I think you know that."

Zan's eyes lowered in shame. Shame? When the hell had he ever been ashamed of anything before? "I know. It's just - in the short amount of time that I have known you, you have managed to turn my whole world upside down."

"I- I'm sorry. If there were any other way - I just don't want to leave you here, at Rath and Lonnie's mercy." Then she remembered Ava. "Oh - is it Ava? Do you - are you going to miss her?" She was annoyed to feel a pang of jealousy at the thought.

Zan smiled, to think that Liz was worried about him. He kind of liked the idea. "Oh, no - I wasn't referring to leaving. Are you kidding? I'm thrilled to be gettin' outta this rat-infested hell hole. And as for Ava, there is nothing there between us." Not like I feel for you, anyway, he thought. "No, I mean you have shaken me up emotionally. I never expected to experience anything approaching these kinds of emotions. All I could think of before, when we connected, was that it was like a hidden part of me was starting to wake up for the first time. Because of you, I feel more alive than I ever have. It's like my life finally began, when we connected. I don't know why, but everything within me responds to you, Liz. It's like you are the other half of me," he revealed with great conviction.

"No, Zan, you mustn't -" She inwardly cringed, recognizing Zan's description as being perilously close to something that Max had once told her.

He silenced her with a brief kiss. "Don't worry, Precious One. I know where your heart lies, and I won't try to change your mind. But please tell me honestly - don't you feel something special between us?"

"I can't lie to you, Zan," she returned. "I do feel a strong connection to you. I mean, what happened here...." she drifted off in the middle of the sentence, just remembering what it had been like, walking through his shield, connecting with him.

Zan smiled at her lovingly. "I know. It was pretty awesome, wasn't it?"

Liz couldn't help but smile back. "Yeah, it was. But a little unnerving, looking back at it. I just wish I understood."

Zan brushed a wisp of hair off her cheek. "That would be ideal, but we don't always get ideal. Sometimes we just have to go with the flow, and hope that someday it will all make sense."

"You're right, of course." She laced her fingers with his again. "Come on. Let's get my stuff, and get out of here."

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


In the pod chamber, Tess finally cried herself out. Wiping away the last of her tears with the back of her hand, she stood, and began to pace. Think, she commanded herself. There must be some way to accomplish my task. But how? Max will know what I have been planning, and I'll be lucky if he doesn't kill me on sight. I'm not so sure that he isn't aware in some way when I am mind warping him, either. There just has to be another way....

Suddenly, a devious grin spread across her face. Indeed, there was another way. She mentally calculated the most advantageous time to proceed with her plan, and realized that it had to be the following evening. Good. That will give me time to thoroughly plan my attack....

With a renewed sense of purpose, she left the chamber, and headed back to the Valenti home.


posted on 1-Oct-2001 8:11:12 PM
Epilogue

Three years in the future....

Liz was sobbing uncontrollably in her sleep. Gentle hands shook her, and called for her to wake up.

"Liz? Baby, come on, wake up. It's just a bad dream. Come on, Precious One, let go of it, and come back to me...."

Liz fought her way to consciousness, to awaken in a pitch dark room. Where was she? She felt terribly disoriented, and jumped, as strong arms wrapped around her from behind. Think - who is in my bed?

A soft, soothing, yet somewhat breathless voice murmured in her ear, "What was it about, my love? Do you remember?"

Instantly, she relaxed, when she heard his voice. She noticed that she, too, was breathing more shallowly than normal, as if she couldn't get quite enough air. "No," she whispered shakily. "It was so real... and I felt such despair. But that's all I can remember. I don't know what it was about, or who was in it. It is so frustrating."

He sure knew what that felt like. He tugged at her, until she rolled over to face him. He pulled her close, and began to kiss her - lazily at first, and then with more determination and hunger, as his desire for her quickly flared. He must have been a fool when he was younger, thinking that having her in his bed every night would ease the urgency of his desire for her. If anything, it had grown worse. Pausing for a moment to catch his breath, he asked teasingly, "Would you like me to help take your mind off of it?"

"Just how do you propose to do that?" she asked coyly. She gasped, as his roving fingers found their target with skillful precision.

"Do you think this would be effective?" he inquired with a slight chuckle.

"Ve-ery e- effec- aaahhh - effective...." She shuddered violently.

He laughed out loud. "I thought you might say that."

And so, her nightmare was forgotten.

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


Fourteen years in the future......

Zan woke with a start. His body seemed to be having some sort of strange reaction. He couldn't quite seem to catch his breath. His teeth were chattering, because he was so very cold. And yet oddly enough, he was extremely.... aroused.

As he lay shivering, he felt the mattress sway, and suddenly warm flesh was smoothed along the entire length of his side, and a soft, slender arm came to rest across his lower abdomen. Still sleeping, her body moved against his in a barely perceptible quest to be even closer. He instinctively wrapped his arms around the petite form, still in a haze, not quite sure what he was doing. Or who he was doing it with....

"Zan, baby?" He heard the sleep still thick in her voice. "What's wrong? Why are you shivering?"

The sound of her voice instantly put his spirit at peace, even though his body was in turmoil. "C-cold, so cold. Need heat...." He pulled her closer.

"Zan? Are you sick?" Now her voice sounded wide awake, and very worried. They never got sick.

"I - I don't know. Just so cold...."

As she shifted position, her arm accidentally drifted a little lower. And came into contact with the evidence of his arousal. "Well... not all of you is cold," she remarked with a grin. He could hear the teasing in her voice.

"So it would seem," he shot back with a chuckle. "Baby, help me warm up." His shudder shook the whole bed.

"Mmmm. Now there's an offer a girl just can't refuse...." Her skin glided over his, until she lay over him like a blanket, offering to share her body heat with him. "There. Is that better?" she asked seductively.

"Oh - oooh yeah," he groaned, as she wiggled around, trying to get comfortable. His arms clamped around her, and embraced her tightly, to still her movements. "You certainly know how to heat me up in a hurry," he gasped. "Please, Precious One, be still, before you drive me over the edge."

"Mmmmm.... would that be so unpleasant?" she purred.

"No, but I am afraid that I would not be in top form right now, if you take my meaning. And that's a trip I'd rather not take alone," he concluded, lifting his face to give her a kiss.

"My bags are packed, when do we leave?" Her eyes twinkled with the promise of paradise.

Thanks to the moonlight streaming in the window above them, he could clearly see the hunger in her eyes, and the near feral grin that covered her precious lips. Just seeing that look, his strength began to return. Amazing, what the prospect of touching heaven could do for a guy.

Seeing him regard her with such loving scrutiny, her smile slowly faded, and she returned to her earlier inquiry. "Zan? What happened? This isn't about being sick, is it?"

"No, it isn't. I had a rather disturbing dream, which for the life of me I can't remember. And you just happened to witness the after effects of it. I just need a little time to recover, and come back to my senses."

"All right," she grudgingly acquiesced with a pout. "But at least let me shower you with my love. Perhaps that will help your recuperation process?"

She took the long, smooth strokes of his hands as they caressed her bare back and buttocks as permission to proceed. Slowly, she rained warm, wet kisses over his abs, chest and neck, alternating with tender love nips. It wasn't long, before he pulled her up his body, and imprisoned her lips with his. Her moan reverberating against his lips drove him wild, and soon, she was healing him in the most profound way.

The End.

A sequel is on the way. I realize that there are still WAY too many questions, and that there needs to be answers! But now that all the futures have returned to their own times, the concept of "Double Jeopardy" will take on a different meaning. We have corrected the atrocities that were visited upon us in season 2 (most of them, anyway!), and now our attentions must turn to rewriting the ensuing months after EOTW. At this point, Max and Liz know WAY more than they did the previous two go-rounds, so it should be interesting to see where that leads them. We also have the prophecy, which Kivar and Tess eluded to, to consider.

The name of the new fic is "Double Jeopardy II: Echoes of Hope." (I may not be able to fit the whole title in the space allotted on the board. If not, I will abbreviate to "DJ2: Echoes of Hope.")

Here is the Link: viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=1138

Email: fanfic⊕twcny.rr.com

AIM: sheeperz61

MSN: sheeperz⊕hotmail.com




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 16-Jul-2002 5:54:03 PM ]