posted on 9-Sep-2001 12:32:25 AM
Title: Altered Perceptions - Prologue - Chapter 18
Author: Jenna Kay
Feedback: sparkle_ball⊕ or sparkle_ball⊕
Archive: Anywhere, just ask me first *happy*
Rating: PG-13 just to be on the safe side
Keywords: M/L, CC
Spoilers: Departure and the horrible rotten S2
Summary: After Departure, everyone bands together to uncover secrets, reveal the lies, and make some startling revelations.
Disclaimer: I do not own them. Katsim, Metz, and UPN have that claim to fame. I just want to borrow them for a little while. I promise to return them as good as new. Please don't try to sue me. I don't have much money. You'd be at the end of a very long line of people wanting to collect.


"What happens now, Max?"

Isabel's voice was steady although she felt anything but that. The so-called "Ice Queen" was reeling with shock. She looked as lost and confused as the little girl she was when she broke out of her pod. Confused and scared, but not alone. Thank God she wasn't alone in this.

How could one of their own betray them like that? Tess was one of them. They'd trusted her. But she killed Alex. Then she almost sent them back to face a death sentence. Their whole world got turned upside down yet again.

"I have to save my son." was Max's only reply. A look of grim determination settled over his face. Never had he sounded more authorative, more like the king he was destined to be, than he did at that moment.

No one around him was about to say anything to contradict that. Emotions were still running too high. Besides this was not the time or place to point out the impossibility of his statement. Tess was gone. There was no way to reach her where she was going. So they let Max's words stand un-refuted while silence reigned.

They stood there amid the destroyed ruins of the rocky hiding place of the pod chamber. The wind whipped around them, hot and dry as only a desert breeze could be. The sun shone brightly overhead. It was deceptively easy to just close your eyes and pretend that this was just another ordinary day.

But it wasn't just another day. Their world was changed. They were changed. A truth was revealed. The six of them were now saddled with the unpleasant task of trying to piece things together again. To try and fix months of anger, betrayal, and lies.

Kyle was the first to break the silence.

"We should get going. Not that this hasn't been fun. It hasn't. I don't want to just stand around here like some refugee from a Gap ad. And since I'm caught up in your messed up lives, don't you think we should figure out what to do next?"

"Kyle." Max stated in a low voice. He said the name as a warning. It was clear from his tone that he was close to the edge emotionally. All he'd need was a little push to go over it.

Liz intuitively realized how close Max was to losing it. She had to prevent him from snapping. The six of them needed to stick together, now more than ever. She placed her hand on Max's shoulder, hoping that would give him some measure of calm.

"You know, Kyle has a point. We shouldn't stay here. We need to go somewhere comfortable and try and think all this out. Put our heads together to come up with a plan." Liz calmly pointed out.

Max sighed heavily before speaking. "You're right Liz." as an afterthought he added, "Kyle." He nodded in his direction.

"Good. I'm glad that's settled. Let's head back home, there's nothing left out here. We'll head back to the Jetta and meet you..." Maria's voice trailed off as something occurred to her. "Hey! That reminds me, I didn't see Bob around here. How'd you get here?"

"We walked." Michael answered.

"What do you mean 'We walked'? Why didn't you just use the Jeep?"

Michael looked away with a slightly sheepish expression. "We pushed it over the edge into a canyon and blew it up."

Maria slapped him upside the head.


"And whose brilliant idea was that? Huh Michael? What was the point?"

"We thought it would be better if everyone thought we were dead. Seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Uh-huh. Great plan. But what about the bodies? They don't declare you dead without any remains. Did you even think of that?"

"Valenti was going to take care of it." answered Michael.

"The sherriff isn't even sherriff anymore. What could he do? Didn't anyone think all this out ahead of time? Now how are you guys gonna get back? I don't think we'd all fit in the Jetta. Oh God..." Maria's rant filled tirade ended as the events of the morning finally sunk in. "I don't know if I can take this. I came so close to losing you. You almost left me."

"I'm still here 'Ria. I'm not going anywhere. Not anymore. You're stuck with me." With those words he leaned down and captured her lips in a brief kiss. After a few moments Michael pulled away. He turned to everyone and said, "Come on. We can all squeeze into the Jetta."

He grabbed Maria's arm and guided her back down the path.

Liz, Max, Isabel, and Kyle trailed after the couple. Everyone kept their distance, because they realized that Michael and Maria had just passed a turning point in their relationship. And while they were glad that they were happy, It brought to the forefront of the others' minds, how much each of them lost. The irony of the circumstances wasn't lost on them either. Maria and Michael now had the most stable relationship out of them all.

Maria's voice carried from the other side of an outcropping of rocks. "The Jetta's cramped with 4 people in it. You can't stuff my car with everyone. It isn't a clown car."

"Well it is red like a big clown nose."

The sound of Michael yelling "Hey! Stop hitting me. What's your problem?" It seemed to almost echo around them.

"Don't you ever put me through that again, Michael Guerin..." Luckily their voices faded as the distance between them and the others grew as they continued their trek to the car.

At least some things were back to normal.

If only the rest of them could say the same.

Liz had a feeling it would be a long time before she would be anywhere near normal. Normal was something she left behind long ago. All she knew for certain was that things between her and Max had been bad for too long for a few pretty words to make everything all right. It would be a long hard road to reconciling.

But first she had to make it through the day. She had to stay strong just a little longer. All she needed to do was survive the discussion and brainstorming session. She wasn't going to let talk of Tess and Max's child break her. Not in front of everyone.

Liz could already tell that this was going to be a really long day.

Little did she know that their true destiny had only just begun.

Edited by - Psyche G on 09/10/2001 01:43:00
posted on 9-Sep-2001 12:48:43 AM

Chapter 1

The six of them eventually decided to go to the Evans' house. Max and Isabel's home was the only place where they could hang out comfortably and not be interrupted. The only other choice they'd had was not even a reasonable one. They could have gone to Kyle's house, but with everything that happened, it would have made everyone more ill at ease than they were already.

When they arrived, everyone exited quickly from the Jetta. Not only had it been very cramped inside, but everyone had been unnaturally silent. At least after it was decided where they were going. Then silence descended upon the car. Each passenger was mulling over their own thoughts.

They were all stunned by the news of what Tess did. That was the main thing that was running through their heads. The revelation was just starting to sink in now that they had time to actually think about it. For the time being, there was nothing more to distract them from acknowledging the inevitiable. There was no choice but for them to face it.

Kyle was still reeling in shock about his part in Alex's death, and what Tess did to him. He couldn't get past knowing that they opened their house up to her. He and his dad cared about her like she was family. Then to do what she did. He'd never faced that kind of betrayal before. How should he deal with it? He wasn't even sure if Buddah had any pearls of wisdom that covered this kind of situation.

Michael felt betrayed and angry. The only thing that was keeping him from going off and dealing with this betrayal alone, was Maria. She needed him, whether she was aware of it or not. Maria on the other hand, was trying to think of a way to get everone in a better state of mind. As much as she was hurting, keeping everyone together and lightening their mood fell on her shoulders. She was the only one lively enough to even try and accomplish that task.

Isabel's loyalties were torn in two. She wanted to help her brother get his son back. She didn't want her nephew to be born and raised alone with only that Thing to nuture it. But she couldn't hurt Tess without hurting her nephew.

On the flip side, she wanted to kill Tess for what she did to Alex. She took him away from her just when they were finally on the same page in their relationship. It would only be fair to have Tess pay for what she did in kind. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a life for a life.

Max was berating himself. He found himself looking back over the past few months with a new clarity. He'd made so many mistakes, too many errors in judgement. From the way he treated people, to the ways he hurt the ones he loved. How could he accept their sympathy and forgiveness, when he couldn't forgive himself?

Tess had been right about one thing. He was a boy, not a king. He couldn't keep his life together on Earth. How could he be expected to lead so many others?

And on top of all those guilt filled emotions, was the knowledge that he created a child with the wrong person. He also let his son be taken by her to a far off world that he never wanted any part of. Not only was he going to miss out on seeing his son grow up, but the fact that his enemies would be the ones to raise him. They could so easily pollute his son's mind against him. That is, if they let him live. That knowledge was what was tearing him up the most at the moment.

As for Liz, now that things had settled down, she was trying to sort things out in her head and make sense of everything. The problem was that there was no rhyme or reason to things. For every thing that she knew, there were still hundreds of questions that she had no answers for. And the few things she knew as truth, raised even more questions.

From everything that had gone on in the past year, one of the main things found out was that the Granolith was powerful. Not only could it be manipulated to send someone through time, but she was under the impression that Max's enemies wanted it because it was of profound importance. Like it was some kind of icon of power or a symbol of of worship. The Skins and the people from Max's meeting in New York, both wanted to get their hands on it.

Liz didn't understand what the point was if it was just intended to be a one shot rocket back to their home world. If that was the case, it made sense that the Skins would want it to get back home. But why would the others off-planet want it? It wouldn't do them any good.

Also, how long had Tess had the ability to manipulate people's minds like she'd done to Alex, Kyle, and Maria's mom? From what she knew about mind warps, they were an illusion created to mask events that were happening at that time. But from what she remembered from the hostage situation, that isn't what Tess did.

Tess actively forced the memory out of Maria's mom's head and replaced it with something that fit in with the alien's agenda. She remembered it in her flashback. Liz knew that neither she or Maria would have condoned what was done. So it stood to reason that since no one called Tess on what she'd done, that she had the ability to manipulate everyone's memories. Or at the very least, simultaneously manipulate Mrs. Deluca's memories while mindwarping everyone else. Which brings up a very valid and important question. When did Tess get so powerful?

Which made her want to know, how long Tess had been toying with people's minds? It was apparent how little regard Tess had for anyone or thing else. How would any of them know what was real and what was not? Was everything from when she showed up in Roswell, a lie? So many major events happened while she'd been here. It was impossible to know what was fact and what was fiction.

Did the Skins really kill Nasedo? Were all the husks in Copper Summit truly destroyed? And did Tess really destroy the Skins when every human in Roswell had disappeared? What exactly happened to Tess just after the dupes tried to kill Max with that scaffolding? And why did she need Alex to translate the book? Tess grew up with Nasedo, why didn't he tell her what the book meant? Didn't he know? If Nasedo didn't, why would they send someone so ignorant of their culture, their birthright, to be the four-square's protector and prepare them for the future?

Then there's the biggest question of all: What about the Max from the future? Was that even real? She gave up on the greatest thing she had in her life all because future Max asked her to. What was the point if Tess was going to betray them all along? If Liz never went through with that, would that have made any difference? Would she still be together with Max? Would Alex still be alive?

Did her choice get him killed? That was the one question that she was most afraid of the answer. It had popped into her head every so often when her guard was down. Each time it arose from the ashes, like the phoenix, she would stomp it back down and put it out of her mind. That was the one thing that she couldn't face yet. It hurt her so much to even consider it. Even dealing with the Max situation was something she'd rather do instead.

She honestly didn't know what to do about Max. She still couldn't believe how he said that he was never wrong about loving her. In a way, it was really nice to hear him say he loved her. She could almost believe that things were going to be okay. At least for a moment before the harsh reality set back in. He'd been with Tess. Max "the so-called saint" didn't use protection and got her pregnant.

If that didn't show how much he loved her, then his behavior did. He hadn't been the Max she'd loved for a long time. He refused to listen to her theory about Alex. He jumped to conclusions. He turned his back on her. He yelled at her, and was mean towards her. He manhandled her. Threatened her with an ultimatum. But what really rubbed salt in her wounds was how Max betrayed their love by doing what he did with Tess.

She had no idea what to do at this point. All this time she'd been so focused on finding Alex's killer, she never allowed herself to think about anything else. Now that she achieved her goal she didn't have anything else to consume her and keep her from facing everything all at once. She only had to get through this meeting and make it back to her house before she fell apart. If she could last till then.

The group had trouble agreeing on what to do. But they were unanimous on one decision. They needed to contact Kyle's dad and let him know that he shouldn't do anything about the video tape. So Max called and told him that there was something important they needed to talk to him about in person. Valenti promised that he'd get there as soon as he could. Leaving everyone to another bout of tension filled waiting.

Then Maria decided that they should eat first, and that Michael was doing the cooking. Liz was volunteered into helping out. Maria knew her friend would need a distraction to focus on. She ordered everyone else to veg out and try and relax until things were ready.

They tried very hard to pretend that it was a normal get together. The TV was on in the background. Set to some cheesy sci-fi movie, which they all ignored. Max, Is, and Kyle were sprawled out pretending to watch the movie. Maria tried to keep up a steady stream of chatter as she set the table. Michael did the cooking, while Liz assisted him by preparing it.

To the casual observer, it looked like a typical gathering of friends for breakfast. They wouldn't notice the solemn attitude of the teenagers in the room. How unnatrurally quiet most of them were being. You had to look very hard and closely to see the brittleness in their smiles, and the pain in their eyes.

But it was there. This group of teens each had the sorrow filled eyes of someone decades older. They had been through too much too soon. They encountered bitter unforgiving truths that most people never get to know. And while those truths haven't broken them, they have driven a wedge between them.

A wedge that they must now try to remove so they can work together. They knew that they'd have to try to get past their feelings so they can be a team again. They'd suffered enough losses to not want to risk losing what they still had. That was why they were trying so hard to get along as they sat and ate their breakfast.

Liz especially, knew how difficult this would be. And how important it was to stick together. Nothing worthwhile was ever easy.

She was about to find out just how hard it would be.

They all would.

Chapter 2

Liz looked down at the pieces of paper on the table in front of her. All of her hastily written notes were listed there. It had taken quite a while to get past some of the questions that were had and get down to accumulating what they knew to be fact. Now she was trying to make some sense of it.

Six pairs of eyes watched her as she tried to organize her thoughts before she spoke. Everyone, including Max, Isabel, Michael, Maria, Kyle, and the recently arrived Sheriff Valenti were all crowded around the Evans' kitchen table. They were waiting somewhat patiently for her to share her comments.

It still amazed Liz how everyone immediately looked to her to clarify things. They relied on her to give them a different perspective. Usually they turned to her as if "Science Girl" was her official title. Now they looked at her as if they expected her to solve this the same way she figured out the mystery of Alex's non-existent trip to Sweden.

She felt the weight of her friends' expectations bearing down on her slender shoulders. They had complete faith that she could find the answers to this, too. She, herself wasn't as confident. Liz only hoped she was up to the challenge. She didn't want to disappoint them.

Liz shuffled her notes one last time and began to speak.

"Well we know Tess could mind warp. I'm not sure, but what I remember her doing was a bit different than that. It seems that at some time, she developed the ability to implant and remove people's memories at will. I believe that is what she did to Kyle, Alex, and Maria's mom. It's the only thing that makes sense. Which makes me wonder how strong her abilities were. And why didn't anyone know?"

"That's a very valid question. But here's a better one. How did you realize what Tess was doing? None of us did. Why you?" Michael asked with a touch of skepticism. Michael wouldn't be Michael if he didn't question why. It was his nature. He was never very trusting to begin with. And with what happened with Tess earlier that day, it was understandable that he'd revert back to old habits.

"I don't know. I'm not sure. Maria and me were talking when we heard her mom start yelling about Larek. We went to see what was up and she was having some kind of episode. She was yelling about what happened during the hostage situation. All of a sudden she seemed to snap out of it and was back to normal. Then I noticed she was tapping on the stove. She was tapping out the same rhythm that Kyle and Alex had tapped out on other occasions. Then I had this sort of flash where I remembered what Tess did to prevent Mrs. DeLuca from exposing everything."

"Wait a minute." Michael turned and looked at his girlfriend, "Maria, you wouldn't have stood for that. If Tess messed with your mom, It's not like you to take it lightly. Why didn't you say something? You should have told me." Michael commented to Maria. It was so hard for Liz to believe how sincerely concerned he was about Maria. She'd never thought she'd see the day.

"I would have, Space Boy. I didn't know what that little witch did. I don't remember it happening the way Liz said. Mom was resistant to saving Brody, but I wore her down. I guess that didn't really happen, did it? Does that mean Tess messed with me too?"

With that realization, she turned to Michael and buried her head in his shoulder. Liz could see that she was shaking. And if Liz knew her best friend, she bet Maria was shaking with impotent rage. In a weird turn of events, Michael was the one trying to calm her down. Could life in Roswell get any stranger?

"Liz, I still don't see how you were able to see through that. How is that possible?" asked Isabel.

"I don't know. But I think that's a good one to add to the ever growing question list." Liz replied as she motioned toward the various papers piled in front of her.

"So Liz, where does that leave us?" Max finally spoke up. During most of the discussion he'd been silent and pensive. Lost in his own thoughts. Especially when the conversation drifted away from the 'how do we save his son' topic. At least now he was acknowledging what was going on. He was actually looking at people and not down at his hands.

"We know that Tess had been using her abilities to manipulate others. We don't know who she did this to or how far back it goes. She had Alex decipher the book long before she got pregnant. The question is why?"

As soon as she posed that question, Max's face fell. He started to break eye contact again. It seemed to Liz that he was horribly shamed by this question. She could tell that he knew the answer to the question she just posed. He just didn't want to face it.

Just when Liz had given up on getting an answer and was about to continue her comments, Isabel spoke up.

"Max, if you can't tell them then I will. " At that, Max's head shot up and he gave her a questioning look. "Like I wasn't going to find out why she killed my... Alex. So I eavesdropped..."Isabel shrugged. She then turned back towards everyone else and continued, "Nasedo and K'var made a deal 40 years ago. Tess was to get pregnant with Max's child and then deliver us to our deaths on our home planet. Also, I don't know how this is possible, but she said that K'var was not her enemy."

"How can that be if she was one of you?" Sheriff Valenti asked.

It was obvious that he was still reeling from the fact that the girl who had become part of his family, could betray them the way she did. But he at least was dealing with the news better than Kyle was. Every time her name was mentioned, Kyle would cringe and get more agitated. Not that anyone, other than his father, noticed.

"I don't know. It's probably a good question to add to Liz's list." Max answered as he briefly met Liz's eyes.

When their eyes connected, time seemed to stand still. It was almost like when they first fell in love. Except now she could see how ashamed he was for letting Tess into his life. She could almost feel the burden he carried on his shoulders. Knowing how much he regretted everything that happened almost made her heart beat for him again.

A part of her wanted so badly to hold him in her arms and murmur comforting words into his ear. Despite everything, her love for Max hadn't died. Somewhere deep inside her were the glowing embers of it, just waiting for moments like this to flare up. And attempt to weaken her resolve. Liz was not about to cave in to it, though. She had too much self respect to allow that to happen. Her mind could not let her heart win out.

Liz refused to let herself be sucked into Max Evans' love again. It was like a black hole in space. Except instead of light getting trapped, her heart would be. And there was no way to escape it... ever. The last time she was caught up in him, it devastated her to have to let him go. She couldn't afford to risk what was left of her heart. She'd be left with less than nothing. Besides, she wasn't in any hurry to go through that kind of pain again.

She tore her eyes away from him. She looked down at her hastily written notes and began to pick up where she left off.

"It's most likely to assume that the Granolith sent Tess back to your home world. So we need to try to find if there's another way back. Or possibly read the translation to see if there is a way to reverse the course and have the Granolith turn around and come back here. If that doesn't pan out, Max ,Isabel, do you think you can find a way to contact Larek? I remember he seemed genuinely interested in helping you."

"That's a good idea. Didn't he say something when we were worried about gandarium poisoning that there was a way to pick us up. But we'd have to find our own way off the planet in order to do so." Max said in all seriousness.

All of a sudden, Kyle snorted loudly. Everyone turned to look at him.

"What Kyle? Do you have something you wanted to add?" Max asked with a decidedly defensive tone.

"Well yeah. 'Get off the planet'? You're not Superman. How the hell are you going to do that? Sprout wings and fly?"

"I think Larek mentioned something about the space shuttle..." contributed Isabel.

"Are you serious? I can't believe this. That's your plan? Car-jack the shuttle? Oh right. That'll work. And people called my grandpa crazy."

"I've got to agree with my son. That doesn't seem to be a very well thought out plan. Do you have any idea what kind of security measures they have at NASA? You'd have better luck breaking into Fort Knox." The former Sheriff Valenti tried to appeal to reason.

Max held on to this idea as tenaciously as a dog with a bone. "If we worked together, I'm sure we could do it. Right guys?"

Michael and Isabel nodded their heads less than enthusiastically. It escaped no one's notice that they were not willing to verbally agree with Max.

"Which we are you referring to? The Royal WE? Or we, meaning us lowly humans?"

Liz cringed as she heard Kyle's sarcastic tone. Things were going downhill fast.

"Look Kyle, whatever your problem is, this isn't the time for it. If you can't contribute anything useful to help me save my son, then keep your mouth shut." Max said with barely controlled anger.

"But what about Tess? What about making her pay for what she did? Doesn't that matter? Or are we back to Us versus Them."

Liz decided to get in the middle of the testosterone war between Max and Kyle. Hurling insults was the last thing they needed. This wasn't about who's right or wrong. The group didn't need to get driven any further apart.

"Kyle calm down. I think Max meant to say that figuring out how to get there is the first obstacle. I know that getting his son AND Tess back to Earth is the main priority."

"She has a point there. You're overreacting a bit. You need to find some way to calm down. You could try meditation. Or maybe aromatherapy? That always worked for me." Maria did her part to calm down the ticking time bomb known as Kyle.

"Don't worry. Tess will get what's coming to her. She's the one to blame. Not Max." Michael added in a very dangerous sounding voice.

"I am so sick of everyone standing up for him." Kyle turned and focused his next words to Max. "Who died and made you king? Oh wait... You did. You know, its no wonder that you died on your planet the first time. Not if you were as brilliant as you are now."

Max's face paled at Kyle's harsh words. Everyone at the table fell silent, shocked by what was said. A line was crossed that nobody ever thought would be crossed.

Sheriff Valenti reached out and placed his arm on Kyle's shoulder. "Son, calm down."

"I can't believe you said that. I know you're angry and hurting, but so is Max. Don't take your issues out on my brother." Isabel stated vehemently.

"My issues? I'm sorry if I'm not jumping on the delusional bandwagon. I've had more than enough. It's about time that someone had the guts to say the truth. This is all Max's fault. He brought that bitch into my house. She killed Alex. She messed with my head. My family never asked to be part of the 'I share a house with an alien' club."

Kyle finished speaking and stood up. It was obvious that he was about to bolt out of there. It was just a matter of time.

"Kyle, I invited her in. Max only asked me, I chose to let her stay. It was my decision." countered his father.

"Look everyone, why don't we call it a day before it gets any more out of hand. We've all been through a lot. I know I could use some time to myself. We can put off figuring out the truth till tomorrow." Liz stated in what she hoped was her most calm and placating voice.

"Know what? Do what you want. Just do it without me. The truth is... I don't care. Tess is gone. The Granolith is gone. She's on your stupid planet by now. And there is no way you'll ever be able to reach her."

With those words he turned his back on them and stormed out of the house. Leaving them in startled silence.

Sheriff Valenti stood up and grabbed his jacket. "I'm gonna go keep an eye on him. It's just hurt talking. He was really close to Tess." He then solemnly followed the path his son took to head outside.

Silence reigned heavy over the remaining five teens. Nobody was directly watching Max, but he was under close scrutiny just the same. The sideways glances eventually got to him.

"Guys, I really can't take any more of this right now." Max stood up quickly and ran off. A few moments later the door to his room could be heard slamming.

Michael stood up and turned to Maria who was sitting in her chair. He held out his hand and helped her to her feet. Once she was standing, their hands remained clasped, fingers entwined. United.

"Hey, Chica. We're heading over to Michael's. Do you want a ride?"

"Yeah, it's no big deal to drop you off at the Crashdown. It's on the way." added Michael.

"No it's ok. You guys go ahead. I think I wanna walk." Liz replied.

She didn't want to intrude on them. It was obvious that the couple were closer than ever before. And in all honesty, it wasn't easy to be around people so obviously happy in love. Especially since her life was so far from that. Liz could barely remember how that felt, it had been a long time.

"Ok. If you're sure... Call me later." Maria managed to get out before Michael led her out the door.

The door closed behind the couple with a soft click. A strained silence settled over the remaining people in the room. Two young women, a study in opposites, sat at the now uncrowded table. One was tall and fair, the other petite and dark. One girl was part alien, the other human but changed.

Both girls were just starting to realize that despite their differences, they had more in common than previously thought. That commonality, gave them a better understanding of the love and heart-breaking sorrow that they each had endured. And out of that understanding came sympathy.

"Isabel, I'm sorry about... everything." Liz said as she started to gather her papers together.

"Don't be, we owe you. You saved us. Alex would be so proud." Isabel said softly, sniffing back tears.

"Could you check on Max for me? I know how hard today was on him. Kyle managed to push all his buttons. The way things are, I don't know if he'd want to see me."

"Sure, I was going to do that anyway. I'll let him know you care. It does means a lot to him." Isabel stood and walked over to Liz and gave her an awkward hug. Then she started to leave the room. "Just let yourself out." She added over her shoulder as she disappeared from sight.

Liz slowly stood in the now empty room. Silent tears running down her face. It occurred to her that she was as alone as she was the night Alex died.

Except this time she had nowhere to go but home.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 12:52:28 AM

Chapter 3

"No, go ahead. You're not boring me. I'm really glad that you and Michael are getting along so well. It's about time that someone gets to be happy." Liz said into the phone.

Liz was sitting on her lounge chair on the roof staring at the lone citronella candle next to her. Listening to Maria and watching the flame dance in the slight breeze had managed to accomplish what nothing else had all day. For a few brief moments she was able to put Max out of her mind.

It was only a temporary respite though, because her friend's next words brought reality back into focus.

"Have you even heard a word I said? You know you don't need to face this alone. I got your back if you need me."

"I know you do." Liz replied. But her lack of faith in what she said couldn't have been more obvious.

"Liz, I'm not going to abandon you. I lost Alex, I'm not about to lose another friend. Nothing will come between us again. Not even Michael."

"Don't say that. You shouldn't let anything come between you and who you love. Things fall apart when you do."

"Oh, chica." Maria said with a sigh. "You're thinking about him again aren't you? You've gone through so much because he asked you to. Thinking about that isn't going to help things. It'll just make you hurt more."

"I can't help it. Alex would have been alive in future Max's world. Max would have been with me. Tess would never have hurt us the way she did. All this pain and betrayal is because of me. Because I changed the future." Liz's voice became tight with all her pent-up emotions.

Every single wall that Liz had erected around her heart, was beginning to crack. She could feel the crumbling pieces collect at her feet. Until all that was left standing was the framework that supported the walls. It was barely strong enough to keep her from falling to pieces herself.

"Don't you say that, Liz. None of this is your fault. If you have to blame someone, blame future Max. Blame the idiot who sent them here. Hell, blame the damn Granolith. You saved their alien asses. If they only knew how much you sacrificed for them. They owe you everything."

Liz took a deep breath and held it until she felt a little more in control of her emotions. She then let the breath out in a long drawn out sigh. "We can't tell them. It will only stir up the waters even more. Promise me you aren't going to say a word... Maria?"

After a long pause, Maria finally grumbled out her promise. "They won't hear it from me."

"Thanks, Maria. That's one weight off my mind." Liz's voice sounded strange, even to her at that moment. There was a strained weariness to it. She sounded older than anyone her age had a right to be.

"Chica, you don't sound good. Do you want me to come over? I can get over there in a flash..."

Liz interrupted Maria. Knowing her friend, she'd probably be getting ready to come over as she spoke. Liz didn't feel up to having company. She needed to face her pain in private. As much as she loved Maria, she couldn't deal her right then.

"That's ok, I'll be fine. Trust me. I guess I'm just exhausted. This has been a really long day. You know?"

"If you say so. But if you need anything, promise you'll call me."

"I will. I swear... It's getting late. And I'm kinda tired. So I guess I'll get going."

"Ok. Goodnight. I'll see you tomorrow. And Liz?"


"I know why you cut me off. I'll let it slide this time, but next time won't be so easy to ditch me." Maria said with a lighthearted chuckle. Then she hung up on her end.

Liz turned off her phone and stared into the flame of the candle one last time. When she couldn't find that blissfully numb trance-like state, she snuffed out the flame. The only light was from what little came from the street and also spilled out of her bedroom windows.

Of its own volition, her hand reached for the pendant around her neck. She lifted it up to eye level and looked at it. It amazed her that this tiny relic was the only thing she had left from Max's love. The only thing other than bittersweet memories.

A thousand fragmented thoughts raced through her mind. There was nothing specific, but it was all related to the mostly aborted departure. She couldn't help but shiver at the feeling that there was something she overlooked. Something important.

She looked up through the darkness at the twinkling sky above. Even the stars seemed to know more than she did. She couldn't help but feel as though they were laughing at her lack of knowledge. The V-shaped formation of stars in particular seemed to be mocking her. Gloating at her inability to see what they saw.

She shook off those thoughts and headed back into her room. She closed her window. Then she took off her robe and laid it over the chair to her desk. Finally she turned off the light and climbed into bed.

Night closed in around her, as the tears streamed down her face. Her muffled sobs sounded loud in the quiet room. She was finally letting herself cry like she hadn't since Alex died and she found the binary code. But this time she was crying for everything she'd lost; Alex, Max, love, and all of their innocence.

Future Max had been right when he said that it was a different world. It was, and not necessarily a better one. But it was all she had, and she was determined to face it. She owed it to her oldest friend to continue on. She just hoped Alex would've been able to forgive her. Or that she could at least forgive herself.

She clutched on to Max's pendant as the tears ran their course. Sleep didn't come easy to her. But when sleep finally claimed her, the pendant was still tightly in her grasp. Her tears drying soft on her pillow.


Liz discovered herself standing alone in a dense fog bank. The slowly swirling mist enveloped her. She didn't know how she got there but it didn't really faze her.

What did bother her was that she was surrounded by the mist. It made her feel uneasy. Trapped. Suffocated. She could barely see the edge of her fingertips if she extended her arm out. She had the eerie sensation that she was not alone in the fog.

The grey mist seemed to conceal more than its fair share of secrets.

Her nerves were on edge and then she heard it... "Lizzzzzz."

The sound came from all around her. She couldn't specify what direction it originated from, so she turned around in a slow circle to ascertain it's source.

Three quarters of the way through the turn, she stopped. What she saw made her gasp.

There was a figure in the mist moving closer. All she could see were vague features slowly being unveiled by the fog. The first thing she could make out were piercing blue eyes. They were familiar to her. She could just make out the shape of her nose and mouth.

Tess. It was Tess.

Panic welled up inside her. Liz knew that she had no defenses against her. She wasn't even sure if Max, Isabel and Michael could withstand Tess's underhanded tactics. Frantically, she backed up in a feeble attempt to get away. The grinning face kept advancing on her.

"Yo' cornball. Chill!"

Liz stopped in her tracks as realization dawned on her. Not Tess.


"You catch on quick. No flies on you." Tess's dupe said with a warm smile.

As soon as Liz realized that it wasn't an enemy, the fog started to recede. The silvery swirling mist drew back and revealed the other girl. She still had the same hair. She still dressed as though she belonged at a Rave. But Liz couldn't see any piercing or tattoos.

"What are you doing here? Is this a dream? Do you know what happened?" Liz asked as she gave the other girl a friendly hug.

"Hold up. I ain't gots much time. I need to show you something." Ava grabbed Liz's hand and began to pull her in the direction she'd started walking.

"This is a dream. None of this was here a moment ago."

The ground underneath her feet was pebbled with rocks. She sun was shining brightly down overhead. They were in the desert, the same place Ava was pulling her uphill towards the rock formation where the pod chamber used to be.

"Here we are." Ava said as she stopped before the hidden entrance to the pod chamber. She turned to Liz expectantly. It was apparent that she was waiting for Liz to make the next move.

"Yep, this is a dream all right. This isn't here anymore. What are we doing here? Why are you? Are you real or what?"

Ava rolled her eyes. She mumbled under her breath, "I shoulda known you'd do this. Cornball thru and thru." She cleared her throat and spoke again in a much clearer voice. "You need to go through there. Just open the door and walk through."

"What? I can't. That isn't a door with a door knob. It only opens if one of your kind opens it. So go ahead. Open it and we'll enter."

"I can't, Liz. I wish I could do it for you. This is something only you can do."

"Me? I can't. You're deluded. I don't have powers. What happened in November was just a fluke. I'm not like you."

Ava turned to face Liz head on. She looked into Liz's eyes and spoke softly but with conviction, "You can do this. It's in you. Ya' just gotta believe in yourself."

Liz stood there trying to analyze Ava. She wanted to know what the other girl's angle was. While it was true that she was the only good member of the 'dupes, Liz wasn't sure how much she could trust Tess's look-alike. Then again, she trusted Ava more than she ever did Tess. Her instincts said that there was no danger. And her instincts never steered her wrong before.

"Ok. I'll do it. What do I have to do?"

"Clear your mind. Wave your hand here, and concentrate on what you want to have happen. It's that simple."

Liz figured she didn't have anything to lose since this was just a dream, so she waved her hand where Ava told her to. Much to her shock, the handprint appeared. Acting on instinct, she placed her palm against the symbol. Liz watched in fascination as the entrance to the pod chamber opened in front of her.

Ava placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled proudly at Liz. "Yo' I knew you could do it. Let's go in. It's time for you to go home." Ava ignored Liz's look of confusion. "After you..." She gestured for Liz to go first.

Liz stepped through the entrance and found herself in the Crashdown. She looked behind her only to see the normal glass of the restaurant's door. Ava was nowhere to be found. And she was most definitely not in the pod chamber.

This was home to Liz. She'd spent most of her life in her family's restaurant. As she ran her eyes over the familiar room, it struck Liz that something seemed off. All the colors seemed slightly brighter, more vivid. It almost hurt her eyes to look at some of the colorful alien themed displays. And the noise level seemed so loud to her ears. There was nothing out of the ordinary going on, but the sounds were almost too much to bear.

She found Maria behind the counter. She was leaning there talking to Michael. Who apparently was taking some kind of break. They had a book open between them. Liz got the impression they were discussing something serious judging by the expressions on both Maria's and Michael's face.

Maria looked up and gave Liz a blinding smile. "Liz! Liz. Come over here and settle something for us. We can't agree on what this means."

Liz blinked and suddenly found herself standing next to where Michael was sitting. Maria turned the book around for Liz to read. It was a part of a passage by Edgar Allen Poe. Liz read it silently while Michael read it aloud:

You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

Something about that poem struck a chord in Liz. She couldn't help but feel that there was something, some meaning about it that was dancing just beyond her grasp. What was she supposed to infer from that?

Liz had been so caught up with puzzling over hidden meanings that she hadn't noticed Maria talking. All of a sudden, Liz caught the tail end of what Maria had been saying.

"... So really if what we know of life is an illusion, how do we know for sure what is reality? At least that's the impression I get."

"Maria, you're looking at it the wrong way. It's not about the fact that life is an illusion or a dream, its about the fact that, no matter what the cause, once you lose your hope for the future the illusion of this life takes hold and the illusion becomes the only reality that you know."

Liz was completely confused. On some level, she knew that it was all just a part of her dream. What she didn't understand was why this dream was different from the ones that she usually had. And why were Michael and Maria having a literary discussion? What was the point?

No sooner had she thought that, Isabel swept into the room and headed over to Liz. She leaned close to Liz and whispered in her ear, "Prepare yourself, 'His Royal Dumb-ass' is about to grace us lowly peons with his presence." Isabel then slid onto a stool next to where Kyle had been sitting. Although Liz could have sworn that he hadn't been there before.

A fanfare of trumpets filled the air, announcing Max's arrival. Not that Liz needed any kind of warning. She could sense him nearby. The doors opened and the crowd that hadn't been there a moment ago, parted like the red sea before Moses.

Max strode in to the cafe. He was the epitome of extreme self-assurance. He strode into the room with an imperial intensity. If his mannerisms didn't announce that he was a king, then the jewel encrusted crown on his head did. Then she stepped aside and Tess came into view. She made her way over to Max and started to tilt her face up to his for a kiss.

There were many things in life that Liz could stand. That was not one of them. Liz turned away before her gagging reaction could set in. Not only did seeing him with her break Liz's heart, but it also made her physically sick. So she focused on the second hand of the clock on the wall. After what seemed longer than 60 seconds, she felt safe enough to turn back around.

She didn't expect to hear the sounds of cheers and applause from the crowd around Max and Tess. Her curiosity was piqued. Liz maneuvered herself closer to the commotion. Eventually she found a vantage point where she could actually see what was going on.

The sight before her eyes made her wish that a cataclysm would happen right then and there. Never had she wanted to be put out of her misery as she did at that moment. Michael stood on the side of Max with a glass of cherry coke raised in his hand.

He began to speak, "I'd like to congratulate the royal couple..."

At those words her head whipped around to take a better look at Max. He stood there in a tuxedo looking so handsome that she forgot to breathe. Then she noticed what his arm was wrapped around. Tess stood next to him in a dress just like the kind Liz always imagined that she would wear on her wedding day.

It was such a horrible picture. Not only was Tess in THE dress that Liz wanted to get married in, but she also was the bride of the man she thought she would spend the rest of her life with. How could this be? She never thought it would hurt so much to have the last hope of love ripped away from her heart.

She felt like making a scene. She felt like she wanted to die. She felt like running away and crying on her grandma's shoulder. She wanted to curl up in a ball and wait until this nightmare ended.


Suddenly, Liz wasn't consumed with despair anymore. This was all a dream. A rotten, horrible dream. And since it was a dream, she could wake herself up from it.

She grabbed a hold of her arm and began to pinch it as hard as she could. She refused to stay in the dream a moment longer than absolutely necessary. So she doubled her attempts and began to pinch her skin even harder. She could feel it beginning to work as the world around her started to become hazy and vague.

Liz turned to look at Max one final time. She didn't see him. Just a bloody mark on the wall near where he'd been standing. Tess stood there with a smug smile on her face. Then Liz noticed that the crown on her wasn't real. It looked like one of the paper crowns that Burger King used to hand out to little kids with the kiddie meal.

Liz didn't understand why she was wearing a fake crown. Didn't anyone else notice that it stuck out of place like a sore thumb? Nothing was making any sense.

Just as the last traces of the dream were finally fading away, Liz saw who was standing around congratulating Tess. The dead Congresswoman Whitaker stood there with an evil smile on her face. Liz could make out the faces of some of the people who she knew were Skins.

As she watched, a short male stepped up to Tess and planted a disgusting open mouthed kiss on her. He drew back and Liz knew that face. It was Nicholas.

He and Tess both turned and looked at her. They smiled the most evil smiles that she had ever seen in her whole life, at her. They knew she was there and were toying with her.

Liz awoke with a silent scream on her lips. She was gasping for breath. Her heart was beating a rapid pace. She was shaking as tremors wracked her body.

It took her a while to calm down and realize she was safe in the confines of her room. As wakefulness slowly claimed her, the memory of the dream dissipated. All she was left with was vague memories of talking to Ava. She only had a strange feeling that things weren't what they seemed. And for some reason, the phrase "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" kept echoing in her head.

Liz punched her pillow and rolled over on to her other side. She just hoped that she wouldn't have another nightmare. And as she slowly fell into sleep, her last thought was that more nightmares would be the perfect ending to a less than perfect day.

She never noticed the bruise that appeared on the arm she had pinched in her dream.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 12:57:14 AM

Chapter 4

It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining brightly as it rose overhead. The sky was clear, with not a cloud in sight. The early morning sunlight was just starting to burn off the chill of the desert from the night before. The wind which had whipped around them so strongly the previous day, was nowhere to be found. The dry desert air hung heavy over the area. It was almost as if the desert was holding it's breath, waiting. Waiting for an elusive... something that Liz couldn't begin to know or understand.

Cautiously Liz made her way back to the location of the pod chamber. Pebbles crunched underneath the soles of her tennis shoes. She was struck with a sudden sense of deja-vu. For a moment she felt as though she'd stepped back into one of her dreams. Liz looked around checking to be sure that she was still alone. She half expected to see Ava come out of nowhere, like she vaguely remembered happening in her dream.

That had been the first in a series of dreams that cast a seed of doubt in Liz's mind as to what was fact. All night long she'd been plagued with troubling dreams where things were not as they seemed. Most of which involved Tess, the Granolith, and the pod chamber. Liz couldn't remember anything specific, just a general theme that left her with a great sense of uneasiness.

That was why she got up and headed out there as soon as day broke. She had slept so fitfully that it was a relief to wake up early, just so she could go assure herself of the truth. She was compelled to investigate the area where the pod chamber was. If only to assuage the doubts her dreams had created. She needed to find cold hard proof that the Granolith was gone.

She looked around and scenery was just as she remembered it from the day before. Debris from the launch littered the area. She carefully made her way around the larger pieces of rubble that stood between her and her destination.

When she got there, she just stood there and looked around. Liz didn't have any idea of what to do next. She had been so single minded in her determination to get there, that she didn't plan what she was going to do to when she arrived. Unsure of what she was looking for, she leaned against the the side of what was left of the rock formation that housed the pod chamber. At least before the previous day's destruction. Now it was just a large pile of boulders and rocks.

She stood there and couldn't help but think that something was not right. She couldn't shake that feeling. It was the same one that had kept haunting her for most of the night. It was a nagging sensation at the back of her mind. She couldn't quite make out what was off about the situation, but she was certain that there was something that she was overlooking.

Sweat began to trickle down onto her forehead and trail down the side of her face. She started to reach up to wipe it away when she noticed that she'd been tapping the fingers of her free hand against the rock. Liz's eyes opened wide in shock.

Her fingers tapped out the very same rhythm that Amy, Kyle, and Alex did while under Tess's influence. That was the very moment that Liz realized that Tess had done something with their heads. Or at the very least, performed the mindwarp to end all mindwarps.

Liz felt that she was very close to the truth... so close she could almost taste it. She turned around to look at the rocks that had encased the pod chamber, closely scrutinizing the destruction all around her. The sight before her flickered and she began to see that the destruction wasn't real. It was an illusion that was superimposed over her reality. Everything looked the way it always had.

Slowly she began to realize that if the rock formation was still intact then the pod chamber might be also. She searched her brain trying to remember how the others were able to get in. She remembered that Max would hold his hand up and wave it over the rock face and a glowing handprint symbol would appear.

Feeling somewhat foolish, Liz held up her hand and tried to do that. Unfortunately it didn't work. What was she thinking? Only aliens can get in there. They had powers she didn't have.

Or did she?

Months ago, Ava had said that Liz had been changed because of what Max did. Could it be possible that she had the ability to do this? She never knew she could dream walk until she did it to save Max in New York. But she had been able to do that. Maybe she could do this.

From what she could recall from her dream last night, Ava said she could do it. And she did in the dream, if she remembered correctly. Would it work if she tried again? Liz closed her eyes and focused her mind on gaining entry to the chamber. To no avail.

Vaguely disappointed, she leaned her body against her elbow which was now braced against the wall. Her hand was hovering over the approximate spot that opened the entrance. It was begining to get uncomfortably warm and the spurt of energy that got her there had finally wore off. She felt as though she'd reached an insurmountable obstacle. There was no time like the present to try and figure out "What now?".

While she was leaning, Liz felt someting poke her in her jeans' pocket. she used her other hand to reach in and find out what was jabbing her. She pulled out her hand and found the pendant that Max gave her.

As much as she wanted to bury it along with her feelings for Max, she couldn't. But that didn't mean that she would wear it around her neck like her own personal albatross. She could keep it in her pocket and no one would be able to spot her weakness. With everone around her falling apart, someone had to appear strong.

She looked at the small object in her hand. The pendant felt warm to her touch. She was still amazed that he gave her this, one of his precious few links to his orgins. It was such a touching gesture. It was exactly the kind of thing that the Max she fell in love with, would have done. She missed the boy who risked everything in order to save her life. All because he loved her. Liz looked at the relic and began to remember all the good times she'd shared with Max.

Suddenly, she felt an odd tingle that coursed through her body and exited the hand that was hovering over the rock. She looked up and saw a glowing silver handprint. She was amazed. She was stunned. To say she was surprised by that would be an understatement. Although, the phrase 'shocked out of her wits' came close to capturing her tumultuous emotions.

The symbol appeared for her when she wasn't even trying. She didn't really believe that she had it in her. How could that be? What did that mean? Why her? Was there any way to get her heart to stop pounding so loudly? She was feeling anything but calm. But she wouldn't let that stop her. She was bound and determined to get to the truth. More so now, than ever.

Now that she had the silver handprint in front of her, she wasn't sure what to do next. Liz closed her eyes and remembered one time that she was outside the chamber with Max. He waved his hand over the spot to get the handprint to appear, then he placed his hand over the handprint. Liz decided she would try and imitate what Max had done. She let her hand come to rest against the rock, her palm to the handprint.

Suddendly the rock face opened, revealing the chamber within.

Cautiously, Liz climbed into the pod chamber. The sight before her stunned her. There was no damage. The chamber looked the same as when they all stepped in there yesterday. Not that that proved anything, necessarily. It was possible that this outer room didn't receive as much damage because it was all localized in the Granolith chamber.

Liz had no choice but to enter the one room that she dreaded the most. The Granolith chamber was where there was absolute proof that the Granolith launch did or did not happen. If it did, then she would do everything in her power to help Max find a way to his home world. If it didn't, then that was an even bigger can of worms that they'd have to deal with.

She took a deep breath and entered the room containing the one object that had caused more havoc in her life than anything else. She gasped at the sight before her.

The Granolith was still there. It loomed majestically in front of her. At that moment, all was silent. Unlike the other day when they confronted Tess, the room and the granolith was dark. No swirling colors. Nothing at all that would make her fear it.

Liz could hardly believe that THIS was the object that changed her life. It didn't look that important. Ever since Max came to her from the future, she'd felt a great deal of resentment towards the Granolith. It irrovocably changed her life. Leaving her to try and pick up the pieces and salvage what she could.

If it didn't exist, her life would have been so different. None of the other alien factions would be hunting them down to get their hands on it. There would have been no war for control of it. Isabel and Michael would never have to worry about being killed in battle 14 years in the future. She and Max would have been able to love each other and have a family. And Alex would have still been alive.

So really, like Maria pointed out, the Granolith was the cause of all her problems.

The Granolith that stood before her.

The Granolith that stood before her fully intact and not shot off to whatever planet her friends had come from. Which meant that the launch was all a mind warp. Which also meant that Tess was still on Earth.

Tess was out there somewhere. And there was no way to tell where. For all Liz knew, Tess could be lurking in the shadows of her own mind.

Nowhere was truly safe any more.

She had to go and tell the others.

Chapter 5

Liz paced back and forth outside the pod chamber, her anxiousness showing with every step she took. She kept glancing in the direction her friends would be coming from, with the vague hope that her watching for them would somehow make them arrive faster. She checked her watch for what seemed to her to be the thousandth time.

"Where are you guys?" She muttered to no one in particular.

Liz was more than just a little worried about her friends arriving safely. If Tess was still on the prowl, then it would be easy for her to get at them along the way. To perform the most basic of all strategies: divide and conquer.

As that thought quickly passed through her head, a new hypothesis started to form in her mind. Was it possible that that was what Tess had been doing all along? Liz thought back over the past year since the blond girl entered their lives. Unless she was mistaken, that was exactly what happened.

First, she arrived and wheedled herself into their lives. Then she caused Max to act oddly and supposedly helped to awaken his alien nature. Then she claimed her part of the 4-square. All along she let it be known how little she cared for humans. How in contempt she held the people whose planet she was living on.

Then came the whole 'destiny' fiasco. That was the blow that cracked the foundations of the relationships between the humans and the aliens. That was the moment that the idea of working together to find answers was shoved to the side. Everything from that point on was a case of 'Us versus Them'.

Actually it was so obvious in retrospect that all Tess had done from the very beginning was to divide them. It surprised Liz to realize that. She never thought of that before. She knew she didn't like nor trust Tess from the very first. In a way, she thought her dislike of Tess stemmed from plain, old fashioned jealousy.

Tess had a connection to Max that she couldn't compete with. They were destined, engineered to be together. So much was riding on the four of them. They had a future waiting on them that had no room for her in it. That was why she left Max standing in almost the same spot as she stood now one year later.

And if Liz was going to be honest with herself, that wasn't the only reason she left. She was just a human. How could she compete with the destiny of an alien king? As much as she loved Max, there was always a tiny but vocal part of her that didn't believe that she was was worthy of him.

As crazy as that sounds now, it was how she felt back then. So much was different from the year before. She never imagined that she'd have to stand on her own. She never knew what she could do until she was faced with the situation. She'd been through so much that had changed her, made her stronger.

A year ago, she needed Max. His love was as vital to her as was air to breathe. Now she was able to breathe on her own.

And Max... He'd changed too. And not necessarily in a good way.

Her Max had been honest, kind, compassionate, and level headed. Which is a far cry from the one she knew now. It seemed that every good quality was eradicated from his personality. Most of the time she felt as though she didn't know this Max. Only on rare occasions did she catch a glimpse of the boy she fell so hard for.

Never in her wildest dreams would she had imagined that things would turn out the way they did. Hell, most of the events of the past year were way beyond the realm of imagination. Max sleeping with Tess, Alex's death, cutting school to go to Vegas, the gandarium incident, Max being haunted at Christmas, her dreamwalking Max, the disappearance of all human Roswellians, and the Max from the future incident.

All of a sudden, a thought occurred to her. Was it possible that Tess had a hand in the 'arrival' of future...

Liz's train of thought was interrupted when she heard, coming from a distance, the sound of Maria's car. She didn't have to see it to know that it was the Jetta. Other than her friends, virtually no one ever came to this desolate area.

The car sounded as though it was getting the workout of its' lifetime. Liz couldn't help but smile as she imagined Maria pushing the car to its limits in order to get to her. This was one of those times she wondered what she did to deserve as good a friend as Maria was. She could tell that her friend was hell-bent on reaching her. Heaven help anyone who would dare stand in her way.

Liz was a bit sorry that her friend was probably panicking over nothing. When Liz called her to get her to gather everyone out there, Maria might have gotten the impression that something was wrong. Which wasn't the case, she just lost the signal with her cell phone. But she didn't have a chance to let her know that.

Liz hurried down to greet the car. She didn't want to waste precious time. Now that they arrived there the hard part would be trying to get them to follow her. She wasn't sure how she'd get them to see what she did. All she knew was that it was important that she try.

She reached the bottom just as Maria's car pulled up in front of her. No sooner had the engine turned off, Maria was climbing out the door. She stumbled slightly as the car rolled as a result of its forward momentum.

"Liz! Liz! Are you all right?" Maria ran around the car over to where Liz was standing. She grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into a fierce hug. "You had me so worried! I didn't know what to think, when the call got cut off. I didn't know what was happening. After our talk last night, it seemed possible that you... you... Like it was a cry for help."

"Oh Maria." Liz briefly returned the hug. She then stepped back and watched the others climb out of the car.

Max climbed out from the driver's side of the car. He looked over the roof of the Jetta at Maria and commented in all seriousness, "I think you broke the sound barrier."

Michael took his time getting out of the car now that it was obvious that there was no immediate danger. He stood and tilted his head from side to side, making his neck crack. "Why can't you drive like that when I need you to? Are you in training for NASCAR? Huh, Maria Andretti?"

The final passenger of the car climbed out in time to hear Michael teasing Maria. She evened the score. "Hey Michael, doesn't Maria have a birthday coming up? You know, I think she could use a new set of shocks." Isabel laughed at the look on Michael's face. He looked as though he was about to spew fire at her.

Isabel turned her back on him. She walked over to where Liz, Max, and Maria were standing. Is gave Liz a small friendly smile and said, "Is everything ok? We all were really worried about you. Maria was working herself into a tizzy."

"I'm ok. I'm fine. Really."

"Well, that's great. You're fine. I'm fine. We're all fine. Now that we've established that, care to tell us why we all got dragged out here. You had Maria freaking out of her mind. What's the deal?" Michael said with no small amount of sarcasm and annoyance.

"Ignore him, Liz. He's always cranky when he first gets up." Max stepped closer to Liz and grabbed a hold of her hand. "Would you tell me what was so urgent? And why did we have to meet you out here? Not that I mind seeing you..." His last words were soft and breathy, and spoken in a low voice for only Liz to hear.

Liz made the mistake of looking in his eyes. For a moment Liz lost herself in them. She felt almost as though she had been transported back in time. In his eyes she saw all the love for her that she used to see. She couldn't seem to tear herself away. The world slowed down to a crawl. The only thing that existed in her universe was Max and her.

Slowly, time began to move again and Liz became strongly aware of how sensuously Max was stroking her hand with his thumb. Somewhere in between the smoldering look in his eyes, the sexiness in his voice, and his innocent caress which made her long for not so innocent things; Liz could feel her resolve weakening.

She couldn't allow that to happen.

Liz blinked then shook her head. She pulled her hand out of his grasp and took a step back. She pointedly made the effort to not look at his face. She knew that if she looked up at him, she would see his pain etched so clearly on his face. And once she saw that, her heart would break and she would try and comfort him. Despite her common sense.

She wouldn't be able to stay strong if that occurred. And right now the group, and mostly herself, needed her strength. They needed her to focus on the matter at hand. If things were as dangerous as she feared them to be, she had to be able to keep her mind on track.

"Where's Kyle?" She asked of no one in particular.

"He refused to come. His dad said that he was having a real hard time with this. Sheriff Valenti seemed really shaken by Kyle's reaction." Isabel informed her softly.

Once again Liz blinked. She was a bit surprised by Isabel's explanation. Although she had gotten the impression the day before how badly Kyle was handling things, she never expected his reaction. And what scared her even more was the fact that the sheriff was shaken. She knew it was something bad when the most unshakable of them all was discovered to be just as vulnerable as the rest of them. Liz promised herself that she'd try and talk to them as soon as she possibly could.

"Ok, then I'll fill them in later... Max, everyone, I can't explain to you what I'd discovered. You wouldn't believe it. So just follow me. This, you got to see. Come on."

"Liz..." Someone called out behind her.

Liz scrambled up the path to the pod chamber. She reached the top and turned around to face the others when she noticed that they were still far down the path. Max chose that moment to look up at her and she was stunned by the fear and worry that was plastered on his face. And she knew then that it was all directed at her.

She was confused for a moment. Then as she watched her friends go up the path, she began to understand. They were going up the path cautiously, as though the ground they were walking on was decidedly unstable. Now that she thought about it, she must have looked much like they did when she first climbed up there hours ago. Her friends were still caught up in the illusion created by Tess.

She was so caught up in reasoning things out in her head that she didn't realize that Max had finally reached the top. All of a sudden, she felt Max pull her against him in a frantic hug. She could hear the thunderous pounding of his heart beat.

"Oh god, Liz. What were you thinking racing up there like that? You could have fallen and broken your neck on the rocks. Don't you ever put me through something like that again! Do you hear me!"

"Max calm down. I wasn't in any danger." She said softly to him as she slowly disentangled herself from his embrace.

The others had finally reached them and they all looked at her with concern on their faces. Maria stepped forward and was breathing deeply in order to regain a sense of calm. "Liz, oh my god you scared me half to death. Why did you do that?"

"It's not what you thought. Take a look around here and tell me what you see."

"Well it looks kinda like the rock formation exploded. There's barely anything left standing." Isabel told her.

"Yeah, all that's left of our heritage is this big, stupid pile of rubble." contributed Michael.

"Michael and Isabel are right. There's nothing left." added Maria.

"I think we all agree that it's destroyed. I just don't understand why we're here, Liz. What was so important?" Max asked with an indiscernible look on his face.

"You're just seeing an illusion. It's not real. I think Tess did something to us to make us believe that nothing was left."

Her revelation caused Maria to gasp. And she thought she saw Michael and Isabel draw in a sharp breath. Max was the only one who reacted differently.

"Liz, I don't think this is funny. Not after yesterday. There's no way that Tess would have the strength to do that. She was so sick and weak. I can't believe you're acting this way." Max said as he stood there tensely. The vein by his forehead was pulsating with anger filled frustration.

"Do you see me laughing? I am dead serious. You have no idea what Tess is capable of..."

Max cut her off. "Oh and you do? So tell me, Liz, how do know that? What makes you jump to these wild conclusions?

"Max, would you shut up! From day one, you all have had these weird blinders on where Tess was concerned. I didn't understand it then, and I don't now. How can you defend her after everything she's done. You didn't believe that she would kill Alex. But she did."

"What Tess did doesn't matter now. Like Kyle so rudely pointed out yesterday, she's gone. She's on her way back home. It does us no good to argue about her now. Not when she can't defend herself."

"Like she gave Alex a chance to defend himself?" Liz shouted in Max's face. She took a step back and took a deep breath. She held it while she counted to ten. When that didn't work, she continued counting until she reached twenty. Then she shakily let the breath out.

She looked up at Max's glowering face. In a soft, caring voice she said, "I don't want to fight with you. But you're wrong. Tess isn't gone. She's still on Earth. The Granolith is still here."

She wasn't sure what it was she said that made Max finally snap, but snap he did.

He charged forward and grabbed her painfully by the arm. He started to shake her so violently that she was almost afraid that her arm would fall off. He looked positively demented. Kind of like when he was trying to pull the king card on her so she wouldn't go to Sweden, but worse. Liz wasn't afraid of him, she was just a bit unsettled by his mood swings.

"Stop it Liz! Just stop it! I don't know what game you're playing this time. Just quit it! Tess is many things, but she's also the mother of my child. Stop acting like a jealous harpy..."

Before Liz was even aware of what she was doing, her free hand raised up and gave his face a resounding slap. The sound of her hand connecting with his face echoed around them. It silenced him, although it did nothing to lessen his anger. The faint traces of her hand print were beginning to show on his face. She didn't think she'd hit him that hard.

Only then did she realize that the others were standing around with their mouths agape. They were in shock. They couldn't believe that Liz did that. Not that she didn't have justification.

"Get your damn hands off me, Max! I'm not the one with the problem here. I'm the only one seeing things clearly." She took the hand that was still stinging from slapping him and reached for where he was holding her arm. "Let go of my arm! You need to wake up... and..."her voice trailed off into a gasp as her hand came into contact with his.

The very second that her hand closed over his to pry it off of her, something unusual happened. She felt a brief tingling of electricity pass between her and Max. It was like the static charge you'd get when you walked on carpeting on a really dry day. Except it was like twenty times stronger than that.

"Ouch!" She said as she dropped her hand and stepped aside. She shook her hand vigorously to get feeling back into it.

She heard the sound of someone falling to the ground. Max... She completely forgot about him. He must have felt the same static charge as she did. She turned back to see him on his knees heaving onto the rocky ground. He was trembling. For a moment she thought he was convulsing. But then he seemed to get back to normal.

"I'm ok. I just felt a little sick there for a while. But I'm ok now, I..." His voice trailed off into nothing. His sentence was completely forgotten as he looked up at everyone. "Oh my god." He whispered so softly that it was inaudible to everyone there. But there was no mistaking the movement of his mouth to be any other phrase.

Silently, almost in a daze he stood up and walked around the perimeter. He paused to look at the path. Then he turned to look at the rock formation that had hidden their alien secrets. After looking his fill, he turned back to Liz.

He slowly walked up to her. As he came closer, she could see a new-found humility in his eyes. He walked up to her and lowered his eyes in shame. "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me. I don't understand this... And then... I see now. You were right... and I was so wrong."

The confusion in his voice made her believe that he didn't have a clue what was happening. She wondered if it was possible that he had no control over his actions. Could that be why he acted so atypically? He may be sorry now but who knew how long would it last? His concern may be enough to smooth things over with her for the immediate time being. But he'd have to perform a major act of contrition before she can open her heart to him again.

Max silently asked with his eyes for permission to touch her hand. When she nodded, he gingerly picked it up and treated it like a piece of fragile china. He held it gently in his own as he looked at it as if he'd never seen a hand before. It seemed like ages before he spoke. "Liz, how did you do that? How did you make me see?"

"I... I don't know. It just happened. I felt something like a static shock when I touched your hand. And... I don't know. I guess that did it. That's not the only weird thing that happened to me today. In fact, today keeps getting stranger and stranger."

"Are you ok? You don't look that good."

Liz chuckled and said quietly, "I should be asking you that." Then she spoke in a voice loud enough for the others to hear, "I'm just a little tired, didn't sleep well last night. Don't worry about me. Right now we need to somehow make them see what's real. Do you think you can do something?"

"I could try to connect with them. That might work." Max said in all seriousness.

"You do that. I'll sit and wait over there on the rock. When you're done, there's something else I need to show you."

Liz sat down and watched Max as he went over to their friends and explained the situation to them. She watched as he connected first with Isabel and then with Michael. Max turned to Maria in an attempt to connect with her, when Michael stopped him.

"I'll do it." Michael said, stopping Max. He sounded possessive, almost jealous, about Max forming a connection with Maria. At least that's the way it sounded to Liz.

Michael looked down at Maria as he pulled her closer into his arms. He gently brought his hands up to frame her face. Then lovingly almost reverently he tilted his head down and rested his forehead against hers. He appeared to look deep into Maria's eyes.

Liz watched the interaction between them and realized two things. They were gazing into each other the way her and Max used to. The other realization was that it was glaringly obvious that Maria and Michael had taken their relationship to a new level. She had considered that possibility the previous night while Maria had been going on and on about Michael, but she disregarded that idea.

She always believed that Maria and her would tell each other when IT happened. It made her kind of sad to think that so many things were changing so rapidly. For the second time in less than 12 hours, the knowledge that they had had to grow up so quickly weighed heavily on her. They'd lost their innocence in more ways than one.

She stood up and turned her back to them so that they could not see the small trail of tears that moistened her cheeks. She wiped her eyes with her now sore hand. The same hand that she was going to use to show them her other discovery.

She walked over to where the entrance to the pod chamber was. She started to wave her hand over the rock. It was show time.

Behind her she heard Maria gasp and sputter, "Oh my god. Look." Then there was a thud.

Slowly Liz turned around to see Michael on the ground cradling Maria in his arms. His features switched between worry for Maria and shock towards Liz. Max and Isabel were crouched next to them sporting nearly identical looks of astonishment.

"Max, she opened the pod chamber."

"I know Is. I can see that." he replied.

"Maxwell, how is this possible?" Michael finally asked.

"I have no idea. But we probably should get Maria in out of the sun."

"And then, Max?" asked Isabel in a concerned tone.

"We try and figure things out." Max answered with the same sense of determination as he did the previous day.

The sun shone brightly overhead as the five teens entered the pod chamber. Four walked, while the fifth was carried in, barely conscious. The entrance closed silently behind them.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:00:59 AM

Chapter 6

The heels of Isabel's shoes beat out a steady rhythm as she paced back and forth inside the pod chamber. It seemed as though she deliberately made her foot impact harder with each and every step she took. Isabel was obviously having trouble coming to grips with things. That was why no one bothered to tell her to stop, even though there really wasn't enough room to pace in there. Since Isabel was using long-legged strides, this was especially true.

Liz knew that Is was having a hard time with the recent revelations. It struck Liz as odd how even though she and Isabel never really became close, Liz understood her so well. Somehow Liz knew what was troubling her at the core of it all. Just like she told Alex while they were in jail a long time ago, Isabel's problem was that she was scared of being different. Only now she was scared of not being different any more.

All Isabel's conscious life she'd been aware of how she wasn't like everyone else. Her differences had caused her to place up barriers against letting people in. She'd been secure with that. Over the past year and a half that security had been shaken. She'd slowly opened up to people. Which inevitably led to sorrow tempered with a few moments of happiness.

During this year, Is also found out that what made her different, made her special. She now had an idea of at least why she existed. Even if she didn't agree with the plan. But knowing the truth made her accept and become comfortable with how she and Max and Michael and Tess were different.

Now, in the space of a few days, her beliefs were shaken again. The one thing Isabel knew as fact, that she was special, was now proven false. Everything Isabel believed about being different had to go flying out the window all because of her. It had taken a long time for Isabel and her to come to an understanding.

Liz knew she blamed her for how she was thrust into the middle of their lives and disrupted things. Without meaning to, she was inadvertently doing that once again. And Isabel's private alien sanctuary wasn't so private anymore. Or so alien. The humans were invading it.

Liz felt badly that she hadn't taken more consideration with how things were revealed. The last thing she ever meant to do was hurt her friends. She would have gladly spared Maria and Isabel the shock and confusion of her discoveries. But in all honesty, there was no easy way to tell them about this. It's not like she could just call them up and go, "Tess didn't go. The Granolith is still here. It was all some kind of mental illusion that Tess created. Oh and by the way, apparently I can also open the entrance to the pod chamber. Have a good day. Buh-bye!"

Liz snorted in her mind at the thought of that. Like that would have ever worked. That idea wasn't even an option. As much as she didn't want to hurt anyone, there had been no better way. Just like removing a band aid, sometimes it's better to do it all at once.

She noticed that Max was leaning against the wall near the exit. Even now he looked shaken, to Liz. He stood there watching her silently, as she and Michael were focused on getting Maria fully conscious and back on her feet again. Every so often Liz would raise her head and her eyes would meet his.

Each time her eyes locked onto his, she could see the inner turmoil he was in. He seemed to be having a hard time assimilating everything that happened so far. There were hundreds of questions burning in his eyes. Liz had the feeling that he, quite possibly, had more questions about things than she did.

She just didn't know if she had the answers to satisfy him. Or even to be able to satisfy her own curiosity. There were so many things she didn't know about the alien's physiology. She didn't even how or if it could affect her own. That lack of knowledge scared her on so many levels.

Especially since she seemed to be changing in ways she did not understand, nor could she explain. She needed for there to be an explanation. That was what drew her to science in the first place. She needed answers to her questions.

Long before she knew what Max was, she dreamed of being a scientist and making a discovery that would set the world on its ear. She had dreamed about being a molecular biologist. Even now, she would love to research and experiment just to understand more about her friends' genetic make-up. A part of her still longed to go into science just so she could find those answers. But she wasn't sure if she had the objectivity needed to be a good scientist. She wasn't sure about much of anything anymore.

It was with no small amount of irony that she realized that she was sitting on top of a discovery very much like the kind she'd dreamed of. Knowing that she would die rather than ever tell anyone. And not just because of her love for Max. She didn't quite understand it herself, but she felt like she owed them, for more than just saving and changing her life. It was inexplicable, she could no sooner betray them, then she could cut off her nose to spite her face.

The sound of a slight groan from Maria shifted Liz's focus back to what was truly important. Her oldest and truest friend was laying on the ground because Liz surprised her so badly. Liz knew that there were changes in her friendship with Maria, but she was still there for her. She knew that Isabel and Max both wanted to grill Liz about everything. But that could wait. Friendship comes first.

Liz turned back to see Maria's eyes fluttering open. They looked around wildly at first, unfocused. Then she settled on Michael's face hovering in front of her. The smile Maria gave him was dazzling. And the one he gave her in return was tender and overflowing with emotion. It was so intimate, so private, this communication between them, that Liz felt like an intruder.

Maria tore her gaze away from Michael and settled her eyes on Liz. She smiled warmly at her. "Liz, you would not believe the dream I had." Maria started chuckling, as she continued speaking, "I dreamed that we were all outside the pod chamber, and you opened it up. Isn't that wild? I wonder what it symbolizes? We should check it out in Mom's books."

After she finished talking, she noticed that no one was laughing at her weird dream. "It was a dream, right? Wasn't it?" She asked Liz as her eyes took in her surroundings. She noticed who was all with her and where.

Liz could tell the moment when her friend realized that she was in the pod chamber. The pod chamber that she opened. Liz never thought that she would see a glimmer of fear about her in her friend's eyes, but she did. Maria tried to cover it up, but the damage was done.

A little part of her heart began to wither like a flower in a vase without any water. Was this what Max had feared feeling so long ago, when Liz first found out? She could certainly understand why. Max had been braver than she had known, when he told her his secret. Liz never knew that a single look would devastate her so much.

She didn't have it in her to blame Maria. She understood her friend's moods with a familiarity that is only achieved through a friendship as long as theirs'. Maria tended to see everything in black and white. The humans were humans and the aliens were aliens. It was that simple, that was how things stood. She didn't take change easily, and this was the change to end all changes.

Despite that, Liz was determined to show Maria that nothing was going to be different between them. She held out a hand to help her up. Maria paused for a moment and looked at the hand extended. The same hand that opened the chamber. She stared at it for what seemed like forever to Liz. Just as Liz started to pull her hand away, Maria took a deep breath and latched on to her hand. Letting Liz pull her up to a standing position.

Once she was on her feet again, Michael pulled her close and put a protective arm around her shoulder. Max and Isabel took notice and came over to where they stood.

"Hey. Are you sure you're ok, Maria?" Max asked with genuine concern.

"Yeah, yeah I'm fine." She smiled to assure everyone. Then she turned and looked at Michael. "Hey Space boy. Ease up with the caveman tactics. I'm all right now."

"Maria, you fainted. We don't know why you did. After the other night when we... I mean I'm not going to take any chances with you."

"Look Spacecase, this mother hen routine is sweet, but we got bigger fish to fry." She turned back to face Liz and attempted to change the topic. Without giving Michael a chance to interrupt. "Liz, how were you able to do that with the entrance?"

Liz felt the four pairs of eyes searing into her. She hated to be the center of this kind of attention. Especially when she didn't have the answers they wanted. It made her feel like she was having that dream where she went to class but it was a test day which she neither knew about nor was prepared for.

"I don't really know. I came here and looked around and I guess I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. And I kind of remembered doing the same thing in a dream I had last night. Ava was there, and she said I could do it."

Isabel seemed to take a greater interest in what Liz said once she mentioned the dream and Ava's appearance in it. That didn't surprise Liz, considering that dreams were pretty much Isabel's forte. Well that and the fact that the nice NY dupe had a role in her dream. "So Liz, what about these dreams? Do you remember what happened in them? Did Ava say anything else?"

"Well, I don't remember most of my dreams. I woke up remembering that the rock formation, and Tess were in most of them. I just felt that there was something that wasn't right. That things weren't what they seemed. Then I had this urge to come out here and check it out. As for Ava, she pretty much showed me the entrance and said I had to open it. It was pretty cryptic."

"Why didn't you call one of us to go with you? Isn't that what you kept talking about at the meeting, working together?" Michael had to ask.

Liz couldn't help but feel that Michael was covertly trying to be snide to her. She knew that she was overreacting, but sometimes he had the innate ability to grate on her nerves. The only reason she bit back a sarcastic reply was that he posed two very valid questions.

"I didn't feel comfortable dragging one of you with me on a wild goose chase. I didn't know what I'd find. And to be honest, I felt ridiculous to be going out here to follow up on something I dreamed about." Liz admitted. She then added softly, "I haven't let myself follow my dreams for a while now."

Liz closed her eyes, in an attempt to will away the tears that suddenly sprang up. A moment later, she felt Maria's arms go around her, in a comforting hug. She could imagine the expressions of confusion on the others' faces. Only Maria knew to what lengths she had sacrificed her dreams. If Liz had her way, the others would never know what she gave up for them.

Maria let her go and stepped back by Michael's side. Neither girl was willing to explain why Liz needed comforting. They kept silent and met everyone's eyes, carefully guarding the secret that the two girls shared.

Max stepped forward and laid his hand on Liz's shoulder. She looked up at him and saw concern in his eyes for her. For a split second, she felt her empty stomach twist and turn in anxiety, she was almost certain that he could see the truth in her eyes. Then she realized how irrational that fear was. She was just over-tired and in serious need of food.

When Max spoke to her it was as if he had been able to read her mind. His voice was full of concern, "Liz, how long have you been out here? You look dead on your feet. When did you last eat?"

"I got out here a little after dawn, I left just before dad would have started the Sunday morning preparations. I borrowed his car and came out here. I don't know when I ate last. I'll grab something when I get home." Liz answered.

She watched Max's brow furrow, and she knew that he had a lot more questions and concerns. Questions that she was no where ready to answer or even attempt to answer at this point in time. And quite possibly not ever.

"So, if you'd been here all this time, what had you been doing? You don't look as though you spent much of that time under the sun." asked Isabel as she scrutinized Liz's appearance.

"Um... I just kinda looked around in here and waited for you guys."

"Well I know what I would have done if I was in your shoes. I would have played with the handprint. Opening and closing the entrance for fun. Just because I could." Maria said.

Liz blushed and smiled in embarrassment. "You're not the only one."

Her friends grinned as they heard her muttered comment. It was easy for most of the people in the room to think that kind of behavior is incongruous with the Liz Parker they knew. She knew they thought of her as being organized, logical, focused, and very capable of discovering things on her own.

... discovering...

Her discovery.

She'd almost forgotten about her other discovery. She figured that this was as good a time as any to show once and for all that the Granolith wasn't in outer space.

"Come on everyone, you should see for yourself that the Granolith is still here." Without further delay, Liz turned and headed toward the Granolith chamber.

Behind her she heard the other footsteps fall in line as she headed over to its entrance. She paused and let Max enter the room first. He had a look of trepidation on his face as he passed her and walked into the room with the Granolith looming majestically overhead.

He and the two other aliens entered the room silently, eyes fixed on the sight before them. It was almost as if they couldn't believe it was real, even though it was. For some reason, possibly to assure themselves it was there, Max , Isabel, and Michael reached out and touched the darkened upper cone as they circled it.

"Is it all right if I touch it? It isn't going to do something weird to me is it?" Maria, who was standing next to her, asked.

"Yeah 'Ria. Come on over here." Michael said as he grabbed her hand and brought Maria over to it. "See for yourself."

Maria lifted her hand and placed it against the object. "Oh, this feels weird. It's not glass, but its smooth like that. Liz! You've got to feel this." She turned back to her friend and dragged her closer to it.

"I don't think this is a good idea. After everything... you know?" Liz said with a trace of anxiety in her voice. How could Maria ask that of her?

"Come on. It's not dangerous. Aren't you curious?"

"A little, but not enough to do it."

"Well then, what about in the name of science? Isn't it important to test things for yourself? You know a lot more about that kind of stuff than I do." Maria said in her most persuasive tone. It was the same way she had talked to her in the classroom the day they left on the Vegas trip.

Liz figured it was better to give in gracefully. If she protested too much, she might make the others suspicious as to why the Granolith bothered her. There was no way she would be able to withstand them grilling her for the truth. At that moment, she wasn't sure if she could deal with that. So it was easier to circumvent that from happening.

"Ok, ok. You win." Liz said as she stepped forward.

She lifted her hand and placed it a hair's breadth away from actually touching the Granolith. She could see her hand shaking slightly with nerves. She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to calm down. She didn't mean to try and fake her friends out, but she was in no hurry to come into contact with the object that changed her life so drastically.

She looked up at Maria and spoke. "You're right this is weird. But I have no idea what this is made out..." Liz's voice cut off as her hand slipped and came into contact with the Granolith. A jolt of some kind of energy assaulted her. It was much stronger than what occurred earlier when she grabbed Max's hand.

The world faded away as she began to see... things.

Strange images appeared before her. It was as though she was standing there watching these... things take place. She was in a large roofless chamber. The sky above was a unique shade of pink, not quite a pastel. It almost reminded her of looking at a negative. The colors seemed off, in places where they shouldn't be.

She could see the Granolith at the far end of the chamber. It was on a dais a few feet behind what looked something like an altar. There were weird symbols on the walls, similar in style to the ones that Alex decoded before he got killed. In some ways there was a sense of reverence in the room. The power that was contained in this room was almost palpable.

Then these creatures entered the room. They were humanoid in shape, with arms and legs and these misshaped heads. They almost looked like the stereotypical grey alien, only taller and more slender. They entered the room and took up positions in various locations. If she had to guess their purpose, she would say they were some kind of security detail.

Then a large crowd of others entered the room. They occupied most of the room, except they gave the end of the hall containing the Granolith a wide berth. Liz couldn't tell if it was out of respect or fear. She was still reeling over the variety of beings that made up the crowd.

For the most part, they were shaped like humans. Sort of. Except that they didn't seem to be made of flesh like humans. Some seemed to be orange colored forms composed of energy. The other's were greenish but translucent. They were almost ephemeral. In some ways the creatures reminded her of the way jellyfish look, graceful but strange. From where she stood, she couldn't tell for sure if they had facial features. It was all vague. If she squinted hard she could almost make out almond shaped eyes and possibly what could be a mouth.

One thing that struck her as weird was that it was eerily silent. She had never been around a gathering of people where not one single word was said. And yet it seemed that some were having unspoken conversations. She guessed it was possible through mental telepathy, at least that was the best theory that she could come up with at that time.

Then the crowd stilled and turned toward the altar by the Granolith. A creature similar to the ones guarding the room came from an opening in the glistening wall. Except it was a vivid light green color. In any event, the creature took a position behind the altar.

It waved its long fingers over the altar and two things happened. The Granolith seemed to wake up. It generated a light display of swirling colors and shapes inside the upper cone. At the same time, the creature reached through the altar and pulled out a book of sorts from somewhere in its depths.

The book looked a lot like the 'destiny' book. Only this was larger and more official looking, and it had the symbol of what reminded her of an embrace, two 'arms' that wrapped around each other that started out from the center. As though a couple was so wrapped around each other that they couldn't tell where one ended and the other began. The same symbol from Max's pendant.

The creature nodded its head and then what could only be considered a royal procession entered the room and made its way towards the altar. The supposed royal family were very similar to the translucent gelatinous creatures except they had little of the greenish color and had a predominately purplish tinge to them.

The strangest thing about it was that she somehow knew which were the female and male beings. and the royal family was comprised by two females. One older, one younger, if the intensity of their color was any indication of age. The other purple creature was a male. And his stance by the altar was strangely familiar, but she didn't know why or who it reminded her of.

Then two more of the green gelatinous beings entered the room and made their way to the altar. One was larger and decidedly male. The other was smaller, almost frail looking, and female. She seemed to glow as she made her way towards the purple male in front of her. Once they reached there, the purple male and the female linked arms, causing the Granolith's brightness to intensify. The green male stepped went over and joined the purple beings.

The priest-like creature opened the book and began to read. It was the only thing she'd heard spoken in this strange place. The voice sounded hollow and rusty like it was rarely used. And to her it sounded reminiscent of Native American chanting. Like they used in ceremonies out on the reservation outside of Roswell.

When he finished chanting, the 'priest' went and stood before the couple. He waved his hand in front of the top of the male's head. Thus causing a projection of what looked like the V-shaped constellation to appear. The priest then turned to the female and placed his other hand near the top of her head. After a few moments the female's coloring turned to a purplish color also. Then the constellation symbol also projected itself from her head. The two projections slowly enveloped each other, merging into one.

The priest then turned and stepped to the side. The couple moved together in perfect harmony and stopped before the Granolith. The purple male reached up and placed its hand against it. The Granolith glowed and just like with the altar, his hand was able to pass through it. It came back out with something clutched in its grip.

He opened his hand and displayed what was in it. Liz could just make out that he was holding a pendant that looked a lot like the one Max gave her. The purple male lifted it up and secured it around the diminutive female's neck. They then began to turn toward the crowd.

As they turned, they started to fade from Liz's sight. In fact, the chamber, the strange world, everything disappeared from sight. There was a bright flash of light and Liz found herself in the Granolith chamber.

Max and Tess were alone in the room. She was invisible to them. They were busy arguing. Or more exactly, Max was yelling at her and she was trying to justify her deceptive behavior. Liz heard Tess refer to her as a bitch, which surprised her. As much as she and Tess didn't care much for each other, she never thought Tess felt that strongly against her.

Then the unexpected happened, Max defended her to Tess. Then the blond haired witch tried to play the wife card. Amazingly, Max saw through that, and called her on her real motivations for getting pregnant and going back home. Which she didn't deny. Max raised his hand to Tess as though he was going to hurt her. Tess retaliated by reminding him of the baby.

Liz saw something that completely floored her. She saw Tess close her eyes and a look came over her face similar to one a young child makes when they are in the process of making a stinky in their diaper. She seemed intently focused on something. Then Tess went to the other side of the Granolith and plunged her hand into the base, she pulled her hand out grasping the crystal Maria, Michael, and Liz found in Las Cruces. The Granolith fell silent.

While Tess was doing that, Max's focus was on the space where she'd been staying. Like he believed that she was still standing there. He said for her to go. Then he stared at the Granolith as Tess ran out behind him. He hurried out of the room as if he was afraid it was going to fall down around him.

Suddenly, Liz was plunged into darkness, from a distance she could hear Isabel scream Max's name. Very faintly she heard Max yell "Go." And silence fell once more upon Liz.

A blinding light flashed before her. When the light faded enough for her eyes to adjust to the change, she found herself in the Granolith chamber once again.

Only this time there was no one in there with her. No Max and Tess. Nor were the four friends who'd gone with her, to see that the Granolith was still on Earth, anywhere to be found. Then she heard it, a loud explosion happened nearby, she could feel the room shake. She felt as though she was deposited into the middle of a war.

A war. On earth.

Realization began to dawn on her. She knew where she was, and more importantly, she knew when it was. Liz was certain that this was the future that Max had tried to prevent from happening. She was witnessing the end of the world in 2014.

She heard footsteps coming closer and she watched in mute fascination at the scene that was unfolding in front of her. It was Max and... her running into the room. They hurriedly prepared the Granolith to send Max back.

It was so strange to see herself and Max together. They were so in love with each other, it was blatantly obvious. She watched them spend their last moments together. Her eyes filled with tears when Max thanked the future her for every kiss and every smile. And the look he gave his wife while he was in the Granolith reaching out to her, caused Liz to have tears streaming down her cheeks. It was so poignant and beautiful.

She couldn't believe that a love that strong, that pure, could cause the end of the world. Her heart broke along with her future self's when Max was gone. She didn't know what was worse, loving Max so completely, or knowing that that kind of love could have been possible with them. If things hadn't turned out as they had.

She wiped her tears away in time to see the future her stand up shakily and face the people entering the doorway. The future her, stood proud and unflinching as Nicholas arrogantly entered the chamber. He walked right up to her and grabbed her hair so that she would be forced to look at him.

"If it isn't the little monkey queen. I'm surprised you're not cowering behind Zan's shield."

"His name is Max. And I'm not afraid of you." The future her spit out vehemently. Defiantly.

"Whatever. Not that it matter's now. You've lost. And the former king won't be able to save you this time."

Nicholas placed his hands on the sides of her head and concentrated. Liz could see that her future self was being hurt, badly. She could see blood trickling out of her ears and from her nose. She had studied enough biology to know that those were very bad signs. Signs that something was seriously wrong, in a life threatening way.

The future Liz suddenly spit a mouthful of blood into Nicholas's face. She struggled to say one last thing. In a stilted voice she said, "You can kill me. But you'll never win."

With those words, she crumpled to the floor. Dead.

"It seems to me that I already did." Nicholas said as he kicked the body out of his way so he could stand before the Granolith.

Once again the world started to fade from Liz's view. But not before she heard a familiar female voice reach her ears in the darkness. "Nicky, I was promised that I would get to be the one to kill this bitch. She's the one who ruined all my... I mean our plans. K'var won't be pleased that you went back on his word. I am his favorite..."

Then it was gone. That future was gone.

Liz felt herself falling to the ground. She unceremoniously landed on her butt, knocking the wind out of her. Muffled sounds slowly began to make sense to her again. She heard Maria, and Max call out in concern. She blinked open her eyes and waited until the blurry images came into focus. She was back with her friends in the Granolith chamber.

For a moment she was confused as to what happened. Then the memories came rushing back to her. She remembered it all. The strange ceremony was vivid in her mind. But what left her reeling, was the memory of future Max's world and the love she had given up to prevent that from happening.

The strain of everything was too much to deal with, she was literally shaking with emotion. And when she felt a stubborn, silent tear slipping down her cheek, that was all that was needed to release the floodgates. She began crying in earnest.

She could feel Max start towards her to comfort her. She couldn't face him now. She didn't need to be reminded of what could never be. It would only make her feel worse.

Liz hiccuped between sobs. "No, Max. Just... no." She tried to take a deep breath and called out shakily for Maria.

"Oh, Lizzie. What happened?" Maria asked as she gathered Liz against her. Her concern was clearly heard in the tremor in her voice. "One moment you were standing there touching the Granolith, then all of a sudden you collapsed. Something happened didn't it? Damn Granolith. Why does all this keep happening to you?"

"I saw things... It was so odd. Then it changed and I saw it." Liz lowered her voice so that only Maria could hear her next words. "I saw that future. He's real."

"Maria, what is she talking about? Please tell us... tell me, what did she see?" pleaded Max. His worry for Liz was painfully obvious. He had no way of knowing the sacrifices she made for him.

The room fell silent in anticipation of Maria's answer. The air around them seemed to grow heavier. It was as though it too was waiting to see what was going to happen next. The people in the room had no idea how much was riding on the answer to this question. And the events that would follow it.

Maria took a long time deliberating over what she should do. In the end though, she followed the advice she'd given Max, when he'd been torn about some Kennedy type decision he had to make. Just like she told him to do, she followed her heart.

"I'm sorry, Liz." She whispered into her friend's hair. "This has to stop sometime. You shouldn't be hurting like this."

Maria looked up at the three teenaged aliens looking down at her. She inhaled deeply, and slowly let it out. Then in a voice so quiet that it was barely audible, she said, "The end of the world."

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:03:20 AM

Chapter 7

The room was silent except for the muffled sounds of Liz's quiet sobs.

Max, Isabel, and Michael looked down at Maria, where she knelt trying to comfort her best friend. The three aliens each had different reactions to the news.

Max appeared to be taken aback. He flinched as though those words embodied his greatest fears. He looked as if those five words aged him ten years in the space of a few seconds. It was no secret to anyone that he never wanted to be the leader and be responsible for the safety of worlds. Isabel just looked confused. And Michael, he just looked at his girlfriend with this incredulous "You have got to be kidding me" expression.

As the comment sunk in, everyone fell into quiet contemplation. They were trying to digest that piece of information as best they could. In all honesty, that was the one thing that they were least expecting to hear. They had no idea that that was just the tip of the iceberg. They didn't know how big a revelation that really was.

Michael was the one to finally break the silence, "The end of the world? Maria, what are you talking about?"

Once he breached the barrier of silence , everyone else began to throw out their questions at her. They were shot out like rapid fire. Maria waited until they ran out of questions before she could even attempt to answer them.

"Does it have something to do with us?"Isabel asked.

"When does it happen?" Michael wanted to know.

"Are we responsible?" asked a grim faced Max on the heels of Michael's question. Max quickly followed his question up with another, "What does Liz have to do with it?"

Michael posed one of his own at the same time. "Maria, how long have you known?"

"What is the end of the world?" Isabel's query overlapped the tail end of Michael's.

"One question at a time. I can't answer you if I can't make out what you're saying. And you know, a chance to reply would be nice. Shall we try this again from the top?" Maria spoke loudly in order to get everyone's attention. Once she did she stood up. She then motioned for them to follow her to the other side of the granolith, to at least give Liz a semblance of privacy as she cried.

"If this end of the world was so important, why didn't either of you tell us? It might be good to let us know about these things so maybe we can plan against it." Michael said in a sardonic manner.

"Look, Spacecase, it wasn't my secret, but Liz's. You know it is possible for me and her to keep something between ourselves. We may have loose lips with other stuff, but if it's important enough, we can keep a secret."

"If it's such a great secret, why bother telling us? You never planned to before. Did you? If Liz hadn't flipped out..." Michael waved his hand in the general direction of where Liz was. A hurt look passed over his face. "You would have kept this from me. Even after everything..."

"God, Michael. Stop being such a man. This isn't about your wounded pride. Liz is falling apart and all of you are to self absorbed at the moment to care why. Sometimes you aliens drive me crazy..."

"Maria, I care." Max interrupeted.

"Oh! Don't even get me started on how much you care about Liz, 'Girlfriend'. You don't want me to go there..." Maria said with every ounce of sarcasm that had rubbed off on her since she knew Michael. "Do you have any idea at all how much you owe Liz? All she keeps doing is saving your lives. What does she get out of it? Nothing but grief, that's what! If you only knew how much Liz has sacrificed for you..."

"They won't. Because it's none of their damn business." Liz spoke up suddenly, surprising everyone, and effectively shutting Maria's rapidly moving mouth. Everyone had been too caught up in what Maria had been saying for them to even notice that Liz was no longer crying. They never saw her stand and make her way closer.

She had heard everything from the point where it was asked if the end of the world had to do with the aliens. Her hysterical sobs almost turned into hysterical laughter. It had been all she could do to not laugh bitterly out loud. Ever since Max healed her, Liz's existence has had something to do with aliens. There was no part of her life that wasn't affected by them.

Maria turned around to face her. The others stared at her as though they'd never seen her before. Liz supposed in a way that was true. They never saw her during the fleeting moments where she'd let herself give in to her pain and express it. She'd tried to keep that from everyone, including herself. She must have looked terrible, she could tell by the expressions on their faces. Kind of like she was some sort of wraith, not quite bound to this earth nor tethered to the next.

"We need to talk. Now!" Liz said to Maria with a vehemence that none of them ever expected from her. Liz looked pointedly at the three aliens and ordered them out of the room. Her tone of voice was authorative, it garnered no protests.

Sullenly, the three of them walked over to the exit to the pod chamber. Liz knew that although she couldn't see them at that moment, didn't mean that they weren't nearby. The odds were good that they were doing their best to eavesdrop on the conversation she and Maria were about to have.

That is the very reason that Liz took a moment or two to collect herself. She didn't want to end up in a shouting match with Maria. She was well aware that her emotions had been put through the wringer that day. It would be all too easy for her to get riled up and let things get out of control. She didn't want that to happen.

"Maria, what the hell were you thinking?"

"They need to know. Its time."

"This was supposed to be just between us. "

"But it concerns them."

"That's not the point. They don't need to know. What good is it going to do? Tess is... Well it's painfully obvious that she isn't gonna pitch in and help. Not that we could trust her if she did."

"You know, Chica, Ava is still out there. She might be willing to help."

"Don't hold your breath on that. I don't think she wants to be found. If you were her, would you?"

"I guess not. But if the others knew, maybe they could come up with an alternative."

Liz let out a bitter laugh. "If that's our only hope... Then we're screwed."

"Liz, I don't understand this attitude. It's not normal..."

"You tell me how normal you'd act after everything..." Liz dropped her voice down to a whisper, remembering the others were most likely listening to the conversation. "The icing on the cake was seeing my future self say goodbye to the love of her life. Not to mention seeing her, I mean me, killed."

"Oh Lizzie. You saw that happen? No wonder you broke down."

"This isn't about that." Liz noticed the look Maria was giving her. She decided to ammend her statement, "Well, only partly. I don't know what the future is anymore. I changed it. Therefore, telling them would be pointless."

"But Liz, it would help them understand some of what you've been going through. They don't know what's going on. They have questions, they deserve answers."

"No, they don't! This is mine, this is only mine." Liz took a deep breath to try and fight back the emotions that were trying to overwhelm her. When she spoke next, her voice wavered on the edge of tears, "Don't you understand, Maria? That's all I have left. I have nothing else to hold on to. If you tell them, it isn't mine anymore. And I don't think I can handle them showing me pity, and sympathy. Or even anger." Liz finished in a hushed voice.

"They wouldn't do that. You know them better than that."

"No I don't. Not anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I ever did."

"They're your friends. Just like I am."

"They haven't been, not for a while. Now they're more your friends than mine. My life fell apart because of them. None of them noticed. As neck deep as I'm involved in this, time and time again I've gotten the message that I don't matter in their greater scheme of things..."

"That's not true. You're so wrong, Liz..."

"...Did you realize that I was left standing there alone outside the morgue the night Alex died? No one was there for me. Then none of them believed me about Alex's murder."

"...How can you believe that after all the ways you've helped them. After all you..." Maria's voice trailed off as what Liz said hit her. She looked stricken. Her eyes began to glisten with tears. Her words came out in a rush as she tried to process this news. "What? They... We... Oh...Oh God, I... I never realized. I'm so sorry."

"I've given up so much for all of them. I never asked for anything in return. Don't make me give this up too."

"Sweetie, I wouldn't put you in this position if it wasn't important. Don't you think this might help things? They need to know at least some of it. Isn't it possible that them knowing might be a good thing. You shouldn't have to bear this alone."

"That's why I told you. I trusted you. As my friend, you're supposed to keep it to yourself."

"I'm doing this because I am a good and loyal friend! A true friend wouldn't complacently sit on the sidelines as their best friend was spiraling downward! I failed Alex, didn't even see the signs. I refuse to do that anymore with you. It's time to share this burden. It's on their heads, they need to know." Maria stated emphatically.

She sounded just like Maria's mom did when her mind was made up. There was no reasoning to be had. In that moment Liz realized that things were going to escalate beyond her control. It was time for the kid gloves to come off. She only hoped that their friendship would be left relatively unscathed.

"God damn it, Maria! It's private. Can't you understand that? P-R-I-V-A-T-E. I knew I shouldn't have told you! I should have kept it to myself."

"Stop being such a martyr, Liz! You know, this is just like how you behaved with that destiny-thing last year. You kept to yourself and ran away. Barely took the time to say goodbye. You never talked to anyone about what happened. And when you came back, I think deep down you enjoyed putting yourself and Max through the wringer. Because then pain replaced the numbness inside."

"I can't believe you said that. I'm stunned. Completely stunned. You are so far off base it's ricidulous. You're delusional!"

"Am I? I think you won't let go of this because deep down you want to carry this yourself. A part of you gets off on it. You won't let yourself feel anything good, so you wallow in pain. Because at least this way you're still able to feel something."

"How dare you? What gives you the right? Just because you don't want to keep secrets from Michael now that you're sleeping with him... thanks for telling me by the way... That doesn't give you the right to say that to me."

Liz was surprised when Maria didn't say anything in reply. Liz could tell that she wanted to. Maria looked furious. Her face was flushed and her posture was stiff. She could see that Maria was trembling slightly from unspent anger. Liz was even more surprised when she shook her head and exhaled a long held breath. Maria once again had a saddened look on her face. Her shoulders were slumping in defeat.

"That hurt. That really hurt. I understand what you are doing and why. Just like I told you on the phone last night, I'm not going to let you change the subject. This isn't about me and Michael. This is about us letting the truth come out. Oh chica, aren't you tired of all the secrets? I know I am. It's about time we lay all the cards on the table."

"Don't do this, Maria. If you value our friendship, you won't."

Maria gasped. "Value our friendship? Just what are you trying to say?"

"If you tell them about it, I will never ever trust you again." Liz bluntly replied. Her voice was steady and totally serious.

"And our friendship?"

"Without trust there is none."

"Liz, you can't mean that. Please don't put me in that position. Don't make me choose." Maria's voice shook as she stood her ground. All the while, tears streamed silently down her face.

Liz's voice was cold and hard. She swallowed reflexively and did her best to push her emotions to the side. "I do. And it sounds to me like you've made your choice."

For one fleeting moment of weakness, Liz considered doing things Maria's way. Then the image of the Future her and Max reaching out to each other one last time, strengthened her resolve. Even though he no longer existed, she couldn't go back on her word to him. She couldn't take back a dying man's wish. She had to ride this out till the bitter end. Whatever that may be.

Liz turned around sharply and headed over to the exit. She paused two steps before it, finally noticing the three people peeking into the room. She knew that the moment she crossed that threshhold nothing would ever be the same between her and Maria again.

Despite her resolve, she still cared. And she couldn't let Maria think that she was the only one in pain. Biting her lip, she turned back to face her. A single tear fell from her one of her tear filled eyes as she met the gaze of her long time friend. Who seemed to be suffering as much as she was.

"I'm sorry." Liz choked out.

She strode back to the door, passed through it, and headed into the pod chamber. She exited the stone facade only to find herself in the sunshine. She was startled to find it was still relatively early in the day. She headed back down to her father's car. A river of tears falling onto the dry rocky ground.

Liz never noticed the four people looking out from the entrance to the pod chamber. She had been oblivious to the stricken faces that everyone shared. She had no idea that they watched her stumble as she was wiping the tears away with the back of her hand. She made her way down the path, shoulders squared in grim determination.

She never heard Maria stop crying to softly say, "So am I."

The rock-faced door slid back into place as Liz got into the car and drove away.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:05:22 AM

Chapter 8

The entrance closed with what seemed like an ominous thud. It cut them off from the sunlight, leaving the four teenagers in the dim chamber lit by the eerie green and blue luminescence that seemed to come from the pods. It was fitting that they were left in relative darkness. After what had just happened, anything else would have been out of place.

Everyone was in a state of shock. After all the shocking revelations made that day, no one ever expected this to happen. Maria and Liz's friendship seemed to set the standard of how friends can weather the most tumultuous events and still remain intact. They withstood events that would most likely tear apart other friends, yet somehow they always managed to overcome them together. At least until now.

To Maria, the closing of the entrance seemed to be symbolic of what could be the end of their friendship. It broke her heart to watch her friend walk off. It hurt to see her friend Liz so angry with her that she walked away without even looking back.

It took every bit of willpower she had to stand there and not chase after her. Of the few arguments she'd had with her over the years, she knew that Liz needed a cooling off period. Of course she was relying on what she knew from unimportant disagreements. This, however, was a big deal. It scared her to know that this one secret could destroy their friendship forever.

Everyone was dealing with the break-up differently. Max said he needed some space and headed alone into the Granolith chamber. Isabel, whereas she had been a bundle of energy earlier, now stood silently against the wall keeping to herself. Then there was Michael.

Michael had tried to comfort Maria as she watched Liz leave. But he wasn't very big on giving hugs. Especially when it wasn't reciprocated, so he let his arms fall back to his sides and stepped back. He stood there, not knowing what to do or say to make things better.

He felt fidgety. He shoved his hands into his pant's pockets just to have something to do. The silence was beginning to unnerve him. He never realized that Maria's incessant chatter meant so much, until she fell silent. He watched Maria stare blankly at the closed entrance. What he saw made what was left of the stone wall around his heart, crumble into dust.

She stood there trapped within her own personal hell for what seemed like forever. Rarely blinking, barely breathing, just this lost, lost look in her eyes. Eventually the tears that had faded, after she whispered at Liz, came back with a vengeance. Michael saw the tremors start to wrack her body as the tears cascaded from her sad, sad eyes. That was when he took action, once again.

Michael walked over and pulled Maria in his arms. This time she gladly welcomed the comforting embrace. He held her there, her head tucked against his chest, until the worst of it was over. She pulled back slightly and discovered how she had anointed his shirt with tears.

"Michael, you should have said something. I didn't mean to cry all over you."

"It's all right. Don't worry about me. I'm more concerned about you." Michael said in a low tone.

"I'm fine... Really, I... Actually I'm not. I'm far from ok. My best friend turned her back on me and walked away. All because we disagree about this stupid secret. I can't believe she did that. I thought at least we could find a middle ground. Oh God, Michael, do you think me and Liz can get past this?"

"Honestly Maria, I don't know. She seemed to have her mind made up. Besides, she'd put you through so much grief this year, maybe it's for the best. She hasn't been there for you for a while. You deserve better than that."

"Michael Guerin, don't you ever say anything bad about Liz. You have no idea what she's been through... No idea at all... You owe her, we all do." Tears began to well up in her eyes.

"Ok, ok. If you say so, Maria. I just don't see what you see. Don't cry. I'm worried about you. Are you sure you're gonna be all right?"

Well, I'll be better when I'm through with this day. You can sneak into my house tonight to hold and comfort me like I did for you... Oh God..." With those words, her face paled noticeably. "Me and Liz have the same shift today. How am I gonna face her?" Maria asked, starting to panic.

"It'll be ok. I'll be there. I'm working that shift too. Remember?" Michael said as he brushed his lips against her forehead.

Isabel, stepped out of the shadows by the entrance. She crossed over to where the couple stood. "I don't mean to interrupt things, but we probably should be heading back. This doesn't seem like the time to find out what that argument was about. What do you say to the idea that we gather up Max and discuss it some other time?"

"No. We should do this now. Or I've lost my best friend for no reason... Hey! Where did Max go?" Maria asked, glancing around.

"Yeah, where's Maxwell? What's up with him?" Michael asked of Isabel.

"He asked me to leave him alone in the Granolith chamber. He was really shaken by Liz and Maria's conversation. I don't think he's handling things well. The past few days might have been too much. I'm worried about him." Isabel let the two of them know about her concerns about her brother.

The two girls fell in line behind Michael as he made his way to the Granolith chamber. They started into the room and stopped in mute fascination to stare at Max. He was on his knees with his one hand touching the Granolith. He was quietly sobbing Liz's name.

They walked over to him. He was so wrapped up in his misery that he didn't notice their approach. He was oblivious to them until Maria was right behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, he turned around and rose to his feet a bit unsteadily.

"I... Uh... I thought that if I tried to touch the Granolith in the same spot she did, I might connect and get the same flashes that she did." Sheepishly he added, "It didn't work."

"Oh Max." Isabel said with no small degree of worry and concern in her voice.

Maria looked long and hard at Max. She thought Isabel might be right about him. He didn't seem too together, and there was this aura of melancholy surrounding him. She'd never noticed how far he was from being the picture of mental health. He reminded her a little of how he was during the previous summer, when his loss of Liz was making him drive her crazy. She didn't know what all was going on with him, but he seemed to be almost as devastated as she was by Liz's ultimatum.

And to think that people thought life was dull in Roswell. Lately it seemed as though they were living a nightmarish soap opera of Roswellian proportions. The show "Passions" had nothing on them.

"If you guys sit down, I'll tell you what I can. As her friend, I owe it to her to do what was best for her, not just what she wanted. Liz doesn't realize it now, but facing things alone was tearing her apart." Maria said as she carefully sat down on the floor, her back up against the wall.

The others soon followed suit, situating themselves on the ground in a loose semi-circle around her.

"Maria, are you sure you want to do this now?" Michael asked.

"No, but I will. There's nothing to it, but to do it. Right?"

"I guess so." Max said, confusion in his voice. Then he added, "I think I speak for all of us when I say that you don't have to do this for us. None of us want to come between you and Liz."

"I'm not doing this for you, guys. This is for Liz. She's too stubborn for her own good... Tough love, it's never easy."

"So Maria, tell us about the end of the world. What is it?" Isabel asked.

"Just so you know, I don't have all the answers. Liz never went into much detail with it. I only have a rough idea of it, but it's not too hard to fill in the blanks. Ok?" Maria waited until everyone nodded their understanding, before she continued, "Liz had a visitor from the future come to her..."

Michael snorted in disbelief. "That's not possible. This is real life, not 'Back To The Future.' There's no way to travel through time."

"Is that so hard to believe, Space Boy? It's no more outrageous than believing that aliens are among us. We all know how impossible that is... Any more stupid comments?" Maria paused to see if anyone else was going to try her patience. She was so not in a mood to put up with any crap. When no one spoke up, she continued, "Now let me continue. Where was I? ...Oh yeah... This person came from the year 2014. Apparently in his time, there was a big bloody war going on for control of the Granolith. The skins were winning..."

"It does have to do with us." breathed Isabel, one of her worst fears realized.

"We were losing?" Michael seemed more shocked by the concept that they were losing the war than the fact that someone was traveling through time to prevent that from happening.

"How did they manage to send the person back?" asked a shaken Max.

"I think Liz said something about them doing something to the Granolith to make it work. I'm not sure. Anyway from what I know, things were pretty bad near the end. Michael..."her voice caught in her throat. She was too choked up to speak. After a few moments, she continued, "Michael, Isabel...both of you were killed. And you Max, well... I don't know what happened to you."

"We died? We were losing the battle against the skins, and we were killed? How did this happen?" Michael asked, completely blown away.

"What about Liz, Maria?" Max asked in a solemn tone. "What did the future hold for her?"

"Apparently, she was there until the end. That was part of what Liz saw earlier when she touched the Granolith. She saw the future her, die. I think at the hands of the Skins. But that's just a guess." She paused as she saw all the color drain out of Max's face at the news of Liz's demise. "If you want I can stop now..." She let her voice trail off, leaving the decision his to be made.

"If you and Liz can handle this, then so can I. Please continue." Max finally answered, after a long deliberation.

"What about Tess? Where was she during all this?" Isabel asked after much thought.

"I'm getting to that. It all ties into Michael's question from earlier. The visitor from the future came back in order to prevent his future from happening. You see, the Skins won because Tess had abandoned you. Without her, you weren't strong enough to fight them. He came back to change that."

"Let me get this straight. Some guy comes back from the future, claiming that they lost the war because Tess wasn't there. So this future dude goes to Liz to help save the world. Why? Am I the only one who doesn't see how this makes sense?" Michael asked, perplexed.

"Well... Future Ma... um... Man. The future man came to see Liz because she was the only one who could give Tess a reason to stay." Luckily, nobody noticed Maria's almost slip-up.

"Um... Maria, how could that be? Tess and Liz weren't exactly bosom buddies." commented Isabel.

Maria didn't know why she looked at Max in that moment. But she did. As she looked at him, a horrified expression crossed his face. She could almost imagine the light bulb going off above his head as he connected the dots. And his personal discovery wasn't a pleasant one, it left him looking pasty and haggard and very likely to hurl.

Just hopefully not on her. Her day was bad enough already.

Max answered Isabel's question himself, "That was why she staged that scene with Kyle. So Tess would stay with us. Liz broke my... broke up with me so that Tess would stay and prevent the end of the world."

His eyes met with Maria's for one brief moment, and she saw them glisten with moisture. She nodded at him and he seemed to be on the verge of crying. Then, all of a sudden, he tilted his head down and buried his face in his hands.

Maria couldn't stand to see Max like this. He may have acted like a standoffish jerk the past few months, but his pain was starting to get to her. It was making her remember what she was risking by telling them this. But she wasn't going to stop now. This was her chance to prove to herself that she could be selfless like Liz had been. She could do something for the greater good too.

She reached over and patted Max's shoulder in sympathy. "It's ok, Max. It'll be ok." She heard him speak in a hushed mumble. "What did you say? I couldn't make it out."

In a slightly louder and more composed voice, he said, "I'm right. Aren't I? She did that to save the world."

"Yes, she did." replied Maria. There was no point denying that.

"Ok, I'm a little confused. If Tess was planning to sell us out to K'var all along, why was her being here necessary to save the world? Wouldn't she have betrayed us like she did now? Why did they believe that Tess would have prevented the end, instead of hurrying it along?" Isabel questioned.

"Isabel has a point. Something about this sounds fishy to me. How do we know it wasn't one of Tess's mind games? It could have been a skin, or a shapeshifter. Nasedo couldn't have been the only shapeshifter around. Isn't it possible that it was one of them?" Michael asked. He threw out the questions and observations as if he were a detective on some cop show.

"The guy was on the level. Liz would not be easily tricked. She knew him, time didn't change him that much on the inside."

"But that doesn't answer my question. Why was this person convinced that Tess would stop it?" Isabel asked once again.

"I'm not completely sure. I think it might have been an educated guess. He didn't know that Tess was helping the enemy. If that were the case, he would have never come to Liz. I'm sure of that. I think it was a last minute decision and not well thought out." Maria replied in all honesty. Past, present, or future, Max would never have asked Liz to do what she did. Not if there had been any inkling that Tess was going to turn on them like a gallon of milk left out of the fridge on a hot summer day.

"Who was he? It had to be someone she trusted. Who was it that Liz trusted enough to do what she did? Do you know, Maria?" Max asked her.

Maria wasn't sure what Max was thinking, there was an almost frightening intensity in his eyes. He almost looked as though he wanted to pound on the mystery person until all that was left was a bloody pulp. All because this one event altered so many lives. This was the reason he lost Liz.

How could she tell him that he did this to himself? Although the thought of him beating himself up almost brought a smile to her face. Almost. She knew, if she told him about future Max, it would only cause more pain. Besides, Liz should tell him that part on her own, if she chose to. That part was private, for Liz and Max to deal with away from prying eyes. She could allow her best friend at least that much privacy. It may not be much, but she at least tried.

Once again Max asked who it was. Desperation colored his voice, making it rise. Maria knew she had to tell him something. The question was, what could she tell him that was true no matter how you looked at it?

"Maria, I need to know who was it?" Max yelled. His voice echoed and amplified in the weirdly shaped room.

"Ok. Ok. Don't get your panties in a bunch. It was a man. A very stupid and foolish man. He was trying to do the right thing." Maria said in all honesty. Then she muttered under her breath, "Cause there's none so blind as those who refuse to see."

"Damn it! You know who it was? Don't you? Tell me, Maria!!!" Max bellowed at Maria as he leaned toward her. She flinched at the loud angry tone, and scooted backwards. Away from him and his psycho-like behavior.

Michael propelled himself to his knees and came between the two, separating them. He placed both hands on Max's shoulders. He steadily maneuvered Max to where he'd been seated originally. All the while he spoke to Max in low steady tones. Much like one would use on a feral and starving animal.

"Maxwell, I think you need to back off. Maria's just the messenger. You're starting to lose it."

"Michael, have you been listening to this? You expect me to find out about this and remain calm? It's Liz we're talking about."

"I don't get you. You weren't concerned about Liz for a while. And now 'poof', Tess is gone and you're stuck on Liz again. What the hell's up with that?"

"I... I... I don't know. I don't understand this. I'm so confused. I'm not even sure why the Tess thing happened..." Max started to say, but was cut off by Michael.

"It's simple. You were weak. I told you a long time ago, you got to stop thinking with your power source. I control my power source. I don't let it control me."

Maria slapped Michael on the shoulder as she moved up beside him on the left. "Oh, really?" she said giving him a knowing look.

"Except with you, Maria." he said in a rush. He ended the comment by turning his head and placing a brief kiss against her mouth.

"Michael, I don't know if that's the reason. I didn't want her like that. And with Liz, my feelings are all mixed up. Sometimes when I think of Liz, I feel this burning rage against her. It's like I'm no longer in control. It's frightening. I could hurt... someone."

"You know Max, maybe you should go see a shrink. You've got issues." Maria said in a gentle voice.

"Maria, unless there's one that specializes in royal-alien-human-hybrid related problems, it's a bad idea. Even if there is one out there, it's still a bad idea. Get the point? Bad idea." Michael stated emphatically. "And before we go any further with this conversation, You owe Maria an apology." He said in a surprisingly authoritative voice. "I'm not kidding, Maxwell."

No one, least of all Maria could believe what Michael just said. He just told Max what to do. It was unusual because for the most part he did what Max said. After all Max was the leader, not the other way around. Maria couldn't believe that he did that for her.

What surprised her even more was when Max nodded solemnly. He stuck out his hand and apologized, sincerely. No arguments. No debate. Max Evans admitted he was in the wrong, and meant it.

After Max and Maria shook hands, he turned to Michael and asked him, "Are we cool?"

Michael seemed to take his time and think it over. Eventually, he smiled slightly. "Yeah we're cool."

It was then that Maria realized that Isabel hadn't said anything during the commotion. It was odd that she didn't even comment when Max apologized. That was a momentous event. But she'd missed it. The question was, why?

Her eyes sought out the other girl. She found her up near the wall a bit further back from where she had been earlier. Maria noticed that Isabel was sitting very still with unnaturally perfect posture. Every so often a slight tremor would shake her for a moment. Maria looked at her downturned face and could swear she heard the sniffling nose that always came with silent tears.

"Isabel, are you ok?" She asked with concern.

Isabel's shoulder's slumped and she brought her hand up to her face. When she looked up at Maria there was no trace of any tear tracks on her face. Her eyes on the other hand, belied the lack of tears. Isabel's usually perfect looks, were a little less perfect. Isabel's eyes were red, bloodshot, and swimming with uncried tears.

"I can't believe she did that for us. I mean, I know that she did what she did to find the truth about Alex. She loved him. Like I love Michael, as a brother. But she... So we wouldn't die... And I... I haven't been all that good a friend to her. I know she loves Max, I've seen it. And she sacrificed that for..." Isabel said shakily. Unable to continue.

"Why would she do that? That's above and beyond the call of duty." Michael wanted to know.

"She cares about you. All of you. Not just because of Max. She considered you her friends. Like an extended family."

"And now?" Max asked in a broken voice.

"I.. I don't know. You heard her earlier. It depends on how much of that she truly meant." replied Maria with uncertainty. Her voice wavered. Although she tried to not dwell on it, the fear that this was truly the end weighed heavy on her conscience.

Maria looked over where Max was still kneeling across from her. She could see that Max had something he wanted to say. But he wanted to talk to her in privacy, she could tell by the way he was looking at Michael and Isabel. His eyes were willing them to leave. Maria guessed that he had questions he wanted to ask. Personal questions about him and Liz.

"You know what? It's getting late. I got to get ready for work today. We can continue this later, if you want... So Isabel, would you take my keys and get the a/c going in the Jetta? Could you wait outside, Mikey G? I want to have a few words with Max."

Isabel and Michael got up and left the room. Leaving her alone with Max. Well, almost alone. She could see a faint bit of movement from the doorway. Michael was on guard just in case Max started to fly off the handle again.

Maria cautiously stood up and moved toward the Granolith in order to put a little space between her and Max. He stood up also, but remained where he was. She wasn't afraid of him, exactly. Its just that her mother didn't raise a fool either.

"Why didn't Liz trust me enough to tell me? We could've settled this and still have been together."

Maria sighed. It figured that he'd ask this question. She chose her words carefully and answered him, "It's not that she didn't trust you. She does, more than you'll ever know. From what I pieced together, the two of you were so into each other, that nothing else mattered. I think that your love for Liz pushed Tess away."

"When you say 'so into each other', what do you mean? That me and Liz were..." Max drew in a sharp breath. "together?" he exhaled in a low, deep, breathy tone. His eyes glazed over in a way that she hadn't seen since last fall. It was the same expression that he used to get when talking and thinking about Liz. It wasn't there long, but the fact that it was still there at all gave her confidence that things weren't completely hopeless. She could see the traces of the friend who came to her for advice. The friend that Max used to be.

Maria nodded slightly. "You two were inseparable. But you're missing the point, lover boy. It's this kind of behavior that caused the problem in the first place. You fixate on things. You always have. You obsessed about her 24/7. Remember your stalking phase? You left like 30 messages for her in like two days. It was sweet at the time..."

"It was only fifteen." Max interrupted.

"Whatever. Pay attention. Your problem is... you tend to ignore the bigger picture."

Max ran his hand through his hair in exasperation. "But what is the bigger picture? I can barely tell which way is up. I'm finding all these things out... That I was wrong about so many things. How can I make things right? Get back to the way things were."

In all the time that Maria had known Max, she'd never seen him like this. Admittedly, he'd distanced himself from her because of Liz, but she never noticed until now how he was crumbling under the pressure. This wasn't a sudden collapse. It was more like the gradual wearing away that only occurs after a good deal of time has past. This Max was a shadow of the one she once called friend.

In that moment she realized that although she lost Alex, and maybe Liz, the others were her friends too. And despite Max's irrational behavior, he looked as though he needed a friend. One who would just level with him and tell him what's what. The kind of friend who could smack him upside the head when he was being an ass. She could do that.

"Max, you can't go back. You can't change things. Well I guess you could if you messed with the Granolith, but let's not go there again. All you can do is try and repair the damage you and that blond tramp made. It won't be easy. And it won't be the same, but hopefully you can salvage something from this. Try and build on up from there."

"Where do I begin?" Max asked, sounding very lost.

"First you should think about all this. Fill in the blanks. Try and see the bigger picture. I think you should also consider reading some self-help books about anger management. The rest you have to take one day at a time." Maria replied.

"What do I do about Liz?"

"I don't know what to tell you. I don't even what to do with this... whole thing. All I can tell you is that sooner or later you and her have to talk things out. She has more answers than I do. Other than that..." Maria paused for a moment, in deliberation. She then continued speaking in a much sterner voice, "I want to give you fair warning. If you ever hurt Liz again, accidentally or not, I'll come after you. Not even your super alien powers will stop me from making you pay. I'm not above fighting dirty and hitting below the belt. And when I'm done with you, you'll wish you never heard the name DeLuca. Do you understand?"

"Understood. No pressure there." He said, obviously uncomfortable with the way the topic turned. "I'm gonna head out to the car, check on Is. Maybe try and clear my head."

"You do that." she said under her breath.

"You know, Michael is really lucky to have you." With that said, Max turned and left her in there alone.

"I know he is." she whispered quietly to herself as she made her way out into the pod chamber.

Michael stood in the center of the room waiting for her. He had a neutral expression on his face, but his eyes were filled with pride. She walked up to him and gave him a tremendous hug. "There are so many ways you could have handled all this. You didn't have to tell us. And the way you treated Max, he hasn't done much to deserve your sympathy." Michael said into her hair.

"True. But I don't believe in kicking a horse when it's down... Seriously though, he has problems, Michael."

"So I've noticed. But I never thought it was that bad." he said sadly as they pulled apart. They headed toward the exit.

"Neither did I. But at least he's acknowledging there's something wrong. That's the first step to recovery."

"Yeah." Michael fell silent as they made their way out into the blinding sunshine. He held on to Maria's hand every step of the way. They were walking down the path to the car when Michael spoke again. "I think I've misjudged Liz. She didn't have to do that for us. And I will do everything in my power to try and make things right between you two. I promise you."

"Just be there for me." Maria said in a small voice.

They reached the idling car, with Max and Isabel already inside. Maria squeezed Michael's hand once and headed over to the driver's side. She opened the door and climbed in.

As she shut the door, she faintly heard Michael's voice as he said, "I already am."

He then opened the door and settled into the passenger seat. "Are we gonna sit here all day, Maria?" Michael said with his familiar attitude. He acted as if nothing had been said.

But Maria knew better.

She put the car into gear and headed back towards town.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:07:30 AM

Chapter 9

"Order's up!"

Liz heard Michael holler as he placed a platter of food onto the window ledge, under the warming lights, for her to serve. She knew he was staring at her because she saw him through the corner of her eye. Maria was standing nearby fussing with salt shakers while glancing at her with pain filled eyes. She refused to look directly at either of them.

Every time she thought about how Maria was willing to take their side over hers, she shook with anger. She thought Maria understood how she felt. They'd been best friends for so long... they were like sisters. But now she wondered if she knew anybody anymore. Herself included.

It seemed like everything and everyone she knew was turning on her. And no one was sympathetic to her needs. For more than a year she'd sublimated her wants, her needs, everything all for the sake of others. She was tired of the rights of the many outweighing the needs of the few. Just for once, couldn't she come first? Was that too much to ask?

Apparently it was.

If she was the paranoid type, she could almost think that life was conspiring against her. Trying to break her down, bit by bit. A little chunk of her heart at a time. Everything, all her dreams, all her hopes, all that she loved were taken away from her. She'd never asked for much yet it had all been denied to her just the same. In the end, the only thing she had left on her side was herself. She was the only one she could rely on. Everyone closest to her betrayed her.

First it was the Max from the future. How could he lay the burden of responsibility for saving the world on her shoulders? She was just a teenager in high school, for crying out loud. It wasn't fair. In a few short days, he'd managed to get her to betray her own heart, to save everyone else's.

Then came her Max's betrayal. It was twofold. For as much as he claimed to love her, he sure managed to get with Tess rather quickly. He lost his virginity not only to someone else, but to the monster who killed the one friend she was sure would have stood by her. In time, she might have been able to overlook the virginity thing. But there was little chance that she could forget about Alex's murder.

All of Max's sweet words about being friends and believing in her were just pretty lies. He made her believe that they could have some sort of relationship, even if it was only friendship. But that wasn't true. When her world was falling down around her, Liz learned quickly who her real friends were. Max wasn't one of them.

Neither was Maria. Her willingness to tell everyone proved that. While Liz's rational mind understood that with Tess being a traitor, and Ava out of the picture, there was a very strong chance that the world was going to end anyway. So telling them shouldn't have mattered.

But it did.

It was the one thing she had left of a love so rare that it brought her back from death. Future Max was at heart, the same as the boy she loved. The boy she would sacrifice herself for, if need be.

She broke up with the love of her life, knowing that she would never stand before God or Elvis and take vows with Max. So her promise to prevent the end of the world became her vows. Her wedding dance was just that. She had married herself to the cause that the love of her life, went to such lengths to achieve.

She had planned to be faithful to it as long as she lived. As long as she did, she took some small comfort in knowing that there had been a her that had lived that dream. It made the situation bearable.

She held on tightly to the knowledge of what her life would have been like. That it had been possible to feel such joy and happiness as the future Max described about his and her wedding day. She could hold on to the dream that in some time line all her friends stayed together. And that Alex had lived past the age 16.

But now she didn't even have that, as her own. Maria told them. She opened her big mouth and was willing to share that knowledge with them. How could she do that? How could she do that and not even talk to her about it first?

That's what was breaking her heart. How could Maria be so insensitive as to share the information of what she could have had with Max? The Czechs didn't need to know how much she gave up. That should have been hers alone.

She didn't understand how things got this bad. When had her life gotten so complicated? Why couldn't they be simpler, like they were when...

Liz was startled out of her thoughts by Michael hollering "Hey Liz, pick it up!"

It spooked her so bad that the Alien Blast she'd just made, fell to the floor. The glass shattered into tiny shards stuck among a cold gooey mess. She knew it was cold because some of the concoction splattered onto her legs. She could feel it oozing down onto her socks.

Maria came over and squatted down next to her. "Liz, I'll take care of this. Just go and get that order." she said as she picked up a dish towel and started to gather up the shards of glass.

Liz snatched the towel harshly out of Maria's grasp. She held it tightly in her hand and said with barely controlled anger, "I can take care of this myself. I don't need your help!"

Maria flinched at the tone of her words. She stood up and looked like she was wounded. Then she bolted toward the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. But not soon enough to block out the sound of her crying.

Liz couldn't help but feel pangs of remorse. She didn't mean to hurt Maria just now. Everything seemed to be going wrong. A part of her wanted so badly to go to the bathroom and apologize for everything. But then she remembered that she had to be strong. She had to. Her strength was the only thing she had left.

A pair of male feet entered her line of vision, only to stop before her. She refused to look up. Then she heard the voice of her dad. "Lizzie honey, get up off that messy floor. I want to talk to you." Her father held out his hand and gently lifted her up by the arm.


"No honey. I've been watching for a while and you're acting like you're in another universe. For the past two and a half hours, I've seen you give Maria the cold shoulder. You refuse to look at her at all, and won't even look directly at Michael. You've been messing up orders left and right. What's going on? This isn't like you..."

She put the towel down on the counter. Then she tried to get past her father. "I'm fine, Dad. Let me just go run that order to the table and we can continue this then."

"I took care of it already. I think you need to take your break. Maybe a few minutes to collect yourself will help you to... Oh my god. Lizzie... Your hand. You're bleeding." Her father's tone switched from that of a stern boss to that of a concerned parent.

"What? I'm what?" Liz looked down at her hand in confusion. It was smeared with red. She must have gripped the towel so tightly that the shards of glass cut into her hand without her knowing about it. She stoically watched the blood drip from the side of her palm onto her white work sneakers.




For some reason it fascinated her. It was almost like a kind of affirmation. Seeing the cuts on the same hand that opened the pod chamber and also reacted to the Granolith reminded her of something important. That despite everything she'd been through, she was alive. No matter what or who tried to hurt her, in the end she would persevere. Simply by remaining standing.

Absently, she noticed her dad wrapping a clean towel around her hand. Slowly she became aware that he was talking softly to her. "Come on honey, lets get you to the car so we can get you to the hospital."

"Dad, you're overreacting. This isn't too bad. All I need to do is put some ointment on it and wrap it up with some gauze pads."

"I don't know, honey. It's bleeding rather strongly. I think you night need stitches."

"No. I'll be fine. The blood is slowing down already. I just got to apply pressure to it and bandage it tightly. If it gets any worse, then we'll go."

"Well... Are you sure?" She nodded at him that she was. "Then fine. Look Liz, don't worry about the rest of your shift. I'll cover it. Besides, it's gonna slow down soon. So go upstairs, bandage your hand and get some rest. That's an order."

Her dad walked her over to the swinging kitchen door. He gave her a gentle nudge and motioned for her to get on her way. "Just call down here if you need me." he said as she walked past him.

"Yes, Dad." She gave him a slight smile as she let the door swing shut behind her.

She made her way to the stairs leading up to her family's apartment. The only problem was that she had to pass by Michael's line of sight. She just wanted to get upstairs without any hassle. She hoped he would just ignore her.

As she walked past, she happened to look over to her left and saw him looking back. She held eye contact for just a moment. She didn't expect him to be staring at her. This was exactly what she didn't want to have happen. He wasn't staring at her with his usual mocking expression. He was looking at her with something in his eyes she'd never seen before. If she didn't know better, she would have thought that it was respect that she saw there.

This was all wrong. He wasn't supposed to be that way towards her. He was supposed to glare at her with that look that said she was just a annoyance to him. How come he was looking sympathetic towards her? It just wasn't right. Where was his patented expression of smug superiority? Why wasn't he acting angry with her for the way she treated Maria?

She felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Nothing was making any sense to her. The people she counted on betrayed her. The person whom always held the greatest animosity towards her, now seemed to have revised his opinion of her. She couldn't abide by that.

Liz broke eye contact and hightailed it out of the kitchen. She ran upstairs and into her bathroom. She sat on the lid of the toilet just trying to calm down. Once she felt a little more in control, she decided to look at her towel covered hand.

Carefully, she removed the towel. There were two jagged cuts on the fleshy part of her palm. While they didn't look deep enough for stitches, they were close to the faint blue veins that ran under her skin. She could understand why her dad had reacted the way he had.

She turned on the tap and did her best to wash the wounds. She took the clean edge of the dish towel and patted the area dry. With a slightly shaky hand she opened the medicine cabinet and got out gauze pads and some bandage tape.

She made quick work of bandaging her hand. When she was done, she started to put the left over supplies away again. While standing there she began to feel a little light-headed. That feeling became so overwhelming that she had to sit down for a moment, just to let the dizziness pass.

She considered letting her dad know about the weakness she was feeling, but decided against it. She didn't want to worry him. She knew she hadn't lost enough blood to warrant feeling faint. And by no means was she squeamish about blood. She wanted to know what was the reason for it.

Then out of the blue, it hit her. She was feeling this way because she was hungry. She hadn't eaten anything since early the previous night. When she had come home this morning she hadn't felt like eating. Especially since on top of everything else, her mother gave her a stern lecture about borrowing the car without permission. Who would've wanted to eat after all that stress? She knew that it effectively killed her appetite earlier.

But now that she thought about it, she noticed that her stomach was growling. She decided to go get herself something to eat. She refused to go downstairs and get herself something from the restaurant, so she looked in the refrigerator to find something to eat. There wasn't too much in the way of sandwich stuff in there, but she found some ham and a few slices of cheese and the last of the wheat bread. She piled them on the counter and reached back into the fridge for the mustard, and a can of soda to wash it all down with.

She took her bounty and placed it on the table along with what she needed to prepare her food. She efficiently prepared her sandwich. She picked it up and brought it to her mouth and was about to take a bite when she spied the mustard still sitting on the counter. She got up and went over to grab the yellow squeeze bottle. She then settled down once again at the table.

She stared at the open-faced sandwich before her. Liz remembered when Sean told her it would make her feel better to write her problems down on her food and then eat it. It seemed silly at the time, but now in some strange sort of way it made sense. Sure it was still silly, but it didn't seem as out there as it had before. Maybe she'd been around the DeLuca family too much.

Liz didn't know if she could summarize what exactly was bothering her. It was a combination of so many things. Some of which could not be pinned down into simple words. Her problems were a complex myriad or connection of things stemming from aliens and betrayal. And while it would be easy to blame everything on the pod squad, she couldn't. Sure they were a major factor in the equation, but she herself was not without blame either.

So that left betrayal. It seemed fitting enough. Her whole junior year was full of nothing but secrets, lies, and betrayals.

She wrote betrayal on the food and closed her sandwich together. She picked it up and began to eat. When she finished eating, she didn't feel any better. Not that she had really expected to. Although it would have been nice if something simple as eating a sandwich could make everything all right.

Nothing could make her problems go away. And she didn't have anyone to talk to at least not about the alien related problems. She'd burned her bridges with those friends out at the pod chamber.

All of her friends except one.


She could go and talk with him. She'd meant to find out how he'd been doing since he stormed off from the meeting. Especially since she heard this morning that Kyle was having problems with this whole situation. But with everything that had gone on since then, she'd let it slip her mind. She promised herself that wouldn't happen again. Besides, she had important "Tess isn't gone"-type news.

She went over and picked up the telephone and dialed the Valenti house. All she got was the machine. Liz left a brief message and tossed the phone down in frustration. For some reason, that didn't sit well with her. She began to get an uneasy feeling. She reached for the phone where she'd thrown it on the chair. She picked it up and hit redial. This time all she got was a busy signal.

Liz was officially worried now. Tess had lived there with the Valenti's for most of the school year. It was reasonable to conclude that Tess might go back there to get things she'd left behind. All of the sudden, her mind started to imagine all of the possible scenarios that could happen if Tess went back there. None of what she thought of was pleasant. But that could explain the funny business with the phone.

Someone had to go and check on them. And since she was not going to involve anyone from the pod chamber this morning, that meant that it fell on her shoulders. She had to be the one to find out what was going on. Yet again.

Liz jumped to her feet and ran into her room. She grabbed the clothes she'd been wearing earlier and changed out of her messy uniform and back into her regular clothes. She slipped on a different pair of shoes and ran back to the kitchen.

She looked on the counter where her dad usually kept his car keys. They weren't there. That meant that either they were downstairs on her father's work desk or that he had them with him. She couldn't do anything if her dad had them on his person, but she had to check.

Liz cautiously made her way down to the Crashdown's kitchen. She saw her dad go into the walk-in refrigerator. She took that opportunity to hurry over and glance at her father's desk. She didn't see the keys anywhere. But rather than take the chance that he'd see her and question what she was doing back downstairs, she quickly made her way out through the swinging door and into the main part of the restaurant.

She knew she needed to find some way to get out to Kyle and the Sheriff's house. Quickly, her eyes scanned the room. She noticed that Maria was by the window talking to Michael. Liz started to head over to ask her if she could borrow the Jetta.

She stopped in her tracks halfway there, as she remembered that she and her were not friends any more. She couldn't ask to borrow the car. She wouldn't. Liz knew she was just acting out of foolish stubborn pride, but she couldn't help it. She had to think of another way to get out there.

A voice interrupted her frantic thoughts, "Hey Parker. Could you pass me the ketchup?"

Sean. It was Sean. And he had his own car.

Liz grabbed the ketchup and placed it on the counter in front of him. "Sean, hi. I need to borrow your car."

He mumbled through a mouth stuffed with hamburger. "Hmph what?"

"Your car. Please. It's important."

"Just give me a second and I'll take you. You're not planning on breaking into any more schools are you?" Sean asked with a mischievous look in his eyes.

"No, nothing like that. But this is gonna take a while and it's not fair to have you sitting out there waiting for me."

"No problem, Parker. I'll just go in with you." He said with a smile.

"Well, the thing is, I'm going to Kyle and Sheriff Valenti's house."

The smile on Sean's face turned into a grimace. He fished his keys out of his pocket and tossed them to Liz. "Here you go. Just be sure to fill her up on your way back."

Liz gave him a quick hug. As she walked away she said, "It'll probably be a few hours. I'll make it up to you, I promise." With those final words she ran out the door.

She made short time of finding his car. She unlocked it, climbed in and started her up. She noticed that the fuel gauge on the dash was nearing empty. But she would worry about that after she checked up on Kyle and his dad.

She pulled out onto the street and headed to their house. Silently willing the car to move faster. She refused to take it easy until she knew that they were ok.

Liz just hoped that she was worrying for nothing.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:09:44 AM

Chapter 10

Liz made it to the Valenti's house in record time. Which was quite a feat when you took into consideration that she was driving Sean's car. A beetle that she wouldn't be surprised to discover was not only older than her, but almost as old as her and Sean's age added together.

Liz parked the car in front of the house. She sat there and looked around in order to see if there was anything that could give her a clue as to what the situation is. She needed to have some idea what she might be walking into.

She noticed Kyle's car and his father's truck parked off to the side. Plus, she observed that the lights were on in the house. She took that to mean that they were both at home. But she had no way of knowing if they were in trouble.

Liz didn't hear the sounds of a struggle and no tell-tale bright lights from an alien-type attack. Unfortunately, that didn't mean that things weren't amiss. With Tess on the loose, it was entirely possible that the ordinary looking scene was a deceptive illusion.

She got out of the car and cautiously made her way to the front door. Still, she heard nothing. She held her breath as she rang the doorbell. She stood there awkwardly, straining to hear any signs of life or movement from inside. There wasn't even the sound of a tv playing in the background. The silence was unnerving.

She had no clue as to what was going on on the other side of the door. That lack of knowledge had her heart pounding wildly in her chest. All the horrors that her mind envisioned, replayed vividly in her mind. Fear gnawed in her stomach. She pushed the doorbell again in anxious trepidation.

Eventually, she heard the sound of someone making their way to the door. She felt a small sense of relief at the noise. The front door cracked open to show Kyle's dad standing there. He looked tired and weary. The former sheriff noticed Liz was the one ringing the buzzer. His tense posture seemed to soften a little as a ghost of a smile flittered or made its way across his face.

The former Sheriff opened the door and he stepped outside. He pulled it right behind him and held the door mostly closed. It was obvious to her that he was hiding something. Something inside the house had him acting all nervous. She was determined to find out what was going on.

"Liz, nice to see you again. What do we owe the honor?" He asked. His words were perfectly cordial, but something rang false with his tone.

He didn't sound too happy to see her. Nor did he look it. He seemed to be a bit shaken, as if he also found his world crumbling apart at his feet. It reminded her of when Kyle was shot, only not as panicked.

"I just came to check up on Kyle and talk to you about something important."

"Now isn't really a good time. Kyle... Kyle is taking a nap right now. Maybe you can come again later."

Kyle was taking a nap? This early? That just didn't sound right to her, it was only late afternoon. Why would he be asleep already? The sun hadn't even set yet. It didn't make sense. Add to that, the fact that his father seemed very eager to send her off.

"Is there a reason you don't want me to see inside your house? What's going on? Where's Kyle?"

"Trust me, it's nothing you can help with. Just go back home, Liz. Leave it be." He said with a resigned attitude.

"I'm sorry. I can't." Liz said as she slipped under his arm and barged in, pushing the door open wide. She took a few steps into the room and stopped dead in her tracks. Of all the scenarios that played over and over in her head, she had never expected the sight before her.

None of the things she'd imagined were correct. There wasn't any danger. There were no bloody dead bodies. Kyle wasn't being held hostage. It didn't look like Tess was around. Nothing was amiss. At least not from a potentially life threatening point of view.

What was abnormal, was the sight of Kyle sitting on the sofa. His hair was severely rumpled, and unkempt. It was sticking out all over the place. He wasn't wearing any shirt, and from where she was standing she couldn't tell if he was wearing any pants. He didn't seem all that concerned with the state he was in.

What was more disturbing was that he didn't acknowledge her presence at all. He didn't move. He didn't speak. He just sat there. Kyle was completely oblivious to everything.

Every so often she could see a slight tremor ripple the muscles and skin on his back. He seemed to be staring out into nothing. If she didn't know better she would almost believe that this was some extreme kind of meditation.

But that couldn't be what was going on. If Kyle was just meditiating, then his father wouldn't look so haggard. Kyle's dad was worried about him, very worried about his son. That meant that whatever was going on was definitely not normal. Or at least not what passed for normal in Roswell.

"Oh my gosh, Kyle." Liz breathed out in a near whisper.

She turned to the former Sheriff who had stepped inside and was shutting the door behind him. At that moment, he didn't look very strong. In fact, he looked like he was near collaspe. It seemed as though Kyle's catatonic state had taken its toll on Kyle's father.

"What happened to him? How long has he been like that?" she had to know.

"I don't know exactly. He seemed to be dealing with things ok enough yesterday. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up to sound of brreaking glass. I found him in Tess's room trashing the place. He smashed the mirror in there to bits. Eventually I got him to stop and sit down on the sofa. He's been there like this ever since."

"Why is he like like this?"

"Don't you think I've tried? He's my son, damnit!" Valenti snapped at her. Then he took a deep breath and sighed. He ran his hand through his hair in a frustrated manner. It was obvious how not well he was dealing with the situation. When he next spoke, he was much calmer and in control. "Nothing I do reaches him. I haven't seen him like this for a long time. Not since his mom left."

"Did something set him off? Is there anything that can be done to help?"

"Honestly, I don't know. He was like this for a few days right after his mom left us. But he snapped out of it on his own. But this time, I'm not as confident. Tess pulled a real number on all of us. Kyle especially. He was so close to her and then to have her kill Alex and betray and use my son... Honestly, a part of me isn't surprised by his reaction."

"But why didn't you tell us that it was this bad? All of us were concerned about Kyle." Liz said as she gave the elder man's hand a gentle squeeze. Then she let her hand fall back to her side.

"I know you were. You're all good kids. But I just thought that it would be better for him to not involve the others with this. We both needed an alien-free day."

"Well, I'm here. I'm not an alien. You two don't have to face this alone."

"Thank you. But I don't know if there is anything you can do. This might just have to run its course." But Valenti's words lacked confidence in what he said.

The former sheriff stopped talking and brought his hand up to his face. He was rubbing his first two fingers against his thumb, then he brought said fingers up to his nose and sniffed. Eyes wide, he looked at Liz they traversed down until they came to rest on her hand. Her bandaged hand.

"Liz, why is your hand bleeding?"

He picked up her hand and turned it palm upwards. The bandage that Liz had put on it earlier was partially saturated. She hadn't even noticed until that moment how badly she'd bungled her attempt at first aid on herself.

"I cut it at work earlier, on a broken glass. It's nothing. Don't worry about it."

"Wait here and I'll go and get some supplies to redo this. Just wait a moment." He told her decisively. He was sounding much more like himself than he did a few moments before.

"Um... You really don't have to go to any trouble for me. I'll be fine."

"I'm sure you will. But I can't in good conscience let you go and bleed all over the town."

Liz knew when to give in gracefully. "Ok, ok. You win. I wouldn't want that to happen." Liz gave him a small smile.

"Just give me a second. I'll be right back" He said as he started to go collect the supplies needed to take care of her hand.

She called out to stop him before he left the room. "Sheriff... I mean Mr. Valenti." He stopped and turned back to see what she wanted. "Is it ok if I try to talk to Kyle?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Just let me..." His voice trailed off as he went over to where his son sat. He picked up the throw blanket draped on the back of the sofa and carefully placed it around Kyle. The former sheriff nodded at her and said, "All set." He then left the room.

Liz went over by where Kyle was sitting and carefully sat at the far end of the sofa. He didn't even blink as she walked past him. She didn't think that if even a house fell on him, that he'd notice. That was how far gone he appeared to be.

Liz could sympathsize with his father. No wonder he seemed so disturbed by this. Kyle's seemingly non-responsive behavior was even begining to creep her out. She had a hard time imagining what he was feeling. She only had to see him like this for a few minutes, his dad had faced this for most of the day.

Now that Liz was sitting there with him, she felt horribly inadequate to help bring him out of this. What could she say that would help? She wasn't a therapist. She'd never encountered anyone like this before, and the only thing she could think of was how this situation was dealt with on TV shows. Which really wasn't any help, because this was as far removed from a television show as it could possibly be. Well, except for possibly the X-Files.

She knew that she had to say something. Liz just wasn't sure what though. She wanted to say the perfect thing. Unfortunately, there was no such thing. So she would have to wing it.

"Hey Kyle. It's me, Liz. I feel a little silly doing this. But I wanted you to know that I'm worried about you. And your dad... he's devastated. You know how you grow up and throughout your life there's one person who is unshakeable, well that's what I always thought of your dad. But right now, he seems so bothered by your silence. His fear frightens me, because that means things must be really bad..."

Liz paused for a moment. She felt like she was babbling. She didn't feel as though she had conveyed all the the thoughts she had running around in her mind. What she had said was a good start, but there were some other things she wanted to say. All she had to do was to focus on what else there was.

She tried again, "I can hardly imagine what you must be going through. What... she... did to you, after all tthe kindness you and your father showed her, is the stuff that nightmares come from. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Everyone is having a hard time with this, including me, but you unfortunately got the short end of the stick.

"From what your dad did and didn't say, I get the impression that no one else contacted you guys. I hate to be the one to tell you, but it's too important to let sit."

Liz reached out and took hold of Kyle's hand with her undamaged one. The back of his hand felt unnaturally chilled underneath her much warmer palm. She held it loosely in her hand and continued speaking, "It's about Tess... Look, I know this is hard for you, but you're not alone. I hope you realize that I am your friend. I'm here if you need me..."Her voice trailed off as she noticed that Kyle's dad had entered the room once again.

He crossed over to where Liz was sitting. He was carrying what seemed to be enough bandages and ointments to treat a small army with. Liz couldn't help but gape at the sight. She didn't think her cuts were that serious. She really hoped that he was just over-prepared.

"I sure hope that those aren't all for me. I wasn't hurt that bad." she said with a slight smile.

"Let me be the judge of that. Sometimes you are too pig-headed or stubborn for your own good." The sheriff said as he gently peeled away the semi-saturated bandage.

"So I've been told." she replied.

Sheriff Valenti rifled through some of the things he brought out with him until he found a packet the size of a handi-wipe. He tore it open, took the little sheet out, and cleansed the wound with it. Once finished, he took a look at the wound and broke the silence in the room.

"Liz, these cuts are pretty deep, you might want to get to the doctor. They may need stitches. You dont want to get scars from that."

"It'll be fine. It's not that big a deal. It's just a scar. It'll only be on my palm. Who's gonna care? Just wrap it up in gauze."

"I can do you one better. I think I might still have some butterfly closures. That could work out ok." Kyle's dad said. He then noticed the look on Liz's face. "What?"

"I was just wondering why do you have all these supplies?" Liz wanted to know.

"Well when I was Sheriff, it was a good idea to have access to a variety of supplies. Also, a lot of times Kyle would have some of his football buddies over, and boys being boys, would roughhouse as they played. Sometimes they needed to patch themselves up before they left. Football can be a bloody sport..."

The former sheriff turned his head down to look at the wound he was tending to. He seemed to be very focused on finishing up her hand. His concentration was so strong that coversation fell to the wayside. She got the impression that's the way he preferred things. That was why she was so surprised when she heard him speak once more.

"I heard some of what you said to Kyle. You're a good person. I'm really glad he has a friend like you, Liz."

"But I'm not. Not really. I've hardly talked to him this year. I was two wrapped up in things to spend much of any time with him." She said earnestly.

"That may be, but none of the other kids in your group came over here to check up on us. Sometimes being a friend isn't about being around all the time. It's about doing what needs to be done to help out a friend who's hurting. Like you driving over here to check on us when you should have been at the hospital. You didn't let your own pain stop you. That's a true friend in my book."

The sheriff's words struck a chord in her. They began to resonate in her head, causing her to see things from a slightly altered perspective. She began to have the gut-wrenching feeling that she made a very, very big mistake.

But she couldn't dwell on that, at the moment. She'd almost forgotten the other reason why she came to see them. They needed to know about Tess. She needed to tell them about what she discovered, not get into a discussion on what makes up a good friend.

"Thank you." Liz said as she was trying to figure out a good way to break this news to them. And once again, she realized that it was better to just be direct than to beat around the bush. "There was another reason why I came over. I discovered something earlier today and it affects the two of you. That was why I showed up when I did. I got worried when I called and just got a busy signal. I was afraid something was happening to you two."

"After a while, I took the phone off the hook so it wouldn't bother Kyle. What had you so worried, Liz?" The elder Valenti asked.

"I don't know of an easy way to tell you... Tess isn't gone. She's still on Earth."

"What? I don't understand how that is possible. All of you kids said that you saw her blast off into space."

"Apparently, it was a mind warp or mental illusion of some kind. Nothing out there was as it seemed. So its possible that she might try coming back here... I'm sorry. I thought you should know."

"Don't be. I just can't believe that she... she... duped us so easily. Tess helped us be a family again. Just because she was like a daughter to me, doesn't mean that she was one. She better hope she doesn't come around here again. Even though I'm no longer Sheriff, doesn't mean that I'm gonna let someone do that to my family. I'll do whatever I can to protect Kyle. By any means necessary."

"No! Don't do that. Don't do anything if she shows up. If you come after her with a weapon, she could use her powers to, at the very least, make you think that Kyle was her so that you would hurt him. She could make you kill your own son by accident."

Visibly shaken by that idea, Valenti spoke, "I never thought of that."

"If you think she's nearby, call me. I'll get one of the others to come with me and check it out."

"What? Why you?"

"It seems that I'm getting some kind of abilities. For some reason, I seem to be able to figure out or see through at least some of what Tess has done."

"I see." Valenti got up and gathered his supplies. "I'm not trying to give you the bum's rush, but I need some time to sort this all out." Valenti deposited the first aid supplies on the slightly cluttered dining table. He then walked over to the door and waited for her to leave.

"That's ok. I understand."

Liz started to get up, only to discover that she couldn't. Kyle was holding on to her hand tightly. She could see how white his knuckles were, that's how strong a grip he had on her hand.

She looked up at him as she gently pried her hand loose. He was still staring blankly ahead, but for just a split second she could have sworn she saw awareness in his eyes. That at least, was an encouraging sign.

Once free, she said goodbye to Kyle and stood up. She made her way over to the door the former sheriff was holding open for her.

"Is it ok if I come by again to see how Kyle is doing?" She asked as she stepped out onto the darkened porch.

"Sure, I think Kyle would like that."

"Well, goodnight then." Liz said.

"Be careful going home." Valenti said while waving goodbye.

The door closed with a solid thud. Liz could hear the sound of the deadbolt being turned, for what little good it would do. A lock might deter some burglars, but it would be no match even for the most basic of Tess's alien powers.

Liz made her way down the stairs and walked over to Sean's ancient car. She barely noticed where she was stepping. Her mind kept replaying what the former sheriff said about friendship.

If a true friend does what is needed to be done to help a friend, despite their own pain; then was it possible that that was what Maria was doing? Liz didn't know what to think. If she was wrong about things, she'd reacted then in the worst way possible.

Looking back, she wasn't sure if she did the right thing in the argument with Maria. At the time she'd been overwhelmed with emotions. Was it possible that she'd jumped to the wrong conclusion?

Liz was torn. Even though she could see the possibility that she was wrong, thoughts of betrayal were running rampant in her head. She knew that she was nowhere near impartial enough to figure it out.

There had been only one person who could mediate over the few arguments Maria and her had over the years. A person who somehow managed to get her and Maria to put aside the anger and listen to reason. It was never more obvious that this person had been the glue that held them together. Far more than anyone ever realized. Especially now that that person was gone.

Liz knew what she had to do.

She slid behind the wheel of the car and struggled to get the car to start. Once it did, she put the car into gear and pulled out into the street. Her destination was fixed in her mind.

She had one more stop to make before heading home.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:12:39 AM

Chapter 11

Liz slowly made her way to her destination. She took her time as she tried to remember exactly where it was located. She'd only been there the one time, and she had been too caught up in her emotions to pay close attention to much of anything.

As the sunset faded, twilight rushed in making everything dim and hard to see. Liz had to rely on her instincts to find her way past the maze of solemn granite markers. Some stood tall and stately, some were short and stumpy, but the ones that she watched out for were the ones that were flush with the ground. Those she especially avoided. All because of a childhood memory.

Liz remembered being there as a child with her parents while they visited her grandfather's grave. She had gotten bored and wandered off like most children are likely to, to go and run, jump, climb, and play. When her parents had caught up with her, her mom had reprimanded her for running through the cemetery like it was a great big playground.

Her mother had reminded her to be careful where she stepped in the cemetery. She had told her that the headstones were like the person's face. And that it was a great disrespect to step on the dead's faces. Over ten years later, Liz knew better than to think that she was actually stepping on someone's face, but she now understood what her mother meant.

Everyone in the cemetery was loved by someone, at some time. They were the sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brother, sisters, lovers, and friends of somebody. Just like she was a friend of Alex. She couldn't abide if someone dishonored his final resting place like that. The other ones deserved the same respect.

It seemed so sad to her to realize that a person can live their life and all there is left to show for it at the end is a slab of stone with your name carved into it. While that was sad, what was saddest was the fact that some of the headstones she passed had obviously not been tended to. No flowers. No wreaths. No flags. Nothing at all to show that the person buried was loved by anyone.

As much as it hurt to know one of her best friends was gone, it would hurt more to know that he'd been disrespected. Alex had lost out on so much in life that Liz didn't want what little dignity his death bequeathed him, to fade from lack of enough caring. She didn't want her oldest friend to become one of those sad tombstones that gets neglected, because people move on. Alex deserved more than that.

When Liz finally reached her destination, tears welled up in her eyes. "Alexander C. Whitman" the headstone stated solemnly. It was surrounded by several candles and a bouquet of now withering roses in a vase. There were also a few single flowers strewn near to the headstone.

She was so glad that someone else had loved him enough to go to this much trouble. In a way it shamed her because she should have made the effort. But at least someone did, probably Isabel. It made things a little more bearable. If Alex were there, he would have liked the sentiment. Liz wondered if he had any idea how much he'd be missed by everyone.

She solemnly made her way over and stopped before the headstone. She knelt in front of it to be closer to the final 'face' Alex was presenting to the world. She hadn't read what had been inscribed. Now she knelt there looking down at the message engraved at the bottom in slightly smaller print. "May your song always be sung" it read.

Shaky fingers belonging to her hand reached out to touch the words which were blurring in front of her. Liz reverently traced each letter of the epitaph. Over and over she did that, finding a small measure of comfort in the repetitive motion. She only stopped when she noticed that the surface of the stone was wet. Liz looked up, half expecting to see that the heavens were weeping her sorrows. But all she saw was the twinkling of stars in a cloud-free early nighttime sky.

It dawned on her that the wetness she felt on the headstone had come from her own tears. Tears that she had not realized that she had shed. These were tears of sorrow, pain, rage, and guilt all rolled into one emotional onslaught. This display of honest emotion did nothing to alleviate the heartache she felt.

She could only think of one way to ease her pain. Liz sat down and began to talk as though Alex could actually hear her.

"Alex... I'm sorry I haven't come to visit you since the funeral. I have several good reasons why... but in the end, they are only excuses. I... I couldn't face this. Even now, this is so hard for me to do. Coming here means acknowledging that you're really gone. And I don't want you to be gone... I'm not ready to let you go." Liz choked out with a sob.

"I thought that if I searched for who did this to you, it would fill this hollow space inside my heart. I was wrong... Knowing that Tess did this to you, only makes this aching void worse. I was the one to get you involved with the whole alien thing. You trusted Tess because she was one of them, and you trusted them because of me.

"I've lived every day since your death knowing that this was all because of me. One way or another. My choices brought you here. I chose to include you in on their secret. I didn't think of the potential dangers. I just didn't want to lose your friendship. Ironically, I saved our friendship only to lose you in the end.

"It tears me up inside to know that this wasn't how it was supposed to be. I know with certainty that you would have lived to be at least 19. You and Isabel, Maria and Michael, all came and celebrated my marriage to Max. We celebrated the whole night until you all dropped. It sounded like it was the time of our lives... It must have been a beautiful memory. A memory we'll never share. Because of me... I... changed the future to save the world, only to have everything that mattered to me ripped away. First Max, then you, and every silly girlish dream I used to have. They all turned to dust. If I had the choice again, save the world or save you. I'd choose to save you."

Liz shifted positions so that her legs wouldn't fall asleep. The movement was a much needed distraction from all the heavy emotions she'd just laid bare. It gave her the opportunity to refocus herself so that she didn't break down into tears again. She was getting tired of crying. After all, she'd cried more in the last three days than she had in the past month or so.

Once she felt more collected, she continued, "There's so many things I would do differently. I know I made many mistakes, with the way I handled things. I can't believe that I never noticed anything was wrong with you. It's like I have 20/20 hindsight. It's so clear looking back. Do you remember those really old cartoons we watched sometimes when we were kids? The one where the dog was a scientist and created a 'way-back machine'? I wish I had one. I would gladly tamper with the past just so you wouldn't have to die.

"It's funny... I can imagine the look you'd be giving me right now. You know the one that says, 'I can't believe you mean that, Liz'. I don't know, I think I do. Or at the very least, I would try. The Liz you knew wouldn't have dared violate the laws of science and nature. Not to mention wrestle with the whole problem with time-space paradoxes. But I'm not that same girl any more. I think that part of me died the day we buried you.

"I'm not really sure who I am now. I haven't been Liz Parker, smallest of the small town girls, for a long time. I've changed. I'm not even sure how. I find myself doing things that I never imagined that I would do. Or could do. I've given up things that should have broken me. Like Max. I never thought I could live without him; but I did... I endured so much all alone...

"I keep remembering that night. After everyone left, I just stood there looking at the van for I don't know how long. I couldn't believe that this was happening. I didn't want to believe it. I still don't. I almost had myself convinced that it was a dream. That it was all a terrible nightmare and that you'd pop up behind me and scare me half to death going 'April Fools'. But the reality of it closed in on me when they removed the body to bring inside. Max didn't close the bag well, I was able to get a glimpse of what was left of your face. There was so much blood. But there was no way I could deny that it was you. I'd know your profile anywhere."

Once again, she shifted her position. The ground underneath her was hard and unyielding. It offered little comfort to her slender frame. This time though, she wanted to be uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable actually helped keep that visual image at bay.

That was the kind of memory that doesn't leave one's mind easily once it takes hold. She had to make a concerted effort to keep that gruesome image from playing over and over in her mind. She didn't want to think about that, not while sitting in front of his grave. That was more than what she could deal with. And she still had so much more she wanted to say.

"I was the only one who knew that you were murdered. No one believed me at first. I like to think that you tried to leave me some clues about what was happening. That you knew that I'd wouldn't just let it be. That I would go to any extremes to know the truth. You trusted in that because I was your friend. You had faith that the truth would come out. I tried so hard not to let you down in death, like I did in life.

"You could not imagine the lengths I went to just to prove that it was murder. I was obsessed. Determined to find out the truth. I stood up to everyone and didn't back down when people told me to leave it alone. I never knew that I was capable of that. Would you believe that I cleared out my bank account for college just to travel to Sweden to find answers? I would have gone too, if fate hadn't intervened.

"Now life here is getting weirder. Don't ask me how, not that you could, but anyway... I was able to open the pod chamber entrance today. I also seem to be developing the ability to spot Tess's mind-bending-handy-work. Which would have been useful before your death. The strangest event was when I touched the Granolith, and saw things. Wondrous, strange things. And some things that were hard to watch.

"None of that matters to me though. You do... I can't help but wonder how you are. Your soul, I mean. Do you feel anything? Wherever you are, are you lonely? I keep imagining you down there in that box, alone forever. Scientifically, I know that all that is left down there is the... shell of your body. That the process of decomposition is breaking your body down slowly. Cell by cell, molecule by molecule, until one day... nothing. I want to believe that you were more than a collection of now decaying cells. How could everything that made you... you, be gone?

"You were my friend. You have no idea how much I need one of those right now. Faithful friends seem to be a rare commodity lately. And I... I'm not sure if I made a terrible mistake. I said some horrible things to Maria. We had a terrible fight. And I may have overreacted a little. I was just overwhelmed and then I felt like she backed me into a corner. And I came out swinging. I said some things that I never thought would come out of my mouth. I hurt her...

"This is the worst argument we ever had. I don't know what to do. I'm not sure if I was wrong, she was wrong, or we both were. There's no one left to turn to, to help me. I wish you could hold me and sing some silly song that you made up off the top of your head, just to cheer me up. You've always been there to run interference when me and Maria had our disagreements... I don't know how to fix this. I don't even know if it can be. God, Alex... where are you when I need you..."

Liz took several deep breaths to try and calm down a little. She never imagined that it would be so hard to let things out. She'd barely broken the surface of all the things she was feeling.

"I hope that where ever you are, you can find it in yourself to forgive me. I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for my part in this. If I could trade places with you, I would in a heartbeat. You had so much to live for. Isabel loved you. Your friends miss you. You should have seen how this affected them. You were everything to them. And to me. I'm so sorry I caused this. I miss you so much... P... Pl... Please...Please don't hate me..."

There were no more words left to convey all the things she was feeling. The emotions were too raw, too primal, to put into words. It was the anguish inside her that welled up and made her voice catch in her throat. Guilt made her tears fall. She felt anger which was aimed at everyone and everything, even Alex. Her rage was unfocused and left her shaking with the helplessness of it all. Grief simply left her devastated.

When the maelstrom of emotions finally died down, Liz was left feeling a little better. It was as though a burden was lifted from her shoulders. The pain of losing Alex didn't go away, but it was now a little easier to actually face.

Liz sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. When she spoke, her voice was a little shaky but not as bad as before. "Know what's weird, I actually feel a little better. After the day I had, I didn't think it was possible."

Liz fell silent for a moment. She allowed herself to enjoy the stillness of her surroundings. It was hard to believe that she was in a cemetery after hours, and she wasn't the slightest bit creeped out. Despite the looming shadows. If she were the fanciful type, she could almost believe that her old friend was watching over her.

"I haven't felt this normal since that morning when we all last talked. Actually I haven't felt like this for a really long time. It makes me think that maybe you heard me. And that you don't hate me. I don't want you to hate me... I love you, Alex."

Liz felt as though she had just walked through her own personal hell. She felt exhausted, as an emotionally draining crying jag like she just went through was likely to do to a person. All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and sleep in her nice warm bed.

She attempted to get up on her feet, but her body refused to cooperate with her. Liz simply didn't have the energy to stand on her feet. Tiredness seeped into her body, making her brain slow and start to drift off. With the last of her strength, she crawled closer to the headstone. She gently laid her head on the far edge of it as though it were a pillow.

"Alex, I hope you don't mind me resting my head here. I just need to rest a moment before getting up." Her voice became softer. Dreamier. It was clear to see that she was on the verge of falling asleep. "I used to do this as a child when we had to come up here... Mom told me that these were people's faces to the world... They could see and hear everything... I thought if I listened, I could hear them too. But I never did..."

Liz shifted slightly as she reached underneath her hip. Her hand pulled out a rose from where it had been jabbing her. It was desiccated and withered. Dead at the hands of the warm New Mexico climate, and hot sun. She twirled it lazily in her fingers.

When she spoke next, Liz's voice was almost inaudible. "I'm a just... gonna listen... see if I hear you...hope so..." Her words slurred as sleep finally claimed her. The dead bud of the rose clutched firmly in her bandaged palm.

She never saw the spectral hand of her oldest friend brush the hairs back off from her face. Nor did she ever hear the faint whisper on the wind, "Sleep, Liz. I love you too. Friends forever, remember? Death doesn't change that."

Only the headstones and monuments were witness to the ethereal form of Alex Whitman sitting next to the sleeping girl, keeping watch over her as night settled in around them.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:17:10 AM

Chapter 12

The first thing that Liz became aware of was the sensation of the warmth of the sun's rays on her face. Slowly she blinked her eyes open, only to be confronted by the brightness of daylight. Which in itself was odd, she could have sworn it was nighttime.

Liz didn't have long to puzzle over that, as something else drew her attention away. The sun seemed to be shining down with an unnatural intensity. It was so bright that her eyes began to tear. Spots swam in and out of her vision. She tried to shield her eyes with her hand, in a feeble attempt to protect them. The motion only gave her a modicum of relief.

She narrowed her eyes to little slits and kept her hand up to provide a little shade. It wasn't much, but it enabled her to look around a little. Just enough to take in her surroundings.

She was in the cemetery. But for some reason it looked different to her. It wasn't anything that she could put a finger on, so subtle were the changes. Everything seemed to be off by mere centimeters. The proportions of the headstones were wrong. They were either too wide or too narrow. Some were too curved, others not curved enough.

Most people would never have noticed a difference that infinitesimal. But Liz would and did. She had always been a stickler for the tiniest details. This was no exception. Everything that she saw was slightly askew. It was as if she was standing in the middle of a dream...

A dream.

Suddenly it all made sense to her. Things were off kilter not because it was like she was in a dream. She was dreaming. Liz was completely aware and knew that she was caught up inside a dream.

Unfortunately, her awareness of what was going on, did nothing to bring her out of it. Wasn't she supposed to wake up once she figured things out? It didn't make much sense. She'd been able to wake herself up the last time.

Liz remembered hearing something along the lines that when the dreamer was lucid, the dreamer can control the dream. The dream didn't have to control her. If that was the case, then why couldn't she wake up? Or at the very least dim the brightness of the light. She tried to will it to change, but nothing happened.

She was trapped there. Stuck in the dream world of headstones and excessive lighting. And Liz didn't like it. Her anxiety began to rise as a small seed of doubt took root. It grew and flourished like a well-tended garden. Feeding her anxiousness little by little, until what had once been a mere touch of anxiety was now almost a full fledged panic attack.

The urge to flee was too strong to deny, so she ran. Blindly, through the never-ending cemetery, did she make her way. Liz took a lot of spills as she ran, but she always picked herself up and continued on. She stumbled each time because the brightness of the light made it almost impossible to see.

Liz ran, and ran, and ran, and ran, until her strength finally failed her. She collapsed to the ground panting heavily. For all her running, she didn't really get anywhere. That was despite the fact that she felt as if she had just participated in a 3 mile run. It was almost as though she had been running around in circles all this time.

The only thing she knew with certainty, was that there didn't seem to be any escaping the cemetery. It struck her as odd though, she remembered visiting Alex's grave at night without any fear, but here in the dream it was the sunlight that was frightening. Not to mention that she didn't know why she was there in the first place.

Eventually she was able to regulate her breathing to a normal pace. Cautiously, she tried to protect her eyes and look around. That was when she noticed where she was sitting. It was with great irony that she realized that of all the plots in the cemetery to collapse upon, she ended up back by Alex's grave.

Everything was just as she remembered it from when she bared her soul earlier that night at his graveside. Only now everything was bathed in eye searingly bright light. She scooted closer to the headstone, and felt something poke her in the side of her butt. Liz reached for the offending item and pulled it out from underneath her.

It was a pair of sunglasses.

Not being someone to look a gift horse in the mouth during a dream, she decided there was no harm in putting them on. Besides that, she was all in favor of anything that helped prevent her retinas from burning out. Dream or not.

She picked them up and put them on. Instantaneously, the blinding intensity of the light was reduced to tolerable levels. She blinked several times as her eyes became adjusted to the sudden dimness. Once she was able to focus again, Liz was amazed by all that she could see.

When Liz had put the sunglasses on, she had expected to see things through a darkish tint. That didn't happen. With the glasses on, everything looked normal. Normal colors. Normal dimensions. There was even a normal amount of light. The only thing that she could tell was different was the unusual clarity and sharpness of the world around her.

She didn't understand how that was possible. Sunglasses, not even dream sunglasses, can make you see things in that way. From what she knew, sunglasses blocked harsh light because of a special coating or tint that distorted and/or deflected rays of light. When you wore sunglasses, things never looked the same as they do to the naked eye.

Out of the blue, a voice called out from Liz's left side, startling her, "Yo' Cornball, don't strain your brain."

Liz whipped around suddenly in order to face the person who made her jump. "Ava? What are you doing... Wait a minute, how did you know that I was trying to figure things out?" She looked at the pink haired girl with suspicion. "You got in my head and read my mind, didn't you? You're as bad as Tess." She accused.

"What? No. We's friends. I ain't gonna do that to you. 'Sides, I can't." Ava said, looking hurt.

"I thought we were too... What do you mean, you can't?" Liz asked, confused.

"I can't mess wit' minds. Not like that. I don't gots that power. That's the kind of shit that Nicholas and his crew are up to. I mostly gets visions. And the Skins' brain games can't get to me."

"But what about Tess? She's got that mind power..."

"I ain't nothin' like her." Ava spat out vehemently.

"I don't get it. If that's the case, then how did you know I was thinking hard?"

"Well, you had this weird wrinkled forehead thing going on. And you were biting your lip." Tess's dupe said defensively.

"But how did you know? It's not like we spent all that much time together..."

"Look, I'm not stupid. I've gotten pretty good at reading people's actions. How do ya' think I've managed to survive on my own?"

"I'm sorry. I just... I don't trust much of anything lately. We found out today that Tess isn't gone. And you know, you are her duplicate."

"Yo', It's not my fault she looks like me. I swear to ya', I would never hurt ya'. I'd sooner hurt myself. You gotta believe me."

Liz searched her face looking for any sign of deception. Satisfied that she saw none, she allayed the other girl's worry with a hug. "I do believe you. I just seem to be making a mess of my friendships."

"That's ok. It's no big... Let's bounce, there's something I wanna show you. Ya' can tell me on the way what you think you's doing wrong." said Ava as she started to walk away.

It only took Liz a moment to decide to follow the girl. She knew that she should be cautious around Ava, but for some reason her instincts told her that the alien girl was trustworthy. There was something about her that she never saw in Tess.

Maybe that was the reason that Liz opened up to the girl. As they walked, Liz found herself telling Ava all about the Max from the future and how Maria told the others about him. Of course as the story unfolded, she held back the part about connecting with the Granolith. She wasn't sure why she did that. Liz just had a feeling that it wasn't time to bring that up, quite yet.

Suddenly, Ava stopped, causing Liz to bump into her. She looked to see what had caused her friend to stop so abruptly. Her eyes widened as she discovered that they were standing in front of River Dog's cave. The one that had the alien symbols on its walls, where they used the healing stones on Michael the year before. The entrance forebodingly loomed in front of them. It's contents shrouded in darkness.

Liz had mixed emotions about entering the cave. On the one hand, her rational mind was assuring her that it was only a cave. She'd been there before, there was nothing to be afraid of. But on the other hand, she had a strange feeling about what was inside. Her instincts were telling her that there was something there that was important to find out. And whatever that thing was, it would be a harbinger for change.

She wasn't sure if she really wanted to know. Every change that had happened around her lately, had been a not-so-good thing. Things in her life were chaotic enough as it was. She could easily live without any more revelations.

The sound of Ava's voice interrupted her train of thought. "Do ya' gotta reason everything out? Man, you're thinking so hard that even my brain's hurting." She said with a slight smile.

"How did you..."

"You's been doing that scrunchy forehead thing, again... There ain't a lot of time, and you's need to see what's in there." insisted Ava.

"Why me? Why do I keep getting sucked into all these alien related problems? Why don't you tell Isabel, or Michael, or Max? I'm not all that important in the realm of all things alien."

Ava sighed. An indiscernible expression traveled across her face. "You's so wrong. Liz, do you remember what I told you? You are the only one who can do this. It has a bit to do with... um... how you've changed. You are as involved in this as the rest of them. I knows how this sucks, but you can't fight your destiny."

"Destiny? I am so freaking tired of hearing about destiny. In fact, if there ever was a word that I thought should be voted out of the English language, destiny is it! Do you have any idea how 'Destiny' has ruined my life? Do you?"

"Yo' chill. Chill, girl. I didn't mean to get you all pissed off or nuthin'. Maybe that was the wrong thing to say. It's just that fate is guiding ya' here for a reason."

"Why? Why me, and not Kyle, or even Maria? Hell, Max brought Kyle back from the brink of death. So isn't he changed too? Why didn't you try him?"

Ava stood there looking at Liz for a long time. She was nibbling on her lip and seemed to be struggling with something. Liz guessed that despite all her false bravado, Ava wasn't so sure about things. Seeing as she seemed to be perplexed by Liz's statement about Kyle. After what seemed like a long while, Ava finally answered Liz.

"I didn't know about Kyle. That kinda threw me for a moment. I have a few hunches why I'm able to do this with you. But I won't know for sure unless ya' go in there."

"Well, if I go in there, are you going to be there too? Or are you going to pull another disappearing act?" Liz asked, refering to her previous dream.

"I'll be right there in this, beside ya'. But look, we're running low on time. We gotta go in there now. So you in or you's out?"

Liz thought about it for a moment. This was all a matter of trust versus fear. She trusted Ava. Liz was certain that she was being on the level. So actually, if she trusted Ava, then that meant that her problem was fear.

It was clear to see that this was a turning point. Kind of like those choose-your-own-adventure type books. Liz wasn't sure how exactly, but she was positive that her decision now would influence the rest of her life. She could either face this, or run away and cower from things for the rest of her life.

The memory of her future self standing before Nicholas flashed in her mind. He'd said something to her about her cowering behind Zan's shield. She was no longer the girl who hid behind Max for safety. She had proven to herself that she wasn't about to run away from things that she didn't want to face. Fear wasn't going to control her life. Liz refused to be that cowering girl ever again.

Fueled by her resolve, and acting in spite of her fear, Liz crossed over the threshold of the cave. She turned back to Ava with a look of determination on her face. Then she said, "Come on. I thought you were in this big hurry."

Ava hurried over to where Liz stood and together they made their way into the heart of the cave. It should have been dark inside, but there was just enough ambient light to allow them to see where they were going. Once they reached the chamber they paused. Her first impression was that the dimensions of the cave were larger than she remembered. Perhaps because this was all a dream.

The pink haired girl turned to her and said, "You don't gots to wear them in here. Everything is easy to see." Referring to Liz's dream sunglasses.

Liz took off the glasses and was startled by two things. The first was how well the room was lit. Especially since there didn't appear to be a light source that she could find. It intrigued her. If it were real and not just in a dream, she would love to study it. Examine it and find out the source and uncover all its properties. Then find some new applications for it.

As fascinated as she was by the mysterious lighting, there was something else in the chamber that warranted her attention even more. Lined up along one of the walls were four large stones, vaguely reminiscent of headstones. They looked old and seemed to be made out of a material that she had never seen before. It looked to be some kind of stone, but like none she knew of. At least not from Earth.

Liz felt drawn to these four solemn markers of lives lived. She walked over to them to examine them closer. She was surprised to see that they were completely smooth and blank. She turned to Ava, who popped up beside her, with a questioning look.

"It's just like the silver handprint. Ya' need to use your powers to in order to be able to read it. You can do it."

"If you say so." said Liz, not quite believing it herself. Liz raised her bandaged hand and closed her eyes and concentrated as she waved it in front of the stone furthest from the entrance. She felt a tingling sensation pass through her and out her hand. Her eyes flew open, and she stared in wonder as there were strange symbols on the one in front of her. She turned to Ava, who was smiling a gigantic smile at her.

"Yo', see I told you you's could do it." Liz had never heard Ava sound so joyous, or so happy before. She didn't know why her friend was so happy, but it warmed her heart to hear her like that. It was in her voice as she continued, "Now finish up with the others."

Liz repeated the same process for each of the other three headstones. They each had different symbols on the front except for two of them, they shared some of the same markings. She took a step back and looked at all of them side by side.

There was no way for her to make heads or tails out of the alien language. She would have an easier time translating cuneiform or hieroglyphics with out any help. What good was it to see this if she couldn't understand what it said?

A thought hit Liz, Tess had had memories of her world, maybe Ava did too. Maybe she could translate it for her. Liz looked at Ava and asked, "Can you read this writing?"

"Sorta. I remember some of them better than others. But I'll see what I can do."

Ava stepped in front of Liz and looked at each of the monuments several times before turning back to Liz. "Ok. I gots the gist of some of it... These are for the original royal four. This one at the far end there with the jagged mark that looks kind of like lightning is Rath. The one next to it with the symbol that looks sorta like the number six only more fancy, is Vilandra. Next to her are..."

Liz interrupted Ava's explanation, "King Zan and Ava his Queen... It has to be." she said pointing at the headstones as she spoke.

"That's right. But that didn't take no genius to figure out. They's the only ones left."

"But that's not how I knew. The V formation mark is theirs. So is that swirling symbol that looks like an embrace," Liz said.

For just a split second, Ava paled at that comment. Liz could tell that something she'd said had shaken her. The girl quickly covered it up. But there was an urgency in her eyes as she grabbed hold of Liz's shoulders and asked, "How do you know that? What do you know about the mark of the House of Zan?"

"Well remember when were walking earlier, and I was telling you about Maria telling about future Max? Well, she felt she had to tell them because I had made a connection to the Granolith, somehow. When it was over... I kinda broke down a little."

"Liz, this is very important. What happened when you connected to the Granolith?" Ava asked, concerned.

"My hand touched it accidentally and I saw things. It wasn't just a flash, it was like I was able to see everything going on around me."

"What did you see?"

"Well, I saw how Tess escaped. Future Max and the future me saying good bye. Then Nicholas killed the future me. I also saw a ceremony performed in front of the Granolith. But it didn't take place on Earth. There were all these strange creatures and it reminded me of a wedding ceremony. And this green priest-like-guy held his hand up and the V constellation appeared out of the male's forehead. Then somehow it was also placed into the female's forehead. I remember seeing her change color from green to purple... Why do you want to know?"

"What about the embrace... the sprial symbol? What of that?" Ava shakily asked.

"It was on the book the priest took out. And then the male, I guess it was King Zan, pulled one of these out of the Granolith. Only that one wasn't broken." Liz said as she reached into her pocket to pull out the pendant that Max gave her when they said their good-byes. She opened her hand for Ava to see what she was talking about.

Ava gasped at the sight of the broken relic. She looked down at Liz's hand and then back up at her. Then she looked back down at the pendant again. Ava did that several times, a stunned expression on her face. It took her a while before she said anything.

"Look Cornball, there's only one of those... It was given to the Queen on the day of their bonding. I didn't know it survived... Max gave it to you?" Ava asked, slightly panicked. When Liz nodded in reply, Ava continued speaking in a rush. She sounded like she was talking mostly to herself, "Shit I thought we had more time... It's ok... Don't worry. This just changes things a little. Damn it! I don't got enough time to explain it all now. This is great. Just great. Shit! We're really low on time."

"Ava. Ava, calm down. What are you talking about?" Liz asked concerned. She had the feeling that this was the cause for her anxiety outside the cave. Ava knew what was going on. And whatever it was was freaking her out.

"Im's cool. It's ok. Things are gonna happen pretty fast. I won't be able to explain everything to you's before it happens. Just trust yourself, yo' heart won't lead you wrong. Ya' gotta promise me something..."

"Ok," Liz said hesitantly. She had no idea what Ava was talking about. "What do you want me to promise?"

"The pendant... don't let anyone else see it. Don't tell no one. Don't keep it in a drawer or a jewelry box. Keep it on you at all times. It's as serious as the end of the world."

"But why the secrecy?" Liz wanted to know.

"I can't go into it now. It's too soon... There are a couple more things that I gotta show you."

She dragged Liz to the wall opposite where the symbols were. There was a tombstone with a dead, dried up rose in front of it. Ava picked up the flower and looked sadly at it and at the grave before her. She motioned for Liz to wave her hand in front of the obsidian headstone to unveil who it belongs to. Liz did, and the name Zan appeared with a engraving of a man who looked like Max but with strange hair, a goatee, and piercings .

"That was your Zan?" Liz gently asked the girl who was sniffling back tears.

"Yeah. I always thought that he deserved something more. Rath and Lonnie just left him splattered on the street. Like he was garbage. That wasn't right. He had been a king, before. So I did this." Ava said as she pulled herself back together.

"I'm sorry. I know how much you loved him. I'm sure Zan was quite the man." Liz said, in an attempt to comfort her.

"He was, Zan was 'da man. I still miss him. But at least I helped to save your Zan... I mean Max. I hope it makes up a little for not saving mine."

"I'm sure he wouldn't blame you. Lonnie and Rath on the other hand, well let's just hope that they don't encounter him in the afterlife. Not that they'd be going to the same place he's at. Heaven and hell don't exactly meet."

"You think... Zan is in heaven?" asked Ava, in a small voice.

"Yeah. He couldn't have been too bad. He must have been worthy for you to love him like you do."

"You are so Cornball..." said Ava as she rolled her eyes. Despite that action, Liz could tell that what she said meant a lot to the other girl. She confirmed Liz's thoughts when she continued, "But still, its nice to hear that." Ava said in a warm tone with a tender smile.

For just a moment, pink hair aside, she seemed like a normal girl. It wasn't Ava the former queen. Or Ava the alien hybrid dupe. Liz was able to see the girl Ava the human, would have been. What was most amazing, was that this Ava would have been able to fit in with their group easily.

Unfortunately, streetwise Ava reappeared. "There's one more thing I gotta show you. It's over here." She said as she dragged Liz over to the wall where the symbols were.

"Here take this." said Ava as she thrust the long dead rose into her hand. "Why don't you try to alter the flower. See if you can make it into something else, while I take care of this. Just concentrate like you did on the handprint."

Ava pulled a few crystals, that looked like the healing ones, out of a small pouch and placed them in the V formation symbol. They glowed when she ran her hand over them. Then, surprising Liz, she took away the one at the base of the V.

Liz tried concentrating on changing the rose. She felt that weird tingling feeling, which she now associated with using powers. But for some reason, she couldn't gather enough energy to do it. It would peak before it could exit her hand and reach the flower. But that didn't stop her from trying again. She began to focus on the flower but Ava distracted her.

"Hey Cornball, pay attention to this. When the stones are like that, its the lost ruler formation. Don't forget."

Ava then waved her hand over the ground in front of her and the silver handprint appeared. She pressed her palm against it and it slid away to reveal a flat slab imbedded in the ground. It was not a fancy slab of stone like the ones Liz saw in the cave or even in the cemetery. This one seemed crude, and made out of indigenous rock.

Liz only paid partial attention to what Ava was doing. But she focused back on trying to change the flower. For some reason, she felt a strong surge of energy as she was trying to do it. She pictured what she wanted in her mind and tried to will the energy to do just that.

She could hear vaguely Ava. "Liz, you got to remember this..."

Ava waved her hand over the stone. As she swept her hand across, an image was revealed. It was a rough image of a little girl. Like the one from the Destiny book. The one who was Tess.

Liz felt dizzy as the power coursed its way through her body. Everything started to spin. She saw Ava's concerned face as the tingling of all the power reached Liz's hand.

"Liz, remember." she faintly heard Ava from a distance.

The energy expelled from her hand, giving her body the equivalent of an electric shock. It brought her to her knees much like the way Max reacted outside the pod chamber. Her bandaged hand fell open...

"Liz!" Ava yelled.

... The rose fell onto the stone next to the child's face. It was fresh and new as if it had just been picked.



Then darkness claimed her.




Liz slowly became aware of a familiar voice calling to her. Urging her to come out of the darkness. Slowly she gained the strength to open her eyes to mere slits.

She could just make out a blurry face hovering above her, frowning in worry. When the person noticed her slightly open eyes, she smiled in relief. Gradually, things came into focus once again. And Liz realized who was there with her.

"Isabel." Her voice was rough and tired sounding.

"Liz, thank God you're ok." Isabel sounded relieved.

The drained lethargic feeling was slow to leave Liz's body. It took several minutes for her to clear her head and get her body to cooperate with her. She gladly welcomed Isabel's assistance, to get into a sitting position next to Alex's grave.

"What just happened? I put my hand on your shoulder and it was like I wasn't able to control the energy. It was kinda like how you piggybacked off my energy to reach Max in New York." Isabel asked as she sat down on the grass a few feet away from her.

"I don't know what happened. Are you ok, though?" Liz asked.

"Yeah. It just made me a little weak. But you... I wasn't even sure if you were still breathing."

"It'll take more than that to take me down." Liz replied flippantly. She was not up to dealing with Isabel's concern at the moment.

Isabel happened to notice something that made her face pale slightly. "Liz, oh my God. Look..."She said as she pointed to Liz's hand.

As if in slow motion, Liz turned her head and trained her gaze where Isabel was pointing. Her eyes grew wide. Liz's mouth dropped open in shock. She had to remind herself to breathe.

Her hand, dangling off her bent knee, was glowing faintly. Even through the bandages.

On the ground below her open hand, lay the desiccated rose she had been holding.

Only now it was fresh, fragrant, and in full glorious bloom.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:19:57 AM

Chapter 13

The two girls stared at Liz's glowing hand in wonder. It had been several minutes since Isabel had pointed it out to Liz, in shock. The glow was only now just starting to fade. Liz watched in fascination as the glowing dimmed, until it was completely gone. Her hand once again looked like an average ordinary hand.

Liz didn't know what was more disturbing... The dream she just had, her glowing hand, the rose that she'd brought back to full bloom, or the fact she was sitting across from one of the people that she'd hoped to avoid. She didn't know what to make of it. Is this the stupid fate or destiny that Ava said that she had to face?

Was she changing? Is this a manifestation of powers? How was this possible? What was the point of the dream with Ava? And why, oh why, did Isabel Evans have to be the one to witness this? The only way things could have been worse, was if Max was there instead.

All she had wanted to do here was make her peace with Alex. The need to find her balance and get back to what was real, was strong. So was her need to spend a few moments free of aliens... But no, it seemed that no matter what she did, she was beseiged on all sides by alien related issues.

Even now, the world wasn't granting her enough time to adjust to these startling changes. All she wanted to do was quietly sort everything out in her mind. Liz needed to be able to separate and file all of the events of the day into the correct compartment in her brain. It was the only way she knew to deal with these unbelievable events. She had to have time to process everything logically and procede from there.

In order to do that, Liz needed silence so she could concentrate. Unfortunately for her, Isabel had a different idea.

"Liz, your hand was..."

"Glowing. I know. I saw that." Liz said in a deceptively neutral voice.

"But why? How? Has that ever happened before?"

"Sure, Isabel. It happens all the time. It makes me real popular at parties during blackouts... Don't you think if it had, I'd have told one of you? Contrary to popular belief, I don't have answers for everything. There are some things that I don't understand," said Liz. Her irritation was on the rise.

"There's no need to be sarcastic. I'm just confused by what's going on."

"You're not the only one." Liz muttered under her breath.

"I'm concerned for you. I know what it's like to suddenly not be sure who or what you are. Who knows, maybe I could even help you."

"Is, I'm sure in your mind, you mean well. But all I want right now is for you to leave me alone."

"But Liz... I don't think you should be alone right now." Isabel protested.

"God. I can't believe this. What part of 'leave me alone' do you not understand? Why does everyone think they know what's best for me?"

"After everything you did for us, we owe you so much. I feel like I should do something... "

"This isn't quid pro quo. I didn't do what I did, in order to get something in return."

"Liz, I just want to be there for you..."

"You've never been there for me before, why bother now? And you know what? I don't need your charity. I don't want your charity. I just want to be left the hell alone." With that said, Liz stood up and angrily stormed off, back toward the car she'd borrowed.

Isabel was left sitting there stunned. Completely and utterly stunned. She wanted to know what the hell just happened. Isabel didn't understand how her attempts at being a friend, could blow up in her face so badly. Liz's animosity came out of the blue.

Isabel was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't notice the ethereal appearance of Alex. She didn't realize he was there until she felt the sensation of his arm coming to rest upon her slumped shoulders. But still she kept facing the direction that Liz headed as she left. The only sign that she was aware of his presence was when she began to talk.

"God, Alex. I really messed this up. I was just trying to be her friend. I didn't mean to make her run off." Isabel said dejectedly. "I try so hard but I never seem to be able to reach people. Maybe they goofed when they made me. After all, Vilandra, and even Lonnie, didn't exactly seem to be the types to have friends. Enemies, yes. Lovers, definitely. Enemies as lovers, probably. But not friends. Maybe I'm more like them than I thought, after all."

Alex reached out and pulled Isabel close to him. Her head instinctively came to rest on his shoulder. "You're not Vilandra. You're Isabel. She's not you. Not in this life. And this is the only one that counts. Anything else is crap. When are you going to realize that? You just got stuck with a raw deal. Most people have disfunctional families, you had a disfunctional personality in your past life. The key word being past... You know maybe the reason that you don't reach people, is because to you things are either/or. You consider yourself to be half human and half alien. You try too hard or you don't try at all. You need to find neutrality, the shades of grey that lie in between the two. Because things in life are rarely so black and white. You are what you are."

"I know this." Isabel said softly.

"Well if you know it already, why do I have keep reminding you? Even if I'm just a... quote, figment of your imagination, unquote."

"Maybe it makes more sense coming from you. Or maybe I just miss the sound of your voice. I come here to... Wait a minute. If you're just in my mind to help me, then how come I watched you sitting with Liz for awhile before I came over?"

"Well grasshopper, that is something to think about. Am I real to you because you see me? Or do you see me because I am real?"

"Oh Alex, sometimes I miss you so much. I wish..."

"I know Is. So do I..." Alex let his words trail off. They sat there several heartbeats, just letting the sentiment behind the words sink in. "I've had a lot of time to think about things, and as crazy as it sounds, there had to be a reason for all this to happen. Maybe some kind of higher power in charge."

"I just have trouble believing that God would do this to you. Take you away from me... from all of us. It doesn't seem fair."

"Life isn't fair. Maybe this was the way things needed to be to make things right. Liz said that she changed the future to save the world. That I didn't die the first time around. Tess didn't use me for her silly book. What if my death was necessary to bring about changes?" asked Alex.

"What do you mean by that? What kind of changes?"

"If I hadn't died, you wouldn't have known about Tess. Liz probably wouldn't have had to be strong and face things alone. Maybe she wouldn't have discovered that she had powers too. And you, Is..."

"And me, what?"

"This could be a chance for you to prove to yourself who you are. So that you can finally see how good a person everyone else knows you are inside."

"Do you really believe that?"

"I always thought you were beautiful. Inside and out... I was right, because you found it in yourself to care about me. That was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me."

"I'm just sorry I wasted so much time." Isabel said. Her sorrow was heart-wrenchingly noticeable.

Alex didn't reply. He just pulled her into the embrace of his arms. Letting his actions speak all the words that should now remain silent, as they would only make things more painful to bear. They both knew how the other felt, but sometimes love truly wasn't enough.

The couple sat there in silence, both yearning for what would never be. In unison, they looked up at the stars. It seemed that every star in the sky was visible at that moment and shining down on them, only for them. They shared the beauty of the moment knowing that most likely they'll never have the chance again.

"Penny for your thoughts." Alex murmered into Isabel's hair.

"I was just thinking about Liz. I really want to be there for her. But I don't even know if I can help. Or if she'll even let me."

"I don't know, Is. There's a lot she's trying to deal with. I think one of the big things is that she blames herself for what happened to me. Just like you blamed yourself. From what I could put together, in the original future we celebrated her and Max's wedding at age 19. She feels that her choices killed me..."

"She would have married Max?" Isabel asked, stunned. "Please tell me you're kidding me."

There had to be a punchline to what he said. There had to be. Even God wasn't that cruel. Isabel waited for him to admit he was joking. But he never did. His silence left her reeling, as she began to understand the enormity of what Liz gave up. Just to save them and the world.

"Alex, this story keeps getting worse and worse. She knew she would have married Max, and she gave that up? How could she... How could she be so strong?"

"Liz has always been that way, but she's not as strong as you think. It's just a mask she wears. I think the stress of the past few days has her near the breaking point. This... surge of alien powers couldn't have chosen a worse time to pop up."

"How do I help her? She's so proud. Will she even let me do anything?"

"You have to let her come to you. And I have it on good authority that she'll be needing your help." He said with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Alex, what did you do?" Isabel asked as she picked up on the mischievious gleam in his eyes.

"Me?" He said, wide eyed and feigning innocence. "Nothing. I'm just a figment of your imagination. There's no way I could have tampered with DeLuca's car. But I do think that Liz will be needing a ride home about now." Alex said, with a wink. He was smiling broadly at the prank he'd pulled.

"I guess I should get going then. I just wish I could have spent more time with you." Regret shaded Isabel's voice.

"I know... Me too. But right now Liz needs you more than I do. You can help her; I can't... Not anymore. Take care of her for me... I know you can do it." Alex said as he stood up. He extended his hand to help pull her up.

"I will. I promise." Isabel vowed as she took his hand and let him help her to her feet.

Although he didn't come right out and say anything, she knew from what wasn't said, that he was passing her the torch, so to speak. He was entrusting to her, the care and handling of one of his best friends. Isabel had a feeling that this might be the last time she saw him like this. And knowing that, she wanted her last memory of him here to be something special.

Isabel stepped in front of him and pulled him close in a final embrace. She pulled back just enough to look at his face and memorize how he looked. She closed her eyes and brought her mouth to his in the sweetest, purest kiss she'd ever known. He stepped away and she whispered, "I love you."

They smiled at each other with more love, loss, and regret than either thought possible. When her eyes began to tear up, Isabel turned and headed toward the car. She hadn't gotten very far when she had the urge to look at him one last time. Without breaking her stride, she spun around. Only to find he was gone.

Saddened slightly, she continued on her way back to the car. As she was walking, she faintly heard what could only be Alex's voice saying, "Note to self, remember to fix DeLuca's car... Scratch that... Let the deliquent fix it himself. If he can find where I hid the battery." Alex's laughter faded on the wind.

Isabel couldn't help but smile. That was her Alex.

Her last memory was something special indeed.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:23:56 AM

Chapter 14

Liz couldn't believe her luck. Sean's ancient car refused to start. The engine wouldn't even try to turn over. She'd turn the key in the ignition and nothing would happen. It acted as if the battery was dead.

Which was great, just great. After the day she had, she didn't know why it surprised her. It shouldn't have. Although it was the perfect ending to a less than stellar day.

Here she was, trapped out by the cemetery with no way to get back. She couldn't call anyone, simply because she didn't have her phone with her. Not that there was anyone she could call. Liz never told her parents that she was going out. And she refused to call any of the others simply because of what happened at the pod chamber.

So that left her with two choices, either start the long hike back to the Crashdown... Alone... In the dark... Or she could swallow her pride and see if Isabel will give her a ride back. Considering her choices, the thought of hoofing it back home was begining to sound better and better.

Liz kicked the front left tire repeatedly, as her frustration got the better of her. She hated feeling as though her life was spiraling out of control. Which it was. It was just too much... too much for one person to deal with in one day. The scariest part was that according to her watch, the day wasn't over yet. What the hell else was in store for her?

The sound of footsteps advancing on her, made her whirl around in mid-kick. Which caused her to lose her footing and stumble back against the hood of the car. Feeling decidedly ever so not graceful, she looked up to who was advancing toward her. It was Isabel. It figured that she would get to see her moment of klutziness.

"Liz... Is something wrong?" Isabel asked. She looked Liz over as if she knew exactly what was going on. Which to be honest, was pretty unnerving. "Car problems?"

Liz nodded her head and said, "Yeah."

Isabel took a few moments before she continued talking. It seemed to Liz that she was trying to think of what to say. For a moment, Liz got the impression that Is was going to try and smooth things over. Which would save Liz from having to admit to needing someone's help.

But then Isabel shook her head and said, "Well, good luck with the car. I've got to get the car back. I told Mom that I wouldn't be gone long. I guess I'll see you around."

She watched Isabel walk away from her and over to her family's car. Liz couldn't believe that she was just going to leave her there. Each step that Isabel took, Liz was certain that she'd turn around and offer to take her back. But she never did. Isabel opened the driver's side door and was about to climb in, when Liz decided on a course of action.


"What?" asked Isabel. As she straightened up and looked at her.

Relunctantly, Liz answered, "Look, I'm sorry for snapping at you a few minutes ago."

"Oh, ok. Apology accepted, Liz... Goodnight." and once again Isabel was poised to climb into her car.

"Wait. Isabel... Could I catch a ride back to town with you?"

Isabel leaned forward in between the open car door and the door frame. She eyed Liz, and regarded her seriously.

To Liz it seemed as though she was being judged. She couldn't abide the idea that Isabel was passing judgement on her. Who was she to judge her? Liz had done nothing wrong. She knew that she was above reproach.

So why was she standing there? A stupid car ride home wasn't worth losing her last semblances of pride.

"Forget it. I don't need this. I'm gonna walk." Liz curtly informed Isabel.

Before Isabel had time to react, Liz had turned and headed down the road to town.

Liz hugged the side of the unpaved road as she headed toward the lights coming from Roswell. Her feet pounded the ground mercilessly. Each furious step she took managed to kick up a bit of dust. And that dust made her cough and sputter as she walked. With dogged determination she kept walking, in spite of that. She had a goal, and that was to get home.

The sound of a car starting, reached Liz's ears as she stumbled a little in the darkness. She hoped that Isabel would just drive home and leave her be. As the lights from her car illuminated the ground in front of her, she continued walking.

She could sense the car coming up closer behind her. Liz stuck to the far right side of the road in order to give Is enough room to get around without fear of hitting her. Out of the corner of her eye, as Liz snuck a glance, she saw the car advancing on her quickly.

The car was neck and neck with her for a split second, and then... In a manuever that clearly showed that Isabel had been a student of The Max Evans School of Driving, Isabel swerved and stopped directly in front of Liz. Much like how her brother did when Liz was waiting for the cab to the airport. The only difference being the circumstances, and that Max hadn't almost hit her with the Jeep.

Isabel had swerved and stopped so suddenly that Liz almost crashed into the side of the car. Luckily, her reflexes were good and she narrowly avoided the collision. But her path down the road was blocked now.

The window on the passenger door nearest her rolled down. She saw Isabel lean closer to the window. "Liz, get in the car."

A strong sense of deja-vu came over Liz at that moment. Isabel's action was so reminiscent of when Max played the King card on her. Liz didn't like when Max tried ordering her around back then, and she didn't like Isabel doing the same, now. They had no right to try and manipulate her life. She wasn't one of the Royal Four's subjects. She didn't have to cater to their whims.

Liz was just about to tell Isabel where she and her commands can go, when Isabel surprised her. She said the one thing that Liz never expected to hear. At least, not to her. Not with so much humility and sincerity.

"Please, Liz... I'm sorry."

The brunt of Liz's irritation and anger dissipated at those words. She couldn't remember a time when Isabel had ever appologized to her for anything. But Isabel just did.Liz knew that it took a lot for Isabel to say that to her. And she didn't think it was a manipulation tactic. So where did that leave her? How could she fight that?

There were only two options. She could suck it in, swallow her pride, and accept the ride. Or she could be mean and rude, thereby hurting Isabel. All because Liz wasn't dealing with things well.

That wouldn't be fair. More importantly, it wasn't right. Isabel's only crime was the she had been trying to be nice, no matter what motivated it. That certainly didn't warrant animosity from Liz. At least not for that. Her conscience couldn't abide by that.

Liz's hand hovered near the door handle as she internally rationalized things. Just because she may accept the lift, it wouldn't mean that she was giving in. She knew she would remain strong. It was only a short ride to the Crashdown. Besides, if she was completly honest with herself, she really didn't want to walk all the way back to town. Not if she didn't have to.

Thoughts of the sore blistered feet she would have after walking finalized Liz's decision for her. Especially since she had to work the A.M. shift at the cafe. A ride would get her home all the more sooner. Accepting Isabel's offer and calling a temporary truce would not only allow her to save her feet, but she might also be able to gain a few extra hours of restful sleep that night.

Her mind made up, Liz opened the passenger door and climbed into the front seat. She settled down and buckled herself in after she closed the door. Purposefully, Liz stared out the windshield because she refused to look at Isabel directly. Even when she spoke to the older girl. "Let's get going."

Isabel backed the car up and then started driving toward Liz's home.

Several minutes passed in silence. The lack of sound settled between the two girls. It seemed to have a life of its own as it stretched out and encompassed the enclosed area of the car. The heavy silence and stillness was a comfort for Liz. On the other hand, every second that passed made the oppressive quiet too much for Isabel to take.

"So, Liz... What were you doing in the graveyard?" asked Isabel.

It was a weak attempt to break the ice. Liz thought that Isabel would have been able to come up with something better. Liz would have. Was it possible that Isabel was feeling awkward? Somehow those two thoughts seemed so incongruous together. Awkwardness and Isabel Evans, now that was an oxymoron.

She couldn't tell if Isabel was being serious. Isabel wasn't stupid. She had to have realized that Liz had gone there to be near Alex. Was her question a feeble try at idle chit-chat? Or was she trying to find out what had driven her to come there?

If it was the latter, she couldn't just tell her that she went there because her world was falling apart at her feet. Crazy vision dreams. Rapidly growing alien-type powers. Betrayed by her best friend, regarded with respect by a not-so-friend. The one friend she had left was in some evil-alien-induced catatonic state. So she came out there for the solace of her other best friend, who just happened to be dead at the hands of said evil-alien. When put that way, it all sounded ridiculous.

In a low voice Liz answered her, "I came to spend some time with Alex. I needed to talk to a friend... Why do you ask? Were you there following me?" A hint of paranoia in her voice.

"No. I went to replace Alex's flowers. The other ones dried out so quickly, the way the weather has been."

Once again silence fell thick and heavy in the car. Liz stared sullenly out the window. Her emotions were so close to the surface that if she loosened her hold on them, she'd probably say something she'd regret later. Probably. She didn't understand how Isabel could be so obtuse and not understand that she couldn't handle a conversation at this point.

"I know we haven't been close. And I haven't been all that kind to you, but I want you to know I am your friend. I've never been all that good at letting people close to me. But I'd like to try. After everything you did, I owe you so much..."

Liz could not believe she was hearing this. This was a prime example of what she did not want to have happen. Isabel was only trying to be nice to her because of the end of the world. She didn't want anyone to be indebted to her. Nor did she want their attitudes regarding her to change because of it. If she hadn't had the aliens' friendship and respect before, why now? After everything Liz had gone through for them, she should have had those things already.

"Know what? Just let me off here. I'll walk home." Liz said angrily.

"What? Why? There's no need to get upset. I'm trying to be a friend." Isabel said. She couldn't help sounding confused by Liz's anger.

"Ooh, you're trying. I feel so honored. Should I bow now? I don't have to stay in this car and take your pity. I don't need anyone's sympathy. I don't want it. I know this change of heart is because Maria blabbed MY secret."

"Is that what you think of me? None of that's true." Isabel said, stricken.

"So what then? You wanna be my new buddy? Have sleepovers where we fix our hair and talk about boys?" Liz rolled her eyes. "What? We could dress up and go out clubbing? Cruise for college guys? ...I don't think so." Her bitter laughter echoed in the car.

"It's not like that." said Isabel, defending herself.

"Oh really? What is it then?"

Isabel was silent for several blocks as the car made its way toward the restaruant. When she spoke it was in a very tired voice.

"I used to be jealous of you. When you learned our secret, I felt as though I was being shoved to the side. You'd always been important to Max and then once he healed you, his whole universe revolved around you. You came first in his list of priorties. Above me and Michael, even above our safety. All you seemed to do was tear us apart. He didn't come to us for advice any more. Suddenly, Max was less quiet, and was happier than I'd ever seen him. It irked me that you were able to bring that side of him out. While we got left standing in the dust.

"And then Maria and Alex got involved in the mix. And I saw what true friendship was like. It made me even more envious. You seemed to have everything... You had Max. People cared about you, respected you. Even Michael did, in his own Michael way. I never had that.

"Sometimes I felt as though I was like an Alien Barbie doll. Complete with the fake smile, pretty clothes, blond hair, and boobs. Alien powers were the ultimate fashion accessory. I was just like a toy; pretty look at and play with, but easily cast off and forgotten.

"The damned thing was I couldn't hate you. I wanted to, but I couldn't. You were nice to everyone, even people you didn't like. Including Tess. And me. How could I hate you for that? You face things with a strength and dignity that I've never had. So, I resented you. Even after you and Max split..."

Liz turned to Isabel, with her mouth hanging open. "I can't believe this. You think this all comes easy to me? Everyone looks to me to have answers. To make things better... I'm not strong. I just try and make do with the lemons life throws at me. What choice do I have?"

"If I were in your shoes I don't think I'd be half as noble. When Maria told us what you did to save us and stop the end of the world, I realized something. I was wrong about a lot of things. All this time I blamed you for tearing us apart, when you really were trying to hold us all together. I mean I know you did it to save Max, first and foremost. But me and Michael figured in there somewhere."

"Well, you're right about one thing, you are wrong. I didn't do that for you. I did it for my Max. The one who loved and trusted me... so much." Liz's voice softened as she remembered the Max she'd risked so much for. Back when it didn't matter what they went through as long as they were together. When forever was still a possiblility for them.

Liz broke out of her reverie as she remembered that that was all a long time ago. Liz continued what she was saying, "My Max ceased to exist on my balcony after his future was changed. And I was left with this Max instead." Liz caustically spit out.

"Max?" Isabel exhaled after a gasp of shock.

Liz turned to look at the girl, surprised. Isabel's face turned ghostly white as an expression of horror settled on her face. She didn't understand why Is was so shocked. Maria told them all her secret. Why would she look as though she was just putting the pieces together and seeing the whole picture?

Isabel's talking intrerrupted what she was thinking. She caught the last part of what she was saying, "... telling me Max... from the future... asked you to stop the end of the world?"

"Yeah. Don't act so surprised. I'm sure Maria told you every little detail." But even as Liz said this, a seed of doubt was planted in her mind. It grew and festered like weeds on an untended lawn. Was it possible that Maria hadn't made the biggest betrayal of them all? Was Future Max still her secret to keep?

"No, she didn't. I didn't know until you mentioned it. Maria refused to say who it was that came back."

Liz was taken aback. "She what? She didn't... None of you... You didn't know?"

"Nope." Isabel replied as the Crashdown came into sight. She pulled up in front of the building and parked. The whole time Liz was oblivious to her surroundings.

"Oh God. What have I done? Maria..." Her voice trailed off as tears filled her eyes. Big gasping sobs, wracked Liz's slender frame. Suddenly, she looked up at Isabel and began to speak in a panic filled voice, "Isabel, you got to promise me that you won't tell them. They can't know. Especially Max. You've gotta promise. This is my one secret. It means a lot to me. I can't share it with everyone. Please... he's all I have left."

Isabel looked back at Liz, her own tears staining her cheeks. She didn't know how to ease the torment that the poor girl was going through. Liz had gone through so much on their behalf, while Is had been oblivious. She realized that she wasn't much of a friend. And while that hurt, it hurt Isabel more to realize that Liz didn't believe that she wouldn't go and tell Max and Michael. How could she convince her that her secret was safe?

The answer came to her as Liz's words from earlier popped into her mind, "Quid pro quo." Which means in this case; share a secret, learn a secret. And Isabel had only one secret that could compare to the one Liz accidentially told.

"Don't worry, Liz. Your secret's safe... And to even the score, I'll share the biggest one of mine. The reason why K'var wants to get a hold of me so badly is because Vilandra was his lover, before. Apparently back then, I slept with the enemy and betrayed my family. I think they believe that they can use me to do that again. I'm afraid that they could. No one else knows how afraid I am that I will let history repeat itself. Not even Max."

Liz looked at Isabel in shock. The 'Ice Queen' had just opened up and shared her deepest darkest secret to her. One that no one else knew.

So many thoughts were spinning around in Liz's head. Between everything that happened, Maria's ability to keep the heart of her secret, and Isabel's revelation; Liz was amazed that she was able to think as rationally as she was. She could honestly say that she'd never been so dumbfounded in her short life. At least not so much in one day.

While she didn't know what to make of it, she did know what to say. "Isabel... thank you. I can imagine how hard that was to do. You know, you didn't have to tell me that."

"Yes, I did. We're on equal ground now. I'd like for us to try and be friends. Not like how you said earlier though. But with talking, and the occasional hanging out and having fun. I might be able to even help you with your new powers... If you want." Isabel ended with a quiet voice. As though she was afraid of how Liz will react.

Liz took a deep breath to center herself. Then she replied, "I think I'd like that. But just so you know, I'll need a little time to put this all in perspective. But yeah, that's a good idea."

A slight smile tugged at Isabel's lips. "You should get going. It's getting late." She said, pointing toward the closed restaruant.

"Yeah, thanks for the ride. Goodnight, Isabel."

"Don't mention it. I'll catch you later sometime... Goodnight."

Liz opened the door and got out of the car. Is waved as she began to pull away on the nearly deserted street. Liz watched in numb silence as the car's tail lights faded from view. Alone once again, she headed to the side of the building where she could climb up onto her rooftop patio just outside her bedroom.

Thoughts of how badly she hurt her best friend, echoed in her mind as she ascended her fire escape. She had to find some way to make things right between her and Maria. There had to be a way to make things right.

Only that would have to wait till later. She was too exhausted. All she wanted to do go directly to her room, fall into bed, and sleep for several hours. Which was exactly what she was going to do.

But the twinkling stars above, knew better.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:28:27 AM

Chapter 15

Liz climbed over the top of the fire escape and stepped onto her rooftop sanctuary. She was greeted by a shadowy darkness. But the darkness that surrounded her did not bother her. She knew her way around there with her eyes closed. Which, at the moment, was a good thing. Apparently, in her haste to go out and check on the Valenti's, she had forgot to turn on the lights that encircled the area.

In a way, it was ironic that the roof was her refuge from the trials and tribulations of her life in Roswell. Especially since some of her most pain filled moments occurred there. At least the ones that had to do with Max.

This was where he inadvertently broke her heart when he said that he needed time apart to regain his balance. Then there was Max from the future explaining how she had to make his younger self fall out of love with her. She could still see the anguish etched onto Max's youthful face as he stared at her and Kyle through the window. When she broke his heart, her own shattered as well. Then she had to deal with losing the older Max right on the heels of that, knowing that she'd never bask in the idyllic warmth of Max's love again.

Despite those memories, she considered the space to be her safe haven. The happy memories she had by far outweighed the bad. There were years of her, Maria, and Alex, celebrating and having fun out there. She and Max had their first kiss in almost the very spot where she now stood. Max's serenade, which was embarassingly sweet, was a fond memory in spite of the other Max's presence. The past Christmas when she and Max talked about what was haunting him, it had been like coming home. They had been able to open up and be friends again.

Not even the devastation of losing Max twice in one night could overshadow the good memories she'd had out there.

Looking back, Liz couldn't pinpoint when the good things started to turn bad. Although Tess's arrival was a definite turning point. She and Max had only been together for a short time before Tess, and Max's alien destiny endeavored to tear her world apart. It was unsettling to realize that things had been bad far longer than they'd been good.

From the moment Isabel dropped her off in front of the restaruant, her mind had replayed two things over and over. Actually, there were several things floating around in her head, although she focused on her most recent conversation. The revelation of Vilandra's betrayal paled in comparison to what she'd found out about what Maria said. Or more to the point, what Maria didn't say left Liz reeling. Knowing how badly she'd misjudged her friend made Liz feel ashamed about her earlier behavior.

Maria didn't betray her. She never told them that her Max had come back to ask her to make him fall out of love with her. Only her and Maria knew the truth about the life she could have lived. Maria managed to keep Liz's secret to herself.

And now Isabel knew a portion of that secret. She didn't know the whole story, but it was enough for her to put some of the pieces together. Liz knew that she was taking a big leap of faith in trusting Isabel to keep quiet.

But finding out about the Vilandra secret, helped to assauge her fears. Isabel had to realize that if anyone found out about future Max, there was the possibility that Liz could share Vilandra's betrayal with everyone. Not that she was likely to do that. Blackmail wasn't the kind of thing that Liz felt comfortable with. If Isabel told, and push came to shove, Liz wasn't sure that she had it in her to retaliate in kind.

Liz knew that there was a lot to think about. Too many things to even attempt to consider at this late hour. She wouldn't be able to think things through coherently if she didn't get some rest. And things were too important to chance handling inadequately. Her friendship with Maria was dependent on what Liz did from this point forward. It was up to her to make ammends for how badly she hurt her oldest remaining friend.

But all that would have to wait until the morning. She was asleep on her feet. And she was in no condition to even attempt to reason things out. As much as she wanted to make things right, her need to sleep was her one non-negoitable necessity at the moment. Besides, a clear head was essential in order to figure out what to do about the shambles she'd made of her friendship.

Slowly, Liz made her way toward her bedroom window. The small amount of light that reached up there from the street gave the area around her a surreal quality. There were more shadows than she'd ever really noticed before. There wasn't an area that wasn't enshrouded in them. Every nook and cranny was enveloped in varying shades of inky darkness. Obscuring over two thirds of the roof.

She was tantalizingly close to her bedroom. It was only a few steps away. She could almost imagine that her bed was calling out to her, trying to entice her to hurry up and lay down and find a brief respite in sleep. She was just about to reach out and open her window when she heard it. A low voice called out to her from behind.


At the sound of the voice, her arm froze in mid-reach. Her slender shoulders tensed and slumped within a blink of an eye. Longingly, she gazed at her bed. She knew that she wouldn't be resting her head there anytime soon. Inwardly, she groaned at the loss.

Liz squared her shoulders and turned around to face the owner of the voice. Who was now emerging from the very shadows that she'd been thinking about earlier.

"Max." She sighed heavily.

"Liz, I need to talk to you."

He didn't need to say out loud that he wanted to talk about what Maria told them earlier. She could tell he wanted to know more about the end of the world. Since Maria didn't tell them the whole story, she should have guessed that he would come to her looking for answers. Answers that she was in no way prepared to deal with at that time.

If ever.

"Look Max, I really don't feel up to this right now."

"But Liz..."

"It's been a long day. All I want to do is crawl into bed and fall asleep. Can't this wait until morning?"

"Please, Liz. It's important. I need to know the truth. Please, tell me?"

She was all set to tell Max where he and his needs could go, when she made her biggest mistake. She looked up at him and his eyes drew her in. It was so cliched to say that she was falling into their depths, but that was what she felt like she was doing. She saw all his love for her in his eyes. It touched her to see that he still felt the same love that she felt for him.

Liz could see the traces of the boy she loved in there. Somewhere deep inside him, her Max still existed. The kindness and sweetness in his brownish eyes almost made her resolve crumble. She longed for that Max. Her heart beat a slight bit faster knowing that after everything, some portion of her Max still existed. The part of her heart that she'd had to close off to him was threatening to burst open. All her hard work at trying to squelch her body's natural reaction to him would be ruined. She cursed herself for wanting him, for loving him still. But despite her traitorous heart, she wasn't going to allow herself to weaken.

She stared into his eyes and was startled to see another emotion lurking there behind the love. It was pain. Pain not unlike what she also felt. It was borne of the torment of knowing the bitter truth that their love wasn't enough. It couldn't overcome all obstacles. Her faith broke both their hearts, his lack of faith broke what was left of hers.

Struggle and sacrifice always haunted them. They both were plagued with the having to do the right thing. Each time they did what was right, it only served to drive them further apart. And now, the unique understanding that no good deed goes unpunished, fell heavy between them.

The realization of their shared pain did what the knowledge of his love could not. While she refused to share her love with him, she could easily comiserate and share some of her own pain with him. Against her better judgement, she knew then that she would try and answer some of his questions. But that didn't mean that she was going to take it easy on him.

Liz sat against the window sill and tried to get comfortable for the discussion Max wanted to have. She made a big show of yawning and pantomiming how tired she was. After several minutes of him not saying anything, Liz couldn't stand it any longer.

"Max... You wanted to talk. So, talk."

"I... uh... um..." Max stammered slightly. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine, Max. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, my well being? This was what was so important that you couldn't wait until a decent hour? Go home, Max. I'm going to bed."

Liz got up off the sill and turned around to face the window. She was once again about to open it, when she felt Max's hand fall on her shoulder and he gently turned her back around to face him.

"No... Wait. Don't... don't go. It's just that I sat there for hours trying to think of what to say. And now that you're here, everything I rehearsed flew out the window. I'm trying to get it all out, but it's hard finding the right words. Bear with me?"

"Ok, Max. Just try and keep in mind that I'm dead tired."

"I know, Liz. I know."

"I'm giving you fair warning. I'm so tired that I'm inclined to be cranky."

He gave her a tender, heart-melting smile. "Thank you. I'll try not to be too afraid."

She couldn't help but smile slightly in return. He was trying so hard to put them on equal footing. He was there purely because he cared about her. This kind of close friendship with him was what she'd missed these past few months. It was scary how off-balance they'd both get when they couldn't even talk to each other as friends.

Max paced in front of where she stood. After several moments, he stopped and turned to her and looked at her with an expression of awe on his face.

"I don't know why I'm so amazed by what you did. I just know that I am. You saved the world, Liz. I don't know if I could have handled things half as well as you have. Not alone. You've been so strong. And I... I didn't handle things so well. I really am sorry for how I behaved towards you after that night. I should have known that something else was going on. I've been so wrong about you. I feel like an ass."

"It's ok. I know how devastating it was for you. I knew that you were only doing that because you were hurt. I always knew that, Max."

"You've always known me so well. Sometimes I think you know me better than I know myself. That hasn't changed."

In reply, Liz just shrugged. She didn't know how he could think that. She hadn't felt that she'd known Max lately. He acted so atypical from the boy she knew. At times during the past few months, she'd wondered if he was suffering from a bi-polar disorder or even some alien related chemical imbalance. That was the only thing she had been able to think of to explain his wildly changing emotional state.

Max's voice interrupted her thoughts. "... Can I ask you something? Don't get me wrong, I am so amazed by what you did to save the world and my family. I just wonder if there had been another way."

"Max." She said his name as a warning. "Don't go there. The what-if's don't matter. What's past is past."

"But, Liz... How could you do that to me? How could you go and break my heart?"

"I didn't have a choice."

"You always have a choice. What did I always tell you? We make our own destinies, remember?"

"Last Christmas, you nearly broke down with the guilt of knowing that one person died because you did nothing to try and save him. Do you remember how heavily that weighed on your conscience? How could I bear the weight of billions of peoples deaths hanging over me? Knowing that my selfishness killed them?"

"The only way I made it through that Christmas ordeal, was with your help. If I hadn't been able to talk to you about it, I would have surely gone insane. You got me through it... I could have talked things out with you. Helped you find perspective. Maybe things could have ended up differently..."

"It wouldn't have helped. I thought it all out in my head. What I did was the only thing that could have been done. It was the only way to change the future."

"But what about me? I didn't get a say in it. Why couldn't you give our love a chance to make things right?"

"Max, I had to do the right thing. Lives depended on my decision. I did what I thought was best."

"You could have come to me." Max's voice started to raise with equal parts anger and frustration. "Damn it! You should have come to me. We would have put our heads together and found another way."

Liz's ire rose as she found herself in the position of having to defend her actions to Max, once again. "How, Max? You weren't exactly the epitome of rational thought back then. You can't convince me that you were thinking with your head. At least not the one on the top of your neck."

Max gaped at her in shock. "I can't believe you said that to me."

"It's the truth, Max. Do you care to deny it?"

Max sullenly remained silent. Liz knew she had him ensnared by the truth. And he knew it too.

"You came here that night, Gomez tickets in hand and a condom in your wallet. 'Max the saint' was on the prowl. One way or another, that night would have ended with you and me making love."

"I refuse to believe that. You make it sound like I'm a big ol' horn dog."

"Believe what you want. It doesn't change things." As an afterthought, Liz added under her breath, "You got it half right. The dog part."

Max's hearing must have been better than she thought. He looked up at her sharply, disbelief written on his face. "What did you just say?"

She really didn't want to get into that discussion at the present point in time. It would only start an argument. And she really didn't want to argue with him. She just wanted him to hurry up and go away. She just wanted the day to be over with.

"Look, Max, I don't want to argue with you about the past. We can't change things. There's no way to go back and do things differently. We are where we are. We've both said and..." Her voice caught in her throat as she briefly allowed herself to remember Max's biggest betrayal. "... done things that are irrevocable."

"But Liz, you know how I feel about you. I've never stopped loving you."

"I do know. I feel the same way. But loving you doesn't change the way things are."

"The way things are?"

"Let's pretend for a moment that our love didn't cause the end of the world as we know it. And that you're here after everything that's happened, trying to get me to go steady." Liz said with a scornful tone. "Now tell me, how am I supposed to welcome you with open arms knowing that you betrayed everything our love stood for. You had so little faith in me that you believed the worst. And when I did need you, you weren't there for me."

"But I thought you slept with Kyle!" Max shouted angrily. "You made me think that. I thought you betrayed me."

"So you were so certain, and so hurt by my so-called betrayal, that you rushed out and decided to even the score over six months later? That is such BS, Max. Stop trying to blame your own weakness on others. You slept with Tess! She's having your child! What you did with that murderer isn't my fault. Don't try and pin the blame on me. I certainly didn't hold a gun to your head."

"You kept throwing her at me. Arranging for the two of us to accidentially run into each other everywhere I turned. That's almost the same. All those times you cruelly shot me down, served the same purpose." He said angrily.

"What? 'All the times I' ...what? Max, what are you talking about? You're not making any sense." A very confused Liz asked.

"Oh, ok... fine. Play innocent. Like you didn't flaunt what happened. You rubbed my nose in it every chance you had. First with Kyle, then with Sean."

"Huh? I what? You're wrong. I did no such thing."

His whole attitude had suddenly become hostile. Not in a violent kind of way, but his behavior was very threatening and intimidating. She didn't understand it. Just a few moments before, he told her that he still loved her. Now he was behaving very bizarrely. She didn't know what caused this sudden change, but it was just like what had happened outside of the pod chamber earlier that day.

"Right." Max snorted. The sound of it interrupted her train of thought. With morbid fascination she watched as he became more derisively mocking. "Little Liz Parker is such a good girl. She'd never torment anyone like that. She's not a tease... Sure. I know better."

"What is wrong with you? How could you even say that about me? The Max I love would never have said those things. Yet alone, think them."

"Well, the Liz I know would never have acted like a slut."

She gasped in shock. "Excuse me? I am not the one to go and get Tess knocked up. There is only one slut standing up here on my roof. And Max, I'm not it. Why don't you be a man and stop blaming me?"

Max stepped closer to her. "You want me to be a man?" He spit out venomously. The fury he felt was in his eyes as plain as day.

She'd never seen him so angry with her. She couldn't help but be concerned for her safety. His behavior was so unpredictable that she didn't know how to deal with it. This Max was liable to do anything.

Suddenly, she was startled to discover that Max was right in front of her. She hadn't even noticed Max advancing on her. Instinctively, she took a step back. He took another step toward her, and again she retreated.

This kept up until Liz discovered the wall at her back. She knew then that she was cornered. Max stood before her glowering down at her. In the back of her mind she could easily see this side of Max as what Tess had wanted him to be like. This was the kingly attitude that Tess had commented about just before she mind warped Max into thinking she and the Granolith had left.

With rage shinng brightly in his eyes despite the darkness of their surroundings, he pressed his body against her. Liz could feel the brickwork scrape against her back. Even though she had longed for his body to be held close against her body, she didn't want it to be like this. Not out of anger. If or when she and Max ever get in that position, she wanted it to be out of love.

Her first inclination was to push him away. But she couldn't, he was exerting much more strength and she didn't have the upper arm strength necessary to get him to set her arms free. The memory of self-defense moves that Maria and her had practiced on Alex a long time ago, flashed through her mind. All she needed to do was manuever her knee slightly into position.

She started to do so, and Max must have been on the same wavelength as she was, because he chose that moment to shift his position and wedged himself between her legs. Effectively ruining her plan to knee him to escape.

She couldn't get away from him. But she was not about to shrink back in fear. She was going to bide her time until she had another opportunity to escape. Sooner or later, he would allow something to weaken. That would be when she would make her move. All she had to do was to wait until then.

She looked up at him in time to see his head descend toward hers. His face twisted in a rage filled expression. His mouth latched on to hers with a vengance. It happened so swiftly that she had no chance to resist. The kiss was hard, angry, and brutal. It was a kiss not of love or passion, but of anger and intimidation. It was completely different from the kisses that they had shared a long time ago.

Liz could feel the bruising force of his lips against her own. And even though she knew it was happening to her at that moment, somehow she felt curiously removed from it. She knew the kiss was rough and punishing. She felt the agression as he forced his way past the barrier of her teeth to invade and plunder her mouth with his tongue. Mercifully, the sensation was dulled, all she felt was a comforting numbness.

He pressed his body even more intimately against her. Liz could feel his arousal insistant against her stomach. Knowing that he wanted her even like this, was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was one thing when his kiss was devoid of love or desire, it was strangly impersonal. But this...

She would not stand for him to pervert the love and attraction that they'd shared between them. She had to believe that what they once felt was worlds apart from this base physiological reaction. That her and Max had been part of something special. If she let this continue, she would be sunken down into the same catagory as Tess.

She didn't know where she got the strength to pull back from him. But she did, and even managed to nip his tongue causing a slight jolt, like an electric shock, to hit her as she withdrew from him. Liz wasn't able to put much distance between them, seeing as she was trapped between a wall and Max's body.

She averted her head and refused to look at him. Liz was able to free her arms from his grap and attempted to push him away. She was astonished that he offered no resistance. She had been prepared to have to fend him off again. But he made no move toward her.

Something tickled at the back of her mind. Something was different. Liz felt a strong compelling urge to look up at him. So, she did. She just wasn't prepared for what she saw.

Max was staring at her with a look of horrified confusion on his face. He looked at her bruised lips, then he glanced down at himself as if to confirm for himself what had just happened. As he looked back up at her lips she saw an expression on his face that she'd only seen a glimpse of before, during the rare times he talked about what happened to him in the white room... Fear.

Only Liz didn't know what he had to be afraid of. She was the one who'd been assaulted. Not him.

"Liz what just happened? Last thing I remember happening was you saying that you felt the same way about me. Then I find myself... here. And I don't know how this came about. Oh God, Liz, I feel as though I'm trapped in a nightmare. Am I losing my mind?"

Liz just stared at him with an expressionless look on her face. Her eyes on the other hand, were wide with confusion. She didn't have an answer for him, she'd been wondering the very same about him herself.

When it became apparent that she wasn't going to answer him, he looked at her even more closely. Cautiously, Max placed his hands on her upper shoulders. "Liz, are you ok? Did I hurt you? What have I done? Please tell me!" Desperation clouded his voice. He was frantic with worry.

Liz stood there staring at him for what seemed to be eons. Her voice, when she finally spoke, was flat and lifeless. "Get your hands off me... Go home, Max."

"Liz, you know I would never intentionally hurt you."

"Yeah, but I still get hurt anyway... And I'm really tired of this. I can't take much more of it. I've been through too much already. You need to go, Max."

She stared at him a for a long time with a pensive look on her face. All she wanted was for him to leave. As much as she loved him, she now had little hope that they would ever get back together. Not after what had just happened. Liz never thought that Max would ever treat her that way. But he did, and in her mind that was inexcusable.

Once again the look of fear crossed Max's features. He looked as though his worse fears were realized. His hands, still on her shoulders, slid down her arms exerting gentle pressure. It seemed to Liz that he was trying to reassure himself that she was still there in one piece.

As his hand trailed down to where he'd grasped her arm earlier that morning, they brushed against a tender spot. Liz couldn't help but flinch at the brief touch. Max noticed her reaction and looked down at the spot on her arm that caused it. He squinted at her arm, trying to make out the cause of her pain in the meager bit of light that reached them.

He whistled softly as he saw the dark marks marring her skin. There were several finger-shaped bruises on her arm.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize that these were here. How did they get there? Do they hurt much? I could heal them if you want..."

Liz looked down at her arm and saw the tell-tale evidence of how roughly Max had treated her recently. She wasn't terribly surprised by the sight of them. Not like Max was. How could he forget how strongly he'd grabbed and shaken her earlier by the pod chamber?

"I'm fine. They'll heal on their own. It's just bruises. You were there when I got them." She said as she pulled her arm free.

Max just looked at her with a perplexed look on his face. He reacted as if he didn't know what happened earlier. Apparently, he needed to be reminded of what he'd done.

"You did this to me. That was where you grabbed my arm this morning and shook me."

"What are you talking about? I didn't... I couldn't..."

"You can, and you did. Look Max, these marks match your fingers exactly. So far you've hurt me twice in one day. I'm sure you'll understand when I say that I'll pass on the third time. In fact, I don't think I want to encounter you alone again. I can't keep doing this. Not with you."

Liz could tell the very moment when her meaning sunk into his thick skull. He looked so alone and lost that she almost reconsidered her choice. He looked the way she felt, sick inside. In spite of that, she wasn't about to weaken and welcome him back. Not after that kiss which was a thinly veiled assault.

Max was too unpredictible at this point. She didn't want to be with him and be afraid of him. If she did, sooner or later all the love she felt for him would turn into hate. And she didn't want to hate him. He would always be the love of her life.

Which left her only one solution. She had to try and keep him out of her life. The likely-hood of accomplishing that was virtually nil. The earth had a better chance of stopping it's revolution around the Sun. So, she would have to limit her contact with him, and make sure there was at least one other person around as sort of a quasi-chaperone.

She answered the unasked question that she knew was bouncing around in his head. "That's right, whatever it is that is still between us, it's over. I need time and space. I don't feel as though I know you anymore."

"But Liz, what about..."

She cut him off before he finished his sentence. There were too many ways that question could possibly have been finished. They ranged from 'what about'... us, or the Granolith, or his child, or even the murderous Tess. Liz was ashamed to admit that she chose the path of the least resistance.

"I'll still do what I can to help with the search, but on my terms. You and I can't be together. There are too many things that we must both deal with before we can even consider that possibility. If we can get that far. So much water has passed under the bridge."

"Liz, I can't let ..." His voice trailed off. Max sighed heavily. He stood there silently, eyes downcast. He seemed to be thinking hard about something. He was like that for several minutes, then out of the blue he nodded slightly and looked up at her. There was so much sorrow in his eyes. The depth of pain and in his eyes, surely matched her own. "I understand why you're doing this. I'm not happy, but I don't blame you for feeling that way. I wish I could get away from me too. Sometimes I don't think I know myself either."

He turned and started to walk over to the ladder to climb down. His every movement was that of a defeated man. A man without hope. He walked as though he'd lost his reason for living. He just reached the ladder when he stopped suddenly, turned around, and swiftly strode back toward her. He stepped up in front of her and looked into her eyes.

This was the Max she knew and loved. His eyes looked lovingly down at her. There was so much love in them for her, that she lost her breath. And when she gasped for air, he chose that moment to bring his lips down against hers with infinite tenderness. A startling contrast to the earlier kiss.

He moved his mouth against hers, and it was a balm to her soul. His lips pressed against hers gently, with mild insistance. And when she opened her mouth slightly to get a slight breath, it was all the encouragement he needed to deepen the kiss. Tenatively his tongue sought her's out, and they stroked and danced around each other in glorious wonder.

And as the kiss deepened, Liz felt something that she hadn't felt in a long, long, time... peace. For a few bright shining moments, things were the way they were supposed to be. She didn't recieve any flashes, but nonetheless she felt connected to Max. That closeness, that connection was what she never realized that she missed before. She'd never been aware of it until now.

All too quickly, the kiss ended. Max stepped back and looked down at her with a goofy grin on his face. Liz got the impression that he was feeling the same way she was.

But no matter how sweet the kiss, she had to stand by her decision. She needed time away from Max. That hadn't changed. Until he got himself under control, she wouldn't risk herself by being with him. She looked up at him with love in her eyes and grim determination on her face.

Almost as if he could read her mind, he said to her, "I know, Liz. I just... I just needed to have a reminder why I can't give up on us. Why we can't give up... It'll never be over. Love like this, doesn't go away." His smile turned bittersweet. "I just want something to hope for."

Max turned around and paused to stand by the ladder. He took one long last look at her, as though he was imprinting the vision of her into his mind. Memorizing every molecule that made her, her. She watched him as he climbed onto the ladder and made his way down to the ground.

After he left, she slowly and silently made her way toward her original destination. Opening the window, she climbed into her room and sat on the edge of her bed. She honestly didn't know what to make of things. She felt like a yo-yo in the hands of a child who had just mastered the most basic move of making it go up and down. Every time she believed something or wanted things to be one way, something always happened to make the opposite occur.

She turned the light on in her room and changed into her pajamas. She reached out to set her clock to get her up in time for her shift in the morning. As she did so, she noticed in greater detail the marks Max had left on her arm. They were dark and angry looking. She couldn't believe how she hadn't noticed them earlier. Especially since the area was so sensitive.

Liz turned her arm as she finished setting the clock, when she noticed it. There was another mark, a smaller bruise on her arm half-way between her elbow and her wrist. It wasn't caused by Max. It was too small to have been done by his hand.

She didn't know how it got there, but the longer she looked at it, the more disturbed she felt. Liz knew that she had not hit her arm recently. And truth be told, it looked like someone had pinched her, hard. The very moment that thought passed through her mind, she felt a slight chill run down her spine.

Liz remembered that in her dream from the night before, she had been so anxious to wake up that she had even tried pinching her arm as hard as she possibly could. In the very same place the bruise was now. With shaking fingers she reached out and gently gathered the marked skin between her fingers as if she were going to pinch herself.

It was a match.

She didn't know what to make of it. What did that mean? Did her pinch in the dream somehow carry over to the real world? Or was there a much simpler explanation? While dreaming of the pinch, did she pinch herself in her sleep? Was there a more innocuous explanation?

There were too many questions rattling around in her head and by far, nowhere near enough answers. The only thing she knew for certain was that she was tired. And that her morning shift would come along soon enough. She was going to go to bed. There would be time enough to ponder everything tomorrow.

She turned off the light and climbed into bed. Liz fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit her pillows.

Mercifully, she fell into a deep, restful, and dreamless sleep.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:30:32 AM

Chapter 16

"Hey Parker, I think you need some more index cards. I can still see the counter." Maria's cousin said as he walked over to the counter where Liz was engrossed with what she was doing.

"Cute, Sean. Really cute." Liz looked up and smiled a friendly smile at him before she turned back to what she had been doing. Diligently, she continued sorting and writing on index cards.

"Yeah, well you know me. I'm full of charm." He added with a rakish smile.

Michael who was leaning against the counter slowly sipping a Cherry Coke since they had so few customers, couldn't help adding, "You're full of something."

Before Sean could respond, Liz intervened. "Michael, don't you have food to cook?"

"For who? All the imaginary masses crowding the place?" He gestured at the virtually empty restaurant.

"Well then, maybe you should clean the grill area. After all, we don't pay you to just hold up the counter."

All Michael did in response was to smirk at her and take a loud slurping drink of his soda. Liz was glad that despite his change of attitude yesterday, today he seemed to be back to treating her like normal. He wasn't thanking her, or trying to be a newfound friend. He was just being Michael, surliness and all. That meant a lot to her.

"Liz, do your parents pay you to cover all the counter space with your little note cards?" Michael finally asked, almost as an afterthought.

She hated it when he insinuated that she had things easy just because she was the boss's daughter. Somehow he always managed to find some little thing that got on her nerves, and use it to his advantage. Like now. And usually it was something that she didn't have a good reply for, off the top of her head. Again, like now.

Luckily, Sean came to her rescue by changing the subject. "Hey! Do you ignore all your paying customers?"

Liz smiled a false saccharine smile at Michael in victory as he went back into the kitchen, frowning. She shoved the note cards in her hand down into the pocket of the long-sleeved cardigan she was wearing. Then she turned her full attention to Sean.

"I'm sorry about that." She gave him a genuine smile as she asked, "What will you have?"

"Two Will Smith burgers. One of 'em with cheese. Two orders of Saturn fries. An Alien Blast, and a Diet Coke." He caught her speculative glance and answered her unspoken question. "This isn't all for me. It's to go. Aunt Amy is waiting in the car. She conned me into helping her lug boxes of new merchandise."

"What about Maria?"

"What about her? She's acting so mopey, refuses to do anything. I ... Um... I happened to accidentally hear her talking to Aunt Amy. Did the two of you have a falling out? Because that is so not cool, Parker. You two have been friends for like forever. I know you two hung out together back when I first went into juvie."

"Sean, I really don't want to talk about it. It's long, and complicated, and ... well none of your food will get cooked if I don't get busy and put this order in."

Abruptly, Liz turned away from Sean and hurried over to the order window. She caught Michael's attention by waving the grill slip in front of his face. "Here's Sean's order. And before you do anything funny, you should know that it's for Mrs. DeLuca too."

"Killjoy." He said as he read the order and began to cook.

"So you keep telling me." She replied as she turned around and headed back by where Sean was.

As she approached, she critically looked at the counter before her. Sean hadn't been kidding when he said there wasn't much counter space. Over a hundred index cards were spread out over much of the available area. Their various pastel shades, were color-coded into different groupings.

Groupings, that Sean was messing up by rifling through them. Which was not a good thing, especially since she'd been trying to organize her alien-related problems on them. Alien problems that he was close to finding out about.

"Sean, put those down!"

"Don't get your panties in a twist. I was going to put everything back the way I found it. Besides, you should be nice to me after I loaned you my car and you didn't return it."

"I was going to explain what happened after I got off shift. It worked fine, but it died on me at the cemetery. I got back late, and had the day shift today." She paused for a moment, thinking. Then she continued, "Is it ok? If something I did broke it, I'll pay what I can to help fix it."

"Relax. It was the battery. Actually, it didn't work for you because the battery wasn't connected to the engine. A guy I know called me at about 7 AM, he said it was by the cemetery. Aunt Amy offered me a lift to the car in exchange for helping her. When I got out there this morning, the battery was sitting on top of the roof of my car. When you left, did you see anyone else out there who could have done it?"

"That is so strange. It wasn't on the roof of it last night. I think I would have noticed something like that. I don't know who could have done it. The only other person I saw out there was Isabel..."

"Isabel? Wait a minute, Isabel Evans, Max's sister? I can count her out. She doesn't look like the type of girl who knows what to look for under the hood of a car, not to mention being able to detach the battery and carry it around."

"What do you think happened?"

"It was probably one of my old buddies out getting drunk in the cemetery, and decided to pull a prank with my car."

When Sean mentioned the word prank, something clicked in her head. Out of nowhere, the memory of talking about Alex's pranks when she was with Max, popped into her head. Liz remembered eating that god-awful frozen macaroni and cheese and reminiscing about the outrageous pranks that he got away with. She knew what she was thinking was highly illogical, but she couldn't help but wonder if somehow maybe Alex was able to pull one last prank from beyond the grave.

As strange as the idea was, she couldn't discount it. Stranger things have happened inside the Roswell city limits.

Michael's voice interrupted her runaway thoughts, "Hey Liz! Any day now. The order's up. Quit daydreaming."

She went to the pick-up window and grabbed the bags of food. She carried them over to Sean and handed them to him. She then filled the other part of the order, and quickly made up the drink orders and brought them over to him.

"So how much do I owe ya?"

"Don't worry about it. It's on the house. Consider it a thank you for borrowing your car."

"Cool. In that case, the next bowling match is on me." Sean said as he carried everything to the door.

"But you never have to pay. We go when its closed."

With the door half open, he looked back at her and smiled his trademark smile. "I know. That's the best part."

With that final comment, he stepped away and the door swung shut behind him. Once again, she was left alone in the now deserted dining area. Her note card project waiting for her on the counter.

Liz walked back over to the area she'd commandeered for her project. As she rounded the counter, she bumped her bandaged hand against it. It hurt so badly that for a moment, she saw stars. Muttering a curse under her breath she took a precautionary look at her hand and after seeing that it was no worse for wear, she started to straighten out the mess Sean had made of her cards.

"Tsk, tsk. Watch your language, Liz. You don't want people to think that you're not the prissy, moralizing, do-gooder, that you present to the world." Liz's head snapped up as soon as she heard Michael's voice from across the counter.

She looked up in time to see him slide onto the seat facing her. Once seated, he stretched his arms out, hands clasped together, and rested them on the counter in front of him. Directly on top of her note cards. Preventing her from continuing with her project.

With a trace of anger, she looked him in the eye and said, "What, Michael?"

"Would you stop... for a moment. There's something I want to talk to you about."

"Look, I knew this was going to happen. I don't want your thanks. Or any kind of praising comments, for what I did to change the future. I don't want to be put on a pedestal for my actions."

"I'm glad... Cuz' I wasn't about to. You knew when you were getting involved with our situation that there were risks involved. There is a war going on, and you knew what you had to do, and you did it. Don't expect me to praise you for that. Although, I will say that I didn't think that you would have been strong enough to do what you did. That earned my respect. I didn't think you had it in you... But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Gee thanks, Michael." Liz said sarcastically. "What was it you wanted?"

"I want to talk to you about Maria. The way you treated her was horrible. Do you know how many boxes of Kleenex she went through, crying? Three of them. It was worse than the night Alex died.

"Look, I don't know what was up with you, but that was no reason to be that way with her. She loves you, and if you are too stupid to see that she did what she did out of concern for you... you're a God-damned fool." Michael paused for a moment. He seemed to be wrestling with something inside himself. "I care about Maria. I want to see her happy. Apparently, being friends with you makes her happy. I hate seeing her upset like this. You need to put whatever issues you have aside, and make up with her."

His little speech finished, he sat back and stared at her with a cool, level, assessing gaze.

Liz was stunned. This had to have been the most that Michael ever said to her at one time. Not only that, he also said things that made her believe how much he cared about Maria. She'd never realized how much Michael had grown emotionally since the previous year. He was a good man, and she was glad her best friend had him in her life.

"I know. I'm ashamed by how poorly I reacted yesterday. I think it was just that there were too many things happening within a short period of time, I kinda went tilt, just like a pinball game. I had already made the decision to apologize to her. I just need a little time so I don't screw that up, too."

Michael looked stunned. He must have thought that he would have a harder time persuading her to fix things. And who knows, if she hadn't run into Isabel the night before, he probably would have his work cut out for him. But now she got to revel in the pleasure of beating him to the punch, so to speak.

It took him several long moments to process that. And in true Michael style he didn't mention anything else about it. Instead he craned his head to look at one of the note cards. He picked it up, read it, and held it out in front of her.

"Liz, what's with the card marked 'Ava'? What are you doing with these?" He asked, motioning to the other cards scattered around.

"Well, there are a bunch of things that I just don't get. I've had two weird dreams about Ava, and I think there's information in the dreams that I ... That we may need to know. So, I've been trying to get things written down and out of my head."

"That's a good idea. What about the cards labeled Tess? And why is there a Max card?"

"I think there is more going on with Tess than we are aware. Not only are there all the questions that we came up with the other day, but in the dreams with Ava, there are hints that there is something else going on. As for the Max pile... have you noticed how weird he's been acting lately?"

"Me and Maria were talking about it yesterday, and he hasn't been the robot that he normally is. He's been flying off the handle a bit."

"Yeah, Michael, things like that. That's exactly the kind of stuff I was wondering about. I talked to him last night and he's a little confused. He's having memory blackouts and is borderline violent. He hasn't been acting like himself for a long time, and I think something is wrong with him."

"Wrong like what?" Michael asked, a look of concern on his face.

Liz gathered all the Max cards and shuffled through them looking for examples. When they were all in a neat pile, she resumed talking, "Several times he's been mean to me, and has hurt me. I have bruises from where he shook me at the pod chamber. Another weird thing is that he doesn't remember doing it."

"That doesn't mean anything, necessarily. Everyone has off-days. He's been under a lot of stress lately."

"That's just like you, sticking up for him. I'm so sick of everyone acting as if he can do no wrong. See these, Michael?" Liz pushed the long sleeve of the light cardigan she was wearing up, exposing her arm. The bruises were dark and nasty looking. Even Michael paled slightly at the sight of them marring the skin. "Max did this to me. Remember when he was shaking my arm and saying all those horrible things to me out by the pod chamber?"

Michael reached out and carefully looked at her arm. There was no mistaking the bruises as being from a fierce grip. He couldn't fathom how Max could hurt Liz. He'd risked everything to save her life. None of it made sense. Unless Liz was mistaken, and they were caused by someone else.

Liz watched the expressions on his face change as he tried to come to terms with this knowledge. And when he finally let go of her arm and looked up at her, she could see the question in his eyes. "Yes, I am positive that Max did this. His hand matches the marks exactly."

"I don't get it. How could he do that to you? I know how he cares for you, this doesn't make any sense."

"Tell me about it. And the thing is, this isn't the first time. He hurt me before, and it was nowhere near as bad as this."

"When was this? Why didn't you say anything?"

"It was sometime after the funeral. He cornered me in the school hallway and tried to get me to stop searching for Alex's killer. I didn't tell anyone because I was on the outs with everyone. Not that anyone would believe me and back me up."

"That's not true. All you had to do was come to us and give us proof..." Michael started to say but was cut off by Liz.

"Proof like the kind that I had about Alex's murder? The kind of proof that everyone denied existed and then ostracized me over? I had no proof about Max's actions. It was just my word against his. I'm not stupid enough to think that you all would believe me over him."

There wasn't a reply to that comment. What Liz had just said was an unrefutable truth. That was the way everyone had behaved. Only recently had Liz been vindicated, now that the truth came out.

Michael took his time digesting that information. He couldn't deny that Liz had stopped them at the nick of time. Max and Isabel would have died without her intervention. All because of one person. "Tess." he hissed as he exhaled. "She encouraged us to stick together, but wanted the opposite. That would make a lot of sense. I thought at the time she was a voice of reason, but I can see now how her little comments drove a wedge between everyone. And placed her in a position to influence Max to her own best interests."

"All of us were so distracted by Alex's death to even notice. Her timing couldn't have been more perfect. If that's what she did, who knows how long she'd been tampering with Max's mind."

"As much as I hate to admit it, you may be on to something there, Liz. Strategically, that would have been the best time for her to strike. It's one of the most basic tactical maneuvers, to make a move when the enemy's communications are down and they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off."

"Nice analogy, Michael. Do you think it's possible that Tess was playing mind games with everyone ever since she came to town? I know I never trusted or liked her. And it wasn't about simple jealousy. I just always had a feeling that I should watch my back around her. The same with Nasedo."

"I don't know. All I know is that she had an agenda, to get Max. It does make me wonder though, I spent a whole summer learning how to blow up rocks, but we never did get around to learning what else I could do."

"Well if you were her, would you want to train your enemy? Have him realize the very abilities that would destroy you? It's not very logical for her to do so. Tess must have thought of you as a very dangerous adversary to go to the trouble to limit your knowledge of how to use your powers."

"Well that's just great. So when she comes back with reinforcements, we'll be outnumbered and overpowered. I know I love the movie Braveheart, but I'm in no great hurry to live through a slaughter." Michael said bitterly.

"Well, I for one don't want to paint my face blue and be one of the people standing beside you knowing it's a fight to the death. I just know that I'll be knee-deep in it with you guys. That's why I'm doing this. My dreams are trying to tell me something about her, and it might be what we need to know to beat her. After all, knowledge is power," Liz said with a smile.

Of all the ways that Michael could have responded to her comments, she was somewhat surprised by what he did. Without saying a word he got up and headed through the swinging door to the back room. Liz was a bit disappointed by that. He cared so little about her attempts to puzzle things out, that he didn't even deign to say anything before he ended the conversation. He just rudely left.

She once again started sorting and separating the cards before her. She was so engrossed in what she was doing, that she was startled when Michael slid back into the seat facing her. With wide eyes she looked up and saw him looking directly at her. Respect for her was lurking in his eyes. She then noticed a slight upward curve to his mouth. She realized in shock, that for the first time ever, Michael was considering her to be an equal.

He reached up and grabbed the pen he had resting behind his ears and motioned for her to share her note cards. "What can I do to help?"

Liz thought about it carefully for a moment, then answered him, "You've been a lot closer to Max than I've been lately. You could write on each card any moments or strange things Max has done around you. Like when you mentioned he was less robot-like, give examples of those times. When you're finished, we'll exchange cards and see what we can make of it."

"Yeah, yeah. I get the idea. You make this sound as exciting as doing a report for school. How do you manage to suck what little fun there is out of every task?"

"I don't know. Must be the prissy, moralizing, killjoy in me." She said with a wink.

The two of them sat there on opposite sides of the counter, for once working together toward a common goal. The division between the humans and the aliens just got a little narrower. If the two of them could work together, then maybe there was hope for the rest of them.

Liz didn’t know how long it would last. But it was a start.

A very good start.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:33:12 AM

Chapter 17

Liz flopped down on to her bed in sheer exhaustion. She had to work a double shift that day when Maria called in sick. None of the other waitresses would cover the shift, so she had been stuck with it. Not that she objected much, it was the least she could do for her friend. She owed her that and so much more.

She didn't mind pitching in and helping out when it was needed, she was just a little annoyed that her and Michael's brainstorming session had to end abruptly. With a great deal of irony, the amount of people who came out in droves to eat dinner was larger than usual. It never failed to happen when they were short-staffed.

They'd kept her busy for so long that she couldn't make it over to the Valenti's house and check up on Kyle in person. She had to make do with calling on the phone. Kyle's dad was kind enough to talk to her for a few minutes and let her know that there wasn't much improvement with his son.

That worried her most of all. Tess must have done something horrible to his mind, for Kyle to shut down like he did. Liz wanted to help him, but she had no idea what, if anything, she could do. She didn't even know what caused his shutdown. All she hoped was that it wasn't too late to save him.

Liz tried to shake off her worry. She knew that working herself up about that at this point in time would do her no good. It would only get her upset and that wouldn't help matters any.

She got up and changed out of her work clothes. She took special care not to spill the note cards that were stuffed into the pockets of the cardigan she'd worn. Her and Michael spent a lot of time working on the cards. Liz was grateful that he had offered to help. His input about Max was invaluable.

After reading what he'd written down, Liz was more certain than ever that Max had been the victim of Tess's mind altering abilities. While that didn't absolve him from the ways he'd hurt her, it did make her slightly sympathetic to him. She now had a really good reason to hate Tess.

Liz considered her self to be a nonviolent person. In this case, she would gladly make an exception to that. Until now, she had only felt a strong animosity toward Tess. But in light of everything that she found out about the blonde alien's activities, she felt a sense of rage course through her. It was stronger and more intense than any anger she'd ever felt before.

Tess damaged the minds of the men Liz was closest to. Alex, Max, and Kyle were all casualties of Tess. Alex died because she did too much to his once beautiful mind. Liz didn't know how badly Max and Kyle were affected. All she knew for sure was that, one way or another, she'd make sure Tess paid for all the harm she'd caused since she set foot into Roswell.

Liz didn't know how she'd manage to accomplish that. But if her dreams held a clue as to how to bring about Tess's demise, then she was willing to be accommodating. There was no time like the present to begin.

Quickly, she changed into her pajamas and climbed into bed. She didn't know what her dreams would bring, but she hoped they would give her some insight. Some kind of clue to help her with that task was all she wanted.

Ava's words about how pressed for time they were, echoed in her head. They gave her a stronger sense of urgency. Liz had the nagging feeling that things would be coming to a head soon. She prayed to God that she was wrong. They had to have more time than the mere days or possible weeks before things hit the fan. They needed to be better prepared before Tess came back to town.

With heavy thoughts running through her mind, Liz fell into a troubled sleep. Her body tossing and turning as she mumbled out semi-incoherent words. Only a few names that made sense tumbled out of her mouth. Max was one of them, so was Tess. Eventually, she slipped into a deeper level of sleep. Her restless thrashing motions became restful.

The last thing that came out of her mouth was her voice, thick with worry, calling out to Kyle.


With a gasp, Liz opened her eyes in confusion. She remembered falling asleep, and now suddenly she was in the place she'd visited before. Foggy mist filled in the area around her, confusing her senses until she had no way to differentiate which direction was what. She wasn't scared, though. The mist was familiar to her. She was back in the dream world where she'd met up with Ava.

As soon as that realization hit her, she also understood that her realization was false. This wasn't the dream world where she encountered Ava. It was similar, but she could sense that there was subtle differences. There were sounds all around her. They were vaguely muffled and also strangely familiar at the same time.

She also noticed that the mists didn't come rushing out to envelop her. They seemed to keep their distance, not welcoming her or pushing her away. It was almost as though they were waiting to see what her choice of action would be.

As she looked at the dense silvery-white fog, she noticed that there was a faint pulsation that rippled through it. It was almost imperceptible, but she watched in fascination as it happened again and again. The pulsation was occurring in intervals, following a pattern that was almost reminiscent of a heartbeat.

Her eyes widened as she realized what that meant. The fog wasn't mimicking life, it was alive. She didn't know whether to be afraid or not. The fog seemed harmless enough, but sometimes the most innocent things can be the most dangerous.

She stood there, trying to decide what to do, when she heard a puzzled voice speak up behind her. "Liz? What are you doing here?"

She whirled around, completely and utterly stunned to find Isabel there with her.

"Here? Is, where are we? At first I thought this was like the dreams where I talked to Ava. But it's not. It's different somehow."

"Hold on. You mean you don't know where you are? How did you get here?"

Liz started to get a little frustrated by the answering questions with a question, that Isabel was doing. It may be a funny skit on that TV show where they do improvisation, but in real life that got annoying really fast.

"I don't know. If I did know, why would I be asking you? I remember going to bed and having trouble sleeping because I was concerned about people. Then I find myself here. Wherever here is."

"Liz, I think this is another manifestation of your powers. That is the only explanation that makes sense. But I don't understand how you were able to do this in your sleep."

"What are you talking about? Why does it make sense? Care to fill me in on what it is that I'm doing?"

"I don't have a lot of answers for you, but I can tell you this... This place is what I call the dreamscape. This is where you go when you're dream walking someone."

"Dream walking? But I can't... I don't have the first clue how this happened."

"Apparently you can. I know I didn't bring you into this. When I first discovered I could come here and enter people's dreams, I had almost no control. Kind of like how you got here. And I was too young to think of the consequences of entering other people's dreams and interacting with them. I ended up freaking my mother out and made a big mess of things back then."

"Really? I never bothered to ask how your powers came into being. I guess I never really thought of it as a skill that you had to develop. I thought you always had them."

"Well we did and we didn't. Its kind of like being born with a talent. If you just rush right in without practice to strengthen those abilities you just end up making the situation worse."

"I never knew. Did everyone else go through it the same? And by the way, it is so weird to be talking with you about this."

"Some of us are still having problems mastering our abilities. They keep growing and changing. Like when you saved Max in New York. That's a new ability. And then there's Max's shield, that's pretty new... I know what you mean about discussing this. I never thought I'd be doing this with you."

"I don't mean to be rude, this is fascinating and all... But you still didn't answer my question. You're here in this dream world because apparently you were about to dream walk someone. I don't believe it's a coincidence that I end up in the very same place as you. Which leads me to wonder, where are we?"

"I was just following an overwhelming sense of anguish. I'm not sure who this is. We're going to have to pass through the mists and enter their dream. Are you up to it?"

"I guess so. I'm not about to back off now. What do we have to do, just walk in?"

"It's as simple as that. Ready?"

Liz looked at Isabel, and then at the fog bank as she tried to gather her courage. She wasn't frightened exactly, it was just that the idea of actively choosing to pursue these developing powers was a bit daunting. Almost every occurrence of them had been thrust upon her. She never had any say in the matter. Until now.

Taking a deep breath, Liz nodded slightly. Without looking at Isabel, she stepped into the fog bank.

After a few steps, the fog cleared away and she was able to get her bearings. Liz barely noticed when Isabel appeared by her side. Liz was too amazed by what was happening all around her. The mists started to recede. Slowly they pulled back, unveiling a newer looking hardwood floor. The fog continued it's retreat, snaking it's way further and further back. In time, they revealed furniture and walls.

Liz turned around in a circle, eyeing the room. She didn't know why it looked familiar to her. There was something about the room that tugged at her memory. Unfortunately, she couldn't put her finger on it.

"Do you know where we are?" She found herself asking Isabel.

"No. Not really. It reminds me of someplace, but I don't know from where."

The sounds that Liz heard earlier, rose up once again. They were still slightly muffled, but there was no mistaking them for anything but what they were... the sound of a man and woman arguing. Liz couldn't make out what the man was saying, his voice didn't carry half as well as the woman's did.

"I can't take much more of this. You've changed. I don't even know you anymore. What happened to the man I married? You promised me we'd have a large family. You swore that you'd be faithful. All you did was lie to me."

Liz and Isabel exchanged glances as the man apparently took his turn arguing. They both turned their heads toward the direction of the room where the argument was taking place, when the woman started up again.

"I am not the one abandoning the family. You did that a long time ago. You've become a stranger to me." The woman paused as if she were listening to the man's pleas. "NO! I will not change my mind! You're too late this time, Jim. There's nothing left in this marriage. I can't do this all on my own. All you do is work. Your damn job occupies all your time. You never have time for me. We never make love anymore..."

The moment that the woman said the name Jim, Liz felt all the pieces of the puzzle about where they were, fall into place. Liz knew where they were, only it looked different more than ten years later. She glanced at Isabel, who happened to be on the same wavelength as she was.

Isabel mouthed the name "Valenti" to Liz. Liz confirmed it with a nod.

While she nodded her head, she saw a slight movement out of the corner of her eye. Liz turned and headed toward where she'd seen the movement. A little boy stood in the open doorway, tears welling in his eyes. A baseball mitt lay on the ground next to where he stood. The ball had rolled away and stopped not too far from Liz's feet.

She knew that little towheaded boy. He may not look like that any more, but she knew him none the less. The little boy was Kyle.

Liz's heart broke for him. She didn't have any idea how long he stood there listening to his parents fight. She could scarcely imagine what he'd gone through. She knew it was in the past but she still wanted to reach out and try and comfort him.

Isabel reached out and gently grabbed her shoulder. "Liz, don't."

The sound of something being thrown and shattering against the wall interrupted the two girls. The woman who had to be Kyle's mom started yelling again.

"Don't you bring my son into this! I love him. I'm doing this because I do. I don't want him to grow up like I did, listening to arguments and wondering when the next fight will be. He deserves better than that... I can't stay here; if I do, I'll grow to hate you. He'll pick up on that, kids always do." Her voice softened and she sounded weary. "This is what's best for him, for all of us. I'm not abandoning him. He'll be better off with you until I get settled. Then I'll come back to get him. I'm sure by then we can work out a custody agreement... Please Jimmy, don't fight me on this. We haven't been happy for a long time. I know that's why you work so much. You're not happy. Neither am I. And we deserve to be. Our son deserves to have parents who are happy, even if it's not with each other."

The sound of footsteps rang loud in the now silent house. Isabel and Liz stepped out of the way and further back to the hazy mist filled corner of the room. From this vantage point, they could see everything as it unfurled.

A woman with medium-length, light brown hair hurriedly strode out into the living area. She was dragging a large suitcase and a very full garment bag behind her. She stopped in mid-step as she saw the teary eyed boy standing by the open front door. She dropped the bags, and hurried over, leaned down, and wrapped him up in a big bear hug.

"Honey, I'm so sorry that you had to hear that. I thought you were still outside playing ball with your friends." She loosened her grip to look at the boy in her arms. Lovingly, she tried to tame the little boy's hair, with her hand. She wiped a smudge of dirt off of his face. Then she looked him in the eyes, and spoke to him in all seriousness. "You know I love you. You'll always be my little boy, Kyle. Even if I'm not here with you for a while, You'll always be in my heart. I promise you sweetie, Mommy will be back for you soon. Until then, you and your Daddy will have to take care of each other. Be good for him... I love you, Kyle."

Kyle's mother broke down then, tears streamed down her face. Her sobs turned to hiccups which shook her body as she bent down and picked up her bags and turned to the door. She had just crossed the threshold, when little Kyle launched himself at her and held on to her with all the might possible for a six year old to have. "Noooo! Don't go."

"I love you, but I really have to go." Her kind face was contorted in pain. She looked up at Jim Valenti, who was standing across the room. A pain filled frown on his face as he stared at her with hurt. Her eyes, so much like Kyle's, were filled with anguish as they implored him to help.

"Kyle, come over here." Kyle's dad said in a familiar stern voice. The same tone of voice that forbade any argument, even to this day.

Kyle hurried over to his father, who immediately stepped in front of him, blocking his view. Neither Kyle's dad nor his mom saw his tearstained face as his mother disappeared from sight, and Mr. Valenti ominously closed the door in her wake. No one other than Liz and Isabel heard Kyle say in a tiny voice, "Don't leave me".

The two girls watched in silence as the fog rolled in and swirled around their legs. It rose higher and higher, completely obscuring the room they were in.

Liz turned to look at Isabel with a questioning look on her face. She didn't know what was going on. All Isabel did in reply was to shrug, like it was an everyday thing for her. Which it was, but it would have been a nice idea to clue in the new person to dream walking about it.

Just as suddenly as the fog had rolled in, the fog receded once again. It left behind the Valenti's house, looking the way they remembered it. They couldn't see anyone in the room they were in, but they could hear a frighteningly familiar voice speaking from somewhere in the depths of the house.

"Hey, Buddha Boy." they recognized Tess saying.

Isabel and Liz made their way toward the location of the voice. They found a bare-chested Kyle leaning against the door frame watching Tess in just a football jersey flirt with him.

"You're wearing my shirt."

"Well, I can take it off if you're gonna be that way about it." Tess said as she started to pull up the shirt in question. A coy smile on her face.

"No. That's ok. You can use it."

"I didn't think that you would have issues about nudity. Not after finding those magazines under your bed. Really, Kyle, I wonder what your Buddha would have to say about that."

"He believed that it was important to trim the lamp of wisdom in order to gain enlightenment."

"Well, my lamp certainly needs some trimming..." Tess said as she sauntered closer to Kyle.

At that point, Isabel grabbed Liz's arm and pulled her away. "Oh gross. I can't stand here and listen to them. It almost makes me feel as disgusting as when I helped Kyle to dream walk some bimbo from a centerfold... I'm outta here. Are you coming?"

"I dunno, I'm not even sure how I got here. I think that I'll hang around and see if there was a reason I ended up here."

"Well, try not to get scarred for life. Remember, don't interfere with the dream, and when you want to end this, just focus on going back home. All you need to do is focus your mind on that." Isabel noticed the apprehension on her face and added, "I'm sure you'll be fine. Just believe in yourself. Ok?"

Liz nodded absent-mindedly. She was watching the house transform before her eyes. She saw the familiar twinkle of Christmas lights in the room. The normal lights had dimmed and the multicolored lights were the only thing lighting up the area. Their jewel toned hues cast an intimate mood in the room.

Isabel noticed the change too. "I'm getting out of here before the cheesy porno music starts. Bye, Liz."

Liz found herself suddenly alone. Isabel had been there one minute, and gone the next. The swiftness at which Isabel had disappeared, was unnerving. Liz wondered whether it had been like that when the sheriff and then she herself had vanished into thin air, when the skins came to Roswell.

The sound of lips smacking together reached Liz's ears. She looked around the room, trying to ascertain where it was coming from. Finally her eyes latched on to the sight of tangled limbs spilling over the edge of the couch. Quickly, she averted her eyes to the floor and turned away from the spectacle in the making. Her gaze trailed over various articles of clothing, for both male and female, strewn all over the ground.

Liz heard Tess's voice come from the couch. "Oh, Kyle. That feels good... Are you sure we're alone? What about your dad?"

"Don't worry about it. He's out with Maria's mom. I don't think they'll be back any time soon. Ya' know?" Kyle answered.

The kissing noises resumed.

With a wet smack, Tess began speaking again, "Come on, Buddha Boy, I want you to trim my lamp."

"Oh yeah, Baby. I'm more than ready to do some trimming."

Liz couldn't believe it. There was no mistaking the sounds coming from the sofa. Grunting and groaning and various smacking together noises invaded the room. Kyle and Tess were having sex. It was nauseating.

Her embarrassment rose as she had to listen to the two of them go at it. She felt like a voyeur. As much as she wanted to find out what was at the heart of Kyle's problem, she was uncomfortable having to go to such lengths to accomplish that. A large part of her wished that she had left when Isabel did.

Every moan, every higher pitched sound Tess made, made Liz sick to her stomach. Intellectually, she knew that it was Kyle and Tess on that sofa. In the back of her mind she couldn't help but see Max in Kyle's place. Did Tess respond the same when she and Max had sex? Did Max make similar sounds? Why did Max choose to share his first time with her? Tess always claimed that Max was the one for her, how could she give herself so freely to Kyle? How could Tess with her cheap, trampy appeal manage to get both Kyle and Max?

Mercifully, she didn't have to suffer the indignity of being around them, while they did it, for long. The sounds reached their climax and soon ended.

"Wow. That was amazing. You were better than I ever imagined."

"Is that why you spent so much time in the bathroom?" Tess said with a laugh.

"Tess... Well... I... uh, I... was wondering..."

"Oh God, Kyle. Sometimes you are such a guy. But if you have to know, it was better than I ever dreamed. You keep that up Buddha Boy, and I'll fall more in love with you."

"You what? You love me? Not Max?"

"Max is a fool. Liz can keep him. You, on the other hand, make me feel things I never felt before. Things I never imagined were possible. Nasedo never told me that being human would have benefits like that."

"It only gets better."

"Really? Well, Buddha Boy, I think it's time to do some temple worshiping."

Liz started to panic. She couldn't handle watching being around them if they did it again. Liz tried to focus her mind so she could escape Kyle's dream. But it didn't seem to be working. She was trapped there for the duration.

Liz closed her eyes and started to pray for help. She could handle a lot, but she couldn't take much more of Kyle's dream. Any reasonable person would feel the same as she did.

She opened her eyes and discovered that amazingly, she was spared having to witness another round of Tess and Kyle having sex. The Christmas lights were gone. And the two of them were nowhere in sight. Although, she could hear their voices coming from the direction of Tess's room. Cautiously, Liz made her way over there. She stopped just outside the room as the two of them leaned in to kiss.

Liz chose that opportunity to maneuver past them and into the room. She needed to get out of the way and get into a better position to observe things. Liz ended up standing opposite the bed, to the left of the mirror.

Kyle pulled Tess into the middle of the room and spun her around before setting her back on her feet. He leaned down and kissed her thoroughly. He enfolded her into his arms, burying his nose in her hair.

"I am so glad to be out of that hole. I didn't mind spending time with Alex, but it was so good to see your face again."

"I know. I was so worried. And the worst of it was that I couldn't let anyone know."

"Why not? You shouldn't have to worry about what Evans thinks. What any of them think. In my unbiased opinion, you are the only one of your kind worth a damn."

"That's so sweet. But it's not so easy. I was made for him, to deliver the heir back home. I can't just turn my back on him."

"You should. He could never feel for you the way I do. I love you. Give up on Max."

"I love you too, Kyle. But I have to do this. I can't let anything get in the way of my plans. I'm sorry Kyle." Tess stepped forward and kissed him passionately. When the kiss ended, she stepped back and looked at him, regret and pity on her face.

Kyle's face twisted in horrified disbelief as he realized what she was about to do. Tess's face scrunched up and Liz watched, bile rising in her stomach, as she manipulated Kyle's mind. When she finished, she stepped back and asked him, "What was it you wanted to say to me?"

"I'm glad you didn't have to leave. I'm kinda used to having you around. My favorite Martian and all." Kyle looked uncomfortable and started to stammer. "I... uh... care for you the way I would a sister. You know, if I had one."

"You almost make me feel like part of the family." Tess said as she planted a platonic kiss on his cheek, making him blush.

"Well, I... um... I'll be watching a video if you want to join me."

"That sounds good. I'll be out in a minute." Tess said as she picked up a bottle of lotion and slathered it on her arms.

Kyle smiled widely at Tess as he turned around and left the bedroom. He was completely unaware of what had just transpired. Tess had gotten away with the second-most inhumane thing she'd ever done.

Although it was Kyle's dream, Liz knew that it was based in reality. She understood now that Tess had harmed her friend far worse than she ever could have imagined. Liz's heart went out to Kyle. No one should have had to go through such trauma.

The fog once again rushed in around her, only this time it passed on by, sweeping the dream version of Tess away like a tidal wave. A small amount of the mist remained in its wake. It swirled in all the far corners of the room and worked its way over to the doorway, framing it in a veil of silver mist.

Liz looked around her, confused by this change in Kyle's dream. She looked toward the mirror and was startled to realize that it was smashed. It's broken shards littered the floor by her feet. Looking closely, she could even make out the clear glass Kyle broke, in front of Maria and her, interspersed with the reflective glass of the mirror.

The sound of choking sobs reached her ears. The sound of it tugged at her. Kyle was hurting, he needed someone to comfort him. To help chase away the pain.

She remembered Isabel's warning to not interfere, but she couldn't let him continue like that. She didn't have the heart to walk away. She knew she was the only one who was able to reach him. She had to at least try.

It was time for her to be a friend to Kyle. Whatever the cost may be.

Moving with strength of purpose, Liz headed toward the sound of the crying. When she reached the doorway she hesitated. A small part of her was afraid of what she'd find on the other side.

She knew that Kyle needed help. And that alone, was enough to remind her what was important. She just had to believe. Believe in herself. That she could help him even in the dream plane.

She focused her mind on that. Her belief was her mantra as she stepped through the veil of mist and into the hallway. As she advanced toward the sound, she had the sudden urge to turn around and look behind her. When she did, she was puzzled to find nothing out of the ordinary. The fog that had draped the doorway to Tess's room was gone.

As curious as that was, there was a more pressing matter to attend to... Kyle.

She walked over to the sofa where he lay, haphazardly covered with a blanket. He pretty much looked like he did when she visited him a few days ago. Only, she thought that he was now wearing different boxers.

His body was shaking with the force of his sorrow. Tentatively she reached out and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. She was surprised when he raised his head up and looked directly at her.

"Liz..." his voice said, raspy with disuse. He looked startled to see her there. Which made sense, since he didn't know about the development of her powers. She decided to not confuse him any more than necessary. She'd fill him in about her powers later.

"Ssshhh. It's ok, Kyle. This is all just a dream. I know everything. I saw it all..." She sat down next to him and gathered him in her arms. Rocking gently back and forth, as she spoke to him softly. "Just let it all out. You don't have to be strong right now. I'm here to help you."

"How could she hurt me like that?" he asked her.

Liz didn't have an answer for that. Whether he was referring to his mother or to Tess, she didn't know. Either way, she didn't know what to tell him. She couldn't understand how a person could hurt someone else like that. It was beyond her realm of understanding.

There were no easy words for her to say to make his agony disappear. After all he had been through, he didn't need to hear empty platitudes. So she did the only thing she could think of, for him. She did her best to comfort Kyle.

For what seemed like ages she sat there like that, comforting him. At one point she grabbed a throw pillow and placed it on her lap. She then scooted over and gently guided his head to rest on said pillow. He cried, shook, and at times he held on to her as if she were his last life line. After a time, he started to calm down. Or at least the worst of it was over.

She stroked the hair back that fell across his forehead in a rhythmic motion. Kyle's voice quietly reached her ears, "Why does every woman I care about do this to me? How can they love me, then hurt me so bad?"

Liz thought about that for a long pregnant moment. "I don't know. This is one time I wish I had an answer for you. I care for you, and I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

"You will. You did before. You left me high and dry, to be with Max. Who says that won't happen again?"

"I'm your friend. That isn't going to change. You're stuck with me... Besides, you're the other charter member of our 'Brought back from death by Max Evans' club. We're in this together."

He turned his head to look up at Liz with a small smile. "I'm glad you're my friend, Liz."

"So am I."

Liz comforted him the best she could. Eventually, he seemed to calm down and his eyelids started to droop. "Just close your eyes and try to rest, Kyle. Things will be better in the morning."

She sat there watching him. knowing that the worst of it was past, so she could attempt to exit the dream plane in good conscience. Liz could sense that whatever mission had brought her to there, was completed. All she had to do to leave was focus her mind the way Isabel told her. She could be home faster than she could blink.

Only, she wasn't going anywhere just yet. Liz was going to stay there for a while longer. Keep a watchful eye on him until she was certain he was ok.

She was determined to be a better friend than she was before.

posted on 9-Sep-2001 1:38:34 AM

Chapter 18

Liz sat up in bed with a gasp. Disoriented, she looked around trying to get her bearings. The last thing she remembered was sitting on the sofa at Kyle's house, keeping vigil as he fell asleep. Only now she found herself still at home caught up in the twisted sheets of her bed. Her sleep-addled mind was unsure which was the reality and which was the dream.

That was the very reason why, once she was fully awake, she was burdened by several questions. The most immediate of which was, How did she end up back here? Or was it simply, that she had never been there in the first place. Was any of what she'd experienced real? Did she really dreamwalk Kyle? Or was all of that just a very vivid dream?

She didn't really believe it was merely a dream. It didn't seem like a fabrication created by her own mind. At least she didn't think she would have ever imagined Kyle and Tess together, yet alone dream it. Typically, her dreams were more of the PG-13 variety. So, that left her wondering whether or not anything that had happened was real.

Liz tried to get her drowsy mind to function, and try to reason things out. There had to be some way to validate or negate the events of the dream. She was awake enough to know that showing up at the Valenti house wouldn't be the wisest course of action. It would have been extremely rude to go there and ask about the day Kyle's mom left. It was too private for her to ask about. And she couldn't ask Kyle about his relationship with Tess. She had no idea if he had even snapped out of his fugue state. There was only one other person she knew who might be able to help her.


Isabel had been there with her in the dreamworld. If everything she dreamed about did happen, then Isabel would be able to confirm that. All Liz had to do was ask her.

Liz turned toward her clock and noticed the time. It was just barely quarter after six. Liz highly doubted that Isabel would be up that early. If she wasn't, Liz definitely didn't want to be the one to disturb her beauty sleep. Their tentative friendship was too new to start pushing boundaries like that.

So in the meantime, Liz decided to get up and get her day started. She got up and went into her bathroom to take care of her daily rituals. Fifteen minutes later, she stepped out of the bathroom. She felt clean, refreshed, and ready to face whatever this day was going to throw at her.

She made short work of toweling herself off and laid the towel over the back of her desk chair. Liz then grabbed a hair clip and secured her damp hair into a loose bun. She threw on a old pair of jeans and a baby T-shirt. Liz knew that she didn't look her best, but she simply didn't care. Nobody was going to see her like this, other than possibly her parents. All she was planning to do was to make her bed and then get back to work on her index cards. Then when a more reasonable hour came around, she was going to call Isabel.

Liz stepped over to the bed and began to strip it. She removed the pillows from their cases and placed them on the floor. Then Liz started to wrestle with the lightweight thermal blanket and the flat sheet. They were twisted together, inexplicably. She tried to carefully untangle them, but eventually her efforts became less precise and more frustrated.

Eventually, she grabbed a hold of the sheet and gave it a vicious tug. The sheet came off the bed and Liz stumbled backward slightly. As she righted herself, something tumbled off her bed and onto the floor. Stepping closer, she lifted up the sheet where the other end trailed on the ground, to see what had been caught inside.

Her dark brown eyes grew wide as she looked at what had landed on the floor. She stared at it in wonder, puzzled by how it came to be there. An idea began to form in the back of her mind. The implication of it was staggering.

Liz no longer had a need to call Isabel. This was her proof that it wasn't a dream. It was proof that she not only saw Kyle's dream, but also managed to comfort him. Proof that her newfound abilities were growing by leaps and bounds. The likes of which were frightening

It was one thing to start to be able to do the little alien tricks like the others, that in itself was kind of cool. But it was another thing entirely to do something that no one else was able to do. Not to mention having tangible, irrefutable evidence of her abilities. She wasn't sure which of the two frightened her more.

Her mind quickly processed everything and came to another realization. If the dream was real, then there was a strong probability that Kyle was ok. Liz was almost certain that was the case. Thinking that through, she realized something else, if Kyle was back to normal, then it was very likely that he was confused by her attempt at dreamwalking. He could very well be as disturbed by this turn of events as she was.

She knew then that she had to go over there and explain things to him face to face.

Hurriedly, she found her shoes and put them on. She then ran to her closet, grabbed her book bag, emptied it, and carefully placed the object in her book bag. She then moved quickly toward the bedroom door.

Just as she was about to rush into the hallway, she remembered the bruises on her arm. They were still very noticeable, and she didn't want to have to get into a big explanation about how she got them. So she raced back into her room and grabbed the cardigan she'd worn the night before, from the chair by her desk. Hastily, she put it on and once again was on the move.

She ran out of her room and quickly made her way to the stairs that led down to the Crashdown. Once out of the apartment, she paused at the top of the stairs. As much as Liz wanted to hurry and see Kyle, she had to be careful because her dad was up and getting things ready for the breakfast crowd. If he saw her he'd want to talk to her. And as much as she loved her dad, she had too much on her mind to engage in a father-daughter chat.

Also, her parents weren't too thrilled with her taking the car without their permission. They'd threatened her with punishment if they ever caught her doing that again. Liz didn't think that they'd be too keen on letting her borrow it now, no matter how sweetly she asked. At least, not so soon after she took it the other day.

So, that left her having to bypass her parents, and take the car without their knowledge again. Only this time she was going to do her best to not get caught.

Peering down the stairs, she saw her dad as he moved around taking care of the final preparations before opening. Liz looked at her watch, there were only a few more minutes before her dad would open the restaurant.

All she had to do was wait, opportunity she was waiting for was bound to present itself soon. Unfortunately, her patience was almost gone. Time seemed to move so slowly. Too slowly in her opinion. It took forever for her dad to finally go out front and open up.

The moment that the swinging door swung shut behind him, she was already in motion, taking the stairs two at a time. Liz ran to her father's workspace. Ever conscious of time, she made haste in her search for his keyring. She hit the jackpot when she lifted up a new stack of invoices from their suppliers. Snatching up the keys, she hurried over to the back door to the alley, opened it, and was on her way.

It was a good thing, too. As the heavy steel door closed behind her, she heard the sound of her father whistling as he reentered the back room. Liz counted her blessings at the close call. Not wanting to push her luck, she hurried to her family's car and headed for Kyle's house.

The gods must have been on her side, she made it to her destination in good time. It was still early enough for traffic to have been light. And it didn't hurt matters any that Liz had been speeding the whole way over there. The fact that the cops didn't stop her and give her a ticket was just pure dumb luck. For which she was grateful for.

She stopped her car out in front of the Valenti house. No sooner than she had jammed on the brakes, she threw the gearshift into park, turned the engine off, and was already half way out of the car. She quickly made her way to the door, raised her hand to knock. Then she paused, thinking twice about it.

Now that she was so close to her destination, she began to have doubts. Liz was unsure whether or not she was doing the right thing. If she was wrong, her sudden appearance might put the sheriff on edge. And lord knows how he didn't need any other burdens to be added to his load.

Then there was Kyle, if she was wrong about him being better, she'd feel both saddened and horribly embarrassed at the same time. If he was better, she was scared of how he'd react towards her. Just like with Maria in the pod chamber, Liz would be hurt badly if Kyle reacted badly to the news of her burgeoning powers. She didn't want Kyle to look at her with the same contempt that he had for Max, Michael, and Isabel.

Despite her fears, she still wanted to see him back to normal, more or less. That and the hope that he wouldn't treat her any differently gave her the courage to complete the knocking motion.

Her first set of knocks got no response, so she tried again. It took her three tries before she heard the sounds of someone grumbling as they made their way to the door.

She held her breath in anticipation of finding out about Kyle.

The door swung open and the former sheriff had a slight scowl across his face, which he was wiping dry with a towel. It was obvious that she had interrupted him while shaving. Little blobs of shaving cream that he'd missed with the towel, dotted his face.

He noticed her then, and the scowl disappeared from his face only to be replaced with a wide joyous smile. She knew then that everything was ok. His whole demeanor was different from when she was there last. Before, he'd looked like a man with the weight of many worlds on his shoulders. Now he looked almost like he didn't have a care in the world.

"Liz, come on in." He stepped out of the way and let her enter the house. He closed the door behind her and locked it. "I was going to call you later and tell you the good news. But you're here now. You always have the knack of being right in the middle of things. I'm sure Kyle will be glad to see you. Just let me go get him."

Liz stood near the door and watched as Kyle's dad walked over toward where the bathroom and bedrooms were out of her range of sight. She heard him pound on a door and holler. "Kyle! Hurry up and get your butt out here. You got a visitor."

Kyle's dad came back into the room and told her, "He'll be out in a few moments. Just make yourself comfortable. I'm gonna go finish up." He said as he rubbed his hand against his chin and the whiskers that he hadn't finished shaving.

He then left her alone to wait. She stood there feeling terribly awkward. Especially after seeing what she had seen last night. It was almost as though the memories of that were haunting her like a ghost. Imperceptible to the human eye, but still lingering there none the less. If she closed her eyes, she could almost see everything happening just like they happened before.

Liz knew her mind was just playing tricks on her. That all that had happened in the past, so she couldn't be hearing those things now. But even rationalizing that all out didn't chase away the memory of the sounds of Kyle and Tess having sex.

Despite her best efforts it wouldn't go away. The more she tried to put it out of her mind, the stronger it became. Soon it was reaching the point where she couldn't stand it any more. She needed something else to focus on. And quickly.

Luckily, Kyle entered the room at that moment. He was the diversion that would help keep those thoughts at bay. She had never been so grateful in her life to see him, as she was now.

Sadly, it was apparent that he couldn't say the same. Kyle stopped short at the sight of her. He gaped at her as though she had grown another head.

Despite his less than warm welcome, she couldn't stop a small grateful smile from appearing on her face. "Hey, Kyle."

"Hey." he said cautiously, as a greeting.

He stood there in a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants with West Roswell High School written on the side of the leg. His hair was damp and slicked back. Apparently, he had just finished taking a shower. And in her opinion he looked a whole lot better than he did when she was here the day she cut her hand.

They both stood there eyeing each other awkwardly. A tense, heavy silence settled over them. Liz never realized how difficult it would be to face him after what she'd seen. She knew him a little better than anyone else did, after last night. She couldn't help but feel that she possessed knowledge that she shouldn't have been privy to. In a way, she invaded his privacy. She went and involved herself in something that she had no business getting involved in. All because she was worried about him and wanted to help him.

For several heartbeats, they stood there uncomfortably staring at each other. Liz remembered the promise that she had made to herself about being a better friend, and knew what she had to do. It was time to take charge and face the situation head on.

"I'm sure you're wondering what's going on. A lot has happened since we all met together the other day. And this is a lot more difficult to say than I thought it would be. It isn't easy. And add to that the fact that I could be so wrong and you have no idea what I'm getting at..."

"Liz, what are you getting at?" Kyle asked. He didn't really look all that confused by what she was trying to say. She could tell that he was waiting for her to spill the beans.

"Kyle, You see... Last night I..." Liz paused as words failed her.

She couldn't think of a way to tell him without sounding ridiculous. No matter what way she tried to broach the subject, she didn't think it would come out right. Liz realized that she needed to try a different approach. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words.

Taking the book bag off, she brought it in front of her and opened it. Liz reached in with her hand, while she spoke. "I think this belongs to you."

She pulled a throw pillow out of her bag and handed it to him. It was the same one that she'd rested his head onto when she'd been dreamwalking Kyle. She didn't quite understand how it was possible, but somehow she managed to bring it back with her.

He took it from her with a shaking hand. He looked at the pillow for a long time. He stood there so still for so long, that Liz began to think she'd made a horrible mistake coming there. She could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to process everything.

It seemed like an eternity passed before he spoke again, "It was real. Wasn't it? You were here last night."

"Apparently. I don't know how else I could have ended up with that pillow. I thought it was part of a dream."

Kyle sat down and motioned for her to join him on the sofa. "So, how is that possible?"

"Well... I'm not sure exactly..."

"But you have a theory about it."

"Yeah," Liz said with a slight smile. "I do."

"It has something to do with them, doesn't it?"

"Yes, it does."

"Are you turning into one of them? Is that what happens when they heal you? Do I have that to look forward to?"

"Honestly, I don't know what's behind this. But I don't think that what's happening here is because of just being healed. I think you're safe. It may have something to do with my connection with Max. Those flashes I told you about."

"Then what's going on? I'm out of it for a few days, and everything goes crazy. Why the hell can't we have a few days that are normal and uneventful? Why does every day in Roswell have to be straight out of 'The Twilight Zone'?"

"I guess this is the price we have to pay to have them in our lives."

"I never wanted them here! All they do is bring us pain. We'd all have been better off if they all had never arrived here in the first place."

"Not everyone would have been better off... If it wasn't for Max, I'd be dead. You would never have been involved with this, but at what price?" Liz stared harshly at him. Kyle had enough decency to look down at his feet in shame.

Liz didn't like being blunt and using the truth against him, but she had little choice. He needed to realize that his point of view was based on faulty reasoning. And whether or not he wanted to be, he was involved just as deeply in this as the rest of them. With everything that had happened, now more than ever, he needed to be kept informed.

"Kyle, I know you've been given a raw deal. What Tess did was horrible, but not all of them are to blame. I'm the only one who came over here to clue you in. I care about you. You're my friend. Let me have a chance to explain what's going on."

"Fine, go ahead. Just so you know, I'll listen for you. Not because of them."

"Ok... Ever since I realized that Tess mindwarped you and Mrs. DeLuca, I've been having dreams where Ava is in them..."

"Who the hell is Ava?" Kyle interrupted.

"She is Tess's duplicate, only she's a lot nicer than Tess. She was here around last Thanksgiving. We sorta became friends. Anyway, I've been developing powers. And I somehow managed to dreamwalk you and then I was here, physically. I'm not sure how it came to be. But I think I was able to be in two places at once."

"That's not possible. The mind and body have to work together in harmony. Sometimes with meditation the mind can reach a higher plane of existence. But not that. What you're talking about is ludicrous. That's the kind of cheesy plot device they use on bad TV shows and movies. Just like the girl on the show 'Charmed'."

"'Charmed'? You watch 'Charmed'? I can't believe you watch the WB. I thought you were more enlightened than that."

"It is a perfectly decent show." Kyle tried to look at her in all seriousness, but as soon as he saw the smirk on her face he bust out laughing. "Ok, ok. The show kinda sucks. But the women are hot. Short, tight tops and leather pants. What's not to like?"

"Kyle, I admit that it does sound a little 'out there'. Especially from me. But like you said life here is like 'The Twilight Zone'."

"That may be, but tell me 'oh great science wiz'... How is that possible?" He asked smugly.

Liz sighed in resignation, "I don't know. Maybe it is like 'Charmed'. Maybe what we know about time and space is wrong. Maybe these abilities are natural gifts that would happen as human beings evolve. Maybe I'm entirely way off base. I just don't know."

She paused for a moment and took in a deep ragged breath before continuing, "Why does everyone think I have answers for every damn thing? All I know for certain was that somehow while I was asleep, I was also here with you. Hence the pillow. I came to see you because I needed a friend. This is all kind of freaky for me too. You know me, I believe in logic and science. This goes against everything I still have faith in."

Kyle was quiet while he seemed to be deep in thought. When he finally decided to speak, his voice was apologetic. "Look... Liz, I didn't mean to get you upset. I'm just a bit angry. And confused. I'm sick and tired of being the alien's whipping boy."

"I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have snapped like that. You've been through a lot, then to have me dump this on you... I understand how you must be feeling."

"We've both been through a lot. And you know, you having powers has possibilities."

Liz was surprised by this sudden turn around of his opinion. "What do you mean?"

"I'm glad that the aliens don't have a monopoly on kick-ass powers. It kind of evens things up for us lowly humans. So, do you think you'll get any ass kicking powers? Like Guerin doing the thing with the hand to blow things up? Now, that could be a really handy ability to have. Especially if Tess comes back."

"Well, I don't know if that will happen. But here's to hoping." Liz and Kyle both smiled at the idea of Liz using alien powers to kick Tess's butt, but good. "Kyle, what's with the change in attitude? A little while ago, you were pointing out the impossibility of it. Now you're all 'Rah! Rah! Rah! Go team Go!' What gives?"

"You mentioned still having faith in something. I have faith in myself, my dad, and Buddha. I realized that I have faith in something else. If Tess returns I don't trust any of them to take her down. Evans will give an order and the others will follow the words of their idiot king. You're the only one to stand up to him. I have faith in you. I know you will do everything you can to make her pay."

"Thank you, Kyle. Gee, I don't know how to respond to that."

"Don't. I did have another reason. I like the idea of you being like the chicks on 'Charmed'. You'd look hot in their kind of clothes."

"Get your mind out of the gutter." Liz said, smiling as she gave him a little swat to the shoulder. "There's more I need to tell you. It's serious."

"All right. All right, what is so important?"

"The dreams I've had have given me clues to follow. A lot of them have to do with Tess. There's something about her that Ava's trying to warn us about."

"How do you know Ava is trustworthy? She is like Tess after all."

"That's the thing, she isn't. Ava is a friend to me, Tess never was. I trust what Ava tells me the same way I trust you. Implicitly."

Kyle took a moment to digest what she said. "So... What is she trying to warn you about?"

"From what she said, something big is going down soon. I have the feeling that we'll be smack-dab in the middle of it, whatever it is. Also, we discovered something out by the pod chamber that may be hard for you to take..."


"The Granolith didn't take off. It was all a mental diversion. Tess is still on Earth."

Kyle's eyes widened at the news. Then he bowed forward and rested his head near his knees, like he was feeling lightheaded. He stayed like that for a time. With a worried eye, Liz watched him. She began to worry that this news would be what would break him.

Suddenly, he sat back up and Liz could see his expression. It floored her. She couldn't believe he was smiling and laughing, after everything Tess did to him. She certainly didn't expect him to react that way.

"Thank you, Buddha! Thank you, Jesus." he said over and over again.

"Uh, Kyle, I don't get it. Why are you cheering? After everything, I wouldn't think you'd be so glad about that."

"I've done a lot of thinking after you left last night. As much as I lov... I mean, as much as I cared for her, it wasn't real. It was all lies. If she really loved me, she wouldn't have done that to me. Her being here gives me the hope for getting some payback. You have no idea how mad I am at her."

"Oh I think I know. Almost as mad as I am."

"Do you really believe Ava will lead you to Tess?"

"I don't know if lead is the right word, I think at the very least, she'll point us in the right direction."

"I'm in. I want to help you with finding her. I don't know how much help I will be, but I wanna be there when she gets taken down."

"Are you sure? Even if we find her, I don't know if we'll be able to fight her. We don't know how powerful she really is. She may be working with the Skins. There are so many unknown variables. I can't make any guarantees."

"Let me ask you a question. Are you gonna be there when she gets what's coming to her?"

"Yeah. I have to. She's hurt people I love. I can't let her get away with it." She replied honestly

"That's how I feel."

"If you're sure."

"I am."

The two of them sat there in companionable silence. Each was thinking about Tess and the way she'd managed to hurt and disrupt so many lives. Liz didn't understand how Tess was able to get her hooks into both Max and Kyle.

Liz broached the silence, "Kyle, did you really love Tess? Why?"

"I thought I did. She was different with me than she was with the group. More open, more insecure. A whole lot nicer."

"If you say so. I never saw anything good about her." She said as kindly as she could despite her bitterness.

Silence settled over them, until this time Kyle broke it.

"Not that I'm interested, but what about you and Evans?"

"Max? Me and him are not together. I guess we're sort of friends, but he's been acting strangely and I just can't be around him. Well... at least not alone. Not while all this is happening. I love him, but all he does is hurt me. I can't deal with that right now."

Kyle let out a long sigh. "Love sucks."

"Yes, it does."

"So... Do you wanna stick around for breakfast with me and my dad? I think we have the ingredients for flapjacks. I can make them in the shape of footballs."

She couldn't help smiling at that. She was glad that she wasn't the only one with undiscovered talents. Even if his were more mundane than the ones she had.

"That sounds good. While you make them, I'll fill you in on what you missed during your little mental vacation. Get your opinion about things."

Kyle stood up and then held out his hand to help Liz to her feet. "You remember what I said to you when you were here before? About being friends?"

Liz nodded her head as her answer.

"I just wanted to let you know that I meant it."

"So did I... So come on now, I'm starting to get hungry. Trust me, you don't want to hear my stomach growl. It's almost as scary as your dad when he's angry."

"Nothing is as bad as that."

"You don't want to make that bet, Kyle. Now get moving." She started to nudge him toward the kitchen.

They made their way to the kitchen arguing playfully about which was scarier. When they reached the threshold, they paused their bantering, and looked at each other. They both couldn't help but smile. She and Kyle knew that they would be there for each other, no matter what.

After all, that's what friends are for.