posted on 30-Aug-2001 7:57:24 PM
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and the character of Marryn Riley. But I wish I owned Max.

Rating: PG-13

Category: Mostly Max/Liz, but all of the conventionals are represented.

Author's Note: I started this in the long hiatus after ARCC, so the time's a little off. And in my world Alex will never die!

Summary: A stranger with an incredible claim and a strange connection to Liz comes to Roswell in search of the Pod Squad. What will her message mean to the Royal Four--and to Max and Liz's relationship?

Part One

Alex Whitman was less than a block away from the Crashdown when SHE rolled into town. Later, even after he had had time to think about that day and the events that came after it, he always remembered her most vividly as she was in those first moments—flushed, fiery, not a little frustrated—and in his mind her name was always spelled in bold capital letters.

The car was the first thing he noticed. Few black Camaro convertibles came through Roswell, and even fewer roared past the Crashdown at 60+ miles per hour, kicking up a storm of dust and blaring Robert Palmer at decibels that even impressed Alex. He stopped walking to stare after the car, wondering where its owner was going in such a hurry. Shaking his head, he thought briefly about how it would feel to be behind the wheel of something like that. He was about to continue on his way when the car suddenly screeched to a stop, then began backing up at a speed that made Alex edge away from the street. By the time the driver slammed on the brakes again, this time double-parked directly in front of him, he was hugging the front window of Mancini’s Dry Cleaning and Tailoring.

“Hey, you!” Alex’s eyes nearly popped out of his head as the dust settled to reveal a young woman with fiery red hair sitting in the driver’s seat. As he watched, she opened the door and swung her long. . .lo—oong legs out of the car and stood, propping her hands on her hips and surveying him from behind dark sunglasses. She was dressed in dark red leather pants that hung low on her hips and a black halter top that was little more than a well-placed handkerchief fastened around her neck by a gold ring. She was tall, slender, and she moved with a careless grace that made Alex feel awkward even standing still. Wind-tossed red waves fell around her shoulders, and her creamy skin shone in the late-afternoon sun. Alex’s mouth went dry as he realized that she was addressing him.

“M-me?” he asked, glancing behind him uncertainly.

“Yes, you,” she assured him, walking purposefully toward him. “Are you a tourist or a local?”

“Uh, local?”

She pulled off her sunglasses and quirked an eyebrow, regarding him with a frown. “Are you sure about that?”

“Yes!” Alex nodded vigorously. “I live here. . .in Roswell. Therefore, I am a—a. . .local.”

“Good.” She gave him a dazzling smile. “Then maybe you can help me.”

Some tiny impulse in Alex’s brain warned him that in Roswell, you didn’t go around offering your services to every. . .incredibly gorgeous. . .stranger that came through town—not if you valued your life, or those of your friends. But that was a tiny impulse, and the amount of teenage boy hormones roaring through his body was very large. “Uh, sure. What can I—”

“Have you seen this boy?” she demanded, pushing a photograph under his nose.

Alex blinked and looked down at the picture. Max. No—not Max. This guy had spiked hair and a pierced eyebrow. . .but without those things— Alex gulped in a deep breath and stepped back. “No. I—I don’t know him,” he said quickly, trying to keep his voice normal. It had to be the other Max, the one who had grown up in New York with Lonnie, Rath, and Ava. The one Lonnie and Rath had killed. What was his name? Alex couldn’t remember. He also couldn’t stop shaking. The woman had to be an enemy.

“Are you sure? You’re what—seventeen, eighteen? You probably go to high school together.” Casting a deprecating look up and down the street, she frowned. “There couldn’t be more than one high school in this town, could there?”

“Well, I don’t know him, so I’m going to—” Alex began, but she cut him off.

“Actually, you know what?” She flashed that smile again, exuding an almost palpable charm. “I’m not *exactly* looking for this guy. It’s someone who looks like him, only less. . .'Apocalypse Now,' you know?”

“I’ve. . .never—never seen that movie,” Alex stammered, “and I’ve never seen. . .anyone who looks like that guy. So, I’m going to just get going. . .okay?”

“Oh, yeah—sorry to keep you.” She reached into the back pocket of her pants and pulled out a slip of paper. “Well, if you do see him, could you give me a call?” Pressing the paper into his hand, she smiled again. “My name’s Marryn—and you can call me anytime.”

He nodded and quickly started to walk away, but halted mid-step when he heard her call after him. Looking back, he attempted a nonchalant smile. “Yeah?”

“You didn’t tell me your name,” she said, her voice a clear question, her smile inviting.

He swallowed hard. “Uh, it’s Alex—Alex Whitman.”


* * * * *

“You told her your name?! What were you thinking?” Maria whacked Alex’s shoulder—hard.

“Ow! Whose name did you want me to give her—yours?” he retorted. “Look, she just came flying up in that car, showing me pictures—asking about Max, and then throwin’ around all that hair, and those. . .” Catching Isabel’s glare from across the room, he lowered his voice and felt his ears grow warm. “. . .phone numbers.”

Max stopped pacing the small confines of the locker room at the Crashdown and sat down near Alex. “You’d better give me the phone number,” he said, holding out his hand.

Despite himself, Alex hesitated. “Uh, well, won’t she be suspicious if someone else calls her?” he asked, looking at the scrap of paper in his hand.

“I’m not going to call her,” Max said. “At least, not yet.”

“Give him the paper, Alex,” Maria ordered.

Alex twisted around to look at her. “Okay, he’s a king—and your innate bossiness comes from where?” Reluctantly, he surrendered the paper to Max, who nearly succeeded in hiding a smile at his question.

“She said her name was Marryn?” Max asked, writing it down. “And she was driving a black Camaro?”

“Yeah, a convertible.”

Max nodded, still writing. “Did you happen to see what state the license plate was from?”

“No,” Alex answered, slapping his forehead. “If I had a brain. . .”

“It’s okay,” Max assured him quickly.

“What did she look like?” Michael wanted to know. “Maybe I can go looking for her.”

“No.” Maria’s voice was firm. “If she knew Zan, she knew Rath, and that means she’ll recognize you.”

“Maria’s right.” For the first time, Liz spoke up. “You can’t look for her—none of you can. But Maria and I can ask around, maybe even talk to her.”

“No.” Max didn’t look at Liz, but the curtain that dropped over his face at her suggestion made it obvious who his reply was intended for. “It’s too dangerous—she could be a Skin, she could be anything. She probably knows exactly who the three of you are, just like she knows who we are.” He took a deep breath. “We’ll just have to go about this quietly. I’ll try to find her car, get the license plate. Maybe Sheriff Valenti can run it through the police computer, find out if she told Alex her real name.”

“Or maybe I could just talk to her,” Alex suggested timidly. “I mean, since she was the one who approached me and all, maybe I could just. . .get to know her. Find out where she’s from, why she’s looking for Max.”

“And then she can blow you to bits,” Isabel snapped. “Alex, she had a picture of Max—”

“That wasn’t me,” Max interrupted.

“Whatever,” Isabel said impatiently. “The point is, she’s dangerous, or she wouldn’t be here.”

“We don’t know that,” Tess interjected hesitantly. “Maybe she’s. . .you know. . .one of us.”

“Yeah, because so many good aliens have come to Roswell to visit,” Michael snorted. “Look, let us handle this.”

“Us?” From Maria’s tone, Michael knew he was in trouble. “Us?” she repeated. “Oh, you mean ‘us’ as in ‘we from another planet, who always know best and make decisions for the earthlings we dragged into our mess,’ is that correct?”

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Michael sighed automatically.

“Of course not,” Maria smiled sweetly. “It’s never what you mean.” With that, she spun on her heel and stormed out of the back room.

“Damn.” Michael jumped up and followed her, casting an apologetic look at the others as he left.

“I’ve got to start my shift, too,” Liz said, looking, as usual, at Max.

He didn’t look back. “Right. I guess. . .I guess that’s it, anyway. No one do anything yet. I’m going to go look for her car.” He stood, too, and started to follow Liz.

Alex looked at Isabel and smiled tentatively, but she only met his gaze solemnly. “Uh, I guess we should go, huh?”

“Yeah.” Stepping close to Alex, she put her hand on his arm. “Alex, promise me you won’t go looking for her. Max is right—she’s probably dangerous. Promise me?”

His heart contracted at the concern in her face. “I promise, Isabel,” he told her as they went through the door. “I won’t go looking for this—”

Max and the others stood just outside the door, silent and still. Just beyond the counter stood Marryn, a small, satisfied smile on her face.

“Zan,” she said calmly. “Rath, Ava, Vilandra. I’ve been looking for you.” Her eyes strayed to Alex and she raised an eyebrow. “Nice to see you again, Alex Whitman.”
Part Two

“Who are you?” Max stepped forward, addressing Marryn with surprising calm.

“Didn’t my new friend Alex tell you?” She held out one slim, long-fingered hand. “I’m Marryn Riley.”

“Is that really your name?” Max demanded.

She shrugged. “It’s the name I was given—this time.” Smiling pleasantly, she queried, “And you are called?”

“Max Evans,” he answered, briefly taking her hand.

“Nice,” she offered. “Very. . .American.” Looking past him, she added, “Alex I know, but the rest of you?”

“My sister Isabel,” Max answered for them, “our friends Michael and Tess. You’ve met Alex—this is Maria. . . and Liz.”

Marryn nodded at each of them in turn. “Friends,” she observed. “That’s good. You need friends.”

“Why are you here?” Michael asked.

“This isn’t the place to discuss it,” she said, as though they were talking about a trip to the mall. “Is there somewhere we can go? Oh, and I only talk to. . .Max, was it? For now.”

“You can’t just come in here and make demands,” Michael protested.

Her eyes hardened slightly and the smile left her face. “I wouldn’t have come here at all if it weren’t for Zan—Max’s little trip to New York. It wasn’t my choice to spend my winter break in New Mexico. I was supposed to be *skiing* in *Vermont* and instead I’m here chasing after a high school boy with delusions of grandeur.”

“Hey—” Michael began, charging forward, but Max stopped him.

Marryn smirked and folded her arms, amused. “Well, well, well. You can take the boy out of the army, but you can’t take the army out of the boy.” She stepped closer to Michael and looked him up and down. “First lieutenant impulses—very strong.” Turning to Max, she smiled. “Shall we?” she asked.

Max nodded. “Where do you want to go?”

“You’re the local,” Marryn told him. “You decide.”

“Max!” Isabel grabbed his arm. “You can’t just go off with her—we don’t know who she is, or why she’s here.”

From the looks on their faces, the others agreed—especially Liz—but no one said anything. “That’s right,” Marryn said calmly. “You don’t know who I am—but you don’t know who you are, either. . .or what you might do.”

Tess stepped closer to her, as if drawn by some invisible force. “Can you tell us?”

Marryn considered. “Maybe.”

“Why—why don’t you just stay here?” Liz suggested. “It’s private—you can sit at a back booth, and Maria and I will make sure no one bothers you.”

“I think not,” Marryn answered. She turned to Liz, her eyes radiating understanding and comfort. “Don’t worry,” she said quietly. “I’ll bring him back unharmed.” Looking at the others, she sighed. “I’m not here to hurt you. I can help you, but I need to speak with Max.”

“It’s okay,” Max assured them. “We’ll just be at the park—if I’m not back here in two hours you can come looking for me.”

“You’ll be back,” Marryn informed him. A mischievous twinkle danced through her eyes. “The park is a public place—your friends can be sure I won’t molest you.”

“I can take care of myself,” Max told her, although he was starting to believe she really wasn’t there to do him any harm. Something about her was familiar—he almost felt glad to see her. “My Jeep’s outside.”

Marryn flashed a grin. “So’s my Camaro—unless you don’t like convertibles.”

“Do you know the way?” Max asked her.

“You do.” She put on her sunglasses and seemed about to leave, but suddenly turned back to the others. “I—I hope I’ll see you again,” she said hesitantly, displaying the first uncertainty Alex had seen in her all afternoon. “We should—you know, have coffee or something.”

Michael just stared back at her. “Just bring him back.”

She nodded, the moment of vulnerability gone. “Well then, Max, let’s get out of here.”

“Right.” Max cast one last look at the others, his eyes lingering on Liz as she studied the floor, and followed Marryn out of the Crashdown.

* * * * *

Max had thought she’d wait until they got to the park to tell him why she was in Roswell, but to his surprise, she started in on him the moment they were in her car. “You have a lot of nerve, Max,” she said, turning on the radio.

Max had been marveling over the car and had to reel his mind in at her words. “What?”

She checked the rearview mirror before guiding the car onto the road. “Going to the summit like that, drawing attention to yourself, stirring up trouble with the Skins. They’re powerful, Max, and they’re deadly. What do you think you’re doing?” She turned her head to glare at him.

Max drew back. “We destroyed their husks,” he said defensively.

“They can still destroy you.” Glancing at the road, she added, “Left at this corner?”

“Yes.” He paused, gathering his thoughts. “We didn’t want to do any of those things. We just wanted to stay anonymous, here in Roswell.”

“You want to stay anonymous, you don’t go running to summits with people who want to kill you,” she snapped. “Look, maybe you were a king last time around, but this time you’re just a regular Joe like everyone else. You can’t go making decisions for all of us.”

“I didn’t mean to—” He stopped and looked at her. “What do you mean ‘all of us’? Who are you?”

As they stopped at a red light, she turned to look at him, her expression one of disbelief. “God—you really don’t know, do you? I was your sister.”
Part Three

“Isabel is my sister.” Max stared at Marryn, trying not to believe her. But the words—they felt right, somehow. They had reached the park in awkward silence and now walked slowly down one of the paved pedestrian paths.

“You had two sisters,” Marryn said quietly. “You and I were closest in age, but Vilandra—Isabel wasn’t much younger than I.” She pushed up her sunglasses. “I know this must be really hard for you. I thought you knew, or I would have. . .I don’t know. Broken it to you more gently, I guess.”

Max ran a hand through his hair, shaking his head. “It isn’t possible—why weren’t you sent with us? And our mother—in the message, she didn’t say anything about you.”

She smiled sadly. “When Mother made that message, I was still alive.” Closing her eyes, she turned her face to the sun and shrugged. “I was sent later.”

“Then why are you—”

“Older than you?” She sighed. “I guess the technology had improved, or maybe they wanted me to mature sooner—I don’t know.”

“This just. . .I don’t understand. Why didn’t we know about you?” Max shook his head in disbelief.

“Look, it didn’t work like we thought it would—the whole hybrid thing. We were supposed to retain our personalities, and our memories were supposed to return over time.” She frowned. “For some reason, I guess yours didn’t.”

“But you remember?” Max demanded.

She hesitated. “I remember. . .a lot. No, that’s not true. It seems like a lot now, but. . .I had a whole life before and most of it’s a blank.”

Max paced restlessly before her. “I can’t believe this. You’d think I would know—they sent me here as the hope of a planet. And I don’t have a clue!” He stopped and looked at her as an idea struck him. “Are there any more? I mean, do we have more family?”

“We. . .we had a brother,” Marryn faltered. She dropped her eyes, but not before Max saw a flash of grief there. “He was the oldest. Kivar had him assassinated—that was what began the civil war.”

“Is he here too?” Max’s mind raced. Wouldn’t the oldest be first in the line of succession?

Marryn shook her head. “No. He was killed when we were very young. We didn’t have the ability to create hybrids then. We weren’t actually sure it would work with you, but our mother said we had to try. Obviously, it worked.” Despite the warmth of the sun, she shivered and hugged herself. “But it came too late for our brother.”

Inexplicably, loss shot through Max. He was vaguely puzzled by it—was it possible to mourn for someone you had never met? He cleared his throat. “Why haven’t we met you before?” he asked her.

“I grew up in Boston,” she answered. “My father is a judge in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. I met Zan and the others when I was in high school—I was on a school trip to New York and Lonnie saw me. Somehow she knew exactly who I was. I used to see them once in a while when I was in New York, but I’ve never been to New Mexico before.”

“They killed Zan,” Max said flatly.

She nodded. “I know.” They both fell silent for a moment, then she gave him a crooked grin. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“No, I do.” Max shook his head. “That’s the problem. I feel like I know you—like I’ve seen you before, heard your voice.”

“You have,” she said with a small smile.

“But I can’t be sure,” he continued. “So much has happened to us in the past year. I don’t know who we can trust.”

She nodded. “I understand. I never know who to trust, either. But you and I are going to have to trust each other, Max.” She thought for a moment. “Here, give me your hand.” She put out her hand, palm up, and after a moment’s hesitation Max put his in it. “Keep your eyes on mine,” she instructed, and he did.

“What are you—” he began, but suddenly a current of emotion washed over him, accompanied by flashes of memory. He saw Marryn as a girl, guiding a horse smoothly over rails in an endless green field. He saw her sitting at a desk, writing spelling words in painstaking script, and being swept up in the arms of a handsome, gray-haired man Max somehow knew was her father. He saw her first glimpse of Lonnie from across a crowded street. Then she was older, and dancing in a club under the hectic glare of strobe lights, being kissed beneath a street light in the rain. And underneath it all was love—love for him and the others, even for Zan, Lonnie. He felt her longing, her anger at being sent alone to be born, and her loneliness. He saw her faint, fragmented memories of her first life, and felt her frustration at the gaps in between. He was in some of those memories; it stunned him to recognize himself. With building intensity, he saw disjointed pieces of the events that led to his own demise, felt himself sink into her memories, as though she had pulled him into herself—

“Max! Max, are you okay?”

Marryn’s voice jerked him back to reality and he sucked in a deep, ragged breath like a drowning man thrust to the surface. “How—how did you do that?” he gasped.

“Don’t you know how?” she asked.

Still panting, he shook his head. “No. Sometimes I’ve gotten flashes from. . .from people, but never like that. Did you send them to me on purpose? Can we do that?”

“Of course—it’s just a simple mind link.” She touched his face, a look of concern marring her smooth forehead. “I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to give you that much.”

“No, it’s okay.” He looked at her in amazement. “I learned more from that than I have in my entire life.” He took a step back, his mind reeling at what he had seen. “What happened next?”

“I don’t know all of it,” she replied. “I know you were killed, and then the four of you were sent here. The war went on, but. . .it’s pretty fuzzy. And, well, my memories stop when I was executed.”

“Executed?” he repeated. “For what?”

She chuckled mirthlessly. “What do you think? For my blood—for who I was. For the humiliation of our people, for a sign that we were defeated. But most of all, for daring to cross Kivar.”

“What did you do?” Max asked softly.

She smiled slightly. “I tried to kill him. He captured me in battle, about two years after the four of you—well, you were killed in a campaign that made Kivar ruler of virtually the whole planet. Anyway, when he captured me, he took me into his household. . .as one of his—his women.” A convulsive shudder ran through her body. “You can’t imagine the—the humiliation, the degradation of it. I had been a princess—I had been married to a good man. And he made me into a whore.” She took a deep breath. “So one night when he sent for me, I hid a dagger in my gown. I tried to use it, but. . .he was stronger than I was, and he overpowered me. He could have killed me there—I wanted him to—but he had a better plan. He threw me into a cell for three months. The guards—they. . .” Her voice trailed off and she fell silent. Max clenched his jaw as black anger welled up in his chest. If what she said was true. . .and he believed it, believed every word. . .if her story was true, Kivar would pay for this.

“No—stop that.” Marryn’s voice broke into his thoughts. “It’s over—it didn’t happen to me, to Marryn Riley. That was another life and it doesn’t matter in this one.”

“What?” he demanded, then realized that he hadn’t spoken aloud. “Were you reading my thoughts?”

She flushed. “No! Well, yes. But they were very loud!” At his amazed look, she frowned. “What? Can’t you do that either? With a loud sigh, she walked over to the fountain and sat on the edge. “Look, I came here to make sure you weren’t planning anything like that. Don’t you get it? It isn’t our problem anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” Max asked.

“This! You going to the summit—you’re acting like we could actually go back to the other life.” She held out a hand to him and he sat beside her. “Max, don’t you remember any of it?”

He slowly shook his head. “No. I wish I did.”

“Don’t be so sure,” she told him softly. She took a deep breath, trailing her fingers through the clear, sparkling water in the fountain. “You want to know what I remember most?” At his nod, she continued. “Failure. We failed, Max. A whole race pinned their hopes on us, and we failed them. We had every advantage—we were primed to lead, trained our entire lives—and we still failed.” A short, bitter laugh came from her lips. “I remember being led to the execution. You know what I was thinking about? Not my husband, not the fact that I was too young to die—and I *was* too young to die—but about the fact that I had failed. I couldn’t keep Kivar out of power, I couldn’t keep my family alive, and when he killed me, I couldn’t even take him with me.”

“You tried,” Max said quietly. He wished he could comfort her, but although the memories she had shared with him made him feel intensely connected to her, the truth was he had only met this woman an hour ago and it didn’t feel right to put his arm around her.

She shook her head. “We all tried. And we all failed.” She put her hand on his; it was chilly and damp from the water in the fountain but when she touched him it felt familiar. “Don’t you get it? If we were ever going to defeat Kivar, it would have been in that life, not this one. In this one, we’re just like everyone else.”

“We’re not like everyone else,” he protested, unable to keep a note of regret from his voice.

“In the ways that matter we are. We have no training, no experience, no advisors to help us—it’s impossible. We were killed last time—how long do you think we would last this time?”

“What are you saying?” he asked.

“That we—you—should give it up.” She squeezed his hand. “Max, you know you don’t want to be king of a planet you’ve never seen. You don’t have to be. You can just go along, be a normal human, forget this whole *destiny* thing. Don’t you want to do that?”
Part 4

"You can’t mean that.” Max stood, looking down at her in disbelief.

Marryn stood, too, and rested her fists on her hips. “Like hell I don’t,” she retorted. “I already sacrificed one life for them and their war—I’m not doing it again, especially this time, when I haven’t even got a chance!”

“You don’t know that,” Max protested. “Besides, you don’t mean it—I know you don’t. The things you felt, your memories, they say something different. You still feel guilty about what happened.”

“What if I do?” she demanded. “That doesn’t change anything. I feel guilty about a lot of things—starving children in Asia, Hutus and Tutsis killing each other in Africa—but I’m not going to go fight their wars, either. I guess that’s selfish, but the truth is, I want to live!”

“This is different,” Max insisted. “This is our war, too.”

“No, it’s not,” she told him. “Look at us—look at you! Let me guess, you’re an A-B student but you could get all A’s if you applied yourself; you play football, and you’re desperately in love with that dark-haired waitress at the café, so you worked out all summer to impress her and now have abs I could do my laundry on. Am I right?”

“I—I don’t play football,” Max said awkwardly.

In spite of herself, Marryn gave him a sly grin. “But I’m right about the abs, huh?” Then the smile faded to exasperation. “Tell me, are you the picture of a king?” she demanded. “Do you think you’re the kind of guy who steps in and stops a civil war that’s been going on for decades? I gotta tell you, Max—you’re a nice kid, but you’re still just a kid. And if you don’t lay off the ‘chosen one’ bit, you’re never going to find out what kind of man you’ll be.”

“So you’re saying we should just ignore the reason we were sent here?” he asked her. “Do nothing?”

“I don’t care what you do!” she cried. “Light candles, have a fund-raiser, organize a vigil—just leave me out of it.”

“Is that why you came?” he wanted to know. “To tell us you want nothing to do with us?”

“I came here to warn you,” she said icily, and Max wondered what had happened to the quietly reflective, slightly sad Marryn of only a few minutes ago. “You say you destroyed the Skins’ husks—good. They don’t have much time left. With any luck, they’ll die off and you’ll be anonymous again. If you know what’s good for you, stay that way.”

“We can’t do that,” he told her grimly.

“Why not? Because you feel loyalty to a planet you can’t even remember? Because your life here is so rotten?” She shook her head. “You think that other life was so great? Well, it wasn’t. You think you’re afraid now? You don’t know what fear is. Let me tell you something. In that other life, we woke up every day in fear. Raw, naked fear that overshadowed everything else in our lives. Sometimes I dream about that life, and I wake up between that life and this one, and all I can feel is the fear. I can’t breathe, I can’t even scream. Is that what you want to go back to?”

“I never knew we had a choice,” Max answered. What had happened in the White Room rocketed back to his mind, but he pushed it away, not wanting to feel that terror ever again.

“Of course we have a choice. Everyone has a choice. Don’t tell me you believe in destiny, Max. We make our own destiny—surely you’ve discovered that.”

His own words sounded strange coming from her mouth. ‘We make our own destiny.’ He had told Liz that, but did he believe it? Did he live like he believed it? He stepped closer to her. “You mean to say that we should just go along like we’re normal people—just forget the people who are counting on us?”

“Who’s counting on us?” she asked, holding her arms wide. “Our mother? Our mother should be damn glad that we have one shot at a normal life. If she loved us, she should want us to stay right here, safe and—and potentially happy!”

“And if we love her?”

“That’s absurd.” Marryn stamped her foot. “How can you love someone you’ve never met or even seen?”

“I’ve seen her,” Max responded quietly.

“Not the real her,” she insisted. “Just an image we—I mean she—thought would be pleasing to you.” She turned around and restlessly paced the steps in front of the fountain. Two boys Max recognized from his trig class walked by just then, casting admiring glances at the way Marryn’s clothes clung to her tall, lithe body. Without thinking, Max gave them a warning look and they moved away. Marryn, standing on the top step with her hands on her hips and her face turned to the sun, never noticed. At length, she turned back around and squinted down at him. “You know what, Max?” she asked. “This is ridiculous. I didn’t come here to argue with you.”

“Then why did you come here?” he asked.

She walked deliberately down the steps, her boots clicking on the smooth marble. “To tell you to leave me out of this. Maybe you want to go back. I can’t stop you. But I’m not going back. I *like* this life. I like my family, my friends. I’m happy here, and I’m safe—at least a lot safer than I’d be anywhere else. You can’t just go off making decisions for everyone. The things you do. . .they effect all of us. And I don’t want to be effected.”

“That’s all?” Max demanded. “You could have said that in the restaurant.”

“Well, I chose not to,” she said angrily. “I thought maybe I could warn you, but if you aren’t going to listen, maybe I should just go.”

“I can’t stop you.” Max folded his arms, throwing her words back at her.

Her jaw tightened. “No, you can’t,” she agreed haughtily. They stared at one another, eyes locked in a silent challenge. Finally, Marryn’s expression softened. “Look, this is really hard, okay? I try not to think about this. I try to live my life as normal as possible, but I have these memories, and sometimes they just won’t let go of me. Being here and seeing all of you is—it brings it all back, you know?”

“No,” he said slowly, shaking his head. “I don’t know. I’d like to, but. . .Vermont’s waiting for you. Unless you think the snow will wait.”

She gave him a skeptical glance. “You want me to stay?”

He smiled slightly, stepping closer to her. “You come here and drop this bomb about being my sister, you have memories of my past I’ve been looking for my entire life, and you tell me I have a choice about my future?” He nodded emphatically. “Yeah, I think I’d like you to stay.”

“Well. . .” She thought for a moment. “I guess I could stay for a little while. . .maybe a day or so.”

“That sounds good,” Max said. He took a deep breath. “We should go find the others—they’ll want to hear this.” When he held out his hand and she put hers into it, it felt natural, and more than ever Max thought that Marryn’s memories were more important to her than even she knew.

“Think they’ll believe me?” she asked as they headed to her car.

Max squeezed her hand. “I do.”
Part Five

“My God.” Isabel’s face was pale as she sat with her hand clasped in Marryn’s. Carefully, gently, Marryn had been sharing her memories with the others, trying to convince them she was who she claimed. Now Isabel squeezed Marryn’s hand more tightly. “I want to know more,” she told Marryn, her eyes burning intensely.

“There isn’t much more,” Marryn admitted. “My memories come in fragments—sometimes I’m not sure of when exactly they happened.”

“Wait—they just come to you? Just like that?” From his seat in the corner of the booth, Michael gave Marryn a skeptical look.

She shook her head. “You know how sometimes something will happen that just suddenly reminds you of something else that you thought you had forgotten?” At their nods, she shrugged. “That’s what happens to me. Being here—talking with you—is making me remember things.”

“What about our mother?” Isabel persisted. “What was she like? Was she—I mean, was she a good mother?”

Marryn’s smile was wistful. “I remember that I loved her,” she said simply.

“Do you know any more about her?”

“Hmm.” Marryn stared absently at the ground, thinking. “Oh, well, I remember. . .” Her voice trailed off as she shared the memory with Isabel.

“So you believe her, Maxwell?”

Michael’s voice broke into Max’s thoughts. Max looked up, frowning. “You don’t?” he asked.

“It just seems a little strange—her showing up out of nowhere, claiming to be one of us.” Michael shrugged. “Don’t you think it’s weird?”

“Nothing about our situation is normal.” Max leaned across the table. “The feelings she has for us, her memories—those are real.”

“You’re sure about that?” Michael questioned.

“You felt them,” Max responded. “Do you really think they were fake?”

“I don’t know. I just think we should be cautious. The only thing we know about her is what she’s told us.” Michael slathered a french fry in Tabasco sauce and shoved it into his mouth. “Too much has happened to us recently for us to just accept her without question. Think about it, Maxwell. What are the odds that she’s really one of us?”

Max nodded in Tess’s direction. “Tess was,” he said quietly.

“That’s different,” Michael insisted. “Nasedo brought her—she had credentials. No one’s here backing your brand new ‘sister’ up.”

Max’s attention was diverted as Isabel opened her eyes in amazement. “That was incredible,” she murmured. “She loved us so much.”

Marryn nodded. “Yes—I’ve never doubted that.” Eyeing Max, she added, “That’s why I know she would want us to be happy.”

“Well?” Michael demanded. “Don’t you think we should check her out? We have no reason to trust her.”

“Except that she’s already shared more with us than Nasedo ever did.” Max was beginning to get irritated. “And who backed Nasedo up, anyway? We had no reason to trust him, either, but you did. Why do you have a problem with her?” He paused and grinned as realization dawned. “It’s because she didn’t like you.”

“She just met me,” Michael protested.

“Not today,” Max corrected. “Before—in the other life.”

“How do you know that? Did she tell you?” Michael demanded.

“No, but I saw her memories. She didn’t know I couldn’t handle a full mind link, so she shared them all at once.” Max sipped his cherry cola, still grinning. “The two of you never got along.”

“That doesn’t mean anything,” Michael sputtered. “I don’t even know if anything she says is true, so—” He broke off as Liz stopped by the table, carrying a tray laden with food and drinks.

“Here’s your Han Solo Smoothie,” she told Marryn, setting a tall glass down in front of her. “Non-fat yogurt, hold the honey, and. . .sorry, but we don’t have any wheat grass juice. I’m not actually. . .sure we’ve—um, *ever* had any.” She shrugged apologetically. “I hope it’s okay.”

Marryn smiled warmly. “I’m sure it’s fine,” she assured her. To prove it, she took a quick sip. “See? Great.” She dabbed a tiny speck of foam from her upper lip with her napkin, clearing her throat. “So, Max says your family owns this place.”

Liz nodded. “Yeah.”

“And you work here,” Marryn continued. “That’s nice. A family business.”

“Yeah, well. . .have you ever worked with your family?” Liz wanted to know.

“Um, yeah.” Marryn nodded. “I worked at the courthouse one summer with my Dad. . .” Her voice trailed off and she frowned. “Oh. Well, you’re a strong woman then, aren’t you?”

Liz couldn’t help but laugh. “Some days more than others,” she admitted. She glanced at Max, who had carefully avoided looking at her. “I—I guess I should go. I have other customers.”

Max took the opportunity to address Liz directly. “If you and Maria and Alex are free later, I could—uh, fill you in.”

“That would be great.” Liz beamed as she moved away, carefully balancing her filled tray.

Max watched her walk away, then turned back in time to catch Marryn’s knowing look. Quickly, he dropped his gaze. “Marryn, we probably should talk about what you were saying before.”

“Right, you probably know more about the situation back home.” Michael sat up straighter, ready for business. “Do we know for sure if we can go back?”

Max held his breath, waiting to hear what Marryn would say, but she only shrugged. “We—they thought so. But they also thought that your memories would return, so who knows?”

“Not a ringing endorsement,” Isabel murmured.

“It’s all I know.” Marryn sipped her smoothie, swirling her straw between long, slender fingers. “To my knowledge, no one’s ever tried it.” She raised an eyebrow and smiled sweetly at Michael. “Want to be the first?”

“That’s enough,” Max said quickly, almost amused at their bickering. Apparently personalities were easier to retain than memories.

“It doesn’t make any sense, Maxwell,” Michael said, still staring a challenge at Marryn. “Why would they send us here not even knowing if we could come back?”

“Maybe they thought a long shot was better than no shot at all,” Marryn answered, nonchalantly helping herself to one of Michael’s fries. “Or maybe they didn’t want us back at all.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Michael snorted. “The message said—”

“That message was made days after our mother lost two of her children,” Marryn retorted. “We can’t judge what she wanted by that message.”

“Do you know something else?” Michael wanted to know.

Marryn looked away. “No—not exactly.”

“Not exactly?” Max prodded gently.

“I don’t have any specific memories,” Marryn admitted, then glanced up defiantly. “But I know what I believe.”

“And what’s that?” Tess wanted to know.

“That any mother who loved her kids would give her own life to give them a second chance—and that she would never ask them to give up that chance to save her or anyone else.” Marryn smiled pleasantly, but her tensed shoulders and clenched jaw belied her calm demeanor. She was prepared to defend herself.

Michael gave her the opportunity. “What kind of mother doesn’t want her kids to come back?” he demanded hotly, leaning across the table. “Are you going to let a whole planet die because we wanted to stay here and drink—wheat juice?”

“Wheat grass juice,” Marryn corrected icily, biting off the words. “Two lives and you still can’t manage to think before you speak. Our mother loved us—and I think she loved us enough to give us up. If you’ve never loved anyone that much, I can’t make you understand.”

“Hey, you don’t know anything about me,” Michael shot back. “And all I see is that you’re the one who wants to turn your back on people who love you. On your family. Why didn’t you come here before if you love your brother and sister so much? Why didn’t you help us last year when the government was hunting us? Oh, wait, you loved us enough to let us go, right?”

“You know what your problem is?” Marryn leaned toward him, her eyes blazing. “You feel so—so *useless* and so. . .*impotent* here that you’ll take anything you think might be better, anything that might make you matter more than you do here.” She paused, waiting for his retort, but Michael was speechless with fury. “Just because you don’t remember that life doesn’t mean it was better. If you want the truth, it really bit. Remember the story? Big war, our side’s losing, critical moment, we all *die* and our mortal enemy takes the throne. Would you go see that movie again?” She stood and stalked away from the table, only to turn around before she reached the door. “Just because you suck at being a human doesn’t mean you’ll be good at being something else. Just remember that.” As the four at the table stared at her open-mouthed, she turned on her heel and swept out of the Crashdown.
Part 6

“Michael!” Isabel glared at him across the table. “How could you do that? She was sharing things with us—she remembers things about us!”

“Hey, she attacked me!” he protested.

“And now she’s gone!” Isabel ranted. “Max, we can’t let her leave. Maybe if Michael apologized—”

“I am NOT apologizing,” Michael said firmly.

“Max!” Isabel cried.

But Max was already on his way out of his seat. “Stay here,” he told them. “I’ll go see if I can find her. Just. . .stay here in case she comes back.” He paused, frowning. “I don’t think she’s going to leave yet.”

“No, probably not,” Tess said helpfully. “I’ll help you look for her.”

“No, stay.” He shook his head. “I’ll find her.” He started to go, then remembered something and went back. “And Michael, if she comes back—just . . . just keep quiet, okay?” He turned and left the Crashdown so quickly that he didn’t see Michael’s indignant look.

Outside the café, Max stopped and looked in both directions, squinting against the afternoon sun, but Marryn was nowhere to be seen. Max grew concerned. Could she really have left? He stood there for a moment, not sure what to do, then, acting on instinct, he turned to the left and took off quickly down the street. Scanning the street, he walked so fast that he almost missed the glimpse of red in the doorway to Dr. Garret’s dentistry office. But something made him look in that direction, and he stopped in mid-stride. Marryn stood in the entrance, just outside the door, leaning against the gray cement wall. Max let out a short, relieved chuckle.

Marryn sighed heavily. “I get a little upset,” she admitted, looking up at him through lowered lashes. “It’s just hard, you know?”

Max nodded. “I know.”

“I meant what I said,” she continued, then shook her head. “Not the stuff about Michael—that was probably a little mean—not that he didn’t deserve it! But about our mother . . . I know she loved us, Max. I know part of her must still want us back, but I think she would want us safe, and happy more than anything else.” She paused for a long moment, and when she spoke again, her voice was soft and sad. “I would give anything to ease her grief. But the truth is, even if we went back to her, she still wouldn’t have her children back. We aren’t those people anymore. Even if we remembered everything, remembered their lives, we would still be different people—we’re human now.” She shrugged. “Well, mostly human, at least. And the things we’ve seen and done and been here on earth make us even more different. I think that she must know that.”

“I wish I could remember her,” Max said, looking down.

She nodded. “I wish you could, too.” She took a deep breath. “Our mother took an enormous risk to give us this chance to live. If Kivar had known what she was doing, he would have killed her. She not only loved us enough to send us away, she loved us enough to die for a hope—a hope that we would live. I’ve known that for as long as I can remember, and you know what it makes me think?”

“That if she was willing to sacrifice her life for us, we owe it to her to do something special with ours.” Max leaned against the wall beside her.

“Yeah.” She grinned slightly at him. “How’d you know that?”

“Because I’ve been thinking the same thing since we saw her message last year,” he admitted with small smile.

She wrinkled her nose. “Responsibility bites, doesn’t it?”

He laughed. “You could say that.” He glanced at her. “So, are you still going to stay?”

She considered. “I guess so.”

“Good.” He smiled. “We’d better go tell Isabel before she convinces the sheriff to set up roadblocks.”

“Okay.” Marryn smiled back and they began walking side by side back toward the Crashdown. After a moment, she cleared her throat and stopped. “Max, answer me one question.”

“Sure,” he agreed.

She chewed on her lower lip for a second or two, thinking. Finally, she blurted, “If someone came to you right now and wanted you to go back, would you do it?”

Max’s brow furrowed. “Right now? You mean, with no warning or anything?”

“Yes. Would you go?” She fixed him with an intent gaze, her eyes holding his mercilessly.

He searched for an answer, but none would come. “I don’t know,” he managed at length.

But that didn’t satisfy her. “Isn’t there anything that would make you stay?”

At her words, memories spun before his eyes. He thought of his parents, left not knowing where their children had gone; he thought of Roswell, of school and concerts and parties and camping out beneath endless starry nights in the desert; he thought of college and all the things he still wanted to see in this world. Then he thought of Liz. He remembered her face in the Crashdown after he had healed her, the night they had spent in each other’s arms, and the relief in her eyes when he had returned from New York. He opened his mouth to tell Marryn that yes, there was something that would keep him here, but then another memory flashed before his eyes. Liz and Kyle in bed together, laughing at some joke he would never share. His heart tightened painfully as it always did when he thought of that awful night and he swallowed thickly. Finally, he looked at Marryn. “I—I don’t know,” he repeated. “I just don’t know.”

Marryn nodded slowly. “Fair enough,” she murmured, looking disappointed. A long silence followed, then she spoke again. “Is there anything that would make you go?”

A thousand more things flashed through his mind. His mother’s image in the cave; Nicholas at the head of the Summit table, speaking for Kivar, the man Max now knew was responsible for the murder of both his brother and his sister; some of the memories that Marryn had shared of his people and his world. If they truly needed him, if he could stop the war and end their suffering, wouldn’t he go? It was the same quandary that had left him speechless in New York. Then he had chosen to stay, but that was when the deal was for him to be Kivar’s puppet. If he really could make a difference . . . Again he shook his head. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

Marryn’s eyes darkened. “All right then. Let’s go find the others.”
“Look, maybe you should just stay at our place.” Isabel stood in the center of Marryn’s room at the Best Western just off the interstate, frowning slightly. The room was clean, and the wallpaper and carpet seemed relatively new, but judging from Marryn’s expensive luggage and the car she had rented, Isabel doubted it was the kind of place Marryn frequented.

Marryn smiled and waved a hand. “The room’s fine,” she assured Isabel as Max carried her suitcase into the room. “Just put it over by the closet,” she told him, and he complied.

“Mom loved you,” Isabel insisted, not ready to give up. “I mean, she really liked it at dinner when you talked about music and stuff. And Dad—well, his mouth hit the ground when he heard your father’s name.”

“I liked them, too,” Marryn said, tossing her jacket onto the bed. “But I didn’t like lying to them.” She gave a long sigh. “I hate lying to people I like.”

“Me, too.” Isabel’s shoulders slumped briefly. “I just thought maybe we could—I mean, you could stay in my room if you wanted.”

Marryn smiled reassuringly. “Hey, we’ll do stuff, okay? We’ll shop and talk and you can show me around Roswell. It’s just better if I stay here.”

“Iz, Marryn’s right.” Max put a comforting arm around Isabel. “We don’t want Mom and Dad to start asking questions.”

“I know. I don’t like lying to them,” Isabel admitted. “I just hate to leave you alone here.”

“I’m fine.” Marryn took Isabel’s hand and squeezed it briefly. “Really. I don’t mind being alone—and I’ll come by for you tomorrow morning. Say ten-ish? We’ll go out, you’ll show me Roswell.”

Isabel smiled. “That’d be good.”

“Sounds fun,” Max agreed. “Think I can get in on that?”

“Sorry—girls only.” A cheeky grin made Marryn look younger than Max expected. “We’ll get together later. Which means I’m going to need my sleep, and so are you.” She moved toward the door, shooing them out.

“So I’ll see you at ten?” Isabel prodded.

“Of course.” Marryn smiled at them, pecked Isabel’s cheek and squeezed Max’s shoulder affectionately. “Maybe we can have dinner tomorrow night—all of us. Some place nice. You do have places where the waitresses don’t wear antennae?”

Max chuckled. “One or two,” he told her. “I’ll tell Tess—she’ll love the idea. And we can talk Michael into it.”

Marryn grimaced. “Do we have to?” she sighed.

Max’s look was reproachful. “He’s part of the group.”

“Fine, fine. If you feel we must,” Marryn agreed airily. “Then let’s bring the others, too—the humans.”

“Sounds good,” Max said. He started to leave, then came back and stood close to Marryn. “I—I’m glad you came,” he told her, “and I’m glad you decided to stay.”

She smiled warmly at him. “Me, too,” she agreed, then impulsively leaned forward and hugged him. “I missed you,” she murmured against his shoulder.

He nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. “I missed you, too.” Reluctantly, he released her, and stood by as she and Isabel exchanged an affectionate embrace. “Good night,” he offered as he walked through the door.

“Good night,” she responded, leaning against the doorjamb. She watched them go until they stepped onto the elevator, then shut the door behind them. She leaned against it for a moment, closing her eyes, until a faint beeping sound startled her. Moving quickly, she crossed to the bed and fished her cell phone out of her bag. “Hello?” she asked.

“Marryn?” came to hesitant voice over the line. There was a slight pause, then more words came in a rush. “This is—uh, Liz Parker. We met this afternoon?”

“Of course,” Marryn answered. “Your family owns the café. Great food, by the way.”

“Thanks.” Liz took a deep breath and held it, trying for the right words. How in the world did you start a conversation like this one?

“Liz. . .” Marryn studied her fingernails for a moment, a nervous habit picked up years ago. “This afternoon, I got the feeling that you wanted to tell me something. Was. . .was I crazy, or just weirdly psychic?”

Liz’s breath whooshed out all at once. “Uh—psychic, I think,” she stammered. “Did you—did you mind read me?”

“No, not exactly. If I had, I’d be able to tell *you* what you wanted to tell me. I just picked up on the vibe.” Marryn paused. “I don’t read people unless I have permission. . .or a really good reason.”

“Oh.” Liz hesitated. “Look, I don’t want to talk about it over the phone, okay? But there’s something I just feel like I should tell you. It’s something I think you really need to know. I’m not really sure why, but—”

“Why isn’t important,” Marryn assured her firmly. “Trust your instincts. I’ll pick you up in twenty minutes.”

“Uh—okay. I’m at the Crashdown. I’ll wait for you there,” Liz said. “Look, Marryn, you can’t tell Max, okay? I mean, it’s really important that Max doesn’t know about this.”

Marryn chuckled, but she didn’t sound amused. “Liz, Max may have been king in another life, but here he’s just one of us. Some things. . .he just doesn’t need to know.”

Liz was relieved. “Thanks. I—I’ll watch for your car.”

* * * * *

It took Marryn exactly eighteen minutes to get to the Crashdown. Liz was surprised; the Best Western was several miles down the interstate. But Marryn had proved her lead foot earlier, and she screeched to a stop in front of the café almost before Liz had finished locking up. As she opened the door for the tall red head, she was grateful she had been able to change her clothes. Something about Marryn’s casual elegance made her certain she have been completely uncomfortable in her uniform.

“Hi,” Marryn said, stepping through the door.

“Hi,” Liz answered. “Thanks—thanks for coming.”

Marryn stuffed her hands in the pockets of her jacket. “No problem.”

“Well, I appreciate it,” Liz answered. “Do you want to sit down?”

“Sure.” Marryn took a seat at the counter, laying her bag down in front of her.

“Would you like some coffee?”

“Um, okay,” she agreed. Liz went to get two mugs, then filled them with coffee from the pot she had made after calling Marryn. Marryn ripped open a packet of sweetener and dumped it into the cup, followed by two creamers, then stirred it absently until Liz had fixed her own coffee and taken the seat beside her. “So,” she began, wrapping her hands around her mug, “what do you need to tell me?”

Liz looked down at her coffee. “Uh, this is really hard,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know if you’re going to believe me—it’s pretty unbelievable.”

Marryn smiled slightly. “I’ll believe you,” she assured the other girl with a shrug. “I’d know if you were lying.”

“Oh. That’s a—a good skill to have.” Liz bit her lower lip, then looked up at Marryn. “I—a few months ago, I was in my bedroom, and I had a visitor.” She brushed her hair back from her face. “It was Max.”

Marryn nodded. “Okay,” she prodded gently.

“Only—only it was Max from fourteen years in the future,” Liz continued in a rush. “He—he told me that he had come because sometime in the future the earth gets taken over by enemies. I don’t know what enemies, but he said that people—that Isabel and Michael die and millions more will be killed, too.”

Marryn took a deep breath and expelled it, resting her forehead on her palm. “Oh. Oh, that’s—well, that complicates things.” She paused, closing her eyes. “What did he want you to do?”

Liz sighed. “That’s where it gets really complicated.” The whole story came out then, haltingly, in short bursts. The future she and Max would have had, the whole scheme to push Max and Tess together, the charade with Kyle. Marryn listened silently, letting Liz talk until the whole tale was out.

By the time Liz had finished, their coffee was lukewarm and Marryn had twisted several paper napkins to pieces on the counter. A long silence stretched between them as she took in the import of what Liz had said. Finally, she took a sip of her coffee, grimaced, and met Liz’s anxious gaze. “That’s quite a story,” she said. “Oh, I believe you,” she assured Liz. “I really do. It’s just that I don’t know what to do now. I mean, this adds a whole new dimension to things here.”

Liz shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

Marryn’s brow was furrowed in a deep frown. “Liz, I didn’t just wake up yesterday and decide to come to Roswell to look up my long-lost family.”

“Then why did you come here?”

She turned to face Liz, her eyes burning with an intense light. “Because two days ago, I was in my dorm room and *I* had a visitor.”

Liz’s face went a shade paler. “Max?” she demanded in a whisper.

Marryn shook her head. “No, it wasn’t Max. It was you.”
Part Eight

“There must be some mistake.” Liz stood up, backing away. “I don’t understand.”

“I know, it sounds crazy,” Marryn said, tracing the rim of her coffee cup with one finger. “But three days ago you—you from fifteen years in the future—came to me in my dorm room in Boston and told me I had to come here to Roswell.”

“That’s not possible,” Liz stammered, though she knew with sickening reality that it was. She leaned against the counter, putting a hand over her eyes. “Wait—you said *fifteen* years in the future? That means—that means that what we—what I did. . .it didn’t work?”

Marryn shook her head slowly. “I guess not,” she said quietly.

The realization struck Liz like a physical blow and before she knew it she was sobbing helplessly. “I did it for nothing,” she managed through her tears. “I pushed him away, I lied to him, I—I *lost* him. . .probably forever. And it was for nothing.”

“Liz. . .I’m sorry.” Marryn rose from her seat and went over to put an arm around the other girl. “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this.”

“When I told him I didn’t want to die for him—oh, God, the look on his face!” Liz’s voice shook. “I thought he’d hate me for it, but he didn’t—and then when I. . .when he saw me with Kyle and thought that I—” Sobs shook her violently, and she leaned against Marryn, burying her face against the soft black sweater Marryn now wore in place of her halter top. “It would be easier if he hated me,” she said, her voice choked by sobs. “But he doesn’t, and sometimes when he looks at me, it’s like I can feel his heart hurting.”

Marryn patted Liz’s shoulder comfortingly. “It’s okay. You did it for a reason—you did it because you love him.”

“I love him so much,” Liz admitted, bringing another torrent of tears. When she had quieted some, she released her hold on Marryn’s sweater and accepted the paper napkin the redhead offered to wipe her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t usually start crying in front of people I barely know.”

Marryn’s smile was reassuring. “It’s okay,” she told her. “This isn’t a usual kind of moment.”

Liz swiped at her eyes again. “I guess not,” she said with a short laugh. She paused for a moment. “What are we going to do?”

“What you—the other you—told me to do.” Marryn took a deep breath. “Sometime before midnight tomorrow, someone is going to come to Roswell with a proposition for Max and the others. We have to make sure they don’t accept.”

“What’s the proposition?” Liz demanded.

Marryn took a long sip of her coffee, frowning darkly. “A one-way trip back home,” she said finally.

“Home?” Liz repeated. “Back—back to your planet?”

“Yup.” Marryn wearily rubbed a hand over her forehead. “Direct flight to the other side of the cosmos. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.”

“And if we don’t stop them, they accept?” The thought that Max could—and would—leave forever made Liz feel sick.

Marryn nodded. “Yes. And Kivar is waiting for them, and Max—well, you get the idea. Kivar hates Max with a passion.”

“Why?” Liz asked, her voice harsh. “He won the war.”

“But Max is still a threat. Kivar rules his world, but he’s the most insecure son of a bitch that ever lived. He knows that as long as Max is alive there’s a chance the people will rally around him.” A bitter smile twisted her lips. “And no rivals must exist for the great Kivar. The way he wipes them out makes Sadaam Hussein look like a playground bully.”

“I don’t understand,” Liz said with a frown.

“You remember the part in Star Wars where Darth Vader blasts Alderan out of the sky?” Marryn asked. At Liz’s nod, she shrugged. “If Kivar had a Death Star, Earth would already be history.”

“Because of Max.” Liz mulled over that for a moment, then looked up. “So Kivar is the one making the offer?”

“No.” Marryn shook her head. “Liz—the other Liz—didn’t know exactly who it was, but it doesn’t make sense for it to be Kivar. Max refused him once at the summit. There’s no reason for him to accept now when it would almost certainly be a trap.”

Liz’s mind was spinning, working furiously to catch up, but one thing caught her attention and held it. “Max. . .Max didn’t tell me when he was getting ready to leave?” she asked in a small voice.

Marryn eyes were overflowing with sympathy. “I don’t know,” she said. “He didn’t tell you who made the offer—maybe he didn’t get a chance to.”

“Maybe he didn’t want to,” Liz murmured.

“He wants to tell you everything,” Marryn said firmly. “Don’t you see the way he looks at you?” She took another sip of her coffee. “When I first got here, I thought something must be off because I couldn’t see any way in hell he would leave you. I guess it makes more sense now.”

Determinedly, Liz squared her shoulders, trying to push her churning emotions aside for the moment. “What do we do?” she asked. “How do we stop them from going?”

Marryn carefully lined her spoon up parallel to her napkin, her long, slender fingers smoothing the crumpled paper absently. “I was thinking it would probably be best if we could stop the offer from ever being made. If they refuse, it could go from an offer to an abduction. And if that didn’t work, they might—”

“Decide to assassinate them here,” Liz finished in a small voice. She thought for a long moment. “But we don’t know who makes it,” she pointed out finally.

“I know,” Marryn sighed. “I’ve been racking my brain for two days trying to figure out who might know, but I haven’t come up with anyone.”

“Nicholas might know,” Liz ventured.

Marryn shook her head. “No, that’s too simple. Max refused his offer at the summit.”

“I thought that was Kivar’s offer.”

“Nicholas speaks for Kivar. Same difference.” Marryn drummed her fingers on the countertop thoughtfully, her eyes fixed unseeingly on a point to the left of Liz’s head. In the silence, Liz could hear the hum of the Crashdown’s neon sign and the faint vibrations of the air vents. Then without warning, Marryn sat up straight and pounded a hand on the countertop. Liz started, nearly falling off her stool. “We need to talk to Larek. So we need to find Brody.”

“Why Brody?” Liz asked.

“He speaks for Larek,” Marryn answered. “Who’s Brody?”

“Who’s Larek?” Liz demanded in frustration.

Both girls paused to stare at each other stubbornly for a moment before Marryn gave a short laugh. “Okay, let’s back up,” she said, forcing a calm she didn’t feel. “Larek—Larek is of another of the royal lines on our—on the other planet. He rules his people now, and he keeps an uneasy peace with Kivar. His family and ours were great friends and allies even after the war began. He and my brother were very close.” Her voice trailed off and she looked away, suddenly seeming unaccountably sad. “We. . .we were all very close,” she finished lamely.

“What does that have to do with Brody?” Liz asked.

“Brody is. . .well, he’s a vessel.” Marryn sighed, trying to explain. “When there’s a need—like for the summit, Larek uses Brody’s body to represent him on earth. He takes possession, attends to his business, and then. . .then he leaves and Brody’s himself again.” She paused, looking guilty. “He just—you know—thinks he’s been, um, abducted.”

“He thinks he’s been abducted?” Liz repeated, looking horrified.

“Well, he doesn’t remember what happens during the time Larek occupies his body, so he experiences what abduction experts call ‘lost time.’ He assumes that means he’s been abducted.” Marryn frowned. “Wow, when I say it like that it sounds mean.”

Liz still looked stunned, but she recovered enough to speak. “So, we just go to Brody and ask to speak to this Larek?”

“Um, not exactly,” Marryn admitted. “A vessel has to be prepared before Larek—or anyone else—can take control of it.”

“How will Larek know that we need to talk to him then?” Liz asked, frustrated. This seemed to be going nowhere.

“Larek and the others monitor the vessels to make sure they’re safe. Anything out of the ordinary happens to Brody, and Larek will know about it.”

“So we have to send a signal,” Liz mused. “What kind of thing would make Larek. . .take possession?”

“I can get him here,” she assured Liz simply. “Just take me to Brody.”

“Are you sure?” Liz asked.

The corners of Marryn’s mouth turned down in a sad smile. “If anyone can get Larek here, I can.” She touched Liz’s hand and a current of emotion—Marryn’s emotion—flooded through the connection. “We’ve got to trust each other, Liz. We’re all we’ve got.”



posted on 30-Aug-2001 8:01:39 PM
Part 9

Marryn was strangely silent on the ride to Brody’s house. Liz thanked God Maria had told her where Brody lived months ago, after learning about his ailing daughter. She didn’t think Marryn would have waited patiently while she phoned someone for directions. The night sky, sprinkled with clusters of stars like diamonds against dark velvet, seemed close over their heads as they sped down the highway in Marryn’s convertible, and Liz raised her face to their clear, white light. Marryn appeared not to notice the quiet beauty of the night, or anything else. Glancing at the other girl, Liz realized that she knew almost nothing about Marryn Riley, the college girl from Boston, yet they were joined together inexplicably. Oblivious to Liz’s scrutiny, Marryn played with the radio buttons until she found a classic rock station, then adjusted the volume to play softly in the background. When Eric Clapton started to sing about the presence of the Lord, Liz cleared her throat.

“Marryn?”

Marryn glanced at her. “Yes?”

“Tell me something about yourself.” Liz smiled, shrugging. “You know, something normal—something you might tell someone you just met.”

“Something normal,” Marryn repeated with a sigh. She stared hard at the road, thinking. “I. . .I have a boyfriend. His name’s Jesse.”

Liz smiled. “What’s he like?”

“Well, he’s a musician. He plays the guitar and sings—he writes his own music—and right now he teaches music at a school in south Boston.” Marryn’s lips curved into a smile. “Jesse—he’s very. . .he’s *good,* you know? That’s the best way I can describe him. He has the purest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.”

“He sounds nice.” Liz’s voice was wistful. She wondered if Marryn knew how good Max was, how pure his heart was. It hurt her to think of how she had wounded that heart when she pushed him away. But that was done, and she shouldn’t think of it anymore. Looking at Marryn, she asked, “Do you have any brothers or sisters? I mean, besides Max and Isabel?”

Marryn was silent for a long time. “One,” she said finally. “My brother, Nick. He’s older than me.” She lifted her chin. “He’s in prison,” she said flatly.

“Oh.” Liz looked away, uncomfortable.

“He was a cop,” Marryn went on mechanically, “and somehow he picked up a little coke habit. It’s hard to support one of those on a cop’s salary. He and some of his ‘brothers in blue’ started selling confiscated narcotics they stole out of the evidence room to supplement their paychecks. But they got caught.” She gave a harsh laugh. “They were arraigned in the courtroom next to my dad’s. Ironic, huh? I went to the hearing. That was the last time I spoke to my brother.”

“How old were you?” Liz asked quietly.

“Seventeen.” Marryn’s fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly. “It was all over the papers—almost killed my parents. I made up my mind then that I would never screw up like that.” She turned her head to look at Liz. “Failure isn’t an option for me, Liz,” she said seriously, “and neither is leaving. My parents can’t lose another kid.” She fell silent then, but Liz had one more question.

“Marryn, what was your name? Before, I mean?”

Marryn’s voice was soft as she answered. “Callia. My name was Callia.” In the quiet that followed, she reached out and turned up the radio, closing the door on any further conversation.

* * * * *

“Mr. Davis? Brody Davis?”

Brody frowned, eyeing the girls on his doorstep. “Yes. May I help you?”

“I—I’m Marryn Riley,” Marryn said, turning on a radiant smile.

Brody nodded. “Pleased to meet you,” he said, giving her a puzzled look. Looking beyond her to Liz, his frown deepened. “Liz, isn’t it?” he asked. “Your family owns the Crashdown?”

Liz smiled and nodded. “Yes. Hi, Mr. Davis.”

“Liz was telling me about your UFO center here in town, and I was wondering if I could speak to you about it.” Marryn’s smile became shyly hopeful, and Brody smiled back.

“Well, we’re open every day from ten until five,” he said, then shrugged. “Well, except for Sundays. We—we don’t open until twelve on Sundays.”

“I’ll definitely be in for a visit,” Marryn said, taking a step closer to Brody, “but. . .well, that isn’t all I wanted to talk about. Mr. Davis, I came here because I need to know about them. The aliens, I mean.”

Brody looked intrigued. “Why is that?” he asked.

Marryn contrived to look embarrassed. “Well, it’s kind of unbelievable,” she said with a short laugh.

Brody looked at her closely, and then his expression changed, radiating understanding “You’re a believer,” he said simply. He stepped aside and pushed the door open wider. “Come in—both of you.”

Liz had never been in Brody’s house before, and she was vaguely surprised at how cozy and attractive it was. A low fire crackled in the grate, casting long shadows across mission-style furniture and hardwood floors. One wall was completely covered with bookshelves, and a stack of books sat on the floor beside a comfortable-looking armchair. As they entered the room, Brody switched on an overhead light and ushered Liz and Marryn toward the sofa.

“Make yourselves comfortable,” he invited. “Would you like some something to drink—some tea, a soda?”

“Tea would be lovely,” Marryn smiled, crossing her long, leather-clad legs before the fire. Liz noticed that Brody’s eyes followed Marryn’s movement with interest.

“Liz?” Brody asked.

“Tea’s great,” she answered with a smile. She sat down beside Marryn as Brody disappeared into the kitchen. “Well?” she asked in a whisper.

Marryn looked at her blankly. “Well, what?”

“What do you think?”

Marryn looked around the room, frankly appraising it. “Good floors, I like the high ceilings. The apothecary chest in the corner isn’t a real antique. Nice reproduction, though.”

“I mean about Brody,” Liz clarified, not sure if Marryn was purposely being dense or not. “Is he Larek?”

“Well, not yet,” she answered. “Larek wouldn’t take possession unless it was important—it takes a lot of energy to retain control of a vessel.”

“What if he doesn’t come?” Liz demanded. “How are you going to make him understand how serious this is?”

Marryn shook her head. “He’ll come.” She squeezed her hands together in her lap. “Larek will come,” she repeated, and Liz wasn’t sure anymore who she was trying to convince. “I just have to get a signal to him.”

“What kind of signal?”

“I don’t know. Something that will catch Larek’s attention—if I could just slip his name into the conversation, or something. Maybe physical contact would work better. Damn, I should have shaken his hand. . .” Her voice trailed off as Brody came back into the room.

“Kettle’s on,” he told them, sitting down in an armchair across from them. “It should be ready in a moment.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and folded his hands, regarding


Marryn thoughtfully. “Now, then, Marryn—may I call you Marryn?” At her murmured assent, he continued. “What brings you to Roswell?”

Marryn leaned forward, too. “The same as everyone else, I suppose,” she said. “The crash. Isn’t that why you came here?”

Brody nodded. “That’s a large part of it,” he agreed. “Why are you interested in the crash?”

“It’s not just the crash,” Marryn admitted. “It’s anything about them—the aliens, I mean. You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but. . .well, I know they exist.”

“And how do you know that?” Brody asked gently. He looked so sincere that Liz felt guilty about deceiving him. But, she reminded herself, this was for the fate of the world—and, more immediately, the fate of Max. Plus, Marryn had just talked herself into the living room of a total stranger who was currently making her tea. Liz couldn’t help but wonder what kind of story she would concoct for Brody next.

“Well,” Marryn said slowly, tugging nervously on the hem of her sweater—which brought the neckline lower than ever, “I have these memories.”

Liz’s jaw dropped. The truth? Marryn was going to tell Brody the truth? Alarmed, she grabbed Marryn’s elbow and squeezed until the other girl firmly pulled her arm away.

“They aren’t my memories,” Marryn was going on, completely nonplused. “But the strange thing is, I’m in them. Does that make any sense at all?”

Brody frowned thoughtfully. “Do you think they’re false memories, implanted to cover something else?”

Marryn gave him a blank look, but recovered quickly. “I. . .I don’t know,” she said, just as the tea kettle whistled.

Brody looked a little irritated, but he got to his feet. “Let me get that,” he murmured.

As he left the room, Liz turned to Marryn. “Are you crazy?” she demanded in a whisper.

“Me?” Marryn asked innocently.

“Yes, you! Why are you telling him the truth?” Liz was frantic.

“Well, I didn’t want to lie to him,” Marryn retorted. “He seems so nice—and I hate lying to nice people.”

“Marryn, he knows Max and the others! If he finds out about them—”

“Relax—I’m not going to give anything away.” Marryn sat back and crossed her legs at the knee again. “Those stories aren’t mine to tell. But I’m not going to lie to this man. He’s. . .he’s too earnest—and he wants to help me even though I’m a complete stranger. I can’t do it, Liz.”

Liz was perplexed. “You must be used to hiding things,” she said.

“My entire life is a series of half-truths and outright lies,” Marryn answered evenly. “Ever since I can remember I’ve deceived the people I love.” She gave a short chuckle. “But for some reason I can’t bring myself to lie to strangers.”

Brody chose that moment to reenter the room, bearing a tray of tea things. “Here we are girls,” he said, setting the tray on a trunk that served as a coffee table. He sat down and poured with a practiced manner. “Now, Marryn,” he began as he filled one cup, “tell me about these memories. Does anything in particular stick out in them?”

Liz could practically see the light bulb go on over Marryn’s head, but the other girl schooled her features back into a careful mask before Brody looked up. “Well,” she said slowly, “there is one thing.”

Brody handed Liz the first cup of tea and started to pour the next. “What’s that?” he prodded gently.

Marryn took a deep breath. “A man—he’s always there in the memories. Well—maybe not always, but even when he’s not I always know he’s near, and that he’s very important to me.”

Brody nodded and reached over the table, holding Marryn’s tea out to her. “Do you know his name?”

Marryn slid to the edge of the couch and reached out with both hands. “Yes, I do,” she answered. “His name is—” Deliberately, she touched Brody’s hand with both of her own as she took the cup from him. “—Larek.” As Liz watched, Brody froze for a split second, like a record skipping a beat. “There’s more,” Marryn blurted quickly. “In the memories, my name is Callia.” This pause was longer this time, and Marryn watched him closely as she sat back on the sofa and balanced her cup and saucer carefully on her knee. “Mr. Davis?” she said quietly, and he looked up at her, a slightly confused expression on his face. “Have you heard those names before? Larek and Callia?”

“Yes,” Brody said absently, then blinked. “No—I mean, I’m not sure.” He seemed perplexed, but still interested in Marryn’s story. “Marryn, in these memories, you *are* someone else?”

She nodded. “Yes. I see everything through her eyes.”

“You have. . .you have these memories while you’re awake?” Brody wanted to know, shaking his head vigorously, as though to clear it.

“Yes,” she answered. “They’re there just the same as my own memories when I’m awake. But when I dream. . .” She paused, frowning. “When I dream, I’m always her. It’s like I’ve never been anyone else.”

Brody seemed to be growing agitated. “Like you’ve never been anyone else,” he repeated, pushing a hand through his hair.

“No one but Callia,” she answered.

Brody stood up suddenly, his breath coming in short puffs, moving as though he couldn’t stand to be in his own skin. Liz watched him wide-eyed as he paced the room, looking worried. “I—I’ve heard of anything. . .anything quite like that before.” He turned away, and both girls heard him murmuring to himself. “Not again. Please, God, not again.”

Marryn nudged Liz and nodded toward the door, signaling silently that it was time to leave. “Mr. Davis,” she began, standing up, “you seem. . .tired. Maybe—maybe I can come by the UFO center tomorrow and tell you more.”

Brody turned abruptly and looked at them. “Yes, perhaps that would be best. Many of my—my research materials are there. I. . .I can help you there.”

“Thank you,” Marryn said cheerfully. “I’ll come by tomorrow afternoon.” She picked up her purse and started toward the door. Liz scrambled to her feet and followed.

“Thanks, Brody,” Liz said, casting a smile in his direction. “Good night.”

“Yes, good night, Liz,” he answered. “And Marryn—it was nice to meet you.”

Marryn gave him a bright smile. “My pleasure,” she said, shaking his proffered hand on her way out the door. She paused for a moment on the threshold, and leaned close to Brody. “I really appreciate, this,” she said quietly. “The truth is. . .the truth is I really need your help.”
Part Ten

“So what now?” Liz asked on their way to the car.

Marryn stared straight ahead, striding resolutely across the street. “Off hand, I’d say I should stay close to you. Brody knows you, knows where to find you, and he saw me with you. That means Larek did, too. When he takes control he’ll look for you.”

“When will that be?” Liz wanted to know.

Marryn shrugged and dug in her pockets, searching for her keys. “I don’t know exactly. It’ll take some time to prepare the host body—I don’t know how long. A few hours at least. Hopefully before tomorrow night.” Finding her keys at last, she scowled. “Otherwise we’re screwed, and we’ve got to find a new way to save the world. God, this is a lot of pressure.”

“Okay, so we just wait.” Liz gave a long sigh. “I. . .I can wait.”

“You’re more patient than I am,” Marryn grumbled. She fumbled with the keys, swearing when she repeatedly missed the lock. Taking a deep breath, she tried again, only to drop them on the ground. “Damn!” she muttered. “Damn, damn, damn.” She turned around and leaned against the car door, pushing her fingers through her hair. At length, she looked at Liz with a half-hearted smile. “What do you do to relax around here?” she asked. “Do you have discos, or bars, or. . .outlet malls or something?”

Liz shrugged. “We have some coffee shops,” she ventured.

Marryn laughed shortly. “I’m looking for something a little stronger than a latté,” she said. “Don’t you have any clubs. . .anything?”

Liz thought for a moment. “Well,” she said finally, “there is one place. . .”

“I’ll take it,” Marryn said immediately. She grabbed the keys off the ground and turned to unlock the door. “How do we get there?”

* * * * *

“You drink alcohol.”

Marryn looked at Liz and gave a wry grin. “I’m legal,” she said, taking a sip of her beer.

Liz shook her head. “I just mean—Max. . .he got really, really drunk off just one sip of alcohol one time.”

Marryn looked mildly surprised. “Really? That’s weird.” She looked thoughtful. “Maybe a genetic predisposition to being a lightweight that got more prevalent when they messed with the genes? Or maybe it was psychological. I don’t know—it never happened to me. It would have saved me a fortune on drinks, though.”

Liz couldn’t help but laugh as she took a sip of her Coke. The two of them were sitting at the bar at Danny’s Tavern, a smoky little bar with poor lighting a few blocks away from the Crashdown. Liz had never been there before, and hadn’t been sure they would let her in, but Marryn had effortlessly charmed the bouncer and the bartender within minutes. They hadn’t needed to pay for their drinks, either; two men seated at a table near the back of the room had bought the first round almost before the two girls had found seats. Marryn had thanked them politely, then rebuffed any further advances so charmingly that both men walked away with slightly confused smiles. Putting her drink back on the bar, Liz mulled over Marryn’s words. “So you think that’s just Max, then?”

Marryn shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve seen Rath drink me under the table, so he’s not affected. I don’t know about the others. Control freaks like Lonnie don’t usually let themselves get too trashed.” She took a long sip and shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about them. Ever since Zan. . .well, they aren’t my favorite topic.”

Liz nodded, understanding. She didn’t particularly like talking about them, either. She glanced around, trying to think of something to talk about, brightening when she saw two pool tables in an alcove near the end of the bar. “Hey, do you play pool?” she asked impulsively.

Marryn followed her gaze and grinned. “Does Michael need a haircut?” she retorted, picking up her beer. Liz chuckled and followed her to the vacant pool table, and, following Marryn’s lead, picked up a cue stick. Marryn racked the balls expertly, chalked her cue stick, and broke the balls with a confident shot. They scattered across the felt and Marryn walked around the table, searching for her next shot. She glanced at Liz and gave a crooked smile. “So ask me,” she invited casually, bending over to sink one in the side pocket.

Liz looked at her curiously. “Ask what?”

Marryn shot her another glance. “Ask me about Larek. You want to—you’ve wanted to ask ever since we left Brody’s. So go ahead.”

Liz didn’t deny it, only dropped her head as Marryn sank another ball. She took a deep breath. “Was Larek your husband?”

Marryn shook her head. “No. I was given in marriage to secure an alliance with another royal house. Larek’s family was already our ally; we didn’t need an alliance with them.”

“But you loved Larek.” It wasn’t a question. Liz had seen what their visit to Brody had done to Marryn.

“Yes, I loved Larek,” Marryn agreed. She lined up her shot and sank it, her expression impassive. “We grew up together—he was Zan’s best friend, and he was always around.” A wistful look shot briefly across her face, but she controlled it quickly and Liz got a glimpse of Marryn’s rigid self-control. “Falling in love with Larek was a natural part of life. Every year, every month, every day I loved him a little more. I loved him right up until—” She paused, her eyes on something Liz could not see. “My last thought, just before Kivar ended my life, was of Larek.” She smiled faintly and shook her head, her thoughts clearly a million miles away.

Liz cleared her throat. “And he loved you, too?”

“Yes.” She shot, missed, and stepped back, motioning for Liz to take her turn. “That’s how I know he’ll come. We were very much in love, and nothing changed that. Not growing up, not war, not. . .”

“Marriage?” Liz asked, sinking one in the corner. She looked up at Marryn questioningly.

Marryn met her gaze evenly. “I loved my husband.” She waved a hand and grabbed her glass from the edge of the table. “Not at first, I guess, but later—after we knew each other better.” She sipped her beer thoughtfully. “We grew to be friends, but I’m sure he had someone he went to for comfort, someone from his past that he might have been with if the war had never happened, if we—if we hadn’t been who we were. Just like I had Larek.”

Liz straightened. “I guess I just don’t understand.”

Marryn drained her glass and set it down on the table with a thump. “It is possible to love more than one person at a time,” she said gravely. “I know it doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s true.” Their eyes met and held for a moment, then Marryn grinned. “I need another beer. Want something?”

“Um, another Coke?”

Marryn nodded. “Okay. Be right back. Take your shot.” She grabbed both of their glasses and started toward the bar, adding over her shoulder, “No cheating.”

Liz laughed and shot again, pleased at how well she was doing, despite the completely unbelievable events of the past twelve hours. Briefly she wondered what the next day would bring, but she pushed the thought away. She and Marryn would find a way to keep Max and the others safe, to save the world. Again. Then Marryn was back with their drinks. She handed one glass to Liz, who took a sip and frowned. “There’s something wrong with this Coke.”

Marryn grinned slyly. “No, I just had them put a little rum in it.” At Liz’s doubtful look, she laughed. “Pool’s more fun when you’re loaded.” Liz still didn’t look convinced, but Marryn wasn’t going to listen to any objections. “Look, this time tomorrow we could be—I don’t know—we could be fighting the world’s last battle. I think we deserve to have a little fun tonight. Now drink up and let’s finish the game.” Two college-age guys had taken the table next to them and were casting admiring glances their way. Marryn noticed and turned slightly, returning their smiles. She looked back at Liz, her eyes twinkling. “Hey, you’re pretty good at this, right?” she asked quietly, gesturing toward the pool table.

“Uh, okay, I guess,” Liz shrugged.

Marryn grinned. “Good. Want to try something *really* fun?” Liz didn’t know what to say, so she shrugged again. Marryn’s grin widened. “Bring your drink,” she instructed, already on her way to the other pool table, a slight sway to her hips and a flirtatious grin on her lips.

* * * * *
It was nearly one in the morning when Liz and Marryn burst out of the tavern, laughing, stumbling down the sidewalk between fits of laughter.

“I can’t believe. . .” Liz began, then stopped, overcome by a burst of giggles. “I can’t believe we hustled them!”

Marryn pulled a wad of cash out of her pocket and waved it around triumphantly. “Believe it, Liz. A hundred dollars on three games!” She leaned against the wall and sighed happily. “That was almost too easy.” She grinned at Liz. “Oh, I like money, don’t you?”

They both burst out laughing, and Liz found a convenient lamppost to hang on to. When she could speak again, Liz asked, “So, just for the record, that was illegal, right?”

Marryn cocked her head to one side. “You mean the part where we told them you were legal so they’d sell you drinks, or the part where we hustled those guys?” She pretended to think for a moment, then laughed again. “Yes.”

To her surprise, Liz found that this information neither shocked or worried her. In fact, it struck her as very funny. She leaned against the lamppost and laughed again. She was still laughing when a jeep turned the corner and started to come toward them. Squinting, she raised a hand to shield her eyes from the headlights’ glare. “Hey, that looks like—”

Part 11

“Max?” Marryn stood up straight as the jeep stopped. She grinned hugely. “And Isabel! What are you guys doing out here?” She seemed thrilled to see them both.

Max jumped out of the jeep, followed closely by Isabel. Both wore expressions of disbelief. “Marryn, what are you doing out here this time of night?” Max demanded, then looked askance at Liz. “Liz? What are you doing here?”

“Hi, Max,” Liz said, giving a big grin and a slightly uncoordinated wave. For some reason, the look on his face was very funny. A snort of laughter escaped her before she realized that he wasn’t happy.

Max stepped toward Liz, his eyes narrowing in a frown. “You’re—are you drunk?” he asked incredulously.

“That is such a judgmental word,” Marryn slurred, shaking her finger at Max.

Max looked from one of them to the other. “Both of you are drunk?” he demanded.

Marryn slapped one hand against the other, looking irritated. “Again with the judgment!” she protested.

Max blinked in confusion, and decided he wasn’t going to get any answers—coherent ones, at least—from Marryn. He turned to Liz. “Where have you two been? We’ve been looking for you for hours.”

“We—we were right here,” Liz answered, still smiling. She gestured to the tavern. “Playing pool.” Briefly she wondered if she should tell him about their visit to Brody, but decided that wasn’t a good idea.

Isabel stepped closer to Marryn, looking concerned. “I called you at the motel to see what time you wanted to get together tomorrow. When you weren’t there I got worried.” She put an arm around Marryn. “Are you all right?”

Marryn giggled. “Don’t be silly,” she told Isabel, giving the other girl an affectionate squeeze. “I was having a great time.” A frown creased her forehead briefly. “Oh, you should have come, too. Well, next time. No worries, right?”

“Right.” Isabel couldn’t hide her smile. She cleared her throat. “How much *did* you have to drink tonight?”

“Oh, not too much. . .” Marryn’s voice trailed off as the tavern door opened and two men came out. “Aaron, Leo, hi!” she exclaimed happily. “Look, Liz, it’s Aaron and Leo.”

Liz glanced over and recognized the guys they had. . .well, hustled. . .earlier that night. Leo, she thought, was still looking pretty cute. “Oh, hi, guys,” she said, her attention diverted momentarily from Max’s disapproving frown. “Are you heading home?”

Leo made his way over, weaving only slightly. “Well, now that we’re broke,” he said, giving her a friendly grin, “we don’t really have a choice.”

Aaron advanced toward Marryn, nodding. “Maybe we could arrange a rematch for tomorrow night,” he invited. “Give us a chance to win some of our money back.”

“Maybe. . .if you’re a very good boy,” Marryn answered with a coy smile. “But I wouldn’t count on winning anything back.”

“I love a challenge,” he said, laughing. “Maybe we’ll see you here, then.”

“Maybe you will,” she told him with a blatantly flirtatious glint in her eyes.

Leo winked at Liz. “Tomorrow, then?”

She shrugged, looking up at him through her lashes. “Maybe.”

“Were you playing pool for money?” Isabel whispered to Marryn as Aaron and Leo walked away.

Marryn nodded gleefully. “We won a hundred bucks!”

Isabel burst out laughing, but Max looked less than amused. “Are you ready to leave?” he demanded.

“That’s what we were trying to do when you stopped us,” Marryn informed him. She shot him an exaggerated frown. “C’mon, Max, don’t look so upset. We were just having a little fun. If I had known you were looking for me, I would have. . .I would have stopped the fun immediately. Really.”

“We were worried about you,” Max said grimly. “Things aren’t always as safe as they seem around here.”

“That’s why I had Liz with me,” she said innocently. “Don’t go all ‘Obi-Wan’ on me, okay?”

Max opened his mouth to speak, but at that moment, Maria’s Jetta pulled up at the curb. She leaned her head out the window. “Max, we’ve looked everywhere we can think of, and we can’t find—” She stopped short when she saw Marryn and Liz standing there. Liz gave another sloppy wave and Maria continued. “You found them.”

“We found them,” Max agreed.

“Where were they?” Alex opened the car door and got out quickly. “Where were you?”

“Hi, Alex Whitman,” Marryn said with a brilliant smile. “What are you doing here?”

“Uh, looking for you,” Alex stammered.

She seemed touched. “Oh, Alex, how sweet! Isabel, isn’t that sweet?”

Isabel caught Alex’s eye, mouthing, “Drunk.” Alex was momentarily shocked, but recovered quickly.

“You two look like you had a good time,” he said, addressing both Marryn and Liz.

Liz nodded. “The best,” she said emphatically, then caught Max’s frown. “I mean. . .”

“Look, we should probably get out of here,” Max said, as though he hadn’t heard her. “We’ll drive you home.”

“Uh, look, Liz’s place is on your way, but. . .we can take Marryn back to the motel,” Alex offered. He glanced at Maria, who shrugged and nodded. “If—if you don’t mind leaving your car,” he added.

“Oh, that? It’s just a rental.” Marryn shrugged. “And I’d love a ride, if you don’t mind.” She gave Isabel a last squeeze and impulsively kissed her cheek. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”

Isabel looked a little surprised at the sudden turn of events, but she smiled back, squeezing Marryn’s hand. “Okay. Tomorrow.”

Alex put out a hand to steady Marryn, but she went to Liz first, giving her a hug. “I’ll come to the Crashdown tomorrow morning,” she whispered. “If Larek shows up before then, call me.” She paused for a second, then added, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Liz whispered back. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Grinning, Marryn stepped back and took Alex’s hand. “Night, everyone,” she said, her steps still unsteady. “See you tomorrow.”

Max grabbed her arm as she headed to the car. “Marryn.”

She looked down at his hand on her arm, then up to meet his eyes, and he suddenly had the feeling her thoughts weren’t as clouded as he first presumed. “Yes?”

“I was just worried about you,” he said finally. “I—I’m glad you had a good time.”

“Thanks,” she said, and smiled as he awkwardly leaned forward to plant a quick kiss on her cheek. She kissed him, too, then backed away, leaning heavily on Alex. He led her to the car, handing her into the back seat before getting in after her. Maria called out goodbyes and started the car.

“You doing okay back there?” she asked, looking in the rearview mirror. “Not going to puke or anything, are you?”

“Not until tomorrow morning,” Marryn assured her dreamily. She was starting to get pleasantly sleepy, and the movement of the car wasn’t doing much to keep her awake. She turned her head to stare at Alex, a soft smile on her face.

After a moment, he smiled back. “What are you looking at?”

“You,” she answered honestly. “I like you, Alex Whitman, and do you know why?”

He chuckled. “Why is that?”

She moved closer and put her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes. “Because you treat me like a normal girl. Because you know what I am and you like me anyway. I don’t know many people who would do that.” She gave a long sigh and settled herself comfortably against him. “That makes you special. Really, really special.”

* * * * *

Liz sat silently in the back seat of the Jeep, as far away as possible from Max, who sat beside her. He had asked Isabel to drive, explaining briefly that he was tired. Liz, however, was sure he wanted to lecture her, and prayed the ride would be over before he got really fired up. But he said nothing, though Liz could feel him looking at her. At length, she turned to him.

“I’m sorry we didn’t tell you where we were going,” she ventured.

He dropped his gaze, looking a little sheepish. “It’s okay. I was just worried about you.”

Liz wondered if he meant “you” in the singular or the plural form of the word. “It—it was my fault, really,” she went on. “I called Marryn to—to. . .uh—” She hesitated. *Good going, Parker! Keep volunteering information!* “. . .to see if she wanted to have breakfast at the Crashdown,” she finished lamely. “She—um—she said she wasn’t tired and wanted to go somewhere, so. . .we—we went to Danny’s.”

“I can’t believe they let you in,” Max murmured, still looking down. Liz squinted at him. Was that a smile. . .? No, probably not, Liz decided, reasoning that her head was still doing some crazy things.

She shrugged. “Yeah, well, they didn’t ask for ID or anything.”

Max looked up. “Those guys,” he began hesitantly, and Liz held her breath. “Did you win money from them?”

“Um, yeah. Actually, I think—I think we kind of hustled them.” She was blushing now.

Max seemed incredulous. “You hustled them?” he repeated, then suddenly looked worried. “Did Marryn—”

“Oh, she didn’t use her powers,” Liz hastened to assure him. “She’s just. . .really good at pool.”

Max was relieved. “Oh. I guess I should have figured she wouldn’t do anything to call attention to herself.” Thinking of Marryn, he added, “At least not in a—you know, alien way.”

“No, I guess not,” Liz agreed, then chuckled. “She does like attention, though.”

Max nodded, a grin playing around the corners of his mouth. “She does, doesn’t she?” He looked at Liz. “Look, I’m glad you were around tonight—to, uh, show her around. I mean, I’m glad she didn’t wander around by herself.” He paused for a long moment and then slowly, hesitantly, he reached out and put his hand over Liz’s where it rested on the seat beside her. “What I mean to say is, I don’t have to worry when. . .you’re around.”
Part 12

Liz fully expected to wake up the next morning with a splitting headache and a raging hangover—that was what happened in the movies, right? But instead she woke up early, a raging thirst and a faint scent of cigarette smoke that clung to her hair the only traces of her night with Marryn. For a brief moment, Liz wondered if it had been a dream, but then decided that even her subconscious couldn’t have come up with that. She sat up and looked around, squinting in the bright light streaming through the windows. Everything seemed remarkably normal, considering the events of last night. She shook her head and got out of bed. She had to help set up for breakfast at the Crashdown before the new waitress came in.

* * * * *

“How are you feeling?” Maria asked, tying the strings on her apron. She glanced curiously at Liz, who was putting a fresh filter in the coffeepot.

“Fine,” Liz answered, casting her friend a quick smile.

“No headache? No extreme sensitivity to light or noise?” Maria persisted.

Liz laughed. “No. I didn’t really have that much to drink, Maria.”

“Sure. And that’s why you were stumbling around outside a bar last night, looking like you were having the time of your life.” Maria was unconvinced.

“I *was* having a good time,” Liz protested. “I mean, okay, maybe I shouldn’t have been drinking, but. . .things have been rough for me lately, and it just. . .” She paused and gave a long sigh. “It just felt good not to think about anything for a while and have a good time.”

Maria’s eyes were sympathetic. “It’s been bad, hasn’t it?” she asked, and Liz nodded. Maria felt tears spring to her eyes at the hurt on her friend’s face. “Aw, come here,” she murmured, throwing her arms around Liz. She hugged her tight for a moment, then leaned back and laughed. “Well, then I’m glad Marryn was around to—to get you drunk and teach you how to hustle pool. If it made you feel better, then. . .then it’s all good, right?”

Liz nodded, blinking back tears. “Uh, right,” she agreed, chuckling. She hugged Maria again. “It has to get better, doesn’t it?” she asked softly.

Maria hugged her more tightly. “Of course it does,” she assured her. “I promise.”

They continued to hug each other until a tapping noise from the door made them break apart, wiping their eyes and laughing. Marryn stood outside the door, looking through the glass. She wore low-rise jeans, and a white tank top beneath a loosely-knit sweater of pale blue. Dark sunglasses obscured her eyes, and she carried a gray messenger bag. When Liz looked at her, she smiled slightly and pulled off her sunglasses, raising her eyebrows questioningly. Liz nodded, smiling, and went to unlock the door.

“Morning,” Marryn said sheepishly. “You’re not open yet—should I come back when you’re open?” She looked much younger today, much less sure of herself than the bold, flirtatious woman from the night before.

“No, no—come on in. It’s almost time for us to open.” Liz took Marryn’s arm and ushered her into the café. “How are you? Did you sleep?”

Marryn shook her head. “Not a whole lot—all that stuff. . .” She stopped when she noticed Maria behind the counter and smiled brightly. “It was a wild night—hard to wind down.”

Maria came out from behind the counter, grinning. “Yeah, next time you decide to have a wild night, I’d better be invited,” she said, deciding that she liked Marryn. Last night, Michael had reiterated—several times—that he didn’t trust her, but Maria didn’t care. Marryn Riley had helped ease Liz’s hurt in some small way, and that made her okay in Maria’s book.

“Hi, Maria,” Marryn said. “I’ll make sure I call you next time.”

“You better,” Maria ordered with a smile. “You want some breakfast, some coffee?”

Marryn smiled back. “Yes to both,” she answered.

“Great. Eggs, toast, bacon—lots of tabasco?” Maria wanted to know.

“Perfect,” Marryn said, looking a little surprised. “How did you know about the tabasco. . .? Oh, Michael,” she realized.

“Yeah, my window to the world of weird,” Maria agreed. “Oh, not that you’re weird.”

“Except in that ‘from another planet’ kind of way,” Marryn laughed.

“Hey, say it a little louder.” Michael leaned over the counter between the kitchen and the dining room, scowling.

Marryn gave him a chilly smile. “Good morning, sunshine,” she greeted him.

He grunted in response. “You want to advertise the fact that we aren’t human?” he demanded.

“Is there someone else in here that I didn’t see?” she asked sweetly. “Or are you just being surly?” She paused for a moment, then shot him a scathing look. “And we *are* human. We covered that before.”

“Down, boy,” Maria ordered. “Could you please be civil—Marryn’s going to think we don’t have any manners.”

But Marryn didn’t seem to need any help defending herself. Smiling brightly, she walked up to the counter. “I’ll take two eggs—over easy—with wheat toast and a side of bacon. Think you can handle that?” Without waiting for an answer, she smacked the bell on the counter and walked away. “Can I get that coffee?” she asked Maria, who was trying desperately to hide her smile.

“Sure thing,” Maria said, grabbing a cup and filling it. “Cream and sugar?” She set a stainless steel cream pitcher on the counter next to the cup and pushed a sugar container toward her.

“Thanks.” Marryn perched on a stool and crossed her legs before reaching for the coffee, cream and sugar. “So,” she began, sipping it daintily, “what’s on the agenda for today?”

“Lets see,” Maria began. “There’s work until noon—yuck—and then I’m thinking homework—again, yuck—and then, I hear, it’s dinner with you, some place nice.” She grinned. “So where is the some place nice?”

Marryn shrugged. “I don’t know. Do you have any suggestions?”

Maria hopped up on the stool beside Marryn and leaned an elbow on the counter. Liz could hear them discussing restaurants as she went to unlock the door for the morning. Two customers were already waiting outside. The new waitress was there, too, apologizing for being late. Liz cut her off with a smile, telling her not to worry about it and to go back to the locker room to change. Then she quickly took the customers’ orders and headed over to their tables with the coffee pot. “Well,” Maria was saying, “there’s not a whole lot to choose from, but we could try Marco’s—it’s an Italian place that’s supposed to have great food. My mom says the décor is a little tacky—lots of mirrors and way too much black lacquer—but she loves the desserts.”

“Desserts are much more important than décor,” Marryn assured her. “Some of my favorite Italian places in the North End—the North End has the best Italian food in Boston—are the tackiest things you’ve ever seen. Gold everywhere, and those stupid masks with the feathers. It’s like you’ve stepped into a bad James Bond movie. Doesn’t matter—I still love it. But does everyone like Italian?”

Maria thought for a moment. “I think so,” she said. “Ooh, but if not, we can go to the Melting Pot. It’s fondue restaurant in Albuquerque.”

“Ooh, I love fondue!” Marryn exclaimed. “Liz, do you like fondue—all that chocolate and crazy sauces? So much fun.”

Liz was starting to get excited too. She replaced the coffee pot and went to the counter to join them. “I don’t know—I’ve never been to a fondue restaurant. But anything with chocolate sounds good.”

“That’s one vote for the Melting Pot,” Marryn smiled.

“Make that two—one with heavy emphasis on the chocolate.” Maria rubbed her hands together in anticipation.

Marryn paused, looking thoughtful. “And Albuquerque. . .how far away is that?”

“Oh, not too bad,” Maria said quickly. “About two hours. We can take two cars, play music really loud. It’ll be fun.”

Marryn nodded slowly. “Yeah, it would be good to get out of Roswell,” she said absently.

“Get out of Roswell?” Maria laughed. “You just got here. Aren’t you impressed with our town?”

Marryn grinned. “Me? One mention of chocolate and you’re packing up for Albuquerque.” All three girls laughed, and as Liz stood there in the Crashdown, the morning sunlight streaming through the windows, the smell of fresh coffee in the air, she thought that, despite whatever might happen that night, she felt better at that moment than she had in months. She looked back at the other girls in time to see Marryn use her powers to send Maria’s glittery uniform antennae bobbing wildly. “So, do you space cadets want to drive to Albuquerque or just beam ourselves there?” she teased, and the three of them laughed again.

“Hey, order up!” Michael called, putting Marryn’s breakfast on the counter with a dull thud.

Liz turned to get it, still, laughing, as the front door opened again. Expecting Max and Isabel, who had planned to come by for breakfast with Marryn, she turned to greet them, but her smile died on her lips when she saw who had entered. It was Brody.
Part 13

Liz’s laughter stopped when Brody walked through the door, striding purposefully into the café. Maria saw him, too, and smiled.

“Hey, Brody,” she greeted him, but he ignored her, going straight to Marryn, who turned on her stool to see what the commotion was just as he reached her.

Brody gently touched Marryn’s face with both hands, lifting her chin slightly to look into her eyes. All around them the café patrons buzzed noisily about, but neither noticed. Marryn stood and raised her hands, placing them over Brody’s, and solemnly meeting his gaze. It seemed an endless moment until Brody drew a ragged breath. “It’s you,” he murmured, his voice soft and almost reverent. “It’s really you.”

“It’s me,” Marryn agreed quietly. Her eyes were round and dark with emotion, and when she blinked, a single tear rolled down her cheek. Brody touched it with tender wonder. Without a word, he fell to his knees and pressed his face against her torso, his hands gripping her waist firmly. For a moment, she looked like the bewildered young woman she was and Liz felt a pang of empathy. Then more tears spilled from her eyes and she stroked Brody’s hair with both hands, murmuring softly to him.

Maria was speechless—almost. “How does she—do they—what?”

Liz took Maria’s arm and led her away gently. “It’s a long story, Maria,” she said.

“But—but. . .Brody—” Maria stammered.

“He’s not exactly himself right now,” Liz said quietly.

Maria’s mouth dropped open. “Is he a—an alien?” she managed to squeak.

“Uh, no, Brody’s human.” Liz hedged, glancing at Marryn, who was still trying to comfort Brody—no, not Brody, for it was not Brody who knelt there holding onto Marryn as though he couldn’t bear to let go. It was Larek in the café that sun-drenched winter morning, and the woman with him was not Marryn Riley, the college girl from Boston who spend vacations skiing in Vermont and blasted through shopping malls with her father’s gold card. In that moment she was Callia, daughter of a royal house, beloved of one man, wife of another, princess, warrior, martyr.

“How long have you been here?” Larek raised his head to look at her.

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “I woke up seventeen years ago.”

Larek looked crushed. “All this time,” he said softly. “I didn’t know they sent you—I swear I didn’t know.” He rose to his feet quickly, anger and guilt mingling on his face. “They never told me—I would have come for you. You know I would have come.”

She nodded. “I know.”

He ran a hand over her bright curls, still seeming amazed by her presence. “All these years, I’ve thought you were lost to me.” His hand moved to rest on the back of her neck and he leaned closer until she could feel the heat of his body, sense the slightly irregular beat of his heart. His eyes roamed over her face, finally settling on her mouth, and then he bent his head to touch his lips to hers. His kiss was feather-light at first, a hesitant caress, then he cupped her face in his hands, and the kiss began to grow more intense. For an instant, Marryn surrendered, then suddenly she broke the connection and turned her head slightly, closing her eyes. Confusion flashed through Larek’s eyes, then hurt. “I—I’m sorry,” he murmured, starting to step away.

But Marryn reached out and put her arms around him, holding him tightly. “I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered, her words muffled against his shirt. Relief showed on Larek’s face as he pulled her close, smoothing her hair with one hand.

Liz had been watching silently, but she suddenly realized that Larek and Marryn were attracting quite a bit of attention. She also realized that Michael was just in the kitchen, and he knew about the connection between Larek and Brody. . .and that Max and Isabel were due here any minute. Quickly, she stepped behind Marryn and gently tapped her shoulder. “Um, Marryn?”

It took Marryn a moment to respond, but eventually she raised her head and turned around. Both she and Larek looked at Liz like she had startled them out of a dream. “What?” Marryn murmured, swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I—I don’t want to. . .um, Max and Isabel will be here any minute,” Liz said quietly, “and you should probably avoid having Michael see you.”

Marryn looked startled, but she recovered quickly. “Oh—oh, right. Okay. Is there a way we can get out without being seen?”

Liz nodded, hurriedly ushering the two of them to the back of the café. “This way.” She threw open the back door, dropping her voice in case Michael heard. “If you go to the end of the alley and go to the right, you’ll be on the street where we were last night. Max and Isabel won’t be coming that way.”

Marryn nodded, pulling Larek by the hand. “Okay. We’ll say we went to pick up my car.”

“Good. If they come in, I’ll tell them that.” Liz pushed them out the door. “Now hurry—before Michael sees you.”

“You’re not coming?” Marryn suddenly looked like a scared child.

Liz paused, giving Marryn a sympathetic look and lowering her voice to a whisper. “I—I have to be here in case Max and Isabel come in—and Maria’s probably going crazy. We can’t let her say anything to Michael, right?”

Marryn still seemed upset, but she nodded. “Right. I’ll just. . .see what I can find out.” She glanced at Larek, who stood waiting patiently. “Be back later.”

Liz nodded. “Come in the front door,” she said. “And. . .good luck.”

Marryn nodded and turned to leave, still leading Larek. Liz stood watching for a moment, then turned away, breathing a silent prayer that Marryn would be successful—and that she would be okay when she got back.

* * * * *

Marryn took Larek to the park where she and Max had first talked the day before. She headed first for the fountain, but several mothers sat there, watching their children play in the shallow water, so she took another path and ended up at a low wall beside a nearly empty playground. Larek followed her silently, and when she stopped and hopped up to sit on the wall, he did likewise, reaching for her hand once more.

“I still can’t believe you’re here,” he said quietly. “I saw your brother at the summit. . .I would have thought he’d tell me—”

“Max doesn’t know anything about you and I,” Marryn interrupted quickly. “He didn’t even know I was here until yesterday.”

Larek looked thoughtful. “He really doesn’t remember anything, then?” he asked after a moment.

Marryn shook her head. “Not a thing. He always knew he was. . .not exactly human, but that was all he knew.”

“And he doesn’t remember you?” Larek looked sad. “You were always so close. You told each other everything.”

Marryn looked down. “Not everything,” she said softly.

Larek nodded. “No,” he agreed. “Not everything.” He paused for a moment, studying her hand as it lay in his. “You know, after. . .” He stopped, and Marryn knew immediately what he was referring to, what he could not bring himself to say. “Later, I wondered if we should have told Zan—if it would have made any difference.”

“It wouldn’t,” Marryn said quickly.

He smiled faintly. “I know. That was just one of the things that kept me awake at night. . .that still keeps me awake at night.”

Marryn squeezed his hand gently, but did not look at him. Instead she turned her face to the sun and tossed her head, sending her flaming curls flying. “Anything you did would have only made it worse,” she said softly.

“I never would have let you go out there,” he said fiercely.

“To fight?” she asked. At his nod, she smiled. “I don’t remember everything, Larek, but. . .I don’t think you could have stopped me.”

A bitter laugh tore from his lips. “No,” he agreed in a harsh tone. “No, probably not.”

They fell silent for a long moment, then Marryn turned to him. “Larek, you must listen to me,” she said urgently. “What happened—what happened to me was not your fault. You could have done nothing to prevent it, or make it better.” He seemed about to protest, but she hurried on, not letting him speak. “What would you have done? Attacked Kivar, started another war for your people to fight? My life was not worth the thousands of others it would have cost.” She framed his face in both her hands, looking into his eyes. “You must never blame yourself, or think you failed, or that you didn’t try hard enough. I want something more for you—something better. You shouldn’t lay awake at night because of me. No regrets.” She smiled slightly and shook her head. “None.”

Larek tried to smile, failed, and gave a long sigh, wrapping his hands around Marryn’s wrists. “Did you call me here to tell me that?” he asked quietly.

She looked a little surprised, then frowned slightly and shook her head, disengaging her hands from Larek’s. “I—no.” She paused for a moment, then folded her hands in her lap. “I called you here because I need your help.”

It was his turn for surprise. “Anything, Callia—you know that.”

My name is Marryn, she thought idly, but didn’t bother to correct him. She took a deep breath. “Three days ago, someone—someone from the future came to me.”

“From the future?”

“Yes. She told me that today someone will make a—a huge offer to Max and the others.” She glanced at him. “I need to know who makes that offer, Larek, and you’re the only person I could think of who might know.”

“What kind of an offer?” Larek asked.

“An offer. . .” Marryn clenched her hands together. “An offer to come home.”

Larek looked stunned. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and swallowed hard. “Back—back to Antar?” he breathed.

She nodded. “Yes. Larek, I need you to find out who makes that offer—if you can.”

“Of course,” he said immediately. “Callia, I swear to you I’ll find out. How much time do we have?”

His enthusiasm had thrown her, but she recovered quickly. “Not much,” she said regretfully. “It’s sometime tonight. We’re watching them all, just to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be tonight.”

“Tonight,” he repeated. “I’ll have to hurry, but—well, there are always ways to get information. I should check with your mother first, but I think she’d have gotten word to me somehow.” He paused, thinking, and then jumped down from the wall. Turning, he offered Marryn a hand to help her down. Marryn accepted it and jumped lightly to the ground as he started walking back in the way they had come. “You go back to the restaurant and keep an eye on Max and the others. I’ll come to you again when I find out what’s happening.”

Marryn followed, walking quickly to catch up. “Um, okay,” she agreed.

When they reached the edge of the park, Larek turned and looked around. “All right. You should go.” He reached for her hand, sighing heavily. “I don’t want to leave you,” he said, stepping closer to her, “but I’ll be back. I promise.” He smiled at her. “What a day this is. You. . .you’re alive.” A thought struck him suddenly. “What shall I tell your mother? Does she know you’re alive?”

Marryn shook her head. “No, I don’t think so.” She paused and stared unseeingly over Larek’s shoulder at the quiet park. “Tell her. . . I’m fine, and I’m happy. Tell her—tell her I remember her, and I—I miss her.”

Larek leaned forward and planted a lingering kiss on her forehead. “I will,” he said softly. He touched her face, taking one long, last look at her, then took a deep breath. “I’ll see you tonight.”

She nodded. “Tonight,” she said, trying for a smile, but failing miserably.

He stepped back, then changed his mind and seized one of her hands, and pressed a kiss to her palm. “I’ll come as soon as I can,” he said, and then he turned and started away.

Marryn watched him go, her shoulders slumping forward in weariness. She wasn’t sure how much more of this she could take. Then something occurred to her and she ran forward a few steps. “Larek!” she called out, and he turned to look at her from the edge of the street. “Thank you—for helping me.”

He raised a hand in farewell. “Callia, don’t you know?” he asked, and she could see his smile even at the distance between them. “I would do anything to help bring you home.” With that he turned and crossed the street.

Stunned, Marryn stared after him, her eyes wide with shock. She opened her mouth to call out to him, and started forward, but in that instant a truck pulling two trailers crossed the highway between them—at a snail’s pace, it seemed to Marryn, to whom everything was happening in slow motion—and by the time it had passed, Larek was gone.
Part 14

“Marryn? What’s wrong?”

Marryn raised her head to find Tess standing beside her on the sidewalk half a block away from the Crashdown. After Larek’s departure, she had managed to drive back to the Crashdown, her mind working on autopilot, but after parking her car she found she simply could go no farther. Defeated, she had slumped to the edge of the curb, where she had been sitting for several minutes with her head in her hands when Tess approached her. Now Marryn looked up at the other girl blankly.

“Wrong?” she repeated, trying to muster a smile. She failed miserably. “Oh, I just—I don’t know. Just confused, I guess.”

Tess sighed. “I understand,” she said sympathetically, joining Marryn on the curb. “You’re caught between two worlds, two lives. And sometimes you don’t know which one is real.”

Marryn looked at her in surprise, then realization dawned. “You remember, too.”

“Yes,” Tess nodded. “The others—they don’t feel it as much.”

“Because they don’t remember,” Marryn finished. “I guess not.”

“It’s hard,” Tess continued. “You just have to keep reminding yourself that we were sent here for a reason. This world—” She paused, gesturing to the bright sunny day, the gentle breeze ruffling their hair. “—it can be nice sometimes, but it’s not where we belong.”

Marryn shook her head. “It’s not that easy for me,” she disagreed. “There’s too much here for me too just write this world off as a waiting room. I know that your life here hasn’t been that great—”

“It’s okay,” Tess interrupted quickly. She paused for a moment, thinking. “But it’s lonely sometimes.”

“And before, you had Zan,” Marryn said.

Tess smiled. “Yes.”

“And you think if we went back you’d have him again.”

“Of course.” Tess seemed surprised at the question.

“Max Evans is not Zan,” Marryn said distinctly.

Tess looked stung. “I know that. But. . .Max is all that’s left of him,” she said sadly, and Marryn felt a pang of guilt.

“Look, I’m sorry,” she told Tess quickly. With enormous effort, she pushed away the dark thoughts she had been thinking. She hadn’t gone out of her way to befriend Tess the day before, but she could certainly try now. After all, Tess was one of them, too. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “So, have you always remembered?” she asked, tying for a friendly tone.

Tess shrugged. “In flashes, mostly. But Nasedo taught me some memory recovery techniques, so it’s a lot clearer to me now.”

“Oh, right,” Marryn said vaguely. “The protector.”

“Right,” Tess agreed. She glanced at Marryn. “You. . .you didn’t have a protector?”

Marryn sighed. “If I did, he never showed himself. But then again, I haven’t actually needed one yet. Maybe he’s—you know—waiting around somewhere for when I’m in trouble, and then he’ll show himself. Or herself,” she added, frowning slightly.

“Maybe so,” Tess said.

The two sat in silence for a moment, then Marryn cleared her throat. “Tess, I have to tell you. . .I don’t really remember you all that well.”

“No?” Tess asked. She smiled. “Well, I remember you. I remember you and Zan used to have these huge fights—more than once I thought you were going to kill each other.”

“That I remember,” Marryn murmured ruefully.

Tess grinned. “But it was only because you cared about each other so much. You used to tell him that he was too important to our people to go into battle himself, and he used to tell you that you were too important to him to go fight.” She sobered suddenly. “Neither of you listened.” Tess squinted in the bright sunlight. “After your brother died, I think both of you—all of you—were terrified of losing each other, too, like you lost Jael.”

Marryn looked startled. “Jael,” she repeated. “I could never remember his name until now.” She smiled at Tess. “Thank you.”

Tess smiled back. “You’re welcome.”

Marryn, much more relaxed now, leaned back, resting her palms on the sidewalk behind her. “I still don’t remember much about you and Zan. Do you remember how the two of you met?”

“Yes, I remember,” Tess nodded. She looked at Marryn. “Larek introduced us.” She paused for a second. “You remember Larek, don’t you?”

Marryn met Tess’s gaze steadily. The other girl’s expression was innocent, but there was something in Tess’s eyes that Marryn didn’t entirely like. “I remember Larek,” she said, her voice even.

Tess nodded. “Yeah, well, Zan and Larek were swimming at a lake, and I was walking by the shore. Zan kept staring at me, and—” She stopped, still looking at Marryn. “You were there. Do you remember any of this?”

Marryn’s expression softened, and she stared unseeingly at something in the distance. “Yes. . .you were standing on a rock,” she said faintly. “Zan was too shy to introduce himself, but Larek—” She started as a car riding past them backfired, and her expression changed to one of confusion. “What—what was that?”

Tess seemed startled, too. “Just a car, I think. . .”

“No.” Marryn frowned, shaking her head as if to clear cobwebs from it. Her gaze fell again on Tess, who was beginning to look a little apprehensive. “What did you do?”

“I—I didn’t do anything,” Tess stammered, backing away slightly.

But Marryn would have none of if. She jumped to her feet. “What did you do?” she demanded again. “Did you—did you put that in my head? That wasn’t my memory—I know what my memories look like!”

Tess stood up, too. “I—I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she protested, looking frightened, for Marryn’s temper matched her hair, and she was now truly furious.

“Don’t give me that,” she ground out. “Did you really think you could just stick that in my head, and I wouldn’t notice? You have no right—”

“I didn’t do anything, I swear!” Tess cried.

“Like hell you didn’t,” Marryn retorted. “You tried to mindwarp me into remembering something, didn’t you? Is that even a real memory, or just something you want me to think is true?” Tess didn’t answer, but Marryn raged on. “Who else have you been doing that to? Max, Isabel?”

“I never—” Tess began, backing away.

Marryn advanced on her, her green eyes blazing. “Don’t lie to me,” she said with deadly calm. She opened her mouth to say more, but a voice behind her stopped her cold.

“Marryn, hi.”

It was Alex, standing there with a big smile on his face. Marryn whirled, and the fury in her eyes faded instantly. “Alex,” she said, startled. “Hi.”

“Have you had breakfast yet?” he asked her. “Because I was just headed to the Crashdown. They have great waffles.”

“So I hear,” Marryn said coolly, looking at Tess.

“Oh, hi, Tess,” Alex added, looking past Marryn. “Coming to breakfast?”

Tess managed a wave and a shaky smile. “Um, no. I—I have to run some errands.” Carefully, she avoided looking at Marryn. “Some stuff for school, and some shopping.”

“That’s too bad,” Alex said. “I hear we’re going out tonight. Are you coming?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Tess answered, forcing another shaky laugh. She hoisted her bag higher onto her shoulder and started to back away. “Bye, guys. See you later.”

Marryn turned to watch her go. “Later,” she agreed, a hard tone in her voice.

Tess nodded nervously. “Right,” she said, and hurried off.

Marryn started after her until she had turned the corner. Alex stood by silently, watching Marryn with no little confusion.

“What was that about?” he asked finally.

“Nothing,” Marryn said, dusting off the seat of her jeans. She gave Alex a strained smile. “I’m starving. Wanna eat?”

He nodded, not entirely convinced. “Sounds good,” he agreed. He looked in the direction Tess had gone, then back at Marryn. “Are you sure everything is okay?”

Marryn lifted her chin. “Positive,” she told him. “C’mon, let’s eat. Everyone’s waiting.” She turned and started toward the Crashdown, purposefully striding across the sidewalk with Alex at her side.
Part 15

Liz was behind the counter pouring coffee when Marryn burst into the Crashdown, her eyes dark with anger. The redhead looked at Liz, seeming about to speak to her, but Liz shook her head minutely, casting a glance toward the back of the café, where Max and Isabel sat. Marryn’s eyes followed the glance, and frustration flashed through her eyes. She forced a smile and went toward the table.

“Iz, Max,” she called out. “You guys were late.”

Liz turned away to finish her task, listening as Marryn greeted Max and Isabel. She was replacing the coffee pot when a voice rang in her ears. *I need to talk to you.* Liz spun and nearly dropped the coffee pot. It had been Marryn’s voice, she was sure of it. . .except Marryn was ten feet away talking to Isabel. Liz turned and looked back at the other girl, who was calmly carrying on a conversation with Max, Isabel, and Alex. As Liz stood there staring, Marryn looked up and shot her a significant glance. *Don’t panic. I swear I’m not reading your mind.* Liz could almost hear the wry smile in Marryn’s voice—only Marryn still wasn’t talking to her. *Stay calm,* came her voice again, echoing inside Liz’s head. *Tell the others you have to go upstairs—make up an excuse. I’ll follow you.*

Liz’s heart was still pounding from the shock of Marryn’s voice inside her head, but she managed to put down the coffee pot and take a deep breath before turning to Maria. “I. . .I have to go change,” she said, trying to make her voice sound normal.

Maria was too busy filling orders to notice Liz’s flushed face and tense shoulders. “Okay. Are you going to study later?”

“I don’t know. Maybe,” Liz answered.

“Well, if you have a handle on Virginia Woolfe you’d like to share, I’m all ears,” Maria said, lifting her tray. “I’ll be here if you want to get together.”

“Okay, I’ll let you know,” Liz said. She took off her apron and wiped her hands on it. Her palms were damp. Stuffing her order pad in her pocket, she went to the table where Marryn sat with the others. “Um, I’m going to go change,” she announced, trying not to look at Marryn too hard. She turned to go, wondering what exactly she was supposed to do. But as she stepped away from the table, Marryn called out to her.

“Oh, hey, Liz,” she said casually, and Liz turned back to face her. “I still need to give you your half of the money from last night.” She turned to Isabel and winked. “You know, the ‘take’ from our pool game?” Isabel and Alex chuckled, and Max looked as though he wasn’t sure whether or not to approve of this.

“Um, okay,” Liz said.

Marryn reached into her pocket, then shook her head. “Oh, you know what? I’ve only got twenties. Do you have change?”

Liz nodded. “Sure,” she said slowly, then realized Marryn’s plan. “In my bag—back in the locker room.” Looking at Max, she added, “I don’t want to take it out of the register. Dad hates it when we start opening it without receipts.” She turned and led the way to the back room, Marryn just behind her.

The door had barely swung shut behind then when Marryn started in.

“Larek thinks the reason I want to know about the office is because I want to go, too, and Tess just tried to stick some kind of memory in my head,” she said flatly, without preamble.

Liz gaped at her, still in shock from hearing Marryn’s voice in her head. “I—I didn’t know you could do that,” she said.

“What? Put a memory in someone’s head?” Marryn shrugged. “I don’t know—I never thought about it, really, but I guess it can be done.”

“No, I mean—” Liz pointed to Marryn, then to her own head. “—make me hear your voice. . .you know, in my head.”

Marryn wrinkled her nose. “I usually can’t. Only when I’m really upset. And I’ve only ever done it on purpose once before.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”

“No, it’s okay,” Liz assured her, trying to remember what Marryn had said about Larek—and Tess. “What did you say before? What happened with Larek?”

“Larek.” Marryn took a deep breath. “Larek has no idea who would make that kind of offer. He’s going to see what he can find out and tell me what he finds.” She paused, and her shoulders slumped briefly. “But he thinks the reason I want to know about the offer is that I want to go with them.”

“What? Didn’t you tell him Max and the others end up dead if they go?”

Marryn’s brow creased in a worried frown. “No, I didn’t actually get to that part,” she admitted. She began to pace the room, cutting it into small increments with her steps. “He was so glad to see me. . .he still loves me—her so much. He’s been grieving all this time.” She put a hand to her forehead, shutting her eyes briefly. “I barely had to ask him for help at all. . .he wanted to do it because he thinks he’s helping to bring her—me home.” She stopped pacing and gave Liz an anguished look. “I can’t do it, Liz,” she said, her voice rising in pitch. “I can’t be her. I feel what she felt, and I love who she loved, but I’m not her. If I thought I could do anything to ease their grief—but I can’t.”

Liz moved closer and put a hand on Marryn’s shoulder. The other girl seemed startled by the contact, but she didn’t move away. “No one expects you to be her, Marryn,” Liz said softly.

But Marryn met her eyes evenly, her expression now stoic. “Yes, they do,” she said with quiet certainty, and Liz could not argue, for she new they did. Wasn’t Liz herself counting on Marryn to be Callia—because surely Callia, the martyred princess who had sacrificed herself for her family once, would do it again? Liz looked at her sadly, remembering the enormous weight on her shoulders when Max had come to her from the future to tell her she must save the world. Some of that weight had returned the night before, but she realized that this time much of it had fallen on Marryn. Faced with losing her family—for the second time—Marryn must be frantic.

Finally, Liz squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she murmured.

Marryn smiled sadly. “Me, too.” She shook her head impatiently. “That’s not the point. Whoever I’m supposed to be, I have to stay focused.” She tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear and took a deep breath. “Look, when I was outside just now, after Larek left, I ran into Tess and we got talking. Everything was fine for a while, then I told her that I didn’t really remember much about her, and so she started tell me about her and Zan, and then she tried to stick a memory in my head!” Marryn shuddered. “Makes me feel dirty just thinking about it. It was like she didn’t think I’d notice or something!”

“You mean she mindwarped you?” Liz asked, frowning.

“Mindwarp?” Marryn repeated blankly.

Liz nodded. “Yeah—she can make you see things that aren’t happening.”

“Or didn’t happen,” Marryn finished darkly. She frowned ferociously and began to pace again. “You know, before I didn’t have any reason to distrust her—then she pulls this.” A sudden thought occurred to her and she paused in mid-stride. “What if it’s her?”

“Who—Tess?” Liz considered it for a moment, then shook her head. “If Tess knew a way to go back, she’d have used it before now. That’s all she wants.”

“That and Max,” Marryn corrected. “She told me herself—she’s lonely here, and she thinks if we go back she’ll have Zan again.” Marryn paused. “I told her it doesn’t work that way—Max isn’t Zan, and he never will be.”

“So. . .” Liz thought hard, trying to piece it together. “She waited until she thought Max would go with her?” That made sense, even if it made Liz feel a little sick. “But—but how would she know how to get back?”

“She had Nasedo for all those years,” Marryn guessed. “He could have taught her. It makes sense that a protector would know how to get back. I mean, what if there had been danger while we were children? And. . .and the book. The destiny book—maybe she knows how to read it. That could be what’s in the book. The way home.”

“So why would Max go now?” Liz asked.

Marryn looked at her sadly. “Liz, Max thinks he’s lost you.”

“Oh.” Liz’s breath left her in a rush and she sat down hard on a nearby chair. “So. . .now that he thinks I slept with Kyle, he’ll go home and get killed.”

“Instead of staying here and getting killed,” Marryn finished. She raised a hand and kneaded her forehead. “I’m beginning to think this messing with the past stuff is as destructive as Captain Picard would have us believe.”

“So what do we do?” Liz asked, running a hand through her hair.

“I don’t know.” Marryn sat down beside her, looking as worn out as Liz felt. “We don’t know if Tess is actually plotting something. Maybe she was just broadcasting me something she remembers. . .or thinks she remembers.” She thought for a moment. “But I still don’t trust her. Something about her. . .”

“But we should wait for Larek,” Liz said. “It could be someone else we’re not even thinking of.”

“Right.” Marryn nodded. “So we watch them, and hope Larek shows up with information. I’ll take care of Max and Isabel—I’ll get them to show me around town or something. Can you watch Michael?”

“Yeah, sure. I’ll get Maria to convince him to study with us.”

“Good. Don’t let him out of your sight. We’ll meet back here this afternoon to leave for Albuquerque—say five-ish?” Marryn glanced at the door. “They’re going to be wondering where we are,” she said, standing up.

She was almost at the door when Liz thought of something. "Marryn," she called, and the other girl turned back with a questioning look. "About Tess. . .even if she did find a way back, you said the offer was a trap. Whoever makes it must be in with Kivar. . ." She trailed off, unwilling to actually voice the question.

Marryn stood in the doorway, a resigned look in her eyes. "I know," she said softly, then turned and walked through the door.
Part 16

“Let’s see—that’s two strokes for Iz, three for me, four each for the men.” Marryn gleefully marked down the scores on the small, green score card and turned around to grin at Max and Alex. “I believe that means you’re losing to us tiny little women.”

“Oh, wait,” Isabel added, grinning airily. “You mean ‘still losing,’ don’t you?”

Marryn pretended to scrutinize the score card. “Why, I believe you’re right, Isabel. Pardon me, *still losing.*” She and Isabel turned to Max and Alex with identical smug looks.

Alex snorted. “Please. The windmill hole is next—you’re going down.”

“The windmill has always been my strong point,” Max agreed.

“You girls going to just stand there all day, or are we going to play mini-golf?” Alex asked, putting on his best New York accent.

Marryn and Isabel laughed. “Actually,” Marryn said, “why don’t you guys get a head start? I want to get a water.” She nodded to the refreshments cart. “We’ll be back before you guys get through,” she added with a wink that drew groans from both guys. Isabel followed her, giving Max and Alex a coquettish wave as she walked away.

“Two waters, please,” Marryn requested, digging money out of her pocket. She paid the boy behind the cart and handed one bottle of water to Isabel. “Wanna sit over there?” she asked. At Isabel’s nod, she led the way to a bench beneath a large tree. “So,” she said, twisting the top from her water bottle, “about you and Alex. . .anything going on?”

Isabel slowly opened her own bottle and took a sip before answering. “Not. . .not exactly,” she admitted.

“He likes you,” Marryn said decisively. “A lot.”

“I like him, too,” Isabel answered softly, looking down.

Marryn nodded, sipping her water. “Okay. Then why isn’t anything going on?” She smiled. “He’s a great guy—guys like that don’t turn up every day.”

“I know.” Isabel’s eyes were sad. “I know that he’s great, and that he would never hurt me.” She squinted into the sun and shielded her eyes from the sun, looking at Max and Alex as they carefully lined up their shots. “It’s not about him.”

“Then it’s about you,” Marryn prompted.

Isabel took a deep breath. “Yeah,” she said finally. A long silence stretched between them, and Marryn waited patiently for Isabel to continue. After a moment, she did. “I know who and what Alex is. But I don’t know what I am.” She looked over at Marryn. “Do you know what I did?”

Marryn’s sunglasses made it impossible to read her expression, and she did not look at Isabel. “I know what Vilandra did,” she said carefully.

“I betrayed my family,” Isabel said, her voice hard.

“Iz, that wasn’t you,” Marryn told her firmly. “I keep telling you we’re different people now. You don’t know what made you choose like you—like *she* did—last time. You can’t go through this life feeling guilty for something you didn’t even do.”

Isabel sighed. “I know. That’s what Max says.” She took another drink of water, her head still down, her eyes on the cement beneath their feet. “It’s just that—that’s in me, you know? Whatever it was that made me betray all of you before is still somewhere inside me.”

“I don’t believe that,” Marryn said, dismissal in her voice. She waved a hand. “People are shaped by experiences—that stuff about genetics just doesn’t cover it. There’s no telling what made Vilandra ready to take that final step last time. And there’s no guarantee that it would be enough this time, or that you even have that. . .that trait, or emotion, or whatever it was.”

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Isabel protested. “I did something horrible. And I can’t stop wondering if someday I’ll do it again.” She shook her head. “If I ever hurt Alex—I can’t ever let myself hurt him. Never.”

“So. . .you’re not with Alex because you’re afraid you’ll hurt him.” Marryn turned to Isabel, pushing up her sunglasses. “Isabel, that’s crazy. You don’t know what’s going to happen—you can’t know. If you love him, you should go for it. When it comes right down to it, love is the only sure thing in this world.” Isabel didn’t look convinced, so Marryn continued. “He’s a great guy. He knows about you—knows that you’re. . .not from around here. . .and he doesn’t care. He knows your secrets and he accepts you for them. It doesn’t matter to him.” A wistful smile flitted across her face. “Do you know how amazing that makes him?”

Isabel looked at Marryn. “Your boyfriend doesn’t know.”

“No.” Marryn shook her head sadly. “How do you tell someone something like that? ‘Congratulations, your girlfriend’s an alien.’ The one occasion Hallmark forget.”

“Maybe you should just tell him,” Isabel suggested. “If he cares about you, it shouldn’t matter.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” she agreed. “But what if it does? What if he doesn’t believe me, or—or thinks I’m crazy? Or what if it’s just too weird for him and he. . .just leaves?”

“What if he does believe you and decides that it’s you he loves and not your DNA?” Isabel said softly.

“What if,” Marryn repeated with a sigh. “I just. . .I need him, you know?”

Isabel looked over at Alex. “I know,” she murmured. She sat back and shook her head. “It isn’t fair not to tell him, you know.”

Marryn shot her a questioning glance. “What?”

“It’s not fair,” Isabel repeated. “You know all about him, and all this time you’ve held back this huge part of who you are. If he loves you, he must feel it—that you’re holding something back from him. Don’t you think that must hurt him?”

A muscle in Marryn’s jaw twitched. “You’re lucky,” she said finally. “You’re lucky that Alex already knows.” She paused and shook her head. “Anyway, the point is we all have stuff we could guilt trip ourselves about. Look at Michael—it was up to him to protect Max, and Max ended up dead. And Max lost his throne to his mortal enemy—a man he knew would enslave our people.” Her lip curled slightly with disgust. “I got face to face with that man—close enough to kill him. And I failed.”

“That’s different,” Isabel insisted. “All of you tried to do what was right. Not me. I did what I did on purpose. I lied to my family, deceived them, betrayed their trust. There’s no excuse for that.”

Something Isabel couldn’t identify flashed through Marryn’s eyes before she replaced her sunglasses and stood up, shouldering her putter. “Everyone has regrets, Iz,” she said, her tone even. She nodded in the direction of Max and Alex. “We’d better catch up, right?”


posted on 30-Aug-2001 8:04:55 PM
Part 17

“Okay, ready for fondue?” Marryn burst through the doors of the Crashdown, pulling off her sunglasses. Max, Isabel, and Alex were behind her, all dressed, as Marryn was, for a dinner out. The four of them made an impressive sight as they stood there, silhouetted against the late afternoon sunlight.

Liz was incredibly relieved to see them. She hadn’t heard from Marryn since they parted that morning, and as the end of the day drew closer her nerves were getting more strained. She stood up as the foursome neared the table where she, Maria, and Michael were still studying. “Hi!” she said, hoping she didn’t sound too excited. Her eyes went to Max, who met her gaze briefly and gave her a small smile. “You—you guys look nice,” Liz told them all. “What did you do today?”

“Marryn and I played mini-golf,” Isabel answered smugly. “Alex and Max *lost* at mini-golf.”

“Hey!” Alex leveled a glare at them. “The windmill was malfunctioning.”

“Oh, right,” Marryn grinned. “The two-minute malfunction that occurred precisely while the two of you were playing that hole. It was conveniently gone when Isabel and I got there.”

“Conveniently,” Alex agreed with mock suspicion. He casually stuffed a hand in his pocket, then looked surprised. “Hey, my wallet. . .” His voice trailed off and he shook his head. “I left it on my desk. I’ve got to run home and get it.”

Isabel looked at him. “Do you want me to drive you?” she asked. “I could take Max’s jeep.” Max frowned slightly at that, but said nothing.

“No, that’s okay,” Alex assured her. “I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Okay, don’t be long,” she said. “Our reservation’s at six forty-five.” Alex waved at them all on his way out the door.

“Were you here all day?” Max asked them.

“Oh, yeah,” Liz answered for them. “Studying for English.”

“English, huh?” Marryn asked, stepping closer to the table. “Who are you studying?” She picked up one of their books and examined it. “Hmm, Virginia Woolf. Yeah, I remember her.”

Three hours of studying something he didn’t like and didn’t understand hadn’t improved Michael’s attitude. “Yeah? Well, do you remember anything you’d like to share?”

“Sure,” Marryn said blithely. “Let’s see. . . prefeminist writer and thinker, member of the *deliciously* decadent and amoral Bloomsbury group in post-WWI London, viciously disdainful of the very capitalist system and middle classes that made her life of idle wealth and intellectual stimulation possible. Ungrateful, snotty bitch, if you ask me.” She grinned. “There—A’s all around.”

Michael gaped at her, then shook his head in disgust. “It’s not that simple.”

“Of course it is,” she informed him. “Ockham’s Razor, remember?”

“What?” he demanded, frustrated.

“Ockham’s Razor,” she repeated. “William of Ockham? God, don’t they teach you anything?” She shook her head and leaned against the side of the booth near Michael. “When you have a problem with conflicting facts, you take away all extraneous pieces of information, and pare the problem down to its barest form. All things being equal, the simplest answer is usually the correct one.” She gave him a cheeky grin. “That revolutionized science in the thirteenth century. And if you’re lucky, maybe it’ll help you pass English.”

Michael shot her a sour look. “I gotta go change,” he told them. “My clothes are in the back.” He got up and headed for the back room.

Maria rose, too, closing her book. “I’m going with him,” she announced. “He sometimes has a little trouble matching colors.” She rolled her eyes as she followed him into the back.

“So where are we going for dinner again?” Max asked, taking Michael’s place at the table.

“A—a fondue place in Albuquerque,” Liz answered. “It’s supposed to be really good.”

“Fondue—that’s like chocolate and stuff, right?” Max asked.

“Emphasis on the stuff,” Marryn said with a smile. “You’ll love it, I promise.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” he told her.

“Mom said the desserts are great,” Isabel said, then frowned suddenly. “Max, did you leave Mom and Dad a note? I didn’t get a chance to tell them where we were going.”

Max shook his head. “No, I forgot.” He started to get up. “My cell phone’s in the jeep. I’ll go leave them a message.”

Isabel nodded. “I’ll go with you. I want to tell Mom where I left her sweater.” The two of them left the café, promising to be back shortly.

When they were gone, Liz let out a long sigh. “Wow, this is getting tense.”

“Tell me about it.” Marryn eased herself into the booth and put her hand over her forehead. “Larek hasn’t been back?”

Liz shook her head. “No. I kept hoping, but. . .nothing.”

“Must be taking longer than he thought. I was really hoping he’d get here before we left.”

“Do you think we should stay?” Liz asked.

“No.” Marryn looked up. “I think we need to get them away from Roswell. I’ve kept feeling that stronger and stronger all day. They’re vulnerable here. People know them, know where to find them.”

“Right.” Liz nodded. “This is. . .this is just so frustrating. I keep thinking we should be doing something to stop it, but then I remember we don’t even know what we’re fighting.”

“I know.” Marryn took a deep breath. “We can do this, Liz. All we have to do is hold off this offer until Larek tells us who’s really behind it. Then we at least know what’s going on. Maybe then we can stop it for good.”

Liz looked distressed. “Tonight’s not it,” she said glumly. “It could still happen later.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Marryn said. “If it’s a transport, chances are whoever is sending it only has a short window of time. They can’t just land a transport and keep it here indefinitely.”

“What else could it be?” Liz wondered.

Marryn shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe the granilith?”

A lightbulb went on in Liz’s mind. “Right! Max—Max from the future, I mean—said that the granilith could be *altered* for time travel. That means it had another purpose.’

“Maybe the way back,” Marryn breathed. “It makes sense. An emergency way home should be here, not on the other side of the universe. And they’d have to have a contingency plan—it would be foolish to send us here with no escape and no defense.” She and Liz stared at each other, the wheels in both their heads spinning. “You know what we have to do,” Marryn said finally, beginning to rise. “It’s the only way to make sure no one ever makes the offer.”

Liz nodded. “Destroy the granilith.” She looked worried. “But—but what if you need it in the future?”

“Liz, Max and the others don’t have a future if we don’t do this.” Marryn started toward the door. “Come on—you know where it is, right?” She was almost at the door when a tall man in a plain black suit entered the café. Marryn didn’t bother to look at him until he blocked her path, at which point she shot him a look of pointed annoyance. “Can I help you?” she asked icily.

“Callia,” he said, his voice low. “My name is Ronid. I am a protector. I have been sent by your mother on an urgent mission.” He gave a slight, formal bow.

Marryn straightened to her full height, regarding the man with resignation. “Oh, have you,” she said, sarcasm lacing her voice. “And what might that be?”

He met her gaze evenly, without expression. “I have been sent to bring you home.”
Part 18

Liz’s knees felt weak as Marryn stared down the nondescript man who had come to turn Liz’s life and the lives of the people she loved most upside down. This couldn’t be happening—but like all the rest of the unbelievable events of the past few days, it was.

“You and your family are urgently needed,” the man—Ronin, he had called himself—told Marryn. “You will come with me.”

Marryn’s voice was icy. “I believe you’re mistaken,” she said calmly. “I’m not going anywhere. And neither is my family.”

Ronin seemed not to hear her words. “Your people have revolted. They are on the verge of turning Kivar—your enemies—back. But they lack leadership. For this, you and your family are needed. Your mother has sent me to bring you back to her and lead your people once more.”

“You lie.” The mention of her mother seemed to ignite Marryn’s fury.

“I do not, Princess.” He stepped closer to Marryn, and Liz, slightly behind her, shrank back. But Marryn stood her ground, glaring at him with hard eyes. “Your people have need of you. Will you ignore your duty to them?”

“How dare you say that to me?” she demanded hotly. “I died for them once! And how dare you speak of my mother? Leave here. Leave this town, leave this planet, and do not come back.”

“I cannot,” he said. “I have been sent—”

“Yes, sent. And I know by whom,” she interrupted angrily. A dangerous look appeared in Marryn’s eyes and she advanced on him threateningly. “You tell Kivar for me that the next time we meet, I will *not* fail.”

Speechless with fear, Liz gaped as once more, before her very eyes, Marryn Riley became Callia, the boldly defiant princess. Did she really think threats and orders would solve the situation? Liz breathed a frantic prayer to whoever might be listening that this would go no farther, but she knew with a sickening reality that it would.

Ronin was speaking again, still in the same expressionless voice. “Very well. This would have been more pleasant for all of you if you had seen fit to cooperate. However, you have made your choice. And you *will* come with me.”

“I will *not*.” Marryn crossed her arms, her head flung back in a posture of utter defiance.

He nodded once. “Very well. Zan and Vilandra will be lonely without you.”

Marryn advanced again, raising a hand in a threatening gesture. Liz tensed, knowing that she was prepared to use her powers to stop Ronin. “If you think you’re getting near them, you’re sadly mistaken,” she said. Ronin backed up a step or two and held out his own hand, but before either of them attacked, the door swung open.

“Hey, I found my wallet. Left it on my desk.” Alex looked from Marryn to Ronin, his smile fading. “What’s going on?”

“Alex—” Marryn opened her mouth to shout a warning and shot forward, but before she could reach him, Ronin had grabbed Alex and locked one arm around his throat in a choke hold. His other hand came to rest over Alex’s heart.

“One more step and your friend dies,” Ronin said matter-of-factly.

Marryn fell back, her cold defiance turning to helpless fear. “He’s not a part of this,” she said, trying to stay calm. “Let him go.”

“I think not, Princess.” Ronin regarded her with his maddeningly blank eyes, a small smile playing around his thin lips. “Now, what shall we do with the three of you?” he wondered. “Can’t have you making any more trouble.”

“Marryn, what’s going on?” Alex asked, his terrified eyes going to hers.

“Alex, it’s going to be okay,” Marryn said with more assurance than she felt. “Don’t panic. He won’t hurt you.”

“Won’t I?” Ronin sounded amused.

“Not if he wants to live,” Marryn said coldly. Her eyes swung up to Ronin’s. “I mean it. Hurt him, and I will kill you.” Her voice was so firm and matter-of-fact that none of them could doubt she spoke the truth. Liz wondered wildly what could have happened in the last five minutes to make a killer out of Marryn, but there was no time to dwell on it.

“I believe you mean that,” Ronin said pleasantly. “You’ve grown up. Kivar would be proud—and very possibly intrigued.” Ronin’s eyes moved over her in a suggestive leer. “He always did like a challenge.” He jerked his head to the side. “You two, this way.” He started toward the back of the restaurant, dragging Alex with him. “I’m going to lock the three of you up, and if you cooperate, none of you will get hurt. If you don’t, you die.”

“Do you think death scares me?” Marryn asked him, her voice even. She even managed a small smile. “Been there, done that. Maybe I’ll get a tee shirt this time.”

His nod was almost approving. “If you don’t care about your own life, perhaps your affection for your friends will move you.” He looked around, and his eyes fell on a door with a sturdy lock and kick plate. “In there,” he announced. “Get over there—both of you. In there.” Liz hurried over, but Marryn followed only grudgingly. Ronin opened the door and motioned them both inside. They entered the small storage room under his gaze and stood near the back.

“Okay, we did what you said,” Liz managed, finally finding her voice. “Now let him go.”

“In good time,” Ronin assured her. “It’s a pity,” he continued, looking at Marryn. “I’m sure your mother would have liked to see you one last time. But life is hard, isn’t it? I’ll tell Zan and the others you said goodbye.”

Marryn’s hands clenched to fists at her sides, but she said nothing. Instead, she glanced at the lock on the door, deciding it wouldn’t pose much of a problem. Just as soon as Ronin released Alex. . .

Ronin caught her gaze, and a malicious smile curled his lips. “Ah, ah, ah. No getting ideas,” he said. “That leads to unpleasantness like being locked in a closet.” In one motion, he released Alex and tossed him in after the two girls. As Marryn charged him with one hand outstretched, Ronin pulled his arm back and swung at her, hitting her with a right hook that snapped her head back. Prepared for an attack of alien powers, she hadn’t anticipated such a mundane tactic. She gave him a foggy stare for an instant before her eyes closed and she fell backwards. Alex reacted quickly and managed to catch her before she hit the ground. Furious—and no longer thinking logically—he eased her to the ground and started at Ronin. He wasn’t even on his feet when Ronin stretched out his hand again. “Can’t have the two of you waking her up,” he said. “Pleasant dreams.” The green burst that shot from his hand was the last thing Alex and Liz saw before blackness claimed them.

Part 19

"Max!" Tess jogged up to Max and Isabel just as they approached the Crashdown once more. They had been forced to park down the block a bit, and on their way back Isabel had stopped to admire a pair of shoes in a shop window, much to Max's impatience. Tess was flushed and winded, but there was a look of triumph in her blue eyes. "Where have you been? I've been looking for you everywhere."

"We were with Marryn," Max answered, frowning. "What's wrong?"

She shook her head. "Nothing's wrong," she answered, smiling at him. "As a matter of fact, everything is great. Max, we're going home."

"What?" Isabel stepped forward, looking down at Tess with suspicious eyes. "Home?"

"Yes, back--" Tess pointed heavenward with one finger. "--home."

"What are you talking about?" Max demanded.

"Max, a protector came to me this afternoon. He said our people have revolted and they need us to lead them in the fight against Kivar." Tess's voice was urgent. "There's no time to waste--we have to go help them!"

Isabel wasn't satisfied with this. "Another protector?" she questioned. "And he just came to you? Why not to any of us--why not to Max?"

"Are you certain he's a protector?" Max asked her. "Tess, this could be a trap."

Tess was indignant. "Of course I'm sure he's a protector. I was *raised* by one, remember?"

"How do you know?" Max persisted.

"All the protectors bear the seal of the Royal House," she informed them impatiently. Glancing around, she added, "He went to find Marryn and tell her, but they should be back soon."

"Tess, I'm just not sure about this," Max told her. "It seems too easy--how do we know we can trust this man?"

"We have to trust him. Our people are depending on us." Tess gave him a disbelieving look. "You don't want to go," she said. It was not a question.

"What I want is beside the point," Max began, but she cut him off.

"Really? Because it sure doesn't seem that way to me." Her eyes flashed. "Are you going to let your people be slaughtered by Kivar just because you want to stay here in Roswell? They need you, Max. They've been waiting for you all this time--you're their hope."

Max looked at her helplessly. "I don't know how to lead them," he protested, starting to get angry. "I'm not a warrior, and I'm not a king."

"Yes, you are!" Tess insisted. "Whether you admit it to yourself or not, you are. You loved your people once--somewhere deep down I know you still do. Why are you hesitating?"

They all looked up as the door to the Crashdown opened, but it was only Michael. "What's up?" he asked, seeing the stunned looks on Max and Isabel's faces.

"Michael, we're going home," Tess started in immediately. "We're needed there. Our people are in the middle of a revolt and they need us. We leave tonight--now."

"What?" Michael's jaw dropped. "You--you're serious? Home, tonight? Just like that?"

"There's no time to waste," Tess told him. "Ronin--that's the protector who's come to get us--will be here any minute with Marryn, and then we've got to hurry." She looked around expectantly. "Where are they?"

Michael turned to Max. "Is she right?" he asked quietly.

"We're not going anywhere," Max told him, his voice firm and loud enough for Tess to hear. "At least not until we know this isn't a trick."

"I'm not going anywhere at all," Isabel announced. Her pale face and nervous eyes belied the calm finality in her words. "Not like this. It's too fast--we can't leave without even saying goodbye!"

Max turned to look at her. "Iz, don't jump to conclusions. We've got to keep a level head about this."

"My head is level!" Isabel cried shrilly. "It's this whole situation that's crazy, Max. We don't even know if we can come back."

"*I'm* not coming back," Tess said firmly.

Isabel wheeled on her. "Good for you!" she retorted. "The rest of us have a harder decision to make!"

Tess put her hands on her hips. "Decision? What decision? We were sent here so we could one day go back to lead our planet. That day is here. There's no decision to make."

"Hey, can a guy think for a minute here?!" Michael shot Isabel and Tess an annoyed look.

That earned him both their anger. "Back off, Michael," Isabel said warningly, and Tess just glared at him.

"Stop it, all of you." Max stepped between them, holding up a hand to stop the impending fight. "This isn't a time to fall apart."

"Max is right," Tess said meekly. "We're going to need each other more than ever now."

"I told you--I'm not going," Isabel insisted.

Max looked at her with pleading eyes. "Isabel, please, don't say that. You're just upset right now."

Chastened, Isabel looked away. "It's not going to change. I can't go back--not now."

Max stepped closer to you. "Iz, I can't make you do anything," he said quietly, "but I'm begging you--don't make this decision right now."

Isabel looked at him sadly. "I thought now was all we had."

Max entire being felt caught up in an impossible puzzle--and only one person had ever been able to make confusion like this go away. Liz. He looked toward the Crashdown, hoping to see her through the windows, but there was no sign of her. He turned to Michael. "Michael, are Liz and the other still in there?" he asked.

Michael looked surprised. "No, I thought they were with you. Maria's in the back messing with her hair--again--but Liz and Marryn are gone."

"What do you mean they're gone?" Max felt the first stirrings of worry. "They were there a minute ago." He looked at Tess. "Didn't you say the protector went to find Marryn?"

Tess began to look a little uncomfortable. "Yes. . ." she said slowly, then shook her head impatiently. "Look, it doesn't matter. Ronin said if he wasn't here in ten minutes to meet him at the pod chamber. Maybe they're already on their way. Look, we'll wait here another couple of minutes, but then--"

"That won't be necessary." Ronin walked calmly from the Crashdown. "We'll go know." He nodded to Max and Isabel. "Your Majesties," he said formally.

Isabel flinched. "Who are you?" she demanded.

He gave a small bow from the waist. "I am Ronin, the protector sent by your mother to bring you home." Appraising all of them, he added, "Our time is severely limited. We must hurry."

"Where is Marryn?" Isabel demanded.

He paused--but only for an instant. "Callia--Marryn, as you call her--has informed me that she will not be joining us. She was quite adamant. She prefers to remain behind and enjoy her life as--" His lip curled slightly in distaste. "--a human."

"Where did she go?" Max asked, alarmed.

"She left," Ronin said simply. "I believe she was with your human friends."

"Liz," Max said softly. "We can't leave without seeing her."

"She wouldn't leave without saying goodbye," Isabel protested, her eyes darting from Max to Ronin and back again.

Max frowned slightly. He wouldn't have believed that she would do such a thing, either. But she had been forceful when she said she wouldn't return--not for any reason. Maybe she had gotten scared. . .?

"I'm not going," Isabel said again, her voice growing shrill with strain.

Max held out his hands to stop any further reaction. "None of us are going until we know exactly what's going on."

Ronin looked irritated. "Did you not tell them?" he asked Tess.

She nodded, not pleased, either. "I told them."

"Then what are you waiting for? Every minute you linger here is a minute Kivar will use to seek the destruction of our people." Ronin looked at them all. "Well?"

Max merely folded his arms, not moving. Reluctantly, Michael stepped behind him, echoing his posture. "Guess we're not moving," he said.

Ronin sighed. "Very well. At least accompany me to the pod chamber. There is a message from your mother, explaining why you are summoned. You can make your choice there."

Tess moved closer to Ronin. "Come on, Max," she said, her voice coaxing. "It's just to the pod chamber."

Max looked to Michael and Isabel. "What do you guys think?" he asked in a low voice.

Michael was the first to answer. "They need us, Maxwell," he shrugged. "We at least have to hear what your mother has to say."

Isabel wasn't so sure. "I still don't think Marryn would just leave," she began, but Michael interrupted her.

"Really? I don't find it all that hard to believe." He shook his head, smiling grimly. "She told you herself--she doesn't want to go anywhere. I'd find it harder to believe if she was actually here."

"You don't know her, Michael," Isabel shot back.

"Neither do you," Michael answered evenly.

"That's enough." Max took a deep breath. "If Marryn isn't interested, we can't force her. But I think we have to go." At Isabel's sullen look, he stepped a little closer to her. "Isabel, it's our mother." She softened slightly, but still looked reluctant. After a moment, Max's eyebrows lifted in a question. "Okay?"

Isabel gave a heavy sigh, her shoulders drooping in defeat. "Okay," she said finally.

Part 20

“God, Max, what if we never see them again?” Isabel swiped at the tears that were pouring down her cheeks with an already sodden tissue. “What if Mom and Dad never know what happened to us? That would kill them, Max.” A fresh burst of sobs overcame her. “They love us so much,” she sobbed against his shoulder.

Max put his arms around her, holding her silently. He wanted to say something that would comfort her, but he knew anything he said would be in vain. He didn’t know if they would ever see their parents—or anyone else they loved—again. He closed his eyes, wishing he didn’t know how much their leaving would hurt their family and friends. “I know,” he said hoarsely. “I know.”

Michael sat beside them in the back seat of the jeep, lost in his own thoughts as Tess drove them to the pod chamber with Ronin beside her in the passenger’s seat. “Maybe we should have said goodbye,” he murmured. “Maria’s going to be really ticked.”

“If you ever see her again,” Isabel put in, her voice cracking.

“Right,” Michael sighed.

“You need not worry about your friends,” Ronin told them. “If all goes well, you will be able to send them messages—much like your mother sent you.”

“Yeah, Isabel, I’m sure they’ll understand,” Tess interjected, glancing at the other girl in the rearview mirror.

“Sure, a message,” Isabel said dismally. “That’ll ease the pain of us leaving with no warning and no goodbye.” Pleadingly, she turned to Max. "Max, you know that I love you. But don't make me chose between being with you and keeping my life."

* * * * *

"Callia!"

Maria looked up as Brody burst into the Crashdown. He had that weird look again, so when she said hello, she really didn't expect much. Sure enough, he made a full round of the cafe before returning to her.

"Where is Callia?" he demanded. "She knows you--she was with you before."

"*Good afternoon,* Brody," Maria said pointedly. "How are you?"

Larek stared at the extremely annoyed human girl before him. He was supposed to know her--or at least Brody Davis was supposed to know her. He thought hard. Her name was. . .Maria! Yes, that was it, Maria. He tried for a calm tone. "Maria, sorry. How are you?"

"Little hungry, kind of lonely, confused about where the hell everyone went," she answered sourly.

"Yes. . .sorry about that." Larek was getting agitated. He couldn't be too late, could he? "Look, do you know where Callia went? I need to speak with her--it's urgent."

Maria frowned. "I don't know any Callia," she told him. "Who are you talking about?"

*Of course,* Larek thought. *Her name isn't Callia anymore.* But what was it? He racked his brain--had she even told him? "She. . .she's a rather tall girl, red hair?" he asked helplessly.

"You mean Marryn?" Maria asked. "You two sure seemed friendly this morning. How do you know her anyway?"

Marryn? That didn't even seem remotely familiar, but he grabbed at it anyway. "Uh, old friend," he answered quickly. "Do you know where she is? I need to find her."

"Yeah, you and me both," Maria grumbled. "They were supposed to wait here so we could all leave together. If they left me, I'll--"

"Where were they going?" he interrupted.

"Well, we're all supposed to be on our way to Albuquerque, but apparently I got left behind." Maria was starting to get angrier. This really was ridiculous--she hadn't been gone that long!

"Do you really think they left without you?" Larek persisted. "If they were supposed to meet you--"

Maria was leaning past him to see out the window. "Well, I don't see Max's jeep, but Marryn's car is still here."

Larek looked behind him to see the sleek black vehicle Marryn had used that morning to drive them to the park. "Then they're still around here somewhere?" he asked hopefully.

"They wouldn't have all fit in Max's jeep," Maria said, shaking her head. "No, they must not have left."

"Where would they be?" Larek asked urgently, stepping closer to her. "This is very important--where could they have gone?"

Maria backed away a step or two. "Hey, personal space!" she protested. "I don't know where they went, okay? If I did, I'd be there with them. What are you so fired up about anyway?" Her eyes widened suddenly as something occurred to her. "Does this. . .does this have anything to do with alie--I mean, Czechoslovakians?" she asked suspiciously.

Larek stared at her blankly. "Czechoslovakians?" he repeated, then shook his head. "Look, is there any place they could be? A backroom, or--"

Maria shook her head. "I was just in there. It's empty."

Larek moved restlessly around the empty cafe. "A--a closet?' he persisted. "A storeroom?" Then his eyes fell on the door at the back of the room. "What's in there?" he demanded.

"That's just a storage room," she said. "Extra napkins and straws. . ."

Larek was already on his way back there. He tried the door, but it refused to budge. "Is there a key?" he asked, fear making his voice unnaturally harsh.

Maria was starting to get scared, too. "It's never locked," she told him. "There might be one in the back. You don't think they're--"

But Larek was past waiting. He took a step back and landed a powerful kick just above the handle. The seldom-used lock gave way beneath the heel of his shoe and the door bounced open.

Maria peered past him into the dim room. "Oh, my god," she whispered.

Part 21

Callia dreamed of water. . .thick, lavender water that buoyed her body to its surface and clung to her limbs when she lifted them free of the water to reach toward the trio of suns in the violet sky. A drop of water slipped from one of her fingers and she watched it fall, mesmerized as it splintered rays from the suns into a million bits of color that danced for an instant in thin air. Her body felt light—so very light that she though she might drift forever in the endless sea. But something was calling her, drawing her back to herself. . .

“Callia? Callia, are you awake, beloved?”

She opened her eyes to find Larek staring down at her, pure love shining in his eyes. She smiled softly and stretched luxuriously. “No.”

Larek couldn’t help a small smile. He touched her hair, wrapping one of her bright curls around his finger. “Callia, how do you feel?” he asked gently.

“I feel—” She twisted her head to one side and gave a confused grimace. “My head hurts.”

“I’m not surprised.” Larek cradled her head carefully between his hands. “Hold still—I’ll fix it.” A warm feeling spread through her head and then the pain was gone. Replaced by horror.

“Larek, he has Zan—I mean Max. He has Max!” Marryn pushed herself upright. “He came here and told me his lies and I could have killed him, but I failed! I failed again, and now he has Max!” She was quickly becoming hysterical.

Larek hushed her. “It’s all right, love.”

“No, it’s not,” she insisted shrilly. “They’re going to die.” With an effort, she calmed herself enough to speak rationally. “What did you find out?”

Larek’s face fell. “Callia, you can’t come home—not now, not this time. It’s a trap, Callia. You must not accept this offer.”

She nodded gravely. “I know,” she said gently.

His eyes widened. “You know?”

“Yes. I tried to tell you this morning, but—”

“There was too much to say,” he finished with regret. With effort, he pushed aside everything but the danger at hand. “You said someone has your brother. Who is he?”

“I don’t know who he is,” she answered, “but we have to get to them now!" She shrugged off Larek's worried grasp and struggled to her feet. She swayed briefly, but managed to remain upright, helped by Larek's firm hold on her arm. His healing of her head had all but obliterated the effects of Ronin's knock-out punch, but Marryn was still mad as hell--and her temper was growing more impressive by the moment. "Where are Liz and--" She stopped in mid-sentence, her eyes flashing as she caught sight of Liz and Alex lying on the floor of the storage closet. "He knocked them out, too," she spat, dropping to her knees beside the two unconscious teenagers. Gently, she took Liz's head between her hands and healed the damage Ronin had done--nothing drastic, she noted clinically, even as her anger grew. Just knocked them both out. As Liz started to stir, she left her to the care of a frantic and speechless Maria and went on to Alex. He had a knot on the back of his head where it had hit the edge of a hard metal shelf, so she healed that first, making sure he would be in no pain when he woke up. Then she laid her hands on his head and healed away the unnatural sleep. As he and Liz woke up, she pushed herself to her feet once again. "He pays for this," she said flatly. "And if he takes my family, he dies." His expression hard, Larek did not argue.

Alex woke up to the sound of Marryn's cold, angry voice. He opened his eyes to find her standing with Brody. . .who looked different, somehow. Marryn’s shoulders were set in a rigid line, and her jaw was clenched--she looked ready for a fight. As the fog cleared and he remembered how he had come to be lying in this closet, he realized that she was. "What happened?" he asked, struggling to sit up.

Marryn's sympathetic look lasted for barely a second before it was replaced by anger. "You got knocked out," she replied. "Both of you. I healed you--you should be fine."

Liz's face was ashen. "I am definitely not fine," she murmured, standing up.

"Liz, oh my god, what happened?" Maria cried, frantically hugging her friend. "Are you okay? How did you get in there--what happened?"

"There was a protector," Liz said faintly. "He's the one who makes the offer--not Kivar, not Tess--"

"Protector?" Maria repeated. "What are you talking about? What offer?"

"Protector my ass," Marryn said shortly. She turned to Larek. "That's what he claimed he was—he said my mother sent him. My mother!"

"Your mother did nothing of the sort," Larek said in a low voice. "She knew nothing about it until I told her."

Marryn's eyes softened for an instant. "What did she say?" she asked more quietly.

Larek touched her hand. "That she loves you," he answered in a gentle voice. "And to stay here. She said. . .she said when the time is right, you will know to come."

"Right." Marryn nodded and took a deep breath. "He said there had been a revolt and that's why we were to come--to lead our people against Kivar." She looked at Larek, the question in her eyes clear.

Larek shook his head sadly. "There is no revolt. Kivar still enslaves your people."

Despite herself, Marryn's heart sank. She had known it must be a lie, but. . . "Max and the others don't know that," she said. "We have to get to them. How would Kivar get them to Antar?"

As Marryn and Larek's tense discussion continued, Maria turned on Liz. "What's going on?" she demanded. "Is Michael in danger? If he is you have to tell me!"

Liz hesitated, but she knew Maria had to know. “A man working for Kivar offered Max and the others a chance to go back to their planet.”

“What?” Alex jumped up at this. “All of them—Isabel, too?”

“All of them,” Liz agreed.

“But—but Kivar is their enemy,” Maria protested. “They wouldn’t just up and go with him.”

Liz shook her head. “It’s a trick. They think they’re going home to save their people.”

“But Kivar’s waiting at the airport,” Alex finished angrily, suddenly understanding.

“Yes.” Liz looked from one to the other. “We have to find them.”

“Wait,” Maria held up a hand to stop her. “How do you know all this? And why doesn’t Max know?”

“It’s a long story—”

“Then start talking,” Maria ordered, and Alex nodded firmly in agreement.

Liz took a deep breath. “Okay,” she began. “The reason Marryn came to Roswell is. . .”

Meanwhile, Marryn and Larek were trying to decide what to do next. “He could use the granilith,” Larek was saying.

“That’s what it’s used for? It’s a travel methid?” Marryn wanted to know.

“Right.” Larek nodded. “I don’t think he’d use a transport if he could get them to the granilith. It’s quicker, and it would attract less attention.”

Marryn thought hard. “Is there a way to destroy the granilith—or at least disable it permanently?”

“There is,” Larek said slowly. “But only if we can’t stop this any other way. The granilith is very powerful. Kivar wants it—someday it could become your insurance policy. If we could just make sure he doesn’t get a chance to use it. . .”

“Wait a minute!” Maria stopped Liz’s story. “Marryn knew this was going to happen?”

“We thought we could prevent it,” Liz said defensively. “We were afraid if they knew about it, Kivar might try to kidnap them.”

“He just did!” Maria cried.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of options,” Liz retorted.

“Okay, whatever,” Alex cut in. “What does Brody have to do with this?”

“Brody—he’s not exactly Brody right now. . .”

“What if they’re not at the granilith?” Marryn asked. “What if he is using a transport? What do we do then?”

Larek shook his head. “I don’t know. It’s possible we could try to track it.”

“So we basically hope they’re at the granilith,” Marryn said flatly.

“That’s the best scenario,” he agreed grimly. “We have to get there before the granilith is turned on. . .”

“Marryn had an affair with Larek?!” Alex’s jaw dropped. “While she was married?”

“Brody is Larek?!” Maria demanded. “He just—he just *is* Larek for as long as Larek feels like it?”

Alex shook his head. “And Max never knew. . .?”

“Okay, then we’ve got to go,” Marryn said. She looked over at Liz. “Liz, you know where the granilith is, right?”

Liz paused in her explanation. “What? Oh, um—yeah.”

“Good.” Marryn headed for the door. “We’ll take my car.” Larek followed her without question, a determined look on his face.

“Right.” Liz went after her, motioning for Alex and Maria to follow her. “Let’s go.”


posted on 30-Aug-2001 8:10:47 PM
Part 22

“Okay, we’re here.” Max looked at Ronin in the dim light of the granilith chamber. “Where’s the message?”

“A moment, Majesty,” Ronin answered. “The granilith must be prepared.”

“What, you’re going to use the granilith for the message?” Michael gave him a quizzical look. “That wasn’t how we got the last message.”

Ronin’s look was one of irritation. “This is a different sort of message. It doesn’t require the stones.”

“Oh.” Michael nodded, then thought of something else. “Hey, why didn’t they just use the granilith before? I mean, what if we hadn’t found the stones?”

“This method wasn’t available then,” Ronin answered tersely.

Michael frowned. “But they sent the granilith when they sent us, right?” he persisted. “They must’ve known how to use it.”

Ronin gave him an impatient glare. “The granilith—it cannot store messages for long periods of time.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll explain it to you later,” Ronin said, carefully approaching the granilith.

Michael came with him. “Does Marryn know about this message?” he asked, watching Ronin’s actions carefully. It didn’t seem like he was doing too much.

“Yes.” Ronin walked slowly around the base of the granilith, Michael still following. “I informed her that her mother wished to speak to her. She did not care to hear.”

“Do they know that she’s here?” Michael demanded.

“Her mother has been informed,” Ronin answered.

“Did you tell her?”

“What? Yes.” Ronin nodded briefly. “When I arrived here and she was present, I contacted her Majesty immediately. She was overjoyed that the five of you would return together.”

“You can send a message back?” Michael said. “We didn’t know that.”

“Of course,” Ronin said shortly. “We must be able to communicate. . .but the process is not to be undertaken for frivolous reasons. It uses tremendous resources.”

“What kind of resources?”

Ronin turned on him with gritted teeth, but before he could speak, Tess did. “Michael,” she said quietly, “why don’t we let him do his job?”

The others had lapsed into silence long before. Isabel stood leaning against the stone wall of the cave, staring at nothing and ignoring the occasional tears that still slipped down her cheeks. *I can’t leave without saying goodbye,* she told herself again and again. She closed her eyes and wept silently as the faces of her parents flashed before her eyes. What would their mother and father do without them? *Mom won’t be able to stand not knowing where we are and if we’re okay,* she thought wildly. *And Dad—he worries about us so much.* And then she thought of Alex. He would be back at the Crashdown by now, wondering where they had gone. Marryn had said that Alex loved her. Isabel hadn’t believed that before, but now, as she stood there against the cold stone of the granilith chamber, she realized that Marryn had been right about that—and about some other things as well. Love, she had said, was the only sure thing in the world. And now that she contemplated leaving this world behind, Isabel Evans was sure of only one thing: she loved Alex Whitman—body, mind, and soul. Nothing—not miles, not years, not even death would ever change that. But would she ever get a chance to tell him that?

Just beside her, Max stood in a nearly identical posture, his eyes fixed on the ground at his feet. Only one person occupied his thoughts. Liz. If he closed his eyes, he could picture her so clearly that he almost believed he could reach out and touch her. He could smell the slight floral scent of her hair, feel the warm whisper of her breath on his skin. He needed to talk to her, needed to tell her the confusion that filled his soul. The need was nothing new to him; since the night of the Gomez concert, when the bond between them had been pared to a tenuous thread, he had been unable to confide in her—and had felt that loss acutely. Only once, when his guilt at letting a man die had eaten away at him so much he truly thought he might go mad, had he been able to put aside the tremendous ache in his heart and talk to her. And even after everything—the months he had ignored her and the anger he hadn’t been able to hide—she had responded to his pain and comforted him. She had listened without condemning, even provided the means for his redemption, and never once had she asked for anything in return. She loved him—Max knew this with such sudden clarity that his heart thudded painfully in his chest. No matter what she had done or said, she loved him and only him—just as he loved her. And she deserved better than this. Better than a silent departure, a belated farewell message, or even a hasty goodbye. Liz, who had faced death for him, who had bared the core of her soul to him, who had seen the man he was and loved him for it, deserved so much more than this. In that instant, Max wanted nothing more than to be around to give it to her.

“So, is the granilith like some kind of intergalactic phone line?” Michael asked Ronin as the man walked around the large, gently humming object. “Or is it more like a VCR?”

Ronin was paying only minimal attention. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, I just wanna know if it transmits the message, or just records it until we press play,” Michael clarified.

“The granilith is not like any human device,” Ronin said disdainfully.

“Yeah, I got that,” Michael assured him, resenting the condescending tone of the other man’s voice. “I just want to know how it works.”

“It cannot be explained in the time that we have,” Ronin snapped finally. He fiddled with something on the base of the structure, and Michael craned his neck to see, but the man’s body blocked his view. After a second or two, Ronin stood. “Majesties,” he called. “With your permission?”

Max pushed himself upright, startled. “What?” he asked, then nodded. “Oh, right.”

Ronin nodded and reached out to touch the granilith. Everyone jumped as the granilith lit up like a Christmas tree and its quiet hum increased in volume. A beam of light shot out of it to form a spot of brightness in the dim cave. It hovered there, glowing softly in the dimness and then, as before, the light lengthened and took the form of a beautiful woman with soft, sad brown eyes and flowing blond hair. She smiled in their direction and began to speak.

“My children,” she said in a musical voice. “I bring you good news. Our long time of slavery is over—our people have revolted and begun taken back their lands and their freedom. But our struggle is not over. We have much to overcome, and for that we need you. We need you for your leadership, and for the symbol that you are to your people.

“My son, now more than ever, our people need their king and queen. Your presence and direction will be the force behind our victory. My daughter, you and your betrothed were invaluable to our struggle in the last conflict. We need your strength and purpose once again.

“I have sent a protector to bring you safely home. He alone can show you how to operate the granilith and use it to bring you to me.”

“What about Marryn?” Michael muttered to Ronin. “Wasn’t this message for her, too?”

“What?” Ronin was growing more annoyed. “Yes, of course. But. . .when Callia refused to come, I felt I should inform her mother immediately.”

“Oh.” Michael listened for another second, then looked at Ronin again. “Did you use the stones or the granilith?”

Ronin gave him an angry look. “That isn’t important just now,” he snapped. “You must listen to the message—it may decide your future.”

Reluctantly, Michael fought to turn his attention back to the message, but despite his best efforts his mind kept wandering.

Please do not delay. Every moment you wait is a moment Kivar uses to enslave us. Without you, our revolution is doomed.”

Max stared at the image, his heart sinking. His mother—his people needed him. Could he refuse? He glanced at Isabel, whose red-rimmed eyes reflected her own turmoil. “Oh, god, Max,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “What if we have to go?”

Part 23

“Up that way.” Liz was out of the car almost before Marryn brought it to a sliding stop at the base of the rock formation that marked the pod chamber. She squinted in the purple and orange light of the setting sun and motioned to the others. “Come on—we have to hurry.”

Marryn was right on her heels. “How do we get in?” she asked as they picked their way over the rocky ground.

“Max—he waves his hand over this spot and it shows him where to put his hand.” She glanced back at Marryn. “You can do that, too, right?”

Marryn shook her head helplessly. “We’ll know when we get there.”

“Have they left yet?” Maria demanded, struggling in her strappy shoes.

Larek looked up at the jagged rock. “No way to tell,” he said, and hurried to catch up with Marryn. Alex took his place beside Maria, tugging her along in her definitely-not-for-rock-climbing shoes.

Liz reached the top first, closely followed by Marryn. Liz gestured to the smooth part of the rock. “Here—somewhere right here.”

Marryn looked at it doubtfully. “Just. . .just run my hand over it?” she asked. At Liz’s nod, she took a deep breath and passed a hand over the rock. Sure enough, the silver hand print appeared, glinting brightly in the desert sun. Startled, Marryn jumped back and would have fallen if Larek hadn’t been there to steady her. She gave him a questioning look, and he nodded. “Okay.” Hesitantly, she placed her hand over the marking and watched in amazement as an oval-shaped piece of the rock fell away to reveal an opening.

“Okay, let’s go in,” Maria said, preparing to climb through, but Larek stopped her.

“Wait.” He dug in his pocket and came up with a small pyramid made of luminous crystal. “I found this in UFO center. It’s a neural inhibitor. Turned on, it disrupts the enhanced cerebral cortex functions that give us our special abilities.”

“It’s alien kryptonite?” Maria asked, frowning at the small object.

Larek gave her a blank look, but Marryn nodded. “Um, yeah,” she said, taking the crystal and turning it over in her hands.

“Will it hurt them?” Liz demanded.

Larek shook his head. “No. It simply renders us like any other human. Ronin will not be able to use his powers against us.”

“Great. He can just knock me unconscious again.” Marryn handed back the crystal. “Sounds like fun. Remember to turn it off so you can heal me when I get knocked on my ass.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Larek said. “Now, look. I’ll throw it into the cave and then when I say it’s okay, we go in.” At their nods, he prepared to throw it in, but Marryn stopped him.

“Larek, if we get in there and they’re gone—if they’ve used the granilith, can it be used again?” Her voice was urgent.

Larek thought for an instant, then shook his head. “Not right away. It must regenerate itself—store up its power again.”

“How long does that take?”

“A few days at least—maybe a week or so,” he answered.

“That’s too long,” she said decisively. “How fast can you get me to Antar?”

Larek frowned ferociously. “Callia, no. I told you—you can’t go back this time.”

“And I told you I’m not letting them die,” she retorted. The others watched them with wide eyes.

“They aren’t going to die,” Larek assured her. “I’ve got troops watching Kivar’s palace and all his strongholds.”

“That’s not enough—you know it isn’t,” she said fervently. “I’ve got to go.”

“No!” Larek blocked her entrance to the cave with his body. “I won’t let you, Callia.” He leaned very close to her, his eyes locked on hers. “I lost you once, and it almost killed me. You don’t know how it was—”

“Listen to me,” she interrupted softly. “I loved you once, and even death did not end that. I love you now, and nothing will change that.”

His eyes were desperate. “I can’t lose you,” he murmured, touching her face. “Not now—not again.”

She stepped very close to him, putting her hand on his chest. “You’ve never lost me, Larek, and you never will.” She looked at him gravely. “Now, I will do this with or without you,” she said in a quiet voice. “But with you will be much easier. Will you help me?”

A long sigh seemed to come from the pit of his stomach. “Always, Callia,” he said finally, resigned.

“Thank you.” She squared her shoulders. “Now, let’s go.

He nodded and did something to the crystal. Immediately it was suffused by a pure white glow. With a sharp flick of his wrist, Larek tossed it into the cave.



“I beg you, my children, do not disappoint us. Come immediately—”

Something small and bright flew into the cave without warning, catching Michael’s eye, but before he located it, the image of Max and Isabel’s mother had vanished and the granilith’s louder hum and bright glow had died away. As though woken from a dream, Max and Isabel looked around, startled.

“What happened?” Isabel asked, then her eyes fell on the crystal, which hovered, glowing brightly, in the middle of the cave. “What is that?”

“It’s a neural inhibitor,” Marryn answered, stepping into the cave. All eyes swung to her.

“Marryn,” Tess said softly. She seemed pale in the odd light of the crystal.

Marryn looked in her direction. “Bingo, sweetie,” she agreed.

As they stood there staring, Alex burst into the cave behind her. Without missing a beat, he went to Ronin and landed a sucker punch on his jaw that knocked the other man into the wall. “That’s for locking me in a closet,” he ground out. He started to back away, then shook his head. “*That’s* for hitting Marryn,” he continued, landing another, “and *that’s* for knocking Liz out.” Ronin slid to the ground, dazed, and Alex stretched his aching fingers. “Want me to hit him again?” he asked.

“Thank you,” Marryn said, “but he’s not going anywhere.”

“What are you doing?” Tess shrieked, going to Ronin. She meant to kneel beside him, but Alex stood in her way and wasn’t moving.

“Michael!” Maria ran into the chamber, oblivious to everything else, and threw her arms around Michael. “You were going to leave!” she accused, whacking him on the shoulder—hard. She pulled back, her eyes pleading. “Were you going to leave?”

A smile broke out on Michael’s face. He touched her face. “I didn’t know if I was going to see you again.”

Max’s eyes went to the door, hoping—and to his intense joy, Liz stood there, looking worried and relieved all at once. Their eyes met and held, and Max swallowed hard. She had never looked more amazing.

“Marryn, there’s a revolution going on,” Isabel said quickly. “Our mother needs us to come home.”

“There is no revolution,” Larek said firmly. He stepped carefully between Marryn and Ronin. “You must not do as he says—he is not our ally.”

“Larek,” Max said, suddenly understanding. He strode forward. “What are you doing here?”

“Your sister asked for my help,” Larek answered. He held out a hand and warmly shook Max’s—one old friend greeting another.

Max looked from Larek to Marryn, a little confused, but shook it off. “There was a message from our mother,” he said.

Larek shook his head. “There was no message. Your mother has sent no protector, and she says for you to stay here. Antar is not safe for any of you.”

“We saw a message,” Tess insisted. She looked at Michael and Isabel. “We all saw it.”

“From the granilith,” Michael said, giving Larek a questioning look.

Larek shook his head. “Impossible. The granilith does not transmit messages. It transports people.”

“That thing’s a space ship?” Maria demanded.

“A transport device.” Liz pointed to Ronin. “He’s working for Kivar—he’s trying to lure you back to your planet so Kivar can kill you!”

Max looked as though he wanted to believe her, but he had to be sure. He turned to Tess. “You said he was a protector.”

“He is,” Tess cried. She turned to Marryn. “Look, I know you don’t want to go. It’s okay. But please don’t try to stop us. Our people need us—they’re going to die without us.” Marryn’s only answer was a hard stare that stopped Tess cold.

Max went to Alex, who was still standing guard over Ronin, and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay,” he said softly. Grudgingly, Alex backed away to stand close to Isabel. Max addressed Ronin, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“I have told you nothing but the truth,” Ronin said calmly. “Did you not see your mother’s message?”

“That was no message,” Marryn said coldly. “Let me guess—did it end just as soon as you saw the inhibitor?”

“The what?” Isabel asked.

“The—that. . .crystal spinny thing,” Marryn sputtered, pointing to the crystal. “It stops us from using our powers.” She leveled another glare at Tess, this one smoldering with fury. “It would even stop a mindwarp.”

“That was a mindwarp?” Max demanded. He turned to look at Marryn. “Are you sure?”

Marryn never took her eyes from Tess. “Pretty sure.”
Part 24

“Look, you’ve all got to get out of here,” Larek said, looking around at them worriedly. “The granilith is highly unstable. Once started, any of you—or all of you—could be transported to Antar, right to Kivar.”

“Is it started?” Max asked.

“No.” Ronin shook his head. “It cannot be started without the key.”

“What key?” Michael asked, still holding Maria’s hand.

Ronin slowly reached into his pocket, carefully showing Max that he wasn’t pulling out a weapon, and pulled out a long, slender crystal. It glittered in the dim light. “This key,” he answered calmly. “You see, you are in no danger presently. But I must protest your leaving. We have limited time, and if you chose to go you must go now.”

Max hesitated. “Can you prove what you say? That the message was real?”

“Certainly, Majesty,” Ronin said politely. “There is another message.”

Startled, Marryn looked at Larek, who shook his head. “That’s impossible,” he said.

“Is it?” Ronin looked at Max. “The stones. You can use the stones.”

“Max, it’ll be another mindwarp,” Marryn put in. “You can’t trust him.”

“You’d know if I was activating the stones,” Ronin said. “Only the five of you can activate them anyway.”

Max considered this, bringing a strangled cry from Marryn. “Max—evil guy, mindwarp!” she reminded impatiently.

Max nodded absently at her. “We don’t have the stones,” he said.

“I do.” Tess stepped forward, unzipping her large black shoulder bag. She pulled them out and handed them to Max. At his questioning look, she shrugged. “I thought we might want them.”

Marryn’s eyes narrowed, but she did nothing as Max took them.

Isabel spoke up. “Max, it could be another mindwarp,” she cautioned.

“Not while the inhibitor is working,” Larek told them. “But you’ll need your powers to activate the stones.”

Max looked down at the stones, thinking. “Once we activate them, would the inhibitor stop the message?” he asked Larek.

Larek shrugged. “I don’t see why. You only need your powers to activate the stones. Once they’re on, it shouldn’t matter.”

“Once we’ve activated them, will you turn it back on?” Max asked him.

“Of course.” He reached out and grabbed the crystal from the air. He glanced at Ronin, then back at Max. “Be careful.”

Max nodded. “We will.” He gestured to the others. “We have to hold the stones.”

“No way.” Marryn folded her arms. “Sorry, Max, but it’s a trick—I know it is.”

Max was taken aback, but nodded. “That’s okay,” he said. “Isabel, Tess, Michael?”

Isabel and Tess stepped closer to him and touched the stones, but Michael hung back. Max looked at him. “Sorry, Maxwell,” he apologized, “but I think I’ll sit this one out.”

Max was even more perplexed, but he nodded again. “Okay.” He took a deep breath and glanced at Larek. “All right. Turn it off.”

“Turning it off,” Larek agreed, closing his hand around the crystal. The light shining from it faded away and it was once again a plain crystal. Almost as soon as he had done so, the stones began to glow. All eyes went toward them, and in the dimness no one noticed that Ronin was still clutching the crystal key.

“Is it real?” Marryn asked Larek as the glow brightened.

He shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. He opened his hand and prepared to activate the inhibitor again, but before he could act, Marryn let out a scream. Ronin was almost at the granilith, crystal in hand.

“No!” Marryn shrieked, and dove for him. But she was too far away. Ronin twisted the crystal, fitting it to the hole on the granilith’s round base as Max and the others opened their eyes to see what the commotion was. Larek threw himself after Marryn, intending to shield her from the granilith’s power with his own body but she fought him, dragging them both closer to the granilith.

Ronin dropped to his knees to push the crystal into the hole, but fumbled and dropped it. The split second it took for him to find it again was enough for Marryn to break free of Larek's restraining hold. She scrambled to her knees, but even as she did so, a flash of green light filled the cave and the crystal in Ronin’s hand exploded with a deafening crash that echoed against the stone walls. Larek grabbed Marryn again and forced her to the ground, shielding her as shards of crystal flew across the ground and ricocheted off the walls. The others covered their faces with their hands and arms. It seemed an eternity until Larek lessened his hold enough to let Marryn look up. The scene that finally greeted her left her open-mouthed.

Michael stood over Ronin, his hand still outstretched as the green glow faded from it. A small cut above his left eye marked the place where a piece of the key had hit him, but the danger was over. Ronin crouched on the ground, dazed.

Tess was the first to react. "You destroyed the key!" she cried, looking around at the thousands of shattered pieces of crystal on the ground. "How will we get home?"

"We're not going home," Michael said grimly. "Not now, anyway."

"You're crazy!" Tess sputtered. "He's not an enemy!"

"Yeah?" Michael returned. "Would a friend activate the granilith without Max's okay?"

She fell back, sullen. "There is no other key--now we can't ever use the granilith."

"We don't know that," Max said. "And it couldn't be helped."

"Couldn't be helped?" Tess repeated angrily. She glared at them all in turn. "You know, I don't think any of you gives a damn about what goes on on our planet. I think you all want to stay here regardless of what our purpose is. Well, that's fine. Stay here--pretend you're human for the rest of your lives. But I won't. I'm going to find a way home, and next time I'll use it with or without you." With that, she turned and ran out of the cave.

"Should we follow her?" Isabel asked, though she looked reluctant to do so.

Max looked after her, a thoughtful look on his face. "Let her go," he told them. He turned back to look at Marryn. "How did you know he was lying?"

Marryn picked herself up off the ground with Larek's help. "Well, when he knocked me out and locked me in a closet I figured it out," she said sourly.

"He what?" Max demanded.

"He came in and told me his story. When I told him I didn't believe him and called his bluff, he knocked me unconscious, stuffed the three of us in a closet, and locked us in." She gestured to Liz and Alex, shrugging. "We'd still be in there if Maria and Larek hadn't found us."

Max's eyes swung to Liz. "He locked you in a closet?" he repeated.

Liz shrugged, too. "Yeah. He didn't hit me or Alex, though--just used his powers to knock us out." Max looked upset, so she hastened to add, "But we're okay now. We're fine--really."

"Fine?" Ronin echoed, sneering at them. The blast that destroyed the crystal seemed to have effected him, too. His speech was slurred and he appeared to have trouble moving his limbs. "For now, perhaps. But you will lose."

Marryn turned on him. "Not if you're all Kivar's got," she told him evenly.

"You can't begin to imagine his power--"

"Yada, yada, yada," she interrupted impatiently. "Does he make you guys say stuff like that, or do you come up with it on your own?"

"You scoff," Ronin said coldly, "but he defeated you once."

She nodded. "It won't happen again." She turned to speak to Max, but before she could she heard Larek shout.

"Callia!" She whirled back around as another terrific flash lit the cave with green light. This time it had come from Larek. He stood over Ronin, fury contorting his face. Kivar's emissary lay face down, and a thin trail of smoke rose from a scorch mark on his back. Larek's eyes swung to Marryn. "Are you all right?" he demanded, going to her. He touched her face, her arms, looking her over with tender concern.

She frowned, but did not stop him. "Yes, I--what happened?"

"He was going to kill you," Larek said, and Marryn stared in amazement. "When you turned your back--he was going to use his powers." Oblivious to everyone else, Larek crushed her to him in a grateful embrace. "You're okay," he murmured, and she wondered which of them he was trying to convince.

"I'm fine," she assured him, hugging him back. He clung to her as though he could not bear to let go, and she did not protest. "You saved me," she whispered. She leaned back and stroked his cheek with one hand. "You saved my life."

Michael leaned over, calmly checking Ronin's neck for a pulse. "He's dead," he announced a moment later, straightening. The others reacted with muted shock; it wasn't as though this was the first time a conflict had ended in death. Michael, in particular, seemed unfazed. "What should we do with him?" he asked.

Reluctantly, Larek released Marryn. "You can't leave his body here. I'll take care of it."

"No." Marryn shook her head. "You need to go and call off the soldiers you put on Kivar's palace. I won't have you starting another war."

"I killed his agent," Larek protested. "It's a little late for that."

"He doesn't know that was you," Marryn said. She touched his shoulder, her eyes pleading. "Please. No more blood shed today."

"Callia, I can do this," he insisted. "It's my responsibility."

"No, it isn't. Your responsibility is to go make sure your people are safe." She paused for a moment, then looked up at him through lowered lashes. "And someone needs to tell our mother we're okay."

He could see the logic in her words, but he didn't have to like it. "I don't want to leave you," he murmured, taking both her hands in his.

"I know. I. . .I really don't want you to go, either." She watched as he gently caressed her fingers. "But I need you to do this."

"But what about him?" Larek nodded at the body.

"I'll take care of it," Michael spoke up. "It's okay--really."

Larek looked like he was going to protest more, but at length he nodded. "Okay." He squeezed Marryn's hand, lowering his voice. "But I'll come back to you tonight."

Her pause was longer this time, and her expression grew even more wistful. "Larek. . .your being here takes up so much of your resources."

He brought both of her hands to his lips, closing his eyes for a long moment. Finally, he took a deep breath. "Callia, this can't be goodbye yet. Not like this. Please."

The anguish in his eyes nearly broke her heart. At length, she nodded sadly. "Tonight." Quickly, not letting him see the tears in her eyes, she kissed his cheek and stepped back. "Be careful."

He nodded. "I will." He stood in the doorway for another second, taking one last look at her, then he was gone.

Marryn could feel their gazes even before she turned to face the group. When she did turn, her eyes met Max's and she opened her mouth to offer an explanation, but realized all at once that none was needed. He walked to her side and stood there, offering wordless sympathy. "We should go," he said quietly.

"Right," Michael agreed. "This shouldn't take long. Wait for me outside."

The others nodded, moving toward the door, but Marryn hung back. "I'll stay," she said, looking at Michael. "If that's okay. I can help."

He shrugged. "Sure--if you want."

"Yeah." She glanced at Max. "We'll be right out," she said.

He touched her shoulder. "Okay," he agreed, then turned and followed Liz out of the cave.

When everyone had gone, Marryn and Michael moved to stand on either side of the body. "Ashes?" Michael wondered. "Or dust?"

Marryn surveyed the body thoughtfully. "Ashes could be harder to explain away than dust," she said finally.

"Right. Dust it is." Michael held out a palm toward the body, and Marryn did the same. As one, their brows furrowed in concentration and a green glow filled the cave for the last time that afternoon. The transformation took only a moment, and when Ronin was dust, Michael looked at Marryn. "Hungry?" he asked matter-of-factly.

"Starving." Marryn followed him to the door.

"Are we too late for our reservation?" Michael wondered.

Marryn opened her purse and started to pull out her cell phone. "We can probably get it changed."

"Good."

Just as they were about to walk out of the cave, Marryn put her hand on Michael's arm. "When you destroyed the crystal, you knew that meant we couldn't go home, right?"

Michael nodded. "Yeah."

"How did you know he was lying about the revolution?" she wanted to know.

"His story--every time I asked a question it got more complicated. I knew your story had to be the truth." He smiled slightly. "All things being equal, the simplest answer is usually correct." At her amazed look, he shrugged. "Ockham's Razor, right?" Without a backward glance, he stepped out of the cave and into the fading twilight.
Part 25

“It just makes you sensitive to everything,” Maria said. She chose a plump strawberry from the plate of fruit in the middle of the table and speared it with her fondue fork. “Like, when my mom met Michael for the first time, she said he was ‘nice, but a little weird.’” Maria shook her head as she reached out to dip her strawberry in one of two pots of melted chocolate that simmered on the tabletop. “I laid awake for weeks wondering what she meant.”

They all laughed—except for Michael. “Your mother thinks I’m weird?” he demanded.

Marryn chuckled again. “You’re right,” she told Maria. “One time, I was one a date with this really nice guy—sweet, charming, filthy rich parents—and he called me ‘Princess.’ I completely freaked out. Lost it.” She shook her head regretfully. “He never called again.”

“His loss,” Liz put in from her seat beside Max. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed in the warm light from the oil lamp on the table. She and Max hadn’t really had much of a chance to talk yet, but since leaving the cave, Max hadn’t left her side. He had opened the car door for her, insisted she sit beside him on the drive to the restaurant, pulled out her chair, and claimed the chair next to hers. And while they were walking from the car to the restaurant, he had reached out and taken her hand as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Liz knew it would be a long time before things were right between them—if they ever were—but it was a start.

Marryn looked around at them all. “It’s nice to know you guys feel the same way,” she said, stabbing a pineapple slice and dipping it in chocolate. “Nice to know I’m not alone.”

“You’re not,” Michael said. He took a sip of his coke and put it down carefully. “We’re in this together.”

“Thanks, Michael,” Marryn said with a smile. Somewhere between English homework and disposing of a body together, she and Michael had found some common ground on which to approach each other. Perhaps they wouldn't spend this lifetime at odds, after all.

There was a moment’s pause while they all munched on the chocolate and fruit. Dinner had been amazing—prime rib, mahi-mahi, shrimp, and teriyaki chicken and beef, all cooked in the heavily seasoned broth; pieces of bread, apples, and carrots dipped in melted cheese; and now fruit and chocolate. The food, however, was second to their relief at being safe and together once more. They hadn’t talked about the events of that night, but about everything else—school, music, family. Normal things that the craziness of the previous two days hadn’t left much time for. Alex was telling Marryn about his band when something occurred to him.

“Hey, there’s a live show in Roswell tomorrow night. I know some guys that are playing—I could probably get some tickets.” He looked around the table. “Do you want to go?”

Marryn frowned, shaking her head. “I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m catching an afternoon flight back to Boston.”

“What?” Isabel cried. “But you just got here—you can’t go yet.”

Marryn looked sad, too. “I know. I wish I could stay, but this wasn’t really a planned vacation. I’ve got homework to do, and papers to write, and. . .stuff to catch up on before classes start up again. Plus, my family’s going to wonder why I haven’t made it to Vermont yet.”

Max looked surprised. “Where did you tell them you were going?”

“I just said I had to go see some friends before I went skiing.” She shrugged. “That’ll only work for so long.”

“So tell ‘em you went camping,” Maria suggested with a laugh. “It always works for us.”

Marryn laughed at that. “Camping? They’d never believe it. My idea of roughing it is renting an economy car.” She shrugged carelessly. "I'm a city girl."

"I wish you didn't have to go," Isabel said wistfully.

"Yeah, me, too," Marryn admitted. "But no worries, right? I'll be back--I promise."

The faces around the table brightened slightly. "You will?" Max persisted. "I mean, when you have time. . ."

"Sure." She grinned--that slow, easy smile that she had given them that first day in the Crashdown--and bit into her chocolate-covered pineapple. "And you guys are coming to Boston sometime, right?"

Maria grinned back. "I'd love to come to Boston! I've never been to the East Coast before--what's it like?"

"Well, stuff is pretty fast-paced," Marryn began thoughtfully, "and Boston is a pretty young city--well, actually, Boston is a really old city, but the majority of the people there are young. Great clubs, nightlife--you'd like it. . ."

* * * * *

"So what time does your flight leave tomorrow?" Liz stood beside Marryn, looking at the other girl in the bathroom mirror.

Marryn was freshening her lipstick--a shiny, liquid-looking gloss--before the drive back to Roswell. "Three-thirty," she answered. "I should probably be on the road by noon."

"Why don't you come by the Crashdown for breakfast?" Liz suggested. "I know you didn't get to enjoy it yesterday, but we do make great breakfasts."

"I'll do that," Marryn smiled.

Liz pulled out her brush and began to fix her hair. "I wish you could stay," she offered.

"Me, too." Marryn tucked a glossy red curl behind her ear. "But there's my family--and Jesse's going to wonder where I am."

"Your boyfriend," Liz remembered. "Wait--you didn't tell him where you were going?"

"Big no." Marryn shook her head. "He doesn't know I'm. . .you know. Not from around here."

Liz stopped brushing and looked at Marryn. "Maybe you should tell him."

"That's what Isabel said," Marryn sighed. "You're both right--but I don't know if I can. I don't know if I can handle losing him."

"Marryn." Liz fixed her with a serious, yet sympathetic look. "Losing him because of the truth has to be easier than losing him because of a lie. Believe me."

Marryn's eyes were full of understanding. "I guess you'd know, wouldn't you?" she mused. She pondered for a moment, then took a deep breath. "Okay. I say we make a pact. I'll tell Jesse the truth about me and my past if you tell Max the truth about you and Kyle."

"I can't tell Max," Liz protested, shaking her head. "We don't know if the danger is over--or what will happen if Tess leaves."

"Yes, you can," Marryn insisted. "Look, we can't trust Tess any more, anyway. Do you want to keep driving Max toward her?" Liz didn't answer, but Marryn could tell the other girl knew she was right. "Liz, Max needs a reason to be human--you saw what almost happened tonight. He almost went away because he thought he was needed there more than here. Is that what you want?"

"Of course not." Liz felt sick just thinking about what had nearly happened just a few hours ago.

"Listen," Marryn continued decisively, "I keep saying that Zan and Max are different people--and that's true--but they do have a lot of the same traits."

"What are you saying?"

"That when people he loved were threatened, Zan didn't always take time to think things through." Marryn shrugged. "And really--that plan Max comes up with fourteen years from now? Not exactly a thorough strategy. What if Tess leaves because of something else? He can't keep her chained in a basement. . .not that that isn't seeming like a good idea right now," she added darkly. "He obviously didn't know the whole truth about Tess."

"Do you think we ought to tell him now?" Liz asked suddenly. She had forgotten about that.

Marryn sighed. "Tell him what? That she *might* have tried to mindwarp me? That she *might* have been in on Ronin's plan? We don't actually know anything except that she wants to go home." She scowled. "And if Max--future Max, I mean--was right and she is important to the team, accusing her would be a sure-fire way to send her packing."

"Oh. Right." Liz frowned. "But--"

"No buts," Marryn declared. "You tell Max, I tell Jesse."

"What are we telling?" Maria had come into the bathroom, and Isabel was just behind her.

"We. . .we were just deciding to come clean with Max and Jesse," Marryn said easily. "You know--no more secrets, no more hiding how we feel because we're afraid of committment."

"Oh, geez, I know what you mean," Maria agreed. "Michael Guerin is not an easy man to know--it makes you a little skittish about telling him how you really feel."

"Our whole situation. . ." Isabel sighed heavily. "When you don't know who you are or where you're going, it makes it hard to open up."

A heavy silence fell over all four of them as they stood there. Finally Maria shook her head. "When did we become the men in these relationships?"

The others couldn't help but smile at that. Marryn laughed, then set her chin determinedly. "So let's all make a pact, then. We come clean--completely. Because as bad as it could be, it's better than never knowing." She looked around at them. "Deal?"

Maria was the first to answer. "Deal," she agreed. "I can't handle almost losing him again."

Liz was next. "Yeah," she answered. "I love Max too much to lie to him any more. It's not fair to him."

Isabel hesitated, but Marryn wasn't going to let this go. "Iz?" she asked. "It's not easy. . .it'll never be easy for us. . .but Liz is right. They love us, and what we've been doing isn't fair to them."

Isabel pondered this for a long moment, looking at the floor. When she raised her head, her eyes were still troubled, but her jaw was set in a determined line. "Okay," she said finally.

Marryn smiled. "Good." She held out her right hand, pinky finger extended. "Pinky swear?"

Laughing, all they locked their fingers together in a four-way grip. "Pinky swear," Maria echoed. "That means it's a binding contract, right? We tell them the first chance we get them alone."

Part 26

It was late—very late—when Marryn unlocked the door to her motel room and stepped inside. She didn’t bother with the overhead light, but turned on a small accent lamp as she shrugged out of her pale pink pashmina wrap and tossed it onto the bed. She went to the dresser and stood there looking in the mirror for a moment. The face that greeted her there was young, but the eyes were infinitely old. A slight sigh made her shoulders—left bare by her black halter dress—rise and fall. Without turning around, she spoke.

“How long have you been waiting?”

“For you?” In the dim light of the lamp, Larek rose from a chair near the window and came to stand near her. “About a lifetime.” Their eyes met in the mirror and he smiled sadly. “I brought you these,” he said, handing her a bouquet of daisies.

Marryn took them and brought them to her face, touching the soft petals to her cheek. “They’re lovely,” she murmured. “Thank you.”

“They’re not like the ones I used to give you,” he said. “You loved them because they smelled so good. Nothing here is the same. The flowers. . .they don’t smell.”

“Some of them do.” Marryn could feel his eyes on her, but couldn’t bring herself to look at him; she buried her face more deeply in the flowers. “Some of them smell. . .like heaven.” She took a deep breath and raised her head. “Did you see my mother?” she asked finally.

He nodded. “Yes. She was relieved that you’re okay.” He looked away. “She misses you, Callia. We all miss you.” He paused, and shook his head. “*I* miss you,” he said finally, his voice husky with emotion. Larek stepped behind her and tentatively touched her arm with one hand. When she didn’t move away, he put his other arm around her waist and moved closer to her, inhaling the soft fragrance of her hair.

Marryn’s heart pounded painfully as she stood there, torn between the life she remembered and the one that was hers. Larek’s touch felt so familiar—she could not stop herself from leaning back against him, letting her body melt into his. She tilted her head to one side and he pressed his face against the warm satin skin of her neck as she put her hand over his where it rested on her hip. They stood there for an endless moment, and Marryn’s eyes were drawn to their reflection in the mirror. For a brief instant, their reflections seemed to blur and Marryn got a glimpse of another couple—a tall man with features all at once familiar and strange and a woman with long, pale hair. Larek and Callia. Then she blinked and the illusion was gone. A sigh escaped her lips and she stiffened ever so slightly.

Larek sensed the change immediately. “Callia,” he murmured, opening his eyes to meet hers in the mirror, “I just have one question.”

She nodded. “Anything.”

“Will there ever be a time for us?”

He words sent a sliver of anguish through her heart. He had waited so long—and no matter what she said, he would go on waiting. She turned to face him. “I don’t know,” she said honestly, and put her arms around him. He held her desperately, crushing her against him in wordless longing. After a moment, his touch became tender and he pulled back slightly to cover her mouth with his. She let him—but only for an instant.

Sighing, he pressed his forehead against hers. “Callia, I have to know. . .Is there someone else?” Marryn did not answer, but when Larek raised his head he found his answer in her eyes. Hurt darkened his eyes, but she found no anger in his face. He merely nodded sadly and touched her cheek, tucking a stray curl behind her ear. “Is he a good man?” he asked simply, and she nodded wordlessly. “And does he take care of you?” She nodded again. “And does he love you?” Another nod, and then a long silence stretched between them. Larek broke it. “Are you happy, Callia?” he asked, gently lifting her chin so that she had not choice but to meet his eyes.

“Yes,” she whispered, her voice choked. “Sometimes I miss it—miss all of you—so much, but. . .yes. I’m happy here.”

Larek closed his eyes for an instant. “I want you to be happy,” he murmured. “I want that more than anything.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and briefly tightened his hold on her. “I should go,” he said. “But if you need me, Callia, I’ll be waiting.” His arms crushed her to him, as though trying to imprint the feel of her in his memory forever. All at once he released her, but his hand lingered on her face, tracing her forehead, her cheek, the contour of her jaw. “I’d wait two lifetimes for you.” Then he turned to leave.

He was almost at the door when he heard her speak his name. “Larek,” she cried, her voice a sob. In an instant she had crossed the room and reached up to pull his head down. Her lips met his in a searing kiss filled with need, love, longing—and farewell. Tears streamed down her face, mingling with those on Larek’s cheeks. It seemed an eternity before she pulled away, breathless and choking back sobs. “What I said at the cave was true,” she whispered, her hands framing his face. “I have loved you for two lifetimes—I’d love you for twenty.”

Larek wrapped his hands around her wrists, his eyes locked on hers. “Always, Callia,” he swore in a shaky whisper. A jagged breath tore from him, and he bent to press one last, lingering kiss to her lips. Then he was gone and Marryn stood alone in the doorway, her cheeks wet with tears and her shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

Part 27

“There you go. Chocolate chip pancakes. With strawberries.” Michael plunked a plate brimming with fluffy, chocolate-chip dotted pancakes, fresh sliced strawberries, and whipped cream in front of Marryn. She looked at him in surprise; she hadn’t ordered anything yet.

“Michael, we don’t serve strawberry-chocolate chip pancakes,” Maria informed him, frowning.

Michael shrugged, looking embarrassed. “I know—I made them special for her.” He glanced at Marryn. “Last night I noticed you liked strawberries with the fondue.”

Marryn gave him a brilliant smile. “Strawberries and chocolate are two of my favorite things,” she said. “This is really sweet, Michael. Thank you.” She was still grinning as she took the first bite. “Mmm, delicious.”

“You know, I like chocolate and strawberries, too, Michael,” Maria said pointedly.

Michael nodded. “I know,” he said, giving her a blank look. She met his gaze with weary frustration, shaking her head.

“I wish you’d let me drive you to the airport,” Max was telling Marryn.

She shook her head. “I still have to turn in my car,” she said. “You’d either have to take the Jeep or find a ride back somehow. It’s too much trouble either way.”

“But you’ll have to wait at the airport by yourself,” Isabel protested.

“I don’t mind,” Marryn assured her. “I’ll get a book—I’ll need something to read on the plane, anyway.” She gave a wistful smile. “I don’t like goodbyes, anyway. Especially long ones.”

Alex drained his orange juice and set the glass down with a thud. “So we’re not allowed to say goodbye to you?”

Marryn shook her head, her eyes sparkling. “Nope. I simply don’t allow that word.”

“So what do you want us to say?” Isabel asked.

She thought for a moment, taking another whipped cream-laden bite of her pancakes. “Well, there’s. . .farewell, good luck. . .see you soon. Or you don’t have to say anything at all. Sometimes, no words are needed.” Her eyes met Liz’s across the table and both girls smiled.

“You’ll call, right?” Liz asked. “When you get back, to let us know you’re home?”

“Sure.” Marryn nodded, then glanced at the others. “Isabel and Liz both have my address and phone number, so you’d better keep in touch.”

“We will,” Max said firmly. “Maybe we can come out to Boston sometime this summer.”

“That’d be fun,” Marryn agreed. “We’ll go to a game at Fenway—oh, but you’re going to have to root for the Sox. You’ll never make it out alive otherwise.”

“Root for the Sox?” Michael repeated. “Let’s not jump to conclusions, here.”

As though from long habit, Marryn launched into a long diatribe defending the Red Sox. By the time she and Michael agreed to disagree—with a promise to continue their argument later, when the season started—Marryn had devoured most of her pancakes. Sighing, she pushed her plate away and looked at her watch. “I guess I better get going,” she said reluctantly.

“Already?” Isabel was disappointed. “Your plane doesn’t leave for a couple of hours.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to drop off the car and check in—I don’t want to miss my flight.” Marryn smiled. “Iz, don’t be sad, okay? I’ll be back. Promise.”

Isabel sighed. “I know,” she said, returning Marryn’s smile after a pause.

Marryn rose from her seat, shouldering her gray messenger bag. She was dressed simply, in jeans and a red tank top. A black calf-length cardigan lay on the seat next to her; she picked it up and folded it over her arm as she stood. “Well, I guess this is it.”

Max and the others stood, too. Maria went to Marryn and hugged her briefly. “I’m glad you showed up when you did,” she said. “Have a safe flight.” Lowering her voice, she added, “Don’t forget the pact—you pinky-swore.”

Marryn laughed. “I remember,” she assured Maria quietly. She nodded to Michael and continued in a louder voice, “He’s kind of surly, and a little rude, but he makes good pancakes. I’d hang on to him.”

Grinning mischievously, she moved on to Michael. He was prepared for another sarcastic comment, but she surprised him with a serious look. “Hey, what you did yesterday. . .that was great. We’d probably all be. . .well, you know.”

“Yeah.” He shrugged it off. “I know. It’s the job, right? What I was sent for.”

“Right.” She hesitated, trying to decide what to say.

Michael did it for her. “I’ll take care of them,” he said gruffly.

She smiled and then shocked him with a small hug. “I know you will,” she told him. When she stepped back, there was a devilish glint in her eye. “’Cause if you don’t, I’ll kick your ass.” She playfully punched his arm before stepping away.

Alex was next. She gave him that enticing, slightly crooked grin, her eyes twinkling. “See you around, Alex Whitman,” she said. “Watch out for strangers in fast cars.”

He laughed as he hugged her. “You watch out for those right hooks,” he retorted. “Next time, duck.”

“I’ll try to remember that,” she chuckled as he let her go. “You’re a good man, Alex.”

His ears reddened, but he tried to act casual. “Well, I try.”

She smiled as the flush crept to his cheeks. “You succeed,” she told him quietly, and planted an affectionate, if brief, kiss on his cheek.

Liz’s eyes were already watery by the time Marryn turned to her. “Marryn, I—I’m going to miss you.”

Marryn’s bright emerald green eyes were brighter than usual, though she was smiling. “I’m going to miss you, too.”

“Hey, if you ever need anything—”

“I know where to go.” Marryn and Liz hugged each other for a long time, tears in both their eyes. By the time they let go, tear stains marked both of their faces and they laughed at each others.

“Don’t forget to call,” Liz said. She hesitated for a moment, then hugged Marryn again. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Marryn smiled, and more tears spilled down her cheeks. “You’re welcome. Thank *you*.”

Isabel stood beside Max, teary-eyed and quiet. For the past two days, the loneliness that had plagued her all her life had eased a little. But now Marryn was leaving and the old loneliness threatened yet again. She tried to smile. “I wish you weren’t going,” she said.

“So do I,” Marryn admitted. “I like having a sister.”

“Me, too.” Isabel hugged the other girl tightly. “Come back soon.”

“I will.” Marryn gave her a watery smile. “Don’t forget what we said last night.”

Isabel nodded uncertainly. “Right.”

“I mean it, Iz. You’ve got to do this—for both of you.” She gave a small grin. “Anyway, you promised.”

“I know.” Isabel’s smile was uncertain. “I know.”

Marryn kissed Isabel’s cheek. “Good. I’m really glad I came,” she said.

“I’m glad you did, too.” Isabel paused. “Um, maybe I could come visit this summer. There’s some really good colleges in Boston.”

Marryn grinned. “Anytime. We’d have a blast.”

“Okay, then. I’ll call you.” Isabel hugged Marryn again, and when she finally released her, Max stepped close to them.

“Will you let me walk you to your car?” Max asked her. He smiled. “I promise not to say the ‘g’ word.”

Marryn’s grin softened. “Well, if you promise.”

“I do.” He put a hand out for her shoulder bag and she surrendered it to him. He put his other arm around her shoulders as they headed for the door.

Marryn glanced over her shoulder. “See you guys,” she said. They all waved and murmured farewells—careful not to say goodbye. Marryn and Max were almost at the door when Marryn suddenly stopped and looked at Max. “Wait a second,” she said, pulling out from under his arm. He stood there in surprise as she hurried back to Isabel and pulled the other girl away from her the others. “Listen,” she said, her voice low and urgent, “I should have told you this earlier. Remember how I said we all have things to regret?” At Isabel’s startled nod, she hurried on. “You aren’t the only one who betrayed our family. I didn’t choose my husband—that much is true—but I agreed to the marriage, and I pledged on our family’s honor that I would be faithful to him and to the vows I took. But I wasn’t. Not even for a day. I knew I would go back to Larek—even while I swore that I would honor my husband I knew I would be unfaithful to him. I betrayed the trust that you and our entire family put in me, and I always felt like *I* was the honorable one—like it was my God-given right to do what I did. I told myself I did it for love, and I don’t know—maybe I did. But no matter why I did it, the bottom line is that I betrayed everyone who loved me. I live with that every day.” Her eyes bored into Isabel’s and she wouldn’t look away. “But I don’t let it own me. Maybe I was a liar and a coward before, but that doesn’t mean that I am one now. We can learn from the mistakes we made before—if we don’t, what good is this second chance?” She nodded emphatically. “Let it go, Isabel. Learn from it, and let it go.”

Isabel nodded. “I will,” she promised.

Marryn hugged her quickly. “Good. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Isabel smiled—a real smile, this time—and watched until Marryn and Max out the door.

* * * * *

“So, do you have everything?” Max put Marryn’s bag in the passenger’s seat and leaned against the side of the car.

“Yeah, I think so.” Marryn fished her keys out of he pocket, but made no move to leave yet.

Max looked at her, squinting in the bright New Mexico sun. “I don’t know what to say to you,” he said honestly. “If you hadn’t been here. . .you saved our lives.”

She shrugged. “I think we were sent here to help each other,” she said slowly. “To use our knowledge and our abilities to keep each other safe. And to make sure that none of was alone.”

He thought about that for a moment. “Yeah,” he agreed finally. “I guess we were.” He studied her profile—for once her expression was open, lacking the sardonic, disaffected mask that she usually kept firmly in place. The Marryn Riley that stood before him was reflective, vulnerable—and maybe a little sad. “It must have been lonely for you,” he blurted, not sure what had made him say it.

She nodded once. “It was. But not anymore.” A smile lit her eyes, and something in Max’s memory stirred vaguely. They were playing beside a stream, and the sky was so very bright, lit by three suns. . . He wondered if she remembered, too, and when her eyes met his he felt certain she did. “Thanks for trusting me, Max.”

Still half caught in the memory, he smiled. “Who are you going to trust if not your family?” he asked.

She took a deep breath. "Right. Max, do you think you can trust me about one more thing?"

Max frowned. "Yeah--sure."

"Good." She fixed him with a searching look. "I know it's not my place to say this, but what happened with you and Liz--"

"What happened with me and Liz is. . .history," Max interrupted sadly.

"Max, things aren't always as they seem," she told him seriously. "You've got to believe me on that."

Max shook his head, the old anger welling up in him. "No, this is different. I saw--"

"You know what you saw," Marryn insisted. "Now what do you feel?"

Uncertainty crashed over Max like a wave. "I. . .Marryn, it's not that simple. She told me it was true."

"I know she did." Marryn touched his wrist, her eyes earnest. "But there's always another side. Believe me, Max, please. Give her a chance. For me, if not for yourself."

Max took a deep, painful breath. Could Marryn be right? She had been right about everything else in that past few days. But he had seen. . .He stopped. He of all people ought to know that you couldn't always trust what you thought you saw. "I--I'll try, Marryn," he said finally.

“Good." She stood on tiptoe and embraced him warmly for a moment, then stepped back. "I've got to go. But I'll see you soon. I promise."

“I know.” He released her. “And if you ever need anything. . .”

“Yeah.” She nodded seriously. “You, too—whether it’s something about before, or. . .just something completely normal.”

“Not much normal around here,” he said with a laugh.

She gave a wry smile. “No, probably not. Just. . .take care, then.” She paused for a second, then added, “You’re a good brother—you always were.”

“Thanks.” He stood there, waiting for her to get into the car, but she shook her head.

“Go—go back to your friends. I don’t want you to stand here while I drive away. It would be like some kind of bad movie.” She grinned when he started to protest, and refused to let him speak. “Go on. No goodbyes, remember? Pretend I’m coming back for lunch.”

He shook his head. Marryn was a puzzle, all right. “Whatever you say,” he smiled. “Have a safe trip.”

She stood there watching him. “I will.”

He looked at her one last time, then turned and headed back toward the Crashdown.

When the door had swung shut behind him, Marryn calmly turned around, folding her arms. “I wondered if you’d show up,” she said conversationally.

Tess stood near the front of the car. “I hope you don’t think this is over,” she said coldly.

“I’d be surprised if you did,” Marryn answered. She opened the car door and leaned casually against the door frame. “I may not know everything about you, but I know enough to realize you can’t be trusted.”

“Is that what you told Max?” Tess demanded.

Marryn shrugged. “Not yet.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know everything yet.” Marryn studied the other girl with appraising eyes. “But I will, and then I’ll have no choice. Max is my brother, after all.”

“You say one word to Max or any of them—”

“And you’ll what?” Marryn interrupted. “You think you’re big time, little girl? You’ll never be ready to play in my league. Never.”

Tess snorted. “You always were good with threats,” she smirked. “But even you know you can’t protect everyone all of the time. You never know when something might happen to one of them—to Isabel, or Max, or to one of the humans you think are so great.”

“Do you really think you can hurt them?” Marryn asked. “You’re not one of them, and you never will be. You know it, and they know it. And they’ll never trust you because of it. And you and I both know you’ll never get near any of their friends. Michael will make sure of that—he trusts you just about as much as I do.”

Tess stood her ground. “They’re not the only humans you love,” she retorted. “What about your family? Your father’s pretty old, isn’t he? It would be a shame if something happened to him—like maybe a bad fall. And your brother—he’s in prison, right? Even you can’t protect him in there. Must be pretty dangerous, too, with all those hardened criminals.”

Marryn’s face was pale, but her eyes hardened, glittering like cold, brittle emeralds. “You touch my family—if *anyone* I love gets hurt—I’m coming after you. And I will find you. Nothing you could possibly imagine will prepare you for what I’ll do to you then. Do we understand each other?”

“Why are you threatening me?” Tess asked innocently. “*I’m* not the one you should be afraid of.”

“Well, then, the next time you see him, you tell him I’m not afraid of him.” Marryn’s expression was steely. “I never was. And this time, I’m not afraid to kill, either.”

Tess’s smirk froze on her face. “You wouldn’t,” she said, but her voice wavered. “You’ve got too much at stake.”

Marryn smile was a stone-cold challenge. “Try me.”

Tess paled as her confident demeanor slipped a bit. She stared hard at Marryn, apparently trying to decide if the other girl meant it. Then she tossed her head and began to back away. “Like I said,” she told her finally. “This isn’t over.” She turned and walked down the street, her blond hair shining in the sun.

Marryn watched her go. “See you around.”
Part 28

When Marryn had gone—even before Max returned from helping carry her bags—Maria rose from the seat she had reclaimed only a moment before. “Time to keep that promise,” she told Liz and Maria. Nervously fixing her hair, she headed for the kitchen.

Michael was there, pouring a new batch of pancakes onto the griddle. He glanced up as she walked in. “Hey, what’s up?” he asked. “Did Marryn get off okay?”

“Yeah, she just left,” Maria nodded. She paused for a second, then blurted, “Michael, I need to tell you something.” He started to speak, but she held out a hand to stop him. “No, don’t interrupt,” she said quickly. “Just let me get this out.” She took a deep breath, and started in on the speech that had taken her most of the night to prepare. “Last night, when I thought you were going to leave, I got really angry. I thought ‘Yeah, that’s just like Michael Guerin, to leave without saying goodbye. Without telling me whether or not he ever cared.’” She paused for a second, then hurried on. “But then when I found out it was a trap, I wasn’t angry anymore—even though you were still planning on leaving me, but that’s beside the point. The point is, when I found that out, I got really scared. Because I realized I hadn’t told you the truth, either.”

Michael wasn’t paying attention to the pancakes anymore. Keeping up with an emotional Maria was more than enough to keep a guy busy. “See, I’ve been hiding how I feel from you, maybe even more than you hide from me. And so the whole way to the mountain I kept thinking how I was going to live with myself if I never got to tell you how much I love you.” She paused again, as though she had run out of steam.

Michael stared at her. “Maria,” he began, but she cut him off.

“No, wait! I’m not done.” She twisted her hands. “Look, Michael—I’m not going to ask you never to leave me, because I know how it is, and I know that one day you’ll probably have to. But when I thought that guy was going to kill you last night, I almost lost it. Because even if you can’t be here with me, I need to know you’re out there somewhere.”

“Maria,” Michael said again, but she didn’t let him finish.

She stepped closer to him, touching his arm. “The truth is, I love you so much that I can’t imagine a universe without you in it.”

They stood there in silence for a moment, then Michael touched her face. “Can I talk now?” he asked. “Because I was going to say that last night I was scared, too. Not of going back to our planet, or even of fighting another war. I was scared that I was never going to see you again. I always thought that I’d be. . .better. . .somehow, when we went back home. But I’d never met anyone like you before—someone who accepts me for who I am, but makes me better than I could ever be without you. See, the thing is, Maria. . .I need you.”

Maria’s eyes filled with tears, and she opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come. Finally, she managed to choke, “Oh, Michael.” Then she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.

Michael cradled her tenderly, closing his eyes, until an acrid smell made him look around in alarm. “Oh, man—the pancakes!” Maria raised her head and looked at the grill, where thick, black smoke was rising from the now-blackened pancakes.

“Michael—Michael, they’re burning!” she exclaimed. They both reached for a spatula and it clattered on the floor. Together, they bent to retrieve it, managing to bang their heads together in the process—and leave the spatula on the floor. Laughing, they dropped to their knees and before Maria could protest that the kitchen was going to burn down, Michael leaned forward and covered her mouth in a long kiss that made her forget all about the pancakes.

* * * * *

“Alex!”

Alex turned around to see Isabel coming toward him on the sidewalk. He had just left the Crashdown, and was on his way home to practice his guitar. “Isabel,” he said, determined to play it cool. “What’s up?”

She caught up with him and then stood there, seeming unsure of herself. “Um, well, I just wanted to see what you were doing.”

“Going home to rehearse,” he answered. “You know—my band?”

“Oh, right.” She nodded absently, then fell silent. “Look, Alex,” she began. “I know that I haven’t been exactly up front with you this year. I mean, before Tess came and everything, we were getting pretty close, and I liked that. But then when we heard about how we had this whole destiny and this whole other life and I was really confused, you know?”

He nodded, not sure where she was going with this. “Right—I’m sure it would be confusing.”

“Yeah.” She thought for a minute, then continued. “Anyway, I want you to know that I know the reason we aren’t together is because of me. You’ve been here this whole time, being so patient and such a good friend to me, and. . .I wanted to tell you that as of this moment, I’m not putting up any more objections. I like you, Alex—a lot. And I want to be with you, Alex. All you have to do is want me back.”

Alex’s jaw dropped. “Wha—are you serious?”

“Very serious.”

He shook his head, perplexed. “See—see, this is the thing that I don’t understand. I don’t mind waiting, Isabel. If you think there’s a chance for us, I’ll wait for you—and I won’t mind. But I just can’t take this anymore. One minute we’re hot—and we’re *really* hot. Like Fourth of July, summer heat wave hot. Then we’re cold again, and it’s more like December in Minsk. And that’s how people get confused, and—and the flu.”

Isabel nodded seriously. “Yeah, you’re right. I understand.” She smiled coyly. “But right now, I’m predicting a long hot spell.”

Alex couldn’t think of a single thing to say. He swallowed hard, trying to act natural. “Really?”

Isabel nodded. “Really.”

“How long are we talking?” he asked.

She blushed, but smiled brightly at him. “Pretty long.”

Alex knew right then and there that he would remember that moment for the rest of his life—the warm gentle breeze fanning them, the smell of spring in the air, the sun picking out individual strands of Isabel’s blond hair and turning them to spun gold. Had the sun ever shone quite this brightly before. He smiled at her and opened his mouth to speak, but he never got the chance. All at once, Isabel raised herself on tiptoe and gave him a hesitant, exploring kiss that took his breath away. When it was over, she grinned at him and backed away. “See you later,” she said. He was still too stunned to answer, and could only watch as he walked away. She was a few yards away when she called over her shoulder. “Are you still going to that concert tonight?” He mumbled an incoherent affirmative, and she smiled to herself. “Good. Pick me up at six.”

She was around the corner before Alex recovered his wits enough to answer. “Yeah,” he said to the empty street. “See you at six.” He couldn’t fight the enormous grin that stretched across his face as he continued on his way home.
Part 29

*Where did I put that hair clip?* Liz rummaged through her backpack, searching for something to pull her hair back. Michael’s little mishap with the pancakes had meant that Liz was going to have help out in the dining room until he and Maria got the kitchen back into order. Liz had just found a rubber band in her bag when she heard the door to the back room open behind her. “I’m coming, Maria,” she began, but stopped short when she saw that it was Max. “Oh. Max,” she said awkwardly.

He looked nervous. “Uh, Liz, could I talk to you?” he asked.

She smiled. “Um, yeah—actually that’s good because I wanted to talk to you, too.”

“You do?” he asked.

“Yeah, but, um—you go ahead.” She looked at him expectantly.

“Right.” Max frowned, looking at the tile floor while he gathered his thoughts. Finally, he looked up at her. “Liz, I know we agreed to be friends, and—and that’s been really. . .I mean, there have been times when I really needed you and you’ve been there for me, and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. But at the same time, it’s been really hard.” He paused and started to pace the room. “For years, I used to think that you were so amazing that if I could just be around you—just be your friend—I would be happy for the rest of my life. And then—I didn’t just get to be around you. I got to touch you, and hold you, and kiss you. I got to look into your eyes and see into your soul. And it was better than anything I’d ever dreamed. And then it was just gone.” He stopped pacing and stepped very close to her. “Liz, when I was with you, it was like I knew someone—really knew someone—for the first time in my life. I knew what you were going to do better than I knew what I was going to do. And I knew that you would never do anything to hurt me.”

Liz’s swallowed hard. “Max, I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I know.” He was so close to her he could sense her heart beating. “I know that it’s just not in you to do that.” His eyes were dark and intense as they bored into hers. “I know what I saw, and I know what you said, but. . .I know how I feel, Liz, and—” He broke off, caught up in a longing that bordered on desperation. She was so close, and her eyes had that old softness that had haunted him for months. All at once his control snapped and he grabbed her, framing her face with his hands, and kissed her.

Liz’s first impulse was to resist—she had been resisting for months, now—but almost before it registered, it was overpowered by the intensity of Max’s kiss. Slowly, her arms stole around his neck and she began to respond.

Max’s head felt light as he felt Liz begin to kiss him back. He had wanted to do this for so long—to be this close to her, to feel her body melt against his. Shifting slightly, he pulled her closer, his hands roaming over her back and shoulders. Part of him couldn’t believe it—she wasn’t fighting him, wasn’t trying to logic herself out of this. And then the flashes started.

*flash* Liz was running out of the pod chamber, tears streaming down her face, after they had seen the message from his mother. *flash* She was crying harder, so hard she could barely see, as she packed her suitcase to go to Florida. *flash* “This boy,” a strange woman was saying, “he is very important. . .He chooses love.” *flash* Liz, looking at herself in a mirror, a white lace scarf draped over head like a wedding veil. “I, Liz Parker. . .” *flash* “I need you to help me fall out of love with you.”

Stunned, Max pulled away. “What. . .Liz, did you see that? What was—”

“Max, I—” She began, but she got no farther.

He kissed her again, with even more intensity. The flashes came again. *flash* “Fourteen years from now we are taken over by our enemies.” *flash* “We need to change the future.” *flash* Liz was standing on her bed, backing away from—from him? *flash* “Things between us are about to change...grow deeper. We become inseparable, and nothing comes between us ever again, until...” “The end of the world?” *flash* Liz on her balcony, weeping quietly. “Do you know what are to me?” *flash* “I want my wedding dance.”

Max was reeling, but he kept on until he knew the whole story. By the time it was over, he was breathing hard, and his eyes were filled with tears. “Liz, what did you do?”

She was crying, too. “I had to, Max. There was no other way.”

“You—you did that for me?” he asked, still in shock.

“Yes,” she answered, unable to meet his gaze. She looked down at the ground and her hair fell forward, hiding her face.

Ever so gently, Max put his finger beneath her chin, lifting it so that she had no choice but to look at him. “Why?”

She choked back a sob. “Because—because I love you.”

A wild surge of joy made Max’s chest so tight he could hardly breathe. “Liz, you—you never slept with Kyle.” It was not a question.

“No. Max, I could never be with anyone but you.”

Max’s head was spinning. “When. . .when I saw you with him, I wanted to die.”

“I know.” She reached up and touched his face, her fingers brushing away the tears on his cheek. “I hated myself for hurting you, but I didn’t know how else to make you stop loving me.”

He seized her hand. “Stop loving you? Did you think that would make me stop loving you?” She was speechless, but he was not. “Never,” he said in a voice that left no room for doubt. “Not even for a minute. I loved you then, I love you now, and if you walked out that door this minute and never came back, in fifty years I’d still be in love with you, and only you.” He gently traced her jaw with his fingertips. “That’s what destiny is, Liz—not something someone pushes you into. It’s something beyond your control that you fall into, and you know that even if you live for a hundred years you’ll never get back out.” He tucked her hair behind her ear, caressing her face almost reverently. “That’s what you are to me, Liz,” he said, giving her one of his rare smiles—the kind of smile that made shooting stars seem commonplace. “My destiny.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but no words would come. “It’s okay,” he said. “You don’t have to say anything. I already know.”

* * * * *

It was early morning in Boston—a cold, gray, wintery morning that made Marryn shiver as she climbed the steps of the worn old apartment building just off Hanover Street. She climbed the stairs to the second floor two at a time, but when she got to the door of apartment seven she paused for a long moment. Finally, she put her hand over the door knob and a faint green glow lit the empty hallway as she used her powers on the lock. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and went inside.

Jesse lay on his side, the weak gray light of morning illuminating his peaceful face as he slept. Sheets and a soft blue blanket were tangled about his shirtless body, and his strong, muscled arms hugged a spare pillow tightly to his chest. Marryn smiled as she stood in the doorway. She loved how he looked when he slept. He was always so peaceful—no troubled dreams or fragmented memories for him. And somehow, when he was next to her, her own dreams didn’t seem so frightening. After a moment, she shrugged out of her coat, quietly removed her shoes, and crawled into bed beside him.

His arms curled around her instantly, and he gave a drowsy smile as he woke. “Shouldn’t you be in Vermont?” he asked.

“No.” She smiled as he pressed his lips to her forehead and moved aside so she could snuggle close to him. “I should be right here.”

“Yeah?” he grinned. “That’s good.”

She glanced at the bedside clock, then gave him a quizzical look. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready to go to school?”

“No. President’s Day. So I should be right here, too.” He kissed lightly, smiling. “See how that works out?” Contentedly, he pulled her tight against him, breathing in the familiar scent of her hair. “I’m glad you’re back. I missed you,” he said.

“I missed you, too,” she said honestly. “A lot.”

“Good. Hey, how’d you get in, anyway? Pick the lock again?” he asked, yawning.

She paused for a long time, hiding her face against his shoulder. “No,” she said finally. “I didn’t pick the lock.” Another long silence stretched between them. “Jesse, I have to tell you something,” she began after a moment, “and I need you to be quiet, and not make any judgments, or decide what you believe until you hear the whole thing. Okay, Jesse?”

He ran a hand over her bright curls. “Sure. You can tell me anything, Marryn. You know that.”

“I know,” she nodded, daring to glance up at him from beneath lowered lashes. “That’s why I can tell you this.” She took a deep breath. “It starts. . .in a place very far away. So far away that no one’s ever been there and come back. . .”

* * * * *

The phone rang, startling Liz as she sat on her balcony with her journal balanced on her knee. “I’ll get it,” she said, smiling at Max, who sat across from her reading a book. He smiled back as she picked up the phone. “Hello?” she asked.

“Did you tell him?” Marryn’s voice came across the line, making Liz’s smile widen.

“Yes,” Liz answered, watching Max as he went back to his book. She couldn’t remember being this happy. Max had barely left her side since their talk in the Crashdown the day before, seeming unable to bear being apart from her. He had gone home last night only when they were about to fall asleep, and this morning he had shown up at he window before she had even finished drying her hair. She didn’t mind; after so many months apart, they had a lot of time to make up for.

“And?”

“It’s good.” Liz sighed happily. “What about you? Did you tell Jesse?”

“This morning.”

“And?”

“It’s good.” Liz could hear the smile in Marryn’s voice. “You and Isabel were right. He said he doesn’t care where I came from, as long as he can be where I am.”

“I’m glad.” Liz paused. “Marryn, thanks again for everything.”

“You’re welcome. Thank you, too.” Marryn was quiet for a second, then she said, “Liz, you know this probably isn’t over. Not completely, anyway.”

Liz thought of Tess, still in Roswell, and of the many others who followed Kivar, and her smile dimmed a little. “I know,” she said seriously. “But whatever comes up—we’ll handle it. We’ve done it before.”

“Yeah.” Marryn gave a small sigh. “We’ll make it.” She cleared her throat. “Look, I’ve got to go. We’re going to hear a jazz band in Harvard Square.”

“Okay,” Liz agreed. “I’ll talk to you later, then.”

“Right. I’ll call you. Tell everyone I said hi. Talk to you later, Liz.”

When they had hung up, Liz set the phone back down and looked at Max. “That was Marryn. She says hi.”

“She got home okay?” Max asked.

“Yeah.” Liz nodded. “She’s good.”

“Good.” Max closed his book and put it on the ground as Liz picked up her pen and returned to her journal. He watched her contentedly for a moment, then asked in a teasing tone, “Are you ever going to let me read that?”

Liz looked up and grinned. “Maybe someday,” she answered coyly.

He stood up and came to sit beside her on the edge of the lawn chair. “What do you write about?”

She shrugged. “My life. Stuff that’s important to me.”

“Like what?”

Her smile held joy and contentment; her eyes were overflowing with love. “Mostly?” she asked. “You.”

--THE END--