posted on 31-Aug-2001 9:43:48 AM
I've been working on this story arc for a while now and I just wanted to repost the entire thing, beginning with the prequel, for those that maybe didn't get to read it or would like to read it. Thanks for those kind enough to leave feedback after they read these stories.

Title: We'll Always Be Together, Right? (Prequel to "The Distance")
Author: crzyroswellchic
Email: rockstarlet321⊕aol.com
Category:M/L
Rating: PG, PG-13??
Summary: This is the Prequel to the story “The Distance.” Someone, I’m not sure gave me the idea to do this, so here it is. This tells the untold story of Zelenka and Zan and their life together on Antar.
Feedback would be appreciated.

------

The year was 1946. World War II had ended only months before, leaving us to mourn the loss of our family members, friends, and neighbors who'd died fighting.
And while we were rejoicing the end of the war and mourning the losses, a star system parallel to ours was mourning also. But they were mourning the death of a King. A King who'd done a lot of good for the five planets that he ruled over. A King that made some bad decisions during the last few months of his life that turned his people against him. Some were still loyal to him; others scorned his good name. The people who inhabited the five planets only knew what their leaders had told them. That the once great King had fallen and ruined all of their lives.
But none of them knew the real story. None of them knew that he had been forced to marry someone he didn't love, or that the one girl he did love was killed for loving him. Or that he lost the willingness to fight because he knew the girl he loved was now buried beneath the ground he walked upon, cold and stiff in her grave.
This is their story. The story of Zelenka and Zan.

"Zelenka!" I called, stumbling through the dense forest near her house. "Zelenka, are you out here?"

As I got closer to the clearing where I knew she was sitting, I felt my face light up with a smile. Part of the reason for that smile was just getting to see Zelenka, and the other reason was because I was remembering how I first met her.

I was only about eight or nine, but already I was tired of the palace. I wanted to step outside the gates of the castle, of my home, just for a day or two to see how it was in the outside world. I had first gone to my older brother, Atreyu, to find out if he wanted to sneak out with me. But since he was busy learning how to run the kingdom with my father, I asked my sister, Vilandra, whom also refused to go with me. Sulking, I wandered aimlessly through the castle until I found myself in the Granilith room. I remember how the Granilith looked so inviting; so I reached out and touched the cool metal. And immediately, I was staring face to face with Zelenka in the clearing behind her house. Ever since then, we'd been the best of friends. But over the last year or so, we'd fallen in love with each other.

I reached the clearing and there she was, her back facing me. Her long, dark hair that cascaded down her back shimmered in the daylight. "Zelenka?" I asked softly.

She slowly turned around, a smile making her face even more beautiful. "Zan!" She ran over to me and I wrapped my arms around her. "I was hoping you'd come. I've missed you."

I closed my eyes. It felt good to see her and hold her after five days of being apart. "I've missed you too, Zell."

She took a step away from me and looked into my eyes. "How long can you stay?"

"Well," I began. But the beeping of the amulet around my neck interrupted me. "I guess I can't stay at all." I said with an exasperated sigh.

I pulled her back to me and kissed her. "I know it's hard for us to see each other, now that I'm the King." I told her. "And it hurts me not to see you everyday. Can you meet me here later tonight?"

She nodded. "How late?"

"Just after midnight, okay?"

"Okay." She hugged me once more. "I love you, Z."

"I love you more, Zell." I said, as I let go of her and wrapped one hand around the amulet.

After three seconds, I disappeared, and three seconds later, I found myself back in the palace. I walked down the corridor to the main room of the castle when Rath pulled me aside.

"I've got bad news, Zan." He told me.

"What would that be?"

"Khivar's followers have started a.. riot on the planet governed by Kathana." He whispered to me.

"Why?" I demanded. I had little patience for Khivar or any of his followers. He killed my older brother two years ago and since that day, I vowed to capture him and lock him up. After only being ruler for thirty days, I placed Khivar in jail, where he belongs. Of course, I had to seal him in an underground prison on one of the five planets. Only Rath, Vilandra, my father, and I know what planet Khivar's being held on.

“They want him released. Their spokesperson, Nicholas, has stated that they will declare war on each of the five planets until they find him and set him free.” Rath looked towards the double doors where we were headed. “A few of the countryside dwellers caught wind of this, and now, you’re supposed to give a statement about the riots.”

I nodded. “Who knows about this? Like who in this castle?” I asked, looking around behind us.

“Just me and you know the specifics. You are supposed to meet with your father immediately after this conference and let him know about it. He’s also got something to tell you.”

We finally reached the intricately carved doors that led to a balcony that overlooked the capital city.

“Thank you, Rath.” I told him as we opened the doors and went out separate ways. I took my place in the front of the balcony.

Cheers and claps greeted me as I stood beside my sister, Vilandra. With a smile pasted on her face, she greeted me without moving her lips.

“Don’t worry about Nicholas and the riots, Zan. I’ll handle it.”

Handle it? How does she know about it? “How do you know about Nicholas?” I asked her.

“Um, well.. I just do. Trust me though. I can handle this.” She said as she walked away to take her seat next to Rath.

I turned to face my people. “Citizens of Antar,” I began. “I have called you here today to discuss the riots that have started up on the outermost planet in our star system. These riots are the work of Nicholas, Khivar’s best friend and confidante. As most of you know, I have zero tolerance for Khivar and his ways. With that being said, I want you to know that we are on top of this matter. These riots will come to an end, and Nicholas will be placed in jail as quickly as possible. If you happen to see Nicholas on Antar, please get word to me. For your help, you’ll be rewarded with almost anything your heart desires. Thank you.”

As I finished my speech, the people in the crowd bowed down before me. I nodded at them, gave them the signal to rise again, and then walked back inside.

Vilandra followed me and stopped me in the hallway. I pushed her aside and continued walking towards my father’s quarters. Vilandra had been confusing me lately; she always knew what I was up to, even though I was doing things in secret. I prayed she didn’t find out about my secret visits to see Zelenka. Only Rath knew about those and that was the way I’d like to keep it for now.

I reached the door to my father’s quarters and knocked on the door. I knew how much he’d hate if I barged in on him, though if Atreyu or Vilandra ever did, he’d welcome them with open arms. Sometimes I don’t even understand how my father and I are of the same blood.

My father’s voice, weak from battling the illness that made him give up the throne in the first place, called me inside. “Zan, come in.”

I stepped inside, and he motioned for me to come closer to his bed.

“Zan, my son, I have made a decision.” He said.

“And what would that be, sir?”

“You must know how odd it is for you to have taken the throne without a queen to rule with you. But I was very ill and since Atreyu had died, you were all that was left to take over my legacy. So, I resigned and let you take over without a queen.” He sighed. “It’s been six months since you’ve taken the throne, and I must say that you have done well. But the fact remains that you’re without a queen. We must fix this. And this is what I’ve decided: You have the remaining six months of this year to find yourself a suitable wife. On the anniversary of your coronation, you will be married to whomever you’ve chosen and I’ve approved. However, if you do not find a suitable wife by then, you will marry Ava Soloave, daughter of Hanar, who governs the third planet in this star system.”

“Ava?” I heard myself asking. I disliked Ava with a passion. She wasn’t like me at all… I wanted to marry a kindred spirit, someone I could at least get along with. And I have never in my life gotten along with Hanar’s daughter.

“Yes, Ava.” He closed his eyes. “Now leave me. We will discuss this further later.

“As you wish, sir.” I said, bowing just a little before leaving. As I walked away from his room, I decided then and there that I was marrying Zelenka, whether he liked it or not. I am the King. I have the power. And whoever I want to marry, I shall. Not him or anyone else can stop me. An idea popped into my head, and I rushed off to set my idea into action. This will all work out so that Zelenka and I will be together someday. I thought to myself. We’re soulmates… even if we depart from this life, we shall surely meet again in our next life. I walked a bit faster and walked into the office of the palace jeweler. As I began to talk to the head jeweler, a thought crossed my mind. I can marry Zelenka, right?

--------
It was nearly an hour after midnight before I could silently make my way to the Granilith room. In my hand, I held the intricately designed bracelet I had made for Zelenka. It had taken the Palace Jeweler nearly five hours to finish it, but it was finally ready for me to place it on her arm to let every one know that she was my girl, and my girl alone. If Zelenka were to wear the bracelet, then, officially, we'd be engaged. And after that, all I had to do was dip the bracelet in the sparkling water that surrounded the Granilith and we'd be married.

As I slipped into the room and walked over to the Granilith, I briefly thought about dipping the bracelet in the holy water of the Granilith then. But I decided to wait and make sure that Zelenka would marry me before I did something so final. I placed my hand on the Granilith and shut my eyes to speed up the transition from the palace to the clearing beside Zelenka's house.

When I opened my eyes again, I was standing in the middle of the dark clearing. It took my eyes a few minutes to adjust the abrupt darkness and once I could see, I looked around for Zelenka. "Zell?" I asked in a whisper. "Zellie?"

Then, I saw her. She was curled up on the ground about five feet from where I was standing. For a second, I thought she was dead, and my heart caught in my throat. But then I saw her twitch ever so slightly, and a wave of relief washed over to me.

I walked over to her sleeping form and just stared at her. She didn't even have a cover to protect from the cold night air, much less any shelter from any animals that might come to prey on her. And I didn't particularly like the idea of her sleeping out here all alone either. Sighing, I knelt beside her and took off my royal cloak. I laid it over her and as I did, she awoke.

"Zan!" She exclaimed, sitting up to hug me. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"It's okay." I said, hugging her back and kissing her on top of her head. "I didn't mean to be late."

She smiled at me and leaned against me while I wrapped the cloak around us both. It was too cold a night to be meeting out like this, but it had been so long since we spent any amount of time together that I didn't mind the cold.

For a while, we just sat there, stargazing. When we were younger and "just friends", we'd make up stories about people who looked just like us that lived on some parallel solar system. Now that I think about it, it's a crazy idea, but back then, when we were kids, the world was left to our imagination. I suddenly remembered what my father had told me and the silver bracelet that was sitting in the pocket over my heart.

"Zell?" I questioned softly. She murmured back something in reply. "You know how much I love you, don't you?"

She pulled away from my arms and looked into my eyes. I could tell that she was confused. "I know, Zan. And I love you too."

I nodded, and pulled the bracelet out of my pocket. "But do you love me enough to marry me?" I asked, holding out the bracelet to her.

Even in the darkness, I could tell that her face lit up at the sight of the bracelet. "Oh, my," she sighed. "Zan, does this mean-? Are you asking me to marry you?"

"Yes." I told her.

"But.. " she trailed off.

"Don't worry about it." I said, knowing what she was thinking. She didn't think that she could marry me, because of her family status. As I placed the bracelet on her right wrist, I whispered in her ear. "It doesn't matter what my family says. I will marry who I want to marry; and who I want to marry.. is you."

"Zan. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for us to let ourselves fall in love. I don't want to cause trouble for you and your family." Zelenka said, staring at the bracelet. "But I would marry you.. if I knew it wouldn't cause problems."

"Zell, it doesn't matter, okay? Not to me. So, don't let it matter to you. What matters is that we love each other. We're meant for each other and we shouldn't let ANYTHING come between us." I touched the bracelet and made it glow. "Please, say you'll marry me, Zellie."

Zelenka looked into my eyes and I knew that she would say yes. When she nodded silently, still staring into my eyes, I spoke again.

"You won't regret this, Zell." I said, meaning every word. She wouldn't regret it; especially if I had any say about it.

"I know." Her voice came out as barely a whisper.

I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight. "I love you so much, Zell. I'll never stop loving you."

"Nor will I stop loving you." She said back to me before she kissed me. Now, knowing that she was going to be my future wife, the kiss held so many different things. But most of all, through this one kiss, I could tell that after we got married, our future was going to be great.

After a heartstopping kiss, I pulled away from her to catch my breath. Then, I bent down to make the bracelet glow just a bit brighter. "Zell?"

"Yes?"

"I can make it to where we're married right now."

"How?"

"All I have to do is dip this bracelet in the water surrounding the Granilith. Then, you and I will be inseparable."

I could see her thinking it over in her mind. I knew that she loved me enough to do it, to become one inseparable union. She nodded, and I quickly removed the bracelet from her hand. "I'll be right back." I said to her as I orbed out.

Back in the Granilith Room, I dipped the bracelet in the cold, sparkling water. I brought the bracelet out of the water, and already I could notice a change in the bracelet. Smiling, I orbed back to Zelenka.

I could tell she was nearly asleep, so I quietly placed the bracelet on her hand and picked her up. I was going to make sure she got back to her house before I left her again. Now that we were practically married, there was no way I was leaving her out in the woods alone.

----------
Two Weeks Later

"Father," I said after knocking on his door. "May I come in?"

"Yes, son."

I opened the door and briskly strolled over to the chair beside his bed. Before I could say anything to him, he began interrogating me.

"Have you found Nicholas yet and stopped the rebellion?" He questioned.

"No, and yes, sir." I told him. We had put an end to part of the rebellion, but the elusive Nicholas was yet to be found.

"You better get Nicholas in jail soon, my son. Or you will have problems in ruling."

"I'm working on it, sir." I stood up to look out the window next to his bed. "But I didn't come in here today to talk about Nicholas."

"Then why are you here?" He asked, sitting up straighter in bed.

"Sir, I have found someone who'd I'd like to marry."

"Marry?" My father seemed rather pleased. "Who is this lucky girl?"

"Zelenka Marstranast, sir."

"Marstranast?" His Highness asked. "Marstranast? Do I know a Marstranast?"

I opened my mouth to tell him about Zelenka's family, but again, he began to speak before I could.

"Marstranast?" His calm voice was now angered. "MARSTRANAST??"

"Yes, sir."

"No. You will not marry that girl."

"But.. why?" I asked.

"Because she is not of your stature. She is beneath our entire family." His face was beginning to redden.

"But I love her!" I said, my voice getting louder.

"You don't know what love is." My father answered back. "In life, you don't marry for love, Zan. You marry for wealth."

"Well, maybe I don't want to marry for wealth. I LOVE HER, Father, no matter what you say. And I WILL marry her." I told him, staring him straight in the eyes.

"No, you will not."

"Oh, yes. I will."

"I'm going to tell you this for the last time." His weak voice was growing stronger. "You. Will. Not. Marry. That. Girl. Do you understand me?"

By this time, I was already half way to the door. Once I got there, I opened the door and turned back to face him.

"I understand you." I told him. "But you know what? I really don't care what you say at this point. I'm marrying her whether you like it or not."

"OVER MY DEAD BODY, ZAN!" My father shook his fist at me.

I glared at him and replied, "That can be arranged."

Then, before he could say something else, I walked out and slammed the door.

---------
Infuriated by the encounter with my father, I started towards the Granilith Room for a visit to Zelenka, but I was stopped by Rath.

"We've got a problem, Zan." He said, pulling me aside.

"What do you mean?"

"Vilandra's been seen at Khivar's cell." He told me, in a whisper.

"Vilandra?" I asked, incredulously. "Why? She knows what he did to our brother."

"I don't know why she was there." Rath said. "But the guard on duty picked up these phrases: 'On the 24th'; 'escaping'; 'it'll only be a short while before you and I take over the throne'."

I could feel my eyes bulging. "What?!"

Rath repeated what he had just said.

"Vilandra.. are they sure it was Lonnie?"

Rath nodded. "Very sure." He looked down the hall towards her room. "You need to go talk to her."

I looked at him, then at Vilandra's door, then at the Granilith door. I guess the visit to see Zellie would just have to wait, I told myself as I said good-bye to Rath and walked to Vilandra's room.

I knocked once before entering. "Lonnie?"

She came around the corner, out of her extensively large bathroom. "Don't call me 'Lonnie', Zan. We're not five any more."

"No, we're not. I'm sorry." I told her, noticing that she had on her favorite dress. "So, um.. where are you going?"

"Nowhere." She replied, a little too quickly.

"Nowhere, huh?" I pointed at the long, aquamarine dress she was wearing. "Why do you have that on for?"

"Can't a girl where her favorite dress whenever she feels the need?"

"Lonnie, you're hiding something." I said to her.

"No, I'm not." She stared at me, defiantly. "And for Antar's sake, quit calling me Lonnie!"

"When you quit lying and stop acting like a self-indulgent child, I will stop calling you that. But for now, Lonnie, what's this I hear about secret meetings with Khivar?"

"Self-indulgent? Look in the mirror, Zan. No one is more self-indulgent than you are."

"How so?"

"You and your little girl on the side. Oh, what's her name.. Zelenka."

I was beginning to get confused. How did she know about Zelenka? "Excuse me?"

"How come you get secret meetings with her and I don't get to meet with Khivar secretly?"

"Because Zelenka's not the enemy. Khivar, on the other hand, IS. Stay away from him, Lonnie. If you know what's good for you, you'll cease your visits."

"No, Zan. If YOU know what's good for YOU, you'll stop having your little "advisors" follow me around. I'm not someone you can rule, Zan. I'm not one of your people. To everyone else who matters, you may be THEIR king. But to me, you're just a pesky older brother."

The anger was rising in me fast. Between fighting with my father and Vilandra, I was about to lose my cool. "Listen to me, Lonnie. You aren't to leave this castle unless someone's with you. And you will obey me, because what you're doing is crazy. You shouldn't be near Khivar, Lonnie. He's dangerous."

Vilandra strode over to her door and opened. "Get OUT! NOW!" She yelled.

"Remember what I said, Lonnie. You disobey me, and you'll regret it."

"I'm a person that doesn't regret what they do, Zan." She told me as I walked past her. "And quit calling me LONNIE!!"

Then, she slammed the door in my face. Shaking my head, I closed my eyes and sighed. I turned and stared longingly at the Granilith door, but now, I was too upset to even go see Zelenka. Right now, I just need some time to myself. I'd meet up with her tonight. Once I'd got a chance to get myself into a better mood and think out a way for us to stay married.

---------

After I had thought about our situation for few hours, I walked myself down the Granilith Room. It was late at night again, so I knew that Zelenka would be in her room, either reading or sleeping. I stepped into the room and walked over to the Granilith, placing my hand on the cool metal. Then, instead of thinking of the clearing, I thought of Zelenka's bedroom quarters.

In an instant, I was there in her nearly dark bedroom. I think my entrance startled her, because she almost fell off her bed.

"Zan!" She stood up and hugged me. Somehow just being here with her made my whole day brighter.

After a while, she looked into my eyes. Noticing the pain that shone in them, she asked, "What's wrong, Zan? What happened?"

I looked at her door and closed it with my powers. Then, I slid the lock over it and pushed a chair up against it to prevent any one from entering.

I began to pace the floor of her room. I wasn't sure where to start. "My father doesn't want me to marry you." I sighed, unhappily. "In fact, he forbids it."

Zelenka stared at me, her eyes wide. "What are we going to do, Zan? We're already married!"

"I've been asking myself that same question all day long, and here's what I came up with. We elope."

"No, Zan. I couldn't possibly do that."

"Zelenka.. it's either be together and happy or be apart and miserable. And end up married to people we don't really love."

As I said this, Zelenka bowed her head. "I-I don't think I could watch you marry someone else." She said, quietly.

"I couldn't watch you marry another either, Zel. That's why we have to elope. But if-if you don't want to, I understand." I looked away. "I mean, you'd miss your family terribly, and I don't want you to do something you don't want to do."

For a long while, everything was silent. I wasn't even sure if either of us were breathing. Soon, Zelenka walked over to me and put her arms around my waist.

"But what if I want to elope?" She asked me, looking up into my eyes.

"You'll do it?"

"Of course, I will, Zan. I don't want to lose you."

I stared into her eyes, which were so full of love for me. I never thought of anyone loving me so much. My own mother didn't love me as much as Zelenka did. I held her closer.
"You'll never lose me, Zellie."

We just stood there, making plans to meet 3 months from today, in the clearing, to make our escape. When we had finished, I kissed her. A long kiss to make up for the 3 months when we'd see each other very little. A sound from outside broke us apart.

I ran to the window and peered out through the blinds. And off into the distance, I could barely make out a person running away.

----
3 months later

It was late before I could finally slip away from the ball that my mother was throwing for Vilandra's birthday. But I knew that Zelenka would still be there waiting for me. It was time for us to make our escape, to planet jump. I'd have to change my appearance some, so people wouldn't recognize me. But other than that, things would be great. I mean, we'd have each other after all, and that's all that matters.

I slipped into the Granilith room, with only the clothes on my back and the large chunk of bills I took from the vault. Placing my hand on the cool metal, I began to get excited. Zel and I were finally going to be together forever.

In an instant, I was in the darkened clearing. I could hear dogs barking in the distance as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. Which was incredibly wierd because there weren't any dogs near Zelenka's house.

"Zelenka!" I whispered into the darkness. I couldn't see her any where, even with my eyes adjusted. I turned my head towards the east, and I saw the beam of a flashlight leaving the woods. She must be going back to her house. She must of thought I had forgotten all about her! "ZELENKA!" I whispered very loudly, hoping to grab her attention. I couldn't be seen unless I wanted someone to tell my father where I had been. "Zelenka!"

"Zan?" I heard her voice, which was usually strong but now sounded so weak, from behind me. I turned and my heart fell.

"Zel? Zel, what happened?" I asked, tears forming in my eyes. She was standing right in front of me, blood covering her hands. After a few moments, I realized that the blood was coming from her hands, which were trying to hide the large gash on her stomach. Not trying to hide the gash, my mind told me. She's trying to keep her organs from falling out.

She just looked up at me with such pain in her eyes. "I don't know.. they just came and they.. " She trailed off as she fell forward. I caught her and held her in my arms.

"Who?" I demanded. "Who did this to you?"

She stared at me blankly. "Zelenka.. baby. Stay with me. Don't leave me." I raised my hand and started to heal her. But for some reason, my powers didn't work. Whoever did this to her had greater power than I and had placed a shield on her, keeping other powers from changing the work they'd done. "Zelenka, Zellie, please. I love you.. you can't leave me. We're supposed to be together. You're supposed to run away with me and we're.. supposed to be together. We're soulmates. Zel, tell me who did this to you."

Zelenka's mouth opened to say something. "Nnn" was all she said. Because at that moment, blood came pouring out of her mouth.

"ZELENKA!!" The scream from my mouth ripped through the calmness of the night. Tears streamed down my cheeks as my heart split in half. I laid her limp body on the ground and vowed to get whoever did this to her. Then, I noticed that the bracelet was missing from her wrist.

I guess that the pain of her death had finally gotten through my brain because my lungs stopped producing air, and I passed out and fell to the ground beside. That's where I awoke the next morning with Rath over my face.

------

"Zan! Zan, you have to get up." Rath was saying to me as I opened my eyes.

I squinted against the early morning sun. "Where am I?" I groaned.

"You're in the clearing next to Zelenka's house. Now, come on, get up. You're needed back at the castle."

I sat up and looked around. "Why?" I asked, still trying to wake up.

"I'll give you the details once we're back at the castle. This isn't a safe location to disclose such information."

"Uh.. okay." I blinked rapidly a few times until I could finally see clearly. I turned my head to look at Zelenka and suddenly wished that I hadn't cleared my vision at all. "What.. what is this?" I asked, staring at her cold, lifeless body.

"She's... she's dead, Zan." Rath said solemnly.

"No." I shook my head. "She's not dead. She can't be dead."

"But she is."

A tear slid out of my eye and I wiped it away with the back of my hand. "Come on, Zel. Come on. Wake up." I said as I gently shook her. "Please Zelenka.. wake up."

Rath knelt beside Zelenka and across from me. He pulled my hand away from her shoulder. "Zan.. she's gone."

"No. No. I don't believe this." I stood up and turned my back. "NO!"

Rath calmly pulled something out of his cloak and placed it over Zelenka. I couldn't make out what it was, but I didn't want to turn to face him and find out what it was because to face him I'd have to see Zelenka's torn body. He began to chant something as I began to pace.

"She can't be dead. She can't be dead." I muttered.

"Zan, she IS dead. And you're just going to have to get over it." Rath had ended his chanting and with my peripheral vision, I could see a strange glow filling the clearing. "It's not the end of the world."

"That's where you're wrong, Rath. To you it may seem just what it is--a death. But to me, it's different. I'm not just losing someone from my court. I'm losing the girl I love. How do you think I've done so well this last year? It was her.. all her. She's what gave me the strength to be what I am." I turned to face him. "And now.. she's gone."

Rath stood up, walked over to me, and handed me a small vial attached to a leather necklace. The small vial was filled with an amber-colored liquid/gas. "Not technically." He said.

"Not technically?" I asked, taking the vial. "What is this?"

"It's her aura." He shifted his feet. "In the laboratory, we've been practicing bringing people back by using their essences--their auras. Maybe if we get it perfected, I can bring her back for you."

I was speechless. I never would have thought Rath would say that to me. "Th-Thank you." I told him.

"You're welcome." He turned away from me. "We're needed at the castle."

------

When we arrived at the castle, Rath informed that Khivar had escaped.

"Escaped?!?" I exclaimed. "How did this happen?"

"I don't really know." He told me. "We can view the security tapes after the press conference."

"Press conference?" I asked, my hands wrapped tightly around the necklace that contained Zel's aura. My head began to throb.

"Yeah, the press conference. You always give a press conference when something like this happens in order to let the citizens know that everything's going to be okay."

"Um.." I said. "Okay. I have one right now?"

"Yes. The people await." He pointed to the double doors at the end of the long corridor. "Just through there."

I began to walk towards the doors, shuffling my feet. I didn't want to give this press conference. I wanted to lay down in my room and cry. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to have some time to let my head stop spinning. But everything seemed to be happening to me today. Zelenka's death; Khivar escaped; and now, I have to give a press conference. I don't even know what to say! The only reason I was so confident before about what I said was because I knew that I could go visit Zelenka afterwards. But who was I going to visit now? Rath?

No, I told myself. Rath has his own problems. I stepped out onton the balcony and looked at the people I was supposed to be ruling. And when I opened my mouth to speak, the usual speech that used to take five minutes took me fifteen minutes to get out. I stuttered and stumbled over so many words. It was awful. But it was soon over and I headed back to where I'd left Rath to view the tapes.

Five hours later, I was lying on my back in the middle of my bedroom floor. So much had happened.. I wasn't even sure if I was still alive. All of these things were going on around me, but I wasn't apart of them. It was like I had left the living and was suddenly in the background, watching, but not saying a word.

After I had viewed the tapes, I realized that the girl who was slipping by the guards each time was none other than my sister, Vilandra. I can't believe that she'd do that to me, to Atreyu! Khivar killed our brother and she helps him escape from prison? Something's not right in that whole picture. But I'll have to wait to argue with Lonnie. She's out, just like always. Only now, I know she's probably out with Khivar and his little lachey, Nicholas.

But as I sat there, thinking about Zelenka's death and how Vilandra betrayed me, I didn't know that the next time I would see Vilandra would be three weeks later....

------

"Lonnie!" I called as I saw her scurry around the corner. "Vilandra!"

I began to run after her. It'd been weeks since I saw her and I was tired of waiting. She was avoiding me because I knew what she'd been up to all that time and she was hoping that I wouldn't confront her. But it was too late for that. She was the one who was conversing with the enemy. Not me.

I caught up to her and grabbed her by the arm. "Let me go!" She screamed at me. "Nicholas is waiting on me."

"Nicholas?" I said, pulling her arm more.

"Let me go, Zan. This is none of your concern."

"None of my concern?" I asked. "Well, then what is my place in this whole mess you made? You have no idea what you're doing to yourself.. to all of us, Lonnie. Khivar's dangerous."

"No, he's not." She wrenched her arm free and glared at me. "He's not dangerous and I .. I love him."

I thought I was going to gag. "L--love him?" I choked out.

"Yes." She said. "And he loves me."

I shook my head. Love between the two of them?? No possible way. I couldn't take it anymore. "Get out." I told her.

"What?"

"Get out! Get out of my palace. Get out of my kingdom."

"You can't kick me out. I'm your sister."

"Sister or not--I did kick you out. You can't show some family loyalty, then you don't belong with this family."

"But Zan.." Tears were forming in her eyes, but they did nothing but fuel my anger. "Don't do this to me."

"It's too late. Get out. Go have your fun with Khivar and Nicholas.. just don't come crawling back here three weeks later. Don't come back at all." I growled as I stalked off, leaving a crying Vilandra in the hallway.

------

Later that evening, I just sat on my bed, numb. I can't believe I kicked my sister out, my mind kept saying. What kind of person am I?

Things were so complicated since Zelenka died. She died and with her passing, she took the part of me that was alive--my soul. Now all that was left was the shell of my heart and body.

It was late and I decided to go to the Granilith Room and go to the clearing near Zelenka's house. Lately, I'd been going there for just a few minutes at a time, just so I could remember all the good times we'd had there. I didn't want those memories to fade away.

I turned the corner near my father's room and nearly bumped into to someone. "Sorry," I muttered.

"That's okay." The voice told me. "Oh, Zan, it's you!"

I looked up and it took my eyes a little while to focus on the person's face. But finally, I realized who it was. "Ava?"

"Yeah," Ava said. "It's me. So.. how are things?"

"Okay, I guess." I responded. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, um, your father called me here. He wanted to speak with me."

"About?"

"About the wedding, silly!" She giggled.

Wedding? My mind exclaimed. Wedding?

Suddenly it all came back to me. My father's decree that I had six months to find a "suitable" bride or marry Ava.

I began to study the girl in front of me. Her skin tone, her hair color, her posture.. everything about her was completely different from Zelenka. It makes me sick just to look at her and know that I'm going to have to marry her. I would have put up a fight. I would have argued with my father and told him that I, Zan, was the King, and I could do whatever I pleased. Of course, that was the Zan that had left with Zelenka. And right now, I just didn't have the strength to fight anyone anymore.

"Zan?" Ava asked, pulling me out of my thoughts. "Zan, are you okay?

"No." I shook my head. "Yes. I'm fine. Please excuse me."

I pushed her aside and hurried into my father's room.

"Son..." He said, breathing very slowly. His illness seemed to be catching up with him. "Son, I'm very disappointed in you." He coughed.

I walked over and sat next to his bed. "Oh really? Why's that?"

"Because you're failing your people and you don't even care." He broke off and began to cough again."You should have sent the army out days ago to search for Khivar.. instead, you kick your sister out and mope."

"Father..." I trailed off, lowering my head.

"Is this because that little girl on the side you had was killed?"

My head jerked up at that. "How do you know about that?"

"Why wouldn't I know about it? I organized it."

I could feel my jaw drop. "What?" I asked in a whisper.

"You heard me Zan. I hired some friend of Vilandra's to kill her." He sighed, contentedly. "He even made me a tape of what happened."

It took all my strength not to strangle my father. "How could you?" I asked, tears welling up in my eyes. She died because of me. I thought. I might as well have killed her myself.

"Well, I had to do something. You were just going to let our country suffer because you wanted to run off with some country bumpkin. You're too good for her, Zan." He stared at me for a long while. "Quit your blubbering." He began to cough again and the monitor he was hooked up to began to beep.

I looked at the machine. I finally find out who killed Zelenka and now he was going to die before I could kill him. "Father..."

"Yes, son?"

"I just want you to know this. I hate you."

"Well, you were never the son I wanted anyway. Don't miss your wedding tomorrow... your mother will have everything set up for you to marry Ava." His breathing became labored and his eyes closed. A muffled explosion seemed to happen inside him and he was gone.

Before I knew that my father had paid someone to kill Zelenka, I could at least live. But now that I knew that I practically killed her, I just wanted to stop breathing and kill myself. I never should have let her get too close to me. I never should have put her in danger like that. But it's too late. I killed Zelenka.. and now I'm going to have to live with that.

Those were my last thoughts before I fell asleep.

------

The next day, I awoke and was dressed in formal wedding attire. Though I had to attend my father's funeral first, they still dressed me in wedding attire.

The funeral was a grand event that probably lasted much longer than the wedding will. But never the less, as soon as it was over, I was shuttled to the large chapel on the other side of the Granilith Room.

The chapel was packed. People were crammed into every little space, all trying to get a glimpse of their new queen. I don't want to marry her. The thought just kept running across my mind until it was like a mantra.

Ava came and took herself beside me. I couldnt' take it any longer. If I was going to have to marry her, I was going to lay down some ground rules.

"I want you to know this," I whispered. "I don't love you, not now, not ever. Don't count on me changing my mind about that. Next, I will not have children with you. And --"

She cut me off. "I agree. I don't want to have children with you either. I mean, I love you and all, but I've already got us an heir right here." She pointed to her stomach.

I stared at her dumbfounded. What a slut! I thought. "Ummm..." Before I could speak I was cut off by someone calling my name.

"ZAN!" I turned to find ot where it was coming from. I looked to the front of the church and saw Rath being held captive by.. Khivar. "Zan! Zan, get out of here.. save yourself."

I couldn't move. My feet were rooted to the floor. I tried to tell my feet to move.. but all I could think about was how I killed Zelenka.. how I deserved to die because I killed her. But somehow, I began to move. I put my hands up to use my powers on Khivar, but I guess I was too slow.

A long, yellow beam shot out of his hand and it hit me directly in the chest. The beam picked me up; it seemed to be holding me by my heart. Khivar just kept using the beam to squeeze my heart until it finally exploded and I fell to the ground. I was still conscious and alive, but just barely.

Ava fell on me and started crying. "How am I going to live down this pregnancy?" she wailed.

Things began to float and flutter in my line of vision. I struggled to remain consciousness, struggled to heal myself. But it was no use; Khivar had pretty much killed me.

Vilandra ran over to me, sobbing. "Oh, Zan! Zan I'm so sorry. I didn't know--I didn't realize.." She laid her head on my chest.

"No..." I whispered, using the last of my strength to get this last line out. "I'm the one who's sorry."

And with that, my eyes rolled back into my head and I, like my father, like my brother, and like Zelenka, was gone.


*****
posted on 31-Aug-2001 9:45:30 AM
Title: The Distance
Author: crzyroswellchic
Email: rockstarlet321⊕aol.com
Category: M/L mostly, but the other characters are in it too
Rating: PG, PG-13??
Summary: Liz and Maria, upon returning home to Roswell after college, leave once again to settle down in Stone Crest, Oregon. They, along with Alex, haven’t seen Max, Isabel, Michael or Tess since the night they graduated high school. Oh, and Nasedo’s in the story, so pretend like he never died.
Author’s Note: I used two songs in this story. Evan and Jaron’s “The Distance” and BBMak’s “Next Time.” Feedback would be really great.

--------

The sky has lost it's color
The sun has turned to gray
At least that's how it feels to me
Whenever you're away

I crawl up in the corner
As I watch the minutes pass
Each one brings me closer to
The time when you'll be back
You're coming back

I can't take the distance
I can't take the miles
I can't take the time
Until the next time I see you smile
I can't take the distance
And I'm not ashamed
That I can't take a breath without saying your name
I can brave a hurricane
And still be standing tall when all the dust has settled down
But I can't take the distance

I still believe in feelings
But sometimes I feel too much
I make believe you're close to me
But it ain't close enough
Not nearly close enough
-------------

Prologue
Liz Parker was having the best night of her life. Max, her boyfriend, had taken her out for dinner at the new restaurant just outside of town. Then, they went to the few post-Graduation parties going on. And now, here she was, wearing his jacket and snuggled against him on her rooftop balcony, where they were stargazing. What made this the perfect night was the fact that it was practically the first full night that they’d spent with each other since their first date in the 10th grade. Before everything got so complicated. As Liz sighed happily while Max pointed out a constellation, she wondered if there was anything that could ruin this perfect night.
Max gently kissed her forehead and tightened his strong arms around her before leaning his head to rest against the wall they were sitting by. Somehow, in the way he squeezed her tight made Liz realize something was wrong.
“Max?” she whispered hesitantly.
Max looked into her eyes, and Liz could see the despair and sadness in his own dark eyes. “Liz,” he began. “There’s something I need to.. tell you.” He sighed and looked away from her, leaning his head against the brick wall.
Liz pulled herself away from his arms. She wrapped his jacket tighter around her thin body, concern written all over her pretty face. “Max, what is it?” she asked.
Max looked down at his hands, which were now lying on the ground. “I—“ he started.
“Yes?” Liz encouraged.
“I won’t be in Roswell when you wake up tomorrow morning.” He blurted out, in a rush.
Liz could feel tears springing to her eyes. “You mean, you’re going to Clovis with your parents?” she asked, already knowing that that wasn’t where he was going.
Max didn’t answer.
Liz sighed unhappily. “I always knew this day would come. That you’d have to someday leave me to go fight for your home planet.” She turned to look at him. “But why couldn’t you have told me about it sooner?”
“I would have if I had known myself. We just found out today. Nasedo called and told us to be ready to leave by four a.m.”
“Four a.m.? Max, it’s nearly twelve-thirty now. Shouldn’t you be getting ready or sleeping or something?” Liz asked, trying to keep tears from streaming down her cheeks. She needed to be strong for Max.
“Probably,” Max mumbled. “But I wanted to spend most of my last night in Roswell with you.” He reached into a pocket of his pants and pulled out a shiny object. “Besides, I can’t leave without giving you this.”
“This?” Liz asked, as Max placed the object in her hand. She stood up and walked over to the lamplight that was coming from her bedroom window to inspect it closer.
By its shape, she knew that it had to be a bracelet of some kind. And as she examined the bracelet, she gasped.
“This is.. this is just like the bracelet that Grandma Claudia gave me for my eleventh birthday!” she exclaimed. “Just like it. I loved that bracelet. And then.. and then..”
“And then you lost it in seventh grade.” Max finished the sentence for her. In all the excitement of seeing the bracelet again, she hadn’t noticed that Max had walked over to her. “You had to take it off to do a lab assignment one day and it was accidentally swept into the trash during clean-up.” He continued.
“And you stayed after school, helping me climb through every Dumpster on campus looking for it. Liz ran her fingers over the small stars and the sun and moon that decorated the pewter bracelet. “But.. how?”
“I remembered what it looked like. So I made a drawing of it and a jewelry maker in Clovis made it from my drawing.” He smiled weakly at her. “Here, check out the engraving.”
He gently flipped the bracelet over, allowing her to read the words etched on the back.

“You’ll always be my Dreamgirl, Liz. –M. E. “

Liz looked up at him as one small tear slowly made its way down her face. “Thank you.” She whispered.
Max gently wiped the tear away. “You’re welcome. Anything for my Dreamgirl.” He said. And then he kissed her. It was just as passionate and breathtaking as their very first kiss one they shared not three feet from where they were standing.
Too soon, the kiss ended and Max backed away from her. He couldn’t stay any longer, or he’d be unable to leave. “I have to go now, Liz. I have to go.”
“Oh, um, okay.” Liz nodded as Max kept backing away from her. “Wait.” She called out. Max stopped and looked at her. “Will you.. will you call or something?”
Max took one look into her sad, frightened eyes and walked quickly back to her. He grabbed the bracelet from her hand and placed it on her right wrist. “Listen, Liz. I don’t know when I can call you, email you or be in any kind of contact with you. But just know this: if there’s any chance for me to call you or write to you, I will.” He looked down at the bracelet on her slim wrist. “And if you keep this bracelet near you, you’ll always be able to feel my love for you.” He looked back into her eyes. “I’ll come back someday. I promise.” He squeezed her hand tightly. “I have to go now. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Liz spoke as Max hurriedly walked over to the fire escape.
And Liz watched Max climb over the wall and start the descent down the ladder. As soon as she heard the Jeep start up, she lowered her body to the ground and cried.

2 months later
A cell-phone conversation between Max Evans and Liz Parker

Liz: Hello?
Max: Hey, it’s me.
Liz: Max?! Where are you? Are you okay?
Max: I’m doing fine, except for the fact that you’re not here with me and I’m missing you like crazy. And I can’t exactly tell you where we are because Nas-oops-Mr. Harding said he’d kill me off himself if I let anyone know our location.
Liz: Whoa, sounds rough.
Max: It is. So how are things?
Liz: Things… things are good. Just getting ready to fly out to college.
Max: Oh, still going to
Liz: What? Max I can’t hear you.
Max: Sorry, Liz, this cell phone’s losing reception. I have to go. I you.
Liz: I love you too.


One Year later
Email messages

From: mevans⊕stc.le.com
To: lparkerdreamgirl⊕stc.le.com
Subject: A letter from your favorite Czechoslovakian…

Liz! Hey! I’m so sorry that I haven’t been able to write to you or call you again. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve had any time to myself. It’s always run this way, go that way. I’m always out doing stuff. Stuff I don’t want to do…
I just can’t wait until this whole ordeal is over so that I can come back to you. I miss everyone in Roswell, even Kyle… (Lol… sorry.) But I miss you most of all.
How are you doing? Is college life treating you well? How’s everyone? Alex? Maria? Will you tell them that we (Michael, Isabel, and I) said hello?

Liz.. I’ve, we’ve had to kill a few people. Nasedo did most of it; but I still feel bad, even though they’re my enemy. Even though they’ve killed my people and me in a former lifetime. But you know me. I put everyone’s problems and stuff on my own shoulders. But Liz.. one question has been on my mind for the last three months.. and there’s no easy way for me to ask this, but… Liz, do you still love me even though I’m a killer? A semi-killer?

I’m sorry for asking that. But I’ve been wondering that question for so long. I—
I have to go now.

Love you,
M.E.

P.S. Isabel wants to know if it’d be okay with you if she could dreamwalk you from time to time. To ask you things, to talk to you. I told her I didn’t think you’d like that, but she wanted me to ask anyway.


From: lparkerdreamgirl⊕stc.le.com
To: mevans⊕stc.le.com
Subject: Re: A letter from your favorite Czechoslovakian…

Hey! I was hoping to hear from you soon… I really miss you too. So you’re pretty much done with fighting? So, you’ll come back fairly soon? Like within the next year?

I don’t have much time (the first year of college is a bit tough), so I’ll have to type fast. I suppose if Isabel wants to Dreamwalk me, she can. I wouldn’t mind talking to her. When you guys were still here, we got to be good friends. She was like another Maria to me.

Max, how could you even ask if I wouldn’t love you anymore? I still love you, despite the killing. You know that I’ll always love you. No matter what. Besides, you’re just using self-defense. If they hadn’t killed you in the first place, you wouldn’t have to be killing them now. I just wish you were here instead of there.

Well, I have to go. I have a class in five.

Love you lots,
Liz

Chapter 1
--Two Years Later—

“Liz, are you okay?” Maria asked as she drove through Roswell. They’d only graduated college a week ago and now were back in their hometown. Liz was still coming to terms with all the memories that she had associated with Roswell and didn’t answer her until Maria had repeated herself six times. “Liz! Answer me!”

“What?” Liz shook herself slightly and turned towards Maria. “What were you saying?”

Maria chuckled and kept driving. “Babe, you’re so far gone.”

Liz scrunched her eyebrows together. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Maria stopped at a red light. “It means what it means.” She glanced at the tarnished pewter bracelet adorning Liz’s right wrist. “You know, you should really get that cleaned.”

Liz held up her arm to examine the bracelet more closely. “Hmm.. I guess you’re right.”

Maria rolled her eyes and eased off the brake as the light turned green. “Of course I’m right. I’m always right. Now, I have some great cleaner at home.” She said, referring to the apartment they shared. “It’ll clean that baby in two seconds flat. It’s called Super Squeaky Clean Cleaner and –“

“Wait a minute!” Liz interjected. “Isn’t that the same stuff that ate your thumb ring?”

“Ate is such a bad word. More like decomposed.” Maria said, braking for yet another red light. “Why do we keep hitting all these lights?”

Liz put her hand over the bracelet protectively. “Well, all I can say is that stuff isn’t getting near my bracelet. No way, no how.”

“Then, we’ll stop at Bill’s Jewelry and a professional can clean it.” Maria started driving again and pointed ahead. “See, it’s right up there. We can drop it off now.”

“Okay,” Liz said uncertainly, not wanting to give up her bracelet, even for a few minutes. Maria pulled into the parking lot and took off her seat belt.

“Here, give it to me.” She said. “I’ll take it in.” Liz silently took off the bracelet and handed it to her. Maria closed her hand around the bracelet and opened the car door. “Back in a flash, babe.”

Ten minutes later, Maria comes walking out of the store empty handed. “Where’s my bracelet?” Liz cried as Maria got in the car.

“He was busy so he said to leave it with him and he’ll clean it when he gets a chance.” Maria said, guiding the car back onto the highway.

“Why didn’t you just tell him we’d bring it back later?”

“I tried, but he told me that it’d just take longer so I said, whatever dude.”

Liz looked out the window. “Well, how long before I get it back?”

“The guy said one to two weeks.”

“One to two weeks? Are you insane? It can’t possibly take that long. I don’t believe it. I think you’re lying. Or he is.”

“Well, believe it babe. I’m not lying. But maybe he is. I don’t know. Anyway, it’ll be a week and a half or so. You can do without the bracelet for that long.”

“I guess.” Liz replied sullenly.

----------

Maria woke up suddenly after hearing a strangled scream and a loud thud, which appeared to be coming from Liz’s room. Fearing the worst, she grabbed the metal baseball bat that was under her bed and silently crept out of the room.
She reached the doorway of Liz’s room and slowly pushed the door open, thankful that she had oiled the squeaky door hinge the week before. Maria quickly glanced around the room, looking for signs of an intruder. When she saw no one, she called out “Liz?”

An ear splitting scream was Liz’s reply.

Maria flipped on the lights in the room. “Liz, what’s wrong?” She looked around. “Liz, where are you?”

Liz sat up from her position on the floor, rubbing her head. “Maria?” she asked with a confused look on her face.

Maria dropped the bat and ran over to Liz. “Lizzie, what happened?” She asked, passing her fingers over the bruise forming on her forehead. “Did someone break in or something?”

“No. I fell out of bed.” Liz replied bluntly.

“Out of bed? Liz, you never fall out of bed.”

“I know. But I guess things change after you have the worst nightmare you’ve ever had.”

“A nightmare?” Maria looked at Liz. “How could you have a nightmare? You didn’t watch a scary movie or eat before bed. And since we graduated college you don’t have anything to worry about.” Maria stared into Liz’s eyes and saw the fear in them. “Oh, my God, Liz.”

A few minutes later, they were seated in the living room with coffee cups of hot chocolate. “Okay,” Maria said, taking a sip. “What the heck happened?”

“It was.. just scary.”

“Scary? Scary how?”

“I was with Max and we were having this.. picnic by the ocean. When out of nowhere, these people with five eyes come running up and start dragging Max away.” Liz shivered. “Then I followed them, because I was sure I was going to save Max. But they took him to one side of the beach and started doing these.. experiments on him.”

“Like when the FBI caught him?”

“Yeah, but.. they were.. eating him.” Again, Liz shivered.

“Eating him? Like they were cannibals?”

“I guess.. it was so.. disgusting. And sad. Because Max was crying out in pain, asking me to help him, asking me to get Isabel or Michael. But I couldn’t move. All I could do was watch as they ate him. I just let them kill him, Maria.” Liz shuddered. “They didn’t stop eating until the last piece of hair from his head was gone.” A tear slowly slipped down her face.

“Then what?”

Liz was silent for a moment. “They came after me next. But all I could do was cry. And I started running. I never ran that fast in my entire life. But they were always right on my heels.” Liz took a drink. “I ran and ran until I came to this cliff. I didn’t know what to do and they were still right behind me. So I jumped into the ocean below.” Another tear slid down her face.

“Liz you don’t have to go on—“ Maria interrupted obviously upset from Liz’s retelling of the dream.

“Let me finish.” Liz swallowed and wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “I was thrashing around in the ocean, when I remembered I couldn’t swim. I was dying and my life was flashing before my eyes. And all I could hear was Max screaming as the people ate him. Screaming in pain. Screaming for me to please help him. And then I saw him one last time, with his stomach eaten out. And then.. and then..”

“And then..??” Maria encouraged.

“And then I woke up.”

“Well, that sucks.” Maria said, setting her cup down on a side table. “Why would have a dream like that? Why now? It seems to me you would have had those from the beginning.”

“I know.. it’s weird. I guess it’s because I haven’t heard from him in a while. It was so creepy, Maria. So sick.”

Maria reached over and hugged Liz. “I know babe, I know. It sounded pretty icky, I have to say. But it’ll be okay. It was just a dream.” She looked at Liz, who seemed unconvinced. “Say it with me, ‘it was just a dream’.”

“It was just a dream.” Liz obeyed.

“Okay, now see. Don’t you feel better?” Maria smiled. “Think you can go back to sleep?”

Liz nodded. “But I think I’ll watch some television for a little bit.” She told Maria as Maria gathered their cups and took them into the kitchen.

“Okay, well, good night, Lizzie.”

“Night, ‘Ria.”

----------

Five days later, Liz was still up late at night because of the horrific nightmares she was having.

“So, what was this one about?” Maria asked, sleepily. She got about as much sleep as Liz did, seeing as she was always up making sure Liz was okay. “Was this like the other four you’ve had?”

“Yeah,” Liz said. “I don’t understand it, Maria. They get worse every night. I’ve probably gotten ten hours of sleep the entire week.”

“I know, babe.” Maria sighed. “We’ve got to do something.”

“Yeah,” Liz replied, despondently.

Maria got up and walked over to Liz, slowly uncapping a small vial of cedar oil. “Here.” She said, handing the vial to Liz as she sat down. “You know, maybe it’s the town.”

“The town?”

“Yeah, you weren’t having nightmares until we came home. Maybe it’s the town.”

“I guess.”

“No, seriously. We should wait a few more days, and if you’re still having the dreams, I suggest you book. Go someplace far, far away.”

“Me? Leave by myself?” Liz looked at Maria. “Where would I go?”

“Didn’t Grandma Claudia leave you a little vacation house or something in Cali or Oregon? It could be your real house.” Maria put her arm around Liz’s shoulders. “And you wouldn’t be alone… you’d have me. And we’d be closer to Alex, since he’s still at Stanford.” She looked at Liz closely. “Just think about it, okay?”

“Okay.” Liz mumbled, not happy at the prospect of leaving so soon after returning home.

Maria got up to go back to bed, but turned to look at Liz when she reached the doorway to her room. “Liz?”

“Yes?”

“Maybe you should.. maybe you should look into seeing, um, you know, a professional about these dreams you've been having.”

“You mean a shrink?”

“No, not a shrink.. a .. a therapist.”

“Okay. I guess.”

Maria stared at Liz for one final moment before retreating into her room and closing the door.
--------
Liz was lying against the cool black leather of the couch that was in the therapist’s office. It was only her second visit, but she was already tired of coming to see Mrs. Capps. It was always, “Elizabeth, how does that make you feel?” and “Elizabeth, I think there’s something you’re not telling me.” Or when she wasn’t sitting down, it was always, “Miss Parker, please sit down. You’re not doing yourself any good by pacing the floor.” With all the grief the therapist was giving her, she probably need another therapist to deal with her problems about Mrs. Capps!

“Well, Miss Parker, I believe that your little friend is right.” Mrs. Capps began. “It’s obvious that your nightmares are because of the memories that came back to you when you moved back to this town.”

Liz rolled her eyes. Tell me something I don’t know. “So, you think I should move?”

“Yes, Elizabeth. That’s what I think. That’s my honest opinion.” Mrs. Capps made some notes on her notepad. “The sooner, the better.”

“Okay.” Liz sat up. “Can I go now?” Liz was anxious to get away from the middle-aged woman.

“Yes, Miss Parker, you may go.” Mrs. Capps stood up to walk her to the door. “I hope that I don’t see you around town anytime soon. You need a vacation, Miss Parker. A long vacation would do you a world of good.”

Liz shook the older lady’s hand and walked out the door to Maria, who was waiting in the lobby.

“The verdict?” Maria asked, standing and walking to meet her.

“She thinks I should move.” Liz replied curtly.

“Well,” Maria replied. “It’s a good thing we’re already packed. We can go ahead and head on out.” She took Liz’s hand and started to walk out. They got in the elevator and Maria pushed the button signaling for the first floor. Just to keep her mind off the cheesy elevator music that was playing, Maria began to examine Liz’s bracelet, which they’d only got back the day before. “Have any nightmares last night?”

“No.” Liz said. “I slept better than I did in weeks.”

“Really? Maybe it those dreams had something to do with the absence of the bracelet.”

Liz narrowed her eyes. “Sniff some cedar oil, Maria.”

“Liz.” Maria shook her head. “I know you’re upset about moving, but you’ll see it’s all going to be for the best.”

“But what.. what if Max comes back for me?” Liz asked as they stepped off the elevator.

“Listen to me, babe. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. He’ll find you.. no matter what.” They reached the car, and Maria unlocked the doors and they climbed inside. “All I’m saying is, if you’re little star-crossed lovers thing is for real, you guys will be together again someday. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or ten years from now. Fifty years from now, you may be walking down in a street in Georgia and see this old guy with these deep brown eyes walk by, and that’s when you two will have your reunion.” She started the car and pulled out into traffic. “Just live for the moment, okay? When he gets to you, he gets to you. For now, don’t worry about it okay?”

Liz looked at her a moment and then she smiled. “Okay.” She turned up the radio as Maria got on the Interstate that would talk them straight out of Roswell, New Mexico. “It’s time for a change of pace. It’s time for a new life.”

She looked at Maria and together they yelled, “New life, here we come!”


Two Years Later, Roswell, NM

“What do you mean you don’t know where she is?” Max asked Kyle Valenti, disbelievingly.

“Exactly what I said.” Kyle replied his arm around Tess’s waist. “I don’t know where she is.”

“You don’t know, or you’re not going to tell me?”

“I don’t know, man. Don’t you think I’d tell you where she moved off to if I knew?”

Max looked at Kyle, who Tess attached herself to the moment they drove back into Roswell. “Well, what do you remember? Why did she move?”

“She was having all these… nightmares. And so everyone thought it’d be best if she moved off somewhere, like near the beach where she could be in a stress free environment.”

“Stress free? What was so stressful about Roswell?” Max asked.

“Probably all those memories of you leaving with me.” Tess replied, smugly.

Max took a deep breath. “Tess, stay out of this.” He began to talk to Kyle. “Any idea on what town she was moving to?”

“No. It was on the west coast is all I can remember. Either in California or Oregon.” Kyle narrowed his eyes. “Why did you come to ask me? Why not ask the Parkers?”

“Apparently, they’re on vacation.” Max replied in a weary tone.

“Oh, yeah. They’re going to Pennsylvania or Massachusetts or something. They were going to visit the college Liz never went to.” Kyle said.

“You mean Harvard? Liz didn’t go to Harvard?”

“Nope. She went to UNM with Maria. Alex didn’t stick around here, though. He went to.. Stanford I believe.”

Liz didn’t go to Harvard?? But that was her dream! Max thought. “West Coast, you say?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I guess we’ll be heading out there then.” Max headed for the door. “Will you tell her I’m looking for her if you see her?” He waited for Kyle to nod before opening the door. “Later” he mumbled.

As he walked out to where Isabel and Michael were waiting in the Jeep, Max had mixed emotions. He wanted nothing more to hold Liz in his arms once again after being apart for five years. But he was glad that he was finally getting to go somewhere without Tess reminding him of his so-called “destiny.”

He climbed in the Jeep silently. Isabel and Michael looked at him expectantly, as if to say, “No Liz?” He nodded wordlessly, then pointed to the west. Michael, who was at the wheel, pulled onto the highway and began driving, as Max sat and wondered what kind of nightmares had made his Liz so upset that she had to leave her own hometown.

* * *
Months later

After spending weeks driving through the entire state of California searching for Max’s Lady Liz, Michael pulled into a gas station just outside of Stone Crest, Oregon. He had never been so glad to get somewhere in his life. He was tired of being on the road. He’d been driving most of the time; Max was usually too depressed to take over his turn. Michael jumped out of the Jeep and began filling the tank with gas.

Michael felt sorry for Max, but not as sorry as he felt for himself. He rarely ever told Maria that he loved her, and now, it seemed like they’d never find her OR Liz. He wished that he could just tell Maria how much he loved her one more time. But since this was as far up the West Coast as they were going, the odds of that happening were pretty slim.

He finished pumping gas and got into the jeep to grab some money. As he began to get back out, he tapped both of the sleeping bodies on the head, jarring them from sleep.

“Hey, we’re here.” Michael spoke softly at first. They didn’t seem to hear him so he repeated himself. “I said, WE’RE HERE.”

“Jeez, Michael.” Isabel smacked him with her purse. “I heard you the first time.” She rubbed her eyes and looked around. “This is Stone Crest?”

“Yep.” Michael replied, staring at Max. “This is where that little vacation house is that your mom said we could live in.” Max turned to look at him with his lifeless dark eyes. “Well, anyway,” Michael began. “I’m going in to pay for the gas. You want anything?”

“Anything diet.” Isabel said. She turned to face Max. “Max? You want anything?”

Max looked at her. “Yeah, but you can’t get it for me.”

Michael looked at Isabel and shrugged. “Oh-kay. Well, I’ll be back in a few.” He took off for the store.

“Max, you have to stop acting like this.”

“Like what, Isabel?”

“Like this. Like you’re about to die. You’re going to be fine. If you’re meant to be with Liz, you’ll find her someday.”

“Isabel, I don’t want to find her someday, I want to find her now.” Max ran his hands through his hair. “Just leave me alone, okay?”

“Fine.” Isabel spoke as Michael walked back to the Jeep and handed her a Diet Coke.

Michael started the Jeep, and they began to drive through their new area of living. It was a quiet ride as they drove through Stone Crest city limits. The only words spoken were from Michael, who suggested that he and Max get a job at the Fire Department. They were both professionally trained.

As they stopped at a red light, Michael spoke again. “So, where are you going to work, Is?”
She didn’t answer for a second and he turned and looked in the direction of where she was looking. “What are you looking at, Izzy?”

“Um, nothing.” Isabel willed the light to turn green so Michael would have to keep his attention of the road. She didn’t want to tell him that she’d just seen a store that was called Deluca Photography. Or the fact that she’d just seen a 92 Jetta drive by, one that looked just like Maria’s. She’d already convinced herself that it wasn’t Maria; but convincing Michael would take a lot of work. And if Max found out, well, look out. It’d take her forever and a day to convince him that it was Maria and it’d take all her strength to keep him from chasing after every Jetta or any other similar car that drove by. They’d want to go talk to the owner of that store and the owner of that vehicle just to make sure it wasn’t Maria. “I’m just staring off into space.”

Michael looked at her funny, but muttered an okay before driving after the light turned green.

When Michael had finally gotten his eyes back on the road, she turned to look for that car. And even though she had convinced herself that it wasn’t Maria, that it was a different Deluca, she wished it were the real Maria. Because that would cheer up Michael. And where Maria was, Liz couldn’t be too far away, and that’d make Max happier. And they’d know where I could find Alex, she thought. But as they pulled into the driveway of their new home, she pushed the thought to the back of her mind and didn’t think about it again for a long, long time.

--------

Again, months later

Liz Parker sat in her office at the Stone Crest Gazette, humming along to a song on her BBMak CD. She was adding the finishing touches on her article before it went to print. She got up from her desk to turn up the stereo louder. Her favorite song on the entire CD came on next, and since she was alone in the building, she could sing it at the top of her lungs.

“The next time you see my girl,” she sang, printing out her article. “Won’t you tell her I, I would die, I would die to hold her.” She picked up her printed copy and scurried down the hall to the printing presses, still singing. “The next time you see my girl, wont you tell her I love her, the next time you see my girl.” She rounded the corner and ran into Josh Morgan, the young, cute sportswriter for the Gazette.

“Josh!” Liz cried out, suddenly embarrassed that she’d been singing. “I—I didn’t think there was anyone else here.”

“Well, I was gone.” Josh smiled. “But I had to come back for something, Miss Britney Spears.”

Liz covered her face with her hands.

“Come on, it wasn’t that bad, Liz.”

“Oh, yes it was.” She smiled. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go feel humiliated somewhere else.” She took off down the hall.

“Liz?” Josh called out.

She stopped. “Yes?”

“Um, I was wondering if you might like to go out with me sometime?”

“Well—“ Liz said, torn between saying yes and potentially having the best night of her life since Max went away or not going and staying loyal to Max. There was also the fact that she didn’t really know Josh all that well and going out with him by herself seemed a little scary.

“We could make it a double date.” He said, as though he sensed her hesitation. “I know someone who wants to go out with your friend, Maria.”

“Well.. who is it?”

“Nick Cooper.”

“Oh..”

“Just think about it, okay, Liz?” Josh smiled as he started down the other direction. “I’ll be back in about thirty minutes. You know, just wanting to give you a fair warning, so you don’t get mad at me for being here while you’re practicing your Mariah Carey routine.”

Liz laughed. “Okay, thanks for the warning. See you in a bit.”

“Later.”

Liz hurried down the hall to get her article in the printing press.

***
Across town

Max was lying in his bunk at the Stone Crest Fire Department, reading a book that Isabel had gotten him from her job at the bookstore. After a few minutes, he threw the book down in frustration. He couldn’t concentrate on the book, no matter how hard he tried.

Sighing, he popped in the tape of his favorite songs that Michael had given him for his birthday one year. He fast-forwarded to “Next Time” by BBMak. Every time he heard that song, it made him think of him and Liz. He sat up and began singing softly to the chorus of the song.

“The next time you see my girl,
Won’t you say that I, I would die
I would die to hold her.
The next time you see my girl,
Won’t you tell her I love her
The next time you see my girl.”

He sat up on his bunk and let the tape play on. Isabel always got mad when he listened to that song. She said it made him all mopey and then she ended hitting Michael because he gave Max the tape. He smiled faintly at a flash of all the times Michael had been hit by Izzy over the years.

After a brief moment of feeling happy and not depressed, his thoughts turned back to Liz.

I really wonder where she’s at, he thought. Is she okay? Is she happy? Is she… still breathing?

Max shook himself from his thoughts when he heard a knocking at the door. It was Michael.

“I’m going to the store to pick up a few things for the Chili Supper I’m cooking tonight. Want me to get you something… to drink?” Michael hesitated while saying that last sentence, obviously remembering what Max had answered the last time he’d asked if he could get Max something.

“No, Michael.” He spoke softly. “I’m fine. Don’t be too long though. You never know when a fire will occur.”

Michael smirked. “Oh, yeah. Stone Crest is just full of little fire bugs.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Okay, well, I’ll be back.”

Max waited until he knew Michael had safely walked down the corridor before he let himself pull away from reality once more. When it got like this, so boring and monotonous, he always wished something exciting would happen. Like for a cat to get stuck in a tree or an open field to catch on fire. He knew he shouldn’t think things like that because of the strong chance of them coming true. But sometimes he just couldn’t help himself.

Please let a small fire start, he thought. Just don’t let anyone get hurt. I could never forgive myself if someone got hurt.

-----

Liz walked back to her office and got ready to close things up. She still had the paper to put out after it finished printing but she could at least go home for an hour or two. She was fixing to walk upstairs when she realized she’d left Maria’s jean jacket in the back room next to the printing room. She scurried down the hall and into the room. She quickly grabbed the jacket and started back toward the stairs. And that’s when she smelled the smoke.

-----
Max nearly jumped out of his bunk when he heard the alarm sound. He got up and ran over to where his fire gear was and began to quickly put it on as other fire fighters ran in to get their gear. Max slid down the pole to get into a truck. And the whole time, the same thought ran through his mind.

Please don’t let anyone die. Please don’t let anyone die. Please don’t let anyone die.

**

Liz was torn. She knew she should go ahead and get out of the building. But she wanted to go see how big the fire was. If it was a small one, she could put it out and then the paper would still come out. People got cranky if they didn’t get their newspaper, she knew. Sighing, she dropped her stuff and quickly walked down the hall to where the small cloud of smoke was coming from.

She finally found the office door that the smoke was seeping out of and lightly touched the handle. It didn’t seem to be too hot, so she opened it. And gasped.

The office, Josh’s office, was filled with smoke. Smoke filled every available space in the room and was now billowing out the door and down the hallway. Liz waved her hands through the thick smoke and saw the flames that had just engulfed a stack of old newspapers.

As she saw the flames jump throughout the office, she wondered why the sprinkler system hadn’t come on. But as a drop of water hit her face, she realized that it HAD come on. It just wasn’t doing anything to stop the fire.

I’ve got to get out of here, she thought. Now. I’ve got to get out now.

Liz moved out of the doorway and stumbled down the hall. The smoke was thicker now, as it had jumped from the various stacks of old newspapers in Josh’s office to the various stacks of newspapers that were lying just outside his door. Liz coughed and her vision started to get worse as her eyes teared up to combat the smoke.

Crawl! Liz told herself. Stop, drop, and roll. Get on your hands and knees, Elizabeth Parker, and crawl!

Liz obeyed and dropped to the floor and began to crawl.

------

Max was in Fire Truck 2, heading north of the station, with fellow fighter, Todd.

“Todd,” Max started. “Where exactly is this fire?”

For a few seconds, Todd didn’t answer. Finally, Max repeated himself.

“Well,” Todd said. “The address is 2304 N. Main.”

Max could feel his eyes growing wide. “That’s the address of the Stone Crest Gazette!”

Todd nodded grimly.

“Todd, that place will be gone in minutes!”

Again, Todd nodded grimly. “We just have to hope there’s no one inside.” He said as they hurried through a red light.

-----

Liz was crawling as fast as she could along the hard tile floor while flames licked the soles of her high top tennis shoes. She could feel herself growing weaker by the second and the door above the stairs, to the exit, kept seem to be getting farther away instead of closer.

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she felt the flames begin to melt the rubber soles of her shoes. She stopped and quickly pulled off the ruined shoes and through them far ahead of her. One flew upstairs and landed with a thud. The other hit her in the head.

“Ow!” she cried as she resumed crawling. She had to get out. She just had to.

------

The fire truck pulled up to the newspaper office and Max jumped out. As Todd and another guy begin to ready the hoses, Max went over to talk to a guy around his age, who was standing outside the building.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to move aside. We need to put out the fire as quickly as possible.”

The boy nodded and spoke. “Okay… but I think there’s someone still in there.”

Max’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you sure? Who?”

“A girl I work with was there twenty minutes ago when I left. Her name is Liz. I’m pretty sure she’s still in there, because her car’s still here.” He gestured to a silver Taurus. The guy’s eyes were wide and scared.

The only thing registering in Max’s mind was the name of the civilian trapped inside. Liz! Oh, Lord, I have to save her or it’d be like my own Liz died in that fire.

Without a second’s hesitation, Max looked to his co-workers and shouted that he was going inside.

“Don’t!” one of them yelled. “The fire’s pretty much got the whole building by now.”

Max just looked at them before running inside the fiery building.

-----

Liz coughed again, as she slowly made her way up the steps. If only she could get past these last few steps, she could make it. I’m not going to be like all those that died near the door. I’m not. She told herself. She had to get out. She couldn’t die. She wasn’t ready to.

But she didn’t have the strength to make it any further. The smoke had messed up her vision and stunted the messages her brain was sending to various nerves in her body. Liz felt something burning her right wrist. She looked down and more tears fell down her face.

Her bracelet, the one Max had given her so long ago, was melting. She didn’t know what to do. She was scared before, but seeing the melted pewter made her even more afraid. She wasn't going to escape this. She was going to die. Liz Parker, at the age of 24, was going to die in a burning building. And there was nothing she could do about it.

As her life began to flash before her brown eyes, she lowered her head and whispered her good-byes. Good-bye, Alex. You were such a great friend. And Maria.. oh Maria, if you were only here with me now. Mom.. Mom and Dad.. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I wasn’t a better daughter. I’m so sorry.

There was more she would have liked to have said, but she just closed her eyes and began to let the overpowering darkness consume her.


Just as she was about to concede totally to her early death, she heard a voice upstairs.

“Liz!” the voice called.

Liz’s head shot up and turned towards the sound. Why did that sound so familiar?

She heard it again. “Liz! Liz, are you in here?”

She knew that voice! There was only one person who said her name like that. It was Max.

--------

Max shouted again into the smoke. “LIZ! Liz, if you’re in here, please answer me. Tell me where you are! Liz?”

He was about to give up hope when he nearly tripped over a shoe. “Liz?”

He heard a cough and then a small voice cut through the gray smoke. “Max?”

Max felt his breath catch in his throat, and a few tears welled up in his eyes. “Liz?”

“Max?” the voice asked again. “Max.. it’s so dark.” The voice said weakly. “Max?”

Max began to follow the voice. It was Liz. Liz Parker the girl he’s loved since the third grade. He had to get to her. Quickly, he made a decision. If he couldn’t get to her in time, then there was no way he’d be leaving this building alive.

------

“I must be delirious,” she muttered as she coughed once more.

Liz had stopped crawling as she reached the first step. The doorway was inches in front of her, but all her strength had left her. She had to be close to death now, because she kept hearing Max call her name again and again.

“Liz!”

There it was again. Just to keep herself from thinking about all the people she’d leave behind when she finally died, she called back in response. “Max! Max, I’m over here.” She coughed again, and decided she’d be better off if she kept her mouth shut.

Suddenly she saw a shadow at the top of the stairs. She squinted, trying to see who it was. It was no use, and she shut her eyes completely, letting the darkness of defeat wash over her. Her lips opened once more and softly they said, “Goodbye, Max.”

-------

Max stood at the top of the stairs and he saw Liz Parker lying at the bottom, just in front of a huge firewall. He took the ten steps two at a time, and reached Liz quickly. He picked her up and hurried back up the stairs to the first floor.

He could tell that she was just hanging on, that she was barely breathing. He wanted to use his powers to save her but he couldn’t. By the time he made the connection, the whole place would be up in flames and it wouldn’t do any good.

He looked down at her right wrist and saw the bracelet. Despite of their position, he smiled. She’s worn it all these years!, his mind exclaimed. As he dodged desks on his way to the exit, he noticed that the bracelet had all but melted off her tiny arm. Immediately, he placed his hand over the bracelet and restored it to it’s original splendor.

Max held Liz’s limp body as he ran to the entrance. He burst out the double doors and into the damp air. He wanted to hold Liz a little while longer, but the paramedics ripped her from his arms. He started after her, but local news station reporters quickly surrounded him.
All of them wanting to know if they could interview him, all wanting to know how he saved her.

Suddenly, the whole situation felt all too familiar. He didn’t like being in the spotlight. Like he was in when he saved Liz so many years ago. He broke away from the pack of wolves and headed to the car that Michael had arrived in. He jumped in and away they drove from the scene of the fire and Liz.
-----------
Max glared at his sister who was sitting across from them where they were seated at the round kitchen table. "Isabel, do we have to go through this again?" The sound of his voice let you know that his patience was growing extremely thin.

Isabel took a sip of her coffee. "Max, chill out, okay? I'm just trying to assemble all the facts here."

"Let me make it easier for you by sounding completely redundant. It. Was. Her. Liz Parker, here in Stone Crest. Not some girl that looked like her, not some girl that sounded like her. Her." He set his own coffee mug down on the table. "End of story."

"Maxwell." Michael's unusually calm voice piped up. "Isabel's right; you need to calm down. We're not saying it's not Liz. We're just trying to make sure it was her."

Max shook his head. "We've been sitting here for two hours. And I've told you repeatedly that it was Liz. Okay, what more do you want from me?"

"How do you know it was her? It was pretty smoky." Isabel stated.

"What do you mean, how did I know? I know what Liz looks like. I've only studied her from afar since the third grade!" He sighed, exasperated. "If you ask me again if it was her, I'm leaving."

"Max, you haven't seen her in years. Liz may have dyed her hair lime green and moved to New York for all we know."

Isabel snorted. "Come on, Michael. This is Liz Parker we're talking about. She would never dye her hair."

"Isabel's right. Besides, I haven't changed that much in the last five years, have I?" Max asked.

"Well.. no." Michael replied, reluctantly. "But we've seen you every day for the last five years. We can't really determine a difference in you overnight." He looked into his mug of coffee. "You, on the other hand, haven't seen Liz in five years. You don't know if she's taller. You don't know if she cut her hair. You don't know if she dyed her hair. You don't know that she wasn't in some accident and had to have plastic surgery done to reconstruct her face. You don't know, Maxwell. So, don't sit there and tell me that you know it was her because you don't."

Max pushed his chair back from the table. He had to get outside. He couldn't stand being in the same house as them for another minute. He grabbed his mug of coffee, sloshing the hot liquid all over his hand. Though it hurt, he didn't wipe it away nor did he care. He just threw the cup in the sink on his way out the back door.

Isabel jumped to her feet and followed him to the door. "Max! Max, come back here. We're not through talking about this."

But it was too late. Max had already jumped into the old Jeep and pulled out of the driveway. Isabel turned to look at Michael, who was still sitting at the table.

"Hey, don't look at me." He said. "I didn't do anything."

Isabel groaned and started to clean up the mess that Max made. As she was wiping off the table, the phone rang. And rang. And rang.

Isabel glared at Michael, who was sitting inches away from the phone. "Are you going to answer that, or are you going to make me do all the work in this house?"

Michael glared back at her, but answered the phone. "Hello?" he asked. "Oh. He's not here right now. You just missed him." He was quiet as he listened to whoever had called. His eyes widened and his face paled at something the caller had said. "Um.. well, I'm sure that'd be fine. He's working tomorrow, so she can just stop by the Fire Department any time." As the conversation went on, some color returned to his face. "Okay, I'll tell him. Thanks for calling."
Michael hung up the phone.

Isabel waited for him to tell her who it was. When he didn't speak for a minute or two, she prompted him. "Well?"

Michael hadn't taken his eyes off the phone since he had ended the call. "That was Maria Deluca, calling on behalf of a Liz Parker. Liz Parker wants to interview and thank the man who rescued her from the fire."

------------------

Maria scrunched up her nose as she hung up the phone. That voice sounded SO familiar, she thought to herself. Oh, well. No big deal. I probably just met that guy in my photography shop one day or something.

As she got up to place the cordless phone back on the receiver, Liz began coughing from her sleeping position on the couch.

"Lizzie?" Maria walked over to her sleeping friend, grabbing the bottle of water off of the coffee table. "Liz?"

Liz's eyes fluttered open as she coughed one last time. She saw Maria holding out the bottle of Evian to her, and gratefully took it. After downing a few sips, Liz capped the bottle and lay back on the couch. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it, babe." Maria sat back down on the comfy chair that was across from Liz. "So, I called that firefighter dude that you wanted me to call."

"You did?" Liz said, staring at the ceiling. "What did he say?"

"Well, he wasn't there, so I asked his roommate if he thought it'd be okay for you to interview
him tomorrow. He didn't seem to have a problem with it."

Liz was silent. I wonder if she talked to Michael, she thought. She shook her head and muttered to herself. It couldn't have been Michael, because it wasn't Max who saved you. At least, not this time.

"What was that, Lizard?" Maria's voice broke into her thoughts.

"Oh, nothing." Liz sat up and started to get up from the couch.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just where do you think you're going?" Maria asked.

"To get me something to eat."

"Oh, no, you don't. You sit there and I'll go whip something up for you." Maria said, getting up and standing in Liz's path.

"I'm a big girl, Maria. I can get it myself."

"Liz, you need your rest. The doctor said so."

"Strange advice coming from a girl who doesn't put her faith in what doctors have to say."

"Liz... I just want what's best for you. Besides, Alex agreed that you need your rest and he's halfway through Med. School." Maria folded her arms across her chest.

Liz conceded defeat. "Fine then. But what am I supposed to do? Sit here and do nothing?" She asked, taking her seat.

Maria was already in the kitchen, busy fixing Liz something to eat. "Well, for one, you can tell me about this Josh who keeps calling and who's sent 3 bouquets of flowers."

Liz finally noticed the vases of red roses that adorned the room. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. I hate red roses! She thought. Red roses are really overrated. People get them for every holiday of the year. That's why I like White Roses. They're so unique.

As she laid her head back on the cushions of the couch, she heard Maria's voice. "So.. Josh?"

Liz sighed. "You mean, Josh, the guy who practically killed me?"

"Liz! It was a mistake. Clearly the guy's head over heels for you."

"Maria, there is no way I'm going out with a guy who burned down my place of work. Besides.. who's that stupid to smoke in a building full of newspaper and other flammable material??"

Maria walked into the room, holding a tray with two bowls of tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and two Cokes. "Look, Liz." She said, sitting down the tray on the coffee table and taking a seat next to Liz. "All I'm saying is, it’d do you some good to have a night out on the town. And.. “

Liz’s mouth dropped. “He told you, didn’t he?”

Maria tried to act innocent. “Tell me what?”

“You know what, Deluca.”

“Okay, okay.” Maria sighed. “So he told me that he had a date for me too. He just wouldn’t tell me who my potential date is.” She took a drink. “Tell me who it is, Liz.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

"Because," Liz stated, looking away. "If I tell you, there's no way you'd let me pass this date."

Maria's eyes lit up. "No!" she gasped. "It's not.. him, is it?"

"If you're thinking about Nick Cooper, it is."

"Nick Cooper?" Maria's voice squeaked. "Nick?"
Liz nodded.

"Cooper?"

Again, Liz nodded.

"THE Nick Cooper?"

"Yes, THE Nick Cooper. What do I have to do, sing it for you?"

"Nick Cooper, the bank teller??" Maria jumped up from her seat. "Oh, my God, Liz, you have to take this date. I've often went into Stone Crest Superior Bank just so I could see his beautiful face."

Liz swallowed some soup. "See? I told you this would happen."

"Oh, please, Lizzie? Pretty Please? Pretty Pretty Pretty Please?" Maria stuck out her bottom lip. "For me?"

"Maria, I love you and all, but.. the answer's no."

"Don't make me say it."

"Say what?"

"Pretty pretty pretty please with... Max on top."

Max! Liz's mind screamed. "Maria, why'd you have to bring him up?" She said, reaching to feel for the bracelet on her wrist. It was a miracle that it had survived the fire without melting.

"Because... " Maria trailed off. "Oh, I don't know why I did it. Now you'll never go out with Josh, will you?"

"I wasn't going to go out with him in the first place, but when you put it that way.. that can be my excuse too."

The look on Maria's face told Liz that her friend was not happy. "Honestly, Liz." Maria said, stalking out of the room. "You're impossible sometimes!"

"No, Maria," Liz said softly. "I'm just keeping my options open."

-------


Isabel cursed silently as she scrubbed at the greasy pan that was left from the mess Michael made earlier. He was visibly upset about the whole “Max-thinks-he-saved-Liz-again” thing and the fact that Maria called here and didn’t even realize she was talking to Michael. As per usual, he worked off some of the emotions that were bottling up inside of him by cooking an elaborate meal.

But that wasn’t the only thing she was cursing about. After the call from Maria and hearing Max’s story about Liz, she felt extremely guilty. The signs that she’d seen when she’d come into town for the first time, every time she saw the red Jetta, it all came flooding back to her. And with it came the fact that she never told anyone what she saw, which if she’d told, she could’ve made her brother extremely happy for the last year just knowing he was in the same town as Liz.

But no. Her conscience was telling her. You never told a soul. Now, look. Liz and Maria have been here all along and you knew that. You should have told them. But you didn’t. All you did was cause Michael and Max more grief than they deserve.

She reached up and smacked her head with a soapsud-covered palm. How could I be so stupid?

As she heard a car drive by, she crossed her fingers, praying that it was Max. But, like the other thirty cars that had passed by their duplex in the hours after Max left, it wasn’t him. She sighed and glanced at the clock on the microwave. The digital clock told her that it was close to 3 a.m.

3 a.m.?? Her tired brain questioned as she finished rinsing the pan and pulled the plug to free the cooling dishwater. Isabel Evans, you must go to bed. You’ve got work tomorrow.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She said aloud, drying her hands. Something about seeing the numbers 3 a.m. had triggered something else in her mind. And she had to go back. It’d been years since she did it, but maybe she could do it tonight once more.

Isabel crept upstairs to her brother’s room. She was in search of an old picture of Liz that she knew he had hidden in his sock drawer. He’d always kept a picture of her there, for as long as she could remember.

She stumbled into his room and turned on the light. She had to be extremely quiet. Michael was asleep in the next room and if he found out she had been in Max’s room, snooping around in the middle of the night, she’d never hear the end of it.

She quickly strolled over to the bureau and opened the top drawer. She scooted around a few pairs of socks before she found the picture. Isabel sat down on Max’s bed and stared at the picture. She remembered the few times that she had dreamwalked Liz before. Sure, it was good to talk to someone besides Tess, Max, and Michael, but it had been awkward. Liz and I have never been close, she thought with a twinge of sadness.

Liz had always been preoccupied with school and.. Max. And all Isabel had wanted to talk about was how she didn’t like fighting all that much because she’d ripped quite a few items of clothes and broken many nails. Liz never really was interested in all of that. But Isabel had always thought of them as friends.

Then one day, when Isabel finally got the time to pay a little dreamwalk visit, she couldn’t make the connection. Liz was blocking her out. Or so she thought. She later found out that it was probably a nightmare that Liz had been trying to block.

“I’m going to give it another try,” she murmured, lying back on Max’s bed. She stared at the picture for a moment before closing her eyes and making the connection….

--------

Isabel was in unfamiliar territory. She was in a building that had cream colored walls. “Liz?” She called out. “Liz?”

But Liz was nowhere in sight. Something was wrong. This is too weird. She was about to yank herself out of Liz’s subconscious when Liz came around the corner.

“Liz!” Isabel exclaimed. She took a long look at the girl. She had changed in the last five years. Her ultra-long hair had been cut to the middle of her shoulder blades. She looks like she did back during our junior year, she thought.

But Liz never answered her. Isabel watched as Liz walked to the end of the hall and went into a room. As Liz came back out and began walking down the hall, Isabel stepped out in her path. She was thinking that Liz would stop or, at the very least, go around her. But Liz did neither. She walked right through Isabel, just as if she wasn’t there.

What the… ?? Isabel was drawing a blank on what was going on. Then, it dawned on her. I’m not in Liz’s subconscious, she thought. I’m in her conscious!

Isabel had her qualms about this. She knew she should probably get out. It really wasn’t right for her to be here. Of course, it wasn’t right for her to go into anyone’s subconscious either. After only a moment’s hesitation, she chased after Liz.

She watched Liz come out of a room and saw her head snap back towards the room she’d went in before. She also watched as Liz dropped her things and went back to the room she’d left only minutes earlier. Intrigued, Isabel followed her.

When she got there, Isabel saw that the entire room was on fire. The flames were high and they were rapidly spreading. Oh, my Lord. This is the fire that destroyed the newspaper office! Her mind exclaimed.

She saw Liz run, saw Liz crawl and saw Liz pass out on the steps. She could hear Liz saying goodbyes to people that couldn’t even hear them. And she saw her brother save Liz Parker’s life once more.

Isabel seemed to float after them, watching them dodge desk after desk in the hazy atmosphere. And just before they reached the entrance building, the near dead Liz Parker lifted her head and looked back at Isabel and smiled sweetly.

“Hi, Isabel…..”
-------

This time, it was Isabel who woke up screaming.

------

Isabel screamed loudly and came hurtling out of Liz’s consciousness. She hadn’t meant to scream so loud, but practically dead Liz saying hi to her at the end was beyond creepy. And she remembered the last time she’d been in someone’s consciousness and something like that happened. As she shook her head to clear her mind, Michael came running in the room. He stood at the door for a moment before speaking.

“What are you doing in Max’s room?” He asked, leaning against the doorframe.

She sighed. Typical Michael. “Aren’t you going to ask if I’m okay?” She questioned standing and walking to open the blinds on Max’s window.

Michael shook his head. “No. You stopped screaming already. Now, I want to know why you’re in his room. You don’t really have a reason, do you?” Before she could answer, the lights from the newly opened blinds flashed across the bed and shone on the picture of Liz. Michael strode over to it and picked it up. “You’ve been dreamwalking again?”

“It was just Liz Parker.”

“Isabel, you know you’re not supposed to dreamwalk anymore. You promised us you wouldn’t do that anymore, especially after.. the incident with Nicholas. You lied to us.” He placed the picture on Max’s bureau. “And what’s more, you could have hurt Liz! Your powers are stronger now, a lot stronger than they were the times you dreamwalked Maria and Alex back in high school.”

“I’m sorry.” Isabel replied lamely. She was trying not to look him in the eyes because he’d see the fear in them. Because now she was deathly afraid of what she’d seen in Liz’s dream, because it only meant one thing: Nicholas.

But Michael was quick to pick up the fact that Isabel was trying to avoid his eyes. “Iz? Izzy, what’s wrong?”

She shook her head. “Nothing.”

“Isabel, just tell me what’s wrong.”

“I- I can’t.” She said. She knew that if she told him about the dream, she’d end up telling him about how she knew that Maria and Liz were in Stone Crest their first five minutes in town.

He raised his hand, preparing to touch her arm so he could get a flash of what was scaring her. “Don’t make me drag it out of you.”

Isabel sighed. It was time to come clean. “I- I” She stuttered. Finally, she just grabbed his raised hand and sent the images she’d been hiding this last year. But before Michael could see the dream that had just scared her, he broke away from her grasp.

“YOU KNEW??” He yelled. “You knew that Liz and Maria were here all this time and you never said a word?” He shook his head. “How could you do that to Max? How could you do that to your brother? Do you not realize how you could have saved him from one year of misery?” He began to pace the floor. “Do you not have any idea how much pain you could have spared the both of us?”

“I’m sorry, I—I didn’t want to say anything in case it wasn’t them.” She said, softly.

“Doesn’t matter, Isabel, or should I say Vilandra? You should have told us anyway.” Michael stared at her one last time before stalking out of the room and down the stairs.

“Michael!” Isabel yelled. “Michael, where are you going?”

“To work!” He yelled back, slamming the door.

As she watched him hurry down the sidewalk, a tear slipped down her cheek. How come I’m such a terrible person?

--------

“Hi, I’m Elizabeth Parker, from the Stone Crest Gazette, and I was wondering if you could tell me where to find Max?” Michael heard her voice before he saw her. He was at the stove in the kitchen, cooking a brunch for the guys. He turned his head slightly to get a look at her.

And there she was, Ms. Scientist herself, standing in front of the round table where a few of the guys were playing poker. One of the guys stood and spoke to Liz. Michael listened in on their conversation.

“… just go down the corridor and you’ll see a flight of stairs. Go on up them and you’ll find up there somewhere.” Michael heard the guy say.

“Thanks.” Liz Parker flashed her trademark smile and began to walk down the corridor.

---------

Liz wandered aimlessly down the corridor, looking for the stairs she had been told about. So far, she’d had no luck in finding them.

As she began to scratch the skin around her bracelet, which had strangely started to itch the minute she walked in the door, she wondered how she could have thought this building was small. She’d only been inside five minutes and already she was lost. This is great! Liz thought. I can’t find my interviewee and I probably can’t even find my way out of here!

And then, all of a sudden, there they were. The flight of stairs was just off to her right. Like they’d come out of nowhere. Without a moment’s hesitation, Liz climbed up them. She reached the top and looked around. She still couldn’t make heads or tails of where she was.

Then, she heard the muffled voice of someone singing. Intrigued, she followed the sound that appeared to be coming from the right. As she neared whoever was singing, she realized that she knew this song. “Ay yi yi yi! Ay yi yi yi!” She murmured along with the mystery singer.
She got closer and closer to the sound until she was certain that whoever it might be was just around the next corner.

She rounded the corner and ran into the shirtless singer. Her purse, notebook, recorder, and pen went flying to the floor. “I’m sorry.” She said, bending down to pick up her things.

As she gathered her things, she felt the man’s eyes staring at her. She already thought that it was rude of him not to help her pick up her things because it was just as much his fault that they ran into each other. But this staring thing was creeping her out. She stood up and tried to avoid looking him in the eyes. She just wanted to know where to find Max and be on her way.

“Um,” She began. “I don’t mean to bother you, but could you please tell---“

“Liz?” the man spoke, sending chills down her spine.

Her eyes somehow found his and instantly they locked. Oh, my God! her mind screamed. It’s Max!

Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at him, seeing him again for the first time in years. All of her things dropped back to the floor as tears began to fall down her face.

For a moment, all she could hear was the sound of her rapidly beating heart. Her eyes were quickly filling up with tears. But she didn’t dare wipe them away. She was afraid of moving, of breathing, of blinking—scared that if she did, he’d disappear.

Time seemed to stand still as Max reached out and tenderly wiped a tear off of Liz’s cheek. With that touch, she saw so many things. She saw how he cried on the nights he couldn’t be near her, couldn’t call her to even hear her voice. She saw how he tortured himself the last year, wondering why she had run from Roswell. And she saw how he had looked for her up and down the coast, only going on a small lead from Kyle. As Max’s hand began to leave her face, she grabbed his wrist, letting him see what she’d been doing these past years.

She looked into his deep, brown eyes and managed to choke out, “You looked for me?”

He nodded, equally choked up. “And you had all those nightmares about me?” He asked, saddened that he’d hurt Liz.

Before she could speak, he had pulled her to him and held her tight. She was content to rest her face against his well-toned chest as he stroked her hair. They hadn’t been together in so long that just being together, thisclose, was like heaven to them.

*

Max felt a tear trickle down his face. He closed his eyes, overjoyed to have Liz back in his arms.

After a minute or so, he pulled away from her and kissed her forehead, something he used to do on an everyday basis. Then, his eyes began staring into hers once more. “It’s been so long, Liz.” He murmured softly.

Liz nodded in agreement and Max then noticed her quivering lips. His eyes focused on these lips, his brain struggling to remember what it was like to kiss them. Lips that he hadn’t kissed since the night they’d graduated.

Before either of them knew what was going on, their lips were locked together. And Max was kissing her with years of pent-up passion, longing, and desire.

As Liz succumbed to the kiss and let her own emotions slide into the kiss, deepening it, she felt herself go weak in the knees. It had been so long since she’d been kissed this way, Liz thought that her heart was going to explode with happiness.

When it became apparent that Liz was going to fall to the floor despite the fact that Max’s arms were around her waist and her arms were around his neck, his lips left hers as he picked her up, cradling her in his arms. Again, they shared one of their “soulmate stares.”

“I- I love you, Max.” Liz said, gazing into his eyes.

“I love YOU.” Max replied. He was so happy to be with her. Once more, his lips found hers and they shared one passionate kiss after another. And they probably would have kissed all day long, had someone not interrupted them.

“You know, Maxwell,” Michael began. “I thought we took an oath to put out fires, not start them.”

Max dropped Liz gently to her feet, and his hand found hers as Michael walked over and they became entwined.

“Michael!” Liz exclaimed, happy to see him again as well. She reached up and hugged him with one arm.

“Hey, Liz.” Michael said, hugging her back. The hug didn’t last but a mere 9 seconds, and then Liz was back in Max’s arms once more.

“Where’s Isabel? Is she in Stone Crest?” Liz asked, looking back and forth between Michael and Max.

“You mean Vilandra?” Michael questioned softly. Liz looked confused.

Max looked at Michael for a moment before he spoke. “Michael.. is there something wrong?”

“Yeah.” Michael said. “Isabel just called. She wants to meet with us… NOW.”
------
Max wasn't ready to leave Liz just yet. "Why now?"

"Let's go already, okay? We can ask her about that when we get there." Michael stated. All of a sudden a thought crossed his mind. "Where's Maria?"

"She's at home... well, she should be." Liz replied. "Why don't you go get Isabel and we all meet at my house? It's just ten minutes from here." She looked at Max and Michael while they deliberated with their eyes.

"Okay, Liz." Max said finally. "Where exactly do you live?" He asked as he walked into the next room to grab his shirt.

"Um.. " Liz began, thinking out the directions in her head before she said them. "You take Main Street out to Ocean Drive and it's the house at the very end of the road."

"Okay." Michael said, committing the thoughts to memory. "Did you drive here?" He asked Liz.

"Of course." Liz replied, bending down to pick up her purse and the other things she'd dropped.

"Okay, if you don't mind, Liz, I can ride with you to your house while Michael goes and picks up Isabel in the Jeep. Is that okay?" Max asked, returning to Michael and Liz. Liz nodded.

As they walked downstairs to a side entrance, Michael walked a little ahead of the two lovebirds. Michael exited the door first, but as an afterthought, stuck is head back in the door and spoke.

"Um, Liz? That bracelet on your hand is glowing."

-----

Max and Liz talked the whole way to Liz's house about the reason the bracelet was glowing. Though they'd only been with each other for the last thirty minutes, both of them already felt that everything was falling back into place again.

Once they arrived at Liz's condo, Max suggested a walk on the beach. And since they had a good fifteen minutes before Michael and Isabel got there, Liz agreed.

It was kind of gloomy outside, like a storm was about to roll in. But with Liz walking by Max and Max walking by Liz, the place seemed a whole lot brighter. They talked some about their journeys about, but after a little bit, Liz grew quiet.

"Liz?" Max asked. "What's wrong?"

"It's just.. well, Max, are you ever going to go away again? Like you did before?"

Max felt terrible. He had wished that she could have gone with him before, so they could have at least been together. But now, all he'd caused her was pain. He took her hands in his and stared into her eyes. "Liz, I am never going to leave you again. Where you go, I go. And if I ever have to leave, I want you to come with me. I don't want to leave you behind ever again."

"Isn't that quite a promise to make to little Lizzie?" A voice behind Max asked.

Liz looked up at the voice and saw who it was. "Nicholas." She muttered.

Max spun around to face him. "What are you doing here? And how did you know I was here?"

"Oh, Maxwell." Nicholas said, clicking his tongue. "I would have thought that you'd be more welcoming to your old pal, Nicholas. And, your little psychotic girlfriend Tess told me where you were."

"Tess is not my girlfriend!" Max exclaimed.

But Nicholas had already left that matter behind and was now eyeing Liz suggestively. "Well, well, well. Looks like 'Little Lizzie' isn't so little anymore." He held out his hand and she was pushed toward him with a burst of power. "Have you ever thought about being a harem girl, beautiful? You'd make a good one and Khivar's always looking for fresh meat."

Liz squirmed under his leer. She looked back at Max who'd suddenly disappeared. "Max?" Then she turned back around, scared that she was going to have to face Nicholas alone.

But Nicholas was nowhere to be seen. The beach was deserted and she was all alone. "Max? Max!?"

----

Max watched Liz from a nearby cliff. "What are we doing up here?" He asked Nicholas angrily.

"Oh, I just about to make all of Lizzie's dreams come true." Nicholas replied, examining his fingernails.

"What?" Max shook his head angrily as he started to make his way down the cliff. "Liz!" He yelled at the top of his lungs. "LIZ!"

"She can't hear you, nor can she see you. So I suggest you quit trying."

Max ran over to Nicholas and lifted him by his shirt collar. "What did you do?!"

"Max, am I supposed to be impressed at this little feat?" Nicholas shook his head.
"Try to kill me. Try it. You'll only get Liz killed. And besides, we all know who's more powerful here."

Max had about all he could take. "Let. Her. Go." He said, setting Nicholas back on the ground.

"I don't think so, my friend. She was the key to killing you back home. And she'll be the key to killing you now."

------

Liz had given up and was walking slowly back to her house when she heard a strained voice calling her name. "Max?" She whipped around, her eyes combing the beach for him.

Suddenly, she realized that the temperature had dropped considerably. Her teeth wouldn't stop chattering. She began to wrap her jacket closer to her small body. But that's when she realized that she wasn't wearing a jacket anymore.

She looked down in alarm and gasped. She was now wearing a sleeveless green sundress.

Where are my shoes? She asked herself. Don't you remember? You set them by the picnic blanket, something inside her answered.

Picnic blanket?? Liz looked up and screamed. There was Max, over in a far corner of the beach, surrounded by these beings with five eyes. Oh, God! Oh, God, no! her brain was screaming. Her dream, her nightmare, had now become a reality.

"Max!" she screamed as she fell into the soft sand and sobbed.



-----

Michael and Isabel stood on the front step of Maria and Liz's condo. Michael put his hand on the doorknob and began to open the door.

But Isabel pushed his hand away. "Michael!" She scolded. "You have to knock first!"

"Why? They know we're coming."

"So! We've never been here before. Just knock."

"No!" Michael reached out and opened the door.

"Liz!" Maria called from another room. "I'm so glad you're home." She came walking into the foyer, flipping through a stack of mail. "I'm really sorry about earlier--- you're not Liz." She said after she looked up.

"Hi, Maria." Isabel smiled. "I'm really sorry about not knocking. I couldn't get him to do it."

Maria just smiled. It was so great to see them. "Oh, dont' worry about it. How have you guys been?"

"We've been good." Michael stated, staring at her.

"That's great." Maria sighed. "Um, would you like something to drink?"

A loud scream interrupted thier conversation.

"Liz." Maria said. "Where is she?" She ran into another room and looked out the bay window. Michael and Isabel followed her. They could see her running down the beach, screaming. "What is she doing?!"

"Nicholas." Isabel breathed.

"Nicholas?!" Michael exclaimed. "I thought we killed that little brat."

"Michael, when are you going to learn? He's more powerful than us. We can never kill him."

"Well, what are you going to do?" Maria cried. "What is he doing to Liz?"

"I don't know. I just don't know." Isabel said.

----

Max watched as Liz ran down the beach, screaming at something he couldn't see. He turned back to Nicholas. "What do you mean she helped you kill me on the home planet?"

"You don't remember?" Nicholas asked, clearly enjoy Liz's psychotic episode. "Oh, yes. Of course you don't remember. You hybrids never remember anything."

There's got to be something I can do, Max thought. There's got to be a way for me to get through to her. There just has to be! Suddenly, he remembered the bracelet. I wonder if I can reach out to her with that bracelet. Make her know that everything's going to be okay. Max shut his eyes, struggling to reach out to Liz.

After a few moments, he was in. From his position, he could see the bracelet began to glow and immediately, Liz seemed to calm down. She had quit screaming and was now staring off into the distance, tears streaming down her face. He closed his eyes again and told her everything would be okay. She seemed to nod in reply. Then, before he could say more, Nicholas interrupted his thoughts.

"Are you listening? Do you want to know the story?" He demanded.

Max opened his eyes and kept them on Liz. "Sure, Nicholas. Enlighten me."

"Though you don't remember, you were in love with a girl who looked very much like your Liz Parker. She would have had, if she had been a human, dark hair and dark eyes. They looked a lot alike." Nicholas sighed, seeming to be bored with Liz's dream. "I guess it's true about what these humans say... everyone has a twin somewhere, and all that. Anyway, Zelenka was just as much in love with you as you were with her. And--"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Zelenka?" Max asked.

"Yes. Zelenka." Nicholas confirmed. "On this earth, the name is Czechslavkian for --"

"Little innocent one." Max said, interrupting him yet again.

"Yes. You're very intelligent in the names department. Now, back to what I was saying. Your father gave you six months before your seventeenth year to find yourself a wife. You'd already been ruling for a year, because of your father's illness, but he wouldn't let you start another year without a bride. You were already in love with Zelenka, determined to marry her." Nicholas looked out onto the ocean. "But when you told your father, he laughed in your face. He said that you couldn't marry Zelenka because her family wasn't as.. wealthy as yours. And that if you didn't find a suitable wife within 6 months, you'd marry Ava, a girl who came from a VERY wealthy family. You walked away from your father, angry, and went to Zelenka's house. You two planned to run away together three months from that day." Nicholas was getting bored with re-telling the story, but he continued anyway. He didn't have anything better to do. "The day you went to Zelenka's house, you found her.. dead. And two weeks later, your father died. On his death bed, your father confessed to finding out your plans and he is the one who had Zelenka killed. He also let you know that you would be marrying Ava the next day. You'd already made some bad decisions since Zelenka's death, and your people didn't trust you as much as they did. So that day, while you and Ava was standing in front of the Granilith and the ceremony was about to start, Khivar came in and killed you." Nicholas smiled. "I remember it all so perfectly. Ava was all upset because she was with child and it was Azeran's, her family's stable boy. But she didn't have to worry long, because Khivar killed her, then Rath, who was standing by you, and Vilandra was the last to go."
Nicholas laughed. "And I was there when they killed Zelenka." He pulled a bracelet that was a replica of what Max had given Liz. "Zelenka was all crying and she takes this off her wrist and goes, "Could you give this back to Zan for me, please?" Zan and Zelenka!" He laughed.

A mask of anger consumed Max's face. "You did what?" He lunged at Nicholas, certain he was going to through the little twerp off the cliff. But before he could reach him, Maria's voice cut across the sound of the choppy waves.

"Max, grab her! Don't let her fall!"

He looked up in time to see Liz began climbing up the cliff.

--------

"What's she doing?" Michael asked Maria. They'd come outside and were standing down the beach from Liz.

"She's running up to the cliff. And the way she's screaming and stuff, it's like, it's like her dream--er, nightmare."

"Nightmare?" Isabel asked.

"Yeah, when you guys were gone, Liz had this recurring nightmare for like two weeks. It's the whole reason we left Roswell."

"Well, what's with the cliff?" Michael asked.

"In her nightmare, Liz ran up there to get away from these beings that were chasing her. These beings had already eaten Max. And so she runs up there to get away, and she ends up jumping into the ocean. But she can't swim and she drowns, hearing Max yell in agony."

Michael and Isabel exchanged a look. "Oh, my God." Isabel muttered.

-------

Liz hurried as fast as her legs would carry her. She'd reached the bottom of the cliff; now all she had to do was climb up it. The scary things were right on her heels, ready to eat her. She shuddered and lost her footing. She screamed.

She was about to give up when she heard a voice. It'll be okay, Liz. Calm down, okay? You're going to be fine. the voice told her. And within that voice, Liz found the strength to keep moving to the top of the cliff.

--------

Max had calmed down some and turned to face Nicholas again. "How do I not know you're lying?" He asked.

Nicholas pulled a bracelet out his pocket. "Here, junior. See for yourself." Nicholas looked down at Liz as she scrambled up the cliff side. "Besides, you know I'm telling the truth. You feel it deep down."

Max grabbed the bracelet and looked at it. The design was exactly the same as the one he'd given Liz. As he turned over in his hand, an engraving caught his eye. " Mashekita a maleknok zi no abrelias.p/I]” He said outloud.

"It means, "I'll always love you." Nicholas said, answering the question Max had been about to ask. "Oh, here comes the lovely Zelenka now." He said as Liz reached the top of the cliff.

Max remembered Maria's warning as Liz ran past him. He knew that she couldn't see him, but he ran to her and grabbed her so she couldn't jump. Though he held her tight, he couldn't stop her from shaking violently. "It's okay, Liz." He whispered in her ear. "I'm here now. Everything's going to be okay."

His voice seemed to soothe her and she seemed to know he was there. She stopped shaking and just stood there in the comfort of his arms.

"Well, hell." Nicholas said, getting angry. "This wasn't supposed to happen. She was supposed to jump off the cliff and die like she did in her dream."

As Max held Liz, he spoke to Nicholas. "No, Nicky boy. There's something you need to learn. I've already lost Liz four times. Once back home, once to my destiny, once to Tess, and once because I was off trying to fight you. I am never going to leave her side again, and she's not going to be killed by the likes of you."

Nicholas smirked. "That's what you think. But there will be times for me to kill her and kill you in the end. You won't be able to see me, and you won't have a clue where I'm at, but I'll always be watching. Always be waiting for a chance to kill you and your dear old Liz. That day will come someday. We will meet again." And with a snap of his fingers, he was gone.

Liz began to cry in his arms. "It's okay, Liz." He repeated. "It's all over now. Okay? It's all over." He told her rocking her in his arms.

And while he stood there, holding the girl he loved, he realized now why he once thought she was so beautiful, even in the third grade. He'd always felt wierd because of his alien-ness, but he also felt wierd because he was the only boy he knew that was interested in a girl. He'd loved her since he first saw her and now he knew why. She was his soulmate, his destiny. At home, she'd gotten killed for loving him, and today, the same thing had almost happened. He vowed that it would never happen again.

-----------

Maria, Michael, and Isabel were waiting for them at the bottom of the cliff when he and Liz came down twenty minutes later. Being a puppet in Nicholas's game had made both he and Liz think. Life's too short to fight with the people you love.

After Isabel explained her reasons behind not telling them about seeing Maria's Jetta, Max was the first to forgive her. He had been pretty mad while she was telling him, but she knew that she meant well. And after a while, Michael forgave her too, but to this day, he still holds a bit of a grudge. He really missed Maria more than he cared to admit.

Maria and Liz didn't have to explain to each other. As soon as Liz had made it down the cliff with Max, Maria and she made up. They could never be mad at each other for long periods of time anyway.

Once those reunions were out of the way, Max and Liz began kissing again, like they had earlier when Michael had interrupted them. Michael and Maria headed back to the condo, followed by a dawdling Isabel.

Now, it's happily ever after for Michael and Max. But what abou? Isabel thought. I don't have anyone now.

Isabel walked in the back door of the condo and heard a voice. "Liz? Maria? I came as soon as my tests were through for the week. Liz?"

Isabel's heart skipped a beat. Alex!! She followed the voice and found Alex standing in the foyer. "Alex?" she asked.

His face lit up. "Isabel?!" He walked over to her and gave her a long hug.

And as she hugged him, she felt that now, everything was going to be okay for the rest of them. Everything was going to work out. When they pulled away from each other, she smiled. "Everyone else is outside." She told him. "Let's go."

She grabbed his hand and led him out to the deck. She looked around and her smile grew wider. Max and Liz were on one side of the beach, walking in the surf, while Maria and Michael were watching the seagulls crack open seashells, both couples' hands entwined.

She turned to talk to Alex. As he was telling her about how college life was working out, she looked around at her brother and good friend. Yep, she thought. Everything's going to turn out great. And we're not going to have to worry about Nicholas again for a long, long time.

posted on 31-Aug-2001 9:48:18 AM
Title-Never Let Go (Sequel to "The Distance")
Author-crzyroswellchic
Email-roswelliandiva⊕aol.com
Rating- PG, PG 13?
Category-Mostly Max and Liz, but everyone else is there too...
Disclaimer-Don't own a thing.. just borrowing (
Summary-Takes place DIRECTLY after The Distance. The original six are together again in Stone Crest, Oregon, and after nearly 5 years of being silent, Nicholas keeps his promise.

Be warned: This is going to start out happy and wonderful, and then plummet to "Oh, my God, no.".. it'll only get worse before it gets better. But rest assured.. it'll end on a happy note. Or at least a fairly happy note.

Oh, and feedback would be REALLY appreciated!

Part One

Max stared at the stars, holding a tired Liz tight in his arms. "Liz? Liz, I think we should go in now." He told her.

Liz moaned sleepily. "I don't want to... I just want to sit out here with you."

And that was exactly what he would want to do, had Nicholas not tortured her for a better half of the day. They'd finally found each other after nearly six years of being apart, and Nicholas had nearly killed her.

"There's nothing I want more, Liz. But you have to be completely worn out. Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Alex went in an hour ago. Don't you think it's time you got some rest?"

"I guess so," She said, as she moved out of Max's arms so he could stand. He stood, then grabbed her arms and helped her up. "Are you.. are you going to leave, Max?" She asked after they had begun walking.

She only meant to go back to the duplex he shared with Michael and Isabel across town. However, it came out sounding different. He could feel the hurt and pain she went through, just by the sound of her voice.

How I've hurt my angel, Max thought as they walked hand in hand up the deck stairs and into the back door of Liz and Maria's beach-side condo.

Before he could answer, Michael walked into the kitchen. "Maxwell, we're leaving. Maria and Alex want to check out our place. You ready?"

Max looked to Liz, then to Michael, then to Liz. He knew that Liz needed to get some rest. He also knew that she wanted him to stay there and watch her while she slept so that when she woke up, he'd still be there for her to see. "Um.. no, actually. There's still a few things Liz and I need to talk about." Max told him. "Why don't you go in Maria's car and leave the Jeep here for me so that I can head over later?"

"Whatever you say, Maxwell." Michael said, tossing the keys to the ancient Jeep to Max. Max caught them easily and sat them on the kitchen table. "See ya later." Michael called as he followed the others out the front door.

Max and Liz just stared at each other as they heard Maria's car pull out of the driveway and drive off. They were finally alone--the first time in six years. They could do anything they wanted. Talk for hours, make out, make love, but all either of them wanted to do was sleep. Just sleep and know the other was nearby.

"Max?" Liz asked, breaking the silence. "You never answered my question." She slid down into the nearest table chair. Max knelt in front of her.

"Liz, I'll never leave you again, as long as I live. Okay, I promise you that."

She smiled at him, and it looked as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "I'm.. I'm so glad to hear that, Max. I was afraid you'd leave me.. and that I wouldn't find you again." She closed her eyes, her hand entwined in one of his.

"Don't ever worry about me leaving you again, Liz, because it's not going to happen." He told her as he stroked her hand. He felt her began to let herself drift off to sleep. He was going to tell her that maybe she shouldn't go to sleep in a hard-backed kitchen chair, but he realized that she was so exhausted that she didn't care. After she'd been to sleep for a while, Max gently picked her up and cradled her against him as he climbed the stairs to put her in her bed.

He passed a few empty rooms before coming to a large room. He looked around the room, saw all the aromatherapy products that graced the dresser, and decided that the room must belong to Maria. He walked down the hallway and when he came to the end of the corridor, he saw a room that just screamed Liz. The neat, clean computer desk. The nicely made bed and the scattered pictures that were reminders of memories she never wanted to forget.

He stood in the room for a while, just taking it all in. Then, he pulled back the covers on Liz's bed, and placed her on the bed and covered her up. He leaned down to kiss her forehead and stroke her hair once more before he left, but Liz grabbed his arm.

"Stay." She told him, not opening her eyes. She scooted over in her large bed and made room for him. "Please?" She asked, opening her eyes just a bit.

Max climbed into bed beside her and wrapped his arms around her. And that's how they slept the entire night.

- - - - - - -
5 years later
(Max and Liz are now married. They have two children, a pair of twins-one boy and one girl. They live in Liz's condo, while Maria and Alex share the duplex with Isabel and Michael. It's Christmas Eve)

"Mommy?" 4 year old Trevor asked Liz. "Mommy, when will Santa get here?"

"Well, Trev, he won't come until after you go to sleep, like Maddie." She told him, referring to his twin sister, Madeline. "The faster you go to sleep, the sooner it'll be morning and you'll get to see what Santa brought you."

"Oh." Trevor looked down at the floor. "Well, I ish ready to go to sleepsh."

"Are you?" Liz asked her young son, kneeling in front of him and brushing his dark hair out of his eyes. "Where do you want to sleep? In your own room or with Maddie?"

"Maddie." Trevor replied quickly. Even though they were so little, they had a strong bond. Madeline and Trevor did everything together and before they could talk, they spoke to each other in a language that no one else could understand.

Liz gave the boy a hug and kissed his cheek. "I've got an idea for you." She whispered in his ear.

Max looked over at his young son and his beautiful wife, wondering just what Liz was telling Trevor to do to him. He shifted in his seat on the couch. Max watched as Trevor's eyes lit up like one of the lights on the Christmas tree behind him.

"Okay, Mommy." Trevor said. "I will do it." Then, Trevor walked over to where Max was sitting and stood in front of his father. "Daddy?" He asked, holding his arms out for Max to lift him off the floor and sit him on his lap.

"Yes, Trev?" Max asked, cuddling the boy against him.

"Wells, I wash just a wandering and all..." he trailed off as Liz gave a little chuckle at his saying of "wandering" which should have been "wondering". He looked at his Mom, his eyes trying to reflect anger. "Now, Mommy. I ish trying to talk to my daddy. Pleash shhh!" He put his finger to his lip. "Shh!"

Liz got up and left the room before she started laughing and got in even more trouble. But she continued to watch from the kitchen.

"Okay, Daddy." Trevor said, turning to look at his father. "I is ready now."

"Okay, Trevor." Max said, amusement in his voice. "Go ahead."

"Daddy, since it's Christmash.. will you tuck me in and shing me a shong??"

Max closed his eyes and when he opened them, they immediately landed on Liz. She smiled sweetly at him. Ever since he had sung to them when they were sick last month, they'd been asking him to sing right and left. Not that he minded singing for them; he didn't. But every time he sang, he was reminded of the first time he sang to Liz and what happened days later. Now he knew about his future self but.. the image of his Liz and Kyle in bed still hurt him after all these years. So last week, he had told Trevor and Madeline that he was only going to sing to them on special occasions. Max's eyes drifted back to his son, who was staring up expectantly at him.

Max sighed. "What song would you like to hear?"

"Um... a pretty one." Trevor said, snuggling against his father's chest.

Max smiled. "How about 'O Come All Ye Faithful'? That's your favorite Christmas song, right?"

Trevor nodded and yawned.

Max stood up, gently cradling the boy in his arms. He began to walk towards the stairs as Trevor shut his eyes. "O, Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant.." Max sang softly as he carried Trevor upstairs and placed him in bed beside his sister Madeline. After kissing both of their foreheads, and just sitting there watching them sleep for a few minutes, he went back downstairs to Liz, who was placing presents under the tree.

"You know," he began as he sat down beside her, "I should probably tell Santa not to leave any presents for you since you set me up like that."

Liz shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Santa already promised me an emerald ring.. and Santa never goes back on his promises."

"Oh, he doesn't, does he?" He grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her. "Well, he might just do it once I tell him what you did." After a few seconds, he added: "Santa promised you a emerald ring??"

"Yeah." Liz nodded. "He did."

Max held her tighter and pulled something out of his pocket. "Hmm.. guess I'll have to take this back then, since Santa's bringing you something special too."

Liz looked up at him, her eyes sparkling. "Oh, Max..." she whispered as she took the small jewelry box and opened it. Inside was the exact emerald ring that Liz had been wanting. "I never thought you'd actually get me this."

"Why wouldn't I? I love you, don't I?" Liz nodded. "Yes, I do love you, and I want to make you happy. And if you want an emerald ring, you're going to get an emerald ring. If you want an elephant, you're going to get one.. even if I have to travel to Africa and track one down for you."

And for a long moment, they just stared into each other's eyes, eyes that were completely filled with love for the other. Finally, Max's mouth seemed to find hers and they shared a long, passionate kiss.

Everything is perfect, Max thought while he kissed his wife of five years. I've got Liz and two beautiful children. Nothing can ruin my life now.

The kiss ended and Liz held up the ring so it could sparkle and gleam in the light. "Max, it's so beautiful."

"Not as beautiful as you." He reached for the ring and took it out of her hand. "Here, let me." He said, as he placed the ring on one of her fingers. While he was doing so, he got a flash of their wedding day, and he smiled.

Liz stared at the ring for a few seconds before turning her attention to Max. "So, what did you ask Santa to bring you?"

"Well, nothing." Max said, standing up.

"Nothing?" Liz cocked her head to one side. "Oh, come on. I'm sure you asked for something."

"Why ask for something when everything I could ever hope for is right here in this house, all around me?" He told her, pulling her to her feet.

Liz laughed and wrapped her arms around his waist. " Such a charmer! Did your mother teach you that?"

"Actually, it was Isabel." Max's smile widened as he thought back to when he was younger. "The day I turned 12, Isabel made Michael and I go through 'Isabel Evans' Charm School for the Socially-Rejected, Pre-Adolescent Boys.'"

Liz giggled. "She didn't!"

"She did. I thought Michael was going to pass out." Max began to stare out the bay window that was directly across from him. "He didn't come around for at least 2 weeks."

Max continued to stare intently out the window as he held Liz in his arms. After a few minutes, he began to sing. "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..."

"What?" Liz asked, confused.

"Look." Max told her, as he gently turned her around to look out the bay window. She gasped as she saw the fast flutter of snowflakes.

"It's snowing!" She turned to look at him. "It hasn't snowed on Christmas Eve since... the twins' first Christmas, when we were snowed in."

"I remember that." Max said. "On Christmas Day we were trying to feed the twins their strained peas. You were feeding Trev; I was feeding Madeline. And.."

"Maddie wouldn't eat." Liz finished. "So, once you finally got some food into her mouth, she spit it all over your face." She began to laugh.

"Yes, but do you remember what happened next?" Max asked, laughing. "Trev spit in your face too and then it was my turn to laugh."

The couple grew silent for a few minutes while they watched the snow. "Max?" Liz asked.

"Hmm?"

"Who or what is 'Zelenka'?"

I never told her about Zelenka. How does she know about her? Max thought. "Um, how do you know about that?"

"Well, recently every time I touch your skin or kiss you, the word Zelenka runs through my head. I was just curious as to who or what it was."

"Oh.. um." Max stalled. "I should have told you this years ago, after I found you."

Liz's deep brown eyes widened. "What? What should you have told me?"

Max stared into her eyes, trying to think of how he should tell her about her-their past. "This." He said finally, placing his hands on either side of her head, making a connection with her.

--Flash-
Zan and Zelenka making plans to run away.
--Flash-
Zan finding Zelenka after she was killed.
--Flash-
Zan's untimely death.
--Flash-

The connection ended and Max let his hands drop from her face. Liz looked down at the ground for a moment, trying to comprehend what he had just shown her.

"Zelenka.. Zelenka's me?" Liz asked. "I mean, I'm Zelenka?"

Max nodded.

"How do you know this? I thought you couldn't remember your past." Liz walked over to the couch and sat down.

Max followed her and sat down beside her. "I don't. Nicholas told me."

Liz nearly choked. "Nicholas?! Max, you don't trust him. How do you believe what he says?"

"Well, under normal circumstances, I wouldn't." Max reached into his pocket and pulled out the pewter bracelet that he carried with him always. "But then he showed me this."

Liz frowned. "That's like my bracelet."

"I know." Max said. "I showed you everything he told me that day."

"But why didn't you tell me before?" Liz asked. "You've known for five years, Max. Five YEARS! I thought we promised each other: no secrets!"

"I didn't want to tell you until I knew more."

"When did you think you'd know more? How did you think could find out anything else?"

"I've been remembering bits and pieces of it, just by getting flashes from the bracelet. I was hoping to run into Nicholas one of these days and find out more before I killed him."

Liz lowered her head. "Max.. does this mean that I'm an alien? Like you?" There was something odd about her voice. Something that bothered Max.

"I- I don't know Liz." He held out his arms to her and she fell into them. Max stroked her long, dark hair as she rested her head on his shoulder. "But.. Liz?"

"What, Max?"

"Would that be such a bad thing? For you to be like-- like me?"

Liz lifted her head off his shoulder and looked into his hurt-filled eyes. She stared into his eyes for a few seconds before replying. "No, Max." She shook her head. "It wouldn't be a bad thing at all."

Max seemed to let out a sigh of relief and they just sat there, for the longest time, in the comfort of each other's arms.



Part Two

Christmas Day

"Maddie! Trev!" Maria called as the front door opened.

"Aunt Maria!" The two children shouted as they ran into her open arms.

"How's my favorite niece and nephew in the world?" She asked as she hugged them. "Did Santa bring you everything you wanted?"

"Mm-hmm," was Trevor's reply.

"Lookie, Aunt Maria! Santa brought me this new dress." Madeline held the skirt out with her small hands.

"Oooh.. so pretty." Maria commented. "Can you twirl for me?" Madeline did as she was told and once she'd twirled, Maria kissed her on the cheek. "You're prettier than Aunt Isabel's Christmas tree."

Madeline giggled and ran over to see Isabel.

Liz came through the door next and Maria instantly grabbed her by the arm. "I have to tell you something, Liz."

Before Liz could even speak, Maria had pulled her into the downstairs bathroom. "But.. Maria, don't I even get to say 'hi' first?"
"There's no time." Maria sighed and held out her left hand. "Look."

"Is that an engagement ring?!" Liz exclaimed, bending down to look at the beautiful amethyst stone surrounded by small diamonds on a gold band.

"Yes."

"Well, what happened? Tell me everything!"

"Um.. he didn't actually do things as they are normally done. Of course, Michael's anything but normal." Maria looked off to the side.

"Maria, you're babbling."

"I know. I'm sorry." Maria closed her eyes, remembering the moment Michael held the velvet box out to her.
------

"Here." Michael said, thrusting a velvet box into her hands. "Merry Christmas."

"What is this?" Maria asked as she opened the box and saw the ring inside.

"It's an engagement ring."

"And?"

"And.. I want you to marry me?"

"Well, it looks like the screw-up fairy has visited us yet again." She mumbled.

"What did you say?" Michael demanded.

"Nothing." Maria lowered her head. "Michael, Michael.. this isn't how we do things on earth."

"It isn't?"

"No." Maria raised her head again. "No. Here on earth, when the guy proposes, he gets down on one knee, professes his love for the girl, then pulls the ring out of the box, slips it on her finger, and says, 'I love you and I'll always will. Will you marry me?'"

"Um.. okay."

"Yes. Okay." Maria handed him the velvet box back. "Now, I'm going to leave the room and come back in. And we'll try this again. Okay?"

------

"Maria? Maria?" Liz said, shaking her. "Maria, come back to me."

"Oh, I'm sorry." Maria said, snapping back to reality.

"Well?" Liz asked. "What did he say? How did he do it?"

Maria smiled. "Just your basic proposal."

"Okay." Liz looked at her before opening the door. "Well, if you're not going to tell, I'm going to go and see everyone else."

"Let's go together then." Maria followed her out to the living room.

As Liz watched the happy faces on her babies as they were being spoiled rotten, she was happy to be there. Happy that they were all together and spending Christmas together. It would be one of the many memories that she'd always remember. Even through death.

-----
3 Days Later, 12 A.M.

"Liz, just try to get some sleep, okay?" Max told a sniffling Liz.

"I will." She told him. "But I need to pump some more Echinacea." Liz was in the middle of battling a cold.

"Put down the Echinacea. Liz, if you pump any more of that, it'll be running out your ears."

"Maria says it's the best thing for colds."

"It may be. But all you need is some rest to get over the cold. Okay?" He waited for Liz to nod. Once she did, he continued. "Okay, now go to sleep."

Liz closed her eyes and Max watched her for about five minutes. Then, she opened her eyes again. "I can't breathe therefore I can't sleep."

"Well.. here." He told her as he placed his hand on her arm. He used his powers to soothe her and lull her into a deep sleep. "Good night, Liz."

About thirty minutes later, Max had just barely fallen asleep when he heard crying coming from Madeline's room. He gently got out of bed, trying not to disturb Liz. He tiptoed out of the room and out into the hallway where Trevor was waiting.

"Daddy?" Trevor whispered.

"What, Trev?"

"Maddie's had another scary dream."

"How do you know?" Max asked, picking the small boy up and walking down the hall to Madeline's room.

"I just do, Daddy." Trevor said as they entered Madeline's room. Trevor squirmed in Max's arms until Max set him on the floor. The boy promptly ran over to his crying sister, hopped up beside her in bed, and wrapped his arms around her.

"Madeline?" Max asked as he got closer to the bed. "Maddie, what's wrong?"

"Is.. Is Mommy okay?" Madeline asked through her tears.

Max picked up both of the children and sat down on the bed, with the twins on his lap. "Yes, of course, Maddie. Mommy's just fine."

Madeline nodded. "Good. Good." Max pulled back her hair and grabbed a tissue from the nightstand to wipe away her tears.

"Maddie, what did you see?" Trevor asked.

Madeline looked to her brother and leaned over until their foreheads touch. Trevor gasped. "No!"

Madeline nodded.

"What was it, Trev? What did Madeline see?" Max asked.

"She saw this lady that Mommy knows come to our house and.. she hurt Mommy!"

Max's eyes widened. Sometimes the things that happened in Madeline's dreams came true; sometimes they didn't. "What did the lady do?"

"I-I don't know." Madeline said. "She touched Mommy and Mommy fell to the ground. She made Mommy cry, Daddy! She hurt Mommy." Madeline started crying again.

"It'll be okay, Maddie." Max said as he rocked her. "It'll be okay."

"Is Mommy really okay?" Madeline and Trevor asked together.

"Yeah. She's sleeping in our bed." Max told them. "Do you want to go see for yourselves?"

They nodded, and Max stood up, with both of them in his arms, and went back to where Liz was sleeping. "See?" He whispered as they watched her sleep. "There's Mommy. She's just tired because she's got a cold, but other than that, she's fine. It was just a dream, Maddie."

A few minutes later, after he'd put the twins back into their bed, he climbed back in his own bed. Yeah, he thought as he stared at Liz's sleeping form. It was just a dream
5 A.M.

Max woke up to the sound of his beeper. He crawled out of bed and slowly began to get dressed. Liz rolled over in bed in time to see him pick up the phone and dial the number to the fire department.

"Is there a fire?" Max asked, sleepily. He walked over to the window and peered outside. Ice covered all the trees and and tree branches were snapping like bones and falling to the ground. “Oh.. yes, yes I see. Okay, I’ll be down there in a few minutes.”

“Max?” Liz asked, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

“Do you feel better?” He asked, coming to sit on her side of the bed while he put his shoes on.

“Yes.. but, where are you going?”

“To work. The ice storm that went through last night has knocked down tree branches and power lines all over the county. We’ve been asked to help out the electric company in restoring power to those who don’t have it.”

“Oh.” Liz replied, letting his words sink in since she wasn’t fully awake yet.

"Yeah. Well, anyway, I'll call you later, but now, I have to go." He kissed her lips and it definitely woke her up. "Maddie and Trev should be getting up in an hour or two."

"Okay. I love you, Max." She kissed him this time.

"I love you too." He said when the kiss was over. Then, he stood up and walked downstairs and out the front door.

Later that day

"Okay, Liz." Max said from his cell phone. "I'm coming home now."

"No, don't Max." Liz told him as she looked out the window. The snow kept coming down and the roads were slick and icy.

"What?" Max asked. "Why not?"

"I don't want you to get hurt. The roads are really bad."

"I don't care, Liz. I don't want to be here all night by myself when I could be there with you."

"Max, please, just stay there until tomorrow. It's dark and there's been five accidents in the last two hours."

"Liz..." Max trailed off. He wasn't happy about staying at the fire department all night. Of course, he was a little wary of driving through the ice to get home. "Will you and the twins be okay?"

"Yeah, we'll be fine, Max. Don't worry about us."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Just stay there and we'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay." Max sighed. "I love you."

"Love you too."

------
The Next Day

"Mommy?" Madeline asked. "When will Daddy get home?"

That's what I'd like to know. "Soon, Maddie. Soon."

"Oh." Madeline's face seemed to fall just a little.

"Do you and Trev want to play hide-and-go seek?" Liz asked, watching her daughter's face perk up a bit.

"Okay!"

Liz smiled. "Why don't you and Trev go hide first and I'll come find you." She told Madeline as the doorbell rang. "Go hide right now and after I answer the door, I'll start looking."

Madeline got her brother and they both took off towards separate parts of the house. Liz walked into the foyer to open the door. I wonder who it could be out in this weather, she thought, peeking out the side window. It was Tess. Puzzled, Liz opened the door.

"Tess?"

"Liz! It's so good to see you." The blonde girl said excitedly.

"Yeah, um, you too." Liz replied. "What are you doing here?"

But Tess was trying to look around her and didn't hear her. "Is Max here?"

"No, he's at work."

"Good." Tess responded. "Can I come in?"

Good? What's that supposed to mean? "Why aren't you in Roswell?" Liz asked.

"Please, Liz. It's really cold out here. Can I just come in for a second?"

"Um.. sure." Liz said, reluctantly. She let Tess in and closed the door behind her. "Now what are you doing here?"

"Oh.. well, this is going to be a shock to you, but I had to tell you face to face."

"What is it?" Liz asked.

"Kyle's dead." Tess said bluntly.

"Dead?"

"Yes, he died about three weeks ago."

"Why didn't anyone tell me? You could have called and I would have flown out for the funeral."

"Oh, I didn't think of that."

Didn't think of that? Something is obviously not right about her being here. Liz thought as a tear slipped down her cheek. She was starting to get scared and she prayed that Madeline and Trevor would stay hidden until Tess left.

"Well, I guess I'll be going now." Tess said. She dropped her purse and she bent down to pick it up. While she was bent down, her hand clamped tightly around the area right above Liz's knee. Liz could feel a burning sensation and yelped in pain. Tess stood up and smiled sweetly at Liz. "Bye now."

Tears spilled down Liz's face as she watched Tess shut the door. Her leg was hurting so much.. she thought she was going to fall over. I've got to make it to the couch, she thought as she limped into the living room. She reached the couch and she went to sit down. But instead of sitting, she slipped off the couch and hit her head on the coffee table. She cried out again just before her head hit the floor and everything went black.

Part Three

{Max was driving home about the time Tess was paying a little visit to Liz}
Max drove faster than he should have on the icy roads on his way home. Something felt wrong; in his heart, he could feel that something was happening to Liz or Maddie or Trevor. He could feel fear.

Max began to slow for a red light when all of a sudden, a sharp pain shot through his leg. This caused his leg to press on the gas pedal and he sped through the red light. Max could feel tears stinging his eyes-the pain hurt that much. As he drove with one hand, he used the other hand to make a whole in his pants with his powers. He searched his leg up and down and finally found a red mark above his knee.

"What the.." Max said, awestruck, as he turned onto the road that led to his house. He was almost home when he got a call from Michael.

"Maxwell?" Michael asked. "Why did you drive home? The roads are way too slick for you to be out."

"I don't care.. could you call my house and see if Liz is okay?"

"Um.. why?"

"Because I asked you to, that's why!" Max yelled as his head exploded with pain. Everything became blurry and he couldn't see.

"Max?" He could hear Michael asking. "Max?"

Max threw down the phone in hopes of focusing on the road. He was so close. Only a hundred feet more or so. Max sped up, trying to get home faster and the car he was driving hit a slick patch of black ice. The car spun out of control and Max closed his eyes. His life began to flash before him: getting adopted; seeing Liz; saving Liz; fighting; marrying Liz; Maddie and Trev's birth.

Finally the car slammed into the neighbor's mailbox and Max's face was filled with the white cloth of the airbag. Max's vision came back and he jumped out of the car. He left the car where it was and ran the rest of the way to his house.

He hurried up the steps and he noticed the door was ajar. He cautiously pushed it open and stepped inside. "Liz?"

Nothing. He didn't hear anything. "LIZ?" He shouted. "Maddie? Trev? Where are you?"

Maybe they're upstairs, he thought. He was about to go check when Madeline stumbled out of the living room. He bent down in front of her. "Maddie.. Maddie are you okay?" He asked as he hugged her.

She nodded. He let her go and looked into her wide brown eyes. "Where's Trevor?"

She shook her head. "I-I don't know, Daddy." A small tear slipped down her face. Max wiped it away.

"Do you think he's okay?"

"Yes."

Max sighed in relief. At least the kids are okay. "Okay, where's Mommy?"

"In the.." She broke off, pointing to the living room.

"Is she okay?"

Madeline shook her head. "No.. no, Daddy. Mommy's not okay."

Max felt the blood leave his face. "She's not?"

"No." Maddie shook her head again. "Daddy.. it came true!"

"What came true?"

"My dream."

"Oh, no.." Max stood up and ran into the living room. He saw Liz's limp body lying beside the coffee table. "Liz?" He knelt beside her.

"Daddy? Is Mommy going to be okay?" Madeline asked.

"I don't know. I- I think she will." Max replied, lifting Liz's head just a bit. Blood trickled over his hand.

"I try.. I try to help her, Daddy." Madeline looked like she was about to burst into tears. "I try to help. Did I do good?"

Max sat there, hand placed over her head, ready to make the connection. "Yes, Maddie. You did real good." Madeline smiled. "Now, you want to help me again?" She nodded. "Go find, Trevor, and make sure he's okay." Madeline nodded and left the room.

Max began to make the connection and he ran his hands over her head, healing her. Then, he let his mind wander inside her until it found the other thing that was hurting her, a mark above her knee. He couldn't really get to that mark, but he did the best he could with it and broke the connection. Liz awoke almost immediately.

"Max..?" She asked, groggily.

"Liz, what happened?" Max asked as he picked her up and set her on the couch. "Did someone hurt you?"

"I really don't know, Max." She said after a few minutes. "I have no idea."

"Well, what do you remember?"

"I was going to go find Maddie and Trev but the door rang. And I went to answer it." Liz squinted her eyes as if in deep concentration. "That's all I remember, Max. I don't remember anything after that."

"It's okay, Liz. Just rest now, okay?" He kissed her forehead, then looked at his watch. "It's been almost ten minutes since I sent Maddie to go find Trevor. Do you think they're okay?" He asked her.

"I'll go check." She began to get up.

"No. I'll go check." He gently pushed her back down. "You need to lay here and rest for a couple of minutes."

"O.. Okay," Liz consented as she closed her eyes.

Max left Liz and walked into the kitchen. He searched the pantry and all the cabinets, but still no Maddie or Trev. As he left the room, he happened to look outside one of the windows. He noticed all the ice on the electric wires. It's a wonder we haven't lost electricity yet, he thought climbing up the stairs.

Spoke too soon, he thought as the whole house plunged into darkness.

"Max?" He heard Liz ask from downstairs.

"It'll be okay, Liz." He called down to her. He continued to walk up the stairs. Suddenly a screamed ripped through the silence of the house.

"DADDDYYYYYY!!!!" Madeline screamed.

Max hurried up the stairs and into the room that he thought the scream came from. He stepped inside the room, instantly glad that Liz had left the blind on the window up and the mid-afternoon sun lit up the otherwise darkened room. Madeline was crouched beneath the window sill.

"Maddie?" He asked, walking over to her.

Madeline jumped at the sound of her name and stood up. Then, she hurried over and attached her self to one of Max's legs. "Daddy.. she's outside the window!"

"Who is?" Max asked, confused.

"The lady that hurt Mommy!!"

"Madeline, no one could be outside that window; we're on the second story."

"But, Daddy, she was flying."

Flying? "Flying?" He asked. "Um, Maddie, was this person real or pretend?" Max knew that Trevor and Madeline had their share of invisible "pretend" friends.

"No, she was real." Madeline said. "Just make her go away, Daddy. Make her go away!"

"Shh." Max shushed her as he walked over to the window with Madeline still attached to his leg. He looked out the window, searching for the lady that had scared his little girl and hurt his wife. But all he saw was Liz's Taurus wrapped around the pole of the next-door neighbor's mailbox. Max's jaw dropped. How did I survive that? I should have been killed! And he would have, had he not been on the driver's side. Thank God I was in there alone. If Liz, Maddie, or Trev had been in there- Max's thought was replaced with a new fear. Trevor! Where's Trevor?

Max reached down and pried Madeline off his leg and picked her up. "Where's your brother?"

"Him's not up here, Daddy. He must be down there." She said.

"He's not down there, Madeline, I already checked." Max began to walk out of the room with Madeline in his arms.

Madeline's eyes, that looked so much like his own, widened. "You lost Trevvy?"

"No, Madeline. I didn't lose him." Max started down the stairs. "He's probably still hiding somewhere."

Madeline shook her head. "But he's afraid of the night! He's prolly cryin'." Madeline laid her head on Max's shoulder. "I want my bubba!" She wailed.

Max rubbed her back soothingly as he stepped into the living room. Liz sat up on the couch. "Max, what's wrong?" She asked.

"We don't know where Trevor is." Max told her, handing her Madeline. He quickly walked out of the room.

"Wait!" She called. "Max, where are you going?"

"I'm going to turn on the electricity."

"How?"

"Sometimes it's good to be an alien," He smiled at her. "I'll be back."

Max walked into the kitchen and opened the back door. The sooner he could get the electricity back on, the sooner he could find Trevor and just put this crazy day behind him. He stepped outside and shut the door behind him.

He looked around until he found the main wires that led into the house. Then, he stood up on the picnic table and raised his hand over the wires. He concentrated for a while and he used his powers to pull the electricity from the transformer that was down the road. He then kept pulling until he at least cleared the lines that led to his house. When the lights in the kitchen came on, he moved his hand and began to get down.

As his right leg began to leave the table and head for the ground, a voice called to him, "Daddy?"
The voice startled him and he slid off the icy table and onto the wooden deck.

"Daddy?" Trevor asked as Max opened his eyes. "Daddy.. are you okay?"

Trevor! Max thought as he sat up and hugged the boy. "Where have you been?"

"Well, I was inside, and then the night came and I got afraid and I saw that the night wasn't outside so I come out here."

Max let go of Trevor and looked into the boy's eyes. "Don't ever come outside again, okay? Only if you ask and we say you can, okay?"

"Okay, Daddy."

Max stood up and dusted the snow off of him. He was about to go in with Trevor when one of the neighbors, Mr. Franklin, called to him.

"Hey! How do you have electricity and we don't?" The old man asked as he got closer.

"Um," Max started. "Must be a fluke in the lines."

"But Daddy," Trevor began. "You used your-"

"Trevor?" Max interrupted him, knowing full well what he was about to say. "Didn't Mommy and I tell you not to interrupt us when we're talking to others?" Trevor nodded. "Okay, please go inside and let Mommy know you're okay."

Trevor obeyed and headed inside. Max talked with the man for a few minutes before following Trevor and going inside too.

----

One Week Later

"Oh, I'm so glad that you weren't hurt in that wreck." Liz said as she hugged Max. They had been looking at the estimates for how much it was going to cost the fix the car.

"You're telling me." Max said, recalling the whole crazy day. "Everything in the world seemed to go wrong that day."

"I know. But thank God we're all okay."

"Yeah. Thank God we're okay." Max echoed.

They sat in silence for a while before Liz spoke.

"Max.. ?"

"Yes, Liz?"

"Well, ever since that day, I haven't felt right." She confessed.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't really know. I just feel.. odd. Different. Like there's something wrong with me." Liz looked into his eyes. "Is there something wrong with me?"

"I- I don't know." Max suddenly remembered what happened when he was healing Liz that day. There was something in her that he couldn't quite heal. Something that was out of his reach. "Maybe you should go see a doctor."

"I suppose. I can talk to Alex about it tomorrow when I take the twins over there for their "lesson"." She said referring to the times when Isabel would teach Madeline and Trevor to keep their powers under control.

"No, Liz. Go to Doctor Allen. This may have something do to with that new flu shot you had last month." The new flu shot he was talking about had caused quite a few people to become seriously ill. Liz had to have a blood test to see if she could even have the shot.

"Okay. I'll make an appointment tomorrow, then." Liz said as she wrote out a check.

And as they went on with one of their nightly routines of putting the kids to bed, catching up on bills, watching television, and spending time with each other, neither one noticed that someone was always watching, just off to the sidelines, taking everything in. Just waiting for their plan to take effect.

Part Four

Max was stirring the tomato sauce for the spaghetti they were having for dinner when he felt Liz's arms circle his waist. "Hey," he said, turning around. "I didn't hear you come in."

"Well, how could you with the television on so loud?" Liz smiled as she stood up on her tiptoes to kiss him.
"Where are our darling children anyway?"

Max turned back to the spaghetti. "I think they're outside."

"You think?"

"Scratch that. I know." Max said, tasting the sauce. He dipped the spoon into the pan again and held the spoon out for Liz to taste. "How's that?"

"Needs more garlic." Liz told him. "Is there anything I can do?"

Max motioned to the loaf of French bread lying on the counter. "You could cook that and toss a salad."
Liz began to cut the French bread and butter it while the oven was heating.

"So," Max said after a few minutes. "What did the doctor say?"

"Well, nothing, actually." Liz said as she sprinkled some garlic powder over the bread. "He ran some tests and told me he'd call me when the results came back."

"What kind of tests?" Max asked, stirring the sauce more.

"Um, a blood test, a bone marrow scan, a CAT scan, and some other thing." Liz counted off on her fingers. "The new bone marrow scan testing machine is very futuristic looking." Liz told him. "But I don't think there's anything to worry about. I mean, I've felt better these last couple of days. Maybe it was all because of that cold."

"Maybe." Max said, suddenly looking out the window to check on Madeline and Trevor, who were playing on the deck. "Better safe than sorry though." He leaned closer to the window. "Trev, be careful. Watch out, watch out!" He cautioned to Trevor, though the young boy couldn't hear him.

"What's he doing?" Liz asked, peering out the window as well.

"He's going to be pushed off the deck if he's not careful. Madeline's looking off at something and he's getting in her line of vision."

"What's she looking at?" Liz squinted to get a better view of what was going on.

Max watched as Madeline jumped off the side of the deck and began to walk towards a very large, very mean-looking dog. "Oh.. didn't we teach her to leave stray dogs alone?"

"Well, you know how Maddie is about animals; she loves them to death."

"That dog's going to bite her when she gets close enough." Max told Liz as he rushed around the bar and out the back door of the house. He stepped out on the back porch/deck barefoot and yelled to Madeline. "Maddie, stay away from that dog. Madeline!"

But she didn't move. She seemed transfixed by the dog and kept getting closer and closer to the scraggly dog.

Max ran off the deck, over to Madeline and scooped her up just as the dog's mouth opened to clamp around Madeline's little neck. Madeline began to cry as she heard the dog growl and after she realized that the dog was not a dog that you'd want to pet.

"Shh." Max soothed her. "It's all okay now; Daddy's got you." He told her looking at the dog sitting at his feet. He stared at the dog for a few seconds more and as he was about to leave to go back inside, the dog's eyes glowed red. "What the.. ?"

The dog began to growl louder and his eyes got redder and redder. And suddenly, Max was sure that the dog was going to jump up and knock him down and then rip his baby girl from his arms. He was tempted to kick at the dog, to shoo it away. But he feared the dog would think that his outstretched leg was a drumstick, ready for eating.

Max glanced down to the neighbor's house. No one seemed to be watching, so Max held out his hand and used his powers to make the dog unconscious. He then decided to leave the dog there and take his children inside. He'd deal with that dog later.

---------

A few days later, Liz was lying on the couch when her vision suddenly became blurred. She couldn't see anything. Shapes blended into to all the other shapes until everything was one, big, hazy blob. Liz closed her eyes so she wouldn't get sick. Max, who was sitting on the chair to the side of the couch, began to notice Liz's distress.

"What's wrong Liz?" He asked, concerned.

"I-I can't see anything." Liz told him, her hands covering her eyes.
"Well, maybe if you took your hands off your eyes, you could." Max responded.

"No.. it's not because of that. Everything's blurry."

"Blurry?" Max got up and walked over to the couch. He helped into a sitting position and held her.
"Open your eyes." He instructed.

"No. I'll be sick."

"Open your eyes, Liz."

"No, I said! I don't want to throw up all over you." She shook her head.

"Liz, if you throw up on me, I won't care. Sure, it'll be a little gross, but if there's a problem with your vision we need to figure this out. So, open your eyes."

"Okay." She slowly opened her eyes and looked around.

"Is everything still blurry?" He asked.

She shook her head. "Everything looks clear." But instead of blurry vision, her head exploded with pain. "Oh my God.. " She cried.

"Liz, what is it?"

"My head feels like someone hit me with a two by four between the eyes." Liz began to cry. The pain hurt so bad. She'd rather be ran over by a speeding train than live through a minute more of this intense pain. She was trying to stay quiet since Madeline and Trevor had just gone to sleep. She didn't know how much longer she could stand it without screaming.

Max said nothing but took his hand and placed it over her head, healing the pain. "There? That better?"

"Thank you, Max." She told him, hugging him tight. Her head felt so much better. She'd never been through such intense pain before. It sort of reminded her of the symptoms of a migraine.

"What was that, Liz?" Max asked her. "I could feel how bad that hurt you. It was.. awful."

"I-I think it was a migraine." Liz told him.

"A migraine? You don't have migraines. You've never had a migraine before."

"Guess there's a first time for everything." Liz whispered softly. She was beginning to get so confused about things lately. Thank God the doctor called me to go in tomorrow to hear about the results of my tests, Liz thought, leaning against Max's chest. Because I don't know just how much more I can take.

- - - -
The next day ⊕ the doctor's
From Liz's POV

I stepped into Dr. Allen's office and he offered me a seat. I took it gratefully. My legs felt rubbery all of a sudden. Brushing the hair out of my eyes, I rummaged through my purse while Doctor Allen rummaged through some papers on his desk. When I finally found the small tape recorder that I always took with me on interviews, I clicked the record button and sat it on my knee. There really wasn't a reason for me to turn it on; it was just a habit.

"Well, Mrs. Evans," Dr. Allen began. "I'm sure you realize that the reason you're here is to go over the test results that incidentally came back last night...."

Warning bells sounded in my head. He's babbling! He's babbling worse than Maria does.. and doctors don't babble. My mind kept screaming. Suddenly my mind split in two. One side was telling me that everything was okay; the other telling me that something was seriously wrong. I wasn't sure which side to listen to, so I blocked them both out and tried to concentrate on what Dr. Allen was saying.

The doctor sighed. "Mrs. Evans, the real reason I called you here is.. because your test results revealed that you are suffering from acute myelocytic leukemia."

My eyes widened. I wasn't sure what that was, but whatever it was, it sounded scary, just by it's name. And it had the word 'leukemia' in it. I could feel tears beginning to form in my eyes. "Um.. what- what exactly is that?"

"Well, it's just a form of .. leukemia. Cancer."

Cancer?? The tears were closer to falling. I'd just been told that I had leukemia. Cancer. How was I supposed to respond to that? My brain had officially sent into shock. I sat there silently letting it slowly sink in. And after a minute, I heard my voice ask, "What can I do to get better?"

Dr. Allen lowered his balding head. "I'm-I'm afraid you can't."

"Can't?" I repeated.

Dr. Allen began to tell me why I couldn't even begin to fight this disease. But I wasn't listening and I was thankful that I had turned on that tape recorder. All these thoughts kept running through my head: little flashes of my life, how I won't be at Madeline or Trevor's weddings, how I won't get to see Maria finally married, how I wouldn't get to grow old with Max. I must have sat there in silence for ten minutes.

Finally, Dr. Allen finished. "I'm very sorry, Mrs. Evans. I'm sure that you need time to go over this and once you do, please call my office so we can set up another appointment." He rose and extended his hand.

I stood also, grabbing my tape recorder and numbly shook his hand. I turned and walked out the door. Once outside his office, I leaned against the wall for support as the tears began to fall.

The doctor's secretary came over to me to ask if I was okay. I told her no, and then I took off, walking as fast as I could out the door. And then when I got to the parking lot, I ran to my car, locked myself inside and cried.

Part 5

When Liz arrived home three hours later, an impatient Max was waiting for her.

"Just where have you been?" He asked, rising off the couch and coming to meet her as she walked into the foyer.

"I was.. uh,--I was out interviewing an elderly couple out near Stonebrook." Liz stated, setting her purse down on the coffee table. "Where are the twins?"

"You weren't out interviewing some couple, Liz. I called the office when you didn't come home at six. They said that you left hours ago. Like at 2:30. Before your 2:45 appointment with Dr. Allen." He followed her into the living room, where she plopped down on the couch. "So.. what did Dr. Allen say?"

"He didn't say anything. Now where are our children, Max?" Liz asked again, trying to avoid the issue at hand.

"They're upstairs, playing." Max sat beside her. "Well, if he said nothing, that means you're okay, right?"

"Upstairs? I'd better go see them. I haven't seen them at all today." Liz quickly got up and walked up the stairs, leaving a wondering Max behind.

-------

Liz was sitting on the couch, listlessly flipping through the cable channels, when Max came down after tucking Madeline and Trevor into bed. Max walked calmly and stood in front of the television, blocking her from using the remote.

"Liz," he began, "I know you're hiding something. Okay? You can't hide something from me. You've never been able to. So, why not stop the act and tell me what's going on right now."

Liz opened her mouth to speak but was cut off by the loud buzzing of the dryer. She hopped off the couch. "Well, time to fold the laundry. I know how you hate it when your clothes are wrinkled." She began to walk towards the laundry room off the kitchen.

"Liz, wait!" He ran after her and caught her as she walked into the kitchen. He whirled her around so she'd be facing him. "Liz, tell me what's wrong! Tell me what the doctor said!"

Liz stared into his eyes and stayed silent for a moment. But after that moment passed, her eyes began to well up with tears and they streamed down her face, one by one. She fell to her knees.

"Oh, God," he said, kneeling beside her and wrapping her in his arms. He gently began to rock back and forth. "What is it, Liz? What's making you feel so sad?"

Liz wouldn't answer. She just cried and cried for nearly five minutes. Then, she spoke. "I.. I.. I can't tell you." She said in a rush.

"Why?" Max asked, beginning to worry. "Why can't you tell me?"

Tears began to fall down Liz's face once more. "Because.. because.. because it'll break your heart!"

Max gasped as tears of his own began to form. Break my heart? his mind asked. The only thing that I know of that can break my heart is... is if someone close to me were to die. Especially Liz.
Max began to find it hard to breathe but he managed to choke out a : "What.. what do you mean?"

Liz just kept crying.

As the realization hit him full force, tears fell from his eyes in rapid succession. "No." He shook his head. "NO!"

Liz only nodded.

"How.. how can this be??" Max asked. "You're not dying. You're not dying. You're not dying because you CAN'T die!" He told her.

Liz wiped some of her tears away with the back of her hands. "But I am dying. Of Leukemia. Of cancer."

"No." Max shook his head, tears falling to the linoleum floor. "No. I won't let you die, Liz. I won't let you. There has to be something that we can do. Chemotherapy? Radiation? I can heal you, Liz! I can make this go away."

"No, you can't Max. There's nothing to be done. I'm going to die." She told him, calming down somewhat. "Soon."

"I can fix this, Liz, I know that I can. Just tell me what the doctor told you. Tell me everything." He said, wiping away his own tears.

"I-I can't right now. Maybe.. maybe tomorrow." Liz shook her head. "But I do know that you can't heal this. It's spread so much already. You'd kill yourself trying."

"Well, I can promise you this, Liz. You are not going to go through this alone. I'm going to be by your side every step of the way. And I won't let you leave me. You're going to get better. You'll see." He told her, already having made up his mind that he was going to heal her sooner or later.

"Okay." Liz whispered, though she knew that he couldn't save her. That she was going to die.

Max held her tight. "And tomorrow you'll tell me everything the doctor said, okay? We'll drop Madeline and Trevor off at Isabel's."

Liz nodded, as another thought came to mind. "How.. how are we going to tell Madeline and Trev.. about me dying?"

"Let's just wait." He told her. "We don't have to tell them right away. They won't exactly understand it all. But we'll tell them soon. Just for now, baby steps, Liz. Baby steps."
posted on 31-Aug-2001 9:52:02 AM
Part Five

The next morning, after Max dropped the twins off at Alex and Isabel’s, he went to meet Liz at a scenic outlook on top of a high cliff. After he arrived, Liz stood staring off into the distance while Max listened to the tape Liz had made at the doctor’s office.

After hearing his beloved wife’s fate, he sat quietly, letting what the doctor had said run through his head. “No cure.. there’s nothing we can do.” Over and over, he kept hearing that one phrase, the one phrase that marked the end of Liz’s life and the end of his as well.

He sat by himself for a while longer, silently processing everything he’d been told. And once he thought he could utter a nearly coherent sentence, he stood and looked to where Liz was standing alone. He walked towards her and once he got within three feet from her, he noticed that she was standing dangerously close to the edge. So close, in fact, that one small slip and she’d be dead sooner than this disease could kill her.
“Liz?” he questioned softly.

She didn’t answer, though she did seem to teeter over the edge a little.

“Liz?” he asked a bit louder. He was less than a foot away.

This time she spoke.

“I’ve been standing here for the past thirty minutes and the only thing that keeps coming to my mind is.. why me?” Liz sighed. “Why me, Max? Why me?”

“I don’t know, Liz.” Max shook his head. “But I do know that we’re going to get through this.” He came closer to her and encircled his arms around her tiny waist.

“Thanks for the support, Max, but I don’t think we are.”

“Liz, I know it looks like it’s the end. Like there’s nothing we can do. But there is something we can do. There.. there has to be.” Max’s voice faltered towards the end.

“Max, there’s nothing that you, the doctors, or anyone can do to help me, okay? I can feel it. This .. cancer is what’s going to kill me. I can feel it. I just know.”

“Not if we don’t let it. We’re going to find a way out of this, I promise you.”

Liz broke away from Max’s grasp. “You really shouldn’t make promises that you can’t keep.”
She stalked over to her car and opened the door to get inside. “I’m going to go get the twins. I’ll meet you at home.”

Max watched her as she sat down in the car. “I’m not going to let you die from this.” He said loudly. “I’m not going to let you go without a fight, Liz.” Liz looked up at him as she shut her car door and started the car. Though she couldn’t hear him, he added over the roar of the engine, “I’m not going to let you die.. even if I get killed in the process.”

*****

Instead of going straight to the duplex that Isabel, Michael, Maria, and Alex all shared to pick up the twins, Liz drove around Stone Crest aimlessly. She was so confused. She wanted to cry. And cry hard. Why was this happening to her? And why now? When she had everything she’d ever hoped for? She had a loving husband, two beautiful children, and she was surrounded by a close circle of friends constantly. Except for soon she’d be leaving that circle of friends. And her two beautiful children would grow up without knowing their mother. And worst of all, she was going to be leaving the one thing that meant the most to her in the entire world: Max.

After a while, she parked her car in front of where the old newspaper building had been. The building that had been destroyed in a fire years ago. The fire that she, herself, almost died in.

But Max had saved her. Like he had years before that when a stray bullet had threatened to end her life. And like he was wanting to do now.

Liz felt the tears slip down her cheeks, in rapid, cascading rivers. How can he save me? she thought, angrily wiping away tears. How can he? He means well. And he wants to save me. But he can’t. How can I make him understand that he can’t save me? That this disease I’ve got is going to kill me and leave him behind?

But the awful truth was, there was no way to tell him. And there was no way for him to save her. They were caught in a lose/lose situation. Wiping away the last of her tears, Liz put the car in drive and headed over to the duplex to pick up her children.

She arrived at the duplex fairly quickly and got out of her car. She walked slowly to the door and knocked. Maria opened the door, with Michael right behind her.

“Hi, Liz!” Maria called cheerfully, either not noticing how awful Liz’s tearstained face looked, or noticing and not caring.

“Hi, Maria.” Liz said shakily. “Michael. I’ve got something to tell you but first, where’s Trevor and Madeline?”

“Oh, they’re coming.” Michael replied. “Liz, are you okay? Cause you look like sh—“

Maria elbowed Michael in the side to keep him from finishing his sentence as Maddy and Trev came stumbling in the foyer.

“Mommy!” The twins cried in unison as Liz knelt to envelop them in a hug.

“We had so much fun today, Mommy.” Said Maddy in her almost perfect English.

“Yeah, sho much fun!” Trevor added, his lisp evident.

“You did?” Liz spoke to them. “Well, on the way home, you can tell me all about it. Why don’t you go get in the car?”

“Okay!” Maddy grabbed Trevor’s hand and away they went.

“Um, listen,” Liz said, standing up. “Thanks for watching them. I hope they weren’t a bother.”

“Oh, not at all, Liz. Besides, it was good practice for us.” Maria replied.

Practice? Liz thought. Maria had never said anything about watching the twins being practice.

“Yeah, since we’re going to be parents soon ourselves.” Michael added.

Liz looked from Michael to Maria as a smile spread across her face. “You’re pregnant?!” She questioned excitedly.

“Yep. Due August 3rd.” Maria smiled as Michael wrapped his arms around her waist. “So we’re going to have to get married before that.”

“Yeah,” Michael agreed. “When Maria told Amy this morning, she told us that her baby was not going to have a baby out of wedlock and told us to start planning the wedding.”

Liz laughed. It sure sounded like something Amy would say. “Well, congratulations. And if there’s anything you need help with, getting ready for Baby Guerin or the wedding, let me know, okay?”

“Of course I will, Lizzie.” Maria said. “Now what was it you were going to tell us?”

The smile left Liz’s face. “Oh, um.. well..” Liz stuttered as her mind raced. How was she supposed to tell them that she was dying when they were all happy and excited over their first child? She’d just have to wait.. there’s no way she could tell them now.

“Liz? What is it?” Maria prompted.

“Oh, nothing.” Liz nodded. “It’s nothing.”

*****

Later that night, Liz crept out of bed to go check on the twins, noting that Max wasn’t in bed. After making sure the twins were okay, she decided to go downstairs to check on Max as well.

Downstairs, she saw that the basement door was ajar and that there was a substantial amount of sound drifting up from the basement. Lately, Max had been down there working on getting the information needed to file their income taxes. But Liz was sure he’d sent those off just the day before.

Slowly walking towards the basement door, Liz could hear sounds of Max crying. She came closer to the door and peeked downstairs. She was shocked at what she saw.

She saw Max, her Max, knelt before the old couch, hands folded in prayer, using the couch as an altar. Max didn’t believe in God, yet he was praying. Liz noticed that his mouth was moving, but she couldn’t understand what he was mumbling. She strained her ears to hear but soon an outburst told Liz exactly what Max was praying about.

“Why her?” He cried, staring now at the ceiling, as if he were having a face to face conversation with God. “Why does she have to die? Why can’t I ever be the one who’s hurting or in pain? Why does it always have to be her, huh? Why? Are you just trying to get back at me for all those years I didn’t believe? What did I do so wrong to deserve my happiness to be taken away from me? WHY?” He almost screamed that last part. Then his head fell against the couch as his body was racked with sobs.

Liz had to swallow the growing lump in her throat as a tear trickled down her cheek. She wanted to go down there and comfort him, even though she was the one who was dying. But she wasn’t meant to see that, to see Max so upset. He wouldn’t want her to know that she saw him like that.

And so she crept, away from the door and back upstairs, to the bedroom she shared with Max, where she could cry all alone by herself. Max had tried to be strong for her, not crying in front of her. And she was going to follow his example and be strong for him.


Part 7

It’s February 27th. I’m Liz Evans and there’s just so much that I need to write in here before it hurts too much to write anything at all. I want to get all this down so that hopefully my children can look back in this journal someday and read about my life. I’ve been organizing my old journals and now, I’ll finish this journal up with a few more entries(hopefully).

It’s been 6 weeks since I was diagnosed with leukemia. And it’s been 5 weeks since Max and I told Michael, Maria, Isabel, Alex, my parents, and Max’s. It’s only been two weeks since we told Madeline and Trevor. And it’s been one week that I haven’t walked on my own.

Let me back up. The last time I had written, it was one night when I was crying alone upstairs while Max cried alone downstairs. We cry together now. After a week of crying separately, we realized that to get through this, we’re going to have to do it together, not on our own. We realized that we should be spending whatever time we had left together, not apart. As a team, we told the others. I was worried to tell Maria, with her being pregnant and all. Sometimes hearing life-altering news can cause a miscarriage and this was definitely life-altering news. But the baby’s fine, so I suppose I can stop worrying.

We didn’t tell Madeline or Trevor until two weeks ago. We probably should have told them sooner but we weren’t sure how to tell them. How do you tell two four-year-olds that their mother is dying?

Of course, they already knew something was wrong when one morning it hurt their mommy too much to walk downstairs. So it wasn’t a complete shock to them. But now that I know the way they would have acted, I wish we hadn’t told them I was sick at all. Because they’re scared of me now. They don’t want to be around me, or see me, or even be in the same house with me. They’re always asking to go to see Uncle Alex, or Aunt Isabel. It upsets me so much that they don’t want to be around me. At all. Max forces them to come talk to me in my room once a day. But it breaks my heart every time they enter the room, their little arms clinging to Max’s legs, and their dark chocolate eyes shining with fear. I told them that they didn’t have to come see me. But Max still makes them, everyday.

If I could still walk around, it’d be different, I know it would. They wouldn’t be so scared of me then. But I can’t walk. The bones in my legs are so brittle from the cancer that they’re like dust. Dr. Simmons, a cancer specialist out of Portland, advised me to stay in bed. “It’s better if you stay in bed, Mrs. Evans,” he says. Better for who? Not me, that’s certain. I can’t do anything any more! Max has to carry me from my room out to the car for doctor visits, from my room to the bathroom when needed, from my room downstairs to the living room, or wherever else I want to go. And to top it all off, my babies hate me. They wish I was already dead so then their daddy wouldn’t make them go see their crippled, pale, thin, sickly mother once a day. If only I wasn’t sick. If only I could get better.

But I can’t. Even Max has given up hope now. Well, most of it.

A few weeks ago, the only thing that hurt was the fact that one day soon I’d be leaving Max, the one thing that I love most in the world. Sure, I’m sad that I’ll be leaving everyone else, but it’s different with Max. I’ve never connected with a person like I have with Max. And when that was the only thing making me cry, Max had all the hope in the world that I’d get better. But since I started getting sick(weakening of bones, slower to no movement, trouble breathing), I’ve noticed his faith and hope slipping. As I grow thinner from the disease that’s killing me, he grows thinner from worry and sadness. Worrying what he’s going to do when I’m gone. How he’s going to LIVE with me DEAD. He doesn’t tell me this of course, but I know it. I can tell just by looking into his eyes. We know each other so much, so well. When I die, Max will too. At least, his spirit will.

The scary thing is, I think my death will be here soon. The pain I felt one day will have doubled the next. I used to could write a four page entry like this one in ten minutes. I’ve been writing this one for forty-five minutes, writing as fast as my hands will allow. I don’t know just how much longer I have.

Every night, Max carries me out of my bed and over to the bay window in my room(which used to be our room) so I can see the first star to appear each night. Once on of us spots it, Max whispers in my ear, “Make a wish. Anything your heart desires, Liz. And I’ll make my wish too.”

So every night, I wish. We wish. We wish for me to get better. For me to beat the leukemia. For things to go back to the way they were, when Max and I could sleep in the same bed together and not worry about my arms breaking when gently holds me close during the night. We wish to turn back time. To find out what caused this weird disease. We also wish to find out one disease unrelated thing: for me to remember what happened to me that day Max found me unconscious on the living room floor. It’s crazy and he’s just grasping at straws, but Max seems to think something happened that day for me to get leukemia. But—

Maria’s here now. She’s not showing just yet, but she’s got that healthy look about her, that “pregnancy glow.” I’ll write more later. Maybe in a week or so when my strength has returned and my wrist is doing better after all this writing..

* * * *

Liz slowly placed her journal on the bedside table as Maria waited beside her bed. Once she finished putting away the journal, Maria leaned in and hugged Liz tightly.

“How ya doing, Babe?” Maria asked, kissing Liz’s cheek before pulling away.

“Okay.” Liz said as Maria sat in a chair that was beside her bed.

“I see you were writing in that journal I gave you a few years ago. I can’t believe you still have that!” Maria exclaimed.

“Yeah, well, I started writing in it again a few weeks ago. “

Maria nodded. “So. “

“So.”

The two girls sat in silence for a few minutes thinking of what to say. Normally there wouldn’t have been such a pause in the conversation but that was before the leukemia had come between them. Maria came to visit often, but she never stayed for long because she was always afraid of bursting into tears in front of Liz.

“I’ve got something to ask you.” Maria spoke after a few minutes.

“Okay, what is it?”

“Well, .. was there any certain type of food you craved when you were pregnant with a Czechoslovakian’s baby?”

Liz sat quietly for a moment, lost in her thoughts. Then she laughed. “Uh, yeah, actually.”

“What was it?”

“Cheese crackers smothered in Tabasco sauce.” Liz laughed again, thinking back about how she ate so much of that and how much it repulsed her now.

Maria wrinkled her nose. “That’s disgusting, Liz!”

“I know!” Liz smiled. “It’s extremely disgusting. I tried it a few months after I had the twins and, well, it didn’t make it all the way down.”

“Eww.” Maria giggled. “Anything else?”

“Well, pretty much anything with Tabasco sauce will do. I went through gallons of it…” Liz trailed off.

The two drifted into silence again.

“It’s probably too early to know whether it’s a boy or a girl, isn’t it?” Liz asked.

“Yeah, but Michael swears it’s a girl.”

“A girl!” Liz exclaimed. “That’s great. A little Maria. Have you picked a name yet?”

Maria looked down at the floor. “Well, Michael and I fought over what we were going to name her, but we finally agreed on a name we both liked yesterday.”

“Oh, really? What is it?”

Maria raised her head and looked Liz in the eyes, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “We both decided that we should name her, Elizabeth, or Liz for short.” A tear slipped down Maria’s cheek. ”There’s no one else that we’d want our girl to be like or named after than you, Liz.”

Tears came to Liz’s eyes and fell down her cheeks. She was so touched that her friend would even think to name her first daughter after her. She held out her arms and Maria came and sat on the side of Liz’s bed and they hugged for the longest time.

“I’m going to miss you, Liz,” Maria whispered after a few minutes.

“Maybe, but I’m going to miss you more, Maria.” Liz whispered back.

Part Eight
Max’s POV
A week or so later

You know, I used to think that Liz was going to get better. I mean, how can someone or something you love die so young? Actually, what I meant to say, was how could something so beautiful just wither and die?

It hurts so much to watch Liz die a little more each day. And feel myself die a little too. I-I just don’t know what I’m going to do once she’s gone. She’s my strength, my hope, my light in a darkened storm. And.. she’s dying. It’s like the light’s growing dimmer and once it goes out there will never be another light bulb to replace. That’s sort of a crazy analogy, but it works.

Right now, she’s downstairs with Maria. Maria comes over for longer periods of time now. I guess she realizes that Liz won’t be here in a few weeks. They’re planning Maria and Michael’s wedding. I can hear Liz laughing. It feels good to hear her laugh. It feels good to hear any sort of laughter in this house. We all pretty much lost our will to laugh when Liz got sick.

I haven’t seen my kids in days. Mainly because they don’t to be around Liz. So I take them to be with Alex or Isabel for the day and they end up staying there. I should go get them and make them come home, but I’m afraid to leave the house, to leave Liz. I don’t want to come back and find out that she’s dead. And I tell Alex and them to bring Maddie and Trev home, but they don’t. Alex thinks they’re better off there anyway. Like I’m not doing my job, raising them the right way. The way they should be raised.

I’m trying my hardest here. I really am. But what exactly am I supposed to do? I have to take care of Liz, full-time, giving up my position as Fire Chief. Not that I cared about quitting anyway, I would rather be with Liz. But I also have to take care of Maddie and Trev, while keeping the house, kids, and clothes clean. Everyone keeps telling me I should hire people to help out. But I don’t want strangers taking care of my kids or of Liz. Or of me.

I wish Liz could get better. I’ve spent hour after hour up here in the attic, going through boxes of our childhood things. To get a feel of the past. I guess I’m just reminiscing. And yesterday, I came across a small vial that hangs on a leather rope necklace. I’ve never before seen it in my life, but as soon as I touched it, I saw things. Things from my past. Things from home. Not Roswell home, but home home.

I saw me holding a beautiful brunette in my arms. It’s Zelenka, the girl Liz looks so much like. And since I got this rush of different images, I wonder if Liz really is Zelenka. I will not lose Liz like I lost Zelenka. I won’t.

I have to move, to find out what this vial means. Before Liz dies like Zelenka did when my father hired Nicholas to kill her.

But I can’t seem to get off the attic floor. I can’t make myself move. And so I’m stuck here, staring into the vial that could potentially save Liz….

* * * *
Downstairs

Liz looked towards the ceiling as Maria spoke to her. She could hear Max puttering around upstairs. She placed her hand in Maria’s and looked at her urgently. “Maria?”

“What is it, Liz?”

“Could you do me a favor?” She asked shakily. Her words came out more slowly now and it took her a while to catch her breath in between words.

“Name it.” Maria responded.

“Will.. will you wa-watch after Max and.. and Maddie and Trev-or when I d-die?”

Maria blinked. “What?”

“Will you.. please.. watch after them?” Liz repeated, coughing.

“Of course, I will, Liz.” Maria nodded, trying not to cry. “I’ll make sure they stay okay, Liz, where ever they go.”

“Thank.. you, ‘Ria.” Liz said tiredly, closing her eyes.

Maria sat for a few minutes, stroking Liz’s hand. And then she stood up, kissed her friend gently on the cheek, and left.

* * * *

Liz was laying on the bed with her eyes closed when Max stepped into the room after talking to Michael about the vial. When Max sat down in the chair beside her bed and picked up her hand, she opened her eyes.

“Oh, sorry.” Max said, giving a small smile. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“You didn’t.” Liz told him. “I was just—“

“Resting.” Max finished for her. Liz rested more often now and even though she usually fell asleep by 8 p.m. and didn’t wake up until noon, she was always tired. Max stroked her hand while they sat in silence. He did this often now. He would sit, stroking her hand, and listen to her breathe. He’d begun to notice that her breathing was becoming slower and more ragged with each passing day and he was beginning to wonder just how much time he had left with her.

After a few minutes, Liz took a deep breath and broke the silence. “I’ve-I’ve been thinking.”

“About what, Liz?”

“Well,” Liz stopped for another deep breath, “if you ever get to.. to go home, I want you .. to promise me something.”

“Anything, Liz.” Max told her. “I’ll do anything for you.”

Liz nodded. “Okay.. I want you to… l-leave Madeline and Trevor.. h-here.” She finished after a minute or so.

Max was stunned. It took a few minutes for his speech skills to return. “No,” he said firmly. “I can’t do that.”

“You—you said you’d promise me an-anything.”

“I didn’t know you were going to ask me to leave them here. I.. I just can not do that.”

“Max, I want them to be.. normal. Okay? Do you.. remember how things were.. for us? You-you saved me.. and… and.. exposed yourself and Michael an-and Isabel in the process. We spent.. our high school career being.. ch-chased by the FBI and.. fighting off Skins!” Liz stopped for a moment to cough. “And after high school, you.. were gone.. for six years!” She again paused to catch her breath. “I don’t want them using.. their powers. And I don’t want them.. saving people.. like you saved me.”

“But, Liz, what are they supposed to do if something happens to them like what happened to me—to us—that Christmas in Roswell?” Max asked, referring to the time when a man was killed and Max was close enough to heal them.

“I don’t care.” She closed her eyes. “I want them to lead a.. a.. normal life.”

“And they will!” Max exclaimed. “But I can’t agree to leave them here if there’s ever ANY chance for me to leave. I can’t believe that you even asked me that! After you’re gone, they’re all I’ll have left of you and you’re asking me to leave them behind? No.” He shook his head. “No.”

“Max, did you.. plan on me.. going with you.. or something?”

“Yes.”

“How?” Liz coughed. “How could I go with you?”

“If you can’t go, then how could I? The fact that I’d never leave you is one reason. But Liz.. I’m more human than alien. If a human can’t go, I don’t know how they expect me to return.”

Liz opened her eyes to look at him. “What if I could go, but I didn’t want to? What.. then?”

“Liz, I decided the day I healed you that if you wouldn’t or couldn’t go with me, then I wouldn’t go either.”

Liz stared him straight in the eyes for a few minutes and nodded slowly. Then, she closed her eyes as tears slipped rapidly down her pale, thin cheeks.

“Liz?” Max questioned softly.

She opened her eyes as the tears kept falling. “I- I don’t.. want to leave.” She sobbed. “I don’t want to leave my parents, or Isabel, or Michael.. or Alex, or Maria, or Maddie and Trev. And most of all.. I don’t to leave you.”

By this time, Max himself had begun crying. He could never watch or hear Liz cry without shedding a few tears too. “I don’t want you to leave either, Liz.” He confessed, using a tissue to dry Liz’s tears.

Liz looked at the ceiling. “What am I going.. to do? What are you .. going to do?”

“Well, I suppose I’ll be joining you, soon, wherever you may be.”

“What.. what do you mean? Liz asked, alarmed. It sounded as if he might try to commit suicide or something.

“Do you honestly think that I can breathe knowing you’re not? Knowing I’m alive while you lie in a casket in the Roswell City Cemetary?”

Hearing the word Roswell, Liz turned her head towards him. “Are you going.. to leave Stone Crest?”

“I’ll have to. I don’t want to be here while you’re buried down there.”

Everything grew silent once again. Max continued to stroke Liz’s hand. He wished he could hold her; but he couldn’t. Not with all the machines she was hooked up to. Liz hadn’t wanted to stay in a hospital, so Max had used a large chunk of their lives’ savings and rented all the equipment needed to take care of her at home. Now, all the equipment keeping her alive was killing Max because it kept Max from holding her. Of course, even if she wasn’t hooked up to all these machines, her bones would probably snap into a million pieces if I did hold her, he thought.

“I didn’t want to say this.. “ Liz started, “but.. I -I don’t think .. I have too much longer, Max.”

Max’s eyes widened, even though he sort of knew that before she told him. “Do you really think so?”

Liz reached her IV-hooked hand over and laid it on top of his hand, which was holding her other hand. “Yes,” she nodded. After a few minutes, she added, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Max asked, confused.

“I’m sorry that.. that I’m sick.”

“Oh, Liz,” Max lowered his head, shaking it. “Being sick is not in any way your fault.”

“I.. I know. But I still feel somewhat .. responsible.”

A long pause followed. Finally, Liz spoke.

“What day is it?” She asked.

“March 13th.”

“Just two days.. until you.. turn 30.”

“I know.” Max smiled just a little. “I’m getting old.”

Yeah, but at least you get to see your 30th birthday, Liz couldn’t help but thinking. “I’m sorry that.. I don’t really.. have a present for you, Max.”

“Don’t be sorry.” He told her. “Just having you alive is a good enough present for me.” The phone began to ring and Max stood up reluctantly. “That’s probably Michael.” He said, placing her hand on the bed and walking towards the door.

He stopped at the door and turned back. “Liz?”

“Yeah?” She asked.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too, Max,” she said, as he continued towards the ringing phone. As soon as his feet stepped out of the room, she began to pray quietly. “Dear God, please.. let me live until Max’s birthday… “



Part Nine
March 15th
Max’s 30th Birthday

Max rubbed his tired brown eyes. He’d been up all night, trying to figure out just what the vial was for. But so far, he had no luck.

Max stood up slowly and fixed himself a cup of coffee. It was so quiet in the house. Checking the clock, he found out that it was only eight a.m. Without the twins at home, Max would be by himself for another five to six hours, when Liz woke up.

Sighing, Max stumbled into the living room with his coffee and slumped down onto the couch. He stared blankly at the television set before grabbing the remote and turning it on. He’d been watching so much TV lately. He didn’t have anything to do besides take care of Liz. If Madeline and Trevor were home, he could take care of them, but since they were scared of Liz, it’d been a week or so since Max had even seen them.
He wanted them home. But he never forced anyone to bring them here. While listlessly flipping through the channels, Max decided that it was time for the twins to come home. Today.

As he went to get the phone, it rang. He answered. “Hello?”

“Happy Birthday, Max!” Isabel and Maria’s voice floated over the lines.

Yeah, well, Happy Birthday to Me! he thought sarcastically. “Thanks.” He mumbled into the phone. “Listen, Izzy, could you have Maddie and Trev ready in a few minutes. I’m coming to get them.”

“Are you sure you want to do that? I think it may be too much trauma for them to be in that house.” Isabel replied.

That house. She made it sound like their home was a jail. A prison. And it was. For him. His feelings. And Liz. “Traumatic or not, they need to come home. I’m their Dad, and I should be taking care of them.” Max said firmly.

“Well, okay.” Isabel conceded. “I can have them ready. Michael wants to talk to you now.”

She handed the phone to Michael. “Hey Maxwell. Figured out anything else about that vial?”

Just like Michael, Max thought. He always cuts right to the chase. “No.”

Max could hear Maria scolding Michael in the background. “You didn’t wish him a happy birthday.”

Michael let out an exasperated sigh. “Happy Birthday Max.”

“Thanks, Michael.” Max replied. “I’ve got to go, I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He told Michael, then hung up the phone.

Max hurried upstairs to check on Liz. He walked into her room, gave her a kiss on the cheek, then hurried out. Grabbing his keys, he ran out the door. He had to hurry. He couldn’t stay gone to long when Liz was so sick like this. He didn’t want to come home to find she’d died without him there. But if he didn’t go get the twins himself, he’d probably never see them again until after Liz died.

----------

After coming home with Madeline and Trevor, he took them upstairs to see Liz. And this time, they weren’t afraid of her.

Madeline walked slowly to her sleeping mother and placed a hand on her mother’s arm. “Mommy doesn’t look like Mommy anymore.”

“No,” Max said softly. “She doesn’t quite look like herself anymore, does she?”

Trevor was standing next to Max, his tiny hand in Max’s. “Daddy, ish.. ish Mommy going to go ‘way shoon?” He asked in his lisp-y voice.

“Maybe.”

“Where she going?” Madeline whispered.

Max knelt so that he was at eye level with his children. “Well, she’s going on a trip to a magical, beautiful place.” Max reached out for Maddie and she fell into his arms as he hugged her close.

“Can we go too then?” Madeline asked, a tear slipping down her cheek.

“No, honey.” Max replied, wiping away the tear. “Not right now anyway. But we’ll go there too, someday.”

“Sho, Mommy will be goin’ to a pretty place?” Trevor asked, looking at Max.

“Yes,” Max nodded, “a very pretty place.”

For a few minutes, both children were silent. Max was watching their reactions. Madeline had already started to cry. Trevor’s dark eyes shone brightly with unshed tears. Finally, Trevor spoke.

“Well, I hopes she has a good time.” He announced, then turned and pranced out of the room.

Max watched his son flee the room. Maybe Iz was right; maybe this is too traumatic for them, he thought. Standing up, he felt Maddie’s hand slip into his own. “Do you want to leave, Maddie?”

She stared up at him. “No, Daddy.” She shook her head. “I want to sit and watch Mommy. Will you sit with me?”

“Of course, baby,” he told her, sitting down in the chair beside Liz’s bed. Pulling Maddie onto his lap, he was glad he had brought them home. With his children there, it was easier to be strong. Sighing, he turned his attention to Liz. And he watched her with Maddie until he fell asleep.

--
The next thing Max knew, Maddie was pulling on his shoulder. “Daddy!” She cried. “Daddy, you have to wake up! Daddy! Please!”

Max opened his eyes and looked around. “What is it, Madeline?”

“It’s Mommy… she wants to talk to you.”

Liz awake? He thought as he checked his watch. It’s only 10:00 a.m. He looked over at Liz, who was staring at him with blank eyes. There was something about the way her eyes looked that told Max that the end was very near. “Um, Maddie, you know Aunt Maria’s phone number, don’t you?”

She nodded solemnly.

“Okay, I want you to get the phone and tell her to get everyone and come over here as soon as she can. Can you do that for me?” He asked, never taking his eyes of Liz.

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Okay, then, go.” Max said. Madeline slid out of his lap and scurried out of the room.

Max took Liz’s hand. “Liz? Honey? I’m here. What is it?”

It took her a while to speak. And then when she did, her voice was raspy and slow. “Max.. “ she coughed. “I.. can’t.. see.”

“What?” Max asked. “What do you mean ‘you can’t see?’”

“I.. can’t.. see… your.. face. Everything is so…blurry.” She managed to get out.

When a person is close to dying, their five senses deteriorate. Max remembered Alex telling him.
Oh, God, he thought. Oh, God.

Just then, Maddie came running back up the stairs. “They’re coming, Daddy! They’re coming.” She exclaimed, breathless.

“Thank you Maddie,” Max told her. “Could you please go check on your brother?”

Maddie nodded and she was off again.

“How.. did you .. man-age.. to get .. them home?” Liz asked.

“I went and go them.” Max said. “They’re not afraid of you anymore, you know.”

A tear slipped out of one of Liz’s emotionless eyes. “Could.. you .. bring them.. here please?”

Max nodded and brought the twins into Liz’s room. They stood beside her bed as she looked at them. Somehow, though she couldn’t see their faces and she hadn’t heard them speak yet, she knew which twin was Madeline and which was Trevor.

“Madeline,” she said, reaching out to touch Maddie’s face. “I ..love ..you. Both.. of ..you.” She said, moving her hand to Trev’s face. “You do… know that.., don’t you?”

Madeline nodded. “Yes, Mommy. We know. I love you, Mommy. I’m going to miss you so much when you go away.”

Trevor put his tiny hand on the hand that was on his face. “I love you, Mommy. I hopes that you have fun where you go.” He looked down at his feet then back up at Liz. “When you eat s’ghetti, think of me, okay?”

Liz nodded, trying not to laugh. She wish she could laugh, but it hurt too much to laugh and she didn’t need any more added pain.

After this small reunion, Max heard the doorbell ring downstairs. The twins ran out of the room to answer it and Max followed them, saying “Don’t open the door. You know you’re not allowed to open the door.” But as he stepped outside Liz’s room, she stopped him.

“Don’t.. leave me, Max.”

There was such urgency in her voice that it scared him. He walked to her and took her hand. “What’s wrong, Liz?”

“It’s.. it’s so dark.. and.. I’m.. afraid.” She said, gripping his hand. “Don’t leave me. Don’t.. let me.. be here by… by myself.”

Max stared into her unfocused eyes. She couldn’t see anything out of them and her once beautiful, soulful brown eyes had lost their luster. They were like deep black holes with no beginning and no end. The doorbell rang again, awaking Max from his thoughts. Max glanced to Liz’s bedroom door. “Maddie!” He yelled.

“Daddy?”

“Who’s at the door? Look out the window next to the door and see.” He told her.

“Okay.” She yelled back. Max could hear scuffling noises downstairs. “It’s Aunt Maria!”

“Open the door for them, okay?” Max turned back to Liz and began to stroke her hand softly. “It’s going to be okay, Liz. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m not going to leave you.” He whispered to her.

Maria stepped into the room, followed by Isabel, who was holding Trevor, Michael, who was holding Maddie, and Alex. They all formed a sort of circle around Liz’s bed. They didn’t have to ask Max what was going on; they already knew.

Max just kept stroking Liz’s hand, and kept talking to her like the others weren’t even there. “It’s going to be okay, Liz. Everything’s going to be okay.” He repeated.

The others sat and watched the scene before their eyes. All of them except Michael. Michael was staring intently at the necklace around Max’s neck that held the vial. He was getting flashes off it and suddenly said aloud, “Zelenka?!”

Max’s head shot up. “What did you say?”

“Zelenka. That’s what I got from the vial.” Michael told him.

Max frowned at him and turned his attention back to Liz. Then he looked down at the necklace and pulled his hand gently away from Liz so he could take it off.

Liz let out a small moan. “Max… Max, where .. are you? You… you said you.. wouldn’t leave me.”

Max felt a tear slip down his cheek. She sounded so small. He quickly picked up Liz’s hand and held it. “I’m here, “ He told her. “I never left you.”

“But—“ She began.

“Shh.” Max soothed. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m not going to leave. I’ll never let go again. I’ll keep your hand in mine.”

“I- I love you.. Max.” She managed to get out. Her breathing was rapidly decreasing.

“I love you, Liz.” Max replied, one hand with Liz, one on the vial.

Liz suddenly started to sit up. Alarmed, Max asked what she was doing.

“I.. have to go.. now.” She said.

“What?? Liz, “ Max began.

But Liz had already sat up. “Bye Max.” She said softly, as her eyes rolled back into her head and she began to fall back onto the bed. Max caught her.

“Liz?” He asked, tears sliding down his face. He could hear her heart monitor making that awful beeping noise as it flat-lined. He reached over and pulled turned it off. “Liz..?” He reached for her wrist, to feel for her pulse. But there wasn’t one.

Defeated, Max laid Liz’s stiff body back on the bed. Then he looked up, his eyes meeting with Alex and Maria’s tearful eyes, Isabel’s watery eyes, and Michael’s solemn eyes. His eyes wandered down to Liz’s body. He had known that she’d die soon. But he hadn’t thought that she would today. On his birthday.

He had tried to prepare himself for the pain he would feel once Liz was gone. But he had never expected pain like this. She’d only been dead two minutes and already he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think, he couldn’t move. He was stuck, in one position. Lost in his thoughts.

“Pour that stuff in the vial down her throat.” Michael’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“What?”

“Pour that liquid down her throat, quick!”

Maria looked at Michael through her tears. “Are you crazy? She’s dead, Michael, not thirsty!”

Max looked from Liz to Maria to Michael, confused. Finally he looked from Liz to Michael. He locked eyes with Michael, questioning what Michael had told him to do.

“Do it, Maxwell. Please.” Michael pleaded. “Trust me.”

Max looked at Michael one last time before taking off the leather necklace and opening the vial. Then, ever so gently, he poured the liquid down Liz’s throat and waited. And waited.

After a few minutes, Max laid his head down on her chest, trying to hear a heartbeat or feel the rise and fall of her chest. Nothing happened. Max began to cry.

Isabel couldn’t stand there watching her brother sob his heart out. She started to go to him, but Alex stopped him. All that could be heard in the room was crying. Everyone was. Even Michael.

Max had been crying for a good five minutes when he felt someone stroking his hair. He’d figured it was Maria or Isabel and he didn’t move. But then, the person who was stroking his hair whispered his name. “Max?” And the voice didn’t belong to his sister or Maria. It belonged to.. Liz.

What? Max thought as he looked up into Liz’s deep brown eyes. Max just looked at her for a few seconds, just trying to figure out what was going on. Liz’s eyes had their color back. Her skin was no longer pale but had a healthy glow. She was breathing. And she was talking. She’s alive!

Max was speechless. How could she have come back like that? She had died. But now, she was alive. She was stroking his hair, instead of him stroking her hand. Finally, he decided not to dwell on it. Liz was alive! He could hold her now because she was well. The miracle he had been hoping for had come true.

Max sat up beside her on the bed and took Liz in his arms. It had been so long since he held her.. it had been too long. Max leaned in close to Liz’s face and kissed her cheek. Then, suddenly, they’re lips met and they kissed for who knows how long. Michael interrupted them. “Ahem.”

Max looked to Michael. “How did you know to do that?”

“I don’t know.. I didn’t know anything.. until Liz died. Then it sort of came to me.” Michael said.

“Well, thank you, Michael.” Max said. “I’ll never forget this.”

“I know.” Michael smiled. “Cause I won’t let you.”

Suddenly, the doorbell rang.

“I wonder who that could be.” Max said aloud. “I’ll go get it.”

As soon as he stood up, Maria ran over to Liz and hugged her. Then they all crowded around her, hugging. The air in the room was so different from five minutes ago when Liz was dead. Now, she was alive and they could celebrate!

Max walked on air downstairs and was shocked to find Nicholas and Tess standing in the foyer. “What are you doing here?” Max asked, menacingly.

“You know, you’re not a very good host, Max.” Nicholas stated. “So.. is she dead yet?”

“Excuse me?” Max asked.

Part 10

"I said, is Liz dead yet?" Nicholas repeated, wrapping an arm around Tess's waist. "Are we in time for the funeral?" Nicholas paused, glancing over Max's face. Then, he turned to Tess and lowered his voice, "He doesn't look very sad. Are you sure you killed her?"

Max just looked at them. He was still shocked to see them in his house. And kind of shocked to see Tess with Nicholas. Although, he wasn't that shocked; he should have known she'd do something like this.

Nicholas turned to face Max again. "Are you deaf? Are you stupid? I just asked you a question. Twice, to be exact. And still no answer. So, at the risk of sounding redundant, again I say: "Is she dead yet?"

"Is who dead yet?" Liz's voice rang out from her position on the stairs. She began to walk down them slowly.

Nicholas pulled his arm away from Tess. "If that's dead, I can't wait to find out what you're going to look like after I get through with you." He said menacingly. "I should have known it. If you what something done right, do it yourself."

By this time, Liz took her rightful place beside Max. She turned to look at him. "Am I supposed to be dead or something, only I don't know about it?"

Max only shrugged. He was so happy.. so happy that Liz was alive. But so angry that Nicholas was in his house and to find out that he knew of what was happening to Liz. A thought suddenly came to mind. Did he.. ? "You're the reason Liz got sick, aren't you?"

Nicholas clapped. "Give the King a trophy! Although I can't take all the credit. Sure, it was my idea, but Tess is the one who carried it out." Nicholas looked around. "So, where are those little brats?"

"Well, Liz, do we own any 'brats'?" Max asked, reaching for her hand. They had a calm appearance, but inside, both of them were a little afraid of Nicholas. They knew what he could do. Holding each other's hand was a great reassurance.

"Not that I know of." Liz added, squeezing Max's hand.

"OH, Come ON!" Nicholas roared. "Where's little Max and Liz?"

"Oh, I see." Liz said. "What you call brats, we call 'children' here on Earth."

"Cool it, Lizzie!" Nicholas all but screamed. "You seem to forget that you're a lowly human and I've got ten times the power that your little Ken doll here has. You don't have to tell me where your stupid children are, I can get a hold of them myself." He looked at Tess, who nodded.

Suddenly, Madeline and Trevor were in Nicholas's hands. Max and Liz looked at each other, panic evident in their eyes. Before they could react, they heard a clapping from upstairs. Max and Liz looked up to see Isabel and Michael coming down the stairs.

"That's a good trick, Tess. But you're going to have to do more than flash fake images to fool me." Isabel reached the bottom step and walked over until she was standing by Max. "And Tess, sleeping with the enemy?" Isabel questioned, arching an eyebrow. "Thought that was my job."

Tess's jaw dropped, but she quickly closed it again. Nicholas let his eyes roam Isabel's body before speaking. "Well, I needed some thing to keep me happy after you ditched me in your new life. We were close on the old planet, Vilandra.. and now, you act like you don't like me or something. Don't worry, though, you'll like me again someday. Evil is a repetitive cycle, you know."

"I find that highly unlikely." Isabel replied.

"Yeah, well." Nicholas stated. "Now, time for plan B."

"What's plan B?" Michael asked from where he was standing on the other side of Liz.

"Only this.." Nicholas trailed off as he threw his arm out and pulled Liz toward him.

"Liz!" Max cried out, still holding on tightly to Liz's hand. On either side of him, Isabel and Michael took a defensive stance.

"Let go of her, Max," Tess said, placing her arm on Max's and trying to pull the two apart. "You'll only make it worse."

"Oh," Maria called from upstairs. "So, now you talk. For a second there, I thought Nicky boy had cut out your tongue or something." She started to come downstairs.

"Maria, stay up there!" Michael commanded.

"Don't worry, Mikey G. I'm not going down there.. I'm just coming closer for a better look."

Liz squirmed in Nicholas's tight grasp. "Let me go, you ridiculous excuse for an alien!"

"Oooh.." Nicholas said. "Lizzie's developing a spine, Max. Better keep an eye on her. Of course... you won't have to, if she's dead."

"You know, you keep saying that word. 'Dead'. You'd think that someone as old as you would have an extended vocabulary or something." Maria observed from her sitting position on the stairs.

"Maria, PLEASE!" Michael exclaimed. "Just stay up there and keep your mouth closed."

"Okay, okay.. Geez. Take some Kava Kava. You need to calm down." Maria responded. "Now.. carry on."

Liz noticed some movement at the top of the stairs. She could clearly see Trevor's small head peeking through the rails of the stairs. Liz tried to get Max's attention and let him know where Trevor was. She had assumed that they were both upstairs in her room with Alex. Now that Trevor had moved, things were different. If Nicholas found out about him standing there, Liz couldn't even begin to fathom what might happen.

Max casually glanced up at Maria and saw Trevor out of the corner of his eye. Then he turned and nodded at Liz.

Nicholas caught the nod. "Are Zan and Zelenka keepin' secrets from Nicholas?" He looked from Liz to Max and back to Liz, whose arm he had a firm grasp on. "Well, since it's not nice to keep secrets, I guess we'll just have to find out what those secrets are." Nicholas reached out and tried to place a hand on Liz's head in order to mind rape her. Liz jerked back, pulling away from Nicholas. But she also pulled away from Max at the same time. Nicholas then used his power to open a nearby closet door and used his powers to shove Liz inside, locking the door. After this, Nicholas turned to Tess and snapped his fingers.

Max just watched the scene, trying to make heads or tails of what was going on.

A blast of power shot from Nicholas's hand. Suddenly, the door fell open and a purple Liz fell to the floor.

"Liz!" Max cried. He started to run over to her, but Michael stopped him.

Meanwhile, Trevor started to run downstairs, his shrill cries of "Mommy! Mommy!" cutting through the air like a knife.

Max closed his eyes. His birthday was quickly becoming one nightmare after another.

Trevor skidded to a stop in front of his mother's lifeless body. "You a bad man!" He yelled at Nicholas.

"So I am. So I am." Nicholas replied, fishing some candy out of his pocket. "Here little boy, would you like some candy?"

Trevor almost reached out for the candy, but something stopped him. "No." He said. "Mommy says not to take candy from strangers."

"Well, you know what?" Nicholas kneeled until he was at eye level with Trevor. "Mommy's dead."

Max watched on in shock as Trevor let out a cry and began attacking Nicholas, knocking him back on the floor, beating him with his tiny four-year-old fists. Max pulled away from Michael's grip and grabbed his son, who was still trying to kick and punch Nicholas.

"Raised a violent son, didn't you, Max? I can see he's nothing like you, Mr. Sit-around-doing-nothing. He's more like Michael." Nicholas stood up and wiped some blood off his face. "Maybe Liz strayed from bed to bed, if you know what I'm saying."

Maria jumped up. "That was uncalled for!"

"Yes. Yes it was." Max agreed. "I've had enough of you, Nicholas. It's payback time."

"Payback time? Payback for what?"

"You know what. Everything."

Nicholas rolled his eyes. "You humans can't get over your own personal tragedies, can you? You're always blaming them on someone else. But nevermind. I wish you luck though. In giving me my 'payback'. You'll need it."

"You'd think that, wouldn't you?" Michael asked. "Don't worry about us, midget. We can take you."

Max whispered into Trevor's ear. "Go get your sister." He let Trevor back on to the ground, and the boy was off and running up the stairs.

Nicholas crossed his arms. "I'm waiting."

"Well, you can just wait a few minutes longer, can't you?" Isabel stated. She turned to Max and whispered that she'd been teaching the twins how to work their powers. The little added power could help them out in the battle. She turned to face Nicholas. "And quit using Tess's power of making people see what's not there. It's old."

"Yeah, whatever." Tess said, speaking for the second time. "You're just mad because none of you have anything like it."

Isabel smiled sweetly. "You'd be surprised."

Something suddenly materialized before them. The 'something' turned out to be two 'someones'. Somehow, Maddie and Trev had shimmered from one place to another. Max cast a sidelong glance at Isabel. How did they--? Did you teach them that? He asked Isabel in his thoughts.

Isabel nodded. Yes, and I think they're more powerful than any of us.

"Well, that's probably because of Liz, don't you think?" Nicholas said outloud. "You know, you have some boring conversations in your heads. No wonder you lost the throne."

Liz, who was intently listening from inside the closet, rolled her eyes. Did he ever quit? She wasn't sure what was going on outside, but she could feel great distress from Max. She tried to connect with him somehow, tried to send him a message that everything would be okay.

She pressed her ear closer to the wooden door. She hadn't heard what Nicholas had said, but all she felt from Max now was anger. White hot anger. It was so intense.. it almost smothered her. "Oh, God, Max." She sighed. "What are you going to do?"

Liz stood there quietly, trying to listen to what was going on outside. Suddenly, a body was thrown at the door with a thump and Liz screamed. The body that was thrown broke the door and Liz could see Nicholas lying crumpled on the floor. Then, she saw Max stalk over to him and pick him up, using his powers. Max threw him away from the door. Max then helped Liz out, holding out a hand so she could make it out the busted door.

Nicholas stood up. He shook his head to clear the splitting headache that was forming. "Your powers have grown since I last battled with you."

"Well, duh." Maria said. "What did you think? That Max would stay the lowly human while you're the triumphant alien? Not a chance, buddy boy."

"You know what?" Nicholas started. "I'm tired of listening to your smart ass mouth." He started to shoot out a bright light of power towards Maria.

Michael tried to block it, but he couldn't make it fast enough. "Maria!"

Right before the power burst got to Maria, Madeline shimmered into place in front of her. Holding up her tiny hands, she reflected Nicholas's own power back to him. Nicholas fell to the floor.

"Getting a little taste of your own medicine, aren't you?" Isabel laughed.

Struggling to his feet, Nicholas grabbed Tess from behind. "If any of you so much as breathes, I'll kill her!" He yelled.

An uncaring shrug was the reply he got.

"Do it." Maria called down. "It won't be that great a loss anyway."

"At this point, we'd probably kill her ourselves." Michael added.

"You imbeciles! You can't defeat Khivar without Tess."

"That was before." Liz spoke up.

"Yeah." Max agreed. "That was before Madeline, Trevor, and Baby Guerin. We have more than enough combined powers to attack your precious Khivar."

"Don't be so sure of yourself." Nicholas said, tossing Tess to the side. "If you can't kill me, you can't kill him."

"Who said we can't kill you?" Michael asked.

"I said you can't. And I bet Max can't kill me on his own."

"Is that a challenge?" Alex asked as he sat down beside Maria on the step.

"Yeah, is it?" Max asked, stepping forward. "Cause if it is, I'll take it."

Nicholas stepped closer to Max. "Bring it on, human."

Max stepped closer and towered in Nicholas's face. "I don't have to bring it. It's already on."

Part 11

"Think you're ready for it, big boy?" Nicholas asked.

"Oh, I'm ready. Believe me, I'm ready." Max looked around the room, where Liz was taking Trevor away and Michael and Isabel were following. Max saw Isabel lock Madeline and Trevor in an upstairs room. He also saw Tess move aside to where she was away from Max and Nicholas. "Where do you want this little smackdown to be?"

"Right here's fine with me." Nicholas shrugged. "I want it to be someplace where everyone can see you lose. So, come on. I'll let you have the first hit. Come on, Max.. hit me with all you've got."

"Okay." Max said. He thrust out his palm and shot Nicholas back a few feet.

"Is that all you've got?" Nicholas asked.

"Actually no." Max squinted, thrusting Nicholas farther back. Nicholas hit the wooden wall hard. He slid to the floor with a thump.

"What a wimp!" Nicholas exclaimed, standing back up.

"Wimp, huh?" Max asked. He reached behind him, placed a hand on a nearby wall and turned it to stone. "Is that what you think?"

"Yeah, it's what I think." Nicholas said, dusting himself off. "Now, it's my turn."

"I don't think so." Max used his powers to throw Nicholas repeatedly against the stone wall.
Blood poured from Nicholas's head. Max heard a crunch and immediately he dropped Nicholas to the floor.

Nicholas stumbled to his feet, a large gash splitting his head in two. He held up his hand and Max was blinded by a flash of light that sent him to the floor. Max rubbed his eyes. Then he opened them. But everything was black. What the--? Max closed his eyes again and then reopened them. Still all he saw was nothing. I'm blind!

"What's that for? You can't do that!" Max cried out.

"Oh, I can do it. I just did it. Or can't you see?" Nicholas smiled sinisterly.

Max held out his palm over his face, struggling to heal his blank eyes. A jolt of pain shot threw him as Nicholas used his powers to knock him into a nearby wall. Again, Max tried to heal his eyes, but he couldn't.

"Lost your spunk, have you?" Nicholas asked, circling Max. "I mean, Mr. Big Shot Hybrid doesn't seem so powerful anymore does he?

"I can still beat you. Even without my eye sight." Max said, his face trying to follow Nicholas's voice.

"Is that what you think?" Nicholas snorted.

"Yes. I know I can." He started reaching out with his mind, trying to find something.

"How can you possibly know that?"

"Because I have one power that you don't." His mind found Liz's and he started to connect.

"And what would that be?"

"The power of Liz." He said, connecting with Liz. As soon as he was connected, he could see the world through her eyes. She realized what he was doing and walked forward, allowing Max to see Nicholas better.

"The power of what?" Nicholas asked. "Your Liz has no powers."

Max smiled. "That's what you think." Max used his mind to pick Nicholas up, suspending him in the air. Then, he used his powers to choke his scrawny little neck. Nicholas tried to defend himself, shooting different powers Max's way, but Max put up a shield around himself and everything that Nicholas tried to do to Max went back to himself.

Max kept this up for about twenty minutes, before his power supplies began to drain rapidly. Exhausted, he lowered Nicholas to the floor.
Everyone waited for Nicholas to get up. But he didn't. Not right away anyway. After five minutes passed, Nicholas stood up. It took him
a while to stand up and once he got to his feet, Max could see just how much damage he'd done to him.

"Thought you had me killed, didn't you?" Nicholas choked out. He looked awful: bruises covering every appendage, blood spilling out his mouth, his nose, his ears.
"Well, guess again, buddy. I know how you did that. Using Liz to see me. That's cheating, dear Max. Not playing by the rules. Oh well," Nicholas
slowly shrugged. "That can be fixed."

Suddenly, Max's vision was darkened again. Now, not only could he not see, but neither could Liz. He was tired,
emotionally, mentally, and physically. He didn't know how much longer he could last. He was beginning to think that
Nicholas was immortal and that he was doomed to be tortured by that evil teenage twerp forever.

Before he could sense it, Nicholas shoved Max to the floor and stood with one foot on Max's chest. Max shot up a shield around him as Nicholas began to use his numerous powers to disintegrate Max. Max held the shield up for as long
as he possibly could, but soon, his arm fell the the floor, leaving him vulnerable to Nicholas. Nicholas leaned in closely. "Prepare to die, O great King. I'm letting you and your darling sweetheart see the light once again. Wouldn't want either of you to miss your death.""

Something in Max's brain clicked, and he suddenly remembered how to kill a skin. Reaching out with his mind, he got Madeline's attention, telling her what she and her brother needed to do. Nicholas didn't see the two twins as they shimmered from upstairs to right behind him. But Max saw them.
He saw Trevor use his developing powers to lift Maddie onto his shoulders. Then, he saw Maddie swing her leg back and then swing it forward, hard, hitting Nicholas in the vicinity of the hidden button
underneath his skin cocoon. Nicholas's eyes widened as he felt Maddie's little foot make contact with his lower back. And Max barely had time to close his eyes as Nicholas exploded into tiny bits and pieces.

When he opened his eyes again, Michael and Liz were helping him off the floor. Max was shaky on his feet, but other than that, he was fine.

Liz looked at him, a concerned look in her eyes. "Are you okay? Did he hurt you?"

"I'm fine, Liz." He told her, grabbing her in a hug. Then, his lips found hers and their bodies melted together as the kiss deepened.
After breaking the kiss, Liz stood on her tiptoes and kissed his foreheard.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm sure," He answered.

Their lips collided again as they kissed, locked in a passionate embrace.

After a few minutes, Michael cleared his throat. "We're still in the room, Maxwell."

Liz and Max grinned sheepishly. Then, Max knelt and wrapped Madeline and Trevor in his arms.
"You did a great job today," Max told them, kissing each one on the cheek. "Mommy and Daddy are very proud of you." He hugged them again.

"Yes," Liz chimed in, joining the hug. "We're very proud of you."

As Isabel, Maria, Michael, and Alex knelt to join the hug as well, Liz couldn't help but sighing happily. Just earlier this morning, she'd been on death's door, knowing that she wouldn't make it through the day. And then she did die. But she was brought
back to life. She fought Nicholas, helped her husband fight Nicholas, and then watched as her own two children finished him off. She'd almost lost it all because of an illness that was implanted in her by Nicholas and Tess. Tess? her mind thought. Where was Tess?

The big group hug broke apart as they heard the door open. "Where do you think you're going, Tess?" Liz asked, standing up.

"Oh, just letting myself out."

"You think you're getting off that easy?" Max asked, standing up as well.

Tess looked around at the looks on the faces of the group before her. She could see their anger and annoyance for her clearly. Not sure of what to say, she muttered, "I'm sorry?"

"Um, sorry, sweetie. We don't accept lame apologies around here." Maria responded.

Max walked up calmly until he was directly in front of Tess. "You almost killed my wife, Tess. I don't know why you tried to do so. I don't even know why you were with Nicholas. But that doesn't matter. What matters is what you did. Not why you did it." Max looked down at the ground before meeting her eyes again. "I could do something extremely terrible to you... but since Michael helped bring Liz back to life after she died and the fact that she's not going to be six feet under while I still roam this earth, I'm feeling a little benevolent. So here's the plan. You take it or I kill you now." He narrowed his dark eyes at her.
"You have five seconds to get out of this house, and if you're not out in five seconds, I will kill you. Then, you have fifteen minutes to get out of Stone Crest, and if you don't, I will kill you. After you leave, we are not to ever see you again. Ever. If we do..." Max trailed off.

"You'll kill me." Tess whispered, her eyes wide.

Max nodded solemnly. "You have five seconds. One.. Two.. three.." He began.

Tess quickly opened the door and she was out by the time he got to four. Max watched as she ran to her car and peeled out of their driveway, speeding away. Max shut the front door that she left open and turned back to his extended family.
"Guess that's over with." He said, walking back to Liz and wrapping an arm around her tiny waist.

Silence fell over the group for a while. Then, Isabel decided it was time for the others to leave. "We'll take Maddie and Trev with us." She told Max. "I think they deserve an ice cream sundae."

So, Max and Liz watched their children leave with their best friends and shut the door.

Then, Liz looked at Max. "You know what?"

"What, baby?"

"There's something that's not over." Liz wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Oh?"

"It's still your birthday." She whispered in his ear.

Max was silent. "I guess so."

"Yeah, and you know what else?"

"What else?"

"I didn't get a chance to get you a present. Is there anything special that you want?" Liz asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Hmm." Max said thoughtfully. "Well, to start out.. I could really use a good, long, relaxing massage. With that special lotion."

"Is that all you want? A massage?"

"I didn't say it was all I wanted. I said we could start out with a massage." Max told her.

"Oh." Liz smiled. "I see." Liz let her arms fall away from his neck. "Why don't you go upstairs to the guest bedroom while I make sure the doors are locked and get that "special" lotion."

"Okay." Max released his arms from around her waist and started to walk over to the stairs. He walked up them slowly.

Liz turned and locked the front door and then went to check on the back door. Stopping by the downstairs bathroom and grabbing the lotion, Liz stepped back into the now darkened entryway. Her barefeet came into contact with something wispy that was lying on the floor. "Aaah!" She screamed.

Max came running down the stairs, shirtless. "What's wrong, Liz?"

She wrinkled her nose. "I'm stepping in Nicholas remains!"

---The End---