posted on 7-Sep-2001 10:55:07 AM
Sins of the Father

Author: Kath7

Category: M/L

Disclaimer: I own nothing. I am borrowing the characters from Roswell and the lyrics from Sarah McLachlan with thanks.

Summary: Post-Departure. Dealing with that damn baby (innocent/shminnocent - it’s the spawn of Tess…its just gotta be all bad) and that damn Sean Deluca.

Author’s Note: This story alternates pov from Liz to Max with each part. Each part is entitled for a Sarah McLachlan song, with whom I identify the good ol days of Max and Liz. Thanks to Angel Parker for the banner.

Sins-Of-The-Father

Part 1 - Black and White (Liz POV)

Unravel me,
Distant cord.
On the outside is forgotten
Constant need to get along
And the animal awakens
And our love feels black and white.

The road is long and memory slides
To the whole of my undoing
I put aside
I put away
I push it back
To get through each day
And all I fell is black and white
And I’m wound up small and tight.

Everybody loves you when you’re easy,
Everybody hates you when you’re a bore,
Everybody is waiting for your entrance
Don’t disappoint them.

Unravel me
Untie this cord
The very centre of our union
It’s caving in.
I can endure
I am the archive of our failures
And all I feel is black and white
And I’m wound up
Small and tight
And I don’t know who I am.

Don’t disappoint them.

Sarah McLachlan

I am in my bedroom, staring at myself in the mirror which hangs over my dresser.

I don’t look any different than I did yesterday. Shouldn’t I be able to see it? Shouldn’t I be able to see the shame written all over my face - shame that I gave in to Max Evans again, that I let him stomp all over my heart for weeks and then the minute he told me that he loved me, I fell right back into his arms?

I am so weak. I know it. All my friends know it. Everyone knows it.

And they all want me to be. They want me to let things return to normal, want Max and I to get back together - they want everything to go back to the way it used to be, before it all happened, want to pretend that none of it ever happened, that we didn’t almost let one devious, back-stabbing blonde witch destroy everything that we all used to share.

I know its what they all want.

I don’t know what the heck I want.

When I spoke to Maria on the phone last night, she had sounded a little distracted. I could hear Michael talking to Mrs. Deluca in the background, so I didn’t really blame her, but I couldn’t help but feel that she was being a little dismissive of what I was feeling - which was like a complete failure.

After two weeks of having one thing to live for - finding Alex’s killer - now all I had left was the disaster that Max and I had allowed our relationship to become. And all I really wanted to do was to forgive him, to move on, to BE with him. At least that’s what I thought I wanted.

I had ALSO wanted Maria to talk me out of it. She had not been helpful.

"Liz, no one will blame you chicca." Maria had told me. "You love Max. You know he loves you. If you had just told him that all those months ago…"

I had interrupted her. "Are you trying to tell me that this is all my fault?"

Maria had sighed heavily. "It’s not your fault Liz. It’s his fault. Future Max’s. He came back and caused all this chaos and left you to clean up the mess. Its her fault too, that little murderous tramp, but I won’t even go there, because you already know it!" I could almost see Maria’s chest heaving with indignation. I could hear her taking a deep breath and she sounded a little calmer when she said, "You have every right to be with Max, to explain it all to him. You have every right to forgive him. He has to be given a chance to try and fix this. Because you know that none of this was HIM. This is not how he was supposed to turn out. Don’t let her win by not giving him a second chance."

"This isn’t how I’m supposed to turn out." I had muttered back. But I could tell that she wasn’t really listening to me. She had the mouthpiece half covered, but I could hear her whispering to Michael. "Bye Maria."

"Oh, bye Liz. Listen, I’ll talk to you about this tomorrow, okay?"

"Whatever." But she was already gone.

Well, its tomorrow and I still don’t know what to do. And I promised Max I would talk to him today.

When we had said good-bye yesterday, after getting back from watching Tess blast out of our lives, neither of us really knew what to say. We both knew that we had a lot of stuff to talk about, but it just seemed so exhausting at the time. We had agreed that we would talk today, try and sort this all out.

But I’m not ready. I know that now. Because I have no idea what I want to do. I am completely torn in two directions…

And its all because of the baby.

The baby that exists out in the universe somewhere, the one that was supposed to be MY baby, because Max is MY soulmate, the one that Max is determined to find.

I think I could have forgiven him for the sex. Really. I mean, he thought I had done it with Kyle, he didn’t know that Tess was a manipulative weasel, thought that she was his destiny, had started to remember what he had shared with her in another lifetime (although how he could have EVER loved her makes me wonder if him loving me is such a gift after all - but I digress).

Max thought that we were completely finished. I had told him as much at the prom.

It’s not the sex. It’s the fact that I know that if he ever finds Tess’s child, I am never going to be able to accept it.

I know that it is completely irrational, that the baby is innocent, that a baby can’t be blamed for the sins of its parents, but I can’t help but hate it. I hate that it exists, hate that if I do get back together with Max and we ever have children, this other kid will be around, always reminding me that, for one brief period of time, Max did not love me anymore. I will have to explain to my children that their father once stopped loving me.

I hate myself for hating it. I do. And I hate Max because I hate myself for hating it.

It is just so ironic that the night that Max and I were supposed to have sex for the first time, he had protection. Future Max had told me as much. It meant that Max hoped that he would get the chance to use it, that he wanted to use it with ME.

The fact that he didn’t have it with him when he slept with Tess just makes me more mad. Because it means that he had absolutely no intention of sleeping with her until the moment arose. It meant that he was careless and it also meant that he didn’t really love her because he didn’t even bother to protect her.

I have no love lost for Tess, but the fact that Max could do that with someone he didn’t really love…

How, if and when we ever do it, can I be sure that he loves me? Because to me, sex is the ultimate gift two people who love each other can give one another. It was why I screamed at Max that I was saving myself for him. Until that moment I hadn’t even realized it, but it was totally true.

I was still in love with Max Evans and I knew that I was never going to love anyone else the way I loved him. Which meant that I was never going to have sex. Ever.

And if Max could do that with Tess, on the spur of the moment, out of nowhere, it means that it just doesn’t mean as much to him.

Which also makes me wonder if I ever really knew him at all.

This is what that baby represents to me. All of this. And its why I will never be able to accept it.

And it also means that Max and I should never get back together. Because Max is determined to find his child - and if he wasn’t, I still wouldn’t be with him, because then I would know that he still wasn’t the Max that I fell in love with. The Max I know and love takes responsibility for his actions.

It’s, again, supremely ironic, that when MY Max finally decides to show his face again, by being responsible and careful, it still means I can’t be with him.

We can’t ever be together.

And somehow I have to tell him.

Someone is knocking at the window.

I close my eyes briefly, take a deep breath before turning around, expect to see Max poking his head through my window, like he has done so many times in the past.

But its not Max.

"Sean! What are you doing?" I demand, hurrying across the room and pulling him roughly through.

"Hey Parker! Watch the merchandise." Sean grins in that charming way of his, trying to get me to loosen up.

He is the last person on the face of the planet I want to deal with at the moment. Even AFTER Max.

I am still embarrassed about throwing myself at him like I did two nights ago.

I had had no intention of doing that when I had gone to the Delucas. I had every intention of sobbing in Maria’s arms, of both of us trying to get over the fact that the only boys we would ever love were leaving us, of mourning Alex.

I remember I was so scared. Max was leaving me alone and I didn’t know what I was going to do. We still didn’t know who had killed Alex. How could he leave me alone with a murderer out there?

But, even then, I knew that wasn’t what I was really scared of.

I was scared of being alone for the rest of my life.

Which is why, when Sean opened the door, and his eyes had lit up in that way they tend to do when I’m around, I threw myself at him.

I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget everything, to forget that my soulmate was gone, that he belonged to someone else now, that he had broken my heart.

Above all I had wanted to get rid of my damn virginity. Sex had been what had driven Max and I apart in every way and I wanted it over with. In that instant, when I pulled Sean’s lips down to mine, I decided that sex wasn’t about love at all. It was about trying to fill the emptiness in your soul, even if just for a little while.

And so we had ended up on the pull-out couch and I had felt Sean’s hands on my body and yet all I could see in my mind was Max watching me, his dark eyes full of pain. I kept seeing the expression on his face when he had caught me in bed with Kyle and I had been unable to stop the tears from coming. Because the emptiness wasn’t going away.

This was the wrong person.

And he is still the wrong person, standing in front of me now, eyeing me with concern.

"I just came to see how you’re doing." Sean tells me now. "You know, after you and Maria ran out last night, I was worried about you."

I turn away, stare at myself in the mirror again. "I’m okay. Thanks though."

"Parker?" Sean’s tone is pleading. "I know that you said that you need time to get over that jerk, but we can still be friends in the meantime, can’t we?"

I bite my lip. I don’t want to hurt Sean anymore than I already have. I know that I am never going to be with him, especially with Max still around.

I’m weak. I know it. Everyone knows it.

"I can’t really…" I turn around. I need to look at him while I told him the truth. That I was going to try and make things work with Max.

Because that was the awful truth.

I couldn’t give him up.

And I was even going to help him find the baby.

That’s how weak I am. Seeing Sean, it just made me realize it even more.

He was a juvenile delinquent, but even I knew he was better for me than Max Evans.

And I was still going to deny him.

Because, even though Max has the ability to break my heart again and again, and, even though I know he’s going to do it too, I was going back to him. Not because I wanted to, but because that’s what happens when you’re star-crossed, when you’d die for each other.

When you love each other.

Because if there’s one thing I do know, its that Max loves me. I, at least, believe that.

And it was the knowledge of the way that Max feels about me that made me fall in love with him in the first place, all the way back on that first day after I knew the truth about him. When he connected with me and let me see who he was.

I had seen into his soul and it had been beautiful and I had to believe that deep down that’s still who he is.

And so I love him.

Love sucks.

But I never get the chance to tell Sean any of this because there is movement out on the balcony and I know it’s Max.

"Liz, are you in there?" His voice sounds hopeful, nervous, even though he should know I’m here. We arranged to meet after all.

"Look Sean, you have to go." I grab him by the jacket and pull him out through my bedroom door.

But he has no intention of going anywhere. He is staring at me in shock. "That’s not him is it?"

I play dumb. "I don’t know what you’re talking about."

But it’s too late, because Max is at the window and he’s staring in at us. I see his eyes fall on Sean, see the open expression he was wearing turn instantly wary, shuttered.

Back in hiding. That quickly. That’s my Max.

"Oh. You have company." He turns away. "I can come back."

And I know what’s going through his mind. He’s remembering that night he stared in that same window at me and Kyle in bed together. Even though he knows now that that wasn’t real, I know that it still haunts him.

It is my ONLY consolation in the Tess disaster. At least I didn’t see them together like that. Seeing him kissing her at the prom was bad enough. If I had actually seen them how Max saw me and Kyle…

I push the thought out of my head. I am beginning to feel a little sick.

I can see that Max feels the same way. He actually looks a little green.

"No! Max! Wait!" He pauses, turns around to stare in at us again. "Sean is just leaving." I say firmly, pushing him out fully.

Sean sighs heavily. "What is it with girls and guys who hurt them?" He demands, as he allows himself to be pushed through the living room and to the outside door.

"Never mind. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Just go please. I cannot deal with you right now."

Sean pauses at the door. "Liz, I never want to make your life more difficult. You know I think you’re making a mistake so I won’t even say it."

"Thank you Sean." I say it sarcastically, but I sort of mean it.

Because I know I’m making a mistake too.

Part 2 - Sweet Surrender - Max POV

Doesn’t mean much,
Doesn’t mean anything at all.
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room.
I’ve crossed the last line
From where I can return,
Where every step I took in faith
Betrayed me
And led me from my home.

Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give.

Take me in
No questions asked.
You strip away the ugliness that surrounds me
Are you an angel?
Am I already that gone?
I only hope that I won’t disappoint you.
I’m down here on my knees…

Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give.
Sweet surrender…
Is all that I have to give.

I don’t understand how the touch of your hand…
I would be the one to fall.
And its the little things,
I miss everything about you.
It doesn’t mean much,
It doesn’t mean anything at all.
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room.

Sarah McLachlan

I had the weirdest dream last night. Well, weird is an understatement. Twisted and sick is a little more accurate.

I didn’t think I was going to sleep at all after getting back from the pod chamber. My mind was in about five hundred places at once, wondering how the hell my life had ended up such a colossal mess. I was even beginning to make a list of all the things I had to resolve when Isabel came into see me because the Sheriff still hadn’t given the tape we made to our parents (thank God) and we had to somehow come up with a way to explain what the hell had happened to the Jeep.

Isabel wanted to tell them the truth. She’s still mad at me that I said no, but telling Mom and Dad has to go at the bottom of the list. I’ve got other stuff to worry about right now.

So dealing with that was fun. Really. Yeah. Oh, I’m grounded until my next birthday by the way.

Anyway, after Izzy left, I went back to my list.

Lists. Making one made me think of Liz of course. I still grin to myself when I think about that list of questions she had for me that day after she found about who I really was. Her scientific, logical mind is one of the things I love about her. She once told me not to think she was a dork because she knew so much about science, but I, of course, never thought that. It was just one of the many things that impressed me about her.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked here. Thinking about all the things I love about Liz Parker has the tendency to do that. It always has, except for a very short period of time which only ended two days ago.

I couldn’t think about what I loved about Liz in that period of time. Because if I had, I know I wouldn’t have gotten through it. So, instead, I was an ass. It helped a little bit - helped ME anyway. It certainly didn’t help anyone else.

It didn’t help Alex.

But, well, I think you know all about that.

I think about Alex all the time, about how my stupid life killed him. Because he wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been brought into the disaster that follows me everywhere. Tess wouldn’t have had access to him if it wasn’t for me.

People on the outside of our group probably didn’t realize that Alex and I weren’t that close. Even after everything that’s happened in the past year, the secret the eight of us shared bonded us in a way that it made everyone on the outside think that we were all really great friends.

I wish I’d taken the time to get to know him better. I mean, I did know him, but I certainly didn’t appreciate him, appreciate what he was to Izzy, what he was to Liz…

It wasn’t until he died that I began to realize how important he was to Liz, really. I mean, I had sort of known it because of how bad things got between them when she was still shutting him out about our secret, but he was so much a part of everything that went down with the six of us after he did know, I think I forgot that he and Liz had a bond that extended beyond me and my problems. Can we say self-absorbed? I’ve often been that way, but you all know that too and if you don’t, well ask Michael and Isabel. They probably have archived records.

Anyway, Liz and Alex. She knew him, knew that he would never kill himself. I remember knowing it too when she first told me that the Sheriff had suggested it. And I remember also finally accepting it gratefully when the Sheriff told me it had to be true - because then it wasn’t my fault.

I’ve never been very good at accepting responsibility. I’m only beginning to see that now, after the way I completely bailed on Liz after Alex died. I’m tempted to make another list, but I think you all know what I’m talking about anyway.

Responsibility. No, It’s not my forte. I put on a good show though. Lots of people think I’m pretty responsible.

I’m responsible when its easy. Where Liz Parker is concerned, its never easy.

One thing I WAS good at was picking the right people to trust: Liz, Maria, Alex, Valenti…even Kyle to a certain degree.

Ummmm…we’ll get back to Tess in a minute.

I want to get back to my dream before I get totally sidetracked from the topic of Alex, because he was in it.

Like I said, it was weird. Because, in my dream, he wasn’t dead. Well, maybe he was. It was hard to tell. I told you it was twisted.

I was at the Crashdown, sitting in my usual booth. I even knew why I was there - to get Liz back of course.

But it was Alex who came out the swinging door leading into the break room. He marched right over to me and sat down. "Hey Max. I need to talk to you."

As is the case in dreams, this seemed perfectly normal, although in the dream I was aware that Alex was dead. "Okay." I even realized in the dream that I had not had a conversation alone with Alex since the time I was trying to convince him not to turn me in when he let Liz and Isabel use his blood to save me in the hospital.

"I need to know what you’re going to do about the baby." Dream Alex said.

I stared at him. "How do you know about the baby?" I asked, totally confused, since Alex had, of course, been killed before Tess and I had ever had sex.

"I knew a lot more than you think I did." Dream Alex told me calmly.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

But Dream Alex changed the subject. "If you won’t talk about the baby, then tell me what you’re going to do about Liz."

"Why?" I demanded, getting a little creeped out. If there was one thing Alex Whitman had not been, it was this calmly controlled, especially when it came to his friends. Michael had told me about the time Alex had come to punch his lights out about Maria when the whole Courtney thing was going on. My subconcious knew this and you would have thought that my dream would have reflected it.

But no. He seemed merely curious, like he was interested, but it didn’t really matter to him one way or the other.

"Never mind." Dream Alex stood up and started to walk towards the exit. "I knew it all anyway."

"Alex!" I yelled after him, but he ignored me, walking through the double doors outside. I tried to get up to go after him, but it was useless. I was stuck in my seat.

I suddenly became aware of Liz near the counter. She was dressed in her Crashdown uniform and she wasn’t alone.

Sean Deluca was sitting on one of the stools. Dream Liz was standing between his legs, WAY too close to him in my opinion, and I began to listen in horror to their conversation from where I was still stuck to my seat.

"What’s going on Sean?" Said Dream Liz. As I watched, Dream Sean reached up and gently pulled Liz’s alien ear headband off her head and set it down on the counter.

"I just wanna talk Parker."

"About what?" Dream Liz asked flirtatiously, trying to kiss him. I tried to look away but, like I said, I was frozen.

"About what I feel for you." And then Dream Sean turned and looked over Liz’s shoulder, right at me. "I look at you, and I know you’re the person I’m supposed to be with. I’ve always known it. It’s fate." He sneered in my direction and then looked back at Dream Liz.

Why did those words sound so familiar to me? And then I remembered. They were the words I had said to Liz when I had come to reassure her about Tess, right before she caught me kissing Tess out in the rain about three minutes later.

At least I had had an excuse that time. Tess mindwarped me.

As we have already discussed, I have a serious issue with taking responsibility, even in my dreams. Even my dream self was making excuses. I apparently can’t help it. Anyway, moving on.

Dream Sean told Dream Liz to look at him and said, "You’re the one Liz. The only one. I could never be with anyone else."

And then Liz kissed him.

I woke up in a cold sweat.

The weirdest part is that I remember every single detail of the dream. Usually my dreams are gone before I even wake up. Michael, Izzy and I have discussed this before. None of us EVER remember our dreams. The only reason we even know that we do dream is because Iz has dreamwalked Michael and I.

We only remember them when something important happens in them - something that ends up applying directly to our lives.

So, there is only one answer. Someone is trying to tell me something.

At least I think that’s the answer.

I think you can understand that I am not the most self-assured person in the world at the moment.

I used to trust my judgment a little bit. I might not always take responsibility but I did used to make okay decisions. Like healing Liz was probably not the most responsible thing to do, but all in all it was positive. Trusting Liz is another example. Trusting Valenti too. Not killing Brody - I’m particularly proud of that one.

Which, again, brings us to Tess. My judgment has, clearly, been slightly impaired lately.

And then there’s the biggie. You’d think I would have realized BEFORE I let Tess blast off that sending my heir AND the thing Khivar most wanted in the world, the granolith, straight into his waiting hands was not the wisest decision in the world. Um. Yeah. Well, I admit it. I’m an idiot. I don’t think well under pressure. Did it or did it not take my almost three days to decide what to do about Brody? Anyway, it was dumb.

It’s only now too that I am beginning to doubt that my son was even dying in the first place. Tess flat out admitted that she was taking us back into Khivar’s clutches. She needed a way to get us back there. I was perfectly willing to take responsibility for she and the baby here.

She needed a plan to get me to agree to go and a dying baby was a great one, I have to admit.

But, then, I know she wasn’t lying. I connected with him. I know he was dying.

It’s why I had to let her go, even after all she had done. I really could have killed her that day. I had every intention of doing it, to avenge Alex, to show them all that I could take action. And she deserved it. I wouldn’t have even mourned her.

But he stopped me.

He’s my son.

I have failed every single person in my life and I am not going to fail him.

And now I have to make Liz understand. Because she is the other person I have no intention of EVER failing again.

Because I was being perfectly honest when I told her that she is the only right thing I have done in my life in the last two years. The only one I really care about anyway.

I need her. And if it can’t be as more than friends, well, then I’ll accept it.

I cannot let her go again. I tried that once and it was a disaster.

But, then, we all know that - don’t we?
**********************************************************************

Liz and I had agreed that we would meet on her balcony early tonight. I had wanted to talk to her right away after Tess left, but I could see that she was still sort of spaced out about the whole thing…having gone from finding out that I had slept with Tess, to knowing that Tess was pregnant, and then thinking that I was leaving her behind with a murderer on the loose, and then, suddenly, I wasn’t going anywhere at all and we knew what had happened to Alex.

My biggest regret from the whole incident was that it was Michael who decided to stay behind. I wish it could have been me. It is supremely ironic that it was Michael, of all of us the one who most wanted to go back to our planet, who figured out most quickly that we belong here.

And I, although I knew that I was going to miss him, I was happy that he wanted to do it. I knew it was for Maria, but I knew that he would take care of Liz too. I could feel a little more secure leaving her. I trusted Michael to look out for her.

Plus, I think, even then, I knew that something was seriously wrong with this whole thing. I was not a complete fool. It had dawned on me that we might be killed the minute we set foot on our planet, that we might not even be able to survive on our planet. If Michael staying meant that he would survive, well, I was glad. Thinking back now, I almost wish that I had convinced Izzy to stay too.

But I was selfish. I didn’t want to be alone. Even then, I realize now, I didn’t totally trust Tess.

I had to go and I was relieved that Isabel wanted to go with me. For him, because I knew that she cared about him too. And I knew that no matter how hurt she was, Liz would never let me stay for her if it meant my child was going to die.

But then I let him go anyway. I think I was so shocked by the news that Tess was a traitor, I wasn’t thinking straight. It is really my only defense. All I knew is that my child needed to go back, that I would die for certain if I went too, and that I was caught between a rock and a hard place.

And so I let them go, but knowing deep down that I would find him.

And I got a second chance with Liz. Or at least I hope I did. I’m still not quite sure.

By a second chance, I’m not talking about being a couple. I don’t know if we can ever go back to that, not after what I’ve done to her. Even though I do know that she still loves me.

How do I know?

I can’t really explain it. I just know she does.

It might be because for the first time in a LONG time - really since I caught her in bed with Kyle - I have opened myself up to her completely again.

I have shut off our connection for so long. It was too painful, because I was sure that someday, accidently I would get a flash of her and Kyle, together, doing what I had thought they did together.

I think some of you might suspect that I was REALLY tempted to kiss Liz when we were in Las Vegas. I so nearly did. But then I stopped myself.

I was scared. If I let her in like that again…I knew I would not be able to handle seeing that. It had almost killed me the first time - just seeing them lying there. If I had actually seen them doing stuff…

Okay, so I know now it was all a big lie. But I still don’t know WHY she lied to me about it.

And, again, I am sure of one thing. That it was NOT because she didn’t love me.

Finding out the hows and whys of that horrible night - at the top of my list.

Anyway, I am actually feeling pretty hopeful as I climb up the ladder to Liz’s balcony. I know that even if we don’ t work everything out tonight, at least by the end of it, it will all be out in the open.

And that’s when I see HIM.

I had called out to her. She didn’t answer, but I knew she was in there because I could just feel her presence.

I didn’t expect to find Sean Deluca there at all.

For one horrible moment I had a flash of the two of them together like in my dream which - very helpfully might I add - quickly changed to a flash of the two of them in Liz’s bed just like I had seen she and Kyle.

Have I mentioned that I am still haunted by that night? Well, I am. Yes, I know it never happened, but I still don’t know why and I won’t be able to forget it until I do. Even then I don’t know if I’ll forget it. It was, hands down, the worst night of my life.

You know why? You know how I said that while my track record for taking responsibility isn’t that great - well, back then my judgment was still pretty good. I had never made a mistake up until then. And if Liz did what I thought she did with Kyle then I totally misjudged her.

Even one minute of thinking that I misjudged Liz, of all people…it was awful.

And then there’s the part that just hurts.

I know I have no reason to be upset. I actually HAD sex with Tess. But it still hurts. I may not be human, but I do have a heart and I do have a memory.

You know, my life would probably be a lot easier if I didn’t have any emotions. It would be very handy to be a Borg. Michael always says he wants to be whatever kind of alien Han Solo was because "Maxwell, he may LOOK human, but he not from Earth so he’s an alien too." Michael sort of likes the idea that he may be like Han Solo.

Not me. He used to tell me that if he was Han, I was Luke, and I thought that was cool. But that’s not good enough now. An emotionless Borg…yeah, that sounds pretty good to me.

Anyway, moving on. Liz sees me and gets this really panicked expression on her face. I can see that she is trying to push Sean out her bedroom door but he is resisting.

"Oh. You have company." I say, knowing that I sound totally weird. "I can come back." I turn around to leave, upset despite myself.

I have no right to be upset.

"No! Max! Wait!" Liz calls breathlessly after me. "Sean is just leaving." She says firmly, pushing him roughly out her door.

I look after her, unsure what to do.

Liz is really weird around Sean. Totally not the Liz I know, or thought I knew. She becomes really silly and girly around him. She acts 17, because that’s what she is.

He lets her have fun.

I frantically search my memory for any time that Liz and I just had fun, where we got to be kids.

There was the time we went on the date to Senor Chow’s and played pool. But then Michael got sick and I dumped her the next day, so I guess that doesn’t count.

There was the time we were making out at Buckley Point. That was pretty fun… Oh but that’s when Topolsky showed up again. Okay, forget that.

Las Vegas? Hmmmm…no.

I frown to myself. I know that there were only six perfect weeks when Liz and I were truly happy. It was in the time between when we found the orb and when Tess first came. Everything seemed really normal then. It was heaven.

Liz deserves that. She’s always asked why our relationship can’t be more normal. I know that’s what she wants.

I wish I could give it to her. Sean Deluca might be a delinquent, but at least he’s normal.

He can give her normal.

Maybe I should just leave…

I seriously consider doing this. But I don’t want to. Despite it all, I am still hoping.

Because deep down I know that Liz would never exchange a single minute of our perfect six weeks, or even our hellish two years, for a lifetime of normal with Sean Deluca.

I just know it. I know HER.

I know that I should be the one to step aside, because I know that she will never leave me, even though she wants to.

And I know that she wants to. But she can’t.

I can’t either. I love her.

What the hell are we going to do?

Liz isn’t gone very long and she pokes her head out her window just as I’m settling down on one of the lawn chairs there.

"Hey. Sorry about that." She says, sounding guilty.

"Liz, you don’t need to apologize. You have a life apart from me. I know that." I say. It actually hurts to say it, because once upon a time she didn’t.

"He just showed up. I didn’t invite him here." She insists, upset.

"Okay." I say. "Sean has turned out to be a pretty nice guy…" I continued, telling her that its okay if she wants to be with him, that I don’t have any claim on her.

But of course its not okay. At all.

"I mean, he seems to have moved past all those petty crimes…" Why am a babbling like this? Shut up!

Liz cuts me off. "Max." She says is urgently. "Stop it."

I slam my mouth shut obediently.

"I don’t want to talk about Sean." She says. "He has nothing to do with us."

Us. Its like music to my ears. I try not to let my hopes perk up to much, but they do anyway.

"Okay." I repeat. "We can talk about whatever you want to talk about."

"I want to talk about your son and what you’re going to do about it." She says abruptly, like it has been weighing on her mind. Which I’m sure it has.

I know that it is so hard for her. It’s hard for me too. I am only eighteen years old. I am not ready to be a father - at all. Have we not already discussed my issues with responsibility?

Well, anyway, I am not going to fail at this. Its too important.

"I don’t know Liz." I say, being perfectly honest. "All I know is that I have to get him back."

She stares at me for a long minute, her dark eyes sad. "But Max, how? Really. How are you planning to do this?"

I shake my head, turn to stare off at the night sky. "I know it was really dumb to just let Tess go like that." I say finally. "I’m sorry that you never got to have justice for Alex."

Liz sighs. I turn back to look at her. She is sitting back in the her lawn chair, gazing off at the sky like I was. "I don’t think we could have anyway. What was Valenti going to do? If we turned her in, your secret would have been exposed." She smiled at me weakly. "Alex died because he was going to protect you all, turn her in. We can’t just turn around and expose you now."

"I’m sorry Liz." The naked pain on her face about Alex is what prompts me to say it, but I know that she knows that I mean it about everything.

"I know. I’m sorry too." She replies quietly.

"Why?" I demand. "You have nothing to be sorry about."

"Max." I know she is thinking about the Kyle thing.

"Oh." I say. "Well, but you didn’t really do anything." I insist.

"You thought I did."

"Yeah." I close my eyes briefly. "How could I have ever thought that?" I ask, not really directing it at her, but she answers anyway.

"You didn’t believe it at first." She’s defending me. Why is she so wonderful? How am I ever going to live with out her? Because I am getting the feeling from this conversation - not necessarily from the words, but from the undertones - that I was right. We are not getting back together - romantically at least.

"But I did believe it eventually, even though I knew you would never do that." And then I need to know why. "Why Liz? What happened? Were you really that desperate to get me to back off?"

"Yes." It’s like a slap to the face. I just stare at her, the pain from constantly being rejected by her last fall coming back full force. I thought I had moved past that, but apparently not. Liz obviously sees this because she adds hastily. "Max, there were very extenuating circumstances though. You don’t really understand."

"I wouldn’ t leave you alone." I tell her. "I understand. And you thought I had to be with Tess."

"I guess I was right." She says quietly. "Maybe this all happened because…"

"Because he was supposed to be born."

"Right." She says. I can hear the sadness in her voice.

"But it still doesn’t explain why you had to do that. How did you know that Tess and I needed to be together?" I pause, frowning. "The same way you knew about the granolith, right?"

"Yeah." She grimaces slightly. "I’m going to tell you Max, because keeping secrets is what brought us to this. It’s kind of hard to believe, so just bear with me."

And so she tells me. About the future version of me that came to tell her that we had "cemented", as Liz put it, on that night that I caught her in bed with Kyle (which of course never happened in that time-line), had gotten married at nineteen in Vegas and then the world had ended fourteen years later because Tess had left.

I stared at her in disbelief. "Liz…"

"Max its all true."

I shake my head. There is no way. "It must have been a mind-warp. There is no way that I would have ever put you in that position." I know myself that much, I hope at least. Even fourteen years from now, I know that I would never give Liz up. I know it.

She has moved her chair closer to me, is touching my hand lightly. "Max, it was you. I know it. I know YOU."

And I believe her.

I am furious. I jump to my feet, start pacing. "What a complete idiot! How could he, me, whoever the hell he was, have done this to you?"

"Max, Michael and Isabel had just died. Apparently future me made you do it."

Future Max. Future Liz. Future Michael and Future Isabel. All dead. It was insane.

I wanted so badly to blame it all on a mind warp. Blame this all on Tess too.

But I knew I couldn’t. Liz would not lie to me. She knew it had happened.

I turn to look at her. She is watching me anxiously, worried that I’m going to kill myself I think.

She knows me too well. Because what I have found out is that apparently I am an ass even fourteen years in the future.

"Liz, how could you have been so brave?" I ask finally. "I don’t understand." I sigh because really I do understand. "He chose you to come to because he knew I would never give you up, didn’t he? He knew that he couldn’t tell me because I wouldn’t care."

Liz smiles softly. "He knew. But he also knew that you couldn’t face each other directly - you’d both cease to exist. Serena told him that."

"Who’s Serena?"

Liz shrugs. "Apparently someone we became really good friends with. She turned the granolith into a time machine."

"Weird."

"Yeah."

"Did we…" I pause. I probably don’t really want to know, but I have to ask, under the present circumstances. "Did we have kids?"

Liz flinches visibly and I could kick myself. "I don’t think so." She says finally. "I think it must have been too dangerous."

And then I realize something. "The point of all this was to keep Tess around. We all died because she was gone. And now she’s gone again."

"Yeah." Liz says. "I thought of that. But I think maybe the most important thing was…" She swallows. "Was your son. He’s happened. It might be all right." She pauses again. "Which is why I am going to help you find him."

Part 3 - Do What You Have To Do - Liz POV

What ravages of spirit
Conjured this tempestuous rage?
Created you a monster
Broken by the rule of love.
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do.
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do.
But I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go.

Every moment marked
With apparitions of your soul.
However swiftly moving
I’m trying to escape this desire,
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.
And I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go,
That I don’t know how to let you go.

A glowing ember burning hot, burning slow.
Deep within I’m shaken
By the violence of existing
For only you.
I know I can’t be with you,
I do what I have to do.
I know I can’t be with you
I do what I have to do.
And I had the sense to recognize
That I don’t know how to let you go,
Don’t know how to let you go,
Don’t know how to let you go.

I don’t know how to let you go.

Sarah McLachlan

Max is staring at me in disbelief. I don’t really blame him. I can’t for the life of me figure out how those words just came out of my mouth either.

"I am going to help you find him."

It is the supreme irony. I am going to help him find the child that I will never be able to accept.

I really have no choice. I don’t know how to do anything else.

Because, the cold, hard truth is, I can’t let him go. I can’t lose him again. I don’t WANT to let him go.

I try not to think of the tiny part of me that is imagining the world where we never find the baby, where Max has to give up, where we are together and there is no resentment because I did my best to help him and he knows it and loves me even more because of it.

And it is that tiny part of me that knows that I have to tell him the truth. Because, if I don’t, and if we don’t find his son, I am never going to be able to live with the guilt.

"Liz, I can’t ask you to do that." Max is saying, and I know he really means it. "It’s just too much. You’ve done enough."

"Max, you don’t get it." I say, before he can build me up into some big heroine. I can’t let him do that. It was one of the reasons we had so much trouble the first time. He puts me on this pedestal. I’m not that special. What I am is someone who just wants the hurt to stop. I want to stop loving him - I really do. And I really tried after the last break I made, at the prom. I tried with Sean. I really did.

It just doesn’t work. It’s Max and I can’t get what I have shared with him out of my head, out of my heart.

How can any regular boy compare to someone with a soul as beautiful as Max Evans’s? Because no matter the mistakes he has made - and he has made a lot - he is still that Max. She can’t have changed him that much.

The truth is though, I don’t know if he has changed. I don’t really know him at all anymore. But I think I owe it to myself to see if he is still MY Max. I owe it to HIM too. Maria told me so, and I am beginning to see what she meant.

He was never supposed to turn into the monster he became after Alex died. Something was just wrong there. He was supposed to be my husband, my soul mate, my true love. It was what was fated from the moment he saved my life in the Crashdown that day.

And we screwed with it - Future Max and I did that is. We had our reasons, but in the process we destroyed the wonderful person that Max Evans was, that he was meant to be. He has to have another chance to get it right.

Unfortunately this means finding his son. Which means that I have to give him an ultimatum. And its an awful one. But I know its the only way I will be able to do this because if there is one truth I know it is that I will never be able to accept the child.

How can I even tell him this? I feel like some evil stepmother, one who wants to send his kid off into the woods to get eaten by a witch. But I can’t help the way I feel. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow, next week, next year, but I do have to tell Max how I feel NOW.

"You have to understand Max." I tell him. He is looking at me, a slightly befuddled expression on his face, like all of his dreams are coming true, but like he also has this feeling that a nightmare is about to begin. "I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get over what happened between you and Tess." His eyes are fully accepting. He knows this already. But I don’t think he understands the true meaning. "I’m going to help you find your son, but we can’t be together again. Not like before."

He closes his eyes briefly. I can see that he is upset, but that he is not surprised. "I know." He finally says. "I do want you to know Liz, that it was a mistake. It was the night you left for Sweden you know. Things were so bad between us and she…she was just there. The morning after it happened…"

I put up my hand. "Please stop. I really can’t know Max." He does stop immediately, but I can tell he’s frustrated - that he really needs to get some of this off of his chest. But I can’t listen to it. Not now, maybe not ever. I don’t want to know what a big mistake it was because, somehow, that makes it worse.

Of course that was the excuse I used when he demanded an explanation about Kyle. "It was a mistake Max." No wonder he was so confused. The fact that nothing was going on between Kyle and I after must have made it hurt even more. He must have felt like he didn’t know me at all.

Sort of how I feel right about now. About Max. But also about me.

"Okay." Max looks sad for a moment, than he says, "Why are you doing this Liz? I don’t get it."

"I have to see it through to the end." I say and its the complete truth. I will not be able to let Max go until I know he is truly lost to me, that what Future Max and I did, changing everything so that this baby could be born, was the right thing to do. I will never be able to move on with someone else until I know for sure that he and I aren’t meant to be.

The thing is, I still don’t know it. Because, now, with Tess gone, it seems like maybe we have a second chance. But she’s still there, lurking in the shadows, her baby the winning trump card, the card that tells me that she will always have a piece of him that I can’t have.

I’m not just talking about his first time either. I’m talking about a piece of his soul - a part of Max Evans that I never knew and never understood. Because the Max I thought I knew would never have been capable of what he has done since I destroyed him by letting him catch me in bed with Kyle. Was that part of him always there? Or was it only born after I broke his heart?

I have to understand him. I have to know if I really knew him. I have to know if someone can really change that much.

"Do you even know where to start?" I ask him now. He is standing at the edge of my balcony, staring off into the sky, an unreadable expression on his face. "I mean, the granolith is gone. Its not like we can just hitchhike to the next galaxy to start looking for him." I pause. "Do you think there was a back-up? There were two sets of you all. Maybe there were two granoliths?"

"Maybe." Max says, sounding distracted. "But I don’t think so." He sighed. "Actually, technically, we don’t even know if the thing Tess took off in WAS the granolith. It doesn’t fit with what we were told about it in New York." By we, I know he means him and Tess. I sigh heavily.

"We don’t even know how much of what Tess told you was true." I add. "She apparently wasn’t the most reliable source."

Max laughs bitterly. "That’s an understatement." He turns to look at me. "She was working against us from the beginning you know. Nasedo made a deal with Khivar before we were ever even born." I can see the hurt on his face. I think Max has realized something - that, ironically, the people he most should have been able to trust completely betrayed him, while the people he was never supposed to be able to have faith in - me, Maria, Alex, Valenti - the ones HE betrayed - were the only ones he should have trusted.

"What was the deal?" I ask quietly, although I can guess.

"Tess was supposed to get pregnant and then bring me, Michael and Izzy back with her and Nasedo. We would all die and Khivar would have my heir so that our people would let him rule in my son’s name. Tess and Nasedo would be spared of course." He shakes his head. "And I fell for it. She almost murdered my best friend and my sister. She DID murder your best friend." Max collapses into the other chair. "I just don’t understand how I could have been so fooled. I mean, I KNEW her. I didn’t trust her when she first came. Why did I let her in?"

I want to comfort him, but I don’ t know how anymore. He’s right. He wasn’t the only one who ended up trusting her. I never LIKED her, but I did trust her, did believe that she only had Max’s best interests at heart, that she was only trying to reclaim the place that was rightfully hers.

"It was a mistake." I reply. "But you have to make sure that you don’t make any more like it. We can’t let Alex’s sacrifice be for nothing. We have to make sure that she doesn’t keep your son."

Max flinches at the mention of Alex. "I think he might be the place to start actually." He tells me finally. "I had a dream about him last night. He told me that he knew much more than we ever imagined."

At the mention of Alex, I feel tears fill my eyes. I shake my head. "I don’t get it. We know what Alex was doing. He was translating that book for Tess. It was a dream Max. I’ve had dreams about him too since he’s…since he’s been gone. It doesn’t mean anything."

Max frowns slightly. "It was so real." I can see a flash of something else cross his face, like he’s not telling me everything, but he quickly shakes it off, continues. "But we don’t know everything he did during those months Liz. He was gone a long time." He pauses. "Like that…that girl." I can hear the guilt in his voice. "The one I almost killed. What about her?"

"Leanna?" I look at him, realization dawning. "You think she was more than just a decoy? That she might know something?"

"Isn’t it possible?"

I stand up, nodding. "It makes sense. So that’s where we start."

Max stands up too, moving towards the ladder. "We’ll go back to Las Cruces tomorrow." He says resolutely.

"What about the others?" I ask as Max moves to swing himself over the ledge and onto the ladder.

Max sighs. "Isabel has had enough to deal with lately. Michael - I’ll tell him eventually, but he’s wrapped up in Maria right now…" He trails off, looks at me sadly. Thinking about how close Michael and Maria are…it only drives home the point that it is unlikely that we will ever be that way again. "If you’re willing to help me, well, maybe we can keep them out of it for a while."

I nod. "Okay."

Max makes a move to leave, then pauses again. "Liz, I really appreciate this. I know it’s totally above and beyond the call of duty…after everything."

"We can’t change the past Max." I tell him, feeling a pang that, ironically, if there’s one thing I know thanks to Future Max, this isn’t true. But for us, in this time, now, it is. "We just have to do what we have to do and see where we end up."

"I wish that we weren’t here." Max tells me. "I wish we could go back…"

They were the exact words he had said to me when we were in that van, the FBI chasing us…the first time he told me he loved me. Then he had wanted to go back to a time before everything had gone crazy, before Tess. I had a feeling that now we would both give everything just to go back to that moment, when we still had each other, still KNEW each other.

I can’t help myself. I reach out and touch his face - the face I have loved for so long. "I know. But we can’t. All we can do is go forward."

His eyes are shining. I can’t tell if its with unshed tears or if its just the candles on my deck. "Bye Liz." His voice cracks slightly. "I’ll see you tomorrow."

"Bye Max."
*****************************************************

I have the early shift at the Crashdown.

Maria is on with me and she is clearly on Cloud 9. Michael is working too and I catch them making out in the break room. I can’t help but smile wryly. It is just so weird. It’s like Michael, Maria, Max and I have switched places. Just over a year ago, it would have been Max and I kissing all the time, Michael and Maria on the rocks, unsure of where they stood with each other.

I am serving a couple of tourists when Maria comes whirling out of the back, smoothing her hair down, her cheeks flushed. "Are you planning to do any work today?" I ask teasingly as she plops herself down on a stool and stares off dreamily into space.

Maria looks at me, smiles secretly to herself. "Liz, I have to tell you something."

I glance around the restaurant. All the customers seem happy for the moment so I drop down beside her. "Okay. What’s up?"

"Just wanted to let you know that Czechs don’t bite your head off. You know - for future reference." She grins at me, blushing slightly.

It takes me a moment to understand what she’s saying. "Maria! Did you and Michael…" Her hand jets out, slaps over my mouth.

"I got flashes Liz. I saw him as a little boy and I really saw HIM." She pauses. "He really loves me."

I feel a pang of grief so intense it almost knocks me off my stool. The unfairness of it all continues to amaze me.

I, of course, love Maria. I am thrilled that Michael has finally gotten his act together. I’ve never understood what his problem was anyway. He and Isabel never pursued THEIR supposed destiny. I never understood what was so different about Max and Tess. While Michael broke Maria’s heart time after time and Isabel dated her weekly older sleaze (the thought of Grant still gives me the willies), Max and I were caught in this limbo, madly in love but unable to be together. And Max didn’t even know why. I did, but it still wasn’t fair.

How could something as wonderful as we had shared have resulted in the end of the world? In that moment I hated Tess Harding more than I ever had. It was all her fault. If she hadn’t been so selfish…

But then, in that previous life, Max and I had been the selfish ones too, hadn’t we? We had had our fourteen wonderful years and then our entire world was destroyed.

And it is in that moment that I forgive Future Max. He didn’t know that Tess was evil. He only knew that without her the Royal Three were too weak to repel Khivar and his minions. How was he supposed to know that it wasn’t Tess at all that was needed - that it was her child?

I realize that Maria is still waiting for my response. "That’s so wonderful Maria." I reach out and hug her so that she can’t see my face. "I’m really happy for you."

She pulls back, stares at me knowingly. "What’s wrong Liz?" She pauses. "You saw Max last night, didn’t you?"

"Yeah. But its okay. We’re going to be friends for now." Maria’s face falls. "I can’t be anything more right now Maria. Not after all that’s happened."

"It’s because of HER isn’t it? Because of what he did with her." Maria sounds furious. If there’s anyone who hates Tess its Maria. She’s disliked her all along, but now…after what she did to Alex - Maria would blame the end of the world on her. Not that she would be far off, but still…Tess wasn’t the only one to blame.

"It’s not just her fault Maria. Max did it too. And we- me and him - drove our relationship to the point where he WOULD do that."

Maria tossed her head. "Whatever. She’s the one who wouldn’t leave him alone. She was so fake Liz. I was sure she and Kyle were…"

"Poor Kyle." I say, trying to change the subject. "And the poor Sheriff. They really loved her. They must be devastated."

"Kyle will be okay." Maria says confidently. "He knows that she didn’t deserve his love OR trust. She used him."

"Yeah, but the Sheriff considered her to be like his daughter." I tell her.

"I know. But he loved Alex too, won’t forgive her for that." Maria replied. "He’ll get over it."

The doorbell over the entrance rings. Maria’s face becomes cold. "Oh great. Just who we need."

I turn. Sean is coming in, heading straight for me. He sees the daggers Maria is shooting him though and veers to the right, plopping himself down in a booth and picking up a menu. I know he wants to talk to me though. "Uh oh. He’s going to want an explanation."

"For what?" Maria demands. "Like he deserves one - for anything."

"Well, he was over when Max came last night…." I pause. Maria doesn’t know that I threw myself at her cousin the night I thought Max was leaving. "And -er - well, something sort of happened between us on the night we thought the Czechs were leaving."

Maria’s eyes widen in outrage. "He took ADVANTAGE of you?" She stands up, looks ready to go over there and kill him.

"NO! I mean…not really, Maria. He was just there for me." She seems to calm down a little bit, but still looks peeved.

See the thing is, Maria is really on Max’s side. She always has been. At least since the summer. I have no idea what voodoo hex he put on her while I was in Florida, but whatever it was, she will always want Max and I together.

But then Max is good at inspiring loyalty. It’s probably why he will make a great leader someday. Or would have if Future Max and I hadn’t screwed with him. He may still. It’s another reason I have to be there for him. He deserves that second chance to become the man he was supposed to be.

He worries me sometimes though. He is so dependent on others. The people he loves have so much control over him. What I did with Kyle…it almost destroyed him.

Deep down, I know its the reason I can’t desert him now. Because I feel like all the changes that I’ve seen in him are my fault.

What did I ever do to make him love me so much? I’m just a normal girl for God’s sake. The burden is really hard to carry sometimes.

"I’ll just go over and get it over with." I tell Maria now. "Can you watch my tables for a few minutes?"

She nods, still looking irritated. "Fine. But if you need me, just call. I’ll get Michael to throw him out."

I roll my eyes. "He isn’t Caligula Maria."

She scowls. "He ain’t Prince Charming either." She whirls away again in typical Maria fashion, goes to take an order. But I can see that her eyes are following me as I make my way to join Sean.

I smooth down my apron, sit across from him. "Hi."

"Hi." He is looking at me in that Sean way - like he is trying to understand me, but is finding it almost impossible.

I remember the way Max and I used to be in perfect sync - in the time before Tess - even before we were officially together. We just GOT each other. It’s why I know that Sean is never going to replace Max. Even if Max and I are never together again, I won’t settle for anyone less than someone who GETS me.

I once told Max that I kept my journal so that if I ever met someone else who touched me in the way he did, I would remember what it was supposed to feel like. I realize now that I wasn’t just talking about physically.

Max touched my soul. I want that again. I don’t know if its going to be with Max, but if not, I want it with someone else. And it’s just NOT Sean Deluca.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about him, that I want to hurt him.

"I’m sorry about yesterday." I say now.

"You don’t have to be sorry Parker." Sean tells me. "I’m just worried about you. I thought you had finally given up on that chump."

"Well, you don’t understand about me and Max…" I begin. I know that I’m making excuses, but what else can I do? There is no excuse that Sean will ever understand. He doesn’t get Max and I. Lots of people don’t. Our closest friends don’t really get it. They don’t get that the bond that was created when he saved my life, when I saw into his soul…you can’t just erase that. This is why its so hard to let him go.

"I understand that he makes you miserable." Sean says firmly. "Listen Parker, I know that I don’t deserve you either, but he definitely doesn’t. I have never once seen you smile in his company since I’ve been back."

"I don’t know what to say to you Sean." I say. "I can’t explain it to you. What Max and I have…"

"Yeah I know. Friends plus." Sean interrupts, sounding annoyed. "Don’t you think you deserve more than that?"

"It’s not "friends plus" anymore." I tell him. "We’re just friends. We’re always going to be friends." I swallow. "And anyone who wants to date me is just going to have to accept it."

Sean’s eyes darken. "And what if they can’t?" He demands. Because he knows what I’m telling him. I’m willing - maybe - to date Sean. But I am not willing to give up Max for him.

"They just will." I reply firmly.

Sean snorts, looks over my shoulder. "I don’t think you’re ever going to get any dates then Parker." He nods in the direction of the door. "Even if someone you date accepts HIM, that guy is NEVER going to accept anyone else in your life."

I turn around, know already that Max has come in. He’s with Isabel but he’s staring at me and Sean. When my eye catches his, he smiles. I can tell that he is trying to pretend that he’s okay with the fact that I’m sitting with Sean, but I can tell he’s not. It makes my heart skip a beat. Because it’s the old Max smile. The one that he used to use when I was still dating Kyle and we were technically "just friends," but we so weren’t. The semi-shy one…the one that says he can’t quite believe that he can smile at me and that I might smile back.

And I do. I can’t help myself.

Max’s face lights up in a way I haven’t seen in weeks, months. It’s in a way I haven’t seen since before the whole thing with Kyle actually.

It’s in that instant that I know it. I am in real trouble. There is no way on this Earth that I am ever going to be just friends with Max Evans. Not when a simple smile from him can make me so breathless I feel like passing out.

This is going to be hell.

Part 4 - Max POV - Witness

Make me a witness
Take me up out of the darkness
Out of doubt
I won’t weigh you down
With good intentions
Won’t make fire out of clay
Or other inventions.

Will we burn in heaven,
Like we do down here?
Will a change come while we’re waiting
Everyone is waiting.

And when we’re done
Soul-searching
And we carry the weight
And die for a cause
Is misery made beautiful
Right before our eyes?
Mercy be revealed
Or blind us where we stand.

Will we burn in heaven
Like we do down here?
Will change come while we’re waiting
Everyone is waiting…

Sarah McLachlan

I try my hardest not to stare at Liz and Sean. I have the menu up in front of my face, but I am not reading it. I could recite the thing from memory I have used it so often to hide behind over the years. Isabel is in the middle of telling me about some college she wants to apply to, but I am barely listening to her.

It really sucks how much it hurts to see Liz with Sean, even though she did smile at me when I came in. Since my dream, every time I do, that part where Sean was kissing her and reciting words I once said to Liz comes racing back into my mind. There is something paralyzing about it. Something I don’t understand.

And it makes me ill, needless to say. I know I have no right to feel jealous and angry when Liz is with another guy. But right and wrong have nothing to do with it. Its just the way I feel.

Even now that I know the truth about Kyle and Liz, a tiny knot still exists in my stomach that clenches with fury and hurt whenever I think about it. It has haunted me for so long. And while I am not angry with Liz about it anymore, in some way, I am.

It was that one night that turned me into someone I didn’t even recognize. I know that Liz had no idea how badly things would go down after what she did, she didn’t know Tess was a murderous traitor, but its still there, this irrational fury. It burns deeply, not strong enough to mean anything, but its still there.

It doesn’t matter though. The love and respect and admiration I have for her is far more strong and will stay so.

Love and hate. The line between them runs very thin - especially with me and Liz. Loving someone as intensely as I love her means that hating her is so much easier too. The power she has over me is kind of scary.

Do you want to know a really, really bad thing? You’re not going to like it, but I have to tell you anyway.

Sometimes being with Tess, even though I never loved her, was just easier. Because I didn’t care so much.

I know its sick, but there it is.

"Max!" I lower my menu to look at my sister, who is scowling at me. "Are you even listening to me?"

"Yes." I say, lying of course.

"Well, what do you think?" Isabel gives me THE look - the sister look. The one that says she knows I am lying and wants to make me feel like an even bigger moron before I have to admit it.

"Ummmm…"

She sighs heavily. "Never mind." Her expression is suddenly sympathetic and she turns around in her seat to look at Sean and Liz, who are still in deep conversation. Liz does not look pleased. "She doesn’t care about him Max."

"It doesn’t matter Iz. Liz and I are just friends." I say, glancing at the menu again.

Maria has come up at this point. She has her order pad in her hand and exchanges a look with Isabel, not even saying hi. She just launches into typical Maria opinionated statement mode right away. "Ha. Right. Friends. Friends don’t hold on to each other like the two of you did two days ago. I’m telling you Max. It was romance novel worthy."

Isabel snorts. "I wish that you and Liz would just get over yourselves and get back together. You know you both want to. This is boring." She waves her hand in the air dismissively and turns to Maria to order.

See Iz, that’s where you’re wrong. Liz doesn’ t want to get back together with me. But Isabel has no idea of all the stuff that lies between us. Sure, she knows about me and Tess, but she has no idea about the Kyle stuff. She never knew and she never will. She can’t know that it was her death - hers and Michael’s - that resulted in my future self coming back to fix things.

Oh, he fixed us good all right.

But Isabel can’t know. She will never forgive herself. Our relationship has been rocky over the last year, to say the least. If she knew that she was responsible for hurting me in any way, even so indirectly, she would be devastated. Under normal circumstances this would not be true - she would understand that it wasn’t her fault.

But since the whole Vilandra thing….

My sister is fragile, scared at every moment that she is going to betray me. Our huge fight over the whole college thing was part of that I think. She wanted to go so badly and was hurt that I wouldn’t let her. But I think, deep down, she was only fighting against the part of her that was scared of hurting me. She wanted to leave because of it.

She thought that by getting away from me, she could protect me.

Isabel blames herself for a lot of stuff. I know she is still dealing with Alex’s death and for some reason she also blames herself for Grant Sorenson’s untimely demise, although she had nothing to do with it really.

I know my sister and I know how her mind works. Getting away from me after Alex died, she could protect me. And yet, since we learned about my son, all that has changed.

Because, suddenly, since Tess left, all the colleges Isabel talks about attending are in New Mexico.

"What’ll it be your highness?" Maria asks when I continue to stare at my menu in a stupor.

"Nothing." I say, noticing that Liz is standing and moving away from Sean. His eyes are following her as she comes towards me. "Liz looks like she’s done. We’re going for a drive."

Then it happens.

Sean’s gaze falls on me and for one split second we are staring right at each other.

And a shiver runs down my spine - one unlike anything I have ever felt before.

I break the eye contact first, clench my fists under the table.

That guy totally hates my guts.

"What?" Isabel is saying in annoyance. "MAX! You always do this to me! You invite me here to eat and then you desert me. I hate eating alone and I am so not walking home."

But Maria is smiling at me, pleased, because she thinks that this means that Liz and I are getting back together, despite what I just said a few minutes ago. "Michael and I’ll drive you Isabel. Our shift is over in half an hour," she says, just as Liz arrives.

"I’m just going up to change Max. I’ll be down in five minutes." She says, her expression blank. She doesn’t meet my eyes. I frown slightly.

"Okay."

Liz is true to her word. We are on the road barely ten minutes later. She has changed into jeans and a red tank top that reminds me of the one she was wearing on the night of our first kiss, making my heart thump just thinking about that event. Her hair is loose and blowing in the breeze as I head out of town towards Las Cruces.

It still astounds me how beautiful she is. I’ve hung out with Liz long enough now that I sometimes forget because I know she is even more beautiful inside, but seeing her like this reminds me of the days when I didn’t know so much about her, before I healed her, when the closest I could get to her was exchanging pleasantries and passing lab equipment to her in Bio and staring at her in the Crashdown.

I can tell that she has something on her mind, so I don’t really talk to her. I concentrate on the road, trying to forget that the last time we took this road was the night I had to tell her about Tess. It was also the night I almost killed an innocent girl.

I wonder if that’s what Liz is thinking about.

But apparently not, as what she says next makes clear.

"Max, I just want you to know that there is NOTHING going on between me and Sean." Liz blurts out so abruptly, I take my eyes off the road by whipping my head around to stare at her.

"Liz, you have a right to date other people." I say the words automatically, because I know that I am supposed to. They sound ridiculous even to me. I hope she doesn’t catch the little note of pleasure that has crept into my voice. I am such a jerk.

Liz sighs. "I know Max. And I will, but not him."

Well so much for that moment of happiness. "Okay." I say. "Why are you telling me this?" I ask a moment later.

"Max, I saw the look on your face when you came in and saw me talking to him." Liz replied, sounding annoyed that she HAD seen that look. "We’re friends. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. So just know that, while I fully intend to date other people eventually, for the moment I am all yours."

I almost swerve off the highway.

"Er - to investigate." She adds quickly. I can feel the warmth traveling up my neck at having almost killed us both.

You see what I mean about Liz affecting me on every level all the time. It’s embarrassing.

"Right." I say, decide that changing the subject is a good idea. "So how are we going to go about this?" I ask, knowing that even when things are tense with Liz, when we have to work together on a problem, it always changes things - we are able to connect easily.

"Well, I was thinking about Leanna." Liz replies. "Or Jennifer Coleman I should say. That’s her real name." She adds when I look at her questioningly. "We never did just TALK to her. I brought along a picture of Alex - to see if she recognizes him."

"To see if she was working with Tess or if she was just some random girl that Tess used?"

"Yeah." Liz is quiet for a moment and then asks, "I wonder how Alex learned Swedish anyway? It was all a pretty elaborate ruse Tess had going on there."

"It does seem unlikely that she was working alone." I agree. "Maybe Jennifer can tell us something about that too. If she wasn’t working with Tess, then maybe she can at least give us an idea of who might have been."

"Maybe."

We are both quiet again until I pull into the university about half an hour later, each lost in our thoughts about what we might uncover - what we’ll do if we don’t uncover anything.

As we reach Jennifer Coleman’s dorm-room, I flash back to the night I almost committed cold blooded murder in this exact building. I remember Liz’s words to me that night. "This isn’t you Max. It isn’t planned out."

But the scary thing is, it WAS me. Sure I was in Borg mode that night, but I don’t think Liz has any idea about the lengths I would go to protect those I love. There was no way I was leaving Earth that night with the thought that the murderer was still out there, threatening Liz and Maria and Kyle and even Valenti.

At least that’s what I was thinking when we were in Jennifer Coleman’s dorm. Once I knew that she wasn’t the killer, I was more than willing to leave Liz and the others with no idea who their enemy was. How she can forgive me for that, I’ll never know…I don’t even know if she has.

A little ironic though that, in the end, I was taking their enemy with me. So, in a way, leaving with Tess was protecting the others - the humans anyway.

I wonder if any of this would have happened if I had gotten together with Tess when I first knew about our destiny. Would she still have felt compelled to kill Alex, to continue Nasedo’s plan? Or could I have gotten through to her in those first important days of contact? Could she have tapped into her human side if I had been what she had expected me to be - her mate, her husband, her king?

Was Tess’s betrayal my fault?

"Max?" Liz is looking at me strangely, has her hand up to knock. "Are you okay? You look a little weird."

I blink, shake my head. Now isn’t the time to second guess myself. But I can’t help it. So many decisions I have made were wrong. So wrong. What if bringing Liz in to help me find my son is wrong too?

What if I’m putting her in more danger?

"Maybe you should wait in the car." I say suddenly. She just stares at me. "She might recognize you from that…that night."

"Who cares?" Liz asks logically. "She never knew what that was about. I was just some random weirdo to her."

She’s right of course. But how can I tell her that I beginning to think this is all a bad idea - that I am suddenly scared that we are going about this all wrong, that somehow I am going to hurt her again without even wanting to?

It is too late. Liz has turned away and is knocking on the door. A curly-haired blonde answers a few seconds later. She eyes Liz suspiciously. "Its you. Jennifer says she never told anyone they could borrow her notes so don’t even think about coming in here."

Liz glances at me, looks a little embarrassed. "I came to apologize about that." She improvises quickly. She whips a sheet of paper out of her purse quickly. "And to return them." She says triumphantly.

The blonde girl rolls her eyes. "Jenn! One of those girls from the other day is here!" She calls, heading away from the door and into the kitchenette.

And suddenly she is there. She looks exactly like the picture of her that Liz has in her purse - the one with Alex.

I have to admit I didn’t get much of a look at her the last time I’d seen her. It would have been too hard to do what I had intended to do if I had looked at her, seen her face. Even in Borg mode.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have done it, but it would have been harder. That cold side of me would have taken over though - the alien side - and I would have done it.

Jennifer is looking at Liz like she might recognize her but is unsure. "Yeah?" She asks, clearly not placing her.

"Hi." Liz replies in her friendly way. "I’m Liz. And this is Max. We need to talk to you about someone we think you might have known." Liz is pulling the picture of Leanna and Alex out of her bag and I move forward from where I am leaning against the wall beside the door, a little out of Jennifer’s eye-shot. I want to get a good look at her face when she sees herself in that picture.

She doesn’t look at the photo right away though. Her eyes shift to me and the colour totally drains from her face.

"It’s you." She whispers. "Zan."

And, I kid you not, she faints.

Part 5 - Liz POV - Trust

Somewhere deep inside me
I hold a picture of a time long gone
A time of ease and simple pleasures
And days in shadows not so long
Now with my mind I’m struggling
Holding on to what I believe
Listen to the fragments of my thoughts
That leave me broken and deceived
Cause I don’t know the way
He said "I can take you there,
I can show you places where time has no ware"
And as we walked the plains
The skies they opened wide
Revealing all the shame for what’s been lost inside us all.

It’s a day in the life
In my mind I’ve seen it all
Sometime soon for all to see
The walls are slowly breaking down
In my mind I’ve seen it all
And someday we’ll be free.

We’re searching for a message
Or so I thought but so it seems
The ignorance in the myths of others
Is easier to redeem
I’ve never questioned the answers given
To find the faith that’s been lost within
Cause where I lay my trust in others
Where it lies the ground is thin
Cause I don’ t know the way
He said "I can take you there,
I can show you places where time has no ware"
And as we walked the plains
The skies they opened wide
Revealing all the shame for what’s been lost inside us all.

I know you say you love me
If what you say is true
So show me something that’s not deceiving
Cause I wouldn’t lie to you.

It’s a day in the life
In my mind I’ve seen it all
Sometime soon for all to see
The walls are slowly breaking down
In my mind I’ve seen it all
And someday we’ll be free.

Sarah McLachlan

"Max! Catch her!" I shriek, but he is already moving, grabbing Jennifer Coleman before she melts to the floor.

Jennifer’s suite-mate comes running out of her room. "What did you do to her?" She demands, watching Max sweep the girl we know as Leanna up into his arms. She follows him as he moves into the room, depositing Jennifer gently on the couch. She is already coming around, her eyelashes beginning to flutter.

Max looks back at me, his expression terrified. I don’t blame him. Who the heck is this girl and how did she know Max’s real name? But we can’t say any of this in front of the suite-mate, who looks about ready to pick up the phone to call campus security.

"It’s all a terrible mistake. We gave her some bad news and she just collapsed." I know I am babbling, but we need to talk to Leanna alone and we need to get rid of the other girl. "I’m Liz, this is Max." I do the introductions quickly, hoping to put the other girl at ease. "We know Jennifer from back home."

The suite-mate does not look convinced. "From Phoenix?" She asks suspiciously.

"Right. From Phoenix." Max says, glancing at me and shrugging slightly. He is perched on a chair beside Jennifer, whose eyes are beginning to open.

"We’re friends of Ray." I improvise. The girl seems to recognize the name that Alex went by when he was staying here.

"Where is Ray?" The girl asks. "We haven’t seen him in months. He and Jenn spent all this time together last Fall and then he just disappeared."

"We have bad news." I swallow hard. It is hard to say it even though its true. I am never going to adjust to saying it. Alex! "Ray passed away. Its why we’re here. To tell Jennifer."

Max is eyeing me with concern. I think he can tell that talking about Alex’s death, even in the guise of an excuse is putting me on edge.

The suite-mate’s eyes widen in horror. "Oh that’s so sad. I mean, he was kind of a weird guy, real quiet and stuff, but I am so sorry." She pauses, glances at Jennifer. "Is that why Jenn fainted?" She asks.

I can’t speak, emotion still clogging my throat.

"Yes." Max replies simply. "We’re sorry. We really need a few minutes alone with her. Can you excuse us…" He trails off, clearly hoping that she will give us her name.

"Melissa." She inserts. "Are you sure you don’t want me to stay? She must be pretty upset if she fainted."

"It’s okay. We’ve known Jenn for a while." Max tells her. "But thanks."

I can tell that Melissa is beginning to warm up to him. His eyes - they are reflecting the gentleness that I always used to see in them, before it all happened. He is giving off that Max aura, the one that says that he can be trusted. It is wrapping itself around ME like a warm blanket, even though I know that he is capable of being a monster too.

But Melissa doesn’t know this and she looks like she is falling under a spell.

It is making me supremely uncomfortable because I am beginning to realize how very easy it might be for me to fall under his spell again too. He put a force on me once. I know that it is only a matter of time until he does it again.

I am fighting it with every ounce of my being. I cannot let him in that way again. It almost killed me once and that was when I was still the most important person in his life.

Now I’m not. That spot has been taken by a baby that has not even been born yet.

I can’t give in.

I knew helping him was going to be a mistake because with every passing minute I spend with him, I want to give in.

I force my eyes away from his face.

I move back against the wall of the living room, need its hard reassurance to keep my back-bone in place. Max is looking at me again. He frowns slightly at the expression on my face, which is likely a cross between a scowl and a grimace.

"Well, okay." Melissa finally says. "I’ll be in my room. Call me if you need me." She backs into her room, shutting the door behind her.

"Liz, are you okay?" Max demands urgently. He is glancing between me and Jennifer, who is now beginning to sit up. She still seems slightly out of it. "You look…"

"I’m okay." I snap. He blinks at my harsh tone, but nods. I move closer, kneel on the floor beside him. We both turn to look at Leanna.

Her face seems to finally clear and she focuses on Max’s face immediately, gasps again, moving back against the couch in shock. "I thought I was dreaming. How can it really be you? How can you be real?" She starts muttering to herself. "Am I going crazy?"

"Max, you’d better leave for a minute." I say. I can tell that we are not going to get any sense out of this girl while he is in the room. She doesn’t seem to be scared of him, but I think she thinks she is crazy for some reason.

"Liz, I’m not leaving you alone." Max insists. I sigh. I can tell by that tone that I am not going to win this argument easily and I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about it in front of Jennifer.

She is still staring at him, her head slightly tilted. "You are real, aren’t you? Your name is Max?"

Max nods. "Why did you call me Zan?" He asks gently.

"Because he looks like you." She replies. "At least the pictures I’ve seen of him."

I barely suppress a gasp. She can’t be talking about the REAL Zan - Max’s dupe, who is supposed to be dead? Max looks just as shocked as I do.

"Pictures?" I press her.

"The drawings Ray showed me." Jennifer elaborates. "For the game."

Max and I exchange a confused glance. "The game?"

"The computer game Ray was writing." She continues. "But he told me it wasn’t real."

Um. Okay. This is getting a little too weird. We’ll get back to that in a moment. First things first…

I pull a picture of Alex and her out of my purse, show it to her. It obviously isn’t the one in which he had torn out his own face, but another one I found in his room after the funeral. "Is this Ray?" I ask quietly.

She nods, taking the picture from my hands, stares at it in confusion. "Where did you get this?" She is frowning. "I don’t remember having it taken."

"Ray gave it to me." I pause. "Did you hear what I said to Melissa? You heard that Ray is gone?"

Tears fill her eyes. "I’m not surprised. He told me when he left that he didn’t think that he would see me again. They didn’t want the game finished. That’s what he told me."

"Who didn’t?" Max inquires. "What is this game?"

"The Four Square game." Jennifer tells us. "The one about the Royal Four and Antar. He was creating the code and the story behind the game while he lived here." She sighs. "He needed my help with some of the computer work. I was interested in the whole concept. He told me all about Zan and Vilandra and the Royal Four." She eyes us for a minute. "You do know about this don’t you? You’re the model for Zan." She nods towards Max. "He showed me a picture of you that he drew. You must be his friend."

"Maybe you should tell us everything." Max replies evenly, not wanting to give away too much. He is clearly just as confused as I am but it is beginning to sound like Jennifer thinks that everything Alex told her was all fiction, which is actually a big relief.

"Well, Zan is an alien king, stranded on Earth, trapped in a teenage human’s body." Jennifer explains. "He is in love with a human, but he can’t be with her. His destiny is to marry Ava, his queen from another life. But the whole game revolves around Zan trying to find a way to be with his human love and still save his people."

I don’t even dare to look at Max. I know that I might start laughing hysterically if I do. Told this way, it does all sound like a crazy, fantastic story.

But this is my life. It is Max’s life. No wonder neither of us know whether we are coming or going.

I only know one thing. This is the weirdest thing I have ever heard. Was this all an elaborate ruse that Alex had made up in order to get Leanna to help him without giving away Max and Michael and Isabel’s secret? Or is there more to it than that? And what did Tess have to do with it?

"Anyway, Ray got the concept from some guy he knew back in Roswell. Where he’s from." She adds. "He had this book that he needed to translate, which gave the basic outline of the concept. We worked on translating it together. We rented some space in an old warehouse." She frowns. "I never understood why he was so paranoid that someone was going to try and take the game away from him, but he would work on it in his room and e-mail me the new parts in the warehouse. He was trying to keep it a secret. Finally he left the dorm altogether and went to stay in the warehouse. He said they were on to him." She tears up again. "I just thought he was a little bit crazy, like a lot of computer geeks." She pauses. "He was murdered, wasn’t he? He was right?"

"He died in a car accident." I tell her. Whether she notices that I don’t dispute the point about whether he was murdered or not, I don’t know.

"Why is a computer game so important?" Jennifer asks. "I never got it."

I glance at Max. "That’s what I’d like to know." He says. "Do you have any of the stuff Ray was working on?"

She swallows. I can tell she is still unsure whether to trust us. "I…"

I take her hand. She glances down, then looks up, stares right into my eyes. "Ray’s real name was Alex." I tell her. "He became my best friend in the fifth grade. You’re right. He was murdered. And we…" I indicate Max and myself. "We’re going to find out why."

I see Jennifer’s eyes widen. "I’ll tell you everything I know." She tells me quietly. "I owe him that much." She looks ashamed suddenly. "Because I think I might have led them right to him. They seemed so normal though…"

I feel Max beside me, listening just as intently as I am. "Who?" He asks urgently.

"There were two of them. A guy and a girl. She was kind of short, with blonde curly hair and way too much lip gloss." I press my lips together. That HAD to be Tess. "He was tall, blond too." Jennifer continues. "They didn’t look dangerous. She said she was Ray’s sister, that he had run away from home." Tears fill her eyes. She swallows heavily. "I believed her."

"You’re not the only one." I murmur to myself, not even looking at Max. He is crouched on the floor beside me. I can feel him tensing during the talk about Tess. Hearing the story of how she had used Alex, how she HAD been responsible for his death…it was hard on ME. I can’t even imagine what it is doing to Max, who often has a guilt complex that could pave the route to his planet and back - twice.

No one had been closer to her than he had. It makes me sick, but there it is. Twice, in less than a year, girls that Max loved had seemingly betrayed him. He knew now that I hadn’t, but it still didn’t dull the pain of the last few months. He had committed to Tess even further than he ever had with me, despite all his protestations of regretting it immediately. Her betrayal was, of course, a million times worse because, not only had she murdered one of the people Max had trusted, the thing he most feared, she had put him in a position where he had had no choice but to abandon his own child.

She was pure evil. I wish now that I had had the chance to say all the things to her that I longed to, that I had done so long before any of this had happened. I had NEVER trusted her. But I had been the martyr, walking away from Max, going along with Future Max’s plan, believing that my own gut instinct was only the result of jealousy, when "following my heart," as my grandmother had told me to do, had never failed me to that point.

My heart had told me to fight for Max, not to trust Tess and I had ignored it.

It had killed Alex.

I close my eyes briefly, before reaching into my purse and pulling out the picture of all of us that had been taken the night of the prom. I hand it to Jennifer, not even saying anything.

She stares at it, nodding. "That’s her." She acknowledges. Because there she is, in her ice blue prom dress, standing with all of us, right beside me as a matter of fact, smiling as though she cares about us, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that Max and I are there together, knowing that she has the upper hand, that it will only be a matter of hours before she manipulates all of us on the road to Alex’s destruction.

I pull myself up off the floor, sit down on the couch beside her, feel a lump in my throat as I look at the picture with her. I never saw Alex as happy as he was that night. Both he and Isabel are practically glowing in the photo, finally recognizing how much they meant to each other, and they never even got a chance to move forward with it.

It was completely unfair. If anyone deserved to be happy, it was Alex. I miss him so much.

I can feel Max’s eyes on me. I know that he knows what is going through my mind. And even though I am not looking at him, I can almost feel his desire to do something to comfort me. But now is not the time.

I force myself to take the picture from Jennifer, place it gently back where it came from. "What about the guy?" I ask urgently, at this point, only answers capable of keeping my tears at bay.

"She called him Lazar." Jennifer shrugs. "He didn’t say much. She did all the talking. I got the impression that he was in charge though."

"Is there anything else you can tell us?" Max asks, getting to his feet. He seems frustrated suddenly. I glance at him as he shoves his hands roughly into the pockets of his khakis, his entire body radiating tension.

"Just that I told them where his room was - actually I took them there." Jennifer replies. "They messed around on his computer. I knew I shouldn’t have let them, but they seemed to know their way around so well, I didn’t say anything. Anyway, the blonde girl took a disk out of the hard drive and then the guy pulled the whole computer out of the wall and took it with them." She pauses, closes her eyes briefly. "And then I told them how to find the warehouse where he was hiding." She begins to sob again. "I am so sorry."

I take her hand, squeeze it. "It wasn’t your fault." I tell her, meaning it. She had had no idea what she was really dealing with. I knew better than anyone what a great actress Tess Harding had turned out to be and I had known what she really was. "Thank you." I pull the picture of Alex and Leanna out of my purse again, glance at Max, who is watching me closely, and hand it to her. "He would want you to have this."

She takes it, smiles. "Thanks. He was a really great guy. I missed him when he was gone."

I impulsively reach out and hug her. "Trust me. I know how that feels." I feel a moment of close connection with this girl - one who had ended up in a situation that she couldn’t control and didn’t understand - one that had ended in tragedy.

Did I ever know how that felt.

After leaving Jennifer, Max and I are back in his parent’s car before either of us says anything.

I feel numb. I never realized how much looking into what had happened to Alex was going to hurt. When I had done it before, right after the funeral, it had helped, had made the pain less, because at least I had felt like I was doing something to show Alex how much I had loved him.

Now I just felt, more and more, with every single step forward we took, that his death was my fault.

I had known what she was and I had let her close to him - to all of us. How could I have been so stupid?

The ridiculous thing is that I know that Max, sitting right beside me, staring unseeing out the front windshield, is thinking the exactly the same thing I am.

And, in that moment, I know I want him to. Because it is something that we have always shared, this complete feeling of responsibility for the safety of our friends. If guilt has to be the only think bonding us now, it is better than nothing.

It’s sick, but I am willing to take what I can get. If I can’t have Max, then at least I can understand him, can still have that connection with him.

Finally, he speaks. "Liz, are you okay?"

"I will be." I reply, knowing that I sound cold. I wonder if he thinks that I am mad at him again because of it. But I have to stay frozen or I won’t be able to move forward. All the grief and pain that I have felt over Alex’s death is threatening to come back in great waves if I let even one inch of my control go.

But Max knows this. He knows me. "Okay. Where to now?" He asks, sounding strangely upbeat, in that way that people do when they are trying to ignore what’s really going on under the surface. I, of course, basically just told him to, but I am still irritated.

"We need to find out who that guy was." I tell him evenly, although of course he knows this. I look over at him. "Have you been through any of Tess’s stuff yet?"

He grimaces. "No. I didn’t want to bug the Sheriff. He’s not doing so hot."

I feel a pang for the man who had done so much for us. Maria had been convinced that he would be all right, but I knew better. He had grown to love Tess like a daughter. That she had turned out to be one of those evil aliens he had so feared when he had still be chasing Max - it was the supreme irony. The Sheriff was not a cold man. He would be hurt and angry and would feel stupid too.

Of course, he couldn’t feel any more stupid than the rest of us. Tess had done a number on all of us that it was going to take a very long time to get over, if ever. It was going to be virtually impossible to let anyone new into our small band of seven. We would always remember her, remember how we had let her in and how she had killed the best and brightest of us, how she had almost killed Michael and Isabel, how she had stolen Max’s innocence and had broken my heart in the process.

Not being able to trust anyone new meant that we were irretrievably stuck with each other - for better and for worse. We no longer had any other options.

Max once told me that I would always be a part of the group. It had comforted me then. Now it was beginning to feel like a prison because the one person I most wanted to be stuck with, Max himself, was lost to me.

All because of Tess and the baby Max was driven to find.

"I don’t think she would have left anything incriminating around there anyway. Someone might have stumbled on it." I tell Max a few minutes later as he pulled out on to the highway. I pause, thinking. "The lease on that house Nasedo rented is still good, isn’t it?"

Max nods. "He told Tess that it was hers, in her name. He paid two years rent when he leased it."

I frown. "Ironic that she ended up in the Sheriff’s house because you thought she was in danger from the Skins there." I shake my head. "She wasn’t ever in any danger. I bet she used that place all the time."

"Let’s check it out." Max agrees. "I haven’t been anywhere near it since that night."

As we drove, I thought about Tess and Nasedo and the deal they had made with Khivar. The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. If Nicholas was Khivar’s right hand man, his representative on Earth, then why had the Skins killed Nasedo, with whom Khivar had a deal? It didn’t make any sense. I voice this to Max.

He just shakes his head. "I’ve thought about that Liz. I don’t get it either. I wondered if maybe Nasedo decided to renege on the deal once he found us, that he thought we would get him back there anyway and that he didn’t need to betray us, but that he never got a chance to tell Tess."

Tess. It all comes back to her. Why was she willing to betray the three she was supposed to be most loyal to? How could getting back to the planet be so important that she was willing to completely disregard her purpose of existence, which was to save her people as a member of the Royal Four? How could she have turned out so badly?

I remember Ava, remember how nice she was, how easily I got along with her. She would have fit in with Max and Isabel and Michael far better than Tess ever did. She was good. I know she was.

So what had gone so wrong with Tess?

But, deep down, I know what it was. It was me and the way Max felt about me. She hated me so much, for taking the place in his heart that she felt rightfully belonged to her, she was willing to kill him rather than let me have him.

Loving me had almost killed him.

And now she is gone, but the memory of her and the disaster she left behind is still with us. She is still winning.

I can feel myself beginning to seethe with rage. I was still letting her win, letting her come between us.

I know that Max wants to be with me, know that I am the only one standing in the way of it - me and my pride.

I wonder if pride is worth it. If my pride is worth letting her win.

I realize that Max and I have been driving in complete silence for quite a while. We are on the outskirts of Roswell already.

I glance over at him. He is staring straight ahead, his jaw clenched, clearly deep in thought. I can feel the barely harnessed combination of pain and guilt and anger that is lingering beneath the surface of the teenage guy who saved my life. The one I lied for, broke the law for, jumped off bridges for…the one I was willing to give up to save the world, to save HIS world.

The love I have for him is so mixed up with hate at this point, all I want to do is to end it, take the plunge back into the alien abyss once and for all and accept that I am never going to be able to let go of what we once had. I am never going to be able to let go of the sweet, loving, brave boy I fell in love with. The one SHE destroyed.

"Max." He glances over at me, blinking at the hard edge to my voice. "Pull over."

"Liz, what’s wrong?"

"Pull over." I repeat. "Now."

He slowly pulls the car off the highway and onto the shoulder. He is already turning in his seat to see what’s wrong before the car stops rolling.

"Liz…"

But he never gets a chance to say anything. I have my seat belt off and I am already moving towards him. I see one instant of complete astonishment on his face before I bring my lips down onto his.

The surprise of it does not stop him from responding eagerly. His hands plunge into my hair, bringing me closer. Through a haze of grief and hate and love I can hear him saying my name. "Liz! Oh God. I love you so much."

I don’t say anything, just continue to kiss him, to revel in the fact that he’s really there, that he isn’t off on some distant planet, on the verge of execution.

It is in that instant that the connection flares to life. And as the flashes begin, it is in then that I remember why this is going to be the last time that I will ever kiss the love of my life.

To be continued…



"It was you."

Edited by - Kath7 on 09/19/2001 21:45:53

[ edited 8 time(s), last at 10-Jul-2002 12:16:04 AM ]
posted on 18-Sep-2001 9:45:00 PM
Part 6 - Max POV - Steaming

You're always waiting on the tide
It's time you decide.
I've walked down long roads that seem to have no end at all.

You never wanted time to end,
To let my life offend.
It's time to realize what hides deep inside your holy eyes,
Hold on tight, hold on fast
This ain't the kind that always lasts.
If you want me to go just ask me to go, I'll go.

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Over the hills and right on through you.

Lying awake in these restless dreams,
Life's never what it seems.
I've always tried to read your eyes,
To get inside that scornful mind.
Hold on tight, hold on fast
This ain't the kind that always lasts.
If you want me to go just ask me to go, I'll go.

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through you.
Over the hills and right on through you.

I was with you on that pallet steaming,
Spinning 'round in circles dreaming.
I was with you on that pallet steaming
Running 'round in circles screaming...

All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you...
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through.
All the way my love, over the hills and right on through you...
Run away my love, over the hills and right on through.

Sarah McLachlan

I cannot believe that she is actually in my arms again. It has happened so suddenly, its like some sort of weird dream come to life.

Not that I’m complaining mind you. This entire afternoon has been one giant exercise of being hit in the face by the fact that Liz has absolutely no intention of being with me again. We are a unit, a team, yes, but for two reasons alone. To find out the truth behind Alex’s death and to save my son.

And I was accepting it. I was. I was worried about how brittle she was throughout the entire conversation with Leanna, but I had been happy simply being in her presence, working with her again.

And then she tells me to stop the car and suddenly she has jumped me and everything is suddenly up-ended again.

The firm lid I had put on my desire to touch her and BE with her has been completely demolished. I am simply reveling in the feel of her silky hair under my hands, marveling over the fact that I am actually kissing her again when the flashes start.

The connection is so abrupt and so sudden, I hear Liz gasp before I can even begin to make any sense of them.

Flash*

Liz watching me kiss Tess at the prom, horror and pain and betrayal washing over her. And then anger and resolve.

Flash*

Liz and Sean at the bowling alley, the pain being replaced by acceptance and a desire to move forward.

Flash*

Liz, shocked and betrayed, as she listens to me tell the others that I believe Valenti - that Alex committed suicide. Anger, which results in words that she cannot take back, words she regrets but that will not turn her away from her purpose.

Flash*

Liz in tears, poring over a stack of pictures of Alex. A serene feeling settles over her as some guy shows up at the door of the Crashdown with a story that tells her she is on the right track.

Flash*

Liz, Maria and Michael in some sort of broken down warehouse. Triumph as they find the translated book - and, yet, there are still more answers to be sought.

Flash*

Liz in the Jeep as I tell her that Tess is pregnant with MY child. The wave of pain and betrayal that washes over her is so intense, I momentarily lose my connection to her.

Flash*

Liz in Sean Deluca’s arms. Her grief over my departure is so sharp, I can barely comprehend why she is with Sean. And then she is turning away from him…

The connection ends as abruptly as it began.

It is in that instant that I realize that Liz is no longer on my lap, having wrenched herself away from me, but is back on her side of the car, fumbling with the handle to the door. She is stumbling out and I can hear her retching.

Oh good Lord. The flashes…

I don’t want to even begin to contemplate what she saw from ME, but it was clearly all bad - enough to actually make her physically sick.

I am out of the car and around to her side in an instant. She is on her hands and knees, taking deep gulps of air. I drop to my knees beside her, reach over to pull her hair back as she retches again. I can hear the sobs beginning to intermingle with the sounds of sickness.

"Liz?"

She is beginning to breathe more evenly again. "Please Max. Don’t touch me." I drop my hands instantly. There is a long moment of silence and then. "I saw you…with her."

I have absolutely no idea what to say. "Oh." And then, "Liz, I’m sorry."

She is sitting back on her heels now, her gaze trained out across the desert. "I thought…I thought maybe I could move past it. I really thought maybe…" She pauses. "I didn’t want her to win, but she’s going to because… Max, I FELT how you felt when you were with her." Her voice hitches slightly.

"Liz…"

"Max, ever since the first time that we connected, I’ve been able to feel how you feel about ME. Why is she there? Why?" Her hands are covering her eyes. She is not crying, but I can hear her voice failing as the tears try to take over. I want so desperately to pull her into my arms to comfort her, but I know that it will only make things worse.

"Liz, I wasn’t myself." I fumble with the words. I just want to convince her that the way I felt about Tess…yes, it had been real at the time, but…

But there is no excuse. I had felt something for Tess when we had been together. I had told Liz on the night before we were supposed to leave that I didn’t love Tess the way I loved her, and I hadn’t, but I couldn’t deny it. She had wormed her way into my heart.

It had been so easy to be with her. She didn’t expect anything of me. Not like Liz, not like Isabel, not like Michael. She just wanted ME, wanted to make ME happy. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Of course, I only found out later WHY she wanted me. But when we had consummated our relationship, I had been giving in because I was so tired of constantly having to live up to what the others expected me to be. Tess had let me give into every selfish impulse I had ever had.

And I had reveled in it.

Yup, I’m one sick bastard all right. I know it. And now Liz knows it too.

"You hated me when you did that with her." I snap my head around to stare at her. She is whispering, but it resounds like a gunshot through my brain.

"What??"

"You did Max. I felt it. You were trying to get back at me. You were thinking about ME when you were with her." I can hear the horror in her voice, the realization of what this means.

It isn’t true. I know it isn’t. "Liz, no. I swear…"

"Max, you did." She looks at me, her expression suddenly fierce. "How could you have hated me so much that you would deliberately set out to hurt me that way?" She swallows harshly. "I never knew you at all, did I? The person I fell in love with - he never even existed at all, did he?"

I just stare at her. I literally feel like I have been punched in the solar plexus. She is meeting my gaze steadily, but I can see the rage beginning to build in her eyes. "You actually hated me." There is another long moment of silence. She closes her eyes, as though to shut out my face. "I need you to take me home." Liz finally says, climbing to her feet. "This is the end Max. We can’t ever be together after this. I cannot ever see that again. I don’t want to ever feel that way again - EVER."

I am completely numb. I know its not true, but I have no idea how to make her see it. What I had done with Tess had had nothing to do with her. It had had everything to do with ME and how much I had just wanted to give up. I was positive that I had NOT thought of Liz at all. Now, I know that’s not necessarily a good thing, but she had not been involved in my decision at all.

It hadn’t really been much of a decision actually. Tess had just been there - like she was always there when I was at my worst, and, finally, I had just given in.

But Liz had seen it. She had looked into my soul and she had seen it. Had she seen some part of me that I didn’t even know existed?

Because, although I had been angry and hurt and completely out of control at that time, I had NEVER hated Liz - at least not so that I was aware of it.

We are driving again. I pull up in front of the Crashdown after what seems like moments, but has really been another fifteen minutes. I realize that this might truly be it. I may never actually speak to Liz Parker again.

I have to try and convince her. At least once more. "Liz, please…I don’t know what you saw, but I’m telling you, I NEVER felt that way. I swear it."

Liz is staring out the front windshield of my parent’s car, her expression completely shuttered. She doesn’t even look at me. "Max, I saw it."

"Liz, it can’t just END like this. Please." And then I just throw all caution to the wind. I will never forgive myself if I don’t say what my entire soul is screaming. "I love you."

Finally, she turns to look at me. "I know you do. But this thing between us Max…its destructive. I can’t ever be with you. Spending time with you only makes it worse. Sean…" She stops abruptly.

I feel a flash of rage. Sean. Sean Deluca. He had said something to her, something that has made her decide this is the only way. "What about Sean?" I demand, unable to control the snarl in my tone despite myself. I instantly regret it because she tenses up and glares at me.

"Sean was right. I will never be able to move forward as long as you are in my life." She says it coldly, cutting right to my heart. "I’m tired of looking back Max. Whoever it was I fell in love with, you are no longer him."

I can’t even speak because I know its not true. I am still him - I am still the same person.

The only difference is that I am completely lost, adrift, and now I am never going to find my way back home.

I can’t do it without her.

"I just want to say it once more." Liz’s eyes are beginning to fill with tears, but her tone is still controlled and frigid as she says, "Thank you for saving my life. I swear it won’t be for nothing. I’m going to make something of it."
She says it with utter certainty and I know its true. And she’s going to do it without me.

"Goodbye Max. I hope you find your son. I guess I’ll see you at school."

She is gone. And she doesn’t look back.

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

I am lying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, willing myself to fall asleep.

All I want to do is to let myself tumble into oblivion.

But I doubt it will even help. I’ll probably just dream about Alex again - and Sean and Liz together. More dreams where my guilt and fear and jealousy and hate start to suffocate me.

I wonder if maybe I should get up and go over to Tess’s. At least I can look around there - see if there’s anything that gives me some kind of clue as to what the hell Tess did to Alex, exactly how her plan went forward…and who the mysterious Lazar is.

It is the only thing I can do right now. I have no idea where to even start looking for my son. It is all completely hopeless. I am never going to find him and the one person who was determined to make sure I did is now gone.

But I can try and help Alex. Because that dream is still haunting me. It had to mean something. It had to!

There is no way my parents are going to let me out this late with the car - not after the Jeep fiasco, so I just open my bedroom window and climb right out.

It’s a warm evening. It is late May after all. I thrust my hands into my pockets, kicking at a rock on the sidewalk. My mind is a complete void. I am refusing to think about anything, because if I do, all I will think about is Liz.

As of this moment, my emotions are on complete lockdown. I refuse to think about that scene this afternoon. If I don’t think about it, it never happened. There is still hope.

I am concentrating so hard on NOT thinking, I almost smash into Michael before I realize that he’s there.

"Jeez! Maxwell! Watch where you’re going!" My best friend is glaring at me, but he’s not really mad. "Where the hell are you off to? I was just coming to talk to you!"

Trust Michael to sound annoyed that I might potentially have something better to do than to sit on my bed waiting for him to show up to talk to me. I just roll my eyes. I am so NOT in the mood to deal with him. "What?"

Michael eyes me for a moment. "What’s wrong?" He demands instantly.

"Nothing’s wrong." I reply. "I’m just going over to the Harding house to check out some stuff."

"Max, you better not be keeping something from me." Michael growls, falling into step beside me. "I’m coming with you. There is absolutely no reason for you to go to the Harding house unless you’re looking for something. And since I know YOU, I know that whatever it is, I should know about it. I also know that you won’t tell me unless I find out myself and so I’m coming."

I just stare at Michael. "Are you quite finished?" He scowls, nods curtly. "Fine, you can come. I really don’t care."

This stops Michael in his steps. "Okay, something is really wrong. What’s going on? Tell me Maxwell. Now." And then, just because he does know me… "It’s Liz, isn’t it?"

I scrub my hand across my face wearily. "There is no more Liz Michael. We’re through. For good."

"That’s bull. What happened?"

"I don’t want to talk about it."

"Maxwell…" Michael trails off warningly. For God’s sake! Can’t a guy even brood in peace!

"She kissed me and she got flashes of me and Tess together." I yell. "There! Are you satisfied? She says that I slept with Tess to get back at her - that I HATED her when I did it. And I don’t even know WHAT she’s talking about. I know it had nothing to do with her! I was a selfish bastard, yes, but I KNOW that I did not deliberately sleep with Tess to hurt Liz."

Michael just stares at me. "She saw all that from a few flashes?" He demands after a moment. "Jeez. Maria and I have a lot of catching up to do." He mutters. But he is now looking thoughtful, as though the pieces of a puzzle are starting to fall into place.

"What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?" I snap. Of course he’s not taking this at all seriously. To Michael, likely to Maria and to Isabel too, Liz and I just need to get over ourselves, need to admit we want to be together.

I can just hear Maria now: "Sure, you made some mistakes Max and Liz, but you’re SOULMATES, you BELONG together."

Screw that.

"It means that I don’t know what the hell you and Tess did, but you must have been doing something completely weird, because there was no hour long culmination for me buddy." He sounds annoyed. "You’re like the flashes/orgasmo king! What the hell? How is any guy supposed to compete with that?"

Okay, now I have no clue what the hell he’s talking about. "Pardon me?"

"Maria and me. We did it. And while it was certainly awesome, I don’t know how the hell you managed to keep that up for an hour. And what, do you and Liz like have some sort of psycho link to each other’s worst nightmares? What is with you man? Why do you insist on always taking everything to extremes?"

I am staring at him, unable to even form coherent thought. "You and Maria? When?" It is the most inane of questions, but I am currently unable to think of another.

"The night before we were supposed to leave." He clears his throat, actually looking embarrassed suddenly. "And last night. But don’t tell anyone I told you. She’ll kill me."

"And are you saying that Maria got flashes?" I ask.

"Yeah, but nothing like you and Liz. It was all good."

I am suddenly so jealous, all I want to do is punch him. I clench my fists at my sides. "I so cannot hear THIS right now."

I am getting ready to storm away when Michael puts a heavy hand on my shoulder, stopping me. "Max, I need you to listen to me. I think I might have thought of something."

"What?" I snarl. He, being Michael, isn’t the least bit intimidated.

"Do you think it was real?" He asks, right to the point as always.

"Was what real?"

"What you did with Tess? Don’t you think its all a little too good to be true? I mean the girl proved herself to be the mindwarping queen…maybe she just MADE you think you had one for an hour." He smirks at me. " ‘Cause being the expert and all…"

"Would you shut up." I mutter. But he has started something whirling through my mind. A thin slice of hope. "You think that nothing happened at all?"

"I don’t mean that. I mean the chick WAS pregnant." Michael sounds actually sorry that he has to say it. "But maybe that whole hour long thing was just something to make sure that she truly kept you in line. I mean, you’re a guy. I’m a guy. I know how we think. I know how GIRLS think we think. Hour-long culmination. To a girl, she’d probably think it was manna from heaven for us. I mean, not that it wouldn’t be, but what there is ain’t so bad either." He smirks again. "Hell, if she was mindwarping you, maybe you DIDN’T have sex with her - she just made you think you did."

Why is Michael doing this to me? Doesn’t he know that I would kill for this to be true? And yet, I know it was real. What Liz saw when we connected only reinforces it.

"I think…maybe because Maria’s human?" I am playing devil’s advocate. "Rath and Lonnie told Tess and I in New York that there was nothing like alien sex. Maybe with humans, its just different?"

Michael looks at me completely seriously. "Maxwell, I’m telling you. When you love the girl, there is NO WAY that there can be anything better, alien or otherwise."

Okay, when did Michael Guerin suddenly become Dr. Love again?

"But the baby…" I trail off. This can’t be true. How could she possibly have made me believe it so thoroughly? And Liz had SEEN it.

"Dude, it might not have been yours." Michael says logically. He starts to walk away. "I think I’ll let you go to the Hardings by yourself. But think about it."

Like it won’t be the only thing I’ll think about for the rest of the night.

It is too good to be true. There is no way that this whole dilemma could be resolved as simply as that. And if I was mindwarped, shouldn’t it have started to wear off by now? Was Tess really so strong that she could maintain an illusion of such a magnitude, even from the home planet?

And it was then that I remember Amy Deluca.

Because Tess’s gift was not just mind-warping.

Tess also had the power to change memories.

And maybe not just mine.

To be continued…




posted on 3-Nov-2001 3:58:33 PM
Part 7 - Liz POV - Plenty

I looked into your eyes
They told me plenty
I already knew.
You never felt a thing
So soon forgotten all that you do
In more than words
I tried to tell you
The more I tried I failed.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would d stand by you
No matter what they’d say.
I thought I’d be with you until my dying day
Until my dying day.

I used to think my life
Was often empty
A lonely space to fill.
You hurt me more than I ever could have imagined
You made my world stand still
And in that stillness
There was a freedom
I never felt before
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would stand by you no matter what they’d say.
I would.
I thought I would be with you until my dying day…
Until my dying day.

You know, you would have thought that would have been harder, ripping my own heart out like that.

It was surprisingly easy though. Almost as easy as it was to storm out of the school at the prom when I caught Max with Tess. It felt freeing, liberating, strong.

It wasn’t like when I walked away from Max at the pod chamber at all. I had felt every single ounce of pain in every bone of my body that day. And this is certainly as final as that was, at least in my mind.

When I told Max that we could never be together again a few hours ago, it was the easiest thing I have ever done. Of course, I am ignoring the expression that was on Max’s face when I last saw him, the one that had told me that every single one of his worst nightmares was coming true. It is currently, indelibly branded on my brain. It’s there, but I’m not seeing it, at least not right now.

Right now I am rolling my eyes at Sean Deluca as he makes a fool of himself.

The Crashdown was still open when I got back and Sean was there, harassing Maria, who had returned to help my dad clean up.

His face lit up when he saw me and it was then that I knew that he was waiting for me. I feel bad because I can’t be more excited. Sure, I’m not feeling any pain, but making a complete break from your soul mate does not inspire you to want to hang out with other guys who have the hots for you. At least not right away. I feel like I am entitled to a little wallowing time. I think maybe that’s why I couldn’t let go of Max last time. I didn’t grieve for what we had let slip away from us.

Maria takes one look at my face and says, "Get out of here Sean. Now." She grabs him by the nape of his neck and pulls him off the stool, thrusting him towards the door. Of course he is ten times bigger than her and would not be going anywhere if he didn’t want to be, but he is currently being amenable. Actually, he’s just ignoring her.

"Hey Parker. I see you finally ditched the baggage." He teases, breaking away from Maria and approaching me.

"His name is Max you dweeb." Maria flares, smacking him, harder than is really necessary. "And if anyone’s baggage around here, its you dork."

"So, what are you doing tonight?" Sean asks, grabbing Maria by the arm and gently subjecting her to a head-lock, in that typical big-brother, older cousin way. He is ignoring her screeches for my help.

And so this is the point when I roll my eyes. "Sean, let her go."

"Only if you’ll go out with me." Sean replies. "She’s my hostage."

"Blackmailing me didn’t work last time. Not in the long term anyway." I retort, as he lets Maria go because she bit him on the hand. She starts to smack him again.

"You’re just lucky Michael isn’t here." Maria says. Her face is all red and I can tell she is actually really mad. "Get lost and I may not tell him."

Sean snorts. "Like I’m scared of your weenie boyfriend." But he saunters towards the door. "Call me Parker. I think we have some stuff to discuss."

"AAAARRRGGGHHHH!" Maria screeches in annoyance, throwing a glass at her cousin’s retreating form. "I really do not understand why you give that idiot the time of day Lizzie. You know, sometimes I would give anything to let Michael blast him. He is driving me CRAZY!" The plastic glass has hit the door, fortunately missing the window by about a millimeter.

"Was that really necessary Maria?" I ask as I go to pick it up.

But she has already forgotten about Sean, the Deluca wind changing direction so quickly, as usual, my head is suddenly spinning. "Liz, what’s wrong?"

"Nothing’s wrong Maria." I don’t even know why I am bothering to deny it. While I am currently numb, it would appear that the fact that Max and I are totally over is reflected on my face for the entire world to see - or at least for my best friend to see.

"Puh-lease. Where’s Max?"

"At home I think." I shrug.

"Liz…" Maria says warningly. "Things looked like they were going so well this morning. What happened?"

I close my eyes briefly, and then decide to just tell her. She’s not going to leave me alone until I do anyway. "We kissed."

"WHAT???" I can hear the joy in her voice. Why is it that this is the first thing that starts to penetrate the armour I have built around my heart since I shut down after those flashes? I feel a catch in my throat, swallow hard to control it. Maria grabs me by the arm, turns me around so that I am facing her. "This is so great! So are you back together?"

"Not exactly." I manage to choke out. The light dies out of Maria’s eyes instantly.

"What happened?" She demands, more quietly, but urgently, like she knows that it is going to be terrible and she just wants to get it over with.

"Remember how I used to see stars when Max and I kissed?" I ask, knowing that my voice suddenly sounds bitter and hard. "Well, I saw a lot more than stars this time."

Maria’s hands come up to cover her mouth in horror. "Oh my God. You didn’t see…?"

"Max and Tess?" I ask, raising my eyebrows. "Yup. And it was lovely let me tell you."

"Oh Lizzie. I am so sorry." Maria reaches out, pulls me into an embrace. "But, I mean, you didn’t SEE everything."

"I really don’t want to remember what I did see." I tell her, pulling away. Already the horrible flashes are starting to circulate in my mind again.

"God, I don’t blame you." Maria plops down onto one of the stools, an absolutely shell-shocked look on her face. "And to think that I used to envy you those. Especially now that I know what its like." I glance at her, surprised. "Yeah. Michael showed me some stuff. But he had some control over it. Holy Mary…" She trails off. "Liz, I am so sorry."

"It’s over Maria. If today taught me anything, its that I can’t be around Max without wanting to BE with him. And its now clear. I can’t be. Ever again. He belongs to her now. Even though he doesn’t want to, he does."

Maria looks so sad, I suddenly want to comfort HER. It is, of course, ridiculous, but I know that this is going to be hard on everyone. Max is miserable, I’ll be miserable as soon as this weird numbness wears off, and our poor friends are going to have to bear the brunt of it, not to mention be torn between us.

Because even though I presently never want to see him again, I know its not going to last. He IS my soulmate, my love. I am never going to stop wanting to be with him, even if I live to be a hundred, get married twelve times and have twenty kids with other guys.

I lied to Max when I told him that he wasn’t the same person he used to be - that I had seen it in the flashes. The worst part of this whole thing is that I could tell he was. That was MY Max who had been with Tess. That he could do what he had done with Tess, while hating me, even for a little while…

And suddenly I don’t want to think about it anymore. "Listen Maria, something good did come from today." Maria stares at me with glazed eyes. "Its about Alex." She perks up. "We did find out something important before the great flash tragedy of 2001." I know that I sound flippant, but I have no choice. Because this is a tragedy, of Shakespearean proportions. I am beginning to wonder why I didn’t listen to my own little speech - the one I gave to poor Max way back when I was trying to get him to fall out of love with me, about Romeo and Juliet being a tragedy and not romantic at all.

"What?" Maria asks.

"He fought her. Alex wasn’t working with Tess at all and he tried to get away from her before the mind-warp started to really destroy his mind." I paused. "And that’s not all. She was working with someone else. Leanna told me and Max that Tess came to find Alex and she was with a guy - someone named Lazar."

Maria is frowning. "I don’t know if this is better Liz. I hate knowing that Alex KNEW what was happening to him. At least if he was mindwarped the whole time…"

I reach out, put my arm around her comfortingly. "I know. But he fought her Maria. That’s a lot more than the rest of us ever did. It just shows that he really was the bravest and strongest of all of us."

"Like we didn’t already know that." Maria smiles sadly. "God Liz. I miss him so much. Is this ever going to stop hurting?"

"I hope not." I reply. "Because that would mean we forgot him. I’ll never forget him. Never." I squeeze her shoulder, then stand up. "Anyway, I’m going there - to Tess’s." I clarify when Maria looks at me questioningly.

"Why?" Maria asks. "She’s gone Liz. What good can it do?"

"I can find out who was working with her and at least HE can be brought to justice for what they did to Alex."

Maria nods. "I’m coming with you. But do you really think Tess left that information lying around?" She asks as we turn off the lights and lock up the restaurant.

"I don’t think Tess was nearly as smart as we’ve all given her credit for." I reply. "Her cards were always visible. We just stopped looking for them."

We are in the Jetta before Maria tries again, gently. "Liz, do you think maybe you’re just reading too much into this…you know…to forget what happened with you and Max?"

"Maybe." I answer honestly. "But this Lazar guy exists Maria. And I’m going to find him."

Maria still looks worried, but she doesn’t argue anymore.

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

It only takes about ten minutes to drive to the housing development where Tess’s old house is. I feel a shiver descend my spine as we pull up, remembering how creepy both Tess and Nasedo were that night I had gone to plant the camera in the house.

I had done it because I had seen Max and Tess kissing, but I had known in my heart that Max was telling me the truth- that she was doing something to him. And so I had tried to prove it, because my faith in him was so strong.

I briefly wish that everything I had seen in those flashes from Max was a hoax, a mind-warp, just like the last time. But it was impossible. Tess was gone, on another planet. She was strong, but not THAT strong. That had been all Max in those flashes.

Maria is out of the car and on the lawn, skulking near the front picture window before I can even formulate a plan. Now that she is IN, she’s really in, in typical Maria fashion.

"Maria! Wait!" I hiss, hurrying after her.

"Liz, I think there’s someone in there!" Maria whispers back. "The shadows are moving."

I feel my heart beginning to beat a mile a minute. Could we have found the mysterious Lazar so easily? Was he really under our noses the whole time?

But if it he, we can’t face him alone. He’s dangerous. I’m going to have to call Max.

So much for keeping my distance. And yet, my heart is strangely excited at the prospect.

See, I told you I’m hopeless.

But, for the moment, we need confirmation.

I press my nose up against the bottom of the window, beside my best friend’s. "Who is it? Is it a guy?"

"Definitely male." Maria affirms.

"And you two are definitely females…nosy ones at that." The voice comes from behind us, causing me to whirl, my heart lodged in my throat and Maria to shriek.

It’s Michael of course. Maria is already slapping him for scaring the living daylights out of us.

I hear someone bump into something inside the house, then swear quietly. Suddenly a light comes on, but not an electric one. It is all alien and a familiar face is illuminated, bathed in the glow shining up from his palm.

Max.

So maybe I hadn’t devastated him as much as I had thought. He’s out playing detective too. But I know that it is not true. His face is a mask as he stares down on all of us.

"Michael, I thought you weren’t coming." He doesn’t even acknowledge mine or Maria’s presence, at least verbally. His eyes are on my face, unreadable in the semi-dark, shadowed by the faint bluish light.

"Changed my mind." Michael replies. "And apparently Frick and Frack here had the same idea as we did." He glares at Maria. "Didn’t I tell you that it was dangerous to go around alone after dark?"

"I’m not alone." Maria retorts, linking her arm with mine. "I’m with Liz. Besides, Tess is gone. Where’s the danger?"

"Hello? Khivar? Random Skins? Nicholas?" Michael begins counting off on this fingers.

Maria rolls her eyes. "Its not us they want you moron."

"Right. You’re disposable." Michael replied. "Do you think any of them would think twice about hurting you two? To get to us." He looks at Max. "Am I not right here Maxwell?"

I scowl at both of them because I don’t want to hear Max’s answer to that question. "We have just as much right to be here as you do." I snap. "Alex was OUR best friend."

Michael eyes me with annoyance. "Do I have to remind YOU Miss Parker about that device that almost blew up in your face a few days ago?"

"WHAT????" This is Max of course. Ooops. I forgot he didn’t know about that. I can see from Michael’s face that he forgot too. But like Max has any right to get mad. He was the one off sleeping with his once and future bride WHEN I was in that danger. He could have been with me. I had ASKED him to help me.

"Never mind." Michael mutters. "Anyway, my point is made."

"Well, we’re not alone now…are we?" Maria asks, batting her eyelashes at Michael. She has moved away from me and is snaking her arms around his waist. "C’mon Spaceboy. Let us stay."

My eyes momentarily meet Max’s in embarrassment at witnessing the way Michael melts, right in front of us. Suddenly I know what it must have been like to be around Max and I at the height of our relationship. I can’t help but smile to myself at the thought of it.

And dammit, he sees me do it and, being Max, he KNOWS what I am thinking. His own face softens and his eyes are staring at me in that way again. I force myself to look away.

I hear the sigh in Max’s voice as he says, "You can all stay of course. Just stop making so much noise and get in here." He reaches out his hand and eyes me through the window. I can tell he is daring me to take it.

Jerk. I thrust my own hand into his and try to ignore the warmth that snakes through me as he closes his around mine.

I don’t allow myself to hold onto him a minute longer than necessary. The minute I am inside, I let go, move away from him. I can feel his eyes following me, until he turns to help Maria through.

It is then that everything begins to move in slow motion.

"So what are we looking for?" Maria asks as the four of us begin to move across the darkened living room. I close my eyes briefly, shake my head, trying to clear it. Everything is really fuzzy all of a sudden.

I avoid the piano, which still has that statue sitting on top of it - the one I broke and we all saw Tess fix, the one that told us that there was much more to Tess Harding than met the eye.

"Anything weird." Max replies. "Anything that might tell us more about the deal Nasedo made with the Skins or about this Lazar guy." I swallow hard. His voice is fading in and out, like when your ears get plugged when a plane takes off.

I am moving away from the rest of them, towards the stairs. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’m being drawn towards the second floor. The minute Max had let go of me, it had started, this need to be up there.

I see Maria beginning to rummage through the kitchen cupboards as I climb the stairs. Michael and Max are arguing about something in the dining room, but I ignore them.

I feel my heart stop in my chest as a faint glow appears suddenly under one of the doors at the end of the upstairs hallway. It is gone as quickly as it came, but I SAW it. The thunder must have been my imagination though because it is perfectly clear when I look out the window at the end of the hallway.

And yet…

I can feel a presence. I know that there is someone in there.

I pause, wonder if I should call for one of the others, for ALL of the others…for Max.

But I know that whatever is in there is meant for me alone.

Of course, even though I am in this weird sort of trance, I know that this is NOT a good thing. That I am in Tess Harding’s house and likely anything behind that door is not going to be particularly healthy for Liz Parker. But I have no control over myself as I reach up and turn the doorknob.

And, suddenly, I am face to face with my greatest enemy.


posted on 3-Nov-2001 3:58:58 PM
Part 8 - Max POV - Strange World

We walk without a sound
Across a barren landscape.
Your eyes are twisted down
To a dew entrailed ground.
We watch the stars as they slowly fade away
And in the clearing sky
I see the cold stone face of morning setting in on me.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Your touch is cold and damp,
The devil’s in your eyes.
I wonder why I always let you lead me on this way.
Cause you see only what you want to see.
You feel only what you want to
And I am on the outside of your strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

We’re walking hand in hand,
We’ll walk this way forever
Our eyes have risen to the water’s edge
Watching with the tides.
The stars have fallen to another day
And the sun warms out path
To find the reasons leave us far behind in our strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world that leaves me holding onto nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Sarah McLachlan

I feel Liz’s panic before I actually hear her scream.

I am sorting my way through a filing cabinet in the den off the back of the kitchen, mildly annoyed and getting impatient with the complete lack of anything that even resembles a clue, when the wave of fear and horror washes over me.

"Liz!"

I almost knock Michael over, pushing past him. He is on his way to the staircase too because Liz’s scream has echoed through the entire house. "Keep Maria down here." I order him. For once, he listens to me, but I can already hear Maria arguing with him to let her past.

I take the stairs two at a time. "Liz! Liz? Where are you?"

There is no answer. Only dead silence.

I am frantically searching every room on the second floor. There is no sign of Liz anywhere. It is like she has disappeared off the face of the planet.

"Maxwell! What’s going on up there?" Michael bellows from the first floor.

"Michael! She’s gone! Liz is gone!" I can hear the panic in my own voice.

"Michael, let go of me!" Maria is shrieking at him and I can hear her moving up the stairs now. "Max! Max, where is she?"

I am standing in one of the bedrooms, staring around, stupidly hoping that Liz is going to suddenly materialize in front of my eyes, but it is no good.

She is completely gone.

I collapse onto the bed, stare at Maria as she bursts into the room, Michael on her heels. "Max?’

"She’s gone."

"Gone? Where?" Maria is at the window, staring out. It is closed of course. She didn’t go out that way. "Where is she Max? She couldn’t have just disappeared?" Her voice is beginning to rise hysterically. Michael grabs her, pulls her against him, in a totally ludicrous effort to comfort her.

"We need to find her." He says, stating the obvious.

"Starting where?" I ask dumbly, willing him to take control, to find her.

The three of us just stare at each other in silence.

Because there is nowhere to start.

She is gone and there is no way to explain it.

And it is in that instant that I see Michael’s fingers beginning to tap against Maria’s back. I stare at those tapping fingers, my heart suddenly in my throat.

I let my face fall into my hands. "Oh my God. No."

"Maxwell! What’s wrong?"

"Tess." I manage to say it. My hands are clenched at my sides, although my entire body is screaming for me to smash something - anything. My rage is that great. "Tess has Liz."

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

Liz POV - Lost

By the shadows of the night I go.
I move away from the crowded room,
That sea of shallow faces
Masked in warm regret.
They don’t know how to feel,
They don’t know what is lost.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun.
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
Though we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I want it all to go away,
I want to be alone.
Sympathy’s wasted on my hollow shell.
I feel there’s nothing left to fight for
No reason for a cause.
And I can’t hear your voice,
And I can’t feel you near.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
And we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I wanted a change,
Knowing all I could do was try
I was looking for someone.

Sarah McLachlan

I see Max come storming into the room, see Michael and Maria in a blur as we pass them on the staircase, see it all but cannot make them see me. And believe me, I’m trying. My heart is thundering in complete terror. I have never been this scared in my entire life - not even when Max was in the White Room, not when we faced down the Skins, not when I realized that there was a murdering alien on the loose after Alex was killed.

Because I now know who that murderous alien was and here she is, back again and she is mindwarping them all and she is kidnapping me from right under their noses.

And she hates me. She didn’t hate Alex and she killed him mercilessly anyway.

You also have to understand that I am not only afraid for myself. I am afraid that she might drop the mindwarp, that Max and Maria and Michael might become her targets too.

This is one reason for why I am not fighting her. Because I bet you’re thinking that I could take her. This IS Tess after all. We are pretty much the same size and with the force of my hatred and outrage I could probably fight her pretty easily.

But, you have to understand, that this IS Tess, but its not too.

Just like Future Max WAS Max but not Max at the same time.

Because it has not taken me long to figure out that this is not the same Tess Max sent off in what we thought was the granolith only three days ago.

This is another Tess. A stronger Tess - and I don’t just mean physically.

Because, somehow, she is mindwarping me into doing what she wants me to do. I wasn’t imagining things when I felt myself being pulled towards that room. She wanted me there - and now she’s making me leave.

I can’t even turn my head to look at her. I am just walking quietly beside her, although every ounce of my being is screaming in fear and anger and frustration.

But I don’t need to look at her to know that this is not the same Tess. This is another Tess. An older Tess. Her hair is long, half-way down her back, but it is streaked with grey beneath the bright blonde that still gleams under the street lamps. Her face is lined, no longer young, is twisted with bitterness and from years of shattered dreams.

And from hate. Let’s not forget hate.

She’s wearing leather, in a style not dissimilar to what Future Max was wearing when he came for his destructive visit a few months ago. I inanely wonder why leather has become the fashion of choice in the future.

Because this is Future Tess and she is one pissed off alien queen and so reflections on leather seem a little inappropriate at this time.

"Get in." She snarls, pushing me hard from behind, so that I sprawl on the back seat of the Jetta. She climbs into the front, sweeps her hand across the ignition and the engine roars to life.

I am still frozen. I desperately want to scream, want to struggle, but I am incapable of moving.

I see her cold blue eyes in the rear-view mirror. "Stop fighting it. You’re only going to tire yourself out. I need you strong and healthy for what I have planned for you." Her eyes are gleaming with disdain and annoyance.

The tone of her voice sends a sharp stab of petrifying fear down my spine. We are headed out of town, are soon on the highway.

She is muttering to herself. "…knew I should have taken care of this myself from the beginning….don’t understand why every guy in the universe falls in love with her but I’ll put a stop to this nonsense once and for all…running out of time."

She is distracting herself with her own rage. I feel the mind-warp or mind control or whatever it is she is doing to me begin to slip.

I manage to croak her name. "Tess!"

Her eyes snap back to the mirror. "Shut up! I don’t want to hear your simpering voice! If I could do this without you, I would!" She turns the wheel sharply, sends the car careening off the highway and into the desert. It is dark, but I recognize the route well, having only driven it a couple of days before.

The pod chamber.

She stops the car so abruptly, I go tumbling of the seat and onto the floor. She has hauled me out of the car by my hair before I can even begin to process what has happened.

My entire being is screaming out for Max, hoping against hope, that by some tiny miracle, he will hear me. He heard me once after all - that time in New York. But that time Isabel was helping me. I have no idea if I am capable of connecting with him on my own.

Future Tess is staring down at me, her face contorted with hatred. "God, you’re just as insipid as I remember." She grabs at my hair again. "You cut this all off in a few years you know. It doesn’t look good."

I can’t speak again. I am pleading with her with my eyes to release me, to at least let me talk. She notices. "What? You have something to say Miss Smarty?" She sneers, but waves her hand in the air. I feel my vocal cords come back under my own control.

"What…why are you here?"

She pauses, her entire face changing. Suddenly she does not look at all threatening, just annoyed. "You don’t seem surprised to see me Lizzie dearest. I never knew for sure, but now I do. You’ve had visitors from the future before."

I see no reason in lying to her. "Yes. Max came. He told me to try and get the two of you together."

Tess rolls her eyes. "Well I’m guessing from the way MY life turned out that it was a big success. Let me guess - was this right around the time you all went to Copper Summit?" When I nod, she snorts. "God, you screwed us really well Parker."

I feel a stab of anger, which momentarily overshadows my terror. "You’re the one who ended up pregnant with his child and back on Antar, where you wanted to be all along." I retorted. "Thanks to me."

Tess eyes me for a long moment, a bewildered expression gradually taking over her face. "So you really don’t know - yet anyway."

"Know what?"

She no longer looks at all angry. In fact, she looks suddenly hopeful. "He didn’t tell you."

"Who tell me what?" I am beginning to think that she is completely loony. She is jumping from one topic to another, none of it making any logical sense.

"Max of course. About Serena."

I start at the familiar name. "He mentioned her. He told me that she was my friend. She’s the one who fixed the granolith so he could come back in time through it."

Tess narrows her eyes. I can see the wheels spinning inside her head as she tries to put the pieces of some puzzle I can’t even see together. "When did he come back from?"

I don’t know what else to do besides answer her. "Fourteen years in the future."

"Fourteen years. She was only thirteen years old then. That was the year Khivar killed Isabel and Michael…." She trails off. "Oh my God. He started the whole thing in motion. It wasn’t supposed to be this way."

I am openly gaping at her now. "Tess, what the hell are you talking about?"

Tess tilts her head, smiles again. She flicks her wrist again and I feel the control she has been exerting over my body disappear completely. It is so sudden, I stumble, falling to the ground, hard.

"I’m talking about your daughter Liz. Your daughter - Serena. The one who has not been conceived yet, but is supposed to be, right around this time. Fool. He tried to save Isabel and Michael and only made everything worse." She sounds sad and proud and disgusted all at the same time. I don’t understand how I notice this, because I am sure that I am gaping at her like some sort of fish out of water. She pauses and proceeds to shock me even further. "Oh, and just so that you stop calling me by that traitor’s name….I’m not Tess, I’m Ava, and we have a lot of work to do."

Part 9 - Max POV - Circle

There are two of talking in circles
And one of us who wants to leave
In a world created for only us
An empty cage that has no key.
Don’t you know that we’re working with flesh and blood
Carving out of jealousy,
Crawling into each other
It’s smothering every little part of me.

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

I know too many people unhappy
In a life from which they’d love to flee.
Watching others get everything offered
They’re wanton for discovery.
Oh my brother, my sister, my mother
You’re losing your identity.
Can’t you see that it’s you in the window
Shining with intensity?

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

Sarah McLachlan

We go to pick up Isabel and call the Sheriff once I finally manage to pull myself together. I am still in a state of complete disbelief that Tess could have gotten the best of us again so completely. She is supposed to be gone! We saw her blast off ourselves.

As usual, none of this makes any sense. Why is she back? And what does this mean for my son? Has he been born already?

Or is Michael right after all - did he ever even exist?

The Sheriff and Kyle are both out driving the streets of Roswell, just as we are, searching for any sign of my lunatic former wife or Liz. Maria is with the Sheriff and Michael with Kyle. It seems wisest that no one confront Tess alone, if they should stumble across her. She is strong - even stronger than I realized when I finally found out the truth about her betrayal. That she could have so easily mindwarped Michael, Maria and I AND taken Liz without even any semblance of a struggle - it is damn frightening.

It is scaring the hell out of me actually. Liz is in great danger and we have absolutely no idea where to even start to look for her.

Izzy is in the back-seat of my parent’s car, I am at the wheel. She has a picture of Liz on her lap, is trying to dreamwalk her as I drive around town in circles. She is having absolutely no luck.

"Where would she take her? Why would she take her? Why is she even here? Hasn’t she done enough?" These were Maria’s words once she and Michael had gotten over the first shock of my accusation that it was Tess who was responsible.

The words are now winding their way through my brain as I listen to the soft sound of my sister’s breathing from the back-seat. She is in a deep trance now. I know that she will not give up, but it seems hopeless.

I have no answers. Only a deep, bone-chilling awareness that we are at a turning point - again. That if I take the wrong path this time, there will be no going back, there will be no last minute reprieve like there was when we found out the truth about Tess.

This knowledge stems from one fact.

I can’t feel Liz at all anymore. There is like a deep void in my consciousness where she has always existed, even when we are apart. Ever since I saved her in the Crashdown that day, I have always felt her, know when she is safe and when she isn’t, know when she is hurting and when she is happy. It has become such a part of my own make-up, that it wasn’t until it was gone that I even realized it was there - her presence - like a flame, drawing me to her, burning brightly, keeping us connected.

Even over the past few weeks when things were so bad between us, she had burned within me.

Now she is just gone. Completely. Like a candle snuffed out.

And so it is an even greater shock when she is suddenly there again, like a match being lit. No, that’s too small. More like a small nuclear explosion ripping through my mind.

"MAX! Help me! MAAAAAXXXX!" Liz’s voice is panicked, desperate, terrified. And then it is gone, like it was never there at all.

I jerk the wheel to the left, sending the car careening for the sidewalk on the main drag of Roswell. I half hear Isabel shriek as she is physically thrown onto the floor in the back-seat. I slam on the brakes, breathing heavily as the car rolls to an abrupt halt.

"Max! What the hell are you doing?" Isabel screams, opening the back door and tumbling out onto the pavement.

I ignore her. I just continue to sit behind the wheel, staring out the windshield, calling for her with every fibre of my being.

**LIZ!!!! Liz, where are you? Help me to find you! LIZ!?**

There is nothing but the void.

Isabel is shaking me now. "Max! What is it? What’s wrong?"

"Liz…she’s calling for me." I bring my face down into my hands. The emptiness - I can’t bear it. I know right now that she’s still alive, but without the connection, will I even know if Tess hurts her, if Tess snuffs out the flame permanently?

"Like when you were in New York?" Isabel asks, sounding excited.

"Sort of." I reply, looking up at her, still feeling totally bereft. "That time I saw her, this time I heard her."

Isabel is frowning slightly. "And you can’t answer her?"

"She’s gone again."

"Try again. This time with me helping you." Isabel says, her eyes bright with hope. "She needed me last time. Her fear might have given her the strength to reach you once, but that was it. She needs help."

A tiny flicker of hope…It is enough.

I take my sister’s hand. She is kneeling on the pavement outside the driver’s side door, the picture of Liz smoothed out in front of her. She has one hand on Liz’s face, one in mine. As Isabel closes her eyes, she instructs me. "Call to her. Don’t let any doubt come into it Max. You need to believe that you can do this."

I close my eyes, reaching out with all my senses. I connect almost instantly with my sister, who is linked physically to me through our hands. I can feel her waiting to join her strength to mine, waiting to use her gift to help me enter Liz’s mind.

It seems to take forever. I can feel my will fading, can feel my belief that this will work wilting, when suddenly it feels like I am falling…

And I am in.

She is sitting right in front of me, staring at something or someone unseen beyond me. Her eyes are looking right through me for a split second before I see them dilate and focus on my face.

The first thing I notice is that while Liz is still afraid, she is no longer petrified with fear. I can feel her natural curiosity overtaking the fright that is within her. I can also feel her shock. She is deeply troubled and confused by something.

"Max." She says, not at all surprised to see me. "You found me. Come and get me my love. It is not too late for us."

"Liz, where are you?" All I can see around her is sky - dark and starry and cold. The V constellation is behind her, pointing down, as though to lead me to her.

"I am in the usual place." She replies. "Where the pieces are dropped and picked up again. The place of answers - wrong and right. The place where paths are chosen and discarded."

And with that cryptic statement, she is gone.

I open my eyes, see Isabel staring at me, back from the dream plain. "Where is she Max?" My sister knows that the connection was made but didn’t see any of it it seems.

I frown slightly, wonder why Liz was speaking in riddles. But her meaning was clear. The minute she spoke, I recognized the rock formation that was appearing out of the dark behind her.

"She’s at the pod chamber." I reply. "Why though? There’s nothing there anymore. The granolith destroyed the entire thing when it took off. Why would Tess take her there?"

Isabel looks as confused as I feel. "I have no idea. Do you think its a trap Max?"

"It could be." I reply pensively. "But I don’t think so. We’ll call the others, have them meet us there."

I watch Isabel hurry around the car to get in beside me, am about to shut my door and put the car back into gear when the headlights pick up a pair of legs further down the sidewalk. They are walking towards us, until the figure melts into the recognizable form of Sean Deluca.

Great. Just what I need. Liz’s knight in tarnished armour.

He saunters over to my side of the car, sneering down at me. "Evans. I hope you’re not here to harass Parker again. Because if you are…" He trails off, his tone threatening.

It brings my back up. I admit it. Mainly because I know that he has gotten to Liz, has interested her, has connected with her on a level unlike any other guy since…well, since me.

"Do you see Liz?" I snap back, annoyed despite all attempts not to be. This guy didn’t know the first thing about my relationship with Liz, but every time I encounter him, I feel like he is weighing me, judging me, waiting for me to do…I don’t know what he’s waiting for actually. Probably for me to screw up, which even I admit I am very good at.

And yet, it is beginning to drive me crazy. Because while I definitely am not good enough for Liz, this guy isn’t either.

The fact that he is the complete opposite of me, personality-wise, should make me feel better - like Liz couldn’t even try and replace me. But actually, it makes it worse - more like she has been trying to get as far away as possible from anything that reminded her of me, including other guys.

"I know that you did SOMETHING to her again." Sean replies. "And I’m telling you, stay away from her. For your own good." I watch in amazement as he puts his hand down on my fore-arm, which is resting on the open window frame of the car door.

A strange energy seems to be building between us. It is intoxicating, yet frightening. And not only that - it also reminds me of something that I have experienced before…

"Max, let’s just go." Isabel says impatiently. I can feel my sister’s hostility towards Sean coming off of her in waves, even though I am not looking at her. She seems unaware that anything is wrong. But I am TOTALLY aware that everything is wrong. It’s like I am suddenly tuned into everything around me, and yet like I am being ripped away at the same time.

It is the last thought of which I am aware before I pass out.










posted on 13-Nov-2001 7:52:23 PM
Part 10 - Liz POV - Path of Thorns (Terms)

I knew you wanted to tell me.
In your voice there was something wrong.
But if you would turn your face away from me
You cannot tell me you’re so strong.
Just let me ask of you one small thing
As we have shared so many tears.
With fervor our dreams we planned a whole lifelong
Now are scattered on the wind.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that you pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Through the years I’ve grown to love you,
Though your commitment to most would offend.
But I stuck by you holding on with my foolish pride,
Waiting for you to give in.
You never really tried or it seems now
I’ve had much more myself to blame.
I’ve had enough of trying everything
And this time it is the end.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

There’s no more coming back this way
The path is overgrown and strewn with thorns.
They’ve torn the lifeblood from your naked eyes
Cast aside to be forlorn.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Funny how it seems
That all I’ve tried to do,
Seemed to make no difference to you
At all.

Sarah McLachlan

I am still staring at the woman before me in complete shock, but I am no longer scared.

Its because I believe her. I am even beginning to see the small differences that existed between Ava and Tess in her face as I continue to stare at her.

The pierced lip is gone, as is the funky hairdo, but she still has about twelve earrings in her ear. And its not just physically that I begin to recognize her. There is something in those blue eyes - something innocent, even despite the fact that she is almost a middle-aged woman - that reassures me that she is telling me the truth.

This is Ava, the girl who, for a very short time, was my friend. This is NOT Tess, my greatest enemy, the murderer of my best friend.

What this means is only beginning to dawn on me. She has just told me that the infamous Serena, the one who I have half been looking for every time I meet someone new, ever since Future Max told me about her, is my daughter.

I had half begun to assume and accept that because I had changed the timeline so drastically by getting Max and Tess together, I was never destined to meet Serena in this life. I realize now that I had been disappointed by this fact. Just the sound of her name on Future Max’s lips in that brief comment had intrigued me.

And now I know why. She is my child. My child with Max. Which meant that something had to seriously change in the next few days if she is ever going to be born, because as things stand between Max and I now, there is little to no chance that she ever will be.

"Ava." I say it tentatively, try it out. "You’re really Ava."

She is eyeing me closely too. We are still standing on the desert floor, below the cliff where the granolith had been sheltered. "It is me." She pauses, suddenly smiles shyly. "I guess I don’t blame you for mistaking me for her. I’ve changed a lot."

"A lot." I repeat. And she has. Its not just in the way she looks. It’s in the way she carries herself. Ava had had a basic street sense to her when I had known her, but underneath she had been a scared young girl, uneducated and completely dependent on her fellow dupes. She had been devastated by Zan’s murder, had only managed to finally take a stand against Lonnie and Rath when they no longer needed her, when they had Tess and Max in their power.

This Ava’s bearing screams confidence in who she is. She also gives off a keen sense of desperation, one that I am determined I am going to get to the bottom of. This time, I am going to be the one in control. I had let Future Max run the show when he had shown up last fall. That had ended in complete disaster. I am not going to let anyone from the future tell me what to do this time.

"Why are you here?" I ask quietly.

"Something has gone horribly wrong." Ava tells me, just as quietly. Its like we’re both suddenly aware of the complete wrongness of this whole situation. She is not supposed to be here - just like Future Max was not supposed to have come. Just by her being here, we are fooling around with forces completely beyond our comprehension. We are changing the entire future - again. "She’s dying."

I feel my stomach clench, because I know exactly who she means. "Serena?"

Ava swallows, nods. "Our future is dying. Liz, we can’t win without her. Something has clearly gone wrong between you and Max that wasn’t supposed to. She hasn’t been conceived. She is fading from our timeline. The only thing that is holding her there at all is the granolith."

I feel my knees getting weak. The complete meaning of all this is beginning to weigh down upon me. I am supposed to have a child with Max - which means that Max and I…somehow we were supposed to be at the point where we would be close enough to create a new life.

Ha. It is not the least bit funny, and yet I find it strangely the most ludicrously hysterical idea I have ever heard.

"How? How did this happen?" Ava is asking me gently. "You need to tell me. What is going on with you two?"

"Alex is dead." I blurt, not wanting to tell her the real reason, that Max and TESS were the ones with a child on the way in this timeline.

"Yes." She looks sad. "He died in our timeline too. It was why Max sent Tess away, why they found me, to complete the Four Square."

My throat is closing up with grief again. I try to speak, try to tell her, but I cannot get the words out. "Tess…is gone here too. She and Max…"

It is then that I collapse completely. My knees do give out on me and I am sprawling on the desert floor, my arms wrapped around my middle, trying to hold in the pain, trying to ignore that all my dreams, all my love for Max has been wasted. He is not mine, never can be again. He belongs to her.

I have not cried once since I found out the truth of the matter between Max and Tess. I remember feeling complete shock when he told me, but that part of me that had to accept that she was having MY child, had not really processed it. Maybe I had known deep down that it was all wrong, all mixed up, that I was the one supposed to have the baby.

My daughter would never be born because of her.

I realize that Ava is kneeling beside me, that she is pulling me into her arms, is stroking my hair. "Liz, I am so sorry. I didn’t know that you don’t know yet."

She is gradually soothing me. I can feel my heartbeat slowing down as I allow myself to be comforted. Her words are not really penetrating my brain, but I am seemingly entering a state of semi-detachment.

Nothing matters anymore. It is all messed up and there is no way to fix it.

It is in that instant that I see Max. I can see him right in front of me, his dark eyes loving, but sad. "I’m coming for you Liz. I swear I’ll be back with you soon." And he fades away right in front of my eyes.

I pull back from Ava, stare at the spot where Max had just stood. It had been like a vision of the future, or maybe even an echo from the past, like when Max had seen a vision of he and I getting married in Las Vegas. I remember the day in the Crashdown when Max had told me the exact same thing.

"I’m coming for you Liz."

I had believed him then and I believe him now.

Maybe we can fix this after all.

Ava is here and she has information about what is supposed to be. Clearly, somewhere, the future had gone off the rails. We just needed to figure out where and why.

I grasp her hand. I feel the calluses from all the years of war she has endured. "Tell me. Tell me what I need to know."

She pushes a strand of hair away from my face, an entirely motherly gesture. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"I NEED to know." I reply firmly. "She cannot win."

Ava smiles. "That’s why I’m here. So she won’t."

And she begins to speak.

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

Another time, another life - January 2001

Liz Parker set the order down in front of the couple. "Okay, um, we have Saturn Rings and a Galaxy Sub, hold the Max."

She gasped with embarrassment as she realized what she had just said. Liz’s best friend Maria, standing nearby, stared at Liz, then smirked in amusement. She tilted her head, indicating that she wanted to talk to Liz.

Liz sighed heavily. "Okay, I’ll be right back with the Cokes." She felt Maria grab her by the arm, hauling her over to the counter.

"Okay, what just happened?" Maria demanded, still sounding like she was about to burst into giggles.

Liz could feel her heart still beating at about a mile a minute. "I need help! I’m sick!" Maria just raised her eyebrows. "Okay, I am OBSESSED!"

Maria just looked knowing. "Okay, is this a general freak out or should I be concerned?" She didn’t sound the least bit concerned however, just pleased.

"No, I have Max on my brain twenty-four hours a day. I dream about him, I think about him, and now I’m saying his frigging name without even realizing it! What am I going to do?" Liz knew that she sounded totally panicked, but it was how she felt. Like she was gradually losing all control of her life, of her sanity.

She knew that she couldn’t be with Max - had known it ever since she had heard that message from his mother in the pod chamber last May. This fact had only been confirmed by Future Max’s visit in October, when he had told her that she had to get Max to fall out of love with her or the world would end, that he was destined to be with Tess, his once and future bride, because if she left Roswell, the entire world would end.

And so she had done everything in her power to turn him away from her. She had pretended to sleep with Kyle, she had let him go on believing that she had, had hurt him so much that he had almost completely shut her out of his life, even going so far as to tell her that he no longer trusted her.

It had hurt like hell, all of it, but she had done it. But everything had completely reversed itself again since Isabel had helped her to connect with Max when he was in New York. She had saved his life then and since it had happened, they had started to become friends again. She had helped him deal with all that stuff at Christmas, which had resulted in him telling her on Christmas Eve that he believed in her.

He believed in her, whatever the heck that meant. That simple statement had started her dreams again, had made her wonder if maybe they could have a second chance.

Tess didn’t seem to be going anywhere after all. In fact, Liz had seen her in the Crashdown just that morning with Kyle, looking entirely unlike someone who cared one way or another if she and Max ever got together. True, Kyle had been flipping out about something, but they were so comfortable around each other, some spark existing without question…something was going on there. Something beyond friends.

So if Tess wasn’t going anywhere…

Didn’t that mean that maybe she could finally tell Max the truth?

Liz realized that Maria was still talking to her. "You’re in love - that’s all!"

Liz sighed again. "I know. But its not getting me anywhere." And it wasn’t. Max could believe in her all he wanted, but he still thought she had slept with Kyle, still thought that she had betrayed him in the worst way possible.

"Okay, relax. Relax Liz." Maria replied. "Its not that bad! I promise."

Liz snorted. "Not that bad? Really. Why don’t you look at this?" Liz pulled the two pictures she kept in her apron pocket out and thrust them towards her best friend. They were both of Max of course. "See! Obsession, obsession, obsession, obsession!"

Maria laughed. "Okay, okay! You’re a Maxaholic! I’m here for you. What can I do?"

Liz just rolled her eyes. She knew that all this pining was never going to get her anywhere. She HAD to move on. "Get me a life." She muttered.

The bell over the door behind them rang, alerting the two girls to the fact that someone had just entered the restaurant. Liz didn’t turn immediately. Maria had grabbed her by the arm when the bell had rung.

"Ow! Maria, what are you doing?" Liz exclaimed.

"Liz, I know you believe in fate. I know it. Well, fate has just walked through that door." Liz blinked, started to turn around. "NO!" Maria grabbed her again, this time by the shoulders. Liz felt the pictures she still held in her hands fall to the floor. "Do not turn around unless you are actually going to do what you should have done a LONG time ago."

Liz just stared at her. "Maria, what on Earth are you talking about?"

"It’s Max. He is standing in the doorway right now and I can tell that he wants to come over here. You are going to tell him the truth. Tess is not going anywhere. You saw her and Kyle this morning. Tell him Liz. Put the poor guy out of his misery. Put YOURSELF out of your misery. You belong together." Liz gasped in horror as Maria suddenly yelled over her shoulder. "MAX! Come here, we need to talk to you!"

"Maria!"

"Liz, just do it!"

Liz could already feel the hairs on the back of her neck beginning to stand on end, completely aware of Max’s presence as he came up behind her. The sound of his voice actually made her go weak in the knees. " Hi guys. What’s going on?"

Liz whirled, realized that Maria was already walking away from them, muttering something about customers. She’s deserting me! Liz thought frantically. How can she start this and then just desert me????

Liz’s eyes met Max’s. He was smiling at her in that way that always made her heart want to burst out of her chest. It was half-shy, half-loving. It was the smile she had not seen since before he had seen her with Kyle.

It was a smile that told her that he had forgiven her, even though he still thought she had betrayed him.

Telling him now wouldn’t hurt anything. But she had been keeping this a secret for so long. How could she be sure that it still couldn’t totally screw everything up?

It was in that instant that she saw Max’s eyes lower. He frowned slightly, bent down and picked up one of the pictures that had fallen to the floor. He stared at it for a full minute before he raised his eyes to look at her again. "Liz?"

Liz felt the blood rushing to her face. "Oh." She grabbed the picture out of his hand, stuffed it back into her apron. "Maria and I…we’re making something for your birthday." She improvised lamely. She tried to ignore the hope that was appearing blatantly on his beloved face.

"Liz, my birthday is in March." Max told her, although of course she knew that. "What’s going on?" He asked again.

"What are you doing here?" Liz blurted out instead of answering him.

She was surprised when she saw colour beginning to rise in Max’s face too. She loved how his ears always turned slightly pink when he was embarrassed. "Er, well, it’s kind of a long story." He replied. "Um, Isabel was bored last night…" He coughed. "She…well, she dreamwalked you."

Liz blinked. "She did?" She felt panic rising within her as Max’s words absorbed. What had Isabel seen? Did Max know the truth? Did he know about Future Max and that what had happened with Kyle wasn’t real?

"Yeah." Max grabbed her by the hand. Liz felt her heartbeat beginning to slow. Just touching him was enough to calm her down. Well, if not calm her, at least make her heart beat in an entirely different way, she amended silently to herself. "Don’t be mad. I swear I told her not to Liz." He paused. "I need to talk to you." He looked around the busy restaurant uncomfortably. "Alone." He added, unnecessarily.

Liz closed her eyes briefly. It looked like Maria had been right. Fate was stepping in. She was no longer going to fight it. She and Max had been on a collision course back towards each other for weeks. It was time to deal with it head on.

She was going to tell him.

The feeling of relief that flooded through her as she accepted it caused her to stumble slightly. Max caught her. She was staring at his chest as he held her tightly. Glancing up, her eyes met his.

The naked love she saw there only solidified her resolve. It was the shadows that still slightly existed there that made her take his hand, lead him through the back of the restaurant and up the stairs to her room.

She didn’t say a thing. Neither did he. It was a silence ripe with expectation, with hope.

She and Future Max had failed anyway. Max still loved her, in spite of it all.

She had to take those shadows out of his eyes.

"What’s going on Liz?" Max asked once they had reached her room and she had shut the door firmly. She wasn’t looking at him. She was looking out the window at the balcony, at where HE had appeared and totally screwed up her entire life.

And yet, she had loved him. He had been Max. He had just been wrong. They belonged together. Whether or not Tess left, it could not be enough to keep she and HER Max apart.

It was meant to be.

"Maybe you should tell me what Isabel saw." Liz suggested, turning back to look at him. "So I know how much you already know."

"Just…" Max cleared his throat, sounding embarrassed again. "You were dreaming about me - about US - together." He gazed at her hopefully. "I mean, I know it might not mean anything, but, when she told me, I couldn’t help but hope that…" He trailed off, glanced away. Liz saw his eyes light on the picture of the two of them that still sat on her bed-side table. He walked over to it, picking it up.

"That was a great weekend." Liz said unnecessarily, still stalling, still trying to work up the nerve to change everything again.

Maria had taken it without their knowledge during the six weeks between the time that they had found the first orb and when Tess had arrived, the only time that they had truly been happy together. They had all gone out into the desert for a camp-out during Spring Break. The picture was of she and Max sitting on a rock together, she between his legs, his arms wrapped around her. They were both gazing off towards the horizon. Liz remembered the sunset that day, how beautiful it had been, but how much more she had appreciated it, simply because she was with Max.

When Maria had given her the picture, Liz had known that she would treasure it forever. It had become even more precious to her since Tess had come and everything had been screwed up. She had had to put it away for a while after that. It had been too painful to look at it. And yet, she had taken it out again very recently.

Maybe she had known even then that it was time to fix things between them.

"Yeah." Max replied, setting the frame down again. He looked at her. "I guess it’ll never be that way again?" But the way he raised his voice, like it was a question, it told Liz he hoped that it could be.

He had forgiven her. He had forgiven her without even really knowing the truth.

"What did you want to tell me?" Max asked expectantly, although he sounded a little disappointed that she had not answered his unasked question.

Why couldn’t she just say it? Liz wondered as she licked her lips, continued to stare at him. Why was it so hard?

"Liz?"

"I never slept with Kyle." She blurted it so quickly, he blinked.

Liz swallowed, hard, waiting for his reaction. She expected either utter joy or surprised anger. She didn’t expect at all what came next.

It looked to her like Max let out a long breath and then he said quietly. "I know." He sat down on the bed, not taking his eyes off of her. "I’ve known ever since I got back from New York." He smiled slightly. "You’re a really good liar Liz, but that time…something was just off. And you couldn’t say it this time. It just felt wrong."

Liz stared at him in shock. "But if you knew…why didn’t you say anything?" She asked in astonishment,

"I realized after what happened in New York - when you saved me - that the bond between us was never broken." Max replied. "And when you lied to me again…" He paused. "Well, I knew you had to have a really good reason and I knew that you’d tell me eventually." He looked down. "Even if the reason was that you had fallen out of love with me and just couldn’t tell me that."

Liz collapsed on the bed beside him, her hands clenched in her lap. She had hurt him so much. She had to make him see that it had had nothing to do with not wanting to be with him. "I’ve wanted to tell you the truth for so long." She whispered.

Max turned slightly, reached out and gently tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear. "Why? Why did you have to do that Liz?" He looked sad. "Were you really that desperate to get rid of me?"

"Of course not!" Liz exclaimed. "I did it to save you!"

"Save me? From what?" Max asked, confused.

"From me! Max, our relationship was going to drive Tess away from Roswell. We would have been responsible for that and it would have been disastrous. You need her!" She relaxed her hands when she realized that they were clutching at her apron. "You’re not going to believe how I know this, but I do."

Max’s eyes narrowed. "But you told me now. What’s changed?"

"Well, she and Kyle…they seem close. And the Sheriff too. She has a family now. And you and she - you’re friends now. I don’t think she could just walk away as easily." Liz admitted. "And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I miss you." She realized that she was about to cry.

"You don’t have to miss me." Max told her, his voice cracking as he brought his hands up to cup her face. "I’m right here. All I want is to be with you Liz. It’s all I’ve ever wanted."

Liz threw her arms around his neck. "It’s all I’ve ever wanted too."

"Then what’s standing in our way?" Max asked, smiling again. "Only you. We’re meant to be together Liz. I know it."

Liz could feel a smile breaking out across her own face through her tears. "I know it too Max." And yet, the fear was still there, still pressing against her belly. "But we have to be sure about Tess. I want to be with you, but we can’t let anyone know. Not yet. We can’t give her any reason to leave - not until we’re sure she won’t."

"I don’t care if anyone knows." Max replied. "As long as we’re together, I’ll sneak around behind their backs for the rest of my life." He ran his hands through her hair. "Can I kiss you now?" He asked, his lips only a breath away from hers.

"But don’t you want to know why I lied?" Liz asked breathlessly, her eyes already beginning to flutter shut in anticipation of the one thing she had dreamed of for months.

"Yes, but not right now." Max told her, his own breath hitching.

"Okay." Liz sighed. "But you do need to know one thing." She whispered as he placed feather light kisses on her closed eyes, her cheek bones, her chin.

"What?" He sounded highly distracted, but Liz knew he was listening to her.

"I didn’t just lie about Kyle. I lied when I told you I didn’t want to die for you. I would die for you Max. Since I hurt you, I’ve been dead inside." Liz admitted. She felt Max still. He pulled back slightly, his eyes darkening with love.

"Then it’s time to come back to life Liz." With that, he brought his lips down on hers and she did just that.

Part 11 - Another Time, Another Life Continued

Late February - Las Vegas, Nevada

"Oh my God! Max! Someone’s coming!" Liz gasped against his lips, turning her head so abruptly, she heard him sputter when he got a mouthful of hair. She tried not to laugh when he tickled her lightly on the ribs in punishment. This resulted in a muffled scream, half-snort.

But she was right. She could hear voices, knew that if they didn’t stop it immediately, they were going to be caught and the jig would be up. Everyone would know, which meant that Tess would know and it was still unclear what that would mean.

"Shhhhhhh!" Liz felt Max bring his forehead down to rest against hers. She could still hear him breathing heavily, could feel his heart beating rapidly against her chest. They were so close, she actually felt her own slow down, starting to beat in time with his. Liz pinched him, since he was the one who had almost made her shriek. She felt him trying desperately not to laugh.

They were both so tense, it almost made Liz start to giggle hysterically too. As though he could feel it, Max cupped her head gently and rested her cheek against his chest, stroking her hair in an attempt to calm her down.

Liz had known it had been a mistake when she had allowed Max to pull her into the bathroom of the hotel room they were sharing with all their friends, but it had been too hard to say no. Everyone had been down in the casino anyway. Besides, since they had arrived in Las Vegas to spend the money Michael had inherited, he had been all she had been thinking of.

Totally alone. No parents anywhere. There was no question that "cementing," as Future Max had dubbed it, was definitely on her mind.

It had been so long since they had had a moment alone. The entire Laurie Dupree affair, which had almost resulted in the end of the world, had made it so there was barely a minute to spare, let alone time to revel in the fact that they were back together and more deliriously happy than either of them had ever been in their entire life.

They had actually been discussing whether maybe it was time to tell everyone the truth when they had been distracted by their close proximity to each other in such a small space. After all, Tess and Kyle were closer than ever. Liz had even begun to bond with the other girl a little during the time they had been trying to dig Alex and Kyle out of the ground. Both Max and Liz were almost positive that she had no intention of leaving Roswell, and since she had been anything but aggressive with Max since their return from New York, Liz had even begun to hope that perhaps she had given up - that maybe she was falling love with Kyle and had no intention of being with Max, ever.

Yet, they were still waiting, stealing moments together here and there, both craving more, but knowing that caution was the better part of valour. The chance to actually be together was too precious to jeopardize by revealing it too soon.

This was why Liz was currently straining her ears to hear who had come into their suite. If it was Maria, Alex or even Michael or Isabel, the danger was not great. They might be able to brazen out the fact that they were up here alone together. Liz was almost positive that Maria knew they were back together anyway - she had practically orchestrated it herself after all. Liz didn’t doubt that she had maybe spilled some information to Michael or Alex too. She knew her best friend. She could keep a secret when it really counted, like the Future Max one, but she was likely too happy contemplating the possibility that Max and Liz had reunited not to at least speculate about it with either her boyfriend or her other best friend.

But if it was Tess or Kyle…Well, that didn’t bear thinking about. The proverbial cat would be out of the proverbial bag in that instance. And they still weren’t sure that Tess was ready for it. Keeping her in Roswell at all costs - it was what Liz had given Max up for in the first place, it was the reason she had been willing to hurt him so badly. They could not risk it.

"I think it’s Tess." Liz heard Max whisper against her hair. "I can feel her presence." That comment sent a shiver down Liz’s spine. Max felt it, tightened his arms around her. "Through the Four Square." He added, trying to reassure her.

But Liz did not have time to reflect on why this upset her so. She had recognized the other voice. It was Alex.

"Why are Alex and Tess up here together?" Liz murmured. She felt Max shrug.

"I don’t care, as long as they leave." Liz heard a door shut, the voices disappearing.

"I think they went into one of the rooms." Liz frowned slightly. "What’s going on?"

"I’m sure its nothing." Max replied. Liz felt him moving away from her, towards the door. The bathroom was in complete darkness, no lights having been necessary for what they had been up to in there. Liz watched as light filtered into the small room as Max opened the door, poking his head out. "No one." He turned back, shutting the door again.

Liz frowned to herself. "Max, we need to get out of here." She whispered urgently, moving towards the door.

"Liz, I want to tell her the truth." He told her firmly. "She has to accept this someday. I want it to start now." Liz could tell by the tone of his voice that he no longer found this scenario amusing. In fact, she could hear an underlying frustration that had been building between them for a couple of weeks now.

Liz sighed heavily. "We can’t. Not yet. Not until I feel sure." The panic she had felt at the though of being caught. It had only reinforced to her that it was not yet time.

"Liz…"

"Max, you promised me that we would do this when I felt ready. You don’t know what Future Max told me would happen." She regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.

There was a long pause. Liz wished that they had turned the lights on. She didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t see his face. She knew that he was still angry about the fact that the future version of himself had come back in time, telling her that she needed to make him fall out of love with her. She hadn’t told him the whole story though. He had been so angry at himself over the whole situation, even though he, of course, had had nothing to do with it, she had only told him that they needed to keep Tess in Roswell at all costs -even at the cost of their own happiness.

"Are you ever going to tell me?" He finally asked quietly.

"I can’t. Max, he almost couldn’t tell me. It screws up the timeline too much to know. The only reason he finally told me was because I wasn’t going to help him." She felt herself tensing up when he didn’t reply for a long time again.

"This is coming between us Liz." He said firmly. "I don’t want anything to come between us."

"I don’t either." Liz replied. "You know that. But I can’t tell you!"

"You might not want it to." Max told her, "But you’re letting it." There was another long pause. "I haven’t had one single flash from you since we’ve been back together."

The night they had gotten back together, she had told him only half the truth. After she had thought about it, it had seemed like the wisest course of action. Future Max had warned her that this was a "different world," but he had also told her that telling too much could seriously affect future events. The fact that she had gotten back together with Max at all was a big enough risk.

And, still, Liz felt like she had been punched in the gut. Max sounded so hurt, all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and comfort him. Because she knew it was true. She had not allowed him to see into her soul at all, afraid that he would find out the truth about Future Max. And he couldn’t know. He couldn’t know that they had been responsible for Michael and Isabel’s deaths and for the end of the world.

She was afraid of how he might react, afraid how he would feel. She knew him. His guilt might cause him to do the one thing she dreaded more than any other. He might actually decide that he had to pursue his destiny with Tess.

She knew it was selfish, knew that it was completely against everything her nature was telling her to do, but she couldn’t give him up again. She just could not do it.

And so she kept it from him, tried to determine Tess’s state of mind on her own, tried to figure out if the right moment had come.

The irony was, she was losing Max anyway.

She knew this as she watched him open the bathroom door. He had been waiting for her to say something, ANYTHING, to fix this rift that was beginning to open between them. When she didn’t, he left, without another word.

Liz knew that he would be back. He couldn’t stay away from her after all. But this time, something had irrevocably changed.

A shiver descended her backbone. She wondered why she felt like she had just made the SECOND biggest mistake of her life.

To be continued…










posted on 11-Dec-2001 11:41:37 PM
Part 7 - Liz POV - Plenty

I looked into your eyes
They told me plenty
I already knew.
You never felt a thing
So soon forgotten all that you do
In more than words
I tried to tell you
The more I tried I failed.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would d stand by you
No matter what they’d say.
I thought I’d be with you until my dying day
Until my dying day.

I used to think my life
Was often empty
A lonely space to fill.
You hurt me more than I ever could have imagined
You made my world stand still
And in that stillness
There was a freedom
I never felt before
I would not let myself believe that you might stray
And I would stand by you no matter what they’d say.
I would.
I thought I would be with you until my dying day…
Until my dying day.

You know, you would have thought that would have been harder, ripping my own heart out like that.

It was surprisingly easy though. Almost as easy as it was to storm out of the school at the prom when I caught Max with Tess. It felt freeing, liberating, strong.

It wasn’t like when I walked away from Max at the pod chamber at all. I had felt every single ounce of pain in every bone of my body that day. And this is certainly as final as that was, at least in my mind.

When I told Max that we could never be together again a few hours ago, it was the easiest thing I have ever done. Of course, I am ignoring the expression that was on Max’s face when I last saw him, the one that had told me that every single one of his worst nightmares was coming true. It is currently, indelibly branded on my brain. It’s there, but I’m not seeing it, at least not right now.

Right now I am rolling my eyes at Sean Deluca as he makes a fool of himself.

The Crashdown was still open when I got back and Sean was there, harassing Maria, who had returned to help my dad clean up.

His face lit up when he saw me and it was then that I knew that he was waiting for me. I feel bad because I can’t be more excited. Sure, I’m not feeling any pain, but making a complete break from your soul mate does not inspire you to want to hang out with other guys who have the hots for you. At least not right away. I feel like I am entitled to a little wallowing time. I think maybe that’s why I couldn’t let go of Max last time. I didn’t grieve for what we had let slip away from us.

Maria takes one look at my face and says, "Get out of here Sean. Now." She grabs him by the nape of his neck and pulls him off the stool, thrusting him towards the door. Of course he is ten times bigger than her and would not be going anywhere if he didn’t want to be, but he is currently being amenable. Actually, he’s just ignoring her.

"Hey Parker. I see you finally ditched the baggage." He teases, breaking away from Maria and approaching me.

"His name is Max you dweeb." Maria flares, smacking him, harder than is really necessary. "And if anyone’s baggage around here, its you dork."

"So, what are you doing tonight?" Sean asks, grabbing Maria by the arm and gently subjecting her to a head-lock, in that typical big-brother, older cousin way. He is ignoring her screeches for my help.

And so this is the point when I roll my eyes. "Sean, let her go."

"Only if you’ll go out with me." Sean replies. "She’s my hostage."

"Blackmailing me didn’t work last time. Not in the long term anyway." I retort, as he lets Maria go because she bit him on the hand. She starts to smack him again.

"You’re just lucky Michael isn’t here." Maria says. Her face is all red and I can tell she is actually really mad. "Get lost and I may not tell him."

Sean snorts. "Like I’m scared of your weenie boyfriend." But he saunters towards the door. "Call me Parker. I think we have some stuff to discuss."

"AAAARRRGGGHHHH!" Maria screeches in annoyance, throwing a glass at her cousin’s retreating form. "I really do not understand why you give that idiot the time of day Lizzie. You know, sometimes I would give anything to let Michael blast him. He is driving me CRAZY!" The plastic glass has hit the door, fortunately missing the window by about a millimeter.

"Was that really necessary Maria?" I ask as I go to pick it up.

But she has already forgotten about Sean, the Deluca wind changing direction so quickly, as usual, my head is suddenly spinning. "Liz, what’s wrong?"

"Nothing’s wrong Maria." I don’t even know why I am bothering to deny it. While I am currently numb, it would appear that the fact that Max and I are totally over is reflected on my face for the entire world to see - or at least for my best friend to see.

"Puh-lease. Where’s Max?"

"At home I think." I shrug.

"Liz…" Maria says warningly. "Things looked like they were going so well this morning. What happened?"

I close my eyes briefly, and then decide to just tell her. She’s not going to leave me alone until I do anyway. "We kissed."

"WHAT???" I can hear the joy in her voice. Why is it that this is the first thing that starts to penetrate the armour I have built around my heart since I shut down after those flashes? I feel a catch in my throat, swallow hard to control it. Maria grabs me by the arm, turns me around so that I am facing her. "This is so great! So are you back together?"

"Not exactly." I manage to choke out. The light dies out of Maria’s eyes instantly.

"What happened?" She demands, more quietly, but urgently, like she knows that it is going to be terrible and she just wants to get it over with.

"Remember how I used to see stars when Max and I kissed?" I ask, knowing that my voice suddenly sounds bitter and hard. "Well, I saw a lot more than stars this time."

Maria’s hands come up to cover her mouth in horror. "Oh my God. You didn’t see…?"

"Max and Tess?" I ask, raising my eyebrows. "Yup. And it was lovely let me tell you."

"Oh Lizzie. I am so sorry." Maria reaches out, pulls me into an embrace. "But, I mean, you didn’t SEE everything."

"I really don’t want to remember what I did see." I tell her, pulling away. Already the horrible flashes are starting to circulate in my mind again.

"God, I don’t blame you." Maria plops down onto one of the stools, an absolutely shell-shocked look on her face. "And to think that I used to envy you those. Especially now that I know what its like." I glance at her, surprised. "Yeah. Michael showed me some stuff. But he had some control over it. Holy Mary…" She trails off. "Liz, I am so sorry."

"It’s over Maria. If today taught me anything, its that I can’t be around Max without wanting to BE with him. And its now clear. I can’t be. Ever again. He belongs to her now. Even though he doesn’t want to, he does."

Maria looks so sad, I suddenly want to comfort HER. It is, of course, ridiculous, but I know that this is going to be hard on everyone. Max is miserable, I’ll be miserable as soon as this weird numbness wears off, and our poor friends are going to have to bear the brunt of it, not to mention be torn between us.

Because even though I presently never want to see him again, I know its not going to last. He IS my soulmate, my love. I am never going to stop wanting to be with him, even if I live to be a hundred, get married twelve times and have twenty kids with other guys.

I lied to Max when I told him that he wasn’t the same person he used to be - that I had seen it in the flashes. The worst part of this whole thing is that I could tell he was. That was MY Max who had been with Tess. That he could do what he had done with Tess, while hating me, even for a little while…

And suddenly I don’t want to think about it anymore. "Listen Maria, something good did come from today." Maria stares at me with glazed eyes. "Its about Alex." She perks up. "We did find out something important before the great flash tragedy of 2001." I know that I sound flippant, but I have no choice. Because this is a tragedy, of Shakespearean proportions. I am beginning to wonder why I didn’t listen to my own little speech - the one I gave to poor Max way back when I was trying to get him to fall out of love with me, about Romeo and Juliet being a tragedy and not romantic at all.

"What?" Maria asks.

"He fought her. Alex wasn’t working with Tess at all and he tried to get away from her before the mind-warp started to really destroy his mind." I paused. "And that’s not all. She was working with someone else. Leanna told me and Max that Tess came to find Alex and she was with a guy - someone named Lazar."

Maria is frowning. "I don’t know if this is better Liz. I hate knowing that Alex KNEW what was happening to him. At least if he was mindwarped the whole time…"

I reach out, put my arm around her comfortingly. "I know. But he fought her Maria. That’s a lot more than the rest of us ever did. It just shows that he really was the bravest and strongest of all of us."

"Like we didn’t already know that." Maria smiles sadly. "God Liz. I miss him so much. Is this ever going to stop hurting?"

"I hope not." I reply. "Because that would mean we forgot him. I’ll never forget him. Never." I squeeze her shoulder, then stand up. "Anyway, I’m going there - to Tess’s." I clarify when Maria looks at me questioningly.

"Why?" Maria asks. "She’s gone Liz. What good can it do?"

"I can find out who was working with her and at least HE can be brought to justice for what they did to Alex."

Maria nods. "I’m coming with you. But do you really think Tess left that information lying around?" She asks as we turn off the lights and lock up the restaurant.

"I don’t think Tess was nearly as smart as we’ve all given her credit for." I reply. "Her cards were always visible. We just stopped looking for them."

We are in the Jetta before Maria tries again, gently. "Liz, do you think maybe you’re just reading too much into this…you know…to forget what happened with you and Max?"

"Maybe." I answer honestly. "But this Lazar guy exists Maria. And I’m going to find him."

Maria still looks worried, but she doesn’t argue anymore.

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

It only takes about ten minutes to drive to the housing development where Tess’s old house is. I feel a shiver descend my spine as we pull up, remembering how creepy both Tess and Nasedo were that night I had gone to plant the camera in the house.

I had done it because I had seen Max and Tess kissing, but I had known in my heart that Max was telling me the truth- that she was doing something to him. And so I had tried to prove it, because my faith in him was so strong.

I briefly wish that everything I had seen in those flashes from Max was a hoax, a mind-warp, just like the last time. But it was impossible. Tess was gone, on another planet. She was strong, but not THAT strong. That had been all Max in those flashes.

Maria is out of the car and on the lawn, skulking near the front picture window before I can even formulate a plan. Now that she is IN, she’s really in, in typical Maria fashion.

"Maria! Wait!" I hiss, hurrying after her.

"Liz, I think there’s someone in there!" Maria whispers back. "The shadows are moving."

I feel my heart beginning to beat a mile a minute. Could we have found the mysterious Lazar so easily? Was he really under our noses the whole time?

But if it he, we can’t face him alone. He’s dangerous. I’m going to have to call Max.

So much for keeping my distance. And yet, my heart is strangely excited at the prospect.

See, I told you I’m hopeless.

But, for the moment, we need confirmation.

I press my nose up against the bottom of the window, beside my best friend’s. "Who is it? Is it a guy?"

"Definitely male." Maria affirms.

"And you two are definitely females…nosy ones at that." The voice comes from behind us, causing me to whirl, my heart lodged in my throat and Maria to shriek.

It’s Michael of course. Maria is already slapping him for scaring the living daylights out of us.

I hear someone bump into something inside the house, then swear quietly. Suddenly a light comes on, but not an electric one. It is all alien and a familiar face is illuminated, bathed in the glow shining up from his palm.

Max.

So maybe I hadn’t devastated him as much as I had thought. He’s out playing detective too. But I know that it is not true. His face is a mask as he stares down on all of us.

"Michael, I thought you weren’t coming." He doesn’t even acknowledge mine or Maria’s presence, at least verbally. His eyes are on my face, unreadable in the semi-dark, shadowed by the faint bluish light.

"Changed my mind." Michael replies. "And apparently Frick and Frack here had the same idea as we did." He glares at Maria. "Didn’t I tell you that it was dangerous to go around alone after dark?"

"I’m not alone." Maria retorts, linking her arm with mine. "I’m with Liz. Besides, Tess is gone. Where’s the danger?"

"Hello? Khivar? Random Skins? Nicholas?" Michael begins counting off on this fingers.

Maria rolls her eyes. "Its not us they want you moron."

"Right. You’re disposable." Michael replied. "Do you think any of them would think twice about hurting you two? To get to us." He looks at Max. "Am I not right here Maxwell?"

I scowl at both of them because I don’t want to hear Max’s answer to that question. "We have just as much right to be here as you do." I snap. "Alex was OUR best friend."

Michael eyes me with annoyance. "Do I have to remind YOU Miss Parker about that device that almost blew up in your face a few days ago?"

"WHAT????" This is Max of course. Ooops. I forgot he didn’t know about that. I can see from Michael’s face that he forgot too. But like Max has any right to get mad. He was the one off sleeping with his once and future bride WHEN I was in that danger. He could have been with me. I had ASKED him to help me.

"Never mind." Michael mutters. "Anyway, my point is made."

"Well, we’re not alone now…are we?" Maria asks, batting her eyelashes at Michael. She has moved away from me and is snaking her arms around his waist. "C’mon Spaceboy. Let us stay."

My eyes momentarily meet Max’s in embarrassment at witnessing the way Michael melts, right in front of us. Suddenly I know what it must have been like to be around Max and I at the height of our relationship. I can’t help but smile to myself at the thought of it.

And dammit, he sees me do it and, being Max, he KNOWS what I am thinking. His own face softens and his eyes are staring at me in that way again. I force myself to look away.

I hear the sigh in Max’s voice as he says, "You can all stay of course. Just stop making so much noise and get in here." He reaches out his hand and eyes me through the window. I can tell he is daring me to take it.

Jerk. I thrust my own hand into his and try to ignore the warmth that snakes through me as he closes his around mine.

I don’t allow myself to hold onto him a minute longer than necessary. The minute I am inside, I let go, move away from him. I can feel his eyes following me, until he turns to help Maria through.

It is then that everything begins to move in slow motion.

"So what are we looking for?" Maria asks as the four of us begin to move across the darkened living room. I close my eyes briefly, shake my head, trying to clear it. Everything is really fuzzy all of a sudden.

I avoid the piano, which still has that statue sitting on top of it - the one I broke and we all saw Tess fix, the one that told us that there was much more to Tess Harding than met the eye.

"Anything weird." Max replies. "Anything that might tell us more about the deal Nasedo made with the Skins or about this Lazar guy." I swallow hard. His voice is fading in and out, like when your ears get plugged when a plane takes off.

I am moving away from the rest of them, towards the stairs. I’m not sure why, but I feel like I’m being drawn towards the second floor. The minute Max had let go of me, it had started, this need to be up there.

I see Maria beginning to rummage through the kitchen cupboards as I climb the stairs. Michael and Max are arguing about something in the dining room, but I ignore them.

I feel my heart stop in my chest as a faint glow appears suddenly under one of the doors at the end of the upstairs hallway. It is gone as quickly as it came, but I SAW it. The thunder must have been my imagination though because it is perfectly clear when I look out the window at the end of the hallway.

And yet…

I can feel a presence. I know that there is someone in there.

I pause, wonder if I should call for one of the others, for ALL of the others…for Max.

But I know that whatever is in there is meant for me alone.

Of course, even though I am in this weird sort of trance, I know that this is NOT a good thing. That I am in Tess Harding’s house and likely anything behind that door is not going to be particularly healthy for Liz Parker. But I have no control over myself as I reach up and turn the doorknob.

And, suddenly, I am face to face with my greatest enemy.

Part 8 - Max POV - Strange World

We walk without a sound
Across a barren landscape.
Your eyes are twisted down
To a dew entrailed ground.
We watch the stars as they slowly fade away
And in the clearing sky
I see the cold stone face of morning setting in on me.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Your touch is cold and damp,
The devil’s in your eyes.
I wonder why I always let you lead me on this way.
Cause you see only what you want to see.
You feel only what you want to
And I am on the outside of your strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world
That leaves me holding on to nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

We’re walking hand in hand,
We’ll walk this way forever
Our eyes have risen to the water’s edge
Watching with the tides.
The stars have fallen to another day
And the sun warms out path
To find the reasons leave us far behind in our strange world.
It’s a strange world.
It’s a very strange world that leaves me holding onto nothing
When there’s nothing left to lose.

Sarah McLachlan

I feel Liz’s panic before I actually hear her scream.

I am sorting my way through a filing cabinet in the den off the back of the kitchen, mildly annoyed and getting impatient with the complete lack of anything that even resembles a clue, when the wave of fear and horror washes over me.

"Liz!"

I almost knock Michael over, pushing past him. He is on his way to the staircase too because Liz’s scream has echoed through the entire house. "Keep Maria down here." I order him. For once, he listens to me, but I can already hear Maria arguing with him to let her past.

I take the stairs two at a time. "Liz! Liz? Where are you?"

There is no answer. Only dead silence.

I am frantically searching every room on the second floor. There is no sign of Liz anywhere. It is like she has disappeared off the face of the planet.

"Maxwell! What’s going on up there?" Michael bellows from the first floor.

"Michael! She’s gone! Liz is gone!" I can hear the panic in my own voice.

"Michael, let go of me!" Maria is shrieking at him and I can hear her moving up the stairs now. "Max! Max, where is she?"

I am standing in one of the bedrooms, staring around, stupidly hoping that Liz is going to suddenly materialize in front of my eyes, but it is no good.

She is completely gone.

I collapse onto the bed, stare at Maria as she bursts into the room, Michael on her heels. "Max?’

"She’s gone."

"Gone? Where?" Maria is at the window, staring out. It is closed of course. She didn’t go out that way. "Where is she Max? She couldn’t have just disappeared?" Her voice is beginning to rise hysterically. Michael grabs her, pulls her against him, in a totally ludicrous effort to comfort her.

"We need to find her." He says, stating the obvious.

"Starting where?" I ask dumbly, willing him to take control, to find her.

The three of us just stare at each other in silence.

Because there is nowhere to start.

She is gone and there is no way to explain it.

And it is in that instant that I see Michael’s fingers beginning to tap against Maria’s back. I stare at those tapping fingers, my heart suddenly in my throat.

I let my face fall into my hands. "Oh my God. No."

"Maxwell! What’s wrong?"

"Tess." I manage to say it. My hands are clenched at my sides, although my entire body is screaming for me to smash something - anything. My rage is that great. "Tess has Liz."

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

Liz POV - Lost

By the shadows of the night I go.
I move away from the crowded room,
That sea of shallow faces
Masked in warm regret.
They don’t know how to feel,
They don’t know what is lost.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun.
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
Though we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I want it all to go away,
I want to be alone.
Sympathy’s wasted on my hollow shell.
I feel there’s nothing left to fight for
No reason for a cause.
And I can’t hear your voice,
And I can’t feel you near.

Lost in the darkness of a land
Where all the hope that’s offered
Is memories of being taken by the hand
And we are led into the sun
But I don’t have a hold on what is real
And we can only try.
What is there to give or to believe?

I wanted a change,
Knowing all I could do was try
I was looking for someone.

Sarah McLachlan

I see Max come storming into the room, see Michael and Maria in a blur as we pass them on the staircase, see it all but cannot make them see me. And believe me, I’m trying. My heart is thundering in complete terror. I have never been this scared in my entire life - not even when Max was in the White Room, not when we faced down the Skins, not when I realized that there was a murdering alien on the loose after Alex was killed.

Because I now know who that murderous alien was and here she is, back again and she is mindwarping them all and she is kidnapping me from right under their noses.

And she hates me. She didn’t hate Alex and she killed him mercilessly anyway.

You also have to understand that I am not only afraid for myself. I am afraid that she might drop the mindwarp, that Max and Maria and Michael might become her targets too.

This is one reason for why I am not fighting her. Because I bet you’re thinking that I could take her. This IS Tess after all. We are pretty much the same size and with the force of my hatred and outrage I could probably fight her pretty easily.

But, you have to understand, that this IS Tess, but its not too.

Just like Future Max WAS Max but not Max at the same time.

Because it has not taken me long to figure out that this is not the same Tess Max sent off in what we thought was the granolith only three days ago.

This is another Tess. A stronger Tess - and I don’t just mean physically.

Because, somehow, she is mindwarping me into doing what she wants me to do. I wasn’t imagining things when I felt myself being pulled towards that room. She wanted me there - and now she’s making me leave.

I can’t even turn my head to look at her. I am just walking quietly beside her, although every ounce of my being is screaming in fear and anger and frustration.

But I don’t need to look at her to know that this is not the same Tess. This is another Tess. An older Tess. Her hair is long, half-way down her back, but it is streaked with grey beneath the bright blonde that still gleams under the street lamps. Her face is lined, no longer young, is twisted with bitterness and from years of shattered dreams.

And from hate. Let’s not forget hate.

She’s wearing leather, in a style not dissimilar to what Future Max was wearing when he came for his destructive visit a few months ago. I inanely wonder why leather has become the fashion of choice in the future.

Because this is Future Tess and she is one pissed off alien queen and so reflections on leather seem a little inappropriate at this time.

"Get in." She snarls, pushing me hard from behind, so that I sprawl on the back seat of the Jetta. She climbs into the front, sweeps her hand across the ignition and the engine roars to life.

I am still frozen. I desperately want to scream, want to struggle, but I am incapable of moving.

I see her cold blue eyes in the rear-view mirror. "Stop fighting it. You’re only going to tire yourself out. I need you strong and healthy for what I have planned for you." Her eyes are gleaming with disdain and annoyance.

The tone of her voice sends a sharp stab of petrifying fear down my spine. We are headed out of town, are soon on the highway.

She is muttering to herself. "…knew I should have taken care of this myself from the beginning….don’t understand why every guy in the universe falls in love with her but I’ll put a stop to this nonsense once and for all…running out of time."

She is distracting herself with her own rage. I feel the mind-warp or mind control or whatever it is she is doing to me begin to slip.

I manage to croak her name. "Tess!"

Her eyes snap back to the mirror. "Shut up! I don’t want to hear your simpering voice! If I could do this without you, I would!" She turns the wheel sharply, sends the car careening off the highway and into the desert. It is dark, but I recognize the route well, having only driven it a couple of days before.

The pod chamber.

She stops the car so abruptly, I go tumbling of the seat and onto the floor. She has hauled me out of the car by my hair before I can even begin to process what has happened.

My entire being is screaming out for Max, hoping against hope, that by some tiny miracle, he will hear me. He heard me once after all - that time in New York. But that time Isabel was helping me. I have no idea if I am capable of connecting with him on my own.

Future Tess is staring down at me, her face contorted with hatred. "God, you’re just as insipid as I remember." She grabs at my hair again. "You cut this all off in a few years you know. It doesn’t look good."

I can’t speak again. I am pleading with her with my eyes to release me, to at least let me talk. She notices. "What? You have something to say Miss Smarty?" She sneers, but waves her hand in the air. I feel my vocal cords come back under my own control.

"What…why are you here?"

She pauses, her entire face changing. Suddenly she does not look at all threatening, just annoyed. "You don’t seem surprised to see me Lizzie dearest. I never knew for sure, but now I do. You’ve had visitors from the future before."

I see no reason in lying to her. "Yes. Max came. He told me to try and get the two of you together."

Tess rolls her eyes. "Well I’m guessing from the way MY life turned out that it was a big success. Let me guess - was this right around the time you all went to Copper Summit?" When I nod, she snorts. "God, you screwed us really well Parker."

I feel a stab of anger, which momentarily overshadows my terror. "You’re the one who ended up pregnant with his child and back on Antar, where you wanted to be all along." I retorted. "Thanks to me."

Tess eyes me for a long moment, a bewildered expression gradually taking over her face. "So you really don’t know - yet anyway."

"Know what?"

She no longer looks at all angry. In fact, she looks suddenly hopeful. "He didn’t tell you."

"Who tell me what?" I am beginning to think that she is completely loony. She is jumping from one topic to another, none of it making any logical sense.

"Max of course. About Serena."

I start at the familiar name. "He mentioned her. He told me that she was my friend. She’s the one who fixed the granolith so he could come back in time through it."

Tess narrows her eyes. I can see the wheels spinning inside her head as she tries to put the pieces of some puzzle I can’t even see together. "When did he come back from?"

I don’t know what else to do besides answer her. "Fourteen years in the future."

"Fourteen years. She was only thirteen years old then. That was the year Khivar killed Isabel and Michael…." She trails off. "Oh my God. He started the whole thing in motion. It wasn’t supposed to be this way."

I am openly gaping at her now. "Tess, what the hell are you talking about?"

Tess tilts her head, smiles again. She flicks her wrist again and I feel the control she has been exerting over my body disappear completely. It is so sudden, I stumble, falling to the ground, hard.

"I’m talking about your daughter Liz. Your daughter - Serena. The one who has not been conceived yet, but is supposed to be, right around this time. Fool. He tried to save Isabel and Michael and only made everything worse." She sounds sad and proud and disgusted all at the same time. I don’t understand how I notice this, because I am sure that I am gaping at her like some sort of fish out of water. She pauses and proceeds to shock me even further. "Oh, and just so that you stop calling me by that traitor’s name….I’m not Tess, I’m Ava, and we have a lot of work to do."


posted on 11-Dec-2001 11:43:52 PM
Part 9 - Max POV - Circle

There are two of talking in circles
And one of us who wants to leave
In a world created for only us
An empty cage that has no key.
Don’t you know that we’re working with flesh and blood
Carving out of jealousy,
Crawling into each other
It’s smothering every little part of me.

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

I know too many people unhappy
In a life from which they’d love to flee.
Watching others get everything offered
They’re wanton for discovery.
Oh my brother, my sister, my mother
You’re losing your identity.
Can’t you see that it’s you in the window
Shining with intensity?

What kind of love is this that keeps me hanging on
Despite everything its doing to me?
What is this love that keeps me coming back for more
When it will only end in misery?

Sarah McLachlan

We go to pick up Isabel and call the Sheriff once I finally manage to pull myself together. I am still in a state of complete disbelief that Tess could have gotten the best of us again so completely. She is supposed to be gone! We saw her blast off ourselves.

As usual, none of this makes any sense. Why is she back? And what does this mean for my son? Has he been born already?

Or is Michael right after all - did he ever even exist?

The Sheriff and Kyle are both out driving the streets of Roswell, just as we are, searching for any sign of my lunatic former wife or Liz. Maria is with the Sheriff and Michael with Kyle. It seems wisest that no one confront Tess alone, if they should stumble across her. She is strong - even stronger than I realized when I finally found out the truth about her betrayal. That she could have so easily mindwarped Michael, Maria and I AND taken Liz without even any semblance of a struggle - it is damn frightening.

It is scaring the hell out of me actually. Liz is in great danger and we have absolutely no idea where to even start to look for her.

Izzy is in the back-seat of my parent’s car, I am at the wheel. She has a picture of Liz on her lap, is trying to dreamwalk her as I drive around town in circles. She is having absolutely no luck.

"Where would she take her? Why would she take her? Why is she even here? Hasn’t she done enough?" These were Maria’s words once she and Michael had gotten over the first shock of my accusation that it was Tess who was responsible.

The words are now winding their way through my brain as I listen to the soft sound of my sister’s breathing from the back-seat. She is in a deep trance now. I know that she will not give up, but it seems hopeless.

I have no answers. Only a deep, bone-chilling awareness that we are at a turning point - again. That if I take the wrong path this time, there will be no going back, there will be no last minute reprieve like there was when we found out the truth about Tess.

This knowledge stems from one fact.

I can’t feel Liz at all anymore. There is like a deep void in my consciousness where she has always existed, even when we are apart. Ever since I saved her in the Crashdown that day, I have always felt her, know when she is safe and when she isn’t, know when she is hurting and when she is happy. It has become such a part of my own make-up, that it wasn’t until it was gone that I even realized it was there - her presence - like a flame, drawing me to her, burning brightly, keeping us connected.

Even over the past few weeks when things were so bad between us, she had burned within me.

Now she is just gone. Completely. Like a candle snuffed out.

And so it is an even greater shock when she is suddenly there again, like a match being lit. No, that’s too small. More like a small nuclear explosion ripping through my mind.

"MAX! Help me! MAAAAAXXXX!" Liz’s voice is panicked, desperate, terrified. And then it is gone, like it was never there at all.

I jerk the wheel to the left, sending the car careening for the sidewalk on the main drag of Roswell. I half hear Isabel shriek as she is physically thrown onto the floor in the back-seat. I slam on the brakes, breathing heavily as the car rolls to an abrupt halt.

"Max! What the hell are you doing?" Isabel screams, opening the back door and tumbling out onto the pavement.

I ignore her. I just continue to sit behind the wheel, staring out the windshield, calling for her with every fibre of my being.

**LIZ!!!! Liz, where are you? Help me to find you! LIZ!?**

There is nothing but the void.

Isabel is shaking me now. "Max! What is it? What’s wrong?"

"Liz…she’s calling for me." I bring my face down into my hands. The emptiness - I can’t bear it. I know right now that she’s still alive, but without the connection, will I even know if Tess hurts her, if Tess snuffs out the flame permanently?

"Like when you were in New York?" Isabel asks, sounding excited.

"Sort of." I reply, looking up at her, still feeling totally bereft. "That time I saw her, this time I heard her."

Isabel is frowning slightly. "And you can’t answer her?"

"She’s gone again."

"Try again. This time with me helping you." Isabel says, her eyes bright with hope. "She needed me last time. Her fear might have given her the strength to reach you once, but that was it. She needs help."

A tiny flicker of hope…It is enough.

I take my sister’s hand. She is kneeling on the pavement outside the driver’s side door, the picture of Liz smoothed out in front of her. She has one hand on Liz’s face, one in mine. As Isabel closes her eyes, she instructs me. "Call to her. Don’t let any doubt come into it Max. You need to believe that you can do this."

I close my eyes, reaching out with all my senses. I connect almost instantly with my sister, who is linked physically to me through our hands. I can feel her waiting to join her strength to mine, waiting to use her gift to help me enter Liz’s mind.

It seems to take forever. I can feel my will fading, can feel my belief that this will work wilting, when suddenly it feels like I am falling…

And I am in.

She is sitting right in front of me, staring at something or someone unseen beyond me. Her eyes are looking right through me for a split second before I see them dilate and focus on my face.

The first thing I notice is that while Liz is still afraid, she is no longer petrified with fear. I can feel her natural curiosity overtaking the fright that is within her. I can also feel her shock. She is deeply troubled and confused by something.

"Max." She says, not at all surprised to see me. "You found me. Come and get me my love. It is not too late for us."

"Liz, where are you?" All I can see around her is sky - dark and starry and cold. The V constellation is behind her, pointing down, as though to lead me to her.

"I am in the usual place." She replies. "Where the pieces are dropped and picked up again. The place of answers - wrong and right. The place where paths are chosen and discarded."

And with that cryptic statement, she is gone.

I open my eyes, see Isabel staring at me, back from the dream plain. "Where is she Max?" My sister knows that the connection was made but didn’t see any of it it seems.

I frown slightly, wonder why Liz was speaking in riddles. But her meaning was clear. The minute she spoke, I recognized the rock formation that was appearing out of the dark behind her.

"She’s at the pod chamber." I reply. "Why though? There’s nothing there anymore. The granolith destroyed the entire thing when it took off. Why would Tess take her there?"

Isabel looks as confused as I feel. "I have no idea. Do you think its a trap Max?"

"It could be." I reply pensively. "But I don’t think so. We’ll call the others, have them meet us there."

I watch Isabel hurry around the car to get in beside me, am about to shut my door and put the car back into gear when the headlights pick up a pair of legs further down the sidewalk. They are walking towards us, until the figure melts into the recognizable form of Sean Deluca.

Great. Just what I need. Liz’s knight in tarnished armour.

He saunters over to my side of the car, sneering down at me. "Evans. I hope you’re not here to harass Parker again. Because if you are…" He trails off, his tone threatening.

It brings my back up. I admit it. Mainly because I know that he has gotten to Liz, has interested her, has connected with her on a level unlike any other guy since…well, since me.

"Do you see Liz?" I snap back, annoyed despite all attempts not to be. This guy didn’t know the first thing about my relationship with Liz, but every time I encounter him, I feel like he is weighing me, judging me, waiting for me to do…I don’t know what he’s waiting for actually. Probably for me to screw up, which even I admit I am very good at.

And yet, it is beginning to drive me crazy. Because while I definitely am not good enough for Liz, this guy isn’t either.

The fact that he is the complete opposite of me, personality-wise, should make me feel better - like Liz couldn’t even try and replace me. But actually, it makes it worse - more like she has been trying to get as far away as possible from anything that reminded her of me, including other guys.

"I know that you did SOMETHING to her again." Sean replies. "And I’m telling you, stay away from her. For your own good." I watch in amazement as he puts his hand down on my fore-arm, which is resting on the open window frame of the car door.

A strange energy seems to be building between us. It is intoxicating, yet frightening. And not only that - it also reminds me of something that I have experienced before…

"Max, let’s just go." Isabel says impatiently. I can feel my sister’s hostility towards Sean coming off of her in waves, even though I am not looking at her. She seems unaware that anything is wrong. But I am TOTALLY aware that everything is wrong. It’s like I am suddenly tuned into everything around me, and yet like I am being ripped away at the same time.

It is the last thought of which I am aware before I pass out.


posted on 11-Dec-2001 11:49:31 PM
Part 10 - Liz POV - Path of Thorns (Terms)

I knew you wanted to tell me.
In your voice there was something wrong.
But if you would turn your face away from me
You cannot tell me you’re so strong.
Just let me ask of you one small thing
As we have shared so many tears.
With fervor our dreams we planned a whole lifelong
Now are scattered on the wind.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that you pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Through the years I’ve grown to love you,
Though your commitment to most would offend.
But I stuck by you holding on with my foolish pride,
Waiting for you to give in.
You never really tried or it seems now
I’ve had much more myself to blame.
I’ve had enough of trying everything
And this time it is the end.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

There’s no more coming back this way
The path is overgrown and strewn with thorns.
They’ve torn the lifeblood from your naked eyes
Cast aside to be forlorn.

In the terms of endearment.
In the terms of the life that you love.
In the terms of the years that pass you by.
In the terms of the reasons why.

Funny how it seems
That all I’ve tried to do,
Seemed to make no difference to you
At all.

I am still staring at the woman before me in complete shock, but I am no longer scared.

Its because I believe her. I am even beginning to see the small differences that existed between Ava and Tess in her face as I continue to stare at her.

The pierced lip is gone, as is the funky hairdo, but she still has about twelve earrings in her ear. And its not just physically that I begin to recognize her. There is something in those blue eyes - something innocent, even despite the fact that she is almost a middle-aged woman - that reassures me that she is telling me the truth.

This is Ava, the girl who, for a very short time, was my friend. This is NOT Tess, my greatest enemy, the murderer of my best friend.

What this means is only beginning to dawn on me. She has just told me that the infamous Serena, the one who I have half been looking for every time I meet someone new, ever since Future Max told me about her, is my daughter.

I had half begun to assume and accept that because I had changed the timeline so drastically by getting Max and Tess together, I was never destined to meet Serena in this life. I realize now that I had been disappointed by this fact. Just the sound of her name on Future Max’s lips in that brief comment had intrigued me.

And now I know why. She is my child. My child with Max. Which meant that something had to seriously change in the next few days if she is ever going to be born, because as things stand between Max and I now, there is little to no chance that she ever will be.

"Ava." I say it tentatively, try it out. "You’re really Ava."

She is eyeing me closely too. We are still standing on the desert floor, below the cliff where the granolith had been sheltered. "It is me." She pauses, suddenly smiles shyly. "I guess I don’t blame you for mistaking me for her. I’ve changed a lot."

"A lot." I repeat. And she has. Its not just in the way she looks. It’s in the way she carries herself. Ava had had a basic street sense to her when I had known her, but underneath she had been a scared young girl, uneducated and completely dependent on her fellow dupes. She had been devastated by Zan’s murder, had only managed to finally take a stand against Lonnie and Rath when they no longer needed her, when they had Tess and Max in their power.

This Ava’s bearing screams confidence in who she is. She also gives off a keen sense of desperation, one that I am determined I am going to get to the bottom of. This time, I am going to be the one in control. I had let Future Max run the show when he had shown up last fall. That had ended in complete disaster. I am not going to let anyone from the future tell me what to do this time.

"Why are you here?" I ask quietly.

"Something has gone horribly wrong." Ava tells me, just as quietly. Its like we’re both suddenly aware of the complete wrongness of this whole situation. She is not supposed to be here - just like Future Max was not supposed to have come. Just by her being here, we are fooling around with forces completely beyond our comprehension. We are changing the entire future - again. "She’s dying."

I feel my stomach clench, because I know exactly who she means. "Serena?"

Ava swallows, nods. "Our future is dying. Liz, we can’t win without her. Something has clearly gone wrong between you and Max that wasn’t supposed to. She hasn’t been conceived. She is fading from our timeline. The only thing that is holding her there at all is the granolith."

I feel my knees getting weak. The complete meaning of all this is beginning to weigh down upon me. I am supposed to have a child with Max - which means that Max and I…somehow we were supposed to be at the point where we would be close enough to create a new life.

Ha. It is not the least bit funny, and yet I find it strangely the most ludicrously hysterical idea I have ever heard.

"How? How did this happen?" Ava is asking me gently. "You need to tell me. What is going on with you two?"

"Alex is dead." I blurt, not wanting to tell her the real reason, that Max and TESS were the ones with a child on the way in this timeline.

"Yes." She looks sad. "He died in our timeline too. It was why Max sent Tess away, why they found me, to complete the Four Square."

My throat is closing up with grief again. I try to speak, try to tell her, but I cannot get the words out. "Tess…is gone here too. She and Max…"

It is then that I collapse completely. My knees do give out on me and I am sprawling on the desert floor, my arms wrapped around my middle, trying to hold in the pain, trying to ignore that all my dreams, all my love for Max has been wasted. He is not mine, never can be again. He belongs to her.

I have not cried once since I found out the truth of the matter between Max and Tess. I remember feeling complete shock when he told me, but that part of me that had to accept that she was having MY child, had not really processed it. Maybe I had known deep down that it was all wrong, all mixed up, that I was the one supposed to have the baby.

My daughter would never be born because of her.

I realize that Ava is kneeling beside me, that she is pulling me into her arms, is stroking my hair. "Liz, I am so sorry. I didn’t know that you don’t know yet."

She is gradually soothing me. I can feel my heartbeat slowing down as I allow myself to be comforted. Her words are not really penetrating my brain, but I am seemingly entering a state of semi-detachment.

Nothing matters anymore. It is all messed up and there is no way to fix it.

It is in that instant that I see Max. I can see him right in front of me, his dark eyes loving, but sad. "I’m coming for you Liz. I swear I’ll be back with you soon." And he fades away right in front of my eyes.

I pull back from Ava, stare at the spot where Max had just stood. It had been like a vision of the future, or maybe even an echo from the past, like when Max had seen a vision of he and I getting married in Las Vegas. I remember the day in the Crashdown when Max had told me the exact same thing.

"I’m coming for you Liz."

I had believed him then and I believe him now.

Maybe we can fix this after all.

Ava is here and she has information about what is supposed to be. Clearly, somewhere, the future had gone off the rails. We just needed to figure out where and why.

I grasp her hand. I feel the calluses from all the years of war she has endured. "Tell me. Tell me what I need to know."

She pushes a strand of hair away from my face, an entirely motherly gesture. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"I NEED to know." I reply firmly. "She cannot win."

Ava smiles. "That’s why I’m here. So she won’t."

And she begins to speak.

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

Another time, another life - January 2001

Liz Parker set the order down in front of the couple. "Okay, um, we have Saturn Rings and a Galaxy Sub, hold the Max."

She gasped with embarrassment as she realized what she had just said. Liz’s best friend Maria, standing nearby, stared at Liz, then smirked in amusement. She tilted her head, indicating that she wanted to talk to Liz.

Liz sighed heavily. "Okay, I’ll be right back with the Cokes." She felt Maria grab her by the arm, hauling her over to the counter.

"Okay, what just happened?" Maria demanded, still sounding like she was about to burst into giggles.

Liz could feel her heart still beating at about a mile a minute. "I need help! I’m sick!" Maria just raised her eyebrows. "Okay, I am OBSESSED!"

Maria just looked knowing. "Okay, is this a general freak out or should I be concerned?" She didn’t sound the least bit concerned however, just pleased.

"No, I have Max on my brain twenty-four hours a day. I dream about him, I think about him, and now I’m saying his frigging name without even realizing it! What am I going to do?" Liz knew that she sounded totally panicked, but it was how she felt. Like she was gradually losing all control of her life, of her sanity.

She knew that she couldn’t be with Max - had known it ever since she had heard that message from his mother in the pod chamber last May. This fact had only been confirmed by Future Max’s visit in October, when he had told her that she had to get Max to fall out of love with her or the world would end, that he was destined to be with Tess, his once and future bride, because if she left Roswell, the entire world would end.

And so she had done everything in her power to turn him away from her. She had pretended to sleep with Kyle, she had let him go on believing that she had, had hurt him so much that he had almost completely shut her out of his life, even going so far as to tell her that he no longer trusted her.

It had hurt like hell, all of it, but she had done it. But everything had completely reversed itself again since Isabel had helped her to connect with Max when he was in New York. She had saved his life then and since it had happened, they had started to become friends again. She had helped him deal with all that stuff at Christmas, which had resulted in him telling her on Christmas Eve that he believed in her.

He believed in her, whatever the heck that meant. That simple statement had started her dreams again, had made her wonder if maybe they could have a second chance.

Tess didn’t seem to be going anywhere after all. In fact, Liz had seen her in the Crashdown just that morning with Kyle, looking entirely unlike someone who cared one way or another if she and Max ever got together. True, Kyle had been flipping out about something, but they were so comfortable around each other, some spark existing without question…something was going on there. Something beyond friends.

So if Tess wasn’t going anywhere…

Didn’t that mean that maybe she could finally tell Max the truth?

Liz realized that Maria was still talking to her. "You’re in love - that’s all!"

Liz sighed again. "I know. But its not getting me anywhere." And it wasn’t. Max could believe in her all he wanted, but he still thought she had slept with Kyle, still thought that she had betrayed him in the worst way possible.

"Okay, relax. Relax Liz." Maria replied. "Its not that bad! I promise."

Liz snorted. "Not that bad? Really. Why don’t you look at this?" Liz pulled the two pictures she kept in her apron pocket out and thrust them towards her best friend. They were both of Max of course. "See! Obsession, obsession, obsession, obsession!"

Maria laughed. "Okay, okay! You’re a Maxaholic! I’m here for you. What can I do?"

Liz just rolled her eyes. She knew that all this pining was never going to get her anywhere. She HAD to move on. "Get me a life." She muttered.

The bell over the door behind them rang, alerting the two girls to the fact that someone had just entered the restaurant. Liz didn’t turn immediately. Maria had grabbed her by the arm when the bell had rung.

"Ow! Maria, what are you doing?" Liz exclaimed.

"Liz, I know you believe in fate. I know it. Well, fate has just walked through that door." Liz blinked, started to turn around. "NO!" Maria grabbed her again, this time by the shoulders. Liz felt the pictures she still held in her hands fall to the floor. "Do not turn around unless you are actually going to do what you should have done a LONG time ago."

Liz just stared at her. "Maria, what on Earth are you talking about?"

"It’s Max. He is standing in the doorway right now and I can tell that he wants to come over here. You are going to tell him the truth. Tess is not going anywhere. You saw her and Kyle this morning. Tell him Liz. Put the poor guy out of his misery. Put YOURSELF out of your misery. You belong together." Liz gasped in horror as Maria suddenly yelled over her shoulder. "MAX! Come here, we need to talk to you!"

"Maria!"

"Liz, just do it!"

Liz could already feel the hairs on the back of her neck beginning to stand on end, completely aware of Max’s presence as he came up behind her. The sound of his voice actually made her go weak in the knees. " Hi guys. What’s going on?"

Liz whirled, realized that Maria was already walking away from them, muttering something about customers. She’s deserting me! Liz thought frantically. How can she start this and then just desert me????

Liz’s eyes met Max’s. He was smiling at her in that way that always made her heart want to burst out of her chest. It was half-shy, half-loving. It was the smile she had not seen since before he had seen her with Kyle.

It was a smile that told her that he had forgiven her, even though he still thought she had betrayed him.

Telling him now wouldn’t hurt anything. But she had been keeping this a secret for so long. How could she be sure that it still couldn’t totally screw everything up?

It was in that instant that she saw Max’s eyes lower. He frowned slightly, bent down and picked up one of the pictures that had fallen to the floor. He stared at it for a full minute before he raised his eyes to look at her again. "Liz?"

Liz felt the blood rushing to her face. "Oh." She grabbed the picture out of his hand, stuffed it back into her apron. "Maria and I…we’re making something for your birthday." She improvised lamely. She tried to ignore the hope that was appearing blatantly on his beloved face.

"Liz, my birthday is in March." Max told her, although of course she knew that. "What’s going on?" He asked again.

"What are you doing here?" Liz blurted out instead of answering him.

She was surprised when she saw colour beginning to rise in Max’s face too. She loved how his ears always turned slightly pink when he was embarrassed. "Er, well, it’s kind of a long story." He replied. "Um, Isabel was bored last night…" He coughed. "She…well, she dreamwalked you."

Liz blinked. "She did?" She felt panic rising within her as Max’s words absorbed. What had Isabel seen? Did Max know the truth? Did he know about Future Max and that what had happened with Kyle wasn’t real?

"Yeah." Max grabbed her by the hand. Liz felt her heartbeat beginning to slow. Just touching him was enough to calm her down. Well, if not calm her, at least make her heart beat in an entirely different way, she amended silently to herself. "Don’t be mad. I swear I told her not to Liz." He paused. "I need to talk to you." He looked around the busy restaurant uncomfortably. "Alone." He added, unnecessarily.

Liz closed her eyes briefly. It looked like Maria had been right. Fate was stepping in. She was no longer going to fight it. She and Max had been on a collision course back towards each other for weeks. It was time to deal with it head on.

She was going to tell him.

The feeling of relief that flooded through her as she accepted it caused her to stumble slightly. Max caught her. She was staring at his chest as he held her tightly. Glancing up, her eyes met his.

The naked love she saw there only solidified her resolve. It was the shadows that still slightly existed there that made her take his hand, lead him through the back of the restaurant and up the stairs to her room.

She didn’t say a thing. Neither did he. It was a silence ripe with expectation, with hope.

She and Future Max had failed anyway. Max still loved her, in spite of it all.

She had to take those shadows out of his eyes.

"What’s going on Liz?" Max asked once they had reached her room and she had shut the door firmly. She wasn’t looking at him. She was looking out the window at the balcony, at where HE had appeared and totally screwed up her entire life.

And yet, she had loved him. He had been Max. He had just been wrong. They belonged together. Whether or not Tess left, it could not be enough to keep she and HER Max apart.

It was meant to be.

"Maybe you should tell me what Isabel saw." Liz suggested, turning back to look at him. "So I know how much you already know."

"Just…" Max cleared his throat, sounding embarrassed again. "You were dreaming about me - about US - together." He gazed at her hopefully. "I mean, I know it might not mean anything, but, when she told me, I couldn’t help but hope that…" He trailed off, glanced away. Liz saw his eyes light on the picture of the two of them that still sat on her bed-side table. He walked over to it, picking it up.

"That was a great weekend." Liz said unnecessarily, still stalling, still trying to work up the nerve to change everything again.

Maria had taken it without their knowledge during the six weeks between the time that they had found the first orb and when Tess had arrived, the only time that they had truly been happy together. They had all gone out into the desert for a camp-out during Spring Break. The picture was of she and Max sitting on a rock together, she between his legs, his arms wrapped around her. They were both gazing off towards the horizon. Liz remembered the sunset that day, how beautiful it had been, but how much more she had appreciated it, simply because she was with Max.

When Maria had given her the picture, Liz had known that she would treasure it forever. It had become even more precious to her since Tess had come and everything had been screwed up. She had had to put it away for a while after that. It had been too painful to look at it. And yet, she had taken it out again very recently.

Maybe she had known even then that it was time to fix things between them.

"Yeah." Max replied, setting the frame down again. He looked at her. "I guess it’ll never be that way again?" But the way he raised his voice, like it was a question, it told Liz he hoped that it could be.

He had forgiven her. He had forgiven her without even really knowing the truth.

"What did you want to tell me?" Max asked expectantly, although he sounded a little disappointed that she had not answered his unasked question.

Why couldn’t she just say it? Liz wondered as she licked her lips, continued to stare at him. Why was it so hard?

"Liz?"

"I never slept with Kyle." She blurted it so quickly, he blinked.

Liz swallowed, hard, waiting for his reaction. She expected either utter joy or surprised anger. She didn’t expect at all what came next.

It looked to her like Max let out a long breath and then he said quietly. "I know." He sat down on the bed, not taking his eyes off of her. "I’ve known ever since I got back from New York." He smiled slightly. "You’re a really good liar Liz, but that time…something was just off. And you couldn’t say it this time. It just felt wrong."

Liz stared at him in shock. "But if you knew…why didn’t you say anything?" She asked in astonishment,

"I realized after what happened in New York - when you saved me - that the bond between us was never broken." Max replied. "And when you lied to me again…" He paused. "Well, I knew you had to have a really good reason and I knew that you’d tell me eventually." He looked down. "Even if the reason was that you had fallen out of love with me and just couldn’t tell me that."

Liz collapsed on the bed beside him, her hands clenched in her lap. She had hurt him so much. She had to make him see that it had had nothing to do with not wanting to be with him. "I’ve wanted to tell you the truth for so long." She whispered.

Max turned slightly, reached out and gently tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of her ponytail behind her ear. "Why? Why did you have to do that Liz?" He looked sad. "Were you really that desperate to get rid of me?"

"Of course not!" Liz exclaimed. "I did it to save you!"

"Save me? From what?" Max asked, confused.

"From me! Max, our relationship was going to drive Tess away from Roswell. We would have been responsible for that and it would have been disastrous. You need her!" She relaxed her hands when she realized that they were clutching at her apron. "You’re not going to believe how I know this, but I do."

Max’s eyes narrowed. "But you told me now. What’s changed?"

"Well, she and Kyle…they seem close. And the Sheriff too. She has a family now. And you and she - you’re friends now. I don’t think she could just walk away as easily." Liz admitted. "And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I miss you." She realized that she was about to cry.

"You don’t have to miss me." Max told her, his voice cracking as he brought his hands up to cup her face. "I’m right here. All I want is to be with you Liz. It’s all I’ve ever wanted."

Liz threw her arms around his neck. "It’s all I’ve ever wanted too."

"Then what’s standing in our way?" Max asked, smiling again. "Only you. We’re meant to be together Liz. I know it."

Liz could feel a smile breaking out across her own face through her tears. "I know it too Max." And yet, the fear was still there, still pressing against her belly. "But we have to be sure about Tess. I want to be with you, but we can’t let anyone know. Not yet. We can’t give her any reason to leave - not until we’re sure she won’t."

"I don’t care if anyone knows." Max replied. "As long as we’re together, I’ll sneak around behind their backs for the rest of my life." He ran his hands through her hair. "Can I kiss you now?" He asked, his lips only a breath away from hers.

"But don’t you want to know why I lied?" Liz asked breathlessly, her eyes already beginning to flutter shut in anticipation of the one thing she had dreamed of for months.

"Yes, but not right now." Max told her, his own breath hitching.

"Okay." Liz sighed. "But you do need to know one thing." She whispered as he placed feather light kisses on her closed eyes, her cheek bones, her chin.

"What?" He sounded highly distracted, but Liz knew he was listening to her.

"I didn’t just lie about Kyle. I lied when I told you I didn’t want to die for you. I would die for you Max. Since I hurt you, I’ve been dead inside." Liz admitted. She felt Max still. He pulled back slightly, his eyes darkening with love.

"Then it’s time to come back to life Liz." With that, he brought his lips down on hers and she did just that.

Part 11 - Another Time, Another Life Continued

Late February - Las Vegas, Nevada

"Oh my God! Max! Someone’s coming!" Liz gasped against his lips, turning her head so abruptly, she heard him sputter when he got a mouthful of hair. She tried not to laugh when he tickled her lightly on the ribs in punishment. This resulted in a muffled scream, half-snort.

But she was right. She could hear voices, knew that if they didn’t stop it immediately, they were going to be caught and the jig would be up. Everyone would know, which meant that Tess would know and it was still unclear what that would mean.

"Shhhhhhh!" Liz felt Max bring his forehead down to rest against hers. She could still hear him breathing heavily, could feel his heart beating rapidly against her chest. They were so close, she actually felt her own slow down, starting to beat in time with his. Liz pinched him, since he was the one who had almost made her shriek. She felt him trying desperately not to laugh.

They were both so tense, it almost made Liz start to giggle hysterically too. As though he could feel it, Max cupped her head gently and rested her cheek against his chest, stroking her hair in an attempt to calm her down.

Liz had known it had been a mistake when she had allowed Max to pull her into the bathroom of the hotel room they were sharing with all their friends, but it had been too hard to say no. Everyone had been down in the casino anyway. Besides, since they had arrived in Las Vegas to spend the money Michael had inherited, he had been all she had been thinking of.

Totally alone. No parents anywhere. There was no question that "cementing," as Future Max had dubbed it, was definitely on her mind.

It had been so long since they had had a moment alone. The entire Laurie Dupree affair, which had almost resulted in the end of the world, had made it so there was barely a minute to spare, let alone time to revel in the fact that they were back together and more deliriously happy than either of them had ever been in their entire life.

They had actually been discussing whether maybe it was time to tell everyone the truth when they had been distracted by their close proximity to each other in such a small space. After all, Tess and Kyle were closer than ever. Liz had even begun to bond with the other girl a little during the time they had been trying to dig Alex and Kyle out of the ground. Both Max and Liz were almost positive that she had no intention of leaving Roswell, and since she had been anything but aggressive with Max since their return from New York, Liz had even begun to hope that perhaps she had given up - that maybe she was falling love with Kyle and had no intention of being with Max, ever.

Yet, they were still waiting, stealing moments together here and there, both craving more, but knowing that caution was the better part of valour. The chance to actually be together was too precious to jeopardize by revealing it too soon.

This was why Liz was currently straining her ears to hear who had come into their suite. If it was Maria, Alex or even Michael or Isabel, the danger was not great. They might be able to brazen out the fact that they were up here alone together. Liz was almost positive that Maria knew they were back together anyway - she had practically orchestrated it herself after all. Liz didn’t doubt that she had maybe spilled some information to Michael or Alex too. She knew her best friend. She could keep a secret when it really counted, like the Future Max one, but she was likely too happy contemplating the possibility that Max and Liz had reunited not to at least speculate about it with either her boyfriend or her other best friend.

But if it was Tess or Kyle…Well, that didn’t bear thinking about. The proverbial cat would be out of the proverbial bag in that instance. And they still weren’t sure that Tess was ready for it. Keeping her in Roswell at all costs - it was what Liz had given Max up for in the first place, it was the reason she had been willing to hurt him so badly. They could not risk it.

"I think it’s Tess." Liz heard Max whisper against her hair. "I can feel her presence." That comment sent a shiver down Liz’s spine. Max felt it, tightened his arms around her. "Through the Four Square." He added, trying to reassure her.

But Liz did not have time to reflect on why this upset her so. She had recognized the other voice. It was Alex.

"Why are Alex and Tess up here together?" Liz murmured. She felt Max shrug.

"I don’t care, as long as they leave." Liz heard a door shut, the voices disappearing.

"I think they went into one of the rooms." Liz frowned slightly. "What’s going on?"

"I’m sure its nothing." Max replied. Liz felt him moving away from her, towards the door. The bathroom was in complete darkness, no lights having been necessary for what they had been up to in there. Liz watched as light filtered into the small room as Max opened the door, poking his head out. "No one." He turned back, shutting the door again.

Liz frowned to herself. "Max, we need to get out of here." She whispered urgently, moving towards the door.

"Liz, I want to tell her the truth." He told her firmly. "She has to accept this someday. I want it to start now." Liz could tell by the tone of his voice that he no longer found this scenario amusing. In fact, she could hear an underlying frustration that had been building between them for a couple of weeks now.

Liz sighed heavily. "We can’t. Not yet. Not until I feel sure." The panic she had felt at the though of being caught. It had only reinforced to her that it was not yet time.

"Liz…"

"Max, you promised me that we would do this when I felt ready. You don’t know what Future Max told me would happen." She regretted the words as soon as they came out of her mouth.

There was a long pause. Liz wished that they had turned the lights on. She didn’t like the fact that she couldn’t see his face. She knew that he was still angry about the fact that the future version of himself had come back in time, telling her that she needed to make him fall out of love with her. She hadn’t told him the whole story though. He had been so angry at himself over the whole situation, even though he, of course, had had nothing to do with it, she had only told him that they needed to keep Tess in Roswell at all costs -even at the cost of their own happiness.

"Are you ever going to tell me?" He finally asked quietly.

"I can’t. Max, he almost couldn’t tell me. It screws up the timeline too much to know. The only reason he finally told me was because I wasn’t going to help him." She felt herself tensing up when he didn’t reply for a long time again.

"This is coming between us Liz." He said firmly. "I don’t want anything to come between us."

"I don’t either." Liz replied. "You know that. But I can’t tell you!"

"You might not want it to." Max told her, "But you’re letting it." There was another long pause. "I haven’t had one single flash from you since we’ve been back together."

The night they had gotten back together, she had told him only half the truth. After she had thought about it, it had seemed like the wisest course of action. Future Max had warned her that this was a "different world," but he had also told her that telling too much could seriously affect future events. The fact that she had gotten back together with Max at all was a big enough risk.

And, still, Liz felt like she had been punched in the gut. Max sounded so hurt, all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him and comfort him. Because she knew it was true. She had not allowed him to see into her soul at all, afraid that he would find out the truth about Future Max. And he couldn’t know. He couldn’t know that they had been responsible for Michael and Isabel’s deaths and for the end of the world.

She was afraid of how he might react, afraid how he would feel. She knew him. His guilt might cause him to do the one thing she dreaded more than any other. He might actually decide that he had to pursue his destiny with Tess.

She knew it was selfish, knew that it was completely against everything her nature was telling her to do, but she couldn’t give him up again. She just could not do it.

And so she kept it from him, tried to determine Tess’s state of mind on her own, tried to figure out if the right moment had come.

The irony was, she was losing Max anyway.

She knew this as she watched him open the bathroom door. He had been waiting for her to say something, ANYTHING, to fix this rift that was beginning to open between them. When she didn’t, he left, without another word.

Liz knew that he would be back. He couldn’t stay away from her after all. But this time, something had irrevocably changed.

A shiver descended her backbone. She wondered why she felt like she had just made the SECOND biggest mistake of her life.


posted on 11-Dec-2001 11:51:01 PM
Part 12 - Max POV - Mercy

Mercy…
Pure and simple.
Longing…
Cold and hollow.
With sweet breath you’d come to warm me.
But I held on too hard to only a memory.

You lie there on the swollen ground.
Deserted in your heart.
Still longing for what yesterday’s lost,
And for all that tomorrow might bring,
And for all that tomorrow might bring.

The passion lost,
Taken, stolen.
The dreams we had and shared,
Shattered, broken.
With kind words you’d come to soothe me,
But I was so blind,
Would send you away from me.

There’s no hope in regretting now
All the pain that we could not see.
We both knew what we wanted,
And we took it believing it free,
And we took it believing it free.

"Max! Snap out of it! Max, what’s wrong?"

I can hear my sister screaming right in my ear, but my eyes seem completely incapable of opening. I hear someone groan, realize it is me.

"Stop yelling Isabel!" I practically have to physically pry open my eyes. I lift my hands up near my temple, try to massage away the massive headache that is presently pounding away. I feel for the tension in my head, gradually heal it so that I can converse without feeling like I did when Nicholas tried to get the location of the granolith out of me last fall.

"What the hell happened?" I manage to focus on my sister’s face. She has gone completely white.

And suddenly it all comes flooding back. Sean Deluca! He had done something to me, had used some sort of alien power to knock me out. Which means that Sean Deluca is not at all who we thought he is.

"Sean." I say, feeling the rage beginning to build within me. "Where did he go?"

Isabel blinks, looks at me like I am insane. "Max, what are you talking about? Sean? I haven’t seen Sean for days."

I stare at her. "Isabel, he was just here. He knocked me out!"

"Max, there was no one here. One minute you were staring out the front windshield with this weird look on your face, the next you had completely passed out!" Isabel insists. "There was no one here."

What the hell is going on around here?

"Are you sure?" I demand, although I know she is. She simply nods.

Sean Deluca was never here. But I know he was.

I suddenly have a very sinking suspicion that I have managed to uncover the mysterious Lazar - and without even trying too.

And the one thing this fact is telling me is that Liz is in even more danger than I even could have possibly comprehended five minutes ago. "Get in." I order my sister. "We need to get to the pod chamber. Now."

Isabel doesn’t argue, although she is clearly still totally freaked out. "Maybe I should drive." She insists, grabbing the keys out of my hand.

I don’t argue.

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

We call the others on the drive. I tell Michael and the Sheriff to avoid Sean Deluca at all costs, to meet us at the pod chamber as soon as possible. I tell Michael why when he demands to know, hear Isabel gasping in the seat beside me as she listens to the story.

"How the hell can Maria’s cousin be an alien?" Michael yells. He sounds absolutely terrified. I don’t blame him. I am frantically trying to figure out if Sean has possibly hurt Liz in any way in all the time he has spent with her. Sean lived in Maria’s house for God’s sake. I think Michael has the right to freak out.

"I don’t think he’s Maria’s cousin." I reply tersely.

"Mind-warp?" Michael demands incredulously. "Maxwell, how the hell can Tess be doing this? There is no way that chick can be THIS powerful."

"I don’t think it’s Tess. I think he’s doing it."

"Is he Khivar?" Michael asks. I can hear the fear in his voice.

"Maybe." I say. "We’ll discuss it when we’re all together."

Isabel and I drive in silence for several more minutes after Michael has hung up. I can practically feel my sister’s terror, not only in the air, but through the bond that we share through the Four Square.

"What’s wrong Iz?" I finally ask.

She doesn’t reply for a long time and then whispers, "Is he Khivar?"

"I don’t know." Because I don’t, but I am beginning to suspect that he probably is. The way I felt when he touched me… He had done that to me before.

Because the memories are starting to pour back, have been ever since I regained consciousness. "Isabel…" I trail off, don’t know if I should tell her this. I still haven’t fully accepted it myself, but I think maybe she needs to know - needs to prepare herself for what might be coming. "I think I remember dying."

There is another long silence. "Tell me." She sounds like she really doesn’t want to know, but needs to.

Sort of like I need to get to Liz. Every fibre of my being is screaming, won’t stop screaming until I have found her. I know it, embrace it. It is giving me the strength to deal with what I saw…

"His power…" I pause, searching my mind, trying to get a grasp on what I saw when Sean Deluca had done what he had done to me. I am trying to stay unemotional, detached from the memory, but it is difficult. It is not a pleasant experience to relive your own death after all. I don’t think you can blame me for it. "I think he burned me up from inside. I remember flames."

"Oh my God." I can feel the car slowing down.

"Isabel! Go!" I insist. "Drive. We need to get there."

"Max," she pays no attention to me, pulls off the highway and turns to stare at me. "Did you see me?"

And I know exactly what she is thinking. Was she there when he killed me? Did she actually watch her lover murder her own brother, her king?

I consider not telling her, but I don’t think lies are any sort of help, ever. Lies were what brought us to this point after all. Lies about who we were, are. Lies about who we were supposed to be, would have been, if the future version of myself hadn’t interfered.

"You were there."

"Oh my God." She moans. Her face is in her hands. "Then its true. I betrayed you. I let him kill you!"

I am still detached, but I do want to comfort her. "Not you Iz. Her. Vilandra. She’s not you." I reach out, squeeze her shoulder lightly. "Isabel, I need you to be strong."

She looks up at me, her face drenched with tears. "Max, I am so sorry."

"Don’t be sorry." I snap. "Be Isabel. I need my sister. You have to help me fix whatever it is he’s trying to do. You need to help me save Liz."

Isabel’s eyes are gazing past me. I wonder if she is trying to remember a life that no longer exists, a person she once was. But I know that she can’t. I know that I don’t want her to.

Memories of what came before have only ever caused us grief after all. Memories of Tess led me to make the biggest mistake of my life, led me to betray Liz, led me to almost lead my sister and my best friend to their destruction.

But the memory of what Khivar did to me… It is a good thing I realize. It has made me cold, determined, absolutely convinced that he is not going to win again. He is not going to hurt Liz.

Because he knows that all he has to do to defeat me this time is hurt her.

"Isabel." She looks at me again, her eyes pleading with me to say something to make her feel better. "You need to help me. You are possibly the only person he might listen to." I place my hands on both of her shoulders, shake her a bit. "I need my sister."

I feel her spine straighten under my hands. "I won’t fail you this time Max. I promise."

"Then he’s already lost." I tell her with certainty. And I know I’m right. Now we just need to prove it.

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

The others are waiting at the pod chamber when we pull up. Kyle is leaning against his Mustang, trying not to look like he’s scared. The Sheriff is on his phone, talking to Maria’s mom I realize. I can hear him asking questions about Sean.

Michael is standing with Maria, his arm around her. She looks like she’s been crying, but her eyes are dry now.

Maria shrugs away from Michael, walks over to me as I climb out of my parent’s car. "Max, I don’t have a cousin Sean." She swallows. "When Michael told me what happened…" She trails off, glances at Isabel who has come up behind me. "I suddenly just knew that he wasn’t my cousin."

"I know." I shake my head, guilty that someone that she loved, even in the hostile way she loved Sean, was a figment of her imagination and it is a consequence of the fact that she knows us. "I’m sorry."

Maria narrows her eyes. "I am going to kick his ass when I get my hands on him," she replies, sounding more like the Maria we all know and love.

"There’s no sign of Liz or Tess anywhere Maxwell." Michael speaks up. He gestures up towards where the pod chamber used to be. "There’s no way they’re up there. Are you sure this is the right place?"

I stare up at the hole in the side of the cliff. "I’m sure." I say. "She’s here." But the fact that I still can’t feel her… Maybe I misread what Liz was trying to tell me in the vision…

And it’s then that I see it. "Oh my God."

I pass Maria as she wrenches around to look at what I’m staring at.

"Max, what is it?" Isabel demands, following close behind me.

But I am already scaling the side of the cliff, half-way up before I can even attempt to reach for it…

Then it’s in my hand. I hold it away from me, stare at it, catch the moonlight in one of its facets.

And finally I understand the mistake we have made, understand that maybe I didn’t make as big a mess as I thought I did when I sent Tess off a couple of days ago.

Because, in my hand, I have the crystal that I used to start the ship that carried her off with my son. It is still on Earth. And I know why too.

So maybe memories aren’t such a bad thing after all.

Because I know with absolute certainty, that in my hand, I am holding the granolith.

Part 13 - Another Time, Another Place - Section C

April 2001 - Roswell, New Mexico

Liz glanced at the clock, wondered where Max had gotten to. They had agreed quietly right before Max had resolved that whole business with Brody at the UFO Museum that Max would meet her on her balcony at the usual time. The whole hostage incident had reinforced to Liz, and she assumed to Max, how fragile Max’s secret was, how careful they still had to be.

All she wanted to do was see him, hold him, wrap herself up in his presence, remind herself that they were both still alive and safe now that Tess had erased Brody’s memory.

But Max was late. Really late actually.

Things had mostly gone back to normal since they had had the fight in Las Vegas about telling Tess the truth. This had been after Max had gone gambling with Michael and they had both ended up in jail of course. After Maria had bailed them both out of jail, Max had decided to go home on the next plane. No one else had known it wasn’t only because of the fight he had had with Michael, but also because he was still absolutely furious with Liz. When he had found her in the games room playing pinball with Tess - strange enough in itself Liz acknowledged, but Liz’s attempt to see if maybe she could tell Tess - she had been able to tell that it had taken all of his willpower not to drag both girls somewhere private to get everything out into the open. He had refrained though and had simply left, leaving Liz sure that things were going steadily downhill between them.

Liz had been shocked and relieved when Max had come back. Maria had arranged for a dinner for the whole group at a private club and Liz had been sitting alone at the table, watching Kyle and Tess dance together, smiling and laughing, wondering if maybe Max was right - if maybe they were safe, that Tess would not leave, that they could tell everyone the truth - when he had suddenly been there and had pulled her out onto the dance floor. He had still been in a very strange mood though, had told her about a flash he had had on his way to the airport - of the two of them getting married in Vegas. Liz had felt her heart drop to her stomach, had been on the verge of telling him that he had seen a vision of what was supposed to be, but the moment had passed when he had pulled her closer, whispered an apology into her hair, had whispered that he loved her and that he trusted her.

So, things had returned to normal - if you could call sneaking around normal. Max had not brought up the subject of telling Tess the truth again since. In fact, he and Tess had been hanging out more often lately. He had told Liz that he was doing his best to get a read on her, to figure out what was going on with she and Kyle. Liz had guessed that this was why Tess had been caught up in Brody’s hostage situation - she had been visiting Max at work when the whole thing had gone down.

Liz was doing her best not to be jealous about the time her boyfriend was spending with his past-life wife. She knew, without reservation, that it was she Max loved. Even if she was resisting giving him flashes, he had been as open with her as always. She knew from seeing into his soul that he had no doubts about who he loved. But that horrible feeling that she had experienced in Las Vegas - that he was slipping slowly beyond her reach with each passing day, with each day she kept the truth of the Future Max situation hidden from him - would not go away.

Which was why she was freaking out that he was late for their rendezvous. It was completely unlike him.

And so it was a great relief to hear Max’s familiar voice calling up from the alley below her balcony. Better late than never! "Liz? Are you there?"

She tried to control the beaming smile that broke out across her face, but then gave up. If she couldn’t show him with flashes how much she adored him, then she would show him in every other way possible. She looked over into the alley. "Hey! Come on up!"

It wasn’t until Max spoke again that she realized how tense he looked down there, staring up at her. "Um, I can’t. My parents are freaking out about what happened at the Museum." He looked down. "I just came to tell you that I have to go home."

Liz felt her heart drop in disappointment. "Oh. Okay." She smiled again. "You can’t even come up for a minute?" She asked flirtatiously.

"I better not." Liz frowned. Max sounded distinctly weird to her.

"Is everything okay Max?"

"Fine." He said it so abruptly, she knew he was lying.

"Max?"

"Really Liz." He said more calmly. "Everything’s fine. I’m just really tired." He paused. "Listen, can I make this up to you?" Liz could see him relaxing slightly. He was moving towards the ladder, as though he had decided to climb up after all. He stopped before he reached it though, forcing himself to tilt his head all the way back to stare up at her. Now that he was closer, Liz could see the shuttered expression on his face.

"You don’t have to." Liz said, a feeling of dread beginning to come over her. Something was really wrong here. "I understand."

"I want to." Max insisted emphatically. For the first time since he had arrived, he smiled up at her. "You do know what Saturday is, do you not Miss Parker?"

Liz shrugged. "I have no idea." She replied, mystified.

"Liz, I am shocked." Max teased. "Where are your priorities? You’re the girl. You’re supposed to know these things, not me. It’s our prom of course."

Liz blinked. She had totally forgotten about the prom. Since she had no intention of going with anyone but Max, and since it seemed unlikely that they would be able to go together due to the continued quest to keep their renewed relationship a secret, it hadn’t even occurred to her to consider going anyway. "Oh. Yeah. I’d forgotten."

"Well, I happen to be the bearer of the news that one Tess Harding has a date for the big event." Max told her. He had started to climb the ladder now after all, was only two rungs below her. He was smiling, but as Liz gazed down at him, instead of feeling pleased, she felt a shiver descend her backbone. Because she was looking directly into Max’s eyes, and the darkness there in no way matched the playful tone of his voice.

His eyes - there was something dark in there, hidden. And if Liz was not mistaken - it was fear.

Something hadhappened and it was completely apparent that he had no intention of telling her what it was.

And she suddenly understood how it felt to be Max, how it felt to have her shutting him out from a part of her life. Not for the first time, all she wanted to do was blurt out the whole story, immediately.

But it was too late. He was still talking, still pretending nothing was wrong. "Kyle asked her apparently." Liz did not miss the raised eyebrow that seemed to be saying "See? We’re safe. We can tell her the truth."

"Oh?" Liz replied, just as casually, pretending that this was nothing more than flirtatious banter prior to the question she knew was coming.

She saw Max’s expression darken slightly, but so quickly, she wondered if she imagined it. "So?" He asked, the undertones betraying that he was asking about much more than the prom.

"Yes." Liz whispered, reaching down and running her hand down his face. She felt it tighten under her touch. Max swallowed, forced another smile.

"Great. I think we should lay low until then though Liz." He said as he backed his way down the ladder again. "Just in case. That way she’ll think we’re going just as friends."

"Okay."

"I’ll see you at school tomorrow."

He was walking away before Liz realized that he hadn’t kissed her good-bye.

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

The day of the prom dawned bright and sunny, which in no way matched Liz’s mood. Maria was still sound asleep on the pillow beside Liz. She had slept over the night before because they were going to the hairdresser and to get their nails done early and it had just seemed easier.

Of course, it had also been because it had been time for an emergency gab session. Maria had flat out admitted to Liz on Wednesday, after she found out that Liz and Max were going to the prom together, that everyone knew they were back together.

Liz had stared at her best friend in horror, her heart beating a terrible tattoo of doom against her rib-cage. "Everyone?" She had whispered, feeling like she was about to pass out. Despite all the attempts she had made to be honest with Max, to accept that Tess was ready for the truth, the idea that Tess might actually know already… The terror she was suddenly experiencing more than confirmed to her that it was not yet time.

Tess could not know.

"Well, everyone that matters." Maria had been waving her hand in the air dismissively. "Me, Michael, Isabel and Alex. Who cares about anyone else?"

"Does Tess know?" Liz had demanded, wanting to shake Maria for treating the whole thing so cavalierly.

"I swear she doesn’t Lizzie." Maria had insisted. "Michael and Isabel have been keeping a close eye on the situation. I told them enough to make them understand that she has to stay in Roswell."

"How long has everyone known?" Liz has asked, trying to decide what this meant for the weird way Max was behaving. Were Michael and Isabel trying to convince him that he had to break it off with her, that keeping Tess around was more important than any earthly girlfriend? Is that why he had looked so scared on Monday? Because he had begun to realize that they were right, that he was going to have to break up with her?

But then why would he have invited her to the prom? It didn’t make any sense. No, something else was going on with Max and she still had no idea what. She had not really spoken to him since the night at her balcony, although she had seen him at school of course. Even that had been weird though. He had made absolutely no attempt to touch her or talk to her privately, as he had all the time since January.

The fear that she was losing him…It was growing stronger with every passing day. And, yet, she still knew that she could not tell him the truth. She didn’t know where this irrational terror came from, but she knew it went far beyond the fear that she was going to lose Max if he knew that their relationship had resulted in Michael and Isabel’s deaths.

No this was something different. Like there was an outside force controlling her.

But it was ridiculous of course. No one knew the whole story except Maria and she was the person Liz trusted most in the world, after Max. Not that Max was making it easy to trust him lately.

So she and Maria had stayed up late the night before, dissecting the whole situation. And it was an argument Maria had made that had finally convinced Liz that it was time to tell Max the whole truth.

"Liz, you love him. You can’t stay away from him, but this isn’t you. You know it isn’t. Not telling Max the truth, because you’re scared you’re going to lose him?" Maria had sounded absolutely flabbergasted. "He’ll never leave you Liz. You have to see that. If you tell him, you can come up with a solution together, even if its full-time bodyguards for Spaceboy and Queen Amidala fourteen years from now."

Liz had been shocked by what had appeared to be Maria’s callous attitude towards Michael and Isabel’s impending doom. "Maria, I would have though that you of all people would have wanted me to do anything to protect Michael!" She had exclaimed.

Maria had rolled her eyes. "I’m bound to kill him myself long before then Liz." When Liz had gasped, Maria had taken her by the hand and had said seriously, "Liz, of course I’m scared. But we can’t live our lives in fear. Future Max told you the truth. This is a new world. There is absolutely no way we can be sure that Michael and Isabel aren’t still going to die, even in a different way." Maria sighed heavily. "Someone else might die. We can’t know." She squeezed Liz’s hand lightly. "You have to tell Max so that he can be as prepared as possible. It’s not fair to him Liz. You’re not trusting in his love for you. How can you, of all people, not know that he’ll never leave you? If he didn’t after the whole destiny thing, he won’t - ever."

And Liz had known that Maria had been right. Which was why, tonight, she was going to tell Max everything.

She had asked Max to pick her up early. She knew that he had planned a romantic dinner at Chez Pierre, although secretly she would have preferred Senor Chow’s which had so many wonderful memories, but she wanted to go somewhere private with him first, to tell him everything so that there would be nothing standing between them anymore.

And if he left her - well, so be it. She was tired of being a coward.

Of course, this was easier said than done. When she got her first glimpse of Max in his tux, hours later, when he came to pick her up, she questioned her decision. How could she risk losing him?

He was walking towards her, his eyes glowing as he gazed at her in her wine-coloured dress, which she had accentuated with a necklace that had belonged to her grandmother. She felt like he was practically worshipping her with his eyes. It had sent a shiver of desire coursing down her spine, one that was not helped by the fact that she had actually never seen him looking as gorgeous, and that was, of course, saying a lot.

For a long, charged moment, as their eyes met, the world was devoid of everyone else but the two of them. Liz knew that she could no longer lie to him. And she knew from the expression on his face that he felt the same way. Whatever was bothering him…She had a feeling she was going to know all about it before the night was through.

"Can we go somewhere?" Liz whispered, not taking her eyes from his. Max simply nodded, took her by the hand and led her out the door.

They sat in comfortable silence on the drive. Liz knew exactly where he was taking her - the radio tower near the crash site. She didn’t know how she knew. She just did. It was like this whole night had played out a million times before, like she had lived it all before. Perhaps she had, in another life…Was this timeline beginning to meld with the timeline Future Max had erased when he had arrived? Were she and Max simply rebuilding the horrible future that was to come - the one where Michael and Isabel were dead and the world ended?

Liz felt a frisson of fear, tried to ignore it. She had to tell him. There was no turning back now, no time for doubts. Maria was right. She couldn’t live her life based on fears of what might happen. Not any more.

As they pulled up to the place where they had found the orb that had first brought Tess Harding into their lives, Liz sat quietly for a moment after Max turned off the ignition, stared at the scene spread out before her.

The sun was just beginning to set on the horizon, but it didn’t matter. There were several torches lighting up the area, throwing shadows across the blanket that was spread out on the ground, an elaborate picnic just sitting there waiting for them. Liz turned to look at Max. He was watching her, he eyes glowing. "Are you ready for the best night of your life Miss Parker?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at her and picking up her hand at the same time, bringing the palm to his lips.

"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" Liz blurted out, unable to stop herself. Max’s eyes narrowed slightly, almost smoldering.

"Probably about as much as I love you." He replied. "Which is why I’ve decided that tonight marks a new beginning for us."

"You have?" Liz asked breathlessly. "Max, I’m so glad you feel that way, because I think it’s time…"

"Liz, I have a confession to make." Max cut her off, apparently not even having heard her. "I’ve wanted to tell you since it happened, but I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought you might take it the wrong way and so I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to say it without it all coming out wrong and screwing everything up between us." He was staring at her, his tone pleading. "Do you know what I mean?"

"I think I have an idea." Liz replied wryly. "Okay. Just tell me. I promise that it won’t screw everything up." She smiled despite the nerves that his statement had caused to start jumping in her stomach. As though she hadn’t been nervous enough!

"I remember Tess." He said it abruptly, like if he didn’t say it quickly, he wouldn’t be able to get it out. "From before I mean. I remember loving her."

For a moment Liz felt as though she had been slapped. All of her fears, since the first moment Tess had arrived on the scene, came flooding back. She was going to lose him! Not because of any of her own actions after all, but because of an alien destiny over which they had absolutely no control.

But when she looked up into Max’s anxious face, all her fear dissolved so suddenly, it was as though they had never existed. She knew he loved her. She had always known it. This would not come between them. She would not allow it to and she knew with utter certainty that neither would he.

"Liz? Are you okay? Say something! Please." She realized that she had been sitting in what had likely seemed like stunned silence for close to two minutes. "I don’t care! Really! It doesn’t mean anything. I’m actually surprised by how little it means. I mean, it’s nice - but it’s sort of like feelings for an ex-girlfriend, you know? Like maybe how you feel about Kyle? An old affection that used to matter, that you still sort of hold onto, but don’t really care about." Max snapped his mouth shut suddenly. "I’m babbling. I’m sorry." He was still staring at her in concern. "Are you okay?" He repeated again, bemused.

"Yes." She smiled affectionately at him. "I’m glad you told me. I understand."

"I just want you to understand that this is what’s been on my mind all week." Max continued, his breath having come out in a great woosh of relief. "It’s why I didn’t kiss you on Monday. I didn’t want you getting flashes before I could tell you myself." He paused. "Unlike you, I can’t control myself around you. I can’t just shut them off." Liz could tell that he was trying to mask the underlying tone of bitterness that accompanied that last statement. He was still very much doing his best not to pressure her into telling him the truth.

Liz brought her hands up to cup his beloved face. "Thank you for that. And I know exactly what you were going through." She closed her eyes briefly, taking a deep breath. "And I am so sorry that I’ve shut you out. I was scared Max, but you’re not the only one who wants a fresh start tonight."

And with that, she pulled his face down to hers, pressed a light kiss to his lips. "See me Max." She opened her mouth for him, felt his hands come up to cradle her skull. She threw all of her love for him into the kiss, concentrated on opening her whole soul to him, concentrated on showing him everything that had been standing between them for so long.

The flashes she received from him emphasized the fear he had been living with all week - the fear that she would not understand, that she would leave him because of Tess. She saw the memory of his love for Tess, embraced it, because immediately following it came a calm acceptance that it was over, was nothing compared to what he felt for her, Liz. His love for her, under any circumstances, blazed through his entire being, everything that was Max, settling peacefully over her, reinforcing to her that she was doing the right thing.

It seemed like far to soon when Max broke the kiss with a gasp, bringing his forehead down to rest against hers. "Liz!"

"I’m so sorry Max." Liz felt tears of regret filling her eyes. "I’m so sorry I didn’t trust you with the truth."

"How could you think that I would ever leave you?" Max demanded, lightly rubbing his thumbs across her cheeks to catch her tears. "I will never leave you for her. NEVER." He drew her deeper into his embrace, pressed her cheek against his neck. "And we will make sure that everyone stays safe, I promise."

"I know it. I trust you Max." Liz replied, almost choking on a sob of relief.

"Liz, don’t trust me." Max said seriously, still only a breath away from her lips. "Trust in us. Because together we are strong. I can’t be strong without you."

Liz smiled through her tears. "I love you Max." And, suddenly, she knew with utter certainty that it was time to finally show him just how much she loved him. "I want to be with you Max."

Max blinked, pulled back slightly. "Liz, that’s not why I brought you out here!" He exclaimed, sounding horrified that she might think it was.

She kissed him lightly. "I know. But it’s time." She felt her heart lightening with the complete rightness of the moment. She glanced at her watch jokingly. "I know that, traditionally, we’re supposed to wait until after the prom, but, by my calculations we’re already about seven months behind schedule…"

Max’s eyelids were lowering though. He was clearly no longer listening to her. She could see that his eyes were glued to her lips. She couldn’t help herself. She darted her tongue out, licked her lips to wet them. His eyes practically bugged out of his head.

She could see that he had tensed up considerably, waited impatiently for him to kiss her. She didn’t want to make the first move now. She had flat-out told him what she wanted. If he didn’t, well then he was going to have to tell her. The next move was his.

Liz felt her heart drop to her toes as Max suddenly let go of her, climbed out of the Jeep. Was he going to turn her down? She felt her cheeks beginning to flame with embarrassment, but it was nothing next to the deep disappointment that was building within her.

But she should have know better. Max was simply walking around the Jeep. In fact, he had not taken his eyes off of her. She turned, watching him through the windshield as he moved around to her side. He took her by the hand and pulled her to her feet beside him. "Are you sure about this Liz?" He asked, his eyes practically burning a hole in her, they were so hot with desire.

"As sure as I am that I will love you until my dying day." She replied quietly.

He groaned, swept her up in his arms and carried to the blanket near the spot where they had first spent the night sleeping in each other’s arms.

That morning, more than a year before, when Liz had woken up in Max’s arms, she had known that this was how she wanted to wake up every morning, wrapped in his love for her.

But, as they were swept away in a tidal wave of pent up love and lust, Liz’s last coherent thought was that what happened before they went to sleep was a million times better.

Part 14 - I Will Remember You - Liz POV

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Remember the good times that we had,
Let them slip away from us when things got bad.
Clearly I first saw you, smiling in the sun,
Want to feel your warmth upon me
I wanna be the one.

I will remember you
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

I'm so tired, I can't sleep.
Standing on the edge of something much too deep.
It's funny how we feel so much
But cannot say the words
We are screaming inside but we can't be heard.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

So afraid to love you.
More afraid to lose.
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose.
Where once there was a darkness,
A deep and endless night,
You gave me everything you had,
Oh, you gave me life.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by,
Weep not for the memory.

Weep not for the memory.

Sarah McLachlan

I realize that I am crying as I become aware of my surroundings again. "How did you do that?" I ask Ava, still feeling Max’s hands on my body, his lips, his love still wrapping its warmth around me…

"The granolith did it." Ava replies, smiling sadly. She glances around. "We’re still in it you know."

I can see that she is right. We are gone from the desert, seem to be standing in a field of stars. She is the only thing, other than me, that has any substance, any form.

"Why did we come back?" I ask, still with tears in my eyes, my voice cracking. All I want is to return to that moment - the moment that Max and I had cemented our relationship and, I was guessing here but it seemed logical, conceived our daughter. Serena. "How was I…there?"

Because I had been there. Living that other life - one where Max knew the truth so much earlier, where we were together, where he had never been with Tess.

And now I was back - back in the cold of my own reality. Back where Max and I could never be together. Because he belonged to her here.

"It’s the granolith." Ava explains. "The crystal. It has many uses - like when your Future Max came through a time portal for example." She pauses, frowning. "We just used it to place you into another you. So that you could know what went wrong."

I am so confused by what she is telling me, I just shake my head. "But…were you there too?"

"Not really." Ava replies. "I was here. To make sure that you didn’t get lost there."

I close my eyes briefly. "But I still don’t know what happened - how your timeline got messed up. I need to go back. Why did you bring me back before I knew?"

"I had to make sure that you weren’t getting too wrapped up in that life. It’s not your life Liz. You were only there to learn - not to live it." Ava tells me quietly, reaching out and putting her hand on my arm, as though in comfort.

Because she knows. She knows that I would give anything to have lived that life. I had been getting lost.

"It was so wonderful." I say sadly. "Why couldn’t it have happened that way in my life?"

Ava looks at me seriously. "Liz, there was something different. Something that you lived in your life that the Liz in that life didn’t. You must remember what it was."

But I don’t. I am too caught up in the memory of Max - of knowing without an compunction that he loved me, that we were meant to be together…

So many experiences had been similar, close to the same, but all had had a different vibe to them because Max and I had been together. What had been scary in this life, had been muted in that life. As long as we were together, we could do anything.

I see that Ava has tensed, looks frustrated. "You see why I had to pull you back Liz. You were getting sidetracked, losing your focus. You weren’t learning what you needed to learn."

"Then I have to go back." I reply firmly. "I’ll find out this time. I swear."

But she does not look convinced. "Liz, it gets bad in that life too you know." Ava tells me. "You need to get past all that romantic nonsense and think here. What - who - was different?"

"Well, Tess was definitely different." I shrug.

"No she wasn’t." Ava sighs. "Liz, everything that happened in your life, Tess was still doing behind the scenes in that life. It still turned out the same. Alex died. Don’t forget its why I joined up with Max and Michael and Isabel in the first place - why I was sent back to fix things."

I frown, a horrible thought suddenly coming to me. "Does she still get pregnant?" I hold my breath, knowing that she is going to say no, because there is no way that she and Max could ever have been together that way in that life. He had promised me that he would never leave me for her.

"Yes." She says it brutally, so hard that it makes my knees weaken.

"No." I whisper. "It can’t have happened."

It could not be. There was no way. I had lived what had happened between Max and I there. He would not have betrayed me that way.

"All I’ll say is that it happened exactly the same way in that life as it did in yours." Ava says, sounding more gentle now, like she regrets having to hurt me.

"But you said that something was different." I press. "What?"

"Not what. Who. Someone exists in your present life who did not exist there." Ava rolls her eyes. "Liz! Think! Are you so completely gaga over Max again that you can’t even remember?"

And it hits me so suddenly, I feel like a total fool. "Sean!" I exclaim.

"Yes, Sean." Ava shakes her head. "God. That must have been some mind-blowing sex you just had because I’ve never known you to be so dense, in this life or that one."

I can feel my face reddening, but she is right. The feelings, the images of making love with Max…my soulmate, my other half. It was the first time I had ever felt complete in my entire life.

And it hadn’t really been me. I was never going to have that.

"Okay, what about Sean?" I bring my hands to my temples, trying to focus. "What difference did he really make, other than serving as a distraction?"

Ava shrugs. "He was enough of a distraction to make sure that you didn’t tell Max the truth soon enough."

"But…" I swallow, hard, force myself to say the words. "If Max and Tess still had a baby in that life, how can he have made that big a difference?"

"Did I say that Tess and Max had a baby?" She demands. "I said that Tess still got pregnant. I never said it was Max’s."

I am so stunned, I just stare at her for a moment. "But you said that everything that happened in this life, happened in that one too." She just raises an eyebrow, waiting for me to connect the dots. "Are you…" I feel my heart beginning to pound, hope beginning to build within me that there were still opportunities for miracles.

Maybe this life wasn’t so bleak after all.

"Are you saying that Max is not the father of Tess’s baby?" I blurt, still unable to comprehend that this could really be true.

"Bingo."

"Well, then who is?" I demand, my mind racing with the possibilities. "And how does everything get so screwed up in that life?"

Ava frowns. "I don’t know if I can tell you that Liz. I think maybe you were right. You need to go see it for yourself. Because it wasn’t all sunshine and roses in that life you know."

But suddenly, I don’t want to go back. All I want to do is get out of the granolith (and I’m still unsure what being in the granolith really means…Are we inside the crystal, or did it help us to get inside somewhere else…or…)Oh, who the hell knows? And who cares?

I want out. I want to find Max and I want to tell him the truth. I want to run into his arms and tell him that there is absolutely nothing standing between us being together, that he has no son, that the baby belongs to someone else.

But then it all comes crashing down again. I remember the flashes. I know that he had sex with her in our timeline at least. And I can’t get past it. I cannot relive those flashes every time I kiss him.

We still can’t be together.

And, so, if we can’t be together in this life, I will go back to where we can be.

I grasp Ava by the hand, squeeze pleadingly.

"Send me back."

************************************************************
Another Time, Another Life - Section D

"Liz! I need to talk to you!"

Liz smiled to herself as Maria practically attacked her as she and Max entered the gym a few hours later. It had taken all of their will-power to actually get there. Neither had really wanted to leave the desert, to end the most significant event of either of their lives by returning to the real world, but they had known that the others had been waiting for them, would be worried if they didn’t show up at the prom.

And, technically, they were still supposed to be pretending that they were "just friends." It was highly likely that Tess would get suspicious if they didn’t arrive, wondering why they had disappeared together.

Not that Liz was at all sure that she wouldn’t see that there was something distinctly different about them anyway. Max could not keep a silly grin off of his face, no matter how hard he tried, and it was so unlike him, there was no way Tess wouldn’t notice. Liz knew that she was practically glowing too.

Liz shared a secret smile with Max before allowing Maria to sweep her away towards the girl’s washroom. "I didn’t think you were ever going to get here!" Maria exclaimed. "Liz, it’s a complete disaster, I’m telling you!"

"Calm down! Tell me what it is." She ordered. Liz couldn’t help glancing in the mirror as they passed it, wondering if she looked any different on the outside. She knew that her hair was still a little tousled, but that was the style these days after all. She tried to control the smile that was threatening to break out across her face. It was highly inappropriate, based on the tone of Maria’s voice, and if it happened, she was going to have to explain to her best friend what had happened.

She would tell Maria eventually, of course, if only to reassure her best friend that it was fine to move ahead with Michael, that they were safe.

That it was wonderful in every way if it was your soulmate and you knew that you were giving everything of yourself to the one person you were meant to be with, and that he was giving everything of himself right back.

But, for right now, she wanted to keep the wonder of it all to herself, revel in the secret she and Max shared…

"Liz, did you hear what I said?" Maria demanded, waving her hand in front of Liz’s face. "I am guessing by the lack of reaction that you didn’t." She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What’s going on?"

Liz shook her head, tried to concentrate. "Nothing." She responded quickly. "Sorry. What did you say? I’m a little out of it, that’s all. Max and I are so late and I feel like I’m just managing to recover from how long dinner took."

Maria just rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Liz, Alex and Isabel are back together."

Liz stared at Maria. "Really? That’s great!"

Maria shook her head impatiently. "Liz, it is so not great! She’s going to hurt him again! I just know it! I can feel it in my bones!"

Liz smiled. "Maria, Alex isn’t the same person anymore. I think he’s learned how to handle himself around Isabel. He wouldn’t be pursuing anything with her again if he didn’t think it would work out." She felt a warm glow spreading through her at the thought of her best friend finally getting another chance with his dreamgirl.

Everything was finally falling into place for all of them.

"I still think we should put a stop to it." Maria retorted. "I will seriously kill that girl if she treats him like dirt again. I mean, c’mon. Grant Sorenson? Over Alex? I didn’t think he was ever going to recover from that!"

"But he did." Liz replied soothingly. "And Isabel has seen the light. We should be happy for them."

Maria narrowed her eyes speculatively. "Liz, you’re a little too chipper tonight. Something’s different…" She trailed off, staring at her. Liz felt a blush beginning to creep up her neck and onto her cheeks. "OH MY GOD! Liz!" Maria exclaimed, dawning understanding on her face. "Did you and Max…?"

Liz clapped her hand over Maria’s mouth. "Shhhh!" She glanced around nervously. No one could over hear. If anything leaked back to Tess….and this was the sort of rumour that would be all around the school in ten seconds. Especially since, in the eyes of all their classmates, she and Max were not together. Even now, Liz could see Pam Troy and a friend of hers watching she and Maria in the mirror, interest on their faces. "Yes. Okay. Yes. But no one can know. Seriously Maria!"

Maria reached out and hugged Liz. "I could just kill you Liz! We still didn’t know if it was safe after all!" She pulled back and smiled. "But I’m so happy for you!"

Liz couldn’t help the smile that burst across her face. "It was…I mean, Maria, you have no idea."

"And likely won’t for a long time if Michael doesn’t get his act together." Maria replied darkly, but with a twinkle in her eye. She threw her arm across Liz’s shoulder. "I say we go out into that gym and celebrate. I’m feeling really jumpy right about now." She added wryly. "Let’s dance!"

Liz grinned, let Maria lead her out of the washroom. Her eyes immediately began to scan the room for Max as they returned to the gym, still planning to dance with Maria, but wanting to make sure that Max was surviving on his own for the moment. Not that she could even kiss him here - not where Tess might see - but she couldn’t help it.

She couldn’t see him anywhere though. Michael was standing with Kyle near the punch bowl. They both looked bored. Kyle even glanced at his watch once and stared off towards the gym doors, a scowl on his face.

Liz smiled to herself when she caught sight of Isabel and Alex slow-dancing nearby. The fact that the band was playing a fast song didn’t seem to be bothering them at all. They were completely oblivious to the world around them, completely wrapped up in each other.

But where was Max? As she and Maria joined a group of their school friends on the dance floor, Liz continued to drift through the crowd. There was no sign of him.

A shiver of apprehension descended her spine, out of nowhere. She shook it off. She was being completely ridiculous. He had probably just gone to the washroom or outside for a breath of fresh air. It was like a sauna in here.

When the song finished, Liz squeezed Maria’s hand as her friend left her to go rejoin Michael. She noticed Kyle still watching the gym doors, the ones that led out into the school proper. Liz realized that he seemed upset. As Liz watched, he seemed to come to some sort of decision, started towards the doors, the tension in his body evident to Liz even from where she stood.

She moved towards him, met up with him right as he was about to go out into the hallway.

"Hi Kyle!" Liz said, a slightly questioning look on her face. She hoped that he would tell her what was wrong, because clearly something was.

"Oh, Liz! Hi." Kyle was distracted though, seemed to desperately want to go through those doors.

"Where’s Tess?" Liz asked.

"That’s what I’m wondering." Kyle replied.

"Have you seen Max?" Liz continued, feeling another chill, for some reason that she didn’t understand.

"Nah." Kyle shrugged. "Hey, listen. Do you want to go outside and get some fresh air?" He asked, seeming to have come to some sort of decision. He turned his back deliberately on the doors he had seemed so eager to go through only moments before. He placed a finger between his collar and his neck, pulled on his bow-tie as though it was strangling him.

Liz didn’t really. She wanted to find Max, wanted to dance with him, but she could see that Kyle was really upset about something. He was her friend after all. If he didn’t want to be alone, the least she could do was spend a few minutes outside with him.

"Okay."

Liz linked her arm through his, let him lead her back across the gym and out onto the patio beyond.

"So, we haven’t had much of a chance to talk lately." Liz said quietly, as she and Kyle sat down at one of the picnic tables that graced the patio. "How are things?"

"Good, good." Kyle still seemed tense. He stood up abruptly. "Let’s walk." He suggested. "I have all this excess energy. I need to get rid of it."

Liz frowned slightly, but stood up. "Kyle, is everything okay?"

"Not really." He muttered. His head was lowered as they walked and he had shoved his hands into his pockets, pausing as Liz reached down to take off her sandals because they weren’t really meant for walking on grass, which was what they were currently doing. He glanced up at her suddenly, asked, "Liz, have you ever had the feeling that someone was drifting away from you and you had absolutely no idea why?"

Liz smiled wryly, thinking of the trouble she and Max had recently gone through, simply because they hadn’t communicated. "I think I have." She replied. "Is something wrong between you and Tess?"

"I just don’t know." Kyle sounded upset. "She’s been so great lately, but tonight…something was just off. I got the distinct impression that she didn’t want to be here with me."

Liz reached out, took his hand, squeezed. "I’m sure you’re just imagining things." She tried to comfort him. "Anyone with eyes can see that Tess is crazy about you."

It was true. It was the reason Liz had come so close so many times to letting Max tell Tess the truth - that he and Liz were back together. And yet…Something had always held her back. Some small certainty that telling Tess the truth would be disastrous.

"Last week, I would have agreed, but lately…She’s just been different. Ever since the hostage thing at the Museum actually…." He trailed off, shaking his head uncertainly.

They were both quiet for a moment, Liz reflecting on the fact that it had been at the UFO Museum that Max had somehow managed to remember Tess, from their past life. Could the same thing have happened to Tess? Was that why she was drifting away from Kyle? And how had Max remembered anyway? He had never explained that.

Suddenly a chill descended Liz’s spine. She needed to find Max - immediately. She knew she was being ridiculous, but she just had to see him. Now.

Liz realized that she and Kyle had wandered about half way around the school grounds, were actually closer to the front doors of the school now than they were to the gym. "Let’s go back to the gym." Liz suggested, trying to sound calm. "We can have a dance."

Kyle sighed heavily. "Okay." He shoved his hands into his pockets again, followed Liz closely, although she had picked up her pace. By the time they rounded the corner to the hallway that led to the gym, she was almost running.

When she reflected on it later, Liz realized that, somehow, she had known what she was going to see when she found Max. She didn’t know how she knew, but she had.

She skidded to a stop, still barefoot, her sandals swinging from her hand. She dropped them instinctively as the sight in front of her came into focus.

Her vision blurred, she stumbled, felt bile rising in her throat, turned on her heel and ran back the way she had come. She passed Kyle, who called after her, worry in his voice. He cut himself off abruptly when he saw what she had just seen.

Liz thrust the doors to the school open, took great gulping breaths of air. She brought her hands up to her temples, pushed against them as though she could crush away the memory of it.

Max kissing Tess. Not just kissing her - practically inhaling her, his hands up cupping her face, kissing Tess the way he had always kissed Liz…hungrily, lovingly, like he never wanted to stop.

She was on her knees in the grass, swaying gently, rocking herself, trying to understand what she had just seen, how everything could have gone so horrifically wrong…

She felt a light touch on her back, realized that it was Kyle almost immediately. "Liz?"

"I slept with him. Tonight." She didn’t understand why she told him, but the horror of the entire situation was such that she had no control over herself. She just needed to purge everything.

There was complete silence for what seemed like forever. "That bastard." Kyle sounded so livid, Liz looked up at him despite herself. His face was a mask of rage. "I’m going to kill him."

"No Kyle. Please. I need you." He was down on his knees beside her in an instant. She threw herself against him, felt great, wracking sobs beginning to erupt from within her. She had never felt pain like this before - not when she had had to leave Max at the pod chamber, not when she had seen the look on his face when he had caught her in bed with Kyle…It felt as though it was going to destroy her, that she literally would be unable to survive under the weight of her grief.

"I’m taking you home." Kyle said evenly, helping her up. When she stumbled, he simply swept her up against his chest and carried her to his car. Liz sensed all this at a great distance. She could feel herself slipping into some nether world where the pain dulled slightly, where she knew what had happened, but where she could bear it.

She stayed there through Kyle dropping her off, through him asking if she wanted him to stay, through telling her parents that she had had a wonderful time.

The nether world only shattered when she was wrapped in a blanket on her balcony, staring up at the cold stars, up at the stars that had sent her destroyer disguised as her true love.

All that was left was rage.

She hated him. With every fiber of her being. He had lied to her, had promised her things that he had no intention of ever giving her…

She had given herself to him and he had betrayed her the exact same day.

Liz’s head came up in disbelief as his voice suddenly penetrated through the miasma of rage and grief. "Liz? Are you up there?"

Did he really have the gall to come and see her after what he had done?

She didn’t move, could not budge. The last thing she wanted to do was talk to him. She never wanted to see him again.

And, yet she was not surprised when his dark head appeared over the edge of the balcony, complete confusion and dismay on his face. "Liz? Are you okay? Are you sick? You left. What happened?"

She turned away, let her hair fall across her face as a barrier between them. "Go away." She ordered. "I have absolutely no desire to talk to you."

The silence that followed was so complete that Liz actually wondered if he had left. But she knew he hadn’t. "Liz, what’s wrong?"

He actually sounded hurt, confused. That he could so coldly betray her and then pretend that nothing was wrong…He was worse than a bastard. He was evil.

"GO AWAY!" Liz almost screamed. "If you don’t, I’m going to get my dad…or…or call the Sheriff." She glanced over at him. He was staring at her, the expression on his face completely blank, like he didn’t know what to feel.

Because he had no feelings.

"Liz?" He almost whispered it, his voice cracking slightly. "Please tell me what’s wrong."

She scowled at him. "I saw you. I saw you Max. AGAIN! With her."

He looked truly bewildered. "With who?"

"With Tess!"

"What? I don’t know what you’re talking about Liz." He took a step towards her, raised his hand pleadingly.

"Kyle and I both saw you Max. You were kissing her. Right outside the gym."

Max stared at her. "Liz, are you okay?" She wrenched away as he reached out to touch her.

"GO AWAY! I mean it Max. I never want to see you again."

"Liz, this is insane!" Max yelled back, clearly on the verge of almost losing it. "I didn’t kiss Tess. I swear I didn’t!"

She almost believed him. He sounded so sincere. But then that was Max. He always did.

"I saw you." She repeated mutinously.

"Liz, it’s has to have been a mind-warp." Max’s voice was back to a normal pitch. "Please. Think about it. I have no idea why she’s doing this, but she’s trying to split us up!"

Liz glared at him, "Max, she doesn’t even know we’re together! Why would she even think she has to split us up?"

Max blinked, looked perplexed again. "I don’t know. Maybe she does know?"

Liz shook her head. "No. I saw you."

"Liz, please!" He sounded like he was about to burst into tears. She turned her face away.

"Go away."

There was another long pause. And then, he did.

It was only when he was gone that her irrational rage drained out of her, so quickly that she knew that it had not been her, just as it had not been Max kissing Tess…

She knew it with every fiber of her being.

Suddenly, her panic was absolute.

She had to find Max, before he did something they would both regret for the rest of their lives. Because neither of them was in any sort of control of their actions. She had completely devastated him - had watched herself do it - had known that someone was controlling her the entire time, but had been unable to stop it.

He wasn’t at home. Liz climbed through his window, sat down on his bed to wait. She wasn’t going anywhere until she spoke to him again.

He was gone so long that Liz actually fell asleep, waking only when she felt his touch on her face.

She opened her eyes, prepared herself to apologize, to throw her arms around him, to kiss the hurt away…

But one look at his face, at the guilt and horror etched there and she knew.

Liz knew that Tess had won. She didn’t know how or why. But she had won.


posted on 11-Dec-2001 11:52:22 PM
Part 15 - Another Time, Another Place - Section E

He told her slowly, haltingly what had happened. About half-way through the story she moved away from him despite herself. She wanted to comfort him - after all, it had not been his fault, what had happened, but hers, as she had been the one who had let it happen - and yet, she could not touch him any longer.

"When I left you, I couldn’t even think straight. I just drove around." His voice was low, desperate. "I ended up at that old observatory - the one we went to on that field trip last year. I knew that Tess had mindwarped you somehow and I had no idea how to prove it to you. You were so angry Liz. I have never seen you like that."

"I’m sorry." She said it, not really meaning it, because she knew that it had not been her. Someone, something had played on her emotions, had made her over-react to what she had seen, had made her forget what she knew about Max in the deepest part of her soul.

She had known that he would never make love with her and turn around and kiss another girl two hours later - even it if was Tess. And she had allowed herself to believe it anyway. Even his words when he had come to see her had only confirmed what she already knew - that it had not been him.

And yet, she had still allowed herself to believe it. Her eyes would not lie to her after all. She had allowed it, even though she had known about Tess’s gift, had seen the true evidence of its power more than once, recently even, at the UFO Museum.

She suddenly understood perfectly what Max had been going through in the first days after he had "caught" her in bed with Kyle. She had never really comprehended what it must have felt like to know in your heart that something was a lie, and yet to have to believe it because you had seen it with your own two eyes.

The mind-warp was the most evil of all the aliens’ powers - even more that Michael’s detested ability to kill without even touching. How could they have not realized that Tess’s gift had displayed exactly what kind of monster she really was?

"Don’t apologize. Please." Max closed his eyes. His elbows were on his knees and he brought his face down into his hands. "Liz, you came to me at the observatory."

"What?" Liz felt her heart in her throat. Could this be even worse than she had ever possibly imagined? "What do you mean?"

"I…I was there, just looking through the telescope, wondering how I could prove that Tess was evil…and you came." Max looked up at her, his dark eyes shining with unshed tears. "I was just about to leave…I was going to go to the Sheriff’s, confront Tess, make her admit the truth to you, when suddenly you were there." He paused, a grimace of self-disgust passing over his face. "I didn’t even question how you knew where I was. You kissed me, apologized, and I believed it was you. But, it was her…I didn’t know, until…after."

It was at this point that Liz moved away from him, wrapping her arms around her middle, her entire body suddenly overcome with such cold, she felt like she was freezing to death from the inside out. "After what?"

She knew of course. But she was going to make him say it. Until he said it, it would not be real. This complete and utter disaster would not be real. "Liz, I slept with her."

He said it quickly, as though the words made him want to be sick, which she was pretty sure they did. "I woke up afterward." He was speaking mechanically now, just trying to get it all out. "It was morning." Liz looked out his bedroom window, saw that it was indeed after dawn, the sun shining weakly in the morning sky. "And she was there." His voice cracked. "You weren’t anywhere. And she told me what had happened. I came home and you were here and I knew that she was telling me the truth."

Liz tilted her head back, let herself fall back onto his bed, stared up at the ceiling. "Why?" She whispered. "Why did she do this?"

"She knew." Max replied. "She knew that we were back together. She said that she found out the night of the hostage thing at the Museum." He paused. "I never told you, but I went to see her that night. I had gotten some flashes from Brody when I had healed him, flashes that had made me remember some stuff. I had to go to see her that night…"

"To see if they were real." Liz finished. Max had allowed himself to flop back on the bed too. They were not touching, but she could still feel the bond between them, could feel it pulling her towards him. It made her want to lay her hands on him, comfort him. She sat up abruptly.

"Yeah. And we connected that night. Like you and I did, right after I healed you…and I saw things and I knew that my memories were real." She turned to look down at him. He was now the one staring sightlessly up at the ceiling as he continued, "She told me that she had seen it then, when we connected."

"Kyle said she was acting weird all week." Liz told him. "She must have been biding her time the whole time." She added, suddenly furious because she had used Kyle all along, making Max believe that she wasn’t interested in him. She had just been using the oldest trick in the book though. She had been trying to make him jealous.

And it hadn’t worked because he had been with Liz. And so she had had to resort to outright deception. She had pretended to be Liz and she had seduced him.

"Liz…" Max sat up again, tentatively reached out, but stopped short of touching her. "I can’t even say I’m sorry. It is just totally not enough. I…I don’t even know where to start to make this up to you." He looked away, down at the floor. "I…I would totally understand if you wanted…" He paused, swallowed, hard. "Wanted to break up with me."

"NO!" Max’s head jerked up. Liz threw herself at him desperately. "NO! That’s what she wants. No. No. No."

And she knew it was true. Tess had done this to break them up. The last thing Liz was going to do was let her win that way. "No Max. No. It wasn’t your fault."

And she knew it wasn’t. Liz could still feel the devastation in the pit of her stomach that this had happened, but Max had not been to blame. He had been tricked, in fact, in some horrible way, he had almost been raped by Tess.

He needed her.

Max’s hands came up, wrapped themselves in her hair. "But Liz, how can you forgive this? I almost couldn’t get past the Kyle thing and that wasn’t even true. I can’t let you do this." He was actually crying. She could hear the pain, the guilt in his voice even though she could not see his face. Liz hugged him against her, willing him to take comfort from her.

"I don’t care! Max, I don’t care. She can’t win! No. You are mine." She sobbed it into his neck, winding her arms around him, plastering her body against his.

He didn’t reply, just let her cling to him. She felt him shivering under her, felt it gradually stop as they continued to sit on his bed, neither wanting to let go.

The cold was closing in. But, as long as they were together, they could stay warm. Liz’s mind was not working coherently anymore, the combination of her grief and horror and pain, as well as heavy fatigue finally settling into her bones, all joining together to cloud her mind.

But this she knew. Only as long as they were together could they keep the cold away.

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

But it only got worse.

At first it looked like it was going to work. That they could pretend that nothing had happened. Because that’s what they did for almost an entire week after the prom.

Max and Liz were openly back together. After all, there was no need to hide anything anymore. Maria and Alex and Isabel and Michael were ecstatic (although Michael refused to admit it, Maria told Liz it was true). Everything was going back to normal, back to the way they were supposed to be, the way they had been before the whole destiny/Future Max disaster.

But things were not all right. They were affectionate in public, both pretending that everything was perfect. It was only when they were alone that the distance that was springing up between them became clear.

Max could not get past his guilt. Liz had forgiven him. She knew she had, but he could not believe it because he could not forgive himself. And so, when they were alone, they sat in silence and said nothing and let the cold continue to settle in.

No one knew what had become of Tess. She had completely disappeared. Liz had broken the news to Kyle a day after it had happened, only because she felt that he had the right to know the truth about Tess, so that she wouldn’t be able to worm her way back into his good graces. They told no one else. No one else needed to know.

And, then, Tess showed up in the Crashdown a week later and told Max she was pregnant.

None of them wanted to believe it at first. They were all there when she said it, sitting at the counter or at a booth in Liz’s parents restaurant, looking over pictures from the prom. Maria was sitting on Michael’s lap, Isabel had her head on Alex’s shoulder as she giggled over some joke he had told her.

Max and Liz were sitting at opposite ends of the counter. Liz was looking at a picture of Alex and Isabel and Michael and Maria and Kyle and…Tess, that Mrs. Deluca had taken before the prom.

She and Max should have been there, but they had been in the desert, making love under torchlight, knowing that nothing could ever split them up again.

Kyle, who was sitting beside her, grabbed the picture out of her hand and turned it upside down, looking back at her, his eyes burning with pity and rage.

She should not have told Kyle the truth. Because he hated Max now. Even though none of it had been Max’s fault.

It was in that instant that the bell over the door leading into the Crashdown rang, making them all turn their heads as one.

Tess stood in the doorway, her hands clasped in front of her, her expression unreadable. Liz felt Kyle tense beside her. For her part, she could not move. She could not even look at Max, who she was sure was dying inside at the sight of her.

Either dying or getting ready to kill her with his bare hands. Because he had told Liz last night, as they had sat on her balcony, not touching, that he wanted to. He wanted to kill her and if he had the chance, he would.

It was the first time any of them had seen her since the prom. And since she did not know the truth, Maria stood up, welcomed her, beckoned her to join them; Maria, who had always despised Tess because she stood between Max and Liz, but now that Max and Liz could be together, there was no need to hate Tess anymore, was there?

Tess shook her blonde head. Liz wondered when it had started raining, because when Tess’s hair moved across her shoulders it sent water raining around her small body.

"I need to talk to Max. Alone." She said quietly. Liz felt a lump rising in her throat, forced herself to look at Max.
He was staring at Tess, his face completely blank. But his eyes, they were burning with hate so strongly, Liz feared for him for a moment.

Hate of that magnitude was not an inherent part of Max Evans’s make-up. It was just not him.

"Ah! No secrets!" Alex joked from the booth where he sat with Isabel. "We’re all friends here."

Liz looked in their direction, could see that Isabel was frowning slightly, like she was becoming aware that something was suddenly distinctly wrong. She saw Max’s sister glance at her brother, worry beginning to appear on her pretty face. She pinched Alex lightly, as though to quiet him.

Because when Liz turned back to Tess, she could see Tess openly glaring at Alex, like she hated him.

But Liz had no time to reflect on this because in the next instant Tess laughed bitterly and said, "Okay then. Everyone’s going to know soon anyway. Surprise Max!" Tess’s face was a mask of triumph so abruptly, it made Liz freeze. She felt Kyle reach out, grab her by the arm, as though in support for what they both knew was coming. "You’re going to be a daddy."

The silence that followed this statement was so complete, Liz wondered inanely if anyone was actually breathing anymore. She knew she wasn’t. In fact, her heart had stopped beating the minute Tess had walked through the door. She had known, even then, that her entire world was about to end.

It was Michael who finally said what they were all thinking. He turned to look at Max. "Maxwell, what the hell is she talking about?" It was as though his words suddenly woke everyone else up.

Maria slid off Michael’s lap, came to stand beside Liz. Alex stood up, near the booth, the shock on his face only enhanced on that of his girlfriend who stayed seated and simply said, "Max?"

"It’s true." Tess smirked at Liz. "You two can pretend all you want, but this baby is real and its coming and it is Max’s."

"Get out." Two simple words from Max. He was no longer looking at her, but down at the counter, his entire frame rigid with the effort to control himself. Liz wanted to go to him, to support him, but she could not move.

She was frozen inside and out.

"But that’s not all Daddy." Tess continued, as though she had heard nothing. It was almost like she was on a death mission Liz reflected later, like she wanted Max to kill her, like it would be the final triumph. Game. Set. Match. "The baby’s dying. I connected with it this morning. It can’t survive here."

Liz watched a tremor pass through Max’s body.

"Max, can this be true?" It was Isabel asking, but they were all looking at him, waiting for him to acknowledge that he had slept with Tess, that she was not lying. Liz knew what they were really waiting for. They were waiting for him to take responsibility, to help Tess.

Because they didn’t know. The did not know what Tess had done. Only Kyle knew.

And now there was a baby and it was innocent and it was dying.

Liz could feel Maria’s eyes on her, like she didn’t understand why Liz was not breaking down, freaking out. But it was too late for that.

"You’re lying." Max said simply. Liz watched Tess’s eyes widen, like she couldn’t quite believe he was actually saying the words, that he was truly going to leave her alone and pregnant.

But Tess did not understand. She did not understand that she had destroyed Max Evans when she had tricked him into sleeping with her. Because the Max Evans she wanted was the Max Evans who never would have slept with her, who never would have betrayed Liz Parker.

This Max Evans was lost, did not understand himself any more, did not know how he could have done what he had done. Liz had known it for a week, ever since the day he had told her what had happened, when they had clung together, trying to shut the world out.

But the world insisted on getting in. The guilt insisted on claiming him.

Tess tried again. "Max, it is your child. I know you hate me, but you have to love this baby. It is yours. It is your heir. I’m your wife."

Liz became aware of a tapping sound down the length of the long corridor from which she seemed to be watching this entire farce play out. She glanced over at Kyle. He was tapping his fingers against the counter, almost impatiently. He didn’t seem to be listening to the conversation at all anymore, had completely tuned out, to protect himself from the fact that everything Liz had told him was true - that his Tess had really tricked Max Evans into sleeping with her, that she was truly lost to him.

"It is not mine. I refuse it."

Liz heard Isabel gasp. She understood why. Max sounded like some sort of medieval king with those words. Because in those words, what they all heard was "It is mine and I refuse to take responsibility for what I have done."

Liz was not shocked. He was no longer Max. Tess had killed what Max had been. He was not the same.

But she loved him anyway.

And so Tess turned and left. But before she left, she said, "I know you’ll change your mind. I’ll be at the Valenti’s."

Kyle flinched at that, stopped tapping.

"Okay, what the hell just happened here?" Michael demanded. "Max, has that chick gone psycho? We know that you and Liz have been back together for ages." Max blinked at that, but did not answer. "What is she talking about?"

"Leave it alone Michael." Max sighed wearily, turned and dropped his elbows onto the counter, his face into his hands.

And still Liz could not move.

"Valenti?" Michael turned to Kyle, the only other person who might feasibly understand what was happening.

But Kyle stood up and walked out of the Crashdown, without another word to anyone, although he squeezed Liz’s shoulder as he left.

Liz managed to stand up too. Because she was becoming increasingly aware that there was only one way to save her Max from the distant, guilt-ridden person he was becoming. She was going to have to be the strong one - again.

"Max, come with me." She ordered. He did not protest, followed her through the swinging door to the kitchen. She heard their four friends all start talking at once as soon as the door swung shut behind them.

"I am so sorry Liz." He said mechanically. She turned to him, wrapped her arms around him, really touching him for the first time since the morning after the disaster.

She realized now that the reason they had both been distancing themselves from each other was because they had been waiting for the other shoe to drop. They had both known that Tess would not stop at what she had done, that there had to be a greater purpose.

It had happened. And, to save Max, there was only one route to take. "You know that you are going to have to find a way home." Liz whispered to him. "You’re going to have to find a way to make sure she’s telling the truth and then you are going to have to help her."

"No." He said it mutinously, but she could tell by the tone of his voice and by the way that his hands stilled against her that he knew it was true. That he would do it for her. He would save himself - for her.

And so Liz said the words that they knew she would. "It’s your child Max. It doesn’t deserve her as a mother. And if it can’t survive here, then you have to take her away."

"I can’t leave you."

"You have to." She pulled back, reached up and stroked his face. "But you’ll come back to me."

The real Max would come back if he took responsibility and did what had to be done. The shell that he was now - the guilt-ridden shell that could not forgive himself - she did not want it. She wanted the real Max back.

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

Within hours, they knew the truth.

Liz went with Max to the Valenti’s. Kyle was there too, watching from the shadows of the living room, as Max connected with Tess, touching her as though he was touching a snake. Liz wasn’t sure where the Sheriff was.

Liz knew that Max had connected with his child when he pulled back, an amazed expression on his face. Tess looked triumphant, although her expression wavered slightly when Liz did not even flinch. "It’s a boy." He told Liz, a smile breaking out over his face despite himself.

Liz smiled sadly at him. The healing of Max’s soul was beginning already. Because she knew from the expression on his face, that he accepted the child. That he loved it.

That he would go.

But, at the very least, he would still be hers.

"And he’s dying." Max acknowledged, standing up, taking Liz by the hand and ignoring Tess completely. He looked back at her only once before they left. "I’ll find a way back there. He will live."

Tess just stared at him, expressionless, seemingly unable to believe that he was just going to leave her sitting there.

Kyle seemed to understand though. "I’ll make sure she doesn’t do anything to herself." He promised quietly as he followed them out onto the porch. Liz knew he was saying it more for her benefit than Max’s, but he understood what was going on.

Tess was a vessel for Max’s son, but Liz was it’s mother. Plain and simple. All three of them knew it and all three of them accepted it.

Except fate did not accept it.

The next blow came out of nowhere, was so unexpected, the trio could not have been aware that within twenty-four hours, everything would have changed again.

Because, the very next day, Alex Whitman died.

Part 16 - Into the Fire - Max POV

Mother teach me to walk again.
Milk and honey so intoxicating.

I’m reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Open the doors that lead on into Eden.
Don’t want no cheap disguise.
I follow the signs marked back to the beginning,
No more compromise.

And into the fire,
I’m reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Fuel the water that carries me to the sea.
You I see as my security.

Into the fire,
I'm reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

I will stare at the sun until its light doesn't blind me.
I will walk unto the fire until its heat doesn't burn me.
And I will feed the fire.

Into the fire,
I'm reunited.
Into the fire,
I am the spark.
Into the night,
I yearn for comfort.

Into the fire.

Sarah McLachlan

I know that, in my hand, I am holding the key to everything.

I hear Isabel gasp behind me. "Max! Why is that still here?"

"It’s the granolith." I say, sure I am right, amazed that I know it.

"What?" This comes from Michael, who reaches around and grabs it from me. "That thing we sent Tess off in was the granolith."

"I thought we agreed to call her the murderess from now on." I hear Maria mutter from nearby, but she isn’t really talking to anyone. I notice Kyle flinch at it though.

I stare at the crystal sitting in Michael’s hand. We are all staring at it.

"I think Max is right." Isabel whispers finally. "I remember it."

I begin to shake my head. "How could we have been so stupid?" I ask Isabel. "Lonnie told me in New York that the granolith was some sort of religious icon - like the holy grail. Why on Earth would our planet worship a spaceship? This has to be it."

"Wait! Wait." Michael holds his hands up, almost dropping the crystal in the process. Isabel takes it away from him, glares. "If this is the granolith, what the hell does it do?"

"I think…" I pause, searching my mind frantically. When I had first touched it, I had known instantly what it did, but the memories from that other life have already begun to fade. "I think it has something to do with time. Timelines." I add when everyone just looks at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about.

I don’t blame them. I don’t think I know what I’m talking about either. But I do know that this crystal is here because it has something to do with Liz’s disappearance.

Isabel and Michael are looking at each other, both with frowns on their faces, like they too are trying to remember exactly what it is we know about this relic. I almost can’t believe that we didn’t try this before - actually remember. Although the one time I had remembered, with Tess, had led to disaster, it still was the easiest way to actually get answers.

But, then, we have never been in the habit of taking the easy road - or the logical road for that matter. Leapers - that’s what we all are.

Supremely ironic, but true. Always thinking we’re cautious, but really impulsive and head-strong. All three of us. The evidence of it stretches back in my memory like a long line of uninterrupted stupidity.

Me healing Liz. I would never regret it, but there was no question it had notbeen the safest course. And then there were all those kids from Christmas. Oh yeah, and going off to New York with Lonnie and Rath. Real smart, that move.

I choose to not even address the subject of Tess. You know it, I know it. Let’s just move on.

Then there’s Michael. Shall we list his offenses? There was the time he kidnapped Maria and took her to Marathon, not to mention his various and sundry other illegal maneuvers. You’d think that for someone who was trying to keep a secret, the least he could have done over the last two years was try and stay out of jail. But, apparently not.

Even Isabel, the one out of all of us who most wanted to be human and thus wanted to keep our secret, has the weird tendency to put herself in ludicrous positions. Grant Sorenson for example. What the hell had that been about? Both Michael and I had known that he was bad news from the get-go, but Isabel had dated him anyway.

I am beginning to wonder if this character trait that we all share - impulsiveness - but which is strongest in me, might not have been why I lost my throne in my last life. I remember what Larek told me at the summit in New York - that I was always impatient, never willing to wait to change things…

I have been making all the same mistakes over again. I try to mold my life into what I want it be, rather than waiting for it to unfold as it is meant to, and I have screwed it up every time.

It has only ever been Liz who looks before she leaps. It is why we compliment each other so well. Balance. It has always been about that with us.

But even Liz had been known to do stupid things in the name of love. She had literally jumped off a bridge for me after all. Which only reinforces how strong she is - because jumping off a bridge was only a last resort for Liz.

For me, it would have been the first choice.

I realize now, more than ever, that I can never be the king my planet needs without her by my side.

Which is why, I am guessing, Tess has taken her. To stop that. It is also probably why Khivar made a deal with Nasedo in the first place. Somehow he knew that making me human was going to help me to find exactly what I needed to take back my throne.

Liz. She’s all I’ll ever need.

"But what does it have to do with Liz?" Maria speaks up now. "Because I can tell that’s what you’re thinking Max."

It is what I am thinking of course, but I don’t know why. Try as I might, I can’t remember exactly how the damn thing works…

"Future Max used it to come back here." I am muttering to myself, trying to work it out. I see Isabel and Michael exchange a confused look, because, of course, they still don’t know about that whole fiasco. "It activated the spaceship…" I look up. "And it was in Las Cruces. Alex had it when he was translating the book."

"So back to Leanna?" Michael demands.

"Back to the mysterious Lazar." I reply. "Or, as we know him better, Sean Deluca. We need to find him."

"Find Khivar?" Isabel whispers. "Max, do you think we’re ready?"

"We don’t know for sure that he’s Khivar." I tell her. "And the more I think about it, the more I’m sure he’s not." I pause. "There is something familiar about him, but it’s not that."

"Okay, clearly it’s time to split up again." The Sheriff steps forward. He has been off the phone with Amy Deluca for several minutes and has just been listening quietly. "Amy doesn’t remember Sean at all anymore." He informs us. "It’s like he never existed."

"Maybe Tess is too preoccupied with Liz to keep up the mindwarp." I shrug.

"I still don’t understand how that chick can be this powerful Maxwell." Michael speaks up again. "Wouldn’t we have known? And, if she is, does it mean we are too?"

"I’m not sure that it’s all her Michael. But, I think we might be."

I know that I am right too. Even being in the presence of the crystal again…Now that I am aware of what it really is, I feel stronger in some way. Like I have taken the first step back to who I used to be.

Zan.

But not just Zan. Zan plus something more.

And I know exactly what that something more is. Because, as I take the granolith back from my sister, I feel her.

Liz.

This crystal will explain what happened to her. We just need to figure out how the hell it works. And what specifically it does. I know I am right that it can affect time somehow, but I don’t exactly understand how or why…And I need to know.

"Splitting up sounds like a good plan." I tell the Sheriff, because everyone is waiting for me to make a decision. "We need to find Sean. I don’t want anyone confronting him." I add. "We just need to find him."

I carefully place the granolith in the inside pocket of my jacket.

"What about Liz Max?" Maria asks worriedly as we move towards the cars again.

"She’s okay." I know I am right. The granolith, sitting right next to my heart, is telling me so. "But we have stuff to do before she can come back to us."

"Stuff?" Maria asks perplexed.

"Yeah." I smile sadly. "We need to find out exactly what the hell happened to Alex before she can - and we need to find my son."

I know its true. It’s what my weird dream about Alex and Sean and Liz had been trying to tell me. The pieces are finally coming together.

"How do you know this Max?" Maria is climbing into my parents’ car with me. I’m not really sure why - maybe being with me makes her feel closer to Liz or something. No one seems to want to argue about it though. I see that Michael and Isabel are together in Maria’s Jetta and Kyle and the Sheriff are in the Mustang.

"Alex told me."

She stops talking after this, like she’s not surprised.

Part 17 - Another Time, Another Place - Section F

"God Liz. How can you bear it?" Maria asked quietly, breaking the silence that had sprung up in Alex’s room after Liz had told Maria and Alex what was going on.

It was the Saturday morning after Liz and Max had found out the truth about Tess's baby. She knew that Max was with Michael and Isabel somewhere, explaining to them about Tess. They had agreed that splitting up, humans and Czechs, might be the best idea, mainly because they really weren't in the mood for a giant blow-up. Which was always entirely too likely when the six of them were together.

And so, Maria lay with her head on Liz’s shoulder. Liz had her own cheek pressed against Alex’s chest, her eyes staring blankly at the television screen where Spaceballs played, Alex’s vain attempt to take Liz’s mind off of her problems, if only for a little while, although he hadn’t been quite sure what those problems were when he had started it.

But when Liz had finally told them exactly what had happened, that Max had slept with Tess, even if only by accident, that the baby was his, and that he was desperately searching for a way to get his former life bride back to their home planet to save the child, they had both just sat in stunned silence for close to fifteen minutes, the silly antics of the movie seeming even more ludicrous playing into the horrible stillness.

"I am so sorry Lizzie." This was from Alex, who’s breath was still coming in short puffs, even after his shock had begun to fade. Liz could feel how tense he was under her cheek. He was barely managing to keep his rage in check.
Liz remembered the story Maria had told her about the time Alex had punched Michael for hurting her. It made Liz worry that he was going to blame Max for all of this, even if it wasn’t his fault. In Alex’s mind, hurting either Liz or Maria, whether by accident or not, was unacceptable.

Alex’s first loyalty was to Liz and Maria, always had been, always would be. Even his relationship with Isabel was too new and fragile to change that fact. Liz knew, with certainty, that if Alex had to choose between his two "girls" and any of the Czechs, even Isabel, he would choose Liz and Maria.

Which made Liz feel even worse. Because she knew that she could not say the same. Ever since Max had healed her that day in the Crashdown, she had always chosen him, even over Alex and Maria. She had almost lost Alex over it in fact. She still sighed with relief knowing that their friendship had survived the whole secret that had almost torn them apart. But she knew, deep down, that she would do it all over again if she had to.

Max was her entire world. And keeping Alex aware of this fact was essential. Because Liz knew that Alex was presently right on the precipice. If he couldn’t deal with it, with the fact that Max had technically cheated on her, it was going to tear their group apart.

He might never forgive Max for it but he was going to have to deal with it. Even the thought of a rift between her boyfriend and her best friend made Liz feel weak. They could not turn on each other now, not when they most needed each other. All of them.

But Liz knew that Alex would make the right choice. He always did.

It had been a long time since Liz had just spent an evening alone with her two best friends. It was cathartic, comforting, reinvigorating. For once, she didn’t have to be the strong one. She was allowed to wallow, allowed to cry, allowed to voice her fear with Alex and Maria.

She needed this more than she needed anything at the moment.

"I love him." Liz replied simply. "And it wasn’t his fault. He needs me."

There was another long silence, and then Alex spoke urgently, in a low voice. "But Liz, what about what you need? A baby? It’s going to be around forever."

"And I’ll be his mother."

Maria sat up with a gasp. "Liz! You’re only eighteen years old! And were you not the one who told me that I wasn’t ready to be a mother when I wanted to marry Brody for Sydney’s sake?"

"Maria, there is a difference." Liz retorted patiently. "You weren’t in love with Sydney’s father. I love Max. And I’ll love anything that is a part of him too. It’s not the baby’s fault that Tess is a lying skank."

Maria brought her hands up around her mouth, clearly trying to hold in hysterical giggles. "Liz, I can’t believe you just said that!" She paused, then added. "Well, I can actually. Because it’s what I’ve always said."

"Well, it’s true and you were right." Liz smiled weakly. Calling Tess names was not making her feel better though.

"I still don’t like this - not a bit." Liz could feel Alex tapping his fingers lightly against her back. She frowned slightly, wondered why he seemed so impatient. Was he planning to go confront Max about this? Because Max had enough to deal with. He and Michael were presently attempting to translate the book that Tess had found in the Roswell Library the year before, in a vain attempt to figure out if they could get home.

If all else failed, Max was ready to go to Larek, through Brody. But that was only going to be as a last resort. Liz knew that Max still had not forgiven himself for all Brody had had to go through because of him.

But if he had to, Max would do it. Now that he knew that Liz was behind him, now that he had accepted his son, he was not going to stop until he found a way to save him.

"Alex, please. I need your support on this." Liz pleaded quietly. "I need you guys. I have to be strong for Max, but I can’t do it alone."

Liz felt Maria take her hand, accepting her role readily. But then Maria was much more bonded to the whole situation than Alex was, even now, with the Isabel situation. Maria’s relationship with Michael was solid now, gave her what she needed.

It was different for Alex though. Alex had managed to build something of a life for himself outside of the alien abyss, what with Sweden and his brief interlude with Leanna. He had shown that it was possible - at least for him.

Liz knew it was impossible for her. She had been without Max, had seen how wrong it was on every level, and she was unwilling to let anything stand between them again.

But Alex could still save himself.

And, yet, Liz knew that Alex’s hesitation had nothing to do with himself. It was all about her and what he was willing to watch her do, give up.

Liz could almost hear the wheels of indecision turning in his brain as he wrestled with his anger about the whole situation, wrestled with the question of whether he could continue to support something that he clearly thought was so dangerous and hurtful to Liz.

Finally, he just sighed heavily and said, "Okay. If it’s what you want Liz, then okay."

She felt tears prickle her eyes, her relief so great, it felt as though a great weight had been lifted off of her heart.

"Thank you. You two are my best friends. I will always be grateful that I’ve been blessed with you."

"Stuck with us is more like it." Alex joked, grabbing Maria and hauling her down on top of both of them, as they both she and Liz started to giggle. "You’re never going to get rid of us now Parker. Uncle Alex is about to be born. I’m telling you, you and Max are going to regret it when I begin to take the little alien under my tutelage. I will mold him to my very image." He cackled wickedly.

"Oh Lord help us. He’s going to want to be in a band when he grows up, isn’t he?" Maria laughed.

Liz just closed her eyes, enjoying the warm glow of acceptance and love that being with true friends could create.

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

The crash of the tray falling from Maria’s hands resounded through the Crashdown, making Michael jump to his feet, bringing Liz’s heart into her throat. They had all been meeting, Max and Michael filling them in on their progress regarding the journey back to Antar. Liz had been quietly wiping down the tables while she listened to the cadence of Max’s voice rising and falling, wondering if she would forget what he sounded like when he was gone.

She knew she wouldn’t, but as the decision was made that they were going to have to go to Larek, she knew it was only a matter of time until she was going to find out first hand. Tess was getting weaker by the day. Max was getting more desperate by the day.

The baby was dying. They needed to get him off the planet as soon as possible.

Which meant that every minute passing was a minute closer to Max leaving.

But the sooner he left, the sooner he could come back to her.

All of this had been whirling through her mind. And so Liz could not even register what was happening as Maria came crashing through the swinging door, the Sheriff on her heels. She launched herself at Liz, nearly sending them both to the floor in her hysteria.

They had all been meeting. All but Alex, who had had an appointment with someone from the Swedish exchange program that he couldn’t get out of.

All but Alex…

"There’s…there’s been an accident." Liz could barely hear the Sheriff’s soft words over Maria’s sobs.

Oh my God.

It was Liz’s last coherent thought before the cold finally took complete possession of her heart. She was completely unaware of Isabel’s shrieks, of Michael grabbing her, shaking her, having to slap her across the face to pull her back from wherever it was she had gone. She was unaware of Maria grasping at her like a lifeline, looking for some sort of comfort, where none existed.

And then, her eyes very briefly met Max’s over Maria’s shoulder. And she returned from the cold place. Somehow she came back.

He could fix this.

He looked lost, like he didn’t even know where to begin comforting her.

But Liz knew. There was one chance to save this. There was one chance to stop the cold permanently.

Her eyes locked with Max’s.

He closed his own briefly, seemed to know what she was asking of him. A shudder passed through his body, but he swallowed, hard, and stood.

"Take me to him."

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

Liz wasn’t sure how she just stood with her arm around Maria, supporting her, as she watched Max walk towards the ambulance where Alex lay. All she felt like doing was running after him, ordering him to fix it, fix what they had broken when she and the future version of him had messed with the timeline.

Fix it Max. Fix it.

But his gait was tentative, unsure. He didn’t think he could save Alex. Liz knew Max well enough to know this.

Anger. At Max. At Present Max and Future Max. She knew it was irrational, but she felt it anyway. And it was better than the cold. Anything was better than the cold.

He owed her this at least. He owed her her best friend. He had to be able to fix something!

But he was back too soon. Much too soon. Liz had never seen his face so white, even when he had had to tell her about what had happened between he and Tess.

He looked like his entire world had ended. And he and Alex weren’t even that close.

Liz felt bile beginning to rise in her throat.

Oh God.

He came to her first, his hand outstretched, his gaze begging her to absolve him of the fact that he could not fix it. But suddenly Isabel had turned, was running, her sobs filtering back through the still night. Max’s gaze followed her, torn.

"Go Max." Liz ordered. She didn’t want him. He could not help her. Let him go after Isabel, where he could do some good. Maybe.

"Liz, are you sure?" Max asked, his tone low, afraid.

"It’s okay Max." Valenti stepped forward. Liz felt the Sheriff put his arm around she and Maria, turn them away. "Go after Isabel. I’ll take care of the girls."

But Max could not take his gaze from Liz’s. "Liz…"

"GO!"

He blinked. And he went.

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

It was when the report came back that Alex had committed suicide that Liz finally managed to come in from the cold.

She had allowed herself to remain numb for two days. She had seen no one except Maria. And Michael. She had let Michael come in, because Maria wanted him.

She knew that Max wanted to see her. Michael had even tentatively suggested it, but she rejected the idea out of hand.

She could not handle Max right now - could not handle Max with his monumental problems, his immense guilt and his inability to fix anything.

But when Michael told them about the report, the outrage that burned through her veins thawed them, temporarily anyway.

"It’s not true. It’s impossible."

And so she began to investigate. She found the picture of Alex with Leanna, with Alex’s face cut out. She found the receipt with the strange numbers on it.

She knew that Michael was following her around while she did it all, knew that Max had ordered him to, that he was worried about her.

He did not try to follow her himself.

Max had gotten the picture. Max did not try to talk to her anymore - had not tried for a couple of days, at least since the funeral, where Liz had sat motionless and frozen.

She ignored the tortured expression on his face, the despair in his eyes.

He could have fixed it and he didn’t. She had stood with him through thick and thin, through betrayal, had even lied, betrayed her own heart for a future version of him and when she asked him to do one little thing for her, he failed.

He had done this - that future version. By changing the timeline, they had killed Alex. Alex was supposed to live. He had been at Max and Liz’s wedding.

And this Max could not even save him.

And she would never forgive him for it.

To be continued…



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 11-Dec-2001 11:56:09 PM ]
posted on 31-Dec-2001 1:28:33 PM
Part 18

Another Time, Another Life - Section G

"Liz, I really think you should see Max." Maria was curled up on Alex’s bed, pictures of their lost friend scattered around her. Mr. Whitman had let them in because she and Liz were working on a memorial spread for the yearbook, but they weren’t getting much accomplished. The talk had been all Czechoslovakian since they had arrived, just like it always was.

Liz was sitting at Alex’s desk, scanning through the files on his computer, looking for any sort of clue as to what he had been doing in the months leading up to his death, anything of which they might have been unaware. Maria knew this, but, as usual, she was being distracted by concerns not of this world.

Before, it would have been Liz who was distracted. She knew it and it annoyed her now. Immensely.

Both of their lives had centred around the aliens and their problems for so long, they couldn’t even seem to take a break from it in order to honour Alex. It only made Liz’s inner rage burn more brightly.

"No." Liz replied firmly. "I don’t have time to see him right now."

And she didn’t. She had found her first concrete clue about what might have happened to Alex that morning. She had finally heard back from the Swedish Embassy about the building in the background of the picture of Alex and Leanna. It turned out that it had been torn down years before, did not even exist anymore, which meant that Alex had never had his picture taken there. It also meant that Alex might never have gone to Sweden. Now she just needed to figure out where he had been during those months and she might finally be getting somewhere.

"Liz, he’s losing it." Maria continued quietly. Liz tried to shut her out, didn’t want to know about it. "Tess is getting weaker. If they don’t find a way off the planet soon, the baby is going to die." There was a long pause. "He needs you."

Liz’s head snapped around. "He needs me? When doesn’t he need me? When have I ever let him down?"

"Never Liz." Maria looked pained. It made Liz even more angry that concern for Max of all people was hurting Maria. Maria had had enough hurt, with losing Alex.

But Liz heard her underlying message. Liz was letting Max down now. She was letting them all down, by blaming Max for Alex’s death.

Did no one understand that he had let her down?

But, of course they didn’t. Because they didn’t really understand they both she and Max were to blame for what had happened. Not this Max maybe, but Max nonetheless.

They didn’t understand that in that other time, Alex had lived. And now he was dead.

Liz knew logically that it was not her Max’s fault that Alex had died. Truly she did. But it didn’t stop the way she felt. She knew that she was going to have to deal with Max eventually, but she couldn’t do it now.

Alex had always come second. Ever since Max had saved her life that day, Liz had put everything else of import in her life second, including her best friends. Now she owed Alex. She owed it to him to make sure that his memory was not tarnished. She knew that he hadn’t killed himself and she refused to allow anyone to say so.

If it meant Max had to wait, then that’s what it meant.

Maria was sighing. She picked up a picture of Alex off the bed and stared down at it. "What are you looking for really Liz?" She asked after another long silence. Liz had turned back to the computer, was still trying to hack into Alex’s e-mail.

Liz turned her head. "Do you really want to know? Because this would be a lot easier with your help Maria. You know that Alex did not kill himself."

"I know." Maria rubbed her eyes wearily. "I just don’t know what proving it is going to do Liz. It won’t bring him back."

"It might not bring him back." Liz retorted. "But isn’t the truth a better memorial than this," she gestured towards the pictures disdainfully, "Can ever be?"

Maria’s hands were twisting in her lap. She took a deep breath, glanced down at the pictures than back up at Liz. "Yes. Okay. You’re right."

Liz smiled for the first time in days. A intense feeling of relief flowed through her, making her lightheaded. It would be so much easier with help. She was tired of being alone. This was something she and Maria should be doing together - for Alex.

Maria pulled up a chair, joined her at the computer. "How is reading Alex’s e-mail going to help?" She asked after a few minutes of Liz putting in possible passwords with no luck. "Wouldn’t it make more sense to use one of the e-mails he sent us when he was supposedly in Sweden?"

Liz whipped her head around and stared at her. "You’re brilliant!" She exclaimed. Liz typed in her own e-mail address, pulled up her old messages. She clicked on one Alex had sent, stared at it.

Maria was shrugging, rolled her eyes. "Well, that might be taking it to the extreme." She stared at the message, read the words as Liz did. "He seemed so happy there." She finally said quietly. "Where do you think he was, really?"

Liz grimaced. She was no computer expert, didn’t even know where to start finding out where this e-mail had been sent from.

Alex was the one who would have known how to find out.

She felt tears filling her eyes at the sheer irony of it. Liz brushed them away impatiently. She had not cried over Alex yet, and she did not intend to until she had preserved his memory.

"Lizzie, are you okay?" Maria’s arm had come around her shoulders. "It’s okay to cry you know."

"No, it’s not." Liz stood up resolutely. "We need help Maria. Who do we know who can figure this out for us?"

"What about that guy Derek from Alex’s computer club?" Maria asked after a lengthy pause.

Liz smiled again. "Perfect. You go see him."

"What are you going to be doing?" Maria asked, looking confused.

"I’m going to see Tess." Liz replied. Something had just occurred to her, something she wanted to look into while Maria investigated the computer angle.

The more she looked into Alex’s death, the more the entire thing seemed to be shaping up into something almost illusionary. Alex had believed that he was in Sweden - had truly experienced Sweden. And who knew more about illusions than any of them?

Tess Harding.

Liz didn’t think for one minute that it would be easy to get answers out of her worst enemy, but it was worth a try.

She did not, in a million years, imagine that she would run into Max there. If she had, she never would have gone.

But as Tess opened the door at the Valentis, there he was sitting on the couch, looking for all the world like he had been there for a long time and for all the world like he intended to stay there for even longer.

Liz had been in the process of trying to paste on a pleasant expression, hoping that catching Tess unguarded would help her cause. And so she had a half smile, half grimace on her face as Max jumped to his feet.

Their eyes met instantly.

The immediate expression of guilt that crossed his face at the sight of her only reinforced to Liz that something very strange and very wrong was going on. He clearly had no idea what to do or say. She saw a vein on the side of his neck convulse.

It looked bad. Very, very bad. He knew it. She knew it.

Was Max hanging out with Tess now? This had to be some sort of bad joke. Cosmically bad.

She just stared at him. She knew that her mouth was literally hanging open, but she couldn’t seem to make it close.

When she looked at Tess’s face, at the triumph that she was making no effort to mask, Liz literally wanted to vomit.

She turned on her heels and ran. There was nothing else to do.

"Liz! Stop!"

She should have known he would come after her.

She didn’t want to stop, but she did. Because it would be easier in the long run just to deal with him now.

It would be easier to deal with him now and get it over with.

"Liz, please! It’s not what you think."

She had not turned around. He was standing close behind her, like he wanted to reach out and pull her back into his arms but couldn’t do it.

His voice was low, desperate. "The baby…It’s dying Liz. But we found out that if Tess and I are together, it…I don’t know... It feels better or something." There was a long pause. She didn’t say anything, just waited. "I know it sounds stupid Liz, but we don’t understand anything about it. I connected with it again and it seems to want me near it."

"He wants you near him." She said quietly. "We know he’s a boy Max."

He was touching her now, holding her by the shoulders, gently turning her around. "God Liz. Why won’t you let me see you? I’ve been so worried about you." She stared at his chest, refused to raise her eyes to meet his. She knew they would be pleading with her to break down the ice wall she had erected between them, but she just couldn’t do it.

If she looked into his eyes she would see all the love that he felt for her, that she knew that he had for her, because she had seen it when they had made the ultimate connection, what seemed like years ago, but was really only a couple of week. The connection they had made in the desert, when they had completely given themselves over to the fact that they knew that they belonged together, barely stealing those moments before Tess brought their entire world crashing down on them, had showed her how he felt about her, had only reinforced how she had felt about him - still felt about him if she was honest with herself.

But Alex’s death changed everything. They were responsible for Alex’s death. They did not deserve to be together or happy.

She could not let go of her rage. If she did, she would never be able to do what had to be done for Alex’s sake.

"I think an alien killed Alex." Liz spat it out, didn’t even know where it came from. It was the first time she had even put the speculation into words. It had just been a tiny suspicion in the back of her mind, one that she had not even realized that she really had, until the words were coming out of her mouth.

Hurting him. Deliberately.

And the horror of it was that she knew now that it wasn’t because of Alex at all. It was because of Tess. Because he had been sitting on the couch at the Valentis, near her, for the baby’s sake, but near her.

She felt Max flinch away from her like she had slapped him. Because, in a way, she had. The tone of her voice, the inflection, he had to know that she blamed him.

He was the alien she really blamed for Alex’s death.

"What…" He was choking on the words. "What do you mean? An a…an alien? Who? How?"

"Alex thought he was in Sweden." Liz replied shortly, refusing to look up at him still, refusing to see the devastation she knew she was causing. "He wasn’t. It had to have been a mindwarp."

There was a long pause as Max digested this. "Are you saying that you think Tess killed Alex?" He finally managed to ask, his tone low, strange. But she knew that he knew that that wasn’t what she really thought.

And so Liz didn’t answer.

The inflection in his voice told her that he was beginning to wonder if she had gone insane. "Liz, please look at me. Are you okay? Liz, please, look at me." He repeated, touching her chin lightly, gently forcing her to meet his eyes. "You have to know that Tess did not kill Alex."

She just stared at him. She did know it. Finally she licked her lips and said, "So you don’ t hate her anymore."

Max blinked. "What?"

"You don’t hate her anymore, do you? You’ve been spending time with her and she’s fooled you again, even though you know what she is and you don’t hate her anymore."

"Of course I hate her." Max hissed. "She is driving us apart! Can’t you see that Liz? And you’re letting her!"

"No Max. What we did is driving us apart." Liz told him firmly. "We killed Alex. We may not have held a gun to his head, we may not have driven his car off the road, but we did it." She could hear her voice beginning to rise hysterically. She was trying to control it, trying to stay strong, but it was like she had no more control over herself.

Seeing him with Tess like that, like they were a happy couple, sitting around waiting for their baby to be born, it had been the last straw. She was beginning to let go of her thin hold on her self-control. She wanted to hit him, hurt him, kill him, just like they had killed Alex.

"Liz…"

"It might not have been you Max, but it would have been eventually. Because if we hadn’t screwed with the timeline, that would have been you who came back. And it was definitely me. We did it. Alex is dead because of us."

"Liz, this is crazy!" Max exclaimed. "Be mad at me because I couldn’t heal him if you have to be, but you can’t really blame yourself for this! There was no possible way you could have known this way going to happen! You had no choice. The world was going to end!" He ran his hands through his dark hair in frustration.

She had a flash of her own hands sliding through that black softness, only weeks before, as he took her places she hadn’t even imagined existed until she went there in his arms.

Liz closed her eyes, turned her back on him again. "I do Max. Blame myself that is. And the problem is, while I have no choice in having to live with myself, I do have a choice where you’re concerned."

She could not believe that she was saying these things. It was like she was standing outside of herself, watching as she hurt him, watching as she did her best to hurt him.

This was Max. And she hated him.

But the horrible part was that she loved him too and it made her hate him even more.

She actually felt the moment when he understood what she was saying to him. She felt the pain rip through him, as though she had shot him.

But when he spoke, his voice was surprisingly calm. "What are you saying? Are you saying you want to break up?"

"I’m saying I want us to stop pretending that this is going to work." Liz whispered, loud enough so that he could hear her. "You are going to go back with her and it’s what’s meant to be and I’m okay with it, because I will never get past what we have done."

She wanted to walk away then. She really did. But she knew that he had the right to say something, anything to try and fix this. To fix her.

But he didn’t. He spoke and she felt her heart stop, despite herself, because he truly sounded dead when he said, "I can’t believe you actually think this is going to make things better. Do you actually think that this is what Alex would have wanted? If you do, then I guess none of us really knew him at all. Because the Alex I thought I knew would not have wanted this. Not in a million years."

And he left.

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

It was only when she managed to make it back to her room that she understood what she had done. She had broken Max’s heart and she had broken her own. On purpose and without remorse.

And she still felt none. It was what had to be.

They needed to be punished. Both of them. They did not have the right to be happy when Alex was gone. It wasn’t fair. He had not been meant to die and they had killed him and so she refused to allow them to be happy.

Maria found her there hours later. She was excited. Liz stared at her, knew that she was a zombie, but Maria didn’t notice because she had the information they needed.

Las Cruces. Alex had been at the University of New Mexico for two months.

So they went. They found Leanna, then lost her, then Michael found them and they found the book which solved Max’s problem, which told them that the granolith could take them home.

Alex had been translating the book which gave Max and Michael and Isabel and Tess a way home.

And he had been killed because of it. Presumably by Leanna, who had to be an alien.

The completely ironic thing was that Liz could not bring herself to care. She had been right, Alex had been avenged, and all she wanted to do was go home, curl up into a ball, and die.

But Leanna was not the real killer. Oh no. That honour was reserved for her - and Max.

Because now that she had proven that Alex’s death was not an accident, she had to begin to live with herself. There was no more quest to hide behind.

And she could not live with herself.

Michael told Liz that he and Max would take care of it, that he would tell Max everything and that Max would probably want to see her later. Liz just nodded mechanically.

No one knew what Liz had done, that she had deliberately broken her own heart and destroyed Max’s.

He would not be coming to see her. He would leave and they would both suffer and maybe it would be enough to assuage her guilt.

Do you really think this is what Alex would have wanted?

Max’s voice haunted her, because she knew that he was right. There was no way that this is what Alex would have wanted, for her to deliberately destroy her only chance at happiness, because Alex had loved her.

But it was what she, Liz, wanted.

Because it was the only way she could live with herself.

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

"They’re gone."

Maria was at her window, peering in at her. Liz was lying on her back on her bed, staring straight up at the ceiling, wrapped in the frozen void she had somehow managed to reclaim.

She had broken down, finally, the night before, but now the cold was back. It was comforting.

Liz turned her head and took in her best friend’s tear-streaked face, the fact that she was wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing yesterday when Liz had last seen her, because Maria had come to her, demanding to know what she had done to Max, why he thought that she wouldn’t see him before they left.

"Did he send you?" Liz had asked wearily at the time.

"No. He told us to just leave you alone, that all you wanted was to be left alone." Maria had snapped back. "I can see that he was right. You’re enjoying your pity party for one." And she had left then, telling Liz as she went that she was not going to waste Michael’s last night on Earth with Liz, because Liz was throwing away the best thing that had ever happened to her and if Alex could see her now, he would be ashamed.

"Alex didn’t want me with Max!" Liz had wanted to scream after Maria. But she knew, deep down, that this was untrue. Alex had only ever wanted her to be happy, had only ever wanted what she wanted.

It was Liz who wanted to make herself miserable.

Now, as Liz turned her head back to stare at the ceiling again, as she felt the bed dip beneath her as Maria joined her, angry at her still, but always her best friend, she felt Max’s loss like a physical pain.

Funny how, even though it was what she wanted, if didn’t make her feel any better.

"Oh God Liz. It just hurts so much." Maria sobbed beside her. And, somehow, Liz found the strength to bring her arm around her, to try and comfort her. Because Maria should not be in pain. Maria had done nothing wrong.

It seemed to work, because Maria stopped crying eventually. And so they were both lying there in silent, stunned grief that they were really living through this, when the phone rang.

It was Kyle.

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

"Can’t you make this rust-bucket go any faster?" Maria was shrieking from the passenger seat of her mother’s Jetta.

"It’s your rust-bucket!" Kyle yelled back.

"I still don’t understand this Kyle. How did you remember all this?" Liz demanded from the back seat.

How could every thing have changed again so quickly? How could Liz’s entire being suddenly be centred on the fact that Max’s life was in imminent danger and all she could focus on was getting to him in time to save him, when all she had wanted to do an hour ago was hurt him?

"I don’t know!" Kyle shrugged in frustration. "I was just sitting in her, my, whatever, the bedroom, and I remembered! She killed Alex and I saw her do it and she mindwarped me to forget it!"

The supreme irony was not lost on Liz. Max had flat out asked her if she thought that Tess had killed Alex. She had not thought that, had accepted that it was some random alien named Leanna, had never dreamt that it was really Tess.

But how could she not have known? Because she knew what Tess was, knew what Tess had done to Max at the Prom.

Yet, she had been so wrapped up in blaming herself, in blaming Max, that she had let this crucial bit of logic fly right past her.

And because of this fact, Max and Michael and Isabel were going to die. Because she had to be leading them into a trap. There was no other explanation for any of this. The whole pregnancy had been a ploy to get them to take her home.

She had known that none of them would ever go on their own. They needed a reason to do it. Max’s reason was the baby. Isabel’s was Max. And Michael’s was both of them.

But maybe it wasn’t a trap? Liz reflected now, her mind clearer than it had been since before Alex’s death, since before the Prom actually. It was crystal clear now, like it had been after she and Max had made love for the first time, joining together, their souls intertwining, touching the stars and tapping into something that very few people likely ever experienced.

And she had been willing to throw all of that away. Alex would never have forgiven her. What had she been thinking?

But maybe Tess was right. Maybe this was what was supposed to be? Max and the others were supposed to go back, would be welcomed with open arms. Because wasn’t that what their mother’s message from the orb had said all those months ago - that the planet was waiting for them to return and free them?

Yet Liz knew this wasn’t true. Because if they were meant to go back, why had she and Max met? Why had their souls spoken to each other?

And Liz understood. Alex’s death had all been a part of it, a way to drive the wedge between them. It was diabolical, but it made perfect sense. Tess had understood better than anyone it seemed that, in the end, Liz would not give Max up over simple betrayal of herself.

It had taken the betrayal of her best friend for her to turn on him. And he hadn’t even done anything. Max had tried to heal Alex. He was a boy, could not bring back the dead, and was in no way to blame for what a future version of himself had brought about through his meddling.

Liz could blame herself, but she had been wrong to blame Max.

She just hoped that she had a chance to tell him so. She glanced at her watch. According to Maria they were leaving at 7AM sharp. It was 6:50 and they still had ten more minutes at least before they reached the pod chamber.

And, in the end, it was too late. She could not save him.

There was a moment of breathless anticipation when she saw two figures standing on the rocks, below the pod chamber - or where the pod chamber used to be anyway. The whole top of the mountain had been blown off, was completely gone.

Liz threw herself out of the car, running as fast as she could, knowing that Maria and Kyle were behind her. She recognized Michael and Isabel, staring off into the sky. Hope was filling her veins, pushing her on.

He was still there, had to be. Where was he? She scoured the rocks frantically, ready to throw herself at him, to beg his forgiveness.

It was only when she reached Michael and Isabel that she saw their devastated faces.

"He wouldn’t let us go. He shut us out of the pod chamber." Isabel was collapsing against Michael as Liz came to a dead stop beside them. "He left without us! How could he do this?"

But Liz knew how. He had known. Somehow he had known what was going to happen. And he had gone anyway, leaving his sister and his best friend behind, refusing to take them to their deaths.

He had left, believing that Liz hated him, and he was going to die thinking the same thing.

Part 19 - "Full of Grace" - Liz POV

The winter here’s cold and bitter,
It’s chilled us to the bone.
We haven’t seen the sun for weeks,
To long, too far from home.
I feel just like I’m sinking
And I claw for solid ground.
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never knew I could feel so low.
Oh darkness I feel like letting go.

If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I can love you much better than this.
Full of grace.
Full of grace,
My love.

It’s better this way, I said,
Having seen this place before.
Where everything we said and did hurts us all the more.
It’s just that we stayed
Too long in the same old sickly skin,
I’m pulled down by the undertow,
I never thought I could feel so low.
Oh darkness I feel like letting go.

If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place,
I know I can love you much better than this.
Full of grace.

I know I can love you much better than this.
It’s better this way.

Sarah McLachlan

I become aware of my surroundings slowly. I think I may have passed out because my head is splitting as I slowly open my eyes.

The grief and despair that other version of myself felt when she realized that Max was gone…

It is still weighing down on me. I breathe in and out slowly, try and convince myself that it did not happen in this life. Max is still here. He is safe.

It takes me a moment to realize that I am back in the desert. I sit up slowly, look around for Ava. She is sprawled to my left, her blonde-grey hair covering her face.

I realize that she was not the one who pulled me back.

Because, as I crawl towards her, my heart in my throat that she is dead, it is then that I see that we are not alone.

I stare at him, not understanding. What is he, of all people, doing here?

He is sitting on the hood of the Jetta, the crystal granolith balanced in his hand.

I had not immediately understood when Ava had first told me that the spaceship that we had all thought was the granolith was not. She had pulled the crystal out of an inside pocket of her leather jacket, had explained to me that it was the crystal that was the Holy Grail of Max’s people, not the spaceship. The spaceship had been only one of many things built to accommodate the granolith, to take advantage of its power.

I had not truly understood until she had placed it in my hand and had transported me to that other life.

And now I am back and Sean Deluca is sitting on the hood of Maria’s mother’s car, staring at it intently, like he actually understands what he is holding.

He must see my movements out of the corner of his eye, because he turns and grins at me. "Hey. You’re finally awake! I was beginning to worry about you Parker."

I swallow, continue to stare at him. "Sean." I reply carefully. "What are you doing here?" I glance at Ava. "What did you do to her?"

"Nothing she didn’t have coming to her." Sean answers, his eyes darkening momentarily. He hops off the hood of the car, moves towards me and extends his hand. I frown at it for a moment, then allow him to grab me and haul me to my feet.

"What are you doing here?" I repeat. We are still in the middle of the desert, where Ava had brought me to activate the granolith. How on Earth had he found us here? And why?

"I came for this, of course." He grins. "And you." He adds, seemingly as an afterthought. "Because when I destroy this, she’ll die. But, if I don’t do something about you, she’ll still pop up again eventually since you and that bastard can’t seem to keep your hands off each other." His smile disappears and I take a step backward. The expression on his face…

For a moment, I am absolutely positive that he hates me. But that’s impossible! This is Sean Deluca, Maria’s cousin, my annoying admirer.

I feel a shiver descend my spine. "Sean, what are you talking about?"

"I’m talking about you and Max Evans." Sean tells me coldly. "I was so sure that I had finally driven a permanent wedge between you two, that he was actually going to go with her this time, willingly, and take Michael and Isabel with them, but then, somehow, you spoiled it again."

I shake my head, trying to clear it. "What?" I am so confused by now, it’s all I can muster up the energy to ask weakly.

"The damn spaceship doesn’t work properly unless all of them are in it Liz. It crashes every time there isn’t a complete complement of the Royal Four inside." He rolls his eyes. "I’d imagine my poor mother is stranded somewhere in Canada right about now. It’s what happened last time."

I just stare at him. He is talking about spaceships like he knows the truth about Max and the others.

"But someone’s been working against me the whole time." Sean sighs, indicates Ava. "I never realized it was my mom’s doppelganger. I told Khivar we should have gotten rid of her a long time ago. But he thought she was useless after Nicholas killed Rath and Lonnie."

His mom’s doppelganger? What the hell is he talking about?

Because, I know now, without a shadow of a doubt, that Sean Deluca is not Sean Deluca at all. And not because of the cavalier way he’s talking about spaceships and the Royal Four and Khivar and all the strange terms we are only just becoming used to ourselves, that we never talk about in front of anyone.

It’s because I know.

All my memories of Sean, growing up together, him driving Maria insane in that typical big brother figure way, me crying in my room when he got sent off to jail… They’ve all disappeared.

It’s hard to explain. I remember them. I know I used to have them as memories, but somehow, they aren’t memories anymore. I never lived them. It makes very little sense, but it’s what is.

All I do know for sure is that he is not Sean Deluca, that Maria does not have a cousin, and it is becoming ever more apparent that he is somehow my enemy.

"So have you done it yet?" Sean demands, clearly not caring one way or another that I am staring at him with my mouth hanging open. "Do I have to kill you or can we try and make a little deal here? Because, I hate to admit it Liz, but I do like you. I sort of understand what Max sees in you. If it hasn’t happened, I don’t have to kill you."

"Done what?" I whisper. I can feel my knees shaking. I back away from him another step. He lets me, is just gazing at me, looking curiously annoyed.

He rolls his eyes again. "Conceived her." He snaps. He gestures towards Ava again. "I’m assuming she told you about her, so don’t play dumb with me."

And I understand. He is talking about Serena. My daughter. My child with Max.

He is somehow here to stop her from ever being born.

And somehow, he is succeeding. He has changed everything since he first appeared on the scene, so that Max and I are nowhere near being in a position that our daughter will ever be born.

I don’t know what to say to him. It is clear that I am going to be instantly killed if he thinks I’m pregnant, but it is also clear that he is not entirely stable and that he might kill me anyway.

The stupidest thing of all though is that I’m not really scared about that. What I’m really scared of knowing is who he is.

Because I am beginning to have an idea. The pieces of what he has said are slowly beginning to fall into place.

"Who are you?" I ask, desperate to know, but at the same time not wanting to know at all.

He tosses the granolith into the air, makes a big show of barely catching it as it flies toward the ground. I stop myself from diving for it, because he has made it clear that my daughter’s life is somehow attached to that crystal.

I know that he is teasing me, try to ignore it. "Who are you?" I repeat, more strongly this time.

He raises an eyebrow, quirks another grin at me. I can’t believe that I once thought that smirk was sexy. I must clearly have been insane, because now he just looks sleazy and scary. "Who do you think I am?"

"I think you’re Lazar." I narrow my eyes at him. "I think you’re the one who helped Tess kill Alex."

He shakes his head, looking pleased. "Right on the first try. You are a little smarty-pants aren’t you Parker? Must be where Rena got her brains, ‘cause it sure as hell weren’t from her daddy. He’s shown how dumb he is in two lifetimes and at least three timelines by my last count." He laughs smugly at his own joke.

I ignore his very deliberate insult of Max. I can tell he is trying to make me mad, just because it amuses him.

"Do you know my daughter?" He clearly does and I am curious despite myself. It reminds me of when Future Max came. I know I’m not supposed to find out about these things, but who in their right mind wouldn’t want to know about their future, about their children?

"I know her well enough to want her dead." Sean replies darkly. "Her existence has ruined my life."

"So you’re from the future." Obviously he is. I even think I know exactly who he is. Because if Ava is his mother’s doppleganger… I bite my lip. "Are you Tess’s son?"

"Right again." He lifts a hand, traces it down my face. I flinch away from him. He doesn’t look offended. "And Max’s too." He sneers. "Dear old Dad. It’s been really hard not to just kill him, you know." He sighs, shakes his head. "But Mom did make me promise. She still wants him for some reason that I have yet to understand." He pauses, smirks again. "I guess I did have to wait until they got it on too." He lifts a lock of my hair, making me have to move away from him again. "’Cause wouldn’t it have been a tragedy if I’d never been born." He lifts an eyebrow. "But there’s nothing really stopping me now, is there?" He asks, his tone pleased.

I feel like my entire world is closing in on me. "Max is not your father." I don’t understand how I say it so calmly. But Ava told me he wasn’t, that Max had not fathered Tess’s baby.

"Did she tell you that?" He shrugs towards Ava. "That’s what they try to tell themselves, but I know the truth. Once your kid came along, they didn’t need me anymore. I think it made my father happy to pretend I had never existed. Because if I exist, then his precious Serena isn’t the heir to the throne any longer." His expression darkens again. "But I do exist. And they’re certainly going to know it when I’m done here."

He lifts the crystal up, stares at it for a long moment. Then he looks at me. "So Parker. Are we going to make a deal, or do I have to kill you?"

He is absolutely crazy. I can see it in his eyes, in the calm way he speaks of murder. Because the worst part is, I believe him when he says that he doesn’t want to kill me. I truly believe that he likes me.

And he will kill me anyway.

All I know is that I have to buy time. My entire soul is already screaming for Max. I know that he is going to find me. He has to because this is not supposed to happen. I am supposed to bear a daughter. I am not supposed to die at the hands of a maniac from the future - one I almost slept with for God’s sake!

One who is the son of my worst enemy and who may still be the child of the person I most love in the world.

"How did you turn out this way?" I whisper, shaking my head in horror. "He went with you. You had him. He was hers - your father. I saw it happen. I lived it."

Sean stares at me for a full minute, then says, "So you didn’t see it all then. You didn’t see what happened." He looks momentarily uncertain. "You don’t understand why I have to do this."

"No." I can’t believe it, but my heart almost goes out to him - the person who wants to kill me and who wants to make sure that my daughter never exists. He stands there looking lost for a moment, sad. And then he narrows his eyes.

"I’m not evil you know Liz." He finally comments. "I’m just trying to claim what’s mine. My father is the evil one. And your daughter is following right in his footsteps." He sounds like he’s reciting a party line, like it’s something he’s been told every day of his life and he has no choice but to believe it.

I am listening to him, but what I am really doing is looking for a way to keep him talking. I need to give Max more time. Because I don’t care about any of this. I know none of it is true. He has been taught to hate the wrong people and there is nothing I can do to change that right now.

It is too late for Lazar. But it is not too late for me, nor for my daughter.

I need him to think that I want to believe him. "Sean…" I swallow. "Is it all right if I call you that?" He nods. "I don’t want to die. I’m only eighteen years old."

He truly does look sorry this time. "I know Liz. I know you tried to stay away from him. I’m sorry it has to be this way."

"But you said yourself, it doesn’t." I remind him. "As long as I stay away from Max." I bring my hands up, run them through my hair wearily. "I can you know. Because I can’t be with him anyway."

He frowns. "Why not?"

"He really slept with Tess. And…" I pause, really feeling the pain as the memories of why I can never be with Max return. "When I kiss him, I get flashes of it." I say in a rush. "There is no way I can possibly bear that. We can’t ever be together."

He thinks about that for a minute, then shrugs. "It’s not good enough Liz. I know how you two are. I’ve heard all the legends. You’ll get over it in time. Because you’re meant to be together." He says this last bit sarcastically, but it sends a flash for hope so instantly to my heart that I almost can’t hide it from him.

Despite everything, Max and I are meant to be together. And clearly we’ve chosen to be, in at least two life-times. It makes me think now that things might not be completely hopeless for us here. Because there was no question that Max had slept with Tess in the timeline I had been visiting, even if by accident. And there were no flashes involved then. Maybe we could make them stop somehow.

But I need to know for sure that we did end up together in that timeline, and how. I could just ask Sean, but his entire perspective was tainted by his hatred for Max and his loyalty to Tess.

I needed to see it for myself.

"Then let me see it." I suggest, touching the granolith, which is still in his hand. "Let me see what happens. If I know, maybe it will help me to stay away from him."

Sean frowns again. "I don’t know Liz…"

I force a smile. "Sean, you’ve already told me you don’t want to kill me." I reach out, try not to flinch as I take his hand and squeeze it. "I believe you. I’m even beginning to believe you that maybe you’re not the bad guy. But I need to see it for myself."

He stares at me for a little longer than shrugs. "Well, it can’t do any harm I guess. I can always just kill you after."

And before I can even get my bearings, he thrusts the granolith into my hands. The last thing of which I am aware is his smirking face. I even think I hear him say "Have fun!" as he fades from my consciousness.

To be continued…










posted on 26-Jan-2002 1:25:58 PM
Part 20 - Another Time, Another Life - Part H

September 2001

The weeks that followed Max’s departure with Tess were, without a doubt, the worst of Liz Parker’s life.

For the first week, it had been all she had been able to do to continue existing. Even the mere thought of breathing was almost too tiring to contemplate. The knowledge that she had killed Max, as surely as if she had put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, was practically suffocating her. She endured nightmares about it - dreams of Max arriving on his planet with Tess, of Max being seized by faceless beings and of Max’s life being extinguished in waves of pain and sorrow.

And in every single dream Max died cursing her name.

By the second week, Maria had managed to talk her out of her bedroom though.

"Liz, your parents are getting ready to send you to some hospital. They think you’re having some kind of emotional break-down," her best friend had told her. Maria had been sitting on the side of her bed, gently pushing Liz’s hair away from her forehead. "And I think they’re close to right. You can’t let this happen chica. It’s the last thing Max would have wanted. He had to go. You both knew it. Just because you were so mad at him when he went, it doesn’t mean that it’s your fault that he left."

Liz had not believed Maria, but she had understood that she had to make a pretense of living her life, if only because she still had one. Which was more than she could say for either Max or Alex. She had been responsible for both of them losing their lives and she had no right to waste hers.

So she went through the motions. She worked at the Crashdown for the entire summer, barely functioning, but still trying. She had forced herself to eat, forced herself to exercise, forced herself to sleep well. She had, ironically, never been healthier than during this summer - during the summer when she only wanted to allow herself to waste away. She had even allowed Kyle to take her to the movies a few times, had allowed herself to hang out with Maria, who was the only one with whom she let herself talk about Max and Alex.

It made is somehow better to talk about them. She knew that she didn’t have the right to mourn them, being responsible as she was for their deaths. But she was not going to forget them either. Not like Michael and Isabel were both trying to do. She saw them doing it, saw Isabel’s fury at her brother for leaving her behind, felt Michael’s rage at himself that he couldn’t stop Max, that he couldn’t protect him, saw them both decide that forgetting him was easier than mourning him.

And so Liz Parker survived.

It wasn’t until the waning weeks of July that she realized why - that there had been a reason behind her seeming need to take care of herself.

She had been sitting at the counter in the Crashdown, more exhausted than usual after a busy night serving tables. She had had her journal in front of her, but had not found the strength to write in it. It didn’t help anymore anyway.

Michael and Maria were sitting close together in a booth nearby, Michael with a huge sundae in front of him. He and Maria had been arguing, as usual, but with that underlying note of affection that made Liz smile despite herself. At least someone had something to be happy about. Her best friend and Max’s were more in love than ever, having spent practically every waking minute together since Max and the murderess had left in the granolith.

"Michael, do you have to spoil a perfectly good bowl of ice cream by dumping that stuff on it?" Maria had asked him. "It’s criminal I tell you."

"There is no point in eating anything without Tabasco." Michael had replied through a mouthful of ice cream.

It was then that Liz had turned her head, her mouth suddenly watering so intensely, she blinked. She had zeroed in on the Tabasco bottle in Michael’s hand, licked her lips.

The next thing she knew she had found herself in the kitchen of the restaurant, had pulled a carton of ice cream out of the freezer and was dumping in a full bottle of Tabasco. It was only as she was licking the last drops off of her spoon several minutes later that she even realized what she was doing.

And she knew why almost instantly.

Maria had found her still on the floor of the back room, her knees pulled up to her chest, her forehead resting lightly on her knees, completely in a daze.

"Lizzie? Are you okay?" Maria had slid to the floor beside her, throwing her arm around her shoulders. "You left kind of quickly. Are you crying?"

But when Liz had lifted her head, Maria’s own eyes had widened. Because Liz was crying. But she was also smiling so brightly, Liz knew that her best friend had wondered if Liz had finally lost her mind.

"Liz, what is it?" Maria had asked sounding scared.

"Maria, I haven’t had my period in three months." Liz had replied.

Maria had frowned at her, not understanding. She had glanced down at the empty carton of ice cream and the Tabasco bottle in confusion. "And you think Tabasco is somehow going to rectify this?" She asked wryly. Liz had seen the light appear in Maria’s eyes as she suddenly understood though. Liz had not blamed her for being dense. She herself had ignored all the signs for close to four months.

"Liz, are you…?" Maria had trailed off, her expression a mixture of terror and shock.

"I think so." Liz had replied, her heart so light, she almost felt giddy with it. "I’ll need to find out for sure, but I think I am Maria."

Of course, Liz had known that she wasn’t supposed to be happy about this turn of events. She was only seventeen years old after all. She had her entire life in front of her. Her parents were going to freak out. The entire town was going to freak out, especially if they found out it was Max’s, who everyone assumed had run away with Tess, although no one really understood why.

How was she supposed to raise a baby?

But this had not stopped the absolute joy that had permeated throughout Liz’s soul from the minute she had realized what was happening to her body.

She was going to give birth to Max Evans’ child. She and Max had created a life together in that one perfect moment they had spent together, before everything had fallen apart again. Max was going to live on through this child.

And she could not be anything but happy about it. There was no other emotion to feel. Because from the minute she had become aware of the tiny life growing in her own young womb, she had loved it.

The reaction of the others had been mixed at best.

Her parents had freaked, had blamed Max of course. Liz had actually though that her mother would kill him if she could get her hands on him. Her father had just been deeply disappointed, almost betrayed because she hadn’t been more careful. It had upset Liz, but she still could not be sorry.

Maria was scared. Liz knew that she was trying to hide it, was trying to be supportive of Liz, but she still had many fears regarding the aliens and what being with them really meant. She and Michael had not yet slept together, were actually still probably months, if not years away from it. But Maria had not seen into Michael’s soul - not in the way Liz had seen into Max’s, in a way that made her know that this was a good thing, that her life was not in danger because of their child.

Michael had not commented one way or the other. But Liz had noticed that he seemed to hang around the Crashdown a lot more than usual, which was saying a lot since he practically lived there anyway, and when she kept finding glasses of milk in strange places, reminding her of how he had treated Isabel when they had all thought that Max’s sister was pregnant with Michael’s child, she knew that he was happy about it and that he intended to protect her if it was the last thing he ever did.

The only person whose reaction scared Liz was Isabel’s. Max’s sister was furious at her brother, in a way Liz didn’t think was entirely stable. She was doing her best to be supportive of Liz, seemed interested in the child’s health and growth, but Max having abandoned Liz in this state seemed like the last straw for Isabel. Liz had a feeling deep down that her anger on behalf of Liz’s baby was more likely anger on behalf of herself - anger that Max had promised he would never leave her behind, and he had, and there was no way to change that fact.

Strangely, or perhaps not, it was to Kyle that Liz found herself turning more and more. Kyle had been absolutely devastated by the role that he had played in Alex’s death, even though it had in no way been his fault. And Liz also knew that he missed Tess, as much as he didn’t want to, as much as he now hated her, she had gotten to him, had been like a sister to him, if not more than that. And he hated himself for missing her. Helping Liz, being there for her, was his way of making up for it.

He had even gone as far as to ask Liz if she wanted him to pretend that the baby was his. After all, no one would be totally shocked if they played it that way. Everyone already knew that they had supposedly spent the night together way back in October.

She had been touched, had actually considered it but, in the end, she could not do it. It had felt like a betrayal of Max to even pretend that this child belonged to anyone but him. Because Liz did not want anyone to think that she had ever truly loved anyone but him.

So, even though very few even knew about her present state yet - she was still hiding it well under baggy clothes and fewer shifts in her revealing Crashdown uniform - when it did become clear, although she was not going to publicize who the father was, if anyone asked her directly, she would not lie.

The summer had passed quickly after Liz had realized the truth. Her entire being had focused on the impending birth of her child, on how she was going to look after it, on what this meant for her future. While she sometimes felt mildly panicky, wondering if she was capable of raising a baby alone - because even though her parents had not thrown her out, they were not exactly overjoyed and so Liz had already planned that she was going to move out as soon as she could - her child was not going to live somewhere it as not entirely wanted - she knew that she could do it. Had she not survived everything else fate had dropped in her lap? The destiny message, Future Max, losing Max and then being with him again, killing Alex, virtually killing Max too…she had survived it all. Perhaps not well, but she had survived. From the moment Max had saved her life, only two years before, although it seemed far, far longer, she had realized that she was capable of surviving anything.

And now she actually had something to live for again. Her child. Even the thought of the baby was enough to bring a feeling of untold serenity over her entire being, as though this had all been predestined, that every horrible thing that she and her friends had had to endure had been to bring them to the point when they would be ready to accept and raise this child as it was meant to be raised.

And so, on a warm day in early September, Liz stepped wearily through the doors of West Roswell High School, having entered the period of her pregnancy when she was always tired, ready to again face the future, to learn as much as she could before her child came into the world. Isabel had helped her to arrange her schedule so that she would have enough credits to graduate in January, rather than in June with the rest of her class. The baby was due a few weeks after Christmas, and so at least it would not be born to a mother who had not even finished high school.

Liz paused at her locker, grabbed a few books and then made her way to her first period English class. It was the second week of school so she already knew that Maria and Michael were both in the class, which was a relief. She had already had to miss a day because she had not felt well. At least she would stay caught up. It was even a blessing because Michael now felt like he had to go to school, at least to English, to make sure that Liz didn’t fall behind. It made Liz smile just thinking about it.

When Liz entered the room, she could see that a crowd had gathered at the back of the room around someone’s desk. She glanced curiously towards them, but went to her own place. She had no real interest in the latest high school gossip after all. She much more important things to worry about.

Neither Michael or Maria had arrived yet. Liz sighed as she maneuvered herself into a desk. While she was still not very big, her stomach had increased considerably in size lately. It was only going to be days before everyone started to realize that Liz Parker was pregnant. While Liz was dreading the revelation, in some ways it would be a relief. Her teachers already knew after all. The gossip was going to be hell after the other students found out, but at least it would end eventually. But until the news leaked out, the impending worry was still giving her butterflies in her stomach.

Liz had opened her copy of Hamlet, was trying to finish up the questions that had been assigned the day before when part of the conversation towards the back of the room reached her ears.

She rolled her eyes when she realized that it was Pam Troy speaking. It had been too much to hope that Liz wouldn’t share any classes with the most annoying girl in the Senior class. She had heard only yesterday that Pam’s family had taken an extended holiday up north over the summer and that she was due back today. Until this moment, it had completely slipped Liz’s mind, because it wasn’t really important one way or the other.

But when Liz finally tuned into Pam’s words, she realized that the level of Pam’s tone meant that she wanted Liz to overhear the story with which she was enthralling her audience. "…asked Max what he and Tess were doing there." Pam was saying, her voice grating on Liz’s words until she fully understood her words.

Liz’s heart stopped. "But when I saw Tess, I understood." Pam continued. "She’s pregnant! And I’m talking huge. She’s probably popped that sprog by now ‘cause this was a couple of months ago." Pam’s tone was gleeful. "Can you believe it? The perfect Max Evans got the girl pregnant and they ran away because of it!"

Liz was barely breathing by this time though. She could feel herself about to keel over. She forced herself to gulp in air, brought her hands to her temples, pressed hard. She knew that everyone at the back of the room was now staring at her. She needed out of this classroom immediately, if not sooner.

Her eyes focused suddenly as she saw movement to her left. She realized that Michael was standing over her. "Liz, let’s go." He whispered. He had obviously arrived sometime during Pam’s story because his face was so white, she thought he too might be on the verge of passing out.

Liz allowed him to take her hand, followed him out the door, refused to look back at the other students, who had all suddenly gotten extremely quiet.

They ran into Maria in the hallway, about to enter the room. "What’s going on you guys?" She asked, her tone instantly afraid when she caught a look at their faces. "Lizzie, are you okay? Are you sick?"

She was amazed by how calmly she answered her best friend. Every part of her being was screaming at the moment after all. "Max. Pam Troy saw him somewhere a couple of months ago. With Tess."

"What?" Maria screeched. "Has she been vacationing in the Dagobah system?"

Liz felt Michael’s hand tighten around hers. He seemed to be quickly regaining control of himself. He glanced around to make sure no one had overheard her. "Maria, be quiet." He ordered. "We need Isabel. This cannot be true."

Maria looked abashed at her outburst. Her arm had come around Liz’s shoulders from the other side. "It can’t be. You’re right. Max would have called us if they hadn’t…if they hadn’t made it back. We know how much Pam hates you Lizzie. She’s just trying to get to you."

Liz stared at them both. "Why? Why would she make something like this up Maria? Sure, we’re not exactly friends, but she was just stating what she saw. Yes, she was trying to get to me, but really, why would she lie?"

Michael and Maria exchanged a look. "I don’t know." Michael finally admitted.

Liz closed her eyes, leaned her head back against a nearby locker. "So we’re just going to have to face it then. Max never left and yet he didn’t call anyone."

She was surprised at the way her heart felt like it was cracking down the middle, examined this fact mentally in an almost detached manner. She had truly believed that it was not capable of being any more hurt than it had already been.

But had it not started healing the minute she had found out about her baby? And so it was just whole enough to be able to break all over again.

There was complete silence between the three of them for what felt like forever, as they all tried to digest what this meant. The hallway had emptied, the last bell having rung moments before.

"Liz, what do you want us to do?" This came from Michael, making Liz jump slightly. She eyed him for a moment, realized that this was the first time Michael Guerin had ever asked for her advice, for her opinion. But she thought she understood.

This final betrayal by Max had turned Michael against him. It was written there in black and white, all over his face. He looked furious.

Liz, the mother of the only child of his leader that Michael was willing to accept, was now in charge. It shocked her, frightened her. She did not want the responsibility.

She did not want them to turn on Max. Because, even though her heart was in agony over what he had done, she understood why he had done it. After all, had she not always understood Max better than she understood even herself?

Just as he had always understood her. Which was why he was staying away. As far as Max knew, Liz still hated his guts. He knew that they had all had to let go of him when he had left with Tess, probably thought that it was better this way. Coming back to Roswell with the mother of his child would only hurt them more. He didn’t even know that it was Tess who had killed Alex, had no idea of the state in which Liz presently found herself.

She knew deep in her heart that if he knew these things, he would come back. She knew it. She knew him.

And so it was up to Liz to fix things. Because she was the one who had assured that they were this messed up in the first place.

"We have to find him." Liz stated clearly, firmly, knowing in her heart that it was the right thing to do. "We need to bring him home."

Even if she couldn’t be with him ever again, Max needed to come home.

And Tess needed to come with him.

Part 21 - Max POV - "Elsewhere"

I love the time and in between,
The calm inside me,
In the space where I can breathe,
I believe there is a distance I have wandered,
To touch upon the years,
Reaching out and reaching in.
Holding out, holding in.

I believe this is heaven
To no one else but me,
And I’ll defend it
Long as I can be left here
To linger in silence.
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?

I know this love is passing time,
Passing through like liquid.
I am drunk in my desire.
But I love the way you smile at me,
I love the your hands reach out
And hold me near.
I believe…

I believe this is heaven
To no one else but me,
And I’ll defend it
Long as I can be left here
To linger in silence.
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?

Oh the quiet child
Awaits the day
When she can break free
The mold that clings like desperation.
Mother can’t you see
I’ve got to live my life
The way I feel is right for me.
Might not be right for you
But it’s right for me.

I believe this is heaven
To no one else but me
And I’ll defend it as long
As I can be left here to linger in silence.
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?

I would like to linger here in silence.
If I choose to
Would you understand?

Sarah McLachlan

"Max, this isn’t working." Maria says after we’ve driven in circles around town for close to two hours. She has called her mother on her cell a couple of times to see if Sean has come back, but it is clear that Mrs. Deluca has no idea what she’s talking about. She doesn’t remember Sean at all and keeps demanding that Maria come home, until Maria finally hangs up on her, grimacing.

I know Maria’s right - it isn’t working - but I don’t know what else to do. "I know he’s around here somewhere Maria. I just know it. We need to find him - and soon."

The fact that Maria’s mom doesn’t remember Sean anymore…It is totally freaking me out. It is becoming ever more clear that he has let go of his cover entirely, is now out in the open. He obviously has no intention of ever going back to the Delucas. Which means that his mission is nearing its end.

And while I still don’t feel like Liz is in any particular danger right now, I don’t know how soon that is going to change. Because until I figure out who he is, how he is connected to Tess and why they both want Liz, we’re never going to be able to defeat him.

I know he is not Khivar. I know it in my bones. The way he touched me earlier…I could feel his hatred, but there had been something else there too. I was only now remembering it as I tried to figure out how I know that he is not my enemy, even though he thinks he is.

He touched me as though he wanted to kill me, but also like it was the one thing on Earth he most wanted to do… That he couldn’t quite believe that he was allowed to.

It was very, very weird. Because the fact that his gift seemed to run in the vein of the mind-warp, and the fact that he definitely was working with Tess, were making it that I was close to coming to a conclusion about who he was that was almost too disturbing to even contemplate.

It cannot be.

But, in my heart, I know that it is.

Because don’t I know better than anyone, thanks to the visit from that idiotic future version of myself, that it is possible?

I still push the thought aside though. Because if it is true, it means that we are totally screwed - because there is no way I am going to be able to kill him. He’ll be completely in control and I will have no choice but to just watch whatever it is he wants to do.

Because if he is who I think he is…

I reach into the inside pocket of my jacket, pull out the granolith and narrow my eyes at it. How could one little piece of crystal cause so much trouble?

I wonder if I destroy it right now, if everything will somehow fix itself - go back to the way it’s supposed to be. Because all it has done is cause problems - first on Antar and now here on Earth.

Getting rid of it would probably be a blessing.

"So Max, do you really think he’s Khivar?" Maria is asking. She sounds afraid again.

I turn my head and look at her, swallowing hard. "Maria, take this." I order, putting the granolith in her lap before she can even answer me.

"Why? What’s wrong?" She is staring down at in fearfully, like she expects it to explode or something.

"I think that’s how he got here." I tell her. "With that. Which makes me really want to break it. And I know that is not the right thing to do. So just hold onto it please."

"Okay." She replies, still sounding confused. But I watch in satisfaction as she opens her purse and tucks it away.

We continue to drive in silence, both lost in our own thoughts, when a piercing ringing practically makes us both jump out of our skins.

Maria is twisting around, looking for the source of the noise. It is, of course, a cell phone. And it’s not hers.

She finds it under the seat. I frown. We are in my parents’ car and they don’t have a cell, my father being something of a Luddite.

"It’s Liz’s." Maria says, holding it up in confusion.

I frown. "She must have dropped it earlier," I guess. When she jumped out of the car like the bats of hell were after her after seeing those flashes of me with Tess. The guilt, which I have managed to suppress during the past few hours during the search for Liz, comes rushing back.

The phone is still ringing. "Answer it!" I tell Maria impatiently. The noise is beginning to seriously grate on my nerves.

"What if it’s her parents?" Maria asks reasonably. "What am I supposed to say?"

"I don’t know. But we’re going to have to tell them something eventually anyway. If we don’t find her." I add when Maria looks like she is about to flip out. "Which we will."

Maria grimaces, but hits the talk key on the phone. "Hello?" She asks tentatively. There is a pause. "No, this is her friend. Liz left her phone with me. Who’s this? Why are you talking so quietly?" She asks, beginning to sound suspicious. "Max? Yeah, he’s here. Just a sec." She holds the phone out. "It’s a girl. She says she needs to talk to either you or Liz."

I frown again. "Why is someone calling me on Liz’s cell?"

"Max, do I look like I know?" Maria demands impatiently. We are seriously beginning to get on each other’s nerves, our worry for Liz taking its toll. "Just talk to her."

I sigh, take the phone. "Hello?" I keep my eyes pasted to the road.

"Is this Max?" She’s whispering. I can barely hear her.

"Yeah. Who is this?" I demand, beginning to get a little paranoid now.

"It’s Jennifer Coleman." She is still talking in a low voice, like she’s scared someone is going to overhear her.

I start in surprise. "Hi." I reply. "What’s up?" This cannot be good. Not good at all. I had been sure after Liz and I had left the girl we had all known as Leanna hours before that, in her mind, if she never saw either us again, it would be too soon.

"I…I didn’t know whether I should call you or not." She tells me, sounding scared still. "It took me this long to work up the courage." She adds. "I was thinking I should stay out of this…but then I looked at that picture of me and Ray together and…I just had to do it. I owe him. Because I let those people find him."

By now my heart is in my throat. I can feel that I am not concentrating on the road, should not be driving. "Hold on one second Jennifer." I try to keep my voice smooth, soothing. "I’m driving. I just want to pull over so that I can give you my complete attention."

I pull the car to the side of the road. We are on some residential side street now, having continued to cruise the streets of Roswell aimlessly, although why I am not sure. I know by now that Liz is nowhere near here.

"What’s going on?" I ask after I have set the car carefully in park. The last think I need right now is to crash another car, when I was still supposedly grounded for destroying the Jeep. I can feel Maria’s anxious eyes on me, as it has apparently dawned on her who I am talking to.

"That picture that you showed me this afternoon." Jennifer tells me, her breath short. "I didn’t look at it too closely. You know the one with you two in it… and Ray and the girl you wanted me to identify."

The prom picture. "Yeah. I know the one you mean." I try not to sound impatient. "What about it?"

"Liz dropped it on her way out. I just found it."

"Oh. Okay." I sigh. "It’s okay. I think there are other copies…"

"No. That’s not what I mean. I really looked at it again." She is beginning to sound impatient now, like she thinks I am incredibly dense. "At the other people in it I mean." There is a pause. "I recognized someone else. Someone I once saw with Ray…er, Alex, I mean." She amends, clearly now trying to think of our friend by his real name. Because he, at least, deserves that.

I know exactly who’s in the picture of course, although I don’t remember exactly who is standing where. There were only two other guys in it besides me and Alex. Michael and Kyle. It had to have been one of them. "What does he look like?" I ask, although I can already guess what she’s going to tell me.

"He’s standing behind the blonde girl. The one who came here. He has brownish hair. He’s not the guy in the apron."

Kyle then. I was right. So apparently Kyle had been mind-warped for a lot longer than any of us had ever imagined. Because I am pretty damn sure Kyle doesn’t remember visiting Las Cruces, or seeing Alex there.

This is getting more and more complicated by the minute.

"Max? Max, are you still there?"

"Yeah. Listen I have to go Jennifer. Thanks for calling."

"Am…Max, do I need to be worried about anything?" She asks, sounding scared again.

"Not if I have anything to say about it. Thank you. You’ve been a really big help." I tell her, meaning it. "I’ll be in touch."

"Well?" Maria is waving her hands in the air impatiently as I hang up. I hand her the phone.

"Call the Sheriff." I instruct her. "Tell him to meet us back at his house."

"Why? Max, what’s going on?"

"Kyle’s life is in danger Maria." I tell her as I pull the car back onto the road. "Just call. Please. I’ll tell you in a minute. Call Izzy and Michael too."

I glance at her. She looks freaked again. "Okay." She agrees without further argument.

As soon as she has taken care of contacting the others, she pounces on me again. "Tell me. Now."

And so I do. She sits there, taking it in, a perplexed expression on her face. "So she used both Alex and Kyle as her minions?" She demands when I am done, sounding outraged. "Okay, I am getting seriously upset that that girl is on another planet Max. She deserves to pay for what she’s done."

And she does. More with every passing day. She deserved to pay for what she had done to Alex and I had had to let her go and now it appeared that it wasn’t just Alex that she had screwed with.

The thought of anything happening to Kyle, after all that the Sheriff has done for us, it literally makes me sick to my stomach. Especially because I am the one who asked the Sheriff to look after her. All the Valentis had ever done was let her into their home and their hearts and she had completely betrayed them.

We pull up outside Valenti’s house. It is still dark. I glance at my watch. It is close to three in the morning. We’re going to be out all night again. My parents are going to kill me.

But I can’t worry about that right now. I have the feeling that Kyle is going to be able to provide us with some invaluable information - if he would just get here.

I begin to tap my fingers against the steering wheel impatiently. My chin is propped on my fist on the window-sill. As I stare out the window my thoughts return to Liz.

God, I hope she’s okay. I reach out with my thoughts, still cannot connect with her at all. It’s like she is completely gone from this world. I close my eyes, trying to shut out the thought of what a world without Liz would be like.

I cannot handle thinking about it right now. I need to focus, need to concentrate on gathering my energy because I am aware that there is only one way to make sure that Tess had not turned Kyle’s brain to mush like she did Alex’s.

I have to go in there and heal him. And it is going to take all of my concentration and strength. Because this is one healing I cannot afford to screw up.

"Max, what are you doing?" Maria suddenly whispers from beside me. I open my eyes, glance at her. She is staring at my hand on the steering wheel like there is something wrong with it.

I realize that my fingers are still tapping.

I consciously try and stop them, know that I am freaking her out. Hell, I’m beginning to freak myself out.

Because I cannot make my fingers stop.



posted on 17-Feb-2002 3:50:14 PM
Part 22 – Another time, Another life – Section I

Somewhere in Ontario, Canada, December 2001

“Are we almost there?” Maria complained from the back seat. “I really have to pee.”

“You’re not the one who’s eight months pregnant.” Liz reminded her from the front seat, where she was sitting beside Michael, who was doing his best to completely ignore Maria and Liz.

Liz knew that he was still mad at her, still angry that she had not listened to him and stayed behind in Roswell. But if it was true – that Isabel had really finally found Max and Tess…

There was absolutely no way that she was being left behind, pregnant or not.

“Michael…” Maria whined.

“There’s a town coming up in about ten kilometres.” Michael snapped. “Just hold your horses. Jeez.”

But Liz was aware of the way in which he glanced at her with concern, felt the car speed up slightly, which was saying something because he was already driving well over the speed limit. It had been easy to let the speedometer creep up on the prairies near Winnipeg, which they had finally left about half an hour before. They were well into the rocky, tree-lined Canadian Shield now, but Michael hadn’t slowed down, determined to reach the small town of Wade before dark.

They were meeting up with Isabel in the summer resort town of Kenora and would then push on to Wade, which was well north and much less civilized, if what Isabel had told them on the phone was true.

With every mile, Liz knew they were getting close. She could almost sense Max again, in a way she hadn’t since she had been sure that he had left the planet more than six months before. She could feel every inch of her body beginning to tingle with anticipation, mixed with a heavy dose of fear.

She could also feel her baby becoming restless, as though she knew that she was soon going to be reunited with her father. The baby had not been a kicker until very recently – the last twelve hours to be exact. It had worried Liz for a while, but somehow she had eventually just realized that her daughter’s temperament was just like that – serene and patient, waiting calmly for the time when she would make her grand entrance.

While Liz could almost feel her baby’s excitement, they still didn’t know how Max was going to react when they found him. He had obviously made a very concerted effort not to be found, if the boonies they were driving through were any indication.

Isabel had left Roswell in mid-September, the only one who could feasibly get out of town without creating a large fuss with their parents because she had already finished high school after. Not for the first time, her early graduation was proving to be a blessing in disguise. She had dropped out of community college, telling the Evans’ that she needed a semester off, needed some time to get over the fact that her brother was apparently gone for good.

Michael probably could have gone as well, but he had never even contemplated it, telling Liz that it was his responsibility to look after her. It had brought grateful tears to her eyes. In fact, Michael had even suggested that she might want to move in with him until she got on her feet after the baby’s birth. He was taking the role of protector so seriously, it was almost amusing. Liz and Maria took great joy in teasing him about it.

Liz tried not to dwell on the fact that Michael was still so furious at Max for staying on Earth and not telling any of them, it was another reason he didn’t want to play a large role in finding him. She preferred to think about how cohesive the group was now, how bonded they were about everything else.
It was only on the subject of Max that they disagreed.

Isabel had reacted in exactly the opposite way. She wanted to find Max more than anything, mainly to give him a large piece of her mind Liz suspected. And so, using a combination of dreamwalking – there were very rare occasions when Max was apparently not blocking Isabel – and information she had bullied out of Pam Troy, she had managed to track him as far as North-Western Ontario by the end of November.

She had rented a hotel room in Kenora since and had spent her days questioning the locals for any sign of her brother and Tess. It was a small town, much smaller than Roswell, especially in the winter months, and the two newcomers had been noticed, particularly because the young blonde had been so obviously pregnant when they had arrived.

It had only been last week that Isabel had managed to actually find them though. Liz, Michael and Maria had been on the first plane to Winnipeg, the closest city with an international airport.

Isabel had not confronted the missing pair yet, but she had learned that they were living simply, in a cottage
North of Kenora in the tiny town of Wade. They kept to themselves, but word had filtered out that Tess’s baby had been born.

Isabel had tracked the Native-Canadian mid-wife who had delivered Max’s first-born. It had not surprised any of them that Tess and Max had chosen not to allow the baby to be born in a hospital.

The baby had been a boy.

Tess had been right about that. But, apparently, she had been far from right about the baby being unable to survive on Earth – because from what Isabel had heard, he had been born healthy and that both mother and baby had come through the ordeal with little problem.

It had not surprised Liz at all. Tess had always been good at lying. Her entire plot had been to force Max back to Antar, to throw him into the power of his enemies. In fact, her entire gift centred on deception and deceit, because it was what mind-warping inherently did.

It was almost a relief that the baby had been a boy and born before Liz’s own. Liz knew now for certain, having connected with the baby several times, whether by accident or conscious will, that her unborn child was a girl. Her child was not the heir, was not the first-born, would be safe.

The one thing Liz could not understand was why Max had chosen to remain with Tess after his son’s birth. He had to have known that his friends and family had wanted him at home, his child too. He could not have truly believed that all of them were better off without him.

Something had clearly gone very wrong. And they would soon find out exactly what.

Michael was pulling the rental car off the highway, the gas station sign flashing the information that food was also available. “Hungry?” He muttered to Liz as he came around to Liz’s side of the car and literally pulled her to her feet.

“I could eat something.” Liz admitted.

As Liz and Maria used the restroom, Michael apparently decided to purchase the entire stock of the small restaurant. Liz exchanged an amused glance with her best friend when they returned to the car where a miniature mountain of food awaited them. But she didn’t comment, simply ate until she was full and managed, somehow, to fall into a light doze.

It was fully dark when she came back to consciousness.

The car was stopped again. Liz felt a flash of annoyance that no one had woken her up. She could see that they had pulled off the highway again, were on a small, unpaved road, which seemed to lead nowhere, the headlights streaming off into nothingness.

Michael and Maria were outside the car, arguing about something.

“…don’t think it’s a good idea. She’s going to be devastated!”

“She has a right to know.” Maria replied. “If anyone can help him, it’s Liz. And I refuse to allow you and Isabel to go in there alone.”

“We’re the only ones they won’t kill.” Michael retorted.

“Michael, of course they will! They don’t need you!”

“Izzy’s been safe!”

“Because they don’t know she’s here you idiot!” Maria almost screeched back.

Liz sighed wearily, wondered where Isabel was. She opened the car door, managed to hoist herself to her feet. “You might as well tell me.” She told Michael and Maria wryly. They were both now scowling in her direction. “I know there’s something now.”

“Liz, you’re never going to believe who’s up here.” Maria moved towards her, her expression panicky. “They just arrived about five days ago apparently. Lonnie and Rath!”

Liz felt her heart enter her throat. Max had told her all about how Rath and Lonnie had been willing to sell him out. He had even suspected, after they had tried to kill him in New York, that they had been the ones who had taken out Zan.

“Are they hurting him?” Liz asked weakly. And as a secondary question, “Why are they here?”

Just then a familiar form appeared in the light thrown by the headlights. It was Isabel, her hair in tight braids, and a winter hat covering her head. It was only then that Liz realized how cold it was. She pulled her insignificant jacket more tightly around her body. It was only seconds before Michael’s hand was on her back, sending a pulse of warmth through her.

“Thank you.” She smiled at him. Moving forward, she hugged Isabel tightly. Isabel moved back, stared down in amazement at Liz’s large belly. She touched it almost reverently.

“She’s so big!”

“It’s almost time Isabel.” Liz replied calmly. “But this baby isn’t going to be born without her father. Where is Max? What’s happening?”

Isabel sighed, rubbed her eyes wearily. For the first time, Liz noticed that her friend looked exhausted. “I’ve managed to get in to see him once by imitating Lonnie. She and Rath leave every day, to get cigarettes I think.” She wrinkled her nose. “They are suffering big-time up here. Anyway, I went in yesterday. I’ve figured out the problem, why Max hasn’t come home.”

“What?” Liz asked breathlessly.

“He thinks he’s Zan.” Isabel shook her head. “When they crashed, he was hurt I guess – unconscious for quite a while.” Liz felt her body tense at this. Isabel must have noticed because she quickly added, “He’s fine now though – physically at least. Nicholas is here too. I think he and Tess have been tag-teaming him, confusing him, pulling out memories of their life on Antar, feeding him lies about living in New York.”
“Why?” Liz demanded. “What do they want?”

Michael jumped in here. “Iz’s figured out that the reason the granolith crashed was because it won’t fly without all four of us. Tess called in Nicholas, who managed to find Rath and Lonnie. They’re all going back.”

“Where have they been all this time?” Maria asked, voicing Liz’s own question, although her heart was beating at about a million miles an hour and she couldn’t seem to make her own voice work.

Max had not deserted them. He didn’t even know he was Max.

He had not deserted her.

Her heart suddenly felt about a thousand times lighter. Because as much as she had constantly argued with the others that there had to be a good reason for Max to stay away, she had always had that little doubt, as much as she had tried to suppress it, that little question, that perhaps he had finally chosen Tess over her. She almost wouldn’t have blamed him, the way she had behaved towards him before he had left.

But she had had nothing to worry about. He was being kept away from them. He was still hers.

And now they had to figure out a way to bring him back to her, to them all, but most especially, to her child.

“I have no idea where they were.” Isabel shrugged. “That whole scene with Tess in New York was obviously fake, since she was working with Nicholas all along. I think they wanted us to assume they were dead.”

“Does anyone else ever get the impression that maybe Tess and Ava were switched?” Maria asked, out of nowhere. “I mean, they’re all bananas, but she seemed pretty normal to me…” She paused. “In spite of all the piercings.”

“Who cares?” Michael demanded. “The point is, we need to get Maxwell out, need to break the mind-warp. Especially if they’re planning to leave.” He looked at Isabel. “I assume they mean to do it soon?”

“I think so.” Isabel replied. “I think the first thing we need to do is get rid of Rath and Lonnie. Then Michael and I can take their places…”

“No.” Liz stepped forward, put her hand on Isabel’s arm. “That’ll take too long. And besides they might be stronger than all of you. They’re a complete four-square. Max will work with them, against you, if he thinks he’s Zan.”

“What, are you planning to go in there?” Isabel raised an eyebrow at Liz, stared meaningfully at her stomach. “Don’t be ridiculous Liz. In fact, I don’t even know why Michael let you come.” She glared at her friend next.

Michael looked aggrieved. “Hey! Don’t blame me! I tried to leave them both behind. But they just henpecked me. I’m the victim here!”

When Maria elbowed him sharply in the ribs, Liz frowned at both of them. “If you truly think I would have stayed behind, then you’re both as crazy as your dupes.” She told them primly. “There’s no point in arguing about it.” She smiled slightly. “And I don’t plan to go in there anyway, but I do think that I’m the only one he’ll listen too. I’m going to bring Max to me.” She looked pointedly at Isabel. “And you’re going to help me.”

To be continued…





posted on 22-May-2002 9:12:07 PM
Part 23

Another Time, Another Life - Section J

Liz shivered against the tree, stared up at the full moon shining down on the lake.

She glanced at her watch, saw that over two hours had passed since Michael and Maria had left to take up their positions. It had to be almost time! It just had to. She wasn’t going to be able to wait much longer. The baby was clearly getting impatient as well. Liz wondered why she had ever worried about the lack of movement from her daughter. She had more than made up for it in the last twenty-four hours!

"What’s taking so long?" Liz whispered to Isabel, who stood nearby, peering through an opening in the thick foliage.

"They don’t keep any sort of set schedule." Isabel replied in an undertone. "But they do leave every night. Apparently whatever night life that pool hall in Wade offers is better than spending the evening freezing in there with Tess for company." Isabel smirked slightly at her own last comment. Liz rolled her eyes.

"Are you sure Max never goes?"

"Positive. He’s being extremely broody apparently. He thinks he’s Zan, but he not very happy with the rest of them right now. He doesn’t want to go back. I got that from what he snarled at me yesterday. I think he’s trying to remember. He seems to know that something is off, but can’t get a grip on it. He needs to be pulled back to reality."

"I guess it would be too much to hope that Tess might go with them?" Liz grimaced.

"I don’t think she’ll leave the baby. That kid is her trump card." Isabel glanced back at her, her expression serious. "We have to try to get him to bring the baby too Liz. He won’t leave without him, even if you do manage to bring Max back."

Liz closed her eyes briefly, but nodded. "I know." She didn’t have time to say anything else though because she felt her cell phone vibrate in her pocket. Fumbling around the jacket Isabel had lent her, which fit almost perfectly due to her pregnant belly, Liz could feel her heart beginning to beat a mile a minute.

"Maria?" She spoke quietly into the phone.

"It’s me." Maria whispered back. "Rath and Lonnie left over an hour ago. We’re in luck Liz. Nicholas went with them. The lights have been out for almost as long too. I think they’re asleep."

"Excellent. So it’s just Tess and Max then." She saw Isabel’s eyes light up. "Okay, we’re going to start. I’m going to try and get Max to bring the baby with him. If I can’t do it though, Michael’s going to have to go in for him. We’ll call when it’s done."

"Be careful Liz. Max is a loose cannon right now. He won’t remember you. He might hurt you."

"He will remember me." Liz replied firmly. "I won’t settle for less. I’ll talk to you soon."

She shut off the phone, placed it back in her pocket. Isabel had moved closer. "Ready?" Liz smiled encouragingly up at the taller girl.

"As ready as I’ll ever be." Isabel sighed. "So, I’ll take you into Max’s dream…if he’s asleep. If he isn’t, you’re going to have to do the astral projection. It’s going to be less efficient because he won’t be able to hear you."

"What about Tess?" Liz bit her lip. "She’s not just going to let him walk out with the baby."

"Liz, this is your plan." Isabel sighed. "You’re going to have to think of something. Play it by ear."

"Okay." Liz took a deep breath, taking Isabel’s outstretched hand. The other held a picture of Max that Liz had pulled out of her wallet earlier. "I’m ready."

She closed her eyes, focused on the connection Isabel had made with her almost instantly. After she was fully connected to Max’s sister, she thrust her thoughts outward.

The same dizziness she had felt come upon her when she had done this when Max’s life had been in danger in New York began to settle over her. She knew it was working….

When Liz opened her eyes again, she was standing in the middle of a fire lit room. The flames created dancing shadows on the wall, catching her attention momentarily. It was another instant before she located Max.

He was sitting in a wooden chair near the hearth, his elbows on his knees, his hands clenched together between them as he stared into the flames, a far-away expression on his face.

Liz felt her heart swell just at the sight of him. His hair was longer, brushing against the collar of his flannel shirt, but in every other way he looked exactly like Max. She didn’t know what she had been expecting - tattoos maybe, an earring, a strange hair-do, something to match what she imagined Zan must have looked like if the other dupes were any clue. But, whoever Max thought himself at the moment, he had not truly become Zan.

Liz frowned slightly. He looked absolutely miserable. As she watched, he glanced over his shoulder towards an open doorway. Through it, she could see Tess asleep on a double bed, a small form beside her.

The baby.

Max’s child. Liz felt a slight smile melt across her face. This was the child she had been planning to raise as her own, before Alex had died, murdered by the tiny baby’s mother…

It would still happen. He was a part of Max. He was her child’s brother. They would not forsake him.

But first she had to bring Max back to her.

Which meant that she had to somehow get his attention. This was obviously an astral projection and not a dreamwalk, so she couldn’t communicate with him…at least she hadn’t been able to last time.

So, instead, she walked right over to him and stood in front of him. Her heart was in her throat, awaiting his reaction.

It fell when there was none. He stared right through her, continued to contemplate the flames as though she wasn’t even there.

Was it not working? Was she not there with him? Was she just watching him somehow?

She frowned in frustration, reached out desperately, ran her hand down his face hopelessly. It wasn’t going to work. Nicholas and Tess had somehow severed their connection - at least on Max’s side. They were going to have to come up with another plan…

Max jerked back against the chair, a shocked expression on his face. His hand came up, grabbed hers where it lay against his cheek. "What the hell?" He exclaimed.

Liz stumbled in shock . She tried to pull back, but he had a firm grip on her - which was literally impossible, since she was nothing but a spirit after all.

"Who are you?" He hissed. "I know you’re here."

"Max…" Liz gasped. He was holding her so tightly, it was beginning to hurt.

He jerked again at the name. "Liz?" His eyes widened. Liz watched in amazement as they suddenly seemed to unfreeze right in front of her. Where they had been dull and lifeless only moments ago, now they shone with awareness.

"MAX!" She practically screamed it. He obviously couldn’t see her, but they were somehow connecting…She had reached him, had brought him back - and she hadn’t even really done anything.

It was only then that Liz became aware of the glow pulsing through her, emanating from her belly.

She realized that she had not done it alone.

"Liz, where are you?" Max demanded.

"I’m right outside. In the woods. Come to me. Bring your son and come!"

"Liz, there’s someone else here." Max whispered. He was still holding her hand, which was obviously invisible to him, but he could feel it. "Who is that?"

Liz knew that there were tears streaming down her face, but she couldn’t stop them. "Max, just bring your son and come. You’ll understand soon enough."

It was then that Liz was hit with a wave of pain so intense, it severed the connection she had made with Max. It felt like her insides were being torn apart. She screamed, saw one instant of panic cross Max’s face and then he was gone.

She came back to herself on her knees in the cold, Isabel’s arm around her in concern. "Liz! What happened?"

Another wave of pain sliced through her. She gasped. "Oh…God! Isabel, help me!" She brought her hands up to her stomach, had to lean forward to try and dampen the pain. She could feel consciousness slipping away.

"Liz!" Isabel was already fumbling with her cell phone. Liz could hear her speaking into it through a miasma of agony. "Get over here! Something’s wrong with Liz…." There was a brief pause. "What? They can’t be back already! Michael…MICHAEL!"

And suddenly Liz knew with utter certainty what was happening. Her daughter was coming…right now.

"Isabel…The baby." Liz managed to choke out. "She’s coming."

She managed to open her eyes, saw the expression of panic that was appearing on Max’s sister’s face. "Oh Liz! She can’t! You have to try and wait!"

Liz started to laugh hysterically. "Wait! Are you insane? She’s tearing me apart! I can’t wait. She’s coming - RIGHT NOW!" This last rose in a screech.

"Liz!" Isabel was laying her back against the hard, cold ground. "Oh God! Oh my God!"

"Liz!" Maria came stumbling out of the woods, dropped to her knees beside her. "Isabel! Get a grip!"

"Where’s Michael?" Isabel demanded. Liz was trying to focus on what was happening around her, but she could feel the desire to push already beginning to take over. Wasn’t labour supposed to be much longer than this?

"He’s distracting Lonnie and Rath. They’re engaged in a blastathon as we speak!" Maria’s voice was beginning to rise hysterically as well. Liz became aware of what sounded like nuclear explosions from nearby. "What are we going to do?"

"We are going to deliver my baby." Liz ground out through clenched teeth. "Because she’s not waiting."
What had happened to her quiet, serene daughter? This was not what Liz had expected the birth of her baby to be like.

She grasped Isabel’s arm, which was still holding her up. "Isabel! Go help Michael! See if Max…" She grit her jaw. "See if he’s coming."

"Did you reach him?" Isabel’s face momentarily lit up with hope.

"I think so…" She closed her eyes, trying to bite back a scream as another contraction tore through her. "Find him!"

"I’m here. What the hell? Liz, what…" He sounded absolutely flabbergasted.

His voice was like music to Liz’s ears. She managed to open her eyes, stared up at him in disbelief. "Max!"

He was already on his knees beside her, staring down at her in complete bafflement. The contraction had ended, giving her a moment of respite. "Liz…What…" He was running his hands over her body, sending warmth and comfort winding through her. The pain was completely forgotten for a moment.

She felt tears fill her eyes. "Max…"

"Liz, what have I done to you?" His hand gently moved a stray strand of hair off her face. "I am so sorry."

Liz grabbed his hand urgently. "Don’t you dare apologize. You came back to me. It’s enough. And I don’t have time to deal with your guilt right now - or with explanations. This baby is coming right now!" She gripped him so tightly, a grimace crossed his face.

It was the last thing of which she was aware before the pain took over again.

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

She drifted back to consciousness slowly, so warm and content, she didn’t want to open her eyes.

"Time to wake up sweetheart. Liz, you have to open your eyes."

But she didn’t want to. She knew that if she did, he would be gone and she would be pregnant and alone, sure that she was never going to see him again.

"Max, just carry her. I have the baby."

"It’s been too long Maria. I’m afraid she’s never going to wake up." And she could hear it - the fear. It laced his words with an urgency that was not unusual for Max - not where she was concerned.

It was only then that the words that had preceded this penetrated her foggy mind.

The baby.

Liz’s eyes snapped open. Max’s beloved face was the first thing she saw, hovering over her with concern. She felt a lump enter her throat. "Max…" Reaching up, feeling extraordinarily weak, she brought her hand to his cheek.

His eyes widened, relief evident. "Liz." He cupped her hand with his, brought it to his lips. "I’m sorry sweetheart. We’re not out of the woods yet. We have to get you out of here."

Although, apparently they were - out of the woods that was. Looking around, Liz recognized the walls of the cabin she had visited with her mind, what seemed like only moments ago.

"Where is she?" Liz whispered, suddenly fearful. She was becoming aware of the emptiness within her. Her baby was gone. "Max, where is she?" She struggled to sit up.

"She’s right here chica." Maria appeared from behind Max, holding a small bundle in her arms. "Perfectly safe." She laid the baby in Liz’s waiting arms.

Tears filled her eyes as she gazed down at the most perfect little face she had ever seen. She reached out a tentative, shaking hand, traced the small nose, the tiny mouth, the perfectly formed little ears. "Hello little one." She breathed, watching in amazement as the baby’s eyes opened, gazing up at her, perfectly serene, dark and wise beyond their years - just like her father’s. "You certainly decided to surprise me." She whispered, dropping a kiss on the baby’s forehead.

"Liz…" She glanced up at Max, who was watching all of this, his dark eyes shining with unshed tears. "I can’t believe you went through this all alone. I am so sorry." He lowered his head, his shame more than obvious.

"Max, it wasn’t your fault." Liz told him firmly. "And you were here for the most important part. You came back to me."

"You brought me back." Max replied, smiling slightly. "I love you so much." He brought his lips gently against hers. She felt her heart almost take flight out of her chest.

She pulled back, smiled up at him, felt the joy that ran through her veins lighting up every part of her. "I love you too. I am so sorry about…about what happened. After Alex…"

His eyes darkened slightly. "We were both to blame. None of it is important now." He kissed her again, this time on the forehead.

"You know what guys…" Maria cut in, sounding sorry. "I hate to break up this reunion, but we need to get out of here. Now."

Max lifted his head. "You’re right. Liz, you have to give the baby back to Maria. I’m going to have to carry you."

Liz shook her head, clutching the baby more tightly against her. "No."

"Liz, please." Max pleaded. "Michael and Isabel are managing to hold them off, just barely. But they’re coming. We have to leave now. You’re too weak to keep her safe."

Liz swallowed. "Fine." She reluctantly allowed Maria to take the baby away from her. "How did we get in here?" Liz asked him as he gently lifted her into his arms, making sure that the blanket she had been under was wrapped firmly around her.

"Michael drove Lonnie and Rath away from the cottage." Max explained as he moved towards the door of the cabin. "Isabel joined him further down the road."

"Where’s Tess?" Liz demanded. "Isn’t she helping them?"

A shadow crossed Max’s face. "She’s gone. She wasn’t here when we brought you in."

Liz felt her heart drop. "Max…your son!"

"He’s gone too." He was trying to hide the concern in his voice, but she could hear it. "When our connection was broken so suddenly…I just reacted. I wasn’t thinking. I came after you, left him with her. She was still asleep…I never imagined that things could spin so completely out of control so quickly."

"I’m sorry Max." And she was.

"It’s okay. We’ll find them. She can’t have gone far."

They were standing at the door. Headlights swept across Liz and Max’s faces within seconds. Liz glanced back. Maria stood closely behind Max, the baby clutched firmly in her arms.

"Get in!" Michael bellowed from the vehicle he had rented what seemed like days before. Isabel was in the passenger seat, frantically scanning the woods for a sign of their enemies. "They haven’t fired on us in a few minutes, but they’re still out there." He elaborated as Max gently deposited Liz on the backseat, made sure that Maria was in with the baby and then climbed in as well.

"We’ll come back." Max decided. "Get us out of here Michael. We’ll make sure that Liz and the baby are safe and then we’ll come back and finish this."

"Max…" Isabel twisted around in the front seat. "Are you sure you’re okay? They’re not still controlling you?"

Max scowled. "I’m sure. I don’t know how they’ve managed to do it for so long. I remembered all of you, but I couldn’t act on any of it. It was like they had trapped me inside my own mind. Tess is a hell of a lot more powerful than we ever knew. Once Nicholas came aboard, I had no chance at all." He smiled over Maria at Liz. "Until Liz."

"And Serena." Liz added. She had taken her daughter back from Maria, was still staring down at her in complete wonder. She didn’t understand why the baby wasn’t crying. She had to be able to sense the almost contagious panic that still existed in the vehicle.

But she just blinked her long-lashed amber eyes calmly, sighed slightly and then went to sleep.

"Serena?" Max’s voice was low. He and Maria had switched places now. "I like it." He brought his arm around Liz’s shoulder, pulled her tightly against him, kissing the top of her head.

Liz knew that she shouldn’t be so completely happy. They were running for their lives after all. They had lost Max’s son.

But Max was back. Her daughter had come, safe and healthy, if not necessarily serenely, and she knew that somehow, everything was finally coming together.

It would work out. It had to.

She was trying to keep her eyes open, but exhaustion was settling over her like a blanket. She allowed her eyes to drift closed and she fell asleep against Max, hope warming her from the inside.

She could not have known, after all, that things were about to get worse.


posted on 22-May-2002 9:15:06 PM
Part 24 - "Shelter" - Max POV

They’re crowded into the smallest spaces
While outside all of nature cries.
It’s known to be cruel and unfair
But there is no place to hide.
Oh, I’ve seen a part of people that I never really want to share
Oh, I’ve seen a part of people that I never knew was there.

Shelter, give them shelter from the coming storm.
Shelter, give them shelter from the coming storm.

I can’t sleep haunted by their faces
The sadness in their eyes.
It hurts so much to see them helpless,
It makes me want to cry.
But there is still much left unanswered
For so many innocent lives,
They close the doors and are letting no one in
And only the strong will survive…

Shelter, give them shelter from the coming storm
Shelter, give them shelter from the coming storm.

I’ve seen the anger and I’ve seen all the dreams
And I’ve watched an existence torn apart
And though I may seem helpless
I will do all I can do.

Oh I’ve seen a part of people that I never want to share
Oh I’ve seen a part of people that I never knew was there.

Shelter - give them shelter from the coming storm
Shelter - give them shelter from the coming storm.


Sarah McLachlan

Maria and I are both waiting impatiently on the Valentis’ front porch when the Sheriff finally arrives. I am pacing while she sits on the top step, her arms wrapped around her knees, one foot tapping.

I rub a hand across my face in relief. For some reason I was beginning to have visions of Kyle instantly dead because we had realized he was still being mindwarped. But I can see Kyle sitting in the passenger seat beside his dad, a scowl of annoyance on his face. He is out of the car and in my face the minute it rolls to a stop. "What are we doing here Evans? That maniac is still out there with Liz!"

I’m not sure which maniac he’s referring to, as it could be either Tess or Sean, but I try not to get irritated. After all, Kyle has no idea that he is still being mindwarped - that I have called them all back here because with every passing minute the possibility that his brain is about to short circuit becomes more and more possible.

Maria and I spent the minutes waiting for the others trying to figure out exactly what Tess is still hiding from us with her powers. Because there is obviously something, especially if Kyle has been allowed to remember some things and not others.

We haven’t even broached the fact that I am obviously still being controlled as well.

The concept that Michael might be right about the night I spent with Tess - that it never happened at all - it is looming large in my mind, making my stomach clench with anticipation for what we will find out when I connect with Kyle.

There is also the possibility that Tess is not doing any of this anymore. The expression on Sean Deluca’s face then he touched me…

I am becoming more and more convinced that I am not insane. He is Tess’s son, back from the future. I am almost positive of it now. And if he is my son…Then I did sleep with her and she mindwarped some other lie, one that I was going to soon remember.

Unless he just thinks he is - my son that is. There was a baby, but maybe it wasn’t mine. Because the possibilities of what the block on Kyle’s mind could be hiding…

The abrupt change in the way that Kyle and Tess acted around each other after the Prom does not completely change my budding hypothesis either. The way Kyle suddenly started proclaiming that Tess was like a sister to him - that had been just plain weird. They had not behaved like siblings before Alex’s death. In fact, they had acted entirely like two people with a major attraction to each other. I think Tess might have been falling for him despite herself.

But everything changed again when I started to remember my life with her on Antar.

I shake my head impatiently. There is no point in speculating. If I can manage to break through the barrier on Kyle’s mind, we will know for sure soon.

Just because I want my speculations to be true with all my heart doesn’t mean that they are. And there is still the fact that Liz saw flashes of me with Tess. The baby might not be mine, but there seems to be little doubt that I did sleep with her.

It is just better to wait and find out for sure. And, yet, I cannot control the anticipatory pounding of my heart.

Hope. You feel it or you don’t. And I am beginning to feel it again - for the first time in a long time.

"Kyle, I have some bad news for you." I tell him now, grimacing. I see the Sheriff’s (I can never stop thinking of him as the Sheriff, even though he hasn’t been for months now) face darken. He clearly recognizes the tone of my voice. This is serious.

"Did you find her?" Kyle demands, his eyes suddenly wide with fear. "Is she hurt?" I see him glance at Maria in confusion, as though already knowing that we have not found Liz, because Maria and I are both entirely too calm.

"We heard from Jennifer Coleman again." I explain gently. I can see a scowl beginning to appear on his face again. He absolutely hates whenever I have to tell him something, that there is something I know that he doesn’t, especially if it concerns him.

He hates me. We both know it.

"So?" Kyle replies, sounding more annoyed.

The Sheriff steps forward at this point. "Max, just tell us." I can hear the fear in his voice.

And so I do. "Kyle, she recognized you in that picture from the Prom. She says that you were in Las Cruces with Alex. She saw you with him."

"What? That’s impossible!" Kyle exclaims. "I would remem…" He cuts himself off abruptly, dawning comprehension crossing his face. "Oh crap." It is a simple statement but basically sums up my exact feelings on this entire situation. "She’s still doing it, isn’t she?" He whispers, licking his lips in horror.

"I don’t know if it’s her." I tell him, because I don’t. "It could be Sean."

For some reason, I really don’t want it to be Tess. I might hate her guts, but I almost think this will be easier on Kyle if it is Sean controlling him and not Tess. Because as much as he wants to, I don’t think Kyle hates Tess. It is just something on his face whenever her name comes up, like he is trying desperately to deny his true feelings where she is concerned.

He doesn’t hate her, and he hates himself because he doesn’t, because he should hate her, because of what she did to Alex.

And because he has to live with himself, he chooses to hate me enough to cover all of it.

Of course, the Sheriff understands the implications of all of this almost immediately. "Max, is my son’s life in danger?" He demands. I see Kyle’s eyes widen, as though the thought hadn’t even dawned on him.

"I don’t know." I reply honestly. "But I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it isn’t." I look the Sheriff right in the eye. "Nothing is going to happen to him."

I can see that Valenti understands that, in the end, this has nothing to do with Kyle. Kyle and I are will never be friends. We can be allies, but not friends. We do not understand each other at all. But the Sheriff and I always have. Ever since that first encounter, at the Crash Festival, we have always understood each other. For good or ill.

I will not let his son die. Not after all he has done for us.

Which means that I am going to have to make Kyle Valenti trust me.

"Kyle, I’m going to have to connect with you." I tell him quietly. "I have to try and break the warp and fix whatever damage has been done in there."

His eyes narrow. "I don’t particularly want you wandering around in my head Evans."

"Kyle…" The Sheriff places a firm hand on his son’s shoulder. "There is no choice here son."

Kyle presses his lips together, looks away, down the road, as though not wanting to give in gracefully. I know he will eventually, but he won’t do it right away. But, as I watch the emotions play across his face, I see hope suddenly appear as his eyes focus on something in the distance.

I follow his gaze, see Kyle’s Mustang approaching at break-neck speed.

"Isabel." He says triumphantly. "She can do it. I’d be okay with her in there."

I look at Maria, who rolls her eyes. I see her mutter "men" under her breath.

"Kyle, Isabel can’t heal you." She tells him impatiently. "Stop being such an idiot and let Max help you."

Kyle turns his frown on her, but sighs in resignation.

But Kyle has actually given me a good idea. Bringing Isabel would probably be really helpful. First of all, she does have more experience with the mind, through her dreamwalks.

Plus it would also help to have some back-up if I discover anything in there. Because I know that I am getting too close to this. I am not sure I am going to be able to control my emotions enough to be able to understand what I see when I connect with Kyle. If Izzy is there, she will be able to watch as an impartial bystander.

"What’s going on?" Michael demands as he and Isabel join us moments later. Maria goes immediately into his arms, which makes me swallow as a pang of loneliness for Liz falls over me.

But I can’t worry about her right now. I have to ignore the knawing fear in the pit of my stomach. I know by now that I am not going to be able to find her until I know the entire truth about what happened to Alex.

I am beginning to understand that this is what it’s all about after all - it’s why Alex visited me in my dreams. He knew that there was something that we all needed to know if we were going to win against our enemies. And it is time to find out what that is.

Kyle Valenti is the key. If he dies, we will never know.

Maria is in the middle of explaining to Michael and Isabel what is going on. I let my gaze meet my sister’s. I can see that she knows immediately that I plan to heal Kyle’s mind - that I am not going to let what happened to Alex happen to Valenti’s son. I see the acceptance on her face, but I can also see that she understands how dangerous this could potentially be. I have no idea what I am going to find in there. I could just make it worse.

She will come with me though. I have absolutely no doubts about that.

Minutes later, we are all gathered in Valenti’s living room.

Michael is sitting at the dining room table, looking in the opposite direction from where we are going to do the connection. I know that he is almost as scared as Isabel and I are. If something goes wrong, he could lose both of us at once. I don’t think he would be particularly happy to see something happen to Kyle either. They aren’t friends, but I know that Michael trusts him, and also would not want Valenti to lose anyone else close to him.

Dealing with Tess’s betrayal had been difficult enough for our father-figure. Losing his real son…

Unacceptable.

Maria is sitting beside Michael, holding his hand, her head against his shoulder. She is watching me intently, her eyes trusting. She knows that this is the only way that we are ever going to be able to find Liz. She is confident that I will not rest until I find her best friend and that this is the first step.

The Sheriff is standing near the door, his jaw clenched. His gaze has not left Kyle, who is stretched out on the couch, staring unseeing at the ceiling. Kyle seems resigned, is still more annoyed by all of this than anything.

I swallow, move towards him.

We considered doing this in Kyle’s bedroom, but the implications of that had been too heavy.

It was where Alex had died after all, killed by the exact same thing that could be presently killing Kyle.

No, we could not try this in there.

The plan is simple. Isabel is going to connect with Kyle first, is going to try and see what is being hidden behind the mindwarp and then she is going to bring me in to clean up whatever mess Tess has left behind.

We will know the truth about Alex’s death once and for all after this.

My hope that we will know even more than that…I have to let go of it. Because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stand the disappointment if I’m wrong about what I think went down between Tess and Kyle.

My gaze meets Kyle’s for one long, charged minute. His eyes narrow, but he has accepted this. We are bonded now, whether he likes it or not.

"Ready Max?" Isabel asks quietly, glancing at the Sheriff in concern.

I nod.

She takes a deep breath, places both of her hands on Kyle’s temples and stares right into his eyes.

It feels like forever, waiting for my sister to take my hand. The seconds pass like hours…each one ticking away on the grandfather clock in the corner like a death knell.

I can see Isabel’s eyes roll back up in her head, as though whatever information she is receiving is pounding into her mind at such a speed that she is struggling to get a handle on it. She gasps, begins to breathe shallowly, her forehead crinkling as she concentrates on maintaining control.

Kyle is still staring straight at the ceiling, but an emptiness has appeared on his face, as though there is nothing inside his head anymore.

The Sheriff moves forward from his sentry position, about to pull my sister away from his son. Michael jumps to his feet and pushes him back against the wall, gently but firmly. "It’s okay." He mutters soothingly.

Suddenly I don’t see anything - on this plain anyway. Isabel has reached out blindly, grabbing my hand, as though for a lifeline.

Instantly, we are connected.

And I understand what was giving her such problems.

The flashes are so screwed up and dark, I literally stumble to my knees beside the couch.

All I can see are eyes…everywhere. Ice blue, cold, piercing into me like arrows.

Oh hell. Tess has been in here all right. And recently too. But I can feel the presence of someone else as well. Someone even darker than my past life bride, someone who’s hatred is so intense, it makes my blood run cold.

I become slowly aware of my sister’s voice as she tries to break through whatever it is that is blocking us from completely connecting with Kyle.

Max! I don’ t know if we’re going to be able to do this. It’s like chaos in here!

I don’t answer her immediately. Because I am pushing against whatever it is that is trying to stop me from getting any flashes.

Whoever is doing this is strong - stronger even than Nicholas was when he went into my mind last fall, which until this moment, seemed impossible.

How can Tess be this powerful and we never knew?

It cannot be her still in control here - but, whoever is doing this is definitely using blocks that she set up. The basis is hers though.

We need to do it together Iz! I call out to my sister.

I cannot feel Kyle anywhere. It is like he is totally gone - almost as if his mind was booby-trapped, set to implode on itself if anyone tried to interfere with the mindwarp.

But I don’t have time to reflect on this at all. I can feel Isabel’s presence tickling the back of my mind as she struggles to connect more closely with me so that I can use her energy to fight the warp.

Now! It feels like she is shrieking right next to my ear, which I guess she sort of is. And it certainly makes me react - instantly in fact.

With one gigantic push, I am in. I feel relief spiral through me as the flashes begin.

*Flash

Kyle as a very young boy, playing catch with his father.

*Flash

Kyle sobbing on his bed after his mother left his father.

Flash*

Kyle throwing his first touchdown on the JV squad at West Roswell.

Flash*

Kyle pulling Liz into a janitor’s closet and kissing her for the first time.

Flash*

Kyle staring at Liz in sophomore history. She is turned around in her seat, whispering something to me.

Flash*

Liz breaking up with Kyle on the day her grandmother died.
I can feel his hatred for me in that moment and it almost makes me break the connection…but I feel Isabel’s comforting presence and hold on.

Flash*

Kyle waking up in his father’s arms after I had healed him.

Flash*

Kyle staring in shock at Tess as she snaps the band of his boxers.

Flash*

"Let me tell you Buddha-boy… I’ve got a lamp that needs some serious trimming."

Flash*

Kyle and Liz laughing together as they lie under the covers of her bed, waiting for me to appear at her window.
If I ever had any doubt when Liz told me that they hadn’t slept together, I have none now, as Kyle’s memories confirm it.

Flash*

Kyle watching Tess with admiration as she places a casserole on the table.

Flash*

Kyle staring at me as he drops the gandarium crystals at my feet in disdain.

Flash*

Kyle and Alex trapped in the cave under Frasier Woods, singing American Pie, discussing whether they would change what they knew about aliens or not. I can feel that Kyle is thinking about Tess when he decides that he is glad he knows.


It is then that the flashes change, become hazy, as though I am watching underwater. They are the memories that have been blocked I realize. We are bringing them back.

Flash*

"I won’t be second best Tess."

Tess coming towards Kyle, a slight smile on her face, kissing him lightly. "I don’t care about Max. It’s
you I want." They are making out on the bed in Kyle’s room. I can feel that he is in love with her.

Flash*

Kyle watching Alex, who is hunched over a computer, typing furiously. Tess appears at his shoulder, lays her hand on his arm.

Flash*

Kyle, against his will, telling Tess that he considers her to be a sister.
I can feel his confusion as he says it, because he knows that he is not really thinking it.

Flash*

Kyle, Alex’s body over his shoulder, placing it in Tess’s car, his expression completely blank.

Flash*

Kyle watching me kiss Tess goodbye in the doorway of his house, the morning after we conceived our son. His pain is extremely sharp, but just as suddenly muted, as Tess’s eyes focus on him watching us.


The flashes clear as we return to memories that Kyle has already retrieved: remembering the mindwarp that had hidden his part in Alex’s murder, watching the spaceship activated by the granolith take off into the sky, concern about Liz and fear that he is going to die when he realizes that his mind is still not completely his own.

As the flashes end, I am able to focus beyond them. I can see the tissue of his brain in my mind’s eye, can see the holes that have been created by Tess’s mind-control. I concentrate on healing, on making those parts of his cerebral cortex match the healthy areas.

When I am sure that his brain is healthy again, I break the connection quickly, eager to begin dissecting everything that I have seen in there.

I open my eyes to the sight of Kyle already sitting up, a shell-shocked expression on his face.

Our eyes meet. I can see the pain that he must be feeling reflected in his.

"I’m sorry." I tell him softly.

"Max?" Isabel’s hand is on my shoulder. "Is everything okay?"

"He’s all right." I look over at the Sheriff. The expression on his face says that he doesn’t believe me. I don’t blame him. Kyle looks extremely green at the moment. "At least physically." I amend.

I move to stand, but Kyle’s hand shoots out and grabs me by the arm. I turn to stare at him in surprise. "Evans, I saw some things." He says flatly. I can see that he is struggling to deal with his own memories, which are still filtering back into his consciousness, but he is pushing them aside for the moment.

I don’t reply, just wait for him to say whatever it is he needs to.

"I…" He closes his eyes for a moment. "I know you love Liz. I know that you care about my father." He pauses, opens his eyes and stares right at me, sincerity shining from his face. "I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick to you."

"You had every right." I shrug.

He frowns, looks away. "Well, I’m still sorry about it." He replies gruffly. He looks beyond me, at Isabel. I turn to see my sister watching us both with a strange expression on her face.

"What did you see Iz?" I ask, not daring to hope too hard that I was not the only one who had seen one very specific incident occur between Tess and Kyle in those blocked flashes.

Her eyes are wide, unsure if she is allowed to be happy about what she is about to say or not. I think she is just as aware as I am that, while the news is great for me, it isn’t necessarily what Kyle might want to hear.

"Kyle and Tess spent the night together." She admits quietly. "Last fall, when Courtney was around."

I frown at the obscure reference, but I quickly realize that my sister doesn’t know that it was also right around the time that the future version of myself had come back to get Liz to change the future. Isabel and Michael still don’t know about that. I have been keeping it to myself, unsure how my sister and best friend are going to react to the fact that Liz basically destroyed her own future - and mine- to save them.

But I know now that I am going to have to tell them soon. It isn’t fair to keep secrets. Not any longer. We all had to know exactly what was going on with each other, all the time. Tess had used secrets against us after all.

It’s not the time now though. Because if Kyle and Tess did spend the night together, it means that I might not be the father of Tess’s baby at all.

It doesn’t mean that I didn’t sleep with her, but it does mean that Tess’s declarations about the baby dying are probably also false. If it is Kyle’s, it is half human - actually more than half-human if you take into account that Tess is mostly human as well, as much as she doesn’t want that to be the case.

And why would Tess bother to block the memory of she and Kyle having made love if there wasn’t some specific reason? She needed it hidden, so that I would believe the baby was mine.

Kyle is staring at Isabel, his mouth agape. I can see the specific memory to which we are referring beginning to filter through his mind, because his face turns an interesting shade of red.

"Oh Lord." This is the Sheriff, the realization of what this means hitting him like a ton of bricks. He had joined Kyle on the couch, his arm firmly around his son’s shoulders in relief that he was okay. Now he closes his eyes in dismay.

"What about Alex?" Maria asks suddenly. "Kyle, were you with him in Las Cruces?"

An expression of grief crosses Kyle’s face as he nods. "I was there. She used me as her bully boy when Sean wasn’t around. I made him do what she wanted."

I can see that this fact is going to haunt Kyle Valenti for the rest of his life.

"Max, what do we do now?" Isabel asks quietly as we move away from the Sheriff and Kyle in order to give them a chance to adjust to the way things have changed abruptly. Their stake in the search for Tess’s baby is now much deeper, and it is going to take a lot of soul searching on their parts to figure out if they are willing to take on a child if the baby does prove to be Kyle’s, which with every passing moment seems more likely.

After all, it was practically a full-term baby when I connected with it. It makes no sense that it would be mine. We had only slept together a couple of days before. But if Kyle and Tess had slept together in the autumn of our junior year, than she would have been about seven and a half months pregnant in May.

I am a little ashamed at how much I want the baby to be Kyle’s. I still care about it, but my son is one thing standing between Liz and I. If the baby is not mine, maybe - just maybe - she might be able to forgive me.

But reality comes crashing back quickly. Even if the baby isn’t mine, it doesn’t resolve the issue of the flashes. Liz will never be able to deal with that.

"We’re going to find Liz." I tell my sister firmly.

"But Max, there was nothing in Kyle’s mind to tell us where Tess took her." Isabel replies, sounding perplexed.

I know that my sister is right, but I also know that time is running out. We need to find Liz and quickly.

"Where do we even start?" Michael and Maria have joined us. The question is Michael’s and it has barely left his mouth before a shadow nearby moves.

"I can tell you."

Maria shrieks slightly. My heart starts to pound unevenly in my chest as the intruder steps into the light thrown by the single lamp shining on the side table.

For one, heart-stopping, moment, I think she is Tess - that my past life wife has actually returned to face the music.

Her blonde hair is short, streaked with many colours, quite different from when we first met her in the Fall. But her lip is still pierced and her eyes are still wide and innocent, if a little more knowledgeable than they had been then.

Ava.

"What are you doing here?" I ask her quietly. Isabel is clenching my forearm in shock, her nails digging into my skin painfully, but I don’t shake her off.

"I got the answers I went looking for." She says, her eyes shining at me strangely, in a way that doesn’t make me feel entirely comfortable. "I belong with you."




[ edited 2 time(s), last at 11-Jun-2002 7:00:35 PM ]
posted on 22-May-2002 9:16:14 PM
Part 25 - Another Time, Another Life - Section K

June 2002, Roswell, New Mexico

"Michael called from Dallas." Maria said as Liz shook her keys and inserted the correct one into the door of the small apartment she and Max shared. "He and Isabel are close to tracking Ava down. They think she’s avoiding them though."

Liz sighed, wearily removing the Crashdown antenna from her head as she wandered into the small front hallway and almost tripped over Serena’s stroller. She frowned, folding it up and shaking her head, concerned at Max’s unusual forgetfulness. But he had other things to think about of course. "I wonder why she’s doing that?"

It had been close to a month since Isabel and Michael had headed out on their search for Ava. They had waited until Michael graduated from high school, which Max had insisted upon, although Michael had wanted to go sooner. They had traced her to an address in Lousiana through an old post card she had sent Liz and had quickly managed to follow her to Texas. They had not had any leads in a week or so though.

Max had insisted that they keep trying. He was taking Liz’s warning about the need for a complete four square seriously, especially since he knew that there was no way Tess was ever going to return to Roswell.

She had told him as much in the letter she had sent him recently, taunting him with the fact that Sean had spoken his first word, that it had been "Daddy…" and that he had said it to Rath.

"Michael thinks that she might think that they’re Lonnie and Rath. He’s felt her trying to connect with him, to find out for sure."

"I don’t blame her for being careful. Max is sure that Lonnie and Rath will go after her eventually to make sure that we never manage to make up a complete four square. They must have been shocked by how easily Michael and Isabel were able to hold them off in Wade. The fact that they never turned up again when the three of them went back to the cabin to find Sean seems to indicate that." Liz shook her head. "But I really hope they find her. It will be one less thing for Max to worry about."

Maria just nodded in agreement, continuing into the living room, but stopped abruptly, causing Liz’s eyes to widen and her heart to thump erratically. But the affection in Maria’s voice when she spoke made Liz realize that nothing was wrong. "He doesn’t look very worried right now Liz," Maria whispered over her shoulder.

Liz moved up beside her, a slight smile appearing on her face. "He sleeps almost all the time when he’s home Maria. He feels so bad about it, but the baby could care less. She just wants to be with him."

"I can see that." Maria replied softly, laughing slightly.

Max was sprawled on the couch on his back, sound asleep, Serena curled up on his chest, her tiny thumb firmly in her mouth. Her father had his arm wrapped around her, holding her in place. The baby’s eyes were open, but she did not seem the least bit interested in moving, even when she caught sight of Liz and Maria.

"Kitchen." Liz mouthed, moving past Maria and gently placing a pillow against Max to hold Serena in place. She kissed the baby lightly on the top of her dark head, watched with satisfaction as her daughter closed her amber eyes and seemed to drift off. Liz stroked a hand lovingly down Max’s face before joining her best friend.

"God Liz, he looks exhausted." Maria commented seriously as Liz put the kettle on the stove. "He’s got to stay home more. He’s burning himself out."

Liz just sighed again. "Maria, he’s not going to stop until he finds Sean."

"He’s not going to be any good to that kid if he runs himself into an early grave." Maria replied.

Liz swallowed, felt tears filling her eyes. "Don’t you think I know that? But we lost him Maria! He’s stuck with that murdering witch and Max has to find him."

Maria was at her side in an instant. "I’m sorry chica. I know this is awful for both of you. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard! Why can’t Max connect with him? Find him that way? It doesn’t make any sense!"

"He’s tried. But there’s just nothing. It’s almost like Sean doesn’t exist anymore. But we know he does because of the pictures Tess keeps sending."

Maria scowled. "She is such a bitch. God! I wish we had killed her when we had the chance."

"Maria, don’t say that!" Liz reprimanded. "It’s what they would do." She added, referring to Lonnie and Rath and Nicholas and Tess. "We are not going to turn into them."

Maria took a deep breath. "You’re right. I’m sorry. But Liz, if we don’t kill them someday, they’re never going to stop coming after us. You have to see that."

Liz stared at the professional photograph stuck to the fridge that they had had done just last week. It was actually a proof, one of several they had to pick their prints from. Her baby daughter’s innocent face smiled out at her. "I know."

And she did. After they found Sean, they were going to have to deal with their enemies once and for all. Serena would never be safe as long as they were alive.

"Let’s talk about something more cheerful." Maria broke the tense silence that had settled over the kitchen. "Like wedding plans. You and Max are still planning to drive to Vegas next week, aren’t you? At least, that’s what your mom told my mom yesterday."

Liz swallowed, wiped her eyes. "We were going to, but I think it’s off. Max is going to Los Angeles tomorrow. It’s where the last letter Tess sent was postmarked from."

"Oh Liz." Maria said, sounding disappointed.

"It’ll happen eventually Maria." Liz replied impatiently. "We just don’t have time right now. I have to work twelve hour shifts to support the three of us and I need to start planning for the move in the fall."

"So, you’re still going then?"

"I need an education." Liz shrugged. "Northwestern is the only place that offered a full scholarship. Plus, Chicago is central. It will be easier for Max to go off on his trips from there."

"Liz, you’re not saying that you don’t think you’ll have found Sean by the fall?" Maria sounded shocked. Liz didn’t blame her. It was the first time she had openly admitted that she was beginning to doubt that they would ever find Max’s son, her daughter’s brother.

Liz swallowed, faced the sink and clutched the counter, trying to hide her face from Maria.

Because the guilt was about enough to kill her. If she hadn’t gone into labour when she had, Max never would have left the baby with Tess. Tess never would have had a chance to escape and that innocent little boy wouldn’t currently be in the hands of a madwoman.

But she had to be the strong one. She could not let anyone know that she didn’t think that they were ever going to find Sean. Max needed her encouragement to keep him going because with every day that passed without that little boy, with every fruitless trip chasing down shadows, Max was becoming more and more desperate.

And with desperation, the unthinkable was beginning to appear very probable.

No one but Liz and Max knew that there was only one sure fire way to make Tess give Sean back. She had broached it in the last letter she had sent, although Liz knew that the idea had been percolating at the back of Max’s mind for months now anyway. He had admitted it to her after showing her the letter.

If Max was willing to give himself up to Lonnie, Rath and Tess - if he was willing to join with them to create a full complement of the Royal Four - they would let Liz raise Max’s son. It was in that instant that Liz had understood that Sean was in even more danger than either she or Max had ever thought. At least, in her heart, Liz had hoped that Tess loved her son, that she would not hurt him.

But to be so willing to give him up…He was a pawn to her, nothing more.

All Tess cared about was getting back to Antar. And she was willing to sacrifice her own son to do it. Because, without Max, the only clone of Zan left, no one was going anywhere. The granolith would not take them home without him.

When Liz had read the compromise in Tess’s spidery handwriting, she had felt the world starting to spin completely out of control. Only Max’s arm around her shoulders had prevented her from falling to the floor in shock.

If they didn’t find Tess soon, Max was going to have no choice. They both knew it. Because neither of them was willing to allow an innocent child to be raised by Tess or Lonnie or Rath, especially now that they knew how little any of them really cared about him.

They needed some good news and they needed it soon. If Michael and Isabel could find Ava…Well, things might start going their way. If they could use the power of the four square, particularly Ava’s DNA, which would be linked to Sean’s, they might, just might be able to find him without resorting to the horrific idea of letting Max go.

"Liz?" Liz shook her head to clear it at Maria’s questioning tone, turned away from the sink, plastering a confident expression on her face.

"Of course I know we’ll have him by the fall." She replied cheerfully. "Max really thinks that this lead is the one. I was just talking about worst case scenario."

Maria frowned slightly, but finally nodded. "Okay." She did not look entirely convinced however. She picked up her bag, moved towards the door. "I’ll call you guys if I hear anything from Michael, although I’m sure he’ll call here first. The only reason he called me was because there was no answer here earlier. I guess Max was out with Serena?"

Liz smiled, indicated the stroller as she followed Maria towards the door. "They went to see his parents I think. He likes to walk her over there when he’s home. It’s like double bonus day for them when they get to see both of them at the same time." She reached out and gave Maria a quick hug. "Thanks for the ride. I love you."

"I love you too babe." Maria replied. "Get some rest." She paused in the doorframe though. "Oh, I almost forgot! I’m stopping at the Valentis on the way home. Mom told me that Kyle is sick or something so I’m bringing him one of her pies. He says it always makes him feel better. Do want me to say anything to him?"

"Just tell him we’re still on for Friday." Liz replied, a pang of concern running through her at the news that Kyle wasn’t feeling well. He was her rock, particularly when Max was out of town. Liz knew that he still had not forgiven Max for leaving with Tess, actually basically despised him because of it, but he had been nothing but supportive of Liz, dating from the days before Serena was even born. He knew that Liz loved Max and said he accepted it, but he didn’t try to hide that it didn’t make him at all happy. They had started to drift apart recently because of it. She could sense his disapproval and it was just another burden she felt unable to deal with and so she had been letting their friendship slide recently.

She was looking forward to Friday, when they had agreed to go see the new Star Wars movie together. They had seen the Phantom Menace on their first date in freshman year and had agreed then that no matter what, if they could, they would see the next one together too. Max had been amused when she had told him about it and had told her in no uncertain terms that he wanted her to go.

He knew how Kyle felt about him, but he had absolutely no issues with Kyle himself. He trusted him and was grateful for how he had been there for Liz when Max could not.

It was one of the many reasons Kyle’s disapproval hurt her. She knew that Max didn’t deserve it - none of what had transpired with Tess had been his fault after all. She had tricked him into sleeping with her and had then basically tried to destroy his life by taking him back to Antar. It had been fate that had brought him back to her and Liz was not going to lose him again, even if one of her best friends could not forgive him.

It was not an easy life, being with Max, but she loved him and he loved her. It was worth it to her. And Kyle was just going to have to accept that.

Liz put her problems with Kyle out of her head after she said goodbye to Maria. She had little enough quality time with Max as it was. She wasn’t going to waste one of the few nights he was home worrying about it. Friday would arrive soon enough.

Crossing the living room quietly, Liz perched on the edge of the couch, leaned over and spoke softly into Max’s ear. "Wake up sleepyhead. It’s time to come to bed." He stirred, his long lashes fluttering, and moments later he was gazing up at her sleepily.

"Liz." She saw his arms tighten convulsively around Serena, making sure she was still securely on his chest. "What time is it? I was going to come pick you up."

"It’s okay." Liz whispered, gently disentangling their daughter from his embrace and bringing the baby up against her neck. Serena squawked once but settled back into sleep almost immediately. "Maria drove me home."

A flash of guilt crossed his face anyway. "But I wanted to." He closed his eyes briefly, as though suddenly everything he wanted to do and couldn’t until he found his son had come crashing down on him.

Liz kissed him lightly on the forehead. "And that’s why I love you. It’s really okay," she repeated. "Just come to bed."

And as Liz curled up against a still half-asleep Max minutes later she knew that she was right to make the sacrifices required to be with him. Being tired, having too much responsibility for someone her age, being alone half the time…It was worth it.

It was worth it because when she was in his arms, the rest of it went away.

Then they were just Max and Liz and their little baby girl and together they could do anything.

They would find Sean, they would find Ava. And then they would defeat Max’s enemies and live the quiet, normal life they both wanted.

It was only a matter of time before they would all -every single person she cared about - achieve their happy ending.

It was her last thought and brought a slight smile to her face as she drifted off to sleep in Max’s arms.

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

Time ran out on Friday.

When Liz left work to meet up with Kyle, she briefly considered stopping by the apartment to check on Serena. Max had spent the entire day with her, as he always did when he was home, but going eight hours without her baby was something Liz never got used to and she had been feeling antsy about her all day. When Max was out of town, her mom took care of the baby upstairs while Liz worked, and so she could run up for a little baby-time whenever she wanted to.

But Max deserved his time with their daughter too. He barely got to see her as it was. She would see Serena soon enough.

It was her anxiety over leaving her daughter for so long that was making her impatient Liz decided as she tapped her foot and stared down at her watch for the twelfth time in what felt like as many hours. But she had really only been waiting for Kyle for about ten. He was only five minutes late. He’d be there.

He showed up twenty minutes later. Liz was ready to jokingly ream him out - they were missing the previews and he knew that she always felt there was no point in seeing a movie without the previews - until she got a look at his face.

He looked terrible. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked like he had lost weight as well. Liz frowned. She had only seen him two weeks ago! What had happened to him?

"Kyle, what’s wrong?" Liz demanded immediately, not even bothering with a cursory hello. "You look awful."

"Gee, thanks Liz." He replied in his usual sarcastic tone, rolling his eyes. It made her feel a bit better to hear him sounding so normal. "I’ve been sick. Migraines. Can’t sleep properly because of them."

Liz softened her tone, hugged him lightly. "I’m sorry. I was just shocked. Have you been to the doctor?"

"They can’t find anything to explain it." Kyle told her shortly. "Listen, I don’t really feel up to a movie. Can we just go somewhere and talk?"

"Of course." Liz gently linked her arm with his. "Why didn’t you call me? I would have come to see you. You shouldn’t even be out."

"I needed some air." He looked around, as though trying to decide where he wanted to go. "Let’s go to the park."

They walked along in silence, but it was not uncomfortable. Liz was beginning to get the idea that Kyle had something very specific to tell her and that he was just trying to work out in his own mind how he was going to do it.

They were settled on a bench before he tried. "Liz…I don’t even know how to tell you this." He began quietly "I’ve needed to talk to you about this for a long time, but I didn’t know how to and I wasn’t sure that it was real…"

"Kyle, what is it?" Liz took his hand in hers, pleased that she could be strong for him for once. He had always been there for her.

"I’ve been having weird dreams." He replied, shaking his head wearily. "It’s another reason I haven’t been sleeping well. For a couple of weeks now. They’re about the night that Alex died."

Liz felt her eyes widen. "What about that night?"

"I don’t know. It’s vague. But basically I think that the details of exactly what I did that night are coming back to me." Kyle told her. "You know that I have some memories of the events Tess made me forget, but not all of them. The stuff I’m dreaming about though…it’s weird. Alex is there and so is Tess…but it feels different somehow." He swallowed. "Liz, I think she may have been mindwarping me long before we thought."

"Kyle, what are you talking about?" Liz whispered, her heart beginning to pound.

"I’ve been getting these headaches Liz. I wake up with them every morning. And I’ve started to realize that this has happened to me before. I woke up with one the morning after Alex died. But I had them before that too."

"You think that they have something to do with the mindwarps?" Liz asked, furrowing her brow. "It would make sense." And suddenly what he was really saying hit her like a freight train. "Kyle, are you saying that you think that Tess is mindwarping you right now?"

The implications of this were astronomical. It meant that Tess was right here in Roswell if she was doing it.

"Not right now Liz." Kyle corrected. "But I think that she has been - recently. I can’t think of any other explanation for the way I’ve been feeling. It’s just so similar."

Liz stood up. "We need to go to Max. He has to know about this."

"Oh, he knows." The voice sent a chill down Liz’s spine. "Or he will as soon as he goes to pick up your little girl. His mommy didn’t turn out to be the best babysitter after all."

She didn’t want to turn around. If she didn’t turn around, this would not be happening.

In the end, she didn’t need to turn at all though. Because Tess Harding had moved around the bench and was staring down at her, her blue eyes gleaming with malice.

"Hello Liz. Long time no see. Not long enough of course, but what can’t be helped has to be accepted." She turned her cold gaze on Kyle. "I see you didn’t stay home like the good little boy I took you for Kyle." Liz glanced at him. He was clutching Liz’s hand, clearly just as terrified as Liz was. "Your brain must not be quite as muddled from all those years of football as I had hoped. You’re breaking the warp." Liz watched in horror as Tess closed her eyes, scrunching up her face like she always did when she was about to mindwarp someone.

"Oh Jesus." Kyle’s hand squeezed Liz’s convulsively. "I’m remembering." He looked over at Liz, his eyes wide. They were beginning to roll up in his head. "Liz, she’s here for…" He cut himself off abruptly. An expression of complete clarity crossed his face. He opened his eyes, the blue so clear, it made Liz blink. "Liz, Sean is my son." He whispered it, so quietly she had to strain to hear him.

"Kyle?" Liz grabbed him by the open front of his jacket, forced him to look at her. "What are you saying? KYLE!"

But he could not hear her. Not any longer. He yelled in agony, releasing her hands and bringing his hands up to his head, as though trying to push Tess out. As Liz clutched at him, called to him, he stood up, took one step towards Tess, bellowing in fury, and then fell in a heap at her feet.

"Epic." The snort from nearby caused Liz to whirl. "I told ya you should have just done that ages ago."

It was Lonnie and she snapped her gum, grinning at Liz. "Got any last words?" She moved towards Liz threateningly.

"No!" This came from Tess, who came to stand between Lonnie and Liz. She was staring down at Kyle, a strange expression on her face, like she couldn’t quite believe that he was lying there so quietly.

Liz fell to her knees at Kyle’s side, ignoring Isabel’s dupe completely. She brought her hand to Kyle’s throat, felt for a pulse. She stared up at Tess in shock. "You killed him! Tess, you killed Kyle!"

She thought she saw a spasm of some emotion cross the cool blonde’s face. It might have been regret, but likely not. Whatever it had been, it was gone a moment later as her expression hardened right before Liz’s eyes.

"It’s not my fault," she whined. "He wouldn’t do what I wanted him to, so he brought it on himself. He wouldn’t go get the baby. We had to wait until Max left her alone today."

"What the hell is the matter with you?" Liz demanded quietly, shaking with disbelief, the grief at the loss of her friend still too new for it to even have begun to penetrate. She jumped to her feet, shrieking now. "What is wrong with you? How can you come from the same place as Max and Isabel and Michael? You’re evil!" This last bit was screeched as she went for the other girl’s throat. She knew that she was completely losing control, but she just didn’t care anymore. "You killed him! You’ve done nothing but betray the people you’re supposed to love!" She screamed. "I HATE YOU!"

"Whoa little girl!" Liz felt Lonnie’s arm come around her throat, hauling her off Tess. "None of this is Ava’s fault. It’s all Zan’s. He’s the one who won’t come with us. If he would just leave you, none of this would have had to happen."

"Where is Max?" Liz demanded, wrenching away from Lonnie and falling to her knees beside Kyle again, tears beginning to fill her eyes. She could barely speak around the lump in her throat.

"Likely following the clues we left him today to little Seanie." Lonnie shrugged, unconcerned. "He won’t find him of course. But it was enough to make him leave your baby with his mother." She smiled smugly. "Where Rath was waiting for her."

The world began to spin before Liz’s eyes. She stared down at Kyle, still unable to believe that her vital friend was really gone, mindwarped into death by someone he had loved. "Serena." It was like a prayer on the wind as it passed Liz’s lips.

And then she was running, running as fast as she possibly could, in the direction of Max’s parent’s house.

She stumbled across Diane Evans’s body first. Liz knew without even touching her that her neck had been snapped. The awkward angle at which her head lay told her as much. But she didn’t have time to mourn Max’s mother.

There was no time.

"SERENA!" She screamed it, frantically running through the house Max had grown up in, calling her daughter’s name, as though that would somehow change the fact that the baby was not there at all.

Max found her standing in the centre of the living room, Serena’s blanket clutched against her chest, staring off into space.

"Liz!" He clutched her by the shoulders. "What’s going on? Where is my mother?"

Liz just turned her head and stared towards the front door, because Max had obviously come through the back.

"I’ll be right back. Liz, I’ll be right back." When he returned, his expression was half shocked, half grim.

"Max…" Liz stared up at him, unseeing. "How could this have happened? How could they have just come here? It’s the last thing they were supposed to do." She didn’t understand how her voice could be so calm. One of her best friends was lying dead in the park down the road. Her daughter was in the clutches of her worst enemies. Max’s mother had been murdered in her own home.

Max pulled her against him. She could feel him shaking as she buried her face against his chest. "I’ve made my last mistake Liz." He whispered against her hair. "I have to stop thinking they’re like us. They’re not. They don’t think like we do, don’t act like we would."

"Why? Why are they here?" Liz pulled away, practically shrieked it. "Where is my baby? Where is she?"

"It’s the end Liz. They know it." Max replied quietly. "Michael called me earlier. He and Izzy found Ava. They must have known it was only a matter of time. They had one last chance and they took it. They won’t hurt Serena. Not as long as they still want me." He paused. "They know that I will trade myself for her. If they kill her, they lose me. They know it."

"They’ve been here for weeks Max." Liz told him, his words reassuring her slightly. "Tess has been mindwarping Kyle for at least two. How could we not have known?"

"We didn’t want to know." Max closed his eyes, pulled her against him again, as though searching for strength. "Didn’t want to believe that it would really come to this. Because we have no choice now."

Liz stared off into the distance, her cheek pressed against his chest, the soft leather so familiar and reassuring.

They had no choice.

"We have to kill them." His whisper was soft against her hair. She tightened her arms around him, clutched at the last moments of their innocence.

Because she knew it was true.


posted on 22-May-2002 9:18:21 PM
Part 26

Another Time, Another Life - Section L

Liz sat on the couch in the Evans’ living room as Max made the call setting up the exchange. His tone was grim as he spoke into the phone, telling Tess that he would meet her at the pod chamber late the next day.

Needless to say, having to make the decision to leave Serena in their enemies’ hands overnight was the most difficult they had ever made, although Max was still convinced that she was perfectly safe as long as Tess and the dupes believed he would trade himself for her. There was no choice anyway. They needed to wait for Michael and Isabel to return with Ava, needed the full power of the four square to ensure that they were going to win. Max explained to Tess that they had to tell the Sheriff and his father about Kyle and his mother. It has seemed enough of an explanation for the witch.

Liz was still amazed that Tess was not suspicious about it though. It only reinforced to her how little Tess cared about her own son, that she could not understand Liz’s panic, her desperation to get her daughter back. Liz could not stop twisting her hands in her lap as Max made the arrangements, desperately trying to control the urge to leap to her feet, to grab the phone from him and demand that Tess return her baby immediately. Only Maria’s comforting arm around her shoulder kept her in place.

Tess’ willingness to wait 24 hours also confirmed to Max and Liz that she could not conceive that they were planning to bring their four enemies down permanently - which meant killing them - or at least they would die trying. Tess thought she knew them, did not understand that taking their baby was the last straw. If she had wanted to push them to the point where they would really fight, she had succeeded.

Before going for Kyle’s body they moved Max’s mother to her bedroom. Max’s expression was stony the entire time, as he simply did what had to be done. His father was away for the weekend at a conference, would not be back until Monday. It was another crime to be laid at Tess’ doorway that they did not even have time to call him.

They did not have time for anything - not even to grieve. All they could focus on was destroying their enemies once and for all. All they could think about was getting their daughter back.

The waiting was the worst part. Not just the wait for the exchange, but the wait before they could start to mourn their loss.

When they went back to the park for Kyle’s body, it was gone. Liz’s first horrified thought was that it had been found by someone, that Valenti was going to hear what had happened from the police instead of from them. But when they drove to his house and all was still dark, she knew that Tess had taken Kyle. She just knew it. It made her stomach twist in fury.

Tess had not wanted to kill Kyle. Liz could understand that, even through her hatred. In her own twisted way, Tess had loved him. But she loved herself more. And it only made Liz’s fear for Serena greater. Tess murdered people she loved to get what she wanted. She would have no qualms killing the person she would most despise in the world - Max and Liz’s child.

Telling Valenti was a nightmare. He did not break down, just stared at them in dumbfounded disbelief as Max quietly told him what had happened. Liz led Kyle’s father to the couch, where he collapsed, a mixture of shock and raw grief etched on his craggy face.

"Should I call my mom?" Maria whispered to Liz. Liz watched Max seat himself beside Valenti, a grim expression on his face. She closed her eyes against the guilt and pain she could see him barely managing to control.

"I don’t know," Liz replied helplessly. "How can she help? We can’t tell her the truth."

It was then that she became aware of the fact that Max and Valenti were speaking quietly to one another.

"When do we go after them?" Valenti’s voice was stiff, brittle, as though if he spoke any differently, he would completely lose it.

And Liz understood. He had absolutely no intention of losing it until his son had been avenged.

"Tomorrow night," Max replied evenly, not even trying to argue with Valenti that it was safer without him, that they didn’t want to endanger him. Because if there was one thing Max understood, it was the pain of losing a child.

But at least Max’s son still lived. His daughter too. For now.

"As soon as Michael and Isabel get back," he continued.

"Fine."

The four of them sat in silence for close to an hour, just waiting for the time to pass. There was nothing else to say, nothing to do except wait. It was numbing, excruciating…

Liz did her best not to think. She sat with her head on Max’s shoulder, simply enduring.

Finally Max told them all that it was imperative that they get a good night’s sleep but that he wanted them to all stay together, for safety’s sake. "We’ll go back to my parents’. I can’t leave my mom…" He trailed off, his voice cracking. Liz placed a gentle hand on his arm. "I can’t leave her alone," he finished, scrubbing a hand across his face, shock finally beginning to wear off, as the truth of what had actually happened to the woman who had raised him began to penetrate the shell he had built around his heart.

They made love that night in Max’s old bedroom. It was a storm of passion unlike any Liz had ever experienced before, a desperate attempt to feel anything, a way to convince themselves that they still lived, that they would survive this - that they could go on.

After Max sank into exhausted slumber, Liz lay with her head cradled on his chest, tracing small circles along his bicep, staring off into the darkness. She knew that she would not rest again until her child was back in her arms. There was no point in even trying.

Slightly before dawn, Liz sat up and pulled an old West Roswell T-shirt over her head. She slipped from the bed, padded to the window, stared out into the brightening sky, amazed that it was true, that life did go on. But how could it? How could they just keep going after losing Alex and Kyle and Mrs. Evans and Sean…and Serena.

She brought her hands up against her mouth, tried to muffle her sobs. Max needed his sleep, now more than ever.

But, it was too late of course. He never did sleep properly when she wasn’t beside him. She could already hear him stirring.

"Liz?" She turned her head in time to see him push himself up on his elbow. His dark hair was flopping over his eye in the way it tended to now. He had kept it longer since their return from Canada, never finding the time to get it cut because he was always away. He looked so young, still half-asleep. "Are you okay?"

It reminded her that she was truly still only nineteen years old. She felt about a hundred.

She turned back to the window, not answering. He knew she wasn’t okay. He wasn’t either. It was just one of those things people said when someone they cared about was hurting. She sighed, leaned back against him as his arms came around her from behind. He kissed her ear gently, whispering, "I promise that you will see her again."

"I know."

Together, they watched the sun rise.

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

"Whatever happens, Serena and Sean are the most important thing." Max’s voice was stern. "Does everyone understand that? Whoever gets to them, takes them and leaves, no ifs, ands or buts. Even if it’s one of us." He looked at Michael, Isabel and Ava in quick succession. "If we can’t take care of the dupes now, we won’t. I want my children safe. We can always go back."

There were sounds of agreement from everyone. Liz glanced at Ava, biting her lip. The other girl looked slightly uncomfortable still, trapped between her past - Lonnie and Rath - and her future - Max, Isabel and Michael. Liz felt awful about it when she was forced to look away from her friend. She just could not stand seeing her face - Tess, the murderer - right in front of her. Not right now. She hoped that once they had Serena back, she would be able to get over it.

None of this was Ava’s fault after all.

But it didn’t help that poor Ava looked more like Tess than she ever had before. She had let her hair grow out, was no longer wearing her lip stud, was dressed more like a regular teenager than the punk street kid she had been.

It turned out that Ava had not wanted to return to Roswell. She had been enjoying a semi-normal life in Texas, had even enrolled herself in school there, under a pseudonym of course, always aware that Lonnie and Rath would kill her if they found her. She was not their top priority, but they would do away with her if they had the chance. She knew it, knew them.

It was the reason that she was so valuable to them. Or so Michael and Isabel had tried to convince her. She had finally given in, her kind heart not allowing her to turn her back on two children in jeopardy.

It was only when they were all together that Ava informed them that she had another reason for coming. "I had to see if it would be different."

Max had looked at her curiously. "If what would be different?"

"You." She had smiled sadly, glancing at Liz. Liz had frowned, wondering where Ava was going with this. "If maybe you and I were the ones meant to be together. Zan…he was always distant, waiting for someone else. I thought maybe it was her…" The way Ava said it, Liz knew she meant Tess. "I thought maybe there was a mix-up or something…that somehow I was put with the wrong people."

Liz had stared at her, disbelieving that this could really be happening again. Would the price of Ava’s help be Max? Was that what she was getting at? But she should have known better. Liz had always been a good judge of character and she had somehow always known that they could trust Ava.

"I know it’s just not meant to be." Ava had smiled at Liz. "But being here…" She looked at Michael and Isabel in turn and then back at Max. "I know it’s where I belong."

"Does everyone know what they’re supposed to do?" Max asked again now, glancing at his watch.

"For the eight hundredth time Maxwell, yes," Michael ground out. Liz knew he wasn’t really angry though, merely itching to get moving.

Max glanced at him, sighed. "Okay then, let’s move." He lingered behind the group, pulling Liz against him for one last soft kiss. "I love you. Always remember that."

"I know." She closed her eyes, let herself rest her forehead against his chest for one final moment, perhaps the last time. Because they both knew that this was a fight to the death, hopefully Tess and Lonnie and Rath’s, but potentially not.

She didn’t know if she would survive it if something happened to him. She knew she would have to, would have to go on for the sake of their daughter and Sean. He was trusting her to.

But imagining a life without him…The darkness, the emptiness of it - of even just the imagined version - it was suffocating, terrifying.

She remembered what it had felt like when she thought he had gone to Antar. But at least then, she had had some hope that he still lived. Losing him completely would kill her. Somehow, she just knew it.

She felt so weak. With every new person she came to love, had to worry about, she felt her weakness more acutely, her fear, her despair that something might happen to them.

But, as always, Max knew exactly what she was thinking, which only reinforced how much she would miss him if he was gone. "You are the strongest person I know. You make me strong Liz, trying to be worthy of you. Don’t ever doubt that about yourself." He had pulled back from her, his hands on her shoulders, looking right into her eyes as he said it. "You will survive. You always have. And you have to promise me that you’ll be happy."

She looked away, tears on the verge of falling. "Max, I can’t promise that. I could never keep it." She laughed slightly, despite herself, knowing that he somehow, sometimes still believed that she could not love him as much as he loved her. It was ludicrous, after all they had been through, but she knew him. He had just never felt worthy of her love, which was why he had made so many mistakes. It was one of her biggest frustrations, but also one of the things she most loved about him. Because it was what made him Max.

He pulled her against him again, stroking her hair, words meaningless now. Despite the feeling of safety that always came over her in Max’s arms, a shiver ran down her spine.

And, somehow, she felt as though some sort of countdown had begun.


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

Liz climbed out of Valenti’s SUV, her heart beating a nervous tattoo against her chest. They had pulled to a stop close to where the pod chamber used to be, but not close enough that it was likely they would be noticed.

The entire operation depended completely on timing. If any of them were off by even one second, it could bring the whole thing tumbling down around them like a house of cards.

"How long?" Maria whispered next to her. She had linked her arm through Liz’s as they both leaned up against the hood of the SUV, waiting. Always waiting.

Liz glanced at her watch. "Ten minutes."

They had determined that it would take Max at least ten minutes to get Tess to reveal where Serena and Sean were hidden. They did not expect that she would bring the children with her and so they hadn’t asked it, wanting them as far away from what could turn into a field of battle as possible. Max had told Tess to arrange to leave them somewhere safe, that he would join she, Lonnie and Rath, and before they would leave together, he would call Liz and tell her where to find the babies.

Tess trusted them. Liz knew that that part of the plan would work. She thought she knew them too well. It would never even cross her mind that they had every intention of betraying her.

Two days ago they wouldn’t have betrayed her, even after she had murdered Alex. In his heart, Max believed in truth and straight dealing. Ironic that, considering the lengths he had to go to over the years to keep his secret. But, in the end, the only time he and his friends had ever killed was in self-defense. Their natures were such that it was the only way Max knew how to lead.

It had taken the completely merciless murders of Kyle and Mrs. Evans for understanding to finally penetrate past their natural compassion and empathy, for them to grasp that the only way to keep the people they loved safe from Tess and the other dupes was to kill them. Alex’s death had not been an accident, but cold-blooded murder. They were taking a step into the abyss by playing by the dupes’ rules Liz knew, but they had no choice. Tess had seen to that.

Michael, Isabel and Ava had taken up their positions near the meeting point half an hour before. The plan was simple. Ava would mindwarp Lonnie, Rath and Tess so that they were unaware of their presence. Max would meet the dupes as planned, would find out where the children were located. He would call Liz, she would go with Maria and the Sheriff to retrieve them. Max would pretend to leave with the dupes, closely followed by the other three. Liz would call Michael once she had the kids…

And then the four square of Max, Michael, Isabel and Ava would unleash hell.

Of course, none of the humans were really sure what that meant, but Ava seemed to know and Max, Michael and Isabel appeared to have some sort of idea. Isabel had blanched when Max had said to them, "We’re going to do what Tess did to the Skins. But with all of us, it will be four times as powerful." Liz hadn’t really understood, but Isabel and Michael certainly had.

She didn’t want to know. It was going to be hard enough on Max without him worrying what she was thinking about what he had to do. He could tell her after. She would heal him after. Serena was the only thing that mattered.

Liz clenched her hands together, felt the nails digging into her palms. It had to go well. It just had to! They were due for some luck.

Her cell phone rang right on time.

Her eyes met Maria’s for a long charged moment as she hit the Talk button. "Hello?" It was barely a whisper. She could not seem to make her voice work.

"Liz, they’re at the Hardings." Max was calm, quiet. "You can go get them."

Liz’s entire body was tingling at the sound of his voice. He was safe. Right now, he was still safe.

"Are they alone?" She asked quietly, trying not to let him know how scared she was. But she knew he knew. He always did.

"No. Tess hired a babysitter." He sounded disbelieving. Liz could almost see him shaking his head. "The girl knows you’re coming."

"Okay. Be careful Max. I love you."

There was a long pause. "Me too." She could almost envision him in her mind, trying to decide what to say that wouldn’t piss Tess off. The ball was still in her court after all - at least until they had Serena and Sean back.

But she wasn’t in control for much longer. The tables were about to turn - permanently.

The drive to the old Harding house was long - close to half an hour. It made Liz uncomfortable, thinking of Max driving out of town with the dupes, every minute putting more distance between them. But if everything was going according to plan then Michael, Isabel and Ava were following close behind, mindwarped out of sight by Ava.

They were just waiting for the call to end it once and for all. And the further they were out of town when they did whatever it was they were going to do, the better for all of them. Because Liz had some sort of idea that it wasn’t exactly going to be quiet or unnoticeable. The way Max had pressed his lips together at the idea of the four square combining their powers…she just knew that something major was about to occur. Somehow, inherently, they had some idea of what to do. And it was going to be big.

Valenti finally pulled the SUV to a halt in the driveway of the house where Tess had first lived with Nasedo upon arriving in Roswell. Liz shook her head as they hurried up the front walk. It seemed so long ago now. So much had happened since that evil witch had arrived in town. It still amazed Liz that they had ever trusted her. They should have known what she was, what she had shown them she was, even that far back.

They would never be so trusting again. More than anything, Liz would never forgive Tess for stealing their innocence. Because, in spite of it all, up until she had come to Roswell, resulting in Liz’s first doubts in Max, from which all the disasters that followed had snowballed, they had still been kids. Kids with a secret, yes. But kids who were basically safe.

Tess had to take responsibility for that changing. Liz pressed her lips together. And soon she would.

Valenti stood beside her on the porch as Liz rang the bell. Maria hung back near the car, ready to make a break for the others if something went wrong.

This all seemed too easy after all. Liz just knew that Tess had to have something else up her sleeve. Until she had her daughter in her arms, she could not relax.

The door opened moments later. A young girl smiled out at them. "Hi! Are you Liz? Tess told me you’d be here to take the kids for the night."

"I’m Liz," she acknowledged curtly. She could not be friendly. It was just impossible. Liz followed Valenti as he pushed his way into the house. "Where are they?" She demanded over her shoulder.

"Up in the nursery," the girl replied, following close behind and sounding a little upset, as though she couldn’t understand why they were being so rude.

Liz glanced in a couple of doorways before the nursery became obvious. There were two cribs pushed against opposite walls.

She stared for a moment at the small blond boy sitting up in the one nearest the door. It wasn’t until that moment that she truly believed that Tess had left her son behind. It was absolutely incomprehensible to her. The baby was staring at calmly, not the least bit nervous by the presence of strangers.

And it was then, as she looked into the baby’s familiar blue eyes, that she suddenly remembered Kyle’s last words to her.

Liz, Sean is my son.

Because those eyes were not Tess’ eyes. They were not her icy blue, but Kyle’s warm shade, the colour of the sky at dusk.

Liz brought her hands to her mouth in shock. How could she not have remembered this? The chaos that had followed Kyle’s death was no excuse. How on Earth had he known?

But obviously he had been right.

It changed everything.

Tears filled her eyes as she continued to stare at the small boy, the only piece of her friend they had left.

"Liz, are you all right?" She glanced over at Valenti. He had gone to the other crib but had not moved to pick up Serena.

It was only then that Liz saw that the other bed was empty. She could not be shocked. Somehow she had known that Tess would not just return her baby to her.

And, yet, she had left her own behind. Something was extremely wrong here…Liz could feel the world spinning, tried desperately to breathe, tried to focus on Valenti.

She pushed the thought aside for the moment. Her heart was aching for her daughter, but she had to tell Kyle’s father the truth. Now. Somehow she just knew that it was imperative.

"Sheriff…" Liz moved to pick up Sean, swallowing. "This is Kyle’s son."

Her arms met only air.

Mind-warp.

The minute it disappeared, she saw the glowing prism sitting in the crib, recognized it immediately as one of the otherworldly bombs Michael had destroyed in Las Cruces. It was beeping crazily, clearly about to go off.

Valenti was gone. Somehow he had disappeared, had gone back outside, clearly mindwarped as well into believing that she was with him. She could already hear him calling her name from the open window over the crib she still stood beside as the mindwarp fell.

Liz had just enough time to glance out, to see Kyle’s father on the front lawn, Maria beside him, both staring up at her in the window in horror. The babysitter stood beside them, a half-smile on her face. Something in that smug expression reminded her of someone she had once known…

Nicholas. Disguised, but definitely him.

But there was no time to worry about who it was who had finally managed to separate her permanently from Max. Because all she really cared about was the baby she saw cradled in her best friend’s arms.

It was Serena. Her daughter was safe.

All of this took about ten seconds to cross Liz’s mind.

She had five more seconds to wonder how Max was going to go on with out her.

I love you! She thought it desperately, hoping against hope that he would hear her.

And then the explosion came.


posted on 22-May-2002 9:19:04 PM
Part 27 - As the End Draws Near - Max POV

Into the valley
The shadow of death
Creeps silently across the darkened sea.

This is it.
We stand alone.
We can see it all from here.
The starless night across the mountainside
No one left to talk to,
There’s nothing left to say.
Into the valleys
The shadow of death
Creeps silently across the darkened sea.

You and me
We stand alone.
We can see it all from here.
Stretched far and wide,
The barren skies,
Fighting the silence
From deep inside.
Into the valleys
The shadow of death
Creeps silently across the darkened sea.

It’s in you and me.
Oh, it’s in you and me.
Oh, it’s in you and me.

Sarah McLachlan


"Oh God. Not again." This is Maria of course. She collapsed against Michael following Ava’s surprise appearance, but she bounces back quickly, as is always her way. She is suddenly right in front of me, her hands up. "Stay away from him or I swear to God, I will do to you what Tess has been itching for since she first showed up in Roswell. When will you blonde bimbos get it through your heads that all that destiny stuff is crap?" She looks at Isabel, rolling her eyes. "I mean, it’s crazy! Am I wrong here?"

My sister’s eyes are narrowed. "You’re not crazy." She folds her arms across her chest. "None of us buy it."

Ava looks momentarily taken aback. She blinks her large blue eyes, bites her lip. "I…I’m sorry…I don’t know what you’re talking about."

"You and your skanky twin," Maria retorts. "That’s what I’m talking about. Max loves Liz. And just because they’re not together right now, it doesn’t mean you can just move in, whatever Tess may have done. You don’t belong together. People belong with people they love." She just shakes her head. "This just doesn’t seem like that alien a concept to me." She pauses. "No pun intended. You were raised on this planet for Pete’s sake."

"Maria," I say quietly, trying to get her to calm down. Because whatever it is that Ava thinks or doesn’t think is of little consequence to me right now. She said that she could tell us where Liz is. That’s all I care about.

Ava continues to stare at her. She then turns to look at me, perplexed. "I think something is getting lost in the translation here. I know that you and Liz love each other, that it all changed because you healed her. I meant I belong with all of you." She looks at Michael and Isabel in quick succession, frowning slightly at the unapproachable expressions on both of their faces.

They have both learned the lesson Tess taught well. They will not trust this girl easily.

But I know that right now, we have no choice. Liz is all that is important.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"The pods were split up wrong," Ava replies. "I’m really part of your four square."

"Convenient way to get us to trust her," Michael mutters. Maria snorts, disbelieving.

I sigh. This was certainly not the easiest conversation I had ever had. "How do you know this?" I ask, choosing to ignore my friends for the moment.

"I found the other protector," Ava shrugs. "He told me that your protector split us up because he knew that Tess was more likely to betray you. She’s one of them after all. They were programmed to be ruthless." I can hear in her voice that she is still bitter at how things ended between she and Lonnie and Rath. They were her family and they had been willing to completely betray her - not only by killing Zan but by abandoning her in Roswell.

Her last statement has caused everyone to stop muttering to themselves though. I can see that they are all listening now, including Valenti and Kyle.

"Where is the other protector?" I demand. "Why isn’t he here now? Why did he let Nasedo do what he did?"

"He doesn’t care about us," Ava replies, sounding a bit sad. "He likes Earth, wants to stay here. After he took us to New York, he basically decided to give up on us. He was tired of all the politics on Antar, didn’t care what Nasedo did to any of us."

"What is wrong with our people Max?" Isabel demands, interrupting. "Why did they send these completely incompetent protectors with us? This is absolutely ridiculous!"

I don’t disagree with my sister. The more I understand about the species that composes half of my DNA, the less I feel any urge to return to my home planet.

"I think something got screwy with them both after they escaped from the FBI," Ava tries to explain. "I don’t think either of them was capable of caring about anything after that - anything other than themselves I mean."

"So who is he?" Michael asks again. "Can we at least meet him? Can he give us some information?"

"If we can find him." Ava sighs. "He wasn’t too happy that I found him at all. I’m sure he’s moved on. His name is Cal," she adds. "He was living as a producer in Hollywood and I think he’s rich enough to disappear if he wants to."

I have met my sister’s eyes in disbelief at this news about what happened to the other alien charged with the task of protecting us. It is just too odd to be processed at the moment.

"You said you could help us find Liz." I change the subject abruptly. These history lessons can wait until Liz has been rescued. I can feel myself getting more desperate as the minutes tick by. Somehow I just know that time is running out. I don’t know how I know this, but I do.

"I felt him. I’ve felt him for a long time now, but I ignored it until the other day, when he stopped hiding from me. He’s the one who took her, isn’t he?"

I know who she is talking about. Sean. She can feel him because he is linked to her through Tess’ DNA. They are technically the same person after all. In some ways, Sean is her son too.

"I don’t understand." This is Valenti. "Who are you talking about? Sean Deluca? How can she feel him?" He looks right at me. "Who is he Max?"

I wonder how he knows that I have figured out the truth about Sean. I haven’t voiced any of my suspicions about it to anyone - the idea that Sean/Lazar is the future version of the child Tess left carrying. Because the explanation is just too long and complicated. It would have to include a complete discourse on that future version of myself who had screwed everything up, on the granolith and on how time travel was really possible.

Like I said, too complicated to get into now.

"He’s Tess’ child," I reply quickly. Everyone turns to stare at me. Kyle’s mouth actually falls open. I can understand why he is dumbfounded. Because if Sean is Tess’s baby grown up, then he just might be Kyle’s son too. "Please don’t ask me to explain it now. I know how he’s here but we can’t waste any time. We need to get to Liz."

"It’s like the Future Max thing! He used the granolith!" Maria exclaims. I whip my head around to stare at her. "You know about that Max!"

"You know?"

"Of course," she replies primly. "You didn’t think Lizzie would hold out on me did you?"

I narrow my eyes at her. "How long have you known?"

"Months."

I clench my jaw. The fact that Liz had broken, that she had shared her pain with Maria is upsetting to me. Because it only reinforces to me how hard the whole experience must have been for her, what she went through because an idiotic future me had asked her to.

God, I love her. I have to get the chance to tell her once more. I just have to. Even if she never wants to be with me again, I have to tell her.

"Okay, can someone please tell me what the hell is going on around here?" This is Michael and he sounds pissed. "Future Max? Have you both gone completely psycho?"

"Never mind." I know I’m going to pay for that later, but Liz is all that matters. I look at Ava. "Take us to her. Please."

She glances around the room once more, as though knowing that by helping us she is severing her final ties to her other life - that she is making a life-altering decision here.

"I will."

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

We drive out into the desert, towards the remnants of the pod chamber. We have already checked out this way of course, but I believe Ava that she knows where she is going. She is sitting in the passenger seat of my parents’ car, her blue eyes scanning the road ahead. Isabel is in the back seat behind me, the Sheriff and Kyle are bringing up the rear with Michael and Maria.

I feel a little uncomfortable bringing everyone along for this final confrontation with Sean. Somehow I just feel like this whole thing is really between Sean, Tess, Liz and I, but I know that no one would have agreed to stay behind.

It’s the price you pay to have people care about you I guess. You can’t protect them all the time. I think I’m finally learning this. You have to let the chips fall where they may because, in the end, trying to control everything only makes it worse.

The mess that future version of myself left behind has taught me this.

I think of the granolith still safely stowed in Maria’s purse. I am still seriously considering destroying it when this is all over. Having the power to change the past and control the future - it is just not something anyone should possess. The idea that Khivar might be able to get his hands on it - that he apparently had if Sean being here is any indication…

It can’t be allowed to happen.

Destroying that crystal will sever our final ties with Antar though. I know this deep in my bones. It is the only way we will ever be able to go home.

In the end, because of this fact, it’s not a decision I can make alone. We are all going to have to agree. But I think I can convince them. Once they know the truth, I think Michael and Isabel and Ava will encourage me to do it.

I am feeling oddly at peace with myself as we pull off the highway and bump across the desert landscape. I can see that the sun is beginning to rise in the east, as though this decision has caused the dawning of a new era.

I can see the Jetta. I can actually see the car Tess had stolen when she kidnapped Liz. They are not right below the pod chamber it turns out, which is probably why we didn’t find them when we were out here before. They are actually past it, hidden behind the soaring rocks.

I cannot see anyone near the car, pull to a stop as close as I dare go, unsure what Sean might have waiting for us.

As it turns out, Sean is incapable of doing anything at all.

He is the first figure I see. He is on the ground, huddled against the driver’s door. And, I kid you not, he is fading in and out as I watch him.

"What’s happening to him?" Isabel is at my elbow. She sounds horrified.

Ava is already running towards him. "We have to keep him here!" She screams back over her shoulder. "Where’s the granolith?"

Maria has it. I turn, scan the horizon for the Sheriff’s truck. I can see it bumping towards us, but it is still a good two or three minutes away.

Two or three minutes Sean does not have it would seem. He is staring at his hand in disbelief as it disappears for a moment.

I have moved closer to him, cannot help myself from staring down at him in weirded out fascination.

This is potentially my son. And he has done something major to the timeline it would seem, because he is disappearing. His time no longer exists.

"Where’s Liz?" I can see that he is solid again. Something is still slightly off it would seem. I drop to my knees in front of him, cannot stop myself from grabbing him by the front of his jacket, forcing him to look at me. "Where is she?" I am almost yelling now.

He stares at me for a long moment, his blue eyes as cold as any I have ever seen. But I can see satisfaction there. He knows that he has won. "She’s dead," he gasps hoarsely. He turns his head.

Night shadows still linger, the sun not yet fully in the sky. It’s why I didn’t see her right away. But as I follow his gaze, suddenly she is all I can see.

Liz. Oh God.

I release him, bolt to her side.

I gently lift her against me, push her dark hair away from her face.

She is completely serene in death, her beauty unmarked by any wound that I can see. But I know that she is gone. I cannot feel her at all.

"Liz…" My voice cracks as I pull her against me.

I cannot fix this. I cannot bring the dead back to life.

I failed her. I didn’t get to her in time.

I am vaguely aware of my sister kneeling beside me. Her hand is on my shoulder. "Oh God. Max, I’m so sorry."

But I barely hear her. My entire being is focused on the fact that Liz is completely gone. I can feel the grief rising into my throat, choking me.

How can I go on without her? Even if we couldn’t ever be together again, at least knowing that she existed - everything that was perfect about this world that I so wanted to call my own - would have made my life worth living.

But she is just gone.

I can feel that I am slowly losing it. Great gasps are coming from my body as I clutch her to me. I am aware of this you understand, but I have absolutely no control over myself.

She is so cold. How can Liz ever be this cold? She is always so warm and alive.

It is then that my sister gasps.

I look up with dead eyes, unsure how to focus. I am not crying though. Tears would not be enough.

"Max, look." Isabel is picking up Liz’s arm, which is trailing behind her.

She is holding something clutched in her lifeless hand. I stare at it uncomprehendingly.

It is the granolith. The same granolith that is presently buried in Maria’s purse. Maria, who I can hear sobbing as though from a great distance.

How can a dead person be holding onto something so tightly? It is glowing, alive, is casting a strange light over Liz’s white hand.

I meet my sister’s eyes. I can see that she knows immediately what I am going to do.

I hear her instant protest. "Max…"

But I ignore it of course. My hand is already closing around the crystal.

Because wherever Liz is, I want to be with her.


posted on 22-May-2002 9:19:50 PM
Part 28 - "Out of the Shadows" - Liz POV

Crouching down inside a deep ravine,
Those angry cries pass quickly by, he can’t be seen.
So many ways spent hiding in so many undone plans
Forgetting what it’s like to fight when no one understands.

Close call there in the shadows,
There’s a fear in the dark.
There’s no one out there.

All those memories, pain and anger, flood back one by one.
They must be just around the bend, they always come.
At night as I lay sleeping they come to me in herds.
Their lies remain, the dreams the same, it’s only fleeting words.

No one calls there in the shadows,
There’s no end to the dark.
But there’s no one out there, no one but me.
The hours pass so slowly, the life’s slipping out of me.
No way’s the right way.
Is there a way out for me?
My life’s slipping out.

Rising up, the night is done, and now the bright lights come.
Held back in my pitied world where everything’s undone.
A cold wind blows right through me, I’m made a hollow shell.
There’s nothing left, just ash remains, enrich the soil, no soil, no soil.

Close call there in the shadows,
There’s an end to the dark.
Cause there’s someone out there,
Someone like me.
The hours pass so slowly, the life’s slipping out of me.
No way’s the right way, is there a way out for me?
The hours pass so slowly,
The life’s slipping out of me.
Is there a way out for me?
The hours pass so slowly
The life’s slipping out of me
Is there a way out for me?

There must be a way out for me.

Sarah McLachlan


It is shocking to live your own death and yet strangely peaceful at the same time. I know now that I will never fear it again. But I will always regret it as well - that I died so young in that other timeline, that I left Max all alone to raise our daughter, that I didn’t get to see her grow up.

All in all, it was just plain weird and wrong - like maybe this whole experience has been, because what have I really learned anyway? - and I hope to never have to go through any of it again.

Because when I open my eyes, I am most definitely not dead any longer. Although I’m not really sure what I am.

I am back on the plain of stars - inside the granolith if Ava’s past explanation of this place was truthful. I really don’t know what to believe anymore. All I know is that if I hadn’t thought things could get worse than in my own timeline, I was sadly mistaken.

Alex dead. Kyle dead. Max’s mother dead.

Me. Dead.

I know you’re all dying to know what happened to everyone after my death in that other timeline, but I can’t tell you. Not yet anyway. But I have a feeling that is about to change.

Because I am not alone.

It has taken me a moment to get my bearings, but the instant I do, I feel my eyes widen. I stare from one to the other, unsure what to make of their presence.

I know both of them of course, but I don’t know from where. From what timeline I mean. Are you confused yet? Because I sure am, but you will understand when I tell you exactly who has joined me in this alternate dimension, or whatever the heck you want to call being inside the granolith.

One of them is Max of course. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you. I barely resist the urge to go throw my arms around him to comfort him. His expression is so guilty and tortured and remorseful and pained - you can choose your own Max Evans adjective. You’ve seen the expression on his face as often as I have. And the love is there too, shining steadily in the dark eyes I now know he bestowed on our daughter. He may still do so.

Although I don’t know anything for sure anymore. Maybe he won’t. Maybe she won’t ever exist. My heart breaks at the thought, but I cannot deny that it is true.

Because I still don’t know anything that changes the fact that in my timeline, my Max willingly slept with and impregnated Tess. And I saw it in those flashes.

And I will never be able to accept it.

I do know that this Max is not my Max though. He’s not the Max from my timeline I mean. He is older and grayer and he is even more beaten down then my Max was the last time I really spoke to him - when I told him that I couldn’t ever be with him again because I could not get past the fact that he had slept with Tess. Seeing him at Tess’ house before Ava kidnapped me doesn’t really count of course. We had barely even looked at each other then, the pain of the separation we knew was inevitable still too fresh to deal with head on.

This is Future Max then. But which one? Is he the one who came back to save the world by keeping Tess in Roswell, which resulted in the birth of Sean and an even more disastrous future - at least for me and my friends? I am unsure if the world still ended in that place where Alex and Kyle and Mrs. Evans and I died, but the fact that Ava came back at all leads me to believe that it came pretty darn close.

Or is this a new Future Max? Is the grief that lingers around him like a shadow a result of the fact that he had to live on without me - that his soul was literally torn in two when I died? Because I don’t doubt that it was. I know how I would have felt had he up and died on me. And I had let that happen to me. I had abandoned him.

"Hi Liz."

The other person speaks first, literally bringing tears to my eyes. "Hi Alex." My voice cracks on his name, a smile trembling onto my lips despite myself.

He is just so beautiful to me. Seeing him like this, it only reinforces how much I miss him.

But this isn’t my Alex either. And the fact that he is older too begins to make me understand that this Max is the Future Max I met so many months ago, the one who asked me to break his own heart, the one I had danced with on my balcony, the one I had given up everything for.

Because I somehow just know that this is the Alex that lived. The Alex who was there in the desert with Max and I on our wedding night in that other life - the one I still don’t know much about. This is an Alex who lived through the end of the world and somehow came out on the other side.

"Can I hug you?" I ask. It is a ridiculously stupid question, considering how much I still need to know, but I want to so badly, it is almost painful.

He quirks his familiar grin at me, bringing a lump to my throat. "Of course." He opens his arms and I fly into them. I clutch him tightly, become aware that he is speaking to Max. "Don’t be jealous. You’ll get your turn - for a lifetime if we fix things properly."

"I’m not jealous," Max replies quietly, sounding offended that Alex would even suggest such a thing.

"You’re always jealous," Alex retorts. He pulls back, smiles down at me. "Are you going to pass out Lizzie or can we talk to you now?"

"She won’t pass out." I turn my head, stare at Max. He is watching me, his eyes unreadable, his expression serious. But he sounds utterly convinced, like he knows exactly how much I can take. Like he knows just how strong I am.

How can he know when I don’t even know myself?

"See Max, I’ve told you," Alex sighs, sounding exasperated, keeping his arm firmly around my shoulders. "The Liz I know and the Liz you know are completely different people. She can’t be strong all the time. She needs others too you know."

"I know." Max rolls his eyes, like this is an argument they’ve had many times and he knows that he is right, but that he also knows that he’ll never convince Alex of it.

It is strange to hear them talk to each other like this - like they know each other really well. The Alex and Max I knew were barely friends. Sure they were bonded by the secret that held us all together, but Alex had always been my friend. He and Isabel were close of course, but he and Max…not really.

"I’m not going to pass out," I intervene impatiently. I continue to eye Max. If this is the Future Max who screwed up my entire life, suddenly comforting him is the last thing I want to do.

In fact, I really want to punch him. Hard. I can see that he knows it too. He sighs heavily. "I’m so sorry Liz."

"Why did you lie to me?" I demand. I feel Alex’s arm tighten around me. "About Serena I mean. Why didn’t you tell me who she really is?"

"He had no choice Lizzie," Alex replies for him. Max just looks sad. "If you had known, you never would have done what needed to be done."

I look up at him. "Alex, you died because of him!" The rage I feel at this fact, the complete anger that I had felt at Max in the alternate timeline when I had realized that a future version of him and I had basically killed Alex with our meddling, returns suddenly, making my heart pound unsteadily in my chest. I literally see red spots in front of my eyes. That’s how mad I am.

"Liz, it was meant to be," Alex tells me softly. "It had to be. For Sean to exist, unfortunately I had to die."

"So there was no Sean in the timeline where you lived?" I scowl. "Who cares? He’s evil. What’s so important about him anyway?" I suddenly remember something. "He’s not even Max’s son!" I continue, knowing that there is a note of triumph in my voice. At least I found out one worthwhile tidbit in my little timeline journey. "Serena existed and so did you before he had to screw everything up! There was no Sean." I glare at Max, who is clearly upset, but is just as clearly willing to take it.

Because he agrees with me. He’s Max. Of course he does. He will always feel guilty that what he is resulted in Alex’s death.

"And the world ended," Alex finishes, squeezing me lightly. "You know that Liz."

Max exchanges a glance with Alex, picks up from where my friend left off. He seems to accept that I hate him, appears to like it, because of course he thinks he deserves it. Max and that guilt complex - hand in hand in any incarnation.

Of course I don’t really hate him and I force myself to calm down and listen as he speaks. "He’s still important Liz. You’re right that he’s not my son. He is Kyle and Tess’s. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t meant to play just as significant a role as Serena. It’s another reason that the timeline you just left didn’t work out." He swallows, looks away. "They never found him you know. Tess raised him and he turned out like the Sean you know in your life - deceitful, insane with hatred, evil, but with a twist I don’t even think you want to know about." I literally see Max shudder. I frown, wondering what he’s thinking about. "He’s not supposed to be like that," he finishes quietly, not elaborating.

"How do you know what happened after I died there?" I ask. "It wasn’t your timeline."

"No," Max agrees. He looks beyond Alex and I, smiling slightly. I stare at him, confused by the way his face lights up. It’s sort of like how he looks at me, but different too. Not as intense and tortured maybe. This is just plain love, without all the baggage.

And it’s really, really weird. Because there is no doubt that whoever he is looking at, he adores her. And I don’t even feel a twinge of jealousy.

I know it’s a her even before she speaks. I think I sort of even know who it is, although of course the realization that I do doesn’t hit me until after.

The voice is soft - familiar and, yet, not. "I told them."

I feel Alex allowing me to turn, but he still has a firm grip on me, like if he thought I might pass out before, he’s even more sure of it now.

She is beautiful. It is the first thought that comes to my mind as I lay eyes on her. Of course she is. I don’t know why such a stupid thing is the first I think, but I am clearly in shock.

She is taller than I expected, taking after her father. Her hair is long and dark, pulled back off her face in a style I often employ.

But, it is, of course, her eyes that really tell me who she is.

"I thought you said this wasn’t a good idea," Alex is saying, sounding worried. "You said that you were going to stay away from her - that you wanted us to make sure she was okay, to tell her what she needs to know."

"I know," she replies, shrugging slightly. "But it’s her. I had to see her - just once." Her gaze has not left my face. I feel like she is drinking me in, just like I know that I am doing the same to her.

Because, after all, she doesn’t remember me. I died when she was only six months old.

Serena.

She smiles at me, like she can hear her name threading it’s way through my heart. "Mother."

I can’t speak. What can I say to this daughter - this child that has not even been conceived yet in my own life, this child who may still never exist?

"You don’t have to," she tells me quietly, reading my thoughts again.

"Liz, are you okay?" Alex whispers to me. "She can go. She’ll listen to Max. I know this is weird."

I don’t move my eyes. I simply nod, manage to say, "I’m fine." I don’t let the tears that are threatening fall, instead make myself smile at her.

She, at least, deserves that - a smile from the mother I know she has missed all her life. Because I know Max and I know that he made sure that she knows all about me.

"Tell me. Tell me what happened."

She glances at Max, a Max who is not technically her father, and, yet, still is. It’s all confusing of course, but I am beginning to get a grip on who belongs in what timeline.

"First off," she begins, her hands clutched in front of her in a way that makes me stare at them, because I do that all the time. "You can’t blame him. You can’t blame my father. Any version of him. He’s right when he says that Sean has to exist." She closes her eyes briefly.

I want to comfort her. The pain on her face is excruciating. But Alex holds me firmly in place. "You can’t," he whispers.

"I can’t do any of this without him," she whispers. And when she opens her eyes again, I understand.

It is horrifying and yet makes perfect sense all at the same time. Because I have seen that expression on my own face in the mirror too many times to count. And every single time was when I was thinking of Max.

She is in love with him.

My daughter is in love with her brother…who isn’t really her brother of course. Yet the Sean I know, the one who was willing to kill me, thought he was. He was still utterly convinced that Max was his father.

And, yet, I remember the way he spoke about her, about how he was so determined to make sure that she never existed.

He was in love with her too - in love with the woman he thought was his sister. She knew the truth of course, but he didn’t and it is just so terribly twisted, it could only be Tess’ doing.

But, in the end, not even the witch was capable of this atrocity. It’s worse. Much worse.

But I don’t know this yet. Not yet.

"How? How did this happen?" I demand. "Serena? How?"

"I didn’t know who he was when I met him," she replies, laughing bitterly. "He didn’t know who I was either. But Khivar knew. He wanted to destroy us - both of us, even though Sean loved him like a father - so he made it happen." She smiles sadly at Max again, who is her father but not. "Dad tried to protect me. They all did. But I was so stupid. I played right into his hands."

She turns away, her arms wrapped around her middle. I can see that she can’t go on. "Alex?" I turn to him helplessly. "Why can’t I go to her?"

Max is the one who replies. I can hear the pain in his voice. Seeing her like this is just as hard for him as it is for me. His Serena had gone through none of this of course. His Serena had ceased to exist at fourteen years of age after she had sent him back in the granolith. His Serena had not grown up motherless, had likely had a happy, if short, life.

But this is still his daughter. He still aches for her, just as I do.

"It’s sort of like why I couldn’t see myself when I visited you in the past," he explains quietly. "We would all cease to exist. We’re part of each other. I can’t touch her either. It’s not quite as extreme as if you ran into your future version…" He blinks as if he has said too much.

I stare at him. "The future version of myself? She’s here?" I look around, my heart beating wildly. "What is this place?" I demand, finally wanting to understand where exactly I am trapped.

"It’s the granolith," Max shrugs. "We’re all here now - any of us who ceased to exist when the timelines shifted that is." He looks right at me. "My Liz is here. She came here after we changed everything. You can’t ever see her of course, but she’s here." His eyes soften slightly at the thought of her and it makes my heart skip a beat.

Darn him. Can I not just shut my heart off?

"Is everyone here?" I ask, still unclear as to what he’s getting at, ignoring the fact that I want to kiss him, even though he is not my Max. "Where are Michael and Isabel and Maria and everyone else?"

"Maria’s here too. She’s busy…" He pauses, frowns slightly. "She’s elsewhere. Michael and Isabel died in both timelines." Max looks down. I stare at him in disbelief. "People who die naturally don’t come here. That’s why the Alex from your timeline isn’t here either."

But the Michael and Isabel part is still ringing in my ears. I cannot believe what he is telling me. "So everything we did to save them…it was all for nothing? They still died?"

"I was fourteen," Serena tells me. "After Michael and Aunt Izzy died - they were both killed protecting me - I just couldn’t take it anymore. I ran off to save Dad and Maria and Ava and Uncle Jim. I knew he wouldn’t stop coming until he got his hands on me and I knew he wouldn’t stop killing people I cared about until he did. I was a stupid teenager, but I knew that I was the one destined to destroy him. We all knew it. I had to protect them all. So I left." She rubs her temples in a manner that is extremely familiar. I know why too. I see Max do it all the time.

Have I mentioned that this is all very weird? Tragic and horrible, but weird just the same. I feel like I am stuck in some convoluted nightmare from which I really want to wake up. That timeline had been so magical in so many ways and, yet, the way it had all turned out…Even just hearing about it…it’s almost too much.

But if I wake up, Alex will be gone again, and so will my daughter…and Max. I haven’t even touched him, but this Max…

He is still all mine. He has never slept with Tess at all. He was never with her, not even because he thought she was me.

You’d think I’d be over all of that, considering what I now know that Max and I are meant to be to each other, but it still burns within me, a horror that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get over.

Those flashes…I cannot live through them again.

"So she went after him," Alex continues for her, when it appears that she can’t go on. "She inherited stubbornness from both her parents," he can’t help but add wryly.

"I was on the run for two years before Sean found me. Khivar had sent him after me, but he didn’t know who I was, not right away. I was going by my middle name then." She smiles at Alex. "Alexandra." And then she looks right back at me. "We fell in love. And then we found out the truth."

"And no one ever knew that he wasn’t your brother." I close my eyes at the horror of it. "Kyle and I both died knowing it and no one else ever did."

There are still unanswered questions of course. Future Ava had told me that Max was not Sean’s father, so they must have found out the truth eventually. And why had Max stopped looking for Sean? I know that he never would have, could never have willingly left a child he thought was his own in Khivar’s clutches.

"We found out eventually. Khivar admitted it to me right before I killed him." She looks up, her eyes shining with a strange light. I can see that this woman is no innocent, that she was not allowed to live the sheltered life that Max and I would have both wanted for our daughter. I don’t want to know what she did to Khivar to make him tell the truth.

A world where my daughter had to torture and kill…I was glad that it no longer existed. In the end, perhaps Sean returning from the future had been a blessing in disguise.

Because the fact that Serena ever had to go to war…It meant that our plan to destroy Tess and the dupes - to end it once and for all - must have gone awry.

"I did kill him," she says, her voice completely emotionless. "But it was too late. Sean was already gone." She shakes her dark head, her expression the very image of someone who wishes they were dead. "Back in time to try and make sure that I was never born, because my very existence is the worst thing that ever happened to him. First I stole his father and then I ruthlessly stole his heart too," she finishes bitterly.

"Oh my God." It is all I can say. I have so many questions, but how can I ask her to relive any more of this? It is obviously painful, destructive. And why is she here anyway? Has she ceased to exist in her timeline? Has Sean completely destroyed any chance that she will be born? Did he win?

Or is she safely hiding here until I can fix things? Ava had mentioned something about the granolith being the only thing keeping Serena going when she had first told me about her.

"You can ask Mother." I blink, still a little unsettled by the way she can seemingly read my mind. "I relive it all anyway, all the time."

I look at Max. I can tell that this is as hard for him to hear as it is for me. The fact that he had come back in time had resulted in this horror that was unfolding from our daughter’s lips. We were responsible for this.

"Khivar is responsible." Serena’s voice cuts ruthlessly into my thoughts. I can see anger blazing in her eyes. She looks at Alex for confirmation. "They’re not learning Alex! Won’t they ever learn?"

"It’s a hard lesson Serena," Alex replies quietly. "It’s just in their natures to feel the way they do. They’re Max and Liz. They always feel responsible. You never knew them like I know them. To you Max was just super-dad and Liz was a dream you couldn’t even remember. But the sheer irony of this whole tale is that, considering the otherworldly origins of one of them, they’re only human. They make mistakes."

I stare at Max, who looks befuddled. "Um, Alex?" He says finally. "We’re standing right here." He sounds a little disturbed. I don’t blame him. I feel the same way.

Is this what our guilt had brought us to? Both of us have control issues, I’ll grant you, but had our desire to be in complete control at all times, to protect everyone, resulted in so much death and destruction?

I don’t know what to say, so I finally just sigh. "I’m sorry. Can I ask you what happened to Tess?" It seems to me that she wants me to know, so I’ll let her tell me.

Serena’s eyes are still slightly narrowed. She looks strangely like my mother does when she is yelling at me. "The plan worked, but only to a certain degree. Tess was doing some mindwarping of her own it seems. The four square of my father, Isabel, Michael and Ava killed Lonnie and Rath, but Tess managed to escape with Sean." Her expression softens again. "When he found out what had happened to you, my father destroyed Nicholas. Slowly."

I look at Max again. He doesn’t look at all disturbed, but, rather, satisfied. I am though - disturbed that is. That my death could have driven Max to go against his very nature, to torture another living being - even if it was Nicholas - I don’t like it. It’s not what our love is supposed to be about.

But I refrain from allowing the guilt pulsing through my veins to take hold. I can see that Serena is watching me suspiciously, like she knows it’s threatening to.

It was Khivar’s fault. She’s right. None of this was how we were supposed to turn out. His hatred and desire to kill Max had turned the dupes to the dark side, had allowed Nasedo to make the deal that had made Tess a traitor, had destroyed everything Max Evans was supposed to be.

Our daughter will never exist because Khivar planted the seeds so completely in that other life, Sean was able to return to see that it all fell apart even more quickly. We are stuck in a never-ending cycle of time travel that just brings on our own destruction more quickly.

And, suddenly, I understand everything that all of this is supposed to teach me.

If I can’t forgive Max, then Khivar wins. He won’t die because Serena will never be born and we will never be able to try and fix the mess that Tess created because Khivar wanted her to.

It is this truth about all that tells me the two things I need to know to make everything right again.

The first is that Max and Tess were never together. I know it with every fiber of my being. It is all a trick. It has to be. I just have to prove it.

The second is that we have to destroy the granolith. Because, if we don’t, it will only all happen again. Slightly different, yes, but it will happen.

But, if the granolith is gone, what does that mean for my daughter and everyone else who still exists within it?

I know the answer of course. They will all completely cease to exist.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 22-May-2002 9:20:14 PM ]
posted on 11-Jun-2002 6:52:14 PM
Part 29 - "Possession" - Max POV

Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide.
Voices trapped in yearning
Memories trapped in time.
The night is my companion
And solitude my guide.
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied?

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away.
And after I’d wipe away the tears.
Just close your eyes dear.

Through this world I’ve stumbled,
So many times betrayed,
Trying to find an honest word
To find the truth enslaved.
Oh you speak to me in riddles,
And you speak to me in rhyme.
My body aches to breathe your breath,
Your words keep me alive.

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away.
And after I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear.

Into this night I wander,
It’s morning that I dread.
Another day of knowing of
The path I fear to tread.
Oh, into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride.
‘Cause nothing stands between us here
And I won’t be denied.

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away.
And after I’d wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear.
I’ll hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away.
And after I’d wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes…

Sarah McLachlan


I can still hear my sister screaming my name for what feels like forever, but, in reality, is likely no more than an instant.

The whole process is weird. One minute I am in the desert, holding Liz’s lifeless body in my arms, and the next I’m not. I have absolutely no idea where I am, but one thing I do know for sure.

It’s dark. Very dark.

Is this death? Because if it is, then it is different than I expected. I am still completely aware. It is merely as though I have pulled aside a curtain. It doesn’t feel like I’ve left anything behind or that I am going forward either.

All I know is that Liz is nowhere to be found. I feel the disappointment like a stab to the heart. I hadn’t really been thinking when I had taken a hold of the granolith, but instinctively I had known that it should be able to take me to Liz. But she isn’t here. I’ve failed her again.

"She’s here."

I whirl, my heart beating double-time. I notice that the blackness is beginning to lighten, just like the desert sky does when the stars start to come out one by one after dusk.

"Maria! What the…"

She holds up her hands. "Hold it! I’m not who you think!" She smiles slightly, rolling her eyes. "Well, I am, but not really."

"What?" I just stare at her. "What are you talking about?" As I look more closely I can see that this is Maria, but that she’s right that she’s not the Maria I know. Her hair is way darker - dyed obviously - and she has wrinkles around her eyes that never existed there before. But her expression is all Maria.

"Decided to take a little stroll off a bridge again didja girlfriend?" She is majorly annoyed at me, although she is doing her best to appear tolerant. "Can I ask you if you even thought before you did what you just did?" She continues, her arms folded.

"Why are you dressed like that?" I ask, unable to stop myself and completely changing the subject. But she’s dressed in black leather from top to toe. It is extremely distracting and very un-Maria-like.

She narrows her eyes. "It’s how people dress in the future."

"What? Why?"

"I don’t know! We just do! Stop asking dumb questions!" She peers at me, then sighs, looking a little sympathetic. "I’m sorry. I keep forgetting that this is weird for you. Hell! It’s still weird for me! Plus you’re still really young, aren’t you?" She tilts her head. "I can’t believe how young you are! God, no wonder you screwed up so many times!"

I think I must still be a little shell-shocked, because she’s right that I am asking the stupidest things possible. I can’t even get mad at her unintended insult of me, because she is right after all. I have messed up too many times to count.

"So you’re from the future?" There, that’s a little more intelligent.

"I am….or I should say was. The future I belong to no longer exists."

"So he did change it." I am referring to Sean, of course, just assume that she will know what I am talking about.

"Yes, but the irony is, it’s for the best Max." She looks sad. I decide to let that go for the moment. I am still too confused by more general things. And I remember Liz telling me something about it being important to not know too much about the future - or that that was what Future Me had told her when I had come back to ruin both of our lives.

"Where am I?" Straightforward and simple. Good.

"You’re in the granolith. So, you didn’t have any idea what you were doing when you came here?" She shakes her head. "See what I mean about the thinking and the bridges Max? You’re lucky I caught you here. You would have messed everything up if I hadn’t. Liz isn’t ready to see you yet."

I feel my heart plummet. "She isn’t? But she called to me Maria! I connected to her through Isabel. Where is she? Why can’t I see her?"

"Because she’s with Future You. If you see him, you’ll cease to exist." She frowns slightly. "Of course, the fact that you’re here at all means that you already have…Ceased to exist I mean. But you can’t be dead…because if you were dead you wouldn’t be here." Her frown morphs into a scowl. "Dammit! I hate this place! Nothing makes any sense."

That’s the understatement of the millennium.

"Okay. Maybe I’m just visiting?" I am going to take control of this situation if it’s the last thing I ever do. She’s right that I wasn’t exactly thinking when I decided to come here - since I didn’t realize where here was when I grabbed the granolith in Liz’s hand - but that doesn’t mean I can’t try and fix things. She shrugs, looking even more mad. "Never mind. Just tell me what you know. Please."

"First you tell me what you know."

Why do I feel like she’s stalling for some reason? But I decide to cooperate. "Well, I know that Liz was taken by Tess and Sean Deluca, who was definitely not your cousin and who may or may not be my son from the future…"

"Not your son," Maria jumps in, like she’s pleased that she can actually give me some concrete information. She grimaces immediately though, like she’s said too much. "Dammit!" She mutters. "I told Liz not to send me here by myself!"

"Liz! She sent you!"

"Not your Liz. And not my Liz either," Maria sighs. When I frown at her, perplexed, she sighs again. "Please, just never mind."

"Are you sure?" I ask tentatively, deciding to do as she asks. "About Sean I mean?" It’s what I had suspected after healing Kyle of course, but to actually have it confirmed…

It’s a dream come true.

"Very sure," Maria replies. I realize that she has moved closer to me, has her hand on my arm, seems to have accepted that she can’t not tell me now that she’s started. "He’s not yours Max. Tess lied. He wasn’t dying either."

"He’s Kyle’s?"

"Yes."

I meet her eyes, swallow. She seems to know exactly what I’m about to ask her. "Did…did I…"

"Sleep with her?" Maria sighs. "In my world, yes. But she messed with your head. You were mindwarped into it. You thought she was Liz."

My heart falls. "Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure."

All my hopes of ever being more than friends with Liz are gone then. Because I know that those flashes she got were real. I might not have fathered Tess’s baby, but I did betray Liz. Hell, I betrayed myself. I betrayed absolutely everything I have always tried to be.

You know, deep down, I knew it. I knew that I had done it. I knew that I couldn’t be strong without Liz. It’s my greatest failing. I’ve never been strong enough for her.

"Are you okay?" Her voice is kind now, almost motherly. "I’m sorry Max. I know how much this whole thing haunted you in my timeline."

"You said I didn’t do it on purpose there though?"

"No."

"So what I did in this life was even worse. Because Liz says that I did do it on purpose in this timeline. That I hated her and that I was trying to get back at her." I hear my voice crack. "But Maria, I know that’s not true!"

I can see that she is frowning slightly. "So that’s what his goal was!" She says. "He wanted to keep you and Liz apart - for good." She grabs me by the hand. "Max! You have to fix this! You have to get past it somehow. He’s going to win if you don’t!"

I blink. "What? Why?"

She grimaces. "I can’t tell you!" She sounds frustrated. "I’ve already said too much! This isn’t your journey Max. It’s Liz’s. You’re already somewhere you’re not supposed to be. I just…I can’t!" I continue to stare at her as she glances over her shoulder. It’s almost like she’s listening to someone suddenly.

"Maria?" She looks back at me, still extremely vexed. "Can you at least tell me about the stuff I already know? Like I know that one of the reasons that other me came back originally was to save Michael and Isabel. Did that at least work?" She seems to think about this for a moment, trying to figure out what she can and can’t tell me. But she doesn’t even need to speak. The way her face whitened at the mention of Michael…I think I already know the answer. "It didn’t, did it?"

"No." Her voice is small. I can hear the pain of it there. "I had to live on for ten years without him." She seems to crumple slightly. "And he’s not here either." She raises her eyes, something shining in them that I don’t quite recognize. "Max?" I think it might be desperation.

"Yeah." I have reached out to comfort her, but don’t feel entirely right pulling her into my arms. This isn’t my Maria after all. This isn’t the close friend I let slip away from me because I was so wrapped up in my own problems. I wonder if I had stayed close to her, whether I would have made that mistake with Tess.

Because as lonely as I was when I did what I did with Tess, as alone as I had felt…in some ways it was my own fault. I had let them all slip away from me - including Maria. Would I have made different choices if I had fought harder for my friends?

"Will you promise me something?"

"Anything."

"Will you destroy that thing when you go back?" She is blinking back tears. And in that instant, I see my Maria. She is eighteen again and she is the girl I knew, one of the best friends I will ever know. "Please. I just can’t be here without him."

"Can I? Is it okay to destroy it?" I ask, thinking about how I have already basically decided that it has to be destroyed. The granolith - it has to go. It’s just not right to be able to mess with the way things are supposed to be.

Sure Liz and that future version of me had saved the world with what they had done, but from what Maria is not saying, I am getting the impression that they may have only put it off for a while.

If that’s the Earth’s destiny, it’s fate, who am I to interfere? I just don’t have the right. I will do everything in my power to stop it - I will fight Khivar until my dying breath, because now I know I have to fight - but if it’s not meant to be, maybe I’m just going to have to accept it.

I think Maria was wrong, with what she just said. I think I had a journey to take too. And I think it just ended.

I have learned my lesson. I cannot control everything. As much as I want to, as much as I want to protect the people I love, some things just have to be left to fate.

Just like I can’t control Liz and the way she feels. As much as I want to bind her to me for the rest of her days - and I have an inkling suddenly that I might be able to convince her to try again, even with the flashes - I just cannot do that to her. Because she won’t be the Liz I want - a Liz who comes to me of her own free will, by choice, not because of some force I put on her because of the bond that exists between us. The bond that is so strong I am beginning to feel her presence again, even here. It is faint, but it’s like as if, as all this becomes clear to me, that I’m allowed to be with her again - at least on the spiritual level.

When I healed her that day in the Crashdown, we connected on a level that is simply beyond my comprehension.

And, finally, I understand. Even if we’re not together, I will always have her. I will always have the magical two years when I was allowed to be in love with her - the two years where she made me human. They will always be mine and they will make me strong enough to go on without her.

I can let her go. Finally.

The memory of what she made me…I can be that person again. Even without her.

And it is in that instant that I know that she is not dead. I can feel her. The connection that has been shut off for the last twenty-four hours - ever since Tess kidnapped her - wooshes back so abruptly, I stumble against Maria slightly.

I close my eyes, reaching out to Liz, hoping she’ll feel me too, know that I’ve come for her.

Supremely ironic that what I told her so many months ago has finally come true. I’ve come for her, but in the end, it will be to set her free.

Because, even if I can’t be with her, at least I can bring her back to the people who love her. She doesn’t belong here. She has to know that I won’t desert her here. But then I will leave her alone to get on with her life without me.

"… you can," Maria is saying, seemingly unaware of the fact that I’m not really listening to her anymore. I force myself to focus on her. "I think maybe that’s what Liz is supposed to learn. That the granolith has to be destroyed once and for all. Sean has been born now and I still have a feeling…" She trails off, sighing. "I can’t tell you Max. But I have the feeling that what needs to happen, it just will. You and Liz…you just belong together."

I smile sadly. "I hope so Maria."

But even if we don’t, what Liz has given to me, it will sustain me through whatever the future is going to bring.

And it will be a future with no more interference. As soon as I get Liz out of here, the granolith will be no more.

I feel my friend’s eyes on me. I meet them, feel my heart skip a beat. "Is it time?"

"Yes." She returns me smile. "Be brave Max. Make a better world for all of us."

"I’ll do my best. I love you Maria."

"I love you too."

The blackness flickers and she is gone.

But I am not alone again. Not by a long shot.

Our eyes meet. Hers are shining with unshed tears. "Max."

And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have finally found her.

My Liz.


posted on 11-Jun-2002 6:53:35 PM
Part 30 - Home - Liz POV

Child walks to the river,
Looks as far as she can see,
And draws each breath as if it were the last,
And wipes away the tears across her sleeve.
She can see where the river crawls to the sea
Like a baby into a mother’s care.
Somehow the longing is so far away,
The innocence so wasted and aware.

Look at the child with the dream in her eyes,
Holding it deep inside her.

So much anger, so deeply engrained,
Seemed a burden that was hers alone.
She didn’t think that there was anything wrong
In wanting a life that she could call her own.
How could I explain? You would not want to hear.
You wouldn’t listen if I talked anyway
For you were too weighed down by your own fears.

Look at the child with the dream in her eyes,
Holding it deep inside.
Thinking about home, home.

Sarah McLachlan


I look around at all three of them - the Future Max who helped me destroy himself, who made my Max something he wasn’t supposed to be; my best friend Alex - an Alex who lived and yet still ceased to exist after what Future Max and I had done; and my daughter, my own flesh and blood, a woman with my face and Max’s eyes, a woman who may never live now because of the way things have been shaped in my world - and I know that I can do it.

I can destroy the granolith. Because these are not really the people I love. They are not flesh and blood. They are trapped in a netherworld that is neither here nor there. It is unnatural, wrong.

I know it, and, yet, it will be the most difficult thing I will ever do.

I feel a light touch on my hair, look up into his eyes. My partner-in-crime. A man I have desired and hated in the same breath. A person that my Max will never be.

My love.

"I am sorry," he whispers. "No matter what they say," he quirks a sad grin towards Alex and Serena, who are both watching quietly, "It’s just how I feel. I can understand how guilt can make things even worse, but I still feel it."

I smile at him. "I know." And I do. Because I can’t just change my nature. But I can do a better job to not let it control me. And then I tell him what I know he most needs to hear. "I don’t regret a thing."

Because, you know what? I don’t. Not really. I have come to accept what I can’t change. I helped this man to change my world and I am going to have to live with the consequences. The fact that I have felt Max hate me - it is a hard pill to swallow, even though I am still convinced that he didn’t sleep with Tess.

But hate isn’t so very far from love after all. This man in front of me - I have hated and loved him at the same time. I can understand it now. It doesn’t hurt any less, but I can understand it.

And I can’t blame Max for it anymore. He is only eighteen years old. He is not a man, has always been too trusting, in spite of the fact that he and Isabel and Michael always knew they couldn’t, shouldn’t be.

He saved my life because of who he is and he lost himself because of who he is. And who he is my Max and I still love him in spite of it all. Some of you may think that is weak, but I actually think it’s strong. I have recognized that people make mistakes, that either we have to forgive them or forget them.

I can’t forget him. He saved my life. He gave me his heart so completely that when I seemingly betrayed him, he couldn’t get past it. And I gave mine back - to the point that I could hurt him so completely to save him.

Neither of us recognized it for the gift it truly was. We weren’t careful with each other, didn’t think before we acted, hurt each other time and again when all we really wanted was to be together.

I won’t make the same mistake again.

I will not forget, but now I can forgive.

Future Max tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, leans down and kisses me gently on the mouth. "Do what you have to do Liz," he whispers against my lips. "But also trust your heart. You know the truth - deep down."

And then he is gone.

I blink, look around in confusion. I feel tears fill my eyes. But I’m not sad. I am so full of hope, it is almost overwhelming.

I can see that Alex and Serena are still standing nearby. And when I see the person standing with them, blinking with a confusion equal to my own, I understand why Future Max had to leave.

It is my Max. Instinctively I know it. I can feel his spirit completing me, simply with his presence.

We have found each other again.

"Max," I say quietly, taking a step towards him.

"Liz." He has quickly regained his bearings and is staring at me, his eyes warm and relieved. It sends a shiver down my spine. "Are you all right?"

"I’ve never been better," I tell him and his face relaxes.

It’s not entirely true of course. Things aren’t perfect. There is still the matter of the granolith and the fact that it has to be destroyed and everyone within it will cease to exist. And we still have to find Sean, because I don’t doubt that this is the one thing we can do that will truly make things right. He cannot be raised by Tess. It is just an impossibility. He will never turn out to be who he needs to be if he is under her power - and consequentially Khivar’s.

But I have never felt more in control of my own destiny, more in control of what I really want.

I want Max. And all I have to do is tell him so.

"We don’t exist now." This is Serena, as though she has read my mind again. "That’s why we’re here. Our time is done. You can do it Mother. You have to."

Max has not taken his eyes off of me, but his head whips around to stare at our daughter after the word mother.
I can’t help myself. I laugh.

He cannot stop staring at her. From the look on his face, I think he can see himself in her, and it must be strange. I can’t even imagine. I knew about her before I saw her, could accept her for who she was, but he looks a little frightened, unsure.

I don’t blame him at all. It is a scary enough proposition, being a parent. But bearing and raising the savior of two worlds? It is absolutely terrifying. But it’s exhilarating too. And he did it once. This woman standing with us is the result.

And this time he won’t be alone. She will be an even more amazing person because this time we will do it together.

Because I don’t doubt anymore that she will be born. Maybe not as soon as she is supposed to be - maybe not even for years. Because now I know that teenage pregnancy is not exactly the most attractive alternative and now that I know what could happen, I will take proper precautions. Max and I need to be ready for her, need to be the best people we can possibly be when she comes.

But she will come. I know she will.

"Liz?" I can hear the question in his voice. I’m not sure if I should tell him or not. Is it still dangerous to understand what our future will be?

But we still don’t know everything for sure after all. We know that Serena will be born, but we don’t know when or how. We know that we will save Sean, but we don’t know exactly what that will mean. Things are still uncertain, will still unfold as a mystery. We know the destination, but not the path to reach it.

And that’s what life is really about, in the end. Because isn’t the destination for all of us completion with someone we love? Serena is a by-product of what I already know will happen. What we always knew would happen, from the first time we connected that time in the Crashdown.

We are meant to be, Max and I.

"She’s our daughter Max. This is Serena."

"Serena?" He looks at me, astounded. "As in Serena of the Granolith Serena?"

"The same one." Alex speaks up here. "But there will be no Serena of the Granolith in your time, will there Liz?" He asks it quietly, but I can tell what he is doing. He is telling me that it is all right to destroy it - that he doesn’t want my feelings of affection for him, how much I miss him to affect our decision.

"No."

I see Max’s face fall. He thinks it means that we will never be together, because that’s what I told him of course, and that is why there will be no Serena of the Granolith.

"Because there will be no granolith," I say, smiling slightly as the words reach Max and he starts, disbelieving. "There will be a Serena."

"Which means that I can go." Serena looks directly at me, a sad smile on her face. "I love you." She sweeps her gaze to include Max. "I love you both. Please don’t ever forget that, in the end, that’s the most important thing."

And she disappears into the mist that is beginning to gather around us. I haven’t noticed it until now, but it is snaking around my ankles now and is pretty much unavoidable.

I wonder if the granolith knows that it’s end is near - that we will destroy it when we get out of here. I can feel the energy circulating in the air, as though it is preparing itself.

I look at Alex, my heart suddenly in my throat. "Alex, can you even understand how much I miss you?"

His dark eyes are unmarked with pain however. "Liz, you don’t have to miss me. I’ll always be with you." He looks at Max. "Isn’t that right Max?’

Max blinks, then starts to laugh. "That was you?" I have no idea what they’re talking about. Max sees this and reminds me. "My dream Liz. Remember my dream?"

Right. The dream about Alex that started our whole investigation. The one that told Max that Alex knew much more before he died than we ever dreamed.

And he did. He knew the truth about Sean and he knew the truth about Tess and Kyle. And I realize suddenly that, for more than any other reason, this is why Tess killed him.

It was not an accident. She did it on purpose. I feel the iron enter my soul.

This time we can make her pay for it.

Because I suddenly understand something that it took far too long for the Liz and Max of the timeline I just visited to get. To maintain our innocence, to stay who we really want to be, we are going to have to destroy the one who destroyed us in the first place.

Tess has to die.

Can I do it? Can I actually take another life? I feel my heart starting to beat irregularly at even the thought of it. But I know that I don’t have to make up my mind right away. We still need to find her. And just because I know where to start looking - Canada - it doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple.

But I know that we will find her. And that will be soon enough to decide.

"Will you still be able to do that?" Max is asking Alex. "If we destroy the granolith I mean?"

"You guys just don’t get it, do you?" Alex grins. "It’s me! You guys will never forget me, and so, I will never leave you. I promise."

"Just don’t ask me to not miss you," I tell him. Tess forgotten for the moment, I move forward and place my hands on both sides of his face. His skin is warm and alive beneath my touch and I know this is the last time I will ever truly feel him. Tears of sorrow fill my eyes.

He reads my mind. "You’ll always feel me Lizzie." He places a gently hand over my heart. "As long as this is still beating, I will be with you."

I throw my arms around him, hug him tightly. "I love you Alex."

"I love you too Lizzie. Don’t ever forget it. I don’t regret dying for you. Not for an instant."

"You do know I would have done the same for you?"

"You almost did," Alex reminds me, making me remember the alien bomb that Michael had barely managed to stop from killing me. "Let it go Lizzie. Live your life. I will always be with you. I promise." He looks over my head at Max. "You two need to take care of each other. But this time, make sure you both know why. You work so much better as a team. Always remember that."

"We will," Max replies, sounding emotional. "Thanks Alex." I know that he will always feel guilty, will always feel that what he is was responsible for Alex’s death.

I will too. Alex can tell me not to as much as he wants to, but I will always feel it.

We are not perfect after all. But as long as make sure it doesn’t control us any longer, we will be all right. Somehow I just know it.

I hug Alex once more, hard, then turn and meet Max’s eyes.

I move forward, take his hand in mine. He glances down at where our hands are linked and I feel warmth spread through me because I know what he is thinking about. He is remembering the time that we joined hands to go face our parents together after our night out in the desert when we found the orb.

It was the night that ended up bringing Tess into our lives, and now, with this joining of our hands, we will work to get rid of her, once and for all.

I smile up at him, hoping he sees how much I love him, that this is going to work if it’s the last thing I do.

"Let’s go home."


posted on 11-Jun-2002 6:58:03 PM
Part 31 - Angel - Max POV

Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance,
For a break that would make it okay.
There’s always some reason
To feel not good enough,
And it’s hard at the end of the day.
I need some distraction,
Oh beautiful release,
Memory seeps through my veins.
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
We’ll find some peace tonight.

In the arms of the angel,
Fly away from here,
From this dark cold hotel room,
And the endlessness that you fear.
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie.
You’re in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.

So tired of the straight line
And everywhere you turn,
There’s vultures and thieves at your back.
And the storm keeps on twisting
And you keep on building the lies
That you make up for all that you lack.
It don’t make no difference
Escaping one last time.
It’s easier to believe
In this sweet madness,
Oh this glorious sadness
That brings me to my knees.

In the arms of the angel
Fly away from here,
From this dark cold hotel room,
And the endlessness that you fear.
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie.
You’re in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.

You’re in the arms of the angel,
May you find some comfort here.

Sarah McLachlan


I am staring up at the ceiling of the motel room I am sharing with Michael. He isn’t here though, having gone for a walk with Maria. I don’t blame him. I am certainly not the most pleasant of companions right now I’m sure. I have been in a state of half-disbelief, half-despair for close to three days.

With the angst-fest you have all been treated to, I am sure that you are not surprised to learn that what you just read was too good be true. You didn’t really think that it could be as easy as all that for Liz and I, did you?

Oh, you did? Well, I don’t blame you I guess. But it didn’t last. Because when we did what we both knew we had to do - when we destroyed the granolith - everything changed again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back-track a bit and then I think you’ll understand.

Three days ago Liz and I woke up in the desert wrapped in each other’s arms and everything was right with my world again.

It was supremely ironic that just when I had figured out that I was going to have to let Liz go if I didn’t want to completely destroy who she was, she returned to me of her own volition, whatever she had learned during her time in the granolith obviously having given her the will to try again.

I knew it the instant I looked into her eyes as she returned to awareness, her eyes fastening on my face, a slight smile of acceptance on her lips.

And when she kissed me I felt my heart start to heal itself. Because as much as I had been willing to let her go, as much as I had known that it was what sheneeded, it didn’t mean that it hadn’t almost killed me. My heart had known that it was never going to love anyone ever again - that it would continue to beat for Liz and for Liz alone, even if she didn’t know it - and it had broken.

I knew that it was wrong of us to get so lost in each other right then. Our friends were all gathered around us, exclaiming in relief and amazement that we were both safe. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for them to see us both just gone - there with them in body, but not in spirit - merely empty shells.

But I am not a saint after all, especially when it comes to Liz. I think we all know that by now. And it had been far too long since Liz had kissed me like this - without any pain or fear or despair behind it. I opened myself to her completely, deepening the kiss when I felt her lips part under mine.

I faltered for only a minute when the flashes started. Because I knew that she would be getting them too - knew that they would still be of me and Tess and what we had done together - what Maria in the granolith had confirmed had really happened.

But she had pressed herself against me, twining her hands in my hair, refusing to let it affect her. I could feel her strength of will through the connection that had forged itself so ardently with the intensity of the kiss.

I saw the same flashes I had seen the last time - Liz dancing with the future version of me on her balcony, Liz’s heart breaking when she saw me kiss Tess at the Prom, Liz deciding to give herself to Sean, Liz turning away from him, knowing that she was never going to be able to get over me. And I felt the disappointment wind it’s way through my veins.

Liz wanted to try again, but we couldn’t because what I had done with Tess had left such an imprint on my soul, Liz was going to relive it over and over again, for all time.

I felt my mind racing, trying to come up with a solution. The only one that presented itself was that we never connect so deeply again - that maybe we could be together, just not on the same level we had once shared. Many couples had made relationships work with much less than Liz and I had going for us. We didn’t need the connection.

But I knew, deep down, that it would never work, that we would only be a shadow of what we might have been and I couldn’t do it to her. It just wasn’t fair.

And so I threw my whole soul into that final kiss, trying to make her understand that I would never love anyone else like I loved her, but that I could not ask her to live half a life with me.

I was going to have to pay for my mistake with Tess for the rest of my life. But she didn’t have to. I refused to allow her to.

I kept my eyes closed as she finally pulled back, her lips lingering for one heart-breaking moment. I couldn’t stand to open them, to see the acknowledgment of what I already knew on her face. That we still couldn’t be together.

"Max, open your eyes." Her voice was soft, coaxing. "It’s okay. I knew it would be and it was."

I frowned slightly, but complied, focusing on her beautiful, radiant face. "Liz?"

The brilliance of her smile was blinding. "She’s gone Max. It was all a lie. I totally knew it and what I just saw proved it!"

"What you just saw…" I blinked. "What do you mean?"

"The flashes were different Max," Liz explained patiently. "I knew they would be and they were. You didn’t sleep with her."

I just stared at her. "What? Are you sure? But I still remember it!"

A slight crease appeared between Liz’s eyes as she thought about that. "I saw it Max. She mindwarped you into kissing her and then you passed out somehow. There is no way you slept with her."

I was overcome with amazement. "I don’t understand."

"She must have undressed you and then planted false memories." Liz smiled at me again, cupped her hands on my cheeks so that I couldn’t look away. "Do you know what this means Max? Do you? You’re still mine! All mine."

I was still frowning, unsure what to make of all this, still had the full memories of what Tess and I had done together. Could I let Liz believe that it had never happened? Could I really do that to her? I thought of Serena, knew that Liz might be willing to live a lie if it meant making sure that our daughter was born.

I still didn’t know the whole story behind Serena mind you, but I had seen the way Liz had looked at her - like she was the best thing ever. Liz might be willing to ignore a lot to make sure that Serena came. And, yet, it still seemed just plain wrong…

And what about what she had seen? How could she have gotten those flashes from me if it hadn’t really happened?

"Maxwell, what the hell is going on?" Michael’s voice had broken through my confusion at that point. I was actually surprised that he had been able to hold off from saying anything for so long. No doubt everyone was a little shocked by my and Liz’s behavior. Here we were, apparently just back from the dead, making out and talking about things that no one likely understood.

I sighed, climbed to my feet a little unsteadily, pulling Liz after me. She refused to let go of my hand, was still smiling beatifically, completely happy.

I glanced around at the whole crowd. My sister Isabel, who looked relieved. Maria, who was standing with Michael, her eyes wide and curious. Michael, who just looked ticked by now. The Sheriff and Kyle stood a little apart, but just as concerned as any of the others.

And then there was Ava, who stood near the Jetta, looking solitary and lonely. I swallowed, glanced down.

Sean was gone. I looked back at Ava. "Is he…"

"He vanished," Ava replied quietly. "Something shifted again. Sean doesn’t exist anymore - at least not in that incarnation." She shrugs, looks at Maria. "They didn’t get here in time with ours and I couldn’t use theirs because you and Liz had it." I know she is referring to the granolith.

"But he does still exist." Liz stepped forward, squeezing my hand before she let go. "Tess never left the planet guys. I know it for sure." She looked at Kyle. "He’s your son Kyle." She blurted it, as though unsure how to break the news to him. Because, of course, she doesn’t know that Kyle had already learned the truth.

"I know." Kyle let out a long breath, like he had been holding it until he had what we already pretty much knew confirmed. I saw a set expression appear on his face, determination that we were going to track down his child. He glanced at his father, who simply nodded. "Where do we start?"

"I know that too," Liz replied. "But we have something we need to take care of first." She glanced back at me. "Max, we need to destroy it. We have to. It’s just too powerful. It’s wrong to be able to do what Sean did, what Future Max did. We have to live this life and also live with the mistakes we might make."

We hadn’t discussed this at all, but we had both come to the same conclusion, me even before I had spoken to Maria in the granolith. I nodded.

Michael interrupted here of course. "Excuse me? Isn’t that thing our only potential way of getting home?" He demanded. Maria flinched at that, but Michael brought his arm around her in reassurance. "Someday I mean. Don’t we still need to go back and fix our planet someday? On our own terms?"

"He’s right Max," Isabel spoke up. "Do we really have the right to make this decision?"

"Max is right." This was Ava. "We’re not strong enough to go back anytime soon. We may never be strong enough. We’re too human." Michael, Isabel and I all looked at her. "I never fit in with Lonnie, Rath and Zan, because they were so unemotional, so alien, but I did think we were a Four Square. We always knew about you all, thought you were the mistakes, that you were too human, that we were the ones Antar needed, but when I learned that you guys had the granolith, I thought that maybe we were the mistakes. And then I found out that I was never meant to be with them anyway, so I wasn’t a mistake after all."

"Is there a point in this?" Michael asked, sounding annoyed.

I frowned at him. "Michael."

Ava looked slightly embarrassed at her long-winded ramble. "The point is, what if both sets were mistakes?"

I stared at her, then met Isabel’s eyes. "You mean we’re too human and they’re too alien?" Isabel finally asked.

"Yeah."

There was a long pause as we all digested this. "So then no one has to save Antar, or even can?" Maria asked, breaking the silence first, being as she can’t really handle them for long.

"Maybe," I said. I looked at Liz. She had a sad look on her face, like she thought that this might be hard for me to accept - that I couldn’t be the king my people needed me to be because I was wrong somehow.

But, to me, it felt liberating. Like I was finally free. And as our eyes met, I knew that she understood.

I saw a shadow flit across her face and when she spoke, she sounded upset. "Be that as it may you guys, that doesn’t let any of us off the hook. Because I know that Khivar is going to show up someday. I can’t tell you any more than that, but I do know it. He’s going to attack the Earth and it might end."

"Liz," Maria gasped. "Is it okay to tell everyone this?"

"It’s past time to tell everyone," Liz told her grimly. "About Future Max I mean. But I’m not talking about him right now. We can tell that later. I’m talking about Khivar. Whether you guys are mistakes or not, he wants you all dead. He will come someday. And you all have to be ready."

I saw Isabel shiver. She wrapped her arms around her middle, as though her worst nightmare was being realized. Liz moved forward, took Ava’s hand. Ava looked at her in confusion, glanced down, and then back at Liz’s face. "You do belong with us Ava. You have to stay. We want you to stay. You’re one of us." She turned, looked at everyone in succession. "We are strongest as a team, a unit. And I’m not just talking about the Four Square, although I think you guys have untapped power you can’t even imagine. We don’t need the granolith. We are strong enough without it. And we will win. You all did last time until Sean screwed it all up by coming back in time. We can do this."

I didn’t miss the fact that she emphasized the You all part. Like she hadn’t had any role in the defeat of Khivar in that other life. But I knew that it wasn’t the time to ask her about it. She would tell me later…

Because, of course, I didn’t know at that point that she wouldn’t be able to tell me later.

And, so, my expression was grim as Liz came to stand in front of me. "Max, we have to end this now. We have to get rid of the granolith."

The complete certainty Liz had demonstrated in her little speech seemed to convince everyone. No one protested again.

Moments later, I had one of the crystals in my hand, the one that Maria had buried at the bottom of her purse. Because we only needed one of them - ours. If we destroyed our granolith, the other one would cease to be after all, being as it was the future version of the one we had found, brought back in time by Ava when she had chased after Sean, who had used it first.

Yes, I know it’s confusing, but then timelines and time travel always are. Destroying the damn granolith means that I can stop thinking in terms like this, can concentrate on my own life and my life alone, can stop trying to keep this all straight in my head.

Of course, destroying it also had a consequence I couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I know that Liz went through something extraordinary when she went into the granolith. She never got a chance to tell me about it though.

Because when I took that crystal in my hand, when I broke it in two, when the light that burned from within it was extinguished, whatever it was that Liz had lived there was extinguished as well.

I looked up at her just as I did it and I literally saw the light go out in her eyes, as all the memories she had created disappeared.

And so here I lie on my motel room bed, staring up at the ceiling, knowing that Liz is asleep next door in the room she is sharing with Isabel, Maria and Ava, blissfully unaware of anything she experienced during her journey.

She knows nothing about Serena, nothing about Sean, has even completely forgotten where Tess crashed in the spaceship when she took off.

Now I don’t want you to think that she has turned her back on me again. She hasn’t - not completely. She doesn’t remember finding out that I didn’t sleep with Tess, but when I explained to her about the flashes - that they had changed and that she told me what she had seen - she had looked pensive, as though turning the whole thing over in her mind.

Because she has returned to only remembering the bad flashes. It’s like the kiss we shared when we came back to life together never happened.

None of it happened. Not for her. And she’s not willing to risk it again. She has been avoiding me like the Plague since we hit the road to find Sean. She told me yesterday that she wants to be friends, that she believes me that I’m not lying when I tell her what she told me, but she just can’t risk it again. She’s having a hard enough time still dealing with the first set of flashes.

So we’re back to being friends. Sort of. But not really. It is, quite simply, brutal.

The worst part is, I remember everything. I remember Future Maria, who was living an incomplete life with Michael. I remember Future Alex, the one who had lived in the timeline where Liz and I had married in Vegas and who had visited me in my dream.

I remember Serena. My daughter. Our daughter.

I don’t just remember the granolith and my experiences there either.

I still remember sleeping with Tess. I did it. I know I did. And the fact that Liz doesn’t remember her new flashes…It’s only reinforcing it for me.

Sean is not my son, but I slept with Tess. And there is nothing I can do to change it.

Why do I remember and Liz doesn’t? I just don’t get it. How could we have shared something so significant, so life-altering and only I remember?

Am I being punished for what I did with Tess? Is fate finally giving me my just desserts, making me feel like Liz did when she had to keep the secret about Future Max, when she had to stay away from me?

I have never felt so alone. I can’t tell anyone about what happened - about what I know about the future. I cannot mess with the timeline that way.

See, even with no granolith, things are messed up. A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.

Everyone remembers what Liz said about Khivar of course, although she can’t remember how she knows. I see the fear that lurks in Isabel’s eyes, the barely veiled panic.

She is waiting for him to come for her, is slowly driving herself crazy because of it. But she is helping us to find Tess, despite her terror. She refuses to let anyone talk to her about it, feels like it is her cross to bear because she once, in a past life, betrayed me.

Isabel dreamwalked Tess last night, now that we know she’s still on the planet. We know she’s somewhere in Canada, that Sean has been born. Izzy got that much. And now we’re on the road after them.

It’s almost been too easy. Like Tess knows we’re coming. Like she’s waiting for us.

I know that this is it - the final showdown. Somehow I know that Tess isn’t going to be alone. If we win this battle, we might be able to start to build normal lives for ourselves, still with the shadow of Khivar lurking, but also with the knowledge that Liz had given us that we can win.

Of course, we don’t know how, but I know that she’s right. It doesn’t mean that it sucks any less that I’m going to have to beat my enemies without Liz by my side.

Because with the loss of her memory, Liz’s potential freedom has returned again. And I have gone back to my original resolution that I am going to leave her alone, that I can let her go. I need to do it - for her.

I love her and I would do anything for her - even give her up.

It doesn’t make me any less miserable though.

I rub a weary hand across my face, wish that I could just fall asleep, sink into oblivion. I know that I’ll dream about Liz, but at least I won’t remember it when I wake up. At least I’ll feel like I had some relief from this agony, if only for a little while.

A tapping on the door jerks me into a seated position. I roll my eyes. "Michael, I told you not to forget your key!" I mutter in annoyance as I make my way across the room to let him in. I was really hoping to be asleep by the time he came back so that I wouldn’t have to listen to him try and convince me that I had to make Liz try again - that if she had not gotten flashes last time, all I had to do was kiss her and show her that she wouldn’t get them again.

I can’t do that to her. It would be like violating her trust. I have told her that I will give her space and I intend to respect that.

But as I open the door and I see that it’s not Michael, I realize that I haven’t figured out what I am going to do about my resolve to leave her alone if she doesn’t want me to keep it.

Because here she is, biting her lip and looking nervous. "Hi Max."

"Hi." I know that I sound dumbfounded. Liz has not sought me out in three days, has always made sure we’re in different cars, that we never end up sitting beside each other when we stop to eat. Like I said, basically acting like I have the Plague.

And now here she is at my door at midnight and she doesn’t look the least bit afraid.

"I couldn’t sleep," she says, smiling slightly. "Can I come in?"

I frown. "Are you sure you want to?" But I move aside, still holding the door open and she slides under my arm and into the room.

It is only when she stops near the closest bed and turns to look at me, her eyes scanning shyly down the length of my body that I remember I’m wearing only my boxers. I was technically in bed after all, in spite of the fact that my mind has been racing for the past hour, sleep nowhere near ready to come.

I feel heat rising in my face, turn away and grab a T-shirt off the nearest chair. "Is something wrong?" I ask as I turn back, pulling it over my head.

Liz is biting her lip again. "I need to talk to you Max." She sighs. "We can’t keep doing this."

I sigh. "Liz, I know. I’m leaving you alone. I’m not going to pressure you into anything. I told you didn’t even have to come with us."

Liz doesn’t say anything for along moment and then she whispers, "Yes, I do."

"Why?"

"Because I just feel like I do." I feel the pain of it as tears fill her dark eyes. I cannot stand to see her cry. I just can’t take it if I’m responsible for doing that to her - again. "I just know that we’re meant to be together Max."

"Liz…"

"Max, just listen. I’ve been thinking about what you told me three days ago . I’ve been thinking about what the others said that confirmed it too. That I came back from wherever I was and I had all this information and I kissed you and the flashes of you and Tess were gone."

"Okay?" I have no idea what she’s talking about, but I’m willing to listen. Let’s call a spade a spade here. In spite of my resolve, I would listen to Liz Parker read the telephone book to me. The sound of her voice is simply hypnotic.

"And it dawned on me tonight how stupid we’ve been. We haven’t even used the resource that we have right at our fingertips. Because if what you said was true - if you were mindwarped - then those flashes that I got had to have been a mindwarp too."

I feel my heart start to beat erratically. What is she saying? "I don’t get it. Resource at our fingertips? What are you talking about?"

"Ava," Liz explains patiently. "If anyone knows about mindwarping, it’s her."

"And you trust her enough to ask her?" I pause. "Wait a minute. What do you even want to ask her?"

"If we’ve been mindwarped. Shouldn’t she be able to tell?"

"I don’t know." I can feel my mind whirling. I suddenly remember - I can’t believe I forgot this - my tapping fingers on the steering wheel as Maria and I had waited outside the Valentis a few days ago.

That’s not the only memory that suddenly pops into my head either. I remember how I found out that Kyle had been warped. I connected with him and saw the damage that had been done to his brain.

I couldn’t examine my own brain, but I could take a peek at Liz’s.

But that would mean a connection, which would mean that she would see the flashes.

It is then that I realize that Liz is still talking. "Max, I also thought of something else. If what you say is true, if I didn’t get those flashes of you…" she swallows, closes her eyes momentarily, "And Tess the last time I kissed you, then maybe the warp on me has already been taken care of. I mean, it’s gone."

"But why would Tess drop the warp on you and not on me?"

"Max, I don’t think she’s still warping you. She changed your memories. I don’t think she has to actively keep warping you after she’s done it. She couldn’t have been constantly mindwarping Kyle, Alex and Mrs. Deluca all that time. She must have changed their memories and that was it. She just didn’t know that they would eventually break through the fake memories." I am staring at Liz. I know my mouth is hanging open by now. How is this girl so smart? How is it possible that I constantly forget just how intelligent she is? I feel my love for her making my heart swell as I continue to listen to her.

I am still trying to keep my hopes down though. I can’t hope that this is the break I have been praying for.

"The two types of warp are kind of different after all," she continues, clearly on a roll. "What happened to me on the way home from Las Cruces was a little more active if you know what I mean. If you didn’t sleep with Tess, then I was seeing things that weren’t there. I wasn’t remembering something. Maybe I was warped to see false flashes on the way home from Las Cruces and because I wasn’t warped after we came out of the granolith, I saw the real flashes."

"Tess is in Canada though Liz. How would she know when exactly to make you see that?" But it suddenly becomes so clear to me, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.

"Tess didn’t need to do it," Liz replies triumphantly, smiling as she sees that I have put two and two together myself. "She wasn’t the only one around with the ability to mindwarp. In fact, in comparison to what Sean was capable of, she was pretty minor league. Anyway, we don’t even need Ava to check us out or anything. I asked her about all this and she said it sounds possible."

I cannot believe that all my dreams are potentially coming true. Is this really happening? Is Liz standing here telling me this stuff?

Sean fricking Deluca. Unbelievable.

But it still doesn’t confirm that I hadn’t slept with Tess. Those memories are still intact in my mind, sitting there taunting and torturing me. And, yet, I know that someone warped me at some point. I had been coming out of it when I had been in the car with Maria.

I look at Liz, just stare at her. "What do we do now Liz?"

She smiles slightly again. "What I’ve been wanting to do for three days," she replies. "But until I realized all this, I just wasn’t brave enough." She takes a step towards me. "I’m going to kiss you now Max and we’re going to rid ourselves of her once and for all."

Like I’d say no to that. And, yet, I am still nervous as she reaches up and pulls my face down to hers.

Because what if she does get the flashes? What if we’re wrong about this?

But I don’t think about it for long because the minute her soft lips touch mine, I am lost.

To be continued…



posted on 8-Jul-2002 3:34:01 PM
Part 32 - Hold On - Liz POV

Hold on,
Hold on to yourself
For this is going to hurt like hell.
Hold on,
Hold on to yourself
You know that only time will tell.

What is in me that refuses to believe?
This isn’t easier than the real thing.
My love you know that you’re my best friend.
You know that I’d do anything for you.
My love let nothing come between us,
My love for you is strong and true.

Am I in heaven here or am I
At the crossroads I am standing?

And now you’re sleeping peaceful.
I lie awake and pray
That you’ll be strong tomorrow
And we’ll see another day
And we will praise it
And love the light that brings a smile across your face.

Oh God, if you’re out there, won’t you hear me?
I know that we’ve never talked before.
And oh God, the man I love is leaving
Won’t you take him when he comes to your door?

Am I in heaven here or am I in hell?
At the crossroads I am standing.

So now you’re sleeping peaceful
I lie awake and pray
That you’ll be strong tomorrow
And we’ll see another day
And we will praise it
And love the light that brings a smile to your face.

Hold on
Hold on to yourself
This is going to hurt like hell.

Sarah McLachlan


I don’t allow myself to hesitate as I pull Max’s face down to mine and kiss him. I know that one moment of doubt and I won’t be able to do it.

It is completely wrong that I am so scared to kiss the person I love more than anyone else in the world. This is what she has brought us to and the resolve I have that she is not going to win gets me through the first seconds. But it is not enough. I can feel Max opening himself to me completely, as he has every time we have ever kissed. He gasps against me as the connection opens between us - but only in his direction.

"God, Liz…" His hands sweep through my hair, pulling me more closely against him. I am more aware than ever that he is wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a thin pair of boxers. But I am still holding back, enjoying the feel of his body, that he is hard where I am soft, that his lips are gentle and insistent at the same time.

I wonder if this can ever be enough. Could I go through life enjoying a physical relationship with my love, only really knowing him on the surface? Other couples do it after all. It is a rare - almost unique - thing to be able to see into another person’s soul. If I had stayed with Kyle, or if I ever get together with another guy, I will not be able to do it.

But this is Max and I do not want half of him. I have had it all and I want it back.

Ironically, it was Isabel of all people who finally made me see it.

I know it has hurt Max that I have been avoiding him for the past three days, but I could not think straight in his presence, at least not the way things still stood between us in my mind. I know that I supposedly had some great epiphany when I went wherever it was Future Ava took me, but I don’t remember any of it. The destruction of the granolith has robbed me of the memories I made there - things I likely was not supposed to experience anyway. Future Ava and, yes, even Future Sean, gave me a gift - the gift of insight and truth - one I regret losing.

And, yet, I don’t regret it at the same time. Because the reason we destroyed the granolith in the first place was to avoid the temptation of being able to fix our mistakes. I feel it is only right that I have to live my life not knowing what may happen. To know means to live in fear.

I refuse to live in fear. Which is why when Isabel spoke to me earlier tonight, I was willing to listen. It was not that Max’s sister said anything about Max persay. But what she did say reminded me of the kind of person I want to be, the kind of person Isabel is trying to be.

Isabel lives in fear now. She knows, thanks to me, that Khivar, the person she once betrayed her brother for, will come for her one day. I don’t believe that she will do it again - Isabel is a different person now - but I know that she is afraid that she might. She misses Alex desperately, regrets that just when she had accepted that she belonged with him, that he made her strong, what she was killed him. I know Isabel feels this way, that she blames herself for what Tess did to my best friend. Just like Max does. Just like I used to - that because I pulled him into the alien abyss, he died.

Isabel is not to blame. Tess’ actions were her own. Just like what she did to Max she did on her own. From what Maria has told me, I was completely certain when I returned from that other world that Max had not slept with my enemy, that he was mindwarped. She even told me that she saw him begin to come out of it while I was missing, which reinforced to her that I was not wrong.

And, yet, I was still scared to follow my heart, to go to Max, to try again. Because I couldn’t remember any of that. All I could see in front of my eyes was Max and Tess, entangled, entwined, doing things that only I was supposed to do with him. Things that we were told had made a baby, but which had not made their baby, and, yet, it had still happened. He had still slept with her.

But I’m getting off track again, I am losing myself in my fear. Following your heart, like my grandma made me promise to do, means that you have to get past your fear. I forgot that for a while, but I will never forget it again.

Anyway, Isabel came to see me. I think she needed someone to talk to about her fear and felt that it couldn’t be either Max or Michael. They both trust her implicitly, know that she will never do anything to hurt them. But she does not know this about herself and she wanted to try and deal with what is brewing inside of her with someone who will listen without prejudice - someone who does not know her one way and one way alone. Before it would have been Alex, but since Alex is gone, I think Isabel considers me the next best thing.

As I listened to my friend, as she spilled out her terror, her grief for Alex, her lack of knowledge of herself, as she sobbed with her head in my lap and I stroked her blonde hair, trying to comfort this poor girl who always seems so strong and icy, but who is really so loving and afraid at her core, I had my epiphany.

I love Max and I don’t want to live without him. By running away from him, I was doing exactly what Isabel was - trying to ignore my true nature, trying to run away from my own heart. Isabel had done it with Alex and now she was going to have to go on without him, knowing that she wasted all those months, knowing that maybe if they had been together she would have clued in to what Tess was doing, could have stopped her.

As I soothed Isabel, as I told her that none of it was her fault - because it wasn’t of course - I began to realize that I had to give Max and I once last chance. I had to do what Isabel was trying to do. I had to follow my heart. But to do it, I had to know once and for all if what I had found out was possible - that Tess really could have created such elaborate illusions, that she really could have changed Max’s memories so completely that even he still believes he slept with her, even though we know the truth about Sean.

When I spoke to Ava I was reminded of the day that I went to speak to Tess while I was investigating Alex’s murder. I had learned nothing on that day except that I had been completely wrong about the kind of person Max Evans was. It still hurts to think about how rude he was to me that day, but it wasn’t him I realize now. Because Ava did not only confirm for me that there are two kinds of mindwarps, she actually told me there were three.

Not only can mindwarpers make people see things that aren’t there and change memories, they can also change behavior. If a mindwarper is connected enough with their victim, they can actually make them act totally out of character, basically control them at their whim. And all of Max’s weird behavior after Alex’s death suddenly began to make sense - how he grabbed me in the hallway that day, the way he had screamed at me on the highway when I was on my way to Sweden.

She had changed him because he had trusted her. If he was to blame for anything, it was that fact alone. And have I not always known that Max is too trusting? Often he is right in who he trusts - me, my friends, Valenti - but the one time he made a mistake - with Tess - it had been a huge one.

He should not have to pay for the rest of his life for that mistake. I know that he will pay, inside, that he will always blame himself for what happened to Alex, but, in the end, what had he really done to me? If I was right - if I had been right when I returned from wherever it was I had been - then he had been mindwarped the whole time and now I only had to pull him out of it.

Which is why I find myself kissing him now, enjoying it but not allowing myself to completely let go.

It’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re going to let go of your fear. But sometimes fear has a mind of it’s own, refuses to let go it’s icy grip around your heart.

I am stronger than any fear. I have never been afraid of Max, not since he first told me the truth about himself, and I refuse to begin now.

And so, finally, I let go and open myself up to him.

He knows exactly when I do it to because I feel him shudder against me. "Liz," he whispers against my ear, kissing me lightly on the lobe before bringing his mouth back to mine. I open my lips, allow his tongue access, feel him pulling on my bottom lip with his in that way that nearly drives me insane with longing for him.

When the flashes begin they are completely different from the ones I remember - the ones that almost killed me and did make me literally ill.

Flash*

Max, suspicious of Tess as she gives him a shirt as a gift, but he feels bad so he accepts it.

Flash*

Max watching me with Sean at the UFO Museum during the hostage situation, not understanding why I am so angry at him, not understanding why we are drifting apart again.

Flash*

Max connecting with Brody and suddenly assailed with images of another planet, another life. It is all familiar, and yet, not, at the same time.

Flash*

Max tries to tell me about the memories, tries to tell me how exciting and yet, frightening it all is. He feels disappointment when I barely listen, but he is absolutely thrilled when I ask him if we can go to the Prom together.

Flash*

His heart thundering with love, Max sees me across the Crashdown when he comes to pick me up for the Prom.

Flash*

Max, devastated, listening to me tell him that I feel suffocated by our relationship, that I am constantly waiting for him to remember Tess, that I can’t do it any longer. He watches me walk away, considers going after me but wonders if I am right. Maybe he has no choice but to prove me right or wrong, once and for all.

Flash*

Max kisses Tess in the hallway of the high school. He feels drawn to her and, yet, as their lips meet, he feels nothing. It is not the same as kissing me - it is just wrong. He knows deep down that he will never love her - that the memories he has mean nothing. He breaks away from her, tells her so. Her eyes glitter strangely as she nods her understanding. "But at least we can still be friends Max."


It is then that the flashes start to become fuzzy, as though they are trying to break through, past a heavy web of intrigue and deceit. Max watches his own behavior as though from a long way off - knows that the way he is treating Isabel and I is not him and, yet, he cannot stop himself.

Flash*

Max, at the Observatory, thinking about what is happening to him. He knows that something is wrong.

Flash*

Tess appears. He tries to tell her what he is feeling. His confusion is utterly heartbreaking, because, after all, she has been messing with his mind for weeks now. "My whole life I've wanted to be this person, this normal person. Human. My whole life I've been thinking that this alien side of me was this bad thing. This thing that made me a freak. This monster. I realize that I haven't just been hiding from the government and the law all this time. I've been hiding from myself. I don't know what's going on anymore. I thought I knew but I don't. I've lost everyone." He thinks
I need Liz. I need the Liz who loved me in spite of everything. With her I am found - I am who I want to be. And then I am there, in his eyes she has become me, and he is kissing me and all is right with his world again. "I’m ready to wake up now." They are his words to me. He is tired of simply dreaming about me, he wants to be with me.

These are Max’s memories of what happened, and, yet, underneath I see flashes of what he saw with his eyes, but not with his mind. I see Tess kiss him while he sees me. I see her pull him down with her and he lays his head in her lap and cries, admitting that he knows that what he is killed Alex and that he doesn’t deserve me. He thanks me for coming back, promises that he will help me find out the truth.

He falls asleep.

And I know with absolute certainty that he did not sleep with Tess or with who he thought was me or anyone. Absolutely nothing happened.

In the next flash he has woken up and he is naked and he finds Tess in his arms and the horror of it is almost beyond his comprehension. He remembers every detail of what they did together and he knows that he has lost me for good.

I can feel the tears streaming down my face as I pull back and stare up at him.

My love.

His eyes are closed and I feel him sigh. I can’t tell if he is upset or happy. It is a very ambiguous sigh.

"Max," I whisper. "Open your eyes."

He does, bringing his forehead down to rest against mine. "What did you see?" His voice is low, afraid.

"I saw that you love me," I reply, smiling through my tears. "I saw exactly what I’ve always seen from you. Whatever that was that I saw four days ago, it is gone. It was a mindwarp." The relief of it is sweeping through my entire body, making me want to be as close as physically possible to him now.

He is still completely mine, my innocent Max, who has waited for me. My Max who would never even consider doing anything else.

"Did I…" He trails off, clearly not wanting to even say it, because he still does not know any of this.

"You didn’t sleep with her. She changed your memories."

A shudder runs through him. His eyes close again, this time in relief to match my own. He stumbles backwards slightly, pulling me with him until we both tumble onto the bed, still wrapped in each other’s arms. "I still remember it," he admits, his voice cracking slightly. "Is it ever going to go away?"

"I don’t know," I tell him, kissing him gently on the forehead. "Maybe. Hopefully. But you have to try and forget it. It doesn’t matter anymore."

"When she’s gone," he finally says quietly. "When she’s gone, I will be rid of her for good."

I feel a shiver descend my spine. "When we kill her?" Can we really do such a thing? Can we really kill someone, even if it is someone as evil and corrupt as Tess?

He opens his eyes, stares right into mine. "I don’t know if we have any other choice Liz. If we don’t, she’ll never stop coming. She’ll come after Sean once we have him back. She’ll come after Seren…" He cuts himself off abruptly, his eyes widening.

I frown. "Max?"

"Liz, what are we going to do about the fact that I remember the granolith and you don’t?" He asks, sounding extremely weary, his eyes closing again. "I can’t constantly censor myself around you. I mean, I don’t know as much as you did before you forgot, but I know enough. And I don’t want to keep anything from you - not anymore."

"I don’t know," I tell him. "Do we have to worry about it right now?"

His kisses me lightly, rolling me over onto my back and deepening the kiss until I feel it clear down to my toes. He pulls back slightly, gazes down at me, his eyes shadowed. "Do you have any idea how much I want to make love to you right now?" He asks, not sounding like the Max I know at all. There is no shyness in the question, no hesitation. In fact, he sounds extremely upset about it.

"Is that a bad thing?" I ask, trying to joke slightly, but I feel hurt at his tone. I don’t understand how his mood has changed so abruptly. "I love you. We are way behind schedule as it is." I smile up at him. "We were supposed to be together over six months ago."

Max runs his hand gently through my hair, sits up, pulling me with him. "And you know this because of what that future version of me told you?"

"Right." I am on my knees, lean forward and brush his lips with mine again. "I love you Max. We belong together."

"He never told you about the consequences, did he?" He shakes his head, sighs. "I know he didn’t."

I feel a shiver descend my spine. "What consequences?" I demand. "Is it dangerous? Michael and Maria have been together!" I feel myself getting angry that he won’t open up completely as he just continues to stare at me. I can almost see his mind at work. "What’s wrong?"

"Liz, if we’re together, there are going to be consequences," Max tells me seriously. "I want to tell you, but I don’t know if I can, because I think that you’ll want to make love right now to make sure that what’s supposed to happen happens and I don’t know if we’re ready."

I sit back so that we are no longer touching. "So they’re good consequences?" I ask flirtatiously. He eyes me, raising an eyebrow. "If I’m going to want the consequences, what’s so bad about them?"

"Well…" He trails off uncertainly. He is obviously struggling with himself. "Liz, I think I have to tell you because it’s going to dictate the entire course of our relationship from now on."

I am really scared now. "Max, what is it?" All I want to do is climb into his lap, ignore whatever it is, but I know that he doesn’t think we can.

"Liz, we are going to conceive a child. Maybe not the first time we make love, but probably very soon after." He blurts this all out in a rush, his eyes never leaving my face. "Her name is going to be Serena and she is going to be beautiful." I see tears glistening in his dark eyes as he remembers her, as he sees her in his mind’s eye, in his heart.

I barely notice at the same time, because as her name passes his lips, I remember her. It all comes rushing back so quickly that it is almost too much. "Max!" I gasp his name, bury my face in my hands to stop the fast-forwarded version of the lifetime I lived in the granolith, to try and control the rush of faces that whirl through my brain - Future Max, Future Alex. Michael, Isabel, Maria, Kyle, my Max…And through it all, she is there. My heart. My daughter.

Serena.

Oh God! Serena. How could I have forgotten her?

"Liz? LIZ!" Max has crawled across the bed and is pulling my hands away from my face. "What’s wrong?"

I am crying and laughing at the same time. I am not hysterical exactly, but I am close.

Because I remember my resolve, the decision I had made in the granolith that Serena would not be born until we were ready for her. And I know in my heart that we are nowhere near being ready.

But I am so ready to rip Max’s clothes off and have my way with my true-love, my soulmate, it is almost scary.

I can’t. We are simply not at the stage in our lives where we will be the parents Serena - the savior of two worlds - is going to need.

"Liz! Please! Speak to me!" He is getting desperate now.

I manage to stop laughing, bring my hands up to frame his face. "I remember her. I remember our daughter."

"Why are you laughing then?" Max demands. "I don’t understand how this is the least bit funny!"

"I know!" I start to laugh again. "It’s not. But it so is Max. Do you have any idea how much I want to make love to you?" I ask, repeating the same question he asked me moments ago. "But I know we’re not ready and it’s just not fair!"

Max continues to stare at me. "And this is funny how?" His voice has lowered again and his eyes are darkening. I see them drop to my lips.

"It’s not the least bit funny," I reply but I am almost giddy with happiness too - happy that I remember all the lessons I learned on the journey I had to take so that we could be together.

I think I even understand why I forgot it all. It was the final test, the final proof that I could follow my heart with or without the pre-knowledge of where it might take me. And because I had shown that I could, because I had faced my demons, because I had found out the truth about Max and Tess on my own, I was allowed to remember it all.

I have earned the right to love Max. I can see that he is still uncertain, that maybe he still has a little way to go. Because his demon, in the blonde ringleted form of Tess Harding, is still out there.

But I don’t want him thinking about her right now - not when he is only just all mine again. I know it’s selfish, but we still have to find her. It will be easy enough now that I remember everything, but, for now, that is in the future.

For now, I get to have him all to myself.

"But I don’t know why we’re so concerned." I continue, continuing to smile at him. "It’s not like it’s not going to happen. For now, it’s enough that we’re together and that we love each other."

"It is?" Max doesn’t sound convinced, which just makes me burst out giggling again.

"I so knew it! You only love me for my body!" The sheer ridiculousness of saying it makes me laugh again, because I have seen his soul and I know it for the blatant lie it is.

But he looks horrified. "Liz!"

"I love you for your body," I tell him, trailing a finger up his chest. "And your mind and your heart." I stop laughing, smile at him, hoping that he can see all the love that I feel welling within me. "I shouldn’t tease you, but we’re together now. We will always be together and it makes me so happy Max. We have things to take care of - namely Tess - before we can be truly at peace, but we’re so close my love. Can’t we just be happy for a while?"

He frowns at me for so long, I wonder if he’s really mad. But, finally, he reaches forward, gently pushes a strand of hair behind my ear. "It’s been so long since I’ve seen you smile. God Liz, I love you."

"I love you too." I lean forward, gently kiss him again. "And someday soon we’ll get to show each other how much we love each other in every way. Maybe not tonight, but soon." I climb onto his lap, lay feather light kisses on his closed eyes, his nose, both cheeks and then I kiss him full on the mouth again. "We’ll take this as slowly as we want to Max. It will all still happen. For now though, this is enough," I whisper against his lips.

He kisses me back and the connection flares to life between us, seemingly reinforcing what I’ve said. We fall back onto the bed together, kissing and cuddling, but nothing more. Because we both know that the rest of it will come soon enough.

For now, it is almost more sexy just reveling in our innocence again, just knowing how young we both are, how much of our life we still have to live together.

"Just being with you is enough," he says quietly against my hair after a while. "It will always be enough."

"I will never leave you again," I promise as I feel him begin to drift. The connection is still strong and I know when he falls asleep.

I stroke his arm gently. I am cradled on his chest and I can feel his heart beating steadily under my cheek. And I know that mine will soon be beating in time.

My journey has ended and has brought me home to Max’s arms, where I will always belong.

I only hope that he will be strong enough to end his journey the way he wants to, that he will be able to exorcise Tess once and for all when we finally meet up with her again.

Because, I know, in my heart, that we will not kill her. We will not be able to do it. But we will still find a way to end this.

Together, we can do anything.

Part 33 - Good Enough - Max POV

Hey your glass is empty.
It’s a hell of a long way home.
Why don’t you let me take you?
It’s no good to go alone.
I never would have opened up
But you seemed so real to me.
After all the bullshit I’ve heard
It’s refreshing not to see.
I don’t have to pretend
She doesn’t expect it of me.

So don’t tell me I haven’t been good to you.
Don’t tell me I have never been there for you.
Just tell me why nothing is good enough.

Hey little girl would you like some candy?
Your momma said it’s okay.
The door is open, come on outside.
No I can’t come out today.
It’s not the wind that cracked your shoulder
And threw you to the ground.
Who’s there that makes you so afraid
You’re shaken to the bone?
I don’t understand,
You deserve so much more than this.

So don’t tell me why he’s never been good to you.
Don’t tell me why he’s never been there for you.
Don’t you know that why is simply not good enough

So just let me try and I will be good to you.
Just let me try and I will be there for you.
I’ll show you why you’re so much more than good enough.

Sarah McLachlan


For one instant I think I am dreaming. There is no other explanation for the fact that Liz Parker is sound asleep in my arms, her soft hair tickling my nose as I drift back to consciousness.

But as I slowly awaken I remember all that passed between us last night and I know that this is not a dream. This is reality and my life has finally returned to the path it was always meant to be on - the only path I have ever wanted to follow.

Liz and I are going to be together. My heart practically wants to burst at this brand new knowledge. And, yet, it feels as old as the stars too - like our very destinies are finally coming into alignment because we have worked so hard to make it so.

Things are, of course, in some ways, still only an illusion, are still not completely perfect. Because, in spite of the fact that Liz is completely convinced now that absolutely nothing physical happened between Tess and I on that horrible night at the Observatory, I still remember it. I still remember touching her in ways I only ever want to touch Liz. I still remember her hands touching me. It makes me feel dirty and completely unworthy to be where I am presently, which is holding Liz in my arms. My beautiful, trusting Liz, who I still don’t deserve.

I won’t deserve her until I get Tess out of my head once and for all. The problem is, I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing it. I truly believe that the only way to completely eradicate her is to kill her and I know that I am not quite ready to do that. I just can’t see myself actually killing her, not in premeditation.

I would have killed her in the instant I found out about Alex. Trust me on that one. But thinking about it - I just can’t see it ever happening. Especially now that Liz and I are back together. When we weren’t, it was easy for me to shut off my emotions, to allow my alien side to take over. It was how I would have so easily killed Jennifer Coleman.

But it’s all changed again. Now that Liz and I have reconnected, it is damn near impossible to imagine killing someone on purpose. Like I’ve said many times before, I am a better person with her - stronger in that I don’t always look for the easy way out. Killing Tess is the easy way, as much as she deserves it.

I know that Liz would never want me to do it either. Because it’s just not what we’re about. It’s not us - any of us. I know that Isabel and Michael are both still haunted by the lives they have taken - Whittaker and Pierce respectively - and they had absolutely no choice.

I still have a choice, even though I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to erase Tess’ existence permanently.
Because I do know that what I told Liz is true. If Tess lives, we will never be safe. Sean will never be secure either, although I don’t doubt that we will get him back. Serena, when she comes, will be in constant danger - not only from Khivar, but from Tess, who I have no question would use my innocent daughter to control me.

You can see the dilemma in which we find ourselves. In the meantime though, we have to concentrate on what we can control rather than what we can’t. I might still remember Tess, but I believe Liz when she says it’s a lie. I can only hope that someday it will all just go away - that I will wake up one morning with the whole memory just gone.

It’s still here today though and I’m just going to have to deal with it. We have more important things to worry about right now - namely Sean and getting him back. Because even though I now know he is not mine, I still feel responsible for him, still feel like it is my fault that Tess left with him at all.

I can worry about what to do about Tess when the time comes.

I turn my head slightly, kiss Liz lightly on the temple. She murmurs my name, shifts slightly but doesn’t wake up. She is clearly exhausted so I decide that I’ll let her sleep for a while longer. I can get everyone else ready to go and then come and wake her up in time for breakfast. We’ll hit the road before the sun is even fully in the sky.

We have been driving hard for the past day and a half and are now in Northern Colorado. We weren’t exactly sure where we were going when we started, but we did know it was Canada. It seemed like the best plan to get as close to where the granolith crashed as possible before having Isabel try to dreamwalk Tess again. We don’t want her to know we’re on the way until the last possible minute. Ava also thought that she might be able to sense her clone if she was near.

But now that we will know exactly where we’re going, things don’t seem quite so up in the air, quite so desperate. Things are better now. Liz has her memories from the granolith back and so we will be able to find Sean that much more easily. It is only a matter of time.

I ease myself gently away from Liz. She frowns slightly but turns away cooperatively enough, burying her head in the pillow I have just vacated. It takes all my strength to move away from her when all I want to do is kiss her awake and then show her exactly how much I love her.

I want to do it, but it’s not the right time. And not just because we’re not ready for Serena. I’m not ready either. Because until I feel completely worthy of Liz, I just don’t want to go that far. In some ways, it’s a big relief that Liz is being so militant about the whole thing. In this particular case, I know that I can’t be the strong one. I want to make love to her so badly it is almost painful, but it’s not for completely the right reasons now.

Deep down, a small part of me thinks that if I connect completely with Liz in that way, what happened with Tess - what I remember - will disappear.

Don’t get me wrong. You all know how much I love her, how much I want Liz for herself. But if we make love now, that’s not all it will be about. And that is just not fair to Liz. When I’m with her, I want it to only be about the two of us. I do not want Tess standing between us in any way. Because even if she is a moot point to Liz now, to me she’s not.

I am going to get rid of her ghost if it is the last thing I ever do. I have to face her once more and make her let me go. I have no choice if I want my life with Liz to be exactly what it’s meant to be.

I hurry through my shower and Liz is still fast asleep as I dress. I have no idea what happened to Michael last night. He must have found out that Liz was with me and made himself scarce, I imagine bunking down with Maria somewhere.

And, so, I am surprised to find him sound asleep in the hallway, his back up against the door, so that when I open it, he falls backwards into the room. He opens one eye sleepily, glaring up at me. "Jeez Maxwell. I’ve been knocking for an hour. What the hell are you and Liz doing in there?" He narrows his eyes slightly. "Actually, wait. I don’t want to know. It falls into the category of too much information for the middle of the night."

I stare down at him, can’t help the grin that creeps across my face. "Why are you asleep in the hallway Michael?"

"Maria’s ticked at me," he admits grumpily, climbing to his feet. "I don’t even know what I did."

"What else is new?" I ask cheerfully. "Let’s go wake everyone up. We have to hit the road."

"Are you telling me it’s morning?" Michael demands in annoyance. "I slept in the bloody hallway all night?"

"That’s what I’m telling you."

He eyes me suspiciously. "You are extraordinarily chipper this morning," he finally comments. "Did you and Liz make up?"

"You could say that."

"Good. It’s about time," Michael says, sounding like he means it. He grimaces slightly. "Listen…Can we leave the girls in peace for a little while longer? Maria was really crabby last night. I think a couple more minutes of shut eye might do her some good."

I look at him, shrug. "Okay. Let’s go get some breakfast and then we’ll wake them all up. Liz remembers everything now so we know where we’re going. It will make the trip shorter anyway."

I see something strange flash in Michael’s eyes for a moment - something I don’t recognize. I frown. "Is something wrong?" I ask, staring at him. There’s something off here. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I would swear that that was anger that I just saw flash across my best friend’s face. Anger mixed with a good healthy dose of fear. "Michael?"

He is so nonchalant when he answers, I am almost positive I imagined it. "Other than the fact that I have a crick in my neck the size of the state of Colorado?" He asks, sounding so like Michael, I wonder what the hell I am thinking. "C’mon. I’m starving."

And, yet, my stomach is suddenly in knots. Because, for one instant, this person was not Michael. And if he’s not Michael, there is only one other person he can be.

I remember what Liz told me about the granolith before I drifted off to sleep last night. In between all that kissing, we had had some time to talk and she had filled me in on almost everything from that other life - including the bit about Rath and Lonnie and the fact that the spaceship, powered by the granolith, will not fly without a full complement of the Royal Four inside it.

I pause, wonder if I should go check the girls’ room, to see if this is really Michael. I am trailing him uncertainly when we run into Izzy in the lobby. "Hey guys!" My sister hails us from near the desk. "Check-out’s at ten. Are you going for breakfast? I could eat. Kyle and the Sheriff are already in the restaurant across the highway."

I feel my heartbeat beginning to return to normal. Am I just imagining things? This all seems completely normal. I stare closely at Isabel, see only my sister staring back at me. "Max?" She asks, frowning. "Are you okay? You look a bit pale."

How on Earth could Lonnie and Rath have found us in this motel in the middle of nowhere? I ask myself this question as I follow them out the front door of the motel and around the side towards the highway. Besides, they probably don’t even know that Tess tried to take off in the granolith. It doesn’t make any sense that they’d be after me yet.

I do know they’ll come after me eventually. And if something happens to Tess, they’ll come after Ava too. They need us. But it really doesn’t fit that it would be so soon.

Unless they’ve been watching us the whole time, a voice in the back of my head argues. They’d know that Tess took off alone, they’d know that she crashed because they must know by now that the ship only works with the four of us in it.

Another thought suddenly occurs to me. What if Ava didn’t come to Roswell alone? What if she’s only been biding her time, waiting to betray us? What if she’s allowing Rath and Lonnie to follow us to the spaceship, playing along that she’s one of us, and then, in the end, she is fully planning to be the Antarian queen that heads back to our planet?

I can’t believe I allowed myself to trust her so easily. She is a clone of Tess after all. It doesn’t seem like such a leap in logic that she’d use me this way.

But, then again, Liz trusts her and I trust Liz’s judgment. She’s rarely been wrong before.

I realize suddenly that Michael and Isabel have stopped walking, have turned back to me curiously.

"Max, what are you doing?" My sister demands, sounding so much like Isabel, I am again sure I am wrong.

And, yet, my instincts tell me I’m not. Tuning into her, I can almost feel the unnatural chill coming off of this girl in waves. It is the same feeling I got around Lonnie before, even when she played at loving me because I reminded her of Zan. While my sister has the reputation of being an ice queen, she has never been that way with me, especially recently, since Liz and I almost died - or at least she thought we did when we were in the granolith. "I…" I swallow, feel a shiver descend my spine. "I forgot my wallet back in the room." I wonder if they hear my voice crack. I start to back up slowly. "I’ll meet you guys there."

I see them exchange a look.

When Michael looks at me again, his expression is grim. "I don’t think so Maxwell."

"You’re coming with us Zan." Isabel’s face is cold, a mask. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that for once, I am right. For once I have followed my instincts and I am right.

Which doesn’t exactly make me leap for joy. If there was anytime I’d love to be wrong, it’s right now. I am in serious trouble here. I look around, see that the parking lot we are crossing on the side of the motel is completely deserted. It is earlier than I realized when I supposedly found Michael in the hallway and there is no life stirring anywhere.

"Just come with us Zanny boy and we won’t hurt anyone you care about. We know exactly where to find all of them. They’re like babes in there, just waiting for us to take care of them, one by one." This is Lonnie. I can hear her thick accent beginning to break through Isabel’s more cultured tones. She is still struggling to hold on to the illusion though. I think she likes pretending to be my sister. It is seriously creepy.

I think of Liz, safely asleep where I left her. The thought of never seeing her again, just when things are starting to go right between us…Okay, let’s call a spade a spade here. It pisses me off. Big time.

"I’m not going anywhere with you." I try to keep the anger out of my voice, but I can hear it there. I can see that Lonnie looks a little surprised - even a little more respectful. Who can blame her for being shocked I won’t just go along with her? I did it easily enough the last time after all, when she wanted me to go to New York with her. And hell she’s threatening the people I love! She has to know that’s the way to control me.

Too bad I will no longer be controlled. Even by my own fear and doubt. Loving Liz has made me strong again and I will not lose everything I have so recently regained. No way.

"C’mon Max." She accentuates my Earth name, as though humoring me. "You know we don’t belong here. We know where to find Tess. You can find your son and go back and be king. Who doesn’t want to be a king?"

"Everything I want is right here," I tell her firmly. "And you’re not going anywhere near the people I love." I can see that Rath is itching to blast me, but Lonnie bats his hand down when he raises it.

And suddenly I understand. I am completely safe from these two, even though my friends are not. They can’t kill me. I am their last hope. Without me, they’ll never get back to Antar.

I remember how they tried to kill me in New York, realize that they didn’t know then just how much they need me. Someone has been filling them in then, maybe Tess, maybe Nicholas, maybe even Ava - I still don’ t know that she hasn’t been playing us all along. It also reminds me just how merciless they are. They will not hesitate to kill my friends - to kill Liz - if it means getting what they want.

For one brief moment, I consider going with them. If I simply go with them, they’ll leave everyone I love in peace.

But that would be taking the easy way out. I know it would be. I have to fight for what I want and going back to Antar is certainly not it.

Lonnie is still playing her hand though. "But our mother is waiting for us Zan. We owe it to our people to save them."

"We can’t help them," I tell her quietly, although the arrow does hit true. I feel the guilt of potentially abandoning our people to their fate under Khivar…but then I remember that my daughter - the one I will conceive with Liz here on Earth - is the only true way to defeat Khivar. I cannot go. "They are not our people anymore. I’m human Lonnie. They are not going to want me." I know I am lying here, but Lonnie does not need to know exactly how important Liz is. It will only make her an even better target for them.

They are never going to get anywhere near Liz. I will die first.

Lonnie’s eyes have narrowed. I can feel how angry she is, how much she wants to kill me, how frustrated she is that she can’t, that I am in complete control here. I can feel this all through the Four Square - one I don’t belong to, but one that I can still tap into.

"Just go," I say finally after we have stared at each other in silence for a long moment. "Go and leave us alone. Accept that you are going to live out your life here Lonnie and move on."

She laughs. "You just don’t get it. I may not be able to kill you Zan, but I can kill everyone you care about. And I will. I’ll come after all of them until I bring you to your knees and you have no choice but to come with me."

I can see exactly what my sister is afraid of becoming. Because there is no question that Lonnie is the evil betrayer Vilandra in her purest form. I don’t doubt that Zan’s sister Vilandra was not all bad - that some of her had to be made up of the sweet girl that is my Isabel - but there is no sign of her here.

There is only one way to deal with Lonnie. She has to die.

And, yet, I know deep down that I am not strong enough to do it. I just cannot kill her in cold blood…

But I can’t let her threaten the people I love either.

Okay, this is maybe the worst possible dilemma to be in. What the hell am I going to do?

And, then, magically, the choice is taken out of my hands. Because I feel Ava’s presence before I see her. And Michael’s and Isabel’s.

You have to understand, they’re not with me. They are not physically present. But they are here. I can feel them running through my veins, can feel their essence, for want of a better word, joining with my own.

How they know I am out here, I don’t know, but there is no question whose side they’re all on. With Michael and Isabel there wouldn’t have been any doubt anyway, but Ava…

I now know she will stand with us. Because I can feel her. Somehow the bond the four of us share has opened of its own free will. I reach out for it. I am shocked to realize that my sister is still sound asleep. I don’t even know if she’s aware of what’s happening. But Ava is awake and so is Michael.

And they have decided for me. Lonnie and Rath are going to die.

Here’s the thing - the real secret of the Royal Four. We are a team. I might be the nominal leader, the king, but in some ways, this is going to have to be a democracy too. Because that’s just the kind of person I am, in the end. We are going to go with majority rules it seems.

Isabel is now awake - I can feel her becoming aware of where she is, of what is happening - and what she tells me is that she is not going to lose me. I am her brother. Michael and Ava and she and I belong together and they are not going to let Lonnie and Rath take me away from them.

Michael tells me that there can be no more division - that we have to make sure that we are strong when Khivar comes and they only way to do that is to make sure that there is only one Four Square waiting for him. We can’t constantly be looking over our backs for Lonnie or Rath or Tess, waiting for them to betray us. And, he tells me, there is no question that any of them will betray the Earth. None of them want to be on this planet, none of them have anything tying them to it. They will let Khivar destroy it, and so, we’re the Royal Four this planet needs.

They are all right. And I am beginning to accept that sometimes we have to make choices in life we might not want to. This is one of those times.

It is far easier than I expect to lift my hand, to focus all my energy on these two enemies with the faces of my beloved sister and best friend. I see their horror, their knowledge of what is about to happen to them, but it is too late to stop it.

I don’t want to stop it. And if that makes me a bad person, then so be it.

I feel the energy of the combined strength of Ava and Isabel and Michael and I flow through my body and out of my hands, crashing into them, killing them.

It is nothing visible to the naked eye, is merely the strength of one Four Square - a bonded unit - triumphing over another, weakened by a loss they themselves brought about. Because the greatest irony of all is that, I somehow know, if they had not killed their Zan, we would have lost.

But then again, maybe not. Because, in the end, we are the stronger unit, bound by bonds of love rather than hate.

Yet, I am still capable of this. We are no better than them if this happens.

And it horrifies me.

I start to fight against what is happening, push the energy back. STOP! I scream to the others. We can’t! This is wrong! Isabel! Michael! Stop!

It does stop - so abruptly it brings me to my knees.

I close my eyes, try to catch my breath. I can’t believe what we almost did…and, yet, some small part of me regrets that I couldn’t go through with it.

They know now though. They know now what will happen to them if they ever try and hurt anyone I love. It has to be enough. It just has to be.

"Go!" I whisper, unable to open my eyes. "Get out of here! NOW!"

I am subconsciously aware of Michael and Isabel and Ava, all of who are on their way, physically this time.

I can hear them - Lonnie and Rath - moving, hurting, desperate to get away. I am still connected to them too, feel their fear, their anger…And something else as well.

Mercy was a mistake it would seem. Because I also feel the exact moment that Rath decides that he has had enough - that he is going to kill me, just because he wants to - Lonnie and her rules be damned.

I open my eyes, stare up at him in disbelief, wonder if being good is really going to kill me. Aren’t the good guys supposed to win?

I think of Liz, of all that is never going to happen if I die.

There will be no reason for Khivar to come if I die. But there will also be no liberation for Antar, no Serena.

I know I’ve failed. Because, even now, I cannot do it. I cannot kill them. In spite of who they are, they are a part of us. This is actually going to happen and there is nothing I can do to stop it. There is no way that Michael and Isabel will get here in time.

I am going to die.

Liz! I love you!

I hear the roar of the blast that is Rath’s gift, wait for it to burn through me, thinking of nothing but Liz.

It takes me an instant to realize that the roar I heard was not from Rath, but, rather, from a gun going off.

I open my eyes to see Valenti standing beside me, the gun in his hand. I hear Lonnie shrieking, stare in horror as she raises her hand, her grief over Rath crashing down on me through the connection that is still open.

Valenti’s gun goes off again, sending her flying.

I feel her spirit dissipate, feel the connection she has maintained this whole time blink out abruptly as she dies right in front of my eyes.

I blink, disbelieving that I am still alive. "Sheriff…" I manage to croak.

"Wasn’t the smartest thing in the world coming out here alone Mr. Evans," the Sheriff replies quietly, his hand under my elbow, helping me stumble to my feet. "Lucky thing I was up early too and followed you out here. You seemed to have things well in hand until just a moment ago." He is eyeing me with concern and I feel gratitude for this man who has saved my life again rush through me.

Because I realize that I was willing to die - I wanted to die. And the Sheriff knows it too. And he pulled me back.

An instant later I feel a warm body crash into me. I raise my arms and bring them around Liz, who is still in her pajamas, and is very nearly hysterical. "Max! What were you thinking? I heard you! I felt you give up!!!" Michael and Isabel are right behind her, tears streaming down my sister’s face. Michael looks as white as a ghost.

It takes me a minute to even understand what is happening. I am that numb. "I’m sorry, I’m sorry…" I bring my hands up, stroke Liz’s hair comfortingly.

I know that she is right. I was really going to let them kill me. And I understand why too.

Because, somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that I was never going to feel worthy of Liz - that she would be better off without me.

Whatever that feeling was though, whatever it was that made me let what almost happened happen, it is gone. Gone completely, as thought it was not my feeling at all - is not really what I thought.

Another mindwarp? Maybe. Or perhaps the remnant of one.

But it is all gone now. She is completely gone. Every memory I have of being with Tess has disappeared like a bad dream.

Which can only mean one thing. And it is not just wishful thinking either. I know that I am right.

Tess is dead.

Part 34 - Song for a Winter’s Night - Liz POV

The lamp is burning low upon my table top.
The snow is softly falling.
The air is still within the silence of my room,
I hear your voice softly calling.

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two,
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter’s night with you.

The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead,
My glass is almost empty.
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me.

If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too,
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter’s night with you.

The fire is dying, my lamp is growing dim,
The shades of night are lifting.
The morning light steals across my windowpane,
Where webs of snow are drifting.

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two,
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter’s night with you,
And to be once again with you.

Written by Gordon Lightfoot, Performed by Sarah McLachlan


Boston, Massachusetts - January 2004 - two and a half years later

I am standing at the window of the apartment I share with Maria, looking down on the street where the street lamps have just winked on. I sigh, lean my fore-head against the frost-covered pane, a lump in my throat. I can feel the tears that are threatening to fall, struggle to hold them back.

There’s no point in crying. It isn’t going to fix anything. Patience and hope are the only emotions I allow myself to feel these days. Maria doesn’t need me moping around after all. I am not the only one who is lonely.

It is hard to remember this though as I stare down at the empty road. It has started to snow, which has driven the few who had earlier braved the cold into their houses, back to their loved ones.

It is my own fault that I am disappointed. I knew I was imagining things, even before I moved over here, but I couldn’t resist. I swear to God, I felt Max for a moment, in a way I haven’t in months. Sitting at my desk, typing away at a paper for my chem class, I somehow just knew that he was near.

I know he isn’t though. I spoke to him on the phone only last night. He’s still in North Dakota where he and Kyle and Valenti and all the others have chased down the latest false lead.

"They were here Liz, but by the time we found where they were hiding, they were gone." I could hear in his voice how tired he was, how disappointed. All I had wanted to do was board the next plane to wherever it was the others were, but I knew that it wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Max and I made the decision long ago that it was just easier to be apart until the whole thing sorted itself out, until we could actually move forward with our lives. Being together and, yet, not, was just getting too difficult. We needed a break.

But now that I haven’t seen him in months, I am beginning to forget exactly what it was we were finding so hard about being together. Because being apart is a million times worse. And I can’t even tell him that. He doesn’t need to worry about me on top of everything else.

Okay, since I am sure that, by now, you are all totally getting the wrong impression from this little inner monologue, I probably should clear up some of what has happened since Tess died. Because Max was not wrong when he felt her go after the Sheriff killed Lonnie and Rath. She is gone. She died the exact moment Max thought.

With her death, everything changed again. First of all, no one could figure out how she had died, but Max was absolutely certain she had. The reason he knew? Because whatever it was she had done to his mind - whatever false memories she had implanted in her attempt to control him and keep us apart - the instant her life ended, so did her mindwarp on Max.

Isabel, Michael and Ava also knew it somehow. I can’t begin to explain what the four of them tapped into when they made that connection so that Max could kill Lonnie and Rath, but whatever it was, they have been…well, I guess the best word is stronger ever since. The Four Square is complete and powerful, becomes more so with every passing day, as they become more in tune with each other.

Max told me once that it surprised him how much of themselves Michael and Isabel had always hidden from him. But, after that connection was made, it was like he knew them inside out. It freaked them all out for a while actually. Isabel was not very happy that her brothers suddenly knew exactly how she felt about being Vilandra and her potential for betrayal. Neither Max or Michael could understand why she was so worried that she was going to hurt them - they just both knew that she wouldn’t and didn’t get why she thought she might.

Michael was embarrassed because Isabel and Max suddenly knew how jealous he had always been of them for their happy family and their seemingly perfect lives. He had been even more humiliated because, after the connection, he finally understood that most of it had been a facade, that they were just as scared and vulnerable as he was.

I have no doubt what Isabel and Michael found out about Max in that connection because, after it happened, their behavior towards me changed in a subtle way. They treated me with much more respect than they ever had before and I really think that I can date the day of Lonnie and Rath’s death as the day that Isabel and Michael finally accepted me totally. Because they had seen me as Max saw me and, finally, they understood.

Needless to say, all of this was mildly weird and a lot to handle for all three of them. And there was Ava to deal with on top of that. I don’t think anyone really got how horrible things were for her with Zan, Lonnie and Rath until that connection. She had loved Zan, but he was no Max, and there was no question that he had not been very nice to her. I think maybe the other three dupes knew all along that Ava was not their queen and, thus, had always treated her accordingly. Max told me a bit about how it had felt to be her - sure that you were supposed to feel close to certain people but not understanding why everything you did was just wrong in their eyes.

Slowly but surely they all began to adjust to their new relationships though. Ava truly began to feel at home with us all and Max, Isabel and Michael ended up closer than ever. Before they had always understood each other on the surface, sharing the common bond of their alieness. But, after the connection, they got each other better as people, in a way I don’t think anyone else can ever understand.

And, as the connection slowly became more understandable to them all, as they opened themselves to the Four Square completely, bonded emotionally beyond what most people will experience with any one person, let alone three others, Max suddenly knew what had happened to Tess.

Because, as their alien sides emerged through the connection, their memories of that other life started coming back too, slowly but surely. Max figured out how Tess died because he began to remember some details of the cloning procedure, of the pods and of how they worked. As their memories returned, so did their knowledge of how they had come to be.

It turns out the whole hybrid process had been King Zan’s creation, his pet project. He had always been intrigued by Earth and humans, by our emotions and our achievements, and he had pondered ways to bring the two civilizations together. It was ultimately what killed him, this dream of contact between the two planets. Many on Antar were against it and had revolted, with Khivar as their leader, bringing down the monarchy. All of this also explained why Khivar would be so keen in a few years to completely destroy Earth. Max remembered him as a traditionalist who did not want things on his planet to change, as they ultimately would due to close contact with another civilization. And so he chose to destroy it, rather than risk it tainting their Antarian society.

The irony of the whole thing was that by having Zan killed in his past life, Khivar had brought Antar in contact with Earth much sooner than might have been the case. Zan’s loyal followers had used his own invention to clone him, sending him, along with the three others who they would see as his closest allies, to the very place Khivar wanted nothing to do with.

While I am sure you are finding this all interesting, if confusing (but then what isn’t when you’re dealing with aliens?), the point of it is, when Max started to recover his memories of being Zan, he also remembered how the pods and the concept of the Four Square worked.

Despite our earlier speculations that the two sets of pods had differed in some way, with the Roswell Royal Four being more human and the dupes more alien, that wasn’t actually the case. Lonnie and Rath’s psychosis was not because they were more alien, but, rather because they were neglected and they had had to scramble to scrape by on the streets of New York. The dupes had been victims of the lack of nurture, rather than nature. On the other hand, Tess had been a product of Nasedo’s obsession with getting home and had devised the plan with the Skins to make sure it happened. Why Ava turned out the way she did, despite having lived the same life as Lonnie and Rath, well, that’s still a mystery. Maybe her natural kindness won out or, maybe, despite of the fact that he didn’t love her, the way Zan had protected her had allowed her to remain somewhat innocent.

The important thing in all of this though is that any four of the eight could have come together to make a Four Square. The second set of pods had been sent as insurance, but the clones were all interchangeable. Max could have formed a four square with Lonnie, Rath and Tess, or with Isabel, Michael and Ava. It didn’t matter which Zan joined with which Ava or with which Vilandra. What was important was that it happened. If New York Zan had lived, there could still have been two complete Four Squares. We already knew that the ship wouldn’t have worked without a complete complement of the Royal Four inside it, even with the granolith. It didn’t take much of a leap in logic to understand that it was because part of what powered the ship was the connection between the Four Square.

When Lonnie and Rath killed Zan, they destroyed the possibility that a second Four Square could be completed. And, so, it was almost as if they were all in a race with each other - one which no one even knew about. Both sets needed Max to fully connect with them so that the Four Square could come into it’s power. When he finally did, with Isabel and Michael and Ava in that moment when they were going to kill Rath and Lonnie, all hope for the three leftovers was lost.

Basically, even if Valenti hadn’t shot Rath and Lonnie, they still would have died. They lost the only Zan left and they lost their potential. They were programmed to cease to exist if that were to happen.

Which is exactly what happened to Tess. When Ava joined with Isabel, Michael and Max, she lost her last chance to be a part of their connection. She died and, in the process, finally freed Max to fully make the one other connection King Zan had always intended - the one Tess was trying to prevent happening at all costs - a bond between human and Antarian.

A bond between Max and I is, therefore, fully sanctioned, and is actually what’s supposed to be. The Four Square was always meant to let others in, to embrace humanity. It was what King Zan had wanted for his planet above all things.

In the end, because Max and Isabel and Michael had created their bond with us humans, they were more open to connecting with each other as well. And, for that reason, they won.

Max and I don’t have to worry about the alien/human thing anymore. So you might be asking, what the heck is the problem? Where is Max and why aren’t we together?

I don’t want you to think that we broke up or anything like that. We didn’t. Not by a long shot. But we’re not exactly together either. It’s sort of hard to explain, but I’ll try.

After Tess died, everything about Max changed - again. I think maybe she had been controlling him subtly for much longer than any of us had ever imagined, because with her gone, it was like he was liberated in a way that almost made him a different person. He was finally able to accept who he was, and he was also able to accept that I loved him just as much as he loved me. Because Tess played on his fear about that I think, somehow affecting his mind in a way that his uncertainty and self-doubt was magnified. I think her intention was to have him feel like she was the only one who would understand him, that he could never be happy with me.

She underestimated the depth of his love for me though. Instead of switching his allegiances, her games merely tore him apart inside. Because, just like I am out of balance, incomplete, without him, he is exactly the same way without me. She made it so that he couldn’t believe in me the way he wanted to and he almost lost himself, which resulted in the very brief moment where he actually wanted to let Lonnie and Rath kill him.

I still shudder when I think about the instant I woke up in that motel room, the knowledge that Max was about to let go, that he was about to leave me, running through my veins, catapulting me out of that bed and out into the parking lot, just in time to see the Sheriff shoot down Isabel and Michael’s evil duplicates.

But, after Tess was gone, my Max was back. I have never had any reason to doubt that he is secure in the knowledge of who is he now, have never felt that he is uncertain of me or that we belong together. Where before he clung to me like a life-line, depended on his love for me to make sense of his existence, after the epiphany of that morning he has flourished into the leader he was always meant to be.

All because he now knows completely that I love him. With her gone, he is again free to feel like he deserves it.
It is a wonderful thing.

So, then, you ask, what the heck is going on with us? Why aren’t we together?

Well, it’s very easy to explain actually. Simply put, once Max was completely freed from Tess, once we both knew that this was it, that we were going to be together forever, all we wanted to do was come together in the one way we knew that we weren’t ready to do. If we had been ready to make love before Tess died, after…well, let’s just say, things became frustrating in a way that is almost beyond even my own comprehension.

It’s not fair to know that the instant you are with the person you most want to be with in the world, you are going to become a parent to the savior of two worlds, particularly when neither of you feels at all ready for that responsibility.

Because we did have other things to worry about at that point. It wasn’t even really the fact that we were so young, although that was a factor. It was just that neither of us wanted to bring Serena into a world that wasn’t entirely secure. And until we found Sean, the new world we were building, without the luxury - and curse - of being able to change it because the granolith was gone, would not be safe. I had the gut instinct that Sean was an important cog in the way things were meant to play out - that without him, Serena would never become who she was meant to be.

I have not forgotten that Serena and Sean are going to be important to each other one day. We need to save him, need to have him raised properly by the Valentis, need him the person he was meant to be - for our daughter’s sake.

It is sheer irony that, because of the decision that Max and I have made - not to be together until Sean is found - on top of everything else, if we don’t find him, Serena might never exist. Because none of us expected what happened next. We had forgotten that the dupes weren’t our only enemies and we are still paying the price of that today.

After Lonnie and Rath were killed, the four aliens of my close acquaintance dealt with their bodies and then we hit the road, heading directly north to Ontario, Canada. I knew exactly where Tess was hiding after all, having lived through the search for she and Max in that other life. And, if she was dead, then that meant that Sean, a brand-new baby, was all alone, that his life was in serious jeopardy.

How was I to know that I had forgotten one important detail from that other life?

By the time we got there, it was too late. Because Tess had not been alone in that cabin in the woods. Nicholas had joined her there as soon as she gave birth to Sean, waiting for Lonnie and Rath to bring Max to them. I don’t know whether Tess contacted him or whether he simply found her, but in the end, it made no difference. He was there when Tess died and he took Sean with him when he left.

He had no way of knowing that the baby wasn’t Max’s after all. He still believed that Tess’s child was the heir of the king of Antar and, in that capacity, was an important tool he could use to control Max.

Even if Sean isn’t Max’s son, that’s exactly what Nicholas has done for the past two years. Because Sean Valenti is an innocent baby, is the child of one of our closest friends, the grandson of our greatest ally, and Max will not rest until he finds him. And we will not risk conceiving our daughter while Nicholas is still out there to threaten her as well.

So, in the end, nothing’s really changed at all from that other life. Although Max and I have new knowledge, are more in control of what is going to happen in the future where our daughter is concerned, until the baby Tess bore is found, we are stuck in limbo.

Our senior year was a disaster. Although Valenti did his best to keep us all in school, going out on searches for Nicholas and Sean himself, or with Isabel since she had already finished, it was a rare occasion that Max or Kyle let him get away with it and, more often than not, they joined him. They barely graduated and the Evans almost lost their minds with worry over how irresponsible their son was becoming. It was almost funny, because he was, of course, about as far from irresponsible as a teenager could get, but we couldn’t really blame them.

In the end, they were told the truth. There was really no other choice. They took the news as well as Isabel always expected they would. Max was a little befuddled and shocked by the whole thing actually. He had been hiding from them for so long, it was really hard for him to open up to them completely, but it is happening, slowly but surely. With the Evans’ support, life became a lot easier though, at least for Max and Izzy.

My parents and Maria’s mom were another story. They could not be told and, as a consequence, Maria and I had to stay in school and behave. I did not want to give my parents any reason at all to forbid me from seeing Max - my mother was already suspicious enough of him after the way we had brutalized each other emotionally throughout our junior year. We had cornered the market on angst after all and if I thought my parents hadn’t noticed, I was completely wrong as they informed me after we returned from our first camping trip with Valenti and Max and I were so clearly back together.

So I did what I was supposed to do and I kissed Max good-bye whenever he left on one of his trips with the Valentis and Isabel. Michael and Ava usually stayed in Roswell with us, as protection. Max knew that Nicholas would absolutely love to get his hands on either Maria and I. The lengths to which he would go to hurt Max had become more than evident through the games he was playing with Sean. Max wasn’t risking me, no matter how often I told him I’d be fine. I would have preferred that Michael and Ava were with Max and Isabel, making them as strong as possible should they actually find Nicholas.

But Max also wanted Michael to graduate, more concerned, as always, about his friends than himself. It ticked Michael off, big time, but, because of that connection, he also knew how important it was to Max, and so he dealt with it. And, since I understood that side of Max all too well too, I finally gave up arguing. Max promised that he would call for back-up as soon as they found Nicholas and I chose to believe him.

Anyway, while Max and I were apart, the sex thing obviously wasn’t an issue. I tried to deal with how much I missed him by immersing myself in my studies and I ended up at the top of our class again and even got into Harvard, my first dream, the one that had been replaced by Max, becoming a reality in spite of everything. So that was a good thing.

But when Max was home…it was becoming more and more difficult to resist what our bodies - and our hearts - really, really wanted us to do. We both felt like the time that we found the orb, although double, even tripled… We even began to wonder if something alien wasn’t at work - something that was trying to make sure that Serena was born. The fact that I had gotten into Harvard made it even more important to Max that we wait though. He almost wanted me to go there more than I did and we both knew that a baby would end that idea, mainly because until Sean was found, Max was not going to be around to help me at all.

Which pretty much brings you up to date. Not much has changed, really, although Maria and I moved to Boston in the fall after we graduated. She is working on her music and I’m studying organic chemistry at the top university in the country, just like I always wanted to. And we are both miserable. Because, now that we are safely anonymous in Boston, Max is letting Michael and Ava join him and the others, which means that, more often than not, Maria and I are alone. And, since they don’t want Nicholas to know where we are, they can’t visit as often as we would like. They generally return to Roswell between trips, investigate from there.

While I miss Max more than I can even explain, in some ways, it’s a relief that we barely see each other. Because we are both literally tortured when we’re together, unable to connect with each other completely, unable to fulfill our destiny. It doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of him all the time though. Sometimes, when I’m alone in my bed at night, I can even reach out and touch him through the connection that is unique to our relationship. We are soulmates and, as such, our souls will find each other anywhere and often do, reminding us that we will be together someday, that it is only a matter of time, that as soon as our last enemy on Earth is dealt with, it will be our time.

Nicholas still has Sean, who is now almost three years old and with every photograph sent to taunt us, we can see how much he is starting to resemble Kyle, now that we know to look for it. His golden curls are all Tess though and I know that it pains Kyle to think about her. I think, deep down, he still loves her, in spite of it all, which totally sucks for him. I think it increases his determination to find his son. He was able to find something good in Sean’s mother, something to love, and he wants to make sure that her one legacy remains untarnished, innocent. Which is a supreme irony because, had Tess lived, her son would have turned out about as far from innocent as possible. We all know it. We met him after all.

But, there had to have been something good in even that Sean - the one who returned with the granolith and helped Tess kill Alex. My daughter loved him in their timeline - he was not all bad, only tainted by his association with his Tess and Khivar, by his unwarranted hatred of Max, who he believed to be his father. I can’t feel sorry for him - he might not have killed Alex outright, but he certainly helped Tess control him and there is no doubt that he is the one who mindwarped those flashes of Max and Tess together that so devastated me - but I can sort of understand where he was coming from. I know that if Kyle and his father ever get a chance to raise him, he will be an amazing man. I could see the potential even in the Future Sean who almost destroyed Max and I, the Sean who hadn’t wanted to kill me, but truly felt like he had no choice.

Our daughter loved him. And he loved her. I don’t know for certain that this will be the case in this life, but I know that they do need each other. Because they will be the same, both children of the union of human and alien. My daughter will not be alone if Max finds Sean, if Kyle gets to raise him.

But first they have to find him. And, until they do, nothing will ever turn out like it should.

Which is why I know absolutely that Max is nowhere in the vicinity of Boston, that I am imagining things. I think I am somehow letting my loneliness take over, that I am somehow connecting with Max over the great distance that separates us. It’s making me feel like he’s near, but I know he’s not and I have to stop moping. I have a paper due in two days after all and one of the things that makes Max the most happy is that I am succeeding at Harvard, that I am building a future for both of us, even if he is presently stuck dealing with his past.

I sigh again, flop back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I know that I should head right back to my computer, but I am suddenly too exhausted to even contemplate it.

It is that exact instant that Maria, who is somewhere else in the apartment, shrieks.

My heart instantly enters my throat. My first thought is that Nicholas has found us. I remember how ruthlessly he killed me in that other life, willing to do anything to hurt Max. I don’t doubt he will do it again.

I have to fight. I can’t let him do this to Max. I cannot let him make it that my daughter is never born.

I glance at the window, wonder if I can somehow maneuver myself onto the fire escape if I go through it.

But I can’t leave Maria. I cannot leave my best friend. But I can’t go rushing out there either.

I need a plan. And to accomplish that, I need to know exactly what I’m dealing with.

I carefully make my way over to the bedroom door, crack it open. I can barely see anything through the tiny opening, but I frown slightly when I realize that that one shriek from Maria is all I have heard. I am sure that if she was really in danger, she would have tried to warn me somehow…

I suddenly hear her again. I think she’s laughing.

I pull open my door completely, just in time to see Michael kiss Maria so hard he actually lifts her off her feet. He is walking backward towards my best friend’s bedroom and the door slams behind them as they go find a little privacy.

This can only mean one thing. They found Nicholas. They have Sean. Because neither Michael, nor Max were going to come anywhere near us here, were not going to allow Nicholas to follow them here, were not going to put us in danger until that happened.

I can feel my heart starting to pound in anticipation. I actually feel light-headed.

I slowly turn towards the main door to the apartment and there he is. Tears instantly fill my eyes. I can’t stop them now and I don’t even care anymore.

His dark eyes are suspiciously bright too. They are practically devouring me and I can feel his need of me right down to my toes through the connection that is always strong between us, even when we aren’t trying. My knees are actually becoming weak. I thought that was just a romance novel cliché, but it is actually happening to me.

"Hi." His velvety voice sends a shiver down my spine.

"Hi." I take a tentative step towards him, just as he does the same. "Is he okay?’

"He’s fine. Nicholas didn’t hurt him. He knew that Sean was more useful to him safe."

"Where’s Nicholas now?"

Max’s eyes darken slightly. "Dead." The tone of this one word confirms to me that Max feels guilty about it, but that there was really no other choice. "We almost didn’t do it. Valenti wanted it though. He was not going to risk Sean again."

"He was evil Max. You don’t have to regret it."

"Yes I do," Max replies. "Or they win. But it’s really okay Liz. It’s finally over."

"Until Khivar comes," I remind him quickly.

He sighs. "Right. Until Khivar comes. But that’s years from now."

I smile slightly, know that he is right. "And we’ll be ready."

He knows instantly what I’m telling him. I see it on his face, in the love that is shining from his beloved eyes.

We will be ready because our daughter, our Serena, is meant to defeat him. But, first, we get to make her.

We have waited long enough. I am more than ready to be with him, in every way, and it is going to happen tonight.

"I’ll never leave you again Liz."

"I know it. And I’ll never leave you," I promise, remembering how I had left him all alone in that other life, how he had raised our daughter by himself, how little meaning his existence had without me. I understand completely, because it was exactly how little mine would have without him.

He is only a step away now, but he still doesn’t touch me, as though he can’t quite believe that this is happening. I don’t blame him. I feel exactly the same way.

He raises one tentative hand, brushes a hair behind my ear. It is so reflective of that first night we knew how we felt about each other, that night after he had healed me and we had worked together to throw Valenti off his trail, it makes me smile. "Are you completely sure? You’re so busy with school. We’re taking a risk here."

"We’ll manage." And I know that we will. Because together we can do anything. "I love you. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life." It’s actually almost scary how true this is. This boy - this man - is all mine and I am ready to show him how lucky it makes me, how proud I am that he loves me, how completely happy we will be together.

His eyes darken again, this time with love, rather than pain. He leans down and gently brushes a kiss across my lips, sending fire shooting through my veins. I bring my arms up around his neck, pulling him with me into my bedroom. He reaches behind him, slamming the door in much the way Michael did to Maria’s only moments ago. I barely notice. I am already completely lost in him, in how much I love him, in how right this feels.

Because it is right. We are meant to be.

I don’t think I even have to tell you what happens next. I think you already know. Because, in spite of the fact that we are going to still face a lot of stuff over the next few years, alien and otherwise, there is really only one way a love story like ours can turn out.

We live happily ever after.

The End